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Tuesday, May 25, 2004

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Desperation, Decisions And Consequences

By Glen Becker
25/05/04

Somewhere along the path of life we have all, at some point or another, had to deal with the consequences of having either made a desperate decision or been caught in the fallout of another’s ill-advised choices spawned by their indiscretions. Money woes, marital difficulties, unwanted pregnancies, illicit and prescription drug dependencies, alcoholism, the list goes on and on. This is the human condition and its reality, one that we create by our own thoughts and deeds. Many face these challenges and overcome them, first by recognizing there’s a problem, and then by going about the hard work of changing the troublesome circumstances in order to surmount the existing difficulties. Others however, succumb to the conundrum they are faced with and acquiesce to the path of least resistance, thereby surrendering the possibility of any meaningful change and eventually they head down the dark path of ruin. That’s where humanity seems to be at this particular juncture in time. That is, we are at a crossroads of decision as to whether we collectively face up to the apparent desperation factor being imposed upon us by the powers that are seeking total control of this world, and work together to expose them for what they are, or apathetically look on and succumb to their insatiable, psychopathological and tyrannical desires.

Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothes, or to use a more apt metaphor, even the Devil himself can appear as an Angel of light. The appearance of benevolence, especially by way of modern technology, can fool us into believing that our so-called leaders have our best interests in hand. But we have a higher obligation to see things as they really are and to be aware of deceptive rhetoric, glossed over images, hypocritical hyperbole and coercive sleight of hand. Judge them for the things that they do, not for the things they appear to do. A magician’s best friend is illusion, the same can be said for those who desire power and control at any cost.

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Just the other day Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers said for the first time that we should expect the violence in Iraq to worsen after the transfer of "sovereignty" on June 30th:

"On Friday… Myers, told the House Armed Services Committee that, far from calming the violence in Iraq, the June 30 turnover is likely to usher in a period of more turmoil, comments echoed by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker. ‘The threat will continue to intensify after June 30,' Myers said. ‘There will be those, including (Abu Musab al) Zarqawi and the foreign fighters, who will try very hard to keep us from having any political progress in Iraq.'"

Every time the Bush administration and its lackeys talk about the "resistance" in Iraq, they never fail to mention that the sole aim of said "resistance" is to prevent "political progress" in Iraq. Here again we have a good example of the way that our leaders lie. On the surface it is probably quite true to say that those Iraqis that understand the situation and the nature of the US presence in their country do indeed want to prevent "political progress". Look at it this way; if another nation invaded the US, overthrew the sitting regime and established a proxy government in its place that was wholly unrepresentative of the US people, would US citizens not be inclined to resist such "political progress"? Naturally they would, and this is exactly the situation we have in Iraq. It is not unnatural then that Iraqis are resisting this type of "political process", yet General Myers, by presenting only a small part of the truth, seeks to fool Americans into believing that the Iraqi resistance has no just cause and are mere "terrorists". Again we see that the most insidious lies are the ones that come wrapped up in the appearance of truth.

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Iraq to have veto on military action, says Blair

Simon Jeffery and agencies
Tuesday May 25, 2004

The prime minister, Tony Blair, said today that the new Iraqi government will have a full right of veto on future coalition military action such as last month's controversial US assault on Falluja.

In a monthly Downing Street press conference dominated by questions on Iraqi sovereignty and the role for coalition troops after the June 30 handover to an interim administration, Mr Blair insisted there would be a "real" transfer of power.

"If there's a political decision as to whether you go into a place like Falluja in a particular way that has to be done with the consent of the Iraqi government and the final political control remains with the Iraqi government," he said. [...]

The decision of Paul Bremer, the US governor of Iraq, to disband the Iraqi army, freeing up large numbers of armed men and ignoring a possible tool to enforce security, in the name of de-Baathification is cited by many critics of the occupation as one of Washington's most far-reaching errors in postwar Iraq.

Comment: Again the salient point here is; if the majority of those people that make up the Iraqi government are very pro-American, are they ever going to use their veto? This is merely the semblance of freedom and democracy which thinly veils the totalitarianism beneath. On the other hand, the US has, in way, been true to its word. It has delivered exactly the same "freedom and democracy" that the US population have been enjoying for years... In the last paragraph above we see possible evidence for the suggestion we made yesterday that, at some level of the US power structure, someone actually orchestrated the current quagmire...but why?...

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Iraq - The Reality Gap

May 25, 2004

Facing polls which show Americans have lost confidence in his ability to manage the crisis in Iraq, President Bush delivered the first in a series of speeches to respond to growing criticism. He offered not one new policy proposal. One administration official acknowledged the growing credibility gap on Iraq, saying the president's speech was needed to dispel " this idea that we don't know what we're doing ."

But the post-speech headlines reflected just how far the president was from laying out a clear vision: Newsday headlined, "Bush: More of the Same," the Boston Globe pointed out "Bush's Reality Gap" and the Houston Chronicle noted" Iraqi Leaders Say They're Dissatisfied With Post-Occupation Plan." Bush " did not provide the midcourse correction that even some Republicans had called for in the face of increasingly macabre violence." He also did not "try to answer some of the looming questions that have triggered growing skepticism and anxiety at home and abroad about the final U.S. costs, the final length of stay for U.S. troops, or what the terms will be for a final U.S. exit from Iraq." Instead, he "basically repackaged stalled U.S. policy as a five-step plan." While President Bush does not have a plan for Iraq, American Progress does: see our Strategy for Progress in Iraq.

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Christianity bedevils talks on EU treaty

Ian Black in Brussels
Tuesday May 25, 2004
The Guardian

The controversial question of Christianity returned to the EU yesterday when seven states, led by Italy, urged the union to recognise a "historical truth" and refer explicitly to the "Christian roots of Europe" in its new constitution.

Britain's foreign secretary, Jack Straw, and his fellow foreign ministers were forced to divert into a theological and cultural minefield at the meeting in Brussels called to tackle highly charged but technical issues, such as voting weights and budget procedures.

The preamble of the current draft treaty, drawn up by the former French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's convention, refers only to the "cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe". Specifically mentioning Christianity or God was considered too controversial in the face of furious opposition from secular France and Protestant northerners such as Sweden and Denmark.

Opponents argued that it would be wrong to exclude Muslims and Jews, and would therefore be better to avoid any religious reference.

The European parliament even rejected a proposal from Christian Democrat MEPs to mention the continent's "Judaeo-Christian roots".

But the largely Catholic states of Italy Poland, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have made clear they want more. [...]

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Supplement by US soldiers to "US Human Rights Report"

www.chinaview.cn 2004-05-25 15:20:08

BEIJING, May 25 (Xinhuanet) -- As known to everybody the US State Department is very good at framing up the "Human Rights Report" of other countries (abbrev. as report) in which it features not only lengthy but also nagging as though it were a feet-binding cloth of a sloppy woman. Though in great detail the State Department still feels not enough to express itself and so whenever it is going to be published officials are sure to be sent for its explanation in detail for fear that it were not appropriate or cut to the point.

A report in such a big detail should normally have nothing to be left out. But whoever in this world read the report will come to find out that a big "chunk" has been "neglected" in each and every report, namely the missing of the report on the US human rights. With regard to this, many American people are not satisfied with it, saying that "?"why the government failed to speak of itself?"

Don't worry! The American soldiers have done a fine job. They've made up the part with actions that the US State Department has left out in the "Report".

[...] However, the worldly known prisoner abuse is by no means all. What's more attractive is the latest additional piece, i.e. the US racial discrimination and sabotage of religious belief. According to the US military investigators, what is in vogue among the US prisoner-abuse soldiers in Iraq is their serious racial discrimination. They hold a view quite extensively that the Muslim is terrorism. An American soldier for training and using the military dog said, even the dog feels disagreeable to these Iraqis for their features and bodily smells." Some other reports say the US soldiers force the Iraqi prisoners to drink wine and have pork.

"This obviously goes against the Islamic doctrines and creeds." It is not only a prisoner-abuse but also a blasphemy of religion. Is it the US that is gesticulating everywhere, reprimanding others about their "discrimination of ethnic minorities" and "violation of or calling a halt to religious belief"? The examples mentioned above indicate that the US has acted even worse than others have in the record of human rights. In addition to all this, while the US soldiers are humiliating and maltreating the prisoners in foreign countries they've even gone further in putting them to death by way of beating, strangling and choking. At present the Pentagon has recognized there were at least 37 people in Iraq and Afghanistan who had been put to such a tragic death. The US has been nagging about the "human rights" and "humanitarianism" day in day out. How could it be so forgettable that it has even left out from its human rights report a content of such a great importance?

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More "Washington whispers" about possible pre-election terrorist attack

By Joseph Kay
25 May 2004

Two more pieces published in the press in recent days point to a continuing discussion within the political elite in the US about the electoral consequences of a pre-election terrorist attack. Top officials and analysts speak as if an attack were probable if not certain, and indicate the major concern in Washington is how such an attack would affect the outcome of the elections.

In the "Washington Whispers" section of this week’s US News & World Report, columnist Paul Bedard reports: "White House officials say they’ve got a ‘working premise’ about terrorism and the presidential election: It’s going to happen." Bedard quotes a top administration official as asserting, "We assume an attack will happen leading up to the election," and that it will happen in Washington, D.C. [...]

In a piece published May 20 entitled "Beware of any stretch-run surprises," Wall Street Journal columnist Albert Hunt writes that the November elections could hinge on "unanticipated events." First on the list of such events is a terrorist attack. Hunt notes: "The Bush administration and outside terrorist experts repeatedly have cautioned that another attack on the homeland is likely. The White House, politically, has it both ways: taking credit for avoiding any assault since 9/11, while at the same time warning that another is likely."

There is a more sinister subtext to Hunt’s column in the suggestion that the Bush administration would like to "have it both ways" in another manner: it would like to benefit politically by presenting itself as the strongest force against terrorism, while preparing to politically exploit any future terrorist attack. He quotes Charles Black—a Republican strategist and close confidante of President George W. Bush—as stating that "my instinct is there likely will be a rally around [the incumbent] effect" in the event of another attack. [...]

There is an obvious question raised by these discussions: Are top officials in the Bush administration planning to allow such an attack in order to reap political advantage?

Anyone who would dismiss this possibility as an outlandish conspiracy theory underestimates both the depth of the administration’s crisis and the criminality of those who set its policy.

This is a government that came to office by means of theft and intimidation, gaining power only through the intervention of the Supreme Court on an explicitly anti-democratic basis.

As the WSWS noted at the time: "The very methods employed by the Bush campaign and its allies on the Supreme Court...reveal the nature of the policies the new administration intends to carry out. Bush speaks for the most ruthless and avaricious sections of the ruling class—those who demand the removal of all legal, political and moral limitations on the exploitation of the working class, the realization of profit and the accumulation of personal wealth" ("Supreme Court overrides US voters: a ruling that will live in infamy").

Since coming to power, the administration has turned to unbridled militarism for the purpose of advancing the interests of the American ruling elite on a world scale. It has declared its complete contempt for international law and constitutional rights, launching an illegal war of aggression against a largely defenseless country. Since the war in Iraq began nearly a year ago, the government has waged a brutal occupation, the true nature of which is being exposed before the world with the seemingly unending stream of photographs showing US troops torturing Iraqi civilians.

The administration has invoked the attacks of September 11, 2001, to justify every one of its reactionary policies: massive tax handouts to the richest section of the population, the attack on basic democratic rights, and the wars of plunder in Afghanistan and Iraq. The government lied to the American people about its reasons for going to war, and it lied to the American people about what it knew before September 11 about the threat of a terrorist attack.

The ongoing investigation by the September 11 commission has uncovered more evidence of foreknowledge by individuals within the Bush administration and the US intelligence agencies. This evidence includes an August 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing warning about planes being used as weapons and Al Qaeda’s surveillance of federal buildings in Manhattan. The commission, however, has failed to ask the obvious question: Given that the administration had this information and given that the attacks have been critical in advancing the policy of the most reactionary sections of the American ruling class, were they in fact allowed or engineered by high-level officials to create a pretext for a preconceived domestic and foreign policy agenda?

What worked once may work again. This is a government composed of indictable war criminals who would think nothing of sacrificing the lives of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people in pursuit of its agenda. Indeed, such sacrifices have already been made and will be made again. [...]

Comment: Indeed, there is little doubt that the American people would rally behind Bush if another attack occurs. The torture of Iraqis has already been rationalized away, and another attack on US soil would serve to further the agenda of the Bush administration, ensure Bush's place in the oval office, and remove any lingering doubts that tough times require tough measures to combat terrorism.

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Afghanistan, the war the world forgot

By Colin Brown and Kim Sengupta
25 May 2004

'We've got to make sure this time that we do it properly'
Tony Blair, 5 April, 2002

'It's a basket case. It's a forgotten country'
Eric Illsley, Labour member of Foreign Affairs Select Committee, yesterday

Three years after the overthrow of the Taliban and George Bush's declaration of victory in the first conflict in the war on terror, Afghanistan is a nation on the edge of anarchy.

A devastating indictment of the Allies' failure to help reconstruct the country in the wake of the 2001 conflict is to be delivered in a parliamentary report.

The Independent has learnt that an all-party group of MPs from the Foreign Affairs Committee has returned from a visit to the country shocked and alarmed by what they witnessed. They warn that urgent action must be taken to save Afghanistan from plunging further into chaos because of Western neglect.

As President Bush and Tony Blair unveil their plans today for the future of Iraq through the draft of a new United Nations resolution, the MPs warn that the mistakes of Afghanistan could be repeated with similar tragic consequences in Iraq.

Eric Ilsley, a Labour member of the committee, said: "Afghanistan is a basket case. It's a forgotten country." Shortly after the conflict, Mr Blair pledged to the Afghan people: "This time we will not walk away from you", as the United States and Britain had been accused of doing following the mujahedin's war against the Soviet Union.

But MPs and international aid agencies say that is, in effect, what has happened. With the focus of Washington and London firmly on Iraq, the situation in Afghanistan has been allowed to unravel. The remaining infrastructure is shattered, opium production is rocketing, and the Taliban and warlords are back in control of large areas.

Comment: Whoever was naive enough to think that when the US and its allies went into Afghanistan that it was because they cared for the Afghanis should look at the situation in that other occupied country three years after Bush sent in the troops. Bush made promises that the US would not abandon the country and that it would participate in the rebuilding. If that includes getting the opium production back up so that CIA black ops can fund their operations, well, then maybe you can say they have succeeded. After all, in the Cheney/Bush scheme of things, anyone who gets addicted is deserving of their fate.

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Former soldier says he was beaten as part of training at Guantanamo

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - A former military police officer said in a television interview broadcast Monday that he was severely beaten while posing as a detainee during a January 2003 training exercise at Guantanamo Bay.

Sean Baker, a former member of the 438th Military Police Company, said he played the role of a prisoner and was beaten so badly by four U.S. soldiers that he suffered a traumatic brain injury and seizures.

"I don't want this to happen to anyone else, what I'm living with daily," Baker told WLEX-TV in Lexington.

Kentucky National Guard Capt. David Page, a guard spokesman, would not comment about Baker's specific claims.

"There was a training accident, after which he was medically discharged," Page told The Associated Press.

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No change in Bush's strategy for Iraq

WASHINGTON - U.S. President George W. Bush went on some U.S. television stations on Monday night to defend his Iraq policy and lay out his strategy for the country's future.

Bush put his policy in stark terms. "History is moving, and it will tend toward hope or tend toward tragedy," he said. But if Americans were looking for a departure date for their military forces, they were disappointed. Bush gave no hint of when the military operation will end.

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UN Iraq resolution needs 'improving'

Tuesday 25 May 2004, 18:43 Makka Time, 15:43 GMT

A draft UN resolution on Iraq's future submitted by Britain and the United States needs improving, anti-war countries have said.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said on Tuesday the draft offers a good basis to start from but "needs more work".

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Iraqis to have 'veto' over troops

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair says that after the transfer of power on 30 June, Iraq's interim government will have a veto on operations by coalition troops.

"The final political control remains with the Iraqi government. That's what the transfer of sovereignty means."

But France - which has the power to block a US-British resolution on Iraq - has expressed reservations.

President Jacques Chirac set out French concerns in a phone conversation with US President George Bush on Tuesday.

Consent

The text of the draft resolution says that the interim Iraqi government that takes charge on 30 June will have sovereignty, but limited control over coalition military operations.

The multinational force shall have authority to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of stability and security in Iraq...

It does not specify that the troops will leave Iraq if the new government asks them to.

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Iraqi Shia holy shrine 'damaged'

One of Iraq's holiest Shia Islamic shrines has reportedly been damaged in clashes between US troops and the forces of militant cleric Moqtada Sadr.

Correspondents say the incident in Najaf - in which at least three people were injured - is likely to spark outrage among Iraq's Shia majority.

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French FM urges Israel to spare Gaza before withdrawal

www.chinaview.cn 2004-05-25 23:33:21

PARIS, May 25 (Xinhuanet) -- French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier on Tuesday called on Israel not to destroy the Gaza Strip it has occupied since 1967 before withdrawal.

"The retreat from Gaza must be complete and sincere and viable.That means Gaza will not be destroyed before the withdrawal," Barnier said after talks with Javier Solana, the European Union's (EU) foreign policy chief.

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Israel spy agency recruiting on Web

Associated Press

JERUSALEM — Israel's normally secretive Mossad spy agency came in from the cold this week, launching a website aimed at recruiting staff ranging from computer security specialists to English-speaking waiters and agents for "special tasks."

The site, which is available in both Hebrew and English, has a main page featuring a shadowy figure standing next to an Israeli flag and a link to a letter from Mossad director Meir Dagan inviting "the best and most suitable to join us."

The new website, which replaces a rudimentary single-page site, includes a short history of the agency, a mission statement and an on-line employment application form. The Hebrew side of the site has a long list of jobs available with Israel's external intelligence agency, including psychologists, teachers, translators, typists, construction engineers and security guards.

According to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, more than 1,500 people applied for jobs on Monday, the site's first day in operation.

One feature of the site proves Mossad is still as interested in gathering intelligence as it is in hiring new people: the "Contact Us" page invites users to submit "information that could be useful" to the agency and promises to protect the tipsters' anonymity.

In 2000, Mossad launched a recruitment drive in the Israeli press under the slogan, "Mossad is opening up."

Israeli security officials said that the Shin Bet, Israel's internal security agency, is considering launching a similar site.

Mossad, whose name means "Institute" in Hebrew, built its reputation on operations such as the 1960 kidnapping of Nazi Adolf Eichmann, who was snatched in Argentina and spirited to Israel to stand trial for the murder of millions of Jews. He was convicted and hanged.

Between October 1972 and August 1973, Mossad agents assassinated 12 Palestinians connected with the group Black September, which had killed 11 athletes at the Munich Olympics.

But recent years have seen a string of embarrassing and well-publicized failures.

In 1997, Mossad agents injected Khaled Mashaal, a leader of the militant Islamic group Hamas, with poison in Jordan. But they were caught and Israel was forced to save Mr. Mashaal with an antidote and to free Hamas' founder and 20 other Arab prisoners to bring the agents back home.

In 1998, a retired agent was indicted on charges of fabricating reports that Syria was preparing for war.

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Israeli Agents Believed Involved in Abu Ghraib

Newsmax
Monday, May 24, 2004 12:28 p.m. EDT

Diplomatic sources in Washington tell NewsMax's U.N. correspondent Stew Stogel that Israeli nationals are believed to be involved in the Iraq prison controversy.

"Israelis have been to Abu Ghraib and other prisons [in Iraq]," says one source familiar with the U.S. operations.

It was explained that the Israelis involved have been assigned as "civilian contractors" to work with Coalition forces in interrogating Iraqi POWs.

The "contractors" are said to be veterans of Israel's domestic intelligence unit, Shin Bet, as well as the more famous international intelligence agency, the Mossad.

"Who has better experience in dealing with the Arabs than Israel?" one source asked.

It was explained that several of the "interrogation" techniques used by U.S. forces in Iraq have in fact been used by Israel "for years."

The technique of stripping Arab prisoners naked, to embarrass and humiliate them, has been used by Israelis, according to Arab diplomats at the U.N. [...]

Word in NYC diplomatic circles is that some of the "civilians" seen in recent Iraq prison photos are in fact Israeli nationals "advising" U.S. forces.

Neither U.S. nor Iraqi diplomatic officials in NYC or Washington were available for comment. [...]

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FBI apologizes for fingerprint mistake

Last Updated Tue, 25 May 2004 12:08:44

PORTLAND, ORE. - The FBI has apologized for mistakenly linking an American lawyer's fingerprint to one found near the scene of the March train bombings in Madrid.

The error led to two weeks in prison for Brandon Mayfield who was held as a material witness in the train explosions.

[...] The judge dismissed the case against Mayfield, a 37-year-old former army lieutenant and a convert to Islam. Mayfield said he was targeted by the FBI because of his religion.

The FBI has denied Mayfield's accusation, maintaining that it followed all laws in pursuing the case. The agency blamed the error on its analysts and the supercomputer it uses for matching fingerprints.

The agency said it will review its practices on fingerprint analyses.

[...] Mayfield's fingerprints came up as a possible match along with 15 others. His prints were on file from a 1984 burglary arrest in Kansas when Mayfield was a teenager.

Three FBI examiners identified Mayfield as a match and the court-appointed fingerprint expert agreed. They persisted on their findings even though Spanish authorities said later that the fingerprint in question did not match Mayfield's.

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Closing in on Tenet

The Senate may deliver a harsh assessment of the CIA director

By TIMOTHY J. BURGER AND DOUGLAS WALLER
Saturday, May. 22, 2004

The senate intelligence Committee is getting closer to delivering a scathing report on the CIA's prewar intelligence on Iraq. Sources tell Time that the assessment, which is nearing completion, is so tough that it is sowing doubt even among longtime fans of CIA Director George Tenet. One panel member dodged a question from Time about whether the member still had full confidence in the director, saying Tenet "has done incredible things" for the CIA but adding, "This is not going to be a happy report."

Sources tell Time the committee's two ranking members interviewed Tenet secretly earlier this month at CIA headquarters. He submitted to the three-hour session willingly and was cooperative, sources said. But Tenet wouldn't confirm whether he told President Bush before the war that evidence of Saddam Hussein's weapons-of-mass-destruction arsenal was a "slam dunk," as reported in Bob Woodward's book Plan of Attack. The panel last week sent Tenet the several-hundred-page report—minus its conclusions—for a declassification review. [...]

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Clinton: Bush re-election would mean loss of freedoms

By MARC HUMBERT
AP Political Writer
May 24, 2004, 3:48 PM EDT

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Re-electing President Bush will mean a loss of freedoms and "create an America we won't recognize," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is telling potential Democratic donors.

In an e-mail appeal distributed by the Democratic National Committee to help Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign, the former first lady said "the stakes in this election are incredibly high."

"If they get their way, you and I will be living in an America governed not by our hopes, but by our fears," Clinton wrote. "We'll be living in an America where we see our freedoms diminished when they ought to be embraced, our rights restricted when they ought to be strengthened." [...]

Comment: Don't want an America governed by fear? Then vote for Kerry - out of fear that Bush will continue to use fear as a political weapon. Either way, Americans lose. We have pointed out on numerous occasions that Kerry's ideas on foreign policy and the War on Terror are the same as - and sometimes worse than - those of Bush.

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Owens' jokes get gonged

By Susan Greene
Denver Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

France's U.S. Embassy blasted Gov. Bill Owens on Monday for "unfortunate and ill-informed" jokes about the French.

Keynoting Saturday at the Michigan Republican Party Convention, Owens quipped, "You know why they planted those big trees along the boulevard in Paris? So the invading armies could march in the shade."

And, he continued, "You know why the new French navy has glass-bottom boats? So it can see the old French navy."

C'est dommage, responded Nathalie Loiseau of the French Embassy in Washington. She admonished Colorado's two-term governor for "uselessly practicing French bashing for the purpose of playing politics." Owens delivered his riffs to a crowd of 2,000 Michigan Republicans after contrasting President Bush's leadership with that of likely Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. Kerry, he said, "would wait for a permission slip to be filled out by the United Nations and initialed by France" before rebuilding Iraq. [...]

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France Rejects God Reference in EU Draft

By CONSTANT BRAND
May 24, 8:18 PM (ET)

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - France said Monday it could not accept references to God and Christianity in a European Union constitution.

France and Belgium have been most opposed to religious references in the charter, while Italy and Poland, backed by Pope John Paul II, want the charter to acknowledge Christianity's role.

"I think the text as is, is a balanced one," said French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said. "The text already includes a mention to heritage." [...]

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Border hassles create gulf between stranded Canadian island and United States

By CHRIS MORRIS

CAMPOBELLO ISLAND, N.B. (CP) - New Brunswick's Campobello Island is separated from the state of Maine by a narrow strip of water, but border hassles are creating a growing gulf of irritation and anger between the international neighbours.

The roughly 1,500 people who live on the picturesque island in the Bay of Fundy are proud Canadians, but they are cut off from the rest of Canada by the United States and a border that is steadily tightening to the point of strangulation.

"We're isolated," says resident Holly Chute, as she headed into the Campobello Co-Op, the island's only grocery store.

"And we're vulnerable. If there's another attack in the U.S., something like 9-11, and they shut down the border, we're stuck."

From September to July, the only way on and off the island is via the international bridge to Lubec, Me. Each crossing requires a border stop, and Islanders complain that U.S. customs agents are making life difficult.

"It's like you're interrogated every time you cross," says Chute.

Adds one of her friends standing nearby, "I mean, it's not like we're from Iran or anything."

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Nuclear Experiment Planned at Nevada Site

May 24, 9:21 PM (ET)

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Government scientists plan an underground nuclear experiment, short of a nuclear blast, at the Nevada Test Site on Tuesday. The experiment will involve detonating high explosives around plutonium in a steel sphere while X-rays, radar and lasers chart the behavior of the radioactive element.

Scientists from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico will run the test in a tunnel nearly 1,000 feet below ground at the site about 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The test dubbed "Armando" is the 21st subcritical experiment at the site. Federal officials say the experiments are essential to maintaining the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The experiments technically do not violate the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty because no critical mass is formed and there is no full-scale nuclear explosion. Anti-nuclear groups criticize the experiments as contrary to the treaty's spirit. [...]

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Mystery Wave of Abductions Hits Ingushetia

By Yuri Bagrov
The Associated Press

Masked men identified as Chechen officers of the OMON special police escorting an unidentified man from his home at an undisclosed location in southern Chechnya in April.

VLADIKAVKAZ, North Ossetia -- The masked men, bold and beefy, drive up in cars without license plates. In full view of witnesses, they seize their prey, shove him in the car and speed off. Weeks pass, then months -- the victim isn't heard from again.

That has happened more than 40 times this year alone in Ingushetia, say human rights groups that are demanding answers to the rising wave of abductions. Officials say almost nothing in response.

Ingushetia, with a population of about 300,000, is a tiny fragment of the restive Caucasus region. Its president, Murat Zyazikov, has promoted it as a place of prosperity and stability, in contrast to neighboring Chechnya.

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Earthquake hits Arunachal Pradesh

New Delhi, May 25 (UNI) An earthquake of slight intensity measuring 4.6 on the Richter scale hit Arunachal Pradesh this morning.

The epicentre of the tremor lay at 27.7 degree latitude and 96.8 degree longitude at the Arunachal Pradesh - Myanmar border region, India Meteorological Department said in a release here.

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EARTHQUAKE IN PROVINCE OF L'AQUILA

(AGI) - Rome, Italy, May 25 - An earthquake measuring 3/4 on the Mercalli scale struck the province of L'Aquila. The epicentre was between towns of Barete, Pizzoli and Scoppiti. The Civil Defence acknowledged there have been no damages to buildings and that nobody was injured. The quake took place at 7:33 am, magnitude 3.1, that's 3-4 on the Mercalli scale. (AGI) -

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Caribbean storm death toll rises

Rescue teams are searching for hundreds of people reported missing in parts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti hit by torrential rains.

At least 240 people have been killed in floods, officials say. Heavy rains have been falling for more than two weeks and more storms are expected.

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Tornadoes rip through southern Ontario

Straford — Residents in and around Stratford are cleaning up Monday after two tornadoes swept through the area leaving a path of destruction. The worst damage was felt in the town of Mitchell, where no one was injured but two farms were destroyed and about 30 homes were damaged. Officials in the town, about 150 kilometres west of Toronto, declared a state of emergency around 10 p.m. Friday. The overall severe weather was blamed for spawning the two tornadoes, one of which may have been churning at close to 300 kilometers an hour. Some of the damage was caused by flying debris as the storm also tore up trees, power lines, sheds and fences. Perth County provincial police constable Glen Childerley said the weather forced at least three families from their homes and one woman and her daughter fled to the basement of their house as the roof was blown off. Other reports said the winds were so strong that a pickup truck was picked up out of a driveway and thrown down into a ditch. The last time such as severe tornado struck the province was in 1996.

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Fire destroys 400 acres of forest at Martin Lake

WebPosted May 24 2004 11:48 AM NDT

ST. JOHN'S — Firefighters have managed to keep a forest fire that began over the weekend at Martin Lake from spreading to inhabited areas. The fire has consumed about 400 hectares of forest since it began on Saturday near the Bay D'Espoir highway. The duty officer with the forest service said smoke from the blaze forced the closure of the highway, but ground crews and a water bomber kept the fire from jumping the road. "There was some concern with the high winds that it just may cross the Bay D'Espoir Highway and there's some cabins in that general area," said Ivan Downtown. "But our bomber laid down a buffer of foam or fire retardant and that kind of did the trick." Downton said crews would be back in the woods this morning, rooting out and wetting down hot spots.

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B.C. braces for season of worse forest fires: Some of last year's blazes still smouldering

Greg Joyce
Sun May 23 2004

VANCOUVER — When some forest fires that rampaged through the summer of 2003 continue to burn through this year’s winter and spring in the dense rooting system of a forest, you know things are pretty serious. That’s the case for at least a couple of last summer’s forest fires, including the notorious Okanagan Mountain fire near Kelowna that destroyed hundreds of homes and forced thousands of evacuations.

“Some fires continue to burn underground throughout the winter,” says Nancy Argyle of the B.C. Forest Service’s fire protection branch. There were so many forest fires last year in British Columbia that many are still not “closed” in the paperwork, bureaucractic sense of the word.

“For a lot of people that last fire season never ended,” says Argyle.

“When it’s over it’s usually over and people can rest. For a lot of people in protection (branch), the season still goes on and on and some work remains in the mop-up.”

At least 70 fires are not officially declared closed yet, she said. Authorities who plan for forest fires, who consult other experts such as Environment Canada and the Canadian Forest Service, are bracing for a wildfire season this summer that could be as bad or worse than 2003.

Last year, there were more than 2,500 wildfires and the model this year predicts 300 to 400 more than in 2003.

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13 pesticides in body of average American

By MARTIN MITTELSTAEDT
Globe and Mail
Friday, May. 21, 2004

A comprehensive survey of more than 1,300 Americans has found traces of weed- and bug-killers in the bodies of everyone tested, leading environmentalists in both Canada and the United States to call for far tighter controls on pesticides.

The survey, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that the body of the average American contained 13 of these chemicals.

A surprising finding was that 99 per cent of Americans, including virtually all children born in recent years, had DDT residues. The use of the insecticide has been subject to controls and outright bans since the late 1960s, and its presence indicates how persistent it is in the general environment. [...]

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Venus clouds 'might harbour life'

By Martin Redfern
Tuesday, 25 May, 2004, 15:16 GMT 16:16 UK

Venus's thick clouds may be able to support life, scientists think
There could be life on the planet Venus, US scientists have concluded in a report in the journal Astrobiology.

The existence of life on the planet's oven-hot surface is unimaginable.

But microbes could survive and reproduce, experts say, floating in the thick, cloudy atmosphere, protected by a sunscreen of sulphur compounds.

Scientists have even submitted a proposal for a Nasa space mission to sample the clouds and attempt to return any presumed Venusians to Earth. [...]

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