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©2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte

Signs Economic Commentary

Donald Hunt
January 16, 2005

The US dollar fell slightly last week against the euro, closing Friday at 1.3106 euros to the dollar, down a little less than half a percent. Gold closed at 422.50 dollars an ounce, up less than a tenth of a percent. Gold closed at 322.37 euros, down from last week’s 323.53. Oil rose 6% last week, closing at $48.38 Friday, up from the $45.43 close the previous Friday, putting it at 36.91 euros per barrel, up from last week’s 34.81 close. The Dow Jones closed at 10,558 down from 10,604 last week, or about four tenths of a percent and the NASDAQ closed at 2088 compared to last week’s close of 2089. The ten-year US Treasury bond closed at 4.21% compared to last week’s 4.27%. Nothing too dramatic in these numbers except perhaps the four consecutive days’ increase in the price of oil.

I thought we might step back a bit and look at some social and political factors contributing to the decline in the US economy, specifically, how fascism and religious fundamentalism can cause serious economic decline. Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, has shown that at this point in historical time, economic development is best incubated by a culture of creativity and tolerance. Technical infrastructure, by itself, is not enough to attract talented, creative people.  In earlier time, when large, bureaucratic corporations made location decisions, base infrastructure and tax breaks were crucial.  Now, according to Florida, things like a community’s openness to gay couples, its level of racial integration and other factors in his “tolerance index” play a larger role in encouraging growth .  Here is an excerpt from the preface to the new paperback edition:

I’m not suggesting that gays and bohemians literally cause regions to grow. Rather, their presence in large numbers is an indicator of an underlying culture that’s open-minded and diverse—and thus conducive to creativity. My interviews and focus groups all over this country have confirmed this. I’ve had straight people, especially straight single women, tell me they look for cities with lots of gay people when they are hunting for a place to live and work. The presence of gays signals an exciting place, where people can fit in and be themselves, and in the eyes of many single woman, it’s also a sign that a city or neighborhood is relatively safe. (p.xvii) …

Technology—measured by innovation and high-tech industry concentration—figures into my model as one of the “3 Ts” needed for growth. Talent is the second T—not “human capital” as usually measured (by numbers of people holding higher education credentials) but creative capital, which is talent measured functionally, by the numbers of people actually in creative occupations. The third T is tolerance. Places that are open and tolerant have an edge in attracting different kinds of people and generating new ideas. Economic growth is a complex process. For most of human history, wealth came from a place’s endowment of natural resources, like fertile soil or raw materials. But today, the key resource, creative people, is highly mobile. The key dimension of economic competitiveness is the ability to attract, cultivate and mobilize this resource. My research tries to uncover the underlying conditions—the ecosystem characteristics—that enable certain places to attract and mobilize them more than others. Tolerance and openness—or what I like to call “low entry barriers for people”—are a critical element. To capture this, I have worked with Kevin Stolarick to build a broader all-around measure of tolerance.  

Our new Tolerance Index is based on four measures: the Gay Index, the Bohemian Index, the Melting Pot Index (the concentration of foreign-born people), and a measure of racial integration, used to capture how integrated rather than separated a community is throughout its internal geography. Places that score high on this Tolerance Index (see Table 2)— places where gays, immigrants and bohemians all feel at home and where racial groups tend to live mixed together, not in distinct enclaves—are very likely to have a culture of tolerance.  

The research here is ongoing and much more needs to be done. For now, our measures should be looked at as leading indicators of creative ecosystems—habitats open to new people and ideas, where people network easily and offbeat ideas are not stifled but are turned into new projects, companies and growth. Regions and nations that have such ecosystems are likely to do the best job of tapping the diverse creative talents of the most people, and thus gain competitive advantage. (p.xx)

Clearly, from Florida’s work, we can see that nowadays the Republican agenda is a recipe for economic failure, even if they didn’t impoverish the middle class, run up massive deficits and engage in disastrous wars.  Florida addresses this explicitly in an article last year in Washington Monthly ):

Last March, I had the opportunity to meet Peter Jackson, director of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, at his film complex in lush, green, otherworldly-looking Wellington, New Zealand. Jackson has done something unlikely in Wellington, an exciting, cosmopolitan city of 900,000, but not one previously considered a world cultural capital. He has built a permanent facility there, perhaps the world's most sophisticated filmmaking complex. He did it in New Zealand concertedly and by design. Jackson, a Wellington native, realized what many American cities discovered during the '90s: Paradigm-busting creative industries could single-handedly change the ways cities flourish and drive dynamic, widespread economic change. It took Jackson and his partners a while to raise the resources, but they purchased an abandoned paint factory that, in a singular example of adaptive reuse, emerged as the studio responsible for the most breathtaking trilogy of films ever made. He realized, he told me, that with the allure of the Rings trilogy, he could attract a diversely creative array of talent from all over the world to New Zealand; the best cinematographers, costume designers, sound technicians, computer graphic artists, model builders, editors, and animators.  

When I visited, I met dozens of Americans from places like Berkeley and MIT working alongside talented filmmakers from Europe and Asia, the Americans asserting that they were ready to relinquish their citizenship. Many had begun the process of establishing residency in New Zealand.  

Think about this. In the industry most symbolic of America's international economic and cultural might, film, the greatest single project in recent cinematic history was internationally funded and crafted by the best filmmakers from around the world, but not in Hollywood. When Hollywood produces movies of this magnitude, it creates jobs for directors, actors, and key grips in California. Because of the astounding level of technical innovation which a project of this size requires, in such areas as computer graphics, sound design, and animation, it can also germinate whole new companies and even new industries nationwide, just as George Lucas's Star Wars films fed the development of everything from video games to product tie-in marketing. But the lion's share of benefits from The Lord of the Rings is likely to accrue not to the United States but to New Zealand. Next, with a rather devastating symbolism, Jackson will remake King Kong in Wellington, with a budget running upwards of $150 million.

He concludes:

As other nations become more attractive to mobile immigrant talent, America is becoming less so. A recent study by the National Science Board found that the U.S. government issued 74,000 visas for immigrants to work in science and technology in 2002, down from 166,000 in 2001--an astonishing drop of 55 percent. This is matched by similar, though smaller-scale, declines in other categories of talented immigrants, from finance experts to entertainers. Part of this contraction is derived from what we hope are short-term security concerns--as federal agencies have restricted visas from certain countries after September 11. More disturbingly, we find indications that fewer educated foreigners are choosing to come to the United States. For instance, most of the decline in science and technology immigrants in the National Science Board study was due to a drop in applications.  

Why would talented foreigners avoid us? In part, because other countries are simply doing a better, more aggressive job of recruiting them. The technology bust also plays a role. There are fewer jobs for computer engineers, and even top foreign scientists who might still have their pick of great cutting-edge research positions are less likely than they were a few years ago to make millions through tech-industry partnerships.  

But having talked to hundreds of talented professionals in a half dozen countries over the past year, I'm convinced that the biggest reason has to do with the changed political and policy landscape in Washington. In the 1990s, the federal government focused on expanding America's human capital and interconnectedness to the world--crafting international trade agreements, investing in cutting edge R&D, subsidizing higher education and public access to the Internet, and encouraging immigration. But in the last three years, the government's attention and resources have shifted to older sectors of the economy, with tariff protection and subsidies to extractive industries.

Meanwhile, Washington has stunned scientists across the world with its disregard for consensus scientific views when those views conflict with the interests of favored sectors (as has been the case with the issue of global climate change). Most of all, in the wake of 9/11, Washington has inspired the fury of the world, especially of its educated classes, with its my-way-or-the-highway foreign policy. In effect, for the first time in our history, we're saying to highly mobile and very finicky global talent, "You don't belong here."  

Obviously, this shift has come about with the changing of the political guard in Washington, from the internationalist Bill Clinton to the aggressively unilateralist George W. Bush. But its roots go much deeper, to a tectonic change in the country's political-economic demographics. As many have noted, America is becoming more geographically polarized, with the culturally more traditionalist, rural, small-town, and exurban "red" parts of the country increasingly voting Republican, and the culturally more progressive urban and suburban "blue" areas going ever more Democratic.

Less noted is the degree to which these lines demarcate a growing economic divide, with "blue" patches representing the talent-laden, immigrant-rich creative centers that have largely propelled economic growth, and the "red" parts representing the economically lagging hinterlands.

The migrations that feed creative-center economies are also exacerbating the contrasts. As talented individuals, eager for better career opportunities and more adventurous, diverse lifestyles, move to the innovative cities, the hinterlands become even more culturally conservative. Now, the demographic dynamic which propelled America's creative economy has produced a political dynamic that could choke that economy off. Though none of the candidates for president has quite framed it that way, it's what's really at stake in the 2004 elections.

That was written before last November’s US election.  The die seems to be cast now. One question we might ask ourselves now is, will economic impoverishment resulting from an increasingly intolerant culture have time to play itself out? Or will military defeats work much faster?

As one commentator, Marshall Auerback,puts it:

Just as a haystack soaked in kerosene will appear relatively benign until somebody strikes a match, so too it is worth noting that although America’s longstanding economic problems have not yet engendered financial Armageddon does not invalidate the threat they ultimately pose. But the key is finding out which event (or combination of them) represents the match that could set this “haystack” alight.

Could that event be military setback? A desperate reaction to a military setback? If, as we have speculated, Russia, China and perhaps Europe may be using the dollar’s weakness to restrain the American Empire, what will US policymakers do in response to a catastrophic collapse of the dollar?  To answer that question, we need to be more specific about what that empire is.  Who better to do that than one of its “hit men?” A book appeared last year, Confessions of an Economic Hit Men by John Perkins. According to Perkins in an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! (), the American Empire works this way:

Well, really, over the past 30 to 40 years, we economic hit men have created the largest global empire in the history of the world. And we do this, typically -- well, there are many ways to do it, but a typical one is that we identify a third-world country that has resources, which we covet. And often these days that's oil, or might be the canal in the case of Panama. In any case, we go to that third-world country and we arrange a huge loan from the international lending community; usually the World Bank leads that process. So, let's say we give this third-world country a loan of $1 billion.

One of the conditions of that loan is that the majority of it, roughly 90%, comes back to the United States to one of our big corporations, the ones we've all heard of recently, the Bechtels, the Halliburtons. And those corporations build in this third-world country large power plants, highways, ports, or industrial parks -- big infrastructure projects that basically serve the very rich in those countries.

The poor people in those countries and the middle class suffer; they don't benefit from these loans, they don't benefit from the projects. In fact, often their social services have to be severely curtailed in the process of paying off the debt.

Now what also happens is that this third-world country then is saddled with a huge debt that it can't possibly repay.

For example, today, Ecuador. Ecuador's foreign debt, as a result of the economic hit man, is equal to roughly 50% of its national budget. It cannot possibly repay this debt, as is the case with so many third-world countries. So, now we go back to those countries and say, look, you borrowed all this money from us, and you owe us this money, you can't repay your debts, so give our oil companies your oil at very cheap costs. And in the case of many of these countries, Ecuador is a good example here, that means destroying their rain forests and destroying their indigenous cultures. That's what we're doing today around the world, and we've been doing it -- it began shortly after the end of World War II. It has been building up over time until today where it's really reached mammoth proportions where we control most of the resources of the world.

I find it interesting that the empire has been using the same technique of lending more money than can be repaid to its individual consumers as well. In both cases, dependence is created.

What happens to countries that don’t accept the loans or terms from the Economic Hit Men?

After our tremendous success in Saudi Arabia, we decided we should do the same thing in Iraq. And we figured that Saddam Hussein was corruptible. And, of course, we had been involved with Saddam Hussein anyway for some time. And so the economic hit men went in and tried to bring Saddam Hussein around, tried to get him to agree to a deal like the royal House of Saud had agreed to.

And he didn't.

So, we sent in the jackals to try to overthrow him or to assassinate him. They couldn't.

His Republican Guard was too loyal and he had all these doubles. We couldn't do it. So, when the economic hit men and the jackals both failed, then the last line of defense that the United States, the empire, uses these days, is the military. We send in our young men and women to die and to kill, and we did that in Iraq in 1990. We thought Saddam Hussein at that point was sufficiently chastised that now he would come around, so the economic hit men went back in in the 1990s, failed once again. The jackals went back in, failed once again, and so once again the military went in -- the story we all know -- because we couldn't bring him around any other way.

What will the United States do when Perkins’s option three, sending in the troops, doesn’t work?  Is there an option four? Or is the game over? As Marshall Auerback wrote in the piece quoted earlier, the deals negotiated by China with resource suppliers and the military cooperation between China and Russia as well as the recently announced agreement of Russia to sell military equipment to Syria represent

…pretty brazen behavior by all concerned, but is symptomatic of the growing perception of the US as a declining giant, albeit one with the capacity to strike out lethally when wounded. American military and economic dominance may still be the central fact of world affairs today, but the limits of this primacy (which dates back to the fall of the Berlin Wall) are becoming increasingly evident, just as dollar’s fall reflects this in economic terms.  It all makes for a very challenging backdrop in 2005.  This could therefore be the year when longstanding problems for the US finally do matter.  Do not expect Washington to accept the dispersal of its economic and military power lightly.

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Writer Urging Inauguration Day Boycott

January 11, 2005 by the Associated Press
by Adrienne Schwisow

DETROIT - David Livingstone says the idea behind the economic boycott he's organizing is simple: If people don't show up at work or buy things, companies lose money. As he sees it, that's money the Bush administration can't tax, and can't use to run the war in Iraq, protect polluters or chip away at the Constitution.

David Livingstone, 41, of Hazel Park,Michigan shows the home page to his Web site on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 8, 2005, in Detroit. Livingstone is trying to spread the word about an economic boycott he'll participate in during the presidential inauguration on Thursday, Jan. 20. (AP Photo/Jerry S. Mendoza)
So the Detroit Democrat and a handful of other anti-Bush groups across the country are urging others of like mind to withhold their cash and labor on Inauguration Day — from all businesses. They don't think they'll inflict a huge economic pain, but they do want to make a point.

"I view the inauguration of Bush as a black Thursday for this country," Livingstone says. "We've tried marching in the streets to stop the war, we tried writing letters, we tried initiatives on the Web, but Bush doesn't listen. It seems to us the only thing Bush and the Republicans will listen to is money."

Livingstone, a 41-year-old writer, hopes to be in Washington for the Jan. 20 festivities, which for him means protests, black armbands and backs turned to the parade route.

And he's vowing not to buy gas, food or use his credit card that day: He wants the GOP, big oil, big banking, big box stores and any other "bigs" to know they can't push him around or ignore him — at least not on Jan. 20.

The White House is taking all the boycott talk in stride. Bush "is proud that we live in a society where people are free to peacefully express their opinions," spokesman Jim Morrell says.

Other groups nationwide, many loosely connected through the Internet, have put out calls similar to Livingstone's. Jesse Gordon, 44, of Cambridge, Mass., spreads the word through his Web site, Not One Damn Dime!

Gordon doesn't expect to shake the economy, but does want to see the president recognize dissent.

"I think Bush should acknowledge the boycott. If we're effective, he'll know about it, and he should acknowledge it," Gordon says.

In New Orleans, Buddy Spell says his January 20th Committee eagerly endorses the idea of an economic boycott. He remains primarily concerned with organizing a jazz funeral procession through the downtown to mourn a second Bush term and what he calls the death of democracy. But he says a boycott is worth pursuing, in part because it can help unite disparate anti-Bush forces.

The groups hope to see several million people eating brown-bag lunches and dinners on Inauguration Day. If people don't want to boycott all business, the groups suggest buying from just those that support Democrats. The protesters say they'll measure success not in economic terms, but by whether people know about the boycott and if it sparks future activism.

And if there's by chance a blip in the GDP, that would be a bonus.

A bonus indeed, say economists and historians.

"I can't imagine it would have any impact whatsoever," says David J. Vogel, professor of business ethics at the University of California at Berkeley. "Even if everyone didn't buy on that day, they'd make up for it the next day."

Historian Lawrence Glickman says boycotts rarely accomplish any substantial economic goal, and if they do, it's usually because they are tailored to a specific product. Boycotts tend to have more success applying political pressure, but even that is limited.

Still, he said, their record of failure never seems to stop Americans from launching them.

"There's this appeal about boycotts, anyone can take part in them and you can use your pocketbook to express your dissatisfaction," says Glickman, who studies labor and consumer activism at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. "It's a way of feeling like we're participating in something bigger than ourselves."

On the Net:

Black Thursday: http://www.black-thursday.com

Not One Damn Dime!: http://www.notonedamndime.com/boycott

Jazz Funeral for Democracy:

http://www.jazzfuneralfordemocracy.com/

Comment: The thing about such a boycott is that it can be a totally private thing. Nobody has to know about it and thus, nobody can accuse a person of being "unpatriotic" or "anti-American."

But the businesses and the government will know how much true opposition to Bush there really is by the loss of business.

A perfect way to convey dissent safely and anonymously.

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Setting Up Iran

SOTT
17/01/2005

So here we are, facing ourselves wearily into another new year of what is likely to be increasing global turmoil and bloodshed. It would be nice to think that, for once, someone, somewhere in the echelons of power would see sense and decide that enough is enough. Sadly, the likelihood of that happening seems as remote as the likelihood that Jesus will soon be appearing on a white cloud to "rapture" the world's Christians up to heavenly bliss with their "lord and savior".

No indeed, there is no land of milk and honey on the horizon. This year we can expect the opening of more fronts in the phony "war on terror" and further requests from our dear leaders for 'we the people' to relinquish more civil rights and believe the unbelievable. How many more will succumb this year? Time will tell we suppose. But for now, the natives in the Pentagon are getting restless again. The drums of holy war are sounding once more, drawing our collective gaze towards Iran and its soon-to-be-drastically-reduced population.

Special forces 'on the ground' in Iran

Ian Traynor
Monday January 17, 2005
The Guardian

American special forces have been on the ground inside Iran scouting for US air strike targets for suspected nuclear weapons sites, according to the renowned US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.

In an article in the latest edition of the New Yorker, Hersh, who was the first to uncover US human rights abuses against Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison last year, reports that Pakistan, under a deal with Washington, has been supplying information on Iranian military sites and on its nuclear programme, enabling the US to conduct covert ground and air reconnaissance of Iranian targets, should the escalating row over Iran's nuclear ambitions come to a head.

Acting on information from Pakistani scientists knowledgeable about Iran's nuclear programme, Hersh reported, US commandos have penetrated territory in eastern Iran seeking to pinpoint underground installations suspected of being nuclear weapons sites.

Hersh told CNN yesterday: "I think they really think there's a chance to do something in Iran, perhaps by summer, to get the intelligence on the sites.

"The last thing this government wants to do is to bomb or strafe, or missile attack, the wrong targets again. We don't want another WMD flap. We want to be sure we have the right information."

Here we have a problem. What are the definitions, in this context, of the words "wrong" and "right". Is Hersh implying that the bombing of Baghdad is understood as a genuine "mistake" by the Bush administration? If they could take it back, would they? Clearly, from the point of view of Bush and Co, the only thing "wrong" about the lead up to and actual invasion of Iraq was that they were unable to pass off the childish "evidence" for Saddam's WMDs on the UN and that, as a result, some members of the public also became aware that the US government was deliberately lying to them.

Hersh continues by saying that, in regard to bombing and invading Iran, "we want to be sure we have the right information". Clearly by "right information" Hersh does NOT mean actual REAL proof that Iran is developing WMDs with a view to attacking America, but rather information that will successfully convince the world that this is the case, even when in reality it is not.

The New Yorker report said the Americans have been conducting secret reconnaissance missions over and inside Iran since last summer with a view to identifying up to 40 possible targets for strikes should the dispute over Iran turn violent.

There's that word again, "should". Synonyms are: "if", "in the off chance that", "in the event that", all conveying the idea that the dispute with Iran may or may not turn violent, and most importantly, if it does, it will be the result of some external factor over which no one has any control.

The reality, of course, is that there is a 100% likelihood that Iran will be attacked, regardless of the existence or otherwise of any WMDs.

Why?

Because the Neocons and Israel desire it. The only thing left to decide is how best to convince the public that the upcoming attack on Iran is NOT about American and Israeli state terrorism and an illegal land and resource grab, but rather because Iran really is a threat to the whole world.

We sincerely hope that everyone is by now aware that we are witnessing the initial stages of a repeat of the Iraq debacle, where the American and British government openly LIED TO THE WORLD about the threat that Saddam posed, and then attacked and killed 100,000 Iraqi civilians FOR NO GOOD REASON, other than to satiate their own greed and power lust.

"This is a war against terrorism and Iraq is just one campaign," Hersh quotes one former US intelligence official as saying. "The Bush administration is looking at this as a huge war zone. Next we're going to have the Iranian campaign."

Another unnamed source described as a consultant close to the Pentagon said: "The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible."

That appeared to be a reference to noted "neocons" in Washington, such as the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, and others.

Arguments about Iran's suspected nuclear programme have raged for 20 months since it was revealed that Tehran had been conducting secret nuclear activities for 18 years in violation of treaty obligations.

The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna has had inspectors in the country throughout the period. While finding much that is suspect, the inspectors have not found any proof of a clandestine nuclear bomb programme.

The IAEA chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, has infuriated the Bush administration over his even-handed dealings with Iran, while the Europeans have been pursuing a parallel diplomatic track that has won grudging agreement from Tehran to freeze its uranium enrichment activities.

Notice what "infuriates" Bush (and his handlers) these days: even-handedness, diplomacy, dialogue, all anathema to the policies of a dictatorship.

Hersh reported that the US campaign against Iran is being assisted by Pakistan under a deal that sees Islamabad provide information in return for reducing the pressure on Abdul Qadeer Khan, the disgraced metallurgist who is the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb and who was revealed last year to be the head of the biggest international nuclear smuggling racket uncovered.

Since confessing his activities and being placed under house arrest almost a year ago, Mr Khan has been incommunicado.

After months of failure to get permission, IAEA inspectors last week gained access to the Parchin military facilities outside Tehran, which the Americans contend has been a centre for Iranian attempts to refine missile technology for nuclear purposes, although experts agree that Iran does not yet have a nuclear capability.

Now here's where it gets REALLY interesting. For those that believe that the current war on terror just came "out of the blue" - think again. The "end times" in which we seem to find ourselves have been in the planning for many, many years and there is no lack of evidence to prove it.

By now it should be obvious to everyone with two functioning neurons that the Washington Neocons were determined to invade Iraq regardless of the lack of evidence to support their claims that Saddam posed a threat to America. It is also very clear that, for many years prior to the invasion, Saddam had been falsely portrayed as "evil incarnate" in order to convince the public that a war in Iraq was needed. It is not unreasonable therefore to assume that these same Necons have developed equally deceptive plans to justify their next stage in the bogus war on terror - Iran.

As it happens, while we were all fixated on the Iraq quagmire at the beginning of last year, this "evidence" was quietly released, but naturally, it was not what it seemed.

Pakistan probes Iran nuclear link

December 23, 2003

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan's Foreign Ministry has admitted that some of the country's top nuclear scientists possibly passed information to Iran.

Pakistan has been questioning three scientists for the past five to six weeks in connection with the possible transfer of nuclear technology and information to Iran and other countries.

In the wake of news reports that the country may have been the source of the information, Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan said Tuesday that Pakistan had never and would never proliferate nuclear technology.

"Pakistan takes its responsibility as a nuclear weapons state seriously," Khan said. "We are a responsible state and we understand our obligations.

"We had been approached by the IAEA -- the International Atomic Energy Agency. We had been given some information by the government of Iran," Khan said.

"The information that was shared with us pointed to certain individuals."

Khan said Monday Abdul Qadeer Khan, the man considered the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, was questioned in connection with the "debriefing" of three nuclear scientists about the matter.

So there it was - horror of horrors - old buddy Pakistan had apparently stuck the knife in the US and gifted nuclear technology to the axis of the "axis of evil" thereby thwarting the sincere and loving attempts of Bush to "make the world safe for freedom and democracy". Of course there are various types of "nuclear technology" and there was no evidence that Khan had passed on information or materials that could lead to the manufacturing of weapons, but that little detail was not important for the average CNN viewer, all they needed to know was the word "Nuclear", and yes, that's with a capital "N".

At the time, Pakistan attempted to assuage the negative fallout by claiming this was a case of a "bad apple" working alone for personal profit, but no one believed that Khan could have run his international network without the knowledge of Pakistan and several other nations, not even the CIA - and they had good cause not to.

You see, by their own admission, the CIA had been on Khan's tail for many years and had simply sat back and watched him get rich and fat from selling what was essentially American and European nuclear technology to Iran and other countries.

No one really knows why they let Khan get away with it, and the CIA ain't tellin. If we were to offer an explanation, we might say that maybe the CIA wanted a nuclear paper trail leading to Iran so that they could use it as evidence at some later date...like sometime at the beginning of Bush's second term as President.

What was most surprising however, was the fact that, unlike Saddam - who was "decapitated", his people massacred and his country appropriated by US forces, all for having NO WMDs - the penalty to Pakistan for sanctioning the sale of nuclear materials to Iran was slightly less severe. Musharref dismissed Khan from his job, and then pardoned him. Now that's what we call harsh. The US, for its part was not in a bargaining mood, and let the world know where it stood on illegal nuclear proliferation by swiftly and mercilessly agreeing with Musharref's decision.

And that's where it stood throughout most of last year until Khan was dragged back out of his luxury villa, where he was under...eh...villa arrest, and into the limelight, again by the CIA, in December 2004.

New allegations made about the Abdul Qadeer Khan ‘network’

By Khalid Hasan
28/12/2004

WASHINGTON: New allegations made on Sunday by the New York Times say that Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan sold $100 million worth of nuclear gear to Libya and as a “sweetener” included blueprints for a 10-kiloton nuclear bomb.

The report says intelligence officials had watched Dr Khan, “for years”, though it fails to say why they waited, “for years”, before exposing his alleged network. US experts were unsure who else had those designs besides Libya. They were not certain if the designs had also been passed on to Iran, Syria or the Al Qaeda organisation. Experts from the US and the IAEA are said to have quarrelled over who should have control over the blueprints and after, “hours of tense negotiation, agreement was reached to keep it in a vault at the Energy Department in Washington, but under IAEA seal.”

According to the newspaper, nearly a year after Dr Khan’s arrest, “secrets of his nuclear black market continue to uncoil, revealing a vast global enterprise.”

“The breadth of the operation was particularly surprising to some American intelligence officials because they had had Dr Khan under surveillance for nearly three decades, since he began assembling components for Pakistan’s bomb, but apparently missed crucial transactions with countries like Iran and North Korea,” added the report.

Well isn't that a shame! The CIA were living in the guy's pocket but just happened to miss the fact that he was selling material to Iran. What with the "intelligence failure" on 9/11, we may be forced to conclude that the CIA has succumbed to some bizarre ailment where their "failures" always result in the US government being furnished with justification to invade other countries that just happen to be strategically important to America or Israel. Weird!

The report says that for three decades Dr Khan has been well known to British and American intelligence officials.

The report alleges that the Dutch company where Dr Khan worked, as well as Dutch intelligence, were suspicious of Dr Khan and saw him as “a potential danger.” It repeats the discredited allegation that when he left Holland for Pakistan, he took away centrifuge blueprints with him. Dr Khan returned several times to Holland. “The Dutch wanted to arrest him,” a diplomat said. “But they were told by the American CIA, ‘Leave him so we can follow his trail.’

Hey! There's that "trail" we were talking about just a few paragraphs ago!

Intelligence experts believe that Dr Khan traded his centrifuge technology to the Chinese for their bomb design.

The report says Dr Khan knew he was under surveillance. He once told British journalist Simon Henderson, “The British try to recruit members of my team as spies.”

When George Bush came to office, the CIA began to tutor him on the danger posed by Dr Khan and disclosing how deeply the agency believed it had penetrated his life and network. “We were inside his residence, inside his facilities, inside his rooms,” the former CIA chief George Tenet said in a recent speech.

The Pakistanis insisted they had no evidence of any proliferation at all, a claim American officials said they found laughable.

So far, said European intelligence officials familiar with the agency’s inner workings, no hard evidence of clandestine nuclear arms programs has surfaced."

So while the CIA were laughing in the face of claims that Khan had not sold any weapons to Iran, the Pakistanis and European intelligence officials were looking right back at them, stony faced, and wondering what they were laughing at.

Pakistan Downplays CIA Report on Leaks of Nuclear Technology to Iran, Libya

By Paul Alexander Associated Press Writer
Published: Nov 27, 2004

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) - Pakistan on Saturday downplayed suggestions that a new CIA report indicates that a renegade scientist provided more help to Iran's nuclear weapons program than previously disclosed.

Abdul Qadeer Khan, who was considered a national hero for leading the development of Pakistan's nuclear deterrent against rival India, admitted in February to passing nuclear technology to other countries. He was pardoned by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who cited his service to the nation, but he is under virtual house arrest in Islamabad.

The CIA this week posted on its Web site an unclassified report to Congress, "Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions." It details reported efforts by Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Syria to obtain chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons technology.

"Iran's nuclear program received significant assistance in the past from the proliferation network headed by Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan," the report said. "The A.Q. Khan network provided Iran with designs for Pakistan's older centrifuges as well as designs for more advanced and efficient models and components."

It said Libya had disclosed receiving similar assistance from Khan, head of Pakistan's nuclear program from the 1970s until 2001.

"Even in cases where states took action to stem such transfers, knowledgeable individuals or non-state purveyors of WMD - and missile-related materials and technology - could act outside government constraints," the report said. "The exposure of the A.Q. Khan network and its role in supplying nuclear technology to Libya, Iran, and North Korea illustrate one form of this threat."

The New York Times reported that the CIA disclosure indicates that bomb-making designs provided by Khan's network to Iran in the 1990s were more significant than Washington has previously disclosed.

It focused on the phrase "designs for more advanced and efficient models, and components," indicating that "components" refers to weapons components.

The Times pointed out that American officials have publicly referred only to the Khan network's role in supplying Iran with designs for older Pakistani centrifuges used to enrich uranium but that they also have suspected it provided a warhead design, too.

Citing a tape it obtained of a closed-door speech to a private group, the paper quoted former CIA director George J. Tenet as describing Khan as "at least as dangerous as Osama bin Laden" because of his role in providing nuclear technology to other countries.

Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan criticized the Times report.

"The writer of the report has spun a strange web based on flimsy evidence, hearsay and snippets of conversations," Khan said Saturday. "The CIA report does not mention any 'designs for weapons or bomb-making components.' Weapons and bomb-making are the writer's own creative insertions.

So what are we to make of all this? Well, consider some of these interesting comments by various authorities on the matter.

The Daily Telegraph said Gen Musharraf would pardon Dr Khan. "The garlanded scientist is such a hero that the army fears the political consequences of letting the law take its course," predicted the paper. "Moreover, in the witness box he might well implicate Gen Musharraf and other officers in the sale of nuclear technology."

Dr Khan had already done so, reported the Times of India. According to his friends, the scientist "told investigators that Gen Musharraf and his [army] predecessors, [including] Mirza Alsam Beg, were among those who knew and approved of his dealings with North Korea and Iran".

"The incontrovertible truth," said Jasjit Singh in the Indian Express, "is that Pakistan's nuclear programme in every aspect has been, and remains, in control of its army at least since 1977."

The Asahi Shimbun was also not convinced by Islamabad's rogue scientist line. "When we reflect on the history of Pakistan's nuclear development, Gen Musharraf's account is a bit tough to swallow whole," said the Japanese daily.

Indeed, it seems that the sale of any nuclear material or information to any other nation by Pakistan CANNOT be disassociated from those who were watching, supplying and controlling Pakistan's nuclear development. And who are those parties? Well, we really do not need to spell it out, and neither, it seems, does International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei who choose to simply state:

"Dr (Abdul Qadeer) Khan was not working alone, he had help from people in many countries. "Dr Khan is the tip of an iceberg for us."

Perhaps the most damning piece of evidence in our analysis here is that it was the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a group opposed to the present regime in Tehran and very likely being fed information by the CIA, that revealed that between 1994 and 1996, when Benazir Bhutto was in power, Khan gave Iran a Chinese-developed nuclear-warhead design.

"The IAEA did in fact find traces of enriched uranium in Iran centrifuges, but it was unable to determine whether the traces came from Kahuta in Pakistan as contended by Iran or whether they indicated that Iran had clandestinely produced some weapons-grade enriched uranium. The only way of establishing the truth is for IAEA personnel to inspect the centrifuges in Kahuta and to compare the traces found in Iran to the enriched uranium produced in Kahuta."

"However, Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf has been vehemently opposing any suggestion for a spot inspection of Kahuta by the IAEA or for the interrogation of Khan by IAEA and other foreign experts in order to establish the truth."

And that's the bottom line. The Pakistani AND American governments seem to be "vehemently opposed" to any in depth investigation of just how and from whom Iran really received the alleged nuclear material, if indeed they ever did.

What IS clear is that, from the actions and words of the CIA and the US government, the whole point of the "revelation" that Pakistan has sold "nukes" to Iran is to show that "Iran has nukes" NOT for the purpose of investigating just HOW Iran got nuclear capabilty or who might have helped them along the way.

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Pakistan rejects US media report over Iranian nuclear program
www.chinaview.cn 2005-01-17 20:41:27
ISLAMABAD, Jan. 17 (Xinhuanet) -- Pakistan on Monday categorically rejected a US media report that Islamabad has helped US commandos in their covert operation inside Iran against the country's nuclear program.

"There is no such collaboration. We do not have much information of Iran nuclear program," Pakistani Foreign Office Spokesman Masood Khan said in a weekly news briefing here Monday.

Reports suggested that the American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has claimed that US commandos are operating inside Iran selecting sites for future air strikes.

In the latest edition of the New Yorker, Hersh said intelligence officials have revealed that Iran is the "next strategic target" of the United States.

They have been aided by information from the government of Pakistan, Hersh added.

"I categorically reject the report, which has been exaggerated. I do not think there are any substance in the report," the spokesman said.

"We have close relations with Iran as we have with the United States of America," the spokesman said, adding that Pakistan is not providing any information to the United States or any international agency as to what Iran is doing or not doing.

"Iran's program is limited. There has been no government-to-government contact regarding energy," he said.

Comment: It is high time that the world woke up to the deceitful and manipulative nature of government because, let's face it, if the BBC are spelling it out there is no excuse for the rest of to remain in blissful ingnorance...

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The Power of Nightmares: Baby It's Cold Outside

Friday, 14 January, 2005
BBC News

Should we be worried about the threat from organised terrorism or is it simply a phantom menace being used to stop society from falling apart?

In the past our politicians offered us dreams of a better world. Now they promise to protect us from nightmares.

The most frightening of these is the threat of an international terror network. But just as the dreams were not true, neither are these nightmares.

In a new series, the Power of Nightmares explores how the idea that we are threatened by a hidden and organised terrorist network is an illusion.

It is a myth that has spread unquestioned through politics, the security services and the international media.

Both were idealists who were born out of the failure of the liberal dream to build a better world.

These two groups have changed the world but not in the way either intended.

Together they created today's nightmare vision of an organised terror network.

A fantasy that politicians then found restored their power and authority in a disillusioned age. Those with the darkest fears became the most powerful.

The rise of the politics of fear begins in 1949 with two men whose radical ideas would inspire the attack of 9/11 and influence the neo-conservative movement that dominates Washington.

Both these men believed that modern liberal freedoms were eroding the bonds that held society together.

The two movements they inspired set out, in their different ways, to rescue their societies from this decay. But in an age of growing disillusion with politics, the neo-conservatives turned to fear in order to pursue their vision.

They would create a hidden network of evil run by the Soviet Union that only they could see.

The Islamists were faced by the refusal of the masses to follow their dream and began to turn to terror to force the people to "see the truth"'.

The Power of Nightmares will be broadcast over three nights from Tuesday 18 to Thursday, 20 January, 2005 at 2320 GMT on BBC Two. The final part has been updated in the wake of the Law Lords ruling in December that detaining foreign terrorist suspects without trial was illegal.

Comment: We strongly recommend that EVERYONE watches this three part documentary. Send it everyone you can think of that may yet have the ability to wake up and see the truth of our current reality.

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US conducting military operations inside Iran: report
- AFP
17 January 2005 0735 hrs

WASHINGTON : Teams of US commandos have entered Iran searching for hidden sites that could be working on developing nuclear weapons.

The government of President George W. Bush has authorized secret military missions inside Iran at least since mid-2004, the The New Yorker magazine reports in its Monday edition.

Their goal is to identify target information for up to 26 suspected nuclear, chemical and missile sites, according to the magazine.

"This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq, is just one campaign," a former high-level government intelligence official told the magazine.

"The Bush administration is looking at this as a huge war zone. Next, we're going to have the Iranian campaign. We've declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah -- we've got our years, and we want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism," the official said.

A top government consultant with close ties with the Pentagon told the magazine that the Pentagon civilians -- especially Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz and their fellow neo-conservatives -- "want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure and possible."

Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz believe that Iran's clerical regime could not withstand a military blow and would collapse, the magazine reports.

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It's Official: My Brother Died in Vain

By Dante Zappala
01/14/05 - ICH
source: "Los Angeles Times"

After two years, the government has called off its fruitless hunt for WMD. 

This week, the White House announced, with little fanfare, that the two-year search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq had finally ended, and it acknowledged that no such weapons existed there at the time of the U.S. invasion in 2003.

For many, this may be a story of only passing interest. But for me and my family, it resonates with profound depth.

My brother was Sgt. Sherwood Baker. He was a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard deployed a year ago with his unit out of Wilkes-Barre. He said goodbye to his wife and his 9-year-old son, boarded a bus and went to Ft. Dix, N.J., to be hastily retrained. His seven years of Guard training as a forward observer was practically worthless because he would not face combat. All he needed to do was learn how to not die.

He received a crash course in convoy security, including practice in running over cardboard cutouts of children. We bought him a GPS unit and walkie-talkies because he wasn't supplied with them. In Iraq, Sherwood was assigned to the Iraq Survey Group and joined the search for weapons of mass destruction.

David Kay, who led the group until January 2004, had already stated that they did not exist. Former United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix had expressed serious doubts about their presence during prewar inspections. In fact, a cadre of former U.N. inspectors and U.S. generals had been saying for years that Iraq posed no threat to our country. On April 26, 2004, the Iraq Survey Group, at the behest of the stubborn administration sitting safely in office buildings in Washington, was still on its fruitless but dangerous search. My brother stood atop his Humvee, securing the perimeter in front of a suspect building in Baghdad. But as soldiers entered the building, it exploded; the official cause is still not known. Sherwood was struck by debris in the back of his head and neck, and he was killed.

Since that day, my family and I have lived with the grief of losing a loved one. We have struggled to explain his death to his son. We have gazed at the shards of life scattered at our feet, in wonder of its fragility, in perpetual catharsis with God.

I have moved from frustration to disappointment to anger. And now I have arrived at a place not of understanding but of hope — blind hope that this will change.

The Iraq Survey Group's final report, which was filed in October but revealed only on Wednesday, confirmed what we knew all along. And as my mother cried in the kitchen, the nation barely blinked.

I am left now with a single word seared into my consciousness: accountability. The chance to hold our administration's feet to that flame has passed. But what of our citizenry? We are the ones who truly failed. We shut down our ability to think critically, to listen, to converse and to act. We are to blame.

Even with every prewar assumption having been proved false, today more than 130,000 U.S. soldiers are trying to stay alive in a foreign desert with no clear mission at hand.

At home, the sidelines are overcrowded with patriots. These Americans cower from the fight they instigated in Iraq. In a time of war and record budget deficits, many are loath to even pay their taxes. In the end, however, it is not their family members who are at risk, and they do not sit up at night pleading with fate to spare them.

Change is vital. We must remind ourselves that the war with Iraq was not a mistake but rather a flagrant abuse of power by our leaders — and a case of shameful negligence by the rest of us for letting it happen. The consequence is more than a quagmire. The consequence is the death of our national treasure — our soldiers.

We are all accountable. We all share the responsibility of what has been destroyed in our name. Let us begin to right the wrongs we have done to our country by accepting that responsibility.

Comment: Acountability. George W. knows about accountability. He said the election was an "accountability moment" when the people backed him. No one need be accountable for their errors. According to Bush, they have been forgiven. Absolved.

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U.S. troops launch raids
By SALLY BUZBEE
January 16, 2005

BAGHDAD (AP) - U.S. troops staged a series of raids in Mosul and elsewhere in northern and central Iraq on Sunday, arresting dozens, while rebels stepped up their attacks two weeks ahead of national elections, ambushing a car carrying a prominent female candidate and killing 17 people in other assaults.

U.S. Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz conceded that American and Iraqi forces cannot stop "extraordinary" intimidation by rebels before the Jan. 30 vote.

Underscoring the precarious security situation, Salama al-Khafaji, was ambushed in central Baghdad by gunmen wearing police uniforms, but she escaped injury when her bodyguards returned fire, an aide said. It was the second attempt since May on the life of al-Khafaji, who is running on the favoured slate endorsed by the country's main Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

U.S. and Iraqi officials have insisted that the elections go ahead as scheduled, despite the persistent violence.

Interim President Ghazi al-Yawer said that if the elections were postponed for six months, there was no guarantee the violence would wane. The rebels "might lay down for two or three months, then carry out attacks again," he said.

Most of the violence occurred around Kut, southeast of Baghdad, and the northern city of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city.

Near Kut, three Iraqi policemen were killed in one shooting and three Iraqi National Guard officers were killed by a hand grenade in another attack. As mourners gathered for the policemen's funeral, a suicide attacker blew himself up in the crowd, killing himself and seven others.

Gunmen also shot dead an Iraqi translator for a Filipino company working on water projects for multinational forces near Kut, a medical official said.

In Mosul, rebels shot dead a member of a local government council. They also set off explosives as a U.S. convoy passed, damaging a Bradley fighting vehicle, but no casualties were immediately reported.

A mortar also damaged a school in Mosul to be used as a polling place. And four other mortar rounds blasted schools in relatively quiet Basra, in the south, also slated to serve as polling centres.

Even in heavily Shiite areas of south-central Iraq, which is far more stable than Mosul or Baghdad, several election workers have been threatened and resigned in recent days, a senior U.S. Embassy official said Sunday in Hillah while outlining election preparations there.

"Most expect a high turnout if things seem quiet enough. There is some worry if you have a series of car bombs, people will think twice about coming," the official said.

Elsewhere in central Baghdad, rebels attacked a National Guard patrol on the east side of the Tigris river, then melted into the crowd in the open market area, sending shoppers running. Sounds of heavy machine-gun and automatic-weapons fire reverberated for nearly an hour along Haifa street on the western side of the river.

Wolfowitz, speaking in Jakarta, Indonesia, acknowledged that the security threat was worse than in last October's countrywide balloting in Afghanistan and that it was impossible to guarantee "absolute security" against the "extraordinary intimidation that the enemy is undertaking."

"There was intimidation in Afghanistan - the Taliban threatened all kinds of violence against people who registered or people who voted," he said. "But I don't believe they ever got around to shooting election workers in the street or kidnapping the children of political candidates."

An Associated Press poll of Americans indicated 53 per cent are not optimistic that a stable government will take hold in Iraq.

Around Mosul, the U.S. army's Stryker Brigade Combat Team detained 11 suspected rebels, including an alleged cell leader, and seized weapons and bomb-making material in several weekend raids - part of the military's strategy to try to secure the city short of launching an all-out offensive.

The Mosul area has emerged as a major flashpoint between U.S. and Iraqi forces and the rebels, raising fears the election cannot be held in much of the city.

U.S. and Iraqi officials are scrambling to recruit new police and election workers in Mosul after thousands of them resigned in the face of rebel intimidation. Similar mass resignations are believed to have occurred in other Sunni Muslim areas of northern, central and western Iraq.

With hours-long waits at gas stations across the country, the Iraqi government denied what it called "rumours" that the Oil Ministry planned to keep gas supplies low to deter car bombers. The government has indicated it plans to restrict much driving around the election.

But the long gas lines clearly were becoming a sore point.

About 300 followers of radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr began a three-day sit-in in front of the Oil Ministry in Baghdad to protest gasoline shortages. About a dozen entered the ministry and complained to Minister Thamir Ghadbhan, asking why U.S. troops have fuel for their vehicles and Iraqis do not.

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U.S. terror war 'over-reaction,' top judge says
OLIVIA WARD
FEATURE WRITER
Toronto Star
Jan. 17, 2005. 07:03 AM

The American-led war on terrorism is a threat to international justice and a challenge to the rule of law in the 21st century, says one of the world's most eminent jurists.

"Sept. 11 led to a major overreaction by politicians in many countries," said Richard Goldstone, the first chief prosecutor at the war crimes tribunals for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

"In dictatorships their actions don't matter, because we don't expect any respect for human rights. But in a democracy we are handing victory to terrorists if we change our way of life and abandon human rights."

Goldstone will be one of 30 leading international law experts speaking at Osgoode Hall Law School's Raoul Wallenberg Day International Human Rights Symposium, held today and tomorrow. [...]

Goldstone, who chaired an International Bar Association task force on terrorism, is a member of South Africa's Constitutional Court. He will speak on the legacy of the Nuremberg trials that brought Nazi war criminals to justice after World War II.

"International criminal justice didn't exist before World War II, but now it's a huge industry," he said. "The use of national and international courts, and the creation of the International Criminal Court are tremendous forward steps. Canada should get much credit for leading the movement to create the court."

But, said Goldstone, since September, 2001, the international justice system and the rule of law have been weakened by the actions of governments joining a "war on terror." The U.S. in particular has declared suspects "unlawful combatants" and detained them without trial, as well as deporting them to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Middle Eastern countries where torture is routinely used.

"Terrorism must be fought for what it is, that is, criminality. To use the analogy of a real war is to elevate the status of the terrorists, and hand them the advantage," says Goldstone.

In a time of crisis, he added, "the role of the judiciary is always weakened, and that is exactly when you need it. Politicians feel that they must do something, and that becomes the basis for unnecessary restrictions. In time of peace, human rights aren't threatened in the same way."

However, he said "we must be realistic about terrorism, and not naïve. Enforcement officials need to be given tools that might have been unthinkable not too long ago. Because of modern technology, when criminals make use of the Internet, electronic banking and access to travel, law enforcement must be able to deal with them."

The key to maintaining legality, Goldstone said, is "oversight, preferably judicial. The main thing is that people who are using tools like wiretapping know somebody is watching. If not, you can be absolutely certain there will be abuse."

The most obvious examples, he said, are Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, where prisoners have been subjected to humiliation and abuse by U.S. forces, and Guantanamo Bay, where complaints of human rights violations surfaced in spite of attempts to close it to outside scrutiny.

The war on Iraq — fought without U.N. authorization — has also damaged the United Nations system as well as the rule of law, Goldstone said.

"I don't think anyone wants to go back to pre-World War II days when the powerful did exactly as they wished. It's not in the interest of the democracies, including the United States."

The best way of protecting the rule of law, he said, was strengthening the U.N. Security Council, which has the power to authorize the use of force.

"The council must be enlarged to reflect the world community in 2005. It's very important to add voices. But a mechanism should also be found for avoiding a situation where one veto can stop a resolution that is supported by the other nations."

Comment: Go back to the time when the powerful did exactly as they wished? When did that ever stop?

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Kuwait urges U.S. to stop torturing Guantanamo Bay prisoners
08:01 AM EST Jan 17

KUWAIT CITY (AP) - A Kuwaiti heading a group lobbying for the release of his countrymen being held as suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, urged their U.S. captors Sunday not to torture the prisoners.

Khaled al-Odah's comments followed the return earlier Sunday to this Gulf state of the first of 11 Kuwaitis held at the U.S. navy detention facility in Cuba since their arrest in Afghanistan during the U.S. operations there.

Nasser al-Mutairi, 27, was briefly reunited with his younger brother at an undisclosed Kuwaiti airport before officials took him into custody for questioning about his detention and arrest in Afghanistan. It was unclear when he would be returned to his family.

Kuwait is one of the United States' closest Middle Eastern allies, but al-Odah's group has been lobbying fiercely for the release of its citizens.

The group's campaign to secure the release of detained Kuwaitis has been fuelled by claims that prisoners are being mistreated by U.S. military personnel while in custody.

"Stop torturing our sons," al-Odah said during a press conference after al-Mutairi's release. "(How can) a country that considers itself a beacon for human rights, freedoms and human dignities do this."

Al-Odah, whose son Fawzi is among the remaining 10 Kuwaitis in U.S. custody, cited recently released FBI documents that include prisoner abuse allegations at Guantanamo. U.S. officials in Kuwait were not immediately available for comment.

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UK lawyer quits over terror-law

Monday 17 January 2005

A lawyer defending foreigners held without trial under Britain's anti-terror laws has quit in protest against the government's failure to release the detainees.

Rick Scannell was the second government-appointed defence lawyer to resign after the House of Lords, sitting as the country's highest court, said in December the anti-terror laws breached international human rights rules.

"It is in my view intolerable that the government should sit on a decision like this," he told BBC radio on Monday. "To my mind the action that it should take is very, very simple: It should release them."

Scannell published his resignation letter in several newspapers on Monday.

He said he had not quit at the same time as fellow special defence lawyer Ian Macdonald - who resigned just days after the House of Lords' decision - because he wanted to give the government time to react to the ruling.

Misplaced optimism

"Unfortunately the initial optimism that I had that the government might, upon reflection, actually change its mind and not seek the continued detention of these men ... proved to be misplaced," Scannell said.

He declined to comment on reports that all the special defence lawyers had decided to resign in protest.

After the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US, Britain, like many other countries, gave itself special powers to detain without trial foreigners suspected of "terrorism".

The government does not have to prove they committed a crime, only that the authorities have "reasonable grounds" to suspect that they might pose a threat.

Comment: Imprisoning citizens without proof or recourse to a trial is the policy of a police state not a democracy.

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Social Security Push to Tap the GOP Faithful
Campaign's Tactics Will Drive Appeal
By Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 14, 2005; Page A06

President Bush plans to reactivate his reelection campaign's network of donors and activists to build pressure on lawmakers to allow workers to invest part of their Social Security taxes in the stock market, according to Republican strategists.

White House allies are launching a market-research project to figure out how to sell the plan in the most comprehensible and appealing way, and Republican marketing and public-relations gurus are building teams of consultants to promote it, the strategists said.

The campaign will use Bush's campaign-honed techniques of mass repetition, never deviating from the script and using the politics of fear to build support -- contending that a Social Security financial crisis is imminent when even Republican figures show it is decades away. [...]

The same architects of Bush's political victories will be masterminding the new campaign, led by political strategists Karl Rove at the White House and Ken Mehlman at the Republican National Committee.

Comment: The politics of fear. And who better to wage such a battle than the Great Leader's alter ego, Karl Rove. Let's tune in to a quiet moment in Karl Rove's office, as he mediates on the future:

"So step right up ladies and gentlemen and put your retirement fund into the stock market where the thieves in suits can steal them from you legally. Make sure to do it before the crash! Wouldn't want any of you to have anything left. You need to be driven to despair so that you take to the streets. Then we'll be able to gun you down for giving support to the enemy in a time of war."

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Israel tank fire kills mother and son in southern Gaza
www.chinaview.cn 2005-01-17 03:31:29

GAZA, Jan. 16 (Xinhuanet) -- A Palestinian mother and her son were killed on Sunday night after Israeli soldiers fired a tank shell that hit one of the houses in the Khan Younis refugee camp in southern Gaza Strip, medics said.

They said that Fadda Arram, 50, and her son Abdalla Arram 27,were killed and a third family member was critically wounded by the Israeli tanks shells' shrapnel.

Palestinian witnesses said that an Israeli army tank stationed near the Jewish settlement of Naveh Dekalim fired two tanks shells,and one of the shells had directly hit Arram's house. They added that the soldiers then opened intensive gunfire at the area to prevent ambulances and rescue teams to get the killed and the wounded outside.

Palestinian security sources said that the Israeli move cameafter several Palestinian militants fired homemade rockets at the settlement.

No injuries or damage were reported in the attack on the settlement.

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Japan maps plan to defend southern islands against military attack
16 January 2005 1449 hrs
- AFP

TOKYO : Japan has mapped out a plan to defend a chain of its southernmost islands in the East China Sea against invasion amid rising security concerns about China, a press report says.

The plan calls for the dispatch of 55,000 troops as well as warplanes, destroyers and submarines from Japan's main islands in the event of an attack on Okinawa and other remote islands, Kyodo news agency reported.

The national defense agency compiled the plan covering the islands lying in a 1,000-kilometer (625-mile) zone between the southern tip of Japan's Kyushu Island and Taiwan, Kyodo said, citing unspecified official documents.

In November Japan made public its new defense guidelines which explicitly point to China as a potential threat for the first time along with North Korea.

A Defense Agency official said that Japan's defense forces "do not have troops stationed on most of the southern remote islands and they are a vacuum in terms of security," according to Kyodo.

"China has been expanding its scope of activities as seen in the case of an invasion of Japanese territorial waters (by a Chinese nuclear submarine) last November. We need to monitor its moves," the official was quoted as saying.

Under the new plan, naval patrol planes and the airborne warning and control system of the air defense force will collect information on the remote islands, the report said.

Of the 55,000 troops, 9,000 will be assigned to directly recapture invaded islands with the rest providing support for them, the report added.

Japan has been increasingly alarmed by the expanding military capabilities of its communist neighbours China and North Korea.

The guidelines said: "China, which has a great impact on security in this region, is pushing ahead with enhancing its nuclear and missile capabilities in modernizing its navy and air force while expanding marine activities."

Meanwhile, Japan has been pushing for a missile defense shield with the United States after North Korea lobbed a suspected ballistic missile over its territory and into the Pacific in 1998.

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Several killed in Philippine shooting
Reuters
Sunday 16 January 2005

At least seven people, including the police chief of the province of Aklan, have been killed and 30 others wounded after an armed person opened fire at a festival in the Philippines.

The Ati-atihan religious festival in honour of Santo Nino, one of the most revered Roman Catholic icons in the Philippines, was stopped on Sunday, turning merrymaking into mourning for the victims. 

"We are still investigating the motive for the violent shooting," said Edgardo Aglipay, the national police chief. "We are checking reports that this incident was drug-related, but we cannot discount other angles." 

He said the provincial police chief was walking towards the municipal building after attending mass when a gunman opened fire at his group, sending hundreds scampering for safety.

The shooting began during a fireworks display to start the festival in Kalibo town, a gateway to the Boracay Island resort in central Philippines. 

The festival commemorating the conversion of pagan natives to Catholicism in the 16th century is known for street dancing by people smeared with charcoal, wearing grass skirts and carrying wooden spears.

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1 killed, 59 injured in blast in southern Thailand
www.chinaview.cn 2005-01-17 00:10:14

BANGKOK, Jan. 16 (Xinhuanet) -- One people was killed and 59 others were injured Sunday in a blast in Thailand's restive southern region, police said.

The bomb exploded at around 1 pm Sunday outside a noodle shop in Yala province, killing the shop owner and wounding 59 other people at the spot.

The injured have been taken to hospital, where 51 were treated and left while the remaining eight were hospitalized with serious wounds.

Police believe the bomb, hidden in a bag in front of the restaurant, was timed to explode by Muslim militants.

Since the beginning of last year, unceasing violence in the southernmost stretch of Thailand has claimed more than 500 lives. Police, soldiers, officials, teachers, even villagers have been fallen victims of the killing.

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KLYUCHEVSKOI VOLCANO ON KAMCHATKA AWAKES
2005-01-17 11:38
PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY, January 17 (RIA Novosti) - The eruption of Eurasia's highest volcano, Klyuchevskoi, has started again Sunday night in Kamchatka which is called the Land of Volcanoes and Geysers, experts said Monday.

According to Alexei Ozerov, senior scientific worker of the Institute of Volcanology and Seismology of the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, after a year of dormancy, seismic preparations for the eruption of Klyuchevskoi started a month ago. Small earthquakes and seismic swarms were detected near the volcano.

The seismic stations on the peninsula are registering a great number of surface earthquakes and fluorescence above the crater; making outbursts of ashes are quite possible.

Mr. Ozerov said that there are one or two upper craters, 700 meters in diameter, from which slag bursts out and small lava streams flow.

The eruptions of the upper crater, if compared with the past periods, usually last from one month to several years and are dangerous for domestic and foreign flights.

The closest inhabited area is the town of Klyuchi, about 30 kilometers from the volcano. Klyuchevskoi, however, poses no immediate threat to the town.

The 4,833-meter volcano's measurable shaking has made it difficult to monitor the seismic activity of its closest neighbor, the Bezymyanny Volcano, whose last mighty eruption was registered on January 11.

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Earthquake and tsunami death-toll reaches over 168,000
01/17/2005 -- 17:55(GMT 7)
Ha Noi, Jan. 17 (VNA) – The death-toll from the earthquake and tsunami that struck Asian countries last December has reached 168,373.

In Indonesia alone, an additional 5,000 dead bodies were found on the coast in western Aceh province, bringing the number of Indonesians killed by the catastrophe to 115,229.

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Powerful earthquake registered in Oceania, no tsunami threat
January 16 (Itar-Tass)

BEIJING - A powerful earthquake measuring 6.2 points on the open-ended Richter scale was registered in the south-western part of the Pacific on Sunday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

According to the source, the epicentre of the earthquake was located between the New Zealand and Tonga Islands at the depth of ten kilometres below the seabed.

There was no information about tsunami threat.

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4.5-point earthquake happens in Ecuador
January 16 (Itar-Tass)

BOGOTA, -- An earthquake measuring 4.5 points on the Richter scale happened in Ecuadorian highlands, 250 kilometers south of Quito, on Sunday, the local geo-physical institute said.

The quake epicenter was located at the depth of 12 kilometers. There have been no reports about casualties and damage.

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4.0 earthquake rocks Japan
Some News Source
September 5, 2004

Mainichi, Japan, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Japan's Meteorological Agency has said an earthquake shook Japan's Kumamoto Prefecture Saturday, Mainichi Shimbun reported.

Police said there were no immediate reports of casualties or property damage. A tsunami warning was not issued.


The earthquake that struck at 3:42 p.m. measured 4 on the 7-point Japanese intensity scale, and a 4.0 on the Richter scale.

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Experts warn of huge tremor in Nepal
www.chinaview.cn 2005-01-16 11:32:17

KATHMANDU, Jan. 16 (Xinhuanet) -- Experts have predicted the possibility of occurrence of a huge earthquake with Gosainthan of Banepa municipality, only 70 km east of Kathmandu, as the epicenter in the near future.

"The tremor may measure a magnitude of 7.6 on the Richter scale," Surya Narayan Shrestha, an engineer at the Nepal National Society for Earthquake Technology, told reporters on Sunday.

The assumption was made after calculation of radius of recent tremor patterns, Shrestha said, adding there were 124 small magnitude earthquakes after 1938 and "the impending one could be more dangerous."

An earthquake measuring 8.3 on the Richter scale that shook Nepal in 1934 took the lives of 8,519 people including 4,296 in the Kathmandu Valley alone.

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Cold snap has B.C. in the deep freeze
Tiffany Crawford
Canadian Press
January 16, 2005

[...] The record-breaking weather in B.C. saw wind chills up to about -35C on the coast and up to -50C in other regions of B.C. on Friday and Saturday.

Freezing rain and up to 10 centimetres of snow was expected to fall overnight Saturday on B.C.'s west coast.

Cold temperature records were broken this weekend in Cranbrook, Revelstoke, Kamloops, Kelowna, Campbell River, Whistler and many other areas of B.C.

"It has been bitterly cold, we've set records ranging from temperatures down around minus 42 in the north to even down in Vancouver to minus 10," said David Jones, spokesman for Environment Canada on Friday.

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Maritimes brace for another blizzard
Last Updated Sun, 16 Jan 2005 19:10:41 EST
CBC News

HALIFAX - The Maritime provinces are in for another blizzard. This one that will likely dump as much as 40 centimetres of snow across the region before it passes through.

Environment Canada says the storm will begin hitting eastern New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island on Sunday night.

Halifax may get as much as 40 centimetres of snow by Monday. There will be frequent whiteouts, Environment Canda said.

Air travel is also expected to be delayed right across the East Coast and in Newfoundland as the storm moves in.

Saint John, N.B., can expect up to 25 centimetres before the storm tapers to flurries on Monday, while P.E.I. will face up to 35 centimetres.

Winds may gust to 90 km/h.

The storm is rooted in a low pressure system developing off the U.S. eastern seaboard and will grow as it moves into Canada.

It's expected to arrive in southwestern Newfoundland on Monday with winds in excess of 100 km/h.

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Snowstorms paralyse South Korea's local airports
(AFP) Jan 16, 2005

SEOUL - Snowstorms on Sunday shut down a third of South Korea's local airports with dozens of domestic flights cancelled, officials at the Korea Airport Corp said.

Five of the 15 local airports were shut for hours by heavy snow, strong winds and poor visibility with 86 flights cancelled, they said.

Affected were the airports of Gimhae, Ulsan, Pohang, Yeosu and Mokpo -- mostly in the eastern and southern provinces where up to 100 centimetersinches) of snow fell. [...]

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Dead sheep found in 'occult star'
BBC News
Thursday, 13 January, 2005, 16:28 GMT

Police in Devon are investigating after seven sheep were found dead arranged in an unusual pattern on Dartmoor.

The sheep were found on Sampford Spiney on Dartmoor with their necks broken and their bodies in a pattern sometimes associated with the occult.

The pattern was similar to the shape of a star, or heptagram, a mystical symbol commonly used in occult ceremonies.

Chris Cole, a farmer who owned some of the sheep, said he first thought they were killed by a lightning strike.

Mr Cole, one of three farmer who owned the animals, said he thought it was lightning because "that's what happens when you find groups of animals dead like that".

He said when he realised the animals were left in the seven-pointed shape: "It's scared some people and worried them, me included, being this close to home.

"I don't really know what's happened. It's more what we are imagining happened here now."

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Fears grow as bird flu outbreaks spread

17/01/2005 - 09:06:44

Vietnam today reported two new suspected cases of bird flu in humans as outbreaks among poultry spread to all parts of the country.

Tests were being conducted to determine whether the two patients being treated at Hanoi’s Hospital of Tropical Medicine for Tropical Diseases contracted bird flu, said hospital director Nguyen Duc Hien.

Tests on a 48-year-old man from the northern province of Thai Binh who died on Saturday were negative for bird flu, Hien said. The man was initially suspected of having contracted the disease.

The People’s Army newspaper identified the two suspected cases as the younger brother of the 48-year-old man and a 62-year-old man from Hanoi.

Bird flu outbreaks among poultry have been reported in central Quang Nam and Ninh Thuan provinces, the latest region to have been hit by the disease, the Department of Animal Health said on its website today.

Earlier, 16 provinces, mostly in southern Vietnam, had reported outbreaks since the beginning of this year, killing or forcing the cull of more than 230,000 birds.

Animal health experts have warned that cooler temperatures and the increase in movement of poultry ahead of the Lunar New Year festival in early February will help the spread of the virus.

Over the past three weeks, Vietnam has reported four human deaths from bird flu – the country’s first string of deaths since early September.

Two other people who tested positive for the H5N1 strain of the bird flu remain in critical condition.

Bird flu has killed 24 people in Vietnam and 12 in Thailand over the past year.

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Shop bars twin towers game
Helen Carter
Monday January 17, 2005
The Guardian

A cheap children's game has been withdrawn from sale because it features players pretending to be Osama bin Laden steering a passenger jet into New York's twin towers.

The tasteless £1 liquid crystal game - aimed at children aged five and over - has been removed from the shelves of a discount store in Warrington, Cheshire, after protests from religious leaders. Laden Versus USA also has packaging which features a photograph of the World Trade Centre on fire along with a picture of the al-Qaida leader and a grimacing George Bush.

The game, imported from Asia, had been on sale at a Pound Store in Warrington. But, after protests, the company has agreed to remove it from the shelves. A headline in a local paper asked: "Is this the sickest toy ever?"

Shaukat Rashid of Warrington Islamic Association said: "It's despicable that an act like that is being used to profiteer. The Islamic community in Warrington publicly condemned the perpetrators of September 11 and we would call on people to boycott the game. It is sick. What will it be next - a game based on the tsunami disaster?"

The Rev Michael Finlay, of Warrington parish church, said: "I think it's rather sick that it's Bin Laden versus the USA. It would not be conducive to building relationships within other communities in the town."

The store agreed to withdraw the game after learning of the protests. Imran Sodawala, the director of the company, said: "It's not the only shop that sells it. I've seen it in other Pound Stores. But if people are upset, then I will withdraw it straight away."

Teenager Hannah Birchall, 16, said she had been sickened by seeing the toy on the shelves. "The images on the box bring back all the memories of September 11," she said. "I think it will desensitise children to what happened."

Her friend Kim Walmsley, 17, was appalled. "I think the game is horrible and people caught up in September 11 will be very upset."

Comment: Perhaps it would be a better use of time and energy if the outrage that is directed towards the makers of this game would instead be focused on the Bush Reich for fabricating and perpetuating the outrageous story that it was Osama and his gang of cave dwellers who were responsible for the downing of the twin towers.

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A hall of mirrors

The news portrays our species as one that murders, squabbles, bullies and dies. No wonder people switch off

Madeleine Bunting
Monday January 17, 2005
The Guardian

It finally reached tipping point last week. Over several months, there'd been the horrors of Darfur, Beslan, the ongoing nightmare of Aids and then Falluja. Each time I'd had a sense of angry frustration. Here was ghastly suffering and what could I, should I, do? Accusingly, the phrase, "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing", reverberated in my head.

What finally tipped me over last week was the camera lingering on the faces of bereaved mothers and then on the faces of bewildered orphans in Sri Lanka. The intrusiveness of our media's thirst for information and images revolted me. Surely, these people had suffered more than enough without us insisting that their grief-stricken faces be beamed into a billion homes? What does it serve the viewer - the distracted parent, the lonely elderly, the teenager hopping between channels, the bewildered child, to witness such pain? It seemed a gesture of respect to switch off.

Does that sound like turning away, a shocking irresponsibility? A dereliction of the democratic responsibility to know what is going on in the world? But you don't need to know very much about the tsunami to gather the scale of tragedy, and send off the donation. You certainly don't need to watch hour after hour of agony every night.

The list of news stories that I can hardly bring myself to watch gets longer all the time. In part, it's the horror - Beslan resulted in some of the most shocking images ever seen on television; in part, it's the fury at the gratuitous emotional manipulation of television. That combination - the neat packaging of appalling tragedy for the ultimate objectives of the broadcasters (ratings, profits etc) - is repulsive.

Pat Barker picks up the issue up in her book Double Vision. The seasoned war reporter is staggered by his young girlfriend's refusal to watch the news. "I don't see the point. There's nothing I can do about it. If it's something like a famine, OK you can contribute, but with a lot of this there's nothing anybody can do except gawp and say, 'Ooh, isn't it awful?' when really they don't give a damn," she says. Drawing a distinction between newspapers and television, she concludes that while people can read the papers, "it's the voyeurism of looking at it, that's what's wrong. Do you know, some people never watch the news, on principle?"

Barker has a point. There has been a 9% drop in the amount of news watched by the 16-35-year-old age group over the past decade. Perhaps an increasing number of people find the news too distressing to watch - and, I suspect, this trend also hits newspapers with their declining circulation. A recent study in stress at Nottingham Trent University found that watching the news triggered depression, confusion, irritation, anger and anxiety. News comes at the price of your peace of mind.

It seems as if we have an asymmetrical relationship between the vast quantities of information now available and our ability to respond to it. Once you've joined the campaign, set up the standing order, written the odd letter to an MP, what then? Is that enough? Human ingenuity and skill have been poured into developing an extraordinary technological capacity to deliver information with speed and in volume, but our capacity to act on that information painfully lags behind. The tsunami showed all too starkly how we could hear of the plight of villagers long before the aid could reach them. That lag between information and action is sometimes only a few days, more often years. A flick of a switch accesses the former; the latter requires the infinitely complex task of developing forms of human cooperation between individuals and nations. Our technological ingenuity has far outstripped our skills for social organisation.

In the gap between the two, confusion over our moral responsibility flourishes. If you see the murdered, the raped, the bereaved on your screen, what is the moral responsibility engendered by this form of witness? Michael Ignatieff elegantly articulated a widely held view, that "television has become the principal mediation between the sufferings of strangers and the consciences of those in the world's few remaining zones of safety ... it has become the means ... by which we shoulder each other's fate."

But by knowing about terrible suffering all over the world, in what sense can you "shoulder" all those fates? Isn't it a sort of self-aggrandisement to claim that the viewer sitting on the sofa at home in the UK "shouldered the fate" of the tragic mothers of Beslan or Sri Lanka? "My brother's keeper" is a crucial ideal, but how does we translate it for an age of global information flows? How do we adapt and develop ideals of human solidarity conceived in an age of tribes and peasants to be meaningful now?

That question will become more acute if a fraction of the predictions of climate-change scientists come true. We have been warned of an increase in extreme weather - more floods, more droughts, more famines and more of the conflicts that scarce natural resources invariably trigger. That exacerbates the growing danger that our media culture could increasingly undermine the capacity for human beings to shape their destiny. The scale of suffering and the frequency of crisis becomes such that it only induces disengagement. The response becomes: "I don't know what I am to do with this information so I don't see the point of knowing it." Or, as Ignatieff puts it: "Television news bears some responsibility for that generalised misanthropy, that irritable resignation towards the criminal folly of fanatics and assassins, which legitimises one of the dangerous cultural moods of the time - the feeling that the world has become too crazy to deserve serious reflection."

Today and last Monday, the Media Guardian has carried comments on the thesis of John Lloyd in his book, What the Media Are Doing to Our Politics. Later this week, it's the turn of the thinktank Demos to host a debate on Lloyd's thesis that the media occupies a parallel universe to the one in which everyone else tries to do their job and make sense of the world, one far removed from the pervasive cynicism, blaming, sensationalism and judgmentalism. He has tapped a vein of deep loathing and frustration towards the media - both television and newspapers. It goes well beyond a concern about our politics to a broader issue about how the media, with their preoccupation with violence, division and fault, are distorting our understanding of human nature.

What the media portray, like one of those fairground mirrors, is a grotesque species that murders, squabbles, bullies and dies. What gets omitted is the extraordinary ordinariness that keeps people getting up in the morning; the humour, innocence, generosity, love and friendship - the very human characteristics that might begin to inspire more confidence in our ability to alleviate, rather than simply know about, the suffering of others.

Comment: We are presented with a central problem of our modern, information society: one must know what is happening in the world to be able to understand it, and yet the very form used by the dominant media alienates us from that world in such a way as to render us passive and instill in us the feeling of helplessness in the face of such horror.

One might argue this is the logical extension of the marketplace, where everything, from hamburgers to cars to grief and tragedy, is a commodity, a product to be bought and sold, whether to put on your shelf or in your garage, or to assuage your guilt and horror at the world.

On this page, we look for other explanations.

We think that esoteric work consists of looking at the world and at ourselves as objectively as possible. This often means staring into the face of horror without flinching, to be able to study that horror, to know it in its finest details, in order to be able to understand it and surmount it. The energy released as we confront the negative aspects of the world and of ourselves is the fuel for the work, the fire needed to fuse together the myriad small 'I's that we take for our real "Self".

We see in the account above that the TV news has the opposite effect. It pushes us to turn off. It can even touch our most noble sentiments such as the feeling described by the writer when she feels like a voyeur looking yet again at the victims of the recent earthquake/tsunamis. She was revolted, not by the horror, but by the intrusive character of the television camera. However the final effect was that she shut it out and felt a need to turn off the world.

Scratch up another victory for the forces of entropy.

The trouble is that one needs to use these shocks consciously. The disgust of the revelation of the media's voyeurism is fuel. The horror of the levelling of Fallujah is fuel. The smirk on George W.'s face is fuel. If one knows how to use it.

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