Sections on today's Signs Page:
Editorial: Bush Moves Toward Martial Law
In a stealth maneuver, President Bush has signed into law a provision which, according to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), will actually encourage the President to declare federal martial law (1). It does so by revising the Insurrection Act, a set of laws that limits the President's ability to deploy troops within the United States. The Insurrection Act (10 U.S.C.331 -335) has historically, along with the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C.1385), helped to enforce strict prohibitions on military involvement in domestic law enforcement. With one cloaked swipe of his pen, Bush is seeking to undo those prohibitions.
Public Law 109-364, or the "John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007" (H.R.5122) (2), which was signed by the commander in chief on October 17th, 2006, in a private Oval Office ceremony, allows the President to declare a "public emergency" and station troops anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to "suppress public disorder."
President Bush seized this unprecedented power on the very same day that he signed the equally odious Military Commissions Act of 2006. In a sense, the two laws complement one another. One allows for torture and detention abroad, while the other seeks to enforce acquiescence at home, preparing to order the military onto the streets of America. Remember, the term for putting an area under military law enforcement control is precise; the term is "martial law."
Section 1076 of the massive Authorization Act, which grants the Pentagon another $500-plus-billion for its ill-advised adventures, is entitled, "Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies." Section 333, "Major public emergencies; interference with State and Federal law" states that "the President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service, to restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of ("refuse" or "fail" in) maintaining public order, "in order to suppress, in any State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy."
For the current President, "enforcement of the laws to restore public order" means to commandeer guardsmen from any state, over the objections of local governmental, military and local police entities; ship them off to another state; conscript them in a law enforcement mode; and set them loose against "disorderly" citizenry - protesters, possibly, or those who object to forced vaccinations and quarantines in the event of a bio-terror event.
The law also facilitates militarized police round-ups and detention of protesters, so called "illegal aliens," "potential terrorists" and other "undesirables" for detention in facilities already contracted for and under construction by Halliburton. That's right. Under the cover of a trumped-up "immigration emergency" and the frenzied militarization of the southern border, detention camps are being constructed right under our noses, camps designed for anyone who resists the foreign and domestic agenda of the Bush administration.
An article on "recent contract awards" in a recent issue of the slick, insider "Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International" reported that "global engineering and technical services powerhouse KBR [Kellog, Brown & Root] announced in January 2006 that its Government and Infrastructure division was awarded an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract to support U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities in the event of an emergency." "With a maximum total value of $385 million over a five year term," the report notes, "the contract is to be executed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers," "for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to augment existing ICE Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) - in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs." The report points out that "KBR is the engineering and construction subsidiary of Halliburton." (3) So, in addition to authorizing another $532.8 billion for the Pentagon, including a $70-billion "supplemental provision" which covers the cost of the ongoing, mad military maneuvers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places, the new law, signed by the president in a private White House ceremony, further collapses the historic divide between the police and the military: a tell-tale sign of a rapidly consolidating police state in America, all accomplished amidst ongoing U.S. imperial pretensions of global domination, sold to an "emergency managed" and seemingly willfully gullible public as a "global war on terrorism."
Make no mistake about it: the de-facto repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act (PCA) is an ominous assault on American democratic tradition and jurisprudence. The 1878 Act, which reads, "Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both," is the only U.S. criminal statute that outlaws military operations directed against the American people under the cover of 'law enforcement.' As such, it has been the best protection we've had against the power-hungry intentions of an unscrupulous and reckless executive, an executive intent on using force to enforce its will.
Unfortunately, this past week, the president dealt posse comitatus, along with American democracy, a near fatal blow. Consequently, it will take an aroused citizenry to undo the damage wrought by this horrendous act, part and parcel, as we have seen, of a long train of abuses and outrages perpetrated by this authoritarian administration.
Despite the unprecedented and shocking nature of this act, there has been no outcry in the American media, and little reaction from our elected officials in Congress. On September 19th, a lone Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) noted that 2007's Defense Authorization Act contained a "widely opposed provision to allow the President more control over the National Guard [adopting] changes to the Insurrection Act, which will make it easier for this or any future President to use the military to restore domestic order WITHOUT the consent of the nation's governors."
Senator Leahy went on to stress that, "we certainly do not need to make it easier for Presidents to declare martial law. Invoking the Insurrection Act and using the military for law enforcement activities goes against some of the central tenets of our democracy. One can easily envision governors and mayors in charge of an emergency having to constantly look over their shoulders while someone who has never visited their communities gives the orders."
A few weeks later, on the 29th of September, Leahy entered into the Congressional Record that he had "grave reservations about certain provisions of the fiscal Year 2007 Defense Authorization Bill Conference Report," the language of which, he said, "subverts solid, longstanding posse comitatus statutes that limit the military's involvement in law enforcement, thereby making it easier for the President to declare martial law." This had been "slipped in," Leahy said, "as a rider with little study," while "other congressional committees with jurisdiction over these matters had no chance to comment, let alone hold hearings on, these proposals."
In a telling bit of understatement, the Senator from Vermont noted that "the implications of changing the (Posse Comitatus) Act are enormous". "There is good reason," he said, "for the constructive friction in existing law when it comes to martial law declarations. Using the military for law enforcement goes against one of the founding tenets of our democracy. We fail our Constitution, neglecting the rights of the States, when we make it easier for the President to declare martial law and trample on local and state sovereignty."
Senator Leahy's final ruminations: "Since hearing word a couple of weeks ago that this outcome was likely, I have wondered how Congress could have gotten to this point. It seems the changes to the Insurrection Act have survived the Conference because the Pentagon and the White House want it."
The historic and ominous re-writing of the Insurrection Act, accomplished in the dead of night, which gives Bush the legal authority to declare martial law, is now an accomplished fact.
The Pentagon, as one might expect, plays an even more direct role in martial law operations. Title XIV of the new law, entitled, "Homeland Defense Technology Transfer Legislative Provisions," authorizes "the Secretary of Defense to create a Homeland Defense Technology Transfer Consortium to improve the effectiveness of the Department of Defense (DOD) processes for identifying and deploying relevant DOD technology to federal, State, and local first responders."
In other words, the law facilitates the "transfer" of the newest in so-called "crowd control" technology and other weaponry designed to suppress dissent from the Pentagon to local militarized police units. The new law builds on and further codifies earlier "technology transfer" agreements, specifically the 1995 DOD-Justice Department memorandum of agreement achieved back during the Clinton-Reno regime.(4)
It has become clear in recent months that a critical mass of the American people have seen through the lies of the Bush administration; with the president's polls at an historic low, growing resistance to the war Iraq, and the Democrats likely to take back the Congress in mid-term elections, the Bush administration is on the ropes. And so it is particularly worrying that President Bush has seen fit, at this juncture to, in effect, declare himself dictator.
(1) http://leahy.senate.gov/press/200609/091906a.html and http://leahy.senate.gov/press/200609/092906b.html See also, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, "The Use of Federal Troops for Disaster Assistance: Legal Issues," by Jennifer K. Elsea, Legislative Attorney, August 14, 2006
(3) Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International, "Recent Contract Awards", Summer 2006, Vol.12, No.2, pg.8; See also, Peter Dale Scott, "Homeland Security Contracts for Vast New Detention Camps," New American Media, January 31, 2006.
(4) "Technology Transfer from defense: Concealed Weapons Detection", National Institute of Justice Journal, No 229, August, 1995, pp.42-43.
Comment on this Editorial
Editorial: Long Black Veil: Tony Blair's Deadly Game of Muslim-Bashing
25 October 2006
For centuries in Britain, each sentence of death was accompanied by a strange
ritual. Before handing down the verdict, the judge would first take a piece
of black silk cloth and put it on his head. With this rather bizarre and ancient
drapery covering his powdered wig - itself a relic, a cultural fossil
carried into modern times - he would then render the prisoner into the
In such a guise, the black cloth once represented the full, dread measure
of state power. Today, however, a cloth of similar size, shape and color - worn
across the faces of a small number of some of the most vulnerable members of
British society - has become a target of that same dread power, after
Britain's high and mighty unleashed a sudden, thunderous sneak attack on the
nation's Muslim minority, centering the campaign around the tabloid-ready symbol
of the veil.
But although the carefully orchestrated furor over this seldom-seen scrap
of material has been so ludicrously disproportionate that even the Blair-fawning
New York Times cried foul in a recent editorial, the campaign - and its
disturbing implications - go far beyond the issue of religious vestments.
Indeed, the veil row is just a covering for what appears to be a deliberate,
wide-ranging program of diversion and division, aimed at creating a scapegoat - "strangers
in our midst," "the enemy within" - to bear the blame
for the sins of the Blair government: the fear, repression, guilt, lies and
rancor produced by the abomination in Iraq.
The anti-Muslim campaign is not merely rhetorical - although the heated
rhetoric from Tony Blair and many of his ministers has certainly been bad enough,
giving a patina of respectability to more extremist viewpoints, now seen as
a legitimate part of the "national debate. (Much as the button-pushing
imbroglio over immigration in the United States has transformed fringe white-power
advocates into respectable media figures, lauded by the likes of Lou Dobbs
and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and welcomed in the halls of Congress.) No, Blair's
Islamophobia-fest has bite with its bark: not only the on-going evisceration
of civil liberties, which has fallen almost entirely on British Muslims, but
new measures as well - such as the Stasi-like plan to induce university
professors and staff to spy on Muslim students and report all "suspicious" behavior
to the security organs.
Comment on this Editorial
Editorial: Collaborators of Catastrophe: Inside the Ministry of Truth
By Manuel Valenzuela
Information Clearing House
With the complete and utter failure of America's experiment with hubristic imperialism outside its hemisphere, with the complete collapse in confidence by the people of the government and its leaders, with the fictional war on terror losing muster, with the American people questioning the Iraq debacle in growing numbers, the masters and lords comprising the Establishment have been forced to alter direction and appease the minds of the masses. Inside the Ministry of Truth the decision has been made, therefore, to open the curtains, if only minimally, to a small manifestation of truth and fact that has for three years been kept hidden from the people and that sheds light on the Iraq War and its horrific reality.
In the upper echelons of the Establishment's pyramid and the corporatist power structure, there has arrived a realization that Iraq is and will remain lost, a miserable failure turning more putrid every day, forever becoming a gash that will not heal, a ghost whose lack of placidity will for decades haunt the psyche of America. The Bush Crusade, once seen by the elite as a harbinger of empire and hegemonic power, an excursion becoming the genesis of perpetual wealth and richness, has instead transmuted itself into the greatest strategic disaster in the history of the Pax Americana. In the span of three years, Iraq has surpassed Vietnam, in the totality of the circumstances, as a perpetual burn whose scab will continue to be pulled off by the shame of what America did to Iraq, by the embarrassment of such apparent failure, by the geopolitical suicide it committed in Mesopotamia and by the severed image of the nation in the eyes of the world.
For the American masses, meanwhile, a great discomfort at the disaster unfolding and the failure apparent has been born, as if the growing number of rotting corpses throughout Iraq have exported their terrible stench across the Atlantic to the far reaches of America, finally arriving to wake from the doldrums of comfort and laziness the minds of millions of American people. Yet these millions of Americans grow disquieted not because of the genocide committed by their military, not because of the death of 655,000, or the displacement of 1.5 million, but because of the complete failure in not succeeding and winning, because of the death of almost 3,000 occupying soldiers, for creating a new memory of debacle, quagmire, defeat.
The narrative so-meticulously concocted and crafted by the Ministry of Truth, of an America destined by the Christian deity for greatness, incapable of defeat, always triumphant in victory, forever carrying the torch of goodness, chosen to fight the forces of evil, a beacon of freedom and liberty to the world, has been shown as the sham that it is, a fantasy laced with the glazed sugar coating of Hollywood perfection and brainwashed delusions. The aura of arrogance, the spirit of invincibility, the confidence of victory, the manifest destiny of America has taken a severe and humiliating blow at the hands of a mosaic of "rag tag," "sub-human," "third-world," "dark-skinned," "Arab and Muslim" resistance fighters, or mujahadeen. The glorious mirror of fables of American prominence that has for decades been used to condition and brainwash the masses has been blasted into pieces by a war of choice and by a cabal of mass murder and criminality.
The job has thus fallen to the Ministry of Truth and its agents of propaganda to once again reassemble the many pieces of the smoking mirror and reconstruct in the mind of the American masses the fantasy and fiction of an America that only exists in the thoughts of the brainwashed and the easily manipulated. The mirror of American preeminence, splendor and greatness that has been used for decades to make servants of the population must be refurbished, lest the people wake from their hypnotized stupor to see that the American Dream is but one more charade, one more level of control over their lives, one more fantasy injecting fog and haze into myopic eyes, one more mirage whose true nightmare remains hidden by the warm glow of the television.
The reality of American life, with its elaborate system of chains and shackles that clandestinely enslave millions to the elite through the mechanisms of predatory capitalism, together with the true nature of America's domination over the planet, destroying Earth, pillaging resources, ruining nations, birthing enormous suffering, killing millions, enraging billions, must never be allowed to penetrate past the firewalls of propaganda that have since birth been implanted inside the mind of the American masses. The Delusion of the American Dream must remain steadfast and firm so that the Earth's Nightmare may be allowed to continue. Disastrous endeavors that dispel the self-aggrandizement inherent in America's delusions attack the basic core of the American people's conditioned minds, creating the mechanisms by which the citizenry begins to question the fiction they have lived all their lives.
If leadership can be so incompetent as to give birth to debacle and utter failure, even with the greatest military and resources the world has ever known, then how can it govern the rest of the nation's problems? If defeat, eventual retreat and loss of nearly 3,000 troops, along with the maiming, of both body and mind, of countless tens of thousands more, is the result of an adventure that was supposed to end with flowers and candy thrown at our feet, signifying a marvelous, heralded victory proclaiming American greatness, then what has happened to the only nation blessed by the Christian deity? What does a humiliating withdrawal from Iraq do the American psyche when years of brainwashing seemingly disallow the reality now experienced from ever rising? With the Iraq failure - much like the Vietnam example before - firmly impressed upon the precepts and beliefs the system inculcates into our minds, contradicting that which we have been taught about ourselves, at odds with the fictions hammered into our psyche, an audacious challenge to the constructs of what the state and the corporation say is our reality is issued, making millions breathe above the murky water of lifelong conditioning, oftentimes for the first time.
For in the American narrative, the invincible American military, the most moral and virtuous in the entire world, fighting evil wherever it may rise, protecting humanity from evildoers, is not supposed to struggle against dead-enders, dark-skinned sub-humans or third-worlders. It is not supposed to get trapped in quicksand or quagmire, fighting for survival against an army of resistance fighters, most of whom were simple peasants before occupation. It is not supposed to become that which it has been sent to fight, yet transformed into terrorists and torturers and rapists and mass murderers has it become, dispelling the fallacies of the Dream we all believe to be real and true. In times of disaster and unwinnable war, where frustration and discontent grows, where unsettling facts become the thorns bursting the bubble of infallibility, the fantasy of what we think we are and the reality of what we truly are clash in a fiery battle for truth, unleashing in the mind of the less gullible the beginning sprouts of doubt, forging the genesis of what is a vortex of uncomfortable epiphanies and awakenings.
It is when the Dream jousts with Reality that awakenings to truth emerge, as always after violent storms of thought penetrate a brainwashed mind that refuses to pull its anchors from the draining harbors of control. Like two armies engaged in hand to hand combat, the Dream conditioned and Reality experienced meet on the battlefield of thought, creating volatile and uncomfortable conundrums tearing a mind that has never been confronted with a challenge to what it thinks is truth and reality. In times beset by inevitable questioning of the state and the so-called leaders of the people, when decisions and policies lead to defeat and failure and debacle, leading to embarrassment and deep collective introspection, millions of citizens will confront the dark Dream, wondering why its tenets and axioms have not held firm, finally seeing the light, realizing that the Dream they lived no longer corresponds with the Truth they now see, in the process shattering the smoke-filled mirrors that surrounds them and becoming aware of what has been done them, and who is responsible.
Rewriting the Iraq Script
What strategic defeats such as Vietnam and Iraq do is to plant doubt and uncertainty in the minds of Americans regarding the fictions taught and inculcated from cradle to grave. What wars that are not won and incompetent occupations accomplish is to irrigate the fields of slumbering minds with the enriching fluids of emancipation, if not throughout the population then certainly in the realities of tens of millions, enough for a movement to grow and a momentum to infiltrate into the collective conscious of the American people. Thus, the danger to the Establishment of the Iraq War disaster is that if it is allowed to fester and continue hemorrhaging, just as its momentum dictates that it will continue to do, the American mind may indeed sprout forth the reason and logic and cognitive thinking that has been appropriated for decades by the system, creating the necessary mind shock and thought tempest that might spring in the masses the enlightenment and renaissance that the elite are frightened to death of.
This reality is the danger both to the system that has worked to perfection for decades - which has served to virtually enslave and make surfs of the masses - and to the Establishment that is its chief custodian. A debacle of the Establishment's own making, granted life through its own hubris and incompetence and complete manipulation of the People, the Iraq War now threatens the very group that collaborated to give it wings. The Establishment pushed for war and invasion and occupation, using its vast tools of propaganda and manipulation to set the country on the path towards war. The Establishment allowed lies and deceptions and blatant manipulations of falsity to pass through its barriers and gatekeepers, granting the green light for complete acceptance by the People of a war known to be immoral and illegal before it was even begun.
Today, what the ruling class of America helped birth has become a Frankenstein unleashed and unchained, threatening to eviscerate both the American bubble granting the elite control and its delicate yet omnipresent Dream that although strongly threaded, remains a fragile concoction of fantasy, brainwashing and perpetual conditioning, from the cradle to the grave. Having become a monster that has taken on a life of its own, albeit after succeeding in the complete looting of America's treasury in favor of the elite, though now threatening the interests of its masters and the power of Establishment, the Iraq War must therefore be injected with a cocktail of the elite's antibiotics, made to be reborn, recreated and remarketed so as to appease the growing rumblings and discomfort of the American people, so as to prevent disgruntled frustration from mutating into vociferous opposition. Its reality must be reigned in, controlled and spun according to the interests of the elite, before it spins out of control, out of the reach of the ruling class' tools of mass manipulation. It must be contained before it spirals beyond even media repair, becoming the spark that launches a challenge of the system by the people.
For the Establishment, damage control using its Ministry of Truth and its army of pseudo-journalists must be meticulous, surgical and rapid, like a barrage of artillery fired upon the American populace, altering the perception of a losing adventure, creating a new fiction arranged within the parameters of the American Dream. It must be enveloped with the sugar coating inherent with the American narrative, with the fable of greatness and virtue so as to reclaim millions of minds lost, so as to prevent the erosion of millions more. And so the manufacturers of American reality, those whose job it is to create the perception millions believe is the real world, have been assigned with the task of launching a new campaign of smoke and mirrors, trying to reclaim an eroding Dream and a lost war of choice.
The repackaging of the debacle in Mesopotamia, which will be done by spinning and manipulating its realities and truths in such a way as to maintain dormant the awakened mind of the citizenry, thus preventing the lower classes from ever rising to challenge power, will of course be implemented with the Establishment's weapons of mass deception and manipulation, namely, the Corporate media, both on camera and in print. In order to freeze a rapidly boiling pot of anger at the war itself and thereby assuring, at least for a few decades more, the domination of the many by the few through the hypnotizing catatonia of the masses, the Establishment will bombard the airwaves and the printed opinion pieces with the propaganda of a perceived victory in Iraq, of an honorable handover of power, of competence defined and honor triumphant. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.
The Iraqi government will be made the incompetent, the warmongers, the corrupt, the institution that cannot establish security or peace, even though it never stood a chance at governance, being born with two arms fused behind its back, inheriting a debacle of historic proportions that even history's best leaders could not salvage. The new Iraqi government will be blamed for civil strife, sectarian violence and the continuing decline in security and standard of living, even though it was the Americans who sowed what the Iraqi government must now reap.
The American media, being the always reliable stenographers of the state and the Establishment, will concoct the fiction blaming the continuing catastrophe on the fledgling government, for in the American narrative, where the Dream must stick to its Hollywood script, the American government, as always saturated and controlled by the elite themselves, perpetually filled to the rafters with Establishment figures and minions, will in the end triumph over evil, fighting virtuous and honorably for a victory that although difficult, is nonetheless real. In the continuing narrative, the Establishment will be made the heroes of the epic, competently battling those alien barbarians from Arab lands, gallantly protecting our security and ways of life, yet struggling to reign in the few bad apples within its ranks that made the Iraq war more difficult than it should have been.
For the Iraq War will never be seen as illegal, immoral or as the catastrophe it has become; it will never be seen as a failure created by the Establishment itself, which of course it is. Erased from American reality will be the role the elite and its media whores had in cooking up and serving on a hot plate a war of choice that was always fated to end in disaster. The decision made by America's Establishment will never be given the aura of predestined failure, which it was, but instead will be marketed as a triumphant struggle made all the more difficult by the arrogance and incompetence of a few bad apples that deviated away from the steadfast leadership of the elite. It will be said that the war became what is has turned into not for failure to learn or apply history's lessons but because it was badly managed by who else but by a few bad and seemingly notorious apples who failed to listen to the sage advice of who else but the Establishment. As with any Hollywood production, fall guys and patsies must be and will be sacrificed, and this narrative will offer no divergent plots from any previous incarnation.
The Iraqi resistance, or mujahadeen, will never be given the credit objective history will invariably give them, nor the respect earned on the field of battle. They will never receive commendation for outthinking, out-planning, outsmarting and outmaneuvering the occupying forces and its leadership. The American people will never know Iraqi freedom fighters outstrategized the occupying military, though America's future military leaders certainly will, for they will be made to study the tactics, thought processes and strategies of the resistance, only clandestinely acknowledging respect to the mujahadeen by absorbing the lessons it taught America in Iraq. Inside the Ministry of Truth, hard at work implementing the American narrative, Iraq's freedom fighters will have their triumph erased from American memory, their success never given light, its curtain of reality never lifted for the masses to see.
Instead, peasants, sons and fathers, the meat of the Iraqi resistance, at one time average people like you and me, most fighting for their nation, their resources, their honor and their way of life, dong what millions of Americans would do if it was invaded and occupied, will always be known inside America as Al-Qaeda, as the terrorists we had to fight over there so we would not have to fight them over here. Of course to the rest of the world the truth will always be known, the resistance will always be acknowledged, its victory will always be real. In America, however, resistance and freedom fighters will have never existed in the cities and towns of Iraq, for to the American narrative, good always triumphs over evil and, since America has the exclusive monopoly over good, then certainly Iraqi resistance must be labeled as evil, though international law and opinion would beg to differ.
In the American Dream, since America is always victorious and good always triumphs over evil, it naturally follows that America is never evil and always good, which consequently implies that it never suffers defeat at the hands of evil. Logically, therefore, its invasion and brutal occupation, its torture, rape, dehumanization and mass genocide, its disappearances and false imprisonments, its pillaging of resources and its looting of Iraq's finances, its decimation of Iraqi society, the displacement of 1.6 million Iraqis, the chaos and anarchy and civil war are all deemed products of good, for America is the catalyst and oftentimes the enabler of all that has afflicted Iraq and its people. The forces fighting against this supposed evil, trying to rid their land and cities and neighborhoods of the American pestilence, must therefore be considered evil, and by consequence defeated by America's military.
In the black and white script of the American narrative - since those are the only colors we are allowed to dream in - the battle of good versus evil is thus determined by the constructs of an America that cannot do bad against a force that cannot possibly be considered good, no matter what the rest of the world thinks. The easiest way for the Ministry of Truth to erase the valid guerilla war waged by the Iraqi resistance against the American occupiers, and erase any thoughts of the people considering the resistance in positive language, therefore, is to label freedom fighters as member of Al-Qaeda, the always reliable bogeyman and barbarian whose usefulness to the Establishment does not seem to diminish with time.
If every resistance movement on Earth can be labeled as belonging to a terrorist organization, imputed to the dreaded image of Al-Qaeda by the simple act of resisting the wrongs of governance, the devastating exploitations of the ruling class or the crimes of a nation's elite, then naturally the interests of the ruling class can better be protected. Conditioning the masses to detest and fear those movements battling the crimes and corruptions of the world's ruling classes - particularly those affiliated with or belonging to the American Establishment - with those movements oftentimes fighting for the interests of the masses themselves, succeeds in eliminating a massive group of potential sympathizers and erodes any potential for fraternity and solidarity between freedom fighters and the masses.
The fear and insecurity spawned by the term Al-Qaeda instantly rewires all circuits in the American mind that connect to logic, reason and critical thinking, allowing the state and the ruling class to better control the people. Any valid grievances or causes freedom fighters in Iraq or any other nation might have that would excuse their resistance are thus ignored, becoming a lost echo in the dark chambers of the American mind. By marketing Iraq's freedom fighters as Al-Qaeda terrorists, when American intelligence has found that only 5 percent of fighters are from outside Iraq, with only a small fraction of that fraction sympathetic to Al-Qaeda, the American people, already conditioned like Pavlovian dogs to tremble in fear at the mere mention of the name, will instantly develop barricades inside their minds, disallowing any deviance beyond what they have been brainwashed to believe.
Thus, a freedom fighter waging guerilla war to expel a brutal occupier will never be seen as a valid movement. A people forced to expel an occupying power intent on stealing its resources, dehumanizing its citizens and destroying its society, oftentimes by no other choice but by killing and maiming American soldiers, will never be seen in the American narrative as anything other than terrorists and barbarians and sub-human, dark-skinned Arabs. The conditioning into black and white, good versus evil thinking has been as methodical as it has been perpetual. The job assigned to the Ministry of Truth is therefore made much easier.
All Hail the Ministry of Truth
The elite's interests will of course be protected and defended by the Ministry of Truth and its hordes of presstitutes, for the Corporate media is and always has been the tool of the Establishment, over the years having become its undying weapon against the masses, its always reliable firewall of brainwashing and conditioning. As has always been the case since the inception of television, he who controls the media controls the masses, and he who controls television controls American reality. Since it controls the perceptions of America's reality, and since the Establishment is the master of the Ministry of Truth, then naturally everything aired, voiced or imaged through the monitor will inevitably have as goal the protection and expansion of the ruling class' interests.
The Ministry of Truth is the reason why the American people have only members of the ruling class to elect into higher office. It is the reason government has for decades furthered the interests of the Establishment at the expense of the People. It is the reason the masses vote, without fail, against their own interests, every election given a choice of the lesser of two evils belonging to the same two-headed hydra, both almost mirror images of the other, both designed to protect and expand the power of the elite and the corporate world. The differences between the two parties are today slim and marginal, with one mutating towards fascist ideologies and tendencies while the other, once progressive and liberal, caring for the interests of the people, has since 9/11 shifted center right, becoming what the Republican party used to be, a conservative amalgam of ruling class incompetents.
Because the Establishment is itself best served through conservative-based ideology, thriving off the structures of predatory capitalism, through greed, selfishness and the mechanisms of corporatism, finding sustenance through the exploitation of the working and middle class, creating control through organized religion based on primitive thought, and increasing its grip over America through the perpetual dumbing down of its people, it follows that the corporate media, the Ministry of Truth, must itself be molded from conservative ideology. It must enable the dumbing down of America to continue, afflicting each and every new generation of citizens, each made more ignorant than the previous generation. As such, the fictions that the Ministry of Truth disseminates and that invariably become America's reality are conservative-based, right-wing in nature and corporatist in belief.
The appearance must be made, and the manipulation of ideas must be engendered, as to make the People's visions and goals the same vision and goals sought by the Establishment. The people must be made to believe that by pursuing and expanding the Establishment's interests their own lives will be made better. This, of course, is but a farce, for the interests of one group are incompatible and mutually exclusive of the other. This explains in part the dominance of conservative thought by a majority of Americans, and of America itself, which includes centrist dogma and much left-of-center ideology, most of which is considered center-right in the more progressive, and by consequence enlightened, nations of the world. In fact, most progressive, liberal ideology in America today does not even begin to touch or compare with the mainstream, progressive, liberal belief system of many western European nations. Those views would be and are in fact considered radical and extreme in America, yet they are the evolving ideologies of the world's most progressive societies.
Indeed, where one would expect a more progressive, educated and secular society (with all three being intertwined and correlated) due to the vast wealth in resources and human capital, where there is enough treasure to make enormous investments in education, the complete opposite is true. America is one of the most conservative nations in the developed world, even as the wealthiest nation of all. Certainly the systemic conditioning by the Ministry of Truth over the masses is one reason for this truism. Certainly the highly influential guidance of the corporate media of both our society and our culture should be burdened for a major share of fault in the virtual halt in evolving progressive thought in the wealthiest nation the world has ever seen. In this conditioning of the People of conservative thought are the interests of the Establishment thus protected and furthered, after all.
Inside the Ministry of Truth, America's departments of smoke and mirrors are hard at work, busy creating and re-creating the perception of reality of 300 million American citizens that must never be allowed to see beyond the bubble of the Dream. It is in these dark rooms where marketers and public relations gurus and spin masters and damage control experts and media executives and political Machiavellis gather, where America's fantasy-laden reality is engendered and molded, where the strategies and campaigns conditioning Americans how to think are given life, to be disseminated through the airwaves and in print, penetrating minds and lives, making us the mere servant class of the elite. What can we expect, after all, out of an institution which has since its inception been financed and supported by the Establishment? What interests will be furthered and powers expanded by the corporate media when it is owned and operated by the corporate world, itself owned by the ruling class? What is to be expected when the Ministry of Truth is pregnant with the pretenders and contenders of elitism, the wanna bees of the ruling class, its placenta bursting with the elite's sons and daughters and heirs to the thrones of propaganda and the Establishment? In the end, what can be expected when the hand that feeds the Ministry of Truth is part of the same body whose other hand exploits and oppresses the working and middle classes?
When it is understood who the Ministry of Truth works for, whose interests it has always pursued, then it becomes obvious whose version of reality we will forever see and be conditioned to accept. The Ministry of Truth does the bidding for the ruling class, doing its dirty work, concocting the excuses to wage war, the cataclysmic events needed to mobilize an entire population, the manipulations needed to create the citizenry's acceptance. The Iraq war was allowed to transpire because of the direct role of the Ministry of Truth and all who work inside its bowels. Its lies and deceptions were flaunted while its truths and realities were purposefully hidden. The voices of dissent and debate were made extinct while those of warmongers and pro-war talking heads were granted an audience. The entire mechanisms of the corporate media were used to sell war to the American people, in the end succeeding in making Iraq and Iraqis the equivalent of Al-Qaeda. After that was accomplished, war was a foregone conclusion.
It was and still is the Ministry of Truth that terrorizes the masses with the state's propaganda of fear, using every opportunity to wage psychological warfare against an entire population. It is the Ministry of Truth that whitewashes and suppresses vital documents and findings and the voices of whistleblowers, choosing to keep America in the dark even as the world entire sees the light. So much of the Iraq war has been swept underneath a rug of silence, for the Establishment knows that it was video and audio from Vietnam that gave birth to mass opposition to war. It was the Ministry of Truth that helped end the quagmire in Vietnam, which is why the Iraq war has been lived inside the vacuum of a black hole. The ruling class, it seems, learned their lesson well, which is why Americans are clueless about a war that seems to not exist within the confines of our borders and shores. It is the reason a complete media blackout exists, with only media embeds acting as the state's stenographers allowed to report a fraction of what is occurring.
The ruling class' decision to invade and occupy Iraq, done knowing the enormous profits and wealth that was about to be created, could not have happened without the instruments of the Ministry of Truth working in unison to make sure it indeed happened. If one thinks about it, the task was monumental, yet it was achieved with triumphant success. Dissent, protest and debate had to be silenced and erased while the lies, deceits, fictions and manipulations needed to give life to an illegal and immoral war were allowed to blossom, without even a whisper of questioning or debate, without so much as a hint of objectivity. War was decided upon, and war was what America was going to get. The entire engine of propaganda and perception-based reality was thus greased with the lubricant of Iraqi blood, flowing in obvious recognition of what transpired inside the Ministry of Truth, yet made invisible to the millions of eyes dependent on the corporate media for information.
Collaborators of Catastrophe
For five years now, the corporate media, along with its legions of presstitutes, pseudo-journalist hacks, government stenographers, talking heads, think tank pretenders, editor minions, executive servants and paid lackeys that comprise the acidic gases inside the bowels of the Ministry of Truth have collaborated in the giant productions called the Iraq War and the Psychological Warfare against the American People. These individuals are collaborators of catastrophe, collaborators to war crimes and crimes against humanity, granting life to genocide, rape, torture and perpetual suffering. Through their cameras and pens fear has hijacked America; through their oftentimes idiotic jingoism America has mutated to an authoritarian enclave; through their voices the greatest strategic disaster in American history has been allowed to fester; through their silence crimes of unspeakable criminality have been allowed to be perpetrated. It is because of their whitewashes and spinning and silent disregard of truth and reality that the nation finds itself threatened by enemies of democracy, liberty and freedom, not by enemies from abroad, but by those internal and entrenched, a much more dangerous cabal of terrorists than anything conjured up by the Ministry of Truth's most creative fiction story-tellers.
These sons and daughters of nepotism, incestuous relationships, favorable opportunity and ethnic/religious correlation have been promoted into the Ministry of Truth not because of merit or talent or greatness but because of who they know, what they are and where they come from. They possess the passports of promotion, the keys to becoming gatekeepers, the signs and stars granting them access beyond the glass ceiling. They are sons and daughters of privilege and nepotism, born with the adequate religious background or the royal bloodlines of parentage. They are hired because they care nothing for reporting truth, lacking the integrity and honor much more talented individuals possess.
They are hired because they protect the interests of the mother country and those of the ruling class, easily selling out to money and greed and fame, sacrificing truth to the whips of fiction and suppression and evisceration of reality. They are, quite simply, tools and instruments set in motion to maintain millions in eternal ignorance while enhancing the interests of their masters. For this they have no remorse, nor for the devastation of truth they help maintain. Their job is the genesis of American reality, of becoming the front lines against the assault on the American people, their job the enhancement of a fictional Dream that keeps millions passive, apathetic and acquiescent. It is this group of pseudo-journalists, gatekeepers and executives that possess the magic ticket the rest of the population will never acquire, regardless of talent, ability and potential greatness. All that is needed to join this exclusive club is the right sign, star and lineage, the right connections, religion and ethnicity, as well as a willingness to both abandon truth for the Almighty Dollar and imprison the American people inside the dungeons of concocted reality.
In the real world, in places where truth prevails and reality thrives, where actual journalism lives and flourishes, where real democracy is a reality and not a fantasy, there exists in just one or two or three or four web pages or websites more talent than the entire lot of America's corporate media, blossoming to grant sustenance and life back to editing, writing, reporting and journalism. It is inside the digital domain of the Internet where opportunity is still a reality, where talent and ability still matter, where the love of journalism can be seen and appreciated. For while the presstitutes have abandoned truth for greed and integrity for fame, on the Internet the only gains are love of journalism, love of truth, love of justice and love of knowledge.
Once again, through the Internet, We the People have truth, reality, a voice, true democracy and empowerment. In it we have found a paradigm where there is no glass ceiling, no discrimination, no nepotism and no alteration of truth. In this realm, the talent is omnipresent; the ability mesmerizing; the opportunity as open and as wide as the Pacific Ocean. The diversity of opinion and talent and brainpower has exploded onto the world stage, making pseudo-journalists the laughingstock of millions. To those working inside the Ministry of Truth, your gig is up, the Internet has arrived, taking your viewers, your readership and your revenues. When you collaborate to lie, deceive and manipulate a nation towards war, when you ignore truth and criminality as if it does not exist, when you choose selling out rather than standing up, you know the end is near. In this world, the Internet is the future; the corporate media, a thing of the past.
Enslaved to masters and pimps and sugar daddies, this group of war collaborators has helped to give birth to the greatest strategic disaster in the history of the United States. Their spin, bull manure, cover-ups, whitewashes, protection of authority, failure to seek accountability, dissemination of propaganda, silence in the face of blatant lies and failure to expose truth has made them all accomplices to what America has done in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention what Israel has done in Palestine and Lebanon. They are as guilty as the criminals and murderers in office.
Perhaps sensing the changing winds of discontent, perhaps fleeing from the losing side of history, perhaps unable to sleep at night guilt ridden with their failure as journalists, perhaps even sensing the shifting balance of power, this group of pseudo-journalists has begun to gently tear apart the bubble of infallibility that once surrounded the Iraq war. They have begun to offer glimmers of light where darkness once prevailed. Only Fox News, it seems - that putrid bastion of fascist and extremist right wing thought and propaganda - remains lost in the delusions and deceptions only the thoroughly brainwashed, or authoritarian stenographers, cling on to. Yet only Keith Olberman has decided that truth and reality and journalism are worth saving, worth standing up to. As the nation plummets into despotism, only Olberman has decided to do his job. Among journalists, he is the one true patriot; the one true American.
Suddenly, as if with a wave of the magician's wand - or through the gate-keeping approval of editors and executives - the curtains containing long-held truths about the Bush Crusade have been allowed to rise, if only minimally, finally offering America's masses glimpses of a war that since its inception has been sequestered from the beautiful minds of the populace. A prism of light has finally been turned on in the vacuum of nothingness that is the locked closet of Mesopotamia, opening up to inspection black corners and unexplored crevices, allowing glimmers of reality and rays of translucence through into the eyes of the masses. Today, when it is finally convenient, when it is finally popular, when it is finally profitable, when the debacle and the disaster and the failure can no longer be spun or hidden or manipulated, the Ministry of Truth has shifted course, spinning their collaboration away, making it disappear from the reality of America. The time to protect the system and the Establishment from the People has arrived, and the Ministry of Truth will in the next few years try to erase from memory, reality and history its role in the Iraq failure, not to mention the Establishment's disastrous policies over the last six years. Yet America's population must remember who it was that lit the path towards war, who it was that heated up the engine of America's military might. We must remember the failure of journalism and the corporate media at a time when they were most needed.
Journalists and the corporate media have become collaborators to authoritarianism, abettors to the coming police state, disseminators of the propaganda spewed by authoritarians. No amount of spin or distortion can change these facts, nor the Ministry of Truth's role in the war against the American people. A few bones and crumbs thrown our way in order to silence and appease us will not work, for we are aware of the guilt of collaborators to catastrophe.
Today real news is hidden from view, fake news is given prominence, truth is suppressed and fiction is promoted. Government and those in power are protected while those deemed enemy of the state are smeared. Myths and fables are granted attention while truths and realities are made to disappear, forever sent to the locked vaults of hidden fact where they will never see the light of day. The role of the fascist media is to protect the fascists, to smear those exposing truths, to ignore movements seeking truth to criminality, to enable the activities of the Bush cabal and to grant life to the manipulative mechanisms of the state. Its role is to keep the masses obedient, ignorant and subservient to the state, made unaware that every day their rights and freedoms evaporate, that every day they resemble the servants of the past and the serfs of the future.
That is today the role of the corporate media, the Ministry of Truth, using the television to brainwash and condition the masses, using its alluring glare to alter the brain function of human beings, from cradle to grave, using its tools to manipulate and lie to the public, all for the service of the fascist state, all for the sake of corporatism and its handlers. For what is the corporate media, with its legions of pseudo-journalists, hacks, spin masters, talking heads and untalented pretty faces dependent on airbrushes and layers of makeup, but the propagandists of today's evolved fascist state? What are the keepers at the gate, whether from the right or the left, but the sons and daughters of Joseph Goebbels, bastard children of totalitarian thought, nursed from the bosom of history's greatest propagandists, keeping authoritarian brainwashing alive and well, becoming the gatekeepers of tyranny, the destroyers of truth and reality.
Manuel Valenzuela is a social critic and commentator, international affairs analyst and Internet essayist. His articles as well as his archive can be found at his blog, http://www.valenzuelasveritas.blogspot.com and at http://www.informationclearinghouse.info as well as at other alternative news websites from around the globe. Mr. Valenzuela is also author of Echoes in the Wind, a fiction novel. Mr. Valenzuela welcomes comments and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Cultivation of Violence
Three Palestinians killed in West Bank
Medics and relatives said that Saadi Subuh, 23, and Mustafa Abu Zalat, 17, were shot and killed in the refugee camp of Al Faraa on Friday.
The circumstances of shooting were not clear, but Abu Zalat's uncle said his nephew may have been throwing stones at Israeli army jeeps at the time.
In the village of Yamoun, Ahmed Abul Hassan, 28, was shot and killed while he stood on the roof of his home.
Relatives said he had gone up to watch the army raid and was hit by a bullet to the head.
Two of Abul Hassan's brothers were wounded, the family said.
The Israeli army said soldiers fired at two gunmen in Yamoun and hit them.
On Thursday, three Palestinians were killed in the southern Gaza strip during an Israeli incursion into the small town of Abassan.
killings are part of the ongoing Israeli offensive in Gaza and West Bank after the abduction of a soldier in a cross-border raid near Gaza on June 25.
Comment: Day after day the Palestinians are ground down. I don't think most of us can understand the horror these people endure, with no hope of ever seeing the other side of this terror.
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Israeli court rejects barrier route plea
Residents of Palestinian villages near the proposed route said that the 6km long steel and concrete fence would prevent them from reaching their crops when it cuts into the West Bank to take in a Jewish settlement bloc.
The court said they could appeal again if arrangements for farmers to reach their crops through passages controlled by the Israeli military proved unsatisfactory.
"The Israelis have, in fact, decided to imprison us in one big cage and surround us," Abd al-Rahim Nitani, a resident of the Palestinian village of Um al-Tin near the three settlements, told the Israeli website YNetnews.
In its ruling, the court cited security considerations and said the three settlements at the centre of the case - Emanuel, Maale Shomron and Karnei Shomron - had been "targets of harsh terror attacks over recent years".
The International Court of Justice, in a non-binding advisory opinion in 2004, ruled the construction of the barrier on occupied land was illegal and should be stopped immediately.
Emanuel is located 18km inside the West Bank near the Palestinian city of Nablus. Maale Shomron and Karnei Shomron are slightly closer to Israel.
Around 240,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank among 2.4 million Palestinians.
Israel began building what is to be a 670km long barrier in the West Bank in 2002, describing it as a security measure to stop suicide bombers from infiltrating its cities.
About a third of the network of razor wire-tipped fences and towering concrete walls has been completed and Israeli officials say the project has already stopped several attacks.
Palestinians say it is a move a move to seize land that Israel has occupied since the 1967 Middle East war and will deny them the viable state they want in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Comment: The noose tightens every day. Explain to me how a military checkpoint to reach your own crops could ever prove satisfactory!
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Israel Prisoner Treatment Condemned
JERUSALEM - An Israeli human rights group has accused the government of violating international law by moving Palestinian prisoners out of the occupied territories.
B'Tselem, a body that monitors human rights in the West Bank and Gaza, said in a report released on Thursday that most of the 9,000 Palestinians being held by Israel were illegally imprisoned inside the Jewish state.
"The vast majority of Palestinian prisoners are held in prisons inside Israel, and not in the occupied West Bank,in contravention of international humanitarian Law," said B'Tselem's communications director, Sarit Michaeli.
"In order to guarantee basic human rights, they should be transferred to prisons in the West Bank where Palestinians are allowed to travel," she said.
Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Middle East war and although it withdrew soldiers and Jewish settlers from Gaza in August last year.
Since it is often very difficult for Palestinians to get permits to enter Israel, prison visits end up taking place only every few months.
Checks and delays when they do happen can mean that a visit of a few hours can take up to 24 hours to carry out.
"Israel's arbitrary and disproportionate policy not only infringes the right to family visits, it also results in violation of other rights and principles of international humanitarian and human rights law," said the report, entitled "Barred from Contact".
Israel's prison system said in response it made all efforts to allow family visits to take place in a "respectful manner".
"(The prison system) also acts in accordance with laws and regulations to check proof of identity meticulously, especially in light of recent events," said a spokesman, Yaron Zamir, referring to the stabbing of a guard by a prisoner's relative.
In a response sent to B'Tselem in August, the Justice Ministry said it did everything possible, within the constraints of security, to facilitate visits and said that it had denied only 41 of 4,616 visits requested since December 2005.
"The state has been acting relentlessly, despite the many security and administrative difficulties involved, to enable the existence of these visits," it said.
The ministry did not directly address the allegation of the illegality of holding the prisoners in Israel.
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Israeli Soldiers Murder Three Palestinian Civilians In West Bank
Three Palestinians have been killed today in Israeli army raids in the northern West Bank, medics and relatives said.
In the refugee camp of Al Faraa, Saadi Subuh, 23, and Mustafa Abu Zalat, 17, were shot and killed, their relatives and medics said.
The circumstances of shooting were not clear, but Abu Zalat's uncle said his nephew might have been throwing stones at army vehicles at the time.
In the village of Yamoun, Ahmed Abul Hassan, 28, was shot and killed while he stood on the roof of his home. Relatives said he had gone up there to watch the army raid and was hit by a bullet to the head.
Two of Abul Hassan's brothers were wounded, the family said.
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Army attacks residents houses and destroys one house in the Gaza Strip
IMEMC & Agencies
27 October 2006
The Israeli army has destroyed one houses north of the Gaza strip and attacked residents' houses east of the strip on Friday at dawn.
An Israeli F16 jet fighter fired a missile at the house of Shadi Al Arbini in Jabalia refugee camp, on Friday, at dawn, leveling it to the ground. Several neighboring houses sustained damage due to the attack, but no injuries were reported.
In the meantime in Al Shujaiya neighborhood, East of Gaza City, Israeli helicopters released heavy fire on residents' houses; causing a considerable amount of damage, and panic, medical sources reported.
A state of fear is gripping residents in the Gaza Strip, due to the escalation of Israeli army attacks recently, sources report, and threats of a wide scale invasion into the strip by war leaders in Israel.
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"Several soldiers killed after requested to take photos faking capture of Lebanese town"
IMEMC & Agencies
26 October 2006
Israeli reports revealed that after the army failed to capture Bint Jbeil town, in southern Lebanon, army leaders requested several soldiers to take pictures showing the Israeli flag on top of a house in the town; several soldiers were killed by Hezbollah fighters while attempting to carry out the order.
An Israeli officer testified in front of the Knesset Committee of Security and Foreign Affairs and said that several soldiers who fought in Lebanon were killed while attempting to take pictures showing the army's victory.
Investigators into War events listened to the testimony of 30 soldiers from different ranks last Sunday, one of them, Eyal Bloom, testified the following events;
"Early August, one week before ceasefire, paratroopers were sent to Bint Jbeil town, in southern Lebanon to film Israeli soldiers occupying a rooftop and raising the Israeli flag".
"The aim was to provide proofs that we occupied the town after severe battles with Hezbollah fighters. While taking pictures we were attacked by fighters and three soldiers were killed, later on armored vehicles were sent to the area to evacuate us, they were also attacked and several soldiers were killed".
After the offices, Knesset member Ran Cohen, from Meretz party, said described the incident as "atrocity", and added that this proves that the army was not sent to defend the country and its citizens, but was "sent to show off"".
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Two Palestinians, international peace activist injured by illegal Israeli settlers
IMEMC & Agencies
27 October 2006
Palestinian medical sources reported on Thursday that two residents, including a child, and one international peace activist were injured when an extremist settlers group attacked them while picking olives in Tal Romedia area, south of Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank.
Local sources reported that settlers living in the Ramat Yishai illegal outpost attacked a Danish activists and two residents, including one child, while their were picking olives in their orchards close to the illegal outpost.
The sources added that several peace activists from Europe were helping the resident in picking their olives when the settlers hurled stones and sharp tools at them.
On Danish peace activist, identified as Sam, 23, and two Palestinians identified as Issa Amro, 28, and Isra' Al Farra, 13, were injured.
The settlers carried their attack while the soldiers, intensively present in the area, did not attempt to stop them, local sources reported.
Al Farra family owns olive orchards near the illegal settlement and managed recently to obtain an order from the Israeli High Court allowing them to pick their olives.
Hashim Al Farra said that when the family managed to reach their orchards, they found out that most of their olives have already been picked by the settlers.
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Israeli warplanes keep overflying southern Lebanon
www.chinaview.cn 2006-10-26 21:12:36
JERUSALEM, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- Israel Air Forces warplanes have not stopped violating Lebanese air space since Israeli ground troops completed withdrawal from southern Lebanon in early October.
Irritated by Israeli fighters' ongoing operations, Major General Alain Pellegrini of France, commander of UN Interim Forcein Lebanon (UNIFIL) warned last week that the UN troops might need to change the rules of engagement to allow the use of anti-aircraft missiles against Israeli jets.
Meanwhile, French President Jacques Chirac also accused Israel's flights over Lebanon of violating UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended a 34-day fighting between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas on Aug. 14.
However, in response to the French condemnation, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz told the Cabinet in Jerusalem Sunday that "the accumulating intelligence in our hands points to arising effort to transfer arms" to Hezbollah.
Paris might choose to turn a blind eye, but for Israel, "the legitimacy for over flights increases," Peretz said. In fact, Israel has more excuses for rationalizing its air presence beyond the northern border with Lebanon.
According to Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were still being held captive, in direct opposition to the UN resolution.
The international arms embargo on Hezbollah was not fully in place, and "unfortunately there are still illicit arms transfers," Regev said.
The spokesman added that the resolution called for the removal of all Hezbollah armed personnel south of the Litani River, something that had not yet been achieved.
A source of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, based in East Jerusalem, told Xinhua that Hezbollah militants concealed their armed activities by wearing civilian clothes and refraining from carrying unconcealed weapons.
As a result, it was quite difficult for the UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army to search for such activities, the source added. Another issue which IDF officials concern is whether the Lebanese Army, made up of four divisions totaling 8,000 soldiers, is fully organized in the area.
Israeli officials said they passed on to Lebanon information about dozens of suspicious locations, some of them deep in Lebanon. However, the Lebanese Army reported that it had checked them without having discovered anything significant.
The Lebanese troops said sometimes it was hard to patrol some of the suspicious sites due to the fear of detonating Israeli explosives that were left behind during the month-long Israel-Hezbollah conflict.
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Fatah rejects forming new auxiliary force in W. Bank
www.chinaview.cn 2006-10-26 19:39:10
RAMALLAH, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- A lawmaker from the Fatah movement loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday that the movement will confront any auxiliary forces to be formed by the ruling Hamas movement in West Bank cities.
Jamal al-Tirawi told the Voice of Palestine that Hamas Auxiliary Forces are illegal and the Fatah movement will prosecute anyone joining the forces.
Al-Tirawi made the remarks in response to reports that Hamas began forming forces in the West Bank, similar to its forces in the Gaza Strip currently controlled by the Interior Ministry.
Hamas claims that the forces in the West Bank are designated to protect its ministers and lawmakers and government buildings after they were targeted several times by angry protestors and militants belonging to the Fatah movement.
He pointed out that the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the Fatah armed wing, would issue a statement pledging allegiance to "official and legitimate security services, and will face any illegal force and target its members.
Interior Minister Said Siam formed Auxiliary Forces in the Gaza Strip in May to boost security. Recently, Auxiliary Forces have curbed several armed demonstrations by unpaid security members.
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The Earth Shrugs
Mysterious humming driving Aucklanders 'bonkers'
October 27, 2006
By Kate Chapman
New Zealand Herald
A mysterious humming driving people to despair across Auckland has pricked the ears, and curiosity, of scientists trying to find the source.
Massey University computer engineering scientists Tom Moir and Fakhrul Alam have been contacted by more than 30 people, most in Auckland and the North Shore, who claim to have heard a humming noise.
The symptoms are similar to those suffered by people with tinnitus, commonly associated with a prolonged high-frequency ringing in the ear.
The scientists are visiting people who can hear the humming, and trying to measure the noise in the hope they will be able to identify its source.
People from central Auckland to Kaiwaka in Northland have reported the sound, as have residents from the North Shore suburbs of Torbay, Browns Bay, Murrays Bay, Birkenhead and Beach Haven, and Stanmore Bay on Whangaparaoa.
The scientists are measuring the frequency by playing a second low frequency to someone who can hear the humming. When the person can no longer hear the hum, the frequency they are playing is the same as the humming noise.
Dr Moir said people could definitely hear a sound. "It's quite serious to them, it's driving them bonkers. I was there at the same time and I couldn't hear anything."
He said the sound was well within the average hearing range for people.
Most people can hear between 20 hertz and 20 kilohertz and the humming is around 56 hertz, according to Dr Moir's research.
Not everyone could hear the sound, because of its low volume, he said.
"We're all born differently - some people are better runners, some people are better hearers."
An Auckland woman who heard the sound described it as a "low drone or rumble".
The woman, who asked not to be named or have her suburb identified, said the noise had become so bad she was thinking about selling her home.
"I absolutely love my home but last night I couldn't get to sleep before 5am. In desperation I even tried to put Blu-Tack in my ears," she said.
But nothing works. The noise is louder inside and during the night when there are no other sounds to mask it.
The woman said there was no point telling people who could not hear it because they thought she was "stark raving mad".
The founder, patron and counsellor of the New Zealand Tinnitus Association, Joan Saunders, said some of the people who contacted Dr Moir did have tinnitus, but not all of them.
She could not diagnose everyone without meeting them, she said.
Dr Moir could not hear the sound himself but his wife, Jude, could.
She described the sound as an "awful noise and sensation".
"It feels creepy. It's not a place I'd like to live regularly," Mrs Moir said.
Author Rachel McAlpine based her 2005 novel The Humming on her experiences of a mysterious humming in Puponga, near Farewell Spit.
The book featured an unknown humming noise that plagued only certain people in a small town.
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Mystery 'explosion' damages homes
Reports of a loud explosion on the north Cornwall and Devon border are being investigated.
A number of residents reported hearing a loud bang between 1130 and 1200 BST around the Bude and Holsworthy area. Others said their homes were damaged.
Western Power and the British Geological Survey have carried out checks in the area.
Pc Baxter Proven of Devon and Cornwall Police said an investigation was under way into the cause.
He said: "One theory being considering is perhaps a military aircraft has broken the sound barrier a little too close to the land and that has caused this sonic boom and this, in turn, caused some light damage around the north Cornwall area."
One resident in Bude said a crack in her kitchen had widened as a result, and others reported experiencing their properties "shaking".
A BBC Radio Cornwall listener said: "The stables physically shook. It sounded like Concorde used to sound when it broke the sonic barrier. But much louder. It went 'boom, boom'."
A crack that was left at one home
Experts ruled out the possibility of an earth tremor
Western Power Distribution said engineers had completed checks and found no faults with its systems.
The Ministry of Defence and the RAF said there were no records of their aircraft flying over the area.
The Civil Aviation Authority said it was also unaware of the cause.
David Galloway from the British Geological Survey said the organisation checked its readings for the area after receiving several phone calls about the bang.
He said: "We've not got any signals at all from any instruments, and in fact we have instruments nearby at Hartland Point."
He added it was possible that it might have been a sonic boom, but although the equipment was geared towards detecting ground movement, it would sometimes pick up such disturbances as well.
He said: "Typically we'd register any ground movement but we have been known to have signals of a sonic nature to register."
Comment: There are a couple of reports of similar incidents in different locations here, and if interested in this topic there is the Signs Supplement: Sonic or "Mystery" Booms.
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Sea change: why global warming could leave Britain feeling the cold
James Randerson, science correspondent
Friday October 27, 2006
Scientists have uncovered more evidence for a dramatic weakening in the vast ocean current that gives Britain its relatively balmy climate by dragging warm water northwards from the tropics. The slowdown, which climate modellers have predicted will follow global warming, has been confirmed by the most detailed study yet of ocean flow in the Atlantic.
Most alarmingly, the data reveal that a part of the current, which is usually 60 times more powerful than the Amazon river, came to a temporary halt during November 2004.
The nightmare scenario of a shutdown in the meridional ocean current which drives the Gulf stream was dramatically portrayed in The Day After Tomorrow. The climate disaster film had Europe and North America plunged into a new ice age practically overnight.
Although no scientist thinks the switch-off could happen that quickly, they do agree that even a weakening of the current over a few decades would have profound consequences.
Warm water brought to Europe's shores raises the temperature by as much as 10C in some places and without it the continent would be much colder and drier.
Researchers are not sure yet what to make of the 10-day hiatus. "We'd never seen anything like that before and we don't understand it. We didn't know it could happen," said Harry Bryden, at the National Oceanography Centre, in Southampton, who presented the findings to a conference in Birmingham on rapid climate change.
Is it the first sign that the current is stuttering to a halt? "I want to know more before I say that," Professor Bryden said.
Lloyd Keigwin, a scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in Massachusetts, in the US, described the temporary shutdown as "the most abrupt change in the whole [climate] record".
He added: "It only lasted 10 days. But suppose it lasted 30 or 60 days, when do you ring up the prime minister and say let's start stockpiling fuel? How can we rule out a longer one next year?"
Prof Bryden's group stunned climate researchers last year with data suggesting that the flow rate of the Atlantic circulation had dropped by about 6m tonnes of water a second from 1957 to 1998. If the current remained that weak, he predicted, it would lead to a 1C drop in the UK in the next decade. A complete shutdown would lead to a 4C-6C cooling over 20 years.
The study prompted the UK's Natural Environment Research Council to set up an array of 16 submerged stations spread across the Atlantic, from Florida to north Africa, to measure flow rate and other variables at different depths. Data from these stations confirmed the slowdown in 1998 was not a "freak observation"- although the current does seem to have picked up slightly since.
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Hunger on the increase
NEW YORK -- A UN rights advocate said that millions more of the world's poor suffered malnutrition last year.
The advocated also charged that the trade practices of wealthy nations and desert encroachment aggravated the problem.
Jean Ziegler, a UN expert on food rights, said that some 852 million people were "gravely, permanently undernourished on this planet" at the end of 2005, an increase of 11 million from the year earlier.
Much of that increase came in Africa, where drought, climate change and poor farming practices are spreading the Sahara Desert further southward into once-fertile lands, Ziegler told a news conference.
He also said that unfair trade practices by rich nations hurt food production in Africa, where excess food from rich nations can be dumped in local markets, undercutting local producers.
Africa is seeing hunger increases in both absolute and relative terms, meaning the rate of increase of hungry people is greater than the overall increase in the population, he said.
Still, "only the absolute figures are important, because these are human beings," said Ziegler. "They are living people who die from hunger.''
Ziegler, a university professor and former politician representing Switzerland's socialist party, said solutions to end hunger exist - but not the political will.
Fast-growing trees can be planted to secure fertile lands against encroaching Saharan sands, irrigation canals can be built to help farmers and pesticides can be employed early to kill crop-ruining insects, like the locusts that ruined farms two years ago in many West African countries, he said.
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New research shows the growing threat posed by drought
Research from Met Office (UK) scientists shows that an additional quarter of the earth's land surface could be affected by drought by the end of this century.
Dr Eleanor Burke, with colleagues from the Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Change, has undertaken the first-ever projections of global drought, which was published yesterday (Thursday 26th October) in the Journal of Hydrometeorology.
Results show that areas under extreme drought could increase to 30 percent from today's figure of 3 percent and up to half of the land surface might be influenced by moderate drought at any one time.
The scientists have used a method known as the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) to calculate the extent of drought. This determines dryness from rainfall, evaporation and run-off.
Dr Burke's paper also concludes that human influence, through greenhouse gas emissions, is detected in the observed increase in global drought conditions during the period 1952-1998.
Speaking of her findings, Dr Burke said: "These results are very sobering but it must be pointed out that further research is required to substantiate what is the first look at this issue. However, it does indicate the potential seriousness of future climate change impacts if CO2 emissions continue to increase substantially."
The research shows that the climate model reproduces the global observed trend in drought very well, but is less good at capturing regional variations. Further research using other climate models from other Climate Centres is needed to substantiate these results and provide regional detail.
Drought poses a very real threat to business continuity. It can have many impacts, including:
1) The most obvious impact is upon businesses which rely upon industrial quantity water supplies for their day-to-day activities - agricultural and manufacturing companies for example. Such businesses are often seriously impacted by drought conditions in their regions.
2) Power shortages: in areas where hydroelectricity is an importance source of power generation, drought can result in power shortages and power rationing.
3) Increased risk of fire damage: perhaps the most wide-ranging impact of drought is the huge fire-risk increase it engenders. This not only creates a direct physical threat to businesses, but also to critical infrastructures upon which businesses depend.
4) Evacuations: whether linked to shortages of drinking, cooking and sanitation water, or to the increased fire risk, drought can lead to the requirement to evacuate away from affected areas, for potentially long periods of time. This can have a direct impact on businesses, with business premises becoming inaccessible; employees unable to travel to work; or employees having to take extended periods of absence to care for their own families and properties.
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Australian drought to hurt economic growth, reap worst wheat crop in 12 years
SYDNEY, Oct 27 (AFP) Oct 27, 2006
Australia's worst drought in recorded history will cut its wheat crop to its lowest level in 12 years and cut economic growth by around 0.7 percent, an official forecast said Friday.
The prediction came as Prime Minister John Howard said the "big dry" would put pressure on prices and said an interest rate hike might be best to contain inflation.
The drought will slash the gross value of farm production by 35 percent, or 6.2 billion dollars (4.7 billion US) in 2006-07, hurting Australia's stellar economic growth, the country's top commodities forecaster said.
In a revised crops estimate, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) predicted wheat growers would face their smallest crop since 1994-95 as their harvest falls to 9.5 million metric tonnes.
"The drought is estimated to reduce economic growth in Australia in 2006-07 by around 0.7 percentage points from what would otherwise have been achieved," said ABARE's Executive Director Karen Schneider.
The forecast wheat crop of 9.5 million tonnes would be less than one third the size of the 2005-06 crop of 25 million tonnes, as a devastating drought that has plagued farmers for the past six years tightens its grip on economy.
It comes after the nation's monopoly wheat exporter ABB Ltd. this week slashed its production forecast by up to 40 percent to nine to 11 million metric tonnes from 12-15 million predicted last month.
ABARE said Production of barley and canola is also tipped to suffer, with the barley crop forecast to be 3.6 million tonnes this year, down 64 percent on a year ago, with canola tipped to fall to 440,000 tonnes, or 69 percent.
But Howard said the dry stretch would not have a major impact on overall economic growth.
"The aggregate impact on our gross domestic product will not be all that great," the prime minister told Southern Cross Broadcasting after around half the country's farming land was officially declared drought-stricken.
The reduction in agricultural output would be offset by other sectors of the economy, he said.
But Howard conceded the drought was already impacting prices and warned an expected interest rate rise next month may be justified to contain a bigger increase in the future.
Inflation came in at a higher-than-expected annual rate of 3.9 percent this week, ratcheting up expectations of a rate rise when the Reserve Bank meets in early November.
"I think an interest rate rise is entirely possible given inflation," Howard said, stressing that the decision was entirely up to the central bank.
"What you have to consider is that if you don't have an interest rate rise then it is possible there will be a further boost in inflation because of the strength of the economy and a bigger rise might be needed further down the track to contain the inflation."
Despite the drought, Australia enjoyed a "very strong, even exuberant economy" and that activity had contributed to inflationary pressure, he said.
"The Reserve Bank may well say that the best thing it can do for Australia is dampen that inflationary exuberance a little now, rather than to let it run, and if it does it may have to lift interest rates by a much bigger amount in order to dampen inflation," he said.
But later on in the day, Howard insisted he had not endorsed another interest rate rise.
"I'm simply acknowledging that the Reserve Bank will make the decision and I also make the point that controlling inflation is very important and the Reserve Bank has to keep that very much in mind," he told reporters.
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Earthquake Swarms Not Just Clustered Around Volcanoes, Geothermal Regions
Seattle WA (SPX) Oct 27, 2006
An earthquake swarm - a steady drumbeat of moderate, related seismic events - over hours or days, often can be observed near a volcano such as Mount St. Helens in Washington state or in a geothermal region such as Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. New research led by a University of Washington seismologist shows, however, that such swarms can occur anywhere that is seismically active, not just near volcanoes or geothermal regions.
"In our research we saw swarms everywhere and we could see the broad characteristics of how they behaved," said John Vidale, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences and director of the Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network.
Vidale and two colleagues, Katie Boyle of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Peter Shearer of the University of California, San Diego, examined data from 83 Japanese earthquake swarms over about 2½ years. Their findings confirmed work they published earlier this year that looked at data from 72 events in southern California during a 19-year span.
Both studies examined data collected from swarms in which at least 40 earthquakes were recorded in a few-mile radius over two weeks. The swarms did not follow the well-recognized pattern of an earthquake burst that begins with a main shock and is followed by numerous smaller aftershocks.
"We saw a mix of the two kinds of events, swarms or earthquakes and aftershocks, wherever we looked," Vidale said. "It confirms what people have suspected. There are earthquake swarms and they are responses to factors we can't see and don't have a direct way to measure."
The Japanese research is being published tomorrow in the online edition of Geophysical Research Letters.
The scientists suspect that "swarminess" in volcanic and geothermal zones might be driven by hot water or magma pushing fault seams apart or acting to reduce friction and enhancing the seismic activity in those areas.
Away from volcanic and thermal regions, it is unclear what triggers swarms that don't include main shocks and aftershocks, Vidale said. It is possible that swarms are driven by tectonic movements so gradual that they take many minutes to weeks to unfold but still are much more rapid than normal plate tectonic motions.
The researchers also found that, contrary to expectations, swarms occurring within 30 miles of Japan's volcanoes lasted perhaps twice as long as swarms in other types of geological formations. It was expected that earthquake episodes would have been briefer in hotter rock formations.
The results help to provide a clearer picture of how seismic swarms are triggered and give a better means of assessing the danger level for people living in tectonically active regions where earthquake swarms might occur, Vidale said.
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Troubling species extinctions studied
U.S. scientists say species are becoming extinct thousands of times faster than they have historically, and that is posing problems for humanity.
The statistical analysis led by University of California-Santa Barbara Associate Professor Bradley Cardinale concludes both the number and varying types of species are needed to maintain ecological balance and "services."
"By combining the results of more than a hundred studies performed over two decades, we were able to conclusively show the extinction of species from our planet will change the way pests and diseases are controlled, organic wastes are broken down and recycled, food is produced by ecosystems, and water is purified," Cardinale said.
Cardinale said a third to half of all the species now on the planet are expected to be lost during the next 100 years, primarily due to the cutting of rainforests, development and pollution.
The research appears in the journal Nature.
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Canoeist goes missing as hundreds flee homes in worst floods for 70 years
By James Moncur
A MAN was missing last night after an open canoe capsized on a loch.
The horror unfolded as the worst storms in 70 years lashed northern Scotland. Hundreds fled their homes as flooding caused mayhem.
A mother and her son and daughter, who had also been aboard the canoe, managed to swim to shore and were rescued by police.
A huge search for the man, a 40-year-old German, was called off at 5pm last night. The four had gone out fishing without life jackets in the Canadian-style canoe.
An RAF helicopter from Prestwick spotted it upturned at the southern end of Loch Freuchie, Perthshire.
Police, who managed to haul the canoe ashore, will resume their search today at first light.
Police divers will be on standby at the loch, which is near Dunkeld.
The mother and her two children are from Meigle, near Coupar Angus, Perthshire.
Locals described the conditions on the water as the worst they had seen "for some time".
One said: "The winds had been gale-force since about lunch time and, as soon as that happens, the waves on the loch quickly pick up.
"It would be suicide to go out there in a small boat without lifejackets.
"The water is freezing at this time of year. If you get swamped and go in, you have little or no chance.
"It's a miracle that some of them managed to get to shore at all."
The three family members were checked by a doctor at the scene.
But they were taken to Perth Royal Infirmary after showing signs of mild hypothermia.
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We have turned Iraq into the most hellish place on Earth
Wednesday October 25, 2006
Armies claiming to bring prosperity have instead brought a misery worse than under the cruelest of modern dictators
British ministers landing in Aden in the 1960s were told always to make a reassuring speech. In view of the Arab insurrection, they should give a ringing pledge, "Britain will never, ever leave Aden". Britain promptly left Aden, in 1967 and a year earlier than planned. The last governor walked backwards up the steps to his plane, his pistol drawn against any last-minute assassin. Locals who had trusted him and worked with the British were massacred in their hundreds by the fedayeen.
Iraq's deputy prime minister, Barham Salih, was welcomed to London by the BBC on Monday with two documentaries recalling past British humiliations at the hands of Arabs, in Aden and Suez. It was not a message Salih wanted to hear. His government is retreating from its position in May, when it said that foreign forces should withdraw from 16 out of 18 provinces, including the south, by the end of this year. Tony Blair rejected this invitation to go and said he would "stay until the job is done". Salih would do well to remember what western governments do, not what they say.
Despite Suez and Aden, British foreign policy still lurches into imperial mode by default. An inherited belief in Britain's duty to order the world is triggered by some upstart ruler who must be suppressed, based on a vague desire to seek "regional stability" or protect a British interest. As Martin Woollacott remarks in his book After Suez, most people at the time resorted to denial. To them, "the worst aspect of the operation was its foolishness" rather than its wrongness. When asked by Montgomery what was his objective in invading the canal zone Eden replied, "to knock Nasser off his perch". Asked what then, Eden had no answer.
As for Iraq, the swelling chorus of born-again critics are likewise taking refuge not in denouncing the mission but in complaining about the mendacity that underpinned it and its incompetence. As always, turncoats attribute the failure of a once-favoured policy to another's inept handling of it. The truth is that the English-speaking world still cannot kick the habit of imposing its own values on the rest, and must pay the price for its arrogance.
US and UK policy in Iraq is now entering its retreat phrase. Where there is no hope of victory, the necessity for victory must be asserted ever more strongly. This was the theme of yesterday's unreal US press conference in Baghdad, identical in substance to one I attended there three years ago. There is talk of staying the course, of sticking by friends and of not cutting and running. Every day some general or diplomat hints at ultimatums, timelines and even failure - as did the British foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, on Monday. But officially denial is all. For retreat to be tolerable it must be called victory.
The US and British are covering their retreat. Operation Together Forward II has been an attempt, now failed, to pacify Baghdad during Ramadan. In Basra, Britain is pursuing Operation Sinbad to win hearts and minds that it contrives constantly to lose. This may be an advance on Kissinger's bombing of Laos to cover defeat in Vietnam and Reagan's shelling of the Shouf mountains to cover his 1984 Beirut "redeployment" (two days after he had pledged not to cut and run). But retreat is retreat, even if it is called redeployment. Every exit strategy is unhappy in its own way.
Over Iraq the spin doctors are already at work. They are telling the world that the occupation will have failed only through the ingratitude and uselessness of the Iraqis themselves. The rubbishing of the prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, has begun in Washington, coupled with much talk of lowered ambitions and seeking out that foreign policy paradigm, "a new strongman". In May, Maliki signalled to Iraq's governors, commanders and militia leaders the need to sort out local differences and take control of their provincial destinies. This has failed. Maliki is only as strong as the militias he can control, which is precious few. He does not rule Baghdad, let alone Iraq. As for the militias, they are the natural outcome of the lawlessness caused by foreign occupation. They represent Iraqis desperately defending themselves from anarchy. It is now they who will decide Iraq's fate.
The only sensible post-invasion scenario was, ironically, that once attributed to Donald Rumsfeld, to topple Saddam Hussein, give a decapitated army to the Shias and get out at once. There would have been a brief and bloody settling of accounts and some new regime would have seized power. The outcome would probably have been partial or total Kurdish and Sunni secession, but by now a new Iraq confederacy might have settled down. Instead this same partition seems likely to follow a drawn-out and bloody civil conflict. It is presaged by the fall of Amara to the Mahdist militias this month - and the patent absurdity of the British re-occupying this town.
Washington appears to have given Maliki until next year to do something to bring peace to his country. Or what? America and Britain want to leave. As a settler said in Aden, "from the moment they knew we were leaving their loyalties turned elsewhere". Keeping foreign troops in Iraq will not "prevent civil war", as if they were doing that now. They are largely preoccupied with defending their fortress bases, their presence offering target practice for insurgents and undermining any emergent civil authority in Baghdad or the provinces. American and British troops may be in occupation but they are not in power. They have not cut and run, but rather cut and stayed.
The wretched Iraqis must wait as their cities endure civil chaos until one warlord or another comes out on top. In the Sunni region it is conceivable that a neo-Ba'athist secularism might gain the ascendancy. In the bitterly contested Shia areas, a fierce fundamentalism is the likely outcome. As for Baghdad, it faces the awful prospect of being another Beirut.
This country has been turned by two of the most powerful and civilised nations on Earth into the most hellish place on Earth. Armies claiming to bring democracy and prosperity have brought bloodshed and a misery worse than under the most ruthless modern dictator. This must be the stupidest paradox in modern history. Neither America nor Britain has the guts to rule Iraq properly, yet they lack the guts to leave.
Blair speaks of staying until the job is finished. What job? The only job he can mean is his own.
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RAF man 'saw troops abuse Iraqis'
An RAF serviceman saw Iraqi civilians with bags over their heads being shouted at and abused by British soldiers, he has told a hearing.
Senior Aircraftman Scott Hughes spoke at the court martial of seven soldiers charged variously with treating Iraqi civilians inhumanely and manslaughter.
Cpl Donald Payne has already admitted the war crime of inhumanely treating civilian detainees in southern Iraq.
He and six others deny other charges relating to the alleged abuse in 2003.
The charges also relate to the death of Baha Mousa, 26, in custody in Basra.
Mr Mousa, a hotel receptionist, was among a group of detainees arrested following a counter-insurgency operation in September 2003.
SAC Hughes told the court martial, at the Military Court Centre, Bulford Camp, Wiltshire, he was visiting a British detention centre in Basra where 11 Iraqi civilians were being held when he heard "loud noises" and "shouting".
When he went to investigate, he saw detainees with sand bags over their heads and arms outstretched.
SAC Hughes said he saw Cpl Payne attacking an elderly detainee, nicknamed "granddad" by the soldiers - later identified as Kifah Al-Matairi - and kicking him in the kidneys.
"He then put his fingers into his eye sockets and yanked his head up, it was as if he was gouging his eyes."
SAC Hughes said Cpl Payne had asked him: "Would you like to see the choir?"
Cpl Payne then went around the room kicking each detainee in the kidneys so each cried out in pain, SAC Hughes added.
I had never really seen anything like that before. I did not know why I stayed that long
Senior Aircraftman Scott Hughes
He also told of the smell of excrement, sweat and urine in the building, saying he was told the prisoners had soiled themselves.
A day after his visit, SAC Hughes said he told his commanding officers what he had seen after hearing one of the detainees had died.
"I reported it because I had a conscience," he said.
"I had never really seen anything like that before. I did not know why I stayed that long. I was shocked."
Asked why he had not intervened, he replied: "They [the soldiers] were a lot bigger than me and I didn't know what their orders were."
Under cross-examination, SAC Hughes denied exaggerating or "spicing up" his account.
SAC Hughes is the first British servicemen who was at the detention centre on the day of the alleged abuse to give evidence to the hearing.
Last month, Cpl Payne, 35, of the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, became the first British soldier to admit to a war crime after pleading guilty to the inhumane treatment charge.
He denies further charges of perverting the course of justice and manslaughter. L/Cpl Wayne Crowcroft, 22, and Pte Darren Fallon, 23 - both also of the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment - deny the charge of inhumane treatment.
Sgt Kelvin Stacey, 29, of the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, is accused of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, with an alternative count of common assault.
Maj Michael Peebles, 35, and Warrant Officer Mark Davies, 37, both of the Intelligence Corps, face charges of negligently performing a duty.
And Col Jorge Mendonca, 42, formerly commander of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment - is now the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment - is charged with negligently performing his duties.
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Marine Pleads Guilty to Role in Killing Iraqi Civilian
All Things Considered
October 26, 2006
Marine Pfc. John J. Jodka pleads guilty to charges of assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice in the death of a 52-year-old Iraqi civilian last April near the village of Hamdania. The admission means that Jodka won't face the more serious charges of kidnapping and murder.
Jodka, whose court martial is taking place at Camp Pendleton in California, is one of seven Marines held in the death of Hashim Ibrahim Awad. Jodka is the second person accused in the case to reach a pretrial agreement.
A Navy corpsman who was part of the same patrol unit has already pleaded guilty to lesser charges and agreed to testify against the Marines. He described to prosecutors how he and the others shot Awad after they failed to find a man they suspected to be an insurgent.
In addition to the murder, the group is accused of staging Awad's body to make it look as if he had been planting a roadside explosive. Jodka said in court that the group agreed to lie about the killing. Much of what Jodka said corroborated with what Navy Petty Officer Melson Bacos had told prosecutors.
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Women under attack in Iraq, Afghanistan
By EDITH M. LEDERER
UNITED NATIONS - Women are facing increasing violence in
Iraq,Afghanistan and Somalia, especially when they speak out publicly to defend women's rights, a senior U.N. official told the U.N. Security Council
Noeleen Heyzer, executive director of the U.N. Development Fund for Women, called on for fresh efforts to ensure the safety of women in countries emerging from conflicts, to provide them with jobs, and ensure that they receive justice, including compensation for rape.
"What UNIFEM is seeing on the ground - in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia - is that public space for women in these situations is shrinking," Heyzer said Thursday. "Women are becoming assassination targets when they dare defend women's rights in public decision-making."
Heyzer spoke at a daylong open council meeting on implementation of a 2000 resolution that called for women to be included in decision-making positions at every level of striking and building on peace deals. It also called for the prosecution of crimes against women and increased protection of women and girls during war.
Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno said that, in the past year, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the first woman head of state in Africa, Liberia adopted an anti-rape law, women in Sierra Leone pushed for laws on human trafficking, inheritance and property rights and women in
East Timor submitted a draft domestic violence bill to parliament.
Despite these positive developments, he said, women face widespread insecurity and in many societies violence is still used as a tool to control and regulate the actions of women and girls seeking to rebuild their homes and communities.
"In Afghanistan, attacks on school establishments put the lives of girls at risk when they attempt to exercise their basic rights to education," Guehenno said. "Women and girls are raped when they go out to fetch firewood in Darfur. In Liberia, over 40 percent of women and girls surveyed have been victims of sexual violence. In the eastern Congo, over 12,000 rapes of women and girls have been reported in the last six months alone."
Assistant Secretary-General Rachel Mayanja, the U.N. special adviser on women's issues, said that from Congo and Sudan to Somalia and East Timor, she said, "women continue to be exposed to violence or targeted by parties to the conflict ... lacking the basic means of survival and health care."
At the same time, Mayanja said, they remain "underrepresented in decision-making, particularly on war and peace issues."
Assistant Secretary-General Carolyn McAskie, who is in charge of supporting the new U.N. Peacebuilding Commission which was established this year to help countries emerging from conflict, said her office will try to ensure that "space is created for women's active participation in political, economic and social life."
"We cannot ignore the voices of the women from the time we broker peace onwards," McAskie said. "Peacemaking is not just an exercise involving combatants, it must involve all of society, and that means women."
At the end of the meeting, the council said it "remains deeply concerned by the pervasiveness of all forms of violence against women in armed conflicts." and reiterated its strong condemnation of all acts of sexual misconduct by U.N. peacekeeping personnel.
Allegations of sexual abuse have also been reported in peacekeeping missions in Congo, Bosnia, Kosovo, Cambodia, East Timor and West Africa.
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Confession that formed base of Iraq war was acquired under torture
An Al-Qaeda terror suspect captured by the United States, who gave evidence of links between Iraq and the terror network, confessed after being tortured, a journalist told the BBC.
Iban al Shakh al Libby told intelligence agents that he was close to Al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri and "understood an awful lot about the inner workings of Al-Qaeda," former FBI agent Jack Clonan told the broadcaster.
Libby was tortured in an Egyptian prison, according to Stephen Grey, the author of the newly-released book "Ghost Plane" who investigated the secret US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) prisons that housed terror suspects around the world.
US President George W. Bush confirmed the existence of the network of CIA holding facilities overseas during a September 6 speech defending controversial US interrogation practices.
Libby was apparently taken to Cairo, Clonan told the broadcaster, after being captured in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
"He (Libby) claims he was tortured in jail and that would be routine in Egyptian prisons," Grey said.
"What he claimed most significantly was a connection between ... Al-Qaeda and the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. This intelligence report made it all the way to the top, and was used by (former US secretary of state) Colin Powell as a key piece of justification ... for invading Iraq," he told the broadcaster.
Powell claimed in a UN Security Council meeting in February 2003, weeks before a US-led coalition invaded Iraq, that the country under Saddam Hussein had provided weapons training to Al-Qaeda, saying he could "trace the story of a senior terrorist operative", whom Grey alleges is Libby.
"At the time, the caveats to say this intelligence was extracted under torture were not provided," Grey said.
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Iraqis Were Better Off Under Saddam, Says Former Weapons Inspector
COPENHAGEN, Denmark - Former UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix on Wednesday described the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq as a "pure failure" that had left the country worse off than under the dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein.
Former UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix on Wednesday described the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq as a "pure failure" that had left the country worse off than under the dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein. (AFP/Laura Boushnak)
In unusually harsh comments to Danish newspaper Politiken, the diplomatic Swede said the U.S. government had ended up in a situation in which neither staying nor leaving Iraq were good options.
"Iraq is a pure failure," Blix was quoted as saying. "If the Americans pull out, there is a risk that they will leave a country in civil war. At the same time it doesn't seem that the United States can help to stabilize the situation by staying there."
War-related violence in Iraq has grown worse with dozens of civilians, government officials and police and security forces being killed every day. At least 83 American soldiers have been killed in October - the highest monthly toll this year.
Blix said the situation would have been better if the war had not taken place.
"Saddam would still have been sitting in office. OK, that is negative and it would not have been joyful for the Iraqi people. But what we have gotten is undoubtedly worse," he was quoted as saying.
Blix led the UN inspectors that searched for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. He came under heavy fire from Washington when he urged U.S. President George W. Bush to allow the weapons inspectors and the IAEA to continue their work as a way to stave off a war.
Ultimately a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq and no weapons of mass destruction were found.
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Azerbaijan warns Iran sanctions would destabilise region
BAKU, Oct 27 (AFP) Oct 27, 2006
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev expressed concern Friday that potential sanctions on neighbouring Iran could have a negative impact on regional stability.
"We are very concerned that any potential step to destabilise the situation can have a big impact on regional development in general," Aliyev told reporters in Baku.
"As far as sanctions against Iran, we will not support it. We think they are counterproductive. They will not lead to resolution of this issue -- they will only make the situation worse," Aliyev said.
Diplomats from major world powers met in New York on Thursday to review a draft UN Security Council resolution mandating sanctions against Iran over its refusal to halt sensitive nuclear fuel work.
The United States and European allies are pressing for sanctions against Iran, which they suspect of trying to build up a nuclear weapons facility. Iran says it only wants to produce nuclear energy.
Azerbaijan is a key regional ally for the United States and has also built close diplomatic and trade relations with Iran, with which it shares ethnic and cultural links.
"We have good relations with the United States... At the same time, we have very good relations with Iran. In our policy, these two elements do not contradict," Aliyev said.
Azerbaijani-Iranian trade amounted to 450 million dollars (355 million euros) in 2005 and has grown rapidly at a rate of some 70 percent over the the past three years, according to the Iranian embassy in Baku.
Comment: Destabilizing the region even further is their plan. They have revealed their plan, and peace is not a part of it, nor is most of us remaining alive on the planet part of their plan.
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Cheney endorses simulated drowning
By Demetri Sevastopulo
Oct. 27, 2006
Dick Cheney, US vice-president, has endorsed the use of "water boarding" for terror suspects and confirmed that the controversial interrogation technique was used on Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, the senior al-Qaeda operative now being held at Guantánamo Bay.
Mr Cheney was responding to a conservative radio interviewer who asked whether water boarding, which involves simulated drowning, was a "no-brainer" if the information it yielded would save American lives. "It's a no-brainer for me," Mr Cheney replied.
The comments by the vice-president, who has been one of the leading advocates of reducing limitations on what interrogation techniques can be used in the war on terror, are the first public confirmation that water boarding has been used on suspects held in US custody.
A spokeswoman for Mr Cheney denied that he had endorsed or confirmed the use of water-boarding.
"The VP was talking about the interrogation programme, clearly noting that we do not torture and we live up to our international treaty obligations. He does not discuss any techniques or methods that may or may not be used in questioning," said Lea Anne McBride.
Mr Cheney said recent legislation passed by Congress allowed the White House to continue its aggressive interrogation programme.
But his remarks appear to stand at odds with the views of three key Republican senators who helped draft the recently passed Military Commission Act, and who argue that water boarding is not permitted according to that law.
"[It's] a direct affront to the primary authors of the Military Commission Act in the Senate - John McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Warner - all of whom have publicly stated that the legislation signed by the president last week makes water boarding a war crime," said Jennifer Daskal, advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. "This is Cheney ignoring the consensus of his own Pentagon," she said, referring to comments by senior officials that harsh interrogation techniques do not produce reliable intelligence.
John Bellinger, the State Department legal adviser, last week declined to answer specific questions on water boarding, saying Congress would have to determine whether specific interrogation techniques were permissible under the Geneva conventions.
The Bush administration was forced to work with Congress to pass the Military Commissions Act after the Supreme Court ruled that al-Qaeda suspects were entitled to some protections under the Geneva convention. "Any procedures goingforward would have to comply with the standardsof Common Article 3 [of the Geneva conventions], including the prohibition oncruel, inhuman and degrading treatmentâ€‰.â€‰.â€‰.â€‰," Mr Bellinger said. "Congress would have to agree that theyare permitted under the law."
Asked in the radio interview whether he would agree that the debate over terrorist interrogations and water boarding was "a little silly", Mr Cheney responded: "I do agree".
"I think the terrorist threat, for example, with respect to our ability to interrogate high-value detainees like Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, that's been a very important tool that we've had to be able to secure the nation," he said.
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Ga. man accused of circumcising daughter
LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. - An immigrant from Africa has gone on trial on charges alleging he circumcised his 2-year-old daughter with a pair of scissors to avoid bringing shame on his family.
It appears to be a groundbreaking prosecution for a case of female genital mutilation in the U.S., said Taina Bien-Aime, executive director of Equality Now, a New York-based human rights group that focuses on violence and discrimination against women and girls around the world.
Khalid Adem could face 40 years in prison if convicted in Gwinnett County on the charges of aggravated battery and cruelty to children.
Prosecutor Marty First acknowledged that Adem, who was born in Ethiopia, is from a culture that practices female circumcision.
"But circumcision is just a nice way of saying mutilation," First told the jury in his opening statement Tuesday. "There is no doubt that she was mutilated. And this is not something you go to a doctor and do because no doctor will do it. He did this to his own baby."
The practice, a tradition in some African cultures, is widely condemned by human rights groups and has been outlawed in the United States since 1997.
Police have said that Adem used scissors to circumcise his daughter in their Duluth apartment in 2001. The child's mother said she didn't discover it until more than a year later.
"He did not do that. He never wanted it to happen," defense attorney W. Mark Hill told the jury. "He will tell you that. And that only leaves two people. The people who were primarily taking care of the child. The mother and the grandmother."
First said the girl told Gwinnett County authorities that her father cut her. The prosecutor quoted Adem as saying in late 2002 and early 2003 that if the girl were not circumcised, "it will be a shame to the family."
"He said he wanted (the girl) to have it done so that she will not be promiscuous," First added. He also said Adem implied he had already circumcised the girl.
Hill denied Adem ever made any of those statements and asked how the victim's mother could not have known for more than a year that the girl was circumcised.
Hill said Fortunate Adem's allegations stem from a nasty divorce and a custody battle over the girl.
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British adults 'fear youngsters'
Britain is in danger of becoming a nation fearful of its young people, a report has claimed.
It says British adults are less likely than those in Europe to intervene when teenagers commit anti-social behaviour.
The Institute for Public Policy Research blamed changes in the family, communities and the economy for the "increased risk of youth crime".
Children's charity Barnardo's echoed the claims, saying youngsters have been "demonised" by the media.
The report says 65% of Germans, 52% of Spanish and 50% of Italians would be willing to intervene if they saw a group of 14-year-old boys vandalising a bus shelter, compared with just 34% of Britons.
The IPPR also said teenagers needed structured activities like drama and sports clubs.
Julia Margot, from the IPPR, told the BBC Radio Five Live: "In Britain, as opposed to countries like Spain and Italy, adults are less likely to socialise with children in the evenings.
"So we don't have this culture of children hanging out and playing out in the town square where adults are also socialising and drinking.
"We don't have a culture where adults go out to pubs and bars and bring children with them, and so there is a problem about adults being less used to having children around."
The 200-page report says that last year more than 1.5 million Britons thought about moving away from their local area due to young people hanging around.
About 1.7 million admitted to avoiding going out after dark as a direct result of youths gathering.
Britons were also three times more likely to cite young people "hanging around" as a problem than they were to complain about noisy neighbours.
Pam Hibbert, principle policy officer for Barnardo's, said public perceptions created by the media and politicians had bred fear amongst the nation's adults.
She said: "We have become fearful of all children.
"We know, for example, young crime in itself has remained fairly static in the last 10 years - it is a minority that cause problems and retaliate.
"The demonisation of children and young people in some sections of the media and when politicians refer to youngsters as yobs - that breeds the actual fear."
'Turning a blind eye'
British adults were more likely than their other European counterparts to say that young people were predominantly responsible for anti-social behaviour, and cite "lack of discipline as the root cause of anti-social behaviour".
The Britons who were unwilling to get involved claimed they feared being physically attacked or verbally abused - or that they would be the victim of subsequent reprisals.
Nick Pearce, IPPR director, said: "The debate about childhood in Britain is polarised between false opposites: that either children or adults are to blame.
"In closer knit communities, adults supervised their neighbours' children.
"These days, adults tend to turn a blind eye or cross over on the other side of the road rather than intervene in the discipline of another person's child, often because they fear they might be attacked."
A spokeswoman for YouthNet - an online charity which provides information, advice and guidance for people aged 16 to 24 through two websites - said young people's achievements were often overlooked.
She said: "While young people acknowledge that a minority of their peers can be anti-social, they'd like to point out that not all young people are the same and the majority, who contribute to society, work hard and have fun without being destructive, are often overlooked because the good things they do don't make news."
The report "Freedom's Orphans: Raising Youth in a Changing World" will be published next month.
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Surgery death blamed on jealous former classmate
For five years, the death of Sandra Baker Joyner after a mini-facelift was attributed to medical error. But last month, investigators proposed a more sinister explanation.
As she lay bandaged in the recovery room, Joyner was poisoned by a nurse anesthetist who believed Joyner had stolen her boyfriend back in high school some 30 years ago, authorities say.
The nurse anesthetist, Sally Jordan Hill, 50, is jailed without bail on first-degree murder charges. On Thursday, prosecutors announced they would not seek the death penalty.
Joyner, 45, had gone to the office of Dr. Peter Tucker in 2001 for a facelift, fat grafts to her lips, and laser therapy on her eyelids and facial scars. But she went into respiratory arrest in the recovery room and was taken to a hospital, where she died several days later after being taken off life support. An autopsy blamed her death on a lack of oxygen to the brain caused by respiratory arrest.
At a court hearing last month, Chuck Henson, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg detective, said he believes Hill poisoned the patient by injecting her with fentanyl, a powerful painkiller. The detective said he also believes Hill turned off an alarm that could have alerted other nurses to the patient's condition.
And he testified that two people - the plastic surgeon and a technician - recall hearing Hill say Joyner stole her high school boyfriend. That comment was said to have been made during Joyner's initial visit to Tucker's plastic surgery practice, in 1999.
In court last month, two weeks after Hill's arrest, defense attorney Jean Lawson disputed the allegations.
"There is no evidence that Miss Hill knowingly, deliberately selected this person and killed her. The suggestion that this is the product of a 30-year grudge is outrageous," Lawson said.
Hill and Joyner were students at Olympic High School in Charlotte in the early 1970s. Baker was a member of the Class of '73; Hill graduated a year later.
During a 2003 deposition given to the state medical board, Hill said she knew Joyner in junior high and high school.
"She was one of the judges of my cheerleading experience when I was in the eighth grade," Hill testified. Asked whether they were friends, Hill said no, but "I would see her and her then-boyfriend ... walk around school together because he was in football and she was a cheerleader or letter girl, something like that."
Joyner later married John Joyner; the two separated before her death. Police said John Joyner is not the boyfriend Hill believed was stolen from her.
The medical board blamed Hill for Joyner's death, calling her "grossly negligent" in administering fentanyl without the plastic surgeon's permission and for taking too long to alert the doctor that Joyner was having problems. The plastic surgeon took responsibility for the death in a 2003 agreement with the board but kept his license. Hill gave hers up.
Joyner's family filed a malpractice lawsuit against the plastic surgeon and Hill; the case was settled in 2003 on confidential terms.
In his 2003 deposition before the medical board, the plastic surgeon blamed Hill for the patient's death, calling her "a rogue nurse on her own wild mustang, riding through the West, you know, shooting whoever she wants."
Tucker described Hill's behavior on the day of Joyner's surgery as out of character: "She's flipped out. She's going nuts. She snapped."
Tucker said he reported his suspicions to the district attorney's office. It is not clear why it took until this year for Hill to be charged; District Attorney Peter Gilchrist has said only that his office asked the police department's cold case squad to take a look at Joyner's death after receiving new information.
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India abolishes husbands' 'right' to rape wife
By Justin Huggler in Delhi
For the first time, women in India have legal protection against abuse in their own homes under a law which came into force yesterday. It is the first time Indian law has recognised marital rape, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse of a woman by her husband as crimes. India is a country where the streets are safe - but a woman is not safe inside her own home.
There is a remarkably low rate of violent crime against strangers in most of the big cities, and it is safe to walk the streets of Mumbai or Bangalore late at night. But every six hours, a young married woman is burnt to death, beaten to death, or driven to suicide by emotional abuse from her husband, figures show.
More than two-thirds of married women in India aged between 15 and 49 have been beaten, raped or forced to provide sex, according to the UN Population Fund.
One of the most common causes of violence against women is dowry-related. In most of India, women's families are still expected to provide their husbands with dowries when they marry.
Husbands - or their families - who are dissatisfied with the dowry beat, emotionally abuse and often even kill the women.
Last year 6,787 cases were recorded of women murdered by their husbands or their husbands' families because of their dowries. Many die in "stove burnings": set alight by husbands or in-laws who then claim it was a kitchen accident.
Domestic violence against women is already illegal, under a 1983 law. But the new law marks the first time India has recognised marital rape. Previously it was impossible to prosecute a man for raping his wife, which was considered to be within his conjugal rights.
The new law also for the first time recognises emotional, verbal and economic abuse of a woman by her husband as a crime. Punishment can include a jail sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to 20,000 rupees (£230). Existing law already provides longer sentences for physical violence.
But more importantly, the new law also provides a share of an abusive husband's earnings and property for the victim, and medical costs.
Crucially, it also guarantees abused wives the right to continue living in the family house. Houses are still shared by extended families in much of India, and abused wives are often thrown out by their husbands' in-laws, leaving them destitute and homeless.
"It's going to orient women to stand up for their own rights and take the necessary precautions to empower themselves," said Renuka Chowdhury, minister of women and child development. Previously many women are believed to have been afraid to speak out because they risk losing their husband's financial support for themselves and their children.
But concerns remain that even under the new law, many cases of abuse will still go unreported, unless attitudes towards domestic abuse change. The UN Population Fund's 2005 report found that 70 per cent of Indian women believed wife-beating was justified under certain circumstances, including refusal to provide sex, or preparing dinner late.
Woman killed after refusing sex
Tripla, born in eastern India
Tripla was born in the jungles of eastern India. But she died hundreds of miles from home, in the scrubby fields around Delhi, murdered by her husband because she refused to have sex with his brother.
She was born into a penniless family. So when a man came looking for a wife and offered £170 for her, her parents accepted.
She never saw her home or her family again. Her husband took her to his village in Mewat district, an hour's drive from Delhi. There is a shortage of women in the area, because of the practice of female foeticide.
They lived together as husband and wife for six months. Then Ajmer ordered her to sleep with his brother, who could not afford a wife.
When Tripla refused, Ajmer dragged her to a field near the village and beheaded her with a sickle.
Tripla's story was uncovered by Rishi Kant, a women's rights campaigner. When he told her parents in Jharkhand what had happened, her mother wept. "But what could we do?" she asked him. "We are facing so much poverty we had no choice but to sell her." Her husband is now facing trial for murder. Hers is one case among thousands. Every week, in the villages of Mewat alone, Mr Kant rescues more women who have been bought as wives and face lives of abuse.
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4 firefighters killed in Calif. wildfire
By GILLIAN FLACCUS
CABAZON, Calif. - A wind-whipped wildfire started by an arsonist engulfed a fire engine Thursday, killing four firefighters, and stranded up to 400 people in an RV park when flames burned to the edge of the only road out, officials said.
"Everybody is hunkered down here. They're fighting the fire around us. It's across the street from us," said Charles Van Brunt, a ranger at the station at the entrance to Silent Valley Club, the recreational vehicle park near Palm Springs. The residents were in no immediate danger, he said.
Authorities asked people in the RV park to stay put to leave the roads clear for firefighters. Hundreds of others in the area were forced from their homes.
A Riverside County Fire Department spokesman said the fire was deliberately set around 1 a.m.
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Just Back Off & Shut Your Mouth
Rumsfeld to Iraq war critics: 'just back off'
Last Updated: Thursday, October 26, 2006 | 4:36 PM ET
Critics of the Bush administration's handling of escalating violence in Iraq should "just back off" on demands for deadlines for Iraqi forces to take over security operations, U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday.
Rumsfeld, who has come under increased fire for his role in the U.S. strategy in Iraq, made the comments on the same day as the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq this month reached the highest monthly total in a year.
The U.S. military said Thursday that 96 U.S. troops have died so far in October, the most in one month since October 2005, when the same number were killed.
Four marines and a sailor died of wounds suffered while fighting in the same Sunni insurgent stronghold in the volatile Anbar province, while a desperate search continued Thursday for a soldier who went missing Monday in Baghdad.
Anti-war sentiment high
The rise in deaths has been a major factor behind rising anti-war sentiment in the United States and has placed increased pressure on the White House to change tactics to curb escalating violence in the country.
Rumsfeld also refused to say whether he will authorize more troops to fight the war, but said the U.S. would increase its support for Iraqi security forces.
"You ought to just back off, take a look at it, relax, understand that it's complicated, it's difficult," Rumsfeld said regarding demands for deadlines. "Honourable people are working on these things together."
He said the timelines have no specific deadlines, or consequences if goals are not met by specific dates.
"You're looking for some sort of a guillotine to come falling down if some date isn't met. That is not what this is about," he said.
Polls show a majority of Americans are opposed to U.S. President George W. Bush's handling of Iraq, and at a news conference in Washington on Wednesday, the president indicated he shared the public's frustration, even as he pushed back against calls for troop withdrawals.
"I know many Americans are not satisfied with the situation in Iraq," Bush said. "I'm not satisfied either."
The deadliest month for U.S. forces in Iraq was November 2004, when military offensives primarily in the then-insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, 70 kilometres west of Baghdad, left 137 troops dead, 126 of them in combat. In January 2005, 107 U.S. troops were killed.
In other violence, 12 police officers were killed in fighting with suspected militia gunmen in Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad, officials said. Eighteen militants were also killed.
Gen. William Caldwell, the U.S. military spokesman, said there had been a marked decrease in violence in Baghdad since the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, earlier this week.
Caldwell said violence has in the past tended to spike during that month before falling off. He also said it was possible increased U.S. patrols and roadblocks in the search for the missing American soldier could be having an effect.
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Saddam Hussein verdict postponed until two days before U.S. election: Will the media turn a skeptical eye?
Summary: While it cannot definitively be said that the reason the senior Iraqi court in charge of Saddam Hussein's trial postponed its verdict in the case until two days before the November elections so that it would influence the midterms, the postponement suggests several obvious questions, including, most importantly: Given the Bush administration's history of timing national security-related actions to the political calendar, has the date for the verdict's release been set to provide maximum political benefit for the administration and congressional Republicans?
On October 3, the Associated Press reported
that the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (SICT), the judicial body carrying out
the trial of Saddam Hussein, had "postponed the verdict in the former
leader's first trial" beyond October 16 -- the date it was originally expected. At
that time, according to the AP, the verdict was postponed because judges were
"considering the possibility of recalling some witnesses," and a
court spokesman "said he could not say when the verdict would be
On October 16, the AP reported:
"A verdict against
Saddam Hussein and seven co-defendants charged with crimes against humanity in
connection with an anti-Shiite crackdown in the 1980s will be announced Nov. 5,
a senior court official said Monday. Sentences for those found guilty will be
issued the same day,"
he said. An October 16 New York Times
"Other court officials have said in recent days that a major reason for
the delay is that after nine months of hearings, the five judges in the case
have failed to reach agreement on a sentence for Mr. Hussein and appeared to be
undecided between a death sentence for him or a penalty of life imprisonment."
In an October 17 entry
on The Nation's weblog, The Notion, Nation Institute fellow Tom
Engelhardt noted that the media, in reporting on the postponement, failed to mention
that it had been postponed until two days before the midterm elections,
writing, "It's the sort of thing that -- you would think -- that any
reporter with knowledge of the US
election cycle (no less of how [White House senior adviser] Karl Rove has
worked these last years) would at least note in an article." While it
cannot definitively be said that the verdict was, in fact, postponed so that it
would influence the November elections, the postponement suggests several
obvious questions, which the media have yet to raise: Are there still witnesses
that the judges need to recall? If so, and if there is no verdict yet, how can
there be a date certain for the verdict? How did the Iraqi court arrive at the
November 5 date? Did Iraqi officials consult with U.S. officials in arriving at that date?
More importantly, given the heavy influence of the United States on the court and
given the administration's history -- evidenced below -- of timing
national security-related actions to the political calendar, was the verdict's
date set to provide maximum political benefit for the Bush administration and
American officials have heavy influence on
According to the Library of
Congress, the SICT was established on October 9, 2005, by the
Iraqi interim government for the sole purpose of trying Saddam and members of his regime for war crimes
and crimes against humanity. The SICT was preceded by the Iraqi Special
Tribunal, which was established in December 2003 by the Coalition Provisional
Authority (CPA). Though the SICT is a creation of the Iraqi government, it is
heavily influenced --
legally and financially --
by the U.S.
government. An October 16, 2005, Human Rights Watch report
found that the U.S. Embassy's Regime Crimes Liaison Office "played
the lead role in many aspects of the operations of the SICT, including: the
building of the courtroom, the conduct of exhumations, interviews with
'High Value Detainees', review of seized documents and preparation
of an evidence database, and training of SICT staff."
The Washington Post reported
on January 25:
States has made the prosecution of Hussein -- accused of
presiding over the killings of hundreds of thousands of Shiites and Kurds --
one of its priorities since U.S.
troops invaded Iraq
in 2003. The Bush administration spent hundreds of millions of dollars of a
$18.4 billion reconstruction package for Iraq to exhume mass graves and
gather forensic evidence. It refurbished courthouses, trained Iraqi judges and
provided most of the security for the courts. Americans
drafted many of the statutes under which Hussein and his associates are being
Though the United States is a strong opponent of the
International Criminal Court, the administration's critics say it should have
ensured adequate credibility and help for the Iraqi tribunal by making it
international or, at a minimum, moving the trial out of Baghdad.
qualms about the legality of the proceeding, and about the death sentence that
Hussein could face if convicted, have left the United States virtually alone in
shepherding his prosecution by the Iraqi government. A U.S. official in Baghdad
confirmed last weekend that only the United
States and Britain had contributed experts to
advise the court on how to prosecute governments for war crimes and other such
The official did not say how many
British advisers were taking part; Britain, like other countries, has
expressed reluctance to help in the case because it is a capital one.
The U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Regime Crimes Liaison Office
run much of the day-to-day arrangements for the trial. Plainclothes security
workers, many of them Americans, and Iraqi soldiers guard the turreted,
fortress-like former Baath Party headquarters in the American-held Green Zone
where the trial is playing out.
The New York Times reported
on May 21 that "American influence" on the SICT "has been
undeniably pervasive, with about 90 percent of the $145 million in annual costs
for the court and associated investigations paid for by the United States
Justice Department, and lawyers sent by Washington
acting as advisers."
The Bush administration has a history of
manipulating the timing of Iraq/terrorism announcements for political reasons
There have been several documented and reported instances of
the Bush administration manipulating the timing of announcements or actions in
war and the fight against terrorism for their own political benefit.
- As Media Matters for America noted,
on the October 24 broadcast of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric,
CBS News White House correspondent Jim Axelrod reported that a White House
official told him, "[D]o not expect to see anything significant prior
to Election Day" "as far as a significant change" in the
Bush administration's Iraq policy and then quoted the official as saying:
"You're not going to see anything before November 8th. It would be
political suicide, and Karl Rove would never allow it."
- On September 6, Bush announced
that 14 terror detainees had been transferred from secret CIA-run prisons
to the Pentagon's detention facility at Guantánamo Bay.
As Media Matters noted,
in an article
for the September 18 edition of Newsweek,
investigative correspondents Mark Hosenball and Michael Isikoff quoted an
anonymous senior Bush aide acknowledging that Bush's announcement was
timed in such a way that the administration might frame the debate over
the fight against terrorism in the days before the September 11, 2001,
The timing of last week's
announcement, just before the fifth anniversary of 9/11, was no accident. It
allowed the White House to showcase its successes in capturing terrorists, and
to put pressure on Congress to quickly approve the tribunals. "There were
obviously messaging opportunities," says a senior Bush aide. "We
could sit back and let the war be defined by the media and our critics, or we
can define it ourselves."
Also, in his article
for the September 10 edition of Time,
White House correspondent Mike Allen reported that after Bush's announcement,
the White House and Republican Party leaders almost immediately contacted
conservatives in the media, urging them to promote Bush's speech "in the
context of the election."
- As Media Matters noted,
the media were
almost totally silent regarding an October 11, 2004, Los Angeles Times report
that the Bush administration planned to delay major assaults on insurgent
strongholds in Iraq
until after the 2004 U.S.
presidential election, fearing large numbers of U.S. military casualties. At
the time, TV news broadcasts did not mention the Times article prior to the election;
however, on November 8, 2004, the top story on each of the major TV
networks' morning shows was the U.S.-led forces' assault on Iraqi
insurgents in Fallujah.
- In 2005, former Homeland Security Secretary
said that there were times during his tenure when the administration
pressured the Department of Homeland Security into raising the terror
threat level, even though there was little evidence warranting such a
move, as Media Matters has noted.
A May 10, 2005, USA Today article
quoted Ridge from a forum he participated in that day in Washington, D.C.:
The Bush administration periodically
put the USA on high alert
for terrorist attacks even though then-Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge
argued there was only flimsy evidence to justify raising the threat level,
Ridge now says.
Ridge, who resigned Feb. 1, said
Tuesday that he often disagreed with administration officials who wanted to
elevate the threat level to orange, or "high" risk of terrorist
attack, but was overruled.
Ridge said he wanted to "debunk
the myth" that his agency was responsible for repeatedly raising the alert
under a color-coded system he unveiled in 2002.
"More often than not we were
the least inclined to raise it," Ridge told reporters. "Sometimes we
disagreed with the intelligence assessment. Sometimes we thought even if the
intelligence was good, you don't necessarily put the country on (alert). ...
There were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and
we said, 'For that?' "
According to a May 12,
2005, article in the Chicago Tribune,
the White House immediately "dismissed" Ridge's allegations:
House spokesman Scott McClellan said Wednesday that threat-level decisions are
based on recommendations from a high-level council that gathers information
about potential terrorism. When Ridge was in office, he was on the council with
other key administration officials.
dismissed the notion that the White House pressured the council into higher
levels of security.
one suggested that," he said.
raised the issue. On the October 12, 2005, edition
of MSNBC's Countdown, host Keith
Olbermann documented 13 "coincidences" -- instances characterized by
"a political downturn for the administration, followed by a 'terror event'
-- a change in alert status, an arrest, a warning." One such
"coincidence" occurred on August 1, 2004, shortly after the
Democratic National Convention had concluded.
That day, the DHS raised
the alert level for financial institutions in New York
citing "unusually specific" intelligence. But less than a week later,
it came to light that the information that led to the warning was actually
"three or four years old," according to an August 3, 2004, New York Times article.
- An article
in the July 19, 2004, issue of The New
Republic -- posted July 8 on the magazine's website -- quoted
two sources from Pakistan's intelligence service and another from its Interior
Ministry saying that the Bush administration was pressuring Pakistani
officials to make arrests of so-called "high-value targets"
during the 2004 Democratic National Convention. On July 29, 2004, mere
hours before Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) accepted the Democratic presidential
nomination, Pakistani officials announced that they had captured Ahmed
Khalfan Ghailani, an Al Qaeda suspect in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Soon after, it came
to light that the Pakistani government had actually arrested Ghailani four
days earlier -- before the convention began -- but had
delayed announcing the news until July 29.
- The Bush administration acknowledged
that it timed the launch of its campaign to build public support for
to coincide with the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks and the
2002 midterm elections. The New York Times reported
(subscription required) on September 7,
White House officials said today
that the administration was following a meticulously planned strategy to
persuade the public, the Congress and the allies of the need to confront the
threat from Saddam Hussein.
The rollout of the strategy this
week, they said, was planned long before President Bush's vacation in Texas last month. It was
not hastily concocted, they insisted, after some prominent Republicans began to
raise doubts about moving against Mr. Hussein and administration officials made
contradictory statements about the need for weapons inspectors in Iraq.
The White House decided, they said,
that even with the appearance of disarray it was still more advantageous to
wait until after Labor Day to kick off their plan.
marketing point of view," said Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief
of staff who is coordinating the effort, "you don't introduce new products
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Slave Labor at US Embassy in Baghdad?
Inter Press Service
Several months before a U.S. construction foreman named John Owen quit in disgust over what he said was blatant abuse of foreign laborers hired to build the sprawling new U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Rory Mayberry witnessed similar events when he flew to Kuwait from his home in Myrtle Creek, Ore.
The gravelly-voiced, easygoing U.S. Army veteran had previously worked in Iraq for Halliburton and the private security company Danubia. Missing the action and the big paychecks U.S. contractors draw there, Mayberry snagged a $10,000-month job with MSDS consulting company.
MSDS is a two-person, minority-owned consulting company that assists U.S. State Department managers in Washington with procurement programming. Never before had the firm offered medical services or worked in Iraq, but First Kuwaiti - Owen's employer - hired MSDS on the recommendation of Jim Golden, the State Department contract official overseeing the embassy project. Within days, an agreement worth hundreds of thousands of dollars for medical care was signed.
The 45-year-old Mayberry, a former emergency medical technician in the U.S. Army who worked as a funeral director in Oregon, responded to a help-wanted ad placed by MSDS. The plan was that he would work as a medic attending to the construction crews on the work site in Baghdad.
Like Owen, Mayberry immediately sensed things weren't right when he boarded a First Kuwaiti flight on March 15 to Baghdad.
At the airport in Kuwait City, Mayberry said, he saw a person behind a counter hand First Kuwaiti managers a passenger manifest, an envelope of money, and a stack of boarding passes to Dubai. The managers then handed out the boarding passes to Mayberry and 50 or so new First Kuwaiti laborers, mostly Filipinos.
"Everyone was told to tell customs and security that they were flying to Dubai," Mayberry said in an interview. Once the group passed the guards, they went upstairs and waited by the McDonald's for First Kuwaiti staff to unlock a door - Gate 26 - that led to an unmarked, aging white 52-seat jet.
"All the workers had their passports taken away by First Kuwaiti," Mayberry claimed, and while he knew the plane was bound for Baghdad, he's not so sure the others were aware of their destination. The Asian laborers began asking questions about why they were flying north and the jet wasn't flying east over the ocean, he said. "I think they thought they were going to work in Dubai."
One former First Kuwaiti supervisor acknowledged that the company holds passports of many workers in Iraq - a violation of U.S. contracting.
"All of the passports are kept in the offices," said one company insider who requested anonymity for fear of financial and personal retribution. As for distributing Dubai boarding passes for Baghdad flights, "It's because of the travel bans," he explained. Mayberry believes that migrant workers from the Philippines, India, and Nepal are especially vulnerable to employers like First Kuwaiti because their countries have little or no diplomatic presence in Iraq.
"If you don't have your passport or an embassy to go to, what you do to get out of a bad situation?" he asked. "How can they go to the U.S. State Department for help if First Kuwaiti is building their embassy?"
Owen had already been working at the embassy site since late November when Mayberry arrived. The two never crossed paths, but both share similar complaints about management of the project and brutal treatment of the laborers that, at times, numbered as many as 2,500. Most are from the Philippines, India, and Pakistan. Others are from Egypt and Turkey.
The number of workers with injuries and ailments stunned Mayberry. He went to work immediately after and stayed busy around the clock for days.
Four days later, First Kuwaiti pulled him off the job after he requested an investigation of two patients who had died before he arrived from what he suspected was medical malpractice. Mayberry also recommended that the health clinics be shut down because of unsanitary conditions and mismanagement.
"There hadn't been any follow-up on medical care. People were walking around intoxicated on pain relievers with unwrapped wounds, and there were a lot of infections," he recalled. "The idea that there was any hygiene seemed ridiculous. I'm not sure they were even bathing."
In reports made available to the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Army, and First Kuwaiti, Mayberry listed dozens of concerns about the clinics, which he found lacking in hot water, disinfectant, hand-washing stations, properly supplied ambulances, and communication equipment. Mayberry also complained that workers' medical records were in total disarray or nonexistent, the beds were dirty, and the support staff hired by First Kuwaiti was poorly trained.
The handling of prescription drugs especially bothered him. Many of the drugs that originated from Iraq and Kuwait were unsecured, disorganized, and unintelligibly labeled, he said in one memo. He found that the medical staff frequently misdiagnosed patients. Prescription pain killers were being handed out "like a candy store ... and then people were sent back to work."
Mayberry warned that the practice could cause addiction and safety hazards. "Some were on the construction site climbing scaffolding 30 feet off the ground. I told First Kuwaiti that you don't give painkillers to people who are running machinery and working on heavy construction and they said 'that's how we do it.'"
The sloppy handling of drugs may have led to the two deaths, Mayberry speculates. One worker, age 25, died in his room. The second, in his mid-30s, died at the clinic because of heart failure. Both deaths may be "medical homicide," Mayberry says, because the patients may have been negligently prescribed improper drug treatment.
If the State Department investigated, Mayberry knows nothing of the outcome. Two State Department officials with project oversight responsibilities did not return phone calls or e-mails inquiring about Mayberry's allegations. The reports may have been ignored, not because of his complaints, but because Mayberry is a terrible speller, a problem compounded by an Arabic translation program loaded on his computer, he says.
Owen's account of his seven months on the job paints a similar picture to Mayberry's. Health and safety measures were essentially nonexistent, he says. Not once did he witness a safety meeting. Once an Egyptian worker fell, broke his back, and was sent home. No one ever heard from him again. "The accident might not have happened if there was a safety program and he had known how to use a safety harness," Owen said.
State Department officials supervising the project are aware of many such events, but apparently did nothing, he said. Once when 17 workers climbed the wall of the construction site to escape, a State Department official helped round them up and put them in "virtual lockdown," Owen said.
Just before he resigned, hundreds of Pakistani workers went on strike in June and beat up a Lebanese manager whom they accused of harassing them. Owen estimates that 375 laborers were then sent home.
Recent First Kuwaiti employees agree that the accounts of Owen and Mayberry are accurate. One longtime supervisor claimed that 50 to 60 percent of the laborers regularly protest that First Kuwaiti "treats them like animals," and routinely reduces their promised pay with confusing and unexplained deductions.
Another former First Kuwaiti manager, who declined to be named because of possible adverse consequences, said that Owen's and Mayberry's complaints only begin "to scratch the surface."
But scratching the surface is the only view yet available of what may be the most lasting monument to the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. As of now, only a handful of authorized State Department managers and contractors, along with First Kuwaiti workers and contractors, are officially allowed inside the project's walls. No journalist has ever been allowed access to the sprawling 104-acre site with towering construction cranes raising their necks along the skyline.
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'Stability First': Newspeak for rape of Iraq
By Pepe Escobar
"Stay the course also means don't leave before the job is done. And that's ... we're going to get the job done in Iraq. And it's important that we do get the job done in Iraq." - George W Bush, October 11
Iraq is not simply a US electoral issue. It's a human tragedy of biblical proportions. Hence the urge at this point to situate the tragedy in a historical context.
In AD 750 the Abbasid Dynasty "de-Bedouinized" Islam by defeating the Ummayad Dynasty based in Damascus. The culture of the Abbasid court ceased being Arab-only and started to include Persia and the Turks. Islam turned into a universal religion, no more constrained by geography. "Baldach" - that's what European travelers called Baghdad up to the late 18th century - was catapulted to the center of the world.
From AD 786-809, under fabled Haroon al-Rashid - who established relations with Tang Dynasty China and the "illiterate emperor" Charlemagne - Baghdad gave the world astronomy, alchemy, hydraulics, diplomacy, fiscal administration and the postal service. Up to the early 12th century it remained the most important intellectual center in the world.
Baghdad had been under siege by the Assyrians and later by Cyrus the Great from Persia. But it was only in 1258 that Baghdad was sacked for the first time by what was then the equivalent of Desert Storm - the Mongols riding their lightning-quick horses under the command of Hulagu, Genghis Khan's grandson. Legend has it that he erected a pyramid of 700,000 skulls out of his victims.
In 1401, another foreign invader, the Turco-Mongol Tamerlan ("Timur the Lame"), devastated Baghdad yet again. In 2003, after the devastation of "shock and awe", came the Christian armies of President George W Bush. From the beginning the comparisons with Hulagu and Tamerlan were vivid in the popular imagination. Over time, Baghdadis - Sunni or Shi'ite - were saying, we will dictate our rhythm and impose ourselves over the occupiers. This is already happening.
Quagmire Iraq is not a 21st-century video game of Arabs playing extras in a slow-motion Armageddon. This is a wrenching story with rivers of real blood and a terrible accumulation of real corpses. The story was engineered in Washington - and the plot would not be advancing were it not for the United States. The US bears all the moral and legal responsibility for the destruction of the fabled former capital of the caliphate and the de facto Western flank of the Arab nation.
It is in this context that the current avalanche of Iraq-related newspeak in the US should be placed.
The recent bloody holy month of Ramadan in Iraq has reflected the hellish mechanism unleashed by the invasion and occupation - the daily, gruesome banquet of death provoked by state-sponsored terror, counterinsurgency, stoked by sectarian hatred or the total collapse of the social contract.
This logic of extermination of a society and culture was inbuilt in the process since March 2003. In fact, the systematic annihilation of 2-3% of the entire Iraqi population, according to a study by The Lancet, not to mention the 1 million people displaced since March 2003, follow the more than 500,000 children who died during the 1990s as victims of United Nations sanctions. Iraq has been systematically destroyed for more than 15 years, non-stop.
And it gets worse, because for the Bush administration all this death and destruction is just a minor detail in the "big picture".
In a perverse replay of what happened in the Vietnamese jungles, the Pentagon lost the asymmetric guerrilla war raging in the Sunni belt. Sunni Arabs are totally alienated. Seventy percent are in favor of attacking the occupiers, no holds barred. No wonder Saddam Hussein is still popular. This month, about 500 Sunni Arab tribal chiefs and former Ba'ath Party officials in the police, army and intelligence got together in al-Hindiya, 25 kilometers west of Kirkuk, to pledge allegiance to Saddam, qualified as "supreme combatant and legitimate president".
It's true that Saddam's regime had already started to disintegrate from the inside after the Gulf War of 1991 - a process coupled with the devastating effects of UN sanctions. The resulting loss of civic spirit accelerated the re-tribalization of Iraq. Even as tribal affiliation nowadays is the only way to solve any problem in Iraq, for the silent majority what really matters is security: nobody is troubled by perceived (by the West) Sunni and Shi'ite divisions; and most Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen share plenty of social, cultural and commercial interests. Contrary to Western-propagated myth, Iraqi civil society as a whole - apart from a few factions - abhors civil war.
The coalition of the drilling
World public opinion must switch to red alert. The real, not virtual, future of Iraq will be decided in December. The whole point is a new oil law - which is in fact a debt-for-oil program concocted and imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This is the point of the US invasion - a return on investment on the hundreds of billions of dollars of US taxpayers' money spent. It's not war as politics by other means; it's war as free-market opening by other means - full US access to the epicenter of the energy wars and the perfect geostrategic location for "taming", in the near future, both Russia and China.
Very few observers have detailed what's at stake. In US corporate media the silence is stratospheric.
US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman duly landed in Baghdad this past summer, insisting that Iraqis must "pass a hydrocarbon law under which foreign companies can invest". Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani was convinced, and said the law would be passed by the end of 2006, as promised to the IMF.
No wonder: the Green Zone US Embassy colossus has always made sure that the US controls - via well-paid Iraqi servants - the Petroleum Ministry, as well as all key management posts in key Iraqi ministries. The draft hydrocarbon law was reviewed by the IMF, reviewed by Bodman and reviewed by Big Oil executives. It was not and it will not be reviewed by Iraqi civil society: that was left to the fractious Iraqi parliament - which can be largely bought for a fistful of dinars.
The Bush administration needs somebody to sign the law. The nation of Iraq as it emerged out of British imperial design is an artificial construct that can only be "tamed" by a hardcore strongman a la Saddam. It has to be "our" strongman, of course: when Saddam started to act independently he was smashed. Insistent rumors of a US-engineered coup to replace the hapless current premier Nuri al-Maliki have surfaced of late. Poor Maliki, if he clings to a minimum of integrity, can't possibly sign the oil law. Enter the Washington/Green Zone-backed strongman a la Saddam: a likely candidate is former interim premier Iyad Allawi, who ordered the destruction of Fallujah in late 2004.
No matter what happens in the US mid-term elections next month, this is the post-December scenario: Iraq enslaved by the IMF; Big Oil signing mega-lucrative production sharing agreements (PSAs); "partial" troop withdrawal; relentless guerrilla warfare; further disintegration; open road to partition.
Vast swaths of the US electorate have now understood how the whole Iraqi adventure has been built on lies: lies about the causes of war, lies about the methodology of war, lies about the terrible consequences of war. Inevitably, the current media-targeted avalanche of Iraq-related newspeak had to be also meaningless. This includes "phased withdrawal", "empowering" the Iraqi government, "putting security ahead of democracy" and "partitioning Iraq". Surrealism in international relations would reach new highs (or lows) with the US ordering by decree that a sovereign nation must dismember itself. Compared with it, the current carnage in Baghdad - which is already divided anyway - would be a Disney flick.
There's more: the Shakespearean despair over "Redeploy and Contain" or "Stability First" - newspeak coined by Bush family consegliere James Baker's Iraq Study Group, staffed with plenty of pro-war neo-conservatives. A notorious casualty of the newspeak war seems to be "stay the course" - replaced, according to Press Secretary Tony Snow, by "a study in constant motion". Anyway, the winner - after the mid-term elections - will be "Stability First", which is basically a remix, with a horn section, of "stay the course".
How can Americans - and world public opinion - be engaged in serious, meaningful debate when the Iraq tragedy is reduced to a mere catch phrase? This incoherent whirlwind, this "study in constant motion", is the travesty that passes for Iraqi policy debate among educated elites.
Another reading is more ominous. It spells the Bush administration and its attached elites losing control - of everything. And that's how they can become even more dangerous. On October 19, Vice President Dick Cheney once again stated that the only way out in Iraq was "total victory". A recent historical parallel is nothing but gloomy. When the US was confronted with defeat in Vietnam, it did not "Redeploy and Contain": on the contrary, death and destruction were extended to Laos and Cambodia. Baker's "Stability First" might contain undisclosed subtexts.
"Total victory", in Cheney's world view, means that the Bush administration was not, is not and will never be interested in Iraqi, or Middle Eastern, "democracy". What matters is control of the lightest, sweetest, most profitable crude oil on the planet, 112 billion barrels of it in proven reserves plus 220 billion barrels still to be exploited, at a cost as low as US$1 a barrel; a cluster of sprawling military bases; the largest embassy/fortress-by-the-Tigris in the world; and the indispensable client regime.
In sum: a "Coalition of the Drilling" secured by the Pentagon's Long War apparatus. It's up to ancient and proud Baghdad to spoil the party. Baghdad survived and buried Hulagu. Baghdad survived and buried Tamerlan. Baghdad may as well survive and bury George W Bush.
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La Vida Loca
Christian Zionism: An Egregious Threat to U.S. - Middle East Understanding
Council for the National Interest
Christian Zionism, a belief that paradise for Christians can only be achieved once Jews are in control of the Holy Land, is gathering strength in the United States and forging alliances that are giving increasingly weird shape to American policy toward the Middle East. The nature of the movement and its detrimental impact on policy was the subject of the 22nd Capitol Hill public hearing presented by the Council for the National Interest yesterday.
A new Zogby International poll commissioned by the CNI Foundation shows that 31 percent of those surveyed in the national poll strongly believe or somewhat believe in the ideas behind Christian Zionism, defined as "the belief that Jews must have all of the promised land, including all of Jerusalem, to facilitate the second coming of the messiah." Other polls bear similar messages, that 53% of Americans believe that Israel was given by God to the Jews (Pew), and that 59% of the American public believes the prophecies contained in the Book of Revelations will come true (CNN/Time.)
The international implications of such beliefs are profound, as an increasing number of Americans believe that God sets foreign policy goals. Rev. Robert O. Smith, Lutheran pastor at the University of Chicago, one of the speakers at the hearing, discussed the development of this belief that dates to the 19th century and how it has received a powerful new impetus with the founding this year of a new group of the Christian right called Christians United for Israel (CUFI). And yet while it works closely with Jewish Zionist organizations in the US, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, to promote the continued occupation of Palestine by the Israel (land God has given the Jews), it works just as effectively in dehumanizing the original inhabitants of the Holy Land, both Muslims and Christians.
Another speaker, Rammy Haija, who teaches at Radford University, drew attention to the necessity in the Christian Zionist dogma for the Israelis to retain control not only of the whole of the occupied territory but also all of Jerusalem. Christian Zionists have pushed the militarist policies of both Israel and the U.S. in an effort to secure the Holy Land in preparation for the coming of the "promised land." As part of this strategy, the U.S. occupation of Iraq is deemed absolutely necessary.
The irony of the alliance between Christian Zionists and Jewish Zionists is that the one ideology promotes the ultimate destruction of the other. As Smith pointed out, the "Christians United for Israel" is all about Israel, not about the Israelis, and only a little surface digging into Christian Zionism shows how anti-Semitic it really is. So much so that Abraham Foxman, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, one of the ceaseless champions of Zionism in this country, has called the Christian right one of the direst threats to American Jews. This has not prevented top Israeli officials from paying homage to the Christian right, including Ariel Sharon (before he descended into a comatose state brought on by the withdrawal of the settlers from Gaza, Pat Robertson opined), the Israeli ambassador Daniel Ayalon, and Benjamin Netanyahu, and a host of others. The ability of CUFI and other far right Christian religious leaders like Jerry Farwell and Pat Robertson to raise money for Israel, including Israeli settlements, is well documented.
Christian Zionism, Smith concluded, has a fundamental lack of earthly concerns, is divorced from reality, and undermines the work of politics. Its practical impact is the killing of people in the Holy Land. The recent statement by the Christian religious leaders of Jerusalem that warned against Christian Zionism's policies of racist intolerance and perpetual war was much needed, but it should have come from America's religious leaders.
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US warned of ballot box chaos as elections near
Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
Friday October 27, 2006
Six years after the emergence of the now infamous "hanging chad" in the 2000 presidential elections, monitoring groups warn that technological glitches and hackers could throw next month's mid-term elections into chaos.
With polling day less than two weeks away, a report this week by electionline.org, a non-partisan organisation, anticipates problems at the ballot box in as many as 10 states.
"Machine failures, database delays and foul-ups, inconsistent procedures, new rules and new equipment have some predicting chaos at the polls at worst, and widespread polling place snafus at best," the report says.
The mid-term elections will be the first national test of new voting procedures introduced in the aftermath of the 2000 election debacle in Florida, when it took a month of court challenges and recounts of punch-card ballots before George W Bush was declared to have won the state, and became president.
In the wake of that fiasco, Congress allotted $3.8bn (£2bn) to the states to modernise voting lists and replace the old-style punch-card systems with electronic voting machines by early 2006.
Election officials in more than 30 states opted for touch-screen voting machines that use a series of prompts to guide voters through the ballot. But the new machines have merely reawakened the old anxieties about miscounted votes and deliberate fraud.
In many states, voters will be casting their votes electronically for the first time. The officials at the polling stations may be equally inexperienced, and because such workers are typically elderly and retired, critics say they may be particularly poorly equipped to deal with any technological problems.
Those concerns crystallised last month, when a Princeton professor of computer science, Edward Felton, and two colleagues managed to hack into a new electronic voting machine without detection and install a virus that could alter vote counts - and go on to infect a wider network of machines.
The exercise, which Mr Felton repeated on television, took about a minute to complete. The manufacturers of the voting machine said Mr Felton had ignored newer software and security measures that safeguard against hacking.
However, vote monitoring organisations and computer scientists have grown increasingly wary about the new voting machines, especially those that do not leave a paper trail in case it is needed for future verification.
The rollout of the new systems has been far from smooth. In Maryland, earlier this autumn, voting was delayed for hours across an entire county because election officials forgot to bring in the electronic cards that activate the touch-screen machines.
During the 2004 elections in North Carolina, polling officials failed to notice the constant flashing of a warning light on the voting machine indicating that its memory was full. More than 4,400 votes were lost as the result of their inattention. In that same election year, a software error in Texas polling stations led to a vote overcount, with 100,000 more votes registered than had been cast.
The Electionline study predicts 10 states could face similar fiascos this time around because of computer security, inexperienced or elderly poll workers, and a network of new regulations meant to prevent illegal immigrants from voting.
Over the period of the past six years, the number of states requiring voters to show identification before they are given a ballot has risen from just 11 states to 24 states this year.
The study said it anticipated problems in Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington state.
Comment: The evidence continues to pour in: there is no such thing as voting in the US. To believe there is voting is to believe a lie. The pretense is there to placate the masses as they are being lead to the slaughter.
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Spoiled Milk Sparks School Evacuation
SWARTZ CREEK, Mich. - A plastic bottle with foul-smelling contents that was found in a men's bathroom at Swartz Creek High School two weeks ago prompted an evacuation and a visit by the bomb squad. But lab results show that the bottle contained spoiled milk.
The bottle had been sitting in a student's locker and was left on the ledge in the bathroom, The Flint Journal reported Tuesday. It was found Oct. 9 and officials initially said they believed it contained a mix of household chemicals.
"It looks like it was chocolate milk, old, spoiled and under pressure," Superintendent Jeff Pratt said.
Pressure from the spoiled milk apparently caused the bottle to expand, making it look more suspicious. Pratt said school officials erred on the side of caution, noting that possible threats can't be taken for granted.
"Two police officers and three members of the bomb squad refused to go near it or touch it, and that was good enough for me," Pratt said.
Students were evacuated to the football field and later dismissed. It turns out a student had cleaned out his girlfriend's locker, found the bottle and accidentally left in the bathroom, the newspaper said.
Swartz Creek Police Chief Rick Clolinger said the milk was inside a clear, nearly 16-ounce water bottle.
"I know that after the fact it makes us look on the silly side, that we sent kids home because of spoiled milk on the shelf," Clolinger said. "But all of the right decisions were made."
Comment: The Bush Doctrine of spreading fear is working exactly as planned.
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Passport police wipe smiles off applicants' faces
Little girl and public enemy #1 both snubbed
A nine-year-old girl had her half term holiday cancelled because her teeth were showing in her passport photograph, reported The Sun newspaper.
Alys Edwards paid a last minute visit to the passport office to renew her passport with her parents in Peterborough, but was told that a photograph with teeth would overload the machine that read it.
Digital photographs have been stuck on the first generation biometric passports so computers can compare them to databases of people wanted by the police.
But the systems have not been programmed to understand that little girls are more likely to smile in photographs than plant bombs on aeroplanes.
The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) also shredded the travel plans of their sometime nemesis - Simon Davies of campaign group Privacy International.
Davies has been fighting for people's privacy against state schemes like Identity Cards and biometric passports for some 20 years. Last year, he was labelled privacy enemy #1, and claimed the government was trying to sully his name after being identified as one of many contributors to an academic report that was critical of the ID Card scheme.
On Monday he, like the Edwards', was told he couldn't renew his passport - this time it was a London office and this time it was because an inch of laminate covering the data page of his passport had come free.
As a consequence, instead of renewing, he would have to apply for a new passport, the IPS staff said. IPS staff didn't bat an eyelid after being shown newspaper clippings with his photo and other proof of his identity.
Moments earlier Davies had been the centre of a disturbance that had three security guards run to his attention. A wasp had taken to the air round his head while he was standing at the counter. The staff scattered, while the guards tried to swipe the wasp.
Davies told The Register he had been suspected of bringing the wasp into the office. His plans to speak at a UN conference on internet governance next Monday have also been cancelled
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Expert casts doubt on flu vaccine
Friday October 27, 2006 3:58 AM
Flu vaccines may not be as effective as people think, an expert has warned.
There is little clinical evidence that the vaccines have an effect on things like hospital stay, time off work, death in healthy adults or even those with conditions like asthma and cystic fibrosis, he said.
Vaccines given to children under the age of two have the same effect as if they were given a dummy drug, he added.
Tom Jefferson, co-ordinator of the vaccines field of the highly-respected Cochrane Collaboration, called for an "urgent" re-evaluation of vaccination campaigns.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, he said that, because influenza viruses mutate and vary from year to year, it was difficult for scientists to study the precise effects of vaccines.
Most studies are of poor quality, and there is little comparative evidence on the safety of the vaccines, he said.
In addition, policy makers wanted to be seen to be doing something, all of which leads to a "large gap" between policy and the evidence, he said.
The difficulty in distinguishing between flu and flu-like illness added to the confusion, with some illnesses listed as flu when they were not, he said.
Earlier this month, there were fears that vulnerable people in the UK might have to wait for flu jabs after the Government confirmed stocks would arrive late.
The jab is given to high-risk groups first, including the over-65s, people with respiratory conditions such as asthma, and those with chronic conditions such as diabetes.
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Is A Federal Smoking Ban A Good Idea?
A recent poll claims that nearly half of Americans support a federal law that would make cigarettes illegal in the next five to 10 years. The poll, conducted by Zogby International with the Drug Policy Alliance, says that 57% of 18-29 year olds were in favor of the idea.
This as the CDC reports Thursday that the number of Americans who smoke is levelling off and not dropping enough to meet the government's goal of significantly reducing smoking by 2010.
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Colloidal silver antibacterial liquid sprayed on Hong Kong subways as public health measure
October 23, 2006
Subway and train stations in London and other parts of the UK are considering using a powerful, non-toxic colloidal silver disinfectant spray to help fend off the spread of the flu virus this winter after Hong Kong subways recently announced its use of the spray.
The MTR company revealed this morning its plan to use nano silver-titanium dioxide coating (NSTDC) spray on most surfaces on the Hong Kong metro rail system. Roughly 2.5 million commuters ride the Hong Kong rail system every day, and can easily spread colds and the flu through common surfaces.
The NSTDC disinfectant spray has been certified as effective at killing wide ranges of bacteria, mold and viruses, including the H1N1 virus. MTR announced it would be sprayed on all escalator handrails, Add Value machines, the buttons on ticket issuing machines and all handrails and buttons in elevators in the company's Hong Kong stations. The colloidal silver spray would also be applied to all grab poles and straps within the trains.
"Germs and diseases are most commonly transmitted through the hands," said MTS safety and quality manager George Lee. "They pick up bacteria from public surfaces, which may then be passed into our bodies if we rub our eyes, nose or mouth before washing our hands."
A spokesman for Transport for London (TfL) said London Underground is in the process of developing anti-flu measures with the UK government and other agencies, including the possibility of using NSTDC spray in tube stations.
"We are in regular contact with other metro networks from cities around the world, including MTS in Hong Kong, and we share the best practices and technological innovations. We would, of course, be interested in any measures which could be shown to be effective," the TfL spokesman said.
Consumer health advocate Mike Adams, author of "How to Beat the Bird Flu," said colloidal silver has well-documented antibacterial properties.
"It works so well against bacterial strains -- even antibiotic-resistant strains -- that it has been under constant attack in the United States by the FDA, which sees it as a threat to the profits of drug companies that manufacture prescription antibiotics," Adams said.
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Good News Day
As regular readers of my blog know, I lost my voice about 18 months ago. Permanently. It's something exotic called Spasmodic Dysphonia. Essentially a part of the brain that controls speech just shuts down in some people, usually after you strain your voice during a bout with allergies (in my case) or some other sort of normal laryngitis. It happens to people in my age bracket.
I asked my doctor - a specialist for this condition - how many people have ever gotten better. Answer: zero. While there's no cure, painful Botox injections through the front of the neck and into the vocal cords can stop the spasms for a few months. That weakens the muscles that otherwise spasm, but your voice is breathy and weak.
The weirdest part of this phenomenon is that speech is processed in different parts of the brain depending on the context. So people with this problem can often sing but they can't talk. In my case I could do my normal professional speaking to large crowds but I could barely whisper and grunt off stage. And most people with this condition report they have the most trouble talking on the telephone or when there is background noise. I can speak normally alone, but not around others. That makes it sound like a social anxiety problem, but it's really just a different context, because I could easily sing to those same people.
I stopped getting the Botox shots because although they allowed me to talk for a few weeks, my voice was too weak for public speaking. So at least until the fall speaking season ended, I chose to maximize my onstage voice at the expense of being able to speak in person.
My family and friends have been great. They read my lips as best they can. They lean in to hear the whispers. They guess. They put up with my six tries to say one word. And my personality is completely altered. My normal wittiness becomes slow and deliberate. And often, when it takes effort to speak a word intelligibly, the wrong word comes out because too much of my focus is on the effort of talking instead of the thinking of what to say. So a lot of the things that came out of my mouth frankly made no sense.
To state the obvious, much of life's pleasure is diminished when you can't speak. It has been tough.
But have I mentioned I'm an optimist?
Just because no one has ever gotten better from Spasmodic Dysphonia before doesn't mean I can't be the first. So every day for months and months I tried new tricks to regain my voice. I visualized speaking correctly and repeatedly told myself I could (affirmations). I used self hypnosis. I used voice therapy exercises. I spoke in higher pitches, or changing pitches. I observed when my voice worked best and when it was worst and looked for patterns. I tried speaking in foreign accents. I tried "singing" some words that were especially hard.
My theory was that the part of my brain responsible for normal speech was still intact, but for some reason had become disconnected from the neural pathways to my vocal cords. (That's consistent with any expert's best guess of what's happening with Spasmodic Dysphonia. It's somewhat mysterious.) And so I reasoned that there was some way to remap that connection. All I needed to do was find the type of speaking or context most similar - but still different enough - from normal speech that still worked. Once I could speak in that slightly different context, I would continue to close the gap between the different-context speech and normal speech until my neural pathways remapped. Well, that was my theory. But I'm no brain surgeon.
The day before yesterday, while helping on a homework assignment, I noticed I could speak perfectly in rhyme. Rhyme was a context I hadn't considered. A poem isn't singing and it isn't regular talking. But for some reason the context is just different enough from normal speech that my brain handled it fine.
Jack be nimble, Jack be quick.
Jack jumped over the candlestick.
I repeated it dozens of times, partly because I could. It was effortless, even though it was similar to regular speech. I enjoyed repeating it, hearing the sound of my own voice working almost flawlessly. I longed for that sound, and the memory of normal speech. Perhaps the rhyme took me back to my own childhood too. Or maybe it's just plain catchy. I enjoyed repeating it more than I should have. Then something happened.
My brain remapped.
My speech returned.
Not 100%, but close, like a car starting up on a cold winter night. And so I talked that night. A lot. And all the next day. A few times I felt my voice slipping away, so I repeated the nursery rhyme and tuned it back in. By the following night my voice was almost completely normal.
When I say my brain remapped, that's the best description I have. During the worst of my voice problems, I would know in advance that I couldn't get a word out. It was if I could feel the lack of connection between my brain and my vocal cords. But suddenly, yesterday, I felt the connection again. It wasn't just being able to speak, it was KNOWING how. The knowing returned.
I still don't know if this is permanent. But I do know that for one day I got to speak normally. And this is one of the happiest days of my life.
But enough about me. Leave me a comment telling me the happiest moment of YOUR life. Keep it brief. Only good news today. I don't want to hear anything else.
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Moderate Drinking May Boost Memory, Study Suggests
In the long run, a drink or two a day may be good for the brain.
Researchers found that moderate amounts of alcohol - amounts equivalent to a couple of drinks a day for a human - improved the memories of laboratory rats.
Such a finding may have implications for serious neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, said Matthew During, the study's senior author and a professor of molecular virology, immunology and cancer genetics at Ohio State University .
"There is some evidence suggesting that mild to moderate alcohol consumption can protect against diseases like Alzheimer's in humans," said During. "But it's not apparent how this happens."
He and his colleague, Margaret Kalev-Zylinska, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Auckland, in New Zealand, uncovered a neuronal mechanism that may help explain the link between alcohol and improved memory.
"We saw a noticeable change on the surface of certain neurons in rats that were given alcohol," During said. "This change may have something to do with the positive effects of alcohol on memory."
The researchers presented their findings at the annual Society for Neuroscience conference in Atlanta.
During and Kalev-Zylinska designed a special liquid diet for the rats. One formulation included a low dose of alcohol, comparable to two or three drinks a day for a human, while the other diet included a much higher dose of alcohol, comparable to six or seven drinks a day for a human. A third group of rats was given a liquid diet without alcohol. All animals were given their respective diets daily for about four weeks.
The researchers measured the rats' blood-alcohol levels three times throughout the study. Toward the end of the study, they subjected the rats to two different memory tasks.
For the first task, the rats were given several minutes to examine two identical, square plastic objects. After a certain amount of time, a researcher replaced one of the objects with a new, round object made of glass. The researchers measured the amount of time that each rat spent checking out the new object - an indication that the animal recognizes it as a new object.
Rats given low doses of alcohol spent about three times longer examining the new object than did rats on the alcohol-free diet. Rats given the high dose of alcohol spent equivalent amounts of time checking out both objects, suggesting that they were unable to differentiate the old object from the new one.
For the second task rats were placed in a box with two chambers separated by a door. One chamber was well-lit, while the adjacent chamber was dark. After placing a rat in the well-lit chamber and then lifting the door, the researchers timed how quickly the rats entered the dark chamber (rats are nocturnal, and naturally prefer dark spaces.) Once inside the dark chamber, the rat received a mild electric shock to its feet.
The researchers repeated this same experiment 24 hours later, and kept track of how long it took the animal to enter the dark chamber. Many of the animals re-entered the dark area, yet the rats given alcohol waited anywhere from 2.5 to 4.5 times longer to enter the dark chamber than did the animals given the alcohol-free diet.
"The results suggest that both doses of alcohol moderately improved the animals' ability to remember this negative event, since they seemed hesitant to go into the dark area," During said. "It also suggests that high levels of alcohol can reinforce bad memories.
"People who drink to forget bad memories may actually be doing the opposite by reinforcing the neural circuits that control negative emotional memory," he continued.
At the end of the study, the researchers analyzed brain and liver tissue from each animal.
They found that low levels of alcohol increased the expression of a particular receptor, NR1, on the surface of neurons in a region of the brain, the hippocampus, that plays a role in memory. Researchers think that NR1 plays a role in memory and learning.
In a separate set of experiments, During and Kalev-Zylinska increased the number of NR1 receptors in another group of rats, and found that this boost improved the animals' memories to an extent similar to the improvement seen in the rats given low doses of alcohol. They also they used a new gene transfer technique to knock down the NR1 receptors in a group of rats given alcohol - alcohol had no memory-enhancing effects on these animals.
"These experiments suggest that the effect of alcohol works through the NR1 receptor, at least where memory and learning are concerned," During said.
"We didn't see any toxic effects of low-level alcohol consumption on the brain or the liver," During said. "It didn't damage neurons nor did it cause liver damage during the short study. But the higher dose of alcohol damaged both."
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Study: sun has sisters at birth
www.chinaview.cn 2006-10-26 20:59:57
BEIJING, Oct. 26 (Xinhuanet) -- The sun, our medium-sized yellow star, was far from alone when it was formed, with hundred of thousands of siblings, according to a new research on Thursday.
"The evidence for the solar sisters was found in daughters--such as decayed particles from radioactive isotopes of iron--trapped in meteorites, which can be studied as fossil remnants of the early solar system," said Leslie Looney, who arrived at the solar sibling finding along with his colleagues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
These daughter species allowed Looney and his colleagues to discern that a supernova with the mass of about 20 suns exploded relatively near the early sun when it formed 4.6 billion years ago; and where there are supernovas or any massive star, you also see hundreds to thousands of sun-like stars, he said.
The cluster of thousands of stars dispersed billions of years ago due to a lack of gravitational pull, Looney said, leaving the sisters "lost in space" and our sun looking like an only child ever since.
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Two eyes to keep watch on sun 'burps'
October 27, 2006
NASA has launched twin solar observatories in a two-year mission to study the sun's eruptions and their impact on Earth.
A three-stage Boeing Delta II rocket lifted off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station yesterday.
The nearly identical spacecraft of the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) mission were to separate from the rocket 25 minutes after launch and deploy their solar-powered antennas two minutes later.
The observatories, each about the size of a golf cart, are equipped with 16 instruments that will provide the first images in three dimensions of the sun and its corona once in orbit.
An Australian tracking station will be the first to receive data from the mission that hopes to predict solar "burps".
NASA will use the moon's gravity like a pinball flipper to send them into opposite and slightly distinct orbits around the sun.
The first satellite will orbit ahead of the Earth in its rotation around the sun and the second will follow Earth, allowing for a look at the sun and its mass coronal ejections, which are the most violent storms in the solar system.
The two spacecraft will be the first to view the sun from two separate vantage points outside Earth's orbit, stereoscopic vision that permits a 3D image.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration expects to have the first 3D images in mid-December.
The burps, sudden large explosions of very hot gas from the sun, can knock out communications satellites and cause havoc with electronic equipment on Earth.
Scientists hope the mission will glean insight into solar activities such as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), the most violent explosions in our solar system.
When aimed at Earth, these billion-tonne eruptions of the sun's corona spew intense radiation, severely disrupting the Earth's environment and endangering astronauts and scientific spacecraft.
Information gleaned on the origins and behaviours of CMEs would allow more accurate forecasting, which would improve planning for space missions as well as over-the-pole flights, satellite communications and video transmissions.
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Wow! Striking Green Comet Suddenly Visible in Evening Sky
What had been a modest comet seen only with binoculars or telescopes flared up this week to become visible to the naked eye.
Comet Swan, as it is called, is in the western sky after sunset from the Northern Hemisphere. It remains faint, likely not easy to find under bright city lights but pretty simple to spot from the countryside.
It is a "fairly easy naked-eye comet," said Pete Lawrence, who photographed the comet from the UK. "The tail is now showing some interesting features too."
UPDATE: Late Thursday, however, Lawrence reported that the comet already may be getting dimmer. It is not clear what skywatchers should expect of this comet.
The comet, also catalogued as C/2006 M4, is about halfway up in the sky in the direction of the constellation Corona Borealis [Sky Map].
As with most comets, this one looks like a fuzzy star. It has an interesting green tint, however, indicating it has a lot of the poisonous gas cyanogen and diatomic carbon, astronomers say.
Sam Storch, a long-time sky watcher from Long Island, NY, said the comet appears "quite a bit deeper than any other green I have seen in any sky object, even planetary nebulae."
"Comet Swan is very easy to find," said Joe Rao, SPACE.com's Skywatching Columnist. "In good binoculars it appears as a bright, symmetrical and surprisingly green blob."
Comets, the stuff of legend and myth, are frozen leftovers of the solar system's formation. Most orbit the Sun out beyond Neptune, but a few wander through the inner solar system now and then. As a comet gets closer to the Sun, solar radiation boils the frozen gases, along with dust, off the comet's surface. Sunlight reflects off this material, creating a head, or coma. Some comets never get very bright. Others brighten dramatically. Some even come unglued as they round the Sun.
Some comets, like Swan, also sport a tail or two. Such detail is best seen with binoculars or a small telescope.
Comet Swan was discovered last year. It makes its closest approach to Earth today. Eventually it will return to the distant reaches of the solar system. Rao said nobody knows how long the comet will grace the night sky.
Comment: Original story has pic.
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Star Explosion is Suprisingly Neat & Tidy
Stars don't always rip apart in violent explosions. Some blow up in an orderly fashion.
A star named Cassiopeia A blew up in such a tidy manner that it retained much of its original onion-like layering [image].
We've found new bits of the 'onion' layers that had not been seen before," said co-researcher Lawrence Rudnick of the University of Minnesota. "This tells us that the star's explosion was not chaotic enough to stir its remains into one big pile of mush."
The work was led by Jessica Ennis, also of the University of Minnesota.
Cassiopeia A (Cas A) is a supernova remnant within our Milky Way Galaxy, located 10,000 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia. The original star, about 15 to 20 times more massive than our Sun, died in a cataclysmic supernova.
Like all mature, massive stars, the Cas A star was once neat and tidy, consisting of concentric shells made up of various chemical elements: The outer layers held lighter elements, such as hydrogen, the middle layers were lined with heavier elements like neon, and its core was stacked with the heaviest elements such as iron.
Until now, scientists couldn't figure out what happened to the star when it ripped apart. One idea purported the star exploded in a more or less uniform fashion, flinging its layers out in successive order. If this were the case, those layers should be preserved in the expanding debris. While previous observations revealed parts of some of these layers, others were missing.
NASA's infrared Spitzer Space Telescope gave astronomers a never-seen-before look at the missing pieces.
"Spitzer has essentially found key missing pieces of the Cassiopeia A puzzle," Ennis said.
When a massive star explodes, it creates two types of shock waves. The forward shock wave darts out quickest, and, in the case of Cas A, is now traveling at supersonic speeds up to 4,600 miles per second (7,400 kilometers per second). When the forward wave slams into ejected stellar material, a reverse shock wave is created that tags along behind the forward shock wave at slightly slower speeds [video].
Stellar material thrown out fastest hits the shock wave sooner, giving it more time to heat up to scorching temperatures that could be detected with X-ray and visible-light telescopes. More sluggish chunks hit the shock wave later so they are cooler and radiate infrared light that couldn't be observed until Spitzer came along.
The lagging chunks are made up of gas and dust containing neon, oxygen and aluminum - elements from the middle layers of the original star.
The study will be detailed in the Nov. 20 issue of the Astrophysical Journal.
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New-home prices drop 9.7% from 2005, biggest fall in 35 years
WASHINGTON (AP) - The median price of a new home plunged in September the largest amount in more than 35 years, even as the pace of sales rose for a second month.
The Commerce Department said the median price for a new home sold in September was $217,100, down 9.7% from September 2005.
That was the lowest median price for a new home since September 2004 and the sharpest year-over-year decline since December 1970. The weakness in new-home prices was even sharper than a 2.5% fall in the price of existing homes last month, which had been the biggest drop on record.
The price decline for new homes came while the sales pace picked up, rising 5.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.075 million homes. It was the second consecutive increase in sales, after three months of declines.
Still, September sales were down 14.2% from September 2005.
The supply of homes available for sale at the current sales pace fell to 6.4 months' worth from 6.8 months in August. There were 557,000 homes available for sale at the end of September, down 1.9% from 568,000 in August.
New-home sales rose 23.9% in the West in September and 6.9% in the South. They fell 34.5% in the Northeast and 6.3% in the Midwest.
The rise in sales last month was led by a 23.9% jump in the West. Sales were also up 6.9% in the South. Sales fell by 34.5% in the Northeast and were down 6.3% in the Midwest.
The Commerce Department's report on new-home sales in September came a day after a real estate trade group said existing home sales slipped in September for a sixth straight month. The National Association of Realtors said home resales slowed to an annual rate of 6.18 million from a 6.30 million pace in August.
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U.S. Stock-Index Futures Retreat; General Motors, Ford Decline
By Ludwig Burger
U.S. stock-index futures declined before a government report that will probably show the economy grew in the third quarter at the slowest pace this year.
"We see the weakening of the economy and of course there's some concern,'' said Peter Seipel, a U.S. equity strategist at Frankfurt Trust Investment-Gesellschaft mbH, which oversees about $15 billion. "The upward potential for U.S. stocks may have been exhausted in the short term after the recent rally.''
General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., the nation's two biggest automakers, fell in Europe after the Wall Street Journal said the largest U.S. car dealer plans to cut orders. Microsoft Corp. slid even after the world's largest software producer reported an increase in first-quarter profit.
Standard & Poor's 500 Index futures expiring in December lost 1.8 to 1391.1 as of 10:35 a.m. in London. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures sank 15 to 12,174. Nasdaq-100 Index futures declined 2.25 to 1750.75.
Stocks yesterday extended a weeklong advance in the U.S., pushing the S&P 500 toward a 4 percent gain in October, its best month since 2003. Lower oil prices have improved the outlook for companies most sensitive to consumer spending.
Economic growth cooled to a 2 percent annual rate from July through September as housing slumped and automakers slashed output, economists said before a Commerce Department report that is due today at 8:30 Washington time.
The forecast is based on the median estimate of 78 economists in a Bloomberg News survey. The economy grew at a 2.6 percent pace in the second quarter.
GM fell 32 cents to $34.04 in Germany, and Ford dropped 6 cents to $8.42. AutoNation Inc., the largest U.S. retailer of new and used cars, plans to cut orders to the Big Three automakers, which also include Germany-based DaimlerChrysler AG, by 30 percent because of a backlog of unsold vehicles, the Journal said, citing AutoNation's Chief Executive Officer Mike Jackson.
Microsoft lost 4 cents to $28.31. The maker of the Windows software reported profit rose 11 percent in first-quarter to $3.48 billion. Sales of software for server computers surpassed analysts' estimates.
McAfee Inc. rose $1.34 to $28.16. The world's second- biggest maker of security software yesterday said third-quarter profit was 36 cents a share, excluding some items, after selling more programs to consumers and businesses. That topped the average 30-cent estimate in a Thomson Financial survey.
Silicon Image Inc. yesterday dropped $1.93 to $12.26 in extended U.S. trading. The maker of semiconductors for high- speed communications said it expects fourth-quarter revenue to fall 3 percent to 5 percent from the previous three months. The shares didn't trade in Europe.
Baker Hughes, Chevron
Baker Hughes Inc., the world's third-largest oilfield contractor, reported third-quarter profit rose to $1.09 a share, from 65 cents a year earlier as increased exploration for oil and natural gas boosted demand for its services. Revenue rose 29 percent. The stock didn't trade in Europe.
Chevron Corp., the second-largest U.S. oil company, and Alltel Corp., the biggest regional wireless carrier, are also expected to report results today.
The S&P 500 yesterday added 6.86, or 0.5 percent, to 1389.08. The Dow average increased 28.98, or 0.2 percent, to 12,163.66, reaching a fourth consecutive record even as Boeing Co. and GM fell. The Nasdaq rose 22.51, or 1 percent, to 2379.1, a level not seen since February 2001.
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The Next Job Outsourced to India Could Be Yours
By Mark Gilbert
"We Think, They Sweat,'' wrote author and former hedge-fund manager Andy Kessler in an article on Asian manufacturing and the U.S. trade deficit for the Wall Street Journal two years ago. If "they'' start thinking for us as well, maybe we are the ones who should be sweating.
When you hear the words "outsourcing to India,'' what springs to mind? Customer-service grunts answering queries in call centers from prepared scripts, perhaps? Number crunchers processing and cleaning digits in a data farm? Low-level programmers knitting bits of software?
Here are a few alternative visions. Master of Business Administration graduates scrutinizing earnings reports and regulatory filings in a Bangalore research laboratory, and publishing buy/sell notes. Master of Science holders in Chennai analyzing the debt profiles of global borrowers and writing research about their creditworthiness. Doctors of mathematics in a Mumbai trading room shifting billions of dollars between stocks, bonds, currencies and derivatives, going head-to-head with the guys and girls in New York, London, Tokyo and Singapore.
Instead of relying on countries such as India just to cut wage costs, the world's smartest companies are likely to start tapping Asia for brainpower. Since global investment banks claim to be stuffed with people skilled at divining how to make companies as efficient as possible, they should be leading the charge to hire knowledge workers in locations other than the world's main financial centers.
"Globalization means that banks will increasingly be looking to places like India for future hiring,'' says Steve Major, global head of fixed-income strategy at HSBC Holdings Plc in London. "If your strategy is to just focus on cost, you're doomed to fail. You have to look at deepening the talent pool first, getting the quality employees.''
Entry-level jobs in bank research departments have been the first to drift to India. As regulators around the world cracked down on allegations of bias in recent years, research lost its subsidies from investment banking. Banks responded by slashing the volume of analysis, and cleaving the cheaper business of building spreadsheets from the more costly exercise of writing reports and marketing trading ideas to clients.
"The analytical need to keep the roles whole clashed with an operational need,'' says Darren Sharma, the founder of Frontline Analysts in Bangalore. "We're essentially tribal. Customers weren't keen on receiving market views from a place that wasn't on their mental map.''
That resistance is slowly fading, he says. Frontline has a team of three senior analysts assessing the creditworthiness of financial-services companies for WestLB AG, Germany's third- biggest state-owned bank and Sharma's former employer, where he spent five years as a London-based credit strategist. He's in negotiations to build a second team for WGZ Bank Group, a central and wholesale bank for 240 of Germany's cooperative lenders.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. has more than 80 analysts in India, while Merrill Lynch & Co. and Morgan Stanley each employ more than 50 there. Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s Bangalore office will soon reach 1,500 employees, overtaking its Tokyo office as the firm's third-largest, the Financial Times reported last month.
That shift has been driven by cost. The average 2005 Wall Street salary was almost $290,000, according to a report this month from New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi. That's about 6.6 times more than the nation's average per-capita income of $43,740, based on World Bank data.
Apply that multiple to India's average income of $720, and you get to an annual salary of a bit more than $4,700. Even at three or four times that level for qualified banking staff in India, the cost attractions are clear.
"Research has now become a cost which cannot be subsidized by the banking business,'' says Krishnan Sakotai of Karvy Global Services in Hyderabad, India. "On the other hand, there are some firms who are also outsourcing research in order to gain competitive advantage, something beyond just cost.'' Sakotai runs a team of about 33 people selling research to banks and brokerages.
Most of the hiring so far has been for junior workers in low-level jobs. Frontline's Sharma says that has led to disenchantment among highly qualified Indian employees frustrated at the lack of opportunity for promotion. "You have to recruit commensurate to the job offered,'' he says.
For now, senior analyst positions in India are more likely to be in bond research than in stock analysis, Sharma says. "Fixed income never had data crunchers versus opinion formers,'' he says. "Equity analysts aren't always opinion owners, whereas all fixed-income analysts publish.''
Once you have a research team in India, it might make sense to open a trading floor. Deutsche Bank AG, Germany's biggest bank, is hiring staff in Mumbai for its Global Markets Center, according to a recruitment e-mail from Ma Foi Management Consultants Ltd., which says it is India's largest human- resources service provider.
The jobs on offer include creating hedging strategies for the bank's energy customers, advising insurers and pension funds on multi-asset investments, and coming up with borrowing strategies for Latin American clients. "The teams in GMC will be front-office teams acting as virtual extensions of the trading desks in London, New York, Singapore,'' the e-mail says.
India has a couple of key advantages over China in the race to become the West's offshore intellectual workforce. Language barriers are lower, and there's a diaspora of Indian managers already running business units all around the world.
Most of the U.S. and European literature on the growth of financial services in Asia focuses on whether the locals will lock up their domestic markets before Western firms can establish a beach-head to market insurance and banking and credit cards to the 2.4 billion inhabitants of China and India.
"A threat may come from the use of local expertise to establish a separate rival indigenous financial services industry that shifts the balance of global services toward Asia,'' said the City of London Corp., a local government body, in a report this month on how India and China might affect London's financial district.
Maybe that emphasis is wrong. Instead of focusing on what we might or might not be able to do to "them,'' we should be worrying about what "they'' might do to us.
While I'm not quite in the camp that says we should all be teaching our children Mandarin, the words of former Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen resonate with me. In the official China Daily newspaper's November 2004 online edition, he said the U.S. "is dreaming if it thought the 21st century was the American century.''
In Kessler's 2004 article, he takes comfort from how U.S. companies are "moving low margin, low paying jobs overseas, but, fortunately, are left with high margin, high paying intellectual property jobs.'' Anyone who believes the U.S. and Europe have some kind of monopoly on intellect is cruising for a bruising.
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