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Travel Log! The
Quantum Future Group Goes to Rennes-le-Chateau
Control, Thought Control, World Control
Strike Flash Presentation by a QFS member
of the Day
The award for oddest geopolitical couple
of 2005 goes to the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and
the Houston-based Halliburton.
You might not think that a charter member of President Bush's
"axis of evil" could enlist the oil-services firm once run by Vice
President Cheney to bolster its bargaining position with an international
community intent on curbing its nuclear ambitions.
But that is apparently what happened last month.
The story began on Jan. 9 when the Iran
News ran a Reuters story reporting that
Halliburton "has won a tender to drill a huge Iranian gas field."
The deal to develop two sections of Iran's South Pars gas
field promises significant economic benefits.
"The project includes onshore and offshore sections and
its initial phase is to become operational by the first quarter
of 2007," said the Tehran-based news site. The total output of the
phases will reportedly produce 50 million cubic meters per day of
treated natural gas for domestic use and 80,000 barrels of gas liquids
per day for export.
Within days three hard-line
members of the Iranian parliament attacked the deal. In an open
letter they alleged the contract had been arranged by a businessman
named Sirous Naseri, who also serves on the Iranian government team
negotiating with European powers seeking limits on Iran's nuclear
programs. The Halliburton contract, the parliamentarians
complained, was "a threat to Iran's nuclear stance."
An Iranian government
spokesman did not respond to the allegation but defended the
contract saying Halliburton offered a good price and that the project
"served the interests" of the Islamic state.
That probably did not please Cheney. On Inauguration Day,
he told a nationwide talk radio audience that Iran was "right at
the top of the list of potential trouble spots" facing the Bush
administration. Many online
pundits interpreted his remarks as a threat of military action
against Iran. Cheney was not asked about Halliburton's venture.
Two days later, American political analyst Michael Ledeen,
a neoconservative advocate of ousting the government in Tehran,
described Halliburton's actions as "disgusting." In a Jan. 23 online
chat sponsored by the Student
Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran, Ledeen
was asked about "secret business deals between some U.S. companies,
like Halliburton, and the Islamic regime."
"What has happened is against U.S.
laws . . . and the people involved in this transaction must be put
in jail, according to American law," Ledeen replied.
Halliburton denied it had violated a U.S.
law banning "direct or indirect exportation of U.S.-origin goods,
services, or technology to Iran or the Government of Iran."
Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy
Hall said the company had not broken the law because all of
the work in the South Pars gas field would be done by non-Americans
employed by a subsidiary registered in the Cayman Islands.
"We are in the service business, not the foreign-policy
business," she said. "We have followed and will continue to follow
Then, on Jan. 27, more details emerged. The Financial
Times of London (subscription required) confirmed that Naseri,
"a senior Iranian diplomat negotiating with Europe over Iran's controversial
nuclear programme ... [was]... at the heart of deals with US energy
companies to develop the country's oil industry."
The FT described Naseri as "a leading board member" of
Oriental Kish, the Iranian company leading the South Pars project.
Oriental Kish, in turn, subcontracted parts of the project to Halliburton
Products and Services registered in the Cayman Islands. Unnamed
Iranian sources were quoted as saying that Naseri has a "close relationship"
with Iran's clerical establishment. Oriental
Kish's deal with Halliburton could not have happened without "high-level
approval on the Iranian side," the FT said.
The next day Halliburton announced the South Pars gas field
project would be its last in Iran. The BBC
reported that Halliburton, which took in $30-$40 million from Iranian
operations in 2003, "was winding down its work due to a poor business
But don't expect Halliburton to leave Iran any time soon.
The company has opened an unmarked office on the 10th floor of a
Tehran office building, according to Vivian Walt of Fortune
Magazine. Since the South Pars project is expected to take 52
months to complete, according to the Tehran-based Mehr
news agency, Halliburton seems likely to remain
in Iran through 2009.
So while President Bush attempts to pressure
Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions, the Tehran government reaps
the benefits by doing business with Vice President Cheney's former
Should Americans have to give up the Bill
of Rights in order to be "safe" from terrorists? Actually,
it doesn't matter what Americans think. The trade has already been
made--and without any input from the people. The "democracy"
that America is exporting is in fact a
Homeland Security State with more surveillance powers than Saddam
Americans no longer have any privacy from government. You may not
be able to find out about your daughter's abortion or your son's
college grades, but neither you nor your children have any secret
whatsoever from your government. Banks, airlines, libraries, credit
card companies, medical doctors and health care organizations, employers,
Internet providers, any and everyone must turn over your private
information at government demand.
Government demand no longer means a court
approved warrant. A myriad of intelligence, security, military,
and police agencies can on their own volition mine your personal
data and feed it into data banks. Your
democratic government does not have to tell you. Your bank,
library, etc., are forbidden to tell you.
The government can monitor you as you use your computer, noting
the web sites that you visit and reading the emails that you send
and receive. Americans
have privacy rights only against intrusions by private individuals
and private organizations.
In 2000 Larry Stratton and I published a book documenting the erosion
of all of the legal principles that protect the innocent: no crime
without intent, the attorney-client privilege, due process, and
the prohibitions against retroactive law and self-incrimination.
The law was lost before the September
11 terrorist attack on the US.
The Patriot Act and executive branch decrees have put paid to habeas
corpus. The government can pick up anyone
it wishes and hold them as long as it wishes without evidence or
trial. The government can torture those so detained if it wishes
or murder them and say it was a suicide. Saddam
Hussein may have indulged in these practices in a more thorough-going
way than the US Homeland Security State has to date, but there are
no essential differences in the police state powers.
While granting an element of truth, readers may see rhetorical
overstatement in these words. This is because they believe, mistakenly,
that the Supreme Court reined in the government in its rulings last
June 28 on permitted treatment of "enemy combatants."
Harvey Silverglate has pointed out, this is not the case.
Silverglate's analysis shows that the Supreme Court's rulings "preserve
the look and feel of liberty while sacrificing its substance."
The rulings left the government with enough flexibility to prevail.
One ruling created for the government a flexible
due process standard invoking, in the Court's words, "the exigencies
of the circumstances" and creating "a presumption in favor
of the Government's evidence." Silverglate notes that
this ruling overthrows a defendant's presumption of innocence that
formerly could be overcome only by evidence proving guilt beyond
Another of the Supreme Court's rulings supported
the government's position that a US citizen can be declared an enemy
combatant and held without charge. Justice O'Connor found
support for the demise of habeas corpus in the Authorization for
the Use of Military Force passed by Congress after the September
Defenders of the new American police state emphasize that the government's
new powers only apply to terrorists. This is disingenuous. The
government decides who is a terrorist and does not need to present
evidence to back its decision. The person on whom the arbitrary
decision falls can be held indefinitely. This
is a return to the pre-Magna Carta practice of executive arrest.
Are Americans in such danger of terrorist attacks that they needed
to give up legal protections won over eight centuries of struggle
against the arbitrary power of governments? Surely not.
Terrorists have achieved their aims.
Bringing down the World Trade Center towers gave them a great propaganda
victory. Any other American target would be anti-climatic. The US
invasion of Iraq gave them an opportunity for revolution in the
Middle East--the real focus of their energy.
What Osama bin Laden and others of his persuasion desire is a unified
Islamic Middle East shorn of US bases and puppet rulers. The US
invasion of Iraq has brought Shias to power and created a Shia crescent
from Iran to Lebanon. The ground is shaking under the perches of
US puppets in Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan. The
US demonstration of "shock and awe" in Iraq sealed Muslim
hearts and minds against America and opened them to bin Laden.
The Bush administration handed these enormous opportunities to
bin Laden on a silver platter. These opportunities, not terrorism
in America, will absorb the energies of those seeking to build a
new Islamic world in the Middle East.
Americans fearful of terrorism should keep in mind that their country
is a very large place. If further terrorist attacks occur, very
few Americans are likely to witness them except on TV. The police,
however, are everywhere, and like all bureaucracies will have to
show results for their new powers. If no
real terrorists show up, our protectors will invent them,
or they will interpret their powers expansively and apply them to
For example, Child Protective Services was set up on the pretense
that child abuse was rampant. It was not, so the vast bureaucracy
has had to invent its clients. Playground and sports bruises, injuries
from falls and accidents all become evidence of child abuse, justifying
CPS seizure of children from parents.
RICO, the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act, was only
supposed to apply to the Mafia, but quickly jumped outside these
bounds. Asset forfeiture was only supposed to be used against drug
barons, but has mainly been used to seize the property of Americans
unconnected to the drug trade.
Americans might never again experience a domestic
act of terrorism except from their own police state.
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury
in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall
Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National
Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.
Part I: The Military Half
If you're reading this on the Internet, the FBI may be spying
on you at this very moment.
Under provisions of the USA Patriot Act, the Department of Justice
has been collecting e-mail and IP (a computer's unique numeric identifier)
addresses, without a warrant, using trap-and-trace surveillance
devices ("pen-traps"). Now, the Federal Bureau of Investigation,
Justice's principle investigative arm, may be monitoring the web-surfing
habits of Internet users -- also without a search warrant -- that
is, spying on you with no probable cause whatsoever.
In the wake of September 11, 2001, with the announcement of a
potentially never-ending "war on terror" and in the name
of "national security," the Bush administration embarked
on a global campaign that left in its wake two war-ravaged states
(with up to one hundred thousand civilian dead in just one of them);
an offshore "archipelago of injustice" replete with "ghost
jails" and a seemingly endless series of cases of torture,
abuse, and the cold-blooded murder of prisoners. That was abroad.
In the U.S.A., too, things have changed as America became "the
Homeland" and an already powerful and bloated national security
state developed a civilian corollary fed by fear-mongering, partisan
politics, and an insatiable desire for governmental power, turf,
A host of disturbing and mutually-reinforcing patterns have emerged
in the resulting new Homeland Security State -- among them: a virtually
unopposed increase in the intrusion of military, intelligence, and
"security" agencies into the civilian sector of American
society; federal abridgment of basic rights; denials of civil liberties
on flimsy or previously illegal premises; warrant-less sneak-and-peak
searches; the wholesale undermining of privacy safeguards (including
government access to library circulation records, bank records,
and records of internet activity); the greater empowerment of secret
intelligence courts (like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance
Act court) that threaten civil liberties; and heavy-handed federal
and local law enforcement tactics designed to chill, squelch, or
While it's true that most Americans have yet to feel the brunt
of such policies, select groups, including Muslims, Arab immigrants,
Arab-Americans, and anti-war protesters, have served as test subjects
for a potential Homeland Security juggernaut that, if not stopped,
will only expand.
The Military Brings It All Back Home
Over the past few years we've become familiar with General John
Abizaid's Central Command (CENTCOM) whose "areas of responsibility"
(AORs) stretch from the Horn of Africa to Central Asia, including,
of course, the Iraq war zone. Like CENTCOM, the U.S. has other commands
that blanket the rest of the world, including the Pacific Command
(PACCOM, established in 1947) and the European Command (EURCOM,
established in 1952). In 2002, however, the Pentagon broke new command
ground by deciding, after a fashion, to bring war to the Homeland.
It established the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) whose AOR is
NORTHCOM is much more forthright about what it supposedly doesn't
do than what it actually does. Its website repeatedly, in many forms,
notes that NORTHCOM is not a police auxiliary and that the Reconstruction-era
Posse Comitatus Act prevents the military from meddling much in
domestic affairs. Despite this, NORTHCOM readily, if somewhat vaguely,
admits to "a cooperative relationship with federal agencies"
and "information-sharing" among organizations. NORTHCOM's
commander General Ralph "Ed" Eberhart, who, the Wall Street
Journal notes, is the "first general since the Civil War with
operational authority exclusively over military forces within the
U.S," was even more blunt when he told PBS's Newshour "[W]e
are not going to be out there spying on people[, but] we get information
from people who do."
Even putting NORTHCOM aside, the military has recently been creeping
into civilian life in all sorts of ways. Back in 2003, for instance,
Torch Concepts, an Army sub-contractor, was given JetBlue's entire
5.1 million passenger database, without the knowledge or consent
of those on the list, for data-mining -- a blatant breach of civilian
privacy that the Army nonetheless judged not to violate the federal
Privacy Act. Then, in 2004, Army intelligence agents were caught
illegally investigating civilians at a conference on Islam at the
University of Texas law school in Austin.
And just recently, on the very same day the Washington Post reported
that "the Pentagon [has] created a new espionage arm and is
reinterpreting U.S. law to give Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld
broad authority over clandestine operations abroad," the New
York Times reported that, as part of the "extraordinary army
of 13,000 troops, police officers and federal agents marshaled to
secure the [Presidential] inauguration," the Pentagon had deployed
"super-secret commandos with state-of-the-art weaponry"
in the nation's capitol. This was done under government directives
that undercut the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. According to the
Times, the black-ops cadre, based out at the ultra-secretive Joint
Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, is operating
under "a secret counterterrorism program code-named Power Geyser,"
a program just recently brought to light in Code Names, a new book
by a former intelligence analyst for the Army, William M. Arkin,
who says that the "special-mission units [are being used] in
extra-legal missions in the United States" on the authority
of the Department of Defense's Joint Staff and with the support
of the DoD's Special Operations Command and NORTHCOM.
Courtesy of the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh, we've known for some
time of the creation of "a secret unit that was given advance
approval to kill or capture and interrogate 'high-value' suspects'"
in the name of the War on Terror. Some of us may have even known
that since 1989, in the name of the War on Drugs, there has been
a multi-service command, (comprised of approximately 160 soldiers,
sailors, marines, airmen and Department of Defense operatives) known
as Joint Task Force Six (JTF-6), providing "support to federal,
regional, state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the
continental United States." Now, we know as well that there
are an unknown number of commando squads operating in the U.S --
in the name of the war at home. Just how many and exactly what they
may up to we cannot know for sure since spokespersons for the relevant
Army commands refuse to offer comment and Pentagon spokesman Bryan
Whitman will only say that "At any given time, there are a
number of classified programs across the government" and that
Power Geyser "may or may not exist."
The emergence of an American Homeland Security State has allowed
the Army to fundamentally alter its historic role, transforming
what was once illegal and then exceptional -- deploying Federal
troops in support of (or acting as) civilian law enforcement agencies
-- into standard operating procedure. But the Army is not alone
in its homefront meddling. While the Army was thwarted in its attempt
to strong-arm University of Texas officials into releasing a videotape
of their conference on Islam, the Navy used arm twisting to greater
effect on a domestic government agency. The Wall Street Journal
reports that, in 2003, the Office of Naval Intelligence badgered
the U.S. Customs Service to hand over its database on maritime trade.
At first, the Custom's Service resisted the Navy's efforts, but
in the post-9/11 atmosphere, like other agencies on the civil side
of the ledger, it soon caved to military pressure. In an ingenuous
message sent to the Wall Street Journal, the commissioner of the
Department of Homeland Security's Bureau of Customs and Border Protection,
Robert C. Bonner, excused handing over the civilian database by
stating that he had received "Navy assurances that the information
won't be abused."
While the Army, Navy, and NORTHCOM naturally profess to having
no nefarious intent in their recent civil-side forays, history suggests
wariness on the subject. After all, the pre-Homeland-Security military
already had a long history of illegal activity and illegal domestic
spying (much of which came to light in the late 1960s and early
1970s) -- and never suffered social stigma, let alone effectual
legal or institutional consequences for its repeated transgressions.
NORTHCOM now proudly claims that it has "a cooperative relationship
with federal agencies working to prevent terrorism." So you
might wonder: Just which other "federal agencies" does
NORTHCOM -- which shouldn't be sharing information about American
civilians with anyone -- share information with? The problem is,
the range of choices in the world of American intelligence alone
is staggering. If you've read (or read about) the 9/11 Commission
Report, you may have seen the now almost iconic figure of 15 military
and civilian intelligence agencies bandied about. That in itself
may seem a startling total for the nation's intelligence operations,
but, in addition to the CIA, DIA, NSA, FBI and others in the "big
15" of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), there exist a
whole host of shadowy, half-known, and little understood, if well-acronymed,
intelligence/military/security-related offices, agencies, advisory
organizations, and committees such as the Counterintelligence Field
Activity (CIFA), the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office (DARO),
the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) and
the President's Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB); the Department
of Defense's own domestic cop corps, the Pentagon Force Protection
Agency (PFPA); and the Intelligence's Community's internal watchdog,
the Defense Security Service (DSS).
Think of these various arms of intelligence and the military as
the essential cast of characters in our bureaucratically proliferating
Homeland Security State where everybody, it seems, is eager to get
in on the act. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the operations
center of the Department of Homeland Security. In its horse-shoe
shaped war-room, the "FBI, the CIA, the Secret Service, and
33 other federal agencies each has its own workstation. And so do
the police departments of New York, Los Angeles, Washington and
six other major cities." In the operations center, large signs
on walls and doors command: "Our Mission: To Share Information";
and, to facilitate this, in its offices local police officers sit
just "a step or two away from the CIA and FBI operatives who
are downloading the latest intelligence coming into those agencies."
With all previous lines between domestic and foreign, local and
federal spying, policing, and governmental oversight now blurring,
this (according to outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge)
is "the new model of federalism" in action.
From the military to local governments, from ostensibly civilian
federal agencies to obscure counter-intelligence organizations,
they're all on the make, creating interagency alliances, setting
up new programs, expanding their powers, gearing up operations and/or
creating "Big Brother" technologies to more effectively
monitor civilians, chill dissent, and bring the war back home. Right
now, nothing is closer to the heart of Homeland Security State officials
(and to their budgetary plans) than that old standby of dictatorships
and oppressive regimes worldwide, surveillance -- by and of the
Homeland population. In fact, almost every day, new examples of
ever-hopeful surveillance programs pop up. Of course, as yet, we
only have clues to the well-classified larger Homeland surveillance
picture, but even what we do know of the growing public face of
surveillance in America should cause some eyes to roll. Here's a
brief overview of just a few of the less publicized, but mostly
public, attempts to ramp up the eye-power of the Homeland Security
A little known member of the alphabet soup of federal agencies
is the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive (more
familiarly known by the unpronounceable acronym NCIX) -- an organization
whose main goal is "to improve the performance of the counterintelligence
(CI) community in identifying, assessing, prioritizing and countering
intelligence threats to the United States." To accomplish this
task, NCIX now offers that ultimate necessity for Homeland security,
downloadable "counterintelligence and security awareness posters."
One features the text of the 1st Amendment to the Constitution ("Congress
shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging
the freedom of speech") and the likeness of Thomas Jefferson,
but with a new addendum which reads: "American freedom includes
a responsibility to protect U.S. security -- leaking sensitive information
erodes this freedom."
Another NCIX poster might come straight
out of the old Soviet East Germany: "America's Security is
Your Responsibility. Observe and Report." While
NCIX is an obscure agency, its decision to improve on the 1st Amendment
and a fundamental American freedom is indicative of where our Homeland
Security State is heading; and the admonition to "Observe and
Report" catches its spirit exactly.
Every Wo/Man a G-Man
Prior to the Republican National Convention in New York City,
the Federal Bureau of Investigation sent agents across the country
in what was widely seen as a blatant attempt to harass, intimidate,
and frighten potential protesters. The FBI however countered by
professing that "we have always followed the rules, sensitive
to Americans' constitutional rights to free speech and assembly,
always drawing the line between lawfully protected speech and illegal
By the fall of 2004, however, FBI spokespeople had moved on from
such anodyne reassurances and, in conjunction with the Department
of Homeland Security, the bureau was launching its "October
Plan." According to a CBS news report, this program consisted
of "aggressive -- even obvious -- surveillance techniques to
be used on people suspected of being terrorist sympathizers, but
who have not committed a crime" while "[o]ther persons
of interest,' including their family members, m[ight] also be brought
in for questioning"
While harassing citizens at home, the FBI, which can't set up
a successful internal computer system of its own (despite squandering
at least $170 million on the project), began dabbling in overseas
e-censorship, by confiscating servers in the United Kingdom from
Indymedia, the activist media network website "with apparently
no explanation." As Ward Harkavy reported in the Village Voice,
"The network of activists has not been accused of breaking
any laws. But all of the material actually on some of its key servers
and hard disks was seized." More recently, the creator of an
open-source tool designed to help internet security experts scan
networks, services, and applications says he's been "pressured"
by the FBI for copies of the web server log that hosts his website.
In addition to intimidation tactics and tech-centric activities,
the FBI has apparently been using Joint Terrorism Task Forces (teams
of state and local law enforcement officers, FBI and other federal
agents) as well as local police to conduct "political surveillance"
of environmental activists as well as anti-war and religious-based
protest groups. The bureau is also eager to farm out such work to
ordinary Americans and has been calling on the public to do some
old-fashioned peeping through the blinds, just in case the neighbors
are up to "certain kinds of activities [that] indicate terrorist
plans that are in the works."
Into the Wild Blue Yonder
Strange as it may seem, the Air Force has also gotten into the
local surveillance act as well with an "Eagle Eyes" anti-terrorism
initiative which "enlists" average citizens in the "war
on terror." The Eagle Eyes' website
tells viewers: "You and your family are encouraged to learn
the categories of suspicious behavior" and it exhorts the public
to drop a dime to "a network of local, 24-hour phone numbers
whenever a suspicious activity is observed." Just what,
then, constitutes "suspicious activity"? Well, among activities
worth alerting the flying eagles to, there's the use of cameras
(either still or video), note taking of any sort, making annotations
on maps, or using binoculars (birdwatchers beware!). And what other
patterns of behavior does the Air Force think should send you running
to the phone? A surefire indicator of terrorists afoot: "Suspicious
persons out of place?. People who don't seem to belong in the workplace,
neighborhood, business establishment, or anywhere else." Just
ponder that one for a moment -- and, if you ever get lost, be afraid,
While the Air Force does grudgingly admit that "this category
is hard to define," it offers a classic you-know-it-when-you-see-it
definition for calling your local eagle: "The point is that
people know what looks right and what doesn't look right in their
neighborhoods, office spaces, commutes [sic], etc, and if a person
just doesn't seem like he or she belongs?" An urban looking
youth in a suburban white community? Call it in! A crusty punk near
Wall Street? Drop a dime! A woman near the White House wearing an
anti-war t-shirt. Well, that's an out-of-category no-brainer!
And, in fact, much of this has already begun to
come true. After all, "suspicious persons out of place"
now do get arrested in the new Homeland Security State for such
offenses as wearing anti-Bush t-shirts, carrying anti-Bush signs
or just heckling the president. Today, even displaying an anti-Bush
sticker is, in the words of the Secret Service, apparently "borderline
terrorism." Holding a sign that reads, "This war is Bushit,"
warrants a citation from the cops and, as an eleven year old boy
found out, the sheriff might come calling on you if you utter "anti-American"
statements -- while parents may be questioned by law enforcement
officials to ascertain if they're teaching "anti-American values"
Part II: The Civilian Half
When we last left this story, we were knee-deep in the emerging
Homeland Security State, a special place where a host of disturbing
and mutually reinforcing patterns have emerged -- among them: a
virtually unopposed increase in military, intelligence and "security"
agencies intruding into the civilian sector of American life; federal
abridgment of basic rights; denials of civil liberties on flimsy
or illegal premises; warrant-less, sneak-and-peek searches; and
the undermining of privacy safeguards.
But our last cast of characters: NORTHCOM, the Office of the National
Counterintelligence Executive, the FBI and the Air Force only represent
the usual (if expansive) suspects. To make America a total Homeland
Security State will take more than the combined efforts of the military
and intelligence establishments. The civilian side of government,
the part of the private sector that is deeply enmeshed in the military-corporate
complex, and America's own citizens will have to pitch in as well
if a total-security state is to truly take shape and fire on all
The good news is -- if, at least, you're a Homeland Security bureaucrat
-- this process is already well underway, thanks, in large part,
to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which
brought a dazzling array of agencies together under one roof, including
the United States Customs Service (previously part of the Department
of Treasury), the enforcement division of the Immigration and Naturalization
Service (Department of Justice), the Animal and Plant Health Inspection
Service (Department of Agriculture), the Federal Law Enforcement
Training Center (Department of Treasury), the Transportation Security
Administration (Department of Transportation), the Federal Protective
Service (General Services Administration), the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA), the Strategic National Stockpile and the
National Disaster Medical System (Health and Human Services), the
Nuclear Incident Response Team (Energy), Domestic Emergency Support
Teams (Justice), the National Domestic Preparedness Office (FBI),
the CBRN Countermeasures Programs (Energy), the Environmental Measurements
Laboratory (Energy), the National Biological Warfare Defense Analysis
Center (Defense), the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (Agriculture),
the Federal Computer Incident Response Center (General Services
Administration), the National Communications System (Defense), the
National Infrastructure Protection Center (FBI), the Energy Security
and Assurance Program (Energy), the Secret Service (Treasury), and
the Coast Guard (Defense and Transportation).
The DHS is, not surprisingly, the poster-child for the emerging
Homeland Security State. But the DHS itself is just the tip of the
iceberg -- an archetype for a brave new nation where the lines between
what the intelligence community and the military do abroad and what
they do in the U.S.A. are increasingly blurred beyond recognition.
Today, a host of agencies on the civilian side of the government
are also setting up new programs; expanding their powers; gearing
up operations and/or creating "Big Brother" technologies
to more effectively monitor civilians, chill dissent, and bring
the war back home to America.
Freedom of the Road
Recently, it was disclosed that the Department
of Homeland Security had deployed an x-ray van, previously used
in cargo searches at America's borders, in a test run -- taking
X-ray pictures of parked cars in Cape May, New Jersey. While, the
DHS claimed all X-ray surveillance was conducted on empty cars with
their owners' consent, one wonders how long this will last. After
all, American Science & Engineering Inc., the manufacturer of
the Z Backscatter Van (ZBV), notes that "it maintains the outward
appearance of an ordinary van," so it can stand unnoticed and
peep into cars as they drive past, or with its "unique 'drive-by'
capability [it] allows one or two operators to conduct X-ray imaging
of suspect vehicles and objects while the ZBV drives past."
Since we're all increasingly suspects (in our "suspect vehicles")
in the Homeland Security State, it seems only a matter of time before
at least some of us fall victim to a DHS X-ray drive-by.
But what happens after a DHS scan-van x-ray shows a dense white
mass in your car (which could be any "organic material"
from explosives or drugs to a puppy, a baby, or a head of lettuce)?
Assuming that the DHS folks will be linked up with the Department
of Transportation (DOT), soon they might be able to call on DOT's
proposed Intelligent Transportation Systems' (ITS) Joint Program
Office (JPO)'s "Vehicle-Infrastructure Integration (VII)"
system for help.
According to Bill Jones, the Technical Director of the ITS JPO,
"The concept behind VII is that vehicle manufacturers will
install a communications device on the vehicle starting at some
future date, and equipment will be installed on the nation's transportation
system to allow all vehicles to communicate with the infrastructure."
In other words, the government and manufacturers will team up to
track every new automobile (x-rayed or not) in America. "The
whole idea," says Jones, "is that vehicles would transmit
this data to the infrastructure. The infrastructure, in turn, would
aggregate that data in some kind of a database."
Imagine it: The federal government tracking
you in real time, while compiling a database with information on
your speed, route, and destination; where you were when; how many
times you went to a certain location; and just about anything else
related to your travels in your own car. The DOT project, in fact,
sounds remarkably like a civilian update of the "Combat Zones
That See" program developed by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Noah Shachtman, writing
for the Village Voice, reported in 2003 that DARPA was in the process
of instituting a project at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, whose aim was
"to track 90 percent of all of cars within [a] target area
for any given 30-minute period. The paths of 1 million vehicles
[w]ould be stored and retrievable within three seconds." It
gives a whole new meaning to "King of the Road."
Pssst... Wanna Hear a Secret (Law)
In November 2004, "the Transportation Security Administration
ordered America's 72 airlines to turn over their June 2004 domestic
passenger flight records." With only a murmur of concern over
the privacy of passengers' credit-card numbers, phone numbers and
health information, the airlines handed the requested information
over so the agency could test its new Secure Flight system -- an
expanded version of the much-maligned terrorist watch list.
More recently, the Transportation Security Administration has
made headlines with a change in its pat-down policies. Following
public outcry, airport security screeners have been instructed to
no longer grope the breasts of female passengers as an anti-terror
measure. Pat downs, however, apparently remain part of TSA airport
protocol in some cases, although we have no idea which ones. This
is because the Transportation Security Administration has begun
to dabble in "secret law" by subjecting passengers to
special screenings including "pat-down searches for weapons
or unauthorized materials," while denying the public the right
to know under what law(s) such methods are authorized. As
Steven Aftergood of the Project on Government Secrecy recently observed,
"In a qualitatively new development in U.S. governance, Americans
can now be obligated to comply with legally-binding regulations
that are unknown to them, and that indeed they are forbidden to
When Big Brother Goes to College
Since it was enacted in the rough wake of 9/11, the Patriot Act
has enabled the government to undermine privacy safeguards like
those once protected by the Family Education Records Privacy Act.
The government is now allowed access, without a warrant, to a student's
personal, library, bookstore, and medical records, and any disclosure
that such records have either been sought or turned over is prohibited.
Now, the Department of Education has suggested upping the ante
with a proposal to create a national registry that would track every
one of the estimated 15.9 million college students in America through
yet another "massive database" -- this one containing
everything from college students' academic records, tuition payments
and financial aid benefits to social security numbers and information
on participation in varsity sports.
Right now, students have to give written consent for educational
and personally identifiable data to be transferred out of the college.
"With this new proposal, most of that power is given to the
federal government," says Sarah Flanagan, the vice president
for government relations at the National Association of Independent
Colleges & Universities. Moreover, if this new database comes
to pass, says Jasmine L. Harris, legislative director at the United
States Students Association, it would further erode various remaining
privacy safeguards, allowing government agencies other than the
Education Department to have greater access to student records.
Bright Lights, Big Cities
With the federal government casting off the Geneva Conventions
as "quaint," employing secret law at home, and tasking
average Americans to become Peeping Toms and undercover informants,
it's little wonder that those in the private sector have now taken
up the task of helping the Feds in fashioning a Homeland Security
State. After all, with surveillance bureaucracies burgeoning and
security budgets growing, there's suddenly a fortune to be made.
Last year, alone, under the Urban Area Security Initiative, the
DHS doled out $675 million to 50 large cities across America. This
year, the total will jump to $854.6 million.
With money flowing in and representatives of the District of Columbia
Metropolitan Police Department, the New York Police Department,
and the Los Angeles Police Department, among others, sitting beside
operatives from the NSA, CIA, DIA, FBI and other defense and intelligence
agencies at the DHS's Homeland Security Operations Center, its little
wonder that major urban centers like Chicago (which is getting $45
million in Urban Area Security Initiative funds this year), Los
Angeles ($61 million in UASI money) and New York City (which is
raking in a cool $208 million) have moved toward implementing wide-ranging,
increasingly sophisticated covert surveillance systems.
In Chicago, a program, code-named Operation Disruption, consists
of at least 80 street surveillance cameras that send their feed
to police officers' laptop computers in squad cars and "a central
command center, where retired police officers monitor activity."
The ultimate plan, however, is to use a grant from the Department
of Homeland Security and city monies to purchase 250 new cameras
and link them to "some 2,000 unnetworked video cameras installed
around Chicago (and at O'Hare International Airport) to create a
network of as many as "2,250 surveillance cameras throughout
the Windy City." "We're so far advanced than [sic] any
other city," said Chicago's Mayor Richard M. Daley of the program,
"sometimes the state and federal governments -- they come here
to look at the technology."
In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently announced a "major
upgrade" for the city's high-tech crime-tracking system, Compstat,
through the creation of a "Real Time Crime Fighting Center"
to provide "same-day information" for tracking and analysis
While the doings of "private contractors" still pop
up in articles about prisoner abuse in Iraq, what such mercenary
outfits are up to on the homefront is hardly ever mentioned. For
example, CACI International Inc., whose employees were linked in
news accounts to the Abu Ghraib torture scandals, boasts that its
customers include not only a "majority of U.S. defense and
civilian agencies and the U.S. intelligence community," but
"44 U.S. state governments" and "[m]ore than 200
cities, counties and local agencies in North America."
CACI proclaims that it plays "many roles in securing our homeland"
and that it "support[s] law enforcement agencies such as the
Department of Justice [and] design[s] and prototype[s] systems that
collect intelligence information." One
of CACI's fellow contractors, Titan Corp (which was also linked
in news accounts to the Abu Ghraib torture cases) is at work in
the "Defense of the Homeland" with programs such as Data
Warehousing and Data Mining for the Intelligence Community and a
Command and Control Concept for North American Homeland Defense
Of course, these are only two of the many companies helping to
secure the homeland (and fat contracts). In 2003 alone, the DHS
spent "at least $256.6 million in 1,609 separate contracts
or amendments to contracts to hire what the [General Services Administration]
described as security guards and patrol services'" and doled
out $6.73 billion dollars in total. This year the DHS has raked
in a cool $28.9 billion in net discretionary spending -- including
$67.4 million "to expand the capabilities of the National Cyber
Security Division (NCSD), which implements the public and private
sector partnership protecting cyber security"; $104.7 million
for "Aerial Surveillance and Sensor Technology" projects;
and $340 million for the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status
Indicator Technology program (US VISIT) which "expedites the
arrival and departure of legitimate travelers."
Your Role in the Homeland Security State
In the latter years of the Vietnam era, a series of exposures
of official lies regarding the FBI's various COINTELPROs, a host
of surveillance and dirty tricks programs aimed at American activists,
and the analogous CIA program known as MHCHAOS; of domestic spying
by military intelligence agents and of the Nixon administration's
various Watergate surveillance and illegal break-in operations brought
home to Americans at least some of the abuses committed by their
military, intelligence, and security establishments. Congressional
bodies like the Church Commission and the Senate Watergate Committee
even helped to rein in some of the most egregious of these abuses
and to reinforce the barriers between what the CIA and military
could do overseas and what was permissible on the homefront.
In the 1980s and 1990s, however, oversight
and constraints on illegal domestic activities by the military and
intelligence community slowly began to drain away; and with the
9/11 attacks, of course, everything changed. Three years
later, what was once done on the sly is increasingly public policy
-- and done with pride -- though much of it still flies under the
mainstream media radar as the Bush administration transforms us
into an unabashed Homeland Security State.
Today, freedom -- to be spread abroad by
force of arms -- is increasingly a privilege that can be rescinded
at home when anyone acts a little too free. Today, America is just
another area of operations for the Pentagon; while those who say
the wrong things; congregate in the wrong places; wear the wrong
t-shirts; display the wrong stickers; or just look the wrong way
find themselves recast as "enemies" and put under the
eye of, if not the care of, the state. Today, a growing Homeland
Security complex of federal, local, and private partners is hard
at work establishing turf rights, garnering budgetary increases,
and ramping up a new security culture nationwide. And, unfortunately,
the programs and abuses highlighted in this series are but the publicly
known tip of the iceberg. For example:
It was recently revealed through the Freedom of Information Act
that "the FBI obtained 257.5 million Passenger Name Records
following 9/11, and that the Bureau has permanently incorporated
the travel details of tens of millions of innocent people into its
law enforcement databases."
Outgoing DHS chief, Tom Ridge recently called for U.S. passports
to include fingerprints in the future; while OTI, a Fort Lee, N.J.-based
subsidiary of the Israeli company On Track Innovations was just
selected to provide electronic passports which utilize a biometrically-coded
"digitized photograph, which is accessed by a proximity reader
in the inspection booth and compared automatically to the face of
In November 2004, California passed the Orwellian-sounding "DNA
Fingerprint, Unsolved Crime and Innocence Protection Act" which
"allows authorities to take DNA samples from anyone -- adult
or juvenile -- convicted of a felony" and "in 2009 will
expand to allow police to collect DNA samples from any suspect arrested
for any felony whether or not the person is charged or convicted.
It's expected that genetic data for 1 million people -- including
innocent suspects -- will be added to California's DNA databank
The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced plans
to "use the latest in database technologies" to store
information on and count the homeless which, the Electronic Privacy
Information Center notes, "lay[s] the groundwork for a national
homeless tracking system, placing individuals at risk of government
and other privacy invasions."
According to a recent report in ISR Journal, "the publication
of record for the global network-centric warfare community,"
a "high-level advisory panel recently told U.S. Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld" that the Pentagon needs ultra-high-tech tracking
tools that "can identify people by unique physical characteristics
-- fingerprint, voice, odor, gait or even pattern of iris"
and that such a system "must be merged with new means of 'tagging'
so that U.S. forces can find enemies who escape into a crowd or
slip into a labyrinthine slum."
Imagine if this last program were integrated with any of the aforementioned
ventures -- in our increasingly brave new (blurred) world. Yet,
for all their secret doings, vaunted programs, futuristic technologies
and their powerful urge to turn all American citizens into various
kinds of tractable database material, our new Homeland Security
managers require one critical element: us. They require our "Eagle
Eyes," our assent, and -- if not our outright support -- then
our ambivalence and acquiescence. They need us to be their dime-store
spies; they need us to drive their tracking device-equipped cars;
they need us to accede to their revisions of the first amendment.
That simple fact makes us powerful. If you don't
dig the Homeland Security State, do your best to thwart it. Of course,
such talk, let alone action, probably won't be popular -- but since
when has anything worthwhile, from working for peace to fighting
for civil rights, been easy? If everyone was for freedom, there
would be no need to fight for it. The choice is yours.
Nick Turse is a doctoral candidate at the Center for the History
& Ethics of Public Health in the Mailman School of Public Health
at Columbia University. He writes for the Village Voice and regularly
for Tomdispatch on the military-corporate complex.
German Prosecutor Asked to Meet Obligations under Law Requiring
Investigation into Torture and War Crimes. Doctrine of Universal Jurisdiction
Permits Prosecution of Suspected War Criminals Wherever They May Be
In a historic effort to hold high-ranking U.S. officials accountable
for brutal acts of torture including the widely publicized abuses
carried out at Abu Ghraib, on Tuesday November 30, 2004, the Center
for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and four Iraqi citizens filed a
criminal complaint with the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office
at the Karlsruhe Court, Karlsruhe, Germany. Under the doctrine of
universal jurisdiction, suspected war criminals may be prosecuted
irrespective of where they are located.
Description and Status
The four Iraqis were victims of gruesome crimes including severe
beatings, sleep and food deprivation, hooding and sexual abuse.
CCR President Michael Ratner, who traveled to Berlin to file the
complaint, said “From Donald Rumsfeld
on down, the political and military leaders in charge of Iraq policy
must be investigated and held accountable. It is shameful that the
United States of America, a nation that purports to set moral and
legal standards for world, refuses to seriously investigate the
role of those at the top of the chain of command in these horrible
“Indeed,” Ratner added “the existence of ‘torture
memos’ drafted by administration officials and the authorization
of techniques that violated humanitarian law by Secretary Rumsfeld,
Lt. General Sanchez and others make clear that responsibility for
Abu Ghraib and other violations of law reaches all the way to the
The U.S. officials charged include Secretary of
Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Former CIA Director George Tenet, Undersecretary
of Defense for Intelligence Dr. Stephen Cambone, Lieutenant General
Ricardo Sanchez, Major General Walter Wojdakowski, Major General
Geoffrey Miller, Brigadier General Janis L. Karpinski, Lieutenant
Colonel Jerry L. Phillabaum, Colonel Thomas Pappas, and Lieutenant
Colonel Stephen L. Jordan.
The criminal complaint was brought under the German Code of Crimes
against International Law (CCIL) and seeks an investigation into
war crimes allegedly carried out by high ranking United States civilian
and military officials, including the incidents which occurred in
[Please join our effort! The German Prosecutor has discretion
to decide whether to initiate an investigation. It is critical that
he hear from you so he knows that people around the world support
this effort. Send a letter here]
CCR is represented in Germany by Wolfgang Kaleck, a Berlin-based
lawyer who has been involved in similar efforts on behalf of victims
of the Argentine “dirty war.”
The charges include violations of the German Code, “War Crimes
against Persons,” which outlaws killing, torture, cruel and
inhumane treatment, sexual coercion and forcible transfers. The
Code makes criminally responsible those who carry out the above
acts as well as those who induce, condone or order the acts. It
also makes commanders liable, whether civilian or military, who
fail to prevent their subordinates from committing such acts.
The German Code of Crimes against International Law grants German
Courts what is called Universal Jurisdiction for the above-described
crimes. Article 1, Part 1, Section 1 states: "This Act shall
apply to all criminal offenses against international law designated
under this Act, to serious criminal offences designated therein
even when the offence was committed abroad and bears no relation
to Germany.” This means that those who commit such crimes
can be prosecuted wherever found: they, like pirates of old, are
considered enemies of all humankind.
The German CCIL places a prosecuting duty on the German prosecutor
for all crimes that constitute violations of the CCIL, irrespective
of the location of the person, the crime, or the nationality of
the persons involved. Complaints can be filed with the German prosecutor
to seek an investigation of specific crimes, as was done here. While
outside parties can bring complaints to the attention of a prosecutor
in the U.S., there is no duty to prosecute such complaints and they
do not become part of an official court procedure. In Germany, the
prosecutor is under a duty to determine if an investigation and
indictments are warranted; if he fails to do so, the complainants
can appeal to the court.
According to CCR lawyers, in this case there
are particularly compelling reasons the prosecutor should exercise
his duty. Three of the defendants are present in Germany: Lt. General
Sanchez and Major General Wodjakoski are stationed in Heidelberg,
and Colonel Pappas is in Wiesbaden. Others, such as Secretary
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, often travel to Germany. In addition,
the military units that engaged in the illegal conduct are stationed
in Germany. Although such links to Germany are unnecessary for the
prosecutor to fulfill his duty, when the alleged perpetrators are
actually on German soil the duty to investigate is even stronger.
Their presence in Germany gives the prosecutor an important avenue
to investigate these cases. Last, since the complainants are also
victims, this places an additional duty on the prosecutor to investigate.
“We view Germany as a court of last
resort,” said CCR Vice President Peter Weiss, “We file
these cases here because there is simply no other place to go. It
is clear that the U.S. government is not willing to open an investigation
into these allegations against these officials.” Weiss
also pointed out that Congress has failed to seriously investigate
the abuses and none of the various commissions appointed by the
military and the Bush administration has been willing to look unflinchingly
up the chain of command to consider what criminal responsibility
lies with the military and political leadership. Instead, they asserted
that the abuses and torture were the exclusive responsibility of
rogue lower-level military personnel.
There are no international courts or courts
in Iraq that can carry out investigations and prosecutions of the
U.S. role, either: the United States has refused to join the International
Criminal Court, thereby foreclosing the option of pursuing a prosecution
in international courts; Iraq has no authority to prosecute;
and the U.S. gave immunity to all its personnel in Iraq from Iraqi
prosecution. Says Weiss, “We are doing what is necessary and
expected when other systems of justice have failed: we are asking
the German prosecutors, who have available one of the most advanced
universal jurisdiction laws in the world, to begin an investigation
that is required under its law.”
WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
said on Thursday he has not decided whether to attend an international
security conference next week in Germany, where he might be subject
to arrest on a war-crimes complaint.
"I have not made a final decision on that (attendance). And
there are several factors," Rumsfeld told reporters when asked
if he would go to the prestigious annual private Munich Conference
on Security Policy Feb. 12-13 when he is in Europe next week.
He conceded in response to questions at a press
conference that one problem was the jurisdiction of a German court
over a 160-page criminal complaint filed Nov. 30 with the federal
prosecutor's office in Germany accusing him of war crimes in connection
with detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
That complaint was brought by the New York-based Center for Constitutional
Rights (CCR), a group of lawyers representing Iraqis who say they
were mistreated by U.S. forces at the Baghdad prison.
The complaint also names other senior U.S. military authorities,
including former U.S. commander in Iraq Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez,
and former U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet.
"It's certainly an issue, as it was in Belgium.
It's something that we have to take into consideration," Rumsfeld
said of the suit on Thursday. "Whether I end up there we'll
soon know. It'll be a week, and we'll find out."
The German prosecutor's office has taken no action on he complaint,
based on a 2002 German law that the gives the Karlsruhe Court "universal
jurisdiction" in cases involving alleged war crimes.
A similar law was previously passed in Belgium
but later modified, and cases against U.S. and other officials,
including Cuban President Fidel Castro, were dismissed or rejected.
Officials of the Munich conference, which marked its 40th anniversary
last year, earlier told the Washington Post that Rumsfeld might
not attend. It draws members of (the U.S. Congress), cabinet ministers,
lawmakers and prominent analysts and politicians from many parts
of Europe and Asia.
Rumsfeld told reporters on Thursday he would attend an informal
meeting of NATO defense ministers in Nice, France, Feb. 9-10 and
was likely to make other stops, but that his final schedule was
"I'm going to be in Nice. And I'm very likely going to visit
some other locations in that part of the world during that period,"
Ex-Secretary of State, assassin
and war-criminal Henry Kissinger was almost arrested in France a
few years ago, barely escaping being held accountable for his crimes
against humanity. Now it seems that Donald Rumsfeld had to abandon
plans to visit Germany after getting wind that authorities there
planned to arrest him for his crimes. For people like these, it's
becoming a small world indeed. No more European vacations, but Florida
Kissinger so loved power that he was willing to kiss the ass of
Richard Nixon, a drunk, insane anti-Semite ('Henry, there are too
many goddamed Jews in this administration!') after cynically switching
loyalties from the Democrats. Of course it is a measure of the man
that he also bit the ass he kissed; loyalty was never a strong point
for this Nobel laureate, surely the most undeserving peace-prize
winner in the history of the award. Vlad the Impaler and Attila
the Hun did a lot more good..
Henry presided not only over the murder of the legally elected
president of Chile, Salvatore Allende and the ascent of the vile
and deadly Augusto Pinochet, but also 'Operation Phoenix' in Vietnam,
responsible for approximately 50,000 bullets in the back of an equal
number of Vietnamese heads. No charges, no trials. Sound familiar?
Free-fire zones, in which any living thing was killed, including
oxen, cattle, and dogs. Even the damn animals were commies! Men
and women were thrown out of helicopters at height in order to gather
'intelligence' from others on board. Well, they weren't men and
women, actually - they were just 'gooks', 'slants'. Sort of like
Men, women and children were tortured by drowning or near drowning
in buckets of water, or worse. Like at Io Jima, gold teeth were
extracted from dead mouths, and silly us, we thought only the Nazis
could or would sink that low. The Mai Lai massacre was only one
of very many. Through it all, Henry bombed and burned and tortured
and murdered and puckered and kissed Nixon's ass, and demanded the
respect of the world. After all, as he is never shy to remind us,
it's Doctor Kissinger. And on Nixon's gravestone is the word 'Peacemaker'.
Perhaps Bush's will read 'Truth-teller'. It is to weep.
How does a nation lose its mind? Ask the ancient Romans. Ask the
Nazis. Ask the Khmer Rouge, who executed people for wearing eyeglasses,
reasoning that they must be bourgeois intellectuals for wanting
to see. Ask Robert Mugabe. Ask George W. Bush, or the millions who
voted for his gangster government. Or Condoleezza, that oily Olive
Oyl from the Bizarro world, yet another dubious doctor of something-or-other.
Ask Rumsfeld or the soon-to-be- confirmed Attorney-General, surely
the most insane Cabinet choice in the history of the US.
In nominating Gonzalez, the president might just well be saying
'F*** you America, F*** you, world-see what I can do if I want to?'
Alberto Gonzalez is not qualitatively different than Uday Hussein
or his dad in that he is willing to utilize and justify torture
to achieve his dubious ends. To call it anything else is simply
To have accepted such immoral and outrageous counsel will forever
remain a blight on the presidency of the USA. It can never recover,
no matter how much God talks to George W or the next incumbent,
should there be one. (One can imaging the 22nd Amendment being repealed
so that W can work his presidential magic for life.)
A few years ago it would have seemed unimaginable that the United
States, for all its faults, would engage in torture, or indefinite
detention without charge or trial. Now any depravity not only seems
possible, but likely. I sometimes warn critical outspoken American
writers to be careful-times have changed, anything is possible.
America is crazy. And mean. Watch out!
It is astonishing that so little was learned from the experience
in Viet Nam (but perhaps not so much given the ignorance and arrogance
of the criminal gang in Washington).
Soldiers are coming home from Iraq dead, maimed, insane. 'Stop-loss'
policy amounts to a form of indenture, a 'back-door' draft, a new
form of slavery. Once again troops, in spite of all the patriotic
rhetoric from generals and politicians are considered eminently
expendable nothings. If the war against the 'terrorists' goes on
for much longer young Americans will once again be sent off to fight
and die without any choice.
Land of the free! Bush used the term 'freedom' ad nauseum in his
mediocre inaugural speech (which the best thing one can say about
is that at least it wasn't written by the execrable David Frum);
on Bush's clumsy tongue words lose all meaning, or come to mean
Freedom? Tell it to some young kid at Guantanamo who just happened
to be in the wrong place at the wrong time three years ago. Or to
a young boy at Abu Grhaib being gleefully raped in front of his
The fatuous fathead Rumsfeld sees nothing wrong with any this.
And he's a Christian too. Some people have it all.
Did he finally stop the torture and outright murder? Not quite;
he banned digital cameras, just as Jesus no doubt would have done.
Out of sight, out of mind. Except Americans can no longer plead
ignorance, or that George stole the election.
Crimes are being committed in the name of every citizen, and while
the president famously said 'You're with us or you're with the terrorists',
in fact there's an another equally black and white choice. You're
with George or you are devoted to doing whatever is necessary to
rid the White House and the Republican party of the cancer that
has infected them.
If the Geneva conventions are as 'quaint' as the ghastly new Attorney
General has it with Bush and Rumsfeld's presumed concurrence, then
perhaps we should declare equally quaint any respect for them. Perhaps
a suitable reward, say fifty million dollars, could be offered to
anyone who manages to bring either of them to justice. George purported
to want Osama 'dead or alive', but we'll be a little more charitable
and insist that these criminals be handed over for trial without
A suitable bonus could be added for Kissinger. Sorry. Doctor Kissinger.
Try him at his think tank, where deep thinkers now kiss his fat
George W. Bush knows what to
do with a bully pulpit. From the days of Thomas Jefferson to those
of William Taft, the State of the Union was a written message delivered
by presidents to Congress. Woodrow Wilson turned it into a speech.
Subsequent presidents used the State of the Union as a high-profile
opportunity to promote their political agendas.
Bush went beyond that this evening. He produced grand and effective
political theater. In the middle of the address, he transformed
the war in Iraq--which even after the historic election there arguably
remains his largest liability--into a single, powerfully poignant
Exploiting the tradition of inviting symbolically
significant guests to sit with the First Lady, Bush introduced the
mother of a US Marine killed in Fallujah and an Iraqi human rights
advocate whose father had been assassinated by Saddam Hussein and
who had voted in Sunday's election. With the House chamber awash
with emotion, the two women hugged. Bush was near tears. Members
of Congress--perhaps including those legislators who had dyed their
index fingers purple for the event--were crying. In a nutshell,
here was Bush's story of sacrifice, liberty and freedom. [...]
I published an essay, "America
and Islam: Seeking Parallels," in Counterpunch on December
29, 2004. A day later, I began to receive nasty and threatening
emails, all at once. These were orchestrated by a www.littlegreenfootballs.com.
Shortly thereafter, other right-wing websites got into act, posting
excerpts from the essay; these included jihadwatch.org, campuswatch.org,
frontpagemag.com, freerepublic.com, etc. The messages posted on
these websites were equally vicious, and some of them, containing
explicit death threats, were 'kindly' forwarded to me.
What did I say in this essay? I made two points. First, that the
9-11 attacks were an Islamist insurgency: the attackers believe
that they are fighting--as the Americans did, in the 1770s--for
their freedom and dignity against a foreign occupation/control of
their lands. Secondly, I argue that these attacks were the result
of a massive political failure of Muslims to resist their tyrannies
locally. It was a mistake to attack the US.
I followed the first essay with a second one, "Testing Free
Speech In America," where I elaborate on the points I had made
earlier. This too was published in Counterpunch.Org on Jan 1/2,
The emails to me and the University continued for another two weeks,
eventually tapering off. In the meanwhile, I was speaking to people
at the ACLU, Boston, and the ADC, Boston. On the suggestion of the
ACLU, I contacted the campus police and the police in my hometown
to let them know about the death threats posted against me.
I had a feeling this was not the end of the matter. So yesterday,
February 1, I received an email from Fox News asking for a TV interview;
they were producing a program "on me." At this point,
I spoke to people at ACLU who advised me against going on the program.
I received the same advice from other friends. I wrote back to Fox
saying I could not do the interview but would be glad to answer
any questions. They did not take me up on my offer. Clearly, this
would not help them in their designs against me.
It appears that Bill O'Reilly is doing a series on 'unAmerican'
professors on US campuses. Last night, my wife tells me, he did
a piece on Ward Churchill. Tonight will be my turn. I expect he
will make all kinds of outlandish accusations that will resonate
well with the left- and Muslim- hating members of his audience.
This will generate calls and emails to Northeastern and to me, containing
threats, calls for firing me, and threats to withhold donations.
I am not sure how well NU will stand up against this barrage.
If we can generate a matching volume of emails, letters and call
to NU supporting my right to free speech, it might be helpful.
What else can we do?
The contact information for President Richard Freeland is available
Contact for Provots and Senior VP for Academic Affairs:
Ahmed Abdelal Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost
112 Hayden Hall (617) 373-4517 [email protected]
The contacts for the leading people in the President's office are
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
James Stellar 100 Meserve Hall Northeastern University 360 Huntington
Ave. Boston, MA 02115 [email protected] (617) 373-3980
M. Shahid Alam, professor of economics at Northeastern University,
is a regular contributor to CounterPunch.org. Some of his CounterPunch
essays are now available in a book, Is There An Islamic Problem
(Kuala Lumpur: The Other Press, 2004). He may be reached at [email protected]
Comment: The following article
presents part of the speech of Hugo Chavez at the recent WSF and
details in remarkable clarity the intentions of the American government
towards South America. It is well worth the read.
Caracas - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was warmly received
at the 2005 edition of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil,
where he held several meetings with local leaders, intellectuals
and activists, and gave the closing speech at the Gigantinho Stadium.
Chavez generated great interest among Forum participants, many of
whom see Chavez and his project of political transformations being
implemented in Venezuela, as an inspiration in the struggles for
a more better world.
"The great people of the United States are our brothers, my
salute to them," Chavez told the 15.000 World Social Forum
participants that managed to get inside the Gigantinho Stadium in
Porto Alegre to hear him speak.
The Venezuelan President visited the Lagoa do Junco agrarian settlement
in Tapes set up by Brazil's Landless Movement (MST), and later held
a press conference with more than 120 media organizations, where
he criticized the U.S. government for claiming to lead a fight against
terrorism while undermining Democracy in Venezuela.
Chavez highlighted the recent creation of Latin American satellite
TV network TeleSur, "which will allow us to tell our people’s
reality in our own words." He added that TeleSur will be at
the disposal of the people, not of governments.
The leader added that his country's military forces are undergoing
a period of modernization of its weapon systems and resources, but
asserted that it is aimed at defending the country's sovereignty.
"Venezuela will not attack anybody, but don’t attack
Venezuela, because you will find us ready to defend our sovereignty,
and the project we are carrying forward," he added.
"The FTAA is death"
During the closing speech at the Gigantinho Stadium, the president
added that 2005 arrived and the FTAA was not implemented. "The
FTAA is death, what they got was mini-FTAA’s because the U.S.
imperialism did not have the strength to impose the neocolonial
model of the FTAA."
The President highlighted the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas
(ALBA), a proposal made by Venezuela in opposition to the Free Trade
Agreement of the Americas (FTAA), and which emphasizes social and
cultural exchanges above profit-based economic deals. "We can’t
wait for a sustained economic growth of 10 years in order to start
reducing poverty through the trickledown effect, as the neoliberal
economic theories propose."
He praised the cooperation with Cuba, which, along with several
Central American countries, receives Venezuelan oil at below market
prices, in exchange for assistance in healthcare, education, agriculture
and other areas. He highlighted that about 20.000 Cuban doctors
work in Venezuela at free medical clinics in poor neighborhoods,
and that Venezuela has used a Cuban literacy method approved by
UNESCO that has allowed more than 1.3 million Venezuelans learn
how to read and write. He said Venezuela is using Cuban vaccines,
which now allow poor children to be vaccinated against diseases
such as hepatitis.
The President criticized alleged media distortions with regard
to plans by Fidel Castro and him to spread Communism in the Americas,
overthrow governments and set up guerrillas, "after 10 years
it seems like we haven’t been very successful."
"Cuba has its own profile and Venezuela has its own, but we
have respect for each other, but we celebrate accords and advance
together for the interest of our peoples." He said that any
aggression against either country will have to confront the other,
"because we are united in spirit from Mexico down to the Patagonia."
Chavez said U.S.-Venezuela political relations
are unhealthy because of “permanent aggressions from there”.
He criticized U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who recently
asserted that Chavez was “a negative force in the region.”
He said those relations will stay unhealthy as long as the U.S.
continues its policies of aggression. "The most negative force
in the world today is the government of the United States,"
The President criticized the U.S. government for asking other countries
to pressure Venezuela in the crisis with Colombia over the kidnapping
of a Colombian guerrilla activist in Caracas last December. “Nobody
answered their call… they are more lonely everyday.”
He praised the cooperation of other Latin American countries in
the resolution of the crisis, and mentioned that Cuban President
Fidel Castro held talks with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to
try to help in the resolution of the crisis. Chavez agreed to meet
Uribe early in February to settle the dispute.
"Imperialism not invincible"
Chavez added that U.S. imperialism is not invincible. "Look
at Vietnam, look at Iraq and Cuba resisting, and now look at Venezuela."
In reference to the recommendations of some of his close advisors,
he said that "some people say that we cannot say nor do anything
that can irritate those in Washington." He repeated the words
of Argentine independence hero José de San Martin "let’s
be free without caring about what anyone else says."
"When imperialism feels weak, it resorts
to brute force. The attacks on Venezuela
are a sign of weakness, ideological weakness. Nowadays almost
nobody defends neoliberalism. Up until three years ago, just Fidel
[Castro] and I raised those criticisms at Presidential meetings.
We felt lonely, as if we infiltrated those meetings."
He added that those ideological and economic weaknesses will continue
to increase. "Just look at the internal
repression inside the United States, the Patriot Act, which is a
repressive law against U.S. citizens. They have put in jail
a group of journalists for not revealing their sources. They won't
allow them to take pictures of the bodies of the dead soldiers,
many of them Latinos, coming from Iraq. Those are signs of Goliath's
"The south also exists"
He said there were old and new actors in the geopolitical map who
are coming into the scene and have an influence in the weaknesses
and strengths of the U.S. hegemony. "Today's Russia is not
Yeltsin's... there is new Russian nationalism, and I have seen it
in the streets of Moscow... there is a good president, Mr. Putin,
at the wheel." He also praised China's fast economic growth,
and highlighted the new Spanish socialist
government, "which no longer bends its knees in front of U.S.
"The south also exists... the future of the north depends
on the south. If we don't make that better
world possible, if we fail, and through the rifles of the U.S. Marines,
and through Mr. Bush's murderous bombs, if there is no coincidence
and organization necessary in the south to resist the offensive
of neo-imperialism, and the Bush doctrine is imposed upon the world,
the world will be destroyed," he said.
Chavez warned of drastic weather changes
that would bring catastrophic events if no action is taken soon,
in reference to uncontrolled or little regulated industrial activity.
Chavez added that perhaps before those drastic changes take place,
there will be rebellions everywhere "because the peoples are
not going to accept in peace impositions such as neoliberalism or
"The U.S. people are our brothers"
He added that all empires come to an end. "One
day the decay inside U.S. imperialism will end up toppling it, and
the great people of Martin Luther King will be set free. The great
people of the United States are our brothers, my salute to them."
"We must start talking again about equality.
The U.S. government talks about freedom and liberty, but never about
equality. "They are not interested in equality. This is a distorted
concept of liberty. The U.S. people, with whom we share dreams and
ideals, must free themselves… A country of heroes, dreamers,
and fighters, the people of Martin Luther King, and Cesar Chavez."
Chavez thanked Spanish intellectual and
director of Le Monde Diplomatique Ignacio Ramonet for saying that
Chavez was a new type of leader. He said he is inspired by old types
of leaders such as Christ, whom he described as "one of the
greatest anti-imperialist fighters, the redeemers of the poor, and
one of the greatest revolutionaries of the history of the world."
The President mentioned Venezuela’s independence hero
Simon Bolivar, Brazil's José Ignacio Abreu Elima, Che Guevara,
"that Argentine doctor that traveled through the continent
in a motorcycle and who was a witness of the U.S. invasion of Guatemala
in 1955, one of the many invasion of the U.S. empire in this continent,"
and Cuban President Fidel Castro.
“Capitalism must be transcended”
"Everyday I become more convinced, there
is no doubt in my mind, and as many intellectuals have said, that
it is necessary to transcend capitalism. But capitalism can’t
be transcended from within capitalism itself, but through socialism,
true socialism, with equality and justice. But I’m also convinced
that it is possible to do it under democracy, but not in the type
of democracy being imposed from Washington," he said.
"We have to re-invent socialism. It can’t be the kind
of socialism that we saw in the Soviet Union, but it will emerge
as we develop new systems that are built on cooperation, not competition,"
Chavez said that Venezuela is trying to implement a social economy.
"It is impossible, within the framework of the capitalist system
to solve the grave problems of poverty of the majority of the world’s
population. We must transcend capitalism.
But we cannot resort to state capitalism, which would be the same
perversion of the Soviet Union. We must reclaim socialism
as a thesis, a project and a path, but a new type of socialism,
a humanist one, which puts humans and not machines or the state
ahead of everything. That’s the debate we must promote around
the world, and the WSF is a good place to do it."
He added that in spite of his admiration for Argentine
revolutionary Che Guevara, he said Che's methods are not applicable.
"That thesis of one, two, or three Vietnams, did not work,
especially in Venezuela."
The President cited Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky by saying
that "each revolution needs the whip of the counterrevolution
to advance." He listed actions by the opposition and the U.S.
government to drive him out of power. "But we resisted, and
now have gone into the offensive. For instance, we recovered our
oil industry... In 2004, from the oil industry
budget we utilized $4 billion in social investments, education,
health, micro-credits, scholarships, and housing, aimed at the poorest
of the poor, what neoliberals call waste of money. But that
is not a waste of money because it is aimed at empowering the poor
so that they can defeat poverty. He added that "that money
before stayed out of Venezuela or just benefited the rich."
He criticized privatizations by saying that "privatization
is a neoliberal and imperialist plan. Health can’t be privatized
because it is a fundamental human right, nor can education, water,
electricity and other public services. They can’t be surrendered
to private capital that denies the people from their rights."
Chavez defended Brazilian President Luis "Lula" Da Silva,
who has been sharply criticized by the Latin American left, and
who was booed during his speech at the World Social Forum.
"I say this from the bottom of my heart. In Venezuela at the
beginning of my presidency, many of my supporters criticized me
and asked me to go at a faster pace [to implement changes], and
be more radical, but I considered that it was not the right moment
because each process has several phases and different rhythms that
not only have to do with internal situations in each country, but
with the international situation at the time. So, risking that you
make some strange noise, I want to say that I like Lula, I appreciate
him, and he is a good man, of a great heart. He is a brother, a
comrade and I send him a hug, my love and affection. I'm sure that
with Lula and the people of Brazil, with Nestor Kirchner and the
Argentine people, with Tabaré Vasquez and the Uruguayan people,
we will be opening the path to realizing the dream of a united Latin
First it was Halliburton, now General Electric.
Companies are closing down business operations in Iran. “We’re
seeing a turnaround by a number of U.S. companies operating in Iran,”
Dan Katz, chief counsel to U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., told
the Associated Press. Last year Lautenberg
accused U.S. corporations of collecting “blood money”
by doing business with “countries the United States says sponsors
terrorism and said he would push for legislation to stop it.”
Lautenberg said, “When American companies do business with
Iran they are helping the Iranians create revenue that is funneled
Suddenly, and remarkably, GE has grown a conscience.
General Electric is responsible for the
murder of thousands, possibly millions of people, since it is “one
of the world’s top three producers of jet engines, supplying
Boeing, Lockheed Martin and other military aircraft makers for the
powering of airplanes and helicopters,” explains CorpWatch.
In fact, GE is one of the worst corporations
in the world, guilty of various crimes, including: designing faulty
nuclear power plants; conducting radiation experiments on humans;
intentionally releasing large amounts of radiation into the air
from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in order to see the distance
it would travel; poisoning its workers at the Knolls Atomic Power
Laboratory in Schenectady, New York with radiation and asbestos;
attempting to overturn the US Superfund Law of 1980.
“The US government’s Occupational Safety and Health
Administration, or OSHA, has cited the company for 858 workplace
safety violations from 1990-2001,” notes CorpWatch. It is
also a fraud repeat offender. “General Electric has been involved
in so many cases of fraud that in the 1990s the Pentagon’s
Defense Contract Management Agency created a special investigations
office specifically for the company, which indicted GE on 22 criminal
counts and recovered $221.7 million. … GE’s financial
division has been another area ripe for fraud. GE was fined $100
million for trying to get bankrupt creditors to pay without informing
the bankruptcy courts, in effect paying debts that they no longer
legally owed. Not surprisingly, General Electric is the financial
backer of WorldCom, the telecom company whose massive fraud and
creative accounting led to the largest bankruptcy in US history.”
Not surprisingly, GE has paid big bucks to pocket Congress critters
on both sides of the aisle. “GE spent more than $31 million
in 2001 and 2002 lobbying lawmakers; in 2000 it spent $16 million.
Reigning CEO Jack Welch had enormous influence and was consistently
ranked CEO of the Year by the slavish business press; he was major
Republican donor as well. GE director Sam Nunn was senator for Georgia
for 27 years, and also sits on the boards of ChevronTexaco. GE’s
Senior Vice President and General Counsel and Secretary, Benjamin
W. Heineman, used to work for the US government’s Department
of Health, Education and Welfare. General
Electric gave $221,350 to political campaigns in the 2002 election
cycle, with 40 percent going to Democrats and 60 percent to Republicans.”
“Because of uncertain conditions related to Iran, including
concerns about meeting future customer commitments, we will not
accept any new orders for business in Iran effective Feb. 1,”
said Gary Sheffer, a GE spokesman.
And what would these “uncertain conditions related to Iran”
How about the fact Iran is the next target on Bush’s hit
list. “Today, Iran remains the world’s primary state
sponsor of terror, pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its
people of the freedom they seek and deserve. To the Iranian people,
I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands
with you,” Bush declared in his State of the Union address
yesterday. “This obviously raises the bar on the possibility
that Iran will be the next target within the axis of evil as we
fight the war on terror. And there are signs
that a showdown with Iran may come sooner rather than later,”
speculates Alaron Futures and Options.
In the meantime, the CEO of America, Inc., is
warning multinational corporations to get out of Iran, lest their
assets are bombed along with the people of Iran.
Naturally, an attack on Iran would spell disaster, as noted by
an editorial appearing in the York Sunday Times. “Consider
the possible consequences of a war. Experts believe that a large
portion of the U.S. fleet in the Persian Gulf might be sunk by Iraqi
anti-ship missiles, blocking the straits of Hormuz, and shutting
down oil exports from the gulf.” Actually, it is Iran that
possesses these advanced anti-ship missiles (the Moskit, or Sunburn
missile, sold to Iran by Russia), not Iraq. “What about the
majority Shia in Iraq? Would they rise against our 150,000 troops
if we attack their Shiite brethren in Iran? If we think there is
chaos now, imagine millions more Iraqis, as well as a large Iranian
military, attacking our troops.”
In a repeat of the delusional fantasy proposed by the Strausscons
prior to the invasion of Iraq, top dog Strausscon Paul Wolfowitz
has said “an attack on Iran would be the catalyst for a popular
revolution against the ruling mullahs” in Iran. In fact, the
exact opposite would happen, since the Iranians are fiercely nationalistic
and have a long history of repelling invaders.
Even so, the Strausscons are itching to bombard Iran and are setting
the stage, beginning with warning their multinational friends to
close down operations and minimize harm to their stockholders. Disgustingly,
as in the case of both Halliburton and General Motors, this exit
from Iran is portrayed as a decision not to do business with the
mullahs, a concern completely irrelevant before Bush declared his
intention to release the dogs of war against 60 million innocent
people in Iran.
: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stepped up Washington's
verbal assault on Iran, saying the hardline Islamic regime's treatment
of its people was "something to be loathed."
Kicking off a tour of Europe and the Middle East, Rice echoed
US President George W. Bush's State of the Union speech Wednesday
branding Tehran "the primary state sponsor of terror"
and pledging solidarity with Iranians' desire for freedom.
"I don't think anybody thinks that the unelected mullahs
who run that regime are a good thing for either the Iranian people
or for the region," the new chief US diplomat told reporters
aboard her plane en route for London.
"I think our European allies agree that the Iranian regime's
human rights behavior and its behavior towards its own population
is something to be loathed," Rice said.
She came close to advocating outright regime
change in the clergy-ruled Islamic Republic that Bush famously included
three years ago in his "axis of evil" along with pre-war
Iraq and North Korea.
"What we support is that the Iranian people should have a
chance to determine their own future, and right now under this regime
they have no opportunity to determine their own future," she
Iran and its suspected nuclear weapons program are likely to figure
prominently in Rice's talks on her first trip abroad since taking
over the helm of US diplomacy from Colin Powell a week ago.
Her itinerary includes Britain, Germany and France, which are
trying to persuade the Iranians to renounce any nuclear ambitions.
Some Europeans have called for more direct US involvement, but Rice
"The Iranians know what they need to do. It's not the absence
of anybody's involvement that is keeping the Iranians from knowing
what they need to do," she told reporters.
"They need to live up to their obligations, they need to
agree to verification inspections, they need to stop trying to hide
activities under cover of civilian nuclear power."
Rice said the United States was "coordinating closely"
with the Europeans and took heart from what she called an "increasing
consensus" within the world community, including Russia, that
Iran's nuclear arms hopes must be checked.
The United States has in recent weeks ratcheted up its rhetoric
on Iran. Vice President Dick Cheney said it topped the list of world
trouble spots and Bush refused to rule out military action to dismantle
its suspected nuclear weapons program.
In his annual address to Congress on Wednesday, Bush again rapped
Tehran on the nuclear and terrorism issues and added: "To the
Iranian people I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty,
America stands with you."
The United States also accuses Iran of interfering
in neighboring Iraq and supporting Islamic militants in efforts
to wreck chances for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Rice, the former national security adviser, made clear in her
Senate confirmation hearings for secretary of state last month that
Washington wanted to see the end of the regime in Tehran whose interests
"are 180 degrees antithetical to our own." [...]
Baghdad — Insurgents struck back with
a vengeance following a post-election lull, waylaying a minibus
carrying new Iraqi army recruits, firing on Iraqis heading for work
at a U.S. base and gunning down an Iraqi soldier in the capital,
officials said Thursday.
Two U.S. marines were also killed in action.
A total of 19 people, including the Americans, died in insurgent-related
incidents starting Wednesday night, according to U.S. and Iraqi
reports. Insurgents had eased up on attacks following Sunday's elections,
when American and Iraqi forces imposed sweeping security measures
to protect the voters.
In the deadliest incident, insurgents stopped the minibus south
of Kirkuk, ordered army recruits off the vehicle and gunned down
12 of them, said Major-General Anwar Mohammed Amin. The rebels allowed
two of the soldiers to go free and ordered them to warn others against
joining Iraq's U.S.-backed security forces, he said.
The assailants identified themselves as members of Takfir wa Hijra,
an Islamic group that emerged in the 1960s in Egypt, rejecting society
as corrupt and seeking to establish a utopian Islamic community.
Elsewhere, gunmen fired on a vehicle carrying Iraqi contractors
Thursday to jobs at a U.S. military base in Baqouba north of the
capital, killing two people, officials said. Two civilians were
killed and six injured Wednesday night when insurgents fired mortar
shells at a U.S. base in Tal Afar, 50 kilometres west of Mosul.
An Iraqi soldier was killed Thursday as assailants opened fire
as he was leaving his home in Baghdad, officials said. The governor
of Anbar province, a rebel stronghold west of the capital, escaped
assassination Thursday when a roadside bomb exploded near his car
Governor Qaoud al-Namrawi was not harmed, but a woman was injured
when his guards opened fire.
Both Marines were killed in clashes Wednesday in Anbar province,
which includes such restive cities and towns as Ramadi, Fallujah
The upsurge in violence occurred shortly after interim Prime Minister
Ayad Allawi declared that Iraq's elections Sunday had dealt a major
blow to the insurgency and predicted victory over the rebels within
“They might be reorganizing themselves and changing their
plans,” he told Iraqi television. “The coming days and
weeks will show whether this trend will continue ... But the final
outcome will be failure. They will continue for months but this
[insurgency] will end.”
| submitted by Sheldon Rampton on Sun, 01/30/2005
to PR Watch forums contributor "El Gringo" for calling
our attention to a really atrocious example of dishonest propaganda.
The graphic at right is by Linda Eddy, an artist for this website.
Owned by Roger Hughes, chairman of the Republican Party in Hamilton
County, Iowa, the website spent the recent U.S. presidential election
calling Democratic candidate John Kerry a habitual liar and comparing
him to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels - which is awfully ironic
in light of its own promotion of a big lie.
The image you see here might lead you to believe that the child
in the picture has been made "glad" and secure thanks
to the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. As "El Gringo" discovered,
however, Lindy Eddy doctored the photograph. The
original photo, taken by a journalist, depicted a young girl who
had just received bullet wounds during a firefight in which her
mother was killed and her father was wounded. Eddy
doctored the photo by erasing the little girl's own face (which
carries the listless expression you would expect from an injured
child) and replacing it with someone else's face to make her look
positively radiant and adoring.
The soldier holding the girl is Navy medic Richard Barnett of
Camarilo, California, who was checking her heart when the photo
was taken. Barnett himself wasn't "glad" about the circumstances.
"If anything good comes from this nonsense, I haven't seen
it yet," he said as she and her father were taken away for
a medivac helicopter.
Linda Eddy is a small fry in the world of conservative propagandists,
and usually I don't bother to write about someone this minor, but
this obviously deliberate manipulation of the image of a wounded
child makes me angry. I cannot for the life of me understand how
a human being with any conscience whatsoever would engage in this
shameless, exploitative falsification.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The commandant of the Marine
Corps said Thursday he has counseled a senior subordinate for saying
publicly, "It's fun to shoot some people."
Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, an infantry officer who has commanded
Marines in both Afghanistan and Iraq, made the comments Tuesday
while speaking to a forum in San Diego about strategies for the
war on terror. Mattis is the commanding general of the Marine Corps
Combat Development Command in Quantico, Va.
According to an audio recording of Mattis' remarks, he said,
"Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell
of a hoot. ... It's fun to shoot some
people. I'll be right upfront with
you, I like brawling."
He added, "You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap
women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil,"
Mattis continued. "You know, guys like
that ain't got no manhood left anyway.
So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."
Thursday, Gen. Mike Hagee, commandant of the Marine Corps, issued
a statement saying, "I have counseled him concerning his remarks
and he agrees he should have chosen his words
"While I understand that some people may take issue with
the comments made by him, I also know he intended
to reflect the unfortunate and harsh realities of war,"
Hagee said. "Lt. Gen. Mattis often speaks with a great deal
Hagee also praised Mattis, calling him "one
of this country's bravest and most experienced military leaders."
He said the commitment of Marines "helps to provide us the
fortitude to take the lives of those who oppress others or threaten
this nation's security. This is not something we relish, yet we
accept it as a reality in our profession of arms."
He said he was confident Mattis would continue to serve.
A U.S. university in Wisconsin has blocked
an attempt by Republican students to raise money for a
group called "Adopt-a-Sniper" that raises money for US
sharp-shooters in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The students were selling bracelets bearing the
motto "1 Shot 1 Kill No Remorse I Decide".
"Clearly the rhetoric of that organisation raised some questions
and we had some strong objections as a Jesuit
university," Marquette University school spokeswoman
Brigid O'Brien said on Thursday.
The students, representing a group called College Republicans,
originally got permission to set up a table at the student union
to raise money for US troops in Iraq.
But they chose to promote a group called Adopt-a-Sniper, which
says on its website it supports snipers deployed by the United States
armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The
group says it "helps real snipers get the real gear they need
to help keep us safe."
The brainchild of a Texas police SWAT officer Adopt a Sniper (www.adoptasniper.org)
has raised thousands of dollars in cash and gear to supplement the
kit of sharp shooters in US combat platoons.
Among products sold on the site is a $US15 coin with the imprinted
phrase "Assistance From A Distance".
| The British Government became directly
involved in subverting the process for choosing companies to assist
in the management of the United Nations' oil-for-food programme, intervening
in 1996 on behalf of a London-based company that was ultimately granted
the work, a report claimed yesterday.
The episode is an embarrassing revelation for the Foreign Office
and is prominently described in an interim report released yesterday
by former Paul Volcker, the US Federal Reserve Chairman, into allegations
of widespread corruption in the running of the 6-year oil-for-food
Mr Volcker asserts there is "convincing and uncontested evidence
that the selection process" for three main contractors at the
time the programme was beginning "did not conform to established
financial and competitive bidding rules".
The winning contractors were Banque National de Paris, Saybolt
Eastern Hemisphere and the British company, Lloyd's Register Inspection
Lloyd's was among five companies that entered bids for the job
of inspecting humanitarian goods that Iraq would be allowed to import
with proceeds from limited oil sales. Its bid was $1.1m (£580m)
above the lowest bid from a French rival, Veritas.
A UN official, Joseph Stephanides, who did not favour Veritas contacted
a "diplomat" in the British Mission to the UN asking for
help in persuading the relevant UN steering committee to choose
An official letter, dated 8 August 1996, partially displayed in
the report, was subsequently sent from the UK Mission to that committee,
saying Lloyd's was willing to shave $900,000 of its bid.
The letter, which does not show any signature in the Volcker report,
ends with this exhortation: "I hope this will enable the Steering
Committee to come to the right decision". Lloyd's was chosen
the next day. "For the selection of Lloyd's, there was a clear
early preference for Lloyd's, and the regular competitive bidding
process was tainted," the report states.
A model that assumes stock market traders
have zero intelligence has been found to mimic the behaviour of
the London Stock Exchange very closely.
However, the surprising result does not mean traders are actually
just buying and selling at random, say researchers. Instead,
it suggests that the movement of markets depend less on the strategic
behaviour of traders and more on the structure and constraints of
the trading system itself.
The research, led by J Doyne Farmer and his colleagues at the Santa
Fe Institute, New Mexico, US, say the finding could be used to identify
ways to lower volatility in the stock markets and reduce transaction
costs, both of which would benefit small investors and perhaps bigger
A spokesperson for the London Stock Exchange says: "It's an
interesting bit of work that mirrors things we're looking at ourselves."
Most models of financial markets start with the assumption that
traders act rationally and have access to all the information they
need. The models are then tweaked to take into account that these
assumptions are not always entirely true.
But Farmer and his colleagues took a different approach. "We
begin with random agents," he says. "The model was idealised,
but nonetheless we still thought it might match some of the properties
of real markets."
Buying and selling
In the model, agents with zero intelligence place random orders
to buy and sell stocks at a given price. If an order to sell is
lower than the highest buy price in the system, the transaction
will take place and the order will be removed - a market order.
If the sell order is higher than the highest buy price, it will
stay in the system until a matching buy order is found - a limit
order. For example, if the highest order to buy a stock is $10,
limit orders to sell will be above $10 and market orders to sell
will be below $10.
The team used the model to examine two important characteristics
of financial markets. These were the spread - the price difference
between the best buy and sell limit orders - and the price diffusion
rate - a standard measure of risk that looks at how quickly the
price changes and by how much.
The model was tested against London Stock Exchange data on 11 real
stocks collected over 21 months - 6 million buy and sell orders.
It predicted 96% of the spread variance and
76% of the variance in the price diffusion rate. The model
also showed that increasing the number of market orders increased
price volatility because there are then fewer limit orders to match
up with each other.
Incentives and charges
The observation could be useful in the real financial markets.
"If it is considered socially desirable to lower volatility,
this can be done by giving incentives for people who place limit
orders, and charging the people who place market orders," Farmer
Some amount of volatility is important, because prices should reflect
any new information, but many observers believe
there is more volatility than there should be. "On
one day the prices of US stock dropped 20% on no apparent news,"
says Farmer. "High volatility makes people jittery and sours
the investment climate." It also creates a high spread, which
can make it more expensive to trade in shares.
The London Stock Exchange already has a charging structure in place
that encourages limit orders. "Limit orders are a good way
for smaller investors to trade on the order book," says a spokesperson.
Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
TOKYO - Japan's gold imports soared in 2004
as low domestic output made it necessary to buy the precious metal
from abroad to meet brisk demand from the country's industrial sector
and private investors, industry officials say.
The strength of Japan's gold imports in 2005 is likely to be shaped
by the robustness of private investor demand, which will be closely
linked to the yen's strength, some officials say. Japan
imported about 73.84 tonnes of gold in 2004, a hefty 67.7 rise from
the year before, preliminary data from the Finance Ministry
showed last week.
"Demand was brisk ... but a decline in gold production among
domestic mining firms meant that imports of gold increased to make
up for the shortage," said Osamu Ikeda, general manager at
Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo K.K.'s precious metals division.
Japan's production of copper fell last year due to a shortage in
raw material, and this also cut output of gold, a by-product.
A landslide at the Grasberg mine in Indonesia in December 2003
disrupted shipments of copper's raw material last year, but high-grade
production at Asia's largest mine, owned by Freeport-McMoRan Copper
& Gold Inc., has since restarted.
Japan's gold production in 2004 amounted to about 137 tonnes, down
some 18 percent from the previous year's 161 tonnes, believed to
be an all-time high, the Japan Mining Industry Association said.
At Tanaka Kikinzoku, Japan's top bullion house,
industrial demand for gold rose 15 percent in 2004, followed by
jewellery demand, which increased by 7 percent, Ikeda said.
Investor demand for gold was up some 1.7 percent. [...]
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday
raised interest rates for a sixth straight time, extending a policy
of gradually lifting borrowing costs to levels high enough to ward
off inflation pressures.
The unanimous decision by the U.S. central bank's policy-setting
Federal Open Market Committee moves the target for the benchmark
federal funds rate -- which affects credit costs throughout the
economy -- to 2.5 percent.
In a statement after a two-day meeting, Fed officials retained
an assessment that economic risks were balanced between slower growth
and rising prices and said they thought they could keep raising
rates at a "measured" pace.
A poll of 19 Wall Street primary dealers, conducted after the Fed
statement was published, found them unanimously predicting another
quarter percentage point rate hike at the next FOMC meeting on March
22. Eighteen foresaw an additional incremental rate rise at the
following session on May 3.
The central bank's wording on the economy all but mirrored the
statement it issued at its last policy meeting on Dec. 14.
"Output appears to be growing at a moderate pace, despite
the rise in energy prices and labor market conditions continue to
improve gradually," the Fed said in the statement outlining
its rate decision, which also increased the largely symbolic discount
rate a matching amount to 3.5 percent.
The Fed action comes two weeks before Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan's
testimony on the economy on Feb. 16-17 to Senate and U.S. House
of Representatives panels, respectively. Analysts said that was
likely one reason the statement and the meeting outcome were so
"I don't think they would have wanted to pre-empt anything
before then," said John Daw, a currency strategist with Merrill
Lynch in New York. "They can talk about changes then rather
than have speculation build up prior to then." [...]
OIL giant Shell yesterday announced
record profits of more than £1 million an hour, amid a storm
of criticism from motorists, lorry drivers, small businesses and
a host of other groups who say they are forced to pay too much for
The company’s profit figure for 2004 was £9.3 billion,
up 38 per cent on the previous year and beating the previous UK
profits record of £7.7 billion, which was made by banking
giant HSBC last year.
The announcement prompted a leading Labour MP to call for a windfall
tax on Shell to be considered as union leaders described the figure
as "more than excessive" and "obscene".
Shell pointed out the profits related to the company’s operations
worldwide, adding that one of the main reasons for the rise was
a 30 per cent increase in world prices for crude oil.
Shell chief executive Jeroen van der Veer said the firm’s
profits would enable significant investment in finding new reserves
to meet the current demand for oil.
"All oil companies, including ours, make very high profit
figures at this moment, but look at what we do with those profits.
We have an incredibly high investment level," he said. "There
are very few companies, if any, in the world who can say their forward-look
is to invest $15 billion (£8 billion) within a year."
However, such explanations for the profit figure failed to impress
the long queue of critics which formed shortly after yesterday’s
The Road Haulage Association’s chief executive Roger King
said angrily: "How is it that our members apparently line the
pockets of the fuel producers. And how is it that the oil companies
have done so well out of a world crisis?
"No doubt economists will give good reasons, but there is
a moral question here based on fairness, on sharing the burden.
We look forward to a reduction in fuel prices, and quickly."
Stephen Alambritis, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said:
"In principle we support the profit element of business, but
we worry about this being at the expense of smaller businesses,
by squeezing them out of their markets or squeezing down their own
A spokesman for the RAC Foundation added: "All motorists are
aware that the Government takes the greatest proportion of the pump
price in fuel duty and VAT, but many will be surprised at these
record figures, as they were told that the higher fuel prices were
down to instability in world markets rather than this huge increase
Graham Kerr, of independent consumer watchdog energywatch, said:
"Surely, it’s only a matter of time before the reasons
behind these vast profits are exposed and that producers are forced
to make market information available that allows buyers to purchase
fairly and not be left with a ‘take it or leave it’
But Paul Watters of the AA Motoring Trust said the company could
not be accused of building up profits at the expense of UK motorists.
He pointed out that British fuel prices before tax were among the
cheapest in Europe.
"It is the huge level of tax in the UK that does the most
harm to UK fuel prices," he said.
Perhaps the most potentially significant reaction came from Martin
O’Neill, chairman of the Commons Trade and Industry Select
Committee, who said that a windfall tax on the profit made in the
UK should be considered, if it was excessive.
"We need to very carefully look at the make-up of the profits
to see if they have benefited from the rise in oil and gas prices
in the UK - which affect the poorest households especially,"
Tony Woodley, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers’
Union, had fewer doubts about the merits of a windfall tax on Shell’s
"There are massive profits being made in the oil and banking
sectors. The Government should grasp the nettle so everyone can
benefit," he said.
But the government said it had "no plans" to introduce
such a windfall tax.
Friends of the Earth executive director, Tony Juniper, said: "Shell
should seek future profitability in clean and sustainable energy
- not the fossil fuels that now endanger our planet."
Even in glints of light and joy, there is the
darkness of unacknowledged realities and suppressed nightmare.
As America mourns the death of late night TV icon Johnny Carson,
fondly reminiscing over decades of gags and laughs, few bother recalling
the single most telling "Carson moment" there ever was.
On January 31, 1968, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison
appeared on the Tonight Show to discuss his investigation into US
government involvement in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
(Listen to the archived tape of this telecast at "Johnny
Carson interviews Jim Garrison", Parts One and Two, or
on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson.)
Over the course of 90 minutes, the smiles and yucks went silent.
Carson, America's chuckling nighttime buddy, everybody's friend,
was the assassin. He badgered, belittled, and mocked Garrison, repeatedly
interrupting Garrison as he made an impassioned plea to the American
people to question the official story of the JFK assassination.
When Garrison attempted to show the photograph of the infamous
"Three Tramps" (still unidentified mystery men who were
arrested behind the Grassy Knoll and marched through Dealey Plaza,
likely members of the assassination team), Carson made sure America
would not see it. He yanked Garrison's arm aside, and cut the cameras.
Garrison later mused:
"Why had I been debriefed in advance so that
Carson could be apprised of my likely answers? Why had Carson pulled
my arm away so that the photographs were out of camera range? And
why had the director and the control room switched the camera so
that the photographs could not be seen? The only reasonable, realistic
explanation, I found myself concluding, was control."
"Some long-cherished illusions of mine about
the great free press in our country underwent a painful reappraisal
during this period. The restraint and respect for justice one might
expect from the press . . . did not exist".
As noted by Maureen Farrell, the "unholy alliance between
the media and the government," in covering up government crimes,
was evident that night:
"The function of the Warren Commission was to make the American
people feel that the [JFK assassination] had been looked into so
that there would be no further inquiries," Garrison told an
"I just can't understand how you think that these men think
they can get away with it or for what reason they would do it,"
Carson later responded.
By 9:00 the next morning, Garrison had received
more than 2,000 telegrams from district attorneys across America,
who felt that Carson's "nervous antagonism," was a sign
that Garrison was onto something. Feeling the need to apologize
for Carson's demeanor (which was nevertheless polite and jovial
by today's shout-fest standards), NBC sent out thousands of form
letters saying, "The Johnny seen on TV that night was not the
Johnny we all know and love. He had to play the devil's advocate,
because that makes for a better program."
Carson was furious about NBC's letter, and promised never to allow
Garrison on his program again.
It is no surprise that today, as mainstream corporate media is
flooded with "happy" Johnny Carson memories and magnificent
tomes about how the charming Carson "epitomized the goodness
of middle America," the Garrison interview—the one glaring
moment that exposed Carson as a peevish, patronizing, gatekeeping
servant of larger forces continues to be studiously avoided.
Time, and the historical facts, have fully vindicated the late
Garrison. Oliver Stone's film JFK, which included an amusing version
of the Carson interview (Stone depicted his fictional Garrison protagonist
being badgered by an obnoxious talk show host named "Johnny
Johnson," played by John Laroquette.)
Here we find something to truly mourn: Johnny Carson,
on that night in 1968, had the power to change the world. He chose
to use that power to destroy a courageous whistleblower, kill truth,
and keep America naïve and stupid.
As one television critic wrote of Carson, "he rode his droll
detachment and bemused self-effacement through wars and assassinations,
riots and Watergate." But Carson, like many other powerful
public figures and Hollywood celebrities, did little to address
these serious events, except to provide water cooler humor and lampoons
(ultimately giving birth to brain-addling sound-bite entertainment
politics, epitomized by Jon Stewart, Jay Leno's Tonight Show, Saturday
Night Live, etc.), and worse.
Alabama police will be making more arrests
in connection with a fight earlier this week.
The brawl broke out at a girls high school basketball game in
Prattville on Tuesday night. Police were
forced to use their taser guns to break up. Police said the
brawl was related to another fight between two groups at the school.
No one was seriously hurt.
|VANCOUVER, Oregon -- Two Battle Ground men were
arrested Wednesday on the accusation that they exploded a suspected
pipe bomb last week between two communications boxes, knocking out
phone service to a residential area near Daybreak Park.
Matthew Campbell, 18, and Bradley Brown, 19, were charged in U.S.
District Court in Seattle with conspiracy to manufacture an unregistered
destructive device, said Julianne Marshall, spokeswoman for the
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
If convicted of manufacturing the device, the men face as long
as 10 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine. If convicted of
conspiracy, they would face as long as five years in prison.
The explosion occurred about 11:30 p.m. Jan. 24 in the 26600 block
of Northeast Daybreak Road, north of Daybreak Park and across the
East Fork of the Lewis River. It disrupted service to about 200
Equipment damage was estimated between $30,000 and $40,000. The
closest home was about 75 yards away.
The explosion does not appear to be connected to 14 fires set
at communications equipment in Clark County and Portland since July
29, Marshall said.
The two teenagers were released to the custody of their parents.
DAR ES SALAAM, Feb. 3 (Xinhuanet) -- Tanzanian
police have seized 1,119 pieces of explosive materials from a Dar
es Salaam resident who was crossing border from Zambia into Tanzania,
according to local press reports on Thursday.
Newspaper The Citizen quoted Mbeya Regional Police Commander Suleiman
Kova as saying that James Brown Mwaipopo had been detained for possession
of the explosives and that the explosives,worth thousands of US
dollars in street value, could be used by terrorists to destroy
But the police chief also said that the explosives can also be
used for mining and fishing purposes.
The police in Mbeya, a southwestern region of Tanzania's 26 province-like
regions, are interrogating the detainee to establishwhere he had
acquired the explosives and what he would use them for.
Fourteen people have been killed in violence
that has disrupted state elections in east India.
Police in the state of Jharkhand say leftist rebels have set off
a landmine, killing six policemen and a civilian.
Elsewhere in Jharkhand district, four leftist rebels have been
shot dead in a gun battle.
In Bihar state, Maoist rebels have gunned down three people, including
a policeman and a woman, outside polling stations.
Left wing rebels have been fighting for decades in Bihar and other
Indian states for redistribution of land for poor peasants.
They regularly target police forces and government property.
Elections are also being held in the northern farming state of
Haryana, one of the country's more prosperous regions.
More than 56 million people are eligible to vote in the three
Surveys say India's ruling Congress party-led coalition is widely
expected to win all three states.
More than 50 people have been killed in central
India after a train collided with a tractor pulling a trailer crammed
with people returning from a wedding.
Police say several others have been injured in the accident at
Kanan village, nearly 700 kilometres east of Mumbai in Maharashtra
Officials say the tractor's trailer was carrying more than 70
people who had attended a marriage ceremony, when it was hit by
the train at an unmanned level crossing.
Railways spokesman, Santosh Kumar, says the people travelling
in the train coaches are largely unhurt.
The AFP news agency says serious railways accidents occur regularly
in India, where the railways transport more than 13 million passengers
daily on networks that sprawl 108,700 kilometres across a nation
with a population of more than one billion.
KHARTOUM, Feb. 3 (Xinhuanet) -- A Sudanese
cargo plane crashed near Khartoum on Thursday, killing all seven
crew members, the official SUNA news agency reported.
The victims were one Sudanese translator and six Russians, acivil
aviation official was quoted as saying.
The plane, belonging to private company Tayaran al-Gharb, crashed
in Eid Babiker area some 15 km west of the Sudanese capital, when
it flew in from the United Arab Emirates.
Sudanese aviation official Othman el-Badri Abdellah said that the
crew of the plane reported to the watchtower at the Khartoum airport
some minutes before the incident that a shortage of fuel had happened
to the plane.
He said that the plane was expected to arrive at the airport at
8:15 a.m. (0515 GMT) and that the watchtower lost contact with the
plane at 8:07 a.m. (0507 GMT).
The official added that a contact from a plane belonging to Sudan
Air reported at 8:30 a.m. (0530 GMT) that there was a plane burning
in Eid Babiker.
He confirmed that Sudanese Civil Defense forces immediately arrived
at the site, and the area where the accident took place was uninhabited.
|KABUL : A Boeing 737 plane carrying 96 passengers
has gone missing in Afghanistan after failing to arrive in the capital
amid heavy winter snow storms, officials said Friday.
An official from private Afghan company Kam Air said there had
been no contact with the jet travelling from the western city of
Herat to Kabul since late Thursday afternoon, when it had requested
to land in Pakistan.
"Yes the plane went missing. There were 96 passengers on
board. The plane was going from Herat to Kabul. It was supposed
to land at 3:30pm (1000 GMT)," said Attila Kamgar, Kam Air's
"At 3:50pm the plane requested to talk with the (Kabul control)
tower. Then there was no more information. After one hour the plane
requested to land in Peshawar (in Pakistan) and Peshawar said it
did not land," Kamgar added.
Kamgar said Peshawar airport officials had told them they had
no knowledge of the plane when contacted by Kam Air later Thursday
at 7.00pm. The Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority told AFP meanwhile
they had no record of a Kam Air flight landing in any Pakistani
city last night.
Kamgar said he was not sure about the nationalities of the passengers
on board the aircraft. There was no information given on the number
of flight crew on board.
The Afghan Civil Aviation Information Service said: "We cannot
confirm or deny that the Kam Air flight has gone missing."
Banda Aceh - Indonesian soldiers beat up tsunami
refugees and local volunteers at a makeshift camp near the hard-hit
city of Banda Aceh during an apparent sweep for separatist rebels,
witnesses said on Thursday.
Five witnesses told a reporter that a squad of infantrymen armed
with automatic rifles and wearing flack jackets and helmets appeared
on Wednesday afternoon at a camp for tsunami survivors in the Krueng
Raya district southeast of the provincial capital, Banda Aceh.
The troops selected about 150 men among the 2 000 people
sheltering at the camp and forced them to line up seated on the
ground with their heads bowed and shirts removed, said the witnesses,
speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
The troops then paraded a suspected rebel guerrilla captured in
nearby jungle before the seated men, shouting that he was on a wanted
list, the witnesses said.
They said the man's wife and two children, who are also at the
camp, were called out by the troops to identify him.
'They beat me more'
During the time the men were forced to
line up, several were punched in the head and torso, said
the witnesses. They spoke on condition they not be further identified.
The arrested rebel suspect had his hands bound with a piece of
cloth, the witnesses said.
The man had bruises on the side of the
face and was also struck several times in front of the others,
said the witnesses, interviewed at the camp while Indonesian soldiers
"I was slapped eight times in the face and head," said
one of the witnesses.
"When I blocked the third punch, one
of the officers beat me five more times," said the man.
"We are frightened because they threatened to kill all of
us if another rebel was arrested nearby," said the man.
An army spokesperson in Aceh, Eddyana Sulistiadie, said on Friday
that he had no information on the reported incident.
"I have not heard any such report," he said.
Rebels of the Free Aceh Movement and government troops in Aceh
have been fighting for nearly three decades.
Human rights groups have repeatedly accused the Indonesian military
of human rights abuses in Aceh, including torture, killings of civilians,
Both sides have agreed to an informal truce to facilitate relief
efforts, but Indonesia's military has claimed they killed more than
200 rebels since the December 26 tsunami.
VOLCANO, Hawaii (AP) -- Lava from Kilauea volcano
began dropping into the ocean at two new points this week, treating
visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to a fiery show. [...]
As lava drops off into the ocean, it can create crowd-pleasing
explosions and fantastic views of red-hot flow.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was established in 1916 and includes
the 13,677-foot high Mauna Loa, which is the world's largest volcano.
But the park is best known for Kilauea, which has been erupting
continuously since Jan. 3, 1983.
MANILA, Feb. 3 (Xinhuanet) -- The Philippine
Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) reported Thursday
that increased seismic activities of Mayon Volcano in central Philippines
has been recorded during the past 24 hours as Alert Level 2 remained
hoisted over the volcano.
The latest PHIVOLCS bulletin released 8 a.m. Thursday showed that
six low frequency and one high frequency short duration harmonic
tremors were registered by seismic monitors stationed in and around
The agency warned residents living near and around the volcano
slopes not to venture into the six-kilometer radius Permanent Danger
Zone. PHIVOLCS said the advisory is strictly enforced on the southeast
sector where volcanic flows, falling and rolling debris may be produced
by Mayon. [...]
Volcanic haze continues to affect the Northern
The islands were also jolted by an earthquake measuring 6 on the
Richter scale as Gemma Casas reports.
Volcanic ash and haze from the nearby Anatahan Volcano is causing
health problems for people living on the islands of Saipan and Rota
in the Northern Marianas. Dozens of residents have been taken to
the islands' only hospital to be treated for breathing trouble.
More than 120 students have missed classes due to illness which
school adminstrators are blaming on valocanic haze. The United States
Geological Survey says Anatahan has continued to erupt several times
per minute, with ash plumes rising up to 15 thousand feet. Shortly
after midday on Wednesday an earthquake registering 6 on the Richter
scale shook the islands, but Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says
there is no risk of tidal waves.
Uitenhage, South Africa - Five people were
critically injured and at least 20 hurt when a tornado whipped through
the town of Klipplaat near Jansenville in the Eastern Cape on Wednesday
The five were taken to Port Elizabeth hospital. Between 20 and
25 people were taken to Jansenville hospital with minor injuries,
Iqwezi municipality councillor Mannetjie Blouw said.
"You couldn't see, you could only hear the wind and the rain.
People were screaming and running around trying to figure out what
was happening," said Amos Dyasi, a unit manager at the Ikwezi
Dyasi said the tornado struck at 6.20pm and lasted about 15 minutes,
although Blouw said it lasted 30 minutes.
The roof of the municipal building was torn off and at least 35
houses were damaged. Trees and telephone poles were uprooted and
electric cables torn down.
"The town looks like Baghdad. It's dead. There was wind,
rain, hail coming from all four corners," Blouw said.
He estimated that in the town with a population of between 3 000
and 4 000 people and an unemployment rate of 85%, 280 houses
were affected and 60 of those were flattened by the storm.
A one hundred
year old tree lies across Domain Road, South Yarra, after
huge rains and wind swept across Melbourne last night.
The highest-ever rainfall in a day and gale-force winds uproot the
Even Melbourne has never seen the like of it. A
city notorious for its mercurial meteorology was brought to a
near standstill yesterday by a history-making, record-breaking
The biggest downpour since records began in 1856 closed airports
and roads, played havoc with public transport, cut power to 120,000
homes, dumped summer snow on ski resorts, shut down a murder trial
and turned outlying suburbs into islands.
The damage bill is predicted to be tens of millions of dollars.
A massive intense low pressure system dumped something like
three months' worth of rain on the city in 31 hours. The weather
bureau reported that the 24-hour rain total to 9am yesterday was
a record 120.2 millimetres. But it had been raining for seven
hours before that, drowning the city in almost a quarter - 23
per cent - of its average annual rainfall.
There are also fears the storm could have cost at least one
life. Police and State Emergency Service crews spent the day searching
the swollen Skeleton Creek near Hoppers Crossing after reports
that a teenage boy might have been swept away.
Residents reported hearing a scream and seeing a boy clinging
to a bridge at Tarneit. "It all happened pretty quickly,
there was not much that we could do," said resident Kate
Payne. "He was trying to get a grip. One minute he was there
and the next he wasn't . . . that was the last we saw of him."
Victoria Police called off the air, land and water search in
the afternoon because of the creek's dangerous conditions and
because no one had reported a boy missing.
A 10-year-old girl and a motorist were in hospital last night
after being seriously injured by falling trees.
Healesville girl Stephanie Chamorro is lucky to be alive after
an uprooted 15-metre gum tree crashed through the roof of her
bedroom, breaking her leg and pinning her to her bed. It took
SES and Country Fire Authority workers an hour to free her.
At Ross Creek, near Ballarat, a man was critically injured when
high winds brought a tree crashing down on his moving car about
7am. A Rural Ambulance Service spokeswoman said the man was taken
to Ballarat Base Hospital with critical injuries to his head,
pelvis and a leg.
A police helicopter rescued a man and a woman trapped by floodwaters
at Arthurs Creek, north-east of Melbourne. Another person was
plucked from a tree amid floodwaters at Wattle Glen. A 71-year-old
sailor was rescued from his dismasted 11-metre yacht in Bass Strait.
The storms also caused transport chaos across Melbourne - police
issued an unusual plea for people not to come into the city unless
it was necessary. Every one of the city's 15 train lines was affected
by the freak conditions. Two lines, Frankston and Sandringham,
were still experiencing major disruptions last night. Almost half
the 29 tram lines were affected by flooding, fallen branches or
Both Melbourne and Avalon airports were closed because of flooded
access roads. The outbound lane of Tullamarine Freeway near the
airport was turned into a long traffic jam. Hundreds of would-be
travellers sat in their cars as their flights took off without
Massive seas in Bass Strait about 4am forced the 194-metre Spirit
of Tasmania I to turn back to Melbourne halfway through its voyage
to Devonport. Waves up to 12 metres were reported at Port Phillip
Heads near Point Nepean.
More than 200,000 Victorians lost electricity as winds of more
than 100 km/h brought trees down on power lines, said Energy Minister
Theo Theophanous. The storm also cut a swathe through Melbourne's
beaches, tearing yachts from their moorings and tossing them onto
beaches. The Kerferd Road pier at Middle Park was badly damaged
by heavy waves. Port Phillip Council staff reported that Middle
Park Beach was almost totally washed away - several thousand cubic
metres of sand disappeared, leaving almost none above the high-
tide mark. [...]
ATHENS - A 90 year-old man and his 91 year-old
wife have been found dead in their village home in northern Greece
amid freezing temperatures, emergency services said Thursday.
Low temperatures and heavy snowfall have caused serious disruption
to Greek rail and air traffic, and ships have been confined to port
because of gales, officials said.
According to weather forecasts, temperatures were expected Friday
to stay below three 3 degrees Celsius (37 Fahrenheit) in the north
of the country.
|SCIENCE is all about understanding
the natural world. And a big part of that has always been understanding
those bits of the natural world that threaten us, so we can protect
While medical science has helped keep disease from the door, we
haven't licked it. For the past year, New Scientist has warned that
an epidemic of bird flu in east Asian poultry could turn into the
next great human plague. Twelve months on, you might expect that
scientists would have worked out exactly what we're up against and
how we should protect ourselves. Yet surprisingly - and scarily
- they haven't. It is surprising and scary because the stakes are
The H5N1 bird flu virus has so far had trouble infecting people,
but when it does it kills 75 per cent of them. The fear is that
it could evolve to spread easily between people - and when flu viruses
do that, they can infect a third of the people on the planet within
months. The scary part is that, according to virologists, the virus
could become that contagious and remain deadly at the same time.
Do the maths: a third of the people on the planet catch a virus
that kills three-quarters of them. That's 1.5 billion people dead.
This is the worst- case scenario that is keeping virologists awake
But cheer up, it may never happen. Asia has an awful lot of H5N1
in its billions of birds, rubbing up against billions of people
with their own flu viruses. Despite this, a pandemic strain has
not yet evolved. Maybe H5N1 just doesn't have what it takes - whatever
A flu virus is a wonderfully simple thing - a mere 10 genes and
a few proteins, and you have something that is as inescapable a
part of human life as death and taxes. And yet we don't know what
subtle genetic change - it could be as little as one letter of RNA
code - makes the difference between a people killer and a trivial
infection in ducks. So we don't know if H5N1 has the genetic constitution
to pull off the worst-case scenario, or even what changes to watch
Understanding these issues is certainly part of the science we
need to head off this threat. But more urgently, we need better
epidemiology. In this week's issue of The New England Journal of
Medicine (vol 352, p 405), Klaus Stöhr of the World Health
Organization outlines a few of the basics we still do not know.
Which species play the biggest roles in keeping
the virus going? How can we distinguish H5N1 faster and more
accurately from other kinds of respiratory ailments? Without that
information we will never know how widespread infection is. And
how long can people be infected before they show symptoms? A virus
that is contagious during its incubation period can be virtually
unstoppable - just look at HIV.
Epidemiology must also inform our plans for protecting ourselves
if the pandemic virus does emerge. Plan A is to nip it in the bud.
We watch carefully for the first cluster of human cases. Then we
somehow confine everyone who has been exposed within a limited area
and treat them aggressively with drugs and vaccination. If the virus
gets out we watch for the brush fires and quench them. If this works,
the virus is extinguished. Plan B is to protect everyone with a
vaccine or drugs.
Right now governments do not seem to have understood that these
are the only options on offer. And even in combination, they leave
a lot to be desired. A few developed countries are laying in stocks
of antiviral drugs. But these are in national stockpiles far from
where the first cluster is likely to occur, and few governments
have concrete plans for deploying them early to contain any outbreaks.
Plan B will in any event be impossible unless we have a vaccine
and can make enough of it in time. Phase I trials of a putative
vaccine are under way, but we do not have the manufacturing capacity
to make it quickly enough for everyone to be vaccinated once a pandemic
starts. Likewise, "drugs for all" will only work if the
drugs are stored on a truly global scale and if we can make enough
of them - which at present we cannot.
We may be lucky. There could be something about H5N1 that stops
it becoming pandemic. But then there are its worrying cousins, H9
and H7. Science has taught us enough about flu to know one thing:
a pandemic is overdue. Luck won't last forever.
PANAMA CITY, Panama - NASA has installed a
climate-observation system at a former U.S. military base bordering
the Panama Canal that will allow scientists to monitor forest fires,
earthquakes and tropical storms.
The installation, which officials of the U.S. space agency were
inaugurating on Thursday, will collect data as part of a larger
network headquartered at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in
The "Regional Mesoamerican Visualization and Monitoring System"
is based at The Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America
and the Caribbean, a division of UNESCO at the former Fort Clayton
and near the Pacific opening of the canal. The base was reopened
as the U.N. headquarters in Panama in October.
In addition to detecting and measuring such events
as seismic movements, tropical storms and forest fires, the center's
modern technology will provide high-resolution images of the phenomena,
said Water Center director Emilio Sempris. The center also will
predict weather patterns, Sempris said.
Environmentalists, engineers and other experts will be able to
access the satellite-collected data on a Web page, a tool that could
help in disaster prevention, a news
release from the center added.
EXETER, England : Scientists at a global warming
conference say they see potential triggers for runaway climate change
but admit that when and how these notional doomsdays may be unleashed
are debatable or quite unknown.
The theoretical triggers are the apocalyptic
side to global warming, giving the lie to the common perception
of it as an incremental threat that will rise predictably, like
a straight line on a graph.
A widespread view of climate change is that the Earth's surface
temperature will gently rise as more and more carbon gas is spewed
out by fossil fuels, trapping heat from the Sun.
The change would be progressive, which means humans would have
enough time to respond to the crisis and plants and animals have
a better chance of adapting to its effects.
But scientists at a conference here on global
warming say there is also the risk of sudden, catastrophic, irreversible
and uncontrollable climate change that could be triggered in as-yet
"There's still a great deal we don't
know about these rapid non-linear events," British scientist
Sir John Houghton, a leading member of the UN's top panel on global
warming, said on Tuesday.
One scenario centres on the future of the Gulf Stream, the current
that brings warm water to the northeastern Atlantic from the tropics
and gives Western Europe a climate that is balmy for its northern
What would happen to this oceanic conveyor belt if cold fresh
water were dumped on it from melting polar ice and changed rainfall
patterns, the result of warm weather?
When this idea was first put forward in the late 1990s, some doomsters
predicted the Gulf Stream would stop, pitching Britain, Ireland
and much of coastal western Europe back into an Ice Age.
But two computer models, put forward Tuesday, show
how far scientists fail to agree on the probability of this event
and on its likely impact.
University of Illinois professor Mike Schlesinger told AFP that
he had modelled a "business as usual" simulation in which
the world continued with uncontrolled emissions of the carbon gases
that cause global warming.
"I was surprised to find out that it's 70-percent likely
that there will be a shutdown in this circulation over a 200-year
timeline," he said.
"Over Europe, the shutdown would cause a cooling of perhaps
one or two degrees [C, 2-4 F], superposed on [several degrees of]
warming," he said.
"So what you get is a smaller warming in Europe, you don't
get an Ice Age out of that."
Just as remarkable was this discovery: the shutdown caused such
a disruption in global weather patterns that Alaska became a lot
warmer in winter.
"This is serious news for the permafrost," he said.
In contrast, Richard Wood, of Britain's Hadley Centre for Climate
Centre and Research, was far more cautious.
"Little can currently be said about the probability, except
that it is subjectively considered low during the 21st century,"
Wood's study said.
His simulation -- entirely hypothetical -- of the Gulf Stream
shutdown suggests that parts of Britain would be far colder than
the so-called Little Ice Age of the 17th and 18th centuries, when
winter "Frost Fairs" were held on the frozen River Thames.
Worst hit would not be Alaska, but central America,
where farm production would fall by 106 percent, according to this
Another doomsday worry is about the future of carbon which is
already stored in the soil in the form of decayed leaves and rotting
vegetation, and in the capacity of the sea to go on absorbing man-made
Scientists at the conference agreed that if temperatures go beyond
a threshold, this stored carbon in the soil will be released into
the air. And at some point, the sea, which has already absorbed
48 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted by burning oil, gas and
coal, will no longer be able to absorb any more pollution.
That means vast amounts of gas will be dumped into the air, amplifying
the global warming crisis at a stroke.
But carbon storage in such vast and complex mechanisms is a complex
and little-understood phenomenon.
"The precise point at which the land biosphere will start
to provide a positive feedback [i.e. release CO2 into the air instead
of storing it] cannot yet be predicted with certainty," says
Peter Cox of Britain's Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
"This depends on a number of poorly understood processes,
such as the long-term response of photosynthesis and soil respiration
to increased temperatures and the possible acclimation of photosynthesis
to high CO2."
EXETER, England : Global warming will boost
outbreaks of infectious disease, worsen shortages of water and food
in vulnerable countries and create an army of climate refugees fleeing
uninhabitable regions, a conference here was told.
The scale of these impacts -- the theme of the second day of the
major scientific forum on global warming -- varies according to
how quickly fossil fuel pollution is tackled, how fast the world's
population grows and how well countries can adapt to climate shift.
But a common expectation is that widespread misery is lurking,
a few decades down the road.
According to a study quoted by Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of
the UN's top scientific authority on climate change, by
2050 as many as 150 million "environmental refugees" may
have fled coastlines vulnerable to rising sea levels, storms or
floods, or agricultural land that became too arid to cultivate.
In India alone, there could be 30 million people displaced by
persistent flooding, while a sixth of Bangladesh could be permanently
lost to sea level rise and land subsidence, according to the study.
Pachauri's body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC), estimated in 2001 that by 2100, temperatures would rise
by between 1.4 C (2.5 F) and 5.8 C (10.4) compared to 1990 levels,
driven by atmospheric carbon pollution which stokes up heat from
The mean global sea level would rise by between nine and 88 centimetres
(four and 35 inches).
Those increases depend on whether carbon dioxide (CO2), doubles
or nearly quadruples from the pre-industrial levels of 280 parts
per million (ppm).
Global warming will also add significantly to Earth's worrisome
Already around 1.4 billion people live in water-stressed areas,
a term defined as having less than 1,000 cubic metres (35,000 cubic
feet) of water per person per year, said Nigel Arnell of the Tyndall
Centre for Climate Change Research at Britain's University of Southampton.
Most of them live in southern and southwest Asia, the Middle East
and the Mediterranean.
By the 2050s, water availability in these water-stressed regions
-- but also in parts of central, north and south America -- may
be further crimped because of changed rainfall patterns.
Between 700 million and 2.8 billion people in
such areas will be affected, depending on population growth and
the pace of temperature rise.
Sari Kovats of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
put forward a study co-authored by four World Health Organisation
(WHO) scientists that gives a snapshot of global health problems
caused by climate change.
Between the 1970s -- when temperatures first
rose significantly -- and the year 2000, climate change cost around
150,000 lives from malnutrition, diarrhoea, malaria and floods.
That tally will "approximately double" by 2020, mainly
because of diarrhoea, which is propagated easily in floods, and
hunger, Kovats said.
The basis for this calculation is "business as usual,"
in other words, no controls are put on carbon pollution, causing
Earth's temperature to reach some four C (7.2 F) higher at the end
of this century when compared with 1990.
"Climate change will bring some health benefits,"
but these will mainly go to northern countries, where fewer people
will die of cold and crop yields will be better, his study said.
Overall, these benefits will be hugely outweighed by increased
disease and malnutrition.
Bill Hare, a former Greenpeace campaigner who is visiting scientist
at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in eastern
Germany, said a two C (3.6 F) rise seemed to be a key threshold.
"Above two C, the risks increase very
substantially, involving potentially large extinctions or even ecosystem
collapses, major increases in hunger and water shortage risks as
well as socio-economic damages, particularly in developing countries,"
The conference wraps up on Thursday with a set of conclusions
about the current state of knowledge about the dangers of global
warming. The document will be submitted to Group of Eight (G8) policymakers
and the IPCC for consideration in its next big report, due out in
Australia faces an ever-shrinking water supply,
the extinction of plant and animal species and the loss of billions
of dollars from a less productive agriculture sector, says a submission
to an international global warming conference.
A joint presentation by the Australian Greenhouse Office, the
Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO said the 2002-03 drought cost
Australia 1.6 per cent of its gross domestic product - about $10
billion - and about 70,000 jobs.
The agriculture industry already had to adapt to extreme climate
variations, the submission to the British conference said, and "that
situation would get worse with a drier climate and more droughts".
As well as coping with a harsher climate, water supplies would
be stretched because of growing demands by farms and cities. Water
is also needed to protect species, the submission said.
"Higher temperatures in the future and possible rainfall
decreases are likely to increase water demand and reduce supply,
further increasing the pressure on this key resource," the
Australian presentation said.
"Increases in the intensity of daily rainfall are likely
to place increased pressure on urban drainage capacity and catchment
The submission was carefully worded to discuss only the predicted
effects of global warming on Australia. It avoided any mention of
what, if any, action should be taken to address climate change.
It noted the Great Barrier Reef "may be significantly affected
by climate change under even moderate emission scenarios" and
that the rate of extinction could increase.
At this week's conference in Exeter, scientists from 30 countries
are trying to establish what constitutes dangerous levels of warming.
But they will stop short of making policy recommendations.
The Australian submission did not discuss what temperature range
it believed could be coped with, but supported the need to determine
the point at which species and ecosystems can no longer adapt to
a changing climate.
The Exeter conference is being held less than a fortnight before
the Kyoto Protocol on global warming comes into force. [...]
EXETER - Global warming could hit millions
of Africans hardest, an international conference on climate change
Nigerian scientist Tony Nyong said agricultural production in
sub-Saharan Africa could drop by up to a third within 60 years because
of changes in rainfall patterns and longer dry seasons, while warmer
water could all but wipe out coastal fisheries.
"All the present studies indicate that
Africa will be worst affected," Nyong , an environmental
scientist at Nigeria's University of Jos and member of the UN's
top panel on climate change, told Agence France Presse.
Temperatures could rise by two degrees and rainfall drop by 10 per
cent by 2050 if trends continue, scientists warned on the second
day of the scientific forum on climate change.
The resulting droughts and poor harvests
could threaten as many as 100 million Africans with starvation,
One study suggests that as many as 5.2 million people in South
Africa alone could get malaria as mosquitoes migrate to previously
"What makes Africa vulnerable is not just climate change
but also poverty, AIDS and subsistence dependence on the ecosystem,"
"All of these add to the challenge of adapting to climate
VANCOUVER, B.C.-- A flash of white feathers
lured Julie Bryson-McElwee's dog into the bush.
She followed when he didn't come back. A dead bald eagle lay on
the forest floor.
Lunging to keep her pet away from the carcass, Bryson-McElwee
stumbled across a shallow grave piled with 14 of the protected species.
The legs and tail feathers had been cut off,
possibly for sale on the black market.
"It's just sickening," Bryson-McElwee said in a telephone
interview on Thursday, a day after the grisly discovery.
"Whoever did this had a real operation going, there were
garbage bags all around the grave and in it. It looked to me like
they were killed somewhere else and brought here to be buried."
She was so upset by her ugly discovery that she stayed with the
birds for hours waiting for police, worried that someone would try
to remove the bodies once the story hit the news.
"I was upset, now I'm really angry," she said.
Wildlife officers investigating the killings say they aren't uncommon.
"We have found birds mutilated like this over the years,"
said Rick Hahn, a senior conservation officer for the Lower Mainland.
"We suspect there is a black market trade in the talons. Eagles
are traditionally used by First Nations people for cultural ceremonies.
"However, we haven't made that link in this case."
Fines for the crime can range as high as $50,000 for killing an
eagle and up to $100,000 for trafficking in a wildlife species.
| The Hubble space telescope has
captured this dramatic moment when a searing pulse of light from an
exploding star races across the vast interstellar void of deep space.
latest image, released yesterday, shows the "echoing"
of light as it continues its journey from the exploding red supergiant
star at the centre of the picture.
Just as sound produces an echo, the same happens for light as it
propagates out from the explosion to illuminate huge swirls of dust
clouds that are thought to have emanated from a previous outburst.
Astronomers first detected the exploding red supergiant star back
in 2002 and, since then, have captured a series of dramatic images
as the light pulse explosion expands at a speed of 186,000 miles
The exploding star is known as V838 Mon and is some 20,000 light
years away from the Earth in the direction of the constellation
Monoceros, on the very edge of the Milky Way.
By shooting intense radio beams
into the night sky, researchers created a modest neon light show
visible from the ground. The process is not well understood, but
scientists speculate it could one day be employed to light a city
or generate celestial advertisements.
Researchers with the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program
(HAARP) project in Alaska tickled the upper atmosphere to the extent
that it glowed with green speckles.
The speckles were sprinkled amid a natural display known as the
aurora borealis, or Northern Lights. The aurora occurs when electrons
from a cloud of hot gas, known as plasma, rain down from space and
excite molecules in the ionosphere, about 30 miles (50 kilometers)
The HAARP experiment involves acres of antennas and a 1 megawatt
generator. The scientists sent radio pulses skyward every 7.5 seconds,
explained team leader Todd Pederson of the Air Force Research Laboratory.
"The radio waves travel up to the ionosphere, where they excite
the electrons in the plasma," Pederson told LiveScience. "These
electrons then collide with atmospheric gasses, which then give
off light, as in a neon tube."
Pederson and his colleagues missed the show, but they snapped images.
"We unfortunately were indoors watching the data on monitors
during the experiment and were busy scrambling trying to make sure
the effects were real and not some glitch with the equipment,"
he said. "We knew right away it was something extraordinary
to show up in real time on the monitor against the natural aurora,
but did not confirm that it would have been visible to the naked
eye until a day or two later when we had a chance to calibrate the
The experiment is detailed in the Feb. 2 issue of the journal Nature.
The research could improve understanding of the aurora and also
help explain how the ionosphere adversely affects radio communications.
It is not yet clear if the aurora must already be active before
an artificial sky show can be induced, says Karl Ziemelis, chief
physics editor at the journal.
If no pre-existing aurora is required, Ziemelis said, "we
are left with the tantalizing (some would say disconcerting) possibility
that such radio- fuelled emissions could form the basis of a technology
for urban lighting, celestial advertising, and more."
MARSEILLE, France - A dead hedgehog which
was at the origin of an airport mishap involving an Air France passenger
plane nearly seven years ago has ended up costing the French government
more than three million euros (four million dollars) in a court
On March 22, 1998, the hedgehog's carcass was lying at the end
of a runway at the airport in the southern town of Marseille, attracting
around 20 seagulls which were picking at it, oblivious to the Air
France Airbus A320 roaring down on them ahead of take off.
The plane's right engine sucked in the flock of hapless birds,
destroying it and forcing the pilot to abort the take-off at the
very last moment.
In its judgement, the court in Marseille ruled that the French
government was responsible for keeping the runways clear of such
perils and that its staff at the airport should have noticed "such
a large group of birds" in the path of the jet.
It ordered the government to pay 850,000 euros to Air France over
the incident, and 2.3 million euros to five insurance companies
that had paid out after the accident.
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