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Swans flying low in a Snowstorm
or
The Iraq elections were a "resounding success"

There is no tomorrow

Bill Moyers
January 30, 2005

One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington.

Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. When ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind. And there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts.

Remember James Watt, President Ronald Reagan's first secretary of the interior? My favorite online environmental journal, the ever-engaging Grist, reminded us recently of how James Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, "after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back."

Beltway elites snickered. The press corps didn't know what he was talking about. But James Watt was serious. So were his compatriots out across the country. They are the people who believe the Bible is literally true -- one-third of the American electorate, if a recent Gallup poll is accurate. In this past election several million good and decent citizens went to the polls believing in the rapture index.

That's right -- the rapture index. Google it and you will find that the best-selling books in America today are the 12 volumes of the "Left Behind" series written by the Christian fundamentalist and religious-right warrior Timothy LaHaye. These true believers subscribe to a fantastical theology concocted in the 19th century by a couple of immigrant preachers who took disparate passages from the Bible and wove them into a narrative that has captivated the imagination of millions of Americans.

Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre (the British writer George Monbiot recently did a brilliant dissection of it and I am indebted to him for adding to my own understanding): Once Israel has occupied the rest of its "biblical lands," legions of the antichrist will attack it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon.

As the Jews who have not been converted are burned, the messiah will return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted out of their clothes and transported to Heaven, where, seated next to the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts and frogs during the several years of tribulation that follow.

I'm not making this up. Like Monbiot, I've read the literature. I've reported on these people, following some of them from Texas to the West Bank. They are sincere, serious and polite as they tell you they feel called to help bring the rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy. That's why they have declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish settlements and backed up their support with money and volunteers. It's why the invasion of Iraq for them was a warm-up act, predicted in the Book of Revelations where four angels "which are bound in the great river Euphrates will be released to slay the third part of man." A war with Islam in the Middle East is not something to be feared but welcomed -- an essential conflagration on the road to redemption. The last time I Googled it, the rapture index stood at 144 -- just one point below the critical threshold when the whole thing will blow, the son of God will return, the righteous will enter Heaven and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire.

So what does this mean for public policy and the environment? Go to Grist to read a remarkable work of reporting by the journalist Glenn Scherer -- "The Road to Environmental Apocalypse." Read it and you will see how millions of Christian fundamentalists may believe that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed -- even hastened -- as a sign of the coming apocalypse.

As Grist makes clear, we're not talking about a handful of fringe lawmakers who hold or are beholden to these beliefs. Nearly half the U.S. Congress before the recent election - 231 legislators in total and more since the election - are backed by the religious right.

Forty-five senators and 186 members of the 108th Congress earned 80 to 100 percent approval ratings from the three most influential Christian right advocacy groups. They include Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Assistant Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Conference Chair Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Policy Chair Jon Kyl of Arizona, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Whip Roy Blunt. The only Democrat to score 100 percent with the Christian coalition was Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, who recently quoted from the biblical book of Amos on the Senate floor: "The days will come, sayeth the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land." He seemed to be relishing the thought.

And why not? There's a constituency for it. A 2002 Time-CNN poll found that 59 percent of Americans believe that the prophecies found in the book of Revelations are going to come true. Nearly one-quarter think the Bible predicted the 9/11 attacks. Drive across the country with your radio tuned to the more than 1,600 Christian radio stations, or in the motel turn on some of the 250 Christian TV stations, and you can hear some of this end-time gospel. And you will come to understand why people under the spell of such potent prophecies cannot be expected, as Grist puts it, "to worry about the environment. Why care about the earth, when the droughts, floods, famine and pestilence brought by ecological collapse are signs of the apocalypse foretold in the Bible? Why care about global climate change when you and yours will be rescued in the rapture? And why care about converting from oil to solar when the same God who performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes can whip up a few billion barrels of light crude with a word?"

Because these people believe that until Christ does return, the Lord will provide. One of their texts is a high school history book, "America's Providential History." You'll find there these words: "The secular or socialist has a limited-resource mentality and views the world as a pie ... that needs to be cut up so everyone can get a piece." However, "[t]he Christian knows that the potential in God is unlimited and that there is no shortage of resources in God's earth ... while many secularists view the world as overpopulated, Christians know that God has made the earth sufficiently large with plenty of resources to accommodate all of the people."

No wonder Karl Rove goes around the White House whistling that militant hymn, "Onward Christian Soldiers." He turned out millions of the foot soldiers on Nov. 2, including many who have made the apocalypse a powerful driving force in modern American politics.

It is hard for the journalist to report a story like this with any credibility. So let me put it on a personal level. I myself don't know how to be in this world without expecting a confident future and getting up every morning to do what I can to bring it about. So I have always been an optimist. Now, however, I think of my friend on Wall Street whom I once asked: "What do you think of the market? "I'm optimistic," he answered. "Then why do you look so worried?" And he answered: "Because I am not sure my optimism is justified."

I'm not, either. Once upon a time I agreed with Eric Chivian and the Center for Health and the Global Environment that people will protect the natural environment when they realize its importance to their health and to the health and lives of their children. Now I am not so sure. It's not that I don't want to believe that - it's just that I read the news and connect the dots.

I read that the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has declared the election a mandate for President Bush on the environment. This for an administration:

a.. That wants to rewrite the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act protecting rare plant and animal species and their habitats, as well as the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires the government to judge beforehand whether actions might damage natural resources. b.. That wants to relax pollution limits for ozone; eliminate vehicle tailpipe inspections, and ease pollution standards for cars, sport-utility vehicles and diesel-powered big trucks and heavy equipment. c.. That wants a new international audit law to allow corporations to keep certain information about environmental problems secret from the public. d.. That wants to drop all its new-source review suits against polluting, coal-fired power plants and weaken consent decrees reached earlier with coal companies. e.. That wants to open the Arctic [National] Wildlife Refuge to drilling and increase drilling in Padre Island National Seashore, the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world and the last great coastal wild land in America.

I read the news just this week and learned how the Environmental Protection Agency had planned to spend $9 million - $2 million of it from the administration's friends at the American Chemistry Council - to pay poor families to continue to use pesticides in their homes. These pesticides have been linked to neurological damage in children, but instead of ordering an end to their use, the government and the industry were going to offer the families $970 each, as well as a camcorder and children's clothing, to serve as guinea pigs for the study.

I read all this in the news.

I read the news just last night and learned that the administration's friends at the International Policy Network, which is supported by Exxon Mobil and others of like mind, have issued a new report that climate change is "a myth, sea levels are not rising" [and] scientists who believe catastrophe is possible are "an embarrassment."

I not only read the news but the fine print of the recent appropriations bill passed by Congress, with the obscure (and obscene) riders attached to it: a clause removing all endangered species protections from pesticides; language prohibiting judicial review for a forest in Oregon; a waiver of environmental review for grazing permits on public lands; a rider pressed by developers to weaken protection for crucial habitats in California.

I read all this and look up at the pictures on my desk, next to the computer - pictures of my grandchildren. I see the future looking back at me from those photographs and I say, "Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do." And then I am stopped short by the thought: "That's not right. We do know what we are doing. We are stealing their future. Betraying their trust. Despoiling their world."

And I ask myself: Why? Is it because we don't care? Because we are greedy? Because we have lost our capacity for outrage, our ability to sustain indignation at injustice?

What has happened to our moral imagination?

On the heath Lear asks Gloucester: "How do you see the world?" And Gloucester, who is blind, answers: "I see it feelingly.'"

I see it feelingly.

The news is not good these days. I can tell you, though, that as a journalist I know the news is never the end of the story. The news can be the truth that sets us free - not only to feel but to fight for the future we want. And the will to fight is the antidote to despair, the cure for cynicism, and the answer to those faces looking back at me from those photographs on my desk. What we need is what the ancient Israelites called hochma - the science of the heart ... the capacity to see, to feel and then to act as if the future depended on you.

Believe me, it does.

-------

Bill Moyers was host until recently of the weekly public affairs series "NOW with Bill Moyers" on PBS. This article is adapted from AlterNet, where it first appeared. The text is taken from Moyers' remarks upon receiving the Global Environmental Citizen Award from the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School.

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Rumsfeld asks for restoration of nuclear 'bunker buster' program
2/2/05

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has asked for the restoration of a research program designed to create a new type of nuclear weapons capable of destroying hardened underground targets, a Pentagon official said.

The request came in a letter Rumsfeld sent to then-Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham on January 10, in which he insisted that funds for studying the feasibility of the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator be restored. [...]

But military experts said they were expecting a new attempt by the administration of President George W. Bush to revive the "bunker buster" nuclear weapons program that was shelved by Congress late last year under growing international and domestic criticism.

Republican Representative David Hobson, who chairs an appropriations subcommittee in the House of Representatives, quietly removed 27.5 million dollars earmarked for the bomb study from a mammoth spending bill that was being rushed through Congress.

The White House apparently made an election-year decision not to hold up the whole budget because of one contentious item, and let it pass.

But now, according to Swiergosz, the Pentagon wants the money back because the bomb could be useful against underground enemy weapons depots and command posts.

"I think we should request funds in FY06 and FY07 (fiscal years 2006 and 2007) to complete the study," Rumsfeld wrote to Abraham, according to published excerpts of the letter, whose accuracy was confirmed by the spokesman. "Our staffs have spoken about funding the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP) study to support its completion by April 2007."

Rumsfeld also assured Abraham and his successor, Samuel Bodman, that they could count on his support for "your efforts to revitalize the nuclear weapons infrastructure and to complete the RNEP study."

The program, involving leading US nuclear weapons laboratories such as Los Alamos and Livermore, sought to find the possibility of converting into "bunker busters" two existing warheads - the B61 and B83, according to administration officials.

The B61 is a tactical thermonuclear gravity bomb that can be delivered by strategic as well as tactical aircraft -- from B-52 and B-2 bombers to F-16 fighter jets.

The B83 is designed for precision delivery from very low altitudes, most likely by B-2 stealth bombers, military experts said.

Prior to the program's suspension, scientists were working on finding ways to harden the bombs' shells so they can survive penetration through layers of rock, steel and concrete before detonating, the experts said.

"Bunker busters" are seen by some experts as important tools for waging preventive wars against enemies that are secretly building arsenals of weapons of mass destruction.

According to the Defense Intelligence Agency, at least 10,000 bunkers currently exist in over 70 countries around the world.

More than 1,400 of them are used as strategic storage sites for weapons of mass destruction, concealed launch pads for ballistic missiles as well as leadership or top-echelon command and control posts, the DIA estimates.

However, International Atomic Energy Agency director, Mohamed ElBaradei, warned this week that the "bunker buster" program was sending "the wrong message" and could hinder international non-proliferation efforts.

"You can't tell everyone 'don't touch nuclear weapons' while continuing to build them," ElBaradei said in an interview with The Washington Post newspaper and Newsweek magazine.

Comment: In spite of El Baradei, of course the US can say just that because double talk and double standards are now the norm of American foreign policy (and have been since the second world war). Consider also Israel, a country involved in the genocide of the Palestinians, that calls itself the "only democracy in the Middle East". Israel has nukes and it isn't about to allow any of its neighbors to have them. Double standards and doublespeak are the way power mad cliques get and hold power.

If there is an "axis of evil" in the world today, it is that headed by the US and Israel. Until Americans understand that their government is not simply "making mistakes", nothing will change. It is easy to become complacent and believe that the next elections can solve the problem, that the system can fix itself. Unfortunately, how many more dead will there be before then? How many new laws such as the Patriot Act will have radically changed the US system?

There is a cult in power in the US today. It is the cult led by the Christian Zionists of Bush and the Zionists of PNAC and the Likud, a cult that has power over billions of people on the planet through its military power and expansionist ideology.

No one is safe. While the newspapers programme us on the horrors of cults by citing Jonestown and Hale Bopp, the cult in power has been responsible for more deaths and mind programming than any of the cults cited by the mainstream press.

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Pentagon doubles forces' death benefit on eve of Bush speech

By Rupert Cornwell in Washington
02 February 2005

Responding to intense pressure from Congress, the military and the general public, the Pentagon announced a large increase yesterday in death benefits for US soldiers killed in combat zones, doubling the total compensation paid to relatives to $500,000 (£266,000).

Under the proposals, outlined in testimony by senior defence officials on Capitol Hill on the eve of President Bush's first State of the Union address of his second term, the tax-free "death gratuity" will go up from $12,420 to $100,000.

At the same time, maximum life insurance coverage will increase to $400,000 from the current $250,000, with the extra premium to be paid by the Pentagon. Both changes will be retroactive to October 2001, to cover troops who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Thus far, 1,415 troops have died in the Iraq war alone, and almost 100 more in Afghanistan, and the total cost of the measure could reach $450m. But congressional and Pentagon leaders consider that a small price to pay given the strains placed on the military, in Iraq in particular. These strains are already depressing recruitment.

Democrats argued yesterday that the improved benefits should apply to all soldiers who die in the course of duty, not merely in specific combat zones designated by the Pentagon.

It has also been pointed out that even the higher benefits pale beside the average $2.1m paid to families of victims of the 9/11 attacks. Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee described the existing gratuity as "derisory" and "paltry". US troops are being killed almost daily in Iraq - last Wednesday was the single deadliest day of the war, with 37 deaths.

These developments are all likely to be discussed by Mr Bush in his address to Congress tonight, in which Iraq, alongside domestic proposals including social security and tort law reform, will be a central topic. Though he will stress that Iraq is only part-way along the road to democracy, his officials are not concealing their sense of vindication that the elections went off relatively smoothly.

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Death in the wilderness: what really happened?

Insurgents release video claiming to show shooting down of Hercules

By Kim Sengupta in Basra, Colin Brown and Terri Judd
01 February 2005

The security of military flights in Iraq was under urgent review last night after Islamic militants claimed they had shot down a British transport plane carrying special forces with a ground-to-air missile.

It looked increasingly likely that the 10 servicemen on board the Hercules C-130 were killed by insurgents, butdetails of the crash were shrouded in mystery as ministers faced questions about the plane's mission. The escalation in the insurgents' threat, if confirmed by crash investigators at the site, will cause alarm. The Hercules aircraft are the workhorses of British and US forces. They are regularly used to ferry special forces and their equipment, and even VIPs on visits to Baghdad and Basra, where British troops are based. Allied troops had feared that a missile attack would bring down one of the slow transport planes and there was concern that counter-measures fitted to them appeared to have failed.

Questions were also being asked as to why 10 British servicemen were being flown to a US base in northern Iraq. The nine members of the RAF on board belonged to a squadron that works with the Special Air Service and Special Boat Service. The other soldier who was killed is believed to have been a member of the SAS.

They were heading for a huge US base in Balad, which is used as an outpost for the SAS. Labour MPs speculated that the men who were killed were engaged in operations along the Iranian border.

Wreckage was strewn across the crash site 20 miles north of Baghdad, suggesting a mid-air explosion had occurred. British ground troops searching for the bodies yesterday were trying to secure the area, which is in hostile territory.

Footage on al-Jazeera television appeared to support the insurgents' claims. It showed a remote-controlled mechanism apparently firing two missiles at a plane, although the authenticity of the film could not be verified. There was also footage of parts of a burning plane spread over a wide area, including a large section of an engine. The flat, featureless wilderness gives no clues as to where the video was shot. One short sequence, appearing to show the fireball as the wreckage landed, is filmed from a distance through palm trees.

The video was issued by the "1920 Revolution Brigade". Another Islamist group, Ansar al-Sunna, had earlier claimed responsibility for bringing down the plane. British officers in Iraq said little could be deduced from the footage.

Insurgents had threatened a "spectacular" attack and senior MPs said the timing, coinciding with the elections, suggested strongly that the aircraft was brought down by a missile. One senior Liberal Democrat figure said: "The US flooded Afghanistan with Stinger missiles and there are plenty of them around. It is highly likely that the plane was brought down by one of their missiles."

The attack is likely to increase pressure on the allied forces. Most roads in the country, especially in the Sunni area of central Iraq, are highly vulnerable to insurgent attacks, and convoys are regularly ambushed. This has forced US and British forces to rely on aircraft for moving troops and supplies.

Senior military sources in Iraq described the gravity of the situation. One officer said: "If we lose freedom of air movement it will be a massive problem. The investigation will conclude what exactly happened, but at the moment it looks more and more like enemy action. The C-130 has anti-missile defences, so this is quite puzzling. We are taking the precaution of carrying out a security review because this is Iraq and you cannot take chances."

A senior MoD official said: "It was a routine operational flight from Baghdad international airport to Balad. They were transporting people. We don't comment on special forces operations normally but this was a routine operational sortie."

Peter Felstead, editor of Jane's Defence Weekly, said: "If the al-Jazeera footage is genuine, it shows that an aircraft flying at altitude has been shot down by what looks like some sort of spliced-together weapons system. This would be an unprecedented and catastrophic event. Hitherto we have not seen the insurgents capable of launching such an attack."

One of the victims was identified as Paul Pardoel, a 35-year-old navigator. Flt Lt Pardoel, who was born in Melbourne, Australia, had been living with his family near the base at RAF Lyneham. He had been with the RAF's 47 Squadron, a unit known for working with special forces. His father, John, 78, said: "He was the nearest thing you find to an ideal child."

The Government rejected demands for British troops to be withdrawn from Iraq when their mandate from the United Nations expires at the end of this year. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said it would be "utterly irresponsible" to set such a deadline.

Although he predicted that Sunday's elections would reduce terrorism in Iraq, he expected the security situation to remain difficult for "quite a period". He told the Commons that the Iraqi government "may well" request that the UN mandate be extended.

* The 10 service personnel killed when an RAF Hercules crashed in central Iraq were today named by the Ministry of Defence as Squadron Leader Patrick Marshall, Flight Lieutenant David Stead, Flight Lieutenant Andrew Smith, Flight Lieutenant Paul Pardoel, Master Engineer Gary Nicholson, Chief Technician Richard Brown, Flight Sergeant Mark Gibson, Sergeant Robert O'Connor, Corporal David Williams and Acting Lance Corporal Steven Jones.

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The chilling images that claim to tell the story of a tragic Hercules mission

By Cahal Milmo and Terri Judd
01 February 2005

The finger hovers for a moment over a small white metal box set on stony ground before pressing a black button with the Arabic numeral four beside it.

Under the leaden skies of the desert, two streaks of fire race into the air, apparently destined for the cigar-shaped silhouette of an aircraft in the far distance. Then the aftermath: first a plume of black smoke, followed by an indistinct mass of burning wreckage merges first into the remains of an engine, then a large section of fuselage with two aircraft wheels behind it.

Everywhere there is flame.

If the images are to be believed, then they show the last moments of the Royal Air Force cargo plane that crashed into the Iraqi desert on Sunday afternoon. Caution was being sounded last night by military experts who said it could instead be a slick montage of previous attacks designed to maximise publicity. [...]

Flying at between 12,000ft and 15,000ft some 20 minutes after take-off, the plane with its nine RAF crew and unspecified army passenger, thought to be a member of the SAS, should have been in the safest stage.

A British military source said last night: "Take-off and landing are the times of maximum danger. Our experience in Iraq is that aircraft, even something as relatively slow as a Hercules, do not get blown out of the sky."

Shortly after 4.35pm local time (1.35pm GMT) on Sunday, it seems that changed. The chilling images broadcast around the world yesterday afternoon were presented by Iraqi militants as evidence of their ability to shoot down planes, then ensure maximum publicity with 20 seconds of footage purporting to show the deed.

Starting with the finger pressing the launch button, the video cuts to show rockets streaking into the air towards the indistinct blob of an aircraft. After jerky footage of buildings and palm trees, it shows a towering plume of smoke before finishing with a lingering pan of the supposed wreckage, fuselage, loading bay, burning metal and plastics as two men pick their way through it.

Military experts said the white control box was not a common control system for missiles used in Iraq. But they warned that if true, it showed a new and frightening level of military sophistication by the militants beyond their more rudimentary shoulder-launched weapons. Robert Hewson, an air weapons expert for the Jane's publishing group, said: "What appears to going on is a lot more sophisticated than the shoulder-launched systems.

Comment: "Chilling images"? What about the destruction of Fallujah? Is it only "chilling" when it is "one of ours"?

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Explosives on board plane may be blamed

By Kim Sengupta in Basra Cahal Milmo and Colin Brown
02 February 2005

An investigation into the crash of an RAF Hercules in Iraq on Sunday in which 10 servicemen died is focusing on the possibility that the plane was destroyed because explosives in its cargo were triggered.

The explosives were to be delivered to the Balad airbase north of Baghdad in a routine 20-minute flight. The aircraft burst into flames and wreckage was scattered over a wide area.

The disintegration of the Hercules had led military officials to believe that there was a large-scale detonation on board. One theory was that a bomb was hidden on board, but it is believed that the blast may have been caused by accident.

The RAF C-130K transport exploded in a fireball 20 miles north of Baghdad, killing nine RAF special services officers and one soldier believed to be attached to the SAS. Defence experts told The Independent that wreckage at the crash site pointed to an accident on board the plane, or a bomb planted by insurgents, rather than an incoming missile.

A former defence minister said it was "highly unlikely" that insurgents could have breached tight security to smuggle a bomb on board, but it was not being ruled out. A suicide bomber recently penetrated security at a US base.

Insurgents would have needed a highly sophisticated missile to bring down the plane at 15,000 to 25,000 feet. Missiles that could bring down planes at that height could also target passenger planes, said the former minister. [....]

Comment: Ah, yes. It is important to maintain the illusion that "everything is going well" in Iraq. The occupation forces can't admit that the Iraqis fighting to liberate their country from US, British, and Israeli occupation would be able to down one of their planes, so the disinformation machine known as the American press kicks into gear.

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What They're Not Telling You About the "Election"
February 01, 2005

The day of blood and elections has passed, and the blaring trumpets of corporate media hailing it as a successful show of "democracy" have subsided to a dull roar.

After a day which left 50 people dead in Iraq, both civilians and soldiers, the death toll was hailed as a figure that was "lower than expected." Thus…acceptable, by Bush Administration/corporate media standards. After all, only of them was an American, the rest were Iraqis civilians and British soldiers.

The gamble of using the polling day in Iraq to justify the ongoing failed occupation of Iraq has apparently paid off, if you watch only mainstream media.

"Higher than expected turnout," US mainstream television media blared, some citing a figure of 72%, others 60%.

What they didn't tell you was that this figure was provided by Farid Ayar, the spokesman for the Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq (IECI) before the polls had even closed.

When asked about the accuracy of the estimate of voter turnout during a press conference, Ayar backtracked on his earlier figure, saying that a closer estimate was lower than his initial estimate and would be more like 60% of registered voters.

The IECI spokesman said his previous figure of 72% was "only guessing" and "was just an estimate," which was based on "very rough, word-of mouth estimates gathered informally from the field. It will take some time for the IECI to issue accurate figures on turnout."

Referencing both figures, Ayar then added, "Percentages and numbers come only after counting and will be announced when it's over ... It's too soon to say that those were the official numbers."

But this isn't the most important misrepresentation the mainstream media committed.

What they also didn't tell you was that of those who voted, whether they be 35% or even 60% of registered voters, were not voting in support of an ongoing US occupation of their country.

In fact, they were voting for precisely the opposite reason. Every Iraqi I have spoken with who voted explained that they believe the National Assembly which will be formed soon will signal an end to the occupation.

And they expect the call for a withdrawing of foreign forces in their country to come sooner rather than later.

This causes one to view the footage of cheering, jubilant Iraqis in a different light now, doesn't it?

But then, most folks in the US watching CNN, FOX, or any of the major networks won't see it that way. Instead, they will hear what Mr. Bush said, "The world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East," and take it as fact because most of the major media outlets aren't scratching beneath film clips of joyous Iraqi voters over here in the land of daily chaos and violence, no jobs, no electricity, little running water and no gasoline (for the Iraqis anyhow).

And Bush is portrayed by the media as the bringer of democracy to Iraq by the simple fact that this so-called election took place, botched as it may have been. Appearances suggest that the majority Shia in Iraq now finally get their proportional representation in a "government." Looks good on paper.

But as you continue reading, the seemingly altruistic reasons for this election as portrayed by the Bush Administration and trumpeted by most mainstream media are anything but.

And Iraqis who voted are hearing other trumpets that are blaring an end to the occupation.

Now the question remains, what happens when the National Assembly is formed and over 100,000 US soldiers remain on the ground in Iraq with the Bush Administration continuing in its refusal to provide a timetable for their removal?

What happens when Iraqis see that while there are already four permanent US military bases in their country, rather than beginning to disassemble them, more bases are being constructed, as they are, by Cheney's old company Halliburton, right now?[...]

Comment: Mind control. It goes on every day and it doesn't need fancy devices from some above top secret project. It is called TV, spoon-feeding pre-digested sound bites to people who have given up, if they ever had it, the ability to think for themselves.

"I saw it on Fox News, so it must be true." Think of the divide between someone who believes that and what, dear reader, have come to know about the world from doing your own research, pulling together the facts from many different sources, and thinking through the relations and interconnections, the patent lies, the disinformation and the rare gem of truth.

Do you still think there is any hope for the world?

What kind of shock would it take to wake up the people who watch Fox News?

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Amid tragedy, defiance: millions vote despite suicide bombers

By Robert Fisk in Baghdad
31 January 2005

Even as the explosions thundered over Baghdad, the people came in their hundreds and then in their thousands. Entire families, crippled old men supported by their sons, children beside them, babies in the arms of their mothers, sisters and aunts and cousins.

That is how the Shia Muslims of Baghdad voted yesterday. They walked quietly to the Martyr Mohamed Bakr Hakim School in Jadriya, without talking, through the car-less streets, the air pressure changing around them as mortars rained down on the US and British embassy compounds and the first of the day's suicide bombers immolated himself and his victims - most of them Shias - two miles away.

The Kurds voted, too, in their tens of thousands, but the Sunnis - 20 per cent of Iraq's population, whose insurgency was the principal reason for this election - boycotted or were intimidated from the polling stations.

The turnout - estimated at 60 per cent of Iraq's 15 million registered voters - represented victory and tragedy. For while the Shias voted in their millions with immense courage, the Sunni voice of Iraq remained silent, casting into semi-illegitimacy the national assembly whose existence is supposed to provide America with a political excuse to extricate itself from its "little Vietnam" in the Middle East.

And yes, of course, there was the violence we all expected. There were to be nine suicide bombers in Baghdad - the largest number on a single day anywhere in the Middle East.

An American mercenary and a US soldier were among the first to die in Baghdad when mortars exploded, then more than 20 voters - four slaughtered beside a polling station in Sadr City - were cut down; before dusk came news that an RAF C-130 Hercules transport aircraft had crashed 25 miles north-west of Baghdad, en route to the largely insurgent-held city of Balad, the site of a big US airbase. In all, almost 50 men and women were killed across Iraq.

But how many were killed on the RAF aircraft? Tony Blair's strangely fearful statement about the election last night acknowledged some dead, but would give no other details. Why not? Were there three British crew dead? Or five? Or many, many more? And were there US passengers? President Bush also referred to US dead, as if it included more than the two killed in the morning. Was there something that might be revealed today, when the "success" of the elections had been polished without a tragedy to tarnish it?

Of course, it was the sight of thousands of Shias, the women in black "hijab" covering, the men in leather jackets or long robes, the children toddling beside them, that took the breath away. If Osama bin Laden had called these elections an apostasy, many did not heed his Wahabi threats. They came to claim their rightful power in the land - that is why Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the grand marja of the Shias of Iraq, told them to vote - and woe betide the US and British if they do not get it.

For if this election produces a parliamentary coalition that splits the Shias and turns their largest party into the opposition, then the Sunni insurgency will become a national uprising.

"I came here," a man told me in Jadriya, "because our grand marja told us voting today was more important than prayer and fasting." Even the local election agent was close to tears. Taleb Ibrahim admitted to me that he had participated in Saddam's one-man elections but this day marked the moment when the Shias - after refusing to take revenge on their Baathist oppressors - would show magnanimity.

Even if the Sunnis were boycotting the poll, he said, "there is an old saying that 'if the father becomes angry, we will have no problems with his sons'. We will make sure that these sons, the Sunnis, have equal rights with us." At one polling station, I asked the first of the young Iraqi soldiers who were to check us - all, I should add, wore black woollen face masks so that they could never be identified - if he was frightened. "It doesn't matter," he said very firmly. "I am ready to die for this day. We have got to vote." Seven hours later, I talked to him again and now he, too, had the indelible ink on his forefinger. "It's like you can change your future or your faith," he said. "We only had military coups and revolutions before. We voted 'yes' or 'yes'. Now we vote for ourselves."

It was easy to be maudlin about such words, to imbibe the false optimism of the Western television networks and the nonsense about Iraq's "historic" day - for it will only have been historic if it changes this country, and many fear it will not.

No one I met yesterday believes the insurgency will end. Many thought it would grow more ferocious and the Shias in the polling stations said with one voice that they were also voting to rid Iraq of the Americans, not to legitimise their presence.

On the streets yesterday, the Americans deployed thousands of troops, most of them trying to show some respect for the people. A certain Captain Buchanan from Arkansas even ventured a political thought. "It's a pity the Sunnis aren't voting - it's their loss," he said. But of course it is also Iraq's loss and, in a direct way, the Shias' loss too - and possibly America's. For without that vital minority component, who will believe in the new parliament or the constitution it is supposed to produce or the next government it is supposed to create?

I asked a Sunni Muslim security guard yesterday what he thought would be the future of his country. He had not voted, of course - in many Sunni cities, only a third of the polling stations opened - but he had thought a lot about the question.

"You cannot give us 'democracy' just like this," he said. "That is one of your Western, foreign dreams. Before, we had Saddam and he was a cruel man and he treated us cruelly. But what will happen after this election is that you will give us lots of little Saddams."

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Iraqi Elections: Media Disinformation on Voter Turnout?

Michel Chossudovsky,
www.globalresearch.ca
31 January 2005

The media in chorus decided that voter turnout was high.

Western governments and the international community confirmed that the turnout was high, based on contradictory official figures and statements:

"a high turnout in today's election" (BBC, 30 Jan).

"polling stations witnessed an unexpectedly high turnout, demonstrating the Iraqi people's eagerness for liberty and democracy, which is exactly the outcome that the United States wishes for the Iraqis"

"The French government hailed Iraq's first free elections in half a century as a "great success for the international community" and called the surprisingly high voter turnout "good news".

"The initial figures included surprisingly high voter numbers around central Iraq where the rebels have carried out attack after attack."

The turnout figure was first put at 72 percent quoting official sources, at least two hours before the closing of the polls.

"Early figures on the turnout exceeded even the most optimistic forecasts - 72 per cent of voters."

"Correspondent's report from Baghdad says turnout unexpected. Cites Election Commission officials as saying 95 per cent of Baghdadis voted. He says overall percentage is 72 per cent. Heavy security measures in Baghdad. Praises organization of elections and employees attitude."

"Polling places across Iraq have just closed. And despite some terror attacks, an Iraqi election official says 72 percent of eligible voters have gone to the polls, but that has not been confirmed." (Fox New, (9.00 EST, 14.00 GMT)

Where was this 72 percent figure taken? On what was it based? How was it derived?

By the time this figure started circulating in the global news chain, voting booths had not yet closed.

The 72 percent turnout figure, which was on the lips of journalists and network TV talk shows was based on an interview with the Minister of Planning in the interim government, on the 30th at 11.45 GMT, more than two hours before the closing of the polls:

"although a 72 per cent turnout was expected, it appears that the participation level will only reach 50 per cent." (1145 gmt, Al-Iraqiyah live satellite interview with Planning Minister Mahdi al-Hafiz, from the Conference Centre in Baghdad, BBC Monitoring, 30 Jan 2005) .

In fact, the 72 percent figure, quoted by journalists was not based on anything concrete.

An hour later, a senior official of the Independent Electoral Commission in Iraq (IECI), Adil al-Lami, repeated the same 72 percent figure. at a news conference at 12.24 GMT in which Adil al-Lami, and Safwat, another IECI official, provided very precise figures on voter turnout for the 18 governates (see Table below).

At this news conference, overall voter turnout was placed at 72 per cent and in some areas 90 per cent.

After the polls had closed and another news conference was held, the same senior IECI official stated that he expected the voter turnout to be 60 per cent.

How was this last figure arrived at, without the counting of the ballots?

Why was it 72 per cent and then, two hours later it was revised to 60 percent?

With shattered communications systems, how did the information get transmitted so quickly to the IECI for release at a News conference at 14.00 GMT?

When questioned, a senior IECI official was evasive regarding the source and methodology underlying his figures (see complete interview in annex):

"These estimates are what they (the offices) have seen, their observations and their feelings," Lami said. "These estimates are based on human flow at their polling stations."

On what did the percentages that were announced at the news conference depend? Were they based on the flow of people only?

(Ayyar) Yes, on the basis of the flow of people and the expectations in front of the polling centres at many places throughout Iraq and also some contacts with the presiding officers of these centres, whether in the north, the south or the centre. The person who announced these figures did not say that they were final figures. So far, we have no results for the elections. The counting is taking place right now. I heard that Al-Sharqiyah knows some things, which we do not know.(Iraqi Al-Sharqiyah TV, 30 January)

Observations and feelings?

And a few hours later, the news reports start shifting. First its 72 percent, then its 60 percent, then its down to 50 percent.

...this election appears, based on everything that we know right now, to have been a tremendous and even surprising success, particularly if the turnout to be as high as 60 percent, despite the participation or lack of it by the Sunnis.... 8 million Iraqis went to the polls, about 60 percent of the electorate. That turnout, in some areas as high as 95 percent. The mood in Baghdad tonight has been described as exuberant. (CNN, 30 Jan, 6 PM EST)

From 60 percent to 50 percent.

Iraqi officials hope for a turnout of at least 50 per cent to lend legitimacy to the outcome. Even if turnout is lower, the election is expected to receive the international stamp of approval. (Australian 31 Jan)

If the turnout is finally reckoned to be 50 per cent, or anything like it, and the deaths attributable to the insurgency are less than a total bloodbath, that will be considered a step forward. ...

Early reports from polling stations show that the turnout in Iraq's election yesterday could reach or exceed 50 per cent, political party officials said.

"The reports we are receiving indicate that the turnout will hit more than 50 per cent. Iraqis are looking at these elections as an issue of dignity," Hafedh said. (China Daily 31 Jan)

Now the word is that a 30 per cent overall turnout would be satisfactory(New Statesman, 31 Jan )

Related Facts regarding Voter Turnout, which contradict the official figures and statements:

1. In five out of 18 governates, according to a Russian parliamentary observer, the elections were either cancelled due to the lack of security or were marked by a very low turnout. (Novosti, 30 Jan). This statement contradicts the figures presented by the IECI at the Press Conference, which indicate voter turnout of 50 per cent or more in all the governates. (including Sunni regions where there was a boycott, as confirmed by several press reports). (See Table 1 below)

2. According to Xinhua (5 hours before the close of polling stations): "The turnout was very low during the past few hours in Tikrit, Dujail, Balad and Tuz, much lower than expected," a source in the electoral body told Xinhua. "In addition, no voters showed up in Baiji, Samarra and Dour," said the source, who declined to be identified. The cities of Dujail and Balad have mixed population of Shiites and Sunnis, while Tuz has a mosaic of Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen. In Tikrit, some 170 km north of Baghdad, 75 percent of the voting stations have not been visited till now. (Xinhua, 30 Jan 2005, 9 AM GMT)

3. Several cities in Iraq did not receive electoral materials, "In the city of Mosul, the deputy governor said that four towns did not receive the election process materials. How do you justify this? These towns are Bashqa, Bartillah, Al-Hamdaniyah and Jihan. They did not receive the material for the election process." (Iraqi Al-Sharqiyah TV, 30 Jan) The Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) at www.globalresearch.ca grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles in their entirety, or any portions thereof, on community internet sites, as long as the text & title are not modified. The source must be acknowledged and an active URL hyperlink address of the original CRG article must be indicated. The author's copyright note must be displayed.

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Some Just Voted for Food

Inter Press Service
Dahr Jamail

BAGHDAD, Jan 31 (IPS) - Voting in Baghdad was linked with receipt of food rations, several voters said after the Sunday poll.

Many Iraqis said Monday that their names were marked on a list provided by the government agency that provides monthly food rations before they were allowed to vote.

"I went to the voting centre and gave my name and district where I lived to a man," said Wassif Hamsa, a 32-year-old journalist who lives in the predominantly Shia area Janila in Baghdad. "This man then sent me to the person who distributed my monthly food ration."

Mohammed Ra'ad, an engineering student who lives in the Baya'a district of the capital city reported a similar experience.

Ra'ad, 23, said he saw the man who distributed monthly food rations in his district at his polling station. "The food dealer, who I know personally of course, took my name and those of my family who were voting," he said. "Only then did I get my ballot and was allowed to vote."

"Two of the food dealers I know told me personally that our food rations would be withheld if we did not vote," said Saeed Jodhet, a 21-year-old engineering student who voted in the Hay al-Jihad district of Baghdad.

There has been no official indication that Iraqis who did not vote would not receive their monthly food rations.

Many Iraqis had expressed fears before the election that their monthly food rations would be cut if they did not vote. They said they had to sign voter registration forms in order to pick up their food supplies.

Their experiences on the day of polling have underscored many of their concerns about questionable methods used by the U.S.-backed Iraqi interim government to increase voter turnout.

Just days before the election, 52 year-old Amin Hajar who owns an auto garage in central Baghdad had said: "I'll vote because I can't afford to have my food ration cut...if that happened, me and my family would starve to death."

Hajar told IPS that when he picked up his monthly food ration recently, he was forced to sign a form stating that he had picked up his voter registration. He had feared that the government would use this information to track those who did not vote.

Calls to the Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq (IECI) and to the Ministry of Trade, which is responsible for the distribution of the monthly food ration, were not returned.

Other questions have arisen over methods to persuade people to vote. U.S. troops tried to coax voters in Ramadi, capital city of the al-Anbar province west of Baghdad to come out to vote, AP reported.

IECI officials have meanwhile 'downgraded' their earlier estimate of voter turnout.

IECI spokesman Farid Ayar had declared a 72 percent turnout earlier, a figure given also by the Bush Administration.

But at a press conference Ayar backtracked on his earlier figure, saying the turnout would be nearer 60 percent of registered voters.

The earlier figure of 72 percent, he said, was "only guessing" and "just an estimate" that had been based on "very rough, word of mouth estimates gathered informally from the field." He added that it will be some time before the IECI can issue accurate figures on the turnout.

"Percentages and numbers come only after counting and will be announced when it's over," he said. "It is too soon to say that those were the official numbers."

Where there was a large turnout, the motivation behind the voting and the processes both appeared questionable. The Kurds up north were voting for autonomy, if not independence. In the south and elsewhere Shias were competing with Kurds for a bigger say in the 275-member national assembly.

In some places like Mosul the turnout was heavier than expected. But many of the voters came from outside, and identity checks on voters appeared lax. Others spoke of vote-buying bids.

The Bush Administration has lauded the success of the Iraq election, but doubtful voting practices and claims about voter turnout are both mired in controversy.

Election violence too was being seen differently across the political spectrum.

More than 30 Iraqis, a U.S. soldier, and at least 10 British troops died Sunday. Hundreds of Iraqis were also wounded in attacks across Baghdad, in Baquba 50km northeast of the capital as well as in the northern cities Mosul and Kirkuk.

The British troops were on board a C-130 transport plane that crashed near Balad city just northwest of Baghdad. The British military has yet to reveal the cause of the crash.

Despite unprecedented security measures in which 300,000 U.S. and Iraqi security forces were brought in to curb the violence, nine suicide bombers and frequent mortar attacks took a heavy toll in the capital city, while strings of attacks were reported around the rest of the country.

As U..S. President George W. Bush saw it, "some Iraqis were killed while exercising their rights as citizens."

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The Story of the Ghost

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t
Monday 31 January 2005

"United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting. According to reports from Saigon, 83 percent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong. A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam."

- Peter Grose, in a page 2 New York Times article titled, 'U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote,' September 4, 1967.

January 30, 2005

In all the media hoopla over Sunday's "election" in Iraq, a few details got missed.

The powerful and influential Association of Muslim Scholars is not buying the idea that there was some great democratic breakthrough with this vote. AMS spokesman Muhammad al-Kubaysi responded to the election by saying, "The elections are not a solution to the Iraqi problem, because this problem is not an internal dispute to be resolved through accords and elections. It lies in the presence of a foreign power that occupies this country and refuses even the mere scheduling of the withdrawal of its forces from Iraq."

"We have consistently argued," continued al-Kubaysi, "that elections can only occur in a democracy that enjoys sovereignty. Our sovereignty is incomplete. Our sovereignty is usurped by foreign forces that have occupied our land and hurt our dignity. These elections... are a means of establishing the foreign forces in Iraq and keeping Iraq under the yoke of occupation. They should have been postponed."

Al-Kubaysi likewise raised grave concerns about low turnout in Sunni areas such as Baghdad, Baquba and Samarra, and stated flatly that the deep secrecy that shrouded the candidates themselves invalidated the process. "The voter goes to the polling stations not knowing who he is voting for in the first place," he said. "There are more than 7,700 candidates, and I challenge any Iraqi voter to name more than half a dozen. Their names have not been announced but have been kept secret. Elections should never have been held under these present circumstances."

The American media is painting these newly-minted Iraqi voters as flush with the thrill of casting a ballot. In truth, however, some other more pressing motivations lay behind their rush to the polling places. Dahr Jamail, writing for Inter Press Service, reported that "Many Iraqis had expressed fears before the election that their monthly food rations would be cut if they did not vote. They said they had to sign voter registration forms in order to pick up their food supplies. Just days before the election, 52 year-old Amin Hajar, who owns an auto garage in central Baghdad, had said, 'I'll vote because I can't afford to have my food ration cut. If that happened, me and my family would starve to death.'"

'Will Vote For Food' is not a spectacular billboard for the export of democracy.

"Where there was a large turnout," continued Jamail, "the motivation behind the voting and the processes both appeared questionable. The Kurds up north were voting for autonomy, if not independence. In the south and elsewhere Shias were competing with Kurds for a bigger say in the 275-member national assembly. In some places like Mosul the turnout was heavier than expected. But many of the voters came from outside, and identity checks on voters appeared lax. Others spoke of vote-buying bids. More than 30 Iraqis, a U.S. soldier, and at least 10 British troops died Sunday. Hundreds of Iraqis were also wounded in attacks across Baghdad, in Baquba 50km northeast of the capital as well as in the northern cities Mosul and Kirkuk."

Perhaps the most glaring indication that this "election" did little to settle the bloody reality in Iraq came three days before the ballots were cast. In a letter to congress dated January 28, the neoconservative think-tank/power broker known as The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) essentially called for a draft without actually using the 'D' word.

Project Censored, the organization that tracks important yet wildly under-reported stories, declared the existence, motivations and influence of PNAC to be the #1 censored media story for 2002-2003. Most t r u t h o u t readers are familiar with PNAC, but for those who missed this story, a quick refresher is required.

The first vital fact about PNAC has to do with its membership roll call: Dick Cheney, Vice President of the United States, former CEO of Halliburton; Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense; Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense; Elliot Abrams, National Security Council; John Bolton, Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security; I. Lewis Libby, Cheney's top National Security assistant. This list goes on.

These people didn't enjoy those fancy titles in 2000, when the PNAC manifesto 'Rebuilding America's Defenses' was first published. Before 2000, these men were just a bunch of power players who got shoved out of government in 1993. In the time that passed between Clinton and those hanging chads, these people got together in PNAC and laid out a blueprint. 'Rebuilding America's Defenses' was the ultimate result. 2000 became 2001, and the PNAC boys suddenly had the fancy titles and a chance to swing some weight.

'Rebuilding America's Defenses' became the roadmap for foreign policy decisions made in the White House and the Pentagon; PNAC had the Vice President's office in one building, and the Defense Secretary's office in the other. Attacking Iraq was central to that roadmap from the beginning. When former Counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke accused the Bush administration of focusing on Iraq to the detriment of addressing legitimate threats, he was essentially denouncing them for using the attacks of September 11 as an excuse to execute the PNAC blueprint.

The goals codified in 'Rebuilding America's Defenses,' the manifesto, can be boiled down to a few sentences: The invasion and occupation of Iraq, for reasons that had nothing to do with Saddam Hussein. The building of several permanent military bases in Iraq, the purpose of which are to telegraph force throughout the region. The takeover by Western petroleum corporations of Iraq's nationalized oil industry. The ultimate destabilization and overthrow of a variety of regimes in the Middle East, friend and foe alike, by military or economic means, or both.

"Indeed," it is written on page 14 of 'Rebuilding America's Defenses,' "the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

In the last three years, PNAC has gotten every single thing it placed on its wish list back in 2000. This is why their letter to congress last week is so disturbing. The letter reads in part:

The United States military is too small for the responsibilities we are asking it to assume. Those responsibilities are real and important. They are not going away. The United States will not and should not become less engaged in the world in the years to come. But our national security, global peace and stability, and the defense and promotion of freedom in the post-9/11 world require a larger military force than we have today. The administration has unfortunately resisted increasing our ground forces to the size needed to meet today's (and tomorrow's) missions and challenges.

So we write to ask you and your colleagues in the legislative branch to take the steps necessary to increase substantially the size of the active duty Army and Marine Corps. While estimates vary about just how large an increase is required, and Congress will make its own determination as to size and structure, it is our judgment that we should aim for an increase in the active duty Army and Marine Corps, together, of at least 25,000 troops each year over the next several years.

Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution places the power and the duty to raise and support the military forces of the United States in the hands of the Congress. That is why we, the undersigned, a bipartisan group with diverse policy views, have come together to call upon you to act. You will be serving your country well if you insist on providing the military manpower we need to meet America's obligations, and to help ensure success in carrying out our foreign policy objectives in a dangerous, but also hopeful, world.

Brush aside the patriotic language, and you have the ideological architects of this disastrous Iraq invasion stating flatly that the American military is being bled dry, and that the ranks must be replenished before that military can be used to push into Iran, Syria and the other targeted nations. The 'D' word is not in this letter, but it screams out from between the lines. All the lip service paid to the Iraq elections by these people does not contrast well with their cry for more warm bodies to feed into the meat grinder.

Lyndon Johnson was excited about voter turnout in Vietnam in September 1967. Eight years, three Presidents and millions of dead people later, that excitement proved to have been wretchedly illusory. There is no reason, no reason whatsoever, to believe that the Iraq election we witnessed this weekend will bring anything other than death and violence to the people of that nation and our soldiers who move among them. History repeats itself only when we are stupid enough to miss the lessons learned in past failures. The wheel is coming around again.

Author's Note | The fascinating New York Times article on the Vietnam election in 1967 was first located and published by patachon on the DailyKos blog forum.

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books - 'War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know' and 'The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.'

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Rice picks Paris for policy speech to mend divisions
By Nicholas Kralev
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
February 01, 2005

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, determined to confront the diplomatic tensions of President Bush's first term head-on, has chosen Paris as the venue for the main policy speech of her first foreign trip, the State Department said yesterday.

The Feb. 8 address will try to explain to the Europeans the Bush administration's plans for the next four years, emphasizing that any actions it takes will be motivated not by imperial ambitions but by causes and values Europe itself holds dear, such as freedom and democracy, officials said.

Comment: Let's stop right there. Instead of visiting Europe and boring everyone to tears with the same old empty words and promises, we recommend that Ms. Rice send the following letter:

Dear Old European Leaders,

Freedom. Democracy.

Sincerely,
Condoleezza Rice
US Secretary of State

Miss Rice's trip, which begins Thursday, includes other countries that opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq such as Germany and Belgium, but she chose France. French President Jacques Chirac has been promoting the concept of a "multipolar world" to replace the existing "unipolar" system of U.S. dominance.

"She wanted to do it in Paris because she felt Paris was one of the places where there is a lot of debate and discussion about the U.S., about Europe, about common goals, about how we achieve our agenda," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.

"She wanted to be part of that discussion and put her ideas into the mix," he said.

Diplomats in Europe said the top officials Miss Rice will meet there look forward to welcoming her and having substantive and frank discussions.

But Mr. Boucher said he did not anticipate the countries that opposed the war and refused to contribute substantially to the reconstruction effort in Iraq to change their policies, even after Sunday's elections.

"I don't think any of us expect to see a radical shift in the kind of activity that various European governments are involved in, but many of them have been very supportive of this process," Mr. Boucher said.

"We would certainly hope that everybody would recognize what a step forward the Iraqi people made [by voting] and how important it is for all of us to encourage and support those steps," he said.

Miss Rice will begin her weeklong trip in London, whose help in the Iraq war she and Mr. Bush value greatly. She will visit two more Iraq coalition partners, Italy and Poland, as well as Luxembourg and Turkey.

During a stop in the Middle East on Sunday and Monday, she is expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Yesterday, Miss Rice held talks at the State Department with Dov Weisglass, one of Mr. Sharon's closest advisers with whom she met regularly during her four years as Mr. Bush's national security adviser.

During the unannounced meeting, which also was attended by Israeli military officials, Mr. Weisglass updated Miss Rice on Israel's plan to withdraw from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, officials said.

Earlier, Miss Rice told State Department employees there cannot be peace in the Middle East unless the Palestinians have their own state.

"I don't think any of us doubt that without a Palestinian state that is viable, that can meet the aspirations of the Palestinian people, that there really isn't going to be a peace for either the Palestinian people or the Israelis," she said.

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Web Site Claims GI Captured in Iraq
By ROBERT H. REID
Associated Press
Feb 1, 3:03 PM (ET)

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi militants claimed in a Web statement Tuesday to have taken an American soldier hostage and threatened to behead him in 72 hours unless the Americans release Iraqi prisoners. The U.S. military said it was investigating, but the claim's authenticity could not be immediately confirmed.

The posting, on a Web site that frequently carried militants' statements, included a photo of what that statement said was an American soldier, wearing desert fatigues and seated on a concrete floor with his hands tied behind his back. The figure in the photo appeared stiff and expressionless, and the photo's authenticity could not be confirmed.

A gun barrel was pointed at his head, and behind him on the wall is a black banner emblazoned with the Islamic profession of faith, "There is no god but God and Muhammad is His prophet."

A U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, Marine Sgt. Salju K. Thomas, said he had no information on the claim but "we are currently looking into it."

A statement posted with the picture suggested the group was holding other soldiers.

"Our mujahadeen heroes of Iraq's Jihadi Battalion were able to capture American military man John Adam after killing a number of his comrades and capturing the rest," said the statement, signed by the "Mujahedeen Brigades."

"God willing, we will behead him if our female and male prisoners are not released from U.S. prisons within the maximum period of 72 hours from the time this statement has been released," the statement said.

The posting did not show any ID card for the alleged captive and no organization's name was written on the black banner, as have appeared in some past claims of kidnappings. The man's uniform had no U.S. insignia or names visible.

The Mujahedeen Brigades have claimed responsibility for two kidnappings in the past - the abduction in April of three Japanese who were released and that of a Brazilian engineer who went missing after an ambush that the Brigades claimed to have carried out along with the Ansar al-Sunnah Army.

More than 180 foreigners have been kidnapped in the past year. At least 10 of them, including three American civilians, remain in the hands of their kidnappers.

The only American soldier known to have been taken hostage is Pfc. Keith M. Maupin, 20, of Batavia, Ohio, who was shown in a video in April being held by militants. Another video aired in June showed what purported to be Maupin's slaying, but the picture was too unclear to confirm it was him and the military still lists him as missing.

Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun went missing in Iraq in June and later photos surfaced on Arab television showing him blindfolded with a sword to his head. In July he made his way to the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. Back in the United States, he said he had been captured, but in December he was charged with desertion for the incident.

Comment: Sounds like a real story, right? The author wrote that the authenticity of the photo could not be confirmed, but then that has been true of pretty much every video or photo related to the activities of "al-Qaeda" - and reporters always include the "unverified" disclaimer. So, it seems the story broke, and the mainstream media ran with it...

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'Captured GI' A Real Doll
CBSNews.com
Feb. 1, 2005

BAGHDAD - The posting, on a Web site that frequently carries militants' statements, included a photo of what that statement said was an American soldier, wearing desert fatigues and seated on a concrete floor with his hands tied behind his back.

But the authenticity of the statement and photo could not be verified, and Liam Cusack, of the toy manufacturer Dragon Models USA, Inc., said the image of the soldier portrayed in the photo bore a striking resemblance to the African-American version of its "Cody" military action figure.

"It is our doll ... to me it definitely looks like it is," Cusack said. "Everything the guy is wearing is exactly what comes with our figure."

He said the figures were ordered by the U.S. military in Kuwait for sale in their bases, "so they would have been in region."

In Baghdad, Staff Sgt. Nick Minecci of the U.S. military's press office in Baghdad said "no units have reported anyone missing."

The figure in the photo appeared stiff and expressionless.

In the photo, a gun barrel was pointed at the head of the man's figure, and behind him on the wall was a black banner emblazoned with the Islamic profession of faith, "There is no god but God and Muhammad is His prophet."

A statement posted with the picture suggested the group was holding other soldiers.

"Our mujahedeen heroes of Iraq's Jihadi Battalion were able to capture American military man John Adam after killing a number of his comrades and capturing the rest," said the statement, signed by the "Mujahedeen Brigades."

The posting did not show any ID card for the alleged captive and no organization's name was written on the black banner, as have appeared in some past claims of kidnappings. The man's uniform had no U.S. insignia or names visible. [...]

Comment: Curiously enough, it was DrudgeReport.com that had the toy photo that we inserted in this article. In fact, Drudge seemed to have the photo up before anyone else knew what was going on. Note that the African American version of "Cody" is also not on Dragon Models USA's web site - or at least we couldn't find it after a lengthy search.

Is this someone's idea of a joke? A test? Another attempt to belittle the media for "false reporting"?

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Nazi Costumes Prompt VMI Investigation

Africans, Gays Also Parodied

By Carol Morello
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 29, 2005; Page B01

Virginia Military Institute has asked a student governing body to investigate and recommend discipline against cadets who attended a Halloween party wearing costumes that parodied Nazis, Africans and homosexuals.

In a statement posted yesterday on VMI's Web site, school officials said they were "disappointed" in the behavior and judgment of the cadets.

"Civility and respect for others is something VMI is trying to inculcate in the cadets," said Stewart MacInnis, a spokesman for the state-supported school, which has about 1,300 students enrolled this year. "When I look at the pictures, I don't see anything mean-spirited. What I see are college kids who are trying to use humor, and they missed. They really missed. It wasn't the right thing to do."

In one photo posted on a public Web site, three young men wearing black shirts pose as Nazis with their right arms extended in a stiff-armed salute. One appears to have a straight, stiff mustache resembling Adolf Hitler's.

Another picture shows a man painted black from head to toe, his white skin visible at the edges of a loincloth.

Two photos mock homosexuals. In one, two men are dressed as fairies, complete with tiaras, wands, wings, pink briefs and T-shirts with the words "I [love] a man in uniform." In another, a youth dressed in a sailor's uniform is bent over to display a target taped to his buttocks, while a shirtless cadet sidles up behind him.

Hoping to turn the incident into a lesson for the student body, the school has asked the General Committee to investigate and recommend action. The committee is composed of three cadet officers, one each from the sophomore, junior and senior classes. They are generally charged with enforcing standards of conduct among the cadet corps.

Fact-finding will be conducted by another group of cadets, called the Officer of the Guard Association. Members will report to the General Committee, which will send its recommendations to the administration.

"We want to take advantage of an opportunity to provide a teaching point here -- that offensiveness shouldn't be tolerated," said MacInnis, predicting that the report would take at least two weeks to complete.

It is unclear whether the students broke any rules. Cadets can be disciplined for "conduct unbecoming" that brings disrespect to the institution. The school had allowed use of the barracks for the Halloween party under the condition that all costumes be appropriate.

The photographs were taken by a student at the party, which was held on campus and attended by 300 to 400 cadets, MacInnis said. The party was supervised by adult staff and at least two student officers, he said. It is not clear how many people who attended saw the partygoers wearing the costumes.

The photos were among 26 from the party that initially were posted on a Web site featuring snapshots taken by amateur photographers -- primarily sunsets, wildlife and travel pictures. They gained a wider audience when an independent media Web site, Richmond.indymedia.org, posted the pictures Wednesday and noted: "These are, after all, the men who are supposed to one day graduate to their own posts at Gitmos and Abu Ghraibs around the world."

At least some of the eight cadets who posed for the photos have been identified and questioned about their costumes, MacInnis said. The school is not releasing the names of the students.

Robert O'Neil, a University of Virginia law professor and director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for Free Expression, said courts have ruled that civilian colleges can do little to sanction student expressions of free speech, however offensive. As a public school, VMI probably would be held to the same standard, despite its military character and mission.

One possible exception, he noted, might be related to the inappropriate display of military uniforms in the photograph of the two men dressed in Navy whites with bull's-eyes on the pant seats.

Word of the incident was beginning to spread on the campus of VMI yesterday, said Paul Bryan, a senior, first classman, from Lexington, Va. Bryan attended the party but said he did not see the costumes.

"VMI strives very hard to present the best image of young men and women," he said. "The fact that some of it can be taken away by the actions of a few is disappointing."

Andy Hollinger, a spokesman for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, noted that VMI quickly denounced the cadets' behavior. He said he hoped the cadets learn something about the genocide of the Nazis.

"Hopefully this will be taken as an opportunity by the participants and others to educate themselves about the Holocaust and gain a deeper understanding of why so many people, particularly survivors and their families, find this offensive and are still deeply hurt by the swastika and what it represents," he said.

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It Can Happen Here

Bankruptcy is for other countries, not the United States of America -- right?

By Robert Kuttner
"How did you go bankrupt?"

"Two ways. Gradually, and then suddenly." Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

Countries go broke gradually, by borrowing so much money that creditors lose confidence in their ability to pay the debt back. Then, they go broke suddenly as creditors stop lending.

This has happened to more than a dozen third-world nations, who had the additional misfortune of having to borrow in dollars. As their own currency lost the confidence of world markets, they lost value against the dollar. This only increased their real debt burden. The optimists say, ''It can't happen here."

First, we're the people who print dollars. So if the dollar is losing value, it just means the money that we owe the rest of the world is getting cheaper. Lucky us.

Second, we enjoy a codependency with our creditors. For instance, China, which keeps lending us money to finance our deficits, may be accumulating dollar credits that are losing their real worth. But China needs us to keep absorbing their products, so China will go right on lending.

And third, the United States remains the anchor of the world economy. So even though other nations may not like America's immense trade and budget deficits, nobody is going to risk pushing the world into depression by crashing the dollar.

That, as I say, is the optimistic view. Well, dream on.

Yesterday, the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), possibly the last intellectually honest government agency in George W. Bush's Washington, reported that our fiscal situation is even worse than expected.

According to the CBO's latest ''Budget and Economic Outlook," the projected deficit for 2005 will be about $400 billion. The CBO declares, politely but unmistakably, that it doesn't buy the Bush administration's budgetary gimmickry of trying to keep anticipated military outlays out of the official budget.

''The absence of further appropriations for activities in Iraq and Afghanistan," CBO states, ''masks a further deterioration in budget projections over the [next] ten years."

Specifically, the deficit for the next decade is $504 billion worse than anticipated in CBO's previous estimate last September.

The agency goes on to warn that other challenges not currently itemized in official administration projections, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, will only increase future deficits. And, of course, if the Bush administration succeeds either in making permanent his major tax reductions (most of which sunset after 10 years), or in adding $2 trillion of borrowing to privatize Social Security, the fiscal situation would go from merely disastrous to catastrophic.

But back to our story, ''It Can't Happen Here." America's deteriorating fiscal situation, unfortunately, is not lost either on world money markets or on the Federal Reserve. Although no world leader would willfully plunge the world into depression, that's not how markets work. Markets are purely self-interested.

Lately, markets, with good reason, have been betting against the dollar. As the U.S. trade deficit approaches a staggering 7 percent, it's not clear how much longer foreign investors will keep investing in dollars and dollar-securities, such as corporate stocks and government bonds.

As for the Chinese, Clyde Prestowitz of the Economic Strategy Institute, formerly a senior trade negotiator in the Reagan administration, offers the following scenario: In a future crisis involving the tense China-Taiwan relationship, the Chinese ambassador suggests to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that maybe the United States would like to move its warships 500 miles away from Taiwan. Rice demurs. The next day, the Bank of China sells a few -- just a very few to get our attention -- U.S. Treasury securities. Money markets reel.

Would the Chinese play such a risky game? They have their own interests, geopolitical as well as economic. They are certainly not an American pawn, less so with every passing year. Miscalculations have happened in world economic relations before, and with calamitous results.

The Federal Reserve, meanwhile, is increasingly worried about inflation, largely of the imported variety due to the weak dollar. The Fed is steadily raising interest rates. With every quarter-point hike, consumers pay more for mortgage and credit card loans, investors in stocks become more wary, and the air goes out of the economy. Alan Greenspan kept rates very low long enough to get George W. Bush reelected. Now he is reverting to type.

The Bush administration is putting itself, and America's economic future, in grave jeopardy. The only good news is that all this bad news makes Social Security privatization, or permanent tax cuts for the wealthy, less than an even bet.

Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect. This column originally appeared in The Boston Globe.

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If China Shuns Dollar, Look Out U.S. Bonds
William Pesek Jr.

Jan. 28 (Bloomberg) -- [...]``The U.S. dollar is no longer, in our opinion is no longer, (seen) as a stable currency and is devaluating all the time, and that's putting troubles all the time,'' Fan said, speaking in English, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. ``So the real issue is how to change the regime from a U.S. dollar pegging to a more manageable reference, say euros, yen, dollars -- those kind of more diversified systems.''

Paul Donovan, London-based senior global economist at UBS AG, seemed to speak for many traders and investors when he said: ``This in fact is a scenario we consider to be highly likely.'' Certainly more likely than, say, China letting the yuan trade freely. [...]

Central banks here don't buy U.S. debt out of altruism. Hoarding dollars is necessary to hold down currencies to boost Asian growth. Yet dumping dollars would result in stronger Asian currencies and, by extension, Asian gross domestic product.

Smaller economies like Indonesia, Malaysia or Thailand may be able to trim dollar holdings without undermining their own economies. The same can't be said of Japan and China; combined, they own $906 billion of the roughly $1.1 trillion of U.S. Treasuries held overseas.

Still, the day of financial reckoning that investors fear may be getting closer. [...]

The U.S. finds itself in a be-careful-what-you-wish-for situation here. If China tomorrow announced it was letting the yuan float, as the U.S. wants, its central bank wouldn't need anything near the $191 billion of U.S. debt it holds. Massive dollar selling could follow.

Asian central banks like China's have become America's bankers, financing its excesses through good times and bad. It's now up to Asia to decide whether to extend the U.S.'s line of credit. The U.S. should be warned that the odds are moving less and less in its favor.

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Challenging a Sacred Cow
Linda Heard,
solitairemedia@yahoo.co.uk

Excuse me while I put on my flak jacket. For many the touting of democracy as the best system of governance - indeed, the only form - has become almost a religion. Democracy, they say, means freedom, choice, justice and prosperity. It's the cure of all ills; a political holy grail, an ideal to which we should all aspire. George Bush says the US has never been threatened by a democracy, so that's all right then.

Sounds good, doesn't it? There is just one slight problem, though. Does a "by the people, for the people" utopia actually exist? [...]

There is a lot more to democracy than the ballot including a free press, an independent judiciary, the sanctity of human rights and civil liberties, backed up by stable institutions. Iraq currently possesses none of these prerequisites.

The same can be said for Palestine and its much-vaunted democracy. The Palestinians may have voted for Mahmoud Abbas as their leader but can he deliver a sovereign state? Can he deliver free passage, free trade, or security?

The Palestinians have no rights over their seas or their air space. They don't even have an airport. Their "democratically-elected" government cannot prevent their lands being grabbed or their homes demolished. They are living, nay subsisting, under a particularly nasty occupation. This is the ugly reality so don't let's dress up occupation by labeling it with a fancy word.

As for the occupying countries, which call themselves democracies, are they really?

Take Britain, for example. During the build up to war with Iraq, some80 percent of the British people were against the invasion. A whopping two million took to the streets to say as much. But this didn't even give a "for the people, by the people" government pause for thought. As it turned out the people's instincts were spot on.

It is true that Britons will have the chance next spring to vote out the party, which flagrantly ignored their wishes but what options are on the table? The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats both voted for the war in Parliament and both are likely to put the trans-Atlantic alliance before the feelings of their constituents.

America, eager to export democracy to the far corners of the planet, should put its own house in order first. Just imagine in a country of 350 million educated people a son adopts the presidential mantle of his father. Isn't it coincidental that George W. just happened to be the very best person for the job, while his younger brother, governor of Florida, waits in the wings? Is it something in the genes?

There, it isn't the people who collectively design their nation's direction but industry, big business, banks and self-interested politicians assisted by the media. The US has its ruling dynasties - Bush and Kennedy - just like so many of those nations it is out to forcibly reform. There is one difference though.

Americans are indoctrinated to believe they have choices. Again, Kerry, the only serious contender during the last race, was a pro-war senator. The others either didn't have enough funds or were discredited by a media, which we now know the government is not averse to bribing.

Indeed, the administration has recently reluctantly admitted paying three conservative commentators to sway public opinion in favor of its policies.

We should not forget, too, that in 2000 , the loser Al Gore was the recipient of the popular vote prompting complaints about the Electoral College approach and the panel of mostly Republican judges, which was given the final say.

As for that fine democracy called Israel, this is a place where people espousing a particular religion can call home, while those carrying rusting keys to their actual homes built by their grandfathers are shut out. This is a state, which fears a "one person, one vote" system more than anything as long as Arab-Israeli couples have six children as opposed to an average of two Jewish newborns. Arab Israelis are treated as second-class citizens and yet, Israel is touted as the only democracy in the region.

The question is this: Is Western-style democracy the only way or are there viable alternatives? Let's take a look at the United Arab Emirates.

Just 35 years ago, the Emirates boasted little except a few paved roads, a hospital or two, a couple of schools and hardly any five-star hotels. Today, the country is booming. Its per capita GDP is $24,000, while Dubai is growing at the rate of14 percent per annum. It has a crime rate most Western countries would die for.

It may not be a democracy but so what? Emiratis are free to do just about anything and number among the most widely traveled on earth.

What is more, they genuinely respect their leaders who made the desert bloom...and how! There are no bag ladies here. There are no druggies bedding down in shop doorways. There are no people clamoring to emigrate. On the contrary, many are clamoring to get in.

Any system of government, which provides its citizens with all that they need and which keeps law and order while respecting human rights should be admired.

Worshiping democracy may be fashionable but democracy is only a means to an end and not a be all and end all. At the end of the day, the only relevancies are the cash in people's pockets, the freedom to enjoy it, and the smiles on their faces.

- Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs.

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Justice and 9-11

By D. Alexander Floum
Online Journal Contributing Writer

January 28, 2005-The evidence that certain elements of the government intentionally allowed and caused the 9-11 tragedy appears to be extremely strong. See, for example, Painful Questions by Eric Hufschmid, Synthetic Terror by Webster Tarpley, and The New Pearl Harbor and The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions by David Ray Griffin.

After failing to obtain any competent investigation or tangible results from the 9/11 Commission, the White House, or Congress (many of the governmental personnel responsible for preventing an attack on the U.S. have actually been promoted since 9-11), many Americans are asking whether justice may be obtained through the courts. The answer is complicated, and it would be impossible for a brief article such as this to do anything other than scratch the surface concerning 9-11 justice.

Instead of being the final word on 9-11 legal issues, this article is intended to be an introduction to strategy regarding 9-11 lawsuits, and a practical discussion of how to avoid some of the landmines present on the path to the courtroom battlefield which could knock the unwary out of the game before they even get started.

Can We Win a 9-11 Lawsuit?

Legally, I believe we should win in court. If the facts surrounding the 9-11attacks were applied to the elements of the law in a vacuum, then I believe that many of the real 9-11 perpetrators and accomplices would end up behind bars. There is strong evidence from numerous sources that the 9-11 attacks could not have occurred without the assistance of people in our government. Under theories of murder, criminal negligence, conspiracy, treason and other doctrines, the perpetrators should be found guilty and brought to justice.

However, in any 9-11 lawsuit, the government and its employees would claim that they are protected by sovereign immunity defenses (meaning, in essence, "I'm the king, so you can't sue me"). This area of law is too complicated to discuss here, but I believe we might be able to overcome sovereign immunity defenses for at least some claims, since acts of murderous treason should not be considered within the normal scope of government employment. However, as discussed below, sovereign immunity has already been used to dismiss one 9-11 case, and it is an issue which must be taken very seriously by anyone filing a 9-11 lawsuit.

Moreover, it is unlikely that a court would allow high-level officials such as a sitting president or vice president to be tried until they leave office after the end of their designated term or through impeachment and removal. This is because the constitutional "separation of powers" doctrine provides that one branch of government, such as the judiciary, cannot unduly interfere with the workings of another branch, such as the executive branch. It is clear that, pursuant to federal statutes, a sitting president cannot be tried criminally, although it has not been decided whether the president can be indicted (the first step in the criminal process) while in office or whether the vice president has the same protections as the president. Thus, even if a court did not dismiss a lawsuit outright on sovereign immunity grounds, it would almost certainly stay (i.e. pause) any lawsuit against the president and vice president.

Finally, the government would argue in defense to a 9-11 lawsuit that everything that happened on 9-11 involves a "political question" or "national security interests" of the United States which supersede other considerations. Believe it or not, the government would likely argue that the executive branch is responsible for making war and protecting the country, and that the courts cannot question what the White House and Pentagon do in the realm of defense and military action. While this may sound odd, and while it would obviously be absurd for the government to argue that the 9-11 attack itself was in the national security interest, the courts tend to defer to the executive branch on military and defense issues. Judges' brains often shut off when confronted by a claim by the military that something was necessary for national security or military purposes. Thus, a 9-11 lawsuit should argue that only rogue elements in the U.S. government and military participated in the 9-11 attacks, and that such actions were against the national security interests of the United States and have weakened our country.

What Should a 9-11 Complaint Include?

Sometimes, less is more. Some of the complaints in 9-11 lawsuits have included claims that the Iraq war is illegal, that the USA PATRIOT Act and related laws are fascist, that President Bush was elected through vote fraud, and a host of other claims. I personally agree that 9-11 was probably committed as a new Pearl Harbor type event in order to justify imperial ambitions.

However, the vast majority of judges will immediately write off as bogus any complaint which contains too many different conspiracy claims. The reason is that every judge has reviewed a complaint written by someone who is literally psychotic which claims that everyone is out to get them and everyone has hurt them in some way. When I worked for a court of appeal judge, I read complaints written by defendants in cocaine possession cases who tried to blame everything on everyone else, and, ungrounded in any real facts, alleged that everyone was out to get them. Understandably, after seeing a couple complaints like this, judges tend to automatically close their minds to any lawsuit alleging too many conspiracies or conspirators. Therefore, any 9-11 suit which attempts to weave in too many different crimes, such as an unlawful war, unlawful seizure of centralized power by the government, voting rights fraud, etc., will probably fail.

But some 9-11 complaints have gone too far the other way, by failing to include some of the most important facts related to 9-11. For example, some of the complaints solely allege that the defendants were negligent in allowing 9-11 to happen, while completely ignoring the physical and documentary evidence showing that the 9-11 attacks could not possibly have happened in the manner that the government has described and could not have happened without direct assistance from certain governmental personnel. Failing to mention such evidence gives a court the easy way out by allowing it to decide that the government was careless, but not criminally so. This is the "mistakes were made, but who could have foreseen 9-11?" tack which the 9-11 Commission took, which lets everyone off of the hook without punishment.

Moreover, any complaint which fails to mention Operation Northwoods and the Reichstag fire might miss an opportunity to provide the historical background and context which a court probably needs to fully understand 9-11. In Operation Northwoods, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff proposed committing terrorist acts against U.S. citizens in order to blame Cuba and serve as a rationale for invading that country. In the Reichstag fire, Nazis set fire to the German parliament building and blamed the Communists, in order to justify Adolph Hitler's imperial wars against foreign nations.

Criminal law largely focuses on attempting to prove motive for committing the crime and the means of, and opportunity for, performing the criminal act. Operation Northwoods and the Reichstag fire are historically powerful examples of the type of motive which appear to be behind complicity within certain elements of the U.S. government in the 9-11 attacks. Specifically, a rationale for the invasion of Iraq, seizure of middle eastern oil, and a new imperial presidency may have been some of the motives for the 9-11 attack, and a judge needs some education on this basic concept.

The bottom line is that mentioning Iraq, voting fraud or oppressive new laws as additional offenses will likely cause a complaint to be tossed into the trash can-this is the "everything including the kitchen sink" type of complaint that a judge will assume is worthless. But mentioning such facts as part of the motive for why 9-11 was committed, if explained in a logical and understated fashion, might be helpful in providing background for the case. In other words, it might be advisable to tell the judge why the perpetrators committed the 9-11 attacks, but not to give the judge a catalogue of crimes that they committed in addition to 9-11.

What's Happened So Far?

Several people have recently submitted a complaint to New York's attorney general, Eliot Spitzer. Spitzer is a dedicated activist when it comes to fighting corporate crime. However, he is running for governor, and political considerations might lessen the chance that he would pursue a 9-11 case. While fairly well-written, the Spitzer complaint includes somewhat contradictory theories about who was behind 9-11. To view the Spitzer complaint and donate to the groups behind that effort, go to Justice for 9/11.

Ellen Mariani, the widow of a 9-11 victim, filed a case based on a civil conspiracy theory. After she was removed as administrator of her late husband's estate, former world trade center employee and 9-11 hero William Rodriguez stepped in as lead plaintiff in the suit. While passionate and well-written, the complaint may-as discussed above-suffer from inclusion of too many conspiracy theories, such as election fraud. To view the Rodriguez complaint or donate to the legal effort, go to 911fortheTruth.org.

There are also numerous 9-11 related personal injury and insurance lawsuits, although they do not appear to directly address who was actually responsible for the attacks.

To my knowledge, no attorney has yet filed a class action case based upon 9-11. Not many trial lawyers handle class actions, since it takes a lot of work to get the plaintiffs certified as a class and to take the other necessary steps which are not required in other types of civil lawsuits. Also, class actions take a special type of expertise which many trial lawyers don't have.

To date, no key insiders in the government have blown the whistle on the government's role in 9-11. Former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds and others have laid bare the falsity of many of the government's claims, but no one has stepped forward to reveal what actually happened on 9-11 (Edmonds is still under a gag order placed on her by the Department of Justice).

Moreover, no nationally-known, first-tier trial lawyer has yet filed a 9-11 lawsuit. One of the purposes of this article is to attract the attention of heavy-hitting trial lawyers to file a 9-11 suit or, at the very least, to persuade a better legal mind than my own to formulate a successful litigation strategy.

This is not to say that no top-notch lawyers have joined the 9-11 truth movement. In addition to the efforts of the lawyers filing the Spitzer and Rodriguez complaints, law school professors Peter Erlinder, Burns H. Weston and Richard Falk, and famed trial attorney Gerry Spence have all expressed, in writing, support for 9-11 justice.

A Cautionary Tale: the Hilton Lawsuit

On January 3, a San Francisco federal court judge dismissed the 9-11 lawsuit filed by Bob Dole's former chief of staff, attorney Stanley Hilton. The Hilton lawsuit is a cautionary tale of what not to do. Hilton's complaint is poorly drafted, throws in too many unrelated crimes such as the unlawful war in Iraq, and is not carefully crafted to overcome governmental defenses.

Initially, the court held that Hilton failed to establish that any of the plaintiffs had "standing" to bring the suit (i.e they hadn't been directly injured by the government's actions upon which they sued). The Hilton lawsuit involved several plaintiffs who claimed that they (1) were fired for anti-war speech, (2) had had anti-war literature confiscated, or (3) had suffered a reduction in veteran payments. The court held these injuries were not directly related to the alleged unlawful governmental actions. Further, the court found that taxpayers in general do not have standing in this type of lawsuit. As discussed below, a family member of a victim of 9-11 would be more likely to have standing in a 9-11 lawsuit.

Moreover, the court dismissed the lawsuit because the government and its employees have sovereign immunity against civil "RICO" (i.e. conspiracy) claims. This might not bode well for the Rodriguez lawsuit, which is also a civil RICO suit.

Finally, the court held that Hilton's allegation that the war in Iraq is illegal and request that the court should stop further expenditures on that war constitute a "political question" that the courts are not able to address.

Because Hilton's complaint was so poorly drafted and ill-conceived, the court never even addressed the factual questions regarding what happened on 9-11 or who carried out the attacks.

Will a Government Prosecutor Be Our White Knight?

Some 9-11 activists are focused on attempting to convince state attorneys general to file 9-11 lawsuits. As mentioned above, a complaint has already been submitted to New York's attorney general. Does this mean that the NY complaint should be copied and submitted to the other 49 state attorneys general?

It's tempting to do so. State attorneys general have substantial resources to investigate, conduct discovery in, and prosecute cases. They often possess in-house investigators, special discovery powers (i.e. subpoena powers above and beyond a normal plaintiff in a case), and the staff needed to see a lawsuit through to the end.

However, it must first be determined whether the attorney general or another prosecuting agency has jurisdiction over the case. District attorneys or county attorneys usually have jurisdiction over murder cases which occur within their geographic district. State attorneys general can sometimes assist in a murder trial, and often handle appeals of a verdict in such a trial. Attorneys general also have the power to prosecute certain other types of cases pursuant to statute. And the United States Attorney has jurisdiction over crimes against the United States, which 9-11 probably was.

Therefore, before a complaint is filed with the attorney general, it must be determined whether that agency, the district attorney or county counsel, or the United States Attorney or U.S. Department of Justice is the agency with jurisdiction over the specific types of crime (such as murder or criminal conspiracy) which are being alleged. The analysis of which is the proper agency will depend on the types of crime alleged in the complaint.

Moreover, public prosecutors have wide discretion concerning which cases they choose to pursue. Unlike a civil lawsuit, which is initiated at the discretion of a citizen, criminal complaints are prosecuted by a governmental agency at its discretion. While a prosecutor receives many complaints, he or she will decide to pursue a small handful of such cases based on a number of factors, including which cases fit in with the priorities of that office (for example, corporate crime and securities fraud are Eliot Spitzer's focus, environmental laws have been a prime concern for many California attorneys general, while enforcing anti-sodomy laws and punishing violent criminals and drug offenders have been the focus of some recent southern attorneys general).

Whether or not the prosecutor thinks that the case is winnable is another factor in the decision. Governmental prosecutors, whether county district attorneys, state attorneys general, or the federal department of justice, usually don't touch cases they don't think they have a good chance of winning.

Because no attorney general can pursue a lawsuit unless it can help right a wrong suffered by citizens of that particular state, the complaint needs to explain in some detail the physical or economic injuries which the perpetrators of 9-11 caused to at least one citizen of that particular state. If any 9-11 victims lived in that state, that should be pointed out. If any family members of 9-11 victims reside in the state, that might be good enough. If there are no victims or family members of victims, then more creative arguments about economic injury to the state and its citizens can be made. The same is true of a complaint submitted to a district attorney or other governmental prosecutor.

Finally, it should be noted that each attorney general has its own procedure for submission of a complaint. Some states, like New York, have no specific format requirement. Others, like Michigan, may only accept a complaint on one of the state's pre-approved forms. Care must be paid to the practice of the particular prosecutor to which a complaint is submitted.

The Role of Non-Profits

Non-profit organizations which deal with legal and justice issues should be lobbied, especially by their own members, to take up the cause of 9-11 justice. Conservative groups such as Judicial Watch and liberal groups such as the National Lawyers Guild have the skill and resources to prosecute a 9-11 lawsuit. They should be persuaded to take up the cause.

Is It Worth the Effort?

Given the challenges in successfully litigating a 9-11 lawsuit, it is fair to ask whether it is worth the effort. I strongly feel that the answer is yes.

Americans are taught in history class that we have a government of laws, and that our constitution guarantees a separation of powers between the courts, congress, and the White House. But the principles underlying the constitution only survive if those in power are forced to honor and protect its ideals. The power-brokers will only follow the principles embodied in the constitution to the extent that we the people demand that they do.

Justice should be considered a verb, not a noun. It is not something that our forefathers handed down to us in a frame. It is not a thing which we as Americans own. Justice is in fact a process, which only will survive to the degree that we fight for it. Indeed, one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, repeatedly warned that after 200 years, most governments become stale and corrupt. The saying "vigilance is the price of democracy" may be said of justice as well. Unless we demand that the high and mighty are subject to the same laws as the rest of us, than our justice system will wither.

September 11, 2001, appears to be an act as cynical and traitorous as the Nazi's setting of the Reichstag fire, with many of the same motives. Nine-eleven has been used by those seeking empire to justify wars in the Middle East and elsewhere. It has been used to scare the American people into a state of passivity and subservience, allowing our constitutional liberties to be taken from us a piece at a time, through passage of the USA PATRIOT Act and other draconian legislation. Nine-eleven is a fulcrum of history, a leverage point in the American story, and the Achilles heel of the drive toward empire.

Nine-eleven is a test for the rule of law and for democracy. If the perpetrators are allowed to get away with their crimes, then the justice system will have failed, and the separation of powers which our founding fathers worked so hard to create will have been destroyed by the abdication of power by the judiciary to the executive branch. If, on the other hand, the truth behind the attacks is brought to light and those responsible punished, then-at least at this one crucial moment in history-justice will have prevailed over crime, sanity over chaos, and hope over fear. We will then have a chance as a nation and a people.

Is that worth fighting for?

Copyright © 2005 D. Alexander Floum. All rights reserved.

D. Alexander Floum is an attorney and former adjunct law school professor.

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Lack of Intellect Linked to Suicide

Low Problem-Solving Skills May Make Some Men Prone to Suicide

By Jennifer Warner

Jan. 20, 2005 - A lack of intellect or problem-solving skills in young men may make them more prone to mental illness and suicide.

Researchers found young men who scored lowest on intelligence tests were more likely to commit suicide in later years.

In particular, young men who scored the worst on tests of logic at age 18 were two to three times more likely to commit suicide during middle age than those with the best scores.

Researchers say the link between intelligence and suicide risk is unclear. But these results suggest that intellectual capacity in early adulthood is strongly related to the subsequent risk of suicide in young men. [...]

Researchers say more studies are needed to investigate the relationship between intelligence and suicide risk, as previous studies have had conflicting results.

But they say one possible explanation is that influences in early childhood may increase a person's susceptibility to mental illness and, therefore, suicide. Another explanation may be that people who have a harder time solving problems in times of crisis may be more prone to suicide than others.

SOURCE: Gunnell, D. British Medical Journal, Jan. 22, 2005; vol 330: pp 167-170.

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Global Warming: Methane Could Be Far Worse Than Carbon Dioxide
February 01, 2005

Methane gas, abundantly trapped as a half frozen slush in the northern hemisphere's tundra permafrost regions and at the bottom of the sea may well be a ticking time bomb, says geologist John Atcheson in an article published by the Baltimore Sun in December last year. Methane is about twenty times stronger as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Since arctic warming seems to procede faster than expected, there is a real danger that deposits of methane and similar gases trapped in normally frozen ground, may thaw out and "belch" into the atmosphere, wreaking havoc with our computer simulations of global warming.

According to Gregory Ryskin, associate professor of chemical engineering at Northwestern University, "explosive clouds of methane gas, initially trapped in stagnant bodies of water and suddenly released, could have killed off the majority of marine life and land animals and plants at the end of the Permian era" - long before dinosaurs lived and died. Ruskin believes that methane may have been the driving force in previous catastrophic changes of the earth's climate, where 95 percent of marine species and 70 percent of land species were lost in - geologically speaking - the blink of an eye. [...]

So forget rising sea levels, melting ice caps, more intense storms, more floods, destruction of habitats and the extinction of polar bears. Forget warnings that global warming might turn some of the world's major agricultural areas into deserts and increase the range of tropical diseases, even though this is the stuff we're pretty sure will happen.

In what might have been an early warning, in 1986, lake Nyos in Cameroon "burped" an amount of gases killing 1800 people, following a much smaller scale disaster on neighbouring lake Monoun two years earlier, which killed 37 people. While carbon dioxide has been fingered as the main culprit, there seems to have been a "fiery" component to the eruption indicating possible presence of combustible methane: "Skin discoloration found on some victims were tentatively interpreted as burns, but this diagnosis is still controversial. Witnesses on topographic highs report a loud noise originating from the lake and, in the case of lake Nyos, flashes of light visible over the lake".

Apparently, three dissolved gasses, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide and methane come together and indeed, a project to recover the methane from the waters of Lake Kivu, on Rwanda's north-western border, is in advanced stage of engineering. A similar project is underway to de-gas lakes Nyos and Monoun in Cameroon. [...]

There are enormous quantities of naturally occurring greenhouse gasses trapped in ice-like structures in the cold northern muds and at the bottom of the seas. These ices, called clathrates, contain 3,000 times as much methane as is in the atmosphere. Methane is more than 20 times as strong a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide.

Now here's the scary part. A temperature increase of merely a few degrees would cause these gases to volatilize and "burp" into the atmosphere, which would further raise temperatures, which would release yet more methane, heating the Earth and seas further, and so on. There's 400 gigatons of methane locked in the frozen arctic tundra - enough to start this chain reaction - and the kind of warming the Arctic Council predicts is sufficient to melt the clathrates and release these greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Once triggered, this cycle could result in runaway global warming the likes of which even the most pessimistic doomsayers aren't talking about.

An apocalyptic fantasy concocted by hysterical environmentalists? Unfortunately, no. Strong geologic evidence suggests something similar has happened at least twice before.

The most recent of these catastrophes occurred about 55 million years ago in what geologists call the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), when methane burps caused rapid warming and massive die-offs, disrupting the climate for more than 100,000 years.

The granddaddy of these catastrophes occurred 251 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period, when a series of methane burps came close to wiping out all life on Earth.

More than 94 percent of the marine species present in the fossil record disappeared suddenly as oxygen levels plummeted and life teetered on the verge of extinction. Over the ensuing 500,000 years, a few species struggled to gain a foothold in the hostile environment. It took 20 million to 30 million years for even rudimentary coral reefs to re-establish themselves and for forests to regrow. In some areas, it took more than 100 million years for ecosystems to reach their former healthy diversity.

Geologist Michael J. Benton lays out the scientific evidence for this epochal tragedy in a recent book, When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time. As with the PETM, greenhouse gases, mostly carbon dioxide from increased volcanic activity, warmed the earth and seas enough to release massive amounts of methane from these sensitive clathrates, setting off a runaway greenhouse effect.

The cause of all this havoc?

In both cases, a temperature increase of about 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit, about the upper range for the average global increase today's models predict can be expected from burning fossil fuels by 2100. But these models could be the tail wagging the dog since they don't add in the effect of burps from warming gas hydrates. Worse, as the Arctic Council found, the highest temperature increases from human greenhouse gas emissions will occur in the arctic regions - an area rich in these unstable clathrates.

If we trigger this runaway release of methane, there's no turning back. No do-overs. Once it starts, it's likely to play out all the way.

Humans appear to be capable of emitting carbon dioxide in quantities comparable to the volcanic activity that started these chain reactions. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, burning fossil fuels releases more than 150 times the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by volcanoes - the equivalent of nearly 17,000 additional volcanoes the size of Hawaii's Kilauea.

And that is the time bomb the Arctic Council ignored.

How likely is it that humans will cause methane burps by burning fossil fuels? No one knows. But it is somewhere between possible and likely at this point, and it becomes more likely with each passing year that we fail to act.

So forget rising sea levels, melting ice caps, more intense storms, more floods, destruction of habitats and the extinction of polar bears. Forget warnings that global warming might turn some of the world's major agricultural areas into deserts and increase the range of tropical diseases, even though this is the stuff we're pretty sure will happen. [...]

We can't afford to have the first sign of a failed energy policy be the mass extinction of life on Earth. We have to act now.

John Atcheson, a geologist, has held a variety of policy positions in several federal government agencies.

Comment: "In the counsels of Government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the Military Industrial Complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together." Dwight Eisenhower

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More Texans turn to food stamps

Officials report 75 percent rise since 2000

By MELANIE MARKLEY
Houston Chronicle
Jan. 31, 2005

The past couple of months had been lean for Jorge Herrera, who got laid off from his construction job in November. He'd been looking for work, he said, but hadn't found anything. And he had a family to feed.

Raymond Carrizal listened intently from his corner table in the waiting room of the downtown San Jose Clinic. He handed the man a food-stamp application and showed him how to fill it out. A family of four can get as much as $499 a month to supplement their grocery budget.

"If anybody needs it, it's him," said Carrizal, an outreach worker for the nonprofit Families Under Urban & Social Attack who has spent the past three years getting hungry families signed up for the Lone Star Card, the state's electronic food-stamp program.

Such outreach efforts, in addition to a sluggish economy, a growing population and relaxed eligibility guidelines, have fueled a 75 percent increase in the number of Texans on federally funded food stamps since 2000.

Yet, despite the jump, fewer people are actually getting food stamps than a decade ago. Statewide, those receiving food stamps peaked at nearly 2.8 million in 1994, dropped to nearly 1.4 million in 2000 and has been on the rise again, reaching about 2.4 million last November.

Comment: This is the truth on the street for disenfranchised Americans. Neo-liberal thought makes each of us responsible for our lives, assigning no responsibility to the individual for the well-being of his neighbour. It is this ideology that is behind Bush's attacks on Social Security in the US. They dress it up in fancy words and theories, but it comes down to the fact that these folks are mean-spirited. No, they are probably just psychopaths, doing what comes naturally. To be mean-spirited they would have to feel something.

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Photoshopped Propaganda
Online forum comment

[...]

It is really appalling that somebody would intentionally filter out the emotions of an originally already shocking picture, and to alter the image in such a way that it only serves one's own cause. [...]Distorting reality for one's own cause by photoshopping pictures isn't only extremely unethical, it is also extremely stupid to do so while the original photograph is widely available on the internet.

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The Inquisition Strikes Back
By Jules Siegel, AlterNet. Posted January 29, 2005.

In 'Guantanamo: What the World Should Know,' it's hard to say which is more disgusting, the descriptions of the torture or the bone-chilling analyses of how the president gave himself the powers of an absolute military dictator.Under Military Order No. 1, which the president issued without congressional authority on November 13, 2001, George W. Bush has ordered people captured or detained from all over the world, flown to Guantánamo and tortured in a lawless zone where, the White House asserts, prisoners have no rights of any kind at all and can be kept forever at his pleasure. Despite the at-best marginal intervention of the American courts so far, there is no civilian judicial review, no due process of any kind. [...]

Ratner notes that 134 of the 147 prisoners later released from Guantánamo were guilty of absolutely nothing. Only thirteen were sent on to jail. He believes it is possible that a substantial majority of the Guantánamo prisoners had nothing to do with any kind of terrorism. One prisoner released after a year claimed he was somewhere between ninety and one hundred years old, according to Ratner. Old, frail and incontinent, he wept constantly, shackled to a walker.

So what did the authorities get from those who survived? We will never know, but we can guess from at least one incident in this book. Ratner reports that the Guantánamo interrogators showed some of his clients' videotapes supposedly depicting them with Osama bin Laden. At first they denied being in the videos, but they confessed after prolonged interrogation under harsh conditions. Yet British intelligence proved to the American government that the men were actually in the United Kingdom when the tapes were made.

If many of these people who died in custody or were tortured had committed no crime, there is no doubt that they were all victims of crime, whether guilty or not. Despite White House arguments to the contrary, torture is a crime under international and United States law. [...]

Under United Nations Convention Against Torture, an international treaty that almost every country in the world, including the United States, has ratified, torture is an international crime. The United States has made it a crime even if it occurs abroad.

"The Convention Against Torture also establishes what is called universal jurisdiction for cases of torture," Ratner explains. "So, for example, if an American citizen engaged in torture anywhere in the world and was later found in France, let's say, that person could be arrested in France and either tried for torture there or extradited to the place of the torture for trial. To the extent U.S. officials were or are involved in torture in Guantánamo or elsewhere, they should be careful about the countries in which they travel."

He continues, "In addition, torture committed by U.S. soldiers or private contractors acting under U.S. authority is a violation of federal law, punishable by the death penalty if the death of a prisoner results from the torture. Even if one argues that al Qaeda suspects are not governed by the Geneva Conventions, the Convention Against Torture and other human rights treaties ratified by the United States prohibit torture as well as other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

"The convention is crystal clear: under no circumstances can you torture people, whatever you call them, whether illegal combatants, enemy combatants, murderers, killers. You cannot torture anybody ever; it's an absolute prohibition."

Comment: "We have met the enemy and he is us." Walt Kelly

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Pope John Paul II: a conservative who has revolutionised the papacy

2/2/05
VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope John Paul II, rushed to hospital with breathing problems, has revolutionized the papacy, contributing to the collapse of communism in eastern Europe but alienating many Roman Catholics with his conservative social views. The flu-stricken pontiff, who has struggled with the effects of advanced age and Parkinson's disease, was rushed to the Gemelli hospital in Rome shortly before 11:00 pm (2200 GMT) Tuesday after suffering spasms of the larynx.

It is the 84-year-old's severest health crisis since a would-be assassin's bullet just missed his heart in 1981.

The first non-Italian pope in four-and-a-half centuries, and the first from eastern Europe, Karol Wojtyla is the 263rd successor to Saint Peter as Bishop of Rome. [...]

Perhaps his finest hour came when he stood before fellow Poles in 1979 and said "Do not be afraid", prompting millions to rally to the cause of Lech Walesa whose "Solidarnosc" movement was fighting to end communist rule in Poland.

In 1981 the pope was nearly killed in an assassination attempt by rightwing Turkish fanatic Mehmet Ali Agca, who shot him at close range in Saint Peter's Square. The pontiff survived after extensive surgery, but his health was badly affected thereafter.

At the same time, Church reformers, the young, and Third World congregations in the grip of a devastating AIDS epidemic became dismayed at his refusal to give ground on contraception and the use of condoms.

"For the Catholic Church, this pontificate, despite its positive aspects, has really been a disaster," said Swiss theologian Hans Kung in an interview in 2003.

"Many women have turned away from the Church because of the pope's position on contraception and the ordination of women," he added.

In the United States, high-profile scandals involving several pedophile priests shook the foundations of the Catholic Church until the Vatican belatedly sanctioned a policy of "zero tolerance" toward such behaviour.

"There is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young," John Paul said at the height of the scandals.

During two and a half decades as pope, John Paul has met virtually every significant head of state or government, from US presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton to Kremlin leaders Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, from emperor Hirohito of Japan to Queen Elizabeth of Britain, from the Israeli leadership to Arab monarchs and presidents.

Under his leadership, the Vatican opened diplomatic relations with Israel in 1993 and he was the first pope to pray in a synagogue in 1986.

But Vatican policy-making assumed an increasingly authoritarian stamp. He issued 13 encyclicals, including three on socio-economic questions, and wrote several best-selling books.

In the mid-1990s he became increasingly frail, suffering from Parkinson's disease, arthritis and other ailments.

Despite his infirmities, he continued travelling as widely as possible, making a historic visits to Cuba and embarking on a gruelling programme of events for the Church's Jubilee year in 2000.

Given his failing health, however, many felt that his trip to Switzerland -- his 103rd foreign trip -- in June 2004 would be his last. He visited Lourdes in August 2004.

His increasing frailty even led senior members of the Church to break their traditional silence and talk realistically about the possibility that the pope is approaching death.

Comment: November, 2003, we published a small piece about the prophecies of St. Malachy. The current Pope's motto, "Of the Toil of the Sun",has been quite appropriate considering the Solar Maximum we suppsedly have just passed through (though it isn't really over), and Karol Wojtyla was born on May 18, 1920 during a solar eclipse.

There are only two more popes on Malachy's list before the "End of Time." Gloria olivae and Petrus Romanus. Malachy concluded his prophecy with the following: "In extreme persecution, the seat of the Holy Roman Church will be occupied by Peter the Roman, who will feed the sheep through many tribulations, at the term of which the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the formidable Judge will judge his people. The End."

One wonders about "Gloria Olivae." Interestingly, "Olive" turns up in a text search of the New Testament in the following context:

Revelation 10:11 And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings. And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.

The reader might wish to read The Beast and His Empire for a startling interpretation of the 42 month clue which identifies the "gentiles" defined above as the United States. The "Holy City" is not Jerusalem as many might suppose. When interpreting such things, one must always keep in mind the Rule of the Sibyls. St Isaac the Syrian points out that: The Holy Scriptures say many things by using words in a different sense from their original meaning. Sometimes bodily attributes are applied to the soul, and conversely, attributes of the soul are applied to the body. The Scriptures do not make any distinction here. However, enlightened men understand. With this in mind, continuing to read:

11:3 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. 11:5 And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.

It almost sounds like a military engagement, doesn't it? "Two olive trees, two candlesticks... fire proceedeth out of their mouth..." In fact, the mushroom cloud of a nuclear bomb kinda looks like a tree. An "Olive Tree?" The number of days converts to 3.4 years. We are also reminded of the caveat inserted in Revelation 13: "Whoever leads into captivity will himself go into captivity; if anyone slays with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Herein is the patience and the faith and fidelity of the saints." One wonders if "Gloria Olivae" has anything to do with a military action that will begin after the death of the current pope, lasting for 3.4 years, at which time Revelation tells us:

11:7 And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.

Obviously, Jesus was not crucified in Sodom or Egypt. Could Jerusalem be considered a sort of "spiritual Sodom and Egypt," keeping in mind that "Egypt" in this context refers to a land of slavery? On the other hand, the Great City could certainly refer to New York or the United States as a whole.

11:9 And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. 11:10 And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth. 11:11 And after three days and an half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. 11:12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. 11:13 And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven. 11:14 The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.

Well, it is very interesting to speculate, but who really knows?

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Audit: $9 Billion Unaccounted for in Iraq

Sun Jan 30
By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - The U.S. occupation authority in Iraq was unable to keep track of nearly $9 billion it transferred to government ministries, which lacked financial controls, security, communications and adequate staff, an inspector general has found

The U.S. officials relied on Iraqi audit agencies to account for the funds but those offices were not even functioning when the funds were transferred between October 2003 and June 2004, according to an audit by a special U.S. inspector general.

The findings were released Sunday by Stuart Bowen Jr., special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. Bowen issued several reports on the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the U.S. occupation government that ruled Iraq from June 2003 to June 2004.

The official who led the CPA, L. Paul Bremer III, submitted a blistering, written reply to the findings, saying the report had "many misconceptions and inaccuracies," and lacked professional judgment.

Bremer complained the report "assumes that Western-style budgeting and accounting procedures could be immediately and fully implemented in the midst of a war."

The inspector general said the occupying agency disbursed $8.8 billion to Iraqi ministries "without assurance the moneys were properly accounted for."

U.S. officials, the report said, "did not establish or implement sufficient managerial, financial and contractural controls." There was no way to verify that the money was used for its intended purposes of financing humanitarian needs, economic reconstruction, repair of facilities, disarmament and civil administration.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Sunday the authority was hamstrung by "extraordinary conditions" under which it worked throughout its mission.

"We simply disagree with the audit's conclusion that the CPA provided less than adequate controls," Whitman said.

Turning over the money "was in keeping with the CPA's responsibility to transfer these funds and administrative responsibilities to the Iraqi ministries as an essential part of restoring Iraqi governance."

The inspector general cited an International Monetary Fund assessment in October, 2003 on the poor state of Iraqi government offices. The assessment found ministries suffered from staff shortages, poor security, disruptions in communications, damage and looting of government buildings, and lack of financial policies.

Some of the transferred funds may have paid "ghost" employees, the inspector general found.

CPA staff learned that 8,206 guards were on the payroll at one ministry, but only 602 could be accounted for, the report said. At another ministry, U.S. officials found 1,417 guards on the payroll but could only confirm 642.

When staff members of the U.S. occupation government recommended that payrolls be verified before salary payments, CPA financial officials "stated the CPA would rather overpay salaries than risk not paying employees and inciting violence," the inspector general said.

Bremer attacked many of the specific findings. Among his rebuttal points:

_With more than a million Iraqi families depending on government salaries, there would have been an increased security threat if civil servants had not been paid until modern pay records were developed.

_U.S. policy was to build up the Iraqi force guarding government facilities, and it was better to accept an imperfect payroll system than "to stop paying armed young men" providing security.

_The report was suggesting the CPA "should have placed hundreds of CPA auditors" in Iraqi ministries, contrary to United States and United Nations (news - web sites) policy of giving Iraqi ministers responsibility for their budgets.

_The CPA established a program review board, an independent judiciary and inspector generals in each agency to fight corruption.

The inspector general's report rejected Bremer's criticism. It concluded that despite the war, "We believe the CPA management of Iraq's national budget process and oversight of Iraqi funds was burdened by severe inefficiencies and poor management."

Comment: Now we wonder where all that money might have gone? Can we say "Haliburton"? Well, look on the bright side, at least all of your hard earned tax dollars are staying the country!

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The Russians Are Coming

By TIMOTHY J. BURGER AND BRIAN BENNETT
Sunday, Jan. 30, 2005

The FBI is concerned about Moscow's growing number of spies. What secrets are they looking for?

At Los Angeles International Airport two weeks ago, FBI agents arrested an Irish businessman they had spent a week tailing all over California's Silicon Valley, from the offices of two electronics manufacturers in Sunnyvale to a hotel in Mountain View and down a quiet cul-de-sac to a suburban house in San Jose. The technology exporter, according to court papers, had purchased sophisticated computer components in the U.S. to send to Russia through Ireland. He now stands to be charged in mid-February with "unlawful export of 'defense articles.'" U.S. officials point to this little-noticed case as one manifestation of a troubling reality: although the cold war is long over, Russia is fielding an army of spooks in the U.S. that is at least equal in number to the one deployed by the old, much larger Soviet Union.

Russia runs more than 100 known spies under official cover in the U.S., senior U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement officials say. And those are just the more easily spotted spies working under the classic guise of diplomat. An unknown number of so-called nocs—who work under nonofficial cover as businessmen and -women, journalists or academics—undoubtedly expand the Russian spy force. "They're baaaaack," says a former senior U.S. intelligence official who worked against Moscow during the cold war. "They're busy as hell, but I don't think we've really got what it is that they're doing." The number of Russian spies in the U.S. is especially surprising, given that it was less than four years ago that the Bush Administration expelled 50 of them in retaliation for the humiliating discovery that FBI counterintelligence agent Robert Hanssen had been spying for Russia for 21 years.

In a high-level meeting late last year, officials tell TIME, the National Security Council instructed the FBI, CIA, State Department and other agencies to get a better handle on the Russian espionage threat. While the U.S. might like to eject suspect diplomats to force the Russians to send in their "rookies," as a U.S. official put it, Moscow would probably respond in kind, denting the CIA's corps in Russia.

As the FBI has remade itself in the wake of 9/11 into a counterterrorism agency, the bureau's long-standing counterintelligence mission has been bumped down a notch on the priority list. During this time, Russia has been among the U.S.'s rivals most aggressively exploiting the opening to build up its spying capabilities. Also, it has been using liberalized immigration rules for Russians, instituted after the cold war, to install nocs.

Officials say the Russians are after secrets about American military technology and hardware, dual-use technology such as the latest lasers, and the Administration's plans and intentions regarding the former Soviet states, China, the Middle East and U.S. energy policy, among other matters. Russia also wants to learn as much as possible about its biggest strategic worry: the U.S.'s ramped-up commitment to missile defense, which could eventually threaten Moscow's nuclear deterrent. Asked about the Russian spy surge, Russian embassy spokesman Yevgeniy Khorishko replied, "We do not comment on any of the issues concerning intelligence."

In addition to embassy-based spies, Russia—along with China, Pakistan, Iran and any number of other countries, including U.S. allies—relies on many hard-to-trace front companies, often run through third-party countries, to acquire secrets and dual-use technology. "We think there are thousands of these companies," a senior U.S. official said.

David Szady, the FBI's assistant director for counterintelligence, who is in charge of keeping tabs on foreign spies on U.S. soil, told TIME that in the next five years he wants to double the number of agents chasing spooks. Already, the FBI has placed counterespionage squads of at least seven agents in all 56 of its field division offices over the past year. What about the chance that damaging U.S. moles are helping Russia today? Says one U.S. senior intelligence official: "There's always evidence of another mole because there are always unexplained events. There are always unexplained losses. There are always enough dots that look strange."

Comment: Run for your lives! The reds are back! And this time they're wearing dishdashas!

What is implied, but not stated, in this aticle, is that the US has at least as many agents working in Russia. Given the success of the US backed "soft revolutions" in Georgia and the Ukraine, where US agents were put into power under the false flag of a popular democratic movement, the Russians most likely have more to fear from the US than the US has to fear from Russia at the moment. There are many more US troops stationed on Russia's perimeter than there are Russian troops on the Canadian and Mexican borders, at least the last time we looked.

The US is also reactivating their stay-behind network of former fascists and their supporters that was put into place following the second world war in Eastern and Western Europe, not to mention the vast network of Atlanticists in Europe who think the American neo-liberal system of privatisation and globalisation should be imposed everywhere.

It is only natural that in response other countries would put their own intelligence services into action. That is just the kind of world in which we live.

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Politician's promises not set in stone, court says

By KIRK MAKIN
With a report from Caroline Alphonso
Saturday, January 29, 2005

TORONTO -- It's official: Politicians can break campaign promises with impunity.

An Ontario Superior Court judge has absolved Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty of breaking an elaborately signed contract promising not to raise or create new taxes, saying anyone who believes a campaign promise is naive about the democratic system.

If anyone who voted for a politician based on a particular promise later were to go to court alleging a breached contract, "our system of government would be rendered dysfunctional. This would hinder, if not paralyze, the parliamentary system," Mr. Justice Paul Rouleau said.

The judge was ruling on a request from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation to quash the Liberals' new health premium on the grounds that it broke an election promise.

"Imposing a duty of care in the circumstances such as exist in the present case would have a chilling effect and would interfere with the concept of parliamentary sovereignty," he said. "To allow claims for negligent representation to be made based on these would raise the spectre of unlimited liability to an indeterminate class."

With a broad smile and a much-televised flourish, Mr. McGuinty signed the written pledge during the 2003 election campaign as he stood on a podium with the president of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, John Williamson, who signed as a witness.

Far from being an off-the-cuff act on the campaign hustings, the promise at stake was an orchestrated part of the McGuinty campaign.

It committed the province not to raise taxes or implement new ones "without the explicit consent of Ontario voters." Mr. McGuinty also promised not to run deficits and to abide by the Taxpayer Protection and Balanced Budget Act.

However, the McGuinty government's resolve ebbed rapidly once the Liberals defeated the Progressive Conservative government on Oct. 2, 2003. Citing an unexpected deficit of $5.2-billion, the government said it was compelled to launch a health premium that would cost taxpayers who earned more than $20,000 from $60 to $900.

Last fall, the federation asked Judge Rouleau to declare the health tax invalid and order the return of almost $1-billion collected since it was implemented last July.

"It is hoped that, if elected, the politicians and their parties will keep their promises and will follow through with the pledges given," Judge Rouleau said in the ruling.

"That said, however, few people would consider that all of the promises made and pledges given constitute legally binding documents between the candidate and the elector or electors to whom those promises or pledges were given."

The ruling that politicians can break promises escaped notice when it came out shortly before Christmas, perhaps as those same politicians rushed off to their constituencies and as the tax federation contemplated its legal pounding.

The judge noted that Mr. McGuinty was far from the first politician to renege on a promise made.

"From the record, it is apparent that upon taking office and assessing the situation, the government believed that it would be contrary to the public interest to keep the promise made during the election," the judge said. "This decision not to keep the promise does not mean that the promise, when made, was untrue, inaccurate or negligent."

Judge Rouleau said it is up to voters, not the courts, to punish governments who fib and fabricate.

Sean Hamilton, a spokesman for Finance Minister Greg Sorbara, welcomed the ruling and said the tax was necessary.

"We are pleased that the court has confirmed the government's authority to introduce legislation implementing the Ontario health premium," Mr. Hamilton said. "The Ontario health premium . . . will raise essential revenues to support and improve health care for all Ontarians. The government made a difficult, but necessary, decision last year that this objective justified amendments to the Taxpayer Protection Act to allow introduction of implementing legislation."

The federation, a non-profit lobby group opposed to taxes and government waste, argued in court that the premium was illegal on the grounds that a provincial law required the government to hold a referendum before it attempted to establish a new tax or raise an existing one.

Former premier Mike Harris passed the referendum legislation in 1999. However, the McGuinty government passed a bill effectively exempting the health-care premium.

"If we're told something on the campaign trail, we should be able to assume it's true," Mr. Williamson told reporters during the proceeding. "If we accept lies from politicians and they go on and win elections, they're just going to go on lying to us."

Judge Rouleau concluded that nothing prevents the government from exempting the health-care premium from the requirement in the 1999 Taxpayer Protection Act for a referendum.

Nor, the judge said, did the requisite "special relationship" exist between Mr. McGuinty and the federation that would allow its legal application to succeed.

Comment: We can hear it now: "yes, we know we said we were going to deliver freedom and democracy to the whole world, but that was during the electioneering stupid!"

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Libya disappoints European oil firms

source

Tripoli allocates 11 of 15 exploration licences to US companies, leaving European firms out in the cold.

TRIPOLI - European oil companies, left out in the cold by Libya's handout of oil exploration permits mainly to US firms at the weekend, said they hoped this would change this year.

"It was a bad start," one European oil executive told AFP, after Tripoli allocated 11 of 15 exploration licences, the first granted to foreigners for 40 years, to US companies.

Indian, Canadian, Algerian, Indonesian and Australian companies took the others - despite a recent trail of European leaders to the north African country, including France's President Jacques Chirac and the British and Italian prime ministers Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi.

European countries which tendered for the permits included the French firms Total and Gaz de France, Spain's Repsol, Italy's Agip and Britain's BP.

None succeeded.

"The European offers were much meaner than the American offers," one Libyan source said.

"The main criterion for success is the amount of production that the company pledges to give up to the national company," he said, adding that the Europeans set their figure "too low" compared to the Americans. He gave no details.

One Western diplomat, who asked not to be named, said more offers on the table this year from Libya could correct the imbalance.

"Saturday's bad start could be corrected, despite the symbolic side" of US firms taking the lion's share, bringing US companies back in force to Libya after years of repeated political contention between Tripoli and Washington.

Tripoli is expected to give foreign companies a chance to compete for two more sets of contracts. The first is planned in a month, encompassing 40 exploration blocks, while a second batch may go on offer at the end of the third quarter.

A total of 150 firms took part in bidding for rights to hunt for oil in the 15 blocks covering 127,000 square kilometres (51,000 square miles) in Libya, which has Africa's largest oil reserves.

The successful companies have to invest a total of 750 million dollars in oil exploration, with significant spending afterwards to exploit any finds.

Abdallah Al Badri, head of Libya's national oil company, said "the choice (of successful bidders) was done in total transparency".

Occidental Petroleum Corp. of the United States picked up five licenses, and shares rights in four others with the Australian company Woodside Petroleum Ltd.

ChevronTexaco received a license to explore the Marzouk basin south of the capital Tripoli. The US company Amerada Hess also won a license.

India Ltd and India Corp. received a license to explore the Syrte region.

Verenex Energy Inc of Canada, Algeria's Sonatrach, and Medco Energy International of Indonesia also won licenses.

Occidental pulled out of Libya in 1986 after the United States imposed sanctions on the country.

Badri attributed the American firm's success in tendering to the fact "it knows the bloc,s because it had already worked" there.

Comment: Throughout the 80's and 90's Libya was a "terrorist nation" and Qaddafi was on America's most wanted list. The bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988 over Lockerbie Scotland was blamed on two Libyan intelligence officers and Bush Snr demanded that they be handed over (for a high profile trial that would confirm to the world that Libya was responsible) or Libya would face the consequences. At the time Libyan government official denied the allegation claiming they were being framed. Apparently they were telling the truth.

Scotland's Sunday Herald reported last week that the U.S. government placed a gag order on a former CIA agent to prevent him from testifying in the trial of two Libyans accused of carrying out the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland that killed 270 people.

Dr. Richard Fuisz, a wealthy businessman and pharmaceutical researcher who was a major CIA operative in Damascus during the 1980s, told a congressional staffer in 1994 that the perpetrators of the bombing were based in Syria. "If the government would let me, I could identify the men behind this attack . . . I can tell you their home addresses . . . you won't find [them] anywhere in Libya. You will only find [them] in Damascus," Fuisz told congressional aide Susan Lindauer, who has submitted a sworn affidavit describing this conversation to the Scottish court that is trying the two suspects.

One month after their meeting, a Washington DC court issued a ruling that prohibits Fuisz from discussing the Lockerbie bombing on national security grounds. When a reporter called Fuisz last month with questions about Lindauer's affidavit, he replied: "That is not an issue I can confirm or deny. I am not allowed to speak about these issues. In fact, I can't even explain to you why I can't speak about these issues." The report quoted a senior UN official who has seen the affidavit as saying that "in the interests of natural justice, Dr. Fuisz should be released from any order which prevents him telling what he knows of the PanAm bombing."

Missing from the Sunday Herlad report is the fact that, in 1999, the UK Independent claimed that Charles McKee, a US intelligence captain in the DIA, was also on the Lockerbie flight and in possession of a briefcase containing "files on [a] CIA-Hizbullah-Mossad drugs ring,"

Added to this is ex-Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky's comment that Mossad commandos planted a transmitter in Tripoli that generated false telex signals implicating Libya in the April 6, 1986 La Belle discotheque bombing in Berlin that killed three US soldiers. Reagan used this bombing as a pretext for retaliation against Libya.

It's at times like this that all of us who believed the simple, official story about evil (Islamic) terrorists cruelly killing Westerners begin to fell a little stupid, yes? We also might feel a little queasy when it begins to dawn on us that the phony "war on (Islamic) terror" is not as new as we first thought. Indeed, it seems that the process of demonising Arabs and Islamics began quite some time ago. It's just that none of us realised it at the time.

Last year, publically, the US and British governments loudly denounced Libya's (alleged) burgeoing Nuclear programme as a threat to the world (remind you of anything?) and Libya duly submitted and agreed to mothball it.

The truth however, is that, in private, Qaddafi was quietly offered a choice: open up Libya's oil fields to American interests, or become the next target in the phony "war on terror" (remind you of anything?). Today's report that most of the oil exploration contracts have been given to US companies seems to suggest that Qaddafi accepted the ultimatum.

But what about poor Tony? Blair played a high profile role last year, on behalf of the US, in bringing the former pariah back into the fold, going as far as to pay Muammar a visit and cordially sip tea with him in Tripoli and suffer the shame of being shown the soles of the Colonel's shoes. What happened in the meantime? Why no contracts for British companies? Has there been some sort of falling out? Should we expect an announcement on the cover of the National Inquirer telling of the "irreconcilable differences" that are to spell the end of the greatest transatlantic love-in the world has ever known? Time will tell.

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Flashback: How George W. Bush Got Qaddafi's Attention

Posted March 15, 2004
By Kenneth R. Timmerman

Four events were critical to convincing Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi to get rid of his previously secret nuclear-weapons program, according to U.S. and British officials, Western diplomats in Tripoli and a key adviser to Col. Qaddafi.

It was not patient diplomacy, although that helped. Nor was it a U.S. or British desire to rehabilitate Qaddafi. Instead, it was a combination of implied threats and U.S. and British actions on the high seas and in Iraq that convinced Qaddafi he had not a moment to lose before his government became the next Axis of Evil regime in U.S. gun sights. The story of how the Bush administration achieved a bloodless victory in Libya demonstrates how force and the credible threat of force are needed for the tools of intelligence and diplomacy to work.

"Until Sept. 11, Qaddafi was hoping he could carry on with a clandestine nuclear-weapons program and get away with it," a Western diplomat in Tripoli tells Insight. But when he saw the response of the Bush administration in Afghanistan, "he realized he couldn't keep going as before."

After defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan, President George W. Bush stepped up his war of words against Saddam Hussein, warning that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of regimes known to sponsor terror presented an unacceptable threat to the United States. "Qaddafi heard those words and recognized himself," a U.S. official said. "He believed the president's words were aimed at him."

In a September 2002 letter, British Prime Minister Tony Blair hectored Qaddafi about Libyan support for Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe and about the weapons programs. Two months later, Qaddafi sent an 11-page reply, "essentially saying, 'Why are you picking on me?'" a British official says. The established nuclear powers had 30,000 warheads, while Israel had perhaps 80. "Anything Libya might have would be a drop in the bucket," Qaddafi wrote.

Diplomacy alone was failing to lead Qaddafi to break from the past. It wasn't until U.S. and British troops crossed into Iraq on March 19, 2003, that Qaddafi detailed Foreign Minister Mohammed Abderrahmane Chalgam to begin talks with British and U.S. officials in London. "The Iraq war made it clear that the U.S. and the U.K. were serious about going after countries with WMD [weapons of mass destruction]," the British official adds. Even so, during the first meeting in March, "the Libyans were not candid. We had to show them that we knew more than they thought we knew before they opened up."

Behind the scenes, advisers to Qaddafi were arguing that Libya's security would be enhanced, not reduced, by giving up the nuclear program. "We had no delivery system," a top Qaddafi adviser tells Insight at the Libyan leader's office outside of Sirte. "I told the guide, 'If Libya were to start a nuclear war, our missiles won't even reach Malta. If the U.S. starts it, Libya will be erased from the map.'" He said he told Qaddafi as the meetings with the United States and the United Kingdom got under way in London last spring that it was better to get rid of the weapons and redirect the resources toward improving the economy than to risk an American attack.

Officials involved in the talks acknowledge that the Libyans remained divided over which course to pursue. "While they carried on negotiations with us, they continued with their WMD programs," a British official said. During the summer of 2003, Libyan nuclear-weapons scientists rushed to fill outstanding orders for equipment they needed for their secret bomb program.

In October 2003, with the help of Italian customs, a massive shipment of centrifuge components from Malaysia was seized in the Mediterranean en route to Libya. "It was a big shipment - the guts of what he needed," a U.S. official says. "That seizure broke the back of his program. Without it, he would have had to go back to square one."

The centrifuge parts were manufactured at Scomi Precision Engineering in Malaysia, according to specifications provided by Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdel Qader Khan. Shipped to Dubai, they were transferred onto a German-owned freighter, the BBC China, and labeled as "used machinery."

Democrats, including Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, have argued that the Libyan case shows that diplomacy works better in the war on terror than force. "If diplomacy was so effective," a Bush official involved in the interdiction effort tells Insight, "why did Col. Qaddafi continue to procure equipment at the same time our diplomats were talking?" After the seizure, the Libyans began to come clean. Only then were U.S. and British intelligence teams allowed to visit previously closed nuclear sites and to begin mapping out the true scope of the Libyan program.

Qaddafi now sought counsel from an unusual source, which Insight can reveal here for the first time. One month before Qaddafi's historic announcement on Dec. 19, 2003, he met in Tripoli with visiting Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. "During their private meeting, Qaddafi asked Kuchma how America had treated him when he gave up his nuclear weapons after the fall of the Soviet Union," says Weldon, who heard the story directly from Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Hryshchenko. Kuchma suggested that Qaddafi broaden his ties beyond the administration and work with members of the U.S. Congress, as well.

The final event that sealed the fate of Qaddafi's nuclear-weapons program took place in early December 2003 along the borders of the Tigris River near Tikrit, when U.S. soldiers pulled former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein out of a spider hole."When Qaddafi watched a U.S. medic probe Saddam's hair for lice and poke around his mouth, he was stunned," several sources tell Insight. Western diplomats in Tripoli agree that Saddam's capture "traumatized" the Libyan leader. "What happened is very clear," an administration official says. "Things happened, and immediately afterward the Libyans did things in response."

Until Saddam's capture, "we were still negotiating. Both sides were sparring back and forth," a British official involved in the talks says. "Things radically changed course after that." Just 10 days later, Qaddafi made his official announcement that Libya was giving up its WMD programs and had invited U.S. and British experts into the country to verify the dismantling of his weapons plants.

Ultimately, the credit for the dramatic change in direction goes to Qaddafi, a Western ambassador in Tripoli believes: "He understood that his revolution could not continue unless he delivered more prosperity to Libyans, and the only way to do that was by renewing relations with the West." Now it's up to the United States to deliver its side of the bargain, he adds, by lifting sanctions and resuming normal trade with Libya.

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Why the Children in Iraq Make No Sound When They Fall

By Bernard Chazelle
Jan 31, 2005, 11:32

No one said that dying had to be dull. "Screaming with fear, paralyzed children at a shelter for the physically disabled and mentally ill in Galle, Sri Lanka, lay helplessly in their beds as seawater surged around them." The CNN report read like the screenplay of a horror film. A crippled girl grows up destitute in a home for the deaf, the blind, the insane, and, for good measure, the disabled elderly (what more could a kid wish for?) At the end of a short life spent wondering why no one ever looked out for her, the child reaches the final punctuation mark of her blessed existence and drowns glued to a wheelchair.

Tragedy should not be too clever. Mourning embraces the solemnity of death but recoils at an overzealous script. When fate appears to cross the thin line between cruelty and sadism, grief turns to anger. We expect the church organist at the funeral mass to interrupt Bach in mid-measure, look up to the sky, and shout "Come on!"

Voltaire had his "come on" moment in the wake of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, suggesting that God's supreme goodness perhaps was not all it was cracked up to be. Religious irreverence is not much in fashion these days. But piety was not always so docile. History has been improbably kind to all sorts of figures who've had cross words with the Almighty. Think of Job, Jonah, Jeremiah, and Jesus on the cross—and that's only for the J's. Once or twice, the dispute even got out of hand: Nietzsche killed God; and Richard Rubenstein saw in Auschwitz confirmation of his death. Admittedly, to reconcile the Holocaust with a just and omnipotent god is an interesting variation on squaring the circle—or, since Miklós Laczkovich actually succeeded in doing just that [1], let us say, merely a reminder that gods may die but theological debates never do.

My own reaction to the CNN report was not nearly as elevated. "Why would God behave like Don Rumsfeld?" I wondered. As the crippled child writhed in agony, I pictured God murmuring "Stuff happens."

Woe unto me. To compare God to Rummy is worse than blasphemous: It's unfair. After all, God did not cow the media into decorating our TV screens with the beatific smiles of preening peacocks reassuring us that smart waves drowned the terrorists, spared the innocent, amused the children, and provided much needed water to drought-prone regions. God gets accused of many things, including being dead, but lying is rarely one of them.

Mendacity, on the other hand, is the reserve currency of this administration. Its marketing hook: "You give us your votes; we give you our lies." From the fictitious Saddam-al Qaeda axis to the rosy updates on the Switzerlandization of Iraq, from the bogus tales of WMD to the assurance that democracy is the future of the region (and always will be, would add the cynics), the giving has been, shall we say, generous.

The taking has been no less effusive. Although the hysterical rantings of prowar voices rarely exceeded, in dignity, the yapping of a chihuahua attacking a meatball, they met only the meekest resistance from an oleaginous mainstream media. The war hawks found powerful enablers in The New York Times, which was more than happy to echo the delusory yarn spun by the White House and pimp for Judith Miller's Best Little Whorehouse in Babylon (where bling bling spells WMD).

Pimping being the fickle business that it is, it won't be long before the In-Bush-We-Trust media gets in touch with its inner peacenik and points an accusing finger at the posse of visionary mediocrities who gave us a nasty case of Iraq syndrome. No doubt some of the neocons will balk at going to their graves with the word "loser" carved on a brass coffin plate; so watch for them to pull a McNamara on us and humbly beg for forgiveness. Being good souls, ie, suckers for smarmy group hugs, naturally we'll oblige.

Were it so simple.

The abject surrender of the media fed a slew of illusions to the public, none more craven than the belief that he whom we kill must be killed. Yeah, yeah, we occasionally obliterate the wrong house and incinerate its occupants, but that's just "friendly fire." (A lovely phrase if there's one: Let's hear the surgeon who amputates the wrong leg inform his patient of his "friendly amputation.") Minus the friendliness, however, our whiz-bang weapon wizardry never fails to separate the wheat from the chaff, the nursing mother from the crazed beheader. So goes the creed, anyway.

The Lancet—that well-known freedom hating rag—begs to differ. It estimates that our high-IQ, mensa-schmensa bombs have killed 100,000 civilians [2]. Iraq Body Count, which plays the lowballing game by shunning projections, reports the deaths of 600 non-combatants during our latest goodwill tour of Fallujah (by now primed to be renamed Grozny on the Euphrates) [3].

And then there is the Iraqi girl, hands soaked in her dead father's blood, whose little brother does not yet understand that his childhood has just come to an end. Fearing for their lives, US soldiers killed the parents in the front seat of the family car. Demons will likely haunt their nights. Stuff happens. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, bless their souls, will sleep well tonight.

Wars never fail to produce their share of pithy lines. Tommy Franks made sure this one would be no exception. "We don't do body counts," crowed the general, who really meant to say that he does not do "dark-skinned body counts" (he counts the others just fine). Lucky for us that he doesn't run a Swedish newspaper, or it would have splashed the headline: "Tsunami kills 2,000 Swedes—and a few locals." To be fair, Franks remembered the last time he did body counts, Vietnam, and how well that ended. But today's tactical thinking packs a wallop of self-righteous denial. We don't tally the children we kill for the same reason monsters don't buy mirrors: That's how they go through life thinking they're angels.

We've snuffed out innocent lives in numbers that insurgents and terrorists could only dream of. But we avert our eyes. We bury our heads in the sand and turn a blind eye to our moral cowardice, thus pulling off the amazing feat of being ostriches and chickens all at once. We owe this marvel of ornithology to the inexorable fragility of human illusions. To quote James Carroll, "we avert our eyes because the war is a moral abyss. If we dare to look, as Nietzsche said, the abyss stares back." George Bush, the philosopher, has updated Berkeley's riddle: Do Iraqi children scream when the bombs fall if there is no one in the White House to hear them?

The celebrity of the month, the tsunami victim, has hogged newspaper headlines nationwide with stomach-churning photo spreads of wailing mothers and floating cadavers. Like his unsung Iraqi brethren, the victim has reminded us that calamity always strikes the poor, the sick, and the helpless first. It's invariably those with the least to lose who lose the most. At the great banquet of cataclysms, rich Westerners get served last. Bush would have us believe that we've suffered so much from terrorism the world owes us undying compassion. In truth, our induction into the Misery Hall of Fame is still a long way off. With our sustained assistance, however (coddling Saddam while he was gassing Iranians, slapping sanctions that killed half a million children, and fighting two wars in twelve years), Iraq made it on the first ballot. Who ever said that we didn't have a big heart?

Not Condoleezza Rice: "I do agree that the tsunami was a wonderful opportunity to show not just the US government, but the heart of the American people, and I think it has paid great dividends for us" [4]. And I just can't wait for the next one, our top diplomat might as well have added.

While watching Colin Powell, pocket calculator in hand, add up the geopolitical benefits of our generosity and tell us how shocked, shocked he was by the tsunami's devastation, I could almost hear the Beatitudes from The Gospel According to Dubya: "Blessed are the children whom the sea swallows, for they shall tug at our heartstrings. / Cursed are the children whom our bombs blow up, for they shall roam the dark alleys of our indifference." We've been Iraq's tsunami. But expect no charity drive, no minute of silence, no flag at half-staff: nothing that would allow shame to rear its ugly head.

With Bush's reelection, America now has the president it deserves. And should you find that Lady Liberty, all dolled up with the latest in fashion from Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, looks a bit like a used up hooker, you won't need to ask who hired her pimp: We did.

The liberation of Iraq began with smart flying bombs crashing over Baghdad. We should have known better. Liberations that start with a reenactment of 9/11 rarely end well.

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Iraeli Soldiers Kill ANOTHER Palestinian Child

IMEMC & Agencies, 31 January, 2005 - 11:26

Monday at noon, Israeli soldiers killed a 10-year-old child, injured another child, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, while she was playing in the playground at a UN administered school in the city.

A medical source in Rafah reported that Nourhan Eid, 10, sustained a gunshot in her head; another child, 7 years old, was injured in her arm.

A Palestinian security source that a tank based at Rafah-Egypt borders fired several rounds of live ammunition at an elementary school in Al-Barazil neighborhood in Rafah, killing Nourhan and injuring her classmate.

“She screamed and fell to the ground, she was bleeding, the girls started to run everywhere," a witness said.

Paul McCann, a spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency, who administers the school, confirmed the shooting;

“This is the fifth incident children in our schools have been hurt by Israeli military fire, two girls were killed in separate shootings last fall, they were at their classrooms, a student was blinded, another was inujred in the throat in recent military shooting”, McCann said

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Israeli base targeted for girl's killing

Al-Jazeerah
Tuesday 01 February 2005

Palestinian schoolgirls place flowers where Nuran sat
An Israeli soldier has been wounded as Palestinian resistance fighters launched several attacks in response to the killing of a schoolgirl some 24 hours earlier.

An Israeli military base near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank was targeted on Tuesday, and Aljazeera has learned that one soldier was injured in the attack.

Hamas' military wing, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for two of the three attacks in which five mortar shells were also fired at the illegal Neve Dekalim settlement in occupied Gaza Strip.

The National Resistance Brigades, the military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), has also claimed responsibility for firing two rockets at the Neve Dekalim colony in response to the killing of Nuran.

Witnesses said Nuran Did was lining up with classmates to enter the school when she was shot from the Israeli occupation force's Termit post, about 900m away. [...]

Comment: Given the distance from which Nuran was shot, and the fact that she was shot in the head, it is highly likely that she was deliberately targeted by an Israeli sniper.

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Bush appears deranged: Castro
AP
February 2, 2005 - 1:29PM

Fidel Castro accused US President George W Bush of appearing deranged and said Cubans would much rather live in the Caribbean island's "heaven" than try and survive in Bush's corrupt, capitalist "hell".

In comments aired live on state-run television, Castro told thousands of teachers attending an international pedagogy conference in Havana he closely watched the inauguration speech of the US President on January 20, and saw "the face of a deranged person".

"If only it were just the face," he said, to roars of applause.

Castro, wearing his olive green military uniform, criticised Bush's government, linking it to corruption and torture.

He then defended Cuba's socialist system, which Bush's administration has openly said should be replaced with a democratic, free-market one.

"This country is heaven, in the spiritual sense of the word," he said.
"And I say (to Bush), we prefer to die in heaven than survive in hell."

Castro, 78, stood up for much of his hours-long speech.

After he broke his right arm and shattered his left kneecap in an accidental fall in October, the Cuban leader was in a wheelchair before he started standing up and walking again in December.

In his speech, Castro also flowered praise on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, defending the character and ambitions of his close friend and ally.

Castro said he laughs every day when he hears "the idiocies" said about Chavez.

The Cuban leader also underlined Cuba's successes in education, where the government has focused many of its resources since the 1959 revolution that thrust Castro into power.

"Cuba is doing more for education than UNESCO," he said, referring to the Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

Comment: Can you imagine what kind of a shift in thinking it would take for most Americans to recognise that Castro is correct in his assessment of Bush?

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King of Nepal sacks government and imposes emergency
AFP
February 1, 2005

KATHMANDU - King Gyanendra dismissed Nepal's coalition government and enforced an indefinite state of emergency, igniting charges he had staged a coup in the Himalayan outpost battling a Maoist revolt.

The king announced in a televised nationwide address that he would head a new government after the previous one had failed to ensure security in the face of the Maoist rebellion that has claimed more than 11,000 lives since 1996.

Several political leaders were put under house arrest, parties said, and security was increased around the capital.

The move was swiftly condemned by the United States, United Nations, Britain and India as a setback for democracy.

"I have exercised the rights given to the crown under the present constitution and dissolved the government in the larger interests of the people," the king said.

"For the larger interest of the Nepalese general public, the nation and democracy and people's fundamentals rights, we have decided to form a new government under my own chairmanship," he said.

State-run radio and television announced later that a state of emergency had been imposed across the country.

King Gyanendra pledged to "restore democracy and law and order in the country in the next three years."

"Innocent children were found massacred and the government could not achieve any important and effective results," he said, referring to the Maoist revolt.

"The crown traditionally is held responsible for the protection of national sovereignty, democracy and people's right to live peacefully," he said.

Political leaders accused the king of a coup.

"The king's actions against the all-party government mark a state of coup against democratic practices," said sacked education and sports minister Bimalendra Niddhi.

Dismissed prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who was also sacked in 2002, accused the king of "a flagrant violation of the constitution of Nepal." [...]

Troops and armed police patrolled the streets and surrounded the palace and other key sites such as government buildings.

Residents of Kathmandu said outgoing landline telephone and mobile phone links were cut. India and Thailand meanwhile suspended all flights to Nepal. [...]

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan "views these actions as a serious setback for the country," UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said in a statement.

"Steps should be taken immediately to restore democratic freedoms and institutions," Eckhard said, noting that Annan had called for "calm and restraint by all parties in the country, so as to avoid actions that could worsen the situation." [...]

In his half-hour address, the king also accused political parties of "indulging in factional fighting."

"All the democratic forces and political leaders should have united to protect the country's democracy," he said. [...]

King Gyanendra took the throne in June 2001 after his brother King Birendra and most of the royal family were shot dead by the former crown prince, who was high on drink and drugs. The crown prince also killed himself.

Comment: Signs of the Times roving reporter Iganacius O'Reilly was at the White House today and had the following to report:

Upon hearing the details of the apparent coup in Nepal, Bush broke out a pad of paper and began madly scribbling down notes.

One reporter asked Bush what he thought about King Gyanendra's explanation for the coup, namely that all political leaders should have united to protect the country's democracy.

"Yeah, well... I... ya know, I think... Hang on now... Okay, I almost got all of it. Could you repeat the second half of King Rydaden... nend... nabadrad's statement? That's good stuff."

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Suspect shocked 9 times before death
Article published Tuesday, February 1, 2005

A central Toledo man who died in custody Monday night had been stunned with a Taser gun nine times by prior to his death, authorities said today.

Toledo police said Jeffery Turner, 41, of 2115 Collingwood Blvd., was shocked five times by its officers during his arrest. Lucas County sheriff’s department officials said today that their employees shocked Mr. Turner another four times during struggles at the Lucas County jail.

Mr. Turner died yesterday at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center. Results of an autopsy are inconclusive as to his cause of death, the Lucas County coroner said today. Toxicology tests and further investigation are needed before his cause of death can be established.

Rick Keller, jail corrections administrator, said Mr. Turner was responsive after he was stunned. He was then placed in handcuffs and leg restraints. Later, he became unresponsive, a jail nurse was summoned, and CPR was administered.

The prisoner was transported at 9:18 p.m. to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 9:40. [...]

Comment: According to this Toledo newspaper a man is shocked repeatedly with 50,000 volts of electricity over a period of several hours and the coroner's autopsy results are "inconclusive" as to cause of death.

But that's not all; compare this with the same story from the Cincinnati Enquirer where the reader is left with the impression that prisoner was only jolted twice, and where we also learn that the initial reason for his arrest was simple loitering.

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Toledo prisoner dies after being shocked with Taser
Tuesday, February 1, 2005
The Associated Press

TOLEDO, Ohio - An inmate at the Lucas County jail died after being jolted by a stun gun, the second time the man had been jolted in a few hours, authorities said.

Jail officers used a Taser gun to subdue Jeffrey Turner, 41, after he banged repeatedly on a security window of a first floor cell, said Rick Keller, a jail administrator.

Toledo police earlier used a Taser to subdue the man when he was arrested on charges of loitering, resisting arrest and obstructing official business, Keller said. Toledo police referred questions to the county.

Turner was jolted more than two hours after he was brought to the jail.

Keller said that after Turner was stunned, he was responsive and placed in handcuffs and leg restraints. A few minutes later a jail nurse was called.

Turner was taken to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. [...]

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Bright lights spotted in sky
01 February 2005

A SERIES of moving bright lights were spotted in the sky off Scarborough – cementing claims that the East Coast is the UFO capital of Europe.

Pat Glenwright, of Grange Avenue, saw the lights shoot across the sky at 4.30pm yesterday.

She said: "There were about 14 so it definitely wasn't an aeroplane. They were flying in a group and it looks from here as though they were the size of lightbulbs."

A friend added: "They were bright and were very high up. It was very noticeable.

"They were coming from right and left and looked as though they were heading towards Whitby."

In December Chris Parr, of the British UFO Hunters group, said the coastal area between Filey and Scarborough was the British hotspot for UFO activity.

Filey UFO hunter Russ Kellett said there are more recorded sightings of UFOs in Filey and along the East Coast than anywhere else in the country.

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Emergency Broadcast Test Mistakenly Calls For Evacuation
Associated Press
3:49 pm EST February 1, 2005

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Despite what residents may have seen on television, the state of Connecticut was not ordered evacuated on Tuesday.

State emergency management officials believe someone pressed the wrong button, and instead of running a test of the emergency alert system, midday television viewers and radio listeners were told that the state was being evacuated.

"There is absolutely no evacuation or state emergency," said Kerry Flaherty, of the Office of Emergency Management. "It was an erroneous message."

The department is investigating how the alert was sent. Officials said it is manually released to broadcasters.

Comment: Yes, someone must have pressed the wrong button. That makes perfect sense. We're quite certain that the system in place consists of a big, complicated-looking box that has a row of buttons, all of which are the same size, shape, and color. You know, like in the movies... Anyway, one of the buttons runs a test of the emergency broadcast system, and the one right next to it orders an evacuation of the state. So, obviously, somebody's finger just slipped, and whoops!

Then again, maybe they're practicing for "terrorism", martial law, meteor impacts, etc.

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Dramatic change in West Antarctic ice could produce 16ft rise in sea levels

By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
02 February 2005

British scientists have discovered a new threat to the world which may be a result of global warming. Researchers from the Cambridge-based British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have discovered that a massive Antarctic ice sheet previously assumed to be stable may be starting to disintegrate, a conference on climate change heard yesterday. Its collapse would raise sea levels around the earth by more than 16 feet.

BAS staff are carrying out urgent measurements of the remote points in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) where they have found ice to be flowing into the sea at the enormous rate of 250 cubic kilometres a year, a discharge alone that is raising global sea levels by a fifth of a millimetre a year.

Professor Chris Rapley, the BAS director, told the conference at the UK Meteorological Office in Exeter, which was attended by scientists from all over the world, that their discovery had reactivated worries about the ice sheet's collapse.

Only four years ago, in the last report of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), worries that the ice sheet was disintegrating were firmly dismissed.

Professor Rapley said: "The last IPCC report characterised Antarctica as a slumbering giant in terms of climate change. I would say it is now an awakened giant. There is real concern."

He added: "The previous view was that WAIS would not collapse before the year 2100. We now have to revise that judgement. We cannot be so sanguine." Collapse of the WAIS would be a disaster, putting enormous chunks of low-lying, desperately poor countries such as Bangladesh under water - not to mention much of southern England.

The conference has been called by Tony Blair as part of Britain's efforts to increase the pace of international action on climate change, in a year when the UK is heading the G8 group of industrialised nations and the European Union.

Mr Blair has asked it to explore the question of how much climate change the world can take before the consequences are catastrophic for human society and ecosystems.

Yesterday, it heard several alarming new warnings of possible climate-related catastrophic events, including the failure of the Gulf Stream, which keeps the British Isles warm, and the melting of the ice sheet covering Greenland.

But it was the revelations of Professor Rapley, head of one of the world's most respected scientific bodies, which were the most dramatic, as they reopened a concern many scientists assumed had been laid to rest.

Antarctica as a whole is a land covered by very thick ice, but the ice sheet covering the eastern half of the continent is very stable as it sits on rocks that are well above sea level.

Worries about the ice covering the western half first surfaced more than 25 years ago when it was realised that the base rocks are actually well below the level of the sea.

In some circumstances, it was feared, such as a melting of the edge of the ice sheet from rising temperatures, sea water could get under it and eventually lead to its collapse.

Yet the 2001 IPCC report, the principal consensus view of the international community of climate scientists, thought that very unlikely, and said such a collapse was improbable before the end of the current century, or even for 1,000 years.

What puts a very big question mark over this, Professor Rapley said, was the recent discovery of the extremely rapid discharge of ice into the Amundsen sea from the WAIS at three remote ice streams, Pine Island, Thwaites, and another unnamed site.

"There is a very dramatic discharge from this region which, five years ago when the IPCC report was written, we just didn't know about," he said. "What we have found completely opens up the whole debate." It had only been recently discovered, he said, because the area was so remote. But BAS scientists, with US help, had established a base in the area to investigate. Professor Rapley said there was some evidence that the discharge was a relatively recent phenomenon and it might be caused by rising ocean temperatures.

Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, who opened the conference, added another ominous prediction when she said that major global warming impacts on the world in the next 20 to 30 years could not be avoided. Whatever we do, potentially disastrous world temperature rises will take place because they are already "built into the system," she said.

Her forecast that we are powerless to prevent major damage from climate change is accepted by scientists but it is rare for such a frank admission from a politician. It reflects the concern at a high level.

It was amplified by senior climate researchers, who said the amount of future warming to which the world is firmly committed, because of greenhouse gases that have already been put into the atmosphere, will be enough to threaten the survival of many ecosystems and wildlife species such as polar bears and penguins.

"I believe that most of the warming we are expecting over the next few decades is now virtually inevitable, and even in this time frame we may expect a significant impact," Mrs Beckett said.

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Fresh earthquake jolts Indonesia's western Java, no casualties
AFP

JAKARTA : An earthquake measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale rocked Indonesia's Java island on Wednesday, causing slight damage but no casualties, seismologists said.

The inland quake occurred at 12:55pm (0555 GMT) 43 kilometres south of Bandung, the capital of West Java province, the Metereology and Geophysics Agency said. The temblor left cracks in several houses in the district of Garut, the agency said.

Elshinta radio said an elementary school building in Bandung collapsed but no one was injured. Power was out following the quake, the radio said.

A 9.0-strong earthquake off Indonesia's Sumatra island on December 26 produced tsunamis that left about 280,000 people missing or dead around the Indian Ocean.

On January 24, a 6.2-strong earthquake jolted the town of Palu on Sulawesi island, damaging dozens of homes and prompting thousands to flee to higher ground fearing a tsunami.

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KAMCHATKA VOLCANO SPILLS MUD
PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY, February 2, (RIA Novosti's Oksana Guseva)

A powerful mud flow rushed down the slope of Eurasia's largest Klyuchevskoi volcano on the Kamchatka Peninsula (Russian Far East).

Talking to RIA Novosti, Alexei Ozerov, a senior research associate at the Volcanology and Seismology Institute (Far Eastern department of the Russian Academy of Sciences), noted that a mud flow had rushed down the Krutenkaya river's water bed, and that it had carried stones up to three meters in diameter.

According to experts, the mud flowed all the way from the Ehrmann and Cherny glaciers (that are located on the slopes of the Klyuchevskoi volcano), subsequently reaching the Kamchatka river six to seven km from Klyuchi town in the Ust-Kamchatsky district. The mud flow traveled along a road east of Klyuchi, sweeping away trees that had been felled by lumberjacks along a dried-up river. Those trees were to have been carried away by trucks.

The latest mud flow was apparently triggered off by all-out volcanic-bomb eruptions or a lava flow. By the way, each volcanic bomb measures five to 15 meters in diameter. More accurate information can be obtained by studying the immediate volcanic-eruption area. However, such research now seems impossible because of foul weather and lack of money, Ozerov added.

In his words, even more powerful mud flows can rush down east of Klyuchi, which is located 30 km from the foot of the volcano, possibly damaging roads and threatening human lives.

Dark ashes spewed from the Klyuchevskoi volcano's crater, with each particle measuring about one millimeter in diameter. A powerful glow can be seen above the huge volcano's crater at night even in bad weather. Meanwhile volcanic bombs are hurled some 200-300 meters into the air.

The top Klyuchevskoi crater, which is located at a 4,822-meter altitude, may erupt for up to 30 consecutive days or several years in some cases. Such eruptions threaten domestic and foreignflights rather seriously.

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Taiwan Rocked by Earthquake; Buildings Sway in Taipei

Bloomberg

Feb. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Taiwan was rocked today by an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.2, causing buildings to sway in Taipei. No casualties were immediately reported.

The epicenter of the temblor, which occurred at 9:59 a.m. local time, was located 15.5 kilometers (9.7 miles) east of Taiwan and 8.2 kilometers deep, the Central Weather Bureau said.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world's largest made-to-order chip supplier, probably wasn't affected by the temblor, company spokesman J.H. Tzeng said in a phone interview.

Taiwan, an island that sits along faults between the Philippine Sea and Eurasian Continental tectonic plates, gets struck by an average 200 earthquakes a year, according to the Central Weather Bureau. Quakes occur as the plates push together. A quake with a magnitude of 6 can cause severe damage.

On Oct. 15, Taiwan was struck by a magnitude 7 earthquake, the strongest since a Sept. 21, 1999, temblor that killed 2,500 people and caused an estimated $9 billion in damage.

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South Pacific islanders report volcanic ash sickness
Last Update: Wednesday, February 2, 2005. 7:14pm (AEDT)
Scores of people have reported sick on the South Pacific island of Guam because of haze and ash from an erupting volcano in a neighbouring island in the Northern Marianas.

Dozens of people arrived at Guam's only hospital, the Commonwealth Health Centre, complaining of respiratory problems and headaches, while almost 50 of the 700 children at the Kagma elementary school took the day off.

The Anatahan volcano, north of Saipan, the centre of the Northern Marianas, erupted for the third time on January 5 and remains active.

The health problems followed a "haze alert" by the Guam Environmental Protection Agency, warning that aerosol particles from the volcanic haze may cause headaches, respiratory ailments, watery eyes, sore throat and flu-like symptoms.

Rudolfo M Pua, director of the regional emergency centre, said residents should expect hazy conditions for the next few days because of ash being blown by the wind from the continuously erupting Anatahan.

"As the ash streams east, gravity pulls the ash," he said. "As a result, the north-east winds blow to the islands south of Anatahan, as far as Guam.

The centre also warned that the composition of volcanic smog (also known as "vog") combined with atmospheric moisture may damage plants and accelerate the rusting process in metal objects, such as cars.

The particles appear like a hazy film over the sky and can cause breathing difficulties.

The US Geological Survey said a commercial pilot had reported ash at 3,000 metres and satellite imagery also showed a plume of ash and vog trailing 35 to 50 nautical miles downwind.

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Earthquake ruled out as cause of tremors
Last Update: Wednesday, February 2, 2005. 12:00pm (AEDT)
Lightning and thunder are being blamed for earth tremors reported in Melbourne and Victoria's central and north-west regions overnight.

Seismologists have ruled out an earthquake.

Callers from Melbourne suburbs including Werribee, Caroline Springs, and Campbellfield told ABC radio they felt the tremor shortly after 3:00am AEDT.

Others have reported a mystery rumble in areas around Bendigo and Swan Hill.

Gary Gibson, from the Seismology Centre, says instruments did pick up some activity, but not enough for an earthquake.

"My guess is that the thunder occurred following a lightning strike somewhere north of Melbourne," he said.

The weather bureau's Terry Ryan says his instruments did not record the lightning.

"That doesn't mean we didn't have thunder though, there may have been a few thunder claps that slipped through," he said.

Other explanations forwarded for the tremor include a power pole that exploded after being hit by lightning at Melton or a meteor entering low into the earth's atmosphere.

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