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Monday, July 12, 2004

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©2004 Pierre-Paul Feyte

Even in the Never-Never Land of Israeli Intelligence, the Truth Occasionally Will Out

By Richard H. Curtiss

It's no secret that much of the news reported in Israel's Hebrew-language media never reaches the mainstream American press, for the simple reason that items unfavorable to Israel generally are not translated. And, because very few Israelis break this self-imposed censorship, items from the Hebrew press that do appear may be much more newsworthy than their anemic English translations indicate.

It was a bit stunning, therefore, to read an article in Strategic Assessment, the quarterly bulletin issued by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. The report, titled "The War in Iraq: An Intelligence Failure?" was written by Shlomo Brom, a brigadier general in the Israeli army reserves, and said what no one seems to have dared publish since President George W. Bush decided to wage war on Iraq. Shockingly, it told the full truth about the American and British intelligence "sources" making the case for war.

In fact, according to Brom, these sources were utterly compromised by Israeli intelligence, which made the case for starting the war and kept it going as long as necessary. The retired general described Israel as a "full partner" in U.S. and British intelligence failures that exaggerated Iraqi President Saddam Hussain's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs in the lead up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Israeli intelligence sources and political leaders provided "an exaggerated assessment of Iraqi capabilities," raising "the possibility that the intelligence had been manipulated," wrote Brom, former deputy chief of planning for the Israeli army.

Brom said his remarks were directed at Israel's Military Intelligence, Air Force Intelligence and the Mossad intelligence agency. The Israeli army declined to comment on his report, and the Mossad did not return press calls.

Comment: As the name-calling begins in the great "intelligence fiasco", it is worthwhile to read this article which appeared in the January/February edition of Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

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CDA: Central Disinformation Agency

Mid-East Realities - MER - www.MiddleEast.Org - 9 July 2004:

Now we find out, when it's far too late, that the American Vice-President made no less than 10 personal visits to the CIA before the Iraq invasion. No one in Washington can remember anything like this. The CIA with all of its billions of dollars, 'professional' analysts, techno gagetry, and worldwide spies and agents, turned into such a bumbling disinformation agency that even the President and the Secretary of State now claim they were mislead and that explains why they 'mistakenly' lied so blatantly to the American people, the American Congress, and then in that historic day before the world at the U.N. Security Council.

This is in actuality a scandal far far larger than anything that happened and became public in any recent American Presidency going back to Nixon and Watergate and before in fact. Indeed Nixon's White House lawyer of Watergate fame, John Dean, has been saying so in public of late.

But few in official Washington are really listening with the intent of acting, and the Republican dominated Congress is working overtime to block as much of the most damning information as it possibily can until after the November election. Then, if brought back to power Bush II will move relentless to cover-up and create even more police-state and secrecy legislation and regulations. Then, if there is regime change in the U.S., one can bet that much of the most incriminating actual evident, the crucial paper trails, are already being hidden and in the days right after the election will be taken, shredded, and 'disappeared' in one way or another. The top ranging neocons at the Pentagon and the White House, and the Vice-President and his top aides, have the most to fear and no doubt are working overtime to protect their asses.

Of course the corporate American media can't really be counted on to get to the bottom of all this. They were very much apart of it all as it happened...from Judith Miller's grossly bogus reporting in the New York Times to the mediocre 'polite' discussions on the evening news programs, especially the Lehrer News Report on PBS, all of which seem purposefully designed never get to the heart of the matter. Plus of course their is the careful and systematic methods continually used to always keep the public from knowing the depth and importance of the crucial Israeli-connnection to all that has happened.

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Depleted Uranium: The Trojan Horse of Nuclear War

by Leuren Moret 8 July 2004

Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot that it do singe yourself.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

The use of depleted uranium weaponry by the United States, defying all international treaties, will slowly annihilate all species on earth including the human species, and yet this country continues to do so with full knowledge of its destructive potential.

Since 1991, the United States has staged four wars using depleted uranium weaponry, illegal under all international treaties, conventions and agreements, as well as under the US military law. The continued use of this illegal radioactive weaponry, which has already contaminated vast regions with low level radiation and will contaminate other parts of the world over time, is indeed a world affair and an international issue. The deeper purpose is revealed by comparing regions now contaminated with depleted uranium — from Egypt, the Middle East, Central Asia and the northern half of India — to the US geostrategic imperatives described in Zbigniew Brzezinski's 1997 book The Grand Chessboard.

The fact is that the United States and its military partners have staged four nuclear wars, "slipping nukes under the wire" by using dirty bombs and dirty weapons in countries the US needs to control. Depleted uranium aerosols will permanently contaminate vast regions and slowly destroy the genetic future of populations living in those regions, where there are resources which the US must control, in order to establish and maintain American primacy.

Described as the Trojan Horse of nuclear war, depleted uranium is the weapon that keeps killing. The half-life of Uranium-238 is 4.5 billion years, the age of the earth. And, as Uranium-238 decays into daughter radioactive products, in four steps before turning into lead, it continues to release more radiation at each step. There is no way to turn it off, and there is no way to clean it up. It meets the US Government's own definition of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

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When will Bush 'get it'?

By W. Scott Thompson

IN MR Ronald Reagan's second term, those of us in his administration hoped the United States could help nudge Ferdinand Marcos from power in the Philippines, but knew that only one thing stood in our way. It was our president's personal respect for the Filipino dictator.

Late in 1985, when mobs were all but storming Manila's palace demanding change and the communist threat was growing out of disgust with the kleptocracy in power, someone very close to Mr Reagan told me: 'He's almost got it. He's now about where he was four years ago on South Africa. After all, he 'got it' on Mandela, why can't he 'get it' on the Philippines?' And in February 1986, he 'got it'. American helicopters removed Mr Marcos from Malacanang Palace.

The question for today is, when will President George W. Bush 'get it' on the Middle East - and realise that the central problem there is not terrorism, but the creation of terrorism resulting from America's policy towards Israel.

Almost everyone else seems to have got it. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has noted with disdain that we have 'subcontracted' our Middle East policy to Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon - and he is a Jewish American. French writer Edward Girardet, while excoriating Osama bin Laden, writes that 'much of the anger in the Islamic world, particularly its extremes, appears to be the result of their treatment, real or perceived, by the West. At the heart of the problem lies the repression of Palestinians by the Israelis and the support they receive from Washington'. A majority of Israelis even support a Palestinian state, but America's policy is now supportive only in rhetoric.

The US supplies the Israeli army with offensive weapons to sweep through Palestinian territory, destroying schools, police headquarters and everything else that might make it possible for the infant Palestinian authority to manage its own people.

Is it hopeless? Those looking at the awesome power of 'the lobby' in American affairs put up their arms in helplessness. Thus for example, for an anodyne op-ed I wrote in the Jakarta Post, which called for an even-handed policy in the Middle East, I received 40 pages of hate mail and death threats - and a couple of pages of reasoned arguments - from Jewish Americans. One of my school colleagues attempted to have me expelled from the faculty in punishment for my views. Academic freedom, the new American style.

[...] It even gets funny. I wrote to a distinguished friend, of Jewish descent, regarding Mr Sharon, of my belief (based on intelligence I had first read in 1982 when he went on a killing spree in Lebanon) that the Israeli Premier was an 'evil man'. My friend wrote back saying he was not evil, he just liked to 'hit people'. The defence rests.

Comment: Dream on, Mr. Thompson. Bush does "get it". All too well.

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The Hands Of Israel

Jul 10, 2004
By Ibrahim Nafie

New evidence has come to light of Israeli involvement in Iraq. The sources that revealed this evidence are not Arab but American, and their claims are backed by documentation of the network of relations Israeli security agencies have woven and used to infiltrate Iraq. This time, at least, it cannot be said that the Israeli presence in Iraq is a figment of Arab conspiracy theorising, as some like to brand our methods of political analysis.

Although many Arab and international studies on the role Israel played in escalating the Iraqi-US crisis before the fall of Saddam Hussein have noted that this drive was part of Israel's greater strategy to fragment multinational Arab political entities, they refrained from more intensive probing until more facts became available. These facts have now surfaced as the result of two recent developments. The first is a BBC interview with US Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, former military commander of Abu Ghraib prison. The second is the appointment of Salem Chalabi as head of the Iraqi Special Tribunal formed to prosecute former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and other members of his regime.

In an interview with the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, Karpinski said that in the course of her work in Iraq she had met a man with Middle Eastern features who spoke Arabic and who claimed to be involved in the interrogation of some Iraqi detainees. She said he told her, "I speak Arabic but I'm not an Arab; I'm from Israel." Although Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom emphatically denied Karpinski's claim, Seymour Hirsch, the American journalist who detonated the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, had another opinion. On the same programme he said that the information he had confirmed the presence of Israeli intelligence experts in Iraq, adding, "One of the Israelis' aims was to get to the prisoners who had been members of Iraqi intelligence and specialised in Israeli affairs." In addition Yossi Melman, intelligence analyst for Ha'aretz, was of the opinion that his government's denial was weak. General Karpinski's statements must be regarded as the testimony of an American military officer who harbours no animosity towards Israel, he wrote. Melman also alluded to the similarities between the methods of torture used in Iraqi detention centres and those Israeli intelligence use in their interrogations of Palestinian activists.

Following his appointment as head of the Iraqi Special Tribunal, Salem Chalabi came under the scrutiny of some members of the western press. British journalists, in particular, were quick to expose his extensive American and Israeli connections. Salem is the nephew of Ahmed Chalabi, president of the Iraqi National Congress. He is also the partner of an Israeli businessman in a law firm catering to US companies in Iraq. Their company, the Iraq International Law Group, promotes itself to its clients as "Your specialized gateway to the new Iraq." His partner, Mark Zell, is a member of the radical Israeli settler movement Gush Emunim. He is also a partner in a law firm with Undersecretary of Defence and long- time neo-conservative Iraqi War hawk Douglas Feith. An ardent Likud supporter, Feith was among those who tried to persuade former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to wriggle out of the Oslo accords on the grounds that they were detrimental to the security of Israel. Subsequently he vehemently criticized Netanyahu for having signed the Wye River agreement in 1998.

Now that the Israeli presence in Iraq is established fact, by the admission of important non-Arab figures and substantiated by other western news sources, we must take it very seriously. After all, the welfare of the Iraqi people and the future of a free, united and Arab Iraq are at stake, since there is little doubt that Israel aims to undermine the stability and geographical integrity of Iraq and its relations with the rest of the Arab world.

The perils of Israeli involvement in the "new" Iraq cannot be overstated. It is already grave enough that the Sharon government and its allies and supporters in Washington worked so intensively to propel the Bush administration to invade and occupy Iraq, a drive that accelerated in the wake of 11 September with the feverish attempt to unearth any connection between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda. Clearly, Israel perceived that the invasion and occupation of Iraq served its long-range ambitions.

This is not to exonerate the deposed Iraqi president from the major responsibility he had in bringing Iraq to its current pass. There is no question that he and his officials stubbornly courted the invasion that led to the occupation, or that the crimes his regime perpetuated against its neighbours and its own people were the prime cause of the regional and international isolation that fed the collision course with the US.

Given Israel's efforts to promote the war and occupation there was every reason to expect it to persist in its efforts to fragment that sister Arab nation along ethnic, linguistic and sectarian lines. The recent corroboration of an Israeli presence in Iraq confirms this expectation, which, in turn, should compel the Iraqis and the Arabs in general to act quickly to end that infiltration in order to safeguard Iraq's territorial and demographic unity.

Still, one cannot help but to wonder, here, what prompted the current US administration to allow an Israeli involvement in Iraq. Certainly, it must have realised the magnitude of the long-standing bad blood between Iraq and Israel, due to the complex history of political and military tensions between them and, consequently, the extent to which an Israeli presence in that country would create severe problems for US policy and for the US as a great power. Or is it possible that Washington let Israel into Iraq precisely because it knew the repercussions this would have?

In my opinion the scandals that have so tarnished the reputation of the US military in Iraq were the product of Israeli planning. What General Karpinski was saying between the lines was that the torture and inhumane practices perpetrated against Iraqi prisoners were inspired by Israeli advice or were practical applications of Israel's interrogation expertise actively sought out by US intelligence authorities. Yossi Melman suggests as much in his observation that the torture methods used in Iraq were similar to those used by Israeli intelligence in their interrogations of Palestinian activists. Although I had formerly written that Israel's "Prison 1391" was a clone of Abu Ghraib the reverse now seems to be the case, which helps explain why the Abu Ghraib scandal is what triggered the heated debate in Israel over "Prison 1391."

At the same time we must bear in mind the nature of the current US administration. A clique of radical ultra-conservatives, it has consistently given precedence to US relations with Israel over all other bilateral relations, and frequently placed Israeli interests above America's own interests. There is a vast difference between the current administration and that of Bush Senior. The latter, during the war to liberate Kuwait in 1991, kept the then Israeli Prime Minister Shamir in check, refusing to let Israel play any part in that war so as to safeguard the coalition which included many Arab countries. The Bush Senior administration then exerted enormous pressure on the rightwing Israeli government to take part in the Madrid peace conference, after which it campaigned intensively to topple the Shamir government in favour of a Labour government under Rabin. As for the current administration, instead of exerting pressure on Israel, it has let the current Likud government impose its agenda on the American agenda and to tarnish the reputation of the US and the American army.

The brutal torture and degradation suffered by Iraqi prisoners can be attributed in large measure to the services of Israeli intelligence agencies, to which testify statements issued by American officials and Israeli press sources. This alone should make it imperative to end the Israeli presence in Iraq as part of the effort to eliminate the rancor over all the injustices visited upon the Iraqi people.

Indeed, for the same reason, the current Iraqi interim government must handle the prosecution of Saddam Hussein with the greatest delicacy and wisdom. The first step towards this is to ensure that the judges selected are above all suspicion. Again I stress that no one sympathises with Saddam Hussein. The crimes he perpetrated against his neighbours and the even more heinous crimes he perpetrated against his own people are unpardonable. Under his regime, a country that was once wealthy in natural and human resources degenerated into an impoverished and indebted nation that was all the more vulnerable to invasion and occupation. In short, the interim government must summon the utmost objectivity and foresight in dealing with the trial and other crucial issues in order to pave the way for a truly new era for a peaceful, safe and vibrant united Iraq.

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UN to rebuild homes Israel destroyed

Sunday 11 July 2004, 22:10 Makka Time, 19:10 GMT

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees is to rebuild homes for some of the 15,000 people made homeless by an Israeli policy of home demolitions, officials said on Sunday.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) reached an agreement with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and another UN agency to build 700 homes for Palestinians left homeless because of direct Israeli action in Rafah, Southern Gaza.

Rafah has been the hardest hit by Israel's policy of home demolitions.

The PA is to set aside land for the new homes and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) will help pay for them with donations from the Saudi Committee for the Relief of Palestinians and the United Arab Emirates Red Crescent.

[...] The agency said in June it needed nearly $45m to build homes for 9000 Palestinian refugees made homeless since 2000 by Israeli army raids in Rafah.

Israel says the number of Palestinian homes destroyed by its army and the number of people made homeless is far lower than the figures reported by UNWRA.

It says its forces only destroy buildings used by resistance fighters to hide weapons-smuggling tunnels or as "gunmen's nests" to launch attacks against Israeli forces.

But UNWRA statistics dispute Israeli claims and point to more than 22,000 homeless Palestinians due to Israeli occupation army operations in Gaza since the start of the Palestinian intifada almost four years ago.

[...] Home demolitions have become a contentious issue in Israeli public life.

In late May, Israeli Justice Minister Yosef Lapid, a Holocaust survivor, compared the demolition of Palestinian homes to Nazi atrocities against the Jews during the second world war's Final Solution.

"I saw on television an old woman picking through the rubble of her house in Rafah, looking for her medicine, and she reminded me of my grandmother who was expelled from her home during the Holocaust," he was quoted as saying.

His remarks set off a furor in Israel as several politicians rejected the comparison between Palestinians left homeless and the effects of the Holocaust.

Earlier in the year, Rabbi Arik Ascherman also protested against home demolitions and called them a crime against humanity.

Ascherman, a US-born rabbi who heads the Rabbis for Human Rights movement, was prosecuted and charged in court for his activism to prevent demolitions of Palestinian homes, and is currently awaiting a verdict.

He faces up to three years imprisonment.

Comment: Israel claims that they only "destroy buildings used by resistance fighters". However, Israel has a policy of collective punishment which means that they will the destroy the property of the entire family of "resistance fighters", not only the house of the fighter himself. This is illegal under international law, but, of course, this doesn't stop Israel, nor doesn't it stop the US from turning a blind eye.

But even the destruction of the homes on an entire family isn't enough. Israel acts as if they hold the entire Palestinian people responsible. The IDF doesn't need any other excuse to destroy a home than it is the home of a Palestianian.

How convenient for Israel that the UN will replace the homes. Israel won't have to. And when the homes are built, Israel will have more to demolish.

It was sixteen months ago that Rachel Corrie, an American activist, was killed under an Israel bulldozer while trying to protect a Palestinian home. Israel claimed the driver didn't see her. Photos taken during the murder show that this is another Israeli lie.

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Dennis Ross, former U.S. envoy for 'peace process' now works for Jewish Agency and Israel.

Mid-East Realities - MER - www.MiddleEast.Org - 7 July 2004:

Remember now, this is the very same 'Ambassador' Dennis Ross whom the 'even-handed' Americans insisted be the top 'peace process negotiator' for a decade or so between Israel and the Palestinians. Remember as well that the much flaunted and constantly lied about 'peace process' Ross directed erupted in recent years -- as MER had predicted all along by the way -- into the worst mayhem and bloodshed ever. It also has brought worse than apartheid conditions to the Palestinian people and a great escalation in hatred and what the Americans love to simply call 'terrorism' regardless of causes, distinctions, places, and realities.

And now, after immediately moving from the U.S. government payroll to that of Washington's powerful Israeli-jewish lobby -- with which he was formerly associated by the way -- Ross has gone to work directly for the Jewish Agency and the Israelis urging still more Jews worldwide to 'return to the promised land' and settle in 'the Jewish state'.

The Jewish Agency, by the way, has existed since before the establishment of the Israeli state with the main goal of bringing Jews from whereever they might be to settle in what the whole world then called "Palestine"; and whether by design or result to displace the Arab Palestinian people who were living there.

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An Outcry from Bold Jewry

July 9, 2004

Bold Jewry is looking for brave statements from open-minded journalists who could help defend us from our tragic enemies, camouflaged as our spokesmen, our defenders and friends: the Zionist so-called "state of Israel" and their sympathizers abroad.

Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), the founder of modern Zionism, recognized that anti-Semitism would further his cause, the creation of a separate state for Jews. To solve the Jewish Question, he maintained "we must, above all, make it an international political issue." Herzl wrote that Zionism offered the world a welcome "final solution of the Jewish question." In his "Diaries", page 19, Herzl stated "Anti-Semites will become our surest friends, anti-Semitic countries our allies."

Zionism was supported by the German SS and Gestapo. Hitler himself personally supported Zionism. During the 1930's, in cooperation with the German authorities, Zionist groups organized a network of some 40 camps throughout Germany where prospective settlers were trained for their new lives in Palestine. As late as 1942 Zionists operated at least one of these officially authorized "Kibbutz" training camps over which flew the blue and white banner which would one day be adopted as the national flag of "Israel".

The Transfer Agreement (which promoted the emigration of German Jews to Palestine) implemented in 1933 and abandoned at the beginning of WWII is an important example of the cooperation between Hitler's Germany and international Zionism. Through this agreement, Hitler's Third Reich did more than any other government during the 1930's to support Jewish development in Palestine and further the Zionist goals.

Hitler and the Zionists had a common goal: to create a world Jewish Ghetto as a solution to the Jewish Question.The Zionist so-called "World Jewish Congress" declared war on the country of Germany, knowing that it would affect their Jewish brothers residing in that country who would be left without protection. When others tried to help them escape to other countries, the Zionist movement took actions which caused those countries to lock their doors to Jewish immigration (read more in the books, "Perfidy" and "Min Hametzer"). As a result of the Zionist influence five ships of Jewish refugees from Germany arriving in the United States were turned back to the gas chambers.

The fundamental aim of the Zionist movement has been not to save Jewish lives but to create a "Jewish state" in Palestine.

On December 7, 1938, Ben Gurion, the first head of the Zionist 'state of Israel' declared "If I knew it was possible to save all the children in Germany by taking them to England, and only half of the children by taking them to Eretz Israel, I would choose the second solution. For we must take into account not only the lives of these children but also the history of the people of Israel."

On August 31, 1949, Ben Gurion stated: "Although we have realized our dream of creating a Jewish State, we are only at the beginning. There are still only 900,000 Jews in Israel, whereas the majority of the Jewish people still remains abroad. Our future task is to bring all the Jews to Israel."

Of the two and a half million Jews seeking refuge from the Nazis between 1935 and 1943, less than 9% went to settle in Palestine. The vast majority, 75%, went to the Soviet Union. In the mid-70's, more people emigrated out of 'Israel' than came in. The only surges of immigration to the Zionist state have occurred during anti-Semitic threats and persecution in foreign countries. It follows that for the Zionist state to achieve its goal of a Jewish world ghetto anti-Semitism must be promoted and encouraged, and as we have seen, by acts of violence if necessary.

"To attain its practical objectives, Zionism hopes it will be able to collaborate with a government that is fundamentally hostile to the Jews". – "A Holocaust Reader", p. 155.

The use of anti-Semitism as a tool to coerce immigration to the Zionist state continues to the present day:

Prime Minister Sharon has stated that anti-Semitism is on the rise and that the only hope for the safety of Jews is to move to Israel under the protection of the Zionist state. "The best solution to anti-Semitism is immigration to Israel. It is the only place on Earth where Jews can live as Jews," he said.

Those who continue to call the so-called "state of Israel" the "Jewish State" are not only promoting Zionism which is contrary to the beliefs of true Judaism, but also endorsing the promotion of worldwide anti-Semitism. In doing so they are endangering the lives of traditional Jews and denying their civil liberties and human rights.

When the British foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour (sponsor of the 1905 Aliens Act to restrict Jewish immigration to the UK), wanted the British government to commit itself to a Jewish homeland in Palestine, his declaration was delayed - not by anti-Semites but by leading figures in the British Jewish community. They included a Jewish member of the cabinet who called Balfour's pro-Zionism "anti-Semitic in result". In contrast, a great statesman like Secretary of State Colin Powell, a supporter of traditional Judaism, has the courage to separate Judaism from Zionism and to acknowledge that speaking out against the actions of the Zionist state is not "anti-Semitism".

We call upon our leaders in Washington to disassociate the actions of the Zionist state from traditional Judaism by no longer referring to "Israel" as the "Jewish State" but as "the Zionist State" and to speak out against the Zionist actions which promote anti-Semitism.

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Arab victim of Tel Aviv bombing calls for barrier to keep out Palestinians

09:01 PM EDT Jul 11

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) - The images from the explosion kept running through Sammi Masrawa's mind as he lay in his hospital bed - a young female soldier with the back of her head missing, a heavily pregnant woman lying on the sidewalk, legs mangled, screaming "my baby, my baby."

Sunday's blast at a Tel Aviv bus stop had changed his world view.

The 29-year-old Arab Israeli from Tel Aviv was the head of a local committee calling for co-existence between Israelis and the Palestinians.

Now he wants them kept apart.

"A month ago I went to protest the fence," he said, referring to the barrier Israel is building in the West Bank. "Now I believe it can only strengthen us."

The bombing came just two days after the world court ruled that the barrier is illegal. Israel says the structure keeps bombers out, while Palestinians says it encroaches on their land and disrupts the lives of thousands of people.

Nearly 1,000 Israelis have been killed, many of them in bombings, since fighting broke out four years ago. Just over 3,000 Palestinians were killed in the same period, most by Israeli army fire.

Masrawa thinks there is no choice but to build the barrier.

"These terrorists don't differentiate between Jews and Arabs. They just want to kill," he said, glass shards embedded in his leg, as his wife shook her head in disbelief at his political transformation.

Masrawa had just descended from a bus on his way to work as a chef in nearby restaurant when a bomb hidden in the shrubs behind the bus stop went off.

Bus driver Eyal Gazit said he initially thought the bomb was on his bus.

"Suddenly a large boom, a cloud of black and all the bus was covered . . . the windows blew out," he told Israel's Army Radio. "There were screams . . . the passengers were jumping over each other trying to escape from the bus."

At the bus stop, cigarette butts floated in a pool of blood next to a black high-heeled shoe. A rescue worker carried off a bloodstained bag as others methodically searched the road for body parts.

Masrawa has not given up entirely on Arab Israeli co-existence.

"I want to say that I am an Israeli Arab and I'm proud to be an Arab who tried to save a soldier," he said.

Comment: Even if the Palestinians were behind these suicide attacks, building a prison around the Palestinians certainly will not help matters any. As the situation deteriorates, does Masrawa actually believe that he will be exempt from the inevitable roundup of Israeli Arabs? Those Arabs who reside in Israel are already treated as second-class citizens. It seems that this article is just more Israeli propaganda to further the goals of the Zionists.

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Jew Banned from Israel for Supporting Palestinians

Sun 11 Jul 2004

A Jewish American has been denied entry to Israel because she belongs to a pro-Palestinian group, her lawyer said today.

Jamie Spector, 32, a social worker from San Francisco, arrived in Israel on Saturday to protest the West Bank separation barrier Israel is constructing. She has been held in detention since defying the order to leave, said her lawyer.

The separation barrier was ruled illegal in an advisory opinion on Friday by the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands. Israel dismissed the non-bonding ruling as one-sided, charging that it encourages terrorism.

Israel says the barrier is needed to keep Palestinian attackers out of the country, but Palestinians call it a land grab because it dips into the West Bank.

Spector was denied entry because of her affiliation with the International Solidarity Movement, a pro-Palestinian group active in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The group's members often place themselves in between Palestinians and Israeli forces to prevent the army from carrying out operations.

Tova Ellinson, spokeswoman for the Ministry of the Interior, said officials acted in accordance with a security recommendation. She refused to comment further.

Huwaidi Arraf, an American-born Palestinian and founder of the ISM, said that more than 10 people from the group have been refused entry into Israel in the past month. Two other ISM activists are in the same detention centre as Spector.

Israel charges that the activists defy military orders and endanger themselves and soldiers. Many ISM members have been deported.

However, banning Spector's entry is different, her lawyer said. "This is a special case," she said.

"It is very difficult for Israel to ban Jews from entering the country. It means that the courts will look differently on her."

With few exceptions, Jews are allowed automatic entry into Israel and are offered citizenship.

"I am very sorry that the Israeli government is denying me entry into the country where I have so many family and friends," Spector said. "I am committed to non-violent actions and also to protest the illegal apartheid wall."

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John Edwards — Bulldog Grip on 'Underdog' Israeli Nation

Sarah Whalen, Arab News

John Edwards would have liked to be US President in 2004 . But he's an extraordinarily talented plaintiffs' trial lawyer. If he can't win, he'll settle.

Being John Kerry's vice president would be enough. For now.

Why should Muslims care?

Because Edwards voted for the Patriot Act, voted for giving President Bush authority to use military force in Iraq, and is obsessed with militarily defending Israel through war in the Middle East.

Plaintiffs' lawyers defend underdogs to the death, and Edwards sees Israel, a nuclear-armed munitions factory, as the underdog. And Edwards will fight to the death for Israel.

And like all great trial lawyers, he doesn't have to know a whole heck of a lot about any issues. He's a bulldog. He just has to know what his goal is, get a good grip with his jaws, and not let go.

On the Middle East "situation," Edwards avers there are "no easy answers here," but in fact, that isn't true. Edwards has an easy answer.

The US should be a "strong supporter of Israel." No why, no because, no indication that he understands any of the issues. Just get that bulldog grip and not let go.

Edwards the bulldog is tenacious alright. But how smart is he?

On US Senate's elite Intelligence Committee, Edwards comments on the 9/ 11attacks often painfully belabored the obvious: "If we can predict where, when and how attacks will occur, we can stop them before they happen." What? No "who?"

And during his nomination run, Edwards' Middle East remarks turned decidedly odd. Edwards called for the United States to lead an "international effort" against Iraq at all costs, even if the UN Security Council was somehow "prevented" from supporting it. That "prevention" here would mean the exercise of voting rights of the actual Security Council Members does not seem to have even crossed Edwards' mind.

And why should it? It takes every muscle just to hold that grip.

"Hussein's got to be gone," Edwards barked before the war, even though he acknowledged that Iraq had made no "direct provocation" against any state in over a decade.

"Osama Bin Laden is no criminal mastermind," Edwards scoffed. Bin Laden is, rather, "a common thug who was able to thrive in an environment of political despotism, religious extremism, and economic instability."

In Edwards' bulldog eyes, Bin Laden is just a simple crook.

To Edwards, Israel is "our vital ally" to which Iraq under Saddam Hussein "pose[d] a mortal threat."

But toppling Saddam was not enough for Edwards. His website announces: "Senator John Edwards believes that this is not the time to send mixed messages about the special relationship between America and Israel."

When interviewer Tim Russert asked whether, as president, Edwards would urge Ariel Sharon "to stop building settlements on the West Bank," Edwards responded: "I don't think our responsibility is to make demands on a sovereign nation, particularly an old, deep, passionate ally like Israel."

He also declared that Israel "made the right decision to reject" the UN's proposal on Jenin. Edwards added that Israelis rightfully escalated violence against Palestinians because "I think that the very existence of Israel is being threatened."

Why tell Israel "to stop the military incursion," Edwards continued, "when we [the US] were attacked [9/11] we went half a world away to go after the people who were responsible for it?"

In his October, 2002 speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., Edwards twice pronounced things in the Middle East would change "when we're [i.e., the US] engaged on the ground in Israel: "It's also important for us to send a clear signal to the Arab world that we care about what's happening in Israel, that we're willing to have people on the ground over extended period of time to do what needs to be done to ease tension and hopefully ultimately result in peace."

US troops "on the ground" in the Middle East for 'Israel?'" Edwards' admission that the Iraq war was all about Israel is an idea worth watching, as Edwards' begins his odyssey to power.

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US 'may delay vote if attacked'

Monday, 12 July, 2004

The Bush administration is reported to be investigating the possibility of postponing the presidential election in the event of a terror attack.

US counter-terrorism officials are examining what steps would be needed to permit a delay, Newsweek reports.

Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge last week warned al-Qaeda was planning to attack the US to disrupt the poll but conceded he had no precise information.

A senior Democrat in Congress has said talk of postponement is "excessive".

Doomsday scenarios

In its latest edition, Newsweek reports that Mr Ridge has asked the Justice Department to examine what legal steps would be needed to permit the postponement of the 2 November election.

This follows a letter from the chairman of the new Election Assistance Commission, DeForest Soaries, who urged Mr Ridge to seek emergency legislation from Congress that would allow his agency to reschedule the vote in the event of an attack.

Mr Soaries noted that while New York's board of elections suspended primary elections on 11 September 2001, "the federal government has no agency that has the statutory authority to cancel and reschedule a federal election."

Homeland Security Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse told Newsweek, "We are reviewing the issue to determine what steps need to be taken to secure the election."

Republican Representative Christopher Cox, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, told CNN that it was prudent to prepare for a postponement.

"These are doomsday scenarios. We don't have any intelligence to suggest that it is going to happen, but we're preparing for all of these contingencies now."

Old information

But Jane Harman, the senior Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said proposing a postponement would be "excessive based on what we know".

She also criticised Mr Ridge's suggestion that al-Qaeda was planning to disrupt the election, saying the warning was based on old information.

The BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says the Democrats' unspoken fear is that the White House will play on the nerves of Americans as the election nears, hoping to gain support from a nation fearful of any change in course.

It is a difficult strategy for the Democrats to counter.

If they appeared complacent and terrorists did strike, they would be politically destroyed, he says.

No US presidential election has ever been postponed.

Abraham Lincoln was urged by some aides to suspend the election of 1864 - during the US Civil War - but despite the expectation that he would lose, he refused.

"The election is a necessity," Lincoln said. "We cannot have a free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forgo, or postpone, a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered us."

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Ridge warns of pre-election attack but some question if Bush administration is spreading fear

Zachary Coile, Chronicle Washington Bureau
Friday, July 9, 2004
San Francisco Chronicle
Chronicle Sections

Washington -- The Bush administration warned Thursday that terrorists might launch a "large-scale attack" in the United States to influence November's presidential election, but critics questioned whether the White House was spreading fear of an attack for political purposes.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said the warning was based on credible reports suggesting al Qaeda was plotting an attack, including intelligence gleaned from recent arrests in Italy, Jordan and England. The White House also is convinced the Madrid rail bombings in March have led terrorists to believe they can time an attack to affect the way Americans vote.

"We lack precise knowledge about time, place and method of attack," Ridge told reporters, "but along with the CIA, FBI and other agencies, we are actively working to gain that knowledge."

The administration is increasing security around the Democratic and Republican national conventions this summer. But it has no plans to raise the color-coded terror alert status, which is currently yellow or "elevated," Ridge said.

Several Democrats said that while the threat was real, the administration did not have enough new intelligence to merit a public warning. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced in late May that terrorists planned to "hit the United States hard" this summer in advance of the election.

"It has been stated repeatedly that al Qaeda is planning an attack against the United States. The intelligence indicates that the attack may occur between now and the end of this year," said Rep. Jim Turner, D-Texas, the ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Homeland Security. "Secretary Ridge's press conference today added nothing new to this information."

Administration officials said the intelligence, picked up from sources including Islamic militant Web sites, suggested that plans for an attack were nearly complete. While the government is concerned about the conventions, no credible intelligence has cited the political events in Boston and New York as targets, Ridge said.

Some Democratic groups questioned the timing of the warning, which came the same week that presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry named Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., as his running mate and the same day Enron chief Kenneth Lay, a top campaign contributor to Bush during his first race for the White House, was indicted.

America Coming Together, a Democratic group working to elect Kerry, issued a statement charging the announcement "continued the Bush-Cheney campaign based on fear" by issuing a warning without specific evidence of a looming attack.

Ridge, at a news conference Thursday, bristled at a reporter's question that the White House was attempting to aid Bush's re-election by "sending a subtle message that a vote for John Kerry is a vote for Osama bin Laden."

"It's a wrong interpretation," Ridge said. "We are basically laying out before the general public the kind of information that we've received. ... These are not conjectures or mythical statements we are making."

The issue of when the government should alert the public about terrorist threats has become a contentious debate -- especially with just four months until the presidential election.

Democratic strategists point out that Bush's best poll numbers relate to his handling of terrorism and that his re-election is aided the more his administration raises the issue. However, the administration has also been stung by critics -- including the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- for failing to issue more public warnings before the attacks on New York and Washington.

White House officials have decided to err on the side of issuing too many warnings, despite the criticism they are "crying wolf."

The administration this week held several closed-door briefings on Capitol Hill about the threats. House members were briefed Wednesday, and Ridge spoke Thursday with senators.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., acknowledged that much of the new intelligence was "very nonspecific," but he praised the administration for making sure the public remained vigilant.

"The country is at some increased risk between now and the time of the presidential election," Frist said. "It's important for people to be aware of that."

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., attended Ridge's briefing but came away unimpressed with the new intelligence, which she described as mostly a rehashing of previous threat information.

"This is nothing new," Boxer said. "We have been aware for some time that al Qaeda wanted to disrupt our country before the election and during the conventions. I would say with rare exceptions, it was fairly generalized (information.)"

After the briefing, Boxer -- who is running for re-election -- urged Republican leaders to take up two homeland security bills, rail security and port security measures, but her effort failed. Both bills have been passed by the Senate Commerce Committee.

"Here we are taking up things like class action reform and gay marriage when we are being called up to a secret meeting room to be told we need to be on guard about what might happen to our country," she said. "Sometimes you think you are in Alice in Wonderland."

Ridge said the government was making major strides in protecting the country. He cited new programs to track rail and truck shipments and a 24-hour information center that connects homeland security officials in all 50 states.

"We live in serious times, and this is sobering information about those who wish to do us harm," Ridge said. "But every day -- every day -- we strengthen the security of our nation."

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Fury over Pentagon cell that briefed White House on Iraq's 'imaginary' al-Qaeda links

By Julian Coman in Washington

A Senior Pentagon policy maker created an unofficial "Iraqi intelligence cell" in the summer of 2002 to circumvent the CIA and secretly brief the White House on links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qa'eda, according to the Senate intelligence committee.


The allegations about Douglas Feith, the number three at the Department of Defence, are made in a supplementary annexe of the committee's review of the intelligence leading to war in Iraq, released on Friday.

According to dramatic testimony contained in the annexe, Mr Feith's cell undermined the credibility of CIA judgments on Iraq's alleged al-Qa'eda links within the highest levels of the Bush administration.

The cell appears to have been set up by Mr Feith as an adjunct to the Office of Special Plans, a Pentagon intelligence-gathering operation established in the wake of 9/11 with the authority of Paul Wolfowitz. Its focus quickly became the al-Qa'eda-Saddam link.

On occasion, without informing the then head of the CIA, George Tenet, the group gave counter-briefings in the White House. Sen Jay Rockefeller, the most senior Democrat on the committee, said that Mr Feith's cell may even have undertaken "unlawful" intelligence-gathering initiatives.

The claims will lead to calls by Democrats for the resignation of Mr Feith, the third-ranking civilian at the Department of Defence and a leading "neo-con" hawk. "Tenet fell on his sword," said one Democrat official, "even though it's clear that he was placed under tremendous pressure to come up with the 'right' intelligence product for the administration on Iraq.

"The testimony to the committee on Feith and other Pentagon officials shows just what kind of pressure was being exerted. And when that didn't work, the Pentagon was just coming up with its own answers and feeding them to the White House. And on al-Qa'eda they got it all wrong."

Last night a senior Pentagon adviser confirmed that Mr Feith was being targeted by senators unhappy that the administration has so far escaped censure for its use of intelligence.

"There are senators who are clearly gunning for Douglas Feith now. This is turning into a classic conspiracy investigation. They want to get Feith and see if, through Feith, they can go up the ladder to even bigger fish."

Mr Feith's role is to be examined further in the second phase of the Senate committee's investigations, which will deal with the Bush administration's use of the intelligence it received. The report by the Republican-dominated committee lambasted the CIA for intelligence failures while concluding that there was no evidence that the Bush administration tried to coerce officials to adapt their findings.

Yet the annexe - written by three leading Democratic senators - contains the strongest evidence yet that Pentagon hardliners sought to sideline the CIA during a drive to talk up a connection between Saddam and Osama bin Laden.

After the September 11 attacks, tension had grown between Pentagon officials and CIA agents, who suspected the Department of Defence of relying too heavily on dubious testimony from Iraqi defectors in order to justify a war against Iraq.

The CIA's investigation of links between Iraq and al-Qa'eda was almost the only aspect of the agency's intelligence-gathering to escape severe censure in the 511-page report. Sen Rockefeller, the senator for West Virginia, said: "Our report found that the intelligence community's judgments were right on Iraq's ties to terrorists. There was no evidence of the formal relationship, however you want to describe it, between Iraq and al-Qa'eda, and no evidence that existed of Iraq's complicity or assistance in al-Qa'eda's terrorist attacks."

Pentagon officials who appeared before the Senate committee testified that Mr Feith and others believed that the CIA was not sufficiently aggressive in its investigation of links between Saddam and al-Qa'eda. During the summer of 2002, administration hardliners believed that evidence of a connection between Iraq and the terrorist organisation would provide a clinching argument for war.

After the publication in June 2002 of a cautious report by the CIA entitled Iraq and al-Qa'eda: A Murky Relationship, Mr Feith passed on a written verdict to the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, that the report should be read "for content only - and CIA's interpretation should be ignored".

In August 2002, Mr Feith's cell gave a briefing to Mr Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, which included a stinging condemnation of the CIA's intelligence assessment techniques.

In sharp contrast to the Senate intelligence committee's criticisms of "over-reaching" and "exaggeration" by CIA agents, the Pentagon briefing criticised the agency for requiring "juridical evidence" for its findings and for the "consistent underestimation" of the possibility that Iraq and al-Qa'eda were attempting to conceal their collaboration.

In another incident, Mr Feith's Pentagon cell postponed the publication of a CIA assessment of Iraq's links to terrorism after a visit to CIA headquarters at which "numerous objections" were made to a final draft.

In particular, Pentagon officials insisted that more should be made of an alleged meeting between the September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi official in Prague in April 2001. The CIA judged reports of the meeting not to be credible, a verdict vindicated on Friday by the Senate committee report.

Most remarkably, on September 16, 2002, two days before the CIA was to produce its postponed assessment, Mr Feith's cell went directly to the White House and gave an alternative briefing to Vice-President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, and to the National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice's deputy.

The briefing contained the section alleging "fundamental problems" with CIA intelligence-gathering. It also gave a detailed breakdown of the alleged meeting between Atta and an Iraqi agent.

The following week, senior Bush officials made confident statements on the existence of a link between Saddam and al-Qa'eda. Mr Tenet would learn of the secret briefing only in March 2004.

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Bush on War: 'I Would Do It Again'

US President George W. Bush today defended his administration's war on Iraq - and said he would do it all again.

Campaigning in the key battleground state of Pennsylvania, the president said he would do "whatever I can to defend America".

But even as he took an uncompromising tone toward critics of the US led war, Mr Bush also pledged to make needed reforms following the release of a US Senate report that slammed pre-war intelligence failures.

"I look forward to working with members of Congress to put out reforms that will work," Bush said at a campaign event in Kutztown, Pennsylvania.

"I haven't seen the report yet. I understand it's quite critical."

The president reminded several hundred cheering supporters why he ordered the assault on Iraq in March 2003, saying the world knew ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had been trying to acquire banned nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

"We haven't found the stockpiles, but we knew he could make them," he said.

Later, in Lancaster, Bush insisted "I would have done it again", if he had a second chance.

"I looked at the intelligence and the facts and came to the conclusion that Saddam Hussein was a threat to America," he said.

"Congress looked at the very same intelligence I did - the exact same intelligence - and came to the same conclusion I did. Interestingly enough, so did the United Nations.

"When you add it up, America is a more secure place because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power."

Mr Bush, locked in a statistical dead heat with his Democratic rival, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, has sought to focus public attention on homeland security and fighting terrorism, because those are areas where polls show voters trust the president more.

Iraq, however, has become a political liability for the Republican president as he seeks re-election on November 2.

Democrats, US allies, and even former members of his own administration have cast doubts on the decision to go to war, eroding popular support for US involvement amid ongoing violence and the failure to find any banned weapons.

Dozens of protesters holding anti-war signs mixed with cheering supporters along the 177km route of Mr Bush's bus caravan through south-eastern Pennsylvania's Amish country. Some chanted "four more months," a reference to their hope Kerry would win November's election.

The Senate Intelligence Committee's report is likely to fuel the controversy, even though investigators found no evidence the administration pressured intelligence officials to skew their judgments.

The report instead concluded US intelligence agencies mischaracterised Iraq's weapons programs, and said key judgments were either overstated or not supported by evidence.

The report also faulted US intelligence services for failures prior to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Yesterday, Mr Kerry accused Vice President Dick Cheney of exaggerating the threat posed by Saddam and he has hammered Mr Bush for causing the United States to lose respect in the eyes of the world.

"America is leading the world with confidence and moral clarity," Mr Bush responded.

Accompanying Bush for the first time today was his daughter, Jenna Bush, 22. She stayed mostly in the background, but came out to shake hands with rescue workers and shoot video of her father greeting patrons in a diner.

Her twin sister, Barbara, will probably join the campaign next week, Bush campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel said.

Both graduated from college earlier this year and agreed to help their father's re-election bid.

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Some Key Conservatives Uneasy About Bush

Associated Press
Mon Jul 12, 1:13 AM ET

WASHINGTON - When an influential group of conservatives gathers in downtown Washington each week, they often get a political pep talk from a senior Bush administration official or campaign aide. They don't expect a fellow Republican to deliver a blistering critique of President Bush's handling of the Iraq war.

But nearly 150 conservatives listened in silence recently as a veteran of the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations ticked off a litany of missteps in Iraq by the Bush White House.

"This war is not going well," said Stefan Halper, a deputy assistant secretary of state under President Reagan.

"It's costing us a lot of money, isolating us from our allies and friends," said Halper, who gave $1,000 to George W. Bush's campaign and more than $83,000 to other GOP causes in 2000. "This is not the cakewalk the neoconservatives predicted. We were not greeted with flowers in the streets."

Conservatives, the backbone of Bush's political base, are increasingly uneasy about the Iraq conflict and the steady drumbeat of violence in postwar Iraq, Halper and some of his fellow Republicans say. The conservatives' anxiety was fueled by the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal and has not abated with the transfer of political power to the interim Iraqi government.

Some Republicans fear angry conservatives will stay home in November, undercutting Bush's re-election bid.

"I don't think there's any question that there is growing restiveness in the Republican base about this war," said Halper, the co-author of a new book, "America Alone: The Neoconservatives and the Global Order."

Some Republicans dismiss the rift as little more than an inside-the-Beltway spat among rival factions of the GOP intelligentsia. Indeed, conservatives nationwide are still firmly behind Bush. A Pew Research Center poll last month found that 97 percent of conservative Republicans favored Bush over Kerry.

But anger is simmering among some conservatives.

"I am bitterly disappointed in his actions with this war. It is a total travesty," said Tom Hutchinson, 69, a self-described conservative from Sturgeon, Mo., who posted yard signs and staffed campaign phone banks for the Republican in 2000. Hutchinson said he did not believe the administration's stated rationales for the war, in particular the argument that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Hutchinson, a retired businessman and former college professor, said his unease with Iraq may lead him to do something he has not done since 1956: avoid the voting booth in a presidential election. [...]

Comment: If there is another attack before the election, all the conservatives - including Bush - may be staying home in November...

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Letters to the editor

The Seattle Times

Churning the waters for terrifying effect

Thursday's press conference and "breaking news story" of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge warning of "al-Qaida's plans for a large-scale attack in an effort to disrupt the democratic process" was another one of this administration's incredibly vague warnings that have absolutely no value!

These announcements are so obviously strategically timed as to be insulting to our intelligence.

Ridge's speech sounded much more like a GOP stump speech than a credible, newsworthy press conference.

If the Republican ticket is so alarmed by the amount of positive press that the Kerry/Edwards' ticket is getting this week, perhaps they should present some credible information on their own (hey, there is a novel concept) to command the attention of the press, instead of relying on their tired strategy of playing on the fear/anxiety of the American people, and abusing their position of (present and hopefully temporary) power.

I for one am sick of it!

- Wendy Dymoke, Bainbridge Island

Threat intensities seem to correlate with political chill

There was another big story in the press (the same day as Tom Ridge's announcement): the indictment of President Bush's friend and largest campaign contributor, former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay

I doubt that the (terror) warning is genuine, especially given the timing of other "terror alerts" which always seem to happen when the administration is in political trouble.

I guess it could all be a coincidence ...

- David Pfeifle, Lynnwood

Or the terrorists win

Obviously, it has become too dangerous for democracy in America. With Homeland Security warning us of possible disruptions to the (nominating) conventions and the November elections by al-Qaida, we should probably consider postponing our voting ritual indefinitely, or at least until we can root out the evil within and without.

Or, as another option, we can conduct a pre-emptive, secret pre-election prior to November with a select, representative group of patriotic Americans to choose an interim governing body in advance of the real election, to be announced at a later date, thereby foiling the schemes of the evildoers who are even now measuring fuses.

If we can just put democracy on hold for a few more months, we can be really free.

- Tom Fisher, Clinton

A season in hell

"Homeland security" is a dream as long as our government drives others to desperation. Terrorism does not have to strike national monuments or major fixtures of our infrastructure. Forget Sea-Tac Airport, JFK, LAX, the Space Needle, Sears Tower.

Al-Qaida has thousands of kamikaze guys available. A few dozen, singly attacking ordinary, unprotected schools, could quickly introduce Americans to real terror, the agony of seeing innocent young lives deliberately destroyed.

Terrorists would explain this simply as retaliation for the U.S. causing the deaths of at least half a million (!) young Iraqis, by the United Nations' estimate.

We really do need to change course, show some respect for others, before we have hell to pay.

- Thomas Powell (professor emeritus of History, SUNY), Olympia

That's all, folks

Two elitist Skull and Bones brothers-under-the-skin are posing as political opponents, but neither one represents my point of view.

Voting for minor party candidates won't change anything, so I'll write in the names of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck for prez and VP, respectively, and urge all readers to follow my lead. When Bugs and Daffy garner 5 percent of the popular vote, it will send a powerful and unmistakable message to the establishment.

- Warren Wilson, Kirkland

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Democrats Avoid Platform Fight Over Iraq

Saturday July 10, 2004
Associated Press Writer

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) - John Kerry's presidential campaign avoided a platform fight Saturday by persuading activists to drop virulent language about the Iraq war that would have declared the conflict a mistake from the beginning.

The Democratic platform committee worked through the day at a beachfront resort to put final details on the party's statement of principles for the November elections.

The platform will be shaped heavily by national security crises and presumptive nominee Kerry's campaign.

First, however, the committee had to avoid demands by a group of activists that the document describe the entry into Iraq as a mistake and lay down an exit strategy to get American forces out of Iraq. Still, the document includes tough language on terrorism and President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq.

It will be presented to the Democratic National Convention in Boston for its imprimatur at the end of this month.

"Democrats are stronger than ever on national security issues and are going into the election confident of winning the debate on who can keep America safe,'' Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe said.

The committee adopted language brokered by the Kerry campaign saying that as other nations add troops, "The U.S. will be able to reduce its military presence in Iraq, and we intend to do this when appropriate so that the military support needed by a sovereign Iraqi government will no longer be seen as the direct continuation of an American military presence.''

Supporters of presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, still campaigning despite Kerry's evident victory, said the language was not what they had wanted but called it a victory. They agreed to withdraw amendments to the platform on Iraq in exchange for the new language.

"What we got was a commitment to begin the process to talk about bringing the troops home, and the Kerry campaign and the DNC from the outset didn't want this language in there,'' Kucinich deputy campaign manager Tim Carpenter said.

"We've moved. They've moved. It's truly unity in that sense,'' Carpenter said.

Kerry advisers said the platform reflected the Massachusetts senator's long-standing position on Iraq. Kerry has said he would repair America's international alliances and build a genuine multinational coalition to secure Iraq.

"We think we've come to an agreement with the Kucinich people on a way ahead that we think represents what has always been John Kerry's position,'' Kerry adviser Rand Beers said. That, Beers said, "is we shouldn't be in Iraq longer than we have to be, but we have to ensure that when we leave Iraq, we do it in a way that doesn't leave chaos and catastrophe in our wake.''

"I think that reflects a general view on the part of Democrats, no matter who they supported early on, that it's important that John Kerry be elected,'' said former President Clinton's national security adviser, Sandy Berger.

Kucinich later thanked supporters by phone, declaring: "We pushed them on this issue. They needed to be pushed on this issue.''

Republican National Committee spokesman David James called the platform an "extreme makeover'' of the Kerry ticket by the DNC.

"The makeover is designed to hide the fact their platform does not mention opposition to funding for our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, which is how both ... Kerry and Edwards voted as part of a tiny, liberal minority in the United States Senate,'' James said.

The document contends Bush "rushed to war'' in Iraq but does not call the war a mistake. That, it says, is arguable. It also does not rule out pre-emptive military action, if necessary.

"Platforms are about the future, and it is very clear that America must succeed in Iraq. It's got to stay there until the job's done,'' said Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, the platform committee's co-chairman.

About a dozen activists greeted committee members outside the ballroom with signs reading: "Support Our Troops. Bring Them Home. Peace is Patriotic.''

National security clauses comprise half the platform. McAuliffe said about 20 percent of previous platforms dealt with security. DNC officials said about 200 amendments were filed for consideration at the final drafting conference, including those from the Kucinich activists.

The Democratic document offers few departures from party principles on social and economic issues and bears a strong resemblance to Kerry's campaign agenda.

It supports abortion rights, gay rights short of marriage and affirmative action, and it echoes Kerry's support of expanded health care, a modernized military, energy independence and middle-class tax cuts.

Committee members removed a reference to 1996 GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole in the text but included a mention of former first lady Nancy Reagan's support of embryonic stem cell research, which Democrats also approve. The Bush administration has restricted the research.

The gathering was in Florida, where Bush narrowly defeated Al Gore in 2000 after a spate of legal challenges, a 36-day recount and a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois said the meeting's location was "in the middle of a crime scene. If I had a big yellow ribbon, I would tie it around this entire state.''

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Democrats Drop Antiwar Pretensions

July 12, 2004
by Caleb Ewing

Saturday at the Westin Diplomat hotel outside Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the Democratic Party finalized its platform for the upcoming Democratic National Convention in to be held in Boston later this month. Progressives and peace lovers – mostly Kucinich and Dean supporters – didn't get much at all. Not only does the platform not call for the U.S. to leave Iraq ASAP, it is also loaded with militarism and calls for the U.S. to advance democracy abroad through force.

It was a sad outcome for progressives. This wholesale rejection of our cause and values stung deeply. We were shocked, in fact, and many of us cried when we realized that not only did our amendments lack the support necessary for passage, but we also lacked even the minimum support required to debate the amendments.

Since the primaries, the Progressive Caucus has worked tirelessly for the cause of peace and justice and for the Democratic Party to define itself in opposition to the wars of aggression in which we are currently engaged. We have been fighting for respect and inclusion. We have been fighting for the enlightened ideals of Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean. We have been advocating a Department of Peace, and arguing for a better, more civilized America. In all this we lost. For all our efforts, amendments proposed, and quid pro quos offered, we were given only a single, very minor, language adjustment to one of our proposed amendments. In this one instance, when we asked for the following language:

"[W]e must announce our intention to set a date for the withdrawal of our military forces,"

we were instead given

"[T]he U.S. will be able to reduce its military presence in Iraq, and we intend to do this when appropriate so that the military support needed by a sovereign Iraqi government will no longer be seen as the direct continuation of an American military presence."

This new language is not exactly predicated on the notion that attacking Iraq was an illegal and immoral mistake in the first place.

And so it went, amendment after amendment, all unseen, none debated. Forgotten for now is justice in Palestine, the Department of Peace, a scaled-back military, the proscription of preemptive war, the legitimacy and primacy of international law, etc., etc.

We are diehard Democrats, and even though some of us felt stretched to the breaking point by the sustained cold shoulder of the Democratic Party power elite, our Progressive Caucus leadership quickly scrambled to put a positive spin on the process. To wit: even though we were all but marginalized and ignored in the platform, and even though we got practically nothing in the end, the fact that we took part in the process and formally accepted nothing is evidence of a working relationship with the Kerry camp that will bode well for us once Kerry is elected.

I don't know if I believe that. If the upcoming election proves to be a referendum on the war, and I think it might be, then Democrats have not sufficiently differentiated themselves from Republicans for Kerry to win.

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Antiwar Group Says Its Ad Is Rejected

July 12, 2004

A group of antiwar advocates is accusing Clear Channel Communications, one of the nation's largest media companies, with close ties to national Republicans, of preventing the group from displaying a Times Square billboard critical of the war in Iraq.

The billboard - an image of a red, white and blue bomb with the words "Democracy Is Best Taught by Example, Not by War" - was supposed to go up next month, the antiwar group said, and it was to be in place when Republicans from across the country gathered in New York City to nominate President Bush for a second term.

But members of the group, Project Billboard, contend that Clear Channel backed out of a leasing agreement last month that the two had reached in December for the billboard site, on the Marriott Marquis Hotel at Broadway and 45th Street.

A Project Billboard spokesman, Howard Wolfson, said the group planned to file a lawsuit today in federal court in Manhattan charging Clear Channel with breach of contract and asking it to live up to what the group said were the terms of the deal.

Last night, the president and chief executive of Clear Channel, Paul Meyer, said the company had objected to the group's use of "the bomb imagery" in the proposed billboard. Mr. Meyer said Clear Channel had accepted a billboard that would replace the bomb with a dove. However, he said, any billboard at the site required the approval of the Marriott Marquis management, which he said also objected to the bomb.

"We have no political agenda," Mr. Meyer said. "It's the bomb imagery we objected to."

A spokeswoman for the hotel, Kathleen Duffy, said that the management considered the ad with the bomb "inappropriate," but that it had not seen the version with the dove.

Told of Mr. Meyer's comments, Mr. Wolfson said that earlier, Clear Channel had rejected the ad with the dove as well as the one with the bomb, demanding that the words be changed, too. "It's news to us, and not reflected in any prior communications between Clear Channel and Project Billboard," Mr. Wolfson said last night. "This contradicts Clear Channel's demand that the copy be changed."

The dispute had led members of the antiwar group to accuse Clear Channel of censorship.

"I think the idea that political advertising is banned from some part of New York City would be repellent to New Yorkers," Mr. Wolfson said. "I guess we can have a war, but we can't talk about it."

This is not the first time that Clear Channel, one of the nation's largest owners of radio stations, has found itself in the middle of a debate over free speech and censorship.

The company has been accused of using its radio stations to rally support for the war in Iraq, while trying to silence musicians who oppose it. [...]

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Airport-security system in U.S. riddled with failures

By Cheryl Phillips, Steve Miletich and Ken Armstrong
Seattle Times staff reporters

Airport Insecurity, a special report.

The TSA was supposed to be the fix.

But more than 2-1/2 years after it was created, the Transportation Security Administration itself needs a fix.

As Sept. 11, 2001, grows more distant, airline passengers complain more about long lines than feeling vulnerable. Yet lax security and low morale seep through the federal agency responsible for protecting them, The Seattle Times has found.

Management memos, as well as firsthand accounts of more than 100 screeners and supervisors interviewed by The Times, depict an agency in crisis.

Even as government officials warn of another attack, TSA is ill-prepared to meet that threat.

In Seattle, airlines were caught loading unscreened luggage onto planes. In Los Angeles, a supervisor waved around a passenger's gun, sending one screener running for cover. And in Houston, one lapse so alarmed screeners they complained to Congress.

Four months ago, at Houston's William P. Hobby Airport, a conveyor belt jammed at 9 a.m. For 90 minutes, hundreds of bags piled up while planes waited to leave. In passenger concourses above, TV newscasts reported on the terrorist railway bombings in Madrid the day before.

TSA managers huddled to discuss the expected deluge of luggage once the belt was fixed.

Their solution? Examine what bags you can, the managers told screeners, and send the rest through — unscreened.

The screeners, stunned, didn't say anything. But they didn't go along, either. They inspected every bag they touched, using scanning machines or hand searches to look for bombs or other weapons.

Meanwhile, two managers grabbed at least 80 unscreened bags and heaved them onto a conveyer belt headed for the bellies of waiting planes.

"I thought to myself, 'You sorry-ass dog. Your ass is not on that aircraft, how do you know what's in that bag?' " one screener told The Times. [...]

Many screeners took the job to help protect their country in a time of danger. Now some say they feel compromised by a workplace with a high injury rate, low morale, long hours, heavy-handed managers, inconsistent orders and other obstacles. As a result, they say, public safety is at risk.

Managers, meanwhile, have pleaded for more people, asking the agency in e-mails and memos to "immediately abandon" cuts.

Air travel is expected to rise 12 percent this summer over last. But TSA staffing can't grow with it: Congress has capped the screening force at 45,000.

Congress continues to debate TSA's performance, and soon, airport operators will weigh in, too. In November, airports will be able to replace federal screeners with contractors or their own staffs, with TSA oversight.

TSA spokesman Hatfield acknowledged the agency has struggled. But, he said, officials aggressively investigate reports of security problems and are trying to improve training and work conditions. TSA is creating layers of security, he said, so that if something is missed on one level, it will be caught at another.

"We do not have a perfect screening system ... " Hatfield said. "It doesn't exist."

An array of breaches

Security breaches run the gamut, from unscreened bags in Houston to one wayward passenger in Minneapolis who walked past screeners unseen.

In Portland, Ore., a supervisor handled a passenger's loaded gun at a checkpoint — TSA policy dictates calling police and not handling the weapon — and, in a separate incident, ignored multiple bags that tripped alarms on an explosives-scanning machine.

The supervisor was promoted to temporary manager, and in that position he recently allowed two Marines to load an unlocked crate of M-16s and other weapons onto a plane, TSA employees said. Federal policy says the airline should have handled the weapons, and the crate should have been locked.

In publicly reported incidents over the past 22 months, screeners missed at least a half-dozen guns and nearly 30 knives or box cutters. They also allowed at least 40 people to get past security without screening.

Many more breaches have occurred but were not reported in the media, or even documented internally, employees say.

Confusion at passenger checkpoints has produced one security breach after another. Screeners at X-ray machines have spotted possible weapons in luggage, only to have passengers grab those bags and walk off. Other passengers who set off metal detectors simply continued on their way.

In Minneapolis, a passenger made his way into a concourse without being screened and was found aboard a flight bound for Salt Lake City. He was removed, screened and allowed to re-board, said a screener who wrote his U.S. senator about the breach. But other passengers who could have been handed a weapon were not rescreened until they reached Salt Lake City, the letter said, "and the pilot was NOT notified of the situation until he was on final approach ... "

Supervisors give inconsistent orders. Remove passengers' shoes, some say. Don't remove their shoes, say others.

When a passenger doesn't remove a laptop from a bag before sending it through the X-ray, guidelines say both items should receive extra scrutiny and be tested specifically for explosives.

But on one shift, a Los Angeles screener said, a supervisor waived the extra steps, saying he didn't want passengers to miss their flights.

Sometimes, screeners miss weapons because of equipment problems. In Boston, Richard Moughan, a screener until last October, said the quality of some X-ray machines was so poor "you couldn't even read them."

Screeners provided The Times with images from machines that scan checked luggage for explosives. In one image, a gun was clearly visible but didn't trigger the alarm. Instead, a shoe did.

In Houston, a large jar of fruit jelly, which has a density similar to some explosives, triggered the alarm on a machine that scans checked luggage. A supervisor, instead of calling explosive experts, wrapped a broomstick handle with plastic and used it to stir the jelly. Then he got a screwdriver and stirred the jelly again. Finally, he sealed the jar, repacked it, and sent the suitcase on its way.

Only after screeners complained did anyone alert the passenger not to use the jelly.S

Airline infractions

Sometimes, airport conveyor belts in Seattle accidentally send checked luggage to airline baggage handlers instead of TSA screeners. When that happens, baggage handlers are supposed to set the luggage aside for TSA.

But on June 11, 2003, a screener noticed that Northwest Airlines baggage handlers weren't setting unscreened luggage aside. According to internal documents, one handler told the screener, "It's too much work" to lug the bags over to TSA.

A TSA supervisor, apprised of the situation, asked the same handler: "How do these bags get screened?"

"They don't," the handler said. [...]

At one airport, a TSA supervisor said she routinely receives authorization to use "alternate" methods such as scanning for explosive residue in just one spot on the outside of a bag.

"Otherwise, bags would not make the flight and the airlines start screaming because we cost them delivery charges, and they get on the horn and complain to D.C.," she said. "And that can't happen." [...]

The Department of Homeland Security's inspector general told Congress that federal screeners have performed poorly. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., told The Times that the results were "disastrous."

TSA says its own covert testing shows a 70 percent improvement over 18 months. But without knowing the starting point, that percentage says little about how screeners perform now.

From September 2002 to September 2003, TSA tested less than 1 percent of its work force.

Pleas for more staff

Time and again, TSA directors in charge of security at individual airports have warned top officials that without more people, safety will suffer and lines will grow. [...]

People aren't the only resource in short supply. In Seattle, managers brought in their own computer printers. One employee brought his own paper clips.

Seattle screeners have used sensitive filters, designed to calibrate machines, for as long as three months past their six-month shelf life. Expired filters won't necessarily cause screeners to miss items. But they could lead to more false positives — and that means more bags would get searched, causing delays.

Balancing act

In its short history, TSA has struggled to satisfy Congress and the flying public. [...]

In June, Kimberly Bodley of Beaverton, Ore., complained to TSA that her 17-year-old son nearly missed his flight out of Seattle because screeners didn't know how to handle the syringes that he carried for diabetes.

Her 93-year-old aunt offered this advice: "Oh, I don't tell them I have diabetes. I just wrap up my diabetic supplies really good and put them in the bottom of my carry-on. They've never even seen them." [...]

What TSA screeners said

"They would change the rules every day about what was prohibited or what wasn't prohibited." — Dwight Hill, a former screener at Albany (N.Y.) International Airport, on conflicting directions for screening items such as shoes and disposable razors

"You might have someone say, 'That looks like a gun.' You might have another that says it looks like a banana." — Rick Chaffold, former screening supervisor at Houston's William P. Hobby Airport, on insufficient training for reading X-ray images

"I did the prudent thing and ran off." — A screener at Los Angeles International Airport and former law-enforcement officer, describing his reaction when a supervisor broke the rules and pulled a .45-caliber handgun from a piece of luggage, waving it like a baton

"That's what people think; you're just a bag-checker. Yeah, but I'm making sure that airplane is safe." — A passenger screener at Portland International Airport

"We didn't report major breaches ... we're either doing security or pretending. And to me, we're pretending." — A former screening supervisor at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

Comment: The Bush administration - through the Department of Homeland Security - is obviously well aware of the current state of airline security. One must then conclude that either those in power want another terror attack to happen, or they know that a terror attack won't happen until, say, election time... The only other option would be that the Arab terrorist evildoers are real, and the US government is just thoroughly incompetent.

There was no evidence that Saddam had WMD's. The US has no evidence with which to charge and try the "detainees" in the war on terror, so they just torture many of them for fun, release some, and keep the rest locked up forever. We are told a huge airliner crashed into the Pentagon, yet it made a hole far too small for the size of the alleged plane. Truckers are told to spy on "smelly ragheads". Americans are constantly bombarded with new terror warnings, based on no specific evidence.

At some point, one might think that the American people would wake up to the fact that NOTHING in the so-called war on terror has been backed up by any evidence of any kind. Oh sure, various government agencies have manufactured plenty of pieces of paper and computer graphics to try and convince the world, but Americans themselves stand alone in their acceptance of all of the official lies. Everyone else seems to be able to see that it is all just smoke and mirrors.

Unfortunately, it is not just a game.

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A Visitor Feels the Heavy Hand of John Ashcroft

Today, Joe Black was supposed to be a lector at his niece's wedding in Crafton.

Instead, he's sitting in a federal prison in Philadelphia, a man transformed by America's post-9/11 obsession from a reader of the Epistle into a prayer for intercession.

Here's how an innocuous man, once caught up in the violent politics of a place where violence and politics were long indistinguishable, ended up in jail on his way to church.

Joseph Henry Black, 47, of Belfast, Northern Ireland, arrived around 3 p.m. Wednesday at Philadelphia International Airport via a British Airways Flight. With him were his wife, Geraldine, their son, two daughters and one daughter's boyfriend.

"We got down the ramp and there were policemen there. They just asked us to show our passes. We showed our boarding passes. One young fellow said, 'That's it. We got them,' " Geraldine Black said yesterday.

What agents of the Joint Terrorism Task Force got was a middle-aged home remodeler with a past. Nearly 30 years ago, he was a soldier in Company D of the Irish Republican Army. Black was arrested at 20 for kneecapping -- firing a shot through the knees of a Belfast man who had run afoul of the IRA.

Three years missing from his life, Black left Long Kesh prison and the IRA simultaneously and got on with the life that this week was interrupted at the foot of the boarding ramp in Philadelphia.

"We didn't know what was happening until one of the policemen explained it to me. He said, 'We have information that your husband served time.' I said, 'Yes, 28 years ago,' " Geraldine recalled. "I said 'Is there not a cutoff period?' "

It is hard to tell if there is a cutoff period. I have personally met with former IRA men who breezed through American airports in recent years. One of them, Alex Maskey, was on an official stop as lord mayor of Belfast. During his Pittsburgh visit, Maskey showed off photos of his former cell in Long Kesh, a prison now closed.

Two things are clear about Joe Black's arrest. The first is that he signed an immigration form with two important boxes checked off falsely. The first, Question B, asked if he'd ever been convicted of an offense or crime involving moral turpitude. Question C asks if he has ever been or ever was involved in terrorist activities.

"I filled out the form," Geraldine Black said yesterday. "I filled it out. I just picked 'no' to everything and had them sign," she said. "I did the same for all the kids. I filled everybody's out. It's my fault."

Joe Black's problem is that he didn't bother reading the form. He just signed it, right below the line that certifies, among other things, that he has read the form.

The other thing that is clear is that whatever Joe Black signed on that form wouldn't have mattered. Federal agents -- Geraldine counted six in all -- were waiting at the foot of the ramp well before anybody was handed his immigration declaration.

"After 9/11, the message from America was 'Give us every single one of your intelligence files on everybody,' " said his brother-in-law, Sean McClorey, father of the bride. "They had to know."

What prosecutors also know is that now that they have him charged with giving false information, Joe Black has no room to plead for a deal. Last year, Attorney General John Ashcroft, himself a man fond of reading Scripture, issued a diktat to the offices of U.S. attorneys around the nation telling them that there was to be no more bargaining on charges when they had someone firmly nailed. The office in Philadelphia, headed by U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan, follows it slavishly.

Before leaving Philadelphia for the final leg of the journey, Geraldine Black displayed an optimism the agents must have found startling. The Irish assume that when they are not wanted, they will be ejected forthwith. Under federal procedure, Joe Black will linger in jail as long as a month even to plead guilty, and up to another three months before he's deported.

His wife wanted to leave some money for her husband to pick up the car at the airport when he was sent home. They asked her how long she was staying. She told them 2 1/2 weeks.

"He said, 'That's all right. You'll be home long before him.' "

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Groups Object to Firefighters As Spies

Associated Press Writer
July 9, 2004

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Civil rights advocates criticized a plan to teach firefighters and other workers who regularly go into homes to report terrorist activity they see on the job.

The plan, proposed by a local domestic security task force, could invade privacy and add to a culture of suspicion and paranoia created after the Sept. 11 attacks, said members of the American Civil Liberties Union and a defense lawyers association.

"We think it is misguided," said Scott Rost of the ACLU's Orlando office. "We think it's an attempt to turn neighbor against neighbor, intrude on privacy and encourage racial profiling with little reason to believe it will make us safer."

A brochure for the Citizen Awareness Program warns that a potential sign of international terrorism could be "multiple adult males living together, usually of Middle Eastern appearance and between the ages of 18 and 45, with little or no furnishings."

The warning worries members of Orlando's Arab-American community.

"Clearly, this is going to disproportionately impact Arab Americans and those of the Muslim faith," said defense attorney Mark NeJame, a leader of the Arab American Community Center in Orlando. "To think that a terrorist is going to invite people to snoop around is ludicrous at best. It's not only silly, but silly and scary at the same time."

The proposal also calls for reporting signs of drug trafficking and child sex abuse.

The domestic security task force is led by the Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary, Orange-Osceola State Attorney Lawson Lamar and Joyce Dawley, regional director of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Orange County sheriff's Capt. Mark Pilkington said the plan was no more than an educational program to train workers who regularly go into people's homes on what terrorist, drug or sexually predatory activities look like.

The sheriff's office would like Orange County's firefighters to be the first trained, followed by utility workers.

"We're not asking anybody to do more than their job," Pilkington said. "We don't want them to exceed their purpose for being there. We're not asking them to look anywhere they shouldn't. Just contact law enforcement."

The brochure reprints the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. It also warns participants that they are not law enforcement officers and should not enter unauthorized areas or remove anything for evidence.

The intent of the program was to "rekindle good, old American citizenship," said Lamar, who dismissed Arab-American concerns as political correctness.

The program resembles a federal program, TIPS, that was proposed by the U.S. Justice Department two years ago but was severely scaled back after it faced similar criticisms.

The program could have meter readers acting like "junior G-men," said Thomas Kurrus, president of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys.

"Any homeowner ought to be concerned about it," he said.

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Former Enquirer HQ Fumigated for Anthrax

Associated Press
Mon Jul 12, 1:30 AM ET

BOCA RATON, Fla. - Workers began pumping a potent chemical into the former headquarters of a supermarket tabloid Sunday to clean up the first target in a series of deadly anthrax attacks in 2001.

The cleanup is being led by BioONE, a company established by former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Sabre Technical Services, which decontaminated other buildings hit by anthrax attacks.

"It will be a symbol that we can deal with these new risks that we live with in our new world," Giuliani said.

After a call of "Let's go" from Giuliani, workers started the flow of chlorine dioxide, a chemical used to disinfect drinking water, into the American Media Inc. building to kill the spores. A high concentration of the chemical is kept in the sealed building for 12 hours to be effective.

The cleanup is set to last 24 to 36 hours, to be followed by repeated tests to determine the safety of the building before a quarantine is lifted.

BioONE then plans to occupy the space as the headquarters for its new crisis management venture. The company hopes to move in by the end of the year.

The arrival of anthrax in the mail at the building was the first in a series of still-unsolved attacks that killed five people, among them photo editor Bob Stevens of AMI's tabloid the Sun. The attacks emptied Senate offices and a major mail processing center in the Washington area, rattling a nation shaken by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks a month earlier.

AMI, which also publishes The National Enquirer, hurriedly abandoned the three-story office after the anthrax was found.

A real estate investor bought the building for a paltry $40,000 and then made plans to lease it to BioONE. The financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed, though the decontamination at the larger Brentwood Post Office in Washington cost $130 million.

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MI5 urges radical security moves

Monday, 12 July, 2004, 11:38 GMT

Radical security changes to protect the Palace of Westminster from terror attacks are being recommended by MI5.

A report by security chiefs is expected to propose erection of a steel barrier to protect Parliament.

It is feared current concrete barriers could be dangerous if blown up - while the Big Ben clock tower could fall on the Commons chamber if targeted.

The review was prompted by a flour attack on Tony Blair as he addressed MPs this summer.

MI5's report into protecting the Palace of Westminster is due to be given to the House of Commons' Commission, the body responsible for overseeing the building's security.

The security service is urging the replacement of large concrete blocks which ring Parliament where it comes closest to public roads.

Experts fear terrorists could turn the blocks into dangerous projectiles by blowing them up. They are urging their replacement with a steel barrier.

The report is also expected to recommend creating a powerful new Parliamentary security director. [...]

'Regional bases'

MI5 is also reportedly planning a radical change to its intelligence gathering operations with proposals for a regional network of bases.

The Times newspaper reports the home security agency will recruit agents in areas where they are fears of Islamist extremists targeting Muslim communities, principally the West Midlands and North West England.

The plan to shift intelligence gathering beyond London is also aimed at improving ties with regional police Special Branch operations, the Times reports.

MI5, which has had a succession of budget increases, expects to take its total staff up to 3,000 within four years.

It is also continuing efforts to recruit from within British Muslim communities - including via Arabic pages on its official website.

Terrorist suspects

Ken Macdonald QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), is also seeking the extension of powers to help bring successful terrorist trials.

A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said Mr Macdonald wanted an increase in the time allowed to hold a charged defendant before having to go to full trial.

Defendants held in custody must normally be bailed if the case against them is not ready for trial 112 days after first being sent to crown court.

But Mr Macdonald, the DPP since August 2003, wants to change this time limit, saying investigators need longer to build effective prosecutions because terrorism cases can be so complex. In May he said

"These cases need more time for investigation," said the spokesman. "Sometimes you may need evidence from abroad and the time constraints may need to be more liberal."

The spokesman added the DPP was also looking into other terrorism-related trial powers.

These could include powers to question people under compulsion, authority for plea-bargain deals or immunity from prosecution for key informers.

"In current times the fight against terrorist is more complex," said the spokesman.

"Immunities from prosecution [for informers helping] in the case of some very dangerous individuals involved in very serious crimes may be something which could be considered."

Comment: Questioning people "under compulsion"... It seems that the US is not the only country that is legalizing torture.

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Fury as MI5 describe IRA terror as 'just'

Secret briefings enrage victims' relatives

By Neil Mackay, Home Affairs Editor

MI5 has caused outrage after one of its spies stated publicly that the IRA "fought a just cause" and won a "successful campaign" during the 30-year Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The Sunday Herald is unable to name the MI5 officer following a threat of legal action from the government . However, the spy's comments have provoked fury from the victims of IRA violence and Ulster politicians.

The controversy centres on a briefing given by the MI5 officer, a former Royal Navy commander, at a maritime security conference on Orkney. Details have been given to the Sunday Herald by Mark Hirst, the former head of communications at Orkney Islands Council, who attended the seminar.

The conference was held by the Department of Transport (DoT) in Kirkwall. Delegates included representatives from the council, port authorities, ferry services, energy firms, the tourist board and police.

Hirst says the MI5 officer said the IRA was "the biggest threat to British national security". But the officer then said "in our opinion they [the IRA] have fought a just cause".

"The conclusion of MI5, according to this officer," said Hirst, "was based on the fact there had been legitimate grievances among, and discrimination against, the nationalist community and this had sustained the IRA through the length of the campaign."

The MI5 officer then added: "Has it been a successful campaign? The answer is yes."

Hirst said: "He referred to the fact Sinn Fein had two ministers in power. What better success can you wish for, he said, than to have your people in positions of power in government."

Hirst said the comments were "not off-the-cuff as they were supported by an official MI5 PowerPoint presentation, complete with the official crest".

"Presumably this was sanctioned at some level," he added.

The DoT confirmed that the briefing took place, adding: "This was part of a programme to ensure that security staff at UK ports were up to date with the terrorism threat they are countering. We are not prepared to comment further ."

Orkney Council declined to comment. However, William Frazer, who runs Fair (Families Acting for Innocent Relatives), a Northern Ireland support group for victims of paramilitary violence, was horrified .

Frazer's father, a member of the security forces, was killed by the IRA, as were two uncles and two cousins. Five of his friends were also murdered, and his home was bombed five times.

He said the officer's claims reinforced his belief that the government and intelligence agencies controlled the IRA campaign, using double-agents to manage republican violence. Frazer pointed to Freddie Scappaticci, codenamed Stakeknife, who was exposed by the Sunday Herald last year. Scappaticci, who worked for British intelligence, was also one of the IRA's highest-ranking volunteers.

"The MI5 officer's comments back up the fact there was no determination to beat the IRA," said Frazer, who is now writing to the Prime Minister in protest. "It is a disgrace to the memory of victims. He is talking about the killing of innocent people .

" This MI5 officer needs to be held to account. What this man is saying is treason – it shows the 'dirty war' really was dirty."

A senior source in the intelligence services said: "I am staggered by these comments."

But Kevin Fulton, a former double-agent who infiltrated the IRA, said he was not surprised by the MI5 officer's comment. He said : "The insight I have leads me to ask 'who was running this war?'. I believe it was run from London."

Martin Ingram, a former intelligence officer in the army's spying arm, the Force Research Unit, said: "I think what this officer is saying is an honest appraisal. The nationalist community was unjustly treated and that led to the resurgence of the IRA, although I disagree with the IRA's methodology.

"What this man has said will be detrimental to his career , but there are those in senior positions in MI5 who would probably agree with him."

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Mubarak mystery

By Eric Margolis
Sun, July 11, 2004

A SLIPPED spinal disc is certainly painful, but it's hardly an important international event -- unless the disc belongs to the 76-year-old absolute ruler of the Mideast's most populous and important nation, Egypt.

Last week President Hosni Mubarak returned to Egypt after 17 days in a German clinic. His unprecedented absence from Egypt raised two important questions: Why was Mubarak unable to find capable doctors in Egypt for what was described as "minor surgery" and who will succeed him when he dies?

For the Arab world's leading nation, which spends $3.3 billionUS annually on its 450,000-man military, to not have a decent back surgeon sounds incredible and shameful. Or else Mubarak was secretly being treated by German specialists for cancer or another grave disease.

In 1800, Egypt had 3 million people. When I lived there in 1957, its population was 24 million. Today its 71 million to 73 million impoverished people are crammed into the 2.8% of Egypt's land that is arable. Cairo has nearly 10 million inhabitants.

Egypt comprises 30% of the Arab world's total population and 40% of the non-North African Mideast, or "Mashraq." When the back of the man who rules four out of 10 Arabs aches, all need pay attention.

While eyes are fixed on the bloody mess in Iraq and Saudi Arabia's growing instability, Egypt is beginning to tremble as its people worry about who will follow Mubarak's unchallenged 22-year rule. There is no clear line of succession; Mubarak has never even named a vice-president.

Mubarak, an able air force general, was engineered into power by the U.S. after the 1981 assassination of Egypt's ruler, Anwar Sadat, a longtime CIA "asset." My mother interviewed Egypt's leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, and Sadat in the mid-1950s. I remember her calling Nasser a "person of character" and "a true man," while she dismissed Sadat as a "phony" and "a poseur." Egyptians heartily shared this view.

The great Nasser, whom Egyptians adored, died in 1970 of a heart attack -- or was poisoned, as many believe. Former CIA Cairo station chief Kermit Roosevelt confirmed at least one failed U.S. assassination attempt against Nasser.

The U.S. quickly manoeuvred Sadat into power as military strongman after Nasser's death. The Camp David accords soon followed, history's biggest bribe in which Sadat made a cold peace with Israel, and abandoned the Palestinians, in exchange for a 10-fold increase in annual aid, some of which went into the pockets of Sadat's family, generals and cronies.

In sharp contrast to President George W. Bush's sermons about bringing democracy to the Arab world, America's most important Arab ally, Egypt, remains an old-fashioned military dictatorship behind a fig-leaf of fake democracy.
Arab media centre

Egypt's press, the Arab world's media centre, is heavily censored and its judiciary a punitive organ of the regime. Egypt remains a repressive state with a brutal secret police where the use of torture against political opponents and Islamic militants is routine.

Some $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid keeps the armed forces and security apparatus loyal to Mubarak. CIA, DIA, FBI and NSA run major operations in Egypt to protect Mubarak's regime from domestic opponents. The U.S. tightly controls the military's communications and limits stocks of spare parts and munitions.

Sadat's Faustian Camp David deal left Washington and, curiously, Israel gripping Egypt's food jugular. The U.S. supplies Egypt 4 million tons of wheat annually, mostly under various aid programs that must be approved by Israel's friends in the U.S. Congress. Without this wheat, Egypt, which cannot feed its surging population, would starve.

Now, as Egypt faces a succession crisis, Mubarak has been grooming son Gamal to be leader, but Egyptians strongly oppose this idea as unworthy.

When Mubarak goes, Washington will discreetly install a new leader from the pro-U.S. elite -- unless there is a massive uprising against foreign domination by nationalist-Nasserites and Islamists ("terrorists" in Bush-talk). But if nationalists somehow oust U.S. influence, how will they feed Egyptians?

The Bush administration's "crusade for freedom" in the Mideast has reportedly already selected intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, defence minister Muhamed Tantawi or another senior army general to be Egypt's next "democratic" ruler. But, as Iraq shows, things can go terribly wrong.

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No pressure from US to intensify hunt for bin Laden: Pakistan 2004-07-12 20:13:58

ISLAMABAD, July 12(Xinhuanet)-- Pakistan Monday denied reports that the United States is imposing pressure on it to capture Osamabin Laden prior to the US presidential campaign.

The country's Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan said here ata weekly news briefing that there is no "deadline" for the hunt from the US.

The false media reports, said the spokesman, were based on two assumptions--firstly, the US and Pakistan have been well-informed on the whereabouts of the terror Czar; secondly, the fight againstterror is Pakistan's own business.

But the fact is that no one knows for sure where the al-Qaida chief is hiding out, said the spokesman, adding that the hunt for bin Laden needs an international coordinated effort.

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Scientists horrified by Bush's Bad Science

By Ashlee Vance in Chicago
Published Monday 12th July 2004 17:21 GMT

What started as a group of 62 scientists fighting what they saw as Bad Science being practiced by the Bush administration has now bloated to a body with more than 4,000 whitecoats calling for change.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), in a new report, has again expressed its feeling of "embarrassment and disgust" over the way the Bush administration uses - or misuses - science when making policy decisions. The scientists have found that the administration often ignores the recommendations of advisory panels and "suppresses, distorts and manipulates" scientific work. In particular, the group is concerned about Bad Science affecting environment, emergency contraception and endangered species policies .

UCS issued a previous complaint in February with 62 signatures but has amassed over 4,000 signatures for its latest report released this month. The signers include 48 Nobel laureates, 62 National Medal of Science recipients and 127 members of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Gene Warfare in Oaxaca

Genetic Mutation of Mexican Maize

July 12, 2004

Scientists from Mexico, Canada and the United States met on March 11th this year in the Hotel Victoria in Oaxaca for a symposium on the effects and possible risks of the presence of genetically modified maize in Mexico. The furtive and growing presence of this maize has been documented in small plots of land belonging to rural workers first in the southern State of Oaxaca and more recently throughout the whole country. This discovery could have serious implications for agricultural biodiversity since maize is the third most important crop in the world after wheat and rice and Mexico is the center of its origin and diversity.

Alejandro de Avila, director of the Oaxaca Ethnobotanic Garden reported that the most recent archaeological studies indicate that maize was discovered and domesticated in Oaxaca ten thousand years ago, not six thousand or eight thousand as had been believed until recently. Maize is considered to be humanity's greatest agricultural achievement and the greatest treasure Christopher Columbus took back to Europe from the American continent.

Today, it is grown all around the Mediterranean, in Africa and in China. But its center of diversity continues to be Mexico, where the greatest part of the thousands of varieties and stocks are sown which are the result of millenia of patient work and experiment by campesinos. These varieties were developed so as to bring out favorable characteristics such as, among others, nutritional value, tolerance to acidic or salty soils, immunity to disease. There is even a variety which fixes its own nitrogen. It is far from strange to see in an indigenous community like Sierra Juarez of Oxaca more varieties of maize than in the whole of the United States.

This astonishing diversity leads agronomists from all over the world to travel to Mexico to get specimens so as to improve their own varieties of maize which is the reason Mexico is the seat of the International Center for Investigations for the Improvement of Maize and Wheat (CIMMYT). The maize fields of the Mexican campesinos are thus an irreplaceable resource of agricultural biodiversity. Social or ecological disruption in that area might compromise the viability of maize as a food and endanger world food supply. The CIMMYT, with all its laboratories and seed banks, could not replace the dense and complex rural social and ecological skein from which innumerable varieties of maize srping.

That morning of March 11th, while the participants arrived at the hotel to register for the symposium of the Commission on Environmental Cooperation, which resulted from the parallel agreement of the North American Free Trade Area, the organizers and private security guards seemed tense and expectant. They knew a protest demonstration was imminent and that the demonstrators would arrive any moment.

The day before, groups representing indigenous people, environmentalists and progressive intellectuals had held an alternative forum called 'Defending Our Maize, Protecting Life'. They feared that the experts, generally favourable to the biotechnology industry and its genetically modified products would declare that the genetic contamination of maize is an irreversible fact of life and that in future Mexicans would have to get used to it. The forum participants agreed to go to the symposium the following day so as to present their arguments and concerns to the bureaucrats and the scientists. Their admission to the symposium was not confirmed, but they were going to go anyway.

Enter genetically modified foods

In 1996 the US began to grow genetically modified maize and in five years it came to make up 30% of that crop's national harvest. Mexican scientists and environmentalists expressed concern that this maize might enter Mexico through imports with uncertain consequences for agricultural biodiversoty. The government responded the following year by imposing a moratorium on the sowing of genetically modified crops. But the measure was never complied with and maize imports carried on without any regulation at all. No one ever explained to people in Mexico that those grains could not be used as seed.

Already in 1999 the Mexican branch of Greenpeace had analyzed samples of United States maize that were entering the country and had shown positive traces of genetic modification. The government then formed the Interdepartmental Commission on Bio-security and Genetically Modified Organisms (CIBIOGEM) to examine the issue. To this day it has done nothing according to civil society groups. The web page of CIBIOGEM has not been updated since August 2003.

In 2001 it was proven that genetically modified maize had been used as seed and sown by rural families who had no idea what it was. Silvia Ribeiro of the Action group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group) remarks, 'And that's not all. You're talking about contamination in the very centre of origin of a crop with huge importance for world food supply, which means significant effects in other zones since the contamination can spread not just to the native varieties of maize but also to their wild parents.'

This genetic flow 'contaminates and degrades one of Mexico's main treasures. In contrast to dispersion and genetic flow between native maize and conventional hybrid varieties, it doesn't just transfer maize genes but also pieces of genes of bacterias and viruses (that have nothing to do with maize) whose environmental and health effects have not been seriously evaluated.'

'The contamination of our traditional maize attacks the fundamental autonomy of our indigenous and agricultural communities because we are not just talking of our food source; maize is a vital part of our cultural heritage," declares indigenous leader Aldo Gonzalez, 'For us native seeds are an important element of our culture. The pyramids may have disappeared and been destroyed but a handful of maize is a legacy we can leave behind for our children and grandchildren and today they are denying us that possibility.'

The following year environmental, indigenous and rural workers organizations took their case to the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CCA), an inter-governmental body created to remedy environmental problems caused by the Free Trade Treaty. The CCA took up the case and named a multinational panel of 17 experts to investigate the problem and to report with recommendations.

The panel took submissions from the public but only via Internet, which outraged the rural workers and indigenous peoples. After all, how many Mixteca or Zapateca communities in the Sierra Juarez have internet cafes? To respond to demand for authentic participation, the CCA set up the panel to carry out the symposium of March 11th.

In the meantime, the Fox government did what it wanted. At the end of last year, Victor Villalobos, the executive secretary of CIBIOGEM and coordinator of international affairs for the Department of Agriculture, signed an international agreement as part of the Free Trade Treaty behind the backs of the Senate and the citizenry permitting legal entry to genetically modified products into the country without labelling requirements. [...]

Countdown to Oaxaca

One month before the March 11th symposium, the Seventh Biodiversity Convention was held in Malaysia, followed immediately by the first conference on the Cartagena Protocol, also in Malaysia. The Protocol which entered into effect last September is an international agreement to deal with the possible risks posed by genetic engineering. During the conference a dispute broke out when Professor Terje Traavik of the Norwegian Institute for Genetic Ecology presented a pilot study which pointed to the dangers for human health inherent in genetically modified crops and in the very process of genetic engineering.

On the other side of the world, the day before, in Washington DC, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) presented a study indicating that varieties of traditional United States maize seeds, soya and canola used as a reference and source of re-supply by agronomists and farmers are contaminated with genetically modified material. Taken together the studies of Traavik and the UCS make up a damning critique of the biotechnology industry.

In the Conference on the Cartagena Protocol, after many difficulties and intense negotiations the delegations of the signatory countries imposed themselves against the pressures of the multinational genetic engineering companies and reached an agreement. The agreement required that all genetically engineered products traded internationally should be labelled. But this agreement came to nothing because at the last minute, right before it was to be signed, the head of the Mexican delegation, the same Victor Villalobos of CIBIOGEM, said that he found the text unacceptable. Even the members of the Mexican delegation looked at him openmouthed and dumbfounded. As the Protocol works by consent, Villalobos managed to scupper all the hard won progress and so the delegates had to return home with a diluted, emasculated agreement that left the matter of labelling in the hands of individual governments. Various observers asked, if each country is to do as it pleases what point is there to an international agreement?

The reaction of civil society in Mexico was furious. In the forum of March 10th, the participants signed a declaration against Villalobos demanding his resignation. 'We are ashamed that Mexico is accused in international fora of doing the dirty work of multinational corporations to the detriment of other countries,' says the declaration. 'Villalobos represents neither the feelings nor the interests of Mexicans.'

They rejected too the 'intolerable corruption' of officials who promote genetically modified organisms like-it-or-not style. 'We are not interested in confirming whether or not they receive money from the corporations, whether they behave out of mercenary self-interest, ignorance or recklessness. We are not the police. But nor do need more investigation to be able to affirm unreservedly that they do not represent us and that they are incapable of understanding our reality and aspirations, much less defend them.' [...]

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FTA with US likely to drive up AIDS drug prices in Thailand 2004-07-12 19:54:24

BANGKOK, July 12 (Xinhuanet) -- A free trade agreement with the United States is likely to push up drug prices for HIV/AIDS treatment in Thailand, the Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) warned here on Monday afternoon.

Thailand has started its free trade negotiation with the UnitedStates and the deal is expected to be done in two years.

Free trade agreement was now threatening generic drug manufactures in the developing countries, said the MSF Thailand Mission's head Paul Cawthorne.

Once a free trade deal was signed, the copy nation would have to close down its generic manufacture and be left with no options but to use more expensive patented drugs, said Paul Cawthorne.

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Vaccine scandal revives cancer fear

New Scientist/ July 4, 2004

Many millions more people than previously thought might have been given polio vaccine contaminated with a monkey virus linked to cancer.

It has been known since 1960 that early doses of polio vaccine were widely contaminated with simian virus 40, or SV40, which infects macaque monkeys. Tens of millions of people in the US and an unknown number in other countries, including the UK, Australia and the former Soviet Union, may have been exposed prior to 1963.

The contamination occurred because the kidney cells the vaccine virus was grown in came from monkeys infected with SV40. Health officials say the problem was eliminated after 1963.

Now Michele Carbone of Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago has announced results that suggest the Soviet polio vaccine was contaminated after 1963, possibly until the early 1980s. "Is there infectious virus? The short answer is, yes," Carbone told the Vaccine Cell Substrate Conference 2004 in Rockville, Maryland, last week.

The vaccine was almost certainly used throughout the Soviet bloc and probably exported to China, Japan and several countries in Africa. That means hundreds of millions could have been exposed to SV40 after 1963.

Rare cancers

The consequences of exposure to the virus (which is not related to HIV in any way) are unclear. There is evidence is that some of the people given contaminated vaccines were infected by SV40, and that such infections might lead to the development of certain rare types of cancer many years down the line. But the link with cancer has neither been proved, nor shown to be false.

"There are two scenarios," says Philip Minor of the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control in the UK. "One is that it doesn't matter. The other is that it does."

Minor found three samples of the Soviet oral polio vaccine from the late 1960s in the NIBSC's freezers, the only samples known to survive from this time. In 1999, he found they tested positive for SV40, whereas British samples from this period did not. "But we did not draw any broad conclusions," Minor says.

Now Carbone has carried out further tests. He has confirmed the presence of SV40 in the Soviet vaccine samples using three separate tests. In two of the samples, he also showed that the SV40 remained infectious. In the third sample, there was no infectious poliovirus either, an indication that the sample of the live vaccine may have degraded.

Lung cancer link

Yet the production process was supposed to ensure that if any SV40 was present, it would be neutralised. When Carbone tested the Soviet neutralisation method, which relied on magnesium chloride, he found it was only 95 per cent effective. Because of this, he believes the Soviet vaccine could have remained contaminated until the early 1980s. In 1981, the Soviet Union switched to a polio vaccine seed provided by the World Health Organization that was free from any SV40 contamination.

Carbone, the first to publish evidence of a link between SV40 and the deadly lung cancer mesothelioma ( New Scientist print edition, 21 May 1994), will not discuss his results further until they have been published.

Officials from the US Food and Drug Administration who attended the conference also declined to comment, as the FDA is a defendant in lawsuits alleging that the SV40-contaminated polio vaccine used in the US has caused cancer cases.

Hilary Koprowski of Jefferson University in Philadelphia, who created one of the first polio vaccines, says he is not surprised that the magnesium chloride preparation did not work. "Nothing inactivates something 100 per cent," he said. "I would believe there were still remnants [of SV40] left."

Fresh kidneys

The contamination of the Soviet vaccine highlights the need for safer methods of growing viruses for vaccines, Koprowski says, something he is trying to tackle by using plant cells. The US stopped using fresh monkey kidneys for polio vaccine in 2000. But the vaccine is still made in this way in several other countries.

"I would say that it suggests that [old] vaccines made in different countries should be examined for possible contamination," says Janet Butel of Baylor University College of Medicine in Houston, a leading SV40 expert.

"In any epidemiological studies where they're comparing exposed versus non-exposed, if in fact there was any contaminated vaccine used after 1963, the control group wouldn't be a control group."

Konstantin Chumakov of the FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, says that Carbone's findings leave many unanswered questions. For example, he said it is not clear from the labelling of the samples found at the NIBSC exactly when they were used in the Soviet Union or for how long.

Chumakov, whose father was director of the Soviet Institute of Poliomyelitis Research during the time of the contamination, says he was told that at one point the Soviet Union was supplying more than 100 countries with its vaccine.

He travelled to Moscow in April 2004 to try to learn more about the production and testing of the Soviet vaccine. But he found no more vaccine samples from that era, and very little surviving documentation about specific batches and why they might have been contaminated. "It's hard to explain how it happened," he says, "but it obviously did."

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5.2 earthquake rocks northeastern Italy

Updated: 12:29 p.m. ET July 12, 2004

ROME - An earthquake set off landslides in Slovenia and shook a large area of northeastern Italy Monday, including the lagoon city of Venice, but no serious injuries were immediately reported, officials said.

Slovenian rescue services said they were looking for two mountaineers state radio reported as missing in an area close to the epicenter of the tremor.

A spokeswoman at the Italian National Geophysics Institute said the tremor was relatively powerful.

"It was 5.2 on the Richter scale, pretty strong for the region," she said.

In a statement, the institute said the epicenter was near Bovec, Slovenia, 15 km (9 miles) from the Italian border.

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Massive earthquake rattles Tibet

12 July 2004

BEIJING - An earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale rattled through a remote part of Tibet on Monday, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage, state media and local officials said.

The quake hit at 7.08 am (2308 GMT Sunday) in a mountainous region of Zhongba county some 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Tibet's border with Nepal, the Xinhua news agency said.

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Small earthquake shakes Oregon Coast

11:05 AM PDT on Monday, July 12, 2004

YACHATS – Residents from Newport to Reedsport and the small town of Yachats reported feeling a bit shaky Monday, just before 10 a.m.

Preliminary reports from the U.S. Geological survey show that a magnitude 4.9 quake occurred at 9:45 a.m., about 24 miles offshore of Yachats and 31 miles southwest of Newport, Ore.

[...] A micro earthquake hit just before the Yachats-area quake, at 9:41 a.m. Experts with the Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network recorded it at a magnitude of 2.7 and said it occurred 33 miles southwest of Newport.

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Europe plagued by snow and heatwaves, Romanian death toll climbs

BUCHAREST (AFP) Jul 11, 2004

Extreme temperatures, which have killed at least 22 people in Romania in the space of a week, continued to plague Europe on Sunday, with Greece sweltering in a heatwave and an open-air performance of Verdi's "Traviata" canceled in Italy.

Four people, two of them teenage shepherds, were struck by lightning in Romania at the weekend, when a heatwave that had killed at least 18 people during the week gave way to hailstorms and gale-force winds, the interior ministry said on Sunday.

Fierce winds damaged 400 houses, mainly in the north, ripped up trees and cut power supplies to 300 areas, while hailstorms destroyed 4,600 hectares (11,360 acres) of crops, a ministry official said.

Storms that had provoked floods and power cuts in Britain and Germany during the week turned to snow in the Bavarian mountains on Sunday.

Germany's highest mountain, the Zugspitze, was covered in two meters (six feet seven inches) of snow after 10 centimeters fell since Saturday and the mercury dipped to an unseasonally cold minus six degrees Celsius (21 degrees Fahrenheit), meteorologists said.

In Italy, the opening night of a new production of Verdi's "Traviata" at Verona's Roman amphitheatre was interrupted after seven minutes because of stormy weather, leaving 12,000 people fuming with anger.

British director Graham Vick of the Birmingham Opera Company had promised a revolutionary performance that would innovate without betraying Verdi's popular opera.

Northeast Italy was hit by unseasonally chilly weather over the weekend and snow in the Italian Alps.

In France, where nearly 15,000 people died in an extended heatwave last year, summer 2004 continued to be a rain-drenched washout.

But Greece continued to labour under a heatwave that swept across the Balkans during the week, killing 15 people in neighbouring Macedonia, in addition to the casualties in Romania.

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Heavy rains bring flooding in Sweden

STOCKHOLM (AFP) Jul 12, 2004

A weekend of torrential rain caused flooding in several regions of southern Sweden, cutting roads and hindering rail traffic, local officials said on Monday.

There were no reports of casualties, and weather forecasters said the rain appeared to have peaked late on Sunday.

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Athens swelters as mercury soars

ATHENS (AFP) Jul 11, 2004

Upcoming Olympic Games host Athens saw the mercury soar to up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in some parts of the city over the weekend, prompting warnings to residents with health problems to stay home and forcing firefighters on alert.

Temperatures soared in some western suburbs of the Greek capital, which next month plays host to hundreds of athletes from around the world, meteorologists said.

Similar temperatures, which are not extreme for Greece, were recorded in other regions across the country.

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China rescues 62 tourists stranded by mudflows

Sun Jul 11,11:09 AM ET

BEIJING (AFP) - Sixty-two tourists have been rescued after they were trapped by mudflows in a remote part of southwest China's Yunnan province near the border with Myanmar.

They were evacuated to safe places and have been provided with food and accommodation, the Xinhua news agency reported Sunday without specifying if the tourists were foreign or Chinese.

Parts of Yunnan province near the well-known tourist spot of Ruili have been hit by mountain torrents, mudflows and landslides following heavy rainfall, according to the agency.

The disaster has affected some 171,600 people, causing serious damage to fields, irrigation systems and homes, Xinhua reported.

About 8,600 hectares (22,000 acres) of farmland were affected and 13,324 houses were damaged, with losses estimated at 437 million yuan (53 million dollars), the agency said.

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Hail, floods hit Edmonton

Jul. 11, 2004. 08:31 PM

EDMONTON (CP) - A pounding hailstorm hammered Edmonton today afternoon, turning roads into lakes, flooding homes and damaging parts of Canada's largest mall.

Holes were ripped in the roof over West Edmonton Mall's indoor amusement and ice rink, sending water cascading to the floor.

Police and mall officials ordered the entire 800-store complex evacuated. People leaving on foot reported seeing a "waterfall" flowing from the upper levels.

"We were advised to close all the rides and evacuate Galaxyland and the mall," said a worker at the amusement park who refused to give his name.

Water was ankle-deep on the main floor.

There was a sprawling traffic jam outside the mall as motorists fought through water to get out. [...]

Elsewhere, the deluge swamped major intersections and closed arterial roads, forcing cars into bumper-to-bumper gridlock on side roads.

The fire department called in extra pumping crews.

Intersections were turned into tiny lakes, with water lapping against hubcaps and in some cases reaching car roofs.

Homes were flooded and manhole covers blew as sewer systems failed to keep up with the downpour of icy sleet.

"The hail was about golf-ball sized. There was some that was baseball-sized," said Debbie McIntyre, a cyclist who was caught in the storm.

Mountains of hail lined boulevards, brushed up against fences and turned lawns into dirty snowbanks.
There were no reports of injuries.

The storm forced dozens to wade through knee-deep water for higher ground at Laurier Park south of the city's downtown.

As the water began to rise, the group climbed on top of picnic tables.

"It's like a river coming through the park," said Canadian Press reporter Julia Necheff, speaking on a cellphone from the area.

"Garbage cans are floating away. My bike was swept away in a torrent of water."

Stormy weather also spawned funnel clouds north of the city and a tornado to the east that tore roofs off buildings. There were no reports of injuries.

Heavy rain was forecast to continue through the night.

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Man's Claims of 9/11 Heroism Questioned

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- A man who claims to have waded in "toxic soup" deep beneath the World Trade Center rubble to help find bodies is being accused of making up his tale of courage and defrauding the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund of nearly $650,000.

Doug Copp has traveled to disaster areas around the world over nearly 20 years, but a report in Sunday's Albuquerque Journal said its investigation showed a history of exaggeration and self-promotion with little evidence of real rescue work.

Copp has said he and a so-called death-detection device helped find as many as 40 bodies. He initially got support from the Journal, members of Congress and a state archaeologist before being selected for victim compensation.

Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., who once praised Copp's "most courageous work" in one letter to the victim fund's administrator, now seeks a federal investigation.

"I am concerned that a fraudulent claim may have been processed and paid," Udall said.

John Norman, a New York City fire chief who led the rescue and recovery effort at ground zero, said Copp's claim to have been first to search collapsed subway tunnels and only one of four people to go underground is "a fraud."

"I didn't authorize him to do anything," said Norman, who added that he probably would have had Copp arrested had he known he was at the site.

Copp received $649,885 from the commission and wants at least $1 million more to deal with 41 medical problems, the Journal reported.

When the Journal presented Copp with its findings, he said, "So now is this going to come out that there's nothing wrong with me? That it's a total fraud? ... That would be the most immoral, improper thing that I have ever heard of."

Comment: The psychopath strikes again...

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Man drives over love rival twice

Monday, 12 July, 2004, 13:03 GMT

A man has admitted knocking down his ex-partner's lover and driving over him twice after an argument.

The High Court in Glasgow heard that Scott Pickett, 33, from Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire, reversed his four-wheel drive Honda at Simon Weir.

The car hit Mr Weir and a wheel rolled over his stomach. Pickett then drove forward over his stomach and legs.

The Crown accepted his plea of guilty to assault to severe injury. He will be sentenced next month. [...]

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Teen in Saguenay, Que., set on fire: mother faces assault charge

ST-HONORE, Que. (CP) - A 43-year-old woman faces an assault charge after her 13-year-old son was doused with lighter fluid and set on fire in the family home.

The mother of five was to be arraigned in court Monday on a charge of aggravated assault after the teen was rushed to hospital on Saturday with first and second-degree burns, said provincial police.

"The son was able to go to a neighbour's house and call for some help," said police spokeswoman Chantal Mackels.

"He was transported by ambulance to the Centre Hospitalier de Chicoutimi where he sustained injuries to his back."

A report from all-news channel LCN said it was nearly five hours before the victim asked for medical attention.

Medical workers who arrived on the scene said, even after they were called, the victim wasn't ready to co-operate.

"(The victim's siblings) didn't really want to answer questions," ambulance attendant Dany Tremblay said. "The 13-year-old boy didn't really want to co-operate."

The children would be placed in the care of the eldest son, who is in his 20s, said Mackels.

Police had no motive for the attack but said alcohol may have been a factor.

St-Honore is about 220 kilometres north of Quebec City.

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Lawyer: Woman Made Antifreeze Smoothie

A woman who allegedly killed her brother-in-law by spiking his smoothie with antifreeze admits putting the chemicals in the drink, but only intended to make him sick enough so she could take control of his money, her lawyer said Monday.

Maryann Neabor, who was in jail in lieu of $500,000 bail, taught adult classes on keeping homes safe. "With a little care, we can protect our families from the leading causes of death and injury in the home, like falls, fire and poisoning," said a Web site description of one class.

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Priests 'in orgy' at seminary


Roman Catholic leaders in Austria called an emergency meeting today after officials discovered a vast cache of photos and videos allegedly depicting young priests having sex at a seminary.

About 40,000 photographs and an undisclosed number of films, including child pornography, were downloaded on computers at the seminary in St Poelten, about 50 miles west of Vienna, the respected news magazine Profil reported.

Officials with the local diocese declined to comment but were meeting privately on the scandal, Austrian state television reported.

It said the seminary's director, the Rev Ulrich Kuechl, and his deputy, Wolfgang Rothe, had resigned.

The Austrian Bishops Conference issued a statement today pledging a full and swift investigation.

"Anything that has to do with homosexuality or pornography has no place at a seminary for priests," it said.

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Countdown to space funeral launch begins

By Ben Berkowitz
Sat 10 July, 2004 02:30

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - You don't need $20 million (10.7 million pounds) to be a space tourist anymore. Just $1,000 will put you in orbit -- or at least a gram of your incinerated remains.

After a three-year hiatus, privately held Space Services is poised to resume service in September launching containers full of people's ashes into space, where they will circle the Earth for years to come.

"We're hopefully 65 to 90 days away from the largest ever space funeral launch," Charles Chafer, president and chief executive of Houston-based Space Services, told Reuters on Friday.

[...] The cost for sending a larger container with 7 grams of cremated remains is $5,300.

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Demons Attack Kiboga Pupils

July 7, 2004

Primary school in Kiboga district was closed in May after parents reported that their children were being attacked by demons.

Bisika Primary School, located in Butemba sub-county, was later re-opened but the pupils continued to live in fear. Another demon attack was reported on June 29, in the same school.

The parents accused Isma Sserunkuuma, a man, who lives near the school, of bringing the demons locally known as mayembe. They said Sserunkuma wanted the demons from a witchdoctor to help him acquire wealth.

Acting on the parents' report, the Kiboga resident district commissioner (rdc), Margaret Kasaija, ordered for the arrest of Sserunkuuma and the closure of the school until the demons would be driven out of the school. Sserunkuuma is still in detention.

At the time of arrest, Sserunkuuma said he could not afford the demons' enormous demands. He said the demons demanded for 300 virgin girls and cows to provide them with blood for sustenance.

Sserunkuuma added that when he failed to provide the virgins and cows, he set them (demons) free. They then attacked the pupils. He pleaded that he had no intention of harming the school, but only failed to control the demons.

The demons reportedly affected primary four, five, six and seven pupils below 12 years. When attacked, the pupils gabble and run around the compound. Others undress and foam around their mouths.

They also shake violently as if shocked by an electric current. Parents also said they had to tie their children on pegs with ropes to avoid their disappearance.

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Colossal Ads Block View of Rome's Gems


There's a lovely 16th Century church at the top of the Spanish Steps--Rome's premier gathering spot for tourists--but if you're visiting Rome this summer you won't be able to see it. That's because it's been draped in a giant advertisement for L'Oreal beauty products, the latest in a series of controversial advertisements that obscure the ancient city's monuments.

There's also a big bottle of shampoo covering up one end of the 15th Century Campo di Fiori, an outsized Vespa scooter zooming across a facade behind the Piazza Navona, and the Piazza di Spagna is dominated by a banner promoting coffee. Soon, Rome's beloved Pantheon, the former pagan temple that has survived through the ages in the heart of the city, will become the first Roman antiquity to be covered by ads.

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