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Protesters appear during Bush speech


WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- Two groups of protesters were led away from the U.S. Capitol grounds Thursday after they shouted anti-war slogans during President Bush's inaugural speech.

About two-thirds of the way through Bush's speech, a group of six women began to chant "Bring the troops home now." As they were taken away by security personnel, two men who said they were with the Peace Movement unfurled a home-made sign that read, "No War." The men were also led away.

The crowd was strongly supportive of the president, and jeered both groups of protesters with chants of "U.S.A. U.S.A." Members of the audience seemed to intentionally get in the way of photographers trying to take pictures of the protesters.

Both groups were in areas that required a ticket to gain admission but were still some distance from the podium where Bush was speaking.

The interruption was not immediately seen on television, but the jeering could be heard as poorly timed applause for portions of Bush's speech.

Comment: Interesting, is it not, the difference between the chants of the two opposing groups. On the one hand you have anti-Bush protestors attempting to bring public attention to two complex issues: the ongoing deaths of American soldiers in Iraq and the illegality of the Iraq war itself.

On the other hand and in response to these issues, Bush supporters make the argument: "USA USA". Call us uninformed, but we fail to understand just how "USA USA" constitutes a reasonable rebuttal to the accusations of the anti-Bush protestors. Are we to infer that their point is that, regardless of the actions of the US government, it is never wrong and should never be held to account?

What seems to be true is that the juvenile propaganda of the Bush administration appeals most to those who are incapable of abstract thought and therefore find Bush's simplistic back and white view of reality extremely palatable.

Note also the last comment which seems to suggest that the jeering from protestors was covered over with fake applause. And people still think they are living in the "land of the free".

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Protesters Accuse Bush of 'Exterminating the Muslim Race'

Marc Morano
Senior Staff Writer

Washington ( - In cold, snowy Washington, about a hundred protesters gathered outside the "Black Tie and Boots" inaugural ball on Wednesday night, comparing President George W. Bush to Adolph Hitler because Bush is "exterminating the Muslim race."

"It is no different in that Hitler killed so many Jews, and George Bush, you know, is exterminating the Muslim race and others," said a man who identified himself only as Don from Florida.

Don held up a sign with the words "Vote Republican" written over a Nazi swastika.

"It's just a form of fascism -- the Patriot Act and everything -- they stole the vote. Diebold (the electronic voting machine company) and their money stole the electoral vote of the people," Don told Cybercast News Service.

The group of counter-inaugural protesters gathered near the entrance of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, where the inaugural ball hosted by the Texas State Society was taking place.

The groups sponsoring the protest included Billionaires for Bush, Code Pink (a women's peace group) and a group calling itself the Ronald Reagan Home for the Criminally Insane.

Party-goers arriving for the ball were greeted with megaphone-amplified jeers decrying them as "pigs," chants of "Bush Lied, Soldiers Died" and "Stop the Celebration, End the Occupation" and signs asking, "Are You a Corporate Whore?"

Another protester -- Steve from Vermont -- was among a dozen activists carrying signs linking the GOP to Nazis. Steve told Cybercast News Service that the Bush family's ties to the Nazis go back a long way.

"George Bush's grandfather - he did business with the Nazis, they were partners with him (Hitler), and that is all Bush is. He slaughtered people in Iraq. If that isn't fascism, what is?" Steve asked.

According to Steve, people attending this week's inaugural balls in Washington "are basically a bunch of rich, filthy, selfish people who are out of touch with the real world.

"They don't care about other human beings on this planet, and they are destroying the planet," he added.

Steve also accused Bush of stealing the 2004 election.

"[Bush] stole the last election [and] he stole this one," Steve charged. Steve said Bush could not have won the election, given the "mass hysteria running rampant through the streets that they had to get rid of Bush."

Molly from Massachusetts accused the Bush administration of "putting out fake science -- fake pseudo-science and having Nazi doctors -- the same way Nazi Germany did in a lot of ways. There are a lot of parallels now between America and Nazi Germany," Molly said.

But one of the Inaugural Ball attendees dismissed any comparison of Bush to Hitler.

"If you want to make a World War II comparison, then the proper comparison for Bush is [former British Prime Minister] Winston Churchill," said Joe Biles from Lubbock, Texas.

"These people ought to be comparing [former Iraqi dictator] Saddam Hussein to Hitler," Biles added, dismissed the protesters as "the extreme fringe."

'Our country is suffering'

Many of the protesters expressed outrage that Americans are celebrating the Bush inauguration at what they call a time of tragedy.

"How can anyone who has a heart come and pay thousands of dollars to do this when the tsunami wave just knocked out so many people and there are over 100,000 dead in Iraq?" said Sam Joi from the group Code Pink.

Joi said the United States is in dire straits: "Education is going, all our social services are going, unemployment is soaring, people are suffering here in this country. How can they have a celebration tonight for this obscene amount of money when our world is suffering, our country is suffering?" asked Joi.

Joi said the inaugural partygoers were "greedy, they are hogs, they are pigs. How much do they need?" Code Pink members passed out bumper stickers with "Hallibacon" written on them, a mock reference to the defense contractor Halliburton, formerly chaired by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Molly from Massachusetts slammed capitalism: "This is a perpetuation of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. We are dividing the country into two classes, and that is disgusting; and there are starving people all over the world and they are having this absurd, excessive party," Molly said.

"Capitalism right now is just making rich people rich," she added.
' Shame on you'

At one point during the protest, Green Party members and supporters of former Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry clashed.

"John Kerry is the richest [man] in the Senate. You voted for John Kerry, shame on you," a Green Party supporter told Kerry supporters.

Representatives from an organic farm commune also took part in the protest.

A woman named Neyci from a 40-member, West Virginia-based commune wore a button proclaiming "Stop Bitching, Start a Revolution."

Neyci explained that her commune's goal was to "try to change in the culture through our art, to get out a different kind of like holistic philosophy that's about finding out the truth of what the hell is going to work, because frankly we are up against some really raunchy sh**."

Most of the inaugural party-goers walked past the protesters without comment, but Mike Scott of Texas told Cybercast News Service that the protesters "need a job." A woman making her way past the protesters declared that she would have "no comment for such a stupid group."

Comment: From looking at reports of Bush's inauguration, as spun by the mainstream media, one would think that Bush enjoys mass popular support among the American population. Nothing, it seems, could be further from the truth.

A recent New York Times report stated that a clear majority of Americans think Bush is doing a poor job managing the economy and in Iraq. They feel the defecit is going to grow and they doubt Bush can improve health care or education. They think Bush routinely "exaggerated" (read lied) about Iraq and don't think the war was worth the cost. They disapprove of his signature second term goal. They do not believe his promises - they think they are more "exaggerations." And overall, a majority of Americans think the country is on the wrong track.

So the question is: just how did Bush "win" the election? Clearly it was not as a result of the actual support of a majority of American people.

The simple truth is that we will never know just how many Americans stand against Bush and his policies. With the majority of the US population relying on the government-owned mainstream media for their information about reality, politicians can easily distort the truth and literally tell the people what to think. From made up polls to electronic voting machines to manipulated images of cheering crowds, more so that ever before reality is what our 'leaders' say it is.

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Open letter to President George W. Bush

From an "expelled" Muslim to an "elected" American

Tariq Ramadan
January 20, 2005

Mr. President,

By a strange twist of fate, this year's calendar puts your inauguration on the same day as the most important religious day of the year for Muslims. Is it a historical irony that links these two celebrations together? As you are inaugurated for your second term, I, a European Muslim, want to share with you a few thoughts.

Mr. President, I was banished from the United States by your administration. My visa was revoked, as I was about to assume my position as a Professor at Notre Dame University. To this day, I have not been told the reasons behind this action.

I do know, as does Homeland Security and the State Department, that my file is empty. The Patriot Act was put forward as an excuse and I was asked to reapply. Since then, there has been total silence. Why was this decision taken? What are you afraid of? Is it perhaps that academic freedom of expression has become a danger for you? Or is it perhaps the fact that it would have fortified criticism against you, no matter how constructive, especially coming from a Muslim intellectual?

What are you doing to your country, Mr. President?

Along with the majority of Muslims around the world, I condemned the September 11 attacks. I shared and sympathized with the American people's pain. We understood their fears and the depth of their doubts. To transcend that traumatic experience, two things were crucial. First, Muslims had to firmly and clearly denounce terrorism and extremism, which they did, even if at times it was done timidly. Second, the American government should have shed light on the facts: how were such odious acts possible? Who was responsible for the multiple and repeated information failures? The people of the United States, like the rest of the world, needed explanations, transparency and truth.

However, since September 11th, 2001 your administration has continued to accumulate shadowy dealings. Boards of inquiry were delayed or strangely constituted; state secrets and sinister silences mushroomed. In the name of the "war against terrorism", the ultimate reason for legitimacy, did you permit your officials to make decisions and to act illegitimately, without a hint of accountability? Under your watch, laws eradicating civil liberties have been enacted which put into question the rights of citizens. Discrimination against Arabs and Muslims has been institutionalized and legalized. There is limitless scrutiny, individuals are arrested, and lying in the name of the State has become the norm.

Whatever the tone of your generous speeches, facts do not lie: this is not a good time to be a Muslim in the United States. The consequences of the Patriot Act has been exactly what its' most virulent detractors had predicted - an infringement of citizens' rights and legalized discrimination that is reminiscent of the McCarthy era.

Your commitment on the international stage is no less alarming. Your intervention in Afghanistan killed thousands of civilians who had nothing to do with the attacks of September 11th. The situation is unresolved. Bin Laden is still a fugitive and tortures exerted by those under your administration are a daily happening as confirmed by Human Rights Watch.

Inhumane treatment inflicted on the Guantanamo prisoners in a declared "no rights" area is scandalous. Your intervention in Iraq only confirmed these practices, characterized by lies, systematic manipulation and in the end, the death of tens of thousands of Iraqis and Americans. The horrors of Abu Ghuraib prison, which appeared as revelations of torture were in fact institutionalized, from Afghanistan to Guantanamo. The American soldiers in Iraq are not primarily responsible: someone at the head of your administration had undoubtedly given the green light. Mr. Bush, would it be that you are in favour of torture exerted against Arabs and Muslims? Is this the message that one must understand from these actions?

For the last three years, your policy has consisted in victimizing the American super power to such an extent that in return, it has had total disrespect for basic human rights. Instead of calming spirits with more truth and dialogue, you have spread fear by keeping Americans in the dark and lying to them. It was expected that you would assist in surpassing the trauma of September 11th, not sustain it dangerously. You have won the elections by feeding the fears of your citizens and presenting yourself as their only guarantor of security. You won by playing on emotions, not intelligence.

Mr. President,

I have visited the United States more than twenty times in the past three years. I know that your country abounds with people of critical intelligence and honesty. Many of your citizens are not easily deceived. They are not only ashamed of the image you give of your country but, more deeply, of the way in which you are transforming it into a citadel besieged by fear and arrogance.

As a European Muslim, frightened by your unilateralism and the serious excesses of your policies, it is towards worthy and critical American citizens that I invite Muslims to turn to and to bring together their hopes. If the Muslims are right in not trusting you, they should not confuse the American people with the increasingly blunt spirits that surround you.

It's been a couple of weeks that you have made your support for the victims of the Tsunami disaster public in order to show Muslims that you were capable of compassion and that you respected them. At the heart of this natural disaster, aware of the desolation and deaths, know Mr. President, that these Muslims remain lucid. You will not gain their trust through emotions.

Your second mandate begins January 20th. You presented yourself to the American people as the solution but you are in fact the problem. You have not ceased to deepen the gap between the United States and the rest of the world - not only the Muslim world but also Europe. As a European Muslim, I had the hope that by relocating to your country, I would have been able to bring a critical and constructive contribution. Your administration preferred to exclude me, like so many other Muslim intellectuals, in order to protect itself from debate and dialogue.

I finally decided not to try settling in your country anymore. I am not sure what, during this second mandate, could rid you of this Manichean view and dangerous interpretation of the world. I do not know what could persuade you to use less lies and more truths.

I know simply that the Muslims celebrate on this 20th of January, a faith which they consider stronger then your capriciousness. If with strength of conscience and intelligence, they succeed in distinguishing between your administration and the American people and continue to dialogue with those of your fellow-citizens who have not been blinded, then hope remains. That is the only hope, unless you are touched by grace and that you understand that it is urgent, for the good of our planet, that you change your policies.

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Analysis: Iraqi insurgency growing larger, more effective
By Tom Lasseter and Jonathan S. Landay
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Fri, Jan. 21, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The United States is steadily losing ground to the Iraqi insurgency, according to every key military yardstick.

A Knight Ridder analysis of U.S. government statistics shows that through all the major turning points that raised hopes of peace in Iraq, including the arrest of Saddam Hussein and the handover of sovereignty at the end of June, the insurgency, led mainly by Sunni Muslims, has become deadlier and more effective.

The analysis suggests that unless something dramatic changes - such as a newfound will by Iraqis to reject the insurgency or a large escalation of U.S. troop strength - the United States won't win the war. It's axiomatic among military thinkers that insurgencies are especially hard to defeat because the insurgents' goal isn't to win in a conventional sense but merely to survive until the will of the occupying power is sapped. Recent polls already suggest an erosion of support among Americans for the war.

Comment: When one considers the fact that the majority of the "insurgency" are simply ordinary Iraqis fighting for freedom from US occupation, the idea of Iraqis "rejecting the insurgency" will never happen because they are the insurgency. From the following list of trends, it is clear that an increase in the number of US troops in Iraq will probably not help matters at all. The number of soldiers in Iraq has regularly increased to 150,000 at present, and still US fatalities continue to climb...

The unfavorable trends of the war are clear:

- U.S. military fatalities from hostile acts have risen from an average of about 17 per month just after President Bush declared an end to major combat operations on May 1, 2003, to an average of 71 per month.

- The average number of U.S. soldiers wounded by hostile acts per month has spiraled from 142 to 708 during the same period. Iraqi civilians have suffered even more deaths and injuries, although reliable statistics aren't available.

- Attacks on the U.S.-led coalition since November 2003, when statistics were first available, have risen from 735 a month to 2,400 in October. Air Force Brig. Gen. Erv Lessel, the multinational forces' deputy operations director, told Knight Ridder on Friday that attacks were currently running at 75 a day, about 2,300 a month, well below a spike in November during the assault on Fallujah, but nearly as high as October's total.

- The average number of mass-casualty bombings has grown from zero in the first four months of the American occupation to an average of 13.3 per month.

- Electricity production has been below pre-war levels since October, largely because of sabotage by insurgents, with just 6.7 hours of power daily in Baghdad in early January, according to the State Department.

Comment: Why would ordinary Iraqis destroy their own electricity production capabilities? It seems far more likely that any sabotage would be conducted by small groups of insurgents who are being financed by foreign intelligence agencies, or by the occupying US forces.

- Iraq is pumping about 500,000 barrels a day fewer than its pre-war peak of 2.5 million barrels per day as a result of attacks, according to the State Department.

Comment: In the case of oil production sabotage, it is obvious why most Iraqis would indeed participate.

"All the trend lines we can identify are all in the wrong direction," said Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, a Washington policy research organization. "We are not winning, and the security trend lines could almost lead you to believe that we are losing."

The combat numbers are based mainly on Defense Department releases compiled by O'Hanlon in an Iraq Index. Since the numbers can fluctuate significantly from month to month, Knight Ridder examined the statistics for fatalities, wounded and mass-casualty bombings using a technique mathematicians call a moving average - averaging the number of attacks in one month with the number of attacks in the two months immediately preceding it in order to better reveal the underlying trend. [...]

Most worrisome, the insurgency is getting larger.

At the close of 2003, U.S. commanders put the number of insurgents at 5,000. Earlier this month, Gen. Mohammed Abdullah Shahwani, the director of the Iraqi intelligence service, said there are 200,000 insurgents, including at least 40,000 hard-core fighters. The rest, he said, are part-time fighters and supporters who provide food, shelter, funds and intelligence.

"Many Iraqis respect these gunmen because they are fighting the invaders," said Nabil Mohammed, a Baghdad University political science professor. [...]

Guerrilla fighters leave behind a rear guard force to fight while moving the bulk of their fighters and leadership elsewhere. During and after the Fallujah battle in November, for example, Mosul and several Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad became more violent.

Some Iraqis say these aggressive U.S. military moves are counterproductive because mass destruction and the killing of Iraqis create more recruits for the insurgency.

"The insurgency will grow larger," said Ghazi Bada al Faisal, an employee of the Iraqi Ministry of Industry and a Fallujah resident. "The child whose brother and father were killed in the fighting will now seek revenge."

Some defense analysts are calling for a new strategy and more troops. [...]

White proposes sending 20,000 more troops.

But the Bush administration hopes to replace U.S. troops with well-trained Iraqis. [...]

Comment: The aggressive moves of the US military certainly are counterproductive. One might suspect that these "blunders" were actually planned. Think about the last sentence above:

But the Bush administration hopes to replace U.S. troops with well-trained Iraqis.

How? The US can't even find enough Iraqis, train them properly, and get them to stay in the Iraqi army or security forces as it stands now. Either the Bush administration has a severe problem with wishful thinking, or they are planning on the failure of the current official actions in Iraq.

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Wolfowitz "Encouraged" By Iraqi Deaths

Thursday January 20, 4:14 PM

The number two Pentagon official said reducing American casualties in Iraq was more important than bringing US troops back home -- and pointed to the rising Iraqi death toll as evidence this strategy was working.

"I'm more concerned about bringing down our casualties than bringing down our numbers," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said in an interview with PBS television's "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" program. "And it is worth saying that since June 1, there have been more Iraqi police and military killed in action than Americans."

Wolfowitz said he was encouraged by the fact that Iraqis continued to volunteer to join the country's fledgling security forces, despite their losses at the hands of Islamist insurgents. [...]

The deputy defense secretary also suggested that the US decision to go to war with Iraq was motivated in part by a willingness to ward off criticism of the Bush administration in case of a new terrorist attack against the United States with weapons of mass destruction.

"If we had been wrong the other way and if the threat had really been imminent and we had been hit with an anthrax attack here that was tied to Iraq and the president had done nothing about it, what would people then say?" he retorted when asked to comment about unfound weapons of mass destruction.

"I mean, it would make the criticism of failure to prevent 9/11 just look like child's play."

Comment: The above comments by Wolfowitz provide an interesting insight into the morality, or lack thereof, of the Washington Neocons and the essentially racists mind set that drives their thinking. Wolfowitz is "encouraged" by the deaths of Iraqi policemen, who are being targeted because of their allegiance to the US military and its presence in Iraq. In an amazing piece of twisted logic, Wolfowitz goes on to say that the fact that WMD's NEVER existed in Iraq is not the point, the point is that if we IMAGINE that they existed, even though they never have, then that imaginary fact alone provides enough justification for the invasion of Iraq and the murder of its civilian population.

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Families of servicemembers killed in Iraq turned away at Pentagon
By Leo Shane III
Stars and Stripes European edition
Friday, January 21, 2005

WASHINGTON — Pentagon police on Wednesday turned away family members of troops killed in Iraq who wanted to confront Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on the reasons for the war in Iraq.

The group of about 20 was stopped before entering Pentagon property by about a dozen officers, who told the protesters they did not have the proper permission to enter the building.

Organizers said they have been petitioning for the meeting for weeks, but department officials are ignoring their requests.

"The man who was too busy to personally sign the Killed in Action letters these families received is apparently too busy to acknowledge the request of the Gold Star families for this meeting," Nancy Lessin, co-founder of Military Families Speak Out, told reporters gathered for Wednesday's protest.

Five Gold Star families — ones who have lost a son or daughter to fighting in Iraq — brought pictures and letters to the event to present to the secretary, and asked police to pass the items along to illustrate their loss and grief.

Cindy Sheehan, a California resident whose son Casey was killed during a mission in Sadr City last April, sheltered a photo of her son from the snow with her arms as the group tried to convince police to let them by.

"I wanted them to see my son," she said, weeping. "I wanted them to see the consequences of his actions. ... I have the feeling they feel he was a dispensable asset to them."

Sheehan flew to Washington on Wednesday and planned to take part in the group's inauguration protests on Thursday.

Department of Defense officials did not return calls seeking comment. Police who confronted the families offered numbers where protesters could obtain permits and set up formal interviews, but said security concerns prohibited allowing any of the group onto Pentagon grounds.

Lessin, whose son recently returned from his overseas service, said the goal of both protests is to show the war in Iraq is "a reckless military misadventure that never should have happened."

"Shame on Secretary Rumsfeld for not recognizing these families, and shame on those who sent our children to war based on lies," she said. [...]

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The logic of the irrational: Bush's inaugural address and the global strategy of American imperialism
By David North
22 January 2005

However personally insignificant the man himself, the inaugural address delivered Thursday by President George Bush is a major political statement and must be taken with deadly seriousness. As an expression of the global strategy of the United States, the speech presages a massive escalation of military operations all over the world.

The address was not written by Bush—who would be hard put to construct a single grammatical sentence—but by a team of high-level professional advisers, led by Michael Gerson, who gave careful thought to what the president would and would not say.

Among the most glaring omissions from the inaugural address, which has been noted by many commentators, was any explicit reference to Iraq. The obvious, though only partial, reason is that Bush's speechwriters considered it ill-advised to call attention to the disastrous consequences of the US invasion of that country. More striking, however, was Bush's failure to make any reference whatsoever to the cause for which the invasion of Iraq was supposedly undertaken—the "war on terror." Neither that phrase, nor the words "terrorism" or "terror," were uttered even once by President Bush.

This is an extraordinary omission given the fact that the global struggle against "terror" has been invoked endlessly as the principal justification for virtually every action undertaken by the Bush administration. Above all, the imperatives of the anti-terror crusade were invoked to legitimize the invasion of Iraq and the prospect of further "preventive" wars against Iran and North Korea.

When Bush went before Congress three years ago, on January 29, 2002, to deliver his State of the Union address, he denounced these three states "and their terrorist allies" as "an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world." Bush declared, "By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of theses cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic."

The subsequent failure to discover either weapons of mass destruction or links between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda terrorists made it all too clear that the war had been justified on the basis of lies that concealed the real reason for the invasion of Iraq—the pursuit of global hegemony and world domination by the United States.

The lesson drawn by the Bush administration from the world-wide exposure of its criminal deceit was that the United States should not justify the next round of military actions by claiming it faces any specific, concrete, physical threat from Iran or any other country targeted for military attack. Such claims of imminent or even potential physical danger to the security of the United States lead only, as far as the Bush administration is concerned, to annoying and time-wasting demands for verification.

It is for this reason the inaugural address dropped all reference to "terror" and "terrorism," and invoked as the new justification for war something far more abstract and ethereal: the struggle against "tyranny" and for "liberty" and "freedom."

In the key passage of his address, Bush declared: "We have seen our vulnerability—and we have seen its deepest source. For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny—prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder—violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat."

It is this "mortal threat" posed by "tyranny" that the United States must now fight "by force of arms when necessary."

Of course, this rationale for war rests on a glaring political and psychological absurdity. Bush made no attempt to explain why people living in "whole regions of the world" which "simmer in resentment and tyranny" should despise the United States and pose a threat to Americans. The only rational explanation for this phenomenon is that they see the United States as an oppressor and enemy. Thus, the claim that the United States is engaged in a global crusade against tyranny is contradicted by Bush's own description of the conditions which he invokes as a justification for war.

The crass absurdity of the argument is rooted not in the subjective intellectual limitations of Bush's advisers—though they are certainly very limited men—but in the real contradiction between the needs and aspirations of the world's masses and the brutal objectives of America's global policies.

As a matter of practical policy, the morphing of the struggle against terror into the struggle against tyranny has immediate and profound consequences: it both lowers the threshold for American military action and vastly expands the range of its targets.

The redefinition of the Bush Doctrine of preventive war no longer requires that the United States be endangered because one or another state has, and plans to use at some point in the future, a weapon of mass destruction or some other form of terror against the US. Rather, it is enough for the United States to identify whatever country it chooses as a "tyranny" where violence is, in various unseen and mysterious ways, gathering and multiplying.

Precisely what does the Bush administration have in mind as it embarks upon its second term?

The answer to this question is suggested by a column by Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, which appeared the day after Bush's inaugural. The timing, of course, is not accidental. Krauthammer's column, like so many other editorials and columns welcoming the inaugural address, marked the beginning of a campaign to massage and manipulate public opinion in accordance with the agenda of the second Bush administration.

The old war on terror that preoccupied Bush during his first term, Krauthammer explains, is receding in importance. New dangers loom. "The bad news is a development more troubling than most observers recognize: signs of the emergence, for the first time since the fall of the Soviet empire, of an anti-American bloc anchored by Great Powers." What is Krauthammer talking about?

"It is no accident that Russia has begun hinting at making common cause with China. This is potentially ominous because of China's rising power and its status as the leading have-not nation, the Germany of the 21st century. In December, during the week of the rerun Ukrainian election that finally brought the pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko to power, Russia made two significant moves toward China. First was the announcement of intensified economic cooperation in developing Russia's vast energy resources. More ominous was the Russian defense minister's Dec. 27 announcement of, 'for the first time in history,' large joint military exercises on Chinese territory.

"China in turn is developing relationships with such virulently anti-American rogue states as Iran. Add such various self-styled, anti-imperialist flotsam as Syria, North Korea, Cuba and Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, and you have the beginning of a significant 'anti-hegemonic' bloc—aimed at us."

The list of American enemies is truly endless! Billions of people, on continents all over the globe, are new targets for American "liberation" from "tyranny." The struggle can never end, for, as Krauthammer proclaims at the conclusion of his column, "There is no rest for the weary."

If all this sounds insane, it is because it is. But like the contradictions to which I have already referred, the insanity is lodged not in the brains of people like Bush, Krauthammer and the hoards of editorial writers who showered praise on the inaugural address, but rather in the very nature of the American imperial project.

The Bush administration has now begun a second term whose policies and deeds will result in even more bloodshed, human misery and tragedy than the first. As it heads over the abyss, the question is: how much of the country and the world will it take with it?

Comment: As a result of the many subtle clues hidden in Bush's inaugural speech, much of the world is now becoming increasingly alarmed that America will try to "export democracy" (ie: launch pre-emptive strike) in Iran, the next probable Axis of Evil target.

The difference this time seems to be that Britain, the US's closest ally in the war on terror, is making it known that they will not immediately jump on board like they did in Iraq, but may choose to side with France, Germany and the rest of Europe by insisting on a peaceful diplomatic settlement to the Iranian nuclear issue.

In the following story, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw makes it quite clear that they will oppose any unilateral action against Iran, which will leave America to go it alone or perhaps look to Israel to strike first, thus necessitating the US to provide assistance when Iran strikes back at Israeli nuclear facilities.

With Russia now forging stronger ties with China, and China doing the same with Iran, it does appear that the pieces are being put in place to start an all out confrontation between all the major players on the chessboard.

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Condi Rice/Steady on, toward disaster

January 20, 2005

The two-day dialogue between Condoleezza Rice and members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at times resembled material from "Catch-22" and at other times seemed to reflect "Dr. Strangelove." Other than a few hard questions from Democrats Joe Biden and Barbara Boxer, at no time did it remotely resemble reality.

You'd have thought from the way committee members treated Rice that she'd just arrived in Washington and had no part to play in, and no real knowledge of, the foreign-policy disaster that was President Bush's first term.

What alternate reality do these senators inhabit? Rice is a principal architect of the Bush foreign policy. She was an ardent supporter of going to war in Iraq. Her statements in the run-up to war about "mushroom clouds" and aluminum tubes were preposterous. And yet in a hearing on whether she has the stuff to be secretary of state, she had the temerity to lecture Boxer, asking her to "refrain from impugning my integrity." Well if not now, when?

Even in front of the committee, Rice couldn't refrain from telling what would generously be called fibs. Biden caught her out in one when she said 120,000 Iraqi military personnel had been trained to date. A more reliable figure from a more reliable source, he said, is 4,000.

Iraq is a quagmire killing Americans troops every day and costing American taxpayers billions each month. America's standing with allies, friendly nations and not-so-friendly ones has been badly damaged. We are seen abroad as bullying, arrogant and frequently just plain stupid. Rice was at the center of decisions which created that not-so-rosy scenario, and yet, as Biden said, played her confirmation hearings as a version of "Don't Worry, Be Happy."

Rice promised to repair relations with the world and to seek multilateral solutions to some of the most vexing problems the United States will confront in the next four years. But how is she going to do that? Repackage the Bush mood music and try to do a better sales job than outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell?

It won't work; Rice doesn't enjoy Powell's respect in the world, and no one is going to be fooled by mood music. They want new American policies, and there is no indication there will be any from a second Bush administration. So long as Rice tries to sell the same spoiled fruit Powell was forced to peddle, no one is going to buy.

Diplomatically and militarily, everything the United States tried in Bush's first term went rotten. Yet the same unapologetic team, admitting to no mistakes, will be at the helm during the second four years, minus Powell and a few others.

Even many of the Republican members of the committee have been critics of the Bush foreign policy that Rice helped design, especially of its approach to Iraq. And yet they fawned all over her instead of holding her to account. More pathetic was Biden, who was biting in his criticisms but then voted to support her confirmation.

In the end, only Boxer and Sen. John Kerry did the principled thing and voted against Rice. Perhaps it was a symbolic vote, but it mattered. Kerry wasn't very pithy, but he was right when he said, "Dr. Rice is a principal architect, implementer, and defender of a series of administration policies that have not made our country as secure as we should be and have alienated much-needed allies in our common cause of winning the war against terrorism. Regrettably, I did not see in Dr. Rice's testimony any acknowledgment of the need to change course or of a new vision for America's role in the world."

With that the committee voted 16-2 to continue steady as she goes toward the next disaster.

Comment: Just what is the nature of the apparent 'sword of damocles" that is hanging over the heads of most members of congress? Is there one? Or are Democrats simply there to provide the appearance of an oppostion in order to stay the moment when the US government will be revealed for what it is - a dictatorship? Who really controls the US government?..

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Britain outlines case against attack on Iran: report
Posted: 23 January 2005 0921 hrs

LONDON : Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has drawn up Britain's case against a military strike on Iran amid fears US President George W. Bush may seek support for a new conflict, a newspaper reported.

Straw has produced a 200-page dossier that rules out military action and makes the case for a "negotiated solution" to thwart Iran's suspected ambition to produce nuclear weapons, The Sunday Times reported.

It says a peaceful solution led by Britain, France and Germany is "in the best interests of Iran and the international community," while referring to "safeguarding Iran's right to the peaceful use of nuclear technology."

The dossier, entitled Iran's Nuclear Programme, was quietly issued in the House of Commons on the eve of Bush's inauguration last week for fear of provoking a public rift with Washington, the newspaper said.

However, it added that privately tensions are running high between the two nations.

The approach contrasts with the British government's two Iraq dossiers, which were trumpeted to make the case for joining the US-led invasion on March 2003.

The Sunday Times said the message that the British government wants no part in another war in the Middle East will be reinforced by Prime Minister Tony Blair when he meets Bush in Brussels next month and at an Anglo-American summit in Washington after the British general election, expected in May.

It said Straw will also make the case when he meets US secretary of state nominee Condoleezza Rice, a Bush confidante, in London next month.

The perception that the United States is embarking on a course of confrontation with Iran has grown since The New Yorker magazine reported this week that US commandos have been operating inside Iran since mid-2004, secretly scouting targets for possible air strikes.

The Pentagon attacked the story by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh as "riddled with errors of fundamental fact" but did not expressly deny conducting covert reconnaissance missions.

Vice President Dick Cheney, declaring on a radio talk show this week that Iran was "right at the top of the list" of global problems, warned that Israel might launch a pre-emptive strike on its own to shut down Iran's nuclear program.

But Cheney played down the likelihood of US military action.

Comment: Perhaps Cheney is telling the truth when he plays down the likelihood of unilateral US military action - meaning of course that the PTB have already decided that it will be left to Israel to make the first move by launching a pre-emptive attack against supposed Iranian nuclear installations. And naturally when Iran strikes back, the United States will then have no other choice than to come to Israel's rescue.

Still, It remains to be seen how the rest of Europe will line up on side with the Americans, with Iran, or choose to remain out of the conflict altogether. The following story provides some interesting clues as to Israel's interpretation of Vice-President Dick Cheney's recent remarks about Iran, and how uncooperative European countries may be viewed, as the increasing and very deliberate polarization of the entire world unfolds.

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US attack 'madness', says Khatami

Thursday, 20 January, 2005

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has described as "madness" the possibility of an American strike on his country.

Mr Khatami said while Iran was maintaining "full vigilance", he considered the probability of a US attack to be "very negligible".

He said Iran had "plans" to defend itself in the event of the US resorting to military aggression.

Tension has been mounting between the two nations as the US suspects Iran of developing a nuclear weapons programme.

The Bush administration has said publicly that it will not permit Iran to acquire the nuclear bomb.

'We have plans'

Iran has always denied this, saying that its nuclear development programme is purely for peaceful, energy-generating purposes.

Washington has not threatened the use of force, but the possibility of air strikes, although not easy, cannot be ruled out.

"I do not think that America is in a position to resort to the madness of attacking Iran," President Khatami said in an interview with Iranian radio during a visit to Uganda.

"We believe that the probability of America's attack on Iran is very negligible. America faces major problems in Iraq and elsewhere."

While hoping that such a day would never come, he said Iran has been preparing itself in "economic" and "technical" terms.

President Khatami said: "While not welcoming any tension, while defending our interests and while trying to move ahead with logic, we have prepared ourselves and will prepare more, should they - God forbid - resort to acts of aggression; and we have plans for such a day."

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Israel: Cheney's Message Directed at Europe
By Foreign News Services
Published: Saturday 22, 2005

Israeli sources say that US Vice President Dick Cheney's statement that Israel could be the first to decide to take action in Iran to destroy a nuclear threat by Tehran administration was, in fact, directed at Europe.

According to Israeli officials, Cheney's statement was not directed at Israel but rather at European countries as a warning that they should put tighter measures in place regarding Tehran's nuclear program.

Cheney joined an MSNBC program on Thursday (January 20) where he said Iran is at the top of a US list of the world's most dangerous places and that Israel could be the first to intervene in Iran in order to prevent a possible nuclear threat from Iran.

"This statement aimed at the Europeans says if you do not play a big part in applying sanctions and do not move quickly to stop Iran's nuclear program, we will not be held responsible for what Israel will do," said a high-level Israeli official.

The same official said that Israel is following the US position on Iran very closely and fully supports international sanctions and pressure on Iran. In 2003, Israel was fiercely critical of Iran for testing Shahab-3 missiles with the capability to carry nuclear-biologic warheads and a 1,300 kilometer range that could reach Israel.

Western intelligence sources say even though United Nations (UN) officials conducted investigations in Iran and possibly have failed to realize such studies, Tehran may have nuclear research program.

British Foreign Minister Jack Straw has said, meanwhile, that he hopes to succeed in finding a diplomatic solution. His Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov referred to Bush's statement and he said, "Bush's speech was about solving the problem through political channels. We all agree with that view."

Comment: The following editorial published by the Zionist controlled Ha'aretz newspaper is also quite informative, as it seems to literally spell out Israel's hostile intentions towards Iran, and even suggests that the U.S. administration is well aware of the impending attack.

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Israeli joker in the Iranian poker game
Sun., January 23, 2005
By Amir Oren

The quotes were accurate but the interpretations were wrong. U.S. Vice President Richard Cheney did indeed say, last Thursday, that Israel "might well decide to act first" to eliminate an Iranian nuclear threat. However, the headlines that claimed Cheney was apprehensive about such a development misunderstood the point he was making. Cheney is not worried about the Israeli context, nor is he warning Israel not to act without coordination with Washington. He is using the possibility of an Israeli operation against Iran to threaten Tehran, while shaking off American responsibility for that kind of escalation. His comment was not a warning to Israel but a means of deterrence against Iran.

In an interview with MSNBC, Cheney placed Iran at "the top of the list" of the world's "potential trouble spots." He reiterated the Bush administration's desire to avoid war and to use diplomacy to resolve the controversy over Iran's nuclear program - give and take with the European powers, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations Security Council and sanctions to force Iran to honor its commitments. This is an essential path for the Americans, who this time - more than in the case of Iraq two years ago - will need to enter a multilateral, international framework. In the meantime, the Iranians are using the time to examine how bothered they are by their temporary agreement to freeze the uranium enrichment process. Their representatives in the negotiations with Germany, France and Britain are not hiding their intention to reassess the agreement and disavow it, should it emerge that the damage to their nuclear program outweighs the diplomatic advantage of gaining time.

In contrast to the Iranian use of Europe, Bush's independent ally, Cheney cites Israel as an ally even less amenable to American control. One of the concerns, he noted in the interview, is that Israel is liable to act against Iran "without being asked. ... If in fact the Israelis became convinced the Iranians had significant nuclear capability, given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterward."

As secretary of defense in 1991, in the administration of the current president's father, Cheney made use of a similar threat against Iraq, also in a television interview, which the enemy could receive and understand without mediation. Two weeks before the first American war against Saddam Hussein, Cheney told CNN that Iraqi use of chemical warheads against Israel was liable to result in an Israeli nuclear response. That was a rare comment in two regards. Senior U.S. officials publicly tend to ignore the Arab allegations that Israel possesses nuclear weapons. Cheney mentioned such weapons as though their existence were not in question, in a realistic tone, not one of denial, as a fact the foe (common to both the Americans and the Israelis) must take into account.

In contrast to the situation 14 years ago, Cheney this time refrained from talking about Israeli nuclear capability. Had he done otherwise, he would have implicitly raised the question of why Iran is forbidden to do what Israel is allowed to do (and perhaps reply that the difference is that Israel is not plotting to destroy Iran).

A nuclear Iran is in fact a common danger to Jerusalem and Washington, though each side in the partnership finds it convenient to cast the responsibility on the other. Israel wants to stop being an Iranian target and foist the burden of dealing with the issue on the international community, headed by President Bush. It is important for the Americans not to give the impression that they are eager to precede diplomatic discussions with a military strike, but also to remind the Iranians that their bluff in the nuclear poker game is liable to fall apart in the face of a card not part of the European deck - the Israeli joker.

In 1991 the U.S. administration, including Cheney's deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, secretly extracted from Israel a commitment not to take independent action against Iraq. In 2005 the coordination between the two countries and the two armies is even greater. If Israel does take action, Bush and his vice president will be the last to be surprised.

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US military options in Iran not good: analysts
22 January 2005 1546 hrs
WASHINGTON : With the bulk of its ground forces tied down in Iraq, the United States has compelling reasons to avoid military action against neighboring Iran even while stepping up pressure to halt Tehran's nuclear program, analysts say.

"There are no good military options," James Carafano, a military expert with the conservative Heritage Foundation, said Friday.

The United States could launch pinpoint strikes on targets in Iran from US warships or from the air. But short of an imminent threat from nuclear armed Iranian missiles, any gain would likely be outweighed by the trouble Iran could cause US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.

Anthony Cordesman, an expert on Iran at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Iran "would see any pre-emptive attack as encirclement."

"It would probably react hard to whatever happened, and that would make it more destabilizing than stabilizing," he said in an interview.
"But there would be many people who argue just the opposite," he cautioned.

Indeed, the perception that the United States is embarking on a course of confrontation with Iran has grown here since The New Yorker magazine reported this week that US commandos have been operating inside Iran since mid 2004, secretly scouting targets for possible air strikes.

The Pentagon attacked the story by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh as "riddled with errors of fundamental fact" but did not expressly deny conducting covert reconnaissance missions.

Vice President Dick Cheney, declaring on a radio talk show this week that Iran was "right at the top of the list" of global problems, warned that Israel might launch a pre-emptive strike on its own to shut down Iran's nuclear program.

"Given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards," he said.

But Cheney played down the likelihood of US military action.

"In the case of the Iranian situation, I think everybody would be best suited by or best treated and dealt with if we could deal with it diplomatically," he said.

One reason is that the US military already has its hands full in Iraq, where 150,000 US troops are struggling to contain a predominantly Sunni insurgency.

A ground war with Iran would be unsustainable, Carafano said in an interview.

"We couldn't do another large scale ground operation without a major mobilization that would require mobilizing basically all of the national guard," he said.

"Even if we wanted to do that, it would be pretty obvious because it would take us months if not years to get the national guard up and ready to go."

Even a limited US attack on Iran, which shares a 1,450-kilometer (900-mile) open border with Iraq, would invite Tehran to use its influence among Iraq's Shiites to sabotage the separate peace US forces have enjoyed in southern Iraq. The same is true in Afghanistan, which has a 900-kilometer (560-mile) border with Iran.

"When you're trying to stabilize Iraq and you've got this long border between Iran and Iraq, and you're trying to keep the Iranians from interfering in Iraq so you can get the Iraq government up and running, you shouldn't be picking a war with the Iranians," said Carafano.

"It just doesn't make any sense from a geopolitical standpoint," he said.

Iran is believed to protect its most sensitive facilities by dispersing, burying and hardening them, learning from the 1981 Israeli air strike on Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor.

So the payoff from surgical strikes on suspected nuclear facilities would be uncertain and temporary, Carafano said.

"On the other hand," said Cordesman, "one can argue that a successful strike has a powerful intimidating and deterrent impact."

"So there will always be those people who argue that the short-term political cost will be offset by the longer term impact on Iran's political behavior and military capabilities," he said.

Moreover, he said, it's unknown to outsiders how close Iran is to gaining a nuclear weapon, or what the US military has learned about its efforts, further obscuring the course of action the United States may take.

"When you deal with any power that proliferates that is hostile, you are going to constantly update and improve your contingency plans, and you are going to carry out intelligence reconnaissance," he said.

"One problem is, you are going to carry out virtually exactly the same intelligence effort if you are contemplating military options or if you are trying to make arms control work, or put pressure on the UN and Europe to be more effective in their negotiating effort," he said.

"The difficulty here is there is essentially one man who can make this decision. And that's the president of the United States," he said.

Comment: The military analysts quoted in the above story are quite correct in that it would be a logistical nightmare for the Bush administration to launch a second war in the Middle East. Any such move would be doomed to failure and likely result in the reinstatement of a military draft.

Perhaps that is exactly what the PTB are counting on, as their goal does not seem to be to "win" the war on terror at all, but to find a way to embroil the entire world in an end-times conflagration that will result in as much pain, suffering and death as possible.

Considering the last line of the story, anyone who is aware of the real power structure in the United States knows full well that it is not the President who makes these decisions, but his group of handlers who operate quietly behind the scenes.

Given that Bush has difficultly even articulating coherent sentences, it is highly doubtful that he would be allowed to make any important policy decisions at all. The real problem for all of us will be when and if puppet Bush begins to become more and more difficult to manage as he truly begins to play his role as the "fuhrer".

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A Republican to help build Jewish temple in Jerusalem


A prominent and extremely wealthy member of the Republican Party is due to arrive in Jerusalem on Wednesday to add her support to a conference to be held there.

Orly Benny Davis is attending a conference that will discuss the construction of a third Jewish temple. Furthermore, the conference is being held on Davis' own expense and under her patronage.

Orly Benny Davis is insistent that the third temple be built in Jerusalem and has contacted over 20 prominent members of Jewish organisations inviting them to take part in the conference.

The American female politician, who is a personal friend of both Ministers of Exterior Affairs and Education, believes that Jewish dominance in Jerusalem should be consolidated through the building of the temple.

"Jerusalem is the basis of the Jewish state. It was impossible that Hirzl compiled a book without thinking of Jerusalem. The Jews had stayed abroad for 2000 years and then returned to that city following the publication of Hirzl's book and Balfour declaration," Davis has been quoted as saying.

She believes "The construction of that temple would be an important resource for the Israeli economy and would be an attractive tourist site."

Davis' plan has seen massive support from the Jewish "Women For The Temple" Organisation, who recently began organizing several events with the goal of promoting the Jewish woman's awareness of constructing such a temple.

Four conferences have recently been held in addition to the holding of weekly lectures in which Jewish women are urged to donate money and jewelry in order to raise funds for the building of the temple.

However, the Aqsa Foundation for the Maintenance of the Islamic Shrines has warned of a Zionist-U.S. scheme aimed at obliterating all Islamic and Arab identity in Jerusalem.

The foundation has called on all Arabs and Muslims to shoulder the responsibility of protecting the holy Aqsa Mosque and to take such schemes as the one Orly Benny Davis is supporting seriously as she seeks to consolidate Jewish control of the holy city of Jerusalem.

The foundation has urged Palestinians to organise mass visits to the holy site and pray especially on Mount Arafat Day on Wednesday.

Furthermore, it reiterated the demands on Palestinians to offer generous support to the Palestinian residents in Jerusalem to further enforce their presence in the city.

Comment: Just another Zionist Republican crackpot? Perhaps, but her ideas seem to be right in line with those of the Israeli government...

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Israel plans big Jerusalem land grab

By Laila El-Haddad in Gaza
Thursday 20 January 2005

The Sharon government intends to strip thousands of West Bank Palestinians of their property in occupied East Jerusalem, according to the Israeli press quoting newly released government documents.

At stake are thousands of donoms of land belonging to Palestinians who live in the West Bank and are now unable to access their land due to Israel's separation barrier.

The decision, reached by the Ministerial Committee for Jerusalem Affairs in June of 2004, and approved by Prime Minister Sharon and his attorney-general a month later, has not been publicised until now.

By some estimates, the total land to be expropriated could add up to half of all East Jerusalem property.

The move is based on the Israeli Absentee Property Law of 1950, which holds that assets of Jerusalemite Palestinians who were in the West Bank and Gaza Strip at the time of the 1948 War would be expropriated by the state of Israel, without the absentee being eligible for compensation.

The law, which applied to millions of Palestinian refugees who were unable to return to their homes after the 1948 war, has not been applied to West Bank residents with property in East Jerusalem until now.

The decision is the latest in a series of measures by the Israeli government apparently aimed at eliminating Palestinian claims to Jerusalem and ultimately predetermining the future status of the city.

According to the Israeli Human Rights group B'tselem, the development of East Jerusalem, since its illegal annexation in 1967, has been based on political considerations designed to strengthen Israeli control over the city, by creating a decisive majority of Jews.

Pressure tactics

By all accounts, the Israeli ministry of interior is using land expropriations, identity-card seizure, exorbitant taxes and difficult-to-obtain building, family-reunion and residency permits to slowly force Palestinian residents out of the city.

A law passed by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government in the late 1990s, declared that any Palestinian who has not lived in the city for seven continuous years loses his residency rights, for example.

The Netanyahu law, whose time limit has since been changed to three years, does not apply to Israeli Jews.

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Update: Iraqi Insurgents Free Chinese Hostages

Naseer Al-Nahr, Arab News
23 January 2005

BAGHDAD, — Iraqi insurgents said they had released eight Chinese hostages yesterday, as a militant group said it had shot dead 15 kidnapped Iraqi soldiers in continued violence ahead of this month's election.

A leader of Iraq's Shiite community said his supporters would not be drawn into civil war despite being targeted by mainly Sunni militants, and the interim government announced extraordinary security measures for the Jan. 30 vote.

A video produced by insurgents showed the eight Chinese laborers kidnapped earlier this month standing or kneeling in the desert holding their passports.

A man with his face covered by a traditional checkered headdress shook hands with each of them before they walked off camera. The speaker on the tape said they were being released.

The Chinese Embassy in Baghdad confirmed the men had been freed, but by nightfall said it was trying to locate them. [...]

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Zarqawi declares war on Iraq poll
Militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has reportedly declared war on next Sunday's election in Iraq.

An audiotape on an Islamist website purportedly voiced by the Jordanian-born militant calls on Sunni Muslims to fight against the vote.

"We have declared a bitter war against the principle of democracy and all those who seek to enact it," the speaker says.

Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for many bombings and beheadings in Iraq.

The US has put a $25m (£13m) reward on his head.

Correspondents say the voice on the latest recording sounded similar to that on other messages attributed to the fugitive, whose group is linked to al-Qaeda.

It attacked democracy as a springboard for "un-Islamic" practices, claiming that its emphasis on majority rule violated the principle that all laws must come from a divine source.

"Candidates in elections are seeking to become demi-gods, while those who vote for them are infidels," it said.

Security measures

The speaker reserved particular scorn for Iraq's Shia majority, whose parties are widely expected to win next Sunday's election.

The Shia, it said, were poised to spread "their insidious beliefs" to Baghdad and Sunni-dominated areas of Iraq.

Zarqawi claims to have masterminded several attacks on Shia targets, including a car-bombing in 2003 that killed Ayatollah Muhammad Baqr al-Hakim, former leader of one of Iraq's two main Shia parties.

A message attributed to Zarqawi earlier this week accused the Shia of taking part in the US assault on the Sunni Muslim city of Falluja and described their spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, as "Satan".

Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has meanwhile told the BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme he believes the polls will eventually spell the end of violence in Iraq.

But, he said, this will not happen immediately and insurgent attacks are likely to continue in the short term.

The interim government has announced sweeping security measures to protect voters in the 30 January election.

* Curfews will be extended

* In many areas, election staff intend to keep the location of polling stations secret until the last minute

* Iraq's borders will be closed for three days around the election

* Baghdad's airport is to be closed for two days

* The movement of pedestrians and cars close to polling stations will also be restricted, and non-official cars will be prevented from travelling between Iraq's 18 provinces

* People will be barred from carrying weapons

Comment: The bogeyman is back, making his scheduled appearance prior to the Iraqi elections. Just as the other great CIA backed bogeyman, Osama bin Laden made an appearance to support his friend George prior to the US elections, al Zaqarwi is pitching in. Convenient for someone who was supposedly captured long ago.

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Pentagon refutes report over new espionage unit 2005-01-24 00:23:14
WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 (Xinhuanet) -- The US Defense Department refuted on Sunday a news report in The Washington Post that the Pentagon has created a new espionage arm and is interpreting US law to give Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld broad authority overclandestine operations abroad.

"There is no unit that is directly reportable to the Secretary of Defense for clandestine operations as is described in the Washington Post article of January 23, 2005" and the department "is not attempting to 'bend' statutes to fit desired activities," Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita said in a statement.

The Post, quoting interviews with participants and documents itobtained, reported on Sunday the Pentagon has created a previouslyundisclosed organization, called the Strategic Support Branch, which arose from Rumsfeld's written order to end his "near total dependence on CIA" for what it known as human intelligence.

The report said the unit, which was designed to operate withoutdetection and under the defense secretary's direct control, deploys small teams of case officers, linguists, interrogators andtechnical specialists alongside newly empowered special operationsforces and has been operating in secret for two years, in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places.

The Strategic Support Branch was created to provide Rumsfeld with independent tools for the "full spectrum of humint operations," the report said, quoting an internal account of its origin and mission.

In his statement, DiRita admitted that the Pentagon was attempting to improve its human intelligence capability, in the Defense Human Intelligence Service, a component of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

He said that before the Sept. 11 commission issued its final report last year concluding that the country's human intelligence capability must be improved, the Defense Human Intelligence Service had taken steps "to make better human intelligence capability available to assist combatant commanders for specific missions involving regular or special operations forces."

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Behind Iran's stern response to US threats 2005-01-23 02:06:38
By Chen Wendi

TEHRAN, Jan. 22 (Xinhuanet) -- Confronting recent US threats,Iran's senior officials have delivered unprecedented stern verbal refutations, which analysts believe are linked with its June 17 presidential election and the situation in Iraq.

US President George W. Bush said on Monday he would not rule out military actions against Iran in his second term. Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday threatened to referIran's nuclear case to the UN Security Council.Tehran was not surprised by these remarks as they echoed thesame stance Washington has adopted toward Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

But in contrast with the past, Tehran's reaction to the verbal hostility was tougher.

On Tuesday, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, chairman of Iran'spowerful Expediency Council and former president, said Iran was "not a proper place for adventurism".

One day later, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi, in awritten statement, said Iran would "respond strongly to any kind of unwise acts."

President Mohammad Khatami, who was then on a tour in Africa,said on Thursday that Iran would stand up to any aggression, amessage reported by the official IRNA news agency as a piece ofurgent news.

Analysts reckon that with the presidential polls only six monthsaway, Khatami's government, which has failed to fulfill its promises of reforms in the past eight years, was taking the chanceto show to the people that the reformists were also ready to fightwhen the national security was threatened.

The conservatives in Iran often criticize the government's weakstance in negotiations with the Western countries.Besides, the upcoming Iraqi elections slated for Jan. 30 is alsoone of Iran's top concerns.

Even though Tehran has categorically rejected an allegation of interfering in Iraq's internal affairs, it can not deny that afriendly Iraqi authority would be warmly welcomed.At this critical juncture, Tehran must build a strong and determined image to instill confidence into the minds of the IraqiShiites who are religiously close to Iran, and any sign of weakness might promote an adverse result, said analysts.

Iran is also keeping vigilance over the newly-elected hawkish US cabinet.

Just days before the new cabinet took office, Bush and Rice'sremarks were viewed as the keynote of the US policy toward Iran inthe next four years.

Iran, being challenged, had no choice but to warn the hawks and encourage US doves with its strong reply, said analysts.All in all, the vehement reaction of Tehran was determined bythe current sensitive situations.

It is believed the coming months will witness new conflicts between Washington and Tehran with the new cabinets of the United States, Iraq and Iran coming into power.

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Israel’s Sharon Tells Russia’s Putin to Halt Missile Sales to Syria

Created: 21.01.2005 12:12 MSK (GMT 3), Updated: 12:28 MSK

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon urged Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday not to sell anti-aircraft missiles to Syria, Israel’s neighboring arch foe, officials said.

Sharon told Putin during a “long and friendly” telephone call that a missile deal under negotiation with Syria “endangers Israel and (Palestinian National Authority Chairman) Mahmoud Abbas” and should be stopped.

The Sharon-Putin conversation, according to diplomatic officials, focused on the proposed deal that would reportedly include the sale of Igla SA-18 anti-aircraft missiles, among the most sophisticated shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles on the market, and the Iskander-E ground-to-ground precision-guided missile system, The Jerusalem Post reported.

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying Sharon told Putin that “Syria and Hizbullah are encouraging terrorist actions against Israeli targets, both from within Lebanon and via Palestinian terrorist organizations, and added that they are the main challenge to the new Palestinian leadership.”

The call was the first direct contact since Israel raised objections earlier this month to a possible Russian sale of advanced Igla SA-18 missiles to Syria.

Russia is unlikely to go ahead with the missiles deal with Syria at this time, diplomatic officials told the Post soon after the telephone call.

Israel had demanded the deal be canceled, arguing the shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles could disrupt stability if they fell into the hands of Syrian-supported Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon.

But Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has denied reports in the Israeli and Russian media that Moscow was negotiating a missile deal with Syria.

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Rice Says Growing Putin Power a Problem for U.S.

Created: 19.01.2005 11:35 MSK (GMT 3), Updated: 10:40 MSK

Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice says the growing concentration of power in the Kremlin is a problem for Washington, which has repeatedly voiced concern over the state of Russian democracy, the Reuters news agency reports.

Rice on Tuesday echoed concerns voiced by outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell about the rule of law and the protection of democratic principles in Russia.

“(The Russian government) is quite constructive in many areas ... but that doesn’t excuse what is happening inside Russia, where the concentration of power in the Kremlin to the detriment of other institutions is a real problem,” she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which must vote on her nomination.

“In Russia, we see that the path to democracy is uneven and that its success is not yet assured.” Rice said, noting that the United States and Russia cooperate on many issues, including the war on terrorism and nuclear nonproliferation.

“As we do so, we will continue to press the case for democracy, and we will continue to make clear that the protection of democracy in Russia is vital to the future of U.S.-Russian relations,” she said.

A Soviet specialist, Rice’s comments did not go as far as criticism by Powell in September that Russia appeared to be pulling back from its democratic reforms.

The State Duma last month approved President Vladimir Putin’s plans to scrap gubernatorial elections and allow the president to nominate governors, subject to approval by local assemblies. Critics believe that decision shows the Kremlin is becoming increasingly autocratic.

A year ago, Powell was blunt in voicing Washington’s concerns. In a front-page article in the Russian daily Izvestia in January, he said Russian politics were insufficiently subject to the rule of law and made clear there were limits to the U.S.-Russian relationship without shared values.

President George W. Bush has not publicly voiced such criticism, but U.S. officials said he discussed the issue extensively with Putin in private last year.

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Arab events draw ire
Jan. 22, 2005. 01:00 AM

The University of Toronto says it will not interfere with a series of events, dubbed "Israeli Apartheid Week," planned for later this month and organized by an independent campus group, the Arab Students' Collective.

The week of themed discussions will feature talks on such subjects as Palestinian and migrant labour in Israel.

"There are different forms of apartheid in Israel," said Ahmad Shokr, an organizer with the collective, explaining the agenda for the week.

"Every day is theme-based — one day is focused on political prisoners; another day is focused on the wall separating Israel from Palestine, another day is focused on refugees, Shokr said.

Banning such discussions, said Professor Dave Farrar, vice-provost for students, would violate the university's responsibility to promote the basic freedoms of speech and association.

Farrar defended such events as vital to the university's role as a place where ideas are exchanged freely.

"The very fact that the Arab Students' Collective and other campus groups exist speaks to a central value of the U of T," he said. "As an academic community we have a fundamental commitment to the principles of freedom of inquiry, freedom of speech and freedom of association."

As well, he added, "the fact that the university creates an environment where a recognized student group can express a view on a controversial subject does not mean that the university itself has expressed any view whatsover."

The decision was condemned by B'Nai Brith Canada's executive vice-president, Frank Dimant, who said the week of events planned for Jan. 31 through Feb. 4 "is nothing but a thinly veiled hate fest that threatens the safety and security of the Jewish students whose well-being the University is charged with protecting."

"It creates a poisoned atmosphere on campus," Dimant added, "in which Jewish students are made to feel marginalized and isolated."

Comment: Note that University of Toronto allowed the Arabs Student's Association to continue with its accurately named "Israeli Apartheid Week", which highlights many of the trials and tribulations of the Palestinian people as they continue to suffer under an oppressive Zionist government.

What is most interesting about this story are the comments made by the representative for B'Nai Brith Canada who quite manipulatively brings the safety of Jewish students into question as a result of these planned events. The article appears to make it quite plain that the Arabic students are protesting the policies of the Zionist Israeli government and not the Jewish people themselves.

This is a typical tactic of the Israeli lobby to equate criticism of the Israeli government with attacks against Jews in general, which is not only a form of erroneous "anti-semitic" name-calling, but also serves to further marginalize and isolate Jewish students on campus who have no real connection to the government of Israel at all.

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Two killed in Afghan attacks
Saturday 22 January 2005, 16:16 Makka Time, 13:16 GMT  

An explosive device has killed an Afghan soldier and wounded 12 others in the central province of Oruzgan, where a suspected fighter died in a separate clash, the US military said.

"An improvised explosive device was detonated on Wednesday in the province of Oruzgan, killing one Afghan National Army soldier," US military spokesman Major Mark McCann said on Saturday.
Twelve other soldiers were wounded in the incident, he added.
On Friday one American unit was attacked in the same province by three armed men.
"As a result, one militant was wounded and later died of his wounds," the spokesman said. [...]

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Student from Sault Ste. Marie among 3 killed by former U.S. soldier
January 22, 2005

KENT, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio man suspected of fatally shooting two people he lived with ran from police to another home where he killed a Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., woman before being arrested Saturday, police said.

James Trimble, 44, was charged with three counts of aggravated murder.

Officers discovered the bodies of Renee Bauer, 42, and her seven-year-old son, Dakota Bauer, about 9 p.m. EST on Friday in Trimble's home in Brimfield Township, police said.

Trimble, who a neighbour said was discharged from the U.S. military recently, was wearing camouflage fatigues and carrying an assault-type rifle when he was spotted nearby but evaded capture, He fired several shots at police officers before entering a home and taking a woman hostage, police said. [...]

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Bus crash kills at least 40 in Nepal
22 January 2005 1632 hrs

KATHMANDU : Forty passengers died and 19 others hurt when their overcrowded bus plunged 100 metres (330 feet) down a ravine in western Nepal.

"A bus carrying more than 60 passengers, including a marriage party, fell down 100 metres into a stream at Tiram in Pyuthan district on Friday evening," deputy superintendent of police Mohan Raj Joshi told AFP.

Among the dead was the bridegroom, he added.

Many passengers were on the roof of the vehicle travelling from Sonpur in Dang, southwestern Nepal, when it crashed in Pyuthan, some 325 kilometres (200 miles) west of Kathmandu.

Joshi said 10 people were killed instantly and 27 died before getting to hospital. Three people died of their injuries in hospital on Saturday.
The fate of driver was not yet known.

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Ukraine: Oil politics and a mockery of democracy

Asia Times
By William Engdahl

The results of the third round of elections in Ukraine in which Viktor Yushchenko was proclaimed the final winner, far from being grounds for jubilation in Ukraine and beyond, ought to give concern for the future of Ukraine to many.

The recent battle over the election for president to succeed the pro-Moscow Leonid Kuchma in Ukraine was more complex than the general Western media accounts suggest. Both Russian President Vladimir Putin and George W Bush are engaged in high stakes geopolitical power plays. Both sides in Ukraine have evidently engaged in widespread vote fraud. The Western media chose to report only one side, however. Case in point: a non-governmental organization, the British Helsinki Human Rights Group, reported it found more vote irregularities on the side of the opposition Yushchenko in the contested November vote, than from the pro-Moscow Viktor Yanukovych. Yet the media reported as if fraud only took place on the side of the pro-Moscow candidate.

The Kuchma regime was indeed anti-democratic, and no model for human rights, one factor which feeds an opposition movement. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, economic conditions for most Ukrainians have been beyond deplorable, providing fertile ground for any opposition to promise better times. Yet the deeper issue is Eurasian geopolitical control, an issue little understood in the West.

The Ukraine elections were not about Western-sanctioned democratic voting, as some magic formula to open the door to free market reform and prosperity for Ukrainians. They were mainly about who influences the largest neighbor of Russia, Washington or Moscow. A dangerous power play by Washington is involved, to put it mildly.

A look at the geostrategic background makes things clearer. Ukraine is historically tied to Russia, geographically and culturally. It is Slavic, and home of the first Russian state, Kiev Rus. Its 52 million people are the second largest population in eastern Europe, and it is regarded as the strategic buffer between Russia and a string of new US North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bases from Poland to Bulgaria to Kosovo, all of which have carefully been built up since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Most important, Ukraine is the transit land for most major Russian Siberian gas pipelines to Germany and the rest of Europe.

Yushchenko favors European Union and NATO membership for Ukraine. Not surprising, he is backed, and strongly, by Washington. Former US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski has been directly involved on behalf of the Bush administration in grooming Yushchenko for his new role.

As far back as November 2001, Yushchenko was reportedly wined and dined in Washington by the Bush administration, paid for by the US Congress-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Martin Foulner in the Glasgow Herald of November 26 reported the details of the meeting. NED, it's worth noting, was set up during the Ronald Reagan administration by US Congress to "privatize" certain Central Intelligence Agency operations, and allow Washington to claim clean hands in various foreign meddling. Ukraine is part of a wider US pattern of active "regime change" in eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Brzezinski is directly involved in Ukraine events, and has openly condemned the initial November election results, along with former US secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and Colin Powell. Brzezinski's entire career has been geared to dismantle Russian power in Eurasia since the time he was Jimmy Carter's National Security Council chief. If Brzezinski succeeds in getting his hand-picked man in power in Kiev, that will be a major step in the direction of US domination of all Eurasia. That, of course, is the aim, as Brzezinski makes explicit in his writings. It is useful to quote Brzezinski directly from his now infamous 1997 book, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives:

Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire ... if Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources, as well as access to the Black Sea, Russia automatically again regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia. The states deserving America's strongest geopolitical support are Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine, all three being geopolitically pivotal. Indeed, Kiev's role reinforces the argument that Ukraine is the critical state, insofar as Russia's own future evolution is concerned.

And why Eurasia? Brzezinski replies:

A power that dominates Eurasia would control two of the world's three most advanced and economically productive regions. A mere glance at the map also suggests that control over Eurasia would almost automatically entail Africa's subordination, rendering the Western hemisphere and Oceania geopolitically peripheral to the world's central continent ... About 75% of the world's people live in Eurasia, and most of the world's physical wealth is there as well, both in its enterprises and underneath its soil. Eurasia accounts for about 60% of the world's GNP [gross national product] and about three-fourths of the world's known energy resources ... Eurasia is also the location of most of the world's politically assertive and dynamic states. After the United States, the next six largest economies and the next six biggest spenders on military weaponry are located in Eurasia. All but one of the world's overt nuclear powers and all but one of the covert ones are located in Eurasia. The world's two most populous aspirants to regional hegemony and global influence are Eurasian. All of the potential political and/or economic challengers to American primacy are Eurasian.

Belgrade to Kiev to ...

There is a distinct pattern of US covert actions in changing regimes in Eastern Europe, in the context of this Eurasian strategy of the US, in which Ukraine fits the pattern. The Belgrade vote in 2000 to topple Serbian Slobodan Milosevic was organized and run by US ambassador Richard Miles. This has been well documented by Balkan sources and others. Significantly, the same Miles was then sent to Georgia, where he engineered the toppling of Eduard Shevardnadze in favor of the US-groomed Mikhail Saakashvili last year, another pro-NATO man on Moscow's fringe. James Baker III played a key role as well, as some noted at the time.

Now Miles was reportedly involved in Kiev, with the US ambassador there, John Herbst, former ambassador in Uzbekistan. Curious coincidence? The Ukraine "democratic youth" organization, Pora ("High Time") is a slick, US-created entity. It is modeled on the Belgrade youth group, Otpor, which Miles also set up with help of NED and George Soros' Open Society, USAID and similar friends. Pora was given a brand image, for selling to the Western media, a slick logo of a black-white clenched fist. It even got a nifty name, the "chestnut revolution", as in "chestnuts roasting on an open fire".

Before he came to power, Saakashvili was brought by Miles to Belgrade to study the model there. In Ukraine, according to British media and other accounts, Soros' Open Society, the US government's NED and the Carnegie Endowment, along with the State Department's USAID, were all involved in fostering Ukraine regime change. Little wonder Moscow is a bit concerned with Washington's actions in Ukraine.

A key part of the media game has been the claim that Yushchenko won according to "exit polls". What is not said is that the people doing these "exit polls" as voters left voting places were US-trained and paid by an entity known as Freedom House, a neo-conservative operation in Washington. Freedom House trained some 1,000 poll observers, who loudly declared an 11-point lead for Yushchenko. Those claims triggered the mass marches claiming fraud. The current head of Freedom House is former CIA director and outspoken neo-conservative, Admiral James Woolsey, who calls the Bush administration's "war on terror" "World War IV". On the Freedom House board sits none other than Brzezinski. This would hardly seem to be an impartial human-rights organization.

Why does Washington care so much about vote integrity next door to Russia? Is Ukraine democracy more important than Azeri or Uzbek "democracy"? There is something else going on besides what appears to be a vote count. We have to ask why it is that the Bush administration suddenly is so keen on the sanctity of the democratic voting process as to risk an open break with Moscow at this time.

Eurasian oil geopolitics

US policy, as Brzezinski openly stated in The Grand Chessboard, is to Balkanize Eurasia, and ensure that no possible stable economic or political region between Russia, the EU and China emerges in the future that might challenge US global hegemony. This is the core idea of the September 2002 Bush Doctrine of "pre-emptive wars".

In taking control of Ukraine, Washington would take a giant step to encircle Russia for the future. Russian moves to use its vast energy reserves to play for room in rebuilding its political role would be over. Chinese efforts to link with Russia to secure some independence from US energy control would also be over. Iran's attempts to secure support from Russia against US pressure would also end. Iran's ability to enter into energy agreements with China would also likely end. Cuba and Venezuela would also likely fall prey to a pro-Washington regime change soon after.

Washington policy is aimed at direct control over the oil and gas flows from the Caspian, including Turkmenistan, and to counter Russian regional influence from Georgia to Ukraine to Azerbaijan and Iran. The background issue is Washington's unspoken recognition of the looming exhaustion of the world's major sources of cheap high-quality oil, the problem of global oil depletion, or as the late American geologist M King Hubbard termed it, of peak oil.

Over the coming five to 10 years the world economy faces a major new series of energy shocks as older fields from the North Sea to Alaska to Libya and even major fields in Saudi Arabia, such as the giant Ghawar field, peak and begin to decline. Many large fields already have peaked, such as the North Sea, perhaps one reason for the British interest in Iraq. And no new fields of a North Sea size have been found to replace them.

It was clearly no accident of politics that former Halliburton chief Dick Cheney became vice president, with quasi-presidential powers, in the current Washington administration. Nor that his first job was to oversee the Energy Task Force. In late 1999, as chief executive officer of Halliburton, Cheney delivered a speech to the London Institute of Petroleum. Halliburton, of course, is the world's leading oilfield services and construction group. Cheney presumably had a pretty good picture of where there was oil in the world.

In his speech, Cheney presented the picture of world oil supply and demand to fellow oil industry people. "By some estimates," he stated, "there will be an average of 2% annual growth in global oil demand over the years ahead, along with, conservatively, a 3% natural decline in production from existing reserves." Cheney added an alarming note: "That means by 2010 we will need on the order of an additional 50 million barrels a day." This is equivalent to more than six Saudi Arabia's of today's size.

He cited China and East Asia as fast-growth regions, and noted that the oilfields of the Middle East were, along with the Caspian Sea, the major untapped oil prospects.

Oil pipeline politics are also directly involved in the fight for control of Ukraine. In July 2004, the Ukraine parliament voted to open an unused oil pipeline to transport oil from Russian Urals fields to the port of Odessa. The Bush administration vehemently protested this would make Ukraine more dependent on Moscow.

The 674 kilometer oil pipeline, completed by the Ukraine government in 2001, between Odessa on the Black Sea and Brody in western Ukraine, can carry up to 240,000 barrels a day of oil. In April 2004, the Ukraine government agreed to extend Brody to the Polish Port of Gdansk, a move hailed in Washington and Brussels. It would carry Caspian oil to the EU, independent of Russia. That is, were Ukraine to become dominated by a pro-EU pro-NATO regime in the November vote.

The stakes were big. George Bush Sr made a quiet trip to Kiev in May to meet both candidates, according to the British New Statesman of December 6. Former US secretary of state Madelaine Albright flew in to Kiev as well.

Last July, the Kuchma government suddenly reversed itself and voted to reverse the oil flows in Brody-Odessa, in order to allow it to transport Russian crude to the Black Sea.

Commenting on the significance of that move, Ilan Berman of the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington remarked at the time, "Kremlin officials understand full well that Odessa-Brody has the potential to deal a fatal blow to Russia's current near monopoly on Caspian energy." Berman then added a telling note, "Worse still, from Russia's perspective, the resulting European and US economic attention would all but cement Kiev's westward trajectory." The pipeline to Poland, a three-year project, would make Poland a major new hub for non-Russian, non-Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries oil as well, Berman notes.

The decision to reverse the pipeline last July would greatly weaken that westward shift of Ukraine. The next government will have to tackle the issue. Ukraine is a strategic battleground in this geopolitical tug-of-war between Washington and Moscow. Ukrainian pipeline routes account for 75% of EU oil imports from Russia and Central Asia, and 34% of its natural gas import. In the near future, EU energy imports via Ukraine are set to expand significantly with the opening of huge oil and gas fields in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Ukraine is a key piece on Brzezinski's Eurasian chessboard, to put it mildly, as well as Putin's.

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Dragon's 'giant sucking sound' jolts US

Jan 13, 2005
By Emad S Mekay

WASHINGTON - Thirteen years ago, fringe presidential candidate Ross Perot lamented what he colorfully termed "a giant sucking sound" of US jobs heading to Mexico. Now it seems Perot was looking in the wrong direction.

According to a new report, the ballooning trade deficit with China is the biggest worry for US workers, costing at least 1.5 million jobs since 1989. It also threatens to leave more workers from traditionally protected sectors unemployed in the future, says a study released on Tuesday by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a pro-labor research group based in Washington DC.

The institute said US trade deficit with China has swelled 20-fold over the last 14 years, from US$6.2 billion in 1989 to $124 billion in 2003. It is expected to have risen by more than 20% last year, to over $150 billion. The report was prepared for the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a panel set up by Congress that has pushed for a tougher approach toward China on trade. Established in October 2000, the panel has 12 members whose duties include submitting an annual report on the national security implications of the US economic relationship with China.

Reflecting the growing concern in the US establishment over China's trading prowess, US Commerce Secretary Donald Evans said on Wednesday that China risks a backlash from the US because of subsidies to its state-run companies and its currency policy. "When China's leaders fail to produce results on the points of friction in our trading relationship, their failure only empowers the critics within the US political system," Evans said while addressing the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing.

The EPI report finds that US exports increased from $5.8 billion in 1989 to $26.1 billion in 2003, a four-fold increase. However, imports rose from $11.9 billion to $151.7 billion in the same period, a 12-fold increase on top of a base that was already twice as large as exports. As a result, the US-China trade deficit increased by nearly 2,000%, says the report.

The report recommends a re-examination of US strategy toward China, especially because the Asian country is also rapidly winning ground in advanced industries such as car manufacturing and aerospace products that have provided the foundations of the United States' industrial base for generations. Semiconductor technology, once thought immune to lower-wage Chinese competition, is now open for Chinese imports. "The assumptions we built our trade relationship with China on have proved to be a house of cards," said Robert E Scott, director of international programs at EPI. "Everyone knew we would lose jobs in labor-intensive industries like textiles and apparel, but we thought we could hold our own in the capital-intensive, high-tech arena. The numbers we're seeing now put the lie to that hope - as China expands its share even in core industries such as autos and aerospace."

According to the study, China's exports to the US of electronics, computers, and communications equipment, along with other products that use more highly skilled labor and advanced technologies, are growing much faster than its exports of low-value, labor-intensive items such as apparel, shoes and plastic products. In fact, China now accounts for the entire $32 billion US trade deficit in so-called "advanced technology products". That shift, in turn, reduces the demand for high-tech workers and skilled business professionals in the US. "It is hard to overstate the challenges posed by this export behemoth," says the report.

The 1.5 million job opportunities lost across the US are distributed among all 50 states and the District of Columbia, with the biggest losers including California (211,045), Texas (106,262), New York (87,037), Illinois (74,070), Pennsylvania (73,612), Florida (65,733), North Carolina (65,279), Ohio (61,914), Michigan (54,313), and Georgia (49,589). The report points a finger at what it says is an undervalued Chinese currency, making it difficult for US firms to export to China while it subsidizes China's exports to the US.

"China's refusal to revalue its exchange rate despite the enormous demand for its currency is also a major contributor to the growth of the US trade deficit," says the report. It also challenges assumptions about China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO). The membership was supposed to provide the opening for a rapid growth in US exports to trim down the trade deficit with China. While the export growth rate has gone up since 2001 from a small base, the value of those exports has been inundated by a rapidly rising tide of imports.

The WTO is based on a free trade and investment agreement that has provided international investors with a unique set of guarantees designed to stimulate foreign-direct investment and the movement of factories around the world, especially from the US and Europe to low-wage locations such as China and Mexico. WTO agreements are often criticized as lacking any real labor or environmental standards, making it cheaper for multinational corporations to relocate factories and businesses to areas with the lowest costs.

Multi-national companies from around the world have used the protections for investment and intellectual property provided by the WTO to quickly expand investment, production, and exports from China, says the report. The US remains China's primary market for exports. "Thus the WTO and the broader process of globalization have tilted the economic playing field in favor of investors, and against workers and the environment, resulting in a race to the bottom in wages and environmental quality," the report concludes.

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Solar storm may hit communication
Sunday 23 January 2005, 8:08 Makka Time, 5:08 GMT

The largest emission of radiation by the sun in 15 years could disrupt mobile telephone communications as well as television and radio reception, scientists have said.

Large solar flares were unleashed when energy stored in magnetic fields above sunspots was suddenly released, according to the scientists at Britain's Royal Astronomical Society.

The effects of the solar flares were seen at different points on earth, including brilliant auroras over parts of Britain on Friday night.

"Flares can affect short-wave communications and satellites in the earth's orbit, which could mean problems for phones, television and radio signals," Peter Bond, spokesman for the Royal Astronomical Society, said.

"The flares have caused a huge amount of geo-magnetic activity as the magnetic field takes a while to settle," he said.

It was the largest radiation storm since October 1989, according to experts.

The Earth's magnetic field was also bombarded with extra energy from the sun on 24 October 2003 when a geomagnetic storm sent charged particles that affected electric utilities, airline communications and satellite navigation systems.

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19 miners killed in flood, explosions
22/01/2005 - 13:41:50

Nineteen miners have died after a flood and two gas explosions hit separate coal mines in China, the official Xinhua News Agency reported today.

A mine shaft belonging to the Yaojie Coal and Electricity Co. in the western province of Gansu flooded Friday, trapping and killing five workers, Xinhua said. In China's northeastern province of Liaoning, seven other workers died instantly Friday and two later succumbed to injuries after a gas explosion ripped through the Daming Coal Mine, Xinhua said.

Four others were injured in the accident after leaking gas was ignited as miners tried to reinforce a collapsing tunnel, it said.

A separate blast in the southern province of Yunnan on Thursday took the lives of five miners and injured four, it said.

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Aftershocks, rising waters propel Andaman exodus
Posted online: Wednesday, January 19, 2005 at 1233 hours IST

Port Blair, January 19: Standing in the heat in a black burqa, Ribeya Yasmeen wearily picks up her luggage to join the jostling queue of people frantic to board a ship leaving tsunami-hit Andaman and Nicobar islands.

Yasmeen, her husband and three children are part of a continuing exodus from the remote archipelago to the mainland, 1,200 km (750 miles) away.

Since Dec. 26, more than 6,000 people have left the islands by ship, many of them in fear after the earthquake off nearby Sumatra, the tsunami and more than 130 aftershocks.

"The ground has not stopped shaking. We are now terrified and want to leave," Yasmeen said as her family picked up a TV set, cardboard boxes and suitcases to be loaded onto the crowded M.S. Nancowry, headed for the tsunami-hit city of Madras in the mainland.

Some of those leaving lost homes or relatives or both to the giant tsunami waves, while others have just packed their bags and decided to leave the archipelago they once called home.

The mass departure, still on 23 days after the tsunami struck, has been also fuelled by reports some of parts of the islands have tilted into the sea and that surrounding sea waters had risen and become more turbulent after Dec. 26.

Rumours are rife the entire chain may be sinking, a theory the authorities, still struggling to provide relief to thousands of homeless, are keen to debunk.

"They have a fear which one can understand, given the terrible devastation. But we are counselling them to think about it and not to rush into a decision (about leaving)," Home Secretary Dhirendra Singh told a news conference.

Around 7,500 people have died or are presumed dead in the island chain which had a population of more than 356,000.

The navy has said its ships were encountering rougher waters and higher sea levels and New Delhi has sent geologists to study the changes in the island's topography.

During high tide, low-lying areas in and around the capital of Port Blair get inundated with the sea flooding roads, fields and coastal neighbourhoods.


All this has made life miserable for the ticketing clerks at Port Blair's Phoenix Bay jetty. They say demand for tickets for ships leaving for the mainland has been outstripping supply by at least four times since the tsunami.

"I have never seen such big crowds. People are pushing, shoving and there have been fights. People abuse us and even physically threaten us when we say the tickets are sold out for a ship," said weary ticketing clerk B. Srinivasan.

Passenger ships -- which the island chain's shipping department is managing to run despite broken jetties -- are being loaded beyond their capacity and policemen have been posted to control crowds.

"These islands used to be heaven," said Kishan Lal, a private bus conductor, pointing to a small stretch of golden sand on a narrow beach framed by coconut trees. "But I keep thinking I will get washed away. I will also leave."

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Light earthquake felt in Dead Sea, Jerusalem
Jan. 22, 2005 14:03

A light earthquake was felt on Saturday afternoon in the Dead Sea and northern Jerusalem. Israel Radio reported.

No injuries or damage were reported.

The quake's epicenter was in the Dead Sea. It measured 3.5 on the Richter scale.

In the past year, at least two earthquakes were felt in the Jerusalem area.

In July 2004, a 4.7 magnitude earthquake shook the area. People throughout Israel reported feeling the quake, as did people as far away as Amman, Jordan.

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Jan 22 2005
By Michael Christie

RESIDENTS of a small town were left terrified after it was struck by the area's most powerful earthquake in 15 years.

Some feared that a plane had crashed or a bomb had gone off in Killin, on the banks of Loch Tay, after hearing a loud bang which caused windows to rattle.

But scientists yesterday confirmed it was an earthquake measuring 2.7 on the Richter scale.

Householders called police at around 10pm following the 30second tremor on Thursday night.

Once an emergency was ruled out, officers contacted the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh, who confirmed the epicentre was in the middle of the Perthshire hills, three miles north-west of the village.

There are few towns nearby and there did not appear to be any structural damage to buildings in the area.

Killin is about 40 miles north of Stirling and 45 miles west of Perth and sits on a minor fault in the earth's surface.

Maureen Gauld, who owns The Antique Shop on the main street with husband James, said: 'We thought it sounded like a plane crashing outside our house.

'It was like an explosion. It was a bit of a shock. One minute we were watching television, the next the house seemed to rise off its founda-tions and settle back down again. Ours is a Victorian house and it rattled all the windows, but neither a picture nor an ornament was out of place.'

Shelagh McPartland, 57, owner of Craigard Hotel, Killin, described the tremor as terrifying. She said: 'The whole building just shook, like a bomb had gone off. It was extremely loud.

'I was sitting in our lounge and everything was moving. I looked out the window to see if someone had crashed into the hotel.

'We ran outside and everyone in the village was there but no one knew what had happened.'

Fiona Farquharson, 41, who owns Dochart Craft Centre, said: 'It felt just like an explosion. It only lasted seconds but it seemed like longer.

'It was only as time went on that we started to realise it was an earthquake. We have had them before in this area but never anything like this. Everything's talking about it.'

A spokesman for Central Scotland Police said: 'Many people across the region felt their houses shake and their windows rattle.

'We had a few calls from people who thought there had been an explosion or sonic boom.

'It's not a particularly populated area but those who felt the quake got a bit of a shock.'

Comment: What is unusual about this reported earthquake in the U.K. a few days ago are the eyewitness accounts of people hearing a loud bang, explosion or sonic boom type noise along with it. This comment came into the Signs forum on Friday regarding a cluster of tiny quakes in Georgia...

Being a native Californian, I have been in several large earthquakes including the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake magnitude 7.1.

Funny thing though, I have never "heard" an earthquake. I wonder what it was that the resident heard that sounded like "thunder". Maybe it was not a natural quake???

Which leads us to the impression that perhaps it was not an actual earthquake that was experienced by the people of Perth, but was reported by the government as such in order to disguise the real cause to the explosion, which unfortunately still remains a mystery.

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Another tremor jolts Wellington region
23.01.05 8.15am

The Wellington region was jolted again tonight by another earthquake.

The Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences said the tremor rated 4.2 on the Richter scale and was centred within 5km of Upper Hutt at a depth of 30km.

Tonight's quake was recorded at 9.14pm.

GNS described it as an aftershock of the 5.5 magnitude quake that hit Upper Hutt yesterday morning.

Today's earthquake and yesterday's follow a flurry of seismic activity in the lower North Island on Tuesday when 10 earthquakes were recorded over a 10-hour period.

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Man feared drowned in flash flood
By Jim Dickins
January 23, 2005

A MAN is feared to have drowned after being swept away by flash floods in a popular canyoning area of the Blue Mountains in New South Wales.

The 32-year-old Sydney man disappeared as a wall of water surged through the narrow canyon at Empress Falls, between Springwood and Wentworth Falls, after hail and rain storms struck about 4pm yesterday.

A female member of his six-member abseiling expedition dislocated her shoulder, and police rescue and ambulance officers were still trying to carry her from the area at 8.30pm.

Blue Mountains police duty officer Acting Superintendent Mark Davis said the man had become separated from his five companions and lost his footing while trying to reach them.

"He tried to get to them. He jumped into the water and hasn't been seen since," Superintendent Davis said.

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Storm slams Ontario
East Coast next
January 22, 2005 

(CP) - A massive snowstorm accompanied by frigid winds pummelled a wide swath of southern Ontario on Saturday - and was on a path to wallop Atlantic Canada early Sunday.

The blizzard, the cause of at least 150 collisions on city streets and Ontario highways due to black ice and whiteouts, would be the third heavy snowfall for the East Coast in a week.

"Already we're running above average for snowfall, and this storm will push us way over," Darin Borgel, Environment Canada meteorologist, said Saturday at the storm prediction centre in Dartmouth, N.S.

Some flights at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, Canada's busiest, were delayed or cancelled because of the storm, said Connie Turner, spokeswoman for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority.

"It is Canada," Turner said, adding the airport would likely be fully operational by Sunday.

Anywhere from 15 to 30 centimetres of snow was expected to have fallen from Windsor, Ont., to Belleville, Ont. by the time the storm system passed through, Environment Canada said. Forecasters warned some cities would be knee-high in the white stuff by the end of it.

Wind chills of -30 C to -40 C were also expected from London, Ont., to Ottawa. [...]

Whiteouts were also reported in downtown Toronto, Burlington, Oakville and Hamilton.

Nova Scotia was expected to receive up to 40 centimetres of snow on Sunday, with winds gusting to 100 kilometres per hour. Parts of New Brunswick were expected to get a 20-centimetre dumping.

A cold snap already in the region was only expected to make matters worse.

"We're looking at wind chills around -35 C with the snow coming down (in New Brunswick)," Borgel said. "Being exposed to that outside, it's very dangerous if you're out for any length of time."

Newfoundland was already being lashed by a separate storm Saturday that had dropped about 16 centimetres of snow on the St. John's area by mid-day.

The latest blizzard, which originated in the U.S. Midwest and resulted in the cancellations of hundreds of flights there on Saturday, was expected to reach Newfoundland on Monday.

Storm warnings were posted from Wisconsin to New England. Authorities reported three men dead - one after falling through ice in Ohio and two others who died of apparent heart attacks while removing snow.

About 400 flights were cancelled Saturday at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and hundreds more were reported at the Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports in New York's metropolitan area.

Two airplanes slid off a taxiway while trying to take off Saturday morning at Pittsburgh International Airport, although no injuries were reported.

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Monster Snowstorm Hits Midwest, Northeast

Jan 22, 4:41 PM (ET)

NEW YORK - Hundreds of airline flights were canceled Saturday and fleets of road plows were warmed up as a paralyzing snowstorm barreled out of the Midwest and spread across the Northeast with a potential for up to 20 inches of snow driven by 50 mph wind.

Storm warnings were posted from Wisconsin to New England, where the National Weather Service posted blizzard warnings in effect through Sunday. By afternoon, snow was falling across a region stretching from Wisconsin and Illinois to Virginia and the New England states.

One man died after falling through ice on a pond in Ohio, where two others died of apparent heart attacks while removing snow, authorities said.

Temperatures in Maine fell to 36 below zero at Masardis, and Bangor dropped to a record low of 29 below. Meteorologists predicted wind up to 50 mph would push wind chill readings to 8 below zero in New York and New Jersey. [...]

Up to a foot of snow had fallen in Wisconsin and Michigan, and wind gusted to more than 60 mph across Iowa. As much as 18 inches of snow was forecast in northern New Jersey and accumulations of up to 20 inches were possible in parts of New England and the New York City area, the weather service said. A foot was likely in northern sections of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

While crews in the Midwest labored to remove what already had fallen, highway departments in the Northeast readied hundreds of plows and salt-spreading trucks. New York City canceled all vacations for its sanitation workers and called people in on their days off to handle the snow. Kennedy International Airport had machines capable of melting 500 tons of snow an hour. [...]

The blowing snow caused frustrating delays as airlines called off flights.

About 400 flights were canceled Saturday at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and dozens more were called off at the city's Midway Airport. More than 200 people stayed the night at the two airports because of flights canceled the night before.

Even more chain-reaction cancellations were expected at Chicago and elsewhere as the storm clamped down on airports on the East Coast, said Chicago Department of Aviation spokeswoman Annette Martinez.

The New York metropolitan area's Kennedy and Newark airports had dozens of cancellations as the storm arrived Saturday afternoon, said Port Authority spokesman Alan Hicks. LaGuardia had nearly 200 cancellations by 2 p.m.

By noon at Philadelphia International Airport, the storm had already wiped out about 25 percent of the normal load of 1,100 daily arrivals and departures. A private jet and a commuter plane slid off a taxiway at Pittsburgh International Airport; no one was injured.

On the highways, Pennsylvania State Police reported dozens of accidents, including one involving 11 cars. New Jersey banned tractor-trailer rigs and motorcycles from the New Jersey Turnpike and slashed the speed limit to 45 mph. [...]

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Ice storm in Austria leaves three dead on highway
(AFP) Jan 21, 2005

VIENNA - An ice storm in Austria left three dead on a highway in the south on Friday when a motorist lost control of his car, police said.

Police said falling rain immediately froze leading to a series of accidents, in which two women and a Polish man were killed near the town of Kaiserwald when their car flipped over.

In western Austria, the highway leading to a tunnel in the Brenner pass linking Italy and Austria was closed due to accidents caused by winds of over 120 kilometres (75 miles) an hour.

In Kitzbuehel, a World Cup Super-G ski race was postponed until Monday due to difficult conditions from rain, snow and high winds.

Officials, meanwhile, put out avalanche warnings for the Austrian Alps.

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Study finds virtue in smoking
Sunday 23 January 2005, 2:01 Makka Time, 23:01 GMT

Smoking may provide some protection against the onset of Parkinson’s disease, says a Swedish study.

Researchers at the Karolinska Institute, Sweden’s leading medical research centre, looked at the medical and death records of sets of Swedish twins, in which one smoked and the other did not.

“Many studies have shown a protective effect of cigarette smoking on Parkinson’s disease,” said the study published online this month by the Annals of Neurology – but many have argued that this may have been due to genetic factors.

Studying twins

By studying twins with different life styles, the researchers said they sought to exclude the genetic factor.

They found no association between Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative neurological condition, and alcohol, coffee or place of residence.

But smokers appeared to be less affected, which the researchers said, confirmed “the protective effect of smoking on Parkinson’s disease” and established that the association “is only partially explained by genetic and familial environmental factors.”

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Parachutist goes into labour in mid-air

A pregnant Russian woman went into labour in the middle of a parachute jump.

Marija Usova gave birth to a baby girl minutes after landing from the jump in Moscow.

She had ignored warnings when she decided to arrange the jump when she was eight months pregnant.

Halfway through her jump she suddenly felt an enormous pain and realised she had gone into labour.

She managed to control her descent, although she said she was close to passing out at times, and landed safely where she immediately began to give birth, local media reported.

Doctors on hand rushed to her aid and helped deliver the baby. Usova said the last words she remembers hearing were: "It's a girl" before waking up in a hospital.

She said: "I wanted my baby to have the beautiful feeling of flying through the air and free-falling before it was born and give it something really unusual.

"I was already in the air when I suddenly felt a massive pain. I realised that it had already started.

"I cried out: "Oh God help me" and kept my legs tightly together but beyond that there wasn't much more I could do. I just kept thinking that my baby had to survive this. But every second of that descent seemed to take eternity."

She said she had decided to name her daughter Larisa: "It means Seagull in ancient Greek."

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