- Signs of the Times for Mon, 13 Nov 2006 -



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Editorial: John F. Kennedy, J. Edgar Hoover, Organized Crime and the Global Village

Laura-Knight-Jadczyk
13/11/2006

Cross-dressing FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover presided over the greatest development of organized crime America has ever seen

Did you know that if we could reduce the world's population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all existing human ratios remaining the same, the demographics would look something like this:

60 Asians

14 Africans

12 Europeans

8 Latin Americans

5 North Americans AND Canadians

Of all of the above, 82 would be non-white and only 18 would be "white".

67 would be non-Christian and only 33 would be Christian.

5 would control 32% of the entire world's wealth, and all of them would be US citizens

80 would live in substandard housing

24 would not have any electricity (And of the 76% that do have electricity, most would only use it for light at night.)

67 would be unable to read

1 (only one) would have a college education.

50 would be malnourished and 1 dying of starvation

33 would be without access to a safe water supply

7 people would have access to the Internet

If there is a meal in your refrigerator, if you are dressed and have got shoes, if you have a bed and a roof above your head, you are better off, than 75% of people in this world.

If you have a bank account, money in your purse and there is some trifle in your coin box, you belong to 8% of well-provided people in this world.

If you are able to go to church, mosque or synagogue without fear of harassment, arrest, torture or death, you are better off than 3 billion persons in this world.

I guess you notice that Americans are in the minority population wise and yet they control the majority of the world's wealth. How do you think this happened? Divine intervention? An 'enterprizing spirit'? What do you think will happen if that majority of people ever really gets it in their head that America is an intolerable bully and must no longer be tolerated? Sure, America could bomb the hell out of the planet and reduce our lives to a Stone Age existence, but then that would be rather like cutting off our noses to spite our faces, now wouldn't it?

Today I want to look at some of the words and acts of John F. Kennedy in the last year - and days - leading up to his death, extracted from Farewell America. These words and deeds give us a deep insight as to how he wished to deal with America's place in the global village; that he saw the danger and sought to avert just what is happening today: the entire world is turning against America. As you read his words, and contemplate his acts, consider them in the light of what we have experienced in America since his death. We know where the assassins have led us: a world of terror and heartbreak, of endless war and privation for multiplied millions of human beings; where would we be today if they had not succeeded?

On January 9, 1961, John F. Kennedy addressed the Massachusetts State Legislature:

"We are setting out upon a voyage in 1961 no less hazardous than that undertaken by the Arbella in 1630,"

"For of those whom much is given, much is required. And when at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each of us, recording whether in our brief span of service, we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state, our success or failure, in whatever office we hold, will be measured by the answers to four questions:

"First, were we truly men of courage, with the courage to stand up to one's enemies, and the courage to stand up, when necessary, to one's associates, the courage to resist public pressure as well as private greed?

"Second, were we truly men of judgment, with perceptive judgment of the future as well as the past, of our own mistakes as well as the mistakes of others, with enough wisdom to know what we did not know, and enough candor to admit it?

"Third, were we truly men of integrity, men who never ran out on either the principles in which we believed or the people who believed in us, men whom neither financial gain nor political ambition could ever divert from the fulfillment of our sacred trust?

"Finally, were we truly men of dedication, with an honor mortgaged not to a single individual or group, and compromised by no private obligation or aim, but devoted solely to serving the public good and the national interest?

"Courage, judgment, integrity, dedication -- these are the historic qualities of the Bay Colony and the Bay State, the qualities which this state has consistently sent to Beacon Hill here in Boston and to Capital Hill back in Washington. And these are the qualities which, with God's help, this son of Massachusetts hopes will characterize our government's conduct in the four stormy years that lie ahead. Humbly I ask His help in this undertaking; but aware that on earth His will is worked by men, I ask for your help and your prayers as I embark on this new and solemn journey."

Less than two years later, the final year of this 'hazardous' voyage" began. On January 14, 1963, President Kennedy sent his last State of the Union Message to Congress:

"I can report to you that the state of this old but youthful Union, in the 175th year of its life, is good . . . At home the recession is behind us . . . There may now be a temptation to relax. For the road has been long, the burden heavy, and the pace consistently urgent. But we cannot be satisfied to rest here. This is the side of the hill, not the top. The mere absence of recession is not growth. We have made a beginning -- but we have only begun. Now the time has come to make the most of our gains -- to translate the renewal of our national strength into the achievement of our national purpose . . .

"Tax reduction alone, however, is not enough to strengthen our society, to provide opportunities for the four million Americans who are born every year, to improve the lives of 32 million Americans who live on the outskirts of poverty. The quality of American life must keep pace with the quantity of American goods. This country cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor.

"Therefore, by holding down the budgetary cost of existing programs to keep within the limitations I have set, it is both possible and imperative to adopt other new measures that we cannot afford to postpone. These measures are based on a series of fundamental premises, grouped under four related headings:

"First, we need to strengthen our Nation by investing in our youth . . .

"Second, we need to strengthen our Nation by safeguarding its health . . .

"Third, we need to strengthen our Nation by protecting the basic rights of its citizens . . .

"Fourth, we need to strengthen our Nation by making the best and the most economical use of its resources and facilities . . .

"We are not lulled by the momentary calm of the sea or the somewhat clearer skies above. We know the turbulence that lies below, and the storms that are beyond the horizon this year. But now the winds of change appear to be blowing more strongly than ever, in the world of communism as well as our own. For 175 years we have sailed with those winds at our back, and with the tides of human freedom in our favor. We steer our ship with hope, as Thomas Jefferson said, 'leaving Fear astern.'"

On January 15, he wrote:

"Our 'bet' is that the future will be a world community of independent nations, with a diversity of economic, political and religious systems, united by a common respect for the rights of others . . . But history is what men make of it -- and we would be foolish to think that we can realize our own vision of a free and diverse future without unceasing vigilance, discipline and labor . . .

"Above all, we must both demonstrate and develop the affirmative power of the democratic ideal -- remembering always that nations are great, not for what they are against, but what they are 'for.'

On January 16th, he offered a toast:

"It reminds me of a story of Abraham Lincoln. After he was elected President, someone said, "What are you going to do with your enemies, Mr. President?' Lincoln said, I am going to destroy them. I am going to make them my friends.'"

On January 18th, he celebrated the second anniversary of his inauguration:

"I said the other day in the State of the Union that we were not on the top of the hill, but on the side of the hill. I don't think in this administration or in our generation or time will this country be at the top of the hill, but some day it will be, and I hope when it is that they will think we have done our part . . ."

On January 29th, he addressed Congress once again:

"Education is the keystone in the arch of freedom and progress . . . For the individual, the doors to the schoolhouse, to the library and to the college lead to the richest treasures of our open society: to the power of knowledge -- to the training and skills necessary for productive employment -- to the wisdom, the ideals, and the culture which enrich life -- and to the creative, self-disciplined understanding of society needed for good citizenship in today's changing and challenging world."

On February 5, he sent a 10,000 word message to Congress on the subject of mental illness and mental retardation.

On February 7th, he admonished his countrymen:

"Each morning and evening, let us remember the advice of my fellow Bostonian, the Reverend Phillips Brooks: 'Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.'"

On February 8th, he devoted another 8,000 words to the problem of improving the nation's health.

On February 14th, he sent 8,000 words to Congress on the subject of the need to improve conditions for all of America's young people.

On the 21st, 12,000 words were sent to Congress regarding the needs of the nation's senior citizens.

On March 5, he told a delegation representing the American Indians:

"I know that when I first took this office, one of the things which concerned me most was the fact that there were nearly 5,000 Indian boys and girls who had no school to go to. Now we built classrooms for about 7,000 in the last 2 years."

On February 14, President Kennedy had been asked at his press conference to comment on the attitude of the French government:

"It would seem like, in a way, that President De Gaulle's intention to develop France's own nuclear capability and his recent pact with Chancellor Adenauer would meet in perhaps a rather perverse way, and certainly not as you envisaged it, our desire to begin withdrawing from Europe and having Western Europe assume more of its own defense."

On March 11, he declared,

"Manpower is the basic resource. It is the indispensable means of converting other resources to mankind's use and benefit. How well we develop and employ human skills is fundamental in deciding how much we will accomplish as a nation."

On March 13th, he remarked:

"In front of the Archives building there is a statue and under it it says, 'The past is prologue.' Not necessarily, and it is because we do not wish to regard the past as necessarily a prologue in the 1960s that we have attempted to put forward our proposals . . . 'The great advantage of Americans,' wrote de Tocqueville in 1835, 'consists in their being able to commit faults which they may afterwards repair.' To this I would add the fact that the great advantage of hindsight consists of our applying its lessons by way of foresight. If this Nation can apply the lesson and repair the faults of the last 5 years, if we can stick to the facts, and cast out those things which really don't apply to the situation, then surely this country can reach its goals . . ."

On March 20th, he told his audience at the University of Costa Rica in San Jose:

"What Franklin Roosevelt said to the American people in the 1930s I say to you now: This generation of Americans, your generation of Americans, has a rendezvous with destiny . . .

"We are committed to four basic principles in this hemisphere in the Alliance for Progress. The first is the right of every nation to govern itself, to be free from outside dictation and coercion, to mold its own economy and society in any fashion consistent with the will of the people.

"Second is the right of every individual citizen to political liberty, the right to speak his own views, to worship God in his own way, to select the government which rules him, and to reject it when it no longer serves the need of a nation.

"And Third, is the right to social justice, the right of every citizen to participate in the progress of his nation. This means land for the landless, and education for those who are denied their education today in this hemisphere. It means that ancient institutions which perpetuate privilege must give way. It means that rich and poor alike must bear the burden and the opportunity of building a nation . . ."

On the 23rd, he told another audience, this time at Chicago,

"Twenty-five hundred years ago the Greek poet Alcaeus laid down the principle which best sums up the greatness of Chicago: 'Not houses firmly roofed,' he wrote, 'or the stones of walls well builded, nay, nor canals and dockyards, make the city -- but men able to use their opportunities.'"

On March 25, he welcomed twelve visiting French Generals:

". . . So we welcome you, coming as you do from a martial and distinguished race who have shown a mastery in the use of arms for a thousand years . . ."

On April 2, he told the Congress:

"'Peace hath her victories no less renowned than war,' wrote Milton . . . This, for the American people, is a time for vision, for patience, for work, and for wisdom. For better or worse, we are the pacesetters. Freedom's leader cannot flag of falter, or another runner will set the pace. We have dared to label the Sixties the Decade of Development. But it is not the eloquence of our slogans, but the quality of our endurance, which will determine whether this generation of Americans deserves the leadership which history has thrust upon us."

On April 11th, he remarked at the White House:

"This administration is watching closely the possibilities of a general across the board increase in steel. I opposed such an increase last year. I oppose such an increase now . . . What it needs is more business at competitive prices, not less business at higher prices . . . I urge similar restraint on the steel workers union. With over 100,000 steel workers still unemployed, their need is for more jobs with job security, not fewer jobs at higher wages."

On May 9, he spoke at Arlington National Cemetery:

"It is no accident that men of genius in music like Paderewski or Chopin should also have been great patriots. You have to be a free man to be a great artist."

On May 18th, he declared in Alabama:

"'At the Olympic Games,' Aristotle wrote, 'it is not the finest and the strongest men who are crowned, but they who enter the lists -- for out of these the prize-men are elected.' So too, in life, of the honorable and the good, it is they who act who rightly win the prizes . . .

"I have read much of George Norris from Nebraska, and his favorite phrase, recurring throughout all of his speeches, was his reference, and his dedication, to 'generations yet unborn.' The first of those generations is now enjoying the fruits of his labor, as will others for decades to come. So let us all, whether we are public officials or private citizens, northerners or southerners, easterners or westerners, farmers or city dwellers, live up to the ideals and ideas of George Norris, and resolve that we, too, in our time, 30 years later, will ourselves build a better Nation for generations yet unborn.'"

On May 23rd, speaking at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, he remarked:

"I think it is because the two political parties in our history have always been divided, as Emerson said, into the party of hope and into the party of memory. From the time of Jefferson, I think we have been the party of Hope. And therefore it is natural that artists, men and women who work in the theater and all the other related arts, should find themselves most at home in the party of hope. Up the way in this corridor tonight, the steel industry is presenting to my distinguished predecessor its annual award, to President Eisenhower, as the man who has done most for the steel industry this year. Last year I won the award and they came to Washington to present it to me, but the Secret Service just wouldn't let them in."

President Kennedy sometimes showed signs of bitterness, but that same morning he had seemed listless and pensive. Did he somehow know that his last trip was halfway over, that he had less than six months to live? That noon, in New York's Battery Park, he recited an old Breton fisherman's prayer:

"O God, the sea is so great and my boat is so small . . ."

On June 5, he was in Texas:

"I am glad to leave Washington, DC, and come to the Pass of the North, El Paso, a part of the Old West, but also a part of a new America . . ."

He had so little time left . . .

The following day he spoke at San Diego State College:

"No country can possibly move ahead, no free society can possibly be sustained, unless it has an educated citizenry whose qualities of mind and heart permit it to take part in the complicated and increasingly sophisticated decisions that pour not only upon the President and upon the Congress, but upon all the citizens who exercise the ultimate power."

On June 10, he gave the commencement address at American University in Washington:

"What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children -- not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women -- not merely peace in our time but peace for all time . . .

'When a man's way please the Lord,' the Scriptures tell us, 'he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.'

". . . The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war. We do not want a war. We do not now expect a war.

"This generation of Americans has already had enough -- more than enough -- of war and hate and oppression. We shall be prepared if others wish it. We shall be alert to t to stop it. But we shall also do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just.

"We are not helpless before that task or hopeless of its success. Confident and unafraid, we labor on -- not toward a strategy of annihilation but toward a strategy of peace."

On June 11, he addressed the American people from his office:

"This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened . . . One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln free the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free till all its citizens are free.

"We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is a land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettoes, no master race except with respect to Negroes?

"Now the time has come for this Nation to fulfill its promise . . .

"We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and as a people. It cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations in the street. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is a time to act in the Congress, in your State and local legislative bodies, and above all, in all of our daily lives . . . Next week I shall ask the Congress of the United States to act, to make a commitment it has not fully made in this century to the proposition that race has no place in American life or law . . ."

On June 19, he asked the Congress to act:

"I therefore ask every member of Congress to set aside sectional and political ties, and to look at this issue from the viewpoint of the Nation. I ask you to look into your hearts -- not in search of charity, for the Negro neither wants nor needs condescension -- but for the one plain, proud and priceless quality that unites us all as Americans: a sense of Justice. In this year of the Emancipation Centennial, justice requires us to insure the blessings of liberty for all Americans and their posterity -- not merely for reasons of economic efficiency, world diplomacy and domestic tranquillity -- but, above all, because it is right."

He also asked Congress to establish an Advisory Council on the Arts:

"As education needs schools, so art needs museums, actors and playwrights need theaters, and composers and musicians need opera companies and orchestras . . .

"The concept of the public welfare should reflect cultural as well as economic considerations. We have agencies of the Government which are concerned with the welfare and advancement of science and technology, of education, recreation, and health. We should now begin to give similar attention to the arts. I am particularly interested in the opportunities for young people to develop their gifts . . ."

At Frankfurt on June 25, he remarked:

"But Goethe tells us in his greatest poem that Faust lost the liberty of his soul when he said to the passing moment, 'Stay, thou art so fair.' And our liberty, too, is endangered if we pause for the passing moment, if we rest on our achievements, if we resist the pace of progress. For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future . . .

"So we are all idealists. We are all visionaries. Let it not be said of this Atlantic generation that we left ideals and visions to the past, nor purpose and determination to our adversaries. We have come too far, we have sacrificed too much, to disdain the future now. And we shall ever remember what Goethe told us -- that the 'highest wisdom, the best that mankind ever knew,' was the realization that 'he only earns his freedom and existence who daily conquers them anew.'"

At Dublin on June 28, he declared:

"The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics, whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were, and ask why not . . ."

On June 29, as he left his beloved Ireland, he read a poem:

Tis it is the Shannon's brightly glancing stream, Brightly gleaming, silent in the morning beam Oh, the sight entrancing, Thus returns from travels long, Years of exile, years of pain, To see old Shannon's face again, O'er the waters dancing.

"Well, I am going to come back and see old Shannon's face again and I am taking, as I go back to America, all of you with me . . ."

He never went back except in spirit...

On July 17, he declared:

"The United States has to move very fast to even stand still . . . We are going to have to find in the next decade 22 million jobs to take care of those coming into the labor market and those who are eliminated by technological gains . . ."

On July 26, he told American people:

"Yesterday a shaft of light cut into the darkness. Negations were concluded in Moscow on a treaty to ban all nuclear tests in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water . . .

"This treaty is for all of us. It is particularly for our children and our grandchildren, and they have no lobby here in Washington . . . (But now) for the first time in many years, the path of peace may be open. No one can be certain what the future will bring. No one can say whether the time has come for an easing of the struggle. But history and our own conscience will judge us harsher if we do not now make every effort to test our hopes by action, and this is the place to begin. According to the Ancient Chinese proverb, 'A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.' My fellow Americans, let us take that first step. Let us, if we can, step back from the shadows of war and seek out the way of peace. And if that journey is a thousand miles, or even more, let history record that we, in this land, at this time, took the first step . . ."

On August 1, he remarked:

"I think we will see a very changing world in 1964 . . ."

And that same day he warned:

"The end of this summer of 1963 will be an especially critical time for 400,000 young Americans who, according to the experience of earlier years, will not return to school when the summer is ended. Moreover, without a special effort to reverse this trend, another 700,000 students will return to school in September, but will fail to complete the school year . . ."

And, turning to another subject:

"I think there has been a common recognition that there is the necessity for revolution in Latin America, and it is either going to be peaceful or bloody. But there must be progress, there must be revolution . . ."

August 24 marked the beginning of the repressions against the Buddhists in South Vietnam. At the beginning of September, President Kennedy dispatched a new information mission to Saigon. A General and a diplomat made an inspection tour of the countryside and reported back to the National Security Council. General Krulack declared that the South Vietnamese troops were fighting magnificently, that the Diem government was popular with the people, and that there was no reason for concern. The diplomat, J. Mendenhall, reported that the country was in a desperate situation, that the Diem regime was on the brink of collapse, and recommended that Nehru be removed from power. Whereupon President Kennedy asked them if they were sure they had both visited the same country.

On August 27, he remarked, ". . . To govern is to choose . . ."

On September 2,

"I don't think that unless a greater effort is made by the Government (of South Vietnam) to win popular support that the war can be won out there. In the final analysis it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it, the people of Vietnam against the Communists. We are prepared to continue to assist them, but I don't think that the war can be won unless the people support the effort and, in my opinion, in the last two months, the government has gotten out of touch with the people."

On September 14, 1963 at Bismarck, North Dakota, Bobby Kennedy acknowledged before the Congress of American Indians that Indian children received insufficient education, that the Indians were poorly housed, often out of work, and that their sanitary conditions were the poorest of any racial group in the United States. He called their situation "tragically ironic" in view of the fact that they were the only group in the country who had the right to call themselves "the first American."

On September 20, John Kennedy addressed the United Nations General Assembly:

"The world has not escaped from the darkness. The long shadows of conflict and crisis envelop us still . . . My presence here today is not a sign of crisis, but of confidence . . . we believe that all the world -- in Eastern Europe as well as Western, in Southern Africa as well as Northern, in old nations as well as new --the people must be free to choose their own future, without discrimination or dictation, without coercion or subversion . . .

"Why should the United States and the Soviet Union, in preparing for such . . . expeditions, become involved in immense duplications of research, construction, and expenditure? Surely we should explore whether the scientists and astronauts of our two countries -- indeed of all the world -- cannot work together in the conquest of space, sending some day in this decade to the moon not the representatives of a single nation, but the representatives of all our countries . . .

"The contest will continue -- the contest between those who see a monolithic world and those who believe in diversity -- but it should be a contest in leadership and responsibility instead of destruction, a contest in achievement instead of intimidation. Speaking for the United States of America, I welcome such a contest. For we believe that truth is stronger than error -and that freedom is more enduring than coercion. And in the contest for a better life, all the world can be a winner . . .

"Never before has man had such capacity to control his own environment, to end thirst and hunger, to conquer poverty and disease, to banish illiteracy and massive human misery. We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world -- or to make it the last . . .

"For as the world renounces the competition of weapons, competition in ideas must flourish -- and that competition must be as full and as fair as possible. What the United Nations has done in the past in less important than the tasks for the future . . .

"My fellow inhabitants of this planet: let us take our stand here in this assembly of nations. And let us see if we, in our own time, can move the world to a just and lasting peace."

On September 23, he wrote:

"The American Presidency is a formidable, exposed, and somewhat mysterious institution. It is formidable because it represents the point of ultimate decision in the American political system. It is exposed because decision cannot take place in a vacuum: the Presidency is the center of the play of pressure, interest, and idea in the Nation; and the Presidential office is the vortex into which all the elements of national decision are irresistibly drawn. And it is mysterious because the essence of ultimate decision remains impenetrable to the observer -- often, indeed, to the decider himself.

"Yet if the process of presidential decision is obscure, the necessity for it is all too plain. To govern, as wise men have said, is to choose. Lincoln observed that we cannot escape history. It is equally true that we cannot escape choice; and for an American President, choice is charged with a peculiar and daunting responsibility for the safety and welfare of the Nation. A President must choose among men, among measures, among methods. His choice helps determine the issues of his Presidency, their priority in the national life, and the mode and success of their execution. The heart of the Presidency is therefore informed, prudent and resolute choice -- and the secret of the presidential enterprise is to be found in an examination of the way presidential choices are made."

The following day he left to tour the West.

"We are reaching the limits of our fundamental needs -- of water to drink, of fresh air to breathe, of open space to enjoy, of abundant sources of energy to make life easier . . .

"Have we ever thought why such a small proportion of our beaches should be available for public use, how it is that so many of our great cities have been developed without parks or playgrounds, why so many of our rivers are so polluted, why the air we breathe is so impure, or why the erosion of our land was permitted to run so large as it has in this state (Pennsylvania), and in Ohio, and all the way to the West Coast . . .

"I don't know why it should be that 6 or 7 percent only of the whole Atlantic Coast should be in the public sphere and the rest owned by private citizens and denied to many millions of our fellow citizens."

On September 25, he declared:

"We must today prepare for those who are our heirs. The steps we take in conservation and reclamation will have very little effect upon all of us here immediately, and in this decade. What we are doing in the real sense is preparing for those who come after us . . ."

On September 26th, he added:

"I urge this generation of Americans who are the fathers and mothers of 350 million Americans who will live in this country in the year 2000, and I want those Americans who live in 2000 to feel that those of us who had positions of responsibility in the Sixties did our part . . ."

And the same day he revealed the key to his thinking:

"If this nation is to survive and succeed in the real world of today, we must acknowledge the realities of the world; and it is those realities that I mention now.

"We must first of all recognize that we cannot remake the world simply by our own command. When we cannot even bring all of our own people into full citizenship without acts of violence, we can understand how much harder it is to control events beyond our borders . . .

"Every nation has its own traditions, its own values, its own aspirations. Our assistance from time to time can help other nations preserve their independence and advance their growth, but we cannot remake them in our own image. We cannot enact their laws, nor can we operate their governments or dictate our policies.

"Second, we must recognize that every nation determines its policies in terms of its own interests. 'No nation,' George Washington wrote, 'is to be trusted further than it is bound by its interest; and no prudent statesman or politician will depart from it.' National interest is more powerful than ideology, and the recent developments within the Communist empire show this very clearly. Friendship, as Palmerston said, may rise or wane, but interests endure.

"The United States has rightly determined, in the years since 1945 under three different administrations, that our interest, our national security, the interest of the United States of America, is best served by preserving and protecting a world of diversity in which no one power or no one combination of powers can threaten the security of the United States.

"The reason that we moved so far into the world was our fear that at the end of the war, and particularly when China became Communist, that Japan and Germany would collapse, and these two countries which had so long served as a barrier to the Soviet advance, and the Russian advance before that, would open up a wave of conquest of all Europe and all of Asia, and then the balance of power turning against us, we would finally be isolated and ultimately destroyed. That is what we have been engaged in for 18 years, to prevent that happening, to prevent any one monolithic power having sufficient force to destroy the United States.

"And third, we must recognize that foreign policy in the modern world does not lend itself to easy, simple black and white solution. If we were to have diplomatic relations only with those countries whose principles we approved of, we would have relations with very few countries in a very short time. If were to withdraw our assistance from all governments who are run differently from our own, we would relinquish half the world immediately to our adversaries. If we were to treat foreign policy as merely a medium for delivering self-righteous sermons to supposedly inferior people, we would give up all thought of world influence or world leadership.

"For the purpose of foreign policy is not to provide an outlet for our own sentiments of hope or indignation; it is to shape real events in a real world. We cannot adopt a policy which says that if something does not happen, or others do not do exactly what we wish, we will return to 'Fortress America.' That is the policy in this changing world of retreat, not of strength . . .

"The position of the United States, I believe, is happier and safer when history is going for us rather than when it is going against us. And we have history going for us today, but history is what men make it. The future is what men make it . . ."[This passage is taken from a speech given by the President at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. Some commentators attacked it as "communistic."]

On September 27th, he mused, "what green grass will they see . . ." He had less than two months left...

On September 28, he learned that there were 190 million Americans. On October 9, he told the press that he had consented to the sale by private dealers of surplus American wheat or wheat flour to the Soviet Union. He also remarked:

"We are opposed to military coups, and it is the reason that we have broken off our relations with the Dominican Republic and Honduras . . . we are opposed to coups, because we think that they are defeating -- self-defeating, and defeating for the hemisphere . . ."

The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed on October 7, 1963.

On October 12, he noted:

"That is always true, the first voyages are the hard ones and they require the perseverance and character. And I think that is a good lesson for all of us today as we attempt new things. The first voyages, as all of us know, are the more difficult, whether it is going into space, going to the bottom of the ocean, building a better country here, building a more prosperous country. The first voyage through our history has always been the most difficult . . ."

On October 18, he told a group of visitors from New Haven:

"New Haven is typical of many cities faced by complex, interwoven problems. Ours is an age of great mobility. Each year thousands of families move from rural areas to urban slums. They come seeking better lives, but often find only new, unexpected barriers. These people find themselves in strange alien surroundings. Many have the added problem of racial discrimination. Much of the housing available to them is substandard. Most of them come without skills, seeking jobs, at a time when modern technology is rapidly making skilled training essential to employment. Their children enter already overcrowded schools, and often believe their studies bear little relation to the realities of their lives. Many of them drop out of school, only to become part of the growing army of unemployed youth. Health and recreational facilities for these young people are inadequate, and they are surrounded by crime, illiteracy, illegitimacy, and human despair. Finding no work and little hope, too many of them turn to juvenile crime to obtain the material goods they think the society has denied them. Others turn to drink and narcotics addiction. And soon the cycle repeats itself, as this dispossessed generation bears children little better equipped than their parents to cope with urban life . . ."

That same day he reminded his listeners of that poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay:

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand. Come see my shining palace. It is built upon the sand.

On October 24, he concerned himself with the problem of retarded children. He had less than one month left...

On October 26th, at Amherst College, he honored poet Robert Frost:

"With privilege goes responsibility. Robert Frost said:

The roads diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.

"In America, our heroes have customarily run to men of large accomplishments. But today this college and country honors a man whose contribution was not to our size but to our spirit, not to our political beliefs but to our insight, not to our self-esteem, but to our self-comprehension. In honoring Robert Frost, we therefore can pay honor to the deepest sources of our national strength. That strength takes many forms, and the most obvious forms are not always the most significant. The men who create power make an indispensable contribution to the Nation's greatness, but the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensable, especially when that questioning is disinterested, for they determine whether we use power or power uses us . . . When power narrows the areas of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses . . .

"I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist. If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him. We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth . . . Robert Frost was often skeptical about projects for human improvement, yet I do not think he would disdain this (American and world) hope. As he wrote during the uncertain days of the Second War:

Take human nature altogether since time began And it must be a little more in favor of man, Say a fraction of one percent at the very least . . . Our hold on the planet wouldn't have so increased . . .

On October 30th, he spoke at Philadelphia:

". . . May I repeat the words with which I summarized my view of America three years ago: 'I believe in an America that is on the march, an America respected by all nations, friends and foes alike, an America that is moving, doing, working, trying, a strong America in a world of peace.' That was my credo then and that is my credo now . . .

"In the words which concluded an historic address to our party by the great American Claude Bowers, some 35 years ago, in the '28 campaign:

Now has come the time for action. Clear away all thought of faction out from vacillating shame, every man no lie contain Let him answer to his name. Call the roll.

The following day, President Kennedy signed a bill providing for the construction of mental retardation facilities and community mental health centers.

Diem and Nhu were assassinated on November 1, 1963. Kennedy was accused of ordering or allowing it. However, that is doubtful considering the fact that he, himself, was already the object of an assassination plot by the same forces.

November 5 was Thanksgiving Day, and it marked John F. Kennedy's 1,019th day in office.

"Yet, as our power has grown, so has our peril. Today we give our thanks, most of all, for the ideals of honor and faith we inherit from our forefathers -- for the decency of purpose, steadfastness of resolve and strength of will, for the courage and the humility, which they possessed and which we must seek every day to emulate. As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them. Let us therefore proclaim our gratitude to Providence for manifold blessings -- let us be humbly thankful for inherited ideals -- and let us resolve to share those blessings and those ideals with our fellow human beings throughout the world . . . On that day let us gather in sanctuaries dedicated to worship and in homes blessed by family affection to express our gratitude for the glorious gifts of God; and let us earnestly and humbly pray that He will continue to guide and sustain us in the great unfinished tasks of achieving peace, justice and understanding among all men and nations and of ending misery and suffering wherever they exist . . ."

On November 8th, the 1,022nd day he declared:

"The Family of Man is more than three billion strong. It lives in more than 100 nations. Most of its members are not white. Most of them are not Christians. Most of them know nothing about free enterprise or due process of law or the Australian ballot. If our society is to promote the Family of Man, let us realize the magnitude of our task. This is a sobering assignment. For the Family of Man in the world of today is not faring very well . . .

"Even little wars are dangerous in this nuclear world . . . The Korean conflict alone, forgetting for a moment the thousands of Americans who lost their lives, cost four times as much as our total world-wide aid budget for the current year . . .

"I do not want it said of us what T. S. Eliot said of others some years ago: 'These were a decent people. Their only monuments: the asphalt road and a thousand lost golf balls . . .'

"The struggle is by no means over. It is essential that we not only maintain our effort, but that we persevere; that we not only endure, in Mr. Faulkner's words, but also prevail. It is essential, in short, that the word go forth from the United States to all who are concerned about the future of the Family of Man that we are not weary in well-doing. And we shall, I am confident, if we maintain the pace, we shall in due season reap the kind of world we deserve and deserve the kind of world we still have."

In the days that followed he welcomed the members of the Black Watch regiment, met for the last time with the members of the press, turned once more to the problems of the children and the aged, and told this story to the delegates to the AFL-CIO Convention:

"Marshal Lyautey, the great French Marshal, went out to his gardener and asked him to plant a tree. The gardener said, "Why plant it? It won't flower for 100 years.' 'In that case,' the Marshal said, 'plant it this afternoon.'"

Now, let us continue to examine those forces that were gathering to destroy John Kennedy and how they looked at the Global Village. I think that the reader will agree that those things that John and Bobby Kennedy sought to change, the criminal element in our society, have only expanded to the point that there is no escaping the fate that awaits America the Bully. And since it was an alliance of Big Business, Political Interests, and Organized Crime that conspired to kill both of the Kennedy brothers, it may be reasonably assumed that those are the elements that have run this country ever since and that the Bush family are part of this consortium. Anyone with open eyes can see where it all is heading. And for those who dreamily believe that a change in party is going to make one bit of difference, think again. Keep in mind that the following was written in 1968.

From Farewell America:

"It's like Chicago in the Al Capone days," declared John Irwin, first assistant District Attorney of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, in 1967, noting that in the past six years there had been 45 gangland murders in the Boston area alone. Writing in the Saturday Evening Post,(1) Bill Davidson added, "On an even higher level, the New England Mafia has contacts among a group of millionaire pillars of the community," and Charles Rogovin, head of the Organized Crime Section of the Massachusetts Attorney General's office, remarked, "Since I came here from President Johnson's Crime Commission, I feel as if I've been watching old gangster movies. The other families of the Mafia have become much more subtle in their killing. Their victims mostly just disappear -- and there's no heat, no hue and cry. But here they brazenly shoot them down at high noon on a busy street."

Despite theses remarks, Massachusetts is not first among the criminal states, and neither Boston nor Worcester nor Springfield figure among the key cities in the industry of crime, the foremost industry in the United States. The vigorous action taken by the Justice Department and the FBI against the New England Mafia in the past two years was inspired more by political than by technical considerations. The Empire of Crime remains intact. The annual budget of the private government of organized crime was estimated in 1960 at $60 billion, more than the budget of the Department of Defense ($47.5 billion).(2)

Organized crime could never have survived and developed on a large scale without the "protection of the law-enforcement agencies."(3) Face-to-face with organized crime, or rather side-by-side, stands a police force that often ignores its existence, and sometimes even supports it. On June 15, 1961, Attorney General Robert Kennedy declared, "The problem of organized crime will not really be solved as long as the attitude of the American people remains what it is -- acceptance of crime and corruption," and as long as Americans are only interested in "getting a bigger TV set, a bigger car, and earning an extra buck."

Robert Kennedy's career began in 1951 as a lawyer in the criminal division of the Justice Department. In 1953, he became one of the five assistants of Roy Cohn, chief legal counsel for Senator McCarthy, chairman of the Investigations Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Government Operations. He took over Cohn's job when Senator McClellan(4) replaced McCarthy in 1954. In 1957, with a staff of 65, he became chief counsel of the Senate Rackets Committee, also headed by Senator McClellan. There, he encountered men like Antonio Corallo, who had been hired by a factory manager simply to keep his eye on the workers; dubious business consultants like George Fitzgerald and Eddie Cheyfitz;(5) industries like Kohler, Inc., a Sheboygan, Wisconsin manufacturer of plumbing fixtures, which in 1897 had cut its employees' salaries by 50 % and given each a bathtub, and pursued much the same policies in 1958. He exposed corruption in the labor unions -- primarily in the Bakers and Confectioners Union, but also in the Mechanics, the carpenters, the Hotel Employees, the New York Postal Workers, the Textile Workers, and even the Garbage Collecters unions. He became an expert on labor racketeering. In November 1957, he received the first annual award as "Outstanding Investigator of the Year" from the Society of Professional Investigators.

When he became Attorney General, Robert Kennedy already had a good idea of the importance of organized crime in the United States. The kingpins of crime, some of them survivors of the Chicago era, others more recent arrivals, had left the gangs for the big cities. The gambling industry alone supported 50,000 potentates, employed the services of 400,000 petty bookmakers, and ruined one million families every year. Gambling had become so big that it was capable of disturbing the national economy. There was also prostitution, the narcotics traffic and commercial pornography, not to speak of hold-ups and murders. This industry of vice, which had already contaminated the trade unions, was also active among the youth of the country. In the decade, between 1950 and 1960, crimes doubled and juvenile delinquency tripled, although the population increased by only 18%.(6)

The war against crime cost the United States $22 billion a year, or $120 per citizen. "Crime pays if it is well-organized. American gangsters have become specialists," noted C. Wright Mills. An expert on the question, Donald R. Cressey,(7) wrote: "The situation is more dangerous than the situation in the 1920's and the 1930's when the monopolies controlled by organized criminals were primarily monopolies on only the distribution of illicit goods and services. The real danger is that the trend will continue to the point where syndicate rulers gain such a degree of control that they drive supporters of free enterprise and democracy out of' business' and then force us to pay tribute in the form of traditional freedoms. Syndicate rulers are among the most active monopolizers in the American economy." And Cressey continued, "We agree with Senator Kennedy who . . . became convinced that if we do not on a national scale attack organized criminals with weapons and techniques as effective as their own, they will destroy us." He wrote this in 1967, when organized crime, more prosperous than ever, was still in control of the empire that Robert Kennedy had tried to defeat five years before.

In 1951, the Kefauver Commission had concluded that organized crime, which it referred to as the Mafia, was run by Costello-Adonis-Lansky (the New York Syndicate) and Accardo-Guzik-Fischetti (the Chicago Syndicate). But between 1951 and 1961, the Kefauver Commission found it difficult to obtain reliable information about the nature of the Mafia and the extent of its activities. In 1957, it disclosed that 58 crime lords had met at the Appalachin Conference in upper New York State, but in 1960 the federal government and the Justice Department had little information about what had transpired at the meeting, and many of the participants were unknown to them.(8)

When Robert Kennedy was appointed Attorney General, the Crime and Rackets Section of the Justice Department employed only 17 people. They worked individually, without illusions, and received no comprehensive information on international and organized crime. By 1963, their number had swelled to 60, and they were able to draw on information which was available to the press and the public, but which had never been officially brought to their attention. Robert Kennedy opened federal investigative bureaus in six large cities outside of Washington. These bureaus were charged with gathering information on 1,100 notorious racketeers. In 1961 and 1962, Congress approved seven anti-crime laws authorized by the Attorney General, the most important anti-criminal legislation voted since 1954. The first result was the dismantling of the nationwide telegraphic betting system. In November 1962, a gambling and prostitution establishment in Detroit which had been doing a $20 million-a-year business was raided and closed down. In 1963, the illegal gambling organizations were obliged to cease their activities in many different parts of the country. In the first six months of 1963, 171 racketeers were indicted, as against 24 in 1960.(9)

In October 1963, Robert Kennedy persuaded Joseph Valachi, a member of the crime syndicate who had requested government protection in 1962 and who had been imprisoned since that date for second-degree murder, to testify. The Attorney General revealed that the crime syndicate, known to its members as Cosa Nostra, was directed by a board of between 9 and 12 active members whose names were known to him, and to whom the representatives in the various cities were responsible. On October 19, 1963, he declared to the New York Times that these racketeers were only able to operate by buying the protection of those in whom the communities placed their confidence. He denounced hired killers and the wall of silence surrounding them.

Joseph Valachi was the first member of Cosa Nostra to reveal the activities of this "cruel and calculating" organization. Since 1960, there had been 37 gangland murders in the city of Chicago alone, and 70 bombings in the region of Youngstown, Ohio. Kennedy named the principal ringleaders of the organization and declared that he was determined to put them out of action or in prison. He praised the Los Angeles and New York police departments for their cooperation, but he also cited the example of Newport, Kentucky, the type of American community where crime and corruption prevailed with the consent of the Mayor, several members of the city council, and the local police force.(10) He added that there were many Newports throughout the country, that organized crime had become particularly subtle, that it made the most of modern communications techniques, and that it had tremendous resources at its disposal to circumvent the law. It used extortion not only as a source of revenue, but also to take over control of businesses. It had infiltrated the clothing industry, bowling alleys and liquor stores, juke box companies, vending machines and the construction business. These rackets were often run by telephone, and from outside the state.

The Attorney General declared that he would ask Congress to vote new laws authorizing the use of wire-tapping devices and guaranteeing the immunity of witnesses. "Fighting organized crime is like working a jigsaw puzzle," he said. He emphasized that organized crime affected the entire community, that it was the concern of every citizen. "There is an old saying," he concluded, "that every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves. It is equally true that every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on."

The McClellan Committee decided that the term "American Confederation" represented the best definition of Cosa Nostra, which might be considered as a sort of private government, and not only as an economic cartel. The Confederation of Crime has its own Code of Ethics. Each member is expected to:

- Be loyal to members of the organization. - Be rational. Be a member of the team. - Be a man of honor. Respect womanhood and your elders. - Be a stand-up guy. Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut. - Have class. Be independent. Know your way around the world.

The Confederation is founded on the following principles:

1) Organized crime is a business venture that seeks every opportunity to corrupt or have influence on anyone in government who can or may in the future be able to do favors for organized crime.

2) Insulation serves to separate the leaders of the confederation from the illegal activities which they direct.

3) Members are subject to discipline of a quasi-military nature.

4) The public relations of the organization are of the utmost importance.

5) The structure of the organization must be such that it does not appear to be and cannot be attacked as an organization.

6) Job specialization is essential. The organization counts among its members the corrupters, the corruptees, the enforcers, the executioners, the money-movers, and the button men, representing the lowest echelon of the confederation. The corrupters are as essential to the organization as the negotiators to a trade union. The money movers are assisted by other specialists, who invest the funds of the organization in legal enterprises. The button men carry out the orders passed down through the hierarchy. The organization also has its own "accountants," and "lawyers."

The work of the confederation is greatly facilitated by the structure of the police. There are 420,000 police officers in the United States attached to 40,000 police stations, 50 of which are federal, 200 adjuncts of the state police, and 39,750 under the control of the local police.

The Task Force report entitled "The Police," published in 1967 by the Justice Department, acknowledges that in several cities in the United States a large proportion of police officers are engaged in various forms of criminal or immoral activities, and that a few dishonest policemen may spread corruption throughout the force. Such was the case in Denver, where it was discovered in 1961 that a small group of corrupt policemen had implicated dozens of other officers throughout the city in their criminal activities. The majority of those involved were not, in fact, active accomplices, but their oath and regulations required them to report any suspicious actions, and prohibited them from taking part in any illegal activity.(11) The report acknowledges that corrupt police chiefs may set a dangerous example for younger officers. "Corruption then becomes an element of promotion, and the existence of this corruption at the highest level of authority may influence all of the members of the police."

In Chapter 7, "The Integrity of the Police," the report recalls that the Mayor and Sheriff of Phoenix City, Alabama, were forced to resign in 1955, but that political corruption allied with organized crime and vice had continued to spread to several other cities in the state. The Justice Department discovered in 1961 that the head of the gambling syndicate in Syracuse, New York, had been living in that city for 25 years and had never been bothered by the local police.

The state police are no more trustworthy than the local police. Governor Claude Kirk of Florida preferred to hire a private detective agency to investigate crime and corruption in his state. The local police in certain states, California for example, are to all appearances fairly honest, but in other states, for instance Texas, they are thoroughly corrupt.

Many police departments refuse to acknowledge the existence of organized crime and concern themselves only with local and isolated criminal offenses. This attitude has the effect of guaranteeing the immunity of the crime syndicates. Other police departments even cooperate with the confederation by exchanging information with its local representatives.

There are substantial differences in the quality of police personnel in the United States. A white-collar worker earns an average of $7,124 a year. The average salary of a policemen is only $5,321.(12) In Seattle, a policeman earns $375 a month less than a cable splicer. In Nashville, an electrician makes $3.22 an hour, a policeman only $2.55. The disparity is even greater in the upper echelons. The salaries offered college graduates by the police are rarely competitive with those offered by private industry .The salary of a municipal police chief varies between $7,054 and $17,600 a year (in cities with a population of more than 500,000). Only eight out of the 38 cities with a population of between 300,000 and a million pay their police captains more than $11,000 a year. In only nine of these cities does a sergeant earn more than $9,600. In certain other cities with more than a million inhabitants, Dallas for example, the salaries paid police officers are even lower than these average figures. Nor is there much room for promotion within the official hierarchy. The maximum salary of a San Francisco patrolman is only $600 a year more than the minimum he received when he entered the force.

The excessive decentralization of the police, the dilution of its responsibilities and the diversity of its efforts also created numerous problems with regard to criminal arrests.(13) The leaders of the Confederation of Crime are "represented, in one form or another, in legislative, judicial and executive bodies all ever the country."(14) The late Chief William H. Parker of the Los Angeles police added, "Despite the most aggressive and enlightened leadership, law enforcement cannot rise above the level set by the electorate."

There are three varieties of official corruption: nonfeasance (failure to perform a required duty at all); malfeasance (the commission of some act which is positively unlawful); and misfeasance (the improper performance of some act).

Where does the FBI come into this paradise of crime? J. Edgar Hoover(15) controls the only police organization existing on the national level. In the 38 years that he has occupied this position, he has known seven Presidents and out-lasted 13 Attorney Generals.(16) As of August 31, 1962, the Federal Bureau of Investigation employed 14,217 people, including more than 6,000 federal agents. Congress has always granted Hoover's budgetary requests. J, Edgar Hoover has become something of a national monument. No one dares to contradict "the Director," nor to suspect him.

The FBI has two principal functions: it investigates violations of federal law, and it presents its conclusions to the Attorney General and the federal attorneys. It is concerned with investigation, not law-enforcement. All of the so-called "federal" crimes fall within its jurisdiction, but the list of these, although it covers some 165 subjects, is limited. The FBI has no jurisdiction over tax violations, narcotics, customs, the mails, or the protection of the President. On the other hand, it is concerned with kidnapping, bank hold-ups, stolen cars that have been driven across state lines, and other interstate infractions of the law. Theoretically, organized crime does not fall within its jurisdiction, since it thrives on gambling, frauds, rackets, and other crimes that constitute violations of state rather than federal law, but the FBI's highly-developed intelligence sources keep it informed about the Confederation of Crime and its activities.(17)

Attorney General Robert Kennedy ordered the FBI to investigate the inter-state activities of the confederation, but this assignment irritated Mr. Hoover, who was nevertheless instructed by President Kennedy to defer to the Attorney General's wishes and to report directly to him.(18) When, in 1962, Robert Kennedy ordered the FBI to investigate the steel corporations, Hoover consented only reluctantly, and there is some indication that the order was carried out with "misfeasance."(19)

The Attorney General would have liked to create a National Crime Commission to bring together and coordinate all the available information on the confederation, its activities, and the movements of its members, but J. Edgar Hoover wants no competition, and he has his own ideas about how a federal law -- enforcement agency should be run.

The FBI has 55 main offices and 500 branch offices throughout the country, but it prefers not to work with the state and local police unless they are considered "honorable" (which singularly limits the possibilities for cooperation). Moreover, "honorable" in this case has a very special meaning.

Mr. Hoover, a puritan Presbyterian and a bachelor who is active in the Boy Scout movement (he is an honorary member of its National Council) has repeatedly declared, "I am opposed to a national police force. I have a total respect for the sovereignty of the states and the local authorities, to whom we furnish a considerable amount of information which helps them to solve local crimes." Hoover believes the FBI should devote itself first and foremost to its original function, that of protecting the nation against subversion and treason, both on the inside and from the outside.

In 1937, Franklin D. Roosevelt charged the FBI with the surveillance of the Nazi agents and sympathizers in the United States. When the war broke out in 1941, it coordinated the internal security measures against spies and saboteurs and found its true vocation. When the Second World War gave way to the Cold War, the FBI turned its attention to the Communists. Hoover was charged with the task of "unmasking and dismantling Soviet espionage activities."

On October 19, 1960, Hoover declared, " We are at war with the Communists."(20) Certain generals had been forced to resign for similar statements, but even Kennedy hesitated to replace " the Director." Eleven days after Kennedy's assassination, on December 3, 1963, Hoover reaffirmed his creed. A month earlier he had declared, "President Kennedy's closest advisers are either Communists or Communist sympathizers." Hoover repeatedly emphasized the essential role played by the FBI in the struggle against Communism and in the protection of the "American way of life." Since the advent of Castro, the Caribbean area had taken on a special importance for the FBI, which showed a sudden interest in the Cuban exile groups. Hoover considered that "it is more important to prevent or circumvent espionage, sabotage, and other subversive activities than to prosecute the individuals who engage in this type of activity . . ." Such a rationale can have far-reaching consequences.

A self-appointed judge of what is good for the United States, Hoover refused to send FBI agents to Little Rock in 1957. Despite the injunctions of Robert Kennedy, he refused to engage his agents completely in the enforcement of civil rights legislation. It was a known fact that local FBI agents in several southern states cooperated with the segregationist local police force. When, on September 15, 1963, a bomb exploded in a Negro Baptist church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four Negro children, the FBI learned who was guilty, but failed to pass on this information officially, thereby becoming the passive accomplice of the local police.

Robert Kennedy had been aware of Hoover's power since entering the Justice Department in 1953, but he needed him, and he was obliged to postpone his retirement, although Hoover was 65. In August 1962, he even defended the FBI chief against the attacks of Wilbur H. Ferry, vice-president of the Fund for the Republic, declaring, "Let's leave that to the experts. Mr. Hoover is my expert."(21)

It has been written that Bob Kennedy was "too politically sophisticated to clash openly with the honors-encrusted FBI Director." Serious criticism of Hoover or the FBI is still regarded in the United States as something close to treason, and it is tantamount to political suicide. Hoover's sources of information, and the files at his disposal, are in fact more important than those available to comparable organisms in totalitarian states, where the heads of the intelligence services have the power to dismiss the Chief of Police.(22) The FBI has files on 200 million people, only 20% of whom have ever been arrested. It keeps up-to-date dossiers on all the leading political and business figures. A great many Americans have reason to fear the FBI, which has confidential information about the lives and activities of the most diverse and the most insignificant citizens.

To the icy courtesy of the Attorney General, Mr. Hoover replied in October 1962, before his favorite audience, the American Legion, that "the Communists have infiltrated every sector of our society."(23) Why this obsession with the Communist bugbear? Ever since its creation by Theodore Roosevelt, the FBI has been at war with what it calls "the forces of evil." By this is meant not so much the overall category of doers of evil, and in particular high-class criminals, but liberals. Hoover himself once said, "This term liberalism should not be taken lightly . . ." The obsession with Communism has the effect of maintaining the American people in a state of tension. The FBI knows perfectly well -- at least we assume that its directors are sound of mind -- that it has little to fear from a Communist Party of only 10,000 members, all of whom are known to the FBI and under constant surveillance, and which has been infiltrated by more than 1,000 FBI informers. The FBI is represented on the Central Committee of the American Communist Party, and at one point it even appointed its security chief. It has been estimated that the FBI, through the dues paid by its agents, is the most important single contributor to the Communist Party in the United States.

Hoover's attitude is based more on morality than on politics. When US News and World Report asked him, "Some people say that the Communist Party cannot possibly represent a danger for the United States," he replied, "Emphatically, 'No.' Members of the Communist Party, USA are active participants in the international criminal conspiracy which is totally alien to our way of life and completely dedicated to enslaving the world." He was thus expressing the point of view not of the government he was supposed to represent, but of the anti-Kennedy faction. Hoover's extremism, his puritanism and his technical competence had the effect of placing, in a passive way at least, the efficient machinery of the FBI at its disposal.

Hoover is a perfectionist as far as the efficiency and the quality of his employees are concerned. The FBI recruits highly-qualified men and women whose integrity is above reproach. Carefully screened before they are hired, they are well-paid(24) and thoroughly trained. Each is a specialist, and his responsibilities are narrowly defined and rigorously supervised. The autonomy of an FBI man is strictly limited, even in technical areas. When the principal objective is security or secrecy, each subordinate must control all of the details in his area or activity, and each supervisor must control all of his subordinates. The FBI encourages its employees to inform on one another not only for professional misconduct, but also for deviations from the exemplary moral standards to which every member of the bureau is expected to adhere.(25) FBI employees are bound by a multitude of rules and regulations, some of which even concern their mode of dress. If he wants to stay on the good side of the Director, the well-dressed G-man must wear a dark suit, a shirt with French cuffs, and a handkerchief in his pocket.(26)

The FBI hierarchy is strictly observed. FBI agents are totally subordinated to their superiors, and through them to the Director. Carlos Marcello, one of the leaders of the Confederation of Crime, was arrested in New Orleans on September 22, 1966 and charged with striking a federal agent, Patrick J. Collins, Jr. Marcello declared that he could hardly have known that Collins was an FBI agent, since he was in shirtsleeves.(27) Such a violation of bureau regulations could only have been committed with the knowledge of the hierarchy. Even J. Edgar Hoover is capable of making an exception to the rules if there is sufficient justification. There have been other slip-ups. A crime is a federal offense for the FBI only when the Director deems it such. The FBI only intervenes in the affairs of the local police when they do not share the Director's views about "Communists" and "degenerates."

Does the honorable Mr. Hoover, we wonder, ever adorn his French cuffs with the cuff links that his Attorney General in the Kennedy years, another man with an eye for detail, gave him one year for Christmas -- simple gold cuff links inscribed with the Seal of Justice?

NOTES

1. November 18, 1967.

2. Gambling alone accounts for $20 billion.

3. Report of the Commission of Inquiry of Massachusetts, 1957.

4. Democrat from Arkansas.

5. George Fitzgerald represented James Hoffa. Eddie Cheyfitz was Dave Beck's attorney. Several firms of business consultants furnish information not only on legal questions, but also on labor problems, and can even provide informers if the need arises. Nationally-known companies such as Macy's, General Electric, and Republic Aircraft employ such techniques.

6. It has been estimated that 800,000 Americans have been murdered since the turn of the century .Two million firearms are sold to private citizens in the United States each year.

7. Chairman of the Criminology Section of the American Sociological Association -- Task Force on Crime -- Administration of Justice (Washington, 1967).

8. Among the participants at this conference, held at the home of Joseph Barbara, 19 were in the clothing business, 7 owned trucking firms, 9 slot machines, and 17 restaurants. Eleven were importers of olive oil and cheese, 4 were funeral directors, and the others were involved in car sales, coal companies, and show business. One was an orchestra leader.

In 1967 this Board of Directors of organized crime (founded in 1931 by Al Capone and Lucky Luciano) included 4 New Yorkers, Vito Genevose (in Leavenworth federal prison), Carlo Gambino, Joe Colombo, and Joe Bonnano; Sam Giancana of Chicago; Joe Zerilli of Detroit; Steve Maggadino of Buffalo; and Angelo Bruno of Philadelphia.

9. Kennedy declared in January, 1963, that he had evidence against: Mickey Cohen on the West Coast, Frankie Carbo of New York, Alfred Sica of Los Angeles, Buster Wortman of St. Louis, Kid Cann, who had controlled Minneapolis for 30 years, and Trigger Mike Coppola of Miami.

Mickey Cohen, typical of this type of gangster, had declared an income of $1,200 in 1956 and $1,500 in 1957, but he owned an armored car worth $25,000, silk pajamas that cost $275,300 suits, and 1,500 pairs of socks!

10. As a result of these revelations, the voters recalled the County Sheriff, and the chief detective of the local police force was fired.

11. Section 310.71 of the police regulations states:

"Members and employees shall not accept either directly or indirectly any gift, gratuity, loan, fee, or any other thing of value arising from or offered because of police employment or any activity connected with said employment. Members and employees shall not accept any gift, gratuity, loan, fee, or other thing of value the acceptance of which might tend to influence directly or indirectly the actions of said member or employee or any other member or employee in any matter of police business; or which might tend to cast any adverse reflection on the department or any member or employee thereof. No member or employee of the department shall receive any gift or gratuity from other members or employees junior in rank without the express permission of the Chief of Police."

12. Unless otherwise indicated, all of these statistics date from 1966. In general, the financial situation of the police was even less favorable in 1963.

13. The national average for criminal arrests is 22 % for thefts and 59 % for crimes, but these figures should be regarded with suspicion, and they exclude most of the crimes imputable to the Confederation of Crime.

14. Donald R. Cressey.

15. Director of the FBI since 1924.

16. Hoover speaks slightingly of the "various Attorney Generals under whom I have served."

17. In 1967 Bill Davidson wrote, "So many FBI plants have infiltrated the Mafia organization that you can hardly tell the Mafiosi from the informers.

18. Something that had probably not happened to Mr. Hoover since 1928.

19. He is said to have ordered federal agents to wake up journalists in the middle of the night to ask them questions that could just as wen have waited until morning, a procedure that was severely criticized by the public.

20. In 1968, the word "Communist" has lost a great deal of its impact. The traditional American Communist Party has become a "revisionist bourgeois clique," and the authentic Marxists have switched their allegiance to the Communist Party USA (Marxist-Leninist), a splinter group of Stalinist-Maoists who divide their energies between Watts and Harlem.

21. He had previously declared that Hoover's assistance was "unmatchable."

22. In the Soviet Union, Beria was eliminated in this fashion. In France, Roger Wybot, the director of the Office of Territorial. Security, who had kept his job through 12 successive governments in the Fourth Republic because he had files on numerous political figures, was dismissed when General de Gaulle came to power. Mr. Wybot had no file on the General.

23. James Meredith, the "black communist" (as the FBI has called him) had been admitted to the University of Mississippi in September, 1962, and the Kennedy administration seemed in no hurry to respond to "the Cuban menace."

24. FBI agents earn from $8,421 to $16,905 a year, exclusive of overtime pay and bonuses. The Director's salary is $30,000 a year.

25. Thomas Henry Carter, an FBI clerk and a bachelor, was fired in August, 1965 after he was denounced by his FBI colleagues for having spent the night with a woman.

26. Hoover's moral principles are as good as law in the FBI.

An FBI agent does not go out at night without his wife. He does not read Playboy. He does not have pimples. He does not drink. He does not wear his hair too short (it is considered a sign of immaturity). He wipes his hands (and not on his pocket handkerchief) before entering the Director's office (the Director does not like sweaty hands). He does not smoke in front of the Director (the Director does not like the smell of tobacco). He is expected to read the Director's book, Masters of Deceit, and Don Whitehead's The FBI Story, and to pass them along to his friends.

27. Marcello is one of the richest men in Louisiana. His fortune has been estimated at $40 million, and he owes it to political graft and police corruption. He controls casinos in Jennings, Lafayette, Bossier City, West Baton Rouge, and Morgan City, Louisiana, the government of Jefferson Parish (county), which he has made his headquarters, the Jefferson Music company, which operates juke boxes and coin machines, and a system of bookmakers. He owns gambling places and houses of prostitution in Bossier City, across from Shreveport, a company called Sightseeing Tours in New Orleans, a night club in Dallas. and other concerns. In 1963 he was in contact with certain politicians and oilmen in Texas and Louisiana.

Original
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Editorial: AIPAC Eats New Congress Critters for Lunch

Kurt Nimmo
November 10th 2006

Lest we forget who runs Congress, consider the following "briefing" posted on the AIPAC website yesterday:

AIPAC Builds Ties With New Lawmakers
AIPAC reached nearly every lawmaker elected in Tuesday's mid-term congressional elections as part of its effort to educate political candidates on the value of the U.S.-Israel relationship. During the campaign that ended Tuesday, nearly every viable candidate met with AIPAC professional staff members and submitted a position paper summarizing his or her views on U.S. Middle East policy. A non-partisan organization, AIPAC has for decades worked with Republican and Democratic members of Congress to strengthen the ties between the United States and Israel.

Translation: Nearly every lawmaker, except the few stragglers hiding out in bathroom stalls or the cloakroom, was told he or she best tow the AIPAC-Israel line, or suffer short tenure in Congress. Part of this process is obviously the forced submission of a "position paper summarizing his or her views on U.S. Middle East policy," that is to say the targeted politico must state in writing that he or she will enthusiastically support Israel killing Palestinians, stealing their land, and running those able to run off, in short a nod and a wink in the direction of ethnic cleansing. Finally, AIPAC let us know they are "non-partisan," that is to say they have both Democrats and Republicans in their pocket.

Meet the new Congress, same as the old Congress.

Addendum

In addition, assumed House Majority leader Pelosi will "have to draw on ... inner strength," that is to say bend over backwards and jump somersaults like a trick dog, in order to demonstrate her worth to AIPAC and the state of Israel.

Sam Lauter, a pro-Israel activist in San Francisco, predicted Pelosi "will hear from those in the Jewish community who argue that Democrats no longer support Israel the way they used to," that is to say Zionists perceive Democrats to be not as rabidly pro-Likud as Republicans, that is to say neocons.

"Some Republicans, in fact, questioned Pelosi's support for Israel this summer. The congresswoman ended up removing her name as a co-sponsor from a House resolution supporting the Jewish state during its war with Hezbollah because it did not address the protection of civilians," reports JTA, billed as a "news service that provides up-to-the-minute reports, analysis pieces and features on events and issues of concern to the Jewish people," or rather Jewish people who support Israel.

It would appear Pelosi has at least a shred of humanity, as she was apparently sickened by Israel's genocidal war against the people of southern Lebanon last summer. However, she has the next two years to get it right and adopt the appropriate position-all the people of southern Lebanon are Hezbollah terrorists, as the Israeli leadership stated on numerous occasions as the pariah state went about breaking every rule in the crimes against humanity book.

But then, as U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, said at the time, it is surely a "mistake to ascribe a moral equivalence to civilians who die as the direct result of malicious terrorist acts, the very purpose of which are to kill civilians, and the tragic and unfortunate consequence of civilian deaths as a result of military action taken in self-defense," in other words, as Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz explained, Israeli civilians are more innocent than Lebanese civilians.
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Editorial: Israel, We Bless Thee

November 9th, 2006
Mark Glenn

Today, while driving through town, I wound up behind a minivan that had a big sticker on the back. The sticker had an Israeli flag in the middle of it, and under it the quotation from the book of Genesis that reads "I will bless those who bless thee."

I would like to take this time to list my own reasons for thanking and blessing Israel, our lone ally in the Middle East, for everything she has done for us, since I am quite sure most Americans are unaware of just what kind of friend she has been to us.

For extorting from me and my fellow Americans $4,000,000,000.00 a year for the last 4 decades, we bless thee.

For taking our most sophisticated weapons technology and stealing it for yourself without paying the American patent holders, we bless thee.

For taking that high-tech military technology and selling it to our enemies, such as the Russians and Chinese, thus further endangering us, we bless thee.

For using that weaponry in a sustained attack against a United States ship, the USS Liberty, in an attempt to sink her, thus preventing US servicemen from revealing to the rest of the world information concerning the war crimes they witnessed you commit against Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai Desert during the Six Day War, as well as for the purposes of dragging the US into yet another one of your murderous adventures, we bless thee.

For killing 35 and wounding 170 American sailors aboard the USS Liberty, we bless thee.

For bribing the United States government into covering it up, preventing any justice from being done for the benefit of the families of the lost sailors - as well as the American People, we bless thee.

For sending your agents into Egypt and blowing up American buildings for the purpose of blaming the Arabs in an event known as the Lavon Affair, we bless thee.

For sending your agents into Libya during the Reagan administration, and broadcasting radio messages in Arabic that were designed to sound like "terrorist cell planning" so that the US would initiate military strikes against Khadafi in an event known as Operation Trojan Horse, we bless thee.

For withholding information from us concerning the planned attacks against the US Marine barracks in Lebanon, attacks you knew about through your moles in the Islamic world and about which you deliberately refused to warn us in order to further your interests against the Arabs, we bless thee.

For employing Jonathon Pollard, an American serviceman paid to spy for Israel in order to steal even more of our National Security secrets for your parasitic purposes, we bless thee.

For blackmailing President Clinton through one of your sayanim, Monica Lewinsky, in order to prevent a coherent peace program from being pushed forward between yourself and the Palestinian people whom you have brutalized and murdered for the last 50 years, we bless thee.

For breaking every agreement you have made with your Arab neighbors, stealing their land, displacing, murdering, and treating them like the animals you see them as, we bless thee.

For using your agents within the first Bush administration to involve us in the first Gulf War, causing the deaths of American men and women, and exposing our servicemen to whatever bioweapons were and are responsible which have led to Gulf War Syndrome, we bless thee.

For your role in the September 11 attacks in this country, and for blackmailing and bribing the US government into deporting back to Israel the 100 or more intelligence agents that were arrested after the attacks, we bless thee.

For suppressing the information from the American people of your involvement in the September 11 attacks and sending us in the wrong direction in search of answers, we bless thee.

For using one of your agents in the US Army Weapons Lab to steal anthrax and distribute it into our mail system, terrorizing US citizens and killing several in order to blame the Arabs, we bless thee.

For using your agents in the US Government, namely, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Abrams, and the rest into initiating this war in the Middle East so that you could bring to heel all the enemies you have made during the last 50 years, we bless thee.

For using your agents in the media to lie to us on a minute by minute basis about the war, lying to us as to how "just" this cause is, and what the real reasons behind it are, we bless thee.

For using your agents in the Christian Evangelical community, such as Falwell, Graham, Swaggert, Robertson and the rest who praise you as God's chosen people and further keep Americans in the dark about who you really are what you have done, and what you are truly about, we bless thee.

For bringing idiots like Limbaugh, Liddy, Hannity, Beck, O'Reilly and Savage to the forefront as paid liars who will support you and further lead Americans astray, we bless thee.

For making America your attack dog, and for sending her sons and daughters to fight and die in all your future wars, we bless thee.

For using your influence in the media to hide the real statistics about the war, the dead and wounded on both sides, we bless thee.

For using us in such a way that not only further inflames the Arab world against us, but as well has succeeded in our alienating ourselves against those nations with whom we have been friendly for over a century, we bless thee.

And finally, for using your influence in our media and academia to flood our minds with pornography and lies, as well as inculcating in us a hatred for our history, religion, and culture, for dividing our nation between races and sexes, and for releasing into our society all of your plagues and filth that have left us a rotted out corpse of a once great nation, oh Israel, our friend,

we bless thee.
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Editorial: Pinochet in Palestine

Joseph Massad
AL-AHRAM
9 - 15 November 2006
Issue No. 819

Before the United States government subcontracted the Chilean military to overthrow the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in 1973, it carried out a number of important missions in the country in preparation for the coup of 11 September. These included major strikes, especially by truck owners, which crippled the economy, massive demonstrations that included middle-class housewives and children carrying pots and pans demanding food, purging the Chilean military of officers who would oppose the suspension of democracy and the introduction of US-supported fascist rule, and a major media campaign against the regime with the CIA planting stories in newspapers like El Mercurio and others. This was in a context where also the Communist Party and the Leftist Revolutionary Movement (MIR) criticised and sometimes attacked the Allende regime from varying leftist positions.

The Chilean example is important to keep in mind when one looks at the Palestinian situation today, as it functions as a sort of training video for US-planned anti-democratic coups elsewhere in the world. Not only are the US and Israel financially backing the open preparation for a coup to be staged by the top leadership of Fateh (and in the case of Israel allowing weapons' transfers to Palestinian Authority [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas's Praetorian Guard), but so are the intelligence services of a number of Israel-and US-friendly Arab countries whose intelligence services have set up shop openly in Ramallah more recently, making their longstanding and major, though understated, involvement in running the Palestinian territories more open and shameless. Indeed the intelligence "delegation" of one such Arab country has rented out a multi-story building in Ramallah to conduct their operations there.

Israel has helped this effort all along by kidnapping and arresting Fateh members who resist the collaborationist policies of the top leadership. As for the leadership itself, it has periodically purged members of Fateh who oppose its policies, and marginalised those in the Diaspora who continue to resist them. The Fateh/PA coup leaders consist of Abbas and the ruling triumvirate of Mohamed Dahlan, Yasser Abd Rabbo, and Nabil Amr. The profiles of these three make them well suited for the tasks ahead. Dahlan is universally known as America's and Israel's main corrupt military man on the ground. Abd Rabbo (aka Yasser Abd Yasser, literally "Yasser worshipper of Yasser" on account of his subservience to Arafat) is the architect of the Geneva accords, which recognise Israel's right to be a racist Jewish state as legitimate and reject the right of Palestinian refugees to return as illegitimate. He recently upheld the Israeli position when fighting with the Qatari foreign minister and his staff during the latter's visit to the occupied territories. Amr is the former PA information minister, and a former visiting fellow at the Israel lobby think tank the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He is also the speechwriter for Abbas and Dahlan.

Abbas and these three have undertaken not only to launch massive strikes by the Fateh security thugs that they have armed to police the territories on behalf of Israel, and strikes by the bureaucracy that staffs the PA ministries, but also have coerced large numbers of Palestinians, including teachers and professors, under the force of guns, to uphold a strike against Hamas, when most of them had voted for Hamas in the first place and refuse to strike. Palestinians who have fought for decades to keep their schools and universities open against Israeli draconian closures and suspension of Palestinian education, are now forced by Fateh and its armed thugs to stop the Palestinian educational process with strikes against Hamas, and threaten to shoot people if they refuse to follow Fateh's coup directives.

In addition, Abbas and the Fateh/PA triumvirate have organised demonstrations in Ramallah by middle-class Palestinians, including housewives, who brought out their pots and pans, in a scene borrowed from 1973 Santiago, in demonstrations against Hamas. The Fateh-controlled press, especially Al-Ayyam is fomenting major anti-Hamas propaganda campaign in preparation for the coup and is thus playing the same role as El Mercurio did in Chile. Al-Ayyam is aided in its efforts by the anti-Hamas secular Palestinian intelligentsia, most of whose members are on the payroll of the bankrollers of the Oslo process and its NGOs. These old leftist Palestinians, like their counterparts in Lebanon, are better known today as the right-wing left, as they take up right-wing positions while insisting that they are still leftists based on positions they had held in the 1980s or earlier.

The plan is that the Fateh/PA rulers would do their utmost to provoke Hamas to start the war at which point Fateh, with the aid of the intelligence services of friendly Arab countries, as well as assistance from Israel and the US, would crush Hamas and take over. Indeed, the first unsuccessful round took place when the Israeli government kidnapped a third of the Hamas government, both cabinet ministers and parliament members, and placed them in Israeli jails. This was not sufficient to bring Hamas down, and not for lack of help that Fateh rendered the Israeli occupiers. Aside from the initial burning of the Legislative Council building, Fateh thugs have also burned the prime minister's office, shot at his car, burned offices in different ministries several times, harassed and threatened Hamas ministers and parliamentarians whom Israel failed to kidnap and arrest, refused to allow the government ministries to operate, and so forth. Hamas however, is wisely adamant that it will respond by force only when Fateh launches an all-out war to bring about its planned coup, but not before.

Fateh's planned coup is not only based on the popularity of Hamas and its electoral victory but also on Hamas's increased ability to defend itself against Fateh forces. If the US and Israel armed Fateh thugs under Arafat's leadership to crush the first Palestinian Intifada and any remaining resistance to the occupation since 1994, today, Hamas is almost as well- armed as Fateh forces and can defend the rights of the Palestinians to resist the Israeli occupation and the well-armed Palestinian collaborators that help to enforce it. This is where the situation today differs measurably from that of the mid-1990s. To offset this new balance of forces, the United States government, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, has been training Abbas's Praetorian Guard in Jericho for over a month with American, British, Egyptian, and Jordanian military instructors, and is providing arms to them in preparation for the confrontation with Hamas. The Israeli cabinet in turn has recently approved the transfer of thousands of rifles from Egypt and Jordan to Abbas's forces. The Israelis also approved a US request that Israel allow the Badr Brigade -- part of the Palestine Liberation Army currently stationed in Jordan -- to deploy in Gaza. These steps have been conceived by General Keith Dayton, the American security coordinator in the occupied territories, who wants the Badr Brigade to function as Abbas's "rapid reaction force in Gaza". As a possible step to increase its security and military roles in the occupied territories, the Jordanian government recently established a legal committee to review the provisions of Jordan's decision to "disengage" from the West Bank announced on 31 July 1988, effectively suggesting the possibility of a reversal of part or all of these provisions. More recently, the Israelis intensified their bombings and killings in Gaza, most recently in Beit Hanoun murdering over 50 Palestinians in a few days.

Mahmoud Abbas and his ruling triumvirate are reticent at the moment to start an open war for fear of a public backlash. They prefer to remove Hamas through imposing a "national unity" government that would undercut Hamas gradually and peacefully. However, Abbas and his triumvirate are quickly losing patience. Indeed, in a hastily-arranged meeting of the Diaspora-based Fateh Central Committee set to convene in Amman three weeks ago to ratify the coup plans, members of the committee opposed Abbas's US and Israel-supported coup, which forced Abbas to cancel the meeting altogether claiming falsely lack of quorum as the reason. This speaks to Abbas's desperation in engineering the coup without adequate preparation. Indeed, rumour has it across the occupied territories that the desperate attacks committed recently against Palestinian Christian churches were the work of undercover thugs. Those who sent them want Palestinian Christians and the world at large to think that these were Hamas acts in response to the pope's racist pronouncements against Islam. Hamas duly condemned the attacks. Few in the occupied territories believe that Hamas was behind them and most know that they were the work of undercover agents.

The Fateh plan is simple: where Israel and its Lebanese allies failed to crush Hizbullah in the Sixth war, Fateh and its Israeli allies will succeed in crushing Hamas, even if the ongoing Israeli war against Hamas and the Palestinian people becomes an all-out Seventh war. The flurry of visits by Condoleezza Rice to the area in the last few weeks hoped to put the final touches on this plan. If Hamas, like Hizbullah, could be provoked into a military response, the coup planners believe, then Fateh's and Israel's wrath (backed by the US, Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia) would be unleashed to finish Hamas off. The Fateh leadership and its thugs are sharpening their knives for the showdown. Hamas has remained calm despite the pressure.

In the meantime, Ramallah proper (excluding the surrounding villages), continues to be what many now refer to as the Palestinian Green Zone, sheltering, in addition to the intelligence staff of Israel and Israel-friendly Arab countries, those Palestinians who are paid and protected by the Oslo process, whether the Oslo bureaucracy, its technicians, and hired intellectuals, or the business and middle classes recently habituated to the new name-brand consumerism that the Green Zone can offer. This opulent life contrasts with the life of the rest of the Palestinians outside Ramallah who live in misery, hunger, and under the bombardment of the Israelis and the attacks of savage Jewish colonial settlers, not to mention the harassment by Fateh thugs. In Ramallah itself, the trigger-happy thugs shoot at random during their demonstrations, injuring and sometimes killing passers by "in error". Even the few secular intellectuals who deign to oppose Fateh inside Ramallah are harassed in different ways. Some of them experience mysterious robberies that are repeated every time they make anti-Fateh statements. The preservation of Ramallah as the Green Zone is paramount to Abbas and the Fateh/PA triumvirate, whose fear of any reform introduced by Hamas would strip the elite of the benefits of corruption and the dolce vita that Fateh-rule has ensured for them.

Meanwhile, Abbas and his triumvirate will continue to treat Hamas the way Israel has treated the PLO and other Arab countries all along. In the interminable negotiations that Hamas held with Fateh to avert a showdown, whenever Hamas would agree to a Fateh demand, Fateh would up the ante and insist on another concession or claim that its initial demands always included the now expanded terms, even though they did not. Moreover, Fateh would also publicly interpret Hamas's concessions as having included things that Hamas had not agreed to at all. If this is reminiscent of the post-Oslo negotiating strategy that the Israelis used successfully with Arafat, this is because it is the same strategy. Abbas has gone so far as to walk away from negotiations, and refuse to speak to Hamas leaders, just as the Israelis have done often with the PA. Moreover, if the Israelis would often carry undercover attacks against Western interests to implicate Arab governments, the clearest example being the infamous Lavon Affair of the mid-1950s targeting Egypt, similar operations are being committed to implicate Hamas by undercover agents, like the recent example of the attacks on the churches illustrates. There may be many more such operations being planned.

Whatever fig leaf still covered the Fateh leadership's complete collaboration and subservience to Israeli interests has now fallen off. As a result, there is very little left that can restrain Fateh's actions. The next few weeks will be decided by how much Fateh leaders are itching for a fight to save their skins and fortunes, and how much patience Hamas can muster in the face of so much thuggery. In the meantime, what has been unfolding in the Palestinian territories is nothing short of the Chilean script.

Pinochet is in Palestine. His success however remains far from certain.

* The writer is associate professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University. He is the author of The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians (Routledge, 2006).

Original
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Editorial: Signs Economic Commentary for November 13, 2006

Donald Hunt
Signs of the Times
November 13, 2006

Gold closed at 628.90 dollars an ounce on Friday, down less than a tenth of a percent from $629.10 at the close of the previous Friday. The dollar closed at 0.7785 euros Friday, down 1.0% from 0.7863 euros for the week. The euro closed at 1.2846 dollars compared to 1.2718 at the end of the week before. Gold in euros would be 489.57 euros an ounce, down 1.0% from 494.65 for the week. Oil closed at 59.62 dollars a barrel Friday, up 0.8% from $59.14 at the close of the previous week. Oil in euros would be 46.41 euros a barrel, up 0.2% from 46.50 for the week. The gold/oil ratio closed at 10.55, down 0.9% from 10.64 at the end of the week before. In U.S. stocks the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 12,108.43, up 1.0% from 11,986.04 at the close of the previous Friday. The NASDAQ closed at 2,389.72, up 2.5% from 2,330.79 at the end of the week before. In U.S. interest rates the yield on the ten-year U.S. Treasury note closed at 4.59%, down twelve basis points from 4.71 for the week.

The U.S. stock market seemed to react well to the victory in the midterm elections by the Democratic party last Tuesday. The rise began late the week before the election as it became more clear that the Republicans were in trouble. The rise probably had to do with the clear signals that the Realist faction around George H.W. Bush is making a move to take power from the Neocons. The firing of Rumsfeld and the appointment of Robert Gates as Defense Secretary is a clear example of that, as is Gates's replacement on James Baker's Iraq Study Group by Lawrence Eagleburger (another Bush I national security/defense/State Department bigwig). Both Baker, the Democrats, and many Republicans are talking about a "diplomatic settlement" of the Iraq War, in other words negotiations with Syria and Iran as the only way to reestablish any kind of stability in the Middle East. The markets naturally respond well to the idea of wise grown-ups reestablishing control over U.S. policy. But is it too late? In addition, we cannot expect Israel to take the ousting of the Neocons lying down. Nor can we expect Cheney to go quietly. This is Caesar versus Pompeii. Who will cross the Rubicon? What is the Rubicon in this instance?

Pundits in the United States keep telling us that "there are no good options in Iraq." This means that the United States has suffered a significant defeat. The dispute among the elite is how to minimize the damage of that defeat. As much as one might wish for a complete dismantling of the American Empire, the world is usually better off when great empires decline gradually rather than swiftly and catastrophically. In the economic sphere the decline of the empire will manifest itself as the decline of the U.S. dollar as the world's reserve currency. So far, however, the dollar has remained strong and U.S. stocks are at historic highs. Why?

Defeat In Iraq

by Martin D. Weiss, Ph.D.
Editor, Safe Money Report & MoneyandMarkets.com
November 7, 2006

I'm in London, in transit for our return flight to Florida, and I have a brief, but painful, message for you this morning:

We're going to lose the war in Iraq.

This is hard to swallow, I know. But it seems blatantly obvious to everyone except those who have the most to lose.

Every single newspaper on this side of the Atlantic is headlining the deepening chaos in Iraq. Even the sentencing of Saddam on Saturday, heralded in the U.S. as a victory, is likely to deepen the sectarian strife and inflame the anti-American insurgency, according to the Wall Street Journal's Europe edition this morning.

In Washington, most politicians now seem vividly aware of the crisis - not to mention the sweeping impact it's likely to have at the polls tomorrow.

But, strangely, the movers and shakers on Wall Street still seem oblivious to the impact the war could have on investors.

The Iraq war is the elephant in the living room. Investors look at it but don't see it. They feel its presence but don't want to touch it.

Nearly Unanimous Warnings of Chaos

I now count over a dozen warnings of chaos, many from the highest-placed sources:

Three weeks ago, a special briefing by the U.S. Central Command declared that Iraq is "on the brink of chaos," slamming home four tough-to-swallow-but-hard-to-dispute conclusions:

Conclusion #1. Iraq's urban areas are suffering wave after wave of ethnic cleansing, the fundamental driver behind civil war.

Conclusion #2. Violence in Iraq has reached an all-time high and is spreading geographically.

Conclusion #3. The massive U.S. effort to hastily recruit and train a large Iraqi army and police force is backfiring. These forces, overtly and covertly loyal to warring militia leaders, are no longer part of the solution. They're the focal point of the problem.

Conclusion #4. The pivotal event that sealed the fate of America's enterprise in Iraq was the bombing of the Golden Dome Shiite mosque in Samara - precisely what I told you in Money and Markets on the day that it happened...

Clearly, Politicians See the Handwriting On the wall. So Why Don't Investors?

Why are most investors so complacent? Why do they see only the rosy side of the news?

A key reason is that investors have so far been shielded from the economic impact of the war because the U.S. government has failed to raise taxes to pay for it. Instead ...

But this doesn't reduce the war's economic impact. It only postpones it.

What will happen when the war ends in defeat?

First, worldwide confidence in the U.S. will plunge, prompting foreign investors to sell their U.S. investments. The U.S. dollar and U.S. bonds will plunge.

Second, due to fears of the Iran-Iraq axis, oil prices will go berserk, likely surpassing the $100-per-barrel level.

Third, gold will skyrocket, as investors flee the dollar for safety.

My recommendation: Don't be deceived by the false optimism that has overcome Wall Street. Stay the course.

The defeat in Iraq has led to an intensification of the behind-the-scenes civil war among the ruling elite in the United States between the Realists and the Neocons. The Iraq War is widely seen as a Neocon project. All responsible parties are simultaneously trying to assign blame to others and incorporate as many enemy factions as they can into the tent so as spread the blame around. As mentioned above, those enemy factions include Iran, Syria and even the Democratic Party. Here is the Attytood blogger, Will Bunch, on the dog that didn't bark in last week's elections:

Tin-foil hat time: Were Bush and Rove "The Producers" of an intentional flop?

"Under the right circumstances, a producer could make more money with a flop than with a hit."
-- Accountant Leo Bloom, from "The Producers."

There are five stages of grief -- anger is the second, right after denial, and that's where the Republicans are at right now. The sudden ouster of the highly unpopular defense secretary Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, just hours after the GOP electoral bloodbath, has led to most angry Republican fingers pointing straight at Karl Rove & Co.:

"The White House said keeping the majority was a priority, but they failed to do the one thing that could have made a difference," one House GOP leadership aide said Thursday. "For them to toss Rumsfeld one day after the election was a slap in the face to everyone who worked hard to protect the majority."

Maybe it's just because the Democrats actually won something, but for the last few days, something has just not felt quite right about either Tuesday's election, or the White House's handling of the voting and the aftermath. We have no doubts that a majority of American voters wanted change on Election Day, and they wanted the Democrats to be the agent of that change.

But we've also followed politics -- and the rise of George W. Bush and Karl Rove -- intensely these past six or seven years, and so beginning on Tuesday night, we were increasingly surprised at all the dogs that did not bark in the 2006 election -- dogs that raised quite a ruckus in the last three national elections.

The exit polls that leaked out in the late afternoon ended up matching the final results almost exactly -- nothing like what happened in those other Bush-era elections. The razor-close races all broke late for the Democrats, unlike Florida in 2000 or Ohio in 2004...and when that happened, there were no major charges of fraud, no "Brooks Brothers Riot," and no demand for a recount. The last two losers -- Conrad Burns of Montana and George Allen of Virginia -- went quietly into the autumn night, despite relatively close vote tallies. There appear to be no other Rovian stunts, like calling in the GOP's chits with Joe Lieberman to get him to caucus with the Senate Republicans. And there was no October surprise, not in Iran and not back home.

And we thought most of these things before Bush's makes-no-sense-at-all handling of the Rumsfeld matter. We don't think a pre-election firing of Rumsfeld would have changed many voters' mind, but what if had changed just 1 percent. Burns and Allen (heh) would be returning to the Senate, and the GOP would at least control one house. Likewise, a lot of nailbiters like Rep.-elect Patrick Murphy's win in Bucks County would have gone the other way if Rumsfeld had been canned a week sooner.

All this is a long prelude to our thinking the unthinkable.

Is Karl Rove even more of an evil genius than we think? Did he and Bush just produce an election flop...on purpose?

It sounds completely off-the-wall, and before this post is over we'll give some good reasons why they wouldn't do that. But we'll also give you a couple of good reasons why life could be better for the Bush White House and the future presidential ambitions of the GOP with the Dems running Congress.

But any good conspiracy theory -- and even a whacked out one -- needs evidence, so here goes:

1. Here in Pennsylvania, why did the Bush-led Justice Department step up its investigation of vulnerable U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon just weeks before Election Day. Weldon had a tough challenge from Joe Sestak, but few pundits thought he would lose before Oct. 13, that unlucky Friday when word leaked out that the lobbying activities of Weldon's daughter was the subject of a federal probe. His fate was sealed three days later, when FBI agents raided the daughter's home and other locations, in plain view of a stunned news media.

2. How did it come to pass that the predatory sexual habits of Rep. Mark Foley -- which we now know was a closely held secret among GOP insiders for years -- suddenly leaked out to ABC's Brian Ross a month before the election. There is one political operative in this country who is notorious for using rumors or allegations of homosexuality or pedophilia to destroy his election rivals -- and that operative is Karl Rove. According to accounts of how the story broke, it was Republican staffers who leaked the emails to Ross and to other D.C. insiders on the summer of 2006.

3. Given that Bush's approval rating hovered in the 35 to 40 percent range throughout the election season, why did the White House suddenly make the president more visible by having more press conferences -- and thus taking more hostile questions on Iraq and other unpleasant subjects -- than at any other time in his six-year presidency, including two in roughly one week during the October home stretch?

4. Despite voters' increasingly strong dislike of Rumsfeld, the Defense Secretary was deliberately put in front of the cameras at a key time in the race, on Oct. 26, just 12 days before the election. His news conference was alternately awkward and combative; he said that "that anyone demanding deadlines for progress in Iraq should 'just back off,' because it is too difficult to predict when Iraqis will resume control of their country."

5. Likewise, given Bush's low popularity and approval ratings, why was he dispatched at the last minute to the closest races, when other Republicans thought that his presence did more harm than good? Bush appeared with Sen. Conrad Burns in Montana just five days before the election, and for Missouri Sen. Jim Talent the day after that; and made frequent visits on behalf of Virginia Sen. George Allen. All three lost by narrow margins. Tennessee's GOP candidate Bob Corker got the more popular Laura Bush instead...and won.

6. Just four days before the election, and with polls showing the Iraq war highly unpopular, you had these comments from Vice President Cheney: The Bush administration is determined to continue "full speed ahead" with its policy in Iraq, regardless of Tuesday's midterm elections, Vice President Cheney said Friday. Cheney said in an interview with ABC News that the administration is convinced that it is pursuing the right path in Iraq. "It may not be popular with the public. It doesn't matter, in the sense that we have to continue what we think is right," Cheney said. "That's exactly what we're doing. We're not running for office. We're doing what we think is right."

7. Then you had the whole Cheney-Rumsfeld fiasco. Bush went out of his way to praise the two men just five days prior to the election, knowing full well how unpopular they were: He said he valued Cheney's advice and judgment. "The good thing about Vice President Cheney's advice is, you don't read about it in the newspaper after he gives it," the president said. Bush credited Rumsfeld with overseeing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while overhauling the military. "I'm pleased with the progress we're making," the president said. He replied in the affirmative when asked if he wanted Rumsfeld and Cheney to stay with him until the end.

8. And of course Rove made a number of confoundingly bad decisions, dumping millions of dollars into Senate races that seemed hopeless for the Republicans -- and ultimately were -- in the solidly "blue" states of New Jersey and Maryland, where in hindsight a few dollars spent in the right ways might have salvaged the once-"red" Montana and Virginia.

And that's on top of all the things that that the Rove-Cheney-Bush White House didn't do, as we mentioned in the outset -- recounts, massive voter intimidation, or -- as proven by those accurate exit polls -- even worse.

So why in the name of God would Bush and Rove want to produce a flop in 2006?

Well, on the domestic front, there may actually be some advantages for Bush with a Democratic Congress. For one thing, they'll probably pass a favorite program of the president and his big-business buddies, the guest worker program for immigrants, since it was the conservatives in the House holding that up. The GOP was probably also ready to relent on the minimum wage, which was becoming a political albatross for them.

The other stuff that Bush wouldn't like -- higher taxes on oil companies and the rich -- he can always veto, if his 49 senators (nine more than necessary) don't block a vote before it gets that far. He's already been promised by Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean that he won't be impeached. From what we've seen, Bush didn't like the Republican leaders in Congress (especially the ousted Tom DeLay) all that much anyway.

But it really boils down to one word:

Iraq.

Everything we watched Bush do since Wednesday morning seems to be geared in one direction: Bringing Democrats to the table on Iraq. The problem for the Democrats is this: They came to office without a plan for Iraq. Bush doesn't seem to have one either. Nobody does, although James Baker and his friends are said to be working on one. But now whatever emerges from the coming discussions will not longer be the GOP plan. It will be the Bush/Democrats' plan.

And we're afraid that the war planners are expecting things to get worse over there in 2007. Good politicians are able to ensure that when bad fallout is inevitable, that the blame can be shared. A GOP majority in Capitol Hill would have guaranteed that "the Republican war in Iraq" would dominate the 2008 presidential race, and that equation would hand the keys to the White House to the Democrats for sure. And Bush's patrons -- oilmen and the defense contractors -- need the White House a lot more than Congress, especially after the recent expansion of presidential powers. And now both parties will have a stake in Iraq, and the mostly likely in the coming fiasco there...

Mike Whitney also thinks the election was fixed, fixed by letting people's votes be counted correctly and by the well-timed orchestration of news events leading up to the election. The fix was a power grab by the Realists.

Dead Ender, Gone Hunting ...
Cheney in a Box

Mike Whitney
November 11 / 12, 2006

It was the worst outcome imaginable.

They lost the House and the Senate in one night with one savage blow. Even the Confederate flag at Senator "Macakaw's" house was flying at half-mast. Suddenly the Reich that was "built to last a thousand years" had been reduced to small blocks of dusty-rubble extending from sea to shining sea. At the very epicenter of the twisted-iron and smoldering wreckage; was George W. Bush, President Hologram, the celluloid executive whose smirking puss had appeared daily on every American TV and in every American newspaper spreading the "good news" of domestic repression and nonstop war. Now, here he was, once again, convening a news conference, dazed and ashen, propped up amid the scattered debris of a midterm massacre; his party left in utter ruins.

Ouch!

In a moment worthy of Shakespeare, the Fraudster-in-chief had been scuttled by his own party; knifed in the back by his own friends and family who knew that it was finally time to extract the drunken driver from behind the wheel of a Mack Truck.

The Democrats didn't win anything; that's all hogwash. Bush was buried beneath an avalanche of bad news which was timed to begin with the release of Bob Woodward's book "State of Denial", followed by the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), Lancet's Iraqi casualty report, the Mark Foley page fiasco, and a barrage of ethics-scandals, corruption investigations, and intensified coverage of the war. It was a carefully-coordinated coup intended to install "adults" (like Robert Gates) in positions of power, change the policy in Iraq, and remove Rumsfeld and Cheney from office.

One down; one to go.

The "vanilla" Democrats had nothing to do with Tuesday's results. It was a "planned demolition" from the get-go.

Robert Dreyfuss said it best in a recent article when he opined that Bush was handled in the same way "a family confronts an alcoholic. You bring everyone in, and you say, Look, my friend, it's time to change.'" (And then you remove the bad influences)

Elite powerbrokers and Republican Party kingpins extended their hoary grip all the way into the Oval Office and took the country back from the teenagers. But the boulder is still only half way up the hill. After all, what are their plans for Cheney?

Cheney wisely decided to go hunting when he discovered that friend Rumsfeld was being led to the gallows. Cheney's no fool. He knew that if he hung around, he'd be blamed as the co-conspirator of the Iraqi debacle and the subsequent destruction of the Republican Party.

So he did what Cheney always does; he skedaddled. He suddenly discovered that he "had more important things to do"; just like Vietnam.

He said he was going hunting, but that's rubbish. He wanted to be as far from the political fallout as humanly possible, so he vamoosed. There's nothing more to it than that. Besides, there've been no reports of "downed lawyers full of birdshot" this week in Wyoming so we know that Cheney's firearms are still safely tucked-away in the family vault.

Right now, Cheney is probably huddled somewhere with his national security team, rubbing his sweaty-hands together, figuring out how he can get back in the game and keep his fetid plan moving forward.

Cheney is smart; real smart. Smart like a cobra. He's not going down without a fight and he doesn't give a damn if he takes the whole country with him.

This is all about Cheney now; Dick Cheney, political survivor and skilled bureaucratic infighter. If anyone thinks that he's going to sit around waiting for the Democrats to start sniffing around the Republican corruption-cesspool; they're crazy.

He knows what's going on. He knows that Bush Senior, and Brzezinski, and Baker, and the rest of the "old order" Republicans have muscled in and are taking over. He knows he won't be able to bomb Iran, kill another 650,000 Iraqis, or declare martial law at home. And, he also knows that Conyers and the rest of them will be nosing-around the Halliburton "no bid" contracts; going through every sordid detail with a fine-tooth comb, and dredging up new scandals on a daily basis.

He grasps all of that. He understands the political climate and he knows that he only has two choices left; offense or defense?

Either he steps down or he collects his wits, gets his team together; Addington, Abrams, Chertoff, Gonzales etc; all the guys who are "one step ahead of the hangman"; and slaps together one "last-ditch" effort to establish absolute-dictatorial power that will put him forever beyond the reach of the law or of any future accountability for his war crimes.

It's a tough task. Bush is teetering and he's probably left the Cheney-Rumsfeld orbit already. Robert Gates' job is to influence Bush, to win him over with reason and, thus, move the country away from the brink of disaster. Cheney has been removed from the policy-making apparatus and he knows it.

So, what'll he do next?

What will Cheney do now that he's been backed into a corner and his power is oozing away like the blood from a sucking chest-wound?

Will he quietly retire and disappear into the political vapor or "lock-n-load" and go down with both guns blazing?

Here's a clue: Cheney is "dead-ender". He won't go peacefully.

What will Cheney and the Neocons do? Easy, let Israel attack Iran, thereby pinning hundreds of thousand of Americans and British inside Iraq with the escape routes cut off. Maybe that's the Rubicon. Then either public anger will be turned on the leaders who lied us into war, and mass protests will allow the clampdown Cheney has been dreaming about, or the anger will be turned against Muslims again and they can once again lead a fascist nation at war. The economic consequences of such murderous folly would be immediate and severe:

Insanity Then And Now

...Currently, we are being told that Iran is threatening our very existence. What would happen to America if either it or Israel launched at strike at Iranian nuclear facilities many of which are located underneath crowded cities? Iran would regard the attack as a declaration of war by the U.S. and Israel even if only the latter made the initial air assault. The Iranians could fire Russian made SS-29 and SS-22 anti-ship missiles plus NATO Exocets simultaneously from 5 different angles totaling 140 degrees at every ship in the Persian Gulf. We would lose over 10,000 sailors in the first few minutes. 40% of the world's oil supply would be taken off the market and the price of oil would soar to $300 a barrel and gasoline to $10 a gallon. The world would correctly perceive that the American Navy was s floating death trap and dump the dollar. Prices would double and triple overnight. And then prices would spiral even higher cutting after tax wages by more than 50% and pensions by more than 90%. And those 40,000 Iranian suicide volunteers armed with the same missiles Hezbollah used in Lebanon would cut off American troops in Iraq from their supply lines. They could take many troops hostage. Of course the American public would demand we strike Iran, Syria and what's left of Iraq and the Mideast with nuclear weapons. But that would not restore the lives of our soldiers and sailors nor would it bring back the American economy and the country we knew as children. It certainly would not restore the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Israel would survive and quickly make arrangements with Vladimir Putin's Russia to replace the United States as the world's sole remaining super power.

The problem is that the U.S. dollar-based economy will most likely crash even if peace in the Middle East is declared. The damage has gone too far for anything like the status quo to survive. An imperial nation with as much debt as the United States cannot remain economically or politically dominant. The dollar's status as the world's reserve currency will not long survive the defeat in Iraq. But, it has survived until now in the face of massive multiple deficits that would have destroyed any normal currency by now. Here is Der Spiegel:

PLAYING WITH FIRE
America and the Dollar Illusion

By Gabor Steingart

The dollar is still the world's reserve currency, even though it hasn't deserved this status for a long time. The devaluation of the dollar can't be stopped -- it can only be deferred. The result could be a world economic crisis.

The two things investors crave most are high yields and high security. Since you can never have both at the same time, the moods of investors are like an emotional roller coaster. They shift constantly from fear to greed and back -- although major investors, like corporations and states, clearly prefer security over fancy returns. Their fear is stronger than their greed. They'll freely relinquish the really fat profits as long as the stability of their billions is guaranteed. They're afraid of political unrest, they loathe overly dramatic changes in currency value and the mere thought of creeping inflation sends them into a state of panic.

Few countries are able to provide the greatest possible security in the face of these dangers. They include the United States and Switzerland. Indeed, this security is why the dollar isn't just used in trading and investment, but also functions as the world's reserve currency. Almost every country in the world distrusts its own currency to the extent that it prefers to invest the money from its treasury in the United States.

One can almost completely rule out the possibility of political unrest in the United States. Inflation is combated by the Federal Reserve Bank. Given the size of the currency's spread and the quantity of dollars circulating worldwide, speculators have no cause to get overly anxious about the dollar.

Thus, those who have money prefer to keep it in dollars. The United States disposes of a virtual monopoly on the commodity called security. For many investors, purchasing a US government bond is nothing other than a way of preserving their money. In 2005, only 20 percent of all currency reserves in the world were held in euros, whereas more than 60 percent were held in dollars. The introduction of the euro was a considerable success, and one should not downplay it. Nevertheless, the dollar has remained the world's currency anchor. As long as this anchor rests firmly on the ocean floor, stability is guaranteed for the national economies that invest in the dollar.

But if that anchor should tear itself loose and begin to drift freely in the ocean of global finance, the chaos that ensues would result in trouble for more than just exchange rates.

Buying to avoid selling

But why are the same traders who used to purchase products now so mad about dollar bills? Why do they rely on the good called security -- a commodity whose quantity cannot be increased at all? Doesn't every business student learn that the currency of a country is only as stable -- and hence as valuable -- as what the national economy of that country has to offer and produces? Does no one see that the tension between the dream and the reality is increasing and that this tension will snap, leading to suffering for millions?

Of course they see it! Investors can see what is happening. They wonder about it and shake their heads. It even scares them a little, sending chills down their spine. But they keep buying dollars as though possessed. The greater their doubts, the more greedily they order dollars. Indeed, that's exactly what is so crazy about these investors and their behavior: The client isn't just a client. He creates the security he's purchasing by the very act of purchasing it. If he were to stop buying dollars tomorrow, suspicion about the currency would spread and insecurity would grow. Then the dream would end. The dollar would start to falter and all the wealth held in dollars would lose its value. Of course, that's not something investors want to see happen.

The only way to fight a weak dollar is to strengthen it. Many people no longer care whether the US currency still justifies the faith people seem to have in it. The new game, which amounts to playing with fire, works exactly the other way around: The dollar deserves the faith it gets because otherwise it loses that faith. Dollars are bought so they don't have to be sold. The dollar is strong because that's the only thing that can prevent it from growing weak. Reality is ignored because only by ignoring it can the dream come true. Or, to put it still more clearly: Behaving irrationally has become rational behavior.

Everyone knows the danger

Of course, those playing this game know that, in the long term, currencies can't be stronger than the national economies from which they derive. Consumption without production, imports without exports, growth on credit -- these are all things that can't last in this world. Ken Rogoff, the former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and a man who thinks as clearly as he speaks brashly, recently criticized US economic policy even as he seemed to be praising it: Rogoff said the current boom in the United States is "the best economic recovery money can buy."

But if things have become that obvious, why aren't investors recoiling in fear? Why do foreigners, US presidents of all stripes and even Federal Reserve presidents known for their seriousness allow themselves to get involved in such a risky game, when the risk is that of destroying everything? Why aren't those mechanisms of market regulation functioning that are supposed to represent the advantage of the capitalist system over planned economies?

The answer is terrifyingly simple: Everyone knows how dangerous the game is, but continuing to play it strikes them as less dangerous than quitting. After all, what's to be gained from overreacting? Investors allowed themselves to get caught in the dollar trap years ago, and there's no easy way out. If they start taking their dollar bills and government bonds to the market themselves, they would lose money -- either gradually or all at once. They would like to avoid both scenarios, at least for a time. A president who does no more than recognize the situation as an important issue may lose his position as public discontent looks for a vent. Though the governors of the Federal Reserve Bank are under the strongest obligation to tell the truth, they have let the right moment for effective intervention slip by.

... So why aren't the markets correcting themselves in this instance as they normally do? Who or what is preventing investors from behaving differently towards the dollar than they behaved towards New Economy stocks?

They're going to do it. The only question is when. Financial investors aren't tax collectors or accountants: Their job isn't that of a meticulous overseer. They love excess, and they regularly cause markets to overheat. After all, speculation is the business they're in, and being in that business involves living with the risk of going too far. Their professional attitude resembles that of race car drivers whose goal is victory and not avoiding accidents at all costs. What remains unclear is just how dramatic the crash will be. Experts have often forecast the effects of a dollar meltdown. If the downward trend were to begin, interest on credit would rise step by step in an attempt to curb devaluation. That way, the dollar crisis would spread from the world of currencies to the real world of factories, businesses and household accounts within days.

Major and minor private investments yield lower returns when interest rates climb. People would start to save, the economy would falter and eventually shrink. The first mass layoffs would arrive soon afterwards. US citizens would have to once more drastically reduce their level of consumption, as unemployment and waves of bankruptcy would shake up the country. Millions of households would become unable to pay back their bank loans. Then real estate prices and share values would begin to drop, having been overpriced for years and used as mortgages for consumer credit. When the real estate bubble bursts, consumption inevitably dwindles even further. The hunger for imports would fade, causing problems for exporting countries as well. It would only be a matter of days before newspapers would once more feature a term that seemed to have disappeared decades ago: world economic crisis.

Steroids for the giant

Last century, the United States already suffered from one deep economic crisis that gradually spread to the rest of the world. The Great Depression lasted 10 years and brought mass unemployment and starvation to the United States. The country's economic power sank by one-third. The crisis virus wrought havoc all over the West. Six million people were unemployed in Germany when the economic fever was at its peak.

Today's investors face a difficult choice, one they're not to be envied for. They can see the relative weakness of the US economy and they're registering the tectonic shifts in the world economy. They know that a great statistical effort is being made to prolong the American dream. For some time now, government statistics have announced sensational productivity leaps for the US economy -- productivity leaps that, strange as it may seem, haven't led to any rise in wages for years. This is in fact genuinely bizarre: Either capitalists are reaping the fruits of increased productivity all by themselves -- which would be a political scandal even in capitalism's heartland -- or the productivity leaps exist only on paper. There is much to suggest that the second hypothesis is correct.

Half the world is impressed by the low levels of unemployment in the United States. The other half knows that these statistics aren't official, but the result of a voluntary telephone survey. Many of those who declare themselves employed are assistants and day workers. Working just one hour a week is enough for one to be classified as "employed." Given that it's considered antisocial to declare yourself unemployed, the US statistics may well say more about American society's dominant norms than about its actual condition.

The US economy's high growth rates aren't to be completely trusted either. They are the result of high public and private debt. In no way do they express an increased output of domestically produced goods and services that the United States has achieved by its own strength. They say more about the successful sales ventures of Asians and Europeans. New loans taken by the US government were responsible for fully one-third of US economic growth in 2001. In 2003 they were responsible for a quarter. The United States is an economic giant on steroids -- doped so its decline in performance doesn't become too apparent...

The crash can be deferred, but not stopped

The dependence of foreign central banks on the dollar will defer its crash, but it won't prevent it. Today's snowdrift will become tomorrow's avalanche. The masses of snow are already accumulating at breathtaking speed. The avalanche could happen tomorrow, in a few months or years from now. Much of what people today think is immortal will be buried by the global currency crisis -- perhaps even the leadership role of the United States.

Incidentally, the commission that former US President Bill Clinton created to investigate the negative balance of trade concluded in clear terms that the government has to do whatever it can to put an end to the growing disparity between imports and exports. It demanded that the public give up its optimism and return to realism, that people start saving again and that the state reduce its imports in order to prevent too hard a crash landing.

None of that has been done. In fact, what is being done is the opposite of everything the experts recommended. Debt is growing, imports are increasing and an optimism now lacking every basis in reality has become official state policy. Lester Thurow, a member of Clinton's commission, draws the sober conclusion that no one will believe the US balance of trade could produce a crisis "until it happens."

Nick Beams puts the defeat of the United States in Iraq into a larger historical perspective:

The crisis of US imperialism in historical perspective

By Nick Beams
8 November 2006

The 2006 American elections have a truly global significance. They are taking place in conditions where the Bush administration and the entire US ruling elite is embroiled in a deep-going political crisis, precipitated by the disastrous consequences of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. As numerous books, articles and comment pieces - many of them echoing positions articulated within the American military - have made clear, the invasion of Iraq has been a fiasco. The underlying position of the various critics from within ruling circles is that it has weakened both the immediate and the long-term strategic position of the United States.

...Aside from these immediate questions, the Iraq debacle has provoked discussion in American foreign policy circles about the long-term position of the United States.

...Michael Lind of the New America Foundation, a thinktank established in the recent period to promote alternatives to the Bush administration, points to the decline in the long-term strategic position of the US and the collapse of the perspectives developed in the post-Cold War period.

In a recent article entitled "The World After Bush", he writes:

"...Much of America's weakness will be the result of self-inflicted wounds: the unnecessary invasion of Iraq, along with the Bush administration's gratuitous insults to allies, its arrogant unilateralism and its hostility to international law. But as tempting as it may be to put all of the blame on the Bush administration, the truth is that most of the trends that will limit American power and influence in the next decade are long-term phenomena produced by economic, demographic and ideological developments beyond the power of the US or any government to influence. The rise of China, the shift in the centre of the world economy to Asia, the growth of neo-mercantilist petro-politics, the spread of Islamism in both militant and moderate forms - these trends are reshaping the world order in ways that neither the US nor any of its allies can do much to control."

..Turning to the underlying economic issues, he writes:

"[T]he collapse of the neoconservative perspective in the Middle East and the world does not mean success for what he calls the neoliberal perspective of the Democratic Party. "Neoliberals agree with neoconservatives about the goal of US foreign policy - a global free market in a world policed by a benevolent, hegemonic US. Their differences are in the details. Although they are as opposed in practice to a multipolar world order as neoconservatives, neoliberals argue that the US should make its global hegemony more palatable to other countries by endorsing international law and working through international institutions like the UN and NATO."

He notes that while some neoliberals call for a vast program of investment in developing countries, the Middle East in particular - a kind of new Marshall Plan - this will never be tested, because the money is not there in the first place.

While Lind does not go on to develop the argument, this fact does point to the underlying reason for the resort to militarism - the economic decline of the United States. His perspective is for what he calls a "concert of great powers, organised and led by the US" as the best hope for reconciling international peace with liberal order.

But what happens if those powers do not find it in their interest to be led and organised by the US? Such a concert is only possible provided the US is prepared to make concessions to its rivals and potential adversaries. Here, however, lies the fundamental problem. The US is not in a position to do that. As we have previously noted, the invasion of Iraq was directed not so much against Saddam Hussein, as against the European rivals of the US in the Middle East. The aim was to establish a puppet regime in Iraq and in that way reinforce the position of the US against its European and Asian rivals. The same is true of Iran.

The reason the US pursues such a belligerent policy is rooted in its long-term economic decline. In the immediate post-war period, the US financed the Marshall Plan and consciously rebuilt the other major capitalist powers - except Britain whose empire it was seeking to dismantle. Under today's conditions, a "concert of great powers" can at best only be an unstable truce.

The historic context

The present situation has to be placed within its broad historical context - that is to say, examined on the basis of the historical development of the world capitalist system.

...The world economic crisis of the early 1970s, when the profit rate began to fall, signaled the onset of a new downswing in the curve of capitalist development. Over the next two decades, the fall in the rate of profit became the driving force for vast changes in the structure and functioning of capitalist production. These changes, bound up with the application of computer technologies to all aspects of communication and production, have resulted in a quantum leap in the globalisation of production.

Whereas in all previous epochs, surplus value was extracted from the working class within the confines of a given nation-state, this now takes place on a global scale. Capital exists in three forms: as money (the end of the capitalist production process with the sale of commodities and the start of a new round of production), as commodity capital (which emerges from the production process) and as productive capital (the means of production that are employed to extract surplus value from the working class in the course of the production process). Commodity capital and money capital became citizens of the world in an earlier period. Productive capital, however, still retained a certain national identity. But now the disaggregation of the production process beyond the framework of the nation-state means that productive capital has become truly global.

The globalisation of production since the mid-1970s has had vast social and political implications. If the downswing in the latter part of the nineteenth century was the trigger for the establishment of the mass organisations of the working class that held sway for the majority of the twentieth century, then the changes over the past three decades have brought about their disintegration and collapse. This was the significance of the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Capital responded to the downturn in the rate of profit in the 1970s in the same way as it had in the past. It undertook a desperate struggle to revolutionise the process of production. The globalisation of production is the outcome.

...There are distinct parallels with the period before 1914. Then, the upturn in capitalist profit was occasioned, at least in part, by the first phase of globalisation - the exploitation of cheap raw materials and agricultural products. Today, it is being fueled by the increased supplies of cheaper labour. But this mode of accumulation is bound to bring social and political instability because it is dependent on ever-deepening social inequality, which can have far-reaching consequences in both the advanced capitalist countries and the new entrants into the global market.

Like the period before 1914, there is an intensifying conflict among the major powers. The relative economic decline of the US, like that of Britain before it, has extended over several decades. However, it has now become an explosive factor in world politics, as the US attempts to compensate for its loss of economic hegemony by military means. There are criticisms of the Bush doctrine of militarism from within American ruling circles, given the disaster that has unfolded in Iraq. But whenever one reads the alternative proposals - a concert of powers, a return to multilateralism - one is struck by the fact that they all involve some weakening of the position of the US. For three and a half decades, ever since it unilaterally removed the gold backing from the US dollar and ended the Bretton Woods monetary system because it was not able to honour its obligations, the US has been seeking to resolve its economic problems at the expense of its rivals. That process is not going to be reversed. In a sense, the turn to military means represents the intensification of a process that has been unfolding over the entire preceding period.

...Just as in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the previously dominant imperialist power, Great Britain, had to increasingly resort to military means in the face of rising challengers (Germany, rival European powers and the US) so today the US faces direct threats to its position. These are the underlying driving forces of the deepening political instability, growing great power rivalry and war that we are witnessing today.

The next several months should be interesting indeed.
Comment on this Editorial


Yahweh's Stormtroopers


VIDEO: Massacre of Palestinian Women and Children

Michel Chossudovsky
Global Research
November 10, 2006

CLICK TO VIEW VIDEO

Israeli Forces shoot indiscriminately at Palestinian Women and Children.

The official story of the Israeli military is that this was a crack-down operation on "terrorists".

Read the semi-official report by the Voice of America (VOA) (below) and then view the video to see what really happened:

"Mr. Olmert says Israel intends to stop what he describes as the terror coming from Gaza, but has no intention of reoccupying the territory.

Israeli military authorities expressed regret for the death of a 12-year old girl. She was shot by an Israeli sniper who Israeli authorities say was aiming at a Palestinian militant.

Two Palestinian women were killed by Israeli troops in a chaotic demonstration by Palestinian women acting as human shields for Palestinian militants. The militants escaped from a mosque in Beit Hanoun that was under siege by Israeli forces." (VOA)



The "hidden agenda" behind Israel's so-called "unilateral disengagement plan" (leading to the 2005 evacuation of Jewish Settlers) is to transform Gaza into a concentration camp.

How long will the Western media, which claims to be balanced, continue to justify Israeli war crimes?




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How Israel put Gaza civilians in firing line

Sunday November 12, 2006
The Observer

Military chiefs were warned that change of safety margin for gunners risked killing the innocent

Israeli military commanders drastically reduced the 'safety' margins that separate artillery targets from the built-up civilian areas of Gaza earlier this year, despite being warned that the new policy risked increasing Palestinian civilian deaths and injuries, The Observer can reveal.

The warning, delivered in Israel's high court by six human rights groups, came after the Israeli Defence Force reduced the so-called 'safety range' in Gaza from a 300-metre separation from built-up areas to just 100 metres - within the kill radius of its 155mm high-explosive shells, generally regarded as being between 50 and 150 metres.

Disclosure of the new shelling policy, which went largely unnoted at the time, has emerged in international outcry over the latest artillery incident by Israeli gunners shelling Gaza - the killing of 19 members of an extended family in the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun. It was the highest Palestinian civilian toll in a single incident since the current conflict erupted in September 2000. The deaths were caused when what witnesses described as a volley of tank shells hit a built-up civilian area.

The revelation follows reports that the shelling of Gaza has continued despite the recent recognition by senior Israeli military officers, including the head of the IDF's Southern Command, that indirect artillery fire (ie, firing without seeing the target) was largely pointless in countering Palestinian rocket fire.

According to Human Rights Watch, since September 2005 Israel has fired about 15,000 rounds at Gaza while Palestinian militants have fired around 1,700 back. The latest disclosures come as an Arab-backed motion condemning Israel's Gaza offensive was being circulated for debate at the UN Security Council and amid widening demonstrations in capitals of the Middle East.

As more details of the Beit Hanoun incident have emerged, including Israel's admission that the shells that killed the family were in response to the firing of Qassam rockets, probably from a car driven into the area by militants the previous day, they have raised more questions than they have answered.

The IDF has claimed a fault in the artillery radar system's co-ordinates for the missiles changed the margin of error from 25 to 200m, but that still does not explain why it waited until the following day to return fire to a general area - a policy that the Israeli peace group B'Tselem describes as a 'war crime'.

As well as provoking international concern, the Beit Hanoun killings have pushed into the open deep misgivings within the Israeli military itself over its use of artillery - and the capabilities of Israeli gunners - both in Gaza, and in the recent war in Lebanon, as an effective response to missile fire.

As a point of comparison, between June 2004 and July 2006, 14 civilians (six of them minors) were killed by Qassam gunfire fired by Palestinians into Israeli territory and at settlements in the Gaza Strip. In the four weeks from 26 June-24 July this year, however, IDF actions in the Gaza Strip to end the Qassam rocket fire caused the death of 126 Palestinians, 63 of whom did not participate in the hostilities. Twenty-nine of these were minors. According to the UN, since the end of June 450 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza.

Among those who have been loudly critical of the Israeli tactics in Gaza following Beit Hanoun is Lt Col Ron Ben Yishai, defence correspondent of the newspaper Yediot Aharonot. 'Artillery is a weapon system designed to "cover" territory and not hit specific targets, particularly when it is used as "preventative fire" at territories rather than a specified target,' he wrote last week.

'These facts are well known to IDF officials, particularly after the recent Lebanon war when about 130,000 artillery shells were fired. Now it is clear that the effectiveness of this weapon against Hizbollah fighters was marginal, while the economic cost was astronomical and reached millions of dollars.

'Even before the Lebanon war it was proven that artillery fire failed in preventing or even minimising Qassam rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. This is the reason why the IDF Southern Command decided recently ... to stop, or at least highly limit, the use of preventative artillery fire.'

Comment: Interesting. Deliberate murder of innocent civilians is now called "reducing safety margins". How's that for psychopathic double-speak!

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Israeli Army Murders Palestinian in Gaza

Sunday November 12, 2006
Associated Press

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Israeli forces killed a Palestinian teenager in northern Gaza Sunday morning, Palestinian officials said.

Abdallah Abu Namous, 16, was driving his donkey carriage when he was killed, Palestinian security officials said. They said he accidentally entered an area used earlier by militants to fire rockets at Israel.

His brother, who was with him, escaped unharmed, but another person in the area was wounded.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

The Israeli army said its forces had targeted a militant launching a homemade rocket into Israel and had confirmed hitting him.

The army has been battling Palestinian rocket squads in northern Gaza for months, and intensified its operations there in recent weeks. Since the beginning of November, 98 Palestinians have been killed by the army, the majority of them militants and almost all of them in northern Gaza.

Also Sunday, an 18-year-old Palestinian man wounded in an Israeli airstrike last week in Gaza's Jebalya refugee camp died of his wounds at a hospital in Tel Aviv, where he had been taken for treatment, Palestinian medical officials said.




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Palestinian child blown to pieces by Israeli shell

IMEMC & Agencies
12 November 2006

In the town of Beit Hanoun, the site of an Israeli shelling that killed eighteen civilians on Wednesday, another child was killed Sunday by the ongoing Israeli shelling of the town. And an eighteen-year old boy who was critically injured in Wednesday's shelling died today of his injuries, making the death toll since the invasion started last week reach 75., one-third of whom are children.

Medical sources reported that a group of students were targeted by the Israeli shelling on Sunday, in the western part of Beit Hanoun, near Balsam Hospital. One was blown to pieces, and was eventually identified as Moussa Ahmed Zahd, 14, from Al Shaima' area in Beit Lahiya. Two other boys in the crowd were severely injured. They were identified as Abdullah Abu Namous, 17, and Ramzi Ibrahim, 22.

Local witnesses identified the shrapnel as being from a surface-to-surface missile, a weapon made in the U.S.A. and used by Israel to regularly fire into heavily-populated civilian areas of Palestine.

Israeli military officials claimed to have targeted, and successfully hit, "a terrorist standing near rocket launchers." But local witnesses report no terrorists, and no rocket launchers anywhere in the area, only a group of high school and university students going home from school.


Israeli sources report that the missile was fired into Beit Hanoun after a homemade shell landed in Moshav Nativ Haasara in southern Israel, causing no damage. The sources claim that the shell was fired from somewhere near Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip.

Also on Sunday morning, Mohammed Nabil, 18, died of wounds sustained during the massive attack on Beit Hanoun Wednesday that killed 18 people.

Nabil had been transported to an Israeli hospital on Wednesday, and died of his wounds on Sunday. His body was returned Sunday to Gaza, where his family (who were unable to visit him in the Israeli hospital) plan to bury him later today.



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Hamas accepts proposal for peace talks with Israel: Arab officials

Last Updated: Sunday, November 12, 2006 | 5:36 PM ET
CBC News

The Hamas-led Palestinian government agreed Sunday to take part in a proposed international peace conference with Israel, Arab League officials said, despite Hamas' repeated calls for the Jewish state's destruction.

Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar of Hamas endorsed a statement by Arab foreign ministers on Sunday during a meeting in Cairo, which called for the peace conference, diplomats said following the meeting.
The diplomats spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The endorsement was the first time Hamas, which has refused to recognize Israel and renounce violence against the Jewish state, has indicated it would consider making amends with Israeli officials.

"The ministers call to convene a peace conference attended by Arab parties, Israel and the permanent members of the UN Security Council in order to reach a just and comprehensive settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict on all tracks according to international resolutions and the principle of 'land for peace,'" the Arab League statement said.

Conference 'doesn't make Hamas legitimate': Israel

Arabs want Hamas to endorse a 2002 Arab initiative that trades peace with Israel with land gained by the Jewish state in the 1967 Middle East war.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israel's foreign ministry, said he was not aware of the conference proposal, but said Hamas could not be a party to talks with Israel unless it met the international community's stipulations that it recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by existing Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

"A multilateral conference doesn't make Hamas legitimate," Regev said. "What makes Hamas legitimate is accepting the international benchmarks."

Sunday was the first time Zahar had attended an Arab foreign ministers' meeting since Hamas became the ruling Palestinian party earlier this year.

The Arab League had previously refused to let him join his counterparts unless Hamas accepted the peace initiative.

Aid restored in response to U.S. veto

Arab ministers also decided on Sunday to end a financial blockade on the Palestinians in response to a U.S. veto to a UN Security Council draft resolution condemning Israel's deadly military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

On Saturday, the U.S. vetoed the Security Council draft resolution that condemned the Israeli military offensive that has killed more 50 people recently and demanded that Israeli troops pull out of the territory.

In an effort to pressure Hamas to moderate its violent anti-Israel ideology, hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid and tax revenues was cut off to the Palestinians after the militant group took power in March.

It has sparked clashes between Hamas and its rival Fatah movement, as well as violent protests by Palestinian police over the government's inability to pay their salaries.



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U.S. vetoes UN draft criticizing Israel's Gaza attack

www.chinaview.cn 2006-11-12 04:47:51

UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 11 (Xinhua) -- UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 11 (Xinhua) -- The United States on Saturday vetoed an Arab-sponsored UN Security Council draft resolution which sought to condemn the deadly Israeli attack in Gaza and urge an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from there.
Among the 15 council members, 10 voted in favor and four -- Britain, Denmark, Japan and Slovakia -- abstained. The United States voted against the draft resolution.

"The draft doesn't display an even-handed characterization of the recent events in Gaza, nor does it advance the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace to which we aspire and for which we are working assiduously," U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton told the council.

The United States is one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council which wield veto power.

Palestinian UN observer Riyad Mansour expressed disappointment over the vote, stressing the council was conveying two wrong messages to the outside.

"For Israel, you have conveyed to them they can continue to behave above international law. For the Palestinian people, you have conveyed that justice is not being dealt with in a proper way," he said.

Mansour told reporters later that foreign ministers of Arab nations would hold a meeting in Cairo on Sunday to decide the next steps.

He said one option was to bring the measure to a vote in the 192-nation UN General Assembly, where Washington does not have veto power.

It was the second time for the United States to cast a veto in the council this year on a draft resolution concerning Israeli military operations in Gaza.

On July 13, the United States killed a draft resolution reacting to an earlier Israeli incursion in Gaza in response to the capture of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants.



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Abbas reelected as Fatah chief

www.chinaview.cn 2006-11-13 06:44:33

RAMALLAH, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) -- Fatah Revolutionary Council on Sunday overwhelmingly reelected Mahmoud Abbas as chief of the movement and its general leader, official Palestinian sources said.

The sources said that the movement's meeting was held in al-Muqataa, the headquarters of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
The Revolutionary Council of Fatah movement had also decided to form a highest committee to rebuild the movement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

After late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat passed away two years ago, Farouq al-Qadoumi was elected as the Secretary General of Fatah, where Abbas was named as chief of Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee.

Abbas now is the chief of Fatah movement, chief of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee, and the president of the PNA. Late Arafat had these three titles before he died on Nov. 11, 2004.

Fatah movement, which was the ruling party over the past ten years, was defeated by Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in the Jan. 25th legislative elections held in the Palestinian territories.

Fatah lost the government, while Hamas won the elections and formed the government for the first time since Hamas was established in December 1987.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip commemorated on Saturday and Sunday the two-year anniversary of late leader Yasser Arafat decease.



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Abbas, Hamas agree on new PM candidate

www.chinaview.cn 2006-11-12 23:53:21

GAZA, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has accepted a candidate nominated by the Hamas movement to lead a national unity government, the Islamic Online website reported on Sunday, quoting well-informed sources.

The nominee was Mohammed Shbair, former president of the Islamic University in Gaza, who is close to Hamas but not a member.
The website did not elaborate on the sources, but said they were close to Abbas.

The report also quoted Nezzar Rayan, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, as saying that the ruling Hamas movement had agreed with Abbas on a new prime minister.

But Rayan did not clarify who would be the new one.

Meanwhile, Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan told reporters that his movement had nominated a prime minister candidate close to Hamas and confirmed that Abbas has accepted the candidate.

Shbair, 60, was famous for his academic activities and had been the president of the Hamas-dominated Islamic University for 13years.

Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haneya have been engaged in talks for months to form a unity government to replace incumbent Hamas-led one to end the current political and economic crises in the Palestinian territories.

After a general agreement to form a unity government, a committee tasked with outlining the government held its first meeting on Sunday. Senior members of both Hamas and Fatah were present at the meeting.



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Rallies throughout Palestine commemorate anniversary of death of Arafat

IMEMC & Agencies
13/11/2006

The late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, who died [Ed: poisioned by the Israeli gov] on November 12th, 2004, was remembered today in simultaneous rallies held in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Gaza City, Rafah, Jenin and Beit Hanoun.

In Gaza, while thousands of people were gathered to hear speakers and commemorate the late leader, the stage collapsed at the rally, injuring thirteen Palestinians.

Other rallies in cities throughout the West Bank and Gaza also gathered thousands of participants, who spoke of Arafat's vision and commitment to the Palestinian national cause.


Ahmad Hallas, of the Fateh party, speaking at the rally in Gaza before the stage collapse, criticized Israel for its ongoing violence, particularly the killing of 19 civilians in Beit Hanoun on Wednesday, as well as the United States' veto of a measure condemning the attack in the United Nations. He said, "The massacre is backed by the US veto, this Israeli attack on the Strip would not be possible if it were not backed with the American power of veto. Every time the Americans use it, it sends encouragement to Israel."

The Hamas movement, the long-standing rival to Arafat's Fateh party, also joined commemoration of the late President. "The second anniversary of Arafat's death comes amidst noticeable escalation in Israel's terrorism against the Palestinian people who were further subjected to an unjust international political and economic embargo for expressing their democratic will", Fawzi Barhoum, the spokesman of Hamas in Gaza Strip, said.

And the Hamas movement, currently the ruling party in Palestine, since being elected in January, vowed to push an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Arafat's death. Ambiguities around the death of the late President two years ago have led many Palestinians to believe he was poisoned or otherwise assassinated by Israeli special forces.



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Israeli 'Massacre' Overshadowed by U.S. Elections

By Uri Avnery
AlterNet
November 13, 2006.

Israel's massacre of innocent Palestinian families on Election Day was no simple "accident," "tragedy" or "incident."

"Thank God for the American elections," our ministers and generals sighed with relief.

They were not rejoicing at the kick that the American people delivered to George W. Bush's ass this week. They love Bush, after all.

But more important than the humbling of Bush is the fact that the news from America pushed aside the terrible reports from Beit Hanoun. Instead of making the headlines, they were relegated to the bottom of the page.
The first revolutionary act is to call things by their true names, Rosa Luxemburg said. So how to call what happened in Beit Hanoun?

"Accident," said a pretty anchorwoman on one of the TV news programs. "Tragedy," said her lovely colleague on another channel. A third one, no less attractive, wavered between "event," "mistake" and "incident."

It was indeed an accident, a tragedy, an event and an incident. But most of all it was a massacre. M-a-s-s-a-c-r-e.

The word "accident" suggests something for which no one is to blame -- like being struck by lightning. A tragedy is a sad event or situation, like that of the New Orleans inhabitants after the disaster. The event in Beit Hanoun was sad indeed, but not an act of God -- it was an act decided upon and carried out by human beings.

Immediately after the facts became known, the entire choir of professional apologists, explainers-away, sorrow-expressers and pretext-inventors, a choir that is in perpetual readiness for such cases, sprang into feverish action.

"An unfortunate mistake ... It can happen in the best families ... The mechanism of a cannon can misfunction, people can make mistakes ... Errare humanum est ... We have launched tens of thousands of artillery shells, and there have only been three such accidents. (No. 1 in the Olmert-Peretz-Halutz era was in Qana, in the Second Lebanon War. No. 2 was on the Gaza seashore, where a whole family was wiped out.) But we apologized, didn't we? What more can they demand from us?"

There were also arguments like "They can only blame themselves." As usual, it was the fault of the victims. The most creative solution came from the deputy minister of defense, Ephraim Sneh: "The practical responsibility is ours, but the moral responsibility is theirs." If they launch Qassam rockets at us, what else can we do but answer with shells?

Ephraim Sneh was raised to the position of deputy minister just now. The appointment was a payment for agreeing to the inclusion of Avigdor Liberman in the government (in biblical Hebrew, the payment would have been called "the hire of a whore," Deut. 23:19). Now, after only a few days in office, Sneh was given the opportunity to express his thanks.

(In the Sneh family, there is a tradition of justifying despicable acts. Ephraim's brilliant father, Moshe Sneh, was the leader of the Israeli Communist Party, and defended all the massacres committed by Stalin, not only the gulag system, but also the murder of the Jewish Communists in the Soviet Union and its satellites and the Jewish "doctors plot").

Any suggestion of equivalence between Qassams and artillery shells, an idea which has been adopted even by some of the peaceniks, is completely false. And not only because there is no symmetry between occupier and occupied. Hundreds of Qassams launched during more than a year have killed one single Israeli. The shells, missiles and bombs have already killed many hundreds of Palestinians.

Did the shells hit the homes of people intentionally? There are only two possible answers to that.

The extreme version says: Yes. The sequence of events points in that direction. The Israeli army, one of the most modern in the world, has no answer to the Qassam, one of the most primitive of weapons. This short-range unguided rocket (named after Izz-ad-Din al-Qassam, the first Palestinian fighter, who was killed in 1935 in a battle against the British authorities of Palestine) is little more than a pipe filled with homemade explosives.

In a futile attempt to prevent the launching of Qassams, the Israeli forces invade the towns and villages of the Gaza Strip at regular intervals and institute a reign of terror. A week ago, they invaded Beit-Hanoun and killed more than 50 people, many of them women and children. The moment they left, the Palestinians started to launch as many Qassams as possible against Ashkelon, in order to prove that these incursions do not deter them.

That increased the frustration of the generals even more. Ashkelon is not a remote poverty-stricken little town like Sderot, most of whose inhabitants are of Moroccan origin. In Ashkelon there lives also an elitist population of European descent. The army chiefs, having lost their honor in Lebanon, were eager -- according to this version -- to teach the Palestinians a lesson, once and for all. According to the Israeli saying: If force doesn't work, use more force.

The other version holds that it was a real mistake, an unfortunate technical hitch. But the commander of an army knows very well that a certain incidence of "hitches" is unavoidable. So-and-so many percent are killed in training, so-and-so many percent die from "friendly fire," so-and-so many percent of shells fall some distance from the target. The ammunition used by the gunners against Beit-Hanoun -- the very same 155mm ammunition that was used in Kana -- is known for its inaccuracy. Several factors can cause the shells to stray from their course by hundreds of meters.

He who decided to use this ammunition against a target right next to civilians knowingly exposed them to mortal danger. Therefore, there is no essential difference between the two versions.

Who is to blame? First of all, the spirit that has gained ground in the army. Recently, Gideon Levy disclosed that a battalion commander praised his soldiers for killing 12 Palestinians with the words: "We have won by 12 to 0!"

Guilty are, of course, the gunners and their commanders, including the battery chief. And the general in charge of the Southern Command, Yoav Gallant (sic), who radiates indifference spiked with sanctimonious platitudes. And the deputy chief of staff. And the chief of staff, Dan Halutz, the air force general who said after another such incident that he sleeps well at night after dropping a one-ton superbomb on a residential area. And, of course, the minister of defense, Amir Peretz, who approved the use of artillery after forbidding it in the past -- which means that he was aware of the foreseeable consequences.

The guiltiest one is the Great Apologizer: Ehud Olmert, the prime minister.

Olmert boasted recently that because of the clever behavior of his government "we were able to kill hundreds of terrorists, and the world has not reacted." According to Olmert, a "terrorist" is any armed Palestinian, including the tens of thousands of Palestinian policemen who carry arms by agreement with Israel. They may now be shot freely. "Terrorists" are also the women and children, who are killed in the street and in their homes. (Some say so openly: The children grow up to be terrorists, the women give birth to children who grow up to be terrorists.)

Olmert can go on with this, as he says, because the world keeps silent. Today the United States even vetoed a very mild Security Council resolution against the event. Does this mean that the governments throughout the world -- America, Europe, the Arab world -- are accessories to the crime at Beit Hanoun? That can best be answered by the citizens of those countries.

The world did not pay much attention to the massacre, because it happened on U.S. election day. The results of the election may sadden our leaders more than the blood and tears of mothers and children in the Gaza strip, but they were glad that the election diverted attention.

A cynic might say: Democracy is wonderful, it enables the voter to kick out the moron they elected last time and replace them with a new moron.

But let's not be too cynical. The fact is that the American people have accepted, after a delay of three years and tens of thousands of dead, what the advocates of peace around the world -- including us here in Israel -- were saying already on the first day: that the war will cause a disaster. That it will not solve any problem, but have the opposite effect.

The change will not be quick and dramatic. The United States is a huge ship. When it turns around, it makes a very big circle and needs a lot of time -- unlike Israel, a small speedboat that can turn almost on the spot. But the direction is clear.

Of course, in both new houses of Congress, the pro-Israeli lobby (meaning: the supporters of the Israeli Right) has a huge influence, perhaps even more than in the last ones. But the American Army will have to start leaving Iraq. The danger of another military adventure in Iran and/or Syria is much diminished. The crazy neoconservatives, most of them Jews who support the extreme Right in Israel, are gradually losing power, together with their allies, the crazy Christian fundamentalists.

As former Prime Minister Levy Eshkol once said: when America sneezes, Israel catches cold. When America starts to recover, perhaps there will be hope for us, too.



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The Lobby


Just how cozy is Pelosi with AIPAC?

by qrswave
2006-11-09

Now that Pelosi is slated to become Speaker of the House, let's take a closer look at just how much she supports the zionist cause and vice versa.

Political observers say it's no surprise that the congresswoman from San Francisco considers herself close to the Jews.

The daughter of Thomas D'Alesandro Jr., a former mayor of Baltimore, Pelosi grew up in a Democratic family with Jewish neighbors and friends.

"She likes to say that, growing up in Baltimore, she went to a bar or bat mitzvah every Saturday," Amy Friedkin, a former president of AIPAC and a friend of Pelosi's for 25 years, wrote in an e-mail message to JTA.

Friedkin noted that there's even a soccer field in the Haifa area of Israel named after the lawmaker's family.


Really??? Wow. Impressive.

How many Catholic Americans do you think have israeli land dedicated to their families?

Well, now you know one.

While the Republicans had campaigned partly on the premise that support for Israel among Democrats has waned, exit polls from Tuesday's voting show that Democrats won an overwhelming majority of the Jewish vote.

With Pelosi as speaker, Jewish activists and officials are confident that the U.S. Congress will remain strongly pro-Israel.

"I've heard her say numerous times that the single greatest achievement of the 20th century" was the founding of the modern state of Israel, Friedkin wrote.

"She has been a great friend of the U.S.-Israel relationship during her entire time in Congress and is deeply committed to strengthening that relationship."

Sam Lauter, a pro-Israel activist in San Francisco, has known Pelosi for nearly 40 years. He was 5 years old when the Pelosis moved into his San Francisco neighborhood, he recalls. The two families lived on the same street.

"She's one of the classiest," most "straightforward people you could ever meet," Lauter said. "She's incredibly loyal."


I'm sure she is - the question is TO WHOM?

Lauter said the Pelosis used to attend the first night of the Passover seder at his parents' house.

"As far as the Jewish community is concerned, she feels our issues in her soul," he said.

To illustrate his point, Lauter told a Pelosi story that has become almost legendary in the Jewish community.

At an AIPAC members luncheon in San Francisco right after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Pelosi was speaking when an alarm sounded.

"Everybody started getting nervous, scrambling toward the door," Lauter recalled.

One person, though, was reading the words of Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem, above the din.

It was Pelosi.

"It actually calmed the crowd," Lauter said. "You could see people actually smiling, saying 'Wow.' "

This "wasn't something done purposefully to show everyone that Nancy Pelosi supports the Jewish community," he said. It "actually came from inside her."


You would think that being an American congresswoman in America, that if any anthem 'came from inside' this woman's heart, it would be an AMERICAN one.

But, according to AIPAC and clan, putting America first would be anti-semitic.

Rabbi Doug Kahn, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in San Francisco [is] confident that Pelosi, as speaker, will be effective in persuading people with a broad range of views on the Middle East, the importance of maintaining bipartisan support for Israel.

When it comes to Israel, "she truly gets it," said Matt Dorf, a consultant to the Democratic National Committee. he gets "Israel's value and asset to U.S. security" and its "importance as the only democracy in the Middle East."

Jewish organizational officials also commend Pelosi's record on Jewish communal issues.

William Daroff, vice president for public policy for the United Jewish Communities, the federation system's umbrella group and a Republican himself, said the lawmaker has helped ensure federal funding of Jewish family service agencies and Jewish hospitals and has supported government programs and policies that Jewish organizations value, such as Medicare and Medicaid.

He also noted that Reva Price, Pelosi's liaison to the Jewish community for a year and a half, came from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella group of local community relations councils.

Bringing on board such an insider was "really a masterful stroke,"Daroff said.

Price, he added, has done a wonderful job of playing "traffic cop" with Jewish organizations and in making sure that Pelosi's agenda is in tune with that of the Jewish community.

She's been "a real champion of making sure the Jewish community is well served,"Daroff said of the lawmaker. "I'm sure she'll continue to be a champion."


Forgive me if what I'm about to say sounds a tad insensitive to the Jewish cause, but WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF US?!!

WHO WILL BE OUR CHAMPION IN FIGHTING FOR OUR RIGHTS TO SPEND OUR TAX MONEY AS IT BEST SERVES OUR INTERESTS???

HUH?? HUH??

DO TELL ME, please.

However, I should give credit where credit is due.

Pelosi isn't completely controlled by zionists. Occasionally, a sliver of inner conscience peers through the thick zionist exterior to catch a glimmer of daylight.

Some Republicans, in fact, questioned Pelosi's support for Israel this summer.

The congresswoman ended up removing her name as a co-sponsor from a House resolution supporting the Jewish state during its war with Hezbollah because it did not address the protection of civilians.


So, there is some hope, albeit very little.

God knows, I didn't hear her cry foul yesterday when 17 women and children were murdered in their sleep by israeli shells.

Maybe they weren't 'civilian' enough for her.



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Pelosi's Israel Connection

Jennifer Jacobson
JTA Wire Service
10 Nov 06

Before a packed meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee three years ago, U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) connected her political support for the Jewish state with her personal life. "My daughter is Catholic. My son-in-law is Jewish," she said. "Last week I celebrated my birthday and my grandchildren -- ages 4 and 6 -- called to sing 'Happy Birthday.' And the surprise, the real gift, was that they sang it in Hebrew."

Now that the Democrats have taken control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the party is expected to install Pelosi, 66, as speaker, making her the first woman to hold the position that is two heartbeats away from the presidency.
Political observers say it's no surprise that the congresswoman from San Francisco considers herself close to the Jews.

The daughter of Thomas D'Alesandro Jr., a former mayor of Baltimore, Pelosi grew up in a Democratic family with Jewish neighbors and friends.

"She likes to say that, growing up in Baltimore, she went to a bar or bat mitzvah every Saturday," Amy Friedkin, a former president of AIPAC and a friend of Pelosi's for 25 years, wrote in an e-mail message to JTA.

Friedkin noted that there's even a soccer field in the Haifa area of Israel named after the lawmaker's family.

While the Republicans had campaigned partly on the premise that support for Israel among Democrats has waned, exit polls from Tuesday's voting show that Democrats won an overwhelming majority of the Jewish vote.

With Pelosi as speaker, Jewish activists and officials are confident that the U.S. Congress will remain strongly pro-Israel.

"I've heard her say numerous times that the single greatest achievement of the 20th century" was the founding of the modern state of Israel, Friedkin wrote. "She has been a great friend of the U.S.-Israel relationship during her entire time in Congress and is deeply committed to strengthening that relationship."

Sam Lauter, a pro-Israel activist in San Francisco, has known Pelosi for nearly 40 years. He was 5 years old when the Pelosis moved into his San Francisco neighborhood, he recalls. The two families lived on the same street.

"She's one of the classiest," most "straightforward people you could ever meet," Lauter said. "She's incredibly loyal."

Lauter said the Pelosis used to attend the first night of the Passover seder at his parents' house. "As far as the Jewish community is concerned, she feels our issues in her soul," he said. To illustrate his point, Lauter told a Pelosi story that has become almost legendary in the Jewish community.

At an AIPAC members luncheon in San Francisco right after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Pelosi was speaking when an alarm sounded.

"Everybody started getting nervous, scrambling toward the door," Lauter recalled. One person, though, was reading the words of Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem, above the din. It was Pelosi.

"It actually calmed the crowd," Lauter said. "You could see people actually smiling, saying 'Wow.' " This "wasn't something done purposefully to show everyone that Nancy Pelosi supports the Jewish community," he said. It "actually came from inside her."

Lauter and others say Pelosi will have to draw on that inner strength as speaker, since Lauter predicted that she will hear from those in the Jewish community who argue that Democrats no longer support Israel the way they used to.

Some Republicans, in fact, questioned Pelosi's support for Israel this summer. The congresswoman ended up removing her name as a co-sponsor from a House resolution supporting the Jewish state during its war with Hezbollah because it did not address the protection of civilians.

While Pelosi's aides said she was not going to lend her name to a resolution that did not contain a word she had written, Republicans criticized the move.

"It highlights a real wave within the Democratic Party that wants a more 'evenhanded' approach on these issues, and that wants to view Israel through the same prism as we do Hezbollah," Matt Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said at the time. "Watering down is not acceptable right now."

Brooks could not be reached for comment this week.

For his part, Lauter believes the argument about the Democrats and Pelosi is false.

For instance, he noted Pelosi's quick response to former President Carter's description of Israel's settlement policies as "apartheid" in a forthcoming book.

Pelosi publicly announced that Carter does not speak for the Democratic Party on Israel. Rabbi Doug Kahn, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in San Francisco, also applauded Pelosi's repudiation of Carter's position.

He has known Pelosi since she started representing his district in 1987. Kahn said his group has always had an excellent working relationship with her. And he praised her passion for issues that relate to equal opportunity, social justice and peace.

Kahn, echoing Lauter's point, said that Pelosi, coming from a city with such a liberal political reputation, will face challenges from the liberal segments of the Democratic Party that have criticized Israeli policies.

But he is confident that Pelosi, as speaker, will be effective in persuading people with a broad range of views on the Middle East, the importance of maintaining bipartisan support for Israel.

When it comes to Israel, "she truly gets it," said Matt Dorf, a consultant to the Democratic National Committee. She gets "Israel's value and asset to U.S. security" and its "importance as the only democracy in the Middle East."

Jewish organizational officials also commend Pelosi's record on Jewish communal issues.

William Daroff, vice president for public policy for the United Jewish Communities, the federation system's umbrella group and a Republican himself, said the lawmaker has helped ensure federal funding of Jewish family service agencies and Jewish hospitals and has supported government programs and policies that Jewish organizations value, such as Medicare and Medicaid.

He also noted that Reva Price, Pelosi's liaison to the Jewish community for a year and a half, came from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella group of local community relations councils. Bringing on board such an insider was "really a masterful stroke," Daroff said.

Price, he added, has done a wonderful job of playing "traffic cop" with Jewish organizations and in making sure that Pelosi's agenda is in tune with that of the Jewish community.

She's been "a real champion of making sure the Jewish community is well served," Daroff said of the lawmaker. "I'm sure she'll continue to be a champion."



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John Bolton vetoes U.N. resolution condemning Israel's Criminal Actions in Gaza

By Irwin Arieff
Reuters
Nov 12, 2006

The United States vetoed on Saturday a U.N. Security Council resolution urging an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and condemning an Israeli attack there that killed 19 Palestinian civilians.

Nine of the council's 15 members voted for the measure, while four abstained: Britain, Denmark, Japan and Slovakia.

But the "no" vote cast by U.S. Ambassador John Bolton -- his second since he arrived at U.N. headquarters in August 2005 -- was enough to kill the resolution.
The Hamas-led Palestinian government said the veto showed the United States backed Israel's action.

But U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the resolution -- backed by Arab, Islamic and nonaligned nations, and formally proposed by Qatar -- served "a one-sided political agenda" and included an unsubstantiated claim Israel had violated international law.

"We do not believe the resolution was designed to contribute to the cause of peace," she said in a statement.

Bolton's first veto, on July 13, 2006, killed a resolution reacting to an earlier Israeli incursion in Gaza.

The United States has cast 82 vetoes in the
United Nations' 61 years, and nine of the last 10 council vetoes, seven of which dealt with the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The resolution defeated on Saturday would have called on the
Palestinian Authority to "take immediate and sustained action to bring an end to violence, including the firing of rockets on Israeli territory."

It would have urged the international community to take steps to stabilize the situation, revive the Middle East peace process and consider "the possible establishment of an international mechanism" for the protection of civilians.

It also would have condemned Israeli military operations in Gaza and called on the Jewish state to withdraw all troops from Gaza and end its operations in all Palestinian lands.

'MASSACRE'


Seven children and four women were among the dead in Wednesday's shelling of Beit Hanoun, for which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has apologized, calling it an accidental "technical failure" by the Israeli military.

Ghazi Hamad, the Palestinian Cabinet spokesman, said the veto was "a signal that the U.S. had given legitimacy to the massacres and a green light to Israel to ... carry out more massacres."

In the West Bank town of Ramallah, Nabil Abu Rdaineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said in a statement: "The U.S. veto encourages Israel to continue with its aggression against the Palestinian people."

In comments later echoed by Rice, Bolton said Washington regretted the loss of life but was "disturbed at language in the resolution that is in many places biased against Israel."

He said the suggestion of a mechanism to protect civilians would raise false hopes, and he was disturbed the measure made no mention of the word "terrorism" or the Palestinians' elected Hamas government, which refuses to acknowledge Israel's right to exist or renounce violence.

Palestinian U.N. Observer Riyad Mansour said Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on Sunday would decide on the next steps following the measure's defeat. One option was to bring the measure to a vote in the 192-nation General Assembly, where Washington does not have veto power.

The U.S. veto sent the wrong message to both Israeli and Palestinian militants, Mansour told reporters. "Will that help extremist elements to take issues into their own hands on both sides? You bet!"

Governments that abstained said they were unable to support the text because it was unbalanced.



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White House intent on Bolton for U.N. envoy so as to better support the Criminal Regime of Israel

Reuters
12 Nov 06

The Bush administration is intent on overcoming Democratic opposition to U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, the White House said on Sunday, but top Democrats said Congress would not confirm the outspoken envoy.
"I think if (Bolton) actually was able to get a vote in the full Senate, he would succeed ... I'm still hopeful that we can get him through," White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten said on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

"He's been a good ambassador. He deserves confirmation, so we are following the rules," Bolten said.

The White House will try to build more bipartisan support for the nominee, Bolten said, instead of trying to sidestep Congress by keeping Bolton at the United Nations in a job that does not require congressional approval.

When originally faced with Democratic opposition, Bush put Bolton in the U.N. job in August 2005 with a temporary recess appointment that did not require congressional approval but expires in January.

Bush, now in an unfriendly political environment after Democrats swept last week's congressional elections, wants to see Bolton formally approved for the U.N. ambassadorship before Democrats take control of Congress in January.

Democrats have blocked confirmation of Bolton, a former undersecretary of state for nonproliferation, since he was first nominated in March 2005, charging he is ill-suited for the diplomatic workings of the United Nations.

"Mr. President, if you really mean it, that you really want to cooperate and have a bipartisan (support) -- play by the rules, Mr. President. ... Send somebody else," Sen. Joseph Biden (news, bio, voting record), a Delaware Democrat who is expected to head the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, said on "This Week."

Bolton has been a polarizing figure, not just among Democrats. Opposition from Sen. Lincoln Chafee (news, bio, voting record), a Rhode Island Republican who lost his seat in last week's elections, might also hurt Bolton's chance of confirmation.

'HE'S GOING TO LOSE'

The nominee "doesn't even have the votes of a Republican-controlled committee. ... He's going to lose," Biden said.

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid (news, bio, voting record), who will become the Senate majority leader, also indicated Bolton's chances were not good.

"Even before we took over, the Republicans didn't have enough votes to get the guy out of committee, so I think we should go to things we can work together on," he said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Sen. Carl Levin (news, bio, voting record) of Michigan, another senior Democrat, told ABC that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has "not decided that he is the appropriate person for that job."

The White House's Bolten declined to confirm what course the White House would take if Bolton's nomination failed again.

He told CNN's "Late Edition" show that at least one lawmaker, Republican Sen. George Voinovich (news, bio, voting record) of Ohio, has reconsidered earlier opposition to Bolton. "We hope other members will see that," Bolten said.

White House counselor Dan Bartlett told "Fox News Sunday" that Bolton's record in the United Nations -- especially in building support for resolutions on North Korea and
Iran -- had proved naysayers wrong.

"He's done a good job. We believe that both senators from both the Republican Party and Democratic Party ought to give this man the opportunity to continue," Bartlett said.

In blocking Bolton's original nomination, Democrats said he manipulated intelligence to promote hawkish views in his previous arms control job. He also has been criticized for having a go-it-alone attitude toward foreign policy but supporters say he is a strong defender of U.S. interests.



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Israeli Criminal Olmert heads to U.S. to gauge post-election policy

By Jeffrey Heller
Reuters
12 Nov 06

WASHINGTON - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert began a U.S. visit on Sunday, seeking from President George W. Bush a post-election picture of U.S. policy toward Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"It is the right time...to exchange views with the president on what is expected in the coming two years (of his term)," Olmert said before leaving Israel. He meets Bush on Monday.
"The main subjects will be the situation in the Middle East and the Iranian issue," Olmert told reporters, referring to Tehran's nuclear programme which the United States says could lead to the development of atomic weapons.

Israel, which is widely believed to be the only country in the Middle East to have nuclear weapons, fears that a nuclear Iran would pose a threat to its existence.

Iran, whose president has called for the Jewish state's destruction, says it intends to use its uranium enrichment programme for electricity generation.

Olmert told reporters traveling with him that Iran needed to fear the consequences of not heeding international demands over its nuclear programme.

"If someone wants to reach a compromise with Iran he must understand that Iran won't be ready to do so unless it is afraid," Olmert said.

"Israel has various options which I am not prepared to discuss."

Last month Olmert said there would be a "price to pay" if Iran rejected every compromise. He did not elaborate.

Iran said on Sunday its Revolutionary Guards would respond swiftly if Israel attacked the Islamic Republic.

"If Israel takes such a stupid step and attacks, the answer of Iran and its Revolutionary Guard will be rapid, firm and destructive and it will be given in a few seconds," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told a news conference.

PALESTINIAN CONFLICT


A mid-term U.S. election last week showing deep popular dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq has also raised speculation in Israel that Bush could try to cap his two-term presidency with progress on Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

Olmert heaped praise on moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last week, calling him "upfront, decent and against terror," in an apparent signal that he would be the focus of any new U.S. or Israeli peace efforts.

"The Palestinian issue is on the agenda. There is no way we can ignore it. We have to find the best partner," Olmert told Newsweek magazine in an interview published over the weekend.

But any moves on the Palestinian front would likely require a remake of the government headed by Hamas, an Islamist group that has rejected demands by the United States and other peace brokers to change dramatically its position toward Israel.

The group, which won Palestinian elections in January and ousted Abbas's Fatah faction, advocates Israel's destruction.

Hamas and Abbas have been trying to form a unity government of technocrats they hope can ease Western sanctions against the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. Abbas said on Saturday he hoped the unity cabinet would be in place by the month's end.

Israeli media reports said Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had discussed ways for Israel to grab the diplomatic initiative in the stalled peace process.

In the Newsweek interview, Olmert said the recent inclusion of a far-right politician into his cabinet would not alter his position toward the Palestinians.

"... You can read my lips. I'm ready for territorial compromises, and I haven't changed my mind," Olmert said.

Olmert's U.S. trip takes place with tensions high in Israel and the Palestinian territories after 19 civilians were killed by Israeli artillery fire on a Gaza town on Wednesday.

Olmert has expressed sorrow over the deaths in what he described as a technical error by artillery firing toward an orange grove where militants had launched rockets at Israel.



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Israeli PM arrives in Washington for talks on Iran, Palestinians

Last Updated: Monday, November 13, 2006 | 5:20 AM ET
The Associated Press

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has kicked off a five-day U.S. visit aiming to measure Washington's thinking on the nuclear standoff with Iran, Israeli-Palestinian relations and the state of U.S.-Israeli ties following the American elections.

Iran's nuclear ambitions were likely to dominate discussion at Olmert's visit Monday with President George W. Bush.
Olmert also arrived with expectations that he could make small-scale moves on the Palestinian front, including the possibility of offering humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.

On Sunday, Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar of the ruling Hamas group accepted an Arab proposal for a peace conference with Israel, diplomats said. The endorsement marks the first time Hamas, which refuses to renounce violence against the Jewish state, has indicated it would consider making amends with Israel.

Olmert had dinner Sunday evening with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. There was no immediate comment from the Israeli government or the U.S. State Department on the meeting.

Israel is worried by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's repeated calls to destroy Israel and - like the United States - does not believe Tehran's claims that its nuclear program is intended solely to produce energy. Israel accuses Iran of developing nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

While the United States has led international efforts to curb the Iranian nuclear program, Israelis are worried American policy might soften following the Democratic Party's victory in U.S. congressional elections last week.

The fear is that with American public opinion turning against the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Bush, a Republican, would be less likely to take decisive military or diplomatic action against Iran.

Olmert on Sunday repeated his view that Iran will not scale back its nuclear ambitions unless it fears the consequences of its intransigence, a spokeswoman said.

"They (the Iranians) have to be afraid of the consequences if there isn't a compromise," spokeswoman Miri Eisin said Olmert told journalists on the flight to Washington.

Olmert appeared, however, to play down a senior Israeli official's suggestion that Israel is preparing for a military strike against Iran's nuclear program.

Asked to comment on Deputy Defence Minister Ephraim Sneh's remarks, Olmert replied that on such matters, "we have to be very careful about what we say," Eisin said. Sneh said last week that he considered a pre-emptive strike a last resort, but added that "even the last resort is sometimes the only resort."

On Sunday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said Iran's military would hit back with a "swift, strong and crushing" response to any Israeli military action against it.

Olmert arrived in Washington with a gutted diplomatic agenda. He took office promising to pull Israel out of much of the West Bank, but shelved that plan after Israel's recent war against Lebanese guerrillas left Israelis with little enthusiasm for territorial concessions. A recent poll put his approval rating around 20 per cent.



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No one is ever guilty in Israel

Gideon Levy
Haaretz
Nov 12, 2006

Nineteen inhabitants of Beit Hanun were killed with malice aforethought. There is no other way of describing the circumstances of their killing. Someone who throws burning matches into a forest can't claim he didn't mean to set it on fire, and anyone who bombards residential neighborhoods with artillery can't claim he didn't mean to kill innocent inhabitants.

Therefore it takes considerable gall and cynicism to dare to claim that the Israel Defense Forces did not intend to kill inhabitants of Beit Hanun. Even if there was a glitch in the balancing of the aiming mechanism or in a component of the radar, a mistake in the input of the data or a human error, the overwhelming, crucial, shocking fact is that the IDF bombards helpless civilians. Even shells that are supposedly aimed 200 meters from houses, into "open areas," are intended to kill, and they do kill. In this respect, nothing new happened on Wednesday morning in Gaza: The IDF has been behaving like this for months now. (Ed: actually it's about 60 years)
But this isn't just a matter of "the IDF," "the government" or "Israel" bearing the responsibility. It must be said explicitly: The blame rests directly on people who hold official positions, flesh-and-blood human beings, and they must pay the price of their criminal responsibility for needless killing. Attorney Avigdor Klagsbald caused the death of a woman and her child without anyone imagining that he intended to hit them, but nevertheless he is sitting in prison. And what about the killers of women and children in Beit Hanun? Will they all be absolved? Will no one be tried? Will no one even be reprimanded and shunned?

GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant will say with exasperating coolness that apparently there was "a problem with the battery's targeting apparatus," without moving a facial muscle, and will that be enough? Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh will say, "The IDF is militarily responsible, but not morally responsible," and will he thus exculpate himself?

And who will bear the responsibility for the renewal of the terror attacks? Only Hamas? Who will be accused of the tumble in Israel's status and its depiction as a violent, leper state, and who will be judged for the danger that hovers over world Jewry in the wake of the IDF's acts? The electronic component that went on the blink in the radar?

No one is guilty in Israel. There is never anyone guilty in Israel. The prime minister who is responsible for the brutal policy toward the Palestinians, the defense minister who knew about and approved the bombardments, the chief of staff, the chief of command and the commander of the division who gave the orders to bombard - not one of them is guilty. They will continue with the work of killing as though nothing has happened: The sun shone, the system flourished and the ritual slaughterer slaughtered. They will continue to pursue the routine of their daily lives, accepted in society like anyone else, and remain in their posts despite the blood on their hands.

A few hours after the disaster, while the Gaza Strip was still enveloped in sorrow and deep in shock, the air force was already hastening to carry out another targeted killing, an arrogant demonstration of just how much this disaster does not concern us.

Israel after the disaster was split: There were those who did their duty and "expressed sorrow," like the prime minister and the defense minister, and there were those who hastened with appalling insensitivity to cast the responsibility onto the Palestinians, like the "moderate" foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, and the deputy defense minister from the Labor Party, Sneh. The silent majority did not bother to emerge from its yawning indifference. The entertainment shows on television continued to make people laugh, and one of the radio stations even broadcast, in a demonstrable lack of taste, Sarit Hadad's song "You're a Big Gun." Mourning, of course, did not descend on Israel, and there was not even a single manifestation of genuine participation in the sorrow. It did not occur to Israel to promise compensation to the families and it did not provide help, apart from transferring some of the wounded to hospitals in Israel. We provided more aid to the victims of the earthquake in Mexico, even though there we didn't have a hand in the disaster. For the most part, the media were not very disturbed by the killing and devoted less attention to it than to the Gay Pride parade.

A day or two after the disaster it was totally forgotten and other affairs are filling our lives. But it is impossible just to go on to the next item on the agenda. This disaster is not an act of God. There are people who are clearly responsible for it, and they must be brought to justice. The fact that the International Court of Justice in The Hague still looks very far from Israel, and the various "Halutzes" and "Galants" can still move around freely in the world, because in Israel they forgive nearly everything, does not mean that war crimes are not being committed here.

The IDF may well be a big gun, but an army that is responsible for needless killing in such large dimensions, as in recent months in Lebanon and in Gaza, is a failed and dangerous army that must urgently be repaired. The Defense Forces are not only killing Arabs for no reason, they are also directly endangering Israel's security, disgracing it in the world and embroiling it again and again.

The heedless and arrogant reaction to such deeds contains a dangerous moral message. If it is possible to dismiss mass killing with a wealth of technical excuses, and not take any drastic measure against those who are truly guilty of it, then Israel is saying that, as far as it is concerned, nothing happened apart from the faulty component in the radar system or the glitch in balancing the sights. But what happened at Beit Hanun, what happened in Israel on the day after and what is continuing to happen in Gaza day after day is a far more frightening distortion than the calibrating of a gun sight.



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Tough-Talking Israeli General Resigns (scape-goated)

12/11/2006
AP

JERUSALEM - A tough-talking Israeli general who commanded troops ambushed and captured by Hezbollah, setting off this summer's war with the Islamic group, submitted his resignation on Sunday, the army said.

Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch, who commanded an army division along the Israel-Lebanon border, was singled out for criticism because he was in charge of the unit that saw three soldiers killed and two captured by Hezbollah on July 12.

The two captured soldiers remain in captivity.
Last week, Doron Almog, a retired general who headed an investigation into that incident, informed Hirsch - a rugged former paratrooper who was considered a rising military talent - that he would recommend Hirsch be fired when he presented his report Sunday.

Almog's report criticized Hirsch's unit for not properly preparing its troops for the scenario of a Hezbollah attack aimed at kidnapping soldiers, Israel Radio said.

Hirsch's letter of resignation pre-empted Almog's recommendation by hours. The chief of staff had yet to accept his resignation, the army said Sunday.

Hirsch, 42, is the second high-profile military figure to lose his job over the summer's Lebanon war, which ended in stalemate and is widely seen by Israelis as a costly failure.

Udi Adam, who headed the army's Northern Command and was shunted aside by the army's chief of staff while fighting was still going on, resigned in September, a month after the war ended in a U.N.-brokered cease-fire.

Comment: No mention here of the FACT that the Israeli soldiers had crossed into Lebanon when they were captured. Perhaps this is the reason this particular general had to go. Loose truth-telling causes embarrassment and also costs lives, usually those of the truth teller.

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Global pact to clean up unexploded arms takes effect - Will Israel Comply?

By Stephanie Nebehay
Reuters
12 Nov 06

GENEVA - A global treaty obliging warring parties to remove unexploded munitions which kill and maim long after fighting ends came into force on Sunday, amid moves to start negotiations to curb use of cluster bombs.
The "explosive remnants of war" pact, clinched three years ago, has been ratified by more than the 20 states needed to become legally binding.

It requires the cleaning up of deadly debris such as unexploded shells, grenades, cluster submunitions, mortars and rockets which lie in wait after the end of hostilities.

"This is the first international agreement to require the parties to an armed conflict to clear all unexploded munitions that threaten civilians, peacekeepers and humanitarian workers once the fighting is over," the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement.

"Its entry into force, finally, is a milestone," Philip Spoerri, ICRC's director of international law, told Reuters.

The humanitarian agency -- hoping to minimise death, injury and suffering from Asia to Africa -- was behind the initiative to address unexploded ordnance in 2000.

Under the pact, warring parties must mark contaminated areas after a conflict ends and warn civilians of the risks until the ordnance has been cleared.

"It creates an obligation to clean up the mess on the battlefield even if a party doesn't control the territory anymore," Mark Hiznay, of the New York-based group Human Rights Watch, told Reuters.

El Salvador and Liberia, which have emerged from conflicts, are among 26 states to have ratified the treaty so far.
President Bush has sent it to the Senate.

It is a protocol to the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) and its entry into force comes midway in a two-week review conference where momentum is building to address the issue of deadly cluster bombs, aid agencies say.

SENSE OF URGENCY


Cluster bombs are air- or ground-launched canisters holding up to 650 submunitions, which often fail to explode on impact. Designed for use against infantry and tanks, they sink into the ground or lie on the surface and become virtual landmines.

Israel's use of cluster bombs in its month-long war against Islamist Hezbollah militia in southern Lebanon has brought a sense of urgency to halting their firing against military targets located in heavily populated areas, aid agencies say.

More than 20 people have been killed by cluster bomblets since the August 14 ceasefire in Lebanon, where experts estimate that an unusually high 40 percent failed to explode on impact.

"A new treaty is needed urgently to prohibit cluster munitions, weapons that have caused documented and unacceptable harm for over 40 years. The devastation in Lebanon is just the latest example," Angelo Simonazzi, director-general of the Brussels-based Handicap International, said in a statement.

The ICRC has called for a ban on the use of cluster bombs in populated areas, where it says they cause "severe and disproportionate impact" on civilians, a call echoed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Nearly 20 states at the Geneva meeting back an attempt by Sweden to seek the launch of negotiations on some form of treaty, according to the ICRC's Spoerri.



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True cost of cluster bombs - Israel's favorite toy

New Scientist Print Edition
11 November 2006

Cluster bombs are an effective weapon. Since entering widespread use in the 1960s they have caused 2000 military casualties. They have also killed or injured an estimated 98,000 civilians.
The grim figures come from the first global assessment of the impact of cluster bombs, released on 2 November by the UK-based support group Handicap International (HI). It is timed to precede talks this week in which Sweden, supported by Austria, Mexico and New Zealand, will propose a ban on cluster weapons to members of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention on Conventional Weapons.

Cluster weapons are bombs or shells that contain dozens of "submunitions" designed to scatter over a wide area and then explode. An estimated 10 per cent fail to detonate and remain lurking until someone stumbles across them, sometimes years after a conflict is over. One-third of the casualties are children.

Campaigns to ban cluster weapons have been hindered till now by a lack of reliable figures. HI's assessment reports 11,044 confirmed casualties in the 23 countries where cluster munitions have been used. "Today we can add another 800 to that number," HI researcher Katleen Maes told New Scientist, as new reports have come in from Iraq.

These figures are a gross underestimate, she says, as most countries do not separate submunitions casualties from those due to other "explosive remnants of war". On this basis, HI puts the true number of killed and wounded at around 100,000.

From issue 2577 of New Scientist magazine, 11 November 2006, page 6




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The root of terror is clear

Peter Preston
Monday November 13, 2006
The Guardian

You have to work a little to crack the Da Eliza code. Most headline writers, last week, stopped at the MI5 chief's flurry of oddly precise figures: 30 petrifying plots pending, 200 terrorist groupings identified, 1,600 dodgy individuals under surveillance. And even when you got beyond such chill statistics, there were still red herrings swimming around. "It's difficult to argue that there are not worse problems facing us, for example climate change," she suddenly announced halfway through her timber-shivering lecture. Espionage boss demands more loft insulation? Where's the blood-stained brick road to Jerusalem there?

But then she began talking about "the roots of terrorism" and the coding grew more transparent. The threat posed by Bin Laden and followers, she said, "is serious, is growing and will, I believe, be with us for a generation".
There's the crucial word: generation. When you talk about a "generation" you're broadly defining a set of people born around the same time, men and women who share the same broad tastes and influences. Their generation games can last for 10 years or 20. The term can embrace baby boomers and MTV addicts, see generation X turn to generation Y. But it is as long - and as useless - as a piece of string at telling us when a taste for nightmares will end, or how "sustained campaigns" of fear can be brought to a close.

Does Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller truly believe that the cult of Osama is some passing, youthful fad that will one day be gone, like David Cassidy's fan club? Will it somehow be swept away by new boy bands or iPods? Not exactly, it seems. We must all stand up for our core values, "equality, freedom, justice and tolerance", she says. We must therefore confront "the powerful narrative that weaves together conflicts from across the globe, presenting the west's response to varied and complex issues, from longstanding disputes such as Israel/Palestine and Kashmir to more recent events, as evidence of an across-the-board determination to undermine and humiliate Islam worldwide".

Code-crackers will note that she lists those issues and disputes alphabetically. "Afghanistan, the Balkans, Chechnya, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Kashmir and Lebanon are regularly cited by those who advocate terrorist violence as illustrating what they allege is western hostility to Islam." They should also note that she goes way back before 9/11, which means before Baghdad and Kabul, too - to the 1990s, when al-Qaida was blowing up Nairobi and Dar es Salaam and killing hundreds of innocent Africans. So these "roots" go very deep.

And where, in any meaningful sense, can they be reckoned to start? Not in Kashmir, against a Hindu enemy; nor in Chechnya, unless Putin has become an honorary pillar of "the west". Did Washington dismember Yugoslavia? Is Tony Blair about to sabotage the birth of a Muslim Kosovo? No, the loose threads of this tapestry lead inescapably back to what she calls "Israel and Palestine". Maybe bringing peace to the Middle East after over half a century of vicious strife wouldn't bring total generation shift, the lessening of a fury, the erasure of hatred. But it would be a beginning, a symbol, a chance to start afresh.

Dame Eliza, essentially, is talking solutions with a grim fervour and logic - for how else, another 10 or 20 years on, do we suppose that succeeding generations in Bradford, Barnsley or Slough will begin to think afresh? MI5 and Scotland Yard can't do it with knocks on the door. Deportations and bans on turbulent priests won't do it, either.

There is some fresh thinking around, to be sure. "The source of the conflict here is not territory, not occupation, not settlers. It is a clash between two people and two religions. Anywhere in the world where there are two peoples and two religions, whether it's in the former Yugoslavia, or the Caucasus, or Northern Ireland, there is conflict."

But these are the malign thoughts of the new power kid on the block, Avigdor Lieberman, deputy prime minister of Israel and passionate advocate of ethnically cleansing his adopted land. Meanwhile, dozens more Palestinians die while the enfeebled government that needs Lieberman inside the tent shells Gaza day after day. Whoops! Nineteen more women and children killed by accident. So sorry ... Let's talk equality, freedom, justice and tolerance.

We pretend that withdrawing from Afghanistan or Iraq will do the hearts-and-minds trick. We pretend (with America's triumphant Democrats as the worst offenders, alas) that Israel can somehow be set to one side while the al-Qaida terror debate rages. We kid ourselves that a Middle East solution - permanent, guaranteed and enforced - is separate and optional. It isn't.

"None of this can be tackled by my service alone," says Dame Eliza. Others "must tackle the causes". And - coded or not - we damn well know where those causes lie.



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Israel: Whorehouse of the Middle East

Rev. Ted Pike
truthtellers.org
November 8, 2006

My article "Israel: On the Way to Empire in the Mideast" documents from Scripture an astonishing fact: Israel today is the symbolic "Mother of harlots" described in Revelation 17 and 18. Ancient Israel was first to be spiritually "married" to God and first to prostitute that unique relationship. Her forehead was branded "mother of harlots," an epithet which has never been removed.

Today, Israel lives up to her name as an international hub of prostitution and white slavery in the Mideast.

Amnesty International, in its 2005 Report on Discrimination Against Women in Israel says:

Trafficking of women for forced prostitution has occurred over a number of years but appears to have been compounded in the past 15 years by several factors, including increased links between traffickers in Israel and former Soviet republics, in the wake of the large wave of immigration of citizens of these countries to Israel...
...Many women are lured to work in Israel under false pretense and are then forced into the sex industry. While many are reportedly aware that they will be working as sex workers, they are not aware they will be subject to violent and exploitative environments, working seven days a week and up to 18 hours a day for extremely low salaries or no salaries at all. Many are subjected to other serious human rights violations, including rape, deprivation of their liberty, and debt-bondage. Women forced to work as sex workers are reportedly also frequently subjected to threats of abuse and even murder. Half the women interviewed by the Hotline for Migrant Workers were effectively incarcerated by their "pimps" and, according to a 2003 survey, almost half of all women "sold" to pimps reported that policemen were among their clients.

According to a report by the Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry on the Trafficking in Women (Summary Report) issued in early 2005, some 3,000 to 5,000 women are brought annually into Israel and forced to work as sex workers and some 10,000 were estimated to be currently in the country...

Most of the women known to have been trafficked into Israel are from Ukraine, Moldova, Uzbekistan, and Russia, and are brought into Israel through the Egyptian-Israeli border. In the course of their journey, many are reportedly raped before traffickers sell them for $8,000-$10,000... 1

Jewish Michael Specter, in his article, "Slave Traders Lure Slavic Women," confirms Amnesty's report:

[In Israel] police officials estimate that there are 25,000 paid sexual transactions everyday. Brothels are ubiquitous...Once they [the women] cross the border [into Israel] their passports will be confiscated [by pimps], their freedoms curtailed, and what little money they have taken from them...The Tropicana in Tel Aviv's bustling business district, is one of the busiest bordellos. The women who work there, like nearly all prostitutes in Israel today, are Russian. Their bosses, however, are not. 'Israelis love Russian girls,' said Jacob Golan, who owns this and two other clubs, '....They are blond and good-looking and different than us...And they are desperate. They are ready to do anything for money.' 2

Israel: Slow to Correct Problem

Prostitution and white slavery constitute a billion-dollar-a-year industry in Israel that expands virtually unrestrained.

About two to three thousand women from FSU (Former Soviet Union) countries annually enter Israel's brothels. The US State Department, in its 2001 Trafficking in Persons Report, described Israel as among the very worst international offenders in allowing white slavery. They classed Israel in Tier 3, a group described as "not making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with the standards of the Dictums of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000." Israel was grouped with Albania, Gabon, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, and Pakistan, who also received an "F" for failing to protect human rights.

After this scathing 2000 report, Knesset finally passed a law criminalizing white slavery. 3 Enforcement programs and lesser statutes have been enacted, with increased police attention to the problem. In 2004, the courts actually handed down 28 convictions to white slavers. Such efforts caused the US State Department to elevate Israel's offender status to Tier 2. 4

However, recent reports by Amnesty and the state department are full of criticisms of Israel: While laws against sex slavery are now on the books, Israel shamelessly neglects to protect and encourage ex-prostitutes in their attempts to testify against their oppressors. Victims are largely denied full legal education, rights, services, and protection against vengeful pimps. Without victims' testimony, laws against white slavery can't be enforced.

Amnesty says,

The authorities-and in particular the police-still overwhelmingly considered trafficked sex workers simply as "criminals" who violated the Entry into Israel law, rather than victims of grave human rights violations who should enjoy the effective protection and assistance from state institutions. Consequently, the authorities have focused their activities on deporting trafficked women instead of protecting their rights and addressing their needs.

In addition, the Israeli authorities do not carry out any risk assessment of the possible dangers which trafficked women who have testified against their traffickers face after being deported back to their countries, leaving them and their families vulnerable to further human rights violations, including reprisals and retrafficking. 5

If a woman files a complaint against her Jewish slave master, as an illegal alien she will be imprisoned. As a result, an infinitesimal number of ex-prostitutes testify against their pimps. Consequently, very few slavers are convicted.

As a result of Israel's anemic response to the problem of white slavery, most slavers are able to mock anti-prostitution laws and white slavery continues to expand.

The government of Israel claims great difficulty in combating this problem. But Knesset hasn't even made organized prostitution a crime. The sex trade enriches Israel yearly by perhaps hundreds of millions of tax dollars. This may be part of the reason the government seems in no great hurry to clean up the industry.

History of Oppression

Four hundred years ago, Jewish slave traders dominated the lucrative business of shipment and sale of African slaves to the new world. 6 For at least the last 125 years, Jews have also overwhelmingly controlled organized prostitution and white slavery in Europe, the United States, and South America.

Jewish historian Edward Bristow, in his book Prostitution and Prejudice: the Jewish Fight against White Slavery, 7 says:

Rooted largely in Eastern and Central Europe where they "dominated the international traffic out of the area," (p. 2) Jews were involved in prostitution rings that networked, wrote Arthur Mora (of London's Jewish Association for the Protection of Girls and Women) in 1903, "to almost all parts of North and South Africa, to India, China, Japan, Philippine Islands, North and South America, and also to many of the countries of Europe." (p. 1)

Jewish criminals trafficked women under their control virtually anywhere, also including the major cities of Bulgaria, Bosnia, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Ceylon, Manchuria, South Africa, Rhodesia, and Mozambique. (p.181)

"By 1900," says Bristow, "Jewish commercial vice was largely incorporated in underworld elements and many of its participants were predators of the poor. (p. 89)

Jewish pimps, procurers, and traffickers, preyed mostly on non-Jewish women but even large numbers of Jewish women were a part of their stables. In 1872, for example, Jewish prostitutes in Warsaw numbered 17 percent of the known prostitution population, in Krakow, 27 percent, and in Vilna, 47 percent. (p. 23)

Within the Jewish community itself, it was not uncommon for recruiters to marry innocent Jewish young women and "deposit them in foreign brothels."(p. 25)

Many of the Jewish criminal underworld figures apparently saw no gap between their day-to-day activities and their religious lives, often maintaining their religious obligations. A Warsaw thug, Shilem Letzsky, organized a small synagogue for "Jewish prostitutes, madams, pimps, and thieves." This criminal community even had a rabbinical court "to settle disputes between pimps." (p. 60)

Other authorities say:

In Constantinople, prostitutes contributed money to "have their pimps called to Torah on holidays." 8

In Buenos Aires, Argentina, the Jewish pimp organization, called the Varsovia Society, "...ostensibly functioned as a neutral aid society...In fact, the Varsovi, consisted of pimps who wanted to maintain their businesses and still live a religious life...Varsovia associates established their own synagogues on Guemes Street in the midst of the traditional bordello district." 9

Tradition of Prostitution Continues

In Israel today, the sale of human flesh continues. Jewish pimps and brothel-owners bring FSU girls to Israel to turn tricks in the thriving bordellos of Haifa and Tel Aviv.

Many of these women, though fair-haired, are undoubtedly Jewish "Ashkenazim." They may well have taken advantage of airlifts of Jews out of the FSU, such as Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein's Wings of Eagles ministry, funded by idealistic evangelical Christians.

Most, however, are Gentiles. They may also have hitched a free ride to Israel on Wings of Eagles. The US State Department says: "In a new trend, traffickers in Ukraine reportedly have begun exploiting an Israeli law that allows all Jews to immigrate to Israel by providing victims with false identity documents." 10

Specter's article says "elderly Jewish women in the Ukraine" were responsible for forging passports for Gentile prostitutes going to Israel. Presumably, these Jewish women received kickbacks from Jewish slavers in Haifa and Tel Aviv. With an FSU prostitute bringing in up to $100 thousand dollars annually, one suspects many of the "Jews" who are "ransomed" by gullible evangelical Christians are actually headed for white slavery in Israel.

The majority of FSU women who do not have the advantage of being labeled Jewish arrive in Israel through Cyprus and Egypt. Israeli customs police allow them to travel unhindered to slave auctions. Many are raped by pimps (testing the goods) and bought for $6 to $20 thousand dollars. In about 250 Israeli brothels, mostly in major cities, they satisfy the lust of Jewish businessmen, soldiers, tourists, etc. Servicing an average of 15 customers per girl per day, even a small brothel can make more than $8 thousand dollars per month from each woman. 11

Now virtual slaves to their Jewish pimps, these women pocket only a tiny percentage of their proceeds, most of which often go to support their families back in eastern Europe or Eurasia.

Double Standards

How can such vice and human bondage exist in what Christians consider God's "Holy Land?" How can Orthodox Judaism, the official position of the state of Israel, tolerate such egregious human rights violations?

In my latest e-alert, "Talmud: Wellspring of Jewish Pornography Industry," I document how the Talmud, the highest religious authority for observant Jews, sanctions adultery with Gentile "bondmaids" or slave girls. The Talmud gives Jewish men the right to rape them if they are found sleeping, or while they are awake if the rape is performed in a perverted manner, or if withdrawal occurs before climax is finished.

Judaism's loopholes for adultery are nothing new. Both Christ and St. Paul accused the Pharisees and their followers of claiming to uphold God's laws against sexual sin, yet violating them at the same time. (Matt. 12:39, Romans 9:22)

Judaism and Islam: Darkened Religions

Does Judaism alone among the world's great religions provide moral exceptions to God's laws against sexual vice? Of course not. Islam gives similar license. Many Moslems believe they can be "married" for as short as a minute or as long as 99 years. The brothels of Tehran are daily filled with "righteous" Moslem men involved in 20-minute "marriages" and "divorces" with prostitutes! 12

But there's a big difference between religiously excused sex trades in Iran and in Israel: Islam does not claim to be part of the hallowed "Judeo-Christian" moral tradition. Most evangelicals believe rabbinic Judaism shares Christianity's essential ethics. Indeed, it is their confidence in shared moral values that prompts their unconditional support of Zionism.

They have been massively deceived. Orthodox Judaism's values could not be more distant from Christianity's. In the streets of Israel's major cities, sex slaves are brazenly flaunted and their pimps and slave masters go virtually unprosecuted. Why? The Talmudic ethics underlying the state of Israel endorse such degeneracy, especially with "goyim" women. The Talmud and Zohar regard Gentile women as chattel for Jewish men; they are "beasts of the earth," not fully human. 13 (See, "Have You Read the Talmud Lately?")

Talmudic denial of the humanity of Gentile women causes many Orthodox men in Israel to take advantage of the Talmud's rationalization that sex with the Gentile "shiksa" (whore, abomination) is morally neutral.

Moment magazine, the "Magazine of Jewish Culture and Opinion," says paid sex with blond Russian girls is a "national institution." Even rabbis, says Moment, visit these "shiksas" in whorehouses.

A good percentage of the customers or johns, in the lingo, are ultra-Orthodox Jews, pious men whose lives are guided by halaka (religious law), which tells them when they can or cannot have sex with their wives. So, on Thursday afternoons (boys' night out in Israel), busloads of Orthodox Jews travel from Jerusalem, Haifa, and points beyond, to Tel Aviv, for a few precious moments of passion in a massage parlor, behind a sand-dune, or in an alleyway. Other customers are accountants, lawyers, policemen, and politicians. "The entire spectrum of Israeli society is keeping the hookers in business," claims detective Shackar, a cynical veteran of the Tel Aviv vice detail... 14

Israel does not vigorously enforce its new law against white slavery for a simple reason: The Talmud repeatedly upholds the right of rabbis to sexually violate their "designated bondmaids" or sex slaves, free of punishment or moral guilt. The government of Israel can't effectively enforce a law forbidding what the Talmud permits.

Without strong, vehement, righteous indignation against prostitution (such as true Christian activism provides) the government of Israel, from Supreme Court to local police, remains largely powerless to stop the burgeoning sex slave industry.

What's Next?

I've described the past and present of the harlot Israel. What of her future?

The book of Revelation tells us Israel, the great harlot, will continue her spiritual and physical whoredom, until, through Jewish control of world media, government, finance, and commerce, she dominates not only the Mideast but the world. Ultimately, she will enter a "covenant" of spiritual marriage with her false messiah, the one-world leader, anti-Christ (Daniel 9:2). The "beast" is a substitute husband for her true spouse, Jesus, whom she crucified 2,000 years ago.

The harlot will ruthlessly persecute Christianity, being "drunk with the blood of the saints of Jesus" (Rev. 17:6). The beast will continue such onslaught against the church, given power to "make war with the saints and to overcome them..." (Rev. 13:7).

Yet at the apex of Israel's power, the beast will throw Jerusalem off his back, and with his confederation of world armies, kill at least two-thirds of world Jewry (See, "Bible Prophecy Made Simple"). A remnant, however, will survive until Christ's coming in glory. Christ, from the heavens, will judge the nations who attempted to destroy the Jews. Realizing how Christ has saved them from extinction, a beleaguered, astonished remnant will at last understand the magnitude of their father's apostasy. They will "look upon me (Christ) whom they have pierced" (Zech. 12:10). In national repentance and mourning, they will turn at last from their harlotry.

Thirty-five hundred years ago, Christ rescued Israel from the garbage heap of Egyptian bondage, choosing her as His bride and washing her of her blood and uncleanness. In the same way, someday, Christ will purify these repentant Jewish survivors. He will spiritually remarry Israel, joining her with His other spiritual bride, the Christian church. These Jews, at last giving Christ the obedience He demands, will finally be allowed to legitimately dwell in the land promised to the obedient descendents of Abraham. It will be a truly holy land.

At that time, He says, "You shall not play the harlot...but afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king (Christ) and they will come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness in the last days" (Hosea 3:5).

Endnotes:
1 Amnesty International, Israel: Briefing to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, June 2005
2 Michael Specter, New York Times News service p. 1, January 11, 1998
3 "In 2000, the Israeli Penal Code was amended to explicitly criminalize traffickers in persons for the purpose of prostitution..." Amnesty, 2005 Report
4 US State Dept. 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report
5 Amnesty International, 2005 Report
6 Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 13, in its article on "Jews," p. 57, says, "In the Dark Ages, the commerce of western Europe was largely in his [the Jew's] hand, in particular the slave trade." A History of the Jews from Babylonia Exile to the End of World War Two, published by the Jewish Publication Society of America, says, "Jews were among the most important slave dealers [in European society]." Marc Raphael's Jews and Judaism in the United States: a Documentary History states, "Jewish merchants played a major role in the slave trade. In fact, in all the American colonies...Jewish merchants frequently dominated." These are only a few of many reputable sources establishing Jewish predominance in the American slave trade.
7 Edward J. Bristow, Prostitution and Prejudice. The Jewish Fight against White Slavery, 1870-1939, Schocken Books, New York, New York, 1983
8 Susan Wheidman Schneider, Jewish and Female: Choices and Changes in our Lives Today, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1984, p. 225
9 Donna Guy, Sex and Danger in Buenos Aires: Prostitution, Family and Nation in Argentina, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London, 1989, p. 22
10 US State Department, op cit p. 1
11 Jerusalem Post, Jan. 13, 1998
12 New York Times, Oct. 4, 2000
13 Zohar, Bereshith 47a says, "....'living soul' refers to Israel, who have holy living souls from above, and 'cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth' to the other peoples are not 'living soul'..."
14 Moment, "Hookers in the Holy Land," April 1998, p. 45-78
www.truthtellers.org/alerts/israelwhorehouse.html



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Israel lobby Says Pentagon 'Infiltrated'

Michael Collins Piper
American Free Press
November 11, 2006

A leading voice of the pro-Israel lobby is pushing for an old-style "witchhunt" - under the guise of "homeland security" - to identify (and expel) individuals in the U.S. government and our military who are suspected of being hostile to Israel.

The call for a witch-hunt is based on the outlandish thesis that "Islamo-fascists" and Muslim "jihadist" operatives and, perhaps more particularly, their "sympathizers" - however loosely defined - have infested America's defense, national security and federal law enforcement community.

The witch-hunt was proposed in the fall 2006 issue of the small-circulation-but highly influential-Journal of International Security Affairs published by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). JINSA has been one of the frontline forces in the fanatically pro-Israel "neo-conservative" circles directing foreign policy under George W. Bush.
Not only Vice President Dick Cheney, but also UN Ambassador John Bolton, former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith and Richard Perle, former chairman of the Defense Policy Board-to name just a few big Bush administration names-have all been associates of JINSA.

University of Pennsylvania Prof. Edward Herman has described JINSA as "organized and [run] by individuals closely tied to the Israeli lobby and can be regarded as a virtual agency of the Israeli government."

What first appears as commentary in JINSA's Journal often leads to very real policies carried out by the Bush administration alone and sometimes in concert with Capitol Hill which some critics have been known to cynically call "Israeli occupied territory."

The JINSA call for a witch-hunt came in the context of a series of commentaries on "21st Century Allies . . . and Adversaries" for the United States and Israel, which two nations, of course, are seen in the JINSA world view as virtual extensions of one another.

Zionist publications regularly assert that "anti-Israel" sentiments must automatically be seen as "anti-American" and even as "anti-Christian" in nature, a theme first loudly propagated by the American Jewish Committee's Commentary magazine.

The commentaries, not surprisingly, named such countries as Iran, Syria, Russia and Venezuela, as possible "adversaries" for the U.S.-Israel Axis. However, it was an article by Walid Phares-who is associated with a Zionist lobby front known as the Foundation for the Defense of the Democracies-which made the suggestion that there are very real "adversaries" on American soil, at high levels in the American military and intelligence establishment. In his article "Future Terrorism-Mutant Jihads," Phares asked:

"How deeply have jihadist elements infiltrated the U.S. government and federal agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and various military commands, either through sympathizers or via actual operatives?"

Although posed as a loaded question, Phares's implication was clear: he believes such a "threat" exists. The JINSA writer then proclaimed the need for a "national consensus" that requires "confronting these forces" based on "knowledge of their ideologies, objectives and determination."

Since there are few Muslim Americans or even Arab Americans in any substantial numbers in the FBI, Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, etc, the suggestion that "jihadist" elements have "infiltrated" our government might seem silly to the average American.

But in the fevered minds of JINSA and hard-line Zionist elements, the real concern is that there are growing numbers of people high up in the FBI and the CIA and in the military who are getting "fed up" with Zionist power in America. Top military leaders openly dismissed the need for war against Iraq and Iran, both wars of which have been long-time policy plans of the Zionist lobby. And all of this, in the view of the JINSA sphere, constitutes effective collaboration with and sympathy for the dreaded "jihadists."

For example, on May 11, 2005, the New York-based Forward, a leading Jewish community newspaper, reported that Barry Jacobs of the Washington office of the American Jewish Committee said he believed there are high-ranking officials inside the U.S. intelligence community who are hostile to Israel and are waging war against pro-Israel lobbyists and their neo-conservative allies in the inner circles of the Bush administration.

Citing the ongoing FBI investigation of espionage by officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the leading pro-Israel lobby group, Forward reported that Jacobs believes, in Forward's summary, that "the notion that American Jews and Pentagon neo-conservatives conspired to push the United States into war against Iraq, and possibly also against Iran, is pervasive in Washington's intelligence community."

Obviously, with such thoughts running rampant in pro-Israel circles, it is inevitable a leading pro-Israel policy group such as JINSA would raise the specter of "infiltration" by those who are seen as "sympathizers" and suggest that they be purged from their positions in government agencies.

So the threat of a witch-hunt happening is real. Despite differences between the Bush administration and its Democratic foes, both come together in one realm: satisfying the Israeli lobby which funds both Democrats and Republicans alike through a network of political action committees and exercising its clout on Capitol Hill through pressure groups such as the APIAC, the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League.

It is ironic that JINSA should be the source of a demand for an investigation of foreign agents and sympathizers inside the American government. The founder of JINSA, Stephen Bryen, a former Senate aide on Capitol Hill, faced certain indictment on charges of espionage for Israel until pressure on the Justice Department forced Justice to back off.

Not only Bryen, but several others in the JINSA sphere were under FBI investigation on similar charges relating to their possible misuse of American defense and intelligence information on Israel's behalf. They include:

- Richard Perle, investigated in the 1970s when he was a top aide to then-Sen. Henry Jackson;

- Douglas Feith, who-although later promoted to a high post in the Bush administration in 2001-was fired from the National Security Council of President Ronald Reagan; and

- Paul Wolfowitz, now head of the World Bank and former deputy secretary of defense in the Bush administration, investigated in the 1970s by the FBI on suspicion of passing classified information to Israel.

Comment: It is very likely that there are elements within the US Defence department and other areas of government who are hostile to Israel, but they are certainly not "Islamists" or "Jihadis", they are simply American citizens who do not agree that American political life should be dominated by a certain group of Zionist who clearly do not have American interests in mind. Weird, eh?

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The Crusade Against Islam


Suicide Bomber Kills 33 in Baghdad

Sunday November 12, 2006
AP

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a police recruiting center in Baghdad early Sunday, killing at least 33 people and wounding about 50, police said.

Crowds of recruits were gathering outside the center in western Baghdad's Nissur Square when the bomber detonated explosives strapped to his body, police Lt. Maitham Abdul-Razaq said.

Abdul-Razaq said the death toll was expected to rise because many of the injuries were extremely serious.


Comment: I wonder, was there perhaps a trash can in the midst of the recruits? Was there perhaps a bag left by someone? How easy it is to detonate an explosive and then allow "authorities" to assume that it must have been a suicide bomber, thus perpetuating the massive myth that suicide bombers actually exist.

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Suicide bomber kills 11 on minibus in Baghdad

Reuters
13/11/2006

A blast that police said was caused by a suicide bomber killed 11 people and wounded 18 more on a minibus in northern Baghdad on Monday.

Some sources said there was more than one explosion but it was not immediately clear what caused any secondary blasts.


The attack took place in the Shaab district of the capital, an area with a mixed population of Sunni Arabs, Shi'ites, ethnic Kurds and others in northern Baghdad.

It came the day after a suicide bomber killed 35 police recruits in Baghdad in one of the most deadly attacks on security force recruits in months.

A morgue source said on Sunday some 1,600 bodies had been brought to the morgue in October as sectarian violence and insurgent attacks killed hundreds of people every week.


Comment: As we noted yesterday, this "suicide bombing" business is really getting to be laughable. Think again about this report, "police said" that it was a "suicide bomber", yet the only thing anyone knows is that a bomb exploded in (or perhaps underneath) a minibus, with eyewitnesses saying there were TWO explosions. Yet Reuters, that bastion of media accuracy, blithely carries the headline: "Suicide bomber kills 11 on minibus in Baghdad" as though it were an incontrovertible fact. Now, think about all the other alleged suicide bombings that have reached you via the biased media. Think about what YOU think you know about "suicide bombings", and think again. You are being deceived.

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Violence in Baghdad Has Reached "Civil War Proportions"

By Sameer N. Yacoub
The Associated Press
11 November 2006

Baghdad, Iraq - Sunni gunmen ambushed a convoy of minibuses Saturday night at a fake checkpoint on the dangerous highway south of Baghdad, killing 10 Shiite passengers and kidnapping about 50. Across the country at least 52 other people were killed in violence or were found dead, five of them decapitated Iraqi soldiers.
Police said the mass kidnapping and killing was near the volatile town of Latifiyah, about 20 miles south of Baghdad in the so-called Triangle of Death.

Shiite Muslims, a minority in that district, have routinely come under attack from Sunni insurgents who control the territory. The highway passing through the region from Baghdad leads to Najaf, the holiest Shiite city in Iraq. Shiite pilgrims have become a favorite target of Sunni gunmen, although it was not immediately known where the victims of Saturday night's assault were headed.

Sectarian revenge killings in Baghdad and the mixed Sunni-Shiite regions surrounding the capital have reached civil war proportions. Morgues across a wide sweep of the center of the country are full as Shiite militiamen and death squads range through the region killing Sunnis.

The Shiites are falling in large numbers as well in attacks from a growing network of Sunni insurgent groups, including radical organizations such as al-Qaida in Iraq. The US military has admitted in recent weeks that its mission to pacify the capital has not met expectations. And now the problem appears to spreading outward at an extraordinarily rapid rate.

The spiraling violence coincides with increasingly strident demands from the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for American forces to pull back into bases and leave Iraq's cities and towns under the control of his military and police forces. But the highly partisan troops and police are believed to be involved in sectarian killings themselves or to look the other way, allowing Shiite death squads and militias to operate unmolested.

In the capital, the United States military offered a $50,000 reward for an Iraqi-American soldier kidnapped nearly three weeks ago.

Ahmed Qusai al-Taayie, a 41-year-old translator from Ann Arbor, Michigan, was handcuffed and driven away by gunmen of a rogue Shiite militia while visiting his Iraqi wife and her family on Oct. 23.

Al-Taayie's uncle last week said he had received through an intermediary a demand of $250,000 from the kidnappers, but there was no word on further communications.

There were no reported deaths among America's 152,000 service men and women in Iraq on Saturday. US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. George Casey, the top commander in Iraq, oversaw a Veterans Day ceremony at which 75 members of the armed forces from 33 countries were sworn in as American citizens.

In Baghdad, eight people died and at least 38 were wounded when two bombs hidden under parked cars exploded among noontime shoppers in downtown Baghdad's Hafidh al-Qadhi square. Police and a medical workers said at least 38 others were injured in the explosion at the formerly bustling area on the eastern bank of the Tigris River.

A Slovak and Polish soldier were reported killed overnight by a roadside bomb. Slovakian defense ministry spokesman Vladimir Gemela said the two died when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb near Kut, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad where coalition troops have fought fighters with the Mahdi Army militia loyal to the radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

The deaths marked the 18th among Polish troops and fourth among those from Slovakia, which has about 100 troops in Iraq operating jointly with the 900 Polish troops in the country.

Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico has said his country will pull its troops out of Iraq in February.

Baghdad police 1st Lt. Thayer Mahmud said his men found 25 corpses dumped in several parts of the capital in the 24 hours from 6 p.m. Friday.

A Samarra police captain, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retribution, said the city morgue had received the beheaded bodies five soldiers who were kidnapped last week in the Meshahda area, 20 miles north of the capital.



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Somber analysis of Iraq's future - STUDY GROUP MEETS WITH BUSH MONDAY

By Frank Davies
MediaNews Washington Bureau
11 Nov 06

WASHINGTON - The situation in Iraq is "even worse than we thought,'' with key Iraqi leaders showing no willingness to compromise to avoid increasing violence, said Leon Panetta, a member of the high-powered advisory group that will recommend new options for the war.

The Iraq Study Group, including Panetta, plans to meet with President Bush and his national security team Monday at the White House, and gather more data on the war through briefings and interviews next week. Panetta was chief of staff in the Clinton White House.
The blue-ribbon group, headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and ex-Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana, plans to make recommendations to the Bush administration and Congress next month on new ways to handle the war. Members said they wanted to wait until after the election, to remove a debate about Iraq from campaign pressures.

After the election, their influence grew and their job became more urgent.

Fueled by discontent over the war, the Democrats scored a sweeping victory, retaking the House and the Senate. U.S. casualties have mounted in recent weeks. Bush signaled new flexibility on Iraq this week by replacing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with former CIA chief Robert Gates -- a member of the Iraq Study Group before accepting his new job.

Many officials in Washington hope that this group of insiders will offer a way out of Iraq, and give some political cover to Bush and a Democratic Congress.

"This week, the pressure on us just went up a few hundred degrees,'' Panetta said Friday. He is a former Democratic congressman who heads the Panetta Institute at California State University-Monterey Bay.

Panetta would not discuss the options the group is considering, noting that members have not reached a consensus yet, but talked about what he has learned about Iraq. The group spent three days in Baghdad in early September and has been briefed by military, intelligence and diplomatic officials.

Private assessments by government officials are much more grim than what is said in public, Panetta said, "and we left some of those sessions shaking our heads over how bad it is in Iraq.''

U.S. forces can't control sectarian violence and powerful militias. One of the most disturbing findings, Panetta said, is that many Shiite religious leaders who are a big part of the government have no interest in deals or compromises with Sunnis and other groups, and are "playing for time because they say it's their show.''

After years of Bush administration rhetoric about establishing democracy in Iraq, Panetta said the only achievable goal is a rough stability, "which can't be done by the military. It requires political reconciliation.''

One scaled-down goal, he added, is "how do you maintain a low-level civil war so it doesn't blow up into a full-scale civil war?''

The Iraq group is looking at an array of options, including a phased withdrawal of U.S. forces, an accelerated training of Iraqi forces, and diplomatic efforts to involve Iraq's neighbors, according to several media accounts.

Some congressional leaders and retired generals criticized Rumsfeld for arrogance and an inability to admit mistakes and make adjustments in Iraq. Gates will be different, Panetta said.

"He's an old-school pragmatist, like Baker and Brent Scowcroft,'' Panetta said. "He's flexible and wants to get the job done. He always asked incisive questions, and knows what went wrong in Iraq.''

Gates expressed his frustration with the administration's Iraq policy during a visit last year to the Bay Area.

He shared the stage with former Clinton administration national security adviser Samuel "Sandy'' Berger at a May 2005 lecture at the Panetta Institute.

Both men expressed surprise that resentment of U.S. foreign policy in Iraq and elsewhere had not resulted in suicide bomb attacks inside the United States.

"I too am puzzled by the fact that there haven't been suicide bombers,'' Gates said. "That's not an invitation, just an observation. We should count ourselves very fortunate.''

Berger and Gates both were critical of the intelligence apparatus that allowed President Bush to receive false information concluding that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

"Fundamentally, it was just a lousy piece of work,'' Gates said.

The key to a new policy on Iraq, Panetta said, is whether Bush will be flexible, and whether Democratic leaders in Congress will try to work with a president who said during the campaign that voting for Democrats would help terrorists.

"Both sides have been in trench warfare for months, and the real question is whether they will be able to put down their grenades and bayonets and pick up the tools you need to get something done,'' he said.

The seismic shift in power this week reminded Panetta of 1994, when he was in the Clinton White House, rocked by the rejection of voters and the loss of Congress to the GOP.

"We were in a state of shock for days, and then we adjusted,'' he said. "You can actually get things done in a divided government.''

The Democrats' big victory Tuesday also reminded Panetta of voter discontent in California during the 2003 recall election: "Voters were angry over gridlock, extreme partisanship, the failure to deal with crises -- and they took it out on the party in power.''



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Israeli Snipers Killing U.S. Troops in Iraq?

Joanna Francis
11/09/2006

Anderson Cooper of CNN showed this video (without the rifle info) of snipers killing U.S. troops in Iraq on his October 18, 2006 show. CNN says it obtained the video from a "representative" of an unnamed "insurgent leader." Bear in mind that Anderson Cooper used to work for the CIA.

Richard Wilson's hypothesis: Israeli soldiers and/or Mossad agents are killing our soldiers in Iraq in order to enrage American troops so that the slaughter  continues.

Proof: At the very beginning of this video clip, you see a rifle with a video camera attached to it. This weapon is made by the Rafael company, an Israeli arms manufacturer, that also makes IEDs. If you watch the video all the way through, it explains how this rifle works. CNN stated that the camera used to film these shootings was not a mounted rifle camera. But as you watch the video, you see that with each shot fired, the camera recoils. That would only happen if it were mounted on the rifle. Why is this significant? Because this kind of rifle-camera is extremely sophisticated and not available to your average Iraqi insurgent. I mean, it's not exactly an easily obtainable Saturday night special! Something this sophisticated points to Mossad. 

Mossad is a master at false flag operations, e.g., Oklahoma City, the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, the July 7, 2005 London bombings, the 9-11 attacks in New York, the assassination of the Prime Minister in Beirut, the stoking of Muslim riots in France last year, the bombing of the Hassan al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, Iraq, etc.

Israelis freely move among US and UK troops in Iraq, and have access to top-level US intelligence. Until July 2003, the head of all US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan was General Tommy Franks, a Zionist Jew. (He is now on the board of directors for Bank of America.) On November 7, 2006 another Zionist Jew became a principle liaison between Mossad and US forces in Iraq: Major General Richard F. Natonski of the Marine Corps. His title is Deputy Commandant for Plans, Policies and Operations.

Because of this access, the "insurgents" (i.e., Mossad agents)  know exactly where US vehicles will be and who will be inside them. This allows them to target for maximum false flag effect.

For example, on July 23, 2005, a detachment of 19 female US Marines was sent to Fallujah to check Iraqi women for bombs. An IED blew up their truck. Two of the young American women were killed, five were critically wounded, and four were captured. The bodies of the four captured women turned up later in a garbage dump with their throats cut. Americans were outraged. Islamic clerics insisted that only Israelis could be so cold-blooded. And who was in charge of US forces in Fallujah at the time? None other than Major General Natonski, the Mossad liaison.

Americans are supposed to believe that rag-tag "insurgents" use IEDs powerful enough to kill three US troops per day, on average. An American soldier even set up a blog on how "Intel" is betraying and targeting US troops. But sometimes Mossad bomb-makers accidentally blow themselves up in Iraq.

According to Richard Wilson, Israeli sniping and IEDs are false flag operations. He says that on March 28, 2005, Americans arrested 19 Mossad agents who fired twice on a US Marine checkpoint. The Marines beat up the Mossad agents and tore off their Star-of-David necklaces. (The US media incorrectly said the agents were Americans.) The Mossad agents said they were employees of Zapata Engineering, which helps the CIA conduct interrogations, and also manages US ammo dumps and US motor pools in Iraq.

IEDs in Iraq are powerful enough to flip over a 70-ton tank. Some of the models shoot depleted-uranium projectiles, and are triggered by electronic devices surreptitiously planted on US armored vehicles. Zapata Engineering (which employs Mossad agents) makes this exact kind of trigger, and oversees some of the US motor pools.

Rumsfeld says the IEDs come from Iran, but Richard says they come from Mossad, and are not "improvised" at all. The Israeli company, Rafael (see above), makes IEDS, which are buried in the middle of a road. Beside the road is a device which emits a laser or radio signal. This device is manufactured by firms like Zapata Engineering, which is controlled by Zionist Jews. The IED mine, manufactured by Israel, is inert until a US vehicle (secretly planted with a triggering device) rolls over it.

Whenever Mossad carries out these false-flag operations they produce a videotape or a recording from an "unnamed source" that is "close to al-Qaeda." Sometimes they say "the claim was posted on an Internet website, but its authenticity could not be verified."

But Israelis would never kill anyone in cold blood, would they? After all, the USS Liberty massacre was "an accident!"





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Blair to give evidence to Iraq Study Group

AFP
12 Nov 06

British Prime Minister Tony Blair will give evidence next week to a US task force looking at future policy in Iraq, his office said.

Blair will talk via videolink Tuesday to the bipartisan committee headed by former US secretary of state James Baker, which is seen as the means through which Washington could change course on Iraq.
A spokeswoman said the prime minister -- who has been in touch with the Iraq Study Group since its inception -- would ensure that Baker and his colleagues were "fully briefed on UK ideas."

But she refused to be drawn on reports in The Guardian newspaper Saturday that he would push the US administration to begin talks with Syria and Iran as a way of breaking the deadlock in Iraq and the Middle East.

The newspaper, citing unnamed British officials, said Blair would not call for the withdrawal of coalition troops, but was persuaded that Bush is open to a change of strategy in Iraq, which is gripped by spiralling violence.

The same sources forecast that the Baker panel would call for an acceleration of the "Iraq-isation" of the police and army as well as advocate greater political cooperation within Iraq.

Blair would also reportedly stress the link between progress in Iraq and re-energising the Middle East peace process.

The prime minister said on November 1 that he intended to visit the region by the year end.

The Guardian said British officials believe that the White House is "open to the principle" of dialogue with Syria, while new Defence Secretary Robert Gates -- a member of the panel -- is persuaded of re-opening contacts with Iran.

Earlier this month, Blair sent his most senior foreign policy advisor, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, to Damascus, to meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other senior figures.

Blair's official spokesman said London hoped Syria would play a "constructive role" in the push for peace in the wider region and cease its support for radical groups such as Lebanon's Hezbollah.

Neither Syria nor Iran wanted to see the break-up of Iraq nor the spread of sectarian violence, he added.

Blair's decision to talk to the committee was immediately condemned by the leader of Britain's opposition Liberal Democrats, which opposed the war.

Its leader, Menzies Campbell, said it was "intolerable" that Blair was prepared to give evidence to the US committee when he is resisting a parliamentary inquiry into the war here.



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War Whore Rice sez: Syria a 'dangerous' country

AFP
12 Nov 06

The United States believes Syria is a dangerous state whose territory is being used for the accelerated arming of Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview with an Israeli daily Sunday.

"This is a dangerous state that is behaving in a dangerous manner," Rice told the country's second largest daily, Maariv.
"The United States is concerned and is following closely the use of Syrian territory as a way-station for the accelerated arming of Hezbollah," the Hebrew-language newspaper quoted her as saying.

Israel has long maintained that Hezbollah, with which it fought a 34-day war this summer, receives its weapons from Iran via Syria -- a charge both these countries deny.

But Rice repeated the allegation in the interview published on the day Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was due in Washington for talks with US President George W. Bush, herself and other top officials.

"Syria is a way-station for Iranian arms that cross the Middle East. It is not a state that contributes to stability in the Middle East," Rice said.

"This is obvious to everyone, and we are watching this situation closely. We are working with additional international agencies in order to tell Syria that it must change this behavior pattern."

"We clarified that Syria must change its behavior as soon as possible," she added.



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Lebanon's Hariri probe at heart of Hezbollah walkout

AFP
12 Nov 06

A UN probe into the assassination of former premier Rafiq Hariri lies at the heart of the resignations of five Shiite ministers from the Lebanese government.

Saturday's resignations of the pro-Syrian Hezbollah and ally Amal ministers came two days ahead of a cabinet meeting called by Prime Minister Fuad Siniora to discuss a UN document on the tribunal that will try those eventually charged for the 2005 killing.
According to the cabinet sources, matters came to a head during Saturday's meeting when Siniora anti-Syrian majority insisted on going ahead with Monday's discussions of the UN draft, which must be approved by the Lebanese government before being sent to the UN Security Council for adoption.

An ongoing United Nations probe has implicated senior officials from Syria, which for decades was the power-broker in its smaller neighbour, and Lebanese accomplices. Damascus strongly denies any connection with the Hariri killing.

Al-Manar, Hezbollah's television channel, confirmed that the issue of the international court had been behind the resignations.

"They (Siniora's anti-Syrian majority) caused the flare-up by insisting on holding Monday's exceptional meeting in violation of the constitution and the prerogatives of the president of the republic," the channel said in a political commentary Sunday.

In announcing their resignations, the five ministers accused the ruling majority of monopolising power.

"We have resigned because the majority insists on exercising power on its own," the head of the group's parliamentary bloc Mohammed Raad said, referring to the anti-Syrian majority that has baulked at forming a unity government without first having guarantees that pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud will step down.

"We don't want ministers who blindly follow the majority," Raad said. "This is about giving a warning to the majority."

According to Sunday's press, sharp exchanges took place between Raad and leaders of the anti-Syrian majority, who accused Hezbollah of playing ball with Syria in an attempt to sabotage the constitution of an international court.

The row came after the failure on Saturday of a week of talks on forming a unity government and months of political stalemate because of disputes between pro- and anti-Syrian elements in parliament.

The powerful Hezbollah movement, supported by Syria and Iran and flush from its claimed "divine victory" in the summer war with Israel, had two portfolios in the 24-minister cabinet which is dominated by anti-Syrian politicians.

Two ministers from Shiite ally Amal also resigned, along with Foreign Minister Fawzi Sallukh who is considered close to Hezbollah.

Hezbollah wants to bring in opposition allies, represented by Christian ally Michel Aoun's parliamentary group -- with 21 of parliament's 128 deputies.

It also wants a number of cabinet posts that would ensure it had a "blocking minority" -- which could stymie any attempt by the Lebanese government to ratify the international court.

Hariri, whose son Saad heads the anti-Syrian bloc, was killed in a Beirut bombing last year that sparked protests leading to the departure of Syrian troops from Lebanon after almost three decades.

Theoretically, Siniora, who has refused to accept the resignations, can ignore the walkout of the Shiites as he has the two-thirds majority in the cabinet needed to approve the UN draft, legal experts say.

"But in Lebanon's consensual political system, the cabinet cannot govern without the participation of representatives of one of the country's principal communities", said political commentator Ghassan Ezze referring to the Shiites, who make up a third of the population.

Lahoud on Sunday said Siniora's government had lost constitutional legitimacy because of the resignations and that, as a result, "any cabinet meeting is anti-constitutional and worthless".

Without commenting on the likely outcome of Monday's cabinet meeting, Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said priority would be given to "the continuation of the participation of the important Shiite community" in government.



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Lebanese political crisis deepens as Shiite ministers quit

www.chinaview.cn 2006-11-13 04:23:23

BEIRUT, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) -- Lebanon's political crisis deepened following the resignation of five Lebanon's Shiite cabinet members over demands for a Hezbollah veto power in the executive authority, which were vehemently rejected by the ruling majority.

Lebanese President Emile Lahoud said on Sunday that the government led by Prime Minister Fouad Seniora was not legitimate anymore after five Shiite ministers resigned on Saturday, the official NNA news agency reported.
Seniora's government "is not legitimate anymore, and is opposite to the constitution's principles ... since all the ministers representing some faction had resigned," Lahoud was quoted by NNA as saying.

The five Shiite ministers were Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh, Labor Minister Tarrad Hamadeh, Health Minister Mohammed Jawad Khalifeh, Energy and Water Minister Mohammad Fneich and Agriculture Minister Talal Sahili.

Their resignations came Saturday just followed the country' stop leaders failed to reach agreement on the formation of a "national unity" government in which Hezbollah and its allies would have a third-plus-one veto power.

Hezbollah is calling for the formation of a national unity government to "face up to the challenges with which Lebanon is confronted." It wants the inclusion of other political groups, particularly that of its Christian ally, former General Michel Aoun.

The Shiite group's leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned to take to the streets if round-table talks failed to meet his demands.

Nasrallah has said he wants his Shiite party, which has two ministers in the cabinet dominated by the ruling anti-Syrian parliamentary majority, and allies to comprise one-third of the cabinet. That effectively means that Hezbollah and its allies could veto key decisions.

A two-thirds vote in the cabinet is needed to pass decisions that are not made by consensus. A resignation of one-third of the cabinet automatically brings down the government.

"To pave the way for the majority to practice what it wants freely and so that we don't cover what we are not convinced of ...we announce the resignation of our representatives in the current cabinet," Hezbollah and Amal said in a joint statement.

Prime Minister Fouad Seniora immediately issued a statement saying that he would not accept the resignations. He "rejects the resignation of Hezbollah and Amal ministers... and called on them to commit their responsibilities," said the statement.

"This government respects the constitution and principles based on dialogue and consensus, and it insists on cooperating with all parties in order to find solutions which preserve the interests of Lebanon," it added.

The resignations also came after Seniora called for an extraordinary cabinet meeting Monday to endorse the UN draft text of the international tribunal to try former Premier Rafik Hariri's killers.

The president opposed the meeting, saying he needed more time to study the draft. However, Lebanon's local An-Nahar newspaper reported Sunday that despite Lahoud's boycott, the anti-Syrian majority in the cabinet will meet to "take the right stance."

Last year, the Shiite ministers boycotted cabinet meetings for several months in a dispute with the majority.

"But it appeared that Saturday's move by Hezbollah and Amal was not final and aimed instead at shaking the political stalemate to force the majority to accept Shiite demands," said the paper.



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Iran says ready to consider any U.S. offer to talk

13/11/2006
Reuters

Iran said on Monday it was ready to consider any official U.S. request to hold talks after U.S. allies called on Washington to engage the Islamic Republic.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair will on Monday call for Syria and Iran to be engaged in efforts to stem violence in Iraq and help secure Middle East peace. Australian Prime Minister John Howard, another U.S. ally, backed the British proposal.

"If they (the United States) really want to hold talks with Iran, they should officially propose it and then Iran will review it," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told Reuters.

President Bush is due on Monday to meet a bipartisan panel that is exploring alternative strategies on Iraq. Engaging with Syria and Iran on Iraq is an idea favored by some members of the panel, which is co-chaired by former U.S. secretary of state James Baker.

The idea has previously been rejected by Bush. Washington accuses Iran of aiding the insurgency and stoking sectarian strife in Iraq, a charge Tehran denies.

Iranian government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham earlier said the Islamic republic would welcome any change in U.S. policy, but he did not directly address the issue of talks.

"If there is a 180-degree turn in the policies of America it would be a blessed event," Elham told a weekly news conference on Monday.

"We hope that America reconsiders its policies, leaves the region alone, ... abandons war-mongering and supporting terrorist groups in this region," Elham said.


Tehran, which had no ties with Washington since shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution, often calls for the United States to change its behavior in the region.

Talks between Iran and the United States on Iraq seemed possible in March, but the idea was shot down a month later by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who said such negotiations were not needed.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last month signaled that Washington might join talks with Tehran to resolve the Iran nuclear issue, but only if the Islamic Republic first suspended uranium enrichment, something Iran has repeatedly refused to do.

Comment: Ok, let's cut the BS shall we? The violence in Iraq is being caused by US-sponsored death squads. From the very beginning it was understood that the ONLY way that US forces could win in Iraq would be via the destruction of Iraqi society from within. This policy has been pursued for the last 3 years through the use of US-sponsored mercenaries and "death squads" that are attempting to create the "reality" of sectarian strife or "civil war" in Iraq, which would then plausibly require someone to intervene and solve the sectarian issues by way of dividing Iraq up into 3 separate states. Iran has nothing to do with it, and the rabid NeoCons and the fascist Israeli Zionists are 100% determined to attack Iran, and are possibly planning to reignite war with Hizb'allah and this time to draw in Syria and Iran.

Watch it happen folks.


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Iran to reply 'destructively' to any Israeli attack

AFP
12 Nov 06

Iran has vowed it would deliver a "destructive" response to any Israeli military attack on its atomic sites and said it would continue trying to boost its capacity for sensitive nuclear work.

Foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Iran was still seeking to install 3,000 centrifuges by March 2007 at an atomic plant to enrich uranium, a process the West fears could be diverted to make nuclear weapons.
His comments came after a top Israeli official refused to rule out a strike on the Islamic republic to halt the progress of its atomic programme, with the United Nations still unable to agree on sanctions against Tehran.

"Israel does not have the means and the capability to dare threaten Iran... if it commits such a stupidity the Islamic republic and its defenders will give a destructive response within a second," Hosseini said Sunday.

Israel -- widely considered to be the Middle East's sole nuclear power -- is within the range of Iran's ballistic missiles and sees Tehran as its chief enemy, after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for the Jewish state to be "wiped off the map".

"I am not advocating an Israeli preemptive military action against Iran... I consider it a last resort. But even the last resort is sometimes the only resort," Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said in comments published Friday.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in an interview published Sunday branded Ahmadinejad a "dangerous man", saying "Iran must start to fear" and understand it will "pay dearly" if it does not compromise.

Despite the looming threat of sanctions, Hosseini indicated that Iran intended to press on apace with its nuclear drive.

"Iranian officials and experts are seeking" to install 3,000 centrifuges -- reaffirming a target which would allow Iran to enrich uranium on an industrial scale.

He added that the work would take place under the supervision of the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Enriched uranium lies at the center of the dispute over Iran's nuclear program, as it can be used both to make nuclear fuel and the core of a nuclear bomb.

Tehran vehemently rejects US allegations that its nuclear program is aimed at making nuclear weapons, saying the drive is solely aimed at providing energy for civilians.

At present Iran has two cascades of 164 centrifuges on a research level enriching uranium to levels up to five percent -- rich enough for nuclear fuel but way off the 90 percent levels required for a nuclear bomb.

Major powers at the UN Security Council are mulling a resolution that would impose sanctions on Iran after it refused to suspend enrichment in return for an international offer of incentives.

The Security Council's five permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany will resume talks Monday on how to censure a defiant Iran.

Iran's chief nuclear negotatior Ali Larijani, on his return from talks in Moscow, said adopting a resolution against Iran would show a change of direction and that world powers had no desire for negotiations with Iran.

"If the Westerners show another behavior regarding Iran's nuclear issue, it should be made clear who is renouncing on their commitments," the IRNA agency quoted him as saying.

"The passing of a resolution of the nature that is being discussed means a disruption of talks and it is the Westerners who have disrupted the talks. This means saying 'no' to the talks."

Ahmadinejad on Sunday called the United Nations Security Council "incompetent, and pressured by domineering powers".

"It is disgraceful that the UN Security Council, which must defend countries' rights and interests, threatens and makes a dossier against the states that are legally seeking nuclear fuel," he said on state television.

World powers will be discussing a European-proposed draft resolution mandating nuclear industry and ballistic missile-related sanctions against Iran.

But Russia and China, which have major energy and trade ties with Tehran, view the European draft as too tough and unlikely to bring about Iranian cooperation.



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(Yet another) Senior al-Qaeda member caught in Afghanistan

Last Updated: Monday, November 13, 2006 | 6:25 AM ET
CBC News

A man reported to be a senior member of al-Qaeda who escaped from a U.S. prison last year has been arrested in southeastern Afghanistan by U.S. and Afghan forces, an Afghan provincial police chief said on Monday.

U.S. and Afghan forces arrested six people on Thursday in the city of Khost, said Mohammad Ayub, the provincial police chief. He said the four Afghans, an Arab and a Pakistani are being held by U.S. forces.
In a report by Pakistan's daily The News, one of those arrested was Abu Nasir al-Qahtani. He is one of four Arab al-Qaeda members to have escaped from a U.S. prison in July 2005 in Bagram, about 60 kilometres northwest of Kabul.

"I'm not sure if this Arab is the one of the four Arabs who escaped from Bagram last year, but what I can tell you is that he is an important al-Qaeda member," Ayub said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press.

U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Paul Fitzpatrick declined to identify the arrested al-Qaeda operative.

Last week, coalition forces said a "known al-Qaeda terrorist" and five other extremists had been arrested on Nov. 6 near Khost.

Officials said the detainee has "known ties to al-Qaeda leadership," and was detained with Saudi and Pakistani nationals.



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Six Arab states join rush to go nuclear

Timesonline.co.uk
04/11/2006

Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, UAE and Saudi Arabia seek atom technology

The Spectre
of a nuclear race in the Middle East was raised yesterday when six Arab states announced that they were embarking on programmes to master atomic technology.

The move, which follows the failure by the West to curb Iran's controversial nuclear programme, could see a rapid spread of nuclear reactors in one of the world's most unstable regions, stretching from the Gulf to the Levant and into North Africa.

The countries involved were named by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. Tunisia and the UAE have also shown interest.


All want to build civilian nuclear energy programmes, as they are permitted to under international law. But the sudden rush to nuclear power has raised suspicions that the real intention is to acquire nuclear technology which could be used for the first Arab atomic bomb.

"Some Middle East states, including Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Saudi Arabia, have shown initial interest [in using] nuclear power primarily for desalination purposes," Tomihiro Taniguch, the deputy director-general of the IAEA, told the business weekly Middle East Economic Digest. He said that they had held preliminary discussions with the governments and that the IAEA's technical advisory programme would be offered to them to help with studies into creating power plants.

Mark Fitzpatrick, an expert on nuclear proliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said that it was clear that the sudden drive for nuclear expertise was to provide the Arabs with a "security hedge".

"If Iran was not on the path to a nuclear weapons capability you would probably not see this sudden rush [in the Arab world]," he said.

The announcement by the six nations is a stunning reversal of policy in the Arab world, which had until recently been pressing for a nuclear free Middle East, where only Israel has nuclear weapons.

Egypt and other North African states can argue with some justification that they need cheap, safe energy for their expanding economies and growing populations at a time of high oil prices.

The case will be much harder for Saudi Arabia, which sits on the world's largest oil reserves. Earlier this year Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Foreign Minister, told The Times that his country opposed the spread of nuclear power and weapons in the Arab world.

Since then, however, the Iranians have accelerated their nuclear power and enrichment programmes.

Comment: So why the focus on Iran? None of it makes sense if you listen to the rationale of Western and Israeli leaders. In any case, if the possession of nuclear weapons has ensured peace in the West via the threat of "mutually assured destruction", why would it not work in the Middle East? If other Arab nations had nuclear weapons, it would definitely give them some sense of security against the ongoing Israeli government threats against them and covert attempts by Israeli intelligence at destablisation of Arab regimes.

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Business as Usual


Democrats say will push for Iraq withdrawal

By Tabassum Zakaria
Reuters
12 November 06

WASHINGTON - Democrats, who won control of the U.S. Congress, said on Sunday they will push to begin withdrawing American troops from Iraq in the next few months but the White House cautioned against fixing timetables.

"First order of business is to change the direction of Iraq policy," said Sen. Carl Levin (news, bio, voting record), a Michigan Democrat expected to be chairman of the
Senate Armed Services Committee in the new Congress that convenes in January.
The Iraqi government must be told that U.S. presence was "not open-ended and that, as a matter of fact, we need to begin a phased redeployment of forces from Iraq in four to six months," Levin said on ABC's "This Week."

President George W. Bush has insisted that U.S. troops would not leave until Iraqis could take over security for their country, and has repeatedly rejected setting a timetable for withdrawal, saying that would only embolden the insurgents.

The White House, however, said that Bush is open to new ideas and the president will meet on Monday with the bipartisan Iraq Study Group that is expected to recommend alternative policies in its final report.

More than 2,800 American troops have been killed in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and the unpopular war was a key factor in last week's elections that swept Bush's Republican Party from power in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Violence showed no signs of letting up. A suicide bomber killed 35 people at a police recruiting center in Baghdad on Sunday in the bloodiest attack in months against recruits. Four British troops were killed in an attack in Basra.

"We need to redeploy," Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said on CBS' "Face The Nation," adding that the decision should be made by military officers in Iraq.

"And I think it should start within the next few months."

Reid said he would not insist on a specific date for pulling troops out.

White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten said any change in policy must ensure that Iraq can succeed and have a democratic government that can sustain and defend itself.

'FRESH LOOK'

"The president obviously wants to take a whole fresh look at what we're doing in Iraq," Bolten said. "Nobody is happy with what our situation in Iraq is now.

"But what we cannot do is pull out of there prematurely and leave a failed state behind," he said on CBS.

Bolten said he could not envision supporting a plan with a set date for troop withdrawal, calling that "a very bad idea."

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the military Joint Chiefs of Staff, is conducting a review of Iraq strategy at the
Pentagon, and other national security agencies will do similar reviews.

The Iraq Study Group, led by James Baker, a former secretary of state with close ties to the Bush family, was not expected to have its final report at the meeting with Bush.

One approach reportedly considered by that panel was for Washington to open a dialogue with Iran and Syria, accused by the Bush administration of supporting terrorism and fanning instability in neighboring Iraq.

Democrats are calling for an international conference on Iraq that would include Iran, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt.

"Well, nothing is off the table. All of the options will be considered," Bolten said on CNN's "Late Edition" about the conference proposal.

Bush chose a member of the Iraq Study Group, former
CIA Director Robert Gates, to replace Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The nomination requires Senate approval.

Sen. Joseph Biden (news, bio, voting record), a Delaware Democrat expected to head the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was inclined to support Gates.

"I know some of his views on Iraq. I know he wasn't of the Rumsfeld school. And to put it very, very bluntly, as long as he's not there, Rumsfeld is there," Biden said on ABC.

(Additional reporting by Missy Ryan and Bill Trott)




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Lawmakers gear up to fight some old battles with Bush - Bush gears up to fight back while he can - It's all farce

By Donna Smith
Reuters
12 Nov 06

WASHINGTON - Lawmakers geared up to fight old battles with President George W. Bush over domestic wiretapping and a contentious U.N. nominee, even as Bush pledged to cooperate with the new Democratic-led Congress that starts in January.

The current Republican-led Congress -- including lawmakers who lost their seats in Tuesday's elections -- returns this week to work through a pile of unfinished legislation on spending, taxes, trade and international affairs that could keep it here until the Christmas holidays.

Bush made clear he wants certain things done while Congress is in Republican hands, including legislation authorizing the administration's domestic warrantless wiretapping program and Senate confirmation of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
With the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- who became the face of the Iraq war that was a major cause of Republican election losses -- senators from both parties also said they will work quickly to consider Bush's choice of a replacement, former CIA director Robert Gates.

Lawmakers also will choose leaders for the next Congress, when Democrats take control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate for the first time in 12 years.

All of this is in addition to unfinished budget work for the 2007 fiscal year that began on October 1 and other items already on Congress' agenda including a civil nuclear agreement with India and normalizing trade relations with Vietnam.

Democrats say Bush is asking too much.

"For a Republican Congress that has gone forward for two years and produced so little, and then the president to come up with a huge agenda for the next weeks -- you have to ask 'why didn't you use some time you spent arguing on some other less important issues before,"' said Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Dick Durbin of Illinois.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said the renewed push on Bolton, whose hawkish views made him a conservative favorite, and the domestic surveillance program that critics call unconstitutional, should not be viewed as "necessarily provocative."

DIFFERENT PRIORITIES


Congress has completed just two annual spending bills for the military and domestic security initiatives, and must deal with measures to finance farm programs, law enforcement, the environment, foreign aid and a range of other programs. Those have been operating through a stop-gap measure set to expire on November 17.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who will become majority leader, issued his own priorities list for the lame duck session -- and it did not include Bush's domestic surveillance program or Bolton.

Instead, Reid highlighted bioterrorism legislation, offshore drilling legislation that passed the Senate earlier this year but not the House, the India nuclear agreement and a bill extending popular business and individual tax breaks, in addition to the spending bills on everyone's list.

Bolton's nomination appears doomed given continued opposition by Democrats and a key Republican, Sen. Lincoln Chafee (news, bio, voting record) of Rhode Island, who lost his reelection bid.

The plan is for lawmakers to break after next week for the Thanksgiving holiday and return starting on December 4 to finish the leftovers. A Senate Republican aide said a bill giving nuclear-armed India access to U.S. nuclear fuel and reactors for the first time in three decades may be ready by then.

The aide also said he hoped the House would accept a Senate-passed bill that would open a small new area in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and natural gas drilling. The House backed a broader bill that would open exploration in most U.S. Atlantic and Pacific waters more than 100 miles from shore.

Comment: How much you want to bet that Bush will get everything he wants - and then some? It's all a farce.

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Bush approval drops to just 31%, Democrats' goals backed: poll

Reuters
11 Nov 06

WASHINGTON - Just days after Democrats took over Congress, Americans embraced their top goals and President George W. Bush's job approval rating slid to 31 percent, according to a Newsweek poll issued on Saturday.

Huge majorities of those polled said they approved of the legislative priorities cited by Democratic leaders after their party seized control of the Senate and the House of Representatives from Republicans, the magazine said.
But they also expressed concerns that Democrats might seek to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq too quickly or hamper the administration's efforts to combat terrorism, it said.

The poll surveyed 1,006 adults on Thursday and Friday, following the Democrats' midterm election victory on Tuesday. It had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

The strongest support, 92 percent, was for lowering drug prices for retirees on Medicare by allowing the government to negotiate directly with drug companies. Some three-quarters of respondents said it should be a top priority, according to Newsweek.

Americans also supported raising the federal minimum wage (89 percent), investigating government contracts in Iraq (89 percent) and cutting the interest rate of federal student loans (88 percent).

Bush's 31-percent job approval rating, down from 35 percent a week earlier, was a new low in Newsweek's polling. Some 63 percent disapproved of the Republican president's job performance, and a full two-thirds agreed that "he won't be able to get much done" in the last two years of his term.

The drop in Bush's approval rating came after Wednesday's resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who had been a lightning rod for criticism of the administration's handling of the war in Iraq.

While a bare majority of 51 percent called the Democrats' victory "a good thing," even more said they were concerned about some of the actions a Democratic Congress might take, including 78 percent who were somewhat or very concerned that it would seek too hasty a withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

Another 69 percent said they were concerned that the new Congress would keep the administration "from doing what is necessary to combat terrorism," and two-thirds said they were concerned it would spend too much time investigating the administration and Republican scandals.



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Democrats increase pressure on Bush for phased troop withdrawal

Monday November 13, 2006
The Guardian

- Senior senators call for timetable for US exit
- White House admits need to change failing strategy

The newly emboldened Democrats stepped up pressure on the Bush administration for a change of course in Iraq yesterday, with two leading members of the party calling for a phased withdrawal of US troops to begin in four to six months.

With the Democrats set to take control of both houses of Congress in January following last Tuesday's midterm rout of the Republicans, the search for a fresh approach to the Iraq war is rapidly gathering pace. The idea for a timetable for withdrawal was floated by leading Democrats likely to head two of the most powerful Senate committees, the armed services and foreign relations committees.


Comment: Four to six months, eh? Just enough time for some major event to intercede and make it impossible for troops to be withdrawn.

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Impeaching Bush - Pelosi says no, but if the American people want it, the Congress will get it...

Evan Derkacz
Alternet
November 12, 2006.

Four-term congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, who played a key role in the impeachment of Richard Nixon, isn't surprised that top Democrats aren't leading the way on impeachment.

According to her, after the election of 1972: "Nobody -- no Democrat was pushing for it. And, in fact, as the revelations came out, it still wasn't on the table. It took the American people, after the Saturday Night Massacre [Nixon's firing of the prosecutor investigating him], sending a clear message to the Congress..."

Her point: It didn't come from congress in 1973, it won't come from congress now:

It's understandable that congressional leaders, members of Congress, will be very reluctant to take this enormous step to protect our Constitution and our democracy. But the American people still -- we have a democracy. You saw what happened at the polls. Members of Congress will get it, if the American people want it.


Watch the clip




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The War Crimes Case Against Donald Rumsfeld

By Marjorie Cohn
AlterNet
November 13, 2006.

Although Bush has immunized Rumsfeld and others from prosecution in the International Criminal Court, they could be tried in any country under the well-established principle of universal jurisdiction.
As the Democrats took control of the House of Representatives and were on the verge of taking over the Senate, George W. Bush announced that Donald Rumsfeld was out and Robert Gates was in as Secretary of Defense. When Bush is being run out of town, he knows how to get out in the front of the crowd and make it look like he's leading the parade. The Rumsfeld-Gates swap is a classic example.

The election was a referendum on the war. The dramatic results prove that the overwhelming majority of people in this country don't like the disaster Bush has created in Iraq. So rather than let the airwaves fill up with beaming Democrats and talk of the horrors of Iraq, Bush changed the subject and fired Rumsfeld. Now, when the Democrats begin to investigate what went wrong, Rumsfeld will no longer be the controversial public face of the war.

Rumsfeld had come under fire from many quarters, not the least of which was a gaggle of military officers who had been clamoring for his resignation. Bush said he decided to oust Rumsfeld before Tuesday's voting but lied to reporters so it wouldn't affect the election. Putting aside the incredulity of that claim, Bush likely waited to see if there would be a changing of the legislative guard before giving Rumsfeld his walking papers. If the GOP had retained control of Congress, Bush would probably have retained Rumsfeld. But in hindsight, Bush has to wish he had ejected Rumsfeld before the election to demonstrate a new direction in the Iraq war to angry voters.

Rumsfeld's sin was not in failing to develop a winning strategy for Iraq. There is no winning in Iraq, because we never belonged there in the first place. The war in Iraq is a war of aggression. It violates the United Nations Charter which only permits one country to invade another in self-defense or with the blessing of the Security Council.

Donald Rumsfeld was one of the primary architects of the Iraq war. On September 15, 2001, in a meeting at Camp David, Rumsfeld suggested an attack on Iraq because he was deeply worried about the availability of "good targets in Afghanistan." Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill reported that Rumsfeld articulated his hope to "dissuade" other nations from "asymmetrical challenges" to U.S. power. Rumsfeld's support for a preemptive attack on Iraq "matched with plans for how the world's second largest oil reserve might be divided among the world's contractors made for an irresistible combination," Ron Suskind wrote after interviewing O'Neill.

Rumsfeld defensively sought to decouple oil access from regime change in Iraq when he appeared on CBS News on November 15, 2002. In a Macbeth moment, Rumsfeld proclaimed the United States' beef with Iraq has "nothing to do with oil, literally nothing to do with oil." The Secretary doth protest too much.

Prosecuting a war of aggression isn't Rumsfeld's only crime. He also participated in the highest levels of decision-making that allowed the extrajudicial execution of several people. Willful killing is a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, which constitutes a war crime. In his book, Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib, Seymour Hersh described the "unacknowledged" special-access program (SAP) established by a top-secret order Bush signed in late 2001 or early 2002. It authorized the Defense Department to set up a clandestine team of Special Forces operatives to defy international law and snatch, or assassinate, anyone considered a "high-value" Al Qaeda operative, anywhere in the world. Rumsfeld expanded SAP into Iraq in August 2003.

But Rumsfeld's crimes don't end there. He sanctioned the use of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, which are grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, and thus constitute war crimes. Rumsfeld approved interrogation techniques that included the use of dogs, removal of clothing, hooding, stress positions, isolation for up to 30 days, 20-hour interrogations, and deprivation of light and auditory stimuli. According to Seymour Hersh, Rumsfeld sanctioned the use of physical coercion and sexual humiliation to extract information from prisoners. Rumsfeld also authorized waterboarding, where the interrogator induces the sensation of imminent death by drowning. Waterboarding is widely considered a form of torture.

Rumsfeld was intimately involved with the interrogation of a Saudi detainee, Mohamed al-Qahtani, at Guantánamo in late 2002. General Geoffrey Miller, who later transferred many of his harsh interrogation techniques to Abu Ghaib, supervised the interrogation and gave Rumsfeld weekly updates on his progress. During a six-week period, al-Qahtani was stripped naked, forced to wear women's underwear on his head, denied bathroom access, threatened with dogs, forced to perform tricks while tethered to a dog leash, and subjected to sleep deprivation. Al-Qahtani was kept in solitary confinement for 160 days. For 48 days out of 54, he was interrogated for 18 to 20 hours a day.

Even though Rumsfeld didn't personally carry out the torture and mistreatment of prisoners, he authorized it. Under the doctrine of command responsibility, a commander can be liable for war crimes committed by his inferiors if he knew or should have known they would be committed and did nothing to stop of prevent them. The U.S. War Crimes Act provides for prosecution of a person who commits war crimes and prescribes life imprisonment, or even the death penalty if the victim dies.

Although intending to signal a new direction in Iraq with his nomination of Gates to replace Rumsfeld, Bush has no intention of leaving Iraq. He is building huge permanent U.S. military bases there. Gates at the helm of the Defense Department, Bush said, "can help make the necessary adjustments in our approach." Bush hopes he can bring congressional Democrats on board by convincing them he will simply fight a smarter war.

But this war can never get smarter. Nearly 3,000 American soldiers and more than 650,000 Iraqi civilians have died and tens of thousands have been wounded. Our national debt has skyrocketed with the billions Bush has pumped into the war. Now that there is a new day in Congress, there must be a new push to end the war. That means a demand that Congress cut off its funds.

And the war criminals must be brought to justice -- beginning with Donald Rumsfeld. On November 14, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Lawyers Guild, and other organizations will ask the German federal prosecutor to initiate a criminal investigation into the war crimes of Rumsfeld and other Bush administration officials. Although Bush has immunized his team from prosecution in the International Criminal Court, they could be tried in any country under the well-established principle of universal jurisdiction.

Donald Rumsfeld may be out of sight, but he will not be out of mind. The chickens have come home to roost.

Marjorie Cohn, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, is president of the National Lawyers Guild, and the U.S. representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists. Her new book, Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law, will be published this spring by PoliPointPress.



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Warrantless wiretaps unlikely to be OK'd

By LAURIE KELLMAN
Associated Press
11 Nov 06

WASHINGTON - Legislation aimed at President Bush's once-secret program for wiretapping U.S.-foreign phone calls and computer traffic of suspected terrorists without warrants shows all the signs of not moving ahead, notwithstanding President Bush's request this week that a lame-duck Congress give it to him.

Senate Democrats, emboldened by Election Day wins that put them in control of Congress as of January, say they would rather wait until next year to look at the issue. "I can't say that we won't do it, but there's no guarantee that we're going spend a lot of time on controversial measures," Democratic Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois said Thursday.

In Senate parlance, that means no.
Republicans for months have known that no bill accomplishing Bush's goal could get filibuster-proof support from 60 senators. Sealing off any hope was what Democratic leader Harry Reid put on his lame-duck to-do list. The warrantless domestic surveillance bill was conspicuous in its absence.

As for next year, Bush should not expect Democrats to allow such legislation to pass without language establishing considerable congressional oversight of any expansion of warrantless wiretaps.

"We have been asked to make sweeping and fundamental changes in law for reasons that we do not know and in order to legalize secret, unlawful actions that the administration has refused to fully divulge," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (news, bio, voting record) of Vermont, the next Judiciary Committee chairman. "If legislation is needed for judicial review, then we should write that legislation together, in a bipartisan and thoughtful way."

The Bush administration has a backup plan. In speeches over the next few weeks, the Justice Department will launch a new campaign for the legislation by casting the choice as one between supporting the program or dropping it altogether - and appearing soft on al-Qaida.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will make the eavesdropping program the focus of a Nov. 18 speech at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Kenneth L. Wainstein, assistant attorney general for the national security, will make a similar pitch Wednesday to the American Bar Association.

Leahy said that monitoring communications of suspected terrorists is essential but that "it needs to be done lawfully and with adequate checks and balances to prevent abuses of Americans' rights and Americans' privacy."

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Bush ordered the National Security Agency to monitor communications potentially related to al-Qaida between people in the U.S. and those overseas. He bypassed normal requirements for court approval of such eavesdropping, and the program came under harsh criticism after it was disclosed last December by The New York Times.

Democrats and Republicans on the intelligence and judiciary committees spent much of the year trying to find out details from the administration, to little avail. Much of the information is classified, and the White House has insisted that revealing it would mean compromising the war on terrorism.

The House passed a bill in September to allow warrantless wiretaps under certain restrictions. House and Senate intelligence committees and congressional leaders would have to be notified, the president would have to believe that a terrorist attack is imminent, and certification would have to be renewed every 90 days.

A Republican measure in the Senate favored by the administration would require the Justice Department to report twice a year to the House and Senate intelligence committees the number and kind of any such operations. It would permit the surveillance to continue for up to one year without a warrant.

The House bill is H.R. 5825; the Senate bill is S. 3931.



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Cheney in a Box

by Mike Whitney
Atlantic Free Press
10 Nov 06

In a moment worthy of Shakespeare, the Fraudster-in-chief had been scuttled by his own party; knifed in the back by his own friends and family who knew that it was finally time to extract the drunken driver from behind the wheel of a Mack Truck.

The "vanilla" Democrats had nothing to do with Tuesday's results. It was a "planned demolition" from the get-go.

It was the worst outcome imaginable.

They lost the House and the Senate in one night with one savage blow. Even the Confederate flag at Senator "Macakaw's" house was flying at half-mast. Suddenly the Reich that was "built to last a thousand years" had been reduced to small blocks of dusty-rubble extending from sea to shining sea. At the very epicenter of the twisted-iron and smoldering wreckage; was George W. Bush, President Hologram, the celluloid executive whose smirking puss had appeared daily on every American TV and in every American newspaper spreading the "good news" of domestic repression and nonstop war. Now, here he was, once again, convening a news conference, dazed and ashen, propped up amid the scattered debris of a midterm massacre; his party left in utter ruins.

Ouch!

In a moment worthy of Shakespeare, the Fraudster-in-chief had been scuttled by his own party; knifed in the back by his own friends and family who knew that it was finally time to extract the drunken driver from behind the wheel of a Mack Truck.

The Democrats didn't win anything; that's all hogwash. Bush was buried beneath an avalanche of bad news which was timed to begin with the release of Bob Woodward's book "State of Denial", followed by the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), Lancet's Iraqi casualty report, the Mark Foley page fiasco, and a barrage of ethics-scandals, corruption investigations, and intensified coverage of the war. It was a carefully-coordinated coup intended to install "adults" (like Robert Gates) in positions of power, change the policy in Iraq, and remove Rumsfeld and Cheney from office.

One down; one to go.

The "vanilla" Democrats had nothing to do with Tuesday's results. It was a "planned demolition" from the get-go.

Robert Dreyfuss said it best in a recent article when he opined that Bush was handled in the same way "a family confronts an alcoholic. You bring everyone in, and you say, 'Look, my friend, it's time to change.'" (And then you remove the bad influences)

Elite powerbrokers and Republican Party kingpins extended their hoary grip all the way into the Oval Office and took the country back from the teenagers. But the boulder is still only half way up the hill. After all, what are their plans for Cheney?

Cheney wisely decided to go hunting when he discovered that friend Rumsfeld was being led to the gallows. Cheney's no fool. He knew that if he hung around, he'd be blamed as the co-conspirator of the Iraqi debacle and the subsequent destruction of the Republican Party.

So he did what Cheney always does; he skedaddled. He suddenly discovered that he "had more important things to do"; just like Vietnam.

He said he was going hunting, but that's rubbish. He wanted to be as far from the political fallout as humanly possible, so he vamoosed. There's nothing more to it than that. Besides, there've been no reports of "downed lawyers full of birdshot" this week in Wyoming so we know that Cheney's firearms are still safely tucked-away in the family vault.

Right now, Cheney is probably huddled somewhere with his national security team, rubbing his sweaty-hands together, figuring out how he can get back in the game and keep his fetid plan moving forward.

Cheney is smart; real smart. Smart like a cobra. He's not going down without a fight and he doesn't give a damn if he takes the whole country with him.

This is all about Cheney now; Dick Cheney, political survivor and skilled bureaucratic infighter. If anyone thinks that he's going to sit around waiting for the Democrats to start sniffing around the Republican corruption-cesspool; they're crazy.

He knows what's going on. He knows that Bush Senior, and Brzezinski, and Baker, and the rest of the "old order" Republicans have muscled in and are taking over. He knows he won't be able to bomb Iran, kill another 650,000 Iraqis, or declare martial law at home. And, he also knows that Conyers and the rest of them will be nosing-around the Halliburton "no bid" contracts; going through every sordid detail with a fine-tooth comb, and dredging up new scandals on a daily basis.

He grasps all of that. He understands the political climate and he knows that he only has two choices left; offense or defense?

Either he steps down or he collects his wits, gets his team together; Addington, Abrams, Chertoff, Gonzales etc; all the guys who are "one step ahead of the hangman"; and slaps together one "last-ditch" effort to establish absolute-dictatorial power that will put him forever beyond the reach of the law or of any future accountability for his war crimes.

It's a tough task. Bush is teetering and he's probably left the Cheney-Rumsfeld orbit already. Robert Gates' job is to influence Bush, to win him over with reason and, thus, move the country away from the brink of disaster. Cheney has been removed from the policy-making apparatus and he knows it.

So, what'll he do next?

What will Cheney do now that he's been backed into a corner and his power is oozing away like the blood from a sucking chest-wound?

Will he quietly retire and disappear into the political vapor or "lock-n-load" and go down with both guns blazing?

Here's a clue: Cheney is a "dead-ender". He won't go peacefully.



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Bitch Slapping Dick Cheney

by Larry C Johnson
No Quarter
11 November 06

Wednesday's surprising resignation/firing of Don Rumsfeld and the nomination of the CIA chief who served Bush 41, Robert Gates, was a dramatic and emphatic smack in the face of Dick Cheney. While George W. Bush remains stubbornly committed to the present course in Iraq, there should be no doubt that he is no longer willing to be the Charlie McCarthy to Cheney's Edgar Bergen. Cheney's hand is no longer firmly in control of Bush, and Bush is speaking for himself.
This was a stinging rebuke to Cheney, who had brought his mentor, Don Rumsfeld, into the Bush 43 tent over the strenuous objections of the Bush 41 crowd. Cheney and Rumsfeld shared the same world view of the NeoCon crowd, which included a fierce distrust and anger toward the CIA. During the last five years Cheney assisted Rumsfeld's quest to set up a completely independent intelligence operation in the Department of Defense. At least with the DOD intel capability, the Pentagon and the White House could ignore the CIA view.

The appointment of Bob Gates, to replace Don Rumsfeld, is a mixed blessing.

Gates is not an ideologue. He is a conservative politically but he is also willing to entertain outside views. Even though he demonstrated a willingness to "cook" the intel books and play politics with analysts at the CIA in the 1980s, his subsequent tenure at the National Security Council and as head of the CIA in the 1990s won praise from both ends of the political spectrum. One former senior CIA manager recently told me that the management of the interagency Deputies Committee during Gates' stint at the National Security Council was superb.

The Gates era at DOD will bring an end to Rummy's reign of terror. Rummy and his coterie of neocons bullied and bashed the military, particularly in the summer of 2002, for its reluctance to accept Rummy's demand to invade Iraq with a light force. Rummy came to the job with preconceived ideas and was unwilling to entertain dissent or alternative views. There is no doubt that the military officers on the Joint Staff are heaving a great sigh of relief these days. Gates, by contrast, will welcome strong briefers and will defer to military recommendations that are fully supported by evidence.

The appointment of Gates also marks the end of Cheney's dominance within the Bush Administration. Cheney has been conspicuously absent since the Republicans were routed at the polls. His efforts to save Rummy were rebuffed. And with the Senate in the hands of the Democrats, Cheney's influence on the Hill is over. Don't be surprised if Dick Cheney develops a heart condition in the next couple of months that will force him to resign as the Vice President. Whether he stays or goes, the era of Cheney's supremacy at the White House is done. The neocons are discredited, as is Cheney, and their pet projects--from warrantless wiretapping to torture to trashing habeus corpus--are dead as well.



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The Voting Scam


Ark. mayoral candidate disputes tally of zero votes, says he voted for himself

17:19:58 EST Nov 11, 2006
Canadian Press

WALDENBURG, Ark. (AP) - Randy Wooten figured he'd get at least one vote in his bid for mayor of this town of 80 people - even if it was just his own.

He didn't. Now he has to decide whether to file a formal protest.
Wooten got the news from his wife, Roxanne, who went to City Hall on Wednesday to see the election results.

"She saw my name with zero votes by it. She came home and asked me if I had voted for myself or not. I told her I did," said Wooten, owner of a local bar.

However, Poinsett County results reported Wednesday showed incumbent William H. Wood with 18 votes, challenger Ronnie Chatman with 18 votes and Wooten with zero.

"I had at least eight or nine people who said they voted for me, so something is wrong with this picture," Wooten said.

Poinsett County Election Commissioner Junaway Payne said the issue had been discussed but no action taken yet.

"It's our understanding from talking with the secretary of state's office that a court order would have to be obtained in order to open the machine and check the totals," Payne said. "The votes were cast on an electronic voting machine, but paper ballots were available."

A Nov. 28 runoff is scheduled to decide the mayor's race.

"It's just very hard to understand," Wooten said.



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Electronic Voting Was Rife with Errors on Nov. 7

By Brad Friedman
Computerworld
November 13, 2006.

Did Election 2006 mark smooth transition to electronic balloting? Not so fast, America.

ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINE SLAYS NINE
Terrorizes Florida in Thrill-Kill Rampage

That headline was from a satirical column written by Andy Borowitz published last Monday, the day before Tuesday's midterm elections. Unfortunately, given the post-election coverage by some of the nation's leading media -- or at least their headline writers -- it seems that only an event such as a Diebold voting machine becoming "unmoored from the floor and...trampling everyone and everything in its path," as Borowitz wrote, would qualify as anything more than a "glitch," "hiccup," "snag" or "snafu."
"Voting System Worked, With Some Hiccups," declared the AP headline on Wednesday. "Polling Places Report Snags, but Not Chaos," echoed The New York Times.

"Hiccups"? "Snags"? Try telling that to the thousands of voters around the country who were unable to simply cast a vote last Tuesday because new, untested electronic voting machines failed to work. Monumentally. Across the entire country.

"Not Chaos"? Apparently the Times headline writers failed to check with the folks in Denver who were lined up around the block for hours to vote. They didn't even bother to read the Denver Post article headlining the problem as a "Voting Nightmare" during the day on Tuesday and quoting voter Lauren Brockman saying, "We will not get to vote today," after he had shown up before work to vote at 6:45 a.m. at the Botanic Gardens only to wait on line for an hour before giving up.

They didn't check with Bill Ritter, the Colorado gubernatorial candidate, who had to wait almost two hours to vote, or with Sean Kelley, a Denver resident, who said to the Post, "I can't believe I'm in the United States of America," before he gave up and went home without voting after waiting three hours in line when electronic machines broke down. Despite an emergency request, the courts in Colorado refused to allow the city's new consolidated "Election Centers" to remain open for extra hours that night.

Similar problems led to slightly more responsible officials ordering polls to be kept open longer than scheduled in at least eight other states due to voting machine problems. In a Times story published the day before (which apparently the headline writers of the previously mentioned piece failed to read), it was reported that in Illinois "hundreds of precincts were kept open ... because of late openings at polling places related to machine problems" and in Indiana "voting equipment problems led to extensions of at least 30 minutes in three counties."

Other states where polls remained open late due to the inability of legally registered voters to vote when they showed up earlier in the day include Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Indiana and Ohio.

But the list of problems and, yes, meltdowns is still pouring in from around the country. My in-box has been beyond readability since polls opened on Tuesday morning, and my ability to keep up had already been near the breaking point in the weeks prior just from similar reported disasters that occurred with these failing, flipping and flimsy machines during the early voting period in Florida, Arkansas, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas and California, just to name a few.

On Election Day, the Electronic Frontier Foundation had received about 17,000 complaints on its toll-free hot line by 8 p.m. Common Cause received 14,000 calls by 4 p.m. John Gideon at VotersUnite.org performed the herculean task of logging as many news reports as he could in a searchable online database of reported election problems that day.

The nation dodged a significant bullet when George Allen conceded in his Virginia Senate race Thursday. Had he not chosen to do so, America would have found itself smack-dab in the middle of another Florida 2000 crisis with the balance of Congress depending on voting machines that offer absolutely no way to recount ballots to achieve any form of accuracy or clarity in the race. The battle of the forensic computer scientists trying to figure out what happened would have been another long national nightmare.

But that didn't happen, so everything's cool. Right?

We dodged another bullet when Sen. Rick Santorum conceded. Earlier in the day, he and the Pennsylvania Republican Party sent a letter to the secretary of the commonwealth demanding that voting machines in 27 counties be impounded after they received reports of touch-screen votes flipping from the Republican candidate to his Democratic opponent.

Imagine, by the way, if Democrats had taken such a responsible position to impound machines every time votes were reported to have flipped from Democrat to Republican -- certainly the more commonly reported occurrence on Tuesday. There wouldn't be a voting machine left in the country. It's a pity the Democrats haven't figured that out. Yet.

They're so delighted to have won anything they haven't stopped to realize they might have taken 40 seats in the House instead of just 30 had they bothered to fight for an accountable, secure, transparent electoral system and instructed their candidates to concede nothing until every vote was counted, verified and audited for accuracy.

And still, the Times and AP headline writers -- who seem to have failed to read the stories they were headlining, given that each outlined a litany of such meltdowns -- believe there's nothing to be concerned about.

18,000 votes seems to have vanished into thin air via ES&S iVotronic touch-screen machines (no paper "trails," much less countable paper ballots ) in Sarasota County, site of Florida's 13th U.S. Congressional District contest between Vern Buchanan and Christine Jennings. There's currently a 368-vote difference between them, but there's no paper to to examine to figure out what may have gone wrong and explain how a 13% undervote rate was found in only in that race.

On the very same ballot above that race, the gubernatorial contest had only a 2.6% undervote rate. A hospital board election below it had only a 1% undervote rate. On absentee ballots for the Jennings/Buchanan race, the undervote rate was just 1.8%. Some of the 120 complaints from touch-screen voters that came into the Herald Tribune on Tuesday are published on the newspaper's site.

18,000 undervotes. In Florida. With no paper ballots to go back and check to see if all of those voters simply chose not to vote in that race for some inexplicable reason. Faith-based voting in a race that Florida election officials in the secretary of state's office have said they have no plans to investigate.

Good thing the balance of the U.S. House doesn't hang on that race. Or a presidential election. But why worry about something like that? After all, a mere 18,000 disappeared votes on an electronic voting machine in a single county in Florida could never affect the outcome of a national presidential race. (Again, for the sarcasm-impaired: Right.)

In San Diego, thousands of hackable Diebold voting machines were sent home for three weeks prior to the election with poll workers (most of them apparently high-school teenagers hired by the county's registrar of voters, Mikel Haas) on "sleepovers." As Princeton University demonstrated, a hotel mini-bar key and just 60 seconds of unsupervised time with a single machine is just about all a single person would need to steal votes from every machine in the county. Nobody would ever be able to prove it. Thus, there is no basis for confidence in any reported results from any election this year in San Diego County. 50th Congressional District candidate Francine Busby has, so far, appropriately refused to concede despite the wide margin being reported in her race from the tainted, effectively decertified voting machines Haas disgracefully used for the first time this year across the entire county.

In Orange County, Calif., voters were turned away without being able to vote at all when machines failed to work and there were not enough paper ballots for voters to cast their votes. Many reportedly opted to vote on Chinese and Vietnamese ballots when English emergency paper ballots had run out (in places where they even had paper ballots to chose from), just so they could exercise their franchise. Many voters were simply told to "come back later," when poll workers hoped the machines would be working again.

It is not yet a felony in the United States of America to turn a legally registered voter away from the polls without allowing him to cast a vote. But it damned well should be.

Victoria Wulsin currently trails Jean Schmidt by less than half a percentage point in their Ohio 2nd Congressional District race for the U.S. House. Wulsin has also appropriately refused to concede until every vote is counted, accounted for and verified. But a recount will rely on both the same hackable Diebold AccuVote TSx touch-screen machines used in San Diego and the same ES&S optical scan machines that were found to have mistabulated at least nine Republican primary races in Pottawatomie County, Iowa, last June.

Ten other House races still remain "too close to call." Many of them will rely on "results" reported by inaccurate, unreliable, untested electronic voting machines.

Fortunately, the balance of the House doesn't rest on any of those races either, so all is well.

When Warren Stewart of the nonpartisan VoteTrustUSA.org noted a number of Voting Machine Company apologists -- from the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission's Paul Degregorio to California's unelected secretary of state, Bruce McPherson, to the Election Center's Doug Lewis and ElectionLine.org's Doug Chapin -- joining the "everything's fine" crowd, he noted:

They agree that the election went "better than expected," "relatively smoothly," with "isolated problems," "just a few glitches," "minor issues," "no major problems."

So, with multi-hundreds of news reports of election problems across the country -- a fraction of the problems that actually occurred -- you have to wonder what a meltdown would have to look like.


What would it look like, indeed?

I guess before the voting machine company flunkies and Times and AP headline writers would notice, it would have to look like Borowitz' "Diebold Rampage" scenario. Though even that would likely have a predictable ending...

The touch-screen terror then cut a swath of death and destruction across the state, despite attempts by the state police to apprehend it.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush appeared on television later in the day to urge calm, telling residents, "Clearly, Florida's electronic voting machines are still very much a work in progress."

At the White House, spokesman Tony Snow did not directly address the issue of the voting machine's deadly rampage, choosing instead to make general remarks about the electoral process.

"This administration remains steadfast in its support of free and fair elections," he said, adding, "in Iraq."




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Gov. Bush says undervotes worth investigating

BY MITCH STACY
ASSOCIATED PRESS
10 Nov 06

BRADENTON. -- Gov. Jeb Bush said Friday the unusually high number of voters who didn't choose a candidate in a congressional race in Sarasota County was worth investigating, and said the state has "the law in place to do it right."

"This is obviously something we need to look into, and very quickly," Bush said as state elections officials prepared to oversee an expected recount next week in the 13th District race between Republican Vern Buchanan and Democrat Christine Jennings.
Jennings was behind in the initial count by 373 votes and was pressing for answers about why more than 18,000 voters didn't register a selection in the race, but did make choices in other contests. That rate was much higher than what the district's other counties registered in the same congressional race.

State elections officials planned an audit of the Sarasota County's election system after the recount, which is expected to occur next week.

The county uses touch-screen machines, which were meant to avoid some of the problems Florida saw in 2000, when it became the center of national attention over the same issue.

Bush said there were clearly questions about the vote - but said the state's system is equipped to handle those questions.

"We have the law in place to do it right," Bush said during a stop in Bradenton. "In 2000 when a recount took place, the canvassing board had all this flexibility, now the law's the law, and that takes away much of the mystery.

"The problem is: how there are significant undervotes like that? It may be that that was simply the voters' wish, but if there's evidence to suggest otherwise, we'll move on that."



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Keep the Faith, Baby


Preach your children well - Fundies Homeschooling plan to take over the world

Amanda Gefter
NewScientist.com news service
11 November 2006

TO THE unsuspecting visitor, Patrick Henry College looks like a typical American liberal-arts college tucked away amidst the rolling green farmlands of Virginia. Its curriculum is far from typical, however, and anything but liberal. Witness this lecture on faith and reason in an idyllic red-brick college building reminiscent of colonial America. As the speaker takes to the podium, several students silence their cellphones. One puts down his copy of The Wall Street Journal and takes out his Bible. They bow their heads and pray to Jesus, then stand up and sing a hymn, belting out "Holy, holy, holy" with gusto. Eventually, the speaker addresses the crowd.
"Christians increasingly have an advantage in the educational enterprise," he says. "This is evident in the success of Christian home-schooled children, as compared to their government-schooled friends who have spent their time constructing their own truths." The students, all evangelical Christians, applaud loudly. Most of them were schooled at home before arriving at Patrick Henry - a college created especially for them.

These students are part of a large, well-organised movement that is empowering parents to teach their children creationist biology and other unorthodox versions of science at home, all centred on the idea that God created Earth in six days about 6000 years ago. Patrick Henry, near the town of Purcellville, about 60 kilometres north-west of Washington DC, is gearing up to groom home-schooled students for political office and typifies a movement that seems set to expand, opening up a new front in the battle between creationists and Darwinian evolutionists. New Scientist investigated how home-schooling, with its considerable legal support, is quietly transforming the landscape of science education in the US, subverting and possibly threatening the public school system that has fought hard against imposing a Christian viewpoint on science teaching.

Ironically, home-schooling began in the 1960s as a counter-culture movement among political liberals. The idea was taken up in the 1970s by evangelical Christians, and today anywhere from 1.9 to 2.4 million children are home-schooled, up from just 300,000 in 1990 (see Graph). According to the US government's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 72 per cent of home-schooling parents interviewed said that they were motivated by the desire to provide religious and moral instruction.

For these parents, religious instruction and science are often intertwined. This bothers Brian Alters of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who studies the changing face of science education in the US. He is appalled by some home-schooling textbooks, especially those on biology that claim they have scientific reasons for rejecting evolution. "They have gross scientific inaccuracies in them," he says. "They would not be allowed in any public school in the US, and yet these are the books primarily featured in home-schooling bookstores."

One such textbook is Science of the Physical Creation from A Beka Book, a leading retailer of home-schooling books based in Pensacola, Florida. It argues: "Evolution is a concept that attempts to free man from God and his responsibility to his Creator." Alters worries for the students who learn from such texts (see "Book learnin'"). "If they go on to secular university, home-schoolers are in for some major surprises when they get into an introductory biology class."

Home-school parents are able to teach their children this way thanks mainly to a group called the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a non-profit organisation based in Purcellville - like Patrick Henry College (PHC), which the HSLDA founded. In the 1970s and early 1980s, the practice was largely illegal across the US. "The mechanism that was causing home-schooling to be illegal was teacher certification," says Ian Slatter, director of media relations for the HSLDA. In 1983 two evangelical attorneys, Michael Farris and Mike Smith, founded the organisation to defend the rights of home-school parents. They fought to remove requirements that parents be certified to teach their own children. Through an impressive run of legal battles and political lobbying, they managed to make home-schooling legal in all 50 states within 10 years. "We rolled back the state laws," says Slatter.

Consequently, there is virtually no government regulation of home-schooling. "Some states say you need a high school diploma," Slatter says. "But we really don't have many problems getting people, shall we say, qualified." In Virginia, for instance, parents need a degree to teach at home, but there is a religious exemption, so those running a home-school for religious reasons don't need a degree. In contrast, a public high school teacher must have a bachelor's degree, and in some states a master's degree, plus a state-issued teaching certificate. Thirty-one states require teachers to take additional exams to show proficiency in their subject matter.

This lack of regulation may be skewing science education in US homes, says Alters. "Poll after poll shows that approximately one out of two people in America reject evolution. They think the scientists, teachers and textbooks are wrong," he says. An even higher proportion of home-schooling parents may reject evolution, Alters thinks. "And they're going to be teaching science?"

Many parents, however, are drawn to home-schooling precisely because it lets them teach the version of science they prefer. In the recent court case against the school board in Dover, Pennsylvania, the court ruled that intelligent design - the creationist challenge to Darwinism - cannot be taught in a public-school biology class (New Scientist, 7 January, p 8). This is encouraging evangelicals to abandon public schools altogether. "For some families, it was the straw that broke the camel's back," says Slatter.

Until recently, most home-schoolers who were learning the evangelical version of science chose to go on to secular universities because such institutions tend to be more academically rigorous than Christian colleges. Many such universities today accept home-schooled students, although this was not the case a decade ago. To judge home-school applicants, they rely mostly on standardised tests of factual knowledge. Such tests cannot, however, reveal whether or not a student understands scientific method, a compulsory subject in public schools but not for home-schoolers. "Very rarely do universities dig deep into the details to see what books a student has used," says Jay Wile, a PhD in nuclear chemistry from Rochester University in New York who left academia to write creationist textbooks for home-schoolers.
Evangelical interns

Now evangelical home-schoolers can also opt for a college like PHC. The school was founded in 2000 to "prepare leaders who will fight for the principles of liberty and our home-school freedoms through careers of public service and cultural influence".

It worked. By 2004, PHC students held seven out of 100 internships in the White House, a number even more striking when one considers that only 240 students were enrolled in the entire college. Last year, two PHC graduates worked in the White House, six worked for members of Congress and eight for federal agencies, including two for the FBI. "Patrick Henry is something to worry about because these kids end up in the administration," says Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California, which campaigns against the teaching of creationism as science.

Home-schoolers are drawn to PHC partly because of its political connections and partly because, unlike most Christian colleges, it boasts high academic standards. Besides the focus on creationism, much of the curriculum is dedicated to rhetoric and debate, preparing students to fight political and legal battles on issues such as abortion, stem cell research and evolution. The technique is effective. For the past two years, the college has won the moot court national championship, in which students prepare legal briefs and deliver oral arguments to a hypothetical court, and has twice defeated the UK's University of Oxford in debating competitions.

No wonder students are flocking to PHC, a sign of the growth in the home-school movement across the nation. The growth seems set to continue, as home-school advocates are pushing harder than ever to convince parents to keep their children out of public schools. "We've won all the legal battles now, thanks to HSLDA and groups like that," says E. Ray Moore, author of Let My Children Go: Why parents must remove their children from public schools now. "It's time to shift from defence to offence," he says. "We're encouraging Christians to become aggressive with home-schooling."

Moore is the director of Exodus Mandate, based in Columbia, South Carolina, an organisation that urges Christian parents to pull their children out of public schools. Exodus Mandate has spent the past few years trying to win over the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), a Christian denomination with more than 16 million members. Each year the SBC holds a convention at which members vote on various resolutions. Last year, Exodus Mandate introduced a resolution asking SBC parents to conduct a "homosexual school risk audit" of their local public school, a survey to "make Christian parents and pastors more aware of the aggressive homosexual activism being sponsored by many public schools". The resolution was passed. The "risk audit" claims, among other things, that being homosexual "reduces life expectancy at age 20 by at least 8 to 20 years" or "substantially increases the risk of contracting breast cancer".

This year the organisation is pushing for a resolution that will ask parents to plan for home-schooling their children. The effect of these resolutions could be momentous. "If the Southern Baptists got on board and said home-schooling and Christian education is the preferred method of education, that would be transformational," Slatter says. "It would easily double or maybe triple the number of home-schoolers overnight."

Exodus Mandate is urging each home-schooling family to bring one new family into the movement. If they succeed, several million families could take to home-schooling over the next several years, Moore says. "If we could get up to 30 per cent of public-school students into home-schooling and private schools, the system would start to unravel and at some point implode and collapse," he says. "The government would be forced to get the states out of the education business altogether. It would go back to the churches and the families. It's a strategy for the renewal of society."
Overthrow of materialism

The phrasing is reminiscent of the Center for Science and Culture, originally named the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, which has been the main promoter of intelligent design in the US and is part of the conservative think tank Discovery Institute, based in Seattle, Washington. The institute claims that it "seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies". In a 1999 conference entitled "140th Anniversary of Darwin's Origin of Species - Evolution or Creation", the institute's co-founder Philip Johnson reportedly announced, "Home-school moms are allies."

However, not all home-school parents have a religious agenda. "There are probably some wonderful home-school parents, some of whom may be evolutionary biologists themselves. But I have a feeling after talking to a lot of home-schoolers that this is the minority," says Alters. Indeed, evangelical Christians do dominate the home-school movement. "It's disconcerting, to say the least," he says.

The home-school movement is often described as a grassroots effort, scattered among a dispersed group of quiet, rural families. The reality is that the movement is well organised from the top down, led by groups with strong political ties. Taken together, organisations like the Discovery Institute, Exodus Mandate, HSLDA and Patrick Henry College are working to sculpt a new generation of students armed with the skills and the motivation to fight for their religious beliefs and their version of science.

"Home-schoolers are going to be leaders in their field," says Wile. "They are going to change science and how science is done."

From issue 2577 of New Scientist magazine, 11 November 2006, page 20-23



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Church of England says right to life for newborns not absolute: report

AFP
12 Nov 06

The Church of England believes doctors should be given the right to withhold treatment from some seriously disabled newborn babies in exceptional circumstances, The Observer reported.

The view comes in a submission from the church to a British medical ethics committee looking at the implications of keeping severely premature babies alive through technological advances, the weekly newspaper said.

The Bishop of Southwark, Tom Butler, was said to have written that "it may in some circumstances be right to choose to withhold or withdraw treatment, knowing it will possibly, probably, or even certainly result in death".
Last week, Britain's Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists called for a debate on whether deliberate medical intervention to cause the death of severely disabled new-born babies should be legalised.

The college said it did not necessarily favour the move -- which prompted accusations of "social engineering" from disabled groups -- but felt the issue should be discussed.

Its views were expressed in a similar submission to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, which was set up two years ago and which is due to publish its finding later this week.

The Observer reported that the church, led by the head of the world's Anglicans Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, could not accept the view that the life of any baby is not worth living.

But it added there were "strong proportionate reasons" for "overriding the presupposition that life should be maintained", the weekly added.

The high price of keeping very premature and sick babies alive with invasive medical treatments as well as the consequences for parents should also be taken into consideration, the bishop reportedly says.

"There may be occasions where, for a Christian, compassion will override the 'rule' that life should inevitably be preserved," the south London bishop is said to have written.

"Disproportionate treatment for the sake of prolonging life is an example of this."

The church reportedly said it would only back withholding or withdrawing treatment if all reasonable alternatives had been fully considered "so that the possibly lethal act would only be performed with manifest reluctance".



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So what's with all the dinosaurs?

Stephen BatesMonday November 13, 2006
The Guardian

Just off the interstate, a couple of junctions down from Cincinnati's international airport, over the state line in rural Kentucky, the finishing touches are being put to an impressive-looking building. When it is finished and open to the public next summer, it may, quite possibly, be one of the weirdest museums in the world.

The Creation Museum - motto: "Prepare to Believe!" - will be the first institution in the world whose contents, with the exception of a few turtles swimming in an artificial pond, are entirely fake. It is dedicated to the proposition that the account of the creation of the world in the Book of Genesis is completely correct, and its mission is to convince visitors through a mixture of animatronic models, tableaux and a strangely Disneyfied version of the Bible story.
Its designer, Patrick Marsh, used to work at Universal Studios in Los Angeles and then in Japan before he saw the light, opened his soul to Jesus, and was born anew. "The Bible is the only thing that gives you the full picture," he says. "Other religions don't have that, and, as for scientists, so much of what they believe is pretty fuzzy about life and its origins ... oh, this is a great place to work, I will tell you that."

So this is the Bible story, as truth. Apart from the dinosaurs, that is. As you stand in the museum's lobby - the only part of the building approaching completion - you are surrounded by life-size dinosaur models, some moving and occasionally grunting as they chew the cud.Beside the turtle pool, two animatronic, brown-complexioned children, demurely dressed in Hiawatha-like buckskin, gravely flutter with movement. Behind them lurk two small Tyrannosaurus Rexes. This scene is meant to date from before the Fall of Man and, apparently, dinosaurs.

Theological scholars may have noticed that there are, in fact, no dinosaurs mentioned in the Bible - and here lies the Creationists' first problem. Since there are undoubtedly dinosaur bones and since, according to the Creationists, the world is only 6,000 years old - a calculation devised by the 17th-century Bishop Ussher, counting back through the Bible to the Creation, a formula more or less accepted by the museum - dinosaurs must be shoehorned in somewhere, along with the Babylonians, Egyptians and the other ancient civilisations. As for the Grand Canyon - no problem: that was, of course, created in a few months by Noah's Flood.

But what, I ask wonderingly, about those fossilised remains of early man-like creatures? Marsh knows all about that: "There are no such things. Humans are basically as you see them today. Those skeletons they've found, what's the word? ... they could have been deformed, diseased or something. I've seen people like that running round the streets of New York."

Nothing can dent the designer's zeal as he leads us gingerly through the labyrinth of rooms still under construction, with bits of wood, and the odd dinosaur head occasionally blocking our path. The light of keenness shines from the faces of the workers, too, as they chisel out mountain sides and work out where to put the Tree of Life. They greet us cheerily as we pass.

They, too, know they are doing the Lord's Work, and each has signed a contract saying they believe in the Seven Days of Creation theory. Mornings on this construction site start with prayer meetings. Don't think for a minute that this is some sort of crazy little hole-in-the-corner project. The museum is costing $25m (£13m) and all but $3m has already been raised from private donations. It is strategically placed, too - not in the middle of nowhere, but within six hours' drive of two-thirds of the entire population of the US. And, as we know, up to 50 million of them do believe that the Bible's account of Creation is literally true.

We pass the site where one day an animatronic Adam will squat beside the Tree. With this commitment to authenticity, I find myself asking what they are doing about the fig leaf. Marsh considers this gravely and replies: "He is appropriately positioned, so he can be modest. There will be a lamb or something there next to him. We are very careful about that: some of our donors are scared to death about nudity."

The same will go for the scene where Eve is created out of Adam's rib, apparently, and parents will be warned that little children may be scared by the authenticity of some of the scenes. "Absolutely, because we are in there, being faithful to scripture."

A little licence is allowed, however, where the Bible falls down on the details. The depiction of a wall-sized section of Noah's Ark is based, not on the traditional picture of a flat-decked boat, but one designed by navy engineers with a keel and bows, which might, at least, have floated. "You can surmise," says Marsh. When you get inside, there's nifty computer software telling you how they fitted all the animals in, too.

The museum's research scientist, Dr Jason Lisle, has a PhD in astrophysics from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He realised he was a Christian while he was an undergraduate, but didn't spread it around: "People get very emotional about the issue. I don't believe we should ever be obnoxious about our faith. I just kept quiet." And how did he pass the exams? "I never lied, but if I was asked a question about the age of the universe, I answered from my knowledge of the topic, not my beliefs."

The museum's planetarium is his pride and joy. Lisle writes the commentary. "Amazing! God has a name for each star," it says, and: "The sun's distance from earth did not happen by chance." There is much more in this vein, but not what God thought he was doing when he made Pluto, or why.

Now, we are taken to meet Ken Ham, the museum's director and its inspiration. Ham is an Australian, a former science teacher - though not, he is at pains to say, a scientist - and he has been working on the project for much of the past 20 years since moving to the US. "You'd never find something like this in Australia," he says. "If you want to get the message out, it has to be here."

Reassuringly, on the wall outside his office, are three framed photographs of the former Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh - "cricket's never really caught on over here" - and inside, on his bookshelves, is a wooden model of a platypus. On top of the shelves is an array of fluffy poodle toys, as well as cuddly dinosaurs. "Poodles are degenerate mutants of dogs. I say that in my lectures and people present them to me as gifts."

Ham is a large man with a chin-hugging beard like an Old Testament prophet or an old-fashioned preacher, both of which he is, in a way. He lectures all over the world and spent a month in Britain earlier in the summer spreading the message to the faithful in parish halls from Cornwall to Scotland. "We want to try to convince people using observational science," he says. "It's done very gently but forthrightly. We give both sides, which is more than the Science Museum in London does."

This is true in that the Creation museum does include an animatronic evolutionist archaeologist, sitting beside a creationist, at one point. But there's no space for an animatronic Charles Darwin to fit alongside King David and his harp.

On the shelf behind Ham's desk lie several surprising books, including Richard Dawkins' latest. "I've skipped through it. The thing is, Dawkins does not have infinite knowledge or understanding himself. He's got a position, too, it's just a different one from ours. The Bible makes sense and is overwhelmingly confirmed by observable science. It does not confirm the belief in evolution."

But if you believe in the Bible, why do you need to seek scientific credibility, and why are Creationists so reluctant to put their theories to peer review, I ask?

"I would give the same answer as Dawkins. He believes there is no God and nothing you could say would convince him otherwise. You are dealing with an origins issue. If you don't have the information, you cannot be sure. Nothing contradicts the Bible's account of the origins."

We wander across to the bookshop, which, far from being another biblical epic, is done up like a medieval castle, framed with heraldic shields and filled with images of dragons - dragons, you see, being what dinosaurs became. It is full of books with titles such as Infallible Proofs, The Lie, The Great Dinosaur Mystery Solved and even a DVD entitled Arguments Creationists Should Not Use. As we finish the tour, Ham tells us about the museum's website, AnswersInGenesis.org. They are expecting 300,000 visitors a year. "You've not seen anything yet," he says with a smile.



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Elton John wants organized religion banned

Reuters
12 Nov 06

LONDON - Elton John has said organized religion should be banned because it promotes homophobia and turns some people into "hateful lemmings."
"I would ban religion completely, even though there are some wonderful things about it," the British singer said in an interview with the Observer newspaper on Sunday.

"Religion has always tried to turn hatred toward gay people. It turns people into hateful lemmings and it is not really compassionate."

The singer, who tied the knot with long-term partner David Furnish in a civil ceremony last year, said he admired the teachings of Jesus Christ, but disliked religious bodies.

"The reality is that organized religion doesn't seem to work," he added.

The 59-year-old singer, who has sold an estimated 200 million records, is no stranger to controversy.

In 2000, he hit out at the "ignorance" of the Roman Catholic church after a priest said homosexuals were engaged in "a lifestyle that can never respond to the deepest longings of the human heart."

Since then he has received blanket media coverage for a series of high-profile outbursts.

In May, he launched an expletive-laden tirade against the press at the Cannes film festival, telling photographers: "You should all be shot."

In 2004, he was filmed shouting at Taiwanese photographers for surprising him as he arrived at Taipei airport, calling them "rude, vile pigs."

He criticized pop star Madonna a week later, accusing her of charging fans outrageous prices to see her lip-synch in concert.

In an interview, he said his "bad temper and irrationality" emerged only when he was tired.



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It Comes in Cycles


New evidence shows a different meteor killed dinosaurs

By Ernest Gill
Nov 13, 2006, 3:48 GMT

Hamburg - In a scenario resembling the dramatic conclusion to a TV crime drama, paleo-forensics experts have produced new evidence to show that the dinosaurs were bumped off by a different meteor than the one that has received the rap for their extinction.

The German palaeontologists insist that a mysterious meteor or comet must have done the deadly deed - long after the notorious Yucatan meteor that has hitherto been blamed.
Until now, it has been accepted generally that the Chicxulub impact off the coast of Mexico 65 million years ago wiped out the dinosaurs. Evidence of the crater left by the giant asteroid or comet has been found under the sea off the coast of Yucatan.

But a group of scientists led by Professor Gerta Keller of Princeton and Professor Wolfgang Stinnesbeck of the University of Karlsruhe begged to differ. They uncovered a series of geological clues which suggests the truth may be far more complicated.

In short, they say that the crater in the Yucatan is too old to have killed off the dinosaurs. Yucatan took the rap for a dino murder that occurred much later.

However, no-one has yet found the crater from the 'real culprit' impact which ended the Age of Reptiles and caused one of the largest mass extinctions in history.

'There is some evidence that it may have hit in India,' says Dr. Keller. The crater, named Shiva by one expert, is estimated to measure 500 kilometres (over 300 miles) in diameter. However, at this time there is little proof of its existence.

Keller says marine microfossils in sediments drilled from the ocean floor show that Chicxulub hit Earth 300,000 years before the mass extinction it was supposed to have caused.

The small marine animals that produced the microfossils escaped virtually unscathed.

The Chicxulub impact conspired with the Deccan Flood Basalt eruptions in India, a period of prolonged and intense volcanic activity, to nudge species towards the brink, said Dr Keller.

Vast amounts of greenhouse gas were pumped into the atmosphere by the Deccan volcanism over a period of more than a million years. By the time Chicxulub struck, land temperatures were seven to eight degrees Celsius warmer than they had been 20,000 earlier.

Weakened by these events, species were finally killed off by the second impact.

The previous impact theory was beautifully simple and appealing. Much of its evidence was drawn from a thin layer of rock known as the 'KT boundary.' This layer is 65 million years old (which is around the time when the dinosaurs disappeared) and is found around the world exposed in cliffs and mines.

For supporters of the impact theory, the KT boundary layers contained two crucial clues. In 1979, scientists discovered that there were high concentrations of a rare element called iridium, which they thought could only have come from an asteroid. Right underneath the iridium was a layer of spherules, tiny balls of rock which seemed to have been condensed from rock which had been vapourised by a massive impact.

But Keller's team concentrated on a series of rock formations in Mexico where the iridium layer was separated from the spherule layer by many metres of sandstone. Keller found evidence such as ancient worm burrows that suggested that the deposition of the sandstone had been interrupted many times.

Her team concluded that there was a gap of some 300,000 years between the deposition of the spherules (from the Chicxulub crater) and the iridium (from an asteroid). Therefore, there must have been two impacts.



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African nomads to be first people wiped out by climate change

Sunday November 12, 2006
The Observer


Kenya's herdsmen are facing extinction as global warming destroys their lands

They are dubbed the 'climate canaries' - the people destined to become the first victims of world climate change. And as government ministers sit down in Nairobi at this weekend's UN Climate Conference, the people most likely to be wiped out by devastating global warming will be only a few hundred miles away from their deliberations.

Those people, according to research commissioned by the charity Christian Aid, will be the three million pastoralists of northern Kenya, whose way of life has sustained them for thousands of years but who now face eradication. Hundreds of thousands of these seasonal herders have already been forced to forsake their traditional culture and settle in Kenya's north eastern province following consecutive droughts that have decimated their livestock in recent years.

Earlier this year the charity commissioned livestock specialist Dr David Kimenye to examine how the herders are coping with the recent drought, uncovering a disastrous story. Over two months, Dr Kimenye talked to pastoralists in five areas across the Mandera district, home to 1.5 million people.

The study discovered that:

- Incidence of drought has increased fourfold in the Mandera region in the past 25 years.

- One-third of herders living there - around half a million people - have already been forced to abandon their pastoral way of life because of adverse climatic conditions.

- During the last drought, so many cattle, camels and goats were lost that 60 per cent of the families who remain as herders need outside assistance to recover. Their surviving herds are too small to support them.

The new findings follow recent warnings from the UK Met Office that if current trends continue one-third of the planet will be desert by the end of 2100. The scientists modelled how drought is likely to increase globally during the coming century because of predicted changes in rainfall and temperature around the world.

At present, according to their calculations, 25 per cent of the Earth's surface is susceptible to moderate drought, rising to 50 per cent by 2100. In addition, the areas susceptible to severe drought - 8 per cent - are expected to rise to 40 per cent. And the figure for extreme drought, currently 3 per cent, will rise to 30 per cent.

And what is doubly worrying about Kimenye's research is that it has revealed that a system of nomadic pastoralism that has, over the centuries, been able to cope with unpredictable weather patterns and regular drought has been brought by climate change to the point of utter extinction.

It is a fact not lost on those who have been forced out of their historic lifestyle to settle at the Quimbiso settlement. Nearby is a stinking pit where the bones of the last of once thriving herds were dumped and burned - victims of the worst drought in living memory.

The families who until a few months ago herded these animals across northern Kenya and beyond now huddle in this riverside settlement, their children prone to malaria and other illnesses, but at least close to a reliable source of water. Now they are completely dependent on aid handouts for most of their food.

'Our whole life has been spent moving, but we are desperate people. People who have lost our livelihood,' says Mukhtar Aden, one of the elders at the Quimbiso settlement. 'We didn't settle here by choice, it was forced upon us.'

Everywhere are tales of huge livestock losses. In one roadside settlement, which now depends on selling milk from its few remaining animals to passing trucks, a man produces a book recording the dark days of the drought. One entry, for 15 February, shows that the community lost more than 500 sheep and goats and 250 cattle in a single day.

And while rain did came to the region for the first time in more than a year last month, it was too late for the makeshift roadside communities who no longer have animals to put out to pasture.

Wargadud is another sizeable community running along either side of the region's main road. The chairman of Wargadud's water users' association is Abdullahi Abdi Hussein, who describes how the periods of rain have got shorter and the dry spells longer - changing the pattern of four seasons on which the pastoral communities depended.

And while there were always droughts, he says: 'Decade after decade it has been getting more severe. It has only been getting harder and harder and more and more serious.'



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Carbon emissions rising faster than ever

Catherine Brahic
NewScientist.com news service
10 November 2006

Far from slowing down, global carbon dioxide emissions are rising faster than before, said a gathering of scientists in Beijing on Friday.

Between 2000 and 2005, emissions grew four times faster than in the preceding 10 years, according to researchers at the Global Carbon Project, a consortium of international researchers. Global growth rates were 0.8% from 1990 to 1999. From 2000 to 2005, they reached 3.2%.
Though alarming, the figures confirm expectations. "They make intuitive sense to me," says Jim Watson, deputy leader of the energy programme at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, UK.

One likely contributor is China, whose emissions slowed at end of the 1990s before rising again. China is now the world's second largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US. On Tuesday, the International Energy Agency released a report predicting that it would become the world's top emitter by 2030 (see World faces 'dirty, insecure' energy future).

Other growing developing countries, such as India and Brazil, are also fast becoming large emitters.

The US, meanwhile, is taking no nationwide action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme - created to help EU nations abide by their agreed Kyoto Protocol emissions limits - failed to do so in 2005, its first year of operation. It is unlikely to do so until its second phase of operation, which begins in 2008.
Unacceptably high

The Global Carbon Project report shows that carbon dioxide emissions over the last five years resembled one of the scenarios which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change uses to predict how the world will change with greenhouse gas emissions. The "A1B" scenario assumes that 50% of energy over the next century will come from fossil fuels, resulting in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations causing drastic climatic consequences.

"On our current path, we will find it extremely difficult to rein in carbon emissions enough to stabilise the atmospheric CO2 concentration at 450 parts per million and even 550 ppm will be a challenge," says Josep Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon Project.

Research suggests that stabilising carbon dioxide concentrations at 450 ppm could limit global warming to 2°C.
Environmental inertia

The authors also highlight the importance of environmental inertia. This is the mechanism by which the environment stores up part of the energy of generated by greenhouse gas emissions, only releasing it to the atmosphere later on.

As a result, even when human emissions do begin to drop, atmospheric carbon dioxide will continue to rise for up to a century. Global temperatures will continue to increase for two or more centuries.

"This report shows how important it is for all countries to work towards more ambitious climate targets within the next phase of international action beyond 2012," says Watson.

He adds: "Action to persuade the US and large developing countries such as China and India to work towards such an agreement is particularly crucial. So is the acceleration of technological co-operation initiatives to help developing countries - particularly China - to move to a lower carbon development pathway."



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Volcano pierces small hole in ozone layer

Catherine Brahic
NewScientist.com news service
10 November 2006

Volcanic eruptions can poke holes in the ozone layer, say researchers, who discovered a small hole trailing in the plume of a volcanic eruption in Iceland.

They are now looking to see if bigger eruptions could lead to larger, more damaging holes.
In 2000, an experimental plane loaded with instruments for measuring various particles in the atmosphere flew over Iceland shortly after an eruption of the Hekla volcano there. "It was running some of the instruments when it intercepted the volcanic plume - totally by accident," explains Genevieve Millard, an earth scientist at the University of Cambridge, UK.

Surprisingly, the plane's data showed that ozone levels were practically nonexistent within the ribbon-like plume.

Researchers looking for ozone depletion after volcanic eruptions have traditionally focused on the effect of particles of volcanic sulphate, which comes from the sulpur dioxide gas emitted during an eruption.

Instead, Millard's team found nitric acid and ice particles were the ozone hole culprits. These particles would normally have needed lower temperatures in order to form, but Millard believes that the high concentrations of nitric acid and water vapour in the plume allowed them to condense at warmer-than-usual temperatures.

Their presence is critical, as these chemicals cause volcanic chlorine gases to become energised and reactive in the atmosphere. It is this active chlorine that starts to react with ozone, breaking it down and creating holes, Millard believes.
Patched up

The resulting mini-ozone hole was shallow and effectively patched up within days, the researchers say. This is because the Hekla eruption was small and the plume did not penetrate deep into the ozone layer.

Within two days, the 'thicker' top of the ozone layer had compensated for the small hole. Millard compares this process to poking into a rubber sheet: the sides get dragged in and fill the indentation. By 12 days, even the ozone levels in the lowermost stratosphere had been patched up.

"The most important thing," says Millard, "is that the plume got into the stratosphere."

She and her colleagues are now looking at a much larger eruption - Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1999 - to see if larger eruptions will mean larger holes in the ozone layer.

"For example, is there significant loss of ozone and increased ultra-violet radiation at low latitudes following large explosive eruptions?" questions team member David Pyle, at the University of Oxford, UK. "We want to understand this, so that we can have a better picture both of what might have happened in the past and of what may happen in the future."

Journal reference: Geophysical Research Letters (doi:10.1029/2006GL026959) and Journal of Geophysical Research (doi:10.1029/2005JD006872)



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Strong earthquake shakes northern Argentina

13 November 2006

WASHINGTON - A strong earthquake of 6.7 magnitude shook northern Argentina's Santiago del Estero province, with no immediate reports of injuries or damage, the US Geological Survey reported.
The temblor, as measured on the open-ended Moment Magnitude scale, struck at 10:26 pm (2:02 GMT Monday), with its epicenter located 212 kilometers (130 miles) northeast of Santiago del Estero city, at a depth of 550 kilometers (342 miles), the service said.



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Magnitude 5.9 earthquake strikes near Papua New Guinea; no damage reported

The Associated Press
Published: November 11, 2006

CANBERRA, Australia: A magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck near the coast of Papua New Guinea early Sunday, the U.S. Geological Survey said, but no Pacific-wide tsunami warning was issued. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

The temblor struck at 1:10 a.m. local time (1510 GMT Saturday) 94 kilometers (58 miles) northwest of Kandrian on Papua New Guinea's island of New Britain and 51 kilometers (32 miles) under the Earth's crust.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center at Ewa Beach, Hawaii, said there was no risk of a Pacific-wide tsunami "based on historical earthquake and tsunami data."

However, the center warned that "earthquakes of this size sometimes generate local tsunamis that can be destructive along coasts located within 100 kilometers (60 kilometers) of the earthquake epicenter."

The archipelago nation is part of the Pacific Ocean's "ring of fire," where earthquakes of this magnitude are common and rarely cause serious damage.



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Science on the March!


Enemies of science

Alok Jha
Monday November 13, 2006
The Guardian

So Tony Blair wants to be a science evangelist? In a recent speech in Oxford, he outlined his plan to stand up for science and face down those who distort and undermine it. He singled out animal rights extremists and people who cause confusion over MMR and GM technology.

But encouraging scientific progress is not just about giving good PR to new gadgets or cures. Most important is protecting the principle of free inquiry, something on which he and his government are way behind. His call for politicians to stand up for science belies the fact that his own administration systematically attacks this basic principle.
The biggest threat to science doesn't come from a mother scared of what the MMR jab might do to her child, or the extremist who burns down farms in solidarity with research animals. It comes from those who claim to respect the way science creates knowledge, but then misinterpret, distort or ignore that knowledge.

On the surface, scientists might seem to have little to worry about. Starved of prestige and money by successive Tory governments, they have seen labs rebuilt and reputations renewed under Labour. Blair talked of having trouble with science in his early years until a Damascene conversion left him "fascinated by scientific process, its reasoning, deduction and evidence-based analysis; inspired by scientific progress; and excited by scientific possibility".

But last week the conclusions of the Commons science committee inquiry into the government's use of scientific advice showed that his good intentions were not being mirrored by his own advisers. The report said that the government hid behind a fig leaf of scientific respectability when spinning controversial policies in a bid to make them more acceptable to voters, and it called for a "radical re-engineering" of its use of science.

Furthermore, scientists are becoming concerned at the rise of creationism in the British education system. The geneticist Steve Jones, who has lectured on evolution at schools for 20 years, says that he now regularly meets pupils who claim to believe in creationism. The creationist interpretation of fossil evidence is even encouraged in the new GCSE Gateway to Science curriculum. In August, a survey of British university students found that a third believed in either creationism or intelligent design.

At the end of the last parliamentary session, the government agency charged with licensing drugs took the remarkable decision that it would license homeopathic remedies. These glorified bottles of water can now carry details of the ailments they supposedly treat on their labels. The remedies do not need clinical trial data and peer-reviewed research to make their claims (as every modern pharmaceutical does). Scientists say the new rules are an affront to the principle of basing healthcare advice on scientific evidence.

Science is a tough master. Use this method of uncovering truth and you are not allowed to be selective about your evidence. But innovation, the technological answers to climate change, and all Blair's "glittering prizes" will come, at some point in the chain, from the basic rules of free inquiry grounded in scientific method: think of an idea, test it with experiments, draw conclusions, refine your experiments, and so on.

A forward-thinking nation loses respect for that free inquiry at its peril. Children taught to disregard evidence when trying to work out where the earth came from; a scientific agency deciding to abandon basic principles; and a government twisting research to fit its ideological message - none of that respects free inquiry. And if you don't stand up for that, you don't stand up for science.



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Death of the autopsy

Michael Le Page
New Scientist Print Edition
13 November 2006


It is no secret that doctors occasionally kill their patients instead of curing them, whether by failing to wash their hands or prescribing the wrong drug. In many countries, serious efforts are now being made to reduce medical errors. The focus, though, is almost entirely on avoiding mistakes in treatment, rather than in the original diagnosis.
A 49-year-old man is admitted to hospital in Japan with chest pains and a partially paralysed arm. Doctors diagnose a simultaneous heart attack and stroke and the patient seems to respond well to treatment. The next day, however, he has a cardiac arrest, and later dies. The autopsy reveals that all along he'd had an aortic dissection, a tear in the lining of the major artery from the heart.

In the US, a previously healthy and active 79-year-old man is found confused and incapacitated. He is diagnosed with pneumonia and dehydration, and after treatment seems to be recovering well. After three days he starts breathing rapidly and his condition declines. Six days after admission he dies. The autopsy reveals rampant TB.

A 37-year-old woman who is six months pregnant is admitted to hospital in Italy with severe abdominal pain. The pain is attributed to kidney stones and after treatment the woman goes home. One week later, she vomits and loses consciousness, and despite doctors' best efforts, she and her baby die. The autopsy reveals massive internal bleeding caused by a rare blood disorder.

It is no secret that doctors occasionally kill their patients instead of curing them, whether by failing to wash their hands or prescribing the wrong drug. In many countries, serious efforts are now being made to reduce medical errors. The focus, though, is almost entirely on avoiding mistakes in treatment, rather than in the original diagnosis.

But as the cases above illustrate, major mistakes in diagnosis do happen, and they are surprisingly common. The causes range from medicine's inherent limitations, through flaws in hospital systems, right down to individual doctors seemingly forgetting what they learned in medical school. It is estimated that as many as 1 in 20 patients who die in hospital, do so because their illness was misdiagnosed.

Shockingly, our best way of uncovering diagnostic errors - the autopsy - is in steep decline. If no one suspects a wrong diagnosis, the evidence will be buried or cremated with the body, and nobody will be any the wiser, so there is nothing to stop the same mistakes being made over and over again. "Diagnostic errors do not receive the attention they deserve," says Kaveh Shojania of the University of Ottawa in Canada, who studies medical errors. "It is a big part of the problem."

The value of autopsies was gradually established during the 18th and 19th centuries. Today they remain the gold standard as a way for doctors to identify and learn from their mistakes. It is much easier to find out for sure what was wrong with someone after their death, when pathologists can cut open the body, examine any part in detail and take samples for testing (see "Anatomy of an autopsy").
Suspicious circumstances

Some autopsies have to be done for legal reasons. These forensic or coroners' autopsies are often required after violent, accidental or suspicious deaths, or where the cause is unclear. In many countries autopsies must also be carried out on patients who die during surgery or within 24 hours of admission to hospital. Sometimes, however, doctors just want to know more about why someone died; for these hospital autopsies doctors usually need permission from the next of kin.

It was in 1912 that a Harvard University doctor called Richard Cabot did one of the first large studies comparing hospital autopsy results with the initial diagnosis. After looking at 3000 cases, he concluded - to the stunned disbelief of his colleagues - that nearly half the diagnoses had been wrong.

At first glance, today's performance seems little better. A recent review of all the studies like Cabot's done since the 1960s concluded that the certified causes of death were wrong in at least a third of cases. Not all the errors would have affected survival (though they still matter, as health policies are often based on death certificate statistics), but some would. At least 10 per cent of autopsies show patients might have lived had their diagnosis been right.

You do need to treat these figures with caution. It is impossible to work out the true misdiagnosis rate for all patients, not least because autopsies are obviously not done on people who survive. Plus the rate of mistakes may appear artificially high if doctors are now requesting a hospital autopsy only if they suspect something went wrong.

To find out the true misdiagnosis rate, Shojania analysed 53 studies published over the past four decades, involving more than 13,000 autopsies in North America, Europe and Australia. Crucially, he took into account the falling autopsy rate and the possibility that autopsies were more likely if misdiagnosis was suspected.

In a paper published in 2003, his team concluded that the accuracy of diagnoses has been improving steadily, with the rate of major discrepancies affecting survival falling by a third each decade (Journal of the American Medical Association, vol 289, p 2849). Even so, the rate remains shockingly high: at least 4 per cent of all US patients who die in hospital might have survived had their diagnosis been right. The figure is higher in other countries. "It's a big deal," says Shojania.

So why are mistakes still so common? Even in today's era of high-tech medicine, some errors are inevitable. Doctors have limited knowledge, limited tools and limited time to make a diagnosis. Even well-studied diseases can produce strange symptoms unlike those in the textbooks, and patients can have several diseases at once. For example, the Japanese man with aortic dissection had an extremely rare collection of symptoms for such a case. It is sometimes impossible to work out what is wrong with a patient while they are alive, and not always possible when they are dead. "It's a miracle how often doctors get it right," says Mark Graber of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northport, New York.
Lost X-rays

The crucial question, then, is not how many deaths are due to a major misdiagnosis. It is, how many can be avoided? "Half are preventable and half are not," Shojania suggests. He was the only doctor New Scientist asked who was prepared to make an estimate. The few studies to have investigated the causes of misdiagnosis suggest even more than half are preventable.

One such study, carried out by Graber and published last year, analysed 100 cases where diagnostic mistakes had injured a patient or led to their death (Archives of Internal Medicine, vol 165, p 1493). Its findings may not be widely representative, as it identified cases through voluntary reports and other methods as well as autopsies, but it does at least start to give us some idea of why errors are made. What Graber found is that it is typically not just one thing that goes wrong, but five or six.

A recurring theme was system failures at hospitals, such as X-rays getting lost, or a lack of qualified staff around on a holiday evening. An even more important cause of error was mistakes by individual doctors. These ranged from lack of medical knowledge to using flawed reasoning to reach their diagnosis. The commonest error of this sort is "premature closure": a doctor arrives at a diagnosis that seems to fit the facts, then stops considering other possibilities. "When you come up with an answer, you are happy," Graber says. "You stop thinking about the problem."

Some doctors gave every sign of sheer incompetence, such as failing to pass on test results or even skipping parts of a physical examination. One failed to notice that a patient's toes were gangrenous.

Just 7 out of the 100 misdiagnoses were identified as "no-fault" errors that staff had no part in. Some of these cases involved a disease presenting in an unusual way. Some patients missed their hospital appointments or told lies to their doctors. A case of AIDS went undiagnosed because the patient did not tell his doctors he had engaged in high-risk sex. More often, however, patients are just not very good at telling doctors what they need to know to make an accurate diagnosis.

Whatever the cause of misdiagnoses, nothing can be done about them if they are never discovered. And the only sure way to detect more diagnostic errors is to do more autopsies. Of course, they cannot help the patients in question, but they can help correct whatever it was that led to the error, be it bad organisation, flawed reasoning or faulty equipment. "No lesson is as powerful as seeing your own mistakes," says Graber.

But systems for alerting doctors to their errors tend to be patchy and unreliable. Who wants to tell a colleague that they got things horribly wrong?

And the number of hospital autopsies continues to fall in most countries despite repeated calls to reverse the trend. "There are constant pleas, but it's not happening," says Graber. "It's a losing battle." In the 1960s, an autopsy was done on around 60 per cent of patients who died in hospitals in Europe and the US. Today the rate of hospital autopsies is thought to be less than 10 per cent in Europe, and less than 5 per cent in the US.

Why? "Clinicians don't think it's necessary any more," says Shojania. "It's no longer part of training." Cash-strapped public healthcare systems often decide the money is better spent elsewhere, and private hospitals cannot charge relatives for autopsies so they have little incentive either.

Another possible cause is increasing fear of litigation. Some argue that such worries are groundless. A recent study of US appeals court records showed that the crucial factor in law is not whether an autopsy reveals a discrepancy, but whether the misdiagnosis was due to negligence. "It is not necessary to be right," says lead author Kevin Bove of Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati. "You just have to do the right thing."

But others argue that doctors may not request autopsies in cases where they suspect they could be held liable for negligence. "If you say 'don't worry, you will never get sued', that's just not realistic," says Lee Goldman, now at Columbia University in New York City. "You have so much selection over autopsies that of course no one gets sued."

Then there is the issue of getting consent from relatives. In the UK, there was public revulsion in 1999 on the discovery that a pathologist at Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool had stored thousands of organs from children's autopsies without their parents' knowledge. There have been similar public outcries about stored organs in Australia and Ireland. "Some doctors are now frightened to ask for consent," says Emyr Benbow, a pathologist at the University of Manchester in the UK.

An audit at University Hospitals of Leicester before and after the Alder Hey scandal revealed the hospital autopsy rate had dropped from 10 per cent to less than 1 per cent. The main cause was not that relatives were refusing consent; it was that doctors were less likely to ask for it.

So what can be done to change matters? "There should be a minimum autopsy rate, a requirement for feedback and doctors should not be subject to malpractice [lawsuits] if they do an autopsy," says Goldman.

Such protection from lawsuits would be unlikely to go down well with an increasingly litigious public. But if doctors keep quiet about misdiagnoses, as may happen now, there is no chance of improving matters. "When you are not happy with what you are getting from people who want to do their best, the system is all messed up," Goldman says.

Ideally, autopsies would be carried out on a random sample of people who die. In the US, hospitals once had to have a minimum autopsy rate of 20 per cent, but this was abandoned in 1970. In the UK, the Royal College of Pathologists once considered trying to push for a minimum 10 per cent random autopsy rate, but the Alder Hey scandal kicked the idea into touch. "There would be a substantial outcry," says Benbow.

Nearly a century after Cabot's 1912 autopsy study, it seems we have forgotten his most valuable lesson. But you can do something about this. If one of your family dies and a doctor suggests an autopsy, give permission. Or consider requesting one yourself.

It will not help your relative, but it might help save someone else's life. And since there's a fair chance of you succumbing to the same illness as your father, mother, or siblings, that someone might even be you.

From issue 2577 of New Scientist magazine, 13 November 2006, page 48-51



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Cell transplant may restore lost sight

Becky McCall
NewScientist.com news service
08 November 2006

A FEW blind mice have had their sight restored. The process, which involved transplanting precursor retinal cells into their damaged eyes, promises a cure for age-related macular degeneration or blindness due to diabetes.

The mice were blind because they had been bred to have non-functional photoreceptor cells, the eye's rod and cone cells that convert light into electrical signals to be sent to the brain. Elderly people and people with diabetes can also lose their vision when these cells fail.
In principle, restoring sight to animals that have simply lost photoreceptor cells should be relatively easy, because most of the brain's wiring for vision is still intact. Previous attempts to treat such blindness by transplanting stem cells had been unsuccessful, however. The stem cells had not developed enough to properly integrate with the recipient's retina and existing vision-related regions of the brain.

Now a team led by Robin Ali from University College London (UCL) and Robert MacLaren, an eye surgeon from Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, have overcome this problem by using retinal precursor cells that were at a later stage of development than stem cells. The team took these cells from healthy donor mice only after the cells had started producing rhodopsin, a pigment necessary for sensitivity to light. When transplanted into the eyes of blind mice, the retinal precursor cells differentiated into rod cells and grew to make the short neural connections required to restore sight. The team tested the mice's vision by observing how their pupils responded to different light intensities (Nature, vol 444, p 203).

"This research is the first to show that photoreceptor transplantation is feasible," MacLaren says. "We are now confident that this is the avenue to pursue to uncover ways of restoring vision to thousands who have lost their sight."

While this method may be workable in humans, it is not yet clear where doctors will find donor retinal precursor cells that the recipient will not reject.

One option is to grow human embryonic stem cells to the appropriate stage of development for transplantation. Earlier this year, Thomas Reh of the University of Washington in Seattle managed to do exactly this. "We can derive retina cells, including cells at exactly the stage that Ali's group found were best for transplantation, from human embryonic stem cells," says Reh. "So joining the approaches would seem to be an important next step in treating retinal degeneration and restoring vision. Stay tuned."

The UCL team also suggests the use of stem-cell-like precursor cells that are found on the edge of the retina. These cells could be harvested and transplanted into the retina if the disease is caught at an early stage in humans.

From issue 2577 of New Scientist magazine, 08 November 2006, page 14




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Painkillers turned bird killers

New Scientist Print Edition
11 November 2006

VULTURES are not off the hook yet. The painkiller diclofenac was banned in India and Nepal last August because griffon vultures were dying from eating carcasses of cattle that had received the drug. Now Egyptian and red-headed vultures in the region are dying with similar symptoms, and conservationists suspect diclofenac is also to blame.

"Painkillers used for livestock in Europe have killed condors, hawks and owls"
Until now, little has been known about how painkillers affect scavenging birds. To find out, the UK's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds asked vets and zoos worldwide for their experiences. It found that meloxicam, the drug promoted to replace diclofenac in India, seems safe for most species (Biology Letters, DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2006.0554). However, flunixin and carprofen, used for livestock in Europe, have killed vultures, condors, hawks, owls, rails and a Marabou stork. Ibuprofen and phenylbutazone might also be dangerous. Meanwhile diclofenac remains a risk, especially in South Africa, where ranchers now leave dead cattle out as "vulture restaurants".

From issue 2577 of New Scientist magazine, 11 November 2006, page 7



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Gorillas missing link in HIV mystery - ONE more reason not to eat our close living relatives.

NewScientist.com news service
08 November 2006


Of the three strains of HIV known to infect humans, we know that two - the one causing the global AIDS epidemic and another that has infected a small number of people in Cameroon - came from a chimpanzee virus called SIV. The source of the third strain, which infects people in western central Africa, was a mystery. Now we know it came from gorillas.
Martine Peeters and colleagues at the University of Montpelier in France have discovered the virus in the droppings of gorillas living in remote forests in Cameroon (Nature, vol 444, p 164). The infected gorillas lived up to 400 kilometres apart, so the researchers think it must be a normal or endemic virus in the animals, as SIV is in chimps.

The next mystery is how the gorillas got it. The gorilla virus is descended from the chimp variety, but gorillas are vegetarian and rarely encounter chimps.

There is little mystery about how humans contracted the virus, though: local people picked it up hunting gorillas for food and traditional medicine. That means the virus could yet cross again and create another HIV strain, say the researchers, especially as growing demand for "bushmeat" leads to more hunting.

From issue 2577 of New Scientist magazine, 08 November 2006, page 17



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Blueprint for a Neanderthal

Dan Jones
New Scientist Print Edition
11 November 2006

FOR THOSE trying to reconstruct our evolutionary history, a little fossil often has to go a long way. A fragment of jaw or skull here, part of a thigh bone there, is often all palaeontologists have to go on. Tools and other cultural artefacts help fill in the gaps, but it's like viewing our history through a keyhole. Our hominin predecessors didn't bury time capsules for later species to pick through. Not deliberately, at least. They did, however, leave a huge package of coded information behind. And now we're going to try and read it.
In July a team led by Svante Pääbo, an evolutionary geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, announced audacious plans to reconstruct the entire genome of the Neanderthals, our closest relatives in the fossil record. If they pull it off, and they are confident they can, it will be a remarkable technical feat. "This would be the first time we have sequenced the entire genome of an extinct organism," Pääbo says. It could also transform our view not only of Neanderthals but, perhaps more importantly, of ourselves.

Neanderthals have been at the centre of many of the most intense debates in palaeoanthropology ever since the discovery of their bones spawned the field 150 years ago. A popular caricature portrays them as beetle-browed brutes, but this is far from the truth. "Neanderthals were sophisticated stone-tool makers and made razor-sharp knives out of flint," says Richard Klein, an anthropologist at Stanford University, California. "They made fires when and where they wanted, and seem to have made a living by hunting large mammals such as bison and deer." Neanderthals also buried their dead, which, fortunately for researchers, increases the odds of the bones being preserved.

Bones and artefacts leave a whole range of questions wide open, though. How exactly are Neanderthals related to us? Did our ancestors interbreed with them, and if so, do modern Eurasians still carry a little Neanderthal DNA? Just how "human" were they? There's only one way to be sure: "By sequencing their entire genome we can begin to learn more about their biology," says Eddy Rubin, a geneticist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Walnut Creek, California. What's more, if we can answer the genetic questions we might solve the biggest mystery of all: why did Neanderthals die out while modern humans went on to conquer the globe?

It won't be easy. Although ancient DNA has been extracted and sequenced from Egyptian mummies, 5000-year-old maize plants and a menagerie of extinct mammals including mammoths, cave bears and ground sloths, in all these cases only minuscule fragments of badly degraded DNA have been recovered.
Formidable obstacles

Pääbo and colleagues probably know better than anyone how hard it wil be. They pioneered the genetic study of Neanderthals by extracting and decoding fragments of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from the bones of the original specimen, discovered in 1856 in the Neander Valley in Germany. The mtDNA that Pääbo sequenced suggested that humans split from Neanderthals roughly 500,000 years ago, which fits neatly with the fossil record. It also indicated that Neanderthals did not interbreed with our ancestors.

Although mtDNA can yield important information, the really significant information is in the cell nucleus, where the vast majority of genes reside. Extracting and sequencing this DNA, however, is much harder. Cells can contain thousands of mitochondria but they have only one nucleus, so nuclear genomes are far scarcer than mitochondrial ones. What is more, there are a number of awkward biological and chemical facts standing in the way of studying ancient DNA. Firstly, enzymes in recently dead organisms chop DNA into small pieces. Then, over time, a steady onslaught of oxidation and background radiation further degrades these fragments, and causes the nucleotide "letters" of the DNA code to change from one to another or into ones that are not naturally found in DNA. To make matters worse, ancient DNA is invariably contaminated with the DNA of hundreds of types of bacteria and fungi that invade a dead organism. Finally, in the case of Neanderthals, any modern human DNA that contaminates a sample causes tremendous problems, as it can so easily be mistaken for Neanderthal DNA.

Despite these formidable obstacles, the task is not hopeless. Dry or cold conditions can help preserve DNA, and in some exceptional circumstances it might be possible to retrieve useful DNA from bones 100,000 years old, Pääbo says. What's more, the changes in DNA sequence that result from nucleotide conversion follow a relatively stable pattern, which means that the original sequence can often be deduced. In fact the very presence of these changes can be a useful sign that you're working with ancient DNA, not more recent contamination with modern DNA.

Pääbo's team have selected two Neanderthal specimens to work on, based on the fact that both are have "clean" DNA that is relatively uncontaminated. One is a 38,000-year-old fossil from Vindija, Croatia. The other is the original specimen, which, despite being extensively handled, has unusually clean DNA in its right upper arm bone (during its lifetime the individual lost the use of its left arm after breaking it and had to rely on the right arm, causing the bones to grow thicker and denser than usual. After death this shielded the DNA from contamination). Pääbo's colleagues are also hunting for new specimens that can be sampled before other people get their hands on them.

There's a further problem with trying to reconstruct the genome of an extinct animal, however. Conventional genome sequencing requires large quantities of DNA, which is fine when you're dealing with a living species, but is a huge problem when all you've got is a few precious bones that have to be ground to dust to extract the DNA.

Draft sequence soon

Enter 454 Life Sciences, a genomics company in Branford, Connecticut, that has invented a new sequencing technique especially suited to the Neanderthal genome. It takes fragments of DNA 100 to 200 base pairs long - coincidentally about the length of DNA fragments extracted from ancient bones - and reads them directly. This cuts out the normal intermediate step of amplifying DNA in bacteria. The method is also extremely powerful. "Conventional sequencing generates 96 sequences in a single run," says Michael Egholm of 454. "We generate 250,000 sequences, each about 100 bases long - that's 25 to 30 million bases in a run."

This is crucial. Up to 95 per cent of the DNA extracted from Neanderthals will be from microorganisms and therefore irrelevant. To have a decent chance of capturing the whole Neanderthal genome - which, like the human genome, is expected to contain about 3 billion bases - from random fragments, 454 will have to generate at least 60 billion bases of sequence. "Only when you generate as much sequence data as we do can you even think about throwing out 95 per cent of the sequences you decode," says Egholm.

Using this approach, Pääbo and colleagues have so far sequenced roughly a million base pairs of nuclear DNA from the Croatian fossil. They hope to publish a draft of the whole genome in two years.

How plausible is this? "It is definitely possible to sequence the entire genome from such well-preserved specimens," says Eske Willerslev, an expert in ancient DNA at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. "Perhaps the biggest difficulty will be verifying that the sequences obtained are genuinely from the Neanderthal genome and not a contaminant, as so much of it will be identical to the human genome."

The genome, once in hand, will provide insights into two key questions, Rubin predicts. "The first thing it can tell us is where the human genome is unique - places where the Neanderthal genome looks like the chimp genome. This will help us identify changes in the human genome that are of recent origin and which may contribute to the biology that distinguished us from Neanderthals." In other words, it could help us understand more about what it is to be human.

"The other, more difficult thing is to look for areas where the human genome is similar to the Neanderthal genome, which may help in making inferences about Neanderthal biology," Rubin says, although it's hard to say in advance just what the genome will reveal. He draws an analogy with Egyptian hieroglyphics: "Before understanding hieroglyphics we weren't sure what they would tell us, though we knew they'd tell us something," he says. "I think the Neanderthal genome will do the same thing."

The genome is sure to fuel the particularly intense controversy that has surrounded a much-vaunted aspect of human uniqueness: language. "There's been a debate going for more than 30 years about the speech capabilities of Neanderthals," says Philip Lieberman, a cognitive scientist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Computer models of the mouth and vocal tract give us some idea of what sounds Neanderthals could make. "It is clear from the fossil record and comparisons with modern humans that Neanderthals, and probably their common ancestor with humans, could speak," Lieberman says, though perhaps with less sophistication than us. Yet fossils cannot tell the whole story. "The shape of the skull doesn't tell you what's inside the brain," Lieberman says.

Genes, however, might provide clues. In 2001, FOXP2 became the first gene to be tied to a specific language impairment. People with an error in FOXP2 suffer from a severe speech disorder involving difficulty pronouncing words and with some aspects of grammar and cognition. Genetic analyses indicate that FOXP2 reached its modern form in humans within the past 200,000 years - well after we and Neanderthals had parted ways. The Neanderthal genome will help to verify that date. "Neanderthal FOXP2 is likely to be the same as the chimpanzee version," says Simon Fisher of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in Oxford, UK, a member of the team that discovered FOXP2. "But if it turns out that Neanderthal FOXP2 is identical to that found in modern humans, these dates will have to be revised." Another possibility - unlikely, in Fisher's view - is that after splitting from our shared ancestor Neanderthals independently evolved the same version of FOXP2.

It will take more than examining Neanderthals' FOXP2, however, to settle debates about their speech capabilities, as it is extremely unlikely to be the only gene relevant to the evolution of language. Even if Neanderthals didn't have the human version, it is hard to say what this would have meant for their speech capabilities.

FOXP2 won't be the only interesting gene. "We're on the verge of sequencing many [individual] human genomes, and from this we'll begin to see associations between sequences and biology," says Rubin. "At the moment there are a limited number of questions to ask, but very quickly we will crack aspects of the human genome and find associations that we'll want to look at in Neanderthals."

So much for understanding Neanderthals. What about ourselves? "What is really interesting is what makes us specifically human," says Klein. And this is where having the Neanderthal genome could really pay off.

At the moment, geneticists trying to answer questions about human uniqueness often compare the human genome with the chimpanzee's. Even though the species differ in DNA sequence by just 1.2 per cent, lining up the genomes side by side reveals 35 million genetic differences.

Many of these differences fall in non-coding areas and have no obvious effects, which makes finding the differences that really matter a formidable challenge. The Neanderthal genome will provide something of a short cut. Humans and Neanderthals split much more recently than humans and chimps (500,000 versus 5 to 7 million years ago), which means there will be fewer genetic differences to sift through. "This comparison is helpful if you are interested in the more recent evolutionary changes that might define distinct biological features of Homo sapiens," says Fisher.

Perhaps the biggest open question about human evolution is why and how we became so globally successful as a species. Palaeoanthropologists generally make a distinction between anatomically modern humans and behaviourally modern humans: the former began to emerge around 200,000 years ago, the latter around 50,000 to 80,000 years ago in a cultural "big bang". Until then, humans and Neanderthals made the same sorts of artefacts and went about business pretty much the same way. Then, suddenly, people with complex culture, elaborate social systems and sophisticated technology started migrating out of Africa into Eurasia. Within a few thousand years the Neanderthals had breathed their last. Why? Solving the puzzle of the cultural big bang bears heavily on answering this long-debated question.

Some palaeoanthropologists have proposed that Neanderthals were wiped out in a genocide by invading Cro-Magnons, the first behaviourally modern humans in Europe who we know briefly coexisted with Neanderthals, or that they were pushed to the margins by the invaders' more sophisticated social systems and culture. Others have suggested that climate was the decisive factor. Whatever the cause, though, a still more fundamental question remains: why were humans more culturally advanced than Neanderthals? If they were biological and cognitive equals, was it just some new cultural trick that humans happened to stumble on first that got them ahead? Maybe, but that just raises another question. "Why didn't the Neanderthals simply copy the successful strategies of the modern humans?" Klein asks. After all, such imitation is common throughout recorded history.

To Klein, the lack of evidence of cultural transfer between humans and Neanderthals suggests that a biological and cognitive abyss separated the two species. Not everyone agrees. "I think it is very unlikely that some biological or cognitive difference caused the replacement of the Neanderthal population," says Terrence Deacon, a neurobiologist at the University of California, Berkeley. The lack of evidence does not prove there was no cultural transfer, he points out.

"We could argue back and forth endlessly," Klein says. "The idea that there was a genetic change related to brain development 50,000 to 80,000 years ago has been problematic when all we've had is the artefacts and the fossils." The Neanderthal genome could help end this game of intellectual tennis.

But could it do more than that? Could the Neanderthal genome be the blueprint for resurrecting a living Neanderthal, Jurassic-Park style? That would raise enormous ethical quandaries: who would act as a surrogate mother, who would care for it and what rights would it have? And if it was capable of understanding its situation, how would it feel to discover that the rest of your kind has long been extinct? Pääbo thinks these ethical issues rule out any attempt. In any case, the technical barriers are also too high, he says: a human egg with Neanderthal DNA would be unlikely to develop. "We would be able to create a physical Neanderthal genome but we will not be able to recreate a Neanderthal," he says. "Even if we wanted to."

Dan Jones is a writer based in Brighton, UK. He blogs at www.psom.blogspot.com
From issue 2577 of New Scientist magazine, 11 November 2006, page 44-47




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For cod's sake, act now

NewScientist
Editorial
11 November 2006

A few weeks from now, European Union fisheries ministers will gather for a familiar pre-solstice ritual. They will sit around a table until the wee hours, and share out Europe's fish stocks. Fisheries scientists have already made their contribution to this ceremony by calling for beleaguered North Sea cod to be left alone. They have done this for seven years. For the past six, the ministers have calmly tossed Europe's fishermen a cod quota anyway. This year they probably will again.
Yet the cod keep coming back to be fought over. What is going on here? Are the scientists just plain wrong? Or are the ministers quite sensibly grabbing what they can before all the fish die in 2048, as a widely reported scientific paper predicted this week?

Well, neither. For one thing, all the fish are not going to die in 2048 - or not necessarily. That is the trend if fishing continues as usual (see "Glimmer of hope for 'doomed' fish"), but we now know how to stop the trend. We have strong evidence, as some biologists have known in their guts all along, that the ocean is a complex living machine, and that when we kill off things - any things - it becomes less good at yielding what we want from it. That includes fish. The bottom line is that if we want to keep protein production (and our oxygen source, and our pollution sink) functioning, we need to save the whale and the kelp, the copepods, the capelin and everything else.

The second-from-bottom line in this remarkable study is just as important: setting up protected marine reserves and temporarily banning fishing can reverse the declines in our seas. So long as we have not removed too much biodiversity, simply leaving the sea alone allows ecosystems to recover. Fisheries scientists already know this. They call the great global conflicts of the 20th century the First and Second Great Fishing Experiments. During both world wars, fishing boats were kept off the North Sea. The huge numbers of big fish caught after the fighting stopped showed scientists that fish stocks are affected by fishing, which must be regulated accordingly. It should be said that some fish stocks, such as hake off western Europe and Norwegian herring, are doing nicely because ministers have followed scientific advice.

Which brings us back to cod, the poster-fish for what can go wrong. Early one morning next month, bleary-eyed European ministers will probably allow fishermen to take just enough of the few cod left to allow the depleted fishery to stagger on. If they followed scientific advice for a ban on cod fishing, the number of cod would grow, and after a few years catches would boom. But that would involve short-term sacrifice, and no minister will bite that bullet. We need mechanisms to make them. Europe pays farmers not to farm but to be stewards of the countryside. Why not do the same for fishermen?

If Europe does nothing, it risks a repeat of the biological nightmare that took place in another northern sea: the Grand Banks off Newfoundland. Once thick with cod, it is now bereft of them even though cod fishing was banned there more than a decade ago. Some scientists think the cod will never come back because the ocean ecosystem has been so badly denuded - not just because the cod have gone, but because the boats are now taking shrimp and crab instead. Biodiversity can hardly recover under such pressure.

The result, as any Newfoundlander will tell you, is that people are suffering badly, and when the same thing happens to overfished seas in poorer regions of the world the effects are likely to be even worse. The real message is that we must save the biodiversity that sustains the ocean while we can, because if we go too far it may not come back.

We need to do it now. Climate change is coming and it is already making life hard for North Sea cod by causing their favourite foods to bloom too far north, or too early, when baby cod are not big enough to eat them. This in itself is a good example of how a complex ocean food web needs all its components to be operating at the right place and time.

This week's study shows the sea will need all the biodiversity it can muster for even some of the resources we value to stand a chance of surviving in a warmer world. We have not acted fast enough to prevent climate change. At least we can hold off on our rape of the sea long enough to give it a fighting chance.

From issue 2577 of New Scientist magazine, 11 November 2006, page 5



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The harmless people

Alison George
New Scientist Print Edition
11 November 2006

In 1950, a 19-year-old girl left the elite Smith College in Massachusetts to join her family on an expedition that would change their lives. Prompted by her father's desire to visit unexplored places, the family set off for the Kalahari desert in search of Bushmen living out the "old ways" of hunter-gatherers. The girl, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, went on to celebrate them in her 1959 book The Harmless People, which became a classic of popular anthropology. Nearly 50 years on, Marshall Thomas's latest book The Old Way revisits the story - and finds that the Bushmen's fate is more complex than it seems.

Elizabeth Marshall Thomas went on three expeditions to visit the Bushmen of what is now Botswana and Namibia. They were the last major population of hunter-gatherers. Marshall Thomas returned to her English degree at Smith College, Massachusetts, and has written seven books, both fiction and non-fiction, including the best-selling The Hidden Life of Dogs. Her latest book, The Old Way, was published in October (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25).
Westerners mourn the loss of this hunter-gatherer society, but you take a rather different view...

Yes, for me they are living in somewhat the same way, but with different economics. The idea that you help your own is still present. This is what kept the human race alive for 150,000 years.

The hunter-gatherers told anthropologists they don't define themselves by how they get food but by how they relate to each other. We saw that. They tried to keep jealousy at a minimum, with nobody more important or owning more things than anyone else.

You gave things away rather than keep them. You wanted other people to think of you with a good feeling.

Is that the "old way" of your book title?

Yes.
There was a time when the playing field was level and all species lived in this way. How people and their domestic animals live now is profoundly different.

Are there still efforts to help the Bushmen regain that idealised notion of the hunter-gatherer life?

There are, and I think it's unfortunate. Tourists want to see it, and WWF and other organisations want to preserve the local ecosystems - which is a good thing. But it's the Bushmen's ecosystem and the reason that it's there today is because of their way of life. So I have a little problem with some foreign group telling them what they must and must not do.

Also, gathering food is not going to be as viable as it was in the past because back then the population density was one person per 10 square miles, but now there are many more people and much less space. And people don't have the skills they need to live in the old way. Foreign groups are asking young African men to go back to stone-age hunting when these men know perfectly well that everyone else has rifles.

So there's no going back?


No, though anybody could become a hunter-gatherer - you'd just have to learn it. But you don't see a lot of volunteers stepping forward to do it now because it's much too difficult. After the old lifestyle collapsed, the Bushmen were encouraged to be farmers like other Namibians, and they tried. Some farms were started around a place set up for them called Tsumkwe. But for a number of reasons the experiment didn't work very well and Tsumkwe is now a hellhole with a huge alcohol problem. Even so, if the farmers received the help they needed the farms might be a way of moving forward. On land that the Bushmen own they could do all sorts of things, such as sports hunting, where foreigners pay to hunt big game. The Bushmen could be paid guides, for example.

Are these the people you lived with?


Some of them are the very same people. We spent most of our time with the Ju/wasi - also spelt Ju/'hoansi in textbooks, but I use the older spelling because it looks closer to how it sounds. The Ju/wasi we knew lived in what is now Namibia. We also visited the /Gwi people who live on the border between Botswana and Namibia.

You wrote that the expedition was like voyaging into the deep past?

Yes. The Bushmen had Palaeolithic technology. They didn't plant crops and had no domestic animals, no fabric or manufactured goods. They sometimes used small bits of metal for arrowheads, but since the arrows were merely a variation of bone arrows, the technology did not change.

What did they eat?

Most food was gathered by the women. When people think of gathering, they think of it as mostly plant food, but it produced proteins such as turtle, snake, caterpillar, honey ants and the like. The most exciting food, however, was large antelope that the men hunted, and that amounted to about 20 per cent of their food. The success rate of hunting was a lot lower than gathering, but they could get large amounts of meat that would feed the whole group - usually about 25 people - for a while.

A big adventure for a 19-year-old girl. Didn't these experiences end up in a famous novel?

Yes. Sylvia Plath also went to Smith College, and we were in the same writing class as part of our literature degrees. Our teacher used to read aloud from our writings, but didn't give names. But I knew that Plath was in that class later because I recognised the style of poetry. I wish I had known her. But I believe I appeared briefly in The Bell Jar as a girl who won a prize for writing about her adventures among the pygmies of Africa.

What do you make of the accusations by some academics that your writing is too sentimental?

My mother Lorna also wrote about the Bushman culture and we were both accused of over-emphasising the lack of violence in Bushman culture, but we were only reporting what we had seen. In the Bushmen groups we visited, we observed that there was much emphasis on cooperation and on avoiding jealousy. The reason was that life was pretty marginal and one way to get through was to have others who help you in your hour of need. Everything in their culture was oriented to this.

So it isn't that they have a natural "niceness" - I never said that they did. They're just like everybody else. What they have done is recognise the damage one person can do to another and try to put a limit on it.

What about research that shows if you scale up the violence in Bushman society, it's as bad as Detroit?

There is no question that violence did happen in Bushman societies. I knew of a group of 15 where one man killed two others with an arrow. The men in that group killed the killer. So now three had died, and three in 15 is a pretty high percentage: that's higher than the murder rate of Detroit. But the reason the Bushmen we encountered were focused on not fighting was because they were a society that recognised the human proclivity for fighting and tried to remove its causes.

They had the same difficulties as everyone else but they treated it differently, and they recognised the value of having a low-violence society.

Did you sense that this kind of life couldn't last?

It was obvious that in the outside world there was a desire for land expansion. The pastoralists wanted it for grazing, and the white farmers for farms. People thought: "Why not take the land from the Bushmen, they're not doing anything with it?" The farmers and the pastoralists thought the Bushmen would be put to "better use" if they were made to work on the farms. My father saw it all coming. The first year we were there, a farmer followed our tracks and captured some Bushmen for slaves. My dad found out and went and got them back.

How did it all come to an end?

The /Gwi we knew were displaced by farmers from the lands they had always used. Most of them died of thirst, starvation or disease. Part of the Kalahari was designated "Bushmanland" in 1970. Unfortunately this was meant to be home not only to the original inhabitants but to all Bushmen from all language groups. The density of people meant the end of hunting and gathering. Many of the Ju/wasi now live in Tsumkwe, and depend on the wages of the few who can find work.

Did the ideas about Bushmen becoming hunter-gatherers again stop the farms taking off?

Yes. And that's my brother John's message too. He made a film called The Kalahari Family, and the last section is titled "Death by myth". He believes Bushman farms failed because they didn't get the support they needed, due to the efforts channelled towards getting them back to a hunter-gatherer way of life.

From issue 2577 of New Scientist magazine, 11 November 2006, page 52-53



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Survival of the nicest

New Scientist Print Edition
Lee Alan Dugatkin
11 November 2006


ALTRUISM - helping others at a cost to oneself - has been a stubborn thorn in the side of evolutionary biologists. If natural selection favours genes that produce traits which increase the reproductive success of the individuals in which they reside, then altruism is precisely the sort of behaviour that should disappear.
Darwin was acutely aware of the problem that altruism posed for his theory of natural selection. He was particularly worried about the self-sacrificial behaviour that social insects display: how could natural selection explain why a worker bee will defend its hive by stinging an intruder and dying in the process? In On the Origin of Species, he summarised the topic of social insect altruism as "one special difficulty, which at first appeared to me to be insuperable, and actually fatal to the whole theory". But then he came up with an explanation.

Since worker bees were helping blood relatives - especially their queen - Darwin hypothesised that natural selection might favour altruism at the level of blood kin. One hundred and four years later, the biologist Bill Hamilton would formalise Darwin's idea, but the path from Darwin to Hamilton was not smooth. The nature of altruism and its similarities to the human trait of goodness make it susceptible to political, philosophical and religious subjectivity. Studying the structure of an atom isn't personal: studying altruism can be. It certainly was for the next two figures in the history of altruism, Thomas Huxley and Peter Kropotkin.

Huxley, also known as "Darwin's bulldog", outlined his thoughts on this topic in an 1888 essay entitled "The struggle for existence": "From the point of view of the moralist, the animal world is on about the same level as the gladiator's show... Life [for prehistoric people] was a continuous free fight, and beyond the limited and temporary relations of the family, the Hobbesian war of each against all was the normal state of existence." For Huxley, altruism was rare, but when it occurred, it should be between blood relatives.

Kropotkin, once a page to the tsar of Russia and later a naturalist who spent five years studying natural history in Siberia, thought otherwise. In Siberia he thought that he saw altruism divorced from kinship in every species he came across. "Don't compete!" Kropotkin wrote in his influential book Mutual Aid: A factor of evolution (1902). "That is the watchword which comes to us from the bush, the forest, the river, the ocean. Therefore combine - practice mutual aid!"

How could two respected scientists come to such radically different conclusions? In addition to being a naturalist, Kropotkin was also the world's most famous anarchist. He believed that if animals could partake in altruism in the absence of government, then civilised society needed no government either, and could live in peace, behaving altruistically. Kropotkin was following what he saw as "the course traced by the modern philosophy of evolution... society as an aggregation of organisms trying to find out the best ways of combining the wants of the individuals with those of co-operation". He saw anarchism as the next phase of evolution.

Huxley was no less affected by events around him. Shortly before he published "The struggle for existence", his daughter, Mady, died of complications related to a mental illness. In his despair over Mady's passing he wrote, "You see a meadow rich in flower... and your memory rests upon it as an image of peaceful beauty. It is a delusion... not a bird twitters but is either slayer or slain... murder and sudden death are the order of the day." It was in the light of nature as the embodiment of struggle and destruction - the antithesis of altruism - that Huxley saw the death of his daughter and it was in that mindset that he penned his essay.

A suite of other fascinating characters would follow Huxley and Kropotkin. In the US there was the Quaker ecologist Warder Clyde Allee, who did the first real experiments on altruism in the 1930s and whose religious and scientific writings on the subject were often indistinguishable; in fact, he would often swipe text from one and add it to the other. Around the same time in the UK, J.B.S. Haldane, one of the founders of population genetics, was talking of altruism and kinship, and came close to developing a mathematical theory on the subject. But he stopped short - nobody quite knows why.

A mathematical theory for the evolution of altruism and its relation to blood kinship would come a generation later with Bill Hamilton, who was both a passionate naturalist and a gifted mathematician. While working on his PhD in the early 1960s, he built a complex mathematical model to describe blood kinship and the evolution of altruism. Fortunately, the model boiled down to a simple equation, now known as Hamilton's rule. The equation has only three variables: the cost of altruism to the altruist (c), the benefit that a recipient of altruism receives (b) and their genetic relatedness (r). Hamilton's rule states that natural selection favours altruism when r × b > c.

Hamilton's equation amounts to this: if a gene for altruism is to evolve, then the cost of altruism must be balanced by compensating benefits. In his model, the benefits can be accrued by blood relatives of the altruist because there's a chance (the probability r) that such relatives may also carry that gene for altruism. In other words, a gene for altruism can spread if it helps copies of itself residing in blood kin.

A generation of biologists were profoundly affected by Hamilton's rule. One them was the population geneticist George Price, an eclectic genius who became depressed when he came across Hamilton's work. He had hoped that goodness was exempt from scientific analysis, but Hamilton's theory seemed to demonstrate otherwise. Price went through the mathematics in the model and realised that Hamilton had underestimated the power of his own theory.

While working with Hamilton on kinship and altruism, the atheist Price underwent a religious epiphany. In an irony that turns the debate about religion and evolution on its head, Price believed that his findings on altruism were the result of divine inspiration. He became a devout Christian, donating most of his money to helping the poor. At various times he lived as a squatter; at other times he slept on the floor at the Galton Laboratory of University College London, where he was working. Price lived the life of the altruists that he had modelled mathematically.

Since Hamilton published his model, thousands of experiments have directly or indirectly tested predictions emerging from his rule, and the results are encouraging. Hamilton's rule doesn't explain all the altruism we see but it explains a sizeable chunk of it. With time, Hamilton himself began to realise the power of his model, as well as its implications, and was somewhat dismayed that altruism could be boiled down to a simple equation: "I like always to imagine that I and we are above all that, subject to far more mysterious laws," he noted in volume 1 of his book Narrow Roads of Gene Land. "In this prejudice, however, I seem, rather sadly, to have been losing more ground than I gain. The theory I outline... has turned out very successful. It... illuminates not only animal behaviour but, to some extent as yet unknown but actively being researched, human behaviour as well."

From issue 2577 of New Scientist magazine, 11 November 2006, page 56-57

Lee Alan Dugatkin is a biologist at the University of Louisville, Kentucky. His most recent book is The Altruism Equation: Seven scientists search for the origins of goodness (Princeton University Press, 2006).




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Discovery creeps to launch pad

POSTED: 4:09 p.m. EST, November 9, 2006

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP) -- Space shuttle Discovery was moved to the launch pad Thursday to await a launch that could be as early as December 6 -- an effort to avoid potential New Year's Eve computer glitches.

The worry is that shuttle computers aren't designed to make the change from the 365th day of the old year to the first day of the new year while in flight. NASA has never had a shuttle in space December 31 or January 1.

"We've just never had the computers up and going when we've transitioned from one year to another," said Discovery astronaut Joan Higginbotham. "We're not really sure how they're going to operate."
Starting December 7, launch opportunities would be available as late as December 17 or 18. With a 12-day mission, that would mean the shuttle is back on Earth before New Year's Eve.

However, NASA was quick to say that even if the shuttle crew finds itself still in space on January 1, procedures could be devised to make a transition if necessary.

"Under some weird circumstance ... if we have an 'Oh my god,' and we have to be up there, I am sure we would figure out a way to operate the vehicle safely," said Steve Oswald, a vice president for Boeing Co., the parent company of the builders and designers of NASA's shuttles. "It just wouldn't be flying in the normal certified mode that we are used to flying."

If Discovery gets off the ground next month, it will be the third shuttle flight of the year, and only the fourth since the 2003 Columbia disaster.

It also will be the first night launch in four years. NASA required daylight launches after Columbia to make sure engineers had clear photos of the shuttle's external fuel tank; falling foam from Columbia's tank damaged its wing, dooming the shuttle and its seven astronauts.

NASA managers believe illumination from the space shuttle's booster rockets should allow for photos at night during the first two minutes, and radar should be able to detect any falling debris. Astronauts also are able to inspect the shuttle for damage while in flight.

During the 12-day mission, the astronauts will take three spacewalks to add an $11 million addition to the international space station and rewire the space lab's electrical system. The shuttle will also drop off U.S. astronaut Sunita Williams and bring home German astronaut Thomas Reiter, who has been at the space station since July.



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You Are What You Eat


Buyer beware: the rise of food fraud

Kate Ravilious
New Scientist Print Edition
11 November 2006

TAKE A LOOK at the basmati rice in your local shop. Are you sure it is the fine, flavoursome grain the name suggests? Was it really grown in those green northern Indian paddy fields that the picture on the packet shows?

Perhaps not. In 2002 the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) carried out the first DNA survey of basmati rice sold in the UK. It found that only 54 per cent of the bags labelled as such contained pure basmati rice - defined as a particular species of grain grown in the plains around the Ganges in northern India and east Pakistan. All the other samples had been diluted with inferior varieties - some by more than 60 per cent. One FSA official calculated that the fraud swindled consumers out of over £5 million that year alone.
Basmati is not the only superior-quality food that has been targeted by fraudsters. Honey, whisky, gin, vodka, fruit juice, butter, cheese, meat, fish, coffee and even potatoes: they have all been packed out with inferior brands and found their way into supermarkets, shops and bars.

Food fraud is big business. For obvious reasons no one knows its true extent, but spot checks and surveys suggest that criminals and crooked food producers cheat shoppers out of hundreds of millions of pounds every year. "When we have done surveys on individual foods the level of fraud is often around 10 per cent," says Mark Woolfe, a scientist in the FSA's enforcement division in London. "The UK food sector alone is worth around £70 billion per year, so a small percentage of fraud can be worth a lot of money."

But fraudsters had better watch their backs. From sophisticated chemical analysis and satellite imaging to DNA tagging, scientists are devising new techniques to track food from farm to fork. The European Union is so concerned about the problem that earlier this year it launched a continent-wide project to boost the development of these technologies. The food detectives are fighting back.

The first written account of food fraud dates back to 1820, when Fredrick Accum, a German chemist, published A Treatise on Adulterations of Food, and Culinary Poisons, which exposed culinary sharp practice in London. It detailed how bakers cut their flour with alum and chalk to make loaves whiter, and tipped in plaster and sawdust to make them heavier. Brewers added substances like the poison strychnine to beer to make it taste bitter and save money on hops. Perhaps worst of all was the use of lead, copper or mercury salts to make brightly coloured sweets and jellies that would be attractive to children.

Today tight controls on food safety have largely stamped out adulteration that might lead to health problems. So unscrupulous food producers are finding ways of debasing food without raising the safety alarms. The big money now lies in diluting expensive brands with cheaper, low-quality lookalikes. The higher prices that people will pay for "premium" foods from a particular place, such as Parma ham, Greek olive oil and Scotch whisky, coupled with the increase in global trade, has meant faking origin has become particularly lucrative. The unprecedented boom in demand for organic food has given fraudsters another high-price market to exploit, especially as there is no definitive way of confirming whether a product is genuinely organic (see "Forensic organics").

After discovering the basmati rice scandal, the FSA began developing a new DNA-fingerprinting technique - like that used by the police to trace crime-scene DNA to its owner - which could be used by food-standards inspectors across the UK. "We had been looking for ways of authenticating basmati for many years and then we had this breakthrough with the DNA test," says Woolfe. As a result, the FSA has begun prosecuting fraudsters: earlier this year, a court fined two Essex-based companies, Basmati Rice and Surya Rice, over £8000 each for selling packs labelled "basmati" that were adulterated with between 55 and 75 per cent non-basmati rice. The agency claims this new surveillance has cut basmati fraud dramatically. It might be right. Earlier this year the Rice Association, a British trade body, conducted a survey that found just 16 per cent of tested samples were diluted with high levels of non-basmati rice.

The FSA and its EU partners now use the technique to check whether products are free of genetically modified organisms. In September, Dutch authorities identified GM material in long-grain rice from the US labelled GM-free. This sparked a flurry of testing across Europe on American long-grain rice.

Takeshi Nishio, from Tohoku University, Japan, has invented a way of pre-empting rice bootleggers by using a genetic equivalent of a certificate of origin. He has selectively bred a variety of Koshihikari rice - a high-quality strain that connoisseurs consider to have a superlative flavour - to have a specific genetic marker. The Uonuma district of Japan is known for producing high-quality crops of this rice, so farmers are concerned that their reputation should not be tarnished by inferior rice falsely sold under the district's name. Nishio hopes to sell his genetically distinctive rice under licence to Uonuma farmers and plans to apply the same idea to other cereals and vegetables in the future.

Without a scheme like Nishio's, DNA fingerprinting isn't enough to identify food from a particular location, rather than just being of a particular species. Many foods can be grown anywhere that has the right climate, so something more is needed to identify the geographical source of the crop. Robert Oger, from the Walloon Agricultural Research Centre in Belgium, wants to solve the problem by keeping an eye on crops as they grow. As part of GeoTraceAgri, a project funded by the European Commission, he has been looking at ways of using aerial and satellite data to verify the origin, quality and quantity of crops.

First Oger and his team visit farms under surveillance to gather statistics about their production capacity: for example, they will note what kind of crops they grow and calculate expected yields based on local soil and climatic conditions. Back in their lab, they monitor the farm via satellite images to see how well the crops develop and identify external impacts, such as how often pollution from a nearby power station drifts over the fields. "If a field is monitored by satellite we can see how many trees a farmer has got and therefore how much they can reasonably produce," Oger says. He hopes the surveillance will deter producers from bolstering their output with inferior product and passing it off as being from a particular farm or region, and help him detect the location of inferior or contaminated crops.

Eventually, he would like to see food products labelled with a geographical identification number that customers could key into a website to see for themselves the olive trees that their olive oil came from, for instance. "The idea is to build something similar to Google Earth for food products, so that someone can see exactly where the bottle of wine on their table came from," he says.

While satellite monitoring can spot pollution and estimate reasonable yields, and DNA marking can identify a species, neither can say for sure whether a food comes from a specific site. That's where chemical analysis comes in. TRACE, an EU research programme, was launched earlier this year to develop a technique that tracks food back to the soil it grew in. Locked inside every plant and animal is a chemical memory of the weather and environment it grew up in. This is found in the ratios of various isotopes - different forms of a single chemical element that have different atomic masses. All food and drink contains hydrogen and oxygen, for instance, that got there when the animal or plant drank the local water, and hydrogen and oxygen have both heavy and light isotopes. The ratio of light to heavy isotopes is a unique signature of a particular climate and geography. For example, in cold climates evaporation is less vigorous and fewer heavy isotopes make it into the rain-cloud mix. Consequently English rain (and English lamb) has a higher proportion of lightweight oxygen and hydrogen isotopes than Spanish rain (and Spanish lamb). This relationship can also be used to distinguish coastal from inland areas and mountains from plains: the concentration of heavy isotopes in raindrops tends to decrease as clouds move inland or gain altitude.

"The technique is most powerful when used to look at products made solely from raw materials sourced from small, distinct geographical regions, as is often the case with protected foods," says Simon Kelly, a scientist at the government-funded Institute of Food Research in Norwich, UK. To narrow the food's origin down even further it may be possible to exploit isotopes in the soil and rocks. "Geology can change over just hundreds of metres, so potentially we can pin down an individual farm or valley," says Kelly.

Isotope analysis can also help in establishing broad groups of plant species in a sample. For example, Woolfe has used natural variations in carbon isotopes between different crops to work out whether juice drinks are indeed "pure" and from a specific place, as packets often claim, or diluted with cheaper juice from elsewhere. The idea relies on a basic observation of plant biology. All plants consume carbon dioxide to produce sugars during photosynthesis. They do this by building sugar compounds containing either three or four carbon atoms. This labels them as "C3" plants (such as apples and other fruit) or "C4" plants (for example, sugar cane). C4 plants absorb the carbon-13 isotope faster than they do carbon-12 and more than C3 plants do, so the ratio of carbon-13 to carbon-12 in C4 plants is, on average, higher than in C3 plants. In one survey, Woolfe found that apple juice, which should contain only C3 compounds, also contained a high level of carbon-13 isotopes, indicating the presence of a lot of C4 plant product - in that case, sugar-cane juice.

Isotopes can even be used to reveal what food your food ate. This has been the focus of work at the Central Science Laboratory (CSL) of the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in York, where researchers have developed a carbon-isotope technique to test what chickens were reared on. "We can check whether the more expensive 'corn-fed'-labelled chicken really is corn-fed," says Paul Brereton of the CSL, who is also director of the EU's TRACE programme.

Such analysis is also a key component in distinguishing farmed from wild fish. Farmed fish tend to be fatter because they eat more and are less active than their wild cousins, says Woolfe. The difference between farmed and wild fish due to different diet and exercise regimes shows up in the fatty acids and the carbon and nitrogen-isotope ratios in fish oil. "We can differentiate between wild and farmed fish including species like salmon, sea bass and sea bream," he says.

Kelly and his colleagues are now building isotopic maps of Europe so that products such as Champagne, Stilton cheese and Parma ham can be confidently matched with their place of origin. For prized regional products such as these, isotopic maps will be invaluable in verifying a product's origin and preventing it being devalued by cheap copies.

However, seasonal variation in the weather and local geological quirks mean that isotopic analysis can never provide a perfect location fix. "Natural variation means that figures can overlap," says Andrew Mackie, who works at the British government's Analytical and Scientific Services laboratory in Edinburgh. "In some instances isotopic analysis can only provide intelligence, not evidence for a court of law," says Kelly.

But combined with other evidence it can be an invaluable tool. In 2003 German authorities combined isotopic evidence with paper-trail analysis to put a stop to a sophisticated scam, known as "carousel fraud". A group of German companies had been illegally claiming subsidies by trading EU-made butter to and from Estonia (then not a member of the EU). Each time a butter lorry crossed the border from Germany to Poland the companies were given EU export subsidies. Once in Estonia the butter was repackaged and labelled to make it look like it had originated in Estonia, heaved back on a lorry and hauled back to Germany. This time, the importers took advantage of a tax break on foreign imports aimed at increasing trade with prospective EU member countries, as Estonia then was. The investigation revealed that 22 out of 25 butter samples taken from Estonian-labelled butter imported into the EU were not Estonian. In at least one case, the isotopic ratios of hydrogen and oxygen in a butter sample indicated it could only have come from Ireland.

With a battery of new tests at their disposal, scientists are scrutinising many of the foods we buy and finding ways of positively identifying them. The FSA, meanwhile, is about to publish the conclusions of five new surveys of fruit, fish and meat fraud. The next step is to co-ordinate the data and make it easy to follow food from farm to dinner plate. "Eventually we want to integrate these methods into electronic systems that will track food from the field onwards, right until it reaches the kitchen," says Brereton.

Tougher problems are ahead for the food detectives. "The biggest challenge now is food sold under 'ethical' labels, such as Fair Trade and organic, and those concerning animal welfare and countryside protection," Woolfe says. These products are sold at a high price, but there is no technical way of checking any of these claims. That's what it's like in the fight against food fraud, though: no sooner will the scientists find a way of stopping a fraud than the fraudsters will find a new way of covering their tracks. "It is cat and mouse," says Brereton.

Kate Ravilious is a writer based in Edinburgh, UK
From issue 2577 of New Scientist magazine, 11 November 2006, page 40-43




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Russian Woman Wins Health Damage Suit Against Coca Cola

Created: 13.11.2006 11:20 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 12:11 MSK
MosNews

A Russian woman has won a suit against the soft drink giant Coca Cola in Moscow, after her defense lawyer succeeded in persuading the court that his client's chronic ailment was brought about by consumption of beverages produced the by U.S. firm, the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper reported Monday.

The woman was awarded a compensation measuring 3,133 rubles (approximately $120), a meager amount as compared to damages awarded to plaintiffs pursuing similar complaints in western courts.
Natalia Koshuba was diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease, which, the doctors concluded, had been caused by consumption of soft drinks. The plaintiff had demanded a compensation of 5,133 rubles, which included her medical expenses and a compensation of moral damages.

Koshuba said she began to buy more soft drinks after the company launched a campaign urging customers to collect lids from soft drink bottles so as to exchange them later on for prizes. As a result, the woman consumed 2 to 3 liters of soft drinks daily in the course of five years.

The defense lawyer for Coca Cola suggested that the lids presented by the girl in the courtroom had been collected at dumps. But Koshuba's defense brought in witnesses who confirmed that Natalia has never eaten any hot or fatty foods, practically never drank alcoholic beverages and worked out regularly. Hence, her addiction to Coca Cola drinks was the only cause of her disease.

Even though she won the claim, Natalia says she is not satisfied with the awarded amount and is set to sue the company again, demanding 3 million rubles in moral damages.



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The Tangled Web We Weave


What a tangled web we are weaving - the internet a 'place where untruths start to spread more than truths'

Cristina Odone
Sunday November 5, 2006
The Observer

I was born in Nairobi. But not according to my Wikipedia entry which, until last month, stated categorically that I was born in Rome. Another line said I am anti-semitic. Wikipedia allows anyone to contribute to any entry and operates on the premise of cumulative knowledge. With so many people reading each entry, mistakes are quickly corrected. The anti-semitism slur was soon deleted ('unsourced information').

But when I wanted to correct the other entry, the contributor responsible stuck to his guns. How did he know that the person complaining was really Cristina Odone? he asked. Only when I sent him a photocopy of my passport, birthplace prominently displayed, did he reluctantly accept my version of my life.
Last week, Tim Berners-Lee, founder of the worldwide web, warned that the internet was becoming a 'place where untruths start to spread more than truths'. We seem to inhabit parallel universes. While our day-to-day life is dragged ever more under the surveillance of CCTV cameras, data bases, loyalty cards and identity checks, the web spirals out of control. Perhaps, indeed, it is because ordinary citizens feel so scrutinised in everything they do (someone somewhere knows not only where you shop and what you buy, but also where you live and what kind of health problems afflict you) that they run riot on the web, forging imaginary identities and spinning fanciful tales.

Picture the OAP battling to open his post office card account from which he can draw his pension in cash. He has been using his post office for more than 30 years and everyone recognises him. Yet, because of draconian anti-fraud and money-laundering regulations, he has to present his passport to prove that he is not someone wishing to put dirty money into circulation, even though the account he is drawing from is only accessible to the government.

Contrast this world of atoms, with its fact-checkers at every step, to the world of electrons. Here, all is freewheeling and totally trusting. David Cox, who has a popular blog on the Comment Is Free website, has had a string of contributors who, in contesting his views, claim expertise in the subject at hand. But can such an expert be validated or is the person writing, say, as Ella7 who purports to be a female Californian environmentalist teaching at the University of San Diego, in fact a British man with no degrees to his name?

Humphrys harrumphs

Here, there and everywhere, John Humphrys pops up: witnessing the war in Iraq for the Today programme, investigating faith for Radio 4, protecting the English language from abusers in his book, Beyond Words. So he deserves a knees-up.

His publishers at Hodder and Stoughton thought so and gave him a swanky dinner to launch his book. And Rod Liddle, who used to edit Humphrys on Today, thought so too and invited him to the christening of his baby or, rather, he invited Humphrys to the party following the christening.

Humphrys claimed to be hurt by this: wasn't he good enough to participate in the holy ceremony? he asked Liddle at his book launch. 'I thought there might be a clash of egos between you and God,' Liddle explained. A shame, suggested Simon Hoggart: the Humphrys interview with God, replete with interruptions, would have been an almighty punch-up.

Any identity is yours at the click of a mouse. You can disguise yourself in any chat room as a thirtysomething babe-magnet with pecs to die for. You can introduce all kinds of fantasy elements when you write your profiles on My Space and Second Life - from fake friends to fake pastimes. And no one will be able to catch you out.



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Creator of web warns of fraudsters and cheats

Bobbie Johnson, technology correspondent
Friday November 3, 2006
The Guardian

The creator of the world wide web told the Guardian last night that the internet is in danger of being corrupted by fraudsters, liars and cheats. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the Briton who founded the web in the early 1990s, says that if the internet is left to develop unchecked, "bad phenomena" will erode its usefulness.

His creation has transformed the way millions of people work, do business, and entertain themselves.

But he warns that "there is a great danger that it becomes a place where untruths start to spread more than truths, or it becomes a place which becomes increasingly unfair in some way". He singles out the rise of blogging as one of the most difficult areas for the continuing development of the web, because of the risks associated with inaccurate, defamatory and uncheckable information.
Sir Tim believes devotees of blogging sites take too much information on trust: "The blogging world works by people reading blogs and linking to them. You're taking suggestions of what you read from people you trust. That, if you like, is a very simple system, but in fact the technology must help us express much more complicated feelings about who we'll trust with what." The next generation of the internet needs to be able to reassure users that they can establish the original source of the information they digest.

Sir Tim was yesterday launching a new joint initiative between Southampton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create the first degree in web science. The two schools hope to raise the standards of web content.

"Our plan would be to run similar courses on either side of the Atlantic," said Wendy Hall, head of Southampton's school of electronics and computer science. It is little more than a decade since the web was just a glimmer in the eyes of a handful of scientists, but internet-savvy students will get the chance to study online phenomena like Google.

The vision for web science embraces traditional technology subjects such as computer science and engineering, but also brings in other areas of social studies and academic thinking. Students will be expected to explore questions such as internet privacy and regulation, as well as investigating the social trends behind massively popular websites like MySpace.com and YouTube.com Prospective researchers will be encouraged by new figures that indicate the web is growing at an unprecedented rate, having doubled in size in less than two and a half years, and with more than 1 billion people around the world now connected to the internet.

The new discipline is expected to gain widespread support from huge internet companies such as Google, Yahoo and Amazon, as well as more traditional computing giants such as Microsoft and IBM. The ultimate task for students of web science will be to come up with the next generation of the internet - and bring about the "semantic web", a more intelligent version of the systems we use today.

But Sir Tim said his only intention was to make sure the internet of the future remained free and open for anybody to use. "We're not going to be trying to make a web that will be better for people who vote in a particular way, or better for people who think like we do," he said. "The really important thing about the web, which will continue through any future technology, is that it is a universal space."



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Should Service Providers pay for Net Attacks?

Paul Marks
NewScientist
11 November 2006


IMAGINE a computer criminal is threatening to mount a damaging attack on your company unless you pay thousands of dollars. The threat, which is becoming increasingly common, comes from "denial of service" (DoS) attacks, in which a hacker takes down an organisation's website by flooding it with page requests from a network of "zombie" PCs infected with "bot" viruses.

Can such attacks be stopped? Easily, say some, who argue that an internet service provider should be held legally liable if it allows a DoS attack to take place via its network.
In a DoS attack, a hacker plants a bot virus on PCs, where it lies dormant until it is told to overwhelm a website with millions of page requests or send spam emails. It's a lucrative crime. "You can buy a custom-written bot virus on eBay for around $4000 that will evade antivirus software for at least two weeks, giving time to stage a DoS attack," says Ian Brown of the Communication Research Network, an internet policy group based in Cambridge, UK. Some gambling sites will pay extortionists up to $50,000 to stop an attack because it's cheaper than being offline for long, he says.

At a conference in London next week, Lilian Edwards, an internet lawyer at the University of Southampton in the UK, will argue that the attacks could be stopped if ISPs were required to check the contents of the data packets they relay. ISPs can already do this, using a technique called deep packet inspection, so that they can tell the difference between, say, internet phone calls and video downloads, and charge accordingly.

The technique could identify sudden storms of identical page requests, and the ISP could use this information to shut them off, says Edwards. "The ISPs have the knowledge, the resources and the power. They control the net traffic and they can detect unusual patterns in that traffic."

The idea will be strongly resisted by ISPs. Malcolm Hutty of the London Internet Exchange, an ISP association, says that to distinguish between malicious data and innocent traffic would be far too expensive. "For instance, the public blog at the Internet Governance Forum in Athens was so popular the servers went down, taking many other UN sites with it. That was not a DoS attack - but it looked like one."

Further problems loom, says Ollie Whitehouse of Symantec Antivirus. Hackers now transmit unencrypted commands to zombie PCs, but if they use encryption the commands will be almost undetectable. "That will make spotting a DoS attack a whole lot harder for an ISP," he says.

From issue 2577 of New Scientist magazine, 11 November 2006, page 32



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Holding on to Empire


RUC officer implicated in loyalist collusion

12 November 2006
Sunday Business Post

An RUC whistleblower says he is prepared to give sensational evidence to the Smithwick Tribunal that implicates RUC chief superintendent Harry Breen, the highest-ranking member of the RUC to be killed in the Troubles, in loyalist paramilitary activity.

John Weir, the whistleblower, served in the RUC from 1970 to 1980 before being convicted of the 1977 killing of a Catholic shopkeeper in Ahoghill, Co Antrim. He claims that Breen had been aware of RUC members being involved with loyalist paramilitaries since the early 1970s.

Breen and his RUC colleague, Bob Buchanan, were shot dead in an IRA ambush in south Armagh on March 20, 1989, after attending a meeting at Dundalk garda station.

The Smithwick Tribunal is investigating whether the IRA received a tip-off from someone in the Garda Siochana (Irish police)
Weir, who now lives in Nigeria, told The Sunday Business Post last week that Breen was present when meetings with loyalist paramilitaries took place and that collusion with loyalists was "laughed and joked about".

"Breen had connections with loyalism when I knew him," said Weir. "Breen knew of his cops running around with loyalists. He took no action.

"He was there when submachine guns were handed over to loyalists - it was the done thing at the time. He was only one of many, many people who knew about it."

The loyalist gang of which Weir was a member - and which, he says, Breen approved of - is believed to be responsible for the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, as well as a string of other murders north of the border, including the 1975 Miami Showband massacre.

If Weir's claims are true, it points to further evidence of British state collusion in the worst single atrocity of the Troubles.

An independent panel of international jurors last week found "strong and credible" evidence of RUC and British Army collusion in 24 out of 25 murder cases it investigated, involving the deaths of 76 people.

Weir claims that Brian Fitzsimmons, who was head of the Special Branch in the early 1970s and was based in Newry, Co Down, was aware of the extent of RUC collusion but did nothing to curb it.

Fitzsimmons was killed in the 1994 Chinook helicopter crash off the Mull of Kintyre, which also claimed the lives of 24 other senior British security figures.

Weir denied media reports in recent weeks which stated that he had been questioned by Paddy McEntee SC, one of the country's leading criminal barristers, as part of his investigation into the Garda's handling of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

It is understood that McEntee declined to interview Weir in Ireland earlier this year, because it was felt that Weir's evidence was outside the remit of his investigation.



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US Congressman Urges British Government to Acknowledge Collusion

Press Association
10/11/06

The British government has been urged by a senior US politician to publicly acknowledge members of the police and British army colluded with loyalist paramilitaries during Northern Ireland's Troubles.

During a visit to Belfast, Congressman Martin Meehan said recognition that collusion took place could help negotiations to persuade Sinn Fein to sign up to policing.

As he prepared to meet victims of loyalist violence, the Congressman said: "Fundamentally people should understand the perspective of Sinn Fein, even in these negotiations, is directly linked to the atrocities and the murders and the corruption that have taken place in the past.
"One needs to understand the other's perspective in history. It's important in terms of the negotiations to get Sinn Fein to sign onto policing that you recognise history.

"You also have to recognise that there are some within the nationalist and republican community who will be sceptical and will want to make sure every i is dotted and every t is crossed before they will agree to the new policing system.

"I have long believed it is in the interests of Northern Ireland and the British government to come forward and come clean.

"Sometimes acknowledging truth is the most powerful way to acknowledge change. What we need is a change in the way the police force operates - that is beginning to happen here.

"We are at a historical juncture. I think it would go a long way for the British government to recognise that acknowledging the atrocities of the past is a way to deliver change for a positive future."

On Monday a report by an international panel of human rights experts claimed it had uncovered considerable and credible evidence of British army and police collusion in 74 sectarian murders in Northern Ireland during the 1970s.

The probe of 25 loyalist atrocities, commissioned by the Derry-based Pat Finucane Centre, found senior Royal Ulster Constabulary and Ulster Defence Regiment officers were aware and in some cases approved of collusion.

It also said officials in London had enough information about collusion to intervene.

On Tuesday the families of six men gunned down by loyalists in a bar in Loughinisland, County Down in June 1994 as they watched a World Cup match, went to Westminster to raise awareness among MPs about allegations of security force collusion in the atrocity.

The Loughinsiland families have announced plans to take their campaign to the European Parliament in Brussels later this month.

Congressman Meehan, a Democrat from Massachusetts, would not be drawn on suggestions that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Northern Ireland could enable the British government to admit there was collusion.

He told PA: "I would be satisfied just to have an acknowledgement in many instances and investigations which have integrity and are competent so that these atrocities have their proper place in history."



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British Security 'links' to terror murder plots

BBC News
06/11/2006

Members of the RUC and UDR colluded with loyalist paramilitaries in 74 murders in the 1970s, according to an international panel of legal experts.

The four-strong team examined 76 killings between 1972 and 1977 and said there was evidence of collusion in all but two of the cases.

It said some senior officers knew of the crimes but "failed to act to prevent or punish" those responsible.

The panel urged the British government to set up an independent investigation.
They also urged the authorities in the Irish Republic to investigate the claims made about their police.

In response to the report, Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde said the PSNI's Historical Enquiries Team was set up to examine all of the 3,268 killings during the Troubles.

"This particular panel did not meet with or consult directly with the Historical Enquiries Team," Sir Hugh said.

"I would invite them to come and see for themselves how the investigations and work with the families are progressing.''

The report said: "Credible evidence indicates that superiors of violent, extremist officers and agents, at least within the RUC, were aware of their sectarian crimes, yet failed to act to prevent, investigate or punish them.

"On the contrary, they allegedly made statements that appeared to condone participation in these crimes."

The panel was convened two years ago at the request of the Londonderry-based Pat Finucane Centre.

It examined 25 incidents on both sides of the Irish border, including:

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The murder of 33 people in UVF bomb attacks in Dublin and Monaghan on 17 May 1974

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The shooting of three members of the Miami Showband - Fran O'Toole, 29, Anthony Geraghty, 23, and Brian McCoy, 33, after a UVF gang posing as an Ulster Defence Regiment patrol flagged their bus down on 31 July 1975.

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The killing of Patrick Connolly, 23, on 4 October 1972 in a grenade attack on his Portadown home by the Ulster Volunteer Force

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The double murder by the UVF of Catholic Patrick Molloy, 46, and Protestant Jack Wylie, 49, in a bomb attack at Augenlig in County Armagh

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The shooting dead of six men in separate UVF gun attacks on two families in County Armagh on 4 January 1976

The panel added: "As early as 1973, senior officials of the United Kingdom were put on notice of the danger - and indeed some of the facts - of sectarian violence by UDR soldiers using stolen UDR weapons and ammunition, and supported by UDR training and information.

"At least by 1975, senior officials were also informed that some RUC police officers were 'very close' to extremist paramilitaries."

The report also said there had been "allegations by at least one former RUC man that the Gardai, the police force of the Republic of Ireland, was not co-operative in bringing fugitives who fled across the border to justice".

The British government told the panel it would be inappropriate to comment as the murders are the subject of inquiries by a number of agencies.

These included the European Court of Human Rights, the PSNI Historical Enquiries Team, and the Police Ombudsman.

'Final chance'

Copies of the 108-page report have been given to the British government and the Police Ombudsman's Office.

The independent panel who produced the report were: Professor Douglass Cassel of Notre Dame Law School in the US; Susie Kemp, an international lawyer based in The Hague; Piers Pigou - an investigator for the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Stephen Sawyer of Northwestern University School of Law.

Last year, the Irish government said it was giving Tony Blair a final chance to aid an inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

Irish premier Bertie Ahern said he may take a case to the European Court of Human Rights if Mr Blair did not hand over British government files on the bombings.

No-one was convicted of the bombings.



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"Maggie" Royale


Rivals close in as Segolene stumbles

Jason Burke in Paris
Sunday November 12, 2006
The Observer

Gaffe threatens to derail the Socialist favourite's route to challenge for French presidency

Her supporters are confident, the French right wing are convinced she will be the woman to beat and pundits are already talking about the dawn of a new era. But, as Segolene Royal prepares for the final days of campaigning before the 220,000 members of the French Socialist party vote to decide their candidate for next year's presidential elections, it is increasingly clear that the fight will go right to the wire and could result in a major upset.
The elections on Thursday pit 53-year-old Royal, who has led polls throughout the summer, against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a former Finance Minister, and Laurent Fabius, a former Prime Minister. One poll due to be published today will show Royal only a couple of percentage points ahead of her rivals. Newspapers are suddenly exercising a new prudence, after weeks of predicting a crushing victory for Royal. '[Relying on the polls] puts us on shifting, uncertain, unreliable and unpredictable terrain,' said Dominique de Montvalon, editor of Le Parisien.

The key issue is whether Royal can garner more than half the votes cast on Thursday and thus avoid a run-off which could see a dangerous deal between her opponents. 'If there is a second tour then we are in a whole new world of manoeuvres and deals and there is everything to play for,' said Michael Darmon, a senior political journalist and author. Some talk of an 'Anyone But Segolene' alliance.

Royal, a mother of four and the president of the Poitou-Charentes region, has suffered in a series of carefully choreographed televised debates between the three candidates. The confident and smooth delivery of Strauss-Kahn, 57, a former economist and convinced 'Social Democrat', has contrasted with the stilted speaking style of Royal, who has little experience of the raw reality of political rough-and-tumble. 'In the debates Strauss-Kahn was very good, open, informing and informed,' said Frederique Dabi, of the IFOP pollsters. 'That made a difference.'

Another blow came late last week with the broadcast of a video, filmed by an activist at a small meeting in January, in which Royal suggests that something should be done about French state school teachers who profit from a light workload to moonlight in the private sector, arguing that they should work a 35-hour week in their schools. Such ideas do not play well with the tens of thousands of teachers who are members of the Socialist Party.

'It's a betrayal, frankly,' Marie Franck, a high school teacher in Marseille, told The Observer. 'She is meant to be on our side.' As the French media hunted the mole who posted the video on the internet, Royal's aides complained of 'low blows'.

But the battle between the candidates is more than a clash of personalities and genders. Each reflects a different strand of left-wing thought and a different type of Socialist voter. According to pollster Dabi, Royal's powerbase lies among women, workers and the young while Strauss-Kahn, who is unashamedly 'Blairist' though he dare not use the word, attracts support from middle-class professionals and even the right. Laurent Fabius is campaigning on a hard left-wing platform, with capitalism, neo-liberal economics and big business as favourite targets. He has strong support among long-term activists who see Royal as a moderate who has sold out.

Though Fabius scores less than 10 per cent in the polls, senior party figures point out 'that the polls probably do not reflect the weight he has in the heart of the party. 'He has established networks and, at the most recent internal party count, scored over 20 per cent,' said Stephane Le Foll, a senior Socialist official.

Even after weeks of gruelling campaigning, there is still much indecision among Socialist party members, particularly the 80,000 who joined as a result of a hugely successful internet campaign earlier this year. 'I just don't know who to choose,' said Najwa Chekini, an administrator who signed up to the party's branch in Paris's 9th arrondissement six months ago, 'My heart says Segolene but my head says Strauss-Kahn.'

Chekini said that a key consideration was the ability of the candidates to take on Nicholas Sarkozy, the maverick Minister of Interior who is widely expected to be the main conservative candidate next year. 'Royal would get eaten alive,' said one activist from the 14th arrondissment. 'I'm voting Strauss-Kahn.'



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Tight race as France's Royal faces first hurdle for presidency

AFP
12 Nov 06

Segolene Royal, the socialist with high hopes of being France's first woman president after elections in April, has said that she was confident of victory in this week's vote for the party nomination despite a narrowing lead over her two more experienced rivals.

With four days to go till Thursday's internal vote by Socialist party (PS) members, the 53-year-old former junior minister said that she had emerged strengthened from a month of primary campaigning including six debates with opponents Laurent Fabius and Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
"It was the other two who wanted these debates because they doubted my capabilities ... But at the end of the process my legitimacy is no longer in question," she told Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

"I am the only one who can win against the right. I embody the profound change that people are crying out for. Many see me as the candidate against the powers-that-be .... For the symbolic father of the nation to be a woman -- now that's a revolution," she said Sunday.

A new poll Sunday showed that Royal, who has emerged from nowhere in a year to be France's most talked-about politician, enjoys a clear majority of support -- 58 percent -- among PS sympathisers, with former finance minister Strauss-Kahn on 32 percent and former prime minister Fabius on nine.

However this was a fall of five points compared to two weeks ago, and -- like all polls -- it failed to take into account that the 200,000 who will choose the PS presidential nominee are card-carrying party members and not from the general public.

Both Strauss-Kahn, 57, and Fabius, 60, expressed optimism Sunday that they can together reduce Royal's vote on Thursday to under 50 percent -- thus forcing an unpredictable second round vote a week later between the two leading candidates.

Commentators agreed that Fabius's low showing in polls did not reflect his true standing in the party, where he has extensive networks of influence on the left, while Strauss-Kahn has made steady progress following the debates -- three of which were televised.

Many long-standing members of the party are receptive to criticism that Royal has played on her glamour to build an anti-establishment image that goes down well with the voting public but has little political substance.

However they could be outnumbered by a large intake of new activists -- some 80,000 since the start of the year -- who were drawn by Royal's originality and energy. Many also see her as the best way of ensuring victory over the likely right-wing candidate, ruling party chief Nicolas Sarkozy.

In the latest of a series of collisions with PS orthodoxy, Royal -- who is head of the Poitou-Charentes regional council -- was accused of pandering to the public after she appeared in a pirated video last week berating teachers for not spending long enough in the classroom.

A spokesman described the video's release on the Internet as a "stupid last minute manoeuvre to discredit her".

Previously she has angered the party "elephants" -- as its traditional leaders are known -- by calls for boot-camps for young delinquents, greater freedom for parents to choose schools for their children, and "popular juries" for the public to monitor politicians.

Former socialist prime minister Michel Rocard said over the weekend that she lacks the "authority and respect" which a French president needs on the world stage.

"The next president will be assailed by major international problems the day after his or her inauguration. I do not doubt that Madame Royal is capable of acquiring (authority and respect) but it will take her a year and a half or two," he said.

Rocard said that Fabius -- who urged a "no" vote in last year's referendum on the EU's proposed constitution -- "does not have the respect of the international community", so he urged party members to vote for Strauss-Kahn.

Thursday's vote will take place from 4.00 pm (1500 GMT) to 10.00 pm in some 4,000 regional branches. The results will not be known until Friday morning. The presidential election takes place over two rounds on Sundays April 22 and May 6.



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Isolating the Bear


99% of Voters in Georgia's Breakaway Region Back Independence

Created: 13.11.2006 13:25 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 13:29 MSK, 3 hours 33 minutes ago
MosNews

Voters in Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia overwhelmingly backed its independence drive, election officials said Monday, but Europe's foremost human rights organization questioned those results, The Associated Press reports.
Sunday's vote deepened the rift between Russia and the West over the small Caucasus Mountain region, which split off from central government control in a bloody 1990s war.

Georgia has said it will not recognize the referendum.

The head of South Ossetia's electoral commission, Bella Pliyeva, said preliminary results showed 99 percent of voters had backed independence.

But the 46-nation Council of Europe, which includes Russia, called the referendum "unnecessary, unhelpful and unfair." "The vote did nothing to bring forward the search for a peaceful political solution and the circumstances in which it has been carried out, especially the fact that ethnic Georgians were not given the right to vote, makes it irrelevant," said Terry Davis, the Secretary General of the human rights organization.



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Secret Minutes Revealing EU Plans to Put Pressure on Russia's Putin Found in Waste Bin - Report

Created: 13.11.2006 14:57 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 14:57 MSK
MosNews

The minutes of bilateral meeting between Russia and the EU last month have revealed the struggle to maintain a united EU front towards Moscow in the face of the bloc's energy dependency on its giant neighbor, EU Observer reports.

Documents from the informal EU summit in Lahti, Finland, last month - together with other top-secret papers - were found in a bin outside the Spanish foreign affairs ministry in Madrid last week, according to Spain's El Pais.
According to the paper, EU leaders agreed over lunch on the day of the meeting to be as unified as possible during a dinner with Russian president Vladimir Putin just a few hours later. "It is necessary to lead Russia to more constructive positions," German chancellor Angela Merkel suggested to her counterparts.

Italian Romano Prodi stressed "the importance of reinforcing political cooperation and economic interests on the base of a trustworthy provision " in exchange for greater investments in Russia.

The majority of EU leaders called for a more diverse energy supply while Spanish prime minister Jose Louis Zapatero additionally wanted the EU to make it clear to Mr Putin that it wants to see more Russian respect for democratic rights and less aggression towards Chechnya, Georgia and Ukraine.

Taking a more pragmatic approach, French president Jacques Chirac warned that "the security and the stability of Europe depend largely on Russia."

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said "it is fundamental that we stay calm, committed and with the sense of unity in our conversations with Putin."

Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt told his colleagues that "it is not necessary to be so on the defence with Putin."

EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana warned EU leaders that energy is becoming a policy instrument and added that all the major oil and gas producing countries are unstable, except for Norway.

UK prime minister Tony Blair and his Dutch counterpart Jan Peter Balkende asked for European leadership in the "narrow relation between climate change and power security," and added that Europe is losing its position ahead of Japan and the US in clean energy technologies.

Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern stated that "in order to speak with a single voice on the outside we must have a common policy of energy and an effective and transparent inner market."



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Free Speech


Fury at Holocaust exhibit ban

Sunday November 12, 2006
The Observer

German railway chief sparks angry demonstrations over refusal to allow photographs and papers to be shown in stations

It was her first trip by train, and she will never forget it. German SS-men were yelling outside, and the cattle wagons had bare wooden floors instead of seats, with observation slits instead of windows. Edith Erbrich remembers how an SS man ordered her father to lift her and her sister up because her mother, standing outside the train, wanted to see her once more. 'My father told us that mummy cannot join us, she has to take care of the house,' she said.
Erbrich was seven years old when she, her sister and her father were deported by the Nazis to the concentration camp in Theresienstadt, Czechoslavakia. She survived. Some 11,000 other Jewish children died. Now a new exhibition about their fate has sparked an extraordinary and bitter dispute between the German government and the state-owned national railway.

The exhibition, put together by anti-Nazi campaigners Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, was inspired by stories such as Erbrich's and has already been shown at 18 French railway stations. Now the couple want to show it at train stations across Germany, but Hartmut Mehdorn, the chief executive of Deutsche Bahn, the national railway, has refused.

'Railway stations are not the right place for an exhibition on such a serious topic,' Mehdorn said. 'They are too crowded, people are in too much of a hurry to concentrate. "Shock and go" tactics do not work any more.' He claimed the exhibition was a security risk and that neo-Nazis could try to tear it down and added: 'We at the Deutsche Bahn do not need a new exhibition. We have already one in the national railway museum in Nuremberg.'

Serge Klarsfeld defended his exhibition: 'The aim of it is not to lock the past up in a museum, but to confront the people in public with it. In France more than 100,000 people have seen the exhibition. They all have been respectful; there have not been any security problems at all.'

The issue is causing a political storm in Germany. Social Democratic transport minister Wolfgang Tiefensee and politicians from other parties have backed the Klarsfelds. 'National Socialism was a dictatorship that was played out in everyday life and that was drawn from everyday life,' Tiefensee said.

He warned Mehdorn not to give the impression that Deutsche Bahn was trying to keep the subject away from the broader public and added that he had given permission to show an exhibition on press pictures from war zones from all over the world, which was also a 'serious topic'.

Politicians from the Green party claimed last week that the issue of the exhibition should be discussed in parliament if Deutsche Bahn continues to refuse permission for the exhibition.

Tiefensee has now asked the historian Jan Philipp Reemtsma to develop a German version of the Klarsfelds's project that focuses more attention on the German Jewish children who were deported. Reemtsma, who previously caused a controversy with an exhibition on how the German army, the Wehrmacht, was involved in the Holocaust, agreed, on condition that his exhibition would be put up in the stations.

In the meantime, Edith Erbrich and other Holocaust survivors have begun an initiative urging Deutsche Bahn to allow the exhibition to go ahead as planned and have organised demonstrations in several cities across Germany. Erbrich, now 69 years old, is determined to go on with the issue. 'I am not doing it for my sake,' she said. 'I am doing it for those who cannot do it any more.'

Comment: Strange. The alleged goal of the "holocaust industry" is to ensure that the lessons of Nazi Germany are never forgotten, yet the single major achievement of the holocaust industry has been to facilitate the state of Israel to practice the same genocidal policies against Palestinians by ensuring that criticism of Israel is synonymous with anti-Semtism.

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Smoking ban gets the Hollywood treatment

Jo Revill, health editor
Sunday November 12, 2006
The Observer

Dramatic adverts created by one of Hollywood leading figures are to be screened in Britain over the next month as part of a new 'terror tactic' campaign to prepare England for a ban on smoking in public places.

The ads were filmed using a new camera technique by cinematographer Barry Ackroyd, who worked on the 9/11 film United 93 as well as this year's Palme D'Or winner, The Wind That Shakes the Barley.
They are part of a £10m campaign to make people think about the dangers of inhaling cigarette smoke, well before the ban on smoking in public places comes into force in England on 1 July.

Using ordinary people taken from the street, the commercials show cigarette smoke winding its way between people as they sit in the pub or walk around a cafe. Ackroyd has used an 'alien revolution' system which can turn the camera through 360 degrees while still keeping the same horizon in view, giving viewers the strange sensation that they are part of the smoke itself watching it swirl around the customers.

The first adverts are due to go out in Wales later this month, as Wales will bring in its smoking ban from April, at the same time as Northern Ireland. Scotland became smoke-free earlier this year.

The new adverts are due to be screened in England before Christmas - making people more aware of the dangers in the run up to the new laws coming into force next summer.

The adverts, created by the agency Golley Slater, aim to educate people who regularly go to a pub or a club that they are putting their health at risk. The script highlights the potential cocktail of 4,000 chemicals which enters people's bodies from second-hand smoke around them.

'The TV commercials feature second-hand smoke personified as a malignant, unseen predator which stalks customers at a pub and cafe location' said Phil Hickes, creative director at the agency.

The second-hand smoking campaign, which will be broadcast on all the major commercial TV channels between now and the ban.

'The cast for the two 30 second TV commercials is drawn from real-life with people who were "recruited" off the streets and from pubs and cafes', said Hickes.

The campaign will be accompanied by radio public awareness drives and a series of beer mats and posters to be displayed in the toilets of bars and clubs. The 'Fancy a cocktail? Don't cover up the facts' and 'Second-hand smoke can seriously damage your delicate bits' messages have been designed to bring home the dangers of second-hand smoke in a hard-hitting fashion and persuade people that the ban should be followed and not flouted.

It centres on research which shows that regular exposure to second-hand smoke can increase a non-smoker's chance of contracting lung cancer by 24 per cent and heart disease by 2 per cent.

One insider said: 'The government is now going for more gritty, shocking commercials, such as the current one aimed at educating motorcyclists to look for drivers. There's a sense that a lot of people don't know much about the smoking ban, and they need to understand why it's coming into force.'

The commercials present second hand smoke as an enemy silently invading the lungs of innocent people.

In the first advert, shot in a cafe, the script says: 'It is there, when you are drinking, eating, relaxing. But you won't notice it, floating, clinging, killing. Second-hand smoke kills.' The scary tone is carried on into the second advert, which is shot in a pub. 'Anywhere there is laughter, music, crowds, you will find it, hanging, drifting, harming,' the narrator intones.

The adverts will also carry the number of a helpline which the public can ring to get advice about giving up smoking.

Campaigners have welcomed the news. Deborah Arnott, director of Action on Smoking and Health said: 'This is just the sort of advertising campaign that's needed to make sure people get the message that second-hand smoke is a complex killer.

'The reason ventilation can't protect you from second-hand smoke that it can only remove the largest, most visible particles from the air, but many of the thousands of chemicals in tobacco smoke are tiny particles, odourless and invisible, but deadly all the same. That's why the legislation to ban smoking from all workplaces is vital.'



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Bolivarian Revolution


Chavez Sup Take Final Elections Steps

Caracas, Nov 12 (Prensa Latina)

The V Republic Movement(MVR) announced an electoral offensive to provide President Hugo Chavez re-election with 80 percent of valid votes.

The director of MVR political and electoral organization William Lara assured Chavez intention of votes is higher than 60 percent for December 3 elections and an electoral roll of 16 million of people.
He also noted that MVR ballot at the top of the voting card became the Venezuelan Revolution classic card overwhelmingly ahead of all the rest.

Lara also accused the main opposition candidate Zulia governor Manuel Rosales of withdrawing from positions previously taken regarding fingerprint system.

He recalled that after he told his followers he had no problems with fingerprint system now he is questioning that mechanism drawn to avoid identity misappropriation and multiple votes.

At the same time Lara assured the electoral process will remain quiet amid some sectors´ interest of creating chaos to justify the defeat.



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