- Signs of the Times for Tue, 30 May 2006 -



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Editorial: Making Sense of Political Complexity

Laura Knight-Jadczyk
Signs of the Times
30 May 2006

Looking out over the sorry state of our world, it isn't easy to make sense of what is going on. There are so many factors at play, so many levels of play and deception and manipulation with very few of the players having a complete overview of the ultimate plan. This complexity allows everyone to become a pawn: you'll hear one say that the Iraq war was about oil, another will say it was to advance Israel, another that it was to move in on the French and Russians. Each of these explanations have a kernel of truth to it because there were groups involved who did have these interests, and many more. But the entire situation cannot be understood as the expression of a single issue unless and until the real underlying cause is identified, the one that serves as context for the others, that is capable of subsuming them all within it.

It is important to keep in mind that the political drama that is played out for the masses is just that: a drama. For example, France may appear to oppose the war in Iraq, but that is because the French people have to be taken into account. Most French people do NOT like politicians in general and feel that it is their duty to oppose anything proposed by them. Moreover, there is a HUGE Muslim population in France. So, had Chirac been in favor of the war, there would have been a far worse situation in France than there was in the case of the recent employment law, the EU Constitution, the headscarf ban, etc.

The force of France at the moment, a force that appears to be long spent in the United States, is the readiness of even the most ordinary French citizen to become active in politics and fight for what he or she believes. The media in France and elsewhere, especially in the Anglo-Saxon countries, tries to portray the French as fighting to hold on to their cushy jobs in the face of the inevitable "restructuring" that must take place for the new economy to emerge. You know the "new economy", it is the one that will make everything great once all the safegaurds already in place have been removed.

But if you already had job security and a way of life that had been won at the cost of hard struggle, why would you give it up for illusory promises from people you don't trust, who have proved themselves capable of lying with a straight face over and over again?

An element that is rarely considered when trying to understand international politics is blackmail. Certainly we hear stories often enough from around the world of people being set up in honey traps with the cameras going. We read in spy novels that it is a favourite way of turning someone. But have you really considered what this means for the real workings of the world?

Regarding blackmail, there is ONE group that runs about everything on this planet (though less so in China, but I understand they are making inroads even there.) This group is primarily Zionist, though not exclusively. And when I say "Zionist," I don't necessarily mean Jewish either. Some of the most rabid Zionists are Christian Fundies trying to "Initiate the Eschaton" by supporting Israel, with the firm belief that Israel and all the Jews will be destroyed in the end if they don't get "saved." Let's just call them Pathocrats. There are high level pathocrats in about every country. At the top, the "national divisions" seem to fall away and each "top person" looks at his constituency, his "masses of plebes" as his "ante into the pot" for the overall game.

Notice also that here, I am not necessarily talking about elected or publicly known individuals, but rather those who really run things. I don't like to call them Illuminati or even to refer to the alleged "masters," the Rothchilds because I am not entirely certain that these are not just red herrings to distract attention.

So, imagine a group of these men, the ones with the power to make or break heads of state, conspiring as to how they are going to implement a massive population reduction program to eliminate about 90 percent of the planet's population, to preserve their own elite groups, and to have perhaps enough common people left to serve their needs and interests. These people know that the planet is beginning a process of global climate change that will lead to massive food shortages, water shortages, disease, and possibly even cataclysm. They know that if they do not do something to deal with masses of people, to eliminate many of them, and to control the rest, that they, themselves, are in danger of losing control, even their lives.

Now, how do you suppose they would go about setting up the game to accomplish this?

Well, they would do something like create a lot of apparent global conflict and disagreement so as to provoke many different groups and nationalities into stances that are oppositional to one another. The more provocation to chaos they can provoke, the more reasons they have for imposing draconian laws because the people will be frightened of the chaos and will want that protection. At the same time, the fires of nationalism will be lit and the various groups will be ready, willing and able to go out and kill each other off, which results in accomplishing precisely what the pathocrats want. Those troublesome people with fire in their bellies just eliminate each other, the passive cowardly types are well and truly fenced in and accepting total control, their own position is secured and even enhanced, and everybody's happy.

It's simple Machiavelli, ideas as old as Time that have been in use, consciously, for millennia.

Let's look at the question of 9/11. The great weak point of 9/11 is the Pentagon attack. If one were able to offer concrete proof that Flight 77 didn't hit the Pentagon, the government story collapses.

Well, it so happens that, from what we have learned, it is very possible, even probable, that one or more countries have satellite photos of what happened that day at the Pentagon. So why haven't they shown them?

For the same reason that everything else is controlled: Blackmail and power games.

Even IF there are multiple reasons to do something, there may be more reasons, with more weight, NOT to do the thing. That is why politicians have many advising committees and strategy game simulators.

In politics nothing is simple. Politics is full of contradictions and many game players are participating. For instance it may appear that the US and Russia are enemies. But they may have common plans. The same with France.

So if several countries, such as France, Russia and China have photos that out the Bush gang and Israel on 9/11, they aren't necessarily going to play those cards. But trying to observe their behavior and figure out the reasons can be a challenge.

Let's say that if, right after 911, they had shown the world the truth, well, the whole thing would have been so simple, right? The U.S. population would have turned against Bush and his Pathocrats and the peoples of France, Russia and China would have backed their governments up in coming over and overseeing the straightening out of the U.S. corrupt govermental systems.

But then, they would have all lost the golden opportunity to have a war or two or three and decimate large numbers of people! And believe me, at the TOP, that IS the agenda!

As for the leaking of the IDEA via Thierry Meyssan, my thought is that he was just another useful idiot, primed by the fire in the belly for righteousness. In a certain sense, we are all useful idiots because we all just contribute to the general melee of ideas while the Masters of Deception pick and choose which idea they want to push or suppress from one day to the next.

Will the truth ever be revealed, will the alleged photos ever be published or otherwise circulated?

Possibly. But look at what happened to such things as the Downing Street Memos. Was that a leak by someone with a conscience, or was it a deliberate leak to just create more controversy between those who can see and those who just cling desperately to naive beliefs? Observe how it was spun and/or ignored, or how it came and went and Bush is still spying on congress and journalists, the neocons are goosestepping along their merry way without a care in the world about what the masses of Americans think.

I think that if they are revealed, it will be when the moment is precisely right for the revelation to lead to the greatest number of deaths and the greatest chaos.

Moreover, to let other countries to TAKE these photos may have been part of the plan. After all, G. W. Bush is likely a marionette and, perhaps, at some point, there will be a necessity to get rid of him. The gamesmanship is on many levels, and the complexity of planning must not be underestimated. On the other hand there are always surprises, and new elements come into the game that were not taken into account by the gamers.

It should be also remebered that there are other ways of taking photos of interesting objects at interesting times than via satellites. See for instance project Aurora and its highly classified "improvements" that different countries are working on since many years.

Some other thoughts I have had while observing the global gamesmanship is that it has been a very clever maneuver for France, Russia, China, and even Israel, to more or less step back and allow the U.S. to engage itself and its resources on different fronts. The U.S. is now weaker than it has ever been, stretched beyond endurance both economically and personnel wise. Most professional jobs and manufacturing jobs are outsourced overseas, the education system is worse than you can even imagine, (especially if you are not familiar with European schooling), and its goal seems to be to produce cannon fodder, health is declining at a massive rate, and the other countries are just sitting around like vultures waiting for the weakness to become sufficient that they can begin the picking and pecking. Why would France or Russia or China or even Israel want to HELP the U.S. population? After all, the U.S. is full of 300 million people that are competitors for resources. Better to sit back, refuse to engage your own people (yet) and let the U.S. wear itself out, stretch itself thin, and go down the tubes on its own. And, after all the years of the arrogant U.S. lording it over everyone else, don't think that, at some level, there isn't some fiendish satisfaction at watching the process!

There are so many levels, so many games being played, so much drama created for the average person, all designed to appeal to different types, different mentalities, different goals, that there is truly something for everyone here in this smorgasbord of death and destruction that has been laid on the table for the population of the planet.

I doubt that anything either of us think, do, or say will make one whit of difference. I do what I do only because it is the right thing to do and for no other reason. It would be a shame for our civilization to come to an end and nobody stood up for the truth.

Addendum: Having written the above, I came across the following article today:

Gore in Hay climate change plea

In his first UK speech on the subject, Mr Gore promised to devote himself to the task of warning people about the impending "planetary emergency".

He appealed to the audience to act to halt the growing crisis.

"I will own up to shortcomings in my ability to communicate," said Mr Gore, who ran against President Bush in 2000.

"But I'm not through with this yet and I am devoting myself to it".

Mr Gore was the key note speaker of the 19th Hay Festival on the mid-Wales border.

Five years ago Bill Clinton spoke at Hay on his many roles in conflict resolution.

But Mr Gore, fresh from an appearance at the Cannes film festival, delivered a starker message that the world was now facing a "danger which could bring the end of civilisation." ...


Problem is, Gore is as likely part of the "gang" as anyone.

For a very good perspective on what is really behind the global war games including the cointelpro action in the 911 Truth Movement, have a look at Joe Quinn's article:

Ruppert and Hopsicker Co-Opting the 9-11 Truth Movement Or Exposing the Big Con - Lies and Disinformation At The End Of Civilisation As We Know It
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Editorial: Is The Mossad Planning To Carry Out An Attack At the World Cup?

Joe Quinn
Signs of the Times
30/05/2006

About a week ago, I started to wonder why those governments with most to gain from the "war on terror" - American, British and Israeli - had not been making a lot of noise (via their media lackeys) about the "very real possibility of a terrorist attack at the World Cup" which is scheduled to kick off in Germany on June 10th. After all, an international event attracting hundreds of thousands of people and a worldwide TV audience in the billions, must surely strike the war mongers as a perfect opportunity to ramp up the fear factor and further cement the 'reality' of worldwide Islamic terrorism in the minds of the planet's population.

Then I had a rather disturbing realisation:

Every previous terror attack, as opposed to high-profile warnings about terror attacks that did not materialise, occurred in a general absence of widespread public warnings about the potential for an attack. Consider 9/11, the Madrid bombings of 2004 and the London bombings of 2005. All of these attacks came 'out of the blue', at least as far as the public was concerned. Then contrast these attacks with the regular public hyping of 'possible' terrorist attack plans that have been shoved in our faces by the media over the past 5 years, none of which actually materialised. Of course, in the scenario that the real source of actual attacks is the very governments that claim to be fighting the war on terrorism, it is quite logical that they would not warn the public or admit to knowing of an actual attack in advance because they could not then reasonably claim to have been unable to prevent it.

So in essence, we can say that, when a lot of noise is being generated in the media about a potential terror attack, complete with warnings from American intelligence sources, it is quite probable that no terror attack will take place. However, that leaves us somewhat blind in attempting to determine when an actual false flag terror attack might take place. The best we can do is to look at events where an apparent act of "Islamic terrorism" would offer the war propagandists the best "bang for their buck"1 in the promotion of their claim that "Islamic terrorism" is real and a threat to the world, or, in the current global political climate, that "Iran is a threat to civilised nations". My point then is that the World Cup is just such an event, and it is the conspicuous lack of propaganda from government and the media about the potential for a "terror attack" at the world cup that gives us significant cause for serious concern.

While the policy adhered to in the lead up to a fake terror attack seems to be a relative blackout on any mention of the potential for such an attack, it seems that the same policy allows for low level murmurings in the fringe mainstream press. Such reports are usually left until a week or two before the attack and serve the purpose of setting up the designated fall guy. With this in mind consider the following report from last friday that appeared only in the Ynet News service out of Israel:

Israel warns of World Cup terror

ynetnews.com
May 26, 2006

Israel has warned European and American intelligence bodies of possible attempts by Hizbullah cells, led by Imad Mugniyah, to carry out terror attacks during the upcoming World Cup tournament in Germany, the Saudi Al-Watan newspaper reported on Friday.

According to the report, the terror plot is aimed at proving to the international community that Tehran is capable of retaliation if attacked.

Notice that Israel has not only identified the attackers - Iran - but has even gone so far as to inform European and American intelligence bodies of the specific reason why Iran is planning to carry out the attack - to warn the West that it is "capable of retaliation if attacked". How, we wonder, can Israel know so much about the Iranian governments intentions? How can Israel claim to know that Iran is determined to 'wage war on the infidels' when the Iranian government has repeatedly dismissed such claims and gone to great lengths to work out a peaceful solution to the impasse deliberately imposed by Washington and Tel Aviv? Does the Israeli government really not realise that it is a bit of a stretch to ask us to believe its claim that Iran is going to attack the World Cup, when such an attack would play directly into the hands of the Israeli war mongers who are chomping at the bit to find justification to attack Iran??

If we are to be reasonable and rational here, (and we like to be reasonable and rational as often as possible), we would have to say that, given that the Israeli government and lobby in the U.S. have been somewhat hysterical in their attempts to convince the world that Iran needs to be attacked, if an attack does occur at the World Cup, then the most obvious author of the attack will be Israel.

The Mossad has made something of an 'art' of such fake Islamic terror attacks, carrying them out with meticulous precision. Indeed, the Mossad's potential for such attacks was highlighted in a 68-page report by the [American] Army School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) which was drafted to analyse the daunting task facing any international peacekeeping force if Israel and the Palestinians ever reached a peace agreement backed by the United Nations. The report was part of an article in the September 10th, 2001 edition of the Washington Times entitled, “U.S. troops would enforce peace under Army study”, which detailed the findings of an elite U.S. Army study center plan.

The article tells us:

"[...] the School for Advanced Military Studies is both a training ground and a think tank for some of the Army’s brightest officers. Officials say the Army chief of staff, and sometimes the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ask SAMS to develop contingency plans for future military operations. During the 1991 Persian Gulf war, SAMS personnel helped plan the coalition ground attack that avoided a strike up the middle of Iraqi positions and instead executed a ‘left hook’ that routed the enemy in 100 hours.

The exercise was undertaken by 60 officers dubbed ‘Jedi Knights,’ as all second-year SAMS students are nicknamed. The SAMS paper attempts to predict events in the first year of a peace-enforcement operation, and sees possible dangers for U.S. troops from both sides. It calls Israel’s armed forces a ‘500-pound gorilla in Israel. Well armed and trained. Operates in both Gaza [and the West Bank]. Known to disregard international law to accomplish mission. Very unlikely to fire on American forces. Fratricide a concern especially in air space management.’

Of the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, the SAMS officers say: ‘Wildcard. Ruthless and cunning. Has capability to target U.S. forces and make it look like a Palestinian/Arab act.’”

Just for the record then, anyone with a problem about my suggestion that the Mossad can and does carry out attacks on nominally friendly targets in such a way that it looks like an "Arab terror" act, needs to take it up with the members of the elite U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies.

According to ex-Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky, the Mossad, like other intelligence agencies, works out of their consulate office (embassy) in any given country. Different from other intelligence agencies however, the Mossad can rely on what are termed 'Sayanim', or members of the local Jewish community in the country. Due to this additional 'help', the Mossad can operate with a significantly reduced number of operatives when carrying out a mission. An article from the April 22 2004 edition of Scoop states:

Mossad insiders, now on the outside, say the Mossad has just 30 to 37 case officers called katsas operating at any one time. The Mossad is able to function on a low number of core katsas due to a loyal Jewish community outside Israel. The loyalists are networked via a system of sayanim, or volunteer Jewish helpers. Sayanim loyalists are usually Jewish, live outside of Israel, and are often recruited via Israeli relatives. There are reportedly thousands of sayanim around the world. Their role will be specific to their professions: A loyalist in the travel industry could help Mossad obtain documents. Sayanim offer practical support, are never put at risk, and are certainly not privy to classified information.

A sayan in the tenancy business would find accommodation, financiers, doctors, civil servants, care-givers employed caring for the severely disabled -- all have a part to play without knowing the complete or bigger picture, and will remain silent due to loyalty to the cause. Katsas in charge of active sayanim will visit once every three months involving both face-to-face meetings and numerous telephone conversations. “The system allows the Mossad to work with a skeleton staff. That's why, for example, a KGB station would employ about 100 people, while a comparable Mossad station would need only six or seven.”

In terms of what it would take to stage an attack at the World Cup, we can see that the job, while requiring meticulous planning, could in fact be quite easy for them Mossad. Regardless of the specifics of the attack, the Mossad would require Sayanim contacts within the extensive security apparatus surrounding the World Cup matches and teams taking part. They would also likely require confidants within the international football body FIFA, and even perhaps those involved in catering and advertising etc etc. Essentially, anyone with official and therefore free access to the numerous aspects of the World Cup infrastructure. With 105,000 members of the Jewish community living in Germany ( this estimate does not include the many Jews not affiliated with the country’s main Jewish organization, the Central Council of Jews), it is very possible that there will be a pool of 'sayanim' involved with the World Cup from which the Mossad can draw in order to plan and implement an "Arab terrorist" attack.

Please note that the 'Scoop' editor states that, while used to facilitate such attacks, the members of the Jewish community or 'sayanim' are certainly not privy to classified information, i.e., they are not aware that they are part of a false flag terror attack and the murder of innocent people. It is almost certain that they 'prepped' by the with some patriotic spiel about Israel and are lied to about how their 'help' is being used. If they are told anything it is that the operation is to thwart a suspected Arab terror attack, in which case they enthusiastically offer any help they can. Who wouldn't? The fact is that ordinary Jewish people are as deceived as anyone else by the propaganda over the 'reality' of Arab terrorism. The Mossad's motto is "by way of deception", clearly, this deception is not limited to non Jews but includes deceiving Jewish people also.

If an attack occurs at the World Cup and the blame is pinned on Iran, an attack on Iran by Israeli and American war planes, possibly carrying nuclear devices will follow quickly. If this occurs, the very obvious existing threat to the lives of Jews in Israel, a threat that clearly arises from the actions of the Israeli government, will be increased tenfold. For over 100 years, ordinary Jews have been manipulated and forcibly corralled into a part of the Middle East which, up until 58 years ago, was inhabited by Palestinians for thousands of years. For Zionist leaders to have pursued such a policy while at the same time claiming that their only goal was the protection of the Jewish people is contradictory and therefore entirely disingenuous.

I fear for the future of the Jewish people, and all Semitic peoples, of the Middle East. But that fear is not based on the existence of any so-called "Arab terrorism", but rather the actions of the Israeli, American and British governments who seem determined to carelessly (or rather carefully) stoke the fires of hatred in the Middle East in full awareness of the fact that, when the fuse really ignites, all (save them) will be consumed in the ensuing war of strangely biblical proportions.

1. The phrase "more bang for your buck" is very appropriate given that the terms dates from 1954 when it specifically meant more efficient use of defense appropriations, relying mainly on nuclear deterrents. The 'bang' here alludes to a nuclear explosion. Its origins stem from a comment by John Foster Dulles who laid the policy of "massive retaliation" in 1954 and told the Council on Foreign Relations: (CFR) "it is now possible to get, and share, more basic security and less cost." Defense Security Charles E. Wilson promptly dubbed the policy the "New Look" ... and said it would provide a "bigger bang for a buck." (Safire, _New Language of Politics_, 1968)


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Editorial: The Evil Within

By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS
May 27-29, 2006

Is the Bush regime a sponsor of state terrorism?

A powerful case can be made that it is.

In the past three years the Bush Regime has murdered tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians and an unknown number of Afghan ones.

US Marines, our finest and proudest military force, are under criminal investigation for breaking into Iraqi homes and murdering entire families. In an unprecedented event, General Michael Hagee, the Marine Corps commandant, has found it necessary to fly to Iraq to tell our best trained troops to stop murdering civilians.

General Hagee found it necessary to tell the U.S. Marines: "We do not employ force just for the sake of employing force. We use lethal force only when justified, proportional, and most importantly, lawful."

The war criminals in the Bush Regime have dismissed the murders as "collateral damage," but they are in fact murders. Otherwise, there would be no criminal investigations, and the Marine commandant would not be burdened with the embarrassment of having to fly to Iraq to lecture US Marines on the lawful use of force.

The criminal Bush Regime has now murdered more Iraqis than Saddam Hussen. The Bush Regime is also responsible for 20,000 US casualties (dead, maimed for life, and wounded).

Bush damns the "axis of evil." But who has the "axis of evil" attacked? Iran has attacked no one. North Korea has attacked no country for more than a half century. Iraq attacked Kuiwait a decade and a half ago, apparently after securing permission from the US ambassador.

Isn't the real axis of evil Bush-Blair-Olmert? Bush and Blair have attacked two countries, slaughtering their citizens. Olmert is urging them on to attack a third country--Iran.

Where does the danger to the world reside? In Iran, a small religious country where the family is intact and the government is constrained by religious authority and ancient traditions, or in the US where propaganda rules and the powerful executive branch has removed itself from accountability by breaking the constitutional restraints on its power?

Why is the US superpower orchestrating fear of puny Iran?

The US government has spent the past half century interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, overthrowing or assassinating their chosen leaders and imposing its puppets on foreign peoples. To what country has Iran done this, or Iraq, or North Korea?

Americans think that they are the salt of the earth. The hubris that comes from this self-righteous belief makes Americans blind to the evil of their leaders. How can American leaders be evil when Americans are so good and so wonderful?

How many Serbs were slaughtered by American bombs released from high above the clouds, and for what reason? Who even remembers the propagandistic lies that the Clinton administration told us about why we absolutely had to drop bombs on the Serbs?

Wasn't it evil for the US to bomb Iraq for a decade and to embargo medicines for children? When US Secretary of State M. Albright was asked if she thought an embargo that resulted in the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children was justified, she replied, "yes."

The former terrible tyrant ruler of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, is on trial for killing 150 people. The US government murdered 500,000 Iraqi children prior to Bush's invasion. When the US government murders people, whether Serbs, Branch Davidians at Waco, or Iraqi women and children, it is "collateral damage." But we put Saddam Hussein on trial for putting down rebellions.

Gentle reader, do you believe that the Bush Regime will not shoot you down in the streets if you have a rebellion?
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Editorial: The Threat of Depleted Uranium Exposure - It's Real, Deadly and Covered up by the Pentagon and VA

by Stephen Lendman

The Pentagon must surely believe the old but very foolish saying that what you don't know won't hurt you. To prove it they nearly always go to great lengths to conceal what they do know so we won't find out. That's especially true when what they know is bad news or hazardous to our health or that of our troops. That's certainly the case regarding the real and deadly threat from exposure to the toxic effects of depleted uranium (DU) poisoning. The public has precious little information about this crucial issue because it's been willfully and deliberately suppressed to conceal just how potentially great and irreversible a threat it is.

Is it any wonder then that most of those people who've heard about DU have been seduced by the Pentagon cover-up and stream of lies and are taken in enough by them to believe what little information they hear and read in the mainstream. I know those individuals never heard of one of the two greatest and most highly esteemed US print journalists of the last century. His name was I.F. Stone, and I've read nearly all his important books. Stone once told a class of aspiring journalists always to remember "All governments are run by liars and nothing they say should be believed." Another time he simply said "All governments lie." If I were asked to address a group of students, I'd be even more emphatic than Stone and say governments only lie and never tell the public the truth, especially about the most important issues affecting us all. I'd also quote Stone and recommend the students paste his maxim to their bathroom mirrors so they never forget it.

Government propaganda, lies and deception are more extreme and sophisticated now than in Stone's day. Those unaware of it remind me of a poker player looking around the table to assess the competition. He doesn't realize when he can't find who the mark is it's him. But in a real life game of high stakes poker when it's you against the "power structure" and their corporate media allies, unless you know how the game is played, you surely are their mark and they'll eat you alive.

I know of nothing more dangerous to a free society than a deficit of real information on the most vital issues affecting everyone. It's impossible getting it from government sources or the dominant corporate media in league with them because supplying us with it would subvert their interests. It's true on all important issues without exception. So, if the public knew the full truth about the potentially nightmarish effects of exposure to DU munitions that will only likely get worse unless exposed and stopped, it would be impossible for the Pentagon to continue using them. Only their cover-up has allowed them to be able to recklessly and criminally use them in four wars since 1991 including the two of them ongoing now. And they couldn't possibly ever consider raising the stakes further, as they now have claimed the exclusive right to do, to fight future wars with industrial strength nuclear weapons that could lead to a nuclear holocaust.

What we already know about the deadly effects of DU munitions use alone is clear and growing, unreported in the dominant media, and thus largely concealed from the public. Those unaware of it, taken in by Pentagon propaganda, or choosing to ignore the few facts about it they do know should welcome and praise the impressive work done on this issue by Irving Wesley Hall. He's a man I personally know and have had contact with. I've also collaborated with him as he was preparing his extremely important series of articles on this growing menace that may eventually affect everyone. Irving has made an important contribution, and I respect and admire him greatly for it. His articles should be widely read and those doing it should encourage others to read them as well for their own safety and welfare. Having written on this subject myself, I know from my own research how valuable Irving's work is to expanding the knowledge base about DU and its harmful effects.

What Depleted Uranium Is and How It's Being Used

Depleted uranium is a derivative of the uranium enrichment process required to produce fuel for commercial reactors. This process is then followed by gaseous diffusion in two streams - one is enriched and the other depleted. Before a use was found for it, DU was just stored in vast amounts as a byproduct. All that changed when it was discovered that solid "dense metal" DU projectiles (in all forms) greatly increased their ability to penetrate and destroy a target. That was irresistible to the Pentagon that wanted to use them in bullets, bombs, shells and missiles and now has done so freely in four wars since they were first used in the Gulf war in 1991 (except for one test in the 1973 Yom Kippur war).

There's a problem with these weapons, however - a serious downside never discussed and which great pains are taken to conceal. These weapons in all their forms leave in their wake an irremediable irradiated and chemically toxic landscape far more deadly than the death and destruction to the targets struck. How deadly and toxic the fallout is varies only with the amount of these weapons used. Hundreds of tons of them were used beginning for the first time in the Gulf war in 1991. A likely similar amount was used again in Yugoslavia in 1999 and up to 1,000 or more tons so far in Afghanistan since 2001. Any use of these weapons is reckless and was effectively banned by common consent (and common sense) and never used until 1991 in Iraq (except for that one test). However, their usage ballooned in successive wars to over 3,000 tons so far since the US introduced them on a large and sustained scale again in Iraq in March, 2003.

Put in perspective, since first used in 1991, the US military has willfully and criminally spread deadly toxic radiation across a vast area of three countries as well as everywhere else affected by the fallout. It's caused permanent irremediable contamination with a half-life of 4.5 billion years or forever by my reckoning.

One more important fact is these numbers increase daily as since last December US forces have been conducting four to six daily bombings of target sites in Iraq alone that we know about using DU munitions and an unknown likely less frequent number in Afghanistan. We also have a new terror weapon we claim the right to use routinely called "bunker-buster mini nukes" that aren't mini but sure are nukes. These are industrial strength nuclear bombs that can be produced to any desired potency but are likely to be used in strengths of between one-third to two-thirds the destructive force of a Hiroshima bomb. Pentagon propaganda falsely says these are little more than king-sized hand grenades that are perfectly safe when used as designed. They're supposed to penetrate a target site deeply before exploding on the false theory that their radiation will be contained underground and thus are environmentally safe. Testing of these bombs are planned in the Nevada desert and may be now underway, but at least one already carried out and observed proves otherwise. What was seen on explosion is hardly reassuring that the toxic fallout will be contained when used in combat. Clearly visible was a huge black mushroom-shaped cloud (sound familiar) that rose thousands of feet in the air and was shown to be deadly and toxic when ground radiation measurements were taken following at least this one test. There may have been others as well we haven't heard about.

The Pentagon always deliberately spreads false and misleading information on its controversial activities, but especially something as outrageous as the lingering, spreading and deadly effects from DU contamination which never end. Those exposed to it and their loved ones with whom they have intimate contact and their offspring are henceforth vulnerable to a vast menu of virtually any illness, disease or disability imaginable often leading to early death or at the least a lifetime of pain, suffering and great expense. It's no exaggeration to say that DU is the deadly and unwelcome gift that keeps on giving, disabling and killing.

DU weapons aren't just toxic and deadly, they're illegal according to the standards and binding international law under the Hague Convention of 1907 and 1925 Geneva Protocol and other succeeding Geneva Weapons Conventions that specifically outlaw the use of any chemical and biological agents in any form for any reason in war as well as any poison or poisoned weapons. DU weapons in all their forms are radioactive and chemically toxic and clearly fit the definition of poisonous weapons banned under these binding international laws to which we are signatories. As such, the US, having used them in four wars, has violated our sacred treaty obligations which are the supreme law of the land and is guilty of repeated war crimes. That minor detail doesn't bother the Bush administration that considers the Geneva Conventions and all other international laws inconvenient to its plans just "quaint" and "obsolete."

The Public Is Largely Unaware of the DU Threat Or Prefers to Believe Pentagon Propaganda Instead of Known Scientific Fact

Most people get their so-called news and information from the dominant corporate media mostly on TV which, as everyone by now should know, never gives them what they tune in for. Instead they get state approved propaganda, lies and deception cleverly disguised as the real thing. It's almost always true that what they don't report is lots more important than what they do. Of course, the reason this goes on is that if the public knew and understood what our government was up to, they'd never stand for it. So it's all kept under wraps, and most people are never the wiser. It's very easy to be influenced by the slick state and corporate-friendly messages because they're transmitted effectively ad nauseam round the clock on air and in print. The repetition has a powerful effect. It clouds the mind, blocks out the truth and distracts enough to prevent those mesmerized by it from seeking it. Why would you not want to believe the friendly news anchors you've grown to know and love over the years. Would they ever lie to you? Darned right they would if they want to keep their high-paying jobs.

I comment on this often for one reason. It's the most important of all issues I know. Unless people know and understand the truth about what's happening around them on the vital issues affecting their lives, they're defenseless against the onslaught of fraud and deceit delivered through the dominant media. It allows government to get away with the most egregious acts as agents for giant corporations and the "money changers" who buy and pay for their services. This alliance is hostile to the public interest as it allows these corporations and financial institutions (including the US Federal Reserve which is a private for-profit entity and not a government run one as commonly believed) free reign to pursue their predatory quest for greater profits and world dominance and do it at our expense.

The Disturbing Truths about DU the Pentagon and VA Are Taking Great Pains to Conceal

Those truths are emerging slowly and convincingly, but emerging they are. It's quite true we don't have all the answers yet, and there's still much more to be learned before we know for certain just how harmful DU is in all respects and how widespread its contamination has spread. However, all the new evidence coming out points in one direction and leads to an increasingly clear conclusion. It's the same one I first heard told me by an eminent man in a required college natural science course I took in 1953. The man was George Wald, distinguished professor of biology and later a nobel laureate in 1967. Dr. Wald had many admirable qualities I admired greatly, but I still remember verbatim the dramatic statement he made one day in class. He told his young students that "there is no such thing as a safe amount of radiation." He understood what Albert Einstein did even earlier, and both these men spoke out forcefully against the genie out of the bottle that emerged once the atom was first split in 1938 in a Berlin laboratory. From that time to now, it's been known beyond dispute how dangerous and deadly radiation is in all its forms and in any amount to all those coming in contact with it even for short periods of time. However, for those exposed to it daily like our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan where it's contaminated a vast area, it's a possible death sentence or at the least a lifetime of likely misery from the poisoning that increases each day.

Some Documented Facts On the Effects of DU Poisoning

The greatest damage from DU comes from the radiation residue after its use. When a DU weapon strikes a target, it penetrates deeply and aerosolizes into a fine spray which then contaminates the air, soil and water around the target area. The residue is permanent, and its microscopic and submicroscopic particles are then swept into the air from the tainted soil and are carried by winds to distant areas as a radioactive component of atmospheric dust. That dust falls indiscriminately everywhere over the area it reaches. It causes radiation contamination that affects every living thing and cannot be remediated. As mentioned above, the poisoning from the contamination causes every imaginable illness and disease from severe headaches, muscle pain and general fatigue, to major birth defects, infection, depression, cardiovascular disease, many types of cancer and brain tumors. It also causes permanent disability and death. Months ago I personally alerted my own medical providers to be on the lookout for any unexplainable symptoms in their patients, especially if they had served in the military in the Middle East, Afghanistan or Yugoslavia.

I reported all this in a major, detailed article I wrote on this subject a few months ago and available on my blog site - sjlendman.blogspot.com. In it I went on to explain that all military and civilian personnel at or near target areas were and are most adversely affected by DU contamination, especially if they remained in those areas for an extended time. During the six week Gulf war about 150 of our forces were killed and 467 were reported injured. However, the real effects of that war weren't apparent until years later. We're beginning to get lots of information on it now but not without great difficulty to make it as complete and accurate as possible.

Because of that problem, there's great variance in the numbers I've seen. But somewhere between about 30 - 75% of the 696,841 military personnel who served in the Gulf from August 2, 1990 to end of July, 1991 have filed claims for or have been reported by the Veteran's Administration (VA) to be on some form of disability in 2004. It's likely the true number is closer to the lower percentage, but I've chosen to report the range in case later on we learn things were far worse than we now can imagine. We do know an additional 11,910 vets have died as of early this year. There's a problem compiling accurate data because the VA has been complicit with the Pentagon in the cover-up about DU and has said very little about the true number disabled or how many of the disability total were the result of DU poisoning. They could easily find out by administering blood tests and doing other proper examinations. Instead they've done as little as possible just as for years in the 1990s they denied the existence of "Gulf war" syndrome (most likely from DU poisoning) and told suffering vets it was all in their heads. They certainly were there if any of those heads were afflicted with brain tumors or their early stages.

We can only speculate about how many of our military personnel post 2001 are now the victims of DU poisoning, but it's likely the number is large and growing with more coming down with disturbing symptoms daily. We know many returning vets are already seeking treatment for health problems, and that medical professionals in hospitals and other facilities providing it have been threatened with $10,000 fines and even jail if they speak out about what those problems are. Think how outrageous this is - that a nation that sent hundreds of thousands of its young men and women to fight in two illegal wars of aggression, then turns its back on them when they return home with serious illnesses they may never recover from or that may kill them. And making matters even worse, the Pentagon and VA are complicit in a cover-up and denial a problem even exists. They might as well be saying "let 'em suffer and die." So think of it. This is the "model democracy" we hold up to the world to emulate. In fact, it's a deadly and sinister model all nations should reject and condemn.

Documented Evidence On Recent DU Fallout

In February, 2006, after I wrote my article on DU, Irving Wesley Hall wrote his carefully researched and extremely important series on DU and its harmful effects. His findings were widely posted, and all of it is available on his web site - notinkansas.us. Irving's work is so important, readers should visit his site, review his series carefully and likely learn for the first time how serious and deadly a threat DU contamination is to everyone coming in contact with it.

Here's a sample of the information included in the series which needs as much resonance as possible. I've added some of my own comments to it. Irving has made an important contribution, and I'm proud to be associated with him and his work. He wrote that Dr. Chris Busby, scientific secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, reported on official UK radiation levels in the wake of the "shock and awe" assault against Iraq in 2003. Dr. Busby documented that uranium particles traveled 2,400 miles in nine days from Iraq to Aldermaston, England. The invisible cloud quadrupled Europe's atmospheric radiation clearly showing that despite Pentagon denials, DU contamination spreads far beyond the target sites struck. Once again the Pentagon's mendacity and indifference to its forces and the rest of us is revealed in plain sight for all to see if they'll bother to look.

The widespread contamination is even more dangerous and deadly than formerly believed. But apparently one emailer in particular, with little knowledge to support what he wrote, attacked Irving's findings and shamed and embarrassed himself in the process. I read his response and know the facts. They clearly contradict virtually everything he said and his conclusions overwhelmingly. The emailer not only put his ignorance on public display, but he also arrogantly and insolently attacked the honesty, honor and integrity of a man of the highest stature.

His shameless act reminded me of a "show-stopping" moment I saw on US TV in June, 1954. It was during the so-called Army - McCarthy hearings when chief Army counsel Joseph Welch gave his famous retort to the soon to be disgraced US senator, who became infamous from his witch-hunting, self-serving search for communists in government without ever finding any. Welch and his reply are still remembered to this day, and I clearly recall him making it. In defense of his client under McCarthy's malicious attack he asked the senator on national TV: "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you no sense of decency." Not long after that memorable moment the McCarthy hearings ended inconclusively, the senator's reputation was shattered, he was censured by the Senate, and he died a disgraced man a few years later. We can only hope for a similar denouement for the band of rogues in charge of US policy today who are making so many people around the world the worst for it.

I won't try to match Joe Welch, but I'll just ask the emailer: aren't you ashamed enough to flaunt your ignorance to a world audience without compounding it by shamelessly attacking a distinguished man of the highest integrity and honor. Like "Tail-Gunner" Joe (a moniker referring to one more dark side of the tainted senator), have you no sense of dignity, or just plain no sense at all?

Additional Expert Scientific Commentary Reported by Irving Wesley Hall

Here's more from Irving's articles on the DU threat. He learned about the work of Leonard Dietz who's a retired physicist from the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in New York state. Dietz pioneered the technology to measure uranium isotopes, and Irving quoted what he said: "Anyone, civilian or soldier, who breathes these particles has a permanent dose, and it's not going to decrease very much over time....In the long run....veterans exposed to ceramic uranium oxide have a major problem."

Irving reported an even more dire assessment that came from another study of the materials currently in the DU munitions used in Iraq and Afghanistan. The study found that in addition to U-238, today's DU weapons contain plutonium (the most toxic of all known substances), neptunium, and the highly radioactive uranium isotope U-236. According to a 1991 study by the UK Atomic Energy Authority, these elements are 100,000 times more dangerous than the U-238 in DU. It only takes the most minute, nearly unmeasurable amount of this substance in one's body to be fatal.

One other expert must be mentioned as well. His name is Dr. Doug Rokke who was the director of the Pentagon's Depleted Uranium Project. He was assigned by the US Army to be their chief biological, chemical and nuclear weapons safety officer and expert in the Gulf war. Irving interviewed Doug, and I, too, spoke to and corresponded with him. Doug's extensive work as director of the project led him to conclude that "Uranium munitions must be banned from the planet, for eternity, and medical care must be provided for everyone - those on the firing end and those on the receiving end." Rokke understands the problem well from his extensive study of it and his own personal and tragic experience. He and his staff of 100 were all devastated by exposure to DU contaminated dust. Thirty of them have since died, and Rokke now suffers from serious health problems including brain lesions, lung and kidney damage, reactive airway disease, permanent skin rashes, neurological damage and cataracts. It's quite clear Dr. Rokke didn't contract this nightmarish stew of mostly very serious health problems from an unhealthy life style, bad diet or lack of exercise.

A Grim Assessment the Evidence Points To

So what can we make from all this. From the Gulf war in 1991, at a minimum many tens of thousands of the US military forces sent there for a short period of time have had health problems or are now on some form of disability. But the worst is yet to come. In the Afghanistan war beginning in late 2001 and the Iraq war from March, 2003, about 1.3 million US military forces have served in combat and occupation in these countries. They were all assigned long tours of duty and most of them have served two or three deployments to what are beyond question the most dangerous and toxic environments on earth. Somewhere between 30 - 75% of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm are now on some kind of disability or have died. If those percentages are applied to the 1.3 million of our military now serving or having served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, between 390,000 - to 975,000 vets may end up on disability or die from exposure to the far more toxic DU munitions used in these wars, the many other poisonous pollutants they've been exposed to, and the much longer and multiple tours of duty they've had to undergo.

In simple terms, it's likely we can expect an eventual catastrophic human disaster of epic proportions and one being covered up because of its enormity. And it's in addition to the far greater one we've inflicted on 26 million innocent Iraqis discussed below. Should the truth about all this come out fully, what sane young men and women would ever volunteer for military service knowing they were either signing their death warrants or at the least likely assuring themselves a lifetime of devastating and/or debilitating health problems. And add to that the mass outrage by the US public and the people of other nations that joined with the US in sending contingents of their military to be part of an illegal occupying force.

The effect of all this has finally reached the US Congress, but it's unlikely anything meaningful will emerge there to reveal how dangerous and deadly exposure to DU contamination really is. Still on May 11, the House passed legislation that includes an amendment by Rep. Jim McDermott (himself an MD and once a practicing psychiatrist) ordering a comprehensive study of possible health effects from DU exposure on US military forces and their children. It's almost certain this amendment will never get through the Senate or certainly won't ever be signed into law by George Bush. Still kudos and an A for effort to Rep. McDermott even though it's almost certain it will all be for naught.

The Devastating Toll on Iraqis Since 1991

As bad as it's been and still is for our troops and their families, try to imagine the nightmare 26 million innocent Iraqis have been living through since January, 1991. The Gulf war began the malicious destruction of a once modern state. It caused 100,000 or more Iraqi deaths in just weeks and destroyed essential infrastructure like electricity and clean water facilities vital to the health, welfare and the safety of the people. It also began the spread of deadly toxic radiation across the country from the first use of DU munitions in combat as well as a harmful stew of other pollutants responsible for rampant illness and disease. This living hell is what US illegal aggression based on lies and deceit brought to this most highly developed and well-functioning of all states in the Middle East now unable to cope against a brutal occupier determined to destroy and control it for its own imperial purpose and gain.

The sacking and plunder of Iraq began in January, 1991. But although the war formally ended after six weeks of one-sided fighting, the bombing and brutality against the people never did. Air attacks continued sporadically throughout the 1990s (ordered by Bill "I feel your pain" Clinton) destroying more infrastructure, causing more deaths and adding to the spread of deadly pollutants including the toxic radiation from the DU weapons used. What also followed the formal end to hostilities was a dozen years of brutal economic sanctions that ravaged a population helpless to cope with their horrific effects. The result was a humanitarian disaster of epic proportions that never ended. Besides the physical and human toll, the economy was destroyed as is evident from the following data. The per capita annual income of Iraqis declined from a 1979 level of $2,313 to $255 in 2003 and $144 in 2004. Further, the college of economics at Baghdad University estimated that unemployment rose to a level of 70%. Even the so-called "oil for food" program did little to relieve the crisis prior to the 2003 invasion. In fact, it was never intended to as the US planned all along to inflict the greatest possible hardship on the people hoping their misery would encourage them to rise up and topple Saddam. It turned out it had the opposite effect despite the severity of the toll. Instead of blaming Saddam, Iraqis relied on him for whatever relief they could get. It wasn't much or nearly enough because the US allowed him little to give.

The combination of war and economic sanctions caused widespread illness and disease that was devastating and still is. Even by conservative estimates, it likely caused the death of at least one million Iraqis including 500,000 children. Some estimates put the number as high as 1.5 million and some others far higher still. When Denis Halliday resigned in 1998 as UN head of Iraqi humanitarian relief he said he did so because he believed he'd been instructed to implement a policy of genocide and refused to do it. He added that 5,000 Iraqi children were dying needlessly every month. Hans Von Sponek, who took on the UN relief job after Halliday, also resigned in frustration and disgust in 2000 voicing similar sentiments when he left.

But bad as conditions were then, they got far worse following the US illegal aggression beginning in March, 2003. The daily toll of death and destruction since then is unknown precisely, but even conservative estimates are appalling and shocking. The British Lancet earlier reported by their "conservative assumptions" an Iraqi toll of about 100,000 "excess deaths" post March, 2003. They recently updated their initial estimate (three years later) to a now likely 300,000 and rising daily as we all should know. Other estimates place the number far higher, up to 500,000 in one estimate I saw a few months ago. Whatever the true number is, the US inflicted disaster on Iraq and its people for over the past 15 years is truly of epic proportions. It clearly warrants the label genocide and makes all those in the US at the highest levels of three administrations responsible for it guilty of egregious war crimes and crimes against humanity.

What May Lie Ahead

Iraq and Afghanistan are in ruins, and the US is hopelessly embroiled in two wars it has no possibility of winning. Both of them will go on without end as long as we remain occupiers in countries where we're not wanted and will never be tolerated. Further, both countries have a long history of expelling invaders regardless of how long it took them to do it. It will be no different this time, but it's shocking to imagine the human toll that will result on all sides before they finally do end, the final tally is estimated years later, and the many years it will then take to rebuild these shattered countries.

So with two out-of-control wars ongoing, it would seem unthinkable the US would now be planning one or two more. How can that be possible, and what sane planners would ever contemplate such an irrational course? We don't have the troop strength, and our military budget (on and off the books) is off the charts and running up huge deficits even the new Fed chairman is alarmed about. Logic and fiscal sanity should indicate it would be folly to compound the current mess with a still greater mess. But that's exactly what appears to be in the works, and the preliminary and softening up stage of a planned attack against Iran is already underway just as it was leading up to the March, 2003 "shock and awe" assault against Iraq.

For many months, Iran has known the US has been flying unmanned aerial surveillance drones to help select target sites. There have been some scattered but unconfirmed reports that one or more of these intruders have been shot down. It's also a not so hidden secret we've sent special forces or combat personnel into Iran under cover along with reconnaissance teams to collect similar information on the ground as well as link up with anti-government elements we hope will help our efforts. The Iranians know all this, and you can bet they're trying to snare a few of them, but if they have neither side is letting on. I wouldn't want to be one of the illegal infiltrators and get caught in the act. I don't think the Iranians will be very hospitable or understanding nor should they be. So what's likely to happen next and when.

I have no timetable, but it's been responsibly reported, and I believe the reports, that George Bush has signed off on a "shock and awe" attack against Iran and is intending to do it using industrial strength nuclear weapons. They're deceptively called "bunker-buster mini-nukes" which I explained above are nukes but not mini ones - they're likely to be from one-third to two-thirds as powerful as a Hiroshima bomb. But they can be produced to any potency and some likely will be and used. I also explained that the Pentagon has lied (do they ever do anything else) that the radiation emitted from these earth-penetrating munitions will be contained below ground and thus are safe to use. Not so, and the Pentagon knows it.

Our apparent intentions toward Iran are also based on more lies and deception as we accuse that country of violating international law by having a secret nuclear weapons program. There's no evidence whatever Iran has one, but they'd be irresponsible not to be taking every measure possible to defend itself against a hostile US intending to bring down its government by any means including nuclear war. Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and so far as known is in full compliance with it. As such it has every legal right to enrich uranium for its commercial nuclear industry as does every other country following NPT rules.

US hostility to Iran has nothing to do with its enrichment policy or even its form of government. It's the result of Iran's intent to remain independent of US dominance and go its own way. It's been that way since the uprising that overthrew the repressive and US installed and supported Shah in 1979 after which Iran no longer was willing to continue relinquishing its sovereignty and remain subservient to US interests. The result has been continued hostility between the two countries that may now be culminating with a US planned attempt to oust the country's leadership forcibly since we've given up trying to achieve that goal by other means short of war. The strategy won't be any more successful in Iran than it's been in Iraq. What US planners may succeed in doing is engulfing the whole Middle East in flames without a realistic notion of what the outcome of that may be. It certainly won't be a good one, but that never before deterred an administration that's often wrong but never in doubt.

The US way of doing things is to engage other nations like a schoolyard bully. It's especially true in our dealings with the developing world where we generally treat the countries in it on the basis of an "our way or the highway" policy. We can't unleash our full force bullying against most developed ones in the Global North, but we do that freely and often, directly or through proxies, against all others that forget "who's boss." When that happens, that "highway" is usually strewn with unwarranted economic sanctions, coup attempts, political assassinations, or death and destruction from war. The US follows this hostile course to bring "outlier" nations in line with our policies, but also to deter others from deviating from them as well. It's a bloodstained legacy that puts to rest the myth that the US is a peace loving, benevolent democracy only wanting to spread those principles to other nations that don't practice them. But let me state clearly something I haven't said elsewhere before but should have. By the US I don't mean the people. I mean the leadership of both major political parties and their corporate and elitist allies all of whom work against the public interest everywhere and only for their own.

The US and Iranian public interest won't be served by what our present leadership apparently has in mind for that country - regime change the hard way. It looks like the plan is to make it extra hard by upping the ante to send a clear and decisive message to the Iranians and all other nations going their own way that we will nuke you into submission unless you come around willingly. So far we've only used nuclear weapons below the radar with DU munitions that alone have caused unspeakable harm. But should the US go further and attack Iran with industrial strength nuclear bombs, we will have crossed an inviolable threshold, moved the nation one step closer to tyranny and brought the world a lot closer to a possible eventual nuclear holocaust. In my judgment, that's what's now at stake unless a way is found to stop this aggressive juggernaut before it goes further and it's too late to act.

Iran is First in the US Target Queue Followed by Venezuela

Unimaginable as it may seem, high-level leadership and planners in Washington may have in mind not just a third conflict but a fourth one as well. I've written about this several times, and recently wrote a feature article titled "The US Now Planning A Fourth Attempt to Oust Hugo Chavez." Based on my knowledge and ear to the ground observing and listening to the steady and intensifying drumbeat of anti-Chavez rhetoric coming from top US officials through the corporate media (all of it the usual litany of lies and deception only), I have no doubt whatever a fourth attempt to oust President Chavez and his government is planned and likely now being implemented under the radar. Precisely how and what will be unleashed won't be known until the fireworks begin. But make no mistake about it, they will begin, and this time they may include attempted assassinations and open conflict with DU munitions or even full-scale nuclear bombs if that's part of the plan. If that happens, the nuclear nightmare will have arrived in the Americas and come ever closer to the US Southern border.

By whatever means the US has in mind in its latest attempt to unseat Hugo Chavez, its intentions toward him and his government are clear, unmistakable and written in stone. The US will settle for nothing less than full control of his country's vast hydrocarbon reserves and a government willing to hand them over to us. Those reserves are far more vast than once thought as the best estimates of the country's oil reserves (including the extra-heavy kind more expensive to refine) are thought to be about 350 billion barrels or even higher. That compares to Saudi Arabia's estimated reserves of about 262 billion barrels of (at least mostly) the preferred and more easily refined "light sweet" crude. It takes no mental exertion to see the two countries at the head of the US target queue have vast amounts of the essential commodity the US wants most and is willing to go to war if necessary to secure control over everywhere it feels it's worth the cost and effort. There's no doubt the US feels that way about Iran and Venezuela just as it did about Iraq.

The US decided Saddam had to go not because of his oppressive rule or his "now you see 'em, now you don't" WMDs. It was because of his unwillingness to surrender his nation's sovereignty to the US. Same old story, and it's the same again in Iran and most of all in Venezuela that has to be the greatest prize of the three. It's especially tricky for the US there as that nation happens to have a democratic leader loved by the great majority of his people. It's because Hugo Chavez is fiercely and proudly independent, as he has every right to be, and puts the needs of his people ahead of the US and its Big Oil interests. Chavez was twice democratically elected and then prevailed in an August, 2004 recall referendum (the third coup attempt by ballot box means) that was a contrived act of desperation cooked up by his right wing opposition in league with US corporate interests. It was a flop as Chavez's supporters flocked to the polls giving him a decisive victory. He deserved and earned it and his other electoral victories as he proved he's the rarest of political leaders who actually delivers on his promises to the people. Try finding a US politician who's done that, especially one with any power to follow through. You'll need a high-powered version of that lamp Diogenes once used used looking for an honest man.

It's Hugo Chavez's intention to serve the interests and needs of his own people and not those of his dominant Northern neighbor that has him once again high on its target list for elimination. Hugo Chavez will remain there until the US finds a way to remove him which it certainly will keep trying to do. Chavez is well aware of it and so are the Venezuelan people who love and support him and are likely to fight to keep him in office. They know what their lives were like before he became their president and what a vast difference he made once he came into office. He promised to serve the people and proved it by instituting a vast array of social programs the majority of the US public might only dream about if they knew what's available now to the Venezuelan people.

They include free, comprehensive and high-quality health and dental care for all as well as free education through the university level to all those who wish it and can qualify. Compare that to what's available in the US - a health care system available only to those who can afford its high and fast-rising cost and a deliberately degraded inner-city public education system as well as a costly one at the university level unavailable to lower income families that can't afford it for their children. Now try to imagine what the US has in mind for Venezuelans. It won't tolerate a developing nation's leader who'll institute such essential social services for the people and will try to end them even if it takes nuclear war to do it. Try to think of appropriate language to describe the leader of a nation who would unleash such an attack and do it for power and profit. Do the words tyrant and war criminal come to mind?

Get Ready for the Long Knives, the Marines Again in Action to Go Along with A Little Or Maybe A Lot of "Shock and Awe."

The plans for two "outlier" countries are set, the wheels are in motion, and we now must wait and see what will unfold in the next chapter of the ongoing drama of an aggressor and imperial US against the world with Iran and Venezuela numbers one and two in the US target queue.

Several times before I spelled out in some detail what I feels lies ahead unless a way is found to stop it. I fear two more conflicts are ahead for starters to add to the ones now ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Still others will follow against other countries to be named later and by whatever timetable and means we have in mind. The result may be that the US is near to crossing an inviolable Rubicon in two deadly and dangerous ways - first by unleashing the nuclear genie in an industrial strength way, and second by suspending the Constitution and declaring martial law at home in the wake of a likely inevitable second major terror attack that may be as much an inside job as was the first one on September 11.

Unless the US public awakens to these very real threats, we face the same fate as did the Germans who lost their model democratic state after the ascension of Adolph Hitler. Good German people let him steal it from them while they weren't paying attention or bought into his false rhetoric that he was serving their interests and protecting them from an outside threat - that never existed. We also have no outside threat from any other nation, but we've been effectively scared to death and conned by the false rhetoric that's made us feel we do. The result is we're getting too close for comfort to the point of no return. There's still time to act if we're bold enough to do it. Think of the choice I think we face. Act together in our collective self-interest or do nothing and see us pass from a once proud but now tattered republic to tyranny. It can happen here as it has elsewhere unless we act to prevent it.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Comment on this Editorial


War Crimes in Iraq


Marines 'ordered to photograph civilian bodies'

30/05/2006

Two US Marines were severely traumatised after following orders to photograph corpses of unarmed Iraqi civilians allegedly killed by members of their unit, their families said today.

The parents of Lance Corporal Andrew Wright, 20, and Lance Corporal Roel Ryan Briones, 21, both members of a Marine unit based at Camp Pendleton, California, said their sons were sent into the western Iraqi city of Haditha to help remove the bodies of as many as two dozen men, women and children who were shot. [...]

The details of what happened in Haditha are still murky. What is known is that a bomb rocked a military convoy and left one Marine dead.

Marines then shot dead unarmed civilians in a taxi at the scene and went into two homes and shot other people,
according to Rep. John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat and decorated war veteran who has been briefed by military officials.

The incident has sparked two investigations: one into the deadly encounter itself and another into whether it was the subject of a cover-up. The Marine Corps had initially attributed 15 civilian deaths to the car bombing and a firefight with militants, eight of whom the Marines reported had been killed. [...]

Briones' best friend, Lance Corporal Miguel "TJ" Terrazas, had been killed the day of the attack by the roadside bomb, his mother said. He was still grieving when he was sent in to clean up the bodies of the Iraqi civilians.

One was a little girl who had been shot in the head, Susie Briones said. "He had to carry that little girl's body," she said, "and her head was blown off and her brain splattered on his boots."

While there, the two were ordered to photograph the scene with personal cameras they happened to be carrying the day of the attack, the families told The Associated Press in separate interviews.

Briones' mother, Susie, said her son told her mother he saw the bodies of 23 dead Iraqis that day, including a decapitated child.

"It was horrific. It was a terrible scene," Susie Briones said in a tearful interview.

Navy investigators confiscated Briones' camera, his mother said. Wright's parents, Patty and Frederick Wright, of Novato, declined to comment on what might have happened to the photos their son took, but they said he had turned over all of his information to the Navy.

"He is the Forrest Gump of the military," Frederick Wright said. "He ended up in the spotlight through no fault of his own."

Ryan Briones told The Los Angeles Times that Navy investigators had interrogated him twice in Iraq and wanted to know whether bodies had been tampered with. He turned over his digital camera but did not know what happened to it after that.

Susie Briones called the November 19 incident a "massacre" and said the military had done little to help her son, who goes by his middle name, deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I know Ryan is going through some major trauma right now," said Susie Briones, 40. "It was very traumatic for all of the soldiers involved with this thing."


Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on CBS' The Early Show that "it would be premature for me to judge" the situation.

But he added that it was critically important to make the point that if certain service members were responsible for an atrocity, they "have not performed their duty the way that 99.9% of their fellow Marines have".

Briones' best friend, Lance Corporal Miguel "TJ" Terrazas, had been killed the day of the attack by the roadside bomb, his mother said. He was still grieving when he was sent in to clean up the bodies of the Iraqi civilians.

One was a little girl who had been shot in the head, Susie Briones said. "He had to carry that little girl's body," she said, "and her head was blown off and her brain splattered on his boots."

The Wrights declined to say whether their son witnessed the killings or what he thought of the allegations against other members of his unit.

He was under so much pressure because of the investigation that he had seen a lawyer, they said.

He has also experienced psychological trauma.

Wright and Briones are both recipients of the Purple Heart, given to soldiers wounded in battle.

Wright was injured during an assault on Fallujah in January 2005. He voluntarily rejoined his unit at Camp Pendleton the next month. Briones was on his second tour of duty in Iraq. He received a Purple Heart during his first tour.



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Marine 'Massacre' in al-Haditha: Eye Witness Report

05/29/06
The Times

GRAPHIC accounts of the apparent slaughter of unarmed civilians have been obtained by The Times as Washington braces itself for the results of an investigation into what threatens to be the most damaging military scandal in Iraq.

On Saturday Iman Hassan, a 10-year-old Iraqi girl, told The Times how she had watched US marines kill her mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, four-year-old cousin and two uncles.

Residents in the insurgent stronghold of al-Haditha have now stepped forward to corroborate elements of Iman's story and to describe to The Times the murder of a second family, which included five children, the youngest of whom were two and three years old.

The events threaten to land a major blow to the US military's reputation in Iraq.
An official investigation has already resulted in the removal of Lieutenant-Colonel Jeffrey Chessani, the commanding officer, and Captain Luke McConnell and Captain James Kimber, two company commanders, from their duties in the 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment of the 1st Marine Division.

Three marines are to face criminal charges, including homicide, while nine other marines may also face court martial, according to Pentagon sources.

Fallout from the inquiry, which is expected to be made public next month, is already being felt in Washington and the military establishment in Iraq. One US officer speaking anonymously in Iraq said what happened in al-Haditha was "clearly pretty awful".

In Washington, Congressman John Murtha, a former Marine and a harsh critic of the war, said that the episode might prove to be America's darkest hour in Iraq.

"This is the kind of war you have to win the hearts and minds of the people. And we're set back every time something like this happens. This is worse than Abu Ghraib," he told ABC television.

The trouble started when Marine Corporal Miguel Terrazas, 20, was killed by a roadside bomb on the morning of November 19 last year in alHaditha, where the US military and rebels have clashed regularly since the 2003 invasion.

What ensued is the subject of controversy. At the time the Marines said that 15 civilians were killed in the bombing along with Terrazas.

They later amended their story to say that the civilians had died during a gunbattle between troops and insurgents.

The case was reopened after a video made by a trainee Iraqi journalist was handed to Time magazine in January. The footage showed bloodstains, bullet holes and shrapnel marks inside Iman's home and triggered a US Marine inquiry.

"Who covered it up? Why did they cover it up? Why did they wait so long?" Mr Murtha said.

The latest accounts given to The Times paint a gruesome picture of events on November 19. About a quarter of an hour after the attack on Iman's house, Mohammed Basit, 23, an engineering student, said that he watched as Marines entered the home of his neighbour, Salim Rasif, He peered from a window as the family, including Salim's wife, sister-in-law and their five children, rushed into a bedroom.

"I saw them all gathering in their parents' room, then we heard a bang which was most likely a hand grenade, then we heard shooting," he said.
Fearing for his life, he moved away from the window.

Throughout the next day the Americans cordoned off Salim and Iman's homes, which are located about 20 metres apart. The next night Basit and his father slipped inside Salim's house.

"The blood was everywhere in Salim's bedroom," Basit said. "I saw organs and flesh on the ground and a liver on the bed. Blood splattered the ceiling. The bullet holes were in the walls and in different parts of the house.

"We found an unexploded grenade in the bathroom, which had been set on fire. There was shrapnel and a crater on the floor and the wall of the bathroom."

Later Basit joined relatives and friends who went to al-Haditha mortuary to pick up the bodies of those whom the Marines had killed. The corpses were zipped in plastic bags. "They were all shot, even the kids. They were shot more than one time, mostly in the chest and the head," he claimed.

Salim's daughters - A'isha, 3, Zainab, 2, Noora, 15, and Saba'a, 11 - and his eight-year-old son, Mohammed, were among the dead.

In a separate development, a resident of al-Haditha came forward with an account corroborating the story told by 10-year-old Iman about the murder of her family.

Abdul Basit, 45, Iman's neighbour and cousin, gave details that matched the girl's description of watching her uncle being shot dead.

About 15 minutes after hearing an explosion in Iman's home just 30 metres away, Abdul Basit said that the girl's aunt, Hiba, raced outside crying "they slaughtered them, they slaughtered them" and rushed into Abdul's home.

Congressmen who have been briefed on the investigation expect it to conclude that up to 24 civilians were killed. While the claims are contentious, the US military has not disputed the seriousness of the allegations.

"The bottom line is there was enough evidence presented to warrant a criminal investigation . . . There was enough credibility there to warrant a criminal investigation," said Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson, the US military spokesman in Iraq.

Comment: The U.S. military's reputation in Iraq is a figment of the imagination of the Bush government as disseminated by the mainstream media. Events similar to the one described above have very likely occurred on a fairly regular basis in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet no one gets to hear about them, because, as was reported yesterday, the Bush government places fake stories in the mainstream press.

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Parents: Marines Traumatized by Murder of Unarmed Iraqi Civilians

By JUSTIN M. NORTON
Associated Press
May 30, 2006

HANFORD, Calif. - Family members of two Marines say their sons were ordered to photograph and clean up corpses of unarmed Iraqi civilians that members of their unit are suspected of killing, and they have been traumatized ever since.

In separate interviews with The Associated Press on Monday, the parents of Lance Cpl. Andrew Wright, 20, and Lance Cpl. Roel Ryan Briones, 21, said their sons told them the events of last November remain seared in their memories.

Wright and Briones were members of a Marine unit based at Camp Pendleton that was sent into the western Iraqi city of Haditha to help remove the bodies of as many as two dozen Iraqis, including women and children, who were shot.
While there, the two were ordered to photograph the scene with personal cameras they happened to be carrying the day of the attack, the families said. Briones' mother, Susie, said her son told her he saw the bodies of 23 dead Iraqis that day.

"It was horrific. It was a terrible scene," Susie Briones said in a tearful interview at her home in California's San Joaquin Valley.

Navy investigators confiscated Briones' camera, his mother said. Wright's parents, Patty and Frederick Wright of Novato, declined to comment on what might have happened to the photos their son took but said he turned over all of his information to the Navy.

"He is the Forrest Gump of the military," Frederick Wright said. "He ended up in the spotlight through no fault of his own."

Ryan Briones told the Los Angeles Times that Navy investigators had interrogated him twice in Iraq and they wanted to know whether bodies had been tampered with. He turned over his digital camera but did not know what happened to it after that.

Susie Briones called the Nov. 19 incident a "massacre" and said the military had done little to help her son, who goes by his middle name, deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I know Ryan is going through some major trauma right now," said Susie Briones, 40, an academic adviser at a community college. "It was very traumatic for all of the soldiers involved with this thing."

The details of what happened in Haditha are still murky. What is known is that a bomb rocked a military convoy and left one Marine dead. Marines then shot and killed unarmed civilians in a taxi at the scene and went into two homes and shot other people, according to Rep. John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat and decorated war veteran who has been briefed by military officials.

The incident has sparked two investigations - one into the deadly encounter itself and another into whether it was the subject of a cover-up. The Marine Corps had initially attributed 15 civilian deaths to the car bombing and a firefight with insurgents, eight of whom the Marines reported had been killed.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday on CBS's "The Early Show" that "it would be premature for me to judge" the situation.

But, he added, if certain service members are responsible for an atrocity, they "have not performed their duty the way that 99.9 percent of their fellow Marines have."

Briones' best friend, Lance Cpl. Miguel "T.J." Terrazas, had been killed the day of the attack by the roadside bomb, his mother said. Briones was still grieving when he was sent in to clean up the bodies of the Iraqi civilians.

"He had to carry that little girl's body," she said, "and her head was blown off and her brain splattered on his boots."

The Wrights declined to say whether their son witnessed the killings or what he thought of the allegations against other members of his unit.

Wright and Briones are both recipients of the Purple Heart, given to soldiers wounded in battle.

Wright was injured during an assault on Fallujah in January 2005. He voluntarily rejoined his unit at Camp Pendleton the next month. Briones was on his second tour of duty in Iraq. He received a Purple Heart during his first tour.

On Monday, both Marines were back at Camp Pendleton, near Oceanside, where base officials said several members of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division were being confined during the investigations.

Lt. Lawton King, a Camp Pendleton spokesman, declined to comment Monday.

Sgt. Ian Moore, who was relaxing on the base Monday, said he and other Marines in the battalion were waiting to hear results from the investigations.

"A lot of these things are being played out in the court of public opinion and it's unfair on the Marines," said Moore, who spent time in Haditha on his previous tour in Iraq.



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Two US newsmen killed in Iraq, reporter seriously wounded

AFP
May 30, 2006

WASHINGTON - Two British members of a US news crew were killed and a US reporter was seriously wounded in a car-bomb attack in central Baghdad, raising to 96 the toll of media professionals killed in Iraq.

Paul Douglas, 48, a veteran CBS cameraman, and sound technician James Brolan, 42, died Monday, while US correspondent Kimberly Dozier, 39, sustained serious injuries, CBS News said.

A makeshift bomb in a parked car exploded as the journalists were accompanying a US army patrol in downtown Baghdad.
Also killed in the attack were a US Army captain and an Iraqi interpreter, according to the British Foreign Office.

The three journalists had gotten out of their armored Humvee vehicle while embedded with the US 4th Infantry division to inspect an Iraqi checkpoint. They were wearing the body armor that US forces oblige them to use, CBS said.

Dozier was hit in the lower body and by a piece of shrapnel to the head.

"Doctors successfully removed the shrapnel from her head, and it did not penetrate her brain, so that does not appear to be life threatening. The serious injuries are to her lower body," CBS reporter David Martin said.

US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad said he was "shocked and saddened" by the attack, and visited Dozier in hospital, according to CBS.

"These brave journalists risked their lives to tell the world the story of a courageous people and a proud nation," Kahlizad said.

A military helicopter flew Dozier from the scene to a US military hospital within the nearby Green Zone but she has now been moved to another hospital north of Baghdad.

Dozier underwent further surgery and doctors stabilized her for an airlift to a US military hospital in Germany, to be carried out once it is safe to move her.

CBS said doctors gave a "cautiously optimistic" prognosis.

"This is a devastating loss for CBS News," said president Sean McManus.

"Kimberly, Paul and James were veterans of war coverage who proved their bravery and dedication every single day."

Dozier's relatives were planning to travel to Germany to wait for her transfer there to a military hospital, a family spokesman told CBS late Monday.

Dozier, who has both US and British citizenship, and her London-based team joined a long list of journalists killed and wounded in the Iraq war.

CBS said Dozier has been covering the Iraq war for three years.

From 1996-1998, she anchored BBC Radio World Services "World Update" foreign affairs program.

Douglas had worked for CBS News since the 1990s in
Afghanistan, Pakistan, Rwanda and Bosnia, sharing credit for a 2006 Overseas Press Club award for CBS coverage of the Pakistan earthquake.

Freelancer Brolan had worked for CBS for the past year in Iraq and Afghanistan, the network said.

"James was the best dad, the best husband and the best mate to be with in a tight spot out in the field," Brolan's family said in a statement. He was married with two children ages 12 and 18.

In its 2005 report, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders called Iraq the world's most dangerous country for journalists.

Adding the group's figures to the CBS team, at least 96 reporters, photographers, cameramen and assistants have died since the US-led invasion in March 2003, making it the deadliest war for journalists since World War II.

By comparison, 63 journalists were killed over 20 years of war in Vietnam from 1955-1975.

"The security situation is becoming more and more alarming for the press in Iraq," Reporters Without Borders said in a statement after the attack on the CBS crew.

Noting that six of the journalists killed in the war were embedded with US coalition forces, the international press freedom group said: "Although better protected, embedded journalists are not completely isolated from the dangers."



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Witness: Saddam case built on bribes

Tuesday 30 May 2006, 16:32 Makka Time, 13:32 GMT

A defence witness in Saddam Hussein's trial over the killing of Iraqi Shia villagers has said that many of those allegedly executed are still alive and that the prosecution case has been built on bribes.
The anonymous witness said he was a teenager in al-Dujail in 1982 when an attempt on Saddam's life led to what the prosecution has termed a massive crackdown on the village, which included hundreds of arrests and the execution of 148 men.

"The prosecutor said they were executed, but I am telling you I ate with them some time ago," the witness, who had worked at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison in the mid-1980s, said.

He said 23 of them were alive.

"Many of them have become rich and occupy powerful positions," he said.

As he testified from behind a curtain he wrote down names for the judge.

The lawyer representing Awad al-Bandar said: "If it is true and these people are still alive, this whole case should be reconsidered from the beginning."

It was al-Bandar's revolutionary court that sentenced the men to death in 1984.

Fabricated

Saddam and seven co-defendants are on trial for crimes against humanity stemming from the alleged arrests, torture and execution of al-Dujail villagers as well as the destruction of their property.

The witness also accused Jaafar al-Musawi, the chief prosecutor, of coming to al-Dujail in July 2004 and offering to forge documents.

"Someone came and asked for witnesses, saying the Iranians would thank them and if they don't have the necessary documents, he could forge them," he said.

"This man was prosecutor al-Musawi."

He said that many al-Dujail villagers who went on to testify against Saddam were at that meeting. The prosecutor denied the allegations.

"I just want to clarify this for the records. I was born in Baghdad and I never went to al-Dujail. On July 8, 2004, I wasn't a prosecutor, I had nothing to do with the court," said al-Musawi.

One of the defence lawyers, meanwhile, said a defence witness who testified recently had been killed, a claim that could not be confirmed.

Throughout the trial, the defence has complained that witnesses for the prosecution have been coached and induced to testify.



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The Apache Killing Video

WRH | 19.01.2004 01:48

Video Execution by Apache helicopter in Iraq - video/avi 12M

Video shorter MPEG version - video/mpeg 4.6M

This video has caused a great deal of controversy. Originally shown on ABC TV, it was first shown as an object lesson as to what happens to Iraqi Insurgents who dare show weapons before US forces. However, as time goes on, doubt has begun to surface as to whether the people shown blown to pieces with the 30mm cannon on the Apache were really insurgents, or just harmless farmers.
This is what is known about the tape. It is from the thermographic camera system of an Apache attack helicopter. The image is of heat, not of light. The time of day appears to be midmorning, based on the time display seen on the heads-up display. Military time uses a 24 hour system, there is no "PM" in military clocks.

The vehicle at the far left of the video is a farm tractor, facing away. The engine is running as is evidenced by the hot vertical exhaust tupe and the glowing undercarriage seen in the thermal image. Attached to the rear of the tractor is a plough, and the dirt in the foreground shows clear furrows.

There is a longer version of the tape (which may not play on everyone's computers) that does show one individual taking a long object or objects from his car and taking it over to the vehicle at the far right. It is assumed by those who want to justify the shooting that this object is a missile launcher assembly being discarded. However, one cannot explain why someone who had just fired off an RPG at US troops would bother to put the used launcher into his car, only to them drive someplace else and then discard it. Nor does it make sense that the man would place a weapon over there it is likely to be run over by the tractor and plough, damaging both the weapon and the plough assembly as well. And, given that the man does not in any way point the object at the approaching helicopter, it is clear that at least he does not think it is a working weapon. Given that the object is actually longer than an RPG launcher assembly, three alternative explanations suggest themselves.

1. That the object is a bundle of long handled farm tools being taken over to where the farmers are working with the tractor.
2. That the object is a bundle of thin poles to be driven into the ground ahead of the tractor to give the tractor driver a visible guide to keep the furrows straight.
3. As suggested by a reader, that the object may be part of the plastic pipe irrigation system used in dry climate agriculture.

We can deduce several facts from the video.

From the perspective seen in the video, it is clear that the Apache helicopter is not being threatened. It is hovering, moving slowly forward, and not engaging in any evasive maneuvers which would suggest that the individuals on the ground have threatened the apache in any way.

From the body language of the individuals on the ground, it is clear that they themselves do not feel they are doing anything which should be of concern to a US helicopter hovering nearby. In other words, they do not act like the object thrown into the field near the tractor is anything the US helicopter would object to. No sooner has the man delivered the object to the tractor than he turns and walks back to the car. At no time does he (or anyone else) act like they are trying to escape the area until the Apache opens fire.

From The Geneva Convention 3-1: 1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria

The very FIRST person gunned down was the person who had been driving the tractor. This video records a war crime.



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'US is an expert in killing'

28/05/2006 22:07 - (SA)

Baghdad - Word that United States marines may have killed two dozen Iraqi civilians in "cold-blooded" revenge after an insurgent attack has shocked Americans but many Iraqis shrug it off as a fact of life.

Despite US military denials, many Iraqis believe the killing of civilians at the hands of careless or angry American soldiers is common.
Last week, US officials said charges, including murder, were possible after an investigation into the deaths of Iraqi civilians at Haditha in November. But Iraqi media and politicians are paying scant attention to details leaking out of Washington.

US commentators wonder if Haditha could have a similar effect on public attitudes as the 1968 massacre in Vietnam, but few Iraqi leaders have mentioned the incident.

"We would like an official Iraqi investigation," said an aide to Iraq's human rights minister Wejdan Mikhail.

Leaders of the Sunni minority were more critical but said the Haditha incident is part of a pattern of US behaviour.

"The American soldier has become an expert in killing," said Abdel Salam al- Qubaisy, of the Sunni Muslim Scholars Association.

'There were no warning shots'

He said the US soldiers convicted of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib in 2003 were scapegoats for a wider problem: "This must be considered a war crime and the commanders tried."

In Baghdad, Mohammed Jawdaat, 47, offered a typical view at his store.

Like many in the city, he can recount an incident in which he saw US forces open fire on civilians: "Six months ago a car pulled out of a street towards an American convoy and a soldier just opened fire.

"The driver was shot in the head. There were no warning shots and the Americans didn't even stop."

In the Sunni city of Ramadi, lawyer Abd Mohammed Falah said: "The US forces have committed more crimes against the Iraqi people than appears in the media. The US defence secretary and his generals should be sent to court."

'They assume he is a terrorist'

The Haditha investigation is not complete and no final decisions on charges have been made.

But US politicians have been giving details. One anti-war congressman said marines killed "in cold blood".

Haditha residents have described how two families, including young children and women, were shot dead in their homes after a marine was killed by a roadside bomb on November 19.

The military initially said the bomb had killed the civilians. The emergence of a film of the bodies led to an inquiry by Time magazine, that in turn prompted the probe.

Hamdi Hassan, editor of the Adala newspaper, said civilians were often killed by US troops: "The insurgents attack the Americans and then they hide among the civilians. Then the Americans just open fire everywhere."

Imad Mohammed, who sells newspapers, said he had not seen Haditha on any front page and that it was not news: "The Americans see a Muslim go into a mosque and just assume he is a terrorist.

"They either arrest him or blow it up."



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It's not nice to fool Mother Nature


Race to help Indonesia survivors as quake toll tops 5,400

by Ian Timberlake
AFP
May 30, 3006

BANTUL, Indonesia - Desperate Indonesian quake survivors were still waiting for aid despite pledges help would come fast, as the rising activity of a nearby volcano fuelled fears of an eruption.

The death toll from Saturday's quake in Central Java province rose past 5,400, but the most urgent task was to get help to 200,000 rain-soaked victims, many of whom huddled under makeshift tents for a third night.

Hopes appeared all but lost of finding any more survivors in the ruins after Saturday's 6.3-magnitude temblor.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited survivors camping out near the damaged Prambanan Hindu temple complex and pledged that food and medical aid would reach them soon.

"We are giving priority to the victims -- those who are injured, the sick, those who need surgery and also refugees who lost their homes and other belongings," he told reporters at the compound, a UNESCO heritage site.

"We are prioritising the medical treatments to save as many lives as possible," the president added later as he toured a makeshift camp in hard-hit Klaten district east of ancient Yogyakarta city.

The Indonesian army deployed at least 2,000 soldiers to assist with relief efforts, Army Chief General Joko Santoso said.

Australia ordered more than 80 disaster experts and medical personnel to the worst hit areas around Yogyakarta, in what Foreign Minister Alexander Downer characterised as part of "a hugely expanded emergency response".

The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) expected to ferry in more than 40 tons of supplies on Tuesday, including seven tons of emergency rations and four portable warehouses to store food, spokesman Barry Came told AFP.

Shipments also included tents, blankets, portable water treatment units and generators as aid flowed in from around the world.

The UN set up a coordination centre at Yogyakarta airport to organise the flow of help.

But some victims grumbled relief was too slow and too meagre.

In Klaten and throughout badly-damaged Bantul district, beggars held cardboard boxes daubed with the words, "Asking for aid".

"If we don't, how do we get money?" asked Budi, 18, whose box was empty as he waited for donations with a handful of other young men.

"Yesterday we got 40,000 rupiah (4.35 US dollars)," which villagers spent on cooking oil and food, said Wawan, 28, adding that government aid of three packets of instant noodles per family was not enough.

But the beggars slowed relief efforts as they put chairs, oil drums and stones in the road to slow drivers and ask for money.

A stream of aid trucks was caught in a major traffic jam on the main highway, stretching some 10 kilometres (six miles), the Detikcom online news service reported.

Hospitals were anxiously waiting for more medical staff and supplies to treat the thousands of injured who overflowed from their wards, raising fears of the spread of disease in the wet and poor sanitary conditions.

Indonesia has struggled to cope with the scale of the disaster, as Yudhoyono acknowledged Monday.

The social affairs ministry said 5,427 were confirmed to have died in the quake with some 20,000 injured. The Red Cross said 200,000 were homeless.

Adding to concerns was increased volcanic activity at Mount Merapi, to the north of Yogyakarta, which belched heat clouds and sent trails of lava running down its slopes, heightening fears of an eruption.

Plumes of smoke rose some 900 metres (3,000 feet) into the air -- nearly double the height of the previous day -- and the area remained on high alert.

Scientists have warned that although the magma flow which forms a dome at the peak appeared to be weakening, the structure may collapse and spew out millions of cubic metres of rock and lava.

"Theoretically as well as statistically, there is a very large possibility that tectonic activities trigger or increase volcanic activities," Syamsulrizal, who works at Indonesia's national vulcanology office, told AFP.

The quake was Indonesia's third major disaster in 18 months, following the tsunami that killed 168,000 in Sumatra and another quake that killed more than 600 people in Nias last year.



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Where the buffalo roam a sore topic in Montana

By Laura Zuckerman
Reuters
Mon May 29, 2006

WISDOM, Montana - Buffalo once thundered across this vast river valley in southwest Montana but now the only evidence of the animal that symbolizes the untamed American West is its image on a national park sign.

By the late 19th century, the systematic hunting of American buffalo, or bison, had cut their numbers from the millions to the dozens. Today, domesticated buffalo are commercially ranched throughout the West, but the nation's only wild herd of purebred bison is at Yellowstone National Park.

Now the herd is again at the center of a controversy because it harbors brucellosis, a disease that can cause stillbirths in cows.
Nearly one in five -- 947 -- of the bison herd were sent to slaughter this winter for fleeing Yellowstone's snow-covered high country for food outside the park in Montana where cattle graze.

Bison advocates are outraged by the slaughter, which is authorized under an agreement between Yellowstone National Park and Montana's Department of Livestock. But Montana ranchers say the buffalo endanger the state's prized brucellosis-free status, which allows producers to ship their cattle across state lines without testing.

Fresh on the heels of Montana's first bison hunt in 15 years, Gov. Brian Schweitzer has charged into the debate, aiming to broker a deal between ranchers and buffalo admirers.

Schweitzer wants to expand the range the herd may roam outside Yellowstone National Park and would pay ranchers not to graze their cattle on the same land. He also has proposed increasing hunting permits for buffalo to up to 500 annually from 50 to help cull a Yellowstone herd that last year numbered 4,900, a record high since it was established in the early 1900s.

"I'm trying to come up with a solution that actually makes sense," Schweitzer said.

The rancher-turned-governor is promoting his plan even as a government operation last week to push buffalo back into the park using a helicopter and ATVs stirred fresh discord.

COWBOYS VS NATURALISTS

There is no documented case of brucellosis transmission in the wild from bison to cattle, and most of the animals killed this winter were not tested for the disease. Elk in the Yellowstone area also carry brucellosis, but the popular game animal has not evoked the same ire in Montana's $1 billion livestock industry.

Ranchers want to see bison confined within Yellowstone's unfenced boundaries whatever the cost.

"We need to do whatever it takes in the state of Montana to make sure those (brucellosis) transmissions don't occur," said Jay Bodner of the Montana Stockgrowers Association.

By contrast, the activist Buffalo Field Campaign says Yellowstone's bison herd has already suffered "carnage."

"People should be very disturbed when the government comes in and starts executing wildlife," said Buffalo Field Campaign board member Scott Frazier.

The debate in America is mirrored in Canada, where officials are toying with killing off the 4,500 free-ranging bison at Wood Buffalo National Park because of the beef industry's fears about brucellosis.

Underlying the dispute about the Yellowstone herd is a perennial debate in the American West about public lands, pitting its cowboy culture against nature lovers.

The conflict is heightening even as tourism is eclipsing ranching as a leading economic engine and newcomers are flocking to the Big Sky State for its scenic beauty and abundant wildlife.

Cattle graze near Yellowstone mostly on federal acreage and Montana's ranchers fear the push to protect the park's bison is a thinly veiled attempt to drive them from that land.

"Some advocacy groups would like to see cattle off public lands and have it only used for wildlife," said Montana Department of Livestock Director Marc Bridges.

Bison advocates say the country's last wild herd cannot afford to be lost.

"But maybe the public would rather have snowmobiles in the park rather than bison," said wildlife biologist Mary Meagher, a critic of the bison-management plan who worked with the Yellowstone herd for 35 years.



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China's longest river "cancerous" with pollution

Reuters
Tue May 30, 2006

BEIJING - China's longest river is "cancerous" with pollution and rapidly dying, threatening drinking water supplies in 186 cities along its banks, state media said on Tuesday.

Chinese environmental experts fear worsening pollution could kill the Yangtze river within five years, Xinhua news agency said, calling for an urgent clean-up.
"Many officials think the pollution is nothing for the Yangtze," Xinhua quoted Yuan Aiguo, a professor with the China University of Geosciences, as saying.

"But the pollution is actually very serious," it added, warning that experts considered it "cancerous.""

Industrial waste and sewage, agricultural pollution and shipping discharges were to blame for the river's declining health, experts said.

The river, the third longest in the world after the Nile and the Amazon, runs from remote far west Qinghai and Tibet through 186 cities including Chongqing, Wuhan and Nanjing and empties into the sea at Shanghai.

It absorbed more than 40 percent of the country's waste water, 80 percent of it untreated, said Lu Jianjian, from East China Normal University.

"As the river is the only source of drinking water in Shanghai, it has been a great challenge for Shanghai to get clean water," Xinhua quoted him as saying.

China is facing a severe water crisis -- 300 million people do not have access to drinkable water -- and the government has been spending heavily to clean major waterways like the Yellow, Huaihe and Yangtze rivers.

But those clean-up campaigns have made limited progress because of spotty regional enforcement. Toxic spills are common, the worst recently being in the Songhua river in the northeast which led to the taps of Harbin being turned off for days.

Despite immediate concerns for the cities along its banks, the Yangtze, along with the Yellow river, is earmarked for China's ambitious South-North water diversion scheme -- a plan to pump water from southern waterways to the parched north.

But environmentalists fear that unless local governments and industries start getting serious about cutting pollution, most of the water shipped north will not be fit to drink.

Most of the Yellow River, the second-longest in China and the cradle of early Chinese civilisation, is so polluted it is not safe for drinking or swimming, Xinhua news agency said in May last year.



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Mount St. Helens shoots steam into air

AP
Tue May 30, 2006

VANCOUVER, Wash. - Mount St. Helens shot a steam and ash plume at least 16,000 feet into the air Monday after a large rockfall from the lava dome in the volcano's crater, scientists said.

Pilots reported the plume rose between 16,000 and 20,000 feet in the air, scientists at the Cascades Volcano Observatory said.

The rockfall coincided with a magnitude 3.1 earthquake shortly after 9 a.m. Monday at the mountain, scientists said. Such events are expected during growth of the lava dome, they said.
"There is no evidence of an explosion associated with this event," the observatory said in a statement.

Clouds obscured the crater at the time.

"We don't know how much steam and how much ash," Cynthia Gardner, scientist in charge at the observatory, told The Columbian. "These are very short-lived events."

Lava has continued to push into the crater - most recently forming a sheer rock fin - since the 8,364-foot mountain reawakened with a drumfire of low-level seismic activity in September 2004.

The crater was formed by the volcano's deadly May 18, 1980, eruption that killed 57 people and blasted about 1,300 feet off the then-9,677-foot peak.



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China deserts eat up arable land: environmentalist

By Lindsay Beck
Reuters
Tue May 30, 2006

BEIJING - A giant dust bowl is forming across northern China, converting swathes of arable land to desert and triggering sandstorms whose impact carries across the Pacific, a leading environmentalist said on Tuesday.

Lester Brown, of the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute, said China was far from arresting the problem he attributed to overgrazing and falling water tables in the country whose landmass is already one-third desert.

"There are huge areas there that were once productive grassland that are now desert," Brown told foreign correspondents. "It represents the largest conversion of productive land to desert anywhere in the world."
China, which is plagued by sandstorms every spring, has embarked on a campaign to plant billions of trees and says it is slowing the rate of desertification, but Brown said the problem was far from under control.

"Here and there are successful pilot projects, but overall we are not anywhere close to arresting this situation. The deserts are expanding," he said.

The number of livestock grazing had mushroomed since China began economic reforms in the late 1970s, and, with little management, the number of sheep and goats jumped to 339 million, compared with about 7 million in the United States.

China has also said the sheer size of its deserts mean it will never completely tame the sandstorms that this spring covered the capital in brown dust, and left skies a murky yellow.

The dust from storms originating in China has in the past been traced all the way to the United States and Canada, Brown said.

Sandstorms were this year exacerbated by droughts across northern and western China, that were also contributing to forest fires raging in Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang that some 20,000 firefighters were struggling to control.

Desertification, which officials at China's State Forestry Administration say is causing direct economic losses of about 54 billion yuan ($6.7 billion) a year, was also not helped by poor management of water, Brown said.

Water tables were diminishing in north China, causing rivers and land to dry out and affecting grain harvests, especially of wheat, which is grown predominantly in the drought-stricken northern provinces.

China plans to pump water from southern rivers to the parched north in a project known as the South-North water diversion scheme, but Brown said he doubted the efficacy of the plan already hampered by pollution and lack of adequate waste treatment.

Floods, mudflows and landslides triggered by days of torrential rain in parts of south China have killed at least nine people in recent days.



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Painful mosquito-borne virus on the rise in India, health officials warn

Last Updated Mon, 29 May 2006 23:34:29 EDT
CBC News

A rare mosquito-borne virus that can cause an extremely painful, debilitating illness is making a comeback in parts of India and the southwest Indian Ocean, say Canadian health officials who are warning people planning to travel to the region.

"We have recognized, at the moment, four confirmed cases of Canadians who have histories of travels to the Indian Ocean area and have come back and been confirmed by antibody testing to have chikungunya," said Harvey Artsob, director of zoonotic diseases at the Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.


In recent months, chikungunya virus has spread from Madagascar and several other islands in the southwest Indian Ocean to the Indian mainland, where hundreds of thousands have been infected.

In some areas, one-third of the population is showing symptoms: They include sudden fever followed by a crippling pain in the joints that can cause patients to curl up. Chikungunya is Swahili for "one who walks bent over."

There is no vaccine or treatment other than painkillers. Chikungunya is rarely fatal, but it has the potential to temporarily incapacitate.

"If you get a quarter or a third of the population infected, it's potentially catastrophic, not only for health care, but also for workforce implications," said Dr. Kevin Kain, a tropical disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital.

Two species of mosquito transmit the virus. The species aren't native to Canada but they do live in the southern United States.

"There is a possibility that this virus could spread and become a problem in other parts of the world, for example in the Americas' more tropical areas," Artsob said.

People who return to Canada with the virus are not a threat to others, health officials note.

They advise anyone planning to travel to the affected areas to protect themselves by wearing long-sleeved clothing and putting mosquito-repelling DEET on exposed skin.



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Sugar maples losing ground to invasive rivals in urban forests

Last Updated Mon, 29 May 2006 17:44:48 EDT
CBC News

The Canadian sugar maple, famed for its syrup and blazing red colour in the fall, is in danger of being crowded out by invasive Norway maples in Montreal, botanists say.

The city's Mount Royal was originally densely wooded by sugar maples, hickories and red oaks, but Norway maples are taking over, according to a census of the trees.
The sugar maple was once the dominant species in the forests of southern Quebec. Norway maples are a more recent addition. The trees were planted on the streets of Montreal and Toronto during efforts to reforest the cities in the 1960s and '70s.

Norway maples are fast-growing, pollution-resistant trees that are now considered an invasive species in the Ontario and the U.S.

The two species look alike for most of the year.

But come fall, sugar maples turn red and orange while Norway maples turn yellow and ochre. That's one reason why the streets of Montreal put on a less-flamboyant show compared with the forests of the Laurentians or the Eastern Townships.

The shift in tree populations was first noticed by people working on Mount Royal.

That led the city to fund a tree census by Prof. Jacques Brisson of the Plant Biology Research Institute and graduate student JoŽlle Midy. They aimed to determine the extent of the problem and to look for long-term solutions.

Among trees 10 years or older, 4,200 sugar maples and 1,200 Norway maples were found. But the ratio reversed in younger trees, with three times as many Norway maples found than sugar maples, the pair said.

Brisson recommends that workers on Mount Royal learn to recognize the two species, so they can remove seedlings of Norway maples.

Another possibility, he said, is to plant young sugar maples to ensure the species will continue to be part of the city's forest 50 years from now.



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Vanuatu volcano's lake turns red

Zeenews.com
Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Wellington (New Zealand), May 29: Volcanologists were puzzled today about why a lake atop a rumbling volcano on the south Pacific island of Ambae has changed color from blue to bright red.

Mount Manaro, one of four volcanoes currently active in the island nation of Vanuatu, has been showing signs of erupting for only the second time in 122 years.
"We are still ... Trying to understand this change of color in the lake from blue to red," Geology and Mines Department Director Esline Garae told the news agencies in a telephone interview from the Vanuatu capital, Port Vila.

She said that two scientists on Ambae Island were monitoring Lake Vui as well as seismic activity on the 1,500-meter Mt Manaro.

"If the change of color ... Comes from new activity in the ground or just chemical change in the lake- these are two things I want to know from those guys before I can say anything" about the danger posed by the volcano, she said.

Mt Manaro last erupted in November 2005, forcing half the island's 10,000 inhabitants to evacuate their villages but causing no injuries. The eruption before that, in 1884, killed scores of villagers.

Three other volcanoes in Vanuatu- Lopevi, Yasur and a two-crater volcano on Ambryn island called Marum and Benbow- have spewed rocks, ash, smoke and steam over the south Pacific island nation in recent weeks.

However, activity has slowed in recent days, Garae said.



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Comoros on alert as volcano simmers

AFP
Tuesday May 30, 2006

Comoros authorities have warned nervous residents in the shadow of the Indian Ocean archipelago's only active volcano to be on alert as lava continues to roil in Mount Karthala's main crater.

Scientists said there was no sign that volcanic activity on the mountain had abated two days after it first spit up smoke and jets of molten rock into its crater, creating eerily glowing red clouds in the night skies over the capital.
"People should be on the alert because any scenario is possible," said police commander Noaufal Boina, head of the Comoros national emergency center.

Vulcanologists said the activity remained confined to the Chahale crater which was not yet threatening to spill over but warned that Mount Karthala could still erupt in earnest with potential threats from lava, ash and poisonous gas.

Hamidou Nassor of the Mount Karthala National Observatory expressed concern about "possible explosions if the magma comes into contact with water."

While eyeing the mountain warily, villagers in the foothills of the volcano remained at home Tuesday and went about business as usual, as did residents of Moroni, just 15 kilometers (nine miles) away.

The 2,361-meter (7,746-foot) volcano on the main island of Grand Comore last erupted in November spewed huge plumes of ash that blanketed the isle and temporarily deprived its 250,000 inhabitants of potable water.

Last April, nearly 10,000 villagers living at the base of the mountain fled their homes after similar emissions of ash sparked widespread fears of drinking water contamination.

Mount Karthala last had a magma eruption in 1977, when lava destroyed the village of Singani, some 20 kilometres south of Moroni, and toxic gas was released into the air but did not cause any deaths.



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Economic War


US oil and gas industry heads into hurricane season still weak

by Russell McCulley
AFP
Sun May 28, 2006

NEW ORLEANS, USA - With exploration and production still struggling to catch up to last year's levels, the US's crucial Gulf of Mexico oil and gas industry is gearing up for what could be another dangerous hurricane season.

Offshore oil production on the US Gulf Coast, which hurricanes Katrina and Rita brought to a halt last year, remains down by about 21 percent from normal capacity, the Minerals Management Service (MMS) reported this month.

About 13 percent of natural gas production is offline, and 3.3 percent of Gulf Coast refinery capacity is not yet operational, the report said.
Government regulators and offshore energy companies, many still reeling from the damage inflicted by the back-to-back storms last August and September, are working to mitigate possible supply disruptions during the 2007 hurricane season, which begins June 1.

"We're evaluating everything that we possibly can in preparation for hurricane season," MMS spokesperson Caryl Fagot told AFP.

Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

this week predicted another unusually active North Atlantic hurricane season, with as many as 16 named tropical storms, four to six of them rising to Category 3 hurricane strength or higher.

On average, six North Atlantic tropical storms become hurricanes every year. In 2005, there were a record-setting 28 named storms and 15 hurricanes.

Katrina and Rita, which devastated the central Gulf Coast, caused between 18 and 31 million dollars in damage to the region's energy infrastructure, according to a
Congressional Budget Office estimate.

"There were significant disruptions, and continue to be significant disruptions," said Michael Kearns, a spokesperson for the National Ocean Industry Association in Washington.

But the 113 offshore platforms destroyed by the storms represent a fraction of the 4,000 platforms in the Gulf, he said, and most of those wrecked were built before 1988, when stricter federal guidelines on platform construction went into effect.

Some newer deepwater platforms suffered extensive damage, however. Shell Exploration and Production Co.'s mammoth Mars platform, which accounts for about five percent of Gulf oil and gas production, resumed limited operations only this month. A company spokesperson said the rig is scheduled to be back to pre-Katrina production levels by the end of June.

Despite ongoing repairs, Kearns said, the offshore industry fared reasonably well last year, especially when compared to the damages coastal refineries sustained.

Flooding and widespread power outages slowed the resumption of business at many refineries, and hundreds of displaced employees are still dealing with housing issues.

"It was the onshore support infrastructure for offshore activity that took the hardest hit during the hurricanes last year," Kearns said.

"So while the platforms themselves may have survived, the people onshore who run them, and the facilities and supply boats and everything along those lines that's necessary to get production going again, took a significant beating last year."

Refinery operators have gone to great lengths to ensure their employees were able to come to work.

"We had a lot of comments saying, 'we never thought we'd have to operate a refinery like an offshore platform, finding housing for people, putting them on boats and in FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Authority) trailers and trying to find day care for their kids'," said refining manager Cindy Gordon of the American Petroleum Institute.

This season, companies are beefing up preparations by stockpiling food and medicine for employees, lining up temporary shelters, establishing multiple forms of communication and getting in place advance inspection teams to assess damage quickly, allowing production to resume sooner.

So far, the threat of a busy hurricane season has had little effect on the energy futures market, said Fadel Gheit, an oil and gas industry analyst with Oppenheimer and Co. A mild winter, coupled with near-record reserves, has kept prices steady, he said.

Gheit said it's impossible to predict how the storm season will affect supply and demand. But there may be more disruptions in production this year as companies throughout the industry, with the memory of Katrina and Rita still fresh, will be quicker to call for evacuations.

"Once you go through an experience of this magnitude like we had last year, I think people are going to be much more careful," he said.



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Stock futures decline; Wal-Mart sales disappoint

By Caroline Valetkevitch
Reuters
May 30, 2006

NEW YORK - U.S. stock futures fell on Tuesday, suggesting a weaker market opening, as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said high energy prices held back May same-store sales and as worries about higher interest rates persisted ahead of key data this week.

Investors are returning from a long holiday weekend, with U.S. market closed on Monday for the Memorial Day holiday.

Wal-Mart on Saturday estimated May sales rose 2.3 percent at its U.S. stores open at least a year, the low end of its forecast, and said sales were held back by steep gasoline and utility prices. The world's biggest retailer had forecast growth in the range of 2 percent to 4 percent.

Minutes from the Federal Reserve's May 10 meeting, which are released on Wednesday, could shed light on whether the campaign of monetary tightening will continue. On Friday, May jobs figures from the Labor Department are expected.
On Tuesday's economic agenda are U.S. consumer confidence figures for May at 10 a.m. and Midwest manufacturing numbers at noon.

"It's going to be an important week in terms of getting a real temperature on the economic outlook," said Arthur Hogan, chief market analyst at Jefferies & Co. "If we get strong economic data throughout the week, I think the market continues its pullback."

S&P 500 futures were down 5 points, below fair value, a mathematical formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract.

Dow Jones industrial average futures were down 39 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures were down 8.75 points.

The dollar declined after British newspaper The Times reported that Don Evans, a possible successor to U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow, was likely to favor a weaker dollar. Evans, a former U.S. commerce secretary, is reportedly under consideration to succeed Snow.

The greenback pared losses after a Wall Street Journal report that President Bush was leaning toward naming Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Henry Paulson to succeed Snow.

In deal news, the chief executive of oil and gas pipeline operator Kinder Morgan, Inc. said that senior management and investors, including a unit of Goldman Sachs, have proposed buying the company for $100 a share and taking it private. Shares of Kinder Morgan rose 22 percent to $103.10 before the opening bell on the Inet electronic brokerage network.

U.S. catalyst maker Engelhard is expected to agree to be bought by German rival BASF, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Economists in a Reuters survey expect a median reading for consumer confidence of 101.1 compared with 109.6 in April. They forecast Chicago Fed Midwest Manufacturing Index for April at 112.2 versus 114.9 in the prior month.

Deutsche Bank lowered its rating on General Motors Corp., according to a MarketWatch report.

On Friday, U.S. stocks rose, ending the week higher after a two-week rout, and the Nasdaq returned to positive territory for the year.



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Las Vegas real estate prices dampen merger talk

By Paritosh Bansal
Reuters
Mon May 29, 2006

NEW YORK - Taking a gamble on Las Vegas is getting expensive these days.

Several casino companies are looking for ways to enter the largest U.S. gambling market, but doing so has become too costly after some pricey deals for Las Vegas properties.

"We were very interested in Las Vegas until the price got so high," Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. Chief Executive James Perry told Reuters in a recent interview. "We don't see ... having an opportunity there in the short term."
Deals such as the buyout of Aztar Corp. by closely held Columbia Sussex Corp. for more than $1.9 billion and the acquisition of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino by Morgans Hotel Group Co. for $770 million sent shivers down the spines of other companies hoping to enter Las Vegas.

Aztar, which owns 34 acres of land on the Las Vegas Strip, saw a fierce two-month bidding war that involved as many as four suitors.

Columbia won. But it could be paying more than $30 million an acre just for the land, the highest price ever for a parcel of that size in Las Vegas, according to Deutsche Bank analyst Marc Falcone.

"The costs are getting to be prohibitive," Penn National Gaming Inc. Chief Executive Peter Carlino said in a recent interview.

"The numbers are out of control over there," Carlino said, referring to the Hard Rock deal. "They are paying way too much for that for our taste."

REAL ESTATE BOOM

A limited amount of available real estate on the Strip, coupled with the ever increasing popularity of the gambling mecca, is helping boost prices.

"Land is not available in that area," said Peter Dunay, chief investment strategist at Leeb Group. "So it is very competitive and very tough."

Things have gotten worse as private companies with deep pockets turn to the gaming industry, which offers stable cash flows and high returns.

"There's a lot of money around right now ... looking for a place to land, and gaming seems to be one of the places they want to go," Perry said.

When shareholders in companies that own casinos in Las Vegas see other deals, they too want more.

Last month, when casino operator Riviera Holdings Corp. agreed to go private in a $211.5 million buyout, one large shareholder opposed the deal, saying it undervalued the company's land on the Las Vegas Strip.

But there is a limit to how much public companies are willing to pay for a piece of the action.

Pinnacle Entertainment Inc., which started the bidding war over Aztar with an initial offer of $38 per share, bowed out of the contest when Columbia bid $54 per share. Ameristar Casinos Inc., another bidder, quit when offers started pushing $50 per share.

VEGAS BECKONS

Still, the lure of Las Vegas is too powerful for companies to completely ignore.

The city offers a stable regulatory environment and its fame as an entertainment destination is so widespread that it affects competition even in regional markets, Calyon Securities analyst Smedes Rose said.

Harrah's Entertainment Inc., the world's largest gaming operator by revenue, promotes its casinos in smaller markets through offers such as discounts at its Las Vegas properties -- a competitive edge that companies such as Pinnacle want.

Having a casino in Las Vegas also boosts the value of a company's brand, Dunay said. "It's a prestige thing to say that I own a casino on the Strip."

Pinnacle, Trump and Penn National all continue to look for ways to get into Las Vegas.

Trump's Perry said he would be open to talking with Morgans Hotel, which would like a partner to run the casino, as well as any other opportunity that may arise.

Penn's Carlino said his company would also continue to look for a point of entry, such as a joint venture.

But he added, "That's going to be tough."



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Bush taps Paulson to replace Snow

By TERENCE HUNT
AP White House Correspondent
May 30, 2006

WASHINGTON - Treasury Secretary John Snow resigned Tuesday, allowing President Bush to nominate Goldman Sachs Chairman Henry M. Paulson Jr. as his replacement - another chapter in the shake-up to revive Bush's troubled presidency.

"He has a lifestime of business experience ... and an ability to explain economic issues in clear terms," Bush said of Paulson in a Rose Garden announcement.
He praised Snow for showing "strong leadership" at Treasury.

Snow, the former head of railroad giant CSX Corp. who has a Ph.D. in economics, has been Treasury secretary since February 2003. His departure has been rumored for more than a year.

Paulson has been chairman of Goldman Sachs for about eight years. It is considered one of the premier financial firms on Wall Street and has sent a number of its top executives to high positions in Washington.

Robert Rubin, one of Paulson's predecessors, served as Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, and Jon Corzine, another Goldman Sachs chairman, served as a U.S. senator from New Jersey and is now governor of that state.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of the Senate Finance Committee, said he talked to Paulson on Tuesday morning and praised Bush's selection to be the new Treasury secretary.

"His experience, intelligence and deep understanding of national and global economic issues make him the best pick America could have hoped for," Schumer said. The senator said he would support the nomination.

Speculation that Paulson would take over from Snow increased after Bush shook up his White House staff earlier this year, replacing Andrew Card as his chief of staff with Joshua Bolten, a former Goldman Sachs executive who had worked with Paulson.

Card's departure was followed by a string of other personnel moves as Bush sought to reinvigorate his presidency, mired in the lowest approval ratings since he took office in 2001. Among other changes, Bush forced out CIA chief Porter Goss, trimmed the portfolio of political adviser Karl Rove and replaced press secretary Scott McClellan.

Snow has called Paulson "a very able executive, a friend of mine."

Paulson is also a millionaire many times over. Last year, the Goldman Sachs group said it paid Paulson $30 million in total compensation in 2004 - almost a 40 percent gain from the year before.

In tapping Paulson for the Treasury job, the administration is seeking a more effective spokesman to tout Bush's economic accomplishments of low unemployment and solid economic growth.

White House officials believed that a Wall Street executive with Paulson's talents could better make the case for the administration's economic program.

Paulson is leaving Goldman Sachs at a time when its stock is trading at historic highs and with his chosen successor, Lloyd C. Blankfein, ready to take over.

Paulson was known on Wall Street for his dedicated support of environmental causes. Earlier this year, he made a gift of $100 million in Goldman stock to a family foundation dedicated to conservation and environmental education. Even after that gift, Paulson has a net worth estimated at more than $500 million.

Paulson, who was known to favor bird-watching in New York's Central Park to playing golf, is chairman of the Nature Conservancy and the chairman emeritus of the Peregrine Fund.

Last year Goldman Sachs donated 680,000 acres in Chile to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Snow has been Treasury secretary since February 2003. He took over for Paul O'Neill, who was forced to resign because of policy disagreements with the White House.

Snow has been a loyal proponent of the administration's economic policies, traveling the country as a salesman for
Social Security reform and an overhaul of the tax code. But his standing suffered as both proposals stalled.

Financial disclosure forms have put Snow's estimated worth at between $43 million and $128 million. Two years ago he acknowledged an error of more than $10 million in his investment portfolio that caused him to lose nearly half a million dollars.



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Oil steady above $71 despite OPEC pledge

By Alex Lawler
Reuters
Tue May 30, 2006

LONDON - Oil held firm above $71 a barrel on Tuesday, despite
OPEC's assurance that it will do all it can to keep consumers well-supplied when it meets later this week.

U.S. crude for July delivery was trading up 36 cents at $71.73 a barrel by 1030 GMT, after a high of $71.77. London Brent crude was up 34 cents at $70.93. Both markets were closed on Monday for holidays.
OPEC President Edmund Daukoru told Reuters on Monday the cartel will probably keep output quotas unchanged at its ministerial meeting in Caracas on Thursday and keep pumping as much as it can to ease concern of a shortage.

Prices are responding to growing tensions between
Iran, OPEC's second largest producer, and the U.S. over Iran's nuclear work, he said. They are also jittery over the forthcoming hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico and new environmental laws on motor fuels in the U.S., he added.

"These are all symptoms of a tight market where small disruptions have a disproportionate response," he said. "It's a crazy countercyclical situation."

Supply losses in Africa's top producer Nigeria and a flow of investor money into commodities are also helping to keep oil within sight of record highs above $75 a barrel hit last month.

Gold edged higher on Tuesday while other metals such as copper were steady.

BUBBLE?

The surge in commodities from aluminum to zinc this year is prompting some analysts to compare the rally with previous booms that ended in bust, such as the dotcom bull run.

"The comparison between the dynamic for commodities today and 2000's dotcom bubble shows numerous similarities," SG analysts Alain Bokobza and Frederic Lasserre said in a note.

"Now, the theme of a bubble does not yet seem dominant for commodities although the market does show more and more signs of nervousness going forward," the note said.

Oil has fallen from a record high of $75.35 reached in April partly on worries that high prices will accelerate inflation and slow growth in demand for oil.

But demand remains robust in China, the world's second largest consumer, calculations based on official data shows.

China's apparent demand climbed 10.8 percent in April from a year earlier, the highest rise since 2004, as a hike in state-set prices encouraged refiners to boost supplies.

OPEC has been pumping more or less flat out for more than a year, though militant attacks in Nigeria have cut back production there by around a quarter.

Concern that the stand-off between Iran and the West could lead to supply disruptions from the world's fourth biggest exporter is also underpinning prices.

Foreign ministers of six major powers are to meet on Thursday in a bid to resolve the crisis, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.



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U.S. Economy: Consumer Confidence Falls By Most Since September

May 30 (Bloomberg)

Consumer confidence in the U.S. fell in May by the most since hurricanes hammered the Gulf Coast last year, posing a risk for spending and the economy.

The Conference Board's confidence index fell to 103.2 from a four-year high of 109.8 in April. The New York-based business group also said the number of people expecting to pay higher prices in the next 12 months rose to the highest since October.
The data point to an environment of slower economic growth and rising inflation expectations that confronts Federal Reserve policy makers as they debate whether to raise interest rates next month. The proportion of consumers expecting their incomes to increase in the next six months fell to the lowest in almost three years, today's survey showed.

The report is "still consistent with positive economic growth, but it suggests slower consumption,'' said Ian Morris, chief U.S. economist at HSBC Securities USA Inc. in New York, who forecast a 103.0 reading. "There's definitely some concern about gas prices and volatility in the stock market, and now there are some indications that the labor market might be weakening a bit.''

The share of consumers who said jobs were plentiful in the Conference Board survey decreased to 28.6 percent in May from 29.4 percent. The percentage who said jobs are hard to find rose to 20.5, the highest this year. The share of people who expect better employment opportunities in the next six months fell to 14.6 percent from 15.4 percent.

The share of consumers planning to buy a home in the next six months fell to 2.8 percent in May, the lowest this year, from 3.1 percent. The proportion who said they plan to buy a car fell to 6 percent from 6.8 percent.

Buying Plans

The number of people who plan to buy a major appliance rose to 33.8 percent in May from 30.4 percent. The May figure matched March's as the highest in almost two years.

The confidence index was expected to fall to 100.9 from 109.6 reported last month, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of 65 economists. Forecasts ranged from 95 to 107.

Optimism about consumers' present situation fell to 132.5 from 136.2 in the prior month. The gauge of expectations for the next six months fell to 83.7, the lowest since October, from 92.3.

The proportion of people surveyed who expect their incomes to rise was 16.6 percent, the lowest since July 2003. The Conference Board surveys 5,000 households, usually by the middle of each month.

Inflation Expectations

Inflation expectations are building as gasoline prices rise. The Conference Board's index of inflation expectations over the next 12 months rose to 5.6 percent in May from 5.3 percent. A year ago, consumers were expecting a 4.8 percent rise.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell 1/8, pushing up the yield 2 basis points to 5.06 percent, at 10:37 a.m. in New York.

"There is some concern among Fed members that if inflation expectations continue to pick up, the rise in inflation could become a little bit more built into the economy, and it could be difficult for the Fed to pull inflation down,'' said Conrad DeQuadros, senior economist at Bear Stearns & Co. in New York.

The price of a gallon of regular-grade gasoline rose to $2.95 a gallon on May 15, according to Energy Department figures. That was the highest since September, when prices rose above $3 a gallon for the first time after Hurricane Katrina disabled energy production on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Declines in the stock market are also sapping optimism, economists said. The Standard & Poor's 500 index has fallen almost 3 percent this month, after it had risen almost 5 percent this year through April.

Consumer Spending

Consumer spending after adjusting for inflation increased 0.1 percent for a second month in April, the smallest back-to- back gain since September-October, the Commerce Department said last week.

Consumer spending growth could be as low as 2 percent this quarter after an increase of 5.2 percent in the first three months of the year, according to Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pennsylvania.

"Based on the uncertain macroeconomic environment, we are cautious about the second half of the year,'' said Kay Krill, chief executive officer of AnnTaylor Stores Corp., the New York- based women's clothing retailer. On a May 19 call with analysts, Kay cited the potential effect of higher gasoline prices and interest rates on consumer spending.

Gasoline prices are causing Americans to cut back on other purchases, according to a recent survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers and UBS Securities.

Housing Market

Rising mortgage rates are slowing home purchases and mortgage refinancing, a source of cash for consumers during the current expansion. The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 6.62 percent last week, the highest in almost four years, Freddie Mac said.

A strong labor market is helping buoy consumers, tempering expectations for a decline in economic growth and spending. The unemployment rate in April was 4.7 percent, matching a four-year low.

"Employment and income trends remain strong, which will continue to provide support for nominal consumption, even if real consumption in the second quarter takes a hit on price gains,'' said Mike Englund, chief economist at Action Economics LLC in Boulder, Colorado.

United Parcel Service Inc., the world's largest package shipper, said May 17 it would spend at least $1 billion and add more than 5,000 jobs to handle growth in air shipments at a Kentucky hub.

Growth Forecast

Economists expect economic growth to slow from the first quarter's 5.3 percent rate as consumer spending and housing demand cool. The economy will grow at a 3.5 percent rate this quarter and at a 3 percent pace in the second half, according to the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg April 28 to May 8.

The University of Michigan said May 26 that its index of consumer sentiment fell to the lowest in seven months in May. Consumers expect the inflation rate to be 4 percent in a year, according to the May Michigan survey, compared with expectations for a 3.3 percent rate in the previous poll.



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Games Over Iran


Iran says will study EU nuclear offer

AFP
May 30, 2006

TEHRAN - Iran signalled it would study European proposals to end a crisis over its nuclear programme, but stuck by its refusal to halt sensitive uranium enrichment work.

"We have to wait and see what kind of proposal will be made. We haven't seen it yet. They have to submit it so it will be studied and we will see how it can be followed up," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters.

Britain, France and Germany are currently putting together a package of trade and other incentives they hope will coax Iran into agreeing to halt uranium enrichment -- work which can be extended to making nuclear weapons.
But Iran insists it only wants to make civilian reactor fuel and that enrichment is a right enshrined by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Asefi repeated that a freeze in fuel cycle work was therefore not on the agenda.

"No, we do not accept any restrictions," the spokesman said.

"Halting or stopping enrichment is not on the agenda. The Islamic republic is continuing its activities. Enrichment is our right."

The United States suspects Iran is trying to acquire nuclear weapons, and the European powers view a freeze of enrichment as the best "objective guarantee" that Iran will not do so.

But Asefi did indicate that Iran may be willing to hold off on industrial-scale enrichment using huge numbers of centrifuges and limit itself to research-scale work -- something the Europeans currently deem too much.

"There are different interpretations on what is a pilot activity. The number of centrifuges is subject to negotiation," he said.

Critics of Iran argue that even a small-scale enrichment facility is too much, given that the concern is that if Iran fully masters the technology it would acquire weapons know-how.

Asefi also praised the stance by permanent UN Security Council members Russia and China, which are resisting a US push for tough sanctions against Iran over the crisis.

"I should thank China and Russia's position in talks. They have shown an independent policy in meetings and publicly," he said.



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Iran Should Cooperate with IAEA China Says

By Daniel Schearf
Beijing
30 May 2006

China has called on Iran to resume full cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The appeal comes two days before the five U.N. Security Council permanent members and Germany meet in Vienna to try to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear programs.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Liu Jianchao on Tuesday said Tehran should cooperate with the U.N.'s nuclear agency, the IAEA, to regain the trust of the international community.

"As a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, Iran enjoys the rights of peaceful use of nuclear energy. But, it should also implement its corresponding obligations and commitments. It is imperative to resume full cooperation with the IAEA to restore the international community's confidence in Iran."

Liu also said China hopes a plan offered by France, Britain, and Germany to resolve the dispute will take into account Iran's requirements for peaceful nuclear energy as well as the international community's concerns about nuclear proliferation.

The plan offers a package of incentives if Iran gives up uranium enrichment activities, and punishment if it refuses.

The foreign ministers of the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany meet Thursday in Vienna to discuss the plan.

Last month Tehran said it had for the first time successfully enriched uranium, a process that can produce material for nuclear weapons.

Tehran says its nuclear research is for peaceful energy purposes, but the United States and other countries say Iran is trying to produce nuclear weapons.

The U.N. Security Council told Iran to suspend uranium enrichment efforts by the end of April, a deadline Tehran ignored. Iran has also refused to allow IAEA inspectors access to all requested nuclear sites.

The U.S. has pushed for sanctions if Tehran refuses to cooperate. However, Russia and China say the conflict should be resolved through negotiation.

Also Tuesday, the Non-Aligned Movement backed Iran over the nuclear standoff. At the end of a two-day meeting in Malaysia, the 116-member bloc affirmed the right of all nations to peaceful nuclear technology and said any attack against peaceful facilities would be a violation of international law.



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Fighting Back


EU court scraps passenger data transfers to US

AFP
May 30, 2006

LUXEMBOURG - The European Union's top court scrapped a controversial EU decision approving the transfer of personal data about European air passengers to US authorities.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the decision to approve the data transfers, taken in May 2005 by EU governments and the European Commission, was "founded on an inappropriate legal basis".
The EU decision was blasted by civil liberties groups at the time, but the court did not rule on whether people's privacy was being invaded. In November, a top EU official rejected claims that the privacy of passengers had been violated.

The agreement between Brussels and Washington came as part of the security clampdown from the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

Under it, airlines would be obliged to provide the US authorities with up to 39 pieces of data on passengers and crew -- including credit card information, addresses and telephone numbers -- 15 minutes before a flight's departure.

The appeal to the ECJ was brought by the European Parliament. The former president of the assembly, Pat Cox, said he believed that passengers' rights were being infringed by the transfers.

However the decision ruffled many feathers at the parliament because the assembly had been excluded from the process.

The Luxembourg-based top EU court gave the EU and the United States until September 30 to negotiate a new agreement. The data transfers can continue until then.



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75 Guantanamo detainees join hunger strike

www.chinaview.cn 2006-05-30 12:47:46

WASHINGTON, May 29 (Xinhua) -- The number of hunger strikers in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay in southeastern Cuba, had grown substantially on Monday, a military spokesman said.

A further 75 hunger strikers joined the earlier three who had been refusing food and had been force-fed since last August, said the U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander J.D. Gordon.


Gordon said the hunger strikers aimed to gain media attention to pressure the U.S. to release detainees held there as enemy combatants.

As many as 74 of the new hunger striking prisoners were refusing food but accepting liquids, while one had been required to be fed by a forced-feeding system, added Gordon, noting that the system was safe and humane.

The U.S. military currently holds some 500 detainees at Guantanamo, most of whom were captured in Afghanistan, with many having been held for nearly four years without charges.



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Creating Chaos in France


Youth armed with sticks battle police in Paris suburb

MONTFERMEIL, France, May 30, 2006 (AFP)

Around 100 youths armed with sticks and baseball bats clashed with police in a Paris suburb early Tuesday, in the worst such violence since the riots of last November, police said.

Youths attacked the mayor's home in Montfermeil, east of Paris, at around 10:30pm Monday, shaking its gates and hurling stones at the windows before facing off with police who responded with rubber bullets.
Youths also attacked the town hall, shattering its glass facade with stones and throwing Molotov cocktails which failed to ignite, and set fire to four cars and a large number of garbage bins.

Some 250 police officers were deployed to tackle the violence as it spread to the nearby Bosquets housing estate, where gangs of masked youths clashed with police for more than four hours.

Seven police officers were slightly injured by projectiles and three youths arrested in the violence, with calm returning at around 2:30 am Tuesday. At daybreak Tuesday, the streets of the Bosquets estate were strewn with stones, broken glass and the smouldering remains of burnt garbage.

Trouble was also reported in the neighbouring suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois - where last autumn's riots started following the electrocution of two teenagers who believed they were being chased by police.

Around 60 youths were involved in clashes with police in the Chene estate in the town.

The Montfermeil area has been tense since the centre-right mayor Xavier Lemoine in April adopted tough anti-delinquency measures, which notably ban gatherings of more than three youths in the town centre.

The mayor and his family have been targeted by local youths before over the measures and Lemoine was given police protection after his residence was stoned in late April.

"Tonight's violence showed that the lives of my family and my seven children are in danger," he said Tuesday.

A member of Lemoine's office said however that Monday's trouble was sparked by the arrest of a youth accused of assaulting a bus driver and was not directly linked to the mayor's anti-riot measures.

He said the mayor witnessed the assault and helped identified the suspect, who was arrested on Monday, sparking a stand-off between youths and the police.

Run-down estates in Clichy-sous-Bois and Montfermeil were the epicentre of the three weeks of rioting that broke out last autumn, spreading at one point to 300 low-income areas across the country.

Some 10,000 cars and 200 public buildings were torched in the frenzy of violence, leading to more than 5,000 arrests and 400 jail convictions.

The riots, which mainly involved French youths of Arab and African origin, laid bare the problems of poverty and ethnic discrimination faced by many in France's ghetto-like suburban estates.

Following the unrest, the centre-right government promised a string of measures to fight discrimination and improve access to education, jobs and housing for residents of the riot-hit areas.

Despite the government's action, however, more than four in five French people said in January they feared the riots could flare up again.



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Clearstream's 'poison pen' questioned by police

PARIS, May 30, 2006 (AFP)

A former EADS executive and ally of the French prime minister who has admitted to launching the dirty tricks scandal rocking the centre-right government was Tuesday taken into custody for questioning over the affair.

Jean-Louis Gergorin arrived early Tuesday morning at the offices of the national fraud squad DNIF in Nanterre west of Paris, where he was immediately placed in custody - allowing police to question him for up to 48 hours.
Gergorin has admitted that it was he who sent a judge a list of alleged account-holders at the Clearstream bank of Luxembourg, sparking a complex scandal that has embroiled the centre-right government.

The 60-year-old industrialist and foreign affairs expert - a former associate of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin - resigned this month as a vice-president of the European defence company EADS to devote himself to his defence.

The Clearstream letters named a string of French businessmen and politicians including Villepin's arch-rival Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy as having received illegal commissions via the bank.

Though the claims turned out to be false, Sarkozy believes he was the victim of a smear campaign ahead of the 2007 presidential elections in which he is a leading candidate.

Gergorin - who denies having fabricated the lists - told Le Figaro newspaper he believed them to have a "high probability of accuracy" and turned them over to ensure they would be investigated.

Police are expected to press Gergorin to reveal the identity of the "secret source" who he says provided him with the data.

His lawyer told AFP Monday he was "glad to be able to explain himself at last, as he had requested" over the affair.

After 48 hours Gergorin - who has been questioned twice before as a witness in the affair, his home and offices searched - could be placed under judicial investigation on charges of defamation.

The Clearstream letters - sent in 2004 to a French judge investigating illegal commissions paid in the sale of French warships to Taiwan - sparked a complex scandal which escalated last month into an affair of state.

A string of judicial leaks to the media fuelled weeks of claims and counterclaims exposing the fratricidal battle between the government's two top figures, Villepin and Sarkozy.

Villepin had to fight off calls for his resignation after being accused of asking a spy chief - on Chirac's orders - to secretly check whether the claims against Sarkozy were true. Both Chirac and Villepin deny the accusation.

Retired spymaster Philippe Rondot - whose leaked testimony has implicated both the president and prime minister - was escorted by police before investigating magistrates last Monday but refused to answer their questions.

Both he and Gergorin are being questioned as part of a defamation investigation seeking to pin down the true author of the claims. Given the complexity of the case, the probe is expected to last three to four years.

Whatever the outcome, however, the Clearstream scandal has already badly damaged the centre-right, boosting the chances of the opposition socialists and the far-right National Front a year ahead of presidential elections.



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Latin America


Bolivian president thanks Chirac for support for gas nationalization

www.chinaview.cn 2006-05-30 10:42:50

LIMA, May 29 (Xinhua) -- Bolivian President Evo Morales thanked his French counterpart Jacques Chirac on Monday for his support for Bolivia's nationalization of fossil fuel resources, and invited him to visit the opening of the Constituent Assembly, reports reaching here said.

During a visit to Chile on Friday, Chirac expressed his supportfor the nationalization, saying he had a lot of respect for Morales, who "had restored honor to a people which had been deprived of it for centuries."
The French president added that if he were invited, he would attend the opening of the Assembly on Aug. 6 in Sucre, Bolivia's constitutional capital.

Morales said this is the reason why he made a public invitation to Chirac.

He said he had also invited leaders from Latin America, Europe,Asia and Africa, because "we are betting on a deep change in the democracy, that is to say a change for the peaceful path."

The Constituent Assembly is one of Morales's key election promises. Bolivians will choose the members of the Assembly on July 2.



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Peru calls on OAS to rule on Venezuela's interference in election

www.chinaview.cn 2006-05-30 10:56:41

LIMA, May 29 (Xinhua) -- Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo asked the Organization of American States (OAS) on Monday to give a ruling on Venezuela's interference in Peru's election, local media reported.

Toledo called on Lloyd Axworthy, head of the OAS's observer mission in Peru and former Canadian foreign minister, to rule on statements made by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
The Peru-Venezuela diplomatic crisis flared up in March, when Chavez spoke out in favor of Ollanta Humala, who leads the Peru Nationalist Union Party, and against Alan Garcia from the Peru Aprist Party. The two are now the final two candidates for the Peruvian presidency, and due for their final round on June 4.

The two presidents' relationship reached its lowest point when Chavez announced he was resigning from the Andean Community of Nations (CAN), because of free trade deals signed by Peru and Colombia, further claiming that the United States had killed the CAN.

Later, amid an escalating war of words, Peru withdrew its ambassador from Caracas and Venezuela recalled its ambassador fromLima.



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Fortress North America


'Home-grown terrorists' living in Canada: CSIS

Last Updated Mon, 29 May 2006 20:15:19 EDT
CBC News

Canada's spy service is warning of an increasing threat from "home-grown terrorists" already living in communities across the country.

Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) deputy director of operations Jack Hooper made the comments Monday before a Senate defence committee.

He says young Canadians from immigrant backgrounds are becoming radicalized through the internet and are looking for targets at home, not abroad.
"They are virtually indistinguishable from other youth. They blend in very well to our society, they speak our language and they appear to be - to all intents and purposes - well-assimilated," he said.

"[They] look to Canada to execute their targeting."

The men responsible for the 2005 transit bombings in London were from immigrant families, said Hooper.

"I can tell you that all of the circumstances that led to the London transit bombings, to take one example, are resident here now in Canada," he said.

Training camps in Afghanistan produce terrorists, said Hooper, including a Canadian resident who played a key role in an earlier attack.

"The individual who trained the bombers in the August 1998 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi was a former resident of Vancouver who fought in Afghanistan," he said.

That is a good reason for Canadian troops to remain in Afghanistan, he said.

Hooper, who complained about cuts in funding, says it is difficult to properly screen immigrant applicants.

Of the roughly 20,000 from the Pakistani-Afghanistan region, Hooper said CSIS could only vet about "one-tenth."

The Senate committee is looking into Canada's mission in Afghanistan, which has recently been extended two years until 2009. About 2,300 soldiers are currently deployed in the country.



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The war on free press

By Derrick Z. Jackson, Globe Columnist | May 24, 2006

JOURNALISTS. Get the rack ready! Our attorney general is coming for us, snarling like a guard dog at Abu Ghraib.

On Sunday, Alberto Gonzales told ABC's "This Week" that he would consider prosecuting reporters who get their hands on classified information and break news about President Bush's terrorist surveillance program. "There are some statutes on the book which, if you read the language carefully, would seem to indicate that that is a possibility, " Gonzales said, adding at one point, "We have an obligation to enforce those laws."
Asked more specifically if The New York Times should be prosecuted for its initial story on government surveillance without warrants, Gonzales said, "We are engaged now in an investigation about what would be the appropriate course of action."

It is almost funny to see Gonzales scour the statutes to harass journalists. This is the same administration that cannot spell the word law if you spot it the "l" and the "a." It has already set the presidential record in claiming the authority to circumvent the law in more than 750 cases.

Gonzales has been a prime cowboy in circling the wagons against the law. He issued the infamous "torture memo" that advised President Bush to throw the Geneva Convention into the trash can for detainees in the war on terror.

Because the war "is not the traditional clash between nations adhering to the laws of war," Gonzales reasoned to Bush, "in my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions requiring that captured enemy be afforded such things as commissary privileges, script (i.e. advances of monthly pay), athletic uniforms and scientific instruments."

We saw where Gonzales's desire to deny a detainee a trip to the commissary to get a candy bar and some gym clothes got us eventually: Abu Ghraib, the symbol of America's abuse of global statutes.

Gonzales was a prime force in other matters to seal off the Bush White House from accountability when he was White House counsel. He helped the administration block and drag its feet on the release of presidential papers from Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and the papers of John Roberts as he was being considered for the Supreme Court. Gonzales helped to withhold or delay highly classified documents from the president's own 9/11 Commission and from the Government Accountability Office concerning the energy task force of Vice President Dick Cheney.

Bruce Craig, executive director of the National Coalition for History, called the Bush roadblocks on presidential papers "a disaster for history." Gonzales remains in the lead of this disastrous presidency. A few weeks before it was revealed that the administration's phone-record collecting was domestic as well as international, Gonzales was asked at a House hearing if he thought the administration could monitor domestic calls without warrants. His answer was, "I wouldn't rule it out."

Now, we have the FBI trying to get the papers of the late columnist Jack Anderson. We already knew what low regard Bush had for the press before he got into the Oval Office. On the 2000 presidential campaign, he told Cheney, "There's Adam Clymer -- major-league [expletive] from The New York Times." Cheney responded, "Oh yeah, he is, big time."

Six years later, Gonzales's comment, combined with the past, make you wonder when we are going to hear about a Nixonian enemies list. In Richard Nixon's administration, Watergate masterminds actually thought about killing Anderson with LSD, and Attorney General John Mitchell threatened Katharine Graham, the late Washington Post publisher, by saying she would have her breast caught in a wringer.

We have not heard of anything that incredible yet. But there is nothing to suggest that this administration is going to do anything else but sink deeper into secrecy. On Monday, Bush tried to plug the leaks in his plunging popularity over Iraq by saying "Freedom is moving, but it's in incremental steps."

It is impossible to take Bush seriously on that concept when, at home, he is attempting to circumvent Congress and prosecuting one of the most important institutions for free speech. Gonzales told ABC, "I understand very much the role that the press plays in our society, the protection under the First Amendment we want to promote and respect, the right of the press." The actions of Gonzales show how little the Bush administration promotes the rights of the press. With every pronouncement, freedom is disappearing, in incremental steps.



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Are you infected?


Flurry of H5N1 cases in Indonesia draws concern

By Tan Ee Lyn
Reuters
Tue May 30, 2006

JAKARTA - Scientists are worried about a sudden flurry of human bird flu cases in Indonesia, warning that a failure to control the situation may raise the chances of a virus mutation and lead to a pandemic.

However, local experts say all six of the recent infections in humans were probably linked to diseased birds: investigations found that in three cases, the victims fell sick a few days after chickens died in their villages. Three of the six died.

"To me, the most likely cause is H5N1 from animals," said I Nyoman Kandun, director-general of communicable disease control.
Indeed, apart from an 18-year-old and his 10-year-old sister, the four other cases were isolated infections and the victims lived far apart from one another.

For an 18-year-old man from Surabaya in east Java, his work -- sorting feathers in a factory churning out shuttlecocks -- brought him close to possible sources of infection.

And in the case of a 39-year-old man from Jakarta in west Java, he had cleared pigeon feces blocking the roof gutters on his house before falling sick. Pigeons are among the dozens of bird species known to have been infected with H5N1.

Nevertheless, the cases have drawn concern in the scientific community because Indonesia is one of the few places in the world where there has been a steady rise in the number of H5N1 human infections, which is still essentially a disease among birds.

"Of course I am worried, the problem has not improved at all in Indonesia, it's not a good situation. The government and the WHO has to monitor it very closely," said Leo Poon, a microbiologist and H5N1 expert with the University of Hong Kong.

"Surveillance is obviously no good and for such a big country, maybe there should be more education to teach people how to prevent it," he said.

VACCINATIONS MASK VIRUS

Experts say the more entrenched the virus is in people, the greater the chance that it will mutate and learn how to spread efficiently among humans: a necessary precursor to any pandemic.

Soon after the first H5N1 outbreak in chickens in Indonesia in late 2003, the government launched a program to vaccinate chickens with the aim of getting rid of the virus in poultry.

This should logically remove the single biggest, potential source of H5N1 infection for its citizens as many Indonesians live very close to chickens. But that has not happened.

Although the number of chicken deaths from H5N1 has fallen sharply since vaccination began, experts say the virus is now endemic in nearly all of the country's 33 provinces.

Forty-nine people have been infected with the disease and 36 of them have died. Thirty-three of the infections were in 2006.

Bayu Krisnamurthi of the National Committee on Avian Influenza Control and Pandemic Influenza Preparedness said vaccination has helped protect chickens from dying, but not from infection -- and possibly spreading the virus -- a development that is more commonly known as "masking".

"If you vaccinate the chicken, it will survive but the virus is still in the chicken," he said. "Even if you see a healthy chicken, the virus is there."

Such a problem has also been observed in small numbers of chickens in southern China. It is a serious problem because, in the absence of any signs of disease, people are unlikely to take precautions and could therefore be susceptible to infection.

Indonesia's battle with the H5N1 is also made harder because of its massive 1.2 billion to 1.3 billion chicken population.

Chickens roam freely, from the countryside to the heart of its capital, Jakarta, and "backyard chickens" are commonly reared by locals for food and for their livelihood.



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Study: Sexual Desire is in Your Genes

LiveScience.com
Mon May 29, 2006

Your sexual desire or lack thereof could be in your genes, scientists announced today. The discovery might change how psychologists view sexuality.

The researchers found that individual differences in human sexual desire can be attributed to genetic variations. The study is the first to provide data to show that common variations in the sequence of DNA impact on sexual desire, arousal and function, the researchers said.
The scientists, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, examined the DNA of 148 healthy male and female university students and compared the results with questionnaires asking for the students' self-descriptions of their sexual desire, arousal and sexual function. They found a correlation between variants in a gene called the D4 receptor and the students' self-reports on sexuality.

The results suggest that low sexual desire might be a normal biological condition rather than a psychological problem, the researchers say. Further, it might be possible to develop drugs to alter sexual desire based on the new findings.

The research was led by Richard Ebstein and was published in the online version of the journal Molecular Psychiatry.



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UNAIDS head: World is losing HIV fight

By MARGIE MASON
AP Medical Writer
May 30, 2006

JAKARTA, Indonesia - The world continues to lose an ugly battle to HIV/AIDS that shows no sign of letting up after 25 million people have died a quarter-century into the epidemic, the head of the U.N.'s HIV/AIDS joint program said.

"I think we will see a further globalization of the epidemic spreading to every single corner of the planet," UNAIDS head Peter Piot told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Geneva.
UNAIDS on Tuesday was scheduled to launch a 630-page report that takes stock of where the world currently stands with nearly 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS. It documents countries' progress and failures, and projects what must happen to keep some regions from experiencing disaster. The report was set to be released a day ahead of a High Level Meeting on AIDS in New York, a week prior to the 25th anniversary of the first documented AIDS cases on June 5, 1981.

"It won't go away one fine day, and then we wake up and say, 'Oh, AIDS is gone,'" Piot said. "I think we have to start thinking about looking at the next generations. There's an increasing diversity in how the epidemic looks."

Piot said that there is still time to stop it from worsening, but action is needed now on a number of fronts.

"Ultimately, it depends on how the leadership reacts, how the international community will continue to respond and how ready communities are to face the problem," Piot said. "Intervention is very low ... for many critical populations in many countries. We need to really intensify the response to AIDS."

Piot said the picture is not hopeless, with examples of progress in nearly every part of the world. He said Thailand and Uganda were two of the only previous examples where exploding epidemics were curbed, but a handful of other countries, including Kenya and Zimbabwe, are also starting to show promise.

Epidemics are diversifying, Piot said, with some driven by unprotected sex, others by dirty needles and some a combination of the two overlapping each other. Those trends must be identified and targeted.

Currently, about 1.3 million people in poor countries have access to antiretroviral treatment, but about 80 percent still are not receiving drugs.

Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the epicenter of the virus, Piot said. The overall percentage of adults infected in some of the hardest-hit countries continues to climb, with several rates reaching double digits.

"In think in Africa, it is only comparable in demographic terms to the slave trade regarding the impact it has had on the population," Piot said. "In southern Africa, HIV prevalence continues to go up, and they're already the world record."

Piot said that the sheer population of Asia, home to most of the world's population, makes it a potential problem because even small gains in overall per capita infections equal huge numbers - especially in countries like China and India, with over 1 billion people each. More than 5 million people are infected in India alone.

The Asia-Pacific region has 8.3 million people living with the virus, the second-highest after sub-Saharan Africa.

Papua New Guinea, which shares an island north of Australia with Indonesia's easternmost Papua province, has one of the region's worst epidemics in a country plagued by political instability, poverty and rampant sexual violence against women. Piot said it's the only place in the region that resembles an Africa-style epidemic.

Piot said Eastern Europe and Central Asia have become a new front where infections have expanded as people have access to more money and started buying injecting drugs - instead of just shipping them through - from countries like
Afghanistan.

"Absolute numbers are still low, but when you look at the spread of the disease, we know from experience where that leads," Piot said. "The Middle East is the last part of the world where HIV is not spreading rapidly."



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Crushing Palestine


Birds of a feather

By Yossi Sarid

It was an important meeting between two very important people - a president whose time has passed and a prime minister whose time hasn't come yet. What Ehud Olmert will do with his time, and what time will do to Olmert, is something that only time will tell. Because time, as everyone knows, does what the brain keeps us from doing.

Now the political pundits will peck at every crumb that falls from George Bush's mouth, as if he is the one who decides, and not the global and regional reality that decides for him. "Bold ideas," said the president. "Positive ideas," he added for good measure.
I studied at a university in New York for two years before it dawned on me that when people said my remarks were "very interesting," it meant I was laying it on a little too thick. It took a while, but eventually it sank in.

Olmert passed the White House test with flying colors, no question about it. The famous chemistry seems to have been established. And why wouldn't it? Even before he flew off to Washington for this "get-acquainted meeting," as it was called, he gave an interview to The New York Times. "I wake up every morning and say to myself: 'Thank God for America, thank God for George W. Bush, thank God for Condi Rice, the most decent people I can talk with and take counsel with, and get advice and support from,' " he told Steven Erlanger.

Even the correspondent himself was a little uncomfortable with such fulsome praise. It's been so long since America's leaders have heard anything like it. Olmert's remarks were a little over the top, said Erlanger, a little too thick. It's a matter of taste, of course. Olmert must have figured that a bit of flattery never did anyone any harm.

"Condi" instead of "Condoleezza"? That's a way of marking territory with a familiar body odor. It wouldn't have taken much to turn Bush into "Bushy." Such slobbering hasn't been seen in these parts since we stopped licking stamps and envelopes. Happy is the man who gets up every the morning with such prayers of thanks to the good Lord. In the entire universe, I bet there are only handful who feel the way Olmert does.

Massacred Iraqi citizens are not thanking the Lord or praising Bush. American soldiers are not grateful to God and their president. Neither are their families. The genocide victims in Darfur don't wake up in the mornings sighing with happiness and contentment. The thanks of global terror victims, hoping to be rescued from the rising storm, have been cut off in mid-sentence. The torture victims of the CIA in dungeons around the world curse the day they were born and the person who darkened their lives. Those who have been poisoned by pollution and greenhouse emissions pour out their bitterness on the man who has refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol. Refugees of the hurricane in New Orleans, who observe their city from afar and have yet to return, will never forget, or forgive, the damage inflicted by nature and the Bush administration.

Most importantly, 71 percent of American citizens do not share our prime minister's Israeli good cheer. They are sick and tired of their president, they don't trust his judgment and they don't have the same faith in his integrity and good sense that Olmert has. The Americans, the Europeans, the Africans, the denizens of the Middle East, the Russians, the Chinese - none of them want to be pals with this president. None of them want his jinxed blessing. Even the Republicans in the Senate and the House of Representatives are on guard, and keeping their distance as they campaign for election in November.

An interesting question is why Israeli leaders are the ones who feel so at home in the White House. It must be true what they say about birds of a feather flocking together.



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Israeli troops enter Gaza Strip, killing four Islamic Jihad militants

01:29:57 EDT May 30, 2006
SARAH EL DEEB

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Israeli forces entered deep into the Gaza Strip early Tuesday for the first time since Israel's summer withdrawal from the coastal area, battling gunmen and killing four Islamic Jihad militants who planned to fire rockets, the army and Palestinian security officials said.

The troops entered about 3 kilometres into the coastal area, marking a change in the way the army has operated since its withdrawal from Gaza in September. Until now, soldiers have only entered a few metres into Gaza, searching for mines along the border fence, but avoiding operations deep in the coastal area.
On Tuesday, what began as a cross-border clash just after midnight rapidly evolved when the troops hunted down the militants - who the army said were preparing to fire a barrage of homemade rockets at Israeli towns.

Palestinian security officials said the fierce fighting between the militants and Israel's special forces, who were joined at one point by a naval diving unit, lasted about five hours, ending just before dawn. Israel's air force also sent helicopters to back the troops, raining missiles down on the militants.

Although the Palestinian rockets rarely kill anyone, they are a sore point for the army, which has failed in more than five years of fighting with the Palestinians to halt the fire. Since the withdrawal, army officials have repeatedly said that the only way to halt the fire is to re-enter Gaza, something Israel has been reluctant to do.

By Tuesday morning, the troops had left the coastal area, but the army warned it would "continue to act with determination and to employ all means at its disposal to combat terrorists and their infrastructure in order to defend the citizens of Israel."

Violence also erupted in the West Bank early Tuesday, with troops killing three militants in separate incidents in the Nablus area. Two of the militants were from the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a group linked to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Party, and the third belonged to Islamic Jihad.

Islamic Jihad has refused to recognize a truce that has been in effect since February 2005. The group has been responsible for all eight suicide bombings in Israel since then. Israel has hunted down Islamic Jihad leaders in both Gaza and the West Bank, killing some and capturing others.

Meanwhile, Mohammed Abu Teir, a Hamas legislator who was told by Israel Monday that he either had to quit the Palestinian parliament or lose his Jerusalem residency, rejected the ultimatum, saying he planned to appeal to Israel's Supreme Court.

Israeli Interior Minister Ronnie Bar-On issued the ultimatum to four leading Hamas lawmakers from east Jerusalem, Khaled Abu Arafa, the minister of Jerusalem affairs, and lawmakers Abu Teir, Ahmed Abu Atoun and Mahmoud Totach.

"You will either resign or you won't be with us," Bar-On said in a Channel 2 TV interview. "The letters were delivered to them today, and they have 30 days to decide."

The four officials were summoned to accept the ultimatum notices at a Jerusalem police station. All refused to sign the letters and were released, police said.

"How can Israel call itself a democracy and do this?" Abu Teir asked in an interview with Israel Radio on Tuesday. "I am going to court."

Expelling Palestinians from Jerusalem for political reasons is unprecedented. It reflects the new situation caused by the Hamas victory in January parliamentary elections and its formation of a government in March.

Israel has declared the Hamas regime a "hostile entity" and is leading a drive to cut off all funding to the Palestinian Authority, which has led to widespread hardships. Israel, the United States and the European Union list Hama, which is officially sworn to Israel's destruction, as a terrorist organization.

Israel says that according to interim peace accords, the Palestinians are not allowed to conduct political activity in Jerusalem. Abu Teir and his fellow Jerusalem lawmakers have been repeatedly detained by Jerusalem police for political activity in the city.

Residents of east Jerusalem enjoy a wide range of social benefits including pension and health care. Israeli-issued identity cards grant them permanent residency in Jerusalem and freedom of movement throughout Israel.

The special arrangement is part of the conflict over Jerusalem. Israel captured the traditionally Arab sector in the 1967 war and annexed it a few weeks later. Israel offered citizenship to the Palestinians there, but few accepted. Instead, Israel gave the Jerusalem Palestinians blue resident cards almost identical to the ID cards issued to citizens.

Palestinian residents of Jerusalem can vote in municipal elections, but not in the national vote.

Palestinians claim the Arab sector of the city as the capital of the state they hope to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel originally threatened to strip the Hamas legislators of their Jerusalem identity cards in April after the Palestinians' Hamas-led government refused to denounce a suicide bombing outside a Tel Aviv fast food restaurant that killed 11 civilians, including an American teenager, and wounded dozens.



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Hamas govt to pay 40,000 civil servants: PM

www.chinaview.cn 2006-05-30 20:43:24

GAZA, May 30 (Xinhua) -- Palestinian Prime Minister and senior Hamas leader Ismail Haneya announced on Tuesday that about 40,000 government employees would be paid within days.




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Hamas-led cabinet condemns Israeli violence in Gaza

www.chinaview.cn 2006-05-30 19:47:05

RAMALLAH, May 30 (Xinhua) -- The Hamas-led Palestinian government Tuesday condemned the Israeli military operation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as "a serious escalation and crime committed against the Palestinians", which left seven Palestinians dead.

In the West Bank city of Nablus, Israeli soldiers shot dead three Palestinian gunmen, wounded eight and arrested 16 others early Tuesday in ongoing operation, Palestinian medics and witness said.
The slain militants were identified as Tarek Zakaran from the Islamic Jihad (Holy War), Hani Saqqa and Osama Nemery from al-Aqssa Martyrs Brigades, an armed wing of Fatah movement. Meanwhile, at least four Palestinians were killed and 16 others injured late Monday and early Tuesday as an Israeli elite undercover unit entered the northern Gaza Strip for the first time since Israeli pullout last September, Palestinian medics and security sources reported.

PalestineThree Islamic Jihad militants were killed in shootout with the Israeli troops in northern Gaza Strip on their way to launch homemade rockets at southern Israel, security sources said. Israeli soldiers also arrested deputy secretary-general of the Hamas-led cabinet Aziz Kayed from his Ramallah home. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat also denounced the Israeli military escalation on Tuesday.

He told the local radio Voice of Palestine that "the dangerous escalation will only reinforce circle of violence, anarchy and bloodshed."



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Hamas confirms Arab countries ready to mediate between Hamas, Jordan

www.chinaview.cn 2006-05-30 20:56:01

GAZA, May 30 (Xinhua) -- A spokesman of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) confirmed on Tuesday that some Arab countries were willing to mediate between the group and Jordan over allegedly weapons smuggling and attack attempts by Hamas members in Jordan.

Hamas spokesman Moshier al-Masri told reporters in Gaza, "Ithink some Arab countries showed willingness regarding this issue and I don't see there is a big problem for them to go ahead."He also criticized Jordan for "exaggerating the issue", but added that Palestinian Foreign Minister and senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar "was ready to go to Jordan and meet officials there."
Al-Masri's remarks came one day after the Jordanian government announced that some Arab mediators were trying to mediate between Hamas and Jordan over the recent friction.

Last month, Jordan said that it discovered a big weapons cache in the kingdom and arrested more than 20 alleged Hamas activists, accusing them of planning attacks against Jordanian officials, a charge denied by Hamas.

Three of the arrested confessed on the state television that they were recruited by Hamas' leaders in Syria and sent to the kingdom to carry out attacks.

Jordan then put off a scheduled visit by al-Zahar.In a bid to ease the tensions, Jordan has asked Hamas to send a delegation to the kingdom for talks.

Hamas, which calls for Israel's destruction, took control of the Palestinian government in late March after winning the January Palestinian legislative polls by a landslide.



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Psychopaths on Parade


2 dead, 3 hurt in Milwaukee park shooting

AP
Tue May 30, 2006

MILWAUKEE - A man opened fire at a group of people Monday evening at a park packed with Memorial Day picnickers, killing two in the group and wounding three, police said.

The shooting, next to a playground, prompted hundreds of people in South Shore Park on the Lake Michigan shore to scatter, screaming.
Police were looking for the gunman, who argued with the victims at the park about 7:30 p.m., fired shots and fled in a vehicle, police spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz said. Witnesses said they heard at least 10 shots.

Peter Quinones said he saw a man in a white shirt circling the tables where about 10 people were seated, shooting at them with a handgun.

"At point-blank range, he was shooting," Quinones told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "He was so concentrated on that table, it looked like he wanted to wipe out that whole group of people."

A 31-year-old man and a 17-year-old boy were killed, Schwartz said. Two people - a 23-year-old woman and a 34-year-old man - were in serious condition, and a 21-year-old man was treated and released.

Jesus Romero, who was at the park with his family, said about 50 children were on the playground when shots broke out.

"All the parents were scared for their kids," Romero said. "They grabbed them and were running away."



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Anti-war protesters hit with pepper spray

AP
May 30, 2006

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Police fired pepper spray as about 150 anti-war protesters tried to enter the Port of Olympia as part of ongoing demonstrations against the shipment of Army equipment to Iraq.

Protesters chanted "Out of Olympia, Out of Iraq" as they rocked a chain-link gate to the port late Monday, and at least three tried to use wooden boards to pry the gate open, The Olympian newspaper reported. A 50-ton piece of equipment was moved to reinforce the gate on the other side.
Police and sheriff's deputies clad in riot gear fired at least four rounds of pepper spray in an hour after asking the demonstrators several times to stop, authorities said. No one was arrested, but paramedics were dispatched to treat some activists.

Dozens of demonstrators crouched in the port plaza, dousing each other's eyes with water and offering slices of onion to soothe their throats.

"It burned. I couldn't open my eyes for 20 minutes," said Rachel Graham, among those hit. "My face is burning. I dunked my face in water and in Puget Sound."

Activists began watching for a military ship more than a week ago after learning that Stryker vehicles and other Army gear from the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, a 4,000-soldier unit stationed at Fort Lewis, was being shipped to Iraq through the port.

Sixteen people were arrested in three days last week, mostly for pedestrian interference. The vessel arrived in Budd Inlet at the south end of Puget Sound about 7:30 p.m. Monday, accompanied by Coast Guard vessels with large guns to secure the waterway.

"The majority were very peaceful, nonviolent, just exercising their constitutional rights," sheriff's Capt. Bradley Watkins said.

Comment:
"The majority were very peaceful, nonviolent, just exercising their constitutional rights," sheriff's Capt. Bradley Watkins said.
Nevertheless, they were ALL blasted with pepper spray.


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U.S. policy was to shoot Korean refugees

By CHARLES J. HANLEY and MARTHA MENDOZA
Associated Press
Mon May 29, 2006

More than a half-century after hostilities ended in Korea, a document from the war's chaotic early days has come to light - a letter from the U.S. ambassador to Seoul, informing the State Department that American soldiers would shoot refugees approaching their lines.

The letter - dated the day of the Army's mass killing of South Korean refugees at No Gun Ri in 1950 - is the strongest indication yet that such a policy existed for all U.S. forces in Korea, and the first evidence that that policy was known to upper ranks of the U.S. government.

"If refugees do appear from north of US lines they will receive warning shots, and if they then persist in advancing they will be shot," wrote Ambassador John J. Muccio, in his message to Assistant Secretary of State Dean Rusk.
The letter reported on decisions made at a high-level meeting in South Korea on July 25, 1950, the night before the 7th U.S. Cavalry Regiment shot the refugees at No Gun Ri.

Estimates vary on the number of dead at No Gun Ri. American soldiers' estimates ranged from under 100 to "hundreds" dead; Korean survivors say about 400, mostly women and children, were killed at the village 100 miles southeast of Seoul, the South Korean capital. Hundreds more refugees were killed in later, similar episodes, survivors say.

The No Gun Ri killings were documented in a Pulitzer Prize-winning story by The Associated Press in 1999, which prompted a 16-month Pentagon inquiry.

The Pentagon concluded that the No Gun Ri shootings, which lasted three days, were "an unfortunate tragedy" - "not a deliberate killing." It suggested panicky soldiers, acting without orders, opened fire because they feared that an approaching line of families, baggage and farm animals concealed enemy troops.

But Muccio's letter indicates the actions of the 7th Cavalry were consistent with policy, adopted because of concern that North Koreans would infiltrate via refugee columns. And in subsequent months, U.S. commanders repeatedly ordered refugees shot, documents show.

The Muccio letter, declassified in 1982, is discussed in a new book by American historian Sahr Conway-Lanz, who discovered the document at the U.S. National Archives, where the AP also has obtained a copy.

Conway-Lanz, a former Harvard historian and now an archivist of the National Archives' Nixon collection, was awarded the Stuart L. Bernath Award of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations for the article on which the book is based.

"With this additional piece of evidence, the Pentagon report's interpretation (of No Gun Ri) becomes difficult to sustain," Conway-Lanz argues in his book, "Collateral Damage," published this spring by Routledge.

The Army report's own list of sources for the 1999-2001 investigation shows its researchers reviewed the microfilm containing the Muccio letter. But the 300-page report did not mention it.

Asked about this, Pentagon spokeswoman Betsy Weiner would say only that the Army inspector general's report was "an accurate and objective portrayal of the available facts based on 13 months of work."

Said Louis Caldera, who was Army secretary in 2001 and is now University of New Mexico president, "Millions of pages of files were reviewed and it is certainly possible they may have simply missed it."

Ex-journalist Don Oberdorfer, a historian of Korea who served on a team of outside experts who reviewed the investigation, said he did not recall seeing the Muccio message. "I don't know why, since the military claimed to have combed all records from any source."

Muccio noted in his 1950 letter that U.S. commanders feared disguised North Korean soldiers were infiltrating American lines via refugee columns.

As a result, those meeting on the night of July 25, 1950 - top staff officers of the U.S. 8th Army, Muccio's representative Harold J. Noble and South Korean officials - decided on a policy of air-dropping leaflets telling South Korean civilians not to head south toward U.S. defense lines, and of shooting them if they did approach U.S. lines despite warning shots, the ambassador wrote to Rusk.

Rusk, Muccio and Noble, who was embassy first secretary, are all dead. It is not known what action, if any, Rusk and others in Washington may have taken as a result of the letter.

Muccio told Rusk, who later served as U.S. secretary of state during the Vietnam War, that he was writing him "in view of the possibility of repercussions in the United States" from such deadly U.S. tactics.

But the No Gun Ri killings - as well as others in the ensuing months - remained hidden from history until the AP report of 1999, in which ex-soldiers who were at No Gun Ri corroborated the Korean survivors' accounts.

Survivors said U.S. soldiers first forced them from nearby villages on July 25, 1950, and then stopped them in front of U.S. lines the next day, when they were attacked without warning by aircraft as hundreds sat atop a railroad embankment. Troops of the 7th Cavalry followed with ground fire as survivors took shelter under a railroad bridge.

The late Army Col. Robert M. Carroll, a lieutenant at No Gun Ri, said he remembered the order radioed across the warfront on the morning of July 26 to stop refugees from crossing battle lines. "What do you do when you're told nobody comes through?" he said in a 1998 interview. "We had to shoot them to hold them back."

Other soldier witnesses attested to radioed orders to open fire at No Gun Ri.

Since that episode was confirmed in 1999, South Koreans have lodged complaints with the Seoul government about more than 60 other alleged large-scale killings of refugees by the U.S. military in the 1950-53 war.

The Army report of 2001 acknowledged investigators learned of other, unspecified civilian killings, but said these would not be investigated.


Meanwhile, AP research uncovered at least 19 declassified U.S. military documents showing commanders ordered or authorized such killings in 1950-51.

In a statement issued Monday in Seoul, a No Gun Ri survivors group called that episode "a clear war crime," demanded an apology and compensation from the U.S. government, and said the U.S. Congress and the United Nations should conduct investigations. The survivors also said they would file a lawsuit against the Pentagon for alleged manipulation of the earlier probe.

The Army's denial that the killings were ordered is a "deception of No Gun Ri victims and of U.S. citizens who value human rights," said spokesman Chung Koo-do.

Even if infiltrators are present, soldiers need to take "due precautions" to protect civilian lives, said Francois Bugnion, director for international law for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, global authority on the laws of war.

After reviewing the 1950 letter, Bugnion said the standard on war crimes is clear.

"In the case of a deliberate attack directed against civilians identified as such, then this would amount to a violation of the law of armed conflict," he said.

Gary Solis, a West Point expert on war crimes, said the policy described by Muccio clearly "deviates from typical wartime procedures. It's an obvious violation of the bedrock core principle of the law of armed conflict - distinction."

Solis said soldiers always have the right to defend themselves. But "noncombatants are not to be purposely targeted."

But William Eckhardt, lead Army prosecutor in the My Lai atrocities case in Vietnam, sensed "angst, great angst" in the letter because officials worried about what might happen. "If a mob doesn't stop when they're coming at you, you fire over their heads and if they still don't stop you fire at them. Standard procedure," he said.

In South Korea, Yi Mahn-yol, head of the National Institute of Korean History and a member of a government panel on No Gun Ri, said the Muccio letter sheds an entirely new light on a case that "so far has been presented as an accidental incident that didn't involve the command system."

Comment: It took over 50 years for the truth about No gun Ri to be widely known - and yet how many people will simply ignore it now? Makes you wonder how many years it will take for everyone to accept the truth about the attrocities in Iraq...

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Britain becomes largest market of Internet porn business

www.chinaview.cn 2006-05-30 16:22:05

BEIJING, May 30 (Xinhuanet) -- Britain is becoming the fastest growing and largest market in the world for the booming internet adult porn business, with record numbers of people downloading porn from the Internet, said a survey available Tuesday.

According to the survey for the Independent by Nielsen NetRatings, the world-leader in Internet analysis, British Internet surfers look up the word "porn" more than anyone in the English-speaking world.
More than nine million men - almost 40 percent of Britain's male population - used pornographic websites last year, compared with an estimated two million in 2000.

One in four men aged 25 to 49 have visited an adult website last month alone, according to the survey.

The survey also discloses that women are among the fastest growing users of porn on the Internet, with a 30 percent rise from one million to 1,5 million in the past 12 months.

Men and women spend an average 40 minutes each month looking at pornographic websites while half of all couples watch porn on the internet together.

While some specialists welcome the figures, saying they show Britons have a more liberated attitude towards sex, others warn the search for graphic images of sex acts is contributing to relationship break-ups.

Forty percent of couples having problems with their relationships say Internet porn is at least partly to blame, relationship agencies were quoted as saying.

The survey also shows that more than half of all children - about seven million - have encountered porn on the Internet "while looking for something else."



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Wealthy couple guilty of enslaving maid

Friday, May 26, 2006; Posted: 6:55 p.m. EDT (22:55 GMT)

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin (AP) -- A federal jury found a wealthy suburban couple guilty Friday of harboring an illegal immigrant and forcing her to work as their maid for 19 years.

The Filipino national testified during the eight-day trial that she felt like a prisoner in Jefferson and Elnora Calimlim's home.
The couple was found guilty of harboring an illegal immigrant for financial gain, conspiracy to harbor an illegal immigrant for financial gain, forced labor and attempted forced labor.

Their eldest son, 31-year-old Jefferson M. Calimlim, was found guilty of harboring an illegal immigrant, one of three charges against him.

Irma Martinez testified she worked 16 hour days for minimal pay for the couple, physicians who are legal residents of the United States but citizens of the Philippines.

The Calimlims face prison, fines, deportation and forfeiture of their $1.2 million home when sentenced September 15. Their U.S.-born son faces prison and fines.

In closing arguments Thursday in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee, prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed Martinez volunteered to work for five years as a live-in maid and nanny for the Calimlims and their three children.

But prosecutors said Martinez "lost the best years of her life" because she feared imprisonment and deportation if she left the family.

"The defendants stole 19 years of Irma Martinez's life," said Susan French, a prosecutor from the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C. "They stole 19 years of freedom."

She said the couple benefited from Martinez's cheap labor.

Jefferson N. Calimlim's attorney, Tom Brown, told jurors the couple had plenty of money to hire an American worker. He said Elnora Calimlim wanted a Filipino maid because she had one while growing up in the Philippines, and she wanted only to help a fellow Filipino.

Elnora Calimlim testified Martinez earned $150 a month for the first 10 years and $400 a month thereafter. Most of the money went to Martinez's parents, who French said received about $18,000 over the 19 years.

Martinez would have earned about $480,000 over that period had the Calimlims paid her a U.S. minimum wage for her 16-hour days, a U.S. Department of Labor witness testified.



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Odds 'n Ends


Japan approves US troop pullout

by Harumi Ozawa
AFP
May 30, 2006

TOKYO - The Japanese cabinet approved an agreement with Washington to pull 8,000 US troops out of the country but faced renewed domestic criticism that the withdrawal did not go far enough.

The most sweeping move of troops in Japan in decades is part of what the US military calls a worldwide "realignment" to respond to new threats including global terrorism.

The cabinet approved a plan to pull out 8,000 of the more than 40,000 US troops from Japan, shifting them from the southern island of Okinawa to the US territory of Guam.
However, it skirted over intense controversies over both how much it should pay for the move and the status of a key US air base.

The close allies reached the initial realignment deal in October but negotiations dragged on for months amid a dispute over who would shoulder the cost.

Japan agreed in the end to provide 6.09 billion dollars out of the 10.27 billion-dollar bill, which includes building new housing in Guam.

But Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Tuesday that the amount was still open to negotiation.

"We need to research more thoroughly, while the calculation will need more time," Koizumi said. "It's not final yet."

Local media said Japan expedited the cabinet approval so it would take place before Koizumi meets US
President George W. Bush next month on what will likely be his last trip to Washington before stepping down in September.

The cabinet also said Japan had not agreed on the status of Futenma air base, which has long been a source of grievances because of its location in a crowded urban area in Okinawa.

The draft plan called for Futenma's operations to be moved to an existing base in Okinawa, while residents have wanted the air station removed entirely from the province.

"We would like to continue sincere discussions and draw up the details while listening to the demands of local residents," Defense Agency Director-General Fukushiro Nukaga told reporters.

Okinawa Governor Keiichi Inamine criticized the cabinet approval, saying the final plan contradicted assurances given to the province, which hosts half of the US troops in Japan and 75 percent of their facilities.

"The documents we exchanged said that the plan would give substantial consideration to the local bodies but it turned out not to be substantial," Inamine said.

The plan also includes a transfer of 57 more warplanes to the western city of Iwakuni, whose residents overwhelmingly opposed the plan in a symbolic referendum.

"Not only in Okinawa but also in any prefectures, their governors and mayors wouldn't agree (to host US bases) with open arms," Foreign Minister Taro Aso said.

"We need to continue sincere discussions."

US troops are based here under a security alliance after World War II, when Japan was stripped of the right to maintain a military.

Under the realignment, the two nations would also improve their ballistic missile defense capabilities in light of concern about nearby North Korea.

Rear Admiral Charles Leidig Jr, the commander of the US naval forces in the Marianas region which includes Guam, said Monday that the realignment was meant to respond to new threats including global terrorism.

"What's important is if you were to look at where US forces are positioned in the Western Pacific, it's still in the same place at the end of World War II, primarily in Japan, Korea and Okinawa," he said in Saipan.

"What we're doing is reposturing our forces to make sure that they are properly positioned for the next century."



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US plan to hit China led Mao to change course: book

Reuters
May 30, 2006

BEIJING - A secret U.S. plan to attack Chinese nuclear weapons sites more than four decades ago prompted Mao Zedong to temporarily abandon efforts to improve living standards, Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.

Mao moved many factories to mountainous areas in China's remote southwest region to keep them from being hit by U.S. air raids, it said, citing a new book from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government-funded think tank.

The focus of China's 1966-1970 five-year plan shifted from "improving people's livelihood to preparing an all-out war against the 'imperialists,' particularly the United States," according to the authors of "The Research Report on China's 10 Five-Year Plans."
They quoted what they said was a declassified December 14, 1964 document, written by George Rathjens of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, to show that the United States was considering an attack on China's nuclear facilities.

China's first atomic bomb was developed on the plains of the western province of Qinghai and was detonated on October 16, 1964, in the desert of the neighboring region of Xinjiang.

Before learning of the alleged plan, Mao and other Chinese leaders intended to reinvigorate China's sluggish economy, which was marked by chronic shortages of food, clothes and other consumer goods.

"The judgment about the world affairs and the war-scenario consideration made Mao change the consensus-based proposal on enhancing the fragile economy," according to the book.

Mao has been blamed for a series of disastrous blunders, including the 1958 Great Leap Forward in which he urged farmers to abandon their fields to make steel in backyard furnaces in a drive to develop the economy.

In 1966, he launched the Cultural Revolution, whipping the Asian nation into a decade of bloody turmoil and political fervor in a bid to rid the Communist Party of more moderate voices and cement his rule.

An estimated 30 million Chinese died of famine and violent unrest in the 1950s and 1960s. China's government, however, blames much of the death toll on natural disasters.

Although Mao's decision to refocus on the battle against imperialism dealt a blow to the economy, the relocation of factories had an unintended effect in that it laid a solid foundation for current efforts to revitalize the economy in China's far west, Xinhua said.



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Gore in Hay climate change plea

Monday, 29 May 2006, 22:40 GMT 23:40 UK

Former US vice-president Al Gore owned up to failing to get his climate change message across as a politician when he appeared at the Hay Festival.

In his first UK speech on the subject, Mr Gore promised to devote himself to the task of warning people about the impending "planetary emergency".
He appealed to the audience to act to halt the growing crisis.

"I will own up to shortcomings in my ability to communicate," said Mr Gore, who ran against President Bush in 2000.

"But I'm not through with this yet and I am devoting myself to it".

Mr Gore was the key note speaker of the 19th Hay Festival on the mid-Wales border.

Five years ago Bill Clinton spoke at Hay on his many roles in conflict resolution.

But Mr Gore, fresh from an appearance at the Cannes film festival, delivered a starker message that the world was now facing a "danger which could bring the end of civilisation."

A documentary which premiered at Cannes, An Inconvenient Truth, is based on lectures Mr Gore has been delivering about environmental crisis for many years.

He was asked by a member of the Hay Festival audience to run for president again.

But Mr Gore replied: "I honestly believe that the role I can most usefully play is to try to change the minds of the American people...about what this crisis is about."

He said addressing the issues around climate control were "on the agenda in 2000 but was never seen and heard as an issue worthy of the top rank of consideration".

Mr Gore said global warming was seen as an "arcane" issue with more than half the US media denying there was any problem and his opponent "pledged to regulate CO2 - a pledge not broken until after the inauguration".

In a passionate speech, Mr Gore said: "We face a challenge in the conversation of democracy that we must be up to in order to save the climate balance on which our civilisation depends."

He said he believed scientists who said that there may be 10 years remaining to avoid "crossing the point of no return".

"Then does that change you? It should, it's happening on our watch," said the former vice-president.

He said he was "carbon neutral" himself and he tried to offset any plane flight or car journey by "purchasing verifiable reductions in CO2 elsewhere".

He said the only way to bring about the change was "a sea change in the public's understanding and opinion".

"The only way that political leaders of all parties will find the courage for the bold actions that are needed."

Mr Gore was given a standing ovation by the audience whom he begged "to make the changes in your own life to make your part of the solution (to the problem)".

He said: "There are more than enough people here to really change the world.

"I hope that many of you will accept and act on that - so much is at stake."

Comment: For more on this little piece of theatre, please read the editorial "Making Sense of Political Complexity".

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Survey reveals drop in smokers in EU

www.chinaview.cn 2006-05-30 22:08:10

BRUSSELS, May 30 (Xinhua) -- The number of smokers in the European Union(EU) dropped from 33 percent in 2002 to 27 percent in the autumn of 2005, and 80 percent of Europeans would like to see smoking banned in public places.

These are two of the main findings of the European Commission'slatest Eurobarometer survey on tobacco, released on Tuesday to mark World No Tobacco Day on 31 May.
The results of the survey show that the number of people sayingthey have never smoked has risen from 42 percent to 47 percent since 2002.

The number of people who have given up smoking has risen from 19 percent to 22 percent.

Women and young people smoke the least, the report said. The drop in smoking is also most marked among these groups, although there are considerable variations among EU member states.

The survey said 75 percent of people are aware that tobacco smoke can be dangerous for non-smokers and 56 percent of people are in favor of a smoking ban in restaurants.

Support for smoking restrictions is highest in the smoke-free member states, suggesting that approval for smoke-free policies tends to increase following their implementation, the report said.



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