- Signs of the Times for Tue, 26 Sep 2006 -

Sections on today's Signs Page:

Signs Editorials

Editorial: All the world's a stage: Interview with Michael Frayn

Liz Else
23 September 2006

When Michael Frayn was a child, the other children nicknamed him "the scientist". He wasn't, of course. Just a bright little boy with glasses, who eventually became a successful novelist and playwright. In his writing he worries a lot about who we are, how we understand the world, and how subjectivity lies at the heart of everything - the tricky stuff that science and scientists also grapple with. His latest book, he tells Liz Else, attempts to deal with many of these issues head-on, asking, for example, what the universe would look like if humans didn't exist.

What will your theatre audiences make of you writing a book about human consciousness and the nature of the universe?

I don't want them to think anything. All writers write to tell their story. The Human Touch is a story. I wrote an earlier non-fiction book called Constructions in the 1970s and I went on thinking about our place in the universe and our relationship to it, the scale of everything. While it might be more sensible to keep my mouth shut, if you are a writer and you think about things you can't help but want to write about them.

Doesn't this bring you up against other popular science writers?

No, I am in no sense claiming to be a scientist or a science writer. But it seems that science is so fundamental to the world that even if you aren't a scientist you really have to try to think about it. I hope that I am trying to make just a bit clearer how we fit in with the world. After all, that is what most literature is about. It seems we all face a fundamental paradox in that it's impossible to think about the universe except in terms of its relation to humans. You can't make sense of language, or even scientific laws or mathematics, without the concept of an observer, and yet at the same time we know perfectly well that humans are a very late addition: the universe was here long before us and will be here long after us.

Have you always been interested in science?

No. As a child, I wanted to be a writer. I did want to be a research chemist when I was about seven because I assumed that it was about making explosives. There was a gang at school led by a tremendously ferocious girl, and I was appointed gang scientist because I wore spectacles - and obviously if you wore spectacles you had to be a gang scientist.

My job was to make explosives for the gang but the only materials I could find were chalk and elderberries. I never discovered a way of making a combination of the two explode.

Yet you ended up with lots of friends who were passionate about science.

In my military service days I met Eric Korn, who went on to become a zoologist first and ended up as a scientific bookseller. He had been part of a set at St Paul's School in London. They had a science teacher who had inspired them, and I acquired a little of that passion second-hand. I think it was the first time that I began to see science not as the dull subject people did at school but as another world. A "palace of thought" is how I describe it in the book. It was through Korn that I first heard about uncertainty, quantum mechanics and relativity.

What did scientists make of Copenhagen, your 1998 play about two physicists during the second world war?

Copenhagen builds on the famous meeting between Werner Heisenberg, a leading player in Germany's atomic energy and weapons programme, and his long-time friend the Danish physicist Niels Bohr, where they fell out. You need a lot of physics to tell the story and though I did a great deal of research and got a lot of help from scientists, when the play went on there were a lot of scientific mistakes.
Such as?

Awful, awful, some so embarrassing. For example, I talked about atoms of water vapour. I got many letters from scientists pointing out these errors, not at all with the savagery with which people in the arts deal with each other, just saying gently that perhaps if you look at this line again you might think that molecules of water vapour might be rather better. I got all those corrections incorporated in the play, though I am sure there are other things waiting to be found. I was very much struck by the gentleness with which I was treated. In the end, though, the play is not about physics, it's about how difficult it is to know why people do what they do, to know why we ourselves do what we do.

Have there been any interesting developments in the Bohr-Heisenberg story since Copenhagen came out?

Yes, the Bohr family recently released the draft of a letter Bohr wrote to Heisenberg after their meeting but never sent. The most striking thing about it is his acknowledgement that Heisenberg told him about an atomic weapons research programme in Germany and that he, Heisenberg, was running it. This is absolutely astonishing: Heisenberg was running the most secret research in Nazi Germany. He must have realised that Bohr would attempt to pass on this information, which he did. I think that goes some way to supporting Heisenberg's version of the story. Also, the Heisenberg family has set up a website where you will find a previously unknown letter which Heisenberg wrote to his wife during the week he was in Copenhagen meeting Bohr in September 1941.

Does it mention the conversation with Bohr that is central to your play?

Disappointingly it doesn't, probably because he expected the letter to be opened by the Gestapo, which is also probably why he posted it in Berlin. The letter makes it clear that the one thing we thought we knew - that whatever was said that evening wrecked the two men's friendship - is not true. It didn't wreck their friendship, not at once. Heisenberg spent another agreeable, convivial evening at the Bohr house, even after the conversation. It was probably only as they looked back that they began to think differently.

Are there any scientific stories of our age that you would like to turn into a play?

No, though I do think that we are in the middle of one of those "explosion" times where we are raising fascinating epistemological questions, such as those posed by superstring theory or cosmology. I hope a few more ideas strike and I will do my best to follow them through.

From issue 2570 of New Scientist magazine, 23 September 2006, page 50-51

After reading moral philosophy at the University of Cambridge in the 1950s, Michael Frayn went on to become a journalist. He has combined this with writing successful novels (such as The Tin Men and Spies) and plays (from farces and comedies such as Noises Off to the overtly serious Copenhagen). He also became a leading translator of Chekhov. His new book is The Human Touch: Our part in the creation of a universe (Faber & Faber).

Comment on this Editorial

Editorial: Take your torture and go, George

by Don Williams

George Bush 43, Commander-in-Chief, Decider, Your Royal Highness, however you'd like to be addressed....

For God's sake, take your torture program and go. Take your secret prisons, your attack dogs, your electrodes, your water boards, your feeding tubes, your ceiling restraints, your whipping wires, your excruciating music, your sleep deprivation, your hobbles and cuffs. Take all such instruments and go.

They're making things much worse, as I will show you.

I saw you on CNN, Sept. 15, and you said that unless Congress "clarifies" Article 3 of the Geneva Accords, "the program is not going forward." You sounded like a spoilt child threatening to take his ball and go home. But you weren't talking about a little ball, you were talking about torture, though you wouldn't call it that.

So, if you're that oblivious to how the majority of us feel about torture and the Geneva Accords, then please, maybe it's time you took your "program" and went home to Texas. Heaven curse the day you ever decided to leave there.

As Colin Powell suggested in his recent letter to John McCain, your undermining of the Geneva Accords threatens to take away whatever moral high ground our nation has attained. It's demoralizing our troops and further dividing the country.

Worse yet, it's ineffective. Tell me what your "program" has done for us? You claim it shut down another attack on the homeland. Can you provide a shred of hard evidence? I can name a dozen things you got precisely WRONG-and in a very loud and petulant voice-leading up to the war in Iraq.

One of them is especially pertinent, because it was based on torture. Over and over you suggested Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were in cahoots, and in February of 2003, you sent Powell over to the UN to make that claim to the world. Turns out the information he cited was based on lies told by a man undergoing torture.

I can show you where Newsweek, the New York Times, the New Yorker and others have shown that Powell unwittingly based his claim on lies told by one Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi.

Al-Libi, a man with serious mental problems, told his interrogators in Egypt-where he'd been sent by the CIA--that Saddam Hussein was teaching al-Qaeda how to make chemical and biological weapons. Powell didn't refer to al-Libi by name, rather he called him "a senior terrorist operative," according to the New Yorker. Later, al-Libi recanted and said he'd made such false statements in order to end the torture. Unfortunately, by then it was too late.
More than 100,000 people have likely died as a result of that bad information.

That's how torture works. Bad information begets bad action. Ask Maher Arar, an innocent Canadian engineer who was mistakenly put on a watch list in Canada. Snagged at a U.S. airport in 2002, Arar was secretly flown to Syria, where he was beaten with wires and chains and forced to live in a tiny underground grave, as he called it, unable to communicate with the family he'd left behind. He was released without charges one year later thanks to pressure from the Canadian government.

So yes, George, Your Highness, please, take your torture and go. It isn't working. While you're at it, take your signing statements and all the cute titles for programs that mean the opposite of what you name them, and give us back our Constitution and our country.

Try not to nuke anybody on your way out, as Seymour Hersh and several other reporters believe you're itching to do. Just take your phosphorous, your depleted uranium, your cluster bombs, your secret labs and everything else you've unleashed contrary to international law, and go away. If not now, then soon. At least say you'll go quietly come 2009 and not try slipping back into power, as some suggest you'll do, heaven help us, through one of the loopholes you've blasted in the Constitution.

Try to understand that, while some of us who loudly complain against you don't hate you, as our critics charge, we're heartsick and angry at what you're doing to our country, its reputation, its once-generous soul, its capacity for optimism, joy, empathy and rational debate. We're heartsick at what you're doing to our beautiful blue-green world. So please, take your talking points, your Karl Rove, your Condoleezza Rice, your hunting buddy Dick Cheney, your Alberto Gonzales, Paul Wolfowitz and secretary of offense Donald Rumsfeld. Take all the wolves you placed in charge of all the henhouses-at Treasury, Interior, FCC, Education, Labor, FDA, NRC.

And then please let someone, anyone-maybe your father-take you by the hand and lead you away, to a very safe place.


Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist for the Knoxville News-Sentinel and the founding editor and publisher of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of literary writing. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Michigan Journalism Fellowship, a Golden Presscard Award and the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize. He is finishing a novel, RED STATE BLUES, set in his native Tennessee and Iraq. His book of selected journalism, ?Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes, the Best Writings About People? by Don Williams, is now available for ordering. For more information, email him at donwilliams7@charter.net. Or visit the NMW website at www.mach2.com/williams/.
Comment on this Editorial

Editorial: A Controlled Media? See For Yourself


Ever wondered just why it is that Americans seem so intellectually challenged when it comes to knowledge of the world outside America and the truth about their political leaders? You've heard the claim that the US media is "government-controlled", but is it true?

Newsweek, courtesy of an advertisement on the MSNBC website, makes the case clear:

Comment on this Editorial

Editorial: Journalism, Wall Street Journal-Style

by Stephen Lendman

It takes great courage to venture onto the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal - especially on Fridays when Mary Anastasia O'Grady's Americas column appears. This is a woman who surely will have a serious back problem one day resulting from her permanent position of genuflection to the most extreme far-right she pledges allegiance to. In her assigned role at the Journal, which includes character assassination, she can best can be characterized as one of the "devil's" disciples - to borrow a word so aptly used by a well-known "courageous man" in recent days. She proved it in her September 22 column titled In Chavez's Crosshairs (the "courageous man" in question), and in it she outdid herself in her level of vitriol that was enough to punish all the senses of those able to get through it.

The column drips with hate and is filled with the most outrageous lies and hostility from the opening words to the last ugly pronouncement. This editorial writer begins by telling readers that "Fidel Castro is not far from death" which I'm sure will come as a surprise both to the Cuban leader and his doctors who seem to be indicating that Fidel is slowly recuperating from his major surgery which is quite normal for someone aged 80. She cites as her evidence "Hugo Chavez's performance at the United Nations" which she claims was a "revolutionary" baton-passing to the "kook from Caracas, Castro's wealthiest and keenest protege." O'Grady apparently didn't bother checking that the Venezuelan President's salary at about $24,000 is barely above the poverty level for a US family of four according to the US Census Bureau. Compare that to George Bush (responsible for Mary's future back problem) who's extremely wealthy and earns an annual salary of $400,000 plus all the luxury perks that go with his office that Hugo Chavez Frias doesn't have or even want.

But this was just for openers. O'Grady then begins another diatribe against the man who's become her favorite target. She begins by making her only notable truthful statement describing the Venezuela leader as the "scariest speaker at the General Assembly." She's right, of course, because today we live in an age where the truth Chavez speaks has become a radical or even a subversive act. It would never cross this hateful woman's mind that Hugo Chavez is one of the few world leaders willing to admit publicly what all the others know is true. For this he's condemned in the corporate-run media and especially in columns of right wing flacks like Mary O'Grady who have no credibility or even enough knowledge of the region she reports on in her writing. It shows in what she has to say.

It helps to understand where this woman is coming from if we note where she was formerly employed. She one time worked as an options strategist for Advest, Inc., Thomson McKinnon Securities, and Merrill Lynch & Co. She also once held a position at the far-right Heritage Foundation think tank that never met a corporate-friendly policy or US-led war it didn't support. In addition, as a journalist, she was awarded the Inter-American Press Association's (IAPA association of private media corporations) Daily Gleaner Award for editorial commentary and received an honorable mention in IAPA's opinion award category for 1999. With this kind of background, there's nothing surprising about O'Grady's ideology and why her writing is hopelessly biased and one-sided in favor of the Bush Administration's neoliberal Washington Consensus model now waging a "long war" against the world for total dominance and greater profits for the corporate predators benefitting from it - all at the expense of people needs being ignored.

O'Grady has lots more to say in this week's column and quickly gets into the meat it - that Venezuela represents a "pressing threat" (where) "The battleground is Bolivia, which Mr. Chavez badly wants to control so he can seize that country's natural-gas reserves and become the sole energy supplier in the Southern Cone." She goes on with the delusional notion that Chavez hopes to "seriously damage the Brazilian economy and crush Brazil's geopolitical ambitions as the leader in South America. In its place he wants to plant the flag of Venezuelan hegemony. If he gets away with it, Argentine and Chilean sovereignty would also be diminished and continental stability lost." She has lots more to say, but already she's left the reader breathless and needing to pause before going further.

If O'Grady stuck to the facts instead of specializing in her brand of poisoned rhetoric, she would know Hugo Chavez is a positive force in the region and beyond and has been a unifier, not a divider or exploiter. He's pursued his own Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) progressive alternative to the corrupted neoliberal WTO/IMF/World Bank model O'Grady champions. It's a comprehensive plan for Latin American integration aiming to develop "the social state" benefitting everyone, not just the privileged elite O'Grady swears allegiance to. It's based on the principles of complementarity, solidarity and cooperation among nations - just the opposite of the exploitive practices O'Grady likes to think work best. She's right if she means for the corporate giants that can only grow and prosper at the expense of ordinary people everywhere. Hugo Chavez has a different vision. Instead of trying to subjugate Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina, Venezuela has joined with these nations in the Southern Common Market customs union known as Mercosur. In doing so, Chavez expressed hope that this trade block would "prioritize social concerns (ahead of) the old elitist corporate model" that puts profits ahead of people needs. These are the facts Mary O'Grady ignores as reporting them would expose all the other lies she's written for years. It would also likely get her fired for not sticking to the party line she's paid to do.

Her article continues by referring to the opposition in Venezuela as "democrats," recounting her distorted version of how they tried to remove Chavez in their 2004 recall referendum (aka US-directed coup by other means) and failed. Chavez blew the opposition away with about 58% of the vote in an election judged free, open and fair but which O'Grady characterized as "clocked in state secrets" - no doubt because the wrong candidate won convincingly. She claimed exit polls showed Chavez was "badly beaten" but the "chavista-stacked electoral council declared him the winner." She fails to identify what exit polls she's referring to or who conducted them. The reader can only conclude they're either ones she dreamed up for this column or they were fraudulent ones conducted by the oligarchs in the country that have everything to gain if Chavez is ousted by any means.

This woman doesn't know when to quit. She then contends "Mr. Chavez boasts he was democratically elected and foments hatred against his neighbors, including the US (and) the non-aligned movement (intends) on going nuclear." She doesn't explain she's referring to Iran, a country that's a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), is in full compliance with it, and has every legal right to develop its commercial nuclear industry which is all it's doing according to all available evidence. She then again stresses that chavistas are putting a "blitz" on Bolivia "to make that country a (hydro) carbon copy of Venezuela."

Next, however, comes her best shot and one of her least accurate. She makes the audacious claim that Evo Morales (her other favorite target) "rose to executive power by first using violence to bring down two constitutional presidents and then forcing a new election, which he won." She doesn't explain that Juan Evo Morales Ayma (known as Evo) was a leader of Bolivia's cocalero movement or loose federation of coca leaf-growing campesinos. He's also the leader of his Movement for Socialism Party (MAS which means more). In both capacities he's been a champion of progressive change in his country and organized peaceful protests in 2005 in the capitol La Paz that forced the resignation of President Carlos Mesa who served the interests of capital and ignored the needs of his people. This is what O'Grady calls violence - courageous resistance to repression and intolerance. Evo Morales was elected president of Bolivia in December, 2005 in an election controlled by the opposition because the people were so fed up with business as usual they defied all expectations turning out in large numbers to convincingly elect the only man they would entrust to rule their country.

Morales isn't O'Grady's kind of president because he wants to serve all his people and not just the elite few who've always had things in Bolivia their way. So she says "He dreams of an indigenous, collectivist Bolivarian economy under the thumb of an authoritarian government" while falsely claiming most Bolivians are "entrepreneurial." She may be right if she leaves out the indigenous majority (about 70% of the population) most of whom are poor and always had been disenfranchised until now. She accuses Morales of being "coached" by Hugo Chavez who's helping him institute progressive policies and programs which O'Grady rails against - because they're people-friendly and bad for the corporate interests she represents. She stresses Bolivia under Morales "could use some help from the international community....to weaken Evo." But she ends her weekly hate-column by coming back to her favorite target and public enemy number one in her eyes - Hugo Chavez - by trumpeting the notion that it's "clear....doing nothing while Mr. Chavez seizes power on the continent is not an option." It has all the sound of a call to arms to remove President Chavez by force or any other means despite the fact that he's the leading democrat in the hemisphere and beloved by the great majority of his people who will never tolerate a return to the ugly past of rule by the repressive oligarchs they'll never again accept.

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

Science and Environment

Hurricane Katrina's waves felt in California

New Scientist Print Edition
24 September 2006

On 29 August 2005, as hurricane Katrina was rumbling towards New Orleans, a seismic hum more than 1000 times the strength of the average volcanic tremor was felt nearly 3000 kilometres away in southern California. Its source was the hurricane itself.

Hurricanes create large ocean waves, which send energy pulsing through the Earth as they pound the shoreline. To determine the power of Katrina's seismic waves, Peter Gerstoft of the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues analysed the signals recorded by a network of 150 seismic stations in southern California just before Katrina hit the Louisiana coast. They used a method known as beamforming, which preferentially picks up signals from a particular direction, to decipher the seismicity generated by Katrina (Geophysical Research Letters, vol 33, p L17805).

Seismic surface waves, which travel through the Earth's crust, were detected 30 hours before the hurricane made landfall, while body waves, which bounce down into the mantle, arrived some 18 hours later. "The body waves had travelled down to 1100 kilometres inside the Earth," Gerstoft says. This is the first time that a hurricane's seismic signal has been detected so far away.

Comment on this Article

Fuels gold: Big risks of the biofuel revolution

Fred Pearce
New Scientist Print Edition
25 September 2006

The gold rush has begun. Ditch oil and buy corn - as much as you can. It's a sure-fire investment. At least that's the message you might have picked up from the headlines in recent months. Soon, we're told, corn crops will be as valuable as black gold. Not because tortilla chips are the next big diet fad, but because corn and a handful of other crops are being hyped as the fuel sources of the future.
There are many reasons for this sudden excitement surrounding "biofuels" (see "Biofuel basics", beneath this article, for a look at exactly what this covers). Not only have soaring oil prices made biofuels economically viable for the first time in years, but they could also help countries reduce their dependency on fossil fuel imports. However, the real PR coup for biofuels is their eco-friendly image.

Supporters claim they will dramatically slash our net greenhouse gas inputs, because the crops soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow. Given this, it's no surprise politicians and environmentalists the world over are backing the idea, hoping we will all soon be using this green alternative to power our cars, buses and trains. Even former oilman President George W. Bush is behind them. In his State of the Union address on 31 January, he called for a national drive to run vehicles on biofuels.

But before you join in the celebrations, all is not as it seems. Scientists have begun to question the environmental and social arguments for bioethanol and biodiesel (see "Biodiesel backlash"), casting serious doubts on whether either can meet such high hopes. And environmentalists find themselves in a particularly excruciating quandary, with half the green community embracing biofuels to the last corn kernel, and the other half desperate to slam on the brakes.

Far from solving our problems, say the dissenters, biofuels will trash rainforests, suck water reserves dry, kill off species and raise food prices. They will also accelerate the corporate takeover of agriculture, create famines and could leave fuel importers as dependent as ever on other countries. Worst of all, many biofuels will barely slow global warming at all if the technology behind them does not improve. The biofuels supporters counter that it's still early days, and we should give this technology the time and investment to deliver on its promise. So who's right?

The controversy may be brand new, but biofuels themselves are an old idea. The Model T Ford, first produced in 1908, was designed to run on ethanol, and Rudolf Diesel, who invented the diesel engine in 1892, ran his demonstration model on peanut oil. Biofuels fell out of favour as petroleum-based fuels appeared and became cheaper to produce, but after the oil crisis of the early 1970s, some countries returned to biofuels. For example, Brazil has been producing large quantities of ethanol from sugar cane for over 30 years, and last year produced about half of the world's bioethanol (see Graphic). Brazilian law now requires that 20 per cent of fuel at the pumps be blended with bioethanol, which all gasoline-powered cars can tolerate. Over 15 per cent of Brazil's cars can even run on pure bioethanol.

According to a study published in June by the Worldwatch Institute, for Brazil to produce 10 per cent of its entire fuel consumption requires just 3 per cent of its agricultural land, so it's not surprising other places want to emulate Brazil's approach. The problem is that in most other countries, the numbers don't add up.

The same Worldwatch study estimated that to meet that 10 per cent target, the US would require 30 per cent of its agricultural land, and Europe a staggering 72 per cent. It's no secret why things stack up so differently. Not only do Brazilians drive far less than Europeans and Americans, their fertile land and favourable climate mean their crop yields are higher, and their population density is lower.

The US and Europe aren't the only ones hoping the Brazilian model will be a quick fix for environmental and fuel-security woes. China plans to cut oil imports and CO2 emissions by running its cars on ethanol made from cassava, while Cuba hopes to revitalise its moribund sugar industry by turning the crop into ethanol, and Hungary wants to replace Russian energy imports with corn-based ethanol.

What few yet appreciate is that biofuels are not all made equal. In the US, the immediate plan is to ramp up production of corn bioethanol. America's 100th corn-to-ethanol distillery came online in May, and a further 30 are under construction across the Midwest. Bioethanol production is forecast to almost double between 2005 and 2007, by which time the bioethanol business will be consuming around a fifth of the US corn crop. But when you try to assess the environmental benefits of bioethanol, things are not clear-cut. It takes a lot of energy both to grow corn and to convert it to ethanol, and cultivating a crop demands large quantities of fertiliser and pesticides, which themselves have environmental and energy costs. So is it actually worth it?

Several research groups have tried to take all this into account and compare fossil fuel emissions with those of corn bioethanol at every stage of production from seed to engine. The studies have been beset by scientific uncertainties, such as how much of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide is produced by the nitrogen fertiliser used in growing corn. Opinions are divided as to what should and should not be included in the calculation, which means the results vary widely, but one study by David Pimentel at Cornell University in New York concluded that corn ethanol creates more greenhouse gases than burning fossil fuels.

Others aren't so pessimistic. In a review of several studies published in Science in January, Alexander Farrell of the University of California, Berkeley, estimated bioethanol would produce 13 per cent less greenhouse emissions than an equivalent amount of gasoline. However, Farrell arrives at this more favourable figure by assuming the leftover biomass from making the bioethanol is used as a dry fuel in a furnace or fed to animals, and not all bioethanol refineries do this.

Another reason a growing number of people oppose biofuels is that growing corn for ethanol uses up land that is currently supplying food to the world. Americans won't go hungry if surplus US corn is converted to ethanol rather than exported, but the resulting slump in the global grain supply will precipitate a rise in prices, and many see that as unethical. According to Lester Brown, veteran commentator and activist on food politics, the corn required to fill an SUV tank with bioethanol just once could feed one person for a year. He describes the boom in bioethanol as a competition between the 800 million people in the world who own automobiles and the 3 billion people who live on less than $2 a day, many of whom are already spending over half their income on food.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the competition has already begun. The FAO says the conversion of corn to ethanol is a primary reason for a sharp decline in world grain stocks and a commensurate rise in grain prices in the first half of 2006. The trend was echoed in a report to investors by the bank Goldman Sachs in July, which predicted corn prices will rise further as biofuels grow. Eric Holthusen, a senior official with oil giant Shell, recently described using food crops to make fuel while people were starving as "morally inappropriate".

It is striking how much land will be needed for biofuels to make a significant contribution to fuel usage. In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in July, Jason Hill and colleagues at the University of Minnesota, St Paul, calculated that even if the US diverted its entire current corn harvest to biofuels it would meet only 11 per cent of its current gasoline demand. The Worldwatch Institute estimates that to produce 10 per cent of the world's transport fuels would require 9 per cent of the planet's agricultural land.

Promoters of biofuels say such calculations are misleading. They claim high prices stimulated by demand for biofuels will encourage both more intensive cultivation of corn and the spread of corn fields onto land that is now idle. Unfortunately, both scenarios would undermine the already slender climate benefits of corn-based ethanol. More intensive growing means more chemical inputs, increasing the energy consumption and greenhouse emissions per tonne of corn. And Hill points out that clearing and ploughing virgin land will also release more CO2, quite possibly resulting in a net increase in greenhouse emissions from biofuel production.

So much for corn, but could other crops fare better? Lawrence Eagles at the International Energy Agency in Paris, France, says making ethanol from sugar cane is better for the environment than using corn because it avoids the first phase of the corn process - converting the plant starch into sugar. In terms of litres of fuel per hectare of crop, and net greenhouse gas benefit, sugar cane beats corn, says Eagles.

Some bioethanol producers have caught on to the idea. As a result, world sugar prices have doubled in the past 18 months, says Richard Oxley, head of industry consultancy Sugaronline. "All the major producers round the world - Brazil, India, Thailand, etc - are just rushing out and planting as much cane as they can," he says.

Trouble is, the high price is encouraging growers to clear land and plant sugar cane without regard for the ecological impact. Environmentalists fear that as demand for sugar cane rises on the global market, Brazilian farmers will push ever deeper into the Amazon rainforest, either to grow sugar cane itself or crops displaced by it.

As if that weren't enough, sugar cane plantations put huge pressure on water supplies - this is a thirsty crop. In countries without plentiful rainfall, farmers must draw water from rivers or underground reserves. So although irrigation isn't a problem in Brazil, other countries aren't so lucky. For example, in the Indian state of Maharashtra, farmers are scrambling to grow more cane to take advantage of the high prices, yet existing plantations already take two-thirds of the state's water and have lowered water tables by up to 50 metres in places.

Globally, no one is considering how much water biofuels will require, says Oxley. India is already drawing down its water reserves fast, and this will lead directly to dry wells, parched fields and empty granaries. While sugar cane may be a more greenhouse-friendly feedstock than corn for making ethanol, it is markedly worse in terms of its demands on the world's dwindling water reserves.

So are we utterly mistaken to think that bioethanol could usher in an era of greener energy? The way things are developing, it certainly looks that way, but it needn't be so.

The technology for producing biofuels is still in its infancy, and scientists working on it have grander things in mind. They want to perfect a way to make biofuels from non-food crops and waste biomass, saving the corn and other fuel crops for food use, and to do it without wrecking natural ecosystems. Given time, they think they can achieve this.

Already researchers are discovering clever ways to produce bioethanol without using food crops, and focusing instead on converting cellulose-rich organic matter into ethanol. Cellulose is the main structural component of all green plants. Its molecules comprise long chains of sugars strong enough to make plant cell walls. If you could break down those molecules to release the sugars they contain, you could ferment them into ethanol.

Developing an efficient process to convert cellulose into ethanol could open the door to many non-food materials such as switchgrass - a wild grass that thrives in the eastern states and Midwest of the US - straw, crop residues like stalks and hardwood chips. Its supporters say cellulose feedstocks could deliver twice as much ethanol per hectare as corn, and do it using land that is today neither economically productive nor environmentally precious. Some think municipal waste such as paper, cardboard and waste food could even be used as a feedstock.

A road map to making ethanol from cellulose set out in June by the US Department of Energy estimated the US could produce a third of its fuel needs in this way by 2030. It recommends genetically modifying crops such as switchgrass and poplar to make hardy, pest-resistant varieties that are very high in cellulose. This would mean low-maintenance feedstock, dramatically cutting energy and chemical inputs compared with existing feedstocks. The catch is that it would also require much more efficient enzymes to break the cellulose down into sugars, and better varieties of yeasts that ferment the sugars into ethanol faster and more efficiently than existing strains. "We can engineer crops to grow on dry and saline soil. This is going to be a revolution. For agriculture it is going to be a very exciting time," says Raymond Orbach, Under Secretary for Science at the DoE.

But so far most companies have been hesitant about investing in the research necessary to tackle these problems. So the DoE is setting up two new research centres, into which it will plough $250 million over the next five years, with the aim of developing the next generation of biofuel feedstocks. "It's too risky for the private sector. That's why government is doing this," says Orbach.

But one Canadian company is already on the case. Iogen, based in Ottawa, has built a pilot plant that has been producing cellulose ethanol in small quantities for the last two years. It uses a tropical fungus genetically modified to produce enzymes that break down cellulose, and can "digest" all sorts of biomass.

ogen recently attracted investment of $30 million from Goldman Sachs, and in January it announced it would investigate the feasibility of building a full-scale commercial plant in Germany in partnership with Volkswagen and Shell. If the numbers add up, Iogen could kick-start the revolution that may yet deliver us from our dependence on oil, without costing the Earth in the process.

From issue 2570 of New Scientist magazine, 25 September 2006, page 36-41

Comment on this Article

Do the laws of nature last forever?

Lee Smolin
New Scientist Print Edition
21 September 2006

In science we aim for a picture of nature as it really is, unencumbered by any philosophical or theological prejudice. Some see the search for scientific truth as a search for an unchanging reality behind the ever-changing spectacle we observe with our senses. The ultimate prize in that search would be to grasp a law of nature - a part of a transcendent reality that governs all change, but itself never changes.

The idea of eternally true laws of nature is a beautiful vision, but is it really an escape from philosophy and theology? For, as philosophers have argued, we can test the predictions of a law of nature and see if they are verified or contradicted, but we can never prove a law must always be true. So if we believe a law of nature is eternally true, we are believing in something that logic and evidence cannot establish.
Of course, laws of nature are very useful, and we have in fact been able to discover good candidates for them. But to believe a law is useful and reliable is not the same thing as to believe it is eternally true. We could just as easily believe there is nothing but an infinite succession of approximate laws. Or that laws are generalisations about nature that are not unchanging, but change so slowly that until now we have imagined them as eternal.

These are disturbing thoughts for a theoretical physicist like myself. I chose to go into science because the search for eternal, transcendent laws of nature seemed a lofty goal. However, the possibility that laws evolve in time is one that recent developments in theoretical and experimental physics have forced me, and others, to consider.

The biggest reason to consider that the laws of nature might evolve is the discovery that the universe itself is evolving. When we believed that the universe was eternal it made more sense to believe that the laws that governed it were also eternal. But the evidence we have now is that the universe - or at least the part of it we observe - has been around for only a few billion years.

We know that the universe has been expanding for about 14 billion years and that as we go back in time it gets hotter and denser. We have good evidence that there was a moment when the cosmos was as hot as the centre of a star. If we use the laws that we know apply to space-time and matter today, we can deduce that a few minutes earlier the universe must have been infinitely dense and hot. Many cosmologists take this moment as the birth of the universe and indeed as the birth of space and time. Before this big bang there was nothing, not even time.
Why these laws?

So what could it mean to say that a universe only 14 billion years old is governed by laws that are eternally true? What were the laws doing before time and space? How did the universe know, at that moment of beginning, what laws to follow?

Perhaps the solution to this is that the big bang was not the first instant of time. However, this raises a new question, which has been championed by the great theoretical physicist John Wheeler. Even if we believe the universe evolved from something that existed before the big bang, we have no reason to believe the laws of that previous universe were the same as those we observe in our universe. Might the laws have changed when our universe, or region of the universe, was created?

This question came to the fore in 1973, when physicists first developed a theory of elementary particle physics called the standard model. This theory has successfully accounted for every experiment in particle physics before and since that time, apart from those that involve gravity. It only required a small modification to incorporate the later discovery that neutrinos have mass. As for gravity, all experiments support the general theory of relativity, which Einstein published in 1915. There may be further laws to discover, to do with the unification of gravity with quantum theory and with the other forces of nature. But in a certain sense, we have for the first time in history a set of laws sufficient to explain the result of every experiment that has ever been done.

As a result, in the past three decades the attention of physicists has shifted from seeking to know the laws of nature to a new question: why these laws? Why do these laws, and not others, hold in our universe?

Confronting this question while working on string theory in the 1980s, a few of us began to wonder whether the laws might have changed at the big bang, just as Wheeler had suggested. It was obvious that we could make a connection to biology. I wondered whether there might be an evolutionary mechanism that would allow us to answer the question of "why these laws?" in the same way that biology answers questions like "why these species?". Perhaps the mechanism that makes laws evolve also picks out certain laws and makes them more probable than others. I found such a mechanism, modelled on natural selection, which I called cosmological natural selection.

This is possible because string theory is actually a collection of theories: it has a vast number of distinct versions, each of which gives rise to different collections of elementary particles and forces. We can think of the different versions of string theory as analogous to the different phases of water - ice, liquid and steam. When the universe is squeezed down to such tremendous densities and temperatures that the quantum properties of space-time become important, a phase transition can take place - like water turning to steam - leading from one version of the theory to another.

The many different phases of string theory can also be seen as analogous to a variety of species governed by different DNA sequences. They can be imagined as making up a vast space, which I called the "landscape", to bring out the analogy to a "fitness landscape" in biology that represents all possible ways genes can be arranged.

Cosmological natural selection makes a few predictions that could easily be falsified, and while it is too soon to claim strong evidence for it, those predictions have held up (New Scientist, 24 May 1997, p 38). At the very least, it opened my eyes to the possibility that a theory in which the laws changed in time could still make testable predictions.

It turns out that I had been beaten to the punch: some philosophers had confronted these issues over a century ago. In 1891 the philosopher Charles Pierce wrote that it was hardly justifiable to suppose that universal laws of nature have no reason for their special form. "The only possible way of accounting for the laws of nature, and for uniformity in general, is to suppose them results of evolution," he added.

Pierce went much further than I have done, asserting that the question "Why these laws?" has to be answered by a cosmological scenario analogous to evolution. But was he right?

Let us start with an obvious objection: if laws evolve, what governs how they evolve? Does there not have to be some deeper law that guides the evolution of the laws? For example, when water turns into ice, more general laws continue to hold and govern how this phase transition happens - the laws of atomic physics. So perhaps, even if a law turns out to evolve in time, there is always a deeper, unchanging law behind that evolution.
Shapes of things to come

Another example concerns the geometry of space. We used to think that space always followed the perfectly flat Euclidean geometry that we all learn in high school. This was considered one of the laws of nature, but Einstein's general theory of relativity asserts that this is wrong. The geometry of space can be anything it wants to be: any of an infinite number of curved geometries is possible. So what picks out the geometry we see?

General relativity asserts that the geometry of space evolves in the course of time according to some deeper law. Today's geometry is what it is because it evolved from a different geometry in the past, following that definite law.

However, there is a big problem with this kind of explanation, which has to do with the fact that the laws that govern the evolution of geometry are deterministic. They share this feature with most laws studied in physics, including Newton's laws and quantum mechanics. Consider Newton's law of motion for an object. If we know where the object is now and how it is moving, and we know the laws that govern the forces it encounters, we can predict where it will be and has been for all time, past as well as future. General relativity is the same. If we know the geometry of space at a particular time, and how it is changing, we can predict the whole history of space-time. To apply these deterministic laws, however, we have to give a description of the system at one point in time. This is called the initial condition. If we do not specify an initial condition, the laws cannot describe anything.

This is why Einstein's equations do not fully explain why the geometry of space is what it is. They require an initial condition -the geometry at an earlier time. This brings us back to the dilemma about the big bang. Either the universe had no beginning, in which case the chain of causes goes further into the past, before the big bang; or the big bang was the beginning, and we require some explanation as to why it started and with what geometry.

So we have arrived at a conundrum. It appears that if laws evolve, other laws are required to guide their evolution. But then, the evolution of a law is just like the evolution of any other system under a deterministic law. We cannot explain why something is true in the present without knowing its initial state. Applied to laws, this means we cannot explain what the laws are now if we do not specify what the laws were in the past. So the idea of laws evolving by following a deeper rule does not seem to lead to an explanation of "why these laws?".

To avoid this we need an evolutionary mechanism that will allow us to deduce features of the present without having to know the past in detail. This is where Pierce's statement, which appears to invoke biological evolution, comes into its own.

In biology, many features of living organisms can be explained by natural selection, even if one doesn't know details about the past. As the process is partly random, we cannot predict exactly what mix of species will evolve in a given ecosystem, but we can predict that the species that survive will be fitter than those that don't. This is, I believe, why Pierce insisted that any explanation of "why these laws?" involves evolution. And using this kind of logic, cosmological natural selection makes some predictions without detailed information about previous stages of the universe.

But even this is unsatisfactory: it doesn't address the question of how a law that guides the evolution of matter in time could also change in time. For that, we have to examine the way we think about time.

There are big problems with time, even before we start thinking about the evolution of laws of nature. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the field of quantum gravity, which attempts to pull quantum theory and general relativity together into one consistent framework. This is because the two theories each use a different notion of time. In quantum theory, time is defined by a clock sitting outside the system being modelled. In general relativity, time is measured by a clock that is part of the universe that the theory describes. Many of the successes and failures of different approaches to quantum gravity rest on how they reconcile this conflict between time as an external parameter versus time as a physical property of the universe.

However these questions are eventually resolved, there are still deeper issues with time. These arise in any theory in which the laws are taken as being eternal. To illustrate this, we can take a simple example, such as Newton's description of a system of particles. To formulate the theory we invent a mathematical space, consisting of all the positions that all the particles might have. Each point in the space is a possible configuration of the system of particles, so the whole space is called the configuration space. As the system evolves over time, it traces out a curve in configuration space called a history. The laws of physics then pick out which histories are possible and which are not.

The problem with this description is that time has disappeared. The system is represented not by its state at a moment of time but by a history taking it through all time. This description of reality seems timeless. What has disappeared from it is any sense of the present moment, which divides our experience of the flow of time into past, present and future. This problem became particularly acute when it emerged in Einstein's theory of general relativity. Solving the theory gives a four-dimensional space-time history and no indication of "now".

Some, looking at this picture, have been tempted to say that reality is the whole timeless history and that any sense we have of a present moment is some kind of illusion. Even if we don't believe this, the fact that one could believe it means that there is nothing in this description of nature that corresponds to our common-sense experience of past, present and future. This is called the problem of transience. The sense of the universe unfolding or becoming in time, of "now", has no representation in general relativity. But in truth the problem was always there in Newton's physics and it is there in any theory in which some part of nature is described by a state that evolves deterministically in time, governed by a law that dictates change, but never changes.
The illusion of now

The philosopher Roberto Unger of Harvard University calls this the "poisoned gift of mathematics to physics". Many believe that mathematics represents truth in terms of timeless relationships, based on logic. It allows us to formulate physical laws precisely: this is the gift. By doing so, however, mathematics represents paths in configuration space unfolding in time by logic, and this logic exists outside of time. The poison in the gift is the disappearance of any notion of the present or of becoming.

Physicists and their predecessors have been eliminating time like this since the days of Descartes and Galileo at least. But is it the wrong thing to do? Is there a way to represent change through time in a way that represents our sense of becoming, or of time unfolding?

I don't know the answer, but I suspect this question is connected to that of whether laws can evolve in time. One can only draw the curve representing a history in time by assuming that the laws which govern how the history evolves never change. Without a fixed, unchanging law, one could not draw the curve.

Here is the question that keeps me awake these days: is there a way to represent the laws of physics mathematically that retains the notions of the present moment and the continual unfolding of time? And would this allow us - or even require us - to formulate laws that also evolve in time?

Again, I don't know the answer, but I know of a few hints. One comes from theoretical biology. The configuration space for an evolutionary theorist is vast, consisting of all the possible sequences of DNA. At present, there is a particular collection representing all the species that exist. Evolution will produce new ones, while others will disappear. The interesting thing is that natural selection operates in such a way that biologists have little use for the entire configuration space. Instead, they need study only a much smaller space, which is those collections of genes that could be reached from the present one by a few evolutionary steps. The theoretical biologist Stuart Kauffman of the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, calls this the "adjacent possible".

This scheme allows laws to change. Consider the laws that govern sexual selection. They do not make sense for any old biosphere, as they only come into play when there are creatures with two sexes. So in evolutionary theory there is no need for eternal laws, and it makes sense to speak of a law coming into existence at some time to govern possibilities that did not exist before. Furthermore, there is such a vast array of possible mechanisms of natural selection that it would not make any sense to list them all and treat them as timeless. Better to think of laws coming into existence as the new creatures that evolve in each step require.

Of course, one might reply that natural selection itself never changes. But natural selection is a fact of logic, not a contingent law of nature. Every real law in biology depends on some aspect of the creatures that exist at a given time, which means the laws are also time-bound.

It is not impossible to achieve time-bound laws in physics. There are logicians who have proposed alternative systems of logic that incorporate a notion of time unfolding. In these logics, what is true and false is assigned for a particular moment, not for all time. For a given moment some propositions are true, others false, but there remains an infinite list of propositions that are yet to become either true or false. Once a proposition is true or false, it remains so, but at each moment new propositions become decided. These are called intuitionalist logics and they underlie a branch of mathematics called topos theory.

Some of my colleagues have studied these logics as a model for physics. Fotini Markopoulou of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, has shown that aspects of space-time geometry can be described in terms of these logics. Chris Isham of Imperial College London and others propose to reformulate physics completely in terms of them.

It is interesting that some physicists now propose that the universe is some kind of computer, because similar questions are being asked in computer science. In the standard architecture all computers now use, invented by the mathematician John von Neumann, the operating system never changes. It governs the flow of information through a computer just as an eternal law of nature is thought to guide physics. But some visionary computer scientists such as Jaron Lanier wonder whether there could be other kinds of architectures and operating systems that themselves evolve in time.

Looking at biology, it seems there are advantages to what are, essentially, time-bound laws. Evolving laws might make computer systems similarly robust and less likely to do what the laws of natural selection, it seems, never do: crash. The universe, too, seems to function rather well, operating without glitches and fatal errors. Perhaps that's because natural selection is hard at work in the laws of nature.

From issue 2570 of New Scientist magazine, 21 September 2006, page 30-35

Comment on this Article

Arctic Ice the size of Texas melts in one year

New Scientist Print Edition
23 September 2006

MAY BE this is Earth's way of telling President George W. Bush that global warming cannot be ignored: in just one year, the perennial sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean has shrunk by nearly three-quarters of a million square kilometres, an area comparable to that of Bush's home state of Texas.
Perennial sea ice is the ice that survives at least one summer, and is usually more than 3 metres thick. Son Nghiem of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and his colleagues used NASA's QSCAT satellite to measure the changes in Arctic perennial ice from 2004 to 2005, by comparing ice cover averaged over November and December in each year, the team reports in Geophysical Research Letters (vol 33, p L17501).

They found that perennial ice cover decreased by 720,000 square kilometres - a 14 per cent drop in one year. This is a dramatic change compared with the 7.8 per cent reduction per decade that has been recorded since the 1970s.

The changes were not evenly spread. Perennial ice made some gains in the west Arctic Ocean, but nearly half was lost in the east. If the trend continues, it could open a vast ice-free region in the east Arctic Ocean, the team says.

From issue 2570 of New Scientist magazine, 23 September 2006, page 5

Comment on this Article

Snooze your way to high test scores

New Scientist Print Edition
23 September 2006

IF YOU are trying to commit something to memory, take a nap. Even a short daytime snooze could help you learn.
A good night's sleep is known to improve people's ability to learn actions such as mirror writing. REM sleep, when most dreaming occurs, is thought to be particularly important.

The role of sleep in factual learning has been less clear. Now Matthew Tucker at The City University of New York and his colleagues have shown that even a nap with no REM sleep can help.

Volunteers were told to memorise pairs of words (a test of factual learning) and to practise tracing images in a mirror (action learning). When they were tested straight afterwards and 6 hours later, those who had been allowed a nap of up to 1 hour before the re-test scored 15 per cent better in the factual test than the non-nappers, but no better in the action test (Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, vol 86, p 241).

"Traditionally, time devoted to daytime napping has been considered counterproductive," the researchers say. It now seems sleep is "an important mechanism for memory formation".

From issue 2570 of New Scientist magazine, 23 September 2006, page 17

Comment on this Article

Uncovering the hazards in our electronic gadgets

Duncan Graham-Rowe
New Scientist Print Edition
25 September 2006

Have you ever wondered what your computer is made of? You may not want to know. An analysis by Greenpeace of the chemicals contained in the components of five types of laptop computer revealed toxic flame-retardants and other harmful chemicals in some of them. In one of the computers, Greenpeace says it found harmful chemicals that the maker has publicly claimed to have eliminated from its products.
The findings highlight the challenges facing environmental regulators as they attempt to police the eradication of harmful chemicals from electronic goods. Failure by the regulators might not only put users at risk, but also mean chemicals might leach into groundwater beneath landfills, or contaminate people working in recycling plants where these machines end their lives.

Greenpeace found the toxic chemicals after analysing just a handful of the many hundreds of components inside each computer. Zeina Al-Hajj of Greenpeace says that the discovery of suspect chemicals in such a limited analysis of electronic goods reveals the magnitude of the task facing regulators as they work to enforce new rules on the use of many chemicals in goods, such as the European Union's Restriction on Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive.

The laptop analysis was carried out at the Eurofins environmental testing lab in Galten, Denmark, and a Greenpeace lab at the University of Exeter, UK. The labs bought five new laptops made by Acer, Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Sony in March this year. The computers were then dismantled and analysed using various techniques, including X-ray spectroscopy to detect and quantify the presence of certain chemical elements in 40 components, including cooling fans, taken from each computer.

A selection of these samples were then submitted to combined gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to detect the presence of specific compounds. The analysts found that among the five computers, the Hewlett-Packard laptop had some of the highest levels (see Table) of a number of chemicals, including a substance called decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE), a flame retardant that the company claims to have removed from its product line some years ago.

Greenpeace stresses that its analysis is not a reflection on any of the manufacturers' entire product lines - and none of them has broken any law. However, the findings are at odds with information about Hewlett-Packard products that the company has placed on its website, which states: "HP eliminated the use of decaBDE many years ago and has no plans to reinitiate its use."

"That is quite shocking," says Jim Puckett of the UN's Basel Action Network in Seattle, Washington. The network monitors breaches of the Basel convention, which regulates the flow of hazardous waste from industrialised countries to developing nations. With the wide range of substitute chemicals available today, there ought to be alternative choices for manufacturers, he says.

"It's disappointing to see these results," says Zoe McMahon, HP's environmental manager for Europe. The company has not been deliberately misleading its customers, she says, and is taking the matter seriously. "Our policy hasn't changed. Several years ago we restricted a number of flame retardants," she says, including decaBDE. It's too early to say how this substance came to escape HP's testing procedures and end up in the laptop that was analysed but HP is working with its suppliers to investigate Greenpeace's findings, she says.

Apple Computer's MacBook laptop analysed by Greenpeace also contained a permitted flame-retardant, called TBBPA, at levels higher than in any of the other computers, says Kevin Brigden at the Greenpeace lab, who oversaw the testing. Apple Computer chose not to respond to Greenpeace's findings when asked for comment by New Scientist.

TBBPA, decaBDE and other brominated flame retardants (BFRs) were once used in many plastic components in electronic goods, but are now being phased out following concerns over their impact on human health and the environment. "Some BFRs persist in the environment and are able to bio-accumulate," Brigden says. Long-term exposure can interfere with brain development, or the endocrine system. One of the problems with these chemicals is that it is difficult to dispose of them through incineration without releasing highly toxic dioxins into the environment. Only the Sony laptop contained no BFRs (see Table).

Controversially, decaBDE is still permitted under the European Union's RoHS directive. It was originally banned but was reinstated after the makers objected to the EU, saying it was less hazardous than other BDEs. However, since commercial decaBDE contains about 3 per cent nonaBDE, which was banned when RoHS came into force on 1 July, the use of decaBDE will now in practice no longer be possible. None of the machines Greenpeace tested was breaking any law, however, because they were purchased in Europe before 1 July.

RoHS may be a European law, but its influence is being felt around the world. Even in the US, where (except in a few states) BFRs are not banned or regulated, the chemicals banned under RoHS are being phased out, Al-Hajj says.

Up to 50 million tonnes of waste electronic equipment is being dumped every year, so residual toxic chemicals are one of the fastest-growing environmental problems, says Michael Williams of the UN Environment Programme. Even with many such substances now banned, the problem of dealing with millions of tonnes of older equipment will remain.

Greenpeace wants all toxic chemicals removed from e-goods. Peter Guthrie at the Centre for Sustainable Development in Cambridge, UK, says that for this to happen it will be crucial to ensure that manufacturers have to take back their products at the end of their lives. Only then will they be more inclined to switch to safer new materials.

From issue 2570 of New Scientist magazine, 25 September 2006, page 26-27

The greener alternatives

For many of the harmful chemicals traditionally used in electronic equipment, there are now a number of safer alternatives, though as Greenpeace found, they are not used as often as they could be.


PVC, a chlorinated plastic, was once used for insulating wiring. But both production of PVC and its eventual disposal can create persistent and highly toxic dioxins, which pose a major health hazard. Alternatives for PVC vary widely depending upon application, but a variety of non-chlorinated alkene-based plastics, such as polyethylene, can replace it in wiring insulation.


Solder used to contain as much as 50 per cent lead, but lead-free solder made up of tin, silver, copper, bismuth and zinc is now widely available. These metals' toxicity and ability to accumulate in the body are far lower than for lead, whose highly toxic effects are the same regardless of whether it is inhaled or ingested. These include irreversible tissue damage, particularly to the developing brain and central nervous system, the kidneys and the reproductive system.


Incorporating BFRs into plastic components is intended to enhance safety by making the material less flammable, but BFRs are now known to be a health risk. They accumulate in biological tissue and have been found in human breast milk, too. Chronic exposure interferes with brain and skeletal development. Animal experiments suggest that this may lead to permanent neurological damage, impairing learning and memory. Other studies have shown that some BFRs can act as endocrine disruptors. The three main classes are polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), hexabromo-cyclododecane (HBDC) and brominated bisphenols, in particular tetrabromo-bisphenol-A (TBBPA). Alternatives for BFRs include non-toxic silicone-based flame retardants, for instance, which are recyclable many times over.


Also known as chromium (vi) or chromate, hexavalent chromium is used in electronics as a corrosion inhibitor. It is highly toxic and a known carcinogen. Replacements include the metal's far less reactive trivalent form or nickel-iron-cobalt alloys.

Comment on this Article

Minor earthquake awakens S.C. residents

September 25, 2006

BLENHEIM, S.C. - A minor earthquake awakened residents early Monday in northeastern South Carolina, the second quake to hit the area in several days.

The magnitude 3.7 quake hit at 1:44 a.m. and was centered near Society Hill, about 90 miles southeast of Charlotte, N.C., according to the National Earthquake Information Center in Denver.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage. Roy Allison, director of emergency management for Marlboro County, said he and other residents were woken up by their shaking houses.

At a furniture and appliance store in Wallace, about 10 miles north of the epicenter, "the windows sounded like they were about to bust out," said Valerie Perhealth, daughter of the store's owner. "It scared me so bad."

A magnitude 3.5 quake shook the area Friday. The centers of the two quakes were about 10 miles apart.

Jessica Sigala, a geophysicist with the earthquake center, said the area gets small earthquakes now and then because of faults connected to the Appalachians.

"There's no fear of a bigger earthquake. These (small tremors) just happen," Sigala said.

There were no reports of damage from Friday's quake but there were reports of windows cracking and dishes rattling.

South Carolina each year has, on average, 10 to 15 earthquakes that register below magnitude 3. An earthquake between 3 and 4 normally is recorded about once every 18 months.

The area's most devastating quake on record was a magnitude 7.3 that rumbled near Charleston on Aug. 31, 1886, killing more than 100 people.

Comment on this Article

Global Temperature Highest in Millennia

Associated Press
25 Sept 06

WASHINGTON - The planet's temperature has climbed to levels not seen in thousands of years, warming that has begun to affect plants and animals, researchers report in Tuesday's issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Earth has been warming at a rate of 0.36 degree Fahrenheit per decade for the last 30 years, according to the research team led by James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.

That brings the overall temperature to the warmest in the current interglacial period, which began about 12,000 years ago.
The researchers noted that a report in the journal Nature found that 1,700 plant, animal and insect species moved poleward at an average rate of about 4 miles per decade in the last half of the 20th century.

The warming has been stronger in the far north, where melting ice and snow expose darker land and rocks beneath allowing more warmth from the sun to be absorbed, and more over land than water.

Water changes temperature more slowly than land because of its great capacity to hold heat, but the researchers noted that the warming has been marked in the Indian and western Pacific Oceans. Those oceans have a major effect on climate and warming that could lead to more El Nino episodes affecting the weather.

"This evidence implies that we are getting close to dangerous levels of human-made pollution," Hansen said in a statement.

Few scientists doubt that the planet has warmed, though some question the causes of the change.

Hansen, who first warned of the danger of climate change decades ago, said that human-made greenhouse gases have become the dominant climate change factor.

The study said the recent warming has brought global temperature to a level within about one degree Celsius - 1.8 degree Fahrenheit - of the maximum temperature of the past million years.

"If further global warming reaches 2 or 3 degrees Celsius, we will likely see changes that make Earth a different planet than the one we know. The last time it was that warm was in the middle Pliocene, about 3 million years ago, when sea level was estimated to have been about 25 meters (80 feet) higher than today," Hansen said.

Comment on this Article

Scientists to unveil secrets of Mona Lisa

25 Sept 06

PARIS - Scientists are due to unveil some of the secrets behind Western art's most enigmatic smile this week, when they present the findings of the most extensive three dimensional scan ever undertaken on the Mona Lisa.

Leonardo da Vinci's 16th century masterpiece, perhaps the world's most famous painting, is considered a milestone in the art of portraiture and an icon of European culture.

A comprehensive examination of the work, painted at some time around 1503-06, was undertaken in 2004, using special 3D technology developed by scientists from Canada's National Research Council (NRC).
The scientists scanned the picture on both sides to obtain high resolution 3D image data of the whole painting which the NRC says will shed new light on the history and condition of the work, as well as on Leonardo da Vinci's technique.

The portrait itself will remain in the Louvre museum in Paris, where it has gazed inscrutably out at visitors since it was moved there after the French Revolution.

But the NRC, which will unveil its findings on Tuesday ahead of a public lecture in Ottawa, promises its model will allow both art history specialists and the general public to get closer than ever before without risking damage to the picture.

It will also reveal important details about Leonardo's technique, including the so-called "sfumato" method by which he created a delicate hazy effect which contributes much to the painting's general air of remote mystery.

The young woman with the ambiguous half smile has been identified as Lisa Gherardini, wife of a Florentine merchant named Francesco de Giocondo and her portrait has attracted admiration and curiosity since its creation 500 years ago.

Its popular status as Western art's most famous masterpiece was cemented in 1911 when it was stolen from the Louvre, sparking a massive hunt that saw even Pablo Picasso questioned by police before the painting turned up again two years later.

Comment on this Article

Computers taught to sort opinion from fact

25 Sept 06

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is funding a research project designed to teach computers to scan text and then sort opinion from fact.

The project involves Cornell University Professor of Computer Science Claire Cardie and associate professors of computer science Janyce Wiebe of the University of Pittsburgh and Ellen Riloff of the University of Utah.

The consortium is one of four University Affiliate Centers to conduct research on advanced methods for information analysis and to develop computational technologies that contribute to national security.

"Lots of work has been done on extracting factual information -- the who, what, where, when," explained Cardie. "We're interested in seeing how we would extract information about opinions."

The scientists will use machine-learning algorithms to give computers examples of text expressing both fact and opinion and then teach them to tell the difference.

Comment on this Article

Catastrophic mudslide could last 100 years, say scientists - Land in East Java likely to collapse as thousands flee - Attempts to seal channels will 'probably not succeed'

John Aglionby in Jakarta
Tuesday September 26, 2006
The Guardian

Mud, gas and boiling water that have been gushing out of the ground in East Java since May, submerging half a dozen villages and 20 factories, could continue for a century with "catastrophic consequences", European experts said yesterday. Efforts to seal the channels through which the mud is escaping are unlikely to succeed, and it is impossible to tell how much fluid remains underground, according to a University of Oslo geology team.
"It's unlikely to stop permanently for a long time," Adriano Mazzini told a press conference in Jakarta. "It's hard to say when the overpressure will have been fully released. It could be one, 10 or 100 years. But to seal it will be very, very difficult." According to Mr Mazzini, unless the flow stops soon, the affected land, which has already starting sinking, could subside significantly. "It will be catastrophic," he said.

The mud started flowing on May 29, a couple of hundred metres from where the gas company PT Lapindo Brantas was drilling an exploratory well nearly two miles deep. It has been gushing up to 50,000 cubic metres a day - or two large bathsfull a second - ever since.

At least four villages will almost certainly have to be destroyed, and two others have been flooded. More than 11,000 people have evacuated their homes.

On September 8, the central government, fearing a political disaster as well as the environmental impact, took command of the operation to stem the flow, control the flood (which now covers about 400 hectares (1,000 acres) and supervise the social programmes for the affected communities. A spokesman for the government team told the Guardian the latest findings were "useful and worrying". He said: "They show we still have a lot of work to do."

Observers said the president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, had been wise to intervene. "This could be the achilles heel of this government," said Dennis Heffernan, a political and business consultant. "Unless more resources are put to work, we're in danger of a catastrophe on the level of the Exxon Valdez."

The Exxon Valdez was an oil tanker that sank in Alaska in 1989, causing widespread environmental devastation.

All the expenses are being borne by Lapindo, which is controlled by the family of Indonesia's senior welfare minister, Aburizal Bakrie. Estimated costs are thought to be well over £70m, while the company's insurance only covered £15m.

Mr Mazzini, whose team has studied mud volcanoes for more than a decade and spent just under a week on site, said it was impossible to say conclusively whether the drilling caused the disaster.

There has been speculation that the disaster was caused by Lapindo failing to use a proper casing during drilling. Mr Mazzini said this was unlikely. "This is a huge case of overpressure," he said. "A casing would not have made any difference, I don't think. But I'm not a drilling expert."

The mudflow is thought to have been caused by one of four possibilities: gas-charged fluids breaching coral mounds on top of the limestone rock; a magmatic reaction generating gas; a new-born mud volcano; or hydrothermal fluids migrating from neighbouring areas.

Comment on this Article

Frost devastates Oz fruit harvest

The Daily Telegraph
September 26, 2006

THE Victorian Government must declare a natural disaster in the Goulburn Valley after frost devastated the region's fruit crops, a federal MP said today.

Temperatures unexpectedly plunged to minus five degrees celsius on Sunday night, ruining healthy young fruit - including apricot, plum, peach and plum crops - across the region.
Federal Murray MP Dr Sharman Stone said she had written to Victorian Premier Steve Bracks calling on him to declare a natural disaster to "open the door to financial assistance for orchardists".

The frost was expected to have destroyed half the region's output of fruit, Dr Stone said.

Farmers alone expected to lose $70 million, with losses multiplied through the picking, packing, canning and transport industries, she said.

"This follows five years of drought, hail last year at Shepparton East, the devastating frost of 2003 and record prices for water," Dr Stone said in a statement.

"If the state declares a natural disaster, they will be able to seek reimbursement for up to 75 per cent of their costs from the Federal Government once their expenditure reaches a certain threshold.

"Unfortunately, the process of natural disaster declaration begins with the State Government.

"They must start to think beyond the Great Divide and assist farmers who, through no fault of their own, are facing another severe downturn."

Comment on this Article


Azzaman, Iraq: Deadlier Weapons Signal Start of 'Full Scale Civil War'

By Hadi Maraai
September 20, 2006

More deadly weapons have entered Iraq's the bloody sectarian fray, which shows that the country is at the doorstep of full-scale civil war.

Iraqis have always been armed to their teeth. For example, under former leader Saddam Hussein, officials were permitted to take an automatic rifle, a rocket launcher or even mortars home with them. If you declared loyalty to the regime, you could easily gain entry to the Baath Party armory. And whether you were really loyal hardly mattered.

But back then, there were no instances of Iraqis turning these guns against their neighbors who belonged to different religious sects or ethnic groups.
True, opposition groups occasionally waged mortar and Katyusha rocket attacks at the regime's security forces but we have no instances of Iraqis attacking Iraqis for sectarian, religious or ethnic reasons.

But today mortars and Katyushas are the weapons of choice for armed groups in residential areas of ethnically and religiously mixed cities. Opposing sects in villages now regularly resort to these deadly weapons, fired indiscriminately at civilians. Only God knows how many innocent Iraqis are being killed or maimed as a result of these attacks.

As night falls in Baghdad, mortars and Katyusha rockets begin falling on residential quarters. There is no one to hear or give a damn for the wails of children and women that break the silence of the night in the aftermath of such bombing.

For example, Baghdad at night, home to over five million people, turns into a battlefield. It is a tit for tat between the capital's various residential areas. If a Shiite-dominated quarter fires mortars and Katyushas at a Sunni-dominated area, then it goes without saying that the former will be targeted by the latter almost immediately.

The point is that every night, Baghdad and almost all of Iraq turned into no-man's land. Even the Americans don't have the guts to patrol any part of Baghdad at night.

So, the rebels, insurgents, militants, terrorists, or whatever you want to call them, have the entire arena to themselves.

How can peace and stability return to Iraq if government or occupation troops don't have the courage to remain on the streets of Baghdad and other major cities after 4 pm? There are reports that U.S. and Iraqi troops would like to dig a moat around Baghdad to prevent gunmen from entering the city.

But the gunmen are already inside the city.

Perhaps they will need to build moats separating different quarters of Baghdad and then move on to build walls between certain districts and separate streets from one another by concrete fortifications as is the case with the Green Zone ...

Comment on this Article

Losing a War, Winning a Police State

By Nat Parry
September 26, 2006

The New York Times disclosure of an official National Intelligence Estimate, which states that the Iraq invasion has worsened the global terrorist threat, carries an unspoken subtext - that the Bush administration is either woefully ignorant of how to combat terrorism or finds the terrorist threat a useful tool for managing the American public.
That's because on one level, the NIE, representing the consensus view of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, recognizes the obvious: that the invasion of Iraq has spawned a new generation of Islamic extremists who are determined to strike at the West, that Iraq has served as both a recruitment poster and a training ground for jihadists.

"The Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse" since Sept. 11, 2001, summarized one U.S. intelligence official in referring to the NIE, which was completed in April 2006. [NYT, Sept. 24, 2006]

But to many Americans, this conclusion comes as no surprise. Indeed, it was one of the central arguments of the antiwar movement before the invasion more than three years ago, that an unprovoked invasion of Iraq would inflame anti-Americanism and increase the terrorist threat at home and abroad.

Indeed, I wrote an article before the war essentially making that argument.

"The war's devastation and the U.S. occupation also could play into the hands of [Osama bin Laden, who] spelled out in a recent message that he plans to gain a propaganda advantage from any U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, by presenting himself as the defender of the Arab people," I wrote in February 2003. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Iraq's Liberation Day."]

Widespread Warnings

And it wasn't just journalists and bloggers offering warnings about the war's potential to fuel extremism and deepen the terrorist threat. Respected leaders both inside and outside the U.S. government offered dire warnings over the war's potential consequences.

For example, retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, who served as a Middle East envoy for George W. Bush, warned in October 2002 that by invading Iraq, "we are about to do something that will ignite a fuse in this region that we will rue the day we ever started."

Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser in the first Bush administration, said a strike on Iraq "could unleash an Armageddon in the Middle East." Former South African President Nelson Mandela said Bush was "introducing chaos into international affairs."

But George W. Bush brushed aside these warnings and proceeded with the invasion.

As the war and occupation have dragged on, more concerns were raised that heavy-handed U.S. tactics would further inflame Arab anger. Those worries were realized in the devastation of Fallujah, the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib, and the massacre at Haditha - not to mention the grisly daily death toll of Iraqi civilians.

Yet, every step along the way, the Bush administration and its allies have bullied their domestic critics. Americans who raised questions before the war were sneered at as "cowards," "dupes" and "traitors."

Then, when the rosy predictions of Iraqis showering U.S. troops with flowers proved false, the administration berated the Iraq War critics some more, accusing them of "defeatism" and insisting that "staying the course" was the only appropriate option.

More recently, the critics have been mocked as "cut-and-runners," while Bush calls the Iraq War the "central front" in the "war on terror," which, in turn, he says is "the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st Century."

But the downward spiral of the Iraq War and the worsening worldwide terrorism threat are negatives only if one assumes that creating a more peaceful and secure world was the original goal.

If the goal included changing the character of the United States as a free and open society - and consolidating one-party Republican control over the federal budget - then the administration's policies would seem to be working like a charm.

In the United States, which Bush calls part of the "battlefield" in the "global war on terror," fear has prompted millions of Americans to surrender constitutional rights willingly and accept government intrusions that would have been unthinkable before 9/11.

Fanned Fears

These domestic fears have been fanned by government claims of last-minute police actions to stop new acts of al-Qaeda terrorism, which later turn out to be over-hyped public relations stunts.

Since opting to charge alleged "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla with crimes unrelated to original allegations that he was an "enemy combatant" - to avoid a Supreme Court showdown over presidential powers - the Bush administration was dealt another blow on Aug. 21 when a federal judge in Miami threw out one of the administration's charges against the alleged al-Qaeda operative.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke dropped a conspiracy charge against Padilla, saying that it violated constitutional prohibitions against double jeopardy. But the judge left intact two other terrorism-related counts against the former Chicago gang member.

Nevertheless, it's becoming increasingly clear that the original allegations against Padilla - an American citizen who was held without charges for 3 ½ years - were deeply flawed. The Padilla case also showed how readily the Bush administration cast aside constitutional guarantees of a speedy trial in which the government must present its evidence in public, one of the most fundamental rights dating back to English common law.

In the administration's other much-touted victory against "homegrown" terrorists, the case of the so-called Miami Seven accused of plotting to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago, it appears that the alleged plot consisted of little more than loose talk. The accused had almost no ability to pull the scheme off and the case looks more like entrapment by federal agents.

According to court records, government informants provided money and a meeting place for the seven Miami men, gave them video cameras to conduct surveillance, and suggested that the first target of terrorism be a Miami FBI office. Lawyers for the defendants say their clients were lured into the scheme and had no contact with real al-Qaeda members.

Despite the criticism of FBI tactics, it appears that the trend may be towards an even more draconian approach to counter-terrorism efforts. On Aug. 29, the FBI

showcased to reporters
a new database with more than 659 million records.

The "Investigative Data Warehouse," as it is called, includes terrorist watch lists, intelligence cables and financial transactions culled from more than 50 FBI and other government agency sources.

Unveiling the database was intended in part to address criticism that the FBI's technology was outdated as the fifth anniversary of 9/11 approached. But the database raised concerns from privacy advocates who worry about how long the government stores such information and about the right of citizens to know what records are being kept.

For instance, anyone who has ever lost or had a passport stolen could be considered suspect, and anyone who has been put on the government's notoriously inaccurate "no-fly" list also could be flagged in the FBI's database. The system includes 250 million airline passenger records, stored permanently.

Gurvais Grigg, acting director of the FBI's Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force, said every data source is reviewed by security, legal and technology staff members, and a privacy impact statement is created in order to safeguard civil liberties.

But David Sobel, senior counsel of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the FBI's use of an internal privacy assessment undercuts the intent of the Privacy Act.

NSA Wiretaps

Also of concern is how this new database might use information from the National Security Agency's warrantless domestic surveillance program. The National Counterterrorism Center's terrorist watch list includes at least 325,000 people, and according to an NCTC official, the database includes names of suspected terrorists provided by all intelligence organizations, including NSA.

The NSA program has raised concerns because Bush is asserting that his presidential powers during the "war on terror" trump the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. The eavesdropping is being conducted without court oversight in apparent violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Security Act, passed in response to the COINTELPRO scandal of the 1970s.

At the end of a Senate investigation into domestic intelligence violations, Sen. Frank Church, D-Idaho, specifically cautioned against the vast potential for abuse if the NSA targeted American citizens.

The NSA's "capability at any time could be turned around on the American people," Church warned, "and no American would have any privacy left ... There would be no place to hide." [NYT,

Dec. 25, 2005

All of the intelligence organizations, including the FBI, CIA and the NSA, are overseen by the Director of National Intelligence, a position created in early 2005 and now filled by former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte.

But the DNI's independence has always been in doubt. In calling on Congress to create the post of DNI in 2004, Bush made it clear that the director would serve "at the pleasure of the President."

Creating the post of DNI also required extensive revision of the 1947 National Security Act, a Cold War-era law which has undergone further revision since the creation of the DNI. In legislation passed by the House this year, the National Security Act was amended to grant the DNI more power and authority.

The legislation, now before the Senate, provides the DNI new authority to "have access to all national intelligence ... concerning the human intelligence operations of any element of the intelligence community," and authorizes personnel designated by the DNI "to make arrests without warrant for any offense against the United States committed in the presence of such personnel."

The new arrest powers follow similar authority granted to the U.S. Secret Service. In the reauthorization of the Patriot Act in 2005, the Secret Service was granted the same power in identical language.

Expanded Powers

Civil libertarians question the steady expansion of government powers within the Executive Branch. This concern has deepened with the tendency of agencies, such as the Secret Service, to engage in law enforcement activities that are political in nature.

During the Bush presidency, the Secret Service has shielded the President from dissenters. Since 2001, the Secret Service has been establishing "free speech zones" for protesters to gather, while police have arrested people who express opposition to Bush's policies outside of the designated areas.

At a Florida Bush rally in 2001, three demonstrators - including two elderly women - were arrested for holding up small protest placards outside the "free speech zone." In 2003, also in Florida, seven protesters were arrested when they refused to be cordoned off into a protest zone hundreds of yards from a Bush rally at USF Sun Dome.

In general, these demonstrators have been arrested by local police at the behest of the Secret Service, but this could change with the new powers granted to the Secret Service by the Patriot Act reauthorization of 2006.

Not only does the law grant the Secret Service new powers of arrest, but it also increases fines and penalties for individuals who "willfully and knowingly ... enter or remain in any posted, cordoned off, or otherwise restricted area of a building or grounds where the President ... will be temporarily visiting."

Beyond expanding powers for the DNI and the Secret Service, Congress also is moving to grant the President more authority over the National Guard.

Governors across the nation are complaining about a bill that has passed the House of Representatives that would expand Bush's authority to take over National Guard troops in case of a natural disaster or a "homeland security threat."

The legislation was criticized by Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican, as symptomatic of a wider federal effort to make states no more than "satellites of the national government."

Huckabee, who is chairman of the National Governors Association, said the legislation would end the historic link between the states and their Guard units and "violates 200 years of American history."

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, pointed out that for "230-plus years governors have had control of their National Guard and have done a good job," but "all of a sudden, there are one or two lines in a bill that no one has debated and no one has discussed to take that authority away."

While the governors express frustration over the usurpation of authority that has traditionally belonged to the states, there is a larger concern. That is the trend toward centralized authoritarianism that will be accelerated by granting Bush total control over the National Guard.

This trend may speed up even more if Congress effectively grants amnesty to the administration over violations of the Geneva Conventions, and essentially gives the President new authority to interpret Common Article 3, which sets standards for treatment of prisoners of war.

Although billed as a "compromise," the Republican-sponsored legislation provides the Executive Branch legal cover for authorizing interrogation techniques that are widely considered violations of domestic and international law.

War on Iran?

As alarming as the drift towards increased authoritarianism may be, it could pale against what might be in store if the Bush administration attacks Iran over its nuclear program.

In a report for the Century Foundation, retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner asserted that "the summer of diplomacy is over," and argued that "the diplomatic activity of the past several months was just a pretext for the military option."

Dave Lindorff, writing in The Nation,

that the Bush administration and the Pentagon have moved up the deployment of a major "strike group" of ships to sail to the Persian Gulf, just off Iran's western coast.

Lindorff points out that "the Eisenhower Strike Group, bristling with Tomahawk cruise missiles, has received orders to depart the United States in a little over a week." Navy sources confirmed that the armada is due off the coast of Iran on or around Oct. 21.

The strongest argument against the possibility of the U.S. striking Iran is that such an attack doesn't make any sense.

Skeptics point out that the military option would likely be counterproductive, if not catastrophic. There are fears that Iran (and perhaps Venezuela) would cut off oil shipments, possibly sending the price of oil to upwards of $200 a barrel. Iran also could launch strikes on Israel, and take revenge against American forces in Iraq.

Furthermore, there is the possibility that Hezbollah sleeper cells exist in the United States, and could be activated by Iran in the event of a U.S. attack. Press reports

that the FBI has launched new probes in New York and other cities targeting alleged members of Hezbollah, in anticipation of a U.S.-Iran showdown.

If the U.S. does launch an attack, it seems clear that the terrorism threat faced by Americans at home and abroad will dramatically increase. For such reasons, many observers argue that an attack on Iran is unlikely.

But Gardiner points out that not making sense won't limit what the Bush administration does. "The 'making sense' filter was not applied over the past four years for Iraq, and it is unlikely to be applied in evaluating whether to attack Iran," Gardiner writes.

It also could be that "making sense" means something different for the Bush administration than it does for average Americans.

Although the Iraq War has cost about 2,700 American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars from the Treasury, the war has created great business opportunities for well-connected corporations such as Halliburton and Bechtel, which have registered substantial profits from the occupation and "rebuilding" of Iraq.

Also, although U.S. intelligence agencies now agree that the terrorist threat has ballooned due to the Iraq War, the Bush administration has found the conflict useful in simultaneously expanding its powers, abrogating constitutional rights and justifying more government secrecy.

Those trends seem likely to continue - and even accelerate - as the "war on terror" remains a powerful excuse for transforming the United States from a historically free and open society to a frightened nation where citizens eagerly trade their constitutional rights for government promises of more security.

Comment on this Article

Saddam ejected again from genocide trial

By Mussab Al-Khairalla and Peter Graff
Sep 26, 2006

BAGHDAD - Saddam Hussein was ejected from his genocide trial for a third day on Tuesday and his co-defendants tried to storm out after him, as chaos reined following the sacking of the chief judge last week.

Judge Mohammed al-Ureybi had opened the hearing with a lecture to Saddam not to disrupt the proceedings, and allowed him to read a 20-minute written statement, with microphones off so those in the glass-enclosed press gallery could not hear.
But after listening to two Kurdish witnesses, Saddam again began to argue and the judge lost his patience.

"You are a defendant and I'm a judge," Ureybi said. "Shut up, no-one talk ... The court has decided to eject Saddam Hussein from court."

As Saddam left smiling, his six co-defendants - top officials under Saddam - stood and tried to follow him out, demanding they leave too. The judge shouted back: "Get Saddam out and put the others back in their seats."

Several co-defendants started shouting and pointing fingers at the judge. Ureybi ejected one, former defense minister Sultan Hashim, before ordering a recess.

Unusually, the sound was left on for television broadcasts, allowing all Iraqis to watch and listen as pandemonium broke out in the courtroom for several minutes.


Saddam was also expelled from the courtroom during the last two hearings for protesting against the sacking of Ureybi's predecessor as chief judge, Abdullah al-Amiri. The government fired Amiri last week for saying Saddam was "not a dictator".

Saddam and the other six could face hanging over the deaths of an estimated 180,000 Kurdish villagers in 1988, including thousands killed by poison gas.

He and his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid - dubbed "Chemical Ali" by Iraqis - face genocide charges. Five others face charges of mass murder and crimes against humanity.

International legal rights groups have said the sacking of the judge could hurt the legitimacy of the outcome of the trial. But prosecutors said Amiri had been too lenient, allowing Saddam to threaten witnesses. He once told accusers in court he would "crush their heads".

The trial has featured moving testimony from villagers recounting their suffering during the Anfal - "Spoils of War" - campaign, when Saddam's forces attacked Kurds accused of helping Iran during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.

Before Saddam was ejected on Tuesday, the court heard from Aasi Mustafa Ahmed, a villager in his 50s who said he had been an Iraqi army conscript and prisoner of war in Iran. When he returned home in 1990 he found his house destroyed and his wife and four children missing, never to be seen again.

Asked if he sought compensation, he said: "If you gave me the whole world, it wouldn't make up for one of my children's fingernails."

All the defense lawyers walked out last week after Amiri was sacked as chief judge and have not returned, but court-appointed lawyers are in place.

Comment on this Article

Army holds Pentagon to ransom over Iraq - America's top uniformed army officer has refused to submit his service's budget request for fiscal 2008

By Rupert Cornwell in Washington
UK Independent
26 Sept 06

In a fresh sign of the intense strains placed by the Iraq war on the US military, America\'s top uniformed army officer has refused to submit his service\'s budget request for fiscal 2008.

General Pete Schoomaker, chief of staff of the army, said it could not fulfil its mission within the existing financial limits set by Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary.
At the same time, the army has been forced to extend the combat tour of a key infantry brigade in strife-torn al-Anbar province to allow the battle-weary unit that is due to replace it to enjoy the minimum 12-month interval between tours at the front.

The move affects 4,000 men of the 1st Brigade of the 1st Armoured Division, currently based at Ramadi in the heart of the \"Sunni Triangle\", who will now have to spend an extra six weeks there before returning to their base in Germany in February.

The announcement by the Pentagon yesterday is the latest evidence of how the long war in Iraq and the intensifying conflict in Afghanistan are stretching the army\'s resources to the limit and beyond. Far from cutting back on Iraq deployment, as the Bush administration had hoped, the Pentagon has had to boost US troop strength in recent months to some 145,000, as sectarian violence has intensified.

No less indicative has been the extraordinary decision by General Schoomaker not to present a budget for the financial year starting in October 2007.

This week, Congress will approve a Pentagon budget for the year starting this October of a total $447bn (£235bn) for defence, including a basic army budget of $98bn, as well as a special $70bn supplementary fund to pay for the two wars, and replace equipment lost or worn out in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But General Schoomaker insists this is far short of what is required. According to the Los Angeles Times yesterday, he wants $139bn for the army in 2007-08 - more than $25bn above the limit set by Mr Rumsfeld - and a 41 per cent increase on the allocation for 2006-07. In the end, he chose to miss the 15 August deadline for submission of a budget.

The Defence Secretary has since agreed to a study group, which is understood to basically agree with Gen Schoomaker. But after years of watching their basic budget requests chipped away by Mr Rumsfeld and various congressional committees, army chiefs are now in little mood to compromise.

The army has a total active-duty strength of 504,000, of whom 400,000 have done at least one tour in either Iraq and Afghanistan, and some 150,000 have done two.

Barring an unlikely improvement in the security situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, such pressures will remain. If funding is not increased, the alternatives are uniformly unattractive. The army could scale back its commitments. If not, commanders admit, it will have to make greater use of the National Guard. A third possibility would be the reintroduction of the draft, but that is flatly opposed by President Bush and Mr Rumsfeld.

* Three Marines will face courts-martial on charges of murdering an Iraqi man in the town of Hamdania. The three were among seven Marines and one Navy serviceman accused of kidnapping and murdering 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad last April. The other five face preliminary hearings in coming weeks.

Comment on this Article

Army chief tells Bush: there's not enough money for Iraq war

Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington and Richard Norton-Taylor
September 26, 2006
The Guardian

George Bush suffered a serious rebuke of his wartime leadership yesterday when his army chief said he did not have enough money to fight the war in Iraq.

Six weeks before midterm elections in which the war is a crucial issue, the protest from the army head, General Peter Schoomaker, exposes concerns within the US military about the strain of the war on Iraq, and growing tensions between uniformed personnel and the Pentagon chief, Donald Rumsfeld.

Three retired senior military officers yesterday accused Mr Rumsfeld of bungling the war on Iraq, and said the Pentagon was "incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically". Major General Paul Eaton, a retired officer who was in charge of training Iraq troops, said: "Mr Rumsfeld and his immediate team must be replaced or we will see two more years of extraordinarily bad decision-making."
The rare criticism from the three officers, all veterans of the Iraq war, is an embarrassment to Mr Bush at a time when his party had hoped to campaign on its strong leadership in the "war on terror".

The officers echoed the findings of the National Intelligence Estimate at the weekend, which said the Iraq war had fuelled Islamist extremism around the world. They also accused the Pentagon of putting soldiers' lives at risk by failing to provide the best equipment available. "Why are we asking our soldiers and marines to use the same armour we found was insufficient in 2003?" asked Thomas Hammes, a retired Marine Corps colonel.

The criticism comes amid an unprecedented show of defiance from the army chief, Gen Schoomaker. The general refused to submit a budget plan for 2008 to Mr Rumsfeld, arguing the military could not continue operations in Iraq and its other missions without additional funds, the Los Angeles Times reported yesterday. The seriousness of the protest was underlined by Gen Schoomaker's reputation as an ally of the Pentagon chief. The general came out of retirement at Mr Rumsfeld's request to take up the post.

"It's quite a debacle," said Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute thinktank. "Virtually everyone in the army feels as though their needs have been shortchanged."

Gen Schoomaker's defiance gives a voice to growing concern within the military about the costs of America's wars, and the long-term strain of carrying out operations around the world.

For the past three years, the $400bn (£210bn) cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been funded by emergency spending bills passed by Congress. But Gen Schoomaker and others say the Iraq war has also put a severe strain on regular budgets. That puts the generals at odds with Mr Rumsfeld's strategic vision of a more nimble, hi-tech military. In addition, Congress and the White House have cut a number of army spending requests over the past months. "There is no sense in us submitting a budget that we can't execute, a broken budget," he told a Washington audience.

As the war in Iraq continues with no sign of a reduction in US forces, military officials have repeatedly complained about the strain on personnel, and say they fear they may be forced to rely more heavily on the National Guard and reservists to meet the demands of overseas deployments. General John Abizaid, America's senior commander in the Middle East, said last week there was little chance of any drawing down of the 140,000 forces in Iraq before next spring.

The burden of that commitment was underlined yesterday when the army extended the combat tours of about 4,000 soldiers serving in the Ramadi area.

In Basra yesterday, British troops killed a prominent al-Qaida figure who was hiding in Iraq after escaping from US custody in Afghanistan last year, the ministry of defence said. Omar Faruq was shot dead while resisting arrest during a pre-dawn raid by 250 soldiers after a long-planned intelligence-led operation. A British military spokesman described Faruq as a "very, very significant man".

Comment on this Article

Army Warns Rumsfeld It's Billions Short - An extraordinary action by the chief of staff sends a message: The Pentagon must increase the budget or reduce commitments in Iraq and elsewhere.

By Peter Spiegel
Times Staff Writer
September 25, 2006

WASHINGTON - The Army's top officer withheld a required 2008 budget plan from Pentagon leaders last month after protesting to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that the service could not maintain its current level of activity in Iraq plus its other global commitments without billions in additional funding.

The decision by Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, is believed to be unprecedented and signals a widespread belief within the Army that in the absence of significant troop withdrawals from Iraq, funding assumptions must be completely reworked, say current and former Pentagon officials.

"This is unusual, but hell, we're in unusual times," said a senior Pentagon official involved in the budget discussions.
Schoomaker failed to submit the budget plan by an Aug. 15 deadline. The protest followed a series of cuts in the service's funding requests by both the White House and Congress over the last four months.

According to a senior Army official involved in budget talks, Schoomaker is now seeking $138.8 billion in 2008, nearly $25 billion above budget limits originally set by Rumsfeld. The Army's budget this year is $98.2 billion, making Schoomaker's request a 41% increase over current levels.

"It's incredibly huge," said the Army official, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity when commenting on internal deliberations. "These are just incredible numbers."

Most funding for the fighting in Iraq has come from annual emergency spending bills, with the regular defense budget going to normal personnel, procurement and operational expenses, such as salaries and new weapons systems.

About $400 billion has been appropriated for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars through emergency funding measures since Sept. 11, 2001, with the money divided among military branches and government agencies.

But in recent budget negotiations, Army officials argued that the service's expanding global role in the U.S.-declared war on terrorism - outlined in strategic plans issued this year - as well as fast-growing personnel and equipment costs tied to the Iraq war, have put intense pressure on its normal budget.

"It's kind of like the old rancher saying: 'I'm going to size the herd to the amount of hay that I have,' " said Lt. Gen. Jerry L. Sinn, the Army's top budget official. "Schoomaker can't size the herd to the size of the amount of hay that he has because he's got to maintain the herd to meet the current operating environment."

The Army, with an active-duty force of 504,000, has been stretched by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. About 400,000 have done at least one tour of combat duty, and more than a third of those have been deployed twice. Commanders have increasingly complained of the strain, saying last week that sustaining current levels will require more help from the National Guard and Reserve or an increase in the active-duty force.

Schoomaker first raised alarms with Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in June after he received new Army budget outlines from Rumsfeld's office. Those outlines called for an Army budget of about $114 billion, a $2-billion cut from previous guidelines. The cuts would grow to $7 billion a year after six years, the senior Army official said.

After Schoomaker confronted Rumsfeld with the Army's own estimates for maintaining the current size and commitments - and the steps that would have to be taken to meet the lower figure, which included cutting four combat brigades and an entire division headquarters unit - Rumsfeld agreed to set up a task force to investigate Army funding.

Although no formal notification is required, Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey, who has backed Schoomaker in his push for additional funding, wrote to Rumsfeld early last month to inform him that the Army would miss the Aug. 15 deadline for its budget plan. Harvey said the delay in submitting the plan, formally called a Program Objective Memorandum, was the result of the extended review by the task force.

The study group - which included three-star officers from the Army and Rumsfeld's office - has since agreed with the Army's initial assessment. Officials say negotiations have moved to higher levels of the Bush administration, involving top aides to Rumsfeld and White House Budget Director Rob Portman.

"Now the discussion is: Where are we going to go? Do we lower our strategy or do we raise our resources?" said the senior Pentagon official. "That's where we're at."

Pressure on the Army budget has been growing since late May, when the House and Senate appropriations committees proposed defense spending for 2007 of $4 billion to $9 billion below the White House's original request.

Funding was further complicated this summer, when rising sectarian violence in Baghdad forced the Pentagon to shelve plans to gradually reduce troops in Iraq.

Because of those pressures, the Army in July announced it was freezing civilian hiring and new weapons contract awards and was scaling back on personnel travel restrictions, among other cost cuts.

Schoomaker has been vocal in recent months about a need to expand war funding legislation to pay for repair of hundreds of tanks and armored fighting vehicles after heavy use in Iraq.

He has told congressional appropriators that he will need $17.1 billion next year for repairs, nearly double this year's appropriation - and more than quadruple the cost two years ago. According to an Army budget document obtained by The Times, Army officials are planning repair requests of $13 billion in 2008 and $13.5 billion in 2009.

In recent weeks, however, Schoomaker has become more publicly emphatic about budget shortfalls, saying funding is not enough to pay for Army commitments to the Iraq war and the global strategy outlined by the Pentagon.

ADVERTISEMENT"There's no sense in us submitting a budget that we can't execute, a broken budget," Schoomaker said in a recent Washington address.

Military budget expert Steven M. Kosiak of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, an independent Washington think tank, said that despite widespread recognition that the Army should be getting more resources because of war-related costs, its share of the Defense Department budget has been largely unchanged since the 2003 invasion.

However, a good portion of the new money the Army seeks is not directly tied to the war, Kosiak cautioned, but rather to new weapons it wants - particularly the $200-billion Future Combat System, a family of armored vehicles that is eventually to replace nearly every tank and transporter the Army has.

"This isn't a problem one can totally pass off on current military operations," Kosiak said. "The FCS program is very ambitious - some would say overly ambitious."

Even with Rumsfeld's backing, any request for an increase could force a conflict with the White House Office of Management and Budget, which has repeatedly pushed the Pentagon to restrain its annual budget submission.

"Year after year there were attempts to raise the ceiling, but year after year OMB has refused," said a former Pentagon official familiar with the debate. "The difference this year is the Army has said that if a raise in the ceiling isn't going to be considered, they won't even play the game."

Added the senior Army official: "If you're Rob Portman advising the president of the United States and duking it out with the secretary of Defense, it's a pretty sporting little event."

Army officials said that Schoomaker's failure to file his 2008 Program Objective Memorandum was not intended as a rebuke to Rumsfeld, and that the Defense secretary had backed Schoomaker since the chief of staff raised the issue with him directly.

Still, some Army officials said Schoomaker expressed concern about recent White House budget moves, such as the decision in May to use $1.9 billion out of the most recent emergency spending bill for border security, including deployment of 6,000 National Guard troops at the Mexican border.

Army officials said $1.2 billion of that money came out of funds originally intended for Army war expenses.

"The president has got to take care of his border mission; he needs to find a source of funds so he can play a zero-sum game - he takes it out of defense," the senior Army official said. "But when he takes it out of defense, the lion's share is coming out of the outfit that's really in extremis in the current operating environment in the war."

Rumsfeld has not set a new deadline for the Army to submit its budget plan. The Army official said staffers thought they could submit a revised plan by November, in time for President Bush to unveil his 2008 budget early next year.

Comment on this Article

U.S. Army weighs more combat units for Iraq

25 Sept 06

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Army is considering whether to add more combat units to the rotation plan to meet a top commander's decision to keep more than 140,000 troops in the country until at least mid-2007, The Washington Times reported on Monday.

The Army also is considering accelerating the deployments for some brigades in a move to try to stop sectarian violence among Sunnis and Shi'ites in Baghdad, the newspaper reported, citing Pentagon officials.

"It may accelerate the pace of deployments or it may mean looking at calling up additional units," a Pentagon official who asked not to be named told the newspaper.
Army Gen. John Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command oversees the war, said last week that the United States is unlikely to begin cutting its forces in Iraq before the middle of next year.

He said the United States might even increase the size of its force from the current 147,000.

U.S. troop levels have increased by 20,000 since late July. They peaked at about 160,000 late last year.

In June, when there were 127,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, U.S. commanders proposed bringing home two brigades of about 3,500 each this month and one or two more by the end of the year.

Comment on this Article

Anxious Dems eye power of the purse on Iraq

By Bob Cusack
The Hill
26 Sept 06

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) will chair the powerful Ways and Means Committee if Democrats win control of the House next year, but his main goal in 2007 does not fall within his panel's jurisdiction.

"I can't stop this war," a frustrated Rangel said in a recent interview, reiterating his vow to retire from Congress if Democrats fall short of a majority in the House.

But when pressed on how he could stop the war even if Democrats control the House during the last years of President Bush's second term, Rangel paused before saying, "You've got to be able to pay for the war, don't you?"
Rangel's views on funding the war are shared by many of his colleagues - especially within the 73-member Out of Iraq Caucus.

Some Democratic legislators want to halt funding for the war immediately, while others say they would allocate money for activities such as reconstruction, setting up international security forces, and the ultimate withdrawal of U.S. troops.

"Personally, I wouldn't spend another dime [on the war,]" said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.).

Woolsey is among the Democrats in Congress who are hoping to control the power of the purse in 2007 to force an end to the war. Woolsey and some of her colleagues note that Congress helped force the end of Vietnam War by refusing to pay for it.

Democrats in the House and Senate are united in their effort to conduct more oversight of the Bush administration's management of the Iraq war, but are not on the same page on how to fund it.

While the Senate could switch hands, political analysts say the House is more likely to flip.

Having lost the last two elections in part because of national security issues, Democratic leaders have been reluctant to spell out their exact Iraq war funding strategy.

"I don't think the Democratic leadership should put that out at the moment," Woolsey said.

But Democratic leaders will be under tremendous pressure from campaign donors and activists to take bold steps on Iraq should they be setting the legislative agenda in the 110th Congress.

"If we have the majority, it'll be because of Iraq," said Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii).

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democrats have called for a reduction in troops to begin no later than the end of 2006, but as Speaker, she could have significant power over troop levels in 2007.

"[Pelosi] has consistently stated that Congress must ensure that our troops have the resources they need," said Pelosi spokesman Drew Hamill.

Some Democratic congressional candidates have not embraced their leadership's position of a troop withdrawal timetable in Iraq and conservative Democratic members in the House and Senate could also prove problematic in close budget and appropriations votes.

The Out of Iraq Caucus represents less than 40 percent of Democrats in the House. However, the group consists of many senior lawmakers, including a one Democratic leader, Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), eight who are in line to chair panels, the next head of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), and eight appropriators.

Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), the ranking member of the Appropriations defense subcommittee and the most outspoken Democrat on withdrawing from Iraq, has said he will mount a bid for majority leader should Democrats win the House in November. His bill to redeploy forces from Iraq has 105 cosponsors.

Still, Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.), who has a bill seeking to prohibit funds to deploy armed forces to Iraq, says Democrats "have various positions on the war" and is skeptical that leadership will adopt an approach similar to his legislation.

He noted that his bill does not have many cosponsors (it has 18), and said despite the influential members of the Out of Iraq Caucus, "we all have one vote."

Republicans are quick to portray talk of withdrawal as a "cut-and-run" strategy as they seek to mock Democrats on homeland security weeks before Nov. 7.

The Bush administration has previously indicated that it presumes that Democrats may attempt to cut off funding for the war if they win control of Congress next year. But the political battle over the war may be fiercer than some White House officials anticipate.

According to a report in The Washington Post last month, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino asked, "How would they force the president to withdraw troops? Yell?"

Battling the White House on the war would be challenging, Democrats say, but they would be emboldened by the election results and Bush's standing as a lame-duck president with low approval ratings.

Abercrombie stressed that Democrats are not going to sever funding for the troops. Cutting off funding is "easy to say and another thing to do," according to Abercrombie.

What's more like likely, he said, is to fund the conflict in a way that will end the war by reallocating money to new initiatives.

"We're going to continue to give the troops everything they need," said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

A House Democratic leadership aide said, "The bottom line is that should Democrats regain the House, Democrats will leave no soldier left behind in Iraq. As long as there's soldiers in the battlefield, funding will continue."

If Democrats control Congress, that funding likely would have strings attached. Most Senate Democrats backed a nonbinding measure earlier this year crafted by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) that called for troops to begin to withdraw from Iraq, but the amendment did not set a withdrawal deadline. Another amendment offered by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) set a redeployment of troops to be substantially completed by July 1, 2007 was soundly defeated, attracting only 13 votes. The Levin amendment fell short as well, garnering 39 votes.

Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.), a Democratic leader in line to become the House Budget Committee chairman if Democrats win control of the House, said last month that he does not favor an immediate withdrawal: "I think we should tell the Iraqis that we're not going to pull out immediately. We're seeking still some positive outcome. We won't leave them in a lurch, but at the same time, we're not going to be there indefinitely or forever..." Spratt is in a challenging race to keep his seat this fall.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), chair of the Out of Iraq Caucus, declined to comment for this article.

Comment on this Article

Stuff Happens Again in Baghdad - Three and a half years later, have we learned anything?

NY Times
September 24, 2006

IT'S not just about torture. Even if there had never been an Abu Ghraib, a Guantánamo or an American president determined to rewrite the Geneva Conventions, America would still be losing the war for hearts and minds in the Arab world. Our first major defeat in that war happened at the dawn of the Iraq occupation, before "detainee abuse" entered our language: the "Stuff happens!" moment at the National Museum in Baghdad.

Three and a half years later, have we learned anything? You have to wonder. As the looting of the museum was the first clear warning of disasters soon to come, so the stuff that's happening at the museum today is a grim indicator of where we're headed in Iraq: America is empowering the very Islamic radicals this war was supposed to smite. But even now we seem to be averting our eyes from reality on the ground in Baghdad.
Our blindness back in April 2003 seems ludicrous in retrospect. As the looting flared, an oblivious President Bush told the Iraqi people in a televised address that they were "the heirs of a great civilization that contributes to all humanity." Our actions - or, more accurately, our inaction as the artifacts of that great civilization were carted away - spoke louder than those pretty words. As Fred Ikle, the Reagan administration Pentagon policy chief, puts it in Thomas Ricks's "Fiasco," "America lost most of its prestige and respect in that episode."

That disaster might have been mitigated if our leaders had not dismissed the whole episode as a triviality. But Donald Rumsfeld likened the chaos to the aftermath of a soccer game and joked that television was exaggerating the story by recycling video of a single looter with a vase. Gen. Richard Myers defended our failure to intervene as "a matter of priorities" (we had protected the oil ministry). Lt. Gen. William Wallace, countering a wildly inflated early claim by a former museum employee that 170,000 artifacts had been destroyed, put the number of objects still unaccounted for at "as few as 17." (The actual number was closer to 14,000.)

The war's many cheerleaders in the press fell into line. In keeping with the mood of the time, administration enforcers like Charles Krauthammer and Andrew Sullivan damned Mr. Rumsfeld's critics as fatuous aesthetes exploiting a passing incident to denigrate the liberation of Iraq. In a column in Salon titled "Idiocy of the Week" (that idiot would be me), Mr. Sullivan asked rhetorically who was right about "the alleged ransacking" of the museum, Mr. Rumsfeld or his critics? "Rummy, of course. He almost always is."

Of course, dear old Rummy's what-me-worry take on the museum was the tip-off to how he would be wrong about everything that would follow: he reacted with exactly the same disdain and indifference to the insurgency happening under his own nose and to Abu Ghraib. There would be a hasty corrective to the looting, at least: a heroic Marine Reserve colonel, Matthew Bogdanos, commanded a team that ultimately tracked down a bit more than a third of the vanished objects. (It was too late to rescue tens of thousands of additional treasures in Iraq's National Library and National Archives, both also looted and torched.) But Mr. Rumsfeld's "Stuff happens!" proved indelible because it so resonantly set forth an enduring theme of the occupation: that the Americans in charge of Iraq were contemptuous of the local populace to whom they were so grandly bequeathing democracy and other fruits of civilization.

The cavalier American reaction to the museum looting was mimicked in the $22 billion reconstruction effort, an orgy of corruption and waste that still hasn't brought Iraqis reliable electricity. In a new account of the civilian nation-builders in the Green Zone, "Imperial Life in the Emerald City," Rajiv Chandrasekaran of The Washington Post details how L. Paul Bremer III and his underlings enlisted cronies and apparatchiks rather than those who might actually know anything about the country's people or their needs. Thus we saddled Iraq with Bernie Kerik, G.O.P. fund-raisers and politically connected young ideologues chosen over more qualified job applicants who knew Arabic. They saw Iraq as a guinea pig for irrelevant (and doomed) experiments, including an antismoking campaign and an elaborate American-style stock exchange. Mr. Chandrasekaran's book, while nonfiction, is as chilling an indictment of America's tragic cultural myopia as Graham Greene's prescient 1955 novel of the American debacle in Indochina, "The Quiet American."

Our public diplomacy efforts were equally tone-deaf to Iraqis and their neighbors. In the early going, the State Department hired a Madison Avenue whiz who made sunny TV testimonials about America's love of Muslims. These ads won no hearts or minds, but wasted tons of money and even more valuable time. Now this job belongs to Karen Hughes, the presidential flack, whose patronizing photo-op tour of the region last year earned mostly ridicule.

Our broadcasting outreach there is supervised by a longtime Karl Rove pal, Kenneth Tomlinson, who last month was found by State Department investigators to be using his office - literally - to run a "horse-racing operation." One of Mr. Tomlinson's thoroughbreds is named Karzai, in supposed honor of the Afghan president. If that's his idea of lifting America's image in the Muslim world, he might as well be on Al Jazeera's payroll. On Wednesday, ABC News reported the bottom line of such P.R. misfires: a confidential Pentagon survey found that 75 percent of Iraq's Sunni Muslims support the insurgency, up from 14 percent in 2003.

Speaking before the United Nations last week in what may be the run-up to our new war, Mr. Bush was still on his battle-for-civilization kick, flattering Iranians much as he has the Iraqis. "We admire your rich history, your vibrant culture, and your many contributions to civilization," he said. All Iranians have to do is look to the Baghdad museum today to see that such words are worth no more now than they were in 2003.

It's symbolic of the anarchy throughout Iraq's capital that the museum's entrances are now sealed with concrete to keep out new hordes of killers and thieves. But the violence, which seems to spiral with each declaration of a new security crackdown, is old news. More revealing is the other half of the museum's current plight: it is now in the hands of Iraq's version of the Taliban. That sad denouement is another symbol, standing for our defeat in the larger war of ideas.

The museum changed hands in August, when Donny George, its longtime administrator and the chairman of Iraq's official antiquities board, fled the country fearing for his life and for the treasures in his care, both at the museum and the country's many archaeological sites. Mr. George is a Christian and had good reason to fear. The new government minister placed in charge of the museum, a dentist, is an acolyte of the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, whose goal is to make Iraq a fundamentalist theocracy. To Mr. Sadr and his followers, the museum's legendary pre-Islam antiquities, harking back to the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, are infidels' idols to be sacked.

You might think, given Mr. Sadr's radicalism, that he is a fugitive terrorist on the lam as, say, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was. After all, Mr. Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army, is a font of death squads at the heart of the sectarian warfare; he's an enthusiastic ally of Hezbollah besides. But he is instead a major player in the "democracy" we have installed in Iraq, controlling at least 30 of 275 seats in the Parliament and six government ministries, including the power centers of transportation and health.

Back in 2004, the Americans made plans to take down Mr. Sadr, but as Larry Diamond, a senior adviser to the coalition authority in Baghdad, writes in his book "Squandered Victory," those plans were shelved for "various reasons, including political calculations in Washington." American forces arrested some Sadr aides last week, but such periodic skirmishes notwithstanding, his influence continues to grow. He is a crucial ally of the prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, who would not be in office without his support. In the past few days, both Tony Snow and Condi Rice have been reaffirming that the administration has what the secretary of state called "enormous confidence" in Mr. Maliki, despite Washington chatter to the contrary.

One of the first Westerners to warn strongly of the dangers of someone like Mr. Sadr was Gertrude Bell (1868-1926), the legendary archaeologist, explorer, author and British political officer who masterminded the unlikely cobbling together of the modern Iraq state after World War I. She warned that a Shiite theocracy in the new country would be "the very devil." As it happened, it was also Bell who created the Iraqi National Museum in 1923.

The fortunes of her museum, once considered the finest in the Middle East, have been synonymous with the fate of Iraq ever since. That's because, like any such national institution, it is not merely some building that houses art but a repository of a country's heart and soul. That America has stood helplessly by as Mr. Sadr folds the museum into his orbit of power is as ominous a predictor of what lies ahead in this war as was our callous reaction to the looting of 2003. For all of America's talk of stamping out a "murderous ideology" and promoting civilization and democracy in Iraq, we are now handing the very devil the keys.

Comment on this Article

Bomb Near Group of Iraqi Women Kills at Least 35

NY Times
September 24, 2006

BAGHDAD, Sept. 23 - A horrific explosion on Saturday morning in the huge Sadr City district here killed at least 35 people, mostly women and children, when a bomb detonated next to a line of women waiting to receive cooking fuel from a tanker truck, according to residents and officials at nearby hospitals.
Many of the victims were burned to death. Two dozen of the dead were women or girls, as were 26 of the 36 wounded, the hospital officials said. The blast struck at the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, in which more attacks were expected, given what has happened in past years, according to American and Iraqi officials.

Elsewhere, four Americans were killed. One soldier died after his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in northern Baghdad on Saturday. Two other soldiers died and three were wounded when a roadside bomb struck their patrol near Kirkuk. An American working as a State Department contractor was killed Friday during a rocket attack in the southern city of Basra, and a Danish soldier was reported killed by a roadside bomb in Basra.

A senior military official in Baghdad said some death squad members captured since United States forces began sweeps through the capital last month also worked for or had affiliation with the Ministry of Interior or other government agencies.

American troops have killed 25 death squad members and captured 215 more since the sweeps began, the official said, adding that most have not had governmental affiliations. There are now 23 militias in Baghdad, said the official.

"There's a political piece to this to see if they deal with these guys, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of the issue. "There is corruption and problems in some of these ministries, but it's got to be dealt with and it ought to be dealt with by the prime minister and the folks that are inside this government."

After the Sadr City blast, a Sunni insurgent group issued an Internet statement claiming credit, and saying the bombing was retaliation for Shiite militia attacks on Sunnis.

Some residents of Sadr City, a huge Shiite slum in northern Baghdad, said the attackers appeared to have exploited the fact that Saturday was the designated day for women to receive long-delayed allotments of kerosene in the Dakhil neighborhood. Men were scheduled to line up for fuel on Sunday, but attacking on Saturday would be easier, they said, because women are often not searched before they join the line.

Some reports quoted the police as saying that the bomb was hidden in a barrel, or in a car parked near the tanker.

Yet Bassim Mohammed, a 40-year-old worker, said one woman pretended she had shown up to receive kerosene but instead carried a bomb hidden inside an empty fuel can. The bomb was apparently detonated by remote control after the woman left, he said.

"It was like an oven," said Mr. Mohammed, who was fighting back tears as he recounted the blast. "Bodies were burned everywhere. I saw seven bodies of small boys. They are just boys! They did nothing. Why do they attack us?"

The casualty toll was worsened, he said, because concrete barriers near the line made it hard for people to flee the blast and the resulting fire.

In another grisly attack, gunmen riding in BMW's discarded nine severed heads in a square in downtown Bayji, north of Baghdad. The gunmen clashed with the police before escaping, according to a Salahaddin provincial spokesman. One of the victims was an interpreter for American forces and the others were army recruits, he said.

A group linked to Al Qaeda posted a Web video on Saturday purporting to show the bodies of two American soldiers being dragged behind a truck and then set on fire, The Associated Press reported.

The Mujahedeen Shura Council - an organization of insurgent groups, including Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia - posted a previous video in June showing the soldiers' mutilated bodies, and claiming that it killed them. It was not clear whether video posted Saturday was a continuation of that footage, or why it was released.

In Baghdad, the Iraqi military said American and Iraqi troops captured a leader of one of the most vicious Sunni terrorist groups, Ansar al-Sunna, during a raid early Saturday morning in the restive town of Miqdadiya, northeast of Baghdad. The raid captured Muntasir Hammoudi Alaiwi and two other insurgents, said Brigadier Qassim al-Mussawi. The group took credit for the December 2004 bombing of an Army mess tent in Mosul that killed 18 Americans and four others.

Khalid al-Ansary contributed reporting.

Comment on this Article

Army Corps Faked Budget Entries - Funds for Iraq work, set to expire, were stashed. It's called improper, but not criminal

By T. Christian Miller
The Los Angeles Times
23 September 2006

Washington - The Army Corps of Engineers improperly created fake entries in government ledgers to maintain control over hundreds of millions of dollars in spending for the reconstruction of Iraq, according to a federal audit released Friday.

Corps officials listed $362 million in potential contracts for a nonexistent contractor labeled "Dummy Vendor" in a government database, an accounting trick to preserve funds due to expire at the end of this fiscal year, the audit said.

"They took this money and parked it to use later," said one senior U.S. official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to elaborate on the audit.

"It's improper. It's wrong. This is not the way you do government business."

Corps officials acknowledged Friday that the technique was improper but said that there was no intent to deceive. They said that the entries were designed to ensure that the government had enough money on hand to pay contractors already at work in Iraq.

After being confronted with the audit's findings, corps officials changed the entries in the database to reflect that the money was being used to close down existing contracts in Iraq, the agency said.

"It wasn't the proper bookkeeping way to do this," said Suzanne Fournier, the corps' chief spokeswoman. "Apparently someone didn't understand that."

The audit by the Special Inspector General for the Reconstruction of Iraq is the latest to raise questions about accounting for the multibillion-dollar program, which has been plagued by accusations of waste, fraud and corruption.

At issue is $18 billion in funding approved by Congress in November 2003 to build new schools, power stations and sewage treatment plants in Iraq. At the time, Congress ordered that the funds be spent by Sept. 30.

Iraq's violence and continually shifting government priorities bogged down the pace of the rebuilding effort, leaving the corps with nearly $1 billion still to spend.

To prevent the money from reverting back to the Treasury, Corps officials in Iraq listed the "Dummy Vendor" as receiving 96 different contracts to build infrastructure for oil, electricity and other sectors, the audit said.

Such accounting trickery is not confined to Iraq.

The U.S. Special Operations Command, based in Tampa, Fla., was accused of "parking" $20 million in 2003, leading to language in this year's Defense Department budget to criminalize the practice.

That bill has yet to pass, and the inspector general for Iraq, Stuart Bowen, found no criminal wrongdoing involved in the corps' use of the dummy vendor. "We do not believe ... there was any attempt to mislead on the true status" of the contracting process, the audit said. Bowen was in Iraq and unavailable for comment.

The audit marks the second time in recent months that a government agency has been charged with accounting improprieties.

The U.S. Agency for International Development was accused in June of resorting to accounting tricks in an effort to hide the spiraling costs of a children's hospital in Iraq, a project that received special backing from First Lady Laura Bush.

San Francisco-based Bechtel, the chief contractor, was removed from the project after the inspector general determined that the cost to finish the hospital had soared from $50 million to almost $170 million.

U.S. officials now hope to have an Iraqi company finish the work.

Comment on this Article

Civilian deaths soar to record high in Iraq - UN report warns of grave sectarian crisis in country - Doubts on PM's ability to avoid slide to civil war

Peter Beaumont in Baghdad and agencies
Friday September 22, 2006
The Guardian

Nearly 7,000 civilians were killed in Iraq in the past two months, according to a UN report just released - a record high that is far greater than initial estimates had suggested. As American generals in Baghdad warned that the violence could worsen in the run up to Ramadan next Monday, the UN spoke of a "grave sectarian crisis" gripping the country.

With known Iraqi deaths running at more than 100 a day because of sectarian murders, al-Qaida and nationalist insurgent attacks, and fatalities inflicted by the multinational forces, the UN said its total was likely to be "on the low side" because of the difficulties of collecting accurate figures. In particular, it said that no deaths were reported from the violent region covering Ramadi and Falluja.
The report from the UN assistance mission in Iraq's human rights office reported evidence of torture, unlawful detentions, the growth of sectarian militias and death squads, and a rise in "honour killings" of women. The increasing incidence of discovery of the bodies of women and teenage girls, shot in the chest rather than in the head, has been attributed to the establishment by both extremist Sunnis and Shias of secretive sharia committees, which locals say carry out killings.

In a separate development, Manfred Nowak, the UN's special investigator, said torture was "totally out of hand" and might even be worse now than under Saddam Hussein. "You have terrorist groups, you have the military, you have police, you have these militias. There are so many people who are abducted, seriously tortured and finally killed," he told reporters at the UN's Geneva headquarters.

The US military had initially claimed a dramatic drop in the Iraqi death toll for August, but the estimate was revised sharply upwards after it revealed that it had inexplicably left out figures for people killed by bombs, mortars, rockets and other mass attacks.

The latest fatality figures have been disclosed amid emerging criticism from Iraqi and US officials - quoted anonymously in the New York Times - of the prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's ability to prevent the country sliding into civil war.

The violence again has risen most sharply in Baghdad, despite a massive joint Iraqi government and US operation to "clear" no-go areas of fighters. The report raises serious new questions about the ability of US and Iraqi forces to bring peace to Baghdad, where the bulk of the violent deaths occur.

Critically, the report states that the country's government, set up in 2006, is "facing a generalised breakdown of law and order which presents a serious challenge to the institutions of Iraq".

According to the UN, which releases the figures every two months, violent civilian deaths in July reached an unprecedented high of 3,590 people, an average of more than 100 a day. The August toll was 3,009 people, the report said. In the previous period the UN had reported just under 6,000 deaths - 5,106 from Baghdad.

It added: "Bodies found at the Medico-legal Institute often bear signs of severe torture, including acid-induced injuries and burns caused by chemical substances, missing skin, broken bones (back, hands and legs), missing eyes, missing teeth and wounds caused by power drills or nails."

On other issues, the report said that about 300,000 people had been displaced in Iraq since the bombing of a shrine in Samara in February.

The potential for even more violent instability came as two senior aides to the radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Militia has been blamed for much of the sectarian killing, were detained early yesterday by US forces in the southern city of Najaf.

In the capital the violence continued. Insurgents killed six policemen and wounded two others when they attacked a police station in western Baghdad, while a car bomb killed two people and wounded eight in the capital's mainly Shia Hurriya district. Gunmen also killed three policemen after attacking their patrol in the city.

Comment on this Article

Terrorist who escaped U.S. custody reported killed in Iraq

September 25, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- British forces said they killed a top terrorist leader Monday, identified by Iraqi officials as an al Qaeda leader who had escaped from a U.S. prison in Afghanistan and returned to Iraq.

Omar Farouq was killed in a pre-dawn raid by 250 British troops from the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment on his home in Basra, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad, British forces spokesman Maj. Charlie Burbridge said.

Farouq was killed after he opened fire on British soldiers entering his home, Burbridge said.
"We had information that a terrorist of considerable significance was hiding in Basra; as a result of that information we conducted an operation in an attempt to arrest him," Burbridge told The Associated Press by telephone from southern Iraq. "During the attempted arrest Omar Farouq was killed, which is regrettable because we wanted to arrest him."

He said he could not comment on whether it was the same man who led al Qaeda's Southeast Asia operations, citing British policy not allowing him to link an individual to a specific organization.

But a Basra police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said it was the same man, adding Farouq was known to be an expert in bomb making. The officer said Farouq was going by the name Mahmoud Ahmed while living in Basra, adding that he entered Iraq three months ago.

Earlier, Basra police Lt. Col. Kareem al-Zubaidi identified the man killed as Mahmoud Ahmed, saying he returned two weeks ago after reportedly fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan. There was no explanation for the differing accounts on the date of his arrival.

Neighbors told The AP that Farouq was a member of al Qaeda and had received training in camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The U.S. command had no immediate comment on the incident.

Farouq was one of four al Qaeda suspects who broke out of the prison in Bagram, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan, in July 2005.

It was an embarrassing incident for the U.S. military, and the Pentagon waited until November to confirm that the man had escaped. The delay in releasing his name upset Indonesia, which had arrested Farouq in 2002 and then turned him over to the United States -- which then shipped him to Afghanistan.

After escaping, the al Qaeda leader and the three others had managed to evade a massive manhunt. They later appeared in a video sent to the Dubai-based television station Al-Arabiya and boasted of their feat.

The British Ministry of Defense would not confirm specifics on Farouq, but did say the suspect killed "was closely linked to terrorist activity such as murders and kidnappings."

Comment on this Article

For Americans Killed in Iraq: A Period, Not a Comma - On CNN on Sunday, President Bush suggested that one day the conflict in Iraq will be looked back on as "just a comma" - The dead, and their families, might propose different punctuation

By: Greg Mitchell
Editor and Publisher
25 Sept 06

Amid the Sunday uproar over The New York Times' report on a secret intelligence report labeling the war in Iraq an answer to anti-U.S. terrorists' prayers, CNN aired a portion of an interview with President Bush conducted by Wolf Blitzer earlier in the week.

In a report here at E&P, we observed that in this exchange, Blitzer asked about the latest setbacks in Iraq and indications that civil war may be at hand. Bush, with a slight smile, replied, "Yes, you see - you see it on TV, and that's the power of an enemy that is willing to kill innocent people. But there's also an unbelievable will and resiliency by the Iraqi people.... I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma because there is - my point is, there's a strong will for democracy."

Even for Bushisms, this is an odd one. Maybe he meant "coma." No, that would be too negative.
A comma as a metaphor perhaps? If so, for what? All that bloodshed as merely a comma-- a pause in a long sentence - leading to a hopeful phrase or conclusion? Comma, "and they all lived happily ever after"? Or maybe, comma, "and then we bombed Iran"?

Of course, one can think of other punctuation that might be apt, including "?" for the 140,000 Americans still deployed there, "!" for the cries of the gravely injured, and "$" for Haliburton and other contractors.

Or perhaps, as in the comics pages, when an angry character really wants to curse: "!@#%^&*()#*"

But I'd like to offer one more, the simple period, to replace the hopeful comma. Below you will find some 2,700 periods, each standing for an American life lost in Iraq. Space does not permit a full accounting of the Iraqis killed, or any of those damaged for life.

Comment on this Article

US looks for ways to send more troops to Iraq

25 Sept 06

WASHINGTON - The US Army and Marine Corps are looking for ways to send more combat units into the Iraq rotation pool and are considering accelerating the pace of deployments for some brigades in order to keep more than 140,000 troops in the country through at least the spring of 2007, The Washington Times reported Monday.

Citing unnamed Pentagon officials, the newspaper reported that instead of planning to draw down 30,000 soldiers and Marines this year, the two services are now trying to figure out how to keep the equivalent of two extra divisions, or 40,000 troops, in Iraq.
Currently, Army units deploy for about a year, then spend one year at their home base before going back to Iraq or Afghanistan. Under these rules, the number of troops was to drop to 100,000 by next year.

The report said the Army has met a request by Central Command head General John Abizaid for more forces in the rotation pool by delaying the departure of a Stryker armored vehicle brigade to Alaska and by calling in a fast-reaction brigade combat team from Kuwait.

But a longer-term solution may require the Army to look at adding more units to the rotation mix, according to The Times.

"It may accelerate the pace of deployments, or it may mean looking at calling up additional units," the paper quotes a Pentagon official as saying.

That option may become reality in November, when the Pentagon is expected to identify units that will go to Iraq next year, the report said.

The Marine Corps, which patrols restive Anbar Province west of Baghdad, rotates two expeditionary forces every seven months.

The increased demand for troops comes at a time when military analysts say it is nearly stressed to the breaking point, The Times said.

Non-deployed combat brigades are experiencing low readiness ratings due mostly to a lack of usable weapons and equipment, the paper noted.

The wear and tear in Iraq is ruining M1A1 tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, Humvee vehicles and other equipment at such a fast pace that the Army has neither the money nor the industrial base to replace them, according to The Times.

Comment on this Article

Private Jacob Kovco: the unanswered questions

By Mike Head
25 September 2006

Like everything associated with the invasion of Iraq, the military board of inquiry into the death of Private Jacob Kovco has become a fiasco laced with lies and cover-up. On April 21, Kovco, aged just 25, became the first Australian soldier to die in Iraq after being shot through the head with his own 9mm Browning pistol while in his barracks at the Australian Embassy in Baghdad.

From the outset, Defence Minister Brendan Nelson lied about the circumstances of Kovco's death. At the same time, Australian consular officials handed his corpse over to a private contractor in Kuwait, which then transported the body of a Bosnian civilian contractor to Australia for burial. Immediately, it appeared that the government was hiding something.
Kovco had just come off shift from one of the most psychologically traumatising tasks performed by Australian troops in Iraq. He was an elite sniper, protecting the convoys of light armoured vehicles that transport Australian military, political, diplomatic and intelligence officials around the war-torn capital.

Only three possibilities existed: Kovco committed suicide, he accidentally shot himself or he was killed by a fellow soldier. Each was politically disastrous for the government, threatening to trigger new concerns about the inhuman conditions faced by the soldiers sent to enforce the US-led occupation of Iraq, and to rekindle widespread opposition to the war.

Five months later, after weeks of contradictory testimony at the inquiry, it is clear that the government and the military brass have worked systematically to prevent the truth ever being known. When the inquiry ended its hearings last week, and its officers retired to write their report, a litany of unanswered questions remained.

* Virtually all the crime scene evidence in Baghdad was quickly destroyed, either willfully or accidentally, by military officers. Kovco's room, which had been splattered with blood, was cleaned out, despite pleas from civilian police to preserve the evidence. Kovco's clothes were destroyed, while those worn by his roommates were washed. Military police performed no forensic tests.

* The laptop computer Kovco was using at the time of his death was turned off and closed before military or civilian police could see it. No information has been released on any message that he had sent or received.

* The bunkroom in which Kovco died was tiny-roughly the size of a shipping container-and cramped. Kovco and two other soldiers were no more than an arm's length apart, yet both his roommates said they saw nothing.

* A military police investigator, Sergeant Stephen Hession, did not inspect the room for five days. In the meantime, soldiers, including possible suspects, had been in and out.

* Kovco's pistol was placed in the lid of a box that once held copy paper. Later, another soldier's DNA was found on the pistol.

* Military authorities gave pre-prepared interview statements to key witnesses, including the two roommates, presenting fabricated accounts of what had happened. Another soldier was handed what he called a "bullshit scenario" whereby Kovco shot himself accidentally after bumping his funny bone. The statements also falsely declared that the soldiers were well drilled in a "buddy system" to check that loaded weapons were not carried off duty.

* Morticians at the Kuwait morgue-where Kovco's body was confused with that of Bosnian carpenter, Jusco Sinanovic, 47-washed his body, possibly with ammonia, before dispatching it to Australia. His hands, which might have held traces of gunpowder, had not been bagged, as is standard civilian police practice in a shooting death. When the body finally arrived in Australia eight days after his death, a pathologist assigned to perform the autopsy found that it had been stored in mothballs, eradicating traces of evidence remaining on his body.

* Australian Defence Force (ADF) chief Angus Houston flatly contradicted Defence Minister Nelson's claim, issued to the media the day after Kovco died, that the military had informed him that Kovco had accidentally shot himself while cleaning his weapon. Air Chief Marshal Houston said he had repeatedly advised Nelson that it was unclear how Kovco died. Nelson admitted six days later, on April 27, that his initial claim was false, and then offered a bizarre new version of events, in which the gun apparently went off by itself.

* A ballistics expert, Detective Inspector Wayne Hoffman, manager of the Forensic Ballistics Investigation Section of the New South Wales Police, presented the inquiry with a dozen detailed reasons why he believed Kovco died from a self-inflicted wound. Yet, inquiry president Group Captain Warren Cook took the extraordinary step, on the final day of hearings, of ruling out the possibility of suicide, well before the inquiry's report was written. "Suicide doesn't come into our reasoning whatsoever," he announced.

The Bulletin, a magazine which boasts of senior sources in the military and the Howard government, pointed out this week that a finding of suicide would have been distressing for Kovco's family, but even more disturbing for the government. Suicide, it noted, "is not altogether uncommon among soldiers in-or immediately after-high-stress combat deployments. But it is rarely acknowledged. And the suicide of an Australian soldier (with all its implications for troop morale) in a conflict as contentious as the Iraq War, would be much harder to explain than a death in combat. Only murder would make for a more difficult scenario."

The Bulletin predicted that the military board would attribute the death to misadventure or an "act of God".

Members of Kovco's family bitterly accused the government and the military of a cover-up. In a statement to the inquiry, Kovco's brother Ben said: "Though we would like to believe otherwise, it is very difficult to move beyond the undesirable idea that the ADF and its representatives have gone out of their way to destroy as much evidence as possible in an attempt to protect the organisation and its personnel from any implication of wrongdoing."

Kovco's mother Judy told Australian Broadcasting Corporation's "The 7.30 Report": "Enduring this inquiry, I just find this is face saving for them, for the army. This is not about my son's death." Asked whether she thought a major cover-up had taken place, she said: "I certainly do, yes, without doubt. They've done it in the past [been complicit in a cover-up]."

Kovco's widow Shelley told the inquiry that high-ranking defence officials and Defence Minister Nelson applied pressure so that her husband's body would be rushed home in time for a PR stunt on Anzac Day [an official military commemoration day]. This, she said, had contributed to the bungled repatriation of his body.

She revealed that the military had still not given her many of Kovco's belongings, including his laptop, on which he was writing an email to her just before he died. She also told the inquiry it would not find anything because the military had done such a thorough job of removing the evidence.

Just before the inquiry closed, the ADF announced that it had asked Internet web sites to remove revealing photographs and video of Australian soldiers assigned to the same security duties in Baghdad as Kovco. The images showed individual soldiers waving pistols around-some directly at the camera-and fanning wads of money while chomping on cigars. One picture showed a man in Australian uniform pointing a gun at the neck of a kneeling man, dressed as an Arab. The background was adorned with pornographic photographs, pasted on what appeared to be a soldier's barracks bedroom wall. Other videos reportedly showed soldiers exposing themselves.

The images gave just an inkling of the brutalised and de-humanised outlook instilled in Australian troops engaged in neo-colonial operations such as the occupation of Iraq.

Defence chief Houston condemned the display of "cultural insensitivity, disregard for operational security and inappropriate handling of weapons", and said an investigation would be launched to identify and punish the culprits. But Prime Minister John Howard urged people not to "overreact" to the images and declared that no special inquiry was needed. "I think we have to understand that soldiers, particularly in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, work in very stressful environments. Soldiers through the ages have let off a bit of steam when they are working in stressful environments."

Such conduct is, undoubtedly, the inevitable byproduct of the stress produced by continuously policing a hostile population-with every approaching person increasingly seen as a potential suicide bomber. But it is also the result of the military and ideological conditioning carried out to prepare young soldiers to kill innocent civilians. An unnamed senior Australian military officer told the Bulletin that US and allied snipers "are the psychological value-adders of modern urban warfare and they are becoming critical to combat operations in Iraq".

Members of the ADF "security detachment" in Baghdad are known to have opened fire on innocent civilians at least twice since 2004. In November that year, two men were shot driving a car, and army chief General Peter Cosgrove immediately defended the killings. In June this year, Australian soldiers blasted the bodyguards of Iraq's Trade Minister, Abdel Falah al-Sudany, killing one and wounding three others. Weeks later, Houston said an ADF inquiry had exonerated the soldiers. "Our personnel acted in accordance with their rules of engagement," he insisted.

No doubt these incidents, both briefly reported and then dropped, are only the tip of the iceberg. Since the illegal US-led invasion, Baghdad has descended into a nightmarish quagmire of shootings and bombings, with daily deaths of demoralised coalition troops and scores of innocent Iraqi civilians alike.

On May 2, Jacob Kovco was given a highly-publicised funeral with full military honours, attended by Howard, Nelson and Houston. His silver casket was draped in the Australian flag and flanked by a 100-strong guard of honour. The conscious cover-up of his death underscores the utter hypocrisy of the official commemoration of his life.

Comment on this Article

Web of Terror

L'Est Republicain, France: Secret Service Report: Saudis 'of Conviction' bin Laden is Dead

By Laid Sammari
Translated By Sandrine Ageorges
September 23, 2006

In this English-language exclusive, WatchingAmerica presents Saturday's news from French newspaper L'Est Republicain. The newspaper reported that French intelligence has told President Jacques Chirac that the Saudi secret services are 'of the conviction' that Osama bin Laden died of typhoid late last month.
The Saudi intelligence services have arrived at the conviction that the al-Qaeda leader is dead.

If this information were to be confirmed, it could end the precipitous drop in public approval for U.S. President George Bush, who is being badly manhandled in the polls two months before the next elections.

The information we reveal today comes from a secret service document classified as "Defense: Confidential," issued by the Directorate-General of External Security (DGSE). The French intelligence service passed the document to the President [Jacques Chirac], the Prime Minister [Dominique de Villepin], the Minister of Interior [Nicolas Sarkozy] and the Defense Minister [Michele Alliot] on Thursday, September 21st. We offer the contents to you in their entirety:

"According to a normally reliable source, the Saudi intelligence services are now of the conviction that Osama bin Laden is dead. Information gathered by the Saudis indicates that the al-Qaeda leader, while in Pakistan on August 23rd 2006, fell victim to a very serious case of typhoid, which induced a partial paralysis of his lower limbs. His geographic isolation, brought about by his state of permanent flight, rendered any kind of medical assistance impossible. On September 4th 2006, the Saudi services obtained the first pieces of information mentioning his death. They await further details before making an official announcement, specifically the exact location of his burial."

The information obtained by DGSE in the death of bin Laden was deemed sufficiently reliable to inform the highest French authorities. An initial report was composed and circulated on September 19th. It was entitled "Saudi Intelligence Services Seek to Confirm the Death of Osama bin Laden."

Before this newest disclosure, it had been over three years since American counterterrorism officials had received credible information on bin Laden's whereabouts. The last actionable intelligence on bin Laden came all the way back in April 2003, with the apprehension of another al-Qaeda leader, Walid Mohamed Ben Attash. At that point it was established that Attash had met with the Jihadi spiritual leader three months earlier, in the Afghan province of Khost.

Over recent months, American commando units in charge of hunting bin Laden have concentrated their efforts on the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the north of the tribal regions. That is to say, in the region that is not under the control of the Islamabad authorities and where the army itself never ventures. It must be said that Pakistani military officers recorded tremendous losses of men when they attempted to occupy the area in 2004 and 2005.

644 DEAD

Despite the vast resources deployed by the Americans to capture bin Laden, the search has remained in vain; and this despite the use of satellites, drones and sophisticated eavesdropping equipment. Thanks to the arrest of several members of the nebulous al-Qaeda, the American services know that bin Laden rarely leaves his hiding places. Apparently, he only comes out at night when the cloud-cover is thick. And thanks to his local troops, the Saudi millionaire has very good knowledge of the region, which offers an infinite number of hideouts.

Despite this impossible search, the American authorities never gave up. "It's our top priority" declared Vice President Dick Cheney on September 13th. While the Senate voted $200 million to reconstitute a special intelligence cell specifically dedicated to tracking down the man who dared challenge America in September 11, 2001; and whose organization claims responsibility for 16 other attacks, that are known to have caused 644 deaths and to wounded 2,700 throughout the world since September 2001. It is an organization that has become a brand, a label, and an ideological reference point. It is now a name under which thousands of the world's fanatics are prepared to pass on their way to becoming fully autonomous terrorists, such as those responsible for the July 7th 2005 attacks on London.

Comment on this Article

Le Monde, France: 'No Nation Confirms bin Laden's Death'

By Laurent Zecchini
Translated By Sandrine Ageorges
September 26, 2006

A "media-wide outburst" is how a source close to the Directorate-General of External Security [DGSE] characterized the turmoil created by the publication of a confidential defense document from the French intelligence services on Saturday RealVideo. The document discusses the death of Osama bin Laden and quotes "unconfirmed" information indicating that the Saudi Secret Services are now convinced that while in Pakistan on August 23, the chief of al-Qaeda fell victim to a very serious case of typhoid. Quoting a certain Saudi source, the Time Magazine published similar information.
The news provoked a cascade of French and international reactions, not one of them leaning toward confirmation. French President Jacques Chirac stressed that the information "has not been confirmed in any way, shape or form," and demanded that the Minister of Defense launch an inquiry into the leaks that made the publication possible. Such leaks, as the Ministry of defense stated, could constitute "an offence subject to legal sanctions." Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy had a similar reaction, stating that he was not a recipient of the DGSE document.

In Washington, Ryad and Islamabad, authorities shared their doubts concerning the reliability of the information, with the Saudi government describing it as "pure speculation."

This "routine" document was passed on to the five usual recipients (President of the Republic, Matignon [Ministry of Defense], Foreign Affairs and Interior).

"On such a sensitive subject, the DGSE cannot afford to hold on to the information, even if it were only in regard to a single source that had informed the Saudi intelligence services," stressed a source close to the DGSE, which regrets such a revelation, since it is likely to complicate relations with Ryad.

"The Saudi are likely to take it badly," the source added.

Comment on this Article

The uses of scare-talk - The Republicans think talking about terrorism can save them from defeat in November. A new poll suggests they may be on to something

From The Economist
Sep 21st 2006

HOW worried should Americans be about terrorism? Pete Hoekstra, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, cites the story of Rick Rescorla, the late security chief at Morgan Stanley's old office in the World Trade Centre. Rescorla predicted that terrorists might try to blow up the twin towers with a truck bomb. In 1993, they tried. Rescorla predicted that they might try to attack with a commercial aircraft. His suggestion that the firm move to New Jersey was rejected, but his insistence on regular evacuation drills meant that, on September 11th 2001, all but six of Morgan Stanley's 2,800 staff in the World Trade Centre survived. The six who died included Rescorla himself, who went back in to get more people out.
Mr Hoekstra told this story at a press conference on September 20th unveiling his committee's new report on al-Qaeda. His message was that America is at war, that the battleground is the whole planet, and that radical Islamist terrorists could strike anywhere. Al-Qaeda, he said, had "morphed into a decentralised entrepreneurial organisation" of exceptional speed and agility. He warned against the complacent view that America, unlike Britain, has no problem with home-grown Islamist radicals: American prisons and universities might well become a breeding ground for the ideology of terror.

The previous day, President George Bush delivered a similar message to a global audience. Addressing the UN General Assembly in New York, he said it was "clear that the world is engaged in a great ideological struggle" between "the enemies of humanity" and "moderate people who work for peace".

The same day, his deputy, Dick Cheney, told an audience of carmakers that the terrorists plan to seize control of a country in the Middle East, use it as a base from which to overthrow other governments and eventually set up "a totalitarian empire" stretching from Spain to Indonesia. He added that although the terrorists "cannot hope to beat us in a stand-up fight", they are "convinced they can break the will of the American people."

The common theme is no coincidence. Republican strategists think the best way to minimise their losses on November 7th is to talk non-stop about terrorism. If the latest Gallup/USA Today poll is to be believed, the plan is working. Mr Bush's approval rating has lifted to 44%, up from a trough of 31% in May. More important, likely voters were evenly divided (48%-48%) between those who favoured Republican candidates for Congress and those who favoured Democrats.

If accurate-a big if-this is awful news for the Democrats. Conventional wisdom in Washington says they will win control of the House of Representatives, where all seats are up for election. The Senate, where only a third of the seats are to be contested, will be tougher, but some Democrats think they have a chance. Their problem is that although they enjoy a comfortable lead among registered voters (51%-42% in the Gallup poll, for example), they do far less well among those who say they will probably vote. And only the votes of those who actually vote are counted.

Lower petrol prices have certainly boosted the Republicans. But the Gallup poll found specific evidence that Mr Bush's strategy of vowing again and again to catch or kill terrorists is helping his party. Gallup discovered that among registered voters who think terrorism is the most important issue, far more think Republicans would do a better job than Democrats in fighting it (68%-17%). Among those who said the war in Iraq was their top issue, it was the other way around: 60% thought Democrats would handle Iraq better, while only 23% said Republicans would. So if the Republicans can maximise the number of people thinking about terror on election day, maybe they can hang on to both arms of Congress.

Some news helps them: for example, the alleged British plot to blow up transatlantic airliners. And advertisements put out by pro-Republican pressure groups add unsubtle mood music. One from the Centre for Security Policy urges Americans to "Vote as if your life depends on it. Because it does." Another, from a group called Progress for America, states simply that "These people want to kill us."

Meanwhile, with only a few days left before Congress's pre-election recess, Mr Bush is struggling to persuade lawmakers to pass two laws he says he needs to fight terrorism. One concerns wire-tapping; the other is about how to deal with captured terrorist suspects. Mr Bush argues that the intelligence services should be allowed to eavesdrop on people in America suspected of terrorist links when they call their contacts abroad, without having to waste time obtaining a warrant. He also believes that the CIA should be allowed to use coercive techniques to extract information from captured terrorists. His critics retort that warrantless wire-tapping is an invasion of Americans' privacy, and that if you let spooks rough up suspects even a bit, it is a slippery slope to torture.

On September 20th the House intelligence committee considered a compromise that would allow warrantless snooping if the president believes an attack is "imminent". The new bill, which also allows for greater congressional oversight of such surveillance, could be voted on next week, but would need to be reconciled with whatever the Senate passes.

The question of what to do with top al-Qaeda detainees is more fraught. The CIA says it has gained life-saving intelligence from the harsh interrogation of people such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged architect of the attacks of September 11th 2001. It has reportedly agreed to stop waterboarding people. But it is unclear which subtleties it still plans to employ.

Mr Hoekstra argues that CIA agents need to know what they can and can't do; current law is too vague. Others worry that any attempt to spell out what America thinks the Geneva Conventions mean will be seen as an attempt to re-write it. Lindsey Graham, one of three Republican senators blocking Mr Bush's proposals on the subject, predicts that other nations would see that as a licence to re-write the treaty to suit their own secret police, which "would be disaster". "We cannot have a great nation," he told CBS, "when we start re-defining who we are."

Comment on this Article

Propaganda and Disinformation: Iran's Terror-cum-Intelligence Networks Thrown across Three Continents

DEBKAfile Exclusive Intelligence Report
(A well-known Israeli Disinformation Source)
September 20, 2006

While the leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement nations were making speeches at the 14th conference of their movement in Havana in mid-September, three groups of intelligence experts were off in a well-guarded corner next door to talk about matters far from the conference's main theme of how to develop backward economies and societies.

Iranian, Cuban and Venezuelan teams were putting their heads together on ways of translating their leaders' hostile rhetoric and slogans into effective war action against the United States.
DEBKAfile's Exclusive intelligence and counter-terror sources disclose that the three teams were made up of intelligence officers and civilian officials on the staffs of the three rulers; their job is maintaining clandestine ties with underground and terrorist organizations.

After the NAM conference ended, the Iranian and Venezuelan teams moved their talks to Caracas where Ahmadinejad continued his talks with Chavez on Sept 17 and 18.

Interestingly, Iran's Islamic revolutionary leaders have maintained warm ties of cooperation and mutual assistance with Castro's Cuba since they came to power in Tehran in 1979. They admired his revolutionary zeal and consistent anti-US policies. Tehran also exploited Cuba's economic straits to deepen its penetration of the country with a view to setting up an Iranian base in Cuba for its continental operations.

But the relationship suffered ups and downs, especially when Castro declined to give Iranian agents a free hand for subversion and espionage against the United States. In 2003, the Cuban ruler was furious when Iranian diplomats, without asking for permission, installed in their homes in a farm on the outskirts of Havana jamming equipment against television programs bounced from the United States through satellite to Iran. They were trying to stop Iranian opposition-backed television broadcasters in Los Angeles calling on Iranians to rise up against the Islamic regime. Castro made the Iranian diplomats evacuate the farm and remove their gear.

Castro is too old a hand to be manipulated in matters of subversion and terrorism. Chavez in contrast is just as anti-American but also rated by Tehran an easier mark. Although he needs to be handled with kid gloves as head of an oil-exporting country, the Iranians have noted that the Venezuelan leader is also open to cooperation in the politics of oil.

On Sept. 18, he insisted that Ahmadinejad attend a ceremony celebrating the gushing of the 7th Aya Well of the Kuchouy Oil Field developed by a Venezuelan-Iranian partnership. This was to be a landmark on the road to a merger between the two oil industries. Tehran is not too happy about this partnership but is going along with small, symbolic steps while extracting from Caracas - and eventually it hopes from Havana - forward facilities for running Iranian clandestine agents in North and South America.

DEBKAfile's Iranian sources report that Ahmadinejad also talked persuasively to Chavez about making a show of deploying a few Iranian-made 2,000-km range Shahab-3 missiles - first in Venezuela then in Cuba - as a menace to the United States.

Chavez has not given Tehran his answer. But both he and Castro will think twice about granting this request, for fear of crossing one line too many for the Bush administration to swallow. However, Iranian ambitions to harm American know no limits.

The three-cornered meeting in Havana between the Ahmadinejad, Chavez and Raoul Castro at the beginning of the week reached a number of decisions in principle although they remain to be fleshed out with operational details. Castro was reluctant to make final decisions because he said his brother would soon be back at the helm.

They did agree that anything decided during the Iranian and Venezuelan presidents' Caracas talks would be put before the Cuban ruler. They also decided that their intelligence teams would meet again during the UN General Assembly session in New York later this week. After discovering this plan, Washington refused the Iranian president's "aides" - presented as journalists - entry visas to New York on Tuesday, Sept. 19.

The three-way talks have thus far yielded a solid decision for Iranian intelligence agents, some of them sabotage specialists, to be sent soon to Cuba and Venezuela. They will operate in the guise of road network and industrial development experts. Their real mission will be to conduct surveys on the practicability of using Cuba and Venezuela as bases for subversive activities against the United States and other parts of Latin America.

Iran is also busy creating similar bases in E. Africa, favoring Sudan and Somalia.

At the Havana NAM conference the Iranian president and Sudan's Omar Bashir were seen deep in conversation. Tehran believes that the Sudanese ruler will come round now to accepting expanded military and intelligence collaboration between the two countries, whereas in 2003, he threw Iranian agents out of Sudan together with all their development specialists. Bashir is now seeking support for his Darfur policy which aims to remove pro-Western military elements from Sudan.

Iran is on the way to harnessing two more countries to its clandestine anti-US campaign: Somalia and Yemen. In Mogadishu, the Islamic Courts movement headed by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys is strengthening its grip on Somalia. Like Iran's Islamic rulers, this group also preaches jihad and martyrdom (suicide attacks) for the sake of Islam.

The Somali movement therefore provides fertile ground for recruiting terrorists for suicide missions on behalf of Iran and al Qaeda alike as part of their subversion and terror campaigns across the African continent.

Mogadishu's new rulers, whose number includes a group of middle-ranking al Qaeda commanders, are busy training an army to support their regime. Al Qaeda and Iranian Revolutionary Guards instructors are building up a corps of suiciders to attacks US embassies and Israeli targets across the continent.

The Yemeni ruler, Abdallah Salah, and his army chiefs are opposed to giving Iranian agents free rein in their country, but in the last two years, Tehran is paying Shiite extremist groups in Yemen to bring the regime under increasing pressure by acts of murder and sabotage.

Iran's Islamic rulers believe they are in real danger of an American air attack on their nuclear installations some time in November or December this year. They are therefore pushing hard for new allies in Latin America, Africa and Arabia and points of vantage for hitting back at the United States and its centers of influence on three continents as an effective deterrent to an American attack.

Comment on this Article

Web Of Terror

Jennifer Van Bergen
September 25, 2006

Five years later, George W. Bush's "war on terror" has morphed into (as he calls it) a "War on Terra"-an assault on the life and values of the United States and the planet-including our judicial system. Take for example, the sweeping scope of the "terror cases" that have surfaced so far. As the Washington Post noted recently, nine out of 10 of the terror cases brought by the Justice Department since 9/11 did "not result in prosecutions." In these cases, "most charges [were] not related to terrorism and ... only about a third of those prosecuted end up in prison."
As ordinary people without any connection to terrorist organizations are swept up into George Bush's war, there are three specific cases that should be carefully watched as especially troubling bellwethers. They are emblematic of how much ground has already been ceded to Bush's attack on our liberties, and as it happens, the latest developments will be unfolding this month even as the fifth anniversary of the "attack on our freedoms" is commemorated.

The first case involves an American citizen being detained in Iraq by the U.S. military. His name is Shawqi Ahmad Omar. A hearing was held on September 11, 2006, in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to determine whether U.S. courts may even hear his petition. His attorneys contend that because Omar is held by U.S. forces, a U.S. court may rule on the legality of his detention. The Justice Department, representing U.S. military authorities, argued that a U.S. court can't decide the fate of an individual held overseas under what they claim is the authority of multinational forces-despite their admission that Omar is held by the U.S.

The Justice Department was appealing a district court ruling that prohibited the U.S. from transferring Omar into Iraqi custody and permitted the court to further hear the case on its merits, which the government argued was beyond its jurisdiction.

In some ways, the Omar case echoes two cases already ruled on by the Supreme Court: the Hamdi case, which involved a U.S. citizen held as an enemy combatant in a military brig in the U.S. without access to attorneys or courts, and the Rasul case, which questioned the authority of the U.S. government to detain non-citizens at Guantanamo, also without access to their attorneys or to courts. The Supreme Court held in Rasul that Guantanamo detainees may challenge their detentions in U.S. courts, even though they are not citizens and Guantanamo is not U.S. territory, because detainees were nonetheless exclusively in U.S. control. In the Hamdi case, the High Court held that an enemy combatant may challenge his detention by military authorities.

Despite the Hamdi and Rasul decisions-and despite another recent Supreme Court decision that ruled the Geneva Conventions and international laws of war apply to the war on terror-the U.S. government continues to argue that U.S. individuals it detains outside U.S. territory are outside the jurisdiction of U.S. courts, that it may refuse them access to their attorneys, interrogate them, even beat and torture them, and then transfer them out of U.S. control, as they please.

The Omar cases raises the same questions all over again that were raised and should have been settled by the Hamdi, Rasul, and Hamdan (the case that ruled that detainees must be treated in accordance with the law and the Geneva conventions) cases. Yet Justice Department tactics in the Omar case raise yet another question of the legitimacy of the Bush administration's approach to terrorism. There is evidence that Omar was subjected to electroshock and severe physical beatings. Does the administration want to turn Omar over to Iraqi authorities in order to avoid the consequences of their treatment of him?

That the administration continues to disregard Supreme Court rulings is deeply troubling, but that's not the end of it, of course.

There is the case of New York defense attorney Lynne Stewart, convicted of having provided "material support" to terrorists merely for having made a press statement on behalf of her convicted terrorist client. This statement put her in violation of special Bureau of Prison regulations that apply only to prisoners convicted of terrorism (or are otherwise viewed as a continuing danger) and their attorneys-which is very likely unconstitutional but has not yet been tested in court. The regulations place troubling restrictions on the attorney's ability to represent her client.

True to form, the government continues to argue that a 30-year sentence for Stewart would serve as a "deterrent" to all those who would violate Bureau of Prison regulations. Stewart's conviction is unprecedented; no attorney has ever been brought up on criminal charges for having violated such administrative rules. Her defense committee states:

Lynne's case is among the worst examples of the terrible state of civil liberties in the U.S. today. That a proud and courageous attorney, who did nothing more than valiantly defend her client, could suffer so grave an injustice is a sure sign that we are in for even more troubled times.

On September 25, Stewart will argue that her own trial was fundamentally tainted by unlawful NSA spying on her strategy sessions with her attorneys. Not a month after that-on October 15, close to the fifth anniversary of the enactment of the now-infamous USA PATRIOT Act -Stewart's sentencing hearing takes place. Given the hundreds of letters attesting to her long record of service to the justice system and community, as well as her present battle with breast cancer, Stewart has asked for a zero-term sentence with probation or home custody.

It's hard to understand how prosecuting someone like Lynne Stewart protects us from terrorism. Indeed, her conviction tolls the bell of liberty for all by threatening the integrity of the entire defense bar nationwide. Defense attorneys can no longer zealously represent their clients where the innocent violation of a regulation can lead to 20 years in jail.

The last example of the disastrous approach of the Bush administration to tackling the real threats of international terrorism is the case of Dr. Rafil Dhafir, an Iraqi-born U.S. citizen who is guilty of nothing more than having sent money to help Iraqis suffering under the sanctions in place against Iraq prior to our 2003 invasion. The government argued that the case had nothing to do with 9/11 or terrorism, but their tactics belie this claim.

While no terrorism or 9/11-related charges were ever brought against Dhafir, he was called a terrorist in press conferences by Attorney General John Ashcroft and New York governor Pataki and his name was included on a government list of terrorists cited by President Bush. Further, the prosecutors themselves, in a seminar given at Syracuse University last year, discussed the Dhafir case in the context of 9/11 terrorist cases, telling the audience the case was "under-prosecuted."

Dhafir supporters point out the fundamental unfairness of the fact that while the government asked the court to mandate that neither the defense nor the prosecution be allowed to raise the issue of terrorism during the trial, it demanded-and got-an increased sentence as a "national security threat" for Dhafir's violation of the sanctions.

The sanctions prohibited U.S. persons or organizations from sending funds to Iraq without a license. But the trouble was that the legitimate channels were corrupt and monies sent through those channels often did not make it to the people most in need. Dhafir sent monies through his own private channels to make sure they were received by those who most needed them. There was never any question at trial that the monies were used to fund terrorism or anything other than humanitarian assistance to those in need.

Nonetheless, Dhafir was convicted in 2005 and is serving a 20-plus year sentence. Katherine Hughes, who watched the entire 17-week trial as an ACLU court-watcher, writes :

Dhafir is undoubtedly paying the price of breaking the genocidal policy of U.S. sanctions against Iraq. However, the government was unwilling to prosecute him for this without the attendant obfuscation and cover provided by the laundry list of charges that he faced. A clear message is being sent that humanitarian acts like this will not be tolerated and will be punished accordingly.

These three cases show a very disturbing trend in Bush administration prosecutions: a war on ordinary people, people, in fact, attempting to do good-not a war on terrorism.

Comment on this Article

The diminished dividends of war

By Jim Lobe
Asia Times

WASHINGTON - With the US intelligence community agreed that the invasion and occupation of Iraq have made the United States less safe from terrorist threats, President George W Bush appears to be facing a growing revolt among top military commanders who say their ground forces are stretched close to breaking point.

According to Monday's Los Angeles Times, the US Army's top officer, General Peter Schoomaker, has called for a nearly 50% increase in spending, to nearly US$140 billion, in 2008 to cope with the situation in Iraq and maintain minimal readiness for emergencies.
To convey his seriousness, Schoomaker reportedly withheld the army's scheduled budget request last month in what the Times called an "unprecedented ... protest" against previous rejections by the White House of funding increases.

And this week, several retired senior military leaders told Senate Democrats that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should go, arguing that he had mishandled the war in Iraq. The former soldiers claimed that Rumsfeld had ignored advice for more troops, failed to make a post-invasion plan or equip troops properly, and hid information from the public.

The news of Schoomaker's action, which is almost certain to intensify the debate over what to do in Iraq just seven weeks before the November 7 mid-term congressional elections, comes just days after the New York Times reported that the army was considering activating substantially more National Guard troops or reservists.

Such a decision, which would run counter to previous Bush administration pledges to limit overseas deployments for the Guard, would pose serious political risks for the Republicans if it were made before the elections.

Unlike career soldiers, the National Guard consists mainly of "citizen-soldiers" with families and jobs and deep roots in local communities. When the Pentagon last called up substantial numbers of Guard units for service in Iraq and Afghanistan in late 2003 and 2004, the move elicited a strong backlash in communities across the country.

With the Iraq war even less popular now than it was then, any major new call-up is likely to trigger renewed protests, particularly in light of the growing sense both among the national-security elites and the general population that the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq was a major mistake and that the war is unwinnable.

Recent opinion polls have shown that the US public has become increasingly pessimistic about the war's outcome and its impact on the larger "global war on terror".

This month, for example, a New York Times/CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System) poll found that nearly two-thirds of respondents believed the war in Iraq was going either "somewhat" (28%) or "very" badly (33%).

For most of the past year, a majority of respondents in various polls have said they believed the decision to go to war in Iraq was a mistake and that it had made the US less, rather than more, safe from terrorism.

The fact that a similar conclusion was reportedly reached by the 16 agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), that make up the US intelligence community in April in a rare National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) is likely to add to the public's pessimism.

The NIE, some of the contents of which were leaked to the New York Times and the Washington Post over the weekend, found that the Iraq war had invigorated Islamic radicalism worldwide and aggravated the terrorist threat faced by the US and other countries.

While the director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, insisted on Sunday that the newspaper accounts of the report's conclusions were partial and selective, they nonetheless backed up what a number of former senior intelligence analysts - most recently, the retired head of the CIA's Political Islam Strategic Analysis Program, Emile Nakhleh - have been saying individually for much of the past year.

While Democratic lawmakers called on Monday for the Bush administration immediately to declassify the NIE, "Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States", so that the public could decide for itself, it is certain to intensify the debate about whether to begin withdrawing from Iraq or whether to "stay the course" there despite the growing sectarian violence and the wear and tear on US ground forces.

For most of the past year, the administration and senior military commanders have expressed hope that they could reduce US forces in Iraq from the approximately 140,000 troops who were there last December to help protect the parliamentary elections by as many as 30,000 by the end of this year.

But with the rise in sectarian violence, particularly in Baghdad, that followed the bombing of a major Shi'ite shrine in Samarra, Washington has been forced to abandon those hopes. Last week, the senior US Middle East commander, General John Abizaid, made it official when he told reporters in Washington that he needed at least 140,000 troops in Iraq through next spring.

Even this number of troops, however, has not proved sufficient to curb the violence in Baghdad, while a recent report from the senior Marine Corps intelligence officer in al-Anbar province, which comprises about one-third of Iraq's total territory, warned that the 30,000 US troops deployed there could not defeat the Sunni insurgency without the addition of at least 13,000 personnel and substantially more economic assistance.

Adding to the burden on the army and the marines, the resurgence of the Taliban has forced Washington to cancel plans to reduce forces in Afghanistan from 19,000 earlier this year to about 16,000 by autumn.

Instead, Washington currently has more than 20,000 troops deployed there amid signs that more may be needed if the North Atlantic Treaty Organization fails to provide more troops of its own or if, in light of the retreat of Pakistani forces from neighboring Waziristan, the Taliban mount an even bigger offensive from across the border next spring after the snows melt.

These commitments have taken a huge, unanticipated toll on US land forces, not just in manpower, but in equipment and money as well.

Before the war in Iraq, the Pentagon's political appointees confidently predicted that the Middle Eastern country's oil production would very quickly pay for the invasion's financial costs and that Washington could draw down US forces to as few as 30,000 by the end of 2003.

In fact, about $400 billion - almost all of it for military operations - has been appropriated for both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since September 2001, and current operations there are running at about $9 billion a month.

The US Army, which has some 500,000 active-duty soldiers, has been allocated $98 billion this year, and the White House has cleared it to receive $114 billion for 2008. But Schoomaker has reportedly asked for $139 billion, including at least $13 billion to repair equipment. "There's no sense in us submitting a budget that we can't execute, a broken budget," he warned recently in a speech in Washington.

In addition to strains on both the land forces and their equipment, senior military leaders are also worried about attrition among mid-ranking officers, in particular, and the quality and cost of new recruits.

The military has greatly intensified its recruitment efforts, relaxed its age and education requirements for enlistment, and offered unprecedented bonuses and benefits packages - worth thousands of dollars - to enlistees and active-duty soldiers who re-enlist.

It has also increased enlistments by individuals with "serious criminal misconduct" in their records and eased requirements of non-citizens - of which there are currently about 40,000 in the US armed services - and made them eligible to citizenship after only one day of active-duty service.

Comment on this Article

War Pimp Cheney says Democrats soft on national security

By Steve Holland
25 Sept 06

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday accused Democrats of being soft in the war on terrorism with a strategy of "resignation and defeatism in the face of determined enemies."

Cheney, in a speech to Wisconsin Republicans, singled out in particular Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, West Virginia Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean for criticism.

Democrats would like the November elections to be seen as a referendum on President George W. Bush's handling of the Iraq war. The party got a boost this past weekend with media reports of an intelligence report indicating that the Iraq war had led to a mushrooming of jihadist ideology.
Republicans, on the other hand, want to portray Democrats as soft on terrorism in hopes of hanging on to both houses of the U.S. Congress in November elections.

Cheney cited Reid for suggesting the United States should not have invaded Iraq in 2003 even if it meant leaving Saddam Hussein in power and for opposing the Patriot Act, controversial laws passed with the goal of fighting terrorism. He criticized Dean for saying the capture of Saddam had not made America safer.

"As we make our case to the voters in this election season, it's vital to keep issues of national security at the top of the agenda," Cheney said.

Cheney in particular attacked Democrats for turning their backs on Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, now running as an independent after losing his state's Democratic primary in August to anti-war candidate Ned Lamont.

Lieberman has firmly backed the Iraq war while criticizing the president's handling of it.

Comment on this Article

Blair gears up for last hurrah

Matthew Tempest, political correspondent
Tuesday September 26, 2006
Guardian Unlimited

Tony Blair will take his final bow before the Labour party faithful this afternoon, in a speech that sets out a "route map" to a fourth Labour victory.

The prime minister, who has not endorsed Gordon Brown or anyone else as his successor, is certain to receive an emotional goodbye from the thousands of delegates in Manchester after his 13th and final conference speech.

He will say that New Labour delivered because "we defied conventional political wisdom, and so changed it; aspiration and compassion reconciled, economic efficiency and social justice not seen as sworn enemies but as natural partners."
Mr Blair will add: "This defined New Labour."

According to snatches of the speech released ahead of delivery, Mr Blair will stress that the party needs to continue to be "fearless in pursuit of the right answers" and insist that "the core vote of this party is not the heartlands or the inner city or any sectional interest or lobby.

"Our core vote is the country."

Mandelson says Brown-Blair breach can be healed

As Mr Blair prepared to deliver his final party conference speech as leader, Peter Mandelson, the European commissioner for trade who was instrumental in the formation of the New Labour "project", brushed aside claims that Mr Brown could not defeat Mr Cameron in an election.

"I do think he is a winner," said Mr Mandelson, who served in the cabinet during New Labour's first term as minister without portfolio, trade and industry secretary and Northern Ireland secretary, resigning twice over separate controversies.

"He has got a very solid body of beliefs," Mr Mandelson told Radio 4's Today programme this morning. "There is nothing surface or superficial about Gordon Brown. He has real depth and I think people want to see that in their nation's leader."

The two men have endured a decade-long feud after Mr Mandelson, until that point a supporter of Mr Brown, backed Mr Blair for the leadership in 1994.

"A very deep breach opened up," Mr Mandelson said, "one, let's hope, [that] can now be closed with the passage of time.

"Gordon thought he could and should have been leader in 1994. He believed he should have succeeded John Smith and he has never fully reconciled himself to not doing so."

But, when pressed, Mr Mandelson refused to explicitly back Mr Brown for the leadership.

"I want the next leader to be as successful as the last and, were it to be Gordon Brown, I think he would be," was as far as he would go.

Straw praises 'man of character'

Jack Straw today insisted that Mr Blair will not become a "back-seat driver" to his successor. The leader of the Commons told Guardian Unlimited: "I'm absolutely certain he won't [attempt to interfere]. He's a man of character."

Mararet Thatcher famously undermined John Major's administration by saying she would continue to influence events not by "pulling the levers" but by being "a very good back-seat driver".

Mr Blair has already created some concern among Brownites by instigating four cabinet level policy working groups which will report back after he has left office.

This has been seen by supporters of Mr Brown as an attempt to shackle his successor.

PR disaster

Mr Blair will also need to pay some tribute to his chancellor, after the public relations disaster of what his wife, Cherie, did or did not say about Mr Brown's speech yesterday.

Mr Brown yesterday told the conference he regretted that his disagreements with Mr Blair had distracted the party and the government.

A reporter from the Bloomberg news agency said that Mrs Blair had said: "Well, that's a lie," as she listened to Mr Brown praise the prime minister and the pair's relationship while walking through an exhibition centre adjoining the conference hall.

Mrs Blair told reporters last night: "Honestly, guys, I hate to spoil your story, but I didn't say it and I don't believe it either."

A separate report today claimed that Mrs Blair had dismissed Mr Brown's speech as "rubbish" with a wave of her hand as she passed the Communication Workers' Union's stand, advising union officials to support the education secretary, Alan Johnson, instead.

Downing Street dismissed the story in the London Evening Standard newspaper as "yet more complete rubbish".

Kevin Slocombe, the CWU's head of communications, said Mrs Blair had not even been near the stand when Mr Brown was speaking, only visiting it two hours beforehand.

The future for Blair

Mr Blair will speak at around 2.30pm, following appearances from the foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, and the defence secretary, Des Browne. Still relatively young for a leading politician at 53, it is unclear what Mr Blair will do after leaving office, although his agent has suggested he will stay on as MP for Sedgefield until the next election.

Speaking to the Times, John Reid, the home secretary, urged his party colleagues not to squabble or attempt to oust Mr Blair.

He said: "Far from helping Labour win a victory at the next election, Tony Blair's loss will be a disadvantage."

Comment on this Article

Iraq has fuelled terror threat, US intelligence warns

By Rupert Cornwell in Washington
25 September 2006

President Bush's rationale for the invasion and occupation of Iraq has taken a heavy blow with a new assessment by the country's intelligence community that the war and its aftermath have fuelled Islamic extremism, and increased - not diminished - the terrorist threat to the US.
Top Republicans yesterday leapt to the administration's defence, insisting that the US had no option but to stay in Iraq. "Either we're going to be fighting this battle, this war, overseas or its going to be right here in this country," said Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader.

But the findings could scarcely have come at a more delicate time, weeks before mid-term congressional elections in which Mr Bush's claim to have made the country safer will be a central theme. They also contradict Mr Bush's recent assertions, on the fifth anniversary of the 11 September attacks, that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein had been vital to win the "war on terror". Instead the document, the gist of which appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post yesterday, makes clear that if Iraq has turned into the "central front" in that war, as the President insists, that front is largely of the administration's making.

The conflict, in which almost 2,700 US troops and nearly 50,000 Iraqis have died, has helped inspire a spread of radical Islamic ideology around the globe, it says. While al-Q'aida itself may have been weakened since 2001, the terrorist movement had mutated into a new breed of "self-generating" groups inspired by Osama bin Laden, but with no direct structural links to his organisation.

The report warns that militants who had taken part in the anti-US fight in Iraq could go back to their own countries "exacerbating domestic conflicts or fomenting radical ideologies".

The conclusions are contained in a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which reflects the considered and collective wisdom of the CIA and 15 other agencies. Precise details of the report, entitled Trends in Global Terrorism, Implications for the United States, remain top-secret.

In a statement, Senator Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat and opponent of the Iraq war , declared that the NIE should "put the final nail in the coffin for President Bush's phony argument about the Iraq war".

Prime Minister Tony Blair had his say when he mounted an emotional defence of his foreign policy at the Labour party conference last night. When questioned on the war on terror, he said: "Getting rid of Saddam and getting rid of the Taliban from Afghanistan are things I happen to be proud of."

Former president Bill Clinton also stepped into the argument over the weekend, attacking his successor for focusing on Iraq to the detriment of Afghanistan, where the 9/11 attacks were planned. Mr Bush has vowed to step up the hunt for Bin Laden, thought to be in hiding in the frontier region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. US officials have also discounted reports that the al-Qa'ida leader died in Pakistan on 23 August of typhoid fever.

Comment on this Article


AJC Warmonger compares Ahmadinejad to Hitler

By David A. Harris
Chicago Sun-Times
September 25, 2006

Toothless negotiations didn't stop Hitler - and won't stop Iran

In the early 1920s, an imprisoned Austrian rabble-rouser dictated his thoughts for eventual publication. The book that resulted, Mein Kampf ("My Struggle"), was a clear manifesto of how he saw the world. Yet, even when Adolf Hitler became Germany's chancellor in January 1933, the international community, with few exceptions, failed to grasp that he might actually mean what he wrote, instead choosing to believe that power would moderate his actions.
The celebrated American journalist Walter Lippmann wrote in May 1933, "The outer world will do well to accept the evidence of German goodwill and seek by all possible means to meet it and to justify it."
The same year, U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull declared, "Mistreatment of Jews in Germany may be considered virtually eliminated."

And British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who told his citizens to "go home and get a nice quiet sleep" after he signed the 1938 Munich Pact with Hitler and French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier, noted, "In spite of the hardness and ruthlessness I thought I saw in his face, I got the impression that here was a man [Hitler] who could be relied upon when he had given his word."

Commenting on the Munich Pact, a New York Times journalist wrote, "It declares to those who have ears to hear that Germany henceforth wants peace."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited New York last week to address the U.N. General Assembly session. His speech, by its aggressive tone, messianic zealotry, and misrepresentation of the facts, revealed once again the threat he poses. It would be well to recall the history of the 1930s -- in particular, how otherwise thoughtful individuals, often backed by the machinery of state, were incapable of believing that Hitler actually meant the chilling things he expressed. Instead, they deluded themselves into thinking he could be appeased or negotiated with.

Inevitably, there are those who will say that any attempt to compare Iran with Germany, Ahmadinejad with Hitler, or 2006 with the 1930s, is way off the mark. But the essential point remains -- the world powers got it wrong in the 1930s and paid a catastrophic price for their mistake.

The world cannot afford to get it wrong again. Ahmadinejad has a long paper and voice trail that is impossible to ignore. He calls openly for the destruction of Israel, threatens the United States, denies the Holocaust, supports terrorist groups outside Iran's borders and suppresses human rights inside them.
Iran's nuclear ambitions are beyond dispute, as documented by the U.N. Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency, as well as by Western intelligence agencies. Its missile development program is in high gear. And Ahmadinejad's all-encompassing Shiite brand of theology or, more precisely, eschatology, should give pause to those who believe his regime can be dealt with rationally through Cold War policies of containment and deterrence. After all, this is a country, still in the throes of a 27-year-old Islamic revolution, which sent hundreds of thousands of untrained teens to their deaths in the name of martyrdom during the war with Iraq in the 1980s.

Like Hitler, Ahmadinejad surely feels emboldened by the world's timid response. Tehran's leaders have negotiated masterfully to date, buying precious time to reach the technical point of no return.
The Iranians have felt no real heat. Deadlines and threats of sanctions have been pushed back and ignored. Iran seems to have concluded that other than the United States no country will consider serious measures against it, from travel bans on its leaders to restrictions on the sale of refined oil products to Iran, from limiting Iranian students' access to science and technology programs at elite Western universities to freezing overseas bank accounts and reviewing trade policy. Instead, Iran confronts a divided and tentative international community which it can skillfully exploit, figuring that the United States is in no position now to act unilaterally.

The challenge posed by Iran's nuclear ambitions has no easy answers. Every potential stratagem presents its own risks and uncertainties. But history teaches that, unless the Iranian leadership is convinced of the key nations' collective resolve, this story will not end well. A nuclear Iran would endanger the region and the world.

David A. Harris is executive director of the American Jewish Committee.

Comment from Jeff Blankfort: The Fifth Column flexes it muscles because it knows that no one will publicly call it for what it is. That is the extent of its power. Remember, no other group beside the organized Jewish establishment is lobbying for a confrontation with Iran. And the anti-war movement and its spokespersons are as silent as the rest about it.

Comment on this Article

Russia Selling Iran Missiles to Protect Bushehr Nuclear Reactor - Source

Created: 25.09.2006 13:18 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 13:18 MSK

Russia, pledging to complete the Bushehr reactor, has offered to sell a range of surface-to-air missile systems to protect Iran's nuclear facilities, the Middle East Newsline reports.
Russian diplomatic and industry sources said Moscow has been negotiating to sell Iran a range of anti-aircraft systems to protect Bushehr from Israeli or U.S. air strikes. The sources said contracts could be signed when Bushehr was ready to begin operations in a move expected to take place in late 2007.

"Russia has already installed and manned SAM systems around Bushehr," a diplomatic source said. "The current talks regard an air defense umbrella that would protect all strategic sites in Iran."

In November 2005, Russia reached agreement for the sale of 29 TOR-M1 short-range anti-aircraft systems to Iran in a deal valued at more than $700 million. The sources said Iran has also sought the strategic S-300PMU SAM system, capable of detecting and intercepting enemy aircraft at a distance of 300 and 150 kilometers, respectively.

Comment on this Article

Israel Denounces Foreign Affairs Group for Allowing Iranian to Speak, invokes Hitler Comparison

Source: NYT (9-23-06)

In a bitterly worded letter, the Israeli ambassador to the United States on Friday accused the Council on Foreign Relations of making a "terrible mistake" by inviting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran to a meeting with the group earlier this week.
"Some of those upset with the council's decision have compared it to hypothetically inviting Hitler to a meeting in the 1930's," the ambassador, Daniel Ayalon, wrote to the council's president, Richard N. Haass. "In fact, meeting with Ahmadinejad is worse: Hitler did not openly call for genocide in the 1930's, and today we have the lessons of the 1930's to guide us. Foremost among those lessons is that appeasing fanatics like Hitler and granting them legitimacy leads to genocide and war."

Comment on this Article

Iran confirms purchase of 5 passenger jets from Russia

RIA Novosti
26 Sept 06

TEHRAN, September 26 (RIA Novosti) - Iran will buy five Russian Tu-204-100 airliners, the head of an Iranian airline said Tuesday.

"Iran Air Tour airlines has concluded a contract with Russia for the delivery of five modern Tu-204 [passenger] planes," Abbas Purmohammadi told an Iranian news agency. "The planes will be delivered to Iran by the end of 2008."

The official said Iran and Russia have been negotiating the deal for seven years, and finally reached an agreement on the price and delivery schedule.

"The contract was signed September 16," Purmohammadi said. "The Russian company [Ilyushin Finance Co.] pledges to deliver the planes to Iran within 18 months."

The Tu-204-100 is a mid-range, 210-passenger aircraft powered by two PS-90A engines. The aircraft was commissioned in February 1995, and is currently operated by several Russian airlines, including Sibyr and Krasnoyarsk Airlines.

The plane features high reliability and cost efficiency, both on domestic and international routes. It is manufactured in Ulyanovsk and Kazan, in the Volga region.

Comment on this Article

Russia opposed to any ultimatums on Iran, Middle East -- Lavrov

RIA Novosti
26 Sept 06

LOS ANGELES - Russia is opposed to any ultimatums in settling the Iran and Middle East situations, Russia's foreign minister said.

"We cannot be a party to any ultimatums, because they will only lead to a deadlock or a new crisis in a seriously destabilized region, and would damage the UN Security Council's reputation," Sergei Lavrov told the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles Monday (Tuesday Moscow time).
The five permanent UN Security Council members - Russia, the United Kingdom, China, France and the United States - and Germany drafted a package of incentives to persuade Iran to suspend work on enriching uranium, which could be used in both electricity generation and weapons production.

Tehran's response to these incentives was handed to the Iran-6 group August 22. According to media reports, Iran claims it will consider suspending its uranium enrichment program only after talks.

Some countries propose drafting sanctions against Iran in the event talks fail. But Lavrov said steps should be taken to start talks, and not introduce measures that will only obstruct progress.

Comment on this Article

Russia to deliver 80 tons of fuel to Iran NPP - Atomstroiexport

Ria Novosti
26 Sept 06

MOSCOW - Russia and Iran signed Tuesday a supplementary agreement on the delivery of 80 metric tons of nuclear fuel to a nuclear power plant in southern Iran in March 2007, the head of Russia's nuclear exporter said.

Russia is helping Iran build the plant at Bushehr, 400 kilometers (250 miles) southwest of the capital, Tehran. The NPP is being constructed under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog.
Sergei Shmatko, the head of Atomstroiexport, Russia's nuclear power equipment and service export monopoly, said the supplementary agreement also stipulated a date for the plant's commissioning.

"We have signed a supplementary agreement to the contract for the construction of the Bushehr NPP," Shmatko said. "The agreement stipulates that the date for the power generating launch will be November 2007, and that the plant will be commissioned in September 2007."

Last Monday, Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russia's Federal Nuclear Power Agency, told journalists on the sidelines of the 50th International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference in Vienna that the Bushehr NPP would be launched in November 2007.

"The Bushehr nuclear power plant will be commissioned in September 2007, and the power generating launch will take place in November 2007," Kiriyenko said.

At a meeting Tuesday with Mahmoud Janatian, a vice president of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Shmatko said the fuel would be delivered no later than six months prior to the plant's commissioning.

Atomstroiexport is building Bushehr's first power unit under a $1 billion contract signed by Russia and Iran in 1995. A supplemental agreement signed in 1998 stipulates that Atomstroiexport will complete construction of the plant on the basis of a turnkey arrangement.

Iran's vice president and head of the Atomic Energy Organization, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, arrived in Moscow Monday for talks with Kiriyenko on the plant.

Traveling to Moscow Monday, Aghazadeh said he intended to propose that some of the work at Bushehr be carried out by Iranian specialists.

He also said the implementation of his proposal would help accelerate the plant's commissioning, adding that Iran was capable of completing its construction alone.

"Iranians can complete the construction of the Bushehr NPP on their own in the event the Russians fail to bring it online," Aghazadeh told Iranian news agency Fars.

Comment on this Article

Russia Selling Iran Missiles to Protect Bushehr Nuclear Reactor

25 Sept 06

Russia, pledging to complete the Bushehr reactor, has offered to sell a range of surface-to-air missile systems to protect Iran's nuclear facilities, the Middle East Newsline reports.

Russian diplomatic and industry sources said Moscow has been negotiating to sell Iran a range of anti-aircraft systems to protect Bushehr from Israeli or U.S. air strikes. The sources said contracts could be signed when Bushehr was ready to begin operations in a move expected to take place in late 2007.
"Russia has already installed and manned SAM systems around Bushehr," a diplomatic source said. "The current talks regard an air defense umbrella that would protect all strategic sites in Iran."

In November 2005, Russia reached agreement for the sale of 29 TOR-M1 short-range anti-aircraft systems to Iran in a deal valued at more than $700 million. The sources said Iran has also sought the strategic S-300PMU SAM system, capable of detecting and intercepting enemy aircraft at a distance of 300 and 150 kilometers, respectively.

Comment on this Article

Iran: Bushehr to be finished in 6 months

25 Sept 06

"Iran will complete the establishment of its nuclear power station at Bushehr in half a year," chief of Iran's Atomic Organization, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, declared on Monday.

Gholamreza was on a visit to Moscow where he due to hold meetings about the completion of the Russian-built nuclear power plant.
Iran complained that Russia was dragging its heels over the supply of nuclear fuel before the high-level delegation left for Moscow with the aim of securing a firm delivery date.

"Russia in the past gave written commitments about the timetable for delivering the fuel. However, it has not realized this yet," Iran's deputy nuclear chief Mohammad Saeedi was quoted as saying by state television.

"We hope Russia makes clear promises to Iran about the supply of fuel to Bushehr," said Saeedi, who was accompanying Aghazadeh, on his visit to Moscow.

Aghazadeh was to hold talks with Russian Federal Nuclear Agency head Sergei Kiriyenko later Monday. The visit comes just days after Kiriyenko was quoted as saying that the controversial nuclear plant at Bushehr would start operations in September 2007.

Russia has a US$800 million contract to build a nuclear reactor in the southern port city of Bushehr, a project that the United States fears could help Tehran develop nuclear weapons.
Iran says its nuclear activities are purely aimed at generating electricity.

While Moscow has rejected US demands to halt work on Bushehr, it has delayed supplying the fuel apparently to pressure Tehran to halt uranium enrichment. Enrichment is key step in the Iranian nuclear program which could produce fuel for a nuclear warhead or for power generation.
Bushehr had been due become operational this year.

"During this visit, barriers in the way of quick completion of the plant will be reviewed," Saeedi said, adding that Iran hoped to complete the timing of the delivery of the fuel.

The United States has long objected to Russia's deal to build Bushehr, saying it could be used by Iran to produce fissionable material for weapons.
Russia last year eventually worked out a deal with Iran for all the plant's spent fuel to be sent to Russia, eliminating the possibility that Iran could reprocess it for weapons.

However, Iran has resisted Russia's proposal to conduct all of Iran's uranium enrichment on Russian soil.

Comment on this Article

Zio-Con Reality Creation

Animal rights activists jailed in the US

New Scientist Print Edition
23 September 2006

"STOP Huntingdon Animal Cruelty is basically now defunct in the US," says Jacquie Calnan of Americans for Medical Progress in Alexandria, Virginia.

Three US-based members of this animal rights campaign group were each sentenced last week to between four and six years in prison for inciting violence against people associated with research organisation Huntingdon Life Sciences. Three other SHAC members will be sentenced within the next two weeks.
"This has been a very ugly campaign," says Frankie Trull of the Foundation for Biomedical Research in Washington DC. "We're pleased that the judge has made clear that such actions will not be tolerated."

Despite the convictions, Trull says new legislation is needed to deal with the growing number of attacks by animal rights activists in the US. Earlier this month, Republican senator James Inhofe and Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein introduced the Animal Enterprise Terrorism bill, which would increase protection for anyone associated with animal research. The bill is under consideration by the Senate and House Judiciary committees.

From issue 2570 of New Scientist magazine, 23 September 2006, page 4

Comment on this Article

20% of U.S. Children Suffer From Hunger

By César Chelala
Philadelphia Enquirer
24 Sept 06

While it is normal to expect high levels of hunger and poverty in a developing country, it may come as a surprise to observe a similar epidemic in one of the richest countries in the world. The Food Bank for New York City recently reported that nearly 20 percent of children in the city rely on free food to survive. According to statistics from Bread for the World, 13 million children went to bed hungry in the United States in 2004, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
There's a debate about the real extent of U.S. hunger. The direst statistics, like those above, come (it is claimed) from advocacy groups. Others claim that "the poor here aren't really poor." Another claim is that the numbers are inflated or somehow "aren't that big," given the hugeness of the whole country. We are about to crest the 300 million mark in total population, and 13 million doesn't "sound so big" up against that. Divide 13 million by 50 states and you get about 65,000 hungry kids per state. That isn't so much - is it? Still others say that "the numbers are skewed by how bad the big cities are," as if somehow we shouldn't count the situation in, say, New York, when we look at the entire country's children. If you manhandle the numbers, you can make the problem sound smaller.

While I wish to acknowledge the controversy, I'm really not at all persuaded by these cavils. In my travels around the world, I see a lot of poor children. And I would say that, ironically, hungry children in places like the Philippines or India may be less miserable than hungry children in the United States - simply because the horizons of expectation are so much lower for the Filipino or Indian children. If we have even 10 million truly hungry children in the United States, even five million, we have a crisis, and if they are the world's most miserable children - hungry while the computer age whirls about them, denied entry into that age of plenty - we have a treble crisis.

Let's look closely at New York - that city we shouldn't include in our averages. The latest statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show that more than one in four New York City children and adolescents younger than 18 live below the federal poverty level. And indeed, this figure is 50 percent higher than the national average. What makes this particularly worrisome is that between 2000 and 2005, the number of children living in poverty in New York City has increased by 5 percent, a trend that will probably continue.

According to recent information from the Food Bank for New York City and City Harvest, published in "Growing Up Hungry in New York City: An Analysis of Hunger Among Children," hunger among children has reached critical levels. Almost a third (29 percent) of New Yorkers who receive emergency food aid are children.

Hunger is one of the clearest expressions of poverty. A child is born into poverty every 17 minutes in New York City. Children who are chronically hungry suffer from malnutrition, which can have devastating effects on their physical and mental development. Malnutrition can result when children are undernourished, or overnourished with the wrong kind of foods, particularly those that are fried and high in fats.

I'll admit that the District of Columbia is in some ways a worst case - and yet, the badness of the actual case can be surprising. The infant mortality rate in the District of Columbia, the nation's capital, is more than twice as high as in Beijing. In 2002 in the district, the number of babies who died before their first birthday was 11.5 per thousand live births versus 4.6 in Beijing. The United Nations Development Program reports that an African American baby in Washington has less chance of surviving its first year than a baby born in urban areas of the state of Kerala in India. The United States ranks 43d in the world in infant mortality levels.

In the United States, it's often said that "it isn't race - it's class." Fine. But the fact is, hunger and race are strongly related: 41.9 percent of African American children and 40 percent of Latino children are chronically hungry, compared to 16.2 percent of white children - and that percentage of white children is terribly high!

UNICEF has indicated that although the United States is still the wealthiest country in the world, with incomes higher than any other country's, it has also one of the highest incidences of child poverty among the rich, industrialized nations. Denmark and Finland have levels of less than 3 percent, closely followed by Norway and Sweden. All of those countries have high levels of social spending.

Several factors contribute to poverty and hunger among children and their families in the United States. Among those factors are poor education; discriminatory practices against minorities and women; limited job opportunities; unstable family life; mental illness; and substance abuse. Perhaps the most important factors are unemployment and gender earning disparities.

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has stated: "A person may have little means of commanding food if he or she has no job, no other sources of income, no social security. The hunger that will result can coexist with a plentiful supply of food in the economy and the markets." These are conditions that apply to the United States, where there are increasing gaps between the rich and the poor, who remain permanently marginalized and forgotten.

We can't totally eliminate poverty or its consequences. We can, however, lower the number of poor by acting on all of the factors that contribute to their poverty. No matter how rich a country is, if it doesn't fill the needs of its children it is, in fact, a poor country.

César Chelala, is an international public health consultant and author of Children's Health in the Americas, a publication of the Pan American Health Organization

Comment on this Article

US housing slowdown continues

By Daniel Pimlott and Michael Mackenzie in New York
Financial Times
September 25 2006

Prices of existing homes fell for the first time in 11 years and the backlog of available homes for sale was at its highest since current measures began, underlining the significant slowdown in the housing market.

Existing-home sales slipped 0.5 per cent to an annual rate of 6.30m units in August from a level of 6.33m July, according to the National Association of Realtors. They were 12.6 per cent down on the year before Economists had expected a fall in sales to 6.2m, following a sharp 4.1 per cent decline in sales in July.
"The housing market continues to weaken, but the deterioration in this report was relatively modest," said John Ryding, economist at Bear Stearns.

The Federal Reserve has recently justified its pause in interest rate rises by saying that weakness in the housing sector will put the brakes on growth and help slow down inflation. The latest numbers suggest that the central bank may soon start lowering rates.

''Housing is in trouble, the economy is a lot weaker than people think and the Fed will ease policy much faster than what is currently priced by markets," said Michael Kastner, head of fixed income at SterlingStamos.

The housing data pulled the yield on the two-year Treasury note down to about 4.65 per cent, its lowest level since March.

David Lereah, the NAR's chief economist, said home sales appeared to be levelling out after a sharp drop in July. "After a stronger-than-expected drop in July, the fairly even sales numbers in August tell us the market is at a more sustainable pace," he said.

The decline follows weak data on housing starts and building permits in August.

The median existing home price was $225,000 in August, down 1.7 per cent from a year earlier - the first price fall since 1995 and the second biggest decline on record . "This is the price correction we've been expecting - with sales stabilising, we should go back to positive price growth early next year," Mr Lereah said.

Housing inventory levels rose 1.5 per cent to a 7.5 month supply at the current sales pace, compared with 6.3 months in July, and 4.7 months at this time last year. The inventory was at its highest since since condominiums were added to the survey in 1999.

Existing home sales account for about 85 per cent of the housing market. They have fallen every month since March.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006

Comment on this Article

WorldCom boss jailed as America cracks down on white-collar crime

By Stephen Foley in New York
26 September 2006

Bernie Ebbers, the swashbuckling WorldCom boss whose frauds triggered America's biggest bankruptcy, is preparing to take the final step on his journey from corporate hero to disgraced federal prisoner.

He is scheduled to report to prison today to begin a 25-year sentence for the $11bn-worth (£6bn) of accounting trickery that propped up - if only for a time - the giant phone company he built from scratch.

His imprisonment comes on the same day as one of the masterminds of the fraud at Enron, Andrew Fastow, will be told his jail term for the crimes that brought down the energy giant. The twin scandals of Enron and WorldCom prompted a crisis of public confidence in corporate America that has still to be repaired.
But the sentences handed down in the cases have sparked a renewed debate over the way the US should punish white-collar crime, with some defence lawyers now arguing that jail time is being decided with reference only to the "baying mob".

At 65 and suffering from a heart complaint, Ebbers is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison. He will report today to a correctional facility near WorldCom's one-time home in Mississippi to be fingerprinted, photographed and given standard issue prison garb, before being assigned a bed in what is likely to be a dorm room in a low-security wing.

In due course, he will be assigned a job within the prison, where pay of $5 a month is a far cry from the multimillion-dollar salary he enjoyed in his pomp.

Canadian-born Ebbers built the company through an orgy of deal-making, bolting on more than 60 acquisitions to what was originally just a long-distance phone calls business set up as an offshoot to his Mississippi motels chain.

In the biggest deal of his career, he beat British Telecom to acquire MCI, turning WorldCom into the third-largest phone carrier in the US. In the process he had become a Wall Street star, feted for his buccaneering style, for wearing cowboy boots to the office and for beginning board meetings with a prayer.

He has been free for 18 months since conviction as he exhausted appeals against the conviction and the length of the sentence. Reid Weingarten, Ebbers' lead attorney, said: "The purpose of the sentence was to please and appease the howling mob demanding Ebbers' head, not a worthy goal of the criminal justice system."

The Enron and WorldCom scandals changed the perception of white-collar crime in the US, revealing as they did the financial ruin that can be inflicted on small investors and the employees of the companies involved. Some 20,000 WorldCom employees lost jobs when it went under in 2002.

Andrew Fastow, Enron's former chief financial officer, pleaded guilty to two fraud counts and agreed to testify against his former bosses in return for a maximum 10-year jail term. The victims of Enron's collapse will have a right to speak to the Houston court today, before he is formally sentenced.

Fastow's plea bargain caps his possible sentence at 10 years, but Jeffrey Skilling, Enron's chief executive, who was convicted in part on the basis of his testimony, faces spending more than two decades in prison when he is sentenced next month.

Barry Boss, a Washington defence attorney who has advised the US government on sentencing white-collar crime, says there has been "jail-term inflation" as other non-violent crimes, particularly drug possession and dealing, have attracted tougher sentences too. "No person in Bernie Ebbers' position wants to go to prison for 10 years. There is no incremental deterrence in 25 years. Being 'tough on crime' is a campaign slogan," he said.

"Sentences only get ratcheted up because that's the easy answer to the problem, although it is the solution least likely to make any significant difference. We are a vindictive country."

Comment: Don't be fooled. This is just a "token sacrifice" to maintain the illusion of democracy and law and order. No doubt the guy will have a comfy retirement waiting for him when he gets out, and the fraud and trickery will continue without a hitch.

Comment on this Article

Out of America: Behind the bronze doors of the masons' HQ - Far from being the secretive cult of legend, Freemasonry is openly built into the US capital's very fabric

By Rupert Cornwell
24 September 2006

Is this the most masonic city on Earth? I can't helping thinking so, just after one of the more memorable TV interviews I have given, in terms of the setting at least. The topic was the role of a renegade Freemasons' lodge in the downfall and death of Roberto Calvi, the Italian banker found hanged under a bridge in London in 1982.

But where to do the interview? Washington had no links with the Calvi affair (unless of course you believe the whole thing was the work of the CIA). The production director, however, came up with an inspired location: the dark, panelled library of the House of the Temple, the US headquarters of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry on 16th Street NW. Thus it was that I finally got a look at a building I had driven past almost every day for the past five years, wondering what was inside.
I was not disappointed. The place is quite astonishing, designed in 1911 and modelled on the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in what is now Turkey, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The great bronze external doors are guarded by sphinxes. Inside is a cavernous hall supported by black columns. Everything is polished stone. The designs are geometric, the motifs Egyptian. For the rest, though, the temple defied my preconceptions of Freemasonry.

In Europe at least, Freemasonry is a mystery of secret rites and occult power, the stuff of a million conspiracy theories. None more so, of course, than Propaganda Due, or P-2, the lodge involved in the Calvi case, a veritable state-within-a-state, linked to attempted coups, right-wing terrorism and skulduggery of every variety.

Not so the splendid temple on 16th Street. A guide proudly showed me around, taking me to see the great collection of books owned by the poet Robert Burns and the "Freemasons' Hall of Fame", featuring the likes of the politician Bob Dole and the golfer Arnold Palmer. Then there was the library itself, with 250,000 volumes and a fabulous collection of masonic memorabilia, and the assembly room where the Supreme Council for the Rite's 33rd Degree, its highest, holds its meetings.

In its US incarnation, Freemasonry is primarily a social and philanthropic organisation. "We are not a religion, we don't hold services and pray," I was told. The only requirement is a broad belief in God. Beyond that, anyone - Christian, Jew or Muslim - is welcome. Essentially it is one of those brotherhoods of which Americans are fond.

George Washington was a mason, and so were 13 other Presidents, most recently Gerald Ford. Freemasonry is ideologically entwined with America's birth. Back in the 18th century the movement was identified with the Enlightenment and resistance to the obscurantist rule of the church and absolute monarchies. Of those who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine were masons, as were 13 of the signatories of the US constitution.

Just across the river in Alexandria is the George Washington Masonic Memorial, inspired by the lighthouse in ancient Alexandria in Egypt, another of the seven wonders. There are said to be masonic connections between the White House and the Capitol building; some believe that the entire city is designed on a masonic plan. And look on the back of a dollar bill. The pyramid and "all-seeing eye" above it have strong masonic connotations.

American Freemasonry is no furtive creature of the dark, as far from the malevolent P-2 as you can imagine. But it too has problems - or rather competitors. There are new outlets aplenty for philanthropy and giving. Generation X-ers seem less inclined to take the trouble of joining, while the movement must cope with the resurgence of organised religion. Membership has fallen from a peak of around four million in the 1950s to 1.5 million today.

Paradoxically, mason- ry's lingering mystique could yet rescue its popularity. Templars, masons and other ancient orders are all the rage. Dan Brown has a new book out next year called The Solomon Key, which is believed to deal with Freemasonry, Washington and the Founding Fathers.

Some fear that it will do for the masons' reputation what The Da Vinci Code did for Opus Dei. But in the US, the latter's sinister aura is entirely absent from Freemasonry. And nowhere is this absence more evident than here, amid the broad vistas and handsome buildings of Washington, the mason's city par excellence.

Comment on this Article

Who's Co-Opting Feminism? - 'Ifeminists' have no problem with sexual harassment, oppose affirmative action, and think there's nothing sexist about porn. Meet a new women's group that seeks to prop up male power.

By Christy Burbridge
September 20, 2006

"As feminists, we all want equality. But according to ifeminism, "equality" is synonymous with equal treatment under the existing legal, economic and social systems. In other words, rather than opposing the status quo, ifeminism operates within it. While other feminists view the law as inherently unjust and in need of reconstruction, ifeminists have absolutely no desire to prosecute pimps, legislate against sexual harassment, or otherwise compromise and challenge the default male standard.

And this is supposed to help women progress as a class how?"
"Are you an ifeminist? Take this quiz to find out."

I click on the link. 'Interesting,' I think to myself. 'This will be an entertaining yet informative way to kill an idle ten minutes before my class.'

But what is "ifeminism," anyway? More than likely, we are all at least somewhat familiar with liberal feminism, radial feminism, ecofeminism, and a whole host of others. But I for one had never even heard of ifeminism. Curious to learn about it, I happened upon a website called ifeminists and read the introduction.

I came to discover that Ifeminism, formally known as "Individualist Feminism," premises itself on the goal equal rights between the genders. That makes perfect sense to me. After all, isn't that our goal? So does that make me an ifeminist? I didn't see why not.

But as I continued to read, I began to feel less and less sure. States Wendy McElroy, the founder of ifeminism.com: "Ifeminists believe that freedom and diversity benefit women, whether or not the choices that particular women make are politically correct. They respect all sexual choices, from motherhood to porn."

According to ifeminism, "freedom and choice do not threaten women. Government and orthodoxy do." Functioning within a libertarian, post second-wave politic, ifeminists propose that women are both intelligent and empowered enough to know what is right for them. They believe that telling women what is or is not best for them by enacting legislation against pornography is "paternalistic" to women who choose to work in the sex-industry, and affirmative action only "embeds gender privilege" for women in the law.

So then what's wrong with ifeminism?


As feminists, we all want equality. But according to ifeminism, "equality" is synonymous with equal treatment under the existing legal, economic and social systems. In other words, rather than opposing the status quo, ifeminism operates within it. While other feminists view the law as inherently unjust and in need of reconstruction, ifeminists have absolutely no desire to prosecute pimps, legislate against sexual harassment, or otherwise compromise and challenge the default male standard.

And this is supposed to help women progress as a class how?

What ifeminists need to realize is that because the law was designed without significant input by women and other minorities, it innately disfavors them. Ifeminists argue that affirmative action tramples on the rights of individuals, thereby completely disregarding the fact that the system is fundamentally flawed and unbalanced. Common sense, however, dictates otherwise. If the system was not designed by a privileged group, then there would have been no need for affirmative action in the first place, because women and other minorities would have always been equally represented from the very beginning.

But there you have it. The crux of ifeminist analysis can be summed up in two words: Anything goes. There's nothing inherently sexist about the sex-industry (but where are all the male prostitutes and victims of the sex trade?), and all women who participate in it are doing so of their own "choice" (hell, if I had no economic privilege and a history of sexual abuse, I'd probably "choose" to sell my body too!)

Are these responsible positions for a feminist to take?

A decent dose of "individualism" is the cornerstone of mental health and productivity for all each of us. As distinctive human beings, we often find ourselves placed at different intervals on the full spectrum of political beliefs. This is a good thing. Without individuality, there would be no difference of opinion and therefore no progress.

But by denying that current inequities even exist, do ifeminists have a legitimate claim to feminism, or is the very term "Individualist Feminist" an oxymoron?

So what kind of feminist am I? Well, I don't know - I never bothered taking the quiz. But I do know for certain that I am not an "ifeminist", nor am I inclined to take ifeminism, or any other specious euphemisms for conservative/libertarian agendas, very seriously.

Comment on this Article

Fox funds gay party - Conservatives are pissed... and want compensation

by Evan Derkacz
September 25, 2006.

According to the Broward-Palm Beach New Times:

Last week, the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) held its national convention in Miami Beach, and the 600 or so attendees owed their fun in the sun partially to Fox News, which donated $10,000 to the event as one of its sponsors.

Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth, acted swiftly in response to Fox's alarming gayness. He sent a strongly worded letter to Roger Ailes, president of Fox, demanding that Fox immediately deposit an additional $10,000 into the coffers of a "pro-family organization." This, LaBarbera wrote, would balance out Fox's alarming attitudes toward gays - especially if Fox decided to give money to AFT.

The NLGJA doesn't fancy itself an "activist" group, but it did send a letter to members requesting that they not have homophobes as commenters on gay issues "just as white supremacists shouldn't be regularly quoted in articles about immigration."

AFT's LaBarbera, tipping us to his homophobia, replied:

"He's basically saying that I am the moral equivalent of the KKK," says LaBarbera, a former Washington Times reporter who occasionally attends leather extravaganzas to do "research" and likes to drink at gay bars to spot gay trends. "It's just outrageous."

I'd say more like Fabulous.

Evan Derkacz is a New York-based writer and contributor to AlterNet.

Comment on this Article

Jonathan Cook: Engineering the 'Clash of Civilizations'

Palestine Chronicle

The moment of reckoning is near at hand, according to Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, who claims that Iran is only months away from posssessing nuclear weapons.

The trajectory of a long-running campaign that gave birth this month to the preposterous all-party British parliamentary report into anti-Semitism in the UK can be traced back to intensive lobbying by the Israeli government that began more than four years ago, in early 2002.

At that time, as Ariel Sharon was shredding the tattered remains of the Oslo accords by reinvading West Bank towns handed over to the Palestinian Authority in his destructive rampage known as Operation Defensive Shield, he drafted the Israeli media into the fray. Local newspapers began endlessly highlighting concerns about the rise of a "new anti-Semitism", a theme that was rapidly and enthusiastically taken up by the muscular Zionist lobby in the US.
It was not the first time, of course, that Israel had called on American loyalists to help it out of trouble. In Beyond Chutzpah, Norman Finkelstein documents the advent of claims about a new anti-Semitism to Israel's lacklustre performance in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. On that occasion, it was hoped, the charge of anti-Semitism could be deployed against critics to reduce pressure on Israel to return Sinai to Egypt and negotiate with the Palestinians.

Israel alerted the world to another wave of anti-Semitism in the early 1980s, just as it came under unprecedented criticism for its invasion and occupation of Lebanon. What distinguished the new anti-Semitism from traditional anti-Jewish racism of the kind that led to Germany's death camps, said its promoters, was that this time it embraced the progressive left rather than the far right.

The fresh claims about a new anti-Semitism began life in the spring of 2002, with the English-language website of Israel's respected liberal daily newspaper, Haaretz, flagging for many months a special online supplement of articles on the "New anti-Semitism", warning that the "age-old hatred" was being revived in Europe and America. The refrain was soon taken up the Jerusalem Post, a rightwing English-language newspaper regularly used by the Israeli establishment to shore up support for its policies among Diaspora Jews.

Like its precursors, argued Israel's apologists, the latest wave of anti-Semitism was the responsibility of Western progressive movements -- though with a fresh twist. An ever-present but largely latent Western anti-Semitism was being stoked into frenzy by the growing political and intellectual influence of extremist Muslim immigrants. The implication was that an unholy alliance had been spawned between the left and militant Islam.

Such views were first aired by senior members of Sharon's cabinet. In an interview in the Jerusalem Post in November 2002, for example, Binyamin Netanyahu warned that latent anti-Semitism was again becoming active:

"In my view, there are many in Europe who oppose anti-Semitism, and many governments and leaders who oppose anti-Semitism, but the strain exists there. It is ignoring reality to say that it is not present. It has now been wedded to and stimulated by the more potent and more overt force of anti-Semitism, which is Islamic anti-Semitism coming from some of the Islamic minorities in European countries. This is often disguised as anti-Zionism."

Netanyahu proposed "lancing the boil" by beginning an aggressive public relations campaign of "self-defence". A month later Israel's president, Moshe Katsav, picked on the softest target of all, warning during a state visit that the fight against anti-Semitism must begin in Germany, where "voices of anti-Semitism can be heard".

But, as ever, the main target of the new anti-Semitism campaign were audiences in the US, Israel's generous patron. There, members of the Israel lobby were turning into a chorus of doom.

In the early stages of the campaign, the lobby's real motivation was not concealed: it wanted to smother a fledgling debate by American civil society, particularly the churches and universities, to divest -- withdraw their substantial investments -- from Israel in response to Operation Defensive Shield.

In October 2002, after Israel had effectively reoccupied the West Bank, the ever-reliable Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, lumped in critics who were calling for divestment from Israel with the new anti-Semites. He urged a new body established by the Israeli government called the Forum for Co-ordinating the Struggle against anti-Semitism to articulate clearly "what we know in our hearts and guts: when that line [to anti-Semitism] is crossed".

A fortnight later Foxman had got into his stride, warning that Jews were more vulnerable than at any time since the Second World War. "I did not believe in my lifetime that I or we would be preoccupied on the level that we are, or [face] the intensity of anti-Semitism that we are experiencing," he told the Jerusalem Post.

Echoing Netanyahu's warning, Foxman added that the rapid spread of the new anti-Semitism had been made possible by the communications revolution, mainly the internet, which was allowing Muslims to relay their hate messages across the world within seconds, infecting people around the globe.

It is now clear that Israel and its loyalists had three main goals in mind as they began their campaign. Two were familiar motives from previous attempts at highlighting a "new anti-Semitism". The third was new.

The first aim, and possibly the best understood, was to stifle all criticism of Israel, particularly in the US. During the course of 2003 it became increasingly apparent to journalists like myself that the American media, and soon much of the European media, was growing shy of printing even the mild criticism of Israel it usually allowed. By the time Israel began stepping up the pace of construction of its monstrous wall across the West Bank in spring 2003, editors were reluctant to touch the story.

As the fourth estate fell silent, so did many of the progressive voices in our universities and churches. Divestment was entirely removed from the agenda. McCarthyite organisations like CampusWatch helped enforce the reign of intimidation. Academics who stood their ground, like Columbia University's Joseph Massad, attracted the vindictive attention of new activist groups like the David Project.

A second, less noticed, goal was an urgent desire to prevent any slippage in the numbers of Jews inside Israel that might benefit the Palestinians as the two ethnic groups approached demographic parity in the area know to Israelis as Greater Israel and to Palestinians as historic Palestine.

Demography had been a long-standing obsession of the Zionist movement: during the 1948 war, the Israeli army terrorised away or forcibly removed some 80 per cent of the Palestinians living inside the borders of what became Israel to guarantee its new status as a Jewish state.

But by the turn of the millennium, following Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, and the rapid growth of the oppressed Palestinian populations both in the occupied territories and inside Israel, demography had been pushed to the top of Israel's policy agenda again.

During the second intifada, as the Palestinians fought back against Israel's war machine with a wave of suicide bombs on buses in major Israeli cities, Sharon's government feared that well-off Israeli Jews might start to regard Europe and America as a safer bet than Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. The danger was that the demographic battle might be lost as Israeli Jews emigrated.

By suggesting that Europe in particular had become a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism, it was hoped that Israeli Jews, many of whom have more than one passport, would be afraid to leave. A survey by the Jewish Agency taken as early as May 2002 showed, for example, that 84 per cent of Israelis believed anti-Semitism had again become a serious threat to world Jewry.

At the same time Israeli politicians concentrated their attention on the two European countries with the largest Jewish populations, Britain and France, both of which also have significant numbers of immigrant Muslims. They highlighted a supposed rise in anti-Semitism in these two countries in the hope of attracting their Jewish populations to Israel.

In France, for example, peculiar anti-Semitic attacks were given plenty of media coverage: from a senior rabbi who was stabbed (by himself, as it later turned out) to a young Jewish woman attacked on a train by anti-Semitic thugs (except, as it later emerged, she was not Jewish).

Sharon took advantage of the manufactured climate of fear in July 2004 to claim that France was in the grip of "the wildest anti-Semitism", urging French Jews to come to Israel.

The third goal, however, had not seen before. It tied the rise of a new anti-Semitism with the increase of Islamic fundamentalism in the West, implying that Muslim extremists were asserting an ideological control over Western thinking. It chimed well with the post 9-11 atmosphere.

In this spirit, American Jewish academics like David Goldhagen characterised anti-Semitism as constantly "evolving". In a piece entitled "The Globalisation of anti-Semitism" published in the American Jewish weekly Forward in May 2003, Goldhagen argued that Europe had exported its classical racist anti-Semitism to the Arab world, which in turn was reinfecting the West.

"Then the Arab countries re-exported the new hybrid demonology back to Europe and, using the United Nations and other international institutions, to other countries around the world. In Germany, France, Great Britain and elsewhere, today's intensive anti-Semitic expression and agitation uses old tropes once applied to local Jews -- charges of sowing disorder, wanting to subjugate others -- with new content overwhelmingly directed at Jews outside their countries."

This theory of a "free-floating" contagion of hatred towards Jews, being spread by Arabs and their sympathisers through the internet, media and international bodies, found many admirers. The British neo-conservative journalist Melanie Philips claimed popularly, if ludicrously, that British identity was being subverted and pushed out by an Islamic identity that was turning her country into a capital of terror, "Londonistan".

This final goal of the proponents of "the new anti-Semitism" was so successful because it could be easily conflated with other ideas associated with America's war on terror, such as the clash of civilisations. If it was "us" versus "them", then the new anti-Semitism posited from the outset that the Jews were on the side of the angels. It fell to the Christian West to decide whether to make a pact with good (Judaism, Israel, civilisation) or evil (Islam, Osama bin Laden, Londonistan).

We are far from reaching the end of this treacherous road, both because the White House is bankrupt of policy initiatives apart from its war on terror, and because Israel's place is for the moment assured at the heart of the US administration's neoconservative agenda.

That was made clear last week when Netanyahu, the most popular politician in Israel, added yet another layer of lethal mischief to the neoconservative spin machine as it gears up to confront Iran over its nuclear ambitions. Netanyahu compared Iran and its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to Adolf Hitler.

"Hitler went out on a world campaign first, and then tried to get nuclear weapons. Iran is trying to get nuclear arms first. Therefore from that perspective, it is much more dangerous," Netanyahu told Israel's anti-terrorism policymakers.

Netanyahu's implication was transparent: Iran is looking for another Final Solution, this one targeting Israel as well as world Jewry. The moment of reckoning is near at hand, according to Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, who claims against all the evidence that Iran is only months away from posssessing nuclear weapons.

"International terrorism is a mistaken term," Netanyahu added, "not because it doesn't exist, but because the problem is international militant Islam. That is the movement that operates terror on the international level, and that is the movement that is preparing the ultimate terror, nuclear terrorism."

Faced with the evil designs of the "Islamic fascists", such as those in Iran, Israel's nuclear arsenal -- and the nuclear Holocaust Israel can and appears prepared to unleash -- may be presented as the civilised world's salvation.

-Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the author of the forthcoming "Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State" published by Pluto Press, and available in the United States from the University of Michigan Press. His website is www.jkcook.net

Comment on this Article

The Promised Land

Address Palestinian issue to fix Iraq: Musharraf

Khaleej Times Online
26 September 2006

NEW YORK - Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf called on Monday for the world to urgently address the Palestinian issue, saying it lay at the root of all conflicts between the West and the Muslim world.

Addressing the Council on Foreign Relations, a New York think tank, Musharraf said ongoing strife in the Middle East and in Pakistan's neighbour Afghanistan was inextricably linked to the fate of the Palestinian people.
'The root of all of them, whether Iraq or Afghanistan or Lebanon lies in Palestine. I think we should fight at solving Palestine first,' he said, when asked the best solution to the dire situation in Iraq.

'That will create effects everywhere else, including on the overall terrorism and extremism (front),' he said.

'Things will keep happening until we solve the original case of Palestine, which happens to be the core which is driving people to extremism and terrorism, which are driving people to be suicide bombs, which are even driving people to these Subway bombings in London or anywhere in the world,' he said.

'We need to get to the core and that is Palestine,' he said.

Laying out what he described as a vision of a peaceful and prosperous future for Islamic and Western countries riven by divisions, especially since the September 11, 2001 attacks, he called for both sides to step up.

'The Muslim world must reject extremism and work towards social and economic reform... The second part requires that the West and the United States in particular resolve political disputes in the Muslim world justly,' he said.

'That vision is only possible if the Muslim world and the West, led by the United States, strive together on issues that confront us today,' he said.

He rejected a purely military solution to the US-led 'war on terror,' saying it failed to address the roots of extremism and terrorism, and called for greater efforts to ensure that Muslim populations rejected extremist influence.

Musharraf also stepped up a war of words with Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai, brushing off allegations that Pakistan was not doing enough to rein in Taleban militants that Afghanistan says are sheltering on Pakistani soil.

'As soon as president Karzai understands his own country, the easier it'll be for him,' Musharraf said.

He also rejected speculation that the Taleban leadership had set up a base in the Baluchistan regional capital of Quetta in western Pakistan near the mountainous border with southeastern Afghanistan.

'I challenge anyone who said that. And anyone who said it is wrong,' an adamant Musharraf said. 'There is no question that any Taleban headquarters are there. This is the most ridiculous statement.'

Pakistan has been one of the key US allies in the 'war on terror' and played a crucial strategic role in the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, which ousted the Taleban regime harbouring bin Laden.

Comment on this Article

National Jewish community has come through for us

BY: JULIE E. SCHWARTZ Special to the CJN

New Orleans is not all better

Whenever I'm asked about how things are, I want to say, "We're doin' fine. We're all better now." But I can't.
When a city is so completely destroyed that everything needs repair; when even the houses that didn't flood had trees through the roof; when the streetcar rails were washed away and every major city building needs hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars of work; when the infrastructure, including electricity, water, and waste disposal systems, are so backlogged that the city can't replace streetlights or fill potholes large enough to endanger your car or plug leaks in the deteriorated water system; when fast-food restaurants are forced to pay bonuses and hire 15-year-olds because they can't get enough workers; when everywhere you look is a soggy mess of construction debris which never seems to get carted away; and when the wind blows in from the east, the whole city reeks of "Eau de Rotten Refrigerator," where do you begin?

I know it's hard to be patient with us. When the subject of New Orleans arises, I see people rolling their eyes. They're thinking, "We've heard enough already; let's move on; old news; boring. There are rockets being fired on cities in Israel, and the Northeast had its own flood. There are a million other stories to attend to."

But if the rest of the country is sick of it, imagine how we feel, driving through a massive graveyard of houses and rubble every day on the way to work or school. It's almost the only thing people living in New Orleans talk about still.

If you were a fly on the wall of a restaurant, no matter how plain or posh, you could flit from table to table and hear the same conversations: Who is having disputes with an insurer; who is replacing a [roof, floors, fence, landscaping - pick one]; who has left or is leaving town; who is selling/buying a house; who has been fired because a business is moving, and so on and so forth ad nauseum.

We need to get on with our lives? You're so right. But how? New Orleans is like San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. It will take years - five, ten, maybe more, to rebuild.

The good news in the Jewish community is that, if I may use a dangerous phrase, the national Jewish community - led by United Jewish Communities - is keeping us afloat. It has been and continues to be generous, compassionate, and yet it demands results and accountability.

The dollars you, the North American Jewish community, have donated are keeping our synagogues from losing their mortgages and paying the salaries of our most important Jewish community employees, from rabbis to social workers. You continue to maintain this Jewish community, where every institution suffered damage to site and soul.

We've lost numbers. Once an active community of almost 10,000 Jews, the number of New Orleans Jews now hovers in the 6,000+ range, and families come and go daily. Some who intended to move back have found the business climate too difficult or have been stymied by the slow pace of rebuilding. Others became sick of thinking about the problems here; they found the only way to stop thinking about them was to move away.

Those who remain continue to be "survivors" in a daily struggle to maintain one's equilibrium in an uncertain climate. We feel vulnerable to the next big storm; the whims of local, state and national governments; and the insurance industry. We do not know where to live or whether we will be able to support ourselves in the future.

Worst of all, we hear the grumbling of our neighbors - "Why rebuild New Orleans?" they say, and we can only defensively snap back - "Why rebuild Florida and the rest of the Gulf Coast after its hurricanes? Why send aid to frozen North Dakota every winter or to the Nation's heartland in a drought? Why help out when tornadoes hit Kansas or forest fires decimate Colorado or southern California?"

The national Jewish community never asked the "why" question about New Orleans, just as it does not ask the "why" question when helping Jews in Argentina, Ethiopia, Israel, or other parts of the world. Instead, it sent a clear message to the Jews of New Orleans that we are one and the same people: Am Yisrael, the Nation of Israel.

New Orleans Jews do not like being needy. It is a terrible way to be. We know that it truly is "better to give than to receive," and we are looking forward to the time when we can give more and receive less.

In the meantime, however, we gratefully receive and give our thanks to a national community that has come through for us in our darkest hour. We will not be "all better" for years to come, but you give us the strength we need to go forward every day, to persevere, to survive, and to rebuild. Todah Rabah.

Julie E. Schwartz is editor of the New Orleans Jewish News.

Comment on this Article

The Nation, Pakistan: Bush and CNN Signal New Violations of Pakistan Sovereignty

By Shireen M. Mazari
September 23, 2006

President Musharraf's revelation that the United States had threatened to "bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age" makes official what many already knew. And the American arrogance continues, with President Bush declaring that if U.S. intelligence was sure that Osama bin Laden or other terrorist leaders were hiding here, the White House would unilaterally order military action inside Pakistan to take them out. The implication is that the U.S. would feel no need to either inform the Government of Pakistan, or seek its permission. This latest reflection of U.S. arrogance came during Bush's interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
Given the poor quality of U.S. intelligence, especially its human intelligence, and its misuse of intelligence, we in Pakistan should now expect, if politics in Washington so demand, the U.S. military to violate our sovereignty. After all, this is an election year for the Congress and Republicans are sliding in the polls. While the Foreign Office has stated that the United States cannot enter Pakistan to "hunt for Osama," to refute Bush's statement would require a response from the highest levels of our political and military leadership. Without such a rejoinder, even Karzai's bellicosity will increase - as was reflected in his speech before the U.N. General Assembly. Watch RealVideo.

What is so ominous about Bush's statement is that it follows a two-week long campaign of Pakistan-bashing by CNN, with one newsreader referring to Pakistan as Qaedastan. Up to now, the Government of Pakistan has made no protest nor taken any action to deal with CNN's Nic Robertson, the journalist most responsible for distorting facts and reporting half-truths while reporting from Pakistan itself. In fact, one hears that Mr Robertson is given extensive access in Islamabad, both political and in terms of protocol. In any case, it is clear that CNN's propaganda blitz against Pakistan was timed to create the proper media environment for Bush's statement - and most likely Karzai's statement to the U.N. General Assembly.

What are we coming to? Despite our military strength and our overall power potential, we seem to suffer from a debilitating lack of self-confidence. Therefore, all and sundry from abroad can abuse and attack us, even as we overreact to domestic voices of dissent. American generals and politicians feel that Pakistan is fair game, as they intervene in our internal affairs to criticize us as and when they choose.

And we seem to be adopting a strangely Christian posture of turning the other cheek - something that the Christians themselves abandoned long ago. The latest intrusion into our internal affairs is the chorus of U.S. generals and politicians that have spoken out against a peace agreement between the government and tribal elders [In North Waziristan Agency]. As NATO's Commander in Afghanistan General James Jones warned in the now-familiar style of U.S. arrogance, he and his men were "closely watching" the results of this pact. The defeated U.S. presidential candidate of 2004, John Kerry, and Senator Biden, have been more scathing in their criticism of the deal. Have we bothered to respond strongly to these gentlemen, and told them to stay out of our internal affairs? Of course not!

Under these circumstances, we should be clear about where all this is leading. NATO and U.S. military in Afghanistan want to deflect attention from its failures by focusing on Pakistan, making a U.S. military incursion into Pakistan quite likely. After all, they have done so before and never expressed one iota of an apology or regret, after they managed to bomb and kill only civilians. So as the going gets even rougher for NATO and the U.S. military in Afghanistan and for the Republicans in Washington, Pakistan may be victimized and face an American military incursion onto our territory. The political and propaganda ground is certainly being prepared for such an action.

We have the wherewithal to counter such a move, but will we do so on military terms? Unless we do, our sovereignty will continue to be willfully undermined from across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. What then was the purpose of acquiring a stable deterrence and a strong military? It must have been a proud moment for Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, to stand proud before the international community in the U.N. General Assembly, and call a spade a spade. Watch RealVideo.

And it's not just Pakistan that seems to suffer from a confidence deficit. Most Muslim states appear to be in the throes of this ailment - with a few notable exceptions such as Iran. That is why Muslims feel lost. And that's why non-Muslim states and their political leaders are trying to harass their Muslim populations.

It seems Britain has gone the furthest by declaring Muslim thought, which may contemplate violent responses to American abuse, as actual terrorism, although nothing beyond thinking had actually taken place. Worse still, the British Home Secretary has now asked Muslim parents to effectively spy on their children. Why has he not asked British parents in general to do the same? Can one even begin to imagine the psychological pressure he is putting on British Muslim children? He is probably seeking to put so much pressure on them that they actually leave Britain for good! Perhaps it is time for the British government to realize that the root cause of the radicalization of British Muslims. The blame goes mainly in their faulty foreign policy, which is quickly degenerating into the simple targeting of Islam and Muslims - and partly on the social marginalization of Muslims. Perhaps the British, including British NGOs, which are so eager to tell us of how our political set up is causing terrorism in Balochistan and so on - should do some introspection themselves.

Unless Muslim states and civil societies stand up for themselves and cure their guilt-ridden post-9/11 defensiveness, they will continue to be abused and attacked at will by a neoconservative U.S. agenda backed by loyal allies like Blair's Britain and the present regime in the Vatican.

It isn't a matter of moderates versus extremists. If the majority of moderate Muslims are threatened by extremists from within, they are threatened equally from the outside by the intolerant forces of the Christian West led by President Bush.

So, just as we need to fight the anti-modernists amongst us, we also need to fight the political-religious anti-moderns from outside. The war has just begun and will be waged on all fronts. But it begins by reasserting our self-confidence and believing in our ability to resist all threats from all sources. When will our leaders rise to the challenge? Their strength, in the final analysis, comes from within.

Comment on this Article

Israeli Army Still in Lebanon

Prensa Latina
25 Sept 06

Beirut - Israeli forces continuing occupying a fifth of the Lebanese territory they reoccupied weeks ago, even though Tel Aviv assured it would pull out last weekend.

Military sources announced the evacuation will wind up next weekend due to last-minute problems.

The announcement followed a demonstration convoked by the Hezbollah militia in southern Beirut to celebrate what they called God s victory over their aggressors.

The evacuation appears in the UN Security Council Resolution 1701 aimed at ending the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

In August, Tel Aviv launched a brutal offensive to ostensibly rescue two of its soldiers captured by the Islamic guerrilla fighters

Comment on this Article

U.S. rejects visa for Muslim scholar

Associated Press
September 25, 2006

NEW YORK - The government has rejected a prominent Muslim scholar's application to enter the country, contending that he gave support to a terrorist group, but his attorneys allege the U.S. is using charitable donations he made as a pretext for stifling his views.

Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss citizen who teaches at Oxford University, was denied a temporary business and tourism visa Thursday "based solely on his actions, which constituted providing material support to a terrorist organization," said Janelle Hironimus, a State Department spokeswoman.
Hironimus said she could not reveal specifics about Ramadan's case due to confidentiality rules regarding visa applications.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the U.S. government notified Ramadan he was being excluded because he donated $765 to French and Swiss organizations that provide humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

The ACLU said the organizations are legitimate charities in France, but the Bush administration contends the groups gave funds to the Islamic militant group Hamas, and has invoked a law allowing it to exclude individuals whom it believes have supported terrorism.

The ACLU said the decision to bar Ramadan amounts to censorship.

"This case is really about speech," said Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU lawyer. "The government is using the immigration laws as a means of silencing and stigmatizing a prominent cleric."

Ramadan has said he opposes the U.S. invasion of Iraq and U.S policies in Israel and the Palestinian territories, but that he has no connections to terrorism, opposes Islamic extremism and promotes peaceful solutions.

He said in a statement he was disappointed by the government's decision but was glad that the State Department had abandoned its initial allegation that he endorsed terrorism.

"I think it's clear from the history of this case that the U.S. government's real fear is of my ideas," he said. "I am excluded not because the government truly believes me to be a national security threat, but because of my criticisms of American foreign policies in the Middle East; because of my opposition to the invasion of Iraq; and because of my criticism of some of the Bush administration's policies with respect to civil liberties."

Hironimus defended the government's policies, saying the United States "welcomes the exchange of culture and ideas with the Islamic world." She said that in the past three years more than 450 religious scholars and leaders, the vast majority of them Muslim, had visited the United States as guests of the U.S. government.

Jaffer said the ACLU would decide whether to pursue the issue through the courts once it speaks with organizations it represents that filed a lawsuit challenging the government's exclusion of Ramadan.

Ramadan applied for a visa last year that would allow him to temporarily visit the United States to lecture or attend conferences, as he had prior to 2004 when he had spoken at Harvard University, Stanford University and elsewhere.

When the State Department did not rule on the application, the ACLU brought a lawsuit on behalf of several groups which had invited Ramadan to speak to force it to act.

In June, U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty in Manhattan ordered the government to rule on Ramadan's application within three months.

Comment on this Article

Ten questions to the Zionists

by Rabbi Michael Dov Weissmandl ZT"L

Dean of Nitra Yeshiva and author of min hametzar
(Published by the author in 1948 and reprinted many times)
1. IS IT TRUE that in 1941 and again in 1942, the German Gestapo offered all European Jews transit to Spain, if they would relinquish all their property in Germany and Occupied France; on condition that:
a) none of the deportees travel from Spain to Palestine; and
b) all the deportees be transported from Spain to the USA or British colonies, and there to remain; with entry visas to be arranged by the Jews living there; and
c) $1000.00 ransom for each family to be furnished by the Agency, payable upon the arrival of the family at the Spanish border at the rate of 1000 families daily.

2. IS IT TRUE that the Zionist leaders in Switzerland and Turkey received this offer with the clear understanding that the exclusion of Palestine as a destination for the deportees was based on an agreement between the Gestapo and the Mufti.

3. IS IT TRUE that the answer of the Zionist leaders was negative, with the following comments:
a) ONLY Palestine would be considered as a destination for the deportees.
b) The European Jews must accede to suffering and death greater in measure than the other nations, in order that the victorious allies agree to a "Jewish State" at the end of the war.
c) No ransom will be paid

4. IS IT TRUE that this response to the Gestapo's offer was made with the full knowledge that the alternative to this offer was the gas chamber.

5. IS IT TRUE that in 1944, at the time of the Hungarian deportations, a similar offer was made, whereby all Hungarian Jewry could be saved.

6. IS IT TRUE that the same Zionist hierarchy again refused this offer (after the gas chambers had already taken a toll of millions).

7. IS IT TRUE that during the height of the killings in the war, 270 Members of the British Parliament proposed to evacuate 500,000 Jews from Europe, and resettle them in British colonies, as a part of diplomatic negotiations with Germany.

8. IS IT TRUE that this offer was rejected by the Zionist leaders with the observation "Only to Palestine!"

9. IS IT TRUE that the British government granted visas to 300 rabbis and their families to the Colony of Mauritius, with passage for the evacuees through Turkey. The "Jewish Agency" leaders sabotaged this plan with the observation that the plan was disloyal to Palestine, and the 300 rabbis and their families should be gassed.

10. IS IT TRUE that during the course of the negotiations mentioned above, Chaim Weitzman, the first "Jewish statesman" stated: "The most valuable part of the Jewish nation is already in Palestine, and those Jews living outside Palestine are not too important". Weitzman's cohort, Greenbaum, amplified this statement with the observation "One cow in Palestine is worth more than all the Jews in Europe".

There are additional similar questions to be asked of these atheist degenerates known as "Jewish statesmen", but for the time being let them respond to the ten questions.

These Zionist "statesmen" with their great foresight, sought to bring an end two two-thousand years of Divinely ordained Jewish subservience and political tractability. With their offensive militancy, they fanned the fires of anti-Semitism in Europe, and succeeded in forging a bond of Jew-hatred between Nazi-Germany and the surrounding countries.

These are the "statesmen" who organized the irresponsible boycott against Germany in 1933. This boycott hurt Germany like a fly attacking an elephant - but it brought calamity upon the Jews of Europe. At a time when America and England were at peace with the mad-dog Hitler, the Zionist "statesmen" forsook the only plausible method of political amenability; and with their boycott incensed the leader of Germany to a frenzy. And then, after the bitterest episode in Jewish history, these Zionist "statesmen" lured the broken refugees in the DP camps to remain in hunger and deprivation, and to refuse relocation to any place but Palestine; only for the purpose of building their State.

The Zionist "statesmen" have incited and continue to incite an embittered Jewish youth to futile wars against world powers like England, and against masses of hundreds of millions of Arabs.


What may befall the Jewish inhabitants of Palestine, of the Arab crescent, Europe, or the USA; is of no concern to these Zionist leaders. The rising anti-Semitism in the Western World is the product of their "statesmanship".

Under the guise of "love of Israel", the Zionist "statesmen" seduced many Jews to replace devotion to the Torah and its Sages with devotion to the scoundrel who founded Zionism. It is of no little significance that Herzl originally sought conversion of the Jews as a solution to the problems of the Diaspora. When he realized that this was not acceptable to the Jewish masses, he contrived Zionism as a satisfactory alternative!

A look into history reveals that this very same type of "statesmen" opposed the call of Jeremiah the prophet to yield to the minions of Nebuchadnezzar at the destruction of the first Temple. Five centuries later, Rabbi Yochonon Ben Zakai appealed to the people to surrender to Titus the Roman to avoid bloodshed. The "statesmen" rejected this appeal, and the second Temple was destroyed by the Romans. --- And now for the past fifty years, the Zionist "statesmen" rebuff the leadership of our Sages; and continue in their policy of fomenting anti-Semitism. When will they stop?? Must every Jew in America also suffer?? - Even the Nazi monsters had more sense, and gave up their war before all Germany was destroyed. The Zionist "statesmen" ridicule the sacred oath which the Creator placed upon the Jews in the Diaspora. Our Torah, in Tractate Ksubos, folio 111, specifies that the Creator, blessed be He, swore the Jews not to occupy the Holy Land by force, even if it appears that they have the force to do so; and not rebel against the Nations. And the Creator warned that if His oath be desecrated, Jewish flesh would be "open property", like the animals in the forest!! These are words of our Torah; and these concepts have been cited in Maimonides' "Igeres Teimon", "Be'er HaGola", "Ahavas Yehonosson", and in "Toras Moshe" of the Chasam Sofer.


Yidden - merciful sons of merciful fathers - how much longer must holy Jewish blood continue to be shed??

The only solution is:

The Jewish people must reject, outright, a "Jewish State".

The Jewish people should accept the US compromise.

We must depose the atheist-Zionist "statesmen" from their role as Jewish leaders, and return to the faithful leadership of our sages.

We beseech the Nations to open all doors to immigration - not only the doors of Palestine.

Peaceful, non-Zionist religious personalities in Palestine, (particularly from the native population) and their counterparts in the Diaspora, should engage in responsible, face-to face negotiations on behalf of the Jewish people, with the British and the Arabs; with an aim of amicable settlement of the Palestine issue.

Every Jew is obliged to pray to the Blessed creator, for in Him lies all our strength. Let us bear in mind that our prayers be forthright. One should not entreat the Creator to provide a banquet on Yom Kippur, and one can not perform a ritual ablution with a dead bug in his hand. Similarly, we should avoid the untenable position of the robber who prays for Divine help in carrying out his crime. We should pray that Zionism and its fruits vanish from the Earth, and that we be redeemed by the Messiah with dispatch.

A prisoner is released only when he has served his time, or if he is pardoned by the President for good behavior. If he attempts escape and is apprehended, his term is lengthened, besides the beating he receives when he is caught.

Faithful Jews- for over three and one-half thousand years, in all parts of the world, through all trials, our grandfathers and grandmothers marched through seas of blood and tears in order to keep the Faith of the Torah unswervingly. If we have compassion for ourselves, for our women and children, and for the Jewish people, we will maintain our golden legacy today. We have been sentenced to exile by the King of Kings because of our sins. The eternal blessed be He, has decreed that we accept the exile with humble gratitude until the time comes, or until we merit His pardon through repentance if we seek to end the exile with force, G-d will catch us, as our sages have forewarned, and our sentence becomes longer and more difficult.

Many times in the past have segments of our people been defrauded by false messiahs - but none of the false messiahs has been as fallacious and delusory as the lie of Zionism. With our historical experience as our guide, no retribution has been or will be greater than the retribution for giving credence to Zionism. If we wish our exile-sentence commuted, we must appeal through repentance; and through total physical and spiritual observance of the Sabbath, laws of family purity, and study of Torah.

Let it be clearly understood that never in Jewish history (even in the time of Jeroboam or Achav) have such hostile atheists stood at the helm of he Jewish people as today.

How can we plead to the Almighty for mercy while we tolerate these vile, "wicked" leaders as spokesmen! Beloved brothers - let us cleanse our ranks and cleanse our midst; let us entreat the Almighty through prayer, repentance, and fulfillment of mitzvos that He alone redeem us, immediately.

Comment on this Article

Irish academics urge Israel boycott

Moran Zelikovich
24 Sept 06

61 Irish academics sign letter urging colleagues to boycott Israeli academic institutions in protest at 'Israel's policy of violent repression against the Palestinians'
About 61 Irish academics from all over the world have called for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions "until Israel abides by UN resolutions and ends the occupation of Palestinian territories."

The move marks the third attempt by European academics to shun their Israeli counterparts.

On September 12, the Irish Times published a letter signed by 61 academics urging academic institutions all over the world to boycott Israeli institutions of higher education.

"There is widespread international condemnation of Israel's policy of violent repression against the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, and its aggression against the people of Lebanon," the letter read.

"We feel it is time to heed the Palestinian call to take practical action to pressure Israel to comply with international law and basic human rights norms. Many national and European cultural and research institutions, including those funded by the EU regard Israel as a European state for the purposes of awarding grants and contracts," it continued.

"We call for a moratorium on any further such support to Israeli academic institutions, at both national and European levels. We urge our fellow academics to support this moratorium by refraining, where possible, from further joint collaborations with Israeli academic institutions. Such a moratorium should continue until Israel abides by UN resolutions and ends the occupation of Palestinian territories," the academics concluded.

Tamir doubts call will be heeded

Education Minister Yuli Tamir told Ynet: "I will check the issues and I will verify if they are lecturers who have influence. In the coming week I'll be flying to England for talks with lecturers and academics about the issue. The question is whether these lecturers have a say in the academic world or whether they don't. It is not pleasant, but not terrible. We don't want to make a big deal of it because this will give them a false status."

She added: "Until today boycott attempts have not affected Israel in real terms such as grant applications and so on. I never fell on an application for financial assistance that was rejected on the bases that it was sent from Israel ... Boycott attempts have not turned into a central movement, to the contrary - they only increased proposals for academic cooperation. The last British boycott turned out to have been initiated by a group of esoteric lecturers from whom many universities alienated themselves."

Prof Yosef Yeshurun Rector of Bar-Ilan University sent a letter to the European Union condemning the move by Irish academics as anti-Semitic.

"Academic boycott is not ethical and contravenes the principle of academic freedom," he wrote.

"Attempts to exclude Israel and Israeli academics for the purpose of isolation and demonization, overlooking history and decades of violence, are ethically unacceptable," Yeshurun wrote.

Yeshurun said the move contravenes the charter of the International Council for Science of which Israel is an honorary member.

Yeshurun's letter was also signed by Dr. Edward S. Beck, President of the Scholars for Peace in the Middle East body at Walden University in the United States.

Comment on this Article

Irish lecturers call on EU to boycott Israeli universities


Irish academics have called on the European Union in an open letter to impose a moratorium financial support to Israeli academic institutions until Israel ends the occupation in the Palestinian territories.

The call for the boycott, published last week in the Irish Times daily, came since according to its organizers "The Israeli government appears impervious to moral appeals from world leaders and to longstanding United Nations resolutions."

The letter was signed by 61 Irish academics.
"Academic boycotts are opposed to the international principle of academic freedom," said in response on Sunday Professor Yosef Yeshurun, Rector of Bar Ilan University.

According to Yeshurun, who heads The International Council for Academic Freedom, boycotts are designated to "isolate and demonize" Israel, and are "anti-Zionism that has turned into a form of anti-Semitism."

The call for imposing the moratorium came in the wake of a demand by Palestinian groups to impose an academic and cultural boycott on Israel.

In recent months there have been several other attempts at boycotting Israeli organizations.

In February, a group of British architects called to boycott companies involved in the construction of the West Bank separation fence; in August, film director Ken Loach announced he would not attend cultural events in Israel; and in early September, a joint British-Palestinian group of architects sought to ban Israelis from participating at the Venice Architecture Biennale.

Comment on this Article

Europe, the Far East, and the Defunct Empire

Europe, Japan Wean Themselves From Dependence on U.S. Consumers

By Shobhana Chandra and Matthew Benjamin

Sept. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Europe, Japan and emerging economies around the world are weaning themselves from dependence on the American consumer, and economists say it's just in time.
Demand in the world's largest economy is slowing as the U.S. housing market falters, a development that the International Monetary Fund on Sept. 14 called a key risk to global expansion. If so, it's a risk that the biggest exporting nations are better prepared to weather now than five years ago.

"Domestic demand in so many other parts of the world is picking up,'' says Jim O'Neill, head of global economic research at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in London. "If there ever was a good time for the U.S. to slow, this is it.''

The share of global exports purchased by U.S. consumers and businesses fell to 17.9 percent in 2005 from 21.8 percent in 2000 as demand increased in the European Union, Japan and emerging markets in Asia and Eastern Europe. Exporting nations in Europe and Asia are poised to grab a larger share of world markets with trade agreements that don't include the U.S.

The European Union said Sept. 9 it will seek bilateral trade deals with China and South Korea. In August, Japan proposed a 16- nation economic bloc, including 10 Southeast Asian nations, China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

"That will expand trade amongst these countries at the expense of trade with the U.S.,'' says Michael Mussa, a former International Monetary Fund chief economist who's now with the Institute for International Economics in Washington.

Largest Drivers

Of course the world is nowhere near becoming immune to the ups and downs of the U.S. economy, says Jay Bryson, global economist at Wachovia Corp. in Charlotte, North Carolina. "The U.S. is still one of the largest drivers of growth,'' Bryson says. "We're probably decades away from people saying the U.S. won't matter.''

The U.S. remains the biggest importer by far, buying $1.7 trillion in goods and services from the rest of the world last year, more than double the amount that second-place Germany took in, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, a London-based research company.

Still, says Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate economist who teaches at Columbia University in New York, "the U.S. is no longer the single pivotal player to world trade that it was, because China and India and other nations have become a major part of the engine of global growth the past five years.''

The 2001 U.S. recession struck a blow to the rest of the world. Taiwan's economy contracted 2.2 percent that year, its worst slump on record, as exports tumbled. The economies of Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand were hurt too. Recessions in Argentina and Mexico deepened, while growth in Germany and Italy slowed.

U.S. Slows, Others Expand

Now, as the U.S. decelerates, other economies are expanding. U.S. economic growth is expected to slow to 2.6 percent in the final three months of 2006 from 5.6 percent in the first quarter, according to a Bloomberg News survey of economists. Growth in consumer spending, representing more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy, will slow to 2.7 percent from the first quarter's 4.8 percent gain.

The euro region is on track this year for the fastest growth since 2000, led by Germany, Europe's largest economy. Domestic demand in Japan is reviving after seven years of deflation, and China's economy grew in the second quarter at the fastest rate in more than a decade.

"It is better for the U.S. not to be in a dominating position, and to have other countries rising faster,'' says Robert Kuhn, a senior adviser to Citigroup Inc. in New York and the author of "The Man Who Changed China: The Life and Legacy of Jiang Zemin.'' "Diversification will make the system more robust.''

China's Trade

China including Hong Kong has in the last three years overtaken the U.S. to become Japan's and South Korea's biggest trading partner. The share of Japanese exports purchased by the U.S. dropped to 22.9 percent last year from 30.1 percent in 2000. Some Japanese shipments to China, though, were unfinished goods ultimately destined for U.S. consumption.

Similarly, the proportion of European Union exports going to the U.S. declined to 7.9 percent last year from 9.1 percent in 2000. While important to trade for the 25-nation EU, the U.S. has lost its preeminence there, says European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet.

"As regards trade links, the United Kingdom is more important for the euro area than the United States,'' Trichet said in an Aug. 31 interview. "It also means that for the United Kingdom, the euro area is much more important than the United States.''

The picture is similar in Asia. The U.S. share of Asia's exports fell to 19.7 percent last year, from 24.5 percent in 2000.

"Intra-Asia trade for sure is expanding rapidly and Europe- China trade is booming,'' says Fred Bergsten, director of the Institute for International Economics in Washington.

Trade Talks

The stalemate in world trade talks may lead to an even faster proliferation of bilateral and regional free trade agreements. A new World Trade Organization deal to lower tariffs and open markets would have pumped at least $96 billion into the world economy, according to World Bank estimates. Its July collapse means a major pact among the 149 WTO members is unlikely before 2009, says Carlos Braga, senior trade adviser with the World Bank in Geneva.

The U.S. has signed deals with countries including Morocco, Nicaragua and El Salvador in an attempt to pressure WTO members into a worldwide agreement, a strategy former U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick termed "competitive liberalization.'' It hasn't worked, says Jagdish Bhagwati, a Columbia University economics professor and former WTO adviser.

'Piffling' Agreements

While the U.S. is lining up "piffling little bilateral agreements,'' says Bhagwati, "Asian free trade agreements are breaking out rapidly, and the U.S. is not part of it.''

A major Asian trade deal excluding the U.S. would divert $25 billion from U.S. trade in the first year and more over time as investment patterns change, says Bergsten. "That is already motivating the U.S. to beef up its own free trade agreements and perhaps try to go back to the WTO with a better offer,'' he says.

Demand building in developing nations is a major driver behind changing trade routes.

The so-called BRICs economies, Brazil, Russia, India and China, account for about 30 percent of world growth in the past five years, says O'Neill of Goldman Sachs.

"Domestic demand in so many parts of the world is picking up, and that's the biggest driver of world trade,'' O'Neill says. "As the BRICS become bigger, the world's exporters export more to them and less to the U.S.''

Comment on this Article

Hungary: end of goulash paradise, welcome to Budapest syndrome

Sergey Zhirnikhin
RIA Novosti commentator
26 Sept 06

MOSCOW - A television scene from Hungary - the building of the national TV is on fire, thousands of people are moving in chaos to the parliamentary square. They are chanting: "Resign, stop cheating, hail to 1956!"

Cars are ablaze; the armed-to-the-teeth police are dispersing the demonstrators. Who are they - skinheads, vandals, pogrom-makers? They are resisting fiercely, and there are wounded on both sides; mounted police; tear gas, sticks, and shields. Others are armed with bricks, and Molotov cocktails. Budapest University, which is my Alma Mater, is shut down like many other colleges - students are two volatile during any crisis.
The Pope is praying for peace and tranquility in Hungary. I cannot even believe what I'm seeing. I have studied and worked here for 20 years, and have never seen anything similar. It was a corner of stability in Eastern Europe, a "goulash paradise" during socialist construction. Without any social upheavals Hungary gradually and almost routinely turned into a quite European parliamentary democracy with a very decent standard of living for the entire post-socialist space. What happened with the genetic restraint of the Hungarians, which rested on their inalienable self-esteem, and failed them only when their destiny was at stake?

What have compelled the Hungarians to go into the streets now, on the very eve of the 50th anniversary of the 1956 revolution? And who are they? Do they stand for the legitimate resignation of the prime minister, whom the opposition denounces for impudence, or are they the criminal gang, who has sensed an opportunity for a gain?

Initially, many observers have confidently attributed peaceful demonstrations, riots and pogroms to the leak of the closed speech made by Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany to his Socialist Party associates. An informal Socialist leader, and a legal millionaire, he admitted that the government was just pretending to rule the country, while the Cabinet of Ministers had to cheat the nation round the clock about the real state of affairs in the economy, which was saved from total collapse only by the God's providence, a favorable global economic situation, and a thousand tricks.

Others see the main reason for the unrest in the Cabinet's announcement of a sharp rise in prices, and tariffs for gas and electricity. Economists point justifiably to an extremely high level of the already chronic deficit of the state budget, while sociologists are registering growing pessimism. Only one in four Hungarians is hoping to live better in the future.

Some of the opinions expressed in public discussions, the media, and the Internet seem to me quite radical. Some say that the appearance of the prime minister's secret speech in the media was his own inspired leak because he was trying to avoid an economic collapse, and get a free hand in carrying out unpopular reforms, which would tighten the belts of many social strata.

The proponents of the second radical version claim that the main rival of the Socialists, the leader of the Alliance of Young Democrats, and ex Prime Minister Viktor Orban is going all-out to take revenge for his loss to the Socialists and their partners in the government coalition at the latest parliamentary elections. His goal is the resignation of Ferenc Gyurcsany, who is popular with the Socialists and considerable part of the population, a government crisis, and establishment of the transitional non-party cabinet of ministers.

The third version is a peculiar mix of the first two. It was an inspired leak, and Viktor Orban is ready to go beyond the constitutional framework for his political ambitions, and the criminals are ready to catch fish in troubled waters.

My friends and co-students from Budapest University are now on different sides of the barricades. Some of them occupy high-ranking positions, which allow them to influence the actions of the main political rivals during the current events. Having finally got through to some of them on the phone, I heard almost endless requests to call later, and received some comments only on conditions of anonymity.

A high-ranking leader of the ruling Socialist Party said that rightwing radicals have inspired the riots in Budapest with tacit, if not open connivance of the Young Democrats, and involvement of criminal elements, and that the crisis will soon be overcome. Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany is very popular with the party and will retain his post. No one and nothing can change constitutionally the results of the elections and change the alignment of forces in parliament. "You say those who seized the TV building wanted to read an address to the nation? Do you know that one of their demands was to return the Fradi soccer club (as popular as the Moscow Spartak in Russia) into the higher league? What about the robbed and mucked up TV snack bar? What about stolen or spoilt office equipment? The police know them by name. They are popular figures within the criminal community. Are they bearers of social protest, political fighters? The head of state is a man of great courage. Let me remind you of his words: 'I don't know how this tape appeared and what for, but I do not regret what I said, and am not ashamed of it.' The gist of some phrases may change substantially if they are taken out of the context of a very emotional speech pronounced by a man in an expressive language before his associates and supporters. Last, but not the least, do you know a government, which would tell its nation the whole truth, no matter how awful it might be? Gyurcsany is calling on us to break the vicious circle. Despite all obstacles, we will carry out the announced program of economic stabilization," my interlocutor said.

The opposition is of contrary opinion. A high ranker from the Alliance of Young Democrats, who preferred to remain anonymous, told me, "The Prime Minister, who has cheated the nation all the way, has no moral right to retain his position by all divine and human laws. The same concerns his cabinet. Elections to the local bodies of government will take place in October, and if the Socialists lose them, they will have to give way to a transitional government to include experts without markedly expressed party affiliation. Subsequent parliamentary elections will put everything right. There is no reason to present tens of thousands of people in the streets of Budapest as cutthroats and criminals. They are simply demanding the resignation of the government of liars and hypocrites. The Alliance of Young Democrats has never backed the actions of radical elements. But social upheavals bring forth criminals as well. But this does not and will not determine the situation in Hungary," he said.

The events in Budapest continue unfolding. I recalled what the first post-socialist Prime Minister Jozef Antall told me years ago: "I wish Hungary never got front-paged by the world press." His wish did not come true.

One commentator said with good reason that a government's failure to honor its election commitments may be called 'the Budapest syndrome' in other countries. Following all these events Hungary may lose its 'goulash paradise,' a definition without irony. This is a pity.

There is an old Hungarian saying "let's pour pure water into the glass, and we'll feel better." Will this be the case? I don't know.

Comment on this Article

Propaganda? Beijing secretly fires lasers to disable US satellites

By Francis Harris in Washington
The UK Telegraph
26 Sept 06

China has secretly fired powerful laser weapons designed to disable American spy satellites by "blinding" their sensitive surveillance devices, it was reported yesterday.

The hitherto unreported attacks have been kept secret by the Bush administration for fear that it would damage attempts to co-opt China in diplomatic offensives against North Korea and Iran.

Sources told the military affairs publication Defense News that there had been a fierce internal battle within Washington over whether to make the attacks public. In the end, the Pentagon's annual assessment of the growing Chinese military build-up barely mentioned the threat.
"After a contentious debate, the White House directed the Pentagon to limit its concern to one line," Defense News said.

The document said that China could blind American satellites with a ground-based laser firing a beam of light to prevent spy photography as they pass over China.

According to senior American officials: "China not only has the capability, but has exercised it." American satellites like the giant Keyhole craft have come under attack "several times" in recent years.

Although the Chinese tests do not aim to destroy American satellites, the laser attacks could make them useless over Chinese territory.

The American military has been so alarmed by the Chinese activity that it has begun test attacks against its own satellites to determine the severity of the threat.

Satellites are especially vulnerable to attack because they have predetermined orbits, allowing an enemy to know where they will appear.

"The Chinese are very strategically minded and are extremely active in this arena. They really believe all the stuff written in the 1980s about the high frontier," said one senior former Pentagon official.

There has been increasing alarm in parts of the American military establishment over China's growing military ambitions.

Military experts have already noted that Chinese military expenditure is increasingly designed to challenge American military pre-eminence by investing in weaponry that can attack key systems such as aircraft carriers and satellites.

At the same time, China is engaged in a large-scale espionage effort against American high-tech firms working on projects such as the multibillion-pound DD(X) destroyer programme.

Several spy rings have been cracked and the FBI is increasing the number of counter-intelligence staff tracking the Chinese effort.

Comment on this Article

Romania and Bulgaria to join EU

Nicholas Watt, European editor, in Strasbourg
Tuesday September 26, 2006
Guardian Unlimited

The final stage in the EU's historic "big bang" enlargement of 2004 was completed today when the European commission announced that Romania and Bulgaria would be allowed to join on January 1 next year.

Jose Manuel Barroso, the commission president, told the European parliament in Strasbourg that the two countries had made sufficient progress to avoid any further delay to their membership.

The announcement closes the final chapter on the 2004 enlargement of the EU when eight former Warsaw Pact countries - plus Malta and Cyprus - joined.
Today's announcement means that every Warsaw Pact country outside the former Soviet Union - bar Albania - will be a member the EU by January 1 2007. So far only three former Soviet republics - the Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia - have been allowed in.

"This is the genuine and final fall of the Berlin wall for Bulgaria," the Bulgarian prime minister, Sergei Stanishev, declared in Sofia.

The EU delayed Romania and Bulgaria's EU membership by nearly three years amid deep concerns about their failure to crack down on organised crime and corruption - and fears about their criminal justice systems.

Such fears were highlighted today when the commission announced that it would impose a series of restrictions on both countries, with the toughest penalties falling on Bulgaria.

In a "monitoring report" on the progress made by the two countries, the commission expresses particular unease about Bulgaria. "Contract killings of persons rarely result in successful investigations and prosecutions," it says.

"Ilegal possession of firearms remains a problem. The number of cases prosecuted successfully related to trafficking of human beings, drug smuggling, money laundering, counterfeiting of goods, currency and documents is still low.

"Organised crime continues to be a problem ... Overall, certain mechanisms have been put in place which should facilitate the fight against organised crime. However, there are insufficient tangible results in investigating and prosecuting organised crime cases."

Romania is criticised, though less harshly. "A consistent interpretation and application of the law at all levels of courts throughout the country has not been fully ensured," the report says.

"Romania has continued to make progress in fighting corruption ... There needs to be a clear political willingness of all political actors to demonstrate the sustainability and irreversibility of the recent positive progress in the fight against corruption."

The commission is so concerned by the slow progress of reform that it has set Romania and Bulgaria a set of benchmarks - with a demand for a first report by the end of March next year.

Bulgaria will have to prove in its report that it has removed "any ambiguity regarding the independence and accountability of the judicial system" and conduct "professional, non-partisan investigations into allegations of high-level corruption".

Romania faces less strict benchmarks, which include more transparency in its judicial system. If either country fails, it will be excluded from EU business in the areas covered by the benchmarks.

Today's commission report, which will now go to EU foreign ministers, who have the final say, is mainly focused on crime and the judiciary, but other areas of concern are highlighted. Both countries are warned that they could see cuts in valuable agricultural payments unless they improve their payment systems.

But Bulgaria is given a particularly strong warning that its planes will be banned from EU airspace unless it improves safety. "Non-complying Bulgarian carriers may be added to the EU list of banned carriers," the report says.

The strong criticisms in today's report will strengthen the hand of critics who say that Romania and Bulgaria are not ready to join the EU. But the commission will argue that allowing them to join in January - given that its only sanction is a year long delay until 2008 - is the best way of encouraging reform. A delay would, the commission believes, be a gift to EU critics in Romania and Bulgaria.

The guarded commission report comes amid a growing sense across the EU of what is being dubbed "enlargement fatigue". Mr Barroso set down a significant marker on Monday when he said that the EU cannot expand any further - once Romania and Bulgaria have joined - until it works out what to with the comatose EU constitution.

The EU's rules are currently covered by the Nice treaty, which sets a cap on the number of members at 27. This will be reached in January. Croatia, which is next in line to join, will now have to wait until the EU decides what to do with its constitution.

Comment on this Article

Longevity is deepening deficits, says pension regulator

Phillip Inman
Tuesday September 26, 2006
The Guardian

Britain's pensions deficit could be larger than official figures suggest because workers are living longer than predicted, the regulator said yesterday.

Employers, already under pressure to plug deficits in their final-salary schemes, could be forced to inject further finance into their retirement funds to honour obligations to staff, said David Norgrove, who chairs the pensions regulator board.
He said recent figures suggested employers were underestimating the life expectancy of their workforce. Recent data showed workers were living two years longer than current estimates and the estimates were probably out of date.

Mr Norgrove urged employers to look more closely at the likely longevity of their own workers to gain a more accurate picture of life expectancy.

Companies are not obliged under the accounting rule FRS17 to undertake a separate review of life expectancy themselves. They tend to follow industry estimates calculated by firms of actuaries.

However, the regulator's comments are likely to add to the pressure on employers to limit further their exposure to final-salary schemes. Most firms have closed their schemes to new members.

Some financial experts said a demand to fill the deficits opened up by projections of increased life expectancy could push more employers to take the "nuclear" option and close such schemes to all employees.

Mr Norgrove's comments follow a series of statements from investors and taxpayer groups claiming that official figures underestimate the size of deficits in the private and public sectors.

A recent report by the Institute of Economic Affairs, a rightwing thinktank, argued that the increasing life expectancy, coupled with falling investment returns and low interest rates, had increased the public-sector pension deficit by a quarter to more than £1 trillion. The deficit in the private sector is estimated to be about £100bn on liabilities of £900bn.

Mr Norgrove told a pensions seminar in Brighton that a recent study of 207 companies by the consultancy KPMG showed that among companies in some sectors there was up to nine years difference in assumed life expectancy.

In a recent analysis, the actuaries Lane Clark & Peacock looked at the life-expectancy assumptions made by the 33 companies in the FTSE 100 that reported longevity figures in their accounts.

He said: "The average assumption was for a man retiring at 60 to live to about 85, with three companies assuming 82 or under. Only two companies used a figure consistent with what's known as the medium cohort projection, which places the figure at 87."

Comment on this Article

Mau Mau veterans to sue over British 'atrocities'

By Anthony Mitchell in Meru, Kenya
26 September 2006

Ten Kenyans detained during the Mau Mau independence uprising 50 years ago are seeking compensation in British courts for alleged atrocities.

One of the men, Mucheke Kioru, says he was tortured, starved and beaten while in a British-run detention camp, where he was held for smuggling food and weapons for rebels.

British officials said the Government would contest the case vigorously. Lawyers say that if the claim is successful it will open the floodgates to thousands who claim they also suffered.
"My life was ruined," Mr Kioru said, recalling the day, as a 23-year-old labourer, when he was rounded up and detained for four years without charge during Operation Anvil in 1954, a brutal military offensive launched by Britain to crush the Mau Mau uprising. He said he was forced to stand neck high in water for days at a time; had raw sewage pumped into his body - contracting typhoid as a result - and was severely beaten. He was left in constant pain and suffering frequent nightmares. The British also confiscated his family's farm, he said.

Kenya's Human Rights Commission believes 90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured or maimed during the crackdown and 160,000 were detained in appalling conditions.

"This was a dark period in British history," said Martyn Day, a British human rights lawyer hired by the Kenyan Human Rights Commission to represent the Mau Mau veterans.

He believes the case could also have implications for the US over its role in Iraq, Afghanistan and the treatment of prisoners at the US detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Mr Day will lodge the case at the High Court in London on 20 October - a Kenyan public holiday marking the beginning of the uprising when 180 independence leaders were seized. Legal papers will also be served on the British Government claiming the UK was responsible for atrocities during its rule. Judges are expected to fix a date for a legal hearing.

It is not clear that Britain can be sued so long after the alleged abuses. Charley Williams, a spokeswoman for the British embassy in Kenya, said all claims of government responsibility were passed to the Kenyan government at independence. "We would defend the case in this matter vigorously although we would wait to see the details before deciding on what approach we would take."

If the case does go to trial, among those who will give evidence is the American academic Caroline Elkins, author of the 2006 novel Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya. She said: "The British tried to cover up systematic abuse and have to take responsibility for what happened." But she warnedthat it was a "political hot potato" that could raise tensions in both countries.

Mucheke Kioru, 75, lives in a one-room wooden hovel and works as a watchman guarding a small farm for a wage of £7 a month.

"I fought for freedom only to be shackled by poverty, nightmares and to die a lonely old man, unable to have a wife or children," he said. "That is my legacy of independence."

Comment on this Article

Royalty and revolution: The absolute monarch - Thailand's coup was organised by the army, but it would never have succeeded without the support of a king whose power is unquestioned.

Justin Huggler
UK Independent
25 Sept 06

Today, most of Thailand will be wearing an identical costume: a bright yellow T-shirt with a collar and an elaborate crest emblazoned on the chest. They do this every Monday: an entire country puts on what has become an unofficial national uniform, completely voluntarily. The lurid costume would not be considered flattering by Western tastes, but it is not a fashion statement. It is a statement of loyalty to Thailand's king.
The T-shirts were given out free earlier this year to mark the 60th anniversary of the accession to the throne of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He was born on a Monday, and so intense is Thailand's devotion to him that the whole country has now taken to wearing them, without fail, every Monday. Some Thais have gone even further: they have managed to get their hands on several identical T-shirts, so they can wear them every day.

Last week's military coup has thrust King Bhumibol, the world's longest reigning monarch, back into the political spotlight after he endorsed the group of senior generals who have seized power. On Wednesday, the day after the coup, a large crowd of Thais gathered next to the tanks which had taken up position outside government buildings. At first it looked as if they were there to protest, and soldiers were eyeing them warily. But then the royal motorcade came into view, and it became clear why the people were there. They had not come to demonstrate against the sudden overthrow of democracy: they had come to try to catch a glimpse of the King as he drove by.

It was far longer than a British royal motorcade, or that of a US president. To the onlookers' disappointment, the police said the Crown Prince and not the King was inside the old cream-coloured Rolls-Royce which looked somewhat out of place amid the ultra-modern skyscrapers of Bangkok.

It was followed by an extraordinary number of Mercedes and BMWs, all in royal red with a crest on the side, that seemed to be there for no other reason than to swell the procession. The motorcade must have added up to £1m worth of cars. Traffic was stopped by police so it could pass. People stood respectfully to attention in the streets.

It was a glimpse of the power and mystique of King Bhumibol. Even though he is a constitutional monarch, with almost no official powers, the events of the last week have shown that he is still the real power in Thailand.

The televised ceremony in which he endorsed the coup leader, General Sondhi Boonyaratglin, was another insight into his grip on the country. Bhumibol did not even have to turn up. Instead, General Sondhi, in full ceremonial regalia, knelt and prostrated himself before a picture of the King.

No one has suggested this implies the King was not wholeheartedly behind it. That is just the way they do things here.

This is a king who plays jazz saxophone to relax, and used to give concerts to his people. He has played live with the late jazz musician Benny Goodman, who said that if he weren't a king he'd give him a place in his band. Bhumibol holds the patents to several agricultural inventions, and is said to drive himself around Bangkok secretly at night to see how his people live. But at the same time, he commands such devotion that Thais do not dare look him in the eye: they address the dust beneath his feet.

Bhumibol wrote a biography of his favourite pet dog, Thong Daeng, when she died. You can imagine a British royal doing the same - what's harder to imagine is Prince Charles writing the sort of social parable Bhumibol's book was. "Tongdaeng is a respectful dog with proper manners; she is humble and knows protocol," he wrote. "She would always sit lower than the King; even when he pulls her up to embrace her, Tongdaeng would lower herself down on the floor, her ears in a respectful drooping position, as if she would say, 'I don't dare'."

Most Thais say the one thing that made them accept last week's coup was Bhumibol's endorsement. Almost the first thing you see at Bangkok airport is a sign saying "We love our King", and people say the same thing on the streets. Almost all of those we interviewed this week, whether they supported the coup or not, said they backed the King.

On the other hand, of course, it is illegal to say anything else. Thailand is one of very few countries in the world that still enforces lèse-majesté laws. Say anything remotely critical of the King or the royal family, and it could land you a lengthy prison sentence. And there are Thai social activists who can testify from their own bitter experience that those laws are enforced.

When an American journalist, Paul Handley, published an unauthorised biography of Bhumibol, The King Never Smiles, earlier this year, the Thai government banned it and blocked its page on the Yale University Press's website. But then, it also banned an earlier biography by William Stevenson, who was granted hundreds of hours to interview Bhumibol, and who says it was the King who suggested he write the book in the first place. Thai newspapers were told they weren't even to mention Stevenson's book in print.

All the same, there is no doubt that Bhumibol's immense popularity among Thais is genuine. Nobody makes them wear those yellow T-shirts. And there are many Thais, respected university professors among them, who will tell you they would die for their king. So it was no surprise that the generals who seized power last week were so eager to stress that they had the King's backing. They even ordered Thai newspapers to refer to their junta as the "Council for Democratic Reform under the Constitutional Monarchy".

But that is where it gets tricky. Because Bhumibol is widely considered, both in Thailand and internationally, as the man who has safeguarded and overseen the country's transition to democracy. When he came to the throne at the age of 18, the generals who were then running the country told him to keep his mouth shut. He outlasted them and, at several critical moments since, intervened in attempted coups on the side of democracy. Western newspapers have eulogised him for it.

Yet last week he personally endorsed a coup that overturned 15 years of stable democracy, and turned his country - the West's key ally in the region - back into a military dictatorship.

"There are two schools of thought," said one Thai observer who preferred not to be named in view of the strict laws of the country. "One is that the King has backed the coup for sake of stability. The other is that he is a part of this coup. Personally, I tend to the former."

There was no love lost between Bhumibol and the deposed Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. As one Western observer put it, the coup was "the culmination of months of shadow boxing between the palace and the Prime Minister".

Whatever his true feelings about the coup, Bhumibol has always trod a more subtle path than outright backing for democracy, and preserving the monarchy has always been as much of a priority as democracy. As a younger brother, he never expected to accede to the throne, and inherited it in 1946 under dramatic circumstances that have never been fully explained, when his brother, King Ananda Mahidol, was found dead in his bedroom, with a gunshot wound to the head. Bhumibol was studying in Switzerland at the time, and because of his youth, his uncle was appointed regent.

The young man had not inherited a throne with the immense influence he wields today. The Thai monarchy had been weakened through long years of military dictatorship under Field Marshal Pibulsonggram, and the generals made it clear to the young king who was in charge. "When I opened my mouth, they'd say, 'Your Majesty, you don't know anything'," he has recalled. "So I shut my mouth. I know things, but I shut my mouth." So Bhumibol threw himself into another role, devoting hours to agricultural research and national development, and beginning to build the immense popularity he enjoys today.

In 1957 he got his chance. When a rival general moved against Field Marshal Pibulsonggram, the young King advised the dictator to resign to avoid a coup. Pibulsonggram refused, and his rival seized power, endorsed by Bhumibol. The country was still a military dictatorship, but Bhumibol had made the monarchy count again.

In 1973, he asserted himself dramatically. There had been massive protests and the army had killed many student demonstrators. Bhumibol opened the gates of his palace to the fleeing students and gave them sanctuary. It was a decisive moment that overturned the military dictatorship.

But in 1976, Bhumibol went the other way, as the military seized power again. The army went into the universities and massacred hundreds of students, but Bhumibol sided with the military. Analysts believe he may have done so because of the advance of communism across south-east Asia, which had just wiped out the royal family in Laos.

In 1992, Bhumibol played a decisive role in the country's peaceful transition to democracy. There was considerable violence after the military had been called in to quell popular protests. Neither side would back down and the situation was critical. Bhumibol summoned both the military leader of the time, and the leader of the democracy movement, to his palace. Forcing both to kneel and prostrate themselves before him in a televised audience, he scolded them in front of the nation. It was the end of the crisis, and Thailand became a peaceful democracy - until last week, when Bhumibol appears unexpectedly to have backed the military. As recently as April he refused to intervene in the burgeoning crisis, after opponents of Mr Thaksin boycotted a general election and asked the King to appoint an alternative prime minister.

Now he has intervened, though whether his hand was forced by events is not clear. What the long-term effects will be remain to be seen. Earlier this year, the King of Nepal saw his throne stripped of nearly all its powers after his ill-fated attempt to seize back power for himself. Bhumibol is far more popular on a personal level in Thailand than King Gyanendra was in Nepal, but reverence for the institution of monarchy was similar.

At the age of 78, celebrating his 60th year on the throne, Bhumibol is back in the thick of Thai politics.

Comment on this Article


A Rock In His Boot

Charley Reese

Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, is certainly a sharp rock in the cowboy boot of President George W. Bush and therefore a prime candidate for the Bush administration's main tool of foreign policy - regime change.

That's just a bureaucratic phrase that means overthrowing somebody else's government. Two attempts have already been tried, but both failed. Chavez is neither a dictator nor a stupid man.

As I've said before, I listened to two long speeches by Chavez, both to foreign audiences. Like most Latin politicians, he's a bit wordy for my taste, but I've never heard him say anything that a decent American could take issue with. However, as for Bush being the devil, as Chavez said at the United Nations last week, I'm not sure I agree with him on that point. I've always thought of the devil as a very smart chap.

Chavez is a socialist, as are several of our European allies, and since the president is not trying to overthrow those European governments, I assume the problem with Venezuela is not socialism. Chavez is, of course, trying hard to end poverty and illiteracy, and that might well strike a lot of rich people as "destabilizing."
"Destabilizing" is the sin of last resort when American politicians can't come up with any credible sin that some person they don't like has actually committed. Oh, he's destabilizing the region, Condi Rice, our esteemed secretary of state, says.

I don't know how supplying medical care and education to poor people and giving poorer countries loans and a break on the price of oil can be called destabilizing, but that's all Chavez is doing. He is opposed not to America and Americans, but to the American empire. I go along with that. The world and America were much better places before our politicians got jealous of the European empires and decided the U.S. needed an empire, too.

The Spanish-American War was our grab for empire, and all the wars we've been in since have been imperial wars. World War I was a clash of European empires, and World War II in Europe was a continuation of that clash. World War II in the Pacific was a clash between Japan, which wanted an empire, and the British, French, Dutch and American empires already in the Pacific. The Cold War, with its little hot wars, was a struggle between the American empire and the Soviet empire. The ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are also about empire, not democracy.

Lying, by the way, is a characteristic of empires and imperial wars. For Bush to refer to Afghanistan and Iraq as successful democracies is a lie. The first duty of any government is to provide security for its citizens. Neither the government in Kabul nor the one in Baghdad can do that. Any government that requires the continued presence of foreign soldiers to stay in power is illegitimate.

Well, if you are into praying, you might want to add a prayer for Chavez. The federal government has some really vicious war dogs on its payroll. I fear as soon as the CIA finally realizes that Chavez is a sure bet to win the December election, these dogs of war will be unleashed.

I have a feeling Chavez will prove to be a tragic figure. He's a good man and sincere about wanting to end illiteracy and improve the lives of the people of his region. He's a bit naive, though. I don't share his enthusiasm for Fidel Castro or Daniel Ortega, and I don't believe Chavez understands the immense power and malice of the people who would like to see him dead.

Maybe he'll be lucky. I hope so. In the meantime, by God, I'll be glad when Bush leaves office so I will hopefully have an administration I can support. I don't mind being a dissenter, but I truly wish that just once in a while, Bush would say or do something honest and decent that I could support. I'm beginning to feel like a foreigner in my own country.

Comment on this Article

Le Monde, France: To Oppose U.S. on Iran, France Attends to Putin

Translated By William Kern
September 24, 2006

In the service of his economic strategy and his ambition to see Russian companies improve their position abroad, Vladimir Putin employs the same methods perfected since he first took power, and which account for much of his previous success within the KGB: dissimulation, intimidation and the struggle for power.
He didn't warn [French President] Jacques Chirac of his intention to initiate the attack on EADS [the European aerospace consortium] stock. Neither did he consult the Europeans before Russia's state-owned Gazprom, in true high-handed fashion, decided to cut gas supplies to Ukraine last January 1, which resulted in disturbances to Europe's energy supply. And similarly, Mr. Putin has committed himself to a gas consortium with Algeria, which could in the long term curtail Europe's capacity to diversify its supply, and will require the E.U. to engage in further dialogue with Mr. Putin.

[Editor's Note: Earlier this month, a Russian state-controlled bank bought a 5.02 percent stake in EADS, Europe's leading aerospace and defense group and parent company of Airbus. Russian officials indicated then that the government hoped to increase its stake.]

It was thus a Russian president on the offensive that Jacques Chirac welcomed on Saturday, September 23. The tripartite Franco-German-Russian meeting also took place with the presence of [German] Chancellor Angela Merkel. On the French side, everything possible has been done to blur the differences that the Kremlin chief might wish to employ in his desire to restore Russian power. Mr. Chirac sees Vladimir Putin's Russia as a friendly country, for which criticism must be curtailed. It is a question of believing in Putin's desire to play a constructive role in resolving a number of questions: the continent's energy security; the proximity of Europe to Ukraine and Belarus; the resolution of "cold conflicts" and the status of Kosovo.

When meeting Mr. Putin, Jacques Chirac values the three-way France-Germany-Russia format. The grouping's highest level of cooperation came in 2003, when it acted as the "face of refusal" against launching the Iraq War. Angela Merkel has been the most reticent to take part. She questions the relevance and the impact of these meetings between "major" states, which relegates the remainder of the European Union to the sidelines. There has been little progress in formulating a coherent European policy that would help arrive at a mutually beneficial arrangement with Russia. And the lack of a more general Europe-wide energy policy has given Mr. Putin an opening to advance his pawns.

Now that the powerful Silvio Berlusconi and Gerhard Schroeder have left the scene, Jacques Chirac is the only European leader willing to shower the Russian president with attention. And ultimately, what drives this preoccupation is the need to maintain good cooperation with Moscow on Iran's nuclear file. Against the United States.

Comment on this Article

Financial Times Deutschland, Germany: George Bush Like Napoleon in His Day

By Washington Correspondent Thomas Klau
Translated by Bob Skinner
September 16, 2006

An entire U.S. division or over 15,000 troops must be shifted to western Iraq if Anbar Province is to be wrested from the increasing influence of al-Qaeda. Dressed up as a report on the situation, this is how the call for emergency assistance read from Pete Devlin, commander of Marine Corps intelligence in Anbar Province. In August, Devlin conveyed this SOS to Washington's war planners, who responded by sending not more soldiers, but less. In the Pentagon, the decision was taken to dedicate additional troops to oppose the growing civil war in Baghdad, among other things including units that had been promised to the Marines in western Iraq.
Every month it's confirmed that those officers, who before the occupation had calculated troop requirements of several hundred thousand, were correct. The laboriously negotiated creation of a "government of national unity" three months ago had been celebrated by the White House as a turning point; but now after all that has been heard from Iraq, it would be better described as a turning point in its deterioration. Hope is diminishing that the U.S. armed forces and the Iraqi security forces can reverse the situation. Statements by prominent Sunnis, Shiites and Islamic extremists suggest that the warring parties are far from tired. On the contrary. According to a recent statement by a trusted friend of the terrorist Moqtada al Sadr, after the U.S. departs, a year of civil war will be required for the Shiite majority to establish a regime based on Sharia law.


Meanwhile, within neo-conservative circles demands are circulating that the project to democratize the Middle East by force be saved by a substantial reinforcement of troops. But like so many of the Neo-cons' shattered dreams, this request is detached from reality. Even if President George W. Bush suddenly had a flash of insight that his occupation strategy has failed, he has neither the soldiers nor the political capital to implement a doubling of American troop strength in Iraq, particularly because no one can guarantee that more soldiers on the Euphrates and Tigris would result in the desired pacification. Result: If the situation can't be stabilized with current force levels, ignominious retreat of the U.S. from a nation overrun by chaos is only a matter of time.

The Iraq War is unpopular in the U.S. and only a minority believe government assertions that September 11 forced the invasion of that nation. In speech after speech, Bush seeks the support of voters with what to Iraqis is an inconceivably cynical statement: That it's better to fight international terrorists on the streets of Baghdad, because by tying them up there, no attacks will be perpetrated against America. The cruelty of this logic as far as the inhabitants of Baghdad are concerned is not on the U.S. agenda, because Americans quite naturally and naively accept that if such is the price of protecting their homeland and their own people, the deaths of foreigners should not be an obstacle.

As long as a large minority of Americans foes along with the arguments of the President, as long as there's a spark of hope for an improvement of the situation in Iraq, Bush might manage to withstand the calls for a troop withdrawal for the duration of his term of office. But the debate over the whys and the wherefores of America's operational readiness in Iraq has begun. In November, the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate face re-election; the demand for a retreat from Iraq is an issue with which many Democratic candidates hope to score. If the Democrats win a majority in one or both houses of Congress, the debate over withdrawal may dominate politics in the coming year. And at the latest, it will be the main topic of the 2008 Presidential election, requiring each candidate for the White House, as a potential Commander-in-Chief, to take a clear position.


In light of the developments in Iraq and the political almanac in the U.S., if the Americans hold out for two or three more years, the result of their adventure seems preordained. The Americans will withdraw if the country is not stabilized. American foreign policy would be faced with a debacle, the effects of which could exceed those of the Vietnam War. The ignominious departure from Saigon in 1975 RealVideo opened a period of American introspection and left Vietnam to the communists. American failure in Iraq could shake fragile borders and power structures all over the Middle East. It would give Islamic fundamentalists the sort of propaganda victory that, five years ago, Osama bin Laden could have only dreamed of.

The exact consequences of a longer civil war or even a collapse in Iraq for countries like Turkey, Jordan, Iran, Egypt or Saudi Arabia cannot be measured. It is clear, however, that America would need years to get over its own failure and to find its way back to the high regard it enjoyed after its victory over the Soviets. It also seems clear who would push its way into the developing leadership vacuum: Such a defeat of America would occur at a time in which the equally ambitious and skilled strategists in China plan to elevate their country to superpower status.

The failure is more devastating still than Napoleon's defeat in Russia, after a carelessly planned occupation of Spain, 200 years ago. "This calamitous war in Spain was the root of the problem, the main cause of the misfortune that later swept over France," complained the emperor after he abdicated. The failure of the Iraqi occupation could mean the end of America's dream of making the 21st century another age of U.S. imperium.

[Editor's Note: In 1808, after dethroning King Charles IV of Spain, Napoleon made his brother Joseph Bonaparte king of the country. The Spanish, however, rose up and drove Joseph out of Madrid. A war between the French and Spanish then took place, known as the Peninsular War (fought from 1808 to 1814). The French were eventually defeated, suffering huge losses which severely dented the size of Napoleon's army in Russia where Napoleon was famously and ultimately defeated at Waterloo, in present-day Belgium].

Comment on this Article

Le Figaro, France: At the United Nations, Chirac and Bush 'Diverge' Over Iran

By Alain Barluet
Translated By Mike Goeden
September 20, 2006

Once again, and perhaps not surprisingly, France and the United States don't quite see eye-to-eye over Iran.
Having strongly opposed one another in the past, a certain bond has formed between Jacques Chirac and George W. Bush over the years. This was evident during their meeting in New York alongside the U.N. General Assembly yesterday morning.

In the opinion of both leaders' entourages, they've long since made amends. Following a period of mutual defiance, the two nations' historical legacy, shared values and solid common interests have served to swing the pendulum of transatlantic relations and restore confidence. However, the smiling mask of courtesy and warm words worn by both men continually threatens to fall off and reveal a less rosy reality. Yesterday, first at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel where their meeting took place and later at the U.N. tribunal where they each gave a speech, it became apparent through their declarations that neither one has in any way abdicated his beliefs or surrendered an inch on policy. Their respective approaches continue to diverge considerably on the most important issues facing the world today.

Such is the case with respect to Iran. Yesterday, Jacques Chirac reminded his American counterpart of his proposal, formulated the day earlier on Europe 1 [a French radio station], which is meant to exploit recent "tremors" provoked by this issue and "seeks a solution" to this crisis. The French President's plan first calls for the scheduling of a series of talks between Iran and the "U.N. Six" (the Security Council's five permanent members, plus Germany). The latter would subsequently renounce bringing the issue before the Security Council, while the Iranians would suspend their enrichment of uranium during the talks. From this perspective, the French President declined to set a deadline for possible sanctions should the Iranians not comply. Though awaiting clarification, the French proposal undoubtedly surprised certain of President Bush's advisors. The White House, which has never formally ruled out the use of force against Iran, demands a complete halt to uranium enrichment as a necessary precondition to any talks. Yesterday, Jacques Chirac's aides minimized their differences with the Americans, speaking only of a "difference in tone" and denying any negotiation with the Iranians outside the U.N.

But the French approach has clearly changed. The presence of 2,000 French soldiers serving as U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon encourages greater prudence in dealing with Teheran. In addition, Iran's methodic progress toward mastering the atom is increasingly regarded as a fait accompli. They've already won the first round. The Europeans, led by the French, consider that the second round cannot be won without negotiations. A senior French diplomat argues that "imposing sanctions would steer us straight into a wall." The subject was supposed to have been raised at a dinner for the diplomatic heads of the U.N. Six plus Italy, but the French have emphasized the difficulty of imposing monetary sanctions within the framework of the European Union.


George W. Bush, who was careful not to cross paths with [Iran's President] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the corridors of the U.N. yesterday, once again allowed for the possibility of sanctions. But he also stated that "the time has come for the Iranians to sit down at the bargaining table." Thus, the Americans are placing a double bet. First, on talks led by the Europeans and in which Washington could later decide to participate. Second, on the threat of sanctions should negotiations fail; this would allow the American President to retain his hard-line stance before the coming midterm elections.

Jacques Chirac remains convinced that George W. Bush will need the Europeans. "By declaring war on the axis of evil in 2001, the American president put a definitive end to the unipolar world," points out an influential diplomat close to Jacques Chirac. The Americans, he explains, now realize that they cannot handle such crises alone. From this perspective, Chirac congratulates himself for having been right with regard to Iraq and is confident of having "convinced" George W. Bush of Lebanon's strategic importance in the Middle East.

"Our relationship with the United States will never be one of submission," he declared Monday, in a gibe aimed at [French Interior Minister] Nicolas Sarkozy. [Sarkozy wants Chirac's job]. In line with this credo, the President of the Republic took the opportunity during his speech to the U.N., the last of his mandate, to disagree with George W. Bush.

True, both called in unison for the UN to act in Darfur, to which the Americans have named a special envoy. But by pleading in favor of multilateralism, a peace conference for the Middle East and creating a United Nations for the environment, as well as by inaugurating Unitaid, an international drug purchase program for the poor, Jacques Chirac had a few digs at the United States.

Comment on this Article

Tunis Hebdo, Tunisia: George W. and Tony B. Shed 'Crocodile Tears' Over Darfur

By T.H.
Translated By Sandrine Ageorges
September 18 – September 24 Issue

The United States of America, Great Britain, Israel and their Western allied have intensified the pressure on the Sudanese government to accept an international force in Darfur to replace African troops presently on the scene. To this end, American-Zionist "non-governmental" organizations have set up protests in fifty countries for a day baptized "International Day of Solidarity with the People of Darfur."
The Khartoum government and the Sudanese people, by a crushing majority, categorically oppose the presence of foreign troops other than African Union troops presently on its territory. They believe that the real intention of America and its allies is to execute a secret plan to divide up the county within the framework of their regional strategy.

A first stage of this plan is already unfolding, with the recently agreed to autonomy of South Sudan. According to information emerging from this region, there is now a massive presence of American instructors there, training future officers of the South Sudanese army.

Informed observers are astonished at Washington's stubborn desire to replace African Union troops with a U.N. peacekeeping force which would be comprised only of NATO and Israeli soldiers.

If they really wanted to assist the population of Darfur and relieve them of their misery, the Americans wouldn't need to require the immediate departure of those troops already in place. The most logical way to help would be to reinforce and supply them logistically and financially.

It is true that the province of Darfur, in the West of Sudan, has been subject to serious hostilities since 2003. But not on a level that would justify being the number one priority of a George Bush or a Tony Blair, who are already bogged down elsewhere. In the case of Darfur, have the U.S. President and British Prime Minister, who have subjected Iraq and Afghanistan to a horrific sea of fire involving the deaths of thousands of children, women and old men, suddenly rediscovered a moral direction in life that had been dozing within?

When the occupant of No. 10 Downing Street says that the Darfur question will remain "at the top of his agenda," one cannot help but smile, even if the drama in Darfur truly encourages one to cry ...

Comment on this Article

Daily Sun, Nigeria: Global Goodwill Over September 11 Turns to Outrage

By Lindsay Barret
September 14, 2006

It is highly unlikely that anyone of sound mind or basic human compassion, who witnessed what occurred in New York on September 11th 2001, could ever forget it or find reason to justify it. Similarly, we have always defended the anger and resistance of the Palestinian people, who have been dehumanized and disenfranchised by the disembowelment of their sovereignty in order to create a homeland for the Jews, and by the hypocrisy of the West.
We also acknowledge that the Jews had been equally dehumanized and disenfranchised in other parts of the world. Nevertheless, we have constantly warned that the use of extreme methods of terror to protest or challenge a crime against a people, rather than alleviate the problem, aggravates it. Our belief remains that when a great crime is perpetrated in the name of revenge or expiation, it diminishes the cause that it is supposed to justify.

I felt that the 9-11 events generated just such a diminishment. In spite of U.S. support of Israel's devastation of Palestine, the attacks created more sympathy for the American power mongers. These criminal acts, which the terrorists sought to justify as vengeance for the deeply wounded Palestinian people, only served to damage the Palestinian cause.

[Editor's Note: Actually, according to a 'fatwa' issued by al-Qaeda, the Palestinian cause is only one of a number of motives for the attacks RealVideo].

On that day, the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Presidents Khatami of Iran and Saddam Hussein of Iraq, were among the first Middle East leaders to express sorrow and distress over the event. Yasser Arafat even offered his own blood to the wounded.

Five years later, Yasser Arafat has been hounded to death by Israeli firepower and the physical blockade of his home; Iran is described by America's President George Bush as "a center of evil and America's greatest enemy in the Middle East," and Iraq, poor Iraq, lies in ruins. What has happened?

We're not by any stretch of the imagination suggesting that Saddam Hussein's well documented acts of brutality against certain segments of his own people were vindicated by his expressions of sympathy for America's tragedy. Subsequent events have shown that good intentions sometimes do more harm than good, if these are what America's invasion of Iraq was based on. In seeking to rid Iraq of its dictator, America has devastated that nation's population far worse that the way the terror attacks of September 11 did to the people of the United States. There is simply no justice in America's attack against people who didn't attack them and in fact, who truly sympathized with the people of the United States, since Iraqis considered Osama bin Laden their common enemy.

The tale that Iraq was attacked in retaliation for 9-11 has become one of the greatest falsehoods of all time. During the recent memorial events in New York, one American protestor who turned up to question the Bush Administration's record since the terror strike carried a banner that said simply and devastatingly: "You Intended to Attack Iraq Before 9-11."

Mr. Bush and his closest collaborators have repeatedly denied this, but more and more people have come to believe it. Over 2,700 people died in America as a result of the September 11 terrorist attack, and not all of them white American Christians. Among the haunting images of the grief-stricken among those who lost their loved ones, many were immigrant Muslims, several hundred were African-Americans, and it cannot be forgotten that a number of Nigerians lost their lives in the World Trade Towers. To date, 2,600 Americans have died in Iraq, and at the present rate of violence far more Americans will have died in Iraq and Afghanistan by the time the year is over than were killed on 9-11. This is madness.

The Bush Administration has squandered the greatest outpouring of goodwill and sympathy toward America that the world has ever witnessed. Over the last five years, instead of building a fundamental and strategic basis for global cooperation and reform, the Bush Administration has bullied its way into a position of global isolation. His nation more disliked and distrusted than it was before September 11. Some of Mr. Bush's allies, especially Britain's Tony Blair, have lost influence in their own communities because of their attachment to Bush's fundamentally flawed response to the September 11 outrage.

Mr. Blair is a shadow of his pre-9-11 self, as he struggles to leave a legacy of confidence and trust among his own followers before he leaves office sometime next year. Instead of departing on a note of triumph, he faces the possibility of leaving office still protesting his innocence over charges that he helped provide a false basis for the Iraq invasion. Neither have his attempts to recover some foreign affairs credibility been a total success. On a visit to Beirut on September 11, he confronted a major embarrassment RealVideo when a number of well-behaved but determined protestors crashed his press conference with the Lebanese Prime Minister and accused him to his face of duplicity over Israel's recent attacks on Lebanon. Nothing could have better illustrated the fundamental distress of Mr. Bush's foreign collaborators.

Mr. Bush's protestations of innocence over the devastation in Iraq have escalated. All of this while Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization, the enemy that Bush targeted five years ago, continues to give every indication that it is growing in strength. We want to make clear that we don't support the methods or doctrines espoused by al-Qaeda, but we are convinced that Mr. Bush's reactions to 9-11 have served to give al-Qaeda greater legitimacy, but as a resistance group rather than a terrorist organization.

This can be said because American tactics have devastated so many Middle East communities that any resistance to these strategies look like genuine acts of martyrdom. The 9-11 attacks were universally condemned as an outrage, but America's operations in Iraq, its bullying stance at the U.N., and its attempt to force the rest of the world to join it in loudly condemning Iran have diminished this sympathy.

That the balance of power in the world is lopsided is obvious. But what is even more obvious is that American power is being deployed to punish enemies of its own choosing rather than to prevent and punish acts that threaten world peace. This has been repeatedly proven since September 11, as the U.S. has taken actions driven by racial arrogance rather than humane retribution. Whenever it confronts issues related to 9-11, the psyche of the Bush Administration gets locked in the cowboy syndrome, which is an improbable state of catatonic dysfunction.

Unfortunately, this dysfunction is backed up by America's overwhelming wealth and military might, so the likelihood of a reversal of these misguided policies that have lost America so much global goodwill may not be on the cards for a long time to come.

For all of the world's right-thinking people, the memories of that tragic day five years ago are no less painful today. The pity is that as we mourn America's loss the Bush Administration has created a situation in which we must also condemn America's reaction to that loss. These years have been notable for the squandering of the goodwill that a new order of global cooperation should have been built.

But instead of cooperation, a new level of division has evolved.

Comment on this Article

Die Zeit, Germany: End of the New American Century? - In America at present, a completely un-American debate is germinating: Is it time for neo-conservatism's obituary?

By Tomas Kleine-Brockhoff
Translated By Bob Skinner
September 6, 2006

If political theories have an address, the address of neo-conservatism reads 1150 17th Street NW, Washington, DC. There on the fifth floor in rather ordinary-looking offices reside a half dozen right-wing intellectuals, who supply a steady stream of arguments for the propagation of democracy and a world dominated by America. The little club is called The Project for the New American Century. In 1997 nearly every important American neoconservative signed the club's founding charter. The thinking that evolved here then circulated amongst a group of friendly think tanks. With the election of George Bush to the presidency and especially after 9/11, the significance of the think tank increased, even if the staff size remained small. Neo-conservatism was a dominant force in American foreign policy, and the network of friends had become a network of power.
Now, nine years later, the Project for the New American Century is closing - due to a shortage of funds, it is said. Those that remain there are looking for work. Their ranks are thinning. The New American Century has taken too long to arrive. An ideology is packed up and in moving crates. One couldn't have a sight more pregnant with symbolism.

One needn't look long for the crisis of neo-conservatism. The magic word is Iraq. The central project of this foreign policy school, the democratic transformation of Mesopotamia [Iraq], has not gone as hoped. Theory didn't withstand contact with reality, and that reality has now swept away some theoreticians. And at the same time, a harvest of new treatises is emerging.

The thinking of neo-conservatism, especially after 9/11, is based on an astute criticism of what had been the established foreign policy in America and Europe. The neo-cons rejected the usual left-liberal theory about the causes of the attacks, according to which the attackers were motivated by unfairness and a lack of modernization in the Middle East. Instead, the reason for the terror is a lack of democracy. But the terrorists recognized the hypocrisy of the West, which wants the Middle East's oil, and despite its pro-democracy rhetoric entered into an evil pact with the authoritarian rulers of the region. The terrorist attacked the hypocrite.

For neo-conservatives, since the stability of the region was imposed by dictatorship, it was akin to the peace of the grave. They wanted to convince the West, especially America, to accept a policy beyond oil. In the long-term, not dictatorship but democracy would create security in the face of terror. And when necessary, the American military must be used to help assure this breakthrough for democracy: Weapons as tool of moral power and America as good-natured hedgemon, performing a public service for the entire world.

This theory had already come under heavy fire. But it successfully implemented an alliance between its adherents and traditional conservatives in the execution of the neo-cons' central project - the violent ouster of the dictator in Baghdad and the attempt to democratize Iraq. Afterwards the region would be seized by an attraction toward democracy. So much for their idealistic domino theory.

The reality was far different: an exaggerated threat in regard to the dictator, a badly planned occupation, a rebellion, a new threat of terror, all possible violations of human rights by their own troops and increasing radicalization in the entire has raised doubts amongst some neoconservatives. The first was Francis Fukuyama, professor at John Hopkins University. Another, Andrew Sullivan, followed. Both pointed out what they see as the most important mistakes of neo-conservatism:

1. Excessive confidence in the capabilities of the American government. The faith that one knew exactly what was in Iraq's arsenal has been proven misplaced. The shock of the September 11 attacks produced an exaggerated estimate of the threat. Doubts about the perceived threat were too rejected.

2. Excessive confidence in the inevitability of democratization. The marvelously peaceful end to the Cold War encouraged the mistaken notion that democracy is a kind of natural state for humans, or can nevertheless be established with minimal effort. Fukuyama reminds us that early neo-conservative cultural criticism in the 1960s and 70s pointed out to American liberals the limits of social engineering. Now they had become victims of the assumption that one can change societies with the turn of a hand.

3. Excessive confidence in the America's reputation its instruments of power. The idea that America is the sole guardian of the liberal world order on earth and could be such without pursuing its own interests is simply improbable for foreigners. The neo-conservatives underestimated how much resistance American supremacy generated, since it is clear that in the long run, neo-conservatives are interested in marrying universalism [transcending national boundaries] with American nationalism. According to Fukuyama, the drama of the neo-cons consists of the way they overlooked how unacceptable American nationalism is to other nations.

Fukuyama's essay (America at the Crossroads - Democracy, Power and the Neoconservative Legacy), Sullivan's analysis (What I Got Wrong About The War) as well as some other essay-version mea culpas have now received a sharp rebuke. It comes from Norman Podhoretz, a living legend of neo-conservatism and one of its founding fathers. It's in the September issue of the right-wing intellectual journal Commentary [Is the Bush Doctrine Dead?].

Podhoretz asks whether the Bush doctrine is actually dead. No, it absolutely is not, everything is just a misunderstanding and a misinterpretation of the President's character, writes the old master. He argues the neo-conservatism has by no means faded. For Podhoretz, the disappointment lies in the growing number of fellow travelers turning away: some because the theory in regard to the Middle East proved unrealistic; others, because the policy of the President is no longer sufficiently neo-conservative. Among the latter is Richard Perle; the former Pentagon advisor recommends continued toughness toward dictators in the Middle East. In the first group we would find David Frum, who coined the phrase Axis of Evil for the President but who is now disillusioned.

Podhoretz denies the starting point of neo-conservative self criticism: that the Bush doctrine didn't survive its test in Iraq. After all, Iraq has been liberated from one of the worst tyrants in the Middle East; three elections have been held; a decent constitution has been written; a government is in place; and previously unimaginable liberties are being enjoyed. By what bizarre calculus does all this add up to failure? And by what even stranger logic is failure to be read into the fact that the forces opposed to democratization are fighting back with all their might?

For Podhoretz there is no change of American foreign policy, no End of Cowboy Diplomacy. There is no sign that Bush has strayed from the principles of the doctrine that bears his name. But the neo-conservatives who have given up on Bush ignore a simple fact: That he is a politician. As President, he's constantly involved in tactical compromises. But history will one day see Bush as a pivotal figure. For Podhoretz, there is no loss of American power, no fatigue to the military, no longing of the American population to withdraw, and also no change in Bush's foreign policy. Who reads Podhoretz, must assume: There are at least two neo-conservatives left in America. And on one of them, everything depends.

Comment on this Article

Financial Times Deutschland, Germany: George W. Bush's 'Ridiculous Rallying Cry'

By Hubert Wetzel
Translated by Bob Skinner
September 12, 2006

Clearly nothing new ever occurs to George W. Bush. On the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks the U.S. President gave his old standard Why-We-Have-to-Hold-Firm speech with the old familiar argument: America has been attacked and has to carry the battle to the terrorists.

The best remedy for terrorism is freedom and democracy, therefore young Americans must fight and die in Iraq. Every failure strengthens the terrorists and leads to further attacks. And he addresses Osama bin Laden in the usual way: We'll catch you, he says to the terrorist, a threat that, after a five-year chase, sounds a bit comical.
In theory, Bush's line of reasoning, which he has repeated more or less verbatim for years, isn't entirely wrong and has a certain internal logic. In practice, it has long since been proven unsuitable as a strategy in the battle against Islamic terror, or as a justification for the Iraq War. That Bush continues to rattle this off proves yet again that for the President, reality is an uncomfortable parallel universe, one with which he prefers not to come into contact.

In the U.S. there's an election and beside his steadfastness as an anti-terror warrior, Bush has little to offer the voter. A speech to the nation on the anniversary of September 11 was a good opportunity for him to remind Americans of this point.

Comment on this Article

Bizarro World

Mystery of Castleton triangle - More Electronic Glitches

Whitby Today
25 September 2006

A STRANGE phenomenon residents are nicknaming the "Castleton triangle" has hit the village.
People parking in a layby outside Castleton's post office, pub, Co-op and Natwest bank have started experiencing unexplained problems with their cars.

For the last two weeks alarms are going off for no reason, engines are failing to start, windows won't open and close and doors will not lock.

But drive a short distance up the road and it's fine.
Landlord of the Downe Arms pub Phil Tait said seven cars were affected outside his pub on Monday evening and he is now parking his Land Rover around the back.

"It's the talk of the village. It was unbelievable last Monday tea time there were five cars and two Land Rover Discoveries and there were car alarms going off and cars wouldn't start."

Tina Johnson, from High Street, called the Whitby Gazette after she paid £700 to try to get her Landrover Discovery fixed when it kept failing to start-up. She said she knows of two other Land Rover owners and her daughter Lisa who owns a Peugeot 306 who have being experiencing similar problems with their cars there.

She suggested the problem could be something to do with their vehicles being spiked with radio frequencies.
"It's too weird to be a coincidence. There's talk in the village going around that its something to do with Fylingdales, the bank, the Co-op or the post office. "
Another Land Rover Discovery owner from Castleton, Sue Playle-Watson said her car's immobiliser had suffered problems and the family Mini wouldn't lock or unlock
"It's the Castleton Triangle. It started happening since BT put lines in for broadband about two weeks ago."

The Whitby Gazette has conducted its own investigation into the phenomenon but it remains a mystery.

Commander of RAF Fylingdales, Wing Commander Nicky Loveday said they have carried out a full investigation including diagnostic tests on their radar equipment and she concluded it is highly unlikely it is down to them.

Wg Cdr Loveday said sometimes their radar can affect car immobilisers within a close proximity to the base when they are stationary but she was very sceptical about it happening so much further away. In the past she has known of car manufacturers whose equipment uses the same frequency as their radar but said although she sympathises with people it is an issue for the manufacturers.

"There has been no record of the radar doing anything odd and there have been no extraordinary weather conditions."
Vicky Readman, manager of the Castleton Co-op store, said several of her customers have mentioned problems with cars recently but she didn't know what could be causing it.
"No staff vehicles have been affected and we have not experienced any problems with electronic equipment in the store," she said.

A spokesman for Land Rover said that in the case of Tina Johnson her car's loss of power and stalling was a direct result of oil contamination in a wiring loom and electrical control unit (ECU). She said the loom was replaced and the ECU cleaned but if the symptoms persisted it may be necessary to change the ECU.

She added Land Rover will now be investigating the situation around Castleton.

A spokesman for OFCOM said it sounded like something to do with a wireless device.

He said: "Quite often car alarms are affected by a wireless doorbell or a remote control toy so it's difficult to pin point what it can be."

OFCOM has a special team to investigate these kind of queries over the phone and who can often tell what the problem is by going through a series of questions with the complainant.

BT said their poles and lines do not emit radio or electricity waves and their investigations show the strange occurrence has nothing to do with them while Castleton Post Office and Natwest bank both said all their systems are working as normal and they were not responsible for the problems being experienced by residents.

Anyone still having problems is asked to report their concerns to both RAF Fylingdales and OFCOM.

Comment: What the "conspiracy theorists" aren't getting is that the idea that it is mostly "chemicals" or "poisons" is just a smokescreen. There is an altogether more insidious purpose for these clouds. Richard Dolan tells us:
By the early 1970s, there were already means available to alter the moods of unsuspecting persons. A pocket-sized transmitter generating electromagnetic energy at less than 100 milliwatts could do the job. This is no pie-in-the-sky theory. In 1972, Dr. Gordon J.F. McDonald testified before the House Subcommittee on Oceans and International Environment on the issue of electromagnetic weapons used for mind control and mental disruption. He stated:

[T]he basic notion was to create, between the electrically charged ionosphere in the higher part of the atmosphere and conducting layers of the surface of the Earth, this neutral cavity, to create waves, electrical waves that would be tuned to the brain waves. ...About ten cycles per second. ...You can produce changes in behavioral patterns or in responses.

The following year, Dr. Joseph C. Sharp, at Walter Reed Hospital, while in a soundproof room, was able to hear spoken words broadcast by 'pulsed microwave audiogram.' These words were broadcast to him without any implanted electronic translation device. Rather, they reached him by direct transmission to the brain.
[Dolan, Richard, UFOs and the National Security State]

In short, they are cranking up the HAARP Mind Control System. See also: "Harmless clouds, high above the Earth - Response to "Suspicious clouds over Napa" Chemtrails?" for another clue that HAARP is activating.

Comment on this Article

Harmless clouds, high above the Earth - Response to "Suspicious clouds over Napa" Chemtrails?

NAPA Valley Register
25 Sept 06

I would like to respond to Janet Brown's letter on Thursday, Sept. 21, "Suspicious clouds over Napa."

First of all, for those of you not familiar with this subject, let me start off by briefly explaining "contrails" and so-called "chemtrails." As a weather fanatic, I've studied meteorology for the past 17 years and this subject always sparks my interest. A contrail is a vapor trail left behind by high altitude aircraft such as airliners and miscellaneous military jets. One of the by-products of jet fuel combustion is water vapor. Since air at high altitudes is very cold, the water vapor from the exhaust condenses and forms ice crystals, especially if the air at that altitude is already moisture laden. What you see from ground perspective is a trail crossing the sky, a very common sight.
But then in the past few years, conspiracy theorists started hypothesizing that some of the contrails that we see are actually "chemtrails." They believe that the trails contain various chemicals and substances known to cause irritation to the human body or illnesses and even negative environmental impacts. They also believe that the government is secretly conducting this mysterious air traffic.

Let me say that in my studies of this subject, I have found no conclusive evidence to support the existence of "chemtrails." If they did exist, I believe we would have been poisoned by now.

Regarding Janet Brown's letter, she was right about three things. Contrails are left by "criss-crossing jets," the high altitude ones, not the low altitude ones that she mentioned. Contrails start out as a thin line and then over time, can spread out over a vast distance. This is a normal condition when there is ample moisture present in the upper atmosphere coupled with gentle upper air currents. She was also right that cirrus clouds are made up of ice crystals. Contrails become a form of man-made cirrus cloud. But then she said, "But there's no ice! It's been quite hot -- so what's up?"

Yes, Monday was hot. But just because it's hot down here doesn't mean a darn thing about the temperature in the upper atmosphere where contrails form. Virtually all contrails are made up of ice crystals, even during hot summer days. Contrails usually form 30,000 feet and on up, where the temperature is always below freezing, regardless of ground level temperatures.

So in closing, I think the clouds you saw were perfectly harmless. I don't believe the government would put our health at risk in this way. I hope this sheds some light on any questions you might have.

(Herbey lives in Napa.)

Comment: What the "conspiracy theorists" aren't getting is that the idea that it is mostly "chemicals" or "poisons" is just a smokescreen. There is an altogether more insidious purpose for these clouds. Richard Dolan tells us:
By the early 1970s, there were already means available to alter the moods of unsuspecting persons. A pocket-sized transmitter generating electromagnetic energy at less than 100 milliwatts could do the job. This is no pie-in-the-sky theory. In 1972, Dr. Gordon J.F. McDonald testified before the House Subcommittee on Oceans and International Environment on the issue of electromagnetic weapons used for mind control and mental disruption. He stated:

[T]he basic notion was to create, between the electrically charged ionosphere in the higher part of the atmosphere and conducting layers of the surface of the Earth, this neutral cavity, to create waves, electrical waves that would be tuned to the brain waves. ...About ten cycles per second. ...You can produce changes in behavioral patterns or in responses.

The following year, Dr. Joseph C. Sharp, at Walter Reed Hospital, while in a soundproof room, was able to hear spoken words broadcast by 'pulsed microwave audiogram.' These words were broadcast to him without any implanted electronic translation device. Rather, they reached him by direct transmission to the brain.
[Dolan, Richard, UFOs and the National Security State]

In short, they are cranking up the HAARP Mind Control System. See also: "Mystery of Castleton triangle - More Electronic Glitches" for another clue that HAARP is activating.

Comment on this Article

Flashback: Garage doors work after mystery signal vanishes

7 Nov 2005

As oddly as it started, the widespread problem with some garage doors in the Ottawa region had disappeared by Friday.

The powerful radio signal causing the problem stopped transmitting on Thursday afternoon, around the time CBC News contacted the U.S. Embassy to ask if it knew anything about it.
* FROM NOV. 4, 2005: Mysterious signals jamming garage door openers

The embassy categorically denies that it had anything to do with it.

The signal was being transmitted at 390 megahertz, a U.S. military frequency used by the Pentagon's new Land Mobile Radio System. The same frequency is used by garage doors openers, which started to malfunction around the city about almost two weeks ago. A similar problem has popped up around military bases in the States.

The world's biggest garage door manufacturer, the Chamberlain group, took the problem seriously enough to fly design engineer Rob Keller to Ottawa from its Chicago headquarters, with machinery to try to track the signal.

But by the time he got here, the signal was gone.

"Well, as you can see there, we're not picking up anything there, which is the way it's been since I got in last night," said Keller Friday. "But there must be something out there, so I'll keep on it the rest of the day."

Industry Canada also sent its inspectors out with a sophisticated direction finder, says Ontario spectrum manager John Baggio.

"By the time they actually got out there to investigate the source, it had ceased to operate. So it's not possible to direction-find the source unless it's actually active," he said.

And people, such as Judy Dougherty, suddenly found their doors, which had been jamming for 10 days, were working just fine Thursday.

"Finally, [Thursday] night, ta-da, it worked. So there was no logical explanation. We said, 'Well that doesn't make sense.'"

Comment on this Article

Flashback: Airwave glitch hits Springs area: Garage-door openers jammed, hundreds say

By Eileen Kelley
Denver Post
10 October 2003

COLORADO SPRINGS - Next time NATO officials say they're doing a lockdown, the folks in the luxury Broadmoor neighborhood will take them seriously.

Very seriously.

Last week, NATO workers erected security and communications towers in the area in advance of this week's defense ministers' conference.

By 9 a.m. Friday morning, all 10 lines at Overhead Door Company of Colorado Springs were lit up with calls from the Broadmoor and the nearby town of Security complaining that their garage- door openers had jammed.

More than 400 calls from frantic, frustrated and flustered residents came on that day alone. They haven't stopped since, said the company's receptionist, Tina Oetken.


Oetken and her bosses don't think so.

"With over 600-plus calls, it's hard to believe that it can be anything but" NATO, Oetken said Wednesday. [...]

Comment on this Article

Flashback: The Canary in the Mine

Laura Knight-Jadczyk
6 February 2005

On the February 4, 2005 Signs page, we published the following article:

First Artificial Neon Sky Show Created

By Robert Roy Britt
Live Science Senior Writer

02 February 2005: By shooting intense radio beams into the night sky, researchers created a modest neon light show visible from the ground. The process is not well understood, but scientists speculate it could one day be employed to light a city or generate celestial advertisements.

Researchers with the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) project in Alaska tickled the upper atmosphere to the extent that it glowed with green speckles. The speckles were sprinkled amid a natural display known as the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights. [...]

The HAARP experiment involves acres of antennas and a 1 megawatt generator. The scientists sent radio pulses skyward every 7.5 seconds, explained team leader Todd Pederson of the Air Force Research Laboratory. "The radio waves travel up to the ionosphere, where they excite the electrons in the plasma," Pederson told LiveScience. "These electrons then collide with atmospheric gasses, which then give off light, as in a neon tube."

Pederson and his colleagues missed the show, but they snapped images. "We unfortunately were indoors watching the data on monitors during the experiment and were busy scrambling trying to make sure the effects were real and not some glitch with the equipment," he said. "We knew right away it was something extraordinary to show up in real time on the monitor against the natural aurora, but did not confirm that it would have been visible to the naked eye until a day or two later when we had a chance to calibrate the raw data."

The experiment is detailed in the Feb. 2 issue of the journal Nature. The research could improve understanding of the aurora and also help explain how the ionosphere adversely affects radio communications. It is not yet clear if the aurora must already be active before an artificial sky show can be induced, says Karl Ziemelis, chief physics editor at the journal. If no pre-existing aurora is required, Ziemelis said, "we are left with the tantalizing (some would say disconcerting) possibility that such radio- fuelled emissions could form the basis of a technology for urban lighting, celestial advertising, and more."

I have to say that I am quite skeptical about the stated "commercial" intentions of said experiment, considering that it is being carried out by the Air Force. When have they ever spent multiplied millions of dollars to research ways and means to promote Coca Cola? Get real! Frankly, if producing images in the sky is on their agenda, my guess would be that such images might be used for "military" purposes as in "how to scare the bejeebies out of everybody so we can control 'em!"

It also occurs to me that the visual effects just might not have been anticipated and the researchers are concerned that somebody might figure out that they are up to no good, so this article is a form of "damage control."

What this article does not tell us is exactly when the above described experiment took place. To discover that, we have to go to the cited journal, Nature. There we learn not only the date, but that I am correct in assuming that the visual display was unexpected:

The powerful radio transmitter array at the HAARP observatory near Gakona, Alaska, is designed to transmit a narrow beam of powerful radio signals into the sky. The response to this intervention reveals details of the chemistry and physics of the ionosphere.

One such experiment carried out in March 2004 had an unexpected outcome, inducing artificial optical emissions bright enough to be seen as small speckles by the naked eye. This occurred not in the quiet ionosphere, but in the midst of a pulsating aurora, and represents features much smaller and brighter than ever observed previously.

We still don't know the exact date, so we go to the original paper which tells us:

We recently produced dramatically stronger artificial optical emissions bright enough to be visible to the naked eye in an experiment targeting the ionospheric E layer created by the natural aurora. The experiment was conducted on 10 March 2004, between 6-7 UT, using the 960-kW transmitter array at the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) facility near Gakona, Alaska (62.4° N, 145.15° W).

The HAARP transmitter was run in a 15-s cycle alternating between 7.5 s of full power and 7.5 s off. Four filtered optical imaging systems ranging from all-sky to telescopic were operated in synchronization with the transmitter on and off intervals. Background conditions during the experiment period were characterized by aurora pulsating with apparent periods of 10 s in longitudinal bands running in the magnetic east-west direction over most of the sky, including the region within the transmitter beam. The auroral precipitation created a blanketing E layer near an altitude of 100 km with critical frequencies ranging from 4-6 MHz. [...]

For a period of approximately 10 min between about 06:40 and 06:50, a number of small speckles of enhanced green emission were observed with the HAARP telescope wide-field camera, which provided high-resolution images of the region within the transmitter beam near magnetic zenith. The speckles were present only during the image frames when the transmitter was on and were absent from exposures taken during the off periods. There is evidence of dynamic pulsations in the background aurora within this narrower field of view as well, such as the auroral bands that appear and disappear in the lower left corner of the images. The largest speckles are approximately one degree across.

Well, they seem to be concentrating on trying to convince people that they are just experimenting with ways to sell stuff, but I don't buy it. Being the curious sort that I am, I wondered why nobody seemed to have noticed anything about this at the time. I didn't remember reading any news articles on the 11th of March about any strange lights in the sky, assuming that anybody in Alaska would have been looking up. But, just as you, dear reader, may have done, the instant I thought about March 11th, something else occurred to me: indeed, an event occurred on March 11, 2004... in Madrid.

Massacre in Madrid Thursday, 11 March, 2004 - 190 dead 1247 injured. ... The blasts hit during the morning rush hour Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar has vowed that those responsible for the train bomb attacks in Madrid will be hunted down and punished. Ten bombs exploded without warning on trains at three stations during the morning rush hour, killing 190 people and wounding more than 1,200.

I decided to go and have a look at our March 11 Signs of The Times page, as well as pages from subsequent days, to see if there were any other clues.

From our Signs of The Times Page of March 12th, we note that there were warnings of potential terrorist attacks as though somebody was expecting a general activation of terrorist types for some reason. Hmmmm...

We also noted that South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun was impeached in a violent - and completely out-of-character - confrontation where Korean officials actually started duking it out.

There was also a curious piece headlined: Inventor patents device for ads in space, which tells us: Global advertising could take on a whole new meaning. ... Orion, the Big Dipper and Andromeda could be joined in the heavens by ads for soft drinks and cigarettes if a Russian inventor's device catches on. [...]

Curious, indeed, in view of what the above quoted authors have to say about the HAARP experiment.

Another interesting item: Nine People Found Dead in Fresno Home ... March 13 - Police officers responding to a child custody dispute said they arrived at a home to find nine bodies stacked and intertwined in a pile of clothes, 10 coffins and a 57-year-old man they believe is responsible for the slaughter. [...] The grim scene caused even veteran officers to weep. [...]

And another: Sea Lion Grabs Fisherman Off Boat Fri Mar 12... ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A 19-year-old fisherman is recovering from an encounter with a sea lion that leaped out of the water, grabbed him as he worked on his grandfather's docked boat and pulled him into the harbor at King Cove. [...]

And: 22 Dolphin deaths in Florida bay CAPE SAN BLAS, Florida (AP) -- Scientists stepped up efforts Friday to discover what's been killing bottlenose dolphins in and near a bay in the Florida Panhandle, as the death toll climbed to at least 22 over three days. [...] The scattering of dolphin carcasses in open water as well as along the shore indicates the mammals did not strand themselves...

There was a major fire and a gas explosion in Russia, both of which were suspicious, an explosion a the Pueblo airport that may or may not have been suspicious, and millions of people turned out in Spain to protest the government that had been "in league" with the Bush Reich and its Iraq occupation; the party in power was voted out.

Geological events were not really worth mentioning: a few minor rattles in Japan, an already in process cyclone came ashore killing many people, astronomer Philip Plait went after Richard Hoagland, a decorated Fort Carson Green Beret, home from Iraq for just three weeks, committed suicide, and then this:

Confusion was sparked among shoppers at a city retail park when dozens of car alarms all went off at the same time. The 100-space car park at the Kingsway Retail Park became a scene of confusion and noise on Saturday afternoon as shoppers struggled to get into their cars. People had difficulty in using the automatic locking system on their key fobs, with many not working at all. The reason why the alarms were activated at the same time remains a mystery.

The Signs Team noted "the above is the third time something similar has been reported in the media. The first one was in Colorado Springs which was blamed on the NATO exercises taking place nearby, and the other one was in Las Vegas, where no NATO or other related exercises were going on, but we can mention that this is not too far from Area 51. They have all resulted in panic and emotional theories. An understandable if not an optimal reaction, since something is just not right.

The Colorado Springs incident occurred on October 09, 2003 and the Las Vegas event occurred on February 21, 2004. One wonders if the HAARP array was active on those dates as well?

The October 10, 2003 Signs page reported that aFrench-language Israeli newssite is reporting Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestinian Authority, may have died of a heart attack. This was followed by an interesting article about "Non Lethal Death (?!) which said

Have weapons of this nature been developed and field tested? Judged by the number of individuals and groups coming forward with complaints of harassment the answer, appears, to be yes. Kim Besley, of the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp [xxv] , has compiled a fairly extensive catalogue of effects that have resulted from low frequency signals emanating from the US Greenham Common base, and, apparently, targeted upon the women protesters. These include: vertigo, retinal bleeding, burnt face (even at night), nausea, sleep disturbances, palpitations, loss of concentration, loss of memory, disorientation, severe headaches, temporary paralysis, faulty speech co-ordination, irritability and a sense of panic in non-panic situations.

Identical and similar effects have been reported elsewhere and appear to be fairly common-place amongst so called "victims". Many of these symptoms have been associated in medical literature with exposure to microwaves and especially through low intensity or non thermal exposures. [xxvi] These have been reviewed by Dr. Robert Becker, twice nominated for the Nobel Prize, and specialist in EM effects. His report confirms that the symptoms mirror those he would expect to see, had Microwave weapons been deployed. [....]

There was all kinds of speculaton that Arafat was being bombarded with waves of some sort that were killing him.

The page is an interesting one, as usual, but most of what is reported on that day is just the general mass madness the world has fallen into since 9-11. But continuing to look, we suddenly see something interesting:

Another Nokia phone explodes 09/10/2003 at 13:03 GMT Another Nokia phone has exploded - this time in Vietnam. A young woman is in hospital today being treated for burns after her mobile exploded yesterday inside her pocket. [...] Earlier this week a teenager in Holland suffered burns to his leg after his Nokia phone exploded.

Isn't that just the darnedest thing?

Then there was this: "In two concerted operations in northern Greece and Crete yesterday, dozens of anarchists invaded a radio station and a state news agency to demand the release of seven people held over June's anti-globalization riots in Thessaloniki."

And this: CLEVELAND - A Franciscan brother admitted Thursday to shooting a Roman Catholic priest to death in his office and setting fire to the church rectory with the body inside.

And this: A 40-year-old drug addict who allegedly stole beer and dog food from an Amsterdam supermarket has been chased from the store and was kicked to death by at least four staff.

And a few tremors and a wind in Turkey that toppled a minaret.

On the October 11 Signs page, something interesting turns up from the previous day: Friday, October 10, 2003 - An apparently deranged woman who claimed to be "radioactive" barreled her car through a secure tarmac gate at Manchester Airport yesterday - coming within 800 feet of Air Force One, just minutes before President Bush was slated to board after wrapping up a New Hampshire trip. "She looked dazed, she didn't look right," said witness Frank Conery, a Bedford, N.H., resident who works across the street at MSC Industrial Supplies. "We couldn't believe they didn't shoot her."

And then: A bomb exploded on Friday morning in front of a military casern in the southern French resort of Nice, injuring one person, French televisions reported. A female guardian of a school in front of the casern was also lightly hurt in the face. The blast took place at about 0600 (0400GMT) and the windows of the casern, the school and neighboring buildings were blown out, the report said.

And this: Several thousand people were evacuated from their homes on Friday after a series of explosions ripped through a Ukrainian munitions dump at Artyomovsky in the eastern Donetsk region, the emergency ministry said. The explosions, caused by a fire, shattered the windows of several apartment blocks. It was not known what had caused the fire.

And this: At least five Maoists and four security men were killed in clashes in Nepal as a temporary truce called by the rebels ended, officials said on Friday.

This: A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.1 rocked northern Japan Saturday morning, the Meteorological Agency said. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

This: Tropical Storm Mindy developed this evening near the Dominican Republic, bringing heavy rain to that nation and Puerto Rico, and compelling forecasters to post warnings in other nearby islands.

This: A 10-year-old boy was taken into custody by the Carlsbad police after making two calls Wednesday night claiming that local schools would be blown up. [...]

This: A 28-year-old man accused of stealing a man's penis through sorcery was beaten to death in the West African country of Gambia on Thursday, police said.

This: Florida, the lightning capital of the nation, lived up to its reputation when 20 prized, pregnant cows were killed by a bolt that hit an oak tree they were huddled under at a north Florida farm, police said. Two others were euthanized.

And this most interesting item: Yet Another Mystery Blackout - This Time Oz ... 10-10-3 THE parlous state of WA's electricity supply was highlighted again yesterday when the Collie power station crashed, cutting power to 125,000 homes and businesses in the metropolitan area and key regional centres. Late yesterday, Western Power was still unable to explain the cause of the 2½-hour blackout, which hit at 1pm and also cut traffic lights throughout the suburbs.

That week must have been unusually strange because the UK Mirror published a piece entitled: Weird World This Week

Which included:

Police called to a domestic row in Koblenz, Germany, found two 90-year-olds having a barney because the wife had hidden her husband's wheelchair to stop him from meddling in the housework. [...]

STRANGEST STORY OF THE WEEK: An actor and former bodybuilder famous for playing robotic alien-killers was elected governor of the world's sixth-largest economy, California.

Hmmm... That was the week Arnie was elected. I wonder if HAARP had anything to do with THAT?

What about the days following February 21, 2004? Anything odd then? Well, let's see...

On the February 21 Signs page we don't find anything particularly interesting other than:

Police officers and soldiers on Friday clashed with over a hundred Jewish settlers who were trying to add caravans (trailer homes) to an unauthorized settlement outpost in the northern West Bank, a military source said. [...]

But the February 22 Signs page offers some interesting items including a mention of the strange fires in Italy. In fact, this problem was so interesting, the team did a special on it: Fortean Fire which informs us that:

10 Feb 2004 (Messina) - The mysterious phenomenon of the spontaneous fires that provoked fear and surprise among the residents of Canneto on the Tyrrhenian coast of the province of Messina has come to a standstill in the last twelve hours. The thirty or so inhabitants of the village who were evacuated for security reasons have not yet been able to go home. Experts of the State Rescue Services continue to carry out checks whilst awaiting special machinery from Milan in order to get more precise results.

Yesterday the fires had become paradoxical and were even breaking out in water pipes or between pieces of electrical wire which had been cut and were lying on the ground without being connected to any source of energy. The electricty has been turned off in Canneto for several days but this did not stop the fires breaking out. In the course of the last few days the flames developed again and again without any plausible explanation in domestic appliances, intercoms, plugs, meters. Checks by electricity company ENEL and technicians from the RFU have for the moment excluded any link between the fires and the electrical pylons of the Palermo-Messina railway line which passes only a few metres from the houses and which the residents believe are in some way responsible.

The dates are a bit too early for my search, but I begin to wonder if all of these strange things are connected in some way.

Another very interesting item on the February 22 page is the report from the Pentagon, published by the Observer which said, in part:

Secret report warns of rioting and nuclear war - Britain will be 'Siberian' in less than 20 years - Threat to the world is greater than terrorism Climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters. A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.

Then there was this: A suicide blast on a packed bus in west Jerusalem killed at least seven people, army radio said, the day before a world court hearing into the West Bank barrier Israel says is needed to stop such attacks.

And this: Thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip marched in protest against Israel's separation barrier Monday, and in some locations were pushed back by Israeli soldiers firing tear gas.

And this: A fire has ripped through India's main space centre killing at least six people, police say. A number of people are reported to have been injured in the blaze at the Sriharikota centre, on an island off the coast of Andhra Pradesh state.

And this: An oil pipeline was sabotaged in southern Iraq while deadly violence flared in the north, as the war-torn country awaited the release Monday of the UN's findings on the best way forward. [...]

And this: President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday dismissed Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and his Cabinet, saying in a statement on national television he purged the government in preparation for March 14 presidential elections.

And this: An earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale jolted parts of eastern France, southwestern Germany and western Switzerland, seismologists said. The tremor plunged part of the French town of Besancon into darkness for more than one hour after it cut electricity supplies, but fire and police services reported no immediate casualties or major damage.

And this: A strong earthquake hit northern Morocco early on Tuesday, killing at least nine people and injuring dozens, reports reaching here said.

And this: At least five people were killed and 180 injured as gale force winds of up to 150 kilometres (95 miles) an hour and snow showers swept through the Syrian capital, newspapers reported on Monday.

And this: The Arctic snap is continuing across the UK, with icy temperatures, sleet and snow showers heading south.

And this: Thick, reddish-brown dust swirled over parts of West Texas, contributing to a series of traffic accidents that killed two people and injured dozens of others.

And this: The headteacher of a school in northern India has allegedly shot and killed a student because he was cheating during examinations.

And this: A student at Quebec Heights School in Price Hill strikes his classmates and kicks a teacher.

Now that we have surveyed the matter a bit, we do think that some of these strange things come in clusters and that there is a possibility that they may relate to HAARP. There is a circumstantial connection between the HAARP activation and the Madrid bombing. We would not know about this, of course, if the cited paper had not been published. We suspect that the paper was published because there were unintended visual effects. But, once we had a definite date of activation, we began to look and noted the electronic car-alarm anomaly. That sent us looking at other similar events, and we began to collect a cluster of unusual events that seemed to be associated. No, it's not proof, it's just observing and pondering.

While pondering, let's think about the HAARP deal from another angle. Do we really think that the amount of money that has gone into this project, not to mention the extraordinary secrecy that has surrounded it, has anything at all to do with "advertising in space?" Or "lighting for the suburbs?"

Yeah, right.

Or do we suspect that the activation of HAARP may have had something to do with the Massacre in Madrid and some of the general mayhem flying about the planet at other assorted times?

The Alternative News and Conspiracy watching crowd have long been attached to the idea that HAARP is a project designed to control weather or cause geological disasters - sort of an "environmental weapon," so to say. We here at Signs of the Times have argued against this since we do credit those in power with a few firing neurons, even if they think only about themselves. In fact, that is the point. Having some idea of the nonlinear dynamics of weather and geological events, it is hardly likely that they would be stupid enough to diddle with the weather or to try to create earthquakes to cause problems for their enemies. Such things are too uncontrollable, too many variables, and too much danger of doing unintended damage to the self.

We notice in our data collection that there seems to be no direct relationship between the weather events because they occurred in a couple of theoretical time windows and not in others. Therefore, let us theorize that weather issues are indeed a problem, as the above cited Pentagon report stated, but that they are not caused by, or under the control of, any Secret Government. One might even speculate that the clusters of craziness could be generated to keep people's attention focused elsewhere. For example, the possible activation of the HAARP array around the time of the election of Arnie in California. Hmmm...

The idea that HAARP was created to control weather was promoted in a big way by Nick Begich in a book entitled Angels Don't Play This HAARP. The HAARP project has been recently connected to the December Malaysian earthquake, and a year before, was connected to the BAM earthquake. You might want to read the December 31, 2003 Signs of The Times page where you will find:

In the past week there have been FIVE major earthquakes, culminating in the most recent one in Iran. 2003/12/26 6.5 Southeastern Iran 2003/12/25 6.0 Southeast Of Loyalty Islands 2003/12/25 6.5 Southeast Of Loyalty Islands 2003/12/25 6.0 South Of Kermadec Islands 2003/12/25 6.5 Panama-Costa Rica Border Region

The media have barely mentioned these other quakes, however such a spate of earthquakes in so brief a period is curious. But what is really unusual is the actual timing of the Iranian quake. Just as Iran was about to challenge Israel's nuclear supremacy in the Middle East, it is rocked by a devastating quake that could claim up to 50,000 lives and take years to recover from. Was it a coincidence that Iran was moving into a position to challenge Israel's nuclear dominance of the region when the tremor struck? [...]

Now he is saying that this most recent disaster was not the result of natural forces. The Americans are behind it, probably working at the behest of their Zionist overlords, and using secret high technology, most probably HAARP.

With this in mind the following article, written over two years ago, is more pertinent than ever... Weapons of the New World Order "Technology will make available, to the leaders of major nations, techniques for conducting secret warfare, of which only a bare minimum of the security forces will be appraised...Techniques of weather modification could be employed to produce prolonged periods of drought or storm." Illuminati strategist and front man Zbigniew Brzezinski writing in "Between Two Ages" 1970. [...]

Unfortunately the above is not just speculation. The ability to trigger earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and even effect peoples brains and the Earth's own tectonic plates is now a very real possibility; the research has been done, the tests completed and the weaponry has been deployed, and maybe even used. It's called HAARP (High-frequency Active Aural Research Program) and was developed as part of the "Star Wars" initiative. According to Dr. Nicholas Begich HAARP is: "A super-powerful radiowave-beaming technology that lifts areas of the ionosphere (upper layer of the atmosphere) by focusing a beam and heating those areas. Electromagnetic waves then bounce back and penetrate everything - living and dead." Aside from disrupting normal weather patterns it would also bombard those targeted with deadly radiation. Thus in the words of Dr. Rosalie Bertell, HAARP is: "a gigantic heater that can cause major disruption in the ionosphere, creating not just holes, but long incisions in the protective layer that keeps deadly radiation from bombarding this planet."

Our own interactions with the folks that financed Begich's book, as well as controlled its content, chronicled in the Adventures With Cassiopaea series, (do read this for some inside details of how COINTELPRO approaches are made), suggest that describing HAARP as a "weather" or "geological weapon," is merely disinformation. Again, let us note that the above cited HAARP experiment took place on March 10, 2003, followed by violence and a number of behavioral incidents of surpassing strangeness. It may be that Zbigniew Brzezinski had something altogether different in mind when he said: "Technology will make available, to the leaders of major nations, techniques for conducting secret warfare, of which only a bare minimum of the security forces will be appraised..."

There is, in fact, a far scarier weapon, a "technique for conducting secret warfare," that we believe is actually connected to the HAARP array: Mind Control via "Frequency Fences."

In order to understand the problem, the reader might want to review the Greenbaum Speech which mentions, among many other things, the MONARCH Project.

While there are a number of CIA mind control research projects that have been confirmed in Senate Hearings, I haven't been able to find similar confirmation of the alleged "Monarch Project." However, there is circumstantial evidence for the existence of this type of work.

New Orleans therapist Valerie Wolf brought two of her patients before the President's Committee on Human Radiation Experiments on March 15, 1995 in Washington D.C. The astonishing testimony made by these two women included accounts of German doctors, torture, drugs, electroshock, hypnosis and rape, besides being exposed to an undetermined amount of radiation. Both Wolf and her patients stated they recovered the memories of this CIA program without regression or hypnosis techniques.

The most incriminating statement to date made by a government official as to the possible existence of Project MONARCH was extracted by Anton Chaitkin, a writer for the publication, The New Federalist. When former CIA Director William Colby was asked directly, "What about monarch?" he replied angrily and ambiguously, "We stopped that between the late 1960's and the early 1970's." Suffice it to say that society, in its apparent state of cognitive dissonance, is generally in denial of the over whelming evidence of this widespread, nefarious conspiracy to experiment upon literally thousands of Human Beings, undoubtedly, mostly American. This, of course, brings us to ask a few questions about the goals of such a project. Let's look at another thing mentioned by Dr. Hammond in the Greenbaum Speech:

Back to risk. I know of no therapist who's been harmed. But patients inform us that there will come a future time where we could be at risk of being assassinated by patients who've been programmed to kill at a certain time anyone that they've told and any member of their own family who's not active. If that would come about is speculative. Who knows for sure? Maybe, but I don't think it's entirely without risk.

"There will come a future time..." At the present point in time, having spent the past several years publishing our Signs of the Times news report on the Fascist takeover of America, I wonder if we are not already living in that "future time"? If so, perhaps we ought to carefully examine some of the details Dr. Hammond has elicited from his patients:

Alphas appear to represent general programming, the first kind of things put in.

Betas appear to be sexual programs. For example, how to perform oral sex in a certain way, how to perform sex in rituals, having to do with producing child pornography, directing child pornography, prostitution.

Deltas are killers trained in how to kill in ceremonies. There'll also be some self-harm stuff mixed in with that, assassination and killing.

Thetas are called psychic killers. You know, I had never in my life heard those two terms paired together. I'd never heard the words "psychic killers" put together, but when you have people in different states, including therapists inquiring and asking, "What is Theta," and patients say to them, "Psychic killers," it tends to make one a believer that certain things are very systematic and very widespread. This comes from their belief in psychic sorts of abilities and powers, including their ability to psychically communicate with "mother'" including their ability to psychically cause somebody to develop a brain aneurysm and die. It also is a more future-oriented kind of programming.

Then there's Omega. I usually don't include that word when I say my first question about this or any part inside that knows about Alpha, Beta, Delta, Theta because Omega will shake them even more. Omega has to do with self-destruct programming. Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. This can include self-mutilation as well as killing- themselves programming.

Now, let's look at HAARP from another angle: In my article Aliens and Cosmic COINTELPRO, I quote Richard Dolan who reports:

By the early 1970s, there were already means available to alter the moods of unsuspecting persons. A pocket-sized transmitter generating electromagnetic energy at less than 100 milliwatts could do the job. This is no pie-in-the-sky theory. In 1972, Dr. Gordon J.F. McDonald testified before the House Subcommittee on Oceans and International Environment on the issue of electromagnetic weapons used for mind control and mental disruption. He stated:

[T]he basic notion was to create, between the electrically charged ionosphere in the higher part of the atmosphere and conducting layers of the surface of the Earth, this neutral cavity, to create waves, electrical waves that would be tuned to the brain waves. ...About ten cycles per second. ...You can produce changes in behavioral patterns or in responses.

The following year, Dr. Joseph C. Sharp, at Walter Reed Hospital, while in a soundproof room, was able to hear spoken words broadcast by 'pulsed microwave audiogram.' These words were broadcast to him without any implanted electronic translation device. Rather, they reached him by direct transmission to the brain.

Consider the "electrically charged ionosphere in the higher part of the atmosphere and conducting layers of the surface of the Earth" in terms of "chemtrails" and how this may very well be part of the HAARP project, though it isn't to control weather, it is to control MINDS for the purpose of keeping human beings in "frequency fences," a "technique for conducting secret warfare."

Now, let me bring this home. Considering that we have noticed strange emotional states clustering around electronic anomalies, and electronic anomalies circumstantially connected to HAARP, we might suspect that when there is a group of emotional events among people that are widely separated, we might want to pay attention. I received an email today from an individual who I know to be the LAST person anyone would think likely to have suicidal tendencies, and what was written therein was very disturbing to me for reasons I will describe after I have quoted a couple of excerpts from this message:

I have been having recurrent suicidal thoughts these past few days. I have no hope, I do not see any value in my life, nor do I see any point to continue it like this. Everything that meets the eye is no good, either from afar and up close, and I am no good, either from afar or up close.

This really has not happened to me before, aside from a half-thought that I had when I was 16 or so, which was not serious and rather a way to show off to myself. I always strongly rejected suicide as an option of solving anything. It would have been inconceivable to me only a few months ago that I would feel like I do now. [...]

What struck me about this message was the fact that, in recent days, several other people very close to me have described similar states of mind appearing out of nowhere, overtaking them, and dragging them down into a sudden, deep, paralyzing depression that is completely out of synch with their personal realities. What is striking is that all of these individuals are what I would call "emotionally sensitive" beings whose greatest fulfillment is derived from doing things for others.

I was then struck by the coincidental publishing of the article about HAARP with which I began this piece, with the unusual emotional states I am now describing. It would be easy to think, automatically, that this article described something that happened just the other day or so, but my investigation shows that this is not the case. However, what we do note is that the visual effects of the activation of the HAARP array were blamed on Auroral activity, and it just may be that this article was not only past "damage control" but also pre-emptive damage control. What if HAARP has been activated recently and there is concern that the same visual effects might occur, considering the fact that there has been recent solar activity? Wouldn't it make sense to pre-emptively allay suspicion?

We notice also that this theorized activation comes right at the time that Condoleezza Rice is touring Europe and hobnobbing with many heads of state, trying to convert them to the U.S. Fascist Team. That strikes me as a possible employment of Brzezinski "Technology will make available, to the leaders of major nations, techniques for conducting secret warfare, of which only a bare minimum of the security forces will be appraised..."

But, there may be other reasons as well for the activation of HAARP at this particular point in time.

Well, again, let's turn to the news of the past few days. Yesterday we published two lead pieces, one about the upcoming Feb 24 TV special, "Peter Jennings Reporting: UFOs - Seeing Is Believing" and the other an interview with a British MP who declares: I'm absolutely sure there is going to be a significant impact at some point in the next few years. There just is.

Back on January 14, another news item caught my eye: ET Visitors: Scientists See High Likelihood which reports:

Now a team of American scientists note that recent astrophysical discoveries suggest that we should find ourselves in the midst of one or more extraterrestrial civilizations. Moreover, they argue it is a mistake to reject all UFO reports since some evidence for the theoretically-predicted extraterrestrial visitors might just be found there. The researchers make their proposal in the January/February 2005 issue of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society (JBIS). [...]

Pick up any good science magazine and you're sure to see the latest in head- scratching ideas about superstring theory, wormholes, or the stretching of spacetime itself. Meanwhile, extrasolar planetary detection is on the verge of becoming mundane.

"We are in the curious situation today that our best modern physics and astrophysics theories predict that we should be experiencing extraterrestrial visitation, yet any possible evidence of such lurking in the UFO phenomenon is scoffed at within our scientific community," contends astrophysicist Bernard Haisch.

The question is, of course, do either of these events, coming out as they have, at the same time the damage control article came out about HAARP, have anything to do with Rice's European "Diplomatic Mission?" Is something "heating up" out there? What do the Powers That Be know that we don't?

Well, that is not entirely correct. We certainly have been able to collect data and deduce many things and much of this is published on this website in the Wave Series and the Adventure Series as well as in my book Secret History.

But actually, there is more. At the same time we published the articles about aliens and asteroid impacts yesterday, rense.com published a piece by Henry Makow which, basically, represents a sudden "turnaround" in his opinions about ET and a promotion of Steven Greer's disclosure project. At the end, he writes:

"The "dual use capability" of US space weapons might also be designed to deter advanced civilizations that pose a threat to the Masonic banker's monopoly of power and wealth, and their satanic New World Order agenda.

"Yes, it would be better if a large flying saucer landed on the field during half time at the Superbowl and ETs emerged. But Dr. Stephen Greer's book is credible. Don't dismiss it without reading it first.

"Far fetched as it sounds, at the rate we're going, extraterrestrials could represent degenerate mankind's best hope. Who knows what form Divine intervention can take? If we won't represent God, maybe a more advanced civilization will."

I decided to write to Makow as follows:

While many of us would like to think that the "aliens are here to save us," and those bad, nasty NWO types are keeping them away and shooting them down, and so on, as is usual with such matters, the situation is far more complex.

I assume, of course, in writing this email, that you are who you say you are, that your intentions are generally "benevolent," and so on. Taking that as a theoretical platform, I would like to suggest that you have a look at a couple of excerpts from my book "Secret History" which is basically a "Secret History of the World and How to Get Out Alive" thing, that are posted here:

Aliens and Cosmic COINTELPRO

The High Strangeness of Dimensions and the Process of Alien Abduction

You will note that Part II of the latter piece is authored by my husband, a theoretical/mathematical physicist who is considered to be one of the international experts on hyperdimensional physics. His authority in this field is such that, even though he comes under some criticism for his "intramural interests," his papers continue to be published and he continues to be invited to scientific conferences.

Certainly, "free energy" is one of my husband's interests and areas of research, but I think that we can agree, with confidence, that whatever "gets out" there in terms of REAL solutions is likely to be more and better disinfo. Clearly, if a whole raft of scientists who might have the solutions to possible pandemics or ethnic specific weapons that are being created in gov laboratories can be killed off one by one, you don't for a moment think that anyone with the real possibility of solving our energy problems are going to be allowed to remain alive, do you?

Indeed, that is one of the reasons we left the U.S. After being subjected to COINTELPRO at its finest for several years, including death threats, harassment from "third parties," and no protection at all from the gov that was obviously supporting these attacks (serious reasons for thinking this came to light), and finally, physical attacks on family members, etc that were undoubtedly designed to "warn us" and intimidate us, we simply packed everything up and left. THAT, of course, led to a whole other series of attacks. How dare we remove ourselves from the reach of the attackers?

Nevertheless, that is what we did, and we learned a lot about staying alive and continuing to work without selling our souls to survive.

It has been an uphill battle for us to overcome the damage done to us by the attacks - never think that the "truth" wins out without a fight - but thankfully, as I mentioned, my husband's skill as a mathematician and his work as a physicist is of such caliber that we have managed to survive.

After we produced the Pentagon Flash which has now been viewed by over 300 million people around the planet, our readership soared. Naturally, the NWO powers that be had to do something, and the Washington Post was sent into action.

By this time, however, the questions being asked by people at large were such that the old answers no longer sufficed and the subject of hyperdimensional realities - which is the only theory that deals with ALL of the issues of the UFO problem - began to be more widely acceptable to ordinary people, as it rightly should be.

It does seem, in fact, that the subject of "hyperdimensional realities" is the chief thing that has been covered up for millennia, and continues to be even today. It is discussed widely in scientific circles, of course, but only "theoretically" and with many caveats. But the fact is, Einstein proposed in 1938, that we ought to consider it as a very "physical" realm. (This is discussed in the above referenced article)

In my "Adventures With Cassiopaea" series, I exposed some of the earliest research on the subject of the intentions of the Global Elite to "depopulate" the planet. I will tell you here that this is being done on behalf of the "Alien Raj," as anthropologist Scott Littleton refers to it. Certainly, the so-called "Elite" may have some idea that they are doing it to conserve oil for themselves, and maybe even to "save the planet," but the fact is, even that is disinfo "at the top."

At present, my husband's work is moving in a particular direction that has stunning implications for all of us. As we published on our website the other day, "belief" may destroy us, while striving for objectivity may be the only thing that will save us.

The articles we published yesterday, the piece about the new look at UFOs and aliens, and the bit about the MP who is telling us that there IS going to be a globally devastating asteroid impact within the next few years, strike us as more evidence of what might lie behind the recent attempts to vacuum us into the global elitist agenda.

We spend a lot of time collecting data, observing what does and does not get promoted on various "alternative" websites, and what is generally going down on the planet every day. Since our platform for understanding includes the hyperdimensional hypothesis, our view is much broader than that of individuals who try to understand everything as just "stuff that happens," or even as evidence of some global HUMAN conspiracy.

The bottom line is this: it is beginning to look very serious for not only humanity, but for the earth. As many people have learned from the recent tsunami, not to mention by the experience of 9-11, our world can change dramatically and suddenly in a few moments... And so far, none of those changes are for the better.

We have long considered a "grass roots" think tank type of thing, but our efforts to try to get anyone in the "alternative news and views field" have not borne any fruit. Too much ego, and maybe too much COINTELPRO. Who knows? But still, that is the only thing, at this point, that might ameliorate what is coming upon the planet and all of humanity.

I then referred Makow to our Hallowe'en Page on which we published a description of some of the early results of Ark's research and closed as follows:

Perhaps you now have a better idea of why I am writing to you. The ways and means of "finding the truth" include divesting ourselves completely of "sacred cows," of beliefs, of assumptions, and utilizing the scientific method in its original and most beneficial manner: to observe, to share data, to be critical of our own observations, and to formulate hypotheses and test them.

"We must regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. Consider an intelligence which, at any instant, could have a knowledge of all forces controlling nature together with the momentary conditions of all the entities of which nature consists. If this intelligence were powerful enough to submit all this data to analysis it would be able to embrace in a single formula the movements of the largest bodies in the universe and those of the lightest atoms; for it, nothing would be uncertain; the future and the past would be equally present to its eyes." - Pierre Laplace

This "objective view of the world" cannot be achieved by anyone alone. The tricks and traps of our own minds, compounded by the manipulations of denizens of hyperdimensional realities, must be carefully and even ruthlessly filtered within a network where every member "watches each other's back." If we cannot do this, there is no hope.

As we say repeatedly:

Life is religion. Life experiences reflect how one interacts with God. Those who are asleep are those of little faith in terms of their interaction with the creation. Some people think that the world exists for them to overcome or ignore or shut out. For those individuals, the worlds will cease. They will become exactly what they give to life. They will become merely a dream in the "past." People who pay strict attention to objective reality right and left, become the reality of the "Future."

Coming back to HAARP, Peter Jennings, and MPs who tell us that we are most certainly going to get hit by an asteroid in the next few years, and Condi on the march: It seems to me that people being plunged into pits of despair and depression are like Canaries in the Mine, warning us that something is "out there."

HAARP is active, and most definitely, Angels don't play it. But neither does it control weather. It acts on people's minds, and those that are susceptible, as well as those that have possibly been programmed will feel it long before the rest of humanity sees the result.

Comment on this Article

Flashback: Hundreds left stranded after fuel-gauge failures

The Courier-Journal
May 18, 2004

Terra Stribling was in the fast lane on the Snyder Freeway when her Mercury Mountaineer suddenly began to lose power. "When I went to accelerate, nothing happened," said Stribling, 24. "I looked at all my gauges and everything looked great."

But the gas gauge, showing about an eighth of a tank, lied. The sport utility vehicle was running on fumes, and when Stribling slowed below 30 miles per hour, the engine died, power steering disappeared and she was soon stranded on the side of the road.

Like hundreds of other Louisville motorists in recent days, Stribling ran out of gas. As though paying almost $2 per gallon wasn't bad enough, fuel-tank sensors have been failing throughout Louisville on different makes and years of cars burning different brands of gasoline. Drivers have been learning they're out of gas the hard way - sputtering to a halt.

No one knows for sure what is causing the problem, but it appears to be something in the gasoline, said Roger Boyd, spokesman for AAA Kentucky, which began getting complaints last week. [...]

Garages confirm that something is fouling the sensors, which can cost up to $900 to replace, but typically total $400 to $500. [...]

The problem hasn't been seen elsewhere in Kentucky, according to Boyd, but similar gas-gauge failures were reported in northwestern Pennsylvania last week, according to the Erie Times-News. One Erie car dealer's service manager said he had seen at least 100 fouled gas sensors in the previous week. The Pennsylvania attorney general's bureau of consumer protection is looking into the matter, the newspaper reported.

In Louisville, AAA received 174 out-of-gas calls from stranded drivers from May 7 through May 13, Boyd said. It typically gets about 60 calls in a week.

Boyd said more than 200 motorists have called the club to tell them about their fuel-sensor problems. [...]

A VARIETY of vehicle makes appear to be affected, dating back to 1996 models, he said. Few 2003 or 2004 models have been struck. [...]

Samples will be shipped today to a lab in Nashville, Tenn., where they will be checked for octane content, ethanol levels and contaminants such as water and sediment. "It'll probably be Thursday before we know the results," Arnold said. [...]

Comment on this Article

Flashback: Air Force radios jamming garage-door openers in Panhandle

Associated Press
May 19, 2004

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE -- A new military two-way radio system is keeping garage doors shut in communities near this Florida Panhandle base and residents may have to change the frequencies on their remote-controlled opening devices to
make them work.

Homeowners in Niceville, Valparaiso and the Crestview area reported jammed garage door openers during recent testing of the new $5.5 million system at Eglin.

Air Force officials Tuesday said the contractor, Motorola Inc., will try to minimize the problem but they offered no guarantees.

"If we discover that we have some options in that area we'll definitely pursue them," said Col. Russell F. Miller, commander of the 96th Communication Group. "I want my garage door opener to work, too."

Technicians will run the system at slightly different frequencies from those used by garage door openers to try to eliminate or reduce the interference when another test is conducted Friday through Monday. [...]

Comment on this Article


Venezuela rejects US apologies

24 Sept 06

Venezuela has made a formal complaint to the US authorities and the United Nations after its foreign minister was detained at a New York airport.

The US state department has apologised to Nicolas Maduro who was detained for 90 minutes at New York's JFK airport as he travelled home.

He had been attending this week's UN General Assembly meeting.

He said he was verbally abused and strip-searched in what he said was a "flagrant breach of international law".

President Hugo Chavez described Mr Maduro's detention as a provocation.
Our correspondent Pascale Harter says the apology has done little to ease the tense relations between the two countries.

Mr Maduro said the US apology was not enough.

"We were detained during an hour and a half, threatened by police with being beaten," he told reporters at Venezuela's mission to the UN. "We hold the US government responsible."

US authorities initially denied Mr Maduro had been detained and his documents seized, saying he had simply been asked to go through a second security screening.

The US state department later confirmed the incident had taken place and apologised.

"The state department can confirm there was an incident with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro at JFK airport in New York," a spokesman said.

"The state department regrets this incident. The United States government apologised to Foreign Minister Maduro and the Venezuelan government."

Coup questions

President Chavez earlier said Mr Maduro had been questioned about his alleged role in a failed Venezuelan coup attempt in 1992, led by Mr Chavez.

US officials said airport security had questioned him, and diplomatic security was then sent to resolve the issue.

This latest episode shows that even small difficulties between the two governments are likely to trigger full-blown diplomatic rows, says the BBC's Greg Morsbach in Caracas.

Comment on this Article

Bolivia and Venezuela, military cooperation agreement

Wednesday, 20 September

President Evo Morales has announced plans to build three military bases with Venezuelan assistance along Bolivia's eastern borders with Brazil and Paraguay, where more than 2,000 elite troops will receive advanced training.
Mr. Morales says the bases are needed because the United States is "scheming" against Bolivia through neighboring countries, but domestic critics think he is more interested in having the troops available to stem unrest in a region that increasingly is demanding autonomy.

Speaking to journalists before he left for the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Cuba last week, Mr. Morales announced that the Venezuelan military would "support" the building of the bases, which the Paraguayan government has denounced as a "provocation."

"Every country has the right to strengthen its defenses," said Mr. Morales, who claimed he was responding to a "campaign by the government of the United States which wants to confront us."

He suggested the situation was similar to the Chaco War in the 1930s in which "external transnational interests confronted [Bolivia and Paraguay] over the region that currently possesses our largest reserves of natural gas."

Political opponents say Mr. Morales is using Venezuelan aid to militarize eastern Bolivia, which is the stronghold of opposition parties that have pushed through a referendum endorsing regional autonomy.

Military delegations from Bolivia and Venezuela met yesterday to establish "economic cooperation" for new army installations in Bolivia's Amazonic region along the Paraguay River said Defense Minister Walker San Miguel. He said the project will cost $22 million.

"It will be a large headquarters for elite units and professional military training which is very much wanted by the Bolivian army and now thanks to Venezuelan cooperation will become a reality," Mr. San Miguel said. The facilities are expected to house an airfield and 2,500 personnel.

Officers of Bolivia's 8th Army Division based in Santa Cruz say Venezuelan army engineers are already at the sites and that Venezuela is bringing in AK-103 assault rifles recently acquired from Russia. Military officials said 14 Venezuelan air force pilots are in Bolivia.

Comment on this Article

President Chavez proposes Latin American currency to replace US dollar

Published: Sunday, September 24, 2006
Bylined to: Patrick J. O'Donoghue

Returning to Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez Frias has opened an natural gas industrial complex in Sucre.

During the event, the President has accused the US Drug Enforcement Agency ( DEA) and The CIA of being infiltrated by narco- trafficking.
* Both security agencies, Chavez Frias muses, sometimes contaminate Venezuelan police officers.

"We broke an agreement with the DEA, because the DEA was engaged in political espionage ... we are discussing another agreement, but with better conditions for Venezuela."

The President insists that three times more drugs have been seized in Venezuela and big narco fish have been arrested, after breaking off the DEA agreement.

According to the Venezuelan President, the US government has failed in everything it has undertaken, especially the war on drugs and terrorism.

If George Bush had any dignity, Chavez Frias challenges, he would resign because he has been a complete failure ... Venezuela, on the contrary, is conquering ... "we are advancing in project with great success."

Chavez Frias has criticized the US dollar monetary system, arguing that the world is aflood with dollars that are not worth a cent. "It's not good to have dollars right down ... I wouldn't recommend anybody to have dollars."

Instead, the President proposes a new Latin American currency called the Sucre.

Comment on this Article

Venezuela's Chavez says Bush may try to kill him for 'devil' comments

Associated Press
September 23, 2006

CARACAS, Venezuela Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez said Saturday that U.S. President George W. Bush may be seeking to kill him for calling him "the devil" at the United Nations.

"Some worried friends over there have called me (to say) that because I called him the devil they have condemned me to death," Chavez said without elaborating further on his sources.

"But they won't kill me. I have faith in life," he said. "I know how to take care of myself and the Lord will protect me and you all will protect me," he told a cheering crowd in eastern Venezuela where he was visiting a group of state-funded agricultural cooperatives.

Chavez also said that Noam Chomsky may soon visit Venezuela after he endorsed the Masschusetts-based linguist's book, "Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance," in his U.N. address Wednesday.

"He is a man that loves the truth about the empire in his country. He is an anti-imperialist, a leftist. Noam Chomsky - I think he will come here," Chavez said.

On Wednesday at the U.N., Chavez held up Chomsky's book and urged Americans to read it "instead of watching Superman movies," saying it would teach them the truth about the abuses of the U.S. government.

Minutes later, he referred to Bush, who had spoken at the U.N. the previous day, saying the "devil" had left the odor of sulfur lingering in the chamber. Chavez then made the sign of the cross and brought his hands together as if in prayer.

Continuing in the same vein Saturday, Chavez said that he had had to wash Chomsky's book after placing it on the podium where Bush had stood.

"I had to clean it afterward because it smelled like sulfur. I had to sprinkle it with holy water," he said as the audience laughed.

Chavez told a news conference following his U.N. address that he believed Chomsky had died, and said he was sorry he didn't get a chance to meet him. However, Chomsky, 77, is alive and is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Chavez did not refer to his earlier blunder but noted that the publicity he brought to Chomsky's book has boosted its sales.

"Now it's among the world's best-sellers. It's sold out," he said.

Following Chavez's speech, the book jumped on Thursday into the top 10 on both Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com, while Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Henry Holt, has ordered an additional paperback printing of 25,000 copies.

Chavez's incendiary remarks against Bush are not new. He has previously called his long-time foe a "devil," "donkey" and "madman" as ties between the two countries have deteriorated since 2002, when the Bush administration swiftly recognized leaders who briefly ousted Chavez in a coup, before Chavez returned to power amid street protests.

But this week's aggressive verbal attacks made on American soil have elicited a sharp backlash.

Bush's political foes and friends alike have condemned the remarks, newspapers have sharply criticized the Venezuelan leader, while a call has emerged for businesses to boycott Venezuela-owned Citgo Petroleum Corp. One U.S. governor said his state is no longer interested in buying discounted heating oil from Venezuela this winter.

Venezuela is competing against U.S.-backed Guatemala for a seat on the U.N. Security Council and is tied to the United States as its No. 1 buyer of oil.

Comment on this Article

'Threats' to Venezuelan minister provoke war of words with US

By Rupert Cornwell in Washington
25 September 2006

New tension has flared between Caracas and Washington after Nicolas Maduro, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, accused police at New York's John F Kennedy international airport of illegally holding him and treating him abusively as he tried to fly home over the weekend.

The State Department said yesterday that the incident had been "regrettable" and that it had apologised. But Mr Maduro was not be mollified. "We were detained during an hour-and-a-half, and threatened by police with being beaten," he said. "We hold the US government responsible," he declared, rejecting the apology as insufficient.
The new spat between Caracas and Washington has capped an incendiary week which saw the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez describe President George Bush as "the devil" from the rostrum of the UN General Assembly, before telling passers-by in a Harlem street that the US leader was "a sick man" and "an alcoholic".

According to the Foreign Minister, the airport authorities at one point ordered him and other members of his delegation to spread their arms and legs and be frisked, but they flatly refused. "They tried to put on some handcuffs," he said, but "they would have had to take us out of that airport dead if they tried to touch us."

Predictably, the American version of events was somewhat different. A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees airport security screening in the US, denied that Mr Maduro had been mistreated.

The Foreign Minister, said the spokesman, had been picked out for "secondary screening" - an additional security procedure but did not say why. Mr Maduro "began to articulate his frustration ... right after he went through the magnetometer [the walk-through metal detector]," and police "confronted him when the situation became a ruckus". The delay caused Mr Maduro to miss his flight. Instead, he went back to the Venezuelan mission to the UN, and called a press conference.

Mr Maduro said that the Venezuelan government had complained to Kofi Annan, UN secretary general, and consulted lawyers. The detention was a "flagrant violation of international law" and Mr Maduro's diplomatic immunity. It had been "a deliberate attempt to provoke us". Mr Chavez told Venezuelan television that the Foreign Minister was held because the US authorities had linked him with a failed coup in 1992, led by the future president.

The Maduro affair leaves relations with Washington at their worst since 2002, when the US instantly recognised the organisers of the coup that briefly toppled Mr Chavez, before massive street protests swept him back to power.

Comment on this Article


Liberation, France: The United States a Step Closer to 'Legalizing Torture'

By Philippe Gangereau, Washington Correspondent
Translated By Sandrine Ageorges
September 23, 2006

For the past ten days the question has been under discussion in Congress. The debate regarding the legal use of torture has ended in almost total victory for the White House. Unless the hitherto silent Democratic members of the House and Senate voice their concerns, an agreement reached Thursday evening between the Bush Administration and the three Republican senators who are opposed to a "redefinition" of the Geneva Conventions may soon be adopted. George W. Bush pronounced himself pleased with the compromise, which "preserves the CIA program being used to question the world's most dangerous terrorists in order to obtain their secrets."
"Too vague." The debate began in June with a ruling of the Supreme Court, when Osama bin Laden's former driver, Ahmed Hamdan, appealed for his right to a normal trial. The Court ruled that the Geneva Conventions apply to all detainees, including "enemy combatants." The nation's top judges gave Bush only one exit door if he wanted to continue his "secret program": a vote from Congress. Hence the need for new legislation.

For the last ten days, a battle has erupted between the President and three rebel Republican senators, including John McCain, a Vietnam War veteran who underwent torture there. They opposed the White House's new definition of the Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which is considered to be "too vague." The article forbids "cruel treatment and torture," and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment RealVideo.

According to the version of the compromise released to the press, it is no longer a question of modifying Article 3. However, the plan considers that the Executive Branch has the latitude to determine if the treatment meted out to terrorist suspects constitutes a crime, except in regard to cases of "serious infringement."

Bush could therefore "interpret" the Conventions, but his interpretations, which will have the force of law, will have to be published. The compromise offers a list of "serious violations" over which the President would have no influence: these include "torture" and "serious physical and mental distress"; the White House insisted on the use of the word "grave" rather than "serious." The list doesn't forbid any specific techniques of interrogation.

And under this compromise, the American law on war crimes, which has hitherto supported the punishments called for by the Conventions (the United States is one of few countries to do so) would be amended to sanction only "grave violations" to the Swiss Convention. CIA agents who have been concerned about being hauled into court by detainees can breathe a sigh of relief.

Rights of defense. The negotiations, conducted between the Congress and the White House at the highest levels, were equally concerned about the right to a defense for terror suspects. In contrast to the wishes of the administration, they will have access to classified evidence against them, although in a slightly impaired form. "In effect" the Washington Post railed in its editorial, " the agreement means that U.S. violations of international human rights law can continue as long as Mr. Bush is president, with Congress's tacit assent".

Comment on this Article

Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Germany: CIA in Europe: No Need for Disguise - The CIA sends its people to Europe for kidnappings - without even bothering to disguise what they're doing

By Nicolas Richter
Translated By Bob Skinner
September 21, 2006

Anyone on a long business trip values comfortable accommodations. The rooms in the Mallorca Marriott Son Antem Golf Resort & Spa, for example, offer views of the pool and the golf course, and inside it has, according to hotel literature, "luxurious beds," whose sheets are particularly fluffy. On the evening of January 22, 2004, a dozen CIA agents lay softly bedded in the Balearic Islands after their return from an operation in Algeria.
"Surrounded by the smell of the almond and olive trees," as it says in the hotel advertisement, they prepared for their next mission in the war against terror. On the following day their Boeing 737 took off from Mallorca and landed in Macedonian Skopje, where the CIA group took the kidnapped German-Lebanese, Khaled el-Masri. As he recalled, the Americans flogged him before putting him into their aircraft. Later they threw the innocent man into a dungeon in Afghanistan where he was cross-examined for months because of his alleged ties to al-Qaeda.

The public prosecutor's office in Munich, which has been searching for the kidnappers for two years, now possesses a list of the presumed culprits. Spanish authorities sent the names in answer to an official request by Munich authorities. The kidnapping of el-Masri may well have been part of an anti-terror operation by the world's most powerful spy agency, but nevertheless, the Spanish police found it astonishingly easy to trace the Americans. The CIA used, among other things, the same aircraft again and again to transport its secret prisoners, including a Boeing with the identification number N313P, which had been sighted at many of the world's airports. It had also landed remarkably often on Mallorca. Public pressure encouraged the Mallorca authorities to pursue the clues left by the CIA.


Spanish officials quickly established that after landing their suspicious aircraft, the Americans checked into hotels as though they were normal tourists, where they, like every guest, submitted their passports, with photos. As on other occasions, the Boeing flight in January 2004 corresponded to entries in the guest book of a hotel near the airport: The Americans stayed in the Marriott Son Antem for one night, with names such as, Kirk James Bird, James Fairing or Patricia O'Riley. Later, on January 26, the same Boeing again landed in Palma de Mallorca, this time coming from Romania, and on January 28 it returned to Washington. It's not clear why the Americans didn't fly directly from Afghanistan to Mallorca.

[Swiss Senator] Dick Marty, who investigated the suspicious CIA operations for the Council of Europe, wrote in his report: "It is quite unlikely that the airplane stopped in Romania for refueling." After the kidnapping of el-Masri, the Boeing could easily have reached Palma de Mallorca from Afghanistan without a stop in between. Marty assumes therefore that the CIA dropped off one of their prisoners from Kabul in Romania, a reference to the secret prisons that the CIA is thought to maintain in Eastern Europe. Mallorca was never approached on routes used by the CIA when its aircraft carried prisoners; according to Marty, the Mediterranean island served as a starting point and resting place in between the long prisoner-flights between Afghanistan, Europe and North Africa. For the sake of convention the Americans half-camouflaged themselves: they arrived at the hotels with diplomatic passports, and at least some of them may have used fake names. The user of the Boeing was listed as a company called Stevens Express Leasing."


Nonetheless the investigators quickly discovered a clear pattern. The agents could have recovered from their duties in other cities; they could have stayed in different hotels or even slept in the airplane. But the CIA, it seems, decided such games of hide and seek weren't necessary. When the Americans kidnapped Abu Omar from Milan, a year before they kidnapped el-Masri, twenty-two agents used ordinary mobile telephones which left evidence all over the country. After the successful operation they spoiled themselves by spending several days in a luxury hotel in Venice, and for this the hotel bills alone amounted to almost $160,000, paid for with CIA credit cards.

Perhaps this was a small material compensation for the fact that the agents in what is described by the U.S. Government as "the war on terror" had to undertake such dirty jobs. When the Italian government issued arrest warrants against the suspected Americans, the CIA is said to have been surprised. In the meantime, however, the American agents are afraid of the legal consequences of their actions: They have obtained insurance to protect themselves against possible civil suits by the people they kidnapped.

Comment on this Article

El Tiempo, Colombia: Bush as Bad as bin Laden? In Some Ways, Worse ...

By Daniel Samper Pizano
Translated By Barbara Howe
September 19, 2006

It's time to decide if Colombia will continue to support Bush's barbarities, and if so, why.

The civilized world has recently suffered two devastating attacks. The first perpetrated by al-Qaeda left 2,941 innocent people dead in the United States; the second perpetrated in retaliation by George Bush left many more dead, and destroyed some of the most widely-observed norms of justice and human rights. In just the first month of bombing in Afghanistan (in December 2001) there were 3,767 civilians killed. In the war in Iraq and the chaotic violence that it unleashed, civilian deaths in just the past July and August totaled 3,330.
Of course there are differences between Osama bin Laden, ringleader of a theocratic terrorist movement and George Bush, a popularly elected president of the most powerful democracy in the world. Nevertheless, the two have done comparable damage to the United States and the rest of the world: bin Laden with his insane and merciless crusade, Bush with his policy of illegal war and combat methods rejected under universal legal norms: illegal detentions, torture and kangaroo courts ...

Eight days ago marked the fifth anniversary of the al-Qaeda attacks. It was a moment to remember those that have been lost and learn from past mistakes. But nothing seems to teach Bush, as he has presented a proposal to Congress that would legalize the tortures committed in the past, authorize them in the future, and exempt the United States from some of the rules of the Geneva Conventions, the global treaty meant to limit the savagery of war. "What is the meaning of [the words] human dignity?" he asked sarcastically, [in reference to what he said was the vague wording of the Geneva Conventions].

If the law passes, the CIA could detain suspects in secret prisons for indeterminate periods of time, interrogate them under torture and judge them under special military tribunals. Many dictatorships have done this, but on the margins of the law. Now the president of a democracy that has wanted to set an example is attempting to consecrate such barbaric statutes as part of Federal law.

Almost every Democratic Congressman as well as a growing group of Republicans (whom Bush accuses of "leaving the public defenseless") has opposed this illegal attempt, in addition to venerable former judges, lawyers of the Armed Forces, and generals such as Bush's ex-Secretary of State, Colin Powell. According to him, the proposal would make the world, "doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism." The most prominent members of the foreign and domestic press are scandalized by Bush's proposal, and many sympathetic governments view with horror this historic regression.

And what about Colombia? We know that because of government decisions taken without public debate, we are the only South American country that is taking part in the war against Iraq, and is supporting Washington's bellicose adventure. But we ignore the why, when and how of the way we got involved in this assault against international law. Digging through the archives reveals that on December 12, 2003, our ambassador to the U.N., Luis Guillermo Giraldo, declared in the Security Council that Colombia "supports the attack against Hussein," and believes that in this case, the "use of force" is justified.

Colombians have the right to say whether we want to continue being associated with this atrocity; whether we agree with it that Uribe backs this contempt for the United Nations and the Geneva Conventions; and if we are okay with the existence of secret prisons for torturing prisoners of war. It's time to clarify things and have the national debate that was never permitted by Uribe and Giraldo. As if we citizens didn't even exist.

Comment on this Article

BOYS GONE WILD - Pick Your Favorite Homoerotic Torture Technique With the Blessings of the Neocons

Ted Rall
19 Sept 06

NEW YORK--Right-wing Republicans are weird. When gays and lesbians want to marry and raise kids in the suburbs, the right-wingers freak out. "Perverts!" they scream at these bland strivers. But when supposedly straight soldiers in the army, marines and CIA engage in male-on-male rape and other acts of homosexual sadism so bizarre and extreme they turn off the average, gay-marriage-craving civilian, Republican legislators think it's the best thing ever.
No one talked about it much at the time, but those now-forgotten photos of torture and humiliation at Abu Ghraib were the kind of extreme homoerotic kink your local porn vendor keeps hidden under the counter. Iraqi inmates of mental asylums led around like dogs on leashes. Iraqi prisoners, almost all later released as innocent, stripped of their clothes and forced to pile on top of each other naked.

Of course, America's state media censored the most disturbing images. Hundreds of photos showed sex acts between and among soldiers and detainees. Male prisoners were videotaped while being forced to masturbate and have sex with one another. They were forced to wear women's underwear. U.S. soldiers, CIA torturers and private mercenaries hired by the Bush Defense Department sodomized them with flashlights and possibly broomsticks. They were kept naked for days at a time. Some were smeared with feces.

The photos, said a spokesman for U.S. military forces in Iraq earlier this year, "do not reflect what is happening at Abu Ghraib now." Because the Red Cross has long been banned from visiting the prison, there's no way to know if that's true. We do know, however, that enforced nudity and other gayer-than-gay torture tactics have become de rigueur at other outposts of Bush's post-9/11 gulag archipelago, including Guantánamo Bay, Afghanistan's Bagram concentration camp and the secret CIA prisons in Central and South Asia and Eastern Europe.

Moreover, torture has continued at Abu Ghraib since the United States turned over the facility to Iraq's puppet regime about two weeks ago. "Prisoners released from the jail this week spoke of routine torture of terrorism suspects and on [September 6], 27 prisoners were hanged in the first mass execution since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime," reported the British Independent newspaper. "Conditions in the rest of the jail were grim, with an overwhelming stench of excrement, prisoners crammed into cells for all but 20 minutes a day, food rations cut to just rice and water and no air conditioning."

The U.S. government's Boys Gone Wild, terrified that the courts could force them to fork over millions of dollars to their victims, buy torture insurance from the Arlington, Virginia-based Wright & Co. for $300 a year. If Americans ever come to their senses, however, our homotorturers could also face prison sentences. That's why George W. Bush wants to legalize the CIA's "alternative interrogation techniques" prohibited by the Geneva Conventions and the laws of 192 of the world's 193 nations. (The Pacific island of Nauru, which hasn't gotten around to ratification, might be a good spot to set up another "secret site.")

So what are the "alternative interrogation techniques"?

A well-sourced and repeatedly confirmed ABC News report lists six. In the "Attention Grab," the interrogator shakes a victim by his shirt. (This assumes that he isn't already nude.) The "Attention" and "Belly Slaps" are "aimed at causing pain and triggering fear." Then there's "Long Time Standing," in which victims are forced to stand for more than 40 hours straight. "Water Boarding" is the medieval practice of tying a victim to a board and dunking him under water. "Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt."

In order to work in American military intelligence, it seems, you really have to like looking at wet naked men with hard, erect nipples. In particular, it helps to be into wet naked Middle Eastern men. As a guy who looks away from other dudes in locker rooms, I doubt I'd fit in.

Now one right-wing Republican, George W. Bush, is fighting a gang of right-wing Republican senators over homoerotic torture tactics. The debate isn't about whether, but rather what kind, of homoerotic torture ought to be permissible. Bush is pretty much a whatever-it-takes, pro-flashlight-raping freak. Senators John McCain and John Warner are a little more vanilla. They want to set a few limits.

Very few limits.

Jeffrey H. Smith, ex-general counsel for the Clinton-era CIA, says the senators are OK with the current menu of torture. "The senators seem to be prepared to allow some techniques, but not nearly as many as the administration wants," he told The New York Times. Bush, on the other hand, wants to allow just about any form of pain infliction the human mind can conceive.

This, my fellow citizens, is what we've come to. No one, not even the nominally opposition Democrats, dares suggest the obvious--that both sets of gay-torture-loving right-wing Republicans are out of their filthy little minds.

(Ted Rall is the author of the new book "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?," an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy challenge.)

Comment on this Article

It's the War Crimes, stupid - How to cover Bush's torture victory

by Evan Derkacz
September 25, 2006.

Because reporting "wasn't up to the task," the Washingtonpost.com's Dan Froomkin provides some pointers for covering torture. He begins by warning that stories of the White House "caving in" on torture are greatly exaggerated.

Make no mistake about it: the Republican "rebels" and the White House compromised on just how much torture would be allowed.

According to Froomkin, the compromise is that: "the Republican senators essentially agreed to look the other way."
From the WaPo editorial board:

"Mr. Bush wanted Congress to formally approve these practices and to declare them consistent with the Geneva Conventions. It will not. But it will not stop him either, if the legislation is passed in the form agreed on yesterday."

La la la la la la la, I don't hear any screaming, la la la la la la...

Since this agreement to not publicly disagree, the press, Froomkin writes, "tendencies will be to cover the issue mostly from the angle of its effectiveness as a political cudgel in the mid-term elections."

Among his suggested questions:

Here's a question reporters should be asking: If, as Suskind has alleged, the administration is aware that those harsh CIA interrogation tactics don't really work -- and no one is currently in CIA detention anyway -- then why is this such an important issue for the White House? One possible answer: That this has nothing to do with the future; that it's about giving them cover for their actions in the past.


Finally, as the White House gears up to use detainee policy as a political issue, it is incumbent on the press to remind the public that there are not only two choices: Doing it Bush's way and letting terrorists go free. Even if the Democrats aren't coherent about other alternatives, the press should be.


Evan Derkacz is a New York-based writer and contributor to AlterNet.

Comment on this Article

Operation "Enduring Freedom"

The woman who defied the Taliban, and paid with her life - Women's rights campaigner in Afghanistan shot dead One in two Afghan women a victim of violence Suicide on the rise as Taliban's power increases Thanks to Bush and the Neocons

By Kim Sengupta
UK Independent
26 September 2006

Safia Amajan promoted women's education and work - a fairly ordinary job in most places - but in the Afghanistan of a resurgent Taliban it was a dangerous path to follow. She was a target, and yesterday she was gunned down outside her home.

Five years after the "liberation" of Afghanistan by the US and Britain, with promises of a new dawn for its downtrodden women, her murder was a bloody reminder of just how far the country is slipping back into a land of darkness.
Public figures, including the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, lined up to praise Ms Amajan.

Yet this support was signally lacking while she lived. The former teacher worked in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, and also the place where women have faced the most virulent discrimination and mistreatment. It is also where Nato forces are fighting a ferocious insurgency. Ms Amajan had asked for, and been refused, a protective vehicle, or bodyguards, despite repeated death threats.

She was in a battered taxi when two gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire with automatic rifles. Her nephew, Farhad Jan, said: "She died on the spot. There was no time to give her treatment." In a place of fear where one can sign one's death warrant with the wrong choice of words, Farhad was careful not to blame anyone for the killing. All he would say was: "We had no personal enmity with anyone."

A Taliban commander, Mullah Hayat Khan, declared that Ms Amajan had been "executed". He said: "We have told people again and again that anyone working for the government, and that includes women, will be killed."

Ms Amajan had taken over the post of women's welfare officer soon after Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, fled with the fall of his regime. With the return of the Taliban, as the "war on terror" moved on to Iraq, aid workers - foreign and Afghan, men and women - were intimidated into leaving the region.

Ms Amajan was one of the few who refused to flee. Her secretary, Abdullah Khan, said: "She was very brave. She was also very hard-working. She was always trying her best to improve education for women."

As well as defying the Taliban, Ms Amajan made the mistake of being successful in what she was doing. In Kandahar alone she had opened six schools where a thousand women had learnt how to make and then sell their goods at the market. She was also instrumental in setting up tailoring schools for women, with some of the products making their way to markets in the West.

At the official end of the Afghan war, America's first lady, Laura Bush, was among those who declared that one of the most important achievements of overthrowing the Taliban was emancipation of women. However, since then female social workers and teachers have been maimed and killed, girls' schools shut down and female workers forced to give up their jobs. The few women out in the streets in Kandahar and other places in the south are covered in burqas. A report by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission spoke of the "systematic and violent campaign" directed against women.

Statistics paint a bleak picture of women's lives with 35 female suicides in Kandahar alone and nearly 200 attempted suicides in the Herat region - one third of which were successful. Rights groups estimate that between 60 and 80 per cent of marriages in the country are forced. And the majority of those marriages involve girls under the age of 16.

Ms Amajan's funeral yesterday, in a Shia ceremony, was attended by the provincial governor and hundreds of mourners, including tribal elders. In Kabul, President Karzai said: "The enemies of Afghanistan are trying to kill those people who are working for the peace and prosperity of Afghanistan. The enemies of Afghanistan must understand that we have millions of people like Amajan."

Fariba Ahmedi, a female member of parliament, who attended the burial, said: "Those enemies who have killed her should know it will not derail women from the path we are on. We will continue on our way."

Human rights groups point out, however, that the battle for women's rights is in serious danger of being lost. There are now entire provinces where there is no girls' education; of the 300 schools shut or burnt down, the majority were for girls. The death rate at childbirth is the second highest in the world, and the number of women who have committed suicide, mainly through self-immolation, has risen by 30 per cent in two years.

Life gets worse for Afghan women


* 50 per cent of Afghan women say they have been beaten, while 200 women in Kandahar ran away from domestic violence this year.

* In the past year, 150 cases of women resorting to self-immolation have been reported in western Afghanistan, 34 cases in the south-east.

* 197 women in Herat were reported to have attempted suicide last year, 69 successfully.

* 57 per cent of girls are married before the legal age of 16.


* 85 per cent of women in Afghanistan are illiterate.

* The number of girls going to school in Afghanistan is half that of boys.

* 300 schools were set on fire across the country this year.


* 70 per cent of tuberculosis deaths are among women.

* Death rate of mothers in labour is 60 in 1000 - (60 per cent higher than developed world).

* Only 5-7 per cent of women in Zabul and Helmand province have access to health care.


* 41 per cent of the 10.5 million registered voters are women. Women's registration rates in southern provinces were much lower than the national average: Zabul (9 per cent), Uruzgan (10 per cent) Helmand (16 per cent), and Kandahar (27 per cent)


Comment on this Article

18 killed in Afghanistan suicide attack

26 September 2006

At least 18 people were killed today when a suicide bomber struck outside the compound of a southern Afghan provincial governor.

The dead included several Muslim pilgrims seeking paperwork to travel to Mecca.

The attacker was stopped by Afghan soldiers at the compound's security gate in Lashkar Gah where the bomber detonated his suicide vest, said Ghulam Muhiddin, spokesman for the Helmand provincial governor.
Nine Afghan soldiers and nine civilians were killed, said Rahmatullah Mohammdi, director of the hospital in Lashkar Gah. Seventeen people were wounded, he said.

The governor, Mohammed Daoud Safi, was inside the compound and was not injured in the attack.

Among the civilians waiting outside the compound were Afghan pilgrims seeking permission to travel to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Muhiddin said. The main mosque in Lashkar Gah sits across from the compound.

Today's suicide attack was the deadliest in Afghanistan since August 28, when 21 civilians were killed in Lashkar Gah by a bomber targeting an ex-police chief.

Comment on this Article

A journey into the 'Taliban republic' where the militias rule unchallenged

By Patrick Cockburn in Diyala, north east Iraq
25 September 2006

Civil war is raging through the Iraqi countryside. Sunni insurgents have largely taken control of the province of Diyala, where local leaders believe the insurgents are close to establishing a "Taliban republic".

Officials in the strategically important province - composed of a mixture of Sunnis and Shias with a Kurdish minority - have no doubt about what is happening. Lt-Col Ahmed Ahmed Nuri Hassan, a weary-looking commander of the federal police, says: "Now there is an ethnic civil war and it is getting worse every day."

At the moment, the Sunni seem to be winning.
As the violence has escalated over the past three years, it has become too dangerous for journalists to find out what is happening in the provinces outside the capital. The UN said last week that 5,106 civilians were killed in Baghdad in July and August and 1,493 in the provinces outside it.

Insurgents have cut the roads out of the capital to the west and the north. As I travelled through the provinces of this vast, war-torn country, despite keeping to the relatively calm tongue of Kurdish territory that extends through the countryside almost to Baghdad, I was keenly aware that it is not a place to make a mistake in map reading.

We drove for a couple of hours beside the Diyala river which rises in Iran's Zagros mountains and looks like a smaller version of the Nile, a streak of vivid green vegetation running through dun-coloured semi-desert. Then we turned abruptly east before the road entered the strongly insurgent district of As-Sadiyah.

What could have happened if we had continued down the main road was evident at Lt-Col Hassan's headquarters. In one corner of the courtyard was the wreckage of a blue-and-white police vehicle, ripped apart by a bomb. "Five policemen were killed in it when it was blown up at an intersection in As-Sadiyah two months ago," a policeman told us. "Only their commander survived but both his legs were amputated."

In Diyala, it is possible to see the anguished break-up of Iraq at ground level. Going by the accounts of police and government officials in the province, the death toll outside Baghdad may be far higher than previously reported. Ibrahim Hassan Bajalan, the head of Diyala's provincial council - who had survived an attempt to assassinate him in Baquba with a mortar attack the previous day - says he believed that "on average, 100 people are being killed in Diyala every week."

The latest were three civilians shot dead yesterday by unidentified assailants. Behind them, as the killers sped away in their car through the streets of Baquba, the families of the dead were left to grieve, falling to their knees and throwing their arms open to the sky in despair.

Many of those who die disappear for ever, thrown into the Diyala river or buried in date palm groves and fruit orchards. The reason for their killings can be spurious, and people have become careful to avoid incurring the wrath of local Sunni insurgents who control much of the province according to strict Islamic laws. "They have even banned the sale of cigarettes in the provincial capital, Baquba, and kill anybody selling cigarettes," Mr Bajalan said. "I have to bring in cigarettes from other places to give them to council members who are smokers."

In a house in Khanaqin, a Kurdish enclave in the north-east of the province, Nazar Ali Mirza, a sorrowful-looking middle-aged woman, described how she had fled too late from Muqdadiyah, the Sunni-dominated town of 200,000 people where she was born. She was caught by surprise when death squads began to target Kurds and Shias in her neighbourhood. Her eldest son, Khalil Mohammed Ahmed, a taxi driver, went out to collect a washing machine in March and never came back. She is beginning to assume he is dead but no body was discovered.

"Kurds and Shias were being driven out of our district," she said. "Men in black masks came to me and said they would kill my sons, even if they flew up into the sky, unless I moved away." One of her other sons was a policeman permanently disabled in a bomb explosion.

Mrs Mirza and her family are among 300,000 Iraqis forced to flee their homes since the beginning of the year. Everywhere, minorities frightened for their lives are on the move. "Nobody waits any longer to find out if a threat is real," says Mamosta Mohsin, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in Khanaqin which, in effect, runs the town. "Even if the threat is organised by two children, people will run." Most often, the threat is real. Lt-Col Hassan has a collection of files in which the names of the latest refugees are registered. Most of them are Kurds coming from Baghdad, Ramadi, Baquba and the rest of the country.

He hands over a piece of paper showing how the number of refugee families arriving in this small town had risen from 29 in January to 318 in June. It was still 239 in August.

Lt-Col Hassan says that neither Sunni nor Shia are particularly well organised: "It is not like Lebanon, because most of the killing is done by local or tribal militias." The problem is not that the insurgents are strong but that the government forces are so weak. A division of 7,000 government soldiers is in Diyala, he said, "but they are all Shias and only arrest Sunnis."

Mr Bajalan confirms that the army is weak in Diyala, saying most of it is tied down at checkpoints. He reckons there is one soldier for every 50 square kilometres of the province. "The soldiers are badly armed," he says.

"They just have Kalashnikovs while the terrorists have rocket launchers and heavy machine guns. When they attack, they always kill 10 or 15 army or police."

The Americans do have a base near Baquba, and act in a supportive role when they are asked to. "That isn't much use against guerrillas," says Mr Bajalan. "They've all gone home by the time the Americans arrive."

Baghdad announced signal successes around Baquba last week, including the capture of leaders of two Sunni insurgent groups. But nobody in Diyala had heard about it, and, without exception, they expected the civil war to grow in intensity.

Patrick Cockburn's The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq will be published by Verso on 9 October

Comment on this Article

Afghan opium production soars to new high

September 2, 2006

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghanistan's world-leading opium cultivation rose a "staggering" 60 percent this year, the U.N. anti-drugs chief announced Saturday in urging the government to crack down on big traffickers and remove corrupt officials and police.

The record crop yielded 6,100 tons of opium, or enough to make 610 tons of heroin -- outstripping the demand of the world's heroin users by a third, according to U.N. figures.
Officials warned that the illicit trade is undermining the Afghan government, which is under attack by Islamic militants that a U.S.-led offensive helped drive from power in late 2001 for harboring Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda bases.

"The news is very bad. On the opium front today in some of the provinces of Afghanistan, we face a state of emergency," Antonio Maria Costa, chief of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, said at a news conference. "In the southern provinces, the situation is out of control."

He talked with reporters after presenting results of the U.N. survey to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who voiced "disappointment" over the figures. "Our efforts to fight narcotics have proved inadequate," Karzai said in a statement.

With the economy struggling, there are not enough jobs and many Afghans say they have to grow opium poppies to feed their families. The trade already accounts for at least 35 percent of Afghanistan's economy, financing warlords and insurgents.

The top U.S. narcotics official here said the opium trade is a threat to the country's fledgling democracy.

"This country could be taken down by this whole drugs problem," Doug Wankel told reporters. "We have seen what can come from Afghanistan, if you go back to 9/11. Obviously the U.S. does not want to see that again."

The bulk of the opium increase was in lawless Helmand province, where cultivation rose 162 percent and accounted for 42 percent of the Afghan crop. The province has been wracked by the surge in attacks by Taliban-led militants that has produced the worst fighting in five years.

Opium-growing increased despite the injection of hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid to fight the drug over the past two years. Costa criticized the international effort and said foreign aid was "plagued by huge overhead costs" in its administration.

Costa said Afghanistan's insecurity is fueling the opium boom, saying he has pleaded with the NATO force that took over military operations in the south a month ago to take a "stronger role" in fighting drugs. NATO says it has no mandate for direct involvement in the anti-drug campaign.

"We need much stronger, forceful measures to improve security or otherwise I'm afraid we are going to face a dramatic situation of failed regions, districts and even perhaps even provinces in the near future," Costa said.

The U.N. report, based on satellite imagery and ground surveys, said the area under poppy cultivation in Afghanistan reached 407,700 acres in 2006, up from 257,000 acres in 2005. The previous high was 323,700 acres in 2004.

The estimated yield of 6,100 tons of opium resin -- described by Costa as "staggering" -- is up from 4,100 tons last year, and exceeds the previous high for total global output of 5,764 tons recorded in 1999.

Last year, about 450 tons of heroin was consumed worldwide, 90 percent of it from Afghanistan, according to the U.N.

The report will increase pressure on the beleaguered Afghan president. Karzai has often talked tough on drugs, even declaring a "holy war" against the trade, but he is increasingly criticized for appointing and failing to sack corrupt provincial governors and police.

Costa urged the arrest of "serious drug traffickers" to fill a new high-security wing for narcotics convicts at Kabul's Policharki prison. "It has 100 beds. We want these beds to be taken up in the next few months," he said.

At the same news conference, the Afghan counternarcotics minister, Habibullah Qaderi, said the government had the will to make arrests, but lacked the capacity to gather evidence to prosecute "the big fish."

Yet he maintained that with its newly unveiled national anti-drugs strategy, Afghanistan could "control" drug production within five years.

Costa was less upbeat. "It's going to take possibly 20 years to get rid of the problem," he said, citing the experience of former opium producers like Thailand, Turkey and Pakistan.

In an indication of the alarming extent of official complicity in the trade, a Western counternarcotics official said about 25,000 to 30,000 acres of government land in Helmand was used to cultivate opium poppies this year.

The official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said police and government officials are involved in cultivating poppies, providing protection for growers or taking bribes to ensure the crops aren't destroyed.

He said the Taliban -- which managed to nearly eradicate Afghanistan's poppy crop in 2001, just before their ouster for giving refuge to Osama bin Laden -- now profit from the trade.

In some instances, drug traffickers have provided vehicles and money to the Taliban to carry out terrorist attacks, he said. But he added that the ties seem to be local and that there is no evidence of coordination between drug lords and the Taliban leadership.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

Comment on this Article

Who benefits from the Afghan Opium Trade?

by Michel Chossudovsky
September 21, 2006

The United Nations has announced that opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has soared and is expected to increase by 59% in 2006. The production of opium is estimated to have increased by 49% in relation to 2005.

The Western media in chorus blame the Taliban and the warlords. The Bush administration is said to be committed to curbing the Afghan drug trade: "The US is the main backer of a huge drive to rid Afghanistan of opium... "

Yet in a bitter irony, US military presence has served to restore rather than eradicate the drug trade.
What the reports fail to acknowledge is that the Taliban government was instrumental in implementing a successful drug eradication program, with the support and collaboration of the UN.

Implemented in 2000-2001, the Taliban's drug eradication program led to a 94 percent decline in opium cultivation. In 2001, according to UN figures, opium production had fallen to 185 tons. Immediately following the October 2001 US led invasion, production increased dramatically, regaining its historical levels.

The Vienna based UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that the 2006 harvest will be of the order of 6,100 tonnes, 33 times its production levels in 2001 under the Taliban government (3200 % increase in 5 years).

Cultivation in 2006 reached a record 165,000 hectares compared with 104,000 in 2005 and 7,606 in 2001 under the Taliban (See table below).

Multibillion dollar trade

According to the UN, Afghanistan supplies in 2006 some 92 percent of the world's supply of opium, which is used to make heroin.

The UN estimates that for 2006, the contribution of the drug trade to the Afghan economy is of the order of 2.7 billion. What it fails to mention is the fact that more than 95 percent of the revenues generated by this lucrative contraband accrues to business syndicates, organized crime and banking and financial institutions. A very small percentage accrues to farmers and traders in the producing country.

(See also UNODC, The Opium Economy in Afghanistan, http://www.unodc.org/pdf/publications/afg_opium_economy_www.pdf , Vienna, 2003, p. 7-8)

"Afghan heroin sells on the international narcotics market for 100 times the price farmers get for their opium right out of the field".(US State Department quoted by the Voice of America (VOA), 27 February 2004).

Based on wholesale and retail prices in Western markets, the earnings generated by the Afghan drug trade are colossal. In July 2006, street prices in Britain for heroin were of the order of Pound Sterling 54, or $102 a gram.

Narcotics On the Streets of Western Europe

One kilo of opium produces approximately 100 grams of (pure) heroin. 6100 tons of opium allows the production of 1220 tons of heroin with a 50 percent purity ratio.

The average purity of retailed heroin can vary. It is on average 36%. In Britain, the purity is rarely in excess of 50 percent, while in the US it can be of the order of 50-60 percent.

Based on the structure of British retail prices for heroin, the total proceeds of the Afghan heroin trade would be of the order of 124.4 billion dollars, assuming a 50 percent purity ratio. Assuming an average purity ratio of 36 percent and the average British price, the cash value of Afghan heroin sales would be of the order of 194.4 billion dollars.

While these figures do not constitute precise estimates, they nonetheless convey the sheer magnitude of this multibillion dollar narcotics trade out of Afghanistan. Based on the first figure which provides a conservative estimate, the cash value of these sales, once they reach Western retail markets are in excess of 120 billion dollars a year.

(See also our detailed estimates for 2003 in The Spoils of War: Afghanistan's Multibillion Dollar Heroin Trade, by Michel Chossudovsky, The UNODC estimates the average retail price of heroin for 2004 to be of the order of $157 per gram, based on the average purity ratio).

Narcotics: Second to Oil and the Arms Trade

The foregoing estimates are consistent with the UN's assessment concerning the size and magnitude of the global drug trade.

The Afghan trade in opiates (92 percent of total World production of opiates) constitutes a large share of the worldwide annual turnover of narcotics, which was estimated by the United Nations to be of the order of $400-500 billion.

(Douglas Keh, Drug Money in a Changing World, Technical document No. 4, 1998, Vienna UNDCP, p. 4. See also United Nations Drug Control Program, Report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 1999, E/INCB/1999/1 United Nations, Vienna 1999, p. 49-51, and Richard Lapper, UN Fears Growth of Heroin Trade, Financial Times, 24 February 2000).

Based on 2003 figures, drug trafficking constitutes "the third biggest global commodity in cash terms after oil and the arms trade." (The Independent, 29 February 2004).

Afghanistan and Colombia are the largest drug producing economies in the world, which feed a flourishing criminal economy. These countries are heavily militarized. The drug trade is protected. Amply documented the CIA has played a central role in the development of both the Latin American and Asian drug triangles.

The IMF estimated global money laundering to be between 590 billion and 1.5 trillion dollars a year, representing 2-5 percent of global GDP. (Asian Banker, 15 August 2003). A large share of global money laundering as estimated by the IMF is linked to the trade in narcotics.

Legal Business and Illicit Trade are Intertwined

There are powerful business and financial interests behind narcotics. From this standpoint, geopolitical and military control over the drug routes is as strategic as oil and oil pipelines.

Moreover, the above figures including those on money laundering, confirm that the bulk of the revenues associated with the global trade in narcotics are not appropriated by terrorist groups and warlords, as suggested by the UNODC report. In the case of Afghanistan, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that a mere 2.7 billion accrues as revenue within Afghanistan. According to the US State department "Afghanistan drug profits support the Taliban and their terrorism efforts against the United States, its allies and the Afghan government." (statement, the House Appropriations foreign operations, export financing and related programs subcommittee. September 12, 2006)

However, what distinguishes narcotics from legal commodity trade is that narcotics constitutes a major source of wealth formation not only for organized crime but also for the US intelligence apparatus, which increasingly constitutes a powerful actor in the spheres of finance and banking. This relationship has been documented by several studies including the writings of Alfred McCoy. (Drug Fallout: the CIA's Forty Year Complicity in the Narcotics Trade. The Progressive, 1 August 1997).

In other words, intelligence agencies, powerful business, drug traders and organized crime are competing for the strategic control over the heroin routes. A large share of this multi-billion dollar revenues of narcotics are deposited in the Western banking system. Most of the large international banks together with their affiliates in the offshore banking havens launder large amounts of narco-dollars.

This trade can only prosper if the main actors involved in narcotics have "political friends in high places." Legal and illegal undertakings are increasingly intertwined, the dividing line between "businesspeople" and criminals is blurred. In turn, the relationship among criminals, politicians and members of the intelligence establishment has tainted the structures of the state and the role of its institutions including the Military.

Comment on this Article

Great Men, An Empress, and a Little Boy

Remains of Danish-born empress arrive in Russia for reburial

RIA Novosti
26 Sept 06

ST. PETERSBURG, September 26 (RIA Novosti) - A ship carrying the remains of Tsar Alexander III's Danish-born wife arrived in St. Petersburg Tuesday, where Maria Fyodorovna will be reburied next to her husband and other members of the Romanov dynasty.

Her descendants, including members of the Romanov family, and a Russian government delegation, headed by Culture and Mass Communication Minister Alexander Sokolov, and St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko, met the casket at the wharf.

The casket was placed in the Church of St. Alexander Nevsky at the Romanovs' former country residence, Peterhof, near St. Petersburg. The coffin will remain in the imperial family's former home church until September 28, when the remains will be reburied in St. Petersburg to honor Maria's last wishes, and in keeping with an agreement reached by the governments of Russia and Denmark in 2005.
Maria, known in her native country as Princess Dagmar, will be reburied at the Peter and Paul Fortress, a sepulcher for the Romanov dynasty, which ruled Russia for more than 300 years.

The casket with the empress' remains left the Roskilde Cathedral and was paraded through Copenhagen before being put on the ship sailing to St. Petersburg September 22.

Danish Princess Marie Sophie Frederikke Dagmar (1847-1928), baptized a Lutheran, took the name Maria Fyodorovna when she converted to Orthodoxy before marrying Alexander III, who reigned from 1881 to 1894.

A descendant of the Romanov family praised the reburial as a happy event Tuesday, symbolizing the nation's reconciliation following a revolution and an ensuing Civil War that divided the country and forced many of its nobility and intellectuals to flee abroad.

"This is not a sad, but a happy event. We are not burying the empress, we are returning her remains to where they should rest," Nikolai Romanov, the great grandson of Grand Duke Nikolai, Tsar Alexander II's younger brother, told reporters.

The empress lived in Russia for more than 50 years, energetically engaging in charity and promoting education in the country. She only left Russia for Denmark two years after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution.

Maria Fyodorovna's son - Russia's last Tsar, Nicholas II - and her daughter-in-law and grandchildren were killed by the Bolsheviks in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg in 1918, but she never acknowledged the massacre. The purported remains of Nicholas II were reburied in St. Petersburg in July 1998.

Comment on this Article

Boy aged three buys £9,000 car on internet

Press Association
Tuesday September 26, 2006
The Guardian

A three-year-old boy used his mother's computer to buy a £9,000 car on the internet auction site eBay.

Jack Neal's parents discovered their son's successful bid when they received a congratulations message from the website about the pink Nissan Figaro.

Rachel Neal, 36, told the Sun: "We couldn't understand what was happening. Neither of us had bought anything. So we checked and saw it was a Barbie-pink car which we'd bought for £8,999. We flew into a panic."

The following morning Jack woke and told his parents: "I've bought a car."
Mrs Neal, of Sleaford, Lincolnshire, told the newspaper she thought she had left her eBay password in her computer. She said: "Jack's a whizz on the PC and just pressed all the right buttons."

Her husband, John, 37, called the seller of the car and explained the mistake. "Luckily he saw the funny side and said he would readvertise," Mrs Neal said.

The seller of the soft-top second-hand car, which has a 1.0-litre turbo-charged engine, said yesterday that he had been amused by the bid.

Paul Jones, co-director of Worcester Road Motors, Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire, said: "I had a phone call explaining what had happened and as soon as I heard it was a young boy who had done it by mistake I cancelled the bid and readvertised the car, which is very collectable.

"He must have good taste in cars. We've all got children and they do silly things at times, so it was no problem."

It was the first time the car dealership had sold a car on the site, Mr Jones said.

The car, which had been imported from Japan and refurbished, is available on eBay at a starting price of £7,999.

Comment on this Article

Renaissance man comes home - Intimate portrait of Sir Thomas More and family returns after nearly 500 years

Mark Brown, arts correspondent
Tuesday September 26, 2006
The Guardian

An intimate pen and ink drawing of Sir Thomas More at home with the family is returning to Britain for the first time since it was given as a present to the humanist scholar Erasmus almost 500 years ago. The inclusion of the Hans Holbein drawing has generated excitement at Tate Britain, which opens its autumn blockbuster, Holbein in England, on Thursday.

It was made in 1526 and became an 8ft by 13ft painting which ended up hanging on the walls of a castle in what is now the Czech Republic until it was destroyed in a fire in the 18th century.
Soon after completing it, Holbein took it to Switzerland and gave it to More's friend Erasmus, so he could see how the family was getting on. Erasmus adored it and said it made him feel as if he was back in the Chelsea household. It has remained in Basel, Switzerland, ever since and has been lent by the city's Kunstmuseum. "It is amazingly exciting to have it here in London," said the show's curator, Susan Foister. "The painting's destruction was very sad but at least we have this wonderful drawing which gives us a good idea of the composition and the background in what was the family home in Chelsea."

More, a staunch Catholic, was Henry VIII's adviser, secretary and then finally the first layman to be chancellor after Cardinal Wolsey refused to help annul Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon (divorced).

In 1515 More published what has been called one of the first classics of English historiography, The History of Richard III, and the following year he published his most famous work, Utopia - a description of an island ruled by reason, free of poverty and war. But he fell out of favour with Henry and was beheaded in 1535 for opposing Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn (beheaded). Erasmus, who had a profound influence on the Reformation, was a good friend of More and dedicated his most famous work to to him - The Praise of Folly, a satire on the Catholic church.

For Erasmus the drawing was the 16th century equivalent of looking at a family photograph. There were also annotations in old German by Holbein pointing out proposed changes as well as a brown ink drawing of a monkey in the bottom right hand corner. More had a small zoo and was especially fond of one particular monkey. The drawing - Designs For More Family Group - will be shown alongside a series of preparatory chalk drawings of individual More family members which are held in the royal collection at Windsor.

"This is the biggest exhibition for over 50 years and there are paintings in the exhibition that have not been seen here for many years," said Dr Foister."We see Holbeins everywhere we go and we're pretty thrilled with what we've managed to borrow."

Holbein is regarded as the first truly great painter to work in England. His hesitant arrival in 1526 in effect brought the Renaissance from continental Europe to Britain.

When, aged about 29, he arrived to meet his future patron Sir Thomas More there were fears he would not get much work. More wrote to his friend: "Your painter, dearest Erasmus, is a wonderful artist, but I fear that he is not likely to find England so abundantly fertile as he had hoped; although I will do what I can to prevent him finding it quite barren."

How wrong could he be? Holbein went on to paint much of the court of Henry VIII and his portraits of the monarch are known to generations of schoolchildren. Arguably the most famous, from the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, will also be in the show.

It will be reunited, for the first time in centuries, with portraits of Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour (natural causes), from the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, and their sickly son Edward who, as Edward VI, died at 15. That portrait is being lent by the National Gallery of Art in Washington. One painting not coming to the Tate will be the 1533 work The Ambassadors, because conservators feel it would be too risky to move from its home in the National Gallery. The exhibition concentrates on Holbein's two periods in London between 1526-28, and 1532 until his death from the plague in 1543. It continues until January 7.

Comment on this Article

Hero of the Ming Dynasty: The man who mapped the world - A Mongolian Muslim who was castrated as a boy became one of the most intrepid explorers in history.

Clifford Coonan in Beijing
UK Independent
26 Sept 06

Standing seven feet tall, Admiral Zheng He towered over his crew at the prow of his legendary treasure ship. Setting out six centuries ago on the first of seven landmark voyages, he reached south-east Asia, India, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and as far as the east coast of Africa. Some say he may even have made it to America.

The exploits of the intrepid Ming Dynasty explorer known as the Three-Jewelled Eunuch, a devout Muslim of Mongolian descent from Yunnan province, still resonate in China today, where he is seen as a symbol of emerging modern China's peaceful rise.

Zheng He's journeys took him to 37 countries over 28 years as part of the mightiest fleet that ever sailed, with 300 ships and 28,000 sailors. It wasn't until the First World War that a bigger flotilla took to the seas.
The pride of the fleet was the flagship, Zheng He's treasure ship, a hardwood vessel with 1,000 men on board. At 400ft, it dwarfed Christopher Columbus's Santa Maria, a minnow at 98ft. It had nine masts and 12 red sails and was packed full of porcelain, calligraphy scrolls, elegant musical instruments - the finest items China had to offer.

Emperor Yongle, the first ruler of the Ming dynasty, wanted to showcase China's naval power, and in 1402 commissioned Zheng to undertake a daring mission to the seas known to the Chinese as the Western Oceans. Three years later, the expedition was ready.

Born Ma He in 1371, (the name Ma is the Chinese transcription of Muhammad), to poor parents, the future great seafarer was captured by soldiers and castrated when he was still a boy. He was forced into the army, where he excelled, earning the honorific surname "Zheng" after fighting in a battle near Beijing.

Eunuchs were politically influential in the court, and Zheng De became close to the third Ming emperor, Zhu Di, as a key strategist, earning him the title of Prince of Yan. He also studied languages and philosophy.

He died in 1433, aged 62 - some say on the return leg of his seventh and final journey. His tomb, bearing the inscription "Allah is Great" stands at the southern outskirts of Niushou in Nanjing.

Leaving Nanjing laden with silk, ceramics, pottery and copper coins, the fleet returned packed with spices, fruits and rare and exotic fauna, such as China's first giraffe, which the voyagers picked up in Somalia. The emperor himself went down the palace gate to see the giraffe, which was accompanied by a zebra and an oryx.

All the information about Zheng He's voyages we have comes from writing on a stone pillar discovered in the 1930s in Fujian province, and the accounts of those who sailed with him. The account on the pillar tells of seeing "in the ocean huge waves like mountains rising sky-high, and we have set eyes on barbarian regions far away hidden in a blue transparency of light vapours".

But the voyages were not only about trade. A Muslim scholar named Ma Huan documented the daring voyages. He wrote of how in 1407, a Cantonese sea pirate named Chen Zuyi, who with 5,000 men operated out of Sumatra preying in the Straits of Malacca, was destroyed by Zheng He's armada. Chen Zuyi was taken back to Nanjing and publicly executed.

The sailors were helped by technological advances such as the compass, or "south pointing spoon", fore and aft sails, and airtight compartments in the hull.

Boat-builders in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province in eastern China, have just completed a replica of one of the ships in the fleet, 200ft long and 46 ft wide. Sailing in ships like the replica just completed, Zheng He is credited as the first man to have established a direct sea route linking the western Pacific and the Indian Ocean.

The Nanjing shipyard where much of Zheng He's fleet was built has been excavated. The next step for the boat builders working at the Nanjing Treasure Boat Heritage Park is to embark on their most ambitious project to date - a replica of the treasure ship itself. Work begins this month and should be completed in 2008, when the replica boat is expected to sail as an "image envoy" in the aquatic events in the 2008 Olympic Games.

The boat will also travel to countries along the ancient Maritime Silk Route explored by early Chinese sailors, its builders said.

A problem with building replicas of the treasure ship and other vessels in Zheng He's fleet is that no one really knows what the ships looked like. While thousands of ships were built, none of them exist today, not even as shipwrecks, leaving boat-builders to try to recreate the vessels from documentary evidence. It's a procedure involving experiment, trial and error. Previous efforts to rebuild the treasure ship have sunk, and the size of the replica will be considerably smaller than the original ship because of the lack of records which might explain how its structure held together, a senior engineer told the Xinhua news agency.

Costing $10m (£5.2m), the boat will be constructed on an ancient wooden framework made from oak, as historians think the original probably was, but will have all mod cons inside, including computers, engines and air conditioning.

The rehabilitation of Zheng He's reputation began in the early part of the last century, and by the 1930s he worked his way into school textbooks as a national hero. The country has been gripped with Zheng He fever since the 600th anniversary of the first of his fantastic voyages. His exploits have become a focal point for Chinese nationalism because, in the days when the Admiral roamed the waves, China was far more technologically advanced than other cultures and had no equal at sea.

In 2005, the government organised an exhibition at the National Museum in Beijing's Tiananmen Square proclaiming him a hero. The propaganda tsars are keen to push the Zheng He story as a symbol of Chinese ingenuity, but also of its benign foreign policy - China's peaceful rise, as President Hu Jintao likes to put it. They insist that Zheng He was not a coloniser and was more interested in trade than theft, although they concede the fleet was also supposed to spread the word to the peoples of southern Asia in particular that China was a mighty power.

"Unlike many latter-day European counterparts, which sailed across the great oceans to conquer other nations by force, the Chinese fleet brought to those foreign lands tea, chinaware, silk and craftsmanship. They gave the rest of the world peace and civilisation and never occupied any foreign land, an achievement symbolising the ancient kingdom's sincerity to increase exchanges with other nations," ran an editorial in the state-run China Daily last month.

Many historians disagree with this view of Ming dynasty benevolence. As the Singapore-based historian Geoff Wade has pointed out, the Ming dynasty was involved in numerous expansionary campaigns, including the invasion of Vietnam and dispatching fleets around south-east Asia and the Indian Ocean to implement a "pax Ming" across the seas of the region.

They were involved in a civil war in Java in 1406, and another in Sumatra in 1415; they seized the Sri Lankan capital - and Sri Lanka's leader - and the Thai capital of Ayudhya, as well as establishing bases to control the Straits of Malacca.

Meanwhile, the good admiral was in the limelight again after the publication by the British author Gavin Menzies of 1421, which claims that he reached the Americas in that year. In January, a map unearthed by a collector of old charts in Shanghai seemed to show that Admiral Zheng first landed on the shores of the New World, decades before Christopher Columbus's Santa Maria had even been built.

The map purported to prove that Zheng rounded Africa's southernmost tip, the Cape of Good Hope, 76 years before Vasco da Gama, and circumnavigated the globe 100 years earlier than Ferdinand Magellan.

In June a medal was discovered in North Carolina, complete with Ming dynasty inscriptions, that had been dug up kilometres inland from the coast. The six-Chinese-character inscription, "Da Ming Xuan De Wei Ci", on the medal translates into "Awarded by Xuan De of Great Ming". It refers to the period between 1426 and 1435, the reign of Emperor Xuan Zong - long before Columbus's 1492 landing. Other researchers say that the high incidence of the genetic disorder, Machado-Joseph disease among local American Indians, which first appeared in Yunnan in China, could have been spread by the Chinese fleet in the 1430s.

Whether he did indeed beat Columbus to the New World, the story of the way Zheng He faded from view is also a puzzling one. The admiral sailed for nearly 30 years, but after the emperor died in 1424, China began to look inward, beginning a policy of isolationism that lasted hundreds of years. China had the technology and the manpower in its grasp and she could easily have gone on to colonise the whole planet - but instead of becoming the first global superpower, the new emperor shut the doors and burnt all records of Zheng's fleet, ending the "Age of Sea".

China's isolationism at the time marked the growing power of the conservative Confucian scholars, who had long been envious of the power of the eunuchs. Shortly after the last voyage of the treasure fleet, the Chinese emperor forbade overseas travels and stopped all building and repair of ocean-going junks. Anyone who disobeyed the ban on overseas travel was killed. The greatest navy of the world willed itself into extinction, leaving China closed off and with little way of protecting itself against attack from Japanese pirates.

For their part, great colonial nations such as Spain and Portugal began honing their sailing skills and, in tandem, their colonial administration abilities, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Comment on this Article

Setting Up the War on Terror

Flashback: Musharraf: US threatened to bomb Pakistan after 9/11

21 Sept 06

NEW YORK - President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan said that after the September 11 attacks the United States threatened to bomb his country if it did not cooperate with America's war campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Musharraf, in an interview with CBS news magazine show "60 Minutes" that will air Sunday, said the threat came from Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage and was given to Musharraf's intelligence director.

"The intelligence director told me that (Armitage) said, 'Be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age,"' Musharraf said.

"I think it was a very rude remark."

The Pakistani leader, whose remarks were distributed to the media by CBS, said he reacted to the threat in a responsible way.

"One has to think and take actions in the interest of the nation, and that's what I did," Musharraf said about the cooperation extended by Pakistan.

Musharraf said some demands made by the United States were "ludicrous," including one insisting he suppress domestic expression of support for terrorism against the United States.

"If somebody's expressing views, we cannot curb the expression of views," Musharraf said.

Copyright 2006 Reuters News Service.

Comment: Well, isn't that just odd?! Do they expect us to buy that? Well, yeah... how soon we forget.

But, allow us to remind the reader of the following:

The 9-11 Terrorists did not act in a vacuum. They were instruments in a carefully planned intelligence operation supported by Pakistan's ISI, which owes its allegiance and existence to the CIA.

The purported 9-11 ringleader - Mohammed Atta - according to ABC news, was financed by "unnamed sources in Pakistan." According to Agence France Presse and the Times of India, an official Indian intelligence report informs us that the 9-11 attacks were funded by money wired to Mohammed Atta from Pakistan, by Ahmad Umar Sheikh, under orders from Pakistani intelligence chief General Mahmoud Ahmad. The report said: "The evidence we have supplied to the U.S. is of a much wider range and depth than just one piece of paper linking a rogue general to some misplaced act of terrorism." [Michel Chossudovsky]

Guess what? General Mahmoud Ahmad was in the U.S. on September 11.

Where was General Mahmoud on the morning of September 11, while Dubya was in Florida reading upside down books?

Why, the good general just happened to be having breakfast with Florida's senator, Bob Graham - our esteemed chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Also present at breakfast was Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S. Maleeha Lodhi. There were other members of the Senate and House Intelligence committees present.

In fact, the News of Pakistan reported the visit BEFORE September 11:

ISI Chief Lt. Gen. Mahmoud's week-long presence in Washinton has triggered speculation about the agenda of his mysterious meetings at the Pentagon and National Security Council. Officially, he is on a routine visit in return for CIA Director George Tenet's earlier visit to Islamabad. Official sources confirm that he met Tenet this week. He also held long parleys with unspecified officials at the White House and the Pentagon. But the most important meeting was with Marc Grossman, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. One can safely guess that the discussions must have centred around Afghanistan ... and Osama bin Laden. What added interest to his visit is the history of such visits. Last time Ziauddin Butt, Mahmoud's predecessor, was here, during Nawaz Sharif's goernment, the domestic politics turned topsy-turvy within days. [Amir Mateen, News Pakistan, September 10, 2001 as quoted by Michel Chossudovsky]

Nawaz Sharif was overthrown by General Pervez Musharaf. General Mahmoud Ahmad, who became the head of the ISI, played a key role in the military coup. [Michel Chossudovsky

Nawaz Sharif was overthrown by General Pervez Musharaf. General Mahmoud Ahmad, who became the head of the ISI, played a key role in the military coup. [Michel Chossudovsky]

The existence of an ISI-Osama-Taliban-CIA-US government axis is a matter of public record. However, what was NOT expected - obviously - was the revelation by Indian intelligence - that the $100,000 bux was paid to Mohammed Atta on the orders of the guy having breakfast with Bob Graham - the same guy who was meeting with all the likely conspirators.

The Bush administration's relations with pakistan's ISI - including the week of meetings and "consultations" with General Mahmoud Ahmad prior to September 11 - raise not only the issue of "cover-up" but of DIRECT COMPLICITY. At the very least, this suggests that key individuals within the U.S. military-intelligence establishment knew about the attack in some detail and failed to act. At worst, it suggests that the many irregularities noted about the behavior of Bush and his gang prior to, during, and following the 9-11 attacks were indicative of direct participation in the planning of the events, even to the "piggy-backing" of the drone plane attack on the Pentagon to divert suspicion away from the U.S. military.

See: Mahmoud Ahmad and The Secret Cult of 9-11

Comment on this Article

Key 9/11 planner linked to London bombings: Musharraf

25 Sept 06

The chief architect of the September 11, 2001 attacks was also linked to last year's suicide blasts on the London transport network, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf says in his memoirs.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was arrested in Pakistan in 2003, confessed that Al-Qaeda sized up London's subway for an attack at the same time as it hatched a plan to crash jets into Heathrow, Musharraf says in "In the Line of Fire."
Another Al-Qaeda militant tasked by Mohammed to carry out the reconnaissance later revealed a connection to two of the bombers who struck in London on July 7, 2005, the controversial book published on Monday says.

"We had learned from KSM (Mohammed) that Al-Qaeda's planners were thinking seriously about, and discussing, bombing Heathrow Airport in London ... as well as London's subway system," Musharraf writes.

"The suspect had been told by KSM to carry out reconnaissance of, and prepare a plan to attack, Heathrow Airport. After initial planning, he also suggested Canary Wharf and London's subway system as additional possible targets."

Mohammed, the self-proclaimed key conspirator behind the September 11 attacks on the United States, has previously been linked to the foiled Heathrow plot but not to the subway attacks.

Musharraf's book says the militant kept in touch with Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden at the time he was planning the British attacks through courier-delivered letters.

After his arrest in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi he was handed over to the United States. He is reportedly to face a hearing at Guantanamo Bay to determine if he is an "enemy combatant".

Musharraf does not name the second militant who scouted the possible London targets but it is believed to be Naeem Noor Khan, a Pakistani computer expert captured in Lahore in mid-2004. His whereabouts are unknown.

Pakistan gave Britain information on the militant's laptop about terror plots as well as "direct access" to Khan, Musharraf says in the book.

"Later this would reveal a link with Siddique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer," two of the young Britons of Pakistani heritage who blew themselves up in London on July 7, 2005, Musharraf says, without specifying when.

But he hits out at British authorities for not sharing this information on Tanweer and Siddique Khan with Pakistan for three weeks after the bombings "and despite the fact that Siddique and Tanweer had first been spotted 17 months earlier".

The revelations are the latest in a series to come from the Pakistani leader's book and from related TV interviews and serialisations.

Last week he said former US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage threatened to bomb Pakistan "back to the stone age" if it did not back Washington after 9/11, described by Musharraf as "what has to be the most undiplomatic statement ever made".

The US Central Intelligence Agency paid Pakistan millions of dollars for handing over more than 350 suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists, including Mohammed, Musharraf said in the initial serialisation of the book in The Times on Monday.

Musharraf's memoirs are vague on the whereabouts of bin Laden, who was said in a leaked French intelligence memo to have died recently in Pakistan of typhoid.

"It is only a matter of time before bin Laden is caught," he writes, before admitting that he does not know where he is and guessing that he may be in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar.

He does however reveal a wealth of detail about the Al-Qaeda network, including that Mohammed, fellow conspirator Ramzi bin al-Shibh and three others watched the first plane hit the World Trade Center from a Karachi Internet cafe.

Comment: Well, isn't that just amazing?! What a coincidence! That the same people were involved in the London bombing and 9/11!

The 9-11 Terrorists did not act in a vacuum. They were instruments in a carefully planned intelligence operation supported by Pakistan's ISI, which owes its allegiance and existence to the CIA.

The purported 9-11 ringleader - Mohammed Atta - according to ABC news, was financed by "unnamed sources in Pakistan." According to Agence France Presse and the Times of India, an official Indian intelligence report informs us that the 9-11 attacks were funded by money wired to Mohammed Atta from Pakistan, by Ahmad Umar Sheikh, under orders from Pakistani intelligence chief General Mahmoud Ahmad. The report said: "The evidence we have supplied to the U.S. is of a much wider range and depth than just one piece of paper linking a rogue general to some misplaced act of terrorism." [Michel Chossudovsky]

Guess what? General Mahmoud Ahmad was in the U.S. on September 11.

Where was General Mahmoud on the morning of September 11, while Dubya was in Florida reading upside down books?

Why, the good general just happened to be having breakfast with Florida's senator, Bob Graham - our esteemed chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Also present at breakfast was Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S. Maleeha Lodhi. There were other members of the Senate and House Intelligence committees present.

In fact, the News of Pakistan reported the visit BEFORE September 11:

ISI Chief Lt. Gen. Mahmoud's week-long presence in Washinton has triggered speculation about the agenda of his mysterious meetings at the Pentagon and National Security Council. Officially, he is on a routine visit in return for CIA Director George Tenet's earlier visit to Islamabad. Official sources confirm that he met Tenet this week. He also held long parleys with unspecified officials at the White House and the Pentagon. But the most important meeting was with Marc Grossman, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. One can safely guess that the discussions must have centred around Afghanistan ... and Osama bin Laden. What added interest to his visit is the history of such visits. Last time Ziauddin Butt, Mahmoud's predecessor, was here, during Nawaz Sharif's goernment, the domestic politics turned topsy-turvy within days. [Amir Mateen, News Pakistan, September 10, 2001 as quoted by Michel Chossudovsky]

Nawaz Sharif was overthrown by General Pervez Musharaf. General Mahmoud Ahmad, who became the head of the ISI, played a key role in the military coup. [Michel Chossudovsky]

The existence of an ISI-Osama-Taliban-CIA-US government axis is a matter of public record. However, what was NOT expected - obviously - was the revelation by Indian intelligence - that the $100,000 bux was paid to Mohammed Atta on the orders of the guy having breakfast with Bob Graham - the same guy who was meeting with all the likely conspirators.

The Bush administration's relations with pakistan's ISI - including the week of meetings and "consultations" with General Mahmoud Ahmad prior to September 11 - raise not only the issue of "cover-up" but of DIRECT COMPLICITY. At the very least, this suggests that key individuals within the U.S. military-intelligence establishment knew about the attack in some detail and failed to act. At worst, it suggests that the many irregularities noted about the behavior of Bush and his gang prior to, during, and following the 9-11 attacks were indicative of direct participation in the planning of the events, even to the "piggy-backing" of the drone plane attack on the Pentagon to divert suspicion away from the U.S. military.

See: Mahmoud Ahmad and The Secret Cult of 9-11

Comment on this Article

Pakistan Sold al-Qaeda Suspects To CIA


The US Central Intelligence Agency paid Pakistan millions of dollars for handing over more than 350 suspected al-Qaeda terrorists to the United States, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has reportedly said.

The assertions come in the military ruler's upcoming memoir "In the Line of Fire," serialized in The Times newspaper.
Musharraf does not reveal how much Pakistan was paid for the 369 Al-Qaeda suspects he ordered should be handed over to the United States, the newspaper said, noting, however, that such payments are banned by the US government.

The newspaper does not, however, print or quote the excerpts which make the allegations.

In response a US Department of Justice official was quoted as saying: "We didn't know about this. It should not happen. These bounty payments are for private individuals who help to trace terrorists on the FBI's most wanted list, not foreign governments."

The Pakistani's leader's claims come after he said last week that former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage had threatened to bomb Pakistan if it did not back the United States in the so-called "war on terror" in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, described by Musharraf as "what has to be the most undiplomatic statement ever made."

"Our relationships with international leaders is not something we are prepared to talk about," a CIA official told The Times.

Musharraf also writes that he was so angered by American demands in the wake of the September 11 attacks, which he calls "ludicrous," that he "war-gamed the United States as an adversary."

"There would be a violent and angry reaction if we didn't support the United States," an excerpt from his book reads.

"The question was: if we do not join them, can we confront them and withstand the onslaught? The answer was no."

He said that two days after the attacks, the US Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlain brought to him a set of seven demands including "blanket overflight and landing rights" and "use of Pakistan's naval ports, air bases, and strategic locations on borders."

Musharraf said Pakistan gave no "blanket permission" for anything.

The military leader also says that he decided to make the revelations to counter claims that Pakistan had not done enough to combat Al-Qaeda in the war on terror.

Comment on this Article

Remember, we need your help to collect information on what is going on in your part of the world!
Send your article suggestions to: sott(at)signs-of-the-times.org