Sections on today's Signs Page:
Editorial: John F. Kennedy, The Secret Service and Rich, Fascist Texans
| A handbill circulated on November
21, 1963 In Dallas, Texas, one day before the assassination of John
On November 21st, 1963, 43 years ago today, the 1,035th day of John F. Kennedy's
tenure as President, he asked the Congress for $95.7 million in supplemental
appropriations for fiscal year 1964. He also asked his economic advisers
to prepare a "War on Poverty" program for 1964. Then, President Kennedy and
Mrs. Kennedy departed for a two-day trip to Texas. It
was to be his last full day on Earth.
At the dedication of the Aerospace Medical Health Center, Brooks Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas he gave a talk in which he reminisced: "Frank O'Connor, the Irish writer, tells in one of his books how, as a boy, he and his friends would make their way across the countryside, and when they came to an orchard wall that seemed too high and too doubtful to permit their voyage to continue, they took off their hats and tossed them over the wall -- and then they had no choice but to follow them... This Nation has tossed its cap over the wall of space, and we have no choice but to follow it."
And he predicted, "When some meet here in 1990 they will look back on what we did and say that we made the right and wise decisions. 'Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions,' the Bible tells us, and 'where there is no vision, the people perish.'" (Remarks at Dedication of the Aerospace Medical Health Center, San Antonio, Texas , November 21, 1963)
Later, President Kennedy made brief remarks to the League of United Latin American Citizens at the Rice Hotel in Houston, Texas following which he attended a dinner honoring Representative Albert Thomas, Houston, Texas.
Yesterday, we talked about Oil and Oilmen; today, we want to look at Texans, keeping always in mind that George W. Bush is a transplanted Texan, and he and his father have both been "Oilmen." After that, we'll look at the Secret Service, the men who were supposed to protect the President. From Farewell America:
The myth of the indispensable man must be broken if our country is to survive. -
Haroldson Lafayette Hunt
The Panhandle State owes more to oil than it does to the Alamo. Texas didn't really come into its own until oil gushed forth from the swamps of Beaumont on January 10, 1901. Fed by more than 100,000 barrels a day from the Spindletop well, (1) a lake of oil formed which was soon consumed by fire. Spindletop set off a second Gold Rush. The area was overrun by prospectors, the oil field was plundered, and the price of oil fluctuated wildly. At first, Rockefeller ignored the Texas strike.
But after Standard Oil of New Jersey was broken up in 1911, Standard Oil of Indiana bought up Humble, thereby becoming the largest producer in Texas, while Socony took over Magnolia. By 1930, the American oil empire was controlled by 20 big companies which seemed destined for eternal prosperity. But on October 9, 1930, a stubborn prospector named "Dad" Joiner struck oil at 3,000 feet in East Texas. He had discovered the richest oil field in the United States. Forty miles long and 2 to 5 miles wide, its reserves have been estimated at one and a half billion tons. By the time Standard and the other big companies arrived on the scene, thousands of prospectors were drilling away on tens of thousands of rural and urban plots. It was the most ruinous waste in the history of oil, and just at the start of the Depression the bottom dropped out of the market.
Standard, Gulf, Texaco and Shell managed to regain control with the help of the federal government. Laws were voted by the states, concessions were closed down by force, and the Connally law on "black oil" put a stop to illegal production in East Texas. When the basin had been pumped dry, production quotas were established and order prevailed. Some independent producers managed to survive, but they were obliged to comply with the rules set by the Big Four, who tolerated them because their greater production costs enabled the larger companies to keep prices high and increase profits.
Thirty years later, in 1963, Texas accounted for half the proven oil reserves on American soil. With 95,000 active oil wells owned by 6,500 oil companies (of the 12,325 in the United States), it constituted a key position for the big corporations, for it controlled production in the neighboring states of Louisiana and Oklahoma (65% of the American total), and therefore prices.
Six companies control 80% of Texas oil production. Humble produces 15% and refines 30% of this total. These giants command not only the oil, but also the sulfur and natural gas markets, and consequently real estate, transportation facilities, power, water, and banks throughout the state.
Even without oil, Texas would be one of the richest states in the Union. One
hundred times larger than Delaware, five times larger than New York, four times
larger than Missouri, three times larger than Minnesota, twice as large as
Montana, it covers 100,000 square miles more than the state of California,
and each of its 254 counties is bigger than the state of Rhode Island. There
are 227,000 ranches in Texas, and the King Ranch covers more territory than
Switzerland. Texas raises 10 million head of cattle and provides one-quarter
of the rice, one-third of the cotton, and half of all the synthetic rubber
consumed in the United States. In 1963 the state had a population of 10,228,000,
including one million Negroes and one million 'Wetbacks'.
The Second World War turned Texas into an industrial state. Thanks to the Cold War, its industries expanded five times faster than those of the rest of the nation. This industrial expansion reached a climax in 1963, when General Dynamics of Fort Worth was awarded the TFX fighter plane contract. The fantastic development of smaller firms such as Texas Instruments is directly linked to the war in Vietnam.(2)
Texas offers these industries lower taxes, cheap labor (poor whites, Negroes and Wetbacks), restrictive labor legislation (the union shop is prohibited by state law), and its outstanding natural resources in oil, natural gas, and sulfur.(3) The federal government is one of the state's principal benefactors. Texas ranks second in the nation in terms of federal aid, with $3.9 billion in 1960-61, or 20.1% of the total state revenue.(4) The wealthiest of the wealthy states, Texas in 1960 had 53% more federal employees and received 65% more federal aid than the average American state.(5) Washington's favors touched every sector of the economy. Texas, with the most extensive highway system (constructed with federal funds) in the country,(6) received the largest amount of federal aid for paralyzed children, and the highest subsidies for flood prevention.
But not all the inhabitants of Texas share in this munificence. In 1963, the state of Texas spent only $282.46 per person on social welfare (education, health, hospitals, public welfare), as compared to the national average of $343.64 per inhabitant (a difference of 18%). In the field of education, Texas ranked third in the nation in terms of federal aid per inhabitant, and 31st in terms of expenditures. It ranked first in terms of federal aid for child welfare, and 44th in terms of expenditures. It was second in the nation in terms of federal aid for the aged, and 40th in terms of expenditures. Nor does Texas neglect only its people. In 1963 it received more federal aid for experimental agricultural stations than any other state in the union, but ranked 47th in terms of the amount spent on improvements in cattle breeding.
There is little indication that the people of Texas merit such favoritism.
Their state is first in the nation in terms of murder and armed robbery,
and second for rape. Texas is the realm of intolerance. It calls itself
Democratic, but for the past 25 years it has elected Republicans or would-be
Democrats. It claims to be progressive, but only 15% of its 2.5 million non-agricultural
workers are unionized, and since 1954 a fine of $20,000 and 20 years in prison
punishes membership in the Communist Party. In 1952, Governor Allan Shrivers
even tried to obtain the death penalty for this "crime."
Texas sees nothing wrong with prescribing the death penalty for a political opinion, but it protects the right to commit homicide. It is the paradise of murder, and even of murder for thrills.
The name "Texas" comes from the Indian "Tejas," meaning "Friendship," which is also the state motto. In 1879 Harper's Bazaar wrote, "In the past 12 years there have been 300 murders in Texas, and only 11 death sentences." Since then, Texans have done even better. In 1960 there were 1,080 murders in Texas, and 5 death sentences.
Moreover, Texas has its own definition of murder. Only 3 of the 254 counties in Texas require a coroner's examination in the case of sudden or suspicious death. The 251 others leave it to the Justice of the Peace (7) to determine the cause of death. A verdict of death due to natural causes has been known to coincide with the discovery of a bullet in the body of the deceased. The FBI estimates that the number of murders actually committed in Texas is several times the official figure. Between 5,000 and 10,000 deaths occur every year in Texas because of brutality, greed, or just because.(8)
One hundred and thirty-two counties in Texas are prohibitonist, another form of intolerance that satisfies the puritanism of its inhabitants and the interests of the business community. One out of every 12 Texans -- 800,000 in all -- is illiterate, the highest percentage in the nation. Texas delivers fewer high school diplomas than the poorest state in the union, Mississippi.(9) It ranks third in the nation in terms of the number of registered automobiles, but only 36th in terms of insurance coverage.
Backwards, intolerant, and irresponsible, Texas lifts its soul only towards God, if one is to judge from the number of its churches. There are more than 1,000 churches in Dallas alone. Waco (100,000 inhabitants} has 122, Midland (68,000 inhabitants} 82, and Tyler (50,000 inhabitants) 94.(10) Evangelist Billy Graham is popular in Texas, and playboys are frowned upon.
Texans never tire of looking at money. The center of attraction at the Dallas Petroleum Club is a long ebony table inlaid with coins from all over the world. The homes of Highland Park, University Park, and River Oak are decorated with Cezannes and Renoirs (many of them fakes), but they rarely contain books. Texans don't read, with the possible exception of the Sunday papers. Unlike other American cities, Texas cities don't have bookstores. There is a second-hand bookstore in Dallas, but it is in the suburbs. The other bookstores are run by the churches. On the other hand, Dallas has an opera, a Museum of Contemporary Art, and 700 garden clubs. Texans like flowers.
Texas has 1,128 banks, more than any other state in the Union,(11) but despite its wealth, the total income of the inhabitants of Texas falls well below that of many other states.(12) An oligarchic state if there ever was one, Texas is nevertheless first in the nation in terms of the number of personal incomes exceeding $1 million a year. Four-fifths of these millionaires are oilmen.
In this state of nabobs and beggars, where whole regions are still without electricity and where hundreds of thousands of people sleep out of doors, corruption is an institution, professional witnesses are a dime a dozen, and if you dial a certain number you can hear a recorded anti-Semitic diatribe.
Such a privileged state has to have influence in Washington. It has had, since before Roosevelt. In 1947, Harry Truman modified the law providing for the succession to the Presidency in favor of Texan Sam Rayburn, making the House Majority Leader the third most important person in the country. Eisenhower, born in Tyler, Texas, faced a Congress led by House Majority Leader Rayburn, a Texan, and Senate majority Leader Lyndon Johnson, another Texan. But despite the special favors, all the federal aid, and the federal employees paid by Washington, the state treasury has often verged on bankruptcy. In 1959, Texas even paid its employees with rubber checks. Once again, the federal government was obliged to bailout the richest state in the union. In 1961, while it was still young and naive, the Kennedy Administration tried to enforce the payment of the federal tax on business transactions in Texas. No Texan could remember this law ever having been enforced. Texas, the state that fortune smiled upon, lay outside the frontiers of America. What did it want with the New Frontier?
Texas is a separate way of life. The oil industry controls the government,
the politics, and the social life of the state.(13) Its contribution
to the economy is so important, and its influence so widespread, that it
can make or break a project. The independent producers wield as much, if
not more, power than the Presidents of the major oil companies, and because
their fortunes are generally the result of personal success and their base
of operations less far-flung, they are also more aggressive. They are thus
far more vulnerable to any attack on the privileges of the oil industry,
and in particular to any change in the laws that govern it.
It has been estimated that there are more than 500 millionaires living in Houston, and probably as many in Dallas. The income of the twenty richest independent oil producers put together would be enough to cover the state budget.
Texas, which doesn't know the meaning of income tax, has no more idea of what a constitution should be. The Texas Constitution dates back to 1876. Consequently, the state government has no power to deal with the abuses of its inhabitants. The state legislature meets only once every two years. Its members are paid $10 a day for a period of 120 days. If the session is prolonged beyond that limit, their pay is halved. As a result, most state congressmen are either lawyers representing their clients at Austin or students glad for a chance to make a little extra money. For that matter, poor students and teachers interested in politics are especially well regarded by the real proprietors of the state. The oilmen finance the studies of a certain number of gifted and deserving students, and if they are elected to the state legislature they are rewarded with land leases, stocks, and allowances enabling them to devote themselves to the service of their country. The oilmen have little difficulty in getting their candidates elected to office -- they control the press, radio and television. Their influence over the police and judicial authorities is such that only the most insignificant criminal and civil cases, and those in which they have no interests at stake, are ever bought to court.
One of the most eminent figures in Texas and the oil industry appeared one day in the Cokesbury Bookstore, a Methodist bookshop in Dallas, to autograph a book that he had published himself. This man rates only seven lines in Who's Who: "Haroldson Lafayette Hunt, oil producer; Vandalia, Ill.; ed. pub. Schs; m. Lynda Bunker (died May 7, 1955); married 2nd Ruth Ray Weight, December 1957. Oil producer, Hunt Oil Co. Established Facts Forum, a foundation producing radio and TV programs relating to nat. issues. Democrat. Address: 4009 W. Lawther Dr., Dallas."
Seven lines isn't much for a man who was, in 1963, and probably will be until
he dies, the richest man in the world, (14) with a fortune conservatively estimated
at $4 billion. When you get into those kind of figures, you are no longer talking
about wealth, but about power.
The book that the richest man in the world had come to autograph was called Alpaca, undoubtedly after the llama-like South American ruminant of the same name so noted for its resistance. Alpaca is Hunt's Bible. It describes a mythical new nation where income taxes are limited to 25%, and where every citizen is accorded a number of votes in direct proportion to his income-tax bracket.(15)
Hunt was accompanied by his second wife and his two stepdaughters, and the little girls -- Helen, 11, and Sewannee, 10 -- sang a little song:
How much is that book in the window?
The one that says all the smart things.
How much is that book in the window?
I do hope to learn all it brings.
How much is that book in the window?
The one which my Popsy wrote.
How much is that book in the window?
You can buy it without signing a note.
Alpaca! Fifty cents!(16)
Hunt is a hard man to figure out. Few journalists have even tried. The real personality of this Puritan who was 74 in 1963 lies hidden behind a few cautious descriptions:
"As rich as Croesus, as shrewd as a riverboat gambler, as tight as a new pair of shoes . . ."
"He thinks communism started in this country when the government took over distribution of the mail . . ."
"If he had more flair and imagination, if he were not basically such a damned hick, he could be one of the most dangerous men in America."
For gifted psychologist Hugh Hefner, Hunt is "an irritating enigma."
"No one, not even his own family, professes to understand him; no one, not even the partners he's made rich, seems to have any idea what drove him to amass his vast fortune; and no one, not even Hunt himself, seems able to explain just what he is trying to accomplish in the political arena."(17)
Hunt is the incarnation of Texas, but he was born into a prosperous family in Illinois. He left home at 15 with a pack on his back and worked for a time as a lumberjack. At 22, he took his inheritance of a few thousand dollars and set out for Arkansas, where in 1912 he bought plantation land that hadn't overflowed for 35 years. That year and the next, it overflowed. The following year World War I broke out and the price of cotton dropped to 5 cents a pound. Hunt was ruined.
1918 brought a big land boom, and Hunt sold his plantation and bought more land. Three years later, he headed for an oil strike in El Dorado, Arkansas and began trading in leases. He drilled a few wells in the West Smackover fields and soon owned a hundred wells in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. In 1930 he went to East Texas and bought the famous Dad Joiner well, the Number One Daisy Bradford, which the big oil companies had disregarded. Before the Second World War, Hunt had made his first billion, mostly in oil, and re-invested it not only in oil and natural gas, but also in a multitude of other undertakings integrated vertically or horizontally, or completely diversified.
Hunt is the nation's biggest farmer. His business interests cover five continents and run from drugs to real estate, cotton, cattle, and timber. It has been estimated that "the Hunt assets are equal to those of such corporate complexes as General Electric."(18) Hunt owns and controls companies the names of which have never been associated with his.(19) His name does not appear on the list of the 500 largest international corporations, although he is probably among the top five. The Hunt Oil Company (incorporated in Delaware in 1934) owns producing properties in Texas, Louisiana, North Dakota, and 9 more states, as well as undeveloped acreage in 18 other states, including Alaska. Hunt is behind a multitude of independent oil companies such as Placid Oil, the Hunt Petroleum Corp., and Placid International Oil, Ltd. (incorporated in 1958 in Delaware), with offices and activities in Australia, the Netherlands, Lebanon, England, and 17 other countries.
Haroldson Lafayette Hunt has neither stockholders nor board of directors. He owns 85 to 90% of the shares in all of his companies.(20) (His family owns the rest.) This 200 lb. six-footer is a latecomer to politics. Until he was 60, he occupied himself with drilling his wells and building his empire. He likes to describe himself as "a registered Democrat who often votes Republican." The last President of whom he approved was Calvin Coolidge. He calls Franklin D. Roosevelt "the first President to institute the struggle of class against class." Roosevelt also recognized the Soviet Union, thus bearing, in his view, the responsibility for "the surrender of hundreds of millions of people into Communist domination." He violently attacks the "myth of the indispensable man" created by Franklin D. Roosevelt and reclaimed by Kennedy. "This myth must be broken if our country is to survive," he has been quoted as saying. For him, the principal arms of the "Indispensable Man" of the Sixties were "Communism" and "taxes." Communism and taxes, it must be said, are the keys to the mind and activities of Haroldson Lafayette Hunt.
"The United States have been in charge of the world since World War Two, during which time the Communists have taken into domination one third of the world's population.
"Communist activities in the United States are criminal and can be spoken of along with other criminal offenses."
"All services to the public should be abolished in favor of personal enterprise where they can be more efficiently and economically performed."
Hunt condemns the "strange persons with a twisted education who would prefer to be defeated." He also attacks federal welfare programs for "harming the general public and giving some persons and groups an advantage over others." He dismisses Social Security as "thousands of frivolous projects." He declares, "People who have wealth should use it wisely, in a way that will do society the most good. They should be careful that in making supposedly charitable gifts, their money will not be used to destroy or impair the American system and promote atheism."
For Hunt, Kennedy's assault on the tax privileges enjoyed by the oil industry were "criminal offenses" against "the American system. Depletion allowances are necessary for irreplaceable resources. The increased net income for the Government from their elimination would finance the Government 3 or 4 days per year . . ." he declares, adding, "We are losing the right to keep a fair share of the money we earn and a fair share of the profits we make."
Hunt's letterhead describes him as an "operator."(21) He considers himself one of the best poker players in the country, and he probably is. He has always placed his reliance on competent technicians. His personal bodyguard is made up of former FBI agents. Years ago he acquired the habit of acting through intermediaries. He has his own intelligence network, and his decisions are carried out by a powerful general staff. His business interests are so extensive that he subsidizes (along with other important oilmen) most of the influential men in Congress, men like Lyndon Johnson. Hunt was one of the financial backers of Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose deputy Roy Cohn attracted his attention and has since worked for him on several occasions.
Hunt is the most powerful American propagandist of the Far Right. In 1951 he financed "Facts Forum," a series of radio and television programs which was later replaced by "Life Line," a one-sided series of 15-minute radio broadcasts carried daily on 409 stations throughout the country. His propaganda campaign costs him $2 million a year and is financed by companies that he owns, or on which he is in a position to exert pressure. (22)
Hunt's brand of anti-Communism has found support in the military camp. In 1952, Hunt supported the "MacArthur for President" campaign, and he has called MacArthur "truly the man of this century." He was also impressed by the MacArthur-trained group of strategists. (23) He once declared, "We should do whatever our generals advise us to do."
Beginning in 1952, several influential military men, flattered by Hunt's attention and conscious of his power, acquired the habit of consulting and confiding in him. Thus General George C. Kenney (born in 1889), former Commanding General of the Strategic Air Command, who retired from the Air Force in 1951, told him of his personal plan for knocking out Russia's nuclear capacity, based on the strategy of a preventive strike. General Albert C. Wedemeyer (born in 1897), author of the "Wedemeyer Reports" and an active member of the John Birch Society, (24) retired from the Army in 1951, (25) and Admiral James Van Fleet (born in 1892 and retired from the Navy in 1953) (26) were among the specialists consulted by Hunt, who shared their passion for strategy and extermination. The advent of Kennedy and McNamara created a stir among the military, and there were many retirements and dismissals.
The leader of this warrior clan was General Edwin A. Walker (born in 1909), a Texan who returned to Dallas after leaving the Army and contacted H. L. Hunt. Then, with the support of the John Birchers, (27) the Minutemen, and several of his former subordinates in the US forces in Germany, he launched an extremist and militarist campaign. Robert A. Surrey, Walker's "associate," had the financial backing of Hunt's companies. In 1962 ex-General Walker ran for Governor of Texas but was defeated by John Connally, whereupon he plunged headlong into a campaign of politico-economic action. By the winter of 1962-63, plans were being made for a preventive strike.
Hunt is the Big Man in Texas, the Giant, the richest and the stingiest, (28) the most powerful and the most solitary of the oilmen. He has always shied away from the other Texas and Louisiana oil producers, men like Michel Halbouty, Ray Hubbard, R. E. Smith, Algur H. Meadows, J ake Hamon, Kay Kimbell, O. C. Harper, C. V. Lyman, J. P. Gibbins, Ted Wiener, Thomas W. Blake, John W. Mecom, Billy Byars and Morgan Davis, but they have interests in common. Only the solidarity of the oil industry and, in some cases, fear kept certain habitues of the Fort Worth Petroleum Club, the Bayou and International Clubs in Houston, the Club Imperial, the Cipango Club and the Public Affairs Luncheon Club of Dallas from talking in the months and weeks preceding November 22. Instead, they let matters take their course.
The opinions and the aversions of obstinate old men often lead to excesses. Embittered puritan potentates frightened to see their lives drawing to an end are an even greater danger. Representatives Bruce Alger and Joe Pool stopped up their ears. In the streets of Texas, "Knock Out the Kennedys" stickers were already appearing on bumpers and windshields. Hunt liked to say, "It is through weakness -- not strength -- that we lose esteem in the world."
FAST FORWARD: At 12:23 on November 22, from his office on the 7th floor of the Mercantile Building, Haroldson Lafayette Hunt watched John Kennedy ride towards Dealey Plaza, where fate awaited him at 12:30. A few minutes later, escorted by six men in two cars, Hunt left the center of Dallas without even stopping by his house.
At that very moment; General Walker was in a plane between New Orleans and Shreveport. He joined Mr. Hunt in one of his secret hideaways across the Mexican border. There they remained for a month, protected by personal guards, under the impassive eyes of the FBI. It was not until Christmas that Hunt, Walker and their party returned to Dallas.
In February, 1964, Elgin E. Crull, Dallas City Manager, declared, "The vast majority of people in Dallas were affected by the murder of the President as they would have been by a sudden, violent death in their own family." But he added, "When life resumed its regular rhythm, there was general agreement that the actions of two maverick gunmen -- the alleged assassin and his slayer -- would not impede the dynamic growth of Big D."
See also: Halliburton Is Houston's
'Greater Hermann Göring Werke' for details on the relationship between H. L. Hunt, Halliburton, Brown & Root and Permindex, the company with which Guy Bannister - accused by Jim Garrison of being involved in the plot to assassinate John F. Kennedy - was associated.
According to the Nomenclature of an Assassination Cabal manuscript written under the nom de plume "William Torbitt," both Halliburton and George and Herman Brown were among the principal financiers of Permindex, along with Jean de Menil, mob lawyer Roy Cohn, Dallas oilman H.L. Hunt, and others.
The Vice President and his neo-con allies such as Defense Secretary Donald Rumseld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, et al., are agents of a power which is committed to eliminating the principles espoused in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, in favor of a global bankers' dictatorship. This same oligarchic power, acting through merchant banks like Lazard Frères and Rothschild and other financial institutions, controls a large swath of Wall Street and corporate America, including Halliburton. Halliburton's power does not flow from Cheney, but from Cheney's backers, the Synarchist bankers. Cheney's policy toward the people of Iraq is the same as Halliburton's policy toward its asbestos claimants, and the same as Göring's policy toward the people in the Nazi work camps.
Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Makes You Free) read the sign over the entrance to Auschwitz. It was an example of Göring's "big lie" tactic in action. The Cheney cabal's pronouncements that we must accept police-state tactics in our own nation and pre-emptive strikes against other nations in the name of freedom, rings just as false. Hermann Göring would be proud. ...
Halliburton also has strong intelligence ties, notably through the presence on its board from 1977 through 2000 of the King Ranch's Anne Armstrong, who chaired the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) from 1981 until 1990, in addition to a stint as U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, and her long-standing role as chairman of the executive committee at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a powerful Washington think-tank.
Armstrong's successor as Halliburton's top spook is Ray Hunt, one of five Dresser directors to join the Halliburton board. Hunt, the son of reputed Permindex funder H.L. Hunt, was appointed to the PFIAB by President George W. Bush in October 2001. Oilman Hunt is also a trustee of the CSIS and a director of the King Ranch, suggesting that Hunt is taking the retiring Armstrong's spot in a long-standing Texas intelligence network. Hunt is also a trustee of the George Bush Presidential Library and a former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
See: Top-secret cronies Bush has stacked his foreign advisory board with his Texas business pals, who stand to profit from access to CIA and military intelligence.
November 17, 2005 | No discussion of cronyism in the Bush administration would be complete without talking about PFIAB, short for the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. George W. Bush's latest appointments to the PFIAB, which advises the president on how various intelligence agencies are performing, represent a who's who of the Halliburton-Texas Rangers-oil business crony club that made Bush into a millionaire and helped propel him into the White House. ...
Created in 1956 by President Dwight Eisenhower, the PFIAB is designed -- according to the White House press release -- to give the president "objective, expert advice." In an ideal world, the PFIAB members would analyze the intelligence they get and give the president their unvarnished opinions about the relative merits of the different agencies and the work they are doing. PFIAB members are granted access to America's most secret secrets, known as SCI, for Sensitive Compartmented Information. Members of PFIAB have security clearances that are among the highest in the U.S. government. They have access to intelligence that is unavailable to most members of Congress. They are privy to intelligence from the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the military intelligence agencies and others.
Everything that members do as part of PFIAB is done in secrecy. None of the information that they discuss or view is available to the public. They are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. And unlike other public servants who work for the president, there is no public disclosure of the PFIAB members' financial interests. ...
For Bush, it appears that campaign cash counts far more than expertise. And few backers have given Bush's campaigns more cash than Ray Hunt, son of the legendary Dallas billionaire bigamist oilman H.L. Hunt. PFIAB membership is a plum position for Hunt, who raised about $100,000 for Bush during the 2000 campaign and also served as the finance chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Hunt's position at PFIAB may benefit a familiar entity in the Bush crony network: Halliburton, which is doing billions of dollars' worth of reconstruction and logistics work for the U.S. government in Iraq and on the Gulf Coast. Hunt sits on Halliburton's board of directors. He got his spot on the Halliburton board in 1998 while Dick Cheney was running the company. As soon as Hunt got on the Halliburton board, he was put on its compensation committee, where he helped determine Cheney's pay. Indeed, in 1998, Hunt's committee decided that Cheney deserved a bonus of $1.1 million and restricted stock awards of $1.5 million on top of his regular salary of $1.18 million.
Hunt has been on the PFIAB since 2001. Presumably, months ahead of everyone else, he had access to intelligence indicating that the Bush administration was going to invade Iraq -- information that could have been of value to certain oil service companies with operations in the Middle East.... the decision to appoint Hunt [and other cronies] is part of the "familiar pattern that we've seen so often with this administration: The president's pals and supporters are esteemed more highly than those who have genuine competence." He continues: "These people aren't the best and the brightest. They are the best connected. And the quality of our government suffers as a result."
If they are to conquer, prophets must have attentive partisans to protect them from the tumult. (Mohammed)
The decision had been made, the money raised. The political visionaries made way for the politicians.(1) It was time to make plans. It isn't enough to want to kill the President. There is also the Secret Service to think about. The Presidential assistants were prepared to affront political obstacles, but their "grace and their airy flanerie" (2) had shielded them from the brutal side of American life. Innocent of violence and ignorant of hate, they failed to see the danger. Only Daniel P. Moynihan, a former longshoreman, had some idea of such things. Of all the Cabinet officials, only Bob Kennedy knew the risks of the Presidency. But he couldn't be behind his brother every minute of the day.
Kennedy himself did little to discourage them. He was tolerant, he liked people, and he had a firm belief in his destiny. His boisterous sophisticated cronies were barely conscious of the feelings aroused by the President's revolutionary action, and they paid little heed to his protection. Ken O'Donnell, who was in charge of the White House staff, had authority not only over the personnel, but also over the Secret Service. He could transfer or fire anyone he wanted, and he had the power, to introduce reforms. He was also in charge of the President's trips.
O'Donnell is the soul of integrity, and, as he liked to say, he would have given his life for the President. He would have done better to protect him. It is surprising to realize that this man, chosen by Kennedy for his intellectual ability, acted without thinking. As he said one day to Jerry Behn, in his mind, "politics and protection don't mix." He was mistaken. It is a difficult and dangerous combination, but it is possible.
O'Donnell, though an excellent administrator, was a weak man, and he was unsure of himself. This became evident after the President's death at Parkland Hospital when, as the highest-ranking White House official present with the exception of President Johnson, he proved himself incapable of doing anything more than "standing off to one side and eyeing the medical examiner icily" when the latter opposed the removal of President Kennedy's body. It became all the more evident when, after behaving rudely towards the new President during the plane trip back to Washington (which was perhaps his right), he agreed to serve on his staff. It was he who kicked up such a fuss, only the day after the assassination, about a Boston funeral, proving once and for all that John Kennedy was for him more a friend than a President. He was so happy to have such a man as a friend that he gave too little thought to his enemies. We know how much these words may hurt Ken O'Donnell, and how unjust they may appear, but we imagine that O'Donnell must be blaming himself.
The 56 Secret Service agents assigned to the White House detail were under the authority of the Treasury Department, but the responsible official, Assistant Treasury Secretary Robert Wallace, left the everyday direction of the Service to James Rowley, a mediocre civil servant. Gerald Behn, head of the White House Secret Service detail, lacked the necessary intelligence and qualifications for the job.
Three Presidents before Kennedy had been assassinated (Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley), and four others (Jackson, Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt and Truman) had escaped assassination. This record, unequaled in any other stable republic, should have inspired the Secret Service to extra vigilance. Margaret Truman's overzealous bodyguards caused trouble in Sweden, which has some of the toughest policemen in the world. Eisenhower's trips abroad were meticulously organized. But since the advent of television, the protection of the President on American soil had become a difficult job. So that the public could see the President, his bodyguards were banished from the running-boards of the Presidential car. At first they ran alongside it; later they rode on the back bumper. But nobody tried to kill Eisenhower during his two terms in office, and the Secret Service relaxed. Its relaxation was doubly dangerous, for the illusion remained that the President was well-protected.
It is difficult, of course, to protect an active President, and it is impossible to protect him completely during his public appearances. But there are ways to reduce the risk, and there are certain rules which are applied by Presidential security forces throughout the world, be it in France, the USSR, or Bolivia. The protection of the President witnin the United States(3) presents a special problem. The Secret Service is obliged to cooperate with the local police, which are sometimes incompetent or unreliable, and can even, as in Dallas, be dangerous.(4) But a Presidential security force should be able to rise to the challenge. The guerrilla warfare specialists who organized the Dallas ambush were amazed to discover that Kennedy's Secret Service worked like a troop of boy scouts.
Since its creation following the assassination of McKinley in 1901, the Secret Service had degenerated into a myth and a sinecure. In the first place, it wasn't secret. O'Donnell used Secret Service agents as errand boys, and at airport stops they handed out souvenirs to the crowds.(5) They all dressed alike in blue suits with white shirts and striped ties, and during Presidential trips they each wore an identical badge. The insignia for the Texas trip was known three weeks in advance: double white bars on a red background.
Several members of the White House detail were not qualified for their jobs. Their average age was 40, and as in the Senate the highest positions were awarded on the basis of seniority. Bill Greer, the driver of the Presidential Lincoln, was 54 and had 35 years' experience, enough to lull anybody's reflexes. After O'Donnell and perhaps Kellerman (the agent who rode in the front of the President's car in Dallas), Greer bears a heavy responsibility for the success of the assassination. We shall explain why a little later.
Finally, the Secret Service lacked direction. A security force must follow certain procedures and apply certain regulations without exception. The White House agents had no real leader. During Roosevelt's term in office, Frank J. Wilson ruled with authority, but the Secret Service chiefs who succeeded him were nothing but mediocre bureaucrats.
The White House agents had two sessions a year on a Washington firing range, but they practiced only target shooting like any amateur. Their reflexes were never tested. At any rate, a security agent's gun is of secondary importance. Generally, he has no time to shoot. His job is to anticipate an attempt on the President's life. Soviet security agents, for instance, have narrowly defined responsibilities. In official motorcades, one agent watches the windows on the first floor, another those on the second, another the spectators in the front row, still another the people standing alone, another the local policemen and a sixth the soldiers lining the road. Every time a Soviet official travels, his security agents run down a checklist of security precautions. No detail is omitted, and there are no exceptions. The same is true in France for the protection of President De Gaulle.(6)
Lawson, the Secret Service advance man in Dallas, let the local authorities show him around the city, and his report reached the White House only the day before the President's departure. A secretary whose married boss is planning an amorous weekend in Miami takes more precautions than Ken O'Donnell did for John Kennedy in Texas. Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963 was about as heavily guarded as the Grand Canyon on a winter day, and Robert Kennedy's bodyguards showed little more vigilance on June 5, 1968. Of course, as the Warren Commission Report points out, "the limited effectiveness of the Secret Service make it impossible to watch hundreds of buildings and thousands of windows." That, however, is not the problem.
There is a standard procedure for assuring the security of a motorcade traversing a city. As Superintendent Ducret, the man responsible for President De Gaulle's security, describes it: "Of course, it is impossible to watch everything and occupy everything along the President's route. But it can be assumed that occupied office or apartment buildings are relatively safe. A potential assassin might, of course, try to enter one of these buildings, but he would be at the mercy of a witness. Serious conspirators will rarely take such a risk.
"On the other hand, all unoccupied buildings, administrative buildings outside of working hours, warehouses, building sites, and naturally all bridges, walls, and vacant lots that would be ideal for an ambush must not only be watched, but actually occupied by forces placed directly under the supervision of the Presidential security division."
Surrounded by five buildings(7) and a great deal of open ground, Dealey Plaza was the most dangerous spot on President Kennedy's route, but a few men would have sufficed to guard it effectively.
A representative of the Committee followed the President's trips at the end of September through Wisconsin, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Utah, Oregon, Nevada and California. Apparently the Committee planned to assassinate Kennedy, first in Chicago and then in Florida the week before his trip to Texas, but both times the Secret Service was alerted. The Chicago trip was canceled, and special precautions were taken in Miami (the President used a helicopter). The Committee would have preferred to act in Florida, but it had its doubts about the reliability of the Florida state police and the Tampa and Miami police departments, and the operation was postponed until Dallas on November 22.(8)
On November 21, the two men in charge of the ambush observed the Kennedy motorcade in Houston. In Texas, as in Utah, the Secret Service was entirely dependent upon the local police. Not only did the agents behave on these trips as if they were members of the party; they were always one step ahead. At 12:30 pm, seconds before the assassination, agent Emory Roberts jotted in his shift report, "12:35 pm, the President arrived at the Trade Mart." The Secret Service was already thinking ahead to tomorrow, when Kennedy was to visit Lyndon Johnson on his ranch.
Every time the President travels, the Protective Research Section (9) makes a security check of the area. The PRS had reservations about the Florida trip because of the large number of Cuban refugees and the rumors of an assassination attempt, but it issued no warning about Texas. The Secret Service, therefore, took no special precautions. The security measures taken in Dallas were the same as those in effect in New York, Palm Beach, Tampa, Miami, Houston and Fort Worth. The Secret Service could count on the reinforcement of its 28 agents in Texas, including 5 based in Dallas. Eight agents were assigned to guard the Trade Mart, but there were none at all at Dealey Plaza. The Secret Service was so unconcerned about the Texas trip that it even left its chief behind. At the time of the assassination, Jerry Behn was dining in a Washington restaurant. Roy Kellerman, who took his place at Dallas, proved so incompetent that at Parkland Hospital his men started taking orders from agent Emory Roberts. Later, during the flight back to Washington, Rufus Youngblood took over. These men had traveled 200,000 miles with the President. Somewhere along the line, they had neglected the first rule of security: they had lost their reflexes.
When the first shot rang out at Dealey Plaza, agent Clint Hill, who was later decorated, was the first to move, and it took him 7 or 8 seconds to react. In eight seconds, the average sprinter can cover 80 yards. Yet "Halfback," the back-up car in which Hill was riding, was almost touching the Presidential limousine, and neither vehicle was traveling more than 12 miles an hour.(10)
Kennedy's Secret Service agents apparently had no idea of the importance of a second in an assassination attempt. Agent Hickey, riding in Halfback, had an AR-15 automatic rifle on his lap, but it took him two seconds to load it and get ready to fire. In two seconds a modern bullet travels more than a mile.
The organizers of the ambush knew, of course, that the Secret Service was inefficient, but they had never imagined that their reflexes were that slow, and they had laid their plans in the assumption that Kennedy's agents would react immediately. The tactical and ballistic aspects of the operation, which we shall examine later, were based on a hypothetical operating time of three seconds. This was the estimated reaction time of Kennedy's bodyguards. But the President's driver could have reduced it even more. The President's car was a Lincoln with a souped-up engine specially designed for rapid accelerations, and we shall see later how speed affects the accuracy of a gunman.
On November 18 in Tampa, the President ordered the two Secret Service agents off the back bumper of his car. The men from the Committee noted this change, which persisted at Fort Worth, San Antonio and Houston, but they maintained their original plan, which took into account the possibility of instantaneous intervention by the bodyguards.
The blame must be laid not so much on the Secret Service agents as on their chiefs, and on the White House assistant responsible for the President's security. We have cited only their most glaring errors, but there were others -- less important perhaps, but characteristic of their lack of discipline, such as their drinking on duty. (11) Abraham Bolden, the only Negro in the Presidential bodyguard, asked to testify before the Warren Commission on the subject of some of these accusations, but the Committee refused to hear him. Later, he was fired from the Secret Service on grounds of professional incompetence.(12)
The Secret Service was guilty of negligence, as the highly respected Wall Street Journal commented. But its agents were professionals, and they recognized the work of other professionals. They were the first in the President's entourage to realize that the assassination was a well organized plot. They discussed it among themselves at Parkland Hospital and later during the plane ride back to Washington. They mentioned it in their personal reports to Secret Service Chief James Rowley that night. Ten hours after the assassination, Rowley knew that there had been three gunmen, and perhaps four, at Dallas that day, and later on the telephone Jerry Behn remarked to Forrest Sorrels (head of the Dallas Secret Service), "It's a plot." "Of course," was Sorrel's reply. Robert Kennedy, who had already interrogated Kellerman, learned that evening from Rowley that the Secret Service believed the President had been the victim of a powerful organization.
President Kennedy was dead, but the Secret Service was never officially inculpated. There were several staff changes in the White House detail, but two agents, Youngblood and Hill, were decorated. Because it reinforced its thesis, the Warren Commission blamed the Presidential guards, but a soldier is worth no more than his commanding officer, and the heads of the Secret Service were not worth much.
As for Ken O'Donnell, ex-captain of the Harvard rugby team, at Dallas he was up against a team that played rough.
1. Discovered by the Dalmatian engineer Luchich. His associates Galey and Guffey eased him out and formed a partnership with the richest man in Western Pennsylvania, Andrew W. Mellon. Other petroleum properties near Spindletop were ceded to certain Texas politicians in exchange for their support, in particular to former Governor Jim Hogg. This concession gave birth to the Texas Company. Spindletop was also the birthplace of American Shell. After a time, Andrew Mellon eased out Guffey and reorganized his company under the name of Gulf Oil.
2. WASHINGTON, Jan. 9, 1968 (UPI) -- President Johnson's home state of Texas, which only a few years ago ranked seventh among states getting prime defense contracts, now has nosed out New York for no. 2 spot, Pentagon showed today.
California still holds along lead in first place, but its percentage of total contract awards during the fiscal year that ended last June 30 has now slipped to 17.9. Texas got 9.5 percent of the contracts and New York 8.7 percent.
During fiscal 1966, the percentages were: California 18.3, New York 8.9, and Texas 7.2. And as recently as 1962, the percentages for the three were: California 23.9, New York 10.7, and Texas 4.0, with Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and Ohio ahead of Texas that year.
But Texas has moved up steadily since Mr. Johnson moved into the White House, thanks in large part to the controversial F-111 fighter-bomber (formerly the TFX).
Nearly a third of the contracts Texas received during fiscal 1967 -- just under $1.2 billion worth -- were for the F-111, which is being produced by General Dynamics Corp. at Fort Worth.
3. Texas is the fifth state in the nation in terms of population (after New York, California, Pennsylvania, and Illinois), but it is by far the richest in terms of natural resources. In 1963, the mineral production of Texas totaled $4,413,084,000.
Texas accounts for 35% of the crude oil and 42% of the natural gas produced in the United States. Louisiana, whose petroleum resources are exploited in large part by companies based in Texas, produced $2,662,061,000 worth of mineral products. The combined oil production of Texas and Louisiana equals 35% of the national total.
4. This percentage was only 12.7% for the state of New York, and 10. I% for the state of Illinois, despite their poorer natural resources.
5. Texas (10,228,000 inhabitants and a revenue of $21,451 billion in 1963) had in 1964 121,376 federal employees, 24 times more than the state of Wyoming (339,000 inhabitants and a revenue of $834 million, and 5,175 federal employees), and 17 times more than the state of Nevada (389,000 inhabitants, $1,246 million in revenue, and 7,039 federal employees). Ohio, with a population and revenue comparable to Texas (10,000,000 inhabitants and $25,164 billion) had only 88,785 federal employees. As for Delaware (480,000 inhabitants), it had only 3,624 federal employees, more than 40 times fewer than Texas, for there is a certain minimum of personnel required by any administrative infrastructure.
Statistics concerning the increase in federal employees per state since 1939 provide a further illustration of the favoritism shown the state of Texas:
Total federal employees
||112,647 (increase of 380%)
||4,695 (increase of 140%)
||5,842 (increase of 190%)
||179,784 (increase of 190%)
6. 17,744 miles. California has 9,653 miles of highways, New York 10.700. Illinois 10,995.
7. In Texas, the Justice of the Peace is an elected magistrate, and not, as in the East, a minor functionary.
8. In the city of Dallas alone, there were 120 "official" murders in 1960, and 810 "accidents."
9. Texas ranks 39th in the nation in terms of the amount spent on education.
High school graduates in 1963: Texas -- 0.8% ; Mississippi -- 1%
High school students in 1964: Texas -- 6% ; Mississippi -- 10%
10. The population of Texas is 80% Protestant, 19% Catholic, and 1% Jewish.
11. The state of Illinois has 1,030 banks, New York 479, and California 200.
|| Texas ranks in the nation
| less than $2,000
| $2,000 to $3,000
| $3,000 to $4,000
| $4,000 to $5,000
| $5,000 to $6,000
| $6,000 to $7,000
| $7,000 to $9,000
| $10,000 and over
13. Nevertheless, there is a strong opposition to the oil interests in Texas. It is made up of people who are more interested in the good of their country than the state of their pocketbooks, and who are more American than Texan, together with a certain number of progressive labor leaders. But this opposition comprises only one-third of the voters.
14. Contrary to the statistics published by Fortune in March 1968, which place John Paul Getty and Howard Hughes at the top of the list.
15. Hunt has written three other books of the same type: Fabians Fight Freedom, Why Not Speak? and Hunt for Truth. He also writes a daily and weekly newspaper column.
16. Bainbridge, The Super-Americans.
17. Playboy, 1966.
18. The assets of General Electric, the fourth largest American corporation, equaled $4,851, 718,000 in 1966, or one-third of the assets of Standard Oil of New Jersey, the largest corporation in the world, more than Standard Oil of California, and half again as much as American Shell or Standard of Indiana.
19. The man who is probably the richest oil producer after Hunt, Roy Cullen of Quintana Petroleum, has only about a million dollars.
20. The Dallas headquarters of Placid Oil are located at 2500 First National Bank Building. H. L. H. Products are located at 700 Mercantile Bank Building, but most of Hunt's businesses are grouped at 1401 Elm Street: Hunt Oil Co., Hunt Petroleum Corp., Hunt Caroline Trust Estate, Hunt H. L., Hunt H. L. Jr., Hunt Hassie Trust, Hunt International Petroleum Company, Hunt Lamar, Hunt Lamar Trust Estate, Hunt Margaret Trust Estate, Hunt N. B., Hunt Nelson Bunker, Hunt W. H., Hunt William Herbert Trust Estate, etc.
21. Described by the Internal Revenue Service as a person "who holds the management and exploitation rights and is responsible for production costs."
22. Not only the Placid Oil Corp. of Shreveport, but Baker Oil Tools (Dallas and California), the Harry W. Bass Drilling Co. (Dallas), the Empire Drilling Co. (Dallas), the Mid-Continent Supply Co., United Tools, the Hudson Engineering- Corp., the Nation and Geophysical Co., the New Seven Falls Co., and the First City National Bank of Dallas.
23. Which included former Generals like Courtney Whitney and Bonner Fellows, and also certain of their disciples, such as the brilliant Lawrence Bunker.
24. Texas had as many as ten John Birch Society chapters, mainly in Dallas and Houston.
25. Commander of the China Theater (1944-46), Chief of Staff of Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek, then Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Combat Operations (1947-48).
26. Commander of the US Naval Forces in Korea (1948-50).
27. Of which he, like General Wedemeyer, was a member.
28. Hunt lives modestly, buys ready-made suits, drives his own standard-make cars, dislikes private planes, cuts his own hair, and carries his lunch to work in a brown paper bag.
NOTES: Secret Service
1. We estimate the cost of the preparation, the assassination itself and the post-assassination clean-up at between $5 and $10 million. Contributions varied between $10,000 and $500,000, and there were about 100 beneficiaries.
2. Manchester, Death of a President.
3. When the President travels abroad, the police of the host country are responsible for his security. In general, they take greater precautions than those taken in the United States.
4. The California and New York police are considered relatively reliable.
5. Secret Service agents are less qualified on the average than FBI agents. They earn between $600 and $1,000 a month, considerably less (even with overtime pay) than J. Edgar Hoover's men.
6. The security officers charged with the protection of President De Gaulle even take the precaution of photographing the VIPs received by him or who are in contact with him, for example at the VIP Waiting Room at Orly Airport. The crowds lining the streets during a parade are also photographed at vital spots before he passes, and if De Gaulle stops and approaches the crowd, a camera follows his every move. Later, these photographs are carefully studied.
Whenever De Gaulle travels by car, he is protected by 47 motorcycle policemen spread out in rows. Several police cars precede and follow the Presidential vehicle, and the car immediately following the President contains a sharpshooter and a photographer equipped with an automatic Japanese camera similar to a Robot. When de Gaulle makes shorter, routine trips, he is protected by a smaller force of 8 motorcycle policemen who surround the car.
There were only 4 motorcycle policemen at Dallas and all were following President Kennedy's car, making them totally ineffective. The role of a motorcycle policeman in this case is (1) to make it difficult to fire at the President from a crowd, and (2) to stop anyone who tries from approaching the car . During a parade along the Champs Elysees in Paris, a woman somehow managed to climb over the barriers and started towards De Gaulle's car. She was carrying a bouquet of flowers and was completely harmless, but the policeman who was supposed to be watching the barriers at that point lost his job.
7. The Texas School Book Depository, the Dal-Tex Building, the Dallas County Records Building, the Criminal Courts, and the Old Court House.
8. The Committee was also probably trying to throw the Secret Service off the scent.
9. The Protective Research Section, headed by Robert I. Bouck, had 65 offices across the country and 50,000 files on people who had threatened the President. Between November 1961 and November 1963, it investigated 34 Texas residents and opened 115 other files on Texans. On November 8, 1963, the PRS spent ten minutes inspecting Dallas.
10. Clint Hill reached the back of the President's car 2.6 seconds after the final shot. The shooting lasted about 7 seconds. At least twelve seconds elapsed between the first shot and the instant when Hill was in a position to cover the President's body. Vice-President Johnson was covered by agent Youngblood in less than three seconds.
11. Several Secret Service agents were notorious alcoholics. The regulations stipulate that any Secret Service agent found drinking on duty will be fired forthwith, and when the President is traveling, his agents are on duty 24 hours a day. But they were so little concerned about Texas that four of them In the President's party sat and drank in a Fort Worth bar until the wee hours of the morning on the day of the assassination. A century earlier, President Lincoln's bodyguard had sneaked off for a drink when Booth entered the Presidential box at Ford's Theatre.
12. In 1967, Mr. Bolden was being held at the federal medical center in Springfield, Mo.
Comment on this Editorial
Editorial: Criminalizing Compassion in the War on Terror: Muslim Charities and the Case of Dr. Rafil A. Dhafir
By Katherine Hughes
For thirteen years Dr. Rafil A. Dhafir worked tirelessly to help publicize the plight of the Iraqi people and to raise funds to help them. According to the government, Dhafir donated 1.25 million dollars of his own money over the years. As an oncologist, he was also concerned about the effects of depleted uranium on the Iraqi population that experienced skyrocketing cancer rates. For the crime of breaking the U.S. and U.K. sponsored UN sanctions on Iraq and sending humanitarian aid to sick and starving civilians, Dhafir was held without bail for thirty-one months and then sentenced to twenty-two years in prison.
"The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: 'If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?' But ... the good Samaritan reversed the question: 'If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?'" Martin Luther King, Jr.
"The truth shall set you free? Maybe. But first the Truth must be set free." Wole Soyinka, Nigerian playwright, educator.
Since the events of 9/11 the government has implemented powerful new prosecutorial tools to gain convictions in its War on Terror. In an article entitled, "Terrorist Financing," Jeff Breinholt, Deputy Chief of the Department of Justice's Counterterrorism Section, explains these tools and how they are being used to win convictions. On page thirty-one of the article he lists the statutes being used in the criminal prosecution of terrorist financing and among these statutes is the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which Breinholt also labels as "United States economic sanctions." IEEPA provides the President of the United States with authority to deal with any "unusual and extraordinary threat" that has its source in whole or substantial part outside the United States; this includes threat to "national security, foreign policy, and the economy."
Prosecutors armed with the statutes listed in Breinholt's paper are further empowered by using them in conjunction with the "material support of terrorism" laws, Executive Order 13224, and civil asset forfeiture laws, particularly those under IEEPA, which were amended by the PATRIOT Act. Under the IEEPA civil asset forfeiture provisions the government can close down an organization and seize its assets while an investigation is ongoing, without probable cause of criminal activity and without any charges ever being brought against anyone.
E.O. 13224 was issued on September 23, 2001, and introduced a blacklist of organizations and individuals suspected of terrorism, materially aiding terrorism, or associating with terrorists. IEEPA and international law permit humanitarian assistance for these suspects, including food, clothing and medicine, but this humanitarian aid is outlawed under the E.O. 13224. The penalty, for an IEEPA violation, for organizations that knowingly engage in terrorist financing already carries a sentence of twenty years to life in prison. What this new provision does is "drastically increase the penalties for knowing violations of non-terrorism-related IEEPA offenses." People with a concern for civil liberties are troubled by the fact that the government provides no legal definition of what they consider a "specially designated terrorist" and by the broad manner in which the government is interpreting the new rules.
Muslim charities and individuals connected with these charities are bearing the brunt of the effects of this new law. Since September 11, 2001, six major U.S. Muslim charities and several smaller Muslim charities have been shut down. And working in close collaboration with the U.S. government does not provide charities with protection from this fate. In 2002 a new charity, KindHearts (KH), was established after the U.S. government had closed the three largest Muslim charities in the country in December 2001, accusing each of supporting terror. Despite working closely with government agencies to ensure it complied with all the new rules, KH has suffered the same consequences as the other charities. In February 2006, KH?s assets were seized and its operation frozen because of dubious allegations of financing terror.
In a March 2006 article in The Washington Post, Laila al-Marayati and Basil Abdelkarim, board members of Kinder USA, a Muslim-American nonprofit humanitarian organization said,
"We are among those American Muslims who decided that because it is our right as Americans to fulfill our religious obligation to help the needy both here and abroad, we would start a new charity. We did so in 2002 and have experienced our fair share of government harassment as a result. None of us is interested in engaging in illegal activity; it is immoral, unethical and un-Islamic, and it serves no useful purpose whatever. Our crime is that we care about what happens to the children of Palestine. Who knows what price we will have to pay for our hot-breakfast program for hungry kids in Gaza, for our playground project in the West Bank, for our psychological trauma center in Hebron."
THE EFFECT ON MUSLIM CHARITY
In a report titled, "Muslim Charities and the War on Terror," OMB Watch, documented its concerns about the treatment of Muslim charities and the people involved with the charities. Among the many concerns OMB voiced are use of questionable evidence to shut down the largest U.S.-based charities that has resulted in much needed humanitarian assistance not reaching people who desperately need it, use of anti-terrorist financing policies that deny Muslim charities the right of due process and are unequally enforced, and holding of organizations and individuals associated with humanitarian work "guilty until proven innocent." They conclude that despite the new investigative powers the authorities have failed to produce evidence of terror financing by U.S.-based charities.
In May 2005, David Cole, professor of law at Georgetown University and legal counsel in several "material support" cases, testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary about the constitutional implications of use of these statutes. Speaking about how the statutes impose "guilt by association" and therefore violate the First and Fifth Amendments, Cole said,
"The statutes described above prohibit virtually all associational support to selected political organizations, while granting executive branch officials effectively unreviewable discretion to target disfavored groups. These laws make it a crime to write an op-ed, provide legal advice, volunteer one?s time, or distribute a magazine of any 'designated' group, even if there is no connection whatsoever between the individual's support and any illegal activity of the proscribed group.
"Under these statutes, an American citizen who sends a treatise on nonviolence to the Kurdistan Workers? Party to encourage it to forgo violence for peace can be sent to prison for fifteen years. This is so even if he proves that he intended the treatise to be used only for peaceful ends, and that it was in fact used solely for that purpose. Such a moral innocent can be said to be 'guilty by association." 
THE "HELP THE NEEDY" CASE
This is precisely the situation in which Dr. Rafil A. Dhafir found himself. In direct response to the humanitarian catastrophe created by brutal sanctions on Iraq, Dhafir, a man of Iraqi descent and Muslim faith, and an American citizen for almost thirty years, started the charity Help the Needy (HTN). According to United Nations (UN) statistics, every month throughout the 1990s almost 6,000 children under the age of five in Iraq were dying from lack of food and access to simple medicines. Three senior UN officials resigned because of what they considered a "genocidal" policy against Iraq.
When Madeleine Albright, then U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., was asked in a CBS interview if the deaths of half a million children was a price worth paying to punish Saddam Hussein, she infamously replied, "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price-we think the price is worth it." When the deaths of children over the age of five and adults are added, the number killed as a direct result of the sanctions rises to between 1.5 and 2 million dead civilians.
Dr. Dhafir is a pillar of the Muslim community in Central New York. He was a founding member of the local mosque, and he served as the imam at Syracuse University until they hired a full time imam. He paid a substantial amount of the running costs of the mosque and provided free medical consultation to those at the mosque without health insurance. His medical practice was in Rome, New York, an underserved area in which he was the sole oncologist. In his practice he provided free health care to people without insurance, and he paid for their expensive chemotherapy medicine out of his own pocket.
For thirteen years Dhafir worked tirelessly to help publicize the plight of the Iraqi people and to raise funds to help them. According to the government, Dhafir donated 1.25 million dollars of his own money over the years. As an oncologist, he was also concerned about the effects of depleted uranium on the Iraqi population that experienced skyrocketing cancer rates. For the crime of breaking the U.S. and U.K. sponsored UN sanctions on Iraq and sending humanitarian aid to sick and starving civilians, Dhafir was held without bail for thirty-one months and then sentenced to twenty-two years in prison.
Since the day of Dhafir's arrest, February 26th, 2003, when eighty-five agents went to his home, government officials at national and state levels have portrayed Dhafir's humanitarian work as support of terrorism. Simultaneous to Dhafir's arrest, between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., others associated with HTN were arrested in Syracuse, New York; Boise, Idaho; and Amman, Jordan. At the same time about 150, mainly Muslim, families who had donated to HTN were interrogated by government agents. On the same day, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that supporters of terrorism" had been apprehended, a completely unfounded assertion that was reiterated by New York Governor George Pataki in August 2004, just prior to the start of Dhafir's trial.
At the same time, and throughout the trial, local government officials, the prosecutors and District Attorney, denied that the case had any connection to terrorism and instead portrayed Dhafir as a common thief. District Attorney Glenn Suddaby said: "there's no evidence that any of the Help the Needy money went to al-Qaida, the Iraqi government, or to buy arms and bullets that could be used against U.S. soldiers."
The inconsistencies in the government's position have been a startling feature of this case from its inception, and they suggest two possibilities: either one hand of the government doesn't know what the other is doing or the government is aiming deliberately to deceive. No media outlet has challenged the government directly and demand that it provide an explanation for its contradictory assertions, although Michael Powell of the Washington Post drew attention to them shortly before the trial began:
"There is a shadow-boxing quality to the terror allegations lodged against Dhafir. In August, Gov. George E. Pataki (R) described Dhafir's as a 'money laundering case to help terrorist organizations . . . conduct horrible acts.' Prosecutors hinted at national security reasons for holding Dhafir without bail. But no evidence was offered to support the allegations."
Despite Pataki's pre-trial announcement, which was perfectly timed to reach potential jurors, the prosecution successfully petitioned Judge Norman Mordue not to allow the charge of terrorism to be part of the trial. Not surprisingly the specter of terrorism hung over the trial throughout the proceedings, and prosecutors could hint at more serious charges but the defense lawyers were never allowed to follow this line of questioning.
Dhafir's seventeen-week court case was conducted as a sixty-count case of white-collar crime with no charges of terrorism, and as a direct result of this only the local Syracuse newspaper, the Post Standard, covered the proceedings. The paper proved to be little more than a mouthpiece for the government; on the rare occasion that it did provide coverage of cross examination, it immediately followed with a re-statement of the charges in the indictment. During the seventeen weeks of daily coverage of the proceedings the paper failed to give more than a passing mention to an ecumenical group that met every morning outside the federal building to worship for half an hour before the trial commenced at 8.30 a.m., or to the ACLU court watchers who were present in court every day. Concern has been expressed about reporters being embedded in war zones; there should be equal concern about them being embedded in federal buildings.
Of the sixty counts in the indictment, most were related to breaking the sanctions: conspiracy, mail and wire-fraud, money laundering, and tax evasions. These charges are easily explained when viewed in the context of the sanctions, but the government did everything it could to prevent the condition of Iraq during the sanctions from being referred to at the trial.
According to the government, the investigation of HTN began with a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) from a bank. The government encourages financial institutions to report "suspicious activity" by watching out for money transfers between related accounts of related entities. But many non-profit organizations that have nothing to do with supporting terrorism make these kinds of transfers on a regular basis. Because of the SAR report seven government agencies investigated Dhafir and HTN for five years. They intercepted mail, email, and faxes; bugged his office and hotel rooms; and conducted physical surveillance.
Because the government was unwilling to prosecute Dhafir for sanctions-related charges alone, the last twenty-five counts of the indictment are related to Medicare fraud. The government evidence for this part of the case was extremely weak. For example, a bar chart that supposedly compared the dollar amount of Dhafir's billing of Medicare with other doctors' billing was completely meaningless. It showed Dhafir's bar as being very tall and the other doctors' bars being much smaller, but when the witness was asked by the defense to say what types of doctors the other doctors were, or what their geographic location was, she could not answer.
The whole of the Medicare case revolved around a single rule called "incident to," meaning any treatment performed by someone other than the doctor. The government claimed that Dhafir had filled out the forms incorrectly, and was therefore entitled to no reimbursement from Medicare, despite the fact that patients had received treatment and chemotherapy drugs. The defense contended that even if Dhafir's office had filled out the forms wrongly, which they did not believe he had; Medicare had only overpaid 15% of $1102.80--the difference between what they pay for a doctor's time as opposed to a nurse practitioner's time--a total overpayment of $166. This was not fraud but merely incorrect billing. Medicare fraud usually involves fictitious patients and made-up illnesses; Dhafir's case had none of this.
The government presented the Medicare evidence in the same way they presented the evidence related to the sanctions. After weeks of testimony following checks from bank to bank, they then turned to day after day of testimony regarding Medicare forms, asking individuals from Dhafir's office to validate their signatures on the forms, thus proving that they had indeed signed the forms, but nothing else. The defense presented one witness for fifteen minutes, Dr. Edward Cox, head of the carrier organization that processes claims for Medicare. Reading from the New York State Handbook Cox confirmed the defense's contention that in order to bill Medicare under the "incident to" rule, a non-physician was required to have a license or training. Thus, according to the handbook, Dhafir's billing of Medicare was proper.
The Post Standard reported this testimony correctly the day after it was given, but on the following day the paper had a front-page correction with a picture of the witness who was apparently contradicting his testimony of the day before. And despite the testimony of this witness, the judge in his "charge to the jury" told them that under New York law a laboratory technician required a license; in other words, training alone was not sufficient.
On the day of the sentencing of Mrs. Dhafir, she was ordered to pay back $62,000 to Medicare. Mrs. Dhafir worked in the billing department of her husband's practice with several other people. Asked on the same day how much of that money had actually been spent on chemotherapy medicine that was administered to patients, Michael Olmstead, the head prosecutor, was unable to say. When Dhafir was asked the same question, he said that 90% of this money had been spent on medicine. This leaves 10% of the money for the doctor's time, the nurse's time, and blood work. Dhafir also said that in 2002 Medicare reimbursed him less than he had spent on medicine alone. A look at the records would confirm or refute this, but Dr. Dhafir has been continually denied access to his own records that were taken from his house and office on the day of the arrest.
Jennifer Van Bergen, a journalist with a law degree and author of The Twilight of Democracy has written a two-part article on Dhafir's case entitled "New American Law: The Case of Dr. Dhafir" and "New American Law: Legal Strategies and Precedents in the Dhafir Case." In this article and other writings Van Bergen warns about the danger of civil liberties being undermined when the government uses parallel legal tracks not intended to be mixed. She notes that, as happened in Dhafir's case, conspiracy laws and money laundering laws used "creatively" with the PATRIOT Act and IEEPA can be used to construct a vast distorted picture. Dhafir's case sets a legal precedent and means that others who provide humanitarian and medical assistance to those in need could, like Dhafir, end up being put away for the rest of their lives.
THE GOVERNMENT STRATEGY REVEALED
In November 2005, just weeks after Dhafir was sentenced to twenty-two years in prison for white-collar crimes, the government presented a lecture to a group of third-year law students at Syracuse University Law School in which Dhafir and the HTN case were highlighted. Jeff Breinholt, author of the article on terrorist financing mentioned above, and Greg West, one of the Dhafir prosecutors, presented the lecture, which was entitled, "A Law Enforcement Approach to Terrorist Financing." The other two Dhafir prosecutors, Michael Olmstead and Steve Green were also present, along with law school faculty and representatives from the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism (INSCT), a sponsor of the lecture.
The slant of this lecture, along with Breinholt's 2003 "Terrorist Financing" article, and the fact that Dhafir and the other HTN defendants are listed on the FBI's list of "terrorism convictions since September 11, 2001," give credence to the idea that the government's creative use of parallel legal tracks was a strategy from the outset.
Breinholt told the students at this lecture that Dhafir's case had been under-prosecuted. In the context of the lecture title -- "A Law Enforcement Approach to Terrorist Financing" -- the implication was clear. He told students about the statutes being used as powerful tools for prosecution of terrorist financing and explained that these tools were not widely known even among prosecutors. And he voiced a hope that law schools could serve as a kind of farm system educating students in this new field of law and that this in turn would create lawyers who would be familiar with and who could use these new prosecution tools.
He explained that because the "American public won't tolerate anything less than the rule of law," creative ways had to be figured out to draft laws that can be used to prosecute what they are trying to prevent. According to Breinholt, this task was addressed by a Department of Justice Terrorist Financing Task Force that came together to craft ways to apply white-collar expertise to the problem of terrorism. In his article, Breinholt says:
"Persons cannot be convicted of the federal crime of terrorism because there is no such crime. Instead, terrorism crimes have developed in the same manner as other crimes, policymakers determine what evil (or 'mischief') should be prevented, and then craft criminal laws that take into account how such mischief is generally achieved. On occasion, acts that are criminalized are not ones that should necessarily be discouraged, if committed by persons not otherwise involved in the targeted conduct. In such cases, laws are crafted to criminalize such conduct only when in particular circumstances."
A major tool that emerged from the work of this task force, Breinholt told students, is the use of IEEPA violations to gain convictions in terrorist financing cases. Breinholt said that to convict under IEEPA all that was necessary was to build a chain of inferences from available circumstantial evidence.
In Breinholt's article, Dhafir and other HTN defendants are listed under the heading "Examples of 'clean money' cases." Listed under this same heading are Enaam Arnaout of Benevolence International Foundation (BIF); Sami Al-Hussayen, a graduate student at the University of Idaho, associated with Islamic Assembly of North America (IANA); and Sami Al-Arian, a Palestinian professor from Florida. Later in the article, under the heading, "crimes of terrorist financing," Breinholt lists the statutes being used in prosecution of these cases. Statutes under this heading that were used in Dhafir's case are 50 U.S.C. ss 1701,1702 (IEEPA) and U.S.C. ss 1956(a)(2)(A), "operating an unlicensed money transmitting business." One of the Dhafir prosecutors, Mr. West, explained to the class that one of the biggest frustrations of his career was having access to intelligence and not being able to share it.
Neither Breinholt nor West told the class that these "powerful prosecution tools" are being used mostly against Muslim charities and individuals associated with those charities, while violations by large corporations like Halliburton, which did billions of dollars worth of business in defiance of IEEPA, go largely unpunished. At the most these corporations have gotten a slap on the wrist and a fine, but no individual board member or officer has ever faced prosecution.  And although many non-Muslim charities work in the same troubled regions of the world as Muslim charities, not a single non-Muslim charity has been closed. None of this was mentioned at the lecture.
By hosting this lecture on Dhafir and HTN, Syracuse University Law School gave credence to a charge never brought against Dhafir, and in doing so they became an accomplice in the government's subterfuge. After the lecture a request was made that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) court watchers who attended the trial be provided with "equal time" to speak to the students. Syracuse Law School Dean Hannah Arterian denied this request.
In testimony given on Capitol Hill by the U.S. Treasury Department, prosecution of Muslim charity cases is being used as a model of success in efforts to disrupt terrorism. However, the testimony often contradicts the actual rulings in the cases and the testimony fails to acknowledge that there are no terrorist convictions among any of the cases. At a 2004 Pace University Law School symposium, Dr. Laila al-Marayati addressed the way this Treasury Department targeting of Muslim charities threatens civil liberties, constitutional rights, and the rule of law for not just Muslims, but for every American, regardless of creed:
"The ever present threat of a 'terrorist designation' by the Treasury Department functions based on the principle of 'guilty until proven innocent.' The use of secret evidence, hearsay, erroneous translations, guilt by association and press reports in recent court cases further erodes the ability of charities to rely on basic assumptions regarding their constitutional rights, especially when the courts ultimately favor the government when 'national security' is allegedly at stake. Over-zealous surveillance tactics of the intelligence community such as wiretapping, infiltrating organizations by bribing employees to work as spies (thereby disrupting normal and lawful humanitarian activities), and engaging in other forms of harassment - when added to the above bleak picture - will not only chill, but will freeze completely American Muslim charitable giving overseas. Perhaps this is the goal of the US government. However, no one should be fooled into thinking that America or the American people will be much safer as a result."
LESSONS FROM HISTORY
Writing during the McCarthy era, Judge Irving R. Kaufman warned,
"We are not inclined to dismiss lightly claims of constitutional stature because they are asserted by one who may appear unworthy of sympathy. Once we embark on shortcuts by creating a category of 'obviously guilty' whose rights are denied, we run the risk that the circle of the unprotected will grow."
Writing after the Holocaust Pastor Martin Niemoeller said,
"First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out-because I was not a communist; then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out-because I was not a socialist; then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out-because I was not a trade unionist; then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-because I was not a Jew; then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak out for me."
We appear once again to have entered a dark time in which the civil liberties of a select group of people are being denied. The message being sent to Muslim communities across the country is that pillars of their community can be knocked down without any call for equal justice from the non-Muslim community. It is incumbent upon each of us to defend civil liberties for all, not least because "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Katherine Hughes began attending the seventeen-week trial as a court watcher for the ACLU but quickly found that she could not in good conscience be the uninvolved observer their organization required. For the last two years she has worked to achieve justice for Dr. Dhafir. More information can be found at her website: www.dhafirtrial.net
Donations to the Dhafir appeal fund can be made to Dhafir Appeal Fund, c/o Peter Goldberger, Esq., Attorney at Law, 50 Rittenhouse Place, Ardmore, PA 19003. Write "Dr. Dhafir Appeal Fund" in the memo line and please note that donations are not tax deductible.
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Editorial: The roots of extremism
Monday, November 20, 2006
As we already know, the nativist right was not exactly chastened by the results of the November election. Rather, they seem to have been even more emboldened -- encouraged, it seems, by the blather of pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin that the reason Republicans lost was that they weren't conservative enough.
Thus the Minutemen are not only continuing their recruitment apace, but stepping it up, particularly in the "heartland" communities that are seeing many more Spanish-speaking brown faces in their midst these days.
Carolyn Szczepanski at the Kansas City magazine The Pitch had a profile last week of just such a recruitment drive. As always, the Minutemen's foremost claim is that they actually represent a mainstream point of view:
- "It's not one or two or three coming through in the night," he continues. "It's an invasion. It's nothing short of that. The federal government's not doing anything about it, so, by God, the Minutemen will do it for them."
The crowd erupts into applause. At least one man is carrying a gun and extra ammunition.
"We're not vigilantes. We're not the KKK. We're a majestic form of neighborhood watch," Garza says. "And in the last few years, it's become so powerful in its momentum that we've gone from 10 people to well over 8,000 nationwide."
I've pointed out previously that it was only a decade ago that we heard the same claim, in the same language, issuing forth from the leaders of the Patriot/militia movement. In fact, the militias continued calling themselves a kind of "neighborhood watch" well into the 21st century, and specifically formulated themselves in those terms after Sept. 11.
Here's how John Pitner, leader of the Washington State Militia (described in some detail in In God's Country) put it back in 1996, when a local grange decided not to let him host militia meetings in their hall any longer:
- Pitner was furious, protesting that the militia had been unfairly smeared as a pack of radical revolutionaries. "We're not anti-government, we're anti-bad politicians," he said. "We feel it's time to change the way government does things."
He argued that all citizens are members of the militia under the law. "We're volunteering ourselves beforehand," he told Cathy Logg. "We're just painters, carpenters, bricklayers. We're trying to help our communities. We were out sandbagging in the floods and helping save livestock in Lynden. We're directing traffic at accident scenes. We serve when we're called to serve. We have Christmas programs for children. We?re community-oriented people."
Pitner issued a plea for understanding: "Don't judge us by what we say -- judge us by what we do."
A year later, Pitner was on trial in federal court for plotting to build pipe bombs and engage in a wide range of acts of domestic terrorism, charges of which he was eventually convicted. So much for mainstream then.
And so much for mainstream now. While the claims that the Minutemen are not a racist organization are are dubious at best, for the sake of argument let's grant these Minutemen organizers' claims that they are not the KKK in fresh clothes.
Nonetheless, what their own words reveal, beyond any serious doubt, is that they are classic extremists, by nearly any standard.
The first sign of this is their paranoia:
- A deep voice accompanied by the sound of shattering glass ominously warns of the perils posed by illegal immigration.
"Every minute, they're crossing our borders looking for quick-cash jobs, transportation and accommodations," the voice intones. "Some may be Mideastern terrorists with look-alike resemblance to our south-of-the-border neighbors."
The second message: "Did you know that your congressmen and the president take an oath of office ... to protect each state from invasion? So what about the millions of illegals from alien nations crossing our borders ... ? Is that an invasion? Would you call a burglar in your home a houseguest?"
And then the third: "These folks in Washington, D.C. ... are granting amnesty to illegal aliens, and giving them everything from Social Security to free health care is just the tip of the iceberg.... Is that what you want? We don't think so."
Even more indicative of their extremism is their willingness to believe things that are provably false and to continue to believe them in the face of contrary evidence or outright proof of their falsity. They also are willing to make incendiary charges without a trace of evidence. These are traits that often go hand in hand with the paranoia:
- "They've taken over California," Hayes tells the crowd. "They're working on Arizona, New Mexico, Texas. We're going to become a minority of illegal immigration." He tells them to research the National Council of La Raza -- the nation's largest advocacy organization focusing on the civil rights, education and employment of Hispanic Americans. "They're a Salvadoran group of terrorists. We have them in Kansas City right now. La Raza believes the Southwest is theirs and we should leave. They want illegals to come up here and have babies and take over the United States."
Hayes' emotion builds before he stops for a disclaimer that punctuates each meeting.
"This may insult some of your intelligence. But we're not bigots. We're American patriots. If you're a skinhead or a member of an extremist group, leave now."
(Before the meeting, Hayes told the Pitch: "We've been called bigots, racists, homophobes. I could go on and on. When the pro-illegal-immigration folks start cutting us down like that, though, we know we're doing something right. When they start calling me names, I look at them and I see the real racist. Because we are not. They're either a racist or an employer.")
Hayes tells the group that these issues are too important for the Minutemen to be intimidated by schoolyard name-calling. There are terrorist camps in Mexico, he says.
"They're teaching Middle Easterners Spanish, teaching them how to dress Hispanic, and now they're all over this country, and Lord knows what they'll do." He says illegal aliens are draining the health-care system, bankrupting hospitals and crowding schools. As a former law-enforcement officer, Hayes says, the thing that really burns him is the impact on public safety.
"They're in vehicular accidents where they leave the scene or have no insurance," he says. "Rapes, robberies, killing cops and running back to their home country -- these people are breaking the law every day they're here. They're 10 percent of the nation's crime, and our prisons are full of them."
Note the requisite eliminationism: these border crossers are all criminals. And of course, there's only one thing to do with such types: ship them all out.
The willingness to believe palpable nonsense, particularly the right-wing kind of urban legends that handily conflate the issue of Mexican border security with the Global War on Terror -- a notion pushed with great regularity by Michelle Malkin and her VDare nativist friends -- is also a common trait among the Minutemen's recruits:
- The two friends, who met thanks to their adjacent cubicles at a local engineering company, were inspired to join the Minutemen by a trip to the border in March 2006. They set aside 10 days for the trip and checked into a hotel just outside Tucson, Arizona. The plan was to spend three days driving down to the Minuteman Command Center, 50 miles southwest of the city, check in for a briefing and then head to "the line."
They admit that they didn't see much. Griffin says "the line" is actually 30 miles from the border. Volunteers there station themselves on public lands and on the private property of ranchers who are supportive of the Minuteman mission. Cox says they ate a lot of peanut-butter crackers.
Though they didn't witness confrontation, Cox says, they did hear about it.
"It didn't happen directly in front of us, but, from what the Border Patrol said and during different shifts in different areas, a number of the people they were finding coming across the desert weren't from Mexico. A large contingency were from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan -- many that had confirmed ties to Al Qaeda."
All this brings to mind the militias' favorite legend back in the 1990s, namely, that blue-helmeted United Nations troops were massing secretly on the Mexican and Canadian borders in advance of a long-planned invasion of the USA (wherein, of course, all good freedom-loving gun owners were scheduled to be liquidated in concentration camps).
What's also interesting is the way the jingoism that arose in response to this year's pro-immigration rallies mutated into even further mythologizing:
- "I think when these [immigrants' rights] groups started doing demonstrations and burning the American flag and wanting to sing the national anthem in Spanish ? these people that are here as criminals, these people who came here illegally and started demanding their rights as U.S. citizens ? I think that just took some good old Americans and pissed them off," he says. "I guess, being a U.S. Army vet, I don't take too well to burning the flag, either, especially when it's foreign nationals doing that."
The national anthem brouhaha, of course, was thoroughly contrived, as we saw, since Spanish versions of it (as well as German, French and Italian versions) had been around for decades, and even videotape of President Bush singing it in Spanish cropped up.
As for flag burning, there was only one minor incident of a lone kook burning one at one of the early rallies; at most of the subsequent rallies, the American flag was being waved pronouncedly by the marchers. Most of the outrage over supposed mishandling of the American flag by Latino marchers was whipped up by Malkin with an incident in which the Mexican flag was placed above the Stars and Stripes at a high school.
No, the only flag burnings of note in this debate were Mexican flags being set aflame by right-wingers. Unsurprisingly, all this was being fomented by right-wing pundits like Michael Savage.
This is a special kind of gullibility that was common among the followers of the militia movement. At times, they would express extreme skepticism, especially when it came to the so-called "official story" that appeared in mainstream media and was sometimes generated by the government. But it was a very selective skepticism, reserved almost strictly for those things that might refute or contradict anything they were already predisposed to believe. That which didn't was recast, falsified or distorted to fit those predispositions. And chief among those predispositions, of course, was a powerful and ceaseless paranoia. In other words, they became suckers for anything other than the official story, and were especially drawn to those that underscored their paranoid beliefs and conspiracy theories.
These are all traits of extremism, part of the authoritarian psyche that is its root. And as the nativism advocated by the Minutemen spreads, so do those roots.
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Editorial: Democrat "Political Upheavals" Mean More of the Same
November 21st 2006
I will be 84, come the end of the "war on terror."
"There is every prospect of the 'war on terror' extending for 30 years or more," declares a report released by the Oxford Research Group, an independent think tank in Britain. "What is required is a complete re-assessment of current policies but that is highly unlikely, even with the recent political upheavals."
Professor Paul Rogers, who authored the report and is associated with the oldest university in the English-speaking world, believes "recent political upheavals," i.e., the Democrat victory in Congress, will not change the course of events. Democrats are not about to engage in a "complete re-assessment of current policies," but rather continue them, as there is little difference between Democrats and Republicans when you turn them upside down.
"Most people believe that the recent elections mark the beginning of the end of the Bush era but that does not apply to the war on terror," writes Rogers. "In reality there will be little change until the United States faces up to the need for a fundamental re-think of its policies."
I'm afraid the economy will need crash, the world community will turn against the United States, its people reduced to the sort of penury and humiliation suffered by the Germans at the midpoint of the last century before a "re-think" occurs.
Both Democrats and Republicans are on schedule with the "clash of civilizations," although they differ only slightly in style, not substance.
Democrats have gone out of their way to dismiss the large and growing antiwar faction of their party. Democrats do not consider George Bush and his camarilla of neocon fascists war criminals. Democrats will not impeach Bush. Democrats are traitors to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as they will not repeal the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, or put an end to the high-tech surveillance state. Democrats are soft and fuzzy Republicans. Democrats want to raise the minimum wage, allow stem-cell research, and protect the "right" to abortion (there are no rights beyond those enumerated in the Constitution), but when it comes to the phony "war on terrorism," they are indistinguishable from Republicans.
"The report showed that the United States is now faced with a dilemma: if it withdraws from Iraq, insurgent groups will be able to operate freely in the biggest oil reserve in the world," reports Yahoo News. "If it stays, though, then US soldiers become an increasing magnet for radical factions, with Iraq becoming a training ground for new generations of paramilitaries, just as Afghanistan was in the 1980s against the Soviet occupying forces."
A bit of casual googling reveals that Mr. Rogers in a professor of "Peace Studies," BSc PhD Lond., DIC ARCS, MIBiol, at the University of Bradford, West Yorkshire, UK. One has to wonder if they teach modern history at Bradford, for if they do Rogers should realize the "paramilitaries" in Afghanistan were wholly the creation of the CIA and Pakistan's ISI, with more than a little help from reactionary religious types in Saudi Arabia. In fact, the CIA, ISI, MI6, Mossad, and other intelligence agencies have a long-standing and continued interest in creating a never-ending stream of "radical factions," and the more radical, that is to say cruel and murderous, the better. Prior to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, there were precious few "radical factions" in Iraq. Now there is a surplus, including those working for the British SAS, caught with their wigs and explosives, and more circumspect "covert counter-terror" P2OG operatives, loosely based on Frank Kitson's "pseudo-guerrillas" used against the Mau Mau in Kenya and elsewhere.
Actually, Mr. Rogers has his timeline wrong. As we know, if we read beyond the official history books, the United States supported "radical factions" in Afghanistan prior to the Soviet invasion of December, 1979. "Former CIA director Robert Gates later admitted in his memoirs that aid to the rebels began in June 1979. In a candid 1998 interview, Zbigniew Brezinski, Carter's national security adviser, confirmed that U.S. aid to the rebels began before the invasion," writes Phil Gasper.
The CIA became the grand coordinator: purchasing or arranging the manufacture of Soviet-style weapons from Egypt, China, Poland, Israel and elsewhere, or supplying their own; arranging for military training by Americans, Egyptians, Chinese and Iranians; hitting up Middle-Eastern countries for donations, notably Saudi Arabia which gave many hundreds of millions of dollars in aid each year, totaling probably more than a billion; pressuring and bribing Pakistan-with whom recent American relations had been very poor-to rent out its country as a military staging area and sanctuary; putting the Pakistani Director of Military Operations, Brigadier Mian Mohammad Afzal, onto the CIA payroll to ensure Pakistani cooperation.
Indeed, the crowning glory of this effort was "al-Qaeda," a rather unusual Arabic phrase for a "radical faction" ("Ana raicha Al Qaeda" is colloquial for "I'm going to the toilet," according to Kawther Salam). Osama bin Laden ran Maktab al-Khidamar, the "Services Office" of the CIA created and organized Mujahideen, and was closely associated with the CIA's favorite fanatic, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. J. Michael Springmann, head of the non-immigrant visa section at the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in 1987-88, said he learned that the CIA had a "program to bring people to the United States for terrorist training, people recruited by the CIA and its asset Usama bin Laden, and the idea was to get them trained and send them back to Afghanistan to fight the then Soviets" (see CIA Visas For Patsies).
Not willing to let a good thing slip away, the CIA later used "going to the toilet" in Kosovo, a fact corroborated by the German TV ZDF Network (see German Intelligence and the CIA supported Al Qaeda sponsored Terrorists in Yugoslavia). And then the group surfaced amidst the ranks of Chechen rebels. As to the former, "the US Administration's undercover military-intelligence operations in Bosnia have been fully documented by the Republican Party... The RPC Congressional report accuses the Clinton administration of having 'helped turn Bosnia into a militant Islamic base' leading to the recruitment through the so-called 'Militant Islamic Network,' of thousands of Mujahideen from the Muslim world," explains Michel Chossudovsky.
In regard to Iraq, Mr. Rogers' report claims "the 'fundamental mistake' was to remove the regime of president Saddam Hussein by force, which was a 'gift' for Al-Qaeda and extremist groups because the deployment of 150,000 US soldiers in the heart of the Arab world is considered by many to be 'an occupation force,'" Yahoo News reports. "At the same time, the war in Afghanistan, that has so far lasted six years, has seen 'a marked increase in Taliban activity at a time of record revenues from opium production' and the insurgency there 'shows no sign of ending.'"
Of course, the removal of Saddam Hussein, a documented CIA asset (see Saddam Was key in early CIA plot, United Press International), was part of the "Clean Break" connivance, based on earlier work by the Israeli Oded Yinon (according Ze'ev Schiff, the military correspondent of Ha'aretz, the Israelis have long hankered for the "dissolution of Iraq into a Shi'ite state, a Sunni state and the separation of the Kurdish part," a plan currently unfolding with bloody efficiency). Such violent balkanization, according to Yinon, will "guarantee ... peace and security in the area in the long run" and the "dissolution of Syria and Iraq ... into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in Lebanon, is Israel's primary target on the Eastern front in the long run, while the dissolution of the military power of those states serves as the primary short term target."
Mr. Rogers is wrong. Getting rid of Saddam was not a "fundamental mistake," but part and parcel of the primary plan, sketched out well before Oded Yinon wrote his paper in the mid-1980s. Indeed, it is a "gift" to the "going to the toilet" terrorist group, as the point is to break Iraq into more easily isolated Bantustans. "The Mujahideen Shura Council-the Al-Qaida umbrella group for extremist mujahideen factions operating in Iraq-has attempted to make history today by announcing the foundation of a Sunni Islamic state out of the remnants of Iraq," Evan Kohlmann wrote last month.
But even after Iraq is sliced and diced into more easily manipulated chunks based on ethnicity and religion, the United States will remain ensconced in its elaborate and expensive "enduring camps," and well past my 84th birthday. "The importance of oil in the region 'means that it would be entirely unacceptable for the United States to consider withdrawal from Iraq, no matter how insecure the environment.'" On this point both sides of the war and property party, otherwise known as Democrats and Republicans, agree, although the oil card is an ostentatious play designed to cover other, more immediate objectives.
The Oxford Research Group, as well as Democrats, Republicans, and corporate media op-ed scribes, assiduously avoid all mention of the Israeli master plan for the Arab and Islamic Middle East, a plan shared by Israel First neocons and bankster neolibs keen to domesticate one of the last remaining areas not comfortably under the thumb of "free trade," that is to say unopposed thievery and exploitation. In order to cover the plan, we are told "radical factions" (courtesy of the CIA-MI6-ISI-Mossad, etc.) are on the loose, dispensing terror and severed heads, and we must engage them for the next thirty odd years, although the neocons put this figure at a hundred years or more. Anything less, of course, is Chamberlainesque appeasement of "Islamofascists."
Finally, the "recent political upheaval" of the Democrat victory in Congress plays nicely with the plan. "Anxious to chart a centrist course with Democrats' new majority in Congress [i.e., fascist neocon, but with classic Democrat fuzziness], incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her top deputies are busily working in private and public to rein in the liberal ambitions of some senior party heavyweights," reports the Boston Globe. One such "liberal ambition" is putting an end to the occupation of Iraq and another is investigating and prosecuting the Bush criminals.
Of course, by the time this happens, I will be much older than 84.
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Planting The Seeds Of "Armageddon" 1
Report: 101 Palestinians killed during November by Israeli attacks in Gaza
IMEMC & Agencies
21 November 2006
The Palestinian Ministry of Health issued a report on Tuesday stating that the number of Gaza Strip residents killed by the Israeli army's continuous attacks since the beginning of November 2006 stands at 101 residents.
According to this report the average number of residents killed each day is 4.8 residents. Out of the 101 killed, 26 (26%) are children and 15 (15%) are women.
The report also documented the injuries caused by army invasions and shillings to the Gaza Strip, which totaled 301. In other words, the average injuries per day is 14.3 residents since the beginning of November 2006. That includes one hundred children (33%) and 84 women (28%), 25% of which later died due to fatal wounds. (That 25% is included in the 101 death count).
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Israeli Soldiers Murder Two Palestinian Civilians in southern Gaza City, death toll in Gaza overnight stands at four
IMEMC & Agencies
21 November 2006
Israeli army tanks and bulldozers invaded Al Zaytoun neighborhood south of Gaza City. Troops opened fire randomly at residents and killed two, including one 70 year old woman, on Tuesday morning.
Eyewitnesses reported that the invasion started when army tanks and bulldozers stormed Al Zaytoun neighborhood and opened fire at residents' houses randomly. Soon after, the army convoy surrounded a house said to belong to an activist of Hamas. In the meantime, an Israeli drone fired several missiles at electricity generators, cutting off electricity for the whole Al Zaytoun area.
With the two killed the death toll in the Gaza Strip since Monday night until Tuesday morning stands at five. On Monday at night two fighters of Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, were killed in an Israeli air strike in Al Shujaeyya neighborhood, east of Gaza City; at least four residents, including two infants and their father, were injured in the attack.
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Israeli army shoots dead Palestinian teenager in W. Bank
www.chinaview.cn 2006-11-21 06:09:52
RAMALLAH, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- Israeli army on Monday opened fire at a Palestinian teenage boy and killed him in the West Bank city of Jericho, Palestinian witnesses reported.
The witnesses said that 16-year-old Raakan Keyd Nasariyat was shot dead by Israeli army when he approach a checkpoint in Jordan Valley, north of Jericho.
Israeli military also confirmed the shooting incident, saying that Israeli soldier fired at him after they spotted the approach of a Palestinian man who was holding a pistol.
However, according to Israel's initial investigation, the pistol found in the hand of the slain boy is a fake one, which was made of plastic only.
Israeli military explained that the soldiers stationed in the checkpoint, where the boy was killed, are more strained after an Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian gunman in August.
Comment: If the soldiers are under such strain, why don't they and they compatriots leave Palestine for good? It isn't their land. They have no right to it, other than the right of might. 'God' never gave the land to any 'Chosen People'. That is all a myth, one designed to foment war.
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Report: 40 pct of settlements built on Arab land
www.chinaview.cn 2006-11-21 20:36:32
JERUSALEM, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- Around 40 percent of Israeli settlements, including long-standing communities, were built on private Palestinian land, said a report released on Tuesday by Israeli settlement watchdog group Peace Now.
"We are talking about an institutional land grab," Dror Etkes, director of Peace Now's Settlements Watch Project, said in a press conference held in Jerusalem, adding that the land in question amounted to 60 square km.
"About 130 settlements were constructed either entirely or partially on private Palestinian land. Around 60 square km of land used by the settlements is actually private Palestinian land," the report claimed.
The report singles out the two largest settlements, both of which have city status, saying that 86.4 percent of Ma'ale Adumim, and 35.1 percent of Ariel settlement, were built on Palestinian land.
The report pointed out that "the vast majority of settlement construction was done against the law of the land and the Supreme Court ruling and therefore unauthorized...The state has been taking advantage of the weakened status of the Palestinians in order to steal their land."
Peace Now said it had forwarded the information to Attorney General Meni Mazuz, asking him to order an immediate investigation into the findings and bring those responsible to justice.
Comment: Of course the illegal settlements are largely on stolen land. All of Israel is on stolen land.
But even from the perspective of the Zionist state, the fact that the seizures were illegal works to its advantage. While enouraging the land theft through subsidies to settlers, it can turn to the international community and say, "Hey, we have laws against this sort of thing! Don't blame us for the actions of a few crazy people!"
All the while, Israel's plan to drive out or annihilate the Palestinians continues, on many fronts at once. It is hard to imagine that the illegal settlements will really disturb Israeli lawmakers when at the same time, the Gaza has been turned into a permanent war zone.
Now tell us: what is the source of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
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'Apartheid road system' cemented with new regulations on driving
IMEMC & Agencies
20 November 2006
Palestinians may not ride in cars with Israeli license plates, according to a new rule announced today by Israeli authorities. Palestinians are already barred from driving on 40% of the roads in the West Bank, which are designated 'Jewish-only', and cars with Palestinian license plates (apart from taxis) are not permitted to travel outside of the owner's home town.
Now, with the new rule, Palestinians will not even be permitted to ride as passengers in Israeli-plated cars, thus further isolating the civilian population of Palestine behind what much of the world has termed an 'Apartheid' Wall.
The head of the Israel forces' central command, Major General Yair Naveh, issued the order banning cars with Israeli (yellow) number plates from transporting Palestinians from the West Bank and the Jordan Valley unless the driver has a special permit, which must be applied for in advance, with a separate application for each passenger.
These instructions will come into force sixty days after their announcement, meaning that as of 19 January 2007, anyone who violates this rule will be legally prosecuted.
When the 'apartheid road' system was first fully implemented in 2005, it was widely criticized both by Palestinian leaders and internationally. At that time, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said, "If they go ahead (and make the road restrictions permanent) it is the official introduction of an apartheid system. This scheme ... would destroy any effort to revive a meaningful peace process."
With the new road system now in place throughout the West Bank, Israeli drivers enjoy full access to multi-lane highways built across Palestinian farmland and villages, while Palestinians are forced to ride taxis (as private Palestinian cars are not allowed to travel at all beyond the owner's hometown) on meandering, single lane routes that constantly change as new restrictions are enforced.
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Joint statement by six Israeli human rights organizations blames Israel for humanitarian crisis
IMEMC & Agencies
20 November 2006
Nine Israeli human rights organizations issued an unprecedented joint call to the international community to ensure human rights in the Gaza Strip. The statement comes in light of the dire humanitarian situation there, which is being caused by Israel.
Some 80% of the population is extremely poor, living on less than $2 a day. A majority of the population is dependent on food aid from international donors.
In the past four months, the Israeli military has killed over 300 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Over half of those killed were unarmed civilians who did not participate in the fighting. Among the dead, 61 were children.
About 70% of Gaza's potential workforce is out of work or without pay.
On 28 June, Israel bombed Gaza's only independent power station, which produced 43% of the electricity needed by the residents in Gaza. Since then, most of the population has electricity between 6 and 8 hours each day, with disastrous consequences on water supply, sewage treatment, food storage, hospital functioning and public health.
The Gaza Strip is almost entirely sealed off from the outside world, with virtually no way for Palestinians to get in or out. Exports have been reduced to a trickle; imports are limited to essential humanitarian supplies.
Israel cannot shirk its responsibility for this growing crisis. Even after its Disengagement in 2005, Israel continues to hold decisive control over central elements of Palestinian life in the Gaza Strip:
Israel continues to maintain complete control over the air space and territorial waters.
Israel continues to control the joint Gaza Strip-West Bank population registry, preventing relocation between the West Bank and Gaza, and family unification.
Israel controls all movement in and out of Gaza, with exclusive control over all crossing points between Gaza and Israel, and the ability to shut down the Rafah crossing to Egypt.
Israeli ground troops conduct frequent military operations inside Gaza .
Israel continues to exercise almost complete control over imports and exports from the Gaza Strip.
Israel controls most elements of the taxation system of the Gaza Strip, and since February has withheld tax monies legally owed to the PA, and amounting to half of the to tal PA budget.
The broad scope of Israeli control in the Gaza Strip creates a strong case for the claim that Israel's occupation of the Gaza Strip continues, along with an obligation to ensure the welfare of the civilian population. Regardless of the legal definition of the Gaza Strip, Israel bears legal obligations regarding those spheres that it continues to control. Israel has the right to defend itself. However, all military measures taken by Israel must respect the provisions of international humanitarian law.
The following Israeli human rights organizations call on the international community to ensure that Israel respects the basic human rights of residents of the Gaza Strip, and that all parties respect international humanitarian law:
B'Tselem: the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
Association for Civil Rights in the Israel
Amnesty International - Israel Section
Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights
HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual
Gisha: Center for the Legal Protection of Freedom of Movement
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel
Public Committee Against Torture in Israel
Rabbis for Human Rights
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Jerusalem on alert for suspected terror attack
JERUSALEM, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- Jerusalem district police were on alert on Tuesday morning after receiving warnings that a suspicious car was on its way to the city, local media reported.
A spokesman of Jerusalem police confirmed to Xinhua that the car could be carrying terror suspects.
Checkpoints were set up along the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, causing traffic jams near the entrance to Jerusalem. The policemen working to direct the traffic called on drivers to come to Jerusalem through the Jerusalem-Modiin Road (Road 443).
According to reports of the local Yedioth Aharonot newspaper, the Israeli defense establishment has recently received 15 terror warnings mainly from the northern West Bank and Gaza, which involve bombings, rocket fire and kidnappings.
Comment: "A suspicious looking car"?? One that "could be carrying terror suspects"??
So, what is a "suspicious looking car"? And what do "terror suspects" look like?
And how is it that reports such as this are believed by people?
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Planting The Seeds Of "Armageddon" 2
The hidden agenda behind Beit Hanun
The Truth Will Set You Free
Notwithstanding their preposterous excuses, everyone knows that israel committed a war crime when it killed 18 Palestinians as they slept in their homes in Beit Hanun, last week.
But, virtually unreported in the mainstream media was the historical, religious, and military significance of the other war crime israel committed that day . . .
An-Nasr Mosque in Beit Hanoun, destroyed
"In a statement to the U.N. Observer website, the imam of the An-Nasr Mosque in Beit Hanun, Sheikh Sihda Abu Zreyk said that the mosque, which was established in 1240, was completely destroyed during the Israeli operation.
Of course, israel will claim that it was a technical error, just like they do every other crime.
The mosque was built after the Um An-Nasr war with the Crusaders between Gaza and Askelon [now, Ashkelon], the imam explained.
The targeting of places of worship during military operations is considered to be a war crime according to the 16th article of the Geneva Convention."
But, besides their track record for lying, NO ONE - especially, not israelis - CAN MISTAKE THE COORDINATES OF AN 800YR OLD RELIGIOUS LANDMARK.
It is crystal clear to me that destroying the ancient mosque was israel's PRIMARY MILITARY OBJECTIVE and that the loss of Palestinian lives was just a fringe benefit for them.
The mosque was strategically important in at least two ways.
(1) Just days before being destroyed, it had provided sanctuary for Palestinian men fleeing from israeli assault, and israelis wanted it gone;
"By late Thursday the Israeli army believed dozens of armed gunmen were in the 700-year-old Nasser mosque in the town centre. Tanks surrounded the building and loudspeakers broadcast messages for the gunmen to surrender."
and (2) from a political and religious perspective, its destruction brings Zionism one step closer to their obsession with a 'promised land' - free from any trace of Islam.
And what better place to start than the mosque built just after the Muslim victory over invading Crusaders?
If ANYONE out there still believes that israel is, in any way, shape, or form, 'defending its security' - you can WAKEUP NOW.
israel is leading what can only be described as Zionism's own un-holy war against Islam.
israel doesn't want peace - it wants a land without people for a people without land, and it's prepared to destroy everyone and everything in order to make it.
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UN rights chief visits Beit Hanun, condemns 'massive' violations
Compiled by Daily Star staff
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
The United Nations's high commisioner for human rights described Gaza on Monday as suffering "massive" human rights violations and urged all sides to be aggressive in trying to end the violence.
In a brief visit to Beit Hanun, Louise Arbour listened to local residents' accounts of this month's Israeli offensive in the area, where one shelling killed 19 civilians earlier this month.
"The violation of human rights I think in this territory is massive," said Arbour, who met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on her visit.
"I think it's clear that civilians are tremendously exposed," she said, standing not far from the Nasser Mosque - one of the oldest mosques in Gaza - whose lone minaret is all that remains after the offensive. "The call for protection has to be answered. We cannot continue to see civilians, who are not the authors of their own misfortune, suffer to the extent of what I see."
Asked what she planned to do about the rights violations, Arbour said: "I will help to keep the conscience of the many who care about what happens in this part of the world alive.
"I will speak to the Palestinian Authority about their responsibility to enforce the law, to create an environment in which people can seek protection of the law and, of course, I will also speak to the Israeli authority.
"We need to collectively call on leaders, political, military and militia leaders, to have the courage to break the cycle of violence to ensure the well-being of civilians."
On Tuesday, Arbour is scheduled to visit the Israeli town of Sderot, which has born the brunt of rocket attacks and where an Israeli civilian was killed last week in the first deadly rocket strike in more than a year.
Palestinian elders in Beit Hanun on Monday urged fighters to "re-think" their campaign of rocket attacks on Israel.
Local dignitaries asked armed groups to "re-think the means and methods of resistance so as not to harm the interests of our people."
More than 350 Palestinians - almost half of them civilians, according to Palestinian doctors and human rights workers - have been killed since Israel launched an offensive in Gaza in late June, following the abduction of an Israeli soldier.
"We are very happy to see you here, to see our suffering. We hope to see more visits like your visit to see how we are suffering from the ... [Israeli military] invasions," Kamal Athamna, who lost relatives in the shelling, told Arbour.
At the house most heavily damaged by the shelling, the commissioner listened to two middle-aged women from Athamna's wider family tell their stories, patting them gently on the shoulder to comfort them as they wept.
"This visit will not achieve anything unless the world pressures Israel to engage in a real peace process because as Palestinians we are paying the price of the false peace," said Majdi Athamna, 37, who lost his son and three brothers in the shelling. He said 32 members of his extended family were also wounded in the raid and were now being treated in hospitals in Egypt, Gaza, Israel and Jordan.
Arbour's visit comes less than a week after a UN Human Rights Council vote to send an urgent fact-finding mission to Beit Hanun. - Agencies
Comment: The lone death at the Israeli occupier's town of Sderot is continually set in opposition to the massacre at Beit Hanoun, as if the occasional rocket fired from the Palestinians, more symbolic than anything else, can compare with the occupation suffered by the Palestinians. The Israeli military is backed by the US. Guns and money are no problem. We aren't talking about Gavid vs Goliath here, we're talking David against 10,000 Goliaths, and yet the media, and representatives of International Order such as Ms Arbour, paint the scene as if the two sides are evenly matched.
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Formation of Palestinian unity gov't to be declared
www.chinaview.cn 2006-11-21 03:25:21
DAMASCUS, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- Visiting special envoy of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said here on Monday that the formation of the Palestinian unity government would be declared soon.
"I believe that a declaration on the formation of a Palestinian national unity government will be issued very soon," Ahmed Qurei, who is also former Palestinian prime minister, told reporters after a meeting with Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Shara.
Qurei denied any disagreements between his Fatah movement and the ruling Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), saying they are both in continuous dialogue.
The Palestinian ex-premier also expressed confidence that the Israeli siege on the Palestinian people would be lifted as soon as a unity government is formed, noting that there are contacts with international sides on this matter.
"We, as Palestinians, have to reach an agreement among us and then demand the world to end the siege," he added.
Meanwhile, Qurei hailed Syria's stances on the Palestinian issue, saying that "Everything we heard during this meeting proves that Syria is ready for every support the Palestinians ask for in this domain."
According to the official SANA news agency, Qurei relayed to Shara a letter from Abbas to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on the latest developments on the Palestinian arena.
Qurei arrived here Sunday evening and met with Shara after a meeting with exiled Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal.
Comment: The Palestinians freely and democratically elected a Hamas government in January of this year. The US and Israel, with its henchmen in Europe, immediately set up a blockade on Palestine in response to the march of democracy they claimed to be promoting. Of course, everyone knows that voting is good when it is controlled and elects the 'right' candidates, but that it is anarchy and terrorism when the people are misled.
Unfortunately, the thinking capacity and critical faculties of much of the public in the West, especially in the US, have been dulled with massive doses of Hollywood movies and Fox TV, not to mention fast food and poor education, so the abject cyncism of ziocon discourse went over their heads.
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Palestinian 'unity' talks break down
The rival Hamas and Fatah parties froze talks on forming a Palestinian unity government, Fatah officials said - a new setback in efforts to form a more moderate coalition acceptable to the West. The Hamas flag is pictured.
The rival Hamas and Fatah parties have frozen talks on forming a Palestinian unity government, Fatah officials said - a new setback in efforts to form a more moderate coalition acceptable to the West.
The deep differences raised questions about the ability of the sides to reach a deal that could end months of painful economic sanctions that have bankrupted the Palestinian government and caused widespread hardship in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The sudden announcement of a breakdown yesterday came after months of negotiations that appeared to be heading toward formation of a Cabinet of independent experts to replace the Hamas-led body.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah met late on Sunday with prime minister Ismail Haniyeh of the ruling Islamic Hamas in Gaza, and officials said the meeting was cordial.
However, Abbas aide Nabil Amr said yesterday the talks had reached a standstill.
"We would say talks are suspended now," he told a news conference. "What we have agreed upon is only the first mile over the 1,000-mile road."
It wasn't clear whether the suspension was the sign of a real crisis or simply a negotiating tactic by Abbas's weakened Fatah Party.
Hamas officials denied any serious trouble. "Talks are continuing on the highest levels," Haniyeh said. However, no further meetings about a unity government were on the schedule.
The two sides earlier agreed on a US-educated academic as candidate for prime minister to replace Haniyeh, and crafted a foundation for a joint government that would leave negotiating with Israel up to Abbas, a moderate, while Hamas would deal with day-to-day issues.
The US and Europe cut off aid to the Palestinian government when Hamas took office in March after sweeping Fatah out of office in a parliamentary election, labelling Hamas a terror group for its history of suicide bombings and other attacks against Israelis.
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Report: Hezbollah sets date for street protests at Lebanese gov't
www.chinaview.cn 2006-11-21 19:13:44
BEIRUT, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- Lebanese Hezbollah and pro-Syrian allies have mobilized for mass street protests to topple incumbent government led by Prime Minister Fouad Seniora, the Naharnet news website reported on Tuesday.
Former parliament member Abdul Rahim Mrad, a pro-Syrian, was quoted as saying that Hezbollah and allied factions have set the date and venue for street protests, but refused to elaborate.
"We are going to witness street protests in the very near future," Mrad said on Monday after a meeting of a coalition of opposition groups, including Hezbollah and General Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement.
"There has to be street protests ... in hopes of convincing the ruling majority the need for the government's resignation to pave the way for a national unity government," Mrad said.
Political crisis blew up in full force in Lebanon following the resignation of six pro-Syrian ministers, two from Hezbollah, after all-party roundtable talks collapsed earlier this month.
The crisis took a sharp turn for the worse after the cabinet, without the Syrian-backed ministers, approved on Nov. 13 a UN draft document for the creation of an international tribunal on the case of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's killing.
The opposition parties dismissed the cabinet's move and called for its resignation, while the anti-Syrian ruling parliamentary majority accuses Hezbollah and Amal, the main pro-Syrian and pro-Iranian Shiite groups, of doing Damascus' and Tehran's bidding and seeking to undermine the formation of the tribunal.
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Lebanon cabinet minister assassinated
21 November 2006 16:03AP
The prominent anti-Syrian Christian politician Pierre Gemayel was assassinated in a suburb of Beirut today, his Phalange Party Voice of Lebanon radio station reported.
His fatal shooting will certainly heighten the political tension in Lebanon, where the leading Muslim Shiite party Hezbollah has threatened to topple the government if he does not get a bigger say in Cabinet decision making.
Gemayel was rushed to a nearby hospital seriously wounded, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. and Voice of Lebanon, the Phalange Party mouthpiece reported.
The party later announced that he was dead.
Gemayel, the minister of industry and son of former President Amin Gemayel, is a member of the Phalange party and supporter of the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority, which is locked in a power struggle with pro-Syrian factions led by Hezbollah.
Comment from the Angry Arab News Service:
It is only fair that I say a word about the Lebanese Gemayyel family. No one family in Lebanon has made more contributions to the formulation of a Lebanese version of fascism than this family. Really. In this respect, one has to note that Pierre Gemayyel (the grandfather), and his son Bashir has made great efforts (with the help of Israel) to create a fascist movement for Lebanon modeled after the Nazi party. (As you may recall--search the archives below--Pierre Gemayyel (the grandfather of the assassinated minister--created the Phalanges Party after being impressed with the Nazi party when he observed it during the Olympic games of 1936.) The grandson, Pierre, had no influence in Lebanese politics, and his party, the Phalanges, has become marginal and insignificant. In fact, he was brought into the cabinet by the Harriri dynasty because they were trying to avoid appointing ministers who have bigger standing among Lebanese Christians (like the 'Awn movement).
See this Signs of the Times article for an exposé of the fact that Mossad are the principal political assassins in Lebanon.
Why does the death of Pierre Gemayyel generate more attention--and certainly more sympathy--than the death of hundreds of Palestinian and Lebanese who have been killed by Israeli occupation troops?
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Two Italians abducted in Gaza
21.11.2006 | 17:00
Two Italian aid workers have reportedly been abducted in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian officials said the two were Red Cross staff and were captured in Deir el-Balah in central Gaza. Meanwhile 11 Palestinians have been wounded following an Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun, the scene of a recent Israeli artillery shelling which killed 19 Palestinian civilians. The army says the town is used by militants to launch rocket attacks on Israeli targets.
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Living In America
Senior Democrat renews call for military draft
WASHINGTON - An influential Democratic lawmaker on Sunday called for reinstatement of the draft as a way to boost U.S. troop levels and draw a broader section of the population into the military or public service.
U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, the incoming chairman of the House of Representatives' tax-writing committee, said he would introduce legislation to reinstate the draft as soon as the new, Democratic-controlled Congress convenes in January.
Asked on CBS' "Face the Nation" if he was still serious about the proposal for a universal draft he raised a couple of years ago, he said, "You bet your life. Underscore serious."
"If we're going to challenge Iran and challenge North Korea and then, as some people have asked, to send more troops to Iraq, we can't do that without a draft," he said.
Rangel, who opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, also said he did not think the United States would have invaded Iraq if the children of members of Congress were sent to fight. He has said the U.S. fighting force is comprised disproportionately of people from low-income families and minorities.
"I don't see how anyone can support the war and not support the draft. I think to do so is hypocritical," he said.
The New York Democrat had introduced legislation to reinstate the draft in January 2003 before the Iraq invasion. The Pentagon has said the all-volunteer army is working well and there is no need for a draft, and the idea had no traction in the Republican-led Congress.
Democrats gained control of both the House and Senate for the first time in 12 years in the November 7 election, and a wholesale change in the leadership of Congress is to be made in January. Rangel is to head the House Ways and Means Committee, which is charged with U.S. tax and trade legislation.
The draft was in place from 1948 to 1973, when the United States converted to an all-volunteer army. But almost all men living in the United States - including most male noncitizens - are required to register with the Selective Service upon reaching 18, and federal benefits, including financial aid for college studies, are contingent on registration.
Rangel said his legislation on the draft would also offer the alternative of a couple of years of public service with educational benefits.
Comment: Can't you see it? The massive difference between a Republican and Democrat controlled congress?
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U.S. is most unfriendly country to visitors, survey says
Mon Nov 20, 2006 5:15pm ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rude immigration officials and visa delays keep millions of foreign visitors away from the United States, hurt the country's already battered image, and cost the U.S. billions of dollars in lost revenue, according to an advocacy group formed to push for a better system.
To drive home the point, the Discover America Partnership released the result of a global survey on Monday which showed that international travelers see the United States as the world's worst country in terms of getting a visa and, once you have it, making your way past rude immigration officials.
The survey, of 2,011 international travelers in 16 countries, was conducted by RT Strategies, a Virginia-based polling firm, for the Discover America Partnership, a group launched in September with multimillion-dollar backing from a range of companies that include the InterContinental Hotels Group, Anheuser Busch and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
The survey showed that the United States was ranked "the worst" in terms of visas and immigration procedures by twice the percentage of travelers as the next destination regarded as unfriendly -- the Middle East and the Asian subcontinent.
More than half of the travelers surveyed said U.S. immigration officials were rude and two-thirds said they feared they would be detained on arriving in the United States for a simple mistake in their paperwork or for saying the wrong thing to an immigration official.
The survey was taken between October 25 and November 9 against the backdrop of growing concern in parts of the U.S. business community over a steady decline in the number of foreigners visiting the United States.
"Between 2000 and 2006, the number of overseas visitors, excluding those from Mexico and Canada, has declined by 17 percent," said Geoff Freeman, executive director of the Discover America Partnership, "and business travel in that period has dropped 10 percent."
Travel Industry Association statistics show that the U.S. share in world tourism declined from 7.4 percent in 2000 to 6 percent last year. A one-percentage point increase, according to the association, would mean 7.5 million additional arrivals, $12.3 billion in additional spending, 150,000 additional U.S. jobs, $3.3 billion in additional payroll and $2.1. billion in additional taxes.
With about 50 million visitors a year, the United States is the world's third most-popular destination, after Spain and France.
"The problem is that since September 11, this country has viewed visitors more as a threat than an opportunity," Freeman said. "The entry process has created a climate of fear and frustration that is keeping foreign visitors away."
"Unless Congress understands there is a problem, nothing will be done ... though it wouldn't take much to make a change," Freeman said.
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Young people in developed countries unhappy-survey
Sun Nov 19, 2006 10:38pm ETBy Kate Holton
LONDON (Reuters) - Young people in developing nations are at least twice as likely to feel happy about their lives than their richer counterparts, a survey says.
Indians are the happiest overall and Japanese the most miserable.
According to an MTV Networks International (MTVNI) global survey that covered more than 5,400 young people in 14 countries, only 43 percent of the world's 16- to 34-year-olds say they are happy with their lives.
MTVNI said this figure was dragged down by young people in the developed world, including those in Britain and the United States where fewer than 30 percent of young people said they were happy with the way things were.
Only eight percent in Japan said they were happy.
Reasons for unhappiness across the developed world included a lack of optimism, concern over jobs and pressure to succeed.
In developing countries a majority in the same age group expected their lives to be more enjoyable in the future, led by China with 84 percent.
"The happier young people of the developing world are also the most religious," the survey said.
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Mother accused of leaving son to die after crash
By KOMO Staff
Nov 20, 2006 at 5:16 PM PST
NOQUALMIE - A crash in Snoqualmie left a 29-year-old son dead and his mother facing charges of felony hit and run after police say she left her son to die.
Debra Whalawitsa is the Director of Administrative Services for the town of Snoqualmie. Early Sunday morning, Washington State Patrol investigators say she lost control of her car along one of the town's scenic, winding roads.
The crash killed Whalawitsa's 29-year-old son Calijah.
But instead of calling 911 and getting help for her son, troopers say she just went home.
"After the collision occurred, she was able to climb from the vehicle," said Trooper Jeff Merrill. "And for some unknown reason, she left the scene; left her son there... went home and didn't return until 10 the next morning."
He added that she never reported the accident. "In fact, it was called in by another motorist later that morning."
After spending the night in jail, Whalawitsa appeared in court Monday facing possible charges of vehicular homicide and felony hit and run. Investigators saw her return to the crash site eight hours later.
She told them she'd come to look for her son.
Investigators tell KOMO 4 News Whalawitsa told them she took the curve at just 35 miles an hour. But, investigators say the way her car hit this curb and catapulted toward the river, they have to think she was speeding.
Whalawitsa told investigators she was taking medication. Investigators believe it's possible she left the scene because she'd been drinking.
But the delay in reporting the crash may make it hard to prove.
In fact, late Monday, the judge said Whalawista can only be held at this time on investigation of felony hit-and-run because there is nothing in the court documents that indicates investigators are anywhere near being able to prove that she might have been drinking that night. She does admit to taking medication, but there's no proof yet of alcohol.
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OJ Simpson Book, TV Special Canceled
www.chinaview.cn 2006-11-21 09:43:36
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- News Corp. on Monday announced that it will cancel the release of a new book by former American football star O.J. Simpson and a related exclusive television interview, as a result of harsh criticisms from families of the victims of the 1994 slaying and media circles.
Calling the project "ill-considered," News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch apologized to the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, and said that the book project and the planned two-part interview on Fox News were both scrapped.
"I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project," Murdoch said in a statement issued in New York. "We are sorry for any pain this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson."
News Corp. is the parent company of Fox as well as the publishing house that was producing the book.
It was reported that in the book titled "If I Did It", Simpson discusses how he would have killed his ex-wife and her friend. The book was scheduled to be released on Nov. 30, and the two-part television special was scheduled for next Monday and Tuesday.
Simpson was the main suspect after his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her boyfriend were found killed on June 12, 1994 in front of her Los Angeles residence, but he was acquitted of murder charges by a grand jury in 1995.
Simpson has repeatedly denied killing his ex-wife and Goldman, but in the book and television interview he was expected to describe how he would have carried out the murders.
News of the book and television interview prompted harsh criticism from the victims' families, who called Simpson a killer and denounced the publisher and Fox News. Many in the media and the publishing industry also expressed their opinions against the book and TV interview project for its possible social and legal consequences.
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Calif. Supreme Courts upholds Internet free speech
www.chinaview.cn 2006-11-21 14:40:14
BEIJING, Nov. 21 (Xinhuanet) -- Internet free speech advocates scored a victory Monday when the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously that bloggers and participants in Internet bulletin board groups cannot be sued for posting defamatory statements made by others.
The court said a federal law grants immunity from libel suits not only to Internet service providers, but also to bloggers and other users of their services.
"Subjecting Internet service providers and users to defamation liability would tend to chill online speech," the ruling stated.
Internet free speech advocates, had warned a contrary outcome could have affected users of newsgroups, blogs, listservs, and bulletin boards who enter those forums to discuss the views of others. A loss could even have jeopardized websites run by students to evaluate their professors, said the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation in friend of court briefs.
In Monday's ruling, the California Supreme court said that granting such broad immunity for posting defamatory statements "has some troubling consequences."
Nevertheless, the court said, "Until Congress chooses to revise the settled law in this area" people who contend they were defamed on the Internet can seek recovery only from the original source of the statement, not from those who re-post it."
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Cop codes are history, 10-4?
POSTED: 1403 GMT (2203 HKT), November 18, 2006
RICHMOND, Virginia (AP) -- Anyone who ever played cops-and-robbers as a kid, listened to a police scanner or watched TV shows such as "Dragnet" or "Adam-12" knows that "10-4" and other codes beginning with 10 are radio cop-speak for "OK," or "officer down" or "burglary in progress."
But now it looks as if it's over-and-out for 10-codes.
The Virginia State Police and some local police departments are dropping them and switching to plain English.
Among the codes that have been shelved in favor of their English translation are the mundane 10-23 (arrived at the scene), the blood-pumping 10-47 (chase in progress) and the grim 10-82 (dead body).
The change comes as the Homeland Security Department presses local law enforcement authorities to improve communications so that different agencies can work together without confusion during an emergency.
The 10-code system dates to the 1920s when police radios had only one channel and officers needed to relay information succinctly. But over time, departments developed their own 10-codes.
A 10-50 to a Virginia state trooper, for example, means an auto accident. In Maryland, it means an officer is down. (10-4 seems to mean the same thing everywhere: OK.)
The potential for confusion became all too plain during such disasters as the September 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina, when Virginia state police went to Mississippi's Gulf Coast to help out.
The York-Poquoson sheriff's department switched to plain talk two years ago. The city of Hampton is thinking about it. More departments are expected to follow in the next year or two.
For the Virginia State Police, the switch to a "common language protocol" took effect November 1, but it's clear that change is not going to occur overnight.
The codes are second nature to many officers, some of whom have been using them for decades. It's how officers were trained, and it's probably one of the things that made police work seem so glamorous when they were kids. Some officers even speak to each other in 10-code off the radio.
"We haven't had any mass cries of blood," said Lt. Col. H.C. Davis of the Virginia State Police. "But when you go out on the radio, you still hear the 10-codes. And we knew that was going to happen."
Trooper Steve Rusher, a 10-year veteran, said: "Every now and then, you slip, but everybody knows what you mean, so it's not a big deal."
In fact, 10-4 is so ingrained that it's fine with the State Police if troopers continue to say it instead of "Affirmative" or "OK."
Also, asking for backup or telling a dispatcher that an arrest is about to be made will still be done in code to avoid tipping off anyone who might be listening to radio traffic.
A sheet with a list of standardized plain-English terms is being sent to all troopers to make sure they sound professional on the radio.
"You don't want to say 'broke-down car.' It doesn't sound professional," Davis said. "You don't want to say 'dead skunk in the road.' You want to say, 'There's an animal carcass."'
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Housing Bubble Smack-down
By Mike Whitney
11/20/06 "Information Clearing House"
Give me 5 minutes and I'll convince you that you should sell your house immediately and invest your life-savings in gold or a Swiss bank-account.
For some time now we've been hearing about the so-called housing bubble and what effect it could have on your net worth and future. Well, the numbers are finally in and you can decide for yourself whether its time to sell now or try to ride out the storm.
In 2000 the total value of homes in the US was $11.4 trillion. Today that number has shot up to $20.3 trillion; nearly double.
At the same time, mortgage-debt in 2000 was a trifling $4.8 trillion (about half) while in 2006 it skyrocketed to a whopping $9.3 trillion.
So, how do we explain these enormous increases in value? After all, wasn't the housing boom just the natural outcome of "supply and demand"?
No it wasn't. That's an unfortunate myth that should be interred with the withered remains of Milton "free-market" Friedman.
If we really want to know what's going on, we need to look back at the machinations at the Federal Reserve in 2001, that's when Greenspan lowered interest rates to 1.5% to soften the blow from the stock market meltdown. Rather than tighten interest rates and let the country to go through a period of recession, Greenspan lowered rates and ramped up the printing presses to "full-throttle".
Voila; the housing bubble! Or what the conservative "Economist" magazine calls "the largest equity bubble" in history.
The housing bubble has nothing to do with supply and demand or with the fictional increase in workers salaries. (which have actually gone down since Bush took office) Rather, it is the predictable result of dramatically increasing the money supply while expanding personal debt via home-mortgages.
Remember, the central banks are not in the mortgage business; they are in the "money-pedaling" business. And the way you sell more money is by making it as cheap as possible. The Fed intentionally inflated the bubble with cheap money so they could keep the printing presses whirring-along. They worked in concert with the banks to lower the requirements for mortgages so they could attract an endless swarm of "unqualified" customers who wanted to join the feeding-frenzy.
Isn't that what happened?
And, didn't that make it possible for every Tom, Dick and Harry to borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars on "no-down payment", "interest only", ARMs or other equally risky mortgage-packages?
Of course it did.
There are some who will argue that the Federal Reserve just made an honest mistake and were merely trying to steer the country away from impending recession.
That may be true, but let's consider the facts before we draw any hasty conclusions.
Did the Federal Reserve double the money supply in the last 7 years?
Did they know what they were doing?
Did they know that printing more money creates inflationary pressures and reduces the value of money already in circulation?
Did they realize that the money was going directly into the real estate market where it was creating an "unsustainable" equity bubble that would eventually crash and destroy the lives' of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose greatest asset is their home?
Of course, because it's the Federal Reserve which produces all the relevant facts and figures, charts and graphs, about increases (and trends) in the housing market. How could they NOT know?!?
In other words, they doubled the money supply and then sat back and watched while $4.5 trillion went directly into the real estate market via mortgage loans to people who were "under-qualified" (knowing that these same people would eventually fail to meet their payments and adversely effect the entire market).
The Federal Reserve knew all of this. In fact, they knew where every dime was going, but decided to persist in their swindle to the bitter end.
Have the real effects of this monster-bubble been softened by the huge trade deficit?
Yes, because America currently borrows $800 billion a year from China, Japan etc. which keeps the economy sputtering along while our manufacturing sector continues to be ransacked.
The $800 billion account deficit is like a sedative which lulls us to sleep while the country is looted right in front of our eyes. For example, in the last 12 years, foreign ownership of US assets has soared from $3 trillion to over $12 trillion.(400%) At the same time, over 13,000 major US companies have been sold to foreign corporations since 1980. Nevertheless, Americans are only-too-happy to ignore these unpleasant facts as long as they can totter off to Wal-Mart to buy little Johnny his new video-game. It's only a matter of time before the scattered, bleached bones of American industry appear everywhere across the American heartland.
And, does the Fed realize that Americans borrowed another $825 billion from their home equity in the last 12 months (to spend on house repairs, shopping, boats etc) and that without that consumer spending the nation's growth rate (GDP) will shrivel to nothing?
Yes, because they provide all that data, too.
So, what does this mean for the homeowner whose future depends on the steady increase in his home equity? What can he expect?
Well, first of all, you can ignore all the gibberish you hear on the business channel about "soft landings" and a "temporary downturn".
There'll be no soft landings. This is the Big One; Real Estate Armageddon followed by a plague of locusts.
JUST LOOK AT THE NUMBERS! There's a $10 trillion difference between the aggregate in 2000 and 2006! $4.5 trillion of that is new mortgage-debt! That's more than a little "froth" as Greenspan likes to say. In an economy that's currently growing at a feeble 1.6%, a plummeting housing market could pave the way for another (dare I say it) Great Depression.
$10 trillion!?! Some things are worth repeating.
First of all, (if we compare our situation to what happened in Japan during the 1990s) we can expect that prices will continue to fall for years to come, perhaps, a decade or more. Many of the slower markets are already showing a decline of 10% to 20%. This is a trend that is likely to speed up dramatically in 2007 when $1 trillion in ARMs reset. That's when we'll begin to see a truly new phenomenon in the US, that is, people who've always been solid members of the middle class sliding downwards into the ranks of the working poor.
By 2008, if the present trend-lines persist, housing prices will probably drop to 25% to 30% of their 2005 value; diminishing equity value by approximately 45% to 50% for most homeowners.
If you own your home outright; you can sweat it out, but if you got into the market late; you're toast. You'll be joining the throng of mortgage-slaves who are shackled to loans that are significantly higher than the current value of their house.
Imagine paying off a loan for $400,000 when your house has been reassessed at $250,000 or $300,000; that'll be the reality for an estimated 30 million Americans. Meanwhile, inventory will continue to grow (already at an 8 month backlog) the economy will continue to contract, and the dollar will continue to weaken. (Many of the major home builders; Centex, Beazer and Toll Bros, are reporting that profits are down by nearly 65%.)
At the same time the Fed just issued another $10 billion in Treasury Bonds last week raising the national debt to a mind-boggling $8.6 trillion. This loosey-goosey approach to printing fiat money and creating debt explains the recent surge in the markets. As "The Daily Reckoning's" Richard Daughty says, the "bull market is manufactured from rampant government deficit-spending and financed by the Federal Reserve creating the money."
Amen. Its all fluff and there's nothing to it. It's just loose money finding a temporary perch before the approaching squall. Don't trust the smoke and mirrors. Behind the merriment and gusto, Wall Street analysts are expecting a collapse...and soon.
How soon, you ask?
Well, Daughty also notes that "revolving credit like credit card loans grew by $2.85 billion, or at an annual rate of 4.00%, to $857 billion."
So, credit card debt is going up, which is an indication that the people who were siphoning money from their home equity have switched over to plastic. That's sure sign the writhing consumer-beast is in its last throes. The end is near.
Why should I care about Net Long-term Capital Inflows?
In another bit of disheartening news the net long-term capital inflows fell short of what the US needs to cover the current account deficit. The inflows were only $65 billion when we need $70 billion to make ends meet. This is another way of saying that foreigners are no longer mopping up our red ink. Interestingly, foreign central banks are buying considerably fewer Treasurys; $9 billion in US securities and a paltry $8 billion in Treasury bonds.
What does it mean? It means that no is dim-witted enough to buy our debt anymore because we're no longer a good risk.
That's a very bad sign. Under different stewardship the "full faith and credit" of the US Treasury meant something. That's no longer true.
Also, according to Marketwatch, "US residents purchased a net $22.9 billion in foreign securities, up from $2.7 billion in August. Foreign holdings of dollar-denominated short-term securities, including Treasury bills, fell by $10.8 billion."
Foreign investments are up $20 billion in one month?!? Are you kidding me?
So, the smart money is getting out of Dodge pronto; leaving the rest of us behind in a leaky canoe.
Some of you may have seen Alexander Cockburn's shocking article "Lame Duck" last week on Counterpunch. Cockburn refers to a report published by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) "a body set up under the purview of the British Treasury to monitor financial markets and protect the public interest by raising the alarm about shady practices and any dangerous slides towards instability."
The report "Private Equity: A Discussion of Risk and Regulatory Engagement" states clearly:
"Excessive leverage: The amount of credit that lenders are willing to extend on private equity transactions has risen substantially. This lending may not, in some circumstances, be entirely prudent. Given current levels and recent developments in the economic/credit cycle, the default of a large private equity backed company or a cluster of smaller private equity backed companies seems inevitable. This has negative implications for lenders, purchasers of the debt, orderly markets and conceivably, in extreme circumstances, financial stability and elements of the UK economy."
The problem is even greater in the US where unregulated fractional lending has allowed banks to loan unlimited amounts of money on measly reserves. Hence, "the default of a large private equity company is inevitable". The whole deregulated banking scam has turned the system into a Vegas-style "crap shoot" with no guarantees that you'll ever see your money again. The same is true with the new-fangled investment "instruments" like hedge funds which contain few tangible assets and more and more "collateralized debt". That means that they depend heavily on the "worker bees" at the bottom of the economic Totem Pole, who are expected to continue making their payments even while the economy begins to swoon.
The present system is fraught with peril and likely to come crashing down in a heap. As Cockburn sagely notes, "The world's credit system is a vast recycling bin of untraceable transactions of wildly inflated value."
"Market transparency" has gone the way of the Dodo. The new "deregulated" markets are intentionally opaque so the medicine men and hucksters who designed them could fleece the public from the comfort of their Wall Street enclaves. No one should be too surprised that the whole rickety contraption is tilting towards the dumpster.
Happy Days in the Weimar Republic
So, what was the "Grand Plan" the Fed had in mind when they decided to anesthetize the American public with low interest rates and flood the planet with worthless green scrip?
Did they think that Bush would corner the oil market and, thus, force the rest of the world to take our anemic greenbacks? Or were they just planning to steal every last farthing from the American people before they loaded the boats and fled to more promising markets in Asia?
Or perhaps they were delusional enough to believe that really wonderful things would happen if they just kept tossing banknotes into the Jet-stream like New Year's confetti?
Whatever the madcap rationale might have been, the country is now facing an agonizing wake-up call as the full-effects of Greenspan's tenure materialize and the stronghold of global consumerism deteriorates into Weimar USA.
In the long run, Greenspan's treachery will loom larger then that of his "would-be" understudy, Bin Laden. He put the country on the fast-track to disaster.
Just watch as the "For Sale" signs go up on lawns across America in Dear Alan's honor.
Comment: Over the last 100 years, as the American behemoth spread its entacles around the globe, any preoocupations on the part of the people of other countries to the influx of US capital and the sale of their assets to US corporations was viewed very dimly by politicians and "bsuiness interests" in the United States. A new liberal economic system was put into place via "Free Trade Agreements" that assured capital of its right to go where it willed with no restrictions.
Now, people in the US are getting a taste of the medicine they have been forcing down the throats of everyone else.
Of course, the pathocrats in power have no national ties or feelings of loyalty. Their only loyalty is to themselves and their power. They buiuld up on group the better to milk another, and are quite willing, when necessary, to turn around and do the same to their former "friends". Until the normal people of the world wake up to the findamental divide, that between the psychologically healthy and the pathological deviants, such manipulations will continue.
It is no longer a question of political parties, ideology, or political platform. There is but one question a voter should ask about those he or she is sending to represent them: Does this person have a conscience?
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Willful Destruction Of Iraq
Thousands of Iraqis displaced by sectarian rage that is destroying multi-ethnic communities
Jonathan Steele in Irbil
Monday November 20, 2006
Omar sits with his wife and three small children on their only items of furniture, a few cushions and a cheap carpet which covers the floor of a bare concrete room. They escaped from Baghdad last month, joining the quarter of a million Iraqis who have fled from their homes since sectarian violence exploded this year.
He is a Sunni who used to live in the capital city's mainly Shia district of Husseiniya but every Iraqi community - Shia, Sunni, Christian and Kurd - has been hit by the rage and revenge that are destroying mixed urban neighbourhoods and turning the country into a patchwork of fear-ridden mono-ethnic enclaves.
Most flee to areas of their own sect or ethnic group, but Omar - who was afraid to give his real name - came to Kurdistan because it is Iraq's safest region, even though he has no friends or relatives here. "I speak no Kurdish but some people here who served in the Iraqi army speak Arabic. Everyone's very hospitable."
"About a thousand Sunni families lived in Husseiniya, but almost all have left by now," he says. A car mechanic, he has not yet found work in Kurdistan. He pays $150 (£80) a month out of the family's savings for their room and toilet.
In another part of the bleak village of Sewys, on the windy plain east of Kurdistan's capital Irbil, a Kurdish estate agent explains why he left Mosul, Iraq's third largest city. An armed Arab came into the office where he worked as an estate agent in a mixed Arab-Kurdish area. "He told me they were part of the resistance to the Americans and needed my house for an operation. When I refused, the gunman rang his friend who was in a car outside and said 'Let's go to his house anyway'." Samir (who declines to give his last name) closed his office and drove straight to Irbil.
On the phone his wife told him three cars had appeared at the house and the men inside were watching it. Fortunately, they did not enter and his wife left for Irbil two days later with their children.
Samir produces an A4 piece of paper he says was sent to a relative last month. It begins with a few verses of the Qur'an and the phrase in Arabic: "The people mentioned below must be killed because they are drug dealers, spies, or traitors working against Iraq." Twelve names and addresses follow. Two are identified as "peshmerga" (the Kurdish militia), one as a "member of the national guard", and the fourth as an "unpatriotic Kurd".
There is no way of telling whether the death list, which is signed starkly "Intelligence Committee", is authentic but Samir's family took no chances. "My brother's name is on the list. He left immediately for Syria," says Samir's wife.
Sewys's previous population of 3,000 has increased by half in the last few months. Escapees choose it because house rents are lower than in Irbil.
A similar increase is affecting Ein Kawa, Irbil's mainly Christian enclave, which has seen an influx of 7,000 families from Baghdad and Mosul in the last few months. Schools have had to hire Arabic-speaking teachers and add an afternoon shift in Arabic. The church gives $150 a month to Christians who need it.
A foreign-funded NGO, the Public Aid Organisation, sends social workers out to give legal advice and assess what help the displaced need. Iraq still has a system of subsidised food rations, dating from the Saddam Hussein era, but families who leave their home areas have difficulty re-registering for it elsewhere.
Karim Sinjari, Kurdistan's interior minister, says the region has received close to 50,000 people since the crisis began. "The Christians have relatives here. Kurds are similar. It's the Arabs who have difficulties," he says.
Dreading an even bigger influx if central and southern Iraq collapse into all-out civil war, he has approached the UN's refugee agency for help. "We won't close our borders but if the numbers soar, what can we do? The UN says we shouldn't resort to refugee camps, but we say where can we put them?"
The Kurdish government offers no financial help to the displaced. But it gives jobs to the doctors, professors, and engineers among them. "We encourage them to stay here rather than go to Syria or Jordan," Mr Sinjari says.
The International Organisation of Migration reported this month on a survey of the displaced in six of Iraq's 18 governorates. In Kirkuk, 55% had no access to healthcare and 70% of children had not been vaccinated.
IOM started emergency aid to the displaced this summer with US funding. But with no sign of the number of displaced falling, it is asking for a further $20m to continue providing assistance.
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Annan: US "trapped in Iraq"
Tehran, Nov 21, IRNA
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday said that the United States was "trapped in Iraq," and urged Washington to carefully consider when would be the best time to pull out of the country so withdrawal does not lead to a further deterioration of security.
"The United States in a way is trapped in Iraq," Annan said.
"It cannot stay and it cannot leave. There are those who maintain that its presence is a problem and there are those who say that if it leaves precipitously, the situation will get worse."
Annan said the departure of US troops from Iraq "should not lead to a further deterioration of the situation."
The goal should be to leave when Iraqi authorities can ensure a "reasonable, secure environment," he said.
Annan, whose term ends as the head of the global body on January 1, said the war in Iraq and the failure of the UN Security Council to prevent the invasion by US-led forces was the biggest regret he had in his 10-year tenure.
"I firmly believe that the war could have been avoided," he told reporters at the United Nations in Geneva.
"The inspectors should have had a bit more time."
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Pentagon faces three options in Iraq
www.chinaview.cn 2006-11-21 13:36:38
WASHINGTON, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- There are three basic military options in Iraq for the Pentagon to choose from: send in more troops, shrink the force but stay longer, or pull out, The Washington Post quoted a recent Pentagon review as saying on Monday.
Officials who conducted the review are likely to recommend a combination of a small, short-term increase in U.S. troops and a long-term commitment to stepped-up training and advising of Iraqi forces, a suggestion to combine elements of the first two options, the report said.
The third option, which calls for a swift withdrawal of U.S. troops, is unlikely to be approved by the Bush administration as it is likely to push Iraq directly into a full-blown and bloody civil war.
However, a combination of the first two options could also backfire if Iraqis suspect it is really a way for the United States to keep a long-term presence in Iraq.
The review comes at a time when escalating violence is causing Iraq policy to be reconsidered by both the White House and the congressionally chartered, bipartisan Iraq Study Group.
The Pentagon study will feed into the White House review, but military officials have made it clear that they are operating independently.
Comment: The idea that the departure of US troops would push Iraq into a civil war just happens to be the same excuse used by the British in the 1920s when they were in a similar situation. The trouble is, it is the existence of imperial troops in Iraq that has created the conditions for civil war: such a conflict has been the goal of the neocons from the outset.
Therefore, the more likely reason for the continued presence of US troops is to ensure that the civil war being provoked by the false flags operations planned in the green zone, not to mention the dirty work of Mossad in Iraq, continues unhampered.
Make no mistake, the division of Iraq into three regions has been the goal of Israel for over twenty years. They will not give up now that they are so close to achieving their goal.
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Saddam trial 'flawed and unsound'
Monday, 20 November 2006, 01:40 GMT
The trial of Saddam Hussein was so flawed that its verdict is unsound, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch says.
HRW said "serious administrative, procedural and substantive legal defects" meant the 5 November trial for crimes against humanity was not fair.
The Iraqi government has dismissed the report, telling the BBC that the trial was both "just and fair".
The ex-Iraqi leader has two weeks to lodge an appeal but his lawyer claims he has been blocked from doing so.
Chief defence lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi told the BBC his team had been prevented from filing appeal papers. Under Iraqi law it must be done within a month of sentencing.
However, the chief prosecutor, Jafaar al-Mousawi, has told the BBC it was a fair trial.
He said the appeal would be automatic because a death sentence had been passed - and that the relevant papers had been sent to the appeal court.
Mr al-Mousawi's claims that the trial was fair were echoed by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.
"We believe strongly that the trial was fair and Saddam Hussein had every right to defend himself," he told the BBC.
"The procedure, I think, in the court, was witnessed by the whole world."
"It wasn't something done behind closed doors or through summary justice, as was the case during his rule. And we stand really by the court's verdict, and we believe the trial was just and fair."
Saddam Hussein and seven co-defendants all faced charges of crimes against humanity relating to the deaths of 148 people in the mainly Shia town of Dujail following an assassination attempt on the Iraqi leader in 1982.
Two of his co-defendants also received death sentences.
Saddam Hussein is now being tried on a different set of charges relating to a military campaign against ethnic Kurds in the late 1980s, in which more than 180,000 people are alleged to have died.
The New York-based HRW group said the trials were among the most important since the Nazi trials in Nuremberg after World War II.
They "represent the first opportunity to create a historical record concerning some of the worst cases of human rights violations, and to begin the process of a methodical accounting of the policies and decisions that give rise to these events", the report said.
The BBC's David Loyn in Baghdad says HRW's disappointment is the greater because it considers the Iraqi court to have failed to take account of the international significance of this trial and the one currently under way.
Supporters of war crimes trials say that they can improve healing after conflict, our correspondent says, but like so much else in post-Saddam Iraq, his trial does not seem to have achieved that lofty ambition.
HRW based its scathing assessment on extensive observation of court proceedings, and interviews with judges, prosecutors, defence lawyers and court administrators involved.
The trial took just over one year to complete and was the first case brought before the Iraqi High Tribunal.
Proceedings were marked by frequent outbursts by both judges and defendants.
Three defence lawyers were murdered, three judges left the five-member panel and the original chief judge was replaced.
Defence lawyers boycotted proceedings but HRW said court-appointed counsel that took their place lacked adequate training in international law.
In addition, important documents were not given to defence lawyers in advance, no written transcript was kept and paperwork was lost, said HRW.
The defence was also prevented from cross-examining witnesses and the judges made asides that pre-judged Saddam Hussein.
The US-led Coalition Provisional Authority decided that the Dujail trial would be held by an Iraqi court in Iraq, ruling out an international tribunal or a mixed Iraqi-international court under UN auspices, the HRW report said.
Because Iraqi lawyers and judges had been isolated from international criminal law, this decision resulted in a court that lacked the expertise to prosecute crimes against humanity on its own, the report said.
Defence counsel come under criticism in the report for trying to use the court as a political platform.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi government was guilty of influencing the independence of the judges, the report said, to the extent that the first chief judge resigned.
"Under such circumstances the soundness of the verdict is questionable," HRW concludes.
"In addition, the imposition of the death penalty - an inherently cruel and inhumane punishment - in the wake of an unfair trial is indefensible."
Comment: Not only was the trial "flwaed and unsound', they weren't even putting the right man on trial. Saddam was nowhere to be seen.
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Iraq and Syria resume diplomatic ties
Mark Tran and agencies
Tuesday November 21, 2006
Regional efforts to contain the violence in Iraq gathered pace as as Baghdad and Syria today agreed to restore full diplomatic relations after a 24-year break.
The move followed a visit by the Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moualem, to Iraq - the first by a Syrian minister since the US-led invasion in 2003.
Mr Moualem pledged cooperation in tackling the growing violence sweeping the country, saying Syria was prepared to work "hand in hand to achieve the security of brother Iraq".
He also signed an accord with his Iraqi counterpart, Hoshiyar Zebari, agreeing that US troops should remain in Iraq for the time being. Previously, he had called for a timetable for the withdrawal of 140,000 US troops.
The accord contained wording used by the Iraqi and US governments, saying troops should gradually withdraw once they were not needed.
Iraq and the US have accused Syria of not doing enough to stop foreign Islamist fighters and weapons crossing the long and porous Iraqi-Syrian border.
Syria says sealing the border is impossible, insisting Iraq must do more to patrol its side.
The Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, will this weekend fly to Tehran for a three-way summit including Syria. The talks - an initiative of the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will focus on how Iraq's neighbours can help staunch the sectarian bloodshed in the country.
The summit initiative, a sign of Iran's diplomatic clout in the region, comes at a time when the US is debating whether to bring in Iran and Syria into diplomatic efforts to calm the situation in Iraq.
Iran and Syria, however, are not waiting for Washington, and have taken the initiative.
The former US secretary of state James Baker, who is leading the Iraq Study Group, has made clear his desire to bring Iran - once described by George Bush as part of the "axis of evil" - into the diplomatic process. Tony Blair has also called for "a new partnership" with Iran and Syria.
However, Mr Bush has insisted that Iran suspends nuclear enrichment before the start of any dialogue, while Syria has also been frozen out because of its links with alleged terrorist organisations such as Hizbullah in Lebanon.
Press reports said Mr Ahmadinejad first proposed three-way negotiations last year, but was refused by the then Iraqi prime minister, Ibrahim Jafari. Mr Jafari and his advisors feared the US would oppose giving Iran any role in Iraq, and doubted Syria's intentions.
The US has sought to play down the significance of the three-way summit, and the state department spokesman, Tom Casey, yesterday said previous statements by Iranian and Syrian leaders had not proved productive.
"What we'd like to see the Iranian government do is desist, first and foremost, from negative actions it's taken in Iraq," Mr Casey added. "As we have always said with respect to the Syrians ... the problem is not what they say, the problem is what they do."
Syria and Iraq are restoring full diplomatic ties following an agreement struck in principle some months ago.
Saddam Hussein and the late Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, leaders of rival wings of the Arab nationalist Ba'ath party, severed ties when Syria sided with Iran during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
As diplomatic efforts on Iraq gathered momentum, the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan - who angered Washington by describing the war in Iraq as illegal - said the US was "trapped".
He urged Washington to carefully consider when would be the best time to pull out of Iraq so withdrawal did not lead to a further deterioration of security.
"The United States, in a way, is trapped in Iraq," Mr Annan said. "It cannot stay and it cannot leave.
"There are those who maintain that its presence is a problem and there are those who say that if it leaves precipitously, the situation will get worse."
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Global Lock-Down Here We Come
6 Imams Removed From Twin Cities Flight
Nov 21 1:42 AM US/Eastern
By STEVE KARNOWSKI
Associated Press Writer
Six Muslim imams were removed from a US Airways flight at Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport on Monday and questioned by police for several hours before being released, a leader of the group said.
The six were among passengers who boarded Flight 300, bound for Phoenix, around 6:30 p.m., airport spokesman Pat Hogan said.
A passenger initially raised concerns about the group through a note passed to a flight attendant, according to Andrea Rader, a spokeswoman for US Airways. She said police were called after the captain and airport security workers asked the men to leave the plane and the men refused.
"They took us off the plane, humiliated us in a very disrespectful way," said Omar Shahin, of Phoenix.
The six Muslim scholars were returning from a conference in Minneapolis of the North American Imams Federation, said Shahin, president of the group. Five of them were from the Phoenix-Tempe area, while one was from Bakersfield, Calif., he said.
Three of them stood and said their normal evening prayers together on the plane, as 1.7 billion Muslims around the world do every day, Shahin said. He attributed any concerns by passengers or crew to ignorance about Islam.
"I never felt bad in my life like that," he said. "I never. Six imams. Six leaders in this country. Six scholars in handcuffs. It's terrible."
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, expressed anger at the detentions.
"CAIR will be filing a complaint with relevant authorities in the morning over the treatment of the imams to determine whether the incident was caused by anti-Muslim hysteria by the passengers and/or the airline crew," Hooper said. "Because, unfortunately, this is a growing problem of singling out Muslims or people perceived to be Muslims at airports, and it's one that we've been addressing for some time."
Hooper said the meeting drew about 150 imams from all over the country, and that those attending included U.S. Rep.-elect Keith Ellison, D-Minneapolis, who just became the first Muslim elected to Congress. Shahin said they went as far as notifying police and the FBI about their meeting in advance.
Shahin expressed frustration that _ despite extensive efforts by him and other Muslim leaders since even before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks _ so many Americans know so little about Islam.
"If up to now they don't know about prayers, this is a real problem," he said.
Reached by cell phone just after his release, Shahin said he didn't know where they would spend the night or how they would try to get back to Phoenix on Tuesday. Hooper said US Airways refused to put the men on another flight.
Hogan said more information would likely be released Tuesday.
The other passengers on the flight, which was carrying 141 passengers and five crew members, were re-screened for boarding, Rader said. The plane took off about three hours after the men were removed from the flight.
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Rome Airport Reopens After False Bomb Alert
01:28 PM, November 21st 2006
by News Staff
Rome's Ciampino airport reopened to air traffic on Tuesday after it was shut down briefly because of a bomb alert that turned out to be false, Sky Italia television reported. The airport remained closed for just over 90 minutes while bomb disposal officers inspected cargo planes parked on its runways.
Incoming flights were diverted to the city's main Fiumicino airport while departing flights were delayed, prompting long queues at its check-ins.
The alert had been prompted by an anonymous caller, who phoned fire fighters shortly after 8 am to say there was a bomb aboard a cargo plane.
Ciampino airport, which is located about 30 kilometres south of the Italian capital, hosts military and private planes and low-cost carriers such as Easyjet and Ryanair.
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Man who was TASERed at council meeting speaks
The man who was TASERed at last week's Saginaw City Council meeting says he never attacked anyone.
Charles Littleton says he was only standing up for his rights -- rights he says society continues to lose every day.
That is what got 22-year-old Littleton in trouble. He didn't obey a rule inside Saginaw City Council chambers. That rule is that all men must remove their hats.
"It means more than just a hat," Littleton said. "It's like my crown. It's like asking a king to remove his crown."
He was dragged out of the meeting after being TASERed following what was described as scuffle with police, but Littleton says it didn't happen that way.
"I never kicked, punched, swung or anything like that," he said. "They are making it seem like I attacked the officer, then had to be TASERed because I was attacking them. That's not true at all."
The Detroit-area resident and Saginaw Valley State University student has now been charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor because of the incident.
He was attending the meeting to get extra credit for an urban sociology class. He was unaware of the council rule, which calls for all men to remove their hats.
"It's not about them trying to bring order to a meeting because my hat -- not its shape, form or fashion -- disrupted the proceedings," he said.
"They just want to control us and tell us what we can or cannot do. I will not bow down and bow out and follow blindly."
Littleton says he believes the rule discriminates.
"A Jewish man -- would you ask me to remove my yarmulke? A kofee? A turban? Anything like that?" Littleton said.
"But I guess a Los Angeles Dodgers hat is not a religious symbol. That is secular. You respect religion but you don't respect this."
Littleton plans on going to the Saginaw County Courthouse this week to be arraigned on the charges.
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British Beat officers to use head cameras
Police are to use head-mounted video cameras to help in the fight against anti-social behaviour.
Eight Metropolitan Police officers in Haringey, north London, will use the devices on the beat, to record evidence of people causing trouble.
The tiny £1,800 cameras, each the size of an AA battery, will be fitted onto the side of the officers' headgear.
Police say the clearly visible cameras will act as a deterrent, as well as an evidence gathering tool.
They record high quality digital images, which are then fed back and stored in a special utility belt.
The head cams have been used in other parts of Britain but will be used for the first time in London by Haringey's Safer Neighbourhoods team this week.
Haringey Council's Safer Communities Partnership is funding the cost of the equipment, which is being used as part of a five-day crackdown on anti-social behaviour in the area.
The video images are said to be of very good quality and they could be used in court as evidence to support a prosecution, or in support of an application for an anti-social behaviour order (Asbo).
Detective Supt Richard Wood said: "If the cameras prove successful they will be deployed to other units within Haringey and could be used to assist police raids and officers working at football matches."
Haringey councillor Nilgun Canver said: "The new cameras are a fantastic and effective policing tool.
"We know they work, supply good quality images and are versatile for patrolling football crowds and shopping precincts.
"They can also be used for more intricate work such as dealing with domestic violence or any incident where the photographic evidence will help with a conviction."
Comment: There might be more public confidence in such measures if there was any confidence that the UK police force is not simply a tool of the establishment, which it clearly is. Are such devices going to cut down on crime alone? Or are they going to be used to intimidate ordinary people in exercising their so-called "democratic rights"?
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Anger in UK at £7bn cost of war
Tony Blair faced accusations last night that he is wasting nearly £7 billion of taxpayers' money on a failing war on terror after announcing massive sums of British aid to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In the last three days, the Prime Minister and Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, have trumpeted special funding to the three countries totalling £844 million.
This is in addition to the estimated £5 billion cost to British taxpayers of the Iraq war so far, and the £1 billion spent to date on the British deployment in Afghanistan.
The funding announcements came just days after Mr Blair admitted in an interview with al-Jazeera, the English language Arabic television channel, that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a "disaster".
No 10 officials have since dismissed the response as a slip of the tongue. But yesterday Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state, said military victory in Iraq was no longer possible.
Mr Kissinger told BBC1's Sunday AM: "If you mean by 'military victory' an Iraqi government whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don't believe that is possible."
He cautioned against rapid withdrawal of allied troops and called for an international conference to resolve the crisis. Iran would have to be included in the negotiations over the future of Iraq, he said.
Mr Blair, on a visit to Pakistan yesterday to discuss anti-terror policy with President Pervez Musharraf, more than doubled assistance to the country from £236 million over the next three years to £480 million.
The extra money will go mainly towards encouraging moderate Muslim education in the network of Madrassa religious schools, which are blamed for turning many young people to extremism.
Mr Blair will today highlight the fact that £500 million is being pumped by Britain into the redevelopment of Afghanistan. Mr Brown, on his first visit to Iraq at the weekend, announced £100 million worth of reconstruction aid.
The Government was attacked last night by the Tories and Liberal Democrats and by its own MPs over the cost of its strategy.
Sir Menzies Campbell, the Lib Dem leader, accused the Prime Minister of having poured away billions of pounds. "Money that might have been spent on assisting the poorest countries has been squandered in illegal military action against Iraq," he told The Daily Telegraph.
David Davies, Tory MP for Monmouth, launched a scathing attack on the Prime Minister's decision to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on the religious schools in Pakistan. "He does not seem to have grasped the fact that these people are not motivated by money. They are motivated by extremist religious ideology," he said.
John McDonnell, the Left-wing MP challenging for the Labour leadership, said: "It's a disgraceful waste of resources killing people when at the same time, we are facing an NHS budget crisis.
No amount of money here on in will assist in resolving the situation." However, Hilary Benn, the International Development Secretary, said it was in the interests of the West to see Pakistani children well educated, because they were then less likely to be seduced by the appeals of extremists.
After talks with Mr Blair in Lahore, Gen Musharraf called for a further "massive inflow" of development aid on the scale of the post-war aid to Europe to rebuild the south east of Afghanistan, the centre of the Taliban insurgency.
He said the battle against the Taliban could not be won "with military action alone" but required a more balanced political approach, and more money for development and reconstruction.
In an apparent criticism of the British strategy so far, he added: "We [the Pakistanis] are the only ones who are trying to implement the whole strategy which means military, political and also reconstruction. More action is needed on the Afghan side because the war will be won on the Afghan side."
Gen Musharraf angrily rejected claims that Pakistan was failing to prevent militants crossing the border into Afghanistan to join the insurgency. "We are doing all we can. We are against terrorism, we are against extremism, we are against Talibanisation," he said.
Mr Blair's official spokesman insisted that Britain had always adopted a "twin-track" approach to Afghanistan, pursuing security alongside reconstruction.
Government sources said the money for Afghanistan and Iraq was from funds put aside in the budget for international development. The £500 million for Afghanistan had been pledged previously but was now "being delivered".
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Goldsmith dashes Blair's hope of 90-day detention for terror suspects
Tony Blair's plans to let police hold suspected terrorists for up to 90 days without charge suffered a setback at the weekend when the Government's senior law officer said he had seen no evidence that the change was necessary.
Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, said that he would prefer to let prosecutors make greater use of telephone-tapping evidence and to let the police question suspects after they had been charged.
The Government's attempt to increase the maximum detention period led to Mr Blair's first defeat in the Commons a year ago.
Asked last week in a Downing Street webcast whether he still wanted to increase the limit from 28 days to 90 days, the Prime Minister replied: "I favoured it then and I haven't changed my mind".
But Lord Goldsmith said: "The recent investigations demonstrate that it was right to extend the period to 28 days, but extending it any further would need evidence to demonstrate that that was needed."
Asked if there was evidence to increase to 90 days, Lord Goldsmith said: "Well, I haven't seen it yet."
Legislation to allow police to interview suspects after they had been charged could apply to ordinary criminals as well as terrorists, he continued.
"While terrorism is top of the agenda I don't think that it needs to be restricted to that."
There would need to be safeguards to ensure that suspects were not "browbeaten time and time again" by police in the interview room, he added.
Asked why suspects should agree to talk to police once they had been charged, Lord Goldsmith suggested that juries might be able to draw inferences from a suspect's silence in such circumstances.
Lord Goldsmith also repeated his support for allowing intercept evidence - such as telephone taps - to be used routinely in the courts of England and Wales.
"We need to give the police and prosecutors the tools they need in order to be able to bring serious and dangerous criminals to justice," he said. "I do believe that intercept evidence could be a key tool to doing that."
There were "real and legitimate considerations", he conceded. Any change in the law would have to protect the security services' intelligence-gathering techniques and avoid them being "swamped" with defence applications for reams of irrelevant intercept material.
Asked whether legislation would be introduced to permit the use of intercept evidence, Lord Goldsmith said: "That is something where we ought to work very hard to try to find an acceptable solution, and that is what I'm trying to do."
Officials were considering how to let prosecutors use "critical evidence" while protecting sources, he added, and no proposals had yet reached Cabinet level. The issue was still under review.
Lord Goldsmith also disclosed that he had advised the Home Secretary, John Reid, and the police that they could release unprecedented details about the evidence against terrorist suspects arrested in August and accused of plotting to blow up transatlantic airliners.
"It was plainly necessary for the public to understand why it was that they were being subjected to significant restrictions on travel and what they could carry," he said.
Lord Goldsmith refused to say whether he was heartened by the progress Scotland Yard was making in the cash-for-honours inquiry.
"I don't think it's for me to be heartened or disheartened by it," he said. "Like the police, I agree that speculation about the ongoing process is not helpful."
Declining to be drawn further on how he would respond to a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service, Lord Goldsmith said: "I don't want to speculate because the more that is said about this, the more it sounds as if I know that something is going to happen - and I absolutely don't.
"I know absolutely no more than you do," he told reporters, "and I know it later than you do because I have to read it in your newspapers."
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Spys R US
Did the CIA kill Bobby Kennedy?
Monday November 20, 2006
In 1968, Robert Kennedy seemed likely to follow his brother, John, into the White House. Then, on June 6, he was assassinated - apparently by a lone gunman. But Shane O'Sullivan says he has evidence implicating three CIA agents in the murder
At first, it seems an open-and-shut case. On June 5 1968, Robert Kennedy wins the California Democratic primary and is set to challenge Richard Nixon for the White House. After midnight, he finishes his victory speech at the Ambassador hotel in Los Angeles and is shaking hands with kitchen staff in a crowded pantry when 24-year-old Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan steps down from a tray-stacker with a "sick, villainous smile" on his face and starts firing at Kennedy with an eight-shot revolver.
As Kennedy lies dying on the pantry floor, Sirhan is arrested as the lone assassin. He carries the motive in his shirt-pocket (a clipping about Kennedy's plans to sell bombers to Israel) and notebooks at his house seem to incriminate him. But the autopsy report suggests Sirhan could not have fired the shots that killed Kennedy. Witnesses place Sirhan's gun several feet in front of Kennedy, but the fatal bullet is fired from one inch behind. And more bullet-holes are found in the pantry than Sirhan's gun can hold, suggesting a second gunman is involved. Sirhan's notebooks show a bizarre series of "automatic writing" - "RFK must die RFK must be killed - Robert F Kennedy must be assassinated before 5 June 68" - and even under hypnosis, he has never been able to remember shooting Kennedy. He recalls "being led into a dark place by a girl who wanted coffee", then being choked by an angry mob. Defence psychiatrists conclude he was in a trance at the time of the shooting and leading psychiatrists suggest he may have be a hypnotically programmed assassin.
Three years ago, I started writing a screenplay about the assassination of Robert Kennedy, caught up in a strange tale of second guns and "Manchurian candidates" (as the movie termed brainwashed assassins). As I researched the case, I uncovered new video and photographic evidence suggesting that three senior CIA operatives were behind the killing. I did not buy the official ending that Sirhan acted alone, and started dipping into the nether-world of "assassination research", crossing paths with David Sanchez Morales, a fearsome Yaqui Indian.
Morales was a legendary figure in CIA covert operations. According to close associate Tom Clines, if you saw Morales walking down the street in a Latin American capital, you knew a coup was about to happen. When the subject of the Kennedys came up in a late-night session with friends in 1973, Morales launched into a tirade that finished: "I was in Dallas when we got the son of a bitch and I was in Los Angeles when we got the little bastard." From this line grew my odyssey into the spook world of the 60s and the secrets behind the death of Bobby Kennedy.
Working from a Cuban photograph of Morales from 1959, I viewed news coverage of the assassination to see if I could spot the man the Cubans called El Gordo - The Fat One. Fifteen minutes in, there he was, standing at the back of the ballroom, in the moments between the end of Kennedy's speech and the shooting. Thirty minutes later, there he was again, casually floating around the darkened ballroom while an associate with a pencil moustache took notes.
The source of early research on Morales was Bradley Ayers, a retired US army captain who had been seconded to JM-Wave, the CIA's Miami base in 1963, to work closely with chief of operations Morales on training Cuban exiles to run sabotage raids on Castro. I tracked Ayers down to a small town in Wisconsin and emailed him stills of Morales and another guy I found suspicious - a man who is pictured entering the ballroom from the direction of the pantry moments after the shooting, clutching a small container to his body, and being waved towards an exit by a Latin associate.
Ayers' response was instant. He was 95% sure that the first figure was Morales and equally sure that the other man was Gordon Campbell, who worked alongside Morales at JM-Wave in 1963 and was Ayers' case officer shortly before the JFK assassination.
I put my script aside and flew to the US to interview key witnesses for a documentary on the unfolding story. In person, Ayers positively identified Morales and Campbell and introduced me to David Rabern, a freelance operative who was part of the Bay of Pigs invasion force in 1961 and was at the Ambassador hotel that night. He did not know Morales and Campbell by name but saw them talking to each other out in the lobby before the shooting and assumed they were Kennedy's security people. He also saw Campbell around police stations three or four times in the year before Robert Kennedy was shot.
This was odd. The CIA had no domestic jurisdiction and Morales was stationed in Laos in 1968. With no secret service protection for presidential candidates in those days, Kennedy was guarded by unarmed Olympic decathlete champion Rafer Johnson and football tackler Rosey Grier - no match for an expert assassination team.
Trawling through microfilm of the police investigation, I found further photographs of Campbell with a third figure, standing centre-stage in the Ambassador hotel hours before the shooting. He looked Greek, and I suspected he might be George Joannides, chief of psychological warfare operations at JM-Wave. Joannides was called out of retirement in 1978 to act as the CIA liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) investigating the death of John F Kennedy.
Ed Lopez, now a respected lawyer at Cornell University, came into close contact with Joann-des when he was a young law student working for the committee. We visit him and show him the photograph and he is 99% sure it is Joannides. When I tell him where it was taken, he is not surprised: "If these guys decided you were bad, they acted on it.
We move to Washington to meet Wayne Smith, a state department official for 25 years who knew Morales well at the US embassy in Havana in 1959-60. When we show him the video in the ballroom, his response is instant: "That's him, that's Morales." He remembers Morales at a cocktail party in Buenos Aires in 1975, saying Kennedy got what was coming to him. Is there a benign explanation for his presence? For Kennedy's security, maybe? Smith laughs. Morales is the last person you would want to protect Bobby Kennedy, he says. He hated the Kennedys, blaming their lack of air support for the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.
We meet Clines in a hotel room near CIA headquarters. He does not want to go on camera and brings a friend, which is a little unnerving. Clines remembers "Dave" fondly. The guy in the video looks like Morales but it is not him, he says: "This guy is fatter and Morales walked with more of a slouch and his tie down." To me, the guy in the video does walk with a slouch and his tie is down.
Clines says he knew Joannides and Campbell and it is not them either, but he fondly remembers Ayers bringing snakes into JM-Wave to scare the secretaries and seems disturbed at Smith's identification of Morales. He does not discourage our investigation and suggests others who might be able to help. A seasoned journalist cautions that he would expect Clines "to blow smoke", and yet it seems his honest opinion.
As we leave Los Angeles, I tell the immigration officer that I am doing a story on Bobby Kennedy. She has seen the advertisements for the new Emilio Estevez movie about the assassination, Bobby. "Who do you think did it? I think it was the Mob," she says before I can answer.
"I definitely think it was more than one man," I say, discreetly.
Morales died of a heart attack in 1978, weeks before he was to be called before the HSCA. Joannides died in 1990. Campbell may still be out there somewhere, in his early 80s. Given the positive identifications we have gathered on these three, the CIA and the Los Angeles Police Department need to explain what they were doing there. Lopez believes the CIA should call in and interview everybody who knew them, disclose whether they were on a CIA operation and, if not, why they were there that night.
Today would have been Robert Kennedy's 81st birthday. The world is crying out for a compassionate leader like him. If dark forces were behind his elimination, it needs to be investigated
- Shane O'Sullivan's investigation will be shown tonight on Newsnight, BBC2, 10.30pm.
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U.S. Sets Up a Perch in Dubai to Keep an Eye on Iran
By HASSAN M. FATTAH
Published: November 20, 2006
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - High atop a 1970s-style high-rise building in the heart of this desert city, a group of State Department officials has been setting up offices as part of an ambitious effort by the United States to better monitor Iran and encourage political change there.
The State Department announced early this year that it would open the office in Dubai and set up an Iran desk in Washington to make contact with Iranians and improve its institutional knowledge of the country at a time when tensions over Iran's nuclear ambitions are high.
American officials decided to locate an Iran office here because of the city's large community of Iranian businesspeople, many of whom maintain relationships in Iran and return there often. Dubai, which is about 100 miles from Iran, has also long been popular among Iranians seeking to shop, vacation or catch flights elsewhere.
The State Department's program is only the highest-profile effort here. The United Arab Emirates, the confederation that includes Dubai, has become a nexus of political activity concerning Iran, as numerous governments and groups have seized on the country's location and its longstanding ties with Tehran to get a better understanding of Iran and its people.
Dubai has become a main stop-off point for researchers and analysts seeking to meet Iranians, analysts here say, and regional research and advocacy groups have held numerous high-level conferences here in recent months focused on Persian Gulf security and Iran. At least one nongovernmental group run by Iranian-American opposition figures has also used this city to hold workshops to train Iranians in techniques of civil disobedience aimed at eventually forcing political change inside Iran.
"The problem with Iran is you cannot operate inside the country, so you have to operate in the neighboring countries," said Mustafa Alani, senior researcher at the Gulf Research Center, a Dubai research organization. "But a place as open as Dubai naturally attracts people and intelligence agencies from all over the world. Of course, they're not really visible so you cannot pinpoint them in any one location."
On Friday, R. Nicholas Burns, under secretary of state for political affairs, said the Dubai office was created in the spirit of the Riga station in Latvia, which became a critical source of knowledge about the Soviet Union at a time when the United States did not have diplomatic relations with Moscow.
"We sent a young kid from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1926 out to Riga station: George Kennan," he said, referring to the man who would become one of the world's foremost Soviet experts. "We said: 'Go and learn Russian. Sit in Riga. You be our window into the Soviet Union.'
"That is what we are saying to these young kids today. 'You go to Dubai. We can't be in Iran. You interview every Iranian you can find, get to know them - all the Iranians who come out and do their banking there and do their weekends there - and you tell us how we should understand Iran.' "
The United States broke off diplomatic relations with Tehran after the takeover of the American Embassy there in 1979. When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joined the department last year, Mr. Burns said, it had only two people working on Iran issues.
Today eight are assigned to the Iran desk in Washington and six in the Dubai office, which is within the American consulate. In May, Mr. Burns said being in Dubai was "the next best thing" to being in Iran. About 200,000 Iranians live in Dubai, and contacts with them are considered especially useful because they are not political refugees, as in some other cities outside Iran with Iranian populations.
Iranians in Dubai have been attracted here in large part because of the city's openness and freewheeling business climate. The emirate is an important transshipment point for goods and products headed to Iran. And Iranians can use its banks and financial institutions to do business with other countries more easily than from home because of trade sanctions and United States pressure on banks to restrict business with Iran.
Among the nongovernmental groups seizing on those links is the Iranian Center for Applied Nonviolence, which invites Iranians to workshops here to teach them how peaceful revolts in Georgia, the Philippines and elsewhere were set off. The center, led by Ramin Ahmadi, an Iranian-American opposition figure, holds the training sessions on civil disobedience every three months or so, hoping to foment a nonviolent revolt in Iran. The International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, a separate organization based in Washington, helped organize one of the training sessions.
"We wanted to find a place where we were safe, where they can't send paramilitaries to gun you down, and where large numbers of Iranians go," said Dr. Ahmadi, who is a physician in the United States. "The last thing the Iranian regime will want to do is cause themselves trouble in Dubai. So it provides us with a degree of protection."
Critics of Dr. Ahmadi's work say it threatens to taint opposition figures inside Iran with appearing to cooperate with outside agitators. At least two people were imprisoned after attending one of his sessions last year.
So far, the State Department's work here remains low-level as officials try to build relationships. Much of it has been focused on easing the way for Iranians applying for visas to the United States and helping them arrange scholarships for study there, Iranians here say.
Abbas Bolurfrushan, president of the Iranian Business Council in Dubai, a nonpolitical group, said he had been in contact with some of the officials to help find ways of reducing the number of trips Iranians have to make to Dubai in order to obtain a visa to travel to the United States.
Beyond working to better monitor Iran and increase interactions with Iranians in Dubai, the Bush administration is also working to increase other forms of outreach. It requested tens of millions of dollars from Congress for outreach programs, and now has about $76 million for those programs, according to Mr. Burns.
The money is being used to increase the hours of Persian-language radio and television beamed into Iran; to support exchange programs of athletes, artists and professionals to the United States; and for other democratization programs.
Nazila Fathi contributed reporting from Tehran, and Thom Shanker from Washington.
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The end of the Colombian blood letting could begin in Washington
By James Petras
11/20/06 "Information Clearing House"
On a November 9, 2006, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-Peoples Army, (FARC-EP) sent an "Open Letter to the People of the United States". It was specifically addressed to several Hollywood producers and actors (Michael Moore, Denzel Washington and Oliver Stone) as well as three leftist academics (James Petras, Noam Chomsky and Angela Davis) and a progressive politician (Jessie Jackson). The purpose of the open letter was to solicit our support in facilitating an agreement between the US and Colombian governments and the FARC-EP on exchanging 600 imprisoned guerrillas (including 2 on trial in the US) for 60 rebel-held prisoners including 3 US counter-insurgency experts. FARC-EP:
Terrorist Band or Resistance Movement?
Contrary to the US government position characterizing the FARC-EP as a 'terrorist organization', it is the longest standing, largest peasant-based guerrilla movement in the world today. Founded in 1964 by two dozen peasant activists, as a means for defending autonomous rural communities from the violent depredations of the Colombian military and paramilitary, the FARC-EP has grown into a highly organized 20,000 member guerrilla army with several hundred thousand local militia and supporters, highly influential in over 40% of the country. Up until September 11, 2001, the FARC-EP was recognized as a legitimate resistance movement by most of the countries of the European Union, Latin America and for several years was in peace negotiations with the Colombian government headed by President Andrés Pastrana. Prior to 9/11 FARC leaders met with European heads of state to exchange ideas on the peace process. Numerous prominent business leaders from Wall Street, City of London and Bogotá and notables like Queen Noor of Jordan met with FARC leaders in the demilitarized zone during the aborted peace negotiations (1999-2002).
Under heavy pressure from the White House, particularly its leading spokespersons, the right-wing extremists like the notorious Otto Reich, Roger Noriega and, John Bolton, the Pastrana regime abruptly broke off negotiations and in less than 24 hours sent the Colombian Army into the demilitarized area, in an attempt to capture the FARC leaders engaged in negotiations. The 'surprise' attack failed but did set the stage for the escalation of the conflict.
US Role in Conflict
Beginning with President Clinton in 2000 and continuing with Bush, the US has poured over $4 Billion dollars in military aid to the Colombian regime in order to destroy the guerrilla army and its suspected social base among peasants, urban trade unions and professionals (especially teachers, lawyers, human rights activists and intellectuals). Washington vigorously pushes a military solution by subverting any peace negotiations, through a substantial number of military advisers, contracted mercenaries, Drug Enforcement operatives, CIA agents, Special Forces commandos and a host of other undercover personnel. Between the early 1980's to the late 1990's, Washington maintained the fiction that its military programs were part of an anti-narcotic campaign, though it failed to explain why it concentrated most of its efforts in FARC-influenced regions and not in the vast coca-growing areas controlled by the Colombian military and paramilitary forces. With the launching of Plan Colombia in 2000, Washington explicitly underlined the counter-insurgency nature of its military aid and presence. Profoundly disturbed by President Pastana's acceptance of peace negotiations and the advances of the social and guerrilla movements, Washington backed a rightwing politician with a history of ties to Colombia's death squads for President, Álvaro Uribe. His electoral victory inaugurated one of the bloodiest extermination campaigns in the violent history of Colombia.
US military officials and their Colombian counterparts funded a 31,000 strong death squad force which ravaged the country, killing thousands of peasants in regions where the FARC was influential. Hundreds of trade unionists were assassinated by hired killers (sicarios) in broad daylight in the towns and cities occupied by the military. Human rights workers, journalists and academics who dared to report on the impunity of the military involved in village massacres were kidnapped, tortured and killed; not infrequently they were decapitated or disemboweled to sow even greater terror. Over 2 million peasants were forced off their land into squalid urban slums, their lands seized by prominent paramilitary chiefs or large landowners. The 'class cleansing' of the countryside was right out of the counter-insurgency manuals of the Pentagon, instructing the Colombian military to destroy the 'social infrastructure' of the guerrilla movements - especially the FARC which had longstanding and extensive family, community and social ties with the peasants.
President Uribe embodied the classical authoritarian South American ruler: At the throat of the poor and on his knees before his Washington patron. His perpetual large-scale offensive campaigns decimated the countryside but failed to weaken the guerrillas or even capture any of the FARC general command. After six years of massive and costly extermination campaigns, top US and most Colombian military officials conceded that a military victory over the FARC was highly improbable. The best that could ensue, military strategists argued, was a severe weakening of the FARC, forcing them to negotiate a 'peace agreement' favorable to the regime. Peace Negotiations:
A Brief History
During the Presidency of Belisario Betancourt (in the mid 1980's), the FARC agreed to a cease-fire and many joined the electoral process. Thousands of guerrillas, their sympathizers and many independent leftists formed a political party, the Patriotic Union (Unión Patriótica) and ran candidates at all levels of government. In less than 5 years, 5000 activists, candidates and elected officials were murdered by the military and their death squads, including two presidential candidates, several congresspeople, scores of mayors, hundreds of city councilors and local party leaders. The survivors rejoined the guerrillas, fled into exile or went underground. Contrary to claims by the government, Colombia was not a 'democracy' in the usual sense, but a 'death squad democracy' in which the most elementary conditions for electoral campaigning and political norms were absent. Less than two decades later, when the FARC had extended its influence within 40 miles from the capital Bogotá, the government of Andrés Pastrana agreed to another round of 'peace negotiations' in an extensive demilitarized region under FARC influence.
While the negotiations proceeded, hundreds of 'visitors' from all sectors of Colombian society as well as foreign political and business notables participated in public forums. Open debates organized by the FARC covered fundamental social, economic and political issues. For the first time in recent memory, issues of land reform, public investment in job creation programs, foreign investment and public ownership, economic alternatives to coca farming, education and health were debated without fear of death squad reprisals. The image of the FARC as a 'militarist narco-guerrilla force' was challenged; many former hostile observers from Europe, Latin America and North America, while not necessarily agreeing with some of the FARC's proposed reforms, nevertheless came away with the impression that they could be negotiated with and agreements could be reached to end the civil war.
The radicalization of the Bush regime following September 11, 2001 served as a pretext to force a break in the peace negotiations. Subsequently with the election of Álvaro Uribe, the FARC was included in the list of 'terrorist' organizations. The European Union, which had publicly met and consulted with the same FARC leaders, followed the US lead. Soon afterward, FARC negotiators and international representatives were arrested in Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela and Ecuador. The latter two countries handed FARC representatives over to the notoriously brutal Colombian political police (DAS). Under cover of Washington's 'War on Terrorism', President Uribe proceeded to severely repress trade union general strikes and massive rural protests by the major agricultural organizations against his signing of a 'free trade' agreement with the US.
In the midst of government-sponsored carnage, the FARC pursued a strategy of tactical withdrawal to its jungle and mountain strongholds and issued offers for mutual prisoner release as a 'confidence building' step toward future peace negotiations.
The FARC held over 60 Colombian politicians and military officers prisoner, including a former presidential candidate, Ingrid Betancourt and three US self-described 'military contractors' engaged in an intelligence collecting mission. The Colombian government holds over 600 guerrillas. The US currently holds 2 FARC members. The FARC proposed a meeting to arrange a prisoner exchange in a demilitarized zone. The families of the FARC prisoners were naturally unanimously in favor of the proposal as were most civil society organizations, humanitarian, church and human rights groups. The US has opposed any prisoner exchange and Uribe echoed his master, at least during his first term of office. Their slogan was that through military action they would liberate the prisoners. No prisoners have been 'liberated' in the past five years. On the contrary in a recent failed military incursion, 10 prisoners were killed, including an ex-minister of defense, a governor and 8 military officers. Under enormous pressure from Colombian civil society, the European Union and most Latin American governments, President Uribe declared, on his re-election, that he would be willing to enter negotiations for an exchange. Within a month, however, he reneged using as a pretext a bomb set off in a military installation, which he attributed to the FARC despite its denials. Experts suspect this was a covert operation by Colombia's secret service to undermine any move toward a prisoner exchange.
Prospects for Peace Negotiations
Outside of Washington and President Uribe's immediate entourage, everyone agrees that the beginning of any peace process should begin with confidence building measures, specifically the prisoner exchange.
Immediately complicating those negotiations, the US extradited two FARC prisoners held by the Colombian government on December 31, 2004 and has confined them to solitary confinement, shackled 23 hours a day. On October 16, 2006, one of the FARC political prisoners, Ricardo Palmera - whose better known 'nom de guerre' is Simon Trinidad - was put on trial for 'drug trafficking' and 'terrorism' as well as 'kidnapping'. This is a classic 'political show trial' in which an illegal seizure, fabricated evidence and prejudicial judicial procedures have been mounted to secure a guilty verdict.
The most suspicious aspect of this political charade is the characterization of Trinidad's role in the FARC. He was their principal peace negotiator, as was evident when he was recognized as the FARC's principal interlocutor with Colombian President Andrés Pastrana during the peace negotiations of 1999-2002. There are numerous photographs, news reports and interviews in the Colombian and European media of the time clearly identifying Trinidad as a key peace negotiator. Equally important, Trinidad was the principal FARC peace intermediary dealing with United Nations Human Rights representative, James Lemoyne, appointed by the US Government and a former New York Times journalist based in Latin America.
Recognizing that Trinidad's status as a FARC peace negotiator concerned mainly with diplomatic missions severely compromised Washington's case, the Federal prosecutor modified the charges from direct involvement in the 'kidnapping' of three US counter-insurgency officers held as prisoners of war by the FARC, to 'association' with kidnappers and 'conspiracy' to commit the crime of 'hostage taking'. The Federal prosecutor has taken advantage of the language of the new anti-terrorism legislation passed by Presidents Clinton and Bush to indict Trinidad. This legal framework has been denounced by all leading US civil liberties organizations and the American Bar Association as violating the US Constitution.
The charge of 'association' is based on the unsubstantiated charges that Trinidad 'met' with the three US counter-insurgency officers, subsequent to their capture, an accusation which lacks any concrete proof - the Prosecution has neither witnesses nor documents of such a meeting, not does it specify time, date or place of the alleged meeting. In fact, Trinidad was in another province directing a FARC educational program at the time. The charge of 'conspiracy' is based on Trinidad's membership in the FARC, which was labeled a 'terrorist organization' by President Clinton in 1997, a characterization which was rejected by the European Union which played host to a touring group of FARC leaders and peace negotiators shortly thereafter. Moreover Colombian President Pastrana, who was engaged in peace negotiations with the FARC between 1999-2002, rejected the 'terrorist label' considering Trinidad a legitimate interlocutor.
The long political history of the FARC, its historic ties with a large segment of the Colombian countryside, its political program of social reforms, its targeted use of force in its conflict with the armed forces of the Colombian state, its continued pursuit of peace negotiations based on reforming society and the military are in strong opposition to any and all definitions of a 'terrorist' organization.
The entire notion of 'kidnapping' three US intelligence or military personnel engaged in a military surveillance operation in a combat area against an insurgency targeted by the US is absurd. As captured combatants, they are, by the definition of the Geneva Conventions, prisoners of war and, as such, subject to possible prisoner of war exchanges if the warring parties should agree. The Federal Prosecutor charged that Trinidad was engaged in the prisoner exchange when he was illegally seized in Ecuador and transferred to Colombia and later extradited to the US. In court Trinidad rebutted that allegation by demonstrating that he was in Ecuador to set up a meeting between Lemoyne and a top guerrilla leader. The prosecution presented no written or taped evidence linking Trinidad to any 'prisoner exchange'. The Illegal Seizure and Arrest of Simon Trinidad
Any juridical process worthy of its name would throw out the prosecution's case on the most elementary basis of wrongful arrest. In late December 2003 Trinidad traveled to Quito, Ecuador to contact James Lemoyne about possible peace negotiations with the Colombian government, beginning with confidence building, humanitarian measures related to prisoners and captives. During the earlier peace negotiation Lemoyne had been a decent peace mediator, rejecting pressure from the US Embassy to scuttle the proceedings. Given the massive military escalation undertaken by President Uribe, there was no opportunity for Trinidad to meet with Lemoyne in Colombia. Word reached the FARC that Lemoyne would be available for conversations in Quito.
Under CIA direction, a joint Colombian-Ecuadorian squad illegally seized Trinidad. The entire operation violated Ecuadorian sovereignty, judicial procedures and the rights of political appeal. Extra-territorial seizures of opposition leaders and their transfer to imperial courts resemble the practices of the Roman Empire and not contemporary international law.
While in captivity, Trinidad has been denied access to translations, documents and writing materials. He was manacled in an isolation cell for 23 hours a day for over 21 months without access to legal counsel. The Federal Judge, Thomas Hogan, and Federal Prosecutor have acted to prejudice the trial even before its start. Over 30 armed police in a caravan of police vehicles accompanied by helicopters bring the chained Trinidad to court. He has been denied any selection of attorney and assigned a team of court-appointed lawyers. When his attorneys attempted to provide a relevant historical context including the FARC's attempts to participate in electoral politics and the subsequent massacre of 5000 activists and candidates, including 2 presidential candidates, the Prosecution objected. The Prosecution also objected to the defense's description of the massive, sustained State violence in Colombia and the role of the US counterinsurgency forces in alliance with the paramilitary groups.
In this Kafkaesque nightmare of a courtroom, the judge was asked by the Prosecutor to withhold the names of the jurors to protect them from 'retaliation from Trinidad's 'terrorist organization' (deep in the Colombian jungle) - further prejudicing an already frightened jury and biased judge.
The court-appointed defense attorneys have failed to challenge the most elementary prejudicial statements by the Prosecution's key witness, a Colombian Army Colonel, who referred to Trinidad as a 'terrorist' despite the obvious fact that he has yet to be convicted. Judge Hogan has refused to allow jurors to take their notebooks containing trial notes from the court and denied them access to transcripts, preventing them from rationally evaluating the evidence.
Trinidad's refutation of the Prosecutor's chief Colombian witness and the outrageous nature of this political show trial were evident from the first day the jury reported to the judge. The jury declared that they were deeply divided on all charges and asked the court to declare a mistrial. After 18 days of highly charged prosecution, demagogy and inflammatory political rhetoric, the jurors spent a little over seven hours deliberating before reporting that they were deadlocked. A note from the jurors to US District Judge Thomas Hogan stated: "We believe our differences based on deep thought are irresolvable." Judge Hogan rejected Trinidad's request for a mistrial and told the jurors to keep deliberating, stating he would declare a mistrial if the jurors repeated their declaration of a deadlock a second time. Conclusion
The 'political show trial' of Simon Trinidad is a striking example of the threats to constitutional freedoms, which we and the citizens of the world face before the unbridled power of the American President to overrule all the rights of sovereign states and their citizens, international law and constitutional freedoms.
Equally important is the current reality of 'extraterritorial, lawless seizures, abductions and kangaroo proceedings at the service of bloody imperial policies and client rulers whose actions have devastated Colombian society. More than 2.5 million Colombian peasants and urban slum dwellers have been displaced by the savage counter-insurgency program called 'Plan Colombia; the number of displaced persons is second only to Afghanistan. The counterinsurgency programs, variously called 'Plan Colombia', 'Plan Patriótica' and 'Democratic Security' are financed and directed by the United States and promoted by its client President Álvaro Uribe. The US AFL-CIO documents over 4,000 trade unionists assassinated between 1986-2002; the Colombian government has only investigated 376 of which only 5 cases led to a conviction of the killer. According to Colombian human rights groups, between 2003-2006 Uribe's military and paramilitary allies have murdered nearly a thousand more trade unionists. Over the past 5 years, 30,000 peasants, rural teachers, and peasant and indigenous leaders have been killed with impunity. State repression ('Democratic Security') has been directed at weakening trade union resistance to the US-Colombian Free Trade Agreement, not at countering guerrilla armies. With over 68% of the Colombian people living under the poverty line of $2 dollars a day, and land seizures by paramilitary leaders, cattle barons and military officers concentrating land ownership to an unprecedented level, it is no wonder that the guerrilla resistance is recruiting and successfully countering Government-sponsored military campaigns, each bearing a triumphalist title and all ending in abysmal failure. Without fundamental political and social reforms and lacking an economic model that integrates the millions displaced, terrorized and excluded, there is no military strategist or strategy, no matter how well funded and directed by Washington which will end the civil conflict.
The first step toward a resolution of this half-century conflict is the recognition that Colombia is in the midst of a civil war, not a 'war on terror'. The second is to release the protagonists of the peace process, Simon Trinidad and his comrade 'Sonia' as a concrete move toward a humanitarian prisoner exchange and confidence building measure opening the way to full-scale peace negotiations.
Paradoxically, the end of the Colombian blood letting could begin in Washington, in a Federal Courtroom, or possibly in the US Congress with the recognition that the US is an armed party in Colombia's civil war, that their combatants are prisoners of war and that their ultimate release depends on recognizing the limits of US military power (and that of its Colombian client) and that a diplomatic, negotiated agreement is the only realistic option.
I look forward to joining with such artists and intellectuals as Denzel Washington, Oliver Stone, Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky and Angela Davis, named in the FARC appeal in a common effort to pressure the US government to agree to exchanging imprisoned guerrillas (both here and in Colombia) for rebel-held prisoners, including the three American combatants.
James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books). His latest book is "The Power of Israel in the United States" (Clarity Press, 2006). He can be reached at: email@example.com.
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Khodorkovsky's Lawyer Blasts Schroeder Over 'Humorous' Remark
Created: 21.11.2006 13:17 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 13:17 MSK
Robert Amsterdam, the international lawyer for former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has criticized a recent remark by former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and said that it was a part of a "well funded campaign of lies and distortion aimed at undermining Mikhail Khodorkovsky's integrity".
"Mr. Schroeder's attempts to introduce humor to the plight of a man who is illegally imprisoned in the Russian gulag represents the most obscene of insults," Amsterdam was quoted as saying by PRNewswire.
According to press reports in Germany this month, Mr. Schroeder made the following comments in regards to Russia and Mr. Khodorkovsky: "We nick tax evaders as well. However, we do not have Siberia at our disposal."
"The mask has come off and Mr. Schroeder has exposed himself as a Kremlin sycophant -- a sponsor of the gulag and an underwriter of impunity and corruption," Amsterdam said.
Schroeder is facing significant criticism in Germany for accepting a position as Chair of the Shareholder Committee of the North European Gas Pipeline, a Russian-led consortium, just weeks after extending a $1.2 billion credit to the project while holding public office. Amsterdam will state that it was a lack of a moral compass on behalf of the former leader of Germany that was in part responsible for the treatment of Mr. Khodorkovsky.
Three years ago Khodorkovsky was arrested and convicted of gross tax evasion and fraud. He was sentenced to 8 years in prison and his company Yukos was declared bankrupt.
Comment: Integrity is not the first word that pops into mind when we think of the Russian oligarchs, the group of hustlers who got rich on the collapse of the Soviet state by buying up state assets, that is, the property of the Russian people, at bargain basement prices.
Schroeder's implication with Russian oil development is telling as a clue to the behind-the-scenes networking that is going on in the face of US imperial rule. For more on the politics of oil, see Laura's peice on John F. Kennedy, Oil, and the War on Terror.
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Egypt arrests another blog critic
Monday, 20 November 2006, 10:33 GMT
Police in Cairo have detained a blogger whose posts have been critical of the Egyptian government.
Rami Siyam, who blogs under the name of Ayyoub, was detained along with three friends after leaving the house of a fellow blogger late at night.
No reasons have been given for Mr Siyam's detention. The other friends were released after being questioned.
Human rights groups have accused Egypt of eroding freedom of speech by arresting several bloggers recently.
BBC Arab Affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi says blogging in Egypt is closely associated with political activism in a culture where democratic freedoms are severely restricted.
In recent weeks, bloggers have been exposing what they say was the sexual harassment of women at night in downtown Cairo in full view of police who did not intervene.
Mr Siyam's host on Saturday night, Muhammad Sharqawi, was detained for several weeks earlier this year.
The most recently detained blogger, Abdel Kareem Nabil, was detained in Alexandria on 6 November and was charged with disrupting public order, inciting religious hatred and defaming the president.
Amnesty International says Mr Amer appeared to have been detained for expressing critical views about Islam and Egypt's al-Azhar religious authorities.
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Rockin', Starvin' And Shiftin' - What's The Link?
5.0 Earthquake Rocks Serbia
An earthquake of magnitude five on the Richter scale was registered 170 km northwest of Sofia on the night of November 20.
The tremor could be felt in the northwestern part of the country, representatives of the State Agency for Civil Protection said.
No people in Bulgaria were harmed or suffered from property damage, Focus news agency reported.
The epicentre of the quake was located in Serbia
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Mozambique: Earthquake in Central Mozambique
Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique (Maputo)
November 21, 2006
An earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale struck the Machaze region, in the central Mozambican province of Manica, on Monday night.
Data from the National Geology Directorate indicate that the tremor occurred at about 22.00 in an area that is known to be seismically active.
There were no reports of any casualties, and residents of the provincial capital, Chimoio, contacted by Radio Mozambique, said they felt nothing, and were thus unaware of any earthquake.
This was a much smaller quake than the one of 24 February, in the same area, which was felt across central and southern Mozambique, and as far away as the South African port of Durban.
That earthquake measured 7.5 on the Richter scale, and caused five deaths. Fortunately the epicentre was in a sparsely populated area.
The February tremor was the largest earthquake on record in southern Africa,.
At the time, the National Director of Geology, Elias Daudi, told reporters that, although there are not many earthquakes on record in Mozambique, the country is vulnerable to such tremors.
Most seismic events in Mozambique, however, have been minor, and thus pass unnoticed by the public.
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Egyptian famine linked to Iceland volcano
Nov 21, 2006, 18:36 GMT
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ, United States (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they've found a link between an 18th-century volcanic eruption that killed 9,000 Icelanders and a severe famine in Egypt.
A Rutgers University study, in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, demonstrates a connection between the two widely separated events.
The investigators used a National Aeronautics and Space Administration computer model to track atmospheric changes that followed the 1783 eruption of Laki in southern Iceland.
The researchers said the study is the first to conclusively establish a link between high-latitude eruptions and the water supply in North Africa.
'Our findings may help us improve predictions of climate response following the next strong high-latitude eruption, specifically concerning changes in temperature and precipitation,' said Rutgers researcher Luke Oman, first author of the study. 'Given the sensitivity of these arid regions to reductions in rainfall, our predictions may ultimately allow society time to plan for the consequences and save lives.'
The researchers say their study presents 'strong evidence' that high-latitude eruptions have altered northern hemisphere atmospheric circulation in the summer following, with impacts extending deep into the tropics.
The study appeared in the Sept. 30 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.
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Revealed: Secrets of Abrupt Climate Shifts
8 Nov 2006
This story is the dream of every science writer. It features some of the most dramatic and rapid climate shifts in Earth's history, as well as tenacious scientists braving the hostile ice and snows of Greenland and Antarctica for years on end to bring home that most precious material: kilometre-long cores of ancient ice, dating back over a hundred thousand years. Back in their labs, these women and men spend many months of seclusion on high-precision measurements, finding ingenious ways to unravel the secrets of abrupt climate change. Quite a bit has already been written on the ice core feat (including Richard Alley's commendable inside story "The Two Mile Time Machine"), and no doubt much more will be.
It was the early, pioneering ice coring efforts in Greenland in the 1980s and 90s that first revealed the abrupt climate shifts called "Dansgaard-Oeschger events" (or simply DO events), which have fascinated and vexed climatologists ever since. Temperatures in Greenland jumped up by more than 10 ºC within a few decades at the beginning of DO events, typically remaining warm for several centuries after. This happened over twenty times during the last great Ice Age, between about 100,000 and 10,000 years before present.
The latest results of the EPICA team (the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica) are published in Nature today (see also the News & Views by RealClimate member Eric Steig). Their data from the other pole, from the Antarctic ice sheet, bring us an important step closer to nailing down the mechanism of the mysterious abrupt climate jumps in Greenland and their reverberations around the world, which can be identified in places as diverse as Chinese caves, Caribbean seafloor sediments and many others. So what are the new data telling us?
These data connect the Antarctic ups and downs of climate to the much greater ones of Greenland. This is hard, as dating an ice core is a difficult art (no pun intended). If one makes an error of only 5% in determining the age of an ice layer, for 40,000-year-old ice that's an error of 2,000 years. But to understand the mechanisms of climatic changes, one needs to know the sequence of events - for example, one needs to know whether a particular warming in Antarctica happens before, after, or at the same time as a warming in Greenland.
To get around this problem, Thomas Blunier and colleagues nearly ten years ago pioneered an ingenious method to synchronise the ice cores of Greenland and Antarctica by analysing changes in the amount of methane in air bubbles in the ice. Changes in methane are recorded at both poles, and they should occur almost exactly in step as gases are quickly mixed through the whole atmosphere. After the ice cores are synchronised by aligning the methane variations, the relative timing of Greenland and Antarctic temperature changes can be seen.
While Blunier and colleagues were originally able to connect only a handful of large climate events, the results published today take this method to a new level by applying it to the new, high-resolution Dronning Maud Land ice core. The new data confirm with unprecedented precision what Blunier found: Antarctica gradually warms while Greenland is cold. But as soon as Greenland temperatures jump up in a DO event, Antarctic temperatures start to fall (see graph). This happens for every DO event, and it is a peculiar and tell-tale pattern that is also found in model simulations of these events (see graph).
Figure: The top two panels show idealised model DO events on an arbitrary time axis (in years), highlighting the phase relationship between Greenland and Antarctic temperatures: when a DO event hits Greenland, Antarctica switches from warming trend to cooling trend. The bottom panels show the "real thing", the noisy data from ice cores. Note the expanded scale for Antarctica in both cases. Time here runs from left to right - normal for regular folks, but somewhat unusual for the ice core experts (my apologies to these).
It is (at least in the model) a result of a big change in northward heat transport in the Atlantic. If the heat transport by the Atlantic thermohaline circulation suddenly increases for some reason (we'll come to that), Greenland suddenly gets warm (an effect amplified by receding sea ice cover of the seas near Greenland) and Antarctica starts to cool. Changes in Antarctica are much smaller and more gradual, as it is far from the centre of action and the vast reservoir of ocean around it acts as a heat store. The basic physics is illustrated very nicely in a simple "toy model" developed by Thomas Stocker and Sigfus Johnsen.
There is still debate over what kind of ocean circulation change causes the change in heat transport. Some argue that the Atlantic thermohaline circulation switches on and off over the cycle of DO events, or that it oscillates in strength. Personally, I am rather fond of another idea: a latitude shift of oceanic convection. This is what happens in our model events pictured above: during cold phases in Greenland, oceanic convection only occurs in latitudes well south of Greenland, but during a DO event convection shifts into the Greenland-Norwegian seas and warm and saline Atlantic waters push northward. But I am biased, of course: my very first Nature paper (1994) as a young postdoc demonstrated in an idealised model the latitude-shift mechanism. Other oceanic mechanisms may also agree with the phasing found in the data. In any case, these data provide a good and hard constraint to test models of abrupt climate events.
But irrespective of the details: the new data from Antarctica clearly point to ocean heat transport changes as the explanation for the abrupt climate changes found in Greenland. We are thus not talking about changes primarily in global mean temperature (these are small in the model results shown above). We are talking about what I call a climate change of the second kind: a change in how heat is moved around the climate system.
As an analogy, think of your bath tub and the types of change to the water level you can get there. A change of the first kind would be a change in mean level, e.g. if you add water. A change of the second kind would be the changes you get by sloshing around the water in the tub.
There are very few possibilities to change the global mean temperature, a climate change of the first kind: you have to change the global heat budget, i.e. either the incoming solar radiation, the portion that is reflected (the Earth's albedo), or the outgoing long-wave radiation (through the greenhouse effect). Temporarily, you can also store heat in the ocean or release it, but the scope for changes in global mean temperature through this mechanism is quite limited.
Changes of the second kind are due to changes in heat transport in the atmosphere or ocean, and these can occur very fast and cause large regional change. Think of your tub: if you want 10 cm higher water level at one end, you can achieve this by turning on the tap - but you can get there much faster by pushing some water over there with your hand, albeit temporarily and at the expense of the water level at the other end. That kind of "see-saw" (but with heat, not water) apparently happens during DO events, as the new data confirm.
The two kinds of climate change are sometimes confounded by non-experts - e.g., when it is claimed that DO events represent a much larger and more rapid climate change than anthropogenic global warming. This forgets that our best understanding of DO events suggests they are changes of the second kind. The same error is made by those who claim that the 1470-year cycle associated with the DO events could lead to an "unstoppable global warming". A global warming of 3 or 5 ºC within a century, as we are likely causing in this century unless we change our ways, has so far not been documented in climate history.
One crucial point has been left unanswered thus far. If DO events are due to ocean circulation changes, what triggers these ocean circulation changes? Some have argued the ocean circulation may oscillate internally, needing no trigger to change. I am not convinced - the regularity of the underlying 1470-year cycle speaks against this, and especially the fact that sometimes no events occur for several cycles, but then the sequence is resumed with the same phase as if nothing happened. I'd put my money on some regularly varying external factor (perhaps the weak solar cycles, which by themselves cause only minor climate variations), which causes a critical oceanic threshold to be crossed and triggers events. Sometimes it doesn't quite make the threshold (the system is noisy, after all), and that's why some events are "missed" and it takes not 1,500, but 3,000 or 4,500 years for the next one to strike. But the field is wide open for other ideas - the cause of the 1470-year regularity is one mystery waiting to be solved.
Alley, R.B., 2002: The Two-Mile Time Machine: Ice Cores, Abrupt Climate Change, and Our Future. Princeton University Press.
Blunier, T. and E. J. Brook, 2001: Timing of millennial-scale climate change in Antarctica and Greenland during the last glacial period. Science, 291, 109-112.
Blunier, T., J. Chappellaz, J. Schwander, A. Dällenbach, B. Stauffer, T. F. Stocker, D. Raynaud, J. Jouzel, H. B. Clausen, C. U. Hammer, and J. S. Johnsen, 1998: Asynchrony of Antarctic and Greenland climate climate change during the last glacial period. Nature, 394, 739-743.
Braun, H., M. Christl, S. Rahmstorf, A. Ganopolski, A. Mangini, C. Kubatzki, K. Roth, and B. Kromer, 2005: Solar forcing of abrupt glacial climate change in a coupled climate system model. Nature, 438, 208-211.
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Sarkozy shouldn't count his chickens yet: Villepin
PARIS, Nov 19, 2006 (AFP)
Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin insisted on Sunday that France's ruling party had not yet decided on a presidential candidate, despite his rival Nicolas Sarkozy being the clear favourite.
"I don't think we're at the end of the political debate about the eventual candidate of our family," Villepin told France 5 television, as the pressure mounted on the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) to make up its mind.
The ruling right-wing party risks being outmanoeuvred by the opposition Socialists, who have already voted resoundedly in favour of a popular female politician, Ségolène Royal, running in next year's presidential elections.
Villepin's rival and UMP head, Sarkozy, is the obvious front-runner for the party's nomination, but the situation is clouded by the fact that incumbent President Jacques Chirac, 73, has refused to confirm he will resign next year.
"We'll see how things shape up at the beginning of the year," Villepin added, noting that Chirac would also "say how he sees his own future" at the time.
Sarkozy is far and away its most popular figure, polling well ahead of both Chirac and Villepin. He is currently running neck-and-neck with Ségolène Royal, who clinched the Socialists' candidacy on Thursday.
But last week, Chirac's wife Bernadette suggested the president - who turns 74 at the end of the month - might bid for a third term in April's election, despite polls showing he has no chance of winning.
And Villepin told France 5 the situation still remained "very fluid."
Chirac's preferred heir, Villepin was once considered another likely contender. But his ratings have plummeted since he took office last year, over a series of unpopular reforms.
Officially, Villepin claims he has no presidential ambitions, and he repeated Sunday it was necessary "for someone to head the government" until the vote.
He also said it was likely Sarkozy would resign from the government, should he be tapped as the UMP candidate.
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Royal's leadership style: is she a leader or a loner?
POITIERS, France, Nov 20, 2006 (AFP)
The Socialist candidate for France's 2007 presidential elections, Ségolène Royal, has been elusive over her policies should she become head of state.
But in her home region of Poitou-Charentes in western France, where she currently presides over the regional council, her style of management is on show for all to see.
She keeps up "a fast rhythm that is sometimes difficult to follow," one regional official said.
Since taking over the council in 2004, she has gained a reputation for moving fast and achieving concrete goals with the aim of underlining her "proximity" to the people - the same populist tactic she has employed to become the Socialist's champion for president.
The main issues she has pursued are the environment, education, and employment.
Her programmes have included: developing bio-fuels, giving free books to school students, and establishing job-creation subsidies.
More original, she has introduced a flat one-euro train fare in the region one day per month and supplied thousands of pairs of slippers for boarding school pupils.
Socialists go for Royal in first round vote
Out of nowhere to the top of the ballot: Royal
Segolene says French ready for reform, 'new ideas'
Royal's detractors have sneered that the measures are mostly piecemeal and lack any overarching vision. They also argue that such a strategy would fail if taken to a national scale.
"She tends to support little subsidies more than big projects," said her main opponent in the region, Elisabeth Morin, whom Royal ousted as regional council president. She said Royal was "a hard woman who takes decisions alone".
"The way Ségolène Royal manages her team is unusual," admitted a Royal ally, Greens Party member Marie Legrand, who is the regional council's vice-president.
"The ship doesn't list as long as issues are moving forward," she said.
Royal's determination has earned her an image among many here as bordering on autocracy, with fears that, if elected French president, she will rule with heavy-handed authoritarianism.
Royal has defended herself from the accusation.
"I assume my authority. Because we live in a world that needs references, needs people who make decisions after consulting.
"In a man, we could say he is building respect, but for a woman it's seen as authoritarianism," she said.
In any case, the friction generated over her leadership style had little effect on her popularity among Socialist members who voted in their party's primary last week to choose their presidential candidate.
In the region of Poitou-Charentes, 80 percent of the ballots went to Royal, significantly more than the 62 percent she collected nationwide.
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The Scottish Lord with the elixir of life
Tue 21 Nov 2006
SIR SIMON Loccard of the Lee had an impressive family history even before he distinguished himself as one of Robert the Bruce's most loyal followers. His grandfather, Stephen Loccard, had the town of Stevenson in Ayrshire named after him and his father, also Simon, gave his name to the village of Symington.
But Loccard's prolific involvement in a crusade against the Saracens in 1329 not only boosted the reputation of his family, it also provided them with a new name. In addition he returned from the fields of southern Spain with an amulet which contained mysterious healing qualities. It became known as the Lee Penny and has been an object of superstition and fascination for more than six centuries.
The band of Scots who embarked on the crusade was led by Sir James Douglas. He carried the heart of Robert the Bruce in a casket, of which Loccard held the key. When Douglas was killed at the Battle of Teba in Spain, and the party returned to Scotland, Loccard's family name was changed to Lockheart, shortened to Lockhart. The family motto includes the words Corda Serrata Pando - I open locked hearts.
It was, however, Loccard's capture of a Moorish emir - one of the Saracens of Granada - that yielded what was to become the Lee Penny. The prince's mother - or wife in some versions of the story - offered the Scottish knight a large sum of money in return for his freedom. She dropped what looked like a pebble, but Loccard could tell by her haste in picking it up that it was a valuable gem and demanded it as part of the ransom.
The woman not only agreed but proceeded to tell Loccard the story of its healing powers and how they should be administered. It could, she said, cure all diseases known to man and beast. The stone had to be dipped into water, with no words of incantation uttered, while the affected or diseased part was washed. No money was to be taken from those afflicted and seeking cure.
On Loccard's return to his home at Lee, near Lanark, the stone attracted huge interest from the superstitious country folk. They flocked to Lee for its curative powers and watched transfixed as the stone was held by a chain and dipped twice into pure spring water then given one swirl, a practice that became known as "twa dips and a swirl".
Print off the words to an Ayrshire poem about the amulet. (The file can be opened with Acrobat Reader.)
The Lee Penny appeared to be an especially worthwhile remedy in cases of hydrophobia or rabies. When the plague visited Newcastle in the early 17th century the city borrowed the amulet, putting down a deposit of £6,000 for its safe return.
A member of the Edinburgh gentry, Lady Baird of Sauchtonhall, was bitten by a mad dog and began to show signs of rabies. Her husband was loaned the penny and the woman, after drinking and bathing in the medicated water, recovered her health. The Bairds considered it a "miracle" and entertained the Laird of Lee in a "sumptuous manner" for years afterwards.
In 1638 an attempt was made by strict Presbyterians to charge Sir James Lockhart with sorcery but it was thrown out by the Synod of the Church of Scotland on the grounds that no magical words were used while the process was carried out.
Gradually, however, the belief in the powers of the Lee Penny waned and there has been no instance of it being used since the middle of the 19th century. Sir Walter Scott based his book The Talisman on the story of the penny and it remains in the Lockhart family to this day, kept in a gold and enamel snuffbox given to Sir James Lockhart by Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria, in 1789.
Despite its name it is not a penny at all, but a dark red, semi-transparent, triangular gemstone set in a groat - or fourpenny coin - dating from the reign of Edward I of England. It remains a precious family heirloom and the most famous and mysterious amulet of its kind in Scottish history.
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'Supernannies' to tackle antisocial children
Tuesday November 21, 2006
A team of "supernannies" is to be sent to some of Britain's most deprived areas to help parents control antisocial children, Tony Blair revealed today.
The parenting experts will be sent to 77 areas with high levels of unruly behaviour, teenage pregnancies and truancy from school.
The £4m scheme will also force the parents of disruptive children to attend parenting courses.
Writing in the Sun newspaper, the prime minister claimed the initiative would tackle the root causes of crime and disorder.
He said the experts would "be able to step in - either through one-to-one support or in group sessions - to offer a helping hand to parents who are beginning to struggle with their children before the problems get out of hand".
Mr Blair denied the scheme would involve "interfering with normal family life", adding: "Life isn't normal if you've got 12-year-olds out every night, drinking and creating nuisance on the street with their parents not knowing or even caring."
The plans coincide with a government-commissioned Mori poll revealing that 85% of people think bad parenting is responsible for bad behaviour.
Commenting on the findings, the prime minister said: "This should be no surprise given the huge popularity of television programmes in which experts help parents with their problem kids."
More details of the "supernanny" scheme will be revealed by the home secretary, John Reid, later today.
However, Paul Cavadino, the chief executive of the crime reduction charity Nacro, said blaming parents was "unproductive".
"Many parents are at their wits' end to know how to control their children's behaviour," he said. "They need support rather than a punitive approach.
Mr Cavadino said parents should not be forced to attend courses, adding: "Parenting courses have a proven track record in helping parents to exercise more effective control over their children's behaviour.
"However, a voluntary approach is usually more likely to engage parents than compulsion, which can run the risk of breeding resentment."
He pointed out that youth courts were already able to order parents to attend parenting courses when their children were convicted of criminal offences.
"We should be cautious about extending compulsory powers to other types of antisocial behaviour without the procedural safeguards of a youth court hearing," he said.
The government's respect co-ordinator, Louise Casey, insisted evidence showed compulsory courses were "equally effective as voluntary".
"Almost nine times out of 10, those parents do not have to be forced to do it - they are actually taking help when they get the right wake-up call," she told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
"I am very comfortable - as is every member of the public, the Mori poll shows - that if you need to force people on to parenting courses to get help, then you should."
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Russia Unveils Ambitious Plan to Build Telescope Better Than Hubble
Created: 21.11.2006 17:30 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 17:30 MSK, 51 minutes ago
Russia will build a deep space exploration telescope that will outstrip the U.S.-made Hubble Space Telescope, a Russian astronomer said Tuesday, RIA-Novosti reported.
Hubble, orbited in 1990, has been the most successful and expensive project in astrophysics, costing over $6 billion.
"In cooperation with our colleagues from Germany, the United Kingdom, China and Spain, we have set ourselves the task of building the Spectrum-Ultraviolet telescope, which will surpass Hubble in some aspects," Boris Shustov, director of the Astronomy Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told a news conference.
The expert said the telescope, with a 170-centimeter diameter antenna, will explore the structure of the universe in the ultraviolet spectrum.
Shustov said that under the government's federal space program for 2006-2012, Russia is to implement two other large projects - the launch of telescopes operating in other spectrums, the Spectrum-Radioastron and the Spectrum-X-Ray-Gamma.
The Spectrum-X-Ray-Gamma telescope will study galactic clusters, and consequently, the structure of the universe.
The Spectrum-Radioastron aims to study the structure of galactic and extra-galactic radio wave sources, their internal processes and other processes occurring near them. It will comprise a space telescope and a ground tracking station.
"If the antenna of the radio-telescope is 300,000 kilometers (187,500 miles) from the Earth, and the other telescope is on the Earth, they will represent one gigantic telescope," Shustov said. "The Spectrum-Radioastron project will make it possible to read a newspaper on the Moon."
Comment: Hmmmm. If a telescope in orbit around the earth can give us the potential of reading a newspaper on the moon, what do you think the spy satellites in orbit today around the earth can let the spy masters see down here?
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PEAR lab's 'strange garden' prepares to close
Sometime next spring, the Prince-ton Engineering Anomalies Research laboratory (PEAR), a little-known but sometimes-controversial participant in the University's research community, will clear its shelves and close its door, bringing an end to 27 years of exploring mind-matter interactions in a scientific context.
Located on the ground floor of the E-Quad's C-wing, the lab seems out of place, with a well-worn couch, wood-paneled walls, and a collection of aging game-like devices on which many of the lab's trials were performed. When Robert Jahn '51 *55, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering emeritus, first proposed the lab in the late 1970s, its mission also seemed out of place, or at least out of the mainstream.
Jahn, the dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences from 1971 to 1986 and an expert in rocket propulsion, was intrigued by a student project related to psychic phenomena. He recognized that many engineering disciplines - electrical, chemical, and bioengineering - had roots in other sciences. "The one interface that hadn't really been explored was that of psychology - the human mind," Jahn said in a recent PAW interview. "What could engineering utilize, in terms of basic knowledge of how the mind works?"
With support from benefactors such as James McDonnell '21 and Laurance Rockefeller '32, Jahn launched PEAR to test for and characterize unexplained phenomena generated by the interaction of humans and machines. There was no curricular element - Jahn said that was "too hard for the University to digest" - but the lab developed a working relationship with an engineering course called "Human-Machine Interactions."
Professor Alain Kornhauser *71, who has taught the course with Jahn and faculty from the psychology and philosophy departments, said that students were generally skeptical but stimulated when they visited the PEAR lab. "[The PEAR researchers] tried to take a really objective, scientific, data-based approach to the problem," Kornhauser said. "I thought it was laudable, whether or not one believes in the outcome."
The lab employed as many as seven full-time researchers and amassed mountains of data, including millions of trials from its random-event generator, a device that produces a series of 0's and 1's while users try to influence its output by favoring one or the other. PEAR also has published about 200 papers; most appeared in the Journal of Scientific Exploration, which covers a range of topics on the fringes of conventional science, from UFOs to the search for Sasquatch. (Jahn serves on the journal's editorial board.)
Jahn's general conclusions are that anomalous phenomena are real, can be studied scientifically in large data sets, and could be used in applications. He admitted that some of his faculty colleagues view the research with skepticism, and others have been completely dismissive. But he does not think
that the engineering anomalies work affected his reputation as a distinguished researcher in electric and plasma propulsion. Princeton's Electric Propulsion and Plasma Dynamics Laboratory, which Jahn started in 1961, remains at the vanguard of the field under the direction of one of Jahn's former students, Edgar Choueiri *91, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.
PEAR will not enjoy the same fate. International Consciousness Research Laboratories, a not-for-profit group associated with PEAR, supported research in recent years, but with no viable long-term successor and most of the lab's funding evaporating, Jahn has decided to close the lab, with no regrets. "Without a doubt it has been the most personally stimulating and rewarding intellectual activity I've ever been involved in," he said. "I feel very privileged for having been allowed to take a scholarly walk into this extraordinarily strange garden."
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