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©2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte


Halliburton Doing Business With the 'Axis of Evil'
By Jefferson Morley
washingtonpost.com staff writer
Thursday, February 3, 2005; 8:00 AM

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 applicable laws."

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 environment."

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 employer.

Comment: There is a strong mutually supportive relationship between American multi-national corporations and the governing body of the United States. It has always been this way. Corporations like Halliburton routinely throw massive sums of money at both the Republican and Democratic parties to ensure that their interests are protected no matter who wins the election. For the consumption of the public, these two institutions prefer to give the impression that they operate separately in a so-called "free market system", but an in-depth study of the incestuous relationship between business and politics shows that the two are an inseparable component of the powers-that-be.

So it is not surprising to see the public face of the government clamouring for war with a certain country, and the corporate arm continue to conduct business in secret with that very same country. This is a truly Machiavellian strategy commonly used by the ruling elite to take advantage of every situation they can, through war, intimidation or bloodshed, as long as they reap the maximum amount of profit for themselves, it doesn't matter how innocent lives are cut down in the process.

However, once preparations for war have already been made, it may be wise for certain companies to pull out operations temporarily until such time as their interests are secure and the opposing government is no longer considered a threat.

Of course, once the dust settles and the body count reaches astronomical proportions, these same megaconglomerates will be the first in line to be chosen for lucrative reconstruction contracts.

And so the feeding cycle continues...

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American Police State: Abandoning Liberty; Gaining Insecurity
By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS
02/01/05

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 Hussein.

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." However, as 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 reasonable doubt.

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 11 attacks.

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.

Comment: Since Osama is a known CIA asset, the powers that be in the US are essentially playing "good cop, bad cop" with the American people. First, "bad cop" Osama and the invented al-Qaeda organization hurt and continually threaten the population. Then "good cop" Bush and his neocon pals swoop in and offer to "save" everyone - but only if they will give up just a few civil liberties here and there, along with the right to think for oneself.

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 ordinary felonies.

Comment: This has already happened...

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.

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Bringing It All Back Home: The Emergence of the Homeland Security State
By Nick Turse
TomDispatch
Monday 31 January 2005

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, and budget.

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 silence dissent.

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 "America's homefront."

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 State.

Saying NCIX

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 activity."

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, very 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" at home.

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 cylinders.

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 know."

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 purposes.

Private Eyes

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."

Comment: We imagine that most Americans would feel much better if they knew that these paid mercenaries were keeping them safe...

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 the traveler."

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 by 2009."

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.

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Center For Constitutional Rights Seeks Criminal Investigation in Germany into Culpability of U.S. Officials in Abu Ghraib Torture
The Center for Constitutional Rights
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 Found

Synopsis

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 crimes.”

“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 top.”

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 Iraq.

[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.”

Comment: So, what does Rumsfeld think about all this?

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Rumsfeld Debating Whether to Avoid Germany
By Charles Aldinger
Reuters
Thu Feb 3, 6:06 PM ET

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 not complete.

"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," he said.

Comment: Note that Rummy didn't express outrage that he may be tried for war crimes if he visits Germany. He didn't even attempt to downplay the accusations. Nope, travel restrictions due to potential prosecution for war crimes are just "something... to take into consideration". It sounds like Rumsfeld knows he is guilty of war crimes...

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Americana Mindless

By John S. Hatch
01/29/05
Information Clearing House

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 is nice.

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 Rumsfeld's ragheads.

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 legalese sleaze.

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 their opposite.

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 father.

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 scratch.

A suitable bonus could be added for Kissinger. Sorry. Doctor Kissinger. Try him at his think tank, where deep thinkers now kiss his fat ass.

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The State of George W. Bush

02/03/2005
The Nation

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 moment.

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. [...]

Comment: We certainly agree with the above analysis, but we must go further. The manipulated moment when the parents of a slain US soldier were dragged out, their genuine pain at the loss of their son cruelly used for political point scoring, was one of the most obscene spectacles we have ever witnessed and provides testimony to the true, heartless nature of the Bush administration. Members of congress were in tears, but for the wrong reasons. The real heart-rending tragedy is the fact that the thousands of America soldiers and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians were murdered to further the political goals of a select few.

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O'Reilly's Fatwah on "Un-American" Professors FoxNews Puts Me In Its Crosshairs

By M. SHAHID ALAM February 2, 2005

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, 2005.

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 at:

http://155.33.227.141/president/letters.nclk

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 available here:

http://www.president.neu.edu/cabinet.html

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]

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Venezuela’s Chavez Closes World Social Forum with Call to Transcend Capitalism

Monday, Jan 31, 2005
Cleto A. Sojo - Venezuelanalysis.com

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," he said.

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 weaknesses."

"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. imperialism."

"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 colonialism."

"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."

Christ "revolutionary"

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," he added.

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."

Defends Lula

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 America."

Comment: Chavez is one of the few politicians that the world has known that truly deserves the title of leader. There have been others, but for most of them, their time was cut short by the intervention of the US and other fascist regimes. The sad reality is that any leader that has been motivated by a genuine drive to help the people of this world have immediately drawn the ire of the American globalist elite.

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More Ominous Signs of Attack: General Electric Pulls Out of Iran
February 03, 2005
Kurt Nimmo

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 to terrorists.”

Suddenly, and remarkably, GE has grown a conscience.

Yeah, right.

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” be?

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.

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Rice, in Europe, says Iran's behavior 'something to be loathed'
04 February 2005 0823 hrs
- AFP

LONDON : 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 said.

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 demurred.

"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." [...]

Comment: Like a mechanical toy that dances on cue, Condi is doing an excellent job of parroting Bush's pre-invasion anti-Iranian propaganda in order to please her benevolent puppetmasters, so that she too will be allowed a seat next to Jesus in the underground bunker in heaven when the space rocks start to rain down on the mess she and her soulless cohorts left behind.

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Iraqi insurgents strike with lethal attacks
Associated Press
Thursday, Feb 3, 2005

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 in Ramadi.

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 and Qaim.

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 months.

“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.”

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No Shame
submitted by Sheldon Rampton on Sun, 01/30/2005 - 03:02.

Thanks 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.

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Marine general counseled for saying "it's fun to shoot some people''
Thursday, February 3, 2005
  (02-03) 12:20 PST

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 more carefully."

"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 of candor."

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.

Comment: For an in depth understanding of what really goes on inside the heads of people like Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis and how he and his "kind" are different from what could be considered a normal compassionate human being, the interested reader may want to read this article, or perhaps this one, or even this one which is available as a download as well.

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School halts Adopt-a-Sniper fund-raiser
February 4, 2005 - 2:10PM
Reuters

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".

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Britain implicated in oil-for-food scandal, damning US report says

By David Usborne in New York
04 February 2005

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 scheme.

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 Limited.

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 Lloyd's instead.

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.

Comment: A few days ago, we reported on the fact that the UK was left out in the cold, along with the rest of Europe, when Libya was handing out contracts to prospect for oil on Libyan territory, with most of the contracts going to US companies. Given the fact that last year Libya was "brought into the fold" (read politically neutered and expropriated) by the US under the threat of being labeled a "terrorists state", we pondered whether this fact was evidence of a transatlantic rift. Today we have the report by the US Federal Reserve Chairman indicting Britain in the UN oil for food "scandal", which the US has been busily concocting. Are the lines slowly being drawn in the sand? Perhaps Blair didn't realise the full implications of the term "you are either with us or with the terrorists" and is beginning to get cold feet. Of course, we must also consider the pressure that is being brought to bear on the UK by Europe and Russia.

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'Zero intelligence' trading closely mimics stock market
Katharine Davis
NewScientist.com news service
11:59 01 February 2005

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 investors too.

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 says.

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 (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0409157102)

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Japan '04 gold imports up, investment key this year
By Miho Yoshikawa
Reuters
Wed February 2, 2005 8:49 AM GMT 02:00

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. [...]

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Fed Reserve Raises Rates for Sixth Time
By Glenn Somerville
Reuters
Wed Feb 2, 6:28 PM ET

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.

SAVING AMMUNITION

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 predictable.

"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." [...]

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Shell defends record £1m an hour profit

IAN JOHNSTON
Scotsman
04/02/05

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 fuel.

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 announcement.

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 margins."

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 in profits."

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’ deal."

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," he said.

Tony Woodley, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, had fewer doubts about the merits of a windfall tax on Shell’s profits.

"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."

Comment: Evil corporation generating obscene profits from the sweat of the brow of your average citizen? Definitely. But consider also that there is an even bigger "corporation" that generates even more obscene profits by exploiting the working man and woman - government. Here's how it works:

Government owns large corporations. The government provides the opportunity for people to work for the companies that they own. The majority of the vast quantities of cash that are made from the efforts of the employees are taken as profits for the company (government). The employees are paid a percentage of the profits as salary. Having passed the appropriate laws, the government then takes a further cut of the profits by levying income tax on the money that it pays the employees. With the money left to the employee, he or she must buy products which are also taxed. In the case of petrol, 80% of the price paid by citizens goes directly into government coffers.

In the case that a large corporation is not owned outright by the government, the government still generates enormous sums from the taxes paid by the company and its employees. The bigger the company becomes, the more income it produces for government. Quite often however, members of government are also members of the board of directors of the corporation, taking personal profits from the income of the corporation. They also are in a position to ensure that the corporation's policies are in line with the policies of government.

The relationship between government and corporations is truly a symbiotic one, converging on the fundamental tenet that both have most to gain as a result of the exploitation of the collective energies of the populace.

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The King of the Night's darkest hour

Johnny Carson and the Kennedy assassination

By Larry Chin
Online Journal Associate Editor
January 28, 2005

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 at Garrison 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 incredulous Carson.

"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.

Theerre's Johnny.

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Brawl breaks out at girls high school game
2/3/2005 9:25 AM
By: Capital News 9 web staff

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.

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2 arrested in bombing near park
Thursday, February 03, 2005
Holley Gilbert
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 Qwest lines.

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.

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Tanzanian police seize explosives near border
www.chinaview.cn 2005-02-03 15:50:33

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 buildings.

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.

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Election violence in India leaves 14 dead
Last Updated 04/02/2005, 09:33:52

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 states.

Surveys say India's ruling Congress party-led coalition is widely expected to win all three states.

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Train, tractor collision in India kills 53
Last Updated 04/02/2005, 09:33:53

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 state.

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.

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Seven people killed in Sudanese cargo plane crash
www.chinaview.cn 2005-02-03 21:36:51

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.

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Plane with 96 on board missing in Afghanistan: official
04 February 2005 0911 hrs
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 financial controller.

"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." [...]

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Tsunami victims beaten up
03/02/2005 16:34  - (SA)

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 looked on.

"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, and rape.

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.

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Lava from Kilauea volcano dropping into ocean, thrilling visitors
Thursday, February 3, 2005
  (02-03) 08:42 PST

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.

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Volcano in central Philippines increases seismic activities
www.chinaview.cn 2005-02-03 13:59:17

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 Mayon.

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. [...]

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Volcanic ash causing health problems in Northern Marianas
04/02/2005, 04:24:12

Volcanic haze continues to affect the Northern Marianas.

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.

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'People screaming' as tornado strikes E Cape town
03 February 2005 11:47

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 evening.

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 municipality.

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.

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In the eye of the storm
By Gary Tippet
February 4, 2005
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 city.

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 storm.

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 power failures.

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 them.

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. [...]

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Aged Greek couple die in freezing temperatures
TERRA.WIRE
(AFP) Feb 03, 2005

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.

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Bird flu outbreak could kill 1.5 billion people

05 February 2005
New Scientist

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 ourselves.

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 so high.

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 at night.

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 that is.

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 for.

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.

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NASA Installs Climate-Observation System
AP
Thu Feb 3, 9:12 PM ET

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 Alabama.

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.

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Triggers to climate catastrophe still poorly understood
02 February 2005 1136 hrs
- AFP

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 unknown conditions.

"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 latitude.

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 calculation.

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 carbon pollution.

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."

Comment: Perhaps these scientists could agree that they really don't know what is happening, nor how how fast or catastrophic these upcoming changes may be. The science of prediction is very uncertain when it comes to non-linear dynamics because with so many systems interdependent on each other, a small change in initial conditions of one can have enormous consequences on the end result of all.

Like a domino effect, a slight change in degree of temperature or a shift in an ocean current for example, could start a cascade of problems that could upset the balance for everything else. There appears to be a great deal of evidence that the scientifically popular "gradual climate change model", one that posits small incremental changes over a period of thousands of years does not hold water.

Historical and archeological data suggest that rapid and catastrophic climate change, one that occurs over the period of a few years or even months is quite probable, and has happened repeatedly over the course of the history of our planet.

And so it seems true today, with a documented increase in weird weather, global warming, earthquakes and volcanoes, meteorite sightings, and other anomalous phenomenon, that our planet is currently undergoing a phase transition that will make a fictional movie like "The Day after Tomorrow" become a harsh reality.

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Refugees, disease, water and food shortages to result from global warming
02 February 2005 2142 hrs
- AFP

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 Sun.

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 water problems.

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," said Hare.

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 2007.

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Crops face extinction in global warming
By Stephanie Peatling
February 4, 2005

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 management."

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. [...]

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Global warming could hit Africans hardest
Last Updated Wed, 02 Feb 2005 19:59:21 EST
CBC News

EXETER - Global warming could hit millions of Africans hardest, an international conference on climate change heard Wednesday.

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, Nyong warned.

One study suggests that as many as 5.2 million people in South Africa alone could get malaria as mosquitoes migrate to previously dry areas.

"What makes Africa vulnerable is not just climate change but also poverty, AIDS and subsistence dependence on the ecosystem," he said.

"All of these add to the challenge of adapting to climate change."

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Mutilated eagles found on North Shore
Amy Carmichael
Canadian Press
February 3, 2005

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. [...]

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Captured: an exploding star, 20,000 light years away

By Steve Connor, Science Editor
04 February 2005

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.

Hubble's 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 per second.

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.

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First Artificial Neon Sky Show Created

By Robert Roy Britt
Live Science Senior Writer
02 February 2005

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) up.

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 raw data."

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."

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And Finally...

A dead hedgehog and a flock of seagulls cost France 3 million euros after runway mishap

AFP
Tue Feb 1, 2:18 PM ET

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 ruling.

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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