- Signs of the Times for Thu, 03 Aug 2006 -



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Editorial: Mainstream Press Deliberately Misrepresents Iranian PM Yet Again

Joe Quinn
Signs of the Times
03/08/2006

By now most of the Western world believes that Iranian Prime Minister Ahmadinejad is a raving "anti-Semite", that is, that he "hates the Jewish people simply because they are Jews", and if you read today's news, (the headlines at least, which is as far as most people get) you could be forgiven for believeing that he has reconfirmed his 'Jew-hating' mania.

Consider the following headlines:

'Ahmadinejad: Destruction of Israel is solution'


'Israel's destruction is the solution'

Read a little further to find out what the man actually said rather than what the mainstream press and indirectly the Israeli and American governments claim he said, and you find this:
"Although the main solution is for the elimination of the Zionist regime, at this stage an immediate ceasefire must be implemented," Ahmadinejad said, according to state-run television in a report posted on its website today.
Would someone please show me exactly where Ahmadinejad calls for "the destruction of Israel"? Maybe I'm dyslexic, but the text above reads: "although the main solution is for the elimination of the Zionist regime".

This latest twist on the truth comes after the original hue and cry over Ahmadinejad's alleged exhortation for "Israel to be wiped from the map" a few months ago. As we reported at the time, the Iranian Prime Minister demanded no such thing. What he actually said, and which is consistent with his remarks today, was that the "Zionist regime should be removed from the pages of history".

Are governments synonymous with the people over which they rule? If a corrupt cabal of psychopaths take or manipulate their way into power and then push the country down a path that does immesurable damage to its reputation and even places the citizens of that country in dire peril, are the ordinary people responsible? It is impossible to call for the removal of such a regime without also being accused of hating the existence of every single citizen of the country? If I were to call for the destruction or removal of the Bush regime, would it be reasonable to infer that what I really wanted was the heads of all 300 million Americans served to me on a platter?

Of course, we know that the Israeli Zionist government would dearly love for every single atrocity it has ever committed to be intrinsically and formally tied to every single Jewish person because, in such a scenario, to condemn the Israeli Zionist government is to condemn the Jewish people, which can then be counter-condemned as "anti-Semitism" or "hatred of Jews simply because they are Jews", when nothing could be further from the truth.

If the Zionist Israeli government is collectively punishing Palestinians and Lebanese civilians for "electing the wrong leaders" (which it clearly is), then equally so it is engaged in a campaign of forcing Jewish civilians to assume collective responsibility for the brutal and inhuman acts of a selection of their elected leaders, acts which these leaders alone are responsible.

As a side note;

French Twist

It happened without fanfare or publicity but french fries have once again become french fries on Capitol Hill. The fried potatoes were renamed "freedom fries" in the House dining rooms three years ago after France scolded the U.S. for its planned invasion of Iraq.

At the time, Ohio Republican Bob Ney, called the gesture, a "small but symbolic effort to show the strong displeasure of many on Capitol Hill with the actions of our so-called ally, France." Ney refused to comment on the switch back.

But a spokesman for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi says maybe Republicans now "will admit their other foreign policy mistakes."

which is either a cause for celebration among all freedom (and greasy food) loving people, or an opportunity to make fun of the imbecilic, puerile and obtuse nature of the American government, which, of course should not be taken to mean that I "hate all Americans because they are American" or want their heads delivered to me on a platter with a side order of fries, regardless of how imbecilic you are.
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Editorial: Atrocities in Gaza, Lebanon Motivated By Talmudic Mentality

Khalid Amayreh
07/21/06

"One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail." (New York Daily News, Feb. 28, 1994, p.6)

When Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's suggested on 22 June that Jewish lives were worth more than Palestinian lives, he was actually making an ideological statement of immense significance and symbolism.

The plainly racist remarks, a repugnant taboo in any western country, encapsulate the entire Zionist discourse toward non-Jews in general an Palestinians, Lebanese and other Arabs and Muslims in particular.

The pornographic killing by Israel of Lebanese and Palestinian civilians, as well as the systematic wanton destruction by the Israeli air-force of civilian infrastructure in Gaza and Lebanon can be viewed as an honest translation of the Talmudic ideology, which more or less has come to dominate Israeli thinking as the Israeli society continues to drift menacingly to religious bigotry and chauvinism.

In fact, one can safely argue that Israel's brazenly criminal behaviors towards the Palestinian and Lebanese people have consistently been a practical embodiment of the Talmudic perception of non-Jews.

This perception, racist to the hilt if not outright satanic, considers non-Jews as beasts or at best lesser human beings.

Talmudic racism

There is no doubt that a rudimentary survey of Rabbinic commentaries on the status of non-Jews according to Halacha (Jewish religious law) , of both present and past, reveals that a decisive majority of Talmudic sages view goyim (the derogatory Hebrew term for non-Jews) as either animals or sub-humans.

A few months ago, when Israeli troops vacated Jewish settlers from a West Bank settler outpost, an Israeli Knesset member representing the National Religious Party (NRP), lambasted the army for treating "human beings (Jews) the same way they were treating Palestinians."

The rabbi's remarks were reported by the Israeli press and aroused no reactions whatsoever, reflecting rampant racism in Israel.

In 1994, when an American Jewish immigrant named Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Arab worshipers as they were praying at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, militant Gush Emunim (block of the faithful) Rabbi Moshe Levenger declared that "I am sorry not only about dead Arabs but about dead flies."

A few days after the massacre, Goldstein was eulogized by the Rabbi of Kiryat Arba, Dov Lior, who praised him as "full of love for fellow human beings."

According to Israel Shahak, author of "Jewish History, Jewish Religion-The weight of Three Thousand Years," the term "human beings" according to Halacha refers solely to Jews.

Shahak's view is vindicated by numerous Talmudic passages, such as the following:

"All Gentile children are animals." ( Yebamoth, 98a.); The gentiles are outside the protection of the Law and God has exposed their money to Israel." (Baba Kamma, 37-b.); "God created them in the form of men for the glory of Israel. But Akum (non-Jews) were created for the sole end of ministering unto them (the Jews) day and night. Nor can they ever be relieved from this service. It is becoming to the son of a king (an Israelite) that animals in their natural form, and animals in the form of human beings should minister unto him. ( Midrasch talpioth, fol. 225d; "the sexual intercourse of a Goi is like that of a beast." (Sanhedrin, 74-b, Tosephot).

Now, these Talmudic injunctions, merely general examples, are not anachronistic anomalies that have no relevance to Zionism as many Israeli apologists and spokespersons would argue.

In fact, they are being applied, even in brazen manner, in the West Bank and Gaza and Lebanon. The exoneration of Israeli soldiers convicted of murdering Palestinian children (like that soldier who murdered 13-year Iman al-Hamas near Rafah in 2004 while on her way to school), in many ways epitomizes the Israeli-Jewish perceptions of non-Jews.

In short, non-Jews, according to Talmudic teachings, are not men but beasts; even the best of the Goyim should be killed; they are unclean idolaters deserving of death; and the Jews are to rule over the world served by the Goyim.

This is the real explanation of why Israeli soldiers and settlers are killing Palestinian and Lebanese civilians at will without showing the slightest remorse.

This is also what made the Israeli Chief of Staff Dan Halutz remark that "I sleep well and have clear conscience" soon after he ordered an F-6 fighter to drop a one-ton bomb on an apartment building in the middle of the night in Gaza, killing 16 people including 11 children.

This is what makes Israeli pilots annihilate entire families in Tyre and Mirwaheen and then feel good about it.

Annihilation

The Talmud, upon which Orthodox or Rabbinic Judaism is based, doesn't really distinguish between combatants and non-combatants in time of war. In fact, rabbinic authorities teach that killing non-combatants, including children of the enemy, is a mitzvah (good deed with which one endears oneself to God) in war time.

A few years ago, a leading Israeli Torah sage urged the Israeli army not to refrain from killing enemy children in order to save the lives of Israeli occupation soldiers in the Gaza Strip. When this writer consulted with a number of rabbis and scholars on whether the rabbi was a nutcase, I was told that he represented the mainstream within Orthodox Judaism.

Many Orthodox rabbis consider the international conventions incriminating the deliberate killing of civilians and the destruction of civilian homes and property , such as the Fourth Geneva Convention, as "Christian morals" not binding on Jews.

On 12 July, the right-wing Israeli newspaper, the Jerusalem Post, had this caption on its internet site: "Yesha Rabbis call for extermination of the enemy."

The report quoted the rabbinic council of Jewish settlements in the West Bank as calling on the Israeli army "to ignore Christian morals and exterminate the enemy in the north and south." Obviously, the term "Christian morals" here refers to laws of war which prohibit the killing of innocent civilians.

This totally satanic thinking doesn't emanate from Zionism's secular traditions, which are no less evil, but rather from the Talmud itself. For example, a prominent Talmudic figure, Shimon Ben Yohai, openly called for the extermination of non-Jews. (His tomb in northern Palestine is a major pilgrimage site for many Jews).

Hatanya

If a Jewish sect or movement can be described as "Nazi," it is the Chabad movement, which openly advocates annihilation of non-Jews in Palestine on the model of the Biblical Book of Joshua.

Chabad is not a marginal movement. In both Israel and the US, it has been able to amass a lot of wealth and acquire considerable influence. The movement, with which thousands of Israeli soldiers and high-ranking officers are affiliated, views non-Jews as animals or infra-human beings.

According to its famous book, Hatanya, as quoted by Israel Shahak, all non-Jews are totally satanic creatures in whom there is absolutely nothing good. Even a non-Jewish embryo is qualitatively different from a Jewish one.

Indeed, the very existence of a non-Jew is inessential, whereas all creation was made solely for the sake of the Jews.

In conclusion, there is a broad conformity between Israeli behavior in Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian territories and Talmudic teachings on non-Jews. The fact that at least 50 percent of high-ranking Israeli army officers are indoctrinated in the Talmud does explain, at least in part, Israel's genocidal onslaughts on civilians in both Gaza Strip and Lebanon.

More to the point, it is highly likely that this Talmudic trend of thinking and behavior will continue to grow and eventually come to define Israel's entire discourse toward the peoples of the Middle East and non-Jews in general.

Original
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Editorial: Freedom to Fascism - A Must-See Film by Aaron Russo

by Stephen Lendman
3 August 2006

The film first focuses on the US Internal Revenue Service showing that the federal income tax on an individual's wage-paid labor is illegal and unconstitutional because there's no law written requiring that anyone pay it. It also exposes the US Federal Reserve System as a private for-profit banking cartel owned and run by its member banks for their benefit and at the expense of the public forced to pay them interest on money they have no legal right to print, put in circulation and control. That's because it's creation by the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 passed by Congress (in the middle of the night and during the Christmas holiday break when many legislators were gone) and signed into law by Woodrow Wilson violated Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution that states (only) the Congress shall have the power to coin (create) money and regulate the value thereof. In 1935, the US Supreme Court ruled the Congress cannot constitutionally delegate its power to any other body or group. By signing this outrageous act into law, Woodrow Wilson did exactly that and violated the law of the land in doing it. He later admitted he made a terrible mistake when he said: (By doing it), "I unwittingly ruined my country." Wilson had been a distinguished professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University where he later became its president before becoming president of the United States. Because he was trained in the law, it's more likely he knew full well what he was doing but acted anyway unconstitutionally in service to the powerful bankers of his day. The film goes further as well showing how our freedoms are being eroded by fascist laws like the USA Patriot Act that virtually by itself has eliminated most of them and by George Bush's power-grab giving himself, on his say alone, the right to assume dictatorial powers if he wishes. He's done it through his excessive and abusive issuance of presidential executive orders that essentially rewrite US law as he chooses to do it. Above all, he did it by claiming the unchallengeable right to govern as a "Unitary Executive" with the power to abrogate the separation powers doctrine (implied but not specifically stated in the Constitution), bypass the Congress and courts, and act as he chooses to protect the national security when he claims there's a threat to it. In effect, he's given himself the right, on his say alone and with no evidence to back it up, to annul the Constitution, declare martial law if he wishes, and govern by presidential edict, assuming total power and functioning as a dictator. And he can do it if he alone thinks it's necessary to protect the national security against a threat he may have only concocted and likely will have. The film also covers other important information including how US elections are now routinely stolen by government controlled manipulation and voter fraud through easily rigged electronic voting machines with no verifiable paper trail to assure an accurate and honest count. It also discusses the Orwellian Real ID Act of 2005 the Congress passed to become effective in May, 2008 requiring the states to meet federal ID standards. This law makes it mandatory for every US citizen and legal resident to have a national identity card (in most cases a person's driver's license) that will contain on it a person's vital and personal information. Once the law takes effect, no one will be able to open a bank account or maybe even have one, board an airplane, be able to vote or conduct many other kinds of essential business without it. It may also become a requirement in the future that this ID card contain a radio frequency identification (RFID) technology computer chip that will be able to track all the movements, activities and transactions of everyone having one. In Orwellian terms, this is the ultimate dream of any government wanting police state powers. The fact that US law now mandates as of May, 2008 that everyone have this type ID means this country is on a fast track toward becoming a full-blown national security police state subject only to the limits, whims and wishes of those in power. Go see this film and bring family and friends with you. Then go back and spread the word to others how important it is that they too see it. Everyone must now understand that unless "we the people" act in our own behalf to save our precious freedoms, we'll awaken one day soon to the reality that they were taken from us while we weren't paying attention. Long ago Edmund Burke explained it when he said: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." He only neglected to include women in his important aphorism. Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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Zionist Holocaust Denial


Holocaust denial - Zionist style

ksdrover
2 August 2006

According to reports surfacing in the mainstream media, some people want to question the veracity of the HOLOCAUST that 'israel' is conducting against the Lebanese and Palestinian people. It has become painfully clear that 'holocaust' and 'Semite' are words confined to interpretation by zionists and their representatives. But who wants to listen to people that perpetrate death, destruction, and oppression? Not to mention racism, hate, and perpetual lies.
News agencies stand by Lebanon photos
By DAVID BAUDER, AP, Tue Aug 1, 4:26 PM ET

NEW YORK - Three news agencies on Tuesday rejected challenges to the veracity of photographs of bodies taken in the aftermath of an Israeli airstrike in Lebanon, strongly denying that the images were staged.


The British web site flinging the accusation suggests that these events were staged for effect, a criticism echoed by talk show host Rush Limbaugh when he directed listeners to the blog on Monday.

The article has me dumbfounded. Can anyone else see the blatant double standard that exists? Mel Gibson, who hasn't got a clue as to what he's talking about, is chastized for uttering the incomprehensible, "Jews started all the wars. Are you a Jew?" Yet, Mr. Limbaugh's statements are not only acceptable but but he is allowed to spew his venom publicly. While Mr. Gibson scrambles to save whatever may be salvaged from his career and gratuitously slavers at their feet, Mr. Limbaugh continues his HOLOCAUST DENIAL unabated.

These events are subterfuge for the REAL issue, which is classifying ALL opposition to zionism as 'hate speech' and 'anti-Semitism' so as to prevent people from seeing the truth. Can you imagine the repercussions if this was someone saying the deaths in WWII internment camps were staged? Oh yeah they already do... that's why they have jailed people for questioning it and passed law to prevent people from speaking opposition to their version of history.

Please explain to me why it is that Americans allow such inconsistent standards to exist. How is it that Americans allow another state to determine the definition of what constitutes a 'holocaust' and whether those deaths quantify the act itself? Why is America cowed into fear at offending these people that have countless times revealed their true nature with countless acts of hostility toward us? A state founded on the principle of,"By deception thou shalt make war' SHOULD be a warning indicator, but most of us know that the tumor lies in much deeper tissue.

In a world that is being exposed to such inhumanity and such abberant and necrotic behavior it would seem that perhaps a few would desire an alternative to the road they see that lies before them. That's why I'm glad that a site like this exists. We are the voice of dissent people. My faith precludes me from violence but protest we must in whatever manner we are afforded. They will try to supplant the message with hate and violence but that is NOT the message. They will try to infiltrate and initiate hate but ultimately we must overcome through peaceful resistance. In time it may cost people their lives and their freedom because when people begin to awake they will realize their ability to maintain power has diminished and just like zionist 'israel' their true face shall come shining through and reveal their hearts and the evil that they have commited.

The zionist holocaust movement is meant to dissuade people from investigating the truth and taking a stand and speaking out. There is proof to expose the truth of what actually happened during WWII and it has nothing to do with accepting Hitler or 'neo-nazi' ideas or being 'anti-Semitic'. The people that are dying in Lebanon and Palestine are more Semitic than this group of people that visits a holocaust on these innocent people, and yes I know all about Khazars and Europe. We are hating the godlessness that these people conduct themselves with and their racist policies to everyone not of themselves. If you hate them, they have won; if you fear them, they have won; if you remain silent, they win. But, in the end they will surely NOT win.

Freedom is the message.

Freedom from their desire, freedom from their oppression, freedom from their ways.





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News agencies stand by Lebanon photos

By DAVID BAUDER
Associated Press
1 August 06

NEW YORK - Three news agencies on Tuesday rejected challenges to the veracity of photographs of bodies taken in the aftermath of an Israeli airstrike in Lebanon, strongly denying that the images were staged.

Photographers from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse all covered rescue operations Sunday in Qana, where 56 Lebanese were killed. Many of their photos depicted rescue workers carrying dead children.

A British Web site, the EU Referendum blog, built an argument that chicanery may have been involved by citing time stamps that went with captions of the photographs.
For example, the Web site draws attention to a photo by AP's Lefteris Pitarakis time stamped 7:21 a.m., showing a dead girl in an ambulance. Another picture, stamped 10:25 a.m. and taken by AP's Mohammed Zaatari, shows the same girl being loaded onto the ambulance. In a third, by AP photographer Nasser Nasser and stamped 10:44 a.m., a rescue worker carries the girl with no ambulance nearby.

The site suggests these events were staged for effect, a criticism echoed by talk show host Rush Limbaugh when he directed listeners to the blog on Monday.

"These photographers are obviously willing to participate in propaganda," Limbaugh said. "They know exactly what's being done, all these photos, bringing the bodies out of the rubble, posing them for the cameras, it's all staged. Every bit of it is staged and the still photographers know it."

The AP said information from its photo editors showed the events were not staged, and that the time stamps could be misleading for several reasons, including that web sites can use such stamps to show when pictures are posted, not taken. An AFP executive said he was stunned to be questioned about it. Reuters, in a statement, said it categorically rejects any such suggestion.

"It's hard to imagine how someone sitting in an air-conditioned office or broadcast studio many thousands of miles from the scene can decide what occurred on the ground with any degree of accuracy," said Kathleen Carroll, AP's senior vice president and executive editor.

Carroll said in addition to personally speaking with photo editors, "I also know from 30 years of experience in this business that you can't get competitive journalists to participate in the kind of (staging) experience that is being described."

Photographers are experienced in recognizing when someone is trying to stage something for their benefit, she said.

"Do you really think these people would risk their lives under Israeli shelling to set up a digging ceremony for dead Lebanese kids?" asked Patrick Baz, Mideast photo director for AFP. "I'm totally stunned by first the question, and I can't imagine that somebody would think something like that would have happened."

The AP had three different photographers there who weren't always aware of what the others were doing, and filed their images to editors separately, said Santiago Lyon, director of photography.

There are also several reasons not to draw conclusions from time stamps, Lyon said. Following a news event like this, the AP does not distribute pictures sequentially; photos are moved based on news value and how quickly they are available for an editor to transmit.

The AP indicates to its members when they are sent on the wire, and member Web sites sometimes use a different time stamp to show when they are posted.



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Open letter to Bush from an Arab girl

BY MIRA AL HUSSEIN
Khaleej Times
2 August 2006

President Bush,

It has become extremely difficult to give you the benefit of the doubt on Lebanon, for you have left no doubt in our minds. We are now certain - like many of us have always been - that your foreign policy is completely biased towards Israel, and you have made no effort to hide this fact. Just out of curiosity: are they also drafted in Tel Aviv?

It is your choice, Mr Bush, to support Israel, just like it is our - the entire Arab and Muslim world's - choice to support Lebanon. You insist that Israel has the right to defend itself. Defending oneself, I believe, is a universal right, not exclusive to Israel.
"The first Qana massacre did not quench the Israeli thirst for blood," it is said, graphically describing yet another Israeli crime against the innocents of Lebanon. In Qana, 57 armless, defenseless civilians died in an Israeli air strike, 37 of them were children. Maybe these numbers don't matter to you, Mr Bush; they are mere numbers of the nameless Lebanese dead. But they matter to more than 200 million Arabs in the Middle East.

I quote our late president, Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who in 1973 had said, "Arab oil is not dearer than Arab blood." But it seems that Iraqi oil is dearer than American blood. I am somewhat relieved to arrive at this conclusion. At least there's no racism against a certain group of people. Everybody is a potential sacrifice to secure US interests, even if it means sacrificing a whole nation.

No, Mr Bush, we will not accept, nor will we allow the sacrifice of more Lebanese civilians. A ceasefire should have been enforced two weeks ago. Was there a need for 37 children to die before you decided it was time for a ceasefire? How many more, Mr Bush, should die before you decide to stop sending those bloody weapons to Israel? Perhaps we can afford a sacrifice that will rein in your generosity towards Israel permanently.

We have a dream for a new Middle East. Not the "New Middle East" that you've been brainstorming in your Oval Office. It is the new Middle East that Middle Easterners have been dreaming of; a Middle East with no violence, and no US-made weapons to fuel that violence. It is a dream only we, Middle Easterners, are allowed to dream and realise it.

In Arabic we have a saying that goes, "They murder the murdered and walk in his funeral." Allow me to interpret this for you, Mr Bush: Your precision-guided missiles shipment has arrived in Tel Aviv. These missiles will "precisely" fall onto Lebanese villages; kill hundreds; and displace thousands more. (Evidently, we've just witnessed the first "precise" target in Qana.)

Yet you have "compassionately" been able to send aid to Beirut, at the same time, with supplies for the thousands of people directly and fatally affected by your vocal, (im)moral and military support for Israel. Please include US flags in your aid shipment to Beirut; they must have burned all the US flags in stock.

Mr Bush, Lebanon can and will be rebuilt, but lost lives cannot be restored. Your credibility and your government's credibility have long been lost - irretrievably lost like those lost innocent lives. People will not forget this though. They will not turn the other cheek; they will retaliate - just like you had chosen to retaliate after 9/11. Retaliation is a value you have successfully promoted by putting it into practice, always.

I was born too late to see how the British Empire had collapsed, but right on time to see how the American Empire is falling apart. Mr Bush, You will surely be remembered in history for hastening that process.

With no more respect to offer,

Mira Al Hussein

Mira Al Hussein is a UAE national writer based in Dubai who has had a brief stint with the KT. She can be reached at Mira.AlHussein@zu.ac.ae



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Israel resumes bombardment of southern Beirut

AFP
Wed Aug 2, 2006

BEIRUT - Israeli warplanes resumed the bombardment of suspected Hezbollah positions in the southern suburbs of the Lebanese capital Beirut, carrying out three strikes overnight, Lebanese police said.

At least three explosions rocked the city as aircraft circled overhead, the first such strikes on the battered city for several days.

No details of casualties were immediately available but the southern parts of Beirut, considered a stronghold of the Hezbollah Shiite militia, have been largely reduced to rubble after earlier heavy Israeli air attacks.
Israeli jets also carried out another strike in the northern Lebanese region of Akkar, near the Syrian border, the second in 24 hours after two bridges were hit there early Wednesday, police said.

Police sources said it was not clear what had been targeted in the latest bombing.

Israel called a 48-hour partial halt to air strikes after a raid on the Lebanese village of Qana on Sunday killed 52 civilians, most of them women and children.

The lull expired early Wednesday.

Hezbollah fired its biggest salvo of rockets at Israel after the Jewish state's commandos struck deep into Lebanon, snatching five suspected guerrillas in a helicopter raid.

One Israeli was killed in the barrage, the heaviest in 22 days of fighting, as 230 rockets rained down on northern Israel after the snatch operation in the ancient city of Baalbek -- 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Israel -- killed 11.

"We have carried out this operation to prove that we can hit everywhere in Lebanon," army chief of staff Dan Halutz told reporters in the Israeli border town of Kiryat Shmona after the raid.

Minutes later, a missile hit near Beit Shean, some 60 kilometers south of the border, Hezbollah's deepest strike yet into Israel which came a day after Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert said the offensive had significantly weakened Hezbollah.

"Today, the threat posed by Hezbollah is not what it was. It can no longer threaten this people, as this people have stood up to it and have come out victorious," Olmert said late Tuesday.

A military source told AFP that for the first time, a Syrian-made Fajer-5 missile, with a longer range and larger warhead, was fired from Lebanon, hitting the northern town of Rosh Pina and causing no injuries.

The militia has fired more than 2,000 rockets at northern Israel since the start of the offensive on July 12, killing 19 civilians, while more than 800 people, mostly civilians have been killed by Israeli strikes on Lebanon.

At least seven people were killed, including an 80-year-old couple, as Israel renewed its air, sea and land bombardment of the southern Tyre region, police said. All died when their homes collapsed.

Other attacks destroyed two bridges in northern Lebanon and killed a Lebanese soldier and wounded two others in the southern port of Sidon.

Ground fighting in the border area continued as Israel sought to press its advance deeper inside Lebanese territory despite meeting resistance from Hezbollah militants.

"Heavy exchanges of fire have continued with renewed intensity throughout the UNIFIL area of operation in the past 24 hours," said a statement from the United Nations Interim Force (UNIFIL) in southern Lebanon.

Arab network Al-Jazeera reported an Israeli soldier killed in the fighting, but the army only said that five troops had been wounded in clashes with in the village of Mhaibib in the southeast corner of Lebanon.

Olmert told British television Wednesday that Israel would continue to fight Hezbollah until an international force -- "an effective force made of combat units" -- is deployed in south Lebanon.

In a sign of progress, the permanent UN Security Council members embarked on intense talks on the conflict and ambassadors said a resolution setting out a possible settlement was close.

"I'm confident that by tomorrow we'll be in a position to have discussions in the council on a text which actually takes us forward," Britain's UN Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry told reporters.

US Ambassador John Bolton said: "We find the results of the conversations have been encouraging so far, though a little work remains to be done."

But differences between France and the United States forced the UN to again postpone a planned meeting Thursday of potential contributors to an international force for Lebanon.

France and the United States had been divided over whether a political settlement should be agreed between Israel and Hezbollah before any international force is sent in.

Despite the slowly building diplomatic momentum, Israel's Defence Minister Amir Peretz vowed his country would not succumb to international pressure and would only end its offensive once its goals were achieved.

"We will not determine our military operation according to European and American pressure, we will set it according to the operation's goals," Peretz said in an Israeli television interview.

Justice Minister Haim Ramon told Israeli public radio the offensive in Lebanon would last until the end of next week.

"I counsel everyone to show determination and patience and let the army finish the job," Ramon said. "At the minimum, we have until the end of next week to react and try and finish the job."

The commando raid on Baalbek, a Hezbollah stronghold, was the deepest yet to place troops on the ground in Lebanese territory.

Israeli media said 200 elite troops took part in the raid, the 15th special operation carried out since the start of the war.

Baalbek lies in the Bekaa Valley of eastern Lebanon, less than 15 kilometres from the border with Syria, one of the main supporters of the Shiite Muslim militia.

Police said the Israelis snatched five people in the raid, carried out within sight of three ancient Roman temples that rise dramatically from the valley floor.

Eleven civilians, one of them a Syrian, died in the attack, they said.

In Tel Aviv, an army spokeswoman said the Hezbollah fighters captured in Baalbek had been brought to Israel and that all the Israeli troops involved in the raid had returned to their base.

Hezbollah denied the claim, saying "the citizens kidnapped in Baalbek are normal civilians."

Despite the kidnapping, Israel said it was not looking to exchange them for two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah on July 12 in a cross-border raid.

That brazen move prompted a massive Israeli offensive by air, land and sea in which 835 Lebanese have been killed and 3,210 wounded, according to official figures. Hundreds of thousands more have been forced to flee their homes.

Lebanese officials estimate that Israeli bombardments have caused losses of 2.5 billion dollars, with half a billion this week alone, setting the country's infrastructure back several years.

Meanwhile in the Gaza Strip, where Israel is pursuing another fierce offensive after a soldier was seized by militants June 25, an officer with the Palestinian preventative security force was killed by unknown gunmen.

The force is dominated by loyalists of president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah faction which has been locked in violent clashes with supporters of Hamas after the Islamist movement swept to power in a shock election victory in January.



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Lebanon crisis deepens Israeli Arabs' rift with the state

by Ron Bousso
AFP
Wed Aug 2, 2006

JERUSALEM - Traditionally torn between an Arab identity and a reluctant loyalty to Israel, the nation's sizeable Arab minority has taken a clear stand against the lethal offensive in Lebanon, deepening the rift with its Jewish compatriots.

The families and neighbors of the three Israeli Arab children who have been killed by Hezbollah rockets during the three-week offensive have blamed Israel instead of the Shiite militia for the deaths.

"We are not the Hezbollah's victims. We are the victims of Israel," Suleiman Abu Saluk told AFP shortly after two Israeli Arab brothers, aged three and seven, died in a rocket attack on his neighbour's house in Nazareth on July 19.

"We are the victims of Israel's aggression against Lebanon," he said.
Israel launched its offensive in Lebanon on July 12, after Hezbollah fighters seized two soldiers and killed another eight in cross-border raids.

But while the majority of Israel's Jewish population says the Shiite militia instigated the offensive, many of the 1.2 million Arabs -- some 19 percent of the population -- say the government and its chief ally the United States are the culprits behind the violence.

"This was a premeditated war carried out by Israel according to an American agenda," Wasal Taha, an Israeli Arab lawmaker, told AFP. "Had it not started now, they would have found a different date.

"We demand Israel's government which launched this vast, brutal and barbaric war to stop it immediately in order to allow a diplomatic solution," he said.

The painful divisions between Israel's Arab and Jewish populations were on full display in the Knesset (parliament) this week.

"Murderer!" Arab lawmaker Ahmed Tibi shouted to boos from his Jewish colleagues as Defense Minister Amir Peretz delivered a speech in the chamber following Israel's deadly raid in the Lebanese village of Qana that killed 52 civilians, most of them children.

The previous week, Effi Eitam shouted at Arab lawmakers during another stormy Knesset session: "I can't stand the fact that our sons are fighting and being killed and you support the enemy. Shame on you! Go away!... You should be expelled from here."

Saied Adawi, a writer for the Israeli Arab weekly Kul al-Arab, said most of the country's Arab population backed views expressed by their representatives.

"The Arab MPs represent the population. Most of the people think like their leaders and MPs," he said.

"The kidnapping wasn't the real reason for launching the war. The feeling is that Israel wanted this war anyhow."

Opinion polls largely back this view.

Leading Israeli pollster Mina Tsemach told AFP that according to a poll conducted last week among 500 Israelis, who included 75 Arabs, more than 90 percent of the Arab respondents thought the war was unjustified, compared with 92 percent of Jews who backed it.

Although they enjoy full citizenship, many Israeli Arabs see themselves as second-rate citizens, discriminated against and neglected by the state. With relatives living in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon, they have "always been between a rock and a hard place", Adawi says.

While most Israeli Jews see Hezbollah leader Hassan Hasrallah as a "terrorist", Israel's Arabs, like many across the Arab world, view him as a hero resisting the region's strongest army.

"Israel's Arabs believe that he is the only Arab leader who dared to do what no one else has dared in years. He is perceived by the public as a hero," Adawi said.

Taha, the Arab lawmaker, drew scorching criticism in Israel last month after he was quoted in the media as supporting Israeli soldier abductions shortly after Palestinian militants snatched a serviceman at an army outpost near the
Gaza Strip.

"I see the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance against the occupation as legitimate," Taha told AFP, saying that Hezbollah's goals were linked to those of the Palestinians.

"If I were Lebanese I would have joined the resistance. A soldier who fights in a military base and is captured is a prisoner."

These statements, coupled with other declarations of support for the Palestinians, brought several right-wing MPs to take action against Taha and several other Arab lawmakers -- including a request to revoke their Israeli citizenship.

"The Israeli Arab members of the Knesset betray the state of Israel according to any standard, whether it's judicial, public or simply human," Eitam, the Jewish lawmaker, told AFP.

"They use the Israeli democracy as a cover for their views. They are a fifth column in their country while it is at war," he said.

"I intend to act to have their parliamentary immunity removed and put the MPs on trial and to have their Knesset membership and citizenship revoked."

"I have no doubt that they represent large parts of the Israeli Arab public which has forgotten that democracy means rights but also duties," Eitam added.

"The Arab public must understand that without duties there are no rights."



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Islamic Movement: Prevent Jewish groups from visiting Temple Mount on Thursday

By Yoav Stern
Haaretz Correspondent
03/08/2006

The Islamic Movement warned Wednesday against the possibility that Jewish groups would try to reach the Temple Mount on Thursday (The Ninth of Av) and damage the Al Aqsa Mosque.

The group's warning follows a Supreme Court decision made earlier this week, ordering police to allow whoever wants to visit the Temple Mount during regular visiting hours on the Ninth of Av.

Two MKs from the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Ibrahim Sarsur (Ra'am-Ta'al) and Sheikh Abbas Zkoor (Ra'am-Ta'al) sent an urgent letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, requesting that the government prevent members of the Temple Mount Faithful from reaching the area outside the Al Aqsa Mosque.

"Extremist Jewish groups may damage the Al Aqsa Mosque. If this were to happen, heaven forbid, it would inflame the region," the MKs wrote.
The Islamic Movement's Northern Branch also warned of what could take place Thursday in the vicinity of the Temple Mount. The head of the movement, Sheikh Raed Selah, said in a radio interview that the Supreme Court does not have the authority to rule on the matter.

According to Selah, "The Supreme Court isn't worthy of deciding on matters pertaining to the Al Aqsa Mosque, because Israel does not have sovereignty over it. Selah called on Islamic Movement supporters to reach the Al Aqsa Mosque on Thursday.



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Israel's overkill enabled by immoral U.S. policy

By Patrick J. Buchanan
The Boston Herald
August 2, 2006

"Everyone in southern Lebanon is a terrorist and is connected to Hezbollah," roared Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon on July 27.

"Every village from which a Katyusha is fired must be destroyed," bellowed an Israeli general in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.

The paper then summarized what the justice minister and general were saying: "In other words, a village from which rockets are fired at Israel will simply be destroyed by fire." That was Thursday.
Sunday, in Qana, 57 of Haim Ramon's "terrorists," 37 of them children, were massacred with precision-guided bombs. Apparently, Katyushas had been fired from Qana, near the destroyed building.

"One who goes to sleep with rockets shouldn't be surprised if he doesn't wake up in the morning," said Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman.

Today, we hear unctuous statements about how Israel takes pains to avoid civilian casualties, drops leaflets to warn civilians to flee target areas and conforms to all the rules of civilized warfare.

But Israel's words and deeds contradict her propaganda.

Gillerman, at a pro-Israel rally in New York, thundered, "To those countries who claim that we are using disproportionate force, I have only this to say: You're damn right we are."

Gillerman spoke the truth. No sooner had Hezbollah taken the two Israeli soldiers hostage than Israel unleashed an air war - on Lebanon. It was the moral equivalent of a municipal police ravaging an African-American community because Black Panthers had killed cops.

If Israel is not in violation of the principle of proportionality, by which Christians are to judge the conduct of a just war, what can that term mean? There are 600 civilian dead in Lebanon, 19 in Israel, a ratio of 30-1.

Yet, whatever one thinks of the morality of what Israel is doing, the stupidity is paralyzing. Now, 87 percent of Lebanese back Hezbollah, and the entire Arab and Islamic world is rallying behind Hassan Nasrallah.

And how does one defend our behavior?

When Gillerman was exulting in the disproportionality of Israel's attack on Lebanon, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton was smiling smugly beside him. When the U.N. Security Council tabled a resolution condemning Hezbollah's igniting of the war, but also the excesses of Israel's reprisals, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton vetoed it. When a few congressmen sought to moderate a pro-Israeli resolution by adding words urging "all sides to protect innocent life and infrastructure," GOP leader John Boehner ordered the words taken down.

America shares full moral and political responsibility for the massacre at Qana. Our Israeli friends appear to be playing us for fools.



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Israel's latest invasion of Lebanon and western culpability

By Dr. Habib Siddiqui
8/2/06

It should be quite obvious by now that Israel's latest invasion of Gaza and Lebanon had very little to do with rescuing her fallen soldiers. As I write, Israel has killed some 750 unarmed Lebanese civilians - mostly women and children, destroyed mosques, bridges, roads, houses, schools, hospitals and much of the infra-structure of southern half of Lebanon. As in 1996, she has massacred scores of civilians in Qana this past weekend (July 30, 2006).
Israel has bombed Red Cross center and ambulances, and a UN observation post killing 4 observers. She has displaced a million people inside the country, some of whom are forced to take shelters in even prisons. Infants have been forcibly separated from their parents, and the elderly from their care-taking children. Relief supplies are difficult to get to the internally displaced refugees. Nothing is immune from Israel's bombing campaign.

If a small fraction of these crimes were to be committed by any invading state, in contravention to international laws, Bush and Blair and their European allies in the NATO would be screaming aloud demanding cease-fire, failing which they would threaten the invading nation with all kinds of actions - UN sanctions, embargo and war. But when it comes to crimes of Israel, they are her greatest cheer-leaders. They want to see more Muslim blood, more destruction, literally hell on earth and not cease-fire, because to them Muslim lives and properties are cheap and expendable.

As Michael Schure, an ex-CIA analyst and the foremost expert on al-Qaeda, has said, Bush and Blair through their naked support of such monumental crimes against Muslims have repeatedly given credence to everything that their adversaries have been saying about the West. No bones about it. Truly, it is not OBL and al-Zawahiri who are radicalizing Muslims throughout the world, but these two world leaders. With world leaders like these, who needs OBL to bring the Armageddon on earth?

Exchange of prisoners between contending parties is not new. It takes place all the time. Even Israel has, in the past, negotiated such exchanges. Moreover, the demand of Hizbullah and Hamas to exchange captured Israeli soldiers for Muslims prisoners held by Israel is justified given the fact that it is Israel that for decades has been holding thousands of Palestinian prisoners and hundreds of Lebanese citizens -- many of whom are women, children and (even) infants -- some literally kidnapped.

Remember that although Israel was forced to withdraw from southern Lebanon in 2000, some 22 years after its invasion, she continued to hold onto the Sheba Farms in defiance of UN Security Council resolution 425, and refused the release of 300 Lebanese prisoners including a number of Hizbullah leaders. Israel also refused to hand d over to the Lebanese government the map of land mines planted in south Lebanon. She continued to violate the air, water and land sovereignty of Lebanon. Even the plea of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora with the Bush Administration did not produce any result. So, when all the options for a peaceful resolution of these legitimate concerns were balked at by the Zionist regime, Hizbullah captured two Israeli soldiers when they violated Lebanese sovereignty on July 12.

Hizbullah promptly called for the exchange of prisoners. Unfortunately, Israel does not care about the fate of those soldiers. She used the event as a pretext for something more sinister, something that remained unfulfilled from the Zionist blueprint for six-decade long history of annexation and annihilation, massacre and manipulation. The current murderous campaign of Israel inside Lebanon cannot, therefore, be grasped without an understanding of the Zionist dream that includes annexing the southern part of Lebanon to the Litani River, the Syrian Golan Heights, and the West and East banks of the Jordan River.

It is, therefore, not difficult to fathom why Israeli Prime Minister Olmert preferred invasion of Lebanon over negotiation to exchange prisoners. Israel has always been a colonial enterprise that thrives on opportunities for practicing state-run terrorism and colonization against Arabs. The capture of Israeli soldiers provides that criminal justification to destroy and slaughter, let alone an opportunity to set up a client state in the plundered territory that would safeguard Israel's so-called inalienable rights to intervene. Invasion comes rather easy with Israeli warlords. To these hawks, Barak's 2000 pullout from the 'Security zone' was a mistake and needed to be corrected. They want a 'Buffer zone.'

One should not forget that it was Israeli atrocities and western betrayals that brought about the emergence of resistance fighters of Hizbullah, born in families of the Shi'ite victims and out of the ashes of south Lebanon. During the Lebanese Civil War, when the USA and France acted more like proxies to pro-Israel forces in the region, the U.S. Embassy (April 1983), and French and U.S. Army barracks (October 23, 1983) were attacked by these resistance fighters killing nearly 300. By the time the Civil War ended, Hizbullah, with its militia, refused to disarm in fighting the Israeli presence in the security zone.

The Lebanese government with a weak military was in no position to contest IDF and found it prudent to overlook Hizbullah's efforts to securing the southern border. Thus, the latter had a de facto approval from its constituency. [A poll conducted by the Arab-American Institute as recently as April of 2006 showed widespread support for Hizbullah. Only 6% of Lebanese people agreed to a disarmament of the group.]

Hizbullah also did a superb job building clinics, hospitals and schools, paving roads and constructing homes, and rebuilding houses and other infrastructure in war-torn Lebanon. These activities earned them immense popularity in the south and made them a major political and social force to be reckoned with.

The presence of the IDF and its surrogate SLA in the south was a source of constant irritation for Lebanon and her people, and led to hostilities with Hizbullah and the Lebanese forces. In April 1996, during Israeli "Grapes of Wrath" campaign to destroy Hizbullah guerrillas, Israeli artillery gunners shelled a United Nations base in Qana, east of the port city of Tyre, killing more than 100 civilians sheltering there. That massacre at Qana galvanized the western leaders to arrange a ceasefire.

Fighting between the Hizbullah and the IDF resumed again in June of 1999. In May 2000, under the new Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the IDF started to gradually withdraw from southern Lebanon turning over its positions to its ally - the SLA. However, amidst incessant pressure from the Hizbullah, SLA collapsed, leading Israel to accelerate its withdrawal, which it accomplished by late May. Nonetheless, she held on to the Sheba Farms.

On Sunday, July 30, 2006, under new Prime Minister Olmert, the IDF repeated the war crimes of 1996 through missile strikes in the village of Qana. Villagers had gathered in a shelter in one of Qana's buildings, probably thinking that the massacre of 1996 would not be repeated by savage Israelis. But they were wrong. Lebanese Red Cross officials said that 58 people died in the Israeli assault on the village, including 34 children. Rescuers dug through the debris to remove dozens of bodies.

In 1996, Qana was the price Lebanon had to pay for world leaders to end the killing. But this time, with the US and its leadership firmly behind Israel's war-crimes, no such ceasefire is in the making. So, when the rest of the world cries out foul and is saddened with savagery of Israel, and demonstrates for ceasefire, leaders like Bush, Blair and Condi Rice show that they are devoid of human traits. Their behavior is immoral, demented, sadistic and criminal. Truly, if we are looking for a modern-day Nero, we have it in these world leaders.

In their delirious mindset, they have forgotten that when the doors of negotiation, seeking fairness and justice, are shut down, radical elements -- prone to seek alternative ways to redress their grievances -- always emerge. If that happens, don't mumble 'why they hate us?' It is events like Qana that produces recruits for 9/11, 7/11 and 7/7.

The current events in the Occupied Palestine and Lebanon once again have shown the utter moral bankruptcy of the West and its leadership, especially of the USA and the UK. Hypocrisy is its hallmark. The West can preach equality, liberty, democracy and human rights, but they truly don't mean them when it comes to vast majority of non-whites. So, when Israel commits monumental crimes against Arabs, violating scores of international laws and UN charters, the USA and her western allies have consistently cheered and supported her criminal activities.

It is said that when criminals and demons rule our world, it is better for human beings to be dead than alive. How long will humanity let these modern-day Neroes to rule our world?



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Hitting the Fan


Rome: Jewish shops defaced with swastikas

Associated Press
August 2, 2006

Jewish shops across Rome were vandalized and defaced with swastikas in an apparent neo-fascist attack linked to fighting in the Middle East, officials said Wednesday.

Owners of about 20 shops in the center and outskirts of the Italian capital reached their workplace Tuesday morning to find door locks filled with glue, shutters nailed closed and swastikas defacing nearby walls, said Riccardo Pacifici, a spokesman for Rome's Jewish Community.

Although not all the shops targeted were owned by Jews, the raid was apparently conducted in reaction to hostilities between Israel and Hizbullah, Pacifici said.
Flyers signed by a group calling itself Armed Revolutionary Fascists were left at the shops denouncing "the Zionist economy" and including pro-Hizbullah slogans, Pacifici said.

"There are still anti-Semites in Italy," Pacifici said. He told The Associated Press that Italian Jewish organizations have been flooded with dozens of e-mails blaming Jews for violence in the Middle East.

Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni condemned the vandalism.

"Rome and Romans are against any form of anti-Semitism," Veltroni, was quoted as saying by the Corriere della Sera daily. "I hope that the authors of these actions will soon answer for them in court."

Police officials declined to comment on the investigation. Last month, swastikas were spray-painted on walls in the Old Ghetto - Rome's ancient Jewish neighborhood - while hundreds of thousands of soccer fans gathered in the nearby Circus Maximus to celebrate Italy's victory in the World Cup.



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Angry Muslim nations to demand action over Middle East conflict

by Elisia Yeo
AFP
August 3, 2006

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia - The leaders of major Muslim nations including Iran were set to issue a strong condemnation of Israel's offensive in Lebanon and demand an immediate ceasefire at crisis talks here.

Malaysia, which chairs the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), is hosting nearly 20 countries at the meeting, which is also expected to call for a UN peacekeeping force for Lebanon and properly coordinated humanitarian assistance.

The meeting takes place amid growing anger and frustration in the Muslim world over the high civilian death toll in Israel's three-week offensive against Hezbollah guerrillas and the targeting of Lebanon's infrastructure.
Among the leaders attending is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose government is accused of being the main financier and weapons supplier of the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah militia.

The United States and Israel have accused Iran of deliberately stoking the conflict and using Hezbollah as a proxy force, an allegation repeatedly denied by Tehran.

Lebanon says more than 800 civilians have been killed by Israeli forces since they launched their offensive on July 12 after Hezbollah staged a deadly cross-border raid in which they captured two Israeli soldiers.

At least 19 Israeli civilians have been killed in retaliatory Hezbollah rocket attacks across the border.

Ahmadinejad arrived in Malaysia early Thursday and is scheduled to hold a press conference at 0830 GMT before departing later in the day.

Speaking late Wednesday, Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said the meeting would allow Muslim voices to be heard.

"They are now angry because there has been no action of any sort," Syed Hamid told reporters.

"In the Muslim world there is a feeling of disillusionment, despair, that the UN is slow to take action. What we want is balanced treatment," he said.

Syed Hamid said OIC nations wanted to see a UN peacekeeping force which would include Muslim countries, and that members of the grouping would discuss possible troop commitments to the force.

A statement is expected to be issued at the end of the meeting, and Lebanon's Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh said he wanted to see a strong condemnation of Israel's actions.

"We need a strong resolution condemning Israel to support Lebanon at this critical time," he told AFP late Wednesday.

"The main request, the sole request of Lebanon, is a comprehensive and immediate ceasefire, then the withdrawal of Israeli troops to the Israeli's territory," he said.

The minister also called for "an international judiciary committee to judge Israel for its criminal actions, and the return of the Lebanese displaced to their homes, villages and towns."

Other leaders attending include Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

The gathering was originally intended to comprise the OIC's executive committee but was expanded to include a number of member countries concerned over the escalation of violence in the Middle East, officials said.



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Thousands of Shi'ites march in Baghdad

By Omar al-Ibadi and Michael Georgy
Reuters
Wed Aug 2, 2006

BAGHDAD - Thousands of Shi'ite civilians charged with guarding neighborhoods in Iraq marched through Baghdad on Wednesday to demand an end to the sectarian violence that is ravaging the country.

Young men in uniforms and headbands, members of what are known as the popular committees, chanted as a speaker urged them to protect the neighborhoods from the Saddam Hussein loyalists leading a Sunni insurgency against the Shi'ite-led government.
"Stamp on terrorism," he said.

The crowd included members of the Badr Organization, one of the armed Shi'ite groups that Sunni Arabs accuse of running militia death squads, a charge they deny.

"We have to benefit from this wide popular base, and the state and Iraqi people should form these popular regional committees from the best of our young men to face terrorism," Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, one of Iraq's most powerful Shi'ite leaders, told the crowd.

"They will defend people of districts; Sunnis, Shi'ites, Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen. They do not differentiate between anybody."

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, whose reconciliation plan has failed to reduce sectarian bloodshed, has promised to disband the militias many fear will push the country into civil war.

"The first enemy is the Baathist Saddam loyalists and their henchmen, the Islamic extremists," Hakim said.

Officially, the event was held to mark the third anniversary of the death of Hakim's brother, Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer al- Hakim, in a bombing in the southern city of Najaf.

But the speeches also covered explosive issues such as federalism, which is opposed by Sunnis who fear it will leave them deprived of oil in resource-poor central Iraq.

ROADSIDE BOMBS

"We believe that implementation of a federal system in Iraq will achieve justice and rebuild Iraq and guarantee the unity of the Iraqi people and land," Hakim said.

Two roadside bombs killed at least 12 people and wounded 13, mostly young soccer players, in the Baghdad district of Amel on Wednesday evening, a police source said. He said the bombs had been planted near a soccer field opposite a police station.

Two U.S. servicemen were killed in action in Anbar, the U.S. military said.

Earlier, three roadside bombs exploded in central Baghdad near a group of laborers seeking work, killing three people and wounding nine, police sources said.

In Madaen, south of Baghdad, 15 insurgents and three policeman were killed in fighting that began Monday night.

Gunmen in Baquba, north of Baghdad, killed the chief of the traffic police, Ahmed Abdel Hussein, and one of his bodyguards.

Two off-duty Iraqi soldiers and a civilian were killed when a roadside bomb exploded near a truck carrying wheat in Hawija, 70 km (45 miles) southwest of Kirkuk, police said.

A senior coalition officer said the leaders of almost a quarter of the 24,000-strong national police were suspected of crimes and sectarian violence and should be replaced.

"There are 26 battalions. Maybe five or six have leaders who have led them in a way that was either criminal, or sectarian, or both," the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters at a briefing in Baghdad.

President George W. Bush has ordered more U.S. troops to Baghdad to quell sectarian bloodshed.

But many question the government's will to confront death squads that could be operating from within the security forces.

"There are (security) forces in Baghdad who don't feel that they have the got the backing of their government to confront the (militias) ... It puts the soldier on the street in a pretty tricky spot," the official said.

Bombings and shootings killed up to 61 people in Iraq on Tuesday, including at least 26 soldiers.

President Jalal Talabani said Iraqi forces could take over security at the end of the year and he was hopeful they could stamp out violence by then, ambitious goals in a country where 100 people are killed every day.

But he did not spell out what he meant. U.S. commanders say handing over security would involve several phases.

"We hope we will end the phenomenon of terrorism this year. Iraqi troops will be gradually taking over all the governorates at the end of the year," said Talabani.



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Scores dead across Iraq in blasts, shootings - 3,700 US troops shifting to Baghdad

By Robert H. Reid
Associated Press
August 2, 2006

BAGHDAD -- Bombings and shootings killed more than 70 people in Iraq yesterday in a surge of bloodshed, as US forces prepared to try to take back Baghdad's streets from gunmen. The dead included 20 Iraqi troops, a US soldier, and a British soldier.
The American soldier, who was assigned to the First Armored Division, died "due to enemy action" in Anbar Province west of Baghdad, the US command said. In a separate statement, the military said a US soldier from the 16th Corps Support Group died the day before in a roadside bombing south of the capital.

In further violence, officials confirmed that about 45 Shi'ite Muslims were kidnapped over the last two weeks on the main highway to Syria and Jordan. The highway passes through Sunni insurgent strongholds west of Baghdad.

The deadliest attack yesterday occurred when a roadside bomb devastated a bus packed with Iraqi soldiers near Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad. All 24 people aboard were killed, Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said. All but four of the dead were Iraqi soldiers, police said.

In Baghdad, 14 people died and 37 were wounded when a car bomb exploded at a bank where police and soldiers were picking up monthly paychecks, police Lieutenant Colonel Abbas Mohammed Salman said.

The blast set several other cars ablaze and scattered dismembered bodies along the street as bystanders carried the injured to ambulances.

Abdul-Hassan Mohammed, 62, a retired teacher who had gone to the bank to pick up his pension, said the explosion slammed him about 12 feet into a wall.

"My friends took me to one of their stores, gave me water, and asked me to relax," Mohammed said. "I didn't even get my pension."

It was the third major attack in less than a week in Karradah, a fashionable, mostly Shi'ite neighborhood in central Baghdad that is home to several prominent politicians. Last Thursday, 31 people were killed in an attack that included rockets, mortars, and a car bomb.

On Monday, gunmen dressed in military fatigues abducted 26 people from the offices of the Iraqi-American Chamber of Commerce and a nearby mobile phone company.

The British soldier was fatally wounded in a mortar barrage before dawn yesterday on a British base in the southern city of Basra, the British Defense Ministry said. Britain has lost 115 soldiers in Iraq since the US-led invasion in March 2003.

There was no claim of responsibility for the barrage. But it followed a crackdown by the British on Shi'ite militias that have infiltrated security forces in the city and threaten the authority of the government in Baghdad.

In the southern city of Najaf, Governor Assad Abu Kilal said 45 people from his province had disappeared while traveling by bus through the Sunni-dominated area west of Baghdad. He demanded the government stop the kidnappings or he would send his own forces to protect the road.

A senior Interior Ministry official, Saadoun Abu al-Ula, confirmed that more than 45 people from the Najaf area were seized but said "it's been going on for the past two weeks -- like two or three people snatched per day."

US officials have also grown alarmed over the rise in Sunni-Shi'ite violence and the role of sectarian militias. Those tensions are now considered a greater threat than the Sunni insurgency to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The US military is moving at least 3,700 soldiers from Mosul to Baghdad and is gearing up for a new security operation to wrest control of the capital from Shi'ite militias, Sunni insurgents, kidnap gangs, rogue police, and freelance gunmen.

US officials have described the Baghdad campaign as a "must-win" for Maliki, whose government has been unable to curb the rise in violence since it took office May 20. American troops will work alongside US-trained Iraqi forces.

As part of the campaign against militias, US troops yesterday arrested a Baghdad-area representative of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army is among the most feared armed groups.

The arrest of Sheik Ahmed al-Ashmani was reported by Sadr's staff, which said 10 other members of the cleric's movement were detained. There was no confirmation from the US military.

Meanwhile, gunmen ambushed a minibus carrying employees of a power station to their homes in the Shi'ite district of Sadr City, killing five passengers and wounding six, police said.

A car bomb killed seven people, six of them civilians, in Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles northeast of Baghdad and a flashpoint of Sunni-Shi'ite tensions. Three Iraqi soldiers were killed yesterday evening when a car bomber attacked a checkpoint in the northern city of Tal Afar, the Iraqi Army said.

An Iraqi journalist working for the Iranian government-run Al-Alam television was slain in western Baghdad. Adil al-Mansuri, who was in his 20s, was stopped by gunmen Monday and shot, according to a colleague, Aysar al-Yasiri.

A Sunni Arab politician, Mohammed Shihab al-Dulaimi, was kidnapped yesterday in Baghdad, his associates said.
Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.



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Report to Suggest Marines Shot Iraqis

By ROBERT BURNS
AP
Aug 2, 2006

WASHINGTON - Evidence collected on the deaths of 24 Iraqis in Haditha supports accusations that U.S. Marines deliberately shot the civilians, including unarmed women and children, a Pentagon official said Wednesday.

Agents of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service have completed their initial work on the incident last November, but may be asked to probe further as Marine Corps and Navy prosecutors review the evidence and determine whether to recommend criminal charges, according to two Pentagon officials who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity.

The decision on whether to press criminal charges ultimately will be made by the commander of the accused Marines' parent unit, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, Calif. The commander is currently Lt. Gen. John Sattler, but he is scheduled to move to a Pentagon assignment soon; his successor will be Lt. Gen. James Mattis.

The Marines initially reported after the Nov. 19, 2005 killings that 15 Iraqi civilians at Haditha had been killed by a makeshift roadside bomb and in crossfire between Marines and insurgent attackers. Based on accounts from survivors and human rights groups, Time magazine first reported in March that the killings were deliberate acts by the Marines.

A criminal investigation was then ordered by the top Marine commander in Iraq, Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer.

A parallel investigation is examining whether officers in the Marines' chain of command tried to cover up the events.




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Leaked UK document sees "civil war" in Iraq

Reuters
Thu Aug 3, 2006

LONDON - Iraq is more likely to slide into civil war than turn into a democracy, Britain's outgoing ambassador to Baghdad wrote in a leaked diplomatic cable, the BBC public broadcaster reported on Thursday.

William Patey's final cable from Baghdad gives a far more pessimistic assessment for prospects in Iraq than Britain has disclosed in public. It warns of the prospect of Shi'ite militia forming a "state within a state," like Hizbollah in Lebanon.

"The prospect of a low intensity civil war and a de facto division of Iraq is probably more likely at this stage than a successful and substantial transition to a stable democracy," he wrote, according to excerpts quoted by the public broadcaster.

"Even the lowered expectation of President (George W.) Bush for Iraq -- a government that can sustain itself, defend itself and govern itself and is an ally in the war on terror -- must remain in doubt," said the cable, sent to British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Describing the main Shi'ite militia, he wrote: "If we are to avoid a descent into civil war and anarchy then preventing the (Mehdi Army) from developing into a state within a state, as Hizbollah has done in Lebanon, will be a priority."

Patey did, however, also say that the situation in Iraq "is not hopeless."

The Foreign Office said it does not comment on leaked documents.

"Every day the capacity of the Iraqi security forces to manage their own security is growing," a spokeswoman said.

The view expressed in Patey's cable reflects pessimism that has settled among senior Iraqi officials as violence has increased in the three months since a new "unity" government took power.

A senior Iraqi government official told Reuters last month that "Iraq as a political project is finished," with the capital split into Sunni and Shi'ite districts and officials working to divide control of the country on ethnic and sectarian lines.



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Shiites go to Baghdad to support Hezbollah

By RAWYA RAGEH
Associated Press
August 3, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Hundreds of followers of a radical Shiite cleric left a southern city Thursday to join a pro-Lebanon rally in Baghdad, the fount of the deepening enmity between
Iraq's Shiites and Sunnis. At least 13 people were killed or found dead in the latest sectarian and political violence in Iraq.

Muqtada al-Sadr, a firebrand anti-U.S. cleric who commands a large militia, has called on his followers from around the country to congregate in Baghdad on Friday after the weekly prayers.

The public rally, scheduled to be held in the Shiite slum of Sadr City in eastern Baghdad, will show support for the Shiite Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah in its fight against Israel.
Some 20 buses, accompanied by police vehicles, took off from the southern city of Basra, carrying young men, mostly unarmed members of al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia. Most were draped in the white shrouds that Muslims use to wrap their dead - a symbol of their willingness to die for Lebanon.

The buses were plastered with pictures of Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, who has assumed a hero status in the Arab world. The men waved the yellow flags of Hezbollah and carried banners that read "Here we are Lebanon."

Al-Sadr is one of the most influential Shiite leaders in Iraq. His Sadr Movement party is the second biggest component of the Shiite alliance in Iraq's unity government, which includes Sunni and Kurds.

Shiites were long suppressed during Saddam Hussein's Sunni-majority government. The rivalry between Shiites and Sunnis has now turned into an almost daily cycle of sectarian clashes, bombings, assassinations and mortar attacks on each other's neighborhoods.

On Thursday, gunmen shot to death four people in separate incidents in Baghdad, Amarrah, Mosul and Basra, police said. Also Thursday, the bodies of nine men were found floating in separate places in the Tigris River, police and morgue officials said. At least two bodies were blindfolded, bound and shot.

Meanwhile, a confidential report from Britain's outgoing ambassador to Iraq, William Patey, has warned that the country is sliding toward civil war and is likely to divide eventually along ethnic lines, according to the British Broadcasting Corp. Thursday.

Patey sent the memo to Prime Minister Tony Blair, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett and other leading legislators and military commanders, BBC reported.

It said Patey also warned that to avoid a descent into civil war, there must be greater effort directed at policing militia groups, including al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, which he said could develop into "a state within a state," as Hezbollah has done in Lebanon.

On Wednesday, sectarian and political violence claimed at least 53 lives, including 11 young soccer players and spectators who died when two bombs exploded in a field in a Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad. More than 70 people were killed on Tuesday.

The surge in sectarian violence has prompted the U.S. command to send at least 3,700 American soldiers from the northern city of Mosul to reclaim the capital's streets from Sunni insurgents, Shiite militias, rogue police, criminals and freelance gunmen.

U.S. officials have been pressing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, to disband the Shiite militias and make overtures to Sunni insurgent groups.

However, the militias draw strength from the disorder they help create because many Iraqis are losing confidence in the police and army - preferring to rely on gunmen from their own sect for protection.



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Under the New Reich


Lobbying for Armageddon - Some influential evangelical leaders are lobbying for an attack on Iran. But it's not about geopolitics -- it's about bringing about the End Times.

By Sarah Posner
AlterNet
August 3, 2006.

In a perfect world, a reporter at last week's press conference with George Bush and Tony Blair would have asked Bush, in the presence of his principal European ally, if he believes the European Union is the Antichrist.

Although it sounds like the kind of Pat Robertson lunacy that makes even the wingnuts run for the nearest exit, it's a question Bush should be forced to answer. Bush and other leading Republicans have lined up behind a growing movement of Christian Zionists for whom a European Antichrist figures prominently in an end-times scenario. So they should be forced to explain to the rest of us why they're courting the votes of people who believe our allies are evil incarnate. Could it be that the central requirement for their breathlessly anticipated Armageddon -- that the United States confront Iran -- happens to dovetail so nicely with the neoconservative war agenda?
At the center of it all is Pastor John Hagee, a popular televangelist who leads the 18,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. While Hagee has long prophesized about the end times, he ratcheted up his rhetoric this year with the publication of his book, "Jerusalem Countdown," in which he argues that a confrontation with Iran is a necessary precondition for Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ. In the best-selling book, Hagee insists that the United States must join Israel in a preemptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God's plan for both Israel and the West. Shortly after the book's publication, he launched Christians United for Israel (CUFI), which, as the Christian version of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, he said would cause "a political earthquake."

At CUFI's kick-off banquet at the Washington Hilton, attended by over 3,500 members, Republican support for both Hagee's effort and his drumbeat for war with Iran were on full view. Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman told the group that "no regime is more central to the global jihad" than Iran. Just two days before, Newt Gingrich and John McCain made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows to sound the same message, leading Benny Elon, a member of the Israeli Knesset, to comment to the Jerusalem Post that their remarks originated with Hagee. Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback also addressed the group, and Bush sent words of support to the gathering. Republicans, and even some Democrats, spoke at CUFI events to show their "support for Israel." But while public and media attention was on the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, Hagee's focus continued to be on Iran.

While the crisis at the Israel-Lebanon border drew more mainstream media attention to CUFI's activities, Hagee's supporters have long known that leading Republicans are listening. Rabbi Daniel Lapin, a prominent Jewish ally of the evangelical right (and friend of Jack Abramoff) has said that Hagee "without question, yes, absolutely" has the ear of the White House. Hagee's annual Night to Honor Israel at his church has drawn prominent Republicans, including Tom DeLay, who was the keynote speaker in 2002.

Although Republicans would never admit it -- they claim their support for Christian Zionists like Hagee is based on their own support for Israel -- it is clear that they know they need the votes of this constituency to win. In the same way that Karl Rove courted conservative evangelicals in 2004 by appealing to their homophobia, Republican campaign rhetoric for 2006 and 2008 has already shown signs of playing to voters who have been hearing hype for a war with Iran for months -- at church.

While Washington insiders wonder what it means when Republicans like Mehlman and presidential aspirants Gingrich and McCain finger Iran as the central player in an epic clash of civilizations, Hagee already has spent months mobilizing the shock troops in support of another war. As diplomats, experts and pundits debate how many years Iran will need to develop a viable nuclear weapon, Hagee says the mullahs already possess the means to destroy Israel and America. And although Bush insists that diplomatic options are still on the table, Hagee has dismissed pussyfooting diplomacy and primed his followers for a conflagration.

Hagee wields "a very large megaphone" that reaches "a very large group of people," said Rabbi James Rudin of the American Jewish Committee, who has studied the Christian right for 30 years. With CUFI, the pastor has exponentially expanded the reach of his megaphone beyond his television audience. Thanks to the viral marketing made possible by the hundreds of evangelical leaders who have signed on to his new organization, his warmongering has rippled through megachurches across America for months. Hagee calls pastors "the spiritual generals of America," an appropriate phrase given his reliance on them to rally their troops behind his message.

The CUFI board of directors includes the Rev. Jerry Falwell, former Republican presidential candidate and religious right activist Gary Bauer, and George Morrison, pastor of the 8,000-member Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada, Colo., and chairman of the board of Promise Keepers. Rod Parsley, the Ohio televangelist who is rapidly becoming a major political player in the Christian right, signed on to be a regional director.

For Hagee's new project, his influence in Washington is probably less important than his influence over his audience. With the clout of his listeners, he can serve Bush administration hawks by firing up grassroots support for a military strike against Iran. Over 700,000 people purchased his book, "Jerusalem Countdown," and countless more have heard him promote it on Christian radio and television programming. Dramatic, doomsday advertising has been heard by listeners of Christian media as well as on Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly's radio programs. The pages of "Jerusalem Countdown" provide a peculiar mix of biblical prophecy, purported inside information from Israeli government officials and a mixed-up, pared-down lesson in nuclear physics.

"I wrote this book in April 2005, and when people read it, they will think I wrote it late last night after the FOX News report," says the author without a trace of irony. "It's that close to where we are and beyond."

Hagee speaks simultaneously to two audiences about Iran's nuclear capabilities: one that fears a terrorist attack by Iran and another that embraces a biblically mandated apocalypse. To impress the fearful, he mimics Bush's deceptions about Iraq's capacity to attack the United States with weapons of mass destruction, Condoleezza Rice's warnings of mushroom clouds, and Dick Cheney's dissembling about an alliance between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida. Comparing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Hitler, Hagee argues that Iran's development of nuclear weapons must be stopped to protect America and Israel from a nuclear attack. Preying on legitimate worries about terrorism, and invoking 9/11, he vividly describes a supposed Iranian-led plan to simultaneously explode nuclear suitcase bombs in seven American cities, or to use an electromagnetic pulse device to create "an American Hiroshima."

When addressing audiences receptive to Scriptural prophecy, however, Hagee welcomes the coming confrontation. He argues that a strike against Iran will cause Arab nations to unite under Russia's leadership, as outlined in chapters 38 and 39 of the Book of Ezekiel, leading to an "inferno [that] will explode across the Middle East, plunging the world toward Armageddon." In Hagee's telling, Israel has no choice but to strike at Iran's nuclear facilities, with or without America's help. The strike will provoke Russia -- which wants Persian Gulf oil -- to lead an army of Arab nations against Israel. Then God will wipe out all but one-sixth of the Russian-led army, as the world watches "with shock and awe," he says, lending either a divine quality to the Bush administration phrase or a Bush-like quality to God's wrath.

But Hagee doesn't stop there. He adds that Ezekiel predicts fire "upon those who live in security in the coastlands." From this sentence, he concludes that there will be judgment upon all who stood by while the Russian-led force invaded Israel, and issues a stark warning to the United States to intervene: "Could it be that America, who refuses to defend Israel from the Russian invasion, will experience nuclear warfare on our east and west coasts?" He says yes, citing Genesis 12:3, in which God said to Israel: "I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you."

To fill the power vacuum left by God's decimation of the Russian army, the Antichrist -- the head of the EU -- will rule "a one-world government, a one-world currency and a one-world religion" for three and a half years. (Hagee adds that "one need only be a casual observer of current events to see that all three of these things are coming into reality." The "demonic world leader" will then be confronted by a false prophet, identified by Hagee as China, at Armageddon, the Mount of Megiddo in Israel. As they prepare for the final battle, Jesus will return on a white horse and cast both villains -- and presumably any nonbelievers -- into a "lake of fire burning with brimstone," thus marking the beginning of his millennial reign.

Hagee doesn't fear a nuclear conflagration, but rather God's wrath for standing by as Iran executes its supposed plot to destroy Israel. A nuclear confrontation between America and Iran, which he says is foretold in the Book of Jeremiah, will not lead to the end of the world, but rather to God's renewal of the Garden of Eden. But Hagee is ultimately less concerned with the fate of Israel or the Jews than with a theocratic Christian right agenda. When Jesus returns for his millennial reign, he tells his television audience, "the righteous are going to rule the nations of the earth When Jesus Christ comes back, he's not going to ask the ACLU if it's all right to pray, he's not going to ask the churches if they can ordain pedophile bishops and priests, he's not going to ask if it's all right to put the Ten Commandments in the statehouses. He's not going to endorse abortion, he's going to run the world by the word of God The world will never end. It's going to become a Garden of Eden, and Christ is going to rule it."

Sarah Posner is a former attorney who most recently practiced at Trial Lawyers for Public Justice. She is a contributing writer for The Gadflyer.



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Banking on War

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
02 August 2006

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

- Dwight D. Eisenhower


Only the dead, said Plato, have seen the end of war. As true as this may be, it does beg the question: why? Why is there so much conflict in the world? Why are there so many wars?
Ethnic and religious tensions have been casus belli since time out of mind, to be sure. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War ruptured a framework that held for almost fifty years, bringing about a series of conflicts that are understandable in hindsight.

There is a simpler answer, however, one that lands right in our back yard here in America. Why so much war? Because war is a profitable enterprise. George W. Bush and his people can hold forth about the wonders of democracy and peace, and can condemn worldwide violence in solemn tones. Until the United States stops being the world's largest arms dealer, these words from our government absolutely reek of hypocrisy.

Mr. Bush and his people did not invent this phenomenon, of course. The United States has been selling hundreds of billions of dollars worth of weapons to the world for decades. In the aftermath of September 11, however, American arms dealing kicked into an even higher gear. The Bush administration, in 2003, delivered arms to 18 of 25 nations now engaged in active conflicts. 13 of those nations have been defined as "undemocratic" by the State Department, but still received $2.7 billion in American weaponry.

One example is Uzbekistan, a nation with an astonishingly deplorable record of human rights violations. Thousands of people have been imprisoned and tortured for purely political reasons, and hundreds more have been killed. Still, that nation received $37 million in weapons from the United States between 2001 and 2003.

In 2002, the United States sold almost $50 million in missile technologies to Bahrain. In the same year, the United States sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of missile technology, rocket launchers, tank ammunition, fighter jets and attack helicopters to Egypt. The United States has sold millions of dollars worth of weapons to both India and Pakistan, two nations that have been on the brink of war for years. This list goes on and on.

Analyze the list of the top twenty companies that profit most from global arms sales, and you will see American companies taking up thirteen of those spots, including the top three: Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman. These arms dealers act in concert with the Department of Defense; they exist as a sixth ring of the Pentagon.

The Associated Press reported last week that business for the arms industry is, to make a bad pun, booming. "Northrop Grumman, the world's largest shipbuilder and America's third-largest military contractor," reported the AP, "said second-quarter earnings rose 17 per cent, as operating profit at its systems and information technology units overcame a decline at the company's ships division. Raytheon Co., the fifth-largest defense contractor, reported second-quarter net income jumped 54 per cent, buoyed by strong military equipment sales."

Beyond the missiles and the tanks and the warplanes, there is the small-arms industry. This is, comprehensively, far more deadly than the large-arms sales being made. A report by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences describes the deadly situation:

Since the end of the cold war, from the Balkans to East Timor and throughout Africa, the world has witnessed an outbreak of ethnic, religious and sectarian conflict characterized by routine massacre of civilians. More than 100 conflicts have erupted since 1990, about twice the number for previous decades. These wars have killed more than five million people, devastated entire geographic regions, and left tens of millions of refugees and orphans. Little of the destruction was inflicted by the tanks, artillery or aircraft usually associated with modern warfare; rather most was carried out with pistols, machine guns and grenades. However beneficial the end of the cold war has been in other respects, it has let loose a global deluge of surplus weapons into a setting in which the risk of local conflict appears to have grown markedly.

The Federation of American Scientists prepared a report some years ago detailing the vast amounts of small arms delivered to the world by the United States. "In addition to sales of newly-manufactured weapons," read the report, "the Pentagon gives away or sells at deep discount the vast oversupply of small/light weapons that it has in its post cold-war inventory. Most of this surplus is dispensed through the Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program. Originally only the southern-tier members of NATO were cleared to receive EDA, but following the 1991 Gulf war, many Middle Eastern and North African states were added; anti-narcotics aid provisions expanded EDA eligibility to include South American and Caribbean countries; and the "Partnership for Peace" program made most Central and Eastern European governments eligible for free surplus arms."

"Around 1995," continued the report, "large-scale grants and sales of small/light arms began occurring. In the past few years (1995 - early 1998), over 300,000 rifles, pistols, machine guns and grenade launchers have been offered up, including: 158,000 M16A1 assault rifles (principally to Bosnia, Israel, Philippines); 124,815 M14 rifles (principally to the Baltics and Taiwan); 26,780 pistols (principally to Philippines, Morocco, Chile, Bahrain; 1,740 machine guns (principally to Morocco, Bosnia); and 10,570 grenade launchers (principally to Bahrain, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Morocco)."

We hear so often that this is a dangerous world. It is arguable that the world might be significantly less dangerous if the United States chose to stop lathering the planet with weapons. Much has been made, especially recently, about the billions of dollars in weapons sales offered to Israel by America. This is but the tip of the iceberg.

It is, at bottom, all about profit. We sell the weapons, which create warfare, which justifies our incredibly expensive war-making capabilities when we have to go in and fight against the people who bought our weapons or procured them from a third party. This does not make the world safer, but only reinforces the permanent state of peril we find ourselves in. Meanwhile, a few people get paid handsomely.

In the end, it is worthwhile to remember that whenever you see George W. Bush talking about winning the "War on Terror," you are looking at the largest arms dealer on the planet. We can pursue cease-fire agreements, we can topple violent regimes, but until we stop loading up the planet with the means to kill, only the dead will see the end of war.

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.



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White House Proposal Would Expand Authority of Military Courts to Create Police State in U.S.

By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post
August 2, 2006

A draft Bush administration plan for special military courts seeks to expand the reach and authority of such "commissions" to include trials, for the first time, of people who are not members of al-Qaeda or the Taliban and are not directly involved in acts of international terrorism, according to officials familiar with the proposal.

The plan, which would replace a military trial system ruled illegal by the Supreme Court in June, would also allow the secretary of defense to add crimes at will to those under the military court's jurisdiction. The two provisions would be likely to put more individuals than previously expected before military juries, officials and independent experts said.
The draft proposed legislation, set to be discussed at two Senate hearings today, is controversial inside and outside the administration because defendants would be denied many protections guaranteed by the civilian and traditional military criminal justice systems.

Under the proposed procedures, defendants would lack rights to confront accusers, exclude hearsay accusations, or bar evidence obtained through rough or coercive interrogations. They would not be guaranteed a public or speedy trial and would lack the right to choose their military counsel, who in turn would not be guaranteed equal access to evidence held by prosecutors.

Detainees would also not be guaranteed the right to be present at their own trials, if their absence is deemed necessary to protect national security or individuals.

An early draft of the new measure prepared by civilian political appointees and leaked to the media last week has been modified in response to criticism from uniformed military lawyers. But the provisions allowing a future expansion of the courts to cover new crimes and more prisoners were retained, according to government officials familiar with the deliberations.

The military lawyers received the draft after the rest of the government had agreed on it. They have argued in recent days for retaining some routine protections for defendants that the political appointees sought to jettison, an administration official said.

They objected in particular to the provision allowing defendants to be tried in absentia, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to describe the deliberations. Another source in contact with top military lawyers said, "Their initial impression is that the draft was unacceptable and sloppy." The source added that "it did not have enough due-process rights" and could further tarnish America's image.

The military lawyers nonetheless supported extending the jurisdiction of the commissions to cover those accused of joining or associating with terrorist groups engaged in anti-U.S. hostilities, and of committing or aiding hostile acts by such groups, whether or not they are part of al-Qaeda, two U.S. officials said.

That language gives the commissions broader reach than anticipated in a November 2001 executive order from President Bush that focused only on members of al-Qaeda, those who commit international terrorist acts and those who harbor such individuals.

Some independent experts say the new procedures diverge inappropriately from existing criminal procedures and provide no more protections than the ones struck down by the Supreme Court as inadequate. John D. Hutson, the Navy's top uniformed lawyer from 1997 to 2000, said the rules would evidently allow the government to tell a prisoner: "We know you're guilty. We can't tell you why, but there's a guy, we can't tell you who, who told us something. We can't tell you what, but you're guilty."

Bruce Fein, an associate deputy attorney general during the Reagan administration, said after reviewing the leaked draft that "the theme of the government seems to be 'They are guilty anyway, and therefore due process can be slighted.' " With these procedures, Fein said, "there is a real danger of getting a wrong verdict" that would let a lower-echelon detainee "rot for 30 years" at Guantanamo Bay because of evidence contrived by personal enemies.

But Kris Kobach, a senior Justice Department lawyer in Bush's first term who now teaches at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, said he believes that the draft strikes an appropriate balance between "a fundamentally fair trial" and "the ability to protect the effectiveness of U.S. military and intelligence assets."

Administration officials have said that the exceptional trial procedures are warranted because the fight against terrorism requires heavy reliance on classified information or on evidence obtained from a defendant's collaborators, which cannot be shared with the accused. The draft legislation cites the goal of ensuring fair treatment without unduly diverting military personnel from wartime assignments to present evidence in trials.

The provisions are closely modeled on earlier plans for military commissions, which the Supreme Court ruled illegal two months ago in a case brought by Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni imprisoned in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. "It is not evident why the danger posed by international terrorism, considerable though it is, should require, in the case of Hamdan, any variance from the courts-martial rules," the court's majority decision held.

No one at Guantanamo has been tried to date, though some prisoners have been there since early 2002.

John Yoo, a former Justice Department lawyer who helped draft the earlier plan, said Bush administration officials essentially "took DOD regulations" for the trials "and turned them into a statute for Congress to pass." He said the drafters were obviously "trying to return the law to where it was before Hamdan " by writing language into the draft that challenges key aspects of the court's decision.

"Basically, this is trying to overrule the Hamdan case," said Neal K. Katyal, a Georgetown University law professor who was Hamdan's lead attorney.

The plan calls for commissions of five military officers appointed by the defense secretary to try defendants for any of 25 listed crimes. It gives the secretary the unilateral right to "specify other violations of the laws of war that may be tried by military commission." The secretary would be empowered to prescribe detailed procedures for carrying out the trials, including "modes of proof" and the use of hearsay evidence.

Unlike the international war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, the commissions could rely on hearsay as the basis for a conviction. Unlike routine military courts-martial, in which prosecutors must overcome several hurdles to use such evidence, the draft legislation would put the burden on the defense team to block its use.

The admission of hearsay is a serious problem, said Tom Malinowski, director of the Washington office of Human Rights Watch, because defendants might not know if it was gained through torture and would have difficulty challenging it on that basis. Nothing in the draft law prohibits using evidence obtained through cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment that falls short of torture, Malinowski said.

The U.S. official countered that a military judge "would look hard" at the origins of such evidence and that defendants would have to count on "the trustworthiness of the system."

To secure a death penalty under the draft legislation, at least five jurors must agree, two fewer than under the administration's earlier plan. Courts-martial and federal civilian trials require that 12 jurors agree.



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COINTELPRO in Action: The FBIs Smear Campaign against Jean Seberg

Jean Seberg website

Have a look at the documents at the above linked site; read the bio, and get a good idea of how COINTELPRO actually operates. This information is crucial if anyone wishes to begin to understand what is going on today.

~~

Jean Seberg was one of a group of several prominent celebrities, among them John Lennon, Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave, who, in exercising their democratic birthright to free speech found themselves incurring the wrath of the United States authorities. Seberg, vocal in her support of the Black Panther Party, who fought racial prejudice in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King, was singled out for particular attention from notorious FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who considered her to be a threat to the American apple pie way of life and everything. Seberg, being a movie star and hence presumably wielding some supreme executive influence over western cultural values, was deemed so sufficiant a danger to national security (whatever that means), that on 23rd April 1970, Hoover issued orders that she be "neutralised" under the FBI's aptly named Counter Intelligence Programme (COINTELPRO).
In response to this order, the above request was made to Hoover by FBI SAC Richard W. Held on 27th April 1970. Hoover granted permission for Held to plant the story in the Los Angeles Times, from where it was syndicated across the US. Many believe the subsequent backlash of the right-wing press so traumatised Jean Seberg, who was seven months pregnant at the time, that it significantly contributed to her miscarriage in May 1970. Although at the time Seberg gave as good as she got, totally humilating the rumour mongers when she presented the press with the body of her dead white child, no one could be in any doubt that the episode took a toll on her emotional well being. Eventually Jean Seberg paid with her life, and the world paid with her loss.

The above documents, made public in 1982, together with the testimony of her friends, and ultimately the actions of Seberg herself at that fateful press conference, provide a wealth of damaging evidence against the FBI's counter intelligence operation, as well as providing further proof, as if any were needed, that western civilisation is only "free" as long as the powers that be say so. The name which was deleted from the above memo, during an investigation by the FBI's office of Internal Affairs, is thought by many to have been Raymond Hewit, a Black Panther leader. The FBI had also typed up a letter on official FBI stationary identifying Hewit as an informant and planted it where other Black Panthers would find it, in the hopes that Hewit would then be killed.

Richard W. Held, the architect of this outrageous bastardisation of the word "democracy" was, of course, only obeying orders.

Held later became SAC in San Francisco, and was also incriminated in the bombing of the Earth First activist Judith Bari, by Ward Churchill and James Vander Wall, authors of "The Cointel Papers", from which the above memo was sourced. He subsequently retired from the FBI to become Head of Security for Visa International. [...]

WAS JEAN SEBERG ASSASSINATED?

Most sources close to Jean believe that she took her own life. She had suffered deblitating bouts of depression for some nine years by that point. Rumour mongers and conspiracy theorists may still like to suggest otherwise, but in truth Jean Seberg's suicide was sadly not unexpected by those who knew what she had been through. She had seemed quite determined to do it. Although there was some talk of her return to acting at the time of her death, this is by no means any more than speculation. She had turned down offers of roles from both Truffaut and Donald Cammell in the months preceding her death, although she was apparently enthusiastic about a possible but then unconfirmed role that would have reunited her with her "Bonjour Tristesse" co-star David Niven. The film, "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square", was made in 1980, with Elke Sommer assuming the role that Jean had been set to play. It was to be David Niven's last movie.

"Jean Seberg died by her own hand. I've never thought otherwise. Others certainly contributed to her breakdown, but by the time it happened the Jean we knew and loved was already gone. I miss her terribly, but she made up her own mind in the end. She was the most willfull girl. She turned her determination against herself, and against those that thought they could help her. No one could help her in the end. The rest is academic."

-David Keller



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Constitutional showdown?

Editorial
Baltimore Sun
August 2, 2006

How openly can a president express his displeasure with a law without actually vetoing it? President Bush has been pushing the limit by offering far more statements than any of his predecessors, at the time he signs a bill into law, as to whether he will enforce certain provisions. These disapproving signing statements have come under increasing attack - as they should. Last week, Sen. Arlen Specter, who heads the Judiciary Committee, introduced a bill that would allow Congress to challenge a signing statement that disputed the words or meaning of a statute. The bill's prospects are uncertain, but at least Mr. Specter is willing to stand up to yet another assertion of power by an arrogant White House.
The matter would seem to be pretty straightforward: Under the Constitution, Congress passes bills and the president approves or disapproves, by exercising his veto power or signing a bill into law. Presidents as far back as James Monroe have used bill-signings to elaborate on their views about the law at hand. But no president has been quite as contentious about signing statements as Mr. Bush.

A study by The Boston Globe published in April revealed that he has used the statements to assert his right to disobey more than 750 laws since he assumed office, taking issue with anti-torture protection for detainees, whistle-blower protections for federal employees and certain provisions of the Patriot Act, among other things. And a recent American Bar Association report also put his penchant for disputing legislation in context by noting that Mr. Bush's predecessors collectively challenged about 600 legislative provisions, while he has far surpassed that total in less than six years.

Mr. Bush may have a point that Congress doesn't make it easy to reject one or two offensive provisions when bills are loaded with often-extraneous parts. But that's no excuse. The ABA report and Mr. Specter would seem to have the better argument: that challenging legislation through presidential signing statements strains the constitutional principle of separation of powers. Perhaps the courts will have to convince Mr. Bush that when he wants to dispute Congress' judgment, he should exercise his constitutional veto power - which he used for the first time last month - more often.



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Will Bush and Gonzales get away with it? - The Bush administration, facing possible prosecution for war crimes, is devising a legal escape hatch.

By Michael Scherer
Salon.com


Retired Navy pilot Mike Cronin knows enough about torture to know it doesn't work. After being shot down over North Vietnam in 1967, he spent six years enduring interrogations in the Hanoi Hilton, the notorious holding block for American prisoners of war. His neck and ankles were bound together with rope, causing him to lose consciousness. The nerves and bones in his wrists were crushed. His shoulder was ripped out of its socket. He was forced to talk, but he never gave the North Vietnamese the information they wanted.

"I told lies," explained Cronin, 65, in a telephone interview from Cape Cod, Mass., where he is spending the summer. "When you put people in that position, the information you get is not reliable."
After the war ended, Cronin returned home to become a commercial pilot for American Airlines -- and a deep believer in the laws of war. He came to see the Geneva Conventions, which bar torture and "humiliating and degrading treatment," as a bedrock of the international military code. He was amazed to discover that as late as the 1990s, there was no law enabling U.S. courts to try violators of the Geneva Conventions. "I was shocked," he said. "I just thought that was wrong."

So Cronin changed the legal landscape. Thanks to his persistent lobbying, Congress passed the War Crimes Act of 1996 with overwhelming bipartisan support. For the first time, U.S. courts were granted authority to convict any foreigner who commits a war crime against an American, or any American who commits a war crime at all. At the time, nobody could have predicted that a decade later a U.S. administration, with the explicit consent of the president and the attorney general, would be accused of systematic war crimes.

But that is precisely the accusation that President George Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales now face. The Supreme Court recently ruled that the Bush administration wrongly denied Geneva Convention protections to prisoners suspected of ties to al-Qaida and the Taliban, a policy that allowed for harsh and possibly illegal interrogation methods to be used against them. As a result, U.S. personnel, given their treatment of these prisoners, could become subject to prosecution under the law that Cronin, a former prisoner of war, lobbied to pass.

In fact, from the early days of the war on terror, the Bush administration was concerned about the War Crimes Act. Publicly released memos show that as far back as Jan. 25, 2002, Gonzales, then the White House counsel, worried that the president's policies could trigger prosecution under the act. That led the White House to declare, over the objection of the State Department, that al-Qaida was not protected by the conventions. In the memo, Gonzales argued that the president could create "a solid defense against any future prosecution" by declaring that the Geneva Conventions did not apply.

But with the Supreme Court ruling, that defense no longer stands, leaving the administration in a legally vulnerable position. At a recent congressional hearing, Maj. Gen. Jack L. Rives, the Air Force judge advocate, testified that "some techniques that have been authorized" violated the Geneva Conventions. To preempt any prosecution, administration officials are now quietly circulating legislation to change the statutory interpretation of the War Crimes Act of 1996. In short, the legislation would make it difficult to prosecute U.S. personnel for the harsh interrogation methods authorized by President Bush and the Justice Department.

Cronin, an active Republican, sees the proposed changes, which have not yet been spelled out publicly, as an attempt by the civilian leadership to cover its tracks. "These guys are talking about trying to protect soldiers in the field. I think they are lying through their teeth," Cronin said. "They are talking about trying to protect themselves."

Cronin is not alone. Some Democrats have promised to push back against the proposed changes and have focused their initial ire on Gonzales. "The highest law enforcement officer in the country is leading an effort to undercut the rule of law," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, on the Senate floor last week. "We cannot credibly ask others to meet standards we are unwilling to meet ourselves." On Wednesday, the committee is scheduled to discuss the issue of war crimes prosecution.

Because the War Crimes Act is a criminal statute that requires a federal prosecutor, it is unlikely that any charges against the American civilian leadership will be filed in the next two years. But charges could be filed by the next administration or by appointment of a special prosecutor, say legal experts.

"What the administration is afraid of is that someday, presumably in a Hillary Clinton administration, Justice Department investigators will go back to 2002 and 2003, when the CIA was interrogating senior leaders of al-Qaida with guidelines from the Justice Department and the White House," said Tom Malinowski, advocacy director of Human Rights Watch. He said the effort to change the interpretation of the War Crimes Act is focused on protecting those outside the military chain of command who may have committed war crimes or ordered war crimes to be committed. "If I were in the armed forces," Malinowski said, "I would be worried that the administration is selling out the armed forces for the CIA."

At first glance, Cronin appears to be an unlikely critic of the Bush administration. He identifies firmly with the military. He served nearly two years in Vietnam, flying A-4 Skyhawks off aircraft carriers over North Vietnam. He was shot down in January 1967, just before the end of his tour of duty. A registered Republican, Cronin voted for President Bush in each of the past two elections. In 2004, he even joined other prisoners of war in supporting Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the partisan nonprofit group that attacked the Vietnam service and antiwar activities of Democratic candidate John Kerry. One of his closest friends, a fellow American Airlines pilot, was in the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.

But today, Cronin says he is no longer certain he can support Bush. As he put it, "I have had some doubts about the wisdom of this administration."

The story of the War Crimes Act began by accident. In the 1990s, worried that his job as a commercial pilot might not be secure, Cronin enrolled at Georgetown Law School, studying nights while continuing his full-time job as a pilot. At Georgetown, he discovered that Congress had never enacted a law to enforce the Geneva Conventions, even though the conventions were ratified shortly after World War II. After graduating, he was asked by the Allied Pilots Association, his union, to help represent his colleagues on Capitol Hill. He made it a point to lobby members of Congress about the lack of war crimes enforcement as well. "I made it my hobby to discuss the issue with senators and congressmen," Cronin said. "I hit a brick wall. There was no interest until I met Congressman Jones."

In 1995, Rep. Walter Jones was a newly elected Republican from North Carolina who represented a military district that includes Camp Lejeune, a major Marine base. Jones took an immediate interest in Cronin and made the War Crimes Act his first legislative initiative. "This whole issue came to me by accident," Jones said. "It was my third month in Congress."

At the time, war crimes focused on acts by foreign adversaries, like the North Vietnamese, who had tortured Cronin. But when the bill passed into law, it applied equally to Americans. It passed the House by a voice vote, earned unanimous support in the Senate and was promptly signed by President Bill Clinton. Even right-wing conservatives supported it. Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., said the bill would "close a major gap in our federal law." Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said the bill was "something that should have been done some 40 years ago."

In practice, the law made little difference for enlisted soldiers and officers, who were already subject to military law, which prohibits the abuse of prisoners. But for the first time, the War Crimes Act provided a way to prosecute U.S. civilians, including intelligence officers, contractors and government officials who order war crimes.

In the current proposals, which have been reported by the Washington Post and the New York Times, the administration is seeking to make Geneva Convention enforcement in the United States subject to domestic interpretation, not international standards. The slight technical change could have a huge practical impact. Legal experts say this would give some flexibility to the Justice Department to define certain interrogation techniques as legal in U.S. courts, even if the rest of the world considers them violations of the conventions.

"They want retroactive immunity," said Mary Ellen O'Connell, a professor of international law at Notre Dame, who has been critical of the Bush administration's detention policies. "Have you known of any other time in our history when we have tried to immunize public officials against crimes after they have committed the crimes?"

The Bush administration, Cronin said, is simply unaware of the realities of war. "The vast majority of them never served a day in the military, even though almost all of them were of military age at the time of the Vietnam War," Cronin said. "The opposition to the administration's policy of detainment has come, to their great credit, entirely from the professional military."

Cronin, on the other hand, has been there. He is a victim of war crimes. And, as it stands, he no longer believes that the president and his aides have the nation's best interests at heart. "From day one," he said, "the total motivation of these people seems to have been, How can we protect ourselves?"



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Sparks of War


Ukraine leader approves rival Yanukovych for PM

by Anya Tsukanova
AFP
August 3, 2006

KIEV - Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko approved the candidacy of his arch-rival Viktor Yanukovych for prime minister, ending a four-month stand-off that has threatened to reverse the pro-Western course of the 2004 "orange revolution".

Yushchenko emerged from talks in the early hours to say that the main obstacles had finally been overcome in negotiations that followed March 26 parliamentary elections.
"I have decided to put forward the candidacy of Viktor Yanukovych for the post of prime minister," Yushchenko told journalists.

"I understand all the difficulties this will involve... but we have a unique chance to unite the two banks of the River Dnepr," he said, referring to a political divide between eastern and western Ukraine accentuated by the recent crisis.

"We have a good chance to escape the political war and pass to political competition," Yushchenko said.

He said a pact agreed with Yanukovych's pro-Russian Regions party would be signed later Thursday and would ensure that the country kept to its current pro-Western course.

"Concerning the principles determining Ukraine's domestic and foreign policy, its continuity, we have made a full stop today. I am sure that there will be no more discussions," he said.

The announcement came after weeks of tortuous negotiations among the parties elected in March.

Regions won the most seats at the elections, picking up support in the pro-Russian east of the country and opposing Yushchenko's plans for Ukraine to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

But it failed to gain an overall majority.

As coalition talks got under way, Yushchenko sought guarantees from Yanukovych that he would not drop the pro-Western principles of the 2004 popular uprising known as the "orange revolution", in which mass protests overturned a presidential election bid by Yanukovych.

Following Yushchenko's announcement there were no immediate comments from Regions on how it planned to cooperate with Yushchenko. The Ukrainian leader himself gave no details on the likely distribution of cabinet seats.

Regions earlier said it would form a coalition with Socialist and Communist deputies that would give it 240 out of the 450 seats in parliament, leaving no role for Yushchenko's Our Ukraine.

It had threatened to impeach Yushchenko if he followed through on threats to dissolve parliament.

Thursday's talks had extended beyond a constitutional deadline for Yushchenko to decide either to approve Yanukovych's candidacy or dissolve parliament.

Under the constitution the president had 15 days to decide whether to nominate a candidate after receiving a formal proposal, which Regions presented on July 18.

Yushchenko's decision was all the more momentous as the prime minister will take on extra powers under constitutional changes that were agreed in the course of resolving the "orange revolution".

Yanukovych, a 56-year-old former electrician from Ukraine's industrial east, was long associated with former president Leonid Kuchma, serving as his prime minister between 2002 and 2004.

He was Kuchma's anointed successor at the presidential election that year that sparked the "orange" protests due to accusations by observers of vote-rigging.

Hundreds of thousands of people participated in the peaceful protests against the presidential election result, eventually forcing Yanukovych to back down.


In the recent negotiations Yushchenko's glamorous "orange revolution" ally, Yulia Tymoshenko, opposed a return to power by pro-Russian forces, saying it would be better to dissolve parliament than "betray" those who came onto the streets.

The idea of Ukrainian membership of the European Union and NATO has prompted consternation in Moscow, which has long considered Ukraine part of its sphere of influence.

The political divide had already affected efforts to join NATO, as alliance members cancelled military exercises on the Crimean Peninsula in June following protests there.

But despite warnings that the crisis could deter much-needed investment, the economy has picked up recently.

Gross domestic product grew by an average of five percent for the first six months of this year, according to the state statistics committee.



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Four dead in Thailand after wave of attacks

by Rapee Mama
AFP
Wed Aug 2, 2006

NARATHIWAT, Thailand - Four people were killed in bomb blasts just one day after a wave of nearly 100 coordinated bomb and arson attacks rocked Thailand's Muslim-majority south, officials said.

Three policemen were killed and one injured Wednesday morning when a bomb exploded at a railway bridge in the southern province of Songkhla. Police blamed the blast on Islamic militants.
Songkhla is next to Thailand's three insurgency-torn provinces where around 1,400 people have died since January 2004 in separatist attacks and other unrest.

In Pattani province, a soldier was killed instantly by a bomb while working at the site of a new school which was under construction.

The attacks came a day after a string of 97 coordinated bomb and arson attacks across the region along the southern border with Malaysia late Tuesday that injured at least three people.

Tuesday's attacks, the largest in more than a month in the restive south, targeted the homes of police and government officials, karaoke bars and a train station, officials said.

Only four people have been arrested in connection with the attacks, army Colonel Somkuan Seangpattaranetr said.

Most only caused minor fires, with the exception of a rubber factory in Pattani province that burned for more than two hours.

"The latest attacks showed militants remain capable of launching coordinated attacks against the government," said Sunai Phasuk, a Thai consultant at Human Rights Watch.

"They also undermined the government's claim that they were making progress. In fact, the situation is getting worse," Sunai said.

The three provinces were an ethnic Malay sultanate until Buddhist Thailand annexed them a century ago, and separatist unrest has simmered ever since.

The latest violence erupted in January 2004. Officials say the bloodshed includes not only separatist violence but also fighting tied to organized crime, smuggling and local corruption.

The government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has tried to quell the insurgency but analysts have said that heavy-handed tactics have instead brought the opposite results.

"The government should stop its aggressive policy. Instead of relying on the military, the government should conduct more dialogue" with local people, said Srawut Aree, a senior researcher at Chulalongkorn University.

Chaichana Ingkawat, a political science professor at Ramkhamhaeng University, said he saw no quick end to the raging violence.

"Insurgents keep disturbing security in the region because they just want to express their frustrations with the government," Chaichana said.

Last month the government again extended emergency rule in the three provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala for three more months. Thaksin imposed emergency rule in the south in July 2005.

Under emergency rule, authorities can detain suspects for up to 30 days without charge, search and arrest people without warrants and tap phones.

It also gives security forces broad immunity from prosecution, which human rights groups claim creates a climate of impunity.

In June a panel tasked with finding ways of ending the violence recommended that the government create a permanent body to mediate in the Muslim-majority region.

The independent National Reconciliation Commission, also said local government officials should use the Malay language spoken by most of the residents in the region.

But the government has backed away from those and other proposals.



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Mexico leftist threatens more protests

By Lorraine Orlandi
Reuters
Thu Aug 3, 2006

MEXICO CITY - The leftist candidate protesting his narrow defeat in Mexico's presidential election threatened on Wednesday to turn the screws even tighter despite anger over demonstrations that have crippled Mexico City.

Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is heading protests to pressure Mexico's electoral court into ordering a full recount of votes in the July 2 presidential election he lost by just 0.6 percentage points to conservative ruling party candidate Felipe Calderon.

Thousands of Lopez Obrador's supporters have seized the capital's vast Zocalo square and main Reforma boulevard, causing three days of traffic chaos and drawing fire from the government.
"Mexico City belongs to everyone. All those who live here deserve to have their rights respected," said Ruben Aguilar, spokesman for President Vicente Fox, in a rare outburst.

The protests have been peaceful, but are angering residents and alienating some former Lopez Obrador supporters.

Lopez Obrador has apologized for the disruption, but insisted it was a small price to pay.

Speaking from a stage in the square, one of the world's largest, the former Mexico City mayor said he would decide whether to step up the campaign of civil disobedience after a court decision over a recount, which he expected within days.

"It causes annoyance, anger, we know that, but there is no other choice ... we have to make democracy count in our country," he said while adoring, screaming protesters mobbed him during a tour of their camps.

Calderon, who insists there was no fraud, urged calm in a primetime television call for peace.

"I have acted responsibly and not reacted to provocation, because I firmly believe in the power of the peaceful and because we won cleanly," he said.

HELP THE POOR

Lopez Obrador, who has promised ambitious welfare programs and infrastructure spending, has a loyal following in Mexico City, and among Mexico's poor.

"He has helped the poor," said Rafael Zuniga, who voted for Fox in 2000 but now backs Lopez Obrador and joined the occupation of Mexico City's business district.

He said some residents have hurled abuse at him and other protesters, who sleep on the ground on a main intersection, cook meals over a gas burner and have not bathed since Sunday.

"The people who go by in their cars are just fighting for themselves, for their own money, their own jobs. They are not looking out for anyone else," he said.

Critics call Lopez Obrador a rabble rouser.

"If this is what Lopez Obrador is like as a candidate, I don't want him to be president," said Victor Manuel Luna, the head of reception at a downtown hotel where occupancy has slumped since the protests began on Sunday night.

European Union observers say they found no evidence of fraud in the election, but Lopez Obrador says he has evidence vote returns were tampered with.

He wants the electoral court to order a full recount. The court has until August 31 to decide, meaning the political deadlock could drag on for at least another month.

Calderon's lawyers said they expect at least a partial recount but are confident the results will clearly favor them.

The new president will take office on Dec 1. Fox, whose election victory in 2000 ended seven decades of one-party rule, was barred under Mexico's laws from standing for re-election.



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UN's blunt Malloch Brown raises US ire, again

By Evelyn Leopold
Reuters
Wed Aug 2, 2006

UNITED NATIONS - With just three months left before his departure, U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown is becoming increasingly outspoken, at times overshadowing his boss Kofi Annan.

The 52-year-old Briton in an interview published on Wednesday said Britain should take a back seat in negotiations on the Middle East crisis, lest its diplomacy with the United States appear like a repeat of the team that led the Iraq invasion.

Instead, he told the Financial Times, the United States, which is a "critical broker of peace" should work with France and Arab nations like Jordan and Egypt rather than just appear on a podium with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
It was not the first time Malloch Brown had been outspoken in his criticism, prompting State Department spokesman Sean McCormack to say on Wednesday, "We are seeing a troubling pattern of a high official of the U.N. who seems to be making it his business to criticize member states and, frankly, with misplaced and misguided criticisms."

As deputy secretary-general since April, Malloch Brown is an old acquaintance of Annan, who asked him to leave the
World Bank in 1999 and take over the U.N. Development Fund.

Annan's 10 years as secretary-general ends on December 31, 2006, and Malloch Brown's tenure with it.

A former Economist magazine journalist and Cambridge University graduate, Malloch Brown is considered one of the most politically savvy and media-friendly officials at the
United Nations.

In January 2005, Annan made Malloch Brown his chief of staff in part to counter growing complaints of corruption in the oil-for-food program for Iraq.

A month later Malloch Brown forced out Ruud Lubbers, then head of UNHCR, after complaints of alleged sexual harassment but then had frequent disputes with the U.N. staff union.

In June he clashed with the United States, accusing the U.S. government of relying on the United Nations as a diplomatic tool in hot spots but refusing to defend it against conservative criticism at home.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton then called the comments the "worst mistake by a senior U.N. official that I have seen in that entire time."



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Iran working with N.Korea on missiles: Institute

Reuters
Thu Aug 3, 2006

SEOUL - North Korea has been working closely with Iran to develop its long-range ballistic missiles, possibly using Chinese technology, and is building large bases to prepare for their deployment, a South Korean state-run think tank said.

Communist North Korea is also building new sites near the Demilitarized Zone border for short-range missiles and is deploying missiles with improved precision that can strike most of Japan, the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security (IFANS) said in a report.
"The development of Taepodong-2 is conducted jointly with Iran, and it is possible China's technology is used in the development of the Taepodong-2 engine," said the IFANS report, which Reuters obtained on Thursday.

The collaboration is part of an international network, including Pakistan, that made it possible for the impoverished North to develop and deploy missiles despite scarce resources and limited testing, the study said.

North Korea fired seven missiles on July 5, including the long-range Taepodong-2, which U.S. officials said failed seconds into its flight and fell into waters between Japan and the Korean peninsula.

Christopher Hill, the top U.S. envoy to talks on the North's nuclear program, said last month one or more Iranians watched the North's missile launch, deepening concerns about the ties between two countries with troubling nuclear capabilities.

The Taepodong-2 is the product of joint efforts with Tehran, coinciding with Iran's development of the Shehab-5 and 6, and "it is highly possible that design and technology from China, which has an arms trade with Iran, were used", the report said.

The North is building a missile command base 50 km (30 miles) north of the Demilitarized Zone for as many as 30 mobile launch pads for the short-range Scud-type Hwasong missiles that can hit military and industrial targets deep in the South, IFANS said.

"With the deployment of Rodong and SSN-6 missiles and the pursuit to deploy the Taepodong-2, the North is pushing ahead with the construction of new sites and silos" on the east coast and on the border with China, the IFANS report said.



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Mother Nature's Revenge


Heat, humidity combine to torture East

By DERRILL HOLLY
Associated Press
August 3, 2006

WASHINGTON - Record-breaking heat and oppressive humidity made people across the eastern half of the country miserable Wednesday and sent tourists in the nation's capital scrambling for relief in the cool marble halls of Capitol Hill.

Others forced to work outdoors guzzled icy drinks to cope with the heat wave that has sent temperatures soaring over 100 across the East and parts of the Midwest.

"This is unbelievable," said Bob Garner, a tourist from Atlanta who retreated with his family into the air-conditioned comfort of the Capitol. "They get the hottest days of the year while we're here."
By late afternoon, the temperature at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport had risen to 99, with a heat index of 106. It was even hotter on the steaming pavement downtown. In New York, the temperature rose to 101 at LaGuardia Airport and 96 in Central Park. Philadelphia and Baltimore climbed into the upper 90s.

The National Weather Service posted heat advisories and warnings from Maine to Oklahoma. Forecasters said the heat would linger until Thursday night, when a cool front was expected to bring temperatures down into the 80s.

Thousands who made it through the heat of a day found themselves in the dark Wednesday night after thunderstorms downed trees and power lines in parts of Massachusetts. Most of the power was expected to be restored overnight.

At the Capitol, tourists filled water bottles at drinking fountains and doused themselves. Others drenched their baseball caps before putting them on.

At the Library of Congress daycare center, children stayed inside because it was deemed too hot to swim. Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs cut his players a break by pushing back their 4 p.m. practice session to 7 p.m.

"It's unbearable, it's oppressive," said Joy Haber, 44, who canceled a trip from Long Island into Manhattan because of the stifling weather. Her 13-year-old son, Sean, skipped day camp when his bus arrived with a malfunctioning air conditioner.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city was fortunate that no fatalities were linked to the brutal weather. Subway riders were in for a sweltering commute - the temperature was about 111 at a Pennsylvania Station platform.

The city's electric utility, Con Edison, set its second record in two days for peak electricity demand, surpassing the level from a day earlier. The Long Island Power Authority also set a record.

The Dixie Chicks postponed their Wednesday night show at the outdoor Jones Beach Theater on Long Island because of the scorching heat.

In Philadelphia, concrete worker Bob Ferguson was building walls 32 feet below street level. "Down in that hole, there's no air," said Ferguson, who wore the mandatory hard hat, long sleeves, long pants and work boots.

Bicycle messenger Gravett Dhuja tried to look at the bright side as he rested near a Capitol Hill office building: "It's been hot, but rain is a lot worse for us."

Authorities in the capital were prepared to go door to door to get people to public cooling centers, said Mark Brown, deputy director of the D.C. Emergency Management Agency. The city also passed out fans to low-income residents and kept its homeless shelters open around the clock.

The same heat wave was blamed for as many as 164 deaths last week in California.

In Kentucky, an 18-month-old boy was found dead Wednesday inside a van about 60 miles northeast of Lexington. The vehicle's doors were locked, and the boy's mother had to break a window to get to the child, authorities said.

Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia hoisted black flags at gymnasiums and ports to caution sailors against doing strenuous exercise outdoors.

In Boston, animals at the Franklin Park Zoo were kept cool with sprinklers and frozen treats. The African wild dogs and lions got frozen blood; the primates received frozen fruit juice.

"It's a matter of taste, I guess," zoo President John Linehan said.

Boston authorities awaited autopsy results on a pregnant woman who died Saturday after collapsing at a sweltering Red Sox game. Denise Quickenton, 29, suffered an apparent heart attack after sitting in sunny bleacher seats where the temperature was at least 90 degrees, officials said. She was seven months pregnant, but a medical team was able to deliver her 4-pound infant at a hospital.

Some Washington tourists pressed on with their plans, gulping bottled water and fanning themselves with brochures outside such landmarks such as Union Station and the Washington Monument.

"The humidity is so bad - not like in Spain," said Carlos Mulas, 56, of Madrid, before boarding a tour bus. "But Washington is so beautiful. We expect to enjoy it."

Several members of tourist Gregg Selewski's extended family spent their nights in a recreational vehicle parked at a campground in Greenbelt, Md. They vowed to see everything, despite the heat.

"This is what we came to do," said Selewski, 13, of Canton, Mich.



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Tropical Storm sweeps through Caribbean

By LAURA CANDELAS
Associated Press
August 3, 2006

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Tropical Storm Chris swept through the eastern Caribbean on Wednesday, forcing cruise ships to change course and tourists to evacuate small islands off the coast of Puerto Rico as it threatened to become the first hurricane of the Atlantic season.

At 2 a.m. Thursday, the center of the storm was about 115 miles north-northeast of San Juan. Chris was moving west near 11 mph and its center was expected to stay north of Puerto Rico.

The storm had top sustained winds of 55 mph, down 5 miles from three hours earlier. Outer bands of the swirling storm began to dump heavy rains on the U.S. Virgin Islands.

A hurricane watch was issued in the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, the National Hurricane Center said.
The watch meant hurricane conditions of winds of at least 74 mph were possible by late Thursday.

Some 600 tourists evacuated Culebra and Vieques, islands off Puerto Rico's east coast.

"Everybody left," said Jacinto Jiminez, owner of a hotel on Culebra.

Forecasters feared the tropical storm could still strengthen and could hit anywhere from south of Cuba to Florida by late this weekend.

Royal Caribbean, the cruise line operator, said it was changing the itineraries of three ships - the Navigator of the Seas, the Explorer of the Seas and the Freedom of the Seas - to keep them clear of the storm.

"Royal Caribbean will continue to closely monitor weather conditions," the company said.

Trevor Basden, senior meteorologist with the Bahamas' National Emergency Management Agency, said he expected Chris to strengthen into a weak hurricane as it passed through the island chain. He said the storm was likely to reach the Bahamas on Friday morning.

Bahamian officials advised people to stock up on water and canned food and be prepared to take precautions - such as boarding up their houses - if the storm reaches hurricane strength.

There were no reports of major damage or injuries as the storm skirted the Leeward Islands.

In Anguilla, Chris brought heavy rain and strong winds overnight but the storm was much less severe than expected because it shifted to the north at the last minute, said Elizabeth Klute, director of the disaster management agency for the British Caribbean territory.

"It just kind of skirted us," Klute said. "It's moving on."

Islanders in Antigua and St. Maarten awoke to a light rain. There were no reports of major flooding or other damage.

The first named storm of the 2006 season, Tropical Storm Alberto, swept over Florida in mid-June, then plowed northward along the U.S. coast past the Outer Banks. It was blamed for one death.

Last year's hurricane season was the worst in more than 150 years of record-keeping. A record number of tropical storms and hurricanes formed, including the devastating Hurricane Katrina.



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Typhoon on collision course with China

AP
Wed Aug 2, 2006

SHANGHAI, China - A tropical storm strengthened into a full-blown typhoon on Wednesday as it headed on a collision course with southern China, forecasters warned.

The storm has been steadily gathering strength while churning across the South China Sea from the Philippines, where it earlier left at least six people dead.

With Typhoon Prapiroon expected to make landfall between Thursday night and Friday, 65,000 people have been evacuated from parts of south China's Hainan Island and neighboring Guangdong province, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Around 53,200 boats had returned into ports on the island, about 373 miles southwest of Hong Kong. Rescue teams have been ordered to be on alert for floods and landslides.

The storm is "as strong, if not stronger" than an earlier storm, Bilis, Gao Shuanzhu, a senior official at the China's national observatory was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

Bilis caused landslides and rising waters that killed more than 600 people in southern China last month.




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S. Africans shiver through harsh winter

AP
Wed Aug 2, 2006

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Snow. Floods. Icy winds. Maybe even a tornado. South Africans are facing one of their harshest winters in years, with at least four deaths blamed on flooding from heavy rain that has caused travel delays in the south and west of the country.

While north of the equator, much of the United States sweats through a heat wave, Johannesburg saw flurries Wednesday for the first time in at least eight years, the national weather service said. Stunned office workers pressed against windows to savor the spectacle.

Freezing temperatures are not unusual at higher altitudes during the winter, but heavy snow has fallen in some interior towns that rarely experience such weather. More snow and gale force winds were expected Thursday in some areas, Weather SA said.
Torrential rains have caused flooding along the southern coast, including the town of George in the Western Cape province, where a rain-swollen river swept a car from a bridge. Police recovered two men and two children who had been inside the vehicle, but rescuers were looking for a fifth person believed to have been in the car.

Homes were flooded, sending scores of families to seek shelter at a community center and school, local authorities said.

Heavy snow, rain and falling rocks closed mountain roads in parts of the interior, including a border post with Lesotho, according to local news reports.

The George airport was closed Tuesday, disrupting 24 flights before it reopened Wednesday morning, airport officials said. Passenger trains in the Western Cape were running up to 14 hours late, the Spoornet rail company said.

Meteorologists were investigating whether a severe storm that swept through the northern town of Dullstroom on Tuesday night was a tornado. At least six people were injured in the heavy winds and rain, which also ripped roofs off homes, police said.



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Heat Wave Zaps Power-Deprived Queens Neighborhood

NBC 4 WeatherPlus
August 2, 2006

NEW YORK -- As ceiling fans sputtered and refrigerators failed, residents of an electricity-challenged Queens neighborhood suffered through scattered power outages Wednesday that brought back memories of last month's brutal 10-day blackout -- only this time, with temperatures that hit 101.
Astoria grocer Salm Ali, who lost $17,000 in produce during the big blackout, felt a familiar sickening sense as he threw away $5,000 worth of produce Wednesday morning. His Liberty Deli and Grocery lost power Tuesday night and was only getting sporadic electricity the next morning.

"This is the life," he said sarcastically. "Even the fan isn't working."

Neither were the air conditioners or the refrigerators. Consolidated Edison reported about 1,200 residents in Astoria lost power overnight and nearly all had electricity restored by Wednesday afternoon as the utility's trucks turned out in force around the neighborhood. The last blackout affected 100,000 residents in northwest Queens.

Anthony Giannole, manager/owner of a Sunoco gas station on Astoria Boulevard, said the last power outage cost him $8,000 in business. The repair work on Wednesday blocked access to his station, once again hitting him in the wallet.

"I can't sell any gas because of our friends at Con Edison," said Giannole. "It's getting very annoying."

But power outages were sporadic and spaced out despite temperatures that soared to 101 degrees in the afternoon at LaGuardia Airport, a short hop from Astoria, and 96 degrees in Central Park, where the record for the date was 100. On Long Island, the temperature hit 97 in Islip, while White Plains in the northern suburbs was at 96.

The heat index, a measure of temperature plus humidity, made it feel like 107 degrees in Central Park. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city was fortunate that no fatalities were linked to the brutal weather. Straphangers were in for a sweltering commute -- the temperature was about 111 at a Pennsylvania Station subway platform.

Con Edison set a record for peak electricity demand, reaching 13,141 megawatts, enough electricity to power about 13 million homes, at 5 p.m. Wednesday; that topped the 13,103 megawatts a day earlier. The Long Island Power Authority also set a peak hour summer record of 5,736 megawatts.

By Wednesday evening, 5,674 Con Edison customers -- about 23,000 people -- were without power in Westchester County, the Bronx and Queens; Con Ed was trying to restore power and figure out why it went out. On Long Island, about 2,200 outages were reported.

The heat was taking its toll on residents.

"It's unbearable, it's oppressive," said Joy Haber, 44, of Woodbury, who canceled a trip into Manhattan because of the stifling weather. Her 13-year-old son, Sean, skipped day camp when his bus arrived with a malfunctioning air conditioner.

They weren't the only ones staying home. The platinum-selling Dixie Chicks postponed their Wednesday night show at the outdoor Jones Beach Theater due to the sweltering conditions. There was no word on a makeup date.

In the Riverdale section of the Bronx, 175 senior citizens were evacuated Tuesday night when the power went out at the Atria adult living facility, authorities said.

The National Weather Service again posted warnings for excessive heat and air stagnation due to the stifling humidity. Temperatures overnight were only expected to drop into the upper 80s, with another brutal day of heat expected Thursday.

Con Ed CEO Kevin Burke met for an hour with Bloomberg at City Hall, where they discussed the company's preliminary report on the earlier Queens blackout. The report offered no conclusions on the cause of the outage, although Bloomberg said the city will press the utility for answers.

"Am I satisfied with it? Of course not," Bloomberg told a news conference at which he promised the heat would soon be on the utility.

"We will find out what happened, get to the bottom of this and we will hold Con Ed responsible," said the mayor, adding that he planned to bring in outside investigators.

Burke, speaking later Wednesday, said the utility had no problem with that.

"We'll take all the help we can get," Burke said.

Community outreach teams were patrolling the streets, looking for homeless people and encouraging them to head to air-conditioned drop-in centers, carrying water and checking for dehydration. City officials reported a 20 percent increase in calls to the Emergency Medical Service on Tuesday, a 10 percent jump in police 911 calls and a 50 percent increase in fire calls. City firefighters on Tuesday responded to 1,800 fires, most of them minor.

Nearly a quarter-million people flocked to city beaches to beat the heat. The problem, according to Bloomberg, was many went home and then flicked their air conditioners on. While power demand usually decreases when the sun goes down, the opposite occurred in the city Tuesday night.



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Summer nights heating up, scientists say

By SETH BORENSTEIN
AP Science Writer
Wed Aug 2, 2006

WASHINGTON - America in recent years has been sweltering through three times more than its normal share of extra-hot summer nights, government weather records show. And that is a particularly dangerous trend.

During heat waves, like the one that now has a grip on much of the East, one of the major causes of heat deaths is the lack of night cooling that would normally allow a stressed body to recover, scientists say.

Some scientists say the trend is a sign of manmade global warming.

A top federal research meteorologist said he "almost fell out of my chair" when he looked over U.S. night minimum temperature records over the past 96 years and saw the skyrocketing trend of hot summer nights.
From 2001 to 2005, on average nearly 30 percent of the nation had "much above normal" average summertime minimum temperatures, according to the National Climatic Data in Asheville, N.C.

By definition, "much above normal" means low temperatures that are in the highest 10 percent on record. On any given year about 10 percent of the country should have "much above normal" summer-night lows.

Yet in both 2005 and 2003, 36 percent of the nation had much above normal summer minimums. In 2002 it was 37 percent. While the highest-ever figure was in the middle of America's brutal Dust Bowl, when 41 percent of the nation had much above normal summer-night temperatures, the rolling five-year average of 2001-05 is a record - by far.

Figures from this year's sweltering summer have not been tabulated yet, but they are expected to be just as high as recent years.

And it is not just the last five years. Each of the past eight years has been far above the normal 10 percent. During the past decade, 23 percent of the nation has had hot summer nights. During the past 15 years, that average has been 20 percent. By comparison, from 1964 to 1968 only 2 percent of the country on average had abnormally hot nights.

"This is unbelievable," said National Climatic Data Center research meteorologist Richard Heim. "Something strange has happened in the last 10 to 15 years on the minimums."

But it is not surprising because climate models, used to forecast global warming, have been predicting this trend for more than 20 years, said Jerry Mahlman, a climate scientist at National Center for Atmospheric Research and a top federal climate modeler.

It is a telltale sign of global warming, Mahlman said: "The smoking gun is still smoking; it's not shooting people yet."

One reason global warming is suspected in summer-night temperatures is that daytime air pollution slightly counteracts warming but is not as prevalent at night, said Bill Chameides, a climate scientist for the advocacy group Environmental Defense.

The records for summer-night low temperatures are part of a U.S. Climate Extremes Index developed by the National Climatic Data Center. Last year, in large part because of record hurricane activity, saw the most extreme weather in the United States since 1910.



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Light earthquake hits San Francisco Bay area

Associated PressThu, Aug. 03, 2006

GLEN ELLEN, Calif. - A magnitude 4.4 earthquake shook the San Francisco Bay area Wednesday night, but no serious injuries or damage were immediately reported.
The temblor struck just after 8 p.m. about three miles west of Glen Ellen in Sonoma County and 42 miles northwest of San Francisco near the Rodgers Creek Fault, the U.S. Geological Survey said. It was followed by a magnitude 2.0 aftershock about an hour later.

There were no initial reports of serious injuries or damage, according to a Sonoma County Sheriff's dispatcher. But several businesses and residents near the epicenter said Wednesday's quake sent some items tumbling to the floor.

At a Big-O Tires store in Rohnert Park, about 6 miles east of the epicenter, a fire extinguisher fell from the wall and onto a water pipe, causing some minor flooding.

Some pictures in the Benziger Family Winery gift shop in Glen Ellen fell from the walls, but the quake was just a "typical California" occurrence, said Brian Catlett, Benziger's assistant tasting room manager.

"Some pictures fell off the wall, wine shifted a little bit - nothing major," Catlett said.

The earthquake was widely felt as far north as Cloverdale and more than 80 miles to the south in San Jose, according to the USGS.

Steve Walter, a USGS seismologist in Menlo Park, said it was fortunate the quake did not actually occur on the Rodgers Creek Fault, the northern extension of the dangerous Hayward Fault, which many say is due for a major rupture.

"Rodgers Creek is capable of a large earthquake ... a 6.7 or larger," Walter said.



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Jolts Pierce St. Helens' Steady Rumble

August 1, 2006
The Columbian - Vancouver, WA

For the third time in two weeks, Mount St. Helens trembled with a 3.6-magnitude earthquake.

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey in Vancouver said the quakes probably do not represent a change in eruption style, although they are the largest since the earliest days of the eruption in the fall of 2004.

"They are consistent with what we've seen before," said Seth Moran, a seismologist with the USGS David A. Johnston Cascades Volcano Observatory.

The volcano quaked with a 3.6-magnitude temblor at 2:34 a.m. Monday, which follows two other 3.6-magnitude quakes and a 3.5-magnitude quake over the past two weeks. Scientists suspect that the movement represents a lurching upward of the massive new lava spine evolving on the crater floor.

"We've been seeing these kinds of events throughout," Moran said. "The only difference is these are slightly bigger."

Several earthquakes of low- to mid-3 magnitude have punctuated the regular drumbeat of tiny earthquakes that have occurred every few minutes for the past several months.

Scientists are focused on two potential causes: Each quake either represents a lurch or surge of the massive spine coming out of the conduit, or it could represent fracturing of rock around the conduit pumping lava onto the crater surface. A third scenario raises the possibility of a slump or fracture within the lava dome after lava is extruded.

The volcano continues to extrude lava at a rate of about a pickup truck load every few seconds.



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Rare snowfall across South Africa

Wed Aug 2, 2:00 PM ET

OHANNESBURG (AFP) - Snow fell on South Africa's biggest city Johannesburg for the first time in 25 years as icy temperatures gripped vast swathes of the country, the weather office said.

"It (the snow) is by no means freakish but I would certainly classify it as rare," said Kevin Rae, assistant manager of forecasting at the South African Weather Service in Pretoria.


Forecasters said snow was reported in the southern Johannesburg township of Soweto and the posh northern suburb of Sandton, as well as the nearby towns of Carletonville and Westonaria.

Johannesburg last had snow on September 11, 1981.

"Sleet has been recorded occasionally since then, but never snow," added climatologist Tracey Gill.

Bloemfontein, the capital of the central Free State province, got its first snow in 12 years, receiving 13 centimetres (5.2 inches).

Comparable widespread snow across the country had been recorded only twice in the past 20 years, in 1981 and 1988, said Rae.

Some welcomed the colder weather, however.

At the Tiffindell ski resort in the southern Drakensberg mountains of the Eastern Cape province, guests were elated.

"They are very excited," said the resort's chief snow-maker, Johan Smuts. "It is not every day that you get to see snow fall in Africa."

In warmer weather, Smuts oversees the manufacture of snow for the resort through a process involving water and air compression.

Tiffindell usually gets about five snowfalls a year, he said, but rarely 25 centimetres in one day, as on Tuesday.

The weather service posted a warning on its website of very cold temperatures for the southeastern high elevations of the country into Thursday.

It expected snowfalls to continue over areas of the central Free State, the Drakensberg and the Eastern Cape, but to have passed by Friday.

In the northern provinces, the snow was expected to clear by Wednesday afternoon, said Rae.



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Life As (Un)Usual


Judge delays Padilla terror trial

By CURT ANDERSON
Associated Press
Wed Aug 2, 2006

MIAMI - A federal judge reluctantly agreed Wednesday to delay the trial of al-Qaida suspect Jose Padilla and two alleged confederates on terrorism charges until early next year after defense lawyers insisted they cannot be ready any earlier.

Padilla, 35, a U.S. citizen and former Chicago gang member, was held without charges for 3 1/2 years by the U.S. military as an enemy combatant. He was arrested in May 2002 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, purportedly on an al-Qaida mission to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in a major U.S. city.
Padilla became the subject of a legal battle over President Bush's wartime detention powers, which ended when he was added late last year to an existing terrorism conspiracy and support case. The "dirty bomb" allegations weren't mentioned in that case.

Padilla's lawyers say they haven't had nearly enough time to go through summaries of 50,000 intercepted phone calls, including 827 transcripts translated from Arabic.

Complicating the lawyers' task is the classified nature of much of the evidence and the difficulty they have in meeting with Padilla, who is kept in his maximum-security cell at a federal detention center 23 hours a day.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke has sought for months to keep the case on track for a September trial but decided to postpone it until Jan. 22. Federal prosecutors supported the delay.

Also charged are Adham Amin Hassoun, allegedly Padilla's al-Qaida recruiter, and Kifah Wael Jayyousi, who published a newsletter describing global Islamic jihad. All have pleaded not guilty, and only Jayyousi has been granted bail.

Attorneys for Hassoun and Jayyousi also supported the delay.



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House explodes in Illinois, killing 2

By JIM SUHR
Associated Press
August 3, 2006

CARLINVILLE, Ill. - A powerful explosion destroyed a house early Wednesday, killing a woman and her young grandson and seriously burning two of her sons, officials said.

More than a dozen other homes were damaged, and an 88-year-old neighbor was treated for cuts.

Utility workers and the state fire marshal's office were still working to verify the cause, but Police Chief David Haley said his department was treating it as a natural gas explosion. Residents of the house and other people in the area had reported smelling gas.
The explosion at about 7:30 a.m. left a crater filled with charred, splintered wood where the house had stood. Debris was hurled as far as a block away in all directions, and two vehicles parked nearby were blackened.

Bob Eskew, who lives a couple of houses away, said he was working on a computer when he "heard two loud explosions, kind of like an F-16 flying over real low." His house shook and some of his front windows shattered.

Leigh Morris, a spokesman for St. Louis-based Ameren Corp., the supplier of natural gas and electrical service in the area through its AmerenIP subsidiary, said the company had reviewed its records and received no reports of anyone calling about a suspected gas leak in the neighborhood.

He said that Ameren would leave it up to state authorities to determine the cause of the blast, but that utility employees were assisting in the investigation.

Police identified the dead as 55-year-old Margaret Hatlen, whose body was found in the basement of the destroyed home, and her 9-year-old grandson, Michael Albracht.

Her 27-year-old son had burns over 30 percent of his body, and a 15-year-old boy was severely burned, Haley said. Both were taken to Memorial Hospital's burn center in Springfield, about 55 miles away.

Carlinville is a community of 5,800 people about 60 miles northeast of St. Louis.

Later Wednesday, at least 13 firefighters were injured when a two-story house exploded in Constantia, 15 miles northeast of Syracuse, N.Y. The homeowner wasn't hurt.

The explosion, which ignited while firefighters were battling a blaze at the home, sent one firefighter flying out a door, two others rolling out a window, and a fourth stuck beneath a fallen rock wall, neighbor Matthew Whaley said.

"I was dumping cold water on a guy whose skin was coming off his forehead and his mustache was melted to his face," Whaley told The Post-Standard in Syracuse.



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Theme park calls off "Muslim Fun Day"

Reuters
Wed Aug 2, 2006

LONDON - Britain's biggest theme park has called off the country's first "National Muslim Fun Day" because of lack of interest, the park said Wednesday.

Alton Towers in central England was to open on September 17 for Muslims -- with halal food, a strict dress code and prayer areas.

Music, gambling and alcohol were to be banned for the day and theme park rides such as "Ripsaw," "Corkscrew" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" all segregated by sex.

But the park said the event's organizers, Islamic Leisure, who rented the park for the day and were marketing the event, had called it off due to "insufficient ticket sales."
"Alton Towers is disappointed that the planned Family Fun Day Sunday 17th September has had to be canceled," the park said in a statement. A park spokeswoman said Islamic Leisure would refund those who bought tickets.

Islamic Leisure's phones were not being answered on Wednesday.

Organizers had hoped to fill a niche for Britain's 1.7 million Muslims, some of whom may be uncomfortable with mainstream entertainment.

But the fun day had caused some consternation: a non-Muslim couple scheduled to hold their wedding at the park's hotel complained to newspapers that event organizers told them the bride and female guests would have to cover up.

The park promised the party would be exempt from the rules. A park spokeswoman said the wedding would take place as planned.



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Media Firms Counted As Small Businesses

08/02/2006
AP

WASHINGTON - Some of the nation's largest news media companies, including The Associated Press, were counted last year by the government as small businesses for contracting purposes, inflating the Bush administration's record of help to small companies.

Other media companies cited as small businesses included The New York Times Co., USA Today International Corp., Bloomberg L.P. and the Public Broadcasting Service, according to data the administration gave congressional investigators.


Comment: Next up, Microsoft to be listed as a nature reserve to bolster US government claims that it is "protecting the environment".

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Rumsfeld snubs Iraq war hearing - "too busy"

Associated Press
Wed Aug 2 2006

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he essentially was too busy to testify at a public hearing on the Iraq war, raising a new furor on Capitol Hill over the three-year-old conflict.

Speaking to Pentagon reporters Wednesday, Rumsfeld said he thought it was enough for him to attend a private briefing with the entire Senate on Thursday. Citing his crowded calendar, he declined the Senate Armed Services Committee's request to testify publicly on Thursday morning.

Rumsfeld's decision drew protests from committee Democrats who said much had changed in the six months since he last testified and took questions from the committee. The request for his appearance came from the committee chairman, Sen. John Warner (news, bio, voting record), R-Va., and the top Democrat, Sen. Carl Levin (news, bio, voting record) of Michigan.

Rumsfeld suggested that complaints about his decision could be politically motivated.

"Let's be honest: Politics enters into these things, and maybe the person raising the question is interested in that," said Rumsfeld, without identifying anyone. The defense secretary said he had testified in the past and was not reluctant to face off against some of the committee's more vocal war critics, including Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (news, bio, voting record), D-Mass.



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Buddy, Can you spare a dime?


Ford doubles quarterly loss, hires M&A expert

By Poornima Gupta
Reuters
Wed Aug 2, 2006

DETROIT - Ford Motor Co. on Wednesday said its second-quarter loss was more than double what it previously reported due to higher pension-related costs and now expects its luxury unit to be unprofitable for the year.

Ford also said it hired mergers and acquisitions expert Kenneth Leet as an adviser to Chief Executive Bill Ford Jr. to explore strategic alternatives for the automaker.

The revision of financial results marks the second time in two days that a major U.S. automaker has widened its second quarter loss. On Tuesday, General Motors Corp. widened its loss by $200 million to reflect a tax provision related to the sale of its finance arm.
It was on Tuesday as well that Toyota Motor Corp leapt passed Ford as the No. 2 automaker in monthly sales for July.

In a filing with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, Ford said it was widening its net loss by $131 million to $254 million, or 14 cents per share as the automaker raised its estimates for its pension curtailment loss.

Ford had reported $205 million in such costs previously in its second-quarter results last month.

The increase is related to the impact of early retirements, enhanced benefits and other aspects of the ongoing job cuts in North America, Ford spokeswoman Becky Sanch said.

On July 20, the No. 2 automaker reported its net loss was $123 million, or 7 cents per share, compared with a profit of $946 million, or 47 cents per share, a year earlier.

At that time, Ford said the unexpected loss was due to fewer sales of large sport utility vehicles and one-time employee buyout costs. The results prompted the automaker to promise that it would announce more cost-cutting measures within two months.

In its filing on Wednesday, Ford said its full-year 2006 pension curtailment expense is now estimated at $1.2 billion, up from $1 billion, with full-year 2006 special items to be $3.8 billion.

The company also said it now expects its luxury unit Premier Automotive Group, which includes Volvo, Jaguar, Aston Martin and Land Rover, will be unprofitable in 2006, based on recent sales trends. Previously, Ford said it would be profitable, but close to breaking even on a pretax basis, excluding special items.

Ford shares fell 4 cents in extended trading after closing at $6.96, up 38 cents, on the
New York Stock Exchange.

M&A EXPERT HIRED AS ADVISER TO CEO

In a sign of its deepening problems, Ford has brought it an outside expert to help turnaround its ailing operations.

Ford began a restructuring plan six months ago that includes closing 14 plants and cutting up to 30,000 factory jobs in North America to return the region to profitability.

Leet, who led mergers and acquisitions teams at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bank of America Corp., will report to Bill Ford, who is under pressure to take dramatic restructuring steps.

Ford spokesman Tom Hoyt said Leet is coming on board to help review the automaker's overall business.

"Bill Ford has said that everything is on the table," Hoyt said. "We are reviewing the business. This doesn't change that."

Goldman Sachs analyst Robert Barry said, "Ford has been under pressure to take more drastic actions given its crosstown rival has been announcing big cost cuts and asset sales."

Ford is facing challenges overseas as well, particularly in the money-losing British luxury car unit Jaguar that it bought in 1989.

In an interview with Reuters on July 20, Bill Ford said Jaguar would take time to turn around, but he was considering all options for the brand.

Investors have long speculated that Ford may also spin off its finance arm, Ford Motor Credit, which has seen borrowing costs rise after its debt ratings were cut to junk status.

But Ford's spokesman Hoyt said Ford has no plans to sell the unit.

Comment: The second time in two days that a US automaker has widened its second-quarter loss... It sounds like they are trying to break the bad news slowly so as not to "rock the boat"...

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Oil near $76 on hurricane and Mideast

By Yaw Yan Chong
Reuters
Thu Aug 3, 2006

SINGAPORE - Oil prices were steady on Thursday but within striking distance of record-high levels on concerns that a storm could strengthen into a hurricane and threaten oil production in the Gulf of Mexico.

U.S. light crude for September delivery rose 2 cents to $75.83 a barrel by 0335 GMT, rising for a fourth session and extending Wednesday's 90-cent gain. Prices are now $2.57 off record-peaks of $78.40 a barrel.

London ICE Brent crude rose 7 cents at $76.96 a barrel.
Analysts said Tropical Storm Chris, the third named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, was the main driver of oil's rally, while unresolved conflicts in the Middle East added support.

"Despite reports that Chris is weakening now, there is still every possibility that it will gather strength and threaten the rigs in the Gulf of Mexico," said Tobin Gorey, a commodities strategist with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

"Oil companies are taking no chances and are likely to evacuate their rigs over the weekend so there will be some disruption. If damage caused by the storm becomes severe, prices could just shoot past all major resistance points."

Tropical Storm Chris, headed from the Caribbean, has weakened slightly, after the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said on Wednesday it could strengthen into the season's first hurricane.

Hurricanes last year shut in a quarter of U.S. crude and fuel output and sent oil to then-record highs. Around 12 percent of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico's 1.5 million barrel-per-day (bpd) oil output is still offline.

Fuelling bullish sentiment, U.S. government data released on Wednesday showed crude oil stocks fell by a higher-than-expected 1.8 million barrels to 333.7 million barrels last week.

However, gasoline inventories, which had been expected to fall, were stable, dipping only 100,000 barrels, against expectations of a 1.6-million barrel draw. U.S. gasoline demand in the past four weeks still averaged 1.6 percent above the same period last year.

High crude oil prices have had some impact on U.S. economic growth but the pain is not on the level seen during the energy price shocks of the 1970s, U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman said on Wednesday.

TENSE

In the Middle East, the situation remains tense as hostilities between Israel and militant group Hizbollah raged on in Lebanon despite efforts by the international community to produce a ceasefire.

Hizbollah fired more rockets into Israel on Wednesday than on any other day in a war that has entered its fourth week, while Israeli jets continued to pound the guerrilla group's Beirut stronghold. Traders fear the conflict could spread to Middle East oil producers.

Adding to worries over supplies, an Iraqi pipeline carrying crude from the country's northern oilfields to Turkey's Ceyhan port was bombed on Monday, pushing back the planned restart of exports along the route.

Concerns over Iran persisted as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insisted on the country's right to produce nuclear fuel, despite a United Nations resolution demanding that Tehran suspend its nuclear activities by August 31 or face the threat of sanctions.



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Home loan demand sinks to four-year low

By Julie Haviv
Reuters
Wed Aug 2, 2006


NEW YORK - U.S. mortgage applications last week sank to their lowest level in over four years, an industry trade group said on Wednesday, further evidence that the once robust U.S. housing market is weakening.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity , which includes both refinancing and purchasing loans, for the week ended July 28 decreased 1.2 percent to 527.6 -- its lowest since May 2002 -- from the previous week's 533.8.

Drew Matus, senior financial economist at Lehman Brothers in New York, said that while the indexes are volatile on a weekly basis, they point to a sector that is softening.

"The data suggest that the housing market is cooling and it's cooling pretty substantially," he said. "The question is how much of an impact is it going to have on the economy and that's what we really don't understand at this point."
Matus expects U.S. economic growth in the second half of this year to be slowed by about three-quarters of a percentage point due to the direct effects of softer housing investment.

Nearly all recent measures of housing activity have pointed not just to a slowdown, but to a struggling sector. Sales are sliding, supply is swelling and price appreciation is abating.

Many analysts view the housing market as a key factor in
Federal Reserve policy. With a slower housing market, growth in the United States should level off as well, which may set the stage for a halt to the Fed's two-year program of monetary tightening.

The next Fed policy-making meeting will be on August 8.

INTEREST RATES SLIDE

It was the third straight week that overall mortgage activity slumped, despite a decline in interest rates during that period.

Last week, borrowing costs on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, excluding fees, averaged 6.62 percent, down 0.07 percentage point from the previous week, and 0.19 percentage point below the 6.81 percent rate in the first week of July.

The MBA's seasonally adjusted purchase index tumbled for the third straight week, falling 3.3 percent to 376.2, its lowest since November 2003.

The purchase index, widely considered a timely gauge of U.S. home sales, is standing well below its year-ago level of 494.5, a drop of nearly 24 percent.

The group's seasonally adjusted index of refinancing applications increased 2.3 percent to 1,417.2, down 37 percent from a year ago when the index stood at 2,250.3.

The refinance share of applications increased to 37.0 percent from 35.6 percent the previous week. Fixed 15-year mortgage rates averaged 6.28 percent, down from 6.31 percent the previous week.

ADJUSTABLE SHARE AT 2-YEAR LOW

Adjustable-rate mortgages, known as ARMs, have been a refuge for cash-strapped consumers seeking to buy a home with low initial mortgage payments.

But with the U.S. Federal Reserve raising interest rates for two years straight, many of these homeowners will face a sharp increase in their monthly payments when their ARMs eventually reset.

As this transpires, an increase in loan delinquencies and home foreclosures is expected, which analysts say may weigh heavily on the housing market.

Rates on one-year ARMs decreased to 6.18 percent from 6.25 percent. The ARM share of activity fell to 27.8 percent of total applications -- its lowest since March 2004 -- from 28.6 percent in the prior week.

After historically low mortgage rates fueled a five-year housing boom, most analysts agree that the market is cooling off from its record run.

"The cooling in housing could last for a year or two," said Matus. "But remember, even when mortgage rates were at 18 percent, people were still buying new homes, so there is a natural trend of demand for housing and it takes a lot more than what we have seen so far to push around that natural trend."

Signs of a cooling market have been more evident in the past few weeks as a deluge of data showed an excessive supply of homes, declining sales and falling prices.

The MBA's survey covers about 50 percent of all U.S. retail residential mortgage loans. Respondents include mortgage bankers, commercial banks and thrifts.



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Drivers try another gas to save gasoline

By DAVID SHARP
Associated Press
Mon Jul 31, 2006

TOPSHAM, Maine - Many motorists seeking to improve their mileage as gas prices soar this summer are examining everything - right down to the air in their tires. And for a growing number, plain old air isn't good enough.

George Bourque of Fairfield is one of those who's driving around on tires filled with pure nitrogen, the same stuff that
NASCAR racers use.

Bourque, an engineer, said he has seen a 1 to 1.5 mile-per-gallon increase since he began filling his tires with nitrogen, which is touted as maintaining tire pressure longer and resisting heat buildup on hot summer days.
"I analyze everything," he said.

Nitrogen has been used for years in the tires of race cars, large commercial trucks, aircraft and even the space shuttle.

But it is finding its way into the mainstream at a growing number of tire dealers - including Costco Wholesale Corp.

Nationwide, fewer than 10 percent of tire dealers offer nitrogen, but the number is growing, said Bob Ulrich, editor of Modern Tire Dealer magazine in Akron, Ohio. Most dealers charge $2 to $5 per tire for the nitrogen fill-up, he said. The dealers generally offer free lifetime refills.

Bourque got his tires - filled with nitrogen - in Waterville, Maine at Tire Warehouse, which has 50 tire dealerships across New England. The nitrogen was part of an installation package when Bourque bought a set of tires.

Skeptics will question how much can be gained by filling tires with pure nitrogen when the air we breathe is 78 percent nitrogen.

The differences are subtle, but important, said Steve McGrath, Tire Warehouse's vice president of marketing in Keene, N.H.

Nitrogen molecules are bigger than oxygen molecules, so nitrogen seeps out more slowly from tires than air; nitrogen resists heat buildup better than air, which contains moisture; and nitrogen reduces oxidation, which can damage the tire from the inside out, proponents say. Nitrogen is an inert gas, so there are no safety or environmental issues.

Those advantages are important in vehicles equipped with tire pressure monitoring systems, which are sensitive to changes in tire pressure, McGrath said.

With or without nitrogen, proper inflation is the key to improving gas mileage. Motorists can improve gas mileage by 3.3 percent simply by keeping their tires properly inflated, according to the U.S.
Department of Energy.

In the real world, though, only 1 in 5 motorists check tire pressure regularly, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association. Nitrogen, therefore, could have an advantage for those who don't check their tire pressure regularly.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has no opinion on nitrogen, but it does encourage motorists to keep their tires properly inflated, both for safety and to boost gas mileage, said spokesman Rae Tyson. Severely underinflated tires are dangerous, especially for sport utility vehicles and light trucks, Tyson noted.

Tire experts at Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, neither endorse nor object to the use of nitrogen in tires.

"Nitrogen is certainly safe to use in tires, and theoretically it does offer some benefits," spokesman Douglas Love said from Yonkers, N.Y.

For Bourque, his tire pressure remains constant - 40 pounds for his fully loaded truck - even on hot days when tire pressure normally fluctuates.

His gas mileage was about 19 mpg when he purchased his five-cylinder 2005 Chevrolet Colorado. Now, with the engine broken in and new tires filled with nitrogen, he gets 20.5 to 22 mpg depending on whether he runs the air conditioner, he said.

For tire dealers, the nitrogen generator and associated equipment typically runs between $3,000 and $12,000, Ulrich said.

Marty Mailhot, manager of the Tire Warehouse in Topsham, said the idea is catching on with consumers, who are purchasing nitrogen for tires for cars, trucks, motor homes and lawn tractors. He has even tried it on footballs and inflatable tubes pulled behind boats.

He has a retort for those who pooh-pooh the notion of paying for nitrogen when there's plenty of free air for the taking.

"I say, 'Why are you drinking that bottled water when there's a pond out back?'" he said.



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A Pathocratic World


Vanity Fair Special: 9/11 Live: The NORAD Tapes

By MICHAEL BRONNER
VAnity Fair

How did the U.S. Air Force respond on 9/11? Could it have shot down United 93, as conspiracy theorists claim? Obtaining 30 hours of never-before-released tapes from the control room of NORAD's Northeast headquarters, the author reconstructs the chaotic military history of that day-and the Pentagon's apparent attempt to cover it up. VF.com exclusive: Hear excerpts from the September 11 NORAD tapes. Click PLAY after each transcript to listen

Go to the SOURCE article for this dramatic experience.
Tucked in a piney notch in the gentle folds of the Adirondacks' southern skirts-just up from a derelict Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern rail spur-is a 22-year-old aluminum bunker tricked out with antennae tilted skyward. It could pass for the Jetsons' garage or, in the estimation of one of the higher-ranking U.S. Air Force officers stationed there, a big, sideways, half-buried beer keg.

As Major Kevin Nasypany, the facility's mission-crew commander, drove up the hill to work on the morning of 9/11, he was dressed in his flight suit and prepared for battle. Not a real one. The Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), where Nasypany had been stationed since 1994, is the regional headquarters for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the Cold War-era military organization charged with protecting North American airspace. As he poured his first coffee on that sunny September morning, the odds that he would have to defend against Russian "Bear Bombers," one of NORAD's traditional simulated missions, were slim. Rather, Nasypany (pronounced Nah-sip-a-nee), an amiable commander with a thick mini-mustache and a hockey player's build, was headed in early to get ready for the NORAD-wide training exercise he'd helped design. The battle commander, Colonel Bob Marr, had promised to bring in fritters.

NEADS is a desolate place, the sole orphan left behind after the dismantling of what was once one of the country's busiest bomber bases-Griffiss Air Force Base, in Rome, New York, which was otherwise mothballed in the mid-90s. NEADS's mission remained in place and continues today: its officers, air-traffic controllers, and air-surveillance and communications technicians-mostly American, with a handful of Canadian troops-are responsible for protecting a half-million-square-mile chunk of American airspace stretching from the East Coast to Tennessee, up through the Dakotas to the Canadian border, including Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

It was into this airspace that violence descended on 9/11, and from the NEADS operations floor that what turned out to be the sum total of America's military response during those critical 100-some minutes of the attack-scrambling four armed fighter jets and one unarmed training plane-emanated.

The story of what happened in that room, and when, has never been fully told, but is arguably more important in terms of understanding America's military capabilities that day than anything happening simultaneously on Air Force One or in the Pentagon, the White House, or NORAD's impregnable headquarters, deep within Cheyenne Mountain, in Colorado. It's a story that was intentionally obscured, some members of the 9/11 commission believe, by military higher-ups and members of the Bush administration who spoke to the press, and later the commission itself, in order to downplay the extent of the confusion and miscommunication flying through the ranks of the government.

The truth, however, is all on tape.

Through the heat of the attack the wheels of what were, perhaps, some of the more modern pieces of equipment in the room-four Dictaphone multi-channel reel-to-reel tape recorders mounted on a rack in a corner of the operations floor-spun impassively, recording every radio channel, with time stamps.

The recordings are fascinating and chilling. A mix of staccato bursts of military code; urgent, overlapping voices; the tense crackle of radio traffic from fighter pilots in the air; commanders' orders piercing through a mounting din; and candid moments of emotion as the breadth of the attacks becomes clearer.

For the NEADS crew, 9/11 was not a story of four hijacked airplanes, but one of a heated chase after more than a dozen potential hijackings-some real, some phantom-that emerged from the turbulence of misinformation that spiked in the first 100 minutes of the attack and continued well into the afternoon and evening. At one point, in the span of a single mad minute, one hears Nasypany struggling to parse reports of four separate hijackings at once. What emerges from the barrage of what Nasypany dubs "bad poop" flying at his troops from all directions is a picture of remarkable composure. Snap decisions more often than not turn out to be the right ones as commanders kick-start the dormant military machine. It is the fog and friction of war live-the authentic military history of 9/11.

"The real story is actually better than the one we told," a NORAD general admitted to 9/11-commission staffers when confronted with evidence from the tapes that contradicted his original testimony. And so it seems.

Subpoenaed by the commission during its investigation, the recordings have never been played publicly beyond a handful of sound bites presented during the commission's hearings. Last September, as part of my research for the film United 93, on which I was an associate producer, I requested copies from the Pentagon. I was played snippets, but told my chances of hearing the full recordings were nonexistent. So it was a surprise, to say the least, when a military public-affairs officer e-mailed me, a full seven months later, saying she'd been cleared, finally, to provide them.

"The signing of the Declaration of Independence took less coordination," she wrote.

I would ultimately get three CDs with huge digital "wav file" recordings of the various channels in each section of the operations floor, 30-some hours of material in full, covering six and a half hours of real time. The first disc, which arrived by mail, was decorated with blue sky and fluffy white clouds and was labeled, in the playful Apple Chancery font, "Northeast Air Defense Sector-DAT Audio Files-11 Sep 2001."

"This is not an exercise"t 8:14 a.m., as an Egyptian and four Saudis commandeered the cockpit on American 11, the plane that would hit the north tower of the World Trade Center, only a handful of troops were on the NEADS "ops" floor. That's the facility's war room: a dimly lit den arrayed with long rows of radarscopes and communications equipment facing a series of 15-foot screens lining the front wall. The rest of the crew, about 30 Americans and five or six Canadians, were checking e-mails or milling around the hall. A briefing on the morning's training exercise was wrapping up in the Battle Cab, the glassed-in command area overlooking the ops floor.

On the Dictaphone decks, an automated voice on each channel ticked off, in Greenwich Mean Time, the last few moments of life in pre-9/11 America: "12 hours, 26 minutes, 20 seconds"-just before 8:30 a.m. eastern daylight time.

The first human voices captured on tape that morning are those of the "ID techs"-Senior Airman Stacia Rountree, 23 at the time, Tech Sergeant Shelley Watson, 40, and their boss, Master Sergeant Maureen "Mo" Dooley, 40. They are stationed in the back right corner of the ops floor at a console with several phones and a radarscope. Their job in a crisis is to facilitate communications between NEADS, the civilian F.A.A., and other military commands, gathering whatever information they can and sending it up the chain. Dooley-her personality at once motherly and aggressive-generally stands behind the other two, who are seated.

The tapes catch them discussing strategy of an entirely domestic order:

08:37:08O.K., a couch, an ottoman, a love seat, and what else ... ? Was it on sale ... ? Holy smokes! What color is it?

In the background, however, you can make out the sound of Jeremy Powell, then 31, a burly, amiable technical sergeant, fielding the phone call that will be the military's first notification that something is wrong. On the line is Boston Center, the civilian air-traffic-control facility that handles that region's high-flying airliners.

08:37:52BOSTON CENTER: Hi. Boston Center T.M.U. [Traffic Management Unit], we have a problem here. We have a hijacked aircraft headed towards New York, and we need you guys to, we need someone to scramble some F-16s or something up there, help us out.POWELL: Is this real-world or exercise?BOSTON CENTER: No, this is not an exercise, not a test.PLAY | STOP

Powell's question-"Is this real-world or exercise?"-is heard nearly verbatim over and over on the tapes as troops funnel onto the ops floor and are briefed about the hijacking. Powell, like almost everyone in the room, first assumes the phone call is from the simulations team on hand to send "inputs"-simulated scenarios-into play for the day's training exercise.

Boston's request for fighter jets is not as prescient as it might seem. Standard hijack protocol calls for fighters to be launched-"scrambled"-merely to establish a presence in the air. The pilots are trained to trail the hijacked plane at a distance of about five miles, out of sight, following it until, presumably, it lands. If necessary, they can show themselves, flying up close to establish visual contact, and, if the situation demands, maneuver to force the plane to land.

At this point, certainly, the notion of actually firing anything at a passenger jet hasn't crossed anyone's mind.

In the ID section, the women overhear the word "hijack" and react, innocently enough, as anyone might with news of something exciting going on at work:

8:37:56WATSON: What?DOOLEY: Whoa!WATSON: What was that?ROUNTREE: Is that real-world?DOOLEY: Real-world hijack.WATSON: Cool!PLAY | STOP

For the first time in their careers, they'll get to put their training to full use.

Almost simultaneously, a P.A. announcement goes out for Major Nasypany, who's taking his morning constitutional.

08:37:58P.A.: Major Nasypany, you're needed in ops pronto. P.A.: Major Nasypany, you're needed in ops pronto.[Recorded phone line:]SERGEANT MCCAIN: Northeast Air Defense Sector, Sergeant McCain, can I help you?SERGEANT KELLY: Yeah, Sergeant Kelly from Otis, how you doing today?SERGEANT MCCAIN: Yeah, go ahead.SERGEANT KELLY: The-I'm gettin' reports from my TRACON [local civilian air traffic] that there might be a possible hijacking.SERGEANT MCCAIN: I was just hearing the same thing. We're workin' it right now.SERGEANT KELLY: O.K., thanks.PLAY | STOP

"When they told me there was a hijack, my first reaction was 'Somebody started the exercise early,'" Nasypany later told me. The day's exercise was designed to run a range of scenarios, including a "traditional" simulated hijack in which politically motivated perpetrators commandeer an aircraft, land on a Cuba-like island, and seek asylum. "I actually said out loud, 'The hijack's not supposed to be for another hour,'" Nasypany recalled. (The fact that there was an exercise planned for the same day as the attack factors into several conspiracy theories, though the 9/11 commission dismisses this as coincidence. After plodding through dozens of hours of recordings, so do I.)

n tape, one hears as Nasypany, following standard hijack protocol, prepares to launch two fighters from Otis Air National Guard Base, on Cape Cod, to look for American 11, which is now off course and headed south. He orders his Weapons Team-the group on the ops floor that controls the fighters-to put the Otis planes on "battle stations." This means that at the air base the designated "alert" pilots-two in this case-are jolted into action by a piercing "battle horn." They run to their jets, climb up, strap in, and do everything they need to do to get ready to fly short of starting the engines.

Meanwhile, the communications team at NEADS-the ID techs Dooley, Rountree, and Watson-are trying to find out, as fast as possible, everything they can about the hijacked plane: the airline, the flight number, the tail number (to help fighter pilots identify it in the air), its flight plan, the number of passengers ("souls on board" in military parlance), and, most important, where it is, so Nasypany can launch the fighters. All the ID section knows is that the plane is American Airlines, Flight No. 11, Boston to Los Angeles, currently somewhere north of John F. Kennedy International Airport-the point of reference used by civilian controllers.

ID tech Watson places a call to the management desk at Boston Center, which first alerted NEADS to the hijack, and gets distressing news.

08:39:58WATSON: It's the inbound to J.F.K.?BOSTON CENTER: We-we don't know.WATSON: You don't know where he is at all?BOSTON CENTER: He's being hijacked. The pilot's having a hard time talking to the-I mean, we don't know. We don't know where he's goin'. He's heading towards Kennedy. He's-like I said, he's like 35 miles north of Kennedy now at 367 knots. We have no idea where he's goin' or what his intentions are.WATSON: If you could please give us a call and let us know-you know any information, that'd be great.BOSTON CENTER: Okay. Right now, I guess we're trying to work on-I guess there's been some threats in the cockpit. The pilot-WATSON: There's been what?! I'm sorry.UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: Threat to the ... ?BOSTON CENTER: We'll call you right back as soon as we know more info.

Dooley is standing over Watson, shouting whatever pertinent information she hears to Nasypany, who's now in position in the center of the floor.

08:40:36DOOLEY: O.K., he said threat to the cockpit!PLAY | STOP

This last bit ratchets the tension in the room up considerably.

At Otis Air National Guard Base, the pilots are in their jets, straining at the reins. ("When the horn goes off, it definitely gets your heart," F-15 pilot Major Dan Nash later told me, thumping his chest with his hand.) But at NEADS, Nasypany's "tracker techs" in the Surveillance section still can't find American 11 on their scopes. As it turns out, this is just as the hijackers intended.

Radar is the NEADS controllers' most vital piece of equipment, but by 9/11 the scopes were so old, among other factors, that controllers were ultimately unable to find any of the hijacked planes in enough time to react. Known collectively as the Green Eye for the glow the radar rings give off, the scopes looked like something out of Dr. Strangelove and were strikingly anachronistic compared with the equipment at civilian air-traffic sites. (After 9/11, NEADS was equipped with state-of-the-art equipment.)

In order to find a hijacked airliner-or any airplane-military controllers need either the plane's beacon code (broadcast from an electronic transponder on board) or the plane's exact coordinates. When the hijackers on American 11 turned the beacon off, intentionally losing themselves in the dense sea of airplanes already flying over the U.S. that morning (a tactic that would be repeated, with some variations, on all the hijacked flights), the NEADS controllers were at a loss.

"You would see thousands of green blips on your scope," Nasypany told me, "and now you have to pick and choose. Which is the bad guy out there? Which is the hijacked aircraft? And without that information from F.A.A., it's a needle in a haystack."

At this point in the morning, more than 3,000 jetliners are already in the air over the continental United States, and the Boston controller's direction-"35 miles north of Kennedy"-doesn't help the NEADS controllers at all.

On tape, amid the confusion, one hears Major James Fox, then 32, the leader of the Weapons Team, whose composure will stand out throughout the attack, make an observation that, so far, ranks as the understatement of the morning.

08:43:06FOX: I've never seen so much real-world stuff happen during an exercise.PLAY | STOP

Less than two minutes later, frustrated that the controllers still can't pinpoint American 11 on radar, Nasypany orders Fox to launch the Otis fighters anyway.

08:44:59FOX: M.C.C. [Mission Crew Commander], I don't know where I'm scrambling these guys to. I need a direction, a destination-NASYPANY: O.K., I'm gonna give you the Z point [coordinate]. It's just north of-New York City.FOX: I got this lat long, 41-15, 74-36, or 73-46.NASYPANY: Head 'em in that direction.FOX: Copy that.PLAY | STOP

Having them up, Nasypany figures, is better than having them on the ground, assuming NEADS will ultimately pin down American 11's position. His job is to be proactive-to try to gain leverage over the situation as fast as possible. His backstop is Colonel Marr, the battle commander and Nasypany's superior up in the Battle Cab, whose role is more strategic, calculating the implications of each move several hours down the line.

Marr, 48 at the time (and since retired), is a well-liked leader. Most of his conversations on 9/11 are unrecorded: he speaks over a secure phone with his superior, Major General Larry Arnold, stationed at NORAD's command center at Tyndall Air Force Base, in Florida, or over an intercom with Nasypany. In the latter case, only Nasypany's side of the conversations is recorded.

In the last lines of his first briefing to Marr, Nasypany unwittingly, in his last line, trumps Fox in the realm of understatement.

08:46:36NASYPANY: Hi, sir. O.K., what-what we're doing, we're tryin' to locate this guy. We can't find him via I.F.F. [the Identification Friend or Foe system]. What we're gonna do, we're gonna hit up every track within a 25-mile radius of this Z-point [coordinate] that we put on the scope. Twenty-nine thousand [feet] heading 1-9-0 [east]. We're just gonna do-we're gonna try to find this guy. They can't find him. There's supposedly been threats to the cockpit. So we're just doing the thing ... [off-mic conversation] True. And probably right now with what's going on in the cockpit it's probably really crazy. So, it probably needs to-that will simmer down and we'll probably get some better information.PLAY | STOP

American 11 slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center four seconds into this transmission.

ore than 150 miles from Manhattan, within the same minute as American 11 hits the tower, the stoplight in the Alert Barn at Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod turns from red to green, Colonel Marr and General Arnold having approved Nasypany's order to scramble the fighters. The pilots taxi out and fire the afterburners as the planes swing onto the runway. NEADS has no indication yet that American 11 has crashed.

Five minutes later, Rountree, at the ID station, gets the first report of the crash from Boston Center (as her colleagues Watson and Dooley overhear).

08:51:11ROUNTREE: A plane just hit the World Trade Center.WATSON: What?ROUNTREE: Was it a 737?UNIDENTIFIED MALE (background): Hit what?WATSON: The World Trade Center-DOOLEY: Who are you talking to? [Gasps.]WATSON: Oh!DOOLEY: Get-pass-pass it to them-WATSON: Oh my God. Oh God. Oh my God.ROUNTREE: Saw it on the news. It's-a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center.DOOLEY: Update New York! See if they lost altitude on that plane altogether.

Watson places a call to civilian controllers at New York Center.

WATSON: Yes, ma'am. Did you just hear the information regarding the World Trade Center?NEW YORK CENTER: No.WATSON: Being hit by an aircraft?NEW YORK CENTER: I'm sorry?!WATSON: Being hit by an aircraft.NEW YORK CENTER: You're kidding.WATSON: It's on the world news.PLAY | STOP

In light of this news, someone asks Nasypany what to do with the fighters-the two F-15s from Otis Air National Guard Base-which have now just blasted off for New York at full afterburner to find American 11. (The flying time at full speed from Cape Cod to New York is about 10 minutes.) Pumped with adrenaline, Nasypany doesn't miss a beat.

08:52:40NASYPANY: Send 'em to New York City still. Continue! Go!NASYPANY: This is what I got. Possible news that a 737 just hit the World Trade Center. This is a real-world. And we're trying to confirm this. Okay. Continue taking the fighters down to the New York City area, J.F.K. area, if you can. Make sure that the F.A.A. clears it- your route all the way through. Do what we gotta do, okay? Let's press with this. It looks like this guy could have hit the World Trade Center.PLAY | STOP

"I'm not gonna stop what I initially started with scrambling Otis-getting Otis over New York City," Nasypany recalled when I played him this section of his tape. "If this is a false report, I still have my fighters where I want them to be."

Meanwhile, confusion is building on the ops floor over whether the plane that hit the tower really was American 11. Rumors that it was a small Cessna have started to circulate through the civilian air-traffic system. ID tech Rountree is on the phone with Boston Center's military liaison, Colin Scoggins, a civilian manager, who at first seems to confirm that it was American 11 that went into the tower.

08:55:18BOSTON CENTER (Scoggins): Yeah, he crashed into the World Trade Center.ROUNTREE: That is the aircraft that crashed into the World Trade Center?BOSTON CENTER (Scoggins): Yup. Disregard the-disregard the tail number [given earlier for American 11].ROUNTREE: Disregard the tail number? He did crash into the World Trade Center?BOSTON CENTER (Scoggins): That's-that's what we believe, yes.PLAY | STOP

But an unidentified male trooper at NEADS overhears the exchange and raises a red flag.

08:56:31MALE NEADS TECH: I never heard them say American Airlines Flight 11 hit the World Trade Center. I heard it was a civilian aircraft.

Dooley, the ID desk's master sergeant, takes the phone from Rountree to confirm for herself, and the story veers off course ...

DOOLEY (to Boston): Master Sergeant Dooley here. We need to have-are you giving confirmation that American 11 was the one-BOSTON CENTER (Scoggins): No, we're not gonna confirm that at this time. We just know an aircraft crashed in and ...DOOLEY: You-are you-can you say-is anyone up there tracking primary on this guy still?BOSTON CENTER (Scoggins): No. The last [radar sighting] we have was about 15 miles east of J.F.K., or eight miles east of J.F.K. was our last primary hit. He did slow down in speed. The primary that we had, it slowed down below-around to 300 knots.DOOLEY: And then you lost 'em?BOSTON CENTER (Scoggins): Yeah, and then we lost 'em.PLAY | STOP

The problem, Scoggins told me later, was that American Airlines refused to confirm for several hours that its plane had hit the tower. This lack of confirmation caused uncertainty that would be compounded in a very big way as the attack continued. (Though airlines have their own means of monitoring the location of their planes and communicating with their pilots, they routinely go into information lockdown in a crisis.)

Amid the chaos, Nasypany notices that some of his people are beginning to panic, so he makes a joke to relieve the tension.

08:57:11NASYPANY: Think we put the exercise on the hold. What do you think? [Laughter.]

Just at that moment, in one of the dark, U-shaped air-traffic-control areas at New York Center, on Long Island, a half-dozen civilian controllers are watching a second plane that's turned off course: United 175, also scheduled from Boston to Los Angeles. As the controllers try to hail the pilots, a manager comes running in and confirms that the plane that hit the first tower was, indeed, a commercial airliner, rather than a small Cessna. It's just at that moment that United 175, 38 minutes into its flight and now near Allentown, Pennsylvania, moving southwest farther and farther off course, makes a sudden swing northeast toward Manhattan. Suddenly-instinctively-the civilian controllers know: it's another hijacking, and it's not going to land.

The controllers start speculating what the hijacker is aiming at-one guesses the Statue of Liberty-and the room erupts in profanity and horror. One controller is looking at his scope, calling out the rate of descent every 12 seconds as he watches the radar refresh. It is not until the last second, literally, that anyone from New York Center thinks to update NEADS. ID tech Rountree fields the call.

09:03:17ROUNTREE: They have a second possible hijack!PLAY | STOP

Almost simultaneously, United 175 slams into the south tower of the World Trade Center, something several NEADS personnel witness live on CNN, including Colonel Marr, the commanding officer. (Dooley told me she remembers looking up toward the Battle Cab and, for a long moment, seeing Marr's jaw drop and everyone around him frozen.)

On the ops floor, there is considerable confusion as to whether the second hijacking New York Center just called in is the same plane that hit the second tower, or whether there are now three missing planes.

09:03:52NASYPANY (to Marr): Sir, we got-we've got unconfirmed second hit from another aircraft. Fighters are south of-just south of Long Island, sir. Right now. Fighters are south of Long Island.

There's seemingly enough commotion in the Battle Cab that Nasypany needs to clarify: "Our fighters ... " The two F-15s, scrambled from Otis, are now approaching the city.

In the background, several troops can be heard trying to make sense of what's happening.

09:04:50-Is this explosion part of that that we're lookin' at now on TV?-Yes.-Jesus ...-And there's a possible second hijack also-a United Airlines ...-Two planes?...-Get the fuck out ...-I think this is a damn input, to be honest.PLAY | STOP

The last line-"I think this is a damn input"-is a reference to the exercise, meaning a simulations input. It's either gallows humor or wishful thinking. From the tape, it's hard to tell.

"We've already had two. Why not more?"eanwhile, flying southwest over the ocean, the two fighters from Otis Air National Guard Base are streaking toward Manhattan. The pilots are startled, to say the least, when they see billowing smoke appear on the horizon; no one's briefed them about what's going on. They were scrambled simply to intercept and escort American 11-a possible hijacking-and that is all they know.

"From 100 miles away at least, we could see the fire and the smoke blowing," Major Dan Nash, one of the F-15 pilots, told me. "Obviously, anybody watching CNN had a better idea of what was going on. We were not told anything. It was to the point where we were flying supersonic towards New York and the controller came on and said, 'A second airplane has hit the World Trade Center.' ... My first thought was 'What happened to American 11?'"

With both towers now in flames, Nasypany wants the fighters over Manhattan immediately, but the weapons techs get "pushback" from civilian F.A.A. controllers, who have final authority over the fighters as long as they are in civilian airspace. The F.A.A. controllers are afraid of fast-moving fighters colliding with a passenger plane, of which there are hundreds in the area, still flying normal routes-the morning's unprecedented order to ground all civilian aircraft has not yet been given. To Nasypany, the fact that so many planes are still in the sky is all the more reason to get the fighters close. ("We've already had two," he told me, referring to the hijackings. "Why not more?")

The fighters are initially directed to a holding area just off the coast, near Long Island.

asypany isn't happy, and he makes sure that's duly noted for posterity as he calls out to Major Fox, the leader of the Weapons Team.

09:07:20NASYPANY: Okay, Foxy. Plug in. I want to make sure this is on tape.... This is what-this is what I foresee that we probably need to do. We need to talk to F.A.A. We need to tell 'em if this stuff's gonna keep on going, we need to take those fighters on and then put 'em over Manhattan, O.K.? That's the best thing. That's the best play right now. So, coordinate with the F.A.A. Tell 'em if there's more out there, which we don't know, let's get 'em over Manhattan. At least we got some kinda play.PLAY | STOP

He tells the Battle Cab he wants Fox to launch two more fighters from Langley Air Force Base, in Virginia, to establish a greater presence over New York, but the request is refused. The order from the Battle Cab is to put the Langley jets on battle stations only-to be ready, but not to launch.

"The problem there would have been I'd have all my fighters in the air at the same time, which means they'd all run out of gas at the same time," Marr later explained.

Incredibly, Marr has only four armed fighters at his disposal to defend about a quarter of the continental United States. Massive cutbacks at the close of the Cold War reduced NORAD's arsenal of fighters from some 60 battle-ready jets to just 14 across the entire country. (Under different commands, the military generally maintains several hundred unarmed fighter jets for training in the continental U.S.) Only four of NORAD's planes belong to NEADS and are thus anywhere close to Manhattan-the two from Otis, now circling above the ocean off Long Island, and the two in Virginia at Langley.

Nasypany starts walking up and down the floor, asking all his section heads and weapons techs if they are prepared to shoot down a civilian airliner if need be, but he's jumping the gun: he doesn't have the authority to order a shootdown, nor does Marr or Arnold, or Vice President Cheney, for that matter. The order will need to come from President Bush, who has only just learned of the attack at a photo op in Florida.

On the ops floor, you hear Nasypany firmly pressing the issue. He briefs Marr on the armaments on board the F-15s, and how he sees best to use them "if need be":

9:19:44NASYPANY: My recommendation, if we have to take anybody out, large aircraft, we use AIM-9s in the face.... If need be.PLAY | STOP

If there's another hijacking and the jets can engage, Nasypany is telling Marr, a missile fired into the nose of the plane will have the greatest chance of bringing it down.

But the prospect soon becomes real. Mo Dooley's voice erupts from the ID station on the operations floor.

9:21:37DOOLEY: Another hijack! It's headed towards Washington!NASYPANY: Shit! Give me a location.UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay. Third aircraft-hijacked-heading toward Washington.PLAY | STOP

This report, received from Colin Scoggins at Boston Center, will set off a major escalation in the military response to the attack, resulting in the launch of additional armed fighter jets. But 20 months later, when the military presents to the 9/11 commission what is supposed to be a full accounting of the day, omitted from the official time line is any mention of this reported hijacking and the fevered chase it engenders.

t was the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, 2003, and the hearing room in the Hart Senate Office Building, in Washington, was half empty as the group of mostly retired military brass arranged themselves at the witness table before the 9/11 commission. The story the NORAD officers had come to tell before the commission was a relatively humbling one, a point underscored by the questions commission chairman Thomas Kean introduced during his opening remarks: How did the hijackers defeat the system, and why couldn't we stop them? These were important questions. Nearly two years after the attack, the Internet was rife with questions and conspiracy theories about 9/11-in particular, where were the fighters? Could they have physically gotten to any of the hijacked planes? And did they shoot down the final flight, United 93, which ended up in a Pennsylvania field?

On hand, dressed in business suits (with the exception of Major General Craig McKinley, whose two stars twinkled on either epaulet), were Major General Larry Arnold (retired), who had been on the other end of the secure line with NEADS's Colonel Marr throughout the attack, and Colonel Alan Scott (retired), who had been with Arnold at NORAD's continental command in Florida on 9/11 and who worked closely with Marr in preparing the military's time line. None of the military men were placed under oath.

Their story, in a nutshell, was one of being caught off guard initially, then very quickly ramping up to battle status-in position, and in possession of enough situational awareness to defend the country, and the capital in particular, before United 93, the fourth hijacked plane, would have reached Washington.

Major General Arnold explained to the commission that the military had been tracking United 93 and the fighters were in position if United 93 had threatened Washington. "It was our intent to intercept United Flight 93," Arnold testified. "I was personally anxious to see what 93 was going to do, and our intent was to intercept it."

Colonel Marr, the commanding officer at NEADS on 9/11, had made similar comments to ABC News for its one-year-anniversary special on the attacks, saying that the pilots had been warned they might have to intercept United 93, and stop it if necessary: "And we of course passed that on to the pilots: United Airlines Flight 93 will not be allowed to reach Washington, D.C."

hen I interviewed him recently, Marr recalled a conversation he had had with Arnold in the heat of the attack. "I remember the words out of General Arnold's mouth, or at least as I remember them, were 'We will take lives in the air to save lives on the ground.'" In actuality, they'd never get that chance.

In the chronology presented to the 9/11 commission, Colonel Scott put the time NORAD was first notified about United 93 at 9:16 a.m., from which time, he said, commanders tracked the flight closely. (It crashed at 10:03 a.m.) If it had indeed been necessary to "take lives in the air" with United 93, or any incoming flight to Washington, the two armed fighters from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia would have been the ones called upon to carry out the shootdown. In Colonel Scott's account, those jets were given the order to launch at 9:24, within seconds of NEADS's receiving the F.A.A.'s report of the possible hijacking of American 77, the plane that would ultimately hit the Pentagon. This time line suggests the system was starting to work: the F.A.A. reports a hijacking, and the military reacts instantaneously. Launching after the report of American 77 would, in theory, have put the fighters in the air and in position over Washington in plenty of time to react to United 93.

In testimony a few minutes later, however, General Arnold added an unexpected twist: "We launched the aircraft out of Langley to put them over top of Washington, D.C., not in response to American Airlines 77, but really to put them in position in case United 93 were to head that way."

How strange, John Azzarello, a former prosecutor and one of the commission's staff members, thought. "I remember being at the hearing in '03 and wondering why they didn't seem to have their stories straight. That struck me as odd."

The ears of another staff member, Miles Kara, perked up as well. "I said to myself, That's not right," the retired colonel, a former army intelligence officer, told me. Kara had seen the radar re-creations of the fighters' routes. "We knew something was odd, but we didn't have enough specificity to know how odd."

As the tapes reveal in stark detail, parts of Scott's and Arnold's testimony were misleading, and others simply false. At 9:16 a.m., when Arnold and Marr had supposedly begun their tracking of United 93, the plane had not yet been hijacked. In fact, NEADS wouldn't get word about United 93 for another 51 minutes. And while NORAD commanders did, indeed, order the Langley fighters to scramble at 9:24, as Scott and Arnold testified, it was not in response to the hijacking of American 77 or United 93. Rather, they were chasing a ghost. NEADS was entering the most chaotic period of the morning.

"Chase this guy down"t 9:21 a.m., just before Dooley's alert about a third hijacked plane headed for Washington, NEADS is in the eye of the storm-a period of relative calm in which, for the moment, there are no reports of additional hijackings.

The call that sets off the latest alarm ("Another hijack! It's headed towards Washington!") comes from Boston and is wholly confounding: according to Scoggins, the Boston manager, American 11, the plane they believed was the first one to hit the World Trade Center, is actually still flying-still hijacked-and now heading straight for D.C. Whatever hit the first tower, it wasn't American 11.

The chase is on for what will turn out to be a phantom plane.

9:21:50NASYPANY: O.K. American Airlines is still airborne-11, the first guy. He's heading towards Washington. O.K., I think we need to scramble Langley right now. And I'm-I'm gonna take the fighters from Otis and try to chase this guy down if I can find him.PLAY | STOP

Arnold and Marr approve scrambling the two planes at Langley, along with a third unarmed trainer, and Nasypany sets the launch in motion.

It's a mistake, of course. American 11 was, indeed, the plane that hit the first tower. The confusion will persist for hours, however. In Boston, it is Colin Scoggins who has made the mistaken call.

"When we phoned United [after the second tower was hit], they confirmed that United 175 was down, and I think they confirmed that within two or three minutes," Scoggins, the go-to guy at Boston Center for all things military, later told me. "With American Airlines, we could never confirm if it was down or not, so that left doubt in our minds."

An unwieldy conference call between F.A.A. centers had been established, and Scoggins was monitoring it when the word came across-from whom or where isn't clear-that American 11 was thought to be headed for Washington. Scoggins told me he thinks that the problem started with someone overheard trying to confirm from American whether American 11 was down-that somewhere in the flurry of information zipping back and forth during the conference call this transmogrified into the idea that a different plane had hit the tower, and that American 11 was still hijacked and still in the air. The plane's course, had it continued south past New York in the direction it was flying before it dipped below radar coverage, would have had it headed on a straight course toward D.C. This was all controllers were going on; they were never tracking an actual plane on the radar after losing American 11 near Manhattan, but if it had been flying low enough, the plane could have gone undetected. "After talking to a supervisor, I made the call and said [American 11] is still in the air, and it's probably somewhere over New Jersey or Delaware heading for Washington, D.C.," Scoggins told me.

ver the next quarter-hour, the fact that the fighters have been launched in response to the phantom American 11-rather than American 77 or United 93-is referred to six more times on Nasypany's channel alone. How could Colonel Scott and General Arnold have missed it in preparing for their 9/11-commission testimony? It's a question Arnold would have to answer later, under oath.

In the middle of the attack, however, the hijackers' sabotaging of the planes' beacons has thrown such a wrench into efforts to track them that it all seems plausible.

9:23:15ANDERSON: They're probably not squawking anything [broadcasting a beacon code] anyway. I mean, obviously these guys are in the cockpit.NASYPANY: These guys are smart.UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, they knew exactly what they wanted to do.PLAY | STOP

Another officer asks Nasypany the obvious question.

9:32:20MAJOR JAMES ANDERSON: Have you asked-have you asked the question what you're gonna do if we actually find this guy? Are we gonna shoot him down if they got passengers on board? Have they talked about that?PLAY | STOP

Approval for any such order would have to come from the commander in chief. Just after 9:30, however, the president was in his motorcade preparing to leave the Emma Booker Elementary School, in Sarasota, for the airport and the safety of Air Force One. The 9/11 commission determined that the president had not been aware of any further possible hijackings and was not yet in touch with the Pentagon.

But a clear shootdown order wouldn't have made a difference. The Langley fighters were headed the wrong way-due east, straight out to sea into a military-training airspace called Whiskey 386, rather than toward Washington, which NEADS believed was under attack. According to the 9/11 commission, the Langley pilots were never briefed by anyone at their base about why they were being scrambled, so, despite having been given the order from NEADS to fly to Washington, the pilots ended up following their normal training flight plan out to sea-a flight plan dating from the Cold War. As one pilot later told the commission, "I reverted to the Russian threat-I'm thinking cruise-missile threat from the sea."

At NEADS, a 28-year-old staff sergeant named William Huckabone, staring at his Green Eye, is the first to notice that the Langley jets are off course. His voice is a mix of stress and dread as he and the controller next to him, Master Sergeant Steve Citino, order a navy air-traffic controller who's handling the fighters to get them turned around toward Baltimore to try to cut off the phantom American 11. The navy air-traffic controller seems not to understand the urgency of the situation.

9:34:12NAVY A.T.C.: You've got [the fighters] moving east in airspace. Now you want 'em to go to Baltimore?HUCKABONE: Yes, sir. We're not gonna take 'em in Whiskey 386 [military training airspace over the ocean].NAVY A.T.C.: O.K., once he goes to Baltimore, what are we supposed to do?HUCKABONE: Have him contact us on auxiliary frequency 2-3-4 decimal 6. Instead of taking handoffs to us and us handing 'em back, just tell Center they've got to go to Baltimore.NAVY A.T.C.: All right, man. Stand by. We'll get back to you.CITINO: What do you mean, "We'll get back to you"? Just do it!HUCKABONE: I'm gonna choke that guy!CITINO: Be very professional, Huck.HUCKABONE: O.K.CITINO: All right, Huck. Let's get our act together here.PLAY | STOP

All hell is breaking loose around them. Boston Center has called in with another suspected hijacking-the controllers there don't know the call sign yet-and ID tech Watson is speed-dialing everyone she can to find a position on the resurrected American 11. In the course of a call to Washington Center, the operations manager there has sprung new information about yet another lost airplane: American 77.

9:34:01WASHINGTON CENTER: Now, let me tell you this. I-I'll-we've been looking. We're-also lost American 77-WATSON: American 77?DOOLEY: American 77's lost-WATSON: Where was it proposed to head, sir?WASHINGTON CENTER: Okay, he was going to L.A. also-WATSON: From where, sir?WASHINGTON CENTER: I think he was from Boston also. Now let me tell you this story here. Indianapolis Center was working this guy-WATSON: What guy?WASHINGTON CENTER: American 77, at flight level 3-5-0 [35,000 feet]. However, they lost radar with him. They lost contact with him. They lost everything. And they don't have any idea where he is or what happened.PLAY | STOP

his is a full 10 minutes later than the time Major General Arnold and Colonel Scott would give in their testimony; reality was a lot messier. Forty minutes prior, at 8:54 a.m., controllers at Indianapolis Center had lost radar contact with American 77, flying from Washington Dulles to LAX, and assumed the plane had crashed because they weren't aware of the attack in New York. Though they soon realized this was another hijacking and sent warnings up the F.A.A. chain, no one called the military; it was only by chance that NEADS's Watson got the information in her call to Washington Center.

As Watson takes in the information from Washington Center, Rountree's phone is ringing again. By this point, the other ID techs have taken to calling Rountree "the bearer of death and destruction" because it seems every time she picks up the phone there's another hijacking. And so it is again. At Boston Center, Colin Scoggins has spotted a low-flying airliner six miles southeast of the White House.

9:35:41ROUNTREE: Huntress [call sign for NEADS] ID, Rountree, can I help you?BOSTON CENTER (Scoggins): Latest report, [low-flying] aircraft six miles southeast of the White House.ROUNTREE: Six miles southeast of the White House?BOSTON CENTER (Scoggins): Yup. East-he's moving away?ROUNTREE: Southeast from the White House.BOSTON CENTER (Scoggins): Air-aircraft is moving away.ROUNTREE: Moving away from the White House?BOSTON CENTER (Scoggins): Yeah....ROUNTREE: Deviating away. You don't have a type aircraft, you don't know who he is-BOSTON CENTER (Scoggins): Nothing, nothing. We're over here in Boston so I have no clue. That-hopefully somebody in Washington would have better-information for you.PLAY | STOP

This will turn out to be American 77, but since the hijackers turned the beacon off on this plane as well, no one will realize that until later. Depending on how you count, NEADS now has three reported possible hijackings from Boston (the phantom American 11 and two unidentified planes) as well as Washington Center's report that American 77 is lost.

Of these four vague and ultimately overlapping reports, the latest-word of a plane six miles from the White House-is the most urgent. The news sets off a frenzy.

9:36:23NASYPANY: O.K., Foxy [Major Fox, the Weapons Team head]. I got a aircraft six miles east of the White House! Get your fighters there as soon as possible!MALE VOICE: That came from Boston?HUCKABONE: We're gonna turn and burn it-crank it up-MALE TECH: Six miles!HUCKABONE: All right, here we go. This is what we're gonna do-NASYPANY: We've got an aircraft deviating eight [sic] miles east of the White House right now.FOX: Do you want us to declare A.F.I.O. [emergency military control of the fighters] and run 'em straight in there?NASYPANY: Take 'em and run 'em to the White House.FOX: Go directly to Washington.CITINO: We're going direct D.C. with my guys [Langley fighters]? Okay. Okay.HUCKABONE: Ma'am, we are going A.F.I.O. right now with Quit 2-5 [the Langley fighters]. They are going direct Washington.NAVY A.T.C.: Quit 2-5, we're handing 'em off to Center right now.HUCKABONE: Ma'am, we need to expedite that right now. We've gotta contact them on 2-3-4-6.PLAY | STOP

"Six miles south, or west, or east of the White House is-it's seconds [away]," Nasypany told me later. "Airliners traveling at 400-plus knots, it's nothing. It's seconds away from that location."

The White House, then, is in immediate danger. Radar analysis in the following weeks will show that the plane abruptly veers away and turns toward the Pentagon, though the controllers at NEADS have no way of knowing this in the moment. Looking in the general capital area, one of the tracker techs thinks he spots the plane on radar, then just as quickly loses it.

9:37:56MALE TECH: Right here, right here, right here. I got him. I got him.NASYPANY: We just lost track. Get a Z-point [coordinate] on that.... O.K., we got guys lookin' at 'em. Hold on.... Where's Langley at? Where are the fighters?PLAY | STOP

The fighters have no chance. They're about 150 miles away, according to radar analysis done later. Even at top speed-and even if they know the problem is suicide hijackings of commercial airliners rather than Russian missiles-it will take them roughly 10 minutes to get to the Pentagon.

9:38:50NASYPANY: We need to get those back up there-I don't care how many windows you break!... Goddammit! O.K. Push 'em back!

But the Pentagon is already in flames, American 77 having plowed through the E-ring of the west side of the building seconds before, at 9:37:46. The Langley fighters will not be established over Washington for another 20 minutes.

"You were just so mad"n the ops floor, everyone is staring at CNN on the overhead screen. Seeing the first pictures of the Pentagon in flames is gut-wrenching. Nasypany's voice can be heard cursing in frustration: "Goddammit! I can't even protect my N.C.A. [National Capital Area]." You hear troops prod one another to stay focused.

CITINO: O.K.-let's watch our guys, Huck. Not the TV.

"The more it went on, the more unbelievable it got, and then the one that did the Pentagon," Dooley told me, "we just couldn't believe it. You were just so mad that you couldn't stop these guys and so you're looking for the next one. Where are they going next?"

It looks like Washington again. Three minutes after the Pentagon is hit, Scoggins, at Boston Center, is back on the phone. The Boston controllers are now tracking Delta 1989-Boston to Las Vegas-which fits the same profile as the other hijackings: cross-country, out of Boston, lots of fuel, and possibly off course. But this one's different from the others in one key respect: the plane's beacon code is still working. In this chase, NEADS will have a chance, as the excitement in Dooley's last line reflects:

9:40:57ROUNTREE: Delta 89, that's the hijack. They think it's possible hijack.DOOLEY: Fuck!ROUNTREE: South of Cleveland. We have a code on him now.DOOLEY: Good. Pick it up! Find it!MALE TECH: Delta what?ROUNTREE: Eight nine-a Boeing 767.DOOLEY: Fuck, another one-PLAY | STOP

They quickly find the plane on radar-it's just south of Toledo-and begin alerting other F.A.A. centers. They're not sure where the plane is headed. If it's Chicago, they're in big trouble, because they don't have any planes close enough to cut it off. Marr and Nasypany order troops to call Air National Guard bases in that area to see if anyone can launch fighters. A base in Selfridge, Michigan, offers up two unarmed fighters that are already flying, on their way back from a training mission.

9:54:54SELFRIDGE FLIGHT OFFICER: Here-here's what we can do. At a minimum, we can keep our guys airborne. I mean, they don't have-they don't have any guns or missiles or anything on board. But we-NEADS TECH: It's a presence, though.PLAY | STOP

But NEADS is victim again to an increasingly long information lag. Even before Rountree gets the urgent call that Delta 1989 is hijacked, a civilian air-traffic controller in Cleveland in contact with the pilot has determined that the flight is fine-that Delta 1989 isn't a hijacking after all.

eanwhile, however, NEADS has gotten a call from a NORAD unit in Canada with yet another suspected hijacking headed south across the border toward Washington. In the barrage of information and misinformation, it becomes increasingly difficult for the controllers to keep count of how many suspected hijackings are pending. So far, it is known that three have hit buildings, but given the uncertainty about the fates of American 11 and American 77-no one knows yet that this is the plane that hit the Pentagon-the sense at NEADS is that there are possibly three hijacked jets still out there, and who knows how many more yet to be reported. At this point, no one on the military side is aware that United 93 has been hijacked.

Then, over a crackly radio, one of the Langley fighter pilots, now in a combat air patrol over Washington, is calling in urgently.

10:07:08PILOT: Baltimore is saying something about an aircraft over the White House. Any words?CITINO: Negative. Stand by. Do you copy that, SD [Major Fox]? Center said there's an aircraft over the White House. Any words?FOX: M.C.C. [Nasypany], we've got an aircraft reported over the White House.PLAY | STOP

A fourth hijacking? Nasypany, who's running full throttle, replies instinctively.

NASYPANY: Intercept!FOX: Intercept!NASYPANY: Intercept and divert that aircraft away from there.PLAY | STOP

On one channel, you hear a weapons tech very dramatically hailing the fighters and ordering the intercept.

CITINO: Quit 2-5 [Langley fighters], mission is intercept aircraft over White House. Use F.A.A. for guidance.FOX: Divert the aircraft away from the White House. Intercept and divert it.CITINO: Quit 2-5, divert the aircraft from the White House.PILOT: Divert the aircraft....PLAY | STOP

Meanwhile, Nasypany calls the Battle Cab. With a plane headed straight for the White House, Nasypany needs an update on his rules of engagement-fast.

10:07:39NASYPANY: Do you hear that? That aircraft over the White House. What's the word? ... Intercept and what else? ... Aircraft over the White House.PLAY | STOP

The "what else?" is the big question: do they have the authority to shoot? The request skips up the chain to Arnold.

"I was in Vietnam," Arnold later told me. "When people are shooting at you, you don't know when it's going to stop. And that same thought went through my mind [on 9/11]. You begin to wonder, How can I get control of this situation? When can we as a military get control of this situation?"

Arnold, in turn, passes the request for rules of engagement farther up the chain.

It is in the middle of this, simultaneously, that the first call comes in about United 93. ID tech Watson fields it.

10:07:16CLEVELAND CENTER: We got a United 93 out here. Are you aware of that?WATSON: United 93?CLEVELAND CENTER: That has a bomb on board.WATSON: A bomb on board?! And this is confirmed? You have a [beacon code], sir?CLEVELAND CENTER: No, we lost his transponder.

The information is shouted out to Nasypany.

NASYPANY: Gimme the call sign. Gimme the whole nine yards.... Let's get some info, real quick. They got a bomb?PLAY | STOP

But by the time NEADS gets the report of a bomb on United 93, everyone on board is already dead. Following the passengers' counterattack, the plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m., 4 minutes before Cleveland Center notified NEADS, and a full 35 minutes after a Cleveland Center controller, a veteran named John Werth, first suspected something was wrong with the flight. At 9:28, Werth actually heard the guttural sounds of the cockpit struggle over the radio as the hijackers attacked the pilots.

Werth's suspicions about United 93 were passed quickly up the F.A.A.'s chain of command, so how is it that no one from the agency alerted NEADS for more than half an hour?

A former senior executive at the F.A.A., speaking to me on the condition that I not identify him by name, tried to explain. "Our whole procedures prior to 9/11 were that you turned everything [regarding a hijacking] over to the F.B.I.," he said, reiterating that hijackers had never actually flown airplanes; it was expected that they'd land and make demands. "There were absolutely no shootdown protocols at all. The F.A.A. had nothing to do with whether they were going to shoot anybody down. We had no protocols or rules of engagement."

n his bunker under the White House, Vice President Cheney was not notified about United 93 until 10:02-only one minute before the airliner impacted the ground. Yet it was with dark bravado that the vice president and others in the Bush administration would later recount sober deliberations about the prospect of shooting down United 93. "Very, very tough decision, and the president understood the magnitude of that decision," Bush's then chief of staff, Andrew Card, told ABC News.

Cheney echoed, "The significance of saying to a pilot that you are authorized to shoot down a plane full of Americans is, a, you know, it's an order that had never been given before." And it wasn't on 9/11, either.

President Bush would finally grant commanders the authority to give that order at 10:18, which-though no one knew it at the time-was 15 minutes after the attack was over.

But comments such as those above were repeated by other administration and military figures in the weeks and months following 9/11, forging the notion that only the passengers' counterattack against their hijackers prevented an inevitable shootdown of United 93 (and convincing conspiracy theorists that the government did, indeed, secretly shoot it down). The recordings tell a different story, and not only because United 93 had crashed before anyone in the military chain of command even knew it had been hijacked.

At what feels on the tapes like the moment of truth, what comes back down the chain of command, instead of clearance to fire, is a resounding sense of caution. Despite the fact that NEADS believes there may be as many as five suspected hijacked aircraft still in the air at this point-one from Canada, the new one bearing down fast on Washington, the phantom American 11, Delta 1989, and United 93-the answer to Nasypany's question about rules of engagement comes back in no uncertain terms, as you hear him relay to the ops floor.

10:10:31NASYPANY (to floor): Negative. Negative clearance to shoot.... Goddammit!...FOX: I'm not really worried about code words at this point.NASYPANY: Fuck the code words. That's perishable information. Negative clearance to fire. ID. Type. Tail.PLAY | STOP

The orders from higher headquarters are to identify by aircraft type and tail number, and nothing more. Those orders-and the fact that the pilots have no clearance to shoot-are reiterated by NEADS controllers as a dramatic chase towards the White House continues. Two more problems emerge: the controllers can't find the White House on their dated equipment, and they have trouble communicating with the Langley fighters (which are referred to by their call signs, Quit 2-5 and Quit 2-6).

CITINO: Quit 2-6, Huntress. How far is the-suspect aircraft?PILOT: Standby. Standby.... About 15 miles, Huntress.CITINO: Huntress copies two-two miles.PILOT: 15 miles, Huntress.CITINO: 15 miles. One-five ... noise level please ... It's got to be low. Quit 2-6, when able say altitude of the aircraft.... Did we get a Z-track [coordinates] up for the White House?HUCKABONE: They're workin' on it.CITINO: Okay. Hey, what's this Bravo 0-0-5 [unidentified target]?FOX: We're trying to get the Z-point. We're trying to find it.HUCKABONE: I don't even know where the White House is.CITINO: Whatever it is, it's very low. It's probably a helicopter.MALE VOICE: It's probably the helicopter you're watching there.... There's probably one flying over the [Pentagon].MALE VOICE: It's probably the smoke. The building's smoked. [They're seeing more pictures of the flaming Pentagon on CNN.]HUCKABONE: Holy shit.... Holy shit ...CITINO: Yes. We saw that. O.K.-let's watch our guys, Huck. Not the TV.... Quit 2-6, status? SD, they're too low. I can't talk to 'em. They're too low. I can't talk to 'em.FOX: Negative clearance to fire.CITINO: O.K. I told 'em mission is ID and that was it.FOX: Do whatever you need to divert. They are not cleared to fire.PLAY | STOP

As it turns out, it's just as well the pilots are not cleared to shoot. Delta 1989 and the Canadian scare turn out to be false alarms. American 11 and United 93 are already down. And the fast-moving target near the White House that the armed fighters are racing to intercept turns out to be a friendly-a mistake by a civilian controller who was unaware of the military's scrambles, as weapons techs Huckabone and Citino, and their senior director, Fox, suddenly realize.

HUCKABONE: It was our guys [the fighters from Langley].CITINO: Yup. It was our guys they saw. It was our guys they saw-Center saw.FOX: New York did the same thing....CITINO: O.K., Huck. That was cool. We intercepted our own guys.PLAY | STOP

At that point in the morning, Marr later told me, preventing an accidental shootdown was a paramount concern. "What you don't want happening is a pilot having to make that decision in the heat of the moment where he is bearing all that burden as to whether I should shoot something down or not," Marr said.

It is 12 minutes after United 93 actually crashed when NEADS's Watson first hears the word. Her voice is initially full of hope as she mistakenly believes she is being told that United 93 has landed safely.

10:15:00WATSON: United nine three, have you got information on that yet?WASHINGTON CENTER: Yeah, he's down.WATSON: What-he's down?WASHINGTON CENTER: Yes.WATSON: When did he land? Because we have confirmation-WASHINGTON CENTER: He did-he did-he did not land.

Here, on the tape, you hear the air rush out of Watson's voice.

WATSON: Oh, he's down down?MALE VOICE: Yes. Yeah, somewhere up northeast of Camp David.WATSON: Northeast of Camp David.WASHINGTON CENTER: That's the-that's the last report. They don't know exactly where.PLAY | STOP

"I know what spin is"n June 17, 2004, a year after the 9/11 commission's initial public hearing, Major General Arnold and a more robust contingent of NORAD and Pentagon brass arrived to testify before the commission at its 12th and final public meeting. This time, they would testify under oath.

The hearing began with an elaborate multi-media presentation in which John Farmer Jr., the commission's senior counsel, John Azzarello, and another staff attorney, Dana Hyde, took turns illustrating, in withering detail, the lag time between when the F.A.A. found out about each of the hijacked aircraft and the time anyone from the agency notified the military. Excerpts from the NEADS tapes and parallel recordings from the F.A.A., which show the civilian side in equal turmoil, were played in public for the first time. (Both sets of recordings were provided to the commission only after being subpoenaed.)

The focus of the pointed questioning that followed wasn't on why the military didn't do better, but rather on why the story Major General Arnold and Colonel Scott had told at the first hearing was so wrong, in particular with respect to the phantom American 11, which the officers had never mentioned, and United 93, which they claimed to have been tracking. Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste, who cut his teeth 30 years earlier working for the Watergate special prosecutor, led off the questioning and came out swinging.

"General, is it not a fact that the failure to call our attention to the miscommunication and the notion of a phantom Flight 11 continuing from New York City south in fact skewed the whole reporting of 9/11?" he asked Arnold, who replied that he had not been aware of those facts when he testified the year before.

"I've been in government and I know what spin is," Farmer, the senior counsel, told me. The military's story was "a whole different order of magnitude than spin. It simply wasn't true." Farmer says he doesn't understand why the military felt the need to spin at all. "The information they got [from the F.A.A.] was bad information, but they reacted in a way that you would have wanted them to. The calls Marr and Nasypany made were the right ones."

Both Marr and Arnold bristled when I asked about the commission's suspicion that there had been an effort to spin the story. "I can't think of any incentive why we'd want to spin that," Marr said, his eyes tensing for the first time in what had been friendly interviews. "I'll be the first to admit that immediately after-in fact, for a long time after-we were very confused with who was what and where, what reports were coming in. I think with having 29 different reports of hijackings nationwide, for us it was next to impossible to try and get back there and figure out the fidelity [about the morning's chronology] that the 9/11 commission ended up being able to show."

zzarello, Farmer, and several other commission members I spoke to dismissed this fog-of-



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The Long-Term Battle: Defining 'Victory' Before the World - i.e. The Victors Write the History ... er... LIES.

By STEVEN ERLANGER
August 3, 2006

JERUSALEM, Aug. 2 - As Israeli troops press the ground offensive in southern Lebanon and commandos make an unexpected raid far to the north in Baalbek, Israel is fighting now to win the battle of perceptions.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wants to ensure that when a cease-fire is finally arranged, Israel is seen as having won a decisive victory over Hezbollah. It is important for him politically, especially after a slow and fumbling start to this war. In part, Israel wants to recover from an image of an unimpressive military venture against a tough, small, but well-trained group of fighters.

Israel also wants to send a message to the Palestinians, and to Hezbollah and its sponsors, Syria and Iran, that attacks on Israel will be met with overwhelming force, and that the cost is not worth the effort. How soon that message is perceived will play a central role in its decision to stop the war.

As with all wars, however, any victory must be consolidated in political and diplomatic arrangements, which remain uncertain, like the insertion of a multinational force along the border.

For Hezbollah, victory means simply avoiding defeat. It will be perceived by many Muslims to have won by keeping the capacity to fire even short-range rockets into Israel.

Gidi Grinstein, a former Israeli negotiator and director of the Reut Institute, a research group, calls it the "90-10 paradox." Israel can eliminate 90 percent of Hezbollah's fighting capacity, but Hezbollah can still declare victory and claim that it fought the mighty Israeli Army to a draw.

"At the end of the war, they'll have a narrative, and so will we," he said. "It's all about perception."

Hezbollah will argue that it withstood three to five weeks of fighting with the region's most powerful army, supported and equipped by the world's most powerful army, that of the United States. In that sense, a long war is better for Hezbollah.

Hezbollah and its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, will be hailed by many in the Arab and Muslim worlds as heroes and new Saladins, whose religious faith was transmuted into astounding bravery rarely shown by the huge Arab armies of the secular Arab states that fought Israel in the 1967 and 1973 wars.

Shlomo Avineri, a former Foreign Ministry official and professor of political science at Hebrew University, said Israel could never prevail in an Arab narrative. "If Israel had won in the first week, Hezbollah would say that it was a victory of the United States, which provided Israel the time, weapons and money."

Israel's problem is much more complicated, Mr. Avineri said, because "everything is likely to end in grays." What will help define the real results, he said, is the mandate of any multinational force and whether it calls for disarming Hezbollah.

An Israeli cabinet minister, who spoke anonymously because of the delicacy of the topic, said, "The narrative at the end is part of the problem." He added: "That's why we're making up this balance sheet of accomplishments. Olmert said it very well in the cabinet: 'Ask Nasrallah and his colleagues if they would like to return to the situation of three weeks ago, and they will say yes."

But the end will be a far cry from Israel's original intent, which Mr. Olmert stated as the destruction or dismantling of Hezbollah.

"Israel is trying to frame its narrative now around the most minimal achievement, which is a major setback to the fighting capacity of Hezbollah," Mr. Grinstein said. "But the question and the challenge is to frame a narrative of victory around more ambitious objectives."

To "win," Israel must be able to alter Hezbollah's decision-making and remove the aura of the invincible fighters who drove the Americans and French out of Beirut in 1983 and the Israelis out of Lebanon in 2000. Israel must also create enough distance between Lebanese and Hezbollah interests to ensure that the Lebanese also press the militia group not to provoke Israel to another round of costly warfare.

"Hezbollah serves two masters: Lebanon, where it lives, and Iran and Syria and the camp of permanent resistance to Israel," Mr. Grinstein said. "Most Lebanese don't like the second master, but if the two overlap, as they did before July 12, Hezbollah is comfortable."

Israel is trying to underline the contradictions. Mr. Nasrallah is widely considered to have miscalculated when he authorized the raid into Israel on July 12, when two soldiers were captured. He said he thought Israel would respond as in the past, with token tank fire.

"Israel's most significant accomplishment from this war will be if it can severely compromise Hezbollah's ability to fight Israel from inside Lebanon," Mr. Grinstein said.

Giora Eiland, Israel's national security adviser under former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, predicts a solution in the next week or so "that is far from Israel's original intent."

He sees a political package negotiated at the United Nations that includes an exchange of Lebanese prisoners, with Israel regaining its two soldiers; a security zone in southern Lebanon under the control of a multinational force; an Israeli promise not to violate Lebanon's sovereignty; and "a general understanding or commitment by the Lebanese government to be responsible for Hezbollah's behavior."

But "the most important thing will be missing from a deal," he said, "the dismantling of the military capacity of Hezbollah."

Israel also wants to get its message across to Hezbollah's Sunni cousin in the camp of permanent resistance - Hamas, which leads the Palestinian Authority.

Yuval Diskin, the head of the Shin Bet counterterrorism organization, told the cabinet that Israel needed to deepen its gains against Hezbollah so that the Palestinians could feel them. "In the Middle East it is important to show the potential terrorist in Balata," a Palestinian refugee camp, "not only the strategic victory, but the army's achievements, in order to effect deterrence."

When Israel pulled out of Gaza last summer, Hamas controlled the narrative, arguing that its fighters had expelled Israel the way Hezbollah expelled Israel from Lebanon in 2000. Israel's withdrawal, in both cases, was perceived not as a gesture for peaceful coexistence, as Israel had hoped, but as a sign of weakness.

Jonathan Fighel, a former colonel who fought in Lebanon and was the military governor of Jenin, said that in Lebanon, "the army is breaking the idea that Hezbollah has superiority on the ground, as the resilience of Israelis in the north is breaking Nasrallah's claim that we're a bunch of nobodies that will crack."

Much will depend on the diplomatic solution and what follows on the ground, Mr. Avineri said. "If Hezbollah continues to have freedom of movement and operation, the outcome is a failure for Israel. But if you have a regime that makes it very hard for them to operate militarily, it's a different narrative."



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Major Media Firms - AP, NY Times, USA Today - Counted As Small Businesses to inflate the Bush administration's record of help to small companies.

Frank Bass
AP Writer

WASHINGTON - Some of the nation's largest news media companies, including The Associated Press, were counted last year by the government as small businesses for contracting purposes, inflating the Bush administration's record of help to small companies.

Other media companies cited as small businesses included The New York Times Co., USA Today International Corp., Bloomberg L.P. and the Public Broadcasting Service, according to data the administration gave congressional investigators.
The media companies join other corporate giants like ExxonMobil and Microsoft Corp. that congressional investigators identified last week as companies listed as small businesses by the White House. The companies say the government erroneously gave them that designation and they did not portray themselves as small businesses to win the contracts.

The AP was cited as receiving five small business contracts valued at $31,600. Three of the contracts were awarded by the State Department, one was given by the U.S. Coast Guard and the fifth was from the Department of Transportation.

AP said the original Coast Guard contract, an $8,000 award described as a "phototechnology maintenance contract," didn't list it as a small business. AP spokeswoman Linda Wagner said the news organization couldn't find any records involving the other four contracts.

The largest AP contract, a $19,100 award for software support to the secretary of transportation, cited the news organization as a small business. Wagner said it appeared to be a government error.

"We do not believe AP has signed any government contract that specified small business status for the vendor," she said.

The AP, a not-for-profit cooperative, employs about 3,700 people in more than 240 locations around the globe. It reported 2005 revenues of $654 million.

"Since we do not categorize The New York Times as a small business, clearly this was an error," Times spokeswoman Abbe Serphos said of two General Services Administration contracts totaling $10,875 that the government reported as small business contracts.

The Times' parent company also publishes The Boston Globe, International Herald Tribune and 15 other daily newspapers. It reported $3.4 billion in revenue in 2005 and has about 12,500 employees.

Tara Connell, a spokeswoman for Gannett Co., the parent company of USA Today International, said records showing the subsidiary received a $12,690 small business contract from the Bureau of Indian Affairs was obviously a "clerical error."

Gannett, headquartered in McLean, Va., is the nation's largest newspaper company. It reported $7.6 billion in operating revenue in 2005 and has 52,600 employees.

Bloomberg, which employs 8,200 people and reported annual revenues of $3.2 billion in 2005, gave a similar account. "We do not categorize ourselves as a small business nor do we represent ourselves as a small business," spokeswoman Judith Czelusniak said.

The government is required to spend 23 percent of roughly $314 billion in contracts with small businesses. Last month, the Small Business Administration claimed the government more than met that goal in 2005.

An investigation by House Democrats found the number was closer to 22 percent because about $12 billion in contracts to big companies were mistakenly cited as going to small businesses.

The media companies were not mentioned in the congressional report last week but were included in a database of small businesses the investigators received as part of their inquiry.



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Right Wing US court overturns convictions in Enron case

Reuters
1 Aug 06

NEW YORK - A federal appeals court has overturned most of the convictions against four former Merrill Lynch bankers concerning a bogus deal with Enron Corp.
The four men and one former Enron executive were convicted in November 2004 of conspiracy and fraud charges connected to the sham sale in 1999 of three electricity producing barges in Nigeria by Enron to Merrill.

A jury in the case had agreed with prosecutors that Enron had illegally used the deal to inflate its profits by promising to buy back the barges in six months.

But in a 43-page opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans overturned wire fraud and conspiracy convictions against Daniel Bayly, Robert Furst, William Fuhs and James Brown, while upholding Brown's conviction on perjury and obstruction charges.

"In sum, the convictions of each of the defendants for conspiracy and wire fraud cannot be upheld on the basis of the honest-services theory and must be vacated..." the court said.

That theory of fraud revolves around the breach of so-called "honest services" owed under a contract.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice's Enron Task Force could not be reached for comment.

Defense lawyers involved in the case had argued before the appellate court that the men were improperly charged in the case and that the judge at the trial had wrongly allowed the government to present certain witness testimony.

In June the appeals court had already ordered the release of Bayly, Furst and Fuhs, pending its decision.

Brown had also requested release during his appeal in the case, but that motion was denied.



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Save the Penquins!


X-rays reveal Archimedes secrets

By Jonathan Fildes
BBC News
Wednesday, 2 August 2006

A series of hidden texts written by the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes are being revealed by US scientists.

Until now, the pages have remained obscured by paintings and texts laid down on top of the original writings.

Using a non-destructive technique known as X-ray fluorescence, the researchers are able to peer through these later additions to read the underlying text.

The goatskin parchment records key details of Archimedes' work, considered the foundation of modern mathematics.
The writings include the only Greek version of On Floating Bodies known to exist, and the only surviving ancient copies of The Method of Mechanical Theorems and the Stomachion.

In the treatises, the 3rd Century BC mathematician develops numerical descriptions of the real world.

"Archimedes was like no-one before him," says Will Noel, curator of manuscripts and rare books at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland and director of the imaging project.

"It just doesn't get any better than re-reading the mind of one of the greatest figures of Western civilisation."

'Eighth wonder'

Revealing Archimedes' writings presents a huge challenge to the imaging team.

The original texts were transcribed in the 10th Century by an anonymous scribe on to parchment.

Three centuries later a monk in Jerusalem called Johannes Myronas recycled the manuscript to create a palimpsest.

Palimpsesting involves scraping away the original text so the parchments can be used again. To create a book, the monk cut the pages in half and turned them sideways.

To create a book Myronas also used recycled pages from works by the 4th Century Orator Hyperides and other philosophical texts.

Mr Noel describes the palimpsest as "the eighth wonder of the world".

"You never get three unique palimpsested texts from the ancient world together in one book," he told the BBC News website. "That's just completely unheard of."

The monks filled the recycled pages with Greek Orthodox prayers.

Later, forgers in the 20th Century added gold paintings of religious imagery to try to boost the value of the tome.

The result was the near total obliteration of the original texts apart from faint traces of the ink used by the 10th Century Scribe.

Bright light

Previously the privately-owned palimpsest has been investigated using various optical and digital imaging techniques.

However, much of the text remained hidden behind paint and stains.

The researchers have now turned to a technique known as X-ray fluorescence to tease out the final details of the writings.

The method is used in may branches of science including geology and biology. It has previously been used by other researchers to decode ancient texts.

In August 2005 a team from Cornell University successfully deciphered a series of 2,000-year-old worn down stone inscriptions.

The X-rays are formed in a synchrotron - a particle accelerator that uses electrons travelling at close to the speed of light to generate powerful "synchrotron" light.

The light covers a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum, including powerful X-rays, a million times more intense than a transmission X-ray used in medical imaging.

"In fluorescence it's like looking at the stars at night whereas in transmission it's like looking during the day," explains Dr Uwe Bergmann of the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lab in the US, where the work is being done.

The light enables scientists to look inside matter at the molecular and atomic scale.

Glowing words

The technique is particularly useful for probing the palimpsest because the ink used by the scribe to record Archimedes' work contains iron.

"When the X-rays hit an iron atom it emits a characteristic radiation, it glows," says Dr Bergmann. "When you record the glow you can reconstruct an image of all of the iron in the book."

The glowing words are displayed on a computer screen, giving the researchers the first glimpse of the text in nearly 800 years.

"It's like receiving a fax from the 3rd Century BC," said Mr Noel. "It's the most sensational feeling."

Each page takes 12 hours to reconstruct as the highly focused beam of X-rays, the width of a human hair, sweeps across the page.

The team have until the 7 August this year to scrutinise the palimpsest, before the synchrotron is switched off for maintenance.

During that time they hope to scan between 12 and 14 pages, paying particular attention to the areas covered with the forged paintings.

The public can watch the researchers as they reveal the glowing ancient text during a live webcast at 2300 GMT on 4 August.



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Brazilian military to aid stray penguins

By STAN LEHMAN
Associated Press
Wed Aug 2, 2006

SAO PAULO, Brazil - Brazil is staging a military operation involving a Hercules transport plane and Navy ships - all to return four dozen wayward penguins to the icy waters of Antarctica, authorities said Wednesday.

The 50 birds are the survivors among 135 that started appearing in Rio de Janeiro in early June, dragged to warm Brazilian waters by ocean currents, said Giselda Candiotto, president of Rio's Niteroi Zoo Foundation, which is caring for the penguins.
A Hercules C-130 transport airplane will take the flightless birds to Pelotas in southern Brazil on Sept. 23 for the first leg of their journey home, the Air Force's press office said. There, they will be examined by veterinarians at the Marine Animal Rehabilitation Center of the Eliezer de Carvalho Rios Oceanographic Museum.

From Pelotas, the penguins will be driven to the coast and placed on Navy ships. They will be taken 40 miles offshore before being released into the southern Atlantic.

"Ocean currents will hopefully carry them back to their natural habitat," Candiotto said. "If everything goes smoothly, the penguins should be back in Antarctica within 10 days after leaving Rio."

Every year between June and August, large numbers of penguins arrive in Rio from the Strait of Magellan, Candiotto said by telephone from Rio.

"They are young, inexperienced animals that, in their search for food, get caught in the ocean currents," she said. The birds arrive near Rio extremely debilitated and having lost about two-thirds of their normal body weight. About half die of hyperthermia, hyperglycemia and exhaustion, she added.

Brazil began penguin airlifts in 2000, returning as many as 100 a year to their natural habitat, said Lauro Barcellos of the Oceanographic Museum.



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China Massacres 50,000 Dogs in Anti-Rabies Campaign

AP
03/08/2006

SHANGHAI, China (Aug. 2) - China slaughtered 50,000 dogs in a government-ordered crackdown after three people died of rabies, sparking unusually pointed criticism in state media Tuesday and an outcry from animal rights activists.

Health experts said the brutal policy pointed to deep weaknesses in the health care infrastructure in China, where only 3 percent of dogs are vaccinated against rabies and more than 2,000 people die of the disease each year.

The five-day slaughter in Mouding county in Yunnan province in southwestern China ended Sunday and spared only military guard dogs and police canine units, state media reported.
Dogs being walked were seized from their owners and beaten to death on the spot, the Shanghai Daily newspaper reported. Led by the county police chief, killing teams entered villages at night creating noise to get dogs barking, then beat the animals to death, the reports said.

Owners were offered 63 cents per animal to kill their own dogs before the teams were sent in, they said.

The killings were widely discussed on the Internet, with both legal scholars and animal rights activists criticizing them as crude and cold-blooded. The World Health Organization said more emphasis needed to be placed on rabies prevention.

The official newspaper Legal Daily blasted the killings as an "extraordinarily crude, cold-blooded and lazy way for the government to deal with epidemic disease."

"Wiping out the dogs shows these government officials didn't do their jobs right in protecting people from rabies in the first place," the newspaper, published by the central government's Politics and Law Committee, said in an editorial in its online edition.

In an editorial, the official Xinhua News Agency said the killings wouldn't have been necessary if the local government had been more attentive, but called the slaughter "the only way out of a bad situation."

"If they'd discovered this earlier, they could have vaccinated the dogs and ... controlled the outbreak," the editorial said.

The killings prompted calls for a boycott of Chinese products from the activist group People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

"We are urging everyone to actively boycott - not a word we use lightly - anything from China given the bludgeoning killing of thousands of dogs," PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said.

She said the group had canceled all orders of merchandise it sells that are made in China. Will Wright, at PETA's European office in London, said the orders were worth about $300,000.

"We believe other groups will join us in expressing outrage over the blatant cruelty to animals the world is witnessing," Wright said.

Mouding County officials defended the slaughter in a region where about 360 of the 200,000 residents suffered dog bites this year, with three people reportedly dying of rabies, including a 4-year-old girl.

"With the aim to keep this horrible disease from people, we decided to kill the dogs," Li Haibo, a spokesman for the county government, was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

Calls to county government offices went unanswered Tuesday. Located in mountains about 1,240 miles southwest of Shanghai, Mouding is famed for its Buddhist shrines.

Unlike in the West, where dogs have long been cherished as companions or helpmates, dogs have rarely had an easy time in China. Dog meat is eaten throughout the country, revered as a tonic in winter and a restorer of virility in men.

Following the communist seizure of power in 1949, dog ownership was condemned as a bourgeois affectation and canines were hunted as pests. Attitudes have softened in recent years, although urban Chinese are still subject to strict rules on the size of their pets and must pay steep registration fees.

About 70 percent of rural households now keep dogs, according to the Chinese Center of Disease Control and Prevention, and increased rates of dog ownership have been tied to a surge in the number of rabies cases in recent years. It said there were 2,651 reported deaths from the disease in 2004, the last year for which data was available.

Access to rabies treatment is also highly limited, especially in the countryside, said Dr. Francette Dusan, a World Health Organization expert.

Effective rabies control requires coordinated efforts between human health, animal health and municipal agencies and authorities, Dusan said.

"This has not been pursued adequately to date in China, with most control efforts consisting of purely reactive dog culls," she said.



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New group to try to solve aspen mystery

AP
Wed Aug 2, 2006

POCATELLO, Idaho - A working group has been formed in southeastern Idaho to find out why aspen trees are disappearing.

"The trees are dying like they're supposed to do, but then something happens that is killing the root system out completely," Dale Bartos, an ecologist with the Rocky Mountain Research Station's Forestry Sciences Laboratory in Logan, Utah, told the Idaho State Journal.

"This is a big concern of a lot of people right now. I suspect it will be determined to be some type of disease that's in there."
Aspens send out suckers to create "clone" trees. But in many stands in the West, including southeastern Idaho, that process is not working. The group wants to figure out why.

The group is made up of workers with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Idaho Department of Lands, Idaho Department of Agriculture, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, ecologists and concerned citizens.

"Right now, they're still building their mailing list," said Wendy Lowe, a consultant hired to run the meetings. "They have chosen to define their membership as anyone interested in participating. They're just getting started. The first thing they wanted to do is learn a lot more about it."

According to Fish and Game, aspen numbers in eastern Idaho have declined 65 percent in the past century. Records show that 45 percent of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest in southeastern Idaho was once covered by aspens. Aspens now cover about 27 percent of the forest.

To try to help aspens, Fish and Game has killed conifers that compete with them for space, said Jennifer Jackson, a regional conservation educator with the agency. The Forest Service also has projects planned to help aspens return.

"The fire cycle has been interrupted," Jackson said. "Conifers have been encroaching on the aspen stands. Aspen communities are so important to wildlife species."

Bartos said that aspen stands tend to burn every 30 to 50 years, a process that causes new clone trees to grow. But Bartos said fire suppression has interfered with that process.

He said planting aspens is difficult in the wild. A better way to bring back aspens, he said, was to help existing populations by giving them additional space.



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