Aug. 12, 1949, -the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, the 2001 UN Agreement to Curb the International Flow of Illicit Small Arms, -the 1998 International Criminal Court (ICC) Treaty, -the 1996 Comprehensive [Nuclear] Test Ban Treaty, -the 2001 International Plan for Cleaner Energy, -the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, -the 1945 Nuremberg Tribunal Charter against wars of aggression, etc.
A government bent on consciously spreading international anarchy could not have done better. Anarchy is by definition the absence of order. The word is derived from the Greek av (absence of) and apxn (authority or government). In a lawless international world, the strong bullies can have their way, for a while, without being accountable for their acts. Within democratic countries, domestic anarchy has been replaced by the rule of law. Unfortunately, as the events of the last few years have demonstrated, the existing international system of order built around the United Nations Charter does not seem to be strong enough to prevent a return to international anarchy.
There is no better way to undermine civilization than for a powerful country to resort to the law of the strongest. The arrogant use of force and violence as substitutes for dialogue, diplomacy and negotiations is a sure way to international anarchy. In a world of international anarchy, however, no country is secure from being attacked and invaded. Political disintegration and economic regression inevitably follow, because laws and treaties are not worth the paper they are written on. -There is no such thing as the common good of humanity. -It's every country for itself. To pretend to be a law-abiding country and to treat other countries badly is sheer hypocrisy. Mind you, the Peace Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 was the first to introduce international law and the fundamental principle of national sovereignty into the international arena. This was the beginning of civilization in international relations, and it paved the way for establishing democracy in most of Europe.
In the Muslim world, however, the reverse is happening today. The advent of democracy has been set back decades because Bush's illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq has resulted in an Islamist and anti-democracy reaction. This reaction has been exacerbated by the military invasion of Lebanon by the U.S.'s client state, Israel.
Far from announcing the spread of liberal democratic institutions in the Muslim world or in the Middle East, the Islamist/nationalist reaction to the American-Israeli Axis' bullying tactics has helped totalitarian religious parties get closer to power. Everywhere, Islamic nationalism is on the rise, and moderate Muslims have been placed on the defensive, if not pushed underground. Even in Turkey, the most pro-Western Islamic country and a member of NATO, the anti-West mood is 'rising'. The very idea of exporting 'democracy' with bombs and tanks was crazy to begin with, more like a cruel hoax. Elections in some of the most extreme Islamic countries were bound to bring anti-West religious parties to power.
Indeed, in recent general elections in many Middle East countries, Islamist parties have obtained significant victories: for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, for Hamas in Palestine, for Hezbollah in Lebanon, and for a host of Islamist religious parties in Iraq, Somalia, and Afghanistan. As time goes on and the American-led occupation of Iraq and the Israeli occupation of Lebanon persist, and as American puppet Israel continues to kill innocent civilians in Gaza and in Lebanon, radical Islamist parties will gain further in popularity in most, if not all, Muslim countries. The U. S. will lose any following and Western values will be shunted aside in favor of radical Islamism. What a mess! -It is really true that under the failed leadership of George W. Bush, the world is going to hell (politically, economically and morally speaking)! -Such an outcome is not surprising, considering the two disastrous foreign policy "doctrines" crafted by the Bush-Cheney administration, i.e. the troubling regime change 'preventive war' "Bush Doctrine" and Cheney's even crazier faith-based "one percent" doctrine for unilateral military intervention.
History will record that, most of the time, the Bush-Cheney administration has displayed a rude single-minded arrogance in dealing with other countries. As a consequence of its confrontational and intransigent approach, the Bush team has alienated traditional allies and foes alike. It will take years for a new American administration to repair the damage done by the current wrecking crew-style administration.
Rodrigue Tremblay is professor emeritus of economics at the University of Montreal and can be reached at rodrigue.tremblay@ yahoo.com.
He is the author of the book 'The New American Empire'.
>Visit his blog site atwww.thenewamericanempire.com/blog.
Author's Website: www.thenewamericanempire.com/
Posted on July 24, 2006, at 7:30 a.m.
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Editorial: Signs Economic Commentary
Signs of the Times
July 24, 2006
Gold closed at 621.20 on Friday, down 7.1% from $665.40 at the end of the previous week. The dollar closed at 0.7877 euros Friday, down 0.3% from 0.7904 for the week. The euro closed at 1.2695 dollars on Friday compared to 1.2652 at the close of the previous Friday. Gold in euros would be 489.33, down 7.5% from 525.92 for the week. Oil closed at 74.43 dollars a barrel this week, down 3.2% from $76.80 at the end of the week before. Oil in euros would be 58.63 euros a barrel, down 3.5% from 60.70 for the week. The gold/oil ratio closed at 8.35 Friday, down 3.7% from 8.66 at the close of the previous Friday. In U.S. stocks, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 10,876.71, up 1.3% from 10,739.35 for the week. The NASDAQ closed at 2,021.68 on Friday, down 0.8% from 2,037.35 at the end of the week before. In U.S. interest rates, the yield on the ten-year U.S. Treasury note closed at 5.04%, down two basis points from 5.06 for the week.
In spite of the frightening events taking place in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, world markets continue to act as if they are being propped up. Gold fell sharply last week, about 7%, and oil fell about 3%. Of course, these drops were from highs last Friday that were reached as the implications of what Israel and the United States are doing became apparent. It seems that things are getting so crazy lately that crazy is the norm. Shocks wear off way too soon. If you could go in a time machine and visit your own self of six years ago, would you even believe what would take place? But since then we have become accustomed to global mayhem. Another reason for the lack of panic in U.S. markets, anyway, is the fact that the U.S. media has completely taken the side of Israel and is trying to portray the criminal attack as some sort of normal, justified defensive "operation."
We have discussed the slow nature of the world economic and political collapse. It is slow enough that the word 'collapse' might seem inappropriate. George Ure makes an important point about what he calls the "piecemeal collapse:"
[T]here's a way that complex systems can degrade in piecemeal fashion, rather than single points of failure (SPF's) in such a way that the system collapses anyway. A couple of reasons to mention this, beyond my early subscriber paper "Death by JIT" and the recent mentions in the web bot runs about JIT being a factor in emerging "shortages": One is the power outages that have cropped up around the country including Queens, New York, and the St. Louis area. It's something for you to noodle on: How many small "piecemeal" collapses does it take before larger complex systems seriously degrade? And, how many people end up starving if a power outage (heat induced) were to hit at the peak of the picking/canning season in America's food belt states?
Molly Ivins last week wrote about the hedge funds/derivatives problem:
The Suicide of Capitalism
By Molly Ivins
Posted on Jul 17, 2006
Editor's note: In this column, Molly Ivins notes that when the Long Term Capital Management hedge fund went belly up in 1998, it nearly wrecked world markets. So why, she wonders, are we allowing well-connected Republicans to prevent the SEC from staving off the next catastrophe?
AUSTIN, Texas - In case you haven't got anything else to worry about - like war in the Middle East, nuclear showdowns, global warming or Apocalypse Now - how about the suicide of capitalism?
Late last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals struck down a new rule by the Securities and Exchange Commission requiring mandatory registration with the SEC for most hedge funds. This may not strike you as the end of the world, but that's because you've either forgotten what a hedge fund is or how much trouble the funds can get us into.
These investment pools for rich folks are now a $1.2-trillion industry (known to insiders, I am pleased to report, as "the hedge fund community"). Hedge funds are now beginning to be used by average investors and pension investors. Back in 1998, there was this little-bitty old hedge fund called Long Term Capital Management. Because hedge funds make high-risk bets, Long Term Capital got itself in so much trouble its collapse actually threatened to wreck world markets, and regulators had to step in to negotiate a $3.6-billion bailout. A similar fiasco at this point probably would break world markets.
The Securities and Exchange Commission under William Donaldson (appointed after the Enron mess) had tried to regulate hedge funds. But Christopher Cox, current SEC chairman and no friend of regulation, said he would consult other members of the administration about whether to appeal the ruling, which "came on the same day as disclosures," reports The Washington Post, that the feds "are investigating Pequot Capital Management, Inc., a $7 billion hedge fund, for possible insider trading." Nice timing, judges.
This is the third time in less than a year the appeals court has blocked the SEC from acting beyond its authority. According to The Washington Post, "Former SEC member Harvey J. Goldschmid, who voted to approve the plan, yesterday urged regulators to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, members of Congress or both. In the Pequot case, a former SEC lawyer who worked on the Pequot investigation before being fired by the agency has written a letter to key members of the Senate banking and finance committees alleging that the SEC dropped the probe because of political pressure." The lawyer said he was prevented by political pressure from interviewing a top Wall Street executive. Sources said the executive was John J. Mack, once chairman of Pequot and now chief executive of Morgan Stanley - and a major fundraiser for President Bush's campaigns. I'd say the guy's wired.
So what we have here is yet another case of ideological decision-making ("all government regulation is bad") being applied despite the most obvious promptings of common sense. Come to think of it, that's exactly the pattern this administration has followed with war in the Middle East, nuclear showdowns, global warming and Apocalypse Now...
Actually, to give the devil his due, such a calling off of investigations into hedge funds is another example of how the world economy is being propped up by temporary measures. In other words, the investigation might cause what would be a normally healthy crash in hedge funds while calling off any regulation or investigation can buy a little time.
Here is a good graph that shows exactly how the world economy has been kept afloat for far longer than most of us doomsayers could have predicted: liquidity injections! And large hedge funds are a covert way for central banks to inject massive liquidity into markets, since they are seen as "too big to fail" and hence backed by central banks. Central banks have several ways to use large hedge funds for this purpose.
Now if the underlying factors all point to collapse, it can't be propped up indefinitely, but it is starting to seem as if it is being sustained at current levels until something else of immense catastrophic importance takes place. In other words, the Powers that Be in normal times might already have pulled the world economy in the usual controlled demolition. But these aren't normal times. If they know that something ELSE is coming, they do have the ability to keep things afloat for a few extra years. The question then becomes what is that something else? Candidates include: world war which goes nuclear, climate change leading to massive food shortages, earthquakes, meteor impacts, plagues, etc. They don't call them the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse for nothing.
All the usual idiots on United States Television are now talking excitedly about how World War Three has started. They shouldn't be so excited because it is the United States/Israel who will lose, and, as they are losing will be tempted to unleash nuclear holocaust. The blogger Billmon has this scenario:
Losing an Army
Earlier this week I linked to a commentary from William S. Lind in which he warned that war with Iran could result in the loss of the 140,000 man army America currently has bogged down in Iraq. This may have seemed far-fetched, given the enormous military disparity between the two sides. But Col. Pat Lang, a former intelligence officer, explains how and why it could happen:
American troops all over central and northern Iraq are supplied with fuel, food, and ammunition by truck convoy from a supply base hundreds of miles away in Kuwait. All but a small amount of our soldiers' supplies come into the country over roads that pass through the Shiite-dominated south of Iraq . . .
Southern Iraq is thoroughly infiltrated by Iranian special operations forces working with Shiite militias, such as Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigades. Hostilities between Iran and the United States or a change in attitude toward US forces on the part of the Baghdad government could quickly turn the supply roads into a "shooting gallery" 400 to 800 miles long.
(Christian Science Monitor, via No Quarter)
There's a saying: Amateurs talk strategy; professionals talk logistics. And in the case of the U.S. Army, they talk it about a lot. This has been true almost as long as there's been a U.S. Army. During the 1944-45 campaign in Europe, for example, each U.S. division consumed 650 tons of food, gas, ammo and other supplies per day -- roughly three times what the German Army managed to get by on. Logistical requirements have only exploded since then. Those lobster tails they're eating at Camp Victory don't grow on the trees.
If the supply lines back to Kuwait were to be cut -- or even seriously interdicted -- the U.S. military presence in Iraq would quickly become untenable. I'm not even sure the Army could scrounge enough gas to keep the tanks and Humvees moving, given that Iraq already suffers from a severe refining capacity shortage and must import most of its gasoline from Kuwait.
As Lang explains, an Army that loses its logistical "tail" quickly begins to lose combat effectiveness:
Without a plentiful and dependable source of fuel, food, and ammunition, a military force falters. First it stops moving, then it begins to starve, and eventually it becomes unable to resist the enemy.
Centcom could, of course, try to resupply forces from the air, ala the Berlin Airlift, but Lang is dubious whether that would prove any more effective than the German attempt to do the same thing for its beleaguered forces at Stalingrad:
In a difficult situation, the tonnages delivered could be increased, but given the bulk in weight and volume of the needed supplies, it seems unlikely that air resupply could exceed 25 percent of daily requirements. This would not be enough to sustain the force.
In other words, in the event of a real world war -- as opposed to the kind that pundits pontificate about on Fox News -- Centcom would either have to "pacify" the transportation routes through southern Iraq quickly and ruthlessly (which might not be possible, given the troops available and the possibility some Iraqi units might turn on their putative allies) or try to evacuate some or most U.S. forces from Iraq, either by air or ground.
We're talking, on other words, about a potential debacle -- the worst U.S. military defeat since Pearl Harbor. Not because the Iranians are brilliant strategists or tough fighters (although they may be; we really don't know) but because the Iraq occupation has left the U.S. Army dangerously overextended, given its massive supply requirements.
Way back at the beginning of this war, I remember reading a quote from Air Force Col. John Warden, who fretted that the invasion and occupation of Iraq would leave the U.S. military holding "a very narrow beachhead in the midst of a billion undefeated Muslims." You don't have to buy into Warden's grandiose clash-of-civilization rhetoric to see how relevant his point may be now.
Last word this week on the war to George Ure again:
Pull up a chair and let's have us a nice friendly conversation about killing people. I don't usually suggest spending much time thinking the unthinkable, but given that there's now a better than even chance that the US will get sucked into an unwanted war with Iran due to Israeli's arguably over-zealous strikes on Gaza and Lebanon, at a time when US-based neocons have been pushing for just such events (ostensibly to support Israel, but coincident with republicorps in trouble in the fall elections here), now's as good a time as any to talk about killing humans.
Besides the news events in the Middle East, don't forget that the www.halfpasthuman.com web bot project sees rebellion/revolution breaking out around September 1st, and a Dow stricken to 1-10th - to as little as 1/-10th its (present) value by year's end. I'll try to stay to the economic track here, but remember: War is a generalized state of conflict and your first job when it breaks out is to figure out how to stay alive for the duration of the conflict. Your second job is to secure safety of your family and loved ones as best you can. Your third job is to know how to survive afterwards. And last, but not least, there's the need to retain knowledge. Like the old saying goes, "WW III will be fought with nukes. WW IV will be fought with sticks and stones." So this week, our three core concepts are: the selectorate theory of war, Self Organizing Collectives, and Knowledge Preservation.
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Badr Shakir As-Sayyab
Translated by As'ad AbuKhalil
Angry Arab News Service
"Death in the streets,
barrenness in the farms
Whatever we love dies.
Water has been restricted inside the homes,
And streams are running out of breath from drought.
The Tatars* have come,
a hemorrhage looms over the horizon,
our sun is blood, and our provisions are blood.
And Muhammad, the orphan, was put on fire,
and the night is brightened from his fire,
blood has boiled out of his feet, his hands, and his eyes,
and god was burnt down in his eyes.
...Is this my city, these potholes?
Darkness emerges from its houses,
and blood is painted with gloom,
to erase its traces, so no passer-by can see..
Is this my city? With injured domes?"
*[a reference to those who sacked Baghdad in 1258 AD]
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Psychos Against Lebanon
Israeli troops push further into S. Lebanon
www.chinaview.cn 2006-07-24 17:26:22
BEIRUT, July 24 (Xinhua) -- The Israeli troops advanced further into southern Lebanon in a bid to tighten their grip on the area, as the massive Israeli offensive entered its 13th day on Monday, Doha-based al-Jazeera TV channel reported.
After taking control of the hilltop village of Maroun al-Ras on Sunday, the troops are pushing their way further towards a major town Bint Jbeil, another Hezbollah stronghold in southern Lebanon.
Nine soldiers were injured in heavy exchanges of fire that took place Monday morning between Israeli ground forces and Hezbollah guerrillas in the area between the village of Maroun al-Ras and the town of Bint Jbeil, Israeli media reported.
A senior Israel Air Force official said that helicopters and warplanes accompanied the forces' movement on the ground and fired at the area before and during the invasion. The air force has also provided the troops on the ground with intelligence.
Two Hezbollah fighters were captured by Israeli troops on Sunday night in the village of Maroun al-Ras, which is less than 500 meters north of the Israeli border.
Overall, 270 targets in Lebanon were bombarded in the last 24 hours, among them more than 35 suspicious vehicles which aided in shooting rockets at Israel, more than 50 buildings and headquarters used as cover for militants and weaponry, media networks used by the Hezbollah, a bridge, and areas for launching rockets.
On July 12, Israel launched a massive offensive in Lebanon in retaliation for the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah guerillas in a cross-border attack which also killed eight others.
Hezbollah has fired hundreds of rockets into northern Israel since the violence broke out while Israeli jets and artillery have responded with massive bombardments on targets across Lebanon.
More than 300 Lebanese and 37 Israelis have been killed in firefights between the two sides, while tens of thousands of foreign nationals have been fleeing Lebanon.
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Israeli Censor Wielding Great Power
Thursday July 20, 2006
Associated Press Writer
JERUSALEM (AP) - Here's some news you may never hear about Israel's war against Hezbollah: a missile falls into the sea, a strategic military installation is hit, a Cabinet minister plans to visit the front lines.
All these topics are subject to review by Israel's chief military censor, who has - in her own words - "extraordinary power." She can silence a broadcaster, block information and put journalists in jail.
"I can, for example, publish an order that no material can be published. I can close a newspaper or shut down a station. I can do almost anything," Col. Sima Vaknin said Wednesday.
Israel believes that as a small country in a near constant state of conflict, having a say over what information gets out to the world is vital to its security. Critics say the policy is a slippery slope not fit for a democracy.
The range of issues subject to censorship in the latest conflict with Lebanese guerrillas are all related to the goal of preventing Hezbollah from using the media to help it better aim rockets at Israel.
The Associated Press has agreed, like other organizations, to abide by the rules of the censor, which is a condition for receiving permission to operate as a media organization in Israel.
Reporters are expected to censor themselves and not report any of the forbidden material. This story was not submitted to a censor. When in doubt, they can submit a story to the censor who will hand it back, possibly with deletions. The AP will note in a story if any deletions have been made. If a reporter violates the rules, he or she suffers the consequences.
The rules include no real-time reports giving the exact locations of guerrilla missile hits; no reports of missile hits - or misses - on strategic targets; and no reports telling when citizens are allowed to leave their bunkers for supplies.
Journalists are also not allowed to give details about senior Israeli officials going to the north, where Hezbollah's rockets are falling, until the officials have left the area. They also cannot report places where there aren't enough shelters or where public defense is weak.
So far in this conflict, about one rocket in 100 fired by Hezbollah has killed an Israeli. The rest usually explode in empty fields, tear concrete from abandoned streets or plunk into the Mediterranean. Fired blind, Hezbollah's thousands of mostly short-range, inaccurate munitions simply pose a random peril to Israeli citizens.
For obvious reasons, Israel would like to keep it that way. But live media feedback, the censor says, changes everything.
If a news outlet reports immediately that a missile splashed into the sea, for example, any guerrilla with an Internet connection knows to aim left. Report that an oil refinery in Haifa went up in flames, and Hezbollah will surely celebrate and reload. Report that a senior official is headed north, and rockets will be raining down in no time.
Or so goes the logic of censorship.
But in an era when mobile phones have cameras and the terrorists' weapons include laptops and video crews, even the chief censor acknowledges that a complete blockade of news is in many cases not possible.
"Not in 2006,'' she says.
Restrictions on the media are not unique to Israel. The United States military makes journalists embedded with troops in Iraq sign a document agreeing not to report specifics of troop movements and attacks in real time, for reasons similar to Israel's.
Critics say the censorship system is worse than ineffective - it's undemocratic, often counterproductive and a violation of freedom of speech.
"People are entitled to get as much information as they can about what's happening in a conflict,'' says Rohan Jahasekera, associate editor of the London-based magazine, the Index of Censorship.
Israel's censorship rules are not unusual, he adds, but "it's unusual in that they're enforced.''
Jahasekera also disputed arguments that reporting missile landings helped Hezbollah, since the rockets the Islamic militants use are "spectacularly inaccurate.''
Bob Steele, Nelson Scholar for Journalism Values at the Poynter Institute, a media studies organization, says editors should bear the responsibility for decisions to publish or not.
"These are decisions that the news organizations and journalists should make with the input of government and military officials,'' he said. "They should not be decisions that are made by default.''
"We should always push back on censorship,'' Steele adds, even if it's a losing fight.
Comment: She can also deny Israeli Jews the FACT that their government has manipulated the current crisis and that it is engaged in ethnic cleansing of the Lebanese.
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U.S. rushes bombs to Israel
The New York Times
July 22. 2006
The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, American officials said Friday.
The decision to quickly ship the weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the Bush administration, the officials said. Its disclosure threatens to anger Arab governments and others because of the appearance that the United States is actively aiding the Israeli bombing campaign in a way that could be compared to Iran's efforts to arm and resupply Hezbollah.
The munitions that the United States is sending to Israel are part of a multimillion dollar arms sale package approved last year that Israel is able to draw on as needed, the officials said. But Israel's request for expedited delivery of the satellite and laser-guided bombs was described as unusual by some military officers, and as an indication that Israel had a long list of targets in Lebanon still to strike.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday that she would head to Israel on Sunday at the beginning of a round of Middle Eastern diplomacy. The original plan was to include a stop to Cairo, Egypt, in her travels, but she did not announce any stops in Arab capitals.
Instead, the meeting of Arab and European envoys planned for Cairo will take place in Italy, Western diplomats said. While Arab governments initially criticized Hezbollah for starting the fight with Israel in Lebanon, discontent is rising in Arab countries over the number of civilian casualties in Lebanon, and the governments have become wary of playing host to Rice until a cease-fire package is put together.
To hold the meetings in an Arab capital before a diplomatic solution is reached, said Martin S. Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, ''would have identified the Arabs as the primary partner of the United States in this project at a time where Hezbollah is accusing the Arab leaders of providing cover for the continuation of Israel's military operation.'' The decision to stay away from Arab countries for now is a markedly different strategy than the shuttle diplomacy that previous administrations used to mediate in the Middle East.
''I have no interest in diplomacy for the sake of returning Lebanon and Israel to the status quo ante,'' Rice said Friday. ''I could have gotten on a plane and rushed over and started shuttling around, and it wouldn't have been clear what I was shuttling to do.''
Before Rice heads to Israel on Sunday, she will join President Bush at the White House for discussions on the Middle East crisis with two Saudi envoys, Saud al-Faisal, the foreign minister, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the secretary general of the National Security Council.
The new American arms shipment to Israel has not been announced publicly, and the officials who described the administration's decision to rush the munitions to Israel would discuss it only after being promised anonymity. The officials included employees of two government agencies, and one described the shipment as just one example of a broad array of armaments that the United States has long provided Israel.
One American official said the shipment should not be compared to the kind of an ''emergency resupply'' of dwindling Israeli stockpiles that was provided during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, when an American military airlift helped Israel recover from early Arab victories.
David Siegel, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, said: ''We have been using precision-guided munitions in order to neutralize the military capabilities of Hezbollah and to minimize harm to civilians. As a rule, however, we do not comment on Israel's defense acquisitions.''
Israel's need for precision munitions is driven in part by its strategy in Lebanon, which includes destroying hardened underground bunkers where Hezbollah leaders are said to have taken refuge as well as missile sites and other targets that would be hard to hit without laser and satellite-guided bombs.
Pentagon and military officials declined to describe in detail the size and contents of the shipment to Israel, and they would not say whether the munitions were being shipped by cargo aircraft or some other means. But an arms-sale package approved last year provides authority for Israel to purchase from the United States as many as 100 GBU-28s, which are 5,000-pound laser-guided bombs intended to destroy concrete bunkers. The package also provides for selling satellite-guided munitions.
An announcement in 2005 that Israel was eligible to buy the ''bunker buster'' weapons described the GBU-28 as ''a special weapon that was developed for penetrating hardened command centers located deep underground.'' The document added, ''The Israeli Air Force will use these GBU-28s on their F-15 aircraft.''
American officials said that once a weapons purchase is approved, it is up to the buyer nation to set up a timetable. But one American official said normal procedures usually do not include rushing deliveries within days of a request. That was done because Israel is a close ally in the midst of hostilities, the official said.
Although Israel had some precision-guided bombs in its stockpile when the campaign in Lebanon began, the Israelis may not have taken delivery of all the weapons they were entitled to under the 2005 sale. Israel said its air force had dropped 23 tons of explosives Wednesday night alone in Beirut.
A senior Israeli official said Friday the attacks to date had degraded Hezbollah's military strength by roughly half, but the campaign could go on for two more weeks or longer.
''We will stay heavily with the air campaign,'' he said. ''There's no time limit. We will end when we achieve our goals.''
The Bush administration announced Thursday a military equipment sale to Saudi Arabia, worth more than $6 billion, a move that may in part have been aimed at deflecting inevitable Arab government anger at the decision to supply Israel with munitions in the event that effort became public.
On Friday, Bush administration officials laid out their plans for the diplomatic strategy that Rice will pursue. In Rome, the United States will try to hammer out a diplomatic package that will offer Lebanon incentives under the condition that a U.N. resolution, which calls for the disarming of Hezbollah, is implemented.
Diplomats will also try to figure out the details around an eventual international peacekeeping force, and which countries will contribute to it. Germany and Russia have both indicated that they would be willing to contribute forces; Rice said the United States was unlikely to.
Implicit in the eventual diplomatic package is a cease-fire. But a senior American official said it remained unclear whether, under such a plan, Hezbollah would be asked to retreat from southern Lebanon and commit to a cease-fire, or whether American diplomats might depend on Israel's continued bombardment to make Hezbollah's acquiescence irrelevant.
Daniel Ayalon, Israel's ambassador to Washington, said that Israel would not rule out an international force to police the borders of Lebanon and Syria and to patrol southern Lebanon, where Hezbollah has had a stronghold. But he said that Israel was first determined to take out Hezbollah's command and control centers and weapons stockpiles.
Comment: Children are being indiscriminately butchered by the Israeli military and the unanimous reponse of the American government is to send bombs to Israel.
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Hezbollah-Israel conflict set to shape new Mideast: experts
www.chinaview.cn 2006-07-24 07:35:36by Lin Jianyang, Amr Emam
CAIRO, July 23 (Xinhua) -- As a conflict between Israel and Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah entered the 12th day on Sunday, Egyptian experts said that the conflict was set to usher in a new Middle East.
"I think what is going on in Lebanon at the moment would open the door for a big change in the Middle East region," said Ramadan Abdul Kader, editor-in-chief of the English-language daily The Egyptian Gazette.
"Israel's military operations in Lebanon tell of one fact: Israel would not stop until Hezbollah is disarmed," Abdul Kader said.
This might be true. Earlier in the day, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told a cabinet meeting that the current Lebanon crisis would last for a long time.
Olmert said that the Israeli army would not be restrained in its operations against Hezbollah guerillas, Israel's best-selling newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported.
Violence between Israel and Hezbollah erupted on July 12 whenHezbollah guerillas abducted two Israeli soldiers and killed eight in a cross-border attack.
Israel said that its military response was aimed at removing the group from southern Lebanon.
More than 300 Lebanese and 37 Israelis have been killed in firefights between the two sides, while tens of thousands of foreign nationals have been fleeing Lebanon.
"Israel was sending clear messages to both Syria and Iran by doing so," Abdul Kader said, adding that Hezbollah was believed to be supported by Syria and Iran.
He said that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who will start her crisis mission in the Middle East soon, was speaking about a new map for the region.
"But, I have to say that the American version of the Middle East is one that is full of chaos and destruction. Just look at what is going on in Iraq," said Abdul Kader.
Ahmed Hany Hassnein, a senior editor and Mideast affairs expert based in Cairo, said that the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hezbollah has opened a new chapter in Middle East affairs.
"Some of old strategies have become obsolete and new elements have emerged in an international formula," he wrote in an article carried by the Egyptian Gazette on Friday.
The most important new element was the breaking of Israel'sstrategic security taboo -- not attacked at home, he said. Since the outbreak of the conflict, Hezbollah has fired hundreds of rockets into northern Israel. Haifa, Israel's third largest city, has also come under attack, with several residents killed.
Hassnein said that such a conflict was tantamount to are distribution of the pack before a new deal that will change the region forever.
Israel would have to change its policies based on a new security and strategic reality after the conflict was over, he said.
He said that Iran has a role to play in the conflict in Lebanon since it maintained close relations with Syria and Hezbollah, adding that Iran would play such a card in negotiations with Western powers on its nuclear program.
"Syria also needs a new formula to have a greater role after its army withdrew from Lebanon," said Hassnein.
However, Mamdouh Qenawi, political analyst and chief of the Constitutional Social Liberal Party, had an eye on what would happen inside Lebanon after the conflict.
"After the guns fall silent, the Lebanese would start to bring Hezbollah leaders to account," Qenawi said, adding that Hezbollah leaders would be held responsible for destruction of infrastructure and death of many Lebanese.
To Qenawi's mind, the idea of some Lebanese blaming Hezbollah meant that there might be a sectarian strife in Lebanon.
"Whether Lebanon would remain a unified country after this big argument is a question," Qenawi said.
"At the same time, if the conflict (between Israel and Hezbollah) means something to the Palestinians, it means that the creaking railway carriage of peace has already derailed and there is no way to put it back on track," he said.
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Rice sees bombs as "birth pangs"
Condoleezza Rice has described the plight of Lebanon as a part of the "birth pangs of a new Middle East" and said that Israel should ignore calls for a ceasefire.
"This is a different Middle East. It's a new Middle East. It's hard, We're going through a very violent time," the US secretary of state said.
"A ceasefire would be a false promise if it simply returns us to the status quo.
"Such a step would allow terrorists to launch attacks at the time and terms of their choosing and to threaten innocent people, Arab and Israeli, throughout the region."
She was speaking on Saturday after meeting with members of a United Nations team that had just returned from the region.
More than 300 Lebanese civilians have been killed in 11 days of Israeli air and artillery strikes against Hezbollah, the armed Lebanese Shia group.
The present round of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah broke out after Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12.
Rice will travel to the Middle East some time next week. Her itinerary has not yet been announced.
Call for negotiations
Hezbollah has offered to release the two soldiers if Israel frees Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
But Israel has said that Hezbollah must release the soldiers unconditionally and says that it will not halt its offensive until Lebanon implements UN resolution 1559 and disarms Hezbollah.
Since then the Israeli aircraft have carried out more than 3,000 sorties in Lebanon and have bombed infrastructure including bridges, roads and ports.
By Saturday morning the attacks had killed at least 305 Lebanese civilians and at least 12 members of the Lebanese army, which has tried to stay out of the conflict.
Israeli military leaders say that the attacks are necessary to stop Hezbollah firing rockets at Israel.
Since fighting started 11 days ago, Hezbollah has fired more than 1,000 rockets at Israel, killing 15 civilians.
"Many rocket launchers have been destroyed, terror infrastructures have been destroyed and also nearly 100 Hezbollah terrorists have been killed, from all levels and all ranks," Dan Halutz, the Israeli army's chief of staff, said on Friday.
"Fighting against Hezbollah is taking a heavy toll on [the group].
"The fact is that they avoid publishing the number of their losses, the names of their men that were killed, and the fact that they feed the press dishonest information [shows] they are disconnected from reality."
The Israeli military has also announced that for the last three days its troops have held positions inside Lebanon near the villages of Marwaheen in the west and in Maroun al-Ras further east.
"At most, we're talking about a few kilometers in," an Israeli army spokesman said.
"It will probably widen, but we are still looking at limited operations. We're not talking about massive forces going inside at this point."
On Friday, the Israeli army called up 3,000 reserve soldiers and began massing troops and armoured vehicles near the Lebanese border.
An Israeli spokesman, Captain Yaacov Dalal, said ground operations were "indispensable because the air force can not always destroy underground bunkers dug by Hezbollah, which has put in place an entire fortified network".
New air strikes
The Israeli army also said it attacked more than 150 targets across Lebanon in the last 24 hours, including a Hezbollah weapons bunker, command posts and 11 rocket launchers.
An Aljazeera television correspondent in Lebanon reported that overnight Israeli airstrikes had hit residential areas in the southern town of Nabatiya, killing one person and wounding eight others.
Other air strikes had hit the town centre of Al-Khaim, damaging many houses on Saturday morning, she said.
In northern Israel two people were wounded when 10 Hezbollah rockets landed in and around the town of Carmiel. Other rockets hit the towns of Nahariya and Rosh Pina, closer to the Lebanese border, medics said.
Comment: Ah yes, the 'she-devil' herself. And what would Condi know about "birth pangs", being a soul-less sterlized, zombie? A woman who brings shame to the very concept of womanhood. Rice is a sick, disgusting individual. Birth pangs? What of the pangs of unimaginable grief of the mothers whose beautiful babies have been disemboweled and beheaded by Israeli "precision bombs"?
In their despair, Lebanon's mothers may be wishing they could turn back time and erase those pangs of birth that brought their children into a world where their fate was to be eviscerated by Israeli bombs, with Condi and Co cheering them on.
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UN slams Israel over Lebanon strikes as killing rages on
by Nayla Razzouk
July 23, 2006
BEIRUT - The UN relief chief condemned Israel for "violating humanitarian law" over its blistering raids on Lebanon as the Jewish state and Hezbollah killed more civilians in another wave of attacks.
As Israel tightened its grip on a strategic border village seized in south Lebanon, Syria fuelled fears the fighting could spread by issuing a warning that it would intervene if Israel dared launch a full-out invasion of Lebanon.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was also heading to the Middle East with Washington increasingly estranged from European and Arab allies over a conflict that has killed close to 400 people in just 12 days and triggered a major humanitarian crisis.
UN humanitarian coordinator Jan Egeland, in Beirut to launch a urgent appeal for funds for half a million people made homeless by the conflict, made no attempt to hide his fury as he toured bombed-out areas.
"This is destruction of block after block of mainly residential areas. I would say it seems to be an excessive use of force in an area with so many citizens," he told reporters in the southern suburbs of Beirut, a Hezbollah stronghold.
Asked if the Israeli raid that destroyed the burned-out buildings before him constituted a war crime, he replied: "It makes it a violation of humanitarian law."
His comments came as at least twelve civilians, including a Lebanese press photographer, were killed in new Israeli air strikes across Lebanon on the 12th day of Israel's punishing war on Hezbollah.
The Shiite militant group said three of its fighters had also been killed.
Shiite guerrillas responded with a new hail of rocket fire on Israel's third city of Haifa, killing one person in his car and a second as he worked in a warehouse.
Streams of people, many waving white flags, are making a desperate trek from southern Lebanon after Israel ordered them to leave their homes, raising fears it was planning a largescale ground invasion.
Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon said the aim of the offensive was to keep Hezbollah -- which controls southern Lebanon in the absence of the regular Lebanese army -- at least 20 kilometres (13 miles) from the frontier.
Israel, which has called up thousands of reserve soldiers and massed its troops on the border, seized control of the strategic hilltop village of Marun Al-Ras on Saturday after sending tanks, bulldozers and armoured cars rolling across the border.
But Defence Minister Amir Peretz insisted Israel did not plan a widescale invasion. "The ground operation is focusing on a limited entry of forces," he told the cabinet. "We are not dealing with an invasion of Lebanon."
At least 362 people have been killed in Israel's massive blitz against Lebanon which was launched after the capture of two soldiers by Hezbollah guerrillas in a deadly border attack on July 12. A total of 37 Israelis have died.
Israel's ambassador to the United States maintained the military offensive had dealt a "real blow" to Hezbollah, damaging the group's arsenal and killing a "few hundred" of its fighters.
Daniel Ayalon said the military campaign was "not easy" but Israel was making progress, adding: "And in a few days, you will see a totally different situation."
But in the first openly expressed reservations by an Israeli minister on the success of the offensive, minister without portfolio Eitan Cabel said: "I admit I had hoped for better from the army."
Syria, blamed by the United States for stoking the conflict, warned that if Israel invaded Lebanon it would have no choice but to respond.
"If Israel makes a land entry into Lebanon, they can get to within 20 kilometres (12 miles) of Damascus," Information Minister Moshen Bilal told the Spanish newspaper ABC.
"What will we do? Stand by with our arms folded? Absolutely not. Without any doubt Syria will intervene in the conflict."
US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton rebuffed a previous Syrian offer of dialogue in characteristically blunt fashion, saying that "Syria doesn't need dialogue to know what they need to do."
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whose army is also fighting a second deadly offensive in the Gaza Strip, said he would accept a peacekeeping force in Lebanon "made up of troops from European Union countries".
Its mandate "will have to include control of the border crossings between Syria and Lebanon, deployment in south Lebanon and support for the Lebanese army," he said.
His comments came amid mounting international criticism of the Israeli offensive, which has left Lebanon virtually cut off from the world, made hundreds of thousands refugees in their own country and destroyed billions of dollars of infrastructure.
Even a minister from close US ally Britain, which had drawn Arab anger for appearing to back US support of the bombardment, has described Israel's tactics as "very difficult to understand".
In Washington, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal requested an immediate ceasefire in talks with US
President George W. Bush and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Saudi officials said he would also propose an "exchange of prisoners" between Hezbollah and Israel, something the Israeli government has so far ruled out without the prior release of two soldiers captured by the Shiite militant group in a deadly cross-border raid on July 12.
Rice was due to arrive in Israel on Monday to meet Olmert in the hope of finding a long-term solution to the crisis rather than a temporary ceasefire, an outcome vehemently opposed by Washington as a "false promise".
Israel said it opened an 80-kilometre by eight-kilometre (50-mile by five-mile) safe passage to Beirut for ships and aircraft, a humanitarian corridor to allow aid to the Lebanese.
Israel's air and sea blockade put Lebanon's only international airport out of action, and the bombing of houses, roads, bridges, factories, warehouses and trucks has created scenes reminiscent of the 1975-1990 civil war.
Foreign governments have been forced to lay on a flotilla of ferries, warships and cruise liners to evacuate stranded nationals, mainly to the nearby resort island of Cyprus which has been battling to find temporary accommodation and flights for the estimated 70,000 evacuees at peak summer holiday season.
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Comatose Sharon's condition worsens: hospital
by Jacques Pinto
July 23, 2006
JERUSALEM - The condition of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon has worsened, doctors said, more than six months after the hawkish leader fell into a coma after suffering a massive stroke.
"Over the last two days the condition of Mr Sharon has worsened on the level of the kidneys and an examination of the brain showed a deterioration in the cerebral tissue," Orly Levy, a spokeswoman for the Tel Hashomer hospital in Tel Aviv where Sharon is being treated, told AFP.
Another hospital spokesowman said there was no "immediate threat" to his life. Doctors were "keeping a close eye on him" but were not planning any medical intervention for the moment, she said.
The decline in Sharon's condition came as
Israel battles Hezbollah militants in south Lebanon.
He was moved from a Jerusalem hospital in May to the Tel Hashomer hospital for long-term treatment.
The 78-year-old, who left public life as one of Israel's most popular premiers, suffered a massive brain haemorrhage in early January after which he fell into a coma from which he has not emerged.
The stroke signalled a dramatic end to the career of the former general who was on course at the time for re-election as the head of the newly-created Kadima party.
He was succeeded on a temporary basis by his close ally Ehud Olmert who subsequently led the Kadima party to a less than convincing victory in a March general election.
Sharon called the election in November on the same day that he quit his long-time political home in the right-wing Likud party, fed up with battling hardliners who refused to forgive him for unilaterally pulling out of Gaza.
He had garnered a reputation as an arch-hawk before he assumed the premiership in early 2001, before which he had held a several cabinet positions.
At one stage, an official Israeli commission declared him unfit for public office over his role in a massacre of Palestinians in two Beirut refugee camps that was carried out by Christian militiamen during Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon.
He was also largely blamed for sparking the second Palestinian uprising with a visit to Jerusalem's disputed Al-Aqsa mosque compound in September 2000.
But he managed to rewrite his reputation in international circles as a key to peace in the Middle East by ordering the first ever evacuation of Jews from occupied Palestinian territory last August.
Sharon's disengagement from Gaza had been expected to allow Olmert to pull tens of thousands of Jewish settlers out of the
West Bank. But those plans are on hold as Israel grapples with its crisis on the Lebanese border.
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Israel Signals It May Accept Foreign Forces on Border
By CRAIG S. SMITH
The New York Times
July 23, 2006
KIRYAT SHMONA, Israel - As Israel again pounded south Lebanon from the air and ground on Sunday and the Hezbollah militia rained dozens more rockets on Israel's north, diplomatic efforts increased with growing discussion of a multinational armed force being placed in the area.
The Israeli defense minister, Amir Peretz, said Israel was interested in a NATO-led force and the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, spoke of one comprised of European Union members with combat experience and the authority to take control of Lebanon's border and crossing points.
American officials said that they too were open to the idea but did not expect American troops to be part of the force.
"It's a new idea, we'll certainly take it seriously," John R. Bolton, the American ambassador to the United Nations, said on the CNN program "Late Edition."
The German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and the French foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, were both in Israel on Sunday. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who along with President Bush met with senior Saudi officials on Sunday, is due to arrive on Monday. Ms. Rice is expected to go to Rome later in the week for a conference aimed at ending the fighting.
While the Israelis and Americans seemed increasingly focused on a multinational force for southern Lebanon that would work with the Lebanese Army to remove the risk to Israel of Hezbollah, it remained unclear how the European countries whose forces would participate would react or how Arab countries viewed the idea.
Moreover, in Lebanon the talk was of exchanging the two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah for prisoners in Israel, while the Israelis clearly want a more comprehensive deal that will end the risk that Hezbollah poses on their border.
Mr. Peretz reiterated Sunday that the offensive was not the start of a full-scale invasion of Lebanon and that Israel's activity will remain restricted to well-defined raids. He said the military operations would complement "broad international activity to complete the process" of subduing Hezbollah and restoring security along its northern border.
Israeli planes continued to blast southern Lebanese cities, killing at least eight civilians, including a Lebanese photographer, and wounding at least 45, Lebanese officials said.
The violence struck a number of civilian vehicles. A minibus carrying 16 people fleeing the village of Tairi, was hit by a missile, a Lebanese security official said. Three were killed, and 13 were wounded, the official said.
A Lebanese freelance photographer, Layal Najib, 23, was killed when an Israeli missile struck next to her car on the road between the villages of Qana and Siddiqine. Ms. Najib worked at Al Jaras magazine and was also a freelance for Agence France-Presse and several other news outlets.
Asked about the attacks on civilian vehicles, an Israeli Army spokesman said the military had hit "approximately 20 vehicles suspected of serving the terror organization in the launching of missiles at Israel and were recognized fleeing from or staying at missile-launching areas."
The deaths brought the toll to at least 380, Lebanese authorities said. Lebanon does not differentiate between civilian deaths and the deaths of Hezbollah fighters. The Israeli military says it has killed more than 100 Hezbollah fighters.
The military also said that Hezbollah had fired nearly 100 rockets on northern Israel on Sunday, showing no slackening of the pace in recent days.
Two people were killed when at least 13 rockets fell on Haifa, the country's third-largest city, bringing Israel's civilian death toll in the 12-day-old conflict to 17. Israel has lost 19 soldiers in the fighting.
Israel has not said how many ground troops it now has in Lebanon but the Israeli news media reported Sunday that the number was now in the thousands.
In Beirut, a senior Lebanese official gave the first word since the fighting began of the Israeli soldiers whose capture set off the crisis on July 12. Lebanon's foreign minister, Fawsi Sallukh, a Shiite who is close to Hezbollah, said the two soldiers were "in good health," and called on the United Nations to have a third party arrange for a prisoner exchange.
He did not say whether he had actually seen the seized soldiers.
The government has distanced itself from Hezbollah's actions but has not been overtly critical of the powerful militia group.
In a telephone interview with CNN, the Lebanese prime minister, Fouad Siniora, sharply criticized Israeli attacks.
"Israel is committing serious crimes against humanity," he said. "They are fragmenting the country piece by piece."
The United Nations' top humanitarian official, Jan Egeland, toured the destruction in Beirut and said that it would take billions of dollars to repair damage.
He was expected to travel later to Israel to help coordinate the delivery of humanitarian aid. As many as 600,000 people have been displaced by the fighting, according to the World Health Organization.
The Israeli military announced that humanitarian aid could enter Lebanon through Beirut's port and from there be transferred to regional aid centers across Lebanon, in coordination with its forces. It did not specify how aid would reach the south where the fighting has been the heaviest and the aid is most needed.
Cyprus continued funneling thousands of foreign evacuees from Lebanon to safety in their home countries on Sunday, welcoming an estimated 6,000 people at its two main ports in Larnaca and Limassol, according to government officials.
By the end of the day, many of the evacuees had left the island on charter flights arranged by their governments, mostly through the airport at Larnaca, which is operating well beyond its normal capacity with about 250 arrivals and departures a day, according to airport officials.
Nabih Berri, the speaker of Lebanon's parliament, a Shiite and head of the rival Amal movement, said Hezbollah had agreed to allow the Lebanese government to lead any negotiations toward an exchange.
"This has been accepted by Hezbollah," Mr. Berri said.
So far, however, Israel has rejected such an exchange, saying the problem of Hezbollah is much larger and needs to be solved.
Brig. Gen. Shuki Shachar, chief of staff of the Israeli Army's Northern Command, said some ground forces had reached "the depths" of Lebanon while at least three Lebanese villages were now under Israeli control.
Tens of thousands of Lebanese fled north to the Lebanese port of Sidon, which Israel attacked for the first time in the current conflict on Sunday. Four people were wounded in the attack, which targeted a Hezbollah-related religious center.
Israeli warplanes and helicopters also attacked Hezbollah positions in and around the eastern Bekaa Valley town of Baalbek and bombed a textile factory in the border town of al-Manara.
General Shacher said the Lebanese civilian death toll was light, considering that Israeli fighter aircraft and attack helicopters have made 1,500 sorties over Lebanon and that Israel has fired more than 20,000 artillery rounds into the country in the last 12 days.
"This is a war and in war sometimes there are mistakes," the general said, noting that it is particularly difficult to avoid civilian casualties when fighting a guerrilla force mixed in an indigenous population.
Israel has been warning the civilian population of the south to move north in order to avoid getting hurt . "The reason for the evacuation of the population is to leave us open space and an open area to hit military and terrorist targets and not to deal with the problem of civilians," General Shachar said.
Israeli military officials say that they have found thousands of Katyusha rockets and other missiles hidden in well-camouflaged underground bunkers and also in mosques, hospitals and schools. They say Iran is trying to send fresh supplies of ammunition and rockets to Lebanon through Syria.
The general said Israeli troops in Maroun al-Ras are now fighting Hezbollah forces in the larger town of Bint Jbeil, a mile or two deeper into the country.
Hezbollah confirmed on Sunday that Israeli forces had occupied Maroun al-Ras and said three of its fighters had been killed in fighting there. But it said in a statement that it had, in turn, inflicted losses on Israeli forces.
"Our steadfast mujahedeen have presented through the Maroun al-Ras confrontations and the losses of the enemy - in troops, tanks and helicopters - an example of what the confrontations will be in every town, village and position," the statement said.
An Italian soldier, Capt. Roberto Punzo, working with the United Nations observer team in southern Lebanon, was wounded by Hezbollah gunfire during the fighting. He was evacuated by helicopter to a hospital in Haifa.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah rockets continued to fall close to the border. The town of Kiryat Shmona was engulfed in dense white smoke by brush fires started by rockets, most of which fall in forests and fields of this sparsely populated area.
Yellow crop-dusters circled overhead dropping red fire suppressant.
In the Gaza Strip, Palestinian militants fired a dozen smaller Qassam rockets into southern Israel on Sunday without causing serious damage. The attacks suggested that earlier reports of a Palestinian Authority attempt to broker a unilateral cease-fire among the militants had failed.
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Israeli forces push deeper into Lebanon; Rice to visit Lebanon, Israel
By KATHY GANNON
July 24, 2006
SIDON, Lebanon - Israeli ground forces pushed deeper into Lebanon on Monday in heavy fighting with Hezbollah guerrillas as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice headed for Beirut in a surprise visit to launch diplomatic efforts aimed at ending 13 days of warfare.
Rice was expected in the Lebanese capital in the afternoon, Voice of Lebanon radio said. The previously unannounced stopover was coming before she went to Israel.
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U.S. rejects Syrian call for ceasefire
Last Updated Sun, 23 Jul 2006 12:03:13 EDT
Syria says it is prepared to enter talks with the United States to try to resolve the crisis between Hezbollah - the Lebanon-based militant group that receives heavy backing from Damascus - and Israel.
Faisal al-Meqdad, Syria's deputy foreign minister, made the comment on Sunday amid a 12th day of violence, as Israel continued air strikes in Lebanon and Hezbollah militants kept on firing missiles into northern Israel.
John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, scorned Syria's proposal.
"Syria doesn't need dialogue to know what it needs to do. They need to lean on Hezbollah to get them to release the two captured Israeli soldiers and stop the launch of rockets against innocent Israeli civilians," he said.
Al-Meqdad called for international powers to broker a ceasefire in the context of a broader Middle East peace initiative. He also said they should address the demands that Hezbollah made after it triggered the conflict by crossing into Israel to raid an army outpost on July 12, killing eight Israeli soldiers and capturing two others.
Syrian Information Minister Mohsen Bilal echoed the sentiments, saying Syria would only support a peace package that included the return of the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in 1967. "Syria is working on achieving real, comprehensive, fair peace based on the withdrawal from all the occupied territories, including Golan," Bilal told the Spanish newspaper ABC in an interview.
The militants have said they would release the soldiers if Israel released Hezbollah militants being held in its jails.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was to embark on Sunday on a diplomatic mission in a bid to end fighting in the Middle East. She was also expected at an emergency meeting in Rome on Wednesday that will bring together Israel, Lebanon, the European Union, the United Nations and others interested in Middle East peace.
Syria - which has been one of Hezbollah's key backers, along with Iran - was not invited to the Rome meeting.
Isolate Israel, Iranian president urges
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmandinejad said Sunday that Israel had "pushed the button of its own destruction" by attacking Hezbollah guerillas in Lebanon.
"Arrogant powers have set up a base for themselves to threaten and plunder nations in the region," Ahmadinejad told a gathering of education officials in Tehran.
"But today, the occupier regime [Israel] - whose philosophy is based on threats, massacre and invasion - has reached its finishing line."
Ahmadinejad said Islamic nations and others should isolate Israel and its backers. He called on Israel and its allies to apologize.
Iran won't join battle: top Iranian general
A day earlier, the chairman of the joint chiefs of Iran's armed forces, Maj.-Gen. Sayyed Hassan Firuzabadi, said Iran would not join the fighting in the Middle East.
After Hezbollah's initial cross-border raid, Israel began pounding Lebanon with air strikes, including attacks Sunday on Beirut, Sidon and Tyre.
The conflict escalated on Saturday when Israel sent troops, tanks and bulldozers into southern Lebanon, but Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz has insisted that his country has no intention of re-occupying the territory that it left in 2000.
Hezbollah militants continued to launch volleys of rockets into northern Israel on Sunday, killing at least two people in one of the attacks on the city of Haifa.
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US open to deployment of force on Lebanon-Israel border
www.chinaview.cn 2006-07-24 13:11:47
WASHINGTON, July 23 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Chief of Staff of White House Joshua Bolten said on Sunday that the United States is open to the deployment of peacekeeping troops on the Lebanon-Israel border but U.S. forces will not participate.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is to arrive in the Middle East on Monday to discuss the deployment of peacekeeping troops in Lebanon and the humanitarian aids, Bolten said in an interview with the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC).
He reiterated that the cessation of hostilities has to address the root causes of the conflict -- Hezbollah and its allies.
John Bolton, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said that the United States will seriously consider Israel's proposal to deploy a NATO-led peacekeeping force on Lebanon-Israel border.
On July 17, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed that the international community should consider the deployment of a peacekeeping force in Southern Lebanon.
More than 360 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Israel's attacks against Lebanon since July 12. Israel has reported 36 casualties resulted from the conflict.
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Forget F-16s, Israel needs Yogic Flyers to beat Hizbullah
Jul. 23, 2006 4:42 | Updated Jul. 23, 2006 15:08
By AMIR MIZROCH
There are Katyusha rockets falling in villages and towns all around them, but for the "squadron" of 30 Israeli Yogic Flyers assembled at a hotel on Lake Kinneret all is quiet. That's because they have managed to create a shield of invincibility around their gathering place. Now they are calling for another 235 Flyers to come and join them to create a shield that would, they say, cover all of Israel.
In an interview from the Nof Ginnosar Hotel near Tiberias on Saturday, the Prime Minister of the Peace Government of Israel and Yogic Flyer Alex Kutai called on the elected Israeli government to recruit a group of 265 Yogic Flyers who, through an advanced technique of Transcendental Meditation (TM), he asserted, would create a shield of invincibility around Israel and bring about an immediate cessation of violence with the Hizbullah.
Prime Minister Kutai, who is also the Chairman of the International Transcendental Meditation Society in Israel, said his elected counterpart Ehud Olmert had to urgently find a group of 265 people trained in the TM technique and maintain them in one location where they can generate an invincibility shield around Israel against all forms of war and violence, including road accidents, and keep the shield up permanently.
"Ten days before this latest round of violence broke out between Israel and the Hizbullah, we received an urgent message from the headquarters of the Global Government of World Peace that there was an immediate danger of violence in the region, and that each country had to mobilize its Yogic Flyers - those who practice the TM technique - to ward off the danger," Kutai said earnestly.
According to Kutai, the Yogic Flyer practices an advanced meditation technique in which his or her consciousness is brought to a level where thinking is without content, where the Flyer connects with the "source of all energy and intelligence - beyond any thought and at the same time the source of all thought." Kutai said this state is what physicists call the United Field of the Laws of Nature.
The number 265 should be sufficient, Kutai said, as it conforms exactly to the formula discovered by the overall leader of the Global Government of World Peace, Raja (King) Tony Nader. The formula postulates that the square root of one percent of a country's population is the right number of people needed to tap into a Collective Consciousness strong enough to create a shield of invincibility. Since Israel has an estimated 7 million inhabitants, one per cent is 70,000 and the square root of 70,000 is 264.575.
Kutai said that according to his calculations, 500 Yoga Flyers would be needed to bring peace to the Middle East, but that the Flyers would have to be spread throughout the region. Kutai said he is aware of a similar group of TM practitioners in Lebanon, but that he is not currently in contact with them.
According to "King" Nader's Web site, he is now the First Sovereign Ruler of the Global Country of World Peace. His official title is His Majesty Raja Nader Raam, and his association's physical address is listed as Maharishi Health Education Center P.O. Box 116-5350 Beirut - Lebanon.
The Global Country of World Peace is a country without borders inhabited by citizens who love peace, Kutai said.
According to his Web site, Professor Tony Nader M.D., Ph.D. obtained his MD degree from the American University of Beirut, where he also studied internal medicine and psychiatry. His Ph.D. was in brain and Cognitive Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he was also a visiting physician at the Clinical Research Center. He did his post-doctoral work as a Clinical and Research Fellow in Neurology at the Massachusetts General Hospital, the Harvard Medical School.
Nader conducted various research projects on neurochemistry and neuroendocrinology. According to his Web site, he has demonstrated scientifically that human physiology is made up of the 40 aspects of Veda and Vedic Literature, and that all the infinite organizing powers of all kinds and the whole cosmos are seated in the physiology of every human being.
"Therefore every individual - whether Christian or Hindu, Muslim or Buddhist, Sikh or Jain or Parsee - has been scientifically proven to be cosmic, and to have unlimited cosmic potentiality. Higher Intelligence is located in the very physiological structure of every man, woman and child in the nation, and only needs to be awakened for everyone to enjoy the support of Higher Intelligence," the Web site says.
Nader could not be reached for comment, but Kutai said that the "king," who is of Christian Lebanese origin, has gathered a group of 400 European Yogic Flyers to his current headquarters in Holland to keep Europe safe.
Last week, the Israeli branch of the Transcendental Meditation Association had gathered 64 Yogic Flyers at the Hof Ginnosar hotel, but for various reasons only 30 have stayed on this week - far short of the number said by Kutai to be necessary to stop the current round of violence.
Presently, the remaining Israeli Yogic Flyers gather at a large hall in the hotel for two meditation sessions, lasting four hours apiece, every day.
Kutai described the process involved in the Maharishi Technology of Consciousness: "Everybody is seated on foam mattresses, and some of the bodies lift from the air - they hop in the air. What is created in the brain, and EEG research shows this, is a highly coherent brain function. Every person is cosmic and is connected to the unified field. You create coherence inside yourself, and within a group a coherence can be created, and this can spread to a wider area. You can create anything from this level of consciousness, pure consciousness, a level of perfect order. From this level an invincibility can be created in the national consciousness, where no negativity can be created from within, and none can penetrate from the outside."
Kutai said that the elected government of Israel should establish a group of 265 Yogic Flyers and maintain them so that peace could be ensured on a permanent basis. "We have the best army but it cannot prevent the missiles. The government should create this group now. It is much cheaper than bombs. It is cheaper than even one wing of a fighter bomber," Kutai said.
Anybody can become a Yogic Flyer, with the right training, within a few weeks, Kutai said, adding that the current Israeli "squadron" of Flyers includes businesspeople, bankers, teachers, retirees, and hi-tech workers.
Kutai's group are the only guests at the Nof Ginnosar Hotel at this point in time, as Hizbullah rockets have badly dented the entire tourism industry around Lake Kinneret. "We put up a shield around the 30 of us. There is nobody else here. If there were more people our shield would extend even further outward, we could protect more people," the "prime minister" told The Jerusalem Post.
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Israel set war plan more than a year ago
Chronicle Foreign Service
Friday, July 21, 2006
Israel's military response by air, land and sea to what it considered a provocation last week by Hezbollah militants is unfolding according to a plan finalized more than a year ago.
In the years since Israel ended its military occupation of southern Lebanon, it watched warily as Hezbollah built up its military presence in the region. When Hezbollah militants kidnapped two Israeli soldiers last week, the Israeli military was ready to react almost instantly.
"Of all of Israel's wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most prepared," said Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University. "In a sense, the preparation began in May 2000, immediately after the Israeli withdrawal, when it became clear the international community was not going to prevent Hezbollah from stockpiling missiles and attacking Israel. By 2004, the military campaign scheduled to last about three weeks that we're seeing now had already been blocked out and, in the last year or two, it's been simulated and rehearsed across the board."
More than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving PowerPoint presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to U.S. and other diplomats, journalists and think tanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail. Under the ground rules of the briefings, the officer could not be identified.
In his talks, the officer described a three-week campaign: The first week concentrated on destroying Hezbollah's heavier long-range missiles, bombing its command-and-control centers, and disrupting transportation and communication arteries. In the second week, the focus shifted to attacks on individual sites of rocket launchers or weapons stores. In the third week, ground forces in large numbers would be introduced, but only in order to knock out targets discovered during reconnaissance missions as the campaign unfolded. There was no plan, according to this scenario, to reoccupy southern Lebanon on a long-term basis.
Israeli officials say their pinpoint commando raids should not be confused with a ground invasion. Nor, they say, do they herald another occupation of southern Lebanon, which Israel maintained from 1982 to 2000 -- in order, it said, to thwart Hezbollah attacks on Israel. Planners anticipated the likelihood of civilian deaths on both sides. Israel says Hezbollah intentionally bases some of its operations in residential areas. And Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has bragged publicly that the group's arsenal included rockets capable of bombing Haifa, as occurred last week.
Like all plans, the one now unfolding also has been shaped by changing circumstances, said Eran Lerman, a former colonel in Israeli military intelligence who is now director of the Jerusalem office of the American Jewish Committee.
"There are two radical views of how to deal with this challenge, a serious professional debate within the military community over which way to go," said Lerman. "One is the air power school of thought, the other is the land-borne option. They create different dynamics and different timetables. The crucial factor is that the air force concept is very methodical and almost by definition is slower to get results. A ground invasion that sweeps Hezbollah in front of you is quicker, but at a much higher cost in human life and requiring the creation of a presence on the ground."
The advance scenario is now in its second week, and its success or failure is still unfolding. Whether Israel's aerial strikes will be enough to achieve the threefold aim of the campaign -- to remove the Hezbollah military threat; to evict Hezbollah from the border area, allowing the deployment of Lebanese government troops; and to ensure the safe return of the two Israeli soldiers abducted last week -- remains an open question. Israelis are opposed to the thought of reoccupying Lebanon.
"I have the feeling that the end is not clear here. I have no idea how this movie is going to end," said Daniel Ben-Simon, a military analyst for the daily Haaretz newspaper.
Thursday's clashes in southern Lebanon occurred near an outpost abandoned more than six years ago by the retreating Israeli army. The place was identified using satellite photographs of a Hezbollah bunker, but only from the ground was Israel able to discover that it served as the entrance to a previously unknown underground network of caves and bunkers stuffed with missiles aimed at northern Israel, said Israeli army spokesman Miri Regev.
"We knew about the network, but it was fully revealed (Wednesday) by the ground operation of our forces," said Regev. "This is one of the purposes of the pinpoint ground operations -- to locate and try to destroy the terrorist infrastructure from where they can fire at Israeli citizens."
Israeli military officials say as much as 50 percent of Hezbollah's missile capability has been destroyed, mainly by aerial attacks on targets identified from intelligence reports. But missiles continue to be fired at towns and cities across northern Israel.
"We were not surprised that the firing has continued," said Tzachi Hanegbi, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "Hezbollah separated its leadership command-and-control system from its field organization. It created a network of tiny cells in each village that had no operational mission except to wait for the moment when they should activate the Katyusha rocket launchers hidden in local houses, using coordinates programmed long ago to hit Nahariya or Kiryat Shemona, or the kibbutzim and villages."
"From the start of this operation, we have also been active on the ground across the width of Lebanon," said Brig. Gen. Ron Friedman, head of Northern Command headquarters. "These missions are designed to support our current actions. Unfortunately, one of the many missions which we have carried out in recent days met with slightly fiercer resistance."
Israel didn't need sophisticated intelligence to discover the huge buildup of Iranian weapons supplies to Hezbollah by way of Syria, because Hezbollah's patrons boasted about it openly in the pages of the Arabic press. As recently as June 16, less than four weeks before the Hezbollah border raid that sparked the current crisis, the Syrian defense minister publicly announced the extension of existing agreements allowing the passage of trucks shipping Iranian weapons into Lebanon.
But to destroy them, Israel needed to map the location of each missile.
"We need a lot of patience," said Hanegbi. "The (Israeli Defense Forces) action at the moment is incapable of finding the very last Katyusha, or the last rocket launcher primed for use hidden inside a house in some village."
Moshe Marzuk, a former head of the Lebanon desk for Israeli Military Intelligence who now is a researcher at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, said Israel had learned from past conflicts in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza -- as well as the recent U.S. experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq -- that a traditional military campaign would be countereffective.
"A big invasion is not suitable here," said Marzuk. "We are not fighting an army, but guerrillas. It would be a mistake to enter and expose ourselves to fighters who will hide, fire off a missile and run away. If we are to be on the ground at all, we need to use commandos and special forces."
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World War 3
Bombs kill 64 as Iraq peace hopes rocked
by Wissam Al-Ukaili
Sun Jul 23, 2006
BAGHDAD - Bombers have killed at least 64 people, striking a bloody blow against Iraq's fledgling hopes for peace just one day after the government launched national reconciliation talks.
A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden minibus amid a crowd of day labourers seeking work in a crowded market in Baghdad's mainly Shiite district of Sadr City at 9:20 am (0520 GMT) Sunday, killing at least 34 people.
This was followed by a bomb attack in front of the area's town hall, which killed eight, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office said in a statement.
Three hours later a one-tonne car bomb exploded outside a courthouse in the mixed northern city of Kirkuk, leaving at least 22 dead and 100 injured, according to Kirkuk police chief General Borhan Habib Tayeb.
Tayeb said the car had been rigged with several bombs to produce a cascading series of explosions designed to maximise loss of life.
"There was a single car which exploded. The police believe that there were 1,000 kilos (2,200 pounds) of TNT packed into several bombs," he said.
In Sadr City, a police officer said: "A man parked a minibus in a busy street next to a police station, where day labourers were waiting for work. He wasn't aiming for police -- he wanted to kill as many people as possible."
Maliki's statement said that 34 people had been killed and 73 injured, with eight more killed in the follow-up bomb and 20 more injured.
The bomber has not yet been identified, but suspicion will fall on Sunni extremists who have been competing with Shiite death squads in a tit-for-tat series of sectarian massacres from Iraq's rival Muslim communities.
These killings continued on Sunday, when five civilians were gunned down in separate attacks in the Baquba region north of Baghdad.
Further north, in Moqtadiya, four Shiites who were kidnapped on Saturday were found murdered, according to the interior minister.
In Baghdad, the first powerful explosion shook windows across the capital and smoke could be seen rising over the Jamila area of Sadr City.
Workers seeking short-term employment throng Jamila market in the mornings, and the bomb went off by the outer wall of a police station.
US security contractors buzzed the area in helicopters shortly after the blast, but there were no reports of casualties among coalition forces.
It was the fourth serious bomb attack against Shiite districts across Iraq in the past week, and the most deadly in Baghdad itself since July 1, when 66 people were killed.
The capital has fallen prey to a rising tide of sectarian attacks, and a month ago Iraq's embattled government launched a beefed-up security strategy in an attempt to restore order to a city on the brink of all-out civil war.
Nevertheless, the overstretched Iraqi security forces and their allies in the US-led coalition have struggled to halt the killings.
And on Saturday, the country's senior leadership opened a process of national reconciliation seeking to draw violent elements into the constitutional process and halt the bloodletting.
Before Sunday's blast, Iraqi troops had been in action in eastern Baghdad, hunting Shiite death squads that have brought terror to the Sunni minority, according to a statement from the US-led coalition.
On approaching their target building accompanied by US troops "they received heavy and sustained small arms, machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire from several positions", the statement said.
"Government and coalition troops responded with appropriate force," it added. "During this operation, Iraqi forces also freed two Iraqi citizens held hostage and detained eight insurgents."
One Iraqi soldier was wounded in this operation, the coalition said.
In a separate incident in Ramadi, 100 kilometres (62 miles) west of Baghdad, Iraqi soldiers conducting a census were fired on from a mosque with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles, a coalition statement said.
The soldiers later entered the mosque, arrested two suspects and found a small cache of guns and bomb-making equipment.
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Hunger-striking "Saddam" in hospital
by Salam Faraj
Sun Jul 23, 2006
BAGHDAD - Iraq's ousted president Saddam Hussein has been admitted to hospital suffering from the effects of his hunger strike and will not appear at the next hearing of his trial on crimes against humanity, the chief prosecutor said.
The detained leader, who stopped eating 16 days ago, is too ill to attend the next session scheduled for Monday, prosecutor Jaafar al-Musawi told AFP.
"Saddam Hussein has just been admitted to hospital because of his hunger strike. A medical report has established that he cannot appear tomorrow, because his condition needs medical attention," he said Sunday.
Court spokesman Raed Juhi confirmed that the ousted president had been admitted to hospital but denied that his condition would prevent him appearing in the dock when the moment came.
"His condition is stable and he has been admitted to hospital for medical treatment," Juhi said.
"His health has not deteriorated and he will be in the dock when the court decides to hear him," said Juhi, who is also the court's chief investigating magistrate.
Saddam, 68, had been due to appear before judges at the latest hearing in his trial for the alleged killings of 148 members of Iraq's Shiite majority community following an attempt to assassinate him in 1982.
He and three of his co-defendants have been refusing food since July 7, and last week the defence warned that their health was deteriorating.
A spokesman for his US jailers, Lieutenant Colonel Keir Kevin Curry, said on July 13 that the men had been refusing some meals but later said they were all in good health while getting extra medical attention.
The three aides striking with Saddam are his half-brother and former secret police chief Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, ex-vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan and head of the former revolutionary court Awad al-Bandar. It was Bandar's court which condemned the 148 villagers to death for the failed attack against Saddam.
The hunger-strikers are protesting at the murders of three defence lawyers since the start of the trial in October last year, the first prosecution of the former Iraqi leader since he was ousted by a US-led invasion in April 2003.
They are also protesting at the way the trial is being carried out by the Iraqi court and demanding what they call a fair tribunal.
The defendants face execution by hanging if found guilty on charges of crimes against humanity, but the trial has been disrupted by Saddam's refusal to recognise the legitimacy of the court.
Musawi said Monday's hearing would go ahead as planned, despite the former strongman's admission to hospital.
"Tomorrow, the court will hear the defence case from the lawyers for Taha Yassin Ramadan and Awad al-Bandar," he said.
Juhi said that it would be Barzan rather than Bandar whose lawyers would be presenting final arguments alongside Ramdan's.
But both men insisted that the hearing would go ahead despite a new threat from the defence team to boycott it.
"The court will continue to sit regardless of whether they are there or not and their absence is damaging to their clients' interests," said Juhi.
"If their lawyers are not there, the court will appoint counsel to represent them," the prosecutor said.
Saddam's lead lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi had announced the new boycott in a statement released in the Jordanian capital. He said the decision had been made "in consultation with Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and his co-accused who are pursuing their hunger strike."
At the onset of the protest, Saddam's US jailers said the former dictator -- who was captured in December 2003 -- was accepting tea with sugar and water with a nutrient supplement, but no food.
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More than 60 dead in Iraq as sectarian killing continues
Last Updated Sun, 23 Jul 2006 20:45:21 EDT
While the world's attention is fixed on Lebanon, the violence is unabated in Iraq, where bomb blasts in Baghdad and the northern oil centre of Kirkuk killed more than 60 people on Sunday.
The attacks added to the tension as Iraq's prime minister left for Washington for talks on reversing his country's slide toward civil and religious war.
Militants of two branches of Islam - Shia and Sunni - have been trading atrocities with a ruthlessness that has eclipsed even the insurgent campaign against U.S. and Iraqi government forces.
The first of two Baghdad bombings occurred when a suicide driver detonated an explosives-laden minivan at the entrance to a crowded market in the Sadr City slum, which is mainly Shia.
The Iraqi army said 34 people were killed and 73 were wounded.
Eight more people were killed and 20 wounded when a second bomb exploded at a municipal government building in the same area.
Sadr City is a stronghold of radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has been blamed for much of the sectarian violence. U.S. and Iraqi forces raided homes in the area earlier in the day.
In Kirkuk, a car bomb detonated near a courthouse, killing 20 and wounding more than 150.
Kirkuk, with its oil wealth, is a focus of a separate conflict between Kurds, who traditionally dominated the area, and Sunni Arabs brought in to displace them in the time of former president Saddam Hussein.
Comment: Remember, some of this "sectarian violence" is the work of the US and Israel who want civil war in Iraq. That is the real agenda.
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Iran remains uncompromising on nuke program
www.chinaview.cn 2006-07-24 19:13:16
TEHRAN, July 24 (Xinhua) -- Iranian government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham said on Monday that the country would not stop its disputed uranium enrichment activities.
"We are prepared to talk about anything in negotiations, (but) there should not be any preconditions," Elham told reporters, referring to the demands by six world powers that Iran suspends its uranium enrichment work first and gets in return for some incentives.
"Everyone's rights must be respected in negotiations, and it also must be pursued with equality and understanding," said the spokesman, adding suspending the nuclear work could bring "inequity" to Iran.
Meanwhile, Elham stressed that the Islamic Republic "still believes the proposals handed by Europeans a good chance to resolve the nuclear issue through dialogue and diplomacy".
The European Union big three -- France, Britain and Germany -- introduced Thursday a draft resolution on the Iranian nuclear issue to the UN Security Council, calling on Iran to suspend all enrichment-related activities.
The United States and some of its allies have accused Iran of working on highly enriched uranium and plutonium which are essential materials for making nuclear weapons, while Tehran has insisted on its right to develop a peaceful nuclear program aimed at generating electricity only.
On June 6, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana presented Iran with a package concerning the Iranian nuclear issue, which was agreed on by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.
The proposal includes both incentives aimed at persuading Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and possible sanctions if Iran does not comply.
Frustrated by Iran's refrain from giving an official response to the offer sooner, the six countries agreed on July 12 to return Iran's nuclear issue to the UN Security Council.
The move drew a strong reaction from the Iranian government. Iran's top officials have warned that Iran would revise cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and may quit the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) if the West is not sincere on the nuclear issue.
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Outcry as border guards seize British 'dirty bomb' lorry heading for Iran
The Mail on Sunday
22nd July 2006
Border guards seized a British lorry on its way to make a delivery to the Iranian military - after discovering it was packed with radioactive material that could be used to build a dirty bomb.
The lorry set off from Kent on its way to Tehran but was stopped by officials at a checkpoint on Bulgaria's northernborder with Romania after a scanner indicated radiation levels 200 times above normal.
The lorry was impounded and the Bulgarian Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NPA) was called out.
On board they found ten lead-lined boxes addressed to the Iranian Ministry of Defence. Inside each box was a soil-testing device, containing highly dangerous quantities of radioactive caesium 137 and americium-beryllium.
The soil testers had been sent to Iran by a British firm with the apparent export approval of the Department of Trade and Industry.
Last night, the head of the Bulgarian NRA, Nikolai Todorov, said he was shocked that devices containing so much nuclear material could be sold so easily.
He said: "The devices are highly radioactive - if you had another 90 of them you would be able to make an effective dirty bomb."
And a spokesman for the Bulgarian customs office, said: "The documentation listed the shipment as destined for the Ministry of Transport in Tehran, although the final delivery address was the Iranian Ministry of Defence.
"According to the documentation they are hand-held soil-testing devices which were sent from a firm in the United Kingdom."
A leading British expert last night said the radioactive material could easily be removed and used to construct a dirty bomb.
Dr Frank Barnaby from the Oxford Research Group, said: "You would need a few of these devices to harvest sufficient material for a dirty bomb. Americium-beryllium is an extremely effective element for the construction of a dirty bomb as it has a very long half-life, but I would be amazed to find it out on the street.
"I don't know how you would come by it as it is mainly found in spent reactor-fuel elements and is not at all easy to get hold of. I find it very hard to believe it is so easily available in this device."
Senior Labour MP Andrew MacKinlay called for the Government to tighten up export controls to prevent the Iranian military getting its hands on nuclear material.
He said: "The Prime Minister has accused the Iranian Government of sponsoring international terrorism, yet his officials are doing nothing to prevent radioactive material which has an obvious dual use being sold to their military."
The discovery will add to fears about the lack of control over the sale of nuclear material to so-called 'rogue states' which the Government claims sponsor international terrorism, particularly as it comes at a time when Iran is ignoring international calls to halt its nuclear programme.
The case has echoes of the arms-to-Iraq affair during which the DTI approved exports of apparently innocent civilian equipment to Saddam Hussein that was then used to build weapons.
Mr MacKinlay added: "Our export controls are a mess.
"The Iranians are resourceful and sophisticated and, just as we saw with Saddam Hussein in the past, this is just the sort of method they would use to get their hands on the equipment they need for their supposedly banned weapons programmes."
Andrew Maclean, a director of Kent-based Orient Transport Services, which was paid by another unnamed British firm to transport the radioactive devices to Iran, said the shipment was perfectly legal.
He said: "We had a letter from the DTI confirming that no export licence was needed to send these items to the Iranians.
"We also alerted customs officials about the goods we were transporting before they left the UK and the truck carried all the appropriate warning symbols to alert officials and the emergency services of what it was carrying."
Last night a DTI spokesman confirmed: "Exporters do not need a licence to transport this sort of material to Iran. It is not covered by our export controls."
In August last year there was a similar incident when a Turkish truck carrying a ton of zirconium silicate supplied by a British firm was stopped by Bulgarian customs at the Turkish border on its way to Tehran, after travelling from Britain, through Germany and Romania, without being stopped.
Zirconium is used in nuclear reactors to stop fuel rods corroding and can also be used as part of a nuclear warhead. The metal can be extracted from zirconium silicate and its trade is usually tightly controlled.
Comment: Shock horror! The UK government supplying Iran with material that could be wasily used to make a "dirty bomb" and then claiming that Iran is trying to build a dirty bomb??
Whatever is going on? Do you think there is something suspicious going on here? Could Blair, our wonderful impeccable leader, actually be tellling little fibs that might start world war three?? No! It simply CAN'T be! Such a thing would NEVER happen! And NEVER has I declare!
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US Troops: "We were under orders to Kill Civilians"
July 21, 2006
Soldiers say officers commanded them to 'kill all military age males' in Iraq
EL PASO, Texas - Four U.S. soldiers accused of murdering suspected insurgents during a raid in Iraq said they were under orders to "kill all military age males," according to sworn statements obtained by The Associated Press.
"The ROE (rule of engagement) was to kill all military age males on Objective Murray," Staff Sgt. Raymond L. Girouard told investigators, referring to the target by its code name.
That target, an island on a canal in the northern Salhuddin province, was believed to be an al-Qaida training camp. The soldiers said officers in their chain of command gave them the order and explained that special forces had tried before to target the island and had come under fire from insurgents.
Girouard, Spc. William B. Hunsaker, Pfc. Corey R. Clagett, and Spc. Juston R. Graber are charged with murder and other offenses in the shooting deaths of three of the men during the May 9 raid.
Girouard, Hunsaker and Clagett are also charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly threatening to kill another soldier if he told authorities what happened.
'They did it admirably'
In sworn statements obtained this week by the AP, Girouard, Hunsaker, Clagett, and a witness, Sgt. Leonel Lemus, told Army investigators they were ordered to attack an island in northern Salahuddin province on May 9 and kill anti-Iraqi fighters with ties to al-Qaida.
All four soldiers charged are members of the Fort Campbell, Ky.-based 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. They have been jailed in Kuwait since their June arrests. Their first hearing is Aug. 1 near Tikrit, Iraq.
Michael Waddington, Hunsaker's civilian lawyer, said his client followed orders and killed the detainees in self-defense after he and Clagett were attacked.
"They did (their job) honorably, they did it admirably," said Paul Bergrin, Clagett's civilian attorney. "If they did want to kill these men, they could have and been within the rules of engagement."
Officers from their unit initially cleared the soldiers of wrongdoing. Charges were filed when witnesses changed their testimony after repeated interviews with Army investigators, Bergrin said.
Military declines to comment
Reached by e-mail in Iraq, Girouard's Army lawyer, Capt. Theodore Miller, declined to comment because the investigation was continuing.
An Army prosecutor, also deployed to Iraq, did not respond to an e-mail request for comment.
Army spokesman Sheldon Smith asked that a request for comment be e-mailed to him in Virginia. He did not immediately respond.
Military officials have released few details of the case.
But statements from Girouard, Hunsaker and Clagett describe a tense early morning scene, with soldiers immediately opening fire on buildings.
Girouard told investigators he expected he and his comrades would immediately be attacked when they landed on the island. Intelligence officials had warned that at least 20 al-Qaida operatives were hiding there.
But it was only once the men moved to the northern half of the island that they found anyone, Girouard said. He said he and others shot and killed a man they spied in a window in one building and then rushed into a house where they found three other men hiding behind two women.
A fifth man, holding a 2-year-old girl in front of him, later came out of another building, Girouard and Hunsaker told investigators.
Comment: How easy it is to justify outrifht murder of civilians under the claim that the area was a "suspected al-Qaeda training camp". And how easily the average person, like you, believes it.
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Sectarian break-up of Iraq is now inevitable, admit officials
By Patrick Cockburn in Amman
Published: 24 July 2006
The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, meets Tony Blair in London today as violence in Iraq reaches a new crescendo and senior Iraqi officials say the break up of the country is inevitable.
A car bomb in a market in the Shia stronghold of Sadr City in Baghdad yesterday killed 34 people and wounded a further 60 and was followed by a second bomb in the same area two hours later that left a further eight dead. Another car bomb outside a court house in Kirkuk killed a further 20 and injured 70 people.
"Iraq as a political project is finished," a senior government official was quoted as saying, adding: "The parties have moved to plan B." He said that the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish parties were now looking at ways to divide Iraq between them and to decide the future of Baghdad, where there is a mixed population. "There is serious talk of Baghdad being divided into [Shia] east and [Sunni] west," he said.
Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, told The Independent in an interview, before joining Mr Maliki to fly to London and then Washington, that in theory the government should be able to solve the crisis because Shia, Kurd and Sunni were elected members of it.
But he painted a picture of a deeply divided administration in which senior Sunni members praised anti-government insurgents as "the heroic resistance".
In the past two weeks, at a time when Lebanon has dominated the international news, the sectarian civil war in central Iraq has taken a decisive turn for the worse. There have been regular tit-for-tat massacres and the death toll for July is likely to far exceed the 3,149 civilians killed in June.
Mr Maliki, who is said to be increasingly isolated, has failed to prevent the violence. Other Iraqi leaders claim he lacks experience in dealing with security, is personally very isolated without a kitchen cabinet and is highly dependent on 30-40 Americans in unofficial advisory positions around him.
"The government is all in the Green Zone like the previous one and they have left the streets to the terrorists," said Mahmoud Othman, a veteran Iraqi politician. He said the situation would be made worse by the war in Lebanon because it would intensify the struggle between Iran and the US being staged in Iraq. The Iraqi crisis would now receive much reduced international attention.
The switch of American and British media attention to Lebanon and away from the rapidly deteriorating situation in Baghdad is much to the political benefit of Mr Blair and Mr Bush.
"Maliki's trip to Washington is all part of the US domestic agenda to put a good face on things for November," a European diplomat in Baghdad was quoted as saying.
Ever since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein a succession of Iraqi political leaders have been fêted in London and Washington where they claimed to have the insurgents on the run. Mr Maliki's meetings with Mr Blair today and Mr Bush tomorrow are likely to be lower key but will serve the same purpose before the US Congressional elections in November. US commanders are considering moving more of their troops - there are some 55,000 near the capital into Baghdad to halt sectarian violence.
Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein has begun to receive fluids voluntarily after being taken to hospital following 17 days on a hunger strike to protest against biased court procedures and the murder of three defence lawyers.Among fellow Sunni his defiant court performances have rehabilitated his reputation, though he is still detested by Kurds and Shia.
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Wild dogs are devouring the victims of Israel's Bombing Raids
By Mike Whitney
"Lebanon carpenters are running out of wood for coffins. Bodies are stacked 3 or 4 feet high at the hospital morgue. The stench is spreading in the rubble. The morbid reality of Israel's bombing campaign is reaching almost every corner of the city...On Thursday, the wild dogs gnawed at the charred remains of a family bombed as they were trying to escape the village." Hassan Fattah, New York Times
"The complicity of the American public in these heinous crimes will damn America for all time in history." Paul Craig Roberts; "The Shame of being an American"
For more than a week Israel has been raining down terror on the Lebanon's unprotected cities and towns. So far, more than 1,200 sites have been completely destroyed laying to waste most of the country's civilian infrastructure and triggering a humanitarian crisis. The death toll, currently at 350, continues to mount while the number of displaced civilians is estimated at more than 500,000.
We know now that Israel's plan of attack was "finalized more than a year ago" and that Hezbollah's capturing of the 2 Israeli soldiers was merely a pretext to execute their strategy. Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University clarified this point saying, "Of all Israel's wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most prepared. In a sense, the preparation began in 2000, immediately after the Israeli withdrawal."
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "More than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving Power-point presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to US and other diplomats, journalists and think-tanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail."
Although this simply confirms what most serious analysts suspected from the beginning, it is still interesting on many levels. For one thing, we can be sure that top ranking officials in the Bush administration (including George Bush) not only knew of the plan, but tacitly endorsed the invasion of a friendly country who posed no threat to national security. We can also assume that the battle-plans were carefully orchestrated with Washington so that Bush could co-opt the leaders at the G-8 meetings while Israel pummeled its vulnerable neighbor. Again, this shows the appalling degree of cynicism in the Bush foreign policy strategy.
The SF Chronicle article also demonstrates the extent to which the media is integrated into the machinery of state power. The fact that select "journalists" were provided with information about future aggression against non-threatening states shows that the administration places great value on the preparation of propaganda for major events like the destruction of Lebanon. The media's carefully crafted message; chock-full of the usual "buzz-words" and "talking points" (nb. "Israel is fighting a war on 2 fronts"; "Israel has the right to defend itself"; "Syria and Iran are the cause of the violence") follows the predictable pattern of emphasizing Israeli "victim-hood" while lashing out against future enemies without any evidence of wrongdoing. Nearly every one of the 4,000 or so articles covering the violence, use the very same talking points in describing events on the ground. It is a shocking reminder of the woeful state of modern corporate media which advances an elite agenda through the intentional dissemination of misinformation. In the present crisis, much of the public support for Israeli aggression can be directly attributed to the manipulation of language and facts appearing in the media. (We should note that, so far, there is no proof that either Iran or Syria is directly involved in the hostilities and that, more importantly, it is American ordinance in the control of Israeli pilots that is pelting-down on the blameless civilians in Lebanon. Neither Iran nor Syria are in any way responsible for the carnage in Lebanon.)
According to the Chronicle, Israeli officials expect a 3 week campaign. Targeted bombing is to be followed by commando raids and a ground offensive, but the situation is "fluid" and plans will undoubtedly be modified to meet the changes in conditions on the ground. Already, we can see that 500,000 mostly poor Shiites have been uprooted in the south and "ethnically cleansed" from the area. Israel's 20 mile buffer-zone to the Litani River is tantamount to occupation and will preclude many of these refugees to returning to their homes.
Israel's invasion can be expected to reenergize the ethnic and religious rivalries which resulted in Lebanon's civil war which killed an estimated 70,000 Lebanese nationals. Apparently, no price is too high to pay to ensure that Israel can establish a client regime in Beirut that will function at the behest of Tel Aviv.
Once again, all of the details were clearly worked out with members of the Bush administration prior to the invasion. Obviously, they were given Washington's blessing. Since the hostilities broke out, the Bush administration has publicly given the "green light" to Israeli aggression and successfully blocked all diplomatic efforts to achieve a "cease-fire". The international community is now as much a hostage of Bush's preemptive doctrine as the frightened Lebanese civilians cowering in their underground shelters in Beirut.
The New York Times reported on Saturday that Bush was "rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel" to guarantee that the killing can continue nonstop and that whatever is left of Lebanon's frayed infrastructure will be swiftly pounded into dust.
Make no mistake, the vast destruction of the once-bustling metropolis and the ocean of suffering caused by the unprovoked Israeli air-assault, is a joint-operation facilitated by the Washington warlords as much as anyone in Tel Aviv.
In an op-ed piece today in the New York Times, neoconservative chieftain, Richard Perle provided a lurid summary of the present strategy:
"Israel must now deal a blow of such magnitude to those who would destroy it as to leave no doubt that its earlier policy of acquiescence is over. This means precise military action against Hezbollah and its infrastructure in Lebanon and Syria, for as long as it takes and without regard to mindless diplomatic blather about proportionality."
Perle's statement is, in fact, an apt description the Bush-Olmert battle-plan for Lebanon. It tells us that, despite the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, the two leaders still believe they can achieve a political solution through the (exclusive) use of overwhelming force. There is no moral or ethical component to the present policy, nor is there any wiggle-room for negotiation or diplomacy. (Condoleezza Rice's trip is purely for public relations purposes) It is simply violence as a political-panacea removed from any rational alternative. 3 years in Iraq and 39 years of unrelenting bloodshed in Palestine, have taught them nothing. Lebanon is shaping up to be another dismal chapter in the chronicle of colonial atrocities.
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Cheney behind turn toward dictatorship
First published: Friday, July 7, 2006
In the winter of 1933, before Franklin Roosevelt's first inauguration on March 4, there was a clamor in the United States for a military dictatorship. The banks were closing, a quarter of Americans were unemployed, rebellion threatened on the farms.
Only drastic reforms, mandated by the president's power as commander in chief, would save the country. Something like the fascism of Mussolini's Italy, viewed benignly by many Americans in those days because it worked, or so everyone said, would save the country from communist revolution.
As Jonathan Alter reminds us in "The Defining Moment," his brilliant book about FDR's first hundred days, men as different as William Randolph Hearst, financier Bernard Baruch, commentator Lowell Thomas and establishment columnist Walter Lipmann argued for the necessity of dictatorship to reorganize the economy. Both the New Republic and the Commonweal (a Catholic liberal journal) advanced the same thesis.
The call for a military style dictatorship is the ultimate temptation to the greatest treason of a democratic society. Fortunately, FDR resisted the temptation and reformed the American economy by a mix of gradualist changes, like Social Security, and magical fireside chats. Unfortunately, years later he yielded to the temptation to a military dictatorship when he interned Japanese-Americans simply because they were Japanese. In the first case, he resisted the demands of the American people. In the second, he caved into their racist demands, just as Lincoln caved in to such demands and abolished habeas corpus during the Civil War.
The United States is currently caught up in a new campaign for a military dictatorship rule by a military chief with absolute power. The White House, inspired by Vice President Dick Cheney, has argued that in time of great danger, the President has unlimited powers. If he cites national security, he can do whatever he wants -- ignore Congress, disobey laws, disregard the courts, override the Constitution's Bill of Rights, -- without being subject to any review. Separation of powers no longer exists under this view. The President need not consult Congress or the courts, only the vice president, the attorney general and God.
Moreover, the rights of the commander in chief to act as a military dictator lasts as long as the national emergency persists, indefinitely and permanently.
Many, perhaps most Americans, wouldn't mind. The President is tough on terrorists and that's all that matters. What is the Bill of Rights anyway? Mr. Bush, his supporters will argue, is a good man, even a godly man. He won't misuse the powers, even if the power he claims is no less than Hugo Chavez exercises in Venezuela.
The Supreme Court, in its ruling about a Guantanamo detainee last week, was a sharp rebuke to Chenyism (fascism, American style). It dealt with only one case and left the President wiggle room. He could consult with Congress about new legislation that would provide more rights for the detainees in a military trial. But that violates Mr. Cheney's first principle that the commander in chief doesn't have to consult with anyone on matters of national security. If the President was consistent with the Cheney theory and the memos from Alberto Gonzales, first the White House lawyer and now the attorney general, he should defy the Supreme Court and insist that he has the right to establish whatever judicial process he deems proper for these potentially dangerous people without any interference from anyone. He may still do that.
Republicans who will seek re-election in November already suggest that they will run against the Supreme Court decision. The court, they will tell the American people, is soft on terror, just like Democrats in Congress. They could probably get away with this nonsense because fear will cause the voters to forget that this is the Republican court that gave Mr. Bush the Presidency.
Mr. Cheney is a vile, indeed evil, influence in American political life. He is a very dangerous person who would if he could destroy American freedom about which he and his mentor prate hypocritically. His long years in Washington have caused him to lose faith in the legislative and judicial processes of the government. The country, he believes, requires a much stronger executive. Such concentrated power would have been necessary even if the Sept. 11 attacks had not occurred. Mr. Cheney uses the fear of terrorists as a pretext to advance his agenda of an all powerful president, a military dictator.
So long, of course, as he is a Republican.
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FOX Commentator Threatens The Life Of 9/11 Activist
Duluth, MN (PRWEB) July 21, 2006 -- Bill O'Reilly, the host of "The O'Reilly Factor" on the Fox News Channel, has suggested that Kevin Barrett, an outspoken 9/11 truth activist, belongs "in the Charles River floating down".
This is a travesty, an astonishing violation of academic freedom, freedom of speech, the right of the people to be free from assault.
James H. Fetzer, founder and co-chair of Scholars for 9/11 Truth, a non-partisan society of more than 300 members dedicated to exposing falsehoods and revealing truths about 9/11, said that the absence of response from the FCC, Fox News, and the national media speaks volumes about the state of the nation. "When public threats can be made to a citizen's life for expressing his opinions on a controversial topic and neither the government nor the media respond," he observed, "that is a sure sign we are living in a fascist state."
O'Reilly couched his remarks in the context of assailing other academicians who have asserted that the government had a role in bringing about the events of 9/11, a claim to which he takes strong exception. He attacked the leadership of the University of Wisconsin, which has reviewed the case and will allow Barrett to teach a course this fall. During his program on 11 July, O'Reilly remarked, "This guy would have been gone at Boston University, my alma mater, in a heartbeat. The Chancellor there, John Silber, would of--would have--this guy'd be in the Charles River floating down, you know, toward the harbor." He implied that allowing Barrett to teach at BU "wouldn't happen" but "at the University of Wisconsin there are no standards... I'm stunned."
"What's stunning is that this man, who knows nothing about the events of 9/11 apart from what the government has told him, nevertheless assumes unto himself the role of judge, jury, and (it even appears) executioner!" Fetzer added. "This is a travesty, an astonishing violation of academic freedom, freedom of speech, the right of the people to be free from assault." Verbal threats, he observed, are assaults, especially when, as in this case, they endorse physical violence against a citizen. Barrett, who was alerted to the threat by David von Kleist of The Power Hour, has replied by writing to Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox News, suggesting that if he were killed as a result of these remarks, "Fox News would find itself facing the mother of all lawsuits, and my family might very well end up in control of the Murdoch fortune."
For reasons that are not entirely obvious, Barrett's public affirmation of governmental complicity in 9/11 had drawn intense attacks from the right wing. A Wisconsin state legislator, Steve Nass (R-Whitewater), for example, has called for him to be fired and has even introduced legislation that would overrule the determination of the Provost of the University of Wisconsin-Madison that Barrett be permitted to teach a course on Islam this fall in which 9/11 will be discussed. "Kevin and I presented a joint session on 9/11 during the Midwest Social Forum held in Chicago on July 9, 2006," Fetzer said. "The University of Wisconsin sent a representative. Even though it was announced and the public was welcome, no one from Nass's office bothered to attend. It would have been the perfect opportunity to ask him questions about his positions and the reasons why he holds them."
An author who has published "The Amateur Parent", a book on child-raising practices, has had a similar experience. Because of an article in The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that appeared on June 29, 2006, he began to research the subject to ascertain exactly what Barrett believed had happened on 9/11. By visiting the web site of Scholars for 9/11 Truth, st911.org, he discovered that Barrett and many other faculty and experts have concluded that the impact of the planes and the temperatures of the fires were inadequate to cause the collapse of the Twin Towers, which came down at rates of speed and in patterns of destruction that were compatible with controlled demolitions, a finding recently reinforced by the discovery of residue of explosives on steel remnants.
According to his "Exposing the 9/11 Conspiracy Wingnuts", Bill Douglas, the author, called the office of Rep. Nass and asked to speak with someone who could address the issues. "I asked if he was familiar with the Scholars for 9/11 Truth website, and he replied that they had learned of it this week." Douglas explained some of the reasons the society held its position and asked if Nass would comment. "The gentleman responded that no, they had not looked at this information, and this would not be something they would look at, further indicating that anyone who made such charges was blinded by their hatred of President Bush." Fetzer said, "This is buffoonery. The melting point of steel is not Democrat or Republican and the hottest temperatures that jet-fuel-based fires can attain does not depend upon the identity of the President of the United States."
Douglas, whose article is archived on st911.org, discovered that a substantial group of distinguished experts, whose credentials he summarizes, share Barrett's views. He also found that the members of the society had what appear to be rather good reasons for questioning the official government account. Their critics, on the other hand, display astounding irrationality. Noting that Rep. Nass wants to fire Barrett without looking at the evidence, Douglas observed, "To fire someone for presenting facts, facts that you dispute, yet have no idea what those facts are, and are unwilling to look at them to find out what they are . . . is also insane. As someone who writes on parenting issues, as a concerned parent as well, America should also consider retiring our insane government officials who fire people for facts they aren't aware of and are unwilling to look at."
Fetzer agreed. "Most Americans don't even realize that the official government account of 19 Islamic fundamentalists hijacking four commercial airliners under the control of a man in a cave in Afghanistan is itself a conspiracy theory", he said. "We are critics of the government's theory, which appears to be indefensible in every significant detail. Their names were not on the passenger manifests. None of them was subject to any autopsy. They could not have flown the planes. Those cell phone calls would have been impossible at those altitudes and speeds. The American people are being played for saps", he added, wistfully. "All we want is for the nation to know the truth about its own government, which had the motive, means, and opportunity to pull off 9/11."
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Hilary(ious) Clinton frets chips will be put in kids' brains
New York Daily News
WASHINGTON - Madison Ave. ad execs are so bent on taking control of America's children, they'd put computer chips in kids' brains if they could, Sen. Hillary Clinton said yesterday.
Saying advertisers have found so many new ways to get at kids through video games and the Internet, Clinton warned that we're verging on a society out of a grim science fiction novel.
"At the rate that technology is advancing, people will be implanting chips in our children to advertise directly into their brains and tell them what kind of products to buy," Clinton said at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The New York Democrat said the country was performing a "massive experiment" on kids who average more than six hours a day with media and advertising, soaking it up through TV, computers, games and iPods. She said the fastest growing advertising market is the 6- and under set, and that children's health is already being hurt by products like Camel's candy-flavored cigarettes and junk food sold with tips for video games - used to sell more junk food.
"People are spending billions and billions of dollars enticing children basically to be obsessed with food," she said. "These foods are almost universally unhealthy." Clinton has offered legislation to study the effects of the "advertising-saturated, media-intense" world on kids.
Robert Thompson, a professor of pop culture at Syracuse University, said Clinton and other politicians like to attack advertising because it's easier than trying to ban bad food products or fund broad education programs.
"To go after advertising really makes no sense," he said. "It's sort of a backdoor tack, but it's the safer one politically."
Comment: Current reality disguised as conjecture?
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Marshals: Innocent People Placed On 'Watch List' To Meet Quota
POSTED: 9:49 pm MDT July 21, 2006
UPDATED: 10:56 pm MDT July 21, 2006
DENVER -- You could be on a secret government database or watch list for simply taking a picture on an airplane. Some federal air marshals say they're reporting your actions to meet a quota, even though some top officials deny it.
The air marshals, whose identities are being concealed, told 7NEWS that they're required to submit at least one report a month. If they don't, there's no raise, no bonus, no awards and no special assignments."
Innocent passengers are being entered into an international intelligence database as suspicious persons, acting in a suspicious manner on an aircraft ... and they did nothing wrong," said one federal air marshal.
These unknowing passengers who are doing nothing wrong are landing in a secret government document called a Surveillance Detection Report, or SDR. Air marshals told 7NEWS that managers in Las Vegas created and continue to maintain this potentially dangerous quota system.
"Do these reports have real life impacts on the people who are identified as potential terrorists?" 7NEWS Investigator Tony Kovaleski asked.
"Absolutely," a federal air marshal replied.
7NEWS obtained an internal Homeland Security document defining an SDR as a report designed to identify terrorist surveillance activity.
"When you see a decision like this, for these reports, who loses here?" Kovaleski asked.
"The people we're supposed to protect -- the American public," an air marshal said.
What kind of impact would it have for a flying individual to be named in an SDR?
"That could have serious impact ... They could be placed on a watch list. They could wind up on databases that identify them as potential terrorists or a threat to an aircraft. It could be very serious," said Don Strange, a former agent in charge of air marshals in Atlanta. He lost his job attempting to change policies inside the agency.
That's why several air marshals object to a July 2004 memo from top management in the Las Vegas office, a memo that reminded air marshals of the SDR requirement.
The body of the memo said, "Each federal air marshal is now expected to generate at least one SDR per month."
"Does that memo read to you that Federal Air Marshal headquarters has set a quota on these reports?" Kovaleski asked.
"Absolutely, no doubt," an air marshal replied.
A second management memo, also dated July 2004, said, "There may come an occasion when you just don't see anything out of the ordinary for a month at a time, but I'm sure that if you are looking for it, you'll see something."
Another federal air marshal said that not only is there a quota in Las Vegas for SDRs, but that "it directly reflects on (their) performance evaluations" and on how much money they make.
The director of the Air Marshal Service, Dana Brown, declined 7NEWS' request for an interview on the quota system. But the agency points to a memo from August 2004 that said there is not a quota for submitting SDRs and which goes on to say, "I do not expect reports that are inaccurate or frivolous."
But, Las Vegas-based air marshals say the quota system remains in force, now more than two years after managers sent the original memos, and that it's a mandate from management that impacts annual raises, bonuses, awards and special assignments.
"To meet this quota, to get their raises, do you think federal air marshals in Las Vegas are making some of this stuff up?" Kovaleski asked.
"I know they are. It's a joke," an air marshal replied.
"Have marshals in the Las Vegas office, I don't want to say fabricated, but 'created' reports?" Kovaleski asked.
"Creative writing -- stretching a long ways the truth, yes," an air marshal replied.
One example, according to air marshals, occurred on one flight leaving Las Vegas, when an unknowing passenger, most likely a tourist, was identified in an SDR for doing nothing more than taking a photo of the Las Vegas skyline as his plane rolled down the runway.
"You're saying that was not an accurate portrayal of a potential terrorist activity?" Kovaleski asked.
"No, it was not," an air marshal said.
"It was a marshal trying to meet a quota ..." Kovaleski said.
"Yes, he was," the air marshal replied.
Strange said he didn't have a quota in the Atlanta office when he was in charge.
"I would never have done that ... You are going to have people reporting every suspicious looking activity they come across, whether they in their heart feel like it's a threat, just to meet the quota," Strange said.
Strange and other air marshals said the quota allows the government to fill a database with bad information.
A Las Vegas air marshal said he didn't write an SDR every month for exactly that reason.
"Well, it's intelligence information, and like any system, if you put garbage in, you get garbage out," the air marshal said.
"I would like to see an investigation -- a real investigation conducted into the ways things are done here," the air marshal in Las Vegas said.
Although the agency strongly denies any presence of a quota system, Las Vegas-based air marshals have produced documents that show their performance review is directly linked to producing SDRs.
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Kids Kill In Violent Christian Videogame
By Zack Pelta-Heller, AlterNet. Posted July 21, 2006.
Evangelical videogame makers are hoping to capture a mainstream audience with a new game that leaves corpses piled on the streets of New York.
The Rapture is headed for New York City, and just in time for Christmas. In Left Behind: Eternal Forces, a Christian-themed videogame due out this October, the New York skyline smolders during the End of Days, the faithful have been called up to heaven, and the remaining New Yorkers are engaged in an epic clash between the Tribulation Forces and the Antichrist's army of Global Community Peacekeepers (aka UN Peacekeepers).
Evangelical videogame makers are praying that Eternal Forces will finally enable them to tap into the $25 billion global videogame market. They hope their "Christian" values-themed game will capture the same audience that has made bestsellers out of violent standards like Grand Theft Auto and Halo 2.
The Left Behind: Eternal Forces videogame is based upon the wildly profitable "Left Behind" series, written by Rev. Timothy LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. The "Left Behind" books have sold roughly 65 million copies and are second only to the Bible in sales of Christian texts. The series revolves around an eccentric interpretation of the Bible that sets the Armageddon in Iraq and refers to Saddam Hussein as a servant of Satan. President Bush is a big fan of Rev. LaHaye's brand of dominionism. Prior to the 2000 election, Bush met with LaHaye and other Christian fundamentalist leaders to cultivate the support of the religious right.
Game point, spirit point
Eternal Forces is a real-time strategy videogame, meaning that a player manipulates an entire army simultaneously, as opposed to the common first-person shooter games in which a player controls only one character. In essence, the player becomes the commander of a virtual army, deciding when to unleash weapons from an arsenal of guns, tanks and helicopters. Of course, since this is an evangelical game, soldiers lose "spirit points" each time they kill an opponent, leaving them prey to the Antichrist's forces and in dire need of replenishment through prayer. To top it off, each time a soldier slays one of the Antichrist's soldiers (who are UN Peacekeepers, remember), he triumphantly cries, "Praise the Lord!"
Eternal Forces caught the media's attention in May, when it premiered at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. The Los Angeles Times reported that in order to foster buzz for the videogame, the game's co-creators, Troy Lyndon and Jeffrey Frichner, plan to issue a million advanced copies to churches nationwide. That announcement galvanized Jonathan Hutson of Talk To Action, a forum for discussing the religious right, into action. Hutson, who identifies himself as a Christian and a patriot, said by phone, "I'm offended by a game that allows children to rehearse mass killing in the name of Christ or the Antichrist."
In several lengthy blog posts, Hutson charged that Left Behind: Eternal Forces usurps the now iconic imagery of 9/11 because it is set in a post-apocalyptic New York. "Why are the ambulances patrolling the streets with '911' written on their roofs instead of a normal paramedic star or cross?" Hutson questioned. "It's outrageous to exploit September 11th to make a buck!" Hutson also alleged the game's "Praise the Lord!" battle cry is not far from the "God is great!" words of the World Trade Center terrorists. (Left Behind Games was formed in October 2001.)
Hutson's primary objection to Eternal Forces is Left Behind's proposed marketing campaign. The strategy of advanced distribution through mega-churches and pastoral networks has been employed in the past few years with resounding results. Both The Passion of the Christ and The Chronicles of Narnia were screened in churches throughout the country before theatrical release. A more notable example is The Purpose-Driven Life, the bestseller by evangelical pastor Rick Warren. Prior to publication in 2002, Warren distributed a million copies through his Purpose Driven Network of mega-churches with congregations in 162 countries worldwide. The book went on to sell over 22 million copies to become the all-time best-selling nonfiction hardback.
While Left Behind's decision to follow a proven business model isn't particularly surprising, Hutchinson discovered a startling level of collusion between Left Behind and Rick Warren.
Mark Carver, the executive director of Purpose Driven Ministries in every region except North America, turned out to be the business advisor to Left Behind Games. Hutson was incensed by this apparent conflict of interest, which he termed "endorsement by association." He challenged, "Where is the pastoral leadership while a bigoted videogame is being networked and marketed through mega-churches?" After two heated posts on Talk To Action that echoed across the blogosphere from the Huffington Post to BlondeSense to Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish, Mark Carver resigned on June 5. A day later, Hutson received official word from Purpose Driven notifying him of Carver's resignation and declaring that Warren and Purpose Driven had no plans to endorse Left Behind: Eternal Forces.
Hutson isn't the only one outraged by Left Behind: Eternal Forces. When Jack Thompson, an attorney and crusader against videogame violence, learned that Tyndale Publishers permitted Left Behind Games to adapt the Left Behind series, he dissolved his relationship with the publishing company. In addition to the Left Behind books, Tyndale also publishes James Dobson and Thompson's own manifesto on the dangers of videogames, Out of Harm's Way.
Thompson said he hadn't read the "Left Behind" series, but says there is a difference between the books, which are targeted toward adults, and the book-based videogame for adolescents. "[Left Behind Games] is taking adult-themed violence and marketing directly to kids," Thompson said from his Miami office. "It's a perfect example of how we're exporting pop-culture sewage to the rest of the world."
Thompson cited brain scan studies by Harvard and Indiana University that he claimed illustrate a link between witnessing videogame violence and copycat crimes. "There's an inherent, emotion-driven impulse in juveniles," he said. "Every parent knows that what kids get in their heads has behavioral consequences." Thompson said Left Behind's decision to distribute a million advance copies of their videogame to mega-churches nationwide is "a dangerous, hypocritical, non-Christian thing to do, and an example of how pop culture is transforming the church."
Level of violence
Jonathan Hutson says he wasn't opposed to videogame violence per se. "The level of violence in this videogame is not at issue," he said. "Rather, it's the indoctrination in Christian supremacy because the game rehearses and instructs children in the mass killing of New Yorkers for the sake of Christ and that is an abomination." He also said he was appalled that in Eternal Forces, corpses are left on the streets. "It's outrageous that this game has a feature to allow cold corpses of New Yorkers to pile up on the streets. No one gives them a decent burial."
While Left Behind denied repeated requests for an interview, it did issue a formal statement. The company dismissed Hutson's remarks, insisting that he was unqualified to comment on the game because he hadn't played it. Left Behind did, however, verify that LaHaye's anti-government philosophy had found its way into the videogame. "The Antichrist's forces are on the warpath, actively hunting down and exterminating all resistance to his one-world government. This includes the good guys -- the Tribulation Force -- defending themselves against Satan."
Left Behind maintained that while there is violence in the game, it's not bloody or graphic, and it anticipates getting a Teen (T) rating from the Entertainment Software Ratings Board.
The question remains whether Left Behind can justify its videogame violence with the Bible. If a player's only penalty for killing New Yorkers is a loss in spiritual points, then violence actually goes less punished in Eternal Forces than in seemingly more violent competition like Grand Theft Auto, in which homicide results in being pursued and arrested by the police. And in Grand Theft Auto, bodies disappear shortly after being killed.
Evangelical Gamers fire back
Although Left Behind wasn't eager to discuss its videogame, other evangelical videogame developers regard Eternal Forces as the breakthrough they've been waiting for to bring Christian games into the mainstream. Ralph Bagley, the godfather of Christian gaming, runs Christian Game Developers Foundation. Until now, its titles Catechumen and Ominous Horizons have been the darlings of the Christian videogame industry, having sold about 80,000 and 70,000 copies, respectively. "We've fought the perception that if it's a Christian videogame," Bagley said, "then it has to be cheesy with sub-par graphics."
Bagley hopes Left Behind: Eternal Forces will prove that Christian videogames can be both high-quality tools to reach people through ministry and entertaining alternatives to current videogame hits. He is not alone. Greg Schumsky, CEO of Covenant Studios, knows there are not a lot of Christian games out there for older audiences. Following in the wake of Eternal Forces, Covenant plans to release a game next spring called Journey of the Time Pilots, which involves traveling through time to catch Nazis who have stolen religious artifacts for Hitler.
"I think this game is going to open the doors for other games to get into the mainstream market," Schumsky said of Eternal Forces. Like Schumsky, most Christian game developers covet the mainstream audience and feel the reason they haven't broken through is because videogame critics compare their games to more successful market standards like Grand Theft Auto. Christian game developers say the comparison is unfair because they believe their games are morally superior.
Neither Schumsky nor Bagley seem too worried about violence in videogames.
"'Revelations' is pretty darn violent to begin with," Schumsky said, "so how do you candycoat that?" In the past, however, Bagley has spoken out against violence in games like Grand Theft Auto and Narc. When I asked Bagley whether he would mind gamers playing as the Antichrist, he replied, "As long as Christ wins out in the end, I'm open as long as it doesn't go overboard, though the last thing I would want to see is people getting on there just to kill."
Bagley said there was a distinction between running street gangs in videogames and commanding the anti-Tribulation force in Left Behind. He thinks this violence can be portrayed in a "tasteful manner," if done within the storyline. Unlike Jack Thompson, Bagley doesn't believe that videogame violence invariably leads to enhanced aggression in game players. "I think maybe 99.9% of kids playing Grand Theft Auto and other games probably won't be affected. I pray the rest won't be affected by the violence."
Zack Pelta-Heller is a regular contributor to AlterNet.
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One dead in I-65 'sniper' shootings
By John Strauss and Rebecca Neal
9:55 AM July 23, 2006
One motorist was killed and another injured this morning by sniper fire on Interstate 65 near Seymour, prompting the Indiana State Police to close a 14-mile stretch of the highway for more than eight hours.
Traffic resumed at 9:40 a.m. while the investigation continued.
Two vehicles were struck by gunfire shortly after midnight this morning, according to the state police. Hours later, two more vehicles were shot near Muncie and the state police Redkey post - including a semi tractor-trailer rig on Interstate 69.
"This investigation is ongoing. At this time it is unknown whether the shootings in the Seymour and Redkey area are related," Sgt. Jerry D. Goodin said in a prepared statement.
I-65 was closed from mile marker 50, the Seymour exit, to mile 64 after the first gunfire shortly after midnight, Goodin said.
Goodin said state police received their first 911 call at 12:23 a.m. about a shooting in the southbound lane of I-65 just north of Seymour.
"The vehicle had three occupants, and one was killed as a result of the shooting," Goodin said. "The vehicle, which was traveling south on Interstate 65, continued to travel south after being shot and exited into the south bound scale house near the 50 mile marker."
As police investigated that shooting, the Seymour Police Department received a call from a gas station in that city just off I-65 reporting that another vehicle had been shot.
"In this case, a passenger was injured with non-life threatening injuries and was transported to the Schneck Memorial Hospital in Seymour," Goodin said.
About two hours after the first shooting, state police at Redkey received their first report of gunfire in Delaware County.
"The incident being investigated by the Redkey post involved a semi-truck that was shot in the area of I-69 at the 42 mile marker at approximately 2:30 a.m," Goodin said.
The fourth shooting was reported at about 3:30 a.m. and involved a parked car with no one inside. No one was injured in either of the Delaware County shootings.
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Arrested Bush dissenters eye courts
By TODD DVORAK
Sat Jul 22, 2006
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - When school was canceled to accommodate a campaign visit by President Bush, the two 55-year-old teachers reckoned the time was ripe to voice their simmering discontent with the administration's policies.
Christine Nelson showed up at the Cedar Rapids rally with a Kerry-Edwards button pinned on her T-shirt; Alice McCabe clutched a small, paper sign stating "No More War." What could be more American, they thought, than mixing a little dissent with the bunting and buzz of a get-out-the-vote rally headlined by the president?
Their reward: a pair of handcuffs and a strip search at the county jail.
Authorities say they were arrested because they refused to obey reasonable security restrictions, but the women disagree: "Because I had a dissenting opinion, they did what they needed to do to get me out of the way," said Nelson, who teaches history and government at one of this city's middle schools.
"I tell my students all the time about how people came to this country for freedom of religion, freedom of speech, that those rights and others are sacred. And all along I've been thinking to myself, 'not at least during this administration.'"
Their experience is hardly unique.
In the months before the 2004 election, dozens of people across the nation were banished from or arrested at Bush political rallies, some for heckling the president, others simply for holding signs or wearing clothing that expressed opposition to the war and administration policies.
Similar things have happened at official, taxpayer-funded, presidential visits, before and after the election. Some targeted by security have been escorted from events, while others have been arrested and charged with misdemeanors that were later dropped by local prosecutors.
Now, in federal courthouses from Charleston, W.Va., to Denver, federal officials and state and local authorities are being forced to defend themselves against lawsuits challenging the arrests and security policies.
While the circumstances differ, the cases share the same fundamental themes. Generally, they accuse federal officials of developing security measures to identify, segregate, deny entry or expel dissenters.
Jeff Rank and his wife, Nicole, filed a lawsuit after being handcuffed and booted from a July 4, 2004, appearance by the president at the West Virginia Capitol in Charleston. The Ranks, who now live in Corpus Christi, Texas, had free tickets to see the president speak, but contend they were arrested and charged with trespassing for wearing anti-Bush T-shirts.
"It's nothing more than an attempt by the president and his staff to suppress free speech," said Andrew Schneider, executive director of the ACLU of West Virginia, which is providing legal services for the Ranks.
"What happened to the Ranks, and so many others across the country, was clearly an incident of viewpoint discrimination. And the lawsuit is an attempt to make the administration accountable for what we believe were illegal actions," Schneider said.
In Cedar Rapids, McCabe and Nelson are suing three unnamed
Secret Service agents, the Iowa State Patrol and two county sheriff deputies who took part in their arrest. Nelson and McCabe, who now lives in Memphis, Tenn., accuse law enforcement of violating their right to free speech, assembly and equal protection.
The two women say they were political novices, inexperienced at protest and unprepared for what happened on Sept. 3, 2004.
Soon after arriving at Noelridge Park, a sprawling urban playground dotted with softball diamonds and a public pool, McCabe and Nelson were approached by Secret Service agents in polo shirts and Bermuda shorts. They were told that the Republicans had rented the park and they would have to move because the sidewalk was now considered private property.
McCabe and Nelson say they complied, but moments later were again told to move, this time across the street. After being told to move a third time, Nelson asked why she was being singled out while so many others nearby, including those holding buckets for campaign donations, were ignored. In response, she says, they were arrested.
They were charged with criminal trespass, but the charges were later dropped.
A spokesman for the Secret Service declined to comment on pending litigation or answer questions on security policy for presidential events. White House spokesman Alex Conant also declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation.
But Justice Department lawyers, in documents filed recently in federal court in Cedar Rapids, outline security at the rally and defend the Secret Service agents' actions.
They contend the GOP obtained exclusive rights to use the park and that donation takers were ignored because they were an authorized part of the event. They also say McCabe and Nelson were disobedient, repeatedly refusing agents' orders to move.
"At no time did any political message expressed by the two women play any role in how (the agents) treated them," they wrote. "All individuals ... subject to security restrictions either complied with the security restrictions or were arrested for refusing to comply."
Defenders say stricter policies are a response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and a small price for ensuring the safety of a world leader in an era of heightened suspicion and uncertainty.
But Leslie Weise says law enforcers are violating citizens' rights to voice objections within earshot of the president.
Last year, in Denver, Weise and two friends were evicted from a Bush town hall meeting on Social Security reform.
Weise, a 40-year-old environmental lawyer who is now a stay-at-home mother, opposes the war in Iraq and the administration's energy policies. Like friends Alex Young and Karen Bauer, Weise did some volunteer work for the Kerry campaign.
In the days before Bush's March 2005 town hall meeting, the trio toyed briefly with the notion of actively protesting the visit. But they said they decided against it because they had heard of arrests at Bush appearances in North Dakota and Arizona.
After parking Weise's car, the three, dressed in professional attire and holding tickets obtained from their local congressman, arrived at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum. Young cleared security, but Weise and Bauer were briefly detained and told by staff they had been "identified" and would be arrested if they tried "any funny stuff," according to court records.
After finding their seats, they were approached again by staff and removed before Bush began speaking. Days later, Weise learned from Secret Service in Denver that a bumper sticker on her green Saab hatchback - "No More Blood for Oil" - caught the attention of security.
"I had every reason to attend that event, just as anyone else in the room had that day," said Weise. "If we raised security to a higher level just because we had an opinion different from the administration, I think that goes far beyond what is appropriate for this country."
Lawsuits by protesters are not always embraced by the courts. In Pennsylvania, a federal judge dismissed a suit challenging the arrests of six men who stripped down to thongs and formed a pyramid to protest the Abu Ghraib scandal when Bush paid a visit to Lancaster.
The judge ruled the authorities acted with probable cause and are entitled to qualified immunity, shielding them from liability. The ruling is on appeal.
Such efforts to segregate or diminish dissent are hardly new to American politics.
The ACLU has sued several presidents over attempts to silence opposition, as in 1997, when President Clinton tried to prevent protesters from lining his inaugural parade route. And during the tumultuous 1960s, it was not uncommon for hecklers and protesters to be whisked away or managed at a distance from rallies and events.
"In my mind, it all started with Nixon. He was the first presidential candidate to really make an effort to control their image and disrupt public interruption at events," said Cary Covington, a political science professor at the University of Iowa.
But political experts say the 2004 Bush campaign rewrote the playbook for organizing campaign rallies.
At the Republican National Convention in New York City and at other campaign stops, security segregated protesters in designated "free speech zones" set up at a significant distance from each rally. To get into events headlined by Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney, supporters were required to obtain tickets through GOP channels or sign loyalty oaths.
Political experts agree Bush 2004 went to greater lengths than Kerry officials - or any past campaign - to choreograph a seamless, partisan rally free of the embarrassing moments that attract media attention.
Gone are the days of candidates facing down hecklers or reacting to distractions like, the man who donned a chicken costume and pestered George H.W. Bush in 1991 after he balked at Bill Clinton's invitations to debate.
Anthony Corrado, a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution, said ticket-only events are an effective tool for rewarding legions of volunteers who work the phone banks, raise money and build support.
"In my view, the Republicans did a much better job of linking field volunteers with their schedule and events," Corrado said. "I had never seen it done to the extent it was on 2004 on the Republican side. And my guess is we'll probably see a lot more of it all."
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No end in sight for N.Y. blackout
By VERENA DOBNIK
Sat Jul 22, 2006
NEW YORK - The damage to a utility's underground network in the borough of Queens is greater than imagined - a twist in the six-day power outage that could mean electricity won't be back until early in the week, the mayor said Saturday.
"It'll be done when it's done," Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters gathered in Queens' Astoria Park, where the city's emergency command center for the blackout is set up.
Consolidated Edison CEO Kevin Burke apologized to customers for the inconvenience and attributed the outages to an unprecedented failure of multiple power lines.
"It was really a very extraordinary event, something that I've never seen before," Burke said. "I don't know right now what has happened."
The problem began with failures on a series of feeder cables, circuits that carry 27,000 volts and power entire neighborhoods, he said.
The cables are designed to compensate for failures - if one goes down, others pick up the load. On Monday, 10 feeder cables were out of service. Lower-voltage cables also were damaged, apparently by carrying larger than normal amounts of current, Burke said.
To hasten the restoration of power to as many as 20,000 customers, or about 80,000 people, electrical crews from as far away as Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio, were on their way to New York to help, Bloomberg said.
Severe thunderstorms Friday hindered repair efforts and knocked out some fixed circuits, Bloomberg said.
Con Ed crews "are going manhole to manhole, pulling up every line," the mayor said. As workers inspected underground cables and transformers, they "found more damage than they thought they would find. They were surprised."
Power has been out for many residents and businesses since Monday.
Some residents found their own solutions. One barber set up a generator on the street and cut hair on the sidewalk.
"It's very dark and you can't really see inside," said Hair Fantasy owner Rocco Aliberti. "It's very bad. We try to do as much as we can do. I've got to pay bills."
On Friday, Con Edison revealed the failure was 10 times larger than it had previously reported. The utility had initially said only 2,000 customers were affected.
The utility's acknowledgment that more customers were affected drew a furious response from some residents and city leaders.
"Con Edison's behavior has crossed the line from reprehensible to criminal," said Assemblyman Michael Gianaris, who called for an investigation.
Meanwhile, emergency service employees reached out to the most vulnerable city residents - the elderly and the ill, including diabetics whose insulin must be kept under refrigeration. Insulin was among medication carried by mobile health centers driven to about a dozen Queens locations.
The Red Cross had distributed 20,000 bottles of water and 15,000 meals. Sixteen senior centers - normally closed on weekends - were open Saturday and Sunday.
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2 recovering after Tenn. knife attack
By WOODY BAIRD
Sat Jul 22, 2006
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Two victims of a knife-wielding grocery store employee remained hospitalized Saturday after the man attacked eight co-workers and was finally stopped by a witness who pulled a gun, authorities said.
Elartrice Ingram, 21, was charged with nine counts of attempted first-degree murder, police said. The attack Friday apparently stemmed from a work dispute, investigators said.
Ingram was taken to a hospital complaining of chest pains Friday before being released to police. He was in jail Saturday and was expected to appear in court Tuesday, according to a Shelby County Sheriff's Office database. It was not immediately known whether he had an attorney.
Two women remained hospitalized Saturday, one in serious condition, and the other in fair condition. The other victims were treated and released, according to a nursing supervisor at the Regional Medical Center.
Seven were stabbed, while another suffered heat-related symptoms while being chased, police said. Another person was threatened, resulting in the nine charges against Ingram, The Commercial Appeal reported.
Ingram, chasing one victim into the store's parking lot, was subdued by Chris Cope, manager of a financial services office in the same small shopping center, Memphis Police Sgt. Vince Higgins said.
Cope said he grabbed a 9mm semiautomatic pistol from his pickup truck when he saw the attacker chasing the victim "like something in a serial killer movie."
"When he turned around and saw my pistol, he threw the knife away, put his hands up and got on the ground," Cope told The Associated Press. "He saw my gun and that was pretty much it."
Police arrived within minutes and took the Ingram into custody.
"He just kept saying, 'I'm insane. I wish I was never born' and that kind of stuff," Cope said.
The attack started in an employee area of the Schnucks supermarket on the outskirts of Memphis. All the victims were employees of the store and no customers were involved, Higgins said.
Police said two large kitchen knives used in the attack were found at the scene.
Witness Frank Rector said the attacker held a knife high in a stabbing position as he chased a victim into the parking lot. The victim, Rector said, "was circling, trying to get away from him."
Higgins said police were pulling into the parking lot as Cope was confronting Ingram.
"We commend him," Higgins said. "But we don't encourage people to take that kind of risk. He could have been hurt."
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2 gunned down outside Kansas City party
By HEATHER HOLLINGSWORTH
July 23, 2006
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Gunfire erupted early Sunday outside a Knights of Columbus hall where a party had attracted hundreds of young people, killing two men and wounding at least 10 other people, police said.
An officer handling a traffic accident heard several gunshots around 1 a.m. from near the Catholic fraternal lodge, located behind a commercial strip on a busy street in south Kansas City. The hall had been rented out, though police didn't know by whom.
Police rushed to the scene and witnessed "people running in all different directions," said Sgt. Doug Niemeier.
After the people and vehicles cleared the area, a 20-year-old man was found dead in a parking lot next to the hall. A second man, also 20, died later at a hospital, police said.
Niemeier said at least two other people were critically wounded - a 17-year-old shot in the chest and a 24-year-old shot in the neck - and at least eight others were also injured.
Police worked Sunday to determine an exact number of wounded. Some victims were taken to hospitals by ambulance, but others went in private vehicles, Niemeier said.
Investigators did not know what prompted the gunfire. Niemeier estimated that 25 to 50 rounds were fired.
No arrests had been made by Sunday afternoon, and the victims' names had not been released. Phone messages left at the Knights of Columbus were not returned.
Crowds of young people filled two parking lots near the hall by 10:30 p.m. Saturday, milling around and leaning against cars, said Dan Blevins, 58, who was nearby at D'Angelo's Lounge. The bartender called police, who arrived around 11 p.m. and left a short time later, he said.
Then, around 1 a.m., "We see people diving to the ground, and it sounds like firecrackers," Blevins said. The bartender locked the door, and they watched as emergency vehicles arrived and people were carried away on stretchers.
Blevins returned to the site Sunday morning to retrieve his pickup truck from an area that police had taped off after the shootings. He inspected it before driving away, but found no bullet holes.
"I wasn't worried about my truck. I was worried for my life and my friend's life," he said, referring to the bartender.
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Group decries Bush's law interpretations
By GINA HOLLAND
July 24, 2006
WASHINGTON - President Bush's penchant for writing exceptions to laws he has just signed violates the Constitution, an American Bar Association task force says in a report highly critical of the practice.
The ABA group, which includes a one-time FBI director and former federal appeals court judge, said the president has overstepped his authority in attaching challenges to hundreds of new laws.
The attachments, known as bill-signing statements, say Bush reserves a right to revise, interpret or disregard measures on national security and constitutional grounds.
"This report raises serious concerns crucial to the survival of our democracy," said the ABA's president, Michael Greco. "If left unchecked, the president's practice does grave harm to the separation of powers doctrine, and the system of checks and balances that have sustained our democracy for more than two centuries."
Some congressional leaders had questioned the practice. The task force's recommendations, being released Monday in Washington, will be presented to the 410,000-member group next month at its annual meeting in Hawaii.
ABA policymakers will decide whether to denounce the statements and encourage a legal fight over them.
The task force said the statements suggest the president will decline to enforce some laws. Bush has had more than 800 signing statement challenges, compared with about 600 signing statements combined for all other presidents, the group said.
Noel J. Francisco, a former Bush administration attorney who practices law in Washington, said the president is doing nothing unusual or inappropriate.
"Presidents have always issued signing statements," he said. "This administration believes that it should make clear ... when the Congress is getting close to the lines that our Constitution draws."
Francisco said the administration's input is part of the give and take between the branches of government. "I think it's good that the debate is taking place at a public level," he added.
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said last month that "it's important for the president at least to express reservations about the constitutionality of certain provisions."
The ABA report said President Reagan was the first to use the statements as a strategic weapon, and that it was encouraged by then-administration lawyer Samuel Alito - now the newest Supreme Court justice.
The task force included former prosecutor Neal Sonnett of Miami; former FBI Director William Sessions; Patricia Wald, former chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; former Republican Rep. Mickey Edwards; and former Reagan administration lawyer Bruce Fein; and law school professors and other lawyers.
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Los Angeles economically polarized: study
www.chinaview.cn 2006-07-24 06:00:54
LOS ANGELES, July 23 (Xinhua) -- Greater Los Angeles is the most economically segregated region in the country, with rich and poor living poles apart, a study showed.
Only about 28 percent of Los Angeles' neighborhoods are middle-class or mixed income, compared with more than half of those in other cities like Nashville, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Portland, Oregan, according to the study made public on Sunday.
The middle class in Los Angeles keeps shrinking, and the rich and poor live in separate neighborhoods, said the research conducted by demographers at Wayne State University in Detroit.
More than two-thirds of L.A.-area residents live in neighborhoods that are solidly rich or poor, showing the city to be a region of extreme polarization, where rich and poor live in separate neighborhoods, surrounded by others like themselves, according to the research.
Los Angeles County "has more billionaires than any other part of the country. It's also the capital of the working poor," said Peter Dreier, chairman of the Urban and Environmental Policy Program at Occidental College.
Los Angeles' suburbs also were among the nation's most extreme. Only suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona and Palm Beach, Fla., were more polarized, the researchers found.
Researchers attributed the faster pace of polarization to a kind of self-sorting. In other words, people are moving out of economically diverse neighborhoods to live in areas dominated by their own income group.
"The situation in L.A. is certainly at the extreme of American cities," said one of the study's authors, George Galster, a professor of urban affairs at Wayne State University. Galster said he had studied 100 metropolitan regions and found that all of them have grown more economically segregated over the last 30 years.
The trend parallels a well-documented loss of middle income jobs in the United States over a generation. But the study found that middle-class neighborhoods are disappearing at a much faster rate than the comparable jobs.
Researchers attributed the faster pace to a kind of self-sorting. In other words, people are moving out of economically diverse neighborhoods to live in areas dominated by their own income group.
Other factors include the collapse of aerospace industry in the early 1990s which forced many middle-class residents to leave the region, and the influx of immigrants seeking work.
"I think that poses real challenges to any society, politically and socially," Galster said. "The fact that our society is moving to a situation where we don't rub shoulders on a daily basis means that, more and more, people's impressions of others will not be formed by personal experience but by images in the media."
The study defined neighborhoods by residential census tracts, and defined middle income as between 80 percent and 120 percent of the metropolitan area's median.
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Earth Strikes Back
London erupts in mass protest against Israeli crimes
The Electronic Intifada
22 July 2006
Around 10,000 people of conscience marched through central London today in fierce opposition to Israel's mass slaughter of the Lebanese and Palestinian people and the British government's complicity. Organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Stop the War Coalition, and many other Muslim and Lebanese groups, the demonstrators embarked from Whitehall through the centre of the West End, past the United States Embassy and on to Hyde Park where they assembled for a rally.
|Demonstrators assemble in the centre of London's government district of Whitehall. George Galloway MP holds a banner calling for an end to Israeli crimes.
|An endless stream of demonstrators marched through Regent Street under the pouring rain chanting "peace for Lebanon" and support for Hezbollah.|
|An endless stream of demonstrators marched through Regent Street under the pouring rain chanting "peace for Lebanon" and support for Hezbollah.
|Demonstrators were united in their condemnation of Israeli aggression and a sea of placards and flags were raised in resistance to Western complicity.|
|Security protecting the United States Embassy were on high alert on top of surrounding buildings.|
|The demonstration culminated in a huge rally in Hyde Park where representatives from diverse groups including Jews for Justice for the Palestinians expressed their solidarity with Lebanon and Palestine.|
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At least 19 dead in China earthquake
Saturday July 22, 2006
At least 19 people died and 106 were injured in an earthquake which caused 1,400 houses to collapse in a mountainous region of southwestern China.
Xinhua news agency said Saturday another 38,000 buildings were damaged by the quake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale which shook Yanjin county in Yunnan province at 9:10 am (0110 GMT).
Most of the victims were crushed by collapsing buildings or falling rocks, officials said.
"Some were crushed inside their homes, others were killed by rocks falling from the mountains," a Yanjin county earthquake administration official told AFP by telephone.
Xinhua said the damage was spread across 13 townships, with residents evacuating from the worst-hit area of Dousha.
Yanjin's 350,000 residents are especially vulnerable to earthquakes as most live near hillsides, the agency said.
Local authorities sent money, 500 tents, 1,000 quilts and 500 blankets to the affected areas while several hundred workers had joined the rescue effort.
Power supply and communications had largely been restored by Saturday evening, Xinhua said.
The agency reported earlier that a team from the State Seismological Administration had left Beijing to help in assessing the damage and "maintaining social order".
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Europe sweats and soaks as storms puncture deadly heatwave
Sat Jul 22, 2006
PARIS - Europe sizzled and soaked alernately as a deadly heatwave broke down into storms over parts of the continent amid warnings that temperatures would peak again.
The sweltering weather hit particularly hard in France, where the government issued warnings on radio and television after the number of reported deaths attributable to the heat reached 22.
The death toll raised memories of a fatal bout of baking temperatures that killed 15,000 people in France and more than twice as many across Europe in 2003.
"The heatwave is going to last," said France's Health Minister Xavier Bertrand Saturday, stressing that the priority was to watch out for people living in isolated circumstances who are particularly vulnerable to the heat.
Though temperatures dropped in parts of northern France, weather authorities said the respite would be short, warning of a further peak on Wednesday.
Those who died in France this week included 10 people aged 80 to 94, as well as labourers at work and a 15-month-old baby.
National radio broadcast messages to the elderly on Saturday, explaining the effects of the heat and how to combat them and giving a telephone advice-line number.
French forecasters have placed the eastern half of the country on "orange" alert -- the second highest level. Temperatures were expected to reach 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) in the Rhone valley, though cooler weather was forecast for Sunday.
Violent storms struck the Dordogne region of south-central France overnight, killing a motorcyclist who ran into a fallen tree. Scores of firemen were mobilised and lightning caused half a dozen forest fires.
Air quality authorities in northeastern France said levels of pollutant ozone chemicals in the air had exceeded recommended levels for four days running in the heatwave, though the levels returned to normal later Saturday.
More than 30 people are believed to have died since the start of the week in western Europe.
Spain is used to such temperatures, but six provinces of the country were nevertheless on alert this weekend after three heat-related deaths, as the thermometer was expected to nudge 40 degrees Celsius.
A German truck driver in Austria died in his cabin of a heart attack brought on by the high temperature which reached 37 degrees Celsius in parts of the country, rescuers said.
Austrians have this summer experienced a soaring number of restless tropical nights, defined as nights when the temperature passes 20 degrees Celsius, meteorological officials said.
Hungarian authorities distributed water in busy parts of the capital Budapest to prevent dehydration and trains across the country were ordered to lower their speed owing to problems with the tracks caused by heat.
In Britain forecasters warned that the present relief, welcome after Wednesday -- which saw the hottest July day on record -- was likely to be followed by another heatwave next week.
"We will have another heatwave similar to this week," said forecaster Steve Randall from the Meteorological Office. "The weekend will be cooler with a risk of thunderstorms -- but temperatures will still be above average for the time of year."
In Italy temperatures were set to reach 40 degrees Celsius over the weekend, and the regions of Liguria in the northeast and Umbria in the centre were placed on the highest level of alert.
In Berlin the building union IG Bau launched a publicity campaign under the slogan "Don't Get Burned", and distributed tubes of sunscreen cream at work-sites.
The heat eased meanwhile in Belgium, where 15,000 people packed into trains to the seaside on Saturday morning, despite rainstorms in parts of the country.
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Death toll at 22 after heavy rains, mudslides in Japan
Sun Jul 23, 2006
TOKYO - Three more people have been found dead in southwestern Japan following floods and mudslides triggered by torrential rain, raising the death toll to at least 22.
In Kagoshima prefecture on Kyushu island, two men aged 45 and 57, along with a 65-year-old woman, were killed by mudslides, a local police officer said Sunday, adding that another person was still listed as missing.
"The rain is not as heavy as before for now, but police and rescuers are ready should more mudslides occur," he said, noting the national weather agency was forecasting more rainfall overnight and into Monday morning.
The heavy rain, caused by a seasonal front, has washed out the country's southwest, with Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures recording 1.2 meters (four feet) of rain since the storms began last week, the agency said.
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Indonesian quake triggers tsunami fears
Sun Jul 23, 2006
JAKARTA, Indonesia - An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.1 struck off Indonesia's Sulawesi island on Sunday, causing residents to flee coastal areas in fear of a tsunami.
Indonesian officials - who have been under fire for failing to warn people ahead of last week's deadly tsunami on Java island - recorded the quake at 6.6 and said it had the potential to trigger destructive waves.
They later said no tsunami was generated and told residents to return home.
The magnitude 6.1 quake struck 67 miles south of Gorontalo in northern Sulawesi, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was felt across parts of Sulawesi, but there were no reports of damage or injuries.
Fauzi, an official at Indonesia's geological agency, said officials there gave the quake an initial strength of 6.6. Different agencies often give different magnitudes for quakes and revise the figure later after analyzing more seismographical data.
Like many Indonesians, Fauzi uses a single name.
Sgt. Daule, a police officer in the coastal town of Luwuk, said hundreds of people there fled to higher ground after the quake struck, shouting "Beware tsunami! Beware tsunami!"
Just over 1 1/2 hours later, Fauzi said that no tsunami had occurred.
"We are sending a message to the people to go home because the situation is now safe," he said.
Sulawesi is 1,200 miles northeast of the capital, Jakarta.
Last Monday's tsunami was triggered by a 7.7 magnitude quake off Java's southern coast. It pummeled a nearly 200-mile stretch of coastline, killing at least 668 people.
Indonesia is on Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin, and is rocked by earthquakes on a near daily basis.
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Small Earthquake Shakes Western Riverside County
LAKE ELSINORE, July 23, 2006
A small earthquake rattled the western edge of Riverside County on Sunday. The magnitude-3.6 temblor struck the area about 8:58 a.m. and was centered about 8 miles northwest of Lake Elsinore and 11 miles southeast of Corona, according to a preliminary report by the U.S. Geological Survey.
No damages or injuries were reported, a Riverside County sheriff's dispatcher said.
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Large earthquake sparks tsunami alert in Gorontalo
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, Manado
A huge undersea earthquake struck off Gorontalo coast Sunday, with a meteorology and geophysics official warning of the possibility of a tsunami hitting Sulawesi.
The head of the agency's earthquake center, Fauzi, said the 6.6-magnitude quake was centered at a depth of 62 kilometers under the sea, 90 km southeast of the city of Gorontalo.
There were no reports of casualties or damage, according to the meteorology office.
"We have informed local officials to warn people in the areas that the earthquake is likely to cause a tsunami in the area," Fauzi was quoted by Reuters as saying.
"A tsunami hasn't taken place but people have been evacuated to higher ground."
Sunday's earthquake comes less than a week after another powerful undersea earthquake triggered a tsunami on the south coast of Java island, killing more than 600 people.
Gorontalo Governor Fadel Muhammad told El Shinta radio he had ordered an evacuation of coastal areas after the strong earthquake rattled the northern half of the island at 3:22 p.m.
A Gorontalo resident, Ferry Majoa, told The Jakarta Post by phone that the earthquake struck twice, at 4:22 p.m. and 4:45 p.m.
"The quake has made residents, especially in Bone Bolango area, panic and start to move to higher ground."
He said many residents had left town two days ago, when they learned their areas were listed among high-risk tsunami areas.
"Hopefully, the tsunami warning won't amount to anything," Ferry said.
Indonesia, which sits on the "Pacific Ring of Fire", where continental plates meet causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity, was the nation worst hit by the December 2004 Asian tsunami.
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Last 9-11 detainee released from lockup
By TOM HAYS
Sat Jul 22, 2006
NEW YORK - An Algerian man believed to be the last domestic detainee still in custody from a national dragnet after Sept. 11 - and who was cleared of links to terrorism in November 2001 - was set free this week, his lawyer said Friday.
Benemar Benatta, 32, went to Ontario, Canada, where he is seeking political asylum, after being released from a Buffalo immigration lockup Thursday, attorney Catherine Amirfar said.
"After five years, he had become all but hopeless," she said. "Now he's cautiously optimistic."
Benatta was among 1,200 mostly Arab and Muslim men detained nationwide as potential suspects or witnesses in the investigation following the terrorist attacks. The government has refused to discuss their fate, but human rights groups have said they believed the former Algerian air force lieutenant was the only one still in custody.
Heather Tasker, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, refused to discuss Benatta's release, which was first reported by The Washington Post.
U.S. officials agreed to release Benatta after the Canadian Consulate General's office in Buffalo granted him temporary residency, according to court papers filed Wednesday in New York.
The last detainee's odyssey began Sept. 5, 2001, when, after overstaying a six-month visa, he crossed the border near Buffalo to seek asylum in Canada. After the Sept. 11 attacks, his background as a Muslim man with flight experience prompted Canadian officials to turn him over to U.S. authorities.
He spent the next six months in solitary confinement in a federal jail in Brooklyn. Though the FBI concluded he had no links to terrorism, he was eventually charged with carrying false identification - a case that was dropped after a federal magistrate found his right to due process had been violated.
The magistrate wrote in a 2003 decision that Benatta had been "undeniably deprived of his liberty," and "held in custody under harsh conditions which can be said to be oppressive."
Despite the ruling, immigration officials kept him in custody in Buffalo while he appealed a deportation order and renewed his quest for asylum based on a claim that, as a military deserter, he would tortured or killed if he returned to Algeria.
A United Nations human rights group that studied the case noted that most asylum seekers are released pending the outcome of their cases.
"The imprisonment Mr. Benatta has endured has been a de facto prison sentence," the U.N. group wrote in findings made public in March. "In no way can the simple administrative offense of having stayed in the United States after his visa had expired justify such a disproportionate sentence."
Comment: 1200 people were detained after 9/11, and finally the last prisoner has apparently been released. Guess how many of them were actually terrorists...
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Zimbabwe eyes plan to spy on citizens
By TERRY LEONARD
Sun Jul 23, 2006
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Times are hard and getting harder in Zimbabwe, where people too proud to cry about hunger, joblessness and misrule could soon find it too dangerous to joke about them.
Parliament plans to debate proposals next month to empower the secret police to eavesdrop on mail, e-mail and phones without any court approval.
The government denies any sinister intent, saying it is putting its anti-terrorism legislation in line with international practice.
But Zimbabwe is not on the front lines of the war on terror, and government agents could use the proposed powers to monitor the communications of the political opposition, journalists and human rights activists who are critical of President Robert Mugabe.
Secret police and intelligence agents could violate attorney-client privilege, track financial transactions and negotiations, and eavesdrop on anyone's private life. Anytime a Zimbabwean visits a Web site, makes a deal or tells a joke, Big Brother could be listening or watching.
Internet and cell phone service providers would, at their own expense, have to provide the government with equipment to sort and intercept communications.
The aim "is to monitor and block communications for political reasons and to use information they get to persecute opponents," said Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, a group critical of repressive laws and actions of Mugabe's government.
Telephoned from neighboring South Africa, he said: "It is part and parcel of the process of controlling dissent and stifling democratic debate."
South Africa has quietly adopted a similar law, with the important difference that a court must approve any interception. In Zimbabwe, that authority would rest solely with Mugabe's minister of transport and communications.
A package of other security and media laws has done away with freedom of press and speech. People cannot protest against the government or hold political gatherings without prior police approval. Clergymen have been arrested for holding unauthorized prayer vigils.
To a government which has arrested people for insulting the president, joking about him is no laughing matter. It's a felony. It is also illegal to say or write something that can "falsely" bring the government into disrepute.
"Jokes about Mugabe are a crime," Jim Holland, the chief executive of Mango, a Zimbabwean Internet service provider, said in a telephone interview. "But people send these jokes all the time on cell phones or e-mails."
In one of them, a policeman asks a motorist for a donation toward the ransom demanded by terrorists who have abducted Mugabe and threatened to douse him with gasoline and set him alight. The motorists asks what other people are giving and is told, two or three gallons.
In another, a man tired of waiting in line at a closed gasoline station announces he's off to State House to shoot the president. He returns a short time later complaining that the line there was even longer.
Holland believes the proposed law will have a chilling effect on such humor but that the real dangers lie in the government's ability to target legitimate opponents and monitor sensitive business and financial communications.
"It is troubling in a country like this with its record on corruption that the government could monitor financial transactions or even internal communications ahead of a company making a tender offer," Holland said.
He said in early discussions of the bill a man who would be involved in any government monitoring effort told a gathering there was no cause for concern because the proposed law was only a threat "to criminals and human rights activists."
There is a chance that opponents will manage to block the bill, arguing that it is unworkable and could further undermine the faltering economy. The opponents also draw some hope from the fact that Mugabe is not personally pushing the bill. But all agree the chance is slim.
That leaves the courts, but lawyers here note the government has packed them with friendly judges, and simply ignored rulings it dislikes.
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Pakistan in large-scale nuclear expansion
Mon Jul 24, 2006
WASHINGTON - Pakistan is building a reactor that could produce enough plutonium for 40 to 50 nuclear weapons in what would be a major expansion of its nuclear program and an intensified arms race in South Asia, a report showed on Monday.
Satellite photos show what appears to be the construction site for a larger nuclear reactor adjacent to Pakistan's only plutonium production reactor, according to an analysis by nuclear experts at the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security.
The assessment, initially reported by The Washington Post, was posted on the institute's Web site.
The analysts concluded that the diameter of the structure's metal shell suggests a very large reactor "operating in excess of 1,000 megawatts thermal," according to the report.
"Such a reactor could produce over 200 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium per year, assuming it operates at full power a modest 220 days per year," the technical assessment said. "At 4 to 5 kilograms of plutonium per weapon, this stock would allow the production of over 40 to 50 nuclear weapons a year."
Pakistan currently is capable of producing about 10 kilograms of plutonium a year, enough for about two warheads, The Washington Post said.
Construction of the new reactor in Khushab apparently began sometime after March 2000. But the report's authors said Pakistan does not appear to be moving quickly to finish the reactor, and cited possible shortages of necessary reactor components or weapons production infrastructure.
"India is likely aware of this reactor construction in Khushab," the institute's David Albright and Paul Brannan wrote. "Has this influenced India to increase its own plutonium production capacity for its nuclear weapons program?
"South Asia may be heading for a nuclear arms race that could lead to arsenals growing into the hundreds of nuclear weapons, or at minimum, vastly expanded stockpiles of military fissile material."
Pakistani officials would neither confirm or deny the report, but a senior Pakistani official, speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged that a nuclear expansion was under way, the Post reported.
The newspaper reported that a Europe-based diplomat and nuclear expert and a U.S.-based expert who reviewed the commercially available satellite images and supporting data concurred fully with the institute's estimates.
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MP casts doubt on David Kelly suicide
Sun Jul 23, 2006
LONDON - An opposition member of parliament has alleged that a government scientist who cast doubt on intelligence about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction may not have taken his own life.
A judicial inquiry into the death of David Kelly in July 2003 concluded that the one-time UN weapons inspector and expert on Saddam Hussein's weapons programmes committed suicide.
He did so after he was named as the source of a BBC news report suggesting that Tony Blair's government had "sexed up" intelligence in the run-up to the US and British invasion of Iraq four months earlier.
"Today, I challenge that conclusion," wrote Norman Baker, from the Liberal Democrats, in the Mail on Sunday newspaper.
"I do so on the basis that the medical evidence available simply cannot sustain it, that Dr Kelly's own behaviour and character argues against it and that there were serious shortcomings in the way the legal and investigative processes set up to consider his death were followed."
Points raised by Baker -- whose centre-left party opposed the Iraq war -- included the fact that Kelly supposedly cut his ulnary artery in his wrist, a more difficult and painful option than the radial artery.
In 2003, Baker said, Kelly was the only person recorded to have taken his or her own life in this fashion.
Baker also said that paramedics who attended the scene where Kelly's body was found in Oxfordshire noticed that he had lost little blood and was "incredibly unlikely" to have died from the wound they saw.
Police said that 29 tablets of pain-killer coproxamol were missing from a packet in his home, but all that was found in Dr Kelly's stomach was the equivalent of one-fifth of a tablet, Baker said.
Volunteer searchers who found his body said he was slumped against a tree, rather than lying prone, as police stated.
And despite the stress he was under in the days leading to his death, Baker said contacts with friends and relatives showed no sign that Kelly had suicidal thoughts.
Baker also faulted the way Kelly's death was investigated, saying that the pathologist assigned to the case was one of the least experienced in the country, and that Lord Brian Hutton, who conducted the judicial inquiry, had never conducted such a public inquiry before in his long career.
"Many people find it hard to accept that Dr Kelly's death was suicide and the passage of time has only firmed up that doubt," wrote Baker in the Mail on Sunday, which editorially is highly critical of Blair's government.
"I am conscious that some, particularly those who were close to him, will want to put all this behind them, to move on. The reality, however, is that this episode is not going to go away."
Comment: Speaking of David Kelly, don't miss our Signs Supplement on Ethnic Specific Weapons.
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World trade talks suspended as WTO key members fail to achieve breakthrough
www.chinaview.cn 2006-07-24 18:59:52
GENEVA, July 24 (Xinhua) -- The renewed world trade talks were suspended here Monday as the key members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) failed to make breakthrough in farm and manufactured goods.
"The WTO negotiations are suspended," Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath told reporters.
When asked how long the suspension could last, the minister said it "could take anywhere from months to years" to restart the negotiations.
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Banker in food scandal is found dead after Opus Dei meeting
A BANKER who had been questioned over a huge corporate scandal was found murdered yesterday, having apparently been kidnapped on his way home from a meeting of the Roman Catholic organisation Opus Dei.
The body of Gianmario Roveraro, 70, had been chopped into pieces and hidden in a hut beneath a motorway bridge about 18 miles (30km) from Parma.
The gruesome discovery made sensational headlines in Italy, by chance drawing together two enduring elements of national life: a mysterious financial scandal and the influence of the Church.
Police said that three men had been arrested and charged with Signor Roveraro's kidnap and murder. But a bizarrely limited confession by the alleged ringleader opened the way for a flood of speculation.
Signor Roveraro, a former Italian Olympic pole-vaulter, had been questioned in an inquiry into the collapse and fraudulent bankruptcy of the food and dairy conglomerate Parmalat, which is based in Parma. In 2003 Parmalat collapsed with €14 billion of debt - Europe's largest corporate failure.
Signor Roveraro, who had helped Parmalat to list its shares on the stockmarket a decade ago, was last seen on July 5 at a meeting in Milan of the secretive organisation Opus Dei. Italian media reported that he was closely linked with the arch-conservative movement. Some reports said Signor Roveraro was a "supernumerary" or member of Opus Dei. The organisation never confirms individual membership.
Police have made no linkage between his disappearance and Opus Dei.
The speed of the arrests suggested that police had already followed leads concerned with his financial activities.
Noted for his reserve and discretion, Signor Roveraro once said in a rare statement about his involvement with Opus Dei that it was was "not concerned with finance - finance is not Catholic or masonic, it is just finance".
Initial reports said that Signor Roveraro's corpse had been burnt, but police later said it had deteriorated badly in the heatwave and had been in an advanced state of decomposition when found.
The chief of the police squad that found the body, Luciano Garofano, said: "We are dealing here with a particularly savage murder."
The alleged ringleader of those arrested is Filippo Botteri, 43, described as a former financial consultant from Parma who allegedly had had business dealings with Signor Roveraro.
Police said that he had confessed to the kidnap and murder but had refused to reveal a motive. He had told investigators he had suffered a memory loss, adding: "Don't ask me any more questions, I don't remember a thing". Police said that the kidnappers appeared to have intended to murder Signor Roveraro from the start given that credible ransom note had been received.
In Dan Brown's bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code, Opus Dei is portrayed as a ruthless organisation whose members practise corporal mortification and which is prepared to kill to keep its secrets. Opus Dei has vigorously denied this as ludicrous, and has denounced both the book and the film.
The news magazine Panorama yesterday headlined its account "The Roveraro Code", saying the case involved "rivers of money, opaque interests and shady figures".
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Dollars and Nonsense
Earnings and Mideast to keep stocks on edge
By Emily Chasan
Sat Jul 22, 2006
NEW YORK - Volatility could be the name of the game next week for the U.S. stock market with the earnings machine running at full tilt and the rising conflict in the Middle East.
So far, second-quarter earnings are shaping up stronger than expected, despite some disappointments from some big names in the technology sector. If more strong earnings reports flow in, that could coax some investors back into the stock market, analysts said.
The wild card, though, is still the Middle East.
Oil ended the week above $74 a barrel as Israel's army called up reservists and launched small-scale raids in Lebanon in an effort to stop Hizbollah rocket attacks.
The U.S. economy's health will get more scrutiny from Wall Street next week. A steady stream of reports will flow in, with the spotlight on existing home sales, consumer confidence, durable goods orders, new home sales and second-quarter gross domestic product.
"The story is going to continue to be earnings and the Middle East," said Fred Dickson, market strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co. in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
Dickson pointed out that "a few more than expected companies have been lifting earnings guidance, so that's providing an injection of some positive energy into the market."
But stocks fell on Friday, wrapping up a volatile week, after personal computer maker Dell Inc. warned of a shortfall in quarterly earnings and revenue. The fighting in the Middle East also cast a pall over the market's mood.
"We're seeing a high degree of investor sensitivity to the situation in the Middle East," Dickson said. "Very few clients seem interested in exploring stock bargains ... and they have not forgotten the market meltdown of 2000 and 2001. Their fear is the Middle East will trigger a similar selling pattern."
Thousands of Lebanese civilians fled their homes, fearing Israel will invade, while a massive evacuation of Americans and other foreign citizens from Lebanon to Cyprus and Turkey picked up steam.
The conflict between Israel and Lebanon, which began on July 12, has ratcheted up oil prices. U.S. crude oil for September delivery settled on Friday at $74.43 a barrel, up 16 cents.
A week ago, front-month U.S. crude futures briefly hit a record of $78.40 -- the highest price since the New York Mercantile Exchange began trading oil futures in 1983.
A RALLY'S FAST FADE-OUT
In testimony before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said he believes core inflation will moderate in the coming quarters. His remarks suggested that the Fed may be nearly done with its two-year cycle of raising interest rates.
Bernanke's comments drove the major U.S. stock indexes up almost 2 percent on Wednesday, giving the blue-chip Dow average its second-best day of the year.
The euphoria didn't last long.
"The rally in the wake of Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke's testimony reflected short covering that did not attract any follow-through buying," said Chris Burba, short-term market technician at Standard & Poor's in New York.
"In order for the market to achieve gains in the near term," Burba added, "institutions need to start accumulating and there are no signs of this right now."
On Thursday, the Fed released the minutes of its June policy meeting, which said members of the Federal Open Market Committee were uncertain about future interest-rate steps.
For the week, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 1.2 percent and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 0.3 percent.
But the Nasdaq Composite Index fell 0.8 percent, marking its third losing week in a row.
Earnings expectations for the second quarter have climbed recently as Reuters Estimates now projects S&P 500 earnings grew 10 percent in the second quarter, up from an expectation of 9.2 percent last week.
"We're going to go back to watching the parade of earnings, and we'll hopefully see some companies guide a little bit better than Dell," said Todd Clark, director of stock trading at Nollenberger Capital Partners in San Francisco.
Next week, drugmakers Merck & Co., Schering-Plough Corp. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. are due to report quarterly results.
Investors may expect strong reports from the health-care sector after biotechnology giant Amgen's quarterly results trounced estimates this week, Dickson said.
The energy sector, buoyed by oil's recent run toward $80 a barrel, may lift the stock market in the coming week, when Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest publicly traded oil company, and rival ConocoPhillips are expected to report second-quarter results.
Investors will get a feel for the consumer's resilience in the face of high energy prices as earnings from Kraft Foods Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and General Motors Corp. are on deck. McDonald's Corp. said it tentatively plans to release second-quarter earnings on Tuesday; it reported preliminary results on July 17.
HOME SALES AND GDP
Wall Street, already concerned about the cooling of the once-hot housing sector, will take special note of the National Association of Realtors' report on existing home sales on Tuesday.
Economists polled by Reuters forecast that sales of existing homes fell in June to an annualized pace of 6.58 million units from an annual pace of 6.67 million in May.
On Tuesday, the Conference Board will release its consumer confidence index, expected to drop to 104.0 in July from 105.7 in June, according to the Reuters poll.
On Wednesday, the weekly mortgage data are due, as well as the Federal Reserve's "Beige Book" report, which offers a look at the regional economies in the areas served by the 12 Federal Reserve district banks.
On Thursday, the June new home sales report will give more evidence about the extent of the housing sector's slowdown. The Reuters forecast calls for new home sales to decline to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.160 million units in June from 1.234 million units in May.
Thursday's data calendar includes U.S. durable goods orders for June, forecast to rise 1.8 percent in June after a drop of 0.2 percent in May, according to the Reuters poll.
On Friday, the Commerce Department will give its estimate on second-quarter gross domestic product, which is the output of all goods and services produced within U.S. borders.
Economists polled by Reuters expect the GDP report to show that the U.S. economy grew at an annual pace of 3.0 percent in the second quarter, down from the first quarter's growth rate of 5.6 percent.
Also on Friday's agenda: The University of Michigan will give its final reading on its July consumer sentiment index, forecast to slip to 83.0 from June's final reading of 84.9.
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Gas prices move past $3, hit all-time high
July 23, 2006
CAMARILLO, Calif. - Nationwide gas prices hit an all-time high in the last two weeks, rising nearly 2 cents to just over $3 per gallon, according to a survey released Sunday.
The national average for self-serve regular stood at $3.0150 a gallon Friday, up 1.98 cents in the last two weeks, according to the Lundberg Survey of 7,000 gas stations across the country.
The price exceed the previous high of $3.0117 set in September last year, analyst Trilby Lundberg said.
A gallon of mid-grade gasoline averaged around $3.12, and premium at nearly $3.22.
Nationwide, the lowest price for regular was $2.77 a gallon in Charleston, S.C., while the highest - $3.28 a gallon - was in San Diego.
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Killer drones on display at U.K. air show
July 22, 2006
An invasion of killer drones struck English commuter town Farnborough this week as Boeing and other companies showed off sleek, pilotless spy planes set to reshape future combat.
Aerospace companies are working feverishly to develop the next wave of aircraft, looking beyond combat jets such as Lockheed Martin's Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) which the U.S. Air Force plans to use later this decade.
The stuff of secretive government labs until recently, pilotless aircrafts displayed by Boeing, Northrop Grumman and others at this week's Farnborough International Airshow underscore rapid advances made in the last three years.
Killer drones known as unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) are the next step in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) such as Northrop's Global Hawk and General Atomics' smaller Predator, which are already being used for surveillance and reconnaissance.
Analysts say a secretive strike in late 2002 by a U.S.-operated Predator adapted to fire a Hellfire missile, carried out against a vehicle in Yemen, was an early sign of things to come.
"The common vision is by the end of the next decade these (UCAVs) will be operating in the air forces of the world," said Piero Antonio Fantino, UCAV program manager at Italy's Alenia Aeronautica.
UCAVs can fly pre-programmed missions to attack targets or perform reconnaissance and then be instructed to strike.
They require ground station staffing, but industry officials say the technology is advancing quickly and some drones can already be programmed to take off, fly a mission and land without a ground-based pilot operating a joystick.
A key advantage is their use in dangerous tasks such as attacking or flying near surface-to-air missiles (SAM), deadly threats faced by aircrews in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
"No pilot wants to go beak to beak with a SAM site," said Rod Lekey, a business development manager involved with UCAVs work at Boeing. They are ideal for "dull, dirty and dangerous" missions, he said.
Air-to-air dogfights which fighter jets are famed for are largely a thing of the past, as long-range missiles mean pressing a button to fire on a plane well beyond sight.
Industry officials say UCAVs are instead being designed as precision bombers.
The X-45N which Boeing is offering the U.S. Navy can carry two JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) 2,000-pound bombs or racks of 250-pound small-diameter bombs.
The Navy is expected to choose between the Boeing and Northrop's competing X-47B in the coming weeks, with the winner asked to demonstrate safe take-offs and landings from the deck of an aircraft carrier by 2011.
The U.S. Air Force has similar plans, and in Europe, France's Dassault Aviation is spearheading a multinational effort called Neuron aimed at mastering UCAV technologies by 2015.
Manufacturers say unmanned aircraft have rapidly gone from futurist experiments to tools that governments and militaries are clambering to use.
"Manned, unmanned, what's the ratio? That's the discussion right now," said one industry official regarding military fleet planning.
Britain's BAE Systems, Finmeccanica unit Alenia Aeronautica and Franco-German-Spanish company EADS are among those busy working on pilotless planes in Europe.
EADS is flying a model called the Barrakuda, photos of which were leaked earlier this year.
BAE's sleek Raven was also a secret program until very recently and has been undergoing flight testing in Australia.
Finmeccanica's Alenia has a technology demonstrator called Sky X flying in Sweden that is expected to feed technology into Europe's Neuron program.
Armed and unarmed drones are being developed in parallel, with the latter seen filling a wide set of roles, including monitoring security around oil pipelines, checking crops or spotting people lost at sea.
BAE revealed its Herti surveillance UAV to the public for the first time this week at Farnborough.
Its two cameras and data link are designed for military reconnaissance, but other possible roles, such as maritime search and rescue, are surfacing in flight testing, the company said.
"We flew it at 3,500 feet and told it to look for something that wasn't sea, and it spotted a lobster pot buoy about 10 inches wide," said BAE's Andy Wilson, director of sales for autonomous airborne systems. "Then people said, wait a minute, that's about the size of a human head."
UAVs don't simply film the ground; they use software that enables the user to input algorithms to find things or detect changes.
"We can give it parameters to find a white van or it'll tell us that boat wasn't there an hour ago," said BAE's Wilson.
The unmanned aircraft market ranges from models that are little more than camcorders with wings to large, flying wings with jet engines and bomb bays.
"After JSF there will be no fighter jets," said Alenia's Fantino. "This will be a large part of the market."
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Report: Las Vegas flight quarantined
DENVER - A section of the airport at Las Vegas, Nev., was closed for several hours after a flight arrived from Denver with 11 sick people on board, officials said Sunday.
Passengers and crewmembers on United Airlines Flight 1491 were quarantined for several hours Saturday night at McCarran International Airport while the plane, passengers and luggage were checked by hazardous materials experts, said Elaine Sanchez, a McCarran spokeswoman.
Four of the victims were flight attendants, Sanchez said.
Sanchez said the cause was still being investigated. A passenger, Don Yarbrough, told KUSA TV of Denver that investigators believed the victims reacted to a cleaning fluid containing ammonia that had been used on the plane after it arrived in Denver from Cancun, Mexico.
A United spokeswoman in Chicago, Robin Urbanski, said victims felt weak and nauseous but she had no other details.
There were 143 passengers and crew on the plane when it landed in Las Vegas.
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Volcanologists struggle after thieves steal phone cable as Mayon rumbles
Monday, July 24, 2006
MANILA -- Thieves cut phone lines to steal about 30 meters (yards) of copper wire around lava-spilling Mayon volcano, crippling the communications of volcanologists who warned Monday that an explosive eruption could still occur.
"The copper wire may be worth a few hundred pesos (several dollars, euros), but it may spell the difference between life and death for residents near Mayon," said Ernesto Corpus from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.
Other officials said the theft, discovered early Monday, prevented them from transmitting observations and updates to Manila headquarters.
The 2,474-meter (8,118-foot) Mayon volcano came to life on July 14, spilling lava and red-hot boulders in a "mild and quiet" eruption. Volcanologists said Monday the lava flow has now reached about four kilometers (2.5 miles) from the crater, triggering ground vibrations.
Philvolcs reported Monday that Mayon released more than 7,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, indicating an imminent eruption.
"The probability for an explosive eruption to occur is still fair," they said in a statement.
Ed Laguerta of the Phivolcs station here, said the main lava flow in the Bonga gully has reached the 560-meter elevation which is about 4.0 aerial kilometers from the crater.
The volcano was monitored with ground vibrations with the continuous flowing of lava.
Phivolcs has warned residents in the villages of Bonga, Mabinit, Matanag in this city and Miisi in Daraga town especially if there is heavy down pour of rain to be extra watchful of the lava flows, rockfalls, small rocks avalanches and pyroclastic flows.
Laguerta said they have monitored 324 tremor episodes and eleven (11) volcanic earthquakes in the past 24 hours.
Residents from Sto. Domingo who fled from their houses Sunday due to the continuous ashfall are sheltered at the Bicol Evacuation Center in Sto. Domingo, Mayor Herbie Aguas of Sto. Domingo said.
The government has declared a no-go area for a six-kilometer (3.7-mile) zone around the crater, but several thousand still live and farm within the area and could not be forced out until there is a mandatory evacuation order.
Mayon, about 340 kilometers (210 miles) southeast of Manila, is one of the Philippines' 22 active volcanos. Its most violent eruption, in 1814, killed more than 1,200 people and buried a town in mud. A 1993 eruption killed 79 people.
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Two die as giant inflatable blows away
Two women died and a three-year-old child was seriously injured after a freak gust of wind blew a massive bouncy castle-style artwork 40 feet into the air yesterday.
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Horrified families watched as the huge structure, with 30 people inside, broke free from its moorings and soared into the air, spilling adults and children on to the ground beneath.
The accident happened at the Riverside Park, Chester-le-Street, close to the Durham County Cricket Club, at about 3:30pm. The 2,500sq m artwork - which could cover about half a football pitch - ripped free from securing ropes and tipped vertically into the air.
Many of those injured were inside the structure, which consists of inflated rooms connected by tunnels. It is believed 30 people may have been in the inflatable at the time of the accident.
Durham Police confirmed that a 38-year-old woman and a 68-year-old woman were killed. A three-year-old girl was in a serious condition and 12 other adults and children had also been taken to hospitals.
The structure finally came to rest after it collided with a post supporting a CCTV camera and crashed to the ground.
The Dreamspace structure was divided into tunnels large enough to take people
Police said the women who died were taken to University Hospital in Durham. They had been on the inflatable with children.
The Dreamspace installation was designed by the internationally-renowned abstract artist, Maurice Agis. The 50m by 50m structure is made from thin PVC sheets forming 115 multi-coloured cells which are joined together and inflated allowing visitors to walk through.
People inside the 5m high exhibit take off their shoes and wear a coloured cape to "become part of the artwork", according to the Dreamspace website.
The installation was slashed by vandals when it was outside Liverpool Cathedral last month. Three of the units making up the sculpture were so badly damaged they had to be replaced.
A large section of the popular park on the outskirts of Chester-le-Street was cordoned off last night as police and Health and Safety Executive officers examined the scene.
One woman said her 23-year-old daughter had been enjoying a day at the park with her boyfriend when the incident happened. She said her daughter had suffered a punctured lung, broken ribs, and internal bleeding. "She's in the intensive care unit on a ventilator. It was just a day out enjoying the weather, and it's gone so badly wrong."
John Robson, from Durham Fire Brigade, said: "There were 400 to 500 people at the park, and when we first arrived it was chaos. We had to extricate a number of people from the structure. A number of people had fallen on top of each other."
Chief Superintendent Trevor Watson of Durham Police said police were keeping "an open mind" about the cause of the incident.
A spokesman for the North East Ambulance Service said the two women were treated by paramedics on the way to hospital but died. The three-year-old girl received severe crush injuries and was airlifted to Newcastle General Hospital.
At least 11 others were taken to hospitals across the area: three boys aged between eight and 11 years old who had suffered neck, leg and arm injuries; an 11-year-old girl with severe shock who was slipping in and out of consciousness and an elderly man and a woman who suffered heart attacks. A 13-year-old girl with minor injuries and three other people, described as walking wounded, were also taken to hospital.
Comment: The folly of 'modern', 'evolved' man.
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Designer ice cream anyone?
Tue, July 18 2006
Asia Pacific Post
A new designer ice cream, made possible by genetic modification, threatens to set off a "time bomb" in the health of British children, scientists are warning.
The scientists, from Britain and Canada, have alerted an official committee which this month will rule on the safety of the ice cream, being sold increasingly worldwide by the food giant Unilever.
It contains an artificial protein copied, through a GM process, from a fish living in the frigid waters of the bottom of the North-west Atlantic.
An "anti-freeze" protein allows the fish - the ocean pout - to survive extreme cold.
Unilever, the world's biggest ice cream maker, says using its artificial equivalent allows it "to produce products with more intense flavour delivery, a wider range of novel textures and more intricate shapes."
Unilever also says it can improve the "healthiness" of the ice cream by cutting its fat and sugar content - a claim that particularly angers its critics, reported The Independent newspaper from the UK.
The scientists - Professor Malcolm Hooper, Emeritus Professor of Medical Chemistry at Sunderland University, Professor Joe Cummins, Emeritus Professor of Genetics at the University of Western Ontario, and geneticist Dr Mae-Wan Ho, director of the Institute of Science in Society - retort that it risks "letting off an immunological time bomb."
The company, which has been making ice cream for more than 70 years under such brands as Wall's, Magnum and Carte d'Or, and now owns Ben and Jerry's, has sold it with the protein in the United States for three years, and has approval to do so in Chile, Indonesia, Mexico and the Philippines.
It has also had the go-ahead in Australia and New Zealand despite objections by the health departments of the states of Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales and the New Zealand Food Safety Authority.
Now it has applied to the Food Standards Agency to be allowed to use it in "edible ices" sold in Britain, including sorbets, water ice, fruit ice, frozen desserts, iced smoothies - and ice cream.
The agency's Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes is due to consider the plea at its next meeting.
If the committee gives it the green light, as is likely, it will then have to go to the European Union for approval, a lengthy process but one also expected to give it the go-ahead. The new products could go on sale in Britain in two years' time.
The key step in making the ice cream is getting hold of the ocean pout's secret, called an ice-structuring protein because rather than preventing freezing altogether, it lowers the temperature at which ice crystals grow, and changes their shape and structure so that they do less damage to living tissues.
In theory, Unilever could go out and catch loads of the fish - an eel-like species that lives on the ocean floor - extract the protein and add it to the ice cream like any other ingredient. But this would be expensive and, as the company, which has a good record in combating overfishing, points out, would cut the population of the fish, whose stocks are already declining.
So it has resorted to a GM process already widely used to produce vitamins and enzymes for food, including vegetarian cheese.
A synthetic gene for the protein is added by genetic modification to bakers' yeast, which is fermented to manufacture more. The protein is then extracted so that the final product does not contain any modified yeast cells. This has led to a semantic battle over whether the final product is "GM ice cream." Unilever says that it is not; the scientists maintain it is. "This is about as genetically modified a product as you can get," says Professor Cummins.
The more important debate is whether the end result is safe, particularly for children. Unilever accepts that the main danger is that people may prove allergic to the protein. But it points out that people have eaten its natural form in ocean pout for decades, and says that the artificial version is identical. It adds that extensive tests on the artificial protein for allergic effects gave it the all clear.
Unexpectedly perhaps, many of the most prominent anti-GM pressure groups, including Friends of the Earth, GM Freeze, and Genewatch, say, in effect, that they are not too bothered, and that it is well down their priority list. But the scientists, who have a record of GM scepticism, are deeply disturbed, as is The Soil Association.
The scientists insist that the protein is changed in the processing, and may pose a danger. Professor Hooper told The Independent recently: "This is a novel protein manufactured by genetically modified organisms and its characteristics have never been fully evaluated. It needs to be checked out before it is widely introduced into the human diet."
He and his colleagues also dispute the adequacy of Unilever's safety checks, not least because it checked the protein against the blood of people allergic to cod, not the pout fish,
The Soil Association calls the ice cream "a frivolous application of a dangerous and unwanted technology."
It adds: "Just because there won't be any traces of the GM material in the ice cream does not mean that the product is safe. It certainly should not be marketed as a 'healthier alternative' simply on the grounds that it is low fat."
The Soil Association says research shows that "genetic engineering produces a range of unpredictable biological side-effects." This includes, it is believed, "new toxins and allergens even if the original GM material is absent."
It points to a GM food supplement, L-tryptophan, which "killed over 37 people and disabled over 1,500 others" in the US in 1989 even though it also "did not contain any GM material in the final product."
Unilever responded to The Independent report saying: "This is an exciting new technology that has potential benefits for ice cream, including the possibility of increased fruit content and lower fat content. The process itself is widely used within the food industry, but the Food Standards Agency process is designed to solicit opinion from others and we would not want to influence that process whilst it is still running its course."
The row comes as the biotech industry is attempting a comeback with the help of the European Commission.
Modified products were swept from the shelves in the face of public refusal to buy them, and the EU instituted a six-year moratorium on approving new ones.
But this came to an end two years ago and biotech firms have jumped in. Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth says: "Their latest tactic is to swamp committees with dozens of applications for new GM foods. It is hard to imagine that the scientists working for these committees will be able to pay as much attention to their safety as they merit."
EU governments are deadlocked on the applications but, under the rules, the pro-GM European Commission then nods them through. Seven different types of GM maize have been approved for food in the past two years: applications for GM rice, sugar beet and potato are in the pipeline.
But there is no sign of them appearing on British supermarket shelves - because most still refuse to buy GM food.
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