- Signs of the Times for Fri, 07 Jul 2006 -

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Editorial: London Bombings - The Facts Speak For Themselves

Joe Quinn
Signs of the Times

One year ago, on the morning of July 7th 2005, someone detonated four carefully placed bombs in London. Three exploded on London underground trains within 50 seconds of each other at 8.50 am, the first on the sub-surface eastbound Circle Line, the second on the sub-surface westbound Circle Line, a third on the deep-level underground southbound Piccadilly Line. A fourth bomb exploded almost an hour later at 9.47 am on the upper deck of a double decker bus in Tavistock Square. Fifty two innocent British civilians were killed, many of whom had already become seriously disenchanted with the Blair government as evidenced by the massive voter turnaway from the Labour party in the British general elections of March 2005.

Having intially believed that power surges in the underground power grid had caused explosions in power circuits, the British government quickly announced that this was a terrorist attack, and identified four ' home-grown Islamic suicide bombers' from CC camera footage of them allegedly entering Luton train station on the morning of July 7th.

Who Dunnit?

Later on the same day, a claim of responsibility was made by a 'previously unknown group' calling itself 'The Secret Cell of al-Qaida of Jihad in Europe' and posted on an Islamic website. On teh same day, a letter dated June 20th allegedly from Osama bin Laden, was released wherein the al-Qaida leader said that the London bombings were part of a wider al-Qaida summer offensive: A translation of the letter stated:

"Rejoice for it is time to take revenge against the British Zionist Crusader government in retaliation for the massacres Britain is committing in Iraq and Afghanistan. The heroic mujahideen have carried out a blessed raid in London. Britain is now burning with fear, terror and panic in its northern, southern, eastern, and western quarters. We have repeatedly warned the British Government and people. We have fulfilled our promise and carried out our blessed military raid in Britain after our mujahideen exerted strenuous efforts over a long period of time to ensure the success of the raid." etc. etc.

Puppet on a String - 'al-Zawahiri'

Later in September 2005, alleged 'al-Qaeda' deputy leader 'Ayman al-Zawahri', in a videotaped message aired on Arab television station al-Jazeera, stated for the first time that 'al-Qaeda' carried out the 7 July suicide bombings. Interestingly, in the tape, the Mr Magoo of Islamic terrorism stated that the plans to toughen the UK's anti-terror laws in the aftermath of the bombings showed "the dreadful colonial face of Britain". As we have noted in the past, it seems that 'al-qaeda' seems quite content to provide the British government with the justification to institute draconian anti-terror laws while at the same time criticising the British government for introducing those laws.

As mentioned, the claim of responsibility made by the previously unknown 'Secret Cell of al-Qaida of Jihad in Europe' was posted on an Islamic website. A little research turns up the following report from the UK Guardian which states:

"The claim of responsibility for the London attacks was first posted on one of the dozens of Islamic websites that are routinely monitored by western intelligence services.

The statement, under the name of the Secret Organisation of the al-Qaida Jihad in Europe, said: "The heroic mujahideen have carried out a blessed raid in London. Britain is now burning with fear, terror and panic in its northern, southern, eastern and western quarters."

It was posted on an Arabic website, al-qal3ah.com, which is registered by Qalaah Qalaah in Abu Dhabi and hosted by a server in Houston

The Houston company that owns the server has intriguing connections. Everyone’s Internet was founded by brothers Robert and Roy Marsh in 1998 and by 2002 had an income of more than $30m (now about £17m).

Renowned for his charitable work, Roy Marsh counts among his friends President George Bush’s former sister-in-law, Sharon Bush, and the president’s navy secretary"

Despite these admissions of guilt by Islamic groups and 'al-Qaeda', in April 2006, the Observer newspaper published leaked details of the first draft of a forthcoming Home Office report on the bombings, compiled for the then Home Secretary Charles Clarke by a senior civil servant. On May 11th 2005, the Blair government ruled out a full public inquiry into the attacks and instead released a final "narrative" report. The report stated that the attack was planned with a budget of just a few hundred pounds by four men using information from the Internet. While they had visited Pakistan, it was declared that, despire the claims of Osama and al-Zawahiri, there was no direct support or planning by al-Qaeda and that meetings in Pakistan were "ideological, rather than practical."

Sadly, the Balir government's final report failed to address many pertinent details that pose serious questions about the accuracy of the official conclusions about the perpetrators and the nature of the bombings:

High Street Chemist Or High Explosive?

The Blair government claimed that the bombs were crude home-made acetone peroxide-based devices cobbled together on a 'shoestring' budget. However, on July 12th 2005, the Times of London ran a report stating that "a lone bomb-maker using high-grade military explosives is believed to be responsible for building the four devices." The paper also reported that similar components from the explosive devices have been found at all four bombing sites, leading detectives to believe that each of the bombs was the work of one man using materials that "were not home made but sophisticated military explosives, possibly smuggled into Britain from the Balkans." The paper quotes Superintendent Christophe Chaboud, the chief of the French anti-terrorist police, who is in London to help Scotland Yard as saying "The nature of the explosives appears to be military, which is very worrying."

Further confirming that the explosives used were not "home made" by four teenagers, a report in July 2005 from German newspaper Bild am Sonntag as quoted by Israeli daily 'Ynet News' stated:

The terror attack in London last week may be tied to a suicide bombing on Tel Aviv’s beachfront in April 2003, German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported Monday.

According to the paper, Mossad officials informed British security authorities that the explosive material used in the Tel Aviv attack on Mike’s Place pub was apparently also utilized to stage the series of bombings in London on Thursday.

After analyzing the explosive material used in the Mike’s Place attack, the Mossad concluded it was produced in China and later smuggled into Britain, the paper reports. The explosives were apparently stashed by terrorists connected to al-Qaeda who were able to evade raids by British security forces.

According to the newspaper, Mossad Chief Meir Dagan said the explosive in question is very powerful, and “much more lethal than plastic explosives and can be smuggled undetected due to its composition.

The Mossad was also able to determine the substance was developed and produced at the Chinese ZDF arms factory, located about 65 kilometers (about 40 miles) from Beijing, the paper reports.

As a general rule, two-bit terrorist organisations and British teenagers would find it difficult to procure high-grade military explosives from Chinese arms factories that generally confine their business to the world of international arms deals between governments. It is certainly interesting that explosives used in alleged "islamic terror attacks" in London and Israel are being traced to arms factories in China, especially since the UK and Israel both have long-standing arms deals with China, which include such high-grade military explosives.

These facts were ignored by the final British government report on the London bombings, which maintains that the explosives used were manufactured from materials "found in high-street chemists".

Amazing Coincidence?

Amazingly, on the morning of July 7th 2005,a UK-based crisis management firm, Visor Consultants, was running terror drills that simulated bomb attacks at the very same train stations as the actual bombings.

The managing director of Visor Consultants, Peter Power, an ex-Scotland Yard anti-terror branch man, stated on ITN news on July 7th 2005:

POWER: At half past nine this morning we were actually running an exercise for a company of over a thousand people in London based on simultaneous bombs going off precisely at the railway stations where it happened this morning, so I still have the hairs on the back of my neck standing up right now.

HOST: To get this quite straight, you were running an exercise to see how you would cope with this and it happened while you were running the exercise?

POWER: Precisely, and it was about half past nine this morning, we planned this for a company and for obvious reasons I don't want to reveal their name but they're listening and they'll know it. And we had a room full of crisis managers for the first time they'd met and so within five minutes we made a pretty rapid decision that this is the real one and so we went through the correct drills of activating crisis management procedures to jump from slow time to quick time thinking and so on.

Mr. Power refused to name the company that had employed his services to stage the mock terror attack on London underground trains, however, the Visor website states "our clients include one of the top seven companies in the USA and key Departments of the UK Government."

Can it really be a mere coincidence that a crisis management company was running a terror drill that simulated terrorist bombings on the very same London underground trains and stations at the very same time as duplicate real bombings were occurring? Should the fact that the very same coincidence occurred on the morning of September 11th 2001 when FEMA was conducting a simulated bioterrorism attack in New York raise any eyebrows?

What about the fact that on the morning of September 11h 2001, officials at the Chantilly, Va.-based National Reconnaissance Office had planned and was running an exercise in which an errant aircraft crashed into one of its buildings?

The US government called this a "bizarre coincidence". What would you call it? At what point does 'coincidence' become evidence of criminal activity?

On the morning of 9/11, with FEMA, oh so conviniently already on the ground as the attacks occurred, a Mr. Richard Sheirer, in his capacity as Director of the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management, was heavily involved in overseeing the City’s rescue and recovery operations. On departing the office of the Mayor of New York, Giuliani established Giuliani and Partners,a company "dedicated to helping leaders solve critical strategic issues, accelerate growth, and enhance the reputation and brand of their organizations in the context of strongly held values", and other nonsensical business-speak. The important point is that, as a close confidant, Giuliani took Mr Sheirer with him, with Sheirer currently enjoying life as Vice President at Gilliani and Partners. The 'bizarre coincidence' that I want to point out here is that Sheirer, and the abovementioned Visor Consulting director Peter Power, are quite well acquainted with each other and, as of Jan 2005, both were serving on the advisory board of the Canadian Centre for Emergency Preparedness and both Guiliani and Partners and Visor Consulting specialise in security preparedness and mock terror drills.

Coincidences on top of coincidences! But it gets better.

Giuliani and Netanyahu On The Scene

Guess where Rudolf Giuliani just happened to be on the morning of July 7th 2005? Rudy was lounging at the Great Eastern hotel just a few yards from Liverpool street station where one of the bombs went off. In the same Great Eastern hotel where Giuliani was staying, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange just happened to be hosting its economic conference. Guess who the keynote speaker was? Israel's then Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The same guy who, when asked by a news reporter on the afternoon of September 11th 2001 what he thought of the 9/11 attacks, responded:

"It's very good... well, it's not good, but it will generate immediate sympathy for Israel"

As it turned out, Netanyahu never arrived at the Great Eastern Hotel because, as news reports in the days after July 7th informed us, Netanyahu had in fact received a warning from the Israeli embassy, (by way of the British Metropolitan police) that bombings were to occur and that he should stay in his hotel in Mayfair. Again, the official British government report makes no attempt to address how British police knew at least 6 minutes (probably longer) in advance that the bombings were to occur when, 'officially', British authorities were not even aware that they were dealing with bombs, believing that the explosions were the result of a power surge, until the bus bombing one hour after the first train explosion.

CC TV - Close Circuit Or Complete Codswollop?

According to the official government report, the bombers were identified by CC TV images of them arriving at Luton railway station at 07:21 a.m. on 7 July (below)

However, a Sunday Mail report from July 2005 recounted the eyewitness testimony of a survivor of the bus bombing who claimed to have seen Hasib Hussain the alleged bomber:

BUS blast survivor Richard Jones yesterday revealed how he came face-to-face with one of the London bombers. The Scots IT expert got off the doomed double-decker just seconds before it was torn apart in an explosion that killed 13 passengers.

"This young guy kept diving into this bag or whatever he had in front of his feet," he told The Associated Press.

He said the bomber was around 6ft tall, in his mid-twenties, clean-shaven and smartly dressed. The man was wearing hipster-style fawn checked trousers, with exposed designer underwear, and a matching jersey-style top. 'The pants looked very expensive, they were white with a red band on top
... He was standing with his back to me downstairs at the driver's side, which is exactly where the explosion was.

Hasib Hussain is seen on the extreme left in the above image as he entered Luton railway station on July 7th, allegedly on his way to carry out the bus bombing.

Below, he is seen inside the train station:


Compare his clothing with the claims of the eyewitness who said he saw him on the bus.

To date, these are the only images that the British police have released, and they refuse to release further CCTV footage which they claim shows the four 'bombers' emerging on to the concourse at King's Cross where, according to the home office narrative report, they are seen hugging and appear "euphoric".

Indescrutible ID

In an amazing turn of luck, British police claimed that they were able to salvage credit cards and documents from the scenes of the bombings enabling them to quickly identify the bombers. Amid the carnage of twisted metal and bloody body parts, it was claimed that credit cards and other ID were recovered. Two weeks after the bombings, the Pakistani government, for some reason, released a copy of a passport that they claimed belonged to Hasib Hussain and which proved, British authorities claimed, that Hussain (and his fellow bombers) had visited Karachi in Pakistan on 15 July 2004, and that this constituted 'evidence' that they had undergone 'ideological training in Jihad'. However, as reported by the BBC, the passport actually belonged to a very much alive teenage boy living in High Wycombe, north-west of London, also called Hasib Hussain. As the BBC report stated: "evidence showing that all three of the London bombers of Pakistani descent visited Pakistan last year has been thrown into doubt."

These claims of miraculous discoveries of identification of terrorists are strangely similar to the events of 9/11 and the incredible (literally) recovery in the rubble of the WTC towers of a passport belonging to one of the alleged 9/11 hijackers. We are also reminded of the BBC report that, at least four of the alleged 9/11 hijackers were still alive.

Impossible Journeys?

The British government and Metropolitan police claim that the bombers boarded the 7.40am Luton train for Kings Cross (from where it is claimed that they boarded their respective 'bomb trains') The three 'bomb trains' left King's cross station at 08:35, 08:42 and at 08:48.

However, as can be seen from the following official timetable, the 7.40 from Luton was cancelled, as was the 7.46, leaving the bombers with no option but to take the 7.48, which arrived at King's Cross at 8.42, meaning that two of the bombers would not have had enough time to board the trains on which they allegedly detonated their bombs. Of course, the bombers, having arrived at Luton at 7.21am could have taken the 7.24am or the 7.30am trains to King's Cross, but the official Home Office Narrative Report insists that they took the 7.40am. Again, no explanation for this problem has ever been given by British authorities.

Thameslink Trains: Luton to Kings Cross on 7 July 2005
Official Timetable Actual 7 July Timetable
Depart Luton Arrive Kings Cross Platform Departure Time Arrive Kings Cross
7.04 7.40
1 or 3
7.04 (On Time) 7.40 (on time)
7.08 7.56
1 or 3
7.08 (On Time) 8.26 (30 mins late)
7.16 7.48
1 or 3
7.21 (5 minutes late) 8.19 (31 mins late)
7.20 8.08
1 or 3
7.20 (On Time) 8.15 (7 mins late)
7.24 8.00
1 or 3
7.25 8.23 (23 mins late)
7.30 8.04
7.42 (12 minutes late) 8.39 (35 mins late)
7.40 8.16
Cancelled Cancelled
7.46 8.28
Cancelled Cancelled
7.48 8.20
7.56 (8 mins late) 8.42 (22 mins late)
7.56 8.32
Cancelled Cancelled

Bombs That Suck?

Equally absent from the official British government narrative report on the London bombings is any reference to a very disturbing eyewitness report from the Cambridge Evening News from July 2005. Dancer Bruce Lait had just boarded the train at Liverpool Street station on his way to the South Bank for a rehearsal when an explosion occurred:

"We'd been on there for a minute at most and then something happened. It was like a huge electricity surge which knocked us out and burst our eardrums. [...] We were right in the carriage where the bomb was. I was knocked out. I did not know what was going on."

He and Crystal (his dance partner) were helped out of the carriage. As they made their way out, a policeman pointed out where the bomb had been.

"The policeman said 'mind that hole, that's where the bomb was'. The metal was pushed upwards as if the bomb was underneath the train. They seem to think the bomb was left in a bag, but I don't remember anybody being where the bomb was, or any bag."

If someone would kindly explain to me how a bomb in a rucksack on the floor of a train can cause the floor of the train to be blasted inwards, I would truly appreciate it.

For The Love Of Terror

I have written in the past about the counter-insurgency strategy currently being employed by US and British military intelligence agencies in Iraq, where covert attacks on the civilian population of Iraq are being carried out in order to confuse and demoralise the Iraqi population, and the real insurgency that they support, in an attempt to consolidate US government control over the future of the Iraqi nation. It is my opinion that in the 9/11 attacks, and the Madrid and London train bombings, we are witness to the very similar counter-insurgency tactics, only this time they are being used against the American, British, Spanish and wider European and world civilian population.

There is a very clear link between the American and Israeli war in Iraq, Palestine and soon the wider Middle East, and the need for the population of Europe and America to believe in the reality of the 'war on Islamic terror'. The invasion and ongoing occupation of Iraq by American and British forces is, after all, being pursued under the aegis of the very same 'war on Islamic terror'. It is essential therefore for the populations of America and Western Europe to continue to believe in the 'reality' of ' Islamic terrorism' in order for the US, British and Israeli governments to continue to expand their war of aggression in the Middle East and beyond. Given the absence of any real worldwide Islamic terror threat, it has long been understood by these governments that such a threat must be manufactured. In the 9/11, London, Madrid and other alleged Islamic terror attacks, we have evidence of just such a campaign of manufactured Islamic terrorism, and the glaring holes in the official accounts of how and why those attacks occurred provides more than enough evidence to support this thesis.

Forest Gate - Psychological Terror Op

On June 2nd 2006, 250 heavily armed British police descended on a house in East London where, it was alleged, 'Muslim terrorists' were manufacturing chemical weapons to unleash on innocent Londoners. During the raid, which has become know as the 'Forest Gate Raid', one of two brothers living in the house was shot and both were arrested. At a press conference after their release, the brothers (aged 23 and 20) described their ordeal.

When Kahar heard the front door being smashed down, he assumed it was a burglary and left his bedroom to come down stairs, where, at a distance of “two or three feet”, a policeman opened fire without issuing a warning or identifying himself. “We had eye contact and he shot me straight away,” recalled Kahar. The bullet entered his chest and exited through his shoulder, sparing his life by inches. “I was begging him, 'Please, please, I can’t breathe,' and he just kicked me in my face. He kept on saying, 'Shut the fuck up'.... one of the officers slapped me on the face ... I thought that they’re going to either shoot me again, or they’re going to start shooting my brother.”

Koyair, the brother, was also sworn at and beaten. Their elderly mother was dragged out in handcuffs. Their sister, Humeya Kalam, told the BBC, “I heard doors being smashed, windows being broken. I woke up, opened my door and saw a person dressed all in black, gun pointing towards me." Meanwhile, the police raided the house next door, where the residents received similar rough treatment.

In what has become standard policy, the police attempted to smear the two victims by claiming first that Kahar had been shot after he had struggled with officers, then that he had actually been shot by his brother during a scuffle, and then that a police officer had “accidentally” discharged his gun as a result of wearing thick gloves. It was also stated that the brothers had attended militant Islamist demonstrations and that Kahar's wound was superficial. Not surprisingly, all of these were outright lies, and the two brothers were entirely innocent, but even more shocking was the subsequent revelation that the police informant who provided the information that led to the raid, was an "utter incompetent" with an IQ of 69.

Mohammed Abu Bakr Mansha (22) is a friend of the two brothers and had been imprisoned in January for possessing an old address of a decorated British soldier. This was an operation that involved 250 heavily-armed and bio-suited officers in a pre-dawn raid on a London home. Such operations are not sanctioned without meticulous planning, including, in theory, rigorous checking to make sure that the 'target' is a genuine, or likely to be genuine 'terrorist'. Are we to assume that the British 'securocrats' that sanctioned this operation were unaware that, given that the informant was a 22 year old incompetent idiot, any information he might offer should have been treated with serious suspicion, especially if he was being offered early release in exchange for any information on 'terrorists' he could provide, meaning that there was a distinct possibility that the information he provided was bogus, as indeed it turned out to be?

The obvious conclusion here is that the Forest Gate raid was given the green light, not because any faith was placed in the 'tip off' from the incompetent idiot, but rather because it would help to create the 'reality', in the minds of the British population, that Islamic terrorism is a real threat to the world and that the Blair government is justified in introducing further draconian anti-terror laws. After all, if 250 heavily-armed police are kicking in doors and shooting people, then there simply must be a good and justifiable reason for it, right? Well, yes, there is a justifiable reason for it, but it's not any justice that you or I would readily ascribe to, unless of course we were deceived into doing so.

Candy From A Baby

Incompetent half-wits - the FBI wants You For Islamic Terror Opportunities!

We are also reminded of the recent 'Miami Seven' affair in the US, where an undercover FBI agent, posing as an 'al-Qaeda' operative, approached a group of apparently incompetent half-wits living in a warehouse in Florida. The group's name is "the Sea of David' and far from having anything to do with 'Islamic terrorism' they all claimed to be Christians who "trained through the bible". In a perfect example of how agents of the US government are actively attempting to manufacture Islamic terrorism, the undercover FBI agent:

approached the group and asked them if they wanted to join 'al-Qaeda'

'swore one of them in' as an 'al-Qaeda' member

offered them $50,000

provided them with army boots and a video camera

suggested that they might want to blow up some government buildings

suggested that they wanted to blow up the Sears tower

suggested to them that they wanted to wage "full ground war against the United States."

identified that one of them knew what the Sears tower was and had actually been to Chicago - once

All of this was trumpeted in the mainstream press as evidence of an "Islamic terror cell" working out of Florida and planning attacks against the American people. I kid you not, and not once was the most appropriate word used - entrapment

Jihad From Jail

Manfactured Terrorist - 'al-Muhajir'

Arch ex-bogeyman and 'al-Qaeda in Iraq' leader al-Zarqawi was killed in a June 2006 bombing of his safe-house in Iraq. Despite having two 500lb bombs dropped on his head, a picture of his only slightly-blemished face was spread around the world as proof that, not only is the 'war on terror' real, but the US is actively fighting it. Immediately after al-Zarqawi's demise, a successor was needed, so out popped 'Abu Hamza al-Muhajir' who, courtesy of one of Osama's dubious tapes, was lauded as al-Zarqawi's successor and the man to lead the jihad against the occupiers of Iraq. However, the US government hardly had time to slap a $5 million bounty on his head before this newest bubble of fake Islamic terror was unceremoniously popped by an Egyptian lawyer who declared that he had just recently visited 'al-Muhajir' in the Egyptian prison, where he has been languishing for the past seven years.

Now, answer me a couple of questions: Don't you think that 'Osama', if he is all that the US government says he is, would have known that there was slight problem with the new leader of his Jihadi forces in Iraq in prison in the form of him being locked up in an Egyptian cell? Why then would he have announced to the world, via one of his infamous and very suspicious tapes, that an Egyptian jail bird was to spearhead Islamic terror in Iraq and around the world?

All of it stinks folks, but we are dealing with a very particular odour here - I'm getting Langley, Virginia, Thames House, London, and Herzliya, Israel


Stating The Obvious

The facts are clear: there is no such thing as Islamic terrorism in terms of there being a world wide network of terrorists who want to "hurt civilised people everywhere". Any such suggestions should be seen for the clear Nazi party-style government propaganda that they are.

All of this may sound like a joke, albeit a rather sick one, that the US, British and Israeli governments are perpetrating against the global population, but make no mistake, from their point of view, this is no joke - the 200,000 Iraqi civilians and the growing number of Palestinian civilians that have been butchered in the name of the 'war on Islamic terror' is a stark testimony to that fact.

It's time (again) to wake up and stop blithely swallowing government lies and manipulations. Unnecessary and brutal war is being waged in your name and, until now, with your support. How long the killing continues is entirely - 100% - up to you.
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Editorial: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

By Kim Bartley and Donnacha O'Briain

Their film records what was probably history's shortest-lived coup d'état. It's a unique document about political muscle and an extraordinary portrait of the man The Wall Street Journal credits with making Venezuela "Washington's biggest Latin American headache after the old standby, Cuba."

Chavez, elected president of Venezuela in 1988, is a colorful folk hero, beloved by his nation's working class and a tough-as-nails, quixotic opponent to the power structure that would see him deposed. Two independent filmmakers were inside the presidential palace on April 11, 2002, when he was forcibly removed from office [in an apparently CIA-sponsored coup]. They were also present 48 hours later when, remarkably, he returned to power amid cheering aides.

Running Time: 1 Hour 15 Minutes

[Click here to watch]
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Editorial: What would Mark Twain say?

by Terry Ballard
July 6, 2006

For the past decade or so it has been my privilege to be a member of an online discussion devoted to Mark Twain. Most of the time it is a seamless mix of distinguished Twain scholars (including many of the people you saw in the Ken Burns special) and people who simply love Twain's work. Twice in the past 3 years this mix has broken down badly over the issue of the War in Iraq. There is a division here - not of Republican vs. Democrat, but of how these people look at Twain. Group A believes that he was a great author who is worth studying for his art and for his sharp comments on 19th century America. A second group looks at what is going on in the world and keeps hearing the voice of Twain, who authored some of the most incendiary anti-war texts in human history. For those of us on the B team, Twain is talking to us every day and he's fighting mad.

What would Twain think about a war we started against a toothless dictatorship on trumped up charges that he was a threat to the good people of America? Here's a clue from his posthumously published novel "The Mysterious Stranger:"

"Look at you in war -- what mutton you are, and how ridiculous ... There has never been a just one, never an honorable one -- on the part of the instigator of the war. I can see a million years ahead, and this rule will never change in so many as half a dozen instances. The loud little handful -- as usual -- will shout for the war. The pulpit will -- warily and cautiously -- object -- at first; the great, big, dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, "It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it." Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will outshout them, and presently the anti-war audiences will thin out and lose popularity. Before long you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men who in their secret hearts are still at one with those stoned speakers -- as earlier -- but do not dare to say so. And now the whole nation -- pulpit and all -- will take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open. Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception."

Twain never liked the jingoistic style of Teddy Roosevelt. What would he think of a President who gets up to the podium and talks about a war that has killed tens of thousands of innocent civilians, destroyed the infrastructure of a country, killed thousands of Americans, and sent at least 8000 more service men and women home maimed for life - and delivers his message with a condescending smirk on his face.
I think most people can figure out what he'd say if he could only come back and see what has happened to his beloved America.

Twain's father died before he could have any kind of a formal education, but he was self-taught, and maintained a passion for the truth and a hatred for liars. What would Twain have thought of "Truthiness," Karl Rove's Ministry of Truth, or talking points delivered fresh every day by Fox News? Do we have to ask?

Every time Mt. St. Helens starts spewing ash I have a sneaking hunch that Twain is blowing smoke rings and trying to tell us something. Hopefully we'll listen.

Terry Ballard was a native of Phoenix, Arizona until he made a wrong turn in 1990 - he has been living on Long Island ever since. His chief regret in life is that he does not have the option to live on some other planet.

[ Original ]
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Voodoo Economics

Henry Paulson and the Five Circles of Economic Hell

by Robert Freeman
Wednesday, July 5, 2006

In his book, The Divine Comedy: Inferno, Dante describes successive circles of Hell intended for successively villainous sinners. The higher circles punish only minor sins: gluttony; lust; avarice. The deeper circles are reserved for those who have committed more egregious sins: adultery; usury; betrayal. It is the archetypal rendering of the Medieval taxonomy of Punishment.

Our modern world has its own circles of hell. But, as befits a secular society, our schema is tailored to our modern, secular obsession: money. It is just as surely progressive as Dante's Inferno in the depths to which the sinner must descend, but, without the moral freighting that only religion can provide, its punishments are clinical, mundane. They bespeak not shades of Eternal Damnation but, rather, the stages of National Decline.

Henry Paulson, Bush's new Secretary of the Treasury, must soon begin his own dutiful descent into the Depths, if not for his own sins, then as a witness, a voyeur for the sins of his economic brethren. He will quickly pass beyond the stations of Bush's economic transgressions and into the very center of Tribulation. There, in Dante's world, Satan himself lurked. In today's world - but wait! Follow me through Paulson's Ordeal to see what perilous Fate awaits him at the Innermost Circle of Economic Hell.
The First Circle of Economic Hell

"I found myself in a shadowed forest for I had lost the path. That shadowed forest, dense and difficult-death is hardly more severe!"
~ Dante, Divine Comedy: Inferno, Canto I

The First Circle of Economic Hell is the Ephemeral. It is populated with the froth of financial effluvia-the eternally roiling river of numbers concerning all things economic. Inflation. NASDAQ. Interest rates. Unemployment. Exports. Imports. Industrial production. Capacity utilization. Consumer spending. Money supply. Taxes. Commercial vacancies. Blah, blah, blah, ad infinitum.

The Ephemera are always with us, numbing us with their leaden, empirical embrace. Like the box scores in the sports section, they are the white noise that betokens Meaning in a civilization obsessed with quantification. Their message: things can be measured and, therefore, Reality holds.

But the Ephemera are not trending well for the Bush administration. Gasoline prices have soared. Median incomes are flat. Employment growth has stalled. Interest rates are up. Housing starts are down. Deficits are growing. Bankruptcies are rising. Savings have turned negative. The steady drumbeat of negative news has cast an irksome pall on an administration already hobbled by so many other substantive palls.

Still, any economic priest worthy of the mantle can dispatch Ephemera with a few Delphic incantations of "cyclical breathers" and "letting the market work out its hesitations." It is surely not to a man of Paulson's gravitas that we need turn to deal with such flighty matters. Indeed, heavier burdens await him, verily, beckon him, in the Second Circle.

The Second Circle of Economic Hell

"He placed his hand upon my own to comfort me and drew me into the secret sanctum. Such a commotion of groans and wails of woe, I wept myself from sheer bewilderment."
~ Dante, Divine Comedy: Inferno, Canto III

The Second Circle of Economic Hell is the Circle of Monetary Effects. It is concerned with prices and interest rates-the "veil of money" as it was once called. It is on top of this Second Circle that the First Circle of Ephemera rests.

The Monetary Effects were positive influences for the first four years of the Bush administration. Inflation was dormant and interest rates were the lowest in fifty years. These Effects produced a housing boom that turned American homes into clapboard-sided ATM machines. Workers re-financed their homes to carry out a consumption binge far beyond what their faltering incomes could actually support.

But as with the Ephemera of Circle One, the Monetary Effects have recently turned negative. Oil costs more than twice what it did when Bush took office and the effects are coursing through the economy, pushing up the price of everything from trucked-in vegetables to Handi-Wrap. To combat the inflation, the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates seventeen times since the summer of 2004. The combination of higher prices and higher interest rates are killing off the weak recovery that had been one of the few Bush administration bright spots.

Paulson' torment in the Second Circle is to pretend he can do something about it when, in fact, he controls neither prices nor interest rates. The Fed's Ben Bernanke, who does at least control short-term rates, has betrayed an artless determination to raise them in order to constrain inflation. He doesn't say so, but he also has to raise rates to continue to attract foreign buyers for the government's record debt-more of which, in deeper Circles, below.

None of this can be considered Providential for Paulson. The last thing he needs is the stigma of stagflation haunting his nascent tenure. Unfortunately, however, one can't choose one's punishment in Hell, whether Divine or Economic. Bound to his Fate, Paulson must lumber on.

The Third Circle of Economic Hell

"Of strange new torments must my verses tell, so I gazed unflinchingly into the pit, which was awash with anguished tears aplenty."
~ Dante, Divine Comedy: Inferno, Canto XX

The Third Circle of Economic Hell is hotter than the Second. It is the Circle of Fiscal Effects, concerned with transgressions involving taxes, spending, and government debt. On the Fiscal Effects of Circle Three rest the Monetary Effects of Circle Two. It is here that we start to glimpse the true inner workings of Economic Hell.

The problem for Henry Paulson is that the Bush administration has premised the whole of its economic policy on debt-massive debt. Bush inherited a $136 billion budgetary surplus from Bill Clinton but turned it into a $152 billion deficit his first year. He's never looked back. The national debt-the cumulation of all deficits since the founding of the republic-was $5.6 trillion when Bush took office but now approaches $9 trillion, up a breathtaking 50% in only five years.

The causes of this explosion of debt are easy to divine. Bush has relentlessly cut taxes on the rich while expanding federal spending at a rate surpassing even Lyndon Johnson's prodigious profligacy. It has allowed him to play Santa Claus but only by conscripting our children into the economic bondage of the greatest debts in history.

This tsunami of government debt has flooded the world with dollars, debauching the currency and sending the price of oil, gold, and other commodities through the roof. But the inflationary blowback has come to haunt the Bush economy, forcing the Fed to raise interest rates to throttle back economic growth, all noted in the Circle of Monetary Effects, above.

More disquieting, Bush's debts have made the U.S. economy perilously dependent on lending from abroad. Bush has borrowed more money from foreigners than all prior presidents COMBINED. To fund his own record debts, Bush goes, hat in hand, to borrow more than $2 billion a day from the rest of the world. Only the pathologically Republican fail to understand how such indebtedness undermines America's future growth while compromising its control of its own national affairs.

Even more problematic is that foreigners have begun to have their fill of dollar-denominated debt. They are having a harder and harder time understanding how-with the debt growing far faster than the economy itself-the U.S. will ever pay the money back. They can only be induced to continue lending by higher and higher rates of return, i.e., higher interest rates. This cycles us back, yet again, to Circle Two, above, and the steady strangulation of the economy caused by rising prices and rising interest rates. Which delivers us to the Gates of the Fourth Circle.

The Fourth Circle of Economic Hell

"I said: "My master, who has set this anguished gust in motion? And he to me: "You shall soon be where your own eye will answer that."
~ Dante, Divine Comedy: Inferno, Canto XXXIII

It is in the Fourth Circle of Economic Hell that Paulson's Saga becomes the Ordeal that it truly is. This is the Circle of the Real Economy on which the Third Circle of Fiscal Effects must inevitably rest. With all the glamour lavished on financial manipulation, we sometimes forget that, eventually, real things have to be made. Before money can be sold, subordinated, factored, futured, arbitraged, discounted, traded, and so on, real people have to produce and consume real products. It is here that Paulson and Bush cower in such hopeless despair.

More than 100% of the growth in Gross Domestic Product over the past five years is attributable to the expansion of debt. GDP is up $2.8 trillion since 2001. But government debt alone is up over $3 trillion for the same period. Add in the explosion of home mortgage debt at over $5 trillion, and a cumulative $3.5 trillion in trade deficit, and you get a Real Economy that is literally going backwards. The illusion of affluence is only sustained by selling off the family china. Working Americans know this all too well and the reason is not hard to see: the American consumer simply doesn't have enough money to pay his bills.

Real average hourly earnings are 14% below their 1973 post-War high. Real median household incomes are still 4% below where they were in 1999. The economy has lost almost 3 million manufacturing jobs since 2001-twenty per cent of its total. Delphi Automotive, the largest automobile parts manufacturer in the world is in bankruptcy. It is demanding 60% pay cuts of its work force. Ford and GM are closing 19 plants between them and have just announced severances for 45,000 workers.

Employment in the communications equipment industry is down 43% since 2000. Semiconductor employment is off 30%. Electrical equipment has shed one quarter of its industry's jobs. Textiles, off 40%. These are the high-wage jobs on which the American middle class-the American standard of living-once rested. Replacing them with jobs for waitresses and bartenders, home health care workers, fast food servers, and greeters at Wal-Mart doesn't begin to sustain consumer purchasing power.

But that is the overwhelming nature the employment picture under the Bush administration. The economy has needed seven million new jobs just to keep pace with population growth since 2000. It has added just over three million, virtually all of them in low-paid domestic service sectors. This evisceration of labor and labor-based income comes at a time when corporate profits are at their highest level as a percent of national income since 1947 while labor's share is at its lowest level since 1946. The rich are getting richer and everyone else is getting dramatically poorer.

These reversals are not accidents. They are the intended outcomes of two and a half decades of government policy designed to increase the returns to capital while reducing the bargaining power of labor. The policy began with Reagan's Supply Side Economics, which cut the marginal tax rate on the highest incomes from 75% to 38%. It is bookended by Bush's unending tax cuts for the wealthiest, from income taxes, to taxes on interest, dividends, capital gains, and, if he gets his way, the estates of multi-millionaires. All these cuts favor the very wealthiest of Americans at the expense of everybody else.

In this environment, with median incomes falling for decades, the only way to maintain the American family lifestyle is to borrow against the house. And when that is still not enough to keep the economy afloat, the government must step in and borrow against Americans' future earnings. But rising interest rates are already killing off the tenuous housing-based recovery. And as prices rise with them, consumers are left with even less money to spend. The imperative for more and still more government borrowing becomes overwhelming.

This is Paulson's inescapable dilemma. If he wants to continue the Republicans' policy of shifting the nation's wealth to those who are already the most wealthy, AND sustain the illusion of broad-based prosperity, he has no choice but to increase deficit spending (and therefore borrowing) at a greater and ever-greater rate. To be sure, the higher interest rates that result are an unquestioned boon to Paulson's coupon-clipping friends. But they are a death sentence for the Real economy.

The Fifth Circle of Economic Hell

"He made me stop and said: 'This is the place where you will have to arm yourself with fortitude.' Oh reader, do not ask me how I grew faint and frozen then-all words fall short of the horror it actually was."
~ Dante, Divine Comedy: Inferno, Canto XXXIV

We have reached, then, the Fifth and Final Circle of Economic Hell. It is this Circle upon which all other Circles-the Real Economy, Fiscal Effects, Monetary Effects, and Ephemera-ultimately rest. It is the Circle of Structural Decline.

As onerous as they are, the deficits described in Circle Three, above, constitute only a small fraction of the total indebtedness of the U.S. economy. The official "national debt" is approaching $9 trillion, as noted, a substantial figure, to be sure. But the government's "unfunded liabilities"-obligations it has committed to pay but for which there is no known source-are estimated at an incomprehensible $58 trillion. Add in revolving consumer debt, mortgage debt, and corporate debt, and the nation's total obligations exceed $90 trillion, more than seven times GDP. At the time of the 1929 stock market crash, total debt stood at two times GDP. These obligations will never be paid.

The reason is that the job drain from the U.S., while it looks like a torrent now, is still only a trickle. Though the U.S. won the Cold War, it is rapidly losing the Cold Peace, which began when China ended its communist isolation and joined the world market. The average wage in China is $.57 per hour. China has more than half a billion workers meaning the drain of good jobs from the U.S. to China can go on indefinitely-and will. Alan Blinder, a Princeton economist and former Governor of the Federal Reserve Board, has estimated that as many as 56 million U.S. jobs are susceptible to outsourcing of the sort that has already dealt such damage to U.S. incomes.

But this is exactly what Bush and Paulson and their fellow "conservatives" intend. This is the magic of "globalization" that the Heraldic voices of Thomas Friedman and others eulogize as inevitable. Globalization means liberating capital from all obligations to national well being, freeing it to pursue only the highest returns it can find, no matter where they may lie. That means seeking out the lowest paid labor and shifting all possible jobs there. That is China. Or India.

The U.S. worker and the U.S. economy will be left to their own devices. All social safety net systems must be dismantled for, given the colossal debt, they can no longer be afforded. These include welfare, unemployment and disability insurance, pensions, health care, Medicare, Social Security, job retraining, and eventually, education. The U.S. is a high cost economy in a world where, when capital is perfectly mobile, low cost wins. If capital is to be honored, then the U.S. must be ballasted, abandoned, in the way the British economy was in the aftermath of World War II. It will be milked of its remaining assets-that is what the huge run-up in debt is intended to do-and then thrown away.

The only government programs of substance that will be maintained will be police and military systems. The Patriot Act, with its massive recissions of civil liberties, is not so much directed at foreign terrorists as it is at future domestic dissidents, citizens who dare confront these putative inevitabilities with demands for democratic (as opposed to capitalist) recourses. The military, of course, is needed to carry out the nakedly colonial expropriations such as Iraq that remain the last hope of America to compete in the world: by controlling the oil, the substance without which no industrial civilization can operate.

Paulson's job, then, is to arrange the write down of debt that must accompany the effective bankruptcy of the U.S. He will have to promise an IMF-like fiscal austerity to foreign lenders to keep the funding flowing until there is nothing left to take. This will mean draconian cuts in social spending, no tariffs, and the removal of all remaining controls on the mobility of, and returns to, capital. The dollar will be precipitously devalued with the consequence of massive inflation and stratospheric interest rates. These will only accelerate the decline. A new international reserve currency, based on a basket of currencies including the Euro, the Yen, the Chinese Yuan, and the dollar, will be devised.

None of this will come as a surprise to Henry Paulson. It is Paulson, perhaps more than any other private individual, who has so successfully, happily, and ever-so profitably laundered the huge bubble of U.S. debt to his rich clients throughout the world. It is Paulson and his coterie of wealthy capitalists who have so diligently used the U.S. government to increase returns to, while removing democratic constraints on, private capital. Indeed, it is these same wealthy owners of capital who are Paulson's-and Bush's-true clientele.

The question for Paulson, therefore, as he looks into the Abyss of this final Circle of Economic Hell, is this: "Whose interests will he be serving as Secretary of the Treasury? Those of the American people or those of his investor class?" It is truly a question of Dantean proportions for the Second Ring of the Ninth Circle of Dante's Inferno is peopled by those who betray their class.

Ominously, however, the Fourth Ring of the Ninth Circle-the Innermost Ring of Hell-is reserved for those who betray their masters, their employers. Paulson's employer is now the people of the United States. Who will Paulson be compelled to betray? It is an interesting angel-counting exercise, a diversion worthy of its Medieval origins. But do we really need to ask?

Robert Freeman writes about economics, history, and education. Email to: robertfreeman10@yahoo.com.

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Severe budget woes hit Army posts nationwide

Associated Press
July 7, 2006

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas - A diversion of dollars to help fight the war in Iraq has helped create a $530 million shortfall for Army posts at home and abroad, leaving some unable to pay utility bills or even cut the grass.

In San Antonio, Fort Sam Houston hasn't been able to pay its $1.4 million monthly utility bill since March, prompting workers in many of the post's administrative buildings to get automated disconnection notices.

Fort Bragg in North Carolina can't afford to buy pens, paper or other office supplies until the new fiscal year starts in October.

And in Kentucky, Fort Knox had to close one of its eight dining halls for a month and lay off 133 contract workers.
"Every time something goes away it impacts a person ... a soldier or their family or one of our civilians," said Col. Wendy Martinson, garrison commander at Fort Sam Houston, which has 27,300 military and civilian workers. "I'm charged with taking care of them, not taking things away from them."

Garrisons function as the city halls of Army installations, providing services such as garbage removal, mail delivery and firefighting. The Army's Installation Management Agency is $530 million short of what it needs through Oct. 1 to fund garrisons at the 117 installations it oversees in the United States, Europe and Asia, agency spokesman Stephen Oertwig said.

The skyrocketing cost of fuel is partly to blame, and it also is costing more to pay civilians in Asia and Europe, Oertwig said. Another major factor is the practice of funding the war through spending bills outside the annual budget.

As Congress spent months debating the supplemental spending bill, the Army had to divert money from the Installation Management Agency's budget to cover the cost of the war, Oertwig said.

The Army often diverts operations money for other programs, in times of war and peace, said Jeremiah Gertler, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The supplemental spending bill usually replenishes those funds.

This year, though, most of the defense money in the $94.5 billion bill was earmarked for the war, leaving little to pay back operations accounts, Gertler said.

Military officials could have asked for more money to ease the garrison budget crunch, but they knew a bigger request would have created a bigger fight in Congress, he said.

"The Pentagon is reluctant to ask for any more than they need for the war because it all looks like it's going to the war and becomes a very controversial bill," Gertler said.

But military analyst Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution said money management seems to be the larger problem. The Defense Department spends about as much on maintenance and operations as it does on weapons and personnel combined, he said, so there should be more than enough for the bills.

"It makes me worry if the Pentagon can't do its accounting well enough to find money for its electric bills," he said. "It just boggles my mind a little bit."

The legislation Congress approved June 15 included $722 million for the Installation Management Agency, to be split among its installations.

Martinson still doesn't know how much Fort Sam Houston will get, but she expects it will be enough to pay the electric tab. A spokesman for CPS Energy says the company understands the problem and won't turn off the lights any time soon.

However, it won't save the jobs of about 100 contract workers Martinson had to let go.

And it won't make it easier for her to scrounge up the dollars to buy chlorine for the pool where soldiers' kids take swimming lessons or feed for the horses that carry soldiers' caskets to their graves at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.

The new funds also won't change the orders the Installation Management Agency issued in early June to freeze civilian hiring and fire temporary employees, reduce cell phone, pager and government vehicle use and reduce, cancel or defer contracts.

Staff Sgt. Mark Barclay, 35, a small group leader with the Army Medical Department Noncommissioned Officer Academy at Fort Sam Houston, said he hasn't really noticed the cuts but is ready to adapt to them.

"All that happens is you just make do with what you have and try to get the best training for the soldiers," Barclay said.

Oertwig expects the austerity to last for at least another year and a half.

"Every day we're looking at what are those services that are required to keep the Army going and where can we get efficiencies," Oertwig said. "We're looking to get a dollar's worth of service out of 90 cents or less in some cases."

That alarms U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, a Republican whose district includes Fort Sam Houston.

In a letter to Army Secretary Francis Harvey, Smith said he worries the budget crisis will affect Fort Sam Houston's ability to accommodate the 11,000 additional personnel being sent there starting next year by the Base Closure and Realignment Commission.

"That Fort Sam cannot even pay for basic post operations is, frankly, Mr. Secretary, a disgrace," he said.

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US war veterans have tough time finding jobs: survey

Thu Jul 6, 2006

WASHINGTON - Young US war veterans, the majority of them from
Iraq, have a tougher time finding jobs upon returning home than average job seekers, according to a recent CareerBuilder.com survey.

The survey cited data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics showing nearly one in five veterans aged 20 to 24 were unemployed, three times the national average.
The CareerBuilder.com survey questioned 1,000 hiring managers and 150 US veterans, a majority of them who had served in Iraq, between June 9 and 16. One in five veterans said it took six months or longer to find a job.

One in 10 reported taking longer than a year to locate employment.

Some veterans said they believed their former service was often detrimental to finding new employment, with 11 percent saying that they do not put it on resumes, and 17 percent saying they do so selectively.

The survey said veterans believed their primary challenges were: a lack of openings in their place of residence (29 percent); employers failing to understand how skills acquired in the military apply to civilian life (16 percent); and a lack of a college degree (12 percent).

CareerBuilder.com is one of the most popular employment Internet sites in the United States.

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Oil Prices Set For New Records Beyond 80 Dollars

by Perrine Faye
July 06, 2006

London - The price of crude oil, fresh from striking a new record above 75 dollars in New York on rising tensions over North Korea and Iran, is likely to hurtle beyond 80 dollars per barrel before the end of 2006, according to one London analyst.

World crude prices -- which have doubled in value over the past two years -- could even strike 100 dollars before the end of the year, said Investec analyst Bruce Evers.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in August, hit a record 75.40 dollars on Wednesday owing to concerns over the North Korea missile crisis, the Iranian nuclear energy stand-off and the latest US energy report, dealers said.

In London, Brent North Sea crude for August delivery touched 74.22 on both Wednesday and Thursday -- not far from the record 74.97 dollars hit in May.

Brent North Sea crude is the price reference for two-thirds of the world's traded oil according to the IntercontinentalExchange which operates the trading of Brent.

"I am sure we'll see over 80 this year," Evers said.

Crude prices could hit 100 dollars per barrel "if Iran refuses to cooperate with the States and there is a major hurricane over the producing area of the Gulf of Mexico", he added.

At the start of 2005, crude oil stood at around 40 dollars per barrel -- and was just 20 dollars per barrel at the beginning of 2002.

Traders are fearful that this year's Atlantic hurricane season, which began on June 1 and lasts until the end of November, could be another fierce one.

Last year, hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated oil installations there and sent crude prices surging to then-record levels.

"Potentially we can see a very nasty spike in the oil price," said Evers.

"We're coming into the main hurricane season, you've got Iran being difficult, you've got North Korea refusing to behave itself."

With no shortage of geopolitical hot-spots across the world -- ranging from North Korea and Iran to ongoing instability in oil producers Nigeria and Iraq -- analysts contend that prices could head higher.

According to Barclays Capital Kevin Norrish, strong global oil demand and tight supplies have resulted in recent runaway prices.

"If you are looking for explanation for, and justification of, the latest move up in prices, we do not believe that you have to look much further than these tightening balances," Norrish said.

Participants are focusing on stockpiles of motor fuel in the United States -- the world's biggest energy consumer -- amid the country's ongoing peak-demand driving season.

Crude prices leapt on Wednesday following news that North Korea had fired at least seven test missiles, and after major crude producer Iran postponed crucial talks in Brussels over its nuclear energy crisis.

Although North Korea is not an oil producer, the geopolitical news convinced investment fund managers to plough into the market to seek gains.

"They saw the geopolitical situation develops and they all jumped in," Evers added.

Adjusted for inflation, current oil prices remain below levels reached after the 1979 Iranian revolution.

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Iran oil bourse at the end of September

Persian Journal
July 6, 2006

Iran will start the initial phase of its planned Iranian oil bourse at the end of September. An oil ministry official told that his ministry had already presented the relevant documents to the economic and finance ministry and the bourse organisation.

The building that will house the oil bourse has reportedly already been purchased in the southern Iranian island of Kish in Persian Gulf.
Petrochemical and oil-related products will be made available to customers in the first phase but the volume of the shares to be traded is not yet clear, the official told.

Economics and Finance Minister Davoud Danesh-Jafari said last April that the issue had already been agreed upon and that the oil ministry had given the go-ahead for the opening of the bourse.

The exchange will have a positive impact on oil sales, not only in Iran but in the wider Persian Gulf region and is slated to replace the current dollar-based oil exchange with one based on the euro, he said.

The International Petroleum Exchange in London and the New York Mercantile Exchange, on which oil is currently traded, both use the dollar.

Iran argues that as long as 60% of global oil and 25% of natural gas needs are met by Persian Gulf states, oil dealing in either New York or London made no sense.

Iran also wants to circumvent dollar-based oil exchanges to avoid being impacted by the United States economy.

The plan to open the exchange in Kish was raised by the administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last year.

It was due to be opened before the beginning of the Persian New Year on March 21 but has been postponed several times.

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Trade row looms with China over duty on bags

By Philip Thornton, Economics Correspondent
The Independent
07 July 2006

Europe looks set for a fresh trade war with China over plans by Brussels to impose a duty on imported plastic bags. Under a proposal which is likely to be agreed by member states this month, a duty of 10 per cent would be imposed on bags from China and Thailand.
News of the plans, which will overshadow a meeting between the EU trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson, and China's commerce minister today, offset a partial victory for retailers over Brussels' regime of tariffs on shoes.

Retailers said that the duty would cut profit margins and increase the pressure for rises in shelf prices or job cuts.

Alisdair Gray, European director of the British Retail Consortium, said: "It is a direct tax on retailers. In the end, whether the bags are paid for or given away, they will have to pass the cost on to customers." He said that it would cost the big four supermarkets, which import 10 billion bags a year, £55m.

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Big win for tobacco in $145 bln Florida case

By Jim Loney and Jane Sutton
Thu July 6, 2006

MIAMI - In a huge victory for the tobacco industry, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday refused to reinstate a $145 billion punitive damages award against major cigarette makers found liable for selling a dangerous product.

The long-awaited decision lifted one of the biggest financial clouds over tobacco companies and sent their stocks up sharply. It upheld the key part of a Florida appeals court ruling three years ago that overturned the punitive damages, one of the largest awards in a U.S. product liability case.
The high court said the award was "clearly excessive" and would "result in an unlawful crippling of the defendant companies."

The ruling cleared one of the hurdles for Altria Group Inc.'s plan to spin off Kraft Foods Inc.

But the Supreme Court also upheld key findings of the Miami trial court in the 12-year-old case known as Engle versus Liggett -- among them, that cigarette smoking causes cancer, heart disease and other ailments, and that tobacco companies marketed "defective and unreasonably dangerous" products.

The high court reinstated individual damage awards to two cancer patients -- $2.9 million to Mary Farnan and $4 million to the estate of Angie Della Vecchia, who died in 1999. But it upheld decertification of the class of plaintiffs, meaning smokers would have to sue individually, not as a group.

"As numerous trial and appellate courts have held, tobacco cases cannot be treated as class actions because liability must ultimately be decided on a case by case basis," William Ohlemeyer, vice president for Philip Morris USA, said in a statement.

Individual lawsuits against tobacco companies are seen as far less likely to succeed than class actions.

Joe Martyak, an official with the anti-smoking group American Legacy Foundation, said the ruling could prove a death knell for class actions against cigarette makers.

"I think it's bad news for public health and it's even worse news for smokers," he said. "The ruling underscores that Big Tobacco will literally be able to litigate to death a smoker's claim for justice."

Tobacco stocks helped boost the overall U.S. share market. Shares of Altria rose as high as $79.00. Shares of Reynolds American Inc. hit a new high of $120.50. Carolina Group, the tracking stock for Loews Corp.'s Lorillard Tobacco Co., jumped to an all-time high of $55.26. Shares of Vector Group went as high as $17.11.

A Miami jury ruled in 2000 that the tobacco companies deceived smokers about the dangers of cigarettes and ordered the companies to pay $145 billion to ailing Florida smokers, estimated to number 300,000 to 700,000.

The case, filed by Miami Beach pediatrician Howard Engle in 1994, was the first smokers' lawsuit to be certified as a class action.

Florida's Third District Court of Appeal overturned the verdict in 2003 and said Florida's settlement with the tobacco companies in a multistate lawsuit barred the awarding of punitive damages. It also decertified the class action.

The Supreme Court ruled that Florida's participation in the multistate settlement did not prevent ailing smokers from suing individually, and gave former members of the class action one year to file those claims.

Engle, who is now 87 and suffers from emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, said he was disappointed.

"Not so much for me. I'm dying anyhow. I know that. But there are people who need a little money to take care of things," he said. "I have some insurance and a little money and wonderful family, so I'm OK."

The high court ruling eliminates the largest class-action liability hanging over the tobacco industry, said Charles Norton, co-portfolio manager of Mutuals Advisors Inc.'s Vice Fund, which owns shares in most of the tobacco companies.

"With this out of the way, I believe it relieves a lot of legal risk from the group," Norton said, who expects Altria to now spin off Kraft by the first half of 2007, if not sooner.

Matthew Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said the ruling was not a clear-cut victory for the industry because it upheld a finding of wrongdoing by the companies.

Smokers who sue could benefit from the high court's approval of trial court decisions that smoking causes diseases and that cigarette companies sold defective products and concealed the truth about the dangers.

"With these findings, they're 90 percent on the way to winning these cases," said Stanley Rosenblatt, the Miami lawyer who sued the giant tobacco companies.

Rosenblatt said he had not decided whether to appeal to federal courts.

Defendants in the case included Altria's Philip Morris USA unit; the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Brown & Williamson units of Reynolds American Inc.; the Lorillard Tobacco Co. unit of Loews Corp, and Vector Group's Liggett.

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Bush vs. The People

George W. Bush Is Dead To Me

By Mark Morford
SF Gate Columnist
Friday, July 7, 2006

Nation cringes as the worst president ever continues long, painful slog to the end

It is like some sort of virus. It is like some sort of weird and painful rash on your face that makes you embarrassed to walk out the door and so you sit there day after day, waiting for it to go away, slathering on ointment and Bactine and scotch. And yet still it lingers.

Some days the pain is so searing and hot you want to cut off your own head with a nail file. Other days it is numb and pain-free and seemingly OK, to the point where you think it might finally be all gone and you allow yourself a hint of a whisper of a positive feeling, right up until you look in the mirror, and scream.

George W. Bush is just like that.
Everyone I know has had enough. Everyone I know is just about done. There is this threshold of happy deadened disgust, this point where the body simply resigns itself to the pain, a point where the disease, the poison has seeped so deeply into the bones that you just have to laugh and shrug it all off and go for a drink. Or 10.

I was having cocktails recently with a group of people, among whom were two lifetime Republicans, each in his 60s, corporate businessmen, one admittedly slightly more moderate than the other (to the point where, after once hearing a senator read off a long list of Bush's hideous environmental atrocities, actually let his conscience lead his choice and ended up voting for Kerry) but nevertheless both devoted members of the party.

Bush came up, as a topic, as a cancer, as a fetid miasma in the air. They were both shaking their heads. They were sighing heavily. They were both, in a word, disgusted. The more staunchly conservative of the two even went so far as to say he was so embarrassed and humiliated by this president, by this administration, so appalled at all the war atrocities and the wiretapping and the misuse of law, the fiscal irresponsibility and the abuse of the lower classes and the outright arrogance, that if the Dems could somehow produce a decent moderate candidate with a brain, he'd have zero problem switching allegiances and voting for him. Or her.

It may not sound like much. It may not seem like a major shift. But it is, in its way, sort of massive. For thoughtful Repubs with a conscience (they actually exist, I have seen them), there is little left to defend. There is little this administration has done among all categories of ostensible GOP values that they can look to with any sort of pride. Medicare? Shrinking the budget? Smaller government? Less intervention in our lives? Reduced spending? Increased respect in the international community? Responsible international citizen? Ha. Name your topic, BushCo has failed. Spectacularly. Intentionally.

Indeed, countless Dems were disappointed with Clinton's behavior during Monicagate. Many were ashamed that he would cheapen the office so badly by such trashy moral behavior.

But that was just a cheap little affair (our allies never understood all the fuss anyway). This was never the attitude toward Clinton's politics, his capacity to understand complex issues, his astounding political savvy. No one anywhere doubted he made the country richer, more environmentally conscious, more stable, more respected and admired. Clinton was globally adored not only for his charisma but for his contributions to world peace. Plus he could actually point to Afghanistan on a map.

What a difference a handful of years makes. Now, overseas, we are a joke. A threat. A toxin. We are considered reckless and arrogant and ignorant, dangerous not just to the rest of the world but to the overall health of the planet. No one anywhere understands how a man like Bush can be the leader of the Free World, stolen election or no.

Sure, smarter Europeans know full well that the United States is deeply divided between the pseudo-religious right-wing warmongers who control a tiny cadre of the powerful elite, and, well, everyone else. It does not matter. America's reputation as a powerful and respected diplomatic peacekeeper, as the nation that sets the standards for human rights and economic freedom and choice, is hobbled. Crippled. Is very nearly dead. How quickly can we recover? How much damage has been done? History will tell, and it will be ugly indeed.

Interesting feature interview with Al Gore in Rolling Stone recently. Gore mentions two amazing things: one is the discussion he's had with generals regarding Iraq, with one coming right out and admitting that Bush's disastrous Iraq war will go down as the worst invasion in American history, our greatest misstep, our most costly and debilitating mistake. Among top brass in the know, of this there is little question.

The other was about the discussions Gore's had with various major corporate CEOs about Gore's pet issue, global warming, and how obvious it is that 15 minutes after BushCo leaves office, we will have a radically new global warming policy. In other words, Bush won't do a thing about it in the next two years, despite how obvious it shall become that we are in crisis, simply because he can't risk finally coming out and admitting yet another enormous policy disaster. Not to mention how nearly six years of enviro policy abuse, from air quality to water to forestry to pollution deregulation on all his industrial pals, can't be undone with a smirk and a prayer.

Which is just another way of saying we are currently stuck. We are swirling around the bottom of the drain, clinging on to anything that might hold us from going under for just a little while longer. We have to let the neocon disease run its course, and just pray that at the end of it all the scarring and the pain and damage will not be so permanent, and so hideous, that we can't be seen in public for a decade.

This is where it stands: Bush can in no way risk alienating the ultra-right-wing bonk-job contingent that put him in office (they are, considering Bush's 32-percent approval rating, the only ones left even remotely supporting him -- even though, according to many estimates, they're starting to abandon him, too), and hence all policy and all agenda items from here on out will be even more vicious and desperate in an attempt to shore up the base. Hence trying to mutilate the Constitution to ban gay marriage. Hence attacking the New York Times and claiming newspapers are endangering American lives.

In other words, Bush's latest nasty, Rove-designed salvos and upcoming attacks to save a sliver of power and pride and sneering GOP control are just the beginning.

However -- praise Jesus and pass the scotch -- they are the beginning of the end.

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Not in Our Name: The Voters' Pledge

By Daniel Ellsberg
Information Clearing House

According to recent opinion polls, most Iraqis don't believe that we're making things better or safer in their country. What does that say about the legitimacy of prolonged occupation, much less permanent American bases in Iraq? What does it mean for continued American armored patrols such as the one last November in Haditha, which, we now learn, led to the deaths of a Marine and 24 unarmed civilians?

Questions very much like these nagged at my conscience at the height of the Vietnam War, and led, eventually, to the publication of the first of the Pentagon Papers in June of 1971, 35 years ago.
As a former Marine Commander and defense analyst in 1970, I had exclusive access to highly classified defense documents for research purposes. They came to be known as the Pentagon Papers and constituted a 47-volume, top-secret Defense Department history of American involvement in Vietnam titled, "U.S. Decision-making in Vietnam, 1945-68." The Pentagon Papers made it very clear that I, like the rest of the American public, had been misled about the origins and purposes of the war I had participated in - just as are the 85% of the troops in Iraq today who still believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11 and that he was allied with Al Qaeda.

That period had several similarities to this one. Congress was debating the withdrawal of U.S. armed forces from Indochina while President Nixon was making secret plans to expand, rather than exit from, the ongoing war in Southeast Asia - including a major air offensive against North Vietnam, possibly using nuclear weapons. Today, the Bush administration's threats to wage war against Iran are explicit, with officials reiterating regularly that the nuclear "option" is "on the table." Americans saw the color photographs of the My Lai massacre; now we are seeing photographs eerily similar to those from Haditha: women, children, old men and babies, all shot at short range.

What was it that prompted me to begin copying 7,000 pages of highly classified documents - an act that I fully expected would send me to prison for life? I came to the conclusion that the system I had been part of, giving my unquestioning loyalty to for 15 years, as a Marine, a Pentagon official and a State Department officer in Vietnam, was a system that lies reflexively, at every level, from sergeant to commander in chief, about murder. And I had the evidence to prove it.

The papers showed very clearly how we had become engaged in a reckless war of choice in someone else's country - a country that had not attacked us - for our own domestic and external purposes. It became clear to me that the justifications that had been given for our involvement were false. And if the war itself was unjust, then all the victims of our firepower were being killed without justification.

That's murder.

Today, there must be, at the very least, hundreds of civilian and military officials in the Pentagon, CIA, State Department, National Security Agency and White House who have in their safes and computers comparable documentation of intense internal debates - so far carefully concealed from Congress and the public - about prospective or actual war crimes, reckless policies and domestic crimes: the Pentagon Papers of Iraq, Iran or the ongoing war on U.S. liberties. Some of those officials, I hope, will choose to accept the personal risks of revealing the truth - earlier than I did - before more lives are lost or a new war is launched.

Haditha holds a mirror up not just to American troops in the field, but to our whole society. Not just to the liars in government but to those who believe them too easily. And to all of us in the public, in the administration, in Congress and the media who dissent so far ineffectively or who stand by as murder is being done and do nothing to stop it or expose it.

Americans must summon the civil courage to face what is being done in their name and to refuse to be accomplices. The Voters' Pledge is one way to do this. The Voters' Pledge is a project comprising many of the major organizations in the antiwar movement, United for Peace and Justice, Peace Action, Gold Star Families for Peace, Code Pink, and Democracy Rising, as well as groups with broader agendas like the National Organization for Women, Progressive Democrats of America, AfterDowningStreet.com, and magazines including the American Conservative and The Nation. The goal of this coalition is to build a base of antiwar voters that cannot be ignored by anyone running for office in the United States. We want millions of voters to sign the pledge and say no to pro-war candidates.

You can help right now by visiting www.VotersForPeace.US and immediately signing the Voters' Pledge.

Daniel Ellsberg is a former American military analyst who helped bring about an end to the Vietnam War when he released the Pentagon Papers, the US military's account of its scandalous activities during that war.

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Bush seeks to build standing with public

Associated Press
July 7, 2006

CHICAGO - The president who loves to get home to his own bed is planning more nights on the road.

It's part of a public-relations effort aimed at boosting
President Bush's low standing in polls and bolstering the chances of the Republican Party he leads in this fall's midterm elections. The idea is to place Bush in more freewheeling settings where he comes across best and before local media that tend to give softer coverage.

"I'm doing a lot of campaigning," Bush told CNN's Larry King during an interview aired Thursday night. "We're going to do just fine in '06."
Throughout his presidency, Bush has been known for extensive travels outside Washington that most often feature quick fly-in, drive-by stops.

But in recent months that has begun to change with more overnight trips. He spent several days traveling California and Nevada in April, went to Florida for three days in May and hopped through New Mexico, Texas and Nebraska over a couple of days last month.

Thursday and Friday were finding Bush in and around Chicago - even spending the evening of his 60th birthday away from home. The visit began after a day of telephone diplomacy to try to build consensus among other countries over a response to North Korea's missile tests.

Bush expressed support for a draft U.N. Security Council resolution, offered by Japan, to impose sanctions on North Korea for its seven missile tests Tuesday, which included a long-range Taepodong-2 believed capable of reaching U.S. soil. China, the North's closest ally, and Russia, which has been trying to re-establish Soviet-era ties with Pyongyang, are pushing for diplomacy alone to resolve the dispute.

During an interview broadcast Thursday night on CNN's "Larry King Live," Bush was asked whether he had been prepared to shoot down the long-range missile. The president replied, "If it headed to the United States we've got a missile defense system that will defend our country."

Pentagon officials said Thursday that the very brief flight of the Taepodong-2 missile made it difficult to collect useful technical data, such as its intended target, its payload and even whether it was a two-stage or three-stage missile. At this point, U.S. officials are leaning toward the theory that it was configured as a space launch to deliver a satellite into orbit, rather than as a flight test of a ballistic missile.

Trips like the one to Chicago were being planned for Bush throughout the summer, White House counselor Dan Bartlett said, with the president spending more time in communities to "really sink his teeth into the local market."

"Oftentimes when you fly into a community, you're in and out within 55 minutes and you talk about one subject," Bartlett said. "This gives him an opportunity to cover a broader range of subjects in the local community."

The highlight of Bush's Illinois journey is a unique heartland news conference, which will find the president standing for an hour of questioning at Chicago's stately Museum of Science and Industry, from not only the national media but their local counterparts as well.

"We're going to mix it up," said White House press secretary Tony Snow.

The packed schedule of events in Illinois began with dinner Thursday night with Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and seven heavy-hitters from the local business community. Over a private breakfast Friday, he was to listen to the concerns of local business leaders again.

After the news conference, Bush was raising campaign cash for Republican gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka, the state treasurer who is running to unseat Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and touting his plan to boost America's global competitiveness during a tour and speech in the district of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

The president was talking up his so-called American Competitiveness Initiative at Cabot Microelectronics Corp., a supplier of chip-manufacturing materials and products used in making semiconductors headquartered in Aurora, Ill., in Chicago's exurbs.

The initiative proposes to double government funding for basic research in the physical sciences, train thousands of new science and math teachers and extend a popular tax credit businesses can receive for investing in research and development.

The president's approval numbers have been slowly rebounding from an all-time low this spring, but White House aides don't want to leave anything to chance. If Democrats win control of either the House or Senate this November, a lame-duck Bush would face even more resistance to his agenda during his last two years in office.

In addition to spending more time in local communities, Bush has been making more impromptu stops along his travel route in hopes of benefiting from public exposure to his folksier side.

Last week in Ohio, for instance, the president's motorcade pulled over at a lemonade stand across the street from a Republican fundraiser where he helped bring in $1.3 million. He's also stopped unannounced to shake hands with people waving to his limousine outside an elementary school in Laredo, Texas, and then popped into a nearby Mexican barbecue restaurant.

Comment: Gosh, it almost looks like Bush is worried...

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Busted for wearing a peace T-shirt; has this country gone completely insane?

Mike Ferner
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Jul 5, 2006

Friday afternoon, drinking a cup of coffee while sitting in the Jesse Brown V.A. Medical Center on Chicago's south side, a Veterans Administration cop walked up to me and said, "Okay, you've had your 15 minutes, it's time to go."

"Huh?" I asked intelligently, not quite sure what he was talking about.

"You can't be in here protesting," Officer Adkins said, pointing to my Veterans For Peace shirt.

"Well, I'm not protesting, I'm having a cup of coffee," I returned, thinking that logic would convince Adkins to go back to his earlier duties of guarding against serious terrorists.

Flipping his badge open, he said, "No, not with that shirt. You're protesting and you have to go."
Beginning to get his drift, I said firmly, "Not before I finish my coffee."

He insisted that I leave, but still not quite believing my ears, I tried one more approach to reason.

"Hey, listen. I'm a veteran. This is a V.A. facility. I'm sitting here not talking to anybody, having a cup of coffee. I'm not protesting and you can't kick me out."

"You'll either go or we'll arrest you," Adkins threatened.

"Well, you'll just have to arrest me," I said, wondering what strange land I was now living in.

You know the rest. Handcuffed, led away to the facility's security office, past people with surprised looks on their faces, read my rights, searched, and written up.

The officer who did the formalities, Eric Ousley, was professional in his duties. When I asked him if he was a vet, it turned out he had been a hospital corpsman in the Navy. We exchanged a couple sea stories. He uncuffed me early. And he allowed as to how he would only charge me with disorderly conduct, letting me go on charges of criminal trespass and weapons possession -- a pocket knife -- which he said would have to be destroyed (something I rather doubt since it was a nifty Swiss Army knife with not only a bottle opener, but a tweezers and a toothpick).

After informing me I could either pay the $275 fine on the citation or appear in court, Ousley escorted me off the premises, warning me if I returned with "that shirt" on, I'd be arrested and booked into jail.

I'm sure I could go back to officers Adkins' and Ousleys' fiefdom with a shirt that said, "Nuke all the hajis," or "Show us your tits," or any number of truly obscene things and no one would care. Just so it's not "that shirt" again.

And just for the record? I'm not paying the fine. I'll see Adkins and Ousley and Dubya's Director of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, if he wants to show up, in United States District Court on the appointed date. And if there's a Chicago area attorney who'd like to take the case, I'd really like to sue them -- from Dubya on down. I have to believe that this whole country has not yet gone insane, just the government. This kind of behavior can't be tolerated. It must be challenged.

I was at the Jesse Brown V.A. Medical Center because I'm participating in the Voices for Creative Nonviolence's 30-day, 320-mile "Walk for Justice," from Springfield to North Chicago, Illinois, to reclaim funding for the common good and away from war.

Mike Ferner served as a Navy corpsman during Vietnam War and is obviously a member of Veterans For Peace. He can be reached at: mike.ferner@sbcglobal.net.

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UW Instructor who says U.S. planned Sept. 11 attacks to provoke war causes outrage

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
June 29, 2006

Madison, WI - The University of Wisconsin-Madison announced Thursday that it would launch a review of an instructor who argues that the U.S. government orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks for its own benefit.

The instructor, Kevin Barrett, is co-founder of an organization called the Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance, which claims the Bush administration planned the attacks to create a war between Muslims and Christians. He argues that members of the faiths must work together to overcome the belief that terrorists were to blame.

"The 9/11 lie was designed to sow hatred between the faiths," Barrett has written on the organization's Web site.

"Either we discuss the compelling evidence that 9/11 was an inside job, or there is precious little to talk about."
Barrett, who did not return calls Thursday and an e-mail seeking comment, has taught a class on cultural folklore and is scheduled to teach an introductory class on Islam this fall in Madison. He has said he discusses his views on Sept. 11 in the classroom.

In a written statement Thursday, Provost Patrick Farrell said the university would conduct a 10-day review of Barrett's plans for the fall course and his past teaching performance. He said Barrett's syllabus, reading list and past evaluations by supervisors and students would be examined.

"Mr. Barrett's statements regarding the events of Sept. 11 have raised some legitimate concerns about the content and quality of instruction in his planned fall course," Farrell said.

"Mr. Barrett is entitled to his own personal political views. But we also have an obligation to ensure that his course content is academically appropriate, of high quality, and that his personal views are not imposed on his students," the statement says.

Word spreads on the Web

The announcement came as word of Barrett's views spread through political Web sites. State Rep. Stephen Nass (R-Whitewater) was among a burst of critics calling for his dismissal.

Other Sept. 11 conspiracy theorists in academia include Steven Jones, a physicist from Brigham Young University who argues that the World Trade Center towers were brought down by controlled explosives, not just the impact of airplanes; James H. Fetzer, a retired philosophy professor from the University of Minnesota-Duluth who believes the U.S. military launched a missile into the Pentagon and shot down the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania; and David Ray Griffin, a retired professor from the Claremont School of Theology who sums up arguments for U.S. involvement in the attacks in two books, "The New Pearl Harbor" and "The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions."

Barrett arranged for Griffin to speak at UW-Madison last year. Barrett also helped organize a conference in Chicago this month called "9/11: Revealing the Truth - Reclaiming Our Future." In July, he and Fetzer are scheduled to speak about the Sept. 11 theories at a forum at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

"We're catching on," said Fetzer, who co-chairs the group 9/11 Scholars for Truth, which includes more than 50 members from academia, including Barrett. "Kevin Barrett has been instrumental on many fronts."

Barrett has shared his views in letters to The Capital Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education and has discussed them on Wisconsin Public Radio.

But it wasn't until he spoke on a conservative talk show hosted by Jessica McBride on WTMJ-AM (620) Wednesday night that Barrett prompted a public outcry in Wisconsin. He talked openly about his Sept. 11 beliefs and said he discussed them in the classroom.

'Outlandish claims'

Nass released a statement calling on Chancellor John Wiley to fire Barrett immediately.

"The fact that Mr. Barrett uses his position at UW-Madison to add credibility to his outlandish claims is an unacceptable embarrassment to the people of Wisconsin and the UW System," Nass said. "Chancellor Wiley must act immediately to end any professional relationship between Barrett and the UW. He needs to be fired."

U.S. Rep. Mark Green (R-Wis.), who is running for governor, released a statement that said: "Not a dime of either taxpayer or tuition dollars should be going to Kevin Barrett so he can tell students that September 11 was a creation of the government, and that the most murdering terrorist organization in the world is a myth created by the CIA."

But not everyone was outraged.

Mir Babar Basir, a recent graduate of UW-Madison who served as president of the Muslim Students Association, said he knew Barrett and agreed with his take on the attacks. He said Griffin drew hundreds of supportive observers when he spoke at the university.

"This is not just Kevin Barrett's idea," Basir said. "It's legitimate to think that the U.S. government was involved."

"When David Ray Griffin spoke, it was packed," Basir added. "Madison is fairly liberal. It's not surprising that a lot of people agreed with him."

David Walsh, president of the UW System Board of Regents, said Barrett should be able to share his views in the classroom.

"Unless he's yelling fire in a crowded theater, we need to be careful to protect his academic freedom," Walsh said.

Comment: Ah, yes: Freedom of Speech. You can say anything you want, whenever you want - as long as it doesn't call into question the Official Version of events. If you do that, you can lose your job and be branded a "conspiracy theorist" or a looney or much worse - and all for just THINKING.

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Bush likely to voice democracy concerns to Putin

July 6, 2006

WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush is expected to voice concern about Russia's "backsliding on democracy" when he meets President Vladimir Putin before this month's G-8 summit, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

Such criticism has already been foreshadowed by Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who have accused Putin of restricting freedoms and using Russia's vast energy resources to bully its neighbors.

Putin sought on Thursday to play down chilly relations with Washington before he hosts the Group of Eight summit of leading industrial nations in St. Petersburg. He said Bush remained a "decent" friend and the United States one of Russia's most important partners.
Senior administration officials briefing reporters in Washington said that while Russia had made significant democratic reforms since the fall of communism, Washington was worried about recent trends.

They said it was a "good bet" that "our concerns about backsliding on democracy" will be on the agenda when Bush meets Putin. The two will dine together on July 14 and hold bilateral talks the next day before the summit opens.

"Over the past couple of years, we have been concerned about the concentration of powers in the Kremlin, about the diminishing of space for public debate, the narrowing of the debate in the press," the official said. "We want to gain reassurance that Russia is indeed committed to democracy."

Another U.S. official said Russia's record on democracy was also likely to come up for discussion among G-8 leaders.

Differences over gas supplies to Europe, Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization and competition for allies in the former Soviet Union have strained relations recently.

Cheney chided Russia in May for its record on democracy and accused it of using energy supplies as a tool of "blackmail and intimidation," sparking an angry reaction from Moscow.

A U.S. official said the administration hoped the G-8's final statement on energy would "reflect our orientation about the importance of transparency, open and competitive markets, an open investment environment."

Comment: Putin should reply: "Um, have you looked at your own country lately?!"

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Media Matters

President Has a Smooth Ride on 'Larry King Live'

The New York Times
July 7, 2006

Two kinds of celebrities go on "Larry King Live" on CNN: those with something to sell and those with something to hide.

Larry King, the CNN talk show host, interviewed President Bush and Laura Bush in the Blue Room of the White House on Thursday.

Al Gore and Brandon Routh, the young star of the newly released "Superman Returns," recently appeared on the show to promote their new movies. The second category includes guests like Star Jones Reynolds, Mary Kay Letourneau, and, right after his indictment in 2004, Kenneth L. Lay of Enron. "Larry King Live" is the first stop in any damage control operation - a chance to explain oneself to the least contentious journalist in the land.

And that is why President Bush invited the CNN talk show host to the White House on his 60th birthday. The standoff with North Korea over its missile tests, the war in Iraq and ever-sliding ratings in the polls have given the president little reason to celebrate. Mr. King gave the president a chance to defend his policies without risk of interruption or follow-up.
At times, Mr. King even provided the president with answers. "You've always had a lot of compassion for the Mexican people," the interviewer interjected in a discussion of the president's immigration bill. Mr. Bush seemed a little surprised, but grateful. "Yes, sir!" he replied.

The hourlong interview was taped Thursday in the Blue Room of the White House with Mr. King crouched in the foreground across a small round table from the president and Laura Bush, dressed in his trademark suspenders and cowboy boots.

After a brief, good-humored exchange about how the president felt about turning 60, Mr. King asked Mr. Bush about North Korea vaguely enough for the president to repeat what he said earlier in the day in an appearance with the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, about the need for a united stand to bring the North Korean president to reason.

Other than the fact that Mr. Bush promised not to lecture President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia before the Group of Eight meeting next week in St. Petersburg, Mr. King did not elicit news or curveballs from the president.

Even when he ventured into areas like the war in Iraq, public opinion polls or the president's past friendship with Mr. Lay, Mr. King looked less like an interrogator than a hotel concierge gently removing lint from a customer's coat. Mr. King's questions rarely rile his guests; instead, his cozy, incurious style encourages them to expose themselves.

And just as Liza Minnelli seemed to come unglued all on her own in her appearance on the show last March, Mr. Bush at times seemed tense and defensive even without needling from his host. "I've been popular before, as president," Mr. Bush said tightly. "And I've been - people have accepted what I've been doing." He added: "Sometimes things go up and down. The best way to lead and the best way to solve problems is to focus on a set of principles. And do what you think is right."

The president appeared on Mr. King's show twice before, in 2000 and in 2004, but those were campaign interviews. On Thursday, the president was fighting to improve his battered image.

When he was at a loss for words, Mrs. Bush stepped in to speak on his behalf, sometimes with more dexterity than her husband. "Well, sure, you know, we worried about it, obviously," Mrs. Bush replied when asked whether she was rattled by the North Korean missile tests. "But what I spent the day doing actually was watching our shuttle take off from Florida."

Mrs. Bush even managed to politely set Mr. King straight when he somewhat puzzlingly described Mr. Putin as "very Western."

"Well, I don't know if I would say that," she said gently. "I think he's very Russian. But I like him a lot."

It wasn't live, but it was classic Larry King: a warm bath, not a hot seat.

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The thug and intimidation tactics of the Far Right go mainstream

Glenn Greenwald
July 06, 2006

As is true for many lawyers who have defended First Amendment free speech rights, I have represented several groups and individuals with extremist and even despicable viewpoints (in general, and for obvious reasons, it is only groups and individuals who espouse ideas considered repugnant by the majority which have their free speech rights threatened). Included among this group were several White Supremacist groups and their leaders, including one such group -- the World Church of the Creator -- whose individual members had periodically engaged in violence against those whom they considered to be the enemy (comprised of racial and religious minorities along with the "race traitors" who were perceived to defend them).

One of the favorite tactics used by such groups is to find the home address and telephone number of the latest enemy and then publish it on the Internet, accompanied by impassioned condemnations of that person as a Grave Enemy, a race traitor, someone who threatens all that is good in the world. A handful of the most extremist pro-life groups have used the same tactic. It has happened in the past that those who were the target of these sorts of demonization campaigns that included publication of their home address were attacked and even killed.

But these intimidation tactics work even when nothing happens.
Indeed, these groups often publish the enemy's home address along with some cursory caveat that they are not encouraging violence. The real objective is the same one shared by all terrorists -- to place the person in paralyzing fear. The goal is to force the individual, as they lay in bed at night, to be preoccupied with worry that there is some deranged individual who read one of the websites identifying them as the enemy and which provided their address and who believes that they can strike some blow for their Just Cause by visiting their home and harming or killing them. The fear that they are vulnerable in their own home lurks so prominently and relentlessly in a person's mind that it can be as effective as a physical attack in punishing someone or intimidating them.

This thuggish tactic of intimidation -- publicly railing against someone's grave crimes and then publishing their home address -- has been creeping out of the most extremist precincts on the Right and is becoming increasingly common among mainstream right-wing individuals and organizations.

This weekend, prominent neoconservative David Horowitz proclaimed that the United States is fighting a war and "the aggressors in this war are Democrats, liberals and leftists." In particular, he cited the now infamous NYT Travel section article on Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld's vacation homes as evidence that the employees of the NYT are among the enemies in this war, and he then linked to and recommended as a "proposal for action" this post from his associate, Front Page contributor Rocco DiPippo. The post which Horowitz recommended was entitled "Where Does Punch Sulzberger Live?" and this is what it said:

I issue a call to the blogosphere to begin finding and publicly listing the addresses of all New York Times reporters and editors. Posting pictures of their residences, along with details of any security measures in place to protect the properties and their owners (such as location of security cameras and on-site security details) should also be published.

DiPippo published the home address of NYT Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, along with directions to his home, and linked to a post by right-wing blogger Dan Riehl which contained directions to Sulzberger's home along with photographers of it. In a now-deleted post, DiPippo also published the home address of Linda Spillers, the NYT photographer who took the photograph of Don Rumsfeld's vacation home (with Rumsfeld's express permission), and he urged everyone to go (presumably to the home address he provided) and confront Spillers about her actions.

That was not an isolated incident. This week, Bartholomew's Official Notes on Religion reported on the new "project" implemented by the group StopTheACLU.org. As that group describes it, the project is called "Expose the ACLU Plaintiffs," and promises to publish the home addresses of all individuals who are "using the ACLU" in any First Amendment lawsuit based on the Establishment clause which challenges the constitutionality of governmental promotion of Christianity. The first such enemy targeted for this treatment is a Jewish family in Delaware who sued their local school district over its alleged promotion of Christianity in the public schools. StopTheACLU published their home address and telephone number on its website, and the family -- due to all sorts of recriminations and fear of escalating attacks -- was forced to leave their home and move to another town, which was one of the apparent goals of StopTheACLU in publishing their home address.

Stop the ACLU is not some fringe, isolated group. To the contrary, the "official blog" of StopTheACLU.org is StopTheACLU.com (h/t Hunter), a very prominent player in the right-wing blogosphere. That blog is the 14th most-linked-to blog on the Internet, and is often promoted and approvingly cited to as a source by numerous right-wing bloggers such as Instapundit and Michelle Malkin. The blog Expose the Left (which aspires to be the C&L of the Right), yesterday condemned the "nutcases on the left side of the blososphere" who "are sending unfounded attacks" against StopTheACLU for this plainly despicable thug behavior.

These self-evidently dangerous tactics are merely a natural outgrowth of the hate-mongering bullying sessions which have become the staple of right-wing television shows such as Bill O'Reilly's and websites such as Michelle Malkin's (who, unsurprisingly, has become one of O'Reilly's favorite guests). One of the most constant features of these hate fests is the singling out of some unprotected, private individual -- a public school teacher here, a university administrator there -- who is dragged before hundreds of thousands of readers (or millions of viewers), accused of committing some grave cultural crime or identified as a subversive and an enemy, and then held out as the daily target of unbridled contempt, a symbol of all that is Evil.

Malkin frequently includes contact information for the identified Enemies, and O'Reilly often shows photographs or video of them on multiple programs. These bullying tactics of intimidation -- whereby people who are often just private individuals and who have no defenses (as opposed to, say, prominent politicians or media figures) are singled out for widespread public rituals of contempt -- have quite foreseeable consequences, chief among them placing those targets in fear of retribution. Publishing the home addresses of such individuals is not some wholly different approach, but is merely the next small and foreseeable step, an obvious outgrowth of the hate sessions on which many leading representatives of the Right now heavily rely.

And it is not only those who engage in the tactics themselves who bear responsibility for the consequences, but also those who offer coldly bureaucratic indifference towards these tactics, or even an implicit defense of them. While numerous right-wing bloggers commented this weekend on the truly inane attacks against the NYT Travel article, none (at least that I read) condemned Horowitz for promoting the campaign to publish the home addresses of editors and reporters of the Times. They had much to say about the Evil that is the NYT, but nothing to say about this extraordinary and despicable campaign perfected by extremist groups on the Right and now promoted by Horowitz and groups such as StopTheACLU, to intimidate and endanger journalists and private individuals by collecting and publishing their home addresses.

Beyond merely failing to condemn these tactics, Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds yesterday deliberately defended them by arguing that they are no different than what the NYT did in its Travel article. Reynolds attacked a post written this weekend by Reason's Dave Weigel, in which Weigel condemned publication of the home address of the NYT photographer. Reynolds -- who pointedly avoided condemning Horowitz and publication of Spiller's home address -- quoted and then attacked Weigel's condemnation as "incoherent":

As so often happens with these things, angry bloggers have struck back and posted the addresses and phone numbers of the Times' photogs. (No link.)

No link? Why not? By Weigel's standards, a link wouldn't contribute to invasion of privacy. Anybody can find that stuff, right?

And if anybody can find that stuff, why's he so upset about publishing office phone numbers of public officials?

In order to avoid criticizing his comrades on the Right who are engaging in thug tactics, Reynolds actually equates discussion of the vacation homes of top government officials (who enjoy the most extensive and high-level security on the planet) with publication of the home addresses of private individuals and journalists (who have no security of any kind). By his reasoning, mentioning that the Vice President has a vacation home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland is no different than publishing the home address of private individuals who are publicly identified as traitors.

And, lo and behold, the Right's tactics of intimidation against private individuals are reduced by the conniving Reynolds into nothing more than a common and innocuous invasion of privacy of which the NYT and many others are also guilty. And with that corrupt equivalency established, Reynolds is able to posts on these matters without condemning the Right's thug tactics, and in fact, implicitly defends them by suggesting that they are rather innocuous and common and nothing to get excited about.

And revealingly, in choosing which villains to criticize from this weekend's treason accusations against the NYT and the thug tactics they inspired, Reynolds chooses Weigel for attack. But he has nothing to say about Horowitz and company for their newly announced campaign "to begin finding and publicly listing the addresses of all New York Times reporters and editors."

As people like Horowitz, Malkin and Reynolds well know -- and just as my most extremist former White Supremacist clients well knew -- if you throw burning matches at gasoline enough times, an explosion is inevitable. The rhetoric of treason -- accusing individuals and organizations of aiding and abetting our nation's enemies and even waging war on this country -- is a lit match. After all, the widely accepted penalty for traitors is execution, which is why it is such an inflammatory yet increasingly common accusation being hurled by the Right against their domestic "enemies" (for precisely the same reason, the favorite accusation of the World Church of the Creator was to label someone a "race traitor," since everyone knows what should be done with traitors).

Openly speculating about whether journalists and politicians are guilty of treason has become unbelievably common of late. And when those accusations are paired with publication of the traitor's home address, the intended result is both obvious and inevitable. Anyone who endorses those tactics in any way -- or who plays cute, coy games in finding ways to justify or minimize them -- knows exactly what they are doing.

As the Bush movement collapses, it is only to be expected that its more fevered adherents will resort to increasingly extremist rhetoric and tactics, out of frustration and anger, if for no other reason. The penetration of these thug tactics into increasingly mainstream venues on the Right is one of the more glaring, and more disturbing, developments of late.

UPDATE: In response to several comments here, let me be clear that I do not believe that the despicable statements referenced in this post can or should be grounds for criminal or civil liability. For reasons I set forth in comments here, here and here, the First Amendment should bar (and the Supreme Court has held it does bar) the imposition of liability based on the consequences flowing from the expression of protected political speech. The point is that these statements are despicable and dangerous, not illegal. The persons who engage in such tactics, or who defend them, bear the ethical and moral responsibilites -- but not legal liability -- for what they spawn.

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White Supremacist Tactics Adopted by "Mainstream" Right

by Hunter
Thu Jul 06, 2006

Glenn Greenwald has an essential piece on the current movement of far-right and white supremacist tactics into the purported "mainstream" of conservative bloggers -- Front Page Magazine, Michelle Malkin, and others.

I'll quote some key points (all emphases are mine), but you need to go read the whole thing:

One of the favorite tactics used by [white supremacist] groups is to find the home address and telephone number of the latest enemy and then publish it on the Internet, accompanied by impassioned condemnations of that person as a Grave Enemy, a race traitor, someone who threatens all that is good in the world. A handful of the most extremist pro-life groups have used the same tactic. It has happened in the past that those who were the target of these sorts of demonization campaigns that included publication of their home address were attacked and even killed.

But these intimidation tactics work even when nothing happens. Indeed, these groups often publish the enemy's home address along with some cursory caveat that they are not encouraging violence. The real objective is the same one shared by all terrorists -- to place the person in paralyzing fear. [...]

This weekend, prominent neoconservative David Horowitz proclaimed that the United States is fighting a war and "the aggressors in this war are Democrats, liberals and leftists." In particular, he cited the now infamous NYT Travel section article on Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld's vacation homes as evidence that the employees of the NYT are among the enemies in this war, and he then linked to and recommended as a "proposal for action" this post from his associate, Front Page contributor Rocco DiPippo.  [...]

DiPippo published the home address of NYT Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, along with directions to his home, and linked to a post by right-wing blogger Dan Riehl which contained directions to Sulzberger's home along with photographers of it. In a now-deleted post, DiPippo also published the home address of Linda Spillers, the NYT photographer who took the photograph of Don Rumsfeld's vacation home (with Rumsfeld's express permission), and he urged everyone to go (presumably to the home address he provided) and confront Spillers about her actions.

I want to re-emphasize this point. Rocco DiPippo was, as near as we can tell, the individual who first published the home address and home phone number of the photographer involved in an attempt to solicit an intimidation campaign against her.

This is no low-rung blogger, as most of the far-right bloggers who got caught promoting the campaign against the photographer and NYT staffers tittered in their own defense once things went much too far -- this is a writer for Front Page Magazine. Nearly the entire far-right conservative blogosphere links to them, and protestations of integrity notwithstanding, continues to do so -- in large part because of the far-right tactics of thuggery which Horowitz makes his stock in trade. DiPippo has yet to face any consequences for his actions -- apparently because Horowitz himself was their promoter.

That was not an isolated incident. This week, Bartholomew's Official Notes on Religion reported on the new "project" implemented by the group StopTheACLU.org. As that group describes it, the project is called "Expose the ACLU Plaintiffs," and promises to publish the home addresses of all individuals who are "using the ACLU" in any First Amendment lawsuit based on the Establishment clause which challenges the constitutionality of governmental promotion of Christianity. The first such enemy targeted for this treatment is a Jewish family in Delaware who sued their local school district over its alleged promotion of Christianity in the public schools. [...]
Stop the ACLU is not some fringe, isolated group. To the contrary, the "official blog" of StopTheACLU.org is StopTheACLU.com (h/t Hunter), a very prominent player in the right-wing blogosphere. That blog is the 14th most-linked-to blog on the Internet, and is often promoted and approvingly cited to as a source by numerous right-wing bloggers such as Instapundit and Michelle Malkin. The blog Expose the Left (which aspires to be the C&L of the Right), yesterday condemned the "nutcases on the left side of the blososphere" who "are sending unfounded attacks" against StopTheACLU for this plainly despicable thug behavior.

These self-evidently dangerous tactics are merely a natural outgrowth of the hate-mongering bullying sessions which have become the staple of right-wing television shows such as Bill O'Reilly's and websites such as Michelle Malkin's (who, unsurprisingly, has become one of O'Reilly's favorite guests). One of the most constant features of these hate fests is the singling out of some unprotected, private individual -- a public school teacher here, a university administrator there -- who is dragged before hundreds of thousands of readers (or millions of viewers), accused of committing some grave cultural crime or identified as a subversive and an enemy, and then held out as the daily target of unbridled contempt, a symbol of all that is Evil.

Malkin frequently includes contact information for the identified Enemies, and O'Reilly often shows photographs or video of them on multiple programs. These bullying tactics of intimidation -- whereby people who are often just private individuals and who have no defenses (as opposed to, say, prominent politicians or media figures) are singled out for widespread public rituals of contempt -- have quite foreseeable consequences, chief among them placing those targets in fear of retribution. Publishing the home addresses of such individuals is not some wholly different approach, but is merely the next small and foreseeable step, an obvious outgrowth of the hate sessions on which many leading representatives of the Right now heavily rely.

The critical point here, just in case anyone is still unclear, is that the far-right tactics of thuggery -- tactics mainstreamed directly from white supremacist groups and organized intimidation campaigns meant to endorse and assist assaults and actual murders of abortion doctors -- is now a commonplace and eagerly embraced tool for the online so-called "conservative" movement. It simply can't be denied or dismissed as elements of an unknown "fringe" -- look at any right-wing blog, and you'll see links to, advertisements for, or endorsements of the above sites and, in many cases, explicit endorsements of the very "outing" campaigns that they are becoming known for.

Malkin, FrontPage, StopTheACLU, and similar sites are among the most prominent destinations on the right, attracting large hives of supporters that then move the themes of thuggery and intimidation throughout the movement. They're the cornerstones around which the online far-right is built. In other smaller cells of the movement, linking to and being promoted in turn by the "big boys", the racist targeting (primarily against Muslims) becomes even more pronounced, and the rhetoric of violence leaps from the implicit thuggery of the "prime" sites into the more blunt and explicit pronouncements of the far-right underbelly that represents their targeted readership.

These aren't isolated incidents. This is the face of right-wing extremism as it attempts to mainstream itself through figures like Horowitz, Malkin, and a variety of others. And the conservative blogosphere endorses it, promotes it, assists it, and applauds it when it happens.
Read Glenn's entire piece, and internalize it.

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Copycatty Coulter Pilfers Prose: Plagiarism Pro

NY Post
July 2, 2006

Conservative scribe Ann Coulter cribbed liberally in her latest book, "Godless," according to a plagiarism expert.

John Barrie, the creator of a leading plagiarism-recognition system, claimed he found at least three instances of what he calls "textbook plagiarism" in the leggy blond pundit's "Godless: the Church of Liberalism" after he ran the book's text through the company's digital iThenticate program.

He also says he discovered verbatim lifts in Coulter's weekly column, which is syndicated to more than 100 newspapers, including the Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Sun-Sentinel and Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle.
Barrie, CEO of iParadigms, told The Post that one 25-word passage from the "Godless" chapter titled "The Holiest Sacrament: Abortion" appears to have been lifted nearly word for word from Planned Parenthood literature published at least 18 months before Coulter's 281-page book was released.

A separate, 24-word string from the chapter "The Creation Myth" appeared about a year earlier in the San Francisco Chronicle with just one word change - "stacked" was changed to "piled."

Another 33-word passage that appears five pages into "Godless" allegedly comes from a 1999 article in the Portland (Maine) Press Herald.

Meanwhile, many of the 344 citations Coulter includes in "Godless" "are very misleading," said Barrie, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, where he specialized in pattern recognition.

"They're used purely to try and give the book a higher level of credibility - as if it's an academic work. But her sloppiness in failing to properly attribute many other passages strips it of nearly all its academic merits," he told The Post.

Barrie says he also ran Coulter's Universal Press columns from the past 12 months through iThenticate and found similar patterns of cribbing.

Her Aug. 3, 2005, column, "Read My Lips: No New Liberals," about U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter, includes six passages, ranging from 10 to 48 words each, that appeared 15 years earlier in the same order in an L.A. Times article, headlined "Liberals Leery as New Clues Surface on Souter's Views."

But nowhere in that column does she mention the L.A. Times or the story's writer, David G. Savage.

Her June 29, 2005, column, "Thou Shalt Not Commit Religion," incorporates 10 facts on National Endowment for the Arts-funded work that originally appeared in the same order in a 1991 Heritage Foundation report, "The National Endowment for the Arts: Misusing Taxpayers' Money." But again, the Heritage Foundation isn't credited.

"Just as Coulter plays free and loose with her citations in 'Godless,' she obviously does the same in her columns," Barrie said.

Coulter did not respond to requests for comment.

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Coulter Plagiarism Story Picks Up Steam

By Justin Rood
July 6, 2006

Is the Ann Coulter plagiarism story shifting from a one-day spark into a days-long saga?

Interest appears to be growing. John Barrie, the man whose technology identified the instances of plagiarism in acidic right-wing writer Ann Coulter's columns, is getting more calls to do national television.

Barrie, whose analysis of Coulter's work was first reported by the New York Post on Sunday, has recently been contacted by the Today Show and Good Morning America, he told me. In addition, AP, the New York Times and others have called him for stories they're working on, and the New York Post is planning a follow-up piece, he said.

"It's picking up," Barrie told me this afternoon.
Meanwhile, Universal Press Syndicate, which distributes Ann Coulter's caustic columns to over 100 newspapers nationwide, says they might use two different tools to audit Coulter's past columns, in light of the recent allegations.

So they're telling Editor & Publisher, anyway. UPS spokeswoman Kathie Kerr has yet to respond to my email this afternoon asking for an update on the matter.

E&P reports:
"We'll see what we can find on our own," said Kathie Kerr, the syndicate's director of communications, noting that Universal would use the information referenced in Sunday's New York Post article. . . .

The Universal spokeswoman said. . . she did hear from a sales-division person at the iParadigms company with which [John] Barrie is affiliated. Kerr said she was told that iParadigms wasn't sure if it "could provide the same information about Coulter as was given to the Post," but that the syndicate "could subscribe to the service that provided the information" to that newspaper.

"This tool is a service sold through subscription on LexisNexis," said Kerr. "We use the research tool on LexisNexis quite a bit. The plagiarism tool is called Copyguard and is about a year old. We'll want to set up a trial period and of course get pricing on this tool, but it sounds like something that would benefit us. I don't know how long it will take to get a trial period set up."

"From what I'm told, they were very, very eager to talk terms with LexisNexis," Barry told me.

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Suicide Mission

Qatar circulates draft resolution condemning Israel's Gaza assault

USA Today

UNITED NATIONS - Acting on behalf of Arab nations, Qatar circulated a draft U.N. Security Council resolution Thursday demanding that Israel end its offensive in the Gaza Strip and release the Palestinian officials it has arrested.

The draft faced immediate opposition from the United States and France, which called it unbalanced in its criticism of Israel. France's ambassador said he would offer changes, but U.S. Ambassador John Bolton suggested that Washington opposed the resolution entirely.

That raised the possibility that the United States, as a permanent member of the Security Council, would veto it. It has done so in the past when it believed resolutions condemning Israeli action did not include criticism of Palestinian actions.
Experts from the 15 Security Council nations were to meet later in the day to discuss the draft, but Bolton was not optimistic.

"I'm not sure there are amendments that we could propose that would make it into an acceptable resolution," he said.

Israel launched the offensive last week in response to the capture of an Israeli soldier, 19-year-old Cpl. Gilad Shalit.

The resolution calls on Israel to "scrupulously abide by its obligations and responsibilities under the Geneva Convention," and expresses its "grave concern about the dire humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people.

It demands that Israel "cease its aggression against the Palestinian civilian population" in Gaza, and also demands that Israel withdraw its forces immediately.

The document makes no mention of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel, although it expresses appreciation for efforts to find a diplomatic solution and release all prisoners, including Shalit.

France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said his nation would try to make the resolution more acceptable to the wider council.

"We think that this text needs to be balanced, it's not balanced enough and we will propose amendments," he said. "It requires, we think, a lot of work."

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UN urges Israel halt 'violations'

Thursday, 6 July 2006

The UN Human Rights Council has passed a resolution demanding a halt to Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Twenty-nine of the council's 47 member states backed the resolution, 11 voted against, five abstained and two members were absent.

The recently-formed council also said it would send a fact-finding mission to investigate the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories.

It will be led by John Dugard, a UN special rapporteur on human rights.
Israel, backed by the US and European countries, has accused the UN council of bias, because it did not also criticise violence perpetrated on the Palestinian side.

On Wednesday, Mr Dugard said Israel was violating the most fundamental norms of humanitarian and human rights law in its actions in Gaza.

Its military operation violated prohibitions on collective punishment, intimidation, while last week's arrest of officials from the governing Hamas movement appeared to constitute hostage-taking that was prohibited by the Geneva Conventions, Mr Dugard said.

"I am concerned with the law. And here it is clear that Israel is in violation of the most fundamental norms of humanitarian law and human rights law," he Mr Dugard said.

Council split

The resolution, which was brought by Islamic states, expressed "grave concern at the violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people caused by the Israeli occupation, including the current extensive Israeli military operations".

The Council urged "Israel, the occupying power, to immediately release the arrested Palestinian ministers... and all other arrested Palestinian civilians".

The text also called "for a negotiated solution to the current crisis".

European Union member states on the council, including Britain, France and Germany, voted against the resolution.

Finland, speaking on behalf of the EU, took the floor to say that the situation needed to be addressed in a "more balanced manner".

'Opportunity missed'

The resolution did urge "all concerned parties to respect the rules of international humanitarian law and to refrain from violence against civilians".

This text was added at the last moment in an unsuccessful bid to placate European concerns about what they saw as a one-sided resolution, correspondents said.

The resolution went on to call on both sides to "treat under all circumstances all detained combatants and civilians in accordance with the Geneva Conventions".

The United States, which is only an observer at the Council, called the resolution a wasted opportunity.

"A historic opportunity to address the human rights situation in a fair, equitable and balanced way has instead resulted in an unbalanced effort to single out and focus on Israel alone," US Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Warren Tichenor said.

Israel's ambassador, Itzhak Levenon said: "We find ourselves in an absurd situation in which the Human Right Council convened into urgent session ignores the rights of one side and holds a special meeting to defend the rights of the other side".

However, the Palestinian representative, Muhammad Abu Koash called it a "very mild and diluted resolution".

"While we gather here in this hall, Israeli tanks are moving and shelling Palestinians, the office of our parliament has been besieged by Israeli troops," he told the Council.

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Israel's stance could be hardening: No deals

By Thomas Frank
July 6, 2006

JERUSALEM - The Israeli government has issued a consistent and firm message since Palestinian militants captured an Israeli soldier 12 days ago: It will not negotiate with the captors.

In practice, Israel has often exchanged prisoners and negotiated with terrorists to gain the release of its soldiers and citizens.

This time, however, Israel means what it says, according to some observers. They see a shift toward the hard-line stance of the United States and other countries that refuse to negotiate over captives.

"Most Israelis saw the consequences of those bad deals," says Shlomo Brom, a retired Israeli brigadier general who is an analyst at the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv. "At the moment, it looks as if Israel is going to stand fast with its position that it's not going to give in to extortion."
Brom and others say Israel's occasional willingness to make deals has encouraged the capture of soldiers and civilians. Though both Israel and the United States have made exceptions to their stated policies of not negotiating, Israel's cases have generated more notoriety because they involved releasing thousands of prisoners:

- In 2004, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made a deal with the terrorist group Hezbollah to free 430 prisoners, including two Lebanese guerrilla leaders, in exchange for a kidnapped Israeli businessman and the bodies of three Israeli soldiers.

- In 1985, Israel released 1,150 prisoners in exchange for three Israeli soldiers captured in Lebanon in 1982. Some of the freed prisoners helped organize a Palestinian uprising in the late 1980s.

- In 1983, Israel freed 4,765 Palestinian prisoners to get back six soldiers held by Palestinians.

When Palestinians recently demanded the release of 1,000 prisoners in exchange for Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert issued a blunt statement: "We will not conduct any negotiations on the release of prisoners."

"This is a very important moment in which we should be tough enough to make it very clear that Israel is not going to release anyone," says Maj. Gen. Yaacov Amidror, a former Israeli intelligence officer who is an analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. "Otherwise, you and I will not be in a position to walk free on the streets of Tel Aviv."

It may be that the particular circumstances surrounding the latest conflict in Gaza are encouraging a no-negotiation stance that has nothing to do with a policy shift.

Israel has cracked down on the Palestinian government since Hamas won control in parliamentary elections in January. The United States and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist organization, and Israel has arrested numerous Hamas politicians in the past week.

Even before Shalit was captured, Palestinian militants were firing rockets from Gaza deeper into Israel, generating growing anger in Israel. The latest Israeli incursion into Gaza is aimed at stopping the rockets in addition to freeing Shalit.

"There is a very strong feeling that the government response has to be tough because it's also connected with the Qassem rockets," says Shlomo Avineri, a political scientist at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a former Foreign Ministry official.

It is unclear whether Olmert will continue to avoid negotiations - a stance that can be difficult in a democracy of 6.4 million people.

"When a military man is kidnapped, you feel a strong moral obligation to care for him," Brom says. "In a democratic state, public opinion is important. The families of captured people are aware of it."

On Thursday, Shalit's family for the first time called for a prisoner exchange. "You cannot solve the problem by military action only," Shalit's uncle Bezalem Raz said. "In the Middle East, everybody understands that to release Gilad, there will be a payment," Raz added, alluding to releasing Palestinians.

"People are divided between their hearts and their minds," says Amidror, the former intelligence officer. "In their minds, they understand it's a mistake to trade prisoners. In their heart, it's a Jewish heart full of mercy."

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Most Israelis want Hamas leaders assassinated: poll

Fri Jul 7, 2006

JERUSALEM - The vast majority of Israelis believe the Jewish state should assassinate leaders of the governing Palestinian movement Hamas in response to the crisis in Gaza, a newspaper poll published on Friday showed.

The survey in the Maariv daily showed 82 percent of Israelis favored killing leaders of the Islamic militant group, whom
Israel holds responsible for the abduction of a soldier on June 25 in a cross-border raid from Gaza and recent rocket attacks.
Respondents were questioned on Wednesday, the day before Israeli tanks and troops pushed into northern Gaza, taking over areas Israel abandoned last year after 38 years of occupation.

The offensive aims to bring home Corporal Gilad Shalit and halt militant rocket fire into the Jewish state from Gaza.

Israel has hinted it might assassinate Hamas leaders unless Shalit is freed. In a clear warning, an Israeli helicopter gunship wrecked the empty Gaza office of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas a few hours before dawn on Sunday.

Hamas, which is sworn to destroy Israel, took over the Palestinian government in March after winning January elections. It is already reeling under a Western aid embargo imposed because it refuses to recognize the Jewish state and disarm.

The poll showed 47 percent of respondents were unhappy with the overall performance of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, compared to 43 percent who gave a positive review. There were no comparisons from previous polls.

New Defense Minister Amir Peretz's approval rating was low, with only 28 percent of respondents saying he was doing a good job, while 64 percent said he was not.

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Israeli aircraft strike Palestinian gunmen

Associated Press
July 7, 2006

BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza Strip - Israeli aircraft struck armed Palestinians in northern Gaza early Friday after the bloodiest day of clashes in the strip since Israel withdrew last summer.

Twenty-four Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed in fighting that began on Thursday, pitting militants armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades against Israeli tanks and attack helicopters.

Israeli troops invaded two northern towns near its border on Thursday, expanding a ground offensive to win freedom for a soldier captured by militants and put Israel out of the militants' increasingly longer rocket range.

After sunrise Friday, Israel renewed its assault in northern Gaza with two airstrikes, killing one militant from the Palestinians' ruling Hamas Party, and wounding three, Hamas and hospital officials said. The military said aircraft fired at four armed Palestinians where there had been exchanges of fire. Two were wounded in the second airstrike, hospital officials said.
Israel, meanwhile, signaled its intention to reduce the scope of its operation in one of the invaded towns. Lt. Col. Yaniv, a battalion commander, said he expected troops to wind up their mission in parts of Beit Lahiya within a day or two. Those areas include a neighborhood where Palestinian militants fired rockets into the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon earlier in the week, reaching significantly farther inside Israel than at any time before.

Amid the fighting, there was still no word on the fate of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, captured June 25 by Hamas-affiliated militants.

Israeli leaders have singled out Hamas as their chief enemy, and the Palestinian prime minister, a Hamas leader, accused Israel of trying to bring down his government.

Dozens of Palestinian casualties, including many wounded women and children, crowded the emergency rooms and corridors of Gaza hospitals, already suffering from shortages of medical supplies because of a closure Israel clamped on the territory after the soldier's capture.

After touring Gaza's main hospital Thursday evening, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas called for international intervention to stop the Israeli offensive, which he called a "crime against humanity."

Haniyeh called the Israeli push "a desperate effort to undermine the Palestinian government under the pretext of a search for the missing soldier."

His Hamas movement, with a history of violence against Israel, was voted into power in a January parliamentary election.

Interior Minister Said Siyyam of Hamas issued the Palestinian government's first call to arms since Israeli ground forces invaded Gaza, appealing on Thursday to all security forces to fulfill their "religious and moral duty to stand up to this aggression and cowardly Zionist invasion." The security forces are dominated by officers loyal to the rival Fatah Party, and there was no immediate response to his appeal.

Israel insisted it was not planning to reoccupy Gaza, but military commanders said they had orders to win the soldier's release and prevent militants from firing rockets, even if that meant repeated short-term incursions.

Palestinians fired 12 rockets at Israel in the 24 hours that led up to Friday's early morning airstrikes. Six landed in Israeli territory, the military said, and one caused damage in the town of Sderot, just outside Gaza. No one was hurt.

In response, Israel on Thursday sent troops and tanks into two densely populated northern Gaza towns where militants often fire rockets, Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun.

Dozens of Palestinian casualties, most of them militants but including many wounded women and children, crowded the emergency rooms and corridors of Gaza hospitals, already suffering from shortages of medical supplies because Israel closed the territory after the soldier's capture.

After touring Gaza's main hospital Thursday evening, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas called for international intervention to stop the Israeli offensive, which he called a "crime against humanity."

Haniyeh called the Israeli assault "a desperate effort to undermine the Palestinian government under the pretext of a search for the missing soldier." His Hamas movement, with a history of violence against Israel, was voted into power in a January parliamentary election.

Throughout the day, Israeli aircraft targeted Palestinian militants with missile strikes, while Israeli tanks took up positions among tightly packed Palestinian homes. Apache helicopters hovered overhead, firing flares and machine guns to support ground forces engaged in fierce skirmishes with masked Palestinian gunmen.

Militants, many wearing black masks, sneaked down narrow alleys to approach the Israeli forces and open fire with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades.

Lt. Col. Yaniv, a battalion commander, said resistance was stiff. "The Palestinians have been firing rocket-propelled grenades, automatic weapons and setting off explosive devices," said Yaniv, who gave only his first name under military regulations.

It was not clear how many civilians were killed, but Hamas said seven of its militants died in the clashes.

During lulls in the fighting, some Palestinian women and young children fled their homes to evacuate the area on foot.

Ali Ajrami, a tailor living in a farm house in Beit Lahiya, was trapped with his nine children in one room after Israeli tanks parked behind his house and special forces took positions on the rooftops of neighboring buildings.

Gunfire could be heard nearby.

"We are trapped. I don't know what to do," he said. Ajrami said he had stocked up food and diesel fuel before the offensive, but was struggling to keep his children indoors.

An Israeli soldier died in one of the skirmishes - the first Israeli casualty. Israel Radio and Army Radio said the army was checking the possibility that he was killed by errant Israeli gunfire. The army spokesman's office said he was killed by a Palestinian gunman.

Comment: So far, ONE Israeli soldier has died, and dozens of Palestinians have been killed. Who benefits?

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Belgian court condemns two men for online revisionism

European Jewish Press

The two defendants were convicted for denying the Holocaust, minimalising the extent of Nazi crimes and inciting race hatred, especially against Jews, via a video report and prosecutable statements. ...

"Confusing Jews and Hitler is considered as incitement to hatred. Freedom of expression is not absolute in our democracy," she said. ...

The court also ruled that the two convicted were responsible for the content of messages posted on the site. ...

In a press release, the plaintiffs insisted that their action was "not against Islam or against Muslims but rather against extremists who are instrumentalising religion to incite to hatred". ...

It is the first time that the law against revisionism and incitement to hatred is applied in Belgium against an internet website.

BRUSSELS (EJP)--- A Brussels criminal court sentenced two employees of the Belgian Islamic Centre to 10 months jail on Wednesday. They were convicted for inciting race hatred against Jews by spreading revisionist and xenophobic texts via the centre's website.

The plaintiffs' lawyers said the sentence was "memorable".

Abdel Rahman Ayachi, 26, and Raphaël Gendron, 30, run the centre's website. When leaving the courtroom, they said the "Jewish lobby" had "inspired" the complaint.

Besides the jail terms, they were each ordered to pay a fine of 15,000 euros and deposit 2,500 euros into the account of the "Centre for Equal Opportunities and Fight Against to Racism".

The anti-racism office, which is a Belgian public authority, lodged a complaint against the Islamic centre.

The monetary sentence is designed to compensate the Jewish community for the damage and insulting remarks made by the lawyer for the defence, Sebastien Courtoy, who declared that the Belgian law against revisionism was "fascist and totalitarian".

Some 20 other people - members of the "Dialogue and Sharing", a group that aims to promote at Jewish-Arab coexistence - had also lodged a complaint. They will each receive a symbolic compensation of 1 euro.

Racist video

The courtroom was full when the sentence was read by the president.

The two defendants were convicted for denying the Holocaust, minimalising the extent of Nazi crimes and inciting race hatred, especially against Jews, via a video report and prosecutable statements.

The Islamic centre's "assabyle.com" website had put a link to another site showing a video made by Lebanese students who associated Adolf Hitler with former Israeli foreign minister David Levy.

"To put a weblink on the website is considered as appropriation," Francois Sant'Angelo, a legal expert for the anti-racism centre, stressed.

The president of the court, Francoise de Lamine de Bex, said in the judgement: "The fact that the video was removed from the site didn't delete the infringement.

"Confusing Jews and Hitler is considered as incitement to hatred. Freedom of expression is not absolute in our democracy," she said.

The court also ruled that the two convicted were responsible for the content of messages posted on the site.

Praise for judgment

Sara Brajbart-Zajtman, co-president of the "Dialogue and Sharing" group, praised Belgian justice system for its judgement.

"We were also in the courtroom in the name of all Jews who were not protected by law when they were insulted or beaten," she told EJP.

In a press release, the plaintiffs insisted that their action was "not against Islam or against Muslims but rather against extremists who are instrumentalising religion to incite to hatred".

The Belgian Islamic centre, located in Molenbeek, a Brussels borough with a large Muslim population, is known for spreading extremist ideas, the Belgian press noted. 400,000 Muslims live in Belgium, mainly of Moroccan and Turkish origin.

The website's owner, Sheikh Bassam, who was present at the court, called the sentence a "masquerade". His son is among the two people condemned.

The website also published texts attacking Jews who were called "cowards" or "arrogant" and launched appeals for holy war. One of the texts, addressed to French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy, supported suicide bombings.

First time

More than 150,000 messages were posted on the forum on the "assabyle.com" website. When the press first reported on it and when a complaint lodged, the website was closed and adopted a new name.

The court however rejected a demand that the judgment be publicised in full in the press. The two condemned will not be jailed as they were given a suspended sentence of three years for half of it. Prison sentences of less than three months are not executed in Belgium because of prison overpopulation.

It is the first time that the law against revisionism and incitement to hatred is applied in Belgium against an internet website.

Last year, a Moroccan airport handling worker was sentenced under the law for having written swastikas and "dirty Jews" on suitcases arriving from Tel Aviv.

The judgement was however suspended after the man lost his job.

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Berlusconi government likely knew about CIA kidnap: minister

By Roberto Landucci
Thu Jul 6, 2006

ROME - Italy's former government probably knew about the alleged CIA abduction of a terrorism suspect in 2003, new Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema said on Thursday, following the arrest of two Italian intelligence officials.

"It seems difficult to me that an operation of this sort, which would involve top-level intelligence agents, happened without the political authorities knowing absolutely anything about it," D'Alema told members of his centre-left coalition.

The comments were the strongest yet by a senior government official to suggest that the previous centre-right administration of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi might have known about the abduction.
Berlusconi's government, ousted in April elections, has fiercely denied any knowledge or connection to the matter.

Police arrested Italy's second-highest ranking military intelligence official, Marco Mancini, on Wednesday and placed another spy chief under house arrest for their possible role in the alleged kidnapping of Muslim cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar.

Prosecutors say a CIA-led team grabbed Nasr off a Milan street, bundled him into a van and later flew him to Egypt, where he is now being held without charges. Nasr says he was tortured under questioning there.

Beyond linking Italians to the kidnapping for the first time, a judge on Wednesday also raised to 26 the number of Americans -- most believed to be CIA agents -- who face arrest warrants over the Nasr case.

Prosecutors are expected to question Mancini on Friday. He denies any wrongdoing.

"We must get to the bottom of this to ascertain the truth given that it seems like there were secret agents that collaborated in carrying out a crime," D'Alema said in remarks carried by Italian media.

Any proof of Italian involvement would confirm charges by Council of Europe investigator Dick Marty made last month that European governments had colluded with Washington in secret prisoner transfers.

Nasr's lawyer told Reuters on Thursday that the cleric plans to sue Italy for 10 million euros ($12.7 million) for allegedly helping the CIA kidnap him in Milan.

Nasr had political refugee status in Italy at the time of the alleged abduction but faces arrest in Italy on suspicion of terrorist activity including recruiting militants for

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Italy to grant citizenship to legal immigrants after 5 years

Thu Jul 6, 2006

ROME - Italy's new centre-left government plans to give Italian citzenship to immigrants who have lived in the country legally for at least five years, Interior Minister Giuliano Amato said.

"I see no reason why we should not grant citizenship to those who acquire a residence permit and thus demonstrate their commitment to this country," he said during a public debate in Rome.

Amato said his ministry was currently studying the project.
But he rejected proposals to grant immigrants citizenship after only two years. "I think that's too short because many immigrants come to Italy to earn some money, then leave for home again," he said.

The minister's proposal prompted a sharp reaction from the Northern League, a minority party with a populist and xenophobic line.

"The Italians themselves will have to seek residence permits one day to ensure their rights," fumed the Northern League's Roberto Calderoli, a former minister for reform.

While it was part of the ruling right-wing coalition of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, the Northern League pushed through legislation making it harder for non-
European Union immigrants to obtain a residence permit.

At the end of last year there were some three million immigrants with proper residence qualifications in Italy and around 500,000 clandestine immigrants, according to the Roman Catholic Church charity organisation Caritas.

The new government of Prime Minister Romano Prodi has said it will grant legal status to the clandestine immigrants.

The more emollient approach towards immigrants shown by the Prodi contrasts with hardening attitudes elsewhere within the European Union.

France's interior minister, Nicholas Sarkozy, has introduced tough new legislation promoting selective immigration, setting tougher conditions for immigrants coming to France by favouring skilled workers and making it harder for migrants to reunite with their families.

The so-called Sarkozy law also scraps regulations that previously allowed illegal immigrants to obtain French documents after 10 years of living in the country. Now their cases will be dealt with on an individual basis by the authorities.

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Germany approves constitution shake-up

Friday July 7, 2006

The German parliament has approved the country's biggest constitutional shake-up since the aftermath of World War II, a far-reaching reform package to modernise its ageing federal system.

The federalism reform bill was passed by the Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament, with the required two-thirds majority a week after the Bundestag approved it.

It has been labelled the "mother of all reforms" because it envisions more than 20 amendments to the German constitution, the biggest change to the basic law since it was adopted in 1949, four years after the war ended.
The aim is to streamline Germany's government system, partly by curtailing some of the powers devolved to the country's 16 states.

In future, for example, only 35 to 40 percent of draft laws will need the approval of both the Bundestag and the Bundesrat, which represents the regional states. At present the figure is 60 percent.

Only two states -- Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Schleswig-Holstein- voted against the bill in the Bundestag on Friday.

The federal model was imposed on Germany by the Allies after the war to prevent an abuse of centralised power, but it proved increasingly cumbersome after reunification in 1990.

The reform took years to hammer out because of a tug-of-war over how much sovereignty the states would retain in matters ranging from education to the prison system and shop opening hours.

In each of these fields, the federal government has agreed to relinquish some of its powers in exchange for the weakened influence of the Bundesrat and greater powers in setting policy on issues like combating terrorism.

The overhaul will be implemented in stages from now to the start of 2007.

It is the first major reform that Chancellor Angela Merkel's seven-month-old left-right coalition government has adopted.

It also this week presented the outlines of an overhaul of the health care system, a hard-won compromise which showed up divisions in the coalition.

Observers say the health care reform reflects how difficult it is for Merkel to effect real change at the head of a power-sharing government.

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Around the World

2 American officials apologize for crime in Iraq

By Edward Wong
The New York Times
July 6, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The United States ambassador and the top American military commander here together issued an unusual apology on Thursday for the rape and murder of a young Iraqi woman and the killing of her family, saying that the crime, in which at least four soldiers are suspects, had injured the "Iraqi people as a whole."

The statement came just hours after Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said at a news conference that he might ask the American military to scrap a rule that grants foreign soldiers here immunity from Iraqi prosecution. Such a move would be a direct rebuke to the Bush administration, which has fought tenaciously to ensure that American soldiers are exempt from local or international laws when serving on foreign soil.
"I'm about to talk to the multinational forces to reach solutions that will put an end to such practices," Mr. Maliki said of criminal behavior by soldiers. One possible course of action, he said, would be to "revise the issue of immunity."

"Our people cannot tolerate that every day there is an ugly crime such as that in Mahmudiya," he added, referring to the market town near which the four Iraqis, including a young girl, were killed on March 12.

Mr. Maliki's assertion, which followed similar remarks he made in Kuwait on Wednesday, signaled the growing furor within the Iraqi government over the latest crime. The incident first became public last week, when the Fourth Infantry Division announced that it was investigating the involvement of American soldiers in the rape and slayings.

The rise in political tensions came as sectarian violence continued in Iraq. A suicide car bomber rammed his sedan into a Shiite shrine in the holy town of Kufa, killing at least 12 people, including five Iranians, and injuring dozens, Iraqi officials said. Iraqi and American forces have generally maintained tight security around the southern holy sites of Najaf and Kufa, to which Shiite pilgrims, including many Iranians, flock by the thousands.

The strongly worded apology issued Thursday night by the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., and Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad revealed the deep concern among American officials over the criminal episode's potential to damage the entire American project in Iraq.

"We understand this is painful, confusing and disturbing, not only to the family who lost a loved one, but to the Iraqi people as a whole," the two senior officials said in a written statement. "The loss of a family member can never be undone. The alleged events of that day are absolutely inexcusable and unacceptable behavior."

The statement is all the more unusual because no soldiers have been convicted yet or even formally charged. On Monday, a recently discharged Army private, Steven D. Green, 21, was arrested in North Carolina on suspicion of rape and murder. Three soldiers, some of whom are reported to have admitted their roles in the crime to investigators, are confined to base in Mahmudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad, and their weapons have been confiscated.

Mr. Green was moved on Thursday to Louisville, Ky., where, in a half-hour hearing in which he pleaded not guilty, a federal judge ordered continued detention for him. Prosecutors said that Mr. Green, who was discharged from the Army in May before his suspected role in the case was discovered, is scheduled to be arraigned on Aug. 8 in Paducah, Ky.

The mayor of Mahmudiya, Mouayid Fadhil, said in a telephone interview on Thursday that American military investigators wanted to dig up the victims' bodies. But Iraq's Justice Ministry must first determine whether exhumation is allowed under Koranic law, he said. The victims' relatives are also reluctant to divulge the burial site out of shame over the fact that one of the dead, a girl as young as 15, was reported to have been raped by at least two American soldiers, the mayor said.

Sexual assault is considered one of the most heinous and shameful crimes in Muslim society; even mentioning the subject is often considered taboo. "We don't want to talk about this," Mr. Fadhil said. "She was raped."

The debate over exhuming the bodies could complicate the military investigation. American military officials declined on Thursday to talk about specifics of the investigation, but prosecutors undoubtedly want detailed forensic evidence to build as strong a case as possible against the suspects. The victims were examined by doctors at the local hospital months ago before being buried, Mr. Fadhil said, but the Americans want to check the corpses for themselves.

The victim in the suspected rape was Abeer Qassim Hamzeh. The others killed were her younger sister, father and mother, Mr. Fadhil said.

The case is one of at least five in which the military is investigating or prosecuting soldiers in the killings of unarmed Iraqi civilians. Four were announced in June alone. The Mahmudiya case is the only one that involves the rape of an Iraqi, making it especially incendiary.

In another case, in which marines are suspected of killing 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha last November, the second-ranking American officer in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, has completed his review of an inquiry into whether Marine officers tried to cover up the shootings and is expected to announce his findings and recommendations in the next few days, said two military officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the findings have not been made public.

Mr. Maliki said at the news conference on Thursday that the Iraqi government would conduct its own inquiry into the Mahmudiya crime.

But Iraqi courts have no power to prosecute the soldiers. An order issued under the American-led Coalition Provisional Authority, which ruled Iraq after the American invasion until June 2004, said that foreign troops, missions and their consultants here are immune from Iraqi law. Orders issued by an occupational authority usually expire when the authority leaves, but the Iraqi constitution has extended the decrees.

Mr. Fadhil said that a committee of local officials was prepared to carry out its own criminal investigation but was awaiting orders from the national government. "Now, the subject has many dimensions," he said. "It's become an international affair."

Complicating matters, "the family doesn't want to say where the bodies are," he added. "The family didn't involve the police when the crime took place. We found out about it only when the Americans revealed it."

The American military began its investigation after a soldier described the crime in a counseling session in late June and said he had been involved. American soldiers were notified by Iraqis of the crime on March 12, the day it took place, military officials said. But the Iraqis who had stumbled on the bodies had speculated that other Iraqis had done the killing, since the area is a cauldron of sectarian violence. So the Americans did not think of investigating then, officials said.

A senior American commander in Mahmudiya visited Mr. Fadhil and other local officials on Thursday and "expressed sorrow for the killing of the family and the behavior of the soldiers," Mr. Fadhil said.

He added that the local investigative committee intended to examine the victims' home. The American soldiers are accused of trying to cover up the crime by burning both the body of Ms. Hamzeh and the house. But the body was sufficiently intact for local doctors to find multiple bullet wounds, Mr. Fadhil said.

The violence in Iraq on Thursday threatened to ignite further sectarian bloodletting. The suicide car bomb in Kufa had been following two buses carrying Iranian pilgrims and was detonated when the pilgrims disembarked, said Capt. Salem Ghanem, the assistant director of tourist security in Najaf, which adjoins Kufa. Iraqi vendors who had gathered around the pilgrims were among the victims.

The explosion ripped into the two buses and left behind pools of blood, shredded shoes and bags with food that the pilgrims had been carrying.

Officials in the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Kufa are hoping that religious tourism will help strengthen the local economy.

In Baghdad, two car bombs exploded near a high school, killing at least three people and injuring six. Gunmen in the town of Musayyib shot up a minivan, killing two girls who were just 4 and 6 years-old. Police found two bodies in the insurgent stronghold of Hawija; both the victims had been handcuffed and tortured.

In his afternoon news conference, Mr. Maliki said that the government has decided to ban all political activity on university campuses because of rampant violence.

He also said that a police force with thousands of members assigned to protect government buildings and other installations was filled with criminals and murderers. The declaration was an unusually blunt acknowledgment of the corruption that has plagued the Iraqi security forces. "It didn't really protect the ministries," he said of the force, called the Facilities Protection Service. "On the contrary, it turned into a partner in the killing."

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US: Leading militant captured in Iraq

Associated Press
July 7, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi soldiers captured a militant leader and more than 30 insurgents were killed or wounded Friday in a gunbattle in eastern Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

The military said the gunfight erupted after Iraqi forces came under during a raid in the Shiite slum of Sadr City.

An insurgent leader was detained during the operation. The military said he headed "multiple insurgent cells in Baghdad" that had attacked Iraqi and coalition forces with roadside bombs and car bombs.

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Calderon wins Mexican presidential race

Associated Press
July 6, 2006

MEXICO CITY - The ruling party's Felipe Calderon won the official count in Mexico's disputed presidential race Thursday, a come-from-behind victory for the stiff technocrat. But his leftist rival refused to concede and said he'd fight the results in court.

Calderon, a conservative who preached free-market values and financial stability during the campaign, was already reaching out to other parties to build a "unity government." His opponent, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, blamed fraud for his narrow loss in the vote count and called on his supporters to fill Mexico City's main square Saturday in a show of force.
With the 41 million votes counted, Calderon of President
Vicente Fox's National Action Party had 35.89 percent to 35.31 percent for Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolution Party. The two were separated by 0.57 percent, or 236,006 votes.

Roberto Madrazo, whose Institutional Revolutionary Party controlled Mexico for 71 years until Fox's victory in 2000, had 22.27 percent, and two minor candidates split the rest.

Luis Carlos Ugalde, president of the Federal Electoral Institute, confimed Calderon as the winner Thursday night, several hours after the final vote count was released.

However, the official declaration of a president-elect must come from the Federal Electoral Tribunal, which has until Sept. 6 to announce. Meanwhile, any challenges will go before the tribunal court. The next president begins a single, six-year term on Dec. 1.

Mexican stocks closed 2.7 percent higher and the peso rebounded Thursday on the news of Calderon's lead. The markets closed before the count was finished.

But many obstacles remain in Calderon's path. If his victory is upheld by electoral courts, he will face a Congress dominated by opposition parties, as well as a divided nation that sends millions north to work in the United States illegally.

President Bush's decision to send National Guard troops to the border has increased tensions in Mexico, as has a U.S. congressional proposal to extend walls along the two countries' frontier.

Calderon wants to rely on Mexico's many free-trade accords to create jobs and crack down on rising crime, and says he'll try to smooth U.S. relations without letting Washington dominate.

"I want to establish a very constructive relationship without bowing my head and lowering my eyes to the Americans," Calderon said in heavily accented English during an interview with The Associated Press.

"I have met with President Bush several times. I have interviewed with President Bush and several members of the American Congress, and I know it's possible to establish a more constructive relationship, and that would be very good for both countries."

Addressing hundreds of cheering supporters before dawn Thursday, he called on Mexicans to move beyond the bitter campaign and "begin a new era of peace, of reconciliation."

He reached out to the millions of people who voted against him, asking for a "chance to win your confidence."

For months, Lopez Obrador had been the easy front-runner in the race, promising to govern for the poor and launch big public works projects. But he slipped in the polls after he refused to take part in the first of two televised debates, and never quite recovered.

"It was Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's election to lose, and he lost," said Andrew Selee, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.

On Thursday, the former Mexico City mayor said that widespread fraud - not campaign missteps - cost him the election, and he called on his supporters to gather Saturday for an "informational assembly."

"We are always going to act in a responsible manner, but at the same time, we have to defend the citizens' will," he said.

He denounced election officials for going forward with an official count of poll-workers' vote tallies, as required by election law, and ignoring his demand for a ballot-by-ballot review.

"We are going to the Federal Electoral Tribunal with the same demand - that the votes be counted - because we cannot accept these results," Lopez Obrador said.

Lopez Obrador supporters who followed the folksy leftist with near religious zeal wept in the streets at news of his loss. A busload of children from a private school jeered at three women bawling uncontrollably as they held up banners.

As Lopez Obrador emerged from his apartment, one woman rushed forward and startled him with a desperate embrace. Taken aback for an instant, the candidate reassured her and kissed her gently on the top of the head. Tears rolled down her cheeks.

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In Mexico, 2.5 Million Missing Votes Reappear

By Al Giordano
5 July 06

López Obrador Reduces Calderón's Official Margin to 0.6 percent - IFE's Claim that 98.5 Percent of Votes Had Been Counted Was False: Authorities Now Oppose Recount

Today, in Mexico, begins a "recount" of votes cast in Sunday's presidential election... in which the umpires are refusing to recount the votes.

Election authorities of the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE, in its Spanish initials) closed ranks on Tuesday with the National Action Party (PAN) of President Vicente Fox and candidate Felipe Calderón to oppose the actual recounting the votes. This, on the heels of Tuesday's "discovery" of 2.5 million votes hidden by IFE since Sunday's election, added to a growing body of evidence - and corresponding public distrust in the institutions - that a gargantuan electoral fraud has been perpetrated.
The partial "recount" began at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, in Mexico's 300 election districts - each with an average of 400 polling places and 140,000 votes to tabulate - and sparks are already flying over the struggle to conduct an authentic count in the sunlight of public scrutiny. Attorneys and party bosses of the PAN - whose triumphalism has turned to visible panic in recent hours - have orders from headquarters to universally oppose the reopening of any ballot boxes and subsequent public accounting of the actual number of votes cast for each candidate. On the other side, representatives of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) of candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador and many outraged citizens armed with video cameras have besieged the 300 recount locales demanding an actual ballot-by-ballot recount.

This first stage of the process is likely to take days: Results from more than 11,000 precincts (the ones hidden by IFE - in most of them, López Obrador won the vote) that must be recounted, vote-by-vote, in accordance with Mexican electoral law. That is an average of almost 40 polling places per district. And with two well-organized sides battling over whether the votes will be counted aloud, combined with the stonewalling incompetence that has been IFE's trademark, an already fragile process is coming apart at the seams.

Police cordon a Nezahuacoyotl garbage dump where ballots and ballot-boxes from three precincts won by López Obrador were discovered on Tuesday.
Photo: D.R. 2006 El Universal
One of the major problems for IFE and the Fox administration is that if they were to allow the bread-and-butter recount that the public demands, the ugly truth would come out that an unknown number of ballot boxes have "disappeared" in the past two days. The ballots from three precincts in the city of Nezahuacoyotl - a López Obrador stronghold - were discovered yesterday in the municipal garbage dump. The results from two of those precincts have been missing, since Sunday, from IFE's vote tallies. An IFE official, ambushed by television reporters, exacerbated the crime yesterday when she blamed the Mexican military: the Armed Forces, not IFE, are supposedly guarding the ballots, she said, in defense of her bureaucracy. This, sources close to the military told Narco News, produced significant anger among the military generals and troops who - if the public does not believe or accept IFE's final decision - will be called upon to quell the national rebellion that follows.

The Armed Forces are understandably concerned about the very real possibility that history will be repeated: that they will be turned into the scapegoats of a process-gone-awry. If, as in the 1960s and 1970s, the military is to be called upon to repress a civilian population's protests, highway blockades, strikes and occupations of government centers - steps that are inevitable if IFE refuses to recount the votes in public - the generals will be turned into the primary recipients of the national and global repudiation that follows. Significantly, and distinct from the presidential elections six years ago, the Armed Forces have remained totally silent. Missing from the usual script are the previously obligatory statements by the military that it will unconditionally back IFE's verdict. There is the real possibility that if President Fox decides to try to quell the social unrest, that the military will refuse to become his enforcing patsy.

Although many and vast, the various federal police agencies do not count with the numbers to successfully contain a national revolt. The events of June 14 in Oaxaca, when 15,000 striking teachers repelled the dawn attack by 3,000 riot cops, is still fresh in the collective memory. With mere sticks and stones they beat back the batons, shields, teargas bazookas, and real bullets from real guns, of the invading police, sent them running in retreat, and took back 56 blocks of the city's downtown. The Mexico from below is more organized, united, and sophisticated than ever before. And, perhaps ironically, it is precisely in the states traveled in recent months by the Zapatista anti-electoral Other Campaign and its Subcomandante Marcos where the electorate voted most heavily for López Obrador and where the conditions most evidently exist to defend that vote in the streets and on the highways if need be.

The IFE's Foul Play

The malicious behavior by the Federal Electoral Institute and its chairman Luis Carlos Ugalde - in their visible maneuvers partial to Fox's PAN and Calderón throughout the election season and since - was evident prior to the election, but on Sunday night became clear as never before to the Mexican public. On Monday, the bias of the "umpire" became clearer as hundreds of specific examples of fraudulent vote counts began to surface across the Internet. On Tuesday, more so, when Ugalde and IFE were caught red-handed in a big lie: their knowingly false claim that the preliminary results system had tabulated "98.5 percent" of the vote when, in fact, the IFE had hidden 3.3 million (more than seven percent) of the precinct tallies from public view.

Proceso magazine, on Monday, put IFE chief Luis Carlos Ugalde on its cover with the headline "Arbitro Complice" ("Complicit Umpire")
The cauldron that contained the public desire for a democracy long denied began to boil over when the IFE and the two national networks - Televisa and TV Azteca - decided to withhold their exit poll results from the public on Sunday night. This left the IFE's Preliminary Election Results Program (PREP) as the only public source of information. Statisticians and mathematicians are having a field day with the manner in which IFE selectively released results to create a false impression that Calderón was the victor. Some speak of computer-generated fraud and scientific concepts such as "algorithms" that warped IFE's PREP results - your reporter is agnostic, so far, on whether that kind of fraud was committed - but there is one indisputable fact that reveals IFE's one-sided control of the flow of information, and it has nothing to do with fancy scientific concepts. Although IFE's own preliminary numbers today show a difference of only 0.64 percent between PAN and PRD votes, on election night and into Monday IFE selectively rationed the release of partial results to, at each step, portray Calderón as the winner.

The first maneuver was transparent enough: IFE began its online preliminary count on Sunday by selecting result estimates mainly from the Northern Mexican states where Calderón won the vote. This was evident on the IFE PREP results because they were listed state-by-state and also by the five electoral regions of Mexico. Less than an hour after polls closed - at 6:57 p.m. - the earliest IFE results claimed Calderón had 40.87 percent to just 33.69 percent for López Obrador; a difference of more than seven percentage points. But look at this "photograph" of that moment in time.

Graphic: IFE preliminary count at 6:57 p.m. on Sunday. Click for larger version.
"Circunscripción 2," circled in red, represents the northern region of Mexico - where all polls showed to be Calderón's strongest support and López Obrador's weakest - and although it represents only 20 percent of the country's population, IFE led with its numbers as 40 percent of its preliminary vote total. The region is far from IFE headquarters in Mexico City. It is the most geographically disperse region, too, making it a slower process to get the results in to Mexico City. But IFE doubled its statistical influence from this region in the first hour to simulate a false impression that Calderón was far in the lead.

And so it went, all night long. With each and every update, IFE selectively released the vote tallies in a manner that kept Calderón in the lead. This is statistically impossible to do with a final tally of 0.6 percent difference between the two candidates (such a process with a close vote would, if reported as results came in, always show the tally tipping back and forth from one candidate to the other) - unless the results were being rationed selectively. (As example, at noon today, with 25 percent of precinct results tabulated in this very first stage of the recount, López Obrador has 36.98 percent to 34.39 percent for Calderón: the man "in the lead" is likely to tip back and forth all day as occurs in close races. That is what IFE's PREP results would have shown on Sunday night and Monday, had it truly entered the preliminary results randomly as they came in.)

As Sunday night marched into Monday morning, López Obrador closed the gap. Until 70 percent of the preliminary results were tallied, the López Obrador vote rose in a straight and steady line (see red line on chart). But suddenly, with between 70 and 80 percent of the preliminary results tallied, the trajectory that would have put López Obrador in the lead when less than 90 percent of the votes had been counted, took a swift downturn, exactly corresponding to a swift upturn by the third-place candidate Roberto Madrazo of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), represented by the green line on the chart.

Defenders of IFE explain this suspicious turn of events as one of "the rural precincts coming in last," where PRI was expected to do better. But rural district voters constituted the weakest vote for Calderón across the country; he came in a distant third among rural farmers. As the line graph shows, in that latter stage of the posting of PREP results, Calderón's vote trajectory continues to run in the same downward straight line that it had traveled since early in the night. Had these truly been numbers from rural districts, his trajectory (the blue line) would have dipped significantly farther below.

On Monday, IFE closed its preliminary results, claiming that it had counted 98.5 percent of the precincts. With Calderon up by 377,000 votes (about 1.4 percent) it seemed to the casual observer that his lead was insurmountable. The problem is, the IFE did not tell the truth. Only about 92 percent of the preliminary tallies had been included in that count, leaving 3.3 million votes out of the count. The claim - posted with the PREP results - that 98.5 percent had been counted was knowingly false. It was intended, as has every step taken by IFE in the vote counting, to create the false impression of a clear lead by the candidate of the State, Felipe Calderón.

This was a blatant act of tampering with the PREP results by Ugalde and IFE officials. As IFE's own website says: "La alteración de estos resultados es delito federal." That means, "Alteration of these results is a federal crime." The selective withholding of those results on Sunday and since - again, and again, and again - constitutes multiple counts of what ought to be a criminal charge against those IFE officials responsible for withholding the tallies and also for falsely claiming that 98.5 percent had been counted and included in the final PREP tally when they knew it to be false.

The Missing Three Million Votes

When, on Monday, Andrés Manuel López Obrador accused the IFE of hiding 3.3 million votes, Commercial Media pundits and columnists scoffed, accused him of conspiracy theories, and continued their permanent campaign to marginalize him and his supporters.

But by Tuesday afternoon, IFE suddenly "found" 2.5 million of those missing votes.

It is difficult to believe anything IFE or Ugalde say at this point given the documented deceptions they carried out on Sunday and Monday, but even IFE's accounting of those 2.5 million suddenly reappeared votes shows a strong lead by - surprise, surprise - López Obrador:

Obrador (PRD): 888,971
Madrazo (PRI): 809,003
Calderón (PAN): 743,795
Mercado (ASD): 28,040
Campa (NA): 13,096
Write-ins: 15,019
Nullified votes: 82,452

Not counting the "nullified" votes, this narrowed Calderón's purported lead by 145,000 votes; nearly halving his supposed margin to 0.64 percent, or roughly 257,000 votes - less than two votes in each of 130,000 precincts.

As part II of this series will demonstrate, there is a consistent pattern of "vote shaving" against López Obrador between the official voting tallies (known as "actas") in precincts throughout the nation, and the PREP results. Narco News will publish photographs of the official actas and demonstrate how the PREP results published by IFE shaved handfuls of votes from López Obrador's local tallies - sometimes two, or three, or six votes; and frequently simply by chopping off a digit (in one case, for example, changing the PRD candidate's tally from 188 to 88).

There are more missing precincts (with more than 700,000 votes), plus at least 909,000 "nullified" votes that, given IFE's clear bias and unfair handling of the votes, must be reopened to find if there truly were grounds to nullify them.

There is more, so much more, to report. But the facts above alone obligate a full recount, ballot-by-ballot. And it is revealing that Calderón, Fox's PAN and the IFE are stonewalling in opposition to a public recount, while López Obrador and the PRD are insisting on it.

"El que nada debe, nada teme," is a popular Mexican expression: He who owes nothing, fears nothing.

If they are so sure they "won," why do they oppose a full recount?

At stake: criminal penalties for IFE bureaucrats if it is found that ballots were tampered with or "disappeared." That is one fear. The other - justified or not - is who wins the presidency of the Republic of Mexico.

If the IFE tries to rush to judgment and declare a winner prior to a full recount, Mexico will explode. The IFE, the PAN, Fox and Calderón are thus playing with fire.

To be continued...

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Taiwan To Test Fire Cruise Missile Capable Of Hitting China

July 06, 2006

Taipei - Taiwan plans to test-fire a cruise missile capable of hitting rival China despite concerns from the United States, a report here said Thursday. The cruise missile, with a range of 600 kilometers (360 miles), will be test-fired at a ceremony in September attended by President Chen Shui-bian in the south of the island, the ettoday.com online newspaper said.

"The United States has voiced concerns to Taiwanese authorities as the missile has exceeded the 300-kilometer limit" under the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Chinese-language paper said.

The MTCR is a voluntary association of countries aimed at preventing proliferation of such missiles, although Taiwan is not a signatory.
China's southeastern coastal cities in Fuzhou and Guangdong provinces would be within range of the cruise missile which will be launched from Chiupeng military base in Pingtung county, the website said.

Taiwan has reportedly test-fired cruise missiles in the past although the defence ministry has never confirmed the launches.

The ministry declined to comment on Thursday's report which comes just one day after North Korea test-fired seven missiles, including a long-range Taepodong-2 capable of reaching the United States, sparking international outrage. The missiles splashed down in the Sea of Japan (East Sea).

Taiwan has produced three prototypes of a cruise missile which could be used to strike the east coast of China, Jane's Defence Weekly has said.

In an article in January, the authoritative weekly said Taiwan plans to produce 50 of the missiles called Hsiung Feng 2E (Brave Wind) before 2010 and up to 500 after 2010.

"If deployed on Penghu Island in the south or Tungyin Island in the north, it could strike as far south as Hong Kong and as far north as Shanghai," a source was quoted as saying in the article.

China has repeatedly threatened to invade Taiwan should it declare formal independence, prompting the island to seek more advanced weaponry to defend itself.

The Pentagon released a report in July last year warning that China had deployed up to 730 ballistic missiles targeting Taiwan. It said Beijing's build-up could tip the military balance against Taiwan and threaten other countries in the region.

Taiwan's military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, the developer of the cruise missile, is planning to extend its range to 1,000 kilometers, the weekly said.

The Chungshan Institute is also working on a short-range ballistic missile based on the Tien Kung (Sky Bow) air-defence missile system, the weekly said.

The ballistic missile and cruise missile are integral to Taiwan's "active defence" policy, which aims to counter any aggression before it reaches Taiwanese territory, it said.

Relations between China and Taiwan, which split in 1949 at the end of a civil war, have worsened since independence-leaning Chen Shui-bian was elected president in 2000. He was re-elected last year.

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War of Terror

One year on, London police warn of more bombings

By Gideon Long and Peter Graff
July 7, 2006

LONDON - As Britain marked the first anniversary of the London suicide bombings on Friday, the city's chief police officer said the threat of another attack had grown.

One year after four young British Muslims blew themselves up on London's transport system, killing 52 people and wounding 700, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair described the threat as "grim."

"There are, as we speak, people in the United Kingdom planning further atrocities," he told BBC Radio. "Since July, the threat has palpably increased."
As Londoners went to work on Friday morning, stopping to lay flowers at the site of the July 7, 2005, attacks, the mood was one of unease mixed with resignation and defiance.

"I was there. It could have been me, so I am just lucky to be alive and remembering those who weren't that lucky," said Robert Andrews, 29, who was on one of the bombed London Underground trains.

"I am aware it could happen again but I am not worried," he told Reuters. "I have just got to get on with my life."

In what appeared to be a well-timed bid to fuel fears, a video surfaced on Thursday apparently showing one bomber, Shehzad Tanweer, reading his last statement before death.

The previously unseen video, broadcast on Qatar-based Al Jazeera television, also showed al Qaeda's deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri, suggesting a link between
Osama bin Laden's network and the bombers.


The failure of the police to charge anyone in connection with the attacks, despite an exhaustive inquiry, has added to unease.

The British government says it knows little about the motivation of the bombers, their possible training abroad or their alleged links to al Qaeda.

A survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project released in Washington on Thursday showed 42 percent of Britons were very concerned about a rise in Islamic extremism in Britain compared to 34 percent a year ago.

Many of Britain's 1.8 million Muslims feel their community has been unfairly targeted by the police since the attacks. Two botched anti-terrorist operations in which police shot two innocent men, killing one of them, have not helped.

Survivors of the bombings say an official report into the attacks published in May did not answer all their questions. Many want a full public inquiry into the events which, like the September 11 attacks in the United States, have become etched into the British psyche as a simple date -- 7/7.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose decision to send troops to Iraq and Afghanistan was cited by Tanweer, and some commentators, as a reason for the bombings, will try to shift attention away from such criticism when he joins the nation in observing a 2-minute silence at midday (1100 GMT).

At 8:50 a.m. and at 9:47 a.m. -- the times the bombs went off -- candles of remembrance were lit under the vast dome of St Paul's Cathedral as a single bell tolled.

Commemorative plaques were to be unveiled close to where the bombs went off later in the day.

Comment: The situation is indeed grim, but not for the reasons that British officials would have us believe. No one has been charged in the 7/7 bombings, yet we are told that Evil Islamic Terrorists(tm) are still plotting attacks. Unfortunately, as with the 7/7 bombings, there is no evidence given to us to substantiate such claims. If we simply look at the situation, it is clear that fear is the primary goal. Who benefits from a terrified populace willing to accept draconian "security" laws??

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Plotters sought to bomb NY tunnel: paper

July 7, 2006

WASHINGTON - A plot to bomb New York's Holland Tunnel in an effort to flood the Wall Street financial district has been uncovered by the FBI, with a suspect arrested in Lebanon, New York's Daily News reported on Friday.

The newspaper, quoting unidentified counterterrorism sources, said the investigation involved what officials considered a "serious plot" to detonate enough explosives inside the landmark tunnel to destroy it and send devastating floodwaters through lower Manhattan.

The 79-year-old tunnel runs under the Hudson River between New Jersey and Manhattan and carried almost 34 million vehicles in 2005.
The Daily News said authorities in Beirut, at the request of U.S. officials, arrested one of the suspected conspirators, identified as Amir Andalousli, in recent months and that agents were seeking other suspects around the world.

The newspaper said the FBI and New York police officials declined comment on the investigation, which it quoted a source as describing as "ongoing."

The Daily News quoted a counterterrorism source as saying officials were alarmed because the plotters allegedly got a pledge of financial and tactical support from Jordanian associates of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq before he was killed last month in a U.S. air strike. The paper said it was not clear if any cash or assistance was delivered.

Lebanon's government had been asked by the United States to hold off on announcing the arrest while operations to disrupt the plot were continuing, the Daily News quoted sources as saying.

It said New York officials, according to sources, believed the plan could conceivably work with enough explosives placed in the middle of the tunnel.

But it added that some experts did not consider the plan feasible because the tunnel was protected by concrete and cast-iron steel and that even if the tunnel cracked, the Wall Street district would not flood because it was above the level of the river.

Seven men were charged in the United States last month with conspiring to blow up the landmark Sears Tower in Chicago and FBI buildings in Miami and four other cities as part of a pledge to al Qaeda to wage war against America. U.S. officials said the plot never went beyond the earliest stages.

Comment: It's funny that they mention the Sears Tower plot. Wasn't that the plot where the "terrorists" were set up by the FBI? And now again we see the FBI warning of another bombing plot that experts say wouldn't even have worked...

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Bin Laden shows new life in tapes

By Caroline Drees
Reuters Security Correspondent
Thu Jul 6, 2006

WASHINGTON - Suddenly, the faces and voices of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri are everywhere, in a stream of video and audio messages broadcast to the world.

In the past month alone, six new tapes from the two have reached an international audience. Excerpts of Zawahri's latest message were broadcast on Al Jazeera television on Thursday, a day before the first anniversary of the London bombings.

But U.S. officials and terrorism experts are wary of concluding that the spate of messages means another major attack is imminent.
Instead, they believe a complicated mix of factors is behind the outpouring: a desire to show that al Qaeda is still potent; a new sophistication in the use of propaganda, and finally, sheer coincidence as several different messages have all surfaced within a short time span.

U.S. officials and terrorism experts said they take al Qaeda's threats seriously. The two men are believed to be hiding somewhere in the hostile, tribal border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Bin Laden was not heard from for a year prior to January 2006. But he and Zawahri have now issued 11 audio and video tapes this year, the highest frequency recorded since the September 11 attacks, analysts say.

"They are trying to prove that the movement's not dead," said Kenneth Katzman, a terrorism analyst at the Congressional Research Service, the in-house think tank of Congress.

The two leaders may have felt they had to respond quickly to last month's U.S. military success in killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq.

A failed U.S. attempt to kill Zawahri in January and possible greater ease of movement for al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan's northwest frontier region might have also contributed to the higher volume of tapes, Katzman said.

Ben Venzke, head of intelligence company IntelCenter whose clients include the U.S. government, said the back-to-back timing of the messages did not mean they were actually designed to produce a threatening crescendo.

"Does this correlate to any kind of future attacks? I think it doesn't lend itself to an easy yes or no," he said, although certain elements of past messages such as references to U.S. territory could indicate an increased likelihood of a future attack.

Venzke saw some of the tapes as a quick al Qaeda response to major events, such as the death of Zarqawi. Others were more general commentaries on current events which were issued when they were ready. Still others were anniversary features issued to mark the date of a past attack.


In part, experts traced the recent wave of messages to al Qaeda's increasing media savvy and better logistics.

"It's a result of their ongoing propaganda efforts which have become even more sophisticated," a U.S. counterterrorism official said. "It demonstrates that they've greased the wheels. They've gotten better at this with time."

Coupled with its growing production expertise, al Qaeda leaders have increasingly felt compelled to reassure followers after setbacks while claiming credit for events that seem favorable to their cause.

"Bin Laden and Zawahri are trying to piggy-back on events they consider favorable, such as the Taliban resurgence, the upsurge of Islamic militants in Pakistan, the takeover by the Islamic Courts Union in Somalia. By coming out with this many videos, they are trying to give the impression that 'this is because of us,"' Katzman said.

Gen. Russ Howard, an Army terrorism expert who retired last year, said al Qaeda might be trying to debunk U.S. assertions that the organization was losing central control of its supporters to local or "homegrown" Islamic militants who operate independently.

"This may be a bit of propaganda asserting that there is some type of central control -- that maybe we have this all wrong," Howard said. "It may be a way of telling those franchise groups or wannabe groups that al Qaeda is still in the game, even despite the killing of Zarqawi."

The two leaders may have felt they had to respond quickly to last month's U.S. military success in killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq.
Who really benefits from these videos? Bush needs Americans to remain terrified. Without fear, the masses may start thinking for themselves.

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Health and Environment

Artificial hormones in U.S. beef linked to breast cancer, prostate cancer

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

There is new concern over evidence that growth and sex hormones in beef can cause genital abnormalities in boys, and early onset of puberty in girls.

British Veterinary Products Committee (VPC) member and chemical expert John Verall was appointed to the government's VPC to represent consumer interests. He recently defied a government gag order, revealing evidence from the study which showed a rise in the rates of breast and prostate cancer in the United States, where two-thirds of all cattle are pumped full of hormones.
Of special concern to Verall are the hormones melegestrol acetate, progesterone, testosterone, trenbolone and zeranol. These hormones are known to disrupt the body's natural balance, causing a number of biological effects. "There is clear evidence of the risk to human health posed by these hormones," Verall said, citing research that showed oestradiol is considered to be a cancer risk. Studies show that 97 of every 100,000 U.S. women have breast cancer, whereas only 67 of every 100,000 European women are afflicted.

Verall added that according to recent studies, children are particularly sensitive to these hormones, which can cause "sudden growth or breast development, even at levels which are difficult to detect in the laboratory."

Currently, the European Union prohibits the use of growth or sex hormones to speed the maturity of cattle and fatten them up, but there are doubts as to whether the ban has been enforced, because there is no testing for hormone residue in beef imported to the EU. The U.S. government has attempted to have the ban lifted, a move supported by Prime Minister Tony Blair and his administration.

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Demand for organic food outstrips supply

AP Food and Farm Writer
Thu Jul 6, 2006

WASHINGTON - America's appetite for organic food is so strong that supply just can't keep up with demand. Organic products still have only a tiny slice, about 2.5 percent, of the nation's food market. But the slice is expanding at a feverish pace.

Growth in sales of organic food has been 15 percent to 21 percent each year, compared with 2 percent to 4 percent for total food sales.

Organic means food is grown without bug killer, fertilizer, hormones, antibiotics or biotechnology.
Mainstream supermarkets, eyeing the success of organic retailers such as Whole Foods, have rushed to meet demand. The Kroger Co., Safeway Inc. and SuperValu Inc., which owns Albertson's LLC, are among those selling their own organic brands. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said earlier this year it would double its organic offerings.

The number of organic farms - an estimated 10,000 - is also increasing, but not fast enough. As a result, organic manufacturers are looking for ingredients outside the United States in places like Europe, Bolivia, Venezuela and South Africa.

That is no surprise, said Barbara Robinson, head of the Agriculture Department's National Organic Program. The program provides the round, green "USDA Organic" seal for certified products.

Her agency is just now starting to track organic data, but Robinson believes the United States is importing far more organic food than it exports. That's true of conventional food, too.

"That is how you stimulate growth, is imports generally," she said. "Your own industry says we're tired of importing this; why should I pay for imports when I could start producing myself?"

"We're doing a lot of scrambling," said Sheryl O'Loughlin, CEO of Clif Bar Inc. "We have gotten to the point now where we know we can get a call for any ingredient."

The makers of the high-energy, eat-and-run Clif Bar needed 85,000 pounds of almonds, and they had to be organic. But the nation's organic almond crop was spoken for. Eventually, Clif Bar found the almonds - in Spain. But more shortages have popped up: apricots and blueberries, cashews and hazelnuts, brown rice syrup and oats.

Even Stonyfield Farm, an organic pioneer in the United States, is pursuing a foreign supplier; Stonyfield is working on a deal to import milk powder from New Zealand.

"I'm not suggesting we would be importing from all these places," said Gary Hirshberg, president and CEO of Stonyfield Farm Inc. "But for transition purposes, to help organic supply to keep up with the nation's growing hunger, these countries have to be considered."

The dilemma of how to fill the gap between organic supply and demand is part of a long-running debate within America's booming organic industry. For many enthusiasts, organic is about more than the food on their plates; it's a way to improve the environment where they live and help keep small-scale farmers in business.

"If organic is something created in the image of sustainable agriculture, we certainly haven't accomplished that yet," said Urvashi Rangan, a scientist for Consumers Union. "What people do have to understand is if that stuff comes in from overseas, and it's got an organic label on it, it had to meet USDA standards in order to get here."

The issue causes mixed feelings for Travis Forgues, an organic dairy farmer in Vermont.

"I don't like the idea of it coming in from out of this country, but I don't want them to stop growing organic because of that," Forgues said. "I want people to say, 'Let's do that here, give a farmer another avenue to make a livable wage.'"

A member of the farmer-owned Organic Valley cooperative, Forgues got his dairy farm certified nearly 10 years ago. Organic Valley supplies milk to Stonyfield.

Switching to organic is a difficult proposition. Vegetable grower Scott Woodard is learning through trial and error on his Putnam Valley, N.Y., farm. One costly mistake: Conventional farmers can plant seeds when they want and use pesticides to kill hungry insect larvae. If Woodard had waited three weeks to plant, the bugs that ate his seeds would have hatched and left. Organic seeds can be double the price of conventional.

"There's not a lot of information out there," Woodard said. "We try to do the best we can. Sometimes it's too late, but then we learn for next time."

Stonyfield and Organic Valley are working to increase the number of organic farms, paying farmers to help them switch or boost production. Stonyfield, together with farmer-owned cooperative Organic Valley, expects to spend around $2 million on incentives and technical help in 2006, Hirshberg said.

Other companies offer similar help. And the industry's Organic Trade Association is trying to become more of a resource for individual farmers.

Caren Wilcox, the group's executive director, described how an Illinois farmer showed up in May at an industry show in Chicago.

"He said, 'I want to get certified. Help me,'" Wilcox said. "It was a smart thing to do, but the fact that he had to get into his car and go down to McCormick Center says something about the availability of information."

In the meantime, manufacturers like Clif Bar and Stonyfield still prefer to buy organic ingredients, wherever they come from, instead of conventional crops in the U.S.

"Anybody who's helping to take toxins out of the biosphere and use less poisonous chemicals in agriculture is a hero of mine," Hirshberg said. "There's enormous opportunity here for everybody to win, large and small."

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Stem-Cell Passage Expected

by Todd Zwillich
July 06, 2006

Washington - Advocates both for and against embryonic-stem-cell experimentation say they expect a bill repealing President Bush's limits on the research to pass when the Senate soon takes up debate on the controversial legislation.

Under a plan announced last week by Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., the Senate is set to take up a series of bioethics bills held dear by both Republicans and Democrats. They include a measure that would lift limits on federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research laid down by Bush nearly five years ago.
Bush has vowed to veto the popular measure, which passed the House by a wide margin last year. If he does, it would be his first veto of legislation from the Republican-led Congress in his five and a half years in office.

Many lawmakers opposed to the research were hoping to avoid that scenario, in part by presenting alternatives that could allow stem-cell research to proceed without destroying human embryos to collect them. Along with the House bill, the Senate will vote on a measure sponsored by Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., that seeks to fund embryo-sparing embryonic-stem-cell research.

But groups both for and against expanding research using existing technology -- the kind requiring destruction of embryos -- say that the alternative is unlikely to attract enough lawmakers to defeat the House bill, known as H.R. 810.

"We are confident that we have the votes to pass 810, and that is the important thing," said Sean Tipton, president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, an umbrella group of dozens of organizations backing the repeal.

Conservative opponents of the research say they're counting on Bush to follow through on his threat to veto the measure, even though it remains popular with voters who will soon be casting ballots in mid-term elections.

Douglas Johnson, chief lobbyist for the National Right-to-Life Committee, an anti-abortion group opposing embryonic-stem-cell research, pointed to statements from Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., saying that his bill repealing Bush's policy has the 60 votes it will need to clear the Senate.

"It may well prove to be the case that Specter's correct," he said. "If he is, it'll go to the president. The president has made it very clear he will veto."

Some anti-abortion lawmakers have said they favor repealing the White House stem-cell policy. Most notable among them is Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a staunchly anti-abortion lawmaker who strongly favors research on embryos left over from fertilization clinics and slated for destruction.

Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, a conservative group, said that her group would take lawmakers to task on H.R. 810 and another scheduled bill banning what opponents have dubbed "fetal farming," the so-far theoretical process of creating human embryos or fetuses for the purposes of medical research.

"It will be something in our voter guide, making people aware of how senators voted on it," she said.

Santorum, currently trailing in polls against a Democratic challenger, is the main sponsor of both the alternative embryonic-stem-cell bill and the "fetal farming" measure.

CAMR's Tipton said his group would not oppose the bills but called them a "fig leaf" attempting to give vulnerable lawmakers a way to support stem-cell research without enraging conservatives by supporting backing a repeal of the Bush policy.

"I think it's clear the American public supports stem-cell research, and that creates a political dilemma for a couple people," he said.

"What we're going to do is expose anyone who tried to not support H.R. 810 and still argue that they're pro-patient, pro-research," he said.

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Powerful typhoon nears southern Japan

Thu Jul 6, 2006

TOKYO - A powerful typhoon was nearing Japan's southern island chain of Okinawa on Friday, likely bringing strong winds and torrential rain to the area later in the day, Japan's Meteorological Agency said.

Typhoon Ewiniar, whose name means "storm god" in the Chuuk language of Micronesia, was south of Okinawa and moving slowly north-northwest early on Friday, bringing with it winds of up to 160 km (99 miles) per hour, the agency said.

The agency warned of heavy rain and flooding in parts of Okinawa. The storm was forecast to weaken slightly and move across the southern part of South Korea over the weekend, the agency said.

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Wildfires may be linked to global warming

July 6, 2006

WASHINGTON - The increase in the number of large western wildfires in recent years may be a result of global warming, researchers say.

An analysis of data going back to 1970 indicates the fires increased "suddenly and dramatically" in the 1980s and the wildfire season grew longer, according to scientists in Arizona and California.

"The increase in large wildfires appears to be another part of a chain of reactions to climate warming," said Dan Cayan, a co-author of the paper and director of the climate research division at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
He said that while part of the increase may be attributed to natural fluctuations, evidence also links it to the effects of human-induced climate warming.

Scientists have become increasingly concerned in recent years about the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels. Average worldwide temperatures have risen this century as a result of what many believe is a greenhouse effect from that pollution.

The researchers used the files of the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service to analyze 1,166 fires of more than about 1,000 acres. Their findings are published Thursday in the online edition of the journal Science.

Beginning about 1987, there was a change from infrequent fires averaging about one week in duration to more frequent ones that often burned five weeks or more, they reported. The length of the wildfire season was extended by 78 days.

The researchers said the changes appear to be linked to annual spring and summer temperatures, with many more wildfires burning in hotter years than in cooler years.

They also found a connection between early arrivals of the spring snowmelt in the mountainous regions and the incidence of large forest fires. An earlier snowmelt, they said, can lead to an earlier and longer dry season, which provides greater opportunities for large fires.

"I see this as one of the first big indicators of climate change impacts in the continental United States," said research team member Thomas Swetnam, director of the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona in Tucson. "We're showing warming and earlier springs tying in with large forest fire frequencies. Lots of people think climate change and the ecological responses are 50 to 100 years away. But it's not 50 to 100 years away - it's happening now in forest ecosystems through fire."

The research was supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Forest Service and the California Energy Commission.

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Last but not least

Subway rider sliced in power saw attack

Thu Jul 6, 2006

NEW YORK - A man wielding a cordless power saw in each hand rampaged through a Manhattan subway station early Thursday, using one of the buzzing blades to carve into the chest of a postal worker who later said it felt like "he was trying to cut through me."

Police arrested Tareyton Williams, 33, of the Bronx, on attempted murder and other charges about two hours later after they said he punched someone in another random attack on the street.
The victim, Michael Steinberg, 64, was hospitalized in stable condition. Speaking by telephone to reporters who gathered outside the hospital, he said the attack was unprovoked.

The assailant "never spoke," Steinberg said. "I think he was out of his mind."

The attacker snatched the two saws from a cart being used by workers upgrading the public address system at a subway station a few blocks south of Columbia University. He assaulted Steinberg moments after taking a swipe at another rider and missing, police said.

"He looked at me and before I knew it he was attacking me," Steinberg said of the pre-dawn attack. "The motor kept going on. He was trying to cut through me."

Steinberg said the attacker finally paused to demand money, then bolted out of the station with his wallet and the power tools. The saws were later found in a trash can.

Williams was in police custody Thursday evening. There was no telephone listing for him at the home address provided by police.

The attack came two weeks after a Boston man was charged with stabbing four people - three of them tourists - over a 13-hour period in the subway and the theater district in Manhattan.

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2 in Tongan royal family killed in Calif.

Associated Press
Fri Jul 7, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO - Two royal family members from the South Pacific island nation of Tonga were killed when a teenager racing her car crashed into their sport utility vehicle, authorities said Thursday.

Prince Tu'ipelehake, 56, and Princess Kaimana, 46, died Wednesday night, according to Senter Uhilamoelangi, a distant relative and longtime friend of the prince.
Uhilamoelangi said the couple had arrived in the area earlier this week to discuss political reforms with members of the region's Tongan community. Uhilamoelangi, a Tonga native and East Palo Alto resident, helped arrange the visit.

San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault confirmed that two members of Tonga's royal family died in the crash. But he would not release their names until the Tongan government made an official announcement.

The driver of the red Ford Explorer carrying the two also was killed, the California Highway Patrol said.

Edith Delgado, 18, of Redwood City, allegedly was racing her car at speeds up to 100 mph on a highway in Menlo Park, about 30 miles south of San Francisco, when she tried to pass the SUV in which the royal couple was traveling, said highway patrol Officer Ricky Franklin.

Delgado's car slammed into the driver's side of the Explorer, causing it to swerve across several lanes before tumbling to a stop on its roof, Franklin said.

Delgado, who was not injured, was jailed on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and engaging in a speed contest, Franklin said.

Tonga - a 170-island archipelago about halfway between Australia and Tahiti - has a population of about 108,000 and an economy dependent on pumpkin and vanilla exports, fishing, foreign aid and remittances from Tongans abroad.

Now the last monarchy in the Pacific, Tonga has been a Polynesian kingdom and a protectorate of Britain, from which it acquired independence in 1970. It is ruled by 88-year-old King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters praised Prince Tu'ipelehake's efforts at reforming Tonga's political system and said it was a "tragedy" that he died while traveling to the United States to seek out opinions of Tongans.

"He pursued this goal with sensitivity and perception, mixed with a strong determination to achieve progress," Peters said in a statement. "This earned wide respect in New Zealand as well as in Tonga, where he was often called the Prince of the People."

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China coal-mining village blast kills 43

Fri Jul 7, 2006

BEIJING - Explosives stored in a Chinese farmer's home blew up in the early hours of Friday, killing 43 people and injuring 28, Xinhua news agency said.

The accident happened in Dongzhai village, in the northern coal-mining province of Shanxi, after the building had caught fire, Xinhua said.
A large crowd had gathered, some trying to put out the blaze, others just watching.

Some 37 villagers were killed on the spot and six died in hospital, Xinhua said.

"The villager's home was blasted into rubble," it said, quoting a local official.

Deadly blasts caused by privately stored explosives are not rare in Shanxi, where about a quarter of China's coal is produced.

In April, at least 33 people were killed and buildings flattened in the city of Yuanping when explosives stored by a former coal-mine owner blew up.

Ten villagers were killed in a gold-mining town in Shanxi in a blast at a family dynamite workshop in June.

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Mystery Object Found in Supernova's Heart

Thu Jul 6, 2006

Embedded in the heart of a supernova remnant 10,000 light-years away is a stellar object the likes of which astronomers have never seen before in our galaxy.

At first glance, the object looks like a densely packed stellar corpse known as a neutron star surrounded by a bubble of ejected stellar material, exactly what would be expected in the wake of a supernova explosion.

However, a closer 24.5-hour examination with the European Space Agency's XMM Newton X-ray satellite reveals that the energetic X-ray emissions of the blue, point-like object cycles every 6.7 hours-tens of thousands of times longer than expected for a freshly created neutron star.
It is behavior that's more commonly seen in neutron stars that have been around for several million years, researchers say.

"The behavior we see is especially puzzling in view of its young age, less than 2,000 years," said study leader Andrea De Luca of the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF) in Milan. "For years we have had a sense that the object is different, but we never knew how different until now," De Luca said.

The finding is detailed in the July 7 issue of the journal Science.

Novel stage?

Called 1E161348-5055, or 1E for short, the object is embedded almost in the exact center of RCW103, a supernova remnant located 10,000 light-years away in the constellation Norma. Astronomers think that 1E and RCW103 were both born in the same catastrophic event.

Like other neutron stars, which form when a star at least eight times more massive than the Sun runs out of fuel and explodes as a supernova, 1E is estimated to be only about 12.5 miles (20 km) across.

One explanation for the neutron star's strange behavior is that it might be a magnetar, an exotic subclass of highly magnetized neutron stars. Of the dozen or so magnetars that are known, however, most usually spin several times per minute-much faster than 1E.

This explanation might still work, however, if the magnetar is surrounded by a debris disk that is helping to slow down the neutron star's spin. This scenario has never been observed before and would mark the discovery of a novel stage in neutron star evolution if confirmed.

One or two?

Another explanation, scientists say, is that 1E is part of a binary system with a normal, low-mass star with only half the mass, or less, of our Sun.

Such X-ray binary systems are known, but they usually involve systems that are millions of times older than 1E.

Despite the many speculations, the short answer is that scientists simply don't yet know how to explain 1E's strange behavior.

"RCW103 is an enigma," said study team member Giovanni Bignami, director of the Centre d'Etude Spatiale des Rayonnements (CESR) in France. "When we do figure this out, we're going to learn a lot more about supernovae, neutron stars and their evolution."

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