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If you can't stand the heat of Objective Reality, get out of the kitchen!
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
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Louron - August 2004
"Truth Out" Quote of the Day:
A Few days ago, Dick Cheney, in response to Kerry's call for a "more sensitive" war on terror, the vitriol dripping from grimacing maw, stated:
"The men who beheaded Daniel Pearl and Paul Johnson will not be impressed by our sensitivity."
Strangely enough, given that it is very likely that Israeli intelligence carried out the above "beheadings", we have to agree with Cheney. If there is any sign that Kerry really intends to ease back in response to the phony "war on terror", "the people who beheaded Daniel Pearl and Paul Johnson" will certainly not be impressed, and might even decide to engineer a Lewinsky-type scandal to ensure he does not win. You have been warned Johnny boy.
For almost a century, events in the Middle East have played out around control of the oil deposits that underlie the region. All modern economies depend on oil, and these deposits comprise the overwhelming majority of the world's proven reserves.
It is a struggle that's involved Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the United States as imperial powers, as well as a shifting host of local players. The current war in Iraq is just another chapter in a story that will go on until the oil is used up or a more economical substitute is found.
What makes this region's oil so valuable is not just the sheer quantity but also the ease of extraction and delivery. Close to the surface and easy to pump, it's just a short pipeline trip to the sea and off, via tanker, to foreign users. With proven reserves of more than 115 million barrels - and perhaps that many yet to be found - Iraq is, as Gerald Butt, Gulf editor of the Middle East Econom-ic Survey, calls it, "the big prize."
"There is nothing else like it anywhere else in the world," he adds.
Understanding the current situation in Iraq requires some knowledge of how the struggle to control their oil has played out in the past. A good place to start is with a new book by the Research Unit for Political Economy ("Behind the Invasion of Iraq," Monthly Review Press, 2003). This book pays particular attention to the fact that "control" doesn't derive only from extraction and removal - it also can simply mean keeping the oil in place for future use.
Enter the Ba'aths
The Ba'ath Socialist Party first came to power in 1963, in response to just such issues. The Iraq Petroleum Company, comprised of U.S. and British oil interests, was working other active fields and evinced little interest in fully exploiting Iraq's reserves or in creating refinery capacity there. Dependent on oil revenue for any hope of development, Iraq could not sit idly by while wealth poured into Iran, Saudi Arab-ia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
In 1972, Iraq nationalized its oil fields and turned to France and Russia for financing and assistance in developing its oil industry. The Ba'ath Socialist Party, now effectively led by Sad-dam Hussein, poured money into development projects - roads, irrigation, electric power and education, and the economy took off dramatically. This stood in sharp contrast to what was happening in the princely states to the south and west, where oil revenue was used almost exclusively for current consumption and ex-cess funds went into U.S. Treasury notes (giving Wash-ington a double benefit). As Iraq's economy grew and di-versified, the country be-came perhaps the freest and most literate society in the region, especially for women.
Company Country Reserves*
Elf Acquitane** France 9-20
Lukoil, Russia 7.5-15
Italy Less than 2
Corporate despair about "losing" Iraq's and then Iran's (after the fall of the Shah) oil, turned to glee when these countries went to war in 1980. The Reagan administration "tilted" toward Iraq, first secretly, but finally by re-establishing diplomatic relations in 1984 - sending none other than a smiling Donald Rumsfeld to seal the deal with a smiling Saddam Hussein. After that, the United States became a supplier of arms as well as materials for chemical and biological warfare. In 1986, the United States used its veto power in the Security Council against a resolution condemning Iraq for the use of mustard gas against Iranian troops.
After this debilitating war, Iraq sought American and regional economic assistance - fully expecting it, since they had "held back" Iran's Shiite revolutionaries. Instead, Iraq was rebuffed by all parties, the princely states began increasing their production (driving down the price of oil) and Kuwait began "slant-drilling" into Iraq's nearby Rumaila oil field.
When Iraq massed troops on the Kuwait border and explained the provocations to U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie, she told them that the United States had "no opinion" on Arab vs. Arab conflicts. Saddam Hus-sein made the fatal mistake of misreading this as U.S. indifference to him sending his troops across the border.
Those who have difficulty understanding France and Russia on these matters should look closely at the chart above. ]That Tony Blair so anxiously joined our crusade can be explained by a pre-war observation by Lord Browne, the head of BP (formerly British Petroleum): "British oil companies have been squeezed out of postwar Iraq even before the first shot has been fired in any U.S.-led land invasion." Blair knew the real danger of being left out of the "coalition of the willing."
When put in historical context, the message in our invasion and occupation of Iraq is clear. It was never about Saddam Hussein, whose perfidy was tolerated and often subsidized for decades, nor was it about weapons of mass destruction, or support of terrorists (since the planning for this invasion began before George W. Bush's 2001 inaugural). (Johnno: In fact Rumsfeld was trying to tie in Iraq to 9/11 five hours after the first strike)The message this invasion delivers is that the United States intends to expand and consolidate its control of the oil reserves in this region, and it will brook no opposition from anyone - locals or outside powers.
Will U.S. oil interests re-store Iraq's production to anything approaching the
3 million barrels per day of the 1970s? Or will the United States continue to treat Iraq's oil as a reserve? What portion of any restored production will accrue to the people of Iraq? The answers will tell us exactly what this war was about.
Jim Walters is a groundskeeper at the University of Iowa. He is a member of the Writers Group, a corps of local residents who write regular opinions for the Press-Citizen.
Flashback: White man's burden
The war in Iraq was conceived by 25 neoconservative intellectuals, most of them Jewish, who are pushing President Bush to change the course of history. Two of them, journalists William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer, say it's possible. But another journalist, Thomas Friedman (not part of the group), is skeptical
1. The doctrine
WASHINGTON - At the conclusion of its second week, the war to liberate Iraq wasn't looking good. Not even in Washington. The assumption of a swift collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime had itself collapsed. The presupposition that the Iraqi dictatorship would crumble as soon as mighty America entered the country proved unfounded. The Shi'ites didn't rise up, the Sunnis fought fiercely. Iraqi guerrilla warfare found the American generals unprepared and endangered their overextended supply lines. Nevertheless, 70 percent of the American people continued to support the war; 60 percent thought victory was certain; 74 percent expressed confidence in President George W. Bush.
Washington is a small city. It's a place of human dimensions. A kind of small town that happens to run an empire. A small town of government officials and members of Congress and personnel of research institutes and journalists who pretty well all know one another. Everyone is busy intriguing against everyone else; and everyone gossips about everyone else.
In the course of the past year, a new belief has emerged in the town: the belief in war against Iraq. That ardent faith was disseminated by a small group of 25 or 30 neoconservatives, almost all of them Jewish, almost all of them intellectuals (a partial list: Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, William Kristol, Eliot Abrams, Charles Krauthammer), people who are mutual friends and cultivate one another and are convinced that political ideas are a major driving force of history. They believe that the right political idea entails a fusion of morality and force, human rights and grit. The philosophical underpinnings of the Washington neoconservatives are the writings of Machiavelli, Hobbes and Edmund Burke. They also admire Winston Churchill and the policy pursued by Ronald Reagan. They tend to read reality in terms of the failure of the 1930s (Munich) versus the success of the 1980s (the fall of the Berlin Wall).
Are they wrong? Have they committed an act of folly in leading Washington to Baghdad? They don't think so. They continue to cling to their belief. They are still pretending that everything is more or less fine. That things will work out. Occasionally, though, they seem to break out in a cold sweat. This is no longer an academic exercise, one of them says, we are responsible for what is happening. The ideas we put forward are now affecting the lives of millions of people. So there are moments when you're scared. You say, Hell, we came to help, but maybe we made a mistake.
2. William Kristol
Has America bitten off more than it can chew? Bill Kristol says no. True, the press is very negative, but when you examine the facts in the field you see that there is no terrorism, no mass destruction, no attacks on Israel. The oil fields in the south have been saved, air control has been achieved, American forces are deployed 50 miles from Baghdad. So, even if mistakes were made here and there, they are not serious. America is big enough to handle that. Kristol hasn't the slightest doubt that in the end, General Tommy Franks will achieve his goals. The 4th Cavalry Division will soon enter the fray, and another division is on its way from Texas. So it's possible that instead of an elegant war with 60 killed in two weeks it will be a less elegant affair with a thousand killed in two months, but nevertheless Bill Kristol has no doubt at all that the Iraq Liberation War is a just war, an obligatory war.
Kristol is pleasant-looking, of average height, in his late forties. In the past 18 months he has used his position as editor of the right-wing Weekly Standard and his status as one of the leaders of the neoconservative circle in Washington to induce the White House to do battle against Saddam Hussein. Because Kristol is believed to exercise considerable influence on the president, Vice President Richard Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, he is also perceived as having been instrumental in getting Washington to launch this all-out campaign against Baghdad. Sitting behind the stacks of books that cover his desk at the offices of the Weekly Standard in Northwest Washington, he tries to convince me that he is not worried. It is simply inconceivable to him that America will not win. In that event, the consequences would be catastrophic. No one wants to think seriously about that possibility.
What is the war about? I ask. Kristol replies that at one level it is the war that George Bush is talking about: a war against a brutal regime that has in its possession weapons of mass destruction. But at a deeper level it is a greater war, for the shaping of a new Middle East. It is a war that is intended to change the political culture of the entire region. Because what happened on September 11, 2001, Kristol says, is that the Americans looked around and saw that the world is not what they thought it was. The world is a dangerous place. Therefore the Americans looked for a doctrine that would enable them to cope with this dangerous world. And the only doctrine they found was the neoconservative one.
That doctrine maintains that the problem with the Middle East is the absence of democracy and of freedom. It follows that the only way to block people like Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden is to disseminate democracy and freedom. To change radically the cultural and political dynamics that creates such people. And the way to fight the chaos is to create a new world order that will be based on freedom and human rights - and to be ready to use force in order to consolidate this new world. So that, really, is what the war is about. It is being fought to consolidate a new world order, to create a new Middle East.
Does that mean that the war in Iraq is effectively a neoconservative war? That's what people are saying, Kristol replies, laughing. But the truth is that it's an American war. The neoconservatives succeeded because they touched the bedrock of America. The thing is that America has a profound sense of mission. America has a need to offer something that transcends a life of comfort, that goes beyond material success. Therefore, because of their ideals, the Americans accepted what the neoconservatives proposed. They didn't want to fight a war over interests, but over values. They wanted a war driven by a moral vision. They wanted to hitch their wagon to something bigger than themselves.
Does this moral vision mean that after Iraq will come the turns of Saudi Arabia and Egypt?
Kristol says that he is at odds with the administration on the question of Saudi Arabia. But his opinion is that it is impossible to let Saudi Arabia just continue what it is doing. It is impossible to accept the anti-Americanism it is disseminating. The fanatic Wahhabism that Saudi Arabia engenders is undermining the stability of the entire region. It's the same with Egypt, he says: we mustn't accept the status quo there. For Egypt, too, the horizon has to be liberal democracy.
It has to be understood that in the final analysis, the stability that the corrupt Arab despots are offering is illusory. Just as the stability that Yitzhak Rabin received from Yasser Arafat was illusory. In the end, none of these decadent dictatorships will endure. The choice is between extremist Islam, secular fascism or democracy. And because of September 11, America understands that. America is in a position where it has no choice. It is obliged to be far more aggressive in promoting democracy. Hence this war. It's based on the new American understanding that if the United States does not shape the world in its image, the world will shape the United States in its own image.
3. Charles Krauthammer
Is this going to turn into a second Vietnam? Charles Krauthammer says no. There is no similarity to Vietnam. Unlike in the 1960s, there is no anti-establishment subculture in the United States now. Unlike in the 1960s, there is now an abiding love of the army in the United States. Unlike in the 1960s, there is a determined president, one with character, in the White House. And unlike in the 1960s, Americans are not deterred from making sacrifices. That is the sea-change that took place here on September 11, 2001. Since that morning, Americans have understood that if they don't act now and if weapons of mass destruction reach extremist terrorist organizations, millions of Americans will die. Therefore, because they understand that those others want to kill them by the millions, the Americans prefer to take to the field of battle and fight, rather than sit idly by and die at home.
Charles Krauthammer is handsome, swarthy and articulate. In his spacious office on 19th Street in Northwest Washington, he sits upright in a black wheelchair. Although his writing tends to be gloomy, his mood now is elevated. The well-known columnist (Washington Post, Time, Weekly Standard) has no real doubts about the outcome of the war that he promoted for 18 months. No, he does not accept the view that he helped lead America into the new killing fields between the Tigris and the Euphrates. But it is true that he is part of a conceptual stream that had something to offer in the aftermath of September 11. Within a few weeks after the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, he had singled out Baghdad in his columns as an essential target. And now, too, he is convinced that America has the strength to pull it off. The thought that America will not win has never even crossed his mind.
What is the war about? It's about three different issues. First of all, this is a war for disarming Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. That's the basis, the self-evident cause, and it is also sufficient cause in itself. But beyond that, the war in Iraq is being fought to replace the demonic deal America cut with the Arab world decades ago. That deal said: you will send us oil and we will not intervene in your internal affairs. Send us oil and we will not demand from you what we are demanding of Chile, the Philippines, Korea and South Africa.
That deal effectively expired on September 11, 2001, Krauthammer says. Since that day, the Americans have understood that if they allow the Arab world to proceed in its evil ways - suppression, economic ruin, sowing despair - it will continue to produce more and more bin Ladens. America thus reached the conclusion that it has no choice: it has to take on itself the project of rebuilding the Arab world. Therefore, the Iraq war is really the beginning of a gigantic historical experiment whose purpose is to do in the Arab world what was done in Germany and Japan after World War II.
It's an ambitious experiment, Krauthammer admits, maybe even utopian, but not unrealistic. After all, it is inconceivable to accept the racist assumption that the Arabs are different from all other human beings, that the Arabs are incapable of conducting a democratic way of life.
However, according to the Jewish-American columnist, the present war has a further importance. If Iraq does become pro-Western and if it becomes the focus of American influence, that will be of immense geopolitical importance. An American presence in Iraq will project power across the region. It will suffuse the rebels in Iran with courage and strength, and it will deter and restrain Syria. It will accelerate the processes of change that the Middle East must undergo.
Isn't the idea of preemptive war a dangerous one that rattles the world order?
There is no choice, Krauthammer replies. In the 21st century we face a new and singular challenge: the democratization of mass destruction. There are three possible strategies in the face of that challenge: appeasement, deterrence and preemption. Because appeasement and deterrence will not work, preemption is the only strategy left. The United States must implement an aggressive policy of preemption. Which is exactly what it is now doing in Iraq. That is what Tommy Franks' soldiers are doing as we speak.
And what if the experiment fails? What if America is defeated?
This war will enhance the place of America in the world for the coming generation, Krauthammer says. Its outcome will shape the world for the next 25 years. There are three possibilities. If the United States wins quickly and without a bloodbath, it will be a colossus that will dictate the world order. If the victory is slow and contaminated, it will be impossible to go on to other Arab states after Iraq. It will stop there. But if America is beaten, the consequences will be catastrophic. Its deterrent capability will be weakened, its friends will abandon it and it will become insular. Extreme instability will be engendered in the Middle East.
You don't really want to think about what will happen, Krauthammer says looking me straight in the eye. But just because that's so, I am positive we will not lose. Because the administration understands the implications. The president understands that everything is riding on this. So he will throw everything we've got into this. He will do everything that has to be done. George W. Bush will not let America lose.
4. Thomas Friedman
Is this an American Lebanon War? Tom Friedman says he is afraid it is. He was there, in the Commodore Hotel in Beirut, in the summer of 1982, and he remembers it well. So he sees the lines of resemblance clearly. General Ahmed Chalabi (the Shi'ite leader that the neoconservatives want to install as the leader of a free Iraq) in the role of Bashir Jemayel. The Iraqi opposition in the role of the Phalange. Richard Perle and the conservative circle around him as Ariel Sharon. And a war that is at bottom a war of choice. A war that wants to utilize massive force in order to establish a new order.
Tom Friedman, The New York Times columnist, did not oppose the war. On the contrary. He too was severely shaken by September 11, he too wants to understand where these desperate fanatics are coming from who hate America more than they love their own lives. And he too reached the conclusion that the status quo in the Middle East is no longer acceptable. The status quo is terminal. And therefore it is urgent to foment a reform in the Arab world.
Some things are true even if George Bush believes them, Friedman says with a smile. And after September 11, it's impossible to tell Bush to drop it, ignore it. There was a certain basic justice in the overall American feeling that told the Arab world: we left you alone for a long time, you played with matches and in the end we were burned. So we're not going to leave you alone any longer.
He is sitting in a large rectangular room in the offices of The New York Times in northwest Washington, on the corner of 17th Street. One wall of the room is a huge map of the world. Hunched over his computer, he reads me witty lines from the article that will be going to press in two hours. He polishes, sharpens, plays word games. He ponders what's right to say now, what should be left for a later date. Turning to me, he says that democracies look soft until they're threatened. When threatened, they become very hard. Actually, the Iraq war is a kind of Jenin on a huge scale. Because in Jenin, too, what happened was that the Israelis told the Palestinians, We left you here alone and you played with matches until suddenly you blew up a Passover seder in Netanya. And therefore we are not going to leave you alone any longer. We will go from house to house in the Casbah. And from America's point of view, Saddam's Iraq is Jenin. This war is a defensive shield. It follows that the danger is the same: that like Israel, America will make the mistake of using only force.
When I think about what is going to happen, I break into a sweat, Friedman says. I see us being forced to impose a siege on Baghdad. And I know what kind of insanity a siege on Baghdad can unleash. The thought of house-to-house combat in Baghdad without international legitimacy makes me lose my appetite. I see American embassies burning. I see windows of American businesses shattered. I see how the Iraqi resistance to America connects to the general Arab resistance to America and the worldwide resistance to America. The thought of what could happen is eating me up.
What George Bush did, Friedman says, is to show us a splendid mahogany table: the new democratic Iraq. But when you turn the table over, you see that it has only one leg. This war is resting on one leg. But on the other hand, anyone who thinks he can defeat George Bush had better think again. Bush will never give in. That's not what he's made of. Believe me, you don't want to be next to this guy when he thinks he's being backed into a corner. I don't suggest that anyone who holds his life dear mess with Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and President Bush.
Is the Iraq war the great neoconservative war? It's the war the neoconservatives wanted, Friedman says. It's the war the neoconservatives marketed. Those people had an idea to sell when September 11 came, and they sold it. Oh boy, did they sell it. So this is not a war that the masses demanded. This is a war of an elite. Friedman laughs: I could give you the names of 25 people (all of whom are at this moment within a five-block radius of this office) who, if you had exiled them to a desert island a year and a half ago, the Iraq war would not have happened.
Still, it's not all that simple, Friedman retracts. It's not some fantasy the neoconservatives invented. It's not that 25 people hijacked America. You don't take such a great nation into such a great adventure with Bill Kristol and the Weekly Standard and another five or six influential columnists. In the final analysis, what fomented the war is America's over-reaction to September 11. The genuine sense of anxiety that spread in America after September 11. It is not only the neoconservatives who led us to the outskirts of Baghdad. What led us to the outskirts of Baghdad is a very American combination of anxiety and hubris.
Comment: Definition of Hubris: "Excessive pride or arrogance."
The above article, published in April of last year, provides an interesting insight into the minds of the people now involved in directing US foreign policy, or, better said, an insight into the lies they tell the public in order to justify their unbridled megalomania. Nevertheless, hints of the truth may still be discerned even amid the strident Judaic jingoism of the Washington Neocons.
For example, note the following comment from the above article:
"Since that morning (9/11), Americans have understood that if they don't act now and if weapons of mass destruction reach extremist terrorist organizations, millions of Americans will die."
This is true, in a sense. Americans do indeed understand now that their lives are at risk, however the truth is that their lives are at risk from people with a similar outlook to the authors of the above article - and that includes the real terrorists. Most readers will have experienced how a child's imagination, unchecked by rational thought and the control it provides, can be made to tremble in terror at the idea of "the boogey man", believing that he really exists and is under their bed. Most American adults have the mentality of a prepubescent child - as such, selling them a phony terror alert, complete with "scary terrorists out to get them in their beds at night" is as easy as taking candy from a baby - literally.
Have you not noticed how the alleged goals of the terrorists are slowly dovetailing with the actions being taken by various governments around the world - most significantly those of the US and UK? If we are fighting terrorists because they "hate us because of our freedoms", then why are those freedoms being taken away by our governments? Oh yes, we know, "we must give up our freedoms to secure our freedoms". That many Americans actually appear to have no problem with this concept leads us to think that "prepubescent" may have been overstating it.
There is also this:
" [...] democracies look soft until they're threatened. When threatened, they become very hard."
And what if the plan all along was to deliberately "harden" the democracy? Has anyone thought of that? Has anyone looked around and realised that all of the evidence suggests that this is what is actually happening? Apparently not.
"That's not what he's (Bush) made of. Believe me, you don't want to be next to this guy when he thinks he's being backed into a corner. I don't suggest that anyone who holds his life dear mess with Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and President Bush."
There it is, spelled out clearly. The psychological profiles of the men representing the "great American democracy" bear a shocking resemblance to that of a bunch of psychopaths.
"After all, it is inconceivable to accept the racist assumption that the Arabs are different from all other human beings, that the Arabs are incapable of conducting a democratic way of life."
Ever wondered who has been spreading this idea? The very people that are the subject of this article. If the Arabs are eminently capable of determining their own form of governance, then should they not be allowed to do so? By implication, the above remark is suggesting that the "racist assumption" is in fact true, otherwise, why are the Neocons determined to force American style democracy on the Middle East?
It is a classic example of sowing an idea in the minds of the people, in this case a racist and xenophobic one, and then blaming the people for being racists when they believe it. It is a ploy that later allows for the sower of the idea to appear as the benevolent, empathetic peace maker between the two warring peoples. Easy when you know how, and are dealing with little more than children in adult bodies.
And what of this remark?
"Therefore, the Iraq war is really the beginning of a gigantic historical experiment whose purpose is to do in the Arab world what was done in Germany and Japan after World War II."
This is true also, in a sense, and the parallels to WWII are quite appropriate. WWII, with all of its death and destruction, the establishment of an overt global American Empire and the creation the state of Israel, was a "trial run", it laid the groundwork for that which the Neocons and their hidden masters are now implementing in full.
The entire human race is a "gigantic experiment" conducted under the direction of a very small group of people, into whose hands absolute power has been gathered. Cycles within cycles. History has been obscured, hiding from us the data that would show us that we have all "been here before", that we are trapped in a "time loop", forced, through deceit, to repeat the lessons over and over again until we grow up and wake up.
So let's talk about empathy...
It is important from time to time to remember that some things are worth getting mad about.
Here's one: On March 10 of this year, on page B8, with a headline that stretched across all six columns, The New York Times reported that tuition in the city's elite private schools would hit $26,000 for the coming school year - for kindergarten as well as high school. On the same page, under a two-column headline, Michael Wineraub wrote about a school in nearby Mount Vernon, the first stop out of the Bronx, with a student body that is 97 percent black. It is the poorest school in the town: nine out of ten children qualify for free lunches; one out of 10 lives in a homeless shelter. During black history month this past February, a sixth grader wanted to write a report on Langston Hughes.
There were no books on Langston Hughes in the library - no books about the great poet, nor any of his poems. There is only one book in the library on Frederick Douglass. None on Rosa Parks, Josephine Baker, Leontyne Price, or other giants like them in the modern era. In fact, except for a few Newberry Award books the librarian bought with her own money, the library is mostly old books - largely from the 1950s and 60s when the school was all white. A 1960 child's primer on work begins with a youngster learning how to be a telegraph delivery boy. All the workers in the book - the dry cleaner, the deliveryman, the cleaning lady - are white. There's a 1967 book about telephones which says: "when you phone you usually dial the number. But on some new phones you can push buttons." The newest encyclopedia dates from l991, with two volumes - "b" and "r" - missing. There is no card catalog in the library - no index cards or computer.
Something to get mad about. Here's something else: Caroline Payne's face and gums are distorted because her Medicaid-financed dentures don't fit. Because they don't fit, she is continuously turned down for jobs on account of her appearance. Caroline Payne is one of the people in David Shipler's new book, The Working Poor: Invisible in America. She was born poor, and in spite of having once owned her own home and having earned a two-year college degree, Caroline Payne has bounced from one poverty-wage job to another all her life, equipped with the will to move up, but not the resources to deal with unexpected and overlapping problems like a mentally handicapped daughter, a broken marriage, a sudden layoff crisis that forced her to sell her few assets, pull up roots and move on. "In the house of the poor," Shipler writes "...the walls are thin and fragile and troubles seep into one another."
Here's something else to get mad about. Two weeks ago, the House of Representatives, the body of Congress owned and operated by the corporate, political, and religious right, approved new tax credits for children. Not for poor children, mind you. But for families earning as much as $309,000 a year--families that already enjoy significant benefits from earlier tax cuts. The editorial page of The Washington Post called this "bad social policy, bad tax policy, and bad fiscal policy. You'd think they'd be embarrassed," said the Post, "but they're not.
And this, too, is something to get mad about. Nothing seems to embarrass the political class in Washington today. Not the fact that more children are growing up in poverty in America than in any other industrial nation; not the fact that millions of workers are actually making less money today in real dollars than they did twenty years ago; not the fact that working people are putting in longer and longer hours and still falling behind; not the fact that while we have the most advanced medical care in the world, nearly 44 million Americans - eight out of ten of them in working families - are uninsured and cannot get the basic care they need.
Astonishing as it seems, no one in official Washington seems embarrassed by the fact that the gap between rich and poor is greater than it's been in 50 years - the worst inequality among all western nations. Or that we are experiencing a shift in poverty. For years it was said those people down there at the bottom were single, jobless mothers. For years they were told work, education, and marriage is how they move up the economic ladder. But poverty is showing up where we didn't expect it - among families that include two parents, a worker, and a head of the household with more than a high school education. These are the newly poor. Our political, financial and business class expects them to climb out of poverty on an escalator moving downward.
Let me tell you about the Stanleys and the Neumanns. During the last decade, I produced a series of documentaries for PBS called "Surviving the Good Times." The title refers to the boom time of the `90s when the country achieved the longest period of economic growth in its entire history. Some good things happened then, but not everyone shared equally in the benefits. To the contrary. The decade began with a sustained period of downsizing by corporations moving jobs out of America and many of those people never recovered what was taken from them. We decided early on to tell the stories of two families in Milwaukee - one black, one white - whose breadwinners were laid off in the first wave of layoffs in 1991. We reported on how they were coping with the wrenching changes in their lives, and we stayed with them over the next ten years as they tried to find a place in the new global economy. They're the kind of Americans my mother would have called "the salt of the earth". They love their kids, care about their communities, go to church every Sunday, and work hard all week - both mothers have had to take full-time jobs.
During our time with them, the fathers in both families became seriously ill. One had to stay in the hospital two months, putting his family $30,000 in debt because they didn't have adequate health insurance. We were there with our camera when the bank started to foreclose on the modest home of the other family because they couldn't meet the mortgage payments after dad lost his good-paying manufacturing job. Like millions of Americans, the Stanleys and the Neumanns were playing by the rules and still getting stiffed. By the end of the decade they were running harder but slipping behind, and the gap between them and prosperous America was widening.
What turns their personal tragedy into a political travesty is that they are patriotic. They love this country. But they no longer believe they matter to the people who run the country. When our film opens, both families are watching the inauguration of Bill Clinton on television in 1992. By the end of the decade they were no longer paying attention to politics. They don't see it connecting to their lives. They don't think their concerns will ever be addressed by the political, corporate, and media elites who make up our dominant class. They are not cynical, because they are deeply religious people with no capacity for cynicism, but they know the system is rigged against them. They know this, and we know this. For years now a small fraction of American households have been garnering an extreme concentration of wealth and income while large corporations and financial institutions have obtained unprecedented levels of economic and political power over daily life. In 1960, the gap in terms of wealth between the top 20% and the bottom 20% was 30 fold. Four decades later it is more than 75 fold. Such concentrations of wealth would be far less of an issue if the rest of society were benefiting proportionately. But that's not the case. As the economist Jeff Madrick reminds us, the pressures of inequality on middle and working class Americans are now quite severe. "The strain on working people and on family life, as spouses have gone to work in dramatic numbers, has become significant. VCRs and television sets are cheap, but higher education, health care, public transportation, drugs, housing and cars have risen faster in price than typical family incomes. And life has grown neither calm nor secure for most Americans, by any means." You can find many sources to support this conclusion. I like the language of a small outfit here in New York called the Commonwealth Foundation/Center for the Renewal of American Democracy. They conclude that working families and the poor "are losing ground under economic pressures that deeply affect household stability, family dynamics, social mobility, political participation, and civic life."
Household economics is not the only area where inequality is growing in America. Equality doesn't mean equal incomes, but a fair and decent society where money is not the sole arbiter of status or comfort. In a fair and just society, the commonwealth will be valued even as individual wealth is encouraged.
Let me make something clear here. I wasn't born yesterday. I'm old enough to know that the tension between haves and have-nots are built into human psychology, it is a constant in human history, and it has been a factor in every society. But I also know America was going to be different. I know that because I read Mr. Jefferson's writings, Mr. Lincoln's speeches and other documents in the growing American creed. I presumptuously disagreed with Thomas Jefferson about human equality being self-evident. Where I lived, neither talent, nor opportunity, nor outcomes were equal. Life is rarely fair and never equal. So what could he possibly have meant by that ringing but ambiguous declaration: "All men are created equal"? Two things, possibly. One, although none of us are good, all of us are sacred (Glenn Tinder), that's the basis for thinking we are by nature kin. Second, he may have come to see the meaning of those words through the experience of the slave who was his mistress. As is now widely acknowledged, the hands that wrote "all men are created equal" also stroked the breasts and caressed the thighs of a black woman named Sally Hennings. She bore him six children whom he never acknowledged as his own, but who were the only slaves freed by his will when he died - the one request we think Sally Hennings made of her master. Thomas Jefferson could not have been insensitive to the flesh-and-blood woman in his arms. He had to know she was his equal in her desire for life, her longing for liberty, her passion for happiness. In his book on the Declaration, my late friend Mortimer Adler said Jefferson realized that whatever things are really good for any human being are really good for all other human beings. The happy or good life is essentially the same for all: a satisfaction of the same needs inherent in human nature. A just society is grounded in that recognition. So Jefferson kept as a slave a woman whose nature he knew was equal to his. All Sally Hennings got from her long sufferance - perhaps it was all she sought from what may have grown into a secret and unacknowledged love - was that he let her children go. "Let my children go" - one of the oldest of all petitions. It has long been the promise of America - a broken promise, to be sure. But the idea took hold that we could fix what was broken so that our children would live a bountiful life. We could prevent the polarization between the very rich and the very poor that poisoned other societies. We could provide that each and every citizen would enjoy the basic necessities of life, a voice in the system of self-government, and a better chance for their children. We could preclude the vast divides that produced the turmoil and tyranny of the very countries from which so many of our families had fled.
We were going to do these things because we understood our dark side - none of us is good - but we also understood the other side - all of us are sacred. From Jefferson forward we have grappled with these two notions in our collective head - that we are worthy of the creator but that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Believing the one and knowing the other, we created a country where the winners didn't take all. Through a system of checks and balances we were going to maintain a safe, if shifting, equilibrium between wealth and commonwealth. We believed equitable access to public resources is the lifeblood of any democracy. So early on [in Jeff Madrick's description,] primary schooling was made free to all. States changed laws to protect debtors, often the relatively poor, against their rich creditors. Charters to establish corporations were open to most, if not all, white comers, rather than held for the elite. The government encouraged Americans to own their own piece of land, and even supported squatters' rights. The court challenged monopoly - all in the name of we the people.
In my time we went to public schools. My brother made it to college on the GI bill. When I bought my first car for $450 I drove to a subsidized university on free public highways and stopped to rest in state-maintained public parks. This is what I mean by the commonwealth. Rudely recognized in its formative years, always subject to struggle, constantly vulnerable to reactionary counterattacks, the notion of America as a shared project has been the central engine of our national experience.
Until now. I don't have to tell you that a profound transformation is occurring in America: the balance between wealth and the commonwealth is being upended. By design. Deliberately. We have been subjected to what the Commonwealth Foundation calls "a fanatical drive to dismantle the political institutions, the legal and statutory canons, and the intellectual and cultural frameworks that have shaped public responsibility for social harms arising from the excesses of private power." From land, water and other natural resources, to media and the broadcast and digital spectrums, to scientific discovery and medical breakthroughs, and to politics itself, a broad range of the American commons is undergoing a powerful shift toward private and corporate control. And with little public debate. Indeed, what passes for `political debate' in this country has become a cynical charade behind which the real business goes on -the not-so-scrupulous business of getting and keeping power in order to divide up the spoils.
We could have seen this coming if we had followed the money. The veteran Washington reporter, Elizabeth Drew, says "the greatest change in Washington over the past twenty-five years - in its culture, in the way it does business and the ever-burgeoning amount of business transactions that go on here - has been in the preoccupation with money." Jeffrey Birnbaum, who covered Washington for nearly twenty years for the Wall Street Journal, put it more strongly: "[campaign cash] has flooded over the gunwales of the ship of state and threatens to sink the entire vessel. Political donations determine the course and speed of many government actions that deeply affect our daily lives." Politics is suffocating from the stranglehold of money. During his brief campaign in 2000, before he was ambushed by the dirty tricks of the religious right in South Carolina and big money from George W. Bush's wealthy elites, John McCain said elections today are nothing less than an "influence peddling scheme in which both parties compete to stay in office by selling the country to the highest bidder."
Small wonder that with the exception of people like John McCain and Russ Feingold, official Washington no longer finds anything wrong with a democracy dominated by the people with money. Hit the pause button here, and recall Roger Tamraz. He's the wealthy oilman who paid $300,000 to get a private meeting in the White House with President Clinton; he wanted help in securing a big pipeline in central Asia. This got him called before congressional hearings on the financial excesses of the 1996 campaign. If you watched the hearings on C-Span you heard him say he didn't think he had done anything out of the ordinary. When they pressed him he told the senators: "Look, when it comes to money and politics, you make the rules. I'm just playing by your rules." One senator then asked if Tamraz had registered and voted. And he was blunt in his reply: "No, senator, I think money's a bit more (important) than the vote."
So what does this come down to, practically? Here is one accounting: "When powerful interests shower Washington with millions in campaign contributions, they often get what they want. But it's ordinary citizens and firms that pay the price and most of them never see it coming. This is what happens if you don't contribute to their campaigns or spend generously on lobbying. You pick up a disproportionate share of America's tax bill. You pay higher prices for a broad range of products from peanuts to prescriptions. You pay taxes that others in a similar situation have been excused from paying. You're compelled to abide by laws while others are granted immunity from them. You must pay debts that you incur while others do not. You're barred from writing off on your tax returns some of the money spent on necessities while others deduct the cost of their entertainment. You must run your business by one set of rules, while the government creates another set for your competitors. In contrast, the fortunate few who contribute to the right politicians and hire the right lobbyists enjoy all the benefits of their special status. Make a bad business deal; the government bails them out. If they want to hire workers at below market wages, the government provides the means to do so. If they want more time to pay their debts, the government gives them an extension. If they want immunity from certain laws, the government gives it. If they want to ignore rules their competition must comply with, the government gives its approval. If they want to kill legislation that is intended for the public, it gets killed."
I'm not quoting from Karl Marx's Das Kapital or Mao's Little Red Book. I'm quoting Time magazine. Time's premier investigative journalists - Donald Bartlett and James Steele - concluded in a series last year that America now has "government for the few at the expense of the many." Economic inequality begets political inequality, and vice versa.
That's why the Stanleys and the Neumanns were turned off by politics. It's why we're losing the balance between wealth and the commonwealth. It's why we can't put things right. And it is the single most destructive force tearing at the soul of democracy. Hear the great justice Learned Hand on this: "If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: `Thou shalt not ration justice.' " Learned Hand was a prophet of democracy. The rich have the right to buy more homes than anyone else. They have the right to buy more cars than anyone else, more gizmos than anyone else, more clothes and vacations than anyone else. But they do not have the right to buy more democracy than anyone else.
I know, I know: this sounds very much like a call for class war. But the class war was declared a generation ago, in a powerful paperback polemic by William Simon, who was soon to be Secretary of the Treasury. He called on the financial and business class, in effect, to take back the power and privileges they had lost in the depression and new deal. They got the message, and soon they began a stealthy class war against the rest of society and the principles of our democracy. They set out to trash the social contract, to cut their workforces and wages, to scour the globe in search of cheap labor, and to shred the social safety net that was supposed to protect people from hardships beyond their control. Business Week put it bluntly at the time: "Some people will obviously have to do with less....it will be a bitter pill for many Americans to swallow the idea of doing with less so that big business can have more.
The middle class and working poor are told that what's happening to them is the consequence of Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand". This is a lie. What's happening to them is the direct consequence of corporate activism, intellectual propaganda, the rise of a religious orthodoxy that in its hunger for government subsidies has made an idol of power, and a string of political decisions favoring the powerful and the privileged who bought the political system right out from under us.
To create the intellectual framework for this takeover of public policy they funded conservative think tanks - The Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution, and the American Enterprise Institute - that churned out study after study advocating their agenda.
To put political muscle behind these ideas they created a formidable political machine. One of the few journalists to cover the issues of class - Thomas Edsall of The Washington Post - wrote: "During the 1970s, business refined its ability to act as a class, submerging competitive instincts in favor of joint, cooperate action in the legislative area." Big business political action committees flooded the political arena with a deluge of dollars. And they built alliances with the religious right -Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority and Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition - who mounted a cultural war providing a smokescreen for the class war, hiding the economic plunder of the very people who were enlisted as foot soldiers in the cause of privilege.
In a book to be published this summer, Daniel Altman describes what he calls the "neo-economy - a place without taxes, without a social safety net, where rich and poor live in different financial worlds - and [said Altman] it's coming to America." He's a little late. It's here. Says Warren Buffett, the savviest investor of them all: "My class won."
Look at the spoils of victory: Over the past three years, they've pushed through $2 trillion dollars in tax cuts - almost all tilted towards the wealthiest people in the country.
Cuts in taxes on the largest incomes. Cuts in taxes on investment income. And cuts in taxes on huge inheritances. More than half of the benefits are going to the wealthiest one percent. You could call it trickle-down economics, except that the only thing that trickled down was a sea of red ink in our state and local governments, forcing them to cut services for and raise taxes on middle class working America.
Now the Congressional Budget Office forecasts deficits totaling $2.75 trillion over the next ten years.
These deficits have been part of their strategy. Some of you will remember that Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan tried to warn us twenty years ago, when he predicted that President Ronald Reagan's real strategy was to force the government to cut domestic social programs by fostering federal deficits of historic dimensions. Reagan's own budget director, David Stockman, admitted as such. Now the leading rightwing political strategist, Grover Norquist, says the goal is to "starve the beast" - with trillions of dollars in deficits resulting from trillions of dollars in tax cuts, until the United States Government is so anemic and anorexic it can be drowned in the bathtub.
There's no question about it: The corporate conservatives and their allies in the political and religious right are achieving a vast transformation of American life that only they understand because they are its advocates, its architects, and its beneficiaries. In creating the greatest economic inequality in the advanced world, they have saddled our nation, our states, and our cities and counties with structural deficits that will last until our children's children are ready for retirement, and they are systematically stripping government of all its functions except rewarding the rich and waging war.
And they are proud of what they have done to our economy and our society. If instead of practicing journalism I was writing for Saturday Night Live, I couldn't have made up the things that this crew have been saying. The president's chief economic adviser says shipping technical and professional jobs overseas is good for the economy. The president's Council of Economic Advisers report that hamburger chefs in fast food restaurants can be considered manufacturing workers. The president's Federal Reserve Chairman says that the tax cuts may force cutbacks in social security - but hey, we should make the tax cuts permanent anyway. The president's Labor Secretary says it doesn't matter if job growth has stalled because "the stock market is the ultimate arbiter."
You just can't make this stuff up. You have to hear it to believe it. This may be the first class war in history where the victims will die laughing.
But what they are doing to middle class and working Americans - and to the workings of American democracy - is no laughing matter. Go on line and read the transcripts of Enron traders in the energy crisis four years ago, discussing how they were manipulating the California power market in telephone calls in which they gloat about ripping off "those poor grandmothers." Read how they talk about political contributions to politicians like "Kenny Boy" Lay's best friend George W. Bush. Go on line and read how Citigroup has been fined $70 Million for abuses in loans to low-income, high risk borrowers - the largest penalty ever imposed by the Federal Reserve. A few clicks later, you can find the story of how a subsidiary of the corporate computer giant NEC has been fined over $20 million after pleading guilty to corruption in a federal plan to bring Internet access to poor schools and libraries. And this, the story says, is just one piece of a nationwide scheme to rip off the government and the poor.
Let's face the reality: If ripping off the public trust; if distributing tax breaks to the wealthy at the expense of the poor; if driving the country into deficits deliberately to starve social benefits; if requiring states to balance their budgets on the backs of the poor; if squeezing the wages of workers until the labor force resembles a nation of serfs - if this isn't class war, what is?
It's un-American. It's unpatriotic. And it's wrong.
But I don't need to tell you this. You wouldn't be here if you didn't know it. Your presence at this gathering confirms that while an America with liberty and justice for all is a broken promise, it is not a lost cause. Once upon a time I thought the mass media - my industry - would help mend this broken promise and save this cause. After all, the sight of police dogs attacking peaceful demonstrators forced America to recognize the reality of racial injustice. The sight of carnage in Vietnam forced us to recognize the war was unwinnable. The sight of terrorists striking the World Trade Center woke us from a long slumber of denial and distraction. I thought the mass media might awaken Americans to the reality that this ideology of winner-take-all is working against them and not for them. I was wrong. With honorable exceptions, we can't count on the mass media.
What we need is a mass movement of people like you. Get mad, yes - there's plenty to be mad about. Then get organized and get busy. This is the fight of our lives.
Comment: We agree with Mr. Moyers that this battle for democracy in the US is the fight of your lives, if you are American. It will, unfortunately, also affect the rest of the world's population. "The rest of the world's population". A banal phrase that covers up the flesh and blood of 6 billion individuals. Six billion people who are born, live and die, most of whom do so in great suffering. Each of us is aware of the complexity of our own lives. We have some idea of this complexity in the lives of those around us, family and friends. It is hard, however, to really grasp the idea that there are over 6 billion other people, exactly like us, who have lives of equal complexity: loves and hates, parents and children, emotional attachments, who have to find food, shelter and clothing each day in order to survive. Most of the time, these individuals are reduced to statistics, sometimes as victims of natural disasters ("200 Killed in China Typhoon") or war ("3 Iraqis Killed in Fighting"). But imagine that one of those killed was your mother or father or son or daughter. Imagine the pain you would feel. These are not only statistics; they are people like you and me.
The ability to put oneself in another's shoes is called "empathy". If George W. Bush and his cronies were capable of empathy, would they have invaded Iraq? Empathy does not draw distinctions between us and them, between black and white or red and yellow. It knows no national, cultural or linguistic barriers. If you feel such barriers, it is because you have no empathy.
Those who have perpetrated the imposition of the corporatist state in the United States have no empathy. Behind their grand slogans of American greatness, it is obvious that they have no concern for most Americans. If they have no concern for Americans, should we be surprised that they show no concern for the people of other countries, that those who are not white are despised and tortured, their homes destroyed, their cities ruined, their lives reduced to a subplot of an American disaster movie.
And when the time comes, the same forces will be explicitly unleashed upon the poor and disenfranchised in the US. As Moyers demonstrates, to be disenfranchised today means to be without money, lots of money, enough to buy one's way onto the Senate floor or into the Lincoln bedroom at the White House. Is that 90% of Americans? 95% of Americans?
The only way out of the morass is to act according to your conscience. Moyers believes that a grass-roots movement is necessary, a mass movement to take back the reins of power from the small minority that have seized them.
In order to act, you must have knowledge, a knowledge of the objective situation confronting you. The battle between the rich and the poor is not a new battle. It has been with us for thousands of years. One needs to know this history, to know what has worked and what has not.
Has anything ever "worked"?
Is the "battle" really between the "rich" and the "poor"? Or is that another lie we have been fed. Perhaps the real "battle" is between those who feel empathy for others and those who do not? If such is the case, then the "battle" is weighted against those who can feel another's pain. Those without empathy have no built-in boundaries of conscience. They will stop at nothing to achieve their goals because they cannot feel the pain they are inflicting upon others. These are the people of whom Moyers speaks above, those who gleefully robbed "grandmothers" in California over energy market prices.
Can the empathetic "beat" those who are not at their own game? Or would this necessitate giving up that which is most important, that distinguishing characteristic that makes us what we understand as "human" in the best sense?
And if so, then what "game" must we choose to play? Or can we refuse to "play" all-together?
Violations of the Declaration on the Human Rights of Individuals Who are not Nationals of the Country in which They Live
by Eric Schmidt
Most Americans may not realize the fact that American Children under the age of twenty-one do not have what should be their most basic right and that is the right to a natural parent. Every day American children lose a parent to the Department of Homeland Security. American children whose parents are not United States citizen’s may be in jeopardy of having their parent or parents deported to their natural born country, regardless of the years they have established their homes and families in the US.
It seems unfair that here in America, Land of the Free, that our children do not have the freedom or the right to their natural parent if that parent is not an American citizen.
What happens to these children when a parent is abruptly taken away from them without any warning or preparation? One could only imagine the devastation and repercussions of a destroyed family.
Immigration and Naturalization have dramatically increased efforts to deport immigrant residents. Therefore any immigrants, regardless of the fact that they may have permanent residence status, families, children and spouses are subject to deportation and are being scrutinized for any blemishes they may have in their past.
Our US children should be spared the wrath of our countries anger, resulting from 911 tragedies.
On June 30, 2004 Penny McClurg responded to a letter she had received in the mail from the Department of Homeland Security. The letter requested her to report to Tampa International Airport Airside F. Penny made the necessary arrangements to have her children cared for, while she attended this appointment. Upon arriving at the airport airside F, she called the telephone number listed on the letter and informed the respondent on the phone that she was waiting at the instructed area as described in the letter. The operator told her that they would send someone to escort her into the terminal. Penny waited approximately 30 minutes; however nobody came to escort her. Penny called the number on the letter again and told the operator that she had been waiting. The operator then asked her if she was sure she had an appointment letter to come in because they were apparently not expecting her.
A Department of Homeland Security officer finally arrived and escorted her through to the secured airside F terminal and asked her to be seated in an office area. She was greeted by a Department of Homeland Security officer by the name of Mr. Guthier and told to remain seated and that he would be with her shortly. Approximately two hours went by before Mr. Guthier motioned her into his office. Inside his office he questioned her about a 1997 felony conviction that she had on her record. She acknowledge the felony conviction and informed him that she he had completed her sentence and probation for this incident.
Penny was sent back out to be seated again and waited another three hours. She had now been in the office approximately five hours.
Mr. Guthier finally came out of his office and informed her that he was not able to get a hold of who he needed to speak to and that she should report back the following morning at 9:00am. Penny reported back the following morning as instructed and this time remained in the seated office area. During this time officer Guthier told her that he was still waiting to get a hold of the person he had been trying to reach the previous day. Approximately three hours went by before Mr. Guthier asked Penny to come into his office. Mr. Guthier told Penny that he had some bad news for her and that she was officially being detained. Penny asked what that meant and officer Guthier informed her that she was basically being arrested and that everything would be explained to her when she arrived at her next destination. Penny asked where she was being taken and she was told by Guthier that he did not know and that someone else would tell her.
Penny did not in her wildest imagination realize that this appointment letter was going to result in her being arrested.
Penny arrived in the US, from South Africa, in 1986 when she was fifteen years old. In 1991 she had received her permanent resident status in the US. Penny is now thirty three years old and is a single mother of two American children ages 10 and 11. She also has an American fiancée and was, at this time, six weeks pregnant with his child. Penny has been residing in the US for the past 18 years and in the last three years established a successful business in the Tampa Bay area. The sudden and abrupt news that she was being incarcerated was devastating to all who know her. There was no time or warning to make any arrangements for her children, home or business. That was it…she was no longer to continue with her life and she had no forewarning to make any preparations for this day.
Penny has now been incarcerated since July 01, 2004. On July 15, 2004 she lost her eight week old unborn child while in detention. She was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami in handcuffs and shackles where she was seated in the waiting room for two hours. Penny did not get seen until she finally started to hemorrhage. The doctor informed her that she was miscarrying and proceeded to perform a D&C on her without any anesthesia. Several hours after the procedure she was taken back to Turner Guilford Knight County Jail in Miami in shackles and handcuffs, barely able to keep consciousness while walking, due to the blood loss.
Three days before Penny's miscarriage, she submitted a written request to see the facility counsellor. She needed to talk to someone about the depression and stress she was undergoing…how it was affecting her ability to eat, sleep and try to stay calm as she knew that it was essential in order for her to have a healthy pregnancy. Her request went unanswered. In fact, to this day, no official has informed her as to what is happening with her or why she is being detained. No information has been provided by any officials regarding this matter.
Penny has since hired attorney Steven Goldstein and Grant Kaplan to handle her case. She learned, only through the attorneys, that she is being charged with illegal entry into the US.
Penny is being denied entry into the US, resulting from a deferred inspection. This deferred inspection resulted from a cruise Penny took in June of 2003, where she left and reentered the United States within a 4-day period. While in this "deferred inspection" status, Penelope's resident alien card was supposed to be taken and substituted with a temporary card. This did not occur. Instead she was allowed to exit and re-enter the United States twice more in September of 2003 and again in May of 2004.
Penny has been a US permanent resident since 1991 and at no time to her knowledge was this status ever revoked. Her attorney has informed her that these situations are never good and that probably the fastest way out of jail is to ask for expedited deportation, otherwise she could remain in jail indefinitely while trying to fight the case against her.
This is a true story of how in one day with no warning two, American children Dereck and Sandra McClurg lost their single mother to the Department of Homeland Security on July 01, 2004.
There has been no follow up by this department or for that matter any US department to make sure that these two American children where to be taken care of. Fortunately for Penny she has her father and fiancée to step in to help with her children, but again no departmental agency has checked to make sure of that. One could only imagine what could have happened if there had been no one to take care of these children.
Penny is currently being held at Turner Guilford Knight County Jail, in a designated woman’s immigration unit. There she has learned of about many other women, who also have American children and that have been separated from them abruptly in this way.
It seems unfair and not traditional with American standards that these children have no voice or rights as American Citizens and that their futures are placed in jeopardy with no one to follow up and make sure that they are surviving as they should be with the appropriate care.
My name is Eric Schmidt, fiancé of Penny McClurg. As a concerned American citizen and ten year Navy veteran, I would like to come forward and let the country know what awful atrocities are going on behind the scenes in our great country, with respect to immigrants.
If I could ask anything of my country in exchange for my ten years of service, it would be to return my fiancée back to her family where she rightfully belongs. She does not belong in indefinite incarceration, waiting for the slow wheels of immigration department.
If any agency would like to pick up this story I am readily available for comment and can be reached at the following:
Editor's note: In the above, there are many violations of the Declaration on the Human Rights of Individuals Who are not Nationals of the Country in which They Live, G.A. res. 40/144, annex, 40 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 53) at 252, U.N. Doc. A/40/53 (1985).
J. HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld struck a cautious tone Tuesday on the need for a national intelligence director, saying any changes should not create new barriers between war fighters and agencies that collect intelligence.
Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee that consolidating defense intelligence agencies under a new director - outside the Defense Department - "could conceivably lead to some efficiencies in some aspects of intelligence collection" and "some modest but indefinable improvement."
But officials must be certain that such changes do not create new problems for intelligence agencies within the Defense Department, he said. "We would not want to place new barriers or filters between military combatant commanders and those agencies when they perform as combat-support agencies," Rumsfeld said.
The Sept. 11 commission's report suggested that Congress create an intelligence director of near-Cabinet rank to coordinate all 15 of the government's intelligence agencies, ensuring that they work with each other and share intelligence.
Amid a growing clamor for change during Congress's August recess, the committee's chairman also urged caution.
"As we examine ways to reform our intelligence community, we must be sure we do nothing to undermine the confidence of the battlefield commanders in the intelligence support on which they must defend," said Sen. John Warner.
The Virginia Republican suggested expanding the powers of the CIA director, who also oversees the 14 other agencies in the intelligence community, or giving the CIA director the title of national intelligence director.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Utah, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, revealed Monday he has drafted legislation that would give the new intelligence chief the budget authority and hiring and firing power that the White House so far has not committed on.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Tuesday that President Bush has ruled nothing out, including budget power. "It's important for the national intelligence director to have the authority he or she needs to do the job," McClellan said.
But the Pentagon currently controls most of the large intelligence agencies: the National Security Agency, which intercepts electronic communications; the National Reconnaissance Office, which operates spy satellites; and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which analyzes satellite pictures.
The Defense Department also controls 80 percent of the money spent on intelligence, estimated at $40 billion annually.
Former defense secretaries told senators Monday that the Pentagon's intelligence agencies ought to be left alone, highlighting the turf battles that may occur. "I don't think that the authorities in the Department of Defense should be placed under the NID," said James Schlesinger, who worked for Presidents Nixon and Ford.
But Roberts said his committee is working on a draft bill that would be close to the Sept. 11 commission's suggestion of a powerful director. Congressional aides said the committee draft has a National Counterterrorism Center and a national intelligence director with the power to hire and fire intelligence personnel, as well as set budgets for the 15 agencies.
"Control of the money, after all, is tantamount to power," said Sen. Joe Lieberman (news - web sites), D-Conn.
The draft bill also would create general counsel and inspector general offices to oversee the entire intelligence community and a chief information officer to standardize communications among the agencies, the aides said.
Changes could still be made to the draft bill, aides said.
Three former CIA chiefs told the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee that if Congress creates a new position, it should have the power to make all of the intelligence community work together.
Mexico Fiercely Opposes the Iraq War, But Mexicans Are Dying There Every Week
By JOHN ROSS
(MEXICO CITY) - When Lance Corporal Juan Lopez Rangel was killed in a firefight near the rebel city of Fallujah in Al Anbar province just west of Baghdad on June 21st, his grieving parents, who now live in a small Georgia town, were determined to bury the proud marine in his hometown of San Luis de la Paz, Guanajuato Mexico, a dusty crossroads in the shadow of the desolate Sierra Gorda where the only action after dark are the all-night funeral parlors and from which Juan Lopez and his family escaped when he was 15 for a new life on the Other Side.
Juan's funeral set for Mexico over the July 4th weekend--U.S. Independence Day--would include plenty of patriotic fanfare--U.S. patriotic fanfare. After negotiations with Mexican authorities over protocols, it was agreed that a four member U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard carrying ceremonial weapons could accompany the interment--a 21 gun salute with M-16s was nixed by the Mexican military.
The U.S. marines paraded solemnly through the empty streets of San Luis de la Paz, stopping in front of the old house on Zaragoza Street where Juan had been born and where now he was being mourned. "Your son was a hero in our country" the marine spokesman told Juan's parents, presenting Francisco Lopez and Delfina Rangel with a neatly folded U.S. flag. Then with the pallbearers in place and the U.S. Marine Corps leading the way, the final procession set out for the town cemetery.
But a few blocks short of its destination, the passage of the cortege was blocked by a dozen armed Mexican soldiers who demanded that the marines surrender their "ceremonial" arms or be held in violation of Mexico's tough firearms laws. When the honor guard refused, the marines were escorted back to the vehicles that had brought them to San Luis and surrounded by the Mexican troops until Taps had sounded at graveside.
The message of this poignant tableau was clear: the Mexican army would not tolerate armed foreign troops on Mexican soil, particularly those of a nation that has repeatedly invaded Mexico.
The standoff at Juan Lopez Rangel's funeral outraged U.S. ambassador Tony Garza, a Bush crony who seems to have spent his entire career here defending one U.S. aggression after another. "Jose Lopez (sic) was a hero and a native son of Mexico who Mexicans should honor," the offended Garza complained.
Comment: Given that Garza couldn't even get Juan's name right, it seems that his outrage has little to do with honoring a fallen soldier.
The ambassador's sentiment was echoed by Dr. Jorge Santibanez, director of the prestigious College of the Northern Border and an expert on Mexican out-migration, who wrote of duel allegiances and pressures upon immigrant youth to sign up for the U.S. military. After Santibanez's remarks were published in the national daily La Jornada, the border think tank's e-mail began to ring off the hook with angry messages. "This boy was not a hero but a victim of the bad policies of Bush," read one from a group of self-described patriotic railroad workers, "our heroes are not the traitors who join the American army but those Mexicans who fought the Americanos when they invaded our country in 1846."
Even as Taps was being sounded over Juan Lopez's bier up in Guanajuato this past July 4th weekend, several thousand anti-war protestors were taking advantage of the U.S. holiday to build a mock-up of Abu Ghraib prison in front of Garza's embassy on Mexico City's Reforma boulevard. The demonstrators laid out 12,000 white paper crosses on the sidewalk to honor the Iraqis killed since the American invasion began 16 months ago. A hooded student perched precariously on a cardboard box, electric cables attached to his genitals, a dark icon of the Yanqui "liberation" of Iraq for which Juan Lopez had just given up his life.
From top to bottom, Mexico has rejected Bush's war since its inception. President Vicente Fox refused to support White House plans to bomb Iraq, earning Bush's eternal enmity, and the chill has frozen bi-lateral relations between these two distant neighbor nations ever since. The U.S. threatened and spied upon the Mexican delegation at the United Nations Security Council and when Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar would not bend, Bush unilaterally declared war and stepped up recruitment of Mexican and Mexican American youth to illegally invade Iraq.
Juan Lopez Rangel was the 36th and most recent U.S. soldier of Mexican descent to die in Iraq (since this was written two more G.I.s of Mexican descent have appeared in the New York Times daily list of the dead.) By this reporter's count, 20 of the dead soldiers were born in Mexico and 16 were the children of migrants who had gone over to the other side to find their fortune in El Norte. The number of Mexican deaths in Iraq equals the number of Mexicans awaiting execution on Texas death row.
Among the Mexican dead are at least three women, including one of Jessica Lynch's tank mates. After Sergeant Isela Rubacalva, 25, a native of Ciudad Juarez, was killed near Mosul in May, her father Ramon mourned "she died on Friday thinking about coming home to eat carnitas and beans, drink a beer and go to a dance. This war is useless, as useless as Vietnam."
Although it is not a member of Bush's crumbling "coalition of the willing", Mexico has taken more casualties than any other nation in this cruel conflict outside of Iraq, the U.S., and Great Britain.
The first to fall was Rodrigo Gonzalez, the son of Coahuila farmers, whose helicopter went down in Kuwait February 25th 2003, even before the invasion began. Four Mexicans and one Guatemalan were killed in the first days of Bush's aggression--marine units from Camp Pendleton where most California Mexican recruits train were in the vanguard of the invading force. "Latinos Give Their Lives For Their New Land" The New York Times editorialized.
Joining the marines has become a sort of macho rite of passage for Mexican kids in southern California. Full court press recruitment in high school and promises to fix migration problems lures young people whose only other options are fieldwork or a dead-end job at McDonalds. 13,000 members of the U.S. Marine Corps--8% of the force--are either Mexican or Mexican American. Mexicans and Mexican Americans account for 55% of the 109,000 Latinos--Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and Central Americans--who constitute a tenth of the United States armed forces.
Although non-citizens are barred from induction in the U.S. military (the marines have an exemption), the loopholes are large. To bolster recruitment for the War on Terror in the wake of the attacks on New York and Washington, Bush issued new regs promising all non-citizens who joined the military after 9/11 that they would be on the "fast track" for citizenship. Still, despite Bush's edict, the only non-citizen soldiers (out of a total 0f 37,000) who were eligible for immediate citizenship were dead ones--death in combat automatically conferred this dubious honor post-humously.
After the illusionary U.S. victory announced May 1st, 2003 by Bush in his "Mission Completed" declaration from the deck of an aircraft carrier off San Diego, all non-citizens serving in Iraq were granted immediate citizenship.
One of the first Mexican soldiers to be killed in action in Iraq was Jesus Suarez who grew up in Tijuana but came to California after his father won immigration amnesty. When the military offered Fernando Suarez post-mortem citizenship for his son, he turned it down. His son was a Mexican and proud of it--an "Aztec warrior" so enamored of his indigenous roots that he had joined a Tijuana "concheros" Aztec dance troupe.
Convinced of the futility of his son's sacrifice, Fernando Suarez later traveled to Iraq to see where Jesus had fallen and to talk to other Latino soldiers about what they are doing in that occupied land. "Their faces are hard but you can see their true sentiments in their eyes" the elder Suarez wrote in an e-mail, "their gaze asks what am I doing killing innocent people for nothing?" This summer, Fernando Suarez joined anti-war protests at the political conventions.
Other Mexican families have suffered grievously over the loss of their children in Iraq. Ruben Estrella Sr., one of four El Paso Texas Mexican fathers whose sons or daughters were taken from them by Bush's illegal war, is suing the army because, he says, the family was cheated out of his son's death benefits by an unscrupulous recruiter. Angela Banuelos, the mother of Lance Corporal Juan Carlos Cabral, heard about his death while serving time in an Ohio penitentiary. Zeferino Colunga, the father of yet another dead Mexican G.I., was deported to his native Michoacan after living for over a decade in Texas.
Now with the U.S. military facing an alarming short-fall to fight the Terror War and collateral "preventative" wars to be waged upon the darker peoples of the world, the head-hunting of Mexican youth on both sides of the border (U.S. recruiters have repeatedly invaded Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana high schools seeking duel citizenship students) is sure to be stepped up. Although Latinos are now the largest U.S. minority, they are under-represented in the armed forces and the Pentagon has launched a full-blast media campaign on Spanish-speaking media to sign them up.
"The recruiters have a lot of guilt for the death of our children" Fernando Suarez considers, "they tell them that only the veterans will go to fight the war and it isn't true. Most of the Mexicans who have died in Iraq did not even have a year of military service."
Mexicans often join and serve together in the military. There are high concentrations of Mexicans and Mexican Americans in California marine units, Texas National Guard units, and, for some unexplained statistical quirk, there are many Mexican Patriot missile operators. [...]
For specialist Jesse Lopez, another East L.A. boy, there are few options. "I'd rather be doing what I'm doing here (presumably killing Iraqis - ed note) than flipping Big Macs at the minimum wage." Lopez had just re-upped for four years.
For Mexican G.I.s and those of Mexican descent in Iraq, there is no more significant role model than Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the former commander of U.S. occupation forces. "To the Mexican people, he is a great hero," boasts Sergeant Ernesto Quijada whose family migrated from Cancun to New York ten years ago (actually, the "Mexican people" generally don't know that General Sanchez is a Mexican.)
A poor kid from Rio Grande City, across the big river from the honky tonk town of Miguel Aleman Tamaulipas on the Mexican side, Sanchez grew up ragged and hungry in south Texas. His father, an itinerant welder, disappeared when he was six and the family survived on welfare. An older brother who joined the military and came back from Vietnam with medals was Ricardo's own role model. A ROTC kid who literally pulled himself up by his bootstraps in a post-Vietnam, more 'multicultural" military, Sanchez moved up the ranks quickly and his big break came as deputy to General John Abizaid in Kosovo.
Although Sanchez's military career has been a stunning success until quite recently, he has always been burdened by his humble Mexican origins and the fact that he is not a West Pointer, and has had to battle for recognition at every step of the way, a personal struggle that has made him a role model for young Mexican and Mexican American troops.
But General Sanchez, whose greatest moment of glory came with the capture of Saddam Hussein in his spider hole in December 2003, seems to have fallen into his own spider hole of late. 600 U.S. troops went home in flag-draped coffins during his June-to-June tenure at the head of the occupation forces with no weapons of mass destruction or victory in sight. More painfully, the tortures on his watch at Abu Ghraib prison, a ten-minute helicopter ride from Sanchez's Baghdad airport command post, have permanently stained his once-unblemished reputation.
General Sanchez was recently passed over to take over the Southern Command which oversees all U.S. military operations in Latin America, a post he was expected to fill, and it now seems unlikely that he will ever achieve the fourth star he has long coveted. Although some Mexican troops charge that General Sanchez has been unjustly scapegoated for the Abu Ghraib abuses by Rumsfeld and the Pentagon brass, the career of this Latino role model is kaput, one more Mexican victim of Bush's illegal war in Iraq.
John Ross will be on the spot in Mexico City for much of July and August before sallying forth to do maximum mischief at the Republican National Convention in Manhattan from where he will launch the intergalactic tour of his latest instant cult classic "Murdered By Capitalism--A Memoir of 150 Years of Life & Death on the U.S. Left".
Family of Whistleblower in Prisoner Abuse Scandal Is Shunned by Neighbors, Friends
Aug. 16, 2004 — When news of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison broke, Army Spc. Joseph Darby's family said they were proud the soldier revealed photos documenting the mistreatment. But they never expected their own friends and neighbors would turn on them for what they considered a brave disclosure.
In a note to his commander, Darby, 24, described the incidents and photographs he had seen, depicting the abuse by people in his own unit, the 372nd Military Police Company.
"We did not receive the response I thought we would. People were, they were mean, saying he was a walking dead man, he was walking around with a bull's-eye on his head. It was scary," Bernadette Darby, Joseph Darby's wife, said today on ABC News' Good Morning America.
Bernadette Darby said she was most surprised by the reactions of some of the people who knew their family.
"I received a reality check from the people in my community where Joe and I lived," she said. "I mean, I was an EMT, I was a firefighter … I helped these people every day and then this happened and it was like everybody turned, you know, and I was very surprised."
Darby's family is sharing their story with GQ magazine and Good Morning America because they want Americans to understand what their family has gone through since news of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal first broke.
While Bernadette Darby said she is still pleased by her husband's decision to hand over the photos, she says it hasn't been easy on her family or her husband, who is still in protective military custody at an undisclosed location. [...]
Comment: Apparently, most Americans didn't want to know the truth about Abu Ghraib. The fact that Darby reported America's use of torture and "betrayed" his fellow patriotic soldiers is more important than the fact that the Land of the Free is torturing detainees who can be held without charge for years. And yet there are still many who claim that any comparison of Americans to the Germans during the rise of Hitler is misguided... If a person exhibited the same behavior as these Americans, he would no doubt be declared mentally unstable - and probably much worse.
FLASHBACK: Disappearing Prisoners
Are they dead? Are they alive? Where is the media? Does anybody out there care?
- Village Voice
In a front-page article December 26, 2002, The Washington Post revealed that prisoners at a CIA interrogation center at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan were being subjected to abuses that veered on torture:
"The picture that emerges is of a brass-knuckled quest for information . . . in which the traditional lines between right and wrong, legal and inhumane, are evolving and blurred."
The media largely ignored the story, with the notable exceptions of The Economist and the indispensable Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker.
What was happening at Bagram Air Base soon disappeared from the news, but the revelations of our repellent abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib interrogation cells, where Saddam Hussein's torturers had previously operated, raised widespread questions about American adherence to the Geneva Conventions and other international human rights standards. The first whistle-blower was a soldier, specialist Joseph Darby: "I didn't want to see any more prisoners being abused, because I knew it was wrong."
However, in the rush of reports, the CIA and its then leader, George Tenet, were hardly mentioned. But a startling probe on ABC's Nightline on May 13, 2004, "The Disappeared," focused on super-secret CIA interrogation operations overseas, about which ABC News' Chris Bury said:
"We don't know where they are being held. We don't know how many of them there are. We don't know what the rules are."
This prison system is "so secret that its very existence is classified. The inmates are believed to make up a who's who of the top Al Qaeda leadership. But even their names are classified. Some of them may never be released. For all practical purposes, they have just disappeared." They are called "high-value" detainees.
As Chris Bury continued, these prisons, set up after 9-11, "may be unprecedented in American history. They operate entirely outside the U.S. judicial system, according to a set of rules approved by the Justice Department [that] are also top secret." (Emphasis added.)
Clearly, the others accountable for this wholly hidden gulag include Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush. Without going into Nightline's in-depth analysis of "the disappeared," Newsweek, in its superb report, "The Roots of Torture . . . The Road to Abu Ghraib" (May 24, 2004), provided background to the CIA's secret prison system:
By early 2002, the president, assured by his counsel, Alberto Gonzales, and other administration lawyers that he could approve secret, unsparing rules for interrogations, "signed a secret order granting new powers to the CIA. . . . [T]he president's directive authorized the CIA to set up a series of secret detention facilities outside the United States, and to question those held in them with unprecedented harshness.
"Washington then negotiated novel 'status of forces agreements' with foreign governments for the secret sites. These agreements gave immunity not merely to U.S. government personnel but also to private contractors."
On the May 13 Nightline broadcast, reporter John McWethy noted, "This system was both approved and heartily endorsed by President Bush." And George W. Bush himself appears briefly and states, "You need to have a president who understands you can't win this war with legal papers. We've got to use every asset at our disposal."
As McWethy pointed out, The New York Times, on the day of the broadcast, had revealed one technique being used on the CIA's prisoners: "water boarding." Al Qaeda leader Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was, said the Times, "strapped down forcibly, pushed under the water and made to believe he might drown." Nightline also noted "three investigations into the deaths of prisoners who were being interrogated by CIA agents in Iraq and Afghanistan."
But except for "water boarding, we know nothing specific of what is being done to the other unnamed prisoners in the CIA's secret cells. They have, as Chris Bury said, "in effect disappeared. . . . Since when are people in American custody allowed simply to disappear into a black hole?" On May 11, The Washington Post reported that this system is no longer limited to "senior Al Qaeda detainees."
Also on Nightline was Jack Cloonan. After 27 years in the FBI, Bury said, Cloonan "was the senior agent on the FBI's bin Laden squad in New York, and he headed the investigation of senior Al Qaeda official Khalid Shaikh Mohammed."
One day, from his New York office, Cloonan was giving directions to interrogators at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. The target was giving information about Zacharias Moussaoui and Richard Reid.
"I told them," Cloonan said on the program, "that I wanted them to follow their procedures that we had adopted as if they were talking to this person in New York. ...I had a suspicion that things like [what we're talking about] were going to happen...
"What are we going to do with these people [in the secret CIA cells] when we're finished exploiting them? Are they going to disappear? Are they stateless?... What are we going to explain to people when they start asking questions about where they are. Are they dead? Are they alive? What oversight does Congress give?"
On the front page of the June 27 Washington Post, Dana Priest reported: "The CIA has suspended the use of extraordinary interrogation techniques approved by the White House pending a review by [the] Justice Department. . . . The 'enhanced interrogation techniques,' as the CIA calls them, include feigned drowning."
The decision applies to such CIA interrogation centers "as those around the world." But many are utterly secret. So how will we know what's being done there?
Comment: Obviously, we won't know what is being done at these secret interrogation centers. Given that torture has been been secretly used in the past - and therefore that groups like the CIA have no qualms about lying to the people - why would anyone take seriously the claims that the torture has stopped?
Ever since we realised that the entire war on terror was a con job, we have wondered just why the US continued to capture and interrogate various Middle Eastern men. Ok, so it served the purpose of giving the war on terror a real feel to the US population, but why keep them so long? Why, for god's sake, would they interrogate people that they KNEW had no information on terrorism? If they caught Osama, a CIA asset, would they interrogate him to find out which CIA agent he had talked to most recently? Clearly not. But now, we come to the idea that these people are in fact being used in a completely different way.
We have always claimed that the entire war on terror was created by the US, and now we have a theory on the details of how they actually do it. Ever heard of a Manchurian candidate? Greenbauming? Some form of physical or psychological torture is almost always the first step in creating a mind controlled slave. We are also rethinking the details of Sharon's uncanny ability to call up a "suicide bomber" when and where he needs it. After all, the Abu Ghraib torture is basically identical to techniques known to be used by Israel against the Palestinians.
06:27 AM EDT Aug 17
JERUSALEM (AP) - The Israeli government on Tuesday invited construction bids for 1,001 new homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, an official said, in direct violation of a U.S.-backed peace plan calling for a settlement freeze.
Housing Ministry spokesman Kobi Bleich said the bids are for units in six West Bank settlements -Karnei Shomron, Ariel, Geva Benyamin, Maaleh Adumim, Kiryat Arba and Beitar Illit. Bleich said all the settlements were within "the Israeli consensus." "All the relevant authorizations have been received," he said. "There should be no problems with them."
Under the provisions of the U.S.-backed "road map" for Middle East peace, Israel must halt all construction in West Bank settlements.
A senior Israeli official said the government had waited until Acting Housing Minister Tzipi Livni had a chance to review existing building plans.
"There is nothing new about this," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "It is within the guidelines of the government and the agreements with the Americans."
U.S. Embassy spokesman Paul Patin said Israel was obligated to fulfilling its road map commitments.
"Israel has accepted the road map and all its stipulations and we expect it to abide by them," he said.
The Israeli government adopted the road map in May 2003, but it never got off the ground, as both Israel and the Palestinians failed to fulfil their obligations.
Nabil Abu Rdeneh, an adviser to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, denounced the decision. He asked the international community to intervene and pressure Israel to halt construction.
Comment: How much empathy does the Sharon government show for the Palestinians by bombing them, destroying their olive groves, building a fence to separate them from their land and families, and waging a campaign of ethnic cleansing against them. Obviously, there is no empathy, only hatred, treating them as less than human. The years of Israel's existence show that there is no way to win on the psychopath's terms.
Every time the Palestinians have offered the olive branch, the Israelis have taken it as a sign of weakness and have only turn up the pressure. Now, the settlement on the West Bank and Gaza, illegal under international law, have been given the OK by Georgie Porgie Puddin' Bush. With each new settlement, the already diminished Palestinian lands will be shrunken yet again. The Israelis want to make the possibility of a viable Palestinian State and impossibility. And they appear to be succeeding.
Monday 16 August 2004, 18:29 Makka Time, 15:29 GMT
About 2000 Iraqi civilian "volunteers" have formed a human shield around Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf as US-led forces besiege the city.
The volunteers cheered al-Sadr in the marble-floored courtyard of the Imam Ali mosque on Monday in an impressive show of force.
Al-Sadr is holed up inside one of Shia Islam's most sacred shrines before an expected American-led offensive.
Travelling to Najaf from across Iraq, the volunteers are swelling the ranks of his supporters and could provide another reason for US troops to think twice before storming the shrine.
"These people are a deterrent to the Americans because they are civilians. They are here so that the Americans won't attack the Imam Ali shrine," said Shaikh Ahmad al-Shaibani, a senior al-Sadr aide.
Any serious damage to the revered site would enrage millions of Shia around the world. However, US commanders have said they do not intend to attack the shrine itself.
BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany said Tuesday U.S. plans to pull out 30,000 troops were a sign Europe's divisions had healed, but communities hit by the decision warned they were headed for economic disaster.
German Defense Minister Peter Struck said he regretted the withdrawal, but Washington had no choice. "That's a big loss to a lot of regions," he said. "But the decision of the U.S. president is without alternative."
Karsten Voigt, Berlin's coordinator for German-American relations, said Germany would remain the largest base for U.S. troops in Europe and security in Europe was not at risk. [...]
Edmund Stoiber, state premier of Bavaria, the region most affected by the U.S. withdrawal, called for federal assistance.
The Verdi service sector union said 15,000 civilian jobs at the bases were on the line and estimated an additional 150,000 jobs outside the bases were affected by the troop withdrawal.
International observers in Venezuela have confirmed President Hugo Chavez's victory in a referendum on whether he should be removed from office.
The former US president, Jimmy Carter, said Mr Chavez had won fairly, and the Organization of American States said it had not found any element of fraud.
With nearly all the votes counted, Mr Chavez has 58% backing him.
But his opponents insist the result was a "gigantic fraud" and have called for a manual recount.
Hundreds of Chavez opponents held demonstrations in the capital on Monday night. At one demonstration an elderly woman died and at least six other people were injured when gunmen on motorbikes opened fire.
Mr Chavez said those responsible for the killing would be tracked down and punished, whether or not they were his supporters.
Mr Carter, who helped monitor Sunday's vote, said his team of observers had concluded there was a "clear difference in favour" of Mr Chavez.
The head of the Organization of American States, Cesar Gaviria, also said his monitors had not found "any element of fraud".
"Until elements of fraud emerge we are not going to put the results in doubt," he said.
But the US has declined to back Mr Chavez's apparent victory.
The US state department said it "noted" and praised the work of the observers, but said it would be premature to describe the outcome as a victory for Mr Chavez until the final result was announced.
A state department spokesman said the burden was on the Venezuelan opposition to produce evidence of misconduct during the vote - and if they did offer proof, the US wanted the claims thoroughly investigated by the county's election authority.
EDT Aug 17
[...] It was hoped the results of Sunday's recall referendum would stabilize this turbulent South American country that has faced intense political divisions over the last three years. But Peries said she doesn't believe calm will necessarily follow Chavez's win.
"The problems that the state has been facing are not going to go away," she said.
"The pressure from the opposition will continue. There will be all sorts of doubts created in the minds of people and they will question the authenticity of the process."
EDT Aug 17
[...] "How is it possible that at this stage, some opposition leaders don't have the grace . . . to accept that they did not succeed in recalling me?" Chavez told a news conference. He called the result "an alternative to capitalism and false democracy."
The results underscored the resilience of a leftist firebrand who has bluntly challenged "imperialist" U.S. foreign policies and cozied up to Cuban President Fidel Castro.
"Hopefully, from this day on Washington will respect the government and the people of Venezuela," Chavez proclaimed, speaking from a balcony at the presidential palace to thousands of supporters celebrating under a light rain.
[...] In the worst outbreak of violence, seven people were wounded after a group of apparently pro-Chavez motorcyclists fired into a small opposition protest in a Caracas plaza, said Caracas Fire Chief Rodolfo Briceno. Opposition legislator Ernesto Alvarenga was among those hurt.
Officials initially reported a 62-year-old woman was killed, but the woman's family later said she was alive with serious wounds.
Chavez condemned the violence, but said he wouldn't be surprised if the shooters, who waved posters urging the "no" vote, were sent by opposition leaders to provoke chaos.
Comment: More discrete sleaze from the North American press... Chavez "cozied up" to Castro. And what has Cuba done for Venezuela? It sent in doctors and dentists to give free health care to the poor! Read more about it in the next article:
By TARIQ ALI
The turn-out in Venezuela last Sunday was huge. 94.9 percent of the electorate voted in the recall referendum. Venezuela, under its new Constitution, permitted the right of the citizens to recall a President before s/he had completed their term of office. No Western democracy enshrines this right in a written or unwritten constitution. Chavez' victory will have repercussions beyond the borders of Venezuela. It is a triumph of the poor against the rich and it is a lesson that Lula in Brazil and Kirchner in Argentina should study closely. It was Fidel Castro, not Carter, whose advice to go ahead with the referendum was crucial. Chavez put his trust in the people by empowering them and they responded generously. The opposition will only discredit itself further by challenging the results.
The Venezuelan oligarchs and their parties, who had opposed this Constitution in a referendum (having earlier failed to topple Chavez via a US-backed coup and an oil-strike led by a corrupt union bureaucracy) now utilised it to try and get rid of the man who had enhanced Venezuelan democracy. They failed. However loud their cries (and those of their media apologists at home and abroad) of anguish, in reality the whole country knows what happened. Chavez defeated his opponents democratically and for the fourth time in a row. Democracy in Venezuela, under the banner of the Bolivarian revolutionaries, has broken through the corrupt two-party system favoured by the oligarchy and its friends in the West. And this has happened despite the total hostility of the privately owned media: the two daily newspapers, Universal and Nacional as well as Gustavo Cisneros' TV channels and CNN made no attempt to mask their crude support for the opposition.
Some foreign correspondents in Caracas have convinced themselves that Chavez is an oppressive caudillo and they are desperate to translate their own fantasies into reality.. They provide no evidence of political prisoners, leave alone Guantanamo-style detentions or the removal of TV executives and newspaper editors (which happened without too much of a fuss in Blair's Britain).
A few weeks ago in Caracas I had a lengthy discussion with Chavez ranging from Iraq to the most detailed minutiae of Venezuelan history and politics and the Bolivarian programme. It became clear to me that what Chavez is attempting is nothing more or less than the creation of a radical, social-democracy in Venezuela that seeks to empower the lowest strata of society. In these times of deregulation, privatisation and the Anglo-Saxon model of wealth subsuming politics, Chavez' aims are regarded as revolutionary, even though the measures proposed are no different to those of the post-war Attlee government in Britain. Some of the oil-wealth is being spent to educate and heal the poor.
Just under a million children from the shanty-towns and the poorest villages now obtain a free education; 1.2 million illiterate adults have been taught to read and write; secondary education has been made available to 250,000 children whose social status excluded them from this privilege during the ancien regime; three new university campuses were functioning by 2003 and six more are due to be completed by 2006.
As far as healthcare is concerned, the 10,000 Cuban doctors, who were sent to help the country, have transformed the situation in the poor districts, where 11,000 neighbourhood clinics have been established and the health budget has tripled. Add to this the financial support provided to small businesses, the new homes being built for the poor, an Agrarian Reform Law that was enacted and pushed through despite the resistance, legal and violent, by the landlords. By the end of last year 2,262,467 hectares has been distributed to 116,899 families. The reasons for Chavez' popularity become obvious. No previous regime had even noticed the plight of the poor.
And one can't help but notice that it is not simply a division between the wealthy and the poor, but also one of skin-colour. The Chavistas tend to be dark-skinned, reflecting their slave and native ancestry. The opposition is light-skinned and some of its more disgusting supporters denounce Chavez as a black monkey. A puppet show to this effect with a monkey playing Chavez was even organised at the US Embassy in Caracas. But Colin Powell was not amused and the Ambassador was compelled to issue an apology.
The bizarre argument advanced in a hostile editorial in The Economist this week that all this was done to win votes is extraordinary. The opposite is the case. The coverage of Venezuela in The Economist and Financial Times has consisted of pro-oligarchy apologetics. Rarely have reporters in the field responded so uncritically to the needs of their proprietors.
The Bolivarians wanted power so that real reforms could be implemented. All the oligarchs have to offer is more of the past and the removal of Chavez.
It is ridiculous to suggest that Venezuela is on the brink of a totalitarian tragedy. It is the opposition that has attempted to take the country in that direction. The Bolivarians have been incredibly restrained. When I asked Chavez to explain his own philosophy, he replied:
And that's why he won.
Comment: Free health care. Now there's a dangerous idea! Educating people who had never had access to education before! Another dangerous idea. Horror of horrors that such ideas might catch on in the United States!
How much empathy is there in a country where health care is not recognised as a right? What can one say about a people who think that an individual should handle it him or herself, without relying upon the state? And to think that for most Americans, they accept that having no safety net is correct, no, more than that, it is the American Way.
Construction demands in China are one factor crimping global cement supplies and affecting 29 US states.
B. Wood | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
LOS ANGELES – Somewhere in China today, a dam is being built and it's ruining Bill Feltz's day.
"It's hurting us, no question," says Mr. Feltz, vice president of production for Anderson Concrete, a leading Central Ohio concrete firm. "The Chinese are building dams and roads and Olympic venues, so they are using more cement than they make." The extra demand is driving up the prices for the rest of the world, he says, so "here in Columbus, Ohio, a significant portion of that is coming out of our pockets."
Feltz says his company's profits may drop more than 10 to 15 percent this year, even though they try to pass extra costs - as much as 25 percent - to their customers. So far, he hasn't had to turn any customers away. From Connecticut to Florida, Texas to Michigan, and across the Southwest, shortages have become so severe that construction is being halted or slowed, leaving a growing number of roads, stadiums, and patios unfinished. The countrywide shortage of cement - the crushed limestone, calcium, and silicon powder used to bind concrete - could leave a significant pothole in the US economy.
"It's a very big deal," says Ryan Puckett, spokesman for the Portland Cement Association (PCA), a trade group that represents cement companies in the United States and Canada. The US has long imported about 25 percent of its cement, he says, much of which comes from China. With major Chinese construction projects moving ahead - from rural dams to urban skyscrapers - a fourth of the world's population is now using far more than it exports.
The worldwide shortage began to be felt across Asia first, then hit the shores of Florida last year. Since the US construction season began last spring, shortages have been declared in 29 states. Even though 114 US-based mills are running at 100 percent capacity seven days a week, they aren't keeping pace with demand. For companies who use the cement to mix the concrete they sell to customers, that means scheduling problems, layoffs, fewer profits, and concerns about the future.
"It's impacting customers, employees, company profits, and building projects all over the US," says Puckett. Delays and canceled projects are reported from retirement condo projects in Florida to housing developments in Phoenix to casino building in Las Vegas. "Everywhere there is construction, there are cement customers lined up without enough supply to keep them happy," he says.
The limited number of barges and shipping lines to bring the imported cement to US shores is adding to the problem. The demand for rebuilding in Iraq, and building projects from Hong Kong to Singapore, have significantly diverted supply ships to those countries. The supplies that are making it to US ports have been bottlenecked by transportation woes, observers say. [...]
British scientists fuel controversies by shunning colleagues with rebel ideas, according to research.
A Cardiff University study found British scientists ousted 'maverick' colleagues to avoid giving their arguments legitimacy.
In comparison, Swedish colleagues believed exclusion only served to exacerbate problems.
The author said this might explain how controversies around issues such as MMR have become health scares in the UK.
Dr Lena Eriksson surveyed 30 expert scientists from Sweden and the UK about their opinions on a high-profile controversial topic in their field of expertise - genetically modified food.
She found significant differences between the two groups' attitudes about scientist Arpad Pusztai who was suspended from his workplace after claiming in 1998 that a type of GM potato had adverse effects on the immune systems of rats.
The Swedish scientists were more inclined to take the view that there has to be scope for scientists to make mistakes, and therefore the treatment of Pusztai was to be condemned, regardless of the truth to his claims.
The British scientists on the other hand only said it was wrong to suspend Pusztai when they believed he was right in his conclusions.
When they did not hold the same unorthodox views as a maverick scientist, their first instinct was to shut out any dissenting voice, said Dr Eriksson.
She believes research communities that punish scientists who present contentious results will risk disenchanting an already sceptical public even further.
"This increases the likelihood of scientific controversies moving into a public domain, as the ousted scientists are forced to seek new audiences for their claims."
She cited the controversy surrounding the MMR vaccine following Dr Andrew Wakefield's suggestions of a link between MMR and autism and bowel disease was an example.
"It's a matter of how controversies are handled within scientific communities.
Dr Eriksson told BBC News Online: "A Swedish 'big tent' strategy, in which room is made for marginal views, could potentially serve to diminish the risk of all-out battles between scientists in the full glare of mass media," she said.
The British scientists were also more accepting of management and employer control over the publication of their material.
They saw it as necessary for their own protection in a hostile world, while their Swedish counterparts tended to resent excessive "red tape".
Dr Piers Benn, a lecturer in medical ethics at Imperial College London, said: "In my view, there is a general tendency in any profession to close ranks when somebody has said something controversial.
"There is a kind of closing of ranks around views that are regarded as maverick.
"People who have research that may be respectable tend to be dismissed on grounds of character rather than science," he said.
Bob Ward, spokesman for the Royal Society said: "It is hard to believe that Britain tries to suppress well-founded but unorthodox ideas any more than other countries because it has produced more than its fair share of mavericks who have made great steps forward for science.
"Just being a maverick does not ensure that your ideas are good. It is established practice that new ideas in science should be assessed for quality by one's peers, and that is as true in Sweden as it is in Britain.
"Perhaps British scientists react more strongly against researchers who bypass this scrutiny by their peers and instead go straight to the media before the quality of their work has been assessed.
"Nobody wants to see the public made more anxious because a researcher sought publicity for flawed results before the work was properly checked. The public deserve to hear why a controversial idea may be wrong if it is made public by any researcher."
Comment: Despite the spin control done by the Royal Society, it is clear that scientists in the UK and the US are very controlled in their work. This control begins when scientists go to write up research grant proposals. "Good" managers want to know what to expect in the long haul, and so they want scientists to predict ahead what the results will be. Moreover, money is given out to ideas that will have commercial and industrial spin-offs. Quickly. The Bottom Line does not like mistakes. What would they have done with an Edison who had to find 99 ways of not making the light-bulb before the found the one that worked?
The market, that wonderful "invisible hand" so loved by those neo-liberals who control and benefit from the illusion, wants results and profits. When the market overtakes the scientific world, there is no room for pure research with no specific, monetary goal.
not body makes athletes feel tired
Fatigue is in the mind, not the muscles, suggests a new study. But it can still have a serious impact on athletic performance. The finding could lead to treatments for conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome, or the development of illicit performance-enhancing drugs.
Traditionally, fatigue was viewed as the result of over-worked muscles ceasing to function properly. But evidence is mounting that our brains make us feel weary after exercise (New Scientist print edition, 20 March). The idea is that the brain steps in to prevent muscle damage.
Now Paula Robson-Ansley and her colleagues at the University of Cape Town in South Africa have demonstrated that a ubiquitous body signalling molecule called interleukin-6 plays a key role in telling the brain when to slow us down. Blood levels of IL-6 are 60 to 100 times higher than normal following prolonged exercise, and injecting healthy people with IL-6 makes them feel tired.
To work out if IL-6 affects performance, Robson-Ansley injected seven club-standard runners with either IL-6 or a placebo and recorded their times over 10 kilometres. A week later, the experiment was reversed.
On average they ran nearly a minute faster after receiving the placebo, a significant difference since their finishing times were around 41 minutes. The findings will appear in the Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology.
Published August 17, 2004
They're called bolides--flaming meteors that race across the sky at tremendous speed and explode. They aren't terribly common. Yet, such a meteor caught the attention of many around 1 a.m. Monday as it streaked above the Chicago area, initiating a sonic boom. The bolide was observed by an air traffic controller at O'Hare and by the pilots of incoming aircraft, according to FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory. Ground-based observers called police in Park Ridge, Norridge and Chicago to report the event. Area astronomers suggested the fiery meteor may have been part of the annual Perseids display, which peaked a week ago. But, it may also have been a piece of earthbound space junk or a "sporadic"--a single isolated meteor--added astronomer Dan Joyce, who says bolides can travel at speeds up to 150,000 m.p.h. 50-60 miles above earth, but slow and heat up as they enter the denser lower atmosphere.
Astronomers have used measurements from two distant stars to come up with an age for our galaxy, the Milky Way.
A team working with the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile report that our galaxy is 13,600 million years old, give or take 800 million years.
This was determined by measuring the amount of the element beryllium in two stars in a so-called globular cluster.
Last Updated Mon, 16 Aug 2004 13:49:39 EDT
ON THE AMUNDSEN ICEBREAKER IN QUEEN MAUD GULF - Scientists are peering into the muck of an Arctic seabed, looking for ancient clues about present-day climate change.
[...] By looking at the six-metre long samples from top to bottom, researchers may also find clues about today's climate, and if the Arctic ice cover is being harmed by climate change.
"Current thinking is the ice cover is actually decreasing," said Dalhousie Prof. David Scott, one of the scientists in charge of the research project.
"We should be able to tell if that's a natural cycle, 100-year cycle, 200-year cycle, or whether this is totally out of line with what's happened over the last 10,000 years."
The researchers have taken several samples along the Mackenzie Shelf. Their next step is to analyze the sediments to reconstruct what the Arctic was like over the last 10,000 years.
The UK's Royal Society has launched an investigation into the rising acidity of the world's oceans due to pollution from the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.
The change could have catastrophic consequences for marine life.
Oceans mop up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, lowering the water's pH value - an effect that may be exacerbated by burning of fossil fuels.
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Officers in hurricane-ravaged Fort Myers used a Taser gun on a man allegedly trying to get by a police barrier to get home, and it was all caught on tape.
A crowd formed around the scene and voices can be heard yelling, "Leave him alone," "That is so wrong," and "Come on man, he's frustrated."
The man had three children in the car with him. Many in the crowd felt for the man who hasn't seen his home in days.
Many of the police officers are in the same situation.
Monday, August 2, 2004
(AP) -- A few months from now, Peter Anthony Schlesinger hopes to zap a laser beam at a couple of chickens or other animals in a cage a few dozen yards away.
If all goes as planned, the chickens will be frozen in mid-cluck, their leg and wing muscles paralyzed by an electrical charge created by the beam, even as their heart and lungs function normally.
Among those most interested in the outcome will be officials at the Pentagon, who helped fund Schlesinger's work and are looking at this type of device to do a lot more than just zap a chicken.
Devices like these, known as directed-energy weapons, could be used to fight wars in coming years.
"When you can do things at the speed of light, all sorts of new capabilities are there," said Delores Etter, a former undersecretary of defense for science and technology and an advocate of directed-energy weapons.
Directed energy could bring numerous advantages to the battlefield in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, where U.S. troops have had to deal with hostile but unarmed crowds as well as dangerous insurgents.
Comment: Or these new toys may also be destined for "battle field America" where "dangerous insurgents" on the streets of US cities will experience first hand the results of their tax dollars at work.
What an eye awakening day this was. I thought that I had seen it all having been involved from Viet Nam to the beginning of Desert Storm in my military and civilian law enforcement career, but today I learned about a new part of the shame game.
For those who won't bother to read all this report, let me spell out the body counts that 6 of us (all retired military and/or law enforcement) went out to confirm today in different areas. These are confirmed bodies in the trucks, restaurant refers, or refer vans, and they are NOT 'missing persons' or animals:
Charlotte Harbor areas - 58 dead as of 5pm today; Fort Myers & the barrier islands - 21 deaths as of 3pm today; Punta Gorda - 275 deaths and escalating each hour; Desoto County - 36 deaths, expected to increase;
These figures came from our own eyes, medical personnel, various county sheriff's deputies, and eye witnesses or residents from the worst devastated areas. CNN and the rest of the world biased and controlled media are fooling none of us who live here. The current CONFIRMED body count in our 3 county area on the west coast of Florida is near 400 as I write this.
Readers should know right up front who is doing their best and who fails to pass the grade:
Honors awards to those people who have given and done the most: 1. City of North Port Police Department 2. Charlotte County Deputies 3. Desoto County Deputies 4. Visiting Pinellas County Deputies 5. Florida Power and Light
All of the above have gone beyond the call of duty. They are showing us what real cops and utility workers used to be... humanitarians.
Failing grades go to:
1. FEMA, the government loan people. 2. John Ellis Bush (JEB, the corporate Governor of Florida). 3. The untrained and unequipped remnants of the Florida National Guard. 4. George Walker Bush, the non-elected and appointed U.S. President. 5. Recycling firms who are stealing aluminum siding from destroyed mobile homes. 6. Those selling bags of ice for $10. 7. Thieves from Miami taking personal belongings from demolished homes. 8. Those thieves demanding money up front to file fake insurance claims.
Here's some of what went on today...
There are staging areas for FEMA (with their red and white signs to let you know they are 'there'), et al, that we could not openly enter into with photo and movie cameras having been 'discovered' in our vehicles... our cars and pick-ups were searched in the 'sensitive' areas where the worst devastation took place and where we were then refused entry. None-the-less, we still walked into most of these "off limits" areas at waterfront motels, I-75 restaurant/commercial areas, destroyed mobile home parks, and the temporary Charlotte morgue... to name a few. This is how we came up with the above figures for body counts. We spoke with medical personnel who have come from Miami to work triage and other temporary facilities, ambulance drivers (a special thanks to the Ambutrans people), homeless residents, and deputies from many different counties.
Considering most of the trained and experienced personnel and modern equipment from the Florida National Guard are now in the Middle East, JEB THE BUSH dared to send us antiquated equipment that broke down on I-75 driven by untrained personnel who have no idea what to do. Worse is that there were no water purification trucks (erdilators) sent, just old water tankers and old communications and storage trailers. It was a circus show and a true military cluster puck. There is no Florida National Guard... all the necessary equipment we need is sitting in Iraq or Kuwait right now.
A professional group of electronic thieves intercepted telephone calls from Lee and Charlotte counties to the special Allstate and State Farm insurance claims lines. They demanded credit card numbers and up-front payments from those calling in claims stating that they could guarantee 24 hour payment for all damages if the victims would pay $250-500 to them. [...]
As of this morning, our area has found the need to organize our own security 24/7. Last night and early this morning, we had thieves driving our streets stealing personal belongings and clothes that had not yet been collected from those neighbors who hadn't made it back here yet. We now warn all the Miami and Tampa gangs roaming our streets that if you dare to once again trespass in our community, you will deal with better armed resistance from us than you would from the local police and Sheriff's Departments. Other areas are now doing the same as we are. We will personally protect ourselves and what possessions we have left. We have been through far too much to be victims of prey. [...]
and DANA SANCHEZ
CHARLOTTE COUNTY - Two refrigerated trucks sat in the wind-torn parking lot of the Best Western Water Front Inn off the tranquil waters of Charlotte Harbor, serving as a temporary morgue for the casualties of Hurricane Charley.
Four people may have been killed by the storm in Charlotte County, some reports indicate, and Charley led to at least 16 deaths statewide during its forceful push Friday through Florida.
With ongoing search and rescue efforts stretching into the evening hours Sunday, Charlotte County emergency officials declined to confirm the county's fatalities.
"We've never dealt with a mass casualty event, and we're not yet prepared to (verify) or acknowledge the number of fatalities," said Wayne Sallade, director of Charlotte County's emergency management. "Yes, there are fatalities. Yes, there are people in those refrigerated trucks at the temporary morgue, but we're not prepared to say how many. At this point, I'm not sure that I have the accurate number. [...]
Comment: "Reluctant" because it might take away from Bush's attempts to capitalise on the event to assure more votes. Again we see the use of fear of death (the boogey man) to terrorise the public into accepting their own destruction.
Aug 17 2004
FLASH floods sparked a massive rescue operation yesterday as a 10ft wave of water crashed through a town.
Seven helicopters, two lifeboats and more than 20 fire engines were scrambled to Boscastle, Cornwall, after 4ins of rain fell in minutes.
Buildings collapsed and 30 cars were swept into the harbour, where the water met the rising tide and the River Valancy burst its banks.
Dozens of people were airlifted from rooftops and trees and others were rescued from cars, including two adults and a baby. Some lit fires to attract rescuers. RAF Kinloss, co-ordinating the operation, said: "All down that river bank we are picking people out of trees, picking them off the bank and taking them out of cars."
One person was plucked out by helicopter after a suspected heart attack. A kidney dialysis patient was lifted from his house.
Last Updated Mon, 16 Aug 2004 14:51:43 EDT
KIBBUTZ TZUBA, ISRAEL - Archeologists in Israel claim to have found a cave where John the Baptist anointed his disciples, but an American professor who participated in the excavation remains skeptical.
U.S.-European mission discovers small bodies between major moons
17 August 2004
The Cassini spacecraft has discovered two new moons at Saturn that may be the smallest bodies seen so far around the ringed planet, according to a NASA press release.
The moons, provisionally named S/2004 S1 and S/2004 S2, are 3 kilometers and 4 kilometers across and 194,000 kilometers and 211,000 kilometers from the planet's center. They are between the orbits of two other saturnian moons, Mimas and Enceladus. The August 16 press release says one moon, S/2004 S1, may be an object spotted in a single image taken by NASA's Voyager spacecraft 23 years ago, at that time called S/1981 S14.
The moons were first spotted by Dr. Sebastien Charnoz, a planetary dynamicist working at the University of Paris. "Discovering these faint satellites was an exciting experience, especially the feeling of being the first person to see a new body of our solar system," Charnoz said. "I had looked for such objects for weeks while at my office in Paris, but it was only once on holiday, using my laptop, that my code eventually detected them. This tells me I should take more holidays."
The smallest previously known moons around Saturn are 20 kilometers across. Scientists expected that moons as small as S/2004 S1 and S/2004 S2 might be found in gaps in the rings and perhaps near the F ring, so they were surprised that these small bodies are between two major moons. Small comets careening around the outer solar system would be expected to collide with small moons and break them to bits.
The fact that these moons exist where they do might provide limits on the number of small comets in the outer solar system, a quantity essential for understanding the Kuiper Belt of comets beyond Neptune, and the cratering histories of the moons of the giant planets.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. [...]
of Worlds in the Universe
Did the same Greek philosophers who declared the first truce for Olympic competition have the foresight to imagine a universe not just where many countries could coexist, but also a universe occupied by many such habitable worlds?
"As in the daytime there is no star in the sky warmer and brighter than the sun, likewise there is no competition greater than the Olympic Games". -- Pindar, Greek lyric poet, 5th century BC
The Greek aesthetic took the worldview that humans are the measure of all things, thus creating Western civilization, but this bias may have muddied a question of other worlds, where humans are off the scale.
As an unbroken chain linking the plurality of countries, the trademark interlocking five rings of the modern Olympic movement represents the five continents. By the same token, a similar chain of thought stretches back to the first Olympics, two millenia ago, when Greek thinkers speculated about a plurality of worlds.
While few would question the existence of the many flags and countries that the Olympics rings encircle, there has been considerable contention surrounding a less earth-centered competition. Philosophers were the first natural scientists: Aristotle, Democritus, Epicurus and Pythagorus.
Their debates were fiercesome, like athletic contests of philosophy.
Flagging the Many Philosophies
Locked in conflict were the many schools of thought, some like the Epicureans claiming the Earth was not the only planet occupied by life forms and others like the followers of Aristotle and Plato who argued that 'if creation was a composite, it would be subject to dissolution and decay.'
The writings of Aristotle [384-322 B.C.) present an array of arguments against astrobiology and the modern picture of innumerable, Earth-like worlds. Foremost because our solar system's motions were directed by a Prime Mover on the outskirts of the farthest planet--at that time, Saturn--then multiple solar systems would require multiple Prime Movers--an idea that Aristotle rejected as philosophically and religiously unacceptable.
Aristotle's position did not go unchallenged. Like a battle of Olympic philosophers, the Epicureans and Pythogoreans all had their chance to enter the ring. Concerning the structure and evolution of the universe, the most influential Epicurean proponent was the Roman poet Lucretius (99-55 B.C.) who asserted:
"Granted, then, that empty space extends without limit in every direction and that seeds innumerable are rushing on countless courses through an unfathomable universe...it is in the highest degree unlikely that this earth and sky is the only one to have been created and that all those particles are accomplishing nothing."
This point of view was given new relief when the fifteenth century scientists, particularly Isaac Newton, rediscovered Lucretius's poem and the Epicureans' world-view. Their response was to formulate the laws of physics by explicitly stating a defining reference frame. Motion was defined from a central axis that itself can move.
Echoing Lucretius, this same sentiment was revisited in the popular imagination in the film, Contact, based on Carl Sagan's novel, when the astronomer, Dr. Ellie Arroway, repeats the Epicurean question, " do you think there's people on other planets?" To this question, Arroway's father, Ted, replies, "I don't know, Sparks. But I guess I'd say if it is just us... seems like an awful waste of space."
The Epicureans did not have a simple view of these other worlds. Plurality of worlds can mean many planets-- or a succession of one planet over time. In Greek astronomy, the sky was a vault. A dome surrounded the farthest known planet in our solar system. The Epicurean worlds were plural, but these separate systems were unseen by humans. So stars, suns and planets could exist as conglomerates within the uncuttable atoms. As Metrodorus of Chios, a contemporary of Epicurus and his leading disciple, put it, "It would be strange if an ear of corn grew in a large plain or were there only one world in the infinite. And that worlds are infinite in number follows from the causes [i.e., atoms] being infinite." [...]
Competing and the 'No Fear' Advantage
Underlying this debate may be implict a fear of earthly neglect if other worlds are found. The Epicureans fundamentally rejected this notion with their theme, "freedom from fear".
As science-fiction writer, Ben Bova, described, "Shock and awe, at first, among the general population [will greet an announcement of life elsewhere]. Then, as they see that the world is not coming to an end, they will gradually accept the idea that we are not alone in the universe. For scientists, the great question will be to determine if extraterrestrial life comes from the same origin as our own, or has arisen independently."
Western scholars would later reject the debater's points--whether the succession of worlds from the Stoics, the multi-world view of the Epicureans or the habitable moon theory of the Pythagoreans. The philosophers of the Middle Ages did however acknowledge a central place for the question itself: does life exist elsewhere?
Albertus Magnus (1193-1280) crafted one of the first statements that could easily be recognizable on an astrobiology roadmap today: "Since one of the many wondrous and noble questions in Nature is whether there is one world or many,...it seems desirable for us to inquire about it."
While most of Aristotle's intellectual descendants cut short the debate, the famous Oxford-educated, Franciscan, William of Ockham (1280-1347), argued the same question: could the First Cause create multiple worlds? To answer, Ockham relativized Aristotle's antipluralism, since the notion of natural place between earth, air, fire and water could translate their elemental properties to a different natural place at different locales. In other words, just as trees and wood can rise in water (in violation of strict natural place), different planets might not provide the same relation between heavenly air and fire or terrestrial soil and water.
Even if Aristotle might have described Terra Firma, he still could consistently be generalized to Extra-terra Firma. This logic trick satisfied Ockham's razor, the law of parsimony, because it was a simple explanation.
Just as a rich, two millenia tradition underpins the gathering of many nations under the Olympian five rings, today's view of the universe has aggregated a consensus around the many world view of our universe. The debate is governed more by statistics than philosophy, with echoes of Metrodorus' poetry ("it would be strange" to imagine just one world). But one cannot discount the debate itself, since the same competition is open today about whether multiple universes, or multi-verses, might or might not be possible. Just like the Greeks, such modern scientific forums debate the boundaries to, well, everything.
Statistics Trumping Philosophy?
Ockham's razor offers an ironic twist on this debate. Ockham's rule in science and philosophy is often cited in defense of multiworlds. But the rule technically states that entities should not be multiplied needlessly. This definition sounds like Aristotle: the Prime Mover is not otherwise occupied by attention to other habitable planets. We as the one are alone.
In the more modern parsimony, however, the philosophical razor is sought to cut between competing theories, where the simplest explanation wins. Simplest in this case means requiring the fewest presuppositions or assumptions. The race is won along the shortest foot path.
As CUNY Professor, Michio Kaku, noted, for the first time in history, experiments may offer the shortest path to resolution. The scientific method can settle this two millenia-long debate: "This question is no longer a matter of idle speculation. Soon, humanity may face an existential shock as the current list of a dozen Jupiter-sized extra-solar planets swells to hundreds of earth-sized planets, almost identical twins of our celestial homeland."
Keay Davidson, San Francisco Chronicle Science Writer
Ten years after the U.S. Air Force closed its books on the claim that a UFO crashed in Roswell, N.M., in 1947, a top Democratic Party figure wants to reopen the investigation into the cosmic legend.
Despite denials by federal officials, many UFO buffs cherish the notion that in early summer of 1947, a flying saucer crashed in rural Roswell, scattering alien bodies and saucer debris across the terrain.
Now Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who chaired the recent Democratic convention in Boston, says in his foreword to a new book that "the mystery surrounding this crash has never been adequately explained -- not by independent investigators, and not by the U.S. government. ... There are as many theories as there are official explanations.
"Clearly, it would help everyone if the U.S. government disclosed everything it knows," says Richardson, who served as Energy secretary under President Bill Clinton. "The American people can handle the truth -- no matter how bizarre or mundane. ... With full disclosure and our best scientific investigation, we should be able to find out what happened on that fateful day in July 1947."
The passage appears in a paperback titled "The Roswell Dig Diaries," published in collaboration with TV's SciFi Channel by Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. The "dig" of the title refers to an archaeological dig at the supposed crash site.
A Richardson aide, Billy Sparks, confirmed the governor's remarks. Richardson "is interested in either debunking the story or (encouraging) full disclosure" of any unreleased records on the case, Sparks said.
To the Air Force, though, there is no mystery -- and there hasn't been for a long time. In 1994, the Air Force published "Roswell Report: Case Closed, " which asserted that so-called saucer debris was, in fact, the ruins of an unusual type of military research balloon, which contained hypersensitive acoustic sensors designed to detect the rumble of any Soviet A-bomb tests. A subsequent investigation by the U.S. General Accounting Office was unable to locate any unreleased records on the case.
Hence, Richardson's foreword drew scorn from veteran UFO investigators and science popularizers.
"We're kind of disappointed in Richardson for perpetuating the mythology of that thing," said Dave Thomas, president of New Mexicans for Science and Reason, a skeptics group in Albuquerque.
The grand old man of skeptical UFO investigators, Philip J. Klass, who has written for Aviation Week & Space Technology since 1952, said: "Gov. Richardson -- whom I previously admired -- is wrong about Roswell and too trusting of TV network promoters. After more than a third of a century of research, I have found no credible evidence of extraterrestrial visitors."
Andrew Fraknoi, a noted astronomy popularizer and critic of pseudoscience who teaches at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, called Richardson's foreword unbelievable.
"This continues to confirm that election or appointment to high office does not guarantee wisdom in all areas of human thought," he said.
But in a show of extraterrestrial bipartisanship, the executive director of the New Mexico Republican Party is taking Richardson's side. Greg Graves, a native of Roswell who suspects the crashed object was "something more than a weather balloon," wants to know what really happened in the Southwestern desert two years before his birth.
Still, Graves hopes the truth isn't disillusioning. That's because the saucer legend is so good for the local economy: "Thousands of people come to Roswell every year to visit the site and go to the museum. It's an incredible boon to the Roswell economy. Just think about 'X Files' and TV shows about Roswell.
"When I go around the country and tell people I was born in Roswell," he adds, "people ask: 'Do I think something crashed there?' "
BERLIN, (Reuters) - A German truck driver lost control of his vehicle while trying to swat a wasp and spilled his 15-tonne load of jam jars on the motorway, police said on Tuesday.
"He was trying so hard to kill the wasp that he smashed the truck against the barrier," a spokesman for the motorway police in the western town of Greven said.
"That's when he really started attracting wasps. There was jam all over the motorway."
Police had to close the A1 motorway for two hours while they cleaned up the mess, causing a long traffic jam.
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