Today's conditions brought to you by the Bush Junta - marionettes of their hyperdimensional puppet masters - Produced and Directed by the CIA, based on an original script by Henry Kissinger, with a cast of billions.... The "Greatest Shew on Earth," no doubt, and if you don't have a good sense of humor, don't read this page! It is designed to reveal the "unseen."
If you can't stand the heat of Objective Reality, get out of the kitchen!
Thursday, June 24, 2004
Picture of the Day
at Sauvetat and the Pyrénées
George Bush - Love him or Hate him?
From various reader comments which we have received, it appears that, in our daily work of producing the "Signs of the Times" page, we may give the impression that we "hate" President Bush and other members of his administration. Indeed, some readers also suggest that this "personal vendetta" against Bush extends to all things American and the American people themselves.
On the one hand, while we fully understand how such a conclusion could have been reached by some of our readers, we would, nevertheless, like to state clearly that this is in fact not the case. As we noted in our commentary on the article "Vatican summit aims to combat threat of 'alternative' religions" from yesterday's Signs page , in the process of seeking to know the truth, there is no need to attack others, but there is most definitely a need to stand up for the truth, whenever and wherever it is threatened. It is in this spirit that we approach current world events and our analysis of them.
Standing up for the truth is no easy task. Firstly there is the problem of ascertaining just what the truth is in any given situation. While we never claim to know all of the details or the deeper implications of any event in an absolute way, we can, with the prerequisite research, state as clearly as possible "what is", or at least "what seems to be". The fact is that, in standing up for the truth, we are essentially standing up for 'what is' or at least what seems to be.
Part of this process will invariably involve shooting some of the 'sacred cows', which, as a result of our socialisation, we have all come to hold so dear. For example, no one WANTS to believe that 'our leaders lie' and the strength of this desire is such that many people will perceive any suggestion that our leaders DO lie as an attack on one of their sacred cows, and by implication, themselves also.
None of us are taught to consider the possibility that many of our opinions are not really ours, but are rather a result of socialisation, and, as a result, we possess little ability to observe ourselves and weigh up our beliefs with objectivity. An attack on one of our sacred cows then, is understood as an attack on us, and must be deflected - usually by discrediting the perceived attacker. In the case of those readers that suggest that we "hate Bush", while they themselves believe that they are simply pointing out our subjectivity, and it appears that they are defending Bush, they may simply be defending their own belief that 'our leaders do not lie', a belief that they sincerely WANT to be true.
More practically, defence of the truth involves giving the lie what it asks for - the truth. One of the main reasons that Bush and Co are so often the subject of our commentary, is the fact that they repeatedly lie, and in an increasingly blatant manner. We could not, in all conscience, make claim to being seekers after truth, if we did not confront lies of such global significance with the truth, even if it is only in terms of our little website here at cassiopaea.com.
So we do not hate Bush, and we certainly do not hate the American people, it is, in fact, for those Americans that have the desire and will to know the truth, and others like them around the world, that we attempt to present it here every day on the SOTT page.
AlterNet. June 24, 2004
Americans have been ignoring the elephant in the room. It's that huge thing that's in front of everyone, but that no one mentions by name. Most people can't see it, while others intentionally disregard it, but many people just have a hard time articulating what it is. Even its opponents direct little attention to the elephant itself; at best they tend to describe its various parts. Its ears are deregulation, its trunk trickle-down economics, its mouth media consolidation, its tail a pre-emptive war in Iraq, its legs record deficits, and its feet cutbacks in education, social security, America's safety net, even veterans' benefits
Even negative attacks on Kerry no longer seem to be working
[...] Vice-president Dick Cheney staged a preemptive strike last week by reiterating that Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida had a relationship and insinuating that they were in league. His intended target was the 9/11 commission, which is dangerously independent. Its Republican co-chairman, Thomas Kean, replied that there was "no credible evidence" that Saddam and al-Qaida had collaborated. Bush entered the battle, repeating that there was indeed a "relationship". Then the Democratic co-chairman of the commission, Lee Hamilton, explained that al-Qaida had in fact approached Saddam seeking his help, but that it had been rebuffed. The rejection was the relationship. But Bush and Cheney's affirmative assertions made it seem that the "relationship" was affirmative.
The urgency of Bush's credibility crisis surfaced in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll showing the collapse of Bush's standing on terrorism, losing 13 points since April, putting Kerry even on the issue and one point ahead in the contest. But even more worrying was Bush's rating on trust. By a margin of 52% to 39%, Kerry is seen as more honest and trustworthy.
Thursday, June 24, 2004 Posted: 12:01 PM EDT (1601 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Bush administration won't have to reveal secret details of Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force before the election, after the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a lower court should spend more time sorting out the White House's privacy claim.
[...] Scalia defiantly refused to recuse himself from the case, rejecting arguments by critics who said his impartiality was brought into question because of a hunting vacation that he took with Cheney while the court was considering the vice president's appeal.
Comment: The same court that put Bush into the presidency is deciding to do its best to keep him there. For more on this issue, check this out: Justice is Duck Blind.
Washington — U.S. President George W. Bush was interviewed by government prosecutors Thursday in connection with the federal investigation of who leaked the name of an undercover CIA operative to the news media.
The president was questioned for 70 minutes in the Oval Office by U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who is heading the Justice Department investigation, and members of his team.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said that Mr. Bush has hired a private attorney, Jim Sharp, a Washington trial lawyer and former federal prosecutor, and he was present for the questioning.
Senate candidate Jack Ryan, facing embarrassing sex allegations in his divorce records, canceled his fund-raising trip to Washington on Thursday amid signs of declining support from Republican leaders. Ryan, a millionaire investment banker-turned-teacher, has said his campaign will survive the allegations and stressed that he didn't break the law, his marriage vows or the Ten Commandments.
In honour of the "transfer of power" in Iraq at the end of the month, we present you with the following tale of:
by Hans Christian Anderson
Once upon a time there lived a vain emperor whose only worry in life was to dress in elegant clothes. He changed clothes almost every hour and loved to show them off to his people.
Word of the Emperor's refined habits spread over his kingdom and beyond. Two scoundrels who had heard of the Emperor's vanity decided to take advantage of it. They introduced themselves at the gates of the palace with a scheme in mind.
"We are two very good tailors and after many years of research we have invented an extraordinary method to weave a cloth so light and fine that it looks invisible. As a matter of fact it is invisible to anyone who is too stupid and incompetent to appreciate its quality."
The chief of the guards heard the scoundrel's strange story and sent for the court chamberlain. The chamberlain notified the prime minister, who ran to the Emperor and disclosed the incredible news. The Emperor's curiosity got the better of him and he decided to see the two scoundrels.
"Besides being invisible, your Highness, this cloth will be woven in colors and patterns created especially for you." The emperor gave the two men a bag of gold coins in exchange for their promise to begin working on the fabric immediately.
"Just tell us what you need to get started and we'll give it to you." The two scoundrels asked for a loom, silk, gold thread and then pretended to begin working. The Emperor thought he had spent his money quite well; in addition to getting a new extraordinary suit, he would discover which of his subjects were ignorant and incompetent. A few days later, he called the old and wise prime minister, who was considered by everyone as a man with common sense.
"Go and see how the work is proceeding," the Emperor told him, "and come back to let me know."
The prime minister was welcomed by the two scoundrels.
"We're almost finished, but we need a lot more gold thread. Here, Excellency! Admire the colors, feel the softness!" The old man bent over the loom and tried to see the fabric that was not there. He felt cold sweat on his forehead.
"I can't see anything," he thought. "If I see nothing, that means I'm stupid! Or, worse, incompetent!" If the prime minister admitted that he didn't see anything, he would be discharged from his office.
"What a marvelous fabric," he said then. "I'll certainly tell the Emperor." The two scoundrels rubbed their hands gleefully. They had almost made it. More thread was requested to finish the work.
Finally, the Emperor received the announcement that the two tailors had come to take all the measurements needed to sew his new suit.
"Come in," the Emperor ordered. Even as they bowed, the two scoundrels pretended to be holding a large roll of fabric.
"Here it is your Highness, the result of our labor," the scoundrels said. "We have worked night and day but, at last, the most beautiful fabric in the world is ready for you. Look at the colors and feel how fine it is." Of course the Emperor did not see any colors and could not feel any cloth between his fingers. He panicked and felt like fainting. But luckily the throne was right behind him and he sat down. But when he realized that no one could know that he did not see the fabric, he felt better. Nobody could find out he was stupid and incompetent. And the Emperor didn't know that everybody else around him thought and did the very same thing.
The farce continued as the two scoundrels had foreseen it. Once they had taken the measurements, the two began cutting the air with scissors while sewing with their needles an invisible cloth.
"Your Highness, you'll have to take off your clothes to try on your new ones." The two scoundrels draped the new clothes on him and then held up a mirror. The Emperor was embarrassed but since none of his bystanders were, he felt relieved.
"Yes, this is a beautiful suit and it looks very good on me," the Emperor said trying to look comfortable. "You've done a fine job."
"Your Majesty," the prime minister said, "we have a request for you. The people have found out about this extraordinary fabric and they are anxious to see you in your new suit." The Emperor was doubtful about showing himself naked to the people, but then he abandoned his fears. After all, no one would know about it except the ignorant and the incompetent.
"All right," he said. "I will grant the people this privilege." He summoned his carriage and the ceremonial parade was formed. A group of dignitaries walked at the very front of the procession and anxiously scrutinized the faces of the people in the street. All the people had gathered in the main square, pushing and shoving to get a better look. An applause welcomed the regal procession. Everyone wanted to know how stupid or incompetent his or her neighbor was but, as the Emperor passed, a strange murmur rose from the crowd.
Everyone said, loud enough for the others to hear: "Look at the Emperor's new clothes. They're beautiful!"
"What a marvelous train!"
"And the colors! The colors of that beautiful fabric! I have never seen anything like it in my life." They all tried to conceal their disappointment at not being able to see the clothes, and since nobody was willing to admit his own stupidity and incompetence, they all behaved as the two scoundrels had predicted.
A child, however, who had no important job and could only see things as his eyes showed them to him, went up to the carriage.
"The Emperor is naked," he said.
"Fool!" his father reprimanded, running after him. "Don't talk nonsense!" He grabbed his child and took him away. But the boy's remark, which had been heard by the bystanders, was repeated over and over again until everyone cried:
"The boy is right! The Emperor is naked! It's true!"
The Emperor realized that the people were right but could not admit to that. He thought it better to continue the procession under the illusion that anyone who couldn't see his clothes was either stupid or incompetent. And he stood stiffly on his carriage, while behind him a page held his imaginary mantle.
Insurgents in Iraq have launched a series of apparently co-ordinated attacks on security forces in a number of towns and cities.
The worst attacks were in the city of Mosul, where at least 44 people died and 216 were hurt in a series of car bombings, Iraq's health ministry said.
At least 22 people died in attacks in the towns of Baquba, Ramadi and Falluja, it said.
Four Iraq national guardsmen reportedly died in a car bomb in Baghdad.
In addition to the Iraqi deaths, three US soldiers were killed in Thursday's raids, the American military said.
Iraqi and US officials had warned that attacks on security forces would increase in the run-up to the 30 June handover of power to an Iraqi interim government.
Comment: Prior to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the western press was eating out of the hands of Bush and Blair. A year later, the mea culpas started coming, not fast or furious, of course, but here and there. However, the press does not look at its reporting in real time. It is clear that the whole "transfer of power" or "transfer of sovereignty" is bogus. The new head of the government is a well-known CIA operative! The new "interim government" will have "legal custody" over Saddam, but the US will have physical custody. This is a sham. It is a manipulation that serves one purpose, to convince the American people, prior to the election, that Bush didn't make a huge mistake in invading Iraq.
No one cares about the situation of the Iraq people, not the press, not the Bush administration nor the Democratic contender, not the "interim government", not the Israelis who are working with the Kurds to continue to destabilise Iraq, to transform it into a loose collection of independent states.
The journalists that write garbage such as "the 30 June handover of power" or " next week's transfer of sovereignty", know full well, or at least the majority of them know, that this is a sham, that this is a lie, yet the words appear in the press, are spoken on the TV. Very few are the voices that are willing to say the emperor has no clothes.
Rebels bent on disrupting a handover to Iraqi rule bloodied five cities Thursday with coordinated assaults on local security forces in which about 75 people, including three U.S. soldiers, were killed.
A senior U.S. officer said Saddam loyalists, not Zarqawi followers, were likely to have staged the attacks, but did not explain the reason for this assessment.
Comment: Perhaps we can venture a guess as to the reason that the US officer did not explain his assessment. Perhaps it is becoming increasingly unbelieveable to most people to suggest that Iraqi militants, fighting for the Iraqi people, would launch an attack against US troops, killing dozens of ordinary Iraqi civilians and only 3 US troops!
As we noted recently to the author of an article on YellowTimes.org entitled "Enough is enough", which condemns the Arab terrorists for their anti-Arab/Muslim attacks:
Getting back to the story, from a recent update, it seems that "Al-Zarqawi" (whoever he really is) has scuppered US plans to blame the attacks on "Saddam loyalists"...
Thursday 24 June 2004, 20:21 Makka Time, 17:21 GMT
A group headed by al Qaida-linked operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for the wave of attacks across Iraq on Thursday which killed up to 70 people.
"Your brothers in Jamaat al-Tauhid and Jihad launched a wide assault in several governorates in the country which included strikes against the apostate police agents and spies, the Iraq army alongside their American brothers," said the statement reportedly posted on an internet website.
"Your brothers in the martyrdom brigade also carried out several blessed operations including five in Mosul on five Iraqi police centres, two operations in Baquba and another in Ramadi," said the statement, whose authenticity could not be immediately verified.
Iraqi prime minister Iyad Allawi, meanwhile, has said he did not believe the attacks were coordinated. Although acknowledging the attacks had the fingerprints of al-Zarqawi's group, he added that former Baathists loyal to Saddam Hussein were probably behind violence in Ramadi and Baquba.
The wife of al Qaeda activist, Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi, was quoted Thursday as saying he could not kill women and children.
Al-Zarqawi has been blamed for several deadly attacks in Iraq, including the beheading of foreign hostages.
But one of his two wives, identified just as Umm Mohammed told the Jordanian daily Addustur: "There’s no way that my husband could be a terrorist. He is friendly and a good man.
"He would not recommend the killings of children, women and elderly people as they’re trying to portray him," she said at the family’s home in Zarqa, near the Jordanian capital Amman.
Al-Zarqawi,38 , whose real name is Ahmad Fadhil Nazzal al-Khalayleh, is on the US most wanted list.
His wife said she has not heard from her husband since he left Jordan for Afghanistan in1999 .
Firm Says Coalition Authority Is Ripping Off Iraq
In the report, KPMG also alleges it met "resistance" from CPA officials. Book keeping at the State Organisation for Marketing Oil, the body in charge of crude sales, was particularly lax, KPMG said. Its only record of barter transactions was "an independent database, derived from verbal communications gained by Somo staff".
charges made against UK military in Iraq
AFP , LONDON
Iraqis were "tortured" by British troops who killed some 20 in fighting at Al-Majar al-Kebir in the south of the country on May 14, the Guardian reported yesterday, citing death certificates drawn up by the town's hospital.
Of 22 certificates issued by hospital director Dr. Adel Salid Majid, copies of which were obtained by the newspaper, seven reported signs of "mutilation" and "torture."
The daily gave details of the cases:
Ahmad al Helfi, a 19-year-old casual laborer, is described as having "several bullet injuries to the body, with blueness of the left eye and a cut-wound by a sharp tool on the right arm. In addition, there are signs of beating and torturing all over the body."
Haider al Lami, 21, also a casual laborer, had "several bullet injuries to the body, with mutilation of genitalia." His penis had been "severed."
Hamed al Suadi, 19, is recorded as having "bullet wounds to the neck and the foot. There are signs of torture: The right arm is fractured and there is full distortion of the face."
Another, Ali al Jemindari, 37, had "several bullet injuries in head, face and the body, with slash marks on the neck. The right arm has been severed at the shoulder. There is a large opening in the right cheek and the removal by gouging of the right eye."
Majid told the Guardian: "On May 15, the police came and asked us to send ambulances to the British base to collect some bodies. When they brought the 22 bodies, it was a surprise to us to see some of these bodies mutilated and tortured.
"There was an angry crowd of relatives outside the hospital gates, so we examined the bodies at once and organized the death certificates. We don't have a big refrigerator here so everyone took the death certificate and the body and buried their family members."
A doctor at nearby Amara hospital who was the first to see the bodies cast doubt on the claims. The doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, examined the corpse of Jemindari.
He said: "What we saw on examination is multiple bullet entries and exits. Also I can say is his arm wasn't severed like what was written on the form by Dr. Adel [Majid]. His right shoulder was severely destroyed yet still the right arm was connected by some tissue.
"Also, you couldn't say whether the right eye was removed after death or before.
"But such an injury might happen in war, perhaps a bullet came into his right eye and pressed it inside the skull. And as for the signs of slashing around his neck it could be another bullet passing very near to his neck caused that wound."
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon will immediately begin its planned annual reviews for 600 foreign terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to determine whether some should be released, a senior defense official said on Wednesday.
U.S. Navy Secretary Gordon England, who will make final decisions in each case, said the Defense Department will contact other governments next week to get information on their citizens to three-member U.S. military boards.
"I would hope that in a matter of weeks we will actually have the boards meeting and making determinations - that is recommendations to me," England said of the hearings, which will be closed to the public and reporters.
The reviews will come amid widespread criticism of U.S. abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Human rights groups have protested the lengthy detention of prisoners captured in Afghanistan and held, some for years, at Guantanamo without a hearing. A detailed report this week in The New York Times said U.S. officials have repeatedly exaggerated the intelligence value of Guantanamo detainees, as well as the danger they pose.
England said detainees, who will have a right to testify at the secret hearings, would be released unless they were determined to be a threat to the United States or its allies, or were still of some intelligence value to Washington.
"The question is: Are they still threats to America? And that's the question these boards will determine," he said. "It's not guilt or innocence. It's what is the situation today and going forward in terms of a threat to America." [...]
Comment: And there you have it: it's not about guilt or innocence, it's about being judged as a threat to America. You, too, can be imprisoned without charge and tortured if Bush or one of his pals decides that you are a threat to the US. Numerous pro-Bush Americans voiced their opinions that those who didn't support the Iraq invasion were terrorists themselves. It should be crystal clear by now that nothing much will change from the prison abuse scandal. Like everything in politics, if it happened, it was probably planned. Perhaps it wasn't planned by Bush and gang - but if there different factions battling for control of the presidency, obviously none of them have the best interests of the American people at heart.
Will Bush be dethroned? Who knows. Better yet, who cares? The outcome of the 2004 election is irrelevant. Kerry will continue and expand the war on terror just as Bush will if he manages to steal or cancel the election. In any case, it is clear that the people will stand behind their new president the way they cheered Bush as he directed the slaughter in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is wishful thinking to believe that the people could - or should - change what is now happening in the US. Most Americans still won't even consider the possibility that they were lied to about 9/11. The bigger the lie, the more people will buy it.
Wed Jun 23,
1:59 PM ET
In an embarrassing defeat on the UN Security Council, Washington withdrew its controversial attempt to get another one-year renewal of immunity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
"The United States has decided not to proceed further ... in order to avoid a prolonged and divisive debate," deputy US ambassador James Cunningham said after it became clear Washington could not get the nine council votes needed.
Last month, the United States put forward a draft resolution it was hoping would be an automatic one-year renewal of the immunity deal, which was first approved by the council in 2002.
Under that measure, immunity from ICC prosecution is granted to personnel in UN-authorised operations whose home nations have not ratified the court's founding treaty.
Cunningham offered a compromise late Tuesday to save the deal, proposing that this would be the final such renewal granted, but that was not enough to convince sceptical nations.
With opposition bolstered by the scandal over the humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib jail near Baghdad, and harsh criticism from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the United States could not muster a large enough majority on the 15-nation council. [...]
Jun. 23, 2004. 04:27 PM
KABUL (AP) — A senior Afghan militia commander said today that troops from Afghanistan's U.S.-trained national army beheaded four Taliban fighters to avenge the similar slaying of an Afghan soldier and a military interpreter. He later retracted his statement after a strong government denial.
Naimatullah Khan, corps commander of southeastern Zabul province, initially said the killings occurred Monday in the Arghandab district of southeastern Zabul province.
Afghan National Army troops sent to look for an interpreter and soldier who became separated from a combined Afghan-U.S. force found their corpses and severed heads on a mountainside, Khan said. Four Taliban fighters were caught in a search of the area, he said.
"The ANA soldiers did the same thing. They cut off their heads," Khan told The Associated Press by telephone. Troops left the bodies where they found them, he said.
If verified, the decapitations would mark an escalation in violence plaguing much of Afghanistan's south and east, especially Zabul, in recent weeks. The U.S. military says it has killed more than 80 rebels in the area since May 25.
It would also be a setback for the American-led attempt to build a disciplined, professional Afghan fighting force so that foreign troops can ultimately leave. The national army currently numbers about 10,000, far short of the projected 70,000.
American soldiers typically accompany ANA units during operations, but Khan said none was present when the decapitations took place.
Lt.-Col. Tucker Mansager, a spokesman for the U.S. military, said today it had "no independent confirmation" about the beheadings. He declined to comment further.
But a Defence Ministry spokesman said the report was "not correct."
The national army "treats prisoners properly. They have been taught the laws of war," spokesman Mohammed Zahir Azimi said. ``They even take injured prisoners to hospital."
Khan, who gave a similar account of the beheadings to other news organizations, later called the AP to retract his statement. He offered no explanation.
Also today, five Afghan soldiers were killed and two others were seriously wounded when their vehicle hit a mine in a desert area near the border town of Spin Boldak, a local commander said.
"It was a newly laid mine," said Abdul Raziq, the commander of a militia unit guarding the border with Pakistan. "The vehicle was totally destroyed."
Mansager said seven rocket-propelled grenades were fired Tuesday at a U.S. military base in the southeastern town of Khost, slightly wounding two soldiers and three Afghan interpreters.
All have returned to duty, he said.
EDT Jun 24
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - A small bomb exploded Thursday in the street in front of the hotel where U.S. President George W. Bush is expected to stay when he visits Ankara this weekend. Two police officers standing near the bomb when it went off were injured, a security official said.
[...] Bush is scheduled to arrive in Ankara late Saturday night and is to meet Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Sezer on Sunday.
Bush is visiting Ankara ahead of Monday's NATO summit in Istanbul that Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac and other alliance leaders are also scheduled to attend.
www.chinaview.cn 2004-06-24 11:14:27
WASHINGTON, June 23 (Xinhuanet) -- The US State Department said Wednesday that foreigners with work visas in the country will have to go to US embassies abroad to be interviewed and fingerprinted when they need to renew their visas.
The new policy, part of the US effort to tighten border control after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, was to ensure that people applying for visas to the United States are interviewed and fingerprinted.
The new requirement will apply to holders of "E," "H," "I," "O," "L," and "P," visas, but will not apply to foreign diplomats or people who work at international organizations like the United Nations.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the department processed more than 50,000 such renewal applications last year, and would stop accepting applications for mail renewals of the visas on July 16.
In the past, foreigners including entertainers, athletes, journalists, investors, executives and skilled and unskilled temporary workers were allowed to renew their visas by mail before they left the United States, Boucher said.
The reason for the switch was that US embassies abroad were better equipped to interview and fingerprint the visa applicants, he said.
These people can stay as long as they want and can leave when they want. "But when they come back, instead of getting a visa here in advance, they will have to get one overseas at one of our embassies and consulates and then come back," Boucher said.
www.chinaview.cn 2004-06-24 17:41:47
GAZA, June 24 (Xinhuanet) -- Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Qureirevealed on Thursday that a Palestinian-Israeli-Egyptian-US meeting will be held in October to draw a plan for the resumption of peace negotiations and end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Qurei told the Ramallah-based "Al-Ayyam" daily that the European Union might also join the four-way meeting that will be held on a high level, adding that the whereabouts of the meeting haven't been finalized.
Comment: Hmmm. October. Right before the US election. What's up?
JERUSALEM — The Israeli army said yesterday it was investigating a group of reserve soldiers who set up a photo exhibit giving vivid accounts of abuse and harassment of Palestinians in Hebron.
The "Breaking the Silence" exhibit — put on display at a film school in Tel Aviv, Israel, earlier this month — has photos and stark testimonials of soldiers who tell of harassing a bride and groom, throwing stun grenades at Palestinian children for fun and other details of their time in the West Bank city.
After completing three years of compulsory service, the group of more than 80 infantry soldiers — who now serve in reserve units — decided to give their account of what they called the "crazy reality" of Hebron, where 500 Jewish settlers live in enclaves surrounded by 130,000 Palestinians.
The army said it summoned the soldiers for questioning and issued a court order yesterday for them to hand over any material that could assist the investigation.
Thu Jun 24,
4:08 AM ET
"Nobody has the right to take part in the evacuation of a settlement in Eretz Israel whether they be a civilian, policeman or a soldier," said the edict, which followed a meeting on Wednesday in the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim, close to Jerusalem.
The Committee of Rabbis of Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and the Gaza Strip also called for mass prayers to be held at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan, which envisages a withdrawal from all 21 Gaza settlements and four in the northern West Bank.
The rabbinical committee, presided over by Rabbi Dov Lior, consists of many of the most hardline Jewish religious figures in the territories. Its edicts are not recognised by other rabbis.
Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the Israeli parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee, strongly criticised the rabbis for encouraging settlers to flout the law.
"If someone says that the Torah forbids carrying out legal orders of the government, this is just like those supporters of refusal on the left who say that their conscience forbids executing legal orders of the IDF (army). There is no difference" he told public radio.
"Both of these constitute raising one's hand against the law, and against national security."
Sharon says he is determined that all 7,500 of the Gaza settlers and all troops will have left by the end of next year.
I am not the only person judging (as I did in this recent post) that Saudi Arabia may well be on the verge of a major breakdown. Today, during a meeting of many other Middle East specialists whom I respect, I heard serious discussion of planning for the contingency of a "civil war" in the Kingdom.
Well done, George W. Bush!! (Irony alert there.) Within just the past 18 months your policies have transformed Iraq into a land of brigandage and rampant insecurity, and a place of refuge for many terrorists and other criminals; and your inattention to what's been going on in Saudi Arabia means there's a growing chance that it will now go the same way, too.
10:38 PM EDT Jun 23
WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. government may have broken privacy law when it asked airlines to turn over personal data about passengers for a test of background-check project, a senator said Wednesday.
Four airlines and at least two reservation systems provided the information to the government or its contractors, the acting head of the Transportation Security Administration told a Senate committee. Some of the companies denied that.
The agency previously said only two airlines had done so.
Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, top Democrat on the Senate governmental affairs committee, said the agency "may have violated" the Privacy Act, which says the government must notify the public if it intends to collect records on people.
The law also requires the government tell people how to find out what information is being collected about them.
The disclosures, which Lieberman said were "disturbing," came out during a hearing on David Stone's nomination as the agency's administrator.
An agency spokeswoman, Yolanda Clark, the Homeland Security Department's privacy officer is investigating the agency's involvement in the data-sharing from airlines. The information, known as passenger name records, includes credit card numbers, travel reservation details, address and telephone number. It also could mean meal requests, which can indicate a passenger's religion or ethnicity.
The committee head, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, criticized the agency for being slow to disclose the full extent of the transfer of passenger data.
"In the fight against terrorism, we have to be careful not to trample on our values," she said.
Privacy advocates said they want a congressional investigation. [...]
A number of residents of Shannon in Co Clare have decided to boycott a pass system introduced by the gardaí for US President George Bush’s visit this weekend.
Anyone living or working inside the security cordon erected around the town has been asked to apply for a special pass to allow them to move around during Mr Bush’s visit.
However, many have refused to comply and others are planning to burn their passes in a protest tomorrow night.
One resident, Eilís McGettigan, said: “It’s an infringement on my right of movement, my right of freedom. I’m living here. I’m not the visitor. George Bush is. Give him a pass.”
Wednesday, 23 June, 2004
The former Commonwealth head has been sharply criticised for suggesting that children should help raise funds for the organisation to have its own ship.
Chief Emeka Anyaoku has launched an appeal to raise some $180m to build "a flagship for the Commonwealth".
In a BBC interview, he said it could serve as a venue for Commonwealth leaders, wherever they decided to meet.
But the idea is "incomprehensible", say anti-poverty campaigners.
David Archer, head of Action Aid's international education unit said: "Over seven million children in Nigeria don't even go to school. It is incomprehensible that kids in poor Commonwealth countries should be asked to help finance a luxury yacht for VIPs.
"If anyone is raising £100 million for the Commonwealth, the priorities should be things like education, health and the fight against HIV/Aids," he said.
Chief Anyaoku, who received an honorary knighthood when he stepped down from his Commonwealth post, said he hoped the ship would become a symbol of the ties that bind the Commonwealth together.
"It will be big enough to host all Commonwealth governments at the time that they meet," he told the BBC's Network Africa.
He said they planned to raise the funds, beginning with children and young people, because they had the greatest stake in the future.
"If a schoolchild in the United Kingdom were to give one penny and in Nigeria one kobo and in Canada one cent that would be a means of registering their interest in this flagship," he said.
The Commonwealth is a loose association of primarily former British colonies and dependencies with historical ties to Britain.
Comment: It is rather ironic that the suggestion that children should donate to the building of a luxury cruiser was made by a former Commonwealth head. Apparently to Mr Anyaoku, the 'Commonwealth' is not so much about Common wealth, but rather about colation of wealth into the hands of the few at the expense of the many. Mr. Anyaoku's rationale for using children to generate the funds is that the children have "the greatest stake in the future". Indeed; but what future are the children to hope for when the future is currently being crafted by the power and money-mad elite of this world? Then again, perhaps we are being unfair to Mr. Anyaoku. Perhaps he has been reading the news lately and is aware that sea levels are set to rise and flood low lying areas of Africa and the UK and he plans to use this luxury cruiser to rescue all of the children from these areas?
Comments from some readers of the above BBC article:
Good point Kimberly, but missing from your analysis is the fact that many of the psychopaths in Africa, who reign over 'those poor people', attained their positions of absolute power as a result of the helping hand given them by good 'ol Uncle Sam.
LOS ANGELES — Police were investigating officers' use of force Wednesday during the arrest of an unarmed black man who led them on a chase after allegedly being spotted driving a stolen car.
ABC7 Eyewitness News footage showed an officer hitting the man with a flashlight at least 10 times after it appeared he had surrendered. Police said the man was not seriously injured but did complain that he had been struck in the head and suffered an injury to his nose.
"As the rest of the evening goes along, the internal affairs division personnel, in addition to our administrative folks will thoroughly unpeel the layers of this situation until we get to the truth," said Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Earl Paysinger.
Assistant Chief Sharon Papa said the FBI and the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office had also opened investigations.
"What I saw jeopardizes the work that we have done to try to build that bond of trust between the department and the community," Mayor Jim Hahn said. "Now is the day that bond of trust is going to be tested."
The incident occurred just a week after the LAPD said it had successfully implemented reforms mandated by a federal consent decree after the Justice Department identified a "pattern and practice" of civil rights violations by the LAPD.
A number of community activists expressed outrage over Wednesday's incident and demanded justice.
"How much longer are we going to sit around and watch our brothers and sisters be treated like this," said Morris Griffin of the Los Angeles Coalition for Justice and Peace to End Police Brutality Committee. [...]
Comment: It seems there is not much that can be done. In recent times, American police officers have demonstrated that they can get away with anything. The usual excuse is that the officer who uses excessive force thought his life was in danger. In the end, the only thing that matters is that the forces charged with protecting the US are systematically destroying it, and the people are either too asleep or too unwilling to stop it.
When one factors in the war on terror and Patriot Act I and II, it appears that the situation will get a lot worse before it gets better - if it ever gets better. We are reminded of the comments of anonymous Israeli soldiers from yesterday's Signs page:
Of course, there have always been those who enjoy and abuse their power over others. But would any of us have even imagined five years ago that the US would be broadcasting to the world its use of "legal" torture? Obviously, such acts of brutality have been occurring for quite some time, although they happened more covertly. What is one left to conclude, then, when such actions become an institutional and public standard? The Nazis come to mind...
A gunman opened fire in a crowd of nearly 1 million people watching a fireworks display in Detroit on Wednesday, wounding eight men and women, authorities said. "There has not been a fatality. We have eight people that are shot," Detroit Police Chief Ella Bully Cummings told reporters. "We have the weapon that was used in the shooting and a pretty good description of the perpetrator," Cummings said
Russia’s Interior Ministry have suggested an initiative that would see DNA samples taken from all newborn babies in the country, the Interfax news agency reports.
"This initiative has been included in the draft program concerning the hunt for criminals and identification of missing people or unidentified bodies," deputy head of the fourth search operations bureau of the Main Criminal Police Directorate for Moscow City said at a press conference on Thursday.
"Our final goal is that no man in Russia is missing or evading [criminal] responsibility," the officer said.
He also said that universal collection of DNA samples from newborn babies was the simplest and the cheapest way to facilitate the search for missing people and criminals at large.
The rush to privatize water is underway across the world. In the new documentary 'Thirst,' filmmakers Deborah Kaufman and Alan Snitow set out to explore the consequences.
There are untold profits to be made from controlling the simplest and most vital ingredient of our survival: water.
The only question, from a profit standpoint, is why it has taken this long.
"You can't do anything without water," says Alan Snitow, co-producer and co-director of Thirst, a groundbreaking and provocative new film about the rush to privatize what the filmmakers rightly define as the very "essence of life."
In their third collaborative documentary film after the successes of Blacks and Jews (1997) and Secrets of Silicon Valley (2001), Bay Area-based filmmaking duo Deborah Kaufman and Snitow take an unflinching and multifaceted look at water privatization in Bolivia, India, Japan and the U.S.
What Kaufman and Snitow find is that the "water rush" is likely to turn into one of the most volatile and potentially galvanizing issues of the 21st century.
"This is an incredible struggle, and yet it's still so far below the radar that we're trying to give it a voice," Kaufman says. "People are already willing to die for [water], but it's something that many of us still take for granted."
The grab for corporate control of water is indeed already here in our own backyards. But the conflict over water supplies perhaps most familiar to news-savvy audiences is the place where Thirst goes first: to Cochabamba, Bolivia. After the country auctions off the water system of its third-largest city to U.S.-based Bechtel Corporation in 1999, residents experience water price hikes of 30-300%, and the situation eventually erupts in a cross-class protest that makes headline news worldwide.
By April 2000, the government responds to civil unrest by declaring martial law. Shortly thereafter, Victor Hugo Daza, a 17-year-old peaceful protester, is shot dead in the streets by a government sniper.
Daza's death doesn't quell dissent the way it was intended to. In fact, protests heat up to the point that water consortium execs beat a hasty retreat, and Cochabamba's water system gets handed over to a community-run utility. In an unlikely turn of events, the citizens actually get what they want; water gets treated like a human right, not as the last frontier of the commercialization and privatization of earth's natural resources.
"They're on the defensive in the global South," Kaufman explains. "In many ways, they're ahead of us responding to what's in the near future for all of us."
In point of fact, American cities and towns are the new staging ground for rapid and strategic power plays over who controls water supply. In 2004, 85% of U.S. municipal water systems are publicly owned, with a shocking 15% already in the hands of corporations. Unbeknownst to most residents, municipal governments are being heavily courted in the here and now to turn over control of their water supply to multinational companies like Suez Water, whose U.S. subsidiary took control of Atlanta's water in 1999.
The incentive for local governments is hard to miss; with an estimated cost of a trillion dollars, the prospect of replacing aging pipes and improving the condition of public water plants is increasingly seen by city leaders as a budgetary drain best dealt with through privatization.
To exemplify the point, Kaufman and Snitow turn their camera to Stockton, California, where a well-run locally controlled water purification and distribution system is about to be offered to the highest bidder. (Notably, the public utility itself isn't allowed to be one of the bidders.)
The transfer of power over the water supply is intended to take the form of a "public-private partnership," and Stockton Mayor Gary Podesto is a firm supporter.
"This can be done for less dollars," as Mayor Podesto says.
A subsequent, well-orchestrated grassroots mobilization by city residents -- baristas, orthodontists, environmentalists, utility employees and union members among other unlikely allies -- fails to capture any attention from the national media. But Kaufman and Snitow have the instinct to jump into the heart of the conflict, meeting and talking with all sides of the privatization debate.
But there is no storybook ending in Thirst where Stockton's citizenry are concerned. By February 2003, in fact, the Mayor and a severely divided City Council hand over the $600 million, 20-year contract to a two-company consortium of corporate water giants: OMI and Thames.
All along, Stockton residents who did their research were emphatic that corporate claims of cost effectiveness, quality and safety had not been realized elsewhere.
In Atlanta's case, for instance, the city's $428 million, 20-year contract with Suez-subsidiary United Water Services was cancelled after a series of citywide EPA alerts advising residents to boil their tap water because of toxic contaminants. Finally, after five such "boil-alerts," staff cutbacks, leaking water mains, and rising sewer bill costs, city administrators yanked back control of the utility.
Little victories aside, corporate water grab is still fully underway, working in collusion with governments and international financial agencies, wreaking environmental havoc and inflating water prices all the while. In the final analysis, the battle over water, says Kaufman, has more to do with democracy than what's coming out of your tap. And it's toward this end, say the filmmakers, that they fully intend their documentary to spur further activism and to educate audiences about the extent to which water has already been commodified.
As captured in Thirst, John Briscoe, the Senior Water Advisor to The World Bank, puts it this way to an assembly at the Third World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan.
"What does it mean to say that water is a human right?" he asks." Those who proclaim it so would say that it is the obligation of [governments] to provide free water to everybody. Well, that's a fantasy."
In touring the U.S. with their film, Kaufman and Snitow have already become cautiously optimistic that the tide of privatization can be turned. A model ordinance to safeguard water as a public trust has already been drafted in concert with Madison, Wisconsin Mayor David Cieslewicz, and will be presented at the upcoming 72nd U.S. Conference of Mayors in Boston, which runs from June 25-29th. (Perhaps not so coincidentally, the conference's website is being sponsored by Veolia Water, which has become North America's leading private "service provider" for local government water and wastewater supplies.)
"It's a festival of privatization," as Snitow says. "But what they don't yet fully realize is that for many people, water is the final boundary that can't be crossed."
-- The United States needs to make a new commitment to research on water
resources in order to confront the increasingly severe water problems
faced by all parts of the country, says a new congressionally mandated
report from the National Academies' National Research Council. In particular,
a new mechanism is needed to coordinate water research currently fragmented
among nearly 20 federal agencies, said the committee that wrote the report.
Given the competition for water among farmers, environmental advocates, recreational users, and other interests -- as well as emerging challenges such as climate change and the threat of waterborne diseases -- the committee concluded that an additional $70 million in federal funding should go annually to water research, with the aim of improving the decision-making of institutions that control water resources and better understanding the water-use challenges that lie ahead. The committee noted that overall federal funding for water research has been stagnant in real terms for the past 30 years, and that the portion dedicated to research on water use and related social science topics has declined considerably. For example, while other fields such as the health sciences have seen large funding increases over the last three decades, per capita spending on water-resources research has dropped from $3.33 to $2.44, despite the growing number of water conflicts around the country. [...]
Comment: The water supply seems to be drying up, and the psychopathic corporate vultures are poised to ensure that they profit as much as possible from everyone's suffering. It's just another beautiful day on the BBM...
June 24, 2004
BERLIN (AFP) - Two people were killed, several injured and widespread damage was caused in storms, including a tornado, that have hit Germany, state police said.
Wind gusting at up to 115 kilometres (65 miles) per hour tore down trees and damaged houses and property in the states of Saxony-Anhalt in the north, neighbouring Lower Saxony and the southern region of Bavaria.
A boat with three people aboard was caught in a storm on the Chiemsee lake in Bavaria on Wednesday. A 62-year-old man drowned, police said.
In Lower Saxony, a falling tree killed a man in the afternoon and another fell in the evening on a group of 16 students, badly injuring two of them.
A tornado struck the village of Micheln in Saxony-Anhalt injuring at least six people, damaging some 300 buildings and tearing roofs from homes.
Around 200 rescue workers were mobilised Thursday to reconnect electricity supplies and re-open roads that were blocked around the village.
"We have seen pictures of devastation like those we know of from the United States. It's the sort of thing you only usually see on television," said Bernhard Boedecker, coordinator of the rescue efforts.
More of them same weather was expected in Germany on Thursday.
Jun 23 2004 01:41 PM CDT
WHITEHORSE - People in the Yukon are experiencing a record-breaking heat wave.
Environment Canada says Dawson City had the highest temperature ever recorded in that community.
The official thermometer showed 34.5 on Sunday, the hottest it's been since Environment Canada starting keeping records there in 1976.
The weather office says, however, that earlier data from other sources at the town site indicate that it did get up to 35 Celsius back in 1950.
In Whitehorse, Old Crow, Faro and Watson Lake, records have been set for the longest stretches of hot weather ever documented. [...]
By Jane Mulkerrins and Catriona Davies
Gales, floods, fallen trees and landslips caused havoc across much of the south of England yesterday as flaming June felt more like miserable November.
The weather caused a washout at Wimbledon and a backlog of 175 matches. Spectators bought 1,000 umbrellas, 2,500 rain ponchos and 150 kagouls but the All England Club will have to refund almost £1 million to 25,000 people who bought tickets in advance. [...]
About 35,000 homes were left without electricity in Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Essex after trees brought down lines belonging to EDF, supplier to a quarter of Britain. Last night more than 10,000 homes were still without power.
Other families were evacuated from homes threatened by hundreds of tons of sand following a landslip in Porthowan, Cornwall.
of the concert hall at Brighton's crumbling West Pier fell into the sea.
Fire had reduced the Grade I listed structure to its metal frame in March
Several London Underground lines, including the Waterloo and City and Metropolitan lines, were closed because of flooding and trees across tracks. A 12-year-old girl broke a leg when she was hit by debris from a roof in Blaenymaes, near Swansea, where 20 houses were damaged by high winds.
Floods led to road closures in Dorset and Cornwall and driving conditions were difficult across the South as the rain moved slowly north to Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. [...]
Rift Valley fever, which originated in Africa, is the only disease at the top of both human health and agriculture lists of dangerous diseases.
The virus can kill people, with a near 1-per-cent mortality rate, making it deadlier than West Nile. Rift Valley also poses a greater threat to cattle and sheep.
It kills up to 30 per cent of the livestock it infects and if it were found in animals here, it probably would prompt livestock bans by other countries. [...]
Comment: Near 1% fatality rate?? Run for your lives!!!
Toxic Pollution Rose 5 Percent in 2002
Comment: Some notable researchers (i.e. us) are proposing a link between the increase in release of toxic pollution and the increase in press conferences given by the White House in the same period, however more research is needed before a definitive conclusion can be reached...
Up to 1,300 residents of London, Ont., may receive hepatitis A vaccinations this week after children were exposed to the liver disease at a child-care centre.
Vaccinations are being provided on Wednesday and Thursday to the children who attended the centre, their classmates and staff at John P. Robarts Elementary School, as well as family members, “as an extra level of precaution” after two adults at the centre were reported to have the virus, Dr. Bryna Warshawsky, associate medical officer of health at the Middlesex-London Health Unit, told globeandmail.com on Wednesday.
There has been a chain of hepatitis A cases that originated from another imported case, Dr. Warshawsky said. She was unable to specify the numbers of people affected. [...]
Last Updated Wed, 23 Jun 2004 20:00:14
BOSTON - A genetic mutation in "mighty mice" is also found in a German boy with unusually large muscles, scientist say.
The four-year-old's muscles are roughly twice as large as other children his age. Researchers found he has an inherited mutation in the myostatin gene, boosting muscle growth and reducing fat.
"This is the first evidence that myostatin regulates muscle mass in people as it does in other animals," said Dr. Se-Jin Lee, a professor of molecular biology and genetics at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and a co-author of the study.
Comment: We suspect Rumsfeld and the guys at DARPA will be very interested in this...
Last Updated Wed, 23 Jun 2004 16:16:12
LONDON - Researchers have discovered a naturally decaffeinated coffee plant that they say could produce a tastier cup of decaf.
[...] The new finding comes from Coffea arabica, a plant prized for its flavourful beans.
Paulo Mazzafera of the University of Campinas in Brazil screened 3,000 coffee trees, representing 300 strains, before finding three Ethiopian varieties that are free of caffeine.
Experiments showed the plants contained about 15 times less caffeine on average than a commercial strain of C. arabica, they said in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.
The researchers think the low-caffeine trait could be transferred by conventional breeding to produce low caf, high-quality coffee.
Last year, researchers in Japan said genetically modified coffee seedlings can produce up to 70 per cent less caffeine.
In both cases, scientists won't be able to tell what the coffee tastes like until the plants mature in a few years.
A New Haven man has been jailed for six months on a contempt charge after dropping his pants and mooning a judge. Richard Brown, 38, of New Haven was jailed Wednesday after an outburst in front of Superior Court Judge Patrick Carroll.
Smith shouted insults and obscenities after the judge had told him to address the court as "sir." "Sir? Kiss my (expletive), sir!" Brown shouted, dropping the pants of his two-piece prison jumpsuit and pointing his rear end at the judge.
At long last, we have received a response from PayPal describing the reason for the freezing of our account.
Today we received a response to our question of exactly what it is that we are selling that portrays violence or victims of violence:
The page listed, entitled "Graphic Photos of What the U.S. Terrorist Regime has Wrought", is free. We do accept donations, and perhaps PayPal decided that this constitutes a violation of their policy. In any case, it is most interesting that they took the action they did because we simply attempted to provide a more objective view of the invasion of Iraq. We certainly have to wonder why our little corner of the web has received such attention, given the sheer number of web sites that use the PayPal service.
It appears that the truth remains a rare commodity in our world, and there are many institutions who wish to continue supporting the lie by effectively attempting to censor those individuals and groups who refuse to tow the line.
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