Signs Supplement: The Suicide Bombing Cycle
Strike Flash Presentation by a QFS member
of the Day
Lightning strike obliterating Dick Cheney's house last night
LUGANO, Switzerland — Did Saddam Hussein use any of his ill-gotten
billions filched from the United Nations Oil-for-Food program to
help fund Al Qaeda?
Investigations have shown that the former Iraqi dictator grafted
and smuggled more than $10 billion from the program that for seven
years prior to Saddam's overthrow was meant to bring humanitarian
aid to ordinary Iraqis. And the Sept. 11 Commission has shown a
tracery of contacts between Saddam and Al Qaeda that continued after
billions of Oil-for-Food dollars began pouring into Saddam's coffers
and Usama bin Laden declared his infamous war on the U.S.
Now, buried in some of the United Nation's own confidential documents,
clues can be seen that underscore the possibility of just such a
Saddam-Al Qaeda link — clues leading to a locked door in this
Swiss lakeside resort.
Next to that door, a festive sign spells out in gold letters under
a green flag that this is the office of MIGA, the Malaysian Swiss
Gulf and African Chamber. Registered here 20 years ago as a society
to promote business between the Gulf States and Asia, Europe and
Africa, MIGA is a company that the United Nations and the U.S. government
says has served as a hub of Al Qaeda finance: A terrorist chamber
the growing scandal over the United Nations Oil-for-Food program,
which from 1996-2003 supervised relief to Saddam Hussein's Iraq,
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and his staff have excused themselves
from any responsibility for the massive corruption involving billions
in bribes and kickbacks that went on via more than $100 billion
in U.N.-approved contracts for Saddam to sell oil and buy humanitarian
supplies. U.N. officials have denied that this tidal wave of graft
in any way seeped into their own shop, or that they even had time
to notice it was out there. They were too busy making the
world a better place.
That's fascinating, not least given the ties of Annan's own son,
Kojo Annan, to the Switzerland-based firm, Cotecna, which from 1999
onward worked on contract for the U.N. monitoring the shipments
of Oil-for-food supplies into Iraq. These were the same supplies
sent in under terms of those tens of billions of dollars worth of
U.N.-approved contracts in which the U.N.
says it failed to notice Saddam Hussein's widespread arrangements
to overpay contractors who then shipped overpriced goods to the
impoverished people of Iraq and kicked back part of their profits
to Saddam's regime.
Cotecna was hired by the U.N. on December 31, 1998. Shortly afterward,
press reports surfaced that Kojo was a partner in a private consulting
firm doing work for Cotecna, and that just 13 months previously
he had occupied a senior slot on Cotecna's own staff. Asked about
this in 1999 by the London Telegraph, a U.N. spokesman, John Mills,
replied that the U.N. had not been aware of the connection, and
that "The tender by Cotecna was the lowest by a significant
It seems there's a lot the U.N. managed
not to be aware of. But the information that Cotecna —
while employing Kofi's son in any capacity — put in the lowest
bid by far for the job of authenticating Saddam's Oil-for-Food imports,
is not necessarily reassuring. Cotecna, which
got paid roughly $6 million for its services during that first year
(the U.N. will not release figures on Cotecna's fees over
the following years) was bidding on work that empowered its staff
to inspect tens of billions worth of supplies inbound to a regime
much interested in smuggling, and evidently accustomed to dealing
in bribes and kickbacks as a routine part of business. The issue
was never solely whether the monitors were cheap, but whether they
The whole setup raises disturbing questions. But
this is a subject on which neither the U.N. nor Cotecna has been
willing to offer illumination. Asked for details, both have stonewalled.
The U.N. spokesman Mills, who fielded the question in 1999,
is now deceased. A query to the U.N. Oil-for-Food elicits from a
spokesman only the information that the five-year-old response by
the late Mills "stands, as provided by the U.N." A recent
query to Cotecna, asking for at least some detail on ties to Kojo
Annan, elicits nothing beyond the reply that: "There is nothing
else to add."
It is possible of course, that Kojo Annan had nothing to do with
the Iraq program per se, as he told the Telegraph back in 1999:
"I would never play any role in anything that involves the
United Nations for obvious reasons." Though at the same time,
in a comment that suggested at least nodding acquaintance with the
Oil-for-Food program, Kojo added: "The decision is made by
the contracts committee, not by Kofi Annan."
Then why the reluctance from the U.N., or Cotecna, for that matter,
to provide any further details whatsoever? Beyond that, it is disingenuous
to suggest Annan had no responsibility for the contracts. Oil-for-Food
was run out of the U.N. Secretariat, reporting directly to Annan,
who regularly signed off on the six-month phases of the program.
Without his approval, the contracts would not have gone forward.
Even if we assume that everyone on the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food staff,
as well as Kofi Annan himself, was indeed ignorant of Kojo Annan's
involvement with Cotecna, it is hard to buy
the argument that Kofi, while signing off regularly on the program's
workings, was simply oblivious to the details. Not only was Kofi
Annan the boss, but he was directly involved from the beginning.
Kofi Annan's official U.N. biography notes that shortly before his
promotion to Secretary-General "he led the first United Nations
team negotiating with Iraq on the sale of oil to fund purchases
of humanitarian aid."
It was Annan, who in October 1997 brought
in as Oil-for-Food's executive director Benon Sevan, reporting directly
to the Secretary-General, to consolidate Oil-for-Food's operations
into the Office of Iraq Program. And it was shortly after
Sevan took charge that Oil-for-Food, set up by Kofi Annan's predecessor,
Boutros Boutros-Ghali, with at least some transparency on individual
deals, began treating as confidential such vital information as
the names of specific contractors, quantities of goods, and prices
U.N. staff, such as Under-Secretary General Shashi Tharoor in a
letter last month to the Wall Street Journal, have argued that the
U.N. was not responsible for Saddam's misdeeds, and that U.N. staff
were not concerned with such kickback-relevant matters as business
terms of Saddam's contracts. The disturbing
implication is that the U.N. — while collecting a commission
of more than $1 billion on Saddam's oil sales to cover its own overhead
in administering Oil-for-Food — was indifferent to Saddam's
short-changing the Iraqi people, whose relief was supposed to be
the entire point of the program. [...]
This is my last ditch effort to show the hypocrisy within President
Bush's administration regarding its policies toward Iraq and its
President, Saddam Hussein, just as the United States and Britain
prepares to invade the country.
It was only five years ago when Vice President
Dick Cheney, as chief executive of the oil-field supply corporation,
Halliburton Co., was engaged in secret business dealings with Saddam's
regime by selling Iraq oil production equipment and spare parts
to get the Iraqi oil fields up and running, according to confidential
United Nations records.
During the 2000 presidential campaign, Cheney adamantly denied
such dealings. While he acknowledged that his company did business
with Libya and Iran through foreign subsidiaries, Cheney said, "Iraq's
different." He claimed that he imposed a "firm policy"
prohibiting any unit of Halliburton against trading with Iraq.
"I had a firm policy that we wouldn't do anything in Iraq,
even arrangements that were supposedly legal," Cheney said
on the ABC-TV news program "This Week" on July 30, 2000.
"We've not done any business in Iraq since U.N. sanctions were
imposed on Iraq in 1990, and I had a standing policy that I wouldn't
But it turns out that Cheney was lying.
It's only through the sale of Iraqi oil that Saddam would be able
to afford to obtain such weapons. If Saddam was in fact building
nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, which some news reports
allege could be used against American and British troops, Cheney
is partially responsible.
The Washington Post first reported Halliburton's
trade with Iraq in February 2000. But U.N. records obtained by The
Post two years ago showed that the dealings were more extensive
than originally reported and than Vice President Cheney has acknowledged.
As secretary of defense in the first Bush administration, Cheney
helped to lead a multinational coalition against Iraq in the Persian
Gulf War and to devise a comprehensive economic embargo to isolate
Saddam Hussein's government. After Cheney was named chief executive
of Halliburton in 1995, he promised to maintain a hard line against
But his stance changed when it appeared that Halliburton
was headed for financial disaster in the mid-1990s.
Cheney said sanctions against countries such as Iraq were hurting
corporations such as Halliburton.
"We seem to be sanction-happy as a government," Cheney
said at an energy conference in April 1996, reported in the oil
industry publication Petroleum Finance Week. "The problem is
that the good Lord didn't see fit to always put oil and gas resources
where there are democratic governments," he observed during
his conference presentation.
Sanctions make U.S. businesses "the bystander who gets hit
when a train wreck occurs," Cheney told Petroleum Finance Week.
"While virtually every other country sees the need for sanctions
against Iraq and Saddam Hussein's regime there, Cheney sees general
agreement that the measures have not been very effective despite
their having most of the international community's support. An individual
country's embargo, such as that of the United States against Iran,
has virtually no effect since the target country simply signs a
contract with a non- U.S. business," the publication reported
"That's exactly what happened when the government told Conoco
Inc. that it could not develop an oil field there," Cheney
told Petroleum Finance Week. Total S.A. "simply took it over."
In 1998, Cheney oversaw Halliburton's acquisition of Dresser Industries
Inc., the unit that sold oil equipment to Iraq through two subsidiaries
of a joint venture with another large U.S. equipment maker, Ingersoll-Rand
The Halliburton subsidiaries, Dresser-Rand and Ingersoll Dresser
Pump Co., sold water and sewage treatment pumps, spare parts for
oil facilities and pipeline equipment to Baghdad through French
affiliates from the first half of 1997 to the summer of 2000, U.N.
records show. Ingersoll Dresser Pump also signed contracts -- later
blocked by the United States -- to help repair an Iraqi oil terminal
that U.S.-led military forces destroyed in the GGulf War, the Post
reported in a June 2001 story.
The Halliburton subsidiaries and several other American and foreign
oil supply companies helped Iraq increase its crude exports from
$4 billion in 1997 to nearly $18 billion in 2000. Since the program
began, Iraq has exported oil worth more than $40 billion.
U.S. and European officials have argued that the increase in production
also expanded Saddam's ability to use some of that money for weapons,
luxury goods and palaces. Security Council diplomats estimate that
Iraq may be skimming off as much as 10 percent of the proceeds from
the oil-for-food program, according to the Post.
During his tenure as chief executive of Halliburton,
Cheney pushed the U.N. Security Council, after he became vice president;
to end an 11-year embargo on sales of civilian goods, including
oil related equipment, to Iraq. Cheney has said sanctions against
countries like Iraq unfairly punish U.S. companies.
Earlier this year, Halliburton was chosen as one of the companies
to rebuild Iraq's dilapidated oil fields following a U.S. led attack
on the country.
U.N. documents show that Halliburton's affiliates have had controversial,
dealings with the Iraqi regime during Cheney's tenure at the company.
The Clinton administration blocked one of the deals Halliburton
was trying to push through. That deal, between Halliburton subsidiary
Ingersoll Dresser Pump Co. and Iraq, included agreements by the
firm to sell $760,000 in spare parts, compressors and firefighting
equipment to refurbish an offshore oil terminal, Khor al Amaya.
The Clinton administration blocked the sale because it was "not
authorized under the oil-for-food deal," according to U.N.
documents. Under the oil-for-food program, Iraq is allowed to export
crude oil and the money is supposed to be used to help remove some
of the hardships on Iraqi civilians affected by the U.N. sanctions.
Halliburton, the US engineering company, has warned that the reimbursement
of funds to the Pentagon after accusations that it overcharged for
work in Iraq could "adversely affect" its liquidity.
In a submission to US watchdog the Securities and Exchange Commission
yesterday, the Houston-based company revealed the Defence Contract
Audit Agency, controlled by the Pentagon, had recently issued a
report criticising Halliburton's work in Iraq.
The report dealt with deficiencies over logistics contracts that
Halliburton's KBR engineering and construction unit won for work
in Iraq, specifically the timely updating and formalising of documentation.
The report is "likely" to result in a formal audit, Halliburton
"As a result of an increase in the level of work performed
in Iraq or the DCAA's review of additional aspects of our services
performed in Iraq, it is possible that we may, or may be required
to, withhold additional invoicing or make refunds to our customers,
some of which could be substantial, until these matters are resolved,"
said the company.
"This could materially and adversely affect our liquidity."
The company, once run by the US vice-president, Dick Cheney, is
the subject of several federal investigations.
Halliburton agreed last month to withhold billing on $140m (£76m)
for food services, pending a Pentagon investigation into how subcontractors
charged for meals served to troops in Iraq and Kuwait.
Pentagon auditors have also suspended payment on more than $36m
(£19m) in invoices submitted at seven dining facilities.
In addition, the Pentagon has opened a criminal investigation into
a possible $61m (£33m) overcharge for the delivery of fuel
to Iraq from Kuwait.
Halliburton, which said its revenue from government services in
Iraq came to $3.6bn (£1.9bn) in 2003, blamed the problems
on a lack of resources, poor telephone and computer systems and
a steep increase in customer demand.
The company said the withholding of payments by the government
or the reimbursement of funds could force it to borrow more at a
time when its credit rating is weak.
Rising debt could be a problem for the company as it prepares to
put money into a trust to settle current and future asbestos lawsuits.
It also faces payments on a troubled construction project in Brazil.
Halliburton disclosed other investigations in its SEC filing besides
those connected to Iraq.
The US justice department is reviewing possible overbilling in
logistics work for the army in the Balkans, while the SEC is looking
into alleged illegal payments linked to a Nigerian plant.
|KIRKUK, Iraq (AFP) -
At least 18 people were killed in a suicide bombing, capping a week
of carnage in Iraq (news - web sites), as Al-Qaeda-linked militants
threatened to kill two American hostages and a Briton in 48 hours.
More than 400 Iraqis have perished in a wave of bombings and fighting
since the start of the month, exacerbating fears over the security
situation in the run-up to general elections due to be held in January.
[...] A car bomb also hit a US convoy on the main Baghdad airport
road, killing an Iraqi and wounding three soldiers -- a scene all
too familiar in Iraq, where the health ministry reported 268 killed
in the past week alone and another 820 wounded.
Meanwhile, loyalists of suspected Al-Qaeda operative Abu Mussab
al-Zarqawi threatened to kill two Americans and a Briton unless
Iraqi women prisoners are freed within 48 hours, according to a
videotape broadcast on Al-Jazeera television.
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran on Sunday denounced as "illegal"
demands from the U.N. atomic watchdog agency that it freeze all
work on uranium enrichment - technology that can be used for nuclear
weapons. Hasan Rowhani, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, also said
his country would limit its cooperation with the International Atomic
Energy Agency if the watchdog refers Iran to the U.N Security Council
for possible sanctions.
Rowhani spoke a day after the agency's governing board demanded
Iran freeze all work on uranium enrichment and said it would judge
Tehran's compliance in two months.
"This demand is not legal and does not put any obligation
on Iran. The IAEA board of governors has no right to make such a
suspension obligatory for any country," he said at a news conference.
The Iranian official said his country would nonetheless continue
with its voluntary suspension of what he described as "actual
enrichment" - the injection of uranium gas into centrifuges.
But he indicated that related activities, such as production, assembly
and testing of centrifuges, were likely to continue.
"We are committed to the suspension of actual enrichment but
we have no decision to expand the suspension," he said.
Iran is not prohibited from enrichment under its obligations to
the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. But it has for months faced
international pressure to suspend such activities as a good-faith
The United States insists the 35-member board must refer Iran to
the Security Council when it meets again on Nov. 25 if Tehran doesn't
comply. Iran rejects U.S. accusations it wants nuclear weapons,
saying its activities are only in pursuit of energy.
It is also highly interesting that the US is so insistent in their
demands on Iran, while Israel - who is not even a signatory of the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, who has been working on nuclear
weapons development since 1958, and who is rumoured to have stockpiled
between 100-200 nuclear warheads - receives not even the slightest
bit of pressure to dismantle their weapons, stop development of
same, or even SIGN the treaty.
"There is no justification to refer Iran's nuclear dossier
to the Security Council," Rowhani said. "If one day they
refer Iran's nuclear dossier to the U.N. Security Council, that
day ... Iran will stop implementing the additional protocol and
will limit its cooperation with the IAEA ...."
Iran has agreed to unfettered inspections of its nuclear facilities
under an addition to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
The IAEA board unanimously approved a toughly worded resolution
Saturday saying it "considers it necessary" that Iran
suspend all uranium enrichment and related programs. It expressed
alarm at Iranian plans to convert more than 40 tons of raw uranium
into uranium hexafluoride - the gas that when spun in centrifuges
turns into enriched uranium.
It also said the board "strongly urges" Iran to meet
all demands by the agency in its investigation of the country's
nearly two decades of clandestine nuclear activity, including unrestricted
access to sites, information and personnel that can shed light on
still-unanswered questions on whether Tehran was interested in the
atom for nuclear weapons.
It called on the IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei to provide a review
of the findings of the investigation of Iran's nuclear activities.
Suggesting that Iran could have to answer to the Security Council
if it defies the demands, the resolution said the next board meeting
in November "will decide whether or not further steps are appropriate"
in ensuring Iran complies. The last board resolution, in June, had
been less insistent on the issue of suspension. Still, Saturday's
text appeared to fall far short of what the Americans had wanted
when the meeting opened Monday.
Washington had pushed to drop mention of countries' rights to peaceful
nuclear technology and fought for an Oct. 31 deadline, with the
understanding that if Iran failed to comply, the board would automatically
begin deliberations on Security Council referral.
And many more Destructions played
In this ghastly masquerade,
All disguised, even to the eyes,
Like Bishops, lawyers, peers, or spies.
. . .
And Anarchy, the Skeleton,
Bowed and grinned to every one,
As well as if his education
Had cost ten millions to the nation.
Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Mask of Anarchy
By the smirk, ye shall know him. It is Bush's identifying mark.
The cruel sneer fissures across his face at the oddest moments,
like an execution or a spike in the deficit or the news of a light-stick
being rammed up the anus of an Iraqi prisoner. It hints at this
own sense of inviolateness, like the illicit grin of some 70s porn
star--which may not be so far off target if even half of what Kitty
Kelley dishes in her delicious book The Family about Bush's peregrinations
turns out to be true.
Flash to Bush's most famous moment, the instant when he supposedly
redeemed his tottering presidency. There at ground zero, megaphone
in hand, using firefighters as props, Bush squeaks out his war cry.
It won't be a war of justice, but revenge, cast as a crusade against
evil. Then, hands palsied with anxiety, he closes with his signature
sneer and gives the game away.
The mask drops, revealing in a flash, like a subliminal cut, the
dark sparkle of the real Bush. You get the sense that he detests
his own supporters, those who refuse to see through the act. But
perhaps that's giving Bush too much credit. He reminds me of one
of the early popes or one of the more degenerate emperors, such
as Domitian: cruel, imperious, humorless, and psychologically brittle.
Bush and his team turned 9/11 into a kind prime-time political
necrophilia, an obscene exploitation of the dead. For example, Flight
93 was transformed into Bush's Masada, where the passengers committed
group suicide by bringing the plane down into the remote Pennsylvania
field in order to save the White House. Of course, this was a lie.
Bush lied about his actions in the aftermath
of the 9/11 attacks. He lied about why the US was attacked. He lied
about what his own government knew in advance about impending plans
by al-Qaeda to attack targets in the US. He lied about how much
the wars would cost. About weapons of mass destruction. About the
relationship between Saddam and Bin Laden. About the progress of
the war. These daily manipulations
of the truth aren't impromptu faux pas. Bush is kept on a tighter
leash by his staff than any president in US history. He's not permitted
extemporaneous comments. Bush's prevarications roll right off the
In the memorial service at the National Cathedral, Bush announced
his mission: "Rid the world of evil." Part of that evil
would, naturally, be the burdensome tax rates on the super-rich.
Bush was hot for war without congressional debate. "I'd rather
have them [American troops] sacrificing on behalf of our nation
than, you know, endless hours of congressional testimony."
And they were primed to give him any thing he wanted. Any thing
at all. No one rose to stop him. No one would even question him
at the precise moment he most needed to be restrained.
The remote-control war on Afghanistan is a shameful chapter in
American history. It rode unbridled on the fervor of a kind of national
bloodletting against one of the most destitute nation's on earth,
which had only the most tangential responsibility for the events
of 9/11. More than 3,400 civilians perished, most of whom had never
heard of Osama Bin Laden.
The Pentagon drilled Kandahar and other Taliban strongholds with
cruise missiles and pulverized convoys of pack mules with unmanned
Predator planes armed with Hellfire guns. The
ground war was turned over to the Northern Alliance, a CIA-financed
band of thugs with a bloodier reputation than the Taliban.
Why do they hate us? Bush proffered the two word
cue-card answer: Our freedom. But how could this be? Only a few
years ago the Mujahideen, the Taliban and the Chechen separatists
were hailed by neo-cons and neo-libs alike as "freedom fighters."
Yes, they knew them very well indeed. They
had not only traded with the enemy. They had created them.
Bin Laden and Mullah Omar were armed, funded
and sheltered by the CIA in its insane proxy war in Afghanistan
against the Soviet Union. A $3 billion war that brought to
power the most tyrannical and fundamentalist's sect this side of
Falwell's Liberty Baptist College. The Taliban regime was fired
by an unquenchable hatred of the West, a political pathology it
acted out through the violent suppression of the nation's own women,
homosexuals and academics. Then came the first Gulf War, the US
bases on Saudi soil, the misguided adventure into Somalia, the blind
support of the bloody Israeli suppression of the second Intifada.
Al-Qaeda, financed by Saudi millions and sequestered by the Taliban,
turned its attention to the great Satan, which was indeed acting
like a malevolent titan across the globe. The events of 9/11 have
blowback written all over them.
In the end, though, the Taliban weren't toppled. They simply dispersed
back into the Pashtun tribal areas from which they arose, where
they knew the US and its mercenary army would never come to get
them. As recounted in Seymour Hersh's Chain of Command, the few
ground engagements were US troops faced off with the Taliban proved
embarrassing for the Pentagon. And today the Taliban have reasserted
their control over most of Afghanistan. The only city that remains
under the uneasy grip of Hamid Karzai and his CIA masters is Kabul,
the old British capital which has never been a Taliban stronghold.
So much for the opening act. As Condoleezza Rice put it, Bush,
the conquistador in a jogging suit, soon got bored with "swatting
(Torturing flies was, of course, a favorite past time of Domitian.
According to Seutonius, "At the beginning of his reign, Domitian
used to spend hours in seclusion every day, doing nothing but catching
flies and stabbing them with a keenly sharpened stylus. Consequently,
when someone once asked if anyone was in there with the Emperor,
Vibius Crispus made the witty reply, 'Not even a fly." Domitian,
that wanton boy emperor, was also the inspiration for the famous
line in Lear.)
Bush wanted to put away such childish things and squash bigger
game. Iraq, naturally.
Jeffrey St. Clair is the author of Been Brown So Long It Looked
Like Green to Me: the Politics of Nature and, with Alexander Cockburn,
Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils.
NEW YORK (UPI) Nearly 17,000 service members
medically evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan are absent from public
Pentagon casualty reports commonly cited by newspapers, according
to military data reviewed by United Press International.
Most don't fit the definition of casualties, according to the Pentagon,
but a veterans' advocate said they should all be counted.
The Pentagon has reported 1,019 dead and 7,245 wounded from Iraq.
The military has evacuated 16,765 individual service members from
Iraq and Afghanistan for injuries and ailments not directly related
to combat, according to the U.S. Transportation Command, which is
responsible for the medical evacuations. Most are from Operation
The Pentagon's public casualty reports, available at www.defenselink.mil,
list only service members who died or were wounded in action. The
Pentagon's own definition of a war casualty provided to UPI in December
describes a casualty as, "Any person who is lost to the organization
by having been declared dead, duty status/whereabouts unknown, missing,
ill, or injured."
The casualty reports do list soldiers who died
in non-combat-related incidents or died from illness. But service
members injured or ailing from the same non-combat causes (the majority
that appear to be "lost to the organization") are not
reflected in those Pentagon reports.
In a statement Wednesday, the Pentagon gave a different definition
that included casualty descriptions by severity and type and said
most medical evacuations did not count. "The great majority
of service members medically evacuated from Operation Iraqi Freedom
are not casualties, by either Department of Defense definitions
or the common understanding of the average newspaper reader."
It cited such ailments as "muscle strain, back pain, kidney
stones, diarrhea and persistent fever" as non-casualty evacuations.
"Casualty reports released to the public are generally confined
to fatalities and those wounded in action," the statement said.
A veterans' advocate said the Pentagon should make a full reporting
of the casualties, including non-combat ailments and injuries. "They
are still casualties of war," said Mike Schlee, director of
the National Security and Foreign Relations Division at the American
Legion. "I think we have to have an honest disclosure of what
the short- and long-term casualties of any conflict are."
A spokesman for the transportation command said that without orders
from U.S. Central Command, his unit would not separate the medical
evacuation data to show how many came from Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We stay in our lane," said Lt. Col. Scott Ross. But most
are clearly from Operation Iraqi Freedom where several times as
many troops are deployed as in Afghanistan.
Among veterans from Iraq seeking help from
the VA, 5,375 have been diagnosed with a mental problem, making
it the third-leading diagnosis after bone problems and digestive
problems. Among the mental problems
were 800 soldiers who became psychotic.
A military study published in the New England Journal of Medicine
in July showed that 16 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq might
suffer major depression, generalized anxiety or post-traumatic stress
disorder. Around 11 percent of soldiers returning from Afghanistan
may have the same problems, according to that study.
The British Army is to start pulling troops
out of Iraq next month despite the deteriorating security situation
in much of the country, The Observer has learnt.
The main British combat force in Iraq, about 5,000-strong,
will be reduced by around a third by the end of October during a
routine rotation of units.
The news came amid another day of mayhem in Iraq, which saw a suicide
bomber kill at least 23 people and injure 53 in the northern city
of Kirkuk. The victims were queueing to join Iraq's National Guard.
More than 200 people were killed last week in one
of the bloodiest weeks since last year's invasion, strengthening
impressions that the country is spinning out of control.
Yesterday grim footage apparently showing a British engineer kidnapped
from a house in Baghdad last week along with two American colleagues
surfaced in a video released in the Iraqi capital. The group holding
the three threatened to execute them unless Iraqi women prisoners
are released from jail.
And last night it was reported that 10 more staff working for an
American-Turkish company had been seized as hostages.
There are now fears that scheduled Iraqi elections
in January will have to be delayed because of the growing instability.
Last week Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, said that more troops
could be sent to safeguard the polls if necessary, although Whitehall
sources said there was no guarantee that they would be British.
The forthcoming 'drawdown' of British troops in Basra has not been
made public and is likely to provoke consternation in both Washington
and Baghdad. Many in Iraq argue that more, not fewer, troops are
needed. Last week British troops in Basra fought fierce battles
with Shia militia groups.
The reduction will take place when the First Mechanised Infantry
Brigade is replaced by the Fourth Armoured Division, now based in
Germany, in a routine rotation over the next few weeks.
Troop numbers are being finalised, but, military sources in Iraq
and in Whitehall say, they are likely to be 'substantially less'
than the current total in Basra: the new combat brigade will have
five or even four battle groups, against its current strength of
six battle groups of around 800 men.
A military spokesman in Basra confirmed the scaling back of the
Currently there are 8,000 British troops in the
14,000-strong 'multinational division' in southern Iraq, which has
responsibility for about 4.5 million people.
The cuts will occur in the combat elements of the deployment -
the 5,000-strong infantry and armoured brigade that is committed
to the provinces of Basra and Maysan. Four Royal Navy ships will
remain in the Gulf.
However, the incoming force will leave its heavy armour, mainly
Challenger tanks, behind, but will be equipped with a unit of Warrior
armoured troop carriers.
Senior officers say the scaling back of the British commitment
in Iraq is a sign of their success in keeping order and helping
reconstruction. But both Basra and Maysan have seen heavy combat
recently, with some units sustaining up to 35 per cent casualties,
and remains restive. The al-Mahdi army, which was responsible for
most of the fighting, remains heavily armed.
'Whatever they say, fewer troops mean less capability,' a military
expert told The Observer . 'You need as many boots on the ground
as you can get for low-intensity warfare and peace-keeping operations.'
Iyad Allawi, the interim Iraqi Prime Minister, will hold talks
with Tony Blair at Chequers tomorrow on security issues, including
elections and the strengthening of border patrols.
News of the troop withdrawal comes at a difficult
time for Blair, with the publication yesterday of leaked documents
suggesting that he was warned a year before the invasion that it
could prompt a meltdown.
However Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary and a close ally of
Blair, told The Observer that the Prime Minister still believed
that Britain's actions would be justified by the restoration of
democracy 'however difficult and remote a prospect that seems at
the moment, when our headlines are crowded with further attacks
by the insurgents'.
In another embarrassment for the Prime Minister,
a draft report from the Iraqi Survey Group, set up to investigate
Saddam Hussein's weapons programme, has concluded that the former
dictator's only chemical or biological armament was a small amount
of poison for use in political killings.
UNITED NATIONS -- Secretary General Kofi Annan's
claim that the war in Iraq was illegal drew strong protest from
the United States and its allies, but little comment from the war's
opponents, who appeared unwilling to revisit the question. The strong
response may have had more to do with the timing than with the content
of Annan's remarks. Next week is the annual gathering of world leaders
at the UN General Assembly, a meeting that also comes in the midst
of a U.S. election campaign where the war in Iraq is an issue.
Asked about Annan's comments during an interview with the Washington
Times' editorial board, Secretary of State
Colin Powell said the coalition's actions in Iraq were "entirely
legal and legal in accordance with UN Security Councils of the past."
"I don't think it was a useful statement
to make at this point," Powell said in a transcript released
by the State Department. "What does it gain anyone? We should
all be gathering around the idea and the prospect of helping the
Iraqi people, helping the Iraqi government, and not getting into
these kinds of side issues which are not relevant any longer."
The United States, Britain, Australia and Poland -- all supporters
of the war and part of the coalition still in Iraq -- defended the
legality of invading the country and ousting Saddam Hussein.
France, which led the opposition to the war, shied away from commenting,
with Foreign Ministry spokesman Herve Ladsous saying: "You
know our position. We had the opportunity at the time to express
ourselves very clearly."
China's UN Ambassador, Wang Guangya, whose country also opposed
the war, was also reticent. "I think all of us have views on
the Iraqi war. I think definitely the views are different among
council members. What is important now is to help achieve peace
and stability in that country," he said.
INDIANAPOLIS — Scholars and critics worldwide are demanding
that the U.S. government explain why it revoked the work visa of
a Muslim scholar hired at the University of Notre Dame, saying the
action threatens academic freedoms.
But few answers are forthcoming from the Department of Homeland
Security, which cited security concerns when it barred Tariq Ramadan
from entering the country.
That silence has sparked protests from at least four U.S. scholars'
groups, led a United Nations-sponsored institution to issue an academic
freedom alert and inspired appeals from Jewish organizations.
Robert O'Neil, who is chairman of an academic freedom committee
for the American Association of University Professors, said Ramadan's
case could have a chilling effect on an academic community already
facing security measures stemming from the 2001 terrorist attacks.
"It does suggest ... foreign scholars may be scrutinized more
carefully and may be denied entry on the basis of something less
than overt terrorist activity or association," said O'Neil,
whose group has written Secretary of State Colin Powell and Homeland
Security Secretary Tom Ridge to protest the decision.
The State Department issued Ramadan a work visa in May but revoked
it in July. The action came just weeks before the scholar was scheduled
to begin a tenured position as professor of religion, conflict and
peace-building at Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International
Russ Knocke, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman, said
last month that the visa was revoked based on "public safety
or national security interests." Knocke has not responded to
recent requests for interviews from The Associated Press.
Many who have rallied in Ramadan's support believe the scholar's
controversial profile, including sharp criticism of Israel, the
war in Iraq and U.S. policy in the Middle East, was the real reason
for the revocation.
"We fear that pressures were applied to reverse the granting
of the visa by people who disagree with Dr. Ramadan's views as a
scholar," two groups, the Middle East Studies Association of
North America and the American Academy of Religion, stated in a
joint letter to Powell and Ridge.
Scholars at Risk, which normally focuses on rescuing professors
who face persecution in their homelands, also has taken up Ramadan's
cause because of its ramifications for academic freedom.
"The information we do have does not seem to explain the decision,
and if there is more, we'd like to know what it is," said Robert
Quinn, director of the group, which is based at New York University.
The Network for Education and Academic Rights issued an academic
freedom alert for the United States over the case. It is the fifth
alert the London-based, U.N.-sponsored group has issued for the
United States since January 2002.
The Jewish Law Students Society at Notre Dame condemned the visa
revocation. Chicago's Jewish Council on Urban Affairs said "the
barring of Ramadan may represent one more horrific example of government
suspicion, intimidation and exaggerated allegations against Muslims
and Muslim communities."
Notre Dame spokesman Matt Storin said the university is still seeking
answers but has received no specifics about Ramadan's case.
Ramadan remains in Switzerland, defending himself in articles and
The furor over his visa symbolizes something larger, he told The
Associated Press in a telephone interview.
"All these people who don't know me, they may disagree with
me, all the academics, but at least they understand something: In
Tariq Ramadan there is a very important challenge, a very important
issue, which is the freedom for the academics to speak and to be
critical, to be free."
I remember years ago, going to the movie theater and watching a
movie entitled “The Sixth Sense.” In the movie there
was a young boy who was able to see dead people. At the time I remember
thinking how eerie that would be, but did not give it much more
thought. In the movie, the dead were able to make contact with the
boy and it was very frightening for him. Try as he may, he could
not escape the voices and visions of the dead.
Lately I have found myself in the same predicament, but instead
of the clinically dead, I see the brain dead. I can’t get
away from these mindless zombies. Everywhere I go, they are there.
The worst part is, they cannot be detected by sight, smell or touch.
One way to identify them is to look for the sheepish gaze in their
eyes, but the best way that I have found is to listen for the mindless
tripe passing over their lips.
I think it would be a lot easier if I had a pair of special eyeglasses,
maybe like the ones that were used in the movie “They Live.”
At least then I would know when I was in danger of coming into close
contact with one of them and hide my wallet from their grasp. As
with most vampire-like creatures, they live off the life-blood of
others, and would love nothing more than to suck someone dry.
At first observation they seem very ordinary, but upon closer examination
the signs will become evident. One of the signs to look for is in
the posture of their arm, as it is always in a horizontal position
with their palm facing up. If you encounter such a creature, run
as fast as you can in the opposite direction, clutching your wallet
as tightly as possible. Whatever you do, please do not let them
trick you into giving up your life-blood, even if it is under the
guise of a really good cause!
If allowed to multiply, these bloodsuckers will breed future generations
of parasites, all jockeying to find a place at the Federal trough.
Their young taught at an early age to nurse from the government’s
enormous teat, they are more than happy to leech off of the productive
members of society.
Their mantras are usually the same: It’s for the children;
It takes a village; There ought to be a law; I know what’s
best for you; People are entitled to basic needs. Of course my first
thought being, how is this my problem? They are quick to enlighten
me that it is everyone’s problem. Their pathetic dribble is
only matched by their shameless welfare state of mind.
I feel at times that I am in a bad horror movie, where all the
logical and rational people are being replaced in the middle of
the night with mindless pods, as in “Invasion of the Body
Snatchers.” I see it everywhere I go, from the endless flag
waving idiots who drive down the street with their “vote for
Bush” or “vote for Kerry” bumper stickers, to
the sheep who hold signs on Election Day telling you who to vote
for, as if it matters in the first place.
When will people learn that it does not matter who you vote for,
government still gets elected? I have not participated in the sham
known as voting for 12 years now, and I am ashamed that I ever did.
There is nothing more brain dead than the people who walk around
with their “I voted” pins stuck to their clothes on
Election Day. To me it resembles a large beacon flashing the word
“moron” over and over again.
I must confess that I take pleasure in watching the mindless in
action, and I have been known to watch the circus known as the Republican
and Democratic conventions (for entertainment value only). I truly
enjoy watching the glazed over look the sheep get in their eyes
as they wave their campaign sign for their candidate, and think
to themselves, “If we could only get our man in office, then
all would be right again.”
With every election cycle, I know that the sheep will be too stupid
to realize that if voting worked, it would be illegal, and they
always manage to live up to my expectations of them as they stumble
into the voting booths for another round. The problem seems to be
that we just have not found the right man yet.
Looking back, I really envy the little boy in the movie “The
Sixth Sense” because his only fear was that of dead people,
and dead people don’t vote. I, on the other hand, have to
live the rest of my life in fear of Brain Dead People.
On August 21 in Nablus, soldiers imposed a
curfew on the Old City and conducted house-to-house manhunts in
the garbage-strewn streets. International observers tagged along
behind the soldiers, checking up on the inhabitants.
Soldiers on the roof of one house smashed a hole in an antiquated
stone wall, purportedly to ease their movement across rooftops.
I sat below in a living room adorned with two framed Koran verses,
an ornamental clock, and a shelf of knick-knacks. Also present in
the living room were the man of the house, several women and children,
a sleeping infant, a few Palestinian medics, and a human rights
volunteer from Spain. Other persons were sequestered in the bedroom
across the staircase.
The soldiers were using a sledgehammer. Downstairs, over thump
of hammer and crunch of falling rock, I attempted conversation with
Bashir, the man of the house, who spoke little English. An alarming
crash and thud interrupted us. Two small girls ran in from across
the hall, sobbing in terror. It turned out that a rooftop soldier,
standing on the corrugated plastic awning, had crashed through to
the floor of the house. The drop was extremely high--I would guess
15 or 20 feet, from later observation. He had broken his leg.
A prisoner in his own living room, Bashir spoke in agitation with
Palestinian medics, now in the hall. Soon, one of the medics, a
woman named Annan Qadri, was forced into our room. She had seen
the soldier fall, and had run to the roof to alert the other soldiers.
Qadri told me that the soldiers had not been concerned about their
comrade's fate before she alerted them, as they thought he had fallen
only a short distance.
She emphasized that the injured soldier's
fate had lain in the Palestinans' hands as he writhed on the ground,
separated from his gun. Qadri was upset that, despite her manifest
goodwill and offer of paramedic assistance, the soldiers had violently
shoved her away. She contrasted the medics' peacemaking offer with
the Israeli military policy that delays the passage of Palestinian
ambulances at checkpoints.
We were not allowed to open the door. We heard the soldier's moans,
crackle of walkie-talkies, boots running up and down stairs.
The soldiers were in a foul mood. At first, the living room was
palpably fearful. What vengeance might they inflict? A grown woman
cried. Later, as it became apparent that no arbitrary punishment
was immediately imminent, a widely-felt schadenfreude found expression.
A plump woman in a hijab grinned and snapped her fingers at the
Qadri's father was the landlord of the property. Someone produced
photos from the previous assaults on this house, coinciding with
the military invasions of Nablus in April and June 2002. During
one invasion, soldiers broke down the living room wall to open a
connection to the neighbor's house. In the other, they made a large
hole in the living room floor, opening a passage to the vegetable
stall below. In the military invasion of Nablus of April 2002, an
18-day curfew was imposed and the Israeli military killed 105 Palestinians,
including three colleagues from Qadri's hospital.
I asked Qadri why she thought the soldiers seemed
so determined to wreak destruction on this particular house. She
assured me that the house had no military interest. She said that
the purpose of the manhunts and searches is "to have input
on the psychology of the people. So that in the future, we will
accept any solution. We are so tired."
Scott Handleman is a lawyer based in Berkeley, California.
He just returned from a month on the West Bank.
'ISRAEL: You're not alone."
So says a full-page ad in a national evangelical publication aimed
at recruiting Christians to go on a tour of that nation. It's one
of many organized by North American evangelical churches and organizations
to build Christian support for the state of Israel. A
video on the tour organizer's website says that their goal is to
encourage Christians to "give full and unconditional support"
for Israel and to show that "we stand for your (Israel's) right
to possess the land given to you by God." The fact that
there are so many tours of Israel being offered for evangelical
Christians isn't surprising-after all, Christianity was born in
that country. But it's more than just that. Many evangelicals, as
well as other Christians, subscribe to a way of reading the Bible
called Dispensationalism. According to this
view, the existence of the modern state of Israel is the key piece
of the Bible's prophetic puzzle about how the future will unfold,
including the end times and the second coming of Jesus.
For this reason, a lot of evangelical Christians in North America
show support for Israel not just by visiting it, but also by donating
millions of dollars every year to help Jews from around the world
resettle in Palestine so that it will continue to exist and play
its important role in prophecy.
The Israeli government welcomes their support, and actively encourages
it -- Benjamin Netanyahu, presently Israel's minister of finance
and a former prime minister -- appears in the tour video praising
the efforts of early "Christian Zionists" and he encourages
"lovers of Israel" to come to his country. But it makes
some Israeli rabbis nervous. In May they
expressed their fear that the real motive behind evangelical Christian
interest in Israel is a desire to convert Jews; they also spoke
disapprovingly of the way that some evangelicals view Israel as
simply a piece of the Christian apocalyptic puzzle. Two former
chief rabbis of Israel, Avraham Shapira and Mordechai Eliahu, went
so far as to urge followers not to accept money from one prominent
pro-Israel evangelical group, accusing it of being involved "missionary
But all this evangelical Christian activity on behalf of Israel
doesn't trouble Henry Balser, rabbi of Winnipeg's Etz Chayim synagogue.
"Everybody has agendas," he says,
admitting that some groups that support Israel have "conversion
(of Jews) at the front of their agenda." But, he says, "we
welcome their support. Israel has a lot of enemies, and it needs
all the friends it can get."
Rabbi Alan Green of Shaarey Zedek agrees, adding that while he
has "serious disagreements" with how some evangelical
Christians view the role Jews play in the end-time scenarios, "I
thank God that they read and interpret the end of days in the way
they do since, on the practical level of action, that reading expresses
itself in the form of the most powerful, broad-based non-Jewish
support for the State of Israel in the world." While
many evangelical Christians are unabashedly pro-Israel, not as many
show a similar interest in and support for the Palestinians -- which
is curious, since there is a historic Christian community in Palestine
that could really use their help. Today the Palestinian church numbers
only about 170,000 people, down from an estimated 750,000 in 1948,
when Israel was created. The decrease is due mainly to emigration,
as Palestinian Christians flee violence and poverty in the troubled
region for new homes and economic opportunity in Europe and North
America. The decline has prompted some observers to suggest that
one day there may not be a Christian church in the birthplace of
This lack of interest in the plight of Palestinian Christians
troubles Riah Abu El-Assal, the 13th Anglican bishop in Jerusalem.
In an interview published last year in the Anglican Journal, he
expressed the hope that western Christians would "learn more
about what is going on and support us. Try to discover who we are
in our efforts to bring about an end to pain and suffering. And
there is no way to bring an end to the suffering but by ending the
occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip."
At least one prominent evangelical leader thinks that evangelical
Christians need to devote as much attention to the plight of the
Palestinians as they do to Israel. Speaking at last year's Vancouver
Missions Fest, Tony Campolo said that "we have to face the
facts that the Christian church, in its proper zeal to support the
state of Israel, has forgotten that there's a group of people called
the Palestinians. And unless we stand up and speak for justice on
behalf of the Palestinians, we are going to lose the missionary
struggle in the next hundred years."
He admitted that this message won't "go over big" with
many of his fellow church members, but that's because "we've
forgotten that our God is a God of justice, and loves the Palestinians
every bit as much as he loves Jews," he said.
Meanwhile, more North American Christians will go to the Holy
Land to show their support for Israel. Maybe a few of them will
take time out from visiting Christian ruins -- the ancient stones
-- to also go and visit members of the present-day church in Palestine
-- the living stones.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Many New Orleans voters
were unable to cast ballots Saturday on a constitutional amendment
to ban gay marriage because voting machines had not been delivered
to polling places, a state official said.
At least 35 precincts did not have voting machines
because drivers hired to deliver the machines had apparently not
shown up for work, said Scott Madere, a spokesman for Secretary
of State Fox McKeithen.
Workers in McKeithen's office, including McKeithen, were driving
trucks Saturday morning to deliver the machines from a warehouse
in east New Orleans, Madere said. He said New Orleans was the only
city to experience the problem.
Voters around Louisiana were casting ballots Saturday on an amendment
to the state constitution that would ban gay marriage. New Orleans
voters were also voting in local races.
Madere said inconvenienced voters would be allowed
to vote after polling places officially close at 8 p.m. if they
are in line at that time.
SACRAMENTO — For all his tough-guy swagger, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
(news - web sites) is quietly pursuing one of the most permissive
parole policies California has seen in years, freeing convicted murderers
in numbers that dwarf those of his two predecessors.
In less than a year in office, Schwarzenegger has approved parole
for 48 people serving life terms for murder. Former Gov. Gray Davis
(news - web sites) released eight in his five years in office.
The 48, plus 10 inmates serving life terms for other offenses,
have been paroled with Schwarzenegger's consent. That's as many
as were released in a six-year span in the 1990s covering most of
Republican Gov. Pete Wilson's tenure.
The governor was not available for comment. But spokeswoman Terri
Carbaugh said Schwarzenegger "believes that people can reform
and be reformed…. When he sits down with his attorneys to
review parole matters, he's not thinking about the political consequences.
He's thinking about public safety and the individual at hand."
T H A L, Austria, Sept. 28 — When Arnold Schwarzenegger left
this tiny Alpine farming village to chase bodybuilding dreams in
America, he retained more of his upbringing than just his trademark
accent, people here say.
There's a lot of Europe left in the California gubernatorial candidate,
says Werner Kopacka, who has known Schwarzenegger for 20 years.
"Even the most conservative European is more concerned with
the social issues of ordinary people than the most social[ist] American,"
says Kopacka, a reporter with the newspaper Kronen Zeitung. "He
is a politician of a different type for America — a conservative
who would really protect the small guy."
Not a Nazi
But it's another part of Schwarzenegger's background that has drawn
much of the attention since he announced his candidacy.
Schwarzenegger was born in 1947 to a father who belonged to the
Nazi party and served as the village's police chief. Yet, while
he is the son of a Nazi, Schwarzenegger was mentored in his youth
by a man who had been active in the anti-Nazi resistance.
"Arnold isn't a Nazi and he never was one," says the
mentor, Alfred Gerstl, whose office walls include a large signed
photograph of Schwarzenegger as The Terminator. Schwarzenegger's
childhood unfolded amid a national culture that denied Austria's
part in Hitler's atrocities. After World War II, many Austrians
chose to believe their country had been an innocent victim of Adolf
Hitler, who annexed Austria into the Third Reich in 1938. This overlooked
that Hitler and many of his closest associates were Austrians, and
that Nazi policies had considerable support here before and after
Schwarzenegger has said that he did not know what his father did
during the war and that he found out about the Nazi party membership
only after asking the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles to
investigate in 1990.
After a more recent investigation, Wiesenthal Center officials
said this month that they had found no evidence linking Gustav Schwarzenegger
or his Sturmabteilungen (SA) paramilitary unit to Nazi war crimes.
Gustav is said to have been a very strict parent who regularly
pitted Arnold against his older brother, Meinhard, in various sports
"Arnold always tried to do better than his brother to get
the favor of his father because he knew that his father liked the
kid who was physically better," Kopacka says. "He knew
he had to fight hard to beat his brother and please his father."
As a teenager, Arnold began hanging around the nearby Thalersee
Restaurant, a lakeside retreat that was at the time a hangout and
training site for local weight lifters. Gustav disapproved of the
future Mr. Universe's interest in bodybuilding — an activity
the father regarded as the pursuit of homosexuals.
It was through body building that Arnold met Gerstl. The father
of one of Arnold's body building friends, Gerstl was a half-Jewish
opera singer and fitness enthusiast who later served as president
of the Austrian Senate.
By many accounts, Gerstl became a second father to the ambitious
teenager, taking him to anti-fascist demonstrations and introducing
him to opera and literature. And it is this legacy — and not
Gustav's — that Arnold carried into adulthood, friends say.
"[Arnold's] father was an old Nazi — there were many
of them around then — but Arnold was completely the opposite,"
says Gerstl, interviewed at his home in nearby Graz, where Schwarzenegger
attended high school. "He's a committed anti-fascist."
"Normally when you are the son of your father, you have your
father's ways, but not in this case," agrees Kurt David Bruhl,
the president of Graz's Jewish community for more than two decades.
"I've known him since he was a young man, and he never had
any Nazi ideas."
Schwarzenegger's friendship with Gerstl continues to this day.
Four years ago, the movie star was best man when Gerstl remarried
after two decades as a widower. Schwarzenegger has raised eyebrows
abroad, however, for his public association with Kurt Waldheim,
the former U.N. secretary-general. Waldheim was elected president
of Austria despite the revelation that he had concealed his service
in a Nazi army intelligence unit that committed atrocities in the
Balkans. Schwarzenegger invited Waldheim to his 1986 wedding to
Maria Shriver, a niece of John F. Kennedy.
Pumping Up to Stardom
In nearby Graz, however, where he continued his bodybuilding career
until moving to the United States in his early 20s, Schwarzenegger
is a hero. He is known as the man who bench-pressed his way from
humble beginnings in an 18th-century country house to a spot on
the roster of the world's wealthiest entertainers. His photos adorn
restaurants and cafes, particularly ones the actor frequents on
his visits here. And Austrians are following their native son's
political aspirations in California. Graz's popular soccer franchise
competes in the Arnold Schwarzenegger Stadium, a modern facility
seating more than 15,000 near the cobblestone streets of the centuries-old
city center. Toward the back of the stadium, body builders train
at the Fitness Paradise gym, which houses a small Arnold Schwarzenegger
museum. The latter is adorned with vintage photographs of the young
bodybuilding champion and features weight-lifting gear he used in
the 1950s, including a set of 15-kilogram barbells he made himself
at a local metalworking shop.
"Since he decided to run for governor, we've had visitors
from all over the world coming to see these things," says gym
manager Hans Neumayer. "People here in Graz are very proud
MOSCOW — Russian security officials
said police stopped a man driving a car wired with land mines and
explosives in downtown Moscow early Saturday.
A duty officer at the Federal Security Service said the man was
stopped by Moscow police around 1 a.m., local time.
Police questioned him and found two land mines in the car, along
with 200 grams of TNT under the driver's seat. The mines were connected
with wires and had an antenna attached to them.
The man, who appeared to be intoxicated, told police he had been
paid $1,000 US to park two cars with explosives in them along a
Moscow street frequently used by top government officials, said
the duty officer, who refused to give his name.
The ITAR-Tass news agency identified the man as 38-year-old Alexander
Police later located a second car in a residential neighbourhood
in central Moscow and used a water cannon to open it. No explosives
were found but residents of nearby buildings were evacuated as a
precaution, the officer said.
The duty officer confirmed that the man later
suffered a heart attack and died while in police custody, but the
officer refused to elaborate.
ALBUQUERQUE, Sept. 17 - Senator John Kerry
on Friday accused the Bush administration of secretly planning a
mobilization of Army Reserve and National Guard units immediately
after the election.
At the same time, Mr. Kerry harshly attacked Vice President Dick
Cheney for his financial ties to Halliburton, which has billions
of dollars of government contracts in Iraq.
Mr. Kerry made his attacks as President Bush said for the first
time that he planned to pull American troops out of Iraq as soon
as Iraqi forces were trained to defend themselves and the country
was "on the path to stability."
Officials of the Kerry campaign cited Representative John P. Murtha,
Democrat of Pennsylvania, as their source for information on the
"Hide it from the people, then make the move," Mr. Kerry
told a town hall forum here.
In a statement and a telephone interview, Mr. Murtha, the top
Democrat on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said
that he had learned of the plan through conversations with Pentagon
officials and that there was a "handshake
deal" between officials at the Pentagon and elsewhere in the
administration to delay the call-ups until after Nov. 2.
A Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, denied any such secret plans,
adding that the coming deployment of thousands of Reserve and National
Guard troops was part of a normal rotation of forces to Iraq and
Afghanistan, and that units were given enough notice. [...]
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korea was
stopped by South Korea last year from acquiring 70 tonnes of sodium
cyanide, a toxic chemical used to make sarin nerve gas, officials
and news reports said Saturday.
North Korea attempted to import the chemical from Thailand in
September 2003 before South Korea persuaded Bangkok to stop the
shipment, the mass-circulation daily Chosun Ilbo quoted Foreign
Minister Ban Ki-moon as telling a National Assembly hearing on Friday.
Thai officials confirmed the incident.
Sodium cyanide is normally used to make fertilizers and in industrial
plating. But treated with acids, it can turn into sarin, a nerve
agent that can cause loss of consciousness, paralysis and death.
An unidentified South Korean company sold around 338 tonnes of
sodium cyanide to a Thai company in February 2002, Chosun said.
The unidentified Thai firm then arranged to ship 70 tonnes of the
chemical to North Korea.
South Korea eventually persuaded the Thai government to intervene,
Chosun and other South Korean news reports said. [...]
Handing down a jail sentence for a libel case
has serious implications for press freedom in Indonesia, said Natalie
Hill, deputy Asia director at Amnesty International, commenting
on the jail sentence imposed on the chief editor of leading news
"It is only since 1998 that media restrictions have been
lifted in Indonesia," said Ms Hill. "This sentence is
a move back in time to a situation where journalists are forced
to censor themselves to avoid offending powerful political or economic
Two other Tempo journalists were acquitted of libel in the same
case. But Tempo's chief editor, Bambang Harymurti,
was sentenced to one year in prison for an article that alleged
that one of Indonesia’s most powerful businessmen, Tommy Wintata,
stood to profit from a fire that had destroyed part of a textile
market. The same article included a statement from Tommy
Winata denying the allegation.
Bambang Harymurti is free pending appeal. Amnesty International
hopes his prison sentence will be overturned by the high court.
If imprisoned, Bambang Harymurti will be a prisoner of conscience.
The sentence against Bambang Harymurti contrasts
with the court’s treatment of alleged supporters of Tommy
Winata who physically attacked staff in Tempo’s office in
protest at the article. One person was given a five months suspended
prison sentence for the attack.
There are a growing number of cases in which criminal charges,
including for defamation, are brought against journalists and others
for exposing corruption, human rights abuses and other politically
sensitive issues. Amnesty International believes that such cases
are being used as a means to suppress freedom of expression.
Truck drivers across the country will soon
be keeping their eyes peeled for more than just the right exit sign:
They'll be looking for signs of terrorism
which they can report to Homeland Security officials through a national
hotline, thanks to a $21 million dollar federal grant announced
The American Trucking Association, which runs Highway Watch, says
the program's main focus is making sure no commercial truck is used
as a weapon of mass destruction.
"You don't need to look any further than Oklahoma City to
see what a truck full of explosives can do," ATA spokesman
John Willard said.
The program has been around since 1998 in various states, but
prior to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, it focused on creating
a way for truckers to report accidents to police more quickly.
In 2002, the ATA instituted a national program with an increased
focus on antiterrorism, and the Department of Homeland Security
got involved in 2003 by giving the industry group a $19.3 million
grant for 2004.
Somewhere between several thousand and 10,000 truckers have signed
up for the program and been trained using the ATA's two-and-a-half-hour
PowerPoint presentation already, according to Willard.
The group hopes to register 300,000 transportation
workers by March of next year. Enrollees who spot an accident
or a suspicious individual at a rest stop call a toll-free number
answered by a national call center in Tennessee. Operators there
then patch routine calls about unsafe traffic conditions or an accident
directly to local authorities and dispatchers.
Ninety-nine percent of the hotline's calls are routine, safety-related
incidents, according to Willard. But when
a trucker calls in about suspicious behavior, such as someone taking
pictures of vulnerable transportation infrastructure, the call center
operator transfers the call to the Highway Information Sharing and
Analysis Center, co-run by the ATA and the Transportation
Officials there can then ask the driver for more information,
pass along the information for further investigation and use the
information to issue alerts. ATA is using the second round of grant
money to upgrade its call center, publicize the program and update
Highway Watch is also expanding under the new
grant to include other transportation workers, including tollbooth
agents, school bus drivers and highway maintenance workers.
Some civil libertarians are more than wary of the idea. Lee Tien
of the Electronic Frontier Foundation called the program "TIPS
for Truckers," referring to the widely maligned Operation TIPS
program that was proposed by the Justice Department in 2002.
That proposal would have created "a
national system for concerned workers to report suspicious activity,"
which privacy advocates denounced as reminiscent of snitch brigades
in Eastern Europe.
"I'm curious whether it is worth it and what kind of limits
there are," Tien said. "These type(s)
of programs are susceptible to abuse. So, if someone wants to make
trouble for someone else, they call in a tip that makes a problem
for that person."
Willard says comparing Highway Watch to TIPS is "irrelevant."
"Drivers are in sole possession of their load the vast majority
of the (time) so there is really no way of addressing terrorism
and trucking without the participation of the truck driver,"
Willard said. "Our training focuses specifically on (the) transportation
industry and we ask our drivers to focus on what is going on around
them when they are on the road."
Willard noted that truckers using the system have already saved
lives and improved emergency crews' response times.
The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request
DHAKA: Firefighters struggled to put out a
blaze on a train transporting petrol that derailed in northeastern
Bangladesh yesterday, officials said.
The accident, near the industrial town of Fenchuganj in Sylhet
province, set ablaze dozens of dwellings in a village close to the
railroad. A spokesman for the state-run railways said the train
was transporting 400,000 litres of petrol when the accident happened
340km northeast of Dhaka. At least two people suffered severe burns.
YELLOWKNIFE, N.W.T. - Somewhere in the murky
depths of the continent's deepest lake, a monster lurks.
Jim Lynn is sure of it.
This week, the Roman Catholic priest was looking out from his
home on the shores of Great Slave Lake near Yellowknife when he
saw an object trailing a small boat across the water.
"I got the goggles because it was moving fast and I was kind
of curious as to what it was," said Lynn, 66. "It
was high, six to eight feet above the water and moving at an incredulous
"It was like the head of a dragon -- just
coming out of the water at just a ferocious speed, just moving like
Lynn watched as the creature, which looked green, hurtle behind
an island, then disappear. He quickly called the Yellowknifer, a
local newspaper, to place a advertisement asking the person on the
lake that day to call him.
"I would think they would have felt the waves (from the creature),"
Step aside, Nessie and Ogopogo, there's a new mystery leviathan
on the block. And according to Chris Woodall, it's called Ol'Slavey.
Woodall, a Yellowknifer columnist, wrote earlier this summer that
Great Slave Lake, with a maximum depth of 614 metres, hides some
weird and wonderful creature.
To his surprise, his phone soon started ringing with calls from
people who claimed to have seen just such a thing. He gave the creature
the name Ol'Slavey, after one of the aboriginal languages in the
It's a fitting name, since the Dene have many stories about an
unknown creature in the waters.
When Antoine Michel was growing up in the traditional community
of Lutsel K'e, about 200 kilometres east of Yellowknife, he was
taught that a creature lived in the waters off Utsingi Point, about
80 kilometres southwest of the community. To appease the nameless
creature, people boating by the point pass in silence and pay respect
to the lake with tobacco offerings.
"We usually stop the motor and go around the point, paddle
quietly," he said.
Years later, he saw the creature himself, on a calm moonlit night
as he and his wife returned by boat from a caribou hunt.
"We seen a rock there. I thought it was a rock first time,
there was seagulls around it," he said. "I just turned
away from it, I didn't want to hit it, (then) it just went down.
I felt the waves, and then I just took off. I didn't take a look
Boaters have seen strange creatures suddenly surfacing in the
water in front of them. Lutsel K'e is near some of the deepest pockets
in Great Slave Lake, a natural habitat for a beast of the depths.
Naysayers will say it's just a big fish, but northern divers who
actually swim those waters say differently.
A decade ago, Arctic Divers was on a deep-water body retrieval
near Lutsel K'e when one of its divers saw a terrifying beast.
"It looked much like an alligator,
but with a head like a pike," said Wayne Gzowski, the
company's district manager.
"I really do believe that there's unknown marine life in
a lot of these areas," he said, in places that have never before
been explored by humans.
MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. - A swarm of earthquakes
- one a magnitude-5.5 - jolted a remote, sparsely populated area
along the eastern Sierra Nevada on Saturday, authorities said.
A Mono County sheriff's dispatcher said there were no immediate
reports of any injuries or damage from the temblors centered along
the California-Nevada line about 30 miles northeast of Mammoth Lakes.
David Oppenheimer, a seismologist for the U.S. Geological Survey
in Menlo Park, said most of the 70 quakes in the sequence that began
12:02 a.m. Saturday were magnitude-2 or less.
The magnitude-5.5 temblor that struck at 4:02 p.m. was followed
by a magnitude-5.4 quake at 4:43 p.m., he said. The
moderate quakes were the biggest in the swarm and the biggest on
the fault in more than a decade.
"It's been quite a robust sequence," Oppenheimer said.
"It's not clear how it'll play out. There could be more magnitude-5s
or it could die off in an hour or two."
Some of the quakes were felt 35 miles away in Hawthorne, Nev.
"They (quakes) just felt like a hit and a rolling sensation,"
said Mineral County sheriff's dispatcher Lorraine Haight. "Of
course, it's scary when you don't expect it."
Dennis Bauer of Lake Forest, Calif., was inside a small Mono Lake
information center near Lee Vining when one of the temblors shook.
"It was like someone was leaning on the building and pushing
it back and forth," he said.
The eastern Sierra has been a seismically active area. A similar
sequence was centered in the same area over a one-week period in
1980, Oppenheimer said. The activity died down in 1984 before picking
up again in 1992.
"For whatever reasons this fault seems to make a lot of noise,"
Oppenheimer said. "It pops off every once in a while."
The Great Basin that covers most of Nevada and Utah is pulling
part, causing the quakes, he said.
TOKYO (AP) - One of Japan's most active volcanoes
appears to be quieter after nearly a week of eruptions, the Meteorological
Agency said Saturday.
Mount Asama, about 150 kilometres west of Tokyo, has been rumbling
for five straight days -since Tuesday -and continues to blow gray
smoke and volcanic ash some 1,200 metres into the air, the agency
But its eruptions and tremors have become less frequent, with
only about 11 tiny eruptions and some five dozen tremors recorded
by gauges on the mountain Saturday morning, the agency said.
Until now, the volcanic eruptions had been nearly continuous and
the tremors, too small for people to feel, had been as frequent
as 1,000 a day.
On Friday, volcanic ash dusted downtown Tokyo, scattered by winds
across a wide area southeast of the 2,568-metre mountain. Small
amounts were detected in the capital for the first time since an
April 26, 1982, eruption.
The agency maintained its activity rating for Mount Asama at three
on a scale of five, meaning more small-to-medium eruptions could
In the mountain's biggest eruption in 21 years, on Sept. 1, it poured
molten rock, ash and smoke down its slopes.
No injuries have been reported.
Japan has 108 active volcanoes and lies on the Pacific Ring of
Fire -a string of volcanoes and fault lines outlining the Pacific
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Biologists remain baffled
by the death of hundreds of seabirds in early July at False Pass
in the eastern Aleutian Islands.
The die-off of more than 250 puffins, cormorants, kittiwakes,
seagulls and eiders may have been caused by bacteria, parasites,
marine biotoxins or unusual virus, said Dr. Rex Sohn, wildlife disease
specialist for the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health
Center in Madison, Wis. Tests have shown no evidence of West Nile
virus, Sohn told the Anchorage Daily News.
Other test results are still to come in, but it is possible the
cause will not be found, he said.
"That's not uncommon in wildlife diseases," Sohn said.
"We don't have people out there that can tell us what the birds
were doing in the two, three, five days before they died. Were they
at False Pass or somewhere else? What were they eating? ... We don't
have the histories on these birds."
On the July Fourth weekend, False Pass residents found dead birds
washed up on the beach and floating in the strait beyond the village.
Tammy Shellikoff, assistant administrator of the False Pass Tribal
Council, said she counted "over 250, but that didn't cover
all of the birds floating in the water."
More tufted puffins died than other species.
"That caused a lot of heartache because the puffins normally
survive well," Shellikoff said. "We just didn't know what
was going on. Was this something we were going to have as a longtime
The die-off appeared to end as suddenly as it began.
A moderate earthquake occurred at 10:44:10
(UTC) on Sunday, September 19, 2004. The magnitude 5.0 event has
been located in BRISTOL BAY.
| A moderate earthquake occurred at 07:07:48 (UTC)
on Saturday, September 18, 2004. The magnitude 5.5 event has been
located in the NORTH ATLANTIC OCEAN, 536 km (333 miles) NNW (344°)
from SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico.
5.5 - CENTRAL CALIFORNIA
A moderate earthquake occurred
at 23:02:17 (UTC) on Saturday, September
18, 2004. The magnitude 5.5 event has been located in CENTRAL CALIFORNIA.
The hypocentral depth was estimated to be 8 km ( 5 miles).
5.4 - CENTRAL CALIFORNIA
A moderate earthquake occurred at 23:43:31
(UTC) on Saturday, September 18, 2004. The magnitude 5.4 event has
been located in CENTRAL CALIFORNIA. The hypocentral depth was estimated
to be 11 km ( 7 miles).
In the past two days, the same general area in central California
has been struck by about 60 more earthquakes,
ranging in magnitude from 2.0 to 4.8.
Southern and central Alaska and Nevada have also been struck by
a few small earthquakes during this same period of time.
A light earthquake occurred at 12:52:16 (UTC)
on Saturday, September 18, 2004. The magnitude 4.8 event has been
located in PYRENEES. The hypocentral depth was poorly constrained.
WHEELING, W.Va. - Hundreds of people evacuated
their homes Sunday in parts of Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania
as rivers and small streams were swollen beyond their banks by the
torrential rain dumped by remnants of Hurricane Ivan.
The Ohio River inundated parts of Wheeling and other West Virginia
river towns, as well as communities on Ohio's shore, and the Delaware
River flooded parts of New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania.
In addition to flooding, more than 1.2 million
homes and businesses were still without electricity early Sunday
from Florida to Pennsylvania because of Ivan, utilities estimated.
The hurricane and its remnants had been blamed
for at least 50 deaths in the United States, 19 of them in Florida,
and 70 deaths in the Caribbean.
West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise asked President Bush on Sunday to declare
eight northern counties federal disaster areas. "The Northern
Panhandle clearly has been devastated and meets the threshold,"
Wise said after flying over the region.
The Ohio River crested Sunday at Wheeling at about 8.5 feet above
flood stage, more than 2 feet below the forecast, but it had already
submerged the city's riverfront park and amphitheater, and mostly
covered the city's midriver Wheeling Island, which holds residential
neighborhoods and Wheeling Island Racetrack and Gaming.
Wise spent the night with evacuees on the gym floor at Wheeling
Park High, one of several Red Cross shelter sites, after a brief
tour of the area by road.
"I saw mobile homes uprooted and tossed downstream,"
he said. "I saw human lives uprooted."
Downriver, residents had been urged to evacuate parts of Moundsville,
and big flood gates were closed at Parkersburg.
All around West Virginia, flooding and mudslides had blocked 207
roads and damaged hundreds of houses, authorities said.
About 1,700 people were out of their homes Sunday in eastern Ohio,
where the Ohio River was rising to at least 6 feet above flood level,
In Ohio's Jefferson County, mudslides and flooding closed a section
of highway along the river, said a deputy who would not give his
name. And in the southeastern Ohio city of Marietta, streets were
underwater near the river, but no details were available Sunday
morning, an emergency dispatcher said.
Hundreds of New Jersey and Pennsylvania residents fled their homes
along the Delaware River on Sunday. Several bridges that cross the
Delaware between the two states were blocked by high water, and
emergency officials said the river was not expected to crest until
At Phillipsburg, N.J., state police helicopters were used to monitor
a propane tank and a house that were floating down the river, authorities
"It was one of the most amazing things I've seen," said
Sgt. Gerald Lewis.
The central Pennsylvania city of Williamsport
collected 6.5 inches of rain in 24 hours Friday, and Pittsburgh
got a record 5.95 inches. Some areas of Pennsylvania reported up
to 9 inches, state officials said.
The Susquehanna River was nearly 8 feet above flood stage Sunday
morning at Bloomsburg, Pa., the National Weather Service said. Dozens
of homes in Scranton and Old Forge were evacuated as well as the
western tip of Bloomsburg. The Susquehanna had forced hundreds from
their homes in Jersey Shore, between Williamsport and Lock Haven.
In western Pennsylvania, the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers crested
Saturday night at 6 feet above flood stage at Pittsburgh, where
they join to form the Ohio River. That was a half-foot lower and
two hours sooner than forecast.
| Officials spread out across Maryland and Virginia
on Saturday to survey damage done by Tropical Depression Ivan, which
spawned tornadoes and dumped rain on an already-saturated area.
Despite the damage, the area seemed to escape much of the severe
precipitation, flash flooding, and mudslides that Friday's storms
were predicted to bring. But plenty of people lost power.
Virginia-Dominion Power spokeswoman Leha Anderson says winds have
been blowing steadily at speeds of about 25 miles per hour with
occasional higher wind gusts since early Saturday morning. That's
knocking down tree limbs and disrupting service from Arlington to
Springfield. Anderson says there are also outages in Alexandria,
Fairfax, Falls Church and Leesburg.
Anderson says although service was restored to most areas that
suffered outages because of tornadoes last night, there are still
about 20,000 customers without service because of the relatively
high winds today. As crews restore service in some areas, additional
calls about outages and downed lines continue to come in.
More than 40 tornadoes were reported in Virginia
during the storms, but were yet to be confirmed officially, said
Dawn Eischen, spokeswoman for the state Department of Emergency
Management. The National Weather Service was investigating, she
"They're doing damage assessments in different localities
that have had tornadoes and damage, and are sending reports to us,"
The National Weather Service is sorting through three more in Maryland.
Despite a large amount of property damage,
only a few people were injured. Fauquier County reported
two injuries, Frederick County reported two and Fairfax County one,
National Guard units have been mobilized
in Virginia, where Governor Mark Warner declared the third weather-related
state of emergency in almost five weeks. [...]
Lightning from Ivan may be responsible for a hangar fire at Leesburg
Municipal Airport. The blaze heavily damaged one hangar and spread
to a second building, while destroying one private plane and damaging
another. Despite the loss of planes and hangar buildings, Leesburg
airport officials reported no injuries to staff. The damage estimate
is expected to go well over a quarter of a million dollars. [...]
Heavy rain fell in many parts of already waterlogged Virginia with
more forecast through Saturday. The National Weather Service posted
flood watches for 42 localities in the state. [...]
Tornados also struck Western Maryland. A tornado tore the roofs
off two houses in Frederick County Friday, and at least two more
confirmed twisters struck the area. No injuries were reported.
Trees and power lines were downed, and the entire state was under
a flood watch through Saturday. [...]
In Washington County, funnel clouds were reported near the state
prison complex south of Hagerstown. A tree landed on a house in
the area, causing a partial collapse, said Verna Brown of the county's
emergency management coordinator.
He said any flash flooding of smaller streams appeared to be most
likely in the western mountains, where up to 6 inches of rain were
expected to fall through Saturday.
The weather threat prompted the National Park Service to cancel
two Civil War re-enactor encampments planned for Saturday night
near Sharpsburg. One was to have been held at the Ferry Hill Plantation
on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. The other was planned in conjunction
with a scrapped torchlight tour of the Antietam National Battlefield.
| MINNEAPOLIS -- A travel agent in Minneapolis
is a real trip himself.
Jack Dunamis claims to be the world's only "astral travel
agent" and helps tourists select appropriate vacation spots
by reading their energy fields and then mentally transporting himself
to the location they want to go, before they go.
For instance, Dunamis had one client planning to visit the Hawaiian
island of Kauai but convinced him to go to the big island instead
"because he wouldn't have a good time because [Kauai is] where
the kahunas practice black magic."
Dunamis says he can also determine which vacation spots are most
conducive to fun, adventure and romantic encounters.
Each astral consultation costs about $60 an hour, but Danamis considers
it money well-spent, especially since he's able to figure out if
a client had a past life in a proposed vacation spot and help them
avoid negative reincarnation experiences while on holiday.
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