Saturday, September 04, 2004The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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Picture of the Day
by Ira Chernus
If you read that President Bush said we can't win the war on terrorism, you may have missed the point. You had to hear the way he said the words. When the interviewer asked "Can we win it?", Bush replied: "I don't think you can win IT." The emphasis was on "IT," as if to say "You can't win this war. But you can win other wars" -- in Afghanistan, Iraq, and anyplace else the U.S. wants to conquer.
The Bush administration seems content to have a permanent war on terrorism. That gives us a permanent excuse to overthrow governments, wherever and whenever the U.S. chooses.
The Bushies started preparing us for an endless war just days after the 9/11 attack. In his most important policy speech, on September 20, 2001, the president called the war on terrorism "a task that does not end." A few days earlier, Dick Cheney said: "There's not going to be an end date when we're going to say, 'There, it's all over with.''' Donald Rumsfeld agreed that we "surely will not" eliminate terrorism "completely from the face of the Earth."
So what would constitute victory, a reporter asked Rumsfeld. His answer gave away the game. This will always be a dangerous world, he replied, full of "powerful weapons and with people who are willing to use those powerful weapons." Victory means simply being able to "continue our way of life. . to a point that you are satisfied that the American people are going to be able to live their lives in relative freedom and have the kinds of linkages with the rest of the world that we feel are so central to our well being." The U.S. will have won when "the American people and our interests and friends and allies and deployed forces can go about our business not in fear."
"Business" and "linkages" are the operative words, as Bush made clear a few weeks later: "We cannot let the terrorists achieve the objective of frightening our nation to the point where we don't conduct business or people don't shop. Terrorists want to turn the openness of the global economy against itself. We must not let them.. Out of the sorrow of September 11th, I see opportunity to expand our ties of trade." For the Bushies, victory does not mean ending terrorism. It means keeping terrorism contained enough to preserve the linkages of the international corporate economy, so Americans can keep on shopping.
It's not about absolute victory or unconditional surrender, World War II style. It's about containment, cold war style. As Rumsfeld said, the war on terror "undoubtedly will prove to be a lot more like a cold war than a hot war.'' Cold war containment gave the U.S. a splendid pretext to entrench its corporate and military power around the world. By the 1990s, multinational corporate capitalism could operate with no effective challenge in most of the world. Only one large region remained problematic: the broad belt of predominantly Muslim lands from Afghanistan to Algeria.
That's why Bush has consistently linked endless terrorism with unfriendly governments, most of them in that region. In his "axis of evil" speech, he warned that life would never return to normal. But he promised that the U.S. "will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons." Regimes, not terrorists, became the target.
A few months later, in a major speech at West Point, he denied that the cold war strategy of containment was valid any longer. Now the U.S. would make war preemptively and win total victories. But as the Iraq war showed, that strategy is not aimed against terrorists. It's aimed against governments. Bush said as much at West Point: "All nations that decide for aggression and terror will pay a price." There is only one valid model of human progress, he insisted - the U.S. model: "America cannot impose this vision -- yet we can support and reward governments that make the right choices for their own people." And we can destroy governments that try to hold on to any other model.
That's what Bush meant a few days ago on the Today Show, when he said of the war on terror, "I don't think you can win IT." He went on to say: "But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world." Then he talked about spreading liberty and democracy. These are his usual code words for overthrowing governments that resist the free reign of multinational corporate capitalism.
In the same interview, he suggested that it's a matter of probabilities. He could only hope to make it "less likely that your kids are going to live under the threat of al-Qaida for a long period of time. I can't tell you. I don't have any . definite end. If we believe, for example, that you can't win, and the alternative is to retreat. I think that would be a disaster for your children." For Bush, the alternative to winning is not retreating. It is containing terrorism while installing US-friendly regimes around the world.
White House officials didn't think their man was saying anything surprising in the Today Show interview. For hours after it aired, they told reporters that Bush meant just what he said (according to the Washington Post). They changed their story only after the Kerry campaign started crowing that their man intends to win the war on terrorism.
When Bush went on Rush Limbaugh's show to do damage control, the truth slipped out once again. Limbaugh suggested that terrorism is "always going to happen because it always has." Bush simply replied: "Right." Then he turned the conversation to his real goal: making predominantly Muslim nations more friendly to U.S. interests and more willing to follow the U.S. model.
That goal won't be up for debate in this campaign season. The Democrats are just as committed to it as the GOP. Just two days after 9/11, Democratic pundit Thomas Friedman explained what the war on terrorism is all about. There is a battle raging throughout the Muslim world, he said, between the modernizers, who accept the dominance of US-style globalization, and the traditionalists who oppose it. The goal of this new war is to break the power of the traditionalists forever.
That's the same Tom Friedman who once wrote: "The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. Macdonald's cannot flourish without MacDonnell Douglas." American taxpayers won't cough up nearly a half-trillion dollars a year to promote the multinational corporate free market. They need to believe that are protecting themselves against some imminent threat. So the war against terrorism must be "a task that does not end."
When John Kerry says he will win the war on terror, he may be just scoring political points. Or he may really mean it. If so, he knows as well as Bush that terrorism will always be with us. Kerry is simply doing what every cold war president did-pursuing containment and calling it victory. Let's give Bush a little credit for letting the truth slip out.
Comment: Fugs - Kill for Peace
Ah, Christian love. Can ya feel it pounding in your heart, your veins, your fists? Enough to bring the dead back to life, and not a moment too soon. George will need 'em in November.
Let's look at some of the love coursing through the stiffs in American politics....
By PAUL KRUGMAN
"I don't know where George Soros gets his money," one man said. "I don't know where - if it comes from overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from." George Soros, another declared, "wants to spend $75 million defeating George W. Bush because Soros wants to legalize heroin." After all, a third said, Mr. Soros "is a self-admitted atheist; he was a Jew who figured out a way to survive the Holocaust."
They aren't LaRouchies - they're Republicans.
The suggestion that Mr. Soros, who has spent billions promoting democracy around the world, is in the pay of drug cartels came from Dennis Hastert, the speaker of the House, whom the Constitution puts two heartbeats from the presidency. After standing by his remarks for several days, Mr. Hastert finally claimed that he was talking about how Mr. Soros spends his money, not where he gets it.
The claim that Mr. Soros's political spending is driven by his desire to legalize heroin came from Newt Gingrich. And the bit about the Holocaust came from Tony Blankley, editorial page editor of The Washington Times, which has become the administration's de facto house organ.
For many months we've been warned by tut-tutting commentators about the evils of irrational "Bush hatred." Pundits eagerly scanned the Democratic convention for the disease; some invented examples when they failed to find it. Then they waited eagerly for outrageous behavior by demonstrators in New York, only to be disappointed again.
There was plenty of hatred in Manhattan, but it was inside, not outside, Madison Square Garden.
Barack Obama, who gave the Democratic keynote address, delivered a message of uplift and hope. Zell Miller, who gave the Republican keynote, declared that political opposition is treason: "Now, at the same time young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrats' manic obsession to bring down our commander in chief." And the crowd roared its approval.
Why are the Republicans so angry? One reason is that they have nothing positive to run on (during the first three days, Mr. Bush was mentioned far less often than John Kerry).
The promised economic boom hasn't materialized, Iraq is a bloody quagmire, and Osama bin Laden has gone from "dead or alive" to he-who-must-not-be-named.
Another reason, I'm sure, is a guilty conscience. At some level the people at that convention know that their designated hero is a man who never in his life took a risk or made a sacrifice for his country, and that they are impugning the patriotism of men who have.
That's why Band-Aids with Purple Hearts on them, mocking Mr. Kerry's war wounds and medals, have been such a hit with conventioneers, and why senior politicians are attracted to wild conspiracy theories about Mr. Soros.
It's also why Mr. Hastert, who knows how little the Bush administration has done to protect New York and help it rebuild, has accused the city of an "unseemly scramble" for cash after 9/11. Nothing makes you hate people as much as knowing in your heart that you are in the wrong and they are in the right.
But the vitriol also reflects the fact that many of the people at that convention, for all their flag-waving, hate America. They want a controlled, monolithic society; they fear and loathe our nation's freedom, diversity and complexity.
The convention opened with an invocation by Sheri Dew, a Mormon publisher and activist. Early rumors were that the invocation would be given by Jerry Falwell, who suggested just after 9/11 that the attack was God's punishment for the activities of the A.C.L.U. and People for the American Way, among others. But Ms. Dew is no more moderate: earlier this year she likened opposition to gay marriage to opposition to Hitler.
The party made sure to put social moderates like Rudy Giuliani in front of the cameras. But in private events, the story was different. For example, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas told Republicans that we are in a "culture war" and urged a reduction in the separation of church and state.
Mr. Bush, it's now clear, intends to run a campaign based on fear. And for me, at least, it's working: thinking about what these people will do if they solidify their grip on power makes me very, very afraid.
Comment: Can you feel the heat?! We can. Ooooh, it'll keep ya warm even in the face of Frances the Talking Hurricane! RRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!
John Kerry launched a stinging and personal counter-attack against George Bush's administration, singling out Dick Cheney, the vice-president, for having "refused to serve" in Vietnam.
The ferocity of the Democratic party's presidential challenger at the midnight rally of supporters in Ohio marked a sharp change in his campaign tactics. A few hours earlier, at the Republican party convention in New York, President Bush had joined in Mr Cheney's derision of Senator Kerry as a vacillating liberal.
The president repeated those charges yesterday at a rally in Pennsylvania, lampooning Mr Kerry for voting to go to war in Iraq and then opposing a funding request in the Senate for the occupation.
"He said he was proud of his vote, and then he just said the whole thing was a complicated matter. His words," Mr Bush said. "Here are my words: There's nothing complicated about supporting our troops in combat."
The charge that Mr Kerry was "unfit for command" was a main theme of the Republican convention, provoking outrage from the senator. He said: "I'm not going to have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have, and by those who misled the nation into Iraq."
Mr Kerry's seemed to be using his speech to release months of pent-up anger.
In the face of a campaign by rightwing Vietnam war veterans to question whether he merited his five combat medals, the senator had until yesterday refrained from referring directly to the actions of Mr Bush or Mr Cheney during the Vietnam era.
Both men avoided combat, while the young Lieutenant Kerry was fighting in the Mekong Delta. Mr Bush signed up with the Texas air national guard as a pilot; Mr Cheney was granted five deferments from the draft for attending college, then graduate school and finally for having a child.
The new gloves-off strategy begins after a week of debate and unease within the Kerry camp over the wisdom of restraint. It coincided with the hiring of Joe Lockhart, a former spokesman for Bill Clinton with a combative reputation.
In yesterday's speech Mr Kerry made it clear he was aiming his accusations principally at the vice-president, who had used his Wednesday night speech to portray the Democratic candidate as unfit to be commander in chief.
Mr Kerry responded: "I'll leave it up to the voters to decide whether five deferments makes someone more qualified to defend this nation than two tours of duty.
"Let me tell you what I think makes someone unfit for duty: misleading our nation into war in Iraq makes you unfit to lead this nation. Doing nothing while this nation loses millions of jobs makes you unfit to lead this nation ... That's the record of George Bush and Dick Cheney"
He also implied that the vice-president was guilty of a financial conflict of interests, accusing him of handing out contracts to his former employer, the oil services company Halliburton, "while you're still on their payroll".
Mr Cheney continues to receive annual payments of "deferred compensation" from Halliburton for his past work as its chief executive, but the White House has denied that he had any role in awarding the company contracts in Iraq.
Mr Kerry's tough approach satisfied his cheering supporters but it carries inherent risks for a candidate claiming to be more capable than the president of unifying the US.
Some pundits also wondered whether Mr Kerry had left his counter-attack too late.
"We're at the point now where all's fair in love and war, and politics is war," said Larry Sabato, a political science professor at the University of Virginia. "The problem is Kerry is out of synch. The time for this was a month ago, but it came on a night when all the coverage went to Bush's speech. I find it incredibly odd."
Both sides argued over the significance of new employment figures published yesterday showing a net creation of 144,000 jobs in August.
The total was a little below most projections but still up on July. Speaking at a rally in Pennsylvania, Mr Bush said the figures showed that the economy was growing, and he added the catchphrase he used when accepting the Republican presidential nomination on Thursday: "Nothing will hold us back."
Comment: A month after "reporting for duty", Kerry is trying to show he's a leader by dumping on Dangerous Dick Unchained. The absurdity of a government comprised of chickenhawks dumping on Kerry is a little hard to believe. Of course, the fact that the Democrats are playing up Kerry's "heroism" in killing Vietnamese during the US occupation of the country is sickening in itself.
And what happened to the issue of George being AWOL? Gosh, it seems to have disappeared from the radar. But doing cocaine, drinking, and whoring while working for a Republican candidate is what makes a born-again Christian the well-rounded personality he is.
Folks, if this story had appeared twenty years ago as a novel, it would have been labelled "fantasy". Now it is happening to everyone on the planet because what happens in the US affects us all.
WEST ALLIS, Wis. (AP) President Bush on Friday wished Bill Clinton ''best wishes for a swift and speedy recovery.''
''He's is in our thoughts and prayers,'' Bush said at a campaign rally.
Bush's audience of thousands in West Allis, Wis., booed. Bush did nothing to stop them.
Bush offered his wishes while campaigning one day after accepting the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention in New York. Clinton was hospitalized in New York after complaining of mild chest pain and shortness of breath.
Bush recently praised Clinton when the former president went to the White House for the unveiling of his official portrait. He lauded Clinton for his knowledge, compassion and ''the forward-looking spirit that Americans like in a president.''
Comment: So much for compassionate conservatism...
There is no longer any question that the Bush Regime is going to cheat the living daylights out of the presidential election this November. Their vast armada of swift boats for cooked votes is moving on a number of fronts, including minority disenfranchisement, armed intimidation and their electronic ace in the hole: paperless, unrecountable computer voting machines that have been designed, tested and "officially certified" in secret by private firms controlled by fierce Bush partisans.
In fact, there are only two questions still up in the air concerning the election. First, will this unprecedented corruption of America's already notoriously corrupt electoral process be enough to counter the public's growing revulsion at the little pretzel-gagging tyrant perched so precariously on his appointed throne? (Bush's approval rating is now an abysmal 39 percent, the Economist reports.) And second, will the Bushists ultimately resort to open violence to maintain their lock on power -- and their immunity from prosecution for an ungodly number of war crimes and other assorted felonies?
The first question, of course, is largely academic until the ballots are actually counted. Then we'll know if L'il Pretzel has sufficiently gamed the system to overcome what will almost certainly be the Bush Dynasty's third straight repudiation by the American people in the popular vote. Naturally, your hard-core dynast is unconcerned with such trivia as "the consent of the governed" and other pinko impediments to hereditary rule by the highborn. Thus more than 45 million voters will be casting their ballots into a digital void, Salon.com reports. And except in Nevada (one-half of one percent of the total), none of these virtual votes will be accompanied by paper printouts verifying the citizen's choice. That means no more of those silly-billy recounts that almost kept Pretzie out of the Oval Office sandbox until Daddy's fixers stepped in.
As noted here last year, the computer vote-count is controlled by a handful of corporate players hardwired into the Bush power nexus, most prominently Diebold and ES&S. Diebold's corporate chief, Wally O'Dell, a top Bush fundraiser, has publicly committed himself to "delivering" his home state of Ohio to Bush. The company's election division is run by Bob Urosevich, whose brother, Todd, is a top executive at "rival" ES&S. Their handiwork is now being "certified" by "independent private contractors" such as CIBER and Wylie Laboratories -- campaign cash cows for the Bushist Party, Corrente.com reports. And both machine-makers and machine-testers have refused to allow public scrutiny of their procedures, AP reports. As every dynast knows, "commercial secrets" are far more important than credible elections.
The brothers Urosevich were originally staked in the vote-count business by Howard Ahmanson, a member of the Council for National Policy, a right-wing "steering group" stacked with Bushist faithful. Ahmanson was also a major funder of the "Christian Reconstruction" movement, which openly advocates a theocratic takeover of American democracy, placing "the state, the school, the arts and sciences, law, economics, and every other sphere under Christ the King." This "dominion" includes the death penalty for homosexuals, stoning of sinners, and slavery for debtors. As the movement's leader, the late R.J. Rushdoony -- Ahmanson's mentor and former fellow CNP member -- put it: "The Christian should therefore not fear laws in support of Christian social goals just because they interfere with personal freedom."
Indeed. Why, the "most destructive" words in American public life today are "separation of church and state." So says Mary Kiffmeyer, the ardent Bushist who just happens to be the state official in charge of elections in Minnesota, as In These Times reports. Kiffmeyer represents another sharp prong in the Regime's attempt to fork the vote: partisan supervision of the electoral process. Faithful Republicans -- sometimes doubling as Bush campaign officials, in the great tradition of Florida's Katherine Harris, who oversaw, nay, engineered the debacle there in 2000 -- are now in charge of certifying elections in such key swing states as Michigan, Ohio, Colorado and, yes, Jeb Bush's gubernatorial satrapy in Florida.
Although Harris' lacquered visage now adorns the halls of Congress, Governor Jeb has installed an equally ruthless operator, Glenda Hood, in her place. Hood and Jeb were recently caught trying to kick 47,000 voters, mostly African-American and Democratic, off the rolls: an attempted repeat of the Jeb-Kath "felon purge" scam that blocked thousands of legitimately registered voters -- again, largely African-American -- from casting ballots in 2000. Jeb is also stalling on a further 43,000 people -- again, mostly black and/or poor -- waiting to have their voting rights restored under Florida's uniquely draconian eligibility strictures, The Tampa Tribune reports.
Jeb's urge to purge may have been thwarted this time around, but the dynasts are now calling on yet another effective vote-suppressing weapon: weapons. Last month, Jeb sent heat-packing state troopers into the homes of elderly black voters in Orlando (whose former mayor was a certain Glenda Hood), The New York Times reports. The armed troopers were ostensibly carrying out an investigation into alleged Democratic voter fraud, even though Jeb's own top cops had already determined -- last May -- that the charges were baseless. Curiously enough, the main target of these brazen intimidations were members of an African-American voter mobilization group.
So the guns are out and on the streets. With Bush's approval numbers plummeting, how long before the private goon squads -- like the Bush-paid mob that shut down the Miami recount in 2000 -- are unleashed? Desperate dynasts call for desperate measures -- and those whose politics encompass aggressive war and mass slaughter will hardly blanche at a little rough stuff with uppity riffraff who vote the wrong way.
Comment: Fixing elections and the threat of violence. The US has come a long way. Perhaps it is a case of the Powers That Be wanting to show Latin America that "we're hermanos". "See, we fix our elections, too! And if we have to, we're willing to call out the army to defend the rich. That's what democracy is all about!"
New York: For the first time since the Presidential race became a two person contest last spring, there is a clear leader, the latest TIME poll shows. If the 2004 election for President were held today, 52% of likely voters surveyed would vote for President George W. Bush, 41% would vote for Democratic nominee John Kerry, and 3% would vote for Ralph Nader, according to a new TIME poll conducted from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2. Poll results are available on TIME.com and will appear in the upcoming issue of TIME magazine, on newsstands Monday, Sept. 6.
Most important issues: When asked what they consider are the most important issues, 25% of registered voters cited the economy as the top issue, followed by 24% who cited the war on terrorism as the top issue. The situation in Iraq was rated the top issue by 17% of registered voters, moral values issues such as gay marriage and abortion were the top issue for 16% of respondents, and health care was the most important issue for 11% of respondents.
Bush vs. Kerry:
Comment: The numbers on which candidate is trusted with handling the economy are rather peculiar, given the devastation wrought on the US economy by Bush's four years in the White House...
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Older Americans will have to pay about 17 percent more next year -- the largest increase in Medicare's history -- for their government-run health insurance, U.S. officials announced on Friday.
Starting in January, the elderly will pay $78.20 per month for non-hospital services, up $11.60 from $66.60 this year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said. nearly $80 premium follows the largest annual hike since Medicare began nearly 40 years ago.
According to CMS records, the hike is the largest annual increase since Medicare was established nearly 40 years ago.
Most of the increase will cover the program's new prescription drug coverage and preventive services, including an initial physical exam and other tests, said Mark McClellan, head of the federal health insurance program for the elderly and disabled.
The remaining amount, about 25 percent, will be used to help build up Medicare's trust fund, he said, adding that the higher upfront costs will help save money elsewhere.
"Medicare beneficiaries are saving money. They're paying a little more in premiums, but they're getting more savings in their out-of-pocket costs as a result," McClellan said.
Comment: So Medicare beneficiaries have to pay more to save more???
But the premium increase is likely to renew controversy over the cost of the new Medicare law passed last year.
Robert Hayes, president of Medicare Rights Center, called the increase "a body blow to millions of older Americans living on fixed incomes" and blamed it on poor management.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated the bill would cost less than $400 billion over 10 years. But after the bill was signed by President Bush, the administration revealed that its own expert put the cost at $534 billion.
That expert, Medicare actuary Richard Foster, also correctly forecast in March that the 2005 premiums would rise by about 17 percent.
Last year, Medicare premiums rose about 13 percent from $58.70 to $66.60, the second largest hike.
McClellan said the bill's added coverage led to the premium increase but added that he expected next year's increase would "not be as high as this year." [...]
Kerry campaign spokesman Phil Singer said the increase showed that Bush had failed to contain health care costs, adding "when it comes to helping seniors, George Bush has proven that he's taking us in the wrong direction."
Singer and others questioned the timing of the administration's annual announcement, which since 2001 has come in October but this year came late on Friday before the Labor Day holiday weekend and just as Hurricane Frances was hitting Florida, home to many retirees.
"We're getting these numbers out as soon as we can," said CMS's McClellan, who said the increases also reflected higher health care costs in general.
David Certner, director of federal affairs for AARP, said older Americans were "picking up a significant part of the tab" of those costs. AARP is the nation's largest organization representing the elderly.
Comment: In two years, Medicare premiums have increased by 33%.
This figure is usually released in October. This year, they decided to release it early. Was October a little too close to the election? But, then again, it is good news for those millions of Americans who can't afford health care. It isn't going to cost them any more to remain uninsured!
Meanwhile, more people are unemployed...
Convention Dogged by Relentless Protests
(Reuters) - Five thousand people protesting high job losses formed a 3
mile unemployment line in Manhattan on Wednesday and AIDS activists disrupted
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.
"unemployment line" snaked 3 miles from Wall Street to central
Manhattan. The participants held leaflets that read "The
Next Pink Slip Could Be Yours,"
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.
Comment: Yup, Bush is an economic genius...
Iraq's President Ghazi Yawer has postponed a visit to France scheduled for next week following the kidnapping of two French journalists in Iraq.
The French foreign ministry said that it was due to the "circumstances linked to the situation of our countrymen".
Tensions have grown after Iraq's Prime Minister Iyad Allawi recently told a newspaper France was soft on terrorism - remarks France called "unacceptable".
France's prime minister has said the hostages' situation is still uncertain.
Jean-Pierre Raffarin said urged caution over reports that Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot could soon be released. [...]
Mr Yawer had been due to meet top French officials next week, but the visit was put on hold over the hostage crisis.
He is still expected to meet political leaders in Germany, Italy, Poland and Belgium.
"The conditions are not very favourable for such a visit," French diplomats were quoted by French news agency AFP as saying.
Tensions between Paris and Iraq were fuelled by comments by Iraq's Prime Minister Allawi in the Iraqi National Accord newspaper saying France's opposition to the war in Iraq had not spared it from terror.
In an editorial, the newspaper said: "Chirac, who wants to present himself as fair, must take his share of responsibility for the kidnapping of his two compatriots as he opposed all international resolutions aimed at restoring Iraqi's security," according to AFP.
France's foreign ministry issued a strongly worded statement saying Mr Allawi's remarks had been "unacceptable". [...]
Le Figaro deputy editor Charles Lambroschini told BBC News on Thursday the hostages had been handed over to an Iraqi Sunni Muslim opposition group prepared to set them free.
But Mr Raffarin urged ministers "to exercise the utmost prudence in your public statements".
"The information we've gathered, even if positive, remains uncertain," he said.
Israeli helicopters have fired at least two missiles into a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, Palestinians say.
Security sources are reported as saying the missiles hit a warehouse in the Mughazi refugee camp in central Gaza.
The strikes come a day after an Israeli incursion into the central Gazan town of Deir al-Balah, which left four Palestinians dead.
Comment: Meanwhile, the genocide of the Palestinians continues. Just because we don't document each and every murderous incursion of Israel troops doesn't mean that the violence has stopped. It is a constant, a given.
By Bob Drogin and Greg Miller, Times Staff Writers
WASHINGTON — Despite its fervent denials, Israel secretly maintains a large and active intelligence-gathering operation in the United States that has long attempted to recruit U.S. officials as spies and to procure classified documents, U.S. government officials said.
FBI and other counterespionage agents, in turn, have covertly followed, bugged and videotaped Israeli diplomats, intelligence officers and others in Washington, New York and elsewhere, the officials said. The FBI routinely watches many diplomats assigned to America.
Officials said FBI surveillance of a senior Israeli diplomat, who was the subject of an FBI inquiry in 1997-98, played a role in the latest probe into possible Israeli spying. The bureau now is investigating whether a Pentagon analyst or pro-Israel lobbyists provided Israel with a highly classified draft policy document. The document advocated support for Iranian dissidents, radio broadcasts into Iran and other efforts aimed at destabilizing the regime in Tehran, officials said this week.
The case is unresolved, but it has highlighted Israel's unique status as an extremely close U.S. ally that presents a dilemma for U.S. counterintelligence officials.
"There is a huge, aggressive, ongoing set of Israeli activities directed against the United States," said a former intelligence official who was familiar with the latest FBI probe and who recently left government. "Anybody who worked in counterintelligence in a professional capacity will tell you the Israelis are among the most aggressive and active countries targeting the United States."
The former official discounted repeated Israeli denials that the country exceeded acceptable limits to obtain information.
"They undertake a wide range of technical operations and human operations," the former official said. "People here as liaison … aggressively pursue classified intelligence from people. The denials are laughable."
Current and former officials involved with Israel at the White House, CIA, State Department and in Congress had similar appraisals, although not all were as harsh in their assessments. A Bush administration official confirmed that Israel ran intelligence operations against the United States. "I don't know of any foreign government that doesn't do collection in Washington," he said.
Another U.S. official familiar with Israeli intelligence said that Israeli espionage efforts were more subtle than aggressive, and typically involved the use of intermediaries.
But a former senior intelligence official, who focused on Middle East issues, said Israel tried to recruit him as a spy in 1991.
"I had an Israeli intelligence officer pitch me in Washington at the time of the first Gulf War," he said. "I said, 'No, go away,' and reported it to counterintelligence."
The U.S. officials all insisted on anonymity because classified material was involved and because of the political sensitivity of Israeli relations with Washington. Congress has shown little appetite for vigorous investigations of alleged Israeli spying.
In his first public comments on the case, Israel's ambassador, Daniel Ayalon, repeated his government's denials this week. "I can tell you here, very authoritatively, very categorically, Israel does not spy on the United States," Ayalon told CNN. "We do not gather information on our best friend and ally." Ayalon said his government had been "very assured that this thing will just fizzle out. There's nothing there."
In public, Israel contends it halted all spying operations against the United States after 1986, when Jonathan Jay Pollard, a former Navy analyst, was convicted in U.S. federal court and sentenced to life in prison for selling secret military documents to Israel.
U.S. officials say the case was never fully resolved because a damage-assessment team concluded that Israel had at least one more high-level spy at the time, apparently inside the Pentagon, who had provided serial numbers of classified documents for Pollard to retrieve.
The FBI has investigated several incidents of suspected intelligence breaches involving Israel since the Pollard case, including a 1997 case in which the National Security Agency bugged two Israeli intelligence officials in Washington discussing efforts to obtain a sensitive U.S. diplomatic document. Israel denied wrongdoing in that case and all others, and no one has been prosecuted.
But U.S. diplomats, military officers and other officials are routinely warned before going to Israel that local agents are known to slip into homes and hotel rooms of visiting delegations to go through briefcases and to copy computer files.
"Any official American in the intelligence community or in the foreign service gets all these briefings on all the things the Israelis are going to try to do to you," said one U.S. official.
At the same time, experts said relations between the CIA and Israel's chief intelligence agency, the Mossad, were so close that analysts sometimes shared highly classified "code-word" intelligence on sensitive subjects. Tel Aviv routinely informs Washington of the identities of the Mossad station chief and the military intelligence liaison at its embassy in America.
"They probably get 98% of everything they want handed to them on a weekly basis," said the former senior U.S. intelligence officer who has worked closely with Israeli intelligence. "They're very active allies. They're treated the way the British are."
Another former intelligence operative who has worked with Israeli intelligence agreed. "The relationship with Israeli intelligence is as intimate as it gets," he said.
Officials said Israel was acutely interested in U.S. policies and intelligence on the Middle East, especially toward Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia.
"They are sophisticated enough to want to know where the levers are they can influence, which people in our government are taking which positions they can try to influence," said a former high-ranking CIA official.
But the official said the relationship between the U.S. and Israel, at least in intelligence circles, "is not one of complete trust at all."
The latest counterintelligence investigation began more than two years ago, and initially focused on whether officials from a powerful Washington lobbying group, the American Israel Political Action Committee, passed classified information to Israel, officials said.
Several months later, the FBI conducted surveillance of Naor Gilon, chief of political affairs at the Israeli Embassy, meeting with two AIPAC officials. The arrival of a veteran Iran analyst at the Pentagon, Larry Franklin, sparked a new line of FBI inquiry.
In 1997 and 1998, the FBI had monitored Gilon as part of an investigation into whether Scott Ritter, then a U.S. intelligence official working with U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq, was improperly delivering U.S. spy-plane film and other secret material to Israeli intelligence. Gilon was posted in New York at the time and operated as liaison between Israel's Anan, or military intelligence service, and the U.N. teams, several officials said.
"Naor was the focus of FBI surveillance into allegations that I was a mole," said Ritter, who was never charged in the case. "They suspected Naor was working me to gain access to U.S. intelligence, which was absurd."
In an e-mail message this week, Gilon said he was under orders not to talk to the media about the current case. He has denied any wrongdoing in interviews with Israeli newspapers.
Franklin has not responded to requests for comment, and officials said he was cooperating with authorities. The FBI interviewed several AIPAC officials last Friday and copied the contents of a computer hard drive. AIPAC has denied any wrongdoing and said it was cooperating fully with investigators.
In a statement released Thursday, AIPAC said the group's continued access to the White House, senior administration officials and ranking members of Congress during the two-year probe would have been "inconceivable … if any shred of evidence of disloyalty or even negligence on AIPAC's part" had been discovered.
AIPAC, has especially close ties to the Bush administration. Addressing the group's policy conference on May 18, President Bush praised AIPAC for "serving the cause of America" and for highlighting the nuclear threat from Iran.
Washington and Tel Aviv differ on their assessments of Iran's nuclear weapons development. Israel considers Iran's nuclear ambitions its No. 1 security threat, and the issue is the top priority for AIPAC. The Bush administration takes the Iran nuclear threat seriously, but its intelligence estimates classify the danger as less imminent than do the Israeli assessments.
What mystifies those who know AIPAC is how one of the savviest, best-connected lobbying organizations in Washington has found itself enmeshed in a spy investigation.
Although never previously implicated in a potential espionage case, AIPAC has frequently been a subject of controversy. Its close ties to Israel and its aggressive advocacy of Israeli government positions has drawn criticism that it should be registered as an agent of a foreign country. Others, noting its ability to organize significant backing for or against candidates running for national office, have demanded that it be classified as a political action committee.
So far the group has avoided both classifications, either of which would impose major restrictions on its activities.
Three years ago, Fortune magazine ranked AIPAC fourth on its list of Washington's 25 most powerful lobbying groups — ahead of such organizations as the AFL-CIO and the American Medical Assn.
Israeli spy nest in the U.S. – Ashcroft says: 'Don't arrest them!'
The Washington Post is confirming the analysis, posted here two days ago, that Israel's spy nest in the Pentagon involves a lot more than neocon ideologue Larry Franklin leaking the text of a draft presidential directive on Iran to AIPAC employees, who then passed it on to Israel:
"For more than two years, the FBI has been investigating whether classified intelligence has been passed to Israel by the American Israel Political Action Committee, an influential U.S. lobbying group, in a probe that extends beyond the case of Pentagon employee Lawrence A. Franklin, according to senior U.S. officials and other sources.
"The counterintelligence probe, which is different from a criminal investigation, focuses on a possible transfer of intelligence more extensive than whether Franklin passed on a draft presidential directive on U.S. policy toward Iran, the sources said. The FBI is examining whether highly classified material from the National Security Agency, which conducts electronic intercepts of communications, were also forwarded to Israel, they said."
The National Security Agency is the eyes and ears of the U.S. government: it's the source of all that "chatter" we hear talked about as an indication of the terrorists' plans to attack targets both here and abroad. The NSA monitors communications of all kinds, collects, collates, and translates raw data, then feeds it to intelligence professionals. It is, in short, a vital link in the security chain that keeps us safe – to the extent that we are safe. The news that it has been penetrated and compromised by a foreign power should be ringing alarm bells throughout the U.S. government, but instead the investigation is being blocked – by Attorney General John Ashcroft. As the New York Sun reports:
"According to sources familiar with the investigation, the U.S. district attorney in charge of the probe, Paul McNulty, has ordered the FBI not to move forward with arrests that they were prepared to make last Friday when the story broke on CNN and CBS. 'He put the brakes on it in order to look at it,' a source familiar with the investigation told the Sun. 'To see what was there. Basically the FBI wanted to start making arrests and McNulty said 'Woa, based on what? Let's look at this before you do anything.'"
The Los Angeles Times, in a remarkably disingenuous editorial – one that bears all the hallmarks of newly-appointed editorial page editor Michael Kinsley's brand of know-it-all dogmatism – wants "the evidence, please." Let them ask McNulty, a Republican hack who was in charge of the Justice Department transition team. When the story broke, according to the Sun, Ashcroft immediately put McNulty on the case. The man comes with a bad record when it comes to going after spies, such as Robert P. Hanssen, who was spared the death penalty due to the decision of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. When it comes to rounding up paintball-playing Muslims, McNulty is very gung-ho: but not, apparently, when he's dealing with Israeli spies in the Pentagon.
When McNulty went after the Paintball Conspirators, FBI official Michael E. Rolince openly admitted that the government had no real evidence that the "jihadists" were involved in a plot against the United States: they were instead convicted of violating the rarely-invoked Neutrality Act. Rolince justified the prosecutions based on the Bushian principle of preemption:
"It is just no longer sound judgment to have people that you believe have engaged in illegal activity and let them conduct an attack before you do something about it. A lot of this is about preemption.
Yes, but not when it comes to Israel, which seems to enjoy some special immunity not granted to others: preemption doesn't apply in this case. But why not?
The author of the Times editorial, which focuses exclusively on Franklin, hasn't been paying attention. Warren Strobel's Knight-Ridder piece the other day made the same point as this more recent report in the Washington Post, which avers:
"The investigation of Franklin is coincidental to the broader FBI counterintelligence probe, which was already long underway when Franklin came to the attention of investigators, U.S. Officials and sources said."
If the authorities were watching AIPAC, and just happened to stumble on Franklin's clumsy efforts to pass documents to Israeli officials, the rest can be inferred: This is big, much bigger than Franklin, if it required a systematic and ongoing surveillance of AIPAC and Israeli government agents.
AIPAC and its allies, Israel's amen corner in the U.S., are circling the wagons, denying everything, and – how's this for chutzpah? – Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League is actually demanding an investigation into who leaked the news of the investigation. No one has a right to know that Israel, the recipient of $3 trillion total U.S. "aid," is stabbing us in the back.
Who, us – spy on the United States, our "closest ally"? It never happens, the Israelis and their American defenders aver. But the two AIPAC employees who were first identified in the Israeli media as being the principal suspects, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, are sure acting guilty as hell. According to news reports:
"They were interviewed by the FBI on Friday – the same day news first broke of the existence of the yearlong investigation – but the interviews were halted after the men said they wanted a lawyer present before answering further questions, [AIPAC attorney Nathan] Lewin said."
With the unbridled arrogance that is the hallmark of Israel's American lobby, Lewin had the gall to add: "The FBI could resume the interview. We have not heard from the FBI."
And he's hoping that he won't be hearing from them any further, as John Ashcroft – a "born-again" Christian fundamentalist who believes that the triumph of Israel will bring on the Second Coming of Christ – quietly strangles the investigation.
But if Rosen and Weissman have nothing to hide, and are completely innocent of charges that they acted as a conduit for sensitive intelligence to be forwarded to Israel, then why do they need lawyers to talk to the FBI? They are the ones making a federal case out of this: too bad McNulty isn't doing the same.
The irony here is that any attempt to cover up Israel's spy nest in the U.S. – a network not necessarily limited to AIPAC – is bound to create the sort of anti-Semitism that Israel's defenders claim to abhor. Their answer is that to even raise the charge of espionage against AIPAC is anti-Semitic, in and of itself.
Facts may be stubborn things, but America's Likudniks are even more so. It doesn't matter how much evidence is amassed against AIPAC, Rosen, Weissman, et al., because, in their view, it's all a Vast Anti-Semitic Conspiracy. The New Republic blog, commenting on the reaction to the spy scandal among pro-Israel Republican activists at the GOP national convention, described it as:
"A combination of media criticism and conspiracy-theorizing (which I say with the proviso that not all conspiracy theories are necessarily wrong). David Frum made the most explicit form of the argument at an American Jewish Committee panel this morning: The CBS story breaking the news led with allegations of espionage, but as you read further, you realized the entire story hung on a source that wasn't even a current government official. … Frum also argued that the FBI investigation of Larry Franklin, the accused Pentagon employee, had been ongoing for months and months and was on the verge of fizzling out when news of the investigation leaked. The timing, according to this view, suggests that the people driving the investigation leaked word of it as a final act of desperation, and that they were hoping to create problems for the Bush administration on the eve of the Republican National Convention."
But this story has multiple sources: Frum's complaint about the CBS report was outdated before he even uttered it. And so what if Lesley Stahl's source wasn't a "current official": to neocon "journalists" like Frum, officialdom is a fount of received wisdom, and the Holy Grail of truth is to be found in a government press release. These are the same people who complain that the real news, the "good news" from Iraq, is never reported, due to the "antiwar bias" of the news media.
But what's especially striking, and disturbing, about Frum's apologia is that he shows no interest, not even the slightest curiosity, in the facts, since none are mentioned in TNR's summary of his remarks. He claims to know that the investigation – which has been going on for over two years – was "on the verge of fizzling out," but no source is given for this information, which runs counter to the mainstream reporting that this was, as Laura Rozen put it, a "controlled burn." Investigators were caught flat-footed by the CBS report, and were forced to move quickly to interview suspects – and there is speculation that the Israeli contacts they were most interested in apprehending were alerted to the danger, and took the opportunity to flee the country.
What is especially galling is the tone of outraged indignation that AIPAC's defenders have affected in confronting the charges. CAMERA, the vehemently pro-Israel "media watchdog" that carps whenever anyone looks at Ariel Sharon cross-eyed, has the nerve to argue that, since the U.S. spies on Israel, they have the right to spy on us. A patriotic American might reply: Hey, I paid for that microphone. But, whatever….
The attitude is: how dare you even question us?! But if law enforcement doesn't question them, and instead lets a significant hole in our security stay wide open, who knows who or what else may crawl through? Who knows what other moles may have burrowed into the depths of America's national security apparatus, mining our deepest secrets? If Rosen and Weissman, and their cohorts, will stop obstructing the investigation, and simply agree to answer questions, with or without legal counsel, they will quickly dispel the suspicion – rampant, at present – that they have something to hide. After all, this administration wasn't too concerned about providing legal counsel to the thousands of Arabs rounded up since 9/11 – why are a couple of Israeli spies any different?
If the 'A' in AIPAC stood for Arab, the assets, headquarters, and very existence of the organization would have been impounded and key personnel shipped off to Guantanamo, where the latest Gitmo-ized interrogation techniques would soon persuade them to talk.
Lawyers? Hey, buddy, there's someone I want you to meet: Ahmed, this is Lynndie ….
The Bush administration has known about this investigation – of which the Franklin affair is just a footnote – for over two years, according to the latest from Reuters. Yet, addressing AIPAC in May, President Bush called the group "a great asset to our country."
But if AIPAC is involved in the theft of U.S. government secrets, how is it an "asset" to any country other than Israel?
The burgeoning spy scandal, which went from the theft of a draft presidential directive to the appropriation of sensitive NSA intercepts, is fast taking on the complexity and multi-layered levels of meaning of a tale by John LeCarre, one that is all too realistic. On one level, it is the story of how a group of Israel Firsters infiltrated the highest levels of policymaking and – utilizing a talent for the well-told lie and a penchant for forgery – steered us down the road to war with Iraq. Warren Strobel reports that it isn't just Franklin and his foibles coming under scrutiny:
"The bureau appears to be looking into other controversies that have roiled the Bush administration, some of which also touch [deputy defense secretary for policy Douglas] Feith's office. They include how the Iraqi National Congress, a former exile group backed by the Pentagon, allegedly received highly classified U.S. intelligence on Iran; the leaking of the name of CIA officer Valerie Plame to reporters; and the production of bogus documents suggesting that Iraq tried to buy uranium for nuclear weapons from the African country of Niger. Bush repeated the Niger claim in making the case for war against Iraq."
"'The whole ball of wax' was how one U.S. official privy to the briefings described the inquiry."
On another level, it is a pure spy story about the penetration and subversion of what is arguably the single most valuable asset in America's anti-terrorist arsenal: the NSA, which gathers together the raw materials from which accurate intelligence is derived. This, by the way, is not the first time the NSA's security has been questioned: the story of Sibel Edmonds, a former NSA translator, which I've covered rather extensively in several columns, involves the existence of a mysterious unidentified organization – which the FBI was watching – that tried to recruit her into not translating certain intercepts. Edmonds was fired for blowing the whistle on these shenanigans, and then muzzled by Ashcroft, who declared that she couldn't say anything to the public about what she knew due to reasons of overriding "national security." A judge backed up Ashcroft's gag order, but you can read her interview with Antiwar.com – and 60 Minutes, here – and decide for yourself if something fishy is or isn't going on. Where there's this much smoke, there has to be some real fire.
Why is the Justice Department "putting the brakes" on an investigation involving the most sensitive intelligence matters? Ashcroft wasn't hesitant when he went after these other guys, nor were his prosecutors when it came to withholding evidence, a practice that eventually got their convictions thrown out. Why is he treating the AIPAC cabal with kid gloves? What gives?
I'll tell you what gives. A large body of evidence suggests this counterintelligence investigation goes back before 9/11, when U.S. government agencies first began to take notice of Israelis turning up at U.S. government offices, and at government agents' homes, in the guise of "art students" trying to sell or promote their "work." In Salon, an article by Christopher Ketcham suggested that this was an attempt by the Israelis to blow smoke, and divert attention away from something else. And now, it appears, the "art students" are back….
Comment: See the following article...
It's just not possible to fully understand what exactly is going on here without reference to my book, The Terror Enigma: 9/11 and the Israeli Connection, which shows that the U.S. government's concern with Israeli spies reached a spike of apprehension in the months prior to the worst terrorist attack in our history. A two year old investigation? Try four, or more.
One final note: The attempt to spin this as a political attack on George W. Bush, emanating from the Democrats, is hogwash, pure and simple. If Kerry says a word about this, I'll throw away my Nader button (the one with Badnarik on the back) and surrender myself to the narcotic effects of Kerry's Kool-Aid.
Kerry's best answer to the "Swift Boat" ads is a few television spots on "Spies in the Pentagon."Giving Zell Miller tit for tat may lose him Florida, but gain him the Midwest, the South, and several key border states in the bargain. I can hear some of the dialogue now:
"There are spies in the Pentagon – and they have friends in high places…."
It won't happen, of course. If Kerry says anything at all, it's likely to be a defense of AIPAC. He would much rather bypass this golden opportunity to draw Republican blood on the national security issue than offend a vociferous – and hypersensitive – special interest group. That's one reason why – in spite of a wilting "recovery" and an increasingly unpopular war – he's in danger of losing big.
Is it espionage or — worse — bad art?
While officials in the United States are busy grappling with the question of whether Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin passed sensitive information to Israel and compromised national security, authorities in our neighbor to the north are trying to tamp down speculation that a platoon of goateed and dreadlocked Israeli art students who infiltrated Canada may have been working as spies.
The Israeli embassy in Ottawa has emphatically denied any link to the students and is dismissing allegations of possible espionage bandied about on the Internet. The claims also have been raised in Canadian newspapers, but with caveats and disclaimers, and then flatly rejected as "preposterous." Government officials in Canada also insist that no evidence exists to suggest that the students who were picked up last month in Calgary, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Toronto and Ottawa and deported were part of a fifth column targeting the far side of the 49th parallel.
The students and their handlers, Guy Grinberg and Jackie Yakov Senior, were charged earlier this month under Canadian law with working in the country illegally, and faced no other charges, said Robert Ferguson, director of immigration enforcement for the Canada Border Services Agency in Canada. A similar operation gained widespread media attention amid allegations of espionage when it surfaced in the United States in 2000.
In the most recent case, government authorities in Canada have insisted that all the evidence collected indicates the young, self-described "art students" — all of them Israelis in the country on visitor's visas — were involved in something far more prosaic than espionage: the importation of tragically bad, dirt-cheap paintings from the Far East that were then sold at wildly inflated prices door-to-door in some of the more upscale neighborhoods in western Canada. In some cases, the paintings sold for more than 100 times their value, prompting authorities in Calgary to issue a warning to the public to be wary of art fraud, said Detective Frank Cattoni of the Calgary Police Department. The alert made no mention of espionage.
"We have no... information in our possession other than to indicate that they were selling art... and that's how our department dealt with it," Ferguson said. "Basically, they were seen as working illegally."
But the official declarations have not succeeded in quelling all public uneasiness about the art students and their motives, talk that has dogged reports of the operation on both sides of the border for more than three years.
In an August 7 report on the detention of 15 members of the Canadian ring, for example, the Calgary Herald declared that the door-to-door art scam "has for years puzzled authorities on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border and raised the specter of international espionage."
The art-selling operation, which first surfaced in the United States in 2000, has been reported on by The Washington Post, Fox News, Salon.com, Ha'aretz and most extensively by the Atlanta-based alternative newspaper Creative Loafing. It has for three years now been a hotly debated topic among amateur spy watchers and on conspiracy theory Web sites.
Over the years, government officials from the United States, Israel and Canada have all officially dismissed speculation about the ring. In one instance, an American official described allegations of spying as "an urban myth." Despite all the media attention, no evidence has ever been uncovered proving that the operation involves anything more than college-age students, recruited by handlers in Israel, to go door-to-door trying to persuade office managers and affluent housewives to pay up to several thousand dollars for $20 paintings hammered out in Far Eastern workshops.
Reports of the scam and allegations that it might be a front for Israeli espionage first surfaced in the United States in 2000, when American officials, among them agents of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, first began noticing that as many as 120 young Israelis, many of them veterans of the Israeli military's intelligence corps or experienced in signal interception and ordnance, were traveling door-to-door from Atlanta to Texas. They often turned up at offices of the DEA and other government agencies, on one occasion at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, where American spy planes are serviced, and on several occasions at the homes of federal law enforcement agents. In at least one case, the students were spotted in an Atlanta-area office that housed an FBI office not widely known to the public.
A 60-page draft report detailing the students' activities was compiled by a DEA agent and later leaked to the press. Among other things, the report's author, who never has been identified, warned that it was entirely possible that the operation actually was "an organized intelligence-gathering activity."
The report did not conclusively point the finger of blame at anyone. But John Sugg, an associate editor for Creative Loafing and the first journalist to publish details of the report, said his sources opined that it was possible the students could have been trying to glean information for the Mossad, perhaps as part of an operation to monitor Arab groups in the United States and the American government's reaction to them. But, Sugg said, it was equally possible that they were targeting DEA and related offices on the orders of Israeli organized crime factions that were then consolidating their control over the illicit Ecstasy market.
By March 2001, federal anti-espionage authorities were concerned enough about the Israeli art students to issue a warning to government officials to be on the lookout for attempts to infiltrate federal buildings.
At that point, the alert was a closely held secret among federal agents. But on December 12, 2001, three months after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Fox News reported that dozens of Israelis, among them art students, had been arrested on immigration charges and were suspected of spying on the United States. They were deported and faced no additional charges. In the months that followed, Sugg and the French newspaper Le Monde published stories detailing the contents of the DEA report. Months later, the Forward also raised the specter of Israeli espionage, publishing a report that the art students were suspected by some to be part of a larger operation, an operation that came to light with the arrest of five Israeli citizens on September 11, 2001. All five were deported even though, according to a former American official briefed on the case, "a counter-intelligence investigation by the FBI concluded that at least two of them were in fact Mossad operatives."
Reporters for several major newspapers, including The Washington Post and The New York Times, looked into the allegations as well, but were never able to find a conclusive link between the art students and either the Mossad or the underworld.
In fact, in its report, the Washington Post quoted government officials who downplayed the significance of the DEA report, claiming that it was the work of one disgruntled employee who was unhappy that higher-ups were not taking seriously enough his warnings of possible Israeli espionage in the United States.
But still the story wouldn't die.
As late as last year, the respected Internet magazine Salon.com revived the spy ring allegations in a lengthy and detailed report recounting the charges and suggesting that the group may have been operating in as many as 40 American cities.
By that point, however, the operation had moved across the border to Canada. According to Canadian officials, the operation took root there in 2002, about the same time as it began to peter out in the United States. But there was a difference. Canadian officials insist that unlike the events detailed in the DEA report in the United States, there was no evidence that the art scammers in Canada targeted government officials or government offices. Instead, the ring seemed to focus exclusively on wealthier neighborhoods.
Ofir Gendelman, spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Ottawa, says the students, many of whom, he quickly noted, "are from good families," are recruited for the overseas art scam by scurrilous business people using newspaper ads and word-of-mouth solicitations. Not only are they not spies, he says, but in most cases, they also are so gullible that they don't even know they're being hired to work illegally. "They have no idea," Gendelman said. "The people who run those companies tell them that because [the recruiters are] legal here those Israelis are also legal, and so they eat the bait."
Such gullibility is hardly a qualification for spy duty, and Gendelman freely expressed frustration with the persistence of rumors of a cloak-and-dagger operation involving the young students. "It's ridiculous," he said. "Those allegations are absolutely baseless."
And there are many, both inside and outside government, who agree.
While the original allegations of espionage in the United States were controversial and lacked real evidence, they were not wholly beyond the realm of possibility, said Chip Berlet, an expert in intelligence operations who also studies conspiracy theories at Boston-based Political Research Associates.
"If I were an intelligence agency and I wanted to hide people, I might pick this kind of group," Berlet said. "On the other hand, it's unlikely that everyone in the group would be intelligence agents because then there wouldn't be a cover."
Even if there were some kernel of truth to the original spying allegations, it is unlikely, Berlet said, that such an operation would have survived the media storm it encountered when details of the DEA report surfaced in the United States. It's even more unlikely, he says, that such an operation would be resurrected immediately afterward in Canada or anywhere else.
"It strains credulity that once you have an operation blown, you'd simply recycle it," Berlet said. "That's almost unheard of; that's not done. You're placing your agents at too high a risk."
Comment: Sure, nobody would believe that Israel would recycle an operation like this - which is exactly why they would recycle it. But then, that sounds like the ravings of a conspiracy theorist, right? We'll just crawl into a hole somewhere and forget all about the Israelis doing the happy dance on 9/11, and the strange connections to Israeli moving companies...
Daniel Ayalon denies all charges of espionage against the United States.
"There is a huge, aggressive, ongoing set of Israeli activities directed against the United States," the L.A. Times quoted a recently retired former intelligence official as saying. "Anybody who worked in counterintelligence in a professional capacity will tell you the Israelis are among the most aggressive and active countries targeting the United States."
The former official discounted repeated Israeli denials that the country exceeded acceptable limits to obtain information.
"They undertake a wide range of technical operations and human operations," the former official said. "People here as liaison aggressively pursue classified intelligence from people. The denials are laughable."
The Times also quoted a former senior intelligence official, who focused on Middle East issues, who said Israel tried to recruit him as a spy in 1991.
"I had an Israeli intelligence officer pitch me in Washington at the time of the first Gulf War," he said. "I said, 'No, go away,' and reported it to counterintelligence."
The Times said that U.S. diplomats, military officers and other officials are routinely warned before going to Israel that local agents are known to slip into homes and hotel rooms of visiting delegations to go through briefcases and to copy computer files.
"Any official American in the intelligence community or in the foreign service gets all these briefings on all the things the Israelis are going to try to do to you," another U.S. official reportedly said.
The U.S. officials all insisted on anonymity, the Times said, "because classified material was involved and because of the political sensitivity of Israeli relations with Washington." It added that "Congress has shown little appetite for vigorous investigations of alleged Israeli spying."
At the same time, the report raised the question of why Israel would even need to spy in the U.S. since it obtained most intelligence with the full knowledge and consent of the Americans.
Experts said relations between the CIA and Israel's overseas intelligence agency, the Mossad, were so close that analysts sometimes shared highly classified "code-word" intelligence on sensitive subjects. Tel Aviv routinely informs Washington of the identities of the Mossad station chief and the military intelligence liaison at its embassy in the United States.
"They probably get 98% of everything they want handed to them on a weekly basis," said the former senior U.S. intelligence officer, who worked closely with Israeli intelligence. "They're very active allies. They're treated the way the British are."
A Bush administration official confirmed that Israel ran intelligence operations in the United States, but said that most countries did as well. "I don't know of any foreign government that doesn't do collection in Washington," he said.
In his first public comments on the case, Israel's ambassador Daniel Ayalon repeated his government's denials. "I can tell you here, very authoritatively, very categorically, Israel does not spy on the United States," Ayalon told CNN. "We do not gather information on our best friend and ally." Ayalon said his government had been "very assured that this thing will just fizzle out. There's nothing there."
Contradicting Israel's contention that it does not spy on America, U.S. government officials say Israel secretly maintains a large and active intelligence-gathering operation in the United States, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.
The officials said Israel has long attempted to recruit U.S. officials as spies and to procure classified documents, according to the Times. [...]
At the same time, FBI and other counterespionage agents have covertly followed, bugged and videotaped Israeli diplomats, intelligence officers and others in Washington, New York and elsewhere, officials told the paper. The FBI routinely watches many diplomats assigned to America.
Comment: In that case, is it so absurd to think that Israel would be spying on the US despite all the Israeli denials?
www.chinaview.cn 2004-09-04 19:41:07
MOSCOW, Sept. 4 (Xinhuanet) -- President Vladimir Putin on Saturday vowed to work harder hunting down terrorists after the latest tragic hostage crisis that killed more than 300 people in southern Russia.
Anyone sympathizing with terrorists would be seen as "accomplices of terrorism," Putin said during an unannounced visit to the town of Beslan, in the republic of North Ossetia early Saturday.
"One of the tasks pursued by the terrorists was to stoke ethnic hatred, blow up the whole of our North Caucasus," Putin told local security officials.
"Anyone who feels sympathetic towards such provocation will be viewed as accomplices of terrorists and terrorism," Putin said.
In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement, pledging "a resolute, uncompromising fight against international terrorism, in the forefront of those who set as their top priority the defense of human rights and freedoms, the right to life."
Comment: Putin's "soul brother" Bush will be happy to hear that Putin will be following his example and clamping down on people who "feel sypathetic".
What is "sympathy"? In the case of Palestine, if someone expresses sympathy of the plight of a people being murdered in their homeland while an invading people destroys their lives, homes, and means of livlihood, is that "sympathy" for "terrorists"? For Georgie Braindead, probably. After all, them Palestinians are preventing Jesus from coming home!
"Wipe out the Palestinians! Make room for Jesus!"
September 4, 2004
BESLAN, Russia (AFP) - Some 322 people, including 155 children, were killed in the three-day hostage siege in a southern Russian school on the edge of Chechnya, said Russia's Deputy Prosecutor General Sergei Fridinsky.
"We are still identifying the bodies. We have recovered 322 bodies, 155 of them are children," Fridinsky told reporters.
"These are not the final figures, and they will probably grow, but not by too much."
WASHINGTON - After two weeks of terrorist violence in Russia, the State Department urged Americans visiting or living there to "exercise caution and remain vigilant and aware" to avoid becoming a random victim of a future attack.
The public announcement Friday repeated department warnings against travel throughout much of Russia's Caucasus district, principally to the restive Chechnya region and areas that border it. President Vladimir Putin's government says homegrown Chechen militants are being helped in their campaign by Arab al-Qaida fighters.
"At this time, there is no indication that American citizens or identifiable American installations are being targeted," the State Department's announcement said. "However, the possibility of an American citizen being a random victim of these attacks exists."
The announcement, short of a warning against travel to Russia, gave a rundown of terrorist events since Aug. 24, when two Russian passenger planes were bombed shortly after takeoff. The crashes killed 90 people.
"American citizens traveling or living in Russia are advised that, currently, the potential for terrorist actions, including actions against civilians, is high and likely will remain so for some time," the announcement said.
"American citizens in Russia should exercise caution and remain vigilant and aware of these heightened risks when planning use of or using any form of public transportation. American citizens should also avoid large public gatherings that lack enhanced security measures." [...]
Comment: When the powers that be refer to a "New World Order", apparently they aren't kidding. It seems that the madness and control will reach to the ends of the Earth... Meanwhile, the US government will continue to use every event in the world to strike even more fear and paranoia into the hearts of Americans.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Saboteurs blew up an oil pipeline in southern Iraq early Saturday, the latest attack targeting the country's crucial oil industry, police and oil officials said.
Firefighters struggled to put out the blaze caused by the explosion near Hartha, 19 miles north of Basra, said police Maj. Col. Nouri Mohammed.
A South Oil Co. official said on condition of anonymity that technicians were forced to close the pipeline, which carries 15,000 barrels of crude a day from the Nahran Omar oilfields to an export storage tank called Zubayr-1 in the Faw peninsula.
Insurgents have launched repeated attacks on Iraq's vital oil industry in a bid to undermine the interim government and reconstruction efforts. [...]
www.chinaview.cn 2004-09-04 14:37:24
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 3 (Xinhuanet) -- A bomb scare prompted the evacuation of about 1,000 people from a southern California airport Friday afternoon, but it proved to be a false alarm later,US officials said.
A dozen inbound planes were delayed and arriving passengers were not allowed to deplane from several others after an explosives scanner at the Ontario International Airport detected something suspicious in the backpack of a woman, airport spokeswoman Maria Fermin said.
Both floors of Terminal 4 were evacuated just before noon, while the woman was held for questioning and a bomb-sniffing dog was brought in.
The terminal was reopened about two hours later after a police bomb squad robot opened the backpack and found the suspicious itemwas some sort of cosmetic, Fermin said.
Last Updated Sat, 04 Sep 2004 14:32:12 EDT
LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles International Airport was shut down Saturday because of a security breach at one terminal, and the apparent explosion of a flashlight battery during screening at another.
The two incidents appeared to be unrelated, said FBI spokesperon Cathy Viray.
In the first incident, a passenger bypassed security at the United Airlines terminal, said airport official Tom Winfrey. Authorities cleared four terminals in order to re-screen all passengers.
The second scare at the Tom Bradley International Terminal apparently came when a flashlight with corroded batteries exploded as it was being screened by security personnel.
Seven people were slightly injured, officials said.
By Camille T. Taiara
IN LATE JULY more than 600 people showed up in Monterey to speak at a Federal Communications Commission hearing on ownership concentration in the news media. The participants were a diverse group, young and old, activists and workers, but they had a single consistent message: the mainstream news media have been doing a deplorable job of covering the day's most important stories.
That's no surprise: consolidation of the media in the hands of a few corporate Goliaths has resulted in fewer people creating more of the content we see, hear, and read. One impact has been a narrower range of perspectives. Another is the virtual disappearance of hard-hitting, original, investigative reporting.
"Corporate media has abdicated their responsibility to the First Amendment to keep the American electorate informed about important issues in society and instead serves up a pabulum of junk-food news," says Peter Phillips, head of Sonoma State University's Project Censored.
Every year researchers at Project Censored pick through volumes of print and broadcast news to see which of the past year's most important stories aren't receiving the kind of attention they deserve. Phillips and his team acknowledge that many of these stories weren't "censored" in the traditional sense of the word: No government agency blocked their publication. And some even appeared – briefly and without follow-up – in mainstream journals.
But every one of this year's picks merited prominent placement on the evening news and the dailies' front pages. Instead they went virtually ignored.
This list speaks directly to the point FCC critics have raised: stories that address fundamental issues of wealth concentration and big-business dominance of the political agenda are almost entirely missing from the national debate. From the dramatic increase in wealth inequality in the United States, to the wholesale giveaway of the nation's natural resources, to the Bush administration's attack on corporate and political accountability, events and trends that ought to be dominating the presidential campaign and the national dialogue are missing from the front pages.
Here are Project Censored's 10 biggest examples of major stories that have been relegated to the most obscure corners of the media world.
1. Wealth inequality in 21st century threatens economy and democracy
As the mainstream news media recite the official line about the nation's supposed economic recovery, a key point has been missing: wealth inequality in the United States has almost doubled over the past 30 years.
In fact, the Federal Reserve Board's most recent "Survey of Consumer Finances" supplement on high-income families shows that in 1998, the richest 1 percent of households owned 38 percent of the nation's wealth. The top 5 percent owned almost 60 percent of the wealth.
"We are much more unequal than any other advanced industrial country," New York University economics professor Edward Wolff told Third World Traveler.
But that's just part of the problem. "Most Americans believe we take from people at the top to benefit those below," Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times investigative reporter David Cay Johnston said in a BuzzFlash.com interview. But our tax system is actually set up such that "people who make $30,000 to $500,000 ... give relief to those who make millions, or tens and hundreds of millions, of dollars a year."
The United States isn't alone: Today, almost one-sixth of the world's population – 940 million people – "already live in squalid, unhealthy areas, mostly without water, sanitation, public services, or legal security," John Vidal wrote in the U.K. Guardian. A recent United Nations report predicted that, absent drastic change to reverse "a form of colonialism that is probably more stringent than the original," one in every three people worldwide will live in slums within 30 years. That's a bigger threat to democracy and global stability than al-Qaeda and international terrorism.
Sources: "The Wealth Divide" (interview with Edward Wolff), Multinational Monitor, May 2003. "A BuzzFlash Interview, Parts I and II" (with David Cay Johnson), BuzzFlash staff, BuzzFlash.com, March 26 and 29, 2004. "Every Third Person Will Be a Slum Dweller within 30 Years, UN Agency Warns," John Vidal, Guardian (U.K.), Oct. 4, 2003. "Grotesque Inequality," Robert Weissman, Multinational Monitor, July-August 2003.
2. Ashcroft versus human rights law that holds corporations accountable
For decades the United States has trained right-wing insurgents and torturers, toppled democratically elected governments, and propped up brutal dictatorships abroad – all in the interest of corporate profits. But rarely are the agents of repression ever held accountable for the tens of thousands of deaths and the brutal cycles of poverty, subjugation, environmental destruction, and violence they leave in their wake. Indeed, many foreign tyrants go on to enjoy plush retirement right here in the United States.
But recently lawyers have found a way to seek at least a modicum of justice for victims. The Alien Tort Claims Act, a 215-year-old law originally passed to prosecute pirates for crimes committed on the high seas, allows noncitizens to sue any individual or corporation present on U.S. soil.
Human rights lawyers have pursued 100 cases under the ATCA since 1980. Defendants have included former high-ranking government and military officials from El Salvador, Guatemala, Argentina, Paraguay, the Philippines (including ex-president Ferdinand Marcos), Indonesia, Bosnia, Ethiopia, and elsewhere. And although the law can only be used to pursue monetary damages rather than prison time, it has often resulted in victims being awarded millions of dollars – and in the perpetrators sometimes fleeing the country rather than paying up.
Ten years ago victims began using the act to go after corporate profiteers too: it was thanks to the ATCA, for example, that Holocaust survivors were able to seek redress from the Swiss banks and companies that profited from the slave labor of concentration camp internees during World War II.
But Attorney General John Ashcroft's Justice Department has set its sights on the act, claiming in a brief last year that the law threatens "important foreign policy interests" associated with the war on terrorism. Yet hardly a word has been written in the mainstream media about the Bush administration's attack on the main legal recourse left in the United States for victims to seek redress for human rights violations carried out abroad.
Source: "Ashcroft Goes after 200-Year-Old Human Rights Law," Jim Lobe, OneWorld.net and Asheville Global Report, May 19, 2003.
3. Bush administration manipulates science and censors scientists
Tampering with data that threatens corporate profits is much more widespread under Bush than we've been led to believe. And the Environmental Protection Agency has emerged as one of the administration's primary targets.
One of the first White House moves – on the day Bush was inaugurated – was to fire engineer Tony Oppegard, the leader of a federal team investigating a 300-million-gallon slurry spill at a coal-mining site in Kentucky. "Black lava-like toxic sludge containing 60 poisonous chemicals choked and sterilized up to 100 miles of rivers and creeks," environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote in the Nation. The EPA dubbed it "the greatest environmental catastrophe in the history of the Eastern United States."
Bush then appointed industry insiders to top EPA posts in charge of mine safety and health. [...]
4. High uranium levels found in troops and civilians
Last year Project Censored included the United States' and Great Britain's continued use of depleted-uranium weapons – despite ample evidence of their acute health effects – among its top 10 underreported stories. Almost 10,000 U.S. troops died within 10 years of serving in the first Gulf War, researchers had found. And more than a third of those still alive had filed Gulf War Syndrome-related claims.
In study after study, research pointed to the use of depleted uranium in U.S. and British weaponry as the culprit. But authorities concentrated their efforts into obfuscating the problem – downplaying its reach, discrediting scientists and ailing military personnel, and erecting a smoke screen around the root causes of the "syndrome." [...]
5. Wholesale giveaway of our natural resources
Adam Werbach, executive director of the Common Assets Defense Fund and former Sierra Club president, reviewed the Bush administration's environmental policy record and came to a disturbing conclusion: the record is not only bad – it's "akin to an affirmative action program for corporate polluters," he wrote in In These Times.
Cheney's infamous, secretive, industry-laden energy task force produced what can be boiled down to two main recommendations, "lower the environmental bar and pay corporations to jump over it," Werbach wrote. [...]
6. Sale of electoral politics
The Help America Vote Act required that states submit their blueprints for switching over to electronic voting systems by Jan. 1, 2004, and implement those plans in time for the 2006 elections. Some regions are already using the machines. But those who've bothered to look into the new systems are sending up serious warning flares. Critics say that if Americans don't want a repeat of the 2000 Florida election fiasco – on a much grander scale – the administration's plans must be halted in their tracks. [...]
7. Conservative organization drives judicial appointments
Ever since the Reagan administration, the neoconservatives have pursued an aggressive campaign to stack the federal courts with right-wing judges. Their main vehicle: the Federalist Society of Law and Public Policy, an organization founded in 1982 by a small group of radically conservative law students at the University of Chicago.
The effort has been a resounding success. [...]
8. Secrets of Cheney's energy task force come to light
As the Bush administration continues to protect the iron wall of secrecy it's erected around Cheney's energy task force, at least two documents confirm long-standing suspicions that the administration's foreign policy is being driven by the dictates of the energy industry. [...]
9. Widow brings RICO case against U.S. government for 9/11
As the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, also known as the 9/11 Commission, completed its first year, Ellen Mariani and her attorney held a press conference on the steps of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to announce her own startling conclusions. Mariani, wife of Louis Neil Mariani, who died when terrorists flew United Airlines Flight 175 into the World Trade Center's south tower, had come to believe top American officials – including Bush, Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and others – had foreknowledge of the attacks, purposefully failed to prevent them, and had since taken pains to cover up the truth. [...]
10. New nuke plants: taxpayers support, industry profits
If you thought nuclear energy was dead, think again: the Bush administration's energy bill – yet another product of Cheney's industry-stacked energy task force – provides taxpayer cash for companies that build new nukes.
Bunting Saturday September 4, 2004
It could hardly be more embarrassing: the British Council, charged with promoting British values throughout the world, is forced to fire a senior press officer this week after he penned an extraordinary series of attacks on Islam. For those who doubt the very concept of Islamophobia, the columns of Will, aka Harry, Cummins in the Sunday Telegraph should be a set text. His brand of virulent paranoia combines racism - "all Muslims, like all dogs, share certain characteristics" - with a particularly vicious aggression - the massacres in Bosnia were "more a tribute to (Muslims') incompetence than their humanity".
This is very nasty stuff and one wouldn't want to give it more space in another newspaper but for the fact that there is still a well-meaning, but fatally blind strand of opinion which refuses to accept the phenomenon of Islamophobia. Refuses to see how it represents a mutated form of racism, and refuses to see how such comments about Jews or blacks would be quite rightly regarded as unprintable.
What makes the Cummins case so disturbing is that he didn't lurk in the backroom of British National party offices, writing Nick Griffin's speeches. No, he was at the very heart of a quintessential British institution. It exposes, in a way which can no longer be denied, how deep the worm of Islamophobia has crawled.
It's time for a clear reckoning of what Islamophobia is, and just why it represents a major challenge in our time - comparable to the rise of anti-semitism in the 20th century, comparable to the racism which we have spent several decades trying to confront.
Islamophobia is not a fantasy phenomenon to head off criticism of the religion. Surely it's not beyond the wit of (wo)man to distinguish between legitimate debate and the grotesque rubbish pedalled by Cummins.
But the key criteria for that legitimate debate on Islam is that it must be rooted in knowledge. The majority of people in this country still have only the haziest, and often prejudiced, understanding of this religion, a 1,500-year-old ethical tradition with a huge range of interpretations across hundreds of cultures around the globe - and a lamentable lack of interest in putting that right.
This is no accident; the biggest component of Islamophobia's long history in European consciousness is what the writer Ziauddin Sardar describes as a "constructed ignorance" in which Islam is wilfully ignored, neglected and distorted. Take one example: the particular association of Islam with violence is a colonial hangover, dating back to the 1857 Indian Mutiny, when Muslims rebelled against British imperialism. The huge military machines of Germany and America in the 20th century were both the product of Christian, democratic countries, but few talk of Christianity being inherently violent.
Islamophobia is a hybrid beast and it calls on another equally powerful strain of European thinking - racism. It is racism, pure and simple, which lies behind the permutations of the "swamping" thesis which we've seen from BNP literature and Cummins to the front cover of the Spectator; of how Muslims want to take over the world, and take over Britain - an absurd fantasy when only 3% of Britain is Muslim.
There is a particular responsibility for those who frame the debate on Islam in this country to break out of the "constructed ignorance". It means developing a deep knowledge of Islam and of the ongoing struggles within it to reform and renew itself. It means a determination to get beyond the distortions of a media fascinated with the likes of Abu Hamza, of a media which can convey the horrific barbarity of the hostage-takers in Beslan - presumed to be Muslim - better than the comparable cruelty meted out by the Russians in Chechnya over the last decade.
A vigilant awareness is required in public debate, of the resonances in popular consciousness which certain comments are likely to trigger. Would a critical examination of Leviticus' prescriptions for the uncleanliness of women in the Old Testament have been appropriate in 1936 in Germany? Context is crucial and the context now, in the UK, is of an impoverished, excluded community (over 60% of Bangladeshi and Pakistani families live in poverty) upon whom the anti-terrorism laws are weighing very heavily. The hostility towards Islam needs little fanning, and on the street, it is visited disproportionately on women whose hijabs identify them as Muslims. It is for these kinds of reasons that we may well need new legislative tools, such as a law on incitement to religious hatred, to combat a new and virulent demonisation of the Other which is sheltering, at present, under the banner of free speech.
The Associated Press September 2, 2004
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- The Texas A&M University System's approach toward a bid to manage Los Alamos National Laboratory is being re-evaluated after defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. backed out, a school official said. Lee Peddicord, vice chancellor for research and federal relations for A&M, said the exit by Lockheed Martin could mean management of the troubled lab could prove challenging. He said the university system is still considering how to go about a bid on the $2.2 billion annual contract in the coming months.
"It's a clear message that one needs to think carefully about this," he said. "I wouldn't say we've lost interest, but it has made us more deliberate in our approach."
The lab has been managed by the University of California since World War II, when it was established to build the first atomic bomb. However, after a series of recent problems, DOE decided to put the management contract up for bid for the first time. The contract expires in September 2005.
The latest security problem at Los Alamos was the disappearance of two classified disks reported in July. That prompted a wall-to-wall inventory at the lab, idled nearly all classified work and led to the suspension of some workers. Lockheed Martin said it decided not to compete for the contract because managing the lab would take too much time and too many resources. The company had shown interest in a possible joint bid with the University of California.
Lockheed Martin already manages Albuquerque-based Sandia National Laboratories and Knolls Atomic Lab in upstate New York. The University of Texas System remains interested in Los Alamos. An administrator said Wednesday UT will continue to consider a bid, even with Lockheed Martin backing out.
"I think it gives everybody pause, but we are still deliberating the possibility," said Randa Safady, the UT system's vice chancellor for external relations.
"At the end of the day, much of our decision is going to hinge on the criteria outlined ... by the Department of Energy."
Peddicord said some problems at Los Alamos seem to be systematic. He said it might take a culture change to fix problems, but future managers will have to be careful not to lose the "quality of science."
Comment: Of interest is that A & M University is Presided by one Robert M Gates one time director of the CIA during the Bush senior regime. Seems that an organization run by one-time top spook Gates will sort this mess out.LANL has a statement by LANL director G Peter Nanos describing the current "crisis".
Sat, Sep. 04, 2004 By Susan Baniak
Christian-owned and -operated companies in Central Kentucky will have a new alternative to traditional phone-directory advertising next year. The Answer, a directory of area businesses committed to Christian beliefs and principles, is accepting advertisements for its first edition, scheduled to be distributed in March. The full-color directory, to be produced by Lexington-based Lile Marketing, will fill the void left when Lexington's existing Christian business directory, The Shepherd's Guide, ceases publication next year.
"It's a need that wouldn't have been fulfilled without us," said Mark Potter, co-owner of Lile Marketing. Potter and his business partner, Kevin Miller, launched The Answer after trying unsuccessfully to find a local Christian directory in which to advertise their own company earlier this year. "We want to give people an opportunity to set themselves apart from the crowd."
Like The Shepherd's Guide, which has been issued by Mortenson Broadcasting for 13 years, The Answer requires all advertisers to sign a contract that confirms their belief in a Christian-based statement of faith. Lile Marketing also plans to distribute 50,000 copies of the new publication, almost double The Shepherd's Guide's most recent circulation. About 35,000 of The Answer directories will be delivered to Lexington households, and the remainder will be available through local churches and Christian businesses. The new directory will feature church listings for the area as well as business listings and display advertising.
"We think we can fix the kinks and tie the Christian community together, and that's what we're out to do," Potter said. The Answer "lets people know right off the bat who they are dealing with and what (those people) believe. You can't get that from just-dialing out of a regular phone book."
By distributing The Answer directly to homes, Potter hopes the directory will become an outreach tool for the Christian community.
"We don't want to limit it to church members," Potter said. "We hope that it can be a witness out there for people as well. We want to make sure the homeowners get the directory on their doorstep and don't have to do anything except open it."
Comment: The mind boggles at how a phone directory can "witness". But then again, when you consider how many people go through life without a real thought of their own, in a robotic haze, why couldn't a phone directory witness for Jesus?
flick holy 'nother view: Maker sees competitor to Moore
movie maker Michael Moore will have to share the DVD shelf with Christian
filmmakers when his provocative ``Fahrenheit 9/11'' hits stores Oct 5.
And David Balsiger, producer and director of ``George W. Bush: Faith in
the White House,'' predicts there will be plenty of people opting for
his documentary's ``more positive message.''
Comment: Post your thoughts on what President Bush is praying for here on our interactive signs page. Any commments suggesting "World Peace" will not count :-).
Friday, September 3, 2004 Posted: 11:52 AM EDT (1552 GMT)
ORLANDO, Florida (AP) -- Casey Pavlacka planned to be in Walt Disney World on Thursday for a Labor Day weekend trip with her best friend.
Instead, she stayed home in Michigan after her mother-in-law sent photographs of damage from Hurricane Charley three weeks ago, and warned that the approaching Hurricane Frances would be much worse.
"We wanted to be in Florida right now, but we would rather be safe than in a hurricane," said Pavlacka, 23, by telephone from Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Florida's $50 billion tourism industry ground to a halt as Frances and its 140 mph wind neared the state. Florida officials issued the biggest evacuation request in state history, urging 2.5 million residents to clear out.
"This is the worst time of the year to have this hurricane," said Abe Pizam, a professor of hospitality management at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. "Labor Day weekend is very busy."
Comment: Well, what do you know. Maybe there is hope for the US. It seems that when the truth hits them square between the eyes -- a hurricane is a bad time to take a vacation -- they are able to act upon it. What kind of a hurricane would it take the country to get their troops out of other countries?
BERLIN (AFP) Sep 01, 2004
Air and noise pollution increase the risk of heart attacks, raising the likelihood that susceptible people will suffer severe cardiological problems, according to new research presented Wednesday.
Continued exposure to noise boosted the risk of a heart attack 140 percent, while air pollution led to more hospitalizations for people who had previously had heart attacks, according to two separate studies presented at a congress by the European Society of Cardiology in the southern city of Munich.
"There was a direct relationship between the degree of air pollution and the frequency of illnesses," said Stephanie von Klot of the GFS environment and health research center in the southern German town of Neuherberg.
"You see the increased risk (of heart attacks) even below the current legal limits (for air pollution)," added the GSF project director Annette Peters.
A slight rise in diesel exhaust in the air led to a 2.5 percent increase in hospitalizations.
The findings were based on a EU-backed study of 22,000 heart patients in the European cities of Augsburg, Barcelona, Helsinki, Rome and Stockholm.
Noise pollution, meanwhile, was found to send stress hormone levels soaring, affecting blood pressure and blood lipid concentration, according to a study by the Charite University Clinic in Berlin.
The researchers examined 4,115 heart patients' exposure to excessive noise levels.
Women who faced a constant level of noise at home had a significantly higher risk of heart attacks. Although the study found no increased likelihood of attacks among men under similar conditions, a similarly elevated risk was observed among men in a noisy workplaces.
The experts put the difference down to varying psychological reactions to noise based on the priorities of the patient.
"The risk for men can be realistically decreased with appropriate noise protection measures at the workplace. But advising women to seek out a quieter environment is not as easy to implement," said Professor Stefan Willich of Charite.
A moderate earthquake occurred at 19:04:47 (UTC) on Friday, September 3, 2004. The magnitude 5.7 event has been located in TONGA. (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)
(CNN) -- As Hurricane Frances bears down on the United States, weather trackers are sounding the alarm. Yet Frances may only be the first in a series of large, powerful storms to march across the Atlantic in coming years.
The arrival of hurricanes like Charley and Frances within weeks of each other is a rare anomaly, but some meteorologists say more storms like Frances -- both very intense and very large -- are possible.
"Over the past few years, we've seen an increasing trend toward greater activity in the Atlantic Basin and increased strength in storms," said Marshall Shepherd, a research meteorologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "[That] has been leading us to believe that we are going to start seeing more intense hurricanes. That may be bearing itself out right now."
A combination of natural cycles and warming ocean temperatures from global warming may be fueling the destructive storms.
Fireball is spacecraft's re-entry, on way to novel 'catch'
September 3 - Meteors are unpredictable. You never know, not exactly, when one will streak across the sky. But here comes one exception that proves the rule - right over our heads on the High Desert.
Next Wednesday, at precisely 8:52:46 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, northwest of Bend, a fireball will appear: a white-hot dot of light, brighter than the planet Venus, gliding across the blue morning sky.
This is no ordinary meteor. It's a space capsule jettisoned by NASA's Genesis spacecraft, returning to Earth with precious samples of the Sun, and we know exactly where it will go, NASA officials said Friday.
St. Lawrence County rattled by earthquake [New York]
9/4/2004 1:17 AM
Parts of St. Lawrence County were shaken Friday evening by an earthquake estimated at 2.5 on the Richter scale.
The temblor struck shortly after 10 pm. Officials at the St. Lawrence County 911 Center says they received a number of calls about the quake, but there were no reports of damage.
Frank Revetta, a geology professor at SUNY Potsdam, says the quake was felt the strongest in the Massena area. Residents in Potsdam, Norwood and Waddington also reported feeling the quake.
Revetta said the quake appears to have originated in the same area as a tremor on March 17.
As Mount Spurr, the stunning snow-covered volcano due west of Anchorage, continues a summer rumble of tiny earthquakes and fumaroles of hot gas, scientists have scrambled to add new instruments before winter locks down its icy summit.
Over the past few weeks, volcanologists and technicians from the Alaska Volcano Observatory have repeatedly helicoptered 80 miles to the 11,070-foot volcano to install additional sensors to help measure tremors or ground swelling triggered by molten rock deep underground. [...]
The volcano, one of 27 actively monitored by the observatory along the Aleutian Arc, last erupted in 1992 from a vent in Crater Peak, dusting Anchorage with a layer of fine ash. This summer, hundreds of earthquakes were detected beneath the volcano's main summit vent, which last erupted more than 5,000 years ago. Scientists later detected signs of heating at the surface and measured volcanic gases of carbon and sulfur dioxide in plumes above the mountain.
"It's likely that there's been some magma moving around at depth," Waythomas said. "How deep? More than three miles and maybe as much as 10 miles. That magma has gas in it, and it vents off, and it will move through cracks and fissures in the volcano and make its way to the surface."
In July, the observatory raised the official "level of concern" to warn that an eruption was possible. That condition "Yellow" was reissued on Friday; the observatory recorded 101 earthquakes over the previous week, most within 18 miles of the summit. Still, volcanologists emphasized that Spurr could easily drift back to sleep without ever blowing its top. [...]
Spurr wasn't the only restless volcano in Alaska this week. The observatory recorded tremors beneath both Mount Veniaminof, on the Alaska Peninsula about 500 miles southwest of Anchorage and Shishaldin Volcano on Unimak Island.
WEIMAR, Germany - As many as 30,000 priceless books may have been destroyed by a fire that swept through an historic library in this eastern German city, authorities said Friday.
Some 6,000 historical works - including a 1534 Martin Luther Bible - were saved by a human chain, which spirited them away from the flames.
Officials were surveying the damage caused by the fire Thursday night in the Duchess Anna Amalia Library, housed in a 16th-century rococo palace in Weimar. The fire broke out in a top floor and raged for two hours before firefighters put it out. And investigation into the cause is underway. "A piece of the world's cultural heritage has been lost forever," said Culture Minister Christine Weiss.
During the fire, workers managed to pass 6,000 books, including travel papers by the naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt, to safety before having to abandon their rescue attempts when the ceiling threatened to collapse, said Hellmut Seeman, the president of the Weimar Classics Foundation. The area directly affected by the fire housed from 12,000 to 13,000 books, the library's director, Michael Knoche said. Officials were also worried about water and smoke damage to the rest of the collection. The archive includes 2,000 hand-written medieval documents, 8,400 maps and a Bible collection.
Knoche noted that the fire was particularly tragic as the collection was to move to another site in late October.
The library holds about a million volumes at several places in Weimar, though its main location is the palace. Its collection centers on German literature produced between 1750 and 1850. During that time, Germany's most revered writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, lived in Weimar. His house there remains a major tourist attraction. Friedrich Schiller, best known for his German classical dramas, spent the last years of his life in Weimar and died there in 1805.
By PAUL GARWOOD,
Associated Press Writer
CAIRO, Egypt - A pair of French Egyptologists who suspect they have found a previously unknown chamber in the Great Pyramid urged Egypt's antiquities chief to reconsider letting them test their theory by drilling new holes in the 4,600-year-old structure.
Jean Yves Verd'hurt and fellow Frenchman Gilles Dormion, who has studied pyramid construction for more than 20 years, are expected to raise their views during the ninth International Congress of Egyptologists in Grenoble, France, which starts Monday. They also published a book about their theory this week.
Standing in their way is Zahi Hawass, the director of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, who heatedly rejected the theories during a Cairo press conference this week.
"There are 300 theories concerning hidden rooms and other things inside the pyramid, but if I let them all test their theories they will do untold damage to the pyramid, which was built with the blood of Egyptians," said Hawass. "I will not let Egyptian blood be damaged by amateurs."
He said earlier requests from the same pair were turned down in 1999 and 2003.
In their book, "The Room of Cheops," Dormion and Verd'hurt write that 1988 study of an area below the queen's burial chamber in the pyramid found what appeared to be an 11 1/2-foot "structure," according to the French magazine Science and Future.
"The study of this part of the pyramid was always neglected because there had been a grill to block access," they wrote. "While we were working on ventilation in 1988, we were able to penetrate into the depths and study briefly but not enough to state anything essential."
Verd'hurt laughed off Hawass' "amateur" tag, citing previous close relationships with Egyptian antiquities officials and work that he and Dormion had conducted in 1998 on the Medium pyramid south of Cairo, which dates back more than 4,500 years to the 4th pharaonic dynasty.
The work at Medium, according to Verd'hurt, led to the discovery of two rooms and two passages that had been previously "undisturbed and unknown." They want to do similar work at the Great Pyramid, built by Khufu, a ruler also known as Cheops.
"To be sure of this process, we wanted to verify the result of our architectural works using a radar that confirmed the location of a passage and a system of closures. So I think that now we should at least take these results into account in order to go further in our work."
Verd'hurt said Egyptian opposition to his theory is a "shame." They are expected to raise the issue again with Hawass in Grenoble, but the Egyptian antiquities official said he will not speak to them.
Verd'hurt said he was disappointed by Hawass' refusal.
"It's true that Cheops arouses and attracts passions but, with regard to history, it's really too bad," he said. "I think it's too bad that he doesn't sit down with us to let us explain ourselves."
Comment: The problem here is that the French duo are actually attempting to apply real science to Egyptology. Zahi Hawass is notorious for barring any serious work in the pyramids that may contradict the established "history" of Egypt - see Picknett and Prince's The Stargate Conspiracy. The curious reader may also wish to read about the authors' interactions with Cassiopaea, and The Stargate Conspiracy: A Review, analysis, and commentary on the book by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince.
Finally, for a peek at what is behind the Stargate Conspiracy itself, check out Laura Knight-Jadczyk's latest book The High Strangeness of Dimensions, Densities and the Process of Alien Abduction.
Guess Who - American Woman
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