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Government and the People

SOTT Commentary
It is naiveté in the extreme to think that an American government would not sanction the deaths of American citizens. Reference historical sources or the Signs of the Times "Time Line" for evidence of the truth of this.

Governments have been committing crimes against their own people since the dawn of time. Commit a horrific crime against members of their own populace, blame it on your proposed "enemy" - who happens to have something that you desire, and/or is considered a political competitor/threat in some way or another - then go in, attack said enemy, and steal what it is that you want, and/or neutralize his capabilities.

It is predatorial, yes, psychopathic, yes. Extreme service to self, yes, but it is also simple and logical, at least from the amoral, emotionless point of view of a megalomaniac. But then, most politicians actually seem to be power obsessed by nature. That is why they become politicians - in order that they can express their predatorial natures in the best way possible, to satisfy their insatiable desire for power over others and wealth, generally speaking. Those few leaders who were not so have been rare and have normally found themselves "neutralized" in fairly short order. Politics is a dangerous business. It is the epitome of the Darwinian idea of "survival of the fittest", and in politics, this means that the common man is prey and considered expendable. Competitors for the "food" are wiped out by those with the most power, strength and wealth. It's not a pretty picture, but that's the reality.

Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) was an English writer and statesman, well-acquainted with the workings of governments. He was a favourite of Henry VIII's until the King decided he wished to divorce Katherine of Aragon. More was opposed to this, and lost his life for disagreeing with his king. He wrote in his book, "Utopia" :

"Therefore I must say that, as I hope for mercy, I can have no other notion of all the other governments that I see or know, than that they are a conspiracy of the rich, who, on pretence of managing the public, only pursue their private ends, and devise all the ways and arts they can find out; first, that they may, without danger, preserve all that they have so ill-acquired, and then, that they may engage the poor to toil and labour for them at as low rates as possible, and oppress them as much as they please; and if they can but prevail to get these contrivances established by the show of public authority, which is considered as the representative of the whole people, then they are accounted laws; yet these wicked men, after they have, by a most insatiable covetousness, divided that among themselves with which all the rest might have been well supplied, are far from that happiness that is enjoyed among the Utopians;.." [...]

Things haven't changed since Thomas More was alive. I daresay that they have worsened. Nor were they any different in times past. That's the reality we live in, painful to face as it is. And there seems to be really precious little one can do about it, apart from honor the Truth when it finally hits us in the face, and stand up for that Truth.

In the US, people are under the ILLUSION that they possess true power. They are under the ILLUSION that they are living in a democracy. They are under the ILLUSION that they are free. They wish for these things and they honor these principles, yet the last thing they will do is allow objective evidence to suggest to them that they are living in a dream world, that there is and always has been a serious discrepancy between what their leaders say and what their leaders do.

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The "Good German" syndrome

SOTT Commentary

People still blame the Germans for allowing Hitler to do the evil that he did, and in particular for pretending not to see the Holocaust as it occurred around them.

Germans at the time thought:

* I didn't vote for him

* most people don't support him

* I engaged in some forms of protest

* although the forms of protest I engaged in were mocked and derided by the government and by those in the media, I did everything I could do and I sure felt good about myself as I protested

* if it weren't for the fact that the government would arrest and possibly kill me, I would have done more

* I didn't see anything directly, so I wasn't sure of how bad it actually was

* people in positions of high authority convinced me that whatever they were doing was for the best

* I live in a civilized, democratic country, certainly the most civilized and democratic that has ever been, and my country wouldn't do evil things

* these people were going to destroy our country, so what we had to do was just self-defense

* why do you blame us when we're the victims?

* there are many people in my country who support our government with a radical fervor, many of them my neighbors and relatives, and I want to get along with them or I fear their reaction should I dare to express dissent

* anyone who expresses the least amount of dissent faces the general hatred of the public

* anyone who expresses the least amount of dissent may lose his or her job or livelihood

* anything I might have done wouldn't have made any difference

* the people who are doing the work of the government are 'our troops', and must be supported in whatever they have to do on our behalf

* the alleged victims of my government aren't fully human, and their lives aren't worth even the slightest inconvenience or risk to our lives

* the alleged victims of my government have a false and evil religion, and my true religion gives me the right to eliminate them

* after the sufferings we've faced, no one can dare tell us what to do

* what my country is doing is actually for the improvement of the lives of what busybodies describe as its 'victims'

* my country right or wrong (no, sorry, that is someone else - the Germans weren't that stupid)

* our leaders are particularly blessed and wise, with a direct line to God, and would never do the wrong thing.


The word fascism has come to mean any system of government resembling Mussolini's, that:

exalts nation and sometimes race above the individual, uses violence and modern techniques of propaganda and censorship to forcibly suppress political opposition, engages in severe economic and social regimentation, and espouses nationalism and sometimes racism (ethnic nationalism).

In an article in the 1932 Enciclopedia Italiana, written by Giovanni Gentile and attributed to Benito Mussolini, fascism is described as a system in which "The State not only is authority which governs and molds individual wills with laws and values of spiritual life, but it is also power which makes its will prevail abroad.... For the Fascist, everything is within the State and... neither individuals or groups are outside the State.... For Fascism, the State is an absolute, before which individuals or groups are only relative."

Mussolini in a speech delivered on October 28, 1925, stated the following maxim that encapsulates the fascist philosophy: "Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato." ("Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State".)

Comment: Look at history, see that it really does tend to repeat itself - re-read the above opinions of Germans during the Nazi regime - look objectively at America today and note the opinions of the average American - Note carefully the real "land grab" agenda behind the Iraq invasion. Note the clear and distinct parallels.

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Flashback: Camps for Citizens: Ashcroft's Hellish Vision

by Jonathan Turley
LA Times
August 2002
Attorney general shows himself as a menace to liberty.

Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft's announced desire for camps for U.S. citizens he deems to be "enemy combatants" has moved him from merely being a political embarrassment to being a constitutional menace.

Ashcroft's plan, disclosed last week but little publicized, would allow him to order the indefinite incarceration of U.S. citizens and summarily strip them of their constitutional rights and access to the courts by declaring them enemy combatants.

The proposed camp plan should trigger immediate congressional hearings and reconsideration of Ashcroft's fitness for this important office. Whereas Al Qaeda is a threat to the lives of our citizens, Ashcroft has become a clear and present threat to our liberties.

The camp plan was forged at an optimistic time for Ashcroft's small inner circle, which has been carefully watching two test cases to see whether this vision could become a reality. The cases of Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi will determine whether U.S. citizens can be held without charges and subject to the arbitrary and unchecked authority of the government.

Hamdi has been held without charge even though the facts of his case are virtually identical to those in the case of John Walker Lindh. Both Hamdi and Lindh were captured in Afghanistan as foot soldiers in Taliban units. Yet Lindh was given a lawyer and a trial, while Hamdi rots in a floating Navy brig in Norfolk, Va.

This week, the government refused to comply with a federal judge who ordered that he be given the underlying evidence justifying Hamdi's treatment. The Justice Department has insisted that the judge must simply accept its declaration and cannot interfere with the president's absolute authority in "a time of war."

In Padilla's case, Ashcroft initially claimed that the arrest stopped a plan to detonate a radioactive bomb in New York or Washington, D.C. The administration later issued an embarrassing correction that there was no evidence Padilla was on such a mission. What is clear is that Padilla is an American citizen and was arrested in the United States--two facts that should trigger the full application of constitutional rights.

Ashcroft hopes to use his self-made "enemy combatant" stamp for any citizen whom he deems to be part of a wider terrorist conspiracy.

Perhaps because of his discredited claims of preventing radiological terrorism, aides have indicated that a "high-level committee" will recommend which citizens are to be stripped of their constitutional rights and sent to Ashcroft's new camps.

Few would have imagined any attorney general seeking to reestablish such camps for citizens. Of course, Ashcroft is not considering camps on the order of the internment camps used to incarcerate Japanese American citizens in World War II. But he can be credited only with thinking smaller; we have learned from painful experience that unchecked authority, once tasted, easily becomes insatiable.

We are only now getting a full vision of Ashcroft's America. Some of his predecessors dreamed of creating a great society or a nation unfettered by racism. Ashcroft seems to dream of a country secured from itself, neatly contained and controlled by his judgment of loyalty.

For more than 200 years, security and liberty have been viewed as coexistent values. Ashcroft and his aides appear to view this relationship as lineal, where security must precede liberty.

Since the nation will never be entirely safe from terrorism, liberty has become a mere rhetorical justification for increased security.

Ashcroft is a catalyst for constitutional devolution, encouraging citizens to accept autocratic rule as their only way of avoiding massive terrorist attacks.

His greatest problem has been preserving a level of panic and fear that would induce a free people to surrender the rights so dearly won by their ancestors.

In "A Man for All Seasons," Sir Thomas More was confronted by a young lawyer, Will Roper, who sought his daughter's hand. Roper proclaimed that he would cut down every law in England to get after the devil.

More's response seems almost tailored for Ashcroft: "And when the last law was down and the devil turned round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? ... This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast ... and if you cut them down--and you are just the man to do it--do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?"

Every generation has had Ropers and Ashcrofts who view our laws and traditions as mere obstructions rather than protections in times of peril. But before we allow Ashcroft to denude our own constitutional landscape, we must take a stand and have the courage to say, "Enough."

Every generation has its test of principle in which people of good faith can no longer remain silent in the face of authoritarian ambition. If we cannot join together to fight the abomination of American camps, we have already lost what we are defending.

Jonathan Turley is a professor of constitutional law at George Washington University.

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Laura Bush heckled during campaign speech

CNN 17/09/2004

The mother of a soldier killed in Iraq was arrested Thursday after interrupting a campaign speech by first lady Laura Bush. As police hauled her away, she shouted, "Police brutality." Wearing a T-shirt with the message "President Bush You Killed My Son,"

Sue Niederer of nearby Hopewell screamed questions at the first lady as the audience tried to drown her out by chanting, "Four more years! Four more years!"

She pressed on, refused to leave and eventually police removed her from the firehouse rally.

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Mother of GI killed in Iraq arrested in 'chaotic' scene

Fri Sep 17
By KEN KUSMER, Associated Press Writer
The mother of a South Brunswick man killed in Iraq was arrested yesterday after interrupting a speech by first lady Laura Bush during a campaign event in a Hamilton firehouse. Sue Niederer wore a shirt with a photo of her son, Army Lt. Seth Dvorin, that read "President Bush You Killed My Son." Dvorin died in February, and Niederer said she asked the first lady why her daughters and the children of other politicians weren't serving in Iraq. "At that point, it became chaotic and I was pushed and shoved," said Niederer, of Hopewell. "They engulfed me. It wasn't plain, ordinary folks, but people in suits with earphones." The crowd chanted "Four more years" as Secret Service agents surrounded Niederer and escorted her outside. Once outside, Niederer said she was handcuffed and placed in a police van after trying to speak to reporters. She was charged w! ith trespassing.
"I had a ticket to get in," said Niederer, adding that Hamilton police kept her ticket as evidence. "I was in there legitimately."

Comment: And in the feeding frenzy the crowd screamed louder - "four more years, four more years!" - evidence of the extent of the empathy from "ordinary decent Americans" for a grieving American mother, her son deliberately duped and then sacrificed to line the pockets and satiate the power lust of their political "leaders". But those details are unimportant to most - just give them an icon to which they can give over all responsibility for their lives and they will blindly obey and believe, anything to avoid having to face the truth.

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'He's just sleeping, I kept telling myself'

The Guardian
Tuesday September 14, 2004

Civilian Iraqi victims of the US military lie dead on a Baghdad street last Sunday

Last Sunday, 13 Iraqis were killed and dozens injured in Baghdad when US helicopters fired on a crowd of unarmed civilians. G2 columnist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, who was injured in the attack, describes the scene of carnage - and reveals just how lucky he was to walk away.

I felt uneasy and exposed in the middle of the street, but lots of civilians were around me. A dozen men formed a circle around five injured people, all of whom were screaming and wailing. One guy looked at one of the injured men and beat his head and chest: "Is that you, my brother? Is that you?" He didn't try to reach for him, he just stood there looking at the bloodied face of his brother.

A man sat alone covered with blood and looked around, amazed at the scene. His T-shirt was torn and blood ran from his back. Two men were dragging away an unconscious boy who had lost the lower half of one leg. A pool of blood and a creamy liquid formed beneath the stump on the pavement. His other leg was badly gashed.

I had been standing there taking pictures for two or three minutes when we heard the helicopters coming back. Everyone started running, and I didn't look back to see what was happening to the injured men. We were all rushing towards the same place: a fence, a block of buildings and a prefab concrete cube used as a cigarette stall. [...]

Comment: It is a times like this that we feel utter disgust for humanity as a whole, both for those that carry out acts like those described above in the name of "freedom and democracy", and their pathetic, spineless, obsequious apologists among the public.

Without doubt, many US and western citizens will proclaim that they are not responsible, that they did not perpetrate nor sanction these acts of inhumanity. Yet in doing so they merely continue the lies which they have become so accustomed to telling themselves. Lies which ensure that they are very much responsible for each and every one of the many millions of innocent lives lost to the predations of the governments in which they placed their trust and lacked the courage to challenge, if only in their own minds. For it is the lies of our leaders and the willingness with which they are accepted as truth by the public, that facilitates the destruction, suffering and death that has come to characterise human existence.

What end can be expected for a species such as ours?

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Saddam had no WMD stockpile: US report

Drafts of a report from the top US inspector in Iraq conclude there were no weapons stockpiles. But they say there were signs that fallen Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had dormant programs he hoped to revive at a later time, according to people familiar with the findings.

In a 1,500-page report, the head of the Iraq Survey Group, Charles Duelfer, will find Saddam was importing banned materials, working on unmanned aerial vehicles in violation of UN agreements and maintaining a dual-use industrial sector that could produce weapons. Duelfer also says Iraq only had small research and development programs for chemical and biological weapons.

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Comment: Are any previously pro Iraq invasion readers feeling like they were lied to yet? But of course, we forget - Saddam, maybe kind of, could have, possibly, thought about developing WMD's at some stage in the future and that was good enough reason to go in there and protect American and the world from this crazy madman that Don Rumsfeld sold weapons to back in the 80's.

Yes indeed, the entire might of the US military mad machine had to be mobilised, (having first been emotionally manipulated) and travel half way around the world to.....well, to kill lots and lots of Iraqi women and children. But wait! This just in. The boys at the Pentagon have received reliable information that Saddam once had a dream about building WMD's and taking over, not only our planet, but our entire sector of space-time. So there, case closed, you may now return to sleep.

GI In Iraq Complains - 'This Whole War Was Based On Lies'

Christian Science Monitor

WASHINGTON - Inside dusty, barricaded camps around Iraq, groups of American troops in between missions are gathering around screens to view an unlikely choice from the US box office: "Fahrenheit 9-11," Michael Moore's controversial documentary attacking the commander-in-chief.

"Everyone's watching it," says a Marine corporal at an outpost in Ramadi that is mortared by insurgents daily. "It's shaping a lot of people's image of Bush."

The film's prevalence is one sign of a discernible countercurrent among US troops in Iraq - those who blame President Bush for entangling them in what they see as a misguided war. Conventional wisdom holds that the troops are staunchly pro-Bush, and many are. But bitterness over long, dangerous deployments is producing, at a minimum, pockets of support for Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry, in part because he's seen as likely to withdraw American forces from Iraq more quickly.

"[For] 9 out of 10 of the people I talk to, it wouldn't matter who ran against Bush - they'd vote for them," said a US soldier in the southern city of Najaf, seeking out a reporter to make his views known. "People are so fed up with Iraq, and fed up with Bush." [...]

"The military continues to be a Bush stronghold, but it's not a stranglehold," Feaver says. Three factors make the military vote more in play for Democrats this year than in 2000, he says: the Iraq war, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's tense relationship with the Army, and Bush's limited ability as an incumbent to make sweeping promises akin to Senator Kerry's pledge to add 40,000 new troops and relieve an overstretched force.

"The military as a whole supports the Iraq war," Mr. Feaver says, noting a historical tendency of troops to back the commander in chief in wartime. "But you can go across the military and find pockets where they are more ambivalent," he says, especially among the National Guard and Reserve. "The war has not gone as swimmingly as they thought, and that has caused disaffection. [...]

"Nobody I know wants Bush," says an enlisted soldier in Najaf, adding, "This whole war was based on lies." Like several others interviewed, his animosity centered on a belief that the war lacked a clear purpose even as it took a tremendous toll on US troops, many of whom are in Iraq involuntarily under "stop loss" orders that keep them in the service for months beyond their scheduled exit in order to keep units together during deployments.

"There's no clear definition of why we came here," says Army Spc. Nathan Swink, of Quincy, Ill. "First they said they have WMD and nuclear weapons, then it was to get Saddam Hussein out of office, and then to rebuild Iraq. I want to fight for my nation and for my family, to protect the United States against enemies foreign and domestic, not to protect Iraqi civilians or deal with Sadr's militia," he said.

Specialist Swink, who comes from a family of both Democrats and Republicans, plans to vote for Kerry. "Kerry protested the war in Vietnam. He is the one to end this stuff, to lead to our exit of Iraq," he said. 'We shouldn't be here'

Other US troops expressed feelings of guilt over killing Iraqis in a war they believe is unjust.

"We shouldn't be here," said one Marine infantryman bluntly. "There was no reason for invading this country in the first place. We just came here and [angered people] and killed a lot of innocent people," said the marine, who has seen regular combat in Ramadi. "I don't enjoy killing women and children, it's not my thing."

As with his comrades, the marine accepted some of the most controversial claims of "Fahrenheit 9/11," which critics have called biased. "Bush didn't want to attack [Osama] Bin Laden because he was doing business with Bin Laden's family," he said.

Another marine, Sgt. Christopher Wallace of Pataskala, Ohio, agreed that the film was making an impression on troops. "Marines nowadays want to know stuff. They want to be informed, because we'll be voting out here soon," he said. " 'Fahrenheit 9/11' opened our eyes to things we hadn't seen before." But, he added after a pause, "We still have full faith and confidence in our commander-in-chief. And if John Kerry is elected, he will be our commander in chief."

Comment: Wow! Either there has been a serious lapse in 'civilian' control of the US military, or someone, somewhere wants to make it as difficult as possible for Bush and Co. to achieve re-election, even by theft. Alternatively, that "someone" may be attempting to pressure Bush and the warmongers into a knee-jerk reaction which may lead to a postponement of the elections.

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Bush: Terrorists May Plan More Attacks
By JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press Writer
September 23, 2004

WASHINGTON - Standing beside Iraq's interim leader, President Bush contended Thursday that insurgents could "plot and plan attacks elsewhere, in America and other free nations," if the United States pulled out. He said his top commander there has not asked for more troops but if he did, "I'd listen to him."

After meeting with interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, Bush said he expects violence in Iraq to escalate as the country moves toward elections scheduled for January. Even so, Allawi discounted the need for more foreign soldiers.

"To have more troops, we don't need," Allawi said, suggesting that Iraq instead should train its own security forces.

Before meeting with Bush, Allawi told a joint meeting of Congress that his country is moving successfully past the war that ousted Saddam Hussein and vowed that elections will take place next year as scheduled, "because Iraqis want elections on time."

Despite struggles and setbacks, "the values of liberty and democracy" are taking hold in his country, Allawi proudly exclaimed. "We could hold elections tomorrow" in 15 provinces, he said, even though terror operatives hope to disrupt them. [...]

Comment: How can the "values of liberty and democracy" be taking hold in Iraq when the US is still occupying the country and battling "insurgents"...?

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Oil official shot dead as at least four Iraqis killed in US attacks
Al Bawaba
23-09-2004, 11:16

Gunmen killed a senior official of Iraq's North Oil Co. in the northeastern city of Mosul Thursday, officials said.

Sana Toma Sulaiman, the deputy director of the company's oil products department in the Nineveh province, was shot dead as he was on his way to work in a taxi, said Hazim Jallawi, a spokesman for the Nineveh governor's office, according to The AP.

Meanwhile, American warplanes bombed targets in east Baghdad slum of Sadr City, killing at least one person and injuring 12, hospital officials said Thursday.

According to eyewitnesses, an American Bradley fighting vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and caught fire.

Elsewhere, American occupation soldiers sealed off the city of Samarra and called in air strikes. "The Americans have struck last night and this morning Al-Qadassiyah neighborhood with Apache helicopters. Three people were killed, including one old woman. Those three bodies were brought out from the wreckage," conveyed police chief Colonel Mohammed Fadel, according to AFP.

Twenty-one cars were burnt or damaged in the strikes, he added.

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France pours cold water on Bush's sunny vision of Iraq
September 23, 2004

UNITED NATIONS - France, one of the harshest critics of the war that brought down Saddam Hussein, stressed it would not commit troops for Iraq despite appeals from the United States and United Nations.

As Iraq Prime Minister Iyad Allawi met in Washington with US President George W. Bush and hailed the war as a success, France poured cold water on any slim hope it might send forces to help ease the post-war chaos.

"As everyone knows, France did not approve of the conditions in which the conflict was unleashed. Neither today nor tomorrow will it commit itself militarily in Iraq," French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said.

"In Iraq, violence is exploding. Only when the Iraqis themselves take control of their future ... will the country be able to escape the chaos which could destabilise the entire region," Barnier told the UN General Assembly.

The bitter divisions over the war have re-emerged in the opening days of the two-week annual debate of world leaders at the United Nations, especially after a pointed exchange Tuesday between Bush and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Annan has asked for nations to contribute troops to help protect UN staff who are working to help prepare for elections in Iraq before the end of January -- but no nations have yet committed any forces. [...]

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Far graver than Vietnam

Sidney Blumenthal
Thursday September 16, 2004
The Guardian

Most senior US military officers now believe the war on Iraq has turned into a disaster on an unprecedented scale

'Bring them on!" President Bush challenged the early Iraqi insurgency in July of last year. Since then, 812 American soldiers have been killed and 6,290 wounded, according to the Pentagon. Almost every day, in campaign speeches, Bush speaks with bravado about how he is "winning" in Iraq. "Our strategy is succeeding," he boasted to the National Guard convention on Tuesday.

But, according to the US military's leading strategists and prominent retired generals, Bush's war is already lost. Retired general William Odom, former head of the National Security Agency, told me: "Bush hasn't found the WMD. Al-Qaida, it's worse, he's lost on that front. That he's going to achieve a democracy there? That goal is lost, too. It's lost." He adds: "Right now, the course we're on, we're achieving Bin Laden's ends."

Retired general Joseph Hoare, the former marine commandant and head of US Central Command, told me: "The idea that this is going to go the way these guys planned is ludicrous. There are no good options. We're conducting a campaign as though it were being conducted in Iowa, no sense of the realities on the ground. It's so unrealistic for anyone who knows that part of the world. The priorities are just all wrong." [...]

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Overzealous prosecutions undercut war on terrorism
Wed Sep 22, 6:24 AM ET

Amid the glare of a news conference last Thursday, Attorney General John Ashcroft trumpeted the opening of the government's latest terrorism prosecution, the indictment of two men for financially aiding Islamic groups that support terrorists.

A few days earlier, with no fanfare, another major terrorism case, this one brought by military authorities, came to an end. Army Capt. James Yee - accused just a year ago as the "big fish" in a spy ring intent on helping al-Qaeda - learned that he would get an honorable military discharge. The designation offered symbolic exoneration. Months earlier, the criminal charges were dropped.

The juxtaposition of the two cases illustrates a trend in the Bush administration's domestic war on terrorism: Too many major prosecutions open with a bang but end with a whimper.

In recent months, several high-profile Justice Department or military cases have collapsed - but not before they damaged lives, trampled constitutional rights and squandered resources that could have been focused on real threats.

The common thread is that authorities, fixated on preventing terrorism at any cost, ignored or avoided evidence that might have disproved their theories. Such zealous pursuits undermine the very values that terrorists are seeking to destroy - individual rights and the rule of law.

Among the key cases that have unraveled:

Detroit terrorism. In June 2003, three North African men arrested a week after 9/11 were convicted in what was heralded as the government's first major post-9/11 terrorism trial. This month, a federal judge threw out the convictions and dismissed the terrorism charges after the Justice Department found that the prosecutors had withheld evidence that undermined their case. The judge wrote that the prosecution's zeal to convict trumped "its broader obligation to the justice system and the rule of law."

Spanish bombing. Last May, U.S. authorities detained Portland, Ore., lawyer Brandon Mayfield, a Muslim convert, in connection with the March 11 train bombing in Madrid. They said his fingerprint was found at the scene, and Mayfield was jailed for 14 days. But they were wrong, and a judge threw out the case. Spanish authorities had raised doubts about the fingerprint match early on. Now, two Justice Department probes are focused on the FBI's blunder and the conduct of prosecutors.

Military spying. Last September, the Army accused Yee, a Muslim chaplain then assigned to the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, of being a spy and held him in solitary confinement for 76 days. While the government suggested he could face the death penalty, it actually charged him with only minor infractions. They were dropped last spring. The military said it didn't want to release sensitive information, but former military judges and prosecutors say the case collapsed for lack of evidence.

Related criminal charges against an Army Reserve colonel were dropped last month, and a third case against an Air Force translator is foundering.

The Justice Department defends its record. It says its own probe revealed the Detroit errors and that 189 of 357 individuals arrested for terrorism have been convicted.

That's a dubious defense. The Detroit probe was indeed thorough, but it occurred only after a federal judge ordered prosecutors to reveal why they had withheld exonerating evidence. Where were high-level Washington officials when prosecutors were misleading a court for more than a year?

The conviction record, meanwhile, says little. The Justice Department is unable or unwilling to provide supporting details.

In any case, no amount of convictions excuses overreaching that punishes innocent people.

Thwarting terrorism requires aggressive prosecution, as long as authorities distinguish between those who pose real danger and those who don't. Prosecuting the innocent only undermines cherished American values without making the nation safer.

Comment: It is interesting that the author omits the rather obvious possibility that the "war on terrorism" is basically a manufactured series of events - a lie. Perhaps the stories conveyed in this article about the prosecution of innocent people is intended to pave the way for what is coming next. Most of the necessary laws are in place. Those bills that haven't yet passed are waiting in the wings. All that remains is for the switch to be thrown, and a "Red Alert" will be declared accompanied by martial law. If you think that the lockdown would only be temporary, keep in mind that that is exactly what many Germans believed under Hitler.

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Former CIA agent says Bush to blame for 9/11
By Chris Gardner
The Oracle Newspaper

Former CIA agent Ray McGovern went over what he considers the failures of the intelligence community and current administration over the past few years. He has 27 years of experience as a CIA analyst to draw upon and has dealt with every administration from Kennedy to Bush Sr.

"It's difficult for people to learn the truth about things like Iraq," said McGovern, a member of the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), which is comprised of more than 40 former employees of agencies such as the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, Department of State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Army Intelligence, the FBI and the National Security Agency.

"We have hundreds of years worth of experience in government service and intelligence to draw on so we feel a civic responsibility to do our best to spread as much truth as we can this fall," McGovern said.

He began his lecture by describing the CIA. He explained that the agency is supposed to be the one place in government with no political agenda, and could be very disastrous if it obtains one.

McGovern told a story about CIA officials who gave false information about enemy troop numbers in Vietnam to President Johnson. The lie led to a surprise of U.S. forces by the Tet Offensive in 1968. In this war of attrition, the agency wanted to make it look like the United States was doing better than it really was, McGovern said.

"Picture the Vietnam Memorial in Washington; it's a big 'V' shape. Now picture it with just one side of the 'V'. It might have been that way if some people had told the truth," McGovern said.

He also criticized the 9/11 Commission's final report, saying the committee was comprised of political extremists who couldn't reach a consensus.

"It wasn't a bipartisan commission; it was more like a bipolar commission," McGovern said. "To say that no one could prevent 9/11 was a bold-faced lie. It basically let the president and everyone responsible off the hook."

He went on to talk about the faulty intelligence attorney general John Ashcroft used when he announced that terrorist attacks may occur before or around election time, saying that elections might have to be postponed if the United States is attacked.

"There might be a real or staged terrorist attack in order to postpone the elections," McGovern said. "This might seem outlandish; I hope it is."

He mentioned how the Bush administration wanted to involve the country with the war in Iraq for certain reasons other than fear of weapons of mass destruction, which was just a more media-friendly explanation for the war.

"I have initials for why I think we went to war in Iraq," McGovern said. "O.I.L. O-I-L, O is for oil, I is for Israel and L is for logistics, as in when we have Iraq we have a foothold and a number of bases strategically placed in the Middle East so we can be in control over there and also to protect Israel."

Next he brought up civil liberties in the United States and how they have declined in the past few years.

"I used to say when I was a kid growing up when someone told me not to do something, 'It's a free country,'" McGovern said. "I ask you to think about it now."

In the audience was Nahla al-Arian, wife of imprisoned former professor Sami al-Arian. She explained to McGovern how she and her husband came to America to be free and described their current situation. Then she asked him why the government would target Palestinian activists.

His initial response was just, "I'm sorry," then he paused to collect his thoughts and said that things like that come all the way from the top down.

McGovern had a speaking engagement at the University of Florida later in the afternoon, and will also be lecturing at UCF soon on his and the VIPS's quest to spread the truth.

"No one has a corner on the truth. We don't have a corner on the truth, but it is certain that Fox News does not," McGovern said. "That most people get their 'news' from Fox News is extremely troubling."

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Judith Miller Hints She's Willing to Do Jail Time
By Allan Wolper
September 23, 2004 12:01 AM EDT

NEW YORK - Judith Miller, the embattled foreign correspondent for
The New York Times, seems ready to go to jail rather than testify before a grand jury trying to find out who leaked the name of a CIA operative to several Washington, D.C,. reporters.

"I can't tell you what I am going to do yet," Miller said in an upbeat voice during the first of two cell phone interviews. But later, when told that Lucy Dalglish, executive director of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, seemed sure that she would stonewall prosecutors, Miller elaborated a little.

"What I know of Judith Miller, there is no way in hell that she will be willing to testify," Dalglish had told E&P. When that quote was read to Miller, she laughed and said: "I think that's right, and it's what my lawyer would say, too."

The special prosecutor is trying to determine who leaked the name of a CIA agent to Robert Novak. So far, Glenn Kessler and Walter Pincus of The Washington Post, Matthew Cooper of Time Magazine, and Tim Russert, host of NBC's Meet The Press, have given sworn depositions in their lawyers' offices.

They gave their testimony after their sources waived their confidentiality agreements. But The Times believes that the Bush Administration forced White House officials and others to sign the waivers, making them invalid. A source who did not voluntarily waive his right to keep his name private might sue the newspaper later for violating that agreement.

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Australia vows action after incendiary device found on jet
Thursday September 23, 2:06 PM
Australia vowed swift action to plug gaps in its air security after an incendiary device was found on a jet operated by domestic airline Virgin Blue.

The embarrassing find Thursday comes just days after Canberra vowed new measures to prevent airborne terrorist attacks after the deadly September 9 bombing at its embassy in Jakarta. That attack prompted promises of new checks on flights out of Jakarta and tightened measures at domestic airports.

The attack has made security arguably the top issue in the campaign for the October 9 election. Transport Minister John Anderson vowed not to leave "holes unplugged" after Monday's find aboard a 737-300 at Sydney airport.

"I can tell you that we are engaging in training exercises, doubling and rechecking training levels right now as a result of this. We've already swung into action on that one," Anderson told national radio.

"We will do whatever is necessary here. We do not intend to leave holes unplugged."

An initial police report has concluded the device contained thermite, a chemical used in grenades. It was found wrapped in a cardboard toilet roll tube with a firework sparkler attached as a 30-second fuse.

Virgin Blue commercial operations chief David Huttner said a baggage handler found the device in the cargo hold. The finder had failed to follow correct safety procedures in taking it directly to airport security officials, he said. However, he denied that it could have exploded on its own.

"It was not something that goes boom, it was something that burns which means somebody had to be there to light it," Huttner said. "It was clearly placed there by somebody who had access to the airfield because it didn't go through checked baggage."

The aircraft had just flown in from Maroochydore on the touristic Sunshine coast of Queensland state. Huttner suggested a disgruntled airport worker may have planted the device deliberately, saying a passenger could not have taken it as it was found in the cargo hold, a suggestion strongly disputed by trade unionists.

"We believe it was an airport worker with an agenda," Huttner said.

Officials of the Transport Workers Union said it was "absurd" to suggest that a disgruntled worker might have staged the incident and criticised training procedures for airline staff.

A transport ministry spokesman said the device did not appear to have been on the aircraft in flight and said there were concerns procedures had not been correctly followed. The staff member in question had recently undergone security training, the spokesman said.

The embassy bombing has been claimed by Islamic extremist network Jemaah Islamiah (JI), the group blamed for the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 88 Australians. It has prompted concerns about a possible new terrorist attack on an Australian target before the election.

Analysts have suggested Islamists may be trying to influence the vote outcome, as a bloody attack on trains in Spain did there in March.

Virgin Blue, the Australian joint venture between British carrier Virgin Atlantic and Australia's Patrick Corp., was set up in 2001 as a low-cost carrier following the collapse of domestic airline Ansett.

Australia is widely seen as among the top targets of Islamic extremists due to Prime Minister John Howard's strong support of last year's US-led invasion of Iraq. However, to date no successful terrorist attack has been carried out on Australian soil.

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Doctors raise doubts over Kelly suicide verdict

Sarah Boseley, health editor
Friday September 17, 2004
The Guardian

Experts warn of flaws in postmortem blood tests

Miscarriages of justice are "almost certainly" taking place because of a mistaken belief that it is possible to calculate from blood analysis at a postmortem examination how many tablets somebody swallowed before they died, a group of eminent scientists and doctors says today. An article by the group in the British Medical Journal was written after the death of the Iraq arms expert David Kelly and the Hutton inquiry which concluded that Dr Kelly killed himself by cutting his wrists and taking painkillers.

The evidence at the inquiry has "led to the exchange of acrimonious views, including allegations of conspiracy and murder," they note. The Hutton inquiry heard from a forensic toxicologist that Dr Kelly could have swallowed between 29 and 30 tablets of a strong painkiller called Coproxamol which he had been prescribed for back pain. But, say the authors of the BMJ editorial, the measurement of toxic substances in the blood after death is a very inexact science.

Blood that is not circulating after death is not the same as before death, said Robert Forrest, professor of forensic toxicology at Sheffield University and one of the authors. "After death, drugs which are bound in tissue move back into blood." [...]

Comment: Not only is the measurement of toxic substances a very inexact science, but so is the dissemination of true and objective information by political "leaders" and the media...

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Toxicology tests after death 'unreliable'

Fri Sep 17
By KEN KUSMER, Associated Press Writer

RELIANCE on inaccurate methods of measuring drug levels in the blood after death have "almost certainly" led to miscarriages of justice, experts claimed today. The case of Government weapons expert Dr David Kelly was used as an example where differences of opinion have been expressed over the interpretation of toxicology results. Forensic scientists, writing in the British Medical Journal, said the science of measuring levels of drugs in the body after someone had died was far from robust and based on flawed evidence.

They said that measuring the toxicology - drug concentration levels - in living patients was straightforward, involving factors such as how the drugs were administered and the number of doses. But for dead subjects, this information was almost never available, meaning conclusions about drug levels were incomplete.

The experts, in! cluding US, UK and Australian professors, said their editorial was partly prompted by the the Kelly affair where a central issue concerned the interpretation of toxicology results.

Comment: For those who really want to know how and why Dr. David Kelly died, recent history is replete with similar events...

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Forrestal and the Zionists

When someone dies violently and suspiciously, the usual question investigators want to answer is who had a murder motive. Did the deceased have enemies? Had he been threatened by anyone? Was there anyone who stood to gain from his death? If so, did the party or parties in question have anything in their past to indicate that they might be capable of murder, and did they have the opportunity to commit the crime?

In Forrestal’s case, the answers are yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. For over a year he had been subject to a vilification campaign in the press the likes of which hardly any public official has ever had to endure in America. Leading the campaign, from the left and the right, respectively, were America’s two best-known and most powerful syndicated columnists, Drew Pearson and Walter Winchell. They painted Forrestal as a corrupt tool of Wall Street and the oil companies who put the interests of his cronies ahead of concern for the well being of refugees from European persecution. His big offense was that he was outspoken in his opposition to the creation of the state of Israel. The entire foreign policy establishment, led by Secretary of State Marshall, felt the same way, but the strong-willed Forrestal was the lightning rod for the supporters of Israel. He had received threatening telephone calls and he complained of being followed and electronically bugged. It has also been credibly reported that the Zionists attempted to blackmail him over the financial assistance that his investment banking firm, Dillon, Read, had given to the Nazis prior to World War II.

One might argue that because Israel had already been recognized by the United States by the time Forrestal died, and because he had been removed from the Truman cabinet and discredited by his breakdown and hospitalization, he was no longer a threat to the supporters of Israel. But he was a man of prominence, wealth, and determination who intended to buy a newspaper and to write a book that threatened to expose a number of Roosevelt-Truman administration secrets, especially related to the machinations that brought the United States into World War II and the wartime policies that advanced the interests of the Soviet Union. His voluminous diary was confiscated by the Truman White House and its full contents have never been revealed.

Most importantly, though, it was feared that he would continue to work against the interests of Israel. The animus toward Forrestal continues to the present day in Zionist circles, who continue to characterize this most able and dedicated of public servants as an anti-Semite and a nut. [...]

But one should not overlook the ruthless record of the Israelis, from the assassinations of Lord Moyne and Count Bernadotte and the bombing of the King David Hotel, all of which pre-dated the Forrestal death, right up to the more recent massacres in Qana and Jenin and the systematic assassination of Palestinian leaders.

And although the communists might well have had many infiltrators in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, no one has ever suggested that they dominate America’s news media. It is the news media that has vigorously sold the story that James Forrestal committed suicide and has kept silent about the fact that the only serious government investigation of the death has been kept secret from the American public. The news media also heavily publicized the books by Rogow and Hoopes and Brinkley, which sell the suicide line, but they published not one single review of the critical book by Cornell Simpson.

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Brazil won't let UN inspectors check for signs of nuclear weapons development
03:33 PM EDT Sep 23
VIENNA, Austria (AP) - Brazil has emphasized that its commitment to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty may not be open-ended, and it continues to resist access by UN inspectors to technology that can be used to make nuclear arms, diplomats said Thursday.

The diplomats, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, referred to comments made by Brazil at the general conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is currently exerting heavy pressure on Iran over the same issue.

Eduardo Campos, Brazil's minister of science and technology, told the session on Wednesday that his country had approved the treaty meant to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons on condition of a "cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date, and to the complete elimination of all atomic weapons."

The treaty calls on nuclear-armed countries to disarm as quickly as possible. Still, the diplomats, who are familiar with Brazil's nuclear program, said the IAEA was concerned about the fact that Brazil chose to emphasize the link between total nuclear disarmament and its own commitment to the treaty.

This comes at a time when Brazil is disagreeing with the agency on how to inspect its uranium enrichment program - technology that can be used to make nuclear arms.

"The IAEA has duly noted the comment," said one of the diplomats.

Although Brazil signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty in 1997 and said its nuclear program has purely peaceful objectives, questions about its commitment continue to simmer.

The government confirmed in June that IAEA inspectors had been denied access in February and March to centrifuges at a facility in Resende, about 100 kilometres southwest of Rio de Janeiro.

It cited the need to protect industrial secrets and said the centrifuges were, and will remain, off-limits for visual inspection.

The centrifuges are used to enrich uranium so it can be used for fuel in nuclear reactors and potentially in bombs.

Uranium enrichment is also at the core of the IAEA'S dispute with Iran. The nuclear watchdog agency has threatened to turn the issue over to the UN Security Council, a mover that could lead to sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said the agency has "made some progress" in the dispute with Brazil, but suggested a deal was not yet finalized, saying IAEA officials "remain in discussions with the Brazilian authorities" over full access to the centrifuges.

One of the diplomats said the agency continued to insist on enough "visual access . . . to do proper verification" that there is no illegal removal of enriched uranium from the facilities.

Comment: It gets more and more amusing. Prior to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the attention was focused on Saddam and his supposed WMD. At the same time, off in the corner, was North Korea which was declaring it was ready to use any weapon it developed. The Bush gang found ways to discuss with North Korea, while insisting that Saddam was the real problem. Two measures, two standards.

In recent weeks the attention has been focused on Iran, and, lo and behold, out steps Brazil. While Brazil is not threatening to use any nuclear weapons it might develop, it certainly serves as an example of how the US fabricates its policy to serve its own goals, not in to defend democracy or any of the other empty platitudes that they ceaselessly repeat.

Brazil is making a very important point about the nuclear treaty: part of the treaty stated that the countries that didn't have nuclear weapons agreed to not develop them, but this was conditional on the nuclear powers disarming their nuclear arsenals. Obviously, none of them have, nor have they the intention to do so. So one could argue that this abrogates the treaty entirely, which seems to be what Brazil is moving towards.

So the nuclear games are set to begin anew. The great nuclear powers didn't come across on the bargain, and it looks like Brazil is calling them out on it.

Don't you feel so much safer?

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Iran warns Israel against strike
Iran has warned Israel it will react "most severely" if Israel uses force to try to destroy its nuclear facilities.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi was responding to reports that the United States is to sell Israel hundreds of "bunker-busting" bombs.

Israel urged the United Nations Security Council to take action to stop Iran's nuclear programme.

The US and Israel have accused Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies.

Iran recently defied calls by the UN's nuclear watchdog to suspend all enrichment-related activities, insisting its nuclear programme was for peaceful purposes only.

Nuclear 'nightmare'

According to reports, the US is to sell Israel 5,000 hi-tech bombs, including 500 one-ton "bunker-busters", which can penetrate two metre (6.5ft) thick walls.

In 1981, Israel bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor when it believed Saddam Hussein was close to producing a nuclear bomb.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said the UN must deal with the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons before it is too late.

"[The Iranians] are trying to buy time, and the time has come to move the Iranian case to the Security Council in order to put an end to this nightmare," he told reporters after meeting UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

"We know that the Europeans are trying now to engage with the Iranians, but we know that the Iranians will never abandon their plans to develop nuclear weapons. They're only trying to hide it."

However, Kamal Kharrazi said Israel, not Iran, was a threat to world peace.

"Israel has always been a threat, not only against Iran, but all countries."

When questioned about Israel's reported purchase of the bombs, Mr Kharrazi said, "be sure that any action by Israel certainly will be reacted by us most severely".

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Cat Stevens 'shocked' by U.S. ban; British foreign official complains to U.S.
03:33 PM EDT Sep 23
LONDON (AP) - Yusuf Islam, the former pop star known as Cat Stevens, returned to Britain Thursday saying he was "totally shocked" that he was barred from entering the United States.

U.S. officials, who had ordered Islam taken off a London-to-Washington flight on Tuesday, said he was on a security watch list because of suspicions that he was associated with potential terrorists.

"I'm totally shocked," Islam told a swarm of reporters as he came through the arrivals area at Heathrow Airport.

"Half of me wants to smile, and half of me wants to growl. The whole thing is totally ridiculous," he said, speaking softly and appearing calm.

"Everybody knows who I am. I am no secret figure. Everybody knows my campaigning for charity, for peace. There's got to be a whole lot of explanation."

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw complained Wednesday to U.S. officials about their treatment of Islam, telling U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell "that this action should not have been taken," the Foreign Office confirmed.

The Foreign Office declined to say what he meant by "this action" - whether it was Islam's detention, or his inclusion on the watch list.

Straw's protest was a reversal of the Foreign Office's hands-off position earlier Wednesday, when a spokeswoman had said "the reasons for his detention and return are obviously a matter for the U.S. and not for us." [...]

U.S. Homeland Security spokesman Brian Doyle would only say that the intelligence community has recently obtained information that "further heightens concern" about Yusuf Islam.

"Yusuf Islam has been placed on the watch lists because of activities that could potentially be related to terrorism," Doyle said. "It's a serious matter."

Islam said he had not been questioned by British police on his arrival. He said he was consulting lawyers and hoped to find out why he was barred.

"People make mistakes. I just hope they made a big mistake. We'll see," he said.

Comment: So Yusuf is doing things that could be "potentially related to terrorism". Maybe it is his work for peace.

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It's Not a Comet, It's a Pulsar
Universe Today

Summary - (Sep 23, 2004) The Chandra X-Ray Observatory took this image of a pulsar surrounded by high-energy particles as it plows through interstellar space. The pulsar is hurtling to the left in this image at a speed of 2.1 million kph (1.3 million mph), and the particles are being blasted back like the tail on a comet. The pulsar is known as "The Mouse", aka G359.23-0.82, and it was discovered in 1987 by radio astronomers using the Very Large Array in New Mexico. Because it's moving so quickly and interacting so visibly with its environment, astronomers have a unique opportunity to understand pulsar magnetic fields, and how they eject material.

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Hubble's deepest shot is a puzzle
Buried in the image are objects that shone not long after the Big Bang
Scientists studying the deepest picture of the Universe, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, have been left with a big poser: where are all the stars?

The Ultra Deep Field is a view of one patch of sky built from 800 exposures.

The picture shows faint galaxies whose stars were shining just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.

But the image's revelation that fewer stars than expected were being born at this time brings into question current ideas on cosmic evolution.

"Our results based on the Ultra Deep Field are very intriguing and quite a puzzle," says Dr Andrew Bunker, of Exeter University, UK, who led a team studying the new data.

"They're certainly not what I expected, nor what most of the theorists in astrophysics expected." [...]

"There is not enough activity to explain the re-ionisation of the Universe," Dr Bunker told the BBC. "Perhaps there was more action in terms of star formation even earlier in the history of the Universe - that's one possibility.

"Another exciting possibility is that physics was very different in the early Universe; our understanding of the recipe stars obey when they form is flawed."

Comment: In fact, physicists know very little about how the universe was formed. They hide behind mathematical formulas and theoretical constructs, but when the rubber hits the road, they don't really have a clue.

By and large, they are not exploring ideas that are outrageous enough. Many physicists discount the notion of consciousness, and tell us that we "can not know these things". But if consciousness is excluded a priori, simply because it rubs an atheist or a hardcore materialist the wrong way, the science is no more honest than it is when practiced by a born-again Christian who wants to prove the world is only 6,000 years old.

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Navy to Award $6.4 Bln Satellite Contract
By Andrea Shalal-Esa
Tue Sep 21, 3:57 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Navy will soon announce whether Lockheed Martin Corp. or Raytheon Co. will build a $6.4 billion communications system to beef up satellite services for U.S. troops, the White House and State Department, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

Last Thursday, the Pentagon's Defense Space Acquisitions Board approved the Mobile User Objective System, or MUOS, of four to eight satellites that will provide narrowband communications to ships, aircraft, submarines and ground forces.

That decision paved the way for the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command to make a contract award within the next two weeks, spokesman Steven Davis said.

Sources familiar with the process said a decision could come as early as Friday.

The system, slated to become operational in 2010, would provide 10 times more throughput, or volume of information that can be transmitted, than the current Ultra High Frequency Follow-On System, built by Chicago-based Boeing Co.

Comment: So the American navy gets $6.4 billion to drop on a fancy new communications system, while those on Medicare have to beat the odds to obtain simple prescription drug coverage...

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Flashback: Medicare Lottery to Cover 50,000 People
By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer
June 25, 2004

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration will give "50,000 lucky individuals" chosen in a lottery up to a 16-month jump on Medicare prescription drug coverage, paying for costly medications for cancer and other illnesses this year.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson estimated that 500,000 to 600,000 Medicare recipients without prescription drug coverage are eligible for the program Congress wrote into last year's prescription drug law.

"There'll be a lottery to be chosen as one of 50,000 lucky individuals," Thompson said at a news conference Thursday to announce the program. More than 450,000 others must wait until prescription drug insurance under Medicare begins in 2006. [...]

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U.S. Economic Gauge Signals Weakness
By Glenn Somerville
September 23, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A key gauge of future economic activity weakened for a third straight month in August as costlier oil spread worry among consumers and businesses, a report from a business research group showed on Thursday .

The Index of Leading Indicators, issued by the Conference Board, fell 0.3 percent in Aug to 115.7 after a matching 0.3 percent decline in July and a 0.1 percent drop in June, raising questions about the durability of the economy's expansion.

The index measures a basket of 10 indicators of performance from consumer confidence to applications for new building permits, and is intended to signal the economy's direction three to six months down the road.

Its steady decline contrasts with a view expressed on Tuesday by Federal Reserve policymakers, who voted to raise U.S. interest rates for a third time in three months, that economic output has "regained some traction" since summer.

"We doubt this signals an imminent further sharp downturn in growth but the data make uncomfortable viewing and are not consistent with the Fed's view that the economy is regaining traction," said economist Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics Ltd. in Valhalla, N.Y. [...]

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Hurricane Jeb Bears Down on the Working Poor

Fri Sep 17
By KEN KUSMER, Associated Press Writer

With Floridians still recovering from the economic destruction caused by hurricanes Charlie, Frances and Ivan, Jeb Bush and his corporate allies are determined to make matters even worse for low-income Floridians.

Jeb and his big business supporters are working to defeat a November ballot initiative that would raise the minimum wage in Florida by one dollar, to $6.15 an hour for most employees. If the measure passes, the Florida minimum wage would have a yearly cost-of-living adjustment equal to the inflation rate to ensure that the value of the minimum wage does not erode over time.

The front group created by corporations to fight the initiative claims that the modest increase in the minimum wage "would cost businesses billions, lead employers to cut benefits and slow job growth in Florida." The proof? They polled themselves as to what they thought the impact would be.

Real economic analysis, released yesterday by the Center for American Progress and the Political Economy Research Institute, demonstrates that the minimum wage increase would significantly benefit low-income Floridians and have a negligible impact on the state's business community. For more information on the effort to pass the initiative, check out Floridians for All

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Frances' Insured Losses to Near $4.4 Bln
By Jonathan Stempel
September 23, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Insurance payments to victims of Hurricane Frances are expected to reach $4.4 billion, making it the fourth most costly storm in U.S. history, an insurance industry group said on Thursday.

The sum is on top of $7.4 billion in claims expected from Hurricane Charley, and another large payout is expected after claims are toted for Hurricane Ivan. [...]

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Ivan, the Remake, Heads to Texas as Tropical Storm
Thu Sep 23,10:26 AM ET

MIAMI - The remnants of deadly Hurricane Ivan, which rampaged through the Caribbean and then into the U.S. Gulf Coast a week ago, killing more than 100 people, have reformed in the Gulf of Mexico as a tropical storm threatening the Texas and Louisiana coasts.

By 8 a.m. EDT on Thursday, Ivan was about 95 miles southeast of Cameron, Louisiana, with top winds of 45 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

It was moving west-northwest at about 15 mph on a course that would likely take its core ashore on the northeastern Texas coast in the next day, the center said.

Ivan could strengthen before coming ashore and was expected to dump as much as 10 inches of rain in its path.

Ivan, at one point one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes on record, made a devastating 10-day trek through the Caribbean before hurtling ashore in the United States near Gulf Shores, Alabama, just west of the Florida Panhandle. [...]

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Midwest Getting Its Summer in September
By DON BABWIN, Associated Press Writer
Thu Sep 23, 8:46 AM ET

CHICAGO - At a time when restaurants typically put away their patio furniture, sweaters replace T-shirts and sailboats are plucked from the water, Midwesterners are out enjoying activities usually reserved for July and August — not weeks past Labor Day. Summer is here. Finally.

"We're getting the summer we never had and now we're making up for it," said Bill Snyder, who produces the weather segments of the WGN-TV news in Chicago.

Alyssa Theisen certainly did. The 4-year-old, wearing a dress, darted right into a fountain in Chicago's Millennium Park on Wednesday, surprising her mother.

"She just ran into the water," Angie Theisen said. "I didn't bring her (swim) suit. I thought it was too late."

At Chicago's Monroe Harbor on Lake Michigan, sailors thought the water would be a lot less crowded.

"Very few boats are gone for the season," said Joe Williams, the harbor master. "The weather is keeping them in the water."

Blocks away at Rock Bottom Brewery and Restaurant, general manager Nicole Allison said the rooftop patio is more crowded than it's ever been in September.

"Typically this time a year we close (the patio) past sundown — it's too chilly," she said. "Now we stay open up there until midnight."

How weird is it? In Chicago, Wednesday marked the 14th day of the month with temperatures reaching 80 degrees, and Thursday was expected to be the 15th. In August there were 10.

"You might as well throw your calendar away," said Shawn Joyce, a Chicago police sergeant keeping an eye on a lakefront beach peppered with sunbathers.

It's looking like this will be only the fifth September in Chicago since records started being kept in the late 1800s that will end with an average high temperature above the average high for August, Snyder said.

It's the same story in other parts of the Midwest.

In Iowa, state climatologist Harry Hillaker said he expects September to end up being warmer than August for only the second time in the state since 1897.

In Minnesota's Twin Cities, September is well on its way to being the sixth warmest on record, following an August that was the sixth coldest, said Pete Boulay, assistant state climatologist. It was 84 degrees on Wednesday afternoon. On Aug. 10, the high was 59 degrees. [...]

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Portugal issues heat warning for three more regions
Wed Sep 22,10:58 AM ET

LISBON - Portuguese health authorities issued heat alerts for three more regions because of forecasts that temperatures will rise above 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) in much of the centre and south of the country over the next few days.

The public health authority said in a statement Wednesday that it had issued a yellow alert level, phase two of a four-phase emergency series of measures, for the central region of Santarem as well as for the southern regions of Portalegre and Setubal.

Officials had already issued yellow alerts on Tuesday for the southern regions of Evora and Beja as well as for the central region of Castelo Branco.

Health authorities advised people in the affected regions to seek cool environments for at least two hours of the day, drink plenty of water and avoid alcoholic beverages in order to counter the effects of the high temperatures.

With the alert raised to yellow, hospitals in the six areas are required to boost their capacity to deal with patients and increase the monitoring of the effects of heat on the population.

Scorching temperatures caused 80 heat-related deaths in Portugal's southern province of Algarve, one of Europe's top tourist destinations, at the end of July, according to preliminary health ministry estimates.

The deaths occurred between July 24 and 27 when temperatures soared to above-average levels, reaching 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) in many parts of the coastal region.

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Death toll in Haiti tops 1,000, another 1,200 feared dead
Thu Sep 23, 1:38 AM ET

GONAIVES, Haiti - The death toll from devastating floods in northern Haiti topped 1,000, with another 1,200 missing and possibly dead, and more than 900 injured, a UN spokesman in the impoverished nation said.

And with relief agencies battling mud and high water to get aid to a quarter of a million people affected by the flooding, tension rose in the city of Gonaives where famished residents tried to plunder trucks carrying emergency supplies, another UN official said.

"Our official toll at this stage is 1,013 people dead, 1,200 missing and 918 wounded," said Toussaint Kongo-Doudou, the spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission that is playing a key role in the relief efforts.

He said that in view of the high number of people missing and feared dead, the death toll was certain to rise further.

Most of the fatalities were in the northern city of Gonaives, where many streets remained under water Wednesday, four days after Hurricane Jeanne caused deadly floods and mudslides in the Caribbean nation.

"As waters go down, we are finding more bodies," Kongo-Doudou told AFP.

Numerous bodies were believed to be buried in the mud, or under floodwaters. Others washed out to sea.

With human remains rotting away in the sweltering heat and piled up in morgues that have no electricity for refrigeration, officials started burying the dead in mass graves. [...]

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