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Prediction: A slam-dunk win for Bush

by Prisoner50X
Unknown News
July 30, 2004

Bush looks like a winner on Nov. 2.

Here are the reasons in priority order:

1. Consumer confidence high. Report out today for July showed 106.1 up from 102.8 in June (existing home sales are fine too because people are rushing to buy before rates go back up...)

Elections are basically all about money because people tend to vote their wallets. The only real hope Kerry had was that the economy would crap out in spite of Bush's $10 trillion of budgetary WMD -- OR that Iraq would blow up in Bush's face.

2. Iraq is not an issue right now. It will be an issue after the election and during the next four years but the turnover of power however phony is a fig leaf. Proof? Today 14 "coalition" soldiers were injured in a single mortar attack and the news was basically ignored (except at our favorite Iraq blog).

3. Komrade Kerry is running on a "Bush-Lite" campaign platform. Ooops!!! That might have been a workable plan if the economy or Iraq blew up on Bush. But they didn't. Kerry is toast. Justin has some choice words today: "A Party of Cowards" by Justin Raimondo

4. And for all of the stark reality facing us during the rest of the decade and century, those factors are basically inoperative during the remaining 3 months and 6 days prior to the election (as of 7/27).

Budget deficits, trade deficits, rising interest rates, unemployment, and the rest of the horror show won't impact Joe Six Pack much before November 2 (except for those Joes already impacted, and their votes won't be changing.)

The really stark reality is that the U.S. is in the grip of a form of fascism, corporate or otherwise. And that means that the propaganda organs of the media, the government and the corporations are working full time to persuade average Americans to buy into trading freedom for security. It's a form of collective insanity that can only end badly.

But that won't happen before November 2.

Until then the average voters are hypnotized by Bush-mania; they dream of outlawing abortions and protecting marriages, locking up homos and torturing rag-heads to confess where the nukes are hidden. Little do they realize that the real dangers are the ones created by US.

Remember: the electoral vote count is what rules. It doesn't matter if California goes 100% for Kerry. What matters is what happens in New Mexico, Ohio, Kansas, etc.

Sorry. Best y'all make good plans.

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Comment: As we pointed out on yesterday's Signs page, "y'all" includes more than just Americans. The US is on the fast track to self-annihilation, and it is capable of taking much of the rest of the planet with it - unless something changes, and soon. The entire world is interconnected at the very least by the global economy, and at most by the powers that be operating from behind the curtain.

If the US expands the war on terror, every country will be pulled into the battle in one way or another. At present, this is the path the world is treading. If America self-destructs instead, the world economy will be dealt a substantial blow. Either way, America's war is the whole world's war. If other countries are capable of at least trying to stop America's Zionist-controlled rampage, and they do nothing, they are complicit in the death and destruction that will surely follow.

Okay, so that may sound rather pessimistic - but wait, there's more! Consider the following article:

Police Secure Businesses on Terror Alert

Associated Press
August 3, 2004

NEW YORK - Under the steady gaze of police officers sporting body armor and automatic weapons, workers were confronted with ID checks and bag searches as they headed for work following the most specific domestic terrorism warnings since the 2001 attacks, warnings that have sent ripples of anxiety as far away as the West coast.

Officials sealed off some streets in New York, put financial employees in Washington through extra security checks, and added concrete barricades and a heavily armed presence in Newark, N.J., in response to a terrorism alert aimed at financial titans.

Police said the restrictions would remain in effect Tuesday and would be reviewed daily.

"You realize that's the world you live in, and you deal with it," said Kenneth Polcari, a trader at the New York Stock Exchange, one of many weary workers who filtered into the Wall Street building Monday. [...]

Washington police checked ID cards as employees filed into the World Bank headquarters; inside, security guards checked them again. Across the street, guards at the International Monetary Fund swept the underside of cars with detecting devices as they entered the garage.

"I'm concerned, but we have to carry on as normal," said IMF employee Shirley Davies. [...]

Prudential chairman and CEO Arthur F. Ryan reported that customers are not fleeing and the "overwhelming majority" of employees reported to work. "Everything we've heard so far has been reinforcing. 'We're with you.' That's basically what we've heard from most of them," Ryan said. [...]

The fears reverberated to the nation's heartland. The Chicago Board of Trade closed its visitors center in response to the threats, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago also heightened security, said Federal Reserve spokesman Douglas Tillett. [...]

"There's more security guards," Mercantile clerk Jenna Fowler said, pointing to a guard standing outside a window. "It makes me scared that it's a financial institution, but there's a lot more security than there was last week."

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Comment: "We have to carry on as normal"... Why? It is obvious that there is nothing normal about the state of affairs in the US - and around the world - since 9/11 and the subsequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Many people are simply trying to live their lives and put food on the table, yet the world under their feet is burning. There was a "terrorist" attack in Spain, continued threats of more attacks in London, and yet hardly anyone is standing up and declaring in their own way that enough is enough! Which brings us to the following article...

Alleged al-Qaida Group Repeats Threat

Associated Press
August 3, 2004

CAIRO, Egypt - A group claiming to represent al-Qaida in Europe repeated threats against Britain, Italy, Bulgaria and other nations with forces in Iraq in a Web statement Tuesday.

But the statement denied that the group, calling itself Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade Europe, had demanded that Italy withdraw its troops from Iraq within 15 days. The ultimatum, also signed Hafs al-Masri Brigade, was posted on the Web on Sunday.

Tuesday's statement was one in a series of claims and counterclaims in recent days that illustrate the difficulties of determining the authenticity of such Web threats or whether those that post them have any ability to carry them out.

The Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade takes its name from a top al-Qaida lieutenant who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan in 2001. It has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks on Western targets, including the March 11 train bombings in Spain. Counterterrorism experts question whether the group has any agents capable of launching attacks and say some of its claims are obviously false or exaggerated. [...]

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Comment: Regardless of the veracity of the alleged threats, world leaders and media groups are still using the stories to scare the bejesus out of people. If at least some of the claims from these alleged terrorist groups are obviously false or exaggerated, why is security being beefed up even in European countries now? It seems that many world leaders may be aware of who is really behind the war on terror, yet they do nothing to expose the truth. If leaders act with the authority of the people, obviously the people are also doing nothing. If our leaders act against the will of the people, then we all have much bigger problems than just some crazy Arab terrorists...

Silencing dissent in America

by Frank Van den Bosch
Unknown News
July 30, 2004

What the police tried to do to me -- silence me -- is done to others successfully, every day. People are cowed by the authority of the badge, the gun, and the implied violence. They don't want to go through the hassle (or worse) that comes with refusing to obey some bogus and probably unlawful command.

And, with good reason -- there's no certainty that they haven't broken some "law", and there is no guarantee that justice will prevail. Trials can drag on for a long time, police will lie on the stand, and judges can, out of spite, rule against you, sending you into the appeals process with more costs and complications.

You must also consider that my defiance is shaped by the unspoken deference accorded to middle-aged white males in this society. I know that I can "get away" with more than some "others" in this society. A black man, or an immigrant worker, or a "Moslem looking" guy had better bite their tongue, had better not look the cop in the eye, had better say, "yes sir, whatever you say sir, sorry sir, thank you sir," and hope to get away without facing trumped up charges, or a beating.

So, it's with good reason that most people back down. I don't blame them. But this time, the cops just happened to pick the wrong person, on the wrong day, for the wrong reason. Not that I'm particularly brave or confident in my privileged status, or particularly knowledge about 1st Amendment rights; I was just sad, angry and, just plain fed up.

After weeks of reading, writing and, thinking about the atrocities committed in Falujah, and then seeing photos of our debased soldiers in Abu Ghraib, I was profoundly sad, and angry. When I heard that the commander-in-chief, the dirty bastard that started this war, was coming through town, I wrote what my heart was saying: FUGW. For this I was harassed, coerced, intimidated and finally, arrested. I was cuffed, perp walked, finger printed, and photographed.

I know how the cops operate. I've been beaten, tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed, charged by horses and, shot with rubber bullets. I've been corralled into "free speech zones," threatened, searched, video taped, interrogated and, intimidated. All of this while lawfully expressing my right to dissent. Despite that abuse, I've never filed or joined in a law suit. I've always felt that standing up and taking the heat was enough: I was doing my part.

In the big picture, what happened to me this time was small potatoes, and I'm almost embarrassed to make a "big deal" out of this, but as a prisoner pen pal of mine wrote, "to do otherwise would be a dereliction of revolutionary duty." So I've sought out media, done radio interviews, written to the local papers, and I wear an FUGW cap where ever I go. And, we (my lawyer and I) are pressing ahead with false arrest, false imprisonment, conspiracy to violate my 1st Amendment rights, and whatever else she can think of. Intimidation goes both ways! Maybe they'll be more careful next time.

The "disorderly conduct" arrest will stay on my record forever. My prints are now in the "system," whatever that is. My name is on some shit list somewhere (it probably was before this anyway). My neighbors think I'm crazy, and I've spent many hours writing, talking and agonizing over this arrest. These are all part of the price I pay and continue to pay for speaking my mind in this fascist, fear driven country.

We hear a lot of simplistic rhetoric about how our soldiers are in Iraq protecting our freedoms. The simple truth of the matter is, Iraq never threatened our freedom. Neither did Osama bin Laden, for that matter.

Our freedoms can only be denied by those who hold direct power over us, our own leaders, our own police, and our courts.

Our freedoms can only be protected by standing up to bullies and petty tyrants, whether uniformed or flag draped. That's how freedoms are gained, and that's how they must be maintained. To do otherwise is a dereliction of revolutionary duty.

Comment: Here is a simple question: Regardless of where you live in the world, how much proof have you seen that Arabs are actually behind any of the attacks starting with 9/11? And yet, how much has changed due to those same attacks? Who benefits?

Life will never go back to being "normal". Try as we might to preserve our old lives, the world has been forever changed. The world will change again. It is happening as you read this sentence. So, will you stand up for yourself - for the truth - or will you take what comes because your "elected representatives" have promised the "good old days" in a contract whose fine print requires you to sacrifice your rights, your dignity, your blood, and perhaps even your very soul?

Change will happen - we cannot stop it. We can change our reactions and actions in response to that change. Maybe that makes it sound like those who love truth don't have much of a chance - but if only one butterfly flapping its wings can alter the path of a tornado, hundreds or thousands or millions of butterflies could change... well, who knows? At the very least, the butterflies would be able to weather the coming storm.

As we noted yesterday, it is easier to resist evil at the beginning than at the end.

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A threat to democracy: Basic freedoms to protest are being systematically undermined by anti-terror legislation

George Monbiot
Tuesday August 3, 2004
The Guardian

If we have learned anything over the past 18 months it is this: that the first rule of politics - power must never be trusted - still applies. The government will neither regulate itself nor be regulated by the institutions which surround it. Parliament chose to believe a string of obvious lies. The media repeated them, the civil service let them pass, the judiciary endorsed them. The answer to the age-old political question - who guards the guards? - remains unchanged. Only the people will hold the government to account.

They have two means of doing so. The first is to throw it out of office at the next election. This works only when we are permitted to choose an alternative set of policies. But in almost every nation, a new contract has now been struck between the main political parties: they have chosen to agree on almost all significant areas of policy. This leaves the people disenfranchised: they can vote out the monkeys but not the organ-grinder. So voting is now a less important democratic instrument than the second means: the ability to register our discontent during a government's term in office.

Applying the first rule of politics, we should expect those in power to seek to prevent the public from holding them to account. Whenever they can get away with it, they will restrict the right to protest. They got away with it last week.

The demonstrators who have halted the construction of the new animal testing labs in Oxford command little public sympathy. Their arguments are often woolly and poorly presented. Among them is a small number of dangerous and deeply unpleasant characters who appear to respect the rights of every mammal except Homo sapiens. This unpopularity is a gift to the state. For fear of being seen to sympathise with dangerous nutters, hardly anyone dares to speak out against the repressive laws with which the government intends to restrain them.

It is not as if the state is without the means of handling violent extremists. Murder, arson, assault, threatening behaviour and intimidation are already illegal in the United Kingdom. Instead, it has seized the opportunity provided by the violent activists to criminalise peaceful dissent.

The Home Office proposes "to make it an offence to protest outside homes in such a way that causes harassment, alarm or distress to residents". This sounds reasonable enough, until you realise that the police can define "harassment, alarm or distress" however they wish. All protest in residential areas, in other words, could now be treated as a criminal offence.

The new measures, if they are passed, will also ensure that most protesters can be charged with stalking: they need only to appear outside a premises once to be prosecuted under the 1997 Protection from Harassment Act. The government will also seek to "suggest remedies" for websites which "include material deemed to cause concern or needless anxiety to others". As my own site has already been blacklisted by at least one public body, I have reason to fear this proposal, alongside every online dissident in Britain.

If all this goes ahead, in other words, legal protest will be confined to writing letters to your MP. Or perhaps even that could be deemed to cause "concern or needless anxiety" to the honourable member.

When Caroline Flint, the Home Office minister, introduced these proposals to a grateful nation on Friday, she promised that "we are not talking about denying people the right to protest". We have every reason to disbelieve her. The same promise was made with the introduction of the 1986 Public Order Act, the 1992 Trade Union Act and the 1994 Criminal Justice Act, and immediately broken. When the 1997 Protection from Harassment Act was passed, the government swore that it would not be used against demonstrators: it was intended solely to protect people from stalkers. The first three people to be prosecuted under the act were all peaceful protesters. The government also assured us that it would not misuse the antisocial behaviour orders it introduced in 1998 to deal with nuisance neighbours. They, too, were immediately deployed against peaceful demonstrators. It is hard to think of a better tool for state repression: once an order has been served on a protester, he is banned from protesting until it lapses. The police now use it to neutralise the most effective activists. The government liked this new power so much that in 2003 it wrote it into law, with an Anti-Social Behaviour Act designed to restrict peaceful protest.

When some of us complained that the Terrorism Act 2000 was so loosely drafted that it could be deployed against almost anyone seeking political change, the government told us we were being hysterical. Since then, peaceful protesters all over Britain have been arrested as potential terrorists. At the Fairford air base, for example, the police used the act to terrorise the peace campaigners protesting against the Iraq war. The protesters were repeatedly stopped and searched: often one team of police would let someone go after a full body search, and another one would immediately seize her and repeat the whole procedure (this happened to one protester 11 times in one day). On March 22 last year, the police seized three coaches carrying people to a peaceful demonstration at Fairford, held them for two hours, confiscated their possessions, then sealed off the entire motorway network between Gloucestershire and London, and escorted them back to the capital. The police and the home secretary knew full well that these people were not terrorists. They also knew that the law allowed them to be treated as if they were.

It doesn't end here. The civil contingencies bill, which permits the government to suspend parliament and ban all rights to assembly whenever it decides that it is confronting an emergency, passed its second reading in the Lords last month. It could become law later this year.

A similar clampdown is taking place all over the world. The US Patriot Act, passed by Congress before any representative had read it, allows the state to treat dissenting citizens as if they were members of al-Qaida. For the past three years, the European Union has been seeking to reclassify the protesters who travel to European gatherings as terrorists. This is the contract the powerful have struck with each other: to agree to a single set of neoliberal policies, and to criminalise all those who seek to challenge them.

We are often told that the passage of laws like this is dangerous because one day it might facilitate the seizure of power by an undemocratic government. But that is to miss the point. Their passage is the seizure of power. Protest is inseparable from democracy: every time it is restricted, the state becomes less democratic. Democracies such as ours will come to an end not with the stamping of boots and the hoisting of flags, but through the slow accretion of a thousand dusty codicils.

By the time we have lost our freedoms, we will have forgotten what they were. The silence with which the new laws were greeted last week suggests that the forgetting has already begun.

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Comment: Yesterday we ran a number of articles on what is happening to animal rights protesters. Monbiot's article points out that there are already any number of laws that protect citizens from violence that could be used against genuine "terrorist". But the government isn't interested in the genuine "terrorists" because they are mostly in the pay of these same governments. The ones who are arrested are the dupes, the manipulated, who fall into the net as did the main character of the film Arlington Road, who provide the fodder for the news.

US terror alert becomes political football

By Thomas C Greene
Published Tuesday 3rd August 2004 15:15 GMT

As we reported recently, the latest ratcheting up of the terror threat level in the United States was based on captured documents dating back some time. In that article, we observed that it was "not clear whether any of the information recently obtained relates to current or future schemes."

We can now address that question with some confidence. According to the New York Times, "much of the information that led the authorities to raise the terror alert at several large financial institutions in the New York City and Washington areas was three or four years old, intelligence and law enforcement officials said on Monday. They reported that they had not yet found concrete evidence that a terrorist plot or preparatory surveillance operations were still under way."

One may well wonder why the cities of New York, Washington, and Newark suddenly began burning taxpayer dollars to stage a grand security rain dance - guarding sites that might have been attacked during the past four years, or may be attacked four years hence. With such a vast window of opportunity, one must ask why there should have been a sudden rush to security starting on Monday of this week.

It certainly sounded like an emergency, at least to hear Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge tell it. "The quality of this intelligence based on multiple reporting streams in multiple locations, is rarely seen, and it is alarming in both the amount and specificity," he said.

Ridge also gushed about "the President's leadership in the war on terror," to which he conspicuously credited this lifesaving, four-year-old information.

Predictably, President Bush and Senator Kerry went tit for tat on Monday, slagging each other and bickering over who can "protect us" better, and even answering each other in subsequent speeches. Meanwhile, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card staged a lengthy press conference with National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice to emphasize Junior's deep respect for the 9/11 Commission report, and in particular its recommendation that a cabinet-level coordinator of intelligence be created.

No fewer than eight different "terrorism experts" were interviewed on CNN, MSNBC and Fox, which simply would not let go of the terror alert story, leading with it every half hour for over twenty-four hours.

After her press conference, Condoleeza Rice later appeared on the NBC Nightly News to peddle her views on the fine job the President is doing to eradicate Al Qaeda and protect the Fatherland, and to explain why his new initiative on the intelligence coordinator is so crucial to that mission.

Why now? If anyone is wondering why terrorism, and especially attacks at home, should have been so fully hyped on such thin evidence, it's useful to consider the news cycle.

Last week, John Kerry did a surprisingly good job of introducing himself to the nation as a plausible replacement for Bush. Last week, a devastating car bomb claimed the lives of 68 Iraqis, just as US Secretary of State Colin Powell was in country to deliver several absurdly optimistic speeches. Christian churches in Iraq have for the first time become the targets of terrorist attacks [See next article for more on this - SOTT], in which eleven lives have so far been claimed. And the infamous Abu Ghraib Military Police unit has just returned Stateside to answer charges of torture.

Not to put too fine a point on it, last week sucked for the Bush Administration. It's no wonder, then, that a multi-city security rain dance should be choreographed - no wonder that police in paramilitary jumpsuits and helmets and boots should appear on the streets and in the subways with fully automatic weapons. It's no wonder that streets should be closed to traffic and cars stopped at random. The rest of the news is just too depressing.

Practicalities One hates to rain on the Administration's parade of media misdirection, but practical matters do apply. Guarding these sites, which have been under careful surveillance by Al Qaeda for four years without incident, is expensive. The question is, when does one stop guarding them? [...]

Politics But this rain dance was not undertaken from a security point of view. It was concocted with a political motive, and its purpose was to distract the public from the additive disasters in Iraq, and the unexpectedly strong showing by the Democrats in Boston last week. It was designed to make Junior look like the "strong leader" that his cheerleaders insist, against all evidence, that he really is. (We note that the true Prince of Darkness, Dick Cheney, has been dutifully silent, and conspicuously absent, during the recent national security festivities, to vouchsafe the limelight to Junior.)

But it would be unfair not to point out Democratic exploitation of the Republican exploitation. On at least two occasions Monday, John Kerry took the terror warnings at face value, rather than as examples of Tom Ridge's exceptional proclivity for crying wolf, and insisted that he would have overreacted sooner than Bush, and at even greater expense.

And thus national security has become firmly established as a key campaign issue, and a dangerous political football that can only bring us harm regardless of who wins the election.

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Comment: Slipped in this mostly intelligent and lucid commentary is the line about the Christian Churches being blown up, showing that the author hasn't gone as deep in his analysis as he might. For another look at this question...

Iraqi Muslims Did Not Blow Up Christian Churches

Sam Hamod

Having discussed the matter in detail with other experts on the Middle East, Christianity in Iraq and on Islam in Iraq, we have all concluded this is not the work of any Muslim group. There has never been any animosity between the Christian and Muslim communities in Iraq, in fact, they have stood toe-to-toe against the American occupation and they have resisted efforts by the Israeli office in Baghdad to become allied with Israel.

With these matters in mind, it appears as if this new “attack on the Christian churches” is just another attempt either by the American CIA or its operatives, or the Mossad of Israel, to paint Islam with terrorism and to split the Muslim and Christian communities in Iraq. They tried to do the same thing in Palestine, but the Palestinians wouldn’t buy it. As you may remember, the Israelis shelled the holy churches of the Church of the Nativity and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Both events were condemned by Christian and Muslim alike. Even today in Iraq, all Iraqis interviewed said they knew no Iraqi or Muslim would do such a thing. But, in America, where we are fed the news as it is planned by Bush and by Zionist influence, the story plays big to the evangelical group and to Christians who believe the U.S. propaganda media.

This is another sad chapter in the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Since the early days of the war, the Iraqis complained about the treatment of prisoners taken by the Americans. Unfortunately, no one would listen to the Iraqis or those of us who reported these atrocities. You all know the truth by now, how we were lied to by our government and by the U.S. media; so much for truth and "embedding." So, once again, we have to report to you, this is just another American cover-up to create more chaos in Iraq, just as America did in Viet Nam to keep us in that war, and to justify more attacks on Muslims groups in Iraq. This will also help justify the continuing immoral and unjust shelling of Fallujah to allegedly kill Zarqawi. The townspeople keep saying, “There is no Zarqawi here, and there never was”; yet our U.S. military keeps lying in order to justify the bombings of civilians in order to punish the Fallujahns for having kept the American forces out of their city.

At this point, there is no telling what the U.S. or the Israeli Mossad will do in Iraq in order to foment civil war among the Iraqis and to justify the continuation of an American occupation in Iraq. Some of you may remember that JFK felt he had to go into Viet Nam in order to protect the Christian Catholic leadership in the south. We have a replay of this today in Iraq, with this "news."

As for me, I’ve just about given up on believing anything the Bush administration or the major American media tells us; they've lied to us too often. We think this is just another s self-serving lie by the Bush or Mossad team.

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Comment: Yup. But many Americans support Bush for his "Honesty. Truth. Integrity." [See the article below, The Church of Bush.]

It's going to get worse, a whole lot worse, before it gets better, folks. We ain't touched bottom yet. One impediment to seeing how bad the situation is, is our believe that people are basically good and that "the president wouldn't lie". He was misled. Although Thomas Greene, the author of the article before this one, can see that terror alerts are being used as a political football, is he able to consider the possibility that the CIA and/or Mossad are behind the bombing and kidnappings of Westerners in Iraq? And if he is unwilling to admit such a possibility, he is deciding beforehand that his answers will always remain within the limits of his preconceptions and prejudices.

Terror alert in Britain remains high, but no specific threat announced

06:32 AM EDT Aug 03

LONDON (AP) - Britain said Monday that the threat from terrorism remains high but officials did not warn of any specific threat like that announced in the United States.

Britain's Home Office said it was monitoring the "real and serious" threat of an attack but declined to comment more specifically. "We keep our own threat levels under constant review and if a specific threat arises we would review the level accordingly," the Home Office said. "If a specific threat arises we would inform the public."

Pakistan's information minister said Monday his country found plans for new attacks against the United States and Britain on a computer seized during the arrest last month of a senior al-Qaida suspect wanted for the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa.

David Davis, spokesman on law enforcement issues for the opposition Conservative party, said Prime Minister Tony Blair's government should take the risk "extremely seriously" and appoint a single person to be responsible for homeland security.

"We find it very worrying that the Americans seem to be at a much more advanced stage than us in contingency planning and police presence," he said. "Blair needs to spell out the exact threat to the U.K."

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Indonesian police warn of terror attack during presidential race 2004-08-03 18:19:43

JAKARTA, Aug. 3 (Xinhuanet) -- Indonesian Police chief Da'i Bachtiar warned Tuesday of possible terror attacks by perpetratorsof the Bali and Marriott Hotel bombings who are still at large during the second round of the presidential race.

The police chief said that the fugitives remain dangerous because of their capabilities of assembling bombs and recruiting new members.

"There is no specific threat, but the danger remains potent," Bachtiar told a joint press conference after a meeting on securitypreparation for the second round of the presidential election scheduled for Sept. 20.

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'People say we should go about our normal lives. How can we?'

David Teather in New York
Tuesday August 3, 2004
The Guardian

For the four anxious-looking women taking a cigarette break yesterday morning on the corner of 53rd Street and Lexington Avenue, there was only one topic of conversation.

Unlike former terror threats, the warnings from the department of homeland security on Sunday were remarkably specific and the Citigroup building they were in front of was one of five potential targets named in the financial sector.

One of the women, of Asian origin, said she had been stared at on the subway on the way into the office. Another had made sure she was wearing trainers, in case she needed to run. "If I've got to go, I'm out." The women, who asked not to be named, were especially concerned that they worked on one of the 59-storey building's top floors.

"It's scary," said one. "I've never felt this unsafe. People are saying we should go about our normal lives, but how can we? I am worried that I am so high up. They ran through fire drills and reminded us of the exits, but it's hard to be here. The cops with the guns are great, but if a car comes flying across the street, what are they going to do?"

Mercedes Castiel, a doctor with a practice on 53rd Street, was on her way into the Citigroup building. "I am surprised there haven't been suicide bombers here," she said. "They've used those tactics everywhere else. Hopefully it won't happen, but the most important thing we can do is stay calm and carry on with our lives."

The design of the building - which belongs to the biggest banking group in the world - sitting on a narrow central column and then on cement columns that act as stilts, has also raised concerns that it could be vulnerable to attack. The usual entrance was closed yesterday, as was a public atrium, and workers were forced to wait in line while their bags were checked. Police cars prevented vehicles from parking outside the building and officers with machine guns patrolled the perimeter.

It was a similar picture at another target, the New York Stock Exchange in lower Manhattan, draped in a huge US flag. Black iron barricades and gun-toting police surrounded the building, although in the case of the exchange both are now a familiar sight.

The most obvious sign of a new threat level was the media presence. Workers weaving through the security sounded a mixture of defiance, nervousness and resignation.

Jacob Ross, a clerk on the trading floor, said the warning had "absolutely" made him nervous.

"There are a lot of guys on the floor who are saying if something happens, they are out of here, even if something happens down the street. We are at breaking point for a lot of people."

Jay Purushotham, a paralegal in the arbitration department at the exchange, said: "You are always coming in knowing that the exchange is a target. You feel safer than other places in New York because of all the security. I am a little worried, but there is nothing I can do about it."

He said it had crossed his mind that political motives could be behind the terror alerts, but it was "hard to believe it's completely for political reasons". He said the government was "in a damned if they do, damned if they don't situation".

Sharona Robinson, a compliance examiner, was more phlegmatic: "We are pretty safe down here ... it's business as usual. You can't live your life in fear."

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Comment: The programming and conditioning is progressing. Americans are becoming accustomed to, and reassured by, the sight of cops with guns on the streets. They are not thinking what they can do to fight off the black cloud of tyranny as it descends upon them. They simply want to get on with their lives.

And they will continue as hard as they can to do so until a moment comes when it is no longer possible to go on as before. The door will swing shut, the bolt will be put into place, and there will be no return. From the obscurity, one or two might start wondering how they got there, but by then it will be too late. So perhaps now is the time to start looking objectively at the entire "war on terror" and its real origins and causes...

US terror plot intelligence 'old'

Tuesday, 3 August, 2004

There are claims that new warnings of al-Qaeda attacks on US cities are based on old intelligence.

Security has been tightened around financial institutions in three cities, following the discovery of detailed information about them.

President George W Bush described the US as a "nation in danger".

But US newspapers say officials investigating the information believe much of it was compiled by al-Qaeda before the 11 September 2001 attacks.

The sources reportedly told the New York Times and Washington Post that they were unsure if Osama Bin Laden's network was still conducting surveillance on the sites.

The Post said officials believed much of the information was gathered by al-Qaeda from public sources like the internet.

Employees turned up for work this week despite the specific warnings against the New York Stock Exchange, the Citigroup Center building in New York, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank buildings in Washington DC, and Prudential Financial's headquarters in Newark, New Jersey.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice described the intelligence behind the warnings as being extraordinarily detailed and "unlike anything that I have seen".

Comment: It is the height of cynicism for a government to, on the one hand, claim that they had no reliable intelligence about the 9/11 attacks, and thereby excuse themselves from any culpability for those attacks, and then at a later date to suddenly present intelligence from before the 9/11 attacks in an attempt to frighten the public into accepting further clampdowns on social freedoms.

While Condi 'et al' claim that they had no intelligence or forewarning about the 9/11 attacks, we note that there certainly was lots of intelligence about Iraq...

Flashback: April 2001 - Bush Says "We must attack Iraq"

Sunday Herald - 06 October 2002
By Neil Mackay

President Bush's Cabinet agreed in April 2001 that 'Iraq remains a destabilising influence to the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East' and because this is an unacceptable risk to the US 'military intervention' is necessary.

Vice-president Dick Cheney, who chairs the White House Energy Policy Development Group, commissioned a report on 'energy security' from the Baker Institute for Public Policy, a think-tank set up by James Baker, the former US secretary of state under George Bush Snr.

The report, Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century, concludes: 'The United States remains a prisoner of its energy dilemma. Iraq remains a de- stabilising influence to ... the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East. Saddam Hussein has also demonstrated a willingness to threaten to use the oil weapon and to use his own export programme to manipulate oil markets. Therefore the US should conduct an immediate policy review toward Iraq including military, energy, economic and political/ diplomatic assessments.

Flashback: Containment Was Working

CIA: Seven Months Before 9/11, the Agency Said Iraq Posed No Threat to the US

June 27, 2003

Seven months before two-dozen or so al-Qaida terrorists hijacked three commercial airplanes and flew two of the aircrafts directly into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, killing 3,000 innocent civilians, CIA Director George Tenet, testified before Congress that Iraq posed no immediate threat to the United States or to other countries in the Middle East.

But immediately after the terrorist attacks on 9-11, which the Bush administration claims Iraq is partially responsible for, the President and his advisers were already making a case for war against Iraq without so much as providing a shred of evidence to back up the allegations that Iraq and its former President, Saddam Hussein, was aware of the attacks or helped the al-Qaida hijackers plan the catastrophe.

It was then, after the 9-11 attacks, that intelligence reports from the CIA radically changed from previous months, which said Iraq posed no immediate threat to the U.S., to now show Iraq had a stockpile of chemical and biological weapons and was in hot pursuit of a nuclear bomb. The Bush administration seized upon the reports to build public support for the war and used the information to eventually justify a preemptive strike against the country in March even though much of the information in the CIA report has since been disputed.

In just seven short months, beginning as early as February 2001, Bush administration officials said Iraq went from being a threat only to its own people to posing an imminent threat to the world. Indeed, in a Feb. 12, 2001 interview with the Fox News Channel Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said: "Iraq is probably not a nuclear threat at the present time." [...]

Comment: And Afghanistan too...

US 'planned attack on Taleban' before 9/11

By the BBC's George Arney
18 September, 2001

A former Pakistani diplomat has told the BBC that the US was planning military action against Osama Bin Laden and the Taleban even before last week's attacks. [...]

Comment: There was also lots of awareness and understanding of what to do about "al-Qaeda" after 9/11...

Flashback: Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - "The goal was never to get Bin-Laden"

Comment: Which brings us back to the current "terror warnings". What is their real purpose?

Washington unfazed by terror threat

By Kevin Anderson
BBC News Online in Washington
Monday, 2 August, 2004

Washington police were out in force in front of the offices of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund after authorities revealed threats against the international financial institutions on Sunday.

US authorities said they had specific intelligence about attacks against financial targets not only in Washington, but also in New York City and Newark, New Jersey.

"This is not the usual chatter. This is multiple sources that involve extraordinary detail," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said.

In Washington, police towed unauthorised cars away from the World Bank headquarters and patrolled the area with bomb sniffing dogs.

Washington Police Chief Charles Ramsey said that vehicles would be randomly searched in the area near the World Bank and IMF and security would be stepped across the city.

He said that increased security could last until the elections in November because of evidence that al-Qaeda wants to influence the vote in the US.

Washington residents, like those in New York and Newark, were told to be vigilant but go about their business.

After years of terror alerts, Washington residents said they were more aware of their surroundings but wondered what, if anything, they could do.

Residents resigned

Marion Scotchmer and Elisabeth Stecki were having lunch at a small park just blocks from the World Bank and IMF.

"There is not much you can do. You just have to keep on living," Ms Scotchmer said.

"I noticed today that my building had a fire alarm at around 10 am, first thing on a Monday morning. That raised my alarm a little bit. But I can't do anything about it," she added.

She said that she was more vigilant, but added "that is the way of life here [in Washington]."

Ms Stecki had seen a number of armed officers at a subway stop in the city centre but little else in the way of increased security.

Living in Washington, she has grown accustomed to heightened levels of security, but she remains baffled by how she is supposed to respond as a citizen to the colour-coded alert system.

"It gets raised, it gets lowered. It gets raised. It gets lowered. What are you going to do?" she said.

After meeting with World Bank officials, Police Chief Ramsey said he did not detect any fear from bank employees.

Bank officials met with employees on Monday to outline enhanced security measures and answer questions and concerns.

They asked their names not be used due to strict bank policies against making political statements.

"Since 9/11 there has been this constant shouting wolf and everyone gets alarmed, and then they downgrade the situation again," one of the employees said.

Another said that the security seemed tight, but routine. "There is more activity out here than in there," he said, pointing to a crowd of media asking Chief Ramsey questions.

There is more media than police, they said. "If something happens, we'll have it on camera," joked a female bank employee who had a John Kerry button pinned to her handbag.

They all said that being from Europe that they were accustomed to terrorist attacks.

Two of the bank employees lived in Paris during a 1995 bombing campaign.

They thought there were political motivations behind the threat warnings.

"In this political situation we are in, a lot of people say, what is the truth in this?" the female employee said.

One of the men said, "It's a little bit coincidental that it's the weekend of the ending of the Democratic convention. It doesn't help the bounce. Does it?"

Political motivations

James Morr and his wife came from Chicago to Washington for "business and pleasure" and were walking in front of the bank.

They had heard about the threats but did not feel in danger.

The couple had lived in Paris and London for 15 years. "We saw this 25 years ago," Mr Morr said.

He described himself as an independent but "more a Republican than anything".

However, he said he would not be surprised if there were political motivations behind the announcement of a terrorist threat.

"Bush has to have something to get him back into office," he added.

Comment: While there is hope to be taken from recent reports from Washington and the New York that some citizens are eyeing this latest phony alert with the skepticism it deserves, the problem of the need for full public disclosure remains. Disclosure such as, who really was behind the 9/11 attacks that lead to the current "terrified" state that we are in...

America is on alert - and trail leads back to a computer expert seized in Pakistan

By Justin Huggler, in Islamabad
03 August 2004

Like so much in the "war on terror", the trail of the latest warnings of imminent al-Qa'ida attacks and orange alerts in the United States appears to lead back to Pakistan - and, more specifically, to two recent arrests of al-Qa'ida suspects here.

One, that of Ahmad Khalfan Ghailani, who is a prime suspect in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya, was trumpeted by the Pakistani authorities as a major triumph and reported around the world.

The other, of a mysterious "computer expert", was kept secret and went unreported at the time. It is still veiled in secrecy. Pakistan is refusing to confirm the name of the arrested man, or even that he is believed to be an Al-Qa'ida member. "He is a very wanted man, but I cannot say his name now," was all the Information Minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, would say.

The Pakistani authorities are playing up the arrest of Mr Ghailani as the main source of information on al-Qa'ida plans for new attacks in America and Britain. But the US is putting more emphasis on the arrest of the computer engineer, at least according to US press reports.

Little is known about this man. Almost the only source is a report in The New York Times, citing unnamed American officials. It appears he was arrested two weeks before Mr Ghailani, on 13 July. The computer engineer, identified by the paper as Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, is said to have set up a code system for sending messages to al-Qa'ida operatives over the internet.

He is described as being heavily built, 6ft 2in tall, and speaks English with a British accent. The accent is reminiscent of Omar Saeed Sheikh, the man sentenced to death for kidnapping and murdering the American journalist Daniel Pearl. Although he was living in Pakistan at the time, Mr Sheikh was brought up and educated in Britain. But it is believed the computer engineer is the unemployed son of someone who works with Pakistan International Airlines, and took his degree from a university in Karachi.

There has been widespread scepticism that Tom Ridge's warnings of imminent attacks in New York and Washington may have been politically motivated - with the presidential election in November and President Bush doing badly in the polls.

The timing of two arrests that apparently provided vital information could be just as convenient for Pakistan, which has come under pressure after receiving scores of mentions in the 9/11 commission's report. Mr Ridge, the Secretary for Homeland Security, made a point of singling out Pakistan for praise as an ally at his press conference. [...]

Comment: Many roads do indeed lead to Pakistan, but it is only the first stop on a longer journey. Pakistan and its intelligence agency the ISI have played a high profile role in the events surrounding 9/11. For example, the British born and educated Pakistani Ahmed Omar Sheikh wired $100,000 to Mohammed Atta, the alleged 9/11 hijacker, on the instructions of the former head of the Pakistani ISI, Lieutenant General Mahmood Ahmed. The good General was actually in Washington on Sept. 11, and had a series of pre-Sept. 11, top-level meetings in the White House, the Pentagon, the National Security Council, and with George Tenet, then head of the CIA, and Marc Grossman, the under-secretary of state for political affairs. Isn't that strange....

This linked Ahmed Omar Sheikh to the 9/11 attacks, but we notice that when he was eventually arrested, it was for the murder of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was, at the time of his death, believed to have been investigating the ISI, an arm of the Pakistani government long known for its well established links with the CIA. No one, least of all the US or British governments, seem to care about his connection to 9/11, obviously because it would expose other connections that might blow the whole 9/11 case wide open and prove that it was indeed an inside job. But disclosure may prove to be very difficult, given that more than one Western government appears to be playing the game...

No 10 fails to deny Scarlett's influence on survey group

By Colin Brown, Deputy Political Editor
03 August 2004

The Government refused yesterday to deny an authoritative report that John Scarlett, the former head of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), asked the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) to include 10 "golden nuggets" in its report on weapons of mass destruction, including a claim that it had smallpox weapons or was trying to produce them.

Mr Scarlett is also said to have suggested to the ISG they include a claim that Iraq probably possessed mobile biological weapons laboratories, and that Saddam Hussein was developing a "rail gun" which could propel an object at enormous speed along a track.

But the Prime Minister's official spokesman insisted Mr Scarlett, the new head of MI6, did not "mislead" Britain over an e-mail suggesting the "golden nuggets" be put in a report by the US-backed investigation.

A Number 10 spokeswoman said: "There's no question of the Government or any of its departments or agencies, and that includes the JIC and its then chairman John Scarlett, seeking to mislead the ISG." The allegations were made by Tom Mangold, a respected journalist and friend of the family of Dr David Kelly, the weapons expert whose suicide was investigated by the Hutton inquiry. That report cleared the Government of "sexing up" the Iraq dossiers against the wishes of the intelligence services.

The revelation that Mr Scarlett tried to influence the ISG yesterday brought fresh calls for him to step down from his new post as "C", the head of Britain's intelligence services, which he took up officially on Sunday. Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, has for the first time joined Tory and Labour MPs yesterday in calling for the resignation of Mr Scarlett.

Comment: So are we now to believe that the head of Britain's intelligence agencies, like ex-CIA director Tenet, acted on his own initiative in concocting bogus evidence of WMDs in Iraq? We suppose that these two men, over and above the wishes of their respective governments, just really wanted to see Saddam fall, and decided that they would provide the necessary means to do so. Certainly it had nothing to do with the members of the Bush or Blair administrations... right?

Well, wrong actually...

As the Washington Post 28 January 2002 reported Bush and Blair spoke on the phone on the morning of 12 September and "The two leaders agreed it was important to first move quickly on the diplomatic front to capitalize on international outrage about the terrorist attack."

But how to do it? Well, intelligence was needed to fool the public, so....

On 4 September 2002 CBS News confirmed that "barely five hours after American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was telling his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq — even though there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks".

According to Time magazine 13 May 2002 "[Defense Secretary] Rumsfeld has been so determined to find a rationale for an attack [on Iraq] that on 10 separate occasions he asked the CIA to find evidence linking Iraq to the terror attacks of Sept 11. The intelligence agency repeatedly came back empty handed."

What? No "evidence" that Saddam is really, really evil? Well, what's a psychopath to do in such a case? Why, invent the evidence yourself of course! Or get the CIA or MI6 to do it for you so that you can later blame them when your little scheme is revealed...

Flashback: Report slams CIA for Iraq intelligence failures

Analysts' 'group think' blamed for false assumptions on weapons

Friday, July 9, 2004

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In a highly critical report issued Friday, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee found that the CIA's prewar estimates of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were overstated and unsupported by intelligence. [...]

Comment: So it wasn't really that CIA director Tenet "failed", but that he failed to realise that he, and the agency that he directed, were slated for an overhaul and were being set up. In fact, it is rather ironic that, after many years of setting up phony Arab "terrorists" themselves, the CIA became a victim of the old "double cross" itself. We really would have expected more. Wishful thinking will get ya every time.

But perhaps we are being a little unfair. There was one piece of evidence that Saddam had WMDs, and boy was it convincing...

The fact is that there is a wealth of data available to the honest seeker that shows, quite conclusively, that we have all been fooled. It is up to each of us to make the effort to seek and know the truth.

In the words of FBI agent, Robert Wright, as reported by ABC news, who is being officially prevented from telling the public about how his efforts to investigate al-Qaeda pre-911 were blocked by his supervisors -

"There's so much more. God, there's so much more. A lot more."

The Church of Bush

By Rick Perlstein, Village Voice. Posted August 2, 2004.

These are the people who, even in the face of evidence of his casual cruelty, of his unchristian contempt for weakness, of his lying ways, see something angelic in George W. Bush and love him unconditionally.

Here are some things that Christopher Nunneley, a conservative activist in Birmingham, Alabama, believes. That some time in June, apparently unnoticed by the world media, George Bush negotiated an end to the civil war in Sudan. That Bill Clinton is "lazy" and Teresa Heinz Kerry is an "African colonialist." That "we don't do torture," and that the School of the Americas manuals showing we do were "just ancient U.S. disinformation designed to make the Soviets think that we didn't know how to do real interrogations."

Chris Nunneley also believes something crazy: that George W. Bush is a nice guy.

It's a rather different conclusion than many liberals would make. When we think of Bush's character, we're likely to focus on the administration's proposed budget cuts for veterans, the children indefinitely detained at Abu Ghraib, maybe the story of how the young lad Bush loaded up live frogs with firecrackers in order to watch them explode.

Conservatives see it differently.

"He's very compassionate," says Chris, an intelligent man who's open-minded enough to make listening to liberals a sort of hobby. "If you look at the way he's bucked the far right: I mean, $15 billion for AIDS in Africa!" He speaks at the church services of blacks, and "you don't fake that. That's not just a photo op."

Of course, two years after Bush made his pledge, only 2 percent of the AIDS money has been distributed (in any event, it will mainly go to drug companies). And appearing earnest in the presence of African Americans has been a documented Bush strategy for wooing moderate voters since the beginning.

So what does a conservative say when such "nice guy" jazz is challenged? Say, when you ask whether a nice guy would invade a country at the cost of untold innocent lives on the shakiest of pretenses? Or, closer to home, whether he would (as Bush did in late 2000) go on a fishing trip while his daughter was undergoing surgery, and use the world's media to mockingly order her to clean her room while he was away? Doesn't signify with Chris. "If you're in one camp, the idea of being firm, 'tough love,' is very popular. If you're in another, you can say, 'Well, that's just mean!' On my side, well, I like the whole idea of 'tough love.' "

This is a journey among the "tough love" camp. The people who, even in the face of evidence of his casual cruelty, of his habitual and unchristian contempt for weakness, love George Bush unconditionally: love him when he is tender, love him when he is tough – but who never, ever are tough on him.

On July 15, the Bush-Cheney campaign organized 6,925 "Parties for the President" in supporters' homes nationwide. I chose to attend in Portland, Oregon. The right love to believe the whole world is against them. In a county where Ralph Nader got a quarter of the votes of George Bush and Al Gore well over double, the sense of martyrdom is especially fragrant: Portland's conservatives are like others anywhere, only more so. One leader told me that here, it's the conservatives who are oppressed by the gays.

They certainly love them some George Bush.

Twelve people gather on the houseboat of Bruce Broussard, a perennially failed candidate popular among local conservatives for, well, his race: He is African American. First the group hears Laura Bush on a conference call. ("All of us know what makes George a great president. He has the courage of his convictions, the willingness to make the tough decisions and stick with them.") Then, they get a bewilderingly disjointed address from their host (he hits some key points from his recent Senate platform: presidential terms of six years instead of four, a cabinet-level Department of Senior Citizens with himself as secretary). Finally, beef-and-cheese dip loading down a plateful of Mrs. Broussard's homemade tortilla chips, I open the floor to the question of why they personally revere George Bush.

Ponytailed Larry, who wears the stripes of a former marine gunnery sergeant on his floppy hat, bursts into laughter; it's too obvious to take seriously. "Honesty. Truth. Integrity," he says upon recovering. "I don't think there's any difference between the governor of Texas and the president of the United States."

Gingerly, I offer one difference: The governor ran for president on a platform of balanced budgets, then ran the federal budget straight into the red.

Responds Larry (of the first president since James Garfield with a Congress compliant enough never to issue a single veto): "Well, it's interesting that we blame the person who happens to be president for the deficit. As if he has any control over the legislature of the United States."

Larry's wife, Tami Mars, the Republican congressional nominee for Oregon's third district, proposes a Divine Right of Eight-Year Terms: "Let the man finish what he started. Instead of switching out his leadership – because that's what the terrorists are expecting."

Larry is asked what he thinks of Bush's budget cuts for troops in the field. He's not with Bush on everything: "I hope he reverses himself on that."

I note that he already has, due to Democratic pressure.

Faced with an existential impossibility – giving the Democrats credit for anything – he retreats into a retort I'll hear again and again tonight: Nobody's perfect. "I don't think we're going to find a situation in which we find a person with which we're 100 percent comfortable."

Then he reels off a litany of complaints about Bush. "Horrible underemployment situation . . . the big-business aspect of the Republican Party I have some issues with."

The next thing I hear is the last refuge of the cornered conservative: a non sequitur fulmination against the hippie Democrats.

"Having said that, what's your option? To have more bike trails?"

The vibe at my next stop is different. None of the people at Kitty and Tom Harmon's bungalow are stupid. Instead they are the kind of "well-informed" that comes from overlong exposure to conservative media: conservatives who construct towers of impressive intellectual complexity on toothpick-weak foundations. My hosts are Stepford-nice (Mom sports "Hello Kitty!" seat covers in her car and loads me down with shortbread for the flight home; Dad shows off the herb garden he'll use to season my eggs if I consent to stay the night). But everyone present shows a glint of steel when their man's character is challenged.

"One of the reasons I respect this president is that he is honest. I believe that after eight years, the dark years of the Clinton administration, we finally have a man in the White House who respects that office and who speaks honestly."

The speaker is Christina, an intense, articulate, and passionate publicist.

"Such a refreshing change for the country. People believe in the president."

I don't mention recent poll figures suggesting that more Americans believe John Kerry than Bush when it comes to terrorism.

After affirming "I still believe that there are weapons of mass destruction" – the commonplace is beyond challenge – Christina displays another facet of the conservative fantasy: Going into Iraq, she says, "is not the sort of thing one does if one wants to be popular. . . . He doesn't stick his finger in the wind." I don't challenge that point, either – though if I did I might ask why Bush scheduled the divisive debate over the intervention for the height of the 2002 campaign season, more certain of what Andrew Card called "new products" than his father, who held off deliberation on the first Iraq war until after the 1990 congressional elections.

Instead I challenge the grandmotherly lady sitting on the piano bench.

Says Delores: "There is an agenda – to get rid of God in our country."

Chirps the reporter: Certainly not on the part of John Kerry, who once entertained dreams of entering the priesthood.

I'm almost laughed out of the room.

I ask why Kerry goes to mass every week if he's trying to get rid of God. "Public relations!" a young man calls out from across the room. "Same reason he does everything else." Cue for Delores to repeat something a rabbi told her: "We have to stand together, because this is what happened in Europe. You know – once they start taking this right and that right. And you have the Islamic people . . . "

She trails off. I ask whether she's referring to the rise of fascism. "We're losing our rights as Christians: yes. And being persecuted again."

I ask why so many liberals believe the administration lies, if there might be anything to the suspicions. What about the report of the Los Angeles Times that morning, that the State Department dismissed 28 of the claims the White House demanded Colin Powell bring before the U.N. as without foundation in fact?

Delores: "You make mention of a paper in Los Angeles that made such and such a report; well, that doesn't mean it's accurate or complete or unbiased."

I respond that the report came from a memo reproduced in the recent report of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republican-dominated. I'm not sure whether she hasn't heard me or just has decided to change the subject. "John Kerry attended a party in which there was bad language, bad humor, being evidenced in all quarters!" she cries. Kitty chimes in: "And Kerry said it reflects American values!"

I ask Tom what role he sees in America for nonbelievers. "Well, if people are of an opinion that their God is supreme and are willing to burn your house down to prove it or dismantle your car to prove it or make all sorts of loud noises, disturbing the peace, and say that they have a right to do that in the name of God. . . ." he begins, in his best Mr. Rogers voice. Later I parse out what the hell he was talking about. I was asking about atheists. But Tom understood "nonbeliever" according to the premise that God is exclusively Judeo-Christian. It wasn't about whether you believe in anything, but whether you dared diverge from his belief.

Walking me to my car (he insisted), Tom, who works for a construction conglomerate, reaches for a favorite metaphor to describe George Bush: linoleum. "You know: Usually you get a microfilm of the color, and if you drop a plate on it you discover it's an ugly-looking floor. Then linoleum came out – the pattern goes through the entire one-eighth of material. You can drop a plate on it, and the color is true all the way down!"

His face glows. He gets a far-off look in his eyes. That's his Bush.

It's like a scene from a John Waters movie.

What all does it mean? The right-wing website Free Republic is infamous for galvanizing harassment campaigns against ideological enemies, but it also has a lighter side: a robust culture of George W. kitsch. "Freepers" display and study the famous photograph of Bush embracing Ashley Faulkner, whose mother perished on 9-11, a woeful, iconic look on his face ("The protective encirclement of her head by President Bush's arm and hand is the essence of fatherly compassion," Freeper luvbach1 writes); the ladies exchange snaps of the president in resolute pose, rendering up racy comments about his sexiness; they reference an image of Bush jogging alongside a soldier wounded in Iraq like it's a Xerox of his very soul. "He's the kind of guy who's going to remember to call a soldier who's lost a leg," one citizen of the Free Republic reflects, "and go jogging with him when he gets a replacement prosthetic." Revering Bush has become, for people like this, a defining component of conservative ideology.

Once I interviewed a Freeper who told me he first became a committed conservative after discovering the Federalist Papers. "I absolutely devoured them, recognizing, my God, these things were written hundreds of years ago and they still stand up as some of the most intense political philosophy ever written."

I happen to agree, so I asked him – after he insisted Bush couldn't have been lying when he claimed to have witnessed the first plane hit the World Trade Center live on TV, after he said the orders to torture in Iraq couldn't have possibly come from the top, all because George Bush is too fundamentally decent to lie – what he thinks of the Federalists' most famous message: that the genius of the Constitution they were defending was that you needn't base your faith in the country on the fundamental decency of an individual, because no one can be trusted to be fundamentally decent, which was why the Constitution established a government of laws, not personalities.

"If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary . . . "

Conservatives see something angelic in George Bush. That's why they excuse, repress, and rationalize away so much.

And that is why conservatism is verging on becoming an un-American creed.

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Comment: Linoleum?

What can we say? The lies are thick and fast. They get repeated so often that they get believed. People listen to the news in order to reinforce their prejudices and preconceptions, not to become informed, to collect data, in order to critically assess the world.

There is nothing that we can do about it. These people have the right to remain in their illusions. They are perhaps further along than others, but who is free completely from wishful thinking? We aren't. These people, with their grand illusions about their president, are right at home in a world of lies, hypocrisy, war, bloodshed, violence, hatred, and self-importance. It is those who ask questions, who suggest that the emperor has no clothes, who no longer fit.

Ayoon wa Azan (Defying Iran)

Jihad Al Khazen Al-Hayat 2004/07/31

Since the Israeli intelligence made of Iran the biggest danger on the existence of Israel, the Bush administration made of defying Iran a policy.

On July 22, the report of the 9/11 Commission was published; it talked of a link between Iran and Al Qaeda, but added that there was no evidence about Iran's prior knowledge of the 9/11 terrorism. On the same day, Israeli newspapers published the yearly reports of the Israeli intelligence, in which it was stated that Iran will possess nuclear power in the year 2007 or 2008, a thing which represents a threat on the existence of Israel.

Yedioth Ahronoth, Maa'riv, and Ha'aretz attributed to senior intelligence generals their saying that training on launching a military strike against Iran's nuclear facility is complete; they added that both Likud and Labor Members of Knesset, Ehud Yatom and Ephraim Sneh, demanded the destruction of Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The day was not over yet, when President Bush declared that his administration is studying the information of the 9/11 report, concerning the fact that Iran allowed terrorists, who participated in the hijacking of airplanes and attacking the World Trade Center (WTC) and the Pentagon, to pass through its territories.

The funniest thing that was written about the issue, if anything funny could be written about it, the article of The New York Times' columnist Maureen Dowd. And the clearest and most accurate article written about it, was that of The Washington Post's columnist David Ignatius.

Dowd wrote of a funny interview with former Secretary of State Senate James Baker, by reminding that "Last year, Ali G asked James Baker III, the Bush I Secretary of State, if it was wise for Iraq and Iran to have such similar names. "Isn't there a real danger," the faux rapper wondered, "that someone give a message over the radio to one of them fighter pilots, saying 'Bomb Ira-' and the geezer doesn't heard it properly" and bombs the wrong one? "No danger," Mr. Baker replied."

Dowd added that "the Bush administration had no good intelligence, so it decided to invade the Ira- that was weaker. The war was based on phony W.M.D. analyses and fallacious welcome scenarios drummed up by the neocon Chihuahua Ahmad Chalabi." I would like to note here that the Chihuahua is a small dog; and here, the description is similar to describing Prime Minister Tony Blair as the Poodle of President George W. Bush.

The key word in Dowd's article is "neo-conservatives;" David Ignatius also wrote, two weeks before the report of the commission was issued, about the chances wasted by the administration, in order to settle the problem with Iran, due to these same neo-cons.

The columnist said that "Washington and Tehran have engaged in extensive secret contacts since 9/11 -- premised on their shared goal of destroying al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. But despite many meetings, nothing has come of the contacts -- partly because the Bush administration, not for the first time, was internally divided over the right strategic course. What's poignant about these wary U.S.-Iranian feelers is that just over a year ago, they yielded a plan for an "anti-terrorist" deal that both countries should have loved: Iran would hand over some senior al Qaeda operatives in its custody, and the United States would transfer to Iran some prisoners it was holding from the Iraqi-backed Mujaheddin-e Khalq organization, a group America has officially branded as terrorist."

I wish I had enough space to quote all of his article, as it is filled with information; but I will only add that David Ignatius said: "The State Department is said to have favored such a deal, but the Pentagon balked -- arguing that the Mujaheddin might be useful in fomenting regime change in Tehran. Sadly, this internal dispute between administration pragmatists and ideologues over Iran is similar to the feuds that have obstructed policy on North Korea and Iraq."

All neo-cons are war lovers, racists who hate Arabs and Muslims, and try to impose the Israeli hegemony on them. One of the most repugnant is Michael Ledeen, who, along with Morris Amitay, one of the most prominent Israeli lobbyists in Washington, created the "Coalition for Democracy in Iran." Is it possible for anyone to believe that two Jewish Americans, who are loyal for Israel alone, could wish something good for Iran, whether it is in the form of democracy or anything else?

In an article filled with lies and arrogance no one is capable of other than Ledeen, this extremist stated that during the visit of President Bashar Al Assad to Tehran, Iran and Syria agreed on a similar policy with Hezbollah, in order to fail the American plans to spread democracy in the Middle East; he added that they also agreed on a mutual effort against the Coalition and the Iraqi Interim government, and on a full cooperation in order to prevent the reelection of George Bush, and many more things that Ledeen seems to magically know, as it seems that he attended the meeting of Assad and Khatami, or that the Mossad attended it and reported the details to that extremist Likudnik.

The neo-cons want an American war on Iran, where the best youth of America would be killed for the service of Israel. All of them talk about a claimed upcoming Iranian nuclear power, and do not even talk about the certain nuclear power existing in Israel. Ledeen quoted in his article, a statement that appeared in the London Times, about the idea that, if reelected, the Bush administration will face Iran with more firmness.

Ledeen pointed out to an article that was on front page on July 17, entitled US Plans To Overthrow Iranian Regime, which attributes its information to an unidentified high-ranking American official.

On the second day, the Sunday Times published an article entitled Israel ready for pre-emptive strike against Iran's nuclear facility, written from Tel Aviv, and attributing the information to an unidentified Israeli military source. The week after, the newspaper published an article entitled Next Stop Iran?, and another on July 27 stating that diplomats are claiming that Iran is getting closer to its nuclear ambitions, but once again without stating the names of the sources. Perhaps the Times group published additional news about the Iranian nuclear bomb, which I failed to note.

Is it a matter of telepathy or just common sources that joins all the supporters of Israel? The threat against Iran did not start after publishing the report of the 9/11 commission, as this summer is similar to the summer of 2003, which also contained a campaign against Iran, and Ledeen threw up last year, what he is chewing again this summer; I continue tomorrow.

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Comment: The news is made, if not made up. Here we see how a war against Iran is being prepared. Articles appear in a variety of newspapers; outlandish claims, completely unverified, are broadcast out to the snoozing population. If they are repeated enough, they are believed. Remember the lies about Saddam being connected to 9/11 (see articles above), and the poll that showed that most Americans thought that many of the "hijackers" were Iraqi?

The same tactics are being used in the presidential race. Kerry gets publicity from the Democratic Convention, the Republicans issue "terror" threats in order to divert public attention, as we saw above. This is known as "free speech" in the "liberal" media. The following article offers us another example: Bush supporters drowning out Kerry during a speech in Milwaukee. They think that drowning out your opponent is exercising your "right to free speech". It may well be that Democrats do the same thing when Bush speaks. We don't think that there is much difference between the two sides. It is a reflection of the state of things in the US. There is no real political debate. There is a shadow play, a war for territory between two rival gangs who enjoy the fight, while uniting together as needed to prevent anyone else from moving in on their territory.

'Everything is at stake,' Kerry tells riverfront crowd
Race's intensity visible in exchanges with Bush supporters

Posted: Aug. 2, 2004

[...] The high-stakes intensity of the campaign could also be seen Monday in noisy confrontations between Kerry and Bush supporters and the use of bullhorns and air horns by a small group of Bush supporters to try to disrupt the speeches, prompting Kerry and his wife to respond to what the candidate termed "goons."

While she was introducing her husband, Teresa Heinz Kerry referred to the group's audible call for "Four more years."

Said Heinz Kerry, "They want four more years of hell."

The Kerry crowd followed with chants of "Three more months."

Kerry also responded to the pro-Bush chanters, saying they wanted to "drown people out" with their megaphones.

"We don't want to be drowned out," Kerry said. "I want to thank George Bush for sending the goons here tonight to excite us to do a little more work! Thank you!"

[...) About 30 Bush supporters chanted loudly during the speeches by Kerry and his wife, sometimes setting off air horns. The pro-Bush group was on the Kilbourn Ave. sidewalk overlooking Pere Marquette Park, almost a full block from the stage, but it could be heard throughout the park, including on stage.

Tom Lange, 18, of Waukesha said he was setting off an air horn during Kerry's remarks because "we want them to hear us and not hear what he has to say."

Lange said it's "probably not nice, but it's my beliefs."

Michael Gaspar, 18, of Waukesha used a bullhorn frequently before and during the rally to welcome Kerry supporters "to Bush-Cheney country" and to spur on the Bush supporters.

Asked why he was leading the Bush volunteers in loud chants while Kerry was speaking, he said, "I'm doing this to show my support for President George W. Bush."

"I have the right to speak also," he said. "I'm just attempting to get my voice heard."

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One America

Zuheir Kseibati Al-Hayat 2004/07/2

If John Kerry brought the Americans "hope," should he win the race to the White House, benefiting from his medals in Vietnam War, the Arabs know that they cannot hope of a lesser American bias in favor of Israel. They cannot dream to freeze the eternal "green light" that the George W. Bush administration gave to Ariel Sharon.

They already know that the interests of American corporations, which played the most remarkable role in plans of invading Iraq and intersected with the Pentagon's "vision" and with the visions of those who are determined that the U.S. should lead the world by force, will not go back to the least ethical levels in Washington's handling of Arab issues… They should also know that the reform agenda, which the White House is waving in the face of region's governments, is not only a temporary program for the Republicans' administration alone.

In Palestine, Kerry was not ashamed from publicly vowing loyalty to the superiority of a "safe" Israel; certainly in the Sharonian concept that considers that the Hebrew state's security might be harmed by a newspaper in Moscow, or an operation against the Russians in Chechnya, or an "attack" against French Jews. Away from the boring suggestions in examining the "greatness" and danger of Jewish plans, it is useless to bet on the weakness of the Zionist Jewish lobby in the U.S., where each candidate knows the door that leads him to win the hearts and voices… He also knows that he does not need to win Arab "cards."

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My Beef With Big Media

How government protects big media--and shuts out upstarts like me.

By Ted Turner

In the late 1960s, when Turner Communications was a business of billboards and radio stations and I was spending much of my energy ocean racing, a UHF-TV station came up for sale in Atlanta. It was losing $50,000 a month and its programs were viewed by fewer than 5 percent of the market.

I acquired it.

When I moved to buy a second station in Charlotte--this one worse than the first--my accountant quit in protest, and the company's board vetoed the deal. So I mortgaged my house and bought it myself. The Atlanta purchase turned into the Superstation; the Charlotte purchase--when I sold it 10 years later--gave me the capital to launch CNN.

Both purchases played a role in revolutionizing television. Both required a streak of independence and a taste for risk. And neither could happen today. In the current climate of consolidation, independent broadcasters simply don't survive for long. That's why we haven't seen a new generation of people like me or even Rupert Murdoch--independent television upstarts who challenge the big boys and force the whole industry to compete and change.

It's not that there aren't entrepreneurs eager to make their names and fortunes in broadcasting if given the chance. If nothing else, the 1990s dot-com boom showed that the spirit of entrepreneurship is alive and well in America, with plenty of investors willing to put real money into new media ventures. The difference is that Washington has changed the rules of the game. When I was getting into the television business, lawmakers and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took seriously the commission's mandate to promote diversity, localism, and competition in the media marketplace. They wanted to make sure that the big, established networks--CBS, ABC, NBC--wouldn't forever dominate what the American public could watch on TV. They wanted independent producers to thrive. They wanted more people to be able to own TV stations. They believed in the value of competition.

So when the FCC received a glut of applications for new television stations after World War II, the agency set aside dozens of channels on the new UHF spectrum so independents could get a foothold in television. That helped me get my start 35 years ago. Congress also passed a law in 1962 requiring that TVs be equipped to receive both UHF and VHF channels. That's how I was able to compete as a UHF station, although it was never easy. (I used to tell potential advertisers that our UHF viewers were smarter than the rest, because you had to be a genius just to figure out how to tune us in.) And in 1972, the FCC ruled that cable TV operators could import distant signals. That's how we were able to beam our Atlanta station to homes throughout the South. Five years later, with the help of an RCA satellite, we were sending our signal across the nation, and the Superstation was born.

That was then.

Today, media companies are more concentrated than at any time over the past 40 years, thanks to a continual loosening of ownership rules by Washington. The media giants now own not only broadcast networks and local stations; they also own the cable companies that pipe in the signals of their competitors and the studios that produce most of the programming. To get a flavor of how consolidated the industry has become, consider this: In 1990, the major broadcast networks--ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox--fully or partially owned just 12.5 percent of the new series they aired. By 2000, it was 56.3 percent. Just two years later, it had surged to 77.5 percent.

In this environment, most independent media firms either get gobbled up by one of the big companies or driven out of business altogether. Yet instead of balancing the rules to give independent broadcasters a fair chance in the market, Washington continues to tilt the playing field to favor the biggest players. Last summer, the FCC passed another round of sweeping pro-consolidation rules that, among other things, further raised the cap on the number of TV stations a company can own.

In the media, as in any industry, big corporations play a vital role, but so do small, emerging ones. When you lose small businesses, you lose big ideas. People who own their own businesses are their own bosses. They are independent thinkers. They know they can't compete by imitating the big guys--they have to innovate, so they're less obsessed with earnings than they are with ideas. They are quicker to seize on new technologies and new product ideas. They steal market share from the big companies, spurring them to adopt new approaches. This process promotes competition, which leads to higher product and service quality, more jobs, and greater wealth. It's called capitalism.

But without the proper rules, healthy capitalist markets turn into sluggish oligopolies, and that is what's happening in media today. Large corporations are more profit-focused and risk-averse. They often kill local programming because it's expensive, and they push national programming because it's cheap--even if their decisions run counter to local interests and community values. Their managers are more averse to innovation because they're afraid of being fired for an idea that fails. They prefer to sit on the sidelines, waiting to buy the businesses of the risk-takers who succeed.

Unless we have a climate that will allow more independent media companies to survive, a dangerously high percentage of what we see--and what we don't see--will be shaped by the profit motives and political interests of large, publicly traded conglomerates. The economy will suffer, and so will the quality of our public life. Let me be clear: As a business proposition, consolidation makes sense. The moguls behind the mergers are acting in their corporate interests and playing by the rules. We just shouldn't have those rules. They make sense for a corporation. But for a society, it's like over-fishing the oceans. [...]

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Muslim chaplain who was cleared in espionage case resigns from U.S. army

06:32 AM EDT Aug 03

SEATTLE (AP) - A Muslim chaplain cleared after being imprisoned for 76 days in an espionage investigation submitted a letter of resignation to the army Monday, saying officials never apologized to him or allowed him to retrieve his belongings from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Capt. James Yee, 35, ministered to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay naval station, where the military is holding suspected Muslim terrorists. He was taken into custody after the military initially linked him to a possible espionage ring at Guantanamo.

"Those unfounded allegations - which were leaked to the media - irreparably injured my personal and professional reputation and destroyed my prospects for a career in the United States army," Yee wrote in his resignation letter.

Yee asked to be discharged on Jan. 7. The army must approve his resignation, but Yee's lawyer, Eugene Fidell, said he did not believe Yee's wishes would be opposed. Fort Lewis spokesman Lt.-Col. Bill Costello said he did not know when Yee might get an answer.

The army arrested him last September carrying what authorities said were classified documents. He was eventually charged with mishandling classified material, failing to obey an order, making a false official statement, adultery and conduct unbecoming an officer.

In March, army officials dismissed all criminal charges against him, but found him guilty of the non-criminal army charges of adultery and downloading pornography. The reprimand he received was thrown out by an army general a month later.

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Bomb attack halts oil exports through Iraq's northern pipeline 2004-08-03 17:53:45

BAGHDAD, Aug. 3 (Xinhuanet) -- A major bomb attack happened Tuesday on the main northern pipeline from the oil fields of Kirkuk to the Turkish port of Ceyhan stopped oil exports in northern Iraq, Qatar-based al-Jazeera TV reported. [...]

Iraq's oil pipelines have been frequently attacked and sabotagedby insurgents, which badly limited the country's oil exports and undermined the interim Iraqi government's reconstruction effort.

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U.S. Oil Strikes New Record Above $44

By Tanya Pang
August 3, 2004

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - U.S. oil prices hit new record levels above $44 a barrel on Tuesday as the head of the OPEC producers' cartel said there was little the group could do to cool the red-hot market for the time being.

U.S. light crude rose 42 cents to $44.24 a barrel, marking the highest level since crude futures were launched on the New York Mercantile Exchange in 1983.

London's Brent crude climbed 43 cents to $40.40 a barrel.

OPEC President Purnomo Yusgiantoro said on Tuesday the producers' cartel had no extra oil to immediately supply the world market to bring down prices.

"The oil price is very high, it's crazy. There is no additional supply," Purnomo told reporters in Jakarta.

"Minister Naimi has said Saudi Arabia can increase production but they cannot do it immediately," he said, referring to Ali al-Naimi, oil minister for the biggest exporter Saudi Arabia.

A Gulf industry source said late in July that Saudi Arabia may boost production to 9.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in August. That output level would be just one million bpd below the country's full capacity.

Purnomo's comments echoed those on Monday of Algerian Oil Minister Chakib Khelil, who said the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries had done all it could to stop this year's oil price rally.

"OPEC can do nothing," Khelil told reporters in Algiers. [...]

Comment: Got a bicycle with a comfy seat?

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Plutonium from 1954 nuclear tests builds in Japan

Associated Press

Tokyo — Radioactive plutonium particles from U.S. nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific 50 years ago have been detected for the first time in Japanese waters, researchers said Monday.

The particles were found in soil samples from Sagami Bay, about 50 kilometres southwest of Tokyo, researchers at the National Institute of Radiological Science said.

The plutonium particles matched the fallout from the blasts at the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, but they pose no environmental risk, research team leader Masatoshi Yamada said.

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The Oligarchs, or How the Virgin Became a Whore

by Uri Avnery
August 3, 2004

This is a TV series about Russia . But it could have been about Israel . Or about the United States . It is entitled "The Oligarchs" and is now being screened on Israeli television.

Some of its episodes are simply unbelievable – or would have been, if they had not come straight from the horses’ mouths: the heroes of the story, who gleefully boast about their despicable exploits. The series was produced by Israeli immigrants from Russia.

The "oligarchs" are a tiny group of entrepreneurs who exploited the disintegration of the Soviet system to loot the treasures of the state and to amass plunder amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars. In order to safeguard the perpetuation of their business, they took control of the state. Six out of the seven are Jews.

In popular parlance, they are called "oligarchs" – from the Greek word meaning "rule of the few."

In the first years of post-Soviet Russian capitalism, they were the bold and nimble ones who knew how to exploit the economic anarchy in order to acquire enormous possessions for a hundredth or a thousandth of their value: oil, natural gas, nickel and other minerals. They used every possible trick, including cheating, bribery and murder. Every one of them had a small private army. In the course of the series, they are proud to tell in great detail how they did it.

But the most intriguing part of the series recounts the way they took control of the political apparatus. After a period of fighting each other, they decided that it would be more profitable for them to cooperate in order to take over the state.

At the time, President Boris Yeltsin was in a steep decline. On the eve of the new elections for the presidency, his rating in public opinion polls stood at 4%. He was an alcoholic with a severe heart disease, working about two hours a day. The state was, in practice, ruled by his bodyguard and his daughter; corruption was the order of the day.

The oligarchs decided to take power through him. They had almost unlimited funds, control of all TV channels and most of the other media. They put all these at the disposal of Yeltsin’s reelection campaign, denying his opponents even one minute of TV time and pouring huge sums of money into the effort. (The series omits an interesting detail: they secretly brought over the most outstanding American election experts and copywriters, who applied methods previously unknown in Russia .)

The campaign bore fruit: Yeltsin was indeed reelected. On the very same day, he had another heart attack and spent the rest of his term in the hospital. In practice, the oligarchs ruled Russia . One of them, Boris Berezovsky, appointed himself Prime Minister. There was a minor scandal when it became known that he (like most of the oligarchs) had acquired Israeli citizenship, but he gave up his Israeli passport and everything was in order again.

By the way, Berezovsky boasts that he caused the war in Chechnya , in which tens of thousands have been killed and a whole country devastated. He was interested in the mineral resources and a prospective pipeline there. In order to achieve this, he put an end to the peace agreement that gave the country some kind of independence. The oligarchs dismissed and destroyed Alexander Lebed, the popular general who engineered the agreement, and the war has been going on since then.

In the end, there was a reaction: Vladimir Putin, the taciturn and tough ex-KGB operative, assumed power, took control of the media, put one of the oligarchs (Mikhail Khodorkovsky) in prison, caused the others to flee (Berezovsky is in England, Vladimir Gusinsky is in Israel, another, Mikhail Chernoy, is assumed to be hiding here).

Since all the exploits of the oligarchs occurred in public, there is a danger that the affair might cause an increase in anti-Semitism in Russia. Indeed, the anti-Semites argue that these doings confirm the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," a document fabricated by the Russian secret police a century ago, purporting to reveal a Jewish conspiracy to control the world.

Moving from Russia to America – the same thing happened, of course, in the US , but more than a hundred years ago. At the time, the great "robber barons," Morgan, Rockefeller at al., all of them good Christians, used very similar methods to acquire capital and power on a massive scale. Today, it works in far more refined ways.

In the present election campaign, the candidates collect hundreds of millions of dollars. George W. Bush and John Kerry both brag about their talent for raising enormous sums of money. From whom? From pensioners? From the mythical "old lady in tennis shoes"? Of course not, but from the cabals of billionaires, the giant corporations and powerful lobbies (arms dealers, Jewish organizations, doctors, lawyers and such). Many of them give money to both candidates – just to be on the safe side.

All of these expect, of course, to receive a generous bonus when their candidate is elected. "There is no such thing as a free lunch," as the right-wing economist Milton Friedman wrote. As in Russia, every dollar (or ruble) invested wisely in an election will yield a ten- or hundred-fold return.

The problem is rooted in the fact that presidential candidates (and all other candidates for political office) need ever increasing amounts of money. Elections are mainly fought out on TV and cost huge sums. It is not a coincidence that all the present candidates in the US are multi-millionaires. The Bush family has amassed a fortune from the oil business (helped by its political connections, of course). Kerry is married to one of the richest women in America, who was once the wife of the ketchup king, Henry John Heinz. Dick Cheney was the chief of a huge corporation that has garnered contracts worth billions in Iraq. John Edwards, candidate for Vice President, has made a fortune as a trial lawyer.

From time to time there is talk in America about reforming election finances, but nothing worthwhile ever comes of it. None of the oligarchs has any interest in changing a system that enables them to buy the government of the United States.

In Israel, too, talk about "Money and Power" is now in vogue. Ariel Sharon and one of his two sons have been suspected of accepting bribes from a real estate magnate. An indictment was blocked by the new Attorney General, who happened to be appointed by the Sharon government at the height of the affair. Another investigation into Sharon and his sons is still pending. It concerns millions of dollars that reached his election coffers by roundabout routes, crossing three continents.

Shimon Peres’ connections with multi-millionaires are well-known, as are the huge sums poured out by American Jewish multi-millionaires for extreme right-wing causes in Israel . One of the Russian oligarchs is the part-owner of the second biggest Israeli newspaper.

A political scandal concerning the Israeli Minister for Infrastructure has mushroomed into an affair involving giant multi-national corporations competing for contracts for supplying natural gas to the Israeli Electricity Company, an affair of billions in which underworld figures, politicians and private investigators play their parts. This disclosure has made it clear to Israelis that here, too, politicians of the highest rank have long ago been acting as mercenaries for powerful financial interests.

These facts must alarm everybody who cares about democracy – in Israel, Russia, the United States and elsewhere. Oligarchy and democracy are incompatible. As a Russian commentator in the TV series said about the new Russian democracy: "They have turned a virgin into a whore."

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Palestinians Track, Kill Convicted Collaborators

Washington Post
Tuesday, August 3, 2004; Page A14

GAZA CITY -- In dramatic daytime raids at Gaza City's largest hospital, Palestinian vigilantes on Monday killed two men convicted of collaborating with Israeli intelligence. The two were shot at close range hours after they were admitted for wounds suffered when a grenade exploded in their jail cell.

The two had confessed during their trials to helping Israeli forces kill two top Islamic militants.

The chain of events began just after sunrise in the central prison at Palestinian security headquarters. Two grenades exploded in a cell where convicted collaborators were being held, wounding seven. They were taken to Shifa Hospital, the city's main medical facility, where one died of his wounds.

Around noon, during a funeral for militants who had been killed in an overnight clash with Israeli forces, five masked gunmen left and raced into the hospital.

The five went straight to the room where Mahmoud Sharef, 52, was being treated for wounds from the grenade attack. They shot him twice in the head and killed him, and then fled the building. Police detained one militant for questioning.

Five hours later, it happened again.

At least 20 armed militants raced to the hospital in four vehicles, witnesses said. Most of the gunmen deployed on the street, closing it off, while five ran into the hospital.

Their destination was the intensive care unit, where Walid Hamdiyeh, 42, was being treated. They killed him with three shots to the head and chest and escaped.

In a statement, the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, asserted responsibility for the grenade attack and Hamdiyeh's killing.

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NYSE's Thain Proposes Plan to Automate More Trading

August 2, 2004 13:59 EDT

(Bloomberg) -- New York Stock Exchange Chief Executive John Thain proposed that the exchange allow for more electronic trading, potentially taking business away from the 1,366 traders on the exchange floor.

The extension of the NYSE's "Direct Plus" program will allow investors to buy and sell thousands of shares of stock directly over computers, bypassing the market makers that have been at the heart of the exchange since 1792. Investors currently can trade just 1,099 shares directly. Thain presented the plan in a filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which must approve it.

"If we don't respond to our customer base, they will pull their volume off the exchange," Thain said at a press conference.

The plan will allow trades to be automatically executed if they fall within 9 cents of the bid price. Thain said he expects the plan to become a reality within a year.

Thain is trying to ensure that the NYSE continues to benefit directly from trading in its listed companies' shares. At present, the NYSE handles 80 percent of the trades that involve its companies. The SEC is considering new regulations that would let competing markets fill orders involving NYSE companies even if they don't offer the best price.

Many large investors, such as Fidelity Investments Inc. and other mutual fund companies, have demanded that the NYSE offer more automated trading. They say they want to be on par with floor traders who may get better information by being physically present. Market makers, known as specialists, referee trading and buy and sell for their own account.

Preserving Auctions

Since being named NYSE chief executive in December, Thain has spoken about the need to allow more trading to be done electronically, without intermediaries, while preserving the auction system.

"Thain is extremely committed to this hybrid market," said Mary McDermott-Holland, senior vice president of Mellon Bank Corp.'s Franklin Portfolio Associates, which manages about $25 billion. "He's committed to change. Even the people on the floor realize they're going to have to automate more."

Comment: In other words, more people will soon find themselves jobless in a country determined to stay on the warpath...

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Meteorite seen over southern North Island

03 August 2004

A meteorite which streaked across the lower North Island sky in the early hours of this morning is believed to have gone into the sea off the east coast in the southern Wairarapa area.

The police central communications centre said the meteorite had been seen by pilots from several aircraft.

It had been described as quite bright, white and green, breaking up as it crossed the lower North Island, a spokesman said.

Police had received five reports from people who had seen the meteorite from Hawke's Bay to the upper South Island.

National Radio reported pilots had narrowed the landing point of the meteorite to the sea northeast of Cape Palliser in southern Wairarapa.

Sergeant Paul Lee of Masterton police said he had seen a bright orange line in the sky, brighter in the front and fading away towards the back.

"It was a flash in the sky, a definite line."

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Fireballs may be from Perseid meteor shower


Fireballs reportedly seen in New Zealand skies early today are thought to possibly be from the Perseid meteor shower. [...]

There was also a report of a meteorite in Waitakere City around 6.35am.

Alan Barlow, a 32-year-old IT worker from Auckland, said he was driving east on Hobsonville Rd when he saw a bright object about the size of a softball cross the sky in front of him.

"It was probably a thousand feet high, and had a tail about 20-feet long that was a bright luminous green."

Mr Barlow said the meteorite was visible for 5-8 seconds, and he presumed it had landed in the Hobsonville air force base.

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By J. Brock (SARTMA – TdC)

Further to reports published earlier on Tristan Times Online, a swarm of earthquakes struck Tristan da Cunha on the nights of 28 and 29 July 2004. According to Mr. Rod Stewart, of the Preparatory Commission for the CTBTO Vienna International Centre, the main swarm lasted about eight hours and was located 30km below the 1961 volcano. After the main swarm, there were a few individual earthquakes. Seismic activity tapered off since then, however, there has been no report received for 01 August 2004.

According to James Glass from Tristan Times the appropriate authorities in the UK have been informed, although no one is thought to be in any danger from this most recent seismic incident.

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New York subway sells station names

Andrew Clark in New York
Wednesday July 28, 2004
The Guardian

New York's subway trains could soon stop at Coca-Cola Times Square or Goldman Sachs Wall Street under controversial plans by the city's transport authority to sell the names of stations to the highest corporate bidder.

In an effort to tackle a projected budget deficit of $540m (£293m) next year, the city's metropolitan transportation authority has placed advertisements seeking sponsors for trains, stops and lines.

[...] Critics described the subway proposal as a sponsorship deal too far. Gary Ruskin, director of the pressure group Commercial Alert, told the Guardian that stations ought to be named after Martin Luther King or Thomas Jefferson, rather than "Martha Stewart and Philip Morris".

"The names of our places represent our values and aspirations," Mr Ruskin said. "How are we going to explain to our children that we've named Church Street after Citigroup?"

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US ship fined for dumping human waste in Philippines waters

Tuesday August 3, 4:00 PM

A US naval ship taking part in joint exercises in the Philippines is being fined 10,000 US dollars for dumping human waste into Subic Bay north of Manila.

The United States embassy, however, denied any American ship had dumped human waste and said there appeared to be a "misunderstanding."

Philippines officials said USS Russel was caught discharging waste while anchored off Subic's Alava Pier last week, but its personnel allegedly accosted local officials photographing the incident.

American sailors also confiscated a diskette from the digital camera used by Filipino officials without explanation, said Ametha de la Llana, who heads Subic's ecology department.

"I penalized them 10,000 dollars for discharging human waste into Subic Bay waters. I am still waiting for them to submit a written explanation or reaction from the notice of violation I sent them," de la Llana told AFP.

"So far they are ignoring it," she said, adding that her office might refer the case to its legal department.

"There could be an international dimension to this case if they fail to heed the notice," she said. "They should remember this is no longer an American base. There is a Filipino authority here that supervises the port."

Subic, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Manila, was an American naval base until it was shut down in 1992. It has been transformed into a freeport and tourist attraction, but US naval ships routinely visit the area for joint exercises with local counterparts.

American embassy spokeswoman Ruth Urry said that during a routine transfer of sewage from the ship to a waste disposal truck last week, a leak was noticed and the pumping stopped.

A clean-up was carried out with the help of Subic authorities and "all procedures were followed during the transfer of sewage from the ship to the tanker."

Urry said US Navy personnel were coordinating with Subic officials as well as the Filipino operator of the sewage truck to clarify the issue.

She said Subic officials had voluntarily given the photo diskettes to US navy personnel after realizing they had taken pictures of sensitive weapons systems.

Comment: The US has been figuratively discharging waste on the rest of the world for quite some time, so why not literally?

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Beijing to spend millions on new toilets 2004-08-03 08:58:24

BEIJING, Aug. 3 (Xinhuanet) -- In the back streets of the Chinese capital, a new cultural revolution is gathering momentum.

A multi-million dollar renovation of the city's public toilets is under way, reported Tuesday's China Daily.

The municipal government announced on Sunday that it would plunge more than 100 million yuan (US$12.1 million) a year into freshening up its loos in time for the city's hosting of the 2008 Olympic Games.

[...] The focus of the toilet revolution is the traditional Chinese lanes, or hutongs, where public toilets are often criticized as having no privacy and being basic holes in the ground.

Ma said the new or rebuilt loos should meet standards that require them to have toilet paper, soap, hand dryers and disabled access.

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