Sections on today's Signs Page:
Editorial: Signs Economic Commentary
Signs of the Times
May 8, 2006
Gold closed at 685.20 dollars an ounce on Friday, up 5.2% from $651.60 at the end of the previous week. The dollar closed at 0.7854 euros on Friday, down 0.8% from 0.7915 euros for the week. The euro, in turn, closed at 1.2732 dollars compared to $1.2634 at the end of the week before. Gold in euros would be 538.17 euros an ounce, up 2.4% from 525.75 for the week. Oil closed at 70.01 dollars a barrel Friday, down 2.7% from $71.88 at the previous week's close. Oil in euros would be 54.99 euros a barrel, down 3.5% from 56.89 for the week. The gold/oil ratio closed at 9.79, up 0.9% from 9.07 the week before. In the U.S. stock market the Dow closed at 11,577.74 on Friday, up 1.9% from 11,367.14 at the close of the previous Friday. The NASDAQ closed at 2,342.57 on Friday, up 0.9% from 2,322.57 for the week. In U.S. interest rates, the yield on the ten-year U.S. Treasury Note closed at 5.10%, up five basis points from 5.05 the week before.
Interesting week. Gold continues to skyrocket, rising 14% over the last three weeks. Oil is holding firm at the $70 dollar range. The dollar sunk lower. The Bush gang continues to struggle, mired in several overlapping criminal scandals, throwing second-tier players overboard, facing horrible poll numbers, and with their "vision" in complete collapse (all except the enrich-friends, concentrate-wealth, and destroy-the-Constitution-agenda - that's going great). And, last week saw the first real worker's May Day in the United States in a long time, with the one-day boycott by supporters of undocumented workers following weeks of the largest labor protests in U.S. history.
But the market optimists are focusing on the stock market, which, in the United States, is near all-time highs (in dollar terms, anyway). A better reason for true optimism might be the rebirth of the labor movement in the United States, thanks to the undocumented workers. Wages even increased last month. The world-wide rejection of neoliberalism is also cause for hope. The danger is that neoliberalism may be replaced by neo-imperial competition among big powers with Chinese imperial fascism competing against Russian and American imperial fascism. Orwell has proven to be quite a prophet.
As we mentioned last week, John Kenneth Galbraith may have picked a good time to die as a look at his life and ideas reminds us of what the United States has lost in the last thirty-five years or so. Here is Brad DeLong in a review of a 2005 biography of Galbraith by Richard Parker:
A Man For All Seasons
That Galbraith's career has been dazzling nobody can dispute. Professors of post-World War II American history can still do no better than to assign his books The Affluent Society and The New Industrial State to teach students how the midcentury U.S. economy came to dominate the world (and what should have been done to make it work better). Anyone wanting to learn about the beginning of the Great Depression should start with The Great Crash; there is no other history of the stock-market crash of 1929 that is as short and even half as worthwhile. During World War II, Galbraith helped run the Office of Price Administration, working to square the growth-inflation circle by pushing production far above economists' measures of potential output without sparking runaway price increases that would threaten the economic mobilization. And after the war, his work on the Defense Department's "United States Strategic Bombing Survey" made Washington rethink the efficacy of its standard war-fighting policy -- staying high in the sky and dropping lots of explosives on all kinds of people far below -- although perhaps the rethinking did not go far enough.
Lots of ideas in the background of contemporary U.S. political and economic thought are Galbraith's. His work as an economist was a scattered but comprehensive attempt to think through the consequences of the transition from a nation of small farms and workshops to one of large factories and superstores. In doing so, he took on many of the questions most central to the new U.S. economic landscape: How much can advertising shape demand? In a world of passive shareholders, autonomous managers and engineers, and firm decisions that emerge out of internal bureaucratic contests, just what are the objectives that drive big firms? How does competition work when its principal dimensions are quality and marketing rather than price? And critically, how do the limits of polite discourse allow the system to hold itself together while constraining its flexibility?
For decades, Galbraith's influence in politics was unmatched by any other economist. The pieces of his advice best remembered are those that went against the "conventional wisdom" (a now ubiquitous phrase that Galbraith coined): strategic bombing did not win World War II; Vietnam was a strategically unimportant quagmire where the United States would do more harm than good; macroeconomic "fine tuning" is likely to blow up in the face of policymakers; the businessman's capacity for self-delusion is nearly infinite. Galbraith sees the United States as a would-be social democracy that has lost its way, assuming that if only the self-serving declarations of the right could be wiped away, the benefits of a bigger, more activist government would become obvious to everyone. The right-wing claim that the most efficient economy is one in which the gales of perfect competition scour the land is, in Galbraith's view, nonsense. Modern industrial and post-industrial production is a large-scale process, large-scale processes require planning, and planning requires stability -- which means that the gales of the market must be calmed.
This political vision, however, has been in retreat since the early 1980s. Nobody wants to hear about the importance of Big Government, Big Bureaucracy, or Big Labor (which hardly even exists). Galbraith's economic views have undergone an even more distressing eclipse. Among economists (excluding economic historians), the 70-year-olds have read Galbraith and think he is very important; the 50-year-olds have read Galbraith and know that the 70-year-olds think he is important but are not sure why; and the 30-year-olds have not even read him.
Parker has an explanation -- a relatively convincing one -- for the retreat of Galbraith's politics. The story behind it is the Democratic establishment's loss of nerve. Too many party intellectuals and politicians drink cocktails on Martha's Vineyard, in Parker's view, and too few spend time on the shop floor learning what issues are important to those sweeping up or manning an assembly line or tending the convenience-store cash register from midnight to six a.m. Thus, the mass base of the Democratic Party has withered, and without a mass base Democratic politicians listen too much to their rich contributors and turn into Eisenhower Republicans -- people who are interested above all in balancing the budget. Galbraith, a committed social democrat, has wielded his pen and his tongue in an effort to halt this decades-long rightward drift. But he has failed: his allies are too few, and the loss of nerve among the party elite is too complete.
Parker also has an explanation -- also a relatively convincing one -- for the eclipse of Galbraith's economic thought. The story here is of the blindness of an academic establishment steeped in Paul Samuelson's Foundations of Economic Analysis. Economists, Parker believes, have sold their birthright for a tasteless pottage of mathematical models. As a result, they can say much about theory but little about reality. And they ignore Galbraith because he is a guilt-inducing reminder of how much broader and more relevant economics can be.
What Would Galbraith Do?
This explanation, however, is far from complete. Late-twentieth-century American economics centers on the use of mathematical models to reach one of two conclusions: that the market is already doing a good job, or that some imperfection is causing "market failure" and correcting or counterbalancing the imperfection will make everything okay.
Thus there are New Classical macroeconomists, who believe that the market works fine and that even depressions are necessary and inevitable; Monetarists, who believe that recessions result from failures in the banking system, which can be corrected by ensuring stable growth of the money supply; and New Keynesians, who are indistinguishable from Monetarists save for their identification of market failures in the labor market or in the investment decisions of firms. In all these cases, it is clear what an economist must do to belong to a particular school: start underneath the lamppost, take a few steps in one direction by describing a market failure, and then start searching for lost keys. New Classicals master the solutions of "dynamic stochastic general-equilibrium representative-agent models." Monetarists analyze the details of the financial system in an effort to define a "neutral monetary policy." New Keynesians trace the implications of subtle differences in labor- and capital-market failures.
Just what a "Galbraithian" economist would do, however, is not clear. For Galbraith, there is no single market failure, no single serpent in the Eden of perfect competition. He starts from the ground and works up: What are the major forces and institutions in a given economy, and how do they interact? A graduate student cannot be taught to follow in Galbraith's footsteps. The only advice: Be supremely witty. Write very well. Read very widely. And master a terrifying amount of institutional detail.
Harry Johnson, in his superb but not entirely fair critique of Milton Friedman's Monetarists, said that in order to carry out an intellectual revolution in economics, one must propound a doctrine that has three qualities: it can be summarized in a single sentence, it provides the young with an excuse for ignoring the work of their elders, and it tells the young what they can do to further the revolution. John Maynard Keynes and Friedman both offered such doctrines. They said, respectively, that "aggregate demand determines supply" and that "inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon"; they dismissed their predecessors as obsolete; and they set hundreds of young to the task of estimating consumption, investment, and money-demand functions.
Galbraith propounded no such easily summarized doctrine. The closest we can get is: "the world is complicated, and both right-wing ideology and the conventional wisdom that is this age's self-image are terribly wrong." He offered critiques that required you to read and understand old theories, not new theories that allowed you to dismiss everything prior as irrelevant.
The result? Nearly all economists today are Paul Samuelson's children. Many are Keynes' children. Friedman, Robert Lucas, Robert Solow, and James Tobin all have plenty of descendants. But there are few Galbraithians on the ground. Would economics as a discipline be stronger if the 50-year-old and 30-year-old economists had a better appreciation of Galbraith? Almost surely. Will the winds of economic fashion shift and cause economists to appreciate Galbraith once again? For that to happen, an astute young economist would have to devote himself to "mathing up" chapters of The Affluent Society and The New Industrial State and publishing them in journals -- not a likely prospect in today's risk-adverse academic environment.
Here is Paul Craig Roberts on Galbraith:
Markets, Politics and the Public Interest
John Kenneth Galbraith, a Great America
By Paul Craig Roberts
May 3, 2006
A great American has passed away--John Kenneth Galbraith. He was 97 years old and still involved with the issues of our time.
Galbraith's most famous book is The Affluent Society (1958). In this book Galbraith argued that Americans were good at making money, but neglectful of the wider public interest.
Alas, the same is true today. The environment always suffers from the greed of developers and a number of other well organized interest groups that pull political strings. I have seen enough in my life to know that Galbraith was right that the "free market" is not always the answer. All too often, the "free market" is merely organized interests pulling political strings behind ideological cover.
...Galbraith could puncture the inanities that pass for "free market economics" better than anyone. Don't read me wrongly. There is a tremendous case for market economics. The fallibility of government is a well documented story. I am saying that there are a large number of special interests that disguise themselves with free market claims, and that these special interests, not true free market economics, determine US policy.
Today we need Galbraith more than we did in his own time. American economists have made themselves irrelevant. They don't address real issues. Lost in abstractions and ideology, the economy collapses around them while they give assurances that all is well.
America owes its former economic greatness to World War I and World War II, which destroyed Europe and Japan and left the US as the only manufacturer. As part of its cold war strategy, America gave itself away and has today a hollowed out economy based on consumer debt.
Under the Bush regime, the price of gold has sky-rocketed from $240 an ounce to $660 per ounce. That tells us something about the confidence the world has in the dollar as reserve currency.
John Kenneth Galbraith said "the total alteration in underlying circumstances has not been squarely faced. As a result, we are guided, in part, by ideas that are relevant to another world."
His words are more true today than when he wrote them.
A few minutes spent watching MSNBC is enough to convince a person that Roberts hit the nail on the head when he wrote that economists "don't address real issues. Lost in abstractions and ideology, the economy collapses around them while they give assurances that all is well."
The protests in support of undocumented workers across the United States may represent a watershed - in part for the reason mentioned above, the rebirth, from the lowest levels, of the U.S. labor movement, going at the corporate rulers and anti-immigrant populists at the most basic level by declaring that they are fully human, fully equal human beings worthy of respect and rights regardless of their legal status. The protests were also significant when seen in a hemispheric context:
Mesoamerica comes to North America: The Dialectics of the Migrant Workers' Movement
By James Petras
May 3, 2006
Between March 25 and May 1, 2006 close to 5 million migrant workers and their supporters marched through nearly 100 cities of the United States. This is the biggest and most sustained workers' demonstration in the history of the US. In all of its 50-year history, the US trade union confederation, the AFL-CIO has never been capable of mobilizing even a fraction of the workers convoked by the migrant workers movement.
The rise and growth of the movement is rooted in the historical experience of the migrant workers (overwhelmingly from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean), the exploitative and racist experience they confront today in the US and the future in which they face imprisonment, expulsion and dispossession.
An Independent Political Struggle
The migrant workers movement is engaged in an independent political struggle, directed against local, state and particularly the national government. The movement's immediate objective is to defeat congressional legislation designed to criminalize employed migrant workers and a "compromise" designed to divide recently arrived workers from older workers.The key demand of the migrant workers is the legalization of all workers, new and old. The choice of direct action methods is a response to the ineffectiveness of the legalistic and lobbying activities of established middle class controlled Latino organizations and the total failure of the labor confederation and its affiliates to organize migrant workers in trade unions or even build solidarity organizations.
To understand the dynamic growth of migrant labor movement in the US and its militancy, it is necessary to analyze the profound structural changes of the 1980's and 1990's in Mexico and Central America.
NAFTA, Proxy Wars and Free Markets.
The Economic Determinants
"Free Trade" and Unemployment: Beginning in the 1980's, the US via the IMF, and its client presidents in Mexico (Salinas, Zedillo and Fox) promoted a "free trade" policy codified in the North American Free Trade Area. This policy opened the door to the massive inflow of heavily subsidized US agricultural commodities undermining local small and medium size farmers. Large-scale foreign investments in retail enterprises, banking and finance led to the bankruptcy of millions of small business people. The growth of free trade industrial zones (maquiladoras) led to the decline of protective social and labor legislation. Foreign debt payments, corrupt privatizations and large-scale growth of precarious employment led to an absolute decline of wage levels, even as the number of Mexican billionaires multiplied. Huge profits and interest payments accruing to US corporations and banks flowed back to the US, as did billions of dollars from corrupt politicians, money laundered by US banks like CITI Corporation.
Displaced and impoverished rural and urban workers soon followed the outward flows of profits and interest. The reasoning according to the "free markets" was that free flows of US capital to Mexico should be accompanied by the free flow of labor, of Mexican workers to the US. But the US did not practice the "free market" doctrine: it pursued a policy of unrestricted entry of capital into Mexico and a restricted policy on labor migration.
The free market policies created a vast reserve army of unemployed and underemployed Mexican labor while the legal restraints on free migration forced the workers to migrate without legal documents.
The huge influx of labor was not simply a result of Mexican or Central American workers seeking higher wages, it was a result of the adverse structural conditions imposed by NAFTA which expelled workers from their workplace. The Mexican free market structure was an 'empire-centered model of accumulation', and because it was empire-centered, it became a magnet attracting labor in pursuit of employment in the Empire.
The US Imperial Wars of the 80s: The second major structural feature determining massive migrant worker movements from Central America was the US imperial wars of the 1980's: the massive US military intervention via proxy armies in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras destroyed the possibility of social reform and viable economies throughout Central America. By financing death squads and promoting "scorched earth" counter-insurgency activity the US drove millions of Central Americans out of the countryside into the squalor of urban slums and overseas to Mexico, the US, Canada and Europe. The US "success" in imposing corrupt right-wing rulers throughout Central America, closed off all options for collective or self-improvement in the domestic economy. The implementation of neo-liberal measures led to even greater unemployment and a sharp decline in social services, forcing many to seek employment in the empire: the source of their misery.
Legacy of Struggle: Migrant Labor Militancy
The first wave of immigrants in the 1980's in the aftermath of the neo-liberal shock and the military terror sought anonymously any kind of work even under the worst conditions; many hid their militant past but did not forget it. As the flow of migrant workers gained momentum, great concentrations of Latino workers settled in major cities of California, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. This led to the creation of a dense network of social, cultural and sports clubs and informal organizations based on previous family, neighborhood and regional ties. New small businesses flourished, consumer power increased, children attended school with clear Latino majorities and numerous radio station were directed to the migrant workers in their own language. Quickly the sense of solidarity grew from the strength of numbers, the facility of communication, the proximity of fellow workers, and above all from the common experience of unregulated and unmitigated exploitation at the hardest jobs and the lowest pay, accompanied by racist attitudes from employers, white workers, police and other public authorities.
The decision by the Congress to add the further threat of imprisonment and mass expulsions occurred at the same time in which the social networks and solidarity within the Latino communities was deepening and expanding. The earlier militancy carried over from the mass popular resistance to the death squads in El Salvador, the taste of freedom and dignity during the Sandinista period in Nicaragua, the multiple militant peasant movements in Mexico came out of the closet and found a new social expression in the mass migrant workers movement.
The convergence of submerged or latent militancy and the demands for labor rights and legal recognition in the new exploitative/repressive context created the impetus for social solidarity of entire communities. Participation included whole families, entire neighborhoods and crossed generational boundaries: high school students joined construction workers, gardeners, garment workers and domestics to fill the streets of Dallas, Texas and Los Angeles, California, with hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, much to the surprise of non-Latino observers ignorant of their historical legacy, their powerful social networks and their decision to draw the line now between social existence and massive expulsion.
In summary we cannot understand the massive labor migration from Mexico without examining the massive flow of US capital to Mexico, its destructive impact on the socio-economic relations and the unregulated outflow or remittance of profits and interests back to the US. Likewise we cannot explain the massive long-term flows of labor migrants from Central America to the US without taking into account the massive flow of US arms to the ruling classes of the region, the large-scale destruction of small scale agriculture, the restoration to power of the kleptocratic oligarchies and the reversal of social reforms, especially in Nicaragua.
The Counter-Revolution: Central American and Mexican labor migration is a direct result of the victory of the US-led counter-revolution in the region. The emergence of the mass movement of labor migrants, in a sense, is the replay of the earlier struggles between US capital and Mexican and Central American labor on the new terrain of US state politics and with a new set of issues. The continuity of the struggles, in Central America and Mexico and now in the US is found in the common demands for "self-determination" and the common methods of struggle, direct action. This is reflected in the strong working class or 'popular' composition of the struggle, and the historical memory of class solidarity.
Meanwhile, on another continent, the resistance to neoliberalism gains confidence from victory. According to the World Socialist Web Site:
It is no accident that the huge demonstrations in America follow by only weeks the outbreak of mass protests in France that brought together students, workers and immigrant youth against the attempts by the Chirac government to attack the rights of younger workers and make the working class as a whole pay for the crisis of French capitalism.
The conditions for a powerful and united offensive of the international working class against global capitalism are emerging. Globalization has not only rendered the old national reformist orientation of the trade unions impotent, it has also dramatically increased the number of workers on a world scale, while imposing upon working people in every country ever-more similar conditions.
William Pfaff, writing in the New York Review of Books, explains the French student revolt to a U.S. audience, shattering many of the misconceptions:
The French, of course, have been against capitalisme sauvage ever since that rough beast loomed amid the satanic mills of Britain in the nineteenth century, subsequently making its transatlantic journey to establish its new lair. The usual foreign description of the French problem is that the nation and its political and economic elites are failing to confront the demands of the globalized economy, taking refuge in the unrealistic notion of a French "social model" that has no place in the modern world. Hence, any effort to make the employment market more flexible meets with popular rejection, with consequent high French unemployment.
In fact, the rate of French youth unemployment is not what it usually is made out to be, since free baccalaureate- and university-level education keeps young people off the job market much longer than in most countries. As a result, as London's Financial Times reported in its March 25–26 issue, the official figures are misleading. The newspaper calculates that 7.8 percent of French people under twenty-five are actually out of work, as compared with 7.4 percent in Britain and 6.5 percent in Germany. Accurate comparison with the United States is almost impossible because US unemployment figures do not include the imprisoned and those not actively seeking work.
The level of youth unemployment nonetheless is unacceptably high and France's employment structure is much more inflexible than elsewhere - particularly in Scandinavia, where heavy state intervention in support of individuals out of work backs up highly flexible hiring and firing. But France also has higher productivity than most of its neighbors as well as a more highly qualified and educated workforce, higher investment from abroad (including from the US), and a much higher savings rate. The French savings rate in recent years has fluctuated between 14 and 16 percent. The rate of household debt is roughly half that of the US, Britain, Denmark, and the Netherlands. From the economists' point of view this is far too prudent for a modern consumer society, but it is very good for state finance, which has access to French private savings, placed mostly in life insurance, where the profits also generate tax payments.
The savings rate is further indication that the French worry more about the future than their neighbors. They are concerned about pensions, employment security, and the size of the national debt, now more than a trillion euros. This is unimpressive by American standards but troubles the French.
... According to the current myth, France's existing welfare system can't be reformed. But it can. Last year the underrated predecessor to Prime Minister Villepin, the undramatic and common-sensical Jean-Pierre Raffarin, successfully made important changes both in the retirement system for public employees and in health care. But he observed that these changes required an entire year of talks with the "social partners" - unions, insurance groups, and the public administrations - aimed at edging the reforms forward until they could be quietly adopted; last-minute protesters could then be easily disregarded.
Villepin, in contrast, announced his new youth employment proposal without preliminary consultations. He did not bring the social partners into his confidence, and in parliament he overrode the minority left's opposition (which took the form of multiple frivolous amendments) by applying a constitutional provision allowing the government to cut off delays by posing an implicit vote of confidence. This naturally fed the left's appetite for conflict.
Villepin made no adequate rebuttal to the charge that his measure increased employment insecurity, or to the perception - probably true - that he wanted eventually to extend his reform to apply not only to first jobs but to others as well. French students already are so intimidated by the job market, and so keen on secure employment, that 76 percent of those between fifteen and thirty want to become state employees who can never be fired. The impulse of union officials as well as the young is to defend every advantage they have acquired - whether in securing university places and jobs (or unemployment payments), or in maintaining the thirty-five-hour week, as well as pensions and long vacations. They do so because for the first time since the 1970s, the public is experiencing wide and steady pressure on wages and the threat of unemployment.
...Many of the French have now adopted the view that the nation itself is in decline. "Declineism" has become the subject of much public and press analysis, although sometimes the discussion simply reflects the foreign accusation that France's problems come from its refusal to adopt the Anglo-American model of market capitalism. Other commentators articulate a widely described sense of powerlessness, whether to break a sterile quasi stalemate between left and right in domestic politics, or to formulate a riposte to hostile economic forces from abroad - despite the fact that France actually is a highly successful competitor in world markets and a global leader in high technology.
I would suggest a larger explanation for the prevailing anxiety: that, as throughout modern history, France functions as the coal miner's canary of modern society, reacting to political and social forces before anyone else. France's refusal to approve the European Union constitutional treaty two years ago caused an international shock because the voters rejected the view, all but universally held among European elites, that continuing expansion and market liberalization are essential to the EU, indeed inevitable. The reaction of the European public elsewhere to the French vote seems, on the whole, to have been one of relief.
Similarly, the current unrest in France can be interpreted as a signal of wider popular resistance in Europe to the most important element in the new model of market economics, its undermining of the place of the employee in the corporate order, deliberately rendering the lives of employees precarious. The usual criticism of government intervention in the French economy is that it is protectionist and tends to block managers from downsizing and outsourcing jobs, in order to add "value" to the corporation. The head of the Paris Enterprise Institute, financed by business to sponsor economic internships for French schoolteachers, Jean-Pierre Boisivon, told the International Herald Tribune in April that "in France we are still stuck in 1970s Keynesian-style economics - we live in the world of thirty years ago. In our schools we fabricate a vision of society that is very different from the one that exists in other countries."
Between the 1970s and the present two fundamental changes have been made in the leading - American - model of capitalism. The first is that the "stakeholder" version of reformed capitalism that prevailed during the period following World War II was replaced by a new model of corporate purpose and responsibility. The new capitalism's most important characteristic in the United States has been to transfer wealth to stockholders and managers, and (through corporate tax cuts) away from spending for public purposes and on employees (through depressing wages and eliminating employee benefits). A recent headline read: "AT&T–BellSouth Deal Gets Wall St. Applause. Merger Would Lead to 10,000 Job Cuts."
The earlier postwar model, influenced by the New Deal as well as by reform unionism, European social democracy, and Christian social doctrine, held that corporations had a duty to ensure the well-being of their employees and an obligation to the community, chiefly but not exclusively fulfilled through corporate tax payments.
That model was replaced by one in which corporation managers are held responsible only for creating short-term "value" for owners, as measured by market performance and dividends. The practical result is constant pressure to limit or reduce wages and worker benefits (leading in some cases to theft of pensions and other crimes), as well as political lobbying and public campaigns to lower corporate tax contributions to the government and the public interest. In short, the business system in the advanced market economies has been rejigged since the 1970s to take wealth from workers, and from the funding of government, and transfer it to stockholders and corporate executives.
...I once called the current system "CEO capitalism," since corporate chiefs today effectively control their boards of directors and are also the principal benefactors of the system, subject to critical attention chiefly from investment fund managers, themselves interested in maximized and steadily increasing dividends. The well-known American fund manager John C. Bogle - founder and former CEO of the Vanguard Group, Inc. - has taken up this argument and develops it in his recent book, The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism.
This change in corporate capitalism has been defended with the now-familiar argument that capitalism devoted to increasing short-term value would produce such prosperity that all would benefit, including the non-shareholding stakeholders. However, while much wealth has been generated, not much of it has ended with them.
The second change that has taken place is, of course, globalization. The crucial effect of this for society in the advanced countries is that it puts labor into competition with the poorest countries on earth. The Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz is one of many arguing that trade liberalization puts downward pressure on skilled as well as unskilled wages. The deficiencies of the "Washington consensus" model for economic development have been acknowledged for some years, with many recognizing the argument that economic development, historically, has tended to fare better behind protectionism (as in Japan and South Korea) than under Washington consensus methods, while free trade often proves predatory in backward societies, destroying functioning institutions and failing to replace them. One remedy, which Stiglitz supports, is that free trade be emphasized within blocs of economies at comparable stages of development, instead of the universal deregulation advocated until now.
We need to note the classical economist David Ricardo's neglected "iron law of wages," which says that in conditions of wage competition and unlimited labor supply, wages will fall to just above subsistence level. This "law" in the past seemed irrelevant since there never before has been unlimited access to labor. Thanks to globalization, that is now in prospect. The consequences have only begun to be felt.
In this perspective, what in France seems a sterile popular defense of an obsolete social and economic order might instead be understood as a premonitory appeal for a humane successor to an economic model that considers labor a commodity and extends price competition for that commodity to the entire world. The apparently reactionary or even Luddite position inspired by French reactions might prove prophetic.
...Neither political party, as a party, has made other than an equivocal or reactionary challenge to the social and economic model of market liberalism that much of France rejects. As elsewhere in Europe - notably in the European Commission under its current president - French elites seem unaware of the degree to which the global model they are being pressed to adopt is already under attack from within. Instead, the French, who consider pessimism evidence of intelligence, are telling themselves that the nation suffers some profound crisis.
They remain under the spell of the idea of France in Decline, which the events of recent weeks seem to them to have confirmed. A French critic of declinism, Philippe Grasset, objects to the widely heard plea that it is essential that France cease to set itself off by its taste for what is passé, its conservatism, its old-fashionedness, and that it adapt to new conditions. This necessarily presupposes that globalism is the unique route to follow, simultaneously irresistible, triumphant, and benevolent.
Yet one sees perfectly well that the opposite is true: globalism is less and less the only way to go; it is not at all irresistible, never ceases to run into difficulties, and is more and more unpredictable. We no longer need to question whether these doubts about it are valid; it is increasingly apparent that they are true, and that their truth soon will be irresistible.
In that case, it may one day be said that the children were the first to notice.
To counter the threat posed by anti-neoliberal workers movements throughout the world, government and media elites in the United States have done what they have always done in such circumstances: divide workers by race or religion. Again the World Socialist Web Site:
This is what lies behind the orchestrated "backlash" against the immigrants' actions. The most reactionary, hypocritical and politically dangerous expression of this phenomenon has come from the Bush White House itself, with the seemingly absurd whipping up of a controversy over a Spanish-language version of the National Anthem produced by a number of Latino recording stars.
Never mind that Bush himself reportedly participated on a regular basis in campaign rallies where Spanish versions of the "Star Spangled Banner" were featured, with no apparent concern. The issue was manufactured and pumped up by Republican political operatives with the aim of appealing to the right-wing xenophobic layer within the Republican Party that constitutes the administration's bedrock political base.
The stupidity and irresponsibility of such an appeal is breathtaking. The promotion by the US president of the concept of making English an official language - something that exists nowhere in the US Constitution - carries with it the threat of provoking the kind of intense social conflicts that, in some countries, have led to civil war.
Parallel with such backward nationalist appeals is the right-wing populist agitation conducted by disparate elements ranging from CNN commentator Lou Dobbs, who has been turned into a national political figure, to the fascistic Minutemen vigilantes and sections of the trade union bureaucracy. They all pretend that their hostility to immigrants is motivated by concern for the American working class, whose jobs are allegedly being taken away and wages depressed by the presence in America of 12 million undocumented workers.
This is a reactionary lie. The attacks on jobs, living standards and social benefits are the fault not of the immigrants, but of a global crisis of the capitalist system - an economic system that is defended by all those who are trying to turn the undocumented workers into scapegoats.
There is no way to defend any rights or past gains of the working class in America or any other country by supporting the walling off of the national economy against immigrants. The futility of such an approach is amply demonstrated by the abject failure of the official trade union movement in the US, which for decades tried to convince workers that they had a common interest with big business in defending "American jobs" against foreign companies and workers alike. The result was the shutdown of factory after factory and the destruction of hundreds of thousands of jobs, as US-based transnational corporations shifted production to Mexico, China and elsewhere, seeking ever-lower labor costs.
It may be that neoconservatism and neoliberalism are incompatible. Neoliberalism was surging ahead in the Clinton years with the so-called "Washington Consensus." But the brutish foreign policy and rhetoric of the neoconservatives has helped sour the world on the neoliberal agenda. There is no "consensus" now. Neoliberal globalism depended for public support on the idea that everyone was going to benefit. But the neocon creation of a neo-feudal aristocracy to rule the world makes that belief no longer sustainable. The neocons knew that, which is why they put police state measures in place right from the start. The neocon agenda is at least self-consistent. The rejection of international law and norms of behavior by the United States and Israel has isolated those countries and that isolation, to a certain mind-set, confirms the fact that you cannot trust or work with the rest of the world. The saber rattling against Iran has helped boost oil prices which has helped consolidate wealth in a few hands, hands beholden to the neocon imperialists. The Iraq War, while bankrupting the United States, has enriched the few well-connected who own large blocks of the various defense and super-construction firms. Al Martin has some numbers:
This regime has craftily done everything it possibly can to A) increase the price of a barrel of crude oil and, B) increase the profit margins of oil companies. Why has it done so? Because NO single factor consolidates wealth like higher oil prices.
First of all, you have to bear in mind that the top 20% of the nation owns 74% of all of the outstanding shares of the nation's 50 largest publicly traded oil companies, including hydrocarbon derivative companies. So we have the top 20% of the nation owning 74% of all the stock.
Now, look at the top 1% of the nation, the very core of the Bushonian constituency. The top 1% of the nation owns 24% of all of the outstanding shares in the nation's publicly traded oil and gas companies and/or, let's say, major oil and gas companies and major hydrocarbon derivative publicly traded corporations.
When this Regime came to power, said top 1% of the population owned 61.9% of all of the private wealth in the nation. Today the same top 1% (because there's very little turnover, it's essentially the same top 1%, essentially the same people), now own 70.2% of all of the private wealth in the nation.
In other words, wealth has increased by 8.3% within the top 1%. There's been a further consolidation: 8.3% of all of the private wealth into the nation has flowed into the hands of the top 1% of the people under this regime.
Of said 8.3%, fully one quarter of that money came from oil stock, from the ownership of publicly traded oil and gas stocks and/or refiners, drillers, explorers, what's called "downstream" hydrocarbon energy stocks and/or interest in other oil-related securities.
One quarter of the increase in wealth in the top 1% and, indeed, more than one third of the increase in the wealth of the top 20% has come from holdings of oil and oil-related publicly traded corporations.
So far there has been little public resistance in the United States to the massive transfer of wealth upward, because, by and large, the U.S. public has been economically comfortable. But with rising gasoline prices, which can easily be tied directly to obscene profits by oil companies, grumbling has increased. When housing prices crash, however, watch out.
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Editorial: The Paradox of Human-made Pollution and Climate Changes
May 8, 2006
by Rodrigue Tremblay
Presently, there is growing and compelling evidence that the Earth's surface is getting warmer. In particular, it is warmer today than it was a century ago. Sea surface temperatures, for example, are running about 1 to 2 degrees Centigrade (approximately 1.8 to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal. There have been two relatively rapid periods of temperature increases, one between 1910 and 1940, and the other between 1960 and today.
Many scientists believe the current trend of global warming is one of the greatest environmental threats facing humanity, next to a nuclear cataclysm. For instance, climate warming could accelerate the melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (anchored in the ocean below sea level) and of the Greenland Ice Cap. The resulting rise in sea level over the next century could threaten major coastal communities. The implications of the current phase of global warming for modern civilization could be very serious, even though all its damaging effects remain to be fully ascertained.
Because so many forces influence the Earth's climate, there is still some uncertainty about the relative importance of each set of causes behind the current observed climate warming. For example, some scientists estimate that part of the trend in Earth's warming could be caused by natural factors acting within a very long cycle, such as a recurring closer proximity of the Earth to the Sun, the star that supplies our planet with heatand energy. The remaining observed warming is attributed to human-made pollution, such as the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) gas into the atmosphere.
It appears that human-made pollution of the atmosphere is already having a serious affect on the Earth's climate and on the Earth's ecological system. On the one hand, human activities over the past 100 years, such as the burning of fossil fuel (coal, oil, natural gas, etc.) have contributed to creating 'global warming'. It is because the greenhouse gases that result from fossil fuel consumption insulate the Earth's atmosphere and prevent the Earth's heat from escaping into space, causing surface air temperatures and sub-surface ocean temperatures to rise. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere absorb infrared radiation, thereby preventing some of the outgoing energy from returning to space. As a result, the Earth's atmosphere gets warmer.
On the other hand, the same human-made air pollutants caused by fossil fuel use, and which result in the visible layers of smog that can be seen in the atmosphere, make clouds that reflect more of the sun's rays back into space. This leads to a contrary effect known as 'global dimming', whereby less heat and energy from the Sun reaches the Earth. As a result of the Earth receiving less sunlight, there is a global cooling effect on land and the oceans. This has influenced the occurence and patterns of rainfalls in some regions of the globe, causing droughts and famine in these areas, especially in the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes. It has been postulated that the failure of the monsoon in sub-Saharan Africa during the 1970s and 1980s may have been caused by 'global dimming'.
The Earth's climate seems to be caught in a sort of tug-of-war between two competing atmospheric effects: One kind of pollution prevents sunlight from reaching the Earth, while another one prevents the radiation of heat from the Earth from escaping into space. The global cooling effects of air pollution with visible particles thus tend to mask somewhat the global warming effects of invisible greenhouse gases. However, scientists have estimated that over the last few decades, the global warming effects of pollution have been stronger than its cooling effects. Without the cooling effects of pollution, indeed, the Earth's surface temperature would have risen by about 1.8 degree Centigrade (about 3 degrees Fahrenheit), over the last few decades. But, because of the cooling effect of "global dimming', estimated at around 1 degree Centigrade (less than 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit), the Earth's average temperature only rose between 0.6 and 0.8 degrees Centigrade.
This poses a potentially difficult dilemma regarding the fight against atmospheric pollution. Indeed, if there is less visible pollution in the air at the same time that greenhouse gas emissions keep augmenting, a reduction in global dimming effects would tend to exacerbate global warming. Thus, paradoxically, a rapid solution to global dimming may lead to more pronounced increases in the Earth's temperature. The ice caps at the Earth's poles would risk melting at a faster rate and the level of oceans could rise faster, with all the consequences that such occurrences could entail for low sea-level inhabited regions and for the global ecological system. The obvious but difficult solution would consist in reducing simultaneously both visible (particles) pollution and invisible (greenhouse gases) pollution. This will be the mounting challenge facing humanity in the coming decades.
Whether we like it or not, humans are now a significant part of the Earth climate system and this means that they can do something to influence it in the right direction, or, at least, slow its advance in the wrong direction. Humans have to pay attention to the environment and to the global life support system. We need more scientific understanding of the Earth as a complex system and more enlightened international collaboration to face the new challenges that global pollution presents. The current generation of humans has no right to leave a damaged and depreciated environment to future generations.
Meanwhile, let us deplore that American scientists are being prevented by the Bush administration from speaking forthrightly to the public about global warming and other pollution topics. We need more debate on this issue, not less. In a democracy, intimidation and censorship are inherently dangerous. As one scientist put it, this "seems more like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union than the United States." The more so, knowing full well that the United States is the world's biggest polluter.
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Editorial: Ponerology: The Science of Evil Now Available!
Preface to the book Political Ponerology: The Science of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes by Laura Knight-Jadczyk
Political Ponerology may be the most important book you will ever read; in fact, it WILL be. No matter who you are, what your status in life, what your age or sex or nationality or ethnic background, you will, at some point in your life, feel the touch or relentless grip of the cold hand of Evil. Bad things happen to good people, that's a fact.
WHAT is evil? Historically, the question of evil has been a theological one. Generations of theological apologists have written entire libraries of books in an attempt to certify the existence of a Good God that created an imperfect world. Saint Augustine distinguished between two forms of evil: "moral evil", the evil humans do, by choice, knowing that they are doing wrong; and "natural evil", the bad things that just happen - the storm, the flood, volcanic eruptions, fatal disease.
And then, there is what Andrew Lobaczewski calls Macrosocial Evil: large scale evil that overtakes whole societies and nations, and has done so again and again since time immemorial. The history of mankind, when considered objectively, is a terrible thing.
Death and destruction come to all, both rich and poor, free and slave, young and old, good and evil, with an arbitrariness and insouciance that, when contemplated even momentarily, can destroy a normal person's ability to function.
Over and over again, man has seen his fields and cattle laid waste by drought and disease, his loved ones tormented and decimated by illness or human cruelty, his life's work reduced to nothing in an instant by events over which he has no control at all.
The study of history through its various disciplines offers a view of mankind that is almost insupportable. The rapacious movements of hungry tribes, invading and conquering and destroying in the darkness of prehistory; the barbarian invaders of the civilized world during medieval times, the bloodbaths of the crusades of Catholic Europe against the infidels of the Middle East and then the "infidels" who were their own brothers: the stalking noonday terror of the Inquisition where martyrs quenched the flames with their blood. Then, there is the raging holocaust of modern genocide; wars, famine, and pestilence striding across the globe in hundred league boots; and never more frightening than today.
All of these things produce an intolerable sense of indefensibility against what Mircea Eliade calls the Terror of History.
There are those who will say that NOW this is all past; mankind has entered a new phase; science and technology have brought us to the brink of ending all this suffering. Many people believe that man is evolving; society is evolving; and that we now have control over the arbitrary evil of our environment; or at least we will have it after George Bush and his Neocons have about 25 years to fight the Endless War against Terror. Anything that does not support this idea is reinterpreted or ignored.
Science has given us many wonderful gifts: the space program, laser, television, penicillin, sulfa-drugs, and a host of other useful developments which should make our lives more tolerable and fruitful. However, we can easily see that this is not the case. It it could be said that never before has man been so precariously poised on the brink of such total destruction.
On a personal level, our lives are steadily deteriorating. The air we breathe and the water we drink is polluted almost beyond endurance. Our foods are loaded with substances which contribute very little to nourishment, and may, in fact, be injurious to our health. Stress and tension have become an accepted part of life and can be shown to have killed more people than the cigarettes that some people still smoke to relieve it. We swallow endless quantities of pills to wake up, go to sleep, get the job done, calm our nerves and make us feel good. The inhabitants of the earth spend more money on recreational drugs than they spend on housing, clothing, food, education or any other product or service.
At the social level, hatred, envy, greed and strife multiply exponentially. Crime increases nine times faster than the population. Combined with wars, insurrections, and political purges, multiplied millions of people across the globe are without adequate food or shelter due to political actions.
And then, of course, drought, famine, plague and natural disasters still take an annual toll in lives and suffering. This, too, seems to be increasing.
When man contemplates history, AS IT IS, he is forced to realize that he is in the iron grip of an existence that seems to have no real care or concern for his pain and suffering. Over and over again, the same sufferings fall upon mankind multiplied millions upon millions of times over millennia. The totality of human suffering is a dreadful thing. I could write until the end of the world using oceans of ink and forests of paper, and never fully convey this Terror. The beast of arbitrary calamity has always been with us. For as long as human hearts have pumped hot blood through their too-fragile bodies and glowed with the inexpressible sweetness of life and yearning for all that is good and right and loving, the sneering, stalking, drooling and scheming beast of unconscious evil has licked its lips in anticipation of its next feast of terror and suffering. Since the beginning of time, this mystery of the estate of man, this Curse of Cain has existed. And, since the Ancient of Days, the cry has been: My punishment is greater than I can bear!
It is conjectured that, in ancient times, when man perceived this intolerable and incomprehensible condition in which he found his existence, that he created cosmogonies to justify all the cruelties, aberrations, and tragedies of history. It is true that, man, as a rule and in general, is powerless against cosmic and geological catastrophes, and it has long been said that the average man can't really do anything about military onslaughts, social injustice, personal and familial misfortunes, and a host of assaults against his existence too numerous to list.
This is about to change. Political Ponerology by Andrzej Lobaczewski is going to give you answers to many of the questions about Evil in our world. This book is not just about macrosocial evil, it is also about everyday evil because, in a very real sense, the two are inseparable. The long term accumulation of everyday evil always and inevitably leads to Grand Systemic Evil that destroys more innocent people than any other phenomenon on this planet.
Political Ponerology is also a survival guide. As I said above, this book will be the most important book you will ever read. Unless, of course, you are a psychopath.
"What does psychopathy have to do with personal or social evil?" you may ask.
Absolutely everything. Whether you know it or not, each and every day your life is touched by the effects of psychopathy on our world. You are about to learn that even if there isn't much we can do about geological and cosmological catastrophe, there is a lot we can do about social and macrosocial evil, and the very first thing to do is to learn about it. In the case of psychopathy and its effects on our world, what you don't know definitely can and will hurt you.
Nowadays the word "psychopath" generally evokes images of the barely restrained - yet surprisingly urbane - mad-dog serial killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter of "Silence of the Lambs" fame. I will admit that this was the image that came to my mind whenever I heard the word; almost, that is. The big difference was that I never thought of a psychopath as possibly being so cultured or so capable of passing as "normal." But I was wrong, and I was to learn this lesson quite painfully by direct experience. The exact details are chronicled elsewhere; what is important is that this experience was probably one of the most painful and instructive episodes of my life and it enabled me to overcome a block in my awareness of the world around me and those who inhabit it.
Regarding blocks to awareness, I need to state for the record that I have spent 30 years studying psychology, history, culture, religion, myth and the so-called paranormal . I also have worked for many years with hypnotherapy - which gave me a very good mechanical knowledge of how the mind/brain of the human being operates at very deep levels. But even so, I was still operating with certain beliefs firmly in place that were shattered by my research into psychopathy. I realized that there was a certain set of ideas that I held about human beings that were sacrosanct - and false. I even wrote about this once in the following way:
...my work has shown me that the vast majority of people want to do good, to experience good things, think good thoughts, and make decisions with good results. And they try with all their might to do so! With the majority of people having this internal desire, why the Hell isn't it happening?
I was naïve, I admit. There were many things I did not know that I have learned since I penned those words. But even at that time I was aware of how our own minds can be used to deceive us.
Now, what beliefs did I hold that made me a victim of a psychopath? The first and most obvious one is that I truly believed that deep inside, all people are basically "good" and that they "want to do good, to experience good things, think good thoughts, and make decisions with good results. And they try with all their might to do so..."
As it happens, this is not true as I - and everyone involved in our research group - learned to our sorrow, as they say. But we also learned to our edification. In order to come to some understanding of exactly what kind of human being could do the things that were done to me (and others close to me), and why they might be motivated - even driven - to behave this way, we began to research the psychology literature for clues because we needed to understand for our own peace of mind.
If there is a psychological theory that can explain vicious and harmful behavior, it helps very much for the victim of such acts to have this information so that they do not have to spend all their time feeling hurt or angry. And certainly, if there is a psychological theory that helps a person to find what kind of words or deeds can bridge the chasm between people, to heal misunderstandings, that is also a worthy goal. It was from such a perspective that we began our extensive work on the subjects of narcissism which then led to the study of psychopathy.
Of course, we didn't start out with such any such "diagnosis" or label for what we were witnessing. We started out with observations and searched the literature for clues, for profiles, for anything that would help us to understand the inner world of a human being - actually a group of human beings - who seemed to be utterly depraved and unlike anything we had ever encountered before. We found that this kind of human is all too common and that, according to some of the latest research, they cause more damage in human society than any other single so-called "mental illness." Martha Stout, who has worked extensively with victims of psychopaths, writes:
Imagine - if you can - not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern for the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members. Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken.
And pretend that the concept of responsibility is unknown to you, except as a burden others seem to accept without question, like gullible fools.
Now add to this strange fantasy the ability to conceal from other people that your psychological makeup is radically different from theirs. Since everyone simply assumes that conscience is universal among human beings, hiding the fact that you are conscience-free is nearly effortless.
You are not held back from any of your desires by guilt or shame, and you are never confronted by others for your cold-bloodedness. The ice water in your veins is so bizarre, so completely outside of their personal experience, that they seldom even guess at your condition.
In other words, you are completely free of internal restraints, and your unhampered liberty to do just as you please, with no pangs of conscience, is conveniently invisible to the world.
You can do anything at all, and still your strange advantage over the majority of people, who are kept in line by their consciences will most likely remain undiscovered.
How will you live your life?
What will you do with your huge and secret advantage, and with the corresponding handicap of other people (conscience)?
The answer will depend largely on just what your desires happen to be, because people are not all the same. Even the profoundly unscrupulous are not all the same. Some people - whether they have a conscience or not - favor the ease of inertia, while others are filled with dreams and wild ambitions. Some human beings are brilliant and talented, some are dull-witted, and most, conscience or not, are somewhere in between. There are violent people and nonviolent ones, individuals who are motivated by blood lust and those who have no such appetites. [...]
Provided you are not forcibly stopped, you can do anything at all.
If you are born at the right time, with some access to family fortune, and you have a special talent for whipping up other people's hatred and sense of deprivation, you can arrange to kill large numbers of unsuspecting people. With enough money, you can accomplish this from far away, and you can sit back safely and watch in satisfaction. [...]
Crazy and frightening - and real, in about 4 percent of the population....
The prevalence rate for anorexic eating disorders is estimated a 3.43 percent, deemed to be nearly epidemic, and yet this figure is a fraction lower than the rate for antisocial personality. The high-profile disorders classed as schizophrenia occur in only about 1 percent of [the population] - a mere quarter of the rate of antisocial personality - and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that the rate of colon cancer in the United States, considered "alarmingly high," is about 40 per 100,000 - one hundred times lower than the rate of antisocial personality.
The high incidence of sociopathy in human society has a profound effect on the rest of us who must live on this planet, too, even those of us who have not been clinically traumatized. The individuals who constitute this 4 percent drain our relationships, our bank accounts, our accomplishments, our self-esteem, our very peace on earth.
Yet surprisingly, many people know nothing about this disorder, or if they do, they think only in terms of violent psychopathy - murderers, serial killers, mass murderers - people who have conspicuously broken the law many times over, and who, if caught, will be imprisoned, maybe even put to death by our legal system.
We are not commonly aware of, nor do we usually identify, the larger number of nonviolent sociopaths among us, people who often are not blatant lawbreakers, and against whom our formal legal system provides little defense.
Most of us would not imagine any correspondence between conceiving an ethnic genocide and, say, guiltlessly lying to one's boss about a coworker. But the psychological correspondence is not only there; it is chilling. Simple and profound, the link is the absence of the inner mechanism that beats up on us, emotionally speaking, when we make a choice we view as immoral, unethical, neglectful, or selfish.
Most of us feel mildly guilty if we eat the last piece of cake in the kitchen, let alone what we would feel if we intentionally and methodically set about to hurt another person.
Those who have no conscience at all are a group unto themselves, whether they be homicidal tyrants or merely ruthless social snipers.
The presence or absence of conscience is a deep human division, arguably more significant than intelligence, race, or even gender.
What differentiates a sociopath who lives off the labors of others from one who occasionally robs convenience stores, or from one who is a contemporary robber baron - or what makes the difference betwen an ordinary bully and a sociopathic murderer - is nothing more than social status, drive, intellect, blood lust, or simple opportunity.
What distinguishes all of these people from the rest of us is an utterly empty hole in the psyche, where there should be the most evolved of all humanizing functions.
We did not have the advantage of Dr. Stout's book at the beginning of our research project. We did, of course, have Robert Hare and Hervey Cleckley and Guggenbuhl-Craig and others. But they were only approaching the subject of the possibly large numbers of psychopaths that live among us who never get caught breaking laws, who don't murder - or if they do, they don't get caught - and who still do untold damage to the lives of family, acquaintances, and strangers.
Most mental health experts, for a very long time, have operated on the premise that psychopaths come from impoverished backgrounds and have experienced abuse of one sort or another in childhood, so it is easy to spot them, or at least, they certainly don't move in society except as interlopers. This idea seems to be coming under some serious revision lately. As Lobaczewski points out in this book, there is some confusion between Psychopathy and Antisocial Personality Disorder and Sociopathy. As Robert Hare points out, yes, there are many psychopaths who are also "anti-socials" but there seem to be far more of them that would never be classified as anti-social or sociopathic! In other words, they can be doctors, lawyers, judges, policemen, congressmen, presidents of corporations that rob from the poor to give to the rich, and even presidents.
In a recent paper, it is suggested that psychopathy may exist in ordinary society in even greater numbers than anyone has thus far considered:
"Psychopathy, as originally conceived by Cleckley (1941), is not limited to engagement in illegal activities, but rather encompasses such personality characteristics as manipulativeness, insincerity, egocentricity, and lack of guilt - characteristics clearly present in criminals but also in spouses, parents, bosses, attorneys, politicians, and CEOs, to name but a few. (Bursten, 1973; Stewart, 1991). Our own examination of the prevalence of psychopathy within a university population suggested that perhaps 5% or more of this sample might be deemed psychopathic, although the vast majority of those will be male (more than 1/10 males versus approximately 1?100 females).
"As such, psychopathy may be characterized ... as involving a tendency towards both dominance and coldness. Wiggins (1995) in summarizing numerous previous findings... indicates that such individuals are prone to anger and irritation and are willing to exploit others. They are arrogant, manipulative, cynical, exhibitionistic, sensation -seeking, Machiavellian, vindictive, and out for their own gain. With respect to their patterns of social exchange (Foa & Foa, 1974), they attribute love and status to themselves, seeing themselves as highly worthy and important, but prescribe neither love nor status to others, seeing them as unworthy and insignificant. This characterization is clearly consistent with the essence of psychopathy as commonly described.
"The present investigation sought to answer some basic questions regarding the construct of psychopathy in non forensic settings... In so doing we have returned to Cleckley's (1941) original emphasis on psychopathy as a personality style not only among criminals, but also among successful individuals within the community.
"What is clear from our findings is that (a) psychopathy measures have converged on a prototype of psychopathy that involves a combination of dominant and cold interpersonal characteristics; (b) psychopathy does occur in the community and at what might be a higher than expected rate; and (c) psychopathy appears to have little overlap with personality disorders aside from Antisocial Personality Disorder. ...
"Clearly, where much more work is needed is in understanding what factors differentiate the abiding (although perhaps not moral-abiding) psychopath from the law-breaking psychopath; such research surely needs to make greater use of non forensic samples than has been customary in the past."
Lobaczewski discusses the fact that there are different types of psychopaths. One type, in particular, is the most deadly of all: the Essential Psychopath. He doesn't give us a "checklist" but rather discusses what is inside the psychopath. His description meshes very well with items in the paper quoted above.
Martha Stout also discusses the fact that psychopaths, like anyone else, are born with different basic likes and dislikes and desires which is why some of them are doctors and presidents and others are petty thieves or rapists.
"Likeable," "Charming," "Intelligent," "Alert," "Impressive," "Confidence-inspiring," and "A great success with the ladies". This is how Hervey Cleckley described most of his subjects in "The Mask of Sanity." It seems that, in spite of the fact that their actions prove them to be "irresponsible," "self-destructive," psychopaths seem to have in abundance the very traits most desired by normal persons. The smooth self-assurance acts as an almost supernatural magnet to normal people who have to read self-help books or go to counseling to be able to interact with others in an untroubled way. The psychopath, on the contrary, never has any neuroses, no self-doubts, never experiences angst, and is what "normal" people seek to be. What's more, even if they aren't that attractive, they are "babe magnets."
Cleckley's seminal hypothesis is that the psychopath suffers from profound and incurable affective deficit. If he really feels anything at all, they are emotions of only the shallowest kind. He is able to do whatever he wants, based on whatever whim strikes him because consequences that would fill the ordinary man with shame, self-loathing, and embarrassment simply do not affect the psychopath at all. What to others would be a horror or a disaster is to him merely a fleeting inconvenience.
Cleckley posits that psychopathy is quite common in the community at large. His cases include examples of psychopaths who generally function normally in the community as businessmen, doctors, and even psychiatrists. Nowadays, some of the more astute researchers see criminal psychopathy - often referred to as anti-social personality disorder - as an extreme of a particular personality type. I think it is more helpful to characterize criminal psychopaths as "unsuccessful psychopaths."
One researcher, Alan Harrington goes so far as to say that the psychopath is the new man being produced by the evolutionary pressures of modern life.
Certainly, there have always been shysters and crooks, but past concern was focused on ferreting out incompetents rather than psychopaths. Unfortunately, all that has changed. We now need to fear the super-sophisticated modern crook who does know what he is doing ... and does it so well that no one else knows. Yes, psychopaths love the business world.
"Uninvolved with others, he coolly saw into their fears and desires, and maneuvered them as he wished. Such a man might not, after all, be doomed to a life of scrapes and escapades ending ignominiously in the jailhouse. Instead of murdering others, he might become a corporate raider and murder companies, firing people instead of killing them, and chopping up their functions rather than their bodies."
[T]he consequences to the average citizen from business crimes are staggering. As criminologist Georgette Bennett says, "They account for nearly 30% of case filings in U.S. District Courts - more than any other category of crime. The combined burglary, mugging and other property losses induced by the country's street punks come to about $4 billion a year. However, the seemingly upstanding citizens in our corporate board rooms and the humble clerks in our retail stores bilk us out of between $40 and $200 billion a year."
Concern here is that the costume for the new masked sanity of a psychopath is just as likely to be a three-piece suit as a ski mask and a gun. As Harrington says, "We also have the psychopath in respectable circles, no longer assumed to be a loser." He quotes William Krasner as saying, "They - psychopath and part psychopath - do well in the more unscrupulous types of sales work, because they take such delight in 'putting it over on them', getting away with it - and have so little conscience about defrauding their customers." Our society is fast becoming more materialistic, and success at any cost is the credo of many businessmen. The typical psychopath thrives in this kind of environment and is seen as a business "hero."
The study of "ambulatory" psychopaths - what we call "The Garden Variety Psychopath" - has, however, hardly begun. Very little is known about subcriminal psychopathy. Some researchers have begun to seriously consider the idea that it is important to study psychopathy not as a pathological category but as a general personality trait in the community at large. In other words, psychopathy is being recognized as a more or less a different type of human.
Hervey Cleckly actually comes very close to suggesting that psychopaths are human in every respect - but that they lack a soul. This lack of "soul quality" makes them very efficient "machines." They can write scholarly works, imitate the words of emotion, but over time, it becomes clear that their words do not match their actions. They are the type of person who can claim that they are devastated by grief who then attend a party "to forget." The problem is: they really DO forget.
Being very efficient machines, like a computer, they are able to execute very complex routines designed to elicit from others support for what they want. In this way, many psychopaths are able to reach very high positions in life. It is only over time that their associates become aware of the fact that their climb up the ladder of success is predicated on violating the rights of others. "Even when they are indifferent to the rights of their associates, they are often able to inspire feelings of trust and confidence."
The psychopath recognizes no flaw in his psyche, no need for change.
Andrew Lobaczewski addresses the problem of the psychopath and their extremely significant contribution to our macrosocial evils, their ability to act as the éminence grise behind the very structure of our society. It is very important to keep in mind that this influence comes from a relatively small segment of humanity. The other 90 some percent of human beings are not psychopaths.
But that 90 percent of normal people know that something is wrong! They just can't quite identify it; can't quite put their finger on it; and because they can't, they tend to think that there is nothing they can do about it, or maybe it is just God punishing people.
What is actually the case is that when that 90 some percent of human beings fall into a certain state, as Lobaczewski will describe, the psychopaths, like a virulent pathogen in a body, strike at the weaknesses and the entire society is plunged into conditions that always and inevitably lead to horror and tragedy on a very large scale.
The movie, "The Matrix," touched a deep chord in society because it exemplified this mechanistic trap in which so many people find their lives enmeshed, and from which they are unable to extricate themselves because they believe that everyone around them who "looks human" is, in fact, just like them - emotionally, spiritually, and otherwise.
To give an example of how psychopaths can directly affect society at large: the "legal argument" as explicated by Robert Canup in his work on the "Socially Adept Psychopath." The legal argument seems to be at the foundation of our society. We believe that the legal argument is an advanced system of justice. This is a very cunning trick that has been foisted on normal people by psychopaths in order to have an advantage over them. Just think about it for a moment: the legal argument amounts to little more than the one who is the slickest at using the structure for convincing a group of people of something, is the one who is believed. Because this "legal argument" system has been slowly installed as part of our culture, when it invades our personal lives, we normally do not recognize it immediately. But here's how it works.
Human beings have been accustomed to assume that other human beings are - at the very least - trying to "do right" and "be good" and fair and honest. And so, very often, we do not take the time to use due diligence in order to determine if a person who has entered our life is, in fact, a "good person." When a conflict ensues, we automatically fall into the legal argument assumption that in any conflict, one side is partly right one way, and the other is partly right the other, and that we can form opinions about which side is mostly right or wrong. Because of our exposure to the "legal argument" norms, when any dispute arises, we automatically think that the truth will lie somewhere between two extremes. In this case, application of a little mathematical logic to the problem of the legal argument might be helpful.
Let us assume that in a dispute, one side is innocent, honest, and tells the truth. It is obvious that lying does an innocent person no good; what lie can he tell? If he is innocent, the only lie he can tell is to falsely confess "I did it." But lying is nothing but good for the liar. He can declare that "I didn't do it," and accuse another of doing it, all the while the innocent person he has accused is saying "I didn't do it," and is actually telling the truth.
The truth - when twisted by good liars, can always make an innocent person look bad - especially if the innocent person is honest and admits his mistakes.
The basic assumption that the truth lies between the testimony of the two sides always shifts the advantage to the lying side and away from the side telling the truth. Under most circumstances, this shift put together with the fact that the truth is going to also be twisted in such a way as to bring detriment to the innocent person, results in the advantage always resting in the hands of liars - psychopaths. Even the simple act of giving testimony under oath is a useless farce. If a person is a liar, swearing an oath means nothing to that person. However, swearing an oath acts strongly on a serious, truthful witness. Again, the advantage is placed on the side of the liar.
It has often been noted that psychopaths have a distinct advantage over human beings with conscience and feelings because the psychopath does not have conscience and feelings. What seems to be so is that conscience and feelings are related to the abstract concepts of "future" and "others." It is "spatio-temporal." We can feel fear, sympathy, empathy, sadness, and so on because we can IMAGINE in an abstract way, the future based on our own experiences in the past, or even just "concepts of experiences" in myriad variations. We can "see ourselves" in them even though they are "out there" and this evokes feelings in us. We can't do something hurtful because we can imagine it being done to us and how it would feel. In other words, we can not only identify with others spatially - so to say - but also temporally - in time.
The psychopath does not seem to have this capacity.
They are unable to "imagine" in the sense of being able to really connect to images in a direct "self connecting to another self" sort of way.
Oh, indeed, they can imitate feelings, but the only real feelings they seem to have - the thing that drives them and causes them to act out different dramas for the effect - is a sort of "predatorial hunger" for what they want. That is to say, they "feel" need/want as love, and not having their needs/wants met is described by them as "not being loved". What is more, this "need/want" perspective posits that only the "hunger" of the psychopath is valid, and anything and everything "out there," outside of the psychopath, is not real except insofar as it has the capability of being assimilated to the psychopath as a sort of "food." "Can it be used or can it provide something?" is the only issue about which the psychopath seems to be concerned. All else - all activity - is subsumed to this drive.
In short, the psychopath is a predator. If we think about the interactions of predators with their prey in the animal kingdom, we can come to some idea of what is behind the "mask of sanity" of the psychopath. Just as an animal predator will adopt all kinds of stealthy functions in order to stalk their prey, cut them out of the herd, get close to them and reduce their resistance, so does the psychopath construct all kinds of elaborate camouflage composed of words and appearances - lies and manipulations - in order to "assimilate" their prey.
This leads us to an important question: what does the psychopath REALLY get from their victims? It's easy to see what they are after when they lie and manipulate for money or material goods or power. But in many instances, such as love relationships or faked friendships, it is not so easy to see what the psychopath is after. Without wandering too far afield into spiritual speculations - a problem Cleckley also faced - we can only say that it seems to be that the psychopath ENJOYS making others suffer. Just as normal humans enjoy seeing other people happy, or doing things that make other people smile, the psychopath enjoys the exact opposite.
Anyone who has ever observed a cat playing with a mouse before killing and eating it has probably explained to themselves that the cat is just "entertained" by the antics of the mouse and is unable to conceive of the terror and pain being experienced by the mouse, and the cat, therefore, is innocent of any evil intent. The mouse dies, the cat is fed, and that is nature. Psychopaths don't generally eat their victims.
Yes, in extreme cases of psychopathy, the entire cat and mouse dynamic is carried out. Cannibalism has a long history wherein it was assumed that certain powers of the victim could be assimilated by eating some particular part of them. But in ordinary life, psychopaths don't normally go all the way, so to say. This causes us to look at the cat and mouse scenario again with different eyes. Now we ask: is it too simplistic to think that the innocent cat is merely entertained by the mouse running about and frantically trying to escape? Is there something more to this dynamic than meets the eye? Is there something more than being "entertained" by the antics of the mouse trying to flee? After all, in terms of evolution, why would such behavior be hard-wired into the cat? Is the mouse tastier because of the chemicals of fear that flood his little body? Is a mouse frozen with terror more of a "gourmet" meal?
This suggests that we ought to revisit our ideas about psychopaths with a slightly different perspective. One thing we do know is this: many people who experience interactions with psychopaths and narcissists report feeling "drained" and confused and often subsequently experience deteriorating health. Does this mean that part of the dynamic, part of the explanation for why psychopaths will pursue "love relationships" and "friendships" that ostensibly can result in no observable material gain, is because there is an actual energy consumption?
We do not know the answer to this question. We observe, we theorize, we speculate and hypothesize. But in the end, only the individual victim can determine what they have lost in the dynamic - and it is often far more than material goods. In a certain sense, it seems that psychopaths are soul eaters or "Psychophagic."
In the past several years, there are many more psychologists and psychiatrists and other mental health workers beginning to look at these issues in new ways in response to the questions about the state of our world and the possibility that there is some essential difference between such individuals as George W. Bush and many so-called Neocons, and the rest of us.
Dr. Stout's book has one of the longest explanations as to why none of her examples resemble any actual persons that I have ever read. And then, in a very early chapter, she describes a "composite" case where the subject spent his childhood blowing up frogs with fire-crackers. It is widely known that George W. Bush did this, so one naturally wonders...
In any event, even without Dr. Stout's work, at the time we were studying the matter, we realized that what we were learning was very important to everyone because as the data was assembled, we saw that the clues, the profiles, revealed that the issues we were facing were faced by everyone at one time or another, to one extent or another. We also began to realize that the profiles that emerged also describe rather accurately many individuals who seek positions of power in fields of authority, most particularly politics and commerce. That's really not so surprising an idea, but it honestly hadn't occurred to us until we saw the patterns and recognized them in the behaviors of numerous historical figures, and lately including George W. Bush and members of his administration.
Current day statistics tell us that there are more psychologically sick people than healthy ones. If you take a sampling of individuals in any given field, you are likely to find that a significant number of them display pathological symptoms to one extent or another. Politics is no exception, and by its very nature, would tend to attract more of the pathological "dominator types" than other fields. That is only logical, and we began to realize that it was not only logical, it was horrifyingly accurate; horrifying because pathology among people in power can have disastrous effects on all of the people under the control of such pathological individuals. And so, we decided to write about this subject and publish it on the Internet.
As the material went up, letters from our readers began to come in thanking us for putting a name to what was happening to them in their personal lives as well as helping them to understand what was happening in a world that seems to have gone completely mad. We began to think that it was an epidemic and in a certain sense, we were right. If an individual with a highly contagious illness works in a job that puts them in contact with the public, an epidemic is the result. In the same way, if an individual in a position of political power is a psychopath, he or she can create an epidemic of psychopathology in people who are not, essentially, psychopathic. Our ideas along this line were soon to receive confirmation from an unexpected source: Andrew Lobaczewski, the author of the book you are about to read. I received an email as follows:
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen.
I promptly wrote a reply saying yes, I would very much like to read his book. A couple of weeks later the manuscript arrived in the mail.
I have got your Special Research Project on psychopathy by my computer. You are doing a most important and valuable work for the future of nations.[...]
I am a very aged clinical psychologist. Forty years ago I took part in a secret investigation of the real nature and psychopathology of the macro-social phenomenon called "Communism". The other researchers were the scientists of the previous generation who are now passed away.
The profound study of the nature psychopathy, which played the essential and inspirational part in this macro-social psychopathologic phenomenon, and distinguishing it from other mental anomalies, appeared to be the necessary preparation for understanding the entire nature of the phenomenon.
The large part of the work, you are doing now, was done in those times. ...
I am able to provide you with a most valuable scientific document, useful for your purposes. It is my book "POLITICAL PONEROLOGY - A science on the nature of evil adjusted for political purposes". You may also find copy of this book in the Library of Congress and in some university and public libraries in the USA.
Be so kind and contact me so that I may mail a copy to you.
Very truly yours!
Andrew M. £obaczewski
As I read, I realized that what I was holding in my hand was essentially a chronicle of a descent into hell, transformation, and triumphant return to the world with knowledge of that hell that was priceless for the rest of us, particularly in this day and time when it seems evident that a similar hell is enveloping the planet. The risks that were taken by the group of scientists that did the research on which this book is based are beyond the comprehension of most of us.
Many of them were young, just starting in their careers when the Nazis began to stride in their hundred league jackboots across Europe. These researchers lived through that, and then when the Nazis were driven out and replaced by the Communists under the heel of Stalin, they faced years of oppression the likes of which those of us today who are choosing to take a stand against the Bush Reich cannot even imagine. But, based on the syndrome that describes the onset of the disease, it seems that the United States, in particular, and perhaps the entire world, will soon enter into "bad times" of such horror and despair that the Holocaust of World War II will seem like just a practice run.
And so, since they were there, and they lived through it and brought back information to the rest of us, it may well save our lives to have a map to guide us in the falling darkness.
- Order your copy now! -
For more on Political Ponerology, don't miss our podcast entitled The 6% Solution!!
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Permanent War on Terror
Bush says fight against terror is World War III
May 06, 2006
WASHINGTON: United States President George W Bush has said the September 11 revolt of passengers against their hijackers on board Flight 93 had struck the first blow of World War III.
In an interview with the financial news network CNBC on Friday, Bush said he had yet to see the recently released film of the uprising, a dramatic portrayal of events on the United Airlines plane before it crashed in a Pennsylvania field.
But he said he agreed with the description of David Beamer, whose son Todd died in the crash, who in a Wall Street Journal commentary last month called it "our first successful counterattack in our homeland in this new global war - World War III".
Bush said, "I believe that. I believe that it was the first counterattack to World War III.
"It was, it was unbelievably heroic of those folks on the airplane to recognise the danger and save lives," he said.
Flight 93 crashed on the morning of September 11, 2001, killing the 33 passengers, seven crew members and four hijackers, after passengers stormed the cockpit and battled the hijackers for control of the aircraft.
The President has repeatedly praised the heroism of the passengers in fighting back and so launching the first blow of what he usually calls the "war on terror".
In 2002, then-White House spokesman Ari Fleischer explicitly declined to call the hunt for Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda group and its followers World War III.
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Experts: Don't Expect New al-Qaida Trials
By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN and MATTHEW BARAKAT
May 6, 2006
ALEXANDRIA, Va. - Even with Zacarias Moussaoui's trial in federal court complete, legal experts don't expect to see top captured al-Qaida operatives brought into civilian courts soon, or perhaps ever.
Moussaoui, the inept al-Qaida conspirator who was in jail on Sept. 11, 2001, was sentenced this week to consecutive life sentences after a 4 1/2-year legal battle that cleared hurdles many thought were insurmountable.
Defense lawyers questioned how fair it was for Moussaoui to face a potential death penalty while a handful of so-called "high value" al-Qaida captives, like Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and coordinator Ramzi Binalshibh, are held at secret locations with no charges.
Prosecutor David Raskin told jurors: "True, they don't face the death penalty now, but they are giving information. What do think is going to happen to them when the information runs dry?"
Raskin's colleague David Novak went further: "They're going to face justice, just like this defendant does, when their interrogation time is over."
But neither Raskin nor Novak said specifically where these enemy combatants would face justice - U.S. civilian courts or military tribunals or elsewhere.
"The successful conclusion of the Moussaoui trial reaffirms that even those in military detention may at some point by tried in a civilian court," Georgetown University law professor Viet Dinh said in an interview. That option was bolstered by "the way they found to protect the rights of the defendant and the government's interest in keeping some secrets," added the former top Justice Department official.
But speaking Friday to European counterparts in Austria, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales wasn't just keeping the civilian court option open.
"There are cases in which our criminal justice system is the appropriate way to deliver justice," Gonzales said. "But there also are instances in which the national security of the United States requires a military response ... such as detaining enemy combatants and making use of military commissions."
Some doubt the Moussaoui experience will open the courtroom door for other terrorists.
Bill Goodman, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has arranged lawyers for enemy combatants detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, dismissed the promises of Raskin and Novak as mere "lawyer talk."
"They have no idea what's going to happen to those people," Goodman said.
Goodman believes Moussaoui's trial "shows civilian courts are absolutely equipped" to handle terrorist cases. The Bush administration's military commissions, just beginning trial work at Guantanamo, fail to protect defendants' rights, he said. The legitimacy of those commissions is before the Supreme Court, expected to rule before July.
But Goodman doubts the government wants to use civilian courts for terrorists because U.S. judges wouldn't stand for the abuse allegedly used to extract confessions from al-Qaida operatives. Confessions obtained under torture or many forms of duress are inadmissible in U.S. courts.
For instance, Mohamed al-Qahtani, the "20th hijacker" who missed participating in the Sept. 11 attacks, confessed to his role only after he was threatened with dogs, forced to wear a bra and a thong, and interrogated 18 to 20 hours a day for over a month, according to a military investigation. More extreme techniques have allegedly been used against Shaikh Mohammed.
"The conditions and circumstances of their secret detention and the question of whether they have been tortured would make a trial in civilian court very difficult," said Lawrence Barcella, a longtime federal prosecutor now in private practice.
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, who presided over Moussaoui's trial, said the experience proved civilian courts can solve problems posed by unruly defendants, records that number over a million documents, and the government's need to keep some evidence secret.
Many had questioned "whether this case should have been tried (at all), whether it should have been tried in this courthouse ... or ... in a military tribunal," Brinkema noted.
Trial lawyers "had to work around classification issues that were at one point, we all thought, insurmountable," she said. Yet "this evidence was able to be brought together in a format and presented openly in a public court of law."
One issue that threatened to derail the trial was how to accommodate Moussaoui's right to call captured enemy combatants to testify in his defense. An appeals court agreed with the government that bringing them to court or even allowing Moussaoui's lawyers to question them would endanger national security. Defense lawyers were forced to rely on summaries distilled from their interrogations.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers also crafted declassified substitutes for some documents and even showed the jury two secret documents that weren't read aloud or put in the public record.
Dinh said the case of Jose Padilla shows that military detainees can still end up in civilian courtrooms. Once accused of plotting to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in a U.S. city after the Sept. 11 attacks, Padilla - a U.S. citizen arrested in Chicago - was held in a military prison without charges for 3 1/2 years. Last year, he was transferred to civilian court to face less sensational charges of helping provide recruits, money and supplies to Islamic extremists worldwide.
Whether other detainees follow Padilla into court will depend on what procedures were used in their detention and how much evidence prosecutors were able to obtain independently of the interrogations, Dinh said.
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U.N. Says U.S. Must Combat Torture More
By ALEXANDER G. HIGGINS
Fri May 5, 2006
GENEVA - The United Nations urged the United States to set an example in combatting torture, saying it must be more open in addressing allegations of prisoner abuse stemming from the war on terror.
The U.N. Committee Against Torture asked U.S. officials about a series of issues ranging from Washington's interpretation of a global ban on torture to its interrogation methods in prisons such as Abu Ghraib, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Andreas Mavrommatis of Cyprus, who chaired the session, praised the United States for its "unique contribution" in promoting human rights around the world, but said it has an obligation to be above reproach.
He said he could understand that intelligence matters needed careful treatment, "but they are not excluded" from scrutiny.
"If during intelligence activities there is a violation of the convention, it's our duty to investigate them and your duty to answer," Mavrommatis said.
State Department legal adviser John B. Bellinger III, leading the U.S. delegation in its first appearance before the committee in six years, insisted the U.S. government felt an "absolute commitment to upholding our national and international obligations to eradicate torture."
The committee submitted questions in advance to the U.S. government that covered such matters such as alleged secret
CIA prisons and the "rendition" or transfer of terror suspects to other countries, where they allegedly could face torture.
Bellinger told reporters later that it was "an absurd allegation" to suggest that any U.S. intelligence flight in Europe might be carrying a detainee, because many carry analysts, officials and forensic information. But he added that it wasn't proper to provide details on intelligence activities.
The U.S. delegation told the committee, the U.N.'s watchdog for a 22-year-old treaty forbidding prisoner abuse, that mistakes had occurred in the U.S. treatment of detainees in the war against terrorism and 29 detainees in U.S. facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan had died of what appeared to be abuse or other violations of U.S. law.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Charles Stimson said a total of 120 detainees have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, but none had died at Guantanamo. Most of the deaths resulted from natural causes, battlefield injuries or attacks by other detainees, he said.
In the cases of the 29 deaths from suspected abuse, Stimson said, "these alleged violations were properly investigated and appropriate action taken."
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights Barry Lowenkron said the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib "sickened the American people - just as they appalled people around the world. They were inexcusable, they were indefensible."
The U.S. conducted more than 600 criminal investigations into allegations of mistreatment and more than 250 people had been held accountable for abusing detainees, Lowenkron said.
But Fernando Marino Menendez of spain cited Human Rights Watch as claiming that only a small number received prison sentences.
The United States is taking its turn as one of the 141 signatories to the Convention Against Torture in submitting to a periodic review by the 10 independent members of the committee.
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Homeland Security Will Embed Reporters
Broadcasting & Cable
Reporters will be embedded with the government during natural disasters, according to a plan outlined by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff at the Radio-Television News Directors Association convention in Las Vegas.
Chertoff said that it is not a battleground so "we're not going to be censoring information." But he also said that he doesn't want "interference with our physical operations," according to RTNDA.
The administration came in for some heavy criticism from the media during its handling, or arguably mishandling, of the Katrina Hurricane crisis. Often, reporters seemed to know more about what was happening on the ground than the administration did, which led to some high-profile frustration from the journalists, most notably CNN's Anderson Cooper.
Comment: Did you catch that? Chertoff said that because natural disasters are "not a battleground", information will not be censored, which of course suggests that information from real battlegrounds in the American war on terror ARE censored! You had it from the horses' mouth folks! Of course, if the next natural disaster in America is handled as badly as the relief effort for Hurricane Katrina, and with the US military likely to be deployed, there is a good chance that battleground America and censored news will soon be all over your TV screens.
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Bush would like to close Guantanamo prison
www.chinaview.cn 2006-05-08 08:44:49
U.S. President said in an interview broadcast on Sunday that he would like to close the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and to have the detainees there tried.
"I very much would like to end Guantanamo; I very much would like to get people to a court," Bush said in an interview with the German television ARD on Thursday.
The White House released transcripts of the interview on Sunday.
Bush said the administration was waiting for a ruling from the Supreme Court on whether the detainees "need to have a fair trial in a civilian court or in a military court."
He admitted that the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad, where Iraqi prisoners were abused by U.S. soldiers in late 2003 and early 2004, was a disgrace for the country, but added that people "ought to take a look at what happened afterwards."
The United States has been accused by human rights groups of mistreating detainees at Guantanamo and criticized for their indefinite detention.
The United States opened the prison on its Navy base in Guantanamo in January 2002, and about 480 prisoners are still being held there. Only 10 of them have been charged by the military tribunals, and no verdicts have been issued so far.
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Israeli Crimes and the Non-Existent Lobby
Israeli Forces Evict Jewish Settlers
By NASSER SHIYOUKHI
May 7, 2006
HEBRON, West Bank - Israeli police armed with batons evicted dozens of Jewish squatters from a Palestinian home in
West Bank city of Hebron on Sunday, in an important test for
Israel's new government and its plans to uproot tens of thousands of settlers.
The clearing of the three-story building was over in about less than 3 hours and encountered no serious resistance - a marked contrast to the violent evacuation of part of a tiny West Bank settlement in February, when more than 200 police and teenage protesters were injured.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was widely criticized for his handling of that operation while heading caretaker government. Olmert told his Cabinet at its first meeting on Sunday that he would tolerate no illegal West Bank settlement outposts.
Police sawed through a barricaded metal door in the occupied building. Inside, they appealed to the settlers - some with toddlers and babies - to leave peacefully, and some agreed. But others had to be dragged out, including a woman whose bawling infant was carried out by officers.
Jewish settlers outside the building tried to force their way in after police sawed off the door. But police dragged the struggling protesters away, sometimes slapping them to stop their thrashing.
Three squatter families and 27 young sympathizers from the Hebron area were removed from the building, police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said.
Hours before police stormed in, settlers hurled firebombs, stones and bottles at security forces. Nineteen security forces were injured, and 17 settlers were arrested, Rosenfeld said. Neither he nor rescue services could say how many settlers were wounded, but Israel's Army Radio said seven were slightly injured.
Hebron, a city holy to Jews and Muslims, is home to about 160,000 Palestinians and some 500 ultranationalist Jewish settlers who live in heavily fortified enclaves.
Three settler couples and their eight children moved into the abandoned home near the settler enclave of Avraham Avinu about a month ago, presenting documents allegedly showing they had rented the property from its Palestinian owner. Israeli authorities later determined the documents were forged, and the Supreme Court ordered the squatters removed.
"It is our house, bought with our money, and the court wronged us," Rabbi Israel Shlussel told Israel Radio before police stormed in. "Justice was not done."
About 700 police, reinforced by 1,000 soldiers, were mobilized for the operation. Rosenfeld said border police would increase the number of patrols in the Hebron area over the next few days to maintain public order.
In the first meeting of his Cabinet on Sunday, Olmert took a hard line against unauthorized settler activity.
"In every case where the law is violated, we will respond without compromise, and we won't reconcile ourselves to illegal facts on the ground," his office quoted him as saying.
A government-commissioned report issued last year says settlers have established 105 unauthorized outposts in the past decade. The outposts are designed to break up Palestinian areas and try to prevent establishment of a Palestinian state.
Israel promised the U.S. it would dismantle about two dozen outposts set up since 2001, but little action has been taken.
Olmert ordered the evacuation of unauthorized buildings in the West Bank outpost of Amona in February, an operation that critics said used excessive force.
But Olmert plans go further, hoping to pull settlers out of much of the West Bank by 2010 while fortifying Israel's three major settlement blocs. He contends the plan is necessary to improve Israel's security and guarantee its future as a democracy with a Jewish majority.
But many West Bank settlers are observant Jews and believe that God promised the land, which the Palestinians claim as part of a future state, to the Jewish people. They have promised fiercer resistance than Gaza settlers showed when they were uprooted over the summer.
In other violence, Palestinian hospital officials said a 55-year-old Palestinian civilian was killed Sunday in Israeli shelling of northern Gaza. But the Israeli army denied firing at Beit Lahia, the area where the man was killed.
Israel has been shelling the area in recent weeks to try to curb Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel. The artillery fire has killed civilians in the past, including a 60-year-old farmer on Saturday.
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World Bank says Palestinian economic crisis worse than it projected
06:52:23 EDT May 8, 2006
JERUSALEM (AP) - The Palestinian economic crisis is shaping up to be more alarming than projected, and is liable to provoke a humanitarian crisis, increased violence and the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, the World Bank said in a report obtained Monday by the Associated Press.
Western countries and Israel have cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and transfer payments to the Palestinian government to pressure the Islamic Hamas group, which rose to power in January parliamentary elections, to renounce violence and recognize Israel.
Additionally, banks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, afraid of running afoul of U.S. anti-terror laws, have stopped dealing with the Palestinian government, hindering its ability to receive money from Arab states.
In March, the World Bank had predicted that by the end of 2006, average personal income would sink by 30 per cent, unemployment would jump from a pre-election level of 23 per cent to about 40 per cent, and the proportion of people living in poverty would climb from 44 per cent in 2005 to 67 per cent.
In a report released ahead of a meeting of Mideast negotiators and major donors on Tuesday, the bank concluded that "these projections now appear too rosy." Revised projections will be issued next month, it said.
Donor assistance has dropped more sharply than anticipated, and Israeli restrictions on the movement of Palestinian people and goods have been tightened, the World Bank said. Further pressure has come from banks that have withheld services to the Palestinian government, including The Arab Bank, which has informed the Palestinian Authority that it will no longer host its Central Treasury Account, the report said.
In light of evolving developments, 2006 is shaping up to be "the worst year in the West Bank and Gaza's dismal recent economic history," it added.
The interrupted cash flows have implications for the economy, security and governance, the World Bank said.
The Palestinian Authority has been unable for the past two months to pay government employees who provide for nearly one-third of the Palestinian population. Should this situation persist, a humanitarian crisis is liable to erupt, violence is liable to grow as discipline among unpaid security personnel breaks down, and the government could cease to function, the World Bank cautioned.
In a letter to donors ahead of the meeting on Tuesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned of an impending humanitarian crisis, a Palestinian official said.
"The recent international decision to withhold from the Palestinian Authority may frustrate, rather than accelerate, the peace process," the official quoted the letter as saying. "Without the injection of much-needed funds into the Palestinian economy, a serious humanitarian catastrophe is imminent."
He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the contents of the letter with the media.
European donors have been exploring payment mechanisms that would bypass the Hamas-led government, and sustain people's incomes and basic public services.
The World Bank argued against setting up a new mechanism to handle salary payments, saying that could take too much time, and proposed operating through its existing emergency program.
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Opening the Debate on Israel
by Norman Solomon
Sunday, May 7, 2006 by the Baltimore Sun
The extended controversy over a paper by two professors, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," is prying the lid off a debate that has been bottled up for decades.
Routinely, the American news media have ignored or pilloried any strong criticism of Washington's massive support for Israel. But the paper and an article based on it by respected academics John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt, academic dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, first published March 23 in the London Review of Books, are catalysts for some healthy public discussion of key issues.
The first mainstream media reactions to the paper - often with the customary name-calling - were mostly efforts to shut down debate before it could begin. Early venues for vituperative attacks on the paper included the op-ed pages of the Los Angeles Times ("nutty"), the Boston Herald (headline: "Anti-Semitic Paranoia at Harvard") and The Washington Post (headline: "Yes, It's Anti-Semitic").
But other voices have emerged, on the airwaves and in print, to bypass the facile attacks and address crucial issues. If this keeps up, the uproar over what Mr. Mearsheimer and Mr. Walt had to say could invigorate public discourse about Washington's policies toward a country that consistently has received a bigger U.S. aid package for a longer period than any other nation.
In April, syndicated columnist Molly Ivins put her astute finger on a vital point. "In the United States, we do not have full-throated, full-throttle debate about Israel," she wrote. "In Israel, they have it as a matter of course, but the truth is that the accusation of anti-Semitism is far too often raised in this country against anyone who criticizes the government of Israel. ... I don't know that I've ever felt intimidated by the knee-jerk 'you're anti-Semitic' charge leveled at anyone who criticizes Israel, but I do know I have certainly heard it often enough to become tired of it. And I wonder if that doesn't produce the same result: giving up on the discussion."
The point rings true, and it's one of the central themes emphasized by Mr. Mearsheimer and Mr. Walt.
If the barriers to democratic discourse can be overcome, the paper's authors say, the results could be highly beneficial: "Open debate will expose the limits of the strategic and moral case for one-sided U.S. support and could move the U.S. to a position more consistent with its own national interest, with the interests of the other states in the region, and with Israel's long-term interests as well."
Outsized support for Israel has been "the centerpiece of U.S. Middle Eastern policy," the professors contend - and the Israel lobby makes that support possible. "Other special-interest groups have managed to skew America's foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest," the paper says. One of the consequences is that "the United States has become the de facto enabler of Israeli expansion in the occupied territories, making it complicit in the crimes perpetrated against the Palestinians."
In the United States, "the lobby's campaign to quash debate about Israel is unhealthy for democracy," Mr. Mearsheimer and Mr. Walt assert. They point to grave effects on the body politic: "The inability of Congress to conduct a genuine debate on these important issues paralyzes the entire process of democratic deliberation."
While their paper overstates the extent to which pro-Israel pressures determine U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, a very powerful lobby for Israel clearly has enormous leverage in Washington. And the professors make a convincing case that the U.S. government has been much too closely aligned with Israel - to the detriment of human rights, democracy and other principles that are supposed to constitute American values.
The failure to make a distinction between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel routinely stifles public debate. When convenient, pro-Israel groups in the United States will concede that it's possible to oppose Israeli policies without being anti-Semitic. Yet many of Israel's boosters reflexively pull out the heavy artillery of charging anti-Semitism when their position is challenged.
Numerous American Jewish groups dedicated to supporting Israel are eager to equate Israel with Judaism. Sometimes they have the arrogance to depict the country and the religion as inseparable. For example, in April 2000, a full-page United Jewish Appeal ad in The New York Times proclaimed: "The seeds of Jewish life and Jewish communities everywhere begin in Israel."
Like many other American Jews who grew up in the 1950s and '60s, I went door to door with blue-and-white UJA cans to raise money for planting trees in Israel. I heard about relatives who had died in concentration camps during the Holocaust two decades earlier and about relatives who had survived and went to Israel. In 1959, my family visited some of them, on a kibbutz and in Tel Aviv.
The 1960 blockbuster movie Exodus dramatized the birth of Israel a dozen years earlier. As I remember, Arabs were portrayed in the picture as cold-blooded killers while the Jews who killed Arabs were presented as heroic fighters engaged in self-defense.
The film was in sync with frequent media messages that lauded Jews for risking the perilous journey to Palestine and making the desert bloom, as though no one of consequence had been living there before.
The Six-Day War in June 1967 enabled Israel to expand the territory it controlled several times over, in the process suppressing huge numbers of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Their plights and legitimate grievances got little space in the U.S. media.
In 1969, the independent American journalist I. F. Stone expressed hope for "a reconstructed Palestine of Jewish and Arab states in peaceful coexistence." He contended that "to bring it about, Israel and the Jewish communities of the world must be willing to look some unpleasant truths squarely in the face. ... One is to recognize that the Arab guerrillas are doing to us what our terrorists and saboteurs of the Irgun, Stern and Haganah did to the British. Another is to be willing to admit that their motives are as honorable as were ours. As a Jew, even as I felt revulsion against the terrorism, I felt it justified by the homelessness of the surviving Jews from the Nazi camps and the bitter scenes when refugee ships sank, or sank themselves, when refused admission to Palestine.
"The best of Arab youth feels the same way; they cannot forget the atrocities committed by us against villages like Deir Yassin, nor the uprooting of the Palestinian Arabs from their ancient homeland, for which they feel the same deep ties of sentiment as do so many Jews, however assimilated elsewhere."
When I crossed the Allenby Bridge from Jordan into the West Bank 15 years ago, I spoke with a 19-year-old border guard who was carrying a machine gun. He told me that he'd emigrated from Brooklyn, N.Y., a few months earlier. He said the Palestinians should get out of his country.
In East Jerusalem, I saw Israeli soldiers brandishing rifle butts at elderly women in a queue. Some in the line reminded me of my grandmothers, only these women were Arab.
Today, visitors to the Web site of the Israeli human-rights group B'Tselem can find profuse documentation about systematic denial of Palestinian rights and ongoing violence in all directions. Since autumn 2000, in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, according to the latest figures posted, the number of Israelis killed by Palestinians has totaled 998 and the number of Palestinians killed by Israelis has totaled 3,466.
Overall, in the American news media, the horrible killings of Israelis by Palestinian suicide bombers get front-page and prime-time coverage while the horrible killings of Palestinians by Israelis get relatively scant and dispassionate coverage.
If the U.S. news media were to become committed to a single standard of human rights, the shift would transform public discourse about basic Israeli policies - and jeopardize the U.S. government's support for them. It is against just such a single standard that the epithet of "anti-Semitism" is commonly wielded. From the viewpoint of Israel and its supporters, the ongoing threat of using the label helps to prevent U.S. media coverage from getting out of hand. Journalists understand critical words about Israel to be hazardous to their careers.
In the real world, bigotry toward Jews and support for Israel have long been independent variables. For instance, as Oval Office tapes attest, President Richard M. Nixon was anti-Semitic and did not restrain himself from expressing that virulent prejudice in private. Yet he was a big admirer of the Israeli military and a consistent backer of Israel's government.
Now, the neoconservative agenda for the Middle East maintains the U.S. embrace of Israel with great enthusiasm. And defenders of that agenda often resort to timeworn tactics for squelching debate.
Last fall, when I met with editors at a newspaper in the Pacific Northwest, a member of the editorial board responded to my reference to neocons by declaring flatly that "neocon" is an "anti-Semitic" term. The absurd claim would probably amuse the most powerful neocons in the U.S. government's executive branch today, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, neither of whom is Jewish.
Over the past couple of decades, a growing number of American Jews have seen their way clear to oppose Israeli actions. Yet their voices continue to be nearly drowned out in major U.S. media outlets by Israel-right-or-wrong outfits such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee.
As with all forms of bigotry, anti-Semitism should be condemned. At the same time, these days, America's biggest anti-Semitism problem has to do with the misuse of the label as a manipulative tactic to short-circuit debate about Washington's alliance with Israel.
Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and the author of "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death." E-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Secretary-General says United Nations, American jewish committee bound to gather in global mission of preventing genocide, protecting human rights
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s remarks to the American Jewish Committee Centennial Dinner in Washington, D.C., 4 May
It is a great honour for me to join you tonight.
By the time my Organization was founded, yours had already spent nearly four decades as an advocate for Jewish civil rights, and for human dignity in the broadest sense. The American Jewish Committee was thus one of a small band of non-governmental organizations that were present at the UN's creation. Your renowned representative, Jacob Blaustein, was one of the most influential figures in that conference. And the institute that bears his name continues to play a vital part in the UN's human rights work through the engagement of its director, Felice Gaer.
In recent years especially, the United Nations and the Jewish community have moved closer together.
The United Nations is fully engaged in the struggle against anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination.
Last year, in a long overdue observance, the General Assembly held a special session to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps.
And this year, on 27 January, we marked the first of what will now be an annual international day of remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust.
The United Nations is, I hope and believe, what it always should be -- a place where Jews can feel at home.
It is also an Organization within which, more and more, the State of Israel enjoys the same rights and responsibilities as every other member. My good friend Danny Gillerman is now serving as one of the General Assembly's vice-presidents. And for some years Israel has been participating in one of the Assembly's regional groups -- the West European and Others Group -- in New York. I hope the same group will soon find ways to include Israel in its deliberations in Geneva and Vienna, too.
We should all be pleased about these developments, because our world faces immense challenges. We need the Jewish people -- and especially the American Jewish Committee -- to make its full contribution, on every item on the global agenda.
Next Tuesday, the General Assembly will elect the first members of the UN's new Human Rights Council. As you know, this Council will replace the old Commission on Human Rights, which in recent times discredited itself by focusing selectively on violations in a few States, while ignoring those in others.
By contrast, the new Council is meant to eliminate double standards, in part by regularly reviewing the human rights record of all countries, starting with its own members. Moreover, those members must uphold the highest principles of human rights, and be elected directly and individually by an absolute majority of the General Assembly. And any members that commit gross and systematic human rights violations can have their membership suspended.
As you know, the United States decided not to present its own candidature this first time. But it has pledged to support and cooperate with the Council with a view to running for a seat in the near future. I trust that the Administration, and also civil society groups like yours, will use their influence to help ensure that other States with a strong and genuine commitment to human rights are elected, and that they give the Council a fresh start, without the baggage that accompanied the Commission.
What we are really celebrating today is the fact that no one asks you to choose between your Jewish identity and your American identity. On the contrary, everyone understands that America is enriched by the distinctive contribution that you can make as Jews. That was not always true in the past. That it is true today is due in part to the tireless work of the AJC, and it is a wonderful example to all other countries where communities of different faith or tradition live side by side. I hope all countries can learn from, and be inspired by, your experience.
Indeed, I hope that within my lifetime, just as in this country, where Jews are accepted without question as full citizens, by all their fellow citizens, so Israel will be accepted without question as a member by the whole family of nations.
We all know what that means: a peaceful Middle East, at the heart of which will be two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side, within secure borders, in peace and with mutual respect.
I welcome the passion with which Prime Minister Olmert spoke, on the night of Israel's recent general election, about the need to create the conditions in which both peoples will be able to fulfil their dreams of prosperity and peace.
We are all painfully aware that he and President Abbas must overcome enormous obstacles in order to achieve true security for Israelis and statehood for Palestinians. Some of those obstacles seem to have become even more insurmountable in recent weeks and months.
But I refuse to despair. There is still abundant evidence that peace is what the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians want, even if each is reluctant to believe that the other wants it, too. And it is still the case that, while interim measures might bring interim relief, a true and lasting peace can be achieved only through a genuine agreement.
I know that it is easy to speak of this dream, and much harder to turn it into reality. But I pledge that the United Nations, with its partners in the Quartet, will be there to help, working with any who truly seek peace until that goal is achieved.
As we mark this milestone in your history, I hope we will also recognize the deep, productive ties between our organizations. Our common objectives of preventing genocide and protecting human rights bind us together in a global mission. Suffering, wherever it exists, justice, wherever it is needed -- these are the main claims on our energies. With this thread that connects our organizations, I hope we can weave a strong and lasting fabric of peace.
Congratulations again on a century of action and achievement.
Thank you very much.
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More middle-class radicals promote Jew-hatred
BY SAM MANUEL
'Israel Lobby' conspiracy theory dangerous for working people
WASHINGTON-Editors of the London Review of Books are standing by their decision to publish a paper by Harvard academic dean Stephen Walt and University of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer, entitled The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. The paper promotes the false and reactionary theory that U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is manipulated by a Jewish lobby with support from a network of "neoconservative gentiles."
A March 30 article by James Petras, a professor at the State University of New York at Binghamton, tries to provide an "analysis" of why this is the case, by claiming that Jews are disproportionately represented among finance capitalists resulting in an equally disproportionate Jewish influence over U.S. foreign policy. The article is posted on the antiwar website AxisofLogic.com. Petras is looked to by many on the left in the United States and Latin America as a socialist.
Others on the left have endorsed these views. In a column in the April 24 Nation, Perry Anderson, editor of the New Left Review and history professor at University of California, Los Angeles, praised the Walt/Mearsheimer paper. He called it a "genuinely critical reflection on American foreign policy, from thinkers who have earned the title 'realist.'"
The conspiracy theories peddled in Petras's article and the Harvard paper, and backed by others on the left, leave the U.S. capitalist class and the profit system off the hook as the root cause of the devastating conditions imposed on working people worldwide. At the same time these "theories" fan the flames of Jew-hatred and American nationalism. So far the U.S. left-from the Communist Party USA to the Workers World Party-has been silent on this issue.
The 83-page paper by Walt and Mearsheimer argues that the unmatched power of the "Israel Lobby" leads the U.S. government to subordinate "American national interests" to those of Israel. According to the document, this lobby has the backing of pro-Israel neoconservative politicians like former deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz and former Pentagon adviser Richard Perle. Walt and Mearsheimer claim that the Israel Lobby also controls the editorial boards of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and holds the leading position in several foreign policy research institutes, among them the Brookings Institution. The Militant already analyzed the implications of this tract in the article, "The myth of the 'neoconservative' and 'Israel Lobby' conspiracy: How U.S. foreign policy shifted after Cold War," in its May 1 issue.
'London Review of Books'
An edited version of the Harvard paper appeared in the March 23 London Review of Books. Despite receiving what they describe as "a great many letters" criticizing its publication, some of which they reproduced, the editors of the literary journal said in the April 20 issue they stand by their decision to publish it. They also announced they will run a reply by Walt and Mearsheimer to the letters in the magazine's next issue.
The magazine's editors also noted that some of the letters congratulating the authors of the paper are of an "anti-Semitic nature." One of them applauded Walt and Mearsheimer for having exposed a "secret Jewish conspiracy," and its author felt the need to spell it "JEWISH conspiracy." Nonetheless they asserted that what the letters supporting and opposing the article have in common is that they "come from people who appear not to have read the piece, and who seem incapable of distinguishing between criticism of Israeli or U.S. government policy and anti-Semitism."
One of the letters was from Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz. Among other points, he took exception to two of the paper's central arguments-the United States has become a target of "terrorism" because of its support for Israel and that Washington and Tel Aviv have different, if not conflicting, interests in the Middle East.
"In fact bin Laden was primarily motivated by the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia," Dershowitz writes. He is referring to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden who along with the leader of other Islamic jihadist movements say their goal is to overthrow "apostate" regimes and establish Islamic states in majority Arab countries. For bin Laden and these groups, the rulers of Saudi Arabia are "infidels" controlling and profaning the holy sites of Islam.
Another letter came from Robert Pfaltzgraff of the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis. The institution was one of many "think tanks" at which Walt and Mearsheimer claim the Israel Lobby has a "commanding presence." Pfaltzgraff wrote that "to the extent that such studies support Israel or any other states in the region, this is the result of an independent analysis of US needs and interests."
In his article Petras comes to the defense of Walt and Mearsheimer. He denounces the "virulent" campaign against the professors' "well documented" paper as another example of the "growing tyranny of the pro-Israel minority over our civil liberties."
He then goes on to assert that a "a significant affluent minority of prominent Jewish banking and real estate millionaires are active in financing and promoting Israeli policy either directly or through pro-Israel lobbies."
Petras even infers a connection between alleged Jewish prominence in the garment industry-as owners and union "bosses"-and the decline in wages and union membership for garment workers. "No doubt the ethnic-class differences between the six-figure salaried Jewish labor bosses and the low paid Asian and Latino workers and the common class-ethnic positions of the labor bosses and the manufacturers facilitated these failed policies," he says.
No blood for Jews?
"The Jewish and Gentile critics of the war deliberately exclude the role of the minority of wealthy Jews and their political lobbies in shaping U.S. policy in the Middle East by focusing on the U.S. and overseas oil companies ('No blood for oil!')," Petras writes. "Jewish lobbies," he adds, "were far more pro-war than the oil industry."
The dangerous logic of such arguments peddling Jew hatred (to say "anti-Semitism" would be putting it mildly) should not be lost on working people. Such conspiracy theories have been the stock-in-trade of ultrarightists and fascists-mortal enemies of the working class and its allies. Petras's arguments also point to the political evolution of many middle-class "socialists" like him. The banner of opponents of the imperialist war against Iraq in 1990-91 was "No blood for oil!" Now, Petras says, it should be changed to "No blood for Israel!" or, by implication, to "No blood for Jews."
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Feel Safe Yet?
5 Men Detained After Plane Lands in N.J.
May 6, 2006
NEWARK, N.J. - Authorities boarded an American Airlines plane Saturday and detained five men after it landed at Newark Liberty International Airport, according to a spokesman for the airport's operator.
The plane was bound from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport when an air marshal notified authorities of five men he considered suspicious, according to Marc LaVorgna, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
They had no weapons, said Tim Smith, an airline spokesman.
Port Authority police took the five men into custody immediately after the plane landed at 3:20 p.m., LaVorgna said.
LaVorgna did not have more details on why the men were considered suspicious. The five men remained in custody at the airport Saturday evening. The FBI had been notified and was expected to take over the investigation, LaVorgna said.
The plane was carrying 121 passengers and five crew members, Smith said. All other passengers had been released.
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Gov. Schwarzenegger Says Borders Are Vulnerable, Rips Bush Administration
By Peter Nicholas
LA Times Staff Writer
May 6, 2006
ROSEVILLE, Calif. - In some of the harshest terms he has used to date, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday said the federal government has left the nation's borders dangerously vulnerable while failing to come up with a sensible approach to immigration.
Schwarzenegger, taking questions at a news conference on a multibillion-dollar public works package passed by the Legislature early Friday, blamed the Bush administration and Congress for the massive street protests and widespread public unhappiness over federal immigration policy.
Marches in Los Angeles, Chicago and other cities, he said, "are an expression of frustration. People want to send a message to Washington that they're not happy with certain bills....
"I think that all of this comes down to one thing: The federal government has failed the people of America in a terrible way, in a disastrous way, when it comes to this immigration situation."
Schwarzenegger, who emigrated from Europe in 1968, called for better ways to police U.S. borders.
He chided federal policy-makers for letting the border problem "hang out there for 20 years and not do anything about it, when they knew this is a problem."
The governor voiced incredulity over what he described as porous borders that leave the U.S. exposed to terrorists.
Speaking at a middle school here, Schwarzenegger said that "to have a border that is not secure is to me staggering."
He scolded Congress for leaving Washington last month for spring recess, after a proposed deal to revamp the nation's immigration laws collapsed.
"For them to go home for spring break and not really take care of it when they know this was boiling here in this country is also irresponsible," he said.
Schwarzenegger called for "putting the pressure on the federal government [to] let them know they're responsible."
Dana Perino, a spokeswoman for the White House, said Friday that the Bush administration "has gone to great lengths to improve border security, both in terms of financial resources and technology.
"We do acknowledge that we need to do more, and the president has been very clear that he is for a comprehensive immigration bill that will improve border security, improve interior enforcement and include a guest worker program."
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EU: Popular sugar substitute safe
Friday, May 5, 2006
ROME, Italy (AP) -- European food safety experts have good news for dieters with a sweet tooth, announcing Friday that the popular sugar substitute aspartame does not raise the risk of cancer.
An Italian study last year wrongly concluded that the sweetener led to higher rates of lymphoma and leukemia in rats, said an independent panel of scientists advising the European Food Safety Authority.
The new review found that the number of tumors did not increase in relation to the dosage of aspartame fed to the animals. Many of the rats in the study had suffered from chronic respiratory disease and that was the most likely cause of the tumors, the panel said.
The findings support a huge U.S. federal study released last month, which found no link to cancer in a study of aspartame use among more than half a million Americans.
The European panel said its assessment should put the lid on years of debate over the sweetener found in thousands of products, including diet sodas, chewing gum, dairy products and even many medicines.
"There is no reason ... to undertake any further extensive review of the safety of aspartame," said Iona Pratt, a toxicologist who headed the panel.
The food safety scientists were also satisfied with the current European level set for the safe daily consumption of aspartame -- a maximum of 40 milligrams per kilogram of body weight -- saying that the limit is well above what people consume normally.
"If you pick up little packets of it, you would have to take 80 of those packets into your coffee in one day in order to exceed this level," Pratt said at a presentation in Rome of the panel's findings.
The Italian researchers who conducted the rat study insisted that their initial findings were correct and pledged to continue studying the subject.
Dr. Morando Soffritti, who led the study for the Bologna-based European Ramazzini Foundation, also assailed the U.S. study, saying that it was an example of how "some researchers are ready to put themselves at the disposal of the industry" that produces sweeteners. He contended the U.S. research didn't distinguish between aspartame and other sweetener use and did not measure lifetime sweetener use.
History is full of examples where animal studies showed benefit or harm from a substance that later proved not true of people. But Soffritti insists that animal studies are better when it comes to aspartame because it's nearly impossible to find a comparison group of people who don't use the sweetener at all.
"How do you do a study on humans when aspartame is used in 6,000 products? How do you find a population that has never used it?" he asked.
Aspartame came on the market 25 years ago and is found in thousands of products -- sodas, chewing gum, dairy products and even many medicines. NutraSweet and Equal are popular brands.
Research in the 1970s linked a different sweetener, saccharin, to bladder cancer in lab rats. Although the mechanism by which this occurred does not apply to people and no human risk was ever documented, worries about sugar substitutes in general have persisted.
They worsened after Soffritti's research was reported. It involved 1,800 rats and was the largest ever done of aspartame in animals.
The rodents were divided into seven groups and fed different doses of the sweetener over their natural life span. Some of the rats, especially females, developed more lymphomas and leukemias than those not fed aspartame.
But the European food safety panel faulted the colony of rats used in the study, saying they had respiratory problems. These and other factors could have affected the observations, the panel said.
The U.S. findings on aspartame are based on lengthy food questionnaires sent in the 1990s to 340,045 men and 226,945 women, ages 50 to 69. They were participating in a research project by the National Institutes of Health and AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons.
Based on those food surveys, filled out in 1995 and 1996, researchers with the National Cancer Institute calculated how much aspartame the participants consumed, especially from sodas or from adding the sweetener to coffee or tea. No connection was found between aspartame consumption and the type or number of tumors developed in later years.
Comment: So, aspartame apparently doesn't cause cancer. Great! Now what about neurological disorders? Studies that ignore the most important effects reported from long-term aspartame consumption aren't very useful, are they?
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Reporters Without Britches
by Carolina Cositore; February 12, 2006
The assumption of the cachet Reporters Without Borders twenty years ago, in conscious parody of the then above reproach international humanitarian Doctors Without Borders, certainly lent Robert Menard's group more than a touch of automatic respectability from the get-go.
The appellation gave the group acceptance as an unbiased investigative human rights organization defending journalists all over the world. When honest reporting can bring threats, attacks, prison terms, and even death, such an organization is badly needed. Sadly, the true nature of Reporters sans frontières (RSF=French acronym) is far otherwise.
Unbiased? Non-politically affiliated?
RSF does report on some discrimination against journalists, but in a very selective way, that is, targeting nations on the US State Department "hit list": Iran, Syria, North Korea, etc., while ignoring any and all anti-journalist activities in areas allied with the US, and of course, never in the US itself.
For three examples of many to give the idea: RSF does not defend reporters in the Phillippines, which is the second deadliest nation for journalists after Iraq but is a strong ally of the US military. RSF completely ignores Mumia abu Jamal, a US reporter on death row and the object of support from "other" human rights organizations all over the globe. And in a recent interview, despite his very close ties with the Cuban-American community in Miami, RSF director Robert Menard claimed to be completely "unfamiliar" with the case of the Cuban Five. The Five, one of whom is a Cuban journalist, are serving life sentences in US prisons for infiltrating these Miami groups to prevent terrorist attacks on their homeland.1
This denial ties into the major activity (time, money and propaganda campaigns) of RSF, which is defaming the Cuban Revolution, trying to prevent European tourists from visiting the Island, and serving as a news agency and defender for "dissident reporters". The latter, according to Nestor Baguer -founder of the Independent Cuban Journalist Association, their reporter of longest duration, and the main Cuban representative of RSF, who later revealed himself as a Cuban security agent- were "neither journalists nor dissidents"2, but mercenaries paid to write as dictated by the RSF, the US Interest Section in Havana, and Florida-based hate groups.
RSF, in Menard's own words in an interview in 2000, has always considered Cuba the priority in Latin America, even giving the country a lower ranking on its press freedom index than countries where journalists routinely have been killed, such as Colombia, Peru and Mexico.3
Although incurious about the fate of journalists in Venezuela before President Hugo Chavez, RSF was very quick to support the coup d'etat against him, of course it had to be as the coup was very brief. Menard's group has since been outspoken against what it alleges to be anti-freedom of the press legislation in Venezuela, without evidently having read said legislation, and while incidently having a close relationship with Venezuelan multi-millionaire media giant Gustavo Cisneros.
Haiti is another example of the bias of this theoretically unbiased group. Menard denounced supposed "acts of repression" against local independent media under Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, while completely failing to notice aggressions by anti-government groups against journalists of Radio Solidarité and Radio Ginen.
Even in Iraq, where RSF does report deaths and kidnaping of journalists by insurgents, its "investigation" and subsequent whitewashing of the culpability of the US military in the death of the Spanish reporter-cameraman in the infamous Palestine Hotel attack outraged his family. The US tank operator admitted firing under orders from superiors, but RSF, whose interviewer was a personal friend of the officer giving the order, found the shots were fired by "persons unknown". The journalist's family asked RSF to withdraw from the case; a request it ignored.
Follow the money
While Robert Menard may be personally obsessed with Cuba and other countries that the US frowns upon, he is certainly paid well for this obsession. As Jean-Guy Allard has admirably researched in detail, RSF receives the preponderance of its funding from organizations corresponding with the CIA, filtered directly or indirectly, such as USAID, National Endowment for Democracy, the US Interest Section in Havana, and Cuban-American anti-Cuba groups in Miami.4
Menard has also finally admitted his bond with Nancy Pérez Crespo, operator of the rabid anti-Cuba Radio Mambí in Miami, who receives funds from said US establishments.
World journalists are in dire need of a true unbiased human rights organization that will protect them no matter where they are attacked or by whom, unfortunately Reporters Without Borders is not that organization.
1 Excellent source of information on Cuban Five at www.freethefive.org
2 Elizalde, Rosa Miriam and Baez, Luis, Los Disidentes,Editora Politica, La Habana, 2003.
3 Barahona, Diana, "Cuba's Economy, Reporters Without Borders Unmasked", Counterpunch,www.counterpunch.org, 2005
4 Allard, Jean-Guy, Por Qu
é Reporteros sin Fronteras se ensaña con Cuba El dossier Robert Ménard, Lanctot, Quebec, 2005.
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Did you hear the one about the satirist and the president? Probably not
CBC News Viewpoint | May 5, 2006
History was made last week at the White House Press Correspondents' Dinner. But it took a non-journalist - a comedian in fact - to do the job the well-fed journalists failed to do: take on George W. Bush.
The thing is, you likely won't have heard about it. The mainstream media ignored the keynote speech by Stephen Colbert, which made Bush look like a smashed toadstool and the American press look like the compost a mushroom grows in.
Hot spit, it was great. I was weeping with laughter while the portly millionaires of the American media sat there going whiter with shock (even as their younger female companions smirked) and the president looked as if he were about to have Colbert whacked.
Colbert loves Bush. Really. He told him so: "The greatest thing about this man is that he's steady. You know where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday. Events can change; this man's beliefs never will."
The finest moment was when Colbert told the media how it works: "The president makes decisions. He's the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type.
"Just put 'em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write 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!"
The former senior news analyst on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, America's No. 1 fake news channel, has his own show now, The Colbert Report, an elaborate parody of Bill O'Reilly's No-Spin Zone.
He calls his show a "no-fact zone" and he plays a blowhard anchor, what he calls a "high status idiot," an unread, grotesque bully who lives on "truthiness," a Colbert word for faith in what you believe to be true rather than what is true. He promises not to tell you the truth "but to feel the truth at you." It runs here on the Comedy Network; the two shows have more viewers in Canada than they do in the States, but Stewart and Colbert are U.S. cult hits.
The Colbert Report is the last word in anchor ego. Even the set is designed so that all lines converge on Colbert, and he is lit very much the way, say, Jesus would have been lit. Colbert sells his own sperm, Formula 401, to viewers, although he has now announced that this will be a seasonal product.
So someone - out of old-fashioned American cleverness worthy of H.L. Mencken or maybe not realizing that Colbert's humour is based on taking a fine sander to all that suckers hold true - said: Why don't we get Stephen Colbert this year?
They stuff 3,000 people into the ballroom at the Washington hotel where Ronald Reagan got shot. The press, armed with opera glasses and pink with proximity, compete over which famous person they can invite - this year it was George Clooney and former ambassador Joe Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame, the reluctantly famous CIA agent - and pretend the president is their pal.
Colbert's monologue wasn't sarcastic or even ironic. It went far beyond that. Because he uses his own name to play a total bastard with an amazing resemblance to Fox's O'Reilly: He was doing a parody of a satire of the things Americans are told to repeat straight.
His words were seditious, yet he delivered them with a stern face. You get it or you don't. Bloggers have done a parallel transcript of Bush's thoughts during the monologue: "I love this guy. This guy loves me. I gotta hire him."
So that's a satire of a parody of a satire. If I can raise the tone here, Michael Scherer on Salon.com wrote that Colbert "reversed and flattened the meaning of the words he spoke."
And if I can go literary on you, Colbert had the wit and raw courage to do to Bush what Mark Antony did to Brutus, murderer of Caesar. As the American media has self-destructed, it takes Colbert to damn Bush with devastatingly ironic praise.
That day, viewers set up www.thankyoustephencolbert.org, which had 40,000 letters by last Thursday.
Some e-mailers worried that Colbert would be fired by Comedy Central, which is indirectly owned by CBS. Me, I offered to sponsor him and give him my house should Bush deport him. Let's not be smug. Canada needs a Colbert too.
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Provoking the Great Bear
Nobel laureate accuses US, NATO of encircling Russia
Moscow: Nobel laureate and former Soviet dissident, Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, in a newspaper interview accused the United States and NATO of seeking to encircle Russia, and praised President Vladimir Putin for working to restore a strong state.
In a rare interview, the reclusive 87-year-old author, who rose to prominence for his accounts of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's repression and labour camps, told the liberal weekly 'Moscow News' that NATO's ultimate aim was the loss of Russia's sovereignty, according to a full text of the interview posted on its web site edition on Thursday.
"Though it is clear that present-day Russia poses no threat to it, NATO is methodically and persistently building up its military machine - into the east of Europe and surrounding Russia from the south," Solzhenitsyn was quoted as saying.
"This involves open material and ideological support for 'colour revolutions' and the paraxodical forcing of North Atlantic interests on Central Asia," he reportedly said, adding that there was "little substantial difference" between the actions of the US and NATO.
"All this leaves no doubt that they are preparing to completally encircle Russia and deprive it of its sovereignty," Solzhenitsyn was quoted as saying.
Russia was furious at what it saw as Western encroachment on its home turf after a series of peaceful revolutions brought opposition leades to power in the former Soviet republics Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.
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Kremlin is fuming after rebuke by Cheney
The Globe and Mail
5 May 06
MOSCOW -- Simmering tensions between Russia and the United States broke into the open yesterday after U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney accused the Kremlin of restricting the freedom of its own people and using its energy supplies as blackmail to fight democracy abroad.
The Kremlin answered sharply, saying its energy policy isn't used for political leverage and suggesting the United States needs to get used to Russia's newly assertive role in the world.
Washington's strongest rebuke of Russia yet comes at a tense moment in U.S.-Russia relations as the White House pushes for Kremlin co-operation on Iranian nuclear issues and many Russians say their country has returned to a Cold War footing.
"In Russia today, opponents of reform are seeking to reverse the gains of the last decade," Mr. Cheney told a conference in Vilnius, Lithuania. "In many areas of civil society -- from religion and the news media to advocacy groups and political parties -- the government has unfairly and improperly restricted the rights of her people."
Mr. Cheney took aim at Russia's difficult relations with three neighbours: Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. Observers have noted that Moscow punishes gas customers, such as Georgia and Ukraine, which follow a democratic path, while subsidizing the energy supply to autocratic allies such as Belarus.
"No legitimate interest is served when oil and gas become tools of intimidation or blackmail, either by supply manipulation or attempts to monopolize transportation," Mr. Cheney said. "And no one can justify actions that undermine the territorial integrity of a neighbour, or interfere with democratic movements." The reference to territorial integrity was clearly a comment on Moscow's support for separatist movements in Georgia and Moldova.
The Vice-President concluded with a vague warning. "Russia has a choice to make," he said, without elaborating about the consequences for choosing the wrong path.
Moscow's reaction was quick and bitter. "We cannot accept some statements today by Mr. Cheney," Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, said last night.
Russia has a right to defend its own interests, Mr. Peskov said: "The energy sources that Russia possesses must be used for our own people, not to help development of democracies in neighbouring countries." The West also confuses the actions of Russian companies with Moscow's policy, the Kremlin spokesman added.
The argument between the two former Cold War adversaries was ostensibly about Russia's energy policy and the democratization of former Soviet states, but tensions have been rising between the two countries on many other fronts in recent months.
The United States had until now seemed reluctant to openly criticize Russia as it tries to rally support at the United Nations for action against Iran's nuclear program. Russia remains reluctant to turn against its trading partner.
Russia hosts the Group of Eight summit in three months, marking its first presidency of the prestigious club of countries, but some prominent U.S. politicians have called for a boycott of the event to protest against Kremlin policies they describe as autocratic.
Russia wants to join the World Trade Organization, and Mr. Putin has accused the United States of stalling Russia's entry.
This week, an informal poll of listeners to Echo Moskvy, the most pro-Western broadcaster in Russia, found 74 per cent of respondents believe that Moscow's relations with the West have returned to Cold War frigidness.
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Cheney speech spurs new Cold War: Russian press
By Oliver Bullough
May 5, 2006
MOSCOW - A speech by Vice President Dick Cheney strongly critical of the Kremlin marks the start of a new Cold War that could drive Moscow away from its new-found Western allies, the Russian press said on Friday.
In shocked reaction to the harshest U.S. criticism of Moscow for years, commentators said Washington had created an anti-Russian cordon of Western-aligned states stretching from the Baltic almost to the Caspian Sea.
The Kremlin, in a reaction within hours of Cheney's delivery in Vilnius, said the speech, which was full of accusations that Moscow was limiting human rights and using its energy riches to blackmail the world, was "completely incomprehensible."
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declined to comment directly on Friday when asked about Cheney, but said the meeting of former communist satellites that the vice president had addressed appeared to be "united against someone."
The Russian press agreed, comparing Cheney's words to a 1946 speech by British statesman Winston Churchill in Fulton, Missouri, when he said Europe was divided by an "Iron Curtain."
"Enemy at the Gates. Dick Cheney made a Fulton speech in Vilnius," said business daily Kommersant's front page headline.
"Vice President Dick Cheney made a keynote speech on relations between the West and Russia in which he practically established the start of the second Cold War ... The Cold War has restarted, only now the front lines have shifted," it said.
Washington and Moscow have largely ignored differences since the hijacked airliner attacks on U.S. buildings in September 11, 2001 and concentrated on joint interests in the fight against international militant groups.
But ties between the former rivals have cooled recently.
Cheney's harsh criticism injected fresh tension that is likely to be still felt when Russian President Vladimir Putin hosts President Bush and other world leaders at a summit of the G8 club of rich nations in St Petersburg in July.
Commentators said the speech was an answer to Russia's new self-confidence, which has stemmed from high oil prices and a shortage of energy supplies giving it new influence.
Cheney was addressing a group of former communist and ex-Soviet states including Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova which have infuriated their former master by turning toward the West.
Komsomolskaya Pravda (KP), Russia's top-selling daily, showed what the meeting meant to Moscow by coloring in the states that met in Vilnius to show a purple cordon separating Russia from the rest of Europe.
Reaching for another historical analogy, it compared the meeting to that between the anti-Nazi allies Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Josef Stalin in the Soviet town of Yalta in 1945, at which they divided up the map of Europe.
"Yesterday in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, like in Yalta in 1945, the map of Europe was redrawn," KP said, raising the specter of Russia being isolated from the mainstream.
"What can Russia do? It would appear it will have to strengthen ties with Belarus and Central Asia. And get close to China, to balance this Western might."
Commentators said Russia was being expected to knuckle under and follow the U.S. lead.
"At the same time, Moscow's partners are not prepared to sacrifice anything, keeping their "correct" patriotism and their own policies," said official daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta in a lengthy commentary.
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Comrade Cheney vs. President Putin - The Sovietization of American foreign policy
5 May 06
Busy. Busy. Busy. When it comes to conjuring new enemies, this administration never sleeps. If you thought taking on the non-Israeli portion of the Middle East is a lot to put on our plate, then you haven't got a clue as to the appetites of the Bush regime. Not only do they want to start a new cold war with the Muslim world, they want to re-ignite the old cold war with Russia.
Speaking in Vilnius at a summit of Baltic and Black Sea officials - in effect, a concordance of America's very own Warsaw Pact, which now encircles the former Soviet Union - Cheney brayed: "No legitimate interest is served when oil and gas become tools of intimidation or blackmail, either by supply manipulation or attempts to monopolize transportation."
This is a reference to the dispute between Ukraine, with its newly installed, Washington-loyal satrap Viktor Yushchenko at the helm, and the Russians over the price of oil and natural gas. During the bad old days of the Soviet empire, Ukraine was considered such a loyal Soviet sycophant that the Kremlin gladly subsidized the cost of oil and natural gas, exporting it at below cost to Ukrainian consumers. That's precisely the sort of uneconomic feature of empire-building that leads to imperial decay, and, in the case of the Soviet Union, contributed to its downfall. In any event, after the implosion of Communism and the demise of the Warsaw Pact, Ukraine broke away from the Soviet Union, and that was a bitter blow to the formerly high-and-mighty lords of the Kremlin. The seizure of the Ukrainian government by Washington's allies in Kiev meant Moscow itself was but a few minutes by missile from the nearest NATO outpost. (Yes, technically, Ukraine is still not a formal member of NATO, but that's on the agenda if the Americans can keep their local hirelings in the saddle.)
So what is this "blackmail" Cheney is talking about? It is the Russians abandoning the doctrine of socialist internationalism and putting good old capitalist theory into practice. Instead of continuing to offer oil and natural gas to Ukraine at below-market prices, they insist on charging the price set by the international market. To Cheney, this is "blackmail": an economist would call it capitalism.
I don't know if this signifies Cheney's formal conversion to Marxism, but surely it ought to dispel the myth that our Vice President believes in anything approaching the free market. Or, perhaps, he believes that capitalism is a system reserved for the U.S. Whatever is going on here, the brazen hypocrisy of Cheney's remarks are hard to take: here, after all, is the vice president of a nation that imposes draconian economic sanctions on countries that fail to kowtow to its every edict, making accusations of "blackmail"! Here is a nation whose president refuses to take the nuking of Iran off the table as a distinct possibility - and it's the Russians who are the blackmailers. Go figure!
Cheney, however, was just getting started. Russia, he insisted, harbors dreams of revanchism: "No one can justify actions that undermine the territorial integrity of a neighbor." Coming from Cheney, these words must have struck at the heart of every Russian nationalist, including those in the Kremlin, cutting them to the quick. Because there Russian President Vladimir Putin sits amid the ruins of a shattered empire, like a quadruple-amputee victim of a major car accident with the shards still lodged in the bleeding sides of his torso. Cheney's words rubbed salt in some pretty sore wounds: That this was his intention is hard not to believe.
What did he hope to accomplish by it? Certainly he could not have thought it would have any effect other than to ratchet up anti-American sentiment and reinforce rising Russian nationalism. The vice president may be evil, but he's no dummy: this was a provocation, pure and simple.
The reference to Russia's alleged subversion of its neighbors' "territorial integrity" is code for the disputes over separatism that have broken out in the nations ruled by Cheney's audience. The president of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili, was present and must have smiled (albeit inwardly) as he recalled his brutal suppression of pro-Russian ethnic minorities in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, who seek independence from their ethnic Georgian overlords. In Kosovo, the Albanian Kosovars were supported by the U.S. in their struggle to achieve de facto independence, but in Georgia separatism is opposed. The one consistent strain in this policy is to oppose Slavic interests wherever they may dare raise their heads: there is to be no quarter in the civilizational war with the (now vastly diminished) Byzantine East, just as there is to be no retreat in the global war on Islam. The American strategy is a simple one: regime change all 'round!
The series of "peaceful" regime changes effected in Russia's "near abroad" - Ukraine, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova - were all bought and paid for by the U.S., and now, in the cases of Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, we are seeing some blowback, a nationalist reaction to the overweening arrogance of the American hegemon. An effort to pull off a self-styled "denim revolution" in Belarus failed miserably, in part on account of the disunity (and sheer dizziness) of the "democratic" opposition, but mostly because Eastern Europeans are wising up to the Americans' game. Having only just recently left one Warsaw Pact, they are no longer quite so eager to join another.
The recent election held in Belarus, won handily by President Lukashenko, is routinely denounced as fraudulent by European Union commissioners. This charge has got to establish some sort of record for sheer gall, coming as it does from officials of a political entity that repeats referenda until the politically correct results are achieved, in this case "yes" votes for the Euro and the adoption of the EU "constitution" in recalcitrant states like Denmark and Switzerland. In the EU, they just keep voting until they get it "right." This makes the electoral process of a Soviet-era relic like Belarus seem positively liberal by comparison.
Anyone seeking a principled consistency in American foreign policy is bound to be disappointed: separatism is good for the Kosovars and the southern Sudanese, but bad for the South Ossetians and the Russian-speakers of Moldova and the Baltics. Nukes are good in the hands of the Israelis and the Pakistanis, not to mention the Indians, but bad if they're acquired by the Iranians, who have no right to deter nuclear blackmail. No nation may invade or occupy the territory of another - not because it is an act of unprovoked aggression, but because such acts are privileges reserved for the exclusive enjoyment of American government officials.
Facing off against the U.S. in a rematch, post-Communist Russia sees a funhouse mirror reflection of its old self, a Sovietized America at the head of a "global democratic revolution," as our Great Leader puts it. With Washington at the center of an international web of servile "pro-American" parties and propaganda outlets, all trained to bark and bite on command, the anti-Russian "Putin = Stalin" chorus is rising loud and fast. The reason has little to do with his alleged authoritarian proclivities. It is because no one else has unified the Russian people behind an independent agenda - and an independent foreign policy.
Standing up to America on the Iranian question, selling arms to Syria, forbidding the dissemination of American taxpayer dollars to Russian "opposition" politicians - Putin has incurred the wrath of the neoconservatives, who see in him a prime candidate for the new "Hitler." This demonization campaign will accelerate if and when Putin moves to run for another term. The Russian constitution forbids him from running again, but that can always be changed by a Putin-loyal Duma. The irony is that the "human rights" activists accuse the Russian president of harboring "antidemocratic" tendencies precisely because he is supported by the overwhelming majority of Russians, who would gladly elect him to a third and even a fourth term, just like the Americans supported Franklin Roosevelt.
The idea that the U.S. is trying to spread its system of "democracy" is just a cover for a program that is essentially the opposite. As evidenced by Cheney's denunciation of Russia's newfound devotion to the free market - at least when it comes to un-fixing oil and natural gas prices - the Americans are not intent on spreading free-market ideology. What they are spreading is American control: of key military bases and access to oil. The U.S. drive to achieve what the neocons call "benevolent global hegemony" is relentless, and Putin is an obstacle in their path: there can be little doubt that the regime-changers of Washington have him in their sights.
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Mission Accomplished in Iraq
Baghdad anger at Bush's undiplomatic palace
Daniel McGrory, Baghdad
May 04, 2006
THE question puzzles and enrages a city: how is it that the Americans cannot keep the electricity running in Baghdad for more than a couple of hours a day, yet still manage to build the biggest embassy on earth?
Irritation grows as residents deprived of airconditioning and running water three years after the US-led invasion watch the massive US embassy they call "George W's palace" rising from the banks of the Tigris.
In the pavement cafes, people moan that the structure is bigger than anything Saddam Hussein built. They are not impressed by the architects' claims that it will be visible from space and cover an area larger than Vatican City. They are more interested in knowing whether the US State Department paid for the prime real estate or simply took it.
While families suffer electricity cuts, queue all day to fuel their cars and wait for water pipes to be connected, the US mission, due to open in June next year, will have its own power and water plants to cater for a population the size of a small town.
The design of the compound is supposed to be a secret, but you cannot hide the concrete contours of the 21 buildings that are taking shape.
Looming over the skyline, the embassy has the distinction of being the only big US building project in Iraq that is on time and within budget. In a week when Washington revealed a startling list of missed deadlines and overspending on building projects, Congress was told the bill for the embassy was $US592million ($772million).
The heavily guarded 42ha site - which will have a 3m-thick perimeter wall - has hundreds of workers swarming on scaffolding. Locals are bitter that the Kuwaiti contractor has employed only foreign staff.
Diplomats, after roughing it in Saddam's abandoned palaces, should have every comfort in their new home. The plans are rumoured to include the biggest swimming pool in Iraq, a gymnasium, a cinema, restaurants offering delicacies from US food chains, tennis courts and a swish American Club for functions.
A State Department official said the size reflected the "massive amount of work still facing the US and our commitment to see it through".
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Seven killed, seven kidnapped in Iraq
Sat May 6, 2006
BAGHDAD - At least seven people, including three Iraqi army officers and two children, were killed and seven others kidnapped in a series of rebel attacks across Iraq, security officials said.
Three Iraqi army officers -- a major, a lieutenant colonel and first lieutenant -- were killed when a suicide bomber, dressed as an army officer, blew himself up at an Iraqi army base in the northern city of Tikrit.
In another attack, two children were killed when a mortar landed on their house in northern Baghdad.
Two policemen were killed when a roadside bomb struck their vehicle in Samarra, 125 kilometres (78 miles) north of Baghdad. Their convoy had been tasked with escorting emergency medical cases, a security source said.
A US soldier was killed Friday in a roadside bombing in the Iraqi capital, the US military announced Saturday, bringing the latest US military death toll in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion to 2,414 according to an AFP count based on
In a series of abductions south of Baghdad, seven people, including three police commandos, were kidnapped Saturday, police said.
Gunmen kidnapped the commandos as they were on their way to work in the town of Al-Mahawil, 90 kilometers (56 miles) south of Baghdad.
The other four, including two truck drivers, were also kidnapped in Mahawil in two separate incidents.
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British helicopter down in Iraq
By Aref Mohammed and Alaa Habib
May 6, 2006
BASRA, Iraq - A British military helicopter was brought down in the Iraqi city of Basra on Saturday, killing four people aboard, officials said, sparking clashes between troops and angry, chanting youths hurling petrol bombs.
Britain's government said "a number of" British military personnel were killed and said the cause was unclear. Police said a rocket hit the helicopter and firefighters said they found four charred bodies in the aircraft, which hit a house.
No one on the ground was hurt in the crash, police said. But two Iraqis were killed in clashes after youths chanted victory slogans for the Mehdi Army, a Shi'ite militia opposed to the occupying forces. The British military denied opening fire.
"I can confirm the tragic deaths of a number of British service personnel," said Defense Secretary Des Browne, who was appointed only on Friday in a cabinet reshuffle.
As troops in Warrior armored battle vehicles, some with riot shields, cordoned off the area, youths chanting "Victory to the Mehdi Army" threw rocks and then petrol bombs. Soldiers used foam to douse fires ignited on their vehicles.
British military spokesman, Squadron Leader Al Green, said troops counted about 60 rounds fired in the air from the crowd -- not uncommon in Iraq -- and said no British shot was fired.
A local journalist said he was hit in the leg by a British plastic round and saw troops aim their ordinary rifles. He said he saw at least one man dead. Witnesses said a second man may have died in a car, the windshield of which was smashed and bloodied.
Several people, including children, were wounded when a mortar round later struck a house nearby, witnesses said.
Dominated by the Shi'ite Muslim majority now in control in Baghdad, Basra has seen less violence than cities in the north. But friction between the occupying force and militia groups like the Mehdi Army of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr does flare up.
British military sources confirmed ground fire seemed the likeliest explanation for the crash, near the local governor's office. The make of the helicopter was not clear.
Basra police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Kareem al-Zaidi said: "A Multi-National Forces helicopter was hit by a rocket."
Sadr, a firebrand in his early 30s, demands an end to the U.S. and British occupation. He is a key figure in the Islamist Alliance bloc that will lead a new Iraqi government.
In September last year, British forces clashed with Mehdi Army militants. The British public was startled by images of a soldier escaping an armored vehicle, his uniform in flames.
Senior British officers have complained rival Shi'ite militia factions have effectively taken control of different elements of Iraq's second city, close to the Gulf and the border with Shi'ite Iran, 550 km (340 miles) south of Baghdad.
There were signs of agreement among Iraqi leaders that a unity government could be formed soon. Shi'ite Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi said: "I expect the announcement will come in the next few days ... There are no serious complications."
Sectarian blood-letting has increased since the destruction of a major Shi'ite shrine in Samarra in February, prompting warnings of civil war and adding to pressure from Washington and London for Iraqis to settle their differences quickly.
Both the United States and Britain are keen to withdraw as many troops as possible as quickly as possible and are building up Iraq's own army and police to that end.
Three Iraqi Army officers, including a lieutenant-colonel, were killed inside their base by a suicide bomber in
Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit on Saturday, police said. The battalion commander, a colonel, was wounded.
It was not the first time an insurgent had dressed in army uniform and evaded identity checks to attack Iraqi soldiers.
Sunni Arab insurgents, including al Qaeda's Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, have said they are taking their battle to the Iraqi forces, targeting recruiting lines and senior officers.
Before Saturday, 104 British troops had died in Iraq. About 8,000 are deployed there, along with 133,000 Americans.
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Targeted Killings Surge in Baghdad
07 May 2006
Nearly 4,000 civilian deaths, many of them Sunni Arabs slain execution-style, were recorded in the first three months of the year.
More Iraqi civilians were killed in Baghdad during the first three months of this year than at any time since the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime - at least 3,800, many of them found hogtied and shot execution-style.
Others were strangled, electrocuted, stabbed, garroted or hanged. Some died in bombings. Many bore signs of torture such as bruises, drill holes, burn marks, gouged eyes or severed limbs. Every day, about 40 bodies arrive at the central Baghdad morgue, an official said.
Comment: U.S. and Israeli paid assassins have been busy, all in an effort to "create" civil war.
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Goss: CIA resignation 'one of those mysteries'
Saturday, May 6, 2006
WASHINGTON -- Porter Goss said Saturday that his surprise resignation as CIA director is "just one of those mysteries," offering no other explanation for his sudden departure after almost two years on the job.
Although the ex-congressman declined to comment, intelligence sources have told CNN that Goss' resignation on Friday was triggered by differences with National Intelligence Director John Negroponte over plans to move staff, including analysts from the CIA's counterterrorism center, to other intelligence agencies.
As for Goss' replacement, President Bush has settled on Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden as his choice, senior administration officials told CNN, and an announcement is planned for Monday.
Hayden, 61, is the principal deputy to Negroponte and former director of the super-secret National Security Agency.
The new CIA director must be confirmed by the Senate, which may bring Hayden's tenure as NSA director in 2001 under scrutiny, after Bush authorized a controversial anti-terrorism spy program.
Without court warrants, the NSA monitored the communications of people inside the United States who were in contact with suspected terrorists outside the country.
Critics -- many of whom are members of the Senate -- charge the surveillance program is a violation of law and an assault on civil liberties.
Hayden has defended it, insisting that it is a necessary tool to thwart terrorists and that the process of obtaining warrants is too slow and cumbersome to deal with "a lethal enemy."
An intelligence source with detailed knowledge of the discussions surrounding Goss' departure told CNN that after Goss resisted the changes, Negroponte sought White House backing to resolve the impasse.
Hayden was involved in the decision that Goss must go, the source said.
A senior administration official said Goss' resignation was based on a "mutual understanding" between Bush, Goss and Negroponte.
"When you ask somebody to do very difficult things during a period of transition, it often makes sense to hand off the reins to somebody else to take the agency forward," the senior administration official said.
An intelligence official told CNN that while there were differences of opinion between Goss and Negroponte, suggestions of any harsh exchanges between the two men were "just ridiculous, not remotely true."
In April, a senior administration official told CNN that Goss would likely be out of the CIA post before the end of the summer.
Goss and other senior intelligence officials have recently been interviewed by the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, which is looking into concerns that change was happening too slowly at the CIA.
Goss said he would remain at the helm of the CIA for the "next few weeks" to oversee the transition to a new director.
Former critic led shake-up
Goss, 67, a former CIA officer and Republican congressman from Florida, was tapped by Bush in June 2004 to come in and shake up the agency at a time when its performance was under intense scrutiny due to intelligence failures prior to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the invasion of Iraq.
Some of the most blistering criticism came in a report from the House Intelligence Committee -- which Goss then chaired -- that called the CIA "dysfunctional."
But two months after Goss was nominated, Bush asked Congress to implement a recommendation from the 9/11 commission to create an overall national intelligence director, which would oversee the CIA and 14 other intelligence agencies -- a change that diluted the authority of the CIA director.
Negroponte, the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, was confirmed as national intelligence director in April 2005. After the restructuring, Bush began receiving his daily intelligence briefings from Negroponte rather than Goss.
Goss made good on his promise to shake up the CIA, bringing in his own management team to implement changes. A number of top CIA officials left during the transition, after personality and policy clashes with Goss' lieutenants.
However, in October, the White House decided to make Goss the manager of all U.S. human intelligence-gathering operations, which was widely seen as a way to restore some of the prestige the CIA lost after Congress created the post of national intelligence director.
Former intelligence officials told CNN that many people inside the CIA are "relieved" that Goss and his aides -- called "the Gosslings" by CIA insiders -- are going, a reflection of the ill will that still persists over the earlier departures of senior officials.
'That was a tough job'
Goss' abrupt resignation Friday took Washington by surprise. Reporters were summoned in early afternoon to the Oval Office, where Bush -- with the CIA director seated next to him -- announced the change.
No reason was given for Goss' resignation, but the White House has been in the midst of an administration shakeup since Josh Bolten took over as chief of staff.
"[Goss] offered his resignation as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. I've accepted it," Bush said.
"Porter's tenure at the CIA was one of transition, where he's helped his agency become integrated into the intelligence community," the president said. "That was a tough job, and he's led ably."
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Bush to nominate Air Force general as CIA chief
www.chinaview.cn 2006-05-08 19:30:21
WASHINGTON, May 8 (Xinhua) -- WASHINGTON, May 8 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President George W. Bush will name the controversial Air Force General Michael Hayden as the next director of the CIA, Bush's national security adviser said on Monday.
"Mike Hayden is the president's nominee to be the director of the CIA," the national security adviser Stephen Hadley told the NBC television's "Today" show program.
"The president believes he is the right person at the right time in the right job," Hadley said.
If confirmed by the Senate, Hayden will replace Porter Goss who resigned abruptly on Friday after less than two years on the job.
U.S. lawmakers, some from Bush's Republican party, have voiced their concern about the choice of Hayden over his ties to an eavesdropping program.
Some Senators have said they would use Hayden's Senate confirmation hearings to learn more about the program of eavesdropping on United State's international phone calls and e-mail in pursuit of terrorism suspects.
Some Congress members said that having a general in charge of the CIA would give the Pentagon too much sway over U.S. intelligence gathering, while others believed he was too close to the White House and lacks experience building an intelligence service.
Bush has said Hayden was the one who initiated the domestic eavesdropping program after the September 11 attacks, which Bush saw as essential to fighting terrorism.
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House Intel Panel Chief Opposes Hayden
By NEDRA PICKLER
May 7, 2006
WASHINGTON - A leading Republican came out against the front-runner for CIA director, Gen. Michael Hayden, saying Sunday the spy agency should not have military leadership during a turbulent time among intelligence agencies.
"Now, vhat shall vee talk about?"
Members of the Senate committee that would consider President Bush's nominee also expressed reservations, saying the CIA is a civilian agency and putting Hayden atop it would concentrate too much power in the military for intelligence matters.
Bush was expected to nominate a new director as early as Monday to replace Porter Goss, who abruptly resigned on Friday.
But opposition to Hayden because of his military background is mounting on Capitol Hill, where he would face tough hearings in the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Despite a distinguished career at the Defense Department, Hayden would be "the wrong person, the wrong place at the wrong time," said the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich.
"There is ongoing tensions between this premier civilian intelligence agency and DOD as we speak," Hoekstra said. "And I think putting a general in charge - regardless of how good Mike is - ... is going to send the wrong signal through the agency here in Washington but also to our agents in the field around the world," he told "Fox News Sunday."
If Hayden were to get the nomination, military officers would run the major spy agencies in the United States, from the ultra-secret National Security Agency to the Defense Intelligence Agency.
The Pentagon already controls more than 80 percent of the intelligence budget.
"You can't have the military control most of the major aspects of intelligence," said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who is on the Senate Intelligence Committee. The CIA "is a civilian agency and is meant to be a civilian agency," she said on ABC's "This Week."
A second committee member, GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, added, "I think the fact that he is a part of the military today would be the major problem."
Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., mentioned fears the CIA would "just be gobbled up by the Defense Department" if Hayden were to take over.
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said he would view a Hayden nomination as a way to get information from the Bush administration about its secretive domestic surveillance program, undertaken by the NSA when Hayden led that agency.
The warrantless monitoring covered electronic communications between people in the United States and other parties overseas with suspected terrorist links.
If Hayden were to get the nomination, military officers would run the major spy agencies in the United States, from the ultra-secret National Security Agency to the Defense Intelligence Agency.So, the military will protect us all from Evil Terrorists, save us after natural disasters, AND run all the spy agencies in the country. Do you see a pattern emerging here...?
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Lawmakers Concerned About Putting CIA Under Military Leadership
WASHINGTON - Even before President Bush has named his choice to take over the CIA, the Air Force general who is the front-runner drew fire Sunday from lawmakers who say a military man should not lead the civilian spy agency.
The criticism of the expected choice of Gen. Michael Hayden to head the CIA is not just coming from Bush's political foes, but also from some influential members of his own party.
"I do believe he's the wrong person, the wrong place, at the wrong time," said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich. "We should not have a military person leading a civilian agency at this time."
Hoekstra said on "Fox News Sunday" that having a general in charge of the CIA could create the impression among agents around the world that the agency is under Pentagon control. If he were to get the nomination, military officers would run all the major spy agencies, from the ultra-secret National Security Agency to the Defense Intelligence Agency.
The sentiment was echoed by Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, who said Hayden's military background would be a "major problem," and several Democrats who made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., said Hayden could leave agents with the impression that the CIA has been "just gobbled up by the Defense Department."
The criticism comes a day before Bush was expected to name Hayden as his choice to lead the CIA. Outgoing director Porter Goss abruptly announced his resignation Friday after less than two years on the job.
Hayden is widely respected in both parties for his long experience with intelligence, and many lawmakers said he could be a good candidate for some other job. Some, like Democratic Sen.
Dianne Feinstein of California, suggested that he might think about resigning his military post if he were going to head the CIA. But Hoekstra and Chambliss were among those who said that wouldn't solve the problem.
"Just resigning commission and moving on, putting on a striped suit, a pinstriped suit versus an Air Force uniform, I don't think makes much difference," Chambliss said on ABC's "This Week."
Talk of Hayden's possible nomination has reignited the debate over the Bush's administration's domestic surveillance program, which Hayden used to oversee as the former head of the National
California Rep. Jane Harman, leading Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said Hayden "made a big mistake" by defending the legality of the eavesdropping program in December during a speech at the National Press Club. "That program does not comply with law," she said on CNN's "Late Edition."
Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said he would use a Hayden nomination to raise questions about the legality of the program and did not rule out holding it up until he gets answers. "I'm not going to draw any lines in the sand until I see how the facts evolve," Specter said on Fox.
White House insiders tried to shrug off suggestions that Hayden's military experience could become a serious issue. And they said they welcome a fight over the domestic eavesdropping program -- an issue that Bush certainly has not shied away from taking on in his effort to take a tough stance against terrorists.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said she is concerned about Hayden's role in the domestic spying program, but that should not be the issue in Senate confirmation hearings for the CIA. But having a four-star general leading the spy agency should be, she said.
"There have to be more people that can be drawn upon" in the administration, she said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "These people are all just this little clique, they play musical chairs, they're all far too close to the president politically, and I think that the confidence that everyone needs in the CIA would be better instilled if we had someone else."
Vice President Dick Cheney, in an interview with NBC, would not comment on whether Bush was prepared to nominate Hayden. But he said the new CIA director will have to "make a lot of adjustments" at the agency.
"We're faced with trying to find ways to figure out what a small group of terrorists are going to do, they're difficult to penetrate, difficult to track by national technical means," Cheney said. "It places a much heavier emphasis on human intelligence than was required, necessarily, before, but it automatically places a burden on whoever's in that job as director of the CIA."
Hayden has his defenders on Capitol Hill. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he hopes he could be confirmed.
"In all due respect to my colleagues -- and I obviously respect their views -- General Hayden is really more of an intelligence person than he is an Air Force officer," he said on "Face the Nation" on CBS. "I think that we should also remember that there had been other former military people who have been directors of the CIA."
And Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, who will oversee confirmation hearings for the post, acknowledged on CNN that there is some real concern about somebody from the military heading up the CIA. But he said that can be easily resolved by Hayden resigning his post and bringing in deputies with a strong civilian background.
Comment: Hmmm...do you think American citizens should also be concerned about putting the CIA, a previously civilian organisation, under military leadership?
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The War on the Rest of US
Military Shores Up Hurricane Response
By LOLITA C. BALDOR
Sat May 6, 2006
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Ahead of the hurricane season that starts June 1, the Pentagon is buying cellular and satellite phone vans, cutting paperwork to speed delivery of aircraft, troops and supplies to stricken areas and already is sending military officers to Gulf states.
Yet military officials fear falling short of the public's expectations when the next storm hits, given that the scenes of New Orleans' devastation are still vivid and frustration with the federal response still raw.
"The expectations of our citizens ... have gotten so high that regardless of the responder - local, state, National Guard and Defense Department - folks will be disappointed that they can't get everything they need right away," said Adm. Timothy Keating, commander of U.S. Northern Command. "We have to manage expectations."
Sitting in his office in the shadow of Colorado's Pikes Peak, Keating explained why the military would respond more quickly this year to a disaster: months of preparations and disaster drills; streamlined procedures; and the storage of "massive amounts" of food, water, ice and millions of military MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) in the region.
But no matter how prepared Keating is to send in military equipment and supplies, he must wait for state officials to ask for help.
During investigations into last year's hurricane response, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Homeland Security Department took much of the criticism, leading to the resignation of FEMA chief Michael Brown.
The Pentagon was urged to expand the military's role in disaster assistance and that's where the Northern Command comes in. It was created after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to ensure that the military is prepared for security threats inside U.S. borders.
Command leaders say they will try to be better prepared when the calls do come from battered states.
"We weren't aggressive going forward, we need to be more anticipatory," said Lt. Gen. Joseph Inge, deputy commander. This year, he said, "because we're watching, we may know before they (local authorities) do that they have a potential problem."
Keating now has the power to send some military aid without waiting for approval up the chain. In addition, the Pentagon has set up new procedures to cut the waiting time for action on requests for helicopters, small boats, communications and medical equipment, and other military resources.
"The time it will save? At the outside six days," Keating said in an Associated Press interview last week. "Or it could be measured in minutes, even hours."
Keating acknowledges that multiple disasters - natural ones or terrorist attacks - would test the U.S. response.
"Several simultaneous events would be a concern," Keating said. He said federal authorities have planned for such a scenario and will conduct a major exercise at Northern Command soon to test the response.
Keating and leaders at Northern Command said they have worked to improve communications and coordination of the dozens of agencies and others - including foreign governments - that would help with disaster response.
But, right now, more than nine months after Katrina, the military has just one mobile communications van ready to rush in with a portable cellular phone tower, and dozens of computers and mobile phones. Rear Adm. Nancy Brown is hoping that three more on order will arrive in time for the storm season.
Other changes include more training for bus drivers to improve evacuations and sending new military teams to go into devastated regions more quickly for damage assessment.
Nearly 60 agencies have representatives in the command center in the Northern Command's headquarters, which was packed to standing-room-only for 42 straight days last year as Katrina and Rita battered the Gulf.
The expansive room, opened just days after Katrina hit in August, is filled with computer stations and lined with video screens.
On one recent day, there were maps showing small earthquakes in four places; the discovery of an unknown white powder in an envelope in Bismark, N.D.; and a map tracking more than 1,000 commercial vessels headed into U.S. ports during the next 96 hours.
"I can't imagine anything else we could or should do," said Keating, as he stood in front of the bank of video screens. "We are as ready as we can be."
"The Pentagon was urged to expand the military's role in disaster assistance and that's where the Northern Command comes in. It was created after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to ensure that the military is prepared for security threats inside U.S. borders."Well gosh, the military protects us from evil terrorists and will now save people from the aftermath of natural disasters. Aren't they just swell??
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Liberal Bad Faith in the wake of Hurricane Katrina
Adolph Reed and Stephen Steinberg
So, Barbara Bush was right after all when she said, "So many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them." And Rep. Richard Baker, a 10-term Republican from Baton Rouge, was right when he was overheard telling lobbyists: "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." The publication of both statements elicited public condemnation and was followed by a flurry of hairsplitting denials. But it is now clear that their only transgression was to say in unvarnished language what many pundits, politicians, and policy wonks were thinking. Since then, there has been a stream of proposals in more circumspect language, first by conservatives and then by a liberal policy circle at Harvard, that also envision the resettlement of New Orleans' poverty population far from the Vieux Carré, Garden District and other coveted neighborhoods of the "new" New Orleans.
David Brooks weighed in first, in a September 8 column in the New York Times under the title, "Katrina's Silver Lining." How can such a colossal natural disaster that devastated an entire city and displaced most of its population have "a silver lining"? Because, according to Brooks, it provided an opportunity to "break up zones of concentrated poverty," and thus "to break the cycle of poverty." The key, though, is to relocate the poor elsewhere, and to replace them with middle class families who will rebuild the city. "If we just put up new buildings and allow the same people to move back into their old neighborhoods," Brooks warned, "then urban New Orleans will become just as rundown and dysfunctional as before."
OK, this is what we expect from the neocons. Enter William Julius Wilson, whose message in The Declining Significance of Race catapulted him to national prominence. In an appearance on The News Hour, Wilson began by diplomatically complimenting Bush for acknowledging the problems of racial inequality and persistent poverty, and then made a pitch for funneling both private and public sector jobs to low-income people. So far so good. But then Wilson shifted to some ominous language:
"Another thing, it would have been good if he had talked about the need to ensure that the placement of families in New Orleans does not reproduce the levels of concentrated poverty that existed before. So I would just like to underline what Bruce Katz was saying and that is that we do have evidence that moving families to lower poverty neighborhoods and school districts can have significant positive effects."
Wilson was referring to his fellow panelist on The News Hour, Bruce Katz, who was chief of staff for the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the Clinton administration. According to Katz, to build " a competitive healthy and viable city," we need "to break up the concentrations of poverty, to break up those federal enclaves of poverty which existed in the city and to really give these low income residents more choice and opportunity." Finally, it becomes clear what Katz is driving at:
"I think the city will be smaller and I'm not sure if that's the worst thing in the world. I think we have an opportunity here to have a win-win. I think we have an opportunity to build a very different kind of city, a city with a much greater mix of incomes. And, at the same time, we have the opportunity, if we have the right principles and we have the right tools to give many of those low income families the ability to live in neighborhoods, whether in the city, whether in the suburbs, whether in other parts of the state or in other parts of the country, live in neighborhoods where they have access to good schools, safe streets and quality jobs." (Italics ours.)
Stripped of its varnish, what Wilson and Katz are proposing is a resettlement program that will result in a "smaller" New Orleans that is depleted of its poverty population.
This is not all. Together with Xavier Briggs, a sociologist and urban planner at MIT, Wilson posted a petition on the listserve of the Urban Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association, under the title "Moving to Opportunity in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina." After some hand wringing about the terrible impact of Katrina, we're presented with the silver lining: "... our goal for these low-income displaced persons, most of whom are racial minorities, should be to create a 'move to opportunity.'" Of course, this is followed by the necessary caveat: "we do not seek to depopulate the city of its historically black communities," et cetera, et cetera. But the main thrust of the petition touts "a growing body of research" that demonstrates the "significant positive effects" of "mobility programs" that break up "concentrated poverty." By happy coincidence, Briggs has just published an edited volume, The Geography of Opportunity, with a foreword by William Julius Wilson, which promotes such mobility programs.
The dangerous, reactionary implications of a government-sponsored resettlement program were apparently not evident to the 200-plus signatories, which include some of the most prominent names in American social science: First on the list was William Julius Wilson, followed by Christopher Jencks, Lawrence Katz, David Ellwood, Herbert Gans, Todd Gitlin, Alejandro Portes, Katherine Newman, Jennifer Hochschild, Sheldon Danziger, Mary Jo Bane, to mention some of the names on just the first of ten pages of signatories. With these luminaries at the head of the petition, given their unimpeachable liberal credentials, scores of urban specialists flocked to add their names. But how is the position laid out in the measured language of the petition different from the one expressed by Barbara Bush, Rep. Richard Baker, and David Brooks? This is a relocation scheme, pure and simple. Of course, the petition was careful to stipulate that this was a voluntary program, leaving people with a "choice" to return to New Orleans or to relocate elsewhere. However, as these anointed policy experts surely know, the ultimate outcome hinges on what policies are enacted. If public housing and affordable housing in New Orleans are not rebuilt, if rent subsidies are withheld, then what "choice" do people have but to relocate elsewhere? The certain result will be "a smaller and stronger New Orleans," depleted of its poverty population.
Already public officials are crowing about the "new" New Orleans. According to a recent article in the New York Times, "the bullets and drugs and the fear are gone now, swept away by Hurricane Katrina, along with the dealers and gangs and most of the people." Step forward another credentialed expert, Peter Scharf, executive director of the Center for Society, Law and Justice at the University of New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina, Scharf exults, "was one of the greatest crime-control tools ever deployed against a high-crime city," sweeping away, by his estimate, as many as 20,000 participants in the drug culture before the storm.
Here we see the first problem of the "moving to opportunity" discourse. It is a throwback to the crude environmental determinism of the Jacob Riis era, which equated urban pathology with the urban environment, and assumed that a more salubrious environment - more commodious housing, playgrounds, and clean streets - would provide a panacea for the "ills of the city." One Progressive Era book began with the instructive story about a lamppost that had been the site of a rash of suicides. Alas, the authorities removed the lamppost, and poof, the suicides ceased! Does anyone doubt that New Orleans' drug trade will not reestablish itself elsewhere?
On closer examination, the campaign against "concentrated poverty" is a scheme for making poverty invisible. The policy is based on an anti-urban bias that is as frivolous as it is deep-seated, as though the romanticized small towns across the nation are not plagued with the litany of "urban" problems. Wherever there is chronic joblessness and poverty, and no matter its color, there are high rates of crime, alcoholism, drugs, school dropouts, domestic violence, and mental health issues, especially among the poor youth who pass up the option to rescue themselves by joining the army and fighting America's imperial wars. To echo C. Wright Mills, when poverty is spread thin, then these behaviors can be dismissed as individual aberrations stemming from moral blemishes, rather than a problem of society demanding political action.
Besides, what kind of policy simply moves the poor into somebody else's back yard, without addressing the root causes of poverty itself, and in the process disrupts the personal networks and community bonds of these indigent people? Contrary to the claim of the petition, the "careful studies" that have evaluated the "moving to opportunity" programs report very mixed results, and why should one think otherwise? Unless the uprooted families are provided with jobs and opportunities that are the sine qua non of stable families and communities, "move to opportunity" is only a spurious theory and an empty slogan.
This brings attention to two other fatal flaws in the logic of "moving to opportunity" policy. It is based on a demonized image of the reprobate poor, who make trouble for themselves and others. Yes, the drug dealers are swept out of the 9th ward, but so are countless others, often single mothers with children, with an extended kin network of siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and that heroic grandmother, who indeed have deep roots in the communities from which they are being evicted. How is it that this Gang of 200, from their ivory towers and gilded offices, presume to speak for the poor? Tossing in a caveat to the effect that "we do not seek to depopulate the city or its historically black communities" must be read literally. They want only to depopulate the city of concentrated poverty, and they will leave intact middle-class black communities that will insulate them from charges of racism.
The great fallacy of the "moving to opportunity" programs is that, by definition, they reach only a small percentage of the poverty population (and typically those who are both motivated and qualified to participate in the program). Left behind are masses to fend for themselves, particularly since the "moving to opportunity" programs are themselves used as an excuse to disinvest in these poor black communities that are written off as beyond redemption. Moving to opportunity becomes a perverse euphemism for policy abdication of the poor people left behind who are in desperate need of programs, services, and jobs.
Here, finally, is what is most sinister and myopic about the "moving to opportunity" concept. It is not part of a comprehensive policy to attack poverty and racism: to rid the United States of impoverished ghettos that pockmark the national landscape. Rather the policy is enacted in places where poor blacks occupy valuable real estate, as was the case for Cabrini Green in Chicago. After Cabrini Green was imploded, and its displaced residents sent off with Section 8s, median sales prices of single-unit homes in the vicinity soared from $138,000 to $700,000 during the 1980s, and the area lost 7,000 African Americans and gained 4,000 whites. It is only a matter of time before we read upbeat news accounts about the gentrifying neighborhoods surrounding the Vieux Carré.
What is perhaps saddest and most reprehensible about the petition of the Gang of 200 is the solipsistic arrogance on which it rests. This initiative comes at a time when ACORN and other advocacy groups and grassroots activists in New Orleans have championed "the right of return" for even its poorest citizens displaced by Katrina. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, over 140,000 units of housing were destroyed, the majority of them affordable for low-income families. But the Housing Authority of New Orleans has shut down its public-housing operations, and informed landlords of people assisted by federal rent vouchers that government rent subsidies for impacted units have been suspended indefinitely. According to Mike Howells, an organizer with a local human rights group, "sensing an opportunity to enhance the fortunes of real estate interests and to dump a form of public assistance that mainly benefits poor working class locals, Washington and local authorities are using Hurricane Katrina as a pretext for effectively gutting government subsidized housing in New Orleans."
Sure enough, the key player on Mayor Nagin's "Bring New Orleans Back Commission" is Joe Canizaro, a billionaire local developer and one of President Bush's "pioneers," i.e., individuals who raised at least $100,000 for the Bush presidential campaign. The commission initially retained the Urban Land Institute - a real estate development industry organization on whose board Canizaro sits - to propose a framework for pursuing reconstruction. Unsurprisingly, that proposal called for a form of market-based triage. It recommended that reconstruction efforts should be focused in proportion to areas' market value and further suggested that rebuilding of New Orleans East and the Lower Ninth Ward be deferred indefinitely. What else could we have expected? Asking such an outfit how to rebuild a devastated city is like asking a fox how to organize a chicken coop.
As we write, the fate of displaced poor New Orleanians is more precarious than ever. FEMA has terminated rent payments for thousands. Only 20 of the 117 public schools that existed before the hurricane are operating, and 17 of those 20 have opened as charter schools. The school board laid off all the teachers and staff months ago - so much for concerns about poverty. Most of the city remains empty, eerily quiet and covered with a gray, filmy residue that shows how high floodwaters were in each neighborhood. And the eerie quiet underscores the colossal failure of government at all levels to propose a plan for the hundreds of thousands of people who have been dislocated for six months and counting.
Tellingly, the outrage that Canizaro and the Urban Land Institute's proposal sparked among working-class homeowners only reinforced poor people's marginalization. The relevant unit of protest against the ULI plan, its moral center, became homeownership. But what of the tens of thousands who weren't homeowners before Katrina? Who is factoring their interests into the equation? Did Barbara Bush speak for history, ratified by the policy circle at Harvard, when she said, "So many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them."
The Gang of 200's petition reproduces and reinforces this disregard for the idea that poor people may have, or deserve to have, emotional attachments to a place they consider home. This is one way in which the stereotype of the "urban underclass" - which Wilson in particular has done so much to legitimize - is insidious: it defines poor people's lives as only objects for "our" administration (and just who makes up the circle of "we" anyway?). It effectively divests the poor of civic voice, thus reprising 19th century republican treatment of those without property as ineligible for full citizenship.
We are braced for the counterattack from the Gang of 200. First, they will howl about the obvious differences between Indian removal and the Negro removal that they advocate. We are more struck by the similarities. Naiveté and hubris can go hand-in-hand. Wilson et. al. rushed to tout their silly pet idea without a whit's thought of the social, political, and economic dynamics and tensions that might be at play in the debate over how to reconstruct New Orleans. Their sole proviso is the lame reassurance that the city's distinctive diversity should be preserved. They gave no thought that Republicans might link the city's repopulation to their desire to gut Democratic power in New Orleans and move Louisiana into the column of reliably Republican states. They apparently also failed to consider the potential that their idée fixe would play into the hands of real estate development interests and others who relish any opportunity to dissipate New Orleans's black electoral majority. Such talk began well before the floodwaters began to recede.
Recently, a politically connected white lawyer in the city remarked that Katrina provided an opportunity to rebuild a smaller, quainter New Orleans, more like Charleston. (Charleston, of course, has an ample poor black servant class for its tourist economy, but a white electoral majority.) And speaking of Charleston, a low-income housing project near downtown was condemned and razed after Hurricane Hugo in 1989 because the flood and storm surge supposedly had rendered the land on which it stood too toxic to afford human habitation. The site subsequently became home to the aquarium, a key node in the Charleston's tourist redevelopment. Rumors abound that luxury condos may also now be in the works for the site.
Next, the Gang of 200 will accuse us of defending segregated housing and opposing their proposal to integrate blacks into mixed income and mixed race neighborhoods. This does not withstand even a moment's scrutiny. Without doubt, many poor black people aspire to move to a "better neighborhood," and they should have the option to do so. If the Gang of 200 were serious about helping them, first on their policy agenda would be a proposal for massive enforcement of existing laws against housing discrimination, in order to drive a wedge through the wall of white segregation. The problem here is that relocation is being enacted through a state-sponsored resettlement policy, and notwithstanding promises for "traditional support services," these poor families (and not all of them are poor!), will be relocated in poor, segregated neighborhoods. The only certain outcome is that New Orleans will be depleted of its poor black population in neighborhoods that are ripe for development.
It is astounding that the Gang of 200 do not see the expropriation of poor neighborhoods and the violation of human rights. And they remain strangely oblivious of their potential for playing into the hands of the retrograde political forces that would use their call to justify displacement. Well-intentioned, respectable scholars as they are, they live no less than anyone else within a political culture shaped largely by class experience and perception. And the poverty research industry, of which Wilson is an avatar and leading light, has been predicated for decades on the premise that poor people are defective, incapable of knowing their own best interests, that they are solely objects of social policy, never its subjects. Worst of all, they provide liberal cover for those who have already put a resettlement policy into motion that is reactionary and racist at its core.
Adolph Reed is a noted author and professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. He was Co-Chair of the Chicago Jobs With Justice Education Committee. He serves on the board of Public Citizen, Inc. and is a member of the Interim National Council of the Labor Party, and national co-chair of the Labor Party's campaign for Free Higher Education. Prof. Reed can be contacted at email@example.com.
Stephen Steinberg teaches in the Urban Studies Department at Queens College. His most recent book Turning Back: The Retreat from Racial Justice in American Thought and Policy received the Oliver Cromwell Cox Award for Distinguished Anti-Racist Scholarship. In addition to his scholarly publications, he is a frequent contributor New Politics. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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For television news, the kids aren't all right
By BRIAN LOWRY
Sun., May 7, 2006
Summary: In the eyes of TV news, the kids most definitely are not all right, as cable coverage in particular plays to fears that they are simultaneously imperiled and going to hell in a handbasket. Yet if the media preoccupation with youth hardly warrants a "Fox News Alert," what's striking is how these channels focus so intently on the young when their audience is more likely to mull prescription drug benefits than shoot tequila during spring break in Cabo.
Seldom mentioned, however, is the fact that cable news is equally geriatric. Indeed, Fox News Channel and CNN are two of only three leading basic networks (the other being the Hallmark Channel) whose median viewer age is over 60. Headline News rings in next at 59.9, and MSNBC is still on the rickety side at 57.
ALLEGATIONS OF RAPE AT DUKE UNIVERSITY provided the media a "perfect storm of race, class and sex," wrote the Boston Phoenix, omitting another key ingredient in that unsavory broth: Youth.
In the eyes of TV news, the kids most definitely are not all right, as cable coverage in particular plays to fears that they are simultaneously imperiled and going to hell in a handbasket. Yet if the media preoccupation with youth hardly warrants a "Fox News Alert," what's striking is how these channels focus so intently on the young when their audience is more likely to mull prescription drug benefits than shoot tequila during spring break in Cabo.
The major nightly newscasts and newspapers continue to grapple with the need to "get younger," from the "CBS Evening News' " planned makeover and the obscene drift of primetime magazines in television to shorter stories and increased page one "pop culture" coverage in top dailies. Beyond reaching the young adults advertisers covet, the concern is that the next generation needs to develop the news-consuming habit.
Seldom mentioned, however, is the fact that cable news is equally geriatric. Indeed, Fox News Channel and CNN are two of only three leading basic networks (the other being the Hallmark Channel) whose median viewer age is over 60. Headline News rings in next at 59.9, and MSNBC is still on the rickety side at 57.
This is the dirty little secret cable news would rather not discuss -- namely, that half their viewers graduated from the 18-49 demographic during the first Bush administration. Nevertheless, their primetime hours are replete with the young, restless and at risk -- whether it's a missing girl in Aruba, spring break shenanigans or alleged rape at a prestigious university.
In that context, Fox and CNN's content sounds more like retirement-home residents lamenting what's wrong with kids today than catering to their audience. It also proffers a skewed vision of teens and young adults, whom the network newsmags also present as being either constantly threatened by Internet miscreants (see "Dateline's" "To Catch a Predator" series) or determined to kill themselves (witness "20/20's" "binge-drinking coeds" expose).
Pedophiles, in fact, have become the de facto star of the May rating sweeps, low-lighted by KCBS-TV in Los Angeles promoting a piece about child molesters living near Disneyland. It's the most cynical kind of scare tactic ("Your children might be in danger!") designed to reel in young women, mirroring Fox News host Greta Van Susteren's obsession with the Natalee Holloway case.
Admittedly, such appeals are easier and cheaper to do than substantive reporting. Just don't put lipstick on the pig, as Van Susteren did last year by calling missing persons "an epidemic." It's only an epidemic, frankly, if you glean all your news from her nightly police blotter and sister of woe Nancy Grace on CNN Headline News.
The cable nets' older profiles have also yielded absurd exchanges about demographic superiority, such as the boast that more young adults view MSNBC's Keith Olbermann than CNN's Paula Zahn. Whichever midget is taller, the truth remains that the vast majority of young adults have no interest in either.
What should be troubling for everyone in news is that even with all their pandering to the under-30 crowd, precious little entices them to tune in.
So the news bizbiz continues to pound its collective head against the demographic wall -- a scenario that brings to mind the Billy Wilder classic "Sunset Blvd.," where writer Joe Gillis tells aging star Norma Desmond, "There's nothing tragic about being 50. Not unless you're trying to be 25."
Gillis, a good-looking young fellow, wound up floating face down in a swimming pool. Not the most dignified way to go, but Greta, Nancy and "20/20" would be all over it.
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Confident Democrats Lay Out Agenda
By Jonathan Weisman
Sunday, May 7, 2006
Democratic leaders, increasingly confident they will seize control of the House in November, are laying plans for a legislative blitz during their first week in power that would raise the minimum wage, roll back parts of the Republican prescription drug law, implement homeland security measures and reinstate lapsed budget deficit controls.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said in an interview last week that a Democratic House would launch a series of investigations of the Bush administration, beginning with the White House's first-term energy task force and probably including the use of intelligence in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Pelosi denied Republican allegations that a Democratic House would move quickly to impeach President Bush. But, she said of the planned investigations, "You never know where it leads to."
In recent days, Democratic confidence has been buoyed by a series of polls indicating that not only is Bush growing increasingly unpopular, so are Republicans in Congress. An Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Friday found that 33 percent of the public approves of Bush's job performance, the lowest rating of his presidency. And only 25 percent approves of the job Congress is doing, a figure comparable to congressional approval ratings before the 1994 elections that swept Republicans to power.
The AP-Ipsos poll found that 51 percent of Americans say they want Democrats rather than Republicans to control Congress. Only 34 percent favor Republican control.
"We have to be ready to win," Pelosi said, "and we have to tell [voters] what we will do when we win."
Republicans say Democratic leaders run the risk of looking overconfident -- if not foolish -- in predicting they will win the 15 net seats necessary to take the House.
"If they fall short [of control], she's going to be severely damaged," Carl Forti, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said of Pelosi.
But Democratic planning parallels similar efforts 12 years ago, when GOP leaders were plotting a return to control after 42 years. By May 1994, Republicans had the outlines of a legislative agenda that would become their "Contract With America," said Richard K. Armey, who was the chairman of the House Republican Conference at that time.
Republicans then needed to pick up 40 seats, something most analysts considered virtually impossible six months before the election.
Democrats need to pick up 15, a task that many analysts still believe is a long shot. Democratic leaders do not.
"We are more and more confident that we are going to have the responsibility of leading the House, so we have to prepare," said House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (Md.).
Despite waves of redistricting that have solidified the positions of incumbents from both parties, Pelosi said 50 Republican seats are in play, while fewer than 10 Democratic seats face strong challenges. That figure of GOP seats is disputed by independent analysts, but even the most cautious estimates put more than 15 Republican seats in jeopardy.
Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, said his most expansive estimate classifies 52 seats as "unsafe," 40 of them Republican, 12 of them Democratic. But, he said, only a tidal wave would dislodge the incumbent party from many of those seats, and more realistically, 30 Republican seats and five Democratic districts are vulnerable.
To seize control in 1994, Armey said, Republicans needed three key ingredients: scandal, which was provided by House members' abuse of the House bank and postal system; a policy fiasco, provided by the Clinton administration's failed national health-care plan; and a coherent plan of action, which came with the "Contract With America."
This year, the House is engulfed in bribery and influence-peddling scandals that have forced the resignation of former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), sent former representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) to jail, and yielded guilty pleas from two former DeLay aides and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
But those scandals are also linked to a Democrat, Rep. William J. Jefferson (La.), leading some Republicans to conclude they have been inoculated.
The war in Iraq has provided a policy debacle at least on par with the health-care issue, Armey said. But Democrats cannot offer policy alternatives because, he said, Americans remain leery of their prescriptions for an activist government and higher taxes.
To counter that perception, House Democrats have formulated a plan of action for their first week in control. Their leaders said a Democratic House would quickly vote to raise the minimum wage for the first time since 1997. It would roll back a provision in the Republicans' Medicare prescription drug benefit that prohibits the Department of Health and Human Services from negotiating prices for drugs offered under the program.
It would vote to fully implement the recommendations of the bipartisan panel convened to shore up homeland security after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Democratic leaders said.
And it would reinstate lapsed rules that say any tax cuts or spending increases have to be offset by spending cuts or tax increases to prevent the federal deficit from growing.
Armey dismissed the substance of the Democratic proposals as demagoguery but said that the politics "really, frankly, are not too bad."
Pelosi also vowed "to use the power to investigate" the administration on multiple fronts, starting with the task force convened in secret by Vice President Cheney to devise the administration's energy policy. The administration has successfully fought lawsuits since 2001 that sought to reveal the names of energy company executives tapped to advise the task force.
"Certainly the conduct of the war" in Iraq would be the subject of hearings, if not a full-fledged House investigation, Pelosi said. Another subject for investigation could be the use of intelligence on Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction to make the case for the 2003 invasion.
Hoyer added that he would like to see investigations into the extent of domestic wiretapping by the National Security Agency, and the billions of dollars wasted by contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Campaign chiefs for Republican Senate and House candidates have already begun using the threat of such investigations to raise money and rile core Republican voters. A recent mailing by Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), chairwoman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, warned that Democrats "will call for endless congressional investigations and possibly call for the impeachment of President Bush!"
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Quit Using Our Name, West Point Warns Grad
by Mike McAndrew
Friday, May 5, 2006 by the Syracuse Post-Standard (New York)
There's a West Point Barber Shop, West Point Pizza and West Point Florist.
But the U.S. Military Academy at West Point is warning a Manlius man that his new organization West Point Graduates Against the War better stop using the words "West Point" in its name.
Bill Cross, a West Point graduate and Vietnam War veteran, said he's become accustomed to some military officials criticizing him for protesting both U.S. wars on Iraq.
But Cross never expected the government to threaten to use trademark laws to stifle him, he said.
On April 12, just days after www.westpointgradsagainstthewar.org was launched on the Internet, a West Point lawyer mailed Cross' organization a letter alleging it is violating the U.S. Army's trademark.
Academy spokesman Michael D'Aquino said this dispute is not about politics.
The military academy would have sent Cross' organization a warning letter even if it was called "West Point Graduates For the War," D'Aquino said.
The U.S. Army registered a trademark on the words "West Point" in 2000 to prevent anyone else from using the mark on educational material or a wide range of commercial goods, including golf balls, commemorative coins, Christmas tree ornaments and paper products.
"Users must have (the Army's) permission to incorporate these words in Web sites or organizational titles," D'Aquino said.
When a trademark violation comes to their attention, Army officials take action, D'Aquino said.
Cross' organization has hired Syracuse attorney Joseph Heath to battle back against the academy, located 50 miles north of New York City. In a letter sent Monday to West Point, Heath questioned the academy's stance given his client's First Amendment rights and the widespread use of the words "West Point."
Cross, a psychology professor at Onondaga Community College and family therapist, co-founded West Point Graduates with his 1962 classmates Jim Ryan, of New York City, and Joe Wojcik, of Claremont, Calif.
He said the organization has a Web site, but no assets, and it isn't selling anything. The founders plan to incorporate it as a nonprofit business. West Point graduates, their spouses and their children can join for free.
Cross estimated that about 50 people have joined since the Web site was launched in mid-April. Through Tuesday afternoon, there had been more than 22,000 hits on the group's Web site.
As for barbers and florists who use the name for their businesses, at least three interviewed Thursday said they've never been contacted by the Army, and were unaware the name was a trademark.
"I'm 73 years old, I've been here 50 years and they've never bothered me," said Bill Carlton, owner of the West Point Barber Shop in West Point, Va. "As far as I know, anybody who wants to open (a business) can go ahead and grab (the name)."
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Why Republicans and the Corporate Media Attack US Rep. Cynthia McKinney
By Richard Searcy, Staff Writer, Atlanta Progressive News (May 04, 2006)
For the answer to the question of why the right-wing pays so much attention to Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), look no further than the recent congressional votes on the Iran Freedom Support Act. Congressman Dennis Kucinich called this bill "a stepping stone to the use of force." It passed in the House 397-21. This bill sounds strikingly similar to the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, and it comes at a time when the Bush Administration is not only considering attacking Iran, but using nuclear weapons to do so. Why would Democratic Members of US Congress, who complained they were tricked by the Bush Administration into signing the Iraq Resolution of 2002, now sign onto a bill that Bush may use to set the world on fire with a nuclear attack on Iran? Although the bill contains two sentences stating the bill is not an authorization for war, how do they know that Bush won't interpret it differently as he did in 2002 when that bill required him to first get authorization from the United Nations
How do the Democratic Members of the US House, including the "progressive" ones who also voted for it, know Bush won't have his fingers crossed behind his back when he signs it? How do they know he won't issue one of his infamous signing statements he thinks allows him to interpret the language of any bill or law any way he chooses to? According to The Boston Globe, Bush has claimed the authority to break more than 750 laws. He is the first President in US history never to veto a bill; yet, after signing a bill, he quietly reinterprets it with a signing statement to fit his agenda and the voices he is hearing in his head. His agenda this time is nuclear war. After the catastrophic results of the US Invasion of Iraq, how were the Democrats tricked into signing this insidious and unconscionable piece of legislation?
The bill calls for "promoting Democracy" in Iran. Sound familiar? The problem with that is Iran is already a democracy. Iran was a democracy way back in 1953 when the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) orchestrated an overthrow of the democratically elected President of Iran. The CIA then installed the Shah of Iran and SAVAK, one of the most brutal secret police forces in human history.
The entire Congressional Black Caucus, whose constituents have been the most opposed to the US Invasion of Iraq, all voted for it, except, as expected, Cynthia McKinney.
Why, "as expected"?
It's because US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney has consistently voted for the interests of her District, her State of Georgia , and the citizens of the United States throughout her political career. She has always exhibited the courage to speak truth to power and be a voice for the powerless. She does not run from tough issues and will not be forced into any position that endangers America or its people, no matter who is doing the forcing.
This is why she remains a constant target for attack by the Right and by corporate interests. This is the very same Cynthia McKinney who had the courage to ask George Bush, "What did the administration know and when did they know it?" about the events of 9/11. She should have copyrighted that question because it has been asked over and over again by many others. We now know Bush knew much more than he was revealing and McKinney was absolutely on point. She was also one of the very first to speak out against the US Invasion of Iraq even before Bush invaded. Had the Democratic Party followed her courageous lead, Bush may not have been able to use 9/11 as a backdrop for war. Former US Senator Zell Miller (D-GA) called her a "loony", and she was defeated in 2002 by a political slight of hand called crossover voting. McKinney came back and won her seat again in 2004 with a crushing defeat of five opponents. Today we know the "loony" ones were those who took the Bush Administration at their word, which has led to one of the greatest strategic military blunders in American history. The now known to be needless, fraudulent, and immoral war on Iraq has cost countless lives and more than half a trillion dollars in US taxpayer funds...and counting.
This is the same Cynthia McKinney who fought to force the government to recognize the dangers of Agent Orange to our military veterans, and she won that fight.
McKinney fought Bush, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the US Department of Defense, and the powerful Carlyle Group to cancel the controversial and over-blown budget of the Crusader Artillery Program, and she won that fight as well. That fight saved America more than half a billion dollars.
This is why they attack Cynthia McKinney.
Amazingly, the attacks have not always come from Republicans. After her astounding comeback victory in 2004, she returned to the US House only to find that the Democratic Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, in an almost unprecedented move, would not return her seniority. McKinney returned to serve her 6th term in the US Congress as a freshman. This was done to keep her off the powerful International Relations Committee and to keep her from being a Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee. She has a record of remarkable work on both committees.
Many who attack her claim she is unable to "bring home the bacon" to her district. That is an ill-informed statement. In this current term alone she has brought home nearly 15 million dollars for transportation, sidewalks, bike trails, and additional funding for Arabia Mountain Park. She brought back more than 22 million dollars in her previous term. This while being ranked among the most fiscally responsible Members of US Congress in the nation (1997) and the most fiscally responsible representative in Georgia (2002) by the non-partisan Concord Coalition, a national citizens' fiscal watchdog organization.
Besides successfully securing funding for her district, McKinney led the fight to reduce the number of landfills in her district. These landfills emit toxic and nauseous fumes, which adversely impact the health of those who live around them. She enjoys the support and appreciation of many homeowner associations, neighborhood groups, and the faith based community within her district and throughout Georgia. She recently launched the National Youth Apprenticeship Program from her District Office, which she sponsored and helped to create.
In a democracy, nothing could be more important than the right to vote with confidence and integrity. McKinney led the fight for voting integrity in Georgia, and was the first politician her to take a stand against Diebold and paperless voting, and once again she has been proven correct. Even Georgia's Secretary of State, Cathy Cox, now admits that a voter verified paper audit trail is needed in all elections, which is exactly the position that McKinney fought for.
No matter what the issue, if the lives and well being of ordinary people are at stake, we know where Cynthia McKinney stands. She stands with the citizens of the 4th District and the American people.
This is why we should support, appreciate and continually elect Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.
About the author:
Richard Searcy is a Staff Writer for Atlanta Progressive News. He was formerly a Press Secretary for US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-GA). He may be reached at email@example.com.
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Mother Nature's Revenge
Crocs ply flood waters as killer Kenyan storms fry pelicans
Sat May 6, 2006
NAIROBI - Dozens of man-eating crocodiles plied flood waters along Kenya's Indian Ocean coast after heavy thunderstorms that killed at six people and fried nearly 50 pelicans.
About 30 of the carnivorous reptiles were spotted swimming near children's playgrounds and municipal parks in Kilifi, frightening parents in the coastal town where floods have claimed at least six lives in the past week, officials said Saturday.
"We have confirmed that there are crocodiles in the flood waters that are fast approaching residential areas," Kilifi lawmaker Joe Khamisi told reporters in the town, about 550 kilometers (345 miles) southeast of Nairobi.
"We fear they may harm children who like to swim," he said, adding that his constituents were worried the death toll might be higher due to the crocodiles, which slithered out of ponds and estuaries with the rising waters.
The rains have exacerbated humanitarian crises brought about by a searing drought that has hit east Africa, inundating parched soil, bursting the banks of dry rivers and forcing tens of thousands of people from their homes.
The floods have also increased the risk of waterborne diseases, destroyed crops and hamperered delivery of drought relief by cutting off key roads used by humanitarian agencies across the country.
In addition to the human toll, lightning from a storm in the central Rift Valley town of Nakuru hit a tree where scores of pelicans had taken roost, electrocuting at least 49 of the large-mouthed birds on Friday, officials said.
The carcasses of the pelicans, among the tens of thousands of birds that flock to Kenya's famed Lake Nakuru National Park, littered the grassy area around the tree, said government veterinary official Michael Cheruyoit.
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Giant rock growing in Mount St. Helens' crater
Friday, May 5, 2006
SEATTLE, Washington (AP) -- If the skies are clear as forecast, volcano watchers who turn out for the reopening of the Johnston Ridge Observatory on Friday will get a spectacular view of a hulking slab of rock that's rapidly growing in Mount St. Helens' crater.
It's jutting up from one of seven lobes of fresh volcanic rock that have been pushing their way through the surface of the crater since October 2004.
The fin-shaped mass is about 300 feet tall and growing 4 feet to 5 feet a day, said Dan Dzurisin, a geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey.
The rock in the crater began growing last November, steadily moving west and pushing rock and other debris out of its way as it goes.
Mount St. Helens, located in the Cascades of Washington, has been quietly erupting since a flurry of tiny earthquakes began in late September 2004. Scientists initially mistook the quakes as rainwater seeping into the hot interior of the older lava dome.
But it soon became clear that magma was on the move, confirmed by the emergence of fire-red lava between the old lava dome and the south crater rim a few weeks after the seismic activity began.
The volcano has continued pumping out lava ever since. Eventually, scientists expect the volcano will rebuild its conical peak that was obliterated in the May 18, 1980 eruption that left 57 people dead.
The current growth of the new lava dome has been accompanied by low seismicity rates, low emissions of steam and volcanic gases and minor production of ash, the USGS said.
"Given the way things are going now, there's no hint of any sort of catastrophic eruptions," USGS geologist Tom Pierson said. "At any time, however, things can change."
Scientists flew a helicopter into the crater late last week to adjust equipment and take photographs that will likely be used to determine just how much the new lava dome has grown the last several months.
The Johnston Ridge Observatory, which closes down every winter, is the closest observatory to the 8,364-foot peak. It is named after David A. Johnston, a volcanologist killed in the 1980 eruption. It sits about five miles north of the mountain and offers the closest views of the volcano's horseshoe-shaped crater.
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Thunderstorms Pound Parts of Texas
Sat May 6, 2006
WACO, Texas - Thunderstorms with strong winds, heavy rain and a possible tornado uprooted trees, toppled power lines and damaged buildings in parts of Texas, officials said.
No injuries were reported from the storms Friday night and early Saturday.
In Waco, much of the damage appeared to be concentrated in an industrial area, where winds gusting at an estimated 80 mph peeled off warehouse roofs and crumbled the walls at a Coca-Cola Co. bottling plant.
About 22,000 Waco residents still lacked power Saturday morning, said city spokesman Larry Holze.
An expert was en route to determine whether a tornado or just strong winds caused the damage, said National Weather Service meteorologist Ted Ryan.
In San Antonio, motorists stranded in high water had to be rescued.
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34 dead as heatwave hits northern India
The death toll from a blistering heat wave in northern India rose to 34 today as officials ordered primary schools in India's most populous state to close.
"Six people died of heat stroke in last 24 hours, taking the toll to 24," said Anurag Singh, a government official in Lucknow the state capital of Uttar Pradesh.
Ten others have died in the eastern state of Orissa.
The dead, all homeless, have included two children, Singh said.
Temperatures have hovered at 43C - four to five degrees above normal.
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Moderate Earthquake Strikes Sumatra West Coast
May 08, 2006 11:06 AM
KUALA LUMPUR, May 8 (Bernama) -- A moderate earthquake, measuring 5.1 on the Richter Scale, occurred at 9.43am on Monday off the west coast of West Sumatra, 444km south-west of Bayan Lepas in Penang.
The Meteorological Services Department said the earthquake struck at 3.0 degree North and 97.0 degree East off the west coast of West Sumatra, which is about 158km south-east of Neulaboh, Aceh.
"There is no tsunami threat," it said in a statement Monday.
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Moderate earthquake shakes southern Iran
Mon May 8 14:46:59 2006
KUWAIT TIMES NEWSPAPER
A 5.2-magnitude earthquake shook south eastern Iran yesterday, slightly injuring more than 70 people, state radio reported. The quake hit near Zarand, 970 kilometres southeast of Tehran, at 09:51 am local time. The radio said rescue teams were deployed. Zarand Gov Hasan Rahamani told the radio panic struck when the relatively mild quake hit, damaging some buildings. "People poured into the streets out of fear. Unfortunately the quake damaged some buildings. It knocked down walls and some roads were also damaged," said Rahamani. He said most of those hurt were treated for minor injuries and released from the hospital. In February 2005, at least 612 people were killed by the 6.4 magnitude quake in Zarand and more than 1,400 people were injured. Several surrounding villages also were leveled and thousands left homeless. In March, three earthquakes and nine aftershocks hit western Iran in quick succession, killing at least 70 people and injuring about 1,200. Iran is located on several seismic fault lines and at least one slight tremor is felt each day.
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New earthquake hits Russian Far East
PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY, May 8 (RIA Novosti, Oxana Gyseva)
An earthquake of Richter magnitude 4.3 rocked early Monday Avachinsk Bay off the eastern coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula, seismologists said.
The quake occurred at 5:27 a.m. local time (4:27 p.m. GMT Sunday) at a 14-mile depth about 62 miles southeast to the regional center of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, with 2-3 magnitude tremors registered in the city.
There are no reports of any injuries or damage.
A series of major earthquakes rocked Kamchatka and its sparsely populated Koryak area in the last two weeks. The initial 7.8-magnitude quake April 24, the strongest since 1900 in the Koryak area, which is eight time zones from Moscow, injured 31 people and damaged about 380 houses and 25 administrative facilities in the towns of Tilichiki, and Korf, and Ossora.
According to emergencies officials, over 1,000 people, including 542 children, have been evacuated from the emergency zone since April 24.
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Earthquake jolts Delhi, India
Sunday, May 7th, 2006
New Delhi - An earthquake measuring 4.1 on the Richter scale Sunday evening rocked the national capital and neighbouring Gurgaon in Haryana but there were no immediate reports of casualties.
The tremor was felt around 9.35 p.m.
The epicentre of the quake lay between Delhi and the Haryana town of Rohtak, about 100 km from here, officials said.
A quake also rocked parts of Gujarat at around 8.30 p.m., they added.
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Man Witnesses Meteor Shower
Angela Word, KFOX Associate Producer
POSTED: 6:52 pm MDT May 5, 2006
May 5, 2006 -- If you saw a bright light in the sky Thursday night, you're not alone.
Astronomers said a large meteor shower crossed straight over El Paso just before 9:45 p.m. Thursday.
One meteor was so large that it cast an orange glow against the mountain.
"The animals were going wild, the horses were bucking and dogs were barking and howling and then, all of a sudden right above my house, there was a big bright light and then just 'Bang!' And it lit up the five acres that are around us, and then I covered my eyes like this because it was bright and when it got past I saw there was a tail and it just went 'Shhhh' toward the Hueco Mountains," said Yawkey Jones, who witnessed the meteor from his home in Chaparral.
Amateur astronomers think that the meteor debris landed between Hueco Tanks and McGregor range.
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Losing Our Shirts
Buffett wants to cut cash pile, mulls $15 bln deal
Sat May 6, 2006
OMAHA, Nebraska - Warren Buffett said on Saturday he wanted to reduce Berkshire Hathaway Inc.'s cash pile and that there was a small chance he would make an acquisition that could take up to $15 billion of cash.
Buffet said he would ideally like to reduce Berkshire Hathaway Inc.'s cash pile to about $10 billion.
Buffett, speaking at Berkshire's annual meeting, said the company did not need anything like the about $40 billion it has in cash. He said it was "likely but far from certain" that the company would have significantly less cash in about three years' time. He wants to translate the cash into earning power.
Buffett added that he expected to get more opportunities for acquisitions in the utilities field. In March, Berkshire's MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. unit acquired the western U.S. utility PacifiCorp from Scottish Power Plc (SPW.L) for $5.1 billion in cash, Buffett's biggest purchase in eight years.
Berkshire's earnings released on Friday showed the company's cash position fell to $42.86 billion from a revised $45.02 billion at year end.
On Friday, Berkshire moved to boost its international presence, announcing it would buy 80 percent of
Israel's Iscar Metalworking Cos. in a transaction valuing the closely held tool firm at $5 billion.
The Iscar deal helps fulfill Buffett's long-stated desire to make "major" acquisitions, which he said in March were needed to produce "truly satisfactory gains" in operating earnings at Berkshire, his insurance and investment company.
Buffett described Iscar on Saturday as an "an important acquisition." He said it was a "large, extremely well-managed profitable" company which he had been introduced to in October.
Berkshire also said on Friday that its first-quarter profit rose 70 percent to $2.31 billion, or $1,501 per share, helped by increasing auto insurance premiums and a successful bet the U.S. dollar would fall.
Buffet said on Saturday that Berkshire's auto insurer Geico had a "very good quarter," and its reinsurance operations had a good quarter.
But he said the quarterly figures were not terribly important in the long run. "Things have been working very well in all four sectors -- that's nice but not terribly important five years from now," he said.
Comment: Buffett has bet on the decline of the dollar, and now Berkshire is trying to get rid of its cash. The main didn't become a multi-billionaire by being oblivious to what's really going on with the economy. The following articles provide some more recent rumblings on the dollar from Buffett/Berkshire.
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Flashback: Buffett loses faith in US
The Truth Will Set You Free
March 04, 2006
Warren Buffett, sometimes thought of as America's greatest capitalist, said he was buying stocks of companies that do business elsewhere . . .
I wonder how much Buffett knows that we don't.
Buffett [bought] stocks in companies that earn a "large part" of their profits outside the United States, and denominated in currencies other than dollars.
That's Billion, with a "B." That's a lot of investment to leave unitemized.
Buffett did not identify the companies, but the investments might be considerable. In his letter, Buffett did not itemize $7.15 billion of the $46.72 billion of stock investments that Berkshire had at year end.
Buffett began trading in currencies in March 2002, amid concern that U.S. policies were causing trade and budget deficits to soar, and would cause non-U.S. investors to pull money out of the country. He said his view has not changed.
Keep in mind that "non-U.S. investors" here means foreigners. But, the statement is very misleading because the investors who will "pull money out of the country" are just as likely to be domestic as they are to be foreign. The statement is just a red-herring designed to feed into growing nationalistic fervor.
Last year, the U.S. trade deficit rose 17.5 percent to a record $725.8 billion. Buffett said it might rise more, and that as investments shift, non-U.S. investors "will begin earning more on their holdings than we do on ours."
Two observations. First, the comparison between "non-U.S. investors" and "we" further emphasizes the 'us against them' dichotomy. Second, the trade deficit is largely caused by multinational companies, many of which are owned by great American "capitalists," that manufacture abroad and import to the US.
"As U.S. (interest) rates have risen relative to those of the rest of the world, holding most foreign currencies now involves a significant negative 'carry,'" Buffett wrote, referring to financing costs. "In contrast, the ownership of foreign equities is likely, over time, to create a positive carry--perhaps a substantial one."
What he's really saying is that there is NOTHING left in the US to own. REALLY. They (the really big players) already own everything worth owning. But, the US remains an outstanding source of INTEREST payments.
The best-known non-U.S. investment at Berkshire may be Asian oil producer PetroChina Co. . . . Berkshire owns about $1.92 billion of the company's shares, nearly four times what it paid for them.
So, now that we know that "investors" have lost faith in the United States, my question is, how long will it take for the United States to lose faith in investors?
Berkshire, however, also owns large stakes in U.S. companies with large non-U.S. sales, including Anheuser-Busch Cos., Coca-Cola Co., Procter & Gamble Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
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Flashback: Buffett warns of turmoil with U.S. trade deficit
Last Updated Wed, 18 Jan 2006 16:47:46 EST
The U.S. trade deficit is a bigger threat to the domestic economy than either the federal budget deficit or consumer debt and could lead to "political turmoil," billionaire investor Warren Buffett has warned.
"Right now, the rest of the world owns $3 trillion US more of us than we own of them," Buffett told business students and faculty at the University of Nevada in Reno.
"In my view, it will create political turmoil at some point. Pretty soon, I think there will be a big adjustment," he said without elaborating.
Buffett, head of Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc., also disclosed his purchase of Business Wire, a privately held distributor of press releases, for an undisclosed amount.
San Francisco-based Business Wire will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, whose other holdings include the insurer Geico Corp. as well as stakes in American Express, Anheuser-Busch and Coca-Cola.
Business Wire competes with PR Newswire to distribute company regulatory filings and press releases to investors and the news media.
The U.S. trade deficit for the first 11 months of 2005 totalled $661.8 billion US, surpassing the previous annual record of $617.6 billion US set in 2004. Economists say when December figures are included, the final deficit for 2005 will top $710 billion US. Buffett said he expects it to top $700 billion US this year.
"That's $2 billion US a day. We are like a super rich family that owns a farm the size of Texas. You sell off a little bit of the farm and you don't see it," he said.
Fifteen years ago, the U.S. had no trade deficit with China, he said. "Now it's $200 billion. If we don't change the course, the rest of the world could own $15 trillion of us. That's pretty substantial. That's equal to the value of all American stock," Buffett said.
"That's the big danger. Our national debt does not bother me. Our public debt is not at a crazy level," he said.
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Poll: High Gas Prices Hurt Many Americans
By WILL LESTER
May 6, 2006
WASHINGTON - High pump prices are pinching the pocketbooks of seven in 10 Americans, a financial hardship that more middle- and higher-income drivers say they are beginning to feel, an AP-Ipsos poll found.
With gasoline prices topping $3 a gallon for regular unleaded in many areas, people say they are driving less, cutting short vacations and curtailing their use of heating and air conditioning.
"Now, I'm just going to work and coming home - not doing anything else," said Kathleen Roberts, who makes a daily, 100-mile round trip from York, Pa., to her teaching job in Baltimore.
The number of people who expect rising gas prices to cause financial problems in the months ahead has jumped from 51 percent a year ago to 70 percent now, according to AP polling. This increase has been dramatic among people who earn more than $50,000.
These concerns are reflected in consumer confidence polling this past week by Ipsos, an international polling firm. Confidence dropped sharply and was the lowest since October, when the country was recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
The average price nationally of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $2.92 on Friday, according to AAA, the motorists' club. The record high of $3.05 was set on Labor Day, according to AAA.
When asked what would be a fair price for gasoline, many of those surveyed said $2-a-gallon on average. That price has not been seen consistently for more than a year, AAA said.
"The U.S. economy is growing quickly, China is growing quickly and other countries are doing better - demand has gone up," said Phillip Swagel, an energy analyst at the American Enterprise Institute.
Analysts blame the higher prices on a tight worldwide supply, unstable politics in oil-producing countries, an inadequate number of U.S. refineries and delays in the U.S. in switching over to summer blends of fuel.
Whatever the reasons, soaring gas prices are affecting people's behavior.
Two-thirds of those surveyed said they have cut back on driving and have reduced the use of heating and air conditioning. One-half say they have trimmed vacation plans.
Hearing talk about short vacations upsets Susan Morang, a psychiatric counselor from Washington, Maine. She helps clients deliver antiques for sale during the summer tourism season.
"Each summer, you have to make the majority of your money to live on the whole rest of the year," said Morang, who has cut her driving to the minimum.
Morang's GMC truck guzzles gas, but she said she needs it to help clients haul their belongings. "A lady paid me $40 yesterday," she said. "I used it to fill my gas tank halfway."
According to the poll, just over six in 10 of those who make between $50,000 and $75,000 a year say gas prices are a hardship, compared with four in 10 a year ago.
Yet the price spikes have not influenced people's views about fuel-efficient cars.
A year ago, four in 10 said they were considering getting a car with better mileage - the same number who say that now, according to the AP-Ipsos poll of 1,000 adults taken Monday through Wednesday. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Auto industry watcher Erich Merkle said gas prices would have to top $4 a gallon in the next six months to nine months to have a significant effect on the sales of SUVs and light trucks.
Jerry Taylor, an energy analyst at the Cato Institute, which favors limited government and free markets, said the price of gasoline as a share of a worker's earnings is not that high when compared with the share of earnings 50 years ago.
But reports about "skyrocketing gas prices" do have an influence because "there's a big market for fist-shaking and red-faced conniption in the media."
Don't try to tell Donald Denson of Gallatin, Tenn., that $3-a-gallon gas isn't causing problems.
"The big experience now is with my job," said Denson, who works in the shipping business. "A lot of people are being laid off because business is going down."
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Gas Prices Force Locals onto Horses
May 6, 2006
Idaho - Gas prices continue to stay high, and now a lot of people are turning to different options to get around.
In Rexburg, a few cowboys explored the possibilities on Saturday.
The signs suggest burning hay, not fuel, and these cowboys are all for it! Horsemen and women joined forces, hopped on their horses, and showed off their alternative modes of getting around.
"A lot cheaper than gas, they burn hay they don't burn gas," responds Dean Jacobson.
"Hopefully we can influence somebody that the price of gas is a little bit high around here," says Jeff Hawkes.
In doing so, riders from all over met off the Archer-Lyman road, excited to hit the dusty trails.
Horsemen put on their chinks, cowboy hats and saddled up ready to go.
After being injured two years ago, Swede Wilson is back in the saddle.
"It really feels good. It's still sore but it feels good to be back on a horse, really enjoyable," says Wilson.
Though the "horse power" didn't get us to the speed limit, the horsemen did make it to their target destination, slowly but surely, and worth every minute of the ride.
"Where a lot of people go to the beach, fishing, we go take our horses with us and just have fun. They don't burn no gas."
Neither do mules. Dean Jacobson had his team pulling this buggy around town. The high price for him is only a little bit of this.
"Mules are smarter, better and a lot of fun!"
The riders there says they plan on doing this at least once a month, bringing more riders with them each time or at least until they say their point has been made.
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US job creation hits the brakes
Fri May 5, 2006
WASHINGTON - US job creation weakened last month to its slowest pace since after Hurricane Katrina, but wages took off in a warning sign for the Federal Reserve, according to government data.
The Labor Department's "non-farm payrolls" report showed that US employers added 138,000 new jobs in April, the worst level since October and much less than Wall Street's forecast of 200,000.
The jobless rate was unchanged in April at 4.7 percent, the department said.
Economists said the faster pace of wage growth could rattle the US central bank, but Wall Street took the weaker job creation numbers as a sign that the Fed could soon pause on its long-running campaign of rate hikes.
The Dow Jones share average rocketed 138.88 points (1.21 percent) to a six-year high of 11,577.74. The blue-chip index is not far off its all-time closing high of 11,722.98 reached in January 2000.
In an interview with the financial news network CNBC,
President George W. Bush put an upbeat spin on the jobs report.
"My view is the 138,000 job increase for the last month is an indication that this economy's still strong," he said.
"So the 138,000 remind me that not only are people working, which is good, but that the tax cuts are working, and the economy's strong and vibrant, and we need to keep it that way," he added, demanding Congress renew his tax cuts.
Economists say the US economy needs to create between 150,000 and 175,000 new jobs each month to keep pace with population growth in the workforce.
Ethan Harris at Lehman Brothers said the April figures were in line with "trend-like job growth instead of booming job growth," after payroll increases of 200,000 in both February and March.
"The rest of the report, however, did show signs of strength that will keep the Fed a little bit nervous," he said.
"You're starting to see some pass-through from commodity costs. The labour market is now tight enough that workers can get cost-of-living raises that they weren't getting a year ago."
While job creation was weak last month, wages surged. Average hourly earnings increased nine cents, or 0.5 percent, to 16.61 dollars in April.
Earnings are now up 3.8 percent in the past year, the biggest year-on-year gain since August 2001.
The acceleration could add to pressure on the Fed at a meeting next Wednesday to keep raising interest rates to stamp out inflationary pressures.
But US workers are also producing more for every hour they work, which could offset the inflationary impact of higher wages. On Thursday, the government reported robust productivity gains of 3.2 percent in the first quarter.
In its payroll report, the Labor Department said the average work week lengthened by 0.5 percent to 33.9 hours.
Payroll growth was widespread throughout industries, if less than predicted by private economists. Of 278 industries, 64.4 percent were adding jobs.
In services, 101,000 jobs were created. Goods-producing industries added 37,000 jobs. Construction posted 10,000 more jobs and manufacturing 19,000.
Economists said that for now, there was no reason to expect a change in Fed thinking heading into next Wednesday's meeting of its policymaking committee.
But there is much uncertainty about the outlook further out. Fed chairman Ben Bernanke last month hinted at a pause in the hikes "at some point in the future", but Friday's report could give him food for thought.
"In-phase world growth, where just about every part of the world is now expanding, is putting pressure on commodity prices, not just oil," Joel Naroff at Naroff Economic Advisors said.
"With labour costs rising, Mr. Bernanke has to be worried that this could lead to higher inflation," he said.
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Odds 'n Ends
China Makes Artificial Rain for Beijing
May 5, 2006
BEIJING -- Chinese weather specialists used chemicals to engineer Beijing's heaviest rainfall of the year, helping to relieve drought and rinse dust from China's capital, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Friday.
Technicians with the Beijing Weather Modification Office fired seven rocket shells containing 163 cigarette-size sticks of silver iodide over the city's skies on Thursday, Xinhua said.
The reaction that occurred brought as much as four-tenths of an inch of rain, the heaviest rainfall this year, helping to "alleviate drought, add soil moisture and remove dust from the air for better air quality," Xinhua said.
Though unusual in many parts of the world, China has been tinkering with artificial rainmaking for decades, using it frequently in the drought-plagued north. Last month, another artificial rainfall was generated to clear Beijing after the city suffered some of the fiercest dust storms this decade.
Whether cloud-seeding actually works has been the subject of debate in the scientific community. In 2003, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences questioned the science behind it as "too weak."
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Number of Rare Eye Fungus Cases Increases
By BEN DOBBIN
AP Business Writer
May 05, 2006
ROCHESTER, N.Y. - The number of confirmed cases of a rare eye fungus that can cause scarring of the cornea has climbed above 100 in recent days, but the origin of the infection linked to contact lens cleaners remains a mystery, health authorities said Friday.
Eye-care products maker Bausch & Lomb Inc. halted U.S. sales of its ReNu with MoistureLoc solution on April 10 when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed it was investigating a flurry of Fusarium keratitis infections in Americans using the product.
The proportion of patients who said they used MoistureLoc has since held steady at around 50 percent to 60 percent of the 102 cases confirmed so far, the CDC said. Other patients have reported using other ReNu brands and six said they used cleaners made by Alcon Inc. and Advanced Medical Optics Inc., it said.
"At this point, it is too early in the investigation to say whether a particular product or solution may be responsible for the outbreak," the Atlanta-based agency said in a statement.
The agency has received a total of 195 reports of eye infections caused by Fusarium keratitis _ of which 12 are "possible cases" and 81 were still under investigation. On Tuesday, the CDC said it had received 191 reports, including 86 confirmed cases.
Fifty-six of the confirmed cases involved contact-lens wearers, with 32 of them saying they used MoistureLoc, 15 saying they used ReNu MultiPlus and seven an unspecified ReNu product. In some cases, patients reporting using more than one type of lens cleaner.
A federal inspection of a Bausch & Lomb factory in Greenville, S.C., where MoistureLoc is made has not turned up evidence of contamination, but extensive microbiological tests could take weeks to analyze.
Without eye-drop treatment, the infection can scar the cornea and blind its victims. At least eight patients have required cornea transplants. Because it's not a disease that doctors must report, it is unclear how many cases occur annually.
Of the more than 30 million Americans who wear contact lenses, about 2.3 million of them use MoistureLoc and nearly 11 million use MultiPlus.
MoistureLoc first hit store shelves in late 2004 and contains new- generation moisturizing and conditioning agents. It generated $45 million in U.S. sales last year.
Bausch & Lomb's shares rose $1.48, or 3.6 percent, in afternoon trading Friday on the New York Stock Exchange, at the low end of their 52-week range of $40.75 to $87.89. They had slumped 15.3 percent over the two previous days as concerns grew that the fungus may be linked to more of the company's lens cleaners.
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3 Men Die in Fla. Construction Accident
May 6, 2006
BAL HARBOUR, Fla. - A wooden frame collapsed at a high-rise construction site Saturday, and the workers who were standing on it fell into wet concrete, authorities said. Three were killed and another worker was missing.
The men were standing on the frame, working on the building's 26th floor, when the frame gave way, fire Chief Richard Martin said.
The men fell into a thick layer of concrete that was drying on the floor below them, and they became trapped, Martin said.
Search teams were using dogs to look for the missing worker.
The building being constructed will be a combination hotel and condominium, police Capt. Jay Smith said.
Bal Harbour is just north of Miami Beach.
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Cardinal urges legal action against Da Vinci Code
By Philip Pullella
Sun May 7, 2006
VATICAN CITY - In the latest Vatican broadside against "The Da Vinci Code", a leading cardinal says Christians should respond to the book and film with legal action because both offend Christ and the Church he founded.
Cardinal Francis Arinze, a Nigerian who was considered a candidate for pope last year, made his strong comments in a documentary called "The Da Vinci Code-A Masterful Deception."
Arinze's appeal came some 10 days after another Vatican cardinal called for a boycott of the film. Both cardinals asserted that other religions would never stand for offences against their beliefs and that Christians should get tough.
"Christians must not just sit back and say it is enough for us to forgive and to forget," Arinze said in the documentary made by Rome film maker Mario Biasetti for Rome Reports, a Catholic film agency specializing in religious affairs.
"Sometimes it is our duty to do something practical. So it is not I who will tell all Christians what to do but some know legal means which can be taken in order to get the other person to respect the rights of others," Arinze said.
"This is one of the fundamental human rights: that we should be respected, our religious beliefs respected, and our founder Jesus Christ respected," he said, without elaborating on what legal means he had in mind.
A transcript of the documentary, due to be screened in Rome later this month just before the release of the film version of the best-selling book at the Cannes Film Festival, was made available to Reuters.
The book, written by Dan Brown, has sold more than 40 million copies.
The novel is an international murder mystery centered on attempts to uncover a secret about the life of Christ that a clandestine society has tried to protect for centuries.
The central tenet of the book is that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children.
"Those who blaspheme Christ and get away with it are exploiting the Christian readiness to forgive and to love even those who insult us. There are some other religions which if you insult their founder they will not be just talking. They will make it painfully clear to you," Arinze said.
This appeared to be a reference to protests by Muslims around the world over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.
Last month, another broadside against "The Da Vinci Code" was launched by Archbishop Angelo Amato, the number two official in the Vatican doctrinal office which was headed by Pope Benedict until his election last year.
Amato urged a boycott of the film and Arinze, like his fellow cardinal, also blasted the credibility of the book.
"'The Da Vinci Code' presents (Christianity) wrongly ... any film produced on the basis of that book is already in error from the word go, no matter how interesting it might appear," Arinze said.
Catholic group Opus Dei has told Sony Pictures that putting a disclaimer on the movie stressing it is a work of fiction would be a welcome show of respect toward the Church.
In the novel and film, Opus Dei is characterized as the latest in a series of secretive groups that worked over the centuries to obscure truths about Jesus Christ.
Opus Dei is a controversial conservative Church group whose members are mostly non-clerics and are urged to seek holiness in their everyday professional jobs and lives. It has rejected criticisms that it is secretive and elitist.
The movie, which is being released by Sony Pictures division Columbia Pictures, stars Tom Hanks. Sony Pictures is the media wing of Japanese electronics giant Sony Corp.
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UK says UFOs caused by natural forces, not aliens
Sunday, May 07, 2006 1:10:55 PM ET
By Tim Castle
LONDON (Reuters) - Hopes -- or fears -- that the Earth has been visited by alien life forms have been dismissed in an official report by British defense specialists.
The Ministry of Defense confirmed on Sunday a secret study completed in December 2000 had found no evidence that "flying saucers" or unidentified flying objects were anything other than natural phenomena.
The 400-page report, released under freedom of information laws to an academic from the northern city of Sheffield, concluded that meteors and unusual atmospheric conditions could explain UFO sightings such as bright lights in the sky.
"No evidence exists to suggest that the phenomena seen are hostile or under any type of control, other than that of natural physical forces," the report said, according to extracts quoted by the BBC.
"Evidence suggests that meteors and their well-known effects, and possibly some other less-known effects, are responsible for some unidentified aerial phenomena.
"Considerable evidence exists to support the thesis that the events are almost certainly attributable to physical, electrical and magnetic phenomena in the atmosphere, mesosphere and ionosphere," it said.
A Ministry of Defense (MOD) spokesman said the full report, "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena in the UK Air Defense Region," would be published on its Web site on May 15.
The ministry publishes annual lists of UFO sightings on its Web site, which rank among its most viewed -- and bizarre -- pages.
In 2005 the ministry was asked under freedom of information laws for details of its plans for "dealing with the arrival of extra-terrestrials."
An unnamed defense official replied: "While we remain open-minded, to date the MOD knows of no evidence which substantiates the existence of these alleged phenomena and therefore has no plans for dealing with such a situation."
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Rare mirage appears off east China shore
Thousands of tourists and local residents witnessed a mirage of high clarity lasting for four hours off the shore of Penglai City in east China's Shandong Province on Sunday.
Mists rising on the shore created an image of a city, with modern high-rise buildings, broad city streets and bustling cars as well as crowds of people all clearly visible.
The city of Penglai had been soaked by two days of rain before the rare weather phenomenon occurred.
The mirage took place during the week-long Labor Day holiday. The small city received over 30,000 tourists on Sunday.
Experts said that many mirages have been recorded in Penglai, on the tip of Shandong Peninsula, throughout history, which made it known as a dwelling place of the gods.
They explained that a mirage is formed when moisture in the air becomes warmer than the temperature of sea water, which refracts rays of sunlight to create reflections of the landscape in the sky.
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Ark's Quantum Quirks
Signs of the Times
May 8, 2006
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Permanent War - Iran & Afghanistan
US helicopter crashes in Afghanistan, 10 soldiers killed
May 6, 2006
KABUL - A US helicopter involved in an anti-Taliban combat operation crashed in the mountains of eastern
Afghanistan, killing all 10 US soldiers on board, the US military has said.
The crash of the Chinook in Kunar province late Friday was another blow to coalition forces in Afghanistan after a bomb killed two Italian soldiers near the capital the same day.
"The remains of 10 soldiers were on board the aircraft that crashed last night. There were no survivors," said a spokeswoman for the US-led military coalition, Lieutenant Tamara Lawrence.
Lawrence said all the soldiers killed in the crash in eastern Kunar province were American. Details of the dead would be released by the Pentagon, she said.
Some 15 other US soldiers have already died in Afghanistan this year, 13 of them in hostile action. Four died on March 12 when a roadside bomb ripped through their convoy in Kunar.
Friday's toll was the biggest in one incident since Taliban militants shot down another US Chinook helicopter in Kunar in June last year, killing all 16 soldiers on board, eight of them US Navy SEALs.
Two months before that a US military helicopter crashed in bad weather in the southeast of the country, killing all 18 Americans on board, including 15 service members in the worst helicopter crash during operations in Afghanistan.
The US-led coalition said the chopper that crashed on Friday was not brought down by enemy action, rejecting a claim by Taliban insurgents that they had shot it down.
"The crash occurred in a very mountainous terrain and the landing zone was very difficult. It was a mountain-top landing zone," Lawrence said.
"There were various weather factors that could have come into play... there were high winds. We are investigating any possible causes for the accident but there were no enemy actions detected at the scene."
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in a statement he was saddened by the deaths.
"The people of Afghanistan will never forget the sacrifices made by the US soldiers for the sake of peace and prosperity of the people of Afghanistan," he said in a statement.
The aircraft was taking part in a massive anti-Taliban drive, Operation Mountain Lion, launched in insurgency-hit Kunar last month. It crashed near the provincial capital Asadabad close to the border with Pakistan.
Mountain Lion is one of the biggest operations in months against insurgents loyal to the Taliban regime. It involves 2,500 Afghan and coalition troops backed by a range of US and British war planes.
While the 20,000-soldier US-led coalition is battling Taliban and other insurgents in eastern and southern Afghanistan, a separate NATO-led force of peacekeepers is deployed in the west and north, and the capital Kabul.
Two Italian soldiers with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were killed Friday and four wounded when their armoured vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb 16 kilometres (10 miles) south of Kabul.
The ISAF and coalition forces have been in Afghanistan since the ouster of the hardline Taliban government after they failed to surrender Al-Qaeda leader
Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
Despite the coalition's efforts, there are still near-daily attacks linked to the Taliban-led insurgency and the leaders of the movement and allied Islamist groups remain on the run.
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Iran Threatens to Quit Nuclear Treaty
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI
May 7, 2006
TEHRAN, Iran - The Iranian parliament threatened in a letter to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan Sunday to force the government to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty if the United States and its allies kept pressuring Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment.
The letter warned that Annan and the Security Council must resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program "peacefully, (or) there will be no option for the parliament but to ask the government to withdraw its signature" from an addendum to the treaty that calls for signers to allow snap inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the treaty monitoring body.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also reiterated that he would not hesitate to reconsider NPT membership.
The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, dismissed the Iranian parliament's threat and said it would not deter Western nations trying to push through a new U.N. resolution demanding Tehran stop uranium enrichment.
"This is a typical Iranian threat. It shows they remain desperate to conceal that their nuclear program is in fact a weapons program," he said. "I'm confident that these statements from Iran will not deter the sponsors of the draft resolution from proceeding in the Security Council."
Bolton said he believed the resolution would move to a vote next week - with or without support from Moscow and Beijing.
The Iranian use of the word "peacefully" in the letter was seen as a reference to a diplomatic solution short of a Security Council vote and possible sanctions.
The United States is backing attempts by Britain and France to draw up a U.N. resolution that would declare Iran in violation of international law if it does not suspend uranium enrichment - a process that can produce fuel for nuclear reactors to generate electricity or, if sufficiently processed, the materials for atomic weapons.
Iran's antagonists on the issue want to invoke Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter that could lead to economic sanctions or possibly military action.
Russia and China, the other two permanent Security Council members that wield veto power oppose such action.
Iran already had stopped snap IAEA inspections, saying its 2003 agreement was being implemented voluntarily and had not been ratified by parliament and the Guardian Council, a powerful oversight body dominated by Islamic hard-liners. The protocol allows unfettered and unannounced IAEA inspections to ensure overall compliance with the NPT.
The letter, which was read on state radio, also said lawmakers would order a "review" of Article 10 of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the section of the agreement that outlines procedures for withdrawal.
Article 10 allows signatories to pull out of the treaty if they decide that extraordinary events have jeopardized their own supreme interests. A nation wanting to withdraw must give fellow treaty signers and the U.N. three months notice and detail events leading up to the decision.
North Korea withdrew from the treaty in 2003 on that basis.
"If a signature on an international treaty causes the rights of a nation be violated, that nation will reconsider its decision and that treaty will be invalid," Ahmadinejad told the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
The U.S. and its allies "don't give us anything and yet they want to impose sanctions on us," the president said. He called threats of sanctions "meaningless" and vowed to "smash their illegitimate resolutions against a wall."
Also Sunday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said again that there was nothing the international community could do to prompt Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, declaring that "intervention by the Security Council in this issue is completely illegal."
Briefing reporters, Asefi also said Iran's opponents were driven by "political motivations."
"Countries sponsoring the draft resolution (Britain, France and the United States) have political motivations," Asefi said. "It's clear that any action by the U.N. Security Council will leave a negative impact on our cooperation with the IAEA."
"Intervention by the U.N. Security Council would change the path of cooperation to confrontation. We recommend they do not do this," he said.
Iran insists its nuclear program is designed only to make fuel for reactors to generate electricity, and the IAEA says there is no evidence Iran has a nuclear weapons program.
"The U.N. Security Council should not take any action that it cannot later undo. We won't give up our rights and the issue of suspension (of enrichment) is not on our agenda," Asefi said.
Comment: Why wouldn't Iran pull out of the NPT? The country's membership obviously isn't doing it any good. The catch, of course, is that the second Iran pulls out, the Bush administration will use Iran's withdrawal as "proof" that it intends to nuke the whole planet. Either way, Iran loses.
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Iranian president writes to Bush regarding nukes
Last Updated Mon, 08 May 2006 08:50:11 EDT
Iran's president has proposed new ways out of the ongoing crisis over his country's nuclear programs, said an Iranian official.
In a letter, the first letter from an Iranian leader to a U.S. president in 27 years, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has offered President George W. Bush "new solutions" to their differences, said government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham.
The letter was sent via the Swiss Embassy.
Washington has had no diplomatic relations with Tehran since 1979, when the U.S. Embassy was stormed. The leaders of the two countries have not directly corresponded in that time.
The United States is leading a group of Western countries, including the European Union, in trying to stop Iran from enriching uranium.
Iran, which announced last week its uranium enrichment program was progressing well, insists its nuclear intentions are peaceful, that it only wants to generate electricity.
But other countries worry that Tehran wants to build nuclear weapons.
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Brazil Unveils Uranium Enrichment Center
By PETER MUELLO
Sun May 7, 2006
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - Brazil has inaugurated a uranium enrichment center capable of producing nuclear fuel for the South American country's power plants.
Brazil's enrichment center will save millions of dollars the country now spends to enrich fuel at Urenco, the European enrichment consortium, Science and Technology Minister Sergio Rezende told the government news agency Agencia Brasil Saturday.
Iran is seeking to produce the same fuel, but is facing international pressure against doing so. Brazil - like Iran - has signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and Brazil's constitution bans the military use of nuclear energy.
Brazil has the world's sixth-largest uranium reserves, but has been unable to use the fuel for energy without shipping it to and from Urenco.
Rezende stressed Brazil's commitment to the peaceful use of nuclear energy at a ceremony Friday at the plant built on a former coffee plantation in Resende, 90 miles west of Rio de Janeiro.
In 2004, the Brazilian government drew attention when it refused unrestricted inspections by the International Atomic Energy Association, arguing that full access to its centrifuges would put it at risk of industrial espionage.
Inspectors said they were satisfied after monitoring the uranium that comes in and out of the centrifuges.
Brazil's nuclear program began during a 1964-85 military dictatorship, and the ruling generals had secret plans to test an atomic bomb underground in the Amazon jungle. The idea was scrapped in 1990.
In 2004, the Brazilian government drew attention when it refused unrestricted inspections by the International Atomic Energy Association, arguing that full access to its centrifuges would put it at risk of industrial espionage.Obviously, Iran's "refusal to cooperate" with the international community isn't exactly anything new. What IS new is the Bush administration's warmongering regarding Iran.
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Liberia sex-for-aid 'widespread'
Young girls in Liberia are still being sexually exploited by aid workers and peacekeepers despite pledges to stamp out such abuse, Save the Children says.
Girls as young as eight are being forced to have sex in exchange for food by workers for local and international agencies, according to its report.
The agency says such abuse is becoming more common as people displaced by the civil war return to their villages.
The UN in Liberia said it would investigate specific allegations.
The United Nations promised to put safeguards in place after sexual abuse in the refugee camps of West Africa was first revealed four years ago.
But a study by Save the Children, which involved speaking to more than 300 people in camps for people displaced by the war, found that abuse was still widespread.
The report said that all of the respondents clearly stated that more than half of the girls in their locations were affected.
Girls from the age of eight to 18 years were being sold for sex, "commonly referred to as 'man business'," the report noted.
One 20-year-old woman told the BBC that she had been forced to have sex with a worker for the World Food Programme (WFP).
"This young man had been doing it to most of my friends. And the children too don't have strong minds. They will have sex with him to get the food," Konah Brown said.
UN soldiers in West Africa
The image of UN peacekeepers in West Africa has suffered
But government officials and teachers are also contributing to the abuse, Save the Children says.
Teachers have demanded sex in lieu of school fees, or even just to give good grades the report found.
"This cannot continue. It must be tackled," said Jasmine Whitbread, Save the Children's UK Chief Executive.
"Men who use positions of power to take advantage of vulnerable children must be reported and fired.
"More must be done to support children and their families to make a living without turning to this kind of desperation."
The WFP's Greg Barrow said the organisation would be taking the latest allegations with "the greatest seriousness" and was already taking steps to investigate them.
"The key here is to find what link in this chain of delivering food, and getting it to the people who need it, is perhaps abusing this position," he told the BBC.
The UN's Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Liberia, Jordan Ryan, also said specific allegations would be investigated.
"Unfortunately not all international NGOs have taken it seriously. But it is a clear priority," he said.
"We have never done enough until there's a zero case load. Has enough been done? Not yet. Are we working on it? You bet we are."
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Revolution in the Indian Countryside
by Anuradha Mittal
George W. Bush's three-day visit to India in the first week of March 2006 was not just about the U.S.-India nuclear deal. It was also about an agreement on farm research and education, foundation for which was laid in November 2005, following Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to the U.S.
Known as the India-U.S. Knowledge Initiative on Agricultural Education, Research, Services and Commercial Linkages, the agreement is about the U.S. and India conducting joint research in transgenic crops, animals, and fisheries over a period of three years. Andy Mukherjee, a columnist for Bloomerberg.Com enthusiastically announced, "If the nuclear deal promises relief for India's power- starved industrial sector, the agricultural agreement has the potential to transform the nation's poverty-ridden countryside. The economics are simply unbeatable." Citing the success of Bt cotton in India, he states, "cotton production has been transformed since Monsanto was allowed to sell its GM cotton seeds to farmers in 2002."
Indeed, Bt cotton has transformed both the cotton production and lives of farmers in India.
The Unbeatable Economics of Genetic Engineering: A Harvest of Suicides
While the Indian government was busy opening its vast network of public sector agricultural research institutes to U.S. private companies, the first nine days of March 2006 were marked with 25 farmers taking their own life in Maharashtra's cotton growing district of Vidarbha. By April 14, 2006, an estimated 443 farmers in the region had committed suicide to escape indebtedness since the start of the agriculture season on June 2, 2005.
What is driving this harvest of suicides?
Last December, Jaideep Hardikar a journalist with India Together reported on the suicide of Ramesh Rathod in the village of Bondgavhan, Vidarbha. He had purchased Bollgard brand MECH 162 variety from companies with commercial license from Mahyco/Monsanto for Rs. 1800 ($36) per 450 grams, compared with the 450 rupees ($9) that farmers pay for non-Bt seeds. The official price for Bt cotton is Rs. 1600 ($30), but the local inputs dealer charged an additional Rs. 200 since Ramesh bought it on credit.
Ramesh's hopes were dashed when his Bt cotton crops had a severe pest attack and the leaves of his cotton plants turned red before drying up. After having spent a lot of money on inputs and the yield destroyed irreparably, he was in no position to pay back the loans he had taken. With no option left, he opted for death by consuming pesticide. Left behind to pay back the debt and shoulder the responsibility of a family including a young son and a daughter, Ramesh's grieving widow, Dharmibai used Endosulphane and Tracer - two costly pesticides - against the bollworm pest, but the three acres of land did not even yield three quintals of cotton.
More recently AFP reported the suicide of 34 - year old Indian cotton farmer Chandrakant Gurenule from Yavatmal. He too had bought the genetically-modified cotton seeds for his 15-acre (six-hectare) farm, only to watch his crops fail for two successive years. When there was no hope left, despite him selling off the pair of bullocks he used to plough the fields, and pawning his wife's wedding jewelry, he doused himself in kerosene and lit a match on April 1, 2006.
It is estimated that more than 4,100 farmers committed suicide in the western state of Maharashtra in 2004. Increasing cost of production along with sliding global prices and dumping of cheap subsidized cotton from outside the country has been compounded by failure of Bt seeds. Devastated by bollworm pest, Bt crops have been attacked by "Lalya" or "reddening" as well, a disease unseen before which affected Bt more than the non-Bt cotton crop, resulting in 60 percent of farmers in Maharashtra failing to recover costs from their first GM harvest. Some studies show that farmers are spending Rs. 6,813 ($136.26) per acre compared to Rs. 580 ($11.6) on non-Bt cotton since GE cotton requires more supplemental insecticide sprays. It is this failure of the Bt cotton that resulted in Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of India banning Mech 12, Mech 184, and Mech 162 varieties in Andhra Pradesh while Mech 12 was banned all over Southern India.
India-U.S. Knowledge Initiative: In Who's Interest?
At the first board meeting of the Knowledge Initiative in Washington D.C. in December 2005, representatives from both the Wal-Mart food chain and Monsanto Seed Corporation were present as key stakeholders in the agreement, a clear indication as to what lies ahead: Indian Agricultural Universities and Krishi Vigyan Kendras (Agricultural Research Centers), instead of catering to the needs of poor farmers, will now be promoting the interests of GE giant Monsanto and Wal- Mart.
Then there is the fear of biopiracy with U.S. multinationals having free access to India's genetic resources. The agreement might set the American model in place where following the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, even publicly funded research in U.S. universities and institutes is patented and licensed out for commercial development to companies such as Monsanto.
Not surprisingly then, the weekly newsletter of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) wrote in protest, "Today's gene revolution depends almost entirely on private domain science. If we harness Indian scientific research to the U.S., then it is allowing the complete dominance of companies such as Monsanto on Indian agriculture. By Patenting and Branding Seeds, they will openly exploit Indian agriculture. India will be coerced into production of raw materials for the American MNCs and in turn these multinationals will sell their branded end products through misleading advertisements and catchy slogans, labeling their products efficacious, hygienic and safe from health point of view."
Krishna Bir Chaudhary, leader of Bharat Krishak Samaj, a farmers' organization in India in an opinion editorial wrote, "The Indo-U.S. agreement on agriculture will cast a demonizing spell over the country and is bound to cause large-scale plunder of the agro-society and definitely tend to capitalize on our living, life pattern, culture and social norms. Already much maligned, misconceived and utterly irrelevant second green revolution is a clever ploy to promote the interest of America and other Multi National Corporation's (MNCs)."
Revolutionizing Profits of Agribusiness
Celebrating the accord, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, " Our first Green Revolution benefited in substantial measure from assistance provided by the U.S. We are hopeful that the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture will become the harbinger of a second green revolution in our country."
It was the U.S. initiative that brought the Green Revolution and its "miracle" wheat seeds to India four decades ago. Fueled by large doses of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, manufactured by the U.S. corporations, the Green Revolution put the Indian farmer on the treadmill of imported seeds and chemical inputs. Now with the revolution at a dead end, with pests resistant to pesticides and fields choked with chemicals, the U.S. is offering India the revolution of Genetic Engineering.
To add to the destitution in the countryside, the Indian government has decided to liberalize agricultural sector. For instance, despite the increase in wheat production this year to beat 73.1 million tons, which is more than sufficient to meet domestic needs, the Indian government decided to import 500,000 tons of wheat from AWB Ltd., an Australian public sector company, that has been investigated for alleged payment of $290 million kickback to the Saddam regime in Iraq for supply of wheat. Citing "rising domestic prices due to shortage" as a pretext for imports, India is buying wheat at a higher price of $178.75 a ton from AWB, when the Australian exporters have sold wheat in the global market at $131 per ton.
Price of wheat did increase, particularly in the South, in January and February 2006, but it was a result of artificial shortage. As Ashok Sharma, a journalist with India's Financial Express explains in his Farm Column, "Last year wheat output was 72 million tons but the government agencies procured about 18 million tons while the private trade procured and stocked a substantial amount. With liberalization of the economy, the government removed all restrictions on the stocking limit. The result is that the private trade is now in a position to stock any amount and manipulate market prices. It is a shame that the government, instead of re-imposing stocking limits, is citing the need for imports on the pretext of shortageŠ Wheat can be transported through railways in bulk in silos at a cheaper cost. The food ministry could pay the amount out of the earmarked subsidy to another government department - railways - for transportation. It is just an adjustment of the accounts within the government without involving any extra cost."
Instead, at the recommendation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Indian government has decided to import an additional three million tons. Abdicating its responsibility to the farmers, the Indian government is not willing to pay them more than Rs. 7,000 ($120) per ton while it is prepared to import wheat, the cost of which including handling and transportation would amount to Rs. 10,000 ($200) a ton.
The Way Out
With India home to 50 percent of the world's hungry and two thirds of its population depending on agriculture for its livelihood, the Indian countryside does need a revolution.
This revolution, however, will look very different from the one envisaged by the India-U.S. Knowledge Initiative or opening up of markets. Based on the principle of food sovereignty, this revolution will recognize "the right of peoples to define their own food and agriculture and to protect and regulate domestic agricultural production and trade in order to achieve sustainable development objectives."
This revolution would entail:
- Prioritizing local, regional and national needs and protecting local and national markets of basic food stuffs to give priority to the products of local farmers;
- Promoting and enforcing farmer's rights including access and ownership of commons including land, water and seeds;
- Promoting sustainable peasant agriculture;
- Promoting the formulation of trade policies and practices that serve the rights of peoples to safe, healthy and ecologically sustainable production;
- And, recognizing food sovereignty as a human right.
India is the already the third largest producer of food in the world - world's largest producer of milk, second largest producer of rice, wheat, sugar, fruits and vegetables, and the third largest producer of cotton, to mention a few. Looking at the economics of it all, genetic engineering and Bt cotton will not revolutionize India's countryside, help increase production, or help feed over 350 million of its people who live on less than $1 a day, but a new farm economy as the centerpiece of the country's economic development model will.
Anuradha Mittal is the executive director of the Oakland Institute, a policy think whose mission is to increase public participation and promote fair debate on critical social, economic and environmental issues in both national and international forums.
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WHO tests confirm 25th death from deadly bird flu strain
The Jakarta Post
8 May 2006
JAKARTA (AP): World Health Organization tests have confirmed an Indonesian man has died of the H5N1 strain of bird flu, the 25th in this country, health officials said Monday.
A swab and blood sample from the 30-year-old man, who died April 26, were sent to a WHO-sanctioned laboratory in Hong Kong, where they were confirmed as being infected with the deadly strain, said Achmad Priyatna, an official at Indonesia's bird flu task force command.
The man's death raised Indonesia's human toll from H5N1 to 25, the world's second-highest number behind Vietnam, officials said.
The sprawling archipelago is logging cases faster than any other country, leading some international health experts to say it could do more to battle the virus.
The man who died last month had contact with poultry in Tangerang, a city 40 kilometers west of the capital Jakarta that has tallied several deaths.
The virus has killed or forced the slaughter of more than 200 million birds across Asia and spread to Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The lethal H5N1 virus has killed 113 people worldwide, mostly in Asia, according to the WHO.
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