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Wednesday, June 23, 2004

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Audience gasps as judge likens election of Bush to rise of Il Dulce (sic)

New York Sun -June 21

2nd Circuit’s Calabresi Also Compares Bush’s Rise to That of Hitler

WASHINGTON — A prominent federal judge has told a conference of liberal lawyers that President Bush’s rise to power was similar to the accession of dictators such as Mussolini and Hitler.

"In a way that occurred before but is rare in the United States…somebody came to power as a result of the illegitimate acts of a legitimate institution that had the right to put somebody in power. That is what the Supreme Court did in Bush versus Gore. It put somebody in power," said Guido Calabresi, a judge on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, which sits in Manhattan.

"The reason I emphasize that is because that is exactly what happened when Mussolini was put in by the king of Italy," Judge Calabresi continued, as the allusion drew audible gasps from some in the luncheon crowd Saturday at the annual convention of the American Constitution Society.

"The king of Italy had the right to put Mussolini in, though he had not won an election, and make him prime minister. That is what happened when Hindenburg put Hitler in...

I am not suggesting for a moment that Bush is Hitler. I want to be clear on that, but it is a situation which is extremely unusual," the judge said.

Judge Calabresi, a former dean of Yale Law School, said Mr. Bush has asserted the full prerogatives of his office, despite his lack of a compelling electoral mandate from the public.

"When somebody has come in that way, they sometimes have tried not to exercise much power. In this case, like Mussolini, he has exercised extraordinary power. He has exercised power, claimed power for himself; that has not occurred since Franklin Roosevelt who, after all, was elected big and who did some of the same things with respect to assertions of power in times of crisis that this president is doing," he said.

The 71-year-old judge declared that members of the public should, without regard to their political views, expel Mr. Bush from office in order to cleanse the democratic system.

"That’s got nothing to do with the politics of it. It’s got to do with the structural reassertion of democracy," Judge Calabresi said.

A Reader Comments: While one is compelled to agree with judge Calabresi's opinions, we immediately suspect that perhaps the judge is also playing into the hands of the true controllers of the present reality, by yet again suggesting that there is indeed a political solution to the present quandary: to vote Bush out of the White House.

If Joe Sixpack was starting to have nagging thoughts that perhaps things have gone a little too far with the neocons, this is a good way to put him back to sleep, thinking that some form of democracy is still operating here, and that things can really be patched up nicely by going to the polls and expressing support for Kerry. This is, of course, the illusion of "forced choices".

In other words, the judge appears to be part of an orchestrated campaign to appease the masses by making them believe that they still have the power to effect significant political changes, when the reality is that they don't. I'm constantly reminded of Sting's words back in the Police days: "There is no political solution, to our troubled evolution...".

We like to think we're an honest society. We're not. We Hate Truth

Monday, June 21, 2004
Richard M. Dolan

Blaise Pascal once wrote that unhappiness in this world could be eliminated if only people learned to sit quietly in their rooms. We constantly pursue outside stimulation. Anything will do. From all types of games and trivial pursuits, right up to joining the local navy and engaging in wholesale plunder.

The reason, Pascal argued further, is that most of us are unable to bear the poverty of our own minds. We have few thoughts to begin with, and when we do ponder our lives, we realize our weaknesses, our immoralities, and especially our mortality.

I think Pascal was exactly right. How long can we bear to sit quietly and reflect on our life, before allowing some distraction to take over? How much time do we spend reflecting on the fundamentals of our existence? Questions such as, "what am I doing here?", "what is good?", "how can I strive to live in accordance with goodness?", "do I approach other people as objects to manipulate, or as fellow human beings and a spirit of love?" "What do I need to do with my short life in order to make this world a better place, or at least not to mess it up?" "Am I living in accordance with my highest ideals?"

Of course, our own society, dominated by a crass gimme gimme culture, actively discourages such quiet pursuits. If you insist on becoming such an oddball, the first thing you may want to consider is unplug your television and radio. Dominated utterly by a centralized corporate structure, these media spoonfeed us like children so we can (a) spend our money on useless products; (b) worship the State as a loyal imperial subject; and (c) don't think too hard.

Internet is also suspect, since – like TV and radio – it is largely dominated by the same corporate entities. At least in cyberspace, there remain a few pockets of freedom where you can still breathe free air.

Most people – and by most I mean about 99 percent – don't set aside even ten minutes a day to reflect quietly on matters of truth and honor (yes, honor) in their lives. How can a person think when the car radio is on? Or when watching a t.v. commercial?

The effort of those who would wish to get inside our heads is unrelenting. These people have lots of money at their disposal, and they use it. They have sophisticated knowledge of propaganda, and they use it. They want to shut our minds down.

And most of us, quite frankly, want them to do it.

People do not want truth. What we usually want is information. Usually very specific information. What did the Mets do last night? What's on for dinner? How do I remove that zit? What's the best school for my kids? Should I move to Atlanta, Vegas, or Phoenix?

You want information? No problem. This is, after all, the Information Age.

However, this is most definitely not The Age of Truth. When it comes to meaningful issues, the things that really matter, I find that people prefer to be fed palatable illusions for the duration of their lives. Nearly every person I have ever met wants information that is consistent with his or her current view of the world. Who wants to discover, at the age of forty, that some foundational belief they've held all their life is ... wrong?

I grew up believing all the typical things about my country. That America was the world's land of "freedom." That America's wars were all just. That people naturally seek truth and freedom.

Most Americans still tell themselves these things. Who wants to know what their society is really doing? Who wants to put the pieces together and question whether the entire social and economic structure of ... well ... our civilization is, for instance, not only suicidal (increasingly, a few of us are figuring that one out) but also immoral?

That the shallowness and emptiness of American culture is itself largely to blame for the horrific and apparently widespread instances of torture of (innocent) foreign civilians? That the constant spread of faux-grand mansions in our never-ending suburban sprawl (complete with double-wide driveway and SUV) is an affront and assault on what was once a beautiful natural world? That by dropping our kids off in daycare or even many (most) of our public schools, we abdicate the job of parenting? That by spending our entire lives deluged with poisonous advertising and commercial culture, our commitment to things has outweighed our commitment to people?

Can you imagine what someone of the past – anyone more than a century ago – would think upon seeing our society? It's not hard to understand that we would horrify them.

Sure, they would be amazed at our technology, no question. Our modern goodies would appear to be nothing less than a direct gift from the gods. But if they were to turn their attention away from the technology and directly to us, I think disgust would be the most common reaction.

I fear that world civilization has already gone past the point of no return. If you think that humanity may one day strike up a relationship with alien beings – whether you believe this will happen in some idealized, future setting, or is going on secretly today – what is it exactly that humans would contribute to the mix? (Ed: Food??)

We did not evolve in a concrete jungle. We evolved in a real jungle, which is fast becoming obliterated within the blink of a cosmic eye. Our rapacious gobbling up of all that we see around us cannot and will not last indefinitely, nor probably even for another few generations

All things must end, including our lives, including our civilization. When the big ship finally goes down, will it even be worth saving?

Comment: A good question, and one that cannot be answered for all of humanity by any one person alone. Each must ask themselves whether their role will be a passive one as "food for the moon", or an active one as a truly creative being.

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Iraqi Militants Behead Korean Hostage

Tue Jun 22

BAGHDAD, Iraq - An Iraqi militant group has beheaded its South Korean hostage, Al-Jazeera television reported Tuesday, just hours after a go-between said the execution had been delayed and there were negotiations for the man's release.

The South Korean foreign ministry issued a statement confirming that Kim Sun-il had been killed but did not say he was beheaded.

Kim's body was found by the U.S. military between Baghdad and Fallujah, 22 miles west of the capital, at 5:20 p.m. Iraq time, said South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Shin Bong-kil.

The South Korean embassy in Baghdad confirmed that the body was Kim's by studying a picture of the remains it received by e-mail, Shin said.

"It breaks our heart that we have to announce this unfortunate news," Shin said.

Kim, 33, worked for Gana General Trading Co., a South Korean company supplying the U.S. military in Iraq. He was abducted last week, according to the South Korean government.

The videotape of Kim, apparently made shortly before his death, showed him kneeling, blindfolded and wearing an orange jumpsuit similar to those issued to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Five hooded men stood behind Kim, one reading a statement and gesturing with his right hand. Another captor had a big knife slipped in his belt.

One of the masked men said the message was intended for the Korean people. "This is what your hands have committed. Your army has not come here for the sake of Iraqis, but for cursed America." [...]

Comment: We can logically conclude that, in all likelihood, the above "Iraqi militants" are working for the same people that desire to demonise all Arabs as bloodthirsty animals in the eyes of Americans and westerners in general. We conclude this, as a result of looking at the net effect of the killing of the Korean hostage. The demands of the "militants", like the demands of the "militants" that killed the Jewish American Nick Berg, were not met, and never had a chance of being met. Like Bin-Laden, these particular "Arabs" are doing far more to serve the agenda of the Pro-Israel NeoCons in Washington than any Arab cause. Clearly, they are merely contributing to the already negative perception that most Westerners have of Arab peoples, a perception which leads to shouts of "America kicks ass" as the US war machine rolls across the globe, butchering and maiming as it goes.

Furthermore, and most importantly perhaps, the portrayal of Arabs as "evil killers" gives Sharon the justification to employ increasingly barbaric tactics (if that is possible) against the Palestinian people as he pushes forward his plan for a pure Jewish super state.

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The story TV news won't tell

Sunday June 20, 2004
The Observer

For 10 years Tim Llewellyn was the BBC's Middle East correspondent. In this passionately argued polemic he accuses British broadcasters, including his former employer, of systematic bias in covering the Arab-Israeli conflict, giving undue prominence to the views of Jerusalem while disregarding the roots of the crisis

Since the Palestinians began their armed uprising against Israel's military occupation three years and eight months ago, British television and radio's reporting of it has been, in the main, dishonest - in concept, approach and execution.

In my judgment as a journalist and Middle East specialist, the broadcasters' language favours the occupying soldiers over the occupied Arabs, depicting the latter, essentially, as alien tribes threatening the survival of Israel, rather than vice versa. The struggle between Israel and the Palestinians is shown, most especially on mainstream bulletins, as a battle between two 'forces', possessed equally of right and wrong and responsibility. It is the tyranny of spurious equivalence.

That 37 years of military occupation, the violation of the Palestinians' human, political and civil rights and the continuing theft of their land might have triggered this crisis is a concept either lost or underplayed. Nor are we told much about how Israel was created, the epochal dilemma of the refugees, the roots of the disaster.

Legions of critics have formed similar views and put them to the BBC and ITN, to no avail.

Now comes hard evidence to support these views, gathered by Greg Philo and his Glasgow University Media Group, who have monitored and analysed four separate periods of BBC and ITN coverage between late 2000 and the spring of 2002. Bad News From Israel makes the scientifically based case that the main news and current affairs programmes - with the rare exception, usually on Channel 4 - are failing to tell us the real story and the reasons behind it. They use a distorted lens.

The result is that the Israelis have identity, existence, a story the viewer understands. The Palestinians are anonymous, alien, their personalities and their views buried under their burden of plight and the vernacular of 'terror'.

The Israeli view, the study finds, dominates the coverage. There is far more coverage of Israeli deaths than Palestinian, even though far more Palestinians have died, and they have the evidence that unerringly shows it. Israeli violence is tempered not only by the weight of coverage but by the very language used to describe incidents.

One example is a template for hundreds: when Israeli police killed 13 Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin in October 2000, inside Israel, soon after the armed uprising in the occupied territories began, BBC and ITN coverage was a fifth of that given to the Palestinians who stormed a police station in Ramallah a day later and murdered two captured Israeli soldiers. These Palestinians were 'a frenzied [lynch] mob... baying for blood'. No such lurid prose was used to describe the Israeli killing of their own citizen Arabs.

In the Israeli reprisals that followed the Ramallah killings, ITV said the Israelis were 'abandoning their restraint'. This was after two weeks in which Israeli forces had killed 100 Palestinians, most of them civilians. [...]

The Media Group interviewed many people, of different backgrounds, regions and ages (the study explains fully its focus group methods and practices), whose views of the conflict, as seen through TV, are closely analysed. Two examples: of groups of British students interviewed in 2001 and 2002 only about 10 per cent knew it was Israel that occupied Palestine - most believed the Palestinians were the settlers and it was they who occupied Israel. In 2002, only 35 per cent of the British students questioned knew that the Palestinians had suffered far greater casualties than the Israelis. [...]

Comment: Of course, with the US media almost totally owned or controlled by Israeli sympathisers, the lack of public awareness of the truth of the "Middle East" conflict is much, much worse across the Atlantic. Combining this fact with a public that seems inordinately willingly to believe whatever they see and hear on television, or that which issues from the mouths of their leaders, and we begin to realise the that entire American public has been rallied to do the will of Ariel Sharon and his masters.

The below is an excerpt from a series of anonymous testimonies by Israeli soldiers which accompany a photo exhibition called "Breaking the Silence" which is on show at a college in Tel Aviv,

"I'd go into a [Palestinian's] house and say, 'Look, I want all the children to go into one room now, I want to check out your house.' And I think: if it was the other way round, I don't know what I'd do. Really. I'd go nuts if anyone came into my house [like that]. I tried to imagine my parents, my family, what they'd actually do, if people with guns came into a house with little kids [in it] - little kids, four or five years old - and pointed weapons at them and said, 'OK, get moving everyone!' I found that part really hard... ."

"The day I understood that I simply enjoyed the sense of power, I was ashamed of myself. I don't believe in it, I don't think it's right to do anything [bad] to anyone, and certainly not to someone who hasn't done you any harm. But you can't help but enjoy it. People do what you tell them. You know it's because you've got a gun. You know that if you didn't have a weapon and if you didn't have your comrades beside you, they'd jump on you and beat you up and stab you and kill you - [but] you begin to enjoy it. Enjoy is not even the word. You need it.

Then, when someone suddenly says 'no' to you, [you think], what do they mean, 'no'? Where did you get the cheek to say 'no' to me? Forget for the moment that I think that those Jews [the settlers] are crazy, and that I want peace and for us not to be in the territories - what do you mean by saying 'no' to me? I'm the law! I'm the law here! It's then you begin to understand that you like it ...."

"And this is where a soldier's maturity and discretion comes in - something I'm not sure always exists. There are a lot of catastrophes here, because the moment you give an 18-year-old such power, he can do dreadful things... ."

"The crazy thing is that you're standing there, a soldier in the Israel Defence Forces, OK? You've got a gun, loaded and cocked and what - are you an idiot? How dare you not listen to me? I can shoot you at any moment. I can just beat you with my gun butt, and chances are my platoon commander will pat me on the shoulder and say, 'Man, finally you've done something properly.' I'm just a kid, I hardly know anything about life, the only power I've got is my uniform and my gun, and because of this, I get to decide."

"What I'm used to here, that's to say, democracy, vanished in Hebron. The Jews did what they liked, whatever they liked, quite simply, there are no rules."

"What I understood in the end, after six months there, [was] that actually we have to protect the Palestinians from attacks by the Jews there, not protect the Jews... ."

"The people whose houses you go into, there's no difference, they're not people of a different kind. These people are even physically like my grandfather ... the old man who has to beg you to let him through the checkpoint, or who shows you an X-ray picture and you don't understand why ...

Book by CIA official slams US war on terrorism, Iraq

Wed Jun 23, 3:55 AM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A book by an anonymous CIA official titled "Imperial Hubris," describes Iraq and Afghanistan as two "failed half-wars" that have played into the enemy's hands and complicated the war on terrorism, The New York Times said.

The 309-page book was written by a still serving Central Intelligence Agency officer who from 1996 to 1999 headed a special office to track Osama bin Laden and who, in the book, is identified only as Anonymous, said the daily which obtained a copy of the book.

In a highly unusual move allowing the publication of a book on a politically explosive topic, the CIA vetted the book to ensure it included no classified information, and a CIA official asked the daily not to reveal the identity of its author -- a former CIA official identified him -- because he could become a target of bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, the daily said.

In criticism directed both at US President George W. Bush and his predecessor Bill Clinton, the author of the book says US leaders "refuse to accept the obvious".

"We are fighting a worldwide Islamic insurgency -- not criminality or terrorism -- and our policy and procedures have failed to make more than a modest dent in enemy forces," he said.

He said the threat from radical Islam is rooted in opposition not to American values, but to policies and actions, particularly in the Islamic world.

The book denounces the US occupation of Iraq as "an avaricious, premeditated unprovoked war against a foe who posed no immediate threat," and said it would fuel the anti-American sentiments on which bin Laden and his followers draw.

"There is nothing that bin Laden could have hoped for more than the American invasion and occupation of Iraq," the author writes.

In warning that the United States is losing the war on terrorism, Anonymous writes: "In the period since 11 September, the United States has dealt lethal blows to Al Qaeda's leadership and -- if official claims are true -- have captured 3,000 Al Qaeda foot soldiers.

"At the same time, we have waged two failed half-wars and, in doing so, left Afghanistan and Iraq seething with anti-U.S. sentiment, fertile grounds for the expansion of Al Qaeda and kindred groups."

Anonymous said he has "a pressing certainty that Al Qaeda will attack the continental United States again, that its next strike will be more damaging than that of 11 September 2001, and could include use of weapons of mass destruction."

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"Significant" terror acts reach 21-year high: Report 2004-06-23 11:22:28

WASHINGTON, June 22 (Xinhuanet) -- The US State Department announced Tuesday that according to a corrected report on war against terrorism, "significant" acts of terror worldwide reached a 21-year high in 2003.

J. Cofer Black, who heads the department's counter-terrorism office, admitted that there were 175 "significant events" of terror last year, and the total was the highest since 1982.

According to the revised report, acts of terror worldwide increased slightly last year and the number of people wounded rose dramatically.

Black said that Muslim fundamentalists were responsible for most terror incidents.

Black added that half of the total casualties were in eleven incidents in seven countries and all were the result of Islamic extremist terrorists.

Black highlighted a decline in the number of people killed, from 725 in 2002 to 625 in 2003.

The initial report was released on April 28, but was soon accused of quoting wrong numbers and being used to bolster President George W. Bush's war on terror. For instance, the report said that 307 people had been killed in terror acts last year, compared with 625 in the revised report.

On June 10, the State Department acknowledged the findings were inaccurate and attributed the errors partly to a new data system, but not deliberate deception.

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Bush: "I have never ordered torture" 2004-06-23 07:46:08

WASHINGTON, June 22 (Xinhuanet) -- The White House on Tuesday released newly declassified documents concerning interrogation techniques on prisoners captured in the war against terror and held at the US Naval base military prison in Guantanamo, Cuba.

The newly declassified papers, which outlined the techniques used on some 600 al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees at Guantanamo, were released to demonstrate that Bush administration had insisted that detainees at Guantanamo be treated humanely.

The papers showed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved harsh interrogation methods in December 2002 for Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners at Guantanamo, rescinded many of them in January 2003 and approved less aggressive techniques in April 2003.

A memo dated February 7, 2002, and signed by President George W.Bush said the Geneva Conventions do not apply to captured Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan but stipulated that they must be treated humanely.

Comment: How convenient. After the discussion of the Justice Department memos going over the definition of torture with a fine-toothed comb, all Georgie Boy needs is a memo stipulating that prisoners be treated humanely to cover his butt. This is an election ploy, no more. He needs to make Americans feel good about their country after dragging it so brazenly through the mud.

But this is two-faced. The "prisoners" still do not know how long they will be held, what they are charged with, or how to defend themselves. They are humiliated and abused. They are subjected to psychological and physical torture, which the Administration refers to as "abuse", becoming indignant if someone attempts to use the T word.

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Ex-spy chief knew U.S. sent prisoners abroad


OTTAWA—The former head of Canada's spy agency says he was aware of allegations that the United States deported citizens to countries with questionable human rights records.

Ward Elcock, the retired director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, was testifying yesterday at the public inquiry probing the U.S. arrest and deportation to Syria of Canadian Maher Arar.

The U.S. has been accused of ignoring legal procedures for extradition and being in violation of human rights conventions by sending terrorism suspects to countries where it's believed brutal interrogation methods are used to illicit information.

Comment: But George Bush says, "I never ordered torture..."

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Justice Dept. Repudiates Memo on Torture

By TERENCE HUNT, AP White House Correspondent
June 23, 2004

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration laid out its legal reasoning for denying terror war suspects the protections of international humanitarian law but immediately repudiated a key memo arguing that torture might be justified in the fight against al-Qaida.

The release Tuesday of hundreds of pages of internal memos by the White House was meant to blunt criticism that President Bush had laid the groundwork for the abuses of Iraqi prisoners by condoning torture. The president insisted Tuesday: "I have never ordered torture."

But critics said the developments left unresolved some questions about the administration's current guidelines for interrogating prisoners in Iraq and around the world. For example, a 2002 order signed by Bush says the president reserves the right to suspend the Geneva Conventions on treatment of prisoners of war at any time.

"These documents raise more questions than they answer," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. "The White House is better off coming clean and releasing all relevant and nonclassified documents."

Comment: Why doesn't the good senator from New York just openly recommend that the White House hide the truth behind a "Classified" label?

The White House released Defense Department memos detailing some of the harsh interrogation methods approved - and then rescinded - by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in 2002 and 2003. The administration continues to refuse to say what interrogation methods are approved for use now.

Comment: Gee, we wonder why...

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U.S. backs down on war-crimes exemption

Associated Press

United Nations — Facing strong opposition, the United States said Tuesday it is willing to compromise and seek an exemption for American peacekeepers from international prosecution for war crimes for just one final year.

The United States circulated a resolution last month which would authorize an exemption for a third straight year, but it ran into stiff opposition from supporters of the International Criminal Court and Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Last week, Mr. Annan urged the Security Council not to renew the U.S. exemption, citing the recent abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. forces. He also delivered a written note to council ambassadors that raised “serious doubts” about the legality of an exemption and warned against dividing the United Nations' most powerful body.

U.S. Deputy Ambassador James Cunningham conceded Tuesday that council members “are becoming increasingly uncomfortable” with the U.S. exemption so the United States was willing to go along with “the idea of a final extension.”

[...] U.S, President George W. Bush's administration argues that the International Criminal Court — which started operating last year — could be used for frivolous or politically motivated prosecutions of American troops.

The 94 countries that have ratified the 1998 Rome Treaty establishing the court maintain it contains enough safeguards to prevent frivolous prosecutions and insist that nobody should be exempt.

This year, human rights groups and court supporters argue that another U.S. exemption is even more unjustified in the wake of the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal, a view backed by Mr. Annan.

Comment: Yeah, right. "Let us get away with murder one more time!" The only thing frivolous here is the attitude of the rest of the world, allowing the US to get away with this!

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How Hiiiiiigh can you go?

I admit I'm really enjoying seeing this whole war-crimes prosecution unfolding regarding the Abu Ghraib guards.

As I predicted, the first bunch of indictees there who are actually (unlike Sivits) contesting their cases, are building a defense of "I was following orders". Quite rightly, the Nuremberg Principles spell out that--in any situation where, as in the case of the Abu Ghraib guards, the individuals concerned have the possibility of exercizing moral choice-- the "following orders" claim cannot provide a complete defense. But it can still, certainly, be a relavant factor in any trial of a person lower down the chain of command...

And along the way there, we'll get more and more and more information about just how high up the chain of command the orders and directives encouraging those cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatments came from.

This could all last for months-- especially if further indictments, further and further up the chain of command, get handed out. As they certainly should. Given what we already know, from the leaked memos, from the record of Geoffrey Miller being transferred from Gitmo to Abu Ghraib, etc., etc., this whole detainee-abuse issue is going to be bubbling and rattling away there on a front- or medium burner, news-wise, right through next November 2.


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Power To The Iraqi People - Or Not, As The Case May Be

Here's the first line of a front-page New York Times piece by Dexter Filkins and Somini Sengupta, datelined Baghdad, that appeared Monday under the headline, Iraq Government Considers Using Emergency Rule: "Faced with violent resistance even before it has assumed power, Iraq's newly appointed government is considering imposing a state of emergency that could involve curfews and a ban on public demonstrations, Iraqi officials said Sunday."

Now consider these recent comments by "Riverbend," a young woman blogger in Baghdad:

"The new government isn't very different from the old Governing Council. Some of the selfsame Puppets, in fact. It's amusing to watch our Karazai [the Afghan head of state] -- Ghazi Ajeel Al-Yawer -- trying to establish himself… That whole charade is laughable. It has been quite clear from the very start that the Puppets do not breathe unless [occupation administrator L. Paul] Bremer asks them, very explicitly, to inhale and exhale. The last time I checked, Puppets do not suddenly come to life and grow a conscience unless a fairy godmother and Jiminy the Cricket are involved." [...]

Consider, then, where power lies when the interim government assumes… well what exactly? How would you rewrite that New York Times first line? Here's a sentence from a piece (Echoes of the past) in the British Guardian by Luke Harding that might come closer to reality (the job of journalism, no?): "Next month the Bush administration will hand over limited powers to a carefully handpicked and pro-US Iraqi government to politicians whom most Iraqis already dismiss as American stooges."

Or take another subject. Just days ago, an American plane or helicopter fired two missiles into a residential neighborhood of Fallujah (itself a war crime as Juan Cole recently pointed out at his Informed Comment website). The Bush administration explanation went like this: Based on "strong, actionable" intelligence or "multiple confirmations of actionable intelligence," our military hit a "safe house" used by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terrorist network.

Reports from Fallujah were that 22 people had died, mostly belonging to a single extended family and including a number of women and children. Our spokesperson in Baghdad responded: Not at all; we "killed key figures in the network of suspected terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi." (How, given our notoriously dreadful intelligence in Iraq, we can be sure of this in out-of-bounds Fallujah, I leave to your imagination.) The destruction and civilian deaths, the claims and counterclaims, the reassertion of even more specific claims and counterclaims (often followed by the promise of an investigation)… anything seem familiar here? Not, probably, if you read the American press.

On June 13, the New York Times had a striking piece (Errors Are Seen in Early Attacks on Iraqi Leaders) by Douglas Jehl and Eric Schmitt reporting that, of 50 air strikes meant to take out the top figures in Saddam's government with "precision munitions" over a month-long period beginning on the eve of the war, and based on our best intelligence of that moment, we were an across-the-boards 0-50. What are the odds against that, even blind? ("It was all just guesswork on where they were," they quote "a senior military officer" as saying.) Of course, we were anything but 0-50 when it came to killing significant numbers of Iraqi civilians since, as in the recent Fallujah missile attack, many of these strikes took place in heavily populated urban neighborhoods. Perhaps there is a little formula here: smart bombs plus dumb intelligence equals civilian horror.

Then again, as the Israelis have shown, precision munitions plus good intelligence still equals civilian horror.

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Warrants Rubber-stamped by Secret Court

Inside the Federal Government's 'Star Chamber'

Editor, Capitol Hill Blue
Jun 22, 2004

Each and every weekday, 11 federal judges meet in secret in Washington and review FBI and Department of Homeland Security requests for warrants to spy on Americans.

And, on average, the court approves seven warrants a day, according to records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

But while the numbers of warrants issued are obtainable (only after a long, bureaucratic battle with the Department of Justice), very little else is known about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which meets in secure chambers at the Department of Justice Headquarters.

Some privacy groups refer to the court as a "Star Chamber," a secret coven of judges who hold the future of Americans in their judicial hands. Although the court was created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, it has become recent tool of the Bush Administration to wiretap, follow, investigate and harass Americans under the guise of the war against terrorism.

And the law allows the court to conduct its business in secret, with no oversight from any federal agency or legislative body, including the U.S. Congress. [...]

"Without oversight and public scrutiny, there is no compelling reason for the court or the Department of Justice to follow the rule of law," the letter said.

Comment: Do the words "creeping fascism" mean anything at all to Americans??

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Senate OKs Higher Fines for Indecency

By JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer
Wed Jun 23, 1:09 AM ET

WASHINGTON - Faced with public ire over racy language, explicit scenes and skin-baring outfits, the Senate overwhelmingly agreed on Tuesday to fine radio and television broadcasters and personalities as much as $3 million a day for airing indecent entertainment.

After the uproar stoked by Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake's "wardrobe malfunction" at this year's Super Bowl, the Senate rushed the bill through on a 99-1 vote without floor debate.

GOP Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas said the issue had been debated enough. Lawmakers have continually criticized broadcasters for airing what they say is increasingly coarse programming that can be seen or heard by children.

"People are tired of this indecent material on over-the-air public broadcast, particularly during prime time when people's families are watching," said Brownback, the bill's sponsor. "We're going to have to take action because the broadcasters won't police themselves." [...]

Comment: And what of the indecent material that keeps pouring out of the White House? Apparently, wars based on lies and the bombing and the torture of innocent people are far less scandalous to the American public than wardrobe malfunctions. The biggest bunch of "dirty-minded puritans" the world has ever seen.

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House Approves Defense Spending Bill

By PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press Writer
Wed Jun 23, 3:11 AM ET

WASHINGTON - Disagreements over missile defense and progress in Iraq are among issues that remain to be resolved as the Senate works to finish a defense spending bill before it goes home for a weeklong recess.

More than 30 amendments to the massive Pentagon authorization bill were pending as the Senate planned to take up the legislation again Wednesday.

On Tuesday, senators rejected a proposal that would have taken money from President Bush's proposed missile defense budget for use on such tasks as securing "loose nukes" - nuclear bomb material around the world that could fall into the hands of terrorists - and policing America's ports and borders. The 56-44 vote defeated an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would have shifted $515 million from the $10.2 billion missile defense budget.

Meanwhile, the House on Tuesday approved a $417 billion defense spending bill that includes an initial $25 billion for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus billions of dollars for major weapons systems.

The 403-17 vote underscored an election-year, bipartisan consensus behind military spending that wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have accentuated.

If anything, Democrats think Bush has requested too little for operations in the two countries in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 and predict the $25 billion he requested for the latter months of this year will prove at least $50 billion too low.

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U.S. Will Hold Saddam Even After Transfer

By JIM KRANE, Associated Press Writer
Wed Jun 23, 2:23 AM ET

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The United States will transfer legal custody of Saddam Hussein and other top prisoners to Iraqi authorities as soon as Iraqi courts issue the necessary warrants, a U.S. official said Tuesday.

But U.S. forces won't let go of the former dictator, even after Iraq regains its sovereignty next week, because it doesn't have a prison strong enough to hold him, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

U.S. forces will honor transfer-of-custody requests from Iraq's incoming government, which takes power June 30, as long as they are accompanied by arrest warrants from an Iraqi court, the official said in a legal briefing with reporters.

Details of the transfer will be laid out in a memorandum of understanding between U.S.-led multinational forces and the incoming Iraqi government, he said.

American forces need to keep Saddam and other top figures from his regime in coalition lockups for their own safety - and to secure them against escape or other mishaps, the official said.

Saddam, who is said to be incarcerated at a U.S. prison near Baghdad International Airport, will be in the first group of prisoners turned over, he said.

Once his legal custody shifts, Saddam will lose his prisoner of war status and will be considered an accused criminal. As such, he will win due process rights, including access to an attorney.

Comment: It is rather curious that of the thousands of Arabs detained during the war on terror, Saddam the Brutal Dictator is the only one who was given the courtesy of POW status and criminal charges. The rest of the people were imprisoned, tortured, and many were recently released. We suppose that this is one way to ensure that America will have an enemy to fight for quite some time to come.

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Turns out peaceniks were the real patriots all along

Rick Bell, Calgary Sun
Tue, June 22, 2004

[...] Where were those weapons of mass destruction? Did the Iraqis really pose a imminent threat to us? Why could we not wait for the UN inspectors to complete their mission, mere weeks? Where WAS this alleged link between 9/11 and Iraq?

If no link, and there isn't, then what was the real purpose of the war? Why were the swimming-in-oil Saudis not pursued, Saudi Arabia being home base to most of the hijackers and the big bucks of the bin Laden clan? Why did 9/11 itself somehow get lost in the shuffle, with no card ever assigned out of the famous deck?

Ask those questions last year around these hawkish environs and you'd bear the bull's-eye, targeted as a traitor, an appeaser, an anti-American, a peacenik, a wimp, a Saddam sympathizer, some sort of snot who would have rolled over for Hitler if you'd been born back before the Big One. [...]

It is patriotic to question the government.

Who didn't question? Who are the real traitors now?

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AP Sues for Access to Bush Guard Records

Associated Press
June 22, 2004

WASHINGTON - The Associated Press sued the Pentagon and the Air Force on Tuesday, seeking access to all records of George W. Bush's military service during the Vietnam War.

Filed in federal court in New York, where The AP is headquartered, the lawsuit seeks access to a copy of Bush's microfilmed personnel file from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in Austin.

The White House says the government has already released all the records of Bush's military service.

Controversy surrounds Bush's time in the Texas Air National Guard because it is unclear from the record what duties he performed for the military when he was working on the political campaign of a U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama.

There are questions as to whether the file provided to the news media earlier this year is complete, says the lawsuit, adding that these questions could possibly be answered by reviewing a copy of the microfilm of Bush's personnel file in the Texas archives.

The Air National Guard of the United States, a federal entity, has control of the microfilm, which should be disclosed in its entirety under the Freedom of Information Act, the lawsuit says. [...]

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Iran releases detained British sailors

Last Updated Wed, 23 Jun 2004 7:34:17

TEHRAN - Iran freed eight British sailors on Wednesday, despite its initial threat to prosecute them for illegally entering Iranian territorial waters.

The Associated Press reported the Iranian government had set the the sailors free hours after Iranian state radio said the release was imminent.

"Considering statements by British sailors that the boats carrying them mistakenly entered Iran's territorial waters, the armed forces decided to release the boats and their occupants," armed forces spokesperson Gen. Ali Reza Afshar, told Iranian state radio.

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DPRK willing to quit nuke programs with conditions 2004-06-23 18:35:55

BEIJING, June 23 (Xinhuanet) -- The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) would give up all its nuclear weapon programs once the United States abandoned its hostile policies toward the DPRK with actions, Kim Kye-gwan, DPRK deputy foreign minister and head of the DPRK delegation, said at the opening ceremony of the third round of six-party talks here Wednesday afternoon.

Kim said it was the task of all parties to break the deadlock between the DPRK and the United States on the nuclear issue during the third round of the six-party talks.

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Koizumi vows to reduce US military bases on Okinawa

Wednesday June 23, 3:41 PM

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi vowed to reduce US military presence on Okinawa as the island marked the 59th anniversary of the most fierce Pacific battle of World War II.

Koizumi was among more than 7,000 people who attended an official ceremony at the Peace Memorial Park in the Okinawan city of Itoman under the scorching sun to honor more than 200,000 military and civilian victims killed in the 1945 battle.

Those attending, mostly in their 60s and 70s, placed flowers at a cenotaph.

"A deep sorrow over the loss of many valuable lives will never leave Okinawan people's mind," Koizumi said in a speech. "It is our responsibility not to cause war again while passing the story down to the future generations."

While noting the sub-tropical island rose from the ashes of war, Koizumi acknowledged that "US military facilities concentrated on Okinawa heavily burdens Okinawan people."

"The government will make sincere efforts to reduce the burden," he said.

Okinawa hosts about two-thirds of the 40,500 US troops in Japan.

A string of crimes committed by US soldiers, as well as disputes over the ownership and use of the land on which US military facilities sit, have made Okinawa residents reluctant hosts.

Okinawa, which was handed back to Japan in 1972 after 27 years of US military rule following World War II, is strategically located within striking distance of China and the Korean Peninsula. [...]

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Chinese police beat elderly women protesting outside nuclear talks venue

BEIJING (AFP) Jun 23, 2004

Chinese police dragged away and beat a group of mostly elderly women protesting outside the Beijing venue of six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program Wednesday, witnesses said.

About 15 protesters, mostly elderly women, had gathered outside the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in western Beijing to protest against court corruption in Inner Mongolia, a pool reporter said.

Police pushed them away from journalists and rounded them up.

According to the witnesses, the protestors were taken away to a police van and some were beaten.

The incident happened just minutes ahead of a meeting at the guesthouse between the chief US negotiator at the talks, James Kelly, and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi.

Police were not immediately available for comment.

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Vatican summit aims to combat threat of 'alternative' religions

By Peter Popham in Rome
16 June 2004

Catholics from more than 25 countries are in Rome this week to hammer out a strategy for combating the threat posed to Christianity by "New Age" religions and fads.

"Astrologers believe that the Age of Pisces - known to them as the Christian age - is drawing to a close," explained an exhaustive report on the New Age produced by the Catholic church last year. And as priests around the world watch their congregations dwindle through boredom or plain disbelief, the Church believes that the moment has come to fight back.

Monsignor Peter Fleetwood, one of the authors of the report, said those at the closed-door conference include priests and lay people from Latin America "worried that they can be pushed out by something that has come from abroad", and from Asia where "a lot of traditional religions are reviving".

But for Fleetwood the greatest challenge may be in England and North America, "where the New Age began ... and where it has become such a part of everyday life that we don't notice it". That makes it harder to attack, he says: "Where one sees a threat, it's easier to battle it."

This is an enemy with dozens of heads: the version of the Jewish kabbalah espoused by Madonna, the Enneagram personality-reading cult, ancient Egyptian occult practices, Sufism, the lore of the Druids, Celtic Christianity, medieval alchemy, Renaissance hermeticism, Yoga, Zen Buddhism, and many more.

The report acknowledges the strength of the Enemy Within: "In Western culture in particular, the appeal of 'alternative' approaches to spirituality is very strong .... New forms of psychological affirmation of the individual have become very popular among Catholics."

Under the liberal dispensation of Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council, Catholic missionaries explored the religious traditions of lands where in the past their task would have been restricted to converting the heathen.

In Japan, one Jesuit missionary became a Zen Buddhist roshi ("master"). He in fact became a reverse missionary, implanting Zen Buddhist ideas and practice in Catholic groups in Germany and elsewhere, where they continue to thrive.

But Pope John Paul II's church is far less tolerant about practices that the Pope's "enforcer of the faith", Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dismissed as "spiritual auto-eroticism".

New Age is getting a grip on Christians because many are failing to find authentic spirituality in the Church. They are failing to find, as the report put it, "the importance of man's spiritual dimension and its integration with the whole of life, the search for life's meaning, the link between human beings and the rest of creation, the desire for personal and social transformation, and the rejection of a rationalistic and materialistic view of humanity."

While one of the two "pontifical councils" involved in taking up the challenge is that for "inter-religious dialogue", suggesting that the New Agers be dealt with on a similar footing to Muslims, Jews, and indeed Anglicans, the Pope himself appears to see the issue as a simple matter of right and wrong.

"We cannot delude ourselves," he says, that "this return of ancient Gnostic ideas" "will lead toward a renewal of religion." It is, he said, "a way of distorting His Word ... in distinct, if not declared, conflict with all that is essentially Christian".

The time for a decisive battle is clearly fast approaching. And the message to faithful in the report is plain: quit "shopping around in the world's fair of religious proposals."

Comment: "The threat of alternative religions" - what an interesting concept. Surely if there was something genuinely and clearly beneficial to the masses in Christianity, it would be readily apparent as such and there would be no real "threat" to its existence. Surely if a religion, such as Catholicism, were the "word of the one true god", it would stand out as such to the "people of God"? But who are the "people of god" and is there one true religion?

As we have noted before, it is the urgings of the same Christian God that leads some people to care for the sick, while others, like Bush, wage war on the innocent in his/her name. It seems that, while there may be a God, there are as many interpretations of his teaching as there are those to "hear" them.

We do not doubt that it is probable that some spiritual truths lie hidden among the plethora of bogus, manufactured religious teachings that are available today, but how to find them? Perhaps this is the real issue here. We agree with "his holiness" that something must be done about the charlatans that have been leading true seekers astray, but who are the charlatans? It is not enough to claim that, "we were on first", particularly when this claim itself can be easily and convincingly disputed.

It is very telling that, in the above, Monsignor Fleetwood talks of the need to "attack" in the defence of Catholicism. When a person or organisation claims to stand for the truth, when they are in fact propagating a lie, the real truth must be continually attacked. It is our experience that the truth does not require that its exponents go on the offensive, but at every turn it must be defended against the imposters that would claim it as their own.

Hundreds More Sued Over Music File Swaps

Associated Press
06.22.2004, 03:51 PM

The music industry filed copyright infringement lawsuits against 482 computer users Tuesday, the latest round of litigation by recording companies against suspected online music file-swappers.

The cases were filed against 213 people in St. Louis, 206 in Washington D.C., 55 in Denver and six in New Jersey, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, the Washington-based trade group that represents the major recording companies. [...]

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Spam is making computers sick

Spam overload is making computers sick and driving users mad.

Research commissioned by Yahoo finds that the average British PC has nine 'sick days' per year, two more than the average for workers.

Six of these are wasted battling with spam and three more days are lost due to viruses.

Nearly half of British computer users find dealing with junk e-mails more stressful than traffic jams and the majority want service providers to act.


Over half of the 2,500 people questioned by Yahoo as part of its anti-spam campaign had asked their provider to do something to stop the deluge of junk e-mails they were receiving.

Around a third of people would be prepared to make a drastic lifestyle change, such as exercising five times a week, if it meant an end to spam.

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More delay for Mars water search

By Paul Rincon
BBC News Online science staff

The deployment of a radar on Europe's Mars Express probe which is to look for water and ice under the Red Planet has been delayed until later this year.

The 40m-long Marsis antenna was due to open out of the spacecraft on 20 April.

The delay is linked to concerns that the antenna might swing back with a greater range of motion than expected after opening, hitting the spacecraft.

The Marsis radar altimeter will search for water up to 5km (3 miles) beneath the surface of the Red Planet.

The antenna consists of two 20m-long hollow booms that are folded up like a concertina aboard Mars Express. When a pyrotechnic mechanism is fired, the booms spring out like a jack-in-the-box.

Data from the most recent mathematical models carried out by the antenna's manufacturer, Californian-based Astro Aerospace, suggested the instrument's deployment might be more "dynamic" than previously thought.

Comment: Another problem associated with the exploration of Mars, this time delaying the search for water by many months. What is it about the Red Planet? Is it the simple fact that it is so far away, and that, therefore, exploration is more complicated? But the excuses we are given, such as in this case that the simulations are showing the antenna is more dynamic than they thought, seem a bit "off". What about the simulations they carried out prior to the launch, while the probe was in development?

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Global sewage torrent harms young

By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent in Budapest, Hungary

The amount of raw sewage entering the river Ganges every minute is 1.1 million litres, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says.

Its Atlas Of Children's Health And The Environment says large quantities of sewage are also flushed into rivers, lakes and oceans worldwide.

One gram of faeces can contain 10 million viruses, one million bacteria, 1,000 parasite cysts and 100 worm eggs.

It also says up to a million lives could be saved annually by hand-washing.

Launched at a conference of European health and environment ministers in Budapest, Hungary, the atlas says polluted water and air, together with other hazards linked to the environment, kill more than three million children under the age of five every year.

While 10% of the world population falls within that age group, it says, 40% of the environment related disease burden affects these small children.

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Scientist to study new fault in Colorado


DENVER -- Experts plan to study a newly discovered fault in eastern Colorado this week to find out how many times it may have caused earthquakes.

So far they believe the fault, found under farmland about 6 miles northeast of Anton, could trigger an earthquake that could cause nearly $3 billion in damage reaching as far away as the Denver area 90 miles away.

"We need to find out what is the recurrence interval. When is the last time it moved," said state geologist Vincent Matthews, who will lead the team.

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Chandra Turns Up The Heat In The Milky Way Center

NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center

A long look by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has revealed new evidence that extremely hot gas exists in a large region at the center of the Milky Way. The intensity and spectrum of the high-energy X-rays produced by this gas present a puzzle as to how it is being heated.

The discovery came to light as a team of astronomers, led by Michael Muno of UCLA used Chandra's unique resolving power to study a region about 100 light years across and painstakingly remove the contributions from 2,357 point-like X-ray sources due to neutron stars, black holes, white dwarfs, foreground stars, and background galaxies.

What remained was an irregular, diffuse glow from a 10-million-degree Celsius gas cloud, embedded in a glow of higher-energy X-rays with a spectrum characteristic of 100-million-degree gas.

"The best explanation for the Chandra data is that the high-energy X-rays come from an extremely hot gas cloud," says Muno, lead author on a paper describing the results to appear in the September 20, 2004 issue of The Astrophysical Journal. "This would mean that there is a significant shortcoming in our understanding of heat sources in the center of our Galaxy."

The combined gravity from the known objects in the center of the Milky Way - all the stars and the supermassive black hole in the center - is not strong enough to prevent the escape of the 100 million degree gas from the region. The escape time would be about 10,000 years, a small fraction of the 10-billion-year lifetime of the Galaxy. This implies that the gas would have to be continually regenerated and heated.

The gas could be replenished by winds from massive stars, but the source of the heating remains a puzzle. [...]

"There is no known class of objects that could account for such a large number of high-energy X-ray sources at the Galactic center," said Fred Baganoff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, a coauthor of the study.

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Wireless Nanocrystals Efficiently Radiate Visible Light

Sandia National Laboratories

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A wireless nanodevice that functions like a fluorescent light - but potentially far more efficiently - has been developed in a joint project between the National Nuclear Security Administration's Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories.

The experimental success, reported in the June 10 issue of Nature, efficiently causes nanocrystals to emit light when placed on top of a nearby energy source, eliminating the need to put wires directly on the nanocrystals.

The energy source is a so-called quantum well that emits energy at wavelengths most easily absorbable by the nanocrystals.

The efficiency of the energy transfer from the quantum well to the nanocrystals was approximately 55 percent - although in theory nearly 100 percent transfer of the energy is possible and might be achieved with further tweaking.

The work is another step in creating more efficient white-light-emitting diodes - semiconductor-based structures more efficient and hardier than the common tungsten light bulb.

Reduction of lighting costs is of wide interest because on a world scale, lighting uses more electrical energy per year than any other human invention. [...]

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Diet: Potato growers say they'll pitch a 'low-carb' spud

June 23, 2004

SPUDS, Fla. (AP) - For dieters, potatoes have been scorned, rejected and castigated x{2014} the Rodney Dangerfield of vegetables, they get no respect.

Many weight-loss programs, including the Atkins and the South Beach diets, advocate meat and cheese over high-carbohydrate potatoes, pasta and bread.

Come January, carb-counters who love potatoes may find cause to rejoice a bit. Florida growers will be pitching a potato they hope will be a hot one - it claims one-third fewer carbs than the ordinary spud.

"Consumers are going to love the flavor and appearance of this potato and the fact that it has 30% fewer carbohydrates compared to a standard Russet baking potato," said Chad Hutchinson, an assistant professor of horticulture at University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

After five years of testing in the sandy soils near here in the heart of Florida's potato country, Hutchinson knew it tasted great, had a shorter growing cycle, was disease-resistant and able to handle Florida's extreme weather. He then learned about its lower-carb properties. [...]

The new baseball-size potato will be available in supermarkets and restaurants in January.

Florida is the first test site in the United States for the European import, which was developed by HZPC, a seed company based in the Netherlands. The potato was developed by crossbreeding and was not genetically modified.

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