- Signs of the Times for Tue, 10 Oct 2006 -

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Editorial: American Free Press Fires Christopher Bollyn

Wing TV

On October 8, 2006 Christopher Bollyn was fired from the American Free Press. According to Bollyn, two explanations were cited for his dismissal:

(1) submitting false stories
(2) disloyalty to his employer

As you will see, both of these reasons are extremely valid.

One: Christopher Bollyn was one of the primary factors behind the Sam Danner Pentagon hoax even though this story was practically debunked from day one by Russell Pickering, who directly e-mailed Bollyn with a plethora of data disproving Danner's ruse. Despite overwhelming evidence, Bollyn continued to perpetuate this disinformation on a widespread scale over the course of many weeks.

Two: Bollyn also initiated another false story by stating that Sam Danner had been "run off the road by government officials" prior to a scheduled interview. Although Danner later admitted that this tall tale was a lie (as well as his Pentagon hoax), Bollyn refused to issue a retraction of any sort, even though his fingerprints were all over both stories.

Note: Many other newspapers have fired writers for far less damning infractions, and the AFP was well within their rights to protect their good name from being destroyed by someone who had quickly lost much of his credibility due to shoddy reporting of the worst kind.

Three: During a debate between Christopher Bollyn and Victor Thorn on Michael Collins Piper's radio show, Bollyn - when asked repeatedly if he felt the AFP was infiltrated by agents from the ADL (as purported by his associate Eric Hufschmid on numerous occasions) - refused to deny these blatant lies or come to his employer's defense.

Four: In an e-mail following the above-mentioned event, Bollyn accused Michael Collins Piper of arranging the debate on RBN with Victor Thorn and ... the Department of Homeland Security! Not only is this notion preposterous on every level, but it's also a bold-faced lie that will forever be an embarassment to Bollyn.

Five: Phil Jayhan reported on his Let's Roll 9-11 forum (August 27, 2006) that "Chris [Bollyn] has said often to me that many CIA spooks infiltrated and try to subvert the AFP."

Note: Obviously anyone with even the tiniest inkling of business sense can see that the creation and dissemination of such libelous information (much of it directly from Bollyn's own mouth) is detrimental to a company, and Bollyn's refusal to negate these allegations and set the record straight is reason enough for his termination. In other words, the AFP was well justified in releasing him, for any personnel manager in the world would agree that an employee (whoever they may be) deserves to be fired if they don't have the common decency to show loyalty to their employer and instead outwardly (and very publicly) sides with its most ardent and vicious detractors.

For Bollyn to write in his press release that AFP managing editor Christopher Petherick "has failed to clarify his accusations and statements" is a glaring example of Bollyn's deceptiveness, for the charges against him have been very well documented in a variety of different venues [see below]. To pretend otherwise is not only disingenuous, but also a profound illustration as to why he had become an obvious liability to this much respected publication. If this were a court case, Bollyn would most certainly be found guilty of offenses against his employer, and anyone viewing this matter fairly would have acted in the same way as the AFP.

Final Note: The AFP could have very publicly humiliated Bollyn via their dismissal of him, but instead they handled it with class and discretion. On the other hand, Bollyn immediately lashed-out at his former employer (ala tactics used by Eric Hufschmid and Daryl Bradford Smith) via a posting on Rumor Mill News. The distinction between these two entities is obvious - one acted in an upstanding manner (the American Free Press), while the other resorted yet again to deception, innuendo, and yellow journalism.

We urge everyone to support the AFP for having the courage to make this move, and to continue standing behind them - America's finest newspaper - well into the future.


American Free Press

Signs of the Times thread exposing Bollyn's deception and underhanded tactics (now 40+ pages long with nearly 20,000 views)

Discredited Christopher Bollyn Chickens Out

Christopher Bollyn: Man or Mouse?

Child Abuse: Christopher Bollyn Shows His True Colours

Christopher Bollyn Betrays American Free Press

An Urgent Warning to American Free Press

Sam Danner: The Bottom Line

The Sam Danner Story (Russell Pickering)

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Editorial: Of Faux Democracy, Petty Tyrants, and Painful Realities

Jason Miller

"The ideal tyranny is that which is ignorantly self-administered by its victims. The most perfect slaves are, therefore, those which blissfully and unawaredly enslave themselves."

---attributed to Dresden James

A caricature of a man who has wrought havoc in virtually every endeavor throughout his miserable existence has found his calling. Exuding false bravado and contrived machismo, he has swaggered his way into the deepest recesses of America's collective psyche, fulfilling the inculcated need for a "manly" patriarch. Chest thumping, bullying, and ultimately unleashing the Hell of the Pentagon's death machine upon those brazen enough to resist conversion to the American Way, King George IV has succeeded the tyrant American Revolutionaries toppled over 200 years ago.

While the tyrant may be intellectually challenged, his court is filled with cunning Artful Dodgers like Karl Rove and Dick Cheney. Conscienceless people for whom guile, deceit, and exploitation are ways of being write his scripts and pull his strings. But ultimately it is George Bush, a morally bankrupt cur of a man, who gleefully issues proclamations and decrees that victimize the working class and the poor of the world. Bullies take such delight in plying their craft. Yet as vigorously as they have striven to realize the dream of the US aristocracy and reestablish an overt tyranny, Bush and his handlers have devoted equal volumes of sweat to maintaining the illusion that America is a "democracy".

Buoyed by a virtually omnipresent corporate media equally dedicated to spiritually and intellectually enslaving the poor and working class, sacrificing them as cogs in the corporate machine and as cannon fodder, and relieving them of their hard-earned dollars via irresistible lures of immediate gratification and an increasingly regressive system of taxation, a privileged class comprised of the wealthy, intellectual elites, and well-connected has become the "power behind the throne" in an oligarchy disingenuously portrayed as a democracy.

In November of 2003, George Bush assured his constituency that:

It is no accident that the rise of so many democracies took place in a time when the world's most influential nation was itself a democracy.

Serving up an even bigger "Whopper" to a nation of people conditioned to be addicted to fast food and clever sound bites, Bush proudly proclaimed in September of 2004:

Because we believe in human dignity, peaceful nations must stand for the advance of democracy. No other system of government has done more to protect minorities, to secure the rights of labor, to raise the status of women, or to channel human energy to the pursuits of peace.

As is true with most concepts, there is no universally accepted or simple way to capture the meaning of democracy. However, Wikipedia offers concise definitions of the four fundamental types of democracy:

Direct democracy is a political system where the citizens vote on all major policy decisions. It is called direct because, in the classical forms, there are no intermediaries or representatives.

Representative democracy is so named because the people select representatives to a governing body. Representatives may be chosen by the electorate as a whole (as in many proportional systems) or represent a particular district or constituency), with some systems using a combination of the two. Some representative democracies also incorporate some elements of direct democracy, such as referenda.

Liberal democracy is a representative democracy (with free and fair elections) along with the protection of minorities, the rule of law, a separation of powers, and protection of liberties (thus the name liberal) of speech, assembly, religion, and property.

Conversely, an illiberal democracy is one where the protections that form a liberal democracy are either nonexistent, or not enforced. The experience in some post-Soviet states drew attention to the phenomenon, although it is not of recent origin. Napoleon for example used plebiscites to ratify his imperial decisions.

At best, the United States is an illiberal democracy. Which really is not too surprising. While the Founding Fathers forged a Constitutional Republic that incorporated many of the values of the Age of Enlightenment, the government they crafted was largely representative of a patriarchal society dominated by White male land-owners. Women had no right to vote, chattel slavery remained legal, the indigenous population was excluded, and the Bill of Rights was an afterthought that many of the Founders initially opposed.

George Bush and propagandists who have been intellectually assaulting US Americans for years would have us believe that the oligarchs masquerading as democratic leaders have blessed "the masses" of humanity in the United States and beyond with unprecedented advances for human rights and social justice.

Are their claims grounded in reality? Let's put them to the test.

We believe in human dignity. Abu Ghraib certainly reflects the commitment of the United States government to human dignity. What could be more dignified than abject humiliation and torture? And to further reinforce the United States' resolve to preserve human dignity, the Bush Regime and the "representatives of the people" in Congress recently negated Article Three of the Third Geneva Convention, Article VI of the US Constitution, and the Eighth Amendment of the Bill of Rights by legalizing torture.

And let's not forget the "dignity" of state-sanctioned murder. The United States is one of the very few "democracies" that has not abolished the death penalty. In 2003, China, Vietnam, Iran and the United States accounted for 84% of the world's executions.(1) If one accepts the corporate media spin on China, Iran and Vietnam, the "leading democracy" is hanging out with the wrong crowd. Or is there just the tiniest of possibilities that the United States government engages in oppressive policies too?

Would the US "democracy's" government's protection of minorities include the perpetuation of slavery, the execution of abolitionist John Brown, Jim Crow laws facilitated by Plessy vs. Ferguson, the Native American genocide, the Japanese Internment, racist drug laws, and lack of response to Katrina?

What would best exemplify the US government's efforts to secure the rights of labor? The state-sanctioned murders of Albert Parsons, August Spies, Adolph Fischer, and George Engel? How about the 26 workers killed (and 172 arrested) by the National Guard at the Ludlow mining colony? Or the government's rush to enforce George Pullman "right" to exploit his workforce? Would the Taft-Hartley Act be a shining example? Perhaps the pompadoured darling of the US aristocracy and his firing of striking PATCO workers? Maybe it would be the sub poverty level minimum wage stagnated since 1997? Or the 46 million Americans without health insurance? Perchance could it be the NLRB's recent decision which will prevent 8 million workers from unionizing? With such a dizzying array of choices, one can hardly settle on just one.

And how has the world's "shining beacon of democracy" acted to raise the status of women? Women Suffragists battled long and hard to amend the Constitution so that women could vote. It only took 130 years of tireless effort by the people to overcome government obstructions (i.e. the Supreme Court's Minor vs. Happersett ruling that enabled states to limit suffrage to men in spite of the Fourteenth Amendment). The Equal Rights Amendment was conceived in 1923 and is still not incorporated into the US Constitution. Hiding behind the claim that it would threaten national sovereignty, the US "democracy" has refused to ratify the international women's bill of rights called CEDAW (since 1980). In 2002, the nation which has done so much to "raise the status of women" accounted for 70% of women murder victims amongst industrialized countries.(2) While women have outnumbered men throughout most of its history, the United States is one of the few developed nations where a woman has not served as head of state and currently only 15.1% of the US Congress is female.(3)

According to Bush and his script-writers, the nation from which democracy bubbles forth like pure water from the mouth of a spring has done more to channel human energy to the pursuits of peace than any other system of government. Given the magnitude of that deception, Orwell would probably have identified it as Quadruplespeak. With 5% of the Earth's human population, the United States accounts for half of the world's war expenditures. Over 100 countries are subjected to the "benign" presence of US military bases. The US is home to the world's largest stockpile of WMD's and is the only nation to have unleashed nuclear weapons on civilian populations. American military intervention led to the slaughter of anywhere from 250,000 to one million Filipino civilians(4) and an estimated four million Vietnamese.(5) 200,000 Central Americans died thanks to the "pursuit of peace" by the Reagan Regime.(6) Over one hundred thousand Iraqi civilians are dead thanks to the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war. Positing the United States as a champion of peace is akin to praising Jeff Skilling's selfless concern for Enron employees and shareholders.

No abundance here

Obviously, democracy is in very short supply in the United States. And it has been from the nation's birth. Even the Constitutional Republic which the Founding Fathers intended has steadily frayed over time. But why stop with these examples of the rapidly approaching extinction of the populist visions of the more enlightened Founding Fathers when there are so many more?

How democratic is the United States' income tax system? Using the oppressive threat of the nearly omnipotent IRS, the federal government extorts money and spends it according to the whims of a president placed in office by the Electoral College (or Katherine Harris and Diebold) and a Congress rife with members so beholden to corporations that they don't dare cross their patrons by truly representing voters' interests. Riddled with loopholes, tax laws too complex for a Cray supercomputer to decipher enable corporations and the wealthy to shelter their income from taxation in a multitude of ways. And the federal tax burden is increasingly shifting onto the backs of working class people. Between 1977 and 2003, the percentage of tax revenues collected from corporations fell from 14.4% to 7.7% while the percentage derived from payroll taxes rose from 29.9% to 40%.(7)

Ironically, the world's "leading democracy" has the highest rate of incarceration. As of April of 2005, there were 2.1 million US Americans under the supervision of the penal system, an increase of 2.3% from the previous year.(8) China, a nation with four times the population of the United States and a frequent target of critics of human rights violators, jails fewer people than the "paragon of democracy".

Sixty percent of US Americans now oppose the war in Iraq.(9) As of October 8, 2006, George Bush had a 41% job approval rating(10), an April Washington Post poll showed that 33% of Americans wanted George Bush impeached and removed from office(11), and the shocking violations of domestic and international law by the Bush Regime leave Nixon and Clinton looking like little leaguers.(12) Yet in the "great democracy", Bush and company continue to commit mass murder and grand larceny with impunity as they implement an agenda which favors their aristocratic "base" and exploits most of those they "represent".

Oppressive legislation advanced by the Bush Cabal and timorously rubber-stamped by Congress has finally relieved the US plutocracy of the onerous burden of the Bill of Rights. The Patriot Act and Military Commissions Act of 2006 effectively torpedo most of the US citizenry's Constitutional protections from the tyranny of its "democratic government".

Certainly the United States ruling elite can truthfully credit themselves for allowing a high degree of free speech. In fact, when their democratic nature is attacked, their tolerance of free expression by dissidents is usually their first line of defense. Yet in a nation in which 90% of the media market is controlled by just six major corporations(13) and where a majority of the inhabitants are bribed and conditioned to reflexively reject challenges to the "American Way" as products of irrational minds, godless Communists, spoiled whiners, or terrorists, how much does "free speech" actually contribute to true democracy? While dissenting messages do win some hearts and minds, they are usually drowned out by a blaring chorus of mind-numbing corporate media reassurances that the United States is God's gift to humanity that is incapable of wrong-doing.

Yes, democracy in the United States is but a pleasant fiction that never existed. And with the passage of time, it has become more of an unattainable fantasy than a dream to be realized.

What to do?

It is unlikely that a significant number of people in the United States will find the motivation to pierce the simulacrum until they have experienced severe hardship or pain. Many US Americans are not even aware that their enslaved psyches condemn them to an existential hell of spiritual vacuousness, blind loyalty to a ruthless empire, and obsessive devotion to a predatory economic system. And many of those who do become aware don't care as long as they can continue to relish heaping portions of fat-laden addictive repasts from the ubiquitous Golden Arches, to intellectually gorge themselves with the brain candy eagerly proffered by the corporate media as propagandistic seeds sown into the rich soil of otherwise fallow minds, to make Faustian bargains with Visa to adorn their walls with plasma televisions of elephantine proportions , and to drive urban assault vehicles capable of transporting small armies and ensuring that they will dominate the road.

Given humankind's United States-led pursuit of self-destruction, an economic, ecological, or humanitarian cataclysm is virtually inevitable at some point. However, there is a silver lining. The survivors who rise from the ashes like the mythical Phoenix will be blessed with a second chance. And let's hope those Founding Parents will have the wisdom to remake civilization according to truly democratic, just, and humane principles.


(1) Encarta

(2) Harvard School of Public Health

(3) Center for American Women and Politics

(4) Wikipedia

(5) Vietnam War

(6) Consortium News

(7) ZMag

(8) BBC News

(9) CNN

(10) Rasmussen Reports

(11) Washington Post

(12) Tom Dispatch

(13) Wikipedia

Jason Miller is a wage slave of the American Empire who has freed himself intellectually and spiritually. He writes prolifically, his essays have appeared widely on the Internet, and he volunteers at a homeless shelter. He welcomes constructive correspondence at willpowerful@hotmail.com or via his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/.
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Editorial: The King of the Jungle

Rima Merriman
The Electronic Intifada
8 October 2006

Israeli soldiers impose curfew on the West Bank city of Hebron
so Israeli settlers may worship during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, 8 October 2006.
MaanImages /Mamoun Wazwaz)

When it comes to imposing law and order on the Palestinians, what applies is not international humanitarian law, but the law of the jungle. And, of course, it is quite clear who the king of the jungle is.

The Palestinian Israeli conflict is about survival, about the right of one strong party backed by a superpower to "exist" as a Jewish state at the expense of the indigenous non-Jewish population of historic Palestine and their descendants who are not allowed to "exist" in a separate but unequal state of their own. It is about the right of the weak party to negotiate for its own autonomous survival on bits and pieces of leftover "territories", but only if it first concedes its dispossession, if it ensures the security of the strong party and remains its "client".

Why the so-called Middle East conflict endures after more than half a century is because the strong party is unconscionably greedy and the weak party is constitutionally incapable of being submissive or forgetting its dispossession.

The logic of the jungle is the logic of the Oslo Accords, which is basically a (mis)understanding between the strong and the weak. For such a relationship to work in the animal world, the weak party must continually show submission by exposing its neck and belly to the dominant party, and the strong party must continually strut its stuff.

Among human beings, such a relationship is a recipe for elemental violence, not elemental harmony. Civilizing the issue by bringing international humanitarian law to bear on it has failed, because the world of international law remains stuck in a twilight zone, unless the strong also subscribe to it. If you look at the literature on international law in scholarly journals, you will not be surprised to find the discussion dominated and defined by Israel and the United States in the form of spurious legal questions.

The position of the Israeli government, based on a farfetched "legal" interpretation of the Convention, is that the Geneva Convention is not applicable to the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This necessitates an equally elegant rebuttal from legal scholars - niceties that are irrelevant to the day-to-day struggle of millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants and of thousands of Palestinian prisoners.

Israel's spurious legal arguments, however, cannot be easily waived away, because they are designed to prevent international law from being the framework of the "final status" negotiations. International law is what will move us away from the jungle, but the king of the jungle would naturally not give up his kingdom, and in fact is looking to expand it.

If the occupation is not an occupation, if Israel does not acknowledge the Geneva Convention, then there is nothing to prevent it from transferring parts of its own civilian Jewish population to the Palestinian territories while at the same time controlling the population registry of the occupied Palestinians. Israel, as the world knows, has done just that with the impunity of a king of the jungle.

Condoleezza Rice's visit a few days ago did not yield one solitary word against the illegal Israeli expansion in 31 settlements in the West Bank that took place under cover of Israel's war with Lebanon. This activity on the part of Jewish settlers was supposedly "unauthorized", but the US is doing absolutely nothing to stop it or other such authorized activity that was taking place in the open all around Rice. She could see it easily through her tinted, bullet-proof window as she sped on the smooth Ramallah-Jerusalem road that is reserved for Jewish settlers after her meeting with Abbas. Part of the reason for her silence is that anything "authorized" by the Israeli government is entangled with "legal" arguments that pit Israeli law and Israeli sovereignty against international law.

Palestinian laws and legal arguments issued from their putative Legislative Council have zero weight in such a context, because the international legal status of the Palestinian Authority is neither fish nor fowl.

And when Palestinian claims come from a political party that is conveniently debased and hounded as "terrorist", they are discarded as extreme, "unrealistic", un-diplomatic or inconsonant with Quartet "principles". Israel's denial of the occupation "under the law" and all such a denial entails on the ground is regarded the height of reasonableness.

After 58 years of Palestinian struggle and the proven bankruptcy of the Oslo Accords, what Hamas and other Palestinian factions now want to put on the table and being derided for it are two fundamental propositions:

1. The Palestinians cannot be forced to declare their acceptance of their dispossession in 1948, certainly not when millions of refugees are still waiting to return to their ancestral homes.

2. Palestinians have a right to resist their occupation by any means possible even when the occupier refuses to recognize it as such.

If Israel can claim that it is not even occupying the Palestinian territories, why can't the Palestinians make equally fundamental claims? What Israel has wrought since Oslo is as follows: it has consolidated its illegal de facto annexation of East Jerusalem, engineered a massive change in demographics in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank through various means, expropriated a good percentage of Palestinian lands, and shamefully exploited the Palestinians economically. As far as Israel is concerned, it has done all of this "legally", and no one has challenged it seriously on these counts.

It is time that the Quartet revises its "principles" to protect the weak against the strong, and not the other way around. Only then will international law replace the reigning law of the jungle.

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Editorial: Amira Hass: The Fear in Gaza

Amira Hass
UK Independent

"What is the point of firing rockets?" I ask, "when Israel punishes the Gaza Strip with extensive military incursions?" They answer, unhesitating.

My host at the Gaza refugee camp sounds delighted as he picks up the phone, urging some colleagues to "come on over" with a mischievous smile. The recipients of his call are two members of Hamas's military faction, responsible for firing home-made Qassam rockets into Israel (this is three years ago). He himself is a senior Hamas politician, and can't wait to see their reaction on finding a Jewish guest at his home. Two young men walk in, lean and serious-looking. They've come to discuss with my host their response to the death of a fellow Hamas member, killed in his car by an Israeli missile.

"What is the point of firing rockets?" I ask, "when Israel punishes the Gaza Strip with extensive military incursions?" They answer, unhesitating: "We want Israelis, too, to feel fear. Not just Palestinians."

There is no point in arguing with them about the politics and morals of revenge as a tactic. I could not convince them that targeting civilians merely reinforces Israelis' support of the Occupation. But I understand what they mean about fear. Twelve years of living among Palestinians has opened for me a whole spectrum of fear, the subtlest hues of fright experienced by a whole nation every minute of every day, a nation whose life is dictated by foreign rule. And does not the dictionary define terror as a "state of intense fear"?

A helicopter gunship spits fire at hundreds of unarmed demonstrators, many children, in front of an army post in the Gaza Strip at the outbreak of the uprising in 2000. People are hit. Wounded and killed. Was it the chopper's fire that got them or the machine guns hidden 3km away?

A tank blocks the road between Nablus and a village nearby. But people have to get home. They try to pass and the tank toys with their fear: rotates its cannon, raises it, lowers it again, moving towards them.

Soldiers point rifles at a family crowded in a single room. Adults comfort their crying children. For days on end. These are occupied homes in Jenin and in Ramallah, in Bethlehem and in Rafah. Outdoors lies curfew. The only reminder of their presence is the occasional burst of gunfire from inside the occupied home, outwards.

The window. The porch. Don't get close. Don't go out. You remember the lady next door, don't you? Killed by a single, precise bullet, just as she stood by the door and called out to her son and husband - who were watering the tree outside - to get back in the house. And don't forget the child from up the road, shot on the eighth floor.

The terrorising white jeep of the Civil Administration whose armed passengers ride around posting fresh orders for land confiscation. For the benefit of Israelis.

Then there's the fear that bulldozers will demolish your home. The fear that your husband will be expelled to Gaza (Palestinians from Gaza are not permitted to live in the West Bank, so your husband could be an illegal alien in his own home). The fear of a new law, and another military order, and yet another regulation, that Israel - the occupying power - will keep inventing to disrupt your life and everybody's life around you. And lastly, the fear of the rage that builds up, is stoked inside, with no way out.

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Editorial: Gandhi as Terrorist

Kurt Nimmo
Another Day in the Empire
Tuesday October 10th 2006

In the not too distant past, when activists blocked driveways or staged sit-downs in federal offices, they were routinely arrested and charged with misdemeanors. Soon, however, as a result of H.R. 4239, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, they may be considered terrorists.

"Supporters say it is meant to stem illegal actions taken against controversial animal enterprises, or any company that does business with an animal enterprise. But the sweeping language in the bill goes much, much further," notes Information Liberation. "AETA labels the tactics of Martin Luther King and Gandhi as 'terrorism.' It spells out penalties for 'an offense involving exclusively a nonviolent physical obstruction of an animal enterprise or a business having a connection to, or relationship with, an animal enterprise, that may result in loss of profits but does not result in bodily injury...' In other words, a terrorism law includes nonviolent civil disobedience."

AETA is a perfect cover for characterizing non-violent civil disobedience as terrorism. "Lawful and peaceful protests that, for example, urge a consumer boycott of a company that does not use humane procedures, could be the target of this provision if the activity resulted in economic damage to the company," explains K9 Magazine. "The bill would also make it illegal to expose cruel conditions at facilities such as puppy mills and research labs, if exposure of such conditions even if done lawfully would result in economic damage to the animal enterprise. There is no exemption in the bill to exclude economic damage that results from the disclosure of information about a company's treatment of animals, which is disclosed through public information."

But it is not only the First Amendment rights of animal liberationists at stake. "The AETA will not only affect the animal protection movement, but it will affect all social causes and, without question, the media. Many journalists pride themselves on investigative pieces, but if the AETA gets passed, these important exposés will be classified as 'terrorist acts.' If they can do this to us, they can do this to anyone," explains Chris DeRose, president of Last Chance for Animals.

Arresting and throwing in the hoosegow violent animal liberationists who burn down "puppy mills" is one thing. Criminalizing as terrorist those who engage in "nonviolent physical obstruction of an animal enterprise or a business having a connection to, or relationship with, an animal enterprise" is quite another. Once passed, the AETA will become the legal standard for all non-violent civil disobedience. Moreover, once non-violent activism is categorized as "terrorism," we can expect activists to be disappeared under the so-called Military Commissions bill, soon to be signed into law by the unitary decider.

Imagine Mahatma Gandhi arrested for engaging in satyagraha-the philosophy and action of nonviolent resistance-and disappeared to a torture dungeon. Under AETA, coupled with Bush's detainee bill, all of this will not only be possible, it is more than likely a done deal, considering the long and sordid track record of the state.

In 1930, Gandhi initiated the Salt March to Dandi in opposition to the British salt tax. The British did not arrest Gandhi because he did not incite others to follow him. However, under the AETA, Gandhi would be considered a terrorist because his activity resulted in a "loss of profits" for the British Raj.
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Who Will Stop The Zionists?

Israeli Army Murders Nablus resident at checkpoint


Eyewitnesses at the checkpoint said that the Sa'adah ran towards a car at the checkpoint when he was shot by a number of soldiers. They said that he was not holding a knife as the soldiers claimed. However, soldiers insisted that they found the knife in his clothes after killing him while searching the body.

Comment: Words are not enough to describe the despicable and inhuman nature of the 60-year long Israeli torture and murder of the Palestinian people. END ZIONISM NOW!!!!!

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Israeli Air Force Murders Palestinian Boy in Gaza: Witnesses

Washington Post

An Israeli air strike killed a Palestinian civilian and wounded three others in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday, witnesses and medical officials said. A hospital doctor said the dead civilian was a 14-year-old boy, correcting medical officials who earlier said he was 17. The boy's father was among the wounded, medical officials said.

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Palestinian child deaths in conflict with Israel already nearly double that of 2005 - UN

UN News Centre Home
October 5, 2006

Ninety-one Palestinian children have already been killed this year in the West Bank and Gaza, almost double the number for the whole of 2005, with youngsters suffering increasing levels of stress from violence and fear in the Israeli-Palestinians conflict, according to the latest United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) update.

"They are confronted with regular military operations, shelling, house demolitions, checkpoints on their way to schools," UNICEF Child Protection Officer Anne Grandjean said. "As a result we find high prevalence of signs of stress such as anxiety, eating and sleeping disorders, and difficulties concentrating in school.

"All of these signs need to be tackled as soon as possible to avoid a long-lasting impact on the child's development," she added.

UNICEF and the Humanitarian Aid Department of the European Commission have established teams of social workers and psychologists to respond to the children's needs. Every month they reach some 3,000 children and their families, offering support and counselling after violent incidents.

The counselling sessions end every month with a festival and beach party organized by UNICEF and its partners, where thousands of children are given the chance to play and interact with each other away from the conflict.

"These festivals are important because they are about protecting childhood," UNICEF Special Representative for Gaza and the West Bank Dan Rohrmann said. "It's an opportunity for children to be children, which is rare here in Gaza, because they live in an environment of extraordinary fear and violence and insecurity."

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Palestinians see more trouble ahead as arms race heats up between Hamas and Fatah

By Agence France Presse (AFP)
Charles Levinson
Tuesday, October 10, 2006

RAMALLAH: When hundreds of Fatah gunmen paraded past his West Bank supermarket last week, Mohammad Zahi stared in disbelief at their sparkling black M16 assault rifles. In years past, gunmen in similar military displays waved aging Kalashnikovs, the cheaper and cruder Soviet-designed rifle common in the Palestinian territories and much of the Arab world.

"I haven't seen M16s in those numbers before," says Zahi, 24, arms crossed matter-of-factly. "In the past it was just a lot of Kalashnikovs."
The new rifles brandished by the Fatah foot soldiers are a sign of the arms race that many allege is quietly raging between Fatah and Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

As the two parties have publicly jostled for power they have also set about stealthily arming themselves, say observers, intelligence officials and party leaders, in preparation for a confrontation that seems to be drawing nearer with each fallen militant.

In recent days 12 people have died in the latest bout of cross-faction clashes that have simmered throughout the summer.

"They're buying all these guns so now they're going to have to use them or what's the point?" says Zahi.

Though there are few hard numbers, there is a prevailing impression on the Palestinian street that there are more weapons in general today than there were just one year ago.

"When you see 50 cars filled with gunmen, in a protest march in Ramallah as we did last week, you conclude that there are more weapons coming in," says Khalil Shaheen, a senior editor with the Ramallah-based Al-Ayam daily.

Hamas began its arms drive to counter Fatah's monopoly of the Palestinian security services. It has deployed a private army, the so-called Executive Force, in the streets of Gaza and is rumored to be readying a similar force for the West Bank.

The Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, has benefited from US and Israeli efforts to undermine the Hamas government.

On Thursday the New York Times reported that the United States had proposed expanding Abbas' presidential guard from 3,500 men to 6,000 as part of a $26 million plan to strengthen the moderate Palestinian leader.

In Gaza, shooting deaths, accidental and otherwise, and deaths from mishandled explosives are on the rise, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

Locally manufactured rocket-propelled grenades, once a rare sight, are now as common as the ubiquitous Kalashnikov.

Hamas' struggles with Fatah, however, are not the only factor driving the arms drive, Shaheen says. Hamas' uncompromising stance toward Israel and its June capture of Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit, claimed along with Palestinian factions, have brought it into direct confrontation with the Jewish state.

"After seeing Hizbullah's success against Israel, Hamas and other factions want to repeat this experience here," he says. "The factions are preparing for confrontation with Israel as much as for a confrontation with each other."

Israeli military officials have sounded similar alarm bells, telling the Israeli daily Yediot Ahranot recently that Hamas was channeling arms and money into a 7,500-man strong army consisting of rocket units, anti-tank units and sniper squads, capable of taking on the Israeli Army.

Hamas responded Sunday by claiming its forces were twice that size.

Tawfiq al-Tirawi, head of the Palestinian intelligence service, paints a dire picture of Hamas' growing arms stores. Since coming to power, Tirawi says, Hamas has amassed "millions of bullets, many tons of explosives, thousands of RPGs, and thousands of assault rifles."

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Palestinians teeter on edge of civil war

Uzi Mahnaimi, Ramallah
The Sunday Times
October 08, 2006

A BLUNT warning that the West Bank and Gaza are on the brink of civil war was issued this weekend by the head of Palestinian intelligence.

Brigadier-General Tawfik Tirawi predicted a bloody clash between Hamas, the Islamist movement headed by Ismail Haniyah, the Palestinian prime minister, and Fatah, its secular rival led by President Mahmoud Abbas.
"We are already at the beginning of a civil war, no doubt about it. They (Hamas) are accumulating weapons and a full-scale civil war can break out at any moment," said Tirawi.

Abbas's attempts to form a coalition between the two Palestinian groups collapsed last week after he insisted Hamas must recognise Israel and give up violence. Abbas believes recognising Israel is the only way to secure the release of millions of pounds of European Union and US aid frozen since Hamas won elections in January.

Tirawi believes Hamas will never accept the existence of Israel and said a violent showdown was inevitable. "No way can they agree. They are preparing for a war against us," he said. Last week 12 people were killed as fighting between the two groups escalated.

According to Palestinian sources, Abbas has notified the US, Jordan and Egypt that he is preparing to take action against Hamas. Egypt has already indicated it would support him, the sources claim.

Tirawi is determined not to let Hamas ruin the faint chance of a peace agreement with Israel. While Hamas is believed to have 8,000 fighters, Fatah sources claim 20,000. Tirawi forecasts that the violence would begin in Gaza and spread to the West Bank.

Large quantities of weapons and ammunition have been smuggled from the Egyptian-controlled Sinai into the Gaza Strip since Israel withdrew from the area last year, according to Palestinian sources. Most of the arms are carried through dozens of tunnels, many controlled by Hamas.

Many of the weapons are believed to originate in the countries in the region that support Hamas, such as Iran and Syria. Egypt is trying to prevent the smuggling but has achieved only limited success, according to Israeli sources.

Tirawi rejected the possibility that by accumulating weapons Hamas is preparing for a war against Israel. The arsenal was to be used against Fatah, he insisted.

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America trains Abbas' loyalists in secret camp in Jericho

Oct 8, 2006, 09:53
From palestine-info.co.uk

Ramallah - In an apparent American step to ignite a Palestinian civil war, high-ranking Palestinian sources have unveiled that the United States was establishing a secret military camp in the West Bank city of Jericho to train the PA presidential guards (Force-17).

The concealed American step comes in the framework of preparing that force for fighting against Hamas Movement under American and Israeli directives, as the IOF troops sponsored munitions supplies to the PA presidential guards.

According to a report for the Reuters news agency, a round-the-clock effort was going on at an abandoned lot of 16,000 sq. meters in the city of Jericho to put up the proposed camp that, according to American estimates, would cost 20 million dollars.

European diplomats were quoted as saying that the money will be enough to install a similar camp in the densely populated Gaza Strip, adding that elements of the Force-17 of PA chief Mahmoud Abbas were "growing in number and quality".

The diplomats opined that Washington will pay half of the cost while Europeans and a number of Arab countries will cover the rest of the amount, asserting that American officials were pushing Israel to allow more munitions supplies to Abbas' forces.

Assistants of Keith Dayton, the American security coordinator in Ramallah, were courting more European countries to finance the "suspicious" project as he toured the camp with Dutch diplomats who later revealed that Holland prefers to support Abbas in a "different way".

As reports in this regard persisted, sources in the PA presidential guards acknowledged that American military teams were secretly training the Force-17 elements over the past two months in another but smaller secret camp in the city, and that the training course will end in January next year.

The sources further unveiled that Abbas had requested more military supplies for his forces during his latest visit to Washington, especially after the short-lived mutiny carried out by vandal elements in the PA security apparatuses, including the presidential guards against the legitimate PA elected government.

Not long after Hamas Movement won the Palestinian legislative elections and formed the new PA government, IOF troops escorted trucks loaded with M16 rifles and huge amount of munitions coming from Jordan and unloaded them in the Force-17 stores in Ramallah and Gaza cities.

Israeli premier Ehud Olmert who endorsed the supplies explained, "I did that because we are running out of time and need Abbas' help".

Four more fully loaded trucks bound to that Force had crossed Wednesday the Kerem Shalom crossing point under the watching eye of the IOF troops guarding that terminal.

The Quds Press news agency that unmasked the new munitions supplies affirmed that they were stored in the PA security apparatuses' complex known as "Ansar2".

Both Olmert and the US secretary of state had championed bolstering Abbas' force and influence in the PA-run lands with "all available means".

But Hamas deputy in the PLC Ismail Al-Ashkar, secretary of the security and interior committee in the Palestinian legislature, considered any ammunitions supplies to the PA security apparatuses outside the law as "illegal", adding that external dictates weren't in favor of the Palestinian people.

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Beleaguered Olmert courts Right-wingers

UK Telegraph

Israel's beleaguered prime minister Ehud Olmert has admitted approaching a Right-wing secular party as a possible coalition partner.

With his current coalition under threat, Mr Olmert, who won the general election in March at the head of the centrist Kadima party, has put out feelers to Avigdor Lieberman, leader of Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Our Home).

The move indicates that Israel's dalliance with centrist politics will end soon.

The two leaders met on Friday to discuss preliminary issues and while no final agreement has been made, Mr Lieberman was bullish about the chances of a deal.
"If there are negotiations on our entry into the government, and we decide that we want to join, it will take an hour or two," he said.

Mr Lieberman's party surprised many political pundits when it won 11 seats in March with an uncompromisingly anti-Arab electoral message that included a commitment to redraw Israel's borders to exclude large Arab Israeli towns.

Any deal with Mr Lieberman would sound the death knell for Mr Olmert's plan to withdraw from part of the occupied West Bank.

While this was central to the Kadima manifesto, Israel Our Home would never give its backing.

Mr Olmert's current coalition unites his Kadima party with Labour, a pensioners' rights party and the ultra-religious Shas party.

Comment: Note that the brutal policies that have been carried on by the Olmert government are described as "centrist". It does not bear thinking about the carnage that a "right-wing" Israeli administration would wreak?

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Where are the voices?

By Paul J. Balles
10/09/06 "Information Clearing House"

Where are the voices of moral righteousness that the world has always depended upon to rein in the evil forces of conquering warlords? The teachers and professors - why are they silent? The virtuous - the clergy and elders of church and mosque and synagogue - who covered their mouths with duct tape and broke their pens and keyboards?

In an earlier time those voices rang out louder than anthems for the dead. They brought the public who look for their guidance and counsel into the streets. The places of worship and the places of learning provided pulpits and podiums from which men and women of honour and integrity taught and guided the rest of us.

Where are those voices today when we need them most? Where have they been in the years since the self-appointed warlords took the reins of government and turned us all into accessories to the last half-century's most heinous crimes against humanity?
The constant crimes against the Palestinians alone have been raging for more than 50 years. For five decades, much of the rest of the world has tacitly accepted the occupying warlords' self-justification for murder, dispossession, theft, destruction, assassinations and torture of Palestinians.

Why the tacit acceptance of these crimes when the justification is that an Israeli life is worth 200 Talmudic times the life of a Palestinian? Where have the voices of the righteous been while these atrocities have been committed in the guise of defence?

Forty-four innocent children have been massacred in Gaza after two or three Israeli military were killed by Hamas. All of this hatred was visited upon the innocent while Lebanon burned and the world's presses rang out with condemnation of Hezbollah.

Here are just a few of the reported casualties of tribal murder in Gaza:
Bara Nasser Habib, aged three (hit by shrapnel to the head and body, Gaza City, 26 July 2006)
Shahed Saleh Al-Sheikh Eid, three days old (bled to death after airstrike, Al-Shouka, 4 August 2006)
Rajaa Salam Abu Shaban, aged three (died of fractured skull in air raid, Gaza City, 9 August 2006 )
Khaled Nidal Wahba, 15 months old (died of wounds from an airstrike, 10 July 2006)
Rawan Farid Hajjaj, aged six (killed with his mother and sister in an airstrike, Gaza City, 8 July 2006)
These are only a few of a multitude of babies slaughtered by indiscriminate tribal hatred of Israelis for Palestinians. Are these children less human or less deserving of life than their Semitic counterparts?

Ordinary apathetic Americans don't know and don't care what happens to these "ferners". As with the massacred in Darfur, foreign children are not children, but numbers. They're mere data that the news reports play with to convince the masses that the media is concerned about what happens in the world. They're not!

The media doesn't show pictures of these slaughtered babies because revelations of that kind of truth might, according to the devils in the administration, fuel terrorism.

When someone like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez stands at the podium in the UN and calls G.W. Bush a devil, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd labels Chavez "a world-class nutbar". She can, and does, call Bush names herself, but the Venezuelan president isn't allowed to speak such truths.

What made Chavez "a world-class nutbar" Maureen? Was it his statement that "The immoral veto of the United States allowed the Israelis, with impunity, to destroy Lebanon. Right in front of all of us as we stood there watching, a resolution in the council was prevented?" She didn't say. She simply labelled Chavez a nutbar.

Perhaps Dowd faulted Chavez because he recommended Noam Chomsky's book Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance. Chomsky's is one voice in the wilderness trying to rein in the evil forces of conquering warlords. Where are the rest?

Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have made, and are still making, a great effort to speak out against the Israeli lobbyists who control the US Congress and the media through their organized Israeli-first campaigns. But where are the rest?

The Internet allows a few, mostly unheard, voices to broadcast truths to small, select audiences of little consequence. But where are the hundreds - nay thousands - of voices of the intellectuals of America who should know better and who should speak out?

Professors, ministers, attorneys, medical professionals, judges: I'm ashamed of you! Have you lost all sense of civic responsibility? Or do you simply sleep or play while the business profiteers and the lords of war murder and maim and massacre innocents in your names?

Paul Balles is a retired American university professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for 38 years. http://www.pballes.com

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Bleak Ramadan in Palestine

The Peoples Voice
7 October, 2006
Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank

The village mosque in Qisarya has been "converted into a bar," according to Walid Khalidi's All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated in 1948 (184). Qisarya (Caesarea) according to Benny Morris in Khalidi (183) "was the first pre-planned, organized expulsion of an Arab community by the Haganah in 1948." The expulsion took place on February 15, 1948, before any Arab army entered historic Palestine, and before Israel was declared a state. -Respected Palestinian journalist, Khalid Amayreh writes about Israeli ethnic cleansing, 21st century style.

Normally, the holy month of Ramadan is a festive season of heightened spirituality and good will. It is also an occasion where family members share the usually exquisite Iftar meals immediately after sunset at the end of the day-long fast. However, for many Palestinian families, hard-hit by extremely harsh Israeli-western sanctions, this Ramadan has the smell of real penury. Abject poverty is also becoming increasingly apparent among the traditionally weak sectors of society, such as day-laborers.
Yousuf M. Suleiman is a school teacher of 30 years from the southern West Bank town of Hebron. He has a family of eight but can hardly get things "under control" when it comes to securing the basic needs such as flour, sugar and rice.

"I really don't know what to tell you. Would you believe me if I told you that last week we didn't have bread for three days?" said Suleiman, with a clearly subdued voice.

Suleiman, like the rest of the estimated 170,000 Palestinian public employees and civil servants, has not received his salary for the seventh consecutive month due to the financial blockade imposed by Israel, the US and EU on the Hamas-led government.

The government has paid "advance payments" amounting to 50-60% of the regular salaries. However, the meager and irregularly-paid sums have not made much of a difference for most Palestinian families, especially during Ramadan when family spending increases substantially.

So how do these poverty-stricken families make do? How do they explain to the children the sudden and unprecedented poverty haunting them?

Akram Hussein is a Palestinian policeman, with a wife and two small children. He says that all the "tricks and innovations" he has been devising to overcome the financial problem are being exhausted.

"Now the nearby grocery store won't give us on credit any more. He says he will go bankrupt himself if he keeps selling things on credit. And I must say he is right.

"Sometimes I tell the kids that the money is in the bank but the bank is now closed, but they often squeeze me with all kinds of questions which expose the trick."

Asked what he is going to do, Hussein looks heavenward, saying the solution is God's hands.


Palestinian families who don't have the basic foods, such as flour and sugar, are normally helped by the local Zakat (Alms) committees. However, the assistance is getting more meager and more irregular and can hardly make up for the unpaid salaries which nobody knows when they will be paid in full.

Samir Rabi'e is a clerk at the local Zakat committee in Dura, 10 miles south west of Hebron. He says that demands on food has been greater than ever.

"Now we have a lot of previously well-to-do people asking for assistance. This is not a natural situation, it is induced poverty imposed by the Americans and the Israelis for political reasons."

Rabai'e complained that Israel and the Americans "won't give us mercy and won't allow God's mercy to reach us," citing a Palestinian proverb.

"And the rich Arab states prefer to heed America's demands rather than shield Palestinian children from the ghoul of starvation."

He pointed out that the US, acting on Israel's behalf, has bullied the Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, to prevent Muslim donors from sending their charity to the occupied territories.

"Now we mostly rely on local sources which are scarce, meager and can't really meet the huge and growing demand."

Another Zakat official in Bethlehem, who wouldn't give his name for security reasons, urged Muslims to bypass government control mechanisms and help the Palestinians face "this criminals and cruel siege by the enemies of Islam."

" Please, send your charity money and donations to your brothers and sisters in Palestine. Don't wait for your governments' approval because your governments are likely to be mere puppets of the United States and Israel.

" We must never reach a situation where we need a permission from the Americans to practice our religions. If helping a starving child in Rafah or Nablus is terror, then let all of us be terrorists."

Bread and tea

There are many Palestinian families whose honor and pride won't allow them to ask for food openly and publicly, even from the Zakat committees.

These, said Rabi'e, are suffering silently.

"I personally know families that break their fast at the end of the day on bread and tea. It is these people who need particular attention."

According to some sources, there are already early signs of malnutrition among children public schools.

"Physically the signs are not conspicuous, but we notice that many children can't concentrate or are absent-minded, this could be the result of children not having sufficient nutrition," said a Hebron school principal.

He said schools couldn't do much about the problem other than writing reports to the ministry of education.

Catastrophe in Gaza

Israel is not only impoverishing and starving Palestinian by denying them access to food and work, but is actually killing them in droves and on a daily basis.

Indeed, not a day passes without a number of Palestinians getting killed and maimed in Gaza where an average of three to five Palestinians, most of them innocent civilians, are killed on any given day.

On the fifth day of Ramadan, an Israeli tank fired an artillery shell at a northern Gaza home, killing two teenage brothers. That was the "perfect" Ramadan gift by Israel to that Gazan family. And more and more "gifts" of this kind are in the offing, as indicated by the Israeli Chief of Staff, Dan Haluts, who said he slept well the night he ordered the dropping of a one-ton bomb on a Gaza apartment building in 2002, killing 12 sleeping children.

As usual in such circumstances, the Israeli army claimed that "two terrorists" were killed. The concocted lie was readily and blithely carried by western news agencies and then quoted by media around the world. So, the innocent is killed and the story of their murder is also killed.

According to figures compiled by human rights organizations and the Palestinian Health Ministry, the Israeli occupation army has killed more than 226 Palestinians in Gaza alone since June 25 when Palestinian guerillas abducted an Israeli occupation solider near Rafah. Hundreds others, mostly children and innocent civilians, have also been maimed and injured by indiscriminate Israeli bombing and bombardments.

Moreover, the Israeli air-force bombed and utterly destroyed the bulk of Gaza's civilian infrastructure, very much like it to the Lebanese infrastructure during the recent war with Hizbullah.

The "targets" included schools, colleges, bridges, office buildings, and ordinary homes in addition to the only power station in Gaza the destruction of which plunged Gaza into darkness. The local authorities in Gaza have sought desperately to partially solve the problem by importing electricity from Egypt and alternating electricity supplies to various localities, thus enabling Gazans to have a few hours of electricity supply per day.

Israel normally justifies its massive bombings of Palestinian homes and neighborhoods by security considerations. However, the utter disproportionality and vengefulness of the bombings suggest that Israel is only interested in making as many Palestinians as possible suffer. Maybe Israelis are after all emulating their former tormentors? Well, haven't they been doing that all along, some would say?

This year, the Israeli army has introduced a novel tactic of terrorizing Gaza citizens. It is the Telephone terror whereby Israeli shin Beth agents telephone a given Palestinian family to tell them that their home would be bombed within five minutes and that they would be killed if they didn't leave immediately.

The evil calls normally are made in the quiet hours before dawn and are designed to inflict maximal terror on the families who are forced to jump out of their beds onto the streets, only to see their homes and their belongings and everything destroyed by air-to-ground missiles fired by indifferent Jewish hands.

This week, when a home was bombed this way, some revelers came to see what was going on, only to be greeted by another salvo of bombs raining from the sky. A girl of 14 years was instantly killed by shrapnel. Ten others children were injured, one seriously.

According to Israeli sources, the Israeli goal in Gaza, and to a lesser extent in the West Bank, is to generate an explosive implosion among Palestinians, so much so that they would begin to kill each other.

The experiment, using the term used by veteran Israeli journalist Amira Hass, has succeeded.

Last week, as many as 14 Palestinians were killed in internal disturbances ignited by the claustrophobic siege on the estimated 1.5 million Gazans who are barred from accessing food and work and are effectively confined to a pressure cooker.

And when Israeli officials are confronted with the question of how they could allow themselves to starve and torment the prisoner population, who are still practically under the Israeli occupation since Israel still controls rather tightely all Gaza's border crossings, the officials simply shrug their shoulders and invoke the mantra of terror as if starving innocent people were not a criminal act of terror itself.

This week, visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, instead of treating the situation in Gaza in particular and the occupied territories in general as a humanitarian disaster, congratulated her Israeli counterpart Tsibi Livni on the "success" and "effectiveness" of the Israeli-American sanctions against the prisoner Palestinian population.

With this moral depravity and criminal hypocrisy, unseen since Hitler's armies surrounded Ghetto Warsaw during the Second World War, Palestinian suffering is even likely to exacerbate.

And the world is also likely to keep silent, just as did then.

This is how Ramadan looks like in Gaza in 2006.

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America and Israel - Bent On War

Neocons push for air strikes against N Korea, Iran

Australian Herald Sun
October 10, 2006

PENTAGON hawks will try to persuade US President George W. Bush he should order immediate military air strikes to obliterate North Korean nuclear sites.

Australian National University defence expert Ron Huisken said Mr Bush's chief advisers would be gunning for action without waiting for a lead from the United Nations.

"The President will receive some advice to the effect that it is better not to wait, that there will not be a clearer trigger point than what we have now," said Dr Huisken, senior fellow at the ANU's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre.

"I suspect (Vice-President Dick) Cheney and (Defence Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld might argue we now know (they've got the bomb) and we've got to do this some time.

"I think they have an eye also on Iran. You certainly can't rule (an attack) out."

The ANU centre's director, Robert Ayson, said the stakes were high.

He said the problem the US faced in attacking would be North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's promise to turn South Korean capital Seoul into "a sea of fire" and the potential for it to launch missiles on Japan.
Dr Ayson said the US had 37,000 troops in South Korea and casualties would be high. Pyongyang had an estimated 80,000 artillery pieces concentrated on the area and may use non-conventional chemical weapons.

Despite the risks, Dr Ayson, a specialist in North Asian strategy, said the US military option was a real possibility, given Mr Bush has said he could not tolerate a nuclear North Korea.

"Military action is now more likely after the test, but is probably less than 50 per cent (likely)," Dr Ayson said.

US intelligence sources said the Bush Administration was considering naval action around North Korea, stopping short of a blockade but intercepting and inspecting all ships off the peninsula.

Analysts estimate North Korea may have enough nuclear material for a dozen weapons and has built two or three, but is yet to miniaturise them enough for long-range missiles.

The major threat its nuclear capacity posed was the potential for it to sell a bomb to a terrorist group that would sail it to a US port, or the possibility for it to drop a device from an aircraft over a major city.

The regime has claimed to have had nuclear arms since 1995; they are mainly plutonium-based but North Korea is also known to be developing uranium-based material.

Dr Huisken said China would be angered by North Korea ignoring its demands in recent weeks not to conduct the test -- a factor that should lead to quick agreement by the UN Security Council for economic and diplomatic sanctions against the regime.

"For the first time in four years Seoul, Beijing, Tokyo and Washington would be prepared to agree that this is an intolerable development," Dr Huisken said.

"I think the hardest part will be to agree on how far to go."

But US military strikes could eventuate if the UN process gets bogged down, military analyst Derek Woolner said.

"Military action is possible but it is more important to get a strong international diplomatic response," he said.

China, North Korea's main ally and benefactor, would now increase its pressure on Pyongyang, including the possibility of withdrawing financial and food support, which could leave millions more North Koreans at risk of starvation.

Mr Woolner said the nuclear crisis might also drive the US and China closer together.

Iran, which continues to ignore international pleas to abandon its nuclear program, is also likely to be encouraged if North Korea is not dealt with harshly.

Mr Woolner said the US and Australia had been concerned for some time about North Korea's desire to spread missile technology and the potential for it to share its nuclear developments with Iran and others.

Mr Woolner said the US would redouble its efforts to destabilise Kim Jong-il from within North Korea, but its isolation made that prospect difficult and he faced no established opposition.

"There are continuing whispers about just how strong his grasp on power is," Mr Woolner said.

But others, including Dr Ayson, believe the military leadership in Pyongyang fully supports North Korea's entry into the nuclear arms club.

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Israel worried North Korea will pass nuclear know-how to Iran

By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent and Agencies
Last update - 13:13 10/10/2006

Israel is concerned that North Korea will transfer materials and technology for the development of nuclear weapons to Iran, a senior Israeli official said Monday following a nuclear test carried out by North Korea.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will hold a special meeting on dealing with the threat posed by the Iranian nuclear program this week. The meeting was planned several weeks ago, but will now take place in light of the North Korean nuclear test and its implications on the Middle East.

According to the official, North Korea had issued a warning last week that it would not hesitate to transfer "technology, materials and nuclear arms" to other countries.

North Korea has close defense ties with Iran and Syria and has been a major source for the supply of surface-to-surface missiles and ballistic missile knowhow to both countries.

The senior Israeli official also warned that the North Korean nuclear test is likely to result in Tehran expediting its nuclear development program, because of the assumption that a state with nuclear arms is "immune" to a strike against its nuclear installations.

"Now that North Korea has proven nuclear capabilities, it is liable to collaborate with Iran and accelerate the Iranian nuclear program," Israel's ambassador to the United States Danny Ayalon said.

An Iranian diplomat involved in talks with the European Union on his country's nuclear ambitions said Monday that the North Korean test is likely to make the West think twice about its attitude toward the Iranian nuclear program.

The diplomat also voiced a veiled threat that Tehran would one day go the way of Pyongyang.

The North Korean test comes at a time when the United States is making efforts to rally international support for sanctions against Iran because of its disregard for a UN Security Council demand that Tehran freeze its uranium enrichment program.

However, senior European and American diplomatic sources opposed any comparison between the deadlock on Iran's nuclear program and North Korea, saying that these were different problems requiring different solutions.

The Israel Atomic Energy Committee confirmed Monday that North Korea had carried out a nuclear test, on the basis of seismologic data. According to the press release, the subterranean explosion was relatively small, with an estimated yield of 0.5 and 1.0 kiloton.

Israel joined the chorus of nations throughout the world Monday who condemned the North Korean nuclear test and also called for a continuation of the "moratorium on nuclear tests." The international community must "firmly implement UNSC resolutions adopted to deal with weapons of mass destruction and the proliferation threat," a statement read.

Tehran was reserved in its reaction to the North Korean test, and did not condemn Pyongyang. "Any step that threatens global peace and security is not acceptable to Iran," a senior official said.

Iran's state radio was more blatant and blamed Washington for the North Korean test.

"The U.S. not only failed to remove the sanctions it imposed on North Korea, but even stepped up diplomatic pressure against it. In the end, such pressure resulted in North Korea holding a nuclear test. The nuclear test of North Korea is a response to American threats and humiliations."

European and other intelligence sources claim that North Korean scientists offer assistance to Iran in the development of its nuclear program.

North Korea helped Iran develop its Shehab-class of surface-to-surface missiles.

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US push for air strikes

Mark Dunn
October 10, 2006 12:00am

PENTAGON hawks will try to persuade US President George W. Bush he should order immediate military air strikes to obliterate North Korean nuclear sites.

Australian National University defence expert Ron Huisken said Mr Bush's chief advisers would be gunning for action without waiting for a lead from the United Nations.

"The President will receive some advice to the effect that it is better not to wait, that there will not be a clearer trigger point than what we have now," said Dr Huisken, senior fellow at the ANU's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre.
"I suspect (Vice-President Dick) Cheney and (Defence Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld might argue we now know (they've got the bomb) and we've got to do this some time.

"I think they have an eye also on Iran. You certainly can't rule (an attack) out."

The ANU centre's director, Robert Ayson, said the stakes were high.

He said the problem the US faced in attacking would be North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's promise to turn South Korean capital Seoul into "a sea of fire" and the potential for it to launch missiles on Japan.

Dr Ayson said the US had 37,000 troops in South Korea and casualties would be high. Pyongyang had an estimated 80,000 artillery pieces concentrated on the area and may use non-conventional chemical weapons.

Despite the risks, Dr Ayson, a specialist in North Asian strategy, said the US military option was a real possibility, given Mr Bush has said he could not tolerate a nuclear North Korea.

"Military action is now more likely after the test, but is probably less than 50 per cent (likely)," Dr Ayson said.

US intelligence sources said the Bush Administration was considering naval action around North Korea, stopping short of a blockade but intercepting and inspecting all ships off the peninsula.

Analysts estimate North Korea may have enough nuclear material for a dozen weapons and has built two or three, but is yet to miniaturise them enough for long-range missiles.

The major threat its nuclear capacity posed was the potential for it to sell a bomb to a terrorist group that would sail it to a US port, or the possibility for it to drop a device from an aircraft over a major city.

The regime has claimed to have had nuclear arms since 1995; they are mainly plutonium-based but North Korea is also known to be developing uranium-based material.

Dr Huisken said China would be angered by North Korea ignoring its demands in recent weeks not to conduct the test -- a factor that should lead to quick agreement by the UN Security Council for economic and diplomatic sanctions against the regime.

"For the first time in four years Seoul, Beijing, Tokyo and Washington would be prepared to agree that this is an intolerable development," Dr Huisken said.

"I think the hardest part will be to agree on how far to go."

But US military strikes could eventuate if the UN process gets bogged down, military analyst Derek Woolner said.

"Military action is possible but it is more important to get a strong international diplomatic response," he said.

China, North Korea's main ally and benefactor, would now increase its pressure on Pyongyang, including the possibility of withdrawing financial and food support, which could leave millions more North Koreans at risk of starvation.

Mr Woolner said the nuclear crisis might also drive the US and China closer together.

Iran, which continues to ignore international pleas to abandon its nuclear program, is also likely to be encouraged if North Korea is not dealt with harshly.

Mr Woolner said the US and Australia had been concerned for some time about North Korea's desire to spread missile technology and the potential for it to share its nuclear developments with Iran and others.

Mr Woolner said the US would redouble its efforts to destabilise Kim Jong-il from within North Korea, but its isolation made that prospect difficult and he faced no established opposition.

"There are continuing whispers about just how strong his grasp on power is," Mr Woolner said.

But others, including Dr Ayson, believe the military leadership in Pyongyang fully supports North Korea's entry into the nuclear arms club.

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U.S. urges UN sanctions against North Korea

Last Updated: Monday, October 9, 2006 | 6:28 PM ET
CBC News

The United States circulated a draft UN resolution late Monday calling for tough and immediate sanctions against North Korea after the Communist regime announced it had tested a nuclear weapon.

The move comes as world leaders - including North Korea's longtime supporter China - lined up to condemn the reported nuclear test, with some echoing U.S. calls for the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions against Pyongyang.
U.S. President George W. Bush called the test provocative, "unacceptable" and a threat to global peace and security. He said the action deserves "an immediate response by the Security Council.

"The transfer of nuclear weapons or material by North Korea to states or non-state entities would be considered a grave threat to the United States," Bush said. "And we would hold North Korea fully accountable for the consequences of such action."

Pak Gil Yon, North Korea's UN ambassador, said the Security Council should congratulate his country instead of passing "useless" resolutions or statements.

According to the Associated Press, the draft resolution proposed a trade ban on military and luxury items, the power to inspect all cargo entering or leaving the country, and freezing assets connected with its weapons programs.

'Dangerous act': Harper

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the test an "irresponsible and dangerous act" that seriously undermines both regional peace and stability, and global efforts to halt the spread of nuclear weapons.

He said Canada believes that North Korea's security, economic and political goals are best achieved through the framework of the existing six-party talks to address the North Korean nuclear crisis.

Bush said U.S. officials were still trying to confirm that a nuclear explosion had taken place.

Still, he said, "such a claim itself constitutes a threat to international peace and security. The United States condemns this provocative act."

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in Seoul for a summit with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, called for "harsh measures" against Pyongyang and warned of the dawn of a "dangerous nuclear age."

"The development and possession of nuclear weapons by North Korea will in a major way transform the security environment in North Asia and we will be entering a new, dangerous nuclear age," he said.

According to North Korea's official news agency, the reclusive country tested its first nuclear weapon on Sunday.

No radiation reported

The Korean Central News Agency reported that the test was successful and no radiation had leaked from the underground site.

The test "will contribute to defending the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the area around it," KCNA reported.

The U.S. Geological Survey said it recorded a magnitude-4.2 seismic event in northeastern North Korea. Asian neighbours also said they registered a seismic event, but only Russia said its monitoring services had detected a nuclear explosion.

"It is 100-per-cent [certain] that it was an underground nuclear explosion," said Lt.-Gen. Vladimir Verkhovtsev, head of a Defence Ministry department, according to Russia's ITAR-Tass news agency.

The test took place at 10:36 a.m. local time Sunday (9:36 p.m. ET) near the city of Kilju, according to South Korean defence sources cited by South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

South Korean military on high alert

South Korea, which shares the world's most heavily armed border with the North, said it put its military on high alert.

North Korea has created "a severe situation that threatens stability on the Korean Peninsula and in northeast Asia," South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun told journalists.

He said the test would make it difficult for Seoul to maintain its efforts to strengthen ties with its Communist neighbour.

"This is a warning as well as my prediction," Roh said. "Under this situation, it's difficult for South Korea to maintain engagement policy."

China expresses 'resolute opposition'

News of the test followed a demand from China and Japan on Sunday that the Communist country scrub the test.

North Korea said early last week that it would test an atomic weapon because of "the U.S. extreme threat of a nuclear war."

Following that statement, the UN, U.S. and other countries all asked that it not proceed.

China, a longtime North Korea supporter and host of stalled international talks to persuade the fellow Communist country to give up its nuclear ambitions, strongly condemned the act.

"China expresses its resolute opposition," the Chinese Foreign Ministry said. The North "defied the universal opposition of international society and flagrantly conducted the nuclear test."

North Korea is believed to have enough plutonium for as few as four and as many as about a dozen nuclear bombs. But until Monday's reported action, Pyongyang had never tested a device.

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Russia Claims N. Korea's Nuclear Test Stronger Than Reported

Created: 10.10.2006 10:49 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 10:49 MSK

Russia's defense minister said Monday that North Korea's nuclear test was equivalent to 5,000 tons to 15,000 tons of TNT, AP reports.

That would be far greater than the force given by South Korea's geological institute, which estimated it at just 550 tons of TNT.

By comparison the bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima during World War II was equivalent to 15,000 tons of TNT.
In 1996, France detonated a bomb beneath Fangataufa Atoll about 750 miles southeast of Tahiti that had a yield of about 120,000 tons of TNT.

The U.S. Geological Survey said it recorded a magnitude-4.2 seismic event in northeastern North Korea. Asian neighbors also said they registered a seismic event, but only Russia said its monitoring services had detected a nuclear explosion.

No one has reported detecting any radiation.

"We know the exact site of the test. The ecological situation is normal, including on Russian territory in Primorye," Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said, referring to the Russian Far East province that shares a short border with North Korea.

Interfax, citing an unnamed diplomatic source in Moscow, said that the North Korean Foreign Ministry had informed the Russian ambassador in Pyongyang about the test two hours before it was conducted. The report could not immediately be confirmed.

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Ahmadinejad vows to counter UN sanctions with retaliatory measures

Compiled by Daily Star staff
Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed Monday to impose retaliatory sanctions on world powers if the UN Security Council carries out threats to penalize Iran over its nuclear program, state media reported.Ahmadinejad did not specify what kind of tit-for-tat measures might be imposed and Iran has always insisted it will not use oil as a weapon in the standoff.

But oil prices again spiked above $60 a barrel in Asian trade as market players expressed fears the announced test of a nuclear weapon by North Korea would stiffen Iran's resolve in its standoff with the West.
"We will also impose sanctions on them," Ahmadinejad told reporters in response to a question about a decision by the five Security Council permanent members plus Germany to discuss the prospect of sanctions.

"In the past 27 years they have always threatened us with sanctions and during this time they did everything they could," he said, according to the student ISNA and semi-official ILNA agencies. "They do their thing and in return we will do ours."

Iran also called the threat of international sanctions over its disputed nuclear program a "rusty" weapon and repeated that it would not abandon uranium enrichment.

"Both officials and people in Iran have always viewed threats of sanctions as a rusty and derelict weapon," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said at a weekly news briefing Sunday. "They are accustomed to the threats."

Senior US official Nicholas Burns has said the so-called "5+1" group will start drafting a sanctions resolution this week, although he has admitted finding a consensus on the extent of punitive measures will be difficult.

But it remains to be seen whether drafting the resolution will continue immediately amid the growing uproar over the announcement by North Korea early Monday it had conducted its first test of a nuclear weapon.

The UN Security Council was expected to hold an emergency meeting later Monday to weigh how to respond to North Korea's test, which came in brazen defiance of a previous UN resolution.

Such moves could take up precious time that was to be devoted to the Iranian nuclear issue and further stave off the threat of UN action. - Agencies

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Deepening insurgency threatens Afghanistan, 5 years into US-led war

By Fisnik Abrashi, Associated Press | October 8, 2006

DASHTAK, Afghanistan -- The village of Dashtak sits on a bumpy, washed-out specter of a road, an hour's drive off the main highway between Kabul and Afghanistan's lawless southeast.

It has 16 new wells financed by an aid agency. But some village men offer a litany of complaints: no paved roads, no running water, no electricity, and the closest health clinic is two hours away by donkey.

Their frustration boils over when talk turns to 10 villagers recently arrested on suspicion of aiding insurgents.

"I swear to you, I have not seen a single dollar bill. I do not know its size or color," said Shah Mahmood, a 55-year-old with a long white beard and stark black turban. "We are dying from lack of food and water -- and they call us Al Qaeda or Taliban."
Five years into the US-led war in Afghanistan, the country is far from won over, or even safely on the path to stability and democracy.

More than 3,000 people have been killed in rising violence this year. Suicide bombers are targeting ordinary Afghans and Western troops. Militants are assassinating key political figures, burning down schools, and using roadside bombs to deadly effect.

The 40,000 US and NATO troops appear further away from bringing stability than they did three years ago when their number was 2 1/2 times smaller. And Osama bin Laden, whose presence here was a trigger for the US-led attack, is still at large.

That Afghanistan's future would still remain in doubt was almost unthinkable when the US-led rout of the Taliban began on Oct. 7, 2001. The military campaign that captured Kabul, the capital, in just over a month resulted in a wave of optimism across Afghanistan, a country that had known little except war for a quarter-century.

Emerging from the Taliban's repression, the nation embraced renewed freedoms. Millions of Afghans voted for a new president in 2004 and a parliament in 2005.

But despite billions plowed into roads, clinics, and schools, development lags in the ethnic Pashtun areas in the south and east, and corruption has helped the Taliban to take root once again.

When 8,000 NATO troops moved to the border area this year to extend the government's control, they were surprised by the intensity of the resistance, often in pitched battles.

More than 3,000 people, mostly militants, have been killed nationwide in 2006, according to an Associated Press count, based on reports from US, NATO, and Afghan officials. The tally, also including Afghan security forces, officials, and civilians, is about 1,500 more than the toll for all of 2005.

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Lower Standards Help Army Recruit More

Tuesday October 10, 2006 7:46 AM
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. Army recruited more than 2,600 soldiers under new lower aptitude standards this year, helping the service beat its goal of 80,000 recruits in the throes of an unpopular war and mounting casualties.

The recruiting mark comes a year after the Army missed its recruitment target by the widest margin since 1979, which had triggered a boost in the number of recruiters, increased bonuses, and changes in standards.
The Army recruited 80,635 soldiers, roughly 7,000 more than last year. Of those, about 70,000 were first-time recruits who had never served before.

According to statistics obtained by The Associated Press, 3.8 percent of the first-time recruits scored below certain aptitude levels. In previous years, the Army had allowed only 2 percent of its recruits to have low aptitude scores. That limit was increased last year to 4 percent, the maximum allowed by the Defense Department.

The Army said all the recruits with low scores had received high school diplomas. In a written statement, the Army said good test scores do not necessarily equate to quality soldiers. Test-taking ability, the Army said, does not measure loyalty, duty, honor, integrity or courage.

Daniel Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute, a private research group, said there is a "fine balance between the need for a certain number of recruits and the standards you set.''

"Tests don't tell you the answer to the most critical question for the Army, how will you do in combat?'' Goure said. But, he added, accepting too many recruits with low test scores could increase training costs and leave technical jobs unfilled.

"The absolute key for the Army is a high-school diploma,'' Goure said.

About 17 percent of the first-time recruits, or about 13,600, were accepted under waivers for various medical, moral or criminal problems, including misdemeanor arrests or drunk driving. That is a slight increase from last year, the Army said.

Of those accepted under waivers, more than half were for "moral'' reasons, mostly misdemeanor arrests. Thirty-eight percent were for medical reasons and 7 percent were drug and alcohol problems, including those who may have failed a drug test or acknowledged they had used drugs.

The Army said the waiver process recognizes that people can overcome past mistakes and become law abiding citizens.

Army Brig. Gen. Anthony A. Cucolo said that adding more recruiters enabled the Army to identify more recruits. "We got the right people in the field in the right places in the right numbers,'' said Cucolo, the chief spokesman for the Army.

About two-thirds of the recruits qualified for a bonus - an average of $11,000 each. Some in highly valued specialties, such as special operations forces, can get up to $40,000 in extra cash.

The Army National Guard and the Army Reserve both fell slightly short of their recruiting goals. The Reserves recruited 25,378 of the targeted 25,500; and the Guard recruited 69,042 of the targeted 70,000.

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The State Of America

Student arrested after firing AK-47 in Missouri school

Last Updated: Monday, October 9, 2006 | 4:22 PM ET
The Associated Press

A 13-year-old student fired an assault rifle into the ceiling at his middle school on Monday morning after confronting a pair of students and administrators, telling them "please don't make me do this," officials said.

No one was injured in the incident in Joplin, Mo., and the boy was taken into custody.
The student was wearing a mask and pointed the gun at the two students, principal Steve Gilbreth and assistant superintendent Steve Doerr, telling them "not to make me do this," said superintendent Jim Simpson.

The boy then fired a shot into the ceiling, breaking a water pipe, and said again: "Please don't make me do this," Simpson said.

Doerr and Gilbreth were able to persuade the student to leave the building, where he was confronted by two police officers who had their weapons drawn. The student dropped the rifle, an AK-47, and was taken into custody, Simpson said.

"It was a very close call," he said.

Note found in backpack

Curt Farmer of the Joplin police said officers found a note in the student's backpack indicating that he had placed an explosive in the school, which has about 750 students. Students in the school were moved to nearby Joplin Memorial Hall, where parents picked them up.

The school was closed while police Missouri State Highway Patrol officers searched the building with bomb-sniffing dogs.

The student had been planning an attack for a "long time," Simpson said without elaborating. He said authorities did not know whether others were involved.

It wasn't immediately clear how the boy got access to the assault rifle.

Police searched a home in the area and officers were seen leaving the house carrying two rifles, The Joplin Globe reported.

Police roped off a half-block area around the house and would not reveal specifics about the search.

The shooting happened about 7:45 a.m., 10 minutes before the start of classes.

'Waving crazily'

A woman who was dropping her son off at the school said she saw Gilbreth "waving crazily" and police cars pulling up behind her.

"Police were heading into the school with weapons drawn, and the principal was pointing to the east side of the school," Blake Spivak told The Joplin Globe.

Spivak, former advertising director for the newspaper, said she and her son, Cooper, stayed in the car while Gilbreth walked back into the school flanked by armed officers in protective jackets.

She said an officer told her to get down or get her car away from the scene.

Joplin, which has about 40,900 residents, is in southwest Missouri, about 250 kilometres south of Kansas City.

Schools across the country have been on alert since three deadly school shootings in three states in the span of a week, and several schools have been locked down or closed entirely during the past two weeks because of threats.

In Pennsylvania Amish country, church bells tolled across the region on Monday morning in remembrance of the five young girls who were shot to death at their one-room schoolhouse one week earlier.

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Bush administration hopes to quell school violence

POSTED: 10:13 a.m. EDT, October 10, 2006

CHEVY CHASE, Maryland (AP) -- Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, opening a Bush administration summit on school violence in America, said Tuesday it is important for school systems to have a crisis response plan.

"All of us who are parents know it's frightening," Spellings said, addressing a conference that President Bush called after three shooting rampages in two weeks. Communities in Colorado, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are still grieving.

She said it is time for people to reflect and make sure their school has a response plan for crises -- and that "every single person who needs to know is aware of what the plan is."
Bush is expected to offer sympathy at the event, being held in this Maryland suburb, and to encourage people to ask questions at home about whether their schools are prepared for emergencies.

Four weeks before the midterm elections, the event allows Bush to return to the politically safe issue of education and child safety. But the federal role in making schools safer is limited because education remains mainly a local matter. The White House chose to host a national sharing of ideas, hoping to seize a moment when people are focused on preventing violence.

Two Cabinet members, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, are leading panel discussions. First lady Laura Bush is also scheduled to speak.

No new policies are expected; strategies for keeping schools safe are widely known. But experts say schools often don't get serious about safety until shootings make headlines.

On Monday, a 13-year-old student in Joplin, Missouri, carried an AK-47 into his middle school and fired a shot into a ceiling. He left the building and was apprehended by police.

Preventing violence, and coping with tragedy, are the topics of the panel discussions.

Among the speakers will be Craig Scott, who survived the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999. Student gunmen killed his sister and 12 others.

Another panelist is Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener. He responded in Bailey, Colorado, on September 27, when a man held several girls hostage in a school before killing one and himself.

Other speakers include educators, school administrators and crime prevention experts.

About 300 people are attending the National 4-H Conference Center in Chevy Chase.

"Bringing people together to talk about what's working -- that can't hurt," said William Lassiter, manager of the Center for the Prevention of School Violence in Raleigh, North Carolina.

"I think schools have gotten back into a comfort zone again," Lassiter said. "I'm not saying we should put barbed wire up around schools or take other drastic measures. What we really need to look at is basic safety steps you would take at your own house."

Lassiter also questioned the Bush's administration attempt to cut $347 million in school-safety grants for states this year. Bush's budget says the program is ineffective.

The White House says that beyond those state grants, the government spends larger amounts on successful school safety programs through its education, justice and health agencies.

Meanwhile, there is no pattern to deadly shootings at schools.

In the 2005-06 school year, 15 people were killed in school-related shootings, said Kenneth Trump, a national school safety expert who tracks violence data. That number of school-shooting deaths has ranged from three to 24 in recent years, Trump's records show.

In the period from 1992 to 2002, 462 students and adults died at school by homicide or suicide, according to the latest government figures. Most of those killed were children.

In the last two weeks, a gunman killed himself and five girls at a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania, and a 15-year-old Wisconsin student shot and killed his principal.

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Tiny American baby used as weapon in domestic dispute

www.chinaview.cn 2006-10-10 10:10:36

BEIJING, Oct. 10 (Xinhuanet) -- A 4-week-old baby has been used as a weapon in a domestic dispute, the law enforcement authorities of Pennsylvania, U.S. said Monday.

The baby was swung through the air by his mother and struck his mother's boyfriend -- his father.
Local police said the baby was critically injured but in stable condition Monday at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh. He suffered a fractured skull and some bleeding in the brain.

A Pennsylvania prosecutor said he has "never, never, never" seen anything remotely like the allegations -- a tiny infant was used as a weapon in a domestic dispute.

The 27-year-old woman, Chytoria Graham, is charged with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and simple assault. She was held Monday in the Erie County Jail in lieu of 75,000-dollar bail.

Four other children have been removed from the woman's home and placed in the custody of welfare workers, according to the police.

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Voters turn against Republicans over Foley sex scandal

By Andrew Buncombe in Washington
Published: 10 October 2006

The scandal over a Republican Congressman's sexually explicit e-mails to teenage interns has seeped outside Washington and fixed itself in the minds of voters across the country - helping to give Democrats a genuine chance of ending Republican control of Congress.

A new poll suggests that more than half of voters will have the scandal over Mark Foley in their minds when they come to vote in November's crucial mid-term elections.

The poll, carried out for the Associated Press, found that about two out of three voters will vote for a Democratic candidate rather than a Republican - based partly on a belief that Democrats will be better placed to deal with corruption.
Of particular concern to Republican leaders will be the finding that even some Republican groups are split over which party can better tackle corruption.

In the early part of last month, Mike Simpson, the Republican Congressman from Idaho, told the AP that he was confident his party will retain both the House and the Senate. But, following the revelations about Mr Foley and his pursuit of teenage Capitol Hill interns, or pages, he was no longer "confident" Republicans will retain the House, where they currently hold a 15-seat advantage. "From Thursday it went from fairly confident we were going to keep the majority to a real toss-up," he said.

The Foley scandal has the potential to be especially damaging to the Republicans not simply because it relates to the taboo of sexual behaviour with young people, but because it raises serious questions about the failure of the party's leadership in the House to address the issue.

The House Speaker, Dennis Hastert, under intense pressure, has insisted he only learned of the e-mails after Mr Foley resigned, but a number of other Congressmen and their aides have said they informed the Speaker's office of their concerns months before.

One Republican who is going to switch his vote for the first time this election as a result of the scandal is Lawrence Nuccio, a 78-year-old from Glen Cove, New York. "I'm a registered Republican, but when I turn around and see them trying to cover-up - and that's what they're doing - and try to pass the buck to the Democrats, that's not right," he said.

He added: "You have elected officials who are running the country and you assume are doing the right thing, but they're not."

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Texas teacher sacked in row over gallery nudes

Ed Pilkington in New York
Tuesday October 10, 2006
The Guardian

Claims by a Texas schoolteacher that she was sacked after allowing her pupils to see a nude art work during a museum field trip have led to a frenzy of hand-wringing across the US.

A parent complained that his child had been exposed to "an abstract nude" - a Greek funerary relief from 4BC depicting a marble torso.

Later, the teacher, Sydney McGee, was sacked from the school in Frisco, a suburb of Dallas.
But the school board, battling against criticism from the New York Times and others, has continued to defend itself, claiming that the row over nude sculpture told only part of the story.

Ms McGee took 89 students aged nine and 10 from Fisher elementary school and 12 parents around the Dallas Museum of Art in April.

Following the complaint, she was sent a formal letter from the headteacher that said: "During a study trip that you planned for fifth graders, students were exposed to nude statues and other nude art representations."

Ms McGee has insisted she was picked upon on the grounds of prudery. "We have a lot of sporting things in Frisco, with the soccer and the baseball. But not a lot of those kids go to the museum," she said.

But the Frisco school board claims that she has whipped up a flurry of media coverage which is far from the truth.

"The district is disappointed and concerned that Ms McGee continues to mislead the public and, more importantly, that the major media networks in America continue to ignore the facts that they have gathered," a spokesman said.

He added: "We have been taking students to the Dallas Museum of Art for years and will continue to do so. No teacher has ever been fired for taking a field trip to the museum."

The school alludes to other complaints against Ms McGee, but says it cannot go into details because of confidentiality agreements. It has only suggested that the teacher wore flip-flops to work and did not plan the field trip sufficiently.

The teacher disputes all these claims. Ms McGee's lawyer, Rogge Dunn, told the Guardian: "If the museum trip had nothing to do with it, why did the principal give Ms McGee a dressing down about it the day after the trip and why did they put it in writing a couple of weeks later?"

The plot has thickened further after the Dallas Morning News revealed that eight years ago the teacher accepted an $8,300 (£4,446) settlement to leave a teaching job in a neighbouring school district. The cause of the settlement is not known.

The disclosure led the newspaper to ask: "Was a Frisco art teacher pushed out of a job over a flap about nude art, or is the national media spotlight shining in the wrong place?"

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Buchanan's racism

Sunday, October 08, 2006
Dave Neiwert

How much longer, one has to wonder, will our mainstream press continue to pretend that Pat Buchanan has not gone completely around the bend? That he is no longer the avuncular conservative from old episodes of Crossfire but a full-fledged extremist trying to resurrect the once-discredited ethos of white supremacism?
Though there have been some reports bringing attention to this (Media Matters in particular has been good at cataloguing Buchanan's ceaseless white nationalism), but so far, little has made its way into the mainstream press.

On the contrary: Buchanan's many friends in the media have instead been conferring the mantle of respectability and normalcy on these views, promoting them on their TV programs and helping boost his book, State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, onto the bestseller lists.

This is acutely illsutrated by Alexander Zaitchik's report for the SPLC about Buchanan's book and the media response:
In fact, the book reflects racial views that have now veered to the extreme. White America is changing color, Buchanan argues -- "one of the greatest tragedies in human history." The Mexican government is involved in a plot to take over the Southwestern United States, and parts of this country already look like the "Third World." The segregated South wasn't all bad "culturally" -- blacks and whites were united, after all. America, despite what its founders wrote, was a nation formed not on the basis of creed but rather a homogenous ethnic culture. To put it plainly, State of Emergency is a white nationalist tract. The thesis is that America must retain a white majority to survive as a nation. It is rooted in a blood-and-soil nationalism more blood than soil. The echoes of Nazi ideology are clear and chilling. As Buchanan helpfully explained to John King, who was interviewing him in one of his several CNN appearances: "We gotta get into race and ethnic questions."

State of Emergency unapologetically reflects Buchanan's insistence on the centrality of race to the United States and its culture. "This idea of America as a creedal nation bound together not by 'blood or birth or soil' but by 'ideals' that must be taught and learned ... is demonstrably false," Buchanan writes in the book.

Simply put, America is not a nation of ideas. It is a nation of people -- white people. Buchanan is especially overt in making this case when he endorses the view of his late mentor and editor Sam Francis, that American and European civilizations could never have been created without the "genetic endowments" of whites. He goes on to describe discussions of race as "the Great Taboo"; to ignore the role of race, he adds, is "like not telling one's doctor of a recurring pain that could kill you."

Foremost among Buchanan's media boosters has been CNN's Lou Dobbs, whose proclivity for pushing extremist nonsense into the mainstream has beem previously noted:
"Congratulations on the response to your book," said Lou Dobbs, the CNN anchorman who has made a profession of attacking illegal immigration in story after story after story, as he introduced his old CNN colleague. Dobbs then offered up his own view that President Bush was carrying on an "outright war" against middle-class Americans by allowing illegal immigration. Wrapping up the interview, Dobbs concluded: "The book is State of Emergency. It's No. 3 on the best-selling list. ... I'm going to repeat it one more time. The book is State of Emergency. Pat Buchanan, always good to talk to you. ... [Y]ou've got a lot of readers, so keep it rolling."

Particularly telling is Buchanan's sourcing:
Once again, to make his case in State of Emergency, Buchanan relies on a trove of extreme-right sources. His urgent call for thwarting the "invasion" of non-European immigrants leans heavily on material written by hate group members or postings on hate sites, with citations to nearly every sector of the hate movement, from neo-Nazis to neo-Confederates. He cites the work of white supremacist James Lubinskas; Edward Rubinstein, of the white nationalist think tank National Policy Institute; Clyde Wilson, a board member of the racist and secessionist League of the South; and Wayne Lutton, a veteran immigrant- and gay-hater. Buchanan also quotes Lutton's anti-immigrant hate journal The Social Contract.

There's more, including Buchanan's lionization of Samuel Francis. Yes, that Samuel Francis.

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Thieves steal, kill animals in U-District pet store

October 8, 2006
By KOMO Staff

SEATTLE - Owners of a University District pet store and animal shelter are cleaning up and wondering who would come in and kill some their animals and steal others.

Thieves broke into Animal Talk Saturday night and stole reptiles, let birds out of their cages, and stomped on small animals like mice and gerbils.

"I hope (the thieves) burn in hell," said store owner Michelle Young. "This is really bad karma for them."
Young says the thieves broke in to steal snakes, iguanas, geckos and bearded dragons. Then the thieves opened the cages of more than 100 animals -- and as some of those animals ran free, the thieves killed them.

"I think as an afterthought, they decided it would be fun to let out all the animals and then they stomped on a bunch of the small animals and dumped out all the cages and opened all the bird cages and let all the cats out," Young said.

Animal Talk in Seattle's University District is both a pet store and a shelter. They take in stray and unwanted cats and try to adopt them out.

Some of the cats were badly injured in the melee, and it might be a while before they are healthy enough to go to new homes.

"It hurts. It really does hurt and it scares me that someone could do this," said volunteer Elspeth Gotz.

Volunteers who help out in the rescue center were stunned when they got the news that the store had been robbed and vandalized.

"I actually suspected it might be some misguided animal rights person, but it sounds like it was just your garden variety dirt bag," said volunteer Mary Woodring.

The store's owner told us she lost thousands in the robbery between what was stolen and all the damage. But she added it's much harder to put a price tag on the emotional side of it.

The store decided to cancel adoptions Sunday so it can make sure all the animals are OK.

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America's Gift To The Iraqi People

America ponders cutting Iraq in three

Sarah Baxter, Washington
The Sunday Times
October 08, 2006

AN independent commission set up by Congress with the approval of President George W Bush may recommend carving up Iraq into three highly autonomous regions, according to well informed sources.

The Iraq Study Group, co-chaired by James Baker, the former US secretary of state, is preparing to report after next month's congressional elections amid signs that sectarian violence and attacks on coalition forces are spiralling out of control. The conflict is claiming the lives of 100 civilians a day and bombings have reached record levels.
The Baker commission has grown increasingly interested in the idea of splitting the Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish regions of Iraq as the only alternative to what Baker calls "cutting and running" or "staying the course".

"The Kurds already effectively have their own area," said a source close to the group. "The federalisation of Iraq is going to take place one way or another. The challenge for the Iraqis is how to work that through."

The commission is considered to represent a last chance for fresh thinking on Iraq, where mass kidnappings are increasing and even the police are suspected of being responsible for a growing number of atrocities.

Baker, 76, an old Bush family friend who was secretary of state during the first Gulf war in 1991, said last week that he met the president frequently to discuss "policy and personnel".

His group will not advise "partition", but is believed to favour a division of the country that will devolve power and security to the regions, leaving a skeletal national government in Baghdad in charge of foreign affairs, border protection and the distribution of oil revenue.

The Iraqi government will be encouraged to hold a constitutional conference paving the way for greater devolution. Iran and Syria will be urged to back a regional settlement that could be brokered at an international conference.

Baker, a leading exponent of shuttle diplomacy, has already met representatives of the Syrian government and is planning to see the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations in New York. "My view is you don't just talk to your friends," he said last week. "You need to talk to your enemies in order to move forward diplomatically towards peace."

His group has yet to reach a final conclusion, but there is a growing consensus that America can neither pour more soldiers into Iraq nor suffer mounting casualties without any sign of progress. It is thought to support embedding more high-quality American military advisers in the Iraqi security forces rather than maintaining high troop levels in the country indefinitely.

Frustrated by the failure of a recent so-called "battle of Baghdad" to stem violence in the capital, Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to Iraq, said last week that the unity government of Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, had only two months left to get a grip. Rumours abound that the much-admired ambassador could depart by Christmas.

Khalilzad's warning was reinforced by John Warner, Republican chairman of the Senate armed services committee, on his return from a visit to Baghdad. "In two to three months' time, if this thing hasn't come to fruition and this government (is not) able to function, I think it's a responsibility of our government internally to determine: is there a change of course we should take?" Warner said.

Bush and Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, have resisted the break-up of Iraq on the grounds that it could lead to more violence, but are thought to be reconsidering. "They have finally noticed that the country is being partitioned by civil war and ethnic cleansing is already a daily event," said Leslie Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Gelb is the co-author with Senator Joseph Biden, a leading Democrat, of a plan to divide Iraq. "There was almost no support for our idea until very recently, when all the other ideas being advocated failed," Gelb said.

In Baghdad last week Rice indicated that time was running out for the Iraqi government to resolve the division of oil wealth and changes to the constitution.

Many Kurds are already hoping for their own national state, while the Shi'ite Islamist leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim is pressing for regional autonomy. The Sunnis are opposed to a carve-up of Iraq, which would further deprive them of the national power they enjoyed under Saddam Hussein and could leave them with a barren tranche of the country bereft of oil revenue.

Many Middle East experts are horrified by the difficulty of dividing the nation. "Fifty-three per cent of the population of Iraq live in four cities and three of them are mixed," said Anthony Cordesman of the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, who fears a bloody outcome.

Baghdad is a particular jumble, although ethnic cleansing is already dividing the population along the Tigris River, with Shi'ites to the east and Sunnis to the west of the city.

America may have passed the point where it can determine Iraq's future, according to Cordesman: "The internal politics of Iraq have taken on a momentum of their own."

Gelb is under no illusions about the prospects of success. "Everything is a long shot at this point," he said.

Comment: Don't think for a minute that this is a new idea. The dismemberment of Iraq was the goal all along. Israel has been pushing for it for over twenty years. The entire US strategy since the beginning of the invasion leads to chaos. With chaos, the splitting up of the country can be justified. "See, we liberated them and they just can't get along! We're forced into it! There's no other way!"

No. That was the goal. And how did they do it? See the next story for the gory details of the liberating influence of the Bush administration and its stormtroopers.

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Hidden victims of a brutal conflict: Iraq's women

Peter Beaumont in Baghdad
Sunday October 8, 2006
The Observer

Abduction, rape and murder are the punishments for any woman who dares to hold a professional job. A month-long investigation by The Observer reveals the terrible reality of life after Saddam

They came for Dr Khaula al-Tallal in a white Opel car after she took a taxi home to the middle class district of Qadissiya in Iraq's holy city of Najaf. She worked for the medical committee that examined patients to assess them for welfare benefit. Crucially, however, she was a woman in a country where being a female professional increasingly invites a death sentence.

As al-Tallal, 50, walked towards her house, one of three men in the Opel stepped out and raked her with bullets.
A women's rights campaigner, Umm Salam - a nickname - knows about the three men in the Opel: they tried to kill her on 11 December last year. It was a Sunday, she recalls, and 15 bullets were fired into her own car as she drove home from teaching at an internet cafe. A man in civilian clothes got out of the car and opened fire. Three bullets hit her, one lodging close to her spinal cord. Her 20-year-old son was hit in the chest. Umm Salam saw the gun - a police-issue Glock. She is convinced her would-be assassin works for the state.

The shootings of al-Tallal and Umm Salam are not isolated incidents, even in Najaf - a city almost exclusively Shia and largely insulated from the sectarian violence of the North. Bodies of young women have appeared in its dusty lanes and avenues, places patrolled by packs of dogs where the boundaries bleed into the desert. It is a favourite place for dumping murder victims.

Iraqis do not like to talk about it much, but there is an understanding of what is going on these days. If a young woman is abducted and murdered without a ransom demand, she has been kidnapped to be raped. Even those raped and released are not necessarily safe: the response of some families to finding that a woman has been raped has been to kill her.

Iraq's women are living with a fear that is increasing in line with the numbers dying violently every month. They die for being a member of the wrong sect and for helping their fellow women. They die for doing jobs that the militants have decreed that they cannot do: for working in hospitals and ministries and universities. They are murdered, too, because they are the softest targets for Iraq's criminal gangs.

Iraq's women live in terror of speaking their opinions; of going out to work; or defying the strict new prohibitions on dress and behaviour applied across Iraq by Islamist militants, both Sunni and Shia. They live in fear of their husbands, too, as women's rights have been undermined by the country's postwar constitution that has taken power from the family courts and given it to clerics.

'Women are being targeted more and more,' said Umm Salam last week. Her husband was a university professor who was executed in 1991 under Saddam Hussein after the Shia uprising. She survived by running her family farm. When the Americans arrived she got involved in civic action, teaching illiterate women how to read and vote, independent from the influence of their husbands. She helped them fill in forms for benefits and set up a sewing workshop.

In doing so she put herself at mortal risk. And since the assassination attempt, like many women in Najaf, she has found it hard to work. Which is what the men in the white Opel wanted. To silence the women like Umm Salam, who is 42.

'It is very difficult for women here. There is a lot of pressure on our personal freedoms. None of us feels that we can have an opinion on anything any more. If she does, she risks being killed.'

It is a story familiar to women across Iraq, betrayed by the country's new constitution that guaranteed them a 25 per cent share of membership of the Council of Representatives. That guarantee has turned instead into a fig leaf hiding what women activists now call a 'human rights catastrophe for Iraqi women'.

After a month-long investigation, The Observer has established that in almost every major area of human rights, women are being seriously discriminated against, in some cases seeing their conditions return to those of females in the Middle Ages. In areas such as the Shia militia stronghold of Sadr City in east Baghdad, women have been beaten for not wearing socks. Even the headscarf and juba - the ankle-length, flared coat that buttons to the collar - are not enough for the zealots. Some women have been threatened with death unless they wear the full abbaya, the black, all-encompassing veil.

Similar reports are emerging from Mosul, where it is Sunni extremists who are laying down the law, and Kirkuk. Women from Karbala, Hilla, Basra and Nassariyah have all told The Observer similar stories. Of the insidious spread of militia and religious party control - and how members of those same groups are, paradoxically, increasingly responsible for the rape and murder of women outside their sects and communities.

'There is a member of my organisation, an activist who is a Christian,' said Yanar Mohammed, head of the Organisation for Iraqi Women's Freedom, who has had death threats for her work in protecting women threatened by domestic violence or 'honour' killings. 'She would have to walk home each day to her neighbourhood through an area controlled by one of the Islamic Shia militias, the Jaish al-Mahdi. She does not wear a veil so she gets abused by these men. About three weeks ago, one of them starts following her home saying that he wants a sexual relationship with her. He tells her what he wants to do, and if she doesn't agree he says she will be kidnapped. In the end he thinks that, because he is armed, because he threatens her existence, she will have to agree to a "pleasure marriage" [a temporary sexual union arranged by a cleric].'

Strong anecdotal evidence gathered by organisations such as that of Yanar Mohammed and by the Iraqi Women's Network, run by Hanna Edwar, suggests rape is also being used as a weapon in the sectarian war to humiliate families from rival communities. 'So far what we have been seeing is what you might call "collateral rape",' says Besmia Khatib of the Iraqi Women's Network. 'Rape is being used in the settling of scores in the sectarian war.' Yanar Mohammed describes how a Shia girl was kidnapped, raped and dumped in the Husseiniya area of Baghdad. The retaliation, she says, was the kidnapping and rape of several Sunni girls in the Rashadiya area. Tit for tat.

Similar stories are emerging across Iraq. 'Of course rape is going on,' says Aida Ussayaran, former deputy Human Rights Minister and now one of the women on the Council of Representatives. 'We blame the militias. But when we talk about the militias, many are members of the police. Any family now that has a good-looking young woman in it does not want to send her out to school or university, and does not send her out without a veil. This is the worst time ever in Iraqi women's lives. In the name of religion and sectarian conflict they are being kidnapped and killed and raped. And no one is mentioning it.'

Women activists are convinced there is substantial under-reporting of crimes against women in some areas, particularly involving 'honour killing' - there is a massive increase against a background of pervasive violence - and that families often seek death certificates that will hide the cause. In regions such as the violent Anbar province, the country's largest, which borders Jordan and Syria, there is little reporting of the causes of any death. And activists complain, in any case, that they have been blocked from examining bodies at the Medical Forensic Institute in Baghdad, or collecting their own figures to build up an accurate picture of what is happening to women.

While attacks on women have long been the dirty secret of Iraq's war, the sheer levels of the violence is now pushing it into the open. Last week in Samawah, 246 kilometres (153 miles) south of Baghdad, three women and a toddler were killed when gunmen stormed their home in an unexplained mass murder. Like Dr al-Tallal in Najaf, they were Shia Muslims in a Shia city. The three women were shot. The 18-month-old baby had her throat slit.

In the north, too, last week the killing of women became more visible, with the al-Jazeera network reporting that attacks on women in the city of Mosul had led to an unprecedented rise in the number of women's bodies being found. Among them was Zuheira, a young housewife, found shot dead in the suburb of Gogaly. Salim Zaho, a neighbour, quoted by the television station, said: 'They couldn't kill her husband, a police officer, so they came for his wife instead.'

It is one of the recurring narratives of murder told by Iraqi women. It is a violence that would not be possible without a wider, permissive brutalising of women's lives: one that permeates the 'new Iraq' in its entirety. For it is not only the religious militias that have turned women's lives into a living hell - it is, in some measure, the government itself, which has allowed ministries run by religious parties to segregate staff by gender. Some public offices, including ministries, insist on women staff wearing a headscarf at all times. A women's shelter, set up by Yanar Mohammed's group, was closed down by the government.

Most serious of all are the death threats women receive for simply working, even in government offices. Zainub - not her real name - works for a ministry in Baghdad. One morning, she said, she arrived at work to find that a letter had been sent to all the women. 'When I opened up the note it said, "You will die. You will die".'

The situation has been exacerbated by the undermining of Iraq's old Family Code, established in 1958, which guaranteed women a large measure of equality in key areas such as divorce and inheritance. The new constitution has allowed the Family Code to be superseded by the power of the clerics and new religious courts, with the result that it is largely discriminatory against women. The clerics have permitted the creeping re-emergence of men contracting multiple marriages, formerly discouraged by the old code. It is these clerics, too, who have permitted a sharp escalation in the 'pleasure marriages'. And it is the same clerics overseeing the rapid transformation of a once secular society - in which women held high office and worked as professors, doctors, engineers and economists - into one where women have been forced back under the veil and into the home. The result is mapped out every day on Iraq's streets and in its country lanes in individual acts of intimidation and physical brutality that build into an awful whole.

And so in Salman Pak, on the Tigris 15 miles south of Baghdad, The Observer is told, the Karaa Brigade of the Ministry of the Interior rounds up some Sunni men. Later some of the police return to the men's houses and promise their worried women to help find the missing men in exchange for sex.

In the Shia neighbourhood of al-Shaab in Baghdad, militiamen with the Jaish al-Mahdi put out an order banning women from wearing sandals and certain shoes, skirts and trousers. They beat up others for wearing the wrong clothes.

In Amaryah, a Sunni stronghold in Baghdad, Sunni militants shave three women's heads for wearing the wrong clothes and lash young men for wearing shorts. In Zafaraniyah, a largely Shia suburb south of Baghdad, the Jaish al-Mahdi militiamen wait outside a school and slap girls not wearing the hijab.

It is a situation bleakly recorded by the Human Rights Office of the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq. 'There are reports that, in some Baghdad neighbourhoods, women are now prevented from going to the markets alone,' Unami reported. 'In other cases, women have been warned not to drive cars, or have faced harassment if they wear trousers. Women have also reported that wearing a headscarf is becoming not a matter of religious choice but one of survival in many parts of Iraq, a fact particularly resented by non-Muslim women. Female university students are also facing constant pressure in university campuses.'

'Since the beginning of August it has just been getting worse,' says Nagham Kathim Hamoody, an activist with the Iraqi Women's Network in Najaf . 'There are more women being killed and more bodies being found in the cemetery. I don't know why they are being killed, but I know the militias are behind the killing... We went to the mortuary here in Najaf, but the authorities would not co-operate in helping to identify the murdered women. There was one doctor, though, who told us that some of the bodies showed signs that they had been beaten prior to their murder.'

And so the painful lives of Iraqi women go on.

Comment: Please note that these so-called Iraqi sectarian gangs are being financed and directed by the CIA. See here for the details.

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Police find 60 bodies in Baghdad

Tuesday, 10 October 2006, 15:32 GMT 16:32 UK

Sixty bodies have been found scattered across the Iraqi capital Baghdad, police there have said.

A car bomb has also exploded near a Sunni mosque in a southern district of the city, killing 11 people.
The bomb attack comes a day after 10 people were killed in a car bombing at a market in the capital.

It also coincides with the release of new figures indicating that an estimated 300,000 Iraqis have fled their homes due to sectarian violence.

Attacks have increased between Iraq's majority Shia Muslims and the Sunni minority, who dominated the country until the fall of Saddam Hussein.


The 60 bodies, who were all men, were found in various parts of the city over a 24-hour period, defence and interior ministry officials said on Tuesday.

Many of them had been shot in the head at close range, execution-style.

The victims also had their hands and feet bound and showed signs of torture - hallmarks of death-squad killings, the police said.

Tuesday's bomb was placed under a car near a mosque in the district of Doura, killing 11 bystanders standing outside a bakery, police said.

The bomb - which also injured at least four people - exploded at about 1100 GMT.

Displaced families

The sustained sectarian violence has seen more than 50,000 Sunni and Shiite families - around 300,000 people - flee their homes, according to figures released by Iraqi minister for migration, Dr Abd al-Samad Rahman.

Some fled their homes after receiving direct threats while others simply felt threatened and moved to areas where their own sect predominates and they feel safer.

The flight is continuing, especially in parts of Baghdad and Diyala province, north-east of the capital.

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Saddam genocide trial resumes amid assorted violence in Iraq

www.chinaview.cn 2006-10-10 04:29:34

BAGHDAD, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- The genocide trial of Iraqi toppled president Saddam Hussein resumed Monday without defense team, amid the assassination of the brother of Iraqi Vice President, mass policemen poisoning, kidnappings of Iraqi soldiers and a car bombing ripping through a popular market.

Saddam and other codefendants were all present at the courtroom in Baghdad on Monday, while the defense team announced they would continue to boycott the trial.

Since judge Abdullah al-Amiri was replaced by Muhammed Ureybi for allegedly being biased toward the defendants, the defense lawyers have been boycotting, and the defendants were represented only by court-appointed lawyers.

During the session, four witnesses took the stand to tell the court harrowing stories from their Kurdish villages and their conditions at prison detentions.

A female witness who talked from behind a curtain told the court that the Iraqi forces attacked her village in the northern Kurdish region in April 1988, when she was 13 years old, and what happened to her family after they were detained.

She told the court that she saw an officer named only Hajaj torturing the women.

"I saw Hajaj tying two girls to the wall under a burning sun during a summer day," she said, adding "I know what happened to my family. They were buried alive."

The woman demanded the court to ask Saddam "why you did that to our women and children?"

Saddam and his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali," as well as five former commanders face charges of genocide for their role in Anfal, which the chief prosecutor said left 182, 000 people dead or missing.

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Judge throws Saddam out of court

Tuesday, 10 October 2006, 15:10 GMT 16:10 UK

The chief judge at Saddam Hussein's genocide trial has expelled the former Iraqi leader from court after he shouted out a verse from the Koran.

It is the fourth time in recent weeks the former dictator has been ejected from his Baghdad trial for alleged war crimes and genocide against the Kurds.

Judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa cut off Saddam Hussein's microphone and ordered bailiffs to escort him out.

A second defendant was also ejected and the trial continued in closed session.

The former Iraqi leader was heard to say "fight them and God will punish them" before the audio transmission was cut.

When the judge ordered Saddam thrown out of the court his co-defendants stood up to protest.

One of them, Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti, was ejected and punched a bailiff who had tried to force him into his seat.

Pregnant women

Before the session was disrupted, the court had heard from a Kurdish woman who gave her testimony from behind a screen about her time in the former regime's prison camps.

"One day men wearing protective uniforms and masks came to us," she said. "They sprayed us with something and after that we got lice in our hair and diseases like whooping cough.

"A number of children died. I spent six and a half months at this prison until being set free."

The witness also testified that pregnant women were treated inhumanely at the camps.

She said one woman had given birth in a toilet and that fellow detainees helped her "cut the umbilical cord with broken glass and the baby was wrapped in a grain sack".

Rape and murder

Another female witness later told of a young woman being raped and killed in detention by a warden, named as Jaafar al-Hillawi.

"He told her: 'You are mine.' She spat in his face," said the witness. "He tore her clothes and raped her in front of her parents, then he shot her.

"She remained alive for several minutes and then died."

Some of those abused by the warden committed suicide, according to the woman, who also said members of her own family disappeared during the crackdown.

The former Iraqi leader's lawyers are boycotting the trial in protest against what they say is interference by the Iraqi government.

Court-appointed lawyers have been attending in their place.

Saddam Hussein and six others, including his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, are on trial over the killing of up to 180,000 Kurdish civilians during Operation Anfal in the 1980s.

Saddam Hussein has already been tried for the killing of 148 Shias in Dujail in 1982 and a judgement is awaited.

The trial is due to resume on Wednesday.

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Making Water From Thin Air

Wired News

A company that developed technology capable of creating water out of thin air nearly anywhere in the world is now under contract to nourish U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq.

The water-harvesting technology was originally the brainchild of the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which sought ways to ensure sustainable water supplies for U.S. combat troops deployed in arid regions like Iraq.

"The program focused on creating water from the atmosphere using low-energy systems that could reduce the overall logistics burden for deployed forces and provide potable water within the reach of the war fighter any place, any time," said Darpa spokeswoman Jan Walker.
To achieve this end, Darpa gave millions to research companies like LexCarb and Sciperio to create a contraption that could capture water in the Mesopotamian desert.

But it was another company, Aqua Sciences, that developed a product on its own and was first to put a product on the market that can operate in harsh climates.

"People have been trying to figure out how to do this for years, and we just came out of left field in response to Darpa," said Abe Sher, chief executive officer of Aqua Sciences. "The atmosphere is a river full of water, even in the desert. It won't work absolutely everywhere, but it works virtually everywhere."

Sher said he is "not at liberty" to disclose details of the government contracts, except that Aqua Sciences won two highly competitive bids with "some very sophisticated companies."

He also declined to comment on how the technology actually works.

"This is our secret sauce," Sher said. "Like Kentucky Fried Chicken, it tastes good, but we won't tell you what's in it."

He did, however, provide a hint: Think of rice used in saltshakers that acts as a magnet to extract water and keeps salt from clumping.

"We figured out how to tap it in a very unique and proprietary way," Sher said. "We figured out how to mimic nature, using natural salt to extract water and act as a natural decontamination.

"Think of the Dead Sea, where nothing grows around it because the salt dehydrates everything. It's kind of like that."

The 20-foot machine can churn out 600 gallons of water a day without using or producing toxic materials and byproducts. The machine was displayed on Capitol Hill last week where a half-dozen lawmakers and some staffers stopped by for a drink.

"It was very interesting to see the technology in action and learn about its possible implementation in natural disasters," said Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr., a Republican from Florida whose hurricane-prone district includes Fort Lauderdale.

"It was delicious," Shaw said.

Jason Rowe, chief of staff to Rep. Tom Feeney, another Florida Republican, called the technology "pretty impressive."

"I was pretty blown away by the things it's able to do," Rowe said. "The fact that this technology is not tied to humidity like others are makes it an attractive alternative for military bases in the Mideast where humidity is not really an option.

"It seems like it's a cheaper alternative to trucking in bottled water, which has a shelf life," said Rowe, who described himself as a fiscal hawk.

Once deployed, the machines could reduce the cost of logistical support for supplying water to the troops in Iraq by billions of dollars, said Stuart Roy, spokesman of the DCI Group, Aqua Sciences' public affairs firm.

The cost to transport water by C-17 cargo planes, then truck it to the troops, runs $30 a gallon. The cost, including the machines from Aqua Sciences, will be reduced to 30 cents a gallon, Roy said.

Several systems on the market can create water through condensation, but the process requires a high level of humidity.

Aqua Sciences' machines only require 14 percent humidity, Roy said. "That's why this technology is superior and why they are getting the contracts."

Comment: With millions of people suffering from repeated drought in Africa and several billion people around the world lacking clean drinking water, we applaud the repellant US government for using this technology to ensure that American soldiers can continue to murder Iraqi civilians and plunder and carve up their country.

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America and Israel's Gift To The World

Christian Zionists Boost Post-War Tourism for Israel

CNS News

Thousands of Christian Zionist tourists who are visiting here this week are giving Israel a much needed boost and signaling a major recovery of Israel's tourism industry following the Israeli-Hizballah war this summer, Israel's Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog said.

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Bush's Nuclear Apocalypse

By Chris Hedges

10/09/06 "TruthDig"

The aircraft carrier Eisenhower, accompanied by the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio, guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage, guided-missile destroyer USS Mason and the fast-attack submarine USS Newport News, is, as I write, making its way to the Straits of Hormuz off Iran. The ships will be in place to strike Iran by the end of the month. It may be a bluff. It may be a feint. It may be a simple show of American power. But I doubt it.
War with Iran-a war that would unleash an apocalyptic scenario in the Middle East-is probable by the end of the Bush administration. It could begin in as little as three weeks. This administration, claiming to be anointed by a Christian God to reshape the world, and especially the Middle East, defined three states at the start of its reign as "the Axis of Evil." They were Iraq, now occupied; North Korea, which, because it has nuclear weapons, is untouchable; and Iran. Those who do not take this apocalyptic rhetoric seriously have ignored the twisted pathology of men like Elliott Abrams, who helped orchestrate the disastrous and illegal contra war in Nicaragua, and who now handles the Middle East for the National Security Council. He knew nothing about Central America. He knows nothing about the Middle East. He sees the world through the childish, binary lens of good and evil, us and them, the forces of darkness and the forces of light. And it is this strange, twilight mentality that now grips most of the civilian planners who are barreling us towards a crisis of epic proportions.

These men advocate a doctrine of permanent war, a doctrine which, as William R. Polk points out, is a slight corruption of Leon Trotsky's doctrine of permanent revolution. These two revolutionary doctrines serve the same function, to intimidate and destroy all those classified as foreign opponents, to create permanent instability and fear and to silence domestic critics who challenge leaders in a time of national crisis. It works. The citizens of the United States, slowly being stripped of their civil liberties, are being herded sheep-like, once again, over a cliff.

But this war will be different. It will be catastrophic. It will usher in the apocalyptic nightmares spun out in the dark, fantastic visions of the Christian right. And there are those around the president who see this vision as preordained by God; indeed, the president himself may hold such a vision.

The hypocrisy of this vaunted moral crusade is not lost on those in the Middle East. Iran actually signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has violated a codicil of that treaty written by European foreign ministers, but this codicil was never ratified by the Iranian parliament. I do not dispute Iran's intentions to acquire nuclear weapons nor do I minimize the danger should it acquire them in the estimated five to 10 years. But contrast Iran with Pakistan, India and Israel. These three countries refused to sign the treaty and developed nuclear weapons programs in secret. Israel now has an estimated 400 to 600 nuclear weapons. The word "Dimona," the name of the city where the nuclear facilities are located in Israel, is shorthand in the Muslim world for the deadly Israeli threat to Muslims' existence. What lessons did the Iranians learn from our Israeli, Pakistani and Indian allies?

Given that we are actively engaged in an effort to destabilize the Iranian regime by recruiting tribal groups and ethnic minorities inside Iran to rebel, given that we use apocalyptic rhetoric to describe what must be done to the Iranian regime, given that other countries in the Middle East such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia are making noises about developing a nuclear capacity, and given that, with the touch of a button Israel could obliterate Iran, what do we expect from the Iranians? On top of this, the Iranian regime grasps that the doctrine of permanent war entails making "preemptive" and unprovoked strikes.

Those in Washington who advocate this war, knowing as little about the limitations and chaos of war as they do about the Middle East, believe they can hit about 1,000 sites inside Iran to wipe out nuclear production and cripple the 850,000-man Iranian army. The disaster in southern Lebanon, where the Israeli air campaign not only failed to break Hezbollah but united most Lebanese behind the militant group, is dismissed. These ideologues, after all, do not live in a reality-based universe. The massive Israeli bombing of Lebanon failed to pacify 4 million Lebanese. What will happen when we begin to pound a country of 70 million people? As retired General Wesley K. Clark and others have pointed out, once you begin an air campaign it is only a matter of time before you have to put troops on the ground or accept defeat, as the Israelis had to do in Lebanon. And if we begin dropping bunker busters, cruise missiles and iron fragmentation bombs on Iran this is the choice that must be faced-either sending American forces into Iran to fight a protracted and futile guerrilla war or walking away in humiliation.

"As a people we are enormously forgetful," Dr. Polk, one of the country's leading scholars on the Middle East, told an Oct. 13 gathering of the Foreign Policy Association in New York. "We should have learned from history that foreign powers can't win guerrilla wars. The British learned this from our ancestors in the American Revolution and re-learned it in Ireland. Napoleon learned it in Spain. The Germans learned it in Yugoslavia. We should have learned it in Vietnam and the Russians learned it in Afghanistan and are learning it all over again in Chechnya and we are learning it, of course, in Iraq. Guerrilla wars are almost unwinnable. As a people we are also very vain. Our way of life is the only way. We should have learned that the rich and powerful can't always succeed against the poor and less powerful."

An attack on Iran will ignite the Middle East. The loss of Iranian oil, coupled with Silkworm missile attacks by Iran on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, could send oil soaring to well over $110 a barrel. The effect on the domestic and world economy will be devastating, very possibly triggering a huge, global depression. The 2 million Shiites in Saudi Arabia, the Shiite majority in Iraq and the Shiite communities in Bahrain, Pakistan and Turkey will turn in rage on us and our dwindling allies. We will see a combination of increased terrorist attacks, including on American soil, and the widespread sabotage of oil production in the Gulf. Iraq, as bad as it looks now, will become a death pit for American troops as Shiites and Sunnis, for the first time, unite against their foreign occupiers.

The country, however, that will pay the biggest price will be Israel. And the sad irony is that those planning this war think of themselves as allies of the Jewish state. A conflagration of this magnitude could see Israel drawn back in Lebanon and sucked into a regional war, one that would over time spell the final chapter in the Zionist experiment in the Middle East. The Israelis aptly call their nuclear program "the Samson option." The Biblical Samson ripped down the pillars of the temple and killed everyone around him, along with himself.

If you are sure you will be raptured into heaven, your clothes left behind with the nonbelievers, then this news should cheer you up. If you are rational, however, these may be some of the last few weeks or months in which to enjoy what is left of our beleaguered, dying republic and way of life.

Chris Hedges is former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times and author of the bestseller "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning" reports on Bush's plan for Iran, and how a callous war, conceived by zealots, will lead to a disaster of biblical proportions.

Copyright © 2006 Truthdig, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

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The Two Faces Of Rumsfeld

Randeep Ramesh
Friday May 9, 2003 (The Guardian)

Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, sat on the board of a company which three years ago sold two light water nuclear reactors to North Korea - a country he now regards as part of the "axis of evil" and which has been targeted for regime change by Washington because of its efforts to build nuclear weapons.

Mr Rumsfeld was a non-executive director of ABB, a European engineering giant based in Zurich, when it won a $200m (£125m) contract to provide the design and key components for the reactors. The current defence secretary sat on the board from 1990 to 2001, earning $190,000 a year. He left to join the Bush administration.

The reactor deal was part of President Bill Clinton's policy of persuading the North Korean regime to positively engage with the west.
The sale of the nuclear technology was a high-profile contract. ABB's then chief executive, Goran Lindahl, visited North Korea in November 1999 to announce ABB's "wide-ranging, long-term cooperation agreement" with the communist government.

The company also opened an office in the country's capital, Pyongyang, and the deal was signed a year later in 2000. Despite this, Mr Rumsfeld's office said that the de fence secretary did not "recall it being brought before the board at any time".

In a statement to the American magazine Newsweek, his spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said that there "was no vote on this". A spokesman for ABB told the Guardian yesterday that "board members were informed about the project which would deliver systems and equipment for light water reactors".

Just months after Mr Rumsfeld took office, President George Bush ended the policy of engagement and negotiation pursued by Mr Clinton, saying he did not trust North Korea, and pulled the plug on diplomacy. Pyongyang warned that it would respond by building nuclear missiles. A review of American policy was announced and the bilateral confidence building steps, key to Mr Clinton's policy of detente, halted.

By January 2002, the Bush administration had placed North Korea in the "axis of evil" alongside Iraq and Iran. If there was any doubt about how the White House felt about North Korea this was dispelled by Mr Bush, who told the Washington Post last year: "I loathe [North Korea's leader] Kim Jong-il."

The success of campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq have enhanced the status of Mr Rumsfeld in Washington. Two years after leaving ABB, Mr Rumsfeld now considers North Korea a "terrorist regime _ teetering on the verge of collapse" and which is on the verge of becoming a proliferator of nuclear weapons. During a bout of diplomatic activity over Christmas he warned that the US could fight two wars at once - a reference to the forthcoming conflict with Iraq. After Baghdad fell, Mr Rumsfeld said Pyongyang should draw the "appropriate lesson".

Critics of the administration's bellicose language on North Korea say that the problem was not that Mr Rumsfeld supported the Clinton-inspired diplomacy and the ABB deal but that he did not "speak up against it". "One could draw the conclusion that economic and personal interests took precedent over non-proliferation," said Steve LaMontagne, an analyst with the Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington.

Many members of the Bush administration are on record as opposing Mr Clinton's plans, saying that weapons-grade nuclear material could be extracted from the type of light water reactors that ABB sold. Mr Rumsfeld's deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, and the state department's number two diplomat, Richard Armitage, both opposed the deal as did the Republican presidential candidate, Bob Dole, whose campaign Mr Rumsfeld ran and where he also acted as defence adviser.

One unnamed ABB board director told Fortune magazine that Mr Rumsfeld was involved in lobbying his hawkish friends on behalf of ABB.

The Clinton package sought to defuse tensions on the Ko rean peninsula by offering supplies of oil and new light water nuclear reactors in return for access by inspectors to Pyongyang's atomic facilities and a dismantling of its heavy water reactors which produce weapons grade plutonium. Light water reactors are known as "proliferation-resistant" but, in the words of one expert, they are not "proliferation-proof".

The type of reactors involved in the ABB deal produce plutonium which needs refining before it can be weaponised. One US congressman and critic of the North Korean regime described the reactors as "nuclear bomb factories".

North Korea expelled the inspectors last year and withdrew from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in January at about the same time that the Bush administration authorised $3.5m to keep ABB's reactor project going.

North Korea is thought to have offered to scrap its nuclear facilities and missile pro gramme and to allow international nuclear inspectors into the country. But Pyongyang demanded that security guarantees and aid from the US must come first.

Mr Bush now insists that he will only negotiate a new deal with Pyongyang after the nuclear programme is scrapped. Washington believes that offering inducements would reward Pyongyang's "blackmail" and encourage other "rogue" states to develop weapons of mass destruction.

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Western leaders and media must stop stirring up public opinion against Islam

By Khalaf Ahmed Al Habtoor
Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Certain Western political and religious leaders along with members of the media are guilty of stirring up public opinion against Islam. Whether this is intentional is beside the point. It's happening and must be stemmed if Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilizations" is to be prevented.

The latest onslaught appeared in an op-ed published by the French paper Le Figaro. Penned by Robert Redeker, the article accused Islam of "exalting violence."
But the problem goes much deeper. Anti-Islamic currents have been simmering since September 11, 2001. This disturbing trend emanates from three separate Western strata: political (governments, intelligence agencies and think tanks), certain members of the clergy and influential members of society (arts and media).

The chasm began with what was presented as an innocent slip of the tongue. When Muslims reacted angrily to George W. Bush's September 2001 use of the word "crusade" they were considered over-sensitive. If the word hadn't come from the lips of a devout born-again evangelical he might have been afforded the benefit of the doubt.

The US president apologized and all was well until the Reverend Franklin Graham, a preacher close to the White House, jumped into the fray, calling Islam "a very evil and wicked religion."

Ignoring outrage from prominent Muslims, the US television preacher Pat Robertson poured fuel onto the embers by describing Islam as a "violent religion." Then in the autumn of 2002, Jerry Falwell, an evangelical minister, appeared on the CBS show 60 Minutes calling the Prophet (PBUH) "a terrorist."

In 2004, the Dutch columnist and director Theo van Gogh released the film "Submission" showing verses from the Koran painted on women's bodies. Shortly afterwards he was assassinated. The result was a public backlash against Muslims in Holland, hitherto known for its religious tolerance.

In 2005, the attacks on Islam continued with cartoon depictions of the Prophet (PBUH) published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Howls of protest ensued but these didn't deter 143 international newspapers from reprinting the offensive material.

Five years on from that terrible day in September 2001 the attacks on Islam continue unabated. On August 10, 2006, Bush issued a reminder to the American people that "this nation is at war with Islamic fascists." Did he forget the controversy caused over his use of "crusade" or did he no longer consider the feelings of Muslims an important consideration?

A renewed attack on Islam came just a month later from an unlikely quarter, Pope Benedict XVI. The pope's followers feigned surprise that Muslims would be hurt by anti-Islamic quotes delivered by a theologian, known to be one of the Catholic Church's foremost intellectuals. The pope, they said, was taken aback by Muslim outrage. It's doubtful that his predecessor Pope John Paul II would have been so oblivious.

Responding last September to a leaked US National Intelligence assessment that suggests the Iraq war has led to a mushrooming of jihadist ideology, British Prime Minister Tony Blair had this to say:

"Look, 9-11, which is the worst terrorist act in world history, happened before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And if you go back to this movement founded on a warped and perverted view of Islam, the roots of it are deep."

Blair just doesn't get it (or pretends not to). Muslim anger is generated by ongoing Palestinian suffering and the decimation of Iraq as numerous official reports suggest. The prime minister, however, prefers to blame what he calls an "evil ideology," in the hopes of getting himself off the hook.

The above represent just a small selection of the insults heaped on Muslims since 9-11: Numerous reports allege that US prison guards have disrespected the Koran. Muslims are regularly being ousted from airplanes due to nervous passengers who object to the wearing of a T-shirt printed in Arabic or the sight of fellow passengers sporting Islamic dress or beards. Muslim charities have come under suspicion, which has led to a drop in charitable donations even though Zakat (giving a proportion of one's wealth to the poor and needy) is the third pillar of Islam. Islamic banks have had their funds frozen while under investigation. Mosques and Islamic bookshops are being monitored by security services.

Islamic schools and their text books are likewise being scrutinized. The wearing of the hijab was forbidden in French public schools forcing some devout Muslim girls to drop out.

The British Home Secretary John Reid visited East London in October in an attempt to persuade British Muslims how to raise their children.

"Look for the telltale signs now," he said. "Talk to them before their hatred grows and you risk losing them for ever."

One can only imagine the screaming headlines if Reid had wagged his finger at a primarily Jewish or Christian group.

Western intellectuals often view the attacks on Islam through the prism of free speech. They contend that nothing is above criticism or discussion and seek to paint Muslims who object to insults against their core beliefs as unreasonable reactionaries, troublemakers or even the favored mot de jour "terrorists."

Nobody can or should attempt to condone violence or assassination in response to words spoken in ignorance but it must be understood that Islam is an emotive issue with most Muslims. Islam is more than a religion. It isn't something that is practiced one day each week. It's a way of life and being.

Critics should also take into account the heightened sensitivities of Muslims at a time when their countries are occupied by Western powers that seek to redesign the Middle East in their own image, and when Muslims are being abducted, incarcerated and tortured.

Moreover, when it comes to the issue of free speech, we must consider this: Would the rights of those who condemn Islam and insult the prophet be upheld with such fervor in the West were similar offensive statements being made against Judaism rather than Islam? If we're being honest we already know the answer to that one.

Free speech is a wonderful thing but even in the West it has its limits as anyone who cried "fire" in a crowded theatre, publicly called for the elimination of the president or denigrated the Holocaust would soon discover to their cost. Surely those who willfully set fire to inter-religious harmony are equally as guilty.

In fairness, Muslims should help to repair the damage. While keeping a wary eye on orchestrated political machinations, Muslims should take into account East-West cultural differences. The type of religious slurs that hurt Muslims to the core would not necessarily have the same effect on Americans or Europeans. To avert a widening chasm between the world's l.4 billion Muslims and the rest of the planet, Muslim leaders must use any reasonable means to deter the snowballing of anti-Islamic assaults sanctioned by governments.

Their silence is in part due to the current political and military vulnerabilities of some Muslim states. It's doubtful whether the terms "fascists" or "evil ideology" would be used by contemporary Western leaders in relation, say, to China or Russia.

In the same way that Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is officially "Defender of the Faith" (in this case the Church of England), rulers of Muslim nations should see themselves in a similar light. For if they are not willing to defend their peoples' faith, dignity and security then who will?

It's interesting that upon his succession to the throne, Prince Charles wants to be Defender of all Faiths - a fine sentiment worthy of being emulated by all world leaders.

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Muslims angry at new Danish cartoons scandal

Brian Whitaker and agencies
Tuesday October 10, 2006
The Guardian

The world's largest international Muslim body complained of shrinking tolerance in the west yesterday as a new row erupted over Danish cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad.

The 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference said in a statement: "Muslims have noted with concern that the values of tolerance are eroding and there is now shrinking space for others' religious, social and cultural values in the west."

The statement followed the airing on Danish state television of amateur video footage showing members of the anti-immigrant Danish Peoples' party (DPP) taking part in a contest to draw images ridiculing the prophet. "The running of the footage affected the sensibilities of civilised people and religious beliefs of one fifth of humanity," the OIC said.
Just over a year ago violence ensued after the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten published cartoons of the prophet. The protests led to the deaths of more than 50 people in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Yesterday, the foreign ministry in Copenhagen cautioned against travel to Gaza, the West Bank, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.

In the latest incident, a video initially posted on the internet showed members of the DPP youth group at a summer camp last August. They appeared to have been drinking alcohol and one woman was seen presenting a cartoon showing a camel with the head of Muhammad and beer cans for humps. A second drawing showed a bearded man wearing a turban next to a plus sign and a bomb followed by an equals sign and a nuclear mushroom cloud. The video was produced by an artists' group, Defending Denmark. In a message posted along with the video, the group said it had infiltrated the DPP's youth wing, known as DFU, "to document [their] extreme rightwing associations".

"This is not an example of something that is meant to provoke. This is an example to show how things are in Danish politics," artist Martin Rosengaard Knudsen told Danish public radio.

Portions of the video were shown by two Danish television channels, DR TV and TV2.

The Danish prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, condemned the youth group's actions.

"Their tasteless behaviour does in no way represent the way the Danish people or young Danish people view Muslims or Islam," he said on Sunday.

The DPP, which advocates tighter anti-immigration controls, is allied with Mr Fogh Rasmussen's centre-right coalition but holds no government positions. The youth wing's leader, Kenneth Kristensen, said two of the people who figured in the video had gone into hiding. "They are very shaken by the huge reaction the drawings have had," he was quoted as saying on the website of the newspaper Politiken.

Indonesian Muslim groups have said they were insulted by the video and Egypt's largest Islamic group, the Muslim Brotherhood, denounced what it called "new Danish insults".

In Iran, the president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad commented: "If someone enjoys an iota of humanity and wisdom then he will not insult and offend the shining holy presence of Muhammad," according to national television.

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Druze resident of Golan Heights arrested for praising Hezbollah while in Syria

By Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondent
Last update - 22:24 09/10/2006

Police on Monday arrested a Druze resident of the Golan Heights suspected of giving a speech in support of Hezbollah and its leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah during a visit he made to Syria.

Police say the 58-year-old Majdal Shams man is not a known political activist and has never before been suspected of security-related offenses.

Druze political activists on the Golan described the arrest as an attempt to frighten residents of the Heights from publicly expressing their political positions.
The commander of the Galilee region police's central unit, Superintendent Shmuel Boker, said the suspect, together with an organized group of Golan Druze, residents visited family in Syria in August.

On August 31, the man participated in a political conference which senior Syrian officials also attended.

In his speech at the conference, the suspect praised Hezbollah's anti-Israel positions and Nasrallah directly. He also said that, thanks to Nasrallah, hundreds of thousands of Israelis were living underground in bomb shelters. The suspect added "The liberation of Jerusalem" is coming soon.

The conference was broadcast via several satellite television channels, including Hezbollah's Al-Manar network. Clips of the conference were also broadcast on Israel's Channel 10 TV.

The man admitted delivering the speech in Syria.

On Tuesday, police will decide whether to seek an extension of his remand or to release him on bail.

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UN urges Israel's complete, quick pullout

www.chinaview.cn 2006-10-10 11:07:46

BEIRUT, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations (UN) on Monday called for complete and quick withdrawal of Israeli forces from Ghajar, a village straddling the border between Lebanon and Israel-occupied Golan Heights.

In a statement issued by UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) after its meeting with senior Lebanese and Israeli army officials, it urged Israel to conduct complete pullout from Lebanon in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1701.
The statement described the meeting as "productive," saying the discussion about the situation around Ghajar was conducted "with a view to ensuing a speedy withdrawal" of Israeli forces from the area.

The village has been occupied by Israel since the end of the latter's offensive against Lebanese militia Hezbollah.

During the meeting which was held at the UNIFIL headquarters in Lebanon's border town of Naqoura, Israel provided maps of minefields it had laid in southern Lebanon, said the statement.

The full disclosure of the minefields has been repeatedly demanded by the Lebanese government and Hezbollah for years.

UNIFIL has passed on those maps to the UN Mine Action Coordination Center and the Lebanese army for review, said the statement.

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Around The World

A Sobering Effect of Politkovskaya's Killing

Created: 09.10.2006 10:38 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 13:50 MSK

The killing of Anna Politkovskaya, one of the few journalists who had refused to keep their mouths shut and continued to criticize harshly the Putin regime, has had a sobering effect on the Russians.

People responded to her death on Saturday, October 7, with anger and frustration, even those who had argued with her when she was alive, those who had laughed at her efforts and accusations she hurled at the official authorities, the Russian military and Moscow proteges in Chechnya.

People carried flowers to a house where she lived in downtown Moscow - and where she was murdered - and placed flowers and candles outside the offices of a newspaper where she worked.

Hundreds meanwhile rallied in Moscow's Pushkin Square to protest her murder as well as the Russian crackdown on Georgians since a spy row erupted last week.

Underneath a photograph of Politkovskaya, one poster read: "The Kremlin has killed freedom of speech."

Russia has seen several high-profile murders of outspoken journalists over the past decade. Paul Klebnikov, the U.S.-born editor of the Russian edition of Forbes who had been investigating the murky business world in Russia, was gunned down on July 9, 2004 as he was leaving his Moscow office. Two ethnic Chechens accused of carrying out the murder were acquitted earlier this year.

Valery Ivanov, editor of the newspaper Tolyatinskoye Oborzreniye in the southern city Russian city of Togliatti, was shot dead outside his home on April 29, 2002. The newspaper covered local organized crime, drug trafficking and official corruption.

Larisa Yudina, editor of the opposition newspaper Sovetskaya Kalmykia in the southern Russian region of Kalmykia, was stabbed to death and her body dumped in a pond on the outskirts of the regional capital, Elista, on June 7, 1998. Two men, both former government aides, were caught and convicted of murder.

Vladislav Listyev, executive director of the newly formed public television station ORT, was shot dead in the entrance hall of his apartment block March 1, 1995. Listyev was one of Russia's best-known TV journalists.

Dmitry Kholodov, an investigative reporter for the Moscow newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, was killed in a bomb blast at the newspaper's office on October 17, 1994. Kholodov, who had been investigating mafia connections with the military, was killed when he opened a briefcase he believed contained secret documents.

Anna Politkovskaya was found dead in her apartment block in Moscow on October 7, 2006.

The country's top prosecutor, Yury Chaika, announced that he had personally taken control of the investigation into her death. The Kremlin, a frequent target of Politkovskaya's often sharply critical reporting, again made no public statement on the death of one of the country's most prominent journalists and commentators.

Another focus of her reporting, Ramzan Kadyrov, the prime minister of Chechnya, said her killing prompted "us to think about where things stand in this issue in our country," Interfax reported. "Politkovskaya's articles were not always objective, but it was her point of view," he said. "I am sincerely sorry about what happened."

Politkovskaya, 48, was a journalist with few equals in Russia. She was a special correspondent for the newspaper Novaya Gazeta and had become one of the country's most prominent human-rights advocates, The NYT wrote.

Politkovskaya, who had two adult children, had worked for Novaya Gazeta since 1999; she had covered the second Chechen war and the terrorist siege of a Moscow theater in 2002. One of her books, "A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya," recorded her impressions of the war's unrelenting and often macabre cruelty, and the manifest corruption of many of its participants. She wrote of torture, mass executions, kidnappings for ransom and to eliminate rebel suspects, and the sale by Russian soldiers of Chechen corpses to their families for proper Islamic burial.

Politkovskaya's colleagues believe she paid the price for her vigorous opposition to the authorities on sensitive issues. "The murder of Anna Politkovskaya is a new attack on democracy, freedom of speech and openness in Russia," the Moscow Union of Journalists said in a statement, published by the Reuters news agency.

Leading Russian journalists, international journalism watchdogs and Western governments condemned the killing of Anna Politkovskaya and demanded a thorough probe into the attack though many doubt that those behind the killing will be brought to justice.

Russia has become a deadly place for journalists who run afoul of government officials or their business and political partners, The Associated Press wrote Sunday. Those behind the killings, though, are rarely brought to justice, reinforcing a sense of impunity that may have encouraged the killers of Anna Politkovskaya, a fierce critic of the war in Chechnya.

As the European Union and the U.S. demanded a thorough probe into Saturday's contract-style killing, there was skepticism that the authorities would ever uncover the culprits of the latest in a series of killings of journalists in Russia under President Vladimir Putin, who has been increasingly accused of rolling back post-Soviet freedoms since coming to power in 2000.

The skepticism was underlined by the $929,700 reward for information that Novaya Gazeta has offered, signaling stronger faith in their own investigative efforts than those promised by the government, which has produced so few prosecutions before. Politkovskaya's editors said she had been due to publish an investigative article on Monday about torture and kidnappings in Chechnya based on witness accounts and photos of tortured bodies.

Novaya Gazeta said on its Web site it believed her murder was either revenge by Kadyrov or an attempt to discredit him.

In a recent radio interview, Politkovskaya said she was a witness in a criminal case against Kadyrov concerning his alleged involvement in the kidnapping of two civilians - an ethnic Russian and a Chechen - who were tortured and killed.

Novaya Gazeta said Sunday its reporters would conduct their own investigation, and it called Politkovskaya's slaying revenge for her coverage of Chechnya, which included the story planned for Monday. "We never got the article, but she had evidence about these (abducted) people and there were photographs," Deputy Editor Vitaly Yerushensky, told Ekho Moskvy radio.

Back in 2004, at the height of the deadly school siege in North Ossetia, Politkovskaya survived an attempt on her life. She was taken off the plane as she headed to Beslan where a group of Chechen rebels were held nearly 1,000 people, most of the children, hostage.

Then, Politkovskaya claimed the government had taken measures to keep her out of the region, but officials played down her complaints refusing to take them seriously. That attempt on her life remained unsolved, allegedly because blood samples were deliberately destroyed before the toxin could be identified, Joan Smith of The Independent wrote Monday.

Anna was recognized internationally, her books were published in Europe and she enjoyed respect of media community world over.

All leading organizations, politicians and writers have condemned her death. Only the Kremlin remained pronouncedly silent.

But her death, it appears, has had a sobering effect on the Russians. For several years now, blinded by growing economy and improving living standards, we grew to believe that Russia was becoming - albeit slowly - a more civilized, safer place to live in where disputes are taken to court rather than solved through violence.

But the recent killing of a top banker, Andrei Kozlov, and, now - Anna's death - sow strong doubts on claims of those who picture Vladimir Putin as the most devout liberal...

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French embassy cancels N.Y. book launch over author's Israel views

Last update - 02:31 10/10/2006
By Reuters

NEW YORK - The French Embassy on Monday canceled a New York party for a book about Vichy France's collaboration with Nazi Germany because of the author's postscript that says Israel has oppressed Palestinians.

The Cultural Services of the French Embassy's office in New York had planned to hold a party on Tuesday to fete the September publication of author Carmen Callil's "Bad Faith" about Louis Darquier de Pellepoix, the Vichy government official who organized the deportation of French Jews to Auschwitz.

Callil told Reuters on Monday that the party was canceled after complaints from "fundamentalist Jews."
In an e-mail obtained by Reuters, the embassy wrote to Random House publishing imprint Alfred A. Knopf, "The Cultural Services of the French Embassy has decided to cancel its participation in a reception for 'Bad Faith,' by Carmen Callil.

"Although the French Embassy was looking forward to the presentation of a work exploring the darkest hours of French history, it could not endorse a personal opinion of the author expressed in the postscript of the book."

A source at the French Embassy's New York office said the embassy objected to the author's "opinion ... equating what was done to the Jews of France (under the Nazi regime) with what has been done to the Palestinian people."

In the book's postscript Callil writes: "What caused me anguish as I tracked down Louis Darquier was to live so closely to the helpless terror of the Jews of France, and to see what the Jews of Israel were passing on to the Palestinian people."

"Like the rest of humanity, the Jews of Israel 'forget' the Palestinians. Everyone forgets; every nation forgets."

In an e-mail obtained by Reuters from the French Embassy to Random House, one French Embassy official on August 22 said of Callil's book: "It is a masterpiece."

"The French Cultural Attache read it and he was incredibly complimentary," said Callil, who was born in Australia and moved to London where she founded feminist publisher Virago Press and ran publisher Chatto i Windus.

But Callil said Tuesday's party was canceled after "a series of letters from various Jewish fundamentalists complaining. They take a view that that no one can say anything about Jews that is not 100 percent complimentary." She did not identify the letter writers by name.

Callil defended the postscript to her book.

"I think the people in Gaza live in poverty huddled up in a very small territory ... because people don't like their government," she said. "But if you persecute people, they will rise up against you."

Asked if she feels the current Israeli government oppresses Palestinians, she replied, "Yes."

"I want people to learn from the past so the same terrible things do not happen again. If you oppress people, they will hate you and I do not want Israel to be hated," she said.

Random House spokesman Paul Bogaards called Callil's book "a significant work of history," adding, "we stand by the work in its entirety." A spokesman for the French Embassy confirmed the e-mail canceling the party but declined further comment.

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Thai new cabinet sworn in

www.chinaview.cn 2006-10-09 21:09:24

BANGKOK, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- Thailand's newly appointed interim cabinet was sworn in Monday before King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a necessary step required by the constitutional monarchy that runs the Kingdom to put the post-coup cabinet in place.

The 26 cabinet ministers plus Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont,who had been sworn in as Thailand's 24th PM on Oct. 1, arrived at the Chitralada Palace, the King's present residence in Bangkok, on Monday afternoon to attend the swear in ceremony, according to Thai media reports.
The King told the new cabinet to work with "honesty" to bring the country out of crisis, help people affected by the current flooding disaster, and to restore the country's good image among the international communities, new Defense Minister Boonrawd Somtat was quoted by news network The Nation as saying after being sworn in.

Chief government spokesman Yongyuth Mayalarp earlier announced that the King has approved the cabinet line-up late Sunday night.

According to Yongyuth, the first cabinet meeting is to be held Tuesday morning, in which ministers will discuss division of work between the two newly appointed deputy prime ministers, Pridiyathorn Devakula, the finance minister, and Kosit Panpiemras,the industry minister.

New government policies would also be discussed at Tuesday's meeting, said the spokesman.

The new cabinet will exist for about one year, pending the completion of a new constitution, according to the draft by the Council for National Security, the military authority body led by army commander Sonthi Boonyaratkalin and other generals who staged the Sept. 19 coup to oust former PM Thaksin Shinawatra. When the new Constitution was put in place, a general election will be held,hopefully in October 2007.

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Ancient Roman treasures found under Vatican car park

Barbara McMahon in Rome
Tuesday October 10, 2006
The Guardian

Archaeologists yesterday unveiled a 2,000-year-old burial ground discovered by chance inside the Vatican City.

The necropolis, which traces pagan Rome to the birth of Christianity, was discovered three years ago while excavations were being carried out for an underground garage to ease the Vatican's parking problems.

It contains more than 40 elaborately decorated mausoleums and 200 individual tombs. Headstones, including one that belonged to a slave of Nero, funerary urns and elaborately decorated frescoes and mosaic floors have also been uncovered on the site.

Ancient Roman treasures found under Vatican car park

Barbara McMahon in Rome
Tuesday October 10, 2006
The Guardian

Archaeologists yesterday unveiled a 2,000-year-old burial ground discovered by chance inside the Vatican City.

The necropolis, which traces pagan Rome to the birth of Christianity, was discovered three years ago while excavations were being carried out for an underground garage to ease the Vatican's parking problems.

It contains more than 40 elaborately decorated mausoleums and 200 individual tombs. Headstones, including one that belonged to a slave of Nero, funerary urns and elaborately decorated frescoes and mosaic floors have also been uncovered on the site.

Article continues
The historical importance of the find is being described as second only to the necropolis below St Peter's Basilica, which is believed to contain relics of St Peter, the first pope.

Giandomenico Spinola, director of the project, described the necropolis as being in an excellent condition because it had been protected by a landslide at the end of the second century. "We found the kind of things that have usually been lost in past excavations in Rome," he said.

Most of the tombs date from between the era of Augustus (23BC to 14AD) to that of Constantine (306-337).

The necropolis is unusual because the rich were buried alongside the poor. Next to tombs of middle-class Romans - one a tabellarius (letter carrier) and another a hortator (circus horse trainer) - are elaborately carved sarcophagi of Romans with more money. The headstone of a young nobleman called Publius Caesilius Victorinus indicated his love of hunting. The headstone of Nero's slave Alcimus reveals that his job included designing sets for the theatre at Pompeii.

Terracotta tubes inserted into graves through which mourning family would pour honey to nourish the dead have also been uncovered.

The necropolis is being restored as part of the Vatican Museum's 500th anniversary celebrations. The public will be able to visit from next week.

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Pyramids Older Than Egyptian Allegedly Found in Ukraine

Created: 08.09.2006 13:29 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 13:29 MSK

Archaeologists in Ukraine have unearthed the remains of an ancient pyramidal structure that pre-dates those in Egypt by at least 300 years. The stone foundations of the structure, which probably resembled Aztec and Mayan ziggurats in South America, were discovered near the eastern city of Lugansk.

It is thought they were laid about five millennia ago during the early Bronze Age by animists who worshipped a sun god. The "pyramid" is in fact a complex of temples and sacrificial altars topping a sculpted hillside with steps on its sides.
Viktor Klochko, head of the excavation, said the discovery was of international significance. "This is the first monument of its age and kind found in eastern Europe," he told the Guardian. "It changes our whole conception of the social structure and the level of development of the cattle breeders and farmers who were the direct ancestors of most European peoples."

There are about 100 pyramids in Egypt, and the remains of Mesopotamian pyramids are preserved in Iraq and Iran. Ziggurats are also found in Mexico, and the Nubians built pyramids as burial sites for monarchs in the Nile valley. But pyramid structures are rare in Europe. One of the few is a Roman-era pyramid near Nice, France, that may have been built by legionnaires involved in an Egyptian cult.

Although graves have been found at the Lugansk site, archaeologists think it was used for sacrifice by burning, rather than as a burial ground. "People lived in the surrounding valleys and climbed up it to carry out their ceremonies," said Mr Klochko. "They had a pagan cult that bowed down to the sun, as did the ancestors of the Slavs."

Remains of sacrifice victims, ashes and ceramics have been found at the site, but no jewellery or treasure. The complex, which covered three-quarters of a square mile and was around 60 metres (192ft) high, was probably used for 2,000 years.

"What surprised me most is the scale of this enormous complex," Stanislav Mogilny, a student working on the excavation, told Russian television. It's just incredible - a titanic feat."

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Earthly Bodies?

'Monster' fossil find in Arctic

Thursday, 5 October 2006, 06:21 GMT 07:21 UK
By Paul Rincon
Science reporter, BBC News

Norwegian scientists have discovered a "treasure trove" of fossils belonging to giant sea reptiles that roamed the seas at the time of the dinosaurs.

The 150-million-year-old fossils were uncovered on the Arctic island chain of Svalbard - about halfway between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole.

The finds belong to two groups of extinct marine reptiles - the plesiosaurs and the ichthyosaurs.

One skeleton has been nicknamed The Monster because of its enormous size.
These animals were the top predators living in what was then a relatively cool, deep sea.

Palaeontologists from the University of Oslo's Natural History Museum discovered the fossils during fieldwork in a remote part of Spitsbergen, the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago.

Jorn Harald Hurum, co-director of the dig, said he was taken aback by the sheer density of fossil remains in one area.

"You can't walk for more than 100m without finding a skeleton. That's amazing anywhere in the world," he told BBC News.

Dr Dave Martill, a palaeontologist at the University of Portsmouth, UK, commented: "These sites are very unusual. To find that many individuals is a remarkable thing - that's a bonanza."

Ichthyosaurs bore a passing resemblance to modern dolphins, but they used an upright tail fin to propel themselves through the water.

Plesiosaurs are said to fit descriptions of Scotland's mythical Loch Ness monster. They used two sets of powerful flippers for swimming and came in two varieties - one with a small head and very long neck, and another with a large head and short neck.

The short-necked varieties are known as pliosaurs.

The discovery of a gigantic pliosaur, nicknamed The Monster, was one of the most remarkable discoveries of the expedition.

Its skeleton has dinner-plate-sized neck vertebrae, and the lower jaw has teeth as big as bananas.

Tooth in the neck

The skeleton is not yet fully excavated, but its skull is about 3m long, suggesting the body could be more than 8m from the tip of its nose to its tail.

"What's amazing here is that it looks like we have a complete skeleton. No other complete pliosaur skeletons are known anywhere in the world," said Dr Hurum.

The researchers even found evidence of an attack on one of the creatures. An ichthyosaur tooth is embedded in a neck vertebra from one plesiosaur belonging to the genus Kimmerosaurus.

The fossil hoard comprises 21 long-necked plesiosaurs, six ichthyosaurs and one short-necked plesiosaur. The bones were unearthed in fine-grained sedimentary rock called black shale.

"Everything we're finding is articulated. It's not single bones here and there, and bits and pieces - these are complete skeletons," said Dr Hurum.

After death, the carcasses came to rest in mud at the bottom of the deep ocean, where little or no oxygen was present.

Dr Hurum said an unusual chemistry of the mud could have been responsible for the remarkable preservation of the specimens: "Something happened with the chemistry that's really good for bone preservation. Some skeletons are pale white even though they're in black shale - they look like 'roadkill'."

The marine reptiles found in the Norwegian archipelago are very similar to ones known from southern England. Dr Hurum said the animals could have been living in the same ocean and he now plans to compare the Arctic finds with those from Britain.

The Svalbard excavation was led by Dr Hurum and Hans Arne Nakrem, also of Oslo's Natural History Museum. The museum plans to return to the field site in the summer of 2007 to resume excavations.

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Giant camel fossil found in Syria

Tuesday, 10 October 2006, 10:00 GMT 11:00 UK

Archaeologists have discovered the 100,000-year-old fossilised remains of a previously unknown giant camel species in Syria.

The bones of the dromedary were unearthed by a Swiss-Syrian team of researchers near the village of El Kowm in the central part of the country.

The animal is thought to have been double the size of a modern-day camel.
It may even have been killed by humans, who were living at the once water-rich site during the same period.

Jean-Marie Le Tensorer of the University of Basel commented: "It was not known that the dromedary was present in the Middle East more than 10,000 years ago.

"The camel's shoulders stood three metres high and it was around four metres tall; as big as a giraffe or an elephant. Nobody knew that such a species had existed," he said.

Kingsize camels

Professor Le Tensorer, who has been excavating at the desert site in Kowm since 1999, said the first large bones were found some years ago but were only confirmed as belonging to a camel after more bones from several parts of the same animal were recently discovered.

The human tooth is robust and Neanderthal-like
Between 2005 and 2006, more than 40 bone fragments of giant camels were found by the team.

The big species has been found as far back as 150,000 years ago. But fossils from other species of camel have been unearthed at the site dating to one million years ago.

Human remains from the same period as the giant camel have also been discovered at the site. The radius (forearm) and tooth have been taken to Switzerland, where they are undergoing anthropological analysis.

"The bone is that of a Homo sapiens, or modern man, but the tooth is extremely archaic, similar to that of a Neanderthal. We don't know yet what it is exactly. Do we have a very old Homo sapiens or a Neanderthal?" said Professor Le Tensorer.

"We expect to find more bones that would help determine what kind of man it was."

El Kowm, the site where the remains were discovered along with flint and stone weapons, is a 20km-wide (14 miles) gap between two mountain ranges with natural springs.

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Four top doctors arrested over illegal human experimentation

By Ran Reznik, Haaretz Correspondent
Last update - 02:41 10/10/2006

Four senior doctors at Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot and Hartzfeld Geriatric Hospital in Gedera suspected of illegally experimenting on humans were arrested Monday.

The national fraud squad has opened an investigation into the affair. The four are suspected of abuse, aggravated assault, causing death through negligence, fraud, forgery, breach of statutory duty, and disruption of legal proceedings.

The Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on Monday extended by three days the remands of Kaplan-Hartzfeld deputy director Dr. Shmuel Levi and Dr. Nadia Kagensky. The third suspect, Dr. Alona Smirnov, was released to house arrest for five days, and the fourth suspect was released following an investigation.
Police searched the houses of all four suspects and confiscated incriminating documents.

Many of the details of the affair were revealed in a series of Haaretz articles on the subject, as well as Channel 2 TV's investigative documentary series "Fact."

In May 2005, the State Comptroller's Office slammed the hospitals over the illegal experimentation in a report.

According to a report issued by the investigations department of the Health Ministry and exposed by Haaretz, the hospitals in Gedera and Rehovot conducted illegal and unethical testing on thousands of elderly patients for years.

During one of the incidents described, twelve patients died either during the experiments or shortly after they took place, but these incidents were not reported to the Health Ministry or investigated, as is required by law.

The Health Ministry's director general filed a complaint with police following an internal inquiry into the affair and the fraud squad confiscated from the hospitals many documents pertaining to the experimentation.

The ministry's investigation revealed that some of the patients were included in the experiments without providing their consent, while some of them suffered from severe mental damage, which prevented them from being legally capable of providing consent.

According to the report, some of the tests did not even yield any medically or scientifically beneficial results. Furthermore, some of the experiments were conducted despite top doctors' warnings that they were illegal or unethical.

The report voices harsh criticism of the Helsinki committee at the hospitals, responsible for approving the experiments and failing to protect the public's best interests.

The ministry's report further condemns the hospital's management for failing to address the complaints and information handed to it over the past few years, describing the flawed medical procedures.

According to the report, some doctors received promotions, both in their professional and academic careers, on the basis of the illegal tests. In some cases, the tests were used as the basis for research studies published in local and international medical journals.

At least four doctors at the hospitals were named as experts in Geriatrics based on the illegal tests they allegedly conducted along with their colleagues.

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'Mediterranean' Diet May Cut Alzheimer's Risk

10.09.06, 12:00 AM ET

MONDAY, Oct. 9 (HealthDay News) -- People who eat a "Mediterranean" diet rich in fruits, vegetables, olive oil, legumes, cereals and fish have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, U.S. researchers report.

"We have confirmed the association of a Mediterranean diet with Alzheimer's disease," said lead researcher Dr. Nikolaos Scarmeas, an assistant professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York.

This benefit does not appear to be due to the diet's effect on blood vessels, Scarmeas added. "The diet could be helping avoid Alzheimer's disease by protection from oxidative stress or by reducing inflammation in the brain," he said.
Another study finds that taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements slows cognitive decline in some patients with very mild Alzheimer's disease. However, supplements do not appear to affect people with more advanced cases of the disease, according to a team of Swedish researchers.

Both reports appear in the online October issue of the Archives of Neurology.

For the diet study, Scarmeas's team collected data on almost 2,000 people averaging 76 years of age. Of these, 194 had developed Alzheimer's. The researchers analyzed each person's diet during the previous year and scored the diet based on how closely it followed what's known as the Mediterranean diet, which also includes mild-to-moderate drinking and little intake of red meat. Scores ranged from zero to 9. Higher scores were given for closely following a Mediterranean diet.

People who closely followed that regimen had a significantly lower risk for Alzheimer's disease, the researchers found. For each additional point on the diet score, risk for Alzheimer's was reduced by 19 to 24 percent.

In fact, people in the top one-third of diet scores had 68 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, compared with people in the bottom third. In addition, people in the middle third had a 53 percent lower risk of developing the disease.

While the jury is still out on whether a Mediterranean diet actually protects people from developing Alzheimer's disease, Scarmeas believes that the other health benefits of the diet are clear.

"It seems that this diet is [health] protective," Scarmeas said. "Taking into account that this diet is protective for other conditions such as coronary heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, obesity and a series of cancers, it seems to make sense to follow this diet anyway, and the diet may also protect from Alzheimer's disease."

In the second report, a team led by Dr. Yvonne Freund-Levi from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, looked at the effects of omega-3 fatty acids supplements on 204 patients with Alzheimer's disease.

After six months, among the 174 people who completed the trial, the researchers found no difference in cognitive decline among people taking omega-3 fatty acids supplements at different doses or placebo.

However, for a subgroup of 32 patients with very mild cognitive impairment at the beginning of the study, those taking the supplements experienced less cognitive decline compared with those who took placebo, the researchers found.

And when patients who took placebo during the first six months were given omega-3 fatty acids supplements, their cognitive decline decreased during the second six months of the trial.

"The mechanisms by which omega-3 fatty acids could interfere in Alzheimer's disease pathophysiologic features are not clear, but since anti-inflammatory effects are an important part of the profile of fish oils, they are conceivable also for Alzheimer's disease," the researchers write. "It is possible that when the disease is clinically apparent, the neuropathologic involvement is too advanced to be substantially attenuated by anti-inflammatory treatment."

One expert said that, given the other health benefits of fish oil, it certainly can't hurt patients to take supplements.

"I am happy to tell people that if they want to reduce their risk for Alzheimer's, they should reduce their cardiovascular disease risk factors and take fish oil," said Greg M. Cole, a neuroscientist at the Greater Los Angeles VA Healthcare System, and the associate director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine.

A second expert agreed that diet probably does influence the disease.

"The papers share a focus on the idea that diet plays a role in Alzheimer's, a consensus that has been building for the past five or six years," said Dr. Sam Gandy, the chair of the Medical and Scientific Advisory Council at the Alzheimer's Association and director of the Farber Institute for Neurosciences at Thomas Jefferson University.

"The common thread is that both papers point toward intervention at the earliest moment having a greater effect and the suggestion that prevention may have the greatest effect of all," Gandy said.

"Once the gooey amyloid material has accumulated and poisoned nerve cells and the cells have died, it is very hard to think seriously about repairing damage that severe," he added.

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Toxic carrot juice paralyzes 2 in Toronto

Last Updated: Monday, October 9, 2006 | 1:43 PM ET
CBC News

Two Toronto residents are paralyzed after drinking carrot juice that tested positive for a botulism toxin, according to the city's public health department.

"There are two adults who are severely ill in hospital and they had a history of drinking the exact same juice that's been part of the carrot juice recall," Dr. Elizabeth Rea, an associate medical officer of health, told the Toronto Star on Sunday.
The juice, produced by Bolthouse Farms in Bakersfield, Calif., was ordered off North American store shelves late last month after four cases of botulism in the United States were linked to toxic carrot juice.

A Florida woman has been in hospital, unresponsive, since mid-September. Three people in Georgia suffered respiratory failure and are on ventilators since drinking carrot juice a month ago.

Botulism is rare, but it can be fatal and must be treated quickly. Symptoms can include blurred vision, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing and paralysis, Toronto Public Health said.

In severe cases, the paralysis can restrict breathing, forcing patients on to ventilators. There's no word whether the Toronto patients are on ventilators.

Toronto Public Health has warned the public to avoid drinking three brands of carrot juice. The federal regulator, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, issued a product recall covering the three brands on Sept. 30.

Bolthouse Farms bottles the three brands. The recalled products, all sold in both one-litre and 450-millilitre containers, are:

* Bolthouse Farms 100% Carrot Juice.
* Earthbound Farm Organic Carrot Juice.
* President's Choice Organics 100% Pure Carrot Juice.

Products with a "best by" date up to Nov. 11 have been recalled.

Consumers who have any brand should "take it out of the fridge, dump it down the sink," Rea said.

Bolthouse said the cases may have resulted from improper refrigeration. Carrot juice is low in acids, so bacteria can grow unless it's kept below 7 C.

This most recent news of food-poisoning comes after California-grown spinach tainted with a potentially deadly strain of E. coli caused grocers to pull the vegetable from shelves last month. It is suspected in three recent U.S. deaths.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a warning on Sept. 15, advising consumers not to eat fresh spinach from the U.S., including spinach that is bagged, loose or in salad blends.

Juice recall follows spinach concerns

Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it was safe to eat U.S.-packaged spinach again, but Canadian health officials have not yet followed suit.

And on Sunday, Nunes Company Inc. in California's Salinas Valley initiated a voluntary recall of green leaf lettuce purchased last week under the Foxy brand name. Foxy is one of the largest suppliers of lettuce, celery, broccoli, vegetable platters and stir-fry mixes in the United States.

The company made the move after concerns about E. coli contamination of its popular brand of lettuce.

While Nunes Company investigators have not found E. coli bacteria on the lettuce itself, company president Tom Nunes Jr. said it was a precautionary measure.

"We're just reacting to a water test only. We know there's generic E. coli on it, but we're not sure what that means," he said. "We're being extra careful. This is precautionary."

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Heavenly Bodies?

UK to join 'killer' asteroid hunt

Monday, 9 October 2006, 15:14 GMT 16:14 UK

UK astronomers are to join a search for Earth-threatening asteroids measuring less than 1km (0.6 miles) across.

Researchers from three universities have signed an agreement to use one of the world's most advanced telescopes - the Pan-Starrs observatory in Hawaii.
Pan-Starrs, sited on the island of Maui, is equipped with a huge digital camera.

While searching for near-Earth asteroids, it will build up the most detailed image yet of the Universe.

This will enable astronomers to investigate small Solar System objects and search for exploding stars, to produce three-dimensional maps of galaxies and dark matter, to measure the properties of dark energy and to investigate how galaxies have evolved.

Researchers from the University of Durham, Queen's University Belfast and the University of Edinburgh have signed an agreement to start using the facility.

"The current generation of search telescopes are designed for the objects about 1km across and larger, because if one of those hits, it could cause instant global climate change," said Alan Fitzsimmons, a professor of astronomy at Queen's University Belfast.

"The smaller objects need a larger telescope and a more efficient camera system - they're the kinds of objects Pan-Starrs has been designed to detect.

"Even though they're smaller and don't cause as much damage, there are more of them and they hit more frequently."

Eye on the sky

Although sub-1km asteroids might not cause devastation on a global scale, they could cause death and destruction at a local and regional level, potentially wiping out millions of lives.

The last significant event like this occurred in 1908, when an asteroid or comet exploded above the Tunguska region of Siberia. The area was sparsely populated and, as a result, did not cause extensive loss of life.

But a similar explosion over an urbanised area could have more dramatic consequences.

Dr Fitzsimmons and his colleagues at Queen's will head up UK efforts to identify potentially deadly asteroids.

Researchers at Durham and Edinburgh will primarily work on imaging more distant objects in the Universe as well as studying the evolution of galaxies.

John Peacock, professor of cosmology at Edinburgh University, commented: "Pan-Starrs will be an amazing tool for studying the make-up of the Universe.

"It will let us measure the properties of dark matter and dark energy in many different ways, more precisely than ever before."

The planned Pan-Starrs telescope will use four 1.8m telescopes. A prototype telescope called "PS1" has been built on the Haleakala volcanic peak in Hawaii.

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Scientists: Black hole in Virgo cluster of galaxies hums

www.chinaview.cn 2006-10-09 09:25:02

BEIJING, Oct. 9 (Xinhuanet) -- NASA scientists have detected a gigantic sonic boom and a "musical" of deep sounds generated by a supermassive black hole in the Virgo cluster of galaxies.

"We can tell that many deep and different sounds have been rumbling through this cluster for most of the lifetime of the universe," said William Forman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Thursday.
The scientists, using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, made the discovery by using data from the longest X-ray observation ever of M87, a giant elliptical galaxy located in the Virgo cluster of galaxies and known to harbor one of the universe's most massive black holes.

The loops and rings in the hot, X-ray emitting gas that surrounds M87 indicate periodic eruptions that occur near the black hole, generating pressure waves in the gas that manifest themselves as sound.

Scientists say that the outbursts occur when material falls toward the black hole. While most of the matter was devoured, some of it was violently ejected in jets.
NASA scientists have detected a gigantic sonic boom and a "musical" of deep sounds generated by a supermassive black hole in the Virgo cluster of galaxies.

These outbursts occur every few million years and prevent the gas from cooling and forming new stars, which is why M87 has retained its elliptical shape, they explained.

Chandra's M87 observations also give the strongest evidence to date of a shock wave produced by the black hole, a clear sign of a powerful explosion. The shock wave appears as a nearly circular ring of high-energy X-rays that is 85,000 light-years in diameter and centered on the black hole.

Musically, the sound in M87 appears to be discordant and complex, with some sound waves implying a note around 56 octaves below middle C. The presence of the large cavity and the sonic boom gives evidence for even deeper notes -- 58 or 59 octaves below middle C -- powered by large outbursts.

The new results on M87 were presented during the High-Energy Astrophysics Division meeting last week in San Francisco.

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Pilgrims to Santiago battle lice hazard

Giles Tremlett in Madrid
Tuesday October 10, 2006
The Guardian

It has survived storms, famines and droughts over the past 12 centuries, but now the Road to Santiago, one of the oldest pilgrimage routes in Europe, is buckling under the weight of a new threat - the common louse.

Convents and hostels along the route to the north-western Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela are closing their doors as the tiny beasts bury themselves deep inside mattresses, sheets and pillows. Carried by the 100,000 sweating and not always well-washed pilgrims who travel to the shrine of St James in the city's cathedral every year, the lice have found a perfect environment in which to live and reproduce.
"They say that many pilgrims are turning up with lice and that some are falling ill because they can cause very high temperatures," a spokeswoman at the Federation of Friends of the Road to Santiago told Spain's ABC newspaper.

The tiny creatures inhabit the seams of sleeping bags, rucksacks and clothes, and survive the journey from one warm, comfortable guesthouse to the next. Pilgrims complain that some hostels along the route will now only give a bed to those who can prove their clothes are louse-free.

The Convent of the Benedictine Mothers in León, northern Spain, is one of the latest to close its doors while it fumigates the premises. "But that is no use unless everyone does it," said Fernando Imaz, of the friends' federation.

Lice have reintroduced an element of genuine mortification into a once arduous pilgrimage that has increasingly become cosseted by modern luxuries. Whereas pilgrims once carried little more than a staff, a cloak and a gourd, today's pilgrims are equipped with navigation systems and water-resistant jackets.

To gain admittance to the hostels along the road to Santiago de Compostela, pilgrims must present a credential to prove that they are hiking or biking the road. Each day, as pilgrims pass through towns, they receive one, sometimes two, stamps in the credential. At the end of the journey in Santiago, pilgrims present the stamped credential to confirm that they have hiked at least the last 100km (62miles), or cycled the last 200km of the road), and receive a Compostela, proof of having made the pilgrimage.

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Dust 'affects hurricane activity'

Tuesday, 10 October 2006, 17:03 GMT 18:03 UK

US researchers have discovered a link between Atlantic hurricane activity and thick clouds of dust that periodically rise up from the Sahara Desert.

At times of intense hurricane activity, dust clouds were scarce, but in years with stronger dust storms, fewer hurricanes swept across the Atlantic.

The work raises the tantalising possibility that Saharan dust storms could help to quench hurricanes.
Details appear in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters.

"These findings are important because they show that long-term changes in hurricanes may be related to many different factors," said co-author Jonathan Foley, director of the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"While a great deal of work has focused on the links between [hurricanes] and warming ocean temperatures, this research adds another piece to the puzzle."

Dust tracking

Researchers have increasingly turned their attention to the environmental impact of dust, after it became clear that, in some years, millions of tonnes of sand rise up from the Sahara Desert and travel across the Atlantic Ocean - sometimes in as little as five days.

If scientists conclusively prove that dust storms help to suppress the development of hurricanes, weather forecasters could one day begin to track atmospheric dust, factoring it into their predictions for the first time, the researchers say.

The Saharan sand rises when hot desert air collides with the cooler, drier air of the Sahel region, just south of the Sahara.

The windy conditions that result toss the sand upwards. Then, strong trade winds begin to blow them westward into the northern Atlantic Ocean.

Dust storms form primarily during summer and winter months, but in some years, for reasons that are not understood, they barely form at all.

The researchers say that dry, dust-ridden layers of air probably help to "dampen" brewing hurricanes, which need heat and moisture to fuel them.

But co-author Christopher Velden, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said that effect could also mean that dust storms had the potential to shift a hurricane's direction further to the west, which means it would have a higher chance of hitting the United States and Caribbean islands.

"What we don't know is whether the dust affects the hurricanes directly, or whether both [dust and hurricanes] are responding to the same large-scale atmospheric changes around the tropical Atlantic," said Dr Foley. "That's what future research needs to find out."

The study was funded by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa).

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By Their Fruits...

President Chavez will leave Miraflores Palace as poor as when he entered

Published: Friday, October 06, 2006
Bylined to: Patrick J. O'Donoghue

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias says he will leave Miraflores Palace as poor as when he entered.

Speaking at the granting of credit and subsidy certificates of a housing plan called "Plan Casa Media" at the Teresa Carreno Theatre in Caracas, the President remarks that Miraflores used to be a business center where the "dance of the millions" took place and full steam corruption.
* "Those who say that there is more corruption than before are lying."

Chavez Frias says he has seen Ministers leaving office and buying farms, cattle, and luxury apartments abroad.

Housing Minister Ramon Carrizalez, Chavez Frias quips, will leave the Ministry as poor as when he arrived ... "just like me."

The President has renewed his commitment to combat corruption and insists that he will not allow business deals to take place behind his back with money that belongs to the people.

"These monies are for the people and society and not to benefit a minority."

The President swears that he is not for sale nor is his government.

"This is the first time there has been a State decision against powerful interests, because behind those interests here are greater interests with a lot of power."

Praising Socialism, Chavez Frias insists that Capitalism is the "kingdom of inequality, injustice and violence" and that only through Socialism can equality and justice be established.

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Chávez sends oil to boost Ortega's election bid in Nicaragua

Rory Carroll in Caracas
Tuesday October 10, 2006
The Guardian

Venezuela was due to ship 350,000 barrels of oil to Nicaragua yesterday in an effort to boost the election campaign of Daniel Ortega, who hopes to lead the Sandinistas back to power next month.

The heavy diesel was intended to alleviate power cuts in the impoverished central American country and to show the benefits of friendship with Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez.

Mr Chávez has openly backed Mr Ortega, a fellow leftwing critic of the United States and frontrunner in the November 5 vote. The former Marxist revolutionary led a Sandinista government in the 1980s which fought a Washington-sponsored insurgency. The prospect of this cold war foe returning to office has alarmed the Bush administration. Its ambassador to Managua has warned Nicaraguans not to vote for Mr Ortega.
Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere, has struggled to import enough fuel and experiences regular power cuts.

Alejandro Granados, refining vice president of Venezuela's state oil company, PDVSA, said yesterday's consignment would ease the blackouts. The South American nation has one of the world's biggest oil reserves.

Under the deal, struck in April, Nicaragua's association of municipalities - as opposed to the central government - agreed to pay 60% of the cost and pay the remainder over 25 years at 1%, in hard currency, grain or beans. A tanker with a separate shipment of 84,000 gallons reached the Nicaraguan port of El Rama at the weekend. It was welcomed by Mr Ortega, who said it was the same port to which Fidel Castro sent aid to the Sandinistas in the 1980s.

Originally the oil was to be distributed to Sandinista-run towns and municipalities but now it will go first to regional power plants.

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Fiasco as Venezuelan opposition tries, but fails to rally support for Rosales

Published: Sunday, October 08, 2006
Bylined to: Oil Wars Blogspot

Just when you thought things couldn't get much worse for the Venezuelan opposition, they did. Saturday they attempted to mount a large rally in Caracas to kickstart their to-date moribund campaign which has them trailing Chavez anywhere from 20 to 30 points.

Unfortunately for them, it flopped.

Poorly attended opposition rally in Caracas

Clearly, it was sparsely attended. While Associated Press (AP) reporters estimated a turn out of 10,000 people, I'll be a little more generous ... from the picture maybe it was 15,000.

* Suffice to say, Shakira can get a lot more people to show up to an expensive concert than these people can get to a free rally!

So bad was the debacle that their websites had to put up pictures of old rallies to cover this failure. Next maybe they'll be blaming the low turnout on the big tourism expo being held in Caracas (and to which people have had to wait in lines of up to five hours just to get in).

To get only get 10-20 thousand people to turnout in what is indisputably the opposition's main stronghold is a huge failure.

With the refusal of Rosales poll numbers to budge ... and now this ... their campaign team is probably huddled tonight trying to figure out what to do next.

The downside is that they may well conclude they have no hope of avoiding a thorough drubbing at the polls and simply go back to the "fraud" excuse for pulling out of the elections altogether.

They are definitely between a rock and a hard place.

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