Wednesday, January 12, 2005

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Iraq WMD hunters return to US empty-handed

12/01/2005

The hunt for Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction has formally come to an end in Iraq, it emerged today.

Officials with the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), the body established to find the very weapons which justified the war, have returned to the US, amid growing dangers from insurgents in Iraq.

An interim report, written by former ISG head, Charles Duelfer, will serve as the group’s final conclusions, according to the Washington Post.

The Duelfer document contradicted virtually all the pre-war claims from London and Washington about Saddam possessing biological and chemical weapons, and reconstituting Iraq’s nuclear programme.

An intelligence official told the newspaper that the chances of weapons being hidden inside Iraq, or having been shipped out of the country before the war, were very small. [...]

The ISG has urged the Pentagon to release scientists who have been questioned at length about Iraq’s weapons capabilities.

They are General Amir Saadi, a liaison between Saddam’s government and UN inspectors; Rihab Taha, a biologist nicknamed “Dr Germ” in the west; her husband, Amir Rashid, the former oil minister; and Huda Amash, another biologist who earned the nickname “Mrs Anthrax”.

The ISG determined that none of the scientists had been involved in Iraqi weapons programmes since the first Gulf War, the newspaper reported.

Comment: So how are we all meant to feel now? Happy? Well, excuse us, but we still feel lied to, which is strange because, we WERE lied to! Not that we believed it at the time of course, but many millions did. They hoped against hope that the "leaders of the free world" were honest, decent people and that they lacked the maliciousness to stand up and lie to the world and use that lie to wage war on innocent civilians. Hmmm, war on a civilian population; isn't that somewhat of an oxymoron? Sure, but it doesn't mean it's not "doable". The funny thing (as in peculiar, not haha) is that most people think that because the Iraq war was called "the Iraq war", there were actually two armies involved.

There wasn't. There was only one.

The American military waged "war" on an innocent and defenceless population, but US military leaders realised that they still had to make is seem like a good old fashioned war for the folks back home.

But it wasn't.

We can understand of course. What is a four star general , or a cherub-faced Neocon to do when he wants to just walk into a country and take over? Just walk in and take over? Hardly. People would see through it. Damn their eyes! (now there's an idea. We wonder if the pharmaceuticals are already working on that one...) No, a bunch of lies about WMDs and Saddam and Osama had to be spread first, only then could Bush and the Neocons garner enough support for a "war in Iraq" and be seen as liberators rather than the child-killers that they are.

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Film reveals true destruction to ghost city Falluja
Rory McCarthy in Baghdad
The Guardian
Tuesday January 11, 2005

Fresh evidence has emerged of the extent of destruction and appalling conditions in Falluja, still deserted two months after a major US offensive against the insurgent stronghold.

Ali Fadhil, an Iraqi journalist working with the Guardian's film unit and one of the few reporters to travel independently to Falluja, describes in a Channel 4 News film tonight a "city of ghosts" where dogs feed on uncollected corpses.

In interviews, insurgents challenge official US accounts of a decisive victory and claim many of the rebels left the city in a pre-planned withdrawal.

"It is completely devastated," Fadhil writes in the Guardian today. "Falluja used to be a modern city; now there is nothing. We spend that first day going through the rubble that had been the centre of the city; I don't see a single building that is functioning."

Most of Falluja's 300,000 residents fled before the assault and now some have begun to return to find their homes destroyed, the water and electricity still cut and untreated sewage flowing openly. There is little chance elections can be held there with polling day three weeks away.

Some Iraqis openly criticise the fighters, despite the risks. "The mujahideen are responsible and the clerics for the destruction that happened to our city; no one will forgive them for that," a former major in the much feared Republican Guard tells Fadhil.

In one badly damaged home near a cemetery, he finds the body of a fighter still lying on the floor. "The leg is missing, the hand is missing and the furniture in the house has been destroyed," he writes. "I can't breathe with the smell."

US commanders claimed to have killed more than 1,200 insurgents in the November battle, dealing a serious blow to the insurgency. Before the assault, Falluja was a no-go area for the US and Iraqi military.

But in a graveyard, known as the "martyrs cemetery", Fadhil counts only 76 graves. In houses he finds other bodies he suspects were civilians.

"I saw other rotting bodies that showed no sign of being fighters. In one house in the market there were four bodies inside the guestroom," he writes. "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."

The allegations were put to US forces in Baghdad five days ago. There has been no reply.

Despite the intense fight in Falluja, the insurgency has gathered pace across Iraq, particularly in the northern city of Mosul, once a model of peace and calm, and in Baghdad, where the deputy police chief was assassinated yesterday.

US commanders thought the rebels had been surrounded in Falluja. Yet one fighter tells Fadhil his men left 10 days into the battle: "We did not pull out because we did not want to fight. We needed to regroup; it was a tactical move."

Comment: And so the lies and deception continue. To those readers who have been visiting Signs of the Times for some time now, this story may not come as such a shock. Sure, Bush and his gang are promoting Iraqi elections, and they have claimed that many Fallujans were slowly returning to their homes, but this is the same Bush who lies about Iraq's WMD's, 9/11, the state of the economy, and just about everything else.

For most people, it is difficult to conceive of just how deep the lies can be. After all, we are taught that the word "conspiracy" has negative connotations. No one wants to be labeled a "conspiracy theorist". Lately, it seems that any theory which counters the official explanation of events is instantly slapped with the conspiracy theory label. It is an automatic response that fires up emotions related to ridicule and derision, and turns off the ability to think clearly. And yet, if one carefully considers the Neocon belief that they are "creating reality" as they go, the mountain of lies about recent world events is not so difficult to understand.

One of the ideas we have discussed previously on the Signs page is that one must strive to observe this reality and all its various components as objectively as possible. Many people claim that there is no such thing as "objective reality" or "objectivity". From a certain perspective, a higher perspective, we might agree with such an assertion. The catch is that we are not observing the game on the grand chess board from our stadium seats with soda and popcorn in hand; we ARE the chess game - at least until we learn not to play anymore.

We can sit around all day and ponder fields of pure potentiality or how "all is one is all", but when the day ends, what have we gained? Will contemplating how All is One save us from the jackbooted thugs that may kick down our doors in the very near future? While there is certainly nothing wrong with dying, what if we could have opened our eyes and saved ourselves to "fight" another day and help others who are interested in what we have learned? And what about the idea that by essentially sitting there motionless, contemplating infinite love and potentiality, and letting the thugs shoot us, we would in effect be agreeing to their murderous rampage? Isn't the default choice of entropy in this realm made by both open agreement and simple inaction?

If we throw our hands up and say, "But I can't DO anything about it!" then we are lost. Not knowing how to Do is no excuse for not Doing. Does the medical student cry and carry on if she doesn't know how to perform an appendectomy, or does she hunker down, do her homework, research, and learn?

So, what do you do when you are beginning to see - or even when you have seen for awhile - that the story presented by the US administration is so packed full of lies that the entire situation is beyond belief?

It is actually quite simple: do your homework, research, and learn.

Don't take our word for anything. Verify everything for yourself. There is no other way to avoid being hoodwinked. And if this reality is indeed one big school, there is no end to the lessons we may each learn if we only decide to dedicate ourselves to their pursuit.

A man can do what he ought to do; and when he says he cannot, it is because he will not.
- Johann Gottlieb Fichte

After considering the material at Quantum Future.net and Signs-of-the-Times.org, those who are interested in sharing their individual efforts with like-minded individuals may wish to join our public discussion group, CassChat. We also recommend reading Ancient Science: Finis Gloria Mundi.

This is certainly not the type of story you will see all over the US media, although it seems that they are trying very hard to uphold the illusion of being "fair and balanced" for the American people...

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CNN Will Cancel 'Crossfire' and Cut Ties to Commentator
By BILL CARTER
The New York Times
January 6, 2005

CNN has ended its relationship with the conservative commentator Tucker Carlson and will shortly cancel its long-running daily political discussion program, "Crossfire," the new president of CNN, Jonathan Klein, said last night.

Mr. Carlson said he had actually quit "Crossfire" last April and had agreed to stay on until his contract expired. He said he had a deal in place for a job as the host of a 9 p.m. nightly talk program on MSNBC, CNN's rival.

One NBC News executive said that no deal had been completed between MSNBC and Mr. Carlson. "Tucker is a great journalist and we are exploring options with him for a 9 p.m. job," said Jeremy Gaines, a spokesman for MSNBC.

"I don't know what CNN is saying," Mr. Carlson said. "But I have no dispute with CNN."

Mr. Klein said the decisions to part company with Mr. Carlson and to end "Crossfire" were not specifically related, because he had decided to drop "Crossfire" regardless of whether Mr. Carlson wanted to stay on.

Mr. Klein said, "We just determined there was not a role here in the way Tucker wanted his career to go. He wanted to host a prime-time show in which he would put on live guests and have spirited debate. That's not the kind of show CNN is going to be doing."

Instead, Mr. Klein said, CNN wants to do "roll-up-your-sleeves storytelling," and he said that was not a role he saw for Mr. Carlson. "There are outlets for the kind of show Tucker wants to do and CNN isn't going to be one of them," he said.

Mr. Klein said he wanted to move CNN away from what he called "head-butting debate shows," which have become the staple of much of all-news television in the prime-time hours, especially at the top-rated Fox News Channel.

"CNN is a different animal," Mr. Klein said. "We report the news. Fox talks about the news. They're very good at what they do and we're very good at what we do."

Mr. Klein specifically cited the criticism that the comedian Jon Stewart leveled at "Crossfire" when he was a guest on the program during the presidential campaign. Mr. Stewart said that ranting partisan political shows on cable were "hurting America."

Mr. Klein said last night, "I agree wholeheartedly with Jon Stewart's overall premise." He said he believed that especially after the terror attacks on 9/11, viewers are interested in information, not opinion.

"Crossfire" may be continued "in small doses" as part of the political coverage on CNN's other programs, Mr. Klein said.

Mr. Klein said he intended to keep CNN's highest-rated program, "Larry King Live," much as it is because Mr. King does not do "head-butting debate" but "personality-oriented television."

The rest of CNN's prime-time lineup will be moving toward reporting the day's events and not discussing them, he said.

Mr. Klein said he had no intention of changing that approach, but he added a caveat. "Not unless the first batch of things we're trying to do don't turn out well," he said.

Comment: Perhaps the majority of Americans are more interested in information than opinion, but CNN's move will certainly not eliminate the influence of the PTB on the network's coverage. The problem is not only the opinions that are expressed in the US media, but the fact that the information reported is itself frequently biased or flat wrong. The CIA, for example, has been manipulating US news networks for many years. But don't take our word for it.

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The war is on, but it's all in your mind

by Kevin Potvin
Republic News

A leaked Pentagon report whose main contents were ignored by most media speaks of a new war to take place in the channels of that media. That war may have already started.

A document produced by the American Defense Science Board calls for a new war launched by US government and corporate interests on the people of the world waged through all forms of their media. The American Defense Science Board is a senior advisory panel of defence and private corporate experts who offer policy advice to the Secretary of Defense.

Paul Wolfowitz, US Deputy Secretary of Defense and chief neo-con in the Bush administration, in May of this year formed a special Task Force on Strategic Communication at the Science Board to find solutions to the problems the American corporate empire has in capitalizing on the success of the country's conventional military in wars it launches around the world.

Wolfowitz points out that his department has noticed that winning conventional wars of bullets, bombs, and bodies does little these days to advance American corporate and government interests in the target nations, as well as among the public around the world.

Finding “enemy leaders, [the] location of weapons including WMD, interruption of terrorist's financing, and interdiction of couriers providing communication” are necessary elements in consolidating conventional military successes, Wolfowitz says in the May memo to the board calling for the creation of the task force. But, “achieving these ends,” which also include, Wolfowitz is careful to add, stability, democracy, and human rights, can only “be facilitated by successfully shaping activities in the years before the outbreak of hostilities,” in addition to shaping activities after the cessation of those hostilities. [...]

In essence, what this 111-page report is calling for is a new, highly coordinated propaganda war commandeering the resources of the private sector media to help deploy a blanket of words and images throughout a target society, secretly organized and conducted over the course of years, with the intention of preparing the target nation's population, as well as world opinion, for full-scale military assault. The job is challenging because the targets, as Wolfowitz pointed out in his founding memo, do not currently pose threats to American interests.

“The new US strategic communications effort should utilize the same media as do the private sector marketing and political campaigns. Their deployment tactics should be adapted to government needs. Channels include classic broadcast media such as television, film, newspaper, radio, periodicals, and e-magazines,” the report suggests. This means that popular films, television sitcoms, even video games and on-line “blogs,” the report points out, will be saturated with messages meant to “shape events and activities” in order to prepare the battlefields. Popular sports celebrities and compelling music recording stars, the report says, can be recruited to emphasize the messages.

“US strategic communication efforts must be synergized by the public sector. The bottom line: The government alone cannot today communicate credibly and effectively to foreign populations. It must be assisted by adjunct private sector efforts.” The report nowhere expresses doubts about whether the private sector will accept an adjunct role in creating and disseminating state propaganda, nor is there any question of whether it is proper and safe for a democratic state to commandeer the private sector media for this purpose.

The new war, of course, requires good soldiers at home and abroad. To that end, the report points out that journalists and other media personalities that influence public opinion are to be recruited to the war effort and deployed strategically throughout the media landscape.

“Strategic communications must be infused with new blood,” the report says. “A concerted communications effort must be planned and launched to attract a next generation of cutting-edge, risk-friendly, private sector talent. And this talent must be hired, trained, prepared, groomed, motivated, and promoted to communicate with an insurgent-like efficiency and effectiveness,” it says. There can be no doubt that US Army recruiters will be showing up at journalism schools in the near future, offering good pay and lots of opportunities to those willing to go undercover as bona fide reporters, for example.

“America needs a revolution in strategic communication rooted in” among other things “support from an orchestrated blend of public and private sector components.” The office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, the office to be in charge of waging important parts of the new propaganda war, would be strengthened to increase the office's “ability to foster mutually-reinforcing opinion and media research activities with the private sector and other government agencies.”

This report was not classified by the Department of Defense, though it was also not released to the public, except apparently through a standard “leak” mechanism. It does not contain information that the US government truly wishes to keep secret, though it does seem to wish for there to be a public perception that it was supposed to be kept secret.

There is little in the report's analysis and recommendations that come as a surprise to anyone familiar with standard US imperial actions abroad. This report could well have been written prior to the CIA deposing of Iranian elected leader Mossadegh in 1956, with only a few changes to media technology it mentions. Few who study US foreign policy, both covert and overt, would find much new in this report, and instead would have long suspected most measures recommended in it had in fact already been followed for decades.

Because the report was prepared by a panel of experts well practiced in the arts of deception using unwitting (or otherwise) private sector media, there is grounds for considering what purpose is served in releasing this particular report to the media in the manner that it was at the time that it was released. Everything about the new propaganda war to take place in the media should henceforth be automatically considered a planned event, including the release of this report, announcing that such a war has been engaged, and how and where it is to be fought.

At the beginning of the report, there are a few comments criticizing the lackluster communication abilities of the current regime in the White House, and a few comments about how the war in Iraq is shaping up different from what some analysts expected. These brief comments were seized upon by global media, to the complete exclusion of the vast bulk of the report describing the shape of future media wars the Department of Defense intends to wage.

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Comment: Having digested the above, consider the following article which is most definitely a case in point...


Propaganda Alert!

U.S. mulls military strikes on Syria before Iraq elections

By Richard Sale
UPI Intelligence Correspondent
Published January 11, 2005

NEW YORK -- Bush administration hard-liners have been considering launching selected military strikes at insurgent training camps in Syria and border-crossing points used by Islamist guerrillas to enter Iraq in an effort to bolster security for the upcoming elections, according to former and current administration officials.
    
Pressure for some form of military action is also coming from interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, these sources said.
    
Some former and serving U.S. intelligence officials who have usually been opposed to any expansion of U.S. military activities in the region are expressing support for such strikes.     

A former senior U.S. intelligence official told United Press International, "I don't usually find myself in sympathy with the Bush neo-cons, but I think there is enough fire under this smoke to justify such action."
    
Referring to the escalating attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq by Iraqi insurgents, he added, "Syria is complicit in the (anti-U.S.) insurgency up to its eyeballs."
    
"Syria is the No. 1 crossing point" for guerrillas entering Iraq," Gary Gambill, editor of the Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, said. He added that Damascus "does nothing about it."
    
An administration official said Syria has "camps in which Syrians are training Iraqis for the insurgency and others where Iraqis are training Syrians for the same purpose" which could be hit by U.S. air strikes.
    
Gal Luft, a former Israeli military official with ties to Israeli and U.S. intelligence, said, "I have heard of the same thing about the camps."
    
Recently, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said that senior Baath Party officials from Iraq are operating from Syria where they provide financing and direction to the cells of Iraqi insurgents killing Americans, sparking new discussions within the administration about possible measures against Syria.
    
"There are all sorts of discussions going on, the White House, the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs," said former CIA counterterrorism chief, Vince Cannistraro.
    
He felt the talk of strikes "is part of a general plan of intimidation."
    
The White House did not return phone calls.
    
U.S. officials told United Press International that money, direction, weapons and personnel are flowing into Iraq from Syria, ending up in Iraqi cities such as Iskanderiya, Baqouba, Latafiya and Fallujah.
    
Damascus is also home to associates of a top insurgency commander now affiliated with al-Qaida, Jordanian Abu Musab Zarqawi, who is responsible for many major suicide bombing attacks in Iraq, U.S. officials said.
    
The presence of a Zarqawi branch in Damascus, discovered last summer, was said to have acted as a major spur in uniting France and the United States in supporting U.N. Resolution 1559 that demanded Syria withdraw from Lebanon and that elections be held in April 2005, U.S. officials said.
    
Gambill charged that a major Zarqawi deputy lives in Damascus.
    
In addition to Syria being used as a rear area for insurgents, it is a key center of finance for former Saddam Hussein officials who are leading the insurgency, thanks to stashes of Iraqi cash that could run as high as $3 billion, which is all in the Syrian banking system, according for former and serving administration officials.
    
There are also allegedly "many millions of dollars" from Palestinian groups flowing into Syria that are also being used to help finance anti-American guerrilla groups in Iraq, these sources said.
    
The Bush administration has applied increasing pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad to halt the activities of militant groups inside Syria, and to arrest and extradite former Saddam Hussein officials who are the leading financiers, according to several U.S. government sources.
    
So far there has been no positive response, they said.
    
What especially worries U.S. former and serving intelligence analysts is the seeming weakness of Assad to act against these groups. According to these sources, Assad is "well aware of the U.S. Army on its border to the east," and does not want to antagonize the United States, in the words of one.
    
In fact, Bashar's inner circle of key advisers consists of reformist, "smart, streetwise young technocrats" who are urging Bashar to yield to U.S. pressure and begin to shut down some of the anti-U.S. activity, one U.S. official said.
    
But Bashar is also surrounded by "the old guard" -- rogue members of the ruling circle, "various people who are making millions and millions of dollars" by allowing former Baath officials to shelter in Syria, this source said.
    
"If something goes wrong, they can pack up and go and live in Geneva," he said.
    
Because of the rogue elements, after the technocrats (who are also pro-reform) give Bashar their views, they often find themselves visited the next day by hard-line members of Syria's Mukhabarat, or secret police, who tell them to keep their mouths shut, according to this official.
    
"Bashar is trapped," this U.S. government official said. "He's the prisoner of Zenda."
    
Luft agreed, saying, "The Mukhabarat and some of the old guard are known to be pressuring Bashar's senior confidents to ignore U.S. demands."
    
One former senior CIA official, usually an administration critic, said, "We should send a cruise missile into south-side Damascus and blow the Mukharbarat headquarters off the map. We should first make clear to them that they are the target."
    
But are the hawks likely to get their strikes?
    
Former CIA Syria expert, Martha Kessler doesn't think so. "I don't think the administration can afford to destabilize another country in the region," she said.
    
Kessler pointed out that Syria has tried, often in vain, to cooperate with the United States, only to be either snubbed or ignored.
    
According to Kesssler, Syria offered to station U.S. forces on its soil before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The Syrians have also opened their intelligence books that identify assets in Europe, including front companies, to the administration in an attempt to help track down al-Qaida.
    
But Kessler said a chief reason for not moving against Damascus is that any strikes would "destabilize Lebanon," where the Lebanese Hezbollah movement awaits orders from Iran before launching retaliations against Israeli attacks.
    
"Damascus is not the heartbeat of this Iraqi insurgent movement," she said.
    
However, one administration official said, "We have got one hell of a problem."

Comment: Notice how every one of the so-called "sources" cited are from unnamed U.S. adminstration officials, or former U.S. or Israeli intelligence experts, or anyone who directly benefits from Western and Israeli intervention in Syria.

The heat is slowly being turned up on both Syria and Iran with allegations and rhethoric coming equally from both the U.S. and Israel. The mainstream media plays right along and the sheeple are no more the wiser.

It only remains to be seen where they will strike first and who will do the striking.

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Chertoff: Kerik without the sex
Posted on January 11, 2005 11:00 AM

Now that the dust has finally settled from the Bernard Kerik fiasco, President Bush has named a new choice to head the Department of Homeland Security: Federal appeals judge and former high-ranking federal prosecutor Michael Chertoff.

Because Chertoff was recently vetted for the federal bench, we assume that he's passed his background check with flying colors, and we won't be hearing about any more World Trade Center love nests, arrest warrants. Mob pals, and all the other things that made the brief Kerik period such a fun time to be a journalist.

That's the "good" news. The bad news is that while Chertoff may lack the whiff of sex scandal that would put the NY tabloids on the case, he's arguably a worse choice than Kerik. In the days after 9/11, Chertoff -- as head of the criminal division under John Ashcroft -- was architect of some of the most regrettable policies of Bush I.

It was Chertoff, as assistant atttorney general overseeing the initial 9/11 probe, who OK'ed and then defended the detention of hundreds of "material witnesses" of Arab descent -- even though it would later be determined that none -- that's right, none -- of the detainees had anything to do with the terrorist attacks of 2001.

Chartoff's actions during this period would later be roundly criticized in a report from the Justice Department's own Inspector General. It found that immigrants were rounded up in an "indiscriminate and haphazard manner," held for months while denied access to attorneys and sometimes mistreated behind bars.

The report noted that Chertoff "urged immigration officials to 'hold these people until we find out what's going on,' despite the fact that many had been swept up and detained on minor immigration charges."

Chertoff also push prosecutors and the FBI into greatly expanded use of domestic surveillance. In November 2002, according to this report, he "defended the need for government agencies to aggregate large amounts of personal information in computer databases for both law enforcement and national security purposes."

What's more, Chertoff was responsible for the badly botched prosecution of al-Qaeda terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, who has yet to be brought to any type of justice even though he was arrested three-and-a-half years ago. Under his leadership, the Justice Department pursued a theory that Moussaoui was "the 20th hijacker" -- despite zero evidence to support that claim. However, that argument has been used as an excuse to deny the American public from information that might prove what really happened to Flight 93 on 9/11.

Last week, Democrats were able to use the Alberto Gonzales for attorney general hearings as a venue to air the dirty laundry of the Bush administration's torture policies. Although Chertoff is likely to be confirmed, let's hope it's not without a discussion of these civil rights abuses.

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Opposing Bush: A Form of Mental Illness?

January 07, 2005
Kurt Nimmo

It’s not the stolen election or the war crimes committed in my name. It’s not the fact Bush is a liar and a criminal. It’s not the Strausscons in the White House and the Pentagon, plotting multiple wars in the Middle East and elsewhere. It’s not Congress, sold out to neolibs, multinational corporations, and Wall Street loan sharks.

It’s me.

I’m suffering from “political paranoia” and need Paxil, a prescription drug for the treatment of anxiety and depression. It’s not the 100,000 dead killed by my government in Iraq. It’s not torture or loose talk of nuking enemies. It is a serotonin imbalance in my brain. I suffer from any number of possible maladies—depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (thus writing this blog every day), and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. I suffer from mental illness and need help.

Congress may come to the rescue—and soon.

“When the 109th Congress convenes in Washington in January, Senator Bill Frist, the first practicing physician elected to the Senate since 1928, plans to file a bill that would define ‘political paranoia’ as a mental disorder, paving the way for individuals who suffer from paranoid delusions regarding voter fraud, political persecution and FBI surveillance to receive Medicare reimbursement for any psychiatric treatment they receive,” writes Hermione Slatkin, Medical Correspondent for the Swift Report. “Rick Smith, a spokesman for Senator Frist, says that the measure has a good chance of passing—something that can only help a portion of the population that is suffering significant distress.”

“If you’re still convinced that President Bush won the election because Republicans figured out a way to hack into electronic voting machines, you’ve obviously got a problem,” says Smith. “If we can figure out a way to ease your suffering by getting you into therapy and onto medication, that’s something that we hope the entire 109th Congress will support.”

Characterizing political dissent as a form of mental illness is the hallmark of authoritarian government. In China, for instance, forensic psychiatrists label dissent “political lunacy” (see Jacob Sullum, Head Games: What are the rules for defining mental illness?) and in Soviet Russia political dissenters were routinely cosigned to mental hospitals. Nowadays, with modern pharmacology, mental hospitals are no longer required—the mental hospital is internalized through chemical intervention.

No need for FEMA camps or “preventive detention” when we have a “medical armamentarium” of serotonin uptake inhibitors. All that is needed now is for Frist and the Republicans to devise a law defining “political paranoia” and determining that “political paranoiacs” are a threat to society.

You will take your Paxil—or something far more debilitating—and by court order. Recall Bush’s effort to screen the entire population for mental illness, i.e., the New Freedom Initiative. Bush’s commission found that “despite their prevalence, mental disorders often go undiagnosed” and recommended comprehensive mental health screening for “consumers of all ages.” Naturally, Frist and the Republicans are mostly concerned about the “political paranoia” form of mental illness, as the above news item indicates.

As a “consumer,” is it possible I am suffering from “political paranoia.” or is the whole thing a product of my feverish imagination and the result of reading too many news items on the web?

Finally, note that I could not find mention of Frist and the classification of “political paranoia” after a lengthy Google news search. Mention of it only appeared on the Swift Report website. Rick Smith’s above quote returned no results. Of course, this does not mean that Bill Frist and the Republicans do not consider the opposition—including more than a few Democrats—as mental cases and tinfoil hatters. Rush Limbaugh calls us nutters every day and millions of gullible Americans take what he says as gospel.

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We must live with consequences of Bush’s terrible precedent

Letters to the Editor
ROBERT ALLEN
Tuesday, January 11, 2005

“Veni, vidi, vici,” a famous Latin quotation of a commander in the Gaelic wars between ancient Rome and Gaul, means, “I came, I saw, I conquered.” I’ll bet you thought it was George Bush, speaking from an aircraft carrier, returning from a trip to Iraq.

No way. Gaul didn’t have the world’s second-largest oil reserves. As for Bush’s paranoid philosophy of pre-emptively attacking a country that might have weapons of mass destruction, if his example in Iraq catches on with other nations, there is no way we, as a country, can say, “Don’t do as we do, just do what we say.” We have set this terrible precedent, and now will have to live with the consequences.

So far, his brilliant philosophy and leadership have cost thousands of American casualties in Iraq (over 1,000 dead and many thousands maimed or wounded). Huge cities in Iraq have been destroyed, hundreds of thousands of people have been driven from their destroyed homes, over 100,000, mostly women and children, killed or mutilated, and to this president and his cohorts, it’s just so much collateral damage.

Weapons of mass destruction don’t have to be nuclear. All the killing and destruction taking place in Iraq didn’t come from American spitballs or BB guns. They came from a well-equipped army with modern weapons. The mass destruction is just as real as if caused by nuclear weapons. These poor people were guilty of only one thing — being born in Iraq.

By the way, who are we to speak of “weapons of mass destruction” as if it’s a dirty word? Doesn’t our country have more of those weapons than all the rest of the world put together, and haven’t we proven we’ll use them if necessary?

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US holds hundreds of hauliers in Iraq
By Indlieb Farazi
Tuesday 11 January 2005

US forces have been preventing almost 300 truck drivers from crossing the border into Syria after unloading their shipment in Iraq.

The Arab Organisation for Human Rights (AOHR) in Syria said on Tuesday that US forces have prevented the 288 truck drivers from returning home for more than a week. 

Eyewitnesses said the hauliers are being held in Rabiah near the Iraqi-Syrian border.

Muhammad Radun, head of the Syrian branch of the AOHR, told Aljazeera.net the case was brought to his attention by the drivers.

"All these drivers have done is drop goods off in Iraq and they now want to make their way back home, but they are being prevented by US forces," said Radun.

Explosions

Radun thinks the drivers are being held back because US forces hold the drivers responsible for a series of recent explosions in the Rabiaa area in west Iraq.

He said: "We suspect the US troops are keeping the drivers in Iraq in connection to the attacks. They are now interrogating the drivers but they are not responsible for the attacks."

The US military was unavailable to comment.

One of the drivers, Jihad Sadiq, said: "An explosion rocked a police centre only 50m away from us. We are in a dangerous zone, between the Americans and Iraqi police.

"We have been held in the chilly weather for seven days. We have nothing any more; no money, water or food. We don't know what to do."

"We have families and children waiting for us."

"They gave no reasons behind our capture. Whenever we talk to the Iraqis, they say speak with the Americans. When we talk to the Americans, they say speak to the Iraqis. No one is answering us."

AOHR's Radun said he believed the stalemate was a matter of diplomacy. 

"The Syrian government has done nothing to help the situation because they do not want to antagonise the Iraqi government," he said. 

"All we want to do now is bring the situation to the attention of other human rights groups across the world and receive their backing as our own government is not helping us."

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Canada will back U.S. missile plan, Cellucci says
Last Updated Mon, 10 Jan 2005 04:24:05 EST
CBC News

OTTAWA - The United States believes the federal government will back the continental missile defence plan within the next few months, the U.S. ambassador to Canada said Sunday.

Canada will join the plan before the end of March, Paul Cellucci told the Canadian Press on Sunday.

He said "yes" when asked if the federal government would support the controversial project.

"We've been told that it will be dealt with over the next couple of months," he told CP.

Some Liberal MPs, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP are opposed to the idea. Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper have not taken a public position.

The U.S. is developing a missile system that could shoot down incoming missiles, but it faces technological problems.

MPs will have a chance to address the issue before the government makes a decision, a spokesperson for Martin said.

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Cellucci should shut up, go home
Letters to the Editor
Jan. 11, 2005. 01:00 AM
Peter James Callaghan,

So American Ambassador Paul Cellucci thinks Canada will join the United States missile defence plan before the end of March. Am I the only Canadian who is fed up with this meddling egotistical war monger? Cellucci needs to shut up or go home or both. He needs to be reminded that he is in Canada at our pleasure and our political decisions are none of his business. It has become apparent to all, except him, that Canadians are not interested in waging war and killing innocent people in a foreign country and we are offended by such terms as "collateral damage."

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Shooter identified as US Marine
By Patrick Giblin
Bee Staff Writer

CERES — A United States Marine shot two police officers, one fatally, Sunday night. In a second gun battle three hours later, officers shot and killed the suspect.

Ceres Police Sgt. Howard Stevenson died from his injuries at an area hospital, a spokesman for the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department said this morning.

Officer Sam Ryno was listed in critical condition at an area hospital Monday morning. Both men had been shot several times with an automatic rifle.

Three hours after the shooting, police shot and killed the suspect when they found him behind a nearby home. Police said Monday that the 19-year-old Modesto man, reported absent without leave from Camp Pendleton Saturday night, had served in Iraq and did not want to return. [...]

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3 die in shooting at Tennessee government garage; motive unclear
10:47 PM EST Jan 11

JACKSON, Tenn. (AP) - A man opened fire Tuesday at a Tennessee Transportation Department maintenance garage, killing his wife and two others, and wounding two, authorities said.

David Jordan was arrested a short time later, not far from the garage, police said. Two officers captured him and found an assault rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and two pistols in his truck. Police gave no motive for the shooting.

Police said Jordan first went to the garage's office, where he shot and killed his wife, Donna, a department employee. Then he walked back outside and killed a deliveryman and a Forestry Department employee who was having some work done on his state vehicle, police said.

The garage is used for maintenance on state vehicles.

Two other men were shot and wounded, and one was listed in guarded condition, authorities said.

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World On Brink Of Ruin

Dan Ackman, 01.07.05
Forbes.com

NEW YORK - Alan Greenspan, that Matador of the Money Supply, the esteemed Impresario of Interest Rates, has suffered precious few slings or arrows over his many years as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Even the White House has had to offer its critiques off the record for fear of roiling the markets or upsetting the chairman's Elvis-in-Vegas-like following. So when the chief economist of one of the world's most prestigious banks calls Greenspan a bum, that's a big deal.

And yesterday it happened. Stephen Roach, the chief economist for Morgan Stanley & Co. (nyse: MWD - news - people ), one of the most powerful investment banks and one of the 50 largest companies in the world, says Greenspan has "driven the world to the economic brink."

Writing in an upcoming issue of Foreign Policy, Roach says that when Greenspan steps down as chairman of the Federal Reserve next year, he will leave behind a record foreign deficit and a generation of Americans with little savings and mountains of debt. Americans, Roach says, are far too dependent on the value of their assets, especially their homes, rather than on income-based savings; they are running a huge current-account deficit; and much of the resulting debt is now held by foreign countries, especially in Asia, which permits low interest rates and entices Americans into more debt.

The "economic brink" line is from the headline of a press release sent by Foreign Policy. In an interview this morning, Roach said, "That's a little extreme." He does admit the nation has prospered on Greenspan's watch. Still, he does not disavow the haymakers he directs at the chairman's chin.

"This is no way to run the global economy," Roach says. So far, the Fed has bucked the odds, Roach adds. But the longer the situation exists, the more chance there is that it will spell danger for the United States and the world.

Roach lays the blame for the peril at Greenspan's door. But first he takes out after his outsized reputation. Greenspan is not responsible for defeating inflation in the 1980s; Paul Volcker, his "tough and courageous predecessor," deserves more of the credit, Roach says. Greenspan's monetary policy deserves some accolades for the 1990s boom, but former President Bill Clinton's fiscal policy and other factors were equally responsible, Roach says. Greenspan may deserve some praise for softening the recession that followed the stock market meltdown, Roach concedes, but the chairman's cure may result in "bigger problems down the road" and "the biggest bubble of all: residential property."

Many have credited Greenspan with saving the world following the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. Time magazine went so far as to put the gnome of Constitution Avenue on its cover, under the headline "Committee to Save the World." Though it is the case that the world did not end, "In truth, the world weathered the Asian financial storm only to chart increasingly dangerous waters in the years that followed," Roach writes. "Global economic imbalances have intensified dramatically since 1999."

A good chunk of the U.S. prosperity is owed to these imbalances, Roach says: "Asian countries holding enormous stocks of U.S. dollars recycle this cash back into the United States by buying U.S. [Treasury bills]. This process effectively subsidizes U.S. interest rates, thus propping up U.S. asset markets and enticing American consumers into even more debt. Awash in newfound purchasing power, Americans then turn around and buy everything from Chinese-made DVD players to Japanese cars."

While the economist has nothing against DVD players, he does say, "Asia and Europe are increasingly dependent on overly indebted U.S. consumers, while those consumers are increasingly dependent on Asia's interest-rate subsidy. The longer these imbalances persist, the greater the likelihood of a sharp adjustment. A safer world? Not on your life."

Roach even questions Greenspan's political independence. He does not claim the chairman is a partisan Republican, but he does fault him for being a "cheerleader for policies such as tax cuts...that could make the endgame all the more treacherous."

Greenspan is to central banking what J. Edgar Hoover was to fighting crime. He will soon surpass the fondly forgotten William McChesney Martin as the longest-serving Fed chairman. But his term as a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors expires in just over a year from now, and America will have to do without. Roach says, "Greenspan will be a tough act to follow." But the difficulty may not be living up to the chairman's reputation so much as cleaning up his mess.

Comment: Whoops! Was that an unintended slip perhaps? Is the rest of the world aware that the Chairman of the US federal reserve is "running the world economy"?

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25 killed, 9 injured in explosion at Chinese firecracker factory
January 11, 2005

BEIJING (AP) - China on Wednesday raised the death toll from a firecracker factory explosion to 25, with nine injured.

Most of the victims in the Tuesday afternoon blast at the Xiangliu firecracker factory in northern Shanxi province were young women working at the factory, the official Xinhua news agency said. The cause of the explosion was under investigation, Xinhua said, and authorities were looking for the owner of the factory, who had fled.

Also Tuesday, another explosion occurred in Zhandian, a village in eastern Anhui province, when a man was making firecrackers at home, an earlier Xinhua report said.

The man was killed and his wife was seriously injured, it said.
China's fireworks industry suffers hundreds of deaths every year in fires and explosions as thousands of people, often in poor rural areas, do much of the work by hand in illegal or poorly equipped premises.

During January and February, the fatality rate usually surges as producers rush to fill orders for the Lunar New Year, which falls during those two months. Chinese celebrate by setting off billions of firecrackers.

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Rescue workers trying to save colleagues in collapsed Bangkok building
10 January 2005 2108 hrs
By May Ying Welsh,
Channel NewsAsia's Indochina correspondent

BANGKOK: Just as Thailand is getting its tsunami-stricken south under control, tragedy strikes in the heart of its capital Bangkok.

A downtown building caught fire and then collapsed, crushing an unknown number of volunteer emergency workers and firefighters inside.

Initial investigations showed that it was the owner who illegally added on a floor or two, and the building simply couldn't withstand the additional weight.

"It happened suddenly. The bulding collapsed so they couldn't run away from the building. So we used the whole night trying to clear the stuff," said Bangkok governor Apirak Kosuyothin.

Volunteer workers have been at the building since Sunday afternoon, trying to rescue their colleagues.

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Deadly bacterial outbreak sets Philippine resort city on edge
10 January 2005 1143 hrs
BAGUIO, Philippines : A deadly bacteria that may have killed up to 28 people in recent months has set the picturesque northern Philippines resort city of Baguio on edge, threatening the region's vital tourism industry.

An outbreak of meningococcemia, a disease that targets the central nervous system, has sparked panic and speculation as national and local governments, aided by the World Health Organization (WHO) struggle to control the sickness.

The national government, with WHO assistance, has set up a special "command post" in Baguio with a laboratory to speed up detection and analysis of victims and track the spread of the disease, health officials said.

Baguio Mayor Braulio Yaranon has tapped a special fund, normally reserved for disaster relief, to buy medicines, laboratory equipment and other supplies to fight the disease.

For Baguio, a city of 350,000 people located some 205 kilometers (127 miles) north of Manila, the cluster of cases is more than just a public health concern. [...]

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Boom in sky: Plane crash, say Raigad residents
EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE
Posted online: Wednesday, January 12, 2005 at 0146 hours IST

MUMBAI, JANUARY 11: Panic tonight gripped the Uran-Khopoli belt of Raigad with villagers reporting a huge ball of fire coming down from the sky accompanied by a big bang.

Aviation sources said it could have been a sonic boom from IAF sorties. Presumably, a Sukhoi is said to have flown back to Pune from Mumbai between 8.30 and 8.45 pm.

Guardian Minister for Raigad district Sunil Tatkare said police have despatched teams to the area to find out if there was a crash. Khalapur police said the team had left for Vawashi village from where there were complaints of a deafening sound.

Meanwhile, till late night, confusion reigned over the possible crash of an aircraft in Raigad district. Air Traffic Control, however, confirmed that all aircraft were in contact and there were no reports of anyone missing.

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Moderate Earthquake Shakes Turkey's Aegean Coast
Tue 11 Jan 2005
7:59am (UK)

A moderate earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.1 struck Turkey’s southern Aegean coast, sending residents into the streets in panic, the Anatolia news agency reported. At least one person was injured.

The quake hit at 01:48 a.m. (2348GMT Monday) and was centred on the province of Mugla, the Istanbul-based Kandilli Observatory said. Several aftershocks followed.

It was also felt in the neighbouring province of Aydin, Anatolia reported.

One man was taken to hospital in the resort town of Marmaris, in Mugla, with minor injuries after jumping from a balcony in panic, the agency said. There were no immediate reports of any damage to buildings.

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At least 14 dead in California storms
(AFP) Jan 11, 2005

LOS ANGELES - At least 14 people have died in heavy rain and snow storms that have been battering California, sparking deadly landslides and flash floods, authorities said Tuesday.

Authorities raised the death toll as the bad weather continued to roil the state.

"We have at least nine dead in Los Angeles County," said Lieutenant Ed Winter of the Los Angeles County Coroner's Department.

He said there were at least four dead in nearby Ventura county, where a mudslide fell onto the town of La Conchita on Monday burying about 15 homes where many people are still missing.

And one person was reported dead in the state capital of Sacramento, city firefighters said.

The storms have stretched emergency services across the region as they rally to rescue motorists trapped by rising flood waters and search for survivors in La Conchita.

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Hurricane leaves 1,500 inhabited localities without electricity
11.01.2005, 11.26

MOSCOW, January 11 (Itar-Tass) - A hurricane has left more than 1,500 inhabited localities without electricity in the Pskov Region of Russia, Itar-Tass was told on Tuesday at the Press Service of the Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations.

The hurricane had swept over Pskov Region on January 9. The wind velocity reached twenty-eight metres a second. As many as 296 electric transmission lines were damaged and about four thousand transformer substations were de-energized. Twenty-four districts with a population of 67,000 were left without electricity.

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One man dead, as Northern Ireland storm blows truck off bridge
(AFP) Jan 11, 2005

LONDON - Gale-force winds blew a heavyweight truck off a bridge Tuesday in Northern Ireland, killing the driver, police said.

The bridge crossing the river Foyle in Derry, the province's second-largest city, was closed after the accident.

A female driver was also seriously injured on another Derry bridge when her truck collided with a car.

More than 5,000 homes remained without electricity late on Tuesday with the storm, which has also hit the Republic of Ireland, expected to continue unabated through the night.

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Eight dead, hundreds flee as fires sweep coast
By Philip Cornford, Justin Norrie, Cosima Marriner and AAP
January 12, 2005

Four young children were among at least eight people killed in a bushfire that was burning out of control on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula last night.

All the victims are believed to have been incinerated in cars as they tried to flee the flames.

There were fears the death toll would rise as seven people were reported missing and fire continued to rage out of control on a wide front, threatening more lives and property.

Police confirmed last night that three bodies found in a burnt-out car at the town of Poonindie were those of a woman and two young children. The bodies of two other children, aged two and four, and their grandfather were found in a car on road near the town of Wanilla. Two adults died in another car nearby.

Elsewhere, about 20 houses were destroyed and terrified residents of at least one town leapt into the sea to escape the flames.

After a day of blistering 44-degree heat and high winds, 300 firefighters were trying to contain the blaze, which destroyed 100,000 hectares in the state's worst fire since Ash Wednesday of February 1983, when 28 people were killed. [...]

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Terror-proof car is latest accessory
By Joshua Dowling, Motoring Editor in Detroit
January 11, 2005
Ford Motor Company panders to heightened consumer fears produced by Dubya's imaginary war on terror. (Photo: Reuters)

The world of the future is congested and motorists will be even more scared of terrorism and guns, if the latest concept car from Ford is any guide.

The car maker yesterday revealed a concept vehicle called the Synus that resembles an armoured van shrunk to the size of a Toyota Echo. It even has bullet proof windows.

Ford predicts that such a vehicle will be popular by 2010, because most of people will live in densely populated cities and security will increasingly become a priority.

The Ford Synus, revealed at the 2005 North American International Auto Show, "deploys protective shutters over the windshield and side glass" and the small side windows are "non-opening and bullet resistant".

The rear hatch is opened via a four-spoke dial, similar to that used on safes. The interior of the car, "emulates a warm, welcoming private sanctuary", including a 114-centimetre television and seats that can be turned around to create a "conversation pit".

The Synus (which stands for "synthesis urban sanctuary") was brought to life by a team of designers with an average age of 25.

"Many people over the years have confused small with fragile, and I said there is a difference between a small poodle and a small bulldog," says Ford's design chief, J Mays.

"This certainly falls off the fence, clearly on the side of the bulldog."

The Synus is based on the Ford Fiesta small car and the company is looking at options given the new wave of boxy Japanese imports flooding into America.

J Mays said: "We're ploughing that field right now and we're trying to see how fertile is that market, so what we're looking for with the Synus is really a reaction back from the market place."

The Ford Synus wasn't the only unconventional idea at the year's biggest automotive expo.

Jeep unveiled a rock-hopping vehicle called the Hurricane that has one 5.7-litre V8 to power the front wheels - and another to power the rear.

The vehicle accelerates faster than a Porsche and can complete a 360-degree turn on its own axis. It can turn the front wheels on full lock one way and the rear wheels on full lock the other way.

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