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Thursday, September 02, 2004

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New! Signs Supplement: The Suicide Bombing Cycle

Picture of the Day

Sunset in Lomagne
©2004 Pierre-Paul Feyte

Letter From A Reader: Why Do People Still Believe Bush?

I am still trying to figure this out. The home schooling group that I am a member of, is all conservative Christian moms. Now that the election is nearing and politics are discussed liberally, I feel more alienated from my immediate surroundings then ever in my life, and that's saying something. These are all genuinely warm, caring, and supportive people, knowledgeable, they are so good with their children, and then boom, they start talking about Bush and how they admire him, and it's obvious that black is white for them. As I observed this, it seemed to me at first that for them the most important issue is abortion and gay marriages (both of which they abhor). I thought this alone is what makes them support Bush, and the rest they just accept as a part of the whole package, without giving it much thought.

Well, today they were all sharing how they went to see 'our president' (apparently, Bush campaigned on a nearby state fair). It was apparent that they support him in everything.

One woman, with a smirk on her face, said "Do you know this priest he used to be in our diocese, he is marching against the war, can you believe this? and he was [elsewhere] on that same day [as Bush was at the fair], showing graphic pictures of dead soldiers, can you believe this, so insensitive to the poor families, they are grieving, they need to BELIEVE in that it was worth something".

I asked her, "Do you think it is more important to BELIEVE or to know the TRUTH?"

She mumbled and said, "Well yes, the truth is more important, but people in distress can't think rationally, and are prone to latching onto some piece of propaganda".

It's all twisted in their minds. And then she says, 'We'll probably never know the truth. I am sure the president could have defended himself over and over again, but there is probably some sensitive information that we shouldn't know now, because it heightens the risk of terrorism."

So yes, the fear is big, as is the manipulation of information, but there is something more there. It seems that the manipulation of information is taken place in people's brain chemistry. What I mean is that yes, Fox paints a pretty picture, but the truth is out there for those who have eyes to see and will to find out. But for these people, the right buttons were pushed (the typical above mentioned conservative issues), and so everything else the president does MUST be 'good' too.

And what's 'good', the mechanics of it so to speak, may be different for them, too. Another detail, from a different incident, this one happened at my husband's work. His coworkers are very conservative, too. Once at a lunch table they talked about how and why you do things for people. And they unanimously agreed that, of course you do good things to people just so that they do good things to you! This, according to them is real love! My husband pressed one of his coworkers, 'so why do you tell your wife that she is beautiful', and at the end, the other guy answered, 'because this is just what you do ... if I do this, my dinner tastes better'.

Christian love, my foot.

The idea of doing something for others without expectation for any return was completely alien to them. But with all this, they think that the fact that they are Christian automatically makes them better people. It's even used in sentences as in, 'we took lessons from this wonderful Christian lady', or 'such a knowledgeable person, and Christian, too'.

Lastly, back to the home schooling moms: they all were disappointed with the way the rally was organized. No one knew what was going on, and more tickets were given out then there was room. One of them had to stay in line for a long time, in the heat, and go through airport-tight security gate, only to find out that there was no more room. She said, 'I know it sounds weird, but I almost had a feeling, that's what a concentration camp is like, people being herded somewhere, with some purpose, all together, and not told anything'. A shiver ran down my spine, I was horrified; you don't know how right you are, I thought. But to her, this was business as usual, just some organizational difficulties, that had no bearing on her favorite president's character.

Amazingly, these are not rich people by any means, don't they realize how they's been had financially during these four years?

I don't think I can stand one more bush/cheney sticker. But I see them every day, many times a day.

Comment: But the miracle of Bush goes much further than this. He is more than a heel, he is a healer. Here is another letter we received:

Our Leader
Their Leader

There is another reason that people plan to vote for Bush: his deep compassion and mystical healing power.

I confess that I was unaware that he had these qualities until our local newspaper published a letter from an ardent Bush supporter. One part of the letter read:

"Ashley Faulkner is a 15-year-old girl from Lebanon, Ohio, whose mother was killed in the Trade Center on 9/11. When meeting her, President Bush gave her a hug. After that, her father, Lynn, said that his daughter came out of his shell and began to heal.

'I felt he was trying to protect me. Here is the most powerful guy in the world, and he wants to make sure I'm safe,' said Ashley." The letter-writer added, "That is the type of person the president is and he will have my vote."

Some aspects of this story are easily confirmed: Bush definitely met this girl, and hugged her (http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/a/ashley.htm). As for the healing part, to my mind the important part is not whether it actually happened, but why the story is circulating, and is so consistent with some people's view of Bush. Perhaps it is meant to go with those photos of Bush that are framed in such a way that he looks like he has a halo.

Comment: Brethren, this is the devil's work! Those who look for proofs of their faith will be deceived! Be they the Republican faithful or those awaiting the arrival of our Space Brothers to lift us from this vale of tears.

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Bush keeps setting (bad) records

Molly Ivens

ANOTHER RECORD. We have already lost more American soldiers (488) in Iraq in 239 days of this year than we did in 287 days last year (482), when there was a war on and before our mission was accomplished.

The grind of the numbers is so relentless. Price of oil — pressing $50 a barrel. Poverty rate — increased again, third year in a row. Number of Americans without insurance — increased again, third year. Part of the "vibrant economy" Bush touts daily now. And the news from Iraq just keeps getting worse and worse.

Then, to liven things up, someone from Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith's office is accused of passing classified information to the Israelis via the lobby group American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Be interesting to see whether Laurence A. Franklin, the alleged spy, gets as much publicity as Clinton's former NSC adviser Sandy Berger did for allegedly taking notes on classified documents for his 9-11 Commission testimony. The Justice Department has announced no charges will be filed against Berger, and the matter is closed.
- advertisement-

At least this gives us an opportunity to revisit one of my all-time favorite statements by Feith, a key member of the neo-con inner circle that dominates foreign policy in this administration. On May 4 this year, Feith observed in a speech, "No one can properly assert that the failure, so far, to find Iraqi weapons of mass destruction stockpiles undermines the reasons for the war."

Uhhh. What a bunch of clear thinkers they are. An enterprising student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Devon Largio, has done an honors thesis delineating 27 separate rationales advanced by the administration for the war in Iraq. The only one left, of course, is "Saddam was a bad guy" — in other words, the human rights argument, the only one specifically rejected by the administration before the war.

Some days it's hard to figure out what the Bush administration thinks it's doing. They started their convention in New York City by announcing a new formula for distributing public housing funds that will cost New York City billions of dollars and benefit primarily Texas and California. You just never know about timing with this bunch: The Census Bureau jumped the gun by a full month reporting the new, highly unfortunate numbers on both poverty and health insurance. This put the announcement in the August congressional recess, with many newsies on vacation — poverty up by 1.3 million, uninsured up by 1.4 million. Median income stagnant. Children hardest hit — 12.9 million children living in poverty.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, George W. Bush's top donors — the Pioneers ($100,000) and Rangers ($200,000) have delivered a total of $76.5 million this campaign. According to Texans for Public Justice, 69 percent of the 544 elite donors are CEOs and business executives. Seventeen percent are lobbyists. One hundred of them are connected to the corporate scandals Bush now lists as among the economic factors to which he had no connection. (Ken Lay was his largest single donor in 2000.) And 146 of the big-time donors received government appointments.

Unnumbered weirdness by John Ashcroft (it's too hard to keep count): The Department of Justice has asked the Government Printing Office "to instruct depository libraries to destroy five publications the department has deemed ‘not appropriate for external use.' Of the five publications, two are texts of federal laws. They are to be removed from libraries and destroyed, making their content available only to those with access to a law office or law library," according to the American Library Association. All the documents concern either federal civil or criminal forfeiture procedure, including to how to reclaim items that have been confiscated by the government during an investigation.

I don't know how you feel about living in a country where the citizens are not allowed to read the law, but I find it ... surprising. Speaking of freedom, at a public campaign rally in New Mexico at which Dick Cheney spoke, those who wished to attend were asked to first sign a public loyalty oath, to wit: "I, (full name), do herby (sic) endorse George W. Bush for re-election of the United States." The form also announced, "In signing the above endorsement you are consenting to use and release your name by Bush-Cheney as an endorser of President Bush."

Meanwhile, at Bush's "Ask President Bush" events being staged around the country, only Bush supporters are allowed in. This results in such tough questions as, "This is the very first time that I have felt God was in the White House."

Did any of us sign up for this four years ago? As a new bumper sticker says, "Re-Defeat Bush."

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High Plains Grifter: The Life and Crimes of George W. Bush

Part 2

By JEFFREY ST. CLAIR
September 1, 2004

Sex and politics often seem to conflate in George W. Bush's mind. In 1975, young George, fresh out of Harvard Business School, followed his father to China, where he was keen testing the receptiveness of the Chinese to infusions of Texas capital. Soon bored by detailed discussions of international finance, Bush began hitting on his translators and other Chinese women. One Yale coed who came into Bush's orbit recalled: "He was always one of the fastest guys on campus in trying to get his hands in your pants." This friskiness didn't set well with the decorous crowd then running China and he was discreetly directed to evacuate the country in order to save his father, the new ambassador to Peking, further embarrassment.

During the 1988 Republican convention, David Fink, a reporter with the Hartford Courant, asked Bush what he talked about with his father when they weren't jawing about politics. "Pussy," George W. quipped. Take that mom.

In 1992, W. famously offered his services to his father's moribund re-election campaign. The younger Bush counseled the president to hire private investigators to rummage through the bedtrails of Clinton's sex life, hoping to ignite "bimbo eruptions." This advice coming from a man who, according to one of his friends, spent the 1970s "sleeping with every bimbo in West Texas, married or not." George Sr. (who was himself desperately trying to suppress talk of an affair with a State Department employee) demurred, patted Jr. on the head and followed the more tactful advice of Robert Teeter, with fatal results.

George W. vowed not to make the same political miscalculations as his father in his own 1994 run for governor of Texas. With the sepulchural Karl Rove as his political Svengali, Bush set his sights on Ann Richards, the gruff Democrat who ridiculed Bush's sense of privilege, "Little George was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple." It was a campaign marked by unbridled viciousness, backroom slanders and outright lies. Bush didn't attack frontally; he sent surrogates to hurl the mud for him. Naturally, he won in a romp.

Bush's six-year tenure as governor of Texas was unremarkable by almost any standard. He was kept on a short leash by his handlers, Rove and Karen Hughes, and generally turned over policy-making to the yahoos in the Texas legislature. His resume of those days is familiar by now: he slashed taxes for the rich, injected religion into public schools and social welfare programs, signed a law permitting the carrying of concealed weapons in public buildings and churches, privatized public parks, turned Texas into the nation's most toxic state, sent children to adult prisons and supervised the execution of 152 death row inmates.

During an interview with Larry King, Bush chortled about sending Karla Faye Tucker to her fatal encounter with death's needle, saying he had no regrets. Later he joked about the execution with his CNN doppleganger Tucker Carlson. Bush mimiced Karla Faye's pleas for mercy, whining in a shrill falsetto: "Oh please don't kill me." Somebody give Bushtail a shot of Jack Daniels before he kills again.

The big change in Bush was his dramatic conversion to a messianic form of Christian fundamentalism. The happy-go-lucky cad of the 60s and 70s had withered away, replaced by a doltish and vindictive votary. His rebirth as a Christian zealot was famously midwifed by Billy Graham, who considered young George "almost like a son." According to Bush during a walk on the beach at Kinnebunkport, "Billy planted a mustard seed in my soul." The man has a felicity with metaphor.

The seed sprouted a few months later. In the notorious scene in the bathroom of a Colorado resort, Bush, head pounding from a night of drinking in celebration of his 40th birthday, plunged to his knees before the mirror and pleaded with the Almighty for a heavenly intervention. Lightning struck that morning. Bush, so the family legend goes, kicked the bottle and emerged as a fanatical believer in what he called "the intercessory power of prayer."

A few years later Bush, by then governor of Texas, offered readers of the Houston Chronicle a peek into the stern nature of his faith. "Only those who have accepted Jesus as their personal savoir will be permitted entry into heaven," Bush prophesied. Ten years down the road, Bush would do his best to send thousands of heathens to eternal damnation. Of course, Bush, having been granted the moral amnesty of being born-again, rarely attends formal church services. [...]

Bush's 534-vote triumph in Florida is an old and tiresome story by now, but it's worth recalling some of the low points. The stolen election was an inside job, although greatly abetted by Gore's incompetence. The state may very well have been secured before a single vote was cast. That's because Jeb, the Bush who always wanted to be president, ordered Katherine Harris to purge the voter rolls of more than 90,000 registered voters, mostly in Democratic precincts.

Then, with the recount underway, the Bush junta sprang into action. Using $13.8 million in campaign funds, they recuited an A-list of Republican fixers, tough guys and lawyers. Roger Stone, the former Republican fixer and body builder of Reagan time who fled to Florida following a DC sex scandal, was summoned to orchestrate gangs of rightwing Cubans to harass election officials in Dade and Palm Beach counties. Marc Racicot, later to be elevated by Bush to chair of the RNC, staged similar white-collar riots, all designed to impede the counting of ballots. Jeb and the haughty Harris did their parts as institutional monkeywrenchers.

Meanwhile, the legal strategy designed by Theodore Olson to fast track the case to the Supreme Court. When Scalia and Thomas refused to recuse themselves from the case despite glaring conflicts of interest (family members worked for the Bush campaign), the electoral theft was legitimized.

The ringmaster of this affair was Bush Sr.'s old hand, James Baker. Baker later boasted to a group of Russian tycoons mustered in London, "I fixed the election in Florida for George Bush." And Gore laid down and took it like a dazed Sonny Liston. He didn't raise a peep about the disenfranchisement of thousands of black voters, as if to say, "If have to be elected by blacks, I don't want the job."

Bush, the Selected One, was anxious to consolidate his power. "If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier-- just so long as I'm the dictator," Bush snickered on December 18, 2000, as the Supreme Court prepared to deliver the presidency to his sweaty hands.

Mark those words.

The contours of the Bush agenda were established by his transition team. This shadowy group picked the cabinet, outlined the budget, sketched the foreign policy, dreamed up the size of the tax cuts and scouted across the sprawl of the bureaucracy for opportunities for self-dealing contracts.

None had a sharper nose for scenting opportunities to cash in on federal contracts than Dick Cheney, the man who recruited himself as Bush's running mate. Although Cheney flunked out of Yale (he was a working class kid without the academic passes afforded the legacy admittees), he shares several other traits with Bush. Twice Cheney has been arrested for drunk driving. And, although he fervantly supported the war, he had no desire to actually go to Vietnam and do battle. Saying he "had other priorities," Cheney sought and received five draft deferments. See Dick run. And so it came to pass: others died so that he might prosper. Don't tell Cheney he doesn't understand the meaning of sacrifice. [...]

Cheney was not a lone emissary from crude cartel. Of the 41 members of that Bush transition team, 34 came from the oil industry. The mask had slipped off the beast. Not since the days of Warren Harding has big oil enjoyed a firmer stranglehold on the controls of the federal government. Bush's inner circle is dominated by oil men, starting with Bush and Cheney and including 6 cabinet members and 28 top political appointees. Recall that Condoleezza Rice has an oil tanker named after her and that Stephen Griles, the number two man at the Interior Department, was the oil industry's top lobbyist and continued to be paid $285,000 a year by his former firm as he handed out oil leases to his former clients. Griles is the Albert Fall of our time. Fall, the architect of the Teapot Dome scandal, where his crony's oil company was quitely handed the rights to drill in on federal lands in Wyoming, pronounced: "All natural resources should be made as easy of access as possible to the present generation . Man cannot exhaust the resources of nature and never will." More than 80 years later, this wreckless nonsense could serve as a motto for the Bush administration. But see how times have change. Fall went to jail for his self-dealing; Griles got a bonus.

Then came the neo-cons: Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Scooter Libby, Douglas Feith, Donald Wurmser, Stephen Cambone and John Bolton. This coterie of hawks, many of them veterans of Reagan/Bush I, were deeply marinated in the writings of the darkly iconic Leo Strauss and schooled in the art of political terror by Henry "Scoop" Jackson, the Democratic senator from Boeing. After eight years on the outside, they came in febrile for war from the get-go and charged with an implacable loyalty to Israel, nation of the apartheid wall and the 82 nukes. The neo-cons's devotion to Israel was so profound that several of them hired themselves out as consultants to the Israeli government. At the close of Bush's first term, this same nest of neo-cons finds itself under investigation for leaking top secret documents to Israel.

To complete the starting lineup, Bush and Cheney also dredged up from the obscurity of far right think tanks some of the most malodorous scoundrels of the Iran/contra era: Eliot Abrams, John Poindexter, Otto Reich and John Negroponte. Soon enough this merry band of brigands were up to their old tricks. Poindexter, from his den at DARPA, devised a big brother program under the name Total Information Awareness, branded with an Illuminati logo, which sought to keep track of the movements and credit card purchases of all Americans. Later Poindexter, convicted of lying to congress in the 1980s, opened up a futures market for terrorist attacks, where traders would be financially rewarded by the Pentagon for accurately predicting suicide bombings. Meanwhile, Abrams, another Iran/contra felon, was put in charge of human rights in the Middle East-a curious brief for the man who backed the butchers of Guatemala and El Salvador. Even Hunter S. Thompson blazing away on blotter acid couldn't dream this stuff up.

Comment: This is part 2 of St. Clair's look at the life and times of George the II. You might also wish to check out Part 1 and Part 3. In these troubled times, it is important to know the facts about the beloved leader of the Free World™, the man who is able to inspire such loyalty. George tells us that God chose him to be President, and knowing the true history of the God George worships, we shouldn't take these words lightly. Yahweh is a mighty God, a vengeful God, an arrogant God. He may well also be a dry drunk and a psychopath like George. The Old Testament certainly reads that way.

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Republican Convention Dogged by Relentless Protests

By Grant McCool
Sep 1, 9:49 PM (ET)

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Five thousand people protesting high job losses formed a 3 mile unemployment line in Manhattan on Wednesday and AIDS activists disrupted a
Republican meeting on the third day of the party's convention to nominate the president to a second term in office.

Police arrested 19 people in several incidents, bringing the total of those detained so far during seven days of relentless convention-related protests to more than 1,760, a record for a U.S. political convention.

President Bush arrived in New York and about 15 supporters greeted him with chants of "Four More Years" as he met with firefighters in the borough of Queens. Some 50 detractors signs and chanted nearby.

"After robbing the people of the popular vote and stealing the last election, the Bush administration's policies give me a pain in my gut," said Leon Comeau, 33, of Queens, who participated in the protest.

Bush won the deciding electoral college vote in the 2000 election against Democrat Al Gore after weeks of ballot disputes in Florida.

HISTORIC ARRESTS

New York criminal court spokesman David Bookstaver said Tuesday's arrests in Manhattan were "historic in that we had we had a record number 1,191 convention- related arrests in one borough for one day."

The arrests surpassed the 589 detentions during the rioting that marred the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. Most of the New York protests have been peaceful, but one police officer was beaten unconscious in a fracas blocks from the Madison Square Garden convention site on Monday night.

Hundreds of people on Wednesday protested the conditions under which those arrested during the convention are being held before going to court, calling the facility "Guantanamo on the Hudson," a reference to the U.S. naval base in Cuba housing prisoners from the war in Afghanistan.

They said the site, a bus depot at a Hudson River pier, was contaminated with oil and asbestos, a charge the police department denied.

Police said 12 people were arrested on Wednesday when AIDS activists from the ACT UP group breached the Madison Square Garden convention hall and briefly interrupted a speech by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card to young Republicans, including Bush's twin daughters.

ACT UP said activists stood on chairs and held signs to urge the administration to relieve billions of dollars in debt of poor countries to help fund HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs.

The third day of the convention also brought out 5,000 silent marchers protesting job losses during the Bush administration. Tens of thousands other protesters gathered for two hours in a designated demonstration area two blocks from the convention arena in support of more union jobs in the United States.

The "unemployment line" snaked 3 miles from Wall Street to central Manhattan. The participants held leaflets that read "The Next Pink Slip Could Be Yours,"
referring to the paper notice given those who are laid off.

The U.S. economy has lost 1.1 million jobs since Bush took office.

Speakers at the union rally accused the Bush administration of encouraging the outsourcing of jobs overseas and weakening workers' rights to form unions.

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Outgunned, Outmatched

Posted September 1, 2004.
By Don Hazen, AlterNet.

Tuesday, August 31 – The day protesters had designated as "direct action" day certainly lived up to its billing, but not as they had planned. As the second day of Republican convention speeches dragged on a few blocks away at Madison Square Garden, an extremely aggressive New York Police Department pre-empted protest actions, trapped marchers in no-escape cul de sacs, and surrounded groups and individuals in orange netting as though they were capturing schools of fish. Police arrested hundreds (the New York Times reports at least 900), perhaps more than 1,000. Most of the arrested were young people who were merely exercizing their right to free and peaceful assembly.

Early police skirmishes broke out on the steps of the Public Library at 42nd street and 5th Avenue at around 5:45 PM. This spread to Herald Square in front of Macy's, to Union Square and to areas around Madison Square Park near 26th Street and Park Avenue. In some cases, cops arrested large numbers, while in other cases they kept protestors hemmed in, immobile, for hours. Sometimes dispersal warnings were given; often the police didn't bother before pulling out the handcuffs.

Starting at about 6 PM, the area of mid-Manhattan from 42nd Street to 14th Street was transformed into a wild zone of racing motorcades of cops in all manner of vehicles – bicycles, scooters, vans, big black Ford Crown Victorias for carting the top brass, and huge Black Chevy Suburbans with tinted windows. There were also separate squads of plain-clothes bicyclists and scooter riders.

Protesters, Republican delegates, and New Yorkers alike had to deal with the throbbing sounds of hovering helicopters, a constant cacophony of sirens, and grid-locked traffic as vehicle hordes roared up and down the streets, rushing from spot to spot in a real-life version of a high-action video game.

Protestors tried to move too, but they were on foot and often trapped behind police lines. More often than not, the demonstraters were overwhelmed by the sheer number of police surrounding them. One New Yorker, an older woman who was walking by hundreds of police lined up along 42nd Street outside Bryant Park, commented at the sight of cops outnumbering the protesters by perhaps 2-1: "I can't believe they are spending so much taxpayer money on this."

Earlier in the day at a press conference at Union Square, symbolically in front of a Gandhi statue, protest leaders spoke of their desire to use non-violent civil disobedience to strongly protest a Bush administration they feel has an agenda of "greed at home and war and empire building abroad." Their grievances were many and comprehensive as Raenne Young, a Mills College Student explained: "Our actions will spotlight symbols of the callous disregard by this administration for the lives of Iraqis, U.S. soldiers, for the ecology of the planet and for the poor of the country." And the protest leaders had reason to believe that New York residents were behind them, as 68% approved of non-violent civil disobedience, while 70% disapproved of Bush, in a recent poll.

But clearly this had no effect on the NYPD's tactics for dealing with the protesters.

The NYPD strategy on Tuesday is analogous to the recent Iraq war's display of overwhelming and sometimes unnecessary force on a largely peaceful populace. By all accounts, police action on Tuesday was intent on trying to stop protests before they began. They broke up gatherings of people on the street without cause, often making a bunch of arbitrary arrests, perhaps intended to scare the more timid demonstrators off the streets. And police drove away the remaining crowds by physically pushing them down streets, along with threats of arrest for those who wouldn't budge.

This approach to law enforcement was in evidence early on in the day, as a group of veteran pacifists and protesters from The War Resisters League and School of Americas Watch attempted to march a distance of three miles at around 4 pm from Ground Zero, the scene of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, to Madison Square Garden, where they planned to conduct a symbolic "die in." The march was stopped before it started, as police arrested 200 people near Ground Zero.

At around 5:45PM there was a gentle crowd on the front steps of the Public Library, checking out the eclectic array of banners with messages relating to topics from ecology to Che Guevera. Nothing too wild was going on. But then out of the blue, a group of cops jumped on several protestors with no warning of their advance and mayhem erupted. Here the cops were true bullies. They threw an elderly man to the ground and handcuffed him, arresting perhaps 10 people overall. Dozens of police reinforcements arrived and continued to rough up the crowd, with some of the cops using their bicycles as body shields. The cops cleared the Library steps and then threatened to arrest anyone who remained on the sidewalk by the library for disorderly conduct. The relatively small group of several hundred protestors and onlookers was then pushed down 42nd Street, where a convoy of police coming from the other direction trapped a bunch of them and arrested at least a dozen more.

The pattern of pushing protestors in a specific direction and trapping them was repeated on a number of occasions; one example was a group of young people who were walking down 17th Street from Union Square toward Fifth Avenue, when they were trapped by police at the other end. "The whole group of more than 30 stood silently with their hands in the peace sign. This was one of the saddest arrest scenes," said Beka Econopoulos a protest observer and organizer for United for Peace and Justice. "They were just standing there so quietly."

The police on some occasions did not restrain themselves from committing senseless violence as well. Alison Ramer, a student activist, who starts school today at Leslie College, said she was marching down Park Avenue from 36th to 26th streets at around 8 pm with a group of close to 200 students. According to Ramer, "Some of the kids knocked down some of the orange cones, but we were generally peaceful. Suddenly about 300 cops charged us, much more than the number of people in the march, and I was whacked hard in the back with a police club. I started crying as I huddled in a doorway. People were being arrested all around me. I think about 55, all students. A cop pulled me out and asked me if I was all right, which ended up with my avoiding getting arrested." Ramer added that another two people were hurt and taken away by an ambulance, and that she had a big welt across her back from the clubbing.

The skirmishes continued into the night, as large numbers of police assembled at Union Square around 10 pm, while marchers made protest runs toward Madison Square Garden. [...]

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Police cross a line

By Tom Regan

For a few scary moments, it looked like the situation would turn out very badly indeed.

I was standing with a group of young protesters on 33rd Street, near 6th Ave. The police, outfitted in riot gear, had formed a line across the street and were herding the crowd, now bunched up on the sidewalk, towards 5th Ave. But about eight motorcycle cops had used their bikes to form a barricade across the sidewalk behind us. The police in front had no idea what the police behind us were doing. In fact, despite all the pre-convention publicity of how effective the police are, and their ability to handle these kind of problems, they had no control over this situation which was largely of their own making.

Two possible scenarios crossed my mind. Either people would start falling on top of each other, with the very real likelihood of being injured, or one of us would be pushed into a police officer and his motorcycle, and all heck would break loose. Neither prospect looked promising. Finally, one of the police in the back row climbed on top of their bikes and waved their arms frantically to get the attention of the cops in the front. When they finally did, one cop from the front yelled "You OK?" The officer in the back shouted, somewhat annoyed, "Yes, we will be if you stop pushing them this way."

The mostly young crowd was afraid. You could sense it. But to their credit they did not yell obscenities at the police, or strike out in any way. In fact, all the aggression was coming from the other side, especially from the officer in charge. He pushed at the protesters two or three times, each time without any visible provocation.

I just have to pause here for a moment to make an observation. How many times have I seen an interview with an arrested protester who claimed he or she had done nothing to provoke the police. Almost always my reaction has been, "Yeah, sure." Only now I was seeing this very situation unfold in front of my eyes. These protesters, while certainly noisy, had obeyed police instructions down the entire length of the street. Now they were being treated as if they had gotten wildly out of control, but they hadn't. I know, because I was there.

I saw scenes like this repeated throughout Tuesday night. There would be an uneasy equilibrium between the police and the protesters, and then for some reason, the police would start arresting people. I saw it happen at Herald Square, and near 6th Ave and 29th St. In each case, the police seemed to lose control of the situation, often in ways that they were responsible for themselves.

For instance, there were so many police on so many streets in the midtown and downtown area that enormous crowds were created at the intersections. Often these crowds of tourists, delegates and locals were forced to stand for long periods of time on street corners as they waited to cross the street, as the police tried to control traffic. Protesters, seeing these big crowds, would move to join them. In turn, the police would start pushing people back, often people who had nothing to do with any protest. The mood at these corners was intense and uneasy. No wonder incidents were popping up all over the downtown area.

At some point the police would just start picking people out of the crowd and arresting them. From what I saw, there was often no rhyme or reason behind who they picked to arrest. While the arrests often seemed arbitrary and done in an overly aggressive fashion, I saw no overt acts of police brutality. While Tuesday night was chaotic, it wasn't Chicago 1968.

I'm also convinced that fatigue was a problem for the police. As I stood waiting for a traffic light near Times Square, I overheard one policewoman complaining to a colleauge that she had worked 23 hours in a row the day before. "They had me down for two shifts, 3 a.m. to 2 a.m., " she said in a loud voice. This fatigue was also obvious in the visible frustration that I saw several police captains and commanders exhibit as they tried to control unwieldy situations at crowded street corners.

Meanwhile, back on 33rd Street, the police had pushed us into a tight corner. We had no room to move in any direction – we were practically standing on top of each other. Then the police moved forward again, and started pulling people from the crowd, mostly other reporters. When one of the young people asked what was going on, the captain who had pushed a few of them around earlier told her she and her friends were being arrested for blocking the sidewalk.

Well, that's a neat trick, I said to myself, considering that the only reason we were blocking the sidewalk was that the police has pushed us there. "Just let us through and we'll leave," one young protester pleaded. One of the motorcycle cops snarled back, "Yeah, and where will you go?"

Finally, the police captain came to me. I kept quiet. I wanted to see where they would go. But he saw the convention credential in my shirt pocket. "Get him out of here," he said. As another officer grabbed me, I asked the captain, "Why are you arresting these people? What have they done wrong?" He ignored me. I continued to shout the question at the captain as I was pulled away. "Why are you guys doing this?" I said to the young officer who was pushing me away from the crowd. When we reached the end of the street, he let me go, smiled and said "Thank you sir."

In the background, I could hear the young people chanting "The world is watching."

Well, maybe not the world, but certainly this part of it was.

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Voices from the Convention floor

By Tom Engelhardt

[...] As I walked the floor of the convention yesterday, I asked anyone I ran into from a congressman and the chairmen of various state delegations to ordinary delegates (the genuine political warriors of this administration's push to the November polls), about the President's war on terror, his decision to invade Iraq, those missing weapons of mass destruction, the 9/11 attacks, and the ties, as they saw it, between them all. As a group, they were immensely approachable, willing, sometimes eager to talk even to a reporter with credentials from Mother Jones magazine. The chairmen were certainly practiced on these questions -- the head of the Kansas delegation, for instance, promptly went into a rap on Saddam Hussein that he had clearly repeated many times before.

But when you spoke to individual delegates, you entered a world of genuine emotion; you entered, in short, a belief system. Unlike George Bush, with a speech carefully constructed by writers in front of him, the delegates all spoke without texts, quite spontaneously, and with numerous feelings on display -- not the least of which was fear. Their words were sometimes a lot rawer than what you read in the papers or generally hear on TV, but what made them striking was how similar what they said was, not just in tone but in words used and points made (as you'll see). That, of course, is the mark of a belief system -- lines repeated as your own from some deeper, jointly held text of conviction. Theirs is a text in which there is, generally, a single "them." "They" hit us. We struck back. Iraq was "theirs." The choices, such as they are, are simple and obvious. They would sound familiar indeed to those who remember the Vietnam era, when Lyndon Johnson, for instance, claimed that if we didn't fight the communists in Vietnam, we'd be doing so on West coast beaches. Today, once again, it's just a question of our soil or theirs, and theirs -- Iraq (Iran, Syria, or North Korea) -- is clearly preferable.

In this belief system, the arguments of their opponents carry, essentially, no weight whatsoever. It doesn't matter if the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times now reports that the whole "Sunni triangle" has blinked off the American map of Iraq and is being recreated as a series of mini-Taliban-like fiefdoms. This is no evidence of failure; nor are the missing weapons of mass destruction; nor is the lack of a bona fide al-Qaeda tie with Saddam (even if the 9/11 Commission confirmed its absence); nor is the now-never-ending, unaccomplished war in Iraq. In the end, it's enough to say that Saddam himself was a weapon of mass destruction, as most of the delegates did indeed do. [...]

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Bush Envoy Defends U.N. Against Schwarzenegger

Thu Sep 2,12:36 AM ET

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - President Bush's ambassador to the United Nations defended the world body on Wednesday, after California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the United States, not the U.N., was best for democracy.

Schwarzenegger electrified the Republican National Convention on Tuesday evening with a speech blending quips from his movie-star past with somber stories about his immigrant struggles.

At one point, seeking to define the beliefs of his political party, he stated, "If you believe this country, not the United Nations, is the best hope for democracy, then you are a Republican."

Asked about the comment, Ambassador John Danforth, a former Republican U.S. senator from Missouri and an Episcopal minister, told reporters the United States was "a bastion of democracy and is a great beacon for the world."

"But working through the U.N. and working with other countries and working on a multilateral basis is clearly the strategy that we have in our country and it is very important," Danforth said.

The Bush administration and the United Nations have been at loggerheads since the U.N. Security Council declined to give Bush a green light to invade Iraq. But Bush has more recently praised the U.N. after it helped install an Iraqi interim government.

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DELEGATES KEEPING FISTS TIGHT

By GERSH KUNTZMAN
September 1, 2004

Hey, delegates, open your wallets!

That's the unvarnished advice from tip-starved concierges in hotels where GOP delegates and their families are staying. They say Republicans are the certainly the party of fiscal restraint — at least with their own money.

"I wouldn't call them bad tippers — I'd call them non-tippers!" said Thomas Potesak, a concierge at the Sheraton Manhattan, where the Alaska, Iowa, South Dakota and Virgin Islands delegates are bunking.

"It's like they're completely unfamiliar with the concept of tipping."

Nearby, one of Potesak's colleagues showed off the contents of his tip jar: It contained just $9 at the end of his seven-hour shift.

"It's pathetic," he said. "These tips are strictly 'lean cuisine.' "

Potesak said the delegates don't often ask for his advice on what to see and do — mostly because they have so little free time. But, he added, they don't want to spend any money.

"They even ask where the nearest Laundromat is so they can wash their own clothes," he said. "Look, if you can't afford to travel, don't come."

Abraham Bolzman of the New York Hilton was also perplexed by the prudence of his guests. "It's just no tips at all," he said.

"It's strange. It's not that they're not friendly. They're always saying 'God bless you.' I guess I'm used to something more tangible."

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Throwing a Better Party May Mean Getting a Better War, Terror Contract

By Brian Ross and Rhonda Schwartz ABCNEWS.com

NEW YORK, Sept. 1, 2004 — For lobbyists seeking to profit from valuable homeland security and Iraq contracts, throwing big parties at the Republican National Convention may mean more lucrative deals.

"We're supporters of the Republican cause," said Ed Rogers, vice chairman of the powerhouse lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers. "Unashamed and unabashed."

When asked if that is good for business, Rogers said, "Well, not so much good for business, but good for America."

Business is booming for the lobbying industry, as Tuesday night's lavish party in the Chrysler Building showed. The crowded event was sponsored by Blank Rome, one of the firms that have helped clients secure multimillion-dollar homeland security and Iraq contracts. Blank Rome's chairman, David Girard-diCarlo, is a longtime political supporter of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. Another powerful player is the firm's executive partner, Carl Bucholz, who served as special assistant to President Bush for homeland security from 2001 to 2002. The Blank Rome lobbyists say they observe all rules of professional ethics.

But what are lobbyists getting out of all this?

"What you've got here is people with the insider access, selling that access in order to profit and they're profiting on this war," said Craig Aaron, a senior researcher at Public Citizen's Congress Watch, a government watchdog organization.

Among the guests at the party Tuesday night was Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, whose department oversees more than $5 billion in contracts for terror preparedness programs. When asked if it was appropriate for him to be at the party, Thompson replied, "I don't see anything wrong with it at all

The "war lobby," as it has been described, counts a number of important connections, including President Bush's brother Neil, who plays a little-known role at Houston-based Crest Investments.

Crest is a financial partner with Newbridge Strategies, a group of former officials from both Bush administrations who help U.S. companies seeking contracts in Iraq. This week in New York, Neil Bush would not answer questions about his ties to Crest. "It's not my company," he said. But in a videotaped deposition last year, obtained by ABC News, Neil Bush said he is paid $60,000 a year for the three to four hours of work he puts in weekly as co-chairman of Crest.

"Whether he does anything active or whether they just trade on his name, having the president's brother involved has got to be a huge asset," said William Hartung, a senior fellow at World Policy Institute, a policy research group at New School University.

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The War in Iraq Cost the United States

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
April 16, 1953

War affects everyone, not just those directly involved in the fighting. This webpage is a simple attempt to demonstrate one of the more quantifiable effects of war: the financial burden it places on our tax dollars.

To the right you will find a running total of the amount of money spent by the US Government to finance the war in Iraq. This total is based on estimates from Congressional appropriations. Below the total are a number of different ways that we could have chosen to use the money. Try clicking on them; you might be surprised to learn what a difference we could have made.

Comment: If you click the above link, you'll get a continually running total. At the time of writing it was US$130,654,632,000. The web site also gives alternatives and numbers if US$130 billion was spent in the public sector.

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United Airlines plans extra 6,000 job cuts: report

Wed September 1, 2004

PARIS (AFP) - United Airlines, currently under protection from bankruptcy, reportedly plans an extra 6,000 job cuts as part of a cost-cutting plan.

The cuts amount to a 10-percent reduction in the current workforce, the Financial Times reported.

Before the attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, the airline had employed 104,000 people. It now employs 62,000. [...]

In June the US air transport stabilisation board (ATSB) refused to guarantee a loan of 1.6 billion dollars to the airline.

The company is now wholly dependent on capital markets to refinance itself and emerge from protection from bankruptcy under which it has operated since the end of 2002.

United spokeswoman Jean Medina said the carrier would have to make further job cuts in order to trim its costs, "but how we achieve those savings is still under discussion."

"It would be premature to comment on specifics," she said.

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Japan threatens to retaliate in WTO trade dispute with US

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan threatened sanctions against the United States before the year's end after getting the green light from the WTO unless Washington repeals a controversial anti-dumping law.

Japan said it would act as early as "this autumn" if Washington did not repeal anti-dumping legislation known as the Byrd amendment, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"Japan appreciates the decision because it gave the green light for Japan to take retaliatory measures of up to 78 million dollars per annum," it said.

The World Trade Organisation ruled Tuesday that seven nations and the European Union could levy sanctions amounting to 72 percent of the sums reaped by US firms from the offending legislation.

The October 2002 law allowed payouts to US companies that complained of unfairly cheap foreign imports to the tune of 561 million dollars in 2001 and 2002.

Washington said after the ruling it would work with Congress to modify the law but would remain vigilant against unfairly subsidized trade.

The EU and the seven countries -- Brazil, Canada, Chile, India, Japan, Mexico and South Korea -- had complained to the world trade body because Washington had not repealed the law which the WTO had condemned as incompatible with its rules before the deadline of December 27, 2003.

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How Soon Will the U.S. or Israel Bomb Iran?

By Steve Weissman
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Thursday 02 September 2004

I can just hear the Presidential conversation. "Did I say Iraq backed al- Qaeda?" he asks with a boyish grin. "Oh, heck, I meant Iran. I always get those two mixed up."

What should Iran do? What would you do if you were an Iranian Ayatollah?

The President of the United States has branded Iran part of the "Axis of Evil." He has demanded that Iran "abandon her nuclear ambitions." He has claimed the right to wage pre-emptive war against any enemy he chooses.

To add weight to these threats, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution on May 6, 2004, calling on the president "to use all appropriate means to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons." The vote was overwhelming: 376 for, three against. On July 22, the Senate passed a similar resolution with wording only slight less inflammatory.

The Americans now have nearly 150,000 troops just across the border in Iraq. They also have aircraft and missiles in easy striking distance, as do the Israelis, who - as the New Yorker's Sy Hersh reported - are currently working with the Kurds to make raids into Iran.

Put yourself in Israel's shoes. The Iranians are building a major nuclear industry, with the ability to enrich bomb-grade Uranium-238 and reprocess plutonium from spent nuclear fuel rods. Iran has facilities in Tehran, Bushehr, Natanz, and Arak, and could soon produce 15-20 nuclear weapons a year, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has already found traces of the bomb- grade U-238 in Natanz and Tehran. The Iranians say this is only contamination from used centrifuges they bought from other countries.

An Iranian Bomb would challenge Israel's nuclear monopoly in the Middle East, creating a short-range, hair-trigger stand-off that would continually encourage each side to strike first before the other could.

Now think like an American neo-conservative. You and your fellow policy wonks have struggled for years to persuade both Democrats and Republicans in Washington and successive Likkud governments in Tel Aviv to play hardball throughout the Middle East. You urged them to expand control over the world's diminishing supply of oil and to overthrow nasty regimes, especially in Iraq and Iran.

Your neo-con colleagues currently hold key posts in the Pentagon and elsewhere in Washington, but your policies and performance have made a hash of Iraq, causing President Bush to turn increasingly to other advisors. Worse, Mr. Bush could lose the November election amidst a burgeoning spy scandal that widely paints neo-cons, whether Christian or Jewish, as not-to-be-trusted Israeli agents.

As in the perfect storm, the activities of the three groups - Iranian Ayatollahs, Israeli Likkudniks, and American neo-cons - are now creating just the right conditions for a ghastly outcome - an aerial attack on Iran's nuclear installations. While no one can predict with certainty where the madness might lead, it would clearly isolate Israel and the United States even more from most of the world, unify rival Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims, and encourage the Iranians to intervene massively in Iraq.

On the other hand, an October Surprise to make America safe from an Islamic Bomb might help Mr. Bush win a close election.

Can anything stop an attack on Iran, whether before the elections or - as I think more likely - after? At this juncture, even a cockeyed optimist has difficulty seeing much hope.

From where they stand, the Iranian leaders have little choice but to press ahead with their quest for nuclear weapons. They may say - as did the Pakistanis, Indians, and Israelis before them - that they want only peaceful uses of atomic energy. They may see nuclear power as the best way to meet a growing population's demand for electricity. In fact, much of the program began under the Shah, and with American blessings. But the Bush Administration has given Iran the strongest argument yet for wanting atomic bombs - and the missiles to drop them on Tel Aviv. Nothing less seems as likely to hold the pre- emptive Bushies at bay. [...]

For the Israeli Likkudniks, and for me personally, the situation looks like déjà vu all over again. We all saw the same thing back in 1981, when Prime Minister Menachem Begin took on the French government of then-Prime Minister Jacques Chirac, which was helping Saddam Hussein build his OSIRAK nuclear reactor near Baghdad.

Israel's Mossad led the charge.

In April 1979, secret saboteurs entered a small French engineering firm on the French Riviera in Toulon, where they dynamited the reactor core only hours before the Iraqis could take delivery. In June 1980, in a hotel room in Paris, an unknown intruder bludgeoned to death an Egyptian nuclear engineer who played a leading role on the OSIRAK project. In August, a series of bombings and telephone threats terrorized French and Italian engineering firms supplying equipment to OSIRAK.

During that time, Mossad was also secretly leaking information to journalists about Pakistan's effort to build what Prime Minister Zulfikar Bhutto called his "Islamic Bomb." Among the journalists was a team from BBC's Panorama, for whom I worked. The Israelis, who would never meet me face-to-face, could never understand why a Nice Jewish Boy insisted on checking out first-hand every bit of information they proffered. In fact, our team discovered several parts of the Pakistani story Mossad had apparently missed. We also found an Israeli-American defense analyst who boldly predicted on camera that the Israelis would bomb the Iraqi reactor, which they did on Sunday, June 7, 1981.

What a scoop! Breathlessly recounted in several books and articles, the daring Israeli attack still stands as a model of pre-emptive warfare, which the Israelis now threaten to repeat on Iran. According to one recent news story, they have already rehearsed the bombing run, much as they did before sending their American-supplied F15's and F16's to wipe out OSIRAK.

But, before jumping on the bandwagon, please remember some oft-forgotten facts. Prime Minister Begin rushed the attack in part because he feared his party would lose a close election. Seeing military action as the only remedy, he also feared that his opponent Shimon Peres would try working diplomatically with the newly elected French President Francois Mitterand, who had already ordered significant steps to safeguard the Iraqi reactor. On the other side, one of Begin's staunchest supporters for the attack was his Minister of Agriculture, Ariel Sharon.

For the American neo-cons, recent events could push them to become even more extreme. The Israeli spy flap involving retired Air Force Col. Larry Franklin focuses heavily on Iran, and the cooperation between leading neo-cons, the Israelis, and Iranian exiles to overthrow the Ayatollahs. There are also suggestions of improper Pentagon arms transfers to Israel, unauthorized back- channel dealings with foreign governments and private groups, and the question of how closely the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the chief pro- Israeli lobby group, works with the Sharon government.

All of this will terribly embarrass the neo-cons, who will grasp at any straw to divert attention from both their failures in Iraq and their efforts behind the scenes. Enlarging the Iraq war to Iran offers the perfect solution. In the advice often attributed to their Pentagon protector, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, "If you're having difficulty dealing with small problems, make them bigger."

A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he writes for t r u t h o u t.

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Whole Lot of Screamin' Goin' On

Republicans manufacture and the media distributes the smears and the lies to drown out the real issues.

By Stewart Nusbaumer
Editor of Intervention Magazine.
Stewart@interventionmag.com
Posted Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Republicans are attacking John Kerry for what he said and did 34 years ago so they won't have to defend what they said and did this year. First they ripped into what Kerry did in the war in Vietnam, and now they are smearing Kerry for what he said in the antiwar movement. It has been a vicious, dirty campaign that has insulted not only combat veteran John Kerry but every Vietnam veteran. It has been enough to make me wonder, has America gone nuts? [...]

Instead of this diversionary garbage that makes us appear to be people incapable of having an intelligent national dialogue, we should be discussing issues of genuine importance. For instance, what can we do to shore up our shaky economy? How can we get out of this mess in Iraq? What are we going to do about our soaring medical costs? Is anyone interested in discussing immigration? Will Social Security be there for Baby Boomers when they retire? What should we do to enhance our national security? What about the threat to our individual liberties? Isn't this what we should be talking about?

I wonder how many Americans know about the federal report that came out a few days ago showing that for the third straight year, the number of Americans living below the poverty line has risen--by 1.3 million last year. How many know that the number of Americans who are uninsured went up by 5 million? What is going on in America?

Instead of discussing how much John Kerry bled three decades ago, why aren't we talking about issues that directly affect the lives of Americans today? Isn't that what elections are supposed to bring into discussion? I'm not nuts, am I?

While the optimist in me refuses to die, I hear a pessimistic whisper that Americans are emotional junkies addicted to screaming matches and gotcha games. Pundits say serious issues are just too complex; others insist hate is all the substance Americans can handle. Behind the scenes, powerful manipulators loaded with resources and devoid of morality--the Republican Party along with the corporate media--market the vile and the silly and the false. They can make Americans believe anything, people say, even that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11.

If you believe as I do that people get the government they deserve, then surely you believe that people get the political discourse they deserve--which, of course, leads to the government they deserve. Political discourse is the bedrock of any political system. Our discussing the issues leads to who we choose to represent us in government. The real question, then, is what kind of people are we? Are we intelligent people capable of rational dialogue or just crude gotcha people? Are we going to discuss the issues or just argue about the lies? [...]

If this diversionary craziness remains the essence of this campaign, I predict that Americans will elect a man worthy of avoiding the important issues of state. Americans will elect George Bush. It's our job to bring the issues back into the campaign so that Bush will not be elected.

Comment: Trouble is, it isn't like Americans just woke up during the summer of 2004 to find they had a lying lunatic in the White House. It has been rather clear for several years, only people didn't want to believe it, like they don't want to believe that parts of the US government were implicated in 9/11. Bush doesn't want a commission to investigate the circumstances? Nothing fishy about that. There's just too many secrets that we shouldn't know that'd pop up. Saddam doesn't have WMD? Well, the prez certainly was relying on the best intelligence he could find. And on and on.

The heat gets turned up one degree at a time, and by the time you realise that you're boiling, it is too late. That red in the face isn't only embarrassment; it means you're cooked.

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THIS LAND IS OUR LAND

by John Spritzler
August 31, 2004
[newdemocracyworld.org]

Jibjab.com's spoof of Kerry & Bush (www.jibjab.com/thisland.html ), to the tune of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Our Land," was an overnight sensation. Everybody sent the web address to their friends. The spoof was so popular because it said what most people really think -- both candidates are as phony as a three dollar bill. How seriously can anybody take this election when polls show a majority of Americans think the U.S. invasion of Iraq was wrong and yet both major candidates back it to the hilt? Some network TV stations even played the spoof in its entirety, probably figuring that the public was watching it anyway and already viewed the election with contempt, so ignoring it would only make people even more skeptical that their TV news is telling them what's going on in the world.

The jibjab spoof, plus the immense popularity of Fahrenheit 9-11, indicate that the American public is extremely alienated from both major parties and extremely skeptical of mass media propaganda, despite the powerful emotional effect of the 9-11 attack, despite the complete unity of the entire capitalist class in promoting its war on terror, and despite all of the "Orange Alerts." I cannot recall a time in U.S. history when America's ruling elite failed so remarkably in their effort to whip up war hysteria when they went all out to do so. People are far more sophisticated in their understanding of elite lies and manipulation than ever before.

But if more people see through the lies than ever before, why is there not a massive popular movement for change? I think the problem here is Americans' crippling sense of hopelessness. People who are in fact the majority think of themselves as a small minority. The plutocracy who really run the show in the United States work very deliberately to keep people feeling hopeless. They control virtually the entire range of public discourse to do it, even publications that are supposed to represent a "left" or liberal alternative. I was reminded of this recently when I attended a book reading by the editor of Harpers Magazine, Lewis Lapham.

Harpers, with its 200,000 circulation, is the largest mainstream monthly magazine in the nation which opposed the Iraq war. The only other magazine with a similarly big influence in the anti-war movement is The Nation, a weekly edited by Katrina Vanden Heuvel. Lapham told the audience at the book signing that he is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The CFR is the elite organization which formulates U.S. foreign policy. It includes approximately 4000 members who are, as the CFR puts it, "leaders in government, business, finance, media, academia and a wide range of nonprofit organizations." The CFR is an exclusive group. New members must first be endorsed by four current members and then be selected by the membership committee; once admitted, members are not allowed to reveal publicly what any other member says during its meetings. The CFR is no mere advocacy organization. Since 1961 all thirteen of the Secretaries of State, ten of the fourteen Secretaries of Defense and eleven of the fourteen Directors of the CIA have been CFR members. This organization includes not only people like Condoleeza Rice and Dick Cheney, but also Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson and Robert Reich. It transcends the "right wing"/"liberal" divide because it serves the wealthiest American families, like the Rockefellers, and uses politicians of every stripe for that single purpose. Lapham made light of his membership in the CFR, saying he writes against his fellow members all the time but "they don't read" so they don't even know it. Ha ha. CFR members, however, are not about to kick Lapham out; he serves the organization quite skillfully. He attracts anti-establishment readers and then tries to neutralize their threat to the plutocracy by telling them they have no realistic choice but to "hold their nose and vote for Kerry."

The Nation's editor is also a member of the CFR. Now why would CFR members be editing such strongly anti-war magazines as Harpers and The Nation? The explanation is that powerful people understand that to hold onto power one must lead not only one's allies but also one's enemies. The CFR wants to make sure that the anti-war movement remains isolated from the majority of American people. How to do that? Make Americans believe that the anti-war movement is wedded to views which most Americans find extremely controversial, namely the liberal agenda of same-sex marriage, affirmative action, gun control etc. If CFR-edited anti-war magazines succeed in making the anti-war movement believe that the liberal agenda defines what it means to be a decent "progressive" person, then the people in that movement will isolate themselves from most Americans. And in the process, the anti-war movement will come to feel that it cannot rely on ordinary Americans and must therefore rely on people in high places, i.e. Democratic Party leaders and in particular John Kerry. Thus both Harpers and The Nation simultaneously attack the war in Iraq and treat the liberal agenda as sacrosanct; and they both tell their readers it is necessary to "hold one's nose and vote for Kerry." The CFR wants to handcuff the anti-war movement to the liberal agenda. The last thing the CFR wants is for common sense to prevail in the anti-war movement. Common sense would say to unite Americans around the important things they agree upon -- no wars fought for hidden agendas, real democracy instead of fake democracy, things like that; not things like same-sex marriage for crying out loud.

Other members of the CFR, those (like William F. Buckley, founder of the conservative National Review magazine, and former Rep. Newt Gingrich) who specialize in influencing people opposed to the progressive agenda, try to convince their followers that the only alternative to the liberal outlook is an overtly pro-capitalist one. To those who resent being viewed as racist, homophobic ignoramuses by rich, elite liberals like Senators Clinton and Kennedy, these leaders say, "You're absolutely right." What they don't tell their followers is that they are also right in standing up against the class privileges defended by the likes of Buckley and Gingrich, such as the privilege of wealthy shareholders of a company to live in luxury without working while employees who do the work get hit with layoffs and cutbacks in health insurance at the whim of the owners. Or the privilege of politicians like Rumsfeld and Cheney and Bush to lie to Americans and send them to fight and die in wars that have nothing to do with protecting Americans or freedom. God forbid that people who disagree with the progressive agenda should turn towards a revolutionary outlook of abolishing class inequality and creating a real democracy. This is what the Buckleys and Gingrichs must prevent. It's not an easy job because, in fact, many of the people who are put off by the liberal agenda are as opposed to capitalism and its atrocities, like the Iraq war, as are self-described "progressives."

I discovered this when I went to a demonstration against same-sex marriage recently in front of Boston's City Hall, where they were passing out bumper stickers that read: "Power to the People, Not the Courts." I asked a young college man who was holding one of their banners if he agreed with the Pope's opposition to the Iraq war. This led to a discussion of the war and 9-11 between me and him and a handful of others in their group who joined in. It turned out the college student was deeply opposed to the war. One of the other members of the group began backing me up by telling a third person how the whole 9-11 story we've been told is a lie and how the military jets were not scrambled, etc. The college student was the son of working class parents in the nearby housing development. He told me how his mother told him that all the politicians were liars, and how he shouldn't trust his college teachers when they bad-mouthed the working class. (He was opposed to same-sex marriage, by the way, because of his concern for its negative effect on children in such marriages who don't have the benefit of being raised by their real mother and father; he was sensitive to this because his father had left when he was young.) People like this student and his mother and the others demonstrating with him against same-sex marriage are part of the majority of Americans who want a democratic revolution, even if they have never heard it spoken of in those terms before.

The crucial question that should concern the anti-war movement is this: Will these people rise up to join in a movement to overthrow the American plutocracy, or will they be neutralized by hopelessness? These Americans know the reality of class power. They see organizations that purport to represent them using issues like same-sex marriage as a litmus test to make it clear that they are not welcome, not in the Democratic party, not in the sell-out unions that cozy up to the Democratic party, not in the anti-war movement, and not in any other liberal organizations. The only welcome mats they see are in front of the Republican party and allied right-wing organizations which respect traditional views on social issues while making it very clear that wealthy people must run the show. Working class people can listen to Rush Limbaugh make fun of liberals and denounce liberal elitism. But the price of admission is to grit one's teeth and not complain when Rush attacks working class aspirations. For example, I once heard Rush tell a naive ditto-head, calling in to tell his hero why he was on strike against UPS, that the caller should go back to work and quit belly-aching and if he wanted to improve his life he should become an entrepreneur and do it the American way. The function of liberalism in the hands of its elite leaders is to ensure that working class Americans see their only choice as being either the Rush Limbaughs and George Bushes on the right, who pretend to respect them on social issues, or the Clinton and Hollywood glitterati liberals on the left who hold them in utter contempt.

The liberal and conservative ideologies are both instruments of the plutocracy. Our rulers use both ideologies in a coordinated strategy to keep us divided against each other and reliant on phonies like Bush and Kerry. This land is our land, but to take control of it we need to beware of these traps that our CFR "friends" have crafted for us. We the people are a huge majority. We agree far more with each other than we do with the small elite who rule America, who ratchet up inequality every way they can, who use the electoral system to disguise what is in fact a dictatorship of the rich, and who wage wars for a big lie to keep us under control.

John Spritzler is the author of The People As Enemy: The Leaders' Hidden Agenda In World War II, and a Research Scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Comment: Yes, but. Of course the CFR etc act the way described by this writer. By linking all the struggles together, they alienate people who would be willing to work against the war alone. The trouble is, the idea that we can have social justice in this world is also a trick and illusion. It just ain't gonna happen. How do you deal with the psychopaths who are willing to stop at nothing to take what they want? Change has to begin within. If we continue to run the programmes that have been drummed into us since birth, how can we expect our behaviours and attitudes to change?

They won't. They can't. And therefore the world of justice and equality that we yearn for in our hearts remains an impossibility.

Change starts at home -- within.

It isn't easy. It isn't something that can happen overnight. And given the timetable of the elite to lead this world into destruction, we don't likely have the time to change ourselves and then the world before it is too late.

From an esoteric point of view, we can even say that this world is perfect as it is. It is here, with all its horrors, to teach us important lessons. We are here because that is where we fit. Hard news to take, but when it has been understood, whole new paths open before us.

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U.S. Plans to Seek Sanctions Against Iran

By GEORGE GEDDA
Associated Press Writer
Thursday September 2, 2004 6:46 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) - Secretary of State Colin Powell says the United States plans to press for a range of possible U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran in response to what he describes as a concerted effort by that country to develop nuclear weapons.

Powell told reporters Wednesday night the United States will urge the United Nations' nuclear watchdog group on Sept. 13 in Vienna to refer the Iranian case to the U.N. Security Council for action.

''We're looking at the range of possible actions of a political, economic, diplomatic nature,'' Powell said.

He commented while flying home from Panama after attending the inauguration of Panamanian President Martin Torrijos.

In Vienna, the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency said earlier Wednesday that Iran plans to process tons of raw uranium and restart its centrifuges - two activities that could be used to make nuclear warheads.

U.S. diplomats at the meeting said the revelations provided further evidence that Iran's activities pose ''a threat to international peace and security.''

''Unless there are assurances that the international community can count on, I think it's appropriate that it (the Iran issue) be referred to the Security Council,'' Powell said.

He said it remains to be seen whether there is a consensus to do that now.

Diplomats said the IAEA report on Iran with the new disclosures was based on information provided by Iran's government. Iran insists its nuclear program is devoted to the peaceful generation of electricity.

Earlier Wednesday, Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton, the administration's point man on nuclear proliferation threats, said, ''We view with great concern'' revelations in the IAEA report that Iran is about to convert 37 tons of yellow cake uranium into uranium hexafluoride gas.

Uranium hexafluoride is spun in centrifuges to produce enriched uranium, which in turn can be used to generate power or make nuclear warheads, depending on the degree of enrichment.

The United States will continue to urge other members of the U.N. agency's board of governors ''to join with us in this effort to deal with the Iranian threat to international peace and security,'' Bolton said.

Another senior Bush administration official, in an interview in which his identity was withheld, said Iran was positioning itself to produce 220 pounds of enriched uranium, enough for four nuclear weapons.

U.N. inspectors have been looking for evidence that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program. Such a finding could be critical to the Bush administration's effort to gain support from the other 34 members of the agency to seek U.N. Security Council action.

Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman, said the report being circulated by the IAEA ''continues to document the fact that through the past 18 years Iran has amassed a record of deception and denial about its nuclear activities.''

Comment: Speaking of deception and denial, shall we talk about Israel's nuclear capabilities? Does kidnapping Mordechai Vanunu and imprisoning him for 18 years fit in here somewhere?

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's campaign criticized the Bush administration for going to war against Iraq on what it called discredited grounds instead of acting sooner to marshal U.S. allies to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

The IAEA report shows ''a leading state sponsor of terrorism is yet another step closer to nuclear weapons capability,'' said Susan Rice, Kerry's senior national security adviser. ''Yet the Bush administration has stood on the sidelines while this nuclear program has advanced. ... It is past time for this administration to develop a tough and effective strategy for dealing with Iran.''

Comment: Déjà vu, n'est-ce pas? Two years ago it was Iraq that was the threat. Today it is Iran. Same tune, same words. Same result? We don't know. The recent outing of Israeli "spy" Larry Franklin has raised the question of Israeli involvement in guiding the US once more into the abyss of war. Here we see the supposed "good guy" of the Bush regime, Colin Powell, performing his antics once more, right on cue.

Not only that, we have Kerry chiming in with the same refrain. Some choice in November.

Democrats believe there is a difference between the two because of Kerry's internal, US politics, which goes to show how little the rest of the world means to Americans in general. "Hey, let 'em get bombed, starved, showered with depleted uranium. It doesn't affect me." And this is the sorry truth. Until things become so outrageously tyrannical in the US that even the average, loyal Democrat sits up and take notice, things aren't going to change.

How bad is it going to have to get?

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Israel says Syria responsible for double suicide bombing that killed 16

02:17 PM EDT Sep 01
MARK LAVIE

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel holds Syria responsible for a double suicide bombing that killed 16 people because it allows the group that staged the attack to operate there, a senior Israeli official said Wednesday in a warning that implied possible retaliation.[...]

Raanan Gissin, a senior aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, pointed to neighbouring Syria on Wednesday, saying Hamas leaders are permitted to work out of the Syrian capital, Damascus.

"The fact that Hamas is operating from Syria will not grant it immunity," Gissin told The Associated Press. Last year Israel attacked targets in Syria after a Palestinian bombing.

Israeli security sources said earlier that Sharon and his military commanders had decided to stage more strikes to eliminate militant Palestinian leaders in response to the bus attack.

The twin bombings in Beersheba shattered hopes in Israel that the period of suicide attacks - more than 100 in four years - was over. "The nightmare is back," the newspaper Yediot Ahronot said Wednesday in its main headline above a photo of a burning bus.

The last suicide attack was in March, and many Israelis believed the militants had been defeated, or at least suffered a serious blow.

Comment: After Iran, next it is Syria's turn. It isn't like this is a surprise. The raving racist lunatics in Tel Aviv are going to keep the system primed for war.

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Israel halts Jewish 'terror cell'

BBC
Wednesday, 1 September, 2004

An Israeli court has convicted a Jewish extremist for belonging to an organisation that carried out a series of deadly attacks against Arabs.

The charge sheet said Shahar Dvir-Zeliger's group - which was not named - attacked mainly against Arab schools.

Prosecution lawyers say it is the first time that a court in Israel has acknowledged the existence of a violent anti-Arab gang.

The group murdered eight Palestinians and injured 16 in 2001 and 2002.

"This is a very serious outcome from a public point of view," said prosecution lawyer Dan Eldad.

"It is the first time that an Israeli court has determined that a Jewish terrorist organisation exists which had the aim of harming innocent Arab citizens," Mr Eldad told reporters outside the court.

The last comparable case in Israel was in 1994 when the Israeli Cabinet declared two extremist settler groups, Kach and Kahane Chai, as terrorist organisations.

Dvir-Zeliger, from the West Bank settlement of Adei Ad, was also found guilty on four other charges including being an accomplice to murder and weapons-related offences.

He is the third suspected member of the cell to be convicted, but the first to be directly linked to the group, the Jerusalem Post newspaper reports.

He is expected to be sentenced at a later date.

Two other suspected cell members - Yitzhak Pass and Matityahu Shvu - are serving two-year jail sentences on explosives charges.

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The 'dual loyalty' slur returns to haunt U.S. Jews

By Nathan Guttman, Haaretz Correspondent

WASHINGTON - If the case of a "mole" in the U.S. Department of Defense turns out to be true, it would be the most grievous blow to the American Jewish community in years. As depicted Friday evening on the CBS television network, the story managed to touch all the most sensitive aspects of the status of Jews in America and Israel's role in the machinery of American foreign policy considerations.

Comment: One could forgive a Haaretz op/ed piece for being a little biased, as that's what opinions are for. However, it can be a useful exercise to analyze and deconstruct the way information is presented, in order to see how powerful media shapes the truth to fit the interests of their masters. Consider the headline "The 'dual loyalty' slur returns to haunt U.S. Jews"; where "dual loyalty" is immediately followed by the word "slur". The documented fact that many top-level insiders in Washington have strong connections to Israel, and are known to act and lobby on it's behalf seems to be lost on the author. The truth is first acknowledged then attacked, and changed to an insult against Jewish people. This way no one can even approach the subject without immediately be branded an anti-semite. This same subtle tactic is used time and time again by Zionist defenders in the media.

It breathes new life into the assertion that Israeli and not American interests led to the war in Iraq. It revives the old charge that Israel is not an ally but a treacherous country, and the old saw that American Jews have a "divided loyalty" problem in their preference for Israeli over American interests.

Comment: Again, notice how the truth that primarily "Israeli and not American interests led to the war in Iraq" is acknowledged, but then ridiculed as being an "old charge" and an "old saw", as if the 'age' of the assertion somehow lessens it's value and accuracy.

A major Jewish figure said Saturday he felt positively relieved when he learned that Larry Franklin, the suspect in the case, is not actually Jewish. At least the charge that Jews in key positions are not sufficiently loyal won't stand up in this case.

Comment: Here, the author brings up Franklin's non-Jewish ethnicity as a way to deflect away from the fact that he was essentially spying on the U.S. and selling secrets to Israel. He appears to be implying that it's okay for espionage to occur as long as the spy isn't Jewish.

The dramatic report by CBS said "the case raises further concern among investigators - did Israel use the data analyst [Franklin] to influence U.S. policy on the war in Iraq." That simple statement points to one of the biggest difficulties the Jewish community has been contending with in the past two years.

When legislators such as Congressman Jim Moran, Senator Fritz Hollings, or the conservative politician Pat Buchanan stood up and charged that Israel is leading the U.S. to war and that Israel's henchmen in Washington are the ones dictating policy, the Jewish community cried foul and condemned the claims as a serious display of anti-Semitism. That struggle is now at risk, with the FBI conducting an investigation, so reports say, into precisely these accusations.

Another Jewish figure said over the weekend that the manner in which the affair was brought to light and the contexts added to it, particularly regarding Israel's involvement in policy on Iraq, show a mindset similar to that of politicians who tried to present the war as a Jewish-Israeli conspiracy.

Up to now it hasn't been hard to condemn and isolate those who espoused the conspiracy theory about Israel's role in sending American troops into battle, but the FBI investigation now makes matters much more difficult. Even if the case ultimately boils down to an administrative matter of unauthorized transfer of classified information culminating in a reprimand, the public damage has been done.

Comment: The reason it hasn't been hard to condemn "the conspiracy theory about Israel's role in sending American troops into battle" is because most of the major media outlets in the western world are controlled by Zionist interests. When a certain group has most of the power over public spoken and written word, they can put any kind of spin they want on a story, the truth be damned. Notice how the author downplays the incident by calling it an "administrative matter" deserving only a "reprimand".

When the next person gets up and tries to claim that Israeli interests are dictating American foreign policy, American Jewish community leaders won't be able to settle for charging groundless anti-Semitism. They will instead be called on to provide an explanation as to what representatives of the pro-Israel lobby were doing in Franklin's office, an office that dealt, among other things, with formulating the plans for the war in Iraq.

Comment: The author's main concern here seems to be that pundits like himself have lost their most effective weapon, that of being able to make charges of "groundless anti-Semitism". The Franklin case is most distressing to him because it will not be so easy to dismiss and whitewash the real truth that Israel has been and continues to dictate U.S. foreign policy.

Although all of the information currently available shows that this isn't a new Pollard affair, in certain respects "the Franklin affair" could prove more dangerous for the organized Jewish community. When the case of Jonathan Pollard erupted 19 years ago, it was easier for Jews to distance themselves from him and to claim that the man was a lone operative, not someone who could tarnish the entire community with the "dual loyalty" brush.

Now the situation is more problematic, not because of Larry Franklin, but because of AIPAC's role. AIPAC is not just another Washington lobbying firm - it is a nationwide organization, built on the support and contributions of hundreds of thousands of American Jews across the country.

AIPAC has succeeded in establishing itself as a power broker in America's capital, a source of pride for the Jewish community and one of the leading organizations in policy, fund raising, and community action. If Jonathan Pollard was a lone operative who was easy to eschew, nobody can, nor wants to shun AIPAC.

Comment: (from War in Context) -- As the media naturally focuses on the drama of a spy story, the larger and much more important issue here is US-Israeli-Iranian relations. Several factors are converging with potentially explosive consequences. The IAEA is under increasing pressure from the US to bring before the Security Council the issue of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons development. The argument is probably being made inside the Bush campaign that upping the anti in the run-up to the election might help serve Bush's image as a war president (and make voters too frightened to risk voting for Kerry).

But on top of all this, inside the administration prominent neoconservatives such as Douglas Feith may view the coming months as their last opportunity to engineer a US-Israeli coordinated attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. The chances are that by January 2005, whoever wins the election, Feith will be out of a job. Neocons such as Michael Ledeen know that come next year they're frequently going to be hearing the phrase, "my schedule's full," as doors across Washington get slammed in their faces. To Ledeen and others a pre-November strike on Iran may seem so vital that they'll do anything they can to make it happen and damn the political consequences.

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Mosques burn in Nepal as mob vents fury at execution of hostages

By Malika Brown in Kathmandu
02 September 2004

In front of Sun International Overseas, a company in the north of Kathmandu that sends workers to the Middle East, a 21-year-old student hurled an aquarium full of fish from the balcony of the company building, followed by a fax machine.

Buddha Lama's brother went to Iraq a year ago for a "high salary", earning 30,000 rupees (£224) per month. "Sending men abroad like this is illegal," Mr Lama said. "What the government should do is rescue all Nepalese people in Iraq."

An indefinite curfew was imposed yesterday in Kathmandu after angry mobs stormed the city's two mosques, vandalised manpower agencies and attacked the offices of Qatar Airways and Gulf Air. Four deaths are unconfirmed but at least three people are known to have died in the violence which erupted after news of the slaughter of 12 Nepalese hostages in Iraq by an Islamic militant group, Ansar al-Sunnah, the largest number of foreign hostages to be killed at one time by insurgents in Iraq.

The dead men, cooks and cleaners for the coalition forces, had gone to the Middle East lured by promises of work from some of Nepal's 500-odd manpower recruitment agencies. The agencies' premises and shops run by Muslims have been main targets of the demonstrators. Every year, the agencies send thousands of Nepalese labourers to the Middle East.

In Nepalgunj, Nepal's western capital, nine houses inhabited by Muslims were burnt down. Crowds of young men, mostly students, chanting, "We don't need this government!" blocked traffic with piles of burning computers, filing cabinets and furniture looted from the agencies. Files of documents, passports and passport photographs littered the street.

Inside the Kashmiri mosque, in the centre of town, the courtyard was strewn with prayer mats, torn books and broken plant pots after 300 men stormed the building. Two fresh graves had been sabotaged, the prayer hall had been set on fire and the crescent on the mosque's dome had been bent. The imam sat quietly in a bare room, locked in from the outside. The window had been smashed.

The mosque's caretaker, a Hindu, stood in the imam's destroyed office and told how the mob had broken down the door of a room where the imam had been sheltering and pulled him out. "The more sensitive students were saying, 'Don't touch him', and the others said 'Kill him'," he said. "In the end they left him alone. He can't go outside the mosque without being beaten. The army came two hours later to help us."

Police fired in the air and used tear gas to disperse mobs outside the Jammi Mosque, about 200 metres away. Crowds had begun storming the mosque at dawn. But no police or army were present when demonstrators sacked the offices of Kantipur Publications, a leading media organisation.

Tourists in Kathmandu were told to remain in their hotels. Aurora Martinez, from Spain, said: "We tried to go to the old city and somebody told us the government had declared a curfew. We were worried about coming to Nepal because we expected trouble with the Maoists but we had already booked our tickets so we came anyway." All flights out of Nepal were cancelled.

The demonstrators said they wanted compensation for the families of the murdered hostages, and called for the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister to resign. The government has been heavily criticised for not sending a delegation to Iraq to negotiate the hostages' release, relying instead on the Nepalese ambassadors to Qatar and Pakistan to make appeals to the captors through Iraqi clerics.

More than 700,000 Nepalese are believed to work outside Nepal, 2,000 of them in Iraq. There are no serving British Gurkhas in Iraq but an estimated 5,000 retired soldiers are working as security guards. The government announced a national day of mourning today and pledged 1m rupees in compensation to the families of each hostage. It said it will evacuate Nepalese workers still in Iraq.

The Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, said: "I urge everyone to have patience, show tolerance and unity at this hour of grief." Barely a week ago, Maoist rebels lifted a six-day road blockade of Kathmandu.

Comment: Is this a test run of future anti-Arab and anti-Moslem riots? Those al Qaeda folks must not be too intelligent to see that their tactics are turning the people of many countries against Arabs and Moslems. Wonder who benefits from that?

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26 US soldiers face possible charges in Afghanistan prisoner abuse cases: report

Wed Sep 1, 9:14 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - More than two dozen US soldiers could face charges related to prisoner abuse in Afghanistan after a probe into the deaths of two detainees at the US base in Bagram. Citing Pentagon officials, The Washington Post said army investigators are recommending charges against 26 soldiers following an investigation that took more than a year.

The cases involve the December 2002 deaths and other incidents at the US base north of Kabul, the Post said.

The recommended charges range from negligent homicide to dereliction of duty and failure to report an offense, the Post said, citing two army officers familiar with the case. One sergeant has already been charged, officials told the newspaper.

The army expects to begin filing charges in two to three weeks, the Post said.

The alleged abuses in Afghanistan occurred two years ago, the Post said, before the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, a scandal that emerged after the US-led invasion in March 2003. Most of the soldiers facing charges in Afghanistan are from the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina and the 377th Military Police Company, an Army Reserve unit based in Cincinnati, Ohio, the daily reported.

Some Special Operations troops could also be charged, one officer told the Post. Some members of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion who served in Bagram were later posted at Abu Ghraib. Some were implicated in the abuse committed in the Iraqi prison, the newspaper said.

A Pentagon official told the Post some soldiers from the 519th could face charges in Iraq and Afghanistan.Army investigators have found that soldiers in the unit brought to Iraq some techniques they had used in Afghanistan, including the use of dogs to intimidate prisoners, the Post reported.

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Russia Sends Troops to Guard Nuclear Sites

Wed Sep 1, 8:27 AM ET

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia deployed extra troops to guard dozens of nuclear facilities across the country on Wednesday after militants seized a school in the south and a suicide bomb attack in Moscow, the nuclear authority said.

Russia, the world's No.2 atomic power after the United States, has come under international pressure to do more to protect its Soviet-era nuclear facilities against attack.

"After the latest terrorist attacks security services decided to send more interior ministry troops to all nuclear sites across the country," a Russian Atomic Energy Agency spokesman said.

He would not say how many additional troops were sent. [...]

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China, US near end to nuclear technology dispute

NEW YORK (Reuters) — China and the United States are close to resolving a long dispute over the transfer of nuclear technology, paving the way for U.S. companies to sell nuclear reactors to China in transactions that may be worth billions of dollars, the Wall Street Journal said Thursday.

"This is happening," an unidentified U.S. State Department official told the newspaper. Sanctions, export controls and most other barriers to sale have been removed, he said.

If all goes smoothly, Pittsburgh's Westinghouse Electric expects to receive U.S. government permission to begin bidding in late 2004 or early 2005 to provide reactors for one or two Chinese nuclear power plants, with reactors selling for about $2.2 billion a pair, company spokesman Vaughn Gilbert told the newspaper. China has embarked on an ambitious plan to add two to three nuclear power plants a year for roughly the next 15 years, so that nuclear power will account for about 4% of the country's power mix by 2020, said Zhang Huazhu, chairman of the China Atomic Energy Authority, on Wednesday.

China had drafted preliminary plans roughly quadruple its nuclear power capacity to by 2020, Zhang said.

According to the newspaper, U.S. entry into China's nuclear market would end a long-running irritant in the countries' trade relations, which have ebbed and flowed with overall ties. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton had revived a 1985 agreement to allow cooperation on nuclear energy. However, Washington still did not approve commercial contracts with Beijing, due to additional export controls and concerns about prior Chinese proliferation of nuclear technology to Iran and Pakistan, the newspaper said.

Gilbert, the Westinghouse spokesman, said his company plans to bid on a nuclear power plant in Sanmen in eastern China and a plant in Yangjiang in the south, the latter of which has not been approved, the newspaper said. France's Areva and Atomic Energy Canada are also interested in the plants, the newspaper said.

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Energy shortage hits Chinese firms

By Bridget Fallon
BBC News business reporter in Shanghai, China

Dai Hongdi owns a small textile factory on the outskirts of Shanghai. Her business employs about 20 people and makes women's and children's clothes for export. Her workers normally start at 7.30 in the morning and finish around 9 at night, seven days a week. But that changed this summer. Their hours were drastically cut - not because there was not enough work, but because there was not enough electricity.

"There are now restrictions forced on us. For two days as week we are not allowed to use any electricity and that means I have to send my workers home," says Ms Dai.

China's explosive growth is causing the problem. China is now the world's fastest growing major economy and it is the largest producer and consumer of steel. The country has doubled its steel output to over 250 million tonnes a year. Industries like steel are pushing up the consumption of electricity and putting a strain on energy resources. So far the steel industry shows no sign of cooling down. Power shortages are now so severe that two manufacturing plants have already been forced to shut down completely.

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The war on terror has hit Parliament in another security farce. (Australia)

Hugo Kelly
02 September 2004

As you read this, dear subscriber, spare a thought for press gallery heavyweights Laurie Oakes and Paul Bongiorno who, at this moment, are making their weary way home after becoming the latest victims in the War on Terror.

The Sphere of Influence and The Bonge were two of many parliament house residents whose cars were trapped in the Senate carpark all day and well into the night after zealous parliamentary security operatives mistook a Seven Network crew car for dangerous unexploded device. We kid you not.

The Seven vehicle – containing the kind of equipment TV networks need to cover election campaigns – was cordoned off around lunchtime, as the following emails from the Usher of the Black Rod outline.

We are reliably informed the vehicle contained nothing more harmless than Seven political correspondent Mark Riley's lunch.

Still, security in Parliament is nothing if not dogged. So some 400 parliament house staff had their cars impounded as Parliament's crack squad of highly trained security operatives (ie: coppers on bicycles) swarmed around the suspicious vehicle.The whole exercise took some eight long hours. Which does seem a tad like overkill. Oakes and Bongiorno were among those unlucky enough to park their cars on Level 1 – the last level to be cleared for safe take-off.

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Mexican columnist beaten to death

A well-known Mexican journalist has been beaten to death and his body dumped outside Red Cross offices in the city of Matamoros on the US border.

Police say the murder of Francisco Arratia Saldierna, 55, could have links to organised crime.

Mr Arratia wrote an outspoken column which appeared in several newspapers.

He is the third journalist to be killed this year along the Mexico-US border, where cartels compete for the lucrative drug-smuggling trade.

"He was beaten about the head and ribs, and his hands and fingers were broken," a police spokesman said.

Red Cross officials found Mr Arratia outside their office in Matamoros and rushed him to hospital, but he was dead on arrival.

Mr Arratia wrote the "Portavoz" or "Spokesman" column which touched on a range of sensitive issues in the state of Tamaulipas, including corruption, drug-trafficking and organised crime.

Mexico's border with the US is a dangerous place for journalists to work, says the BBC's Mexico correspondent Claire Marshall.

In March, a newspaper editor, Roberto Mora, was stabbed to death in Tamaulipas.

And in June a deputy editor of a crusading weekly paper, Francisco Ortiz, was shot dead in his car in Tijuana.

Both men had also reported on the drugs trade and corruption at the highest official levels.

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3 killed in shopping stampede at Saudi Ikea

Wed, 01 Sep 2004 13:48:56 EDT

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA - Three people were crushed to death when thousands of shoppers stampeded into an Ikea store in western Saudi Arabia.

The furniture giant had promised credit vouchers to the first 250 customers in the Red Sea port city of Jiddah.

When the doors opened on Wednesday morning, the crowd surged forward, causing the stampede.

More than 8,000 people were waiting for the store to open, a senior executive for Ikea Saudi Arabia said.

Some shoppers had camped out overnight.

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Sarkozy confirms leadership bid

BBC
Wednesday, 1 September, 2004, 21:02 GMT

French Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has told President Jacques Chirac that he will stand for the leadership of the main governing party, officials say.

Correspondents say he is the favourite to replace Alain Juppe, who will stand down after being convicted of graft.

Mr Sarkozy is seen as placing himself for a future run at the presidency.

Mr Chirac, who regards him as a rival, told Mr Sarkozy earlier that he would be sacked as minister if he took the leadership of the UMP party.

Officials at the president's office said Mr Chirac - who continued to back Juppe after his conviction - supported Mr Sarkozy's bid.

They added that Mr Sarkozy will retain his job at the finance ministry until the party election in November.

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Florida upgrades alert as Hurricane Frances barrels over the Bahamas

September 2, 2004

MIAMI (AFP) - Florida raised the alert as Hurricane Frances lashed the Bahamas and barreled closer to the southeastern US state forcing massive evacuations.

Most of Florida's Atlantic coast was placed under a hurricane warning, which means the huge storm could slam within 24 hours into the state that is still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Charley earlier this month.

"Dangerous Hurricane Frances (is) heading to Florida," the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said as the storm raged over the Bahamas with sustained winds of 230 kilometers (135 miles) per hour and higher gusts.

A hurricane warning was discontinued for the Turks and Caicos islands, where ferocious winds on Wednesday damaged roofs, uprooted trees, caused power outages and downed telephone lines.

The storm pounded the southeastern Bahamas early Thursday and was expected to be near or over the center of the group of islands later in the day.

Its projected track then takes it to south Florida.

At 11:00 am (1500 GMT), the eye of the storm was 90 kilometers (55 miles) southeast of San Salvador, Bahamas and 725 kilometers (450 miles) of south Florida's east coast.

Hurricane-force winds extended 130 kilometers (80 miles) from the center of the storm, which was moving west-northwest at 20 kilometers (13 miles) per hour.

NHC forecaster Stacy Steward warned that the Bahamian islands of Eleuthera and Grand Bahama could expect "storm-surge flooding of six to 14 feet (two to seven meters) above normal tide levels, ... along with large and dangerous battering waves."

As residents of the Bahamian islands battened down, Florida braced for the new storm.

"This is going to happen," said Jim Lushine, the US National Weather Service's severe weather expert for South Florida. "It looks like the east coast of Florida will get slammed by a big storm. The wind is going to shake their world."

In Palm Beach County, 300,000 residents were told to evacuate their homes and schools there and in other parts of south Florida were ordered closed.

Florida Governor Jeb Bush declared a state of emergency and stressed: "We are prepared, we will respond and we will recover."

While some forecasts have the hurricane slamming into Georgia or South Carolina or heading into the Gulf of Mexico over the weekend, the main NHC forecast track has it hitting Florida.

"This is going to be, if this storm makes landfall in Florida, a very large, a very dangerous storm. We're going to have a lot of people in harm's way." Florida Emergency Management Director Craig Fugate said.

Florida is still recovering from the death and destruction wrought by Hurricane Charley in southwestern parts of the state.

The eventual hurricane track will depend largely on a ridge of high pressure just north of the storm. If that system remains where it is and maintains its strength, "it will be a Florida hurricane," said NHC director Max Mayfield.

Several cruise ships diverted from their initial course to steer clear of the storm.

Across South Florida, residents lined up to buy emergency supplies, including plywood to board up windows, bottled water and flashlights. Stores struggled to keep up with demand, particularly for water and batteries, while many hotels away from the coast were full.

In downtown Miami, office buildings started shutting down in readiness for the storm.

"We can't control the kind of damage that Frances is going to cause, but if people are smart, lives can be saved," said Max Mayfield, the NHC director.

Comment: Referring to a page on the National Weather Service site, we noticed that the years of WW II had the highest number of hurricanes since records were first kept. It is rather interesting that, while America was at war, it was getting some serious hits from the weather.

Lately, the US has been pummeled by a lot of severe weather...

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Fla. Tells 1.2M Locals to Flee Hurricane

By TIM REYNOLDS, Associated Press Writer
September 2, 2004

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - More than a million people threatened by Hurricane Frances were told to clear out Thursday, and residents scrambled to board up homes and stock up on water ahead of what could be Florida's mightiest storm in a decade.

A hurricane warning covered much of the state's eastern coast — about 300 miles from Florida City, near the state's southern tip, to Flagler Beach, north of Daytona Beach.

The warning meant hurricane-force winds of at least 74 mph were likely by midmorning Friday — three weeks after Hurricane Charley, another Category 4 storm, raked the state's western coast with 145 mph wind, causing billions of dollars in damage and killing 27 people.

Most of the 1.2 million residents who were told to leave were in South Florida — 300,000 in Palm Beach County, 250,000 in Broward County and 320,000 in Miami-Dade County. To the north, Brevard County told 185,000 residents to leave, and Volusia County told 120,000.

States of emergency were declared in Florida and Georgia.

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Fla. Delegates Urged to Leave Convention

By JILL BARTON, Associated Press Writer
Wed Sep 1, 6:48 PM ET

NEW YORK - With Hurricane Frances barreling toward Florida, anxious Florida delegates examined weather reports and some began packing their bags for home.

"We're still cleaning up from the last one," sighed Nancy Patterson, a delegate from Orlando, where Hurricane Charley earlier this month knocked out power for nine days.

At a breakfast Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings urged the Florida delegates to consider leaving before the convention ends Thursday night. Frances is expected to hit Florida's eastern coast as early as Friday night.

But Carole and John Parsons of Palm Beach County said while the new storm makes them nervous, they don't want to miss the highlight of the convention — President Bush's acceptance speech Thursday night.

"I want to stay here through the whole thing ... but I'm real worried about getting down there," said Carole Parsons, whose husband is a delegate.

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Va. Locals Return to Homes After Flooding

By LARRY O'DELL, Associated Press Writer
September 2, 2004

RICHMOND, Va. - Residents of a neighborhood still cordoned off because of flood damage from Tropical Storm Gaston's remnants visited their homes to retrieve what belongings of theirs remained.

"It looks like Armageddon," 31-year-old Tonya Entzminger said after police escorted her to her muddied first-floor apartment to retrieve some essentials. "I'm lucky to be alive."

The storm moved through Monday, dropping more than a foot of rain on Richmond. Three more bodies were found Wednesday, bringing the death toll to eight. About 350 homes and more than 230 businesses were damaged or destroyed in the region, and damage in Richmond was preliminarily put at $15 million, a figure the city said is likely to rise.

Entzminger's apartment in the historical Shockoe Bottom section of the city was within the 20-block section that remained closed until officials can inspect the buildings for structural damage. Once that's done, cleanup and restoration could begin "in a day or so," City Manager Calvin Jamison said.

Entzminger, one of many who took advantage of police and fire escorts to get into her apartment, retrieved an armful of clothes, a mesh bag containing shoes, her cell phone and a purse. She came away stunned by the destruction, not having thought much of the alarm that sent her rushing into the street Monday night.

"I thought maybe it was a prank and figured I would be out there about 20 minutes, but the water was already knee-high," she said.

When she tried to go back inside, she found her refrigerator had floated across the apartment and blocked the front door, requiring three men to move it. Her car was later found stacked with two others.

Heavy rain from remnants of tropical storm Gaston caused a sinkhole in Richmond, VA.
(Times-Dispatch/Mark Gorman)

The rain washed out roads and bridges and sent a torrent of water into the low-lying district, closing restaurants, bars and old tobacco warehouses converted into condos and apartments.

The governor, who viewed the flood-ravaged area on Tuesday, asked President Bush for a federal disaster declaration for the cities of Richmond, Hopewell, Colonial Heights and Petersburg, and the counties of Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Hanover, Henrico and Prince George.

Jamison said inspectors had already condemned 19 buildings, and electricity to 70 buildings was disconnected because of damaged systems.

"The magnitude of a storm of this level you can't imagine until you have to go in and clean up," he said. "They're going to rebuild, and the city is going to be stronger than it is now. That's our track record."

Three more deaths were confirmed Wednesday, officials said. In suburban Henrico County, police found the body of a woman who apparently was swept away by floodwaters after abandoning her car. In Dinwiddie County south of Richmond, a person had been carried away by rushing water during an attempted rescue. In Richmond, a man's body was found in Broad Rock Creek.

More than 100 roads remained closed, the state Transportation Department said, and another 40 Richmond streets that remained blocked. At least six bridges were washed out.

"There may be a few more, but until the water recedes, we're not going to know," state Transportation spokeswoman Linda South said. "That's how bad it is out there."

A Reader Comments: Approximately 14 inches of rain in less than twelve hours creating 2-3 foot waves in some sections of town. I used to live in Richmond and I've never seen anything like that in my life, there or anywhere else. I've been through floods, hurricanes, and blizzards...and this was a weak storm...

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Envisat witnesses return of the South Polar ozone hole

1 September 2004

The smudges of dark blue on this Envisat-derived ozone forecast trace the start of what has unfortunately become an annual event: the opening of the ozone hole above the South Pole.

"Ever since this phenomenon was first discovered in the mid-1980s, satellites have served as an important means of monitoring it," explained José Achache, ESA Director of Earth Observation Programmes. "ESA satellites have been routinely observing stratospheric ozone concentrations for the last decade.

"And because Envisat's observations are assimilated into atmospheric models, they actually serve as the basis of an operational ozone forecasting service. These models predict the ozone hole is in the process of opening this week."

Envisat data show 2004's ozone hole is appearing about two weeks later than last year's, but at a similar time period to the average during the last decade. The precise time and range of Antarctic ozone hole occurrences are determined by regional meteorological variations.

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N.D. Blaze Burns 4,000 Acres in Badlands

AP
September 2, 2004

AMIDON, N.D. - A fire in the Badlands burned about 4,000 acres and sent flames 80 feet into the air Thursday, and fire officials feared the blaze could quickly grow because of high winds and drought conditions.

"We have a very serious fire here," Forest Service spokeswoman Colleen Reinke said. "The fire weather is expected to be very severe today. It is zero percent contained."

"In the worst-case scenario, this has the potential to go to 10,000 acres," she said.

The fire, burning in a sparsely populated area full of dry grass and timber in southwestern North Dakota, began Wednesday afternoon. The fire was caused by people, although the exact cause was under investigation, said Ron Jablonski, a ranger for the U.S. Forest Service. [...]

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3 days to tell if quake predictor right: So far, team is 2-for-2

By MIKE TONER
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/02/04

The day of reckoning is coming. For someone. By Labor Day, either Southern California will have suffered a magnitude-6.4 earthquake or at least one UCLA geophysicist will be eating some serious crow.

Forecasting nature's fits of temper is always a dicey thing, but Vladimir Keilis-Borok is putting his professional reputation on the line. Several months ago he predicted a major quake somewhere in a 13,000-square-mile area east of San Diego — an area that includes Palm Springs — no later than Sept. 5.

Some seismologists scoff at the notion that an 83-year-old Russian professor-in-residence at UCLA — using a combination of statistics, chaos theory, pattern recognition and seismology — can venture where no earthquake expert has successfully gone before.

Others might scoff, too. Except for one thing. So far, Keilis-Borok and his team are two-for-two — and their accurate prediction of earthquakes in central California and Japan last year have been enough to make Californians and scientists sit up and take notice.

The last major earthquake in California was a magnitude-6.5 event last year near San Simeon that killed two people, injured 40 and severely damaged about 40 buildings in Paso Robles. The UCLA team had predicted that quake six months earlier.

"There is a lot of anxiety in the target area," says U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Susan Hough. "I was out in the desert setting up some seismic monitors recently and everyone I ran into was on edge. It's taking a toll on people's nerves."

UCLA is getting nervous as the day of reckoning approaches, too. "It's beginning to look like this may have been a false alarm," says university spokesman Stuart Wolpert. "When you're eight months and three weeks into a nine-month prediction, there's obviously a good chance it won't happen."

Keilis-Borok, who founded Moscow's International Institute of Earthquake Prediction Theory and is a member of both the U.S. and Russian academies of science, acknowledges that his predictive techniques are still experimental, but he hasn't been shy about touting their significance.

"Earthquake prediction has been called the Holy Grail of earthquake science and has been considered impossible by many scientists," he says. "It is not impossible. We have made a major breakthrough, discovering the possibility of making predictions months ahead of time."

Even he concedes that a two-for-two record is not as convincing as a string of 10 successful predictions. But he acknowledges that a prediction is a prediction — and if there isn't a quake by Sept. 5, he will be two-for-three.

The official jury is still out, but watching with interest from the sidelines. The California Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council, the panel that advises the governor's office on such claims, stopped short of endorsing the prediction when it was reviewed in March.

But the council noted that Keilis-Borok's methods, while insufficiently tested, appear to be "a legitimate approach to earthquake prediction." In the face of uncertainty, it urged state and local governments to get their emergency preparedness plans up to date.

Scientists say it will take a succession of correct predictions to prove the technique. But they say a miss on the current one — especially if it is only by a few days or weeks — would not automatically invalidate the theory.

"It's possible that this group has discovered something about the way the earth moves," says the geological survey's Hough. "They have already been right twice. That's why the scientific community is taking notice."

In earthquake country, vague forecasts of a major earthquake sometime in the indefinite future are a dime a dozen. Sometimes, by virtue of their vagueness, they may even turn out to be "right."

Keilis-Borok's team, however, has been specific — and correct — not only about the strength of the two previously predicted quakes, but also about the location and window of time in which they would occur.

In June 2003 they predicted a magnitude-6.4 or greater quake within nine months in a 40,000-square-mile region of central California. Based on historical activity, there was less than a 5 percent chance of an event like the 6.5 San Simeon quake, which hit the target area Dec. 22, 2003.

In July 2003 the team predicted a magnitude-7 or greater earthquake within six months in a region of Japan that includes Hokkaido. The 8.1 earthquake that injured 500 people in Hokkaido on Sept. 25, 2003, was an event that, based on history, had only a 30 percent chance of occurring.

The current prediction — first published by the UCLA scientists in January — covers a huge area of the Mojave Desert stretching across the Imperial Valley from near San Bernardino to the Mexican border,

Although the zone straddles a portion of the earthquake-prone San Andreas Fault that experts say has been "10 months pregnant for years" — if history is any guide, the chance of a major quake there during the predicted period is less than 10 percent.

The UCLA team bases its predictions on three distinct, previously recognized patterns of smaller quakes that, by themselves, have been of little use in helping seismologists forecast the future.

By analyzing the patterns together — and comparing them with similar sets of earthquake precursors in the past — the team says it can forecast some major events from little quakes many months in advance. Keilis-Borok compares the effort to seeking not the dog, but the tail that wags the dog.

"Most seismologists agree that the ingredients of the 'tail-wags-the-dog' method are sensible but argue about the performance," says John Vidale, director of UCLA's Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics. "But the proof is in the pudding. Professor Keilis-Borok's methods have delivered several correct and impressive forecasts."

When it comes to earthquakes, however, patterns are prone to pitfalls.

In 1974 the Chinese government — responding to signs of an imminent earthquake, rising groundwater and erratic behavior in animals — ordered the people of Haicheng out of their homes and into the street. Nothing happened.

Six weeks later they did it again — and Haicheng was devastated by a 7.3 earthquake. More than 2,000 people were killed, but the precautionary evacuation of buildings was credited with saving 150,000 lives.

A year later, however, no one predicted the 7.6 earthquake that struck Tangshan, with a population of more than 1 million. That quake killed more than 250,000, perhaps as many as a half-million people.

In the United States, the most ambitious effort to predict earthquakes was launched in 1984, when U.S. Geological Survey scientists and others thought they saw a pattern of recurring major earthquakes around Parkfield, Calif., that followed a 22-year cycle. They predicted — with 90 percent certainty — a quake there between 1985 and 1993. It still hasn't happened.

Since then, federal support for prediction has waned and emphasis has been placed on developing engineering standards and codes that will help structures withstand quakes — whether or not they are predicted. No less an expert than Charles Richter, the father of the Richter scale, categorized the field as "a happy hunting ground for amateurs, cranks and publicity-seeking fakers," one that spurs the media and the public to "rush to any suggestion of earthquake prediction like hogs toward a full trough."

Still, the ability to predict potential disaster would be helpful — to emergency officials, insurers and the public.

"Even if there's nothing they can do about it," says Hough. "I think most people would rather know than not know."

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GE corn that caused rat abnormalities approved

Press Release: Green Party
2 September 2004

GE corn that caused rat abnormalities approved for NZ food use

The Greens today revealed that a genetically engineered corn variety approved for human food in New Zealand was refused approval by a French scientific committee because of a study showing rats fed with it developed several abnormalities (see attached media background paper for details).

Le Monde reported in April that France's Commission du Genie Biomoleculaire (CGB) raised serious concerns last year about Monsanto's MON863 corn after it read the company's own three-month rat-feeding study. Its decision to turn down approval was subsequently overturned by the European Food Safety Authority.

In light of the serious implications of the study's contents and how it has been handled in Europe, the Green Party has now asked Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to reassess its approval for this GE corn and is calling for importation to be suspended until safety can be guaranteed. Today the Greens have also launched a website and postcard campaign to encourage people to tell FSANZ to reconsider its approval of MON863.

"On checking FSANZ's report, prepared last October when it approved MON863 for New Zealanders to eat, we found no mention at all of the Monsanto rat study," said Jeanette Fitzsimons, the Green Party's Genetic Engineering Spokesperson.

"This makes us wonder whether they never saw the study or whether they just chose to ignore it. Either way there is something seriously wrong with the quality of the assessment process. [...]

What effect did MON863 corn reportedly have on the studied rats? As reported in Le Monde and by the Centre for International Environmental Law, Monsanto's study found rats fed MON863 corn for three months developed a range of abnormalities, including:

  • Reduced number of white blood cells in the males (an indicator of a challenge to the immune system)
  • Reduced immature red blood cells (which carry iron and oxygen) in females
  • A significant increase in blood sugar in the females
  • A higher frequency of physical irregularities, such as inflammation in the kidneys of the males

On sighting the study, a spokesperson for the CGB panel, Gerard Pascal, Director of Research at the National Institute of Agronomic Research, is reported by Le Monde as saying, "...what struck me in this file is the number of abnormalities. I never saw that in another file."

What happened next in Europe? The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) overrode the CGB's concerns and approved MON863 for use in the European Union in April this year, saying the reported abnormalities were not significant.

The same month, Le Monde reported the CGB's view on MON863 and the existence of the Monsanto report. When Greenpeace asked the German regulatory authority for the report (which it only had after being alerted to its existence by the Le Monde story), Monsanto refused to release the government body from the confidentiality agreement it had signed. While European regulators have seen the Monsanto study, it has never, to our knowledge, been publicly released.

What did FSANZ do and what should it do now? FSANZ's report on approval of MON863 for New Zealand and Australia makes no mention of the Monsanto rat study. This raises the question as to whether they never saw it or chose to ignore it.

After several months attempting to get more information on MON863 and Monsanto's report, Green MPs Sue Kedgley and Jeanette Fitzsimons last week applied to FSANZ for a reassessment of its approval of MON863. The Greens are also asking that importation of this corn be suspended until the Monsanto report is properly considered and independent assessment of MON863 is carried out. What food is MON863 corn used in? FSANZ's MON863 assessment report says the corn could be used in the following food: Unlabelled in:

  • Modified starch ingredients
  • Refined oil
  • High fructose and glucose syrups
  • Cereals
  • Baking products
  • Corn chips
  • Dessert mixes
  • Canned foods.

It could be in starch, semolina and flour, but it would need to be declared on a label, so is therefore unlikely.

What are the problems with FSANZ's approval process for GE foods? FSANZ, like many other food regulatory authorities around the world, accepts information from the applicant without requiring any independent studies or peer review. Animal studies are short term, so do not investigate the effects on the next generation.

So when this corn is released on to the market and into the food chain it's a giant, uncontrolled experiment.

It is often claimed that GE foods are the most tested in the world. However a paper by Pryme and Lembcke and published in Nutrition and Health last year found only nine peer-reviewed studies on the health effects of GE foods on animals have ever been published. Five were conducted in association with the producer and showed no adverse effects on the animals; the others were conducted by independent institutes and all found effects.

It also known that industry studies often don't test the food itself, but look instead at a protein derived from a bacterium, rather than one from a plant. Because the former does not include sugar molecules its activity can differ from the latter. This is the case with tests on MON863 that were cited by FSANZ, where the protein tested came from a GE bacterium, not the GE corn. [...]

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Mysterious signals from 1000 light years away

New Scientist
19:00 01 September 04

In February 2003, astronomers involved in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) pointed the massive radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, at around 200 sections of the sky.

The same telescope had previously detected unexplained radio signals at least twice from each of these regions, and the astronomers were trying to reconfirm the findings. The team has now finished analysing the data, and all the signals seem to have disappeared. Except one, which has got stronger.

This radio signal, now seen on three separate occasions, is an enigma. It could be generated by a previously unknown astronomical phenomenon. Or it could be something much more mundane, maybe an artefact of the telescope itself.

But it also happens to be the best candidate yet for a contact by intelligent aliens in the nearly six-year history of the SETI@home project, which uses programs running as screensavers on millions of personal computers worldwide to sift through signals picked up by the Arecibo telescope.

Absorb and emit

"It's the most interesting signal from SETI@home," says Dan Werthimer, a radio astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) and the chief scientist for SETI@home. "We're not jumping up and down, but we are continuing to observe it."

Named SHGb02 14a, the signal has a frequency of about 1420 megahertz. This happens to be one of the main frequencies at which hydrogen, the most common element in the universe, readily absorbs and emits energy.

Some astronomers have argued that extraterrestrials trying to advertise their presence would be likely to transmit at this frequency, and SETI researchers conventionally scan this part of the radio spectrum.

SHGb02 14a seems to be coming from a point between the constellations Pisces and Aries, where there is no obvious star or planetary system within 1000 light years. And the transmission is very weak.

"We are looking for something that screams out 'artificial'," says UCB researcher Eric Korpela, who completed the analysis of the signal in April. "This just doesn't do that, but it could be because it is distant."

Unknown signature

The telescope has only observed the signal for about a minute in total, which is not long enough for astronomers to analyse it thoroughly. But, Korpela thinks it unlikely SHGb02 14a is the result of any obvious radio interference or noise, and it does not bear the signature of any known astronomical object.

That does not mean that only aliens could have produced it. "It may be a natural phenomenon of a previously undreamed-of kind like I stumbled over," says Jocelyn Bell Burnell of the University of Bath, UK.

It was Bell Burnell who in 1967 noticed a pulsed radio signal which the research team at the time thought was from extraterrestrials but which turned out to be the first ever sighting of a pulsar.

There are other oddities. For instance, the signal's frequency is drifting by between eight to 37 hertz per second. "The signal is moving rapidly in frequency and you would expect that to happen if you are looking at a transmitter on a planet that's rotating very rapidly and where the civilisation is not correcting the transmission for the motion of the planet," Korpela says.

This does not, however, convince Paul Horowitz, a Harvard University astronomer who looks for alien signals using optical telescopes. He points out that the SETI@home software corrects for any drift in frequency.

Fishy and puzzling

The fact that the signal continues to drift after this correction is "fishy", he says. "If [the aliens] are so smart, they'll adjust their signal for their planet's motion."

The relatively rapid drift of the signal is also puzzling for other reasons. A planet would have to be rotating nearly 40 times faster than Earth to have produced the observed drift; a transmitter on Earth would produce a signal with a drift of about 1.5 hertz per second.

What is more, if telescopes are observing a signal that is drifting in frequency, then each time they look for it they should most likely encounter it at a slightly different frequency. But in the case of SHGb02 14a, every observation has first been made at 1420 megahertz, before it starts drifting. "It just boggles my mind," Korpela says.

The signal could be an artefact that, for some reason, always appears to be coming from the same point in the sky. The Arecibo telescope has a fixed dish reflector and scans the skies by changing the position of its receiver relative to the dish.

When the receiver reaches a certain position, it might just be able to reflect waves from the ground onto the dish and then back to itself, making it seem as if the signal was coming from space.

"Perhaps there is an object on the ground near the telescope emitting at about this frequency," Korpela says. This could be confirmed by using a different telescope to listen for SHGb02 14a. [...]

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Sceptic spots UFO

The white sphere and trail to the right of the street lamp on the left is what Mr Hinsley believed was a UFO.

A heating engineer who did not believe in aliens is reconsidering his view this week, after coming face-to-face with what he believes was a UFO.

Matthew Hinsley, of Deanshanger, was driving towards Old Stratford along the A422 at around 2am last Monday morning, when he claims a UFO dropped from the sky just yards in front of him, hovered above the road, and then shot away.

The 29-year-old, who says he used to ridicule people who believed in aliens, was left so gobsmacked by what he thought he saw that he pulled over in the nearest lay-by to gather his thoughts.

Matthew, who was on his way from work to his girlfriend's house in Bletchley, told the Citizen: "I have never seen anything like it before in my life – I don't even believe in aliens!

"I was driving along and on my right hand side I noticed what I thought was a cluster of around 30 stars packed together.
"Then it started darting around the sky sharply, so I tried to take a picture of it on my camera phone, but it shot off just as I was doing it.

"Then, as I was checking my phone to see if I had got a picture of it, a bright blob zoomed down from the sky around 20 metres in front of my car and I caught a picture of it by mistake.

"It hovered for a split second and then shot off out of sight to my left, leaving a trail of light behind it."

Matthew, who claims he has been left bewildered by the experience, told his girlfriend, Vanessa, about what he had witnessed as soon as he got in.

He said: "I think I was in a bit of shock when I got in, I was shaking as I told Vanessa about it.

"Everyone I've told thinks it is unexplainable.

"But the nice thing is that they all believe me – they know I'm not the sort of person to make it up."

The Citizen showed a copy of the picture Matthew took to Dr Ulrich Kolb, astronomy expert at the Open University in Milton Keynes.

After analysing the image, he said: "It could have been any number of things – a very powerful meteorite which may have seemed close but was miles away, a form of lightning, or a reflection on his windscreen.

"It's very difficult to say exactly what it is, but it's certainly not a UFO.

"There are plenty of natural explanations."

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