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Travel Log! The
Quantum Future Group Goes to Rennes-le-Chateau
Control, Thought Control, World Control
Strike Flash Presentation by a QFS member
of the Day
Zogby International did a poll
of 805 Iraqis between January from January 19 to 23, 2005 in the
cities of Baghdad, Hilla, Karbala and Kirkuk, as well as Diyala
and Anbar provinces.
Sunni Arabs who say they will vote on Sunday: 9%
Sunni Arabs who say they definitely will not vote on Sunday: 76%
Shiites who say they likely or definitely will vote: 80%
Kurds who say they likely or definitely will vote: 56%
Sunni Arabs who want the US out of Iraq now or very soon: 82%
Shiites who want the US out of Iraq now or very soon: 69%
Sunni Arabs who believe US will hurt Iraq over next 5 years: 62%
Shiites who believe US will hurt Iraq over next five years: 49%
Shiites who want to hold elections on Jan. 30: 84%
Kurds who want to hold elections on Jan. 30: 64%
Sunni Arabs who want to postpone elections: 62%
Sunni Arabs who consider guerrilla resistance against the Americans
Iraqis who would support a religious government: 33%
US Marines are combing the streets of
Iraq with loudspeakers, encouraging residents to get out and vote.
Yet all around, gunfire and chaos erupt. Can elections really
work if people are too scared to go to the polls?
Some U.S. Marines have shoved their automatic rifles aside and
have picked up bullhorns and loudspeakers in an attempt to encourage
Iraqis to get out and vote in Sunday's elections. After toppling
Saddam's dictatorship with force, America it seems is now trying
desperately to get the rebellious nation to install a democracy.
Meanwhile, many Iraqis say they are not only too scared to vote,
but know little to nothing about the some 7,000 candidates from
256 political groups and independents running.
They have good reason. Most of the candidates have been so terrified
of being assassinated they haven't publicly acknowledged that
their candidacy. One Iraqi voter explained his confusion succinctly,
telling CNN that he would prefer to vote for pop idol George Michael
because he knows more about the singer than about any of the candidates.
Violence has stepped up prior to the election with insurgents
threatening open season on anyone who goes to a polling station.
Here's a quick roundup of Iraq violence
from 8 a.m. Thursday to 8 a.m. Friday. We have just one
question: Amid all this, would you vote?
*Insurgents attacked a Marine base about 50 kilometers south
of Baghdad, killing one soldier and injuring others.
*Street fighting broke out between American soldiers and rebels
in central Baghdad.
*Jordanian terrorist and al-Qaida affiliate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
posted a videotape on the Internet showing the murder of Salem
Jaafar Abed, a National Assembly candidate and the secretary of
interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.
*In Baghdad, a car bomb near an Iraqi police station killed
*A car bomb exploded in Samarra (95 kilometers north of Baghdad)
killing three Iraqis.
*Two polling stations in Samarra were attacked. One -- a school
administration building -- was blown up. Staff had been warned
beforehand to leave.
*Sporadic clashes erupted in Samarra between US soldiers and
armed men. One Iraqi died.
*In the city of Kirkuk north of Baghdad, rebels attacked seven
polling stations with mortar shells and machine guns.
*Also in Kirkuk, insurgents attacked an Iraqi police patrol,
*In Beiji, also in the north, a suicide bomber struck a US military
*In Mahmoudiya, 30 kilometers south of Baghdad, three Iraqis
died when a roadside bomb missed a US convoy.
*Near Tikrit, a roadside bomb aimed at a US convoy killed an
*On the military base, a US soldier died of gunshot wounds.
*In Ramadi, west of Baghdad, an Iraqi National Guard soldier
died when insurgents attacked a school voting center.
*In Baqouba, the body of a former Saddam Hussein loyal was found.
He had been abducted by armed men.
*Insurgents shelled the US Marine base south of Baghdad.
*In Baghdad, a car bomb near an Iraqi police station killed
*In Basra, four polling stations were attacked. (2:45 p.m. CET)
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Baghdad kicked into panic
mode three days before the election, with terrified Iraqis stockpiling
food and evacuating homes near polling places Thursday for fear
that insurgents would make good on threats to disrupt Sunday's
vote with violence.
At least 15 Iraqis and a U.S. Marine
were killed Thursday. Insurgents blew up six polling places, detonated
car bombs in three cities, triggered at least three roadside bombs
and gunned down several Iraqi policemen, according to the
U.S. military and Iraqi authorities.
Iraqis who support the parliamentary election and those who
oppose it agreed on one thing: They expect such attacks to grow
much, much worse.
"How much fear is there? A lot of fear.
A whole lot of fear," said Dhikra Hussein, 25, who lives
a block from a polling center. "Our neighbors are all gone. We've
bought 3 kilos of everything we need."
Leaflets passed out to residents of several neighborhoods in
Baghdad warn of more attacks that will "strike voting centers
powerfully and without mercy." Another insurgent flier says "a
gift" is waiting for each polling place. Rumors
abound that Iraqis in line to cast ballots Sunday will be mowed
down by gunfire or blown up by suicide bombers posing as voters.
While many Iraqis said they wouldn't risk their lives to vote,
others said the first step to democracy was worth the sacrifice.
"Since when are Iraqis afraid of anything? We don't have time
for fear," said Mohammed Abbas, a supermarket owner in his 40s.
"We're ready for anything. Right now, as I'm talking, a mortar
could just fall and kill us. We expect anything these days."
The insurgents' campaign of intimidation appears successful
in nearly paralyzing a city of millions. The capital's notorious
traffic snarls were gone Thursday, and residents locked themselves
inside at dusk, even though the interim government's strict curfew
and ban on civilian cars don't begin until Saturday.
Local newspapers announced Internet-only editions because printing-press
employees won't leave their homes starting Friday. Shops
sold out of large burlap bags of rice, potatoes, lentils and other
Iraqi staples. Men lugged home huge canisters of fuel and kerosene.
Women stripped duct tape over their windows to prevent the glass
from shattering in explosions.
Travel agencies were packed all week with families desperate
to make it to Jordan or Syria before the borders are completely
sealed Saturday. Iraqi bus drivers who dropped passengers at checkpoints
along the border said they found no one waiting for rides back
into Iraq. The airport also will be closed until after the election.
The Iraqi army and police forces are better trained than they
were in 2003, when they were given a week's training and a gun.
But the security scene across Iraq is a stark reminder of how
unprepared the Iraqis are as Sunday's vote approaches:
In Mosul, violence remains uncontrolled, despite the
presence of thousands of American troops and more than 4,000 Iraqi
police and army reinforcements sent to supplement the 8,000 Iraqis
already on duty there. Brig. Gen. Carter Ham, who's in charge
of American forces there, says that the challenge in Mosul is
the lack of a "credible and capable police force."
There are 11 Iraqi army battalions in the areas controlled
by the U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division south of Mosul, each
with about 900 men and based in key cities such as Samarra, Tikrit,
Baqouba, Balad and Kirkuk. Only two or three are capable of conducting
operations much beyond roadblocks, U.S. officers say. Infiltration
remains a major problem. Soldiers from the 1st Infantry arrested
one battalion commander for allegedly collaborating with the insurgents.
More than four months after U.S. and Iraqi forces retook
Samarra from insurgents, U.S. and Iraqi units are still waiting
for the arrival of new police recruits being trained in Jordan
or Baghdad. Insurgents carry out an average of five attacks a
day there, according to Maj. Gen. John R.S. Batiste, commander
of the 1st Infantry Division.
In Baghdad, where there are seven Iraqi army battalions,
many of the soldiers wear ski masks and street clothes to hide
their identities out of fear that insurgents will kill their families.
Impromptu neighborhood-watch teams have sprung up in areas near
polling places, which are mostly schools and community centers.
In the heavily Shiite Muslim district of Kadhemiya, for example,
Nadhim Abed and two friends nervously watched passers-by through
the window of his real-estate office right across from a primary
school designated as a polling place.
"We weren't expecting this to be a polling center," said Abed,
33. "So we just got together, and we're watching the streets now,
looking for anything strange."
A lone policeman who looked no more than 18 stood guard at the
school, which was protected by a single, puny coil of razor wire.
Abed and his friends observed the "security perimeter" with resignation.
"It's all in God's hands," he said. "If it happens, we can't stop
The U.S. news media are full of discussion
and debate about this weekend's election in Iraq. Unfortunately,
virtually all the commentary misses a simple point: There will
be no "election" on Jan. 30 in Iraq, if that term is meant to
suggest an even remotely democratic process.
Many Iraqis casting votes will be understandably grateful for
the opportunity. But the conditions under which those votes will
be cast as well as the larger context bear more similarity
to a slowly unfolding hostage tragedy than an exercise in democracy.
We refer not to the hostages taken by various armed factions in
Iraq, but the way in which U.S. policymakers are holding the entire
Iraqi population hostage to U.S. designs for domination of the
This is an election that U.S. policymakers
were forced to accept and now hope can entrench their power, not
displace it. They seek not an election that will lead to a U.S.
withdrawal, but one that will bolster their ability to make a
case for staying indefinitely.
This is crucial to keep in mind as the mainstream media begins
to give us pictures of long lines at polling places to show how
much Iraqis support this election and to repeat the Bush administration
line about bringing freedom to a part of the world starved for
democracy. Those media reports also will give some space to those
critics who remain comfortably within the permissible ideological
limits that is, those who agree that the U.S. aim is freedom
for Iraq and, therefore, are allowed to quibble with a few minor
aspects of administration policy.
A painfully obvious fact, and therefore
one that is unspeakable in the mainstream, is that a real election
cannot take place under foreign occupation in which the electoral
process is managed by the occupiers who have clear preferences
in the outcome. That's why the U.S.-funded programs that
"nurture" the voting process have to be implemented "discreetly,"
in the words of a Washington Post story, to avoid giving the Iraqis
who are "well-versed in the region's widely held perception of
U.S. hegemony" further reason to mistrust the assumed benevolent
intentions of the United States.
Post reporters Karl Vick and Robin Wright quote an Iraqi-born
instructor from one of these training programs: "If you walk into
a coffee shop and say, 'Hi, I'm from an American organization
and I'm here to help you,' that's not going to help. If you say
you're here to encourage democracy, they say you're here to control
the Middle East."
Perhaps those well-versed Iraqis say that because it is an accurate
assessment of policy in the Bush administration, as well as every
other contemporary U.S. administration. They dare to suggest that
the U.S. goal is effective control over the region's oil resources.
But we in the United States are not supposed to think, let alone
say, such things; that same Post story asserts that the groups
offering political training in Iraq (the National Democratic Institute
for International Affairs, International Republican Institute,
and International Foundation for Election Systems) are "at the
ambitious heart of the American effort to make Iraq a model democracy
in the Arab world."
To fulfill that alleged ambition, U.S.
troop strength in Iraq will remain at the current level of about
120,000 for at least two more years, according to the Army's
top operations officer. For the past two years, journalists have
reported on U.S. intentions to establish
anywhere from four to 14 "enduring" military bases in Iraq. Given
that there about 890 U.S. military installations around the world
to provide the capacity to project power in service of the U.S.
political and economic agenda, it's not hard to imagine that planners
might be interested in bases in the heart of the world's most
important energy-producing region.
But in mainstream circles, such speculation relegates one to
the same category as those confused Middle Easterners. Secretary
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has dismissed as "inaccurate and unfortunate"
any suggestion that the United States seeks a permanent presence
in Iraq. In April 2003, Rumsfeld assured us that there has been
"zero discussion" among senior administration officials about
permanent bases in Iraq.
But back to reality. Whatever the long-term plans of administration
officials, the occupation of Iraq has, to put it mildly, not gone
as they had hoped. But rather than abandon their goals, they have
adapted tactics and rhetoric. Originally the United States proposed
a complex caucus system to try to avoid elections and make it
easier to control the selection of a government, but the Iraqis
refused to accept that scheme. Eventually U.S. planners had to
accept elections and now are attempting to turn the chaotic situation
on the ground to their advantage.
Ironically, the instability and violence
may boost the chances of the United States' favored candidate,
U.S.-appointed interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. While
most electoral slates are unable to campaign or even release their
candidates' names because of the risk involved, Allawi can present
himself as a symbol of strength, running an expensive television
campaign while protected by security forces. He has access
to firepower and reconstruction funds, which may prove appealing
to many ordinary Iraqis who, understandably, want the electricity
to flow and the kidnappings and violence to stop.
Of course the United States can't guarantee that Allawi will
prevail. But whoever is in the leadership slot in Iraq will understand
certain unavoidable realities of power. As The New York Times
put it, the recent announcement by Shiํa leaders that any government
it forms would not be overtly Islamic was partly in response to
Iraqi public opinion. But, as reporter Dexter Filkins reminded
readers, U.S. officials "wield vast influence" and "would be troubled
by an overtly Islamist government." And no one wants troubled
U.S. officials, even Iraqi nationalists who hate the U.S. occupation
but can look around and see who has the guns.
The realities on the ground may eventually mean that even with
all its firepower, the United States cannot impose a pro-U.S.
government in Iraq. It may have to switch strategies again. But
no matter how many times Bush speaks of his fondness for freedom
and no matter what games the planners play, we should not waver
in an honest analysis of the real motivations of policymakers.
To pretend that the United States might,
underneath it all, want true democracy in Iraq one that actually
would be free to follow the will of the people is to ignore
evidence, logic and history.
As blogger Zeynep Toufe put it, "All these
precious words have now become something akin to brand names:
'democracy,' 'freedom,' 'liberty,' 'empowerment.' They don't really
mean anything; they're just the names attached to things we do."
Right now, one of the things that U.S. policymakers do is to
allow Iraqis to cast ballots under extremely constrained conditions.
But whatever the results on Jan. 30, it will not be an election,
if by "election" we mean a process through which people have a
meaningful opportunity to select representatives who can set public
policy free of external constraint. The casting of ballots will
not create a legitimate Iraqi government. Such a government is
possible only when Iraqis have real control over their own future.
And that will come only when the United States is gone.
Women are the new victims of Islamic
groups intent on restoring a medieval barbarity
I am an Iraqi woman, and I am boycotting Sunday's elections. Women
who do vote will be voting for an enslaved future. Surely, say
those who support these elections, after decades of tyranny, here
at last is a form of democracy, imperfect, but democracy nevertheless?
In reality, these elections are, for Iraq's women, little more
than a cruel joke. Amid the suicide attacks, kidnappings and US-led
military assaults of the 20-odd months since Saddam's fall, the
little-reported phenomenon is the sharp increase in the persecution
of Iraqi women. Women are the new victims of Islamic groups intent
on restoring a medieval barbarity and of a political establishment
that cares little for women's empowerment.
Having for years enjoyed greater rights than other women in
the Middle East, women in Iraq are now losing even their basic
freedoms. The right to choose their clothes, the right to love
or marry whom they want. Of course women suffered under Saddam.
I fled his cruel regime. I personally witnessed much brutality,
but the subjugation of women was never a goal of the Baath party.
What we are seeing now is deeply worrying: a reviled occupation
and an openly reactionary Islamic armed insurrection combining
to take Iraq into a new dark age.
Every day, leaflets are distributed across the country warning
women against going out unveiled, wearing make-up, or mixing with
men. Many female university students have given up their studies
to protect themselves against the Islamists.
The new norm - enforced at the barrel of a gun by Islamic extremists
- is to see women as the repository of honour and shame, not only
on behalf of family and tribe but the nation. Ken Bigley's abductors
perversely wanted to redeem the "honour" of Iraq through obtaining
the release of female prisoners. Since when did Islamic groups
- the very people doing the hostage-taking, torturing and killing
- start caring about the rights of Iraqi women?
Take the case of Anaheed. She was suspended to a tree in the
New Baghdad area of the capital and then first shot by her father
(a solicitor no less) and then by each member of her tribe. She
was then was cut into pieces. This to clear the shame on the tribe's
honour for having wanted to marry a man she was in love with.
This happened in late 2003, months after the "liberation".
In the last six months at least eight women have been killed
in Mosul alone - all apparently by Islamic groups clamping down
on female independence. Among these, a professor from the city's
law school was shot and beheaded, a vet was killed on her way
to work, and a pharmacist from the Alkhansah hospital was shot
dead on her doorstep.
The occupation has in effect unleashed this new violence against
women, while in some cases adding its own particular variety.
Iraqi women have been tortured by US soldiers at Abu Ghraib and
other prisons. The social taboo against speaking about sexual
abuse is so strong in Iraq that these women will almost certainly
have no-one to turn to upon release.
Methal Kazem is one woman who has spoken publicly of her treatment
at the hands of the occupiers. Last February a US helicopter landed
on the roof of her house. She was hooded and handcuffed and taken
to Abu Ghraib. Accused of being a former Baathist secret policewoman,
she was made to run on sharp gravel, tied up and suspended and
made to listen to the screaming of other inmates. She heard one
man repeatedly screaming "do not touch my honour", and Methal
believes that the man's wife was being raped in front of him.
When Allied forces handed over power to the interim government
last June, they should, as Amnesty International has argued, also
have handed over prisoners. Instead they have illegally detained
over 2,000, without charge. Few of these may be women, but it
still leaves thousands of wives, mothers, sisters and other family
members in distress and despair.
I also believe that Iraqi women have been raped by American
soldiers. They dare not talk about it, however, as they face being
killed by their own families if they do. My associates in Iraq
have been counselling Liqaa, a former Iraqi female soldier, who
was raped by an American soldier in November 2003. The savage
truth is that if she returns home, male family members may murder
her for her "dishonour".
If Iraqi women take part in Sunday's poll, who are they to vote
for? Women's rights are ignored by most of the groupings on offer.
The US government appears happy to have Iraq governed by reactionary
religious and ethnocentric ้lites.
The one glimmer of hope is that courageous demonstrations against
rape and kidnapping have taken place. In September, a women's
protest fused opposition to the occupation, a demand that all
Islamic militia forces leave cities, and a call for safe streets
for women. This new women-led secular progressive movement is
against the interim government and against the violence and restriction
of political Islam. Those who support us should publicly renounce
these phoney elections and campaign for a truly free Iraq.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Five American soldiers were
killed Friday by roadside bombs and a shooting attack in Baghdad,
the U.S. military said.
Three soldiers were killed when a roadside bomb hit their patrol
at about 4:30 p.m. in western Baghdad. Another soldier was slightly
wounded in the attack, the military said.
Earlier, a bomb in a southern neighborhood killed a soldier
and wounded three others at about 2 p.m. Another soldier was shot
dead about 15 minutes later in the city's north, the military
said in a statement. It provided no further details.
All the slain soldier's were from Task Force Baghdad. Also,
an insurgent hurled a hand grenade at an American patrol in the
capital, injuring another soldier.
More than 1,414 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq since fighting
began in March 2003.
An Army helicopter crashed in southwest Baghdad
tonight and the fate of the crew was not immediately known, a
US military official said.
US military officials do not think the helicopter was hit by
hostile fire, but are still investigating, said Lt. Col. James
The OH-58 Kiowa copter usually carries a crew of three and is
unlikely to carry large numbers of passengers.
Ground units were at the scene, but the status of the crew was
still unknown, Hutton said.
Other helicopters were flying overhead in the area, in southwest
Baghdad, to provide cover for the ground search and rescue units,
The crash occurred about 7:55 pm Baghdad time, he said
This is a transcript of remarks by Seymour Hersh at the Stephen
Wise Free Synagogue in New York.
About what's going on in terms of the President is that as virtuous
as I feel, you know, at The New Yorker, writing an alternative
history more or less of what's been going on in the last three years,
George Bush feels just as virtuous in what he is doing. He is absolutely
committed -- I don't know whether he thinks he's doing God's will
or what his father didn't do, or whether it's some mandate from
-- you know, I just don't know, but George Bush thinks this is the
right thing. He is going to continue doing what he has been doing
in Iraq. He's going to expand it, I think, if he can. I think that
the number of body bags that come back will make no difference to
him. The body bags are rolling in. It makes
no difference to him, because he will see it as a price he has to
pay to put America where he thinks it should be. So, he's inured
in a very strange way to people like me, to the politicians, most
of them who are too cowardly anyway to do much. So, the day-to-day
anxiety that all of us have, and believe me, though he got 58 million
votes, many of people who voted for him weren't voting for continued
warfare, but I think that's what we're going to have.
It's hard to predict the future. And it's sort of silly to, but
the question is: How do you go to him? How do you get at him? What
can you do to maybe move him off the course that he sees as virtuous
and he sees as absolutely appropriate? All of us -- you have to
-- I can't begin to exaggerate how frightening the position is --
we're in right now, because most of you don't understand, because
the press has not done a very good job. The
Senate Intelligence Committee, the new bill that was just passed,
provoked by the 9/11 committee actually, is a little bit of a kabuki
dance, I guess is what I want to say, in that what it really does
is it consolidates an awful lot of power in the Pentagon -- by statute
now. It gives Rumsfeld the right to do an awful lot of things he
has been wanting to do, and that is basically manhunting and killing
them before they kill us, as Peter said. "They did it to us.
We've got to do it to them." That is the attitude that -- at
the very top of our government exists. And so, I'll just
tell you a couple of things that drive me nuts. We can -- you know,
there's not much more to go on with.
I think there's a way out of it, maybe. I can tell you one thing.
Let's all forget this word "insurgency". It's one of the
most misleading words of all. Insurgency assumes that we had gone
to Iraq and won the war and a group of disgruntled people began
to operate against us and we then had to do counter-action against
them. That would be an insurgency. We are fighting the people we
started the war against. We are fighting the Ba'athists plus nationalists.
We are fighting the very people that started -- they only choose
to fight in different time spans than we want them to, in different
places. We took Baghdad easily. It wasn't because be won. We took
Baghdad because they pulled back and let us take it and decided
to fight a war that had been pre-planned that they're very actively
fighting. The frightening thing about it is, we have no intelligence.
Maybe it's -- it's -- it is frightening, we have no intelligence
about what they're doing. A year-and-a-half ago, we're up against
two and three-man teams. We estimated the cells operating against
us were two and three people, that we could not penetrate. As of
now, we still don't know what's coming next. There are 10, 15-man
groups. They have terrific communications. Somebody told me, it's
-- somebody in the system, an officer -- and by the way, the good
part of it is, more and more people are available to somebody like
There's a lot of anxiety inside the -- you know, our professional
military and our intelligence people. Many of them respect the Constitution
and the Bill of Rights as much as anybody here, and individual freedom.
So, they do -- there's a tremendous sense of fear. These are punitive
people. One of the ways -- one of the things
that you could say is, the amazing thing is we are been taken over
basically by a cult, eight or nine neo-conservatives have somehow
grabbed the government. Just how and
why and how they did it so efficiently, will have to wait for much
later historians and better documentation than we have now, but
they managed to overcome the bureaucracy and the Congress, and the
press, with the greatest of ease. It does say something about how
fragile our Democracy is.
You do have to wonder what a Democracy is when it comes down to
a few men in the Pentagon and a few men in the White House having
their way. What they have done is neutralize the C.I.A. because
there were people there inside -- the real goal of what Goss has
done was not attack the operational people, but the intelligence
people. There were people -- serious senior analysts who disagree
with the White House, with Cheney, basically, that's what I mean
by White House, and Rumsfeld on a lot of issues, as somebody said,
the goal in the last month has been to separate the apostates from
the true believers. That's what's happening. The real target has
been "diminish the agency." I'm writing about all of this
soon, so I don't want to overdo it, but there's been a tremendous
sea change in the government. A concentration of power.
On the other hand, the facts -- there are some
facts. We can't win this war. We can do what he's doing. We can
bomb them into the stone ages.
Here's the other horrifying, sort of spectacular fact that we don't
really appreciate. Since we installed our puppet government, this
man, Allawi, who was a member of the Mukabarat, the secret police
of Saddam, long before he became a critic, and is basically Saddam-lite.
Before we installed him, since we have installed him on June 28,
July, August, September, October, November, every month, one thing
happened: the number of sorties, bombing raids by one plane, and
the number of tonnage dropped has grown exponentially each month.
We are systematically bombing that country.
There are no embedded journalists at Doha, the Air Force base I
think we're operating out of. No embedded journalists at the aircraft
carrier, Harry Truman. That's the aircraft carrier that I think
is doing many of the operational fights. There's no air defense,
It's simply a turkey shoot. They come and
hit what they want. We know nothing. We don't ask. We're not told.
We know nothing about the extent of bombing. So
if they're going to carry out an election and if they're going to
succeed, bombing is going to be key to it, which means that what
happened in Fallujah, essentially Iraq -- some of you remember Vietnam
-- Iraq is being turn into a "free-fire zone" right in
front of us. Hit everything, kill everything.
I have a friend in the Air Force, a Colonel, who had the awful
task of being an urban bombing planner, planning urban bombing,
to make urban bombing be as unobtrusive as possible. I think it
was three weeks ago today, three weeks ago Sunday after Fallujah
I called him at home. I'm one of the people -- I don't call people
at work. I call them at home, and he has one of those caller I.D.'s,
and he picked up the phone and he said, "Welcome to Stalingrad."
We know what we're doing. This is deliberate. It's being done. They're
not telling us. They're not talking about it.
We have a President that -- and a Secretary of State that, when
a trooper -- when a reporter or journalist asked -- actually a trooper,
a soldier, asked about lack of equipment, stumbled through an answer
and the President then gets up and says, "Yes, they should
all have good equipment and we're going to do it," as if somehow
he wasn't involved in the process. Words mean
nothing -- nothing to George Bush. They are just utterances. They
have no meaning. Bush can say again and again, "well, we don't
do torture." We know what happened. We know about Abu Ghraib.
We know, we see anecdotally. We all
understand in some profound way because so much has come out in
the last few weeks, the I.C.R.C. The ACLU put out more papers, this
is not an isolated incident what's happened with the seven kids
and the horrible photographs, Lynndie England. That's into the not
the issue is. They're fall guys. Of course, they did wrong. But
you know, when we send kids to fight, one of the things that we
do when we send our children to war is the officers become in loco
parentis. That means their job in the military is to protect these
kids, not only from getting bullets and being blown up, but also
there is nothing as stupid as a 20 or 22-year-old kid with a weapon
in a war zone. Protect them from themselves.
The spectacle of these people doing those antics night after night,
for three and a half months only stopped when one of their own soldiers
turned them in tells you all you need to know, how many officers
knew. I can just give you a timeline that will tell you all you
need to know. Abu Ghraib was reported in January of 2004 this year.
In May, I and CBS earlier also wrote an awful lot about what was
going on there. At that point, between January and May, our government
did nothing. Although Rumsfeld later acknowledged that he was briefed
by the middle of January on it and told the President. In those
three-and-a-half months before it became public, was there any systematic
effort to do anything other than to prosecute seven "bad seeds",
enlisted kids, reservists from West Virginia and the unit they were
in, by the way, Military Police. The answer is, Ha! They were basically
a bunch of kids who were taught on traffic control, sent to Iraq,
put in charge of a prison. They knew nothing. It doesn't excuse
them from doing dumb things. But there is
another framework. We're not seeing it. They've gotten away with
So here's the upside of the horrible story, if there is an upside.
I can tell you the upside in a funny way, in an indirect way. It
comes from a Washington Post piece this week. A young boy, a Marine,
25-year-old from somewhere in Maryland died. There was a funeral
in the Post, a funeral in Washington, and the Post did a little
story about it. They quoted -- his name was Hodak. His father was
quoted. He had written to a letter in the local newspaper in Southern
Virginia. He had said about his son, he wrote a letter just describing
what it was like after his son died. He said, "Today everything
seems strange. Laundry is getting done. I walked my dog. I ate breakfast.
Somehow I'm still breathing and my heart is still beating. My son
lies in a casket half a world away."
There's going to be -- you know, when I did My Lai -- I tell this
story a lot. When I did the My Lai story, more than a generation
ago, it was 35 years ago, so almost two. When I did My Lai, one
of the things that I discovered was that they had -- for some of
you, most of you remember, but basically a group of American soldiers
-- the analogy is so much like today. Then as now, our soldiers
don't see enemies in a battlefield, they just walk on mines or they
get shot by snipers, because it's always hidden. There's inevitable
anger and rage and you dehumanize the people. We have done that
with enormous success in Iraq. They're "rag-heads". They're
less than human. The casualty count -- as in Sudan, equally as bad.
Staggering numbers that we're killing.
In any case, you know, it's -- in this case, these -- a group of
soldiers in 1968 went into a village. They had been in Vietnam for
three months and lost about 10% of their people, maybe 10 or 15
to accidents, killings and bombings, and they ended up -- they thought
they would meet the enemy and there were 550 women, children and
old men and they executed them all. It took a day. They stopped
in the middle and they had lunch.
One of the kids who had done a lot of shooting. The Black and Hispanic
soldiers, about 40 of them, there were about 90 men in the unit
-- the Blacks and Hispanics shot in the air. They wouldn't shoot
into the ditch. They collected people in three ditches and just
began to shoot them. The Blacks and Hispanics shot up in the air,
but the mostly White, lower middle class, the kids who join the
Army Reserve today and National Guard looking for extra dollars,
those kind of kids did the killing. One of them was a man named
Paul Medlow, who did an awful lot of shooting.
The next day, there was a moment -- one of the things that everybody
remembered, the kids who were there, one of the mothers at the bottom
of a ditch had taken a child, a boy, about two, and got him under
her stomach in such a way that he wasn't killed. When they were
sitting having the K rations -- that's what they called them --
MRE's now -- the kid somehow crawled up through the [inaudible]
screaming louder and he began -- and Calley, the famous Lieutenant
Calley, the Lynndie England of that tragedy, told Medlow: Kill him,
"Plug him," he said. And Medlow somehow, who had done
an awful lot as I say, 200 bullets, couldn't do it so Calley ran
up as everybody watched, with his carbine. Officers had a smaller
weapon, a rifle, and shot him in the back of the head. The next
morning, Medlow stepped on a mine and he had his foot blown off.
He was being medevac'd out. As he was being medevac'd out, he cursed
and everybody remembered, one of the chilling lines, he said, "God
has punished me, and he's going to punish you, too."
So a year-and-a-half later, I'm doing this story. And I hear about
Medlow. I called his mother up. He lived in New Goshen, Indiana.
I said, "I'm coming to see you. I don't remember where I was,
I think it was Washington State. I flew over there and to get there,
you had to go to - I think Indianapolis and then to Terre Haute,
rent a car and drive down into the Southern Indiana, this little
farm. It was a scene out of Norman Rockwell's. Some of you remember
the Norman Rockwell paintings. It's a chicken farm. The mother is
50, but she looks 80. Gristled, old. Way old - hard scrabble life,
no man around. I said I'm here to see your son, and she said, okay.
He's in there. He knows you're coming.
Then she said, one of these great -- she said to me, "I gave
them a good boy. And they sent me back a murderer."
So you go on 35 years. I'm doing in The New Yorker, the
Abu Ghraib stories. I think I did three in three weeks. If some
of you know about The New Yorker, that's unbelievable.
But in the middle of all of this, I get a call from a mother in
the East coast, Northeast, working class, lower middle class, very
religious, Catholic family. She said, I have to talk to you. I go
see her. I drive somewhere, fly somewhere, and her story is simply
this. She had a daughter that was in the military police unit that
was at Abu Ghraib. And the whole unit had come back in March, of
-- The sequence is: they get there in the fall of 2003. Their reported
after doing their games in the January of 2004. In March she is
sent home. Nothing is public yet. The daughter is sent home. The
whole unit is sent home. She comes home a different person. She
had been married. She was young. She went into the Reserves, I think
it was the Army Reserves to get money, not for college or for --
you know, these -- some of these people worked as night clerks in
pizza shops in West Virginia. This not -- this is not very sophisticated.
She came back and she left her husband. She just had been married
before. She left her husband, moved out of the house, moved out
of the city, moved out to another home, another apartment in another
city and began working a different job. And moved away from everybody.
Then over -- as the spring went on, she would go every weekend,
this daughter, and every weekend she would go to a tattoo shop and
get large black tattoos put on her, over increasingly -- over her
body, the back, the arms, the legs, and her mother was frantic.
What's going on? Comes Abu Ghraib, and she reads the stories, and
she sees it. And she says to her daughter, "Were you there?"
She goes to the apartment. The daughter slams the door. The mother
then goes -- the daughter had come home -- before she had gone to
Iraq, the mother had given her a portable computer. One of the computers
that had a DVD in it, with the idea being that when she was there,
she could watch movies, you know, while she was overseas, sort of
a -- I hadn't thought about it, a great idea. Turns out a lot of
people do it. She had given her a portable computer, and when the
kid came back she had returned it, one of the things, and the mother
then said I went and looked at the computer. She knows -- she doesn't
know about depression. She doesn't know about Freud. She just said,
I was just -- I was just going to clean it up, she said. I had decided
to use it again. She wouldn't say anything more why she went to
look at it after Abu Ghraib. She opened it up, and sure enough there
was a file marked "Iraq". She hit the button. Out came
100 photographs. They were photographs that became -- one of them
was published. We published one, just one in The New Yorker. It
was about an Arab. This is something no mother should see and daughter
should see too. It was the Arab man leaning against bars, the prisoner
naked, two dogs, two shepherds, remember, on each side of him. The
New Yorker published it, a pretty large photograph. What we didn't
publish was the sequence showed the dogs did bite the man -- pretty
hard. A lot of blood. So she saw that and she called me, and away
we go. There's another story.
For me, it's just another story, but out
of this comes a core of -- you know, we all deal in "macro"
in Washington. On the macro, we're hopeless. We're nowhere. The
press is nowhere. The congress is nowhere. The military is nowhere.
Every four-star General I know is saying, "Who is going to
tell them we have no clothes?" Nobody is going to do it. Everybody
is afraid to tell Rumsfeld anything. That's just the way it is.
It's a system built on fear. It's not lack of integrity, it's more
profound than that. Because there is individual integrity. It's
a system that's completely been taken over -- by cultists.
Anyway, what's going to happen, I think, as the casualties mount
and these stories get around, and the mothers see the cost and the
fathers see the cost, as the kids come home. And
the wounded ones come back, and there's wards that you will never
hear about. That's wards -- you know about the terrible catastrophic
injuries, but you don't know about the vegetables. There's ward
after ward of vegetables because the brain injuries are so enormous.
As you maybe read last week, there was a new study in one of the
medical journals that the number of survivors are greater with catastrophic
injuries because of their better medical treatment and the better
armor they have. So you get more extreme injuries to extremities.
We're going to learn more and I think you're going to see, it's
going to -- it's -- I'm trying to be optimistic.
We're going to see a bottom swelling from inside
the ranks. You're beginning to see it. What happened with the soldiers
asking those questions, you may see more of that. I'm not suggesting
we're going to have mutinies, but I'm going to suggest you're going
to see more dissatisfaction being expressed. Maybe that will do
it. Another salvation may be the economy. It's going to go very
bad, folks. You know, if you have not sold your stocks and bought
property in Italy, you better do it quick. And the third thing is
Europe -- Europe is not going to tolerate us much longer. The rage
there is enormous. I'm talking about our old-fashioned allies. We
could see something there, collective action against us. Certainly,
nobody -- it's going to be an awful lot of dancing on our graves
as the dollar goes bad and everybody stops buying our bonds, our
credit -- our -- we're spending $2 billion a day to float the debt,
and one of these days, the Japanese and the Russians, everybody
is going to start buying oil in Euros instead of dollars. We're
going to see enormous panic here. But he could get through that.
That will be another year, and the damage he's going to do between
then and now is enormous. We're going to have some very bad months
| The machinery of state decision-making
is rarely exposed to public scrutiny. The cover of representative
government is a scrupulously maintained fiction concealing the nuts-and-bolts
of real statecraft. Normally, politicians and their accomplices in
the media can keep the illusion of representative government intact;
avoiding the embarrassing implication that the current order is really
upheld by the decision-making of elites. It's only when a major rift
appears between the members of the ruling class that we have the opportunity
to marvel at the moving parts of the imperial apparatus.
The deteriorating situation in Iraq has precipitated this very
scenario. The rift we allude to, has, in fact, developed into a
yawning chasm; pitting one faction of conservative elder statesmen
against their antecedents in the Bush administration. This battle
of the giants can be expected to grow exponentially as the principle
characters clash over the future of the Iraq occupation.
On the one hand, we have perhaps the most widely respected (conservative)
policy experts alive today, advising the administration to withdraw
from Iraq. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft and James Baker
have joined the ranks of anti-war Leftists in calling for an immediate
withdrawal of all American troops. They have noted the failed attempts
by the Bush administration to establish even minimal security or
to achieve the overall objectives of the invasion. With Iraq tilting
precipitously towards civil war, and with America's prestige irreparably
damaged, their protestations should be regarded as an appeal for
a return to political sanity.
Clearly these staunch supporters of American supremacy would never
accept such a humbling defeat if there was even the remotest possibility
of success. This gives us some idea of the extent to which the media
has been concealing the crucial details of the disaster in Iraq
from the public. Even those who are most likely to benefit the most
from regional domination are jumping-off the sinking ship-of-state.
The significance of this rebellion among conservative members of
the ruling establishment can,t be overstated. The war in Iraq didn,t
evolve from a viable threat to national security, but from consensus
among elites that America's future depended on projecting power
into the Middle East. This is apparent in everything from the manipulation
of interest rates to accommodate aggression, to the fabricated threats
promoted by the corporate media, to the signatures of the 60 oil
giants (reported by Secretary of Treasury, Paul O, Neil) on Cheney's
Energy papers. (which divided up Iraqi oil fields months before
Democracy: for elites, that is.
One of the illusions of American-style democracy is the notion
that policy is driven by the will of the people. Nothing could be
further from the truth. In fact, the entire corporate system of
delivering information ("the media") is predicated on
the idea of selectively creating a message that is compatible with
the aims of elites. The interests of the public are never seriously
entered into the policy-making equation, except in terms of how
their approval can be obtained through the normal channels of calculated
Policy is shaped by elites, for elites. It only changes when particular
policies lose favor among the men who are ensconced at the foot
of power. That's what makes the Baker-Scowcroft-Brzezinski insurgency
worth noting; they point to the growing number of policy-wonks,
corporate big-wigs and political powerbrokers who no longer support
the Iraq occupation. Their position of influence and respect among
their colleagues would seem to make them the last best hope for
James Baker who was instrumental in waging the legal battle that
put G W Bush in the White House, has said that continued American
presence in Iraq threatens to "undermine domestic support"
and perpetuate the belief in the region that Iraq is part of Washington's
Baker, a devoted Bush loyalist, has no problem with the morality
of the occupation, only with its efficacy. For him to suggest withdrawal
is a clear indication that the mission is unsalvageable.
Brent Scowcroft implicitly supports Baker's analysis. Scowcroft,
who is former National Security Advisor, served in both the H.W.
Bush and Gerald Ford administrations and has solid record of commitment
to conservative issues. Ideologically he is cut from the same cloth
as Bush, although the extremism of the neocons has created a significant
divide between old guard Republicans like Scowcroft and the new
At a recent meeting of the New America Foundation, Scowcroft gave
a bitter critique of the Iraq conflict warning that the "war
of choice" was jeopardizing long-held alliances and endangering
America's stature in the world.
He said that the upcoming elections "won,t be a promising
transformation, and has the potential for deepening the conflict;
we may be seeing incipient civil war at this time."
Scowcroft emphasized his deep misgivings about war by suggesting
that we should consider "whether we get out now" before
more damage is done to American credibility and prestige.
(Scowcroft also provided a withering summary of the Afghanistan
debacle, the likes of which have only previously appeared on Left-wing
web sites. He said, "We did not go into Afghanistan because
it was Afghanistan, we went in because it was the headquarters for
Al Qaeda and the Taliban was supporting Al Qaeda. And we have pretty
well cleaned out the Taliban and Al Qaeda from Afghanistan. Now
Afghanistan stands as it was when the Soviet Union left"A FAILED
STATE. And, one election a democracy does not make.
We,ve been really lucky about Karzai, he turned out to be pretty
good, and rather lucky for us -- but he is still more the MAYOR
OF KABUL than he is the president of Afghanistan. The warlords are
not only alive and well, they are thriving and running much of that
They probably have at their disposal more resources than they ever
had before because Afghanistan is TURNING INTO A NARCO-STATE. We
have precious little experience in dealing with failed states and
putting them together we have to prevent it from receding back to
the condition it was in 94 when we gave up on it before and have
it become a haven for terrorism."
"Narco-state"? "Mayor of Kabul"? "Failed
state" run by "warlords"? These are the very same
observations made by critics of the Afghanistan war for more than
three years. It is extraordinary to see that these SAME VIEWS ARE
SHARED BY REPUBLICAN INSIDERS behind closed doors. Although, the
media still characterizes Afghanistan as a Bush success, it's refreshing
to know that serious analysts are not similarly in denial. Afghanistan
has been a dismal failure; Scowcroft's comments only reinforce that
Zbigniew Brzezinski has provided an even more scathing appraisal
of the Iraq war. Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor for
Jimmie Carter, is widely regarded as one of the foremost authorities
on international affairs and foreign policy. Apart from being the
architect of America's clandestine war in Afghanistan in the 1980's
(through the funding and arming of Islamic militants) he's a master
of American Realpolitik and a Machiavellian-type strategist. His
book "The Grand Chessboard" provides the basic blueprint
for American global domination through projection of force into
Eurasia and consolidating control over Middle East oil in the Caspian
Basin. The current imperial strategy being carried out by the Bush
White House is mainly Brzezinski's invention.
Brzezinski's criticism was succinct and blistering: "A great
deal of what is happening thus far in American Foreign Policy has
been influenced by the ongoing conflict in Iraq. that war which
was a war of choice is already a serious moral set back to the United
States. A moral set-back both in how we start, how it was justified,
and because of some of the egregious incidents that have accompanied
this proceeding. The moral costs to the United States are high.
It's a political setback.
The United States has never been involved in an intervention in
its entire history like it is today. It is also a military set back.
"Mission Accomplished" are words that many in this administration
want to forget.
While our ultimate objectives are very ambitious we will never
achieve democracy and stability without being willing to commit
500,000 troops, spend $200 billion a year, probably have a draft,
and have some form of war compensation.
As a society, we are not prepared to do thatThere comes a point
in the life of a nation when such sacrifices are not justified .
. .and only time will tell if the United States is facing a moment
of wisdom, or is resigned to cultural decay."
Brzezinski's is not a man given to rhetorical flights of fancy.
He's known for his bare-knuckle, "take-no-prisoners" Kissinger-style
approach to foreign policy. His denunciation of the war in Iraq
as a "moral setback" or, more significantly, as a sign
of "MORAL DECAY" will be construed by many political realists
as a sign that we cannot succeed in our stated goals.
Brzezinski's assessment of war extends far beyond the battlefield
to its devastating affect on America's "international legitimacy".
As a sign of how despised the Bush crusade has been around the world,
Brzezinski cites a poll taken earlier in the year that shows a vast
number of interviewees were disappointed "that more Americans
were not killed" in the invasion. Brzezinski opines, "That
is some measure of the depth of the animus to our policies."
As for Brzezinki's estimate of what it will take to succeed in
Iraq ("500,000 troops, $200 billion a year, and a draft")
it is an astute approximation that is entirely consistent with the
conclusions of many in the Defense establishment, including General
Shinseki who was removed from duty for making similar calculations.
The broader issue, however, is summarized by the comments of James
Dobbins from the conservative Rand Corporation when he admitted,
"THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM IS TO REALIZE THAT WE CAN,T WIN"
Dobbins remarks are underscored by Iraq's Intelligence Chief, General
Mohammed Shahwani concession that the, "US was facing 40,000
hard-core fighters" and a support group of as "many as
150,000 to 200,000".
Predictably, the story was buried in the western press, but the
implications are clear. The Pentagon has been lying to the American
people about the size and strength of the insurgency, (previous
estimates were between 5,000 to 20,000 total) and the likelihood
of winning the conflict is slim to none.
America's right-wing elite fully grasp the meaning of these numbers.
That's why retired General Gary Luck was sent to Iraq to provide
a comprehensive assessment of the current reality on the ground.
Secretary Rumsfeld knows full-well that Luck will return home with
a detailed analysis of a deteriorating security situation and a
well rehearsed appeal for more ground troops. Whether or not Luck's
report will be the basis for reinstating the draft is uncertain,
but it will signal the steady escalation of men and resources devoted
to America's latest quagmire.
The growing chasm between American elites will have no measurable
affect on the embattled White House. Already, the administration
has announced its intention to keep at least 120,000 troops deployed
in Iraq for at least the next three years. This is a clear message
to the nay-sayers that their advice has been duly rejected. As Donald
Rumsfeld said just recently, "They,ll be no second guessing".
The grand-plan to occupy Iraq will continue and the voices of reason
will be silenced.
By marginalizing Baker, Scowcroft and Brzezinski the administration
is severing relations with their ideological forebears. The project
in Iraq is now cut-off from the reasoned analysis of conservative
policy experts and is supported only by the hard-right ideology
of political extremists. As the ground is increasingly cut away
from more and more of the people who might provide some rational
relief to the bloodletting; the project becomes more infused with
the incendiary rhetoric of religiosity and nationalism. The crusade
in Iraq is now propped up by nothing more than the flimsy stanchions
of hubris and delusion; the foundation blocks of catastrophe.
The funding of the Russian special
services in 2005 will grow by 25 percent, the RIA Novosti agency
quoted Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov as saying on Friday.
The prime minister made this announcement at the board session
of the Federal Security Service, the FSB. Fradkov also said that
the FSB’s funding had also been increased last year.
“The government is doing its best to ensure the FSB has the
necessary funds and equipment, and in the border areas the financing
is being carried out ahead of schedule,” Fradkov said.
“The country’s leadership is taking measures to ensure
the functioning of the FSB so that citizens can expect to be protected,”
PARIS - Suspected Islamists arrested by secret
service agents in Paris this week were plotting terrorist attacks
on French and foreign targets in the country, the Paris public prosecutor's
office said on Friday. Anti-terrorism magistrates are to prosecute
three of the 11 people detained in a series of swoops in a northern
district of the French capital on Monday and Tuesday, the prosecutor's
office said in a statement.
The others have been released or will be shortly.
"This network is suspected of drawing up plans for attacks
in France against French and foreign interests," said the prosecutor's
office in a statement. It did not elaborate.
The prosecutor's office confirmed two people had been charged with
association with criminals engaged in a terrorist enterprise. They
were to be remanded in custody later on Friday.
A third was to be questioned on Saturday by the anti-terrorism
judges leading the investigation, Jean-Louis Bruguiere and Jean-Francois
Intelligence services believe the trio were part of an "Iraq
network" recruiting guerrillas to fight U.S.-led forces. Officials
said the network had now been dismantled.
Anti-terrorism experts fear Iraq, like Afghanistan in the 1980s,
will attract Islamic militants bent on resorting to political violence
once they return home.
Roland Jacquard, head of the International Terrorism Observatory
in Paris, said earlier this month al Qaeda was training agents,
including Western nationals, in Iraq and sending them home to form
networks or sleeper cells.
France launched a formal probe into Iraq recruitment
networks after three of its nationals died in fighting or suicide
operations against U.S.-led forces.
All three came from the Paris district raided in this week's operation,
Le Parisien newspaper reported on Wednesday.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Two computer disks that
supposedly disappeared last summer, prompting a virtual shutdown
of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, in fact never existed, according
to report released Friday.
In a harshly worded review that described severe security weaknesses
at the nuclear lab, the U.S. Energy Department
concluded that bar codes were recorded for the disks but the disks
themselves were never created. A separate FBI investigation
supported that finding, according to the report.
"The weaknesses revealed by this incident are severe and must
be corrected," according to the report.
As punishment for the problems, the Energy Department slashed by
two-thirds the management fee it paid to the University of California
for running the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Out of a possible
$8.7 million, UC will get only $2.9 million; it is the largest fee
reduction ever imposed on a national laboratory.
"Although multiple investigations have confirmed that the
'missing' disks never existed, the major weakness in controlling
classified material revealed by this incident are absolutely unacceptable
and the University of California must be held accountable for them,"
National Nuclear Security Agency Administrator Linton Brooks said
in a statement.
The NNSA is a branch of the Energy Department that oversees the
nation's nuclear labs.
UC officials on Friday accepted responsibility for the problems
but pointed to the months of work they and lab officials have done
reviewing Los Alamos' safety and security procedures since the initial
"We got walloped. Unfortunately, we deserve this," UC
spokesman Chris Harrington said. "But what we have done is
correct the problems and put the right system in place so that we
don't have to take this type of hit again."
In the wake of the supposed disk disappearance and a laser accident
involving an intern, four Los Alamos workers were fired and one
resigned. The problems also drew criticism from Congress and senior
officials at the Energy Department.
About 12,000 workers were idled during the July shutdown.
A security breach at the Los Alamos National
Laboratory in New Mexico last week is another setback for the University
of California's management of the nuclear weapons facility. The
identity of the culprits is still not known. But we do know that
the public relations damage to the university will likely decrease
its chances of retaining control of the lab, while increasing the
odds for the University of Texas and several companies announcing
this week their intent to bid on the lab's management contract.
On July 9 Los Alamos lab officials reported that two computer disks
containing classified nuclear research information were missing.
It is the third incident of missing classified data at the nuclear
weapons lab in the last year. The loss of
classified information came days before a July 12 Department of
Energy deadline for competitors to express interest in bidding on
Los Alamos' management contract, set to expire in September 2005.
The Department of Energy decided last year to open competition
on the lab contract, in part because of poor management and security
mishaps under University of California's leadership, which has managed
the lab since 1943. This summer the DOE's National Nuclear Security
Administration will be issuing a Request for Proposals.
In addition to the University
of California and the University of Texas, expected bidders include
Lockheed Martin and Battelle Memorial Institute.
Given the timing of this latest incident, it makes one wonder if
the individual or individuals behind the missing computer disks
intentionally wanted to cast negative light on the University of
California at the onset of the bidding process on the lab's management
contract. We can only guess about the motives, but whether the computer
disks were taken for personal gain or as an act of malice toward
the university, the incident adds to UC's growing list of security
problems at Los Alamos and will likely be a contributing factor
when the DOE decides early next year on a new lab manager.
The University of California not retaining the Los Alamos contract
might at first appear to be its loss. But the university has experienced
a lot of grief in the past few years, with scrutiny from Congress
and federal agencies, and lawsuits from citizens groups and lab
employees. Elements within the University of California System might
now think that managing the Los Alamos National Laboratory is more
trouble than it is worth.
If the University of California leaves Los
Alamos it could take with it parts of the paper trail that has accumulated
over the past 61 years. Some of those records tell an unpleasant
history of environmental contamination and callous disregard for
worker safety. It would be in the university's best interest
to remove those documents from the lab.
A concern among some scientists and lab administrators could be
that their research at Los Alamos would become the property of,
or credited to, others if the lab management changes hands.
Some employees at Los Alamos are eager for change. They view UC
as an absentee landlord that doesn't treat workers fairly. A new
manager won't necessarily solve the lab's problems, but some workers
are ready to see UC leave.
Others to benefit if UC is ousted are some companies that currently
subcontract at Los Alamos. One subcontractor, BWXT, has been in
discussion with the University of Texas to form partnership to management
the lab. Clearly BWXT would be better off as a partner rather than
a subcontractor for UC.
Another beneficiary of a new lab manager would
be the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons program itself. During
a transition period of new management, it might be more difficult
for outside oversight and scrutiny, more difficult for opponents
of new nuclear weapons development to access information about those
Regardless of the intent behind the missing computer disks, security
breaches under the University of California's leadership like the
incident last week will be perceived as the fault of the university.
These breaches will embolden those who want the University of California
to lose its management contract and will encourage institutions
like the University of Texas and others who are vying to run the
Los Alamos National Laboratory. This is unfortunate
for those of us in Texas who do not want our flagship university
involved with nuclear weapons development.
One of the nation's largest universities
is on the verge of pulling out of the contest to operate Los Alamos
National Laboratory, and a government watchdog group is concerned
about a lack of serious competition for the contract.
Chancellor Mark Yudof of the University of Texas
system announced Friday that he would recommend to its Board of
Regents that the organization not continue with its bid for the
Los Alamos contract.
Late last year, the National Nuclear Security Administration launched
the formal process to find a contractor for the facility, which
is responsible for developing some of the nation's most advanced
technology and nuclear weaponry. The University of California has
operated Los Alamos for more than 61 years - without competition
- but the facility recently has been plagued with security lapses
and poor management. The University of California is seeking to
retain the contract.
Officials at the Project on Government Oversight said Friday that
the withdrawal of the University of Texas would hurt the bidding
process. In August 2004, defense contractor Lockheed Martin dropped
out of the contest to run the lab. According to reports, the company
had been considering a joint bid with the University of California,
but the cost of pursuing the contract was prohibitive.
"It is not a good news story for competition, that's for sure,"
said Pete Stockton, a Los Alamos observer from POGO. "Texas
appeared to be one of the serious ones."
The National Nuclear Security Administration did not return calls
for comment on the recommendation from Yudof.
Stockton theorized that some potential competitors are being scared
off by the existing problems at Los Alamos. Officials there have
been sharply criticized over missing computers and disks, purchase
card abuse by employees and bungled efforts to investigate fraud.
The University of Texas has not officially pulled out of the competition.
The Board of Regents is scheduled to meet on Feb. 9 and 10 and will
consider Yudof's recommendation. The board approved planning for
the bid in February 2004. Stockton said POGO is not supporting any
particular bidder but is interested in a lively challenge.
"We would like to see competition..." Stockton said.
"But we don't have a dog in this fight."
OAKLAND -- U.S. energy officials said they
are looking for ways to make managing Los Alamos National Laboratory
more attractive to potential bidders after a second would-be operator
appeared unlikely to compete for the job now held by the University
University of Texas Chancellor Mark Yudof announced Friday that
he would recommend the school's Board of Regents vote against a
Los Alamos bid next month.
The university system is the second major potential bidder to decide
against trying to take over the troubled nuclear-weapons lab in
In August, defense giant Lockheed Martin, which already manages
Sandia National Laboratories, said it had decided not to bid on
Los Alamos because it would cost too much.
The announcement from Texas has raised concern in Congress and
the Department of Energy that few corporations or educational institutions
will end up submitting bids.
Some competitors are wary about taking on the
lab because they don't want to become a target of criticism like
the University of California did.
TAMPA, Fla. - Lawyers suing the makers of
Accutane over allegations the acne drug increases the risk of suicide
cannot share the company's internal memos and other documents with
the public or federal regulators, a judge ruled Friday.
The attorneys had sought to make public as many as 1 million documents
produced by Hoffman-La Roche Inc., saying the disclosure was needed
as Accutane's safety comes under increased scrutiny by the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration.
U.S. District Judge James Moody rejected the request, saying attorneys
could ask the court to open up records if they discover a matter
of public safety as they prepare their cases. But in a victory for
the plaintiffs, he said the drug maker cannot redact documents before
handing them over to the attorneys.
Moody, based in Tampa, is presiding over the management of dozens
of lawsuits filed nationwide over Accutane, used by about 5 million
The drug, which has been dispensed in the United
States since 1982, has been blamed for increased rates of suicide
and gastrointestinal diseases in some users and birth defects in
babies born to mothers who took Accutane.
Hoffman-La Roche contends the drug is safe, although it recommends
that users be screened for depression. The company notes that teenagers
and young adults, the groups most likely to use the drug, have higher
suicide rates than the general population.
The documents at issue include internal company
discussions about the safety of the drug and how to handle allegations
of an increased suicide risk.
Hoffman-La Roche attorney Ed Moss said the company fought the release
of the documents mostly out of concern for protecting Accutane's
"recipe," and that federal officials already have internal
documents relating to the drug's safety.
"We are not trying to hide documents
from the public," Moss said. "We have given everything
in the world to the FDA." [...]
VANCOUVER A Vancouver man has won an out-of-court
settlement from the RCMP after an incident in which he says he
was illegally searched.
David Laing says police overstepped the law when they stopped
his car, decided he was driving under the influence of marijuana,
and searched his vehicle and two-year-old son.
Under Canadian law, that kind of search is illegal.
What upset the Laing even more is that some
the officers he tangled with were actually American police officers.
Last spring, Laing was driving on a highway near Hope. He turned
a corner and a man in an orange traffic vest in the middle of
the road motioned him to pull over. In a heavy Texas accent, the
man asked for Laing's identification.
Laing asked if the man was an American. The man answered that
he was, and that he was performing a B.C. road check.
"I said, are you a police officer? Who are you to be detaining
The man was a Texas state trooper. The RCMP brought the Texans
up to help them learn how to identify drug traffickers.
Laing refused to let the officers search his car. He knew that
under Canadian law, police officers don't have the right to preform
that kind of search.
Laing is a Vancouver cop.
Less than a minute after Laing drove away, another Texas trooper
paired with an RCMP officer pulled him over.
This time Laing was told he was under the influence of marijuana.
Laing's lawyer, Marilyn Sandford, says it was all preposterous.
Laing agreed to the search, but was told he couldn't take his
son from the vehicle. He was horrified
as he watched the Mountie search his two-year-old.
The police found no drugs, and despite saying he was impaired
just moments earlier, let him go.
RCMP spokesperson Const. John Ward says the Texas troopers profiling
program provides great help to the Mounties.
"The Americans do a lot
of this and have been doing it for quite some time. So
there's a lot of opportunity on both sides of the border to become
Laing and his lawyer disagree. They say that when it comes to
narcotics, American attitudes and Canadian laws are quite different.
"We have different freedoms than they have," Laing says. "You
don't want to mesh too much. You don't want your police meshing
to the point where we start taking on other police jurisidiction's
The RCMP settled with Laing out of court when he threatened
to sue for unlawful detention. But the Mounties defend the search,
saying Laing was suspicious because his eyelashes were fluttering
and his eyes were flashing.
Murray Mollard of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association says
police shouldn't be depending on clues like that. He says that
it's not a scientifically reliable method.
The RCMP also says Laing was evasive when asked about his job.
Laing says he didn't want to tell them he's a Vancouver cop.
"To me it's irrelevant," he says. "I'm a father with his son
going to look at property. I'm not in the course of duty I don't
deserve privileges of any type."
Mollard says Laing's case presents a series
of concerns from using unreliable profiling techniques to a
wrongful vehicle search, not to mention using an American police
officer to pull over Canadians.
He says his association will be writing the RCMP to complain
about the profiling techniques and remind them of the rights Canadians
have under the law.
DENTON -- Hand grenades and other explosive
devices, including napalm and Claymore mines, were confiscated
early Thursday morning from the home of a 51-year-old hospital
Vernon Todd had been arrested Wednesday evening, accused of
shooting a construction worker who was in a portable toilet across
the street, police said. Todd remained in custody Thursday night
in lieu of $200,000 bail.
About two dozen officers and federal investigators dragged boxes
and bags of explosives and other items from his home until about
3:30 a.m., neighbors and police said.
"It could have been a bad situation. I'm glad that it did not
end up in a standoff-type situation," said Jim Bryan, Denton police
spokesman. "With what he had in the house, a lot of people could
have been hurt."
Investigators found eight hand grenades,
several types of explosive materials and powders, blasting cords,
napalm, Claymore explosive devices, a sword and silencers for
pistols and rifles, police said. An undisclosed amount
of drugs and drug paraphernalia also were found in the house,
"We're still sorting this whole thing out," Bryan said. "We're
trying to figure out where he got it and what he intended to do
Grenades found in the checked luggage of
a soldier returning from Iraq briefly disrupted operations in
a section of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Thursday
The soldier had arrived on a military chartered flight to Atlanta
about 5:15 p.m. and was having his bags examined at the international
A screening device alerted officials to the presence of an explosive,
said Yolanda Clark, a spokeswoman for the federal Transportation
The TSA screener opened the bag and initially found one grenade,
Clark said. The second was discovered soon afterward.
The soldier apparently had tried to inform TSA officials about
the explosives, said Lanii Thomas, spokeswoman for the airport.
"Troops who come through are routinely asked to remove all their
weapons but from time to time, some of them forget," Thomas said.
"This happened to be one of those times."
Arriving passengers on three international flights were kept
from deplaning while officials looked into the matter.
About 200 passengers were in the receiving area of the terminal,
known as Concourse E, at the time, officials said.
"We didn't evacuate anybody," Thomas said. "We just moved people
a safe distance away from the area."
Operations in other parts of the airport continued as normal.
A bomb squad removed the bag and the soldier
was to be questioned by military officials and the FBI.
Arriving international passengers were allowed to leave their
planes about 40 minutes later.
Four cats were garrotted and dumped outside
a Queensland charity shop in a sack in the latest shocking case
of animal cruelty, the RSPCA said today.
A fifth cat was so badly mutilated it had to be euthanased,
RSPCA regional inspector Shayne Towers-Hammond said.
The incident in the central Queensland city of Rockhampton was
the latest in an Australia-wide spate of cat cruelty cases under
investigation by animal welfare inspectors and the police.
Mr Towers-Hammond said a passerby, who was not a suspect, found
the sack outside the St Vincent De Paul shop in Gladstone Road
at Rockhampton at 11pm (AEST) last night.
"There were four dead cats and actually one live one," he said.
Two of the dead cats had their throats cut from ear to ear and
one had its tail crushed.
All had rope marks consistent with strangulation with rope or
Mr Towers-Hammond said the four animals had just recently been
killed but a fifth was still alive.
"This particular little female kitten had its rib cage broken
and its claws were actually cut down to the quick and they were
bleeding, so I had to put that animal down straight away on humane
Mr Towers-Hammond said the RSPCA and the police were appealing
for information from the public about the cruelty case.
He also said pet owners should contact the RSPCA if their cat
Three similar cat cruelty cases have been reported in NSW recently,
and one in Victoria.
RSPCA Queensland spokesman Michael Beatty said there
was a proven association between people who abused animals in
their youth and went on to become violent towards humans as adults.
"It's really important they (police) find the people who did
this because of all these links between animal cruelty and serious
violence to humans down the track," Mr Beatty said.
Police and school officials are investigating
reports that a substitute teacher at an elementary school on the
South Side taped shut the eyes and mouths of 2nd graders earlier
Students told the principal at Esmond Elementary School, 1865
W. Montvale Ave., that the substitute verbally abused at least
10 children and then covered their eyes and mouths with tape early
Tuesday afternoon. [...]
As the news continued to spread around the school Thursday,
Becky Jenkins, who has a child at the school, asked, "What is
wrong with that lady?" She called the alleged behavior "medieval"
and said "that is totally unacceptable."
Students traded different stories of what the substitute teacher
allegedly did. Several said she told the students to "shut up"
and then she taped some of the eyes and mouths of the students.
Some students got worse treatment than others, several students
said. One child had his mouth taped four times, they said. [...]
MADRID, Spain (AP) - A spectacular fireball
meteor was seen falling in the neighbourhood of two Madrid airports,
emergency services said today.
We had three calls and are aware of other calls reporting a
huge fireball before midnight, said Luis Serrano of the emergency
telephone service in Madrid.
Spanish press agency EFE also received calls reporting the falling
object which was seen descending nearly vertically near the airports.
Barajas International Airport that services the Spanish capital
is about 4.3 miles from Torrejon military air base.
An enormous, incandescent and very red ball gave a tremendous
flash and then went out in a few seconds, witness Jose Antonio
Lopez told EFE. He said he believed it was a meteor by the way
it fell and the brevity of the objects flash.
Officers at Torrejon, which was once a United States air base,
would not comment. Barajas Airport press department also had nothing
YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK. - Underground tremors
measuring two points on the Richter scale were felt in Yuzhno-Kurilsk
on Kunashir island, in the Russian Far East Friday morning.
The seismological station in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk informed Interfax
that an earthquake with a magnitude of 3.6 points was registered
at 05:51 a.m. with an epicenter 430 kilometers southeast of the
The quake did not cause any loss of life, destruction or tsunami.
|(New Zealand) - A small earthquake felt by Kapiti
residents yesterday is no cause for alarm, Institute of Geological
and Nuclear Sciences duty seismologist Peter McGinty says.
The quake, measuring 3.7 on the Richter scale, was centred about
30 kilometres offshore from Paraparaumu at a depth of 50km and
was felt on the Kapiti Coast about 9.11am.
It follows a flurry of tremors throughout the Wellington region
during the past two weeks. Last Friday's magnitude 5.5 earthquake
was followed by quakes on Saturday and Sunday, registering 4.2
and 3.6 on the Richter scale respectively. No other significant
tremors had been recorded this week till the Kapiti one.
"That (Kapiti) one was not unusual. It's part of background
seismic activity. I am no more concerned than I was before the
5.5 quake last week," Mr McGinty said. "That's not to say that
something couldn't happen in the near future. We just don't know."
After an earthquake there was a one in 20 chance of another
one the same size or bigger happening within a few days, Victoria
University associate geophysics professor Martha Savage said.
But the chance of it recording a whole magnitude higher on the
Richter scale was only one in 100.
"It's always a good wake-up call to check all your preparations
for an earthquake are up to date . . . We know there will be (a
big) one at some time. We don't know if it will be preceded by
Athens, - Earthquake measuring 4.8 on the
Richter scale was recorded at 2:18 am today and its epicenter
was located 50 kilometers west of the island of Gavdos, south
of the Aegean island of Crete.
The local residents were alarmed by the tremor and spent the
night outside their homes while the earthquake was also felt in
Seismologists maintain that there is no course for concern characterizing
the earthquake as weak. No damages were reported to police.
ST. JOHN'S Many schools on
the Avalon Peninsula and in eastern and cental Newfoundland are
closed Friday morning because of bad weather.
Heavy rain overnight is causing flooding in the St. John's area,
with the fire department being called to rescue some drivers whose
cars stalled in pools of water. Much of the island was pelted
Thursday afternoon and night with snow, with as much as 45 centimetres
of snow expected in central areas.
On the Avalon Peninsula, snow changed to rain Thursday evening,
with Environment Canada reporting 41 millimetres overnight, on
top of 25 centimetres of snow.
In the Gander area, more than 40 centimetres fell in a 24-hour
period. That brings to more than 140 centimetres the snow fall
Four storms have blown through the province in six days, causing
a cascade of school, office and road closures
Hundreds of motorists were stranded by heavy
snow and ice on a motorway in southern Italy overnight forcing
local authorities to call in the army to remove snowbound vehicles
and take their occupants to safety, police said Friday.
Local authorities faced a barrage of criticism from many motorists
who spent two days and nights in their vehicles on the snowbound
A3 autostrada between Salerno and Reggio Calabria without receiving
Some 200 soldiers were drafted in to dig stranded vehicles out
from thick snow and take their occupants to safety along a 160-kilometre
(100-mile) section of the motorway.
Many had spent two days and nights trapped without food and
water. Hospitals in the region were treating 11 people for exposure,
Italian media reports said.
Local hotels and schools in the Vallo Di Diano area of Campania
have been turned into reception centres for stranded drivers,
and local authorities provided blankets, hot meals and bottles
of water for motorists recovering from their ordeal.
But many others said they had been ignored by the thinly spread
"We spent 48 hours on the Salerno-Reggio Calabria motorway without
anyone, and I mean anyone, offering us the slightest help. We
spent two night in the cold, in the car, eating what we had with
us and drinking snow," said Luigi Ruggiero, deputy mayor of the
small town of Ciro Marina.
He and his driver had been stranded on the A3 autostrada from
10:00 am (0900 GMT) on Wednesday until 7:00 am Friday.
"In 48 hours we got no help, not from the traffic police, the
civil protection, the fire services, nobody."
As the cold snap continued, two early morning regional flights
from Naples airport were cancelled due to ice on the wings of
Around 150 articulated trucks remained blocked on a national
roadway beteween the southern regions of Basilicata and Campania
early Friday, police said.
With tiny flecks of frozen rain gathering
on overcoats, the season's first ice storm crept into metro Atlanta
Forecasters predict the worst is to come.
Overnight, the light sleet is expected to develop into a full-blown
winter storm that could glaze roads in sheets of ice and down
power lines. Rain moving up from the Gulf of Mexico colliding
with cold air from the Arctic is expected to produce freezing
rains beginning Friday evening and lasting through Saturday.
The mercury has dropped steadily today at Hartsfield-Jackson
International Airport, falling from the low 40s just after midnight
to 33 by 9 a.m. Overnight lows are predicted in the high 20s.
Temperatures are already below freezing in Lawrenceville and
Gainesville as cold air sweeps in from the northeast.
Friday evening and Saturday events were being canceled around
the metro area as people prepared for the worse, while others
decided to wait and see. [...]
| The coming weeks could bring the
most severe thinning of the ozone layer over northern Europe since
The conditions are being driven by unusual weather in the high
atmosphere above the Arctic, says the European Ozone Research Coordinating
The stratosphere, where the ozone layer lies, has seen its coldest
winter for 50 years; there have also been an unusually large number
These factors hasten the rate at which man-made chemicals destroy
"The meteorological conditions we are now witnessing resemble
and even surpass the conditions of the 1999-2000 winter, when the
worst ozone loss to date was observed," said Dr Neil Harris,
from the Cambridge University-based unit.
Ozone is a molecule that is composed of three oxygen atoms. It
is responsible for filtering out harmful ultra-violet radiation
(less than 290 nanometres) from the Sun.
The molecule is constantly being made and destroyed in the stratosphere,
which exists from about 10km to 40km above the Earth.
In an unpolluted atmosphere, this cycle of production and decomposition
is in equilibrium.
But a number of human-produced chemicals, such as the chlorofluorocarbons
(CFCs) used as refrigerants, in aerosol sprays, as solvents and
in foam-blowing agents, have risen into the stratosphere where they
are broken down by the Sun's rays.
Chlorine atoms released from these chemicals then act as catalysts
to decompose ozone.
At the moment, the area where the ozone layer is particularly thin
is constrained by winds, which to some extent isolate the Arctic
from the rest of the global climate system.
Scientists say this natural barrier will break down in the coming
weeks, and the low ozone area will spread southwards over northern
Europe, including the UK.
This will mean more of the Sun's ultra-violet rays reaching ground
level, potentially increasing the risk of skin cancer.
The incidence of malignant melanoma, the worst kind of skin cancer,
is rising; but to what extent that has been caused by decades of
ozone depletion is far from clear.
"We will watch the development closely from day to day, and
will inform the public and our authorities if the situation becomes
worrying," said Dr Harris
The use of ozone-depleting chemicals is now restricted by an international
treaty, the Montreal Protocol; but it may be half a century before
levels of these chemicals have fallen sufficiently in the atmosphere
to allow the northern ozone layer to be fully repaired.
| BRUSSELS - European scientists have
found mad cow disease in a French goat – the first naturally
occurring case known to hit an animal other than cattle.
The finding immediately raised fears that bovine spongiform encephalopathy
– which can cause variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in people
– has crossed to other species eaten by humans. [...]
The goat, which was slaughtered in France in 2002, was first believed
to have scrapie, a disease of goats and sheep similar to BSE but
not infectious for humans.
Scrapie, BSE and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease all belong to
a family of diseases that can cause brain tissue to degenerate,
giving it a sponge-like appearance.
The infected goat was the only animal in a herd of 300 that tested
positive for the disease, scientists found.
| MADRID, Jan. 29 (Xinhuanet) -- A
feeble earthquake measuring 4.6 on the Richter scale jolted southeast
Spain on Saturday, causing minor damages but no casualties, local
The epicenter was near the village of Bullas in Murcia province
and six provinces near the epicenter felt the tremor, the Efe newsagency
quoted the National Geographic Institute as saying.
When the tremor hit the region of Murcia, local residents ran
out into the streets in panic.
The Rapture Index stands at 153 today, up
only one point since 2005 began, and it makes you wonder whether
the folks at raptureready.com
who compile it many experts regard the index as the Dow Jones
Industrial Average of "end time activity" have got their heads
screwed on right. Or maybe they haven't been keeping careful track
because they're too busy with other things, such as packing. If
the end is coming anytime soon, you don't want to have forgotten
your toothbrush when you join the righteous dead in heaven.
According to raptureready.com, a Rapture Index reading over
145 means "Fasten your seat belts," so when it hits the mid-150s
it has to be telling us to close our tray-tables and make sure
our seat-backs are in the full upright position.
By my estimate, it should be nudging 250 on the basis of Category
38, "Wild Weather," alone. On the East Coast, every new blizzard
to judge by the news reports, a new one lashes the region daily
puts the Maritimes under another 10 or 12 metres of snow, and
they were already under so much of it at the end of last winter
that only about half of it melted off before this winter got rolling.
On the West Coast, where the phrase "a beautiful day" means
it's not raining quite as hard, mudslides have started carrying
Vancouver into the Strait of Georgia, and once it's filled in
you won't even have to be able to walk on water to hike to Victoria.
Meanwhile here (the Centre Coast?), anybody who thinks that
it's natural for there to be three or four heat waves interspersed
with brutal cold snaps every week is so goofy that when the world
is transformed into a fiery, boiling cataclysm in the tribulation
they'll figure it's just an early spring.
Then there's the arrival of the anti-Christ in the earthly form
of Paul Martin, which is spelled out between the lines of the
open letter Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic published in The Globe
and Mail last week. Something about Martin's determination to
force everybody in Canada to marry a homosexual whether they swing
that way or not.
Maybe raptureready.com is hanging back because the theology
confuses them. Since the only mention in Scripture of a notwithstanding
clause is in reference to the Ten Commandments ("Being that the
provision forbidding adultery couldst be unduly onerous if thou
art out of town on business and hath consumed too many martinis
at the hotel bar" etc.) they don't understand exactly how invoking
it, as the cardinal demands, will solve things regarding gay marriage,
a topic the only one, in fact the Bible doesn't offer even
the slightest "thou shalt not" about.
I guess you have to be a Canadian to appreciate this particular
apostolic position on the subject (by the same token, there's
no Rapture Index category that includes "sponsorship scandal,"
which, most of us are pretty well convinced, should have blown
it through the roof).
Finally, there's the re-election of George W. Bush, especially
when you take into consideration that all the people who voted
for him did so because they, as washed-in-the-blood Christians,
want him to make sure there's nobody in Israel but Jews, otherwise
the Messiah won't return there as foretold, possibly in Thessalonians.
You may think it's odd that the Jews buy into this, given that
they don't believe the Messiah will return at all since he hasn't
so far showed up at all. As far as they're concerned, when he
comes it will be a first. You may also think it's odd that the
Jews would buy into it since, if the neocons stay true to form,
after the Messiah does come (or whatever), what do they figure
their chances are of continuing to live in Israel. About what
the Palestinians' chances were when the Jews took over?
Jerry Falwell and Bob Jones and Pat Robertson and their born-again,
elected-again apostle Dubya, God's Chosen Instrument, plan to
live there with them in harmony?
Keep your gas masks handy, you Israelis. Buy more duct tape.
The Rapture Index is clearly out of whack. Recalculating it
to take developments such as these into account makes it obvious
that the final day will be the one after tomorrow. (Thursday,
Jan. 27.) For some of you, this is the news you've been longing
to hear. For the rest of you, tough. You'll be holy toast.
Poland -- Vice President Dick Cheney's utilitarian hooded parka
and boots stood out amid the solemn formality of a ceremony commemorating
the liberation of Nazi death camps, raising eyebrows among the fashion-conscious.
Cheney replaced the zipped-to-the-neck green parka he sported in
Thursday's blowing snow and freezing wind with a more traditional
black coat - red tie and gray scarf showing underneath - for his
tour of Auschwitz on Friday.
Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan described Cheney's
look at the deeply moving 60th anniversary service as "the
kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower."
"Cheney stood out in a sea of black-coated world leaders because
he was wearing an olive drab parka with a fur-trimmed hood,"
Givhan wrote in Friday's Post, also mocking Cheney's knit ski cap
embroidered with the words "Staff 2001" and his brown,
lace-up hiking boots. "The vice president
looked like an awkward child amid the well-dressed adults,"
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