Tuesday, January 11, 2005

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Kazia
© 2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte

CBS heads roll over Bush 'exposé' blunder

By Andrew Buncombe
11 January 2005

Four members of the CBS television network were fired yesterday after an independent investigation into the station's story about George Bush's military service found "myopic zeal" led them to rely on documents later shown to be false. Dan Rather, who narrated the broadcast, has already announced he is stepping down as anchor of the network's evening news.

The network fired Mary Mapes, producer of the 60 Minutes report. Also fired were Josh Howard, an executive producer, and his senior deputy along with a senior vice-president. A senior CBS executive, Leslie Moonves, said that because Mr Rather had apologised profusely and already announced his retirement, further action against him was not warranted.

The investigation was launched after CBS was forced to admit that a story it broadcast last September claiming President Bush had received special treatment when he was serving with the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War could no longer be relied upon.

In the 12 days between the initial broadcast of the programme and CBS's statement, a flood of commentators questioned the authenticity of the documents on which the claims were based. CBS claimed one document was from one of Mr Bush's commanders in the Guard, the late Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian, who had ordered Mr Bush to take a medical exam which he did not take. It also claimed that Mr Killian felt pressured to "sugarcoat" an evaluation of the young lieutenant. Many pointed out that the documents appeared to have been prepared on a computer not available at the time they were supposed to have been written.

Mr Killian's widow, Marjorie Connell, told reporters she believed the records were "a farce" and her husband did not "keep files". She added: "I don't think there were any documents." It later emerged Ms Mapes had obtained the documents from another retired National Guard officer, Lieutenant Colonel Bill Burkett. CBS said it had been misled by Mr Burkett, a longtime critic of Mr Bush, about the documents' origins.

Yesterday's independent report said that while it could not prove conclusively the documents were forged, it said CBS News failed to authenticate them and falsely claimed an expert had done so.

"These problems were caused primarily by a myopic zeal to be the first news organisation to broadcast what was believed to be a new story," said the report by a panel led by the former US Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and Louis Boccardi, retired head of the Associated Press.

The broadcast and subsequent retraction only further solidified Mr Rather's reputation among right-wing critics as an unreliable liberal out to attack the Bush administration.

It also distracted from valid scrutiny of Mr Bush's record with the Guard at a time when the Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was being attacked over his record in Vietnam by the largely discredited and Republican-funded group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. To date, the White House has failed to produce evidence that Mr Bush attended National Guard duties for much of the time that he was working in a political campaign in Oklahoma between 1972-73.

The week after CBS broadcast the story, Yoshi Tsurumi, a Harvard business school professor who taught Mr Bush in the 1970s, told CNN that the future president had once told him that family friends had pulled strings to get him into the Guard.

He said: "He admitted to me that to avoid the Vietnam draft, he had his dad - he said 'dad's friends' - skip him through the long waiting list to get him into the Texas National Guard," he said. "He thought that was a smart thing to do."

Comment: Read all of the above and understand the lengths to which Bush's 'minders' are prepared to go to ensure that their carefully crafted image of the President remains unblemished in the mind of the American public. Understand also the extent of their power and control over the media. As always, we look to who benefits from these type of operations. Because of the setting up and knocking down of Dan Rather, Bush was "vindicated" and the entire issue of his national guard service was rendered untouchable, despite the fact that there was definintely a case to answer. Do we understand now how these people operate? The insidiousness of their thinking and manipulations?

We hope also that, in light of the blatant lies told about Saddam's WMDs, the irony and hypocrisy inherent in the Bush administration indirectly accusing others of "myopic zeal leading to reliance on documents later shown to be false" is not lost on any of our readers.

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A man-made tsunami: Why are there no fundraisers for the Iraqi dead?
Terry Jones
Tuesday January 11, 2005
The Guardian

I am bewildered by the world reaction to the tsunami tragedy. Why are newspapers, television and politicians making such a fuss? Why has the British public forked out more than £100m to help the survivors, and why is Tony Blair now promising "hundreds of millions of pounds"? Why has Australia pledged £435m and Germany £360m? And why has Mr Bush pledged £187m?

Of course it's wonderful to see the human race rallying to the aid of disaster victims, but it's the inconsistency that has me foxed. Nobody is making this sort of fuss about all the people killed in Iraq, and yet it's a human catastrophe of comparable dimensions.

According to the only scientific estimate attempted, Iraqi deaths since the war began number more than 100,000. The tsunami death toll is in the region of 150,000. Yet in the case of Iraq, the media seems reluctant to impress on the public the scale of the carnage.

I haven't seen many TV reporters standing in the ruins of Falluja, breathlessly describing how, in 30 years of reporting, they've never seen a human tragedy on this scale. The Pope hasn't appealed for everyone to remember the Iraqi dead in their prayers, and MTV hasn't gone silent in their memory.

Nor are Blair and Bush falling over each other to show they recognise the scale of the disaster in Iraq. On the contrary, they have been doing their best to conceal the numbers killed.

When the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health estimated the figure of 100,000 killed in Iraq and published their findings in one of the world's leading scientific journals, the Lancet, Downing Street questioned their methodology, saying "the researchers used an extrapolation technique, which they considered inappropriate, rather than a detailed body count". Of course "a detailed body count" is the one thing the US military will not allow anyone to do.

What is so odd is the way in which so much of the media has fallen into line, downplaying the only authoritative estimate of casualties in Iraq with the same unanimity with which they have impressed upon us the death toll of the tsunami.

One of the authors of the forenamed report, Dr Gilbert Burnham, said: "Our data have been back and forth between many reviewers at the Lancet and here in the school, so we have the scientific strength to say what we have said with great certainty."

So, are deaths caused by bombs and gunfire less worthy of our pity than deaths caused by a giant wave? Or are Iraqi lives less worth counting than Indonesian, Thai, Indian and Swedish?

Why aren't our TV companies and newspapers running fundraisers to help Iraqis whose lives have been wrecked by the invasion? Why aren't they screaming with outrage at the man-made tsunami that we have created in the Middle East? It truly is baffling.

Comment: For a look at the situation in Fallujah and the dire situation of the city's population, 350,000 people prior to the sacking by US and Iraqi National guard troops, please see the following article.

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City of ghosts
Ali Fadhil
Tuesday January 11, 2005
The Guardian

On November 8, the American army launched its biggest ever assault on the Iraqi city of Falluja, considered a stronghold for rebel fighters. The US said the raid had been a huge success, killing 1,200 insurgents. Most of the city's 300,000 residents, meanwhile, had fled for their lives. What really happened in the siege of Falluja? In a joint investigation for the Guardian and Channel 4 News, Iraqi doctor Ali Fadhil compiled the first independent reports from the devastated city, where he found scores of unburied corpses, rabid dogs - and a dangerously embittered population

Watch an extract from the documentary

December 22 2004

It all started at my house in Baghdad. I packed my equipment, the camera and the tripod. Tariq, my friend, told me not to take it with us. "The fighters might search the car and think that we are spies." Tariq was frightened about our trip, even though he is from Falluja and we had permission from one group of fighters to enter under their protection. But Tariq, more than anyone, understands that the fighters are no longer just one group. He is quite a character, Tariq: 32 and an engineer with a masters degree in embryo implantation, he works now at a human rights institute called the Democratic Studies Institute for Human Rights and Democracy in Baghdad. He is also deeply into animal rights.

Foolishly, I took a pill to try to keep down the flu, which made me sleepy. It was 9am when we crossed the main southern gate out of Baghdad, taking care to stay well clear of American convoys. The southern gate is the scene of daily attacks on the Americans by the insurgents - either a car-bomb or an ambush with rocket-propelled grenades.

It took just 20 minutes from Baghdad to reach the area known as the "triangle of death", where the kidnapped British contractor Kenneth Bigley was held and finally beheaded in the town of Latifya. It is supposed to be a US military-controlled zone, but insurgents set up checkpoints here. As the road became more rural and more isolated, I got nervous that at any moment we would be stopped by carjackers and robbed of our expensive equipment. At a checkpoint a hooded face came to the window; he was carrying an old AK47 on his shoulder and looking for a donation towards the jihad. There were six fighters in total, all hooded. The driver and Tariq both made a donation; I was frightened he would search the car and find the camera, so I gave him my Iraqi doctor's ID card, hoping that would work. He apologised and asked that we excuse him.

Now, there was nothing ahead but the sky and the desert. It was 1.30pm and a bad time to use this road; we had been told that carjackers were particularly active at this time of day. Tariq pointed out four young men dressed in red, their two motorbikes parked by the side of the road. They were planting a small, improvised explosive device made out of a tin of cooking oil for the next American convoy to leave the base outside Falluja.

It was 3.30pm before we got to Habbanya, a tourist resort on a lake supplied with fresh water by the Euphrates, which was once controlled by Uday, Saddam's oldest son. It was here that Fallujans, who used to be wealthy as they supplied a lot of the top military for Saddam's army, came for holidays.

Now the place was freezing, and full of refugees. All the holiday houses were crammed with people, sometimes two families to a room. The first family we came across had been there since a month before the attack started. A man called Abu Rabe'e came up. He was 59 and used to be a builder; he said he had a message for our camera. "We're not looking for this sort of democracy, this attacking of the city and the people with planes and tanks and Humvees." He had also fled Falluja with his family. They were all living in a former mechanic's garage in Habbanya.

Most of the people we spoke to in Habbanya were poor and uneducated, and had fled Falluja in anticipation of the US attack. Some were in tents; others were sharing the old honeymoon suites where newlyweds used to come when this was a holiday resort. They squabbled among themselves to persuade me to film the conditions they were living in. There was still a fairground in Habbanya, but nothing was working. In the middle of the bumper cars an old lady had pitched a tent with bricks, where she was living with her son. I tried to talk to her but she told me to go away. There was no cooking gas in Habbanya, so the Fallujan refugees were cutting down trees to keep warm and cook food.

Then someone came up and said the resistance fighters had heard we were asking questions. We decided to put the camera away and go to a friendly village that our driver knew. It was also filled with refugees from Falluja.

One 50-year-old man, a major in the Iraqi Republican Guards under the former regime, took us in. There were four families squeezed into one apartment, all of them once wealthy. The major, like the others, was sacked after the liberation when the US disbanded the army and police. Now jobless, his house in Falluja was wrecked and he was a refugee with his five children and wife near the town where he used to spend his holidays. He was angry with the Americans, but also with the Iraqi rebels, whom he blamed, alongside the clerics in the mosques, for causing Falluja to be wrecked.

"The mujahideen and the clerics are responsible for the destruction that happened to our city; no one will forgive them for that," he said with bitterness.

"Why are you blaming them - why don't you blame the Americans and Allawi?" said Omar, the owner of the apartment.

"We told the mujahideen to leave it to us ordinary Fallujans, but those bloody bastards, the sheikhs and the clerics, are busy painting some bloody mad picture of heaven and martyrs and the victory of the mujahideen," said Ali, another refugee. "And, of course, the kids believe every word those clerics say. They're young and naive, and they forget that this is a war against the might of the machine of the American army. So they let those kids die like this and our city gets blown up with the wind."

I wanted to ask the tough old Republican guard why they had let these young muj have the run of the city, but I actually didn't have to. I remember being in Falluja just before the fighting started and seeing a crowd gathered around a sack that was leaking blood. A piece of white A4 paper was stuck on to the sack, which read: "Here is the body of the traitor. He has confessed to acting as a spotter for American planes and was paid $100 a day."

At the same time as we were standing looking at the sack, I knew I would be able to buy a CD of the man in this sack making his confession before he was beheaded in any CD shop in Falluja. These were the people who controlled Falluja now - not old majors from Saddam's army.

December 24

In the morning we went back towards Falluja and heard that there were queues of people waiting to try to get back into the city. The government had made an announcement saying that the people from some districts could start to go back home; they promised compensation. About midday we got a mile east of the city and saw that four queues had formed near the American base. They were mostly men, waiting for US military ID to allow them back home.

The men were angry: "This is a humiliation. I say no more than that. These IDs are to make us bow Fallujan heads in shame," one of them said.

I met Major Paul Hackett, a marine officer in the Falluja liaison base. He said that the US military was not trying to humiliate anyone, but that the IDs were necessary for security. "I mean, my understanding is that ultimately they can hang this ID card on a wall and keep it as a souvenir," he said.

They took prints of all my fingers, two pictures of my face in profile, and then photographed my iris. I was now eligible to go into Falluja, just like any other Fallujan.

But it was late by then, somewhere near 5pm (the curfew is at 6pm). After that anyone who moves inside the city will be shot on sight by the US military. Tomorrow, we would try again to get into the city.

December 25

At around 8am, Tariq and I drove towards Falluja. We didn't believe that we might actually get into the city.

The American soldiers at the checkpoint were nervous. The approach to the checkpoint was covered in pebbles so we had to drive very slowly. The soldiers spent 20 minutes searching my car, then they bodysearched Tariq and me. They gave me a yellow tape to put on to the windscreen of the car, showing I had been searched and was a contractor. If I didn't have this stripe of yellow, a US sniper would shoot me as an enemy car.

By 10am we were inside the city. It was completely devastated, destruction everywhere. It looked like a city of ghosts. Falluja used to be a modern city; now there was nothing. We spent the day going through the rubble that had been the centre of the city; I didn't see a single building that was functioning.

The Americans had put a white tape across the roads to stop people wandering into areas that they still weren't allowed to enter. I remembered the market from before the war, when you couldn't walk through it because of the crowds. Now all the shops were marked with a cross, meaning that they had been searched and secured by the US military. But the bodies, some of them civilians and some of them insurgents, were still rotting inside.

There were dead dogs everywhere in this area, lying in the middle of the streets. Reports of rabies in Falluja had reached Baghdad, but I needed to find a doctor.

Fallujans are suspicious of outsiders, so I found it surprising when Nihida Kadhim, a housewife, beckoned me into her home. She had just arrived back in the city to check out her house; the government had told the people three days earlier that they should start going home. She called me into her living room. On her mirror she pointed to a message that had been written in her lipstick. She couldn't read English. It said: "Fuck Iraq and every Iraqi in it!"

"They are insulting me, aren't they?" she asked.

I left her and walked towards the cemetery. I noticed the dead dogs again. I had been told in Baghdad by a friend of mine, Dr Marwan Elawi, that the Baghdad Hospital for Infectious Diseases admits one case of rabies every week. The problem is that infected dogs are eating the corpses and spreading the disease.

As I was walking by the cemetery, I caught the smell of death coming from one of the houses. The door was open and the first thing I saw was a white car parked in the driveway and on top of it a launcher for an RPG.

I went inside, and the sound of the rain on the roof and the darkness inside made me very afraid. The door was open, all the windows were broken and there were bullet holes running down the hall to a bathroom at the end - as if the bullets were chasing something or somebody. The bathroom led on to a bedroom and I stepped inside and saw the body of a fighter.

The leg was missing, the hand was missing and the furniture in the house had been destroyed. I couldn't breathe with the smell. I realised that Tariq wasn't with me, and I panicked and ran. As I got out of the house I saw a white teddy bear lying in the rain, and a green boobytrap bomb.

Some of the worst fighting took place here in the centre of the city, but there was no sign of the 1,200 to 1,600 fighters the Americans said they had killed. I had heard that there was a graveyard for the fighters somewhere in the city but people said that most of them had withdrawn from the city after the first week of fighting. I needed to find one of the insurgents to tell me the real story of what had happened in the city. The Americans had said that there had been a big military victory, but I couldn't understand where all the fighters were buried.

After I saw the body I felt uncomfortable about sleeping in Falluja. The place was deserted and polluted with death and all kinds of weapons. Imagine sleeping in a place where any of the surrounding houses might have one, two or three bodies. I wanted out.

We went back to my friend the old Republican guard officer. I was so tired I could hardly take my clothes off to go to sleep but I couldn't sleep with the smell of death on my clothes.

December 26

In the morning, I went back to find the cemetery and look for evidence of the fighters who had been killed. It was about 4pm before I got inside the martyrs' cemetery; people kept waylaying me, wanting to show me their destroyed houses and asking why the journalists didn't come and show what the Americans had done to Falluja. They were also angry at the interim President Allawi for sending in the mainly Shia National Guard to help the Americans.

At the entrance to the fighters' graveyard a sign read: "This cemetery is being given by the people of Falluja to the heroic martyrs of the battle against the Americans and to the martyrs of the jihadi operations against the Americans, assigned and approved by the Mujahideen Shura council in Falluja."

As I went into the graveyard, the bodies of two young men were arriving. The faces were rotting. The ambulance driver lifted the bones of one of the hands; the skin had rotted away. "God is the greatest. What kind of times are we living through that we are holding the bones and hands of our brothers?"

Then he began cursing the National Guard, calling them even worse things than the Americans: "Those bastards, those sons of dogs." It wasn't the first time I had heard this. It was the National Guard the Americans used to search the houses; they were seen by the Fallujans as brutal stooges. Most of the volunteers for the National Guard are poor Shias from the south. They are jobless and desperate enough to volunteer for a job that makes them assassination targets. "National infidels", they were also called.

I counted the graves: there were 74. The two young men made it 76. The names on the headstones were written in chalk and some had been washed away. One read: "Here lies the heroic Tunisian martyr who died", but I didn't see any other evidence of the hundreds of foreign fighters that the US had said were using Falluja as their headquarters. People told me there were some Yemenis and Saudis, some volunteers from Tunisia and Egypt, but most of the fighters were Fallujan. The US military say they have hundreds of bodies frozen in a potato chip factory 5km south of the city, but nobody has been allowed to go there in the past two months, including the Red Crescent.

Salman Hashim was crying beside the grave of his son, who had been a fighter in Falluja.

"He is 18 years old. He wanted to be a doctor or engineer after this year; it was his last year in high school." At the same grave, the boy's mother was crying and remembering her dead son, who was called Ahmed. "I blame Ayad Allawi. If I could I would cut his throat into pieces." Then, to the mound of earth covering her son's body, she said: "I told you those fighters would get you killed." The boy's father told her to be quiet in front of the camera.

On the next grave was written the name of a woman called Harbyah. She had refused to leave the city for the camps with her family. One of her relatives was standing by her grave. He said that he found her dead in her bed with at least 20 bullets in her body.

I saw other rotting bodies that showed no signs of being fighters. In one house in the market there were four bodies inside the guest room. One of the bodies had its chest and part of its stomach opened, as if the dogs had been eating it. The wrists were missing, the flesh of the arm was missing, and parts of the legs.

I tried to figure out who these four men were. It was obvious which houses the fighters were in: they were totally destroyed. But in this house there were no bullets in the walls, just four dead men lying curled up beside each other, with bullet holes in the mosquito nets that covered the windows. It seemed to me as if they had been asleep and were shot through the windows. It is the young men of the family who are usually given the job of staying behind to guard the house. This is the way in Iraq - we never leave the house empty. The four men were sleeping the way we sleep when we have guests - we roll out the best carpet in the guest room and the men lie down beside each other.

"Its Abu Faris's house. I think that the fat dead body belongs to his son, Faris," said Abu Salah, whose chip shop was also destroyed in the bombing.

It was getting dark and it was time to go, but I needed some overview shots of the city. There was a half-built tower, so I climbed it and looked around. I couldn't see a single building that hadn't been hit.

After a few minutes I got the sense that this wasn't a good place for me to be hanging around, but I had to pee urgently. I found a place on the roof of the building. While I was doing that a warning shot passed so close to my head that I ducked and didn't even wait to pull up my zip, but ran to the half-destroyed stairs to climb down the building. I felt as if the American sniper was playing with me; he had had plenty of time to kill me if he wanted to.

For the rest of the day people were pulling on me to come and see their houses. Again, they asked where all the journalists were. Why were they not coming to report on what has happened in Falluja? But I have worked with journalists for 18 months and I knew it would be too dangerous for them to come to the city, that they are seen as spies and could end up in a sack. So since I was the only one there with a camera, everyone wanted to show me what happened to their house. It took hours.

Back in Baghdad that night, I changed my clothes and decided to send them to the public laundry. I was worried about contaminating my family with Falluja. I was thinking that nobody was going to be able to live there for months. Then, I took a very long bath.

December 27

I woke up at home in Baghdad around 9am. I had had enough of Falluja, but I still felt that I didn't understand what had happened. The city was completely devastated - but where were the bodies of all the dead fighters the Americans had killed?

I wanted to ask Dr Adnan Chaichan about the wounded. I found him at the main hospital in Falluja at midday. He told me that all the doctors and medical staff were locked into the hospital at the beginning of the attack and not allowed out to treat anyone. The Iraqi National Guard, acting under US orders, had tied him and all the other doctors up inside the main hospital. The US had surrounded the hospital, while the National Guard had seized all their mobile phones and satellite phones, and left them with no way of communicating with the outside world. Chaichan seemed angrier with the National Guards than with anyone else.

He said that the phone lines inside the town were working, so wounded people in Falluja were calling the hospital and crying, and he was trying to give instructions over the phone to the local clinics and the mosques on how to treat the wounds. But nobody could get to the main hospital where all the supplies were and people were bleeding to death in the city.

It was late afternoon when I drove out of Falluja and back to Baghdad, feeling that I had just scratched the surface of what really happened there. But it is clear that by completely destroying this Sunni city, with the help of a mostly Shia National Guard, the US military has fanned the seeds of a civil war that is definitely coming. If there are elections now and the Shia win, that war is certain. The people I spoke to had no plans to vote. No one I met in those five days had a ballot paper.

A week after I arrived in London to make the film for Channel 4 News, the tape of the final interview arrived by Federal Express. It was the interview with Alzaim Abu, who had led the fighters in the Shuhada district of Falluja and fought the Americans in the early battles in the city centre. We had been been trying to track him down for nearly three weeks. Then Tariq had got a call from him the night I had left for London saying that he would talk.

There was a lot of bullshit in the interview; lots of bravado about how many Americans they had killed and about never surrendering and how Fallujans would win. He said that there were a few foreign fighters in the city, but none in his units; mostly, they were Fallujans.

But one thing stood out for me that explained the empty graveyard and the lack of bodies. He said that most of the fighters had been given orders to abandon the city by November 17, nine days after the assault began. "The withdrawal of the fighters was carried out following an order by our senior leadership. We did not pull out because we did not want to fight. We needed to regroup; it was a tactical move. The fighters decided to redeploy to Amiriya and some went to Abu Ghraib," he said.

The US military destroyed Falluja, but simply spread the fighters out around the country. They also increased the chance of civil war in Iraq by using their new national guard of Shias to suppress Sunnis. Once, when a foreign journalist, an Irish guy, asked me whether I was Shia or Sunni - the way the Irish do because they have that thing about the IRA - I said I was Sushi. My father is Sunni and my mother is Shia. I never cared about these things. Now, after Falluja, it matters.

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PM moved to tears by tsunami disaster
Patrick Wintour
Tuesday January 11, 2005
The Guardian

The number of Britons likely to have died in the tsunami disaster now stands at 453, Tony Blair said yesterday, adding that he is raising the initial British direct aid to the region to £75m.

Making his first statement to MPs since the tsunami, he admitted he had been moved to tears by the disaster and praised the generosity of the British people. The Queen will attend a memorial service, conducted in consultation with bereaved families, later this year.

Mr Blair said 871 Britons were still unaccounted for in the region, down from 7,000 in the immediate wake of the disaster and from 2,000 last week.

Comment: We do not remember there being any reports of Blair's tears during his most recent visit to Iraq. In fact, Blair showed his true, humanitarian spirit when he went off for his Christmas holiday just after learning the news of the devastation caused by the December 26th disaster...

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Tsunami disaster strips away Blair’s humanitarian pretence
By Julie Hyland
5 January 2005
Prime Minister Tony Blair finally returned from his family vacation in Egypt on Monday January 3, more than a week after the Asian tsunami first struck, leaving a catastrophic trail of death and destruction in its wake.

Blair’s cavalier indifference to the terrible events in the Indian Ocean has been even more apparent than that of President George W. Bush. Whilst the latter was finally forced out of his Texas ranch some three days after the tsunami hit to make a perfunctory statement on the disaster, Blair resisted any demands that he should cut short his holiday in order to lead the UK’s emergency aid effort.

The prime minister’s contempt for the plight of tens of millions of people is all the more striking when one considers his record.

Foremost amongst world leaders, Blair has sought to portray his every action as being shaped by humanitarian impulses and concern for what he terms “global interdependence.” From Kosovo to Iraq, the prime minister has insisted that “ethics” and “morality” must be at the heart of British foreign policy. [...]

According to reports, Blair was given news about the tsunami just before he took his flight to the Sharm el-Sheik resort on December 26, but decided to continue with his vacation regardless.

Comment: The psychopath feels no real empathy for others. He can mimic it for the cameras when needed, when his programming tells him that others expect it. He doesn't really understand why, but he has learned that in order to get his way, he must put on the mask of sanity and appear to have the emotions and feelings of those around him.

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Bush to have most heavily guarded inauguration
www.chinaview.cn 2005-01-11 02:12:47
WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 (Xinhuanet) -- US President George W. Bush will have a most heavily guarded inauguration in history on Jan. 20 when he takes the oath of office for his second term, a Washington Post report said Monday.

The noontime swearing-in at the Capitol and the parade that will follow will draw tens of thousands of people, including a large number of protesters.

Led by the Secret Service, authorities began planning eight months ago for the first post-Sept. 11 inauguration, and they have an array of resources that were not available four years ago, including new communications technology and advanced methods of screening, according to the report.

Before, during and after the inauguration, Washington D.C. police and US Park Police helicopters will hover overhead, able to beam live images from the scene, and the surveillance will be monitored by authorities at various command centers run by the many agencies working on security.

The main one is the Multi-Agency Coordination Center in Fairfax County, Northern Virginia, a gleaming steel-and-marble complex, where the Secret Service and 50 federal, state and local agencies will monitor action in the sky, on the ground and in the subway system.

More than 4,600 law enforcement officers will be posted along the parade route, including hundreds of undercover officers in the crowd, as well as sharpshooters with rifles on rooftops.

Officials say they know of no specific threats relating to the inauguration and the evening balls. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said last week that intelligence monitors are picking up less terrorist threat chatter, in general, than a year ago.

Security officials say the most likely terrorist threat is a truck bomb -- one of the reasons they are barring vehicles from a wide swath of downtown Washington on Inauguration Day.

D.C. police plan to erect roadblocks and screen pedestrians around an area covering more than 100 square blocks in the center of official Washington. People will have to pass through at least one of the 22 checkpoints along the parade route and through metal detectors.

Protesters will be allowed to demonstrate in seven areas, but signs cannot be attached to anything that could be used as a weapon. No large backpacks, camera bags, thermos bottles, coolers, picnic baskets, strollers or umbrellas will be allowed on the parade route or the Capitol grounds.

The military will have bomb jammers -- devices that have been used in Iraq and can block or delay someone using a cell
phone or other remote gadget from detonating an explosive, and anti-terror preparations include the use of mobile and stationary chemical and biological sensors that will sniff the air in subway stations, on the National Mall, in buildings and on the streets.

Military radar will monitor the sky from ground stations throughout the city and aircraft aloft.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced that it will triple the no-fly zone over Washington that now prohibits small aircraft within 16 miles of the Washington Monument, and the North American Aerospace Defense Command will have increased air patrols over Washington by multiple jet fighters.

Comment: The American Police State, live and coming to a surveillance camera near you. These "precautions" are not being put into place because of a "terrorist threat". There never were any terrorists. The attacks of 9/11 were a fraud perpetrated against the American people by those who had been elected and appointed to protect them.

The only terrorists in the US today are in the Bush Administration, and yet more and more Republican ideologues are accusing of terrorism or giving aid to "America's enemies" any man or woman or child who dares speak his mind against the black cloud of tyranny that has settled over the country.

America's enemies are its leaders, those who planned and carried out the atrocity of 9/11, and those who sit meekly aside in Congress and allow it to continue unquestioned.

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Metro Officers Keep a Keen Eye on Riders

New Behavioral Profiling Techniques, TSA Training Help Target Suspicious Subway Passengers

By Sara Kehaulani Goo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 10, 2005; Page A06

Metro police officers are using new behavioral profiling techniques as they patrol subway stations, identifying suspicious riders and pulling them aside for questioning.

The officers are targeting people who avoid eye contact, loiter or appear to be looking around transit stations more than other passengers, officials said. Anyone identified as suspicious will be stopped and questioned about what they are doing and where they are going.

As part of their preparations for tighter security during the presidential inauguration, the officers have been trained by the Transportation Security Administration to take notice of the same behavioral characteristics and patterns that airport security officials watch for.

"It is effective," said Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein, who noted that a few pickpockets have been caught over the past six months as officers in uniform and plain clothes have been applying their special observation skills. [...]

"You can't use this very subjective sense of who's suspicious as a substitute for what the law would otherwise require . . . such as a basis for suspicion that someone is engaged in criminal conduct," said John Reinstein, legal director for the ACLU of Massachusetts. [...]

Security experts say such techniques can be useful in a transit system if deployed by well-trained law enforcement officers, but they must be able to explain to travelers why they are being questioned. "If a police officer asks you a question, they have to have a reasonable suspicion that they can articulate. . . . We don't live in a national ID-requirement society," said Charles Slepian, chief executive of the Foreseeable Risk Analysis Center, a security-related think tank for the public and private sectors. [...]

Comment: Slepian's comment is particularly concerning given the recent intelligence reform bill that created federal driver's licenses - a national ID card.

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Congress passes 'doomsday' plan
By Noelle Straub
Boston Herald
Sunday, January 9, 2005
WASHINGTON- With no fanfare, the U.S. House has passed a controversial doomsday provision that would allow a handful of lawmakers to run Congress if a terrorist attack or major disaster killed or incapacitated large numbers of congressmen. 

"I think (the new rule) is terrible in a whole host of ways - first, I think it's unconstitutional,'' said Norm Ornstein, a counselor to the independent Continuity of Government Commission, a bipartisan panel created to study the issue.  "It's a very foolish thing to do, I believe, and the way in which it was done was more foolish.'' 

But supporters say the rule provides a stopgap measure to allow the government to continue functioning at a time of national crisis. 

GOP House leaders pushed the provision as part of a larger rules package that drew attention instead for its proposed ethics changes, most of which were dropped. 

Usually, 218 lawmakers - a majority of the 435 members of Congress - are required to conduct House business, such as passing laws or declaring war. 

But under the new rule, a majority of living congressmen no longer will be needed to do business under "catastrophic circumstances.'' 

Instead, a majority of the congressmen able to show up at the House would be enough to conduct business, conceivably a dozen lawmakers or less

The House speaker would announce the number after a report by the House Sergeant at Arms. Any lawmaker unable to make it to the chamber would effectively not be counted as a congressman. 

The circumstances include "natural disaster, attack, contagion or similar calamity rendering Representatives incapable of attending the proceedings of the House.'' 

The House could be run by a small number of lawmakers for months, because House vacancies must be filled by special elections. Governors can make temporary appointments to the Senate. 

Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), one of few lawmakers active on the issue, argued the rule change contradicts the U.S. Constitution, which states that "a majority of each (House) shall constitute a quorum to do business. " 

"Changing what constitutes a quorum in this way would allow less than a dozen lawmakers to declare war on another nation,'' Baird said.


Lawyer: Iraqi Abuse Was Like Act of 'Cheerleaders'
By Adam Tanner
Reuters
Jan 10, 2:47 PM (ET)

FORT HOOD, Texas - A lawyer for Charles Graner, accused ringleader in the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal, on Monday compared piling naked prisoners into pyramids to cheerleader shows and said leashing inmates was also acceptable prisoner control.

"Don't cheerleaders all over America form pyramids six to eight times a year. Is that torture?" Guy Womack, Graner's attorney, said in opening arguments to the 10-member U.S. military jury at the reservist sergeant's court-martial.

Comment: Generally, when cheerleaders all over America form human pyramids, they aren't in prison surrounded by sadistic soldiers and intelligence agents who beat and torture them if they don't comply, they are clothed, and they don't have bags over their heads. Comparing Abu Ghraib to cheerleading is beyond ridiculous. After all, if what occurred at Abu Ghraib was just cheerleading practice, why not have a performance at the Super Bowl half time show?

Graner and Pvt. Lynndie England, with whom he fathered a child and who is also facing a court-martial, became the faces of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal after they appeared in photographs that showed degraded, naked prisoners.

The prosecution showed some of those pictures in their opening argument, including several of naked Iraqi men piled on each other and another of England holding a crawling naked Iraqi man on a leash.

Womack said using a tether was a valid method of controlling detainees, especially those who might be soiled with feces.

Comment: One question raised by Womack's assertion is why the detainees were covered in feces... Or are we just meant to assume that all the prisoners regularly act like animals?

"You're keeping control of them. A tether is a valid control to be used in corrections," he said. "In Texas we'd lasso them and drag them out of there." He compared the leash to parents who place tethers on their toddlers while walking in shopping malls.

Comment: Once again, Womack ignores obvious details about the differences between the humiliation suffered by prisoners at Abu Ghraib and parents keeping their children on a leash. After implying that the prisoners acted like animals, he now implies that they are the equivalent of toddlers. If you don't have a good defense for your client, well, just insult and belittle those he is accused of harming!

Pictures of the humiliating treatment of the prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad prompted outrage around the world and further eroded the credibility of the United States already damaged in many countries by the 2003 Iraq invasion.

Apart from arguing that the methods were not illegal, Graner's defense is that he was following orders. "He was doing his job. Following orders and being praised for it," Womack told the court, adding later that Graner would testify in the case.

Comment: Indeed, Graner was following orders - orders approved by Rumsfeld and Bush. But we certainly won't see either of them on trial anytime soon...

The chief prosecutor, Maj. Michael Holley, asked rhetorically: "Did the accused honestly believe that was a lawful order?"

Comment: We are told that soldiers are taught that they have an obligation to disobey unlawful orders. Unfortunately, the US military doesn't exactly work in the real world as it is portrayed in the movies. Soldiers who disobey orders certainly won't be placed on the fast track to the top of the military hierarchy. A member of the armed forces - at least one who has a "conscience" - can thus be placed between a rock and a hard place. No matter which path they choose, they may lose everything. On the other hand, one might suspect that given the official culture in America, many of those drawn to the military could hardly be classified as having a conscience...

Initial witnesses described how Graner, wearing gloves, led several guards in stacking naked prisoners accused of leading a prison riot into a pyramid on November 8, 2003.

"That's Corp. Graner right there," Pvt. Jeremy Sivits, who is serving a year prison sentence for his role in the abuse, said as he pointed out Graner organizing naked prisoners into a pyramid.

That night Graner also knocked out one of the hooded prisoners, an accused boy rapist, by punching the temple of his head, he said. "I told Corp. Graner, 'I think you knocked him out sir,"' said Sivits, who pleaded guilty at his court martial last year. "He obviously had to hit him pretty hard to knock him out."

He said Graner also commented out loud about how the punch had impacted his hand. "Oh, damn, that hurt," Sivits quoted Graner as saying.

Graner was later demoted to that of specialist.

Sivits also testified that Graner beat a prisoner recovering from a gunshot wound in December 2003. "Please mister, please, please, please stop," was the Iraqi's response, Sivits said.

PART OF WIDER ABUSE QUESTIONS

The Bush administration has said the actions were those of a small group and were not part of a policy or condoned by senior officers.

But investigations have shown many prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba also suffered abusive treatment after the government considered ways to obtain information in the war against terrorism.

The trial of Graner, a former Pennsylvania civilian prison guard who chatted and joked with his defense attorneys before the hearing opened, was expected to last at least a week.

Defense attorney Womack said U.S. embarrassment over the Abu Ghraib photographs had prompted the charges against his client. "The embarrassment puts pressure on the government: how do we mollify the world and make them like us again?" he said.

Graner, 36, faces up to 17 1/2 years in prison on charges that include mistreating detainees, dereliction of duty and assault. He has pleaded not guilty.

Four of seven accused members of Graner's unit have already pleaded guilty to abuse charges and three have been sentenced to prison. Pvt. Ivan Frederick, who was sentenced to eight years in prison in the case, was scheduled to testify on Monday afternoon.

Comment: To better understand the actions of the "few bad apples" like Graner, the reader may wish to read our articles on psychopathy and organic portals.

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Iraqi civilians killed in shootout at checkpoint
By Aamer Madhani
Tribune staff reporter
Published January 10, 2005

BAGHDAD -- A day after Iraqi civilians were killed in a mistaken U.S. bombing near Mosul, more civilians died Sunday in a shooting incident near Baghdad in which circumstances were unclear but American troops initially were blamed.

Col. Adnan Abdul Rahman, a spokesman for Iraq's Interior Ministry, said early Sunday that a U.S. convoy was struck by a roadside bomb near a checkpoint in Yussifiyah, about 10 miles south of Baghdad, and U.S. forces responded by opening fire, mistakenly killing two Iraqi police officers and three civilians.

But Rahman later told The New York Times that he had not blamed the deaths on American fire and that it was not yet clear who fired the fatal shots. Early Monday, a U.S. military spokeswoman said she had no information about the incident.

U.S. military officials acknowledged Saturday that their forces had dropped a 500-pound bomb on the wrong house near Mosul, killing at least five Iraqi civilians.

Ten soldiers from the U.S.-led coalition died Sunday. Seven from Ukraine and one from Kazakhstan were killed in an ammunition dump accident, and an American soldier and a Marine were killed in separate attacks. In addition, the police chief in north-central Samarra was assassinated.

While Rahman said five Iraqis were killed in the checkpoint shooting Sunday, Dr. Anmar Abdul-Hadi, a physician at the al-Yarmouk hospital in Baghdad, said eight people were killed and 12 were wounded, The Associated Press reported.

House bombing toll disputed

There was a dispute as well regarding the casualty figures in Saturday's erroneous bombing. U.S. military officials acknowledged that five people were killed in the incident near Mosul, but some reports indicated that as many as 14 people may have died.

The reports of mistaken attacks on civilians come at a delicate time, with millions of Iraqis considering whether to vote in the Jan. 30 election. U.S. and Iraqi leaders have been trying to emphasize that the security situation in most of the country is such that it will be safe to cast a ballot.

Col. Dana Pittard, commander of the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division, which oversees operations in heavily Sunni-populated Baqouba, said he has been making personal pleas to Sunni leaders to take part in the election. The largest Sunni party in Iraq has called for a boycott of the vote.

"They don't think this election offers them anything to vote for," Pittard said of the Sunni leaders.

Pittard said the election will be success in his area of operation if 200,000 of the 1.8 million people living in Baqouba and the surrounding area cast a vote. [...]

Comment: To say that the upcoming election in this area will be successful if 200,000 out of 1.8 million people cast a ballot certainly does not bode well for so-called "American-style democracy" in occupied Iraq. That would be roughly just over 10% of the population in that area who may choose to vote at all, and they dare call it a "success"? So the winner in that case, even if he gets over 50% of the votes, would apparently be "elected" by only 6% of the population. What kind of mandate is that?

Further proof that the entire Iraqi election is a sham from start to finish.

Also notice this is the second time in two days that the U.S. military "mistakenly" killed civilians in the heat of battle, and the second time the official death toll estimated by the killers is significantly less than reported by witnesses on the ground.

Are we to assume that the real number of dead is somewhere in between those two figures? Not Likely. Whereas the U.S. war machine benefits greatly from a reduced body count, giving credence to the lie that the unfortunate slaughter of Iraqi civilians is rare with minimal collateral damage, witnesses in hospitals who record the actual number of dead receive no such benefit from inflating these numbers and are more likely to report what actually happened.

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Solana criticises Israels election impeding tactics
1/10/2005 9:20:00 PM GMT
Israeli soldiers grappling with a young Palestinian child

Amidst the euphoria of Mahmoud Abbas's presidential election victory  has elicited, the EU's Coordinator of Foreign and Security Policies  Javier Peres Solana, lambasted the Israeli government for impeding the Palestinian presidential election Sunday.
 
"We expected the Israelis to offer more facilities for the Palestinian election process but they did not live up to promises," he explained. However, he remained hopeful that the new leader of the Palestinians would lay down the foundations for democracy on what many analysts believe is a society on the verge of stepping into a new political stage.

Several members of the Israeli parliament welcomed Abbas's victory heralding it as an opportunity for peace as he was a 'moderate'. While head of the Labour Party, Shimon Peres, stated that the PA election was disciplined and proceeded under international supervision.

It has been reported that the Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon would make his first 'request' of Abbas by calling on him to halt the firing of Qassim rockets in return for the release of several Palestinian prisoners.
 
A senior political source said that Sharon would ask for "specific steps that he (Abbas) could perform".

Analysts believe this statement to mean that Sharon would demand of Abbas to wage war on resistance fighters in return for the promise of the release of imprisoned Palestinians whose jail terms are about to come to an end or those whose crime is not deemed to be 'threatening' to Israel.

Israeli forces open fire on Palestinian children

It's been reported that Israeli forces opened heavy fire at a group of children in the Jabalia refugee camp.

No reason has been given by the Israeli army for the shooting.

Eye witnesses reported that the children were playing when the Israeli soldiers, stationed to the northeast of the camp, opened fire at them, wounding one. They then proceeded to chase the children, arresting the one wounded by their bullets who was taken to an unknown destination.

Ambulance cars were blocked from reaching the area by the soldiers.

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The truth about Camp David

By Jude Wanniski
Tuesday 04 January 2005, 21:29 Makka Time, 18:29 GMT

"Hope springs eternal in the human breast," Alexander Pope wrote in 1733, but even he might have given up after more than half a century of "peace talks" between Israelis and Palestinians.

Yet here we are again, coming into a brand new year, with supposedly really, really serious discussions just around the corner, as soon as the Palestinians elect a leader to replace the late Yasir Arafat.

Indeed, it has quickly become conventional wisdom in the United States - across all party lines - that a true peace built around a Palestinian state may now be possible because Arafat is no longer around to obstruct the process.

In American political circles, the idea has become firmly embedded that peace could have been achieved in 2000, then president Bill Clinton's last year, had it not been for the hard-headed stubbornness of Arafat.

At the crunch at the Camp David meetings arranged by Clinton, the courageous Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak had gone further than any other Israeli leader in offering a generous settlement that even gave Arafat major concessions on the status of Jerusalem.

And Arafat turned him down and walked away.

The story of what really happened in the summer of 2000 has now been told by a young American in a book that should be read by all the participants in the coming peace talks.

Clayton Swisher, not yet 30-years old, was in graduate school in 2000. In the summer of 2001, he wrote a paper for his class on the Arab-Israeli conflict, concluding:

"The biggest missed opportunity was Camp David 2000. At Camp David, both parties were ready for conflict resolution. Ehud Barak showed the ability to think in abstract terms - outside of conventional wisdom.

"Barak's bold move toward territorial compromise belongs in a category with [Egyptian President] Anwar Sadat's 1977 visit to Jerusalem.

"What was lacking at Camp David was a Palestinian leader with the ability to take risks and accept that he would not get 100% of concessions.

"Barak's honourable intentions of settling all claims came as a shock to Arafat."

In fact, this was my view at the time, because it was the universal account that I had read about in the American press.

It was not until I read an account by two of the negotiators at Camp David in the New York Review of Books on 13 June 2002 that I realised my belief was almost certainly in error.

As a result, I wrote a brief defence of Yasir Arafat on my website, having come to the conclusion that he was almost certainly not the villain of the piece as he had been portrayed.

Swisher read the same account, but went much further than I did, devoting much of his next two years doing first-hand research and producing his new book, The Truth About Camp David: The Untold Story about the Collapse of the Middle East Peace Process.

I had heard about the book several weeks ago from a mutual friend and was most sceptical that an unknown young man could produce a credible work to match the title.

After reading it, though, I realised his youth and status as a graduate student, not a journalist, made it work.

The several dozen key people involved in the Camp David talks and others in the Middle East who were important to its outcome would probably not have talked so openly to reporters working on deadline.

But high-level officials such as then secretary of state Madeleine Albright, chief US negotiator Dennis Ross, and senior negotiators for the Israelis and Palestinians were clearly open and happy to talk to a student who seemed interested only in getting to the bottom of things.

His book, 455 pages long, is not only thoroughly documented and persuasive, but as well written and gripping as a detective whodunit.

And if Arafat is not the villain, who is? The simple answer is, there is none. The talks broke down because they were not carefully prepared in the way president Carter's Camp David summit with Egypt's Anwar Sadat and Israel's Menachim Began were.

They could not have succeeded because Barak was not prepared to make a critical concession to Arafat regarding Jerusalem.

The closest Swisher comes to blaming anyone for the collapse is in his accounts of the behaviour of president Clinton himself, who refused to accept the fact that Arafat was in no position to accept the deal offered by Barak.

After all, Arafat was only representing the interests of the Palestinians and could not speak for the Islamic world on the holy places of Jerusalem.

Clinton was dazzled by Barak's offer to "put Jerusalem on the table" - the first time that had ever been done by an Israeli leader - and tried to browbeat Arafat into accepting.

But in only offering "custodial control" of the Temple Mount to Arafat, ie the right to collect garbage and run security patrols in that part of Jerusalem, Barak had to know Arafat could not possibly have accepted it, and if he had, his own people would have assassinated him.

Swisher quotes from notes taken at one session, with Arafat horrified that Barak had persuaded Dennis Ross - who spent 90% of his private time at Camp David with Barak - to alter the wording on Jerusalem.

Instead of stating: "The Jerusalem municipal area will host the national capitals of both Israel and the Palestinian state," Ross crossed out "municipal area" and wrote in: "The expanded area of Jerusalem will host the national capitals of both Israel and the Palestinian state."

"Expanded area", of course, meant giving the Palestinians a capital in the suburbs.

Clinton still thought this was a good deal and hammered at Arafat to accept. Swisher quotes the notes taken of Arafat's response:

"The Palestinian leader who will give up Jerusalem has not yet been born. I will not betray my people or the trust they have placed in me. Don't look to me to legitimise the occupation.

"No on can continue indefinitely to impose domination by military force - look at South Africa. Our people will not accept less than their rights as stated by international resolutions and international legality."

President Clinton could see time was running out on his administration and a chance of leaving the Oval Office with an Arab/Israeli deal dwindling. If he could not get a deal, it could not be his fault.

Even though in order to get Arafat to the slapdash summit, the president had promised that if there could be no deal, there would be no blame assessed, Clinton went back on his word.

He did so by announcing to the world that there was no deal even though Barak had been courageous in offering Arafat a great deal.

In Swisher's account, Arafat's big mistake was to fly back to Ram Allah without holding a press conference to challenge Clinton's assessment of why the talks failed:

"For these reasons, Barak's government and its supporters in the United States unleashed one of the greatest PR frauds in history, still dominating the US and Israeli media to this day." There is nobody in the book who comes out as bad as Dennis Ross, however.

After the talks failed and Arafat flew home, there still seemed time to work something out in the last three months of 2000, with Clinton still eager to make a deal. The problem was Ariel Sharon and his Likud Party, who knew the deal-breaker was the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Sharon knew Arafat could never accept a "generous deal" on the West Bank and Gaza - which he was clearly prepared to offer - if he could not give the Islamic world of 1.2 billion people assurances that they would not have to go through Jewish checkpoints to visit their holy places.

In this high stakes chess game, Sharon then made it known that he would make a personal visit to the Temple Mount, a clear signal that it was Israel's and all the Palestinians could expect in any deal was to be able to collect the garbage, Barak's "custodial" offer.

It is part of conventional wisdom that Arafat was responsible for the second intifada, when he returned to Ram Allah empty-handed.

But The Truth About Camp David makes it clear Arafat did everything he could to prevent Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount, knowing it would incite violence.

The myth that Arafat cultivated the intifada and was psychologically unable to make peace with Israel took deep root in America too, of course.

A 35-year veteran clandestine CIA officer and adviser to former director George Tenet told me, first, that Arafat did not plan the second intifada; second, that the status quo theory that "he couldn't get what he wanted so he chose the path of violence" is a lie. [...]

Jude Wanniski is a former associate editor of The Wall Street Journal, expert on supply-side economics and founder of Polyconomics, which helps to interpret the impact of political events on financial markets.

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New year, old atrocities
Israel greeted the new year by killing seven children in the Gaza Strip, reports Khaled Amayreh from Ramallah

On 4 January an Israeli Abrams tank stationed in Beit Lahya in northern Gaza fired one or two huge artillery shells at a group of Palestinian children harvesting strawberry crops. The shells killed six children from the same family, three brothers and three cousins, all aged between 10 and 14. A seventh boy, aged 19, was also killed in the shelling. The bodies of the victims were mutilated beyond recognition.

The Israeli army immediately switched into "hasbara mode", concocting lies aimed at absolving itself of blame for the hideous crime.

Initially, Israeli radio and TV stations, as well as newspaper websites, declared that "the IDF killed between six and seven terrorists who were trying to plant bombs."

An hour or so later, the army spokesman modified his tone, saying that "it appeared that a Hamas cell was operating in the area."

Then, after it became clear that the victims were children and that no "terrorists were operating in the area" the spokesman resorted to the ultimate defensive tactic, blaming the victims for their own death.

It is all too familiar to the Palestinians of the area.

Mohamed Sultan, who lives not far from the site where the killings occurred, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the Israeli army would never condemn itself by telling the truth.

"The Israeli army lies as mush as it breathes. When they murder children, knowingly and deliberately, they concoct a narrative about Hamas or terror groups. The truth of the matter is that the Israeli army embodies terror in its ugliest form. Israel is terror placed between two mirrors, it is infinitely evil."

The seven victims follow 12 Palestinians murdered by Israel since the beginning of 2005, all of them in the Gaza Strip. In Khan Yunis Israeli occupation forces have over two weeks left more than 27 dead and destroyed hundreds of homes and farms.

According to the annual report released on 1 January by the Israeli human rights organisation B'tselem, which monitors human rights violations in the occupied territories, the majority of Palestinians killed and maimed by the Israeli occupation army in the past 12 months played no part in the resistance. B'tselem said it was not clear if 19 additional victims killed in the same period were involved in the resistance.

According to the report, the number of Palestinians killed by the Israeli army and paramilitary settlers since the outbreak of the second Intifada in September 2000 stands at 3,185, including 626 children. Of these, the report said, 1,712 were not involved in the resistance.

The latest killings in Gaza, suggest some Palestinian and Israeli observers, might have been intended to appease the Jewish settlers' camp whose messianic followers are putting up stiff resistance to Ariel Sharon's unilateral plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.

Settler leaders have been demanding the Israeli government "kill the terrorists" instead of uprooting Jews from "their land". [...]

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New Year, Old Story
By GIDEON LEVY
January 7, 2005

A quiet weekend: The Israel Defense Forces managed to conduct two operations in Gaza during a four-day period starting last Thursday and continuing through this past Sunday. This is how the New Year's celebration there looked: 10 Palestinians killed, including two teenagers, one of whom was mentally disabled; 30 Palestinians injured, including a cameraman from Channel 10; and another 14 homes demolished. While Israel was collecting food contributions for Sri Lanka, residents of Khan Yunis sat on the sand near their destroyed homes, eating a paltry lunch.

On Sunday, after the operations ended, five Qassam rockets hit Sderot and mortar shells were fired at the Erez industrial zone, seriously injuring a 25-year-old worker, Nissim Arbib. Operation "Purple Iron" had not ended yet and "Autumn Wind" had not yet begun to blow, and suddenly "Purple Rain" poured down upon the Erez checkpoint. There was a faint boom and then a mortar shell fell near us, in the adjacent industrial zone. Shlomi Eldar, a reporter for Channel 10, was on his way to meet with the Palestinians who were firing the mortars from Rafah, and we were going to meet the victims of "Purple Iron" in Khan Yunis. "See you this evening," we said, but by the time evening came, Eldar had already brought his cameraman, Majdi al-Arbid, to the hospital in serious condition. An IDF sniper shot him from a range of 300 meters in Jabalya, despite the fact that he held a television camera in his hand--or perhaps because of this. Eldar, an experienced and honest reporter, is convinced that the photographer did not pose a risk to the sniper, who saw the camera and nonetheless shot without warning, intending only to injure the cameraman. He was hit by a bullet in the groin, two steps away from Eldar. Long hours passed before Eldar and the Channel 10 team managed to persuade the IDF to allow the bleeding photographer, whose life was at risk, to be rushed to a hospital in Israel. The IDF is investigating.

On the way out of Erez, near Beit Hanun, there is a tank and a bulldozer, digging up the only access road. It is hard to know whether this is the end of "Purple Iron" or the beginning of "Autumn Wind," which began and ended on Sunday. How are people supposed to enter and exit Erez now? [...]

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Palestinians launch mortar attacks on Israeli settlements

11/01/2005 - 09:15:57

Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired a barrage of home-made rockets and mortar rounds at Israeli towns and settlements today, but nobody was reported injured after the attacks.

A settler spokesman said five mortar rounds hit a number of the illegal outposts in the Gaza Strip, shattering windows on a crowded synagogue in one settlement.

A home-made rocket also landed in the Israeli town of Sderot, damaging several buildings and cars.

The attacks came just hours after PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who opposes armed resistance and has vowed to tackle militants, was confirmed as the new president of the Palestinian Authority.

Comment: Who are these "Palestinian freedom fighters" that seem so determined to continuously present Israel with "justification" for it's brutal supression of the Palestinian people?

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Israel threatens Egypt with air strikes
1/10/2005 3:45:00 PM GMT

A report published in an Israeli newspaper claims that Egyptian passenger planes have been penetrating Israeli airspace near Eilat.

The report also said that the flyovers are unauthorised and have prompted the Israeli government to intensify its counter-measures using anti-aircraft missiles and fighter planes and having them on stand-by. Furthermore, Israel has stepped up the air security aimed at Saudi Arabia following rumours that Al Qaeda has recruited Saudi pilots in a bid to launch an attack similar to the September 11 strikes.
 
According to anonymous Israeli officials, Tel Aviv has asked Egypt to prevent its planes from entering Israeli air space near the southern port of Eilat, issuing a dire warning that if they suspect an attack to occur the plane could be shot down.

Only four people have the authority to order a passenger aircraft shot down, the prime minister, defense minister, chief of General Staff and commander of the air force.

Egyptians planes have the right to use some corridors in Israeli airspace; however the shortcut route over Eilat is not on the list. The usual flight paths of Egyptian planes heading for Jordan cross near Eilat.

The sources claim that there have been at least 25 incidents involving Egyptian civilian planes flying in unauthorized areas in the past six months and in some cases fighter jets were ordered into the air and then quietly returned to base.
 
Israel has been on high alert for similar September 11 strikes, like the ones that struck New York and Washington, to hit Eilat especially as is has a row of high-rise buildings.

Israeli officials claim that Egypt hasn't responded to its urgent messages and that overflights continue.
 
Eilat is at Israel's southernmost tip, at a place where the borders of Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia converge. 

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Israel fires reservists for voicing dissent
January 11, 2005
Reuters

Israel dismissed six reservist military officers on Sunday for threatening to disobey an order to evacuate Jewish settlements under a Gaza pullout plan.

Generals acted to quell the threat of dissent in military ranks over Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to remove Jewish settlements from Gaza and the northern West Bank this year as part of "disengagement" from conflict with the Palestinians.

The six dismissed officers were the highest ranking of a group of 34, all Jewish settlers living in the West Bank, who had a letter published in a newspaper last week describing any order to implement the Gaza plan as illegal.

The officers had refused to renounce the letter "and were dismissed" from their command, although they retained their ranks, a military spokeswoman said. The other signatories would be disciplined at a later time.

"The Israeli army regards very seriously every call to refuse an order and any use of rank for political purpose," the spokeswoman said.
Colonel Chaim Morad, one of those dismissed, said he thought the measure would not stop other soldiers from threatening to disobey orders to remove settlers.

Jewish settlement leaders have said thousands of soldiers would refuse to remove more than 8000 settlers from Gaza and the northern West Bank as Mr Sharon plans. Some have circulated petitions against the withdrawal for soldiers to sign.

Opinion polls show strong public support in Israel for the plan to quit Gaza, where settlements built on occupied land have come under constant attack in a four-year-old Palestinian uprising.

Army chief Moshe Yaalon had threatened last week to dismiss the officers behind the letter, published only a day after Mr Sharon had visited an army base to condemn calls to disobey pullout orders as a threat to Israel's existence.

In Israel, where military service is compulsory for Jewish males and most of the nation's leaders have served, the army is traditionally viewed as a unifying force and threats to its cohesiveness tend to evoke strong emotions.

The military last week jailed a soldier for 28 days for urging colleagues to defy orders to remove a Jewish settler outpost in the West Bank.

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Slave Sovereignty
Palestinian Presidential Elections Under Occupation
by Omar Barghouti
January 07, 2005
Many Palestinians are boasting that they will soon enjoy, again, the most free and democratic elections in the entire Arab World. The only problem is that electing a Palestinian president while still under the boot of the occupier is an oxymoron. Sovereignty and occupation are mutually exclusive. The world, including many well-informed readers, seem to think that the Palestinian people is actually practicing the ultimate form of sovereignty by freely choosing its own president. This is easily extrapolated in the heads of many to mean that Palestinians are in a way free. So what’s all this talk about occupation? Notice, for example, how little media attention is given now to the almost daily killings of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli occupation forces. Of course, the only thing that matters is who is running; who is not; what Mahmoud Abbas might have intended to say; or what Marwan Barghouti could have done only if … . Bulldozing houses in Rafah, expanding colonies in Hebron and killing innocent children in Beit Lahya is simply a bore, a peripheral story, an ordinary occurrence in the midst of an election extraordinaire.
 
There are several things wrong in this picture, least of which is the fact that it is false. [...]

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To Try to Net Killer, Police Ask a Small Town's Men for DNA
By PAM BELLUCK
Published: January 10, 2005

TRURO, Mass., Jan. 7 - In an unusual last-ditch move to find clues to the three-year-old killing of a freelance fashion writer, police investigators are trying to get DNA samples from every man in this Cape Cod hamlet, all 790 or so, or as many as will agree.

Raising concerns among civil libertarians and prompting both resistance and support from men in Truro, the state and local police began collecting the genetic samples last week, visiting delicatessens, the post office and even the town dump to politely ask men to cooperate. Legal experts said the sweeping approach had been used only in limited instances before in the United States - although it is more widely used in Europe - and in at least one of those cases it prompted a lawsuit.

Sgt. David Perry of the Truro Police Department and other law enforcement authorities here say that the program is voluntary but that they will pay close attention to those who refuse to provide DNA.

"We're trying to find that person who has something to hide," Sergeant Perry said. [...]

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Russia Uganda Plane Crash
Associated Press
January 9, 2005

MOSCOW - The six crew members killed when a cargo plane crashed after takeoff in Uganda were Russian citizens, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported, citing the Russian owner of the Congo-based company the plane belonged to.

The Antonov An-24 plane, which crashed Saturday a few kilometers (miles) from Entebbe International Airport, belonged Congo-registered Service Air, ITAR-Tass quoted its owner Yevgeny Zakharov as saying in a report late Saturday.

Zakharov said all six men were killed and gave their names and the Russian cities they came from. He said he would travel to Uganda to deal with the crash and send the remains of the crew members to Russia, ITAR-Tass reported.

Eliane Nabaa, a spokeswoman for the U.N. mission in Congo, said Saturday that after takeoff, the crew radioed back to Entebbe's control tower, reporting engine trouble and asking to land. But the plane crashed into a field before making it to the runway. She said the plane was a private charter carrying two vehicles. Its fuel tank was full, causing a very large fire with the crash, she said.

Zakharov said the crash was apparently caused by engine trouble but denied there was a fire on board the plane, ITAR-Tass reported. [...]

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PILOTS BEWARE? SUPER DAZZLER MAY BE IN SIGHT
defensetech.org

So nobody has downed an airplane with a blinding laser beam, yet. But the task could get a little easier, if research at the University of New Hampshire pans out.

For decades, the world's militaries have been developing laser "dazzlers" -- bright pulses of coherent light, meant to render someone sightless, temporarily. The Chinese (and, maybe, the North Koreans) have working models. And while U.S. research has dampened, ever since the Clinton administration signed an international protocol banning the blinding weapons, work on the devices never stopped completely.

In recent years, the Air Force Research Laboratory put together a pair of laser spotlights that "tended to dazzle" people in their path, according to lab spokesman Rich Garcia. "It was like they were looking into the headlights of a car late at night." But the dazzlers were either too strong ­ running the risk of permanent eye damage, at some distances -- or they were "put into mothballs" after being outpaced by newer technology.

The Air Force remains interested in dazzlers, Garcia says. But the problem (from a military point of view) is that the devices, as currently configured, are pretty easy to stop. Special goggles can filter out the laser light. New-fangled anti-laser contact lenses might even be able to do the trick, as well.

A group of scientists at the University of New Hampshire may have found a way to get around the specs and the contacts, however. With money from the Defense Department-backed Non-lethal Technology Innovation Center (NTIC), they've developed a laser than can sense the defenses, and adapt to overcome them.

The machine sends out an inital laser pulse, to look for where a lens is, and how much it's being shielded. The reflected glint from the lens gives away both its position and its level of protection. The device then changes the power and direction of its second blast, so that the lens is overwhelmed.

"It someone puts on sunglasses on, it measures the reflection," says NTIC director Glenn Shwaery, "and then it gives off a brighter flash, to compensate."

But, Shwaery wants to make clear, "this has nothing to do with shining lasers into cockpits... It's not the intent of this project whatsoever."

Instead, the idea is for police to use the dazzler, now in an early lab prototype, to disorient a perp, or for a military flier to disrupt the mechanical lens on an incoming missile's tracking system.

Besides, to zap a jet or a helicopter, you "don't need anything that complicated," Shwaery observes. Kids having been using off-the-shelf laser pointers for years to wig pilots out.

Not that Shwaery wouldn't be interested in something that could take down a plane. In an (as yet unfunded) request for proposal, NTIC asks for ideas on "NL [non-lethal] disruption of aircraft. Investigate techniques to non-destructively force the aircraft to land or render it ineffectual as an asset when on the ground. Techniques shall not cause the catastrophic failure of aircraft in flight."

THERE'S MORE: Over at Salon, Patrick Smith tries to put to bed -- once and for all -- the tin-hat notion that the recent round of cockpit illuminations is somehow a terrorist plot.

To accept the proposition that terrorists are behind these events is to assume that gangs of al-Qaida operatives are hunkered down in neighborhoods throughout America, openly risking capture in their attempts to test out obvious, traceable devices that even when used accurately are exceptionally unlikely to bring forth an accident. I submit that terrorists do not undertake operations with such high probabilities of exposure and failure. They have little to gain and everything to lose. With respect to bang for the buck, why waste time with lasers when you could hide in a patch of trees with an assault rifle and inflict greater damage?


AND MORE: "Geeks, kids and copycats armed with a new type of laser pointer appear to be behind increasing reports of laser beams pointed at commercial aircraft," according to MSNBC.
Experts - from the FBI to those in the laser industry - believe the most recent incidents do not stem from illicit use of powerful military laser weapons or the less powerful lasers used by the entertainment industry, both of which require high power supplies and bulky cooling mediums.

Rather, they think the mischief is being caused by laser pointers that project a green beam of light that have recently been imported from China and Russia. They are increasingly available on the Internet.

The hand-held lasers, powered by batteries, project a green beam that can be 50 times brighter than the more common red-beam pointers and can travel 8,000 to 10,000 feet into the sky.

Although the federal Food and Drug Administration limits the power of laser pointers, there are several Web sites and electronic bulletin boards that explain how laser enthusiasts can easily double the power of the green lasers, which sell for as little as $50 and as much as $600. One company boasts it can increase the power of its green pointer so the beam of light can travel 25,000 feet into the sky.

Enthusiasts visiting one Web bulletin board said they use the laser pointers to identify stars, create simple holographs and even burn holes into plastic cups. One participant said he used his laser pointer to help his family spot a UFO.

AND MORE: The genius who lased a couple of planes over Jersey has finally been arrested.

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Firebombs Found at Mail Centre
11:31pm (UK)
By Alan Erwin, PA

Army explosive experts tonight defused four firebombs found at a Royal Mail sorting centre near Belfast.

Staff at the Mallusk plant in Newtownabbey discovered a crude device in a suspicious package and immediately carried out searches.

Another three incendiaries were uncovered and military experts were called in.

Mail services across Northern Ireland are not expected to be disrupted by the incident which followed a firebombing campaign targeting retail premises in towns across the province.

Meanwhile a blast bomb exploded tonight at a police station in County Armagh.

The device was thrown over a back gate at the barracks in Lurgan but caused no damage. No injuries were reported.

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Home intruder dies after Escambia deputies shock him with Taser
Saturday, January 8, 2005
The Associated Press

PENSACOLA, Fla. - A man who burst uninvited into a home Saturday morning died after fighting with frightened residents and Escambia County sheriff's deputies who shocked him twice with a Taser stun gun.

The intruder smashed a garage window of the Pensacola home at 8:55 a.m., sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Ted Roy said. It was unclear why he broke in.

Neighbors said he was yelling during the confrontation at Kristy and Kent Bodily's home. Neighbors also said a child in the home called the sheriff's office and ran out seeking help.

When deputies arrived, the suspect was fighting with family members, Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokeswoman Lisa Lagergren told the Pensacola News Journal. Deputies tried to handcuff the man but he resisted, so they fired a Taser twice to stop him, officials said.

"The confrontation spilled out into the front yard, where the suspect collapsed and died during the struggle," Roy said.

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Americans may be in for the long haul
January 10, 2005
BY DENIS D. GRAY

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia -- With two crucial assets -- helicopters and organizational skills -- the U.S. military is likely to stay on the devastated coast of Indonesia's tsunami-stricken Sumatra island for an extended period, U.S. officers said Sunday.

During the past nine days, U.S. Navy helicopters have rushed food, water and medical supplies to areas that are likely to remain inaccessible and in desperate need for weeks, such as the hard-hit coast of Sumatra.

''I don't see an end to this for a long, long time,'' said Capt. Larry Burt. ''The biggest shortage is still airlift to the coast.'' [...]

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Copter Crash, Aftershock Hinder Relief in Aceh
Mon Jan 10, 2005 01:47 AM ET
By Achmad Sukarsono and Dan Eaton

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (Reuters) - A helicopter crash and a powerful tremor in Indonesia hindered relief operations on Monday for the millions of victims of the tsunami and earthquake that rocked Asia more than two weeks ago.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center of the Defense Department warned that a cyclone was moving toward the southern coast of Sri Lanka could disrupt relief work there. Residents in the area said the sky was gray but no rain had fallen yet.

A U.S. military Seahawk crashed near the crowded airport in the Indonesian city of Banda Aceh, the hub of a huge effort to help millions of people whose lives were crippled by the most widespread natural disaster in living memory.

Officials said all on board the helicopter were taken to hospital but no one had died. The U.S. military briefly halted all helicopter flights taking aid to the interior, and although operations soon resumed, they were not at the usual scale.

Earlier in the morning, panic-stricken people in the devastated city fled from their homes and shelters after a 6.2 magnitude aftershock hit at 5 a.m. (2200 GMT Sunday), officials and residents said.

"There has been no report of casualties and we're still gathering more data," said Sutiono, an official at Indonesia's meteorological bureau. [...]

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U.S. dollar's freefall to have global effect

Sun, January 2, 2005
ERIC MARGOLIS -- Contributing Foreign Editor
Toronto Sun

Add China's banking system to the mix, Eric Margolis writes, and it's a recipe for disaster

Here are what will be the big stories of 2005, according to my cloudy crystal ball: - The killer tsunami that struck Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India a week ago will cause years of ongoing economic damage and human tragedy. Damage to Thailand will be quickly repaired. But Indonesia and Sri Lanka, both rent by decade-old civil wars, will particularly suffer.

- The biggest problem the world faces this new year is the continuing fall of the U.S. dollar. The Bush administration's reckless spending, ruinously expensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (now costing as much as the Vietnam War), America's galloping trade deficit and credit spending frenzy are creating the perfect economic storm.

Japan and China's central banks may give up trying to artificially shore up the U.S. dollar by buying U.S. currency and securities. A plunging dollar could cause foreign investors to start dumping U.S. securities and assets. The result: A potential worldwide financial crisis that could collapse the housing bubble, cause interest rates to soar, and send securities markets into freefall.

- China's banking system is a house of cards. Uncontrolled credit expansion has fuelled China's property boom and international buying spree. Banks are swamped by bad, non-performing loans made to huge, money-losing state-owned corporations. Collapse of China's insolvent banking system would threaten world financial markets.

- The U.S.-led occupation of Iraq is a disaster for all concerned. The war is slowly being lost. The big question in 2005 is if and how President George W. Bush will extricate the U.S. from this catastrophe, which is costing $6 billion US per month. The elections in Iraq four weeks from today won't resolve this huge mess.

- "Terrorism" -- the insurgency against U.S. domination of the Muslim world and its resources -- will intensify even after Osama bin Laden is killed. He has created a new, powerful ideological movement that will continue to shake the Muslim world and challenge its corrupt, autocratic rulers and their foreign masters.

- As the U.S. gets sucked ever deeper into its disastrous crusade against the Muslim world, it may -- possibly with Israel -- attack Iran's nuclear infrastructure, or invade Syria. An attack on Iran would leave the U.S. garrison in Iraq trapped amid a sea of hostile Shia -- as well as Sunnis.

- A real, viable peace between Israel and the Palestinians seems unlikely. Israel's PM Ariel Sharon already has everything he wants, and, according to U.S. National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, has "wrapped Bush around his little finger." So why make concessions? Palestinians will remain trapped in their giant open-air prison.

- Now that Vladimir Putin has crushed all domestic political and business opposition, his control over Russia is absolute. Only the courageous Chechen mujahadeen have resisted Putin's restoration of Kremlin autocracy. Putin is determined to rebuild the old Soviet Union. Watch for him to put increasing pressure on Ukraine in the wake of last week's election.

The Bush-Putin alliance will strengthen. By regaining state control of Russia's oil industry, Putin is poised to become a kingpin of world oil, even an equal to the Saudi royals -- if he can raise enough cash to tap his nation's vast but remote deposits.

- The European Union, for all its growing pains, economic doldrums, and bureaucratic obesity, has replaced the United States as the world's champion of human rights and support for civilized world order.

By contrast, under Bush, the U.S. has become a reactionary power devoted to protecting the status quo in league with Britain, Russia, China and India. In short, a re-run of the Holy Alliance of 1815 in which Europe's autocrats sought to protect their power and privileges, and halt the rise of bourgeois democracy.

- Look for an increasingly independent-minded Europe and China to draw closer strategically as a result of the Bush administration's aggressive policies. Russia will play both sides, backing the U.S. in its "anti-terror" campaigns, and, discreetly, China, in opposing U.S. influence in East Asia. European arms may begin to flow to China in 2005.

- Revolution is under way in Saudi Arabia. The U.S.-backed royal family will be increasingly besieged in 2005. As for U.S. claims it will promote democracy in the Muslim world, any honest votes there will produce pro-Islamic parties advocating opposition to Israel, higher oil prices, and eviction of U.S. influence from the region.

So no true democracy, just U.S.-implemented "guided democracy" in Iraq, meaning a Vichy regime that keeps U.S. bases, sells oil cheap, makes nice to Israel, and allows U.S. firms to exploit Iraq's wealth.

Comment: Words are no longer being minced, even by those traditionally tasked with keeping the public unaware of the true state of economic prospects. The truth is that the US economy seems set to collapse in the very near future. In one way or another this will be a contrived event, yet the effects on the American people will be all too real. Now is not the time to sit back and continue to procrastinate and wishfully think that it will all just blow over.

For too long ordinary people have been the last to know about upcoming events in which they were to suffer most. Each of us now has the opportunity to use our critical faculties and read the signs that are all around, take action and prevent the personal and collective disasters that are looming on the horizon. Find the courage to believe your eyes and act based on what you See. We recommend transferring all personal wealth into gold based assets, and preferably physical gold itself.

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Onset of the Great Depression

sparknotes

Following the stock market crash of 1929, the Great Depression took hold of America. Poverty and unemployment were rampant. No economic sector escaped the ravages of the depression. The decline of purchasing power in the market commodities staggered agriculture, which already had been suffering the effects of production surpluses. The prices of agricultural products fell off rapidly, and farmers responded by upping production. National wheat production, for example, was 35 million bushels higher in 1930 than it was in 1929, while prices fell from $1.09 to $0.71 per bushel. The results were disastrous.

In 1930, average farm income slid to the lowest it had been since 1921. Many farmers could not afford to pay their mortgages and lost their land. In 1933, 5 percent of the nation's farms underwent mortgage foreclosures. Nowhere was the situation worse than in the area known as the Dust Bowl, an area of about 150,000 square miles in the Midwest. As a result of excessive farming during the 1920s and before, this region suffered from massive soil erosion and dust storms which made it impossible to continue farming there in the 1930s. Millions of farmers migrated west to find new land or, in most cases, become temporary workers or sharecroppers. This helped the farm economy in some ways by cutting down production, but it brought misery to the people of the formerly fertile Dust Bowl.

The sluggish economy drastically reduced the quantity of goods and services bought and sold. The industrial and financial urban centers suffered from vast numbers of business failures, which came to a head in 1932 with over 30,000 failures nationwide. Banks closed their doors because of a lack of liquid assets. Almost 2500 banks suspended operation in 1931. Production fell off in the industrial sector as a result of falling investment and an inability to pay workers.

The massive numbers of closures and shut downs led to similarly huge unemployment. Unemployment reached an unheard of high of 25 percent in 1933, and hovered between 15 and 20 percent for the majority of the 1930s. Small towns and villages were hit the hardest, as were unskilled workers and minorities. Employment in the fields of construction and the manufacture of durable goods was especially hard hit, with 10 percent of engineers simultaneously unemployed in 1932. Abject poverty resulted. Children received inadequate nutrition and healthcare, and starvation became an everyday occurrence.

The unemployed were evicted from their homes and left to wander the nation in search of jobs and charity. Ashamed of their degraded status, many committed suicide; the suicide rate in the US rose 30 percent between 1928 and 1932. Some of these wandering unemployed took action, most notably in organizing the demonstration known as the Shame of Anacostia Flats.

At the beginning of the summer of 1932 more than 15,000 people, destitute and unemployed, converged on Washington D.C., to the Anacostia Flats area. Most of them were veterans of World War I who were demanding face value payment of their adjusted service certificates, bonds which were set to mature in 1945. On Hoover's orders, the army drove the demonstrators away.

The onset of the depression in both rural and urban areas demonstrated the inability of the US economy to cope with the impact of the stock market crash. To the citizen living in America in the 1930s, it seemed that everything that could go wrong did for business and agriculture alike. Economists differ in their explanations of the conditions that kept the economy from quickly recovering, as many at the time expected it would. There are three main strains of argument which seek to explain the causes of the prolonged tailspin of the economy during the Great Depression:

Inequality of income and wealth led to instability in the prosperity of the 1920s and set the stage for the heavy impact of the depression on those at the bottom of the economic heap.

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Earthquake hits Ingushetia
(Interfax-South)
Jan 9 2005 9:22AM

NAZRAN. Jan 9 - An earthquake measuring 3.5 points on the Richter scale has hit Ingushetia. The quake epicenter was 4 kilometers from Magas, a spokesman for the republic Emergency Situations Ministry told Interfax.

The earthquake struck at about 8:37 p.m. on Saturday. In Nazran tremors measured 2 points. Neither loss of life, nor destruction was reported, the official said.

He said it was the second earthquake to have been registered in Ingushetia over the past 48 hours.

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Cyclone's wild winds close beaches
By Mick Daly
January 11, 2005

(Australia) - THREE beaches were closed on the Sunshine Coast yesterday as rough seas and strong winds combined to make hell-raising conditions for lifeguards and swimmers.

At Caloundra, Coolum and Maroochydore, lifeguards reported strong southeasterly winds and choppier than usual seas as cyclone activity off the central Queensland coast swept up demanding beach conditions.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, severe tropical cyclone Kerry was slowly moving west last night after being located about 1050km east of Mackay at 6pm.

The storm was about 1100km north-northeast of the Sunshine Coast but its effects were being felt on local beaches.

Forecaster Rao Nagulapalli said gale force wind gusts of up to 190km/h were being generated near the centre of the cyclone, which is expected to remain severe for the next two days.

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KILLER FLOOD LEAVES CITY IN CHAOS
Jan 10 2005
By Ian Dow

(UK) - TWO elderly women died and families were evacuated by RAF helicopters yesterday after floods engulfed Carlisle. Torrential rain and high winds which hit Scotland over the weekend also lashed the city.

Some parts of Carlisle were under up to 8ft of water.

Police said several thousand people had abandoned their homes.

Among them was Alan Hargraves, 45, who had to throw his front door keys to a man in a rescue boat so they could open the door and get him out.

He said: ' Water started seeping up through the carpets and coming in through the air vents.

'By about 11 or 12am, it had got up to about four feet.

'The fridge had toppled over and bags of vegetables were floating round the kitchen.

'Outside, you could see car roofs glistening on the surface and rescue boats picking people up.'

Two elderly women were found dead in their flood-affected homes while a 63year-old man was also killed when a barn blew down near the Scottish Border.

A Red Cross spokesman said 150 people were seen at two reception centres in the city and 17 people had been treated for cut and bruises.

Environment minister Elliot Morley visited Carlisle yesterday and compared the floods to the deluge that hit Boscastle, Cornwall, last August.

Damage He said: 'There has been two months' worth of rain in 24 hours, or something like that.

'The extensive amount of rain in such a short period has overwhelmed everything.'

The cost of damage in Carlisle could run into tens of millions of pounds, the Association of British Insurers said. [...]

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12 Missing After Calif. Mudslide
Jan 10, 9:06 PM EST
By JEFF WILSON
Associated Press Writer

LA CONCHITA, Calif. (AP) -- A huge mudslide crashed down on homes in a coastal hamlet with terrifying force Monday, killing at least one person and leaving up to 12 missing as a Pacific storm hammered Southern California for a fourth straight day.

Ventura County Fire Department Chief Bob Roper said at least six and as many as a dozen residents were missing in the mudslide that pummeled a four-block area of homes in tiny La Conchita, about 70 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Nine people were injured, including a 60-year-old man who was buried for three hours.

"It lasted a long time. It was slow-moving. The roofs of the houses were crashing and creaking real loud and there was a huge rumble sound," said Robert Cardoza, a construction worker who was clearing debris from a nearby highway.

The mudslide brought the number of dead from the latest wave of California storms to 10. The storms have sent rainfall totals to astonishing levels, turning normally mild Southern California into a giant flood zone.

The hillside in La Conchita cascaded down like a brown river as authorities were evacuating about 200 residents from the area. Trees and vegetation were carried away, leaving huge gashes of raw earth on the bluff.

Some residents made their way from the area clutching pets, luggage or clothing as the huge mass of mud bore down. Some huddled together or cried as they talked on cell phones. Fifteen to 20 houses were hit by the slide. [...]

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Drought's Growing Reach: Global Warming as Key Factor
Newswise
Released: Mon 10-Jan-2005, 14:10 ET 

The percentage of Earth's land area stricken by serious drought more than doubled from the 1970s to the early 2000s, according to a new analysis by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Widespread drying occurred over much of Europe and Asia, Canada, western and southern Africa, and eastern Australia. Rising global temperatures appear to be a major factor, says NCAR's Aiguo Dai, lead author of the study.

Dai will present the new findings on January 12 at the American Meteorological Society's annual meeting in San Diego. The work also appears in the December issue of the Journal of Hydrometeorology in a paper also authored by NCAR's Kevin Trenberth and Taotao Qian. The study was supported by the National Science Foundation, NCAR's primary sponsor.

Dai and colleagues found that the fraction of global land experiencing very dry conditions (defined as -3 or less on the Palmer Drought Severity Index) rose from about 10-15% in the early 1970s to about 30% by 2002. Almost half of that change is due to rising temperatures rather than decreases in rainfall or snowfall, according to Dai.

"Global climate models predict increased drying over most land areas during their warm season, as carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases increase," says Dai. "Our analyses suggest that this drying may have already begun."

Even as drought has expanded across Earth's land areas, the amount of water vapor in the air has increased over the past few decades. The average global precipitation has also risen slightly. However, as Dai notes, "surface air temperatures over global land areas have increased sharply since the 1970s." The large warming increases the tendency for moisture to evaporate from land areas. Together, the overall area experiencing either very dry or very wet conditions could occupy a greater fraction of Earth's land areas in a warmer world, Dai says.

Though most of the Northern Hemisphere has shown a drying in recent decades, the United States has bucked that trend, becoming wetter overall during the last 50 years, says Dai. The moistening is especially notable between the Rocky Mountains and Mississippi River. Other parts of the world showing a moistening trend include Argentina and parts of western Australia. These trends are related more to increased precipitation than to temperature, says Dai.

"Droughts and floods are extreme climate events that are likely to change more rapidly than the average climate," says Dai. "Because they are among the world's costliest natural disasters and affect a very large number of people each year, it is important to monitor them and perhaps predict their variability." [...]

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Lab: Meteor could cause big tsunami
By Sue Vorenberg
Tribune Reporter
January 10, 2005

Los Alamos National Laboratory is watching the sky for tsunamis.

While most tsunamis are caused by earthquakes or landslides, the potential for an asteroid-caused tsunami remains a threat the world should watch out for, said Galen Gisler, a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist.

"Every 10,000 years or so, we should get a tsunami from an asteroid, and we haven't had one in about that amount of time," Gisler said. "It's a hard thing to calculate, because we don't know how many asteroids are out there, but some international groups are starting to do surveys to quantify that."

On lab computers, Gisler is modeling the potential impacts of such a strike. The hope is that the modeling will help give warning of where tsunamis would go and how they would propagate if a large asteroid struck one of the world's oceans, he said.

That warning could become part of a larger series of monitoring systems that would prevent another disaster like the recent tsunami in the Indian Ocean, he said.

It would cost a few million dollars to set up those systems for asteroids, earthquakes and landslides in each of the world's seas and oceans, but the warning systems could save thousands of lives, Gisler said.

"If we had a monitoring system in the Indian Ocean, maybe 75,000 lives could have been saved in this recent disaster," Gisler said. "It's just ridiculous when you look back that the money wasn't spent."

Asteroids are one of several under-monitored events that could cause a disaster, Gisler said.

An asteroid the width of a half-mile or bigger could cause tsunami waves to propagate across an entire ocean. If something like that happened in the Pacific, the world would get warning because of the monitoring system there. Not so in the Atlantic, where there is no system, Gisler said.

"There's a danger of tsunamis in all oceans," Gisler said. "Earthquakes are a danger in the Pacific, Caribbean and Indian Ocean, but landslides, volcanoes and asteroids can also cause them."

The Caribbean and Indian Ocean also don't have systems, he said.

Gisler's model grew out of his work at the lab analyzing how bomb blasts will travel through water. After the tragedy in the Indian Ocean, it has taken on new meaning, he said.

"My personal feeling is that all the world's oceans should be monitored against these types of things," Gisler said.

Other factors than earthquakes could cause significant damage in areas where people might think they're safe, said Sue Bilek, a New Mexico Tech scientist who studies earthquake related tsunamis.

"There's not much danger in the Atlantic Ocean of a tsunami from an earthquake, but many scientists have theorized you could get a significant tsunami from a landslide or volcanic eruption," Bilek said.

And a strike by a half-mile wide asteroid in the Atlantic near Florida could cause a 10-foot-tall tsunami that could kill thousands and create massive property destruction, Gisler added.

Even the Gulf of Mexico isn't completely safe, he said.

"The Caribbean has active volcanoes and faults where the Caribbean plate is sliding into the Atlantic plate," Gisler said. "Tsunamis could easily propagate from that area into the Gulf."

Scientists are doing what they can to learn from the disaster, by modeling it to understand the devastating waves more clearly, Gisler said. The international community is also finally talking about setting up tsunami warning systems in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean, he added.

"All you can hope for when something like this happens is that some good can come out of it," Gisler said.

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Northern Iran rattled by strong earthquake

Press Trust of India
Tehran, January 11, 2005|10:18 IST

An earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale has shook northern Iran, but no casualties were reported, an interior ministry spokesman said.

"The earthquake hit in a region near the city of Agh Ghala between the Turkmen border and the Caspian Sea, but did not claim any victims according to initial reports we have received," Jahanbaksh Khanjani said on Monday night.

The quake struck early on Tuesday morning and was followed by two weaker aftershocks.

"Inhabitants were frightened and emerged onto the streets of the main cities of the region," state news agency IRNA said.

Authorities warned residents of the region to take precautions for possible further tremors.

An earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale devastated the southeastern Iranian city of Bam in December 2003, killing more than 30,000 people.

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How the Earthquake affected Earth
NASA
January 10, 2005

The Dec. 26th Indonesian megathrust earthquake quickened Earth's rotation and changed our planet's shape.

January 10, 2005: NASA scientists studying the Indonesian earthquake of Dec. 26, 2004, have calculated that it slightly changed our planet's shape, shaved almost 3 microseconds from the length of the day, and shifted the North Pole by centimeters.

Dr. Benjamin Fong Chao of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and Dr. Richard Gross of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said all earthquakes have some effect on Earth's rotation. It's just that the effects are, usually, barely noticeable.

This one was not usual: The devastating megathrust earthquake registered nine on the new "moment" scale (modified Richter scale), making it the fourth largest 'quake in one hundred years.

Chao and Gross routinely calculate earthquakes' effects on Earth's shape and rotation. They also study changes in polar motion--that is, the shifting of the North Pole.

According to their latest calculations, the Dec. 26th earthquake shifted Earth's "mean North Pole" by about 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) in the direction of 145 degrees east longitude, more or less toward Guam in the Pacific Ocean. This shift is continuing a long-term seismic trend identified in previous studies.

The quake also affected Earth's shape. Chao and Gross calculated that Earth's oblateness (flattening on the top and bulging at the equator) decreased by a small amount--about one part in 10 billion. This continues the trend of earthquakes making Earth less oblate. Less oblate means more round.

They also found the earthquake decreased the length of the day by 2.68 microseconds. (A microsecond is one millionth of a second.) In other words, Earth spins a little faster than it did before. This change in spin is related to the change in oblateness. It's like a spinning skater drawing arms closer to the body resulting in a faster spin.

None of these changes have yet been measured--only calculated. But Chao and Gross hope to detect the changes when Earth rotation data from ground based and space-borne sensors are reviewed.

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Get Ready for the Largest Demolition Derby on the Planet

Scientists say Slow-Motion Collision Near Antarctic Research Station Imminent

NASA
01.06.05

It is an event so large that the best seat in the house is in space: a massive iceberg is on a collision course with a floating glacier near the McMurdo Research Station in Antarctica. NASA satellites have witnessed the 100-mile-long B-15A iceberg moving steadily towards the Drygalski Ice Tongue. Though the iceberg's pace has slowed in recent days, NASA scientists expect a collision to occur no later than January 15, 2005.

"It's a clash of the titans, a radical and uncommon event," says Robert Bindshadler, a researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, and if the two giant slabs of ice collide, we could see one of the best demolition derbies on the planet. "Even a 'tap' from a giant can be powerful. It will certainly be a blow far larger than anything else the ice tongue has ever experienced," says Bindshadler.

When the iceberg and the ice tongue collide, the impact will likely "dent their bumpers," says Bindshadler. The edges could crumple and ice could pile or drift into the Ross Sea. But if the B-15A iceberg picks up enough speed before the two collide, the results could be more spectacular. The Drygalski Ice Tongue could break off. [...]

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