Monday, March 14, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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Return of the Red Menace

Overcoming Mechanical History
SOTT Editorial
In reading about the Truman era in the United States recently, we were fascinated to discover some of the details of the red-hunts that were undertaken to rid America of Communist influence. This included passing laws excluding people with radical ideas from getting jobs in union shops, ridding liberal commentators from the airwaves, and forcing citizens to take loyalty oaths. Read the right-wing commentators in the US today and you hear the same things. Anyone who is against the war is a traitor, liberals should be driven from the airwaves (as if there were any left), and people not loyal to the president are traitors.

There is also a revisionist history making the rounds that the hearings of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the forties and fifties, hearings to root out communists and fellow-travellers from all areas of society, were good things! Ann Coulter is part of this trend with a recent book that ressurects Joseph McCarthy, the Wisconsin senator who held televised hearings in the fifties where lives and reputations were ruined based upon inuendo.

But if you thought the Communist menance was dead and buried, think again! It has been sighted in the Department of, gasp!, Homeland Security!

Last week, I wrote that KGB generals have been given important positions in the Dept. of Homeland Security, run by Lenin look-alike, Zionist Michael Chertoff. http://www.savethemales.ca/000834.html

I described this development as the "stealth Communist takeover of the USA. How better do it than when everyone is thinking Muslims, and our elected officials are too corrupt and compromised to protect us?"

We don't recognize what has taken place because we think Communism is an idealistic but discredited working class experiment, tried mainly in Russia and China.

So writes Henry Makow. Having spotted the Commies, he is doing his bit as well to ressurect the witch hunts.

The Liberal media marginalized and ridiculed as "right wing fanatics" people who warned of the Communist threat. To this day, people don't accept that the Rosenbergs were indeed Russian spies. The House Un-American Activities Committee is portrayed as a "witch hunt."

First off, where is this so-called "liberal media"? Decrying Liberal media in a era of corporate media ownership, where the owners are all active backers of the conservative movement, is a favourite right-wing pundit sound-byte. However, it is not a new tactic. Read this passage written in 1950 and see if it sounds familiar:

One of the weirdest passages in J. Edgar Hoover's testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee dealt with the radio business. At a time when hardly a liberal voice is to be heard on the air, and there is an organized undercover campaign to frighten sponsors and stations, the FBI chieftan would have us believe that a Communist conspiracy may take over the business. [I.F. Stone, The Truman Era, p. 88]

Is it a coincidence that the dress-wearing Hoover, known as "Mary" to his intimate friends, would make an appearance in an age that reflects our own, from witch hunts to homosexual promiscuity among politicians?

We think not. Hoover certainly was neither the first nor the last hypocrite in a position of pwer.

Next, contrary to what Makow would lead you to believe in his article from his selection of quotes and sources, HUAC hounded people from their jobs not for an illegal acts, but for what they believed. None of the blacklisted Hollywood Ten were accused of doing anything illegal. None of the other, less famous Americans who lost their jobs and became social outcasts were accused of illegal acts. They were attacked for their beliefs. Makow obscures this very important fact by writing:

Thus, for most of the last century the United States has tolerated the legal existence of a party openly dedicated to the violent overthrow of the US government and the enslavement of its people.

This party, the CPUSA was funded and directed by a hostile foreign government. It engaged in industrial and military espionage, trained guerrilla units on American soil, forcibly took over unions, raided their treasuries and controlled whole industries. It slandered, harassed and killed opponents; bribed police and judges and infiltrated the military.

Wow! Quite the conspiracy! The image of the Commie behemoth with its tentacles reaching into every aspect of American life. There's a Commie under every bed don't ya know! Only trouble is, you could use the same words to describe the actions of the US government against the Communists in the US, as well as the actions of the US government in other countries. This is not to excuse illegal activity, only an attempt to see our reality for what it is. This description applies across the board.

But the important point is the ideological battle over individual freedoms. During the Communist witch-hunt in the United States, we repeat, the accused were being tried in public for their beliefs, not for any illegal acts they had committed. To praise the activities of those who hunted them down is to give support for the reintroduction of such trials in the future, as well as for the detention of "suspects" not for what they have done, but for what they think and believe. We have seen the Bush Reich already take moves in this direction. Pin the label of "terrorist" on someone and they lose their civil rights. There is only a small step from where we are now to people being taken away because they do not support the president. Right-wing pundits are already "joking" about it. Remember the man who was arrested and sent to jail for making a joke about a "burning Bush", a joke that was interpreted as a threat?

None of this appears to bother Makow who sees an Illuminati conspiracy behind every Liberal and, it would appear, anyone who doesn't support capitalism:

The Illuminati bankers despise capitalism because it involves competition, market forces and allows other people to prosper. They favor monopoly or state capitalism and the abolition of private property because then they own or control everything. Of course, this is disguised as "public ownership."

And here he reveals his hand. In our Illuminati-controlled world, the only force that stands outside of their influence is capitalism! Market forces in their pure state! Free individuals meeting to buy and sell in a free exchange of money and goods! Of course, not monopoly capitalism, or state capitalism, the kind of capitalism that has, no doubt, been corrupted by the Illuminati. No, he has faith in that free and pure capitalism that we find in... well, where exactly do we find it? Nowhere? Proof positive that the influence of the Illuminati extends into every corner of the globe!

Capitalism develops towards monopoly. It is inherent in its laws, the brute, mechanical forces that impel it forward. Nowhere has it succeeded in remaining in its pristine state, if ever it existed in such a pristine state to begin with. Were the industries of 18th and 19th century Britain an example of such a state? Where workers worked long hours side-by-side with their children before being thrown into the debtor's prison when they couldn't pay their bills? Or were the "market forces" extolled by Makow already a faint memory of an idyllic capitalistic Eden even by then?

Makow is taking sides in a battle where there are no sides to take. All economic and social formations in our world are corrupt when seen from the viewpoint of the soul. They are manifestations of our mechanical nature, of our submission to our basic drives of fear, sex, and need to feed. Moreover, through his support of witch-hunts, he is aligning himself with the most reactionary members of the elite that are guiding the US deeper and deeper into the hands of the new fascists.

Moreover, our own work has shown that capitalism, in its current manifestation as the official culture of the US, is closely linked to psychopathy. And we aren't the only ones sitting up and taking notice of this link.

Linda Mealey of the Department of Psychology at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minnesota, has recently proposed certain ideas in her paper: The Sociobiology of Sociopathy: An Integrated Evolutionary Model. These ideas address the increase in psychopathy in American culture by suggesting that in a competitive society - capitalism, for example - psychopathy is adaptive and likely to increase. She writes:

I have thus far argued that some individuals seem to have a genotype that disposes them to [psychopathy].

[Psychopathy describes] frequency-dependent, genetically based, individual differences in employment of life strategies. [Psychopaths] always appear in every culture, no matter what the socio-cultural conditions. [...]

Competition increases the use of antisocial and Machiavellian strategies and can counteract pro-social behavior…

Some cultures encourage competitiveness more than others and these differences in social values vary both temporally and cross-culturally. [...] Across both dimensions, high levels of competitiveness are associated with high crime rates and Machiavellianism.

High populaton density, an indirect form of competition, is also associated with reduced pro-social behavior and increased anti-social behavior. [...] [Mealey]

The conclusion is that the American way of life has optimized the survival of psychopaths with the consequence that it is an adaptive "life strategy" that is extremely successful in American society, and thus has increased in the population in strictly genetic terms. What is more, as a consequence of a society that is adaptive for psychopathy, many individuals who are NOT genetic psychopaths have similarly adapted, becoming "effective" psychopaths, or "secondary sociopaths."

In other words, in a world of psychopaths, those who are not genetic psychopaths, are induced to behave like psychopaths simply to survive. When the rules are set up to make a society "adaptive" to psychopathy, it makes psychopaths of everyone.

Until the proponents of the Capitalism of the Golden Age find a way of returning us to those idyllic times, we are stuck with the capitalism of psychopaths.

Makow ends his piece on the following note:

Western elites (including the intelligentsia) suffer from a peculiar death wish. We would be slaves already were it not for the fact that ordinary Americans own firearms. This, the Internet, and the inherent self-destructiveness of evil are my main reasons for hope.

Ah, yes. The old "freedom grows out of the barrel of a gun" rant about firearms. The curious thing is that the words just cited, which come from a famous phrase of the great free market capitalist Mao Tse-Tung, could also be the motto of the National Rifle Association. In Makovian alchemy, freedom comes from the transmutation of guns, the Internet, and the "inherent self-destructiveness of evil". Obviously, the only thing that has prevented the prior establishment of heaven on earth has been the lack of the Internet! Thank heaven for technology!

Makow's ravings are a good illustration of what happens when we ignore both the reality of hyperdimensional influences in our world and the mechanical nature of ourselves and our social constructions. First, ignorance of these issues means that one continues to search for an out within the framework of life as we know it. We take sides where no sides can be taken because all aspects of our existence are reflections and manifestations of our own mechanical nature. Although we are capable of dreaming of just societies, we are incapable of making them manifest through our work because we are not "just" ourselves. Filled with self-importance, we lie to ourselves about ourselves. If we can't even face the truth about who and what we are, how can we expect to see the world for what it is? Our self-lying is a blinder to objective reality. A real way out can only come after we recognise in a profound way the utter hopelessness of justice in our world because we have seen the utter bankruptcy of our own thoughts, ideas, and notions about ourselves, when the scales fall from our eyes and we see ourselves as we really are, helplessly vacilating from self-importance to self-pity as we receive first praise and then blows from the world around us. At that moment, and at that moment only, do we become capable of finding a different path by beginning the work of overcoming our mechanical and automatic way of acting/reacting and tapping into the Creative force of the universe.

Second, by remaining ignorant of the depth of our mechanical nature, the development of human social formations is misunderstood. Makow and others of the "Illuminati control the world" ilk are left to explain the rise of communism and state capitalism and monopolies as some sort of Illuminati plot, as if there were a group of people capable of micromanaging human society on such a level. When we understand that we are machines, we can recognise the machine-like workings in history. Marx spoke of historical determinism in his descriptions of the successive rise and fall of economic structures: slavery to feudal to capitalist to socialist and communist. He said that each form carried within it the seeds of its downfall. There is some truth to this, although not in the sense given to it by the Communist Manifesto which predicted the victorious, crowning glory of Communism where man lived according to the slogan: "From each according to his ability; to each according to his need". What Marx described without really understanding what he was seeing was the mechanical development of society trapped in the unfolding of action and reaction. Injustice, the seed of destruction within each social formation, provokes a reaction against it in the form of social movements against that injustice. Those social movements at their origins may well be inspired by the vision of equality and justice for all; they are not necessarily just another piece of the Illuminati agenda. However, given that man is mechanical himself, that one-half of society is made up of organic portals, and that society has its fair share of psychopaths, no social movement can remain true to its initial vision of justice. It must of necessity, due to the mechanical character of man, remain mechanical, unable to surmount the fundamental problem -- man himself.

For things to be different, man needs to change in a very profound way, and no political party or doctrine, no philosophy, no art, no product of man can bring about such change. Only a commitment to Truth and to seeing objective reality consistently applied over years, free from any parti pris, any entrenched position, be it political, philosophical, or other, can bring such a change about. The work on the self.

Which is not to say that there is no great conspiracy, that there is no small group who are the overlords of our world working to keep us as slaves or cattle. But the nature of this conspiracy is so much more vast, sinister, far reaching, amorphous, and integral to the workings of our reality than the commonly accepted idea of the Illuminati, that any discussion which is limited to the Illuminati is merely a diversion. Add to the discussion the mastery of space/time by these overlords, their ability to move through time to affect history, and you are closer to the truth. But what would be the character of their interventions?

If we are all machines, if one of every two people is an organic portal and one in every twenty-five is a psychopath, and if the entire population is living within a mechanical system of action/reaction, then it seems highly probable that there is little need for the overseers to intervene in the way posited by Illuminati conspiracy buffs. Other than the occasional tweaking of things to keep the machine well-oiled, interventions would likely need to occur only at those moments when a person or a group of people begin to see reality for what it is and align themselves with Truth and objective reality. In other words, interventions would be necessary when there arose threats to the system itself who see it for what it is.

In this hypothesis, ideas such as the formation of the United Nations, the CFR, and the Bilderberg group are not conscious plots on the part of a small minority of individuals to control the world or impinge upon the freedoms of Americans, but are rather the attempts of people to best manage a system that appears to be moving out of their control. There may even be secret societies such as the Illuminati at work. Yes, each group will try to manage the whole in ways that conform with its interests, at the expense of competitors, and the real powers will use the groups to tweak and oil the machine, but the public faces so widely denounced by people taking a different side aren't likely to be the top of the pyramid.

In a sense, we are our own keepers because no matter what move we make on the chessboard, the board and the rules are already fixed. The rules serve to keep us firmly planted in material existence and focused upon material solutions to material problems. However, the ultimately problem is a problem on a different level completely: the evolution of our souls. To this problem, people like Makow have no answer.

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Practicing For The Unthinkable
March 10, 2005
By Michelle Esteban

EDMONDS, Washington - Our children: they're innocent and vulnerable. And they're also an easy target for terrorists.

That's why a terrorism drill Thursday was centered around Edmonds Woodway High School.

It's just a drill, but it has to be taken seriously by everyone involved.

At exactly 9:15 a.m., it happened. First came a loud explosive, followed by a blaring school alarm and then a giant white plume of smoke outside the boy's locker room at Edmonds Woodway High School.

Next came the screams; 34 students pretending to be hurt in the mock disaster are calling for help.

It takes a few minutes, but a police officer arrives. Triage begins. He finds teachers and school administrators who can help. The entire school is evacuated. Emergency crews are en-route.

It's the world we now live in. And it was on the lips an in the eyes of every person here.

This emergency drill comes down to one day -- 9-11.

"This is as close as you're gonna get, you don't want to have to learn on the real thing," says Jamie Gravelle, Logistics Coordinator for the Emergency Services Coordinating Agency.

The agency is a city emergency management organization created by an inter-local agreement between seven cities in North King and South Snohomish Counties.

This time, instead of just federal, state and local emergency crews, students are helping to stage the mock disaster -- each of them a victim of a terrorist's dirty bomb. [...]

Organizers believe schools are a likely terrorist target because they know children are precious.

"It seemed so real, like, oh, it just really affected me, it affected me a lot," says junior and victim volunteer Jimmy Lagucik.

Organizers tried to make the drill as real and chaotic as possible.

"Nobody knows what we've got!" says a firefighter in a circle of emergency officers.

One fake dirty bomb detonated, another was found in a car. Snipers pretended to kill two officers and a unknown chemical agent was released.

"I was thinking about how it could happen," said senior and volunteer Elizabeth Dimond.

That's why you practice. And hope you'll never need to find out if you're ready for the real one.

Thursday's drill is in response to a mandate from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security calling on all emergency agencies to be prepared for any disaster -- including a terrorist attack.

Comment: In the olden days of the Commie threat, schools conducted nuclear attack drills where children in hid under their desks. How far the US has come since then.

In the interest of reflecting reality, the title of this article should be changed to "practicing for the improbable", at least in terms of actual Arab terrorists carrying out an attack on US soil. As has always been the case, the public can be made to believe anything, just as long as the facts are withheld from them. Today, millions of Americans (and to a lesser extent Western populations) believe in the reality of "Islamic terrorism" and the threat of a "dirty bomb" or a "terrorist attack" being carried out against them. The actual truth of the matter however is that this belief has been carefully crafted by political (mis)leaders who, long ago, realised that the best way to control a population was to inspire fear.

It is an extremely simple and even 'logical' form of governance, yet while the masses remain in their current disenfranchised and subservient position, it is also a concept that they simply cannot allow themlseves to consider as being the reality of their situation. To do so would give them a taste of real fear and not simply the subtle type that is propogated by government which comes with the promise of protection if the people accept the will of their leaders.

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The "Real" Deal about Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Terrorist Attacks

by SFC Red Thomas (Ret.)
Armor Master Gunner
Mesa, AZ

Since the media has decided to scare everyone with predictions of chemical, biological, or nuclear warfare on our turf, I decided to write a paper and keep things in their proper perspective. I am a retired military weapons, munitions, and training expert.

Lesson Number One: In the mid 1990's there were a series of nerve gas attacks on crowded Japanese subway stations. Given perfect conditions for an attack less than 10% of the people there were injured (the injured were better in a few hours) and only one percent of the injured died.

The television show 60 Minutes once had a fellow telling us that one drop of nerve gas could kill a thousand people, well he didn't tell you that the thousand dead people per drop was theoretical. Drill Sergeants exaggerate how terrible this stuff is to keep the recruits awake in class (I know this because I was a drill sergeant, too). Forget everything you've ever seen on TV, in the movies, or read in a novel about this stuff, it was all a lie (read this sentence again out loud!) These weapons are about terror; if you remain calm, you will probably not die. This is far less scary than the media and their "experts," make it sound.

Chemical weapons are categorized as Nerve, Blood, Blister, and Incapacitating agents. Contrary to the hype of reporters and politicians they are not weapons of mass destruction they are "area denial," and terror weapons that don't destroy anything. When you leave the area you almost always leave the risk. That's the difference; you can leave the area and the risk; soldiers may have to stay put and sit through it and that's why they need all that spiffy gear.

These are not gasses, they are vapors and/or airborne particles. The agent must be delivered in sufficient quantity to kill/injure, and that defines when/how it's used. Every day we have a morning and evening inversion where "stuff," suspended in the air gets pushed down. This inversion is why allergies (pollen) and air pollution are worst at these times of the day.

So, a chemical attack will have its best effect an hour or so on either side of sunrise/sunset. Also, being vapors and airborne particles they are heavier than air so they will seek low places like ditches, basements and underground garages. This stuff won't work when it's freezing, it doesn't last when it's hot, and wind spreads it too thin too fast. They've got to get this stuff on you, or, get you to inhale it for it to work. They also have to get the concentration of chemicals high enough to kill or wound you. Too little and it's nothing, too much and it's wasted.

What I hope you've gathered by this point is that a chemical weapons attack that kills a lot of people is incredibly hard to do with military grade agents and equipment so you can imagine how hard it will be for terrorists. The more you know about this stuff the more you realize how hard it is to use.

We'll start by talking about nerve agents. You have these in your house. That plain old bug killer (Raid) is a nerve agent. All nerve agents work in the same way; they are cholinesterase inhibitors that mess up the signals your nervous system uses to make your body function. It can harm you if you get it on your skin but it works best if they can get you to inhale it. If you don't die in the first minute and you can leave the area, you're probably gonna live. The military's antidote for all nerve agents is atropine and pralidoxime chloride. Neither one of these does anything to cure the nerve agent, they send your body into overdrive to keep you alive for five minutes, after that the agent is used up. Your best protection is fresh air and staying calm. Listed below are the symptoms for nerve agent poisoning.

Sudden headache, Dimness of vision (someone you're looking at will have pinpointed pupils), Runny nose, Excessive saliva or drooling, Difficulty breathing, Tightness in chest, Nausea, Stomach cramps, Twitching of exposed skin where a liquid just got on you.

If you are in public and you start experiencing these symptoms, first ask yourself, did anything out of the ordinary just happen, a loud pop, did someone spray something on the crowd? Are other people getting sick too?

Is there an odor of new mown hay, green corn, something fruity, or camphor where it shouldn't be?

If the answer is yes, then calmly (if you panic you breathe faster and inhale more air/poison) leave the area and head up wind, or, outside. Fresh air is the best "right now antidote". If you have a blob of liquid that looks like molasses or Kayro syrup on you; blot it or scrape it off and away from yourself with anything disposable. This stuff will work based on your body weight -- what a crop duster uses to kill bugs won't hurt you unless you stand there and breathe it in real deep -- then lick the residue off the ground for while. Remember they have to do all the work; they have to get the concentration up and keep it up for several minutes while all you have to do is quit getting it on you and quit breathing it by putting space between you and the attack.

Blood agents are cyanide or arsine which effect your blood's ability to provide oxygen to your tissue. The scenario for attack would be the same as for that of a nerve agent. Look for a pop or someone splashing/spraying something and folks around there getting woozy/falling down. The telltale smells are bitter almonds or garlic where it shouldn't be. The symptoms are blue lips, blue under the fingernails, and rapid breathing. The military's antidote is amyl nitrite and just like the nerve agent antidote, it just keeps your body working for five minutes 'till the toxins are used up. Fresh air is your best individual chance. Blister agents (distilled mustard) are so nasty that nobody wants to even handle it, let alone use it. It's almost impossible to handle safely and may have delayed effect of up to 12 hours. If you do get large, painful blisters for no apparent reason, don't pop them. If you must, don't let the liquid from the blister get on any other area, the stuff just keeps on spreading. It's just as likely to harm the user as the target. Soap, water, sunshine, and fresh air are this stuff's enemy.

The bottom line on chemical weapons (it's the same if they use industrial chemical spills) is that they are intended to make you panic, to terrorize you, to herd you like sheep to the wolves. If there is an attack, leave the area and go upwind, or to the sides of the wind stream. They have to get the stuff to you, and on you. You're more likely to be hurt by a drunk driver on any given day than be hurt by one of these attacks. Your odds get better if you leave the area. Soap, water, time, and fresh air really deal this stuff a knock-out-punch. Don't let fear of an isolated attack rule your life. The odds are really on your side.

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Signs Economic Commentary
Donald Hunt
March 13, 2005

The euro closed at 1.3454 dollars on Friday, which puts the dollar at .7433 down 1.6% compared to last week’s 1.3239 and .7553.  Gold closed at $445.90 an ounce, up sharply (2.4%) from last week’s $435.30.  Oil closed at $54.43 a barrel (40.46 euros) up 1.2% in dollars but virtually unchanged (up 0.4%) in euros from last week’s $53.78 (40.62 euros).  An ounce of gold would buy 8.19 barrels of oil compared to 8.09 last week. The Dow closed at 10,774.36 down 1.5% from last week’s 10,940.55.  The NASDAQ closed at 2041.60, down 1.4% from last week’s 2070.61.  The yield on the ten-year U.S. Treasury bond was 4.54% a sharp rise from last week’s 4.31%.

After the pattern we noticed during the last two weeks in which the early part of the week saw some bad news about the economy released, only to see some report released on Friday with some good, short-term news to send people into the weekend optimistic, I was looking for the good news late Friday afternoon, since the news early in the week was especially bad.  This is all they could come up with: 


By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer

WASHINGTON - Consumer confidence, which had plunged sharply in February, jumped by the largest amount in seven months in early March as Americans were heartened by a big surge in hiring.

The AP-Ipsos consumer confidence index rose to 84.2 in early March, a gain of 6.4 percent from a February reading of 79.1. It was the largest one-month gain since a 13.9 percent rise last August.

The March rebound came from stronger confidence about current economic conditions, job prospects and personal finances. The survey was taken the first three days of this week, following the news last Friday that the economy created 262,000 jobs last month, the best showing in four months.

Analysts attributed the big jump in the index to the sharp rise in employment reported by the government last week. With job gains expected to continue in coming months, they forecast further increases in consumer confidence. However, they cautioned that rising oil prices, which are expected to push gasoline pump prices to new highs later this spring, could act as a damper on confidence.

"If job growth keeps improving, consumer confidence will improve as well," said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services in Pittsburgh. "In my outlook, consumer confidence will move higher in coming months but holding it back somewhat will be the increases in gasoline and home heating oil prices."

Here is a sampling of the other headlines—all negative: Dollar catching Asian flu , U.S. Trade Deficit Grew to $58.3 Bln in January , Treasuries Lower Before Inflation Specter , 30-Year Mortgage Rates at 7 Month High , Dollar Slips Again as Trade Gap Widens , Stocks Fall on Intel, Trade Gap and Oil , and so on.

The positive jobs report that sparked the increase in consumer sentiment hardly stands up to scrutiny itself.  The types of jobs being created, when combined with fact that so many workers who might normally be unemployed are in Iraq or Afghanistan leaves less room for real optimism.  Paul Craig Roberts, the former Reagan Treasury official, spells it out:

The February payroll jobs figures released last Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show a continuation of America's descent into a third world service economy.

The Bush administration cheered the creation of 229,000 private sector jobs (which still leaves Bush with a net private sector job loss during his reign). However, once we look at the details, the joy vanishes: 174,000 of the jobs, or 76% of the total, are in nontradable services.

Administrative and waste services (largely temporary help and employment services) account for 61,000 or 35% of the new service jobs. The remainder are accounted for by construction (30,000), retail trade (30,000), healthcare and social assistance (27,000), and waitresses and bar tenders (27,000).

The US has apparently lost the ability to create high productivity, high value-added jobs in tradable goods and services. The ladders of upward mobility are being dismantled by offshore production for home markets and outsourcing of knowledge jobs.

The BLS reports that the number of employed US technical workers has fallen by 221,000 in six major computer and engineering job classifications during 2000-2004. The largest drops were suffered by computer programmers, followed by electrical and electronics engineers, computer scientists and systems analysts.

So much for the new economy that economists promised would take the place of the lost manufacturing economy.

America's remaining job market is domestic nontradable services. While India and China develop first world job markets, the US labor market takes on the characteristics of a third world work force. Only jobs that cannot be outsourced are growing.

The Bush economy has seen a loss of 2.8 million manufacturing jobs, a rise in the unemployment rate of 1.2 percentage points, and a stagnation in real weekly earnings.

How bad will things have to get before economists realize that outsourced jobs are not being replaced? Indeed, many American companies are ceasing to have any presence in the US except for a sales force.

Cisco's CEO, John Chambers, declared recently: "What we're trying to do is outline an entire strategy of becoming a Chinese company."

Cisco is establishing a new R&D center in Shanghai. The US corporation manufactures $5 billion of products in China where it employs 10,000 people.

That is just one company, and there are many doing the same thing. The result is abandonment of the American work force by American corporations. Little wonder the Bush administration is the first administration in 70 years to have a net loss of private sector jobs.

If one US company or a few move offshore, their profits improve and consumer prices are lower. However, when work in general moves offshore, American lose the incomes associated with the production of the goods they consume. Domestic production is turned into imports, with the result that America draws down its accumulated wealth in order to pay for the imports on which it is dependent.

The dollar's value and status as reserve currency cannot forever stand the trade and budget deficits that are now part and parcel of America's economic policy.

Unless there are major changes soon, America's economic future is a third world work force with a banana democracy's worthless currency.

The fall of the dollar gained pace this week, falling 1.6% in just one week. The dollar suffered another shock on Thursday with the statement by Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi endorsing “diversity” in currency holdings.  Despite the verbal backtracking of Asian central bankers last week, the abandonment of the dollar as a reserve currency continued, as we can see in this article in the Asian Times:

Dollar catching Asian flu
By Alan Boyd

SYDNEY - They may be telling a different story to money markets, but Asian central banks have been quietly switching their dollar holdings to regional currencies for at least three years, confirm global banking data. In a further, and so far the biggest, setback for the greenback's status as the undisputed reserve currency, Japan on Thursday said it might diversify its holdings, though monetary chiefs later sought to play down the prospect. South Korea rattled currency traders with a similar announcement late last month, followed by a similar backtrack.

China, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, the Philippines and Hong Kong have already started a sell-off, despite a diplomatic show of solidarity for the greenback that is prudently designed to prevent a crisis of confidence in exchange systems. The likelihood is that much of this outflow will never return to US dollars as economic interdependence within East Asia and the widening shadow cast by China's trading conglomerates are slowly transforming the traditional market structure.

The Bank of International Settlements (BIS), which acts as a bank for the world's central banks, has just released a study showing that the ratio of dollar deposits held in Asian offshore reserves declined to 67% in September, down from 81% in the third quarter of 2001. India was the biggest seller, reducing its dollar assets from 68% of total reserves to just 43%. China, which directly links the yuan to the dollar and is under US pressure to allow a freer movement of its currency, trimmed the dollar share from 83% to 68%.

This shift conforms with global trends as central banks seek a buffer from the burgeoning US trade and budget deficits. A separate survey by European-based Central Banking Publications found that 29 of 65 nations surveyed were cutting back on the dollar and 39 were buying more euros. America's annual budget deficit of US$500 billion is largely funded by Asian purchases of US government bonds, mostly from China and Japan. The US trade and current account deficits are in a similar plight: it took $530 billion of foreign capital to finance US imports in 2003 and $650 billion last year. Projections for 2005 range up to $800 billion.

Export-led Asian central banks have been accumulating dollars for two decades or more to keep their own currencies competitive. Japan alone has stockpiled $841 billion of reserves to stop the yen from over-valuing as it searches for an economic stimulus. If the central banks pull out, the US may find it hard to borrow the cash it needs to keep the wheels of government turning. The conventional wisdom is that Asia is in too deep to quit, as to do so would invite huge exchange losses.

But some monetary chiefs have already decided there are greater risks in staying in bond markets as rock-bottom US interest rates - still only moderately above the 45-year low reached last year - have dragged yields to unappealing levels. China became a net seller of US government bonds in 2002, shifting much of its reserves to euros, Australian and Canadian dollars. Taiwan left the securities market in the same year and Hong Kong sharply reduced its exposure.

The factors causing the fall of the dollar are only increasing in power. The trade deficit is increasing, the U.S. budget deficit is increasing, the price of oil is increasing, and the Bush administration not only isn’t doing anything to fix any of those problems, but it seems to be actively encouraging them.  Why?

To answer that question, I would like to quote some things Al Martin said early in Bush’s first term. In 2002, he wrote:

It's become very apparent that Congress, the White House and the government have abandoned any notion of fiscal responsibility or even rational political judgment. Washington has effectively become a free-for-all in which one senator gets up and says, "I can spend a hundred billion more than you can." These are politically popular spending programs, which are totally wasteful.

The Congress is completely out of touch with reality. The Bush Administration and Congress have essentially gone wild. There are no checks anymore. They're authorizing the expenditure of huge sums of money, which none of the agencies even want or have any idea of how to spend. It's a different environment now. Washington sees an opportunity to act the way it wants to act - without any restraints.

…Government spending amounts to at least $1.5 trillion in additional spending over five years, and all the numbers haven't been added up yet. This includes everything from defense to security to agriculture. We are literally plying government agencies with money that they don't want. They have said they don't want and don't even know how they're going to spend it. This is money that's going to get spent on tremendous weapons systems and help defense contractors. If you look at all the industries that are going to benefit - and individual companies that are going to benefit - you will understand why the Republicans are pushing it. This is Bush Cabal Heaven.

In other words, there will be a $1.5 trillion increase over five years (which is deficit financed) and two thirds or more of that spending will be effectively wasted. The deputy head of the GAO has already said so, and we are still in an economy that is $5.5 trillion in debt - with no foreseeable surpluses being generated in the near future.

In addition, interest rates have been lowered and the Bush White House is going to pressure Greenspan to keep interest rates artificially low longer than they should be. This will create an inflationary whammy down the road. We are in effect building a potential economics time bomb for this nation.

In other words, what is happening now was completely foreseeable, and many did foresee it.  In fact, we have been foreseeing it for so long, some people question whether the crash is going to happen.  A relative of mine told me that what I have been saying about the economy makes sense, but that I had been predicting a crash for three years and it hasn’t happened yet.  This week’s news may be the turning point, though.  I’m in good company here, though, since Stephen Roach has had to answer the same questions:

On this fifth anniversary of NASDAQ 5000, there is an eerie sense of déjà vu.   Unlike the excesses in equities five years ago, today’s bubble is more of an interest-rate and currency phenomenon — complete with extraordinary compressions of interest-rate spreads in notoriously risky asset classes such as emerging-market debt, high-yield securities, and a broad array of credit instruments.   In my view, these bubbles are joined at the hip, with today’s excesses very much an outgrowth of the post-equity-bubble defense tactics of America’s Federal Reserve.  Excess liquidity and extraordinarily low real interest rates are indeed the “candy” of the current profusion of carry trades (see my 25 February dispatch, “The Instruments of Rebalancing”).

There’s another important similarity with the heady days of early 2000 — one that pertains more to the psyche of the markets.   Emboldened by a recent outbreak of Goldilocks-type conditions in the macro space — namely, new hopes of inflationless growth — investors are becoming more and more combative at my rebalancing presentations.  “You don’t get it,” they increasingly lecture me, “we live in a newly symbiotic world.”  After all, they go on to say, as long as Asian central banks and their infinitely potent printing presses keep financing the excesses of the American consumer, why worry?  “It’s in everyone’s best interest that this continues,” is the punch line I hear all too often these days.  And, of course, that’s pretty much the way it has worked out so far, with the major nations of the world having managed to cope just fine with all the stresses and strains I seem so concerned about.  I am getting challenged more and more these days as to why I believe imbalances will ever come to a head.  Motive is not my concern.  I certainly concede that it is in everyone’s best interests to put off the day of reckoning.  The big question is, Can they?

The answer lies in what can be called the “paradox of stability” — the possibility that a seemingly tranquil status quo is, in fact, masking a dangerous build-up of tensions.  That is a clear risk today, in my view.  While it is possible and, for some, even easy to draw comfort from the appearance of a new symbiosis between debtor (America) and creditor nations (mainly in Asia), there is a worrisome undercurrent of tensions now building.  Such signs are evident on the real side of the global economy, its financial underpinnings, and also in the political arena.  Ironically, this confluence of forces could well be reaching a critical mass just when investors have mistakenly concluded that this new symbiosis — code words for yet another New Paradigm — is rewriting time-honored macro rules

Back to Al Martin in 2002, one of the reasons the economic crash is so easy to predict, is that the Bushes are so predictable:

When George Bush II got into office, he immediately reverted to a Bush. He can’t help himself. He’s a Bush, so immediately he ratcheted up federal spending especially on defense ­ into a slowing economy. The slowing economy was not Clinton’s fault, and it wasn’t Bush’s fault. It was just a natural reaction of a speculative bubble that had been created in the internet industry.

When that bubble burst, the effects rippled throughout the economy, and the economy slowed down. Therefore Bush was put in a difficult political position. He knew the economy was slowing, yet being a Republican and being a Bush, he couldn’t help himself, but to spend more money on defense. Then he proceeded to institute the largest tax cut in the history of the country. People think that since they got their $300 check in the mail, that’s it. People must remember that this is not a one-time tax cut, but it’s a ten-year program, a $1.6 trillion tax reduction. It is the largest tax reduction package ever put through. It should also be remembered that 93% of the tax benefits of this package go to those earning $200,000 a year or more. Because of this tax cut and the dramatic increase in defense spending into an economy which is already slowing, Bush has taken what was a projected 10 year accumulated surplus of $2.2 trillion and turned that into a negative number. As of fiscal year September 30, 2001, when all previous surpluses had been exhausted, Bush is going to take a zero surplus economy (a break-even economy) and, by September 30, 2002, we’re looking at a $250 billion deficit. By September of 2003, we’re looking at a $400 billion deficit.

The reason they have been doing this is not stupidity but extreme Machiavellian cleverness:

The Bush Cabal has given up and all they're doing is trying to put in place as much of their agenda as possible.

They are appropriating money with reckless abandon and complete disregard for the economy - as if they don't care any more. Even the Washington Post has noticed, having published an article called "Spend spend spend."

Then, when everything falls apart in the United States, that money from Republican offshore accounts will be repatriated and the Bush Cabal will simply buy up all American publicly traded businesses and industries for ten cents on the dollar. We see this massive conversion of Republican scamscateer money into gold, in anticipation of further declines in the dollar.

According to Martin, the amount of money looted is massive:

Former FHA commissioner Catherine Austin Fitts points out that there is $3.3 trillion missing from the Department of Defense, HUD, etc. (See "The Missing Money: Working Harder and Getting Less").

The loss has been recently certified by House Committee, which is in charge of investigating this fraud, and she sent a letter to her Congressman Van Hilleary asking him what he plans to do about it.

Since then the Treasury Department and the Comptroller of the Currency have resisted accepting congressional certification because the Treasury Department has to sign off on it. The reason they're resisting obviously is because once the Treasury Department and the Comptroller sign off on it, the "missing" $3.3 trillion have to be added to the National Debt.

Because of this debt certification, I will revise my estimate of the total National Debt from $14 trillion to $18 trillion. That would include the $500 billion which Treasury Secretary O'Neill said he couldn't find. ( See "Imperial State Power in America").

The situation is truly chaotic. No federal agency can balance its books. The Treasury Department doesn't know how many treasury securities are outstanding. No one actually knows what the total debt of the United States really is. No one knows what the future debt or future contingent debt is. You're seeing the results of this in our domestic securities market. We're the only first world power which can not give a definitive accounting of its own debt.

If you look at the $18 trillion debt, about $12 trillion of it represents straight out and out fraud. When people ask where did the money go, I say look at the net worth statistics of the top 1% of the people of the United States from the year 1975 to the year 2000.

In 1975 the average per capita net worth of the top 1% of the United States was still only $5.3 million. By 2000, that average net worth on a per capita basis was $53 million.

Early in the Bush II administration there was some talk about cracking down on offshore money havens like the Cayman Islands and even Switzerland, the thinking being that terrorists would have a harder time financing their operations and drug cartels would have a harder time laundering their money.  Of course that initiative was quashed because such havens are the prime means for the maintenance of the neo-feudal capitalist aristocracy.  They have to have their money safe from the interference of any nation-state.  In the United States it is customary to look down on Mexico because Mexico’s presidents are chosen by party insiders and retire from their six-year term with hundreds of millions of dollars in offshore accounts.  What we don’t realize in the United States is the situation is exactly the same here  (see Anthony Summers’s book on Nixon, The Arrogance of Power, for example).  See also the interesting fact that George Bush the First actually made a donation to Yale University quite a bit larger than his reported net worth. If we really think about this it means there is no real distinction between the leaders of politics, the drug trade, terrorism and capitalist neo-feudal aristocrats.

When you explain this to people, most recognize that this is true.  There are many cynics out there these days.  But when shots are fired and flags are waving, people file away their cynicism and adopt a reverent, worshipful attitude towards heads of state.  Is it the Stockholm Syndrome?  Religious programming?  Whatever it is, it sure is effective.

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Untimely Deaths in Ukraine

LA Times
By Kim Murphy, Times Staff Writer

Strange suicides and car crashes among foes of the former regime bring calls for investigations.

KIEV, Ukraine — By all official accounts, Yuri Kravchenko died by his own hand.

The former Ukrainian interior minister, scheduled to meet in just a few hours with prosecutors to give testimony in a high-profile case of political murder, aimed a gun at his chin and fired, sending a bullet ripping through his cheek and out his upper jaw. Then he aimed it at his temple and fired again.

Suicide, government investigators ruled.

Exactly 13.1% of Ukrainians who responded to a Kiev Post Internet poll believed it was suicide. More than 80% thought Kravchenko was slain this month to prevent him from testifying, possibly implicating former President Leonid D. Kuchma in the decapitation of journalist Georgi Gongadze and other crimes. Many are sure that even if Kravchenko pulled the trigger, he was driven to it by his powerful former friends.

It was also ruled suicide when Transportation Minister Hryhoriy Kirpa, believed to be privy to evidence of large-scale vote-rigging in the fall presidential election, was found shot to death Dec. 27 in his bathhouse.

And when banker Yuriy Lyakh, a business associate of Kuchma's powerful chief of staff, was found dead in his office Dec. 3, stabbed through the neck with a letter opener from his desk, that was a suicide too.

High-profile Ukrainians have come to untimely ends in recent years by hanging themselves from refrigerator doors by their sweaters, swallowing poison and swerving suddenly into oncoming trucks — in fact, more than half a dozen outspoken critics of the Kuchma regime have died in unexplained car crashes. President Viktor Yushchenko nearly died from dioxin poisoning during the election campaign.

Now, with the popular revolution that swept the pro-West Yushchenko into power this year, there are growing demands in parliament to open the files on Ukraine's violent past and determine the fate of dozens of opponents of the former regime whose deaths were dismissed as accidents, suicides or unsolved killings.

Equally strong are demands that Kuchma, the tough-talking post-Soviet leader who accumulated vast power before Ukraine's Orange Revolution swept him and his associates from office, be investigated and tried for what happened during his turbulent reign.

"If Ukraine is to become the 'European' country Yushchenko says it is, it must stop being one … in which skeletons are allowed to rattle eternally in official closets," the Kiev Post editorialized last month. "How can Ukraine move forward if it's weighted down with corpses?" [...]

Ukraine's roads in recent years have also claimed the lives of Valery Malev, Ukraine's former arms export chief, whose car abruptly swerved into a truck in 2002, a few days after tapes secretly recorded by one of Kuchma's bodyguards revealed that he had discussed the export of air defense missiles to Iraq with the president; Anatoly Yermak, a member of the parliamentary committee investigating organized crime and corruption, whose car plummeted off a road in 2003; and opposition politician Oleksander Yemets, who died in 2001 when his car swerved into a ditch.

Who would go to the trouble of staging a car crash? "I asked the very same question to many people," said Chornovil's son, Taras. "The answer was the same: Different security services have different traditions they follow. Here, they have honed their skills of organizing car crashes to such perfection that they prefer this method … even if easier and more obvious methods are available."

Lt. Gen. Oleksander Skipalsky, a former deputy director of the federal security service, or SBU, did not rule out that slayings could have been disguised as traffic accidents. "Of course it's possible," he said in an interview. "As a secret service professional, I can tell you that the most important thing is to formulate the task. And 99% of the time, it will be accomplished." [...]

Zvarych, the justice minister, has expressed doubt that the former interior minister could have recovered sufficiently from the shock of the first wound to have delivered the second.

"I have certain doubts personally speaking about whether someone can pull the trigger twice in order to commit suicide," he said. "There's this threshold of pain, I think, that one would need to be able to cross in order to be able to do that, something called a 'pain syndrome,' that I think is very difficult to overcome. [...]

Comment: This is the type of journalism we need, right? Someone in the mainstream press with the guts to stand up and state the obvious: that government-sanctioned murder has always been a part of political life. Now all we need is for the LA Time to publish a report on the many many clear incidents of government-sanctioned murder in the US. Take Gary Webb's "suicide" just a few months ago. Webb was involved in research into CIA drug-running among other things. Like the former Ukrainian interior minister in the above report, Webb too shot himself twice in the head and was deemed a "suicide". Sadly, neither the LA Times nor any other mainstream US outlet raised even an eyebrow at that one. We could of course go back to the murder of JFK and continue on up to Senator Wellstone and the many microbiologists that have been "suicided" over recent years, but there is no need to. The information is all out there, but before you waste your time, you won't find it in the American mainstream press.

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Under Bush, a New Age of Prepackaged TV News

By DAVID BARSTOW and ROBIN STEIN
March 13, 2005

It is the kind of TV news coverage every president covets.

"Thank you, Bush. Thank you, U.S.A.," a jubilant Iraqi-American told a camera crew in Kansas City for a segment about reaction to the fall of Baghdad. A second report told of "another success" in the Bush administration's "drive to strengthen aviation security"; the reporter called it "one of the most remarkable campaigns in aviation history." A third segment, broadcast in January, described the administration's determination to open markets for American farmers.

To a viewer, each report looked like any other 90-second segment on the local news. In fact, the federal government produced all three. The report from Kansas City was made by the State Department. The "reporter" covering airport safety was actually a public relations professional working under a false name for the Transportation Security Administration. The farming segment was done by the Agriculture Department's office of communications.

Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government's role in their production.

This winter, Washington has been roiled by revelations that a handful of columnists wrote in support of administration policies without disclosing they had accepted payments from the government. But the administration's efforts to generate positive news coverage have been considerably more pervasive than previously known. At the same time, records and interviews suggest widespread complicity or negligence by television stations, given industry ethics standards that discourage the broadcast of prepackaged news segments from any outside group without revealing the source.

Federal agencies are forthright with broadcasters about the origin of the news segments they distribute. The reports themselves, though, are designed to fit seamlessly into the typical local news broadcast. In most cases, the "reporters" are careful not to state in the segment that they work for the government. Their reports generally avoid overt ideological appeals. Instead, the government's news-making apparatus has produced a quiet drumbeat of broadcasts describing a vigilant and compassionate administration.

Some reports were produced to support the administration's most cherished policy objectives, like regime change in Iraq or Medicare reform. Others focused on less prominent matters, like the administration's efforts to offer free after-school tutoring, its campaign to curb childhood obesity, its initiatives to preserve forests and wetlands, its plans to fight computer viruses, even its attempts to fight holiday drunken driving. They often feature "interviews" with senior administration officials in which questions are scripted and answers rehearsed. Critics, though, are excluded, as are any hints of mismanagement, waste or controversy.

Some of the segments were broadcast in some of nation's largest television markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta.

An examination of government-produced news reports offers a look inside a world where the traditional lines between public relations and journalism have become tangled, where local anchors introduce prepackaged segments with "suggested" lead-ins written by public relations experts. It is a world where government-produced reports disappear into a maze of satellite transmissions, Web portals, syndicated news programs and network feeds, only to emerge cleansed on the other side as "independent" journalism.

It is also a world where all participants benefit.

Comment: "All participants" except for the general public who are subjected to what amounts to outright lies, brought to them courtesy of their wonderful government leaders. If any readers ever took exception to our use of the term "government controlled press", then you may do so no longer. The case is clear. The US government owns just about every major media organisation of any importance. The mainstream news has been terminally compromised, there is no truth to be found there.

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Europeans probe CIA role in abductions

Terror suspects possibly taken to nations that torture
By Craig Whitlock Updated:
MSNBC
March 12, 2005

MILAN - A radical Egyptian cleric known as Abu Omar was walking to a Milan mosque for noon prayers in February 2003 when he was grabbed on the sidewalk by two men, sprayed in the face with chemicals and stuffed into a van. He hasn't been seen since.

Milan investigators, however, now appear to be close to identifying his kidnappers. Last month, officials showed up at Aviano Air Base in northern Italy and demanded records of any American planes that had flown into or out of the joint U.S.-Italian military installation around the time of the abduction. They also asked for logs of vehicles that had entered the base.

Shadowy practice probed

Italian authorities suspect the Egyptian was the target of a CIA-sponsored operation known as rendition, in which terrorism suspects are forcibly taken for interrogation to countries where torture is practiced.

The Italian probe is one of three official investigations that have surfaced in the past year into renditions believed to have taken place in Western Europe. Although the CIA usually carries out the operations with the help or blessing of friendly local intelligence agencies, law enforcement authorities in Italy, Germany and Sweden are examining whether U.S. agents may have broken local laws by detaining terrorist suspects on European soil and subjecting them to abuse or maltreatment.

The CIA has kept details of rendition cases a closely guarded secret, but has defended the controversial practice as an effective and legal way to prevent terrorism. Intelligence officials have testified that they have relied on the tactic with greater frequency since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Comment: US intelligence officials actually admit that they have used rendition since before 9-11. The whole time the US was barking at other countries for human rights abuses, the CIA was shipping people off to other countries to be "legally" tortured.

Resistance from Europe

The Bush administration has received backing for renditions from governments that have been criticized for their human rights records, including Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan, where many of the suspects are taken for interrogation. But the administration is getting a much different reception in Europe, where lawmakers and prosecutors are questioning whether the practice is a blatant violation of local sovereignty and human rights.

There are many practical and legal hurdles to filing criminal charges against U.S. agents, including the question of whether they are protected by diplomatic immunity and the matter of determining their identity. However, prosecutors in Italy and Germany have not ruled out criminal charges. At the same time, the European investigations are producing new revelations about the suspected U.S. involvement in the disappearances of four men, not including the Egyptian, each of whom claims they were physically abused and later tortured. [...]

Italian police opened a missing person investigation, but the case stalled for more than a year. That changed in April 2004, when Nasr's wife unexpectedly received a telephone call from her husband. He told her he had been kidnapped and taken to a U.S. air base in Italy. He said he was then flown to another U.S. base, before being taken to Cairo.

The call was recorded by Italian police, who had kept the wiretap on Nasr's home telephone in place. Although transcripts have not been made public, Nasr's colleagues at the mosque said he reported that he had been tortured and kept naked in subfreezing temperatures in a prison in Cairo. [...]

Signs of CIA involvement

The existence of the wiretap is revealed in sealed Italian court papers reviewed by The Washington Post. The documents, dated in the spring of 2004, include a judge's authorization to continue the wiretap and show that investigators were pursuing the theory that covert agents - possibly from the United States, Italy or Egypt - were behind the kidnapping.

Italian investigators have since determined that 15 agents, some of them CIA operatives, were involved in Nasr's abduction, according to reports in Corriere della Sera, a leading Italian daily. Investigators were able to trace calls made by the agents by linking calls made by the same phones near the mosque and Aviano Air Base on the day Nasr vanished, the newspaper reported.

The investigation is being led by Armando Spataro, a well-known counterterrorism prosecutor whose office has also built a hard-nosed reputation for winning convictions in cases involving the Mafia and political corruption. Spataro, who has worked closely with U.S. officials in the past on terrorism cases, confirmed that he visited Aviano last month but declined to comment further.

Capt. Eric Elliott, a U.S. military spokesman at Aviano, said Spataro met at the base for several hours with Italian military officials, who then forwarded a request for records to their American counterparts. Elliott declined to describe the records being sought, citing "an active investigation."

U.S. stays mum

The U.S. Embassy in Rome declined to answer questions about whether American agents were involved in Nasr's disappearance. "We do not comment on intelligence matters," said Ben Duffy, an embassy spokesman.

Italian opposition lawmakers have demanded answers from Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government on whether Italian agents or intelligence services played a role. But government ministers have remained tight-lipped. [...]

Comment: It will be interesting to see how this story develops. If government ministers are remaining tight-lipped about the involvement of Italian agents, there is probably a very good and very obvious reason why. The fact remains, however, that Berlusconi and Bush are "old pals" in the war on terror.

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Did a federal agent ban anti-Bush signs in downtown storefronts?
CHRIS DAVIS
Memphis Flyer
March 12, 2005

"The man who called was very polite and nice," says John Gasquet, owner of Empire coffee at 2 N. Main in Downtown Memphis. "He said he was special agent Something-or-other. He said that due to the fact that in some states the President had been to, there were issues of security regarding area businesses, he was calling businesses to tell them not to put up any negative signs in their windows that were negative toward President Bush. He said there were designated areas of protest and this would cut down on the possibility of problems."

Gasquet didn't have any negative signs in his window, and he hadn't been planning on posting any signs at all. As a businessman - about to pass his business off to new owners - it didn't seem logical to post material that might antagonize half his clientele.

"I thought sure, okay. Fine. But then it started to irritate me. I'm a veteran… I've served my country. I was happy to do it and I would do it again. And it bugged me that someone from the Federal Government would try to tell me not to do this."

As Gasquet understood it, his job as a soldier had been to defend the Constitution, not a pet policy of this or any administration. By his estimation the first amendment under attack. He wanted to make and post a sign that showed respect for the office of President, but still got the message across.

The sign Gasquet posted notified customers that Empire had been contacted by a federal agent and told not to display any anti-Bush signage. In smaller letters it said, "We would like to remind the agent of our first amendment rights." No action was taken against Empire coffee for displaying the sign, and the authenticity of the caller is still in question.

Customers who saw Gasquet's sign started telling him that other businesses in the area had been contacted and given similar instructions. No other local incidents have been confirmed at this time. After information concerning the call broke on the Internet on Saturday morning Empire received a call from another business owner in Alabama who had been contacted by "the feds."

"This was one of four things," Gasquet says. "It was either a federal agent acting in an official capacity. It could have been an agent acting in an unofficial capacity - a cowboy. It might have been an enthusiastic Bush supporter or somebody from the right side of the political spectrum who really thought he was trying to make things better for the President. Or it could have even been someone on the Left trying to agitate."

Gasquet and others who have received similar calls will be discussing their polite, but unnerving calls with Sam Seder (sitting in for Randi Rhodes) on Monday afternoon. Gasquet has also been interviewed by NPR, and Salon.

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UN to reveal devastating report on Hariri killing

MIddle East Online

Report UN probe into Hariri killing will accuse Lebanese, Syrian authorities of being behind cover-up of evidence.

LONDON - A United Nations investigation into the death of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri will report that Lebanese and Syrian authorities are behind a cover-up of evidence from the February 14 blast, The Independent newspaper said on Monday.

"The UN investigators have become convinced that there was a cover-up of evidence at the very highest levels of the Lebanese and Syrian intelligence authorities," the British daily said.

Veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk, based in Beirut, quoted no sources for his report but said that members of Hariri's family had been warned the UN report on the death would be "devastating".

The Lebanese opposition has blamed the February 14 explosion that killed Hariri and 18 other people on the pro-Syrian regime.

Beirut has denied any responsibility over the attack, which has unleashed massive public protests against Syria's military presence and led to the downfall of the Syrian-backed government.

It has agreed to cooperate with a UN commission of inquiry but rejected a full international probe.

The UN team, comprised of Irish, Egyptian and Moroccan investigators and recently joined by Swiss bomb experts, have discovered that many of the vehicles from Hariri's convoy were moved from the scene of the blast only hours after it happened, Fisk said.

The Independent also published a photo of the bomb site taken 36 hours before the bombing, and suggested that a "mysterious object" seen near a drain pipe indicated that explosives could have been planted beneath the avenue.

This would contradict initial reports that Hariri was killed by a car bomb, Fisk said.

"If investigators successfully recover parts of one remaining destroyed vehicle, they may be able to discover the nature of the explosives," he wrote.

Comment: In his report, Fisk also claims that on Wednesday Bush will state publicly that Syrian - and perhaps Lebanese - military intelligence officers were involved in the murder on February 14. Are we surprised? The simple fact remains that, in the days prior to Hariri's assassination, anyone who had been keeping an eye on the news could have predicted that, were Hariri to be assassinated at that particular time, it would have played directly into the hands of both the US and Israel. So are we really being asked to believe that Assad and his advisors were unaware of this and that they went ahead and murdered Hariri and signed their own death warrants, or at least their political death warrants? It is hardly likely.

If we use the tried and trusted "who benefits" approach in our analysis, we conclude that all fingers SHOULD be pointing at both the US and Israel. Both Bush and Sharon have been gunning for Syria for quite some time. Hariri's murder and the subsequent pinning of the blame on Damascus merely gifted them the justification they needed to make international calls for "regime change" in Syria. Now, do ya think that is just a coincidence?

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Flashback: Syria accuses Israel of killing Al Hariri

2/15/2005

Lebanese woman mourns Al Hariri during a protest in Beirut

While the opposition to the pro-Syrian government in Beirut claimed that Syria was behind the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Al Hariri, the Syrian media on Tuesday pointed the finger of suspicion at Israel.

"What happened was an attempt to shatter national unity in Lebanon, to sow anarchy and divisions which lead to a climate of civil war," said government newspaper Tishrin.

Israel "continues to work to sabotage Lebanon's achievements to try to bring anarchy to the country and to be able to continue its occupation of the Shebaa Farms", a disputed strip of land along the Israeli border, the newspaper added.

Meanwhile, several Arab analysts say that Syria itself was also targeted by Hariri's assassination.

"Syria certainly did not need to complicate the situation, just when it is already in the firing line" over UN Resolution 1559, Rauf Ghoneim, a former Egyptian deputy foreign minister, said.

According to several political analysts, Al Hariri’s assassination is aimed at drowning Lebanon in another civil war. Arab commentators called on Lebanon on Tuesday to unite against such threat, with some suggesting that Israel has greatly benefited from the death of Al Hariri.

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Tel Aviv pushes on with second barrier
Sunday 13 March 2005, 16:55 Makka Time, 13:55 GMT

Tel Aviv has decided to push ahead with a second barrier and separate Israel from the occupied Gaza.

Israel Public Radio reported on Sunday that the Defence Ministry was to appoint contractors this week to go ahead with the construction that seeks to prevent Palestinian from entering Israel.

Work on the 70m wide barrier is due to be completed before Israel begins its planned three-to-four-week evacuation of all the 8000 Jewish colonists and occupation forces from occupied Gaza from July 20, the radio added.

Israel claims building another barrier is essential deterrent to bar the infiltration of Palestinians.

Apartheid wall

Palestinians have condemned the barrier as an "apartheid wall" and charge that the fence seeks to predetermine the borders of their future state.

The existing barrier was built one year after the 1993 Oslo accords, more or less along the 1967 Green Line, almost hermetically sealing the Palestinians living in the 362sq km territory.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled the barrier, which often juts deep into Palestinian territory, "illegal" last July, but Israel vowed to complete building it. [...]

Comment: One way to come to a more objective understanding of Israel's role in the Middle East conflict is to separate what they SAY from what they DO. While Sharon will talk endlessly about making peace with the Palestinians, the actions of his government work to ensure perpetual war. Any peace for the Palestinian people means total capitualtion to Israel's will and submissive acceptance of their murderous policies, from the targeting of children by Israeli snipers to the razing of their homes and orchards. The only "state" that will ever result from such a one-sided agreement will resemble a large outdoor internment camp, where the separation barrier becomes the prison bars and IDF soldiers become jailers, judge and jury.

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Israeli wall to engulf Jerusalem

Monday 14 March 2005, 19:43 Makka Time, 16:43 GMT

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has approved the final route of the illegal barrier around Jerusalem that will include Jewish settlements in parts of the West Bank, officials said.

The decision means the illegal barrier will engulf the whole city of Jerusalem and encompass Palestinian lands envisaged for a future state, including Arab east Jerusalem, the intended Palestinian capital.

The Israeli decision on the final route of the Jerusalem segment of the illegal barrier was made late on Sunday in a meeting of senior Cabinet ministers chaired by Sharon, said a senior Israeli government official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Under the plan the almost 80% of West Bank Jewish settlements would be engulfed by the internationally condemned separation wall.

Eleven crossings would be built into the barrier to allow access from the West Bank, and construction is to be completed by the end of the year, the official said.

Palestinian reaction

Palestinians say this decision will negatively affect an already fragile peace especially if Israel continues reneging on its agreements.

Palestinian Negotiations Minister Saib Uraiqat said the approval of the Jerusalem segment of the internationally condemned separation barrier could destroy efforts to revive talks.

"This is a policy of dictation and not negotiation," Uraiqat said. "This prejudges and prejudices the outcome of permanent status negotiations."

The barrier will include a portion of the Palestinian town of Bethlehem, south of Jerusalem, to include what Israeli officials say is a Jewish shrine.

US assurances

Israeli Vice Premier Ehud Olmert, who heads a ministerial committee on the Jerusalem barrier, did not refer directly to Sunday's meeting.

Asked by Israel Radio about the fate of the largest Jewish settlement in the West Bank, he said: "Does anyone have even the slightest doubt that Maaleh Adumim is an integral part of Israel?"

Olmert said he expected no opposition from the United States, pointing to assurances by President George Bush last year that any final Israeli-Palestinian peace deal would have to recognize what he called "demographic realities".

Israel understood that to mean that Bush supports Israel's plan to annex large Jewish settlements in the West Bank as part of any deal with the Palestinians.

Land Grab

Israel has cited security reasons for the building of the 8m-high, illegal separation wall.

John Dugard, the South African law professor charged with monitoring the West Bank and Gaza Strip by the UN Commission on Human Rights, said: "There is no compelling evidence that bombers could not have been as effectively prevented from entering Israel if the wall had been built along the Green Line – the accepted UN border between Israel and Palestine – or within the Israeli side of the Green Line."

Dugard dismissed Israel's alleged security reasons for the illegal barrier.

He highlighted that "rich agricultural land and water resources have been seized along the Green Line and incorporated into Israel".

Last summer, the General Assembly passed a resolution against the wall, and the International Court of Justice issued a non-binding ruling that the barrier is illegal and must be torn down.

Israel brushed off the resolution and rejected the courts decision.

Comment: So we see that, in all likelihood, Israel's stated reasons for building the wall, killing innocent Palestinian children and continuing to subject over 1 million Palestinians to extreme hardship, have NOTHING to do with preventing terrorism or protecting the Israeli people. So what IS the reason?

Clearly Sharon and his cohorts are working towards the implementation of a certain goal. It is obvious that long ago they gave up any notion of peace with Palestinians or a two state solution. Yet there remain over 1 million Palestinian people under Israeli guard in what is left of the Palestinian territories and in the lands that Israel has already annexed. It is troubling indeed to attempt to imagine just what Sharon may have in mind. What can he be planning to do with over a million people that he condemns as "terrorists"? Of course, his plan would be unviable if it were not for the massive help in the form of grants and military supplies that the Bush administration presents to Israel each year. There can be no doubt either that the controlling Neocons in Washington stand fully behind whatever outcome Sharon deems appropriate.

As the above report mentions, last year Bush declared that any final Israeli-Palestinian peace deal would have to recognize what he called "demographic realities". The issue however is that the "demographic realities" are being changed every day by the building of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. Following Bush's logic, with each new settlement that is erected on stolen land, the Palestinians will simply have to accept that this land is now Israel's. Which begs the question: what is to stop Sharon occupying ALL Palestinian lands and expelling the Palestinians?

While such a move is no doubt appealing to Sharon, it may also be unworkable because of the likely international criticism and repercussions it would provoke. No, in Sharon's mind there is only one viable solution, a solution that has served him well over the years: False Flag, but this time on a grand scale, perhaps a large scale attack in Tel Aviv that will justify massive retaliation against the Palestinian people, thereby implementing a "final solution" to a problem that has been bothering "the butcher" Sharon for years.

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Flashback: Global Eye

Friday, January 21, 2005
By Chris Floyd
Moscow Times

More than two years ago, we wrote here of a secret Pentagon plan to foment terrorism by sending covert agents to infiltrate terrorist groups and goad them into action -- in other words, committing acts of murder and destruction. The purpose was two-fold: first, to bring the terrorist groups into the open, where they could be counterattacked; and second, to justify U.S. military attacks on the countries where the terrorists were operating -- attacks which, in the Pentagon's words, would put those nations' "sovereignty at risk." It was a plan that countenanced -- indeed, encouraged -- the deliberate murder of innocent people and the imposition of U.S. military rule anywhere in the world that U.S. leaders desired.

This plan is now being activated.

In fact, it's being expanded, as The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh revealed last week. Not only will U.S.-directed agents infiltrate existing terrorist groups and provoke them into action, but the Pentagon itself will create its own terrorist groups and "death squads." After establishing their terrorist "credentials" through various atrocities and crimes, these American-run groups will then be able to ally with -- and ultimately undermine -- existing terrorist groups.

Top-level officials in the Pentagon, the U.S. intelligence services and the Bush administration confirmed to Hersh that the plan is going forward, under the direction of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- just as we noted here in November 2002. Through a series of secret executive orders, George W. Bush has given Rumsfeld the authority to turn the entire world into "a global free-fire zone," a top Pentagon adviser says. These secret operations will be carried out with virtually no oversight; in many cases, even the top military commanders in the affected regions will not be told about them. The American people, of course, will never know what's being done in their name. [...]

In our original report on the Pentagon's terror scheme, we wrote: "Bush and his cohorts are plunging the world into an abyss, an endless night of murder and terror -- wholesale, retail, state-sponsored, privatized; of fear and degradation, servility, chaos, and the perversion of all that's best in us." Now the night has come. Now the United States stands openly -- even proudly -- for terrorism, torture and the Hitlerian principle of aggressive war. America has fallen into the pit -- and the hopes of the world go with it.

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Chinese legislature passes law authorizing force against Taiwan
11:02 PM EST Mar 13
STEPHANIE HOO

BEIJING (AP) - China's national legislature Monday overwhelmingly approved a law authorizing a military attack to stop Taiwan from pursuing formal independence, a day after President Hu Jintao told the 2.5 million-member People's Liberation Army to be prepared for war.

The measure was approved by a vote of 2,896 to zero, with two abstentions at the closing session of the National People's Congress' annual meeting.

"We shall step up preparations for possible military struggle and enhance our capabilities to cope with crises, safeguard peace, prevent wars and win the wars if any," the official Xinhua news agency quoted Hu as saying Sunday. [...]

The anti-secession law passed Monday is aimed at discouraging Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory, from making its de facto independence permanent.

"We must always place the task of defending national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity and safeguarding the interests of national development above anything else," Xinhua quoted Hu as telling military delegates to the congress.

Taiwan's government has condemned the law, saying it risks raising tensions.

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian has said it "enables China to unilaterally decide Taiwan's future and ignore that Taiwanese have the right to choose a democratic and free lifestyle."

The United States would be Taiwan's most likely defender if China attacked. Washington is lobbying strongly against European Union plans to lift a 15-year-old arms Embargo against China, arguing that high-tech European weapons might be used against Taiwanese or U.S. forces.

Hu replaced Jiang as Communist party leader in 2002 and as president the next year, as power passed to a new generation of Chinese leaders. He succeeded Jiang as head of the party's military commission in September.

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North Korea warns US-SKorean military drill could result in 'actual war'
13 March 2005 1814 hrs - AFP

SEOUL : North Korea warned that annual US-South Korean military exercises due to start this week and designed to deter any military threat from the Stalinist country could turn into "an actual war".

The North's cabinet newspaper, Minju Joson, said the week-long military maneuvers beginning on March 19 in South Korea should be called off.

"There is no guarantee that the large-scale joint military exercises will not go over to an actual war," Minju Joson said in a commentary carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

"The US and the South Korean authorities should immediately cancel their plan for the provocative joint military exercises against (North Korea)."

The commentary said North Koreans would "wipe out all the aggressors" in the event of war.

Officials in Seoul and Washington have said the military drills are "purely defensive" and intended to check on the state of the US-South Korean military alliance.

The exercises come amid new diplomatic efforts to bring Pyongyang back into six-nation talks aimed at persuading it give up its nuclear weapons program.

They involve some of the US troops based here, thousands of US soldiers from abroad and South Korean military contingents.

The drills include mock battles aimed at evaluating command capabilities with troops mobilized for anti-commando operations and computer war games.

The USS Kitty Hawk, a US aircraft carrier based in Japan, will arrive in South Korea's southern port of Busan Monday for the exercises, the US military newspaper Stars and Stripes said Sunday.

Some 32,500 US troops are stationed in South Korea to help deter possible aggression from communist North Korea.

About 650,000 South Korean troops have been stationed against North Korea's 1.1-million-strong army on the Korean peninsula since the 1950-1953 Korean War.

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Radiation device 'lost or stolen' at Dounreay
By Rob Edwards, Environment Editor
13 March 2005

A DANGEROUS radioactive device that could be made into a dirty bomb has been lost by the Dounreay nuclear plant. Investigators suspect it may have been stolen or sent to a local waste dump.

A secret report obtained by the Sunday Herald reveals that safety and security procedures at the Caithness plant were so poor that it was "comparatively easy" for such devices to go missing. Controls, records and guidance were all "inadequate" and radiation monitoring equipment was broken.

The revelations were described yesterday as "horrifying but depressingly typical" by anti-nuclear campaigners. But they were dismissed as "scare stories from the past" by Dounreay's operator, the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA).

The device, known as a "radiation source", was lost in 1989 but government experts say it would still be radioactive enough today to give people who came into contact with it cancer and skin burns. Combined with a conventional explosive, it would also make an effective terrorist weapon.

Consisting of a steel tube and a glass bead of radioactive caesium-137, the device was used by Dounreay to test radiation alarms. According to the National Radiological Protection Board, it could still give people radiation doses a thousand times higher than background levels.

The radiation source was first reported missing on October 23, 1989, but it hadn't been seen for a month before that. Last week, in response to a request from the Sunday Herald, Dounreay released a copy of its internal report on the investigation into the loss.

The report said that the police were investigating the possibility that the source had been stolen. "If the source has been removed illegally for some purpose it could be anywhere on or off site," it warned.

The report also highlighted the possibility that the source had been thrown unnoticed into an industrial waste skip at Dounreay and then taken to be dumped at Langlands Quarry, a landfill site near Thurso that was formerly used by the UKAEA.

A search of the site, however, found "no evidence" of the missing source. "It is concluded that it is not close to the surface and will not irradiate anyone visiting the tip if the tip is left undisturbed," the report said.

The report, dated October 1989 and marked "in confidence", was very critical of safety procedures at the time. "The control and recording of source use and storage were inadequate," it concluded.
Although the lead pot in which the source was kept was checked as present every working day, its contents were not. This was "not untypical", the report said.

"This then makes it comparatively easy for a source to go missing and not be discovered for some time."

Intensive efforts were made to locate the radiation source at the time, all without success. Ground, skips and vehicles were surveyed, buildings were searched, staff were questioned and a photograph was sent to the local newspaper.

Faltering attempts were made to step up the monitoring of vehicles leaving Dounreay's Fuel Cycle Area (FCA) where the loss occurred. "The police are supposed to check every tenth vehicle with a neutron and gamma monitor but it transpired that the two neutron monitors had flat batteries and the two gamma monitors were being repaired," the report disclosed.

"The police were asked to monitor every vehicle exiting the FCA. They initially did not do so since they stated this would require two men and they did not have the resources." [...]

As the Sunday Herald predicted two years ago, Dounreay is now facing prosecution for leaking hundreds of thousands of radioactive particles into the sea and onto beaches. But it is unlikely to end up in court for losing the radiation source because that occurred while the plant was still protected by Crown immunity.

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Zarqawi taking aim at 'soft targets' in US
14 March 2005 0312 hrs - AFP

WASHINGTON : Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is planning attacks on "soft targets" in the United States, including "movie theaters, restaurants and schools," according to reported comments by a former top aide to the Islamic extremist.

The comments, cited in a restricted bulletin sent out to US security agencies and published by Time magazine on its website Sunday, come two weeks after intelligence officials confirmed that Osama bin Laden had sent a message to Jordanian-born Zarqawi, urging Al-Qaeda's frontman in Iraq to plan attacks on US soil.

US intelligence officials who have interrogated the aide told the news magazine that Zarqawi, the most wanted man in Iraq, has also talked about entering the United States through its leaky southern border, by obtaining a visa to Honduras and then traveling across Mexico.

Zarqawi's aide also reportedly told interrogators that attacks on US targets might already have begun if not for a lack of "willing martyrs."

Time said US authorities remain vigilant, and reported that security sources sent out two nationwide bulletins last week warning of a nonspecific threat to railroads in Detroit, Michigan, and Los Angeles.

For several months, most claims of attacks carried out by the insurgency in Iraq, dominated by supporters of the former Baathist regime, have been issued by groups purportedly linked to Zarqawi's network.

Washington is offering a 25 million dollar bounty for Zarqawi's capture.

Stephen Hadley, the White House national security adviser, said Sunday that while he would not directly comment on reports about the restricted bulletin because of its classified nature, Zarqawi remains very much on the minds of US authorities.

"About two weeks ago, we were very clear that we were concerned about reports, which we think are very credible, that the Zarqawi organization has moved even closer to Osama bin Laden's organization, and that one of the tasks Osama bin Laden has given for Zarqawi's organization, to look at targets in the US homeland," he told CNN.

"We know that Al-Qaeda has not given up their aspirations to attack targets in the homeland," he said, adding that the soft targets in the report "are the kinds of targets we know that Al-Qaeda has traditionally been concerned about."

Hadley added however: "At this point sitting here (we) do not have evidence of a specific operation by Zarqawi's organization targeting those kinds of targets."

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Man, in his 60s, 'beheaded' in north London street

14/03/2005

A man in his 60s has been beheaded after being attacked in a north London street, police have said.

Reuters

It is believed the victim was attacked with an axe in Eton Avenue, Swiss Cottage.

Police were called to the scene at 9.38am this morning to reports of a "serious assault in progress".

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "On arrival officers found the body of a man in his 60s with severe head injuries."

Sources said the victim had not been completely beheaded.

A man in his 30s was arrested at the scene and is now in custody at Holborn police station.

It is understood that several people witnessed the attack, which was still in progress when police were called.

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Two injured by booby-trapped candle in Italian church: police
14 March 2005 0104 hrs

ROME : A booby-trapped electric candle exploded during Sunday mass in a church in northern Italy injuring two people, including a six-year-old girl, in an attack police linked with Italy's "Unabomber".

Police said a woman and a six-year-old girl were injured in the blast, which happened at the end of mass when the church in the town of Motta di Livenza, north of Venice was still full of Sunday worshippers.

The girl received injuries to an eye and a hand and was flown to hospital in Pordenone where she underwent surgery to save her hand. The woman was released from hospital after treatment for a facial injury. A third person was treated for shock.

Police said the modus operandi of the bomber matched that of the so-called "Unabomber", an anonymous bomber who has terrorized Italy's northwest with a series of explosions, mainly involving booby-trapped consumer items in supermarkets, for over a decade. Several people have been injured, some seriously.

"Unabomber for us today represents one of the most dangerous terrorists and sooner or later someone will die," said Italy's Reform Minister Roberto Calderoli said. [...]

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Strong quake rattles New Zealand
March 14, 2005 - 10:49AM

A magnitude 6.4 earthquake shook central New Zealand early today, waking people and tossing items from shelves emergency services reported.

The strong quake was centred in the Tasman Sea 160 kilometres north-west of the capital, Wellington. The quake, 150 kilometres below the surface, hit at 4.08am local time reported the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences.

The offshore quake did not generate a tsunami in the Tasman Sea, which lies to the west of New Zealand, separating it from Australia.

Emergency services said they had received some reports of items falling from shelves as the quake rocked commercial buildings and houses across a wide area, but no reports of injuries.

Police reported the tremor was felt from New Plymouth on North Island's west coast and across central New Zealand to Christchurch on South Island's east coast.

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Islanders assess damage as cyclone heads to sea
March 14, 2005 - 12:02PM

Destructive tropical cyclone Ingrid is moving off the Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin, and out to sea, the Bureau of Meteorology said today.

Darwin experienced strong winds overnight, but was spared the brunt of the cyclone as it passed further north than originally projected.

Residents of the Tiwi Islands - Melville and Bathurst Islands,  80km north of Darwin - were today assessing the damage after a violent encounter with the category three storm overnight.

Northern Territory Police Darwin region controller Commander Max Pope said many large trees had been uprooted on the islands, with some buildings damaged by high winds and fallen debris.

However, there were no reports of injuries.

Communication and power was cut last night, and many of the islands' 4,000 residents waited out the fierce storm in emergency shelters in the community sport and recreation halls, health clinics and schools.

Commander Pope said it was uncertain when power and communications would be restored. [...]

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Melting of Himalayan glaciers may spark regional water shortages: WWF
14 March 2005 0844 hrs

GENEVA : Global warming is causing Himalayan glaciers to rapidly retreat, threatening to cause water shortages for hundreds of millions of people who rely on glacier-dependent rivers in China, India and Nepal, WWF warned on Monday.

The warning by the global conservation group comes as WWF released a new report which it said exposes the rate of retreat of Himalayan glaciers accelerating as global warming increases.

The report indicates glaciers in the region - which represent the greatest concentration of ice on the planet after the Arctic poles - are now receding at an average rate of 10 to 15 metres (33 feet) per year.

"The rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers will first increase the volume of water in rivers, causing widespread flooding," said Jennifer Morgan, director of the World Wide Fund for Nature's Global Climate Change Programme in a statement.

"But in a few decades this situation will change and the water level in rivers will decline, meaning massive economic and environmental problems for people in western China, Nepal and northern India."

Himalayan glaciers feed into seven of Asia's greatest rivers - the Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, Salween, Mekong, Yangtze and Yellow rivers - ensuring a year-round water supply to hundreds of millions of people in the Indian subcontinent and China. [...]

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Drought leaves 50,000 people facing starvation in Indonesia: officials
Associated Press
March 13, 2005

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - As many as 50,000 villagers are on the brink of starvation because of severe drought in Indonesia's remote southeast, local officials said Sunday.

Poor harvests from a lack of rainfall threaten about 33,000 people in Lembata district in the province of East Nusatenggara, while 17,000 others in Solor district have run out of food, the district chiefs said.

"These villages are already poor," said Felix Fernandes, chief of Solor district. "Hundreds of hectares of corn and rice fields are parched because of no rain in the past months."

Andreas Dulimanuk, chief of Lembata district, said food aid was urgently needed to head off famine. The provincial government has distributed 45 tons of rice, but it wasn't sufficient, he said.

Dulimanuk said no deaths have been reported so far but added "the villagers are being threatened by starvation."

The drought-affected areas are located about 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) southeast of the capital, Jakarta.

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Ten more cases of humans with bird flu in Viet Nam
12 March 2005

The Ministry of Health in Viet Nam has today confirmed an additional 10 cases of human infection with H5N1 avian influenza. Today's report is an official notification to WHO of some recent cases, whose infection was detected in March, combined with retrospective notification of older cases, some of which date back to late January. Of these newly reported cases, three have been fatal.

This notification of cases follows new reporting procedures established within the Ministry of Health in collaboration with WHO staff in Hanoi.

Today's official report brings the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases in Viet Nam, detected since mid-December 2004, to 24. Of these, 13 have been fatal. [...]

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A meteor, an outage, a quake, all in a night
By ATHIMA CHANSANCHAI
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
Monday, March 14, 2005

Washington residents who looked up at the sky Saturday night saw a great ball of fire ignite the sky. When they went back inside their homes, some of them found only darkness -- and no power.

Seattle utilities officials said it was just a coincidence.

"The power outages that affected the Queen Anne and Magnolia areas had nothing to do with any other phenomena," Sharon Bennett, spokeswoman for Seattle City Light, said yesterday.

Also unrelated to the fireball was the small earthquake that struck the Olympia area Saturday night, experts said.

Scientists said observers saw a fireball -- a large meteor -- streak through the sky across the western half of the Pacific Northwest shortly before 8 p.m. Saturday. The Federal Aviation Administration's regional office in Renton and local television stations reported calls from people from southern Oregon to Seattle.

The object zoomed over the Pacific Ocean, traveling from south to north, and likely disintegrated before any fragments fell into the Pacific.

Adding to the post-meteor buzz was another coincidence that lit up phone lines across the Northwest: A coal plant in Montana tripped off a power line at about the same time, causing lights in Seattle to flicker.

As for the larger outage, Bennett said a cable from a Broad Street substation failed, causing electricity to go out on street lights, the Ballard Bridge and in Queen Anne, Magnolia, Westlake and 15th Avenue West. The outage lasted from about 8:10 to 9:30 p.m. and affected 3,000 customers.

Meanwhile, a 3.3-magnitude quake occurred about 15 miles north of Olympia before 8 p.m. Saturday, seismologists said. Some Olympia residents suspected a connection to the fireball.

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Air Pollution - Killing Us Softly And Quietly

By Rafael Castillo, MD
Philippine Daily Inquirer News Service
3-12-5

'...6,000 TONS of particulates, chemicals and other pollutants are emitted DAILY by metropolitan Manila's two to three million vehicles, hundreds of factories, and households.'

The indidence of respiratory tract infections (RTIs) is still increasing. If one looks at the records in many hospital ERs (emergency rooms) in Metro Manila, RTI is one of the leading causes for hospital admissions. If you blame it on the changing weather or the high pollen count this time of year, you're probably barking up the wrong tree. Stand at any intersection of Edsa and you'll know the answer.

Without realizing its real and imminent dangers, many residents in Metro Manila and other key cities including Baguio, which was previously thought to be a pristine city with fresh air, are making a difficult decision to stay. Many are not aware that unless something is done about the pollution problem, many parts of these cities will no longer be fit for human habitation in a decade or two.

The warning signs are familiar to all those who live in cities where the air is polluted: aching backs, wheezing, coughing, headache, dizziness and a myriad of other symptoms. Millions of Metro Manila residents breathe dirty air every day of the year.

Health concerns (asthma, other lung infections, heart problems, cancers, central nervous system damage and lowered IQs) increasingly affect people from all walks of life. It is a growing health hazard that has reached monstrous proportions. It is a true epidemic like no other plague we've seen before. And no community within the metropolis is immune from the growing threat of Metro Manila's degraded air quality.

Dirty City

World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Environment Program (Unep) studies show that Metro Manila's air shed is one of the five dirtiest and most polluted in the world, topped only by the metropolitan areas of Mexico City, Shanghai and New Delhi.

Reports indicate that 6,000 tons of particulates, chemicals and other pollutants are emitted daily by Metro Manila's two to three million vehicles, hundreds of factories, and households.

In March 1999, the British Medical Journal quoted Dr. Miguel Celdran, a pediatrician at the Makati Medical Center, who said: "About 90 percent of my patients have respiratory illness, and we're seeing babies as young as two months suffering from asthma. Twenty years ago, this was unheard of."

A survey by the Philippine Pediatric Society, which asked doctors to describe the most common illnesses that they treat, received the same response in every case: diseases of the upper respiratory tract.

Urine samples from children living and begging on the polluted streets showed that at least 7 percent had high lead concentrations.

Increased Traffic

In 1997, a technical study financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) showed that air pollution in Metro Manila had reached critical proportions. The reasons are a 10 percent annual growth rate in the vehicle fleet, increased traffic, poor traffic planning that reduced speeds and escalated commuting times, and poorly tuned motors that ran unnecessary extra hours, in effect multiplying the pollutants being released into the air.

Other sources of air pollution include power plants, industries, restaurants and dry cleaning establishments.

Metro Manila's air quality crisis grows in scale daily. Vehicle densities, for instance, have increased from 675,310 in 1990, to 1.2 million in 1998, to over 2 million in 2001. Vehicle density in Metro Manila has gone from 1,600 per km2 in 1995 to 3,144 per km2 in 2000, and at an accelerating rate of growth. There is a direct correlation between the number of cars on the road and the amount of pollution in the air.

There are other sources of pollutants: power plants, dust from continuous street diggings, solvent evaporation, and ozone.

Despite the completion of the second elevated light rail system, there has been little effort to reduce the 500 or so bus companies operating some 5,000 plus diesel-spewing buses on Metro Manila's roadways or to relocate any of the bus terminals that clog Edsa.

And with any level of economic growth-welcome news for sure-will come increased transport demands in the city.

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Apocalypse now (again)

By Robert Matthews
13/03/2005

If you don't like scary stories at bedtime, make yourself a milky drink and turn in before 9 o'clock tonight.

Then you won't lose any sleep over the drama-documentary being screened on BBC1 about the latest - and scariest - Threat to Civilisation As We Know It.

Those who do summon up the courage to watch will see how humans struggle to cope if disaster strikes and the Earth's crust breaks apart in a super-eruption, releasing a colossal flood of lava and ash.

Or, rather, when disaster strikes, for according to -scientists featured in the documentary on BBC2 following tonight's opening episode, such a catastrophe has happened before and will happen again.

Around 74,000 years ago, a super-eruption tore a 60-mile wide hole out of the Earth in northern Sumatra, and blasted 10 trillion tons of ash into the air. Day turned to night, temperatures plunged and the human race was driven to the edge of extinction.

Tonight's drama focuses on events following the discovery of tell-tale signs of a super-eruption beginning under America's Yellowstone Park - the site of three such cataclysms in the past two million years. And according to the scientists, we may be overdue for another one.

Yet we are no more able to prevent it than our ancestors. [...]

According to Dr Peiser, global geophysical events - known as "Gee-Gees" among researchers - such as super-eruptions and tsunamis are a case in point. "I have looked into the biggest threats society has faced over the past 3,000 years, and the result is quite unambiguous," he says. "The most serious are the standard ones: epidemics, mass starvation, war and genocide."

The lesson for anyone who can't sleep after watching tonight's drama is clear. It's not computer simulations of Gee-Gees we should worry about, but the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

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'Ghosts' scare off Malawi leader
BBC
Footsteps and other strange noises reportedly disturbed Mutharika
Ghosts - some taking the form of rodents - have forced the president of Malawi to move out of his state mansion, officials have said.

Bingu wa Mutharika has been sleeping away from the 300-room building in the capital, Lilongwe, and only comes there to work during the day, an aide said.

Christian clergy have been asked to help exorcise the "evil spirits" there.

Controversy has raged over the costly palace which housed parliament until Mr Mutharika's election last year.

"The president is no longer staying there and we have asked clerics from several Christian churches... to pray for the New State House to exorcise evil spirits," said Malani Mtonga, the presidential aide for religious affairs.

Another aide who did not want to be named told the Associated Press: "Sometimes the president feels rodents crawling all over his body but when lights are turned on he sees nothing."

Mr Mutharika is believed to be staying temporarily at another palace in Mtunthama, about 100km (60 miles) from Lilongwe.

'Obscene opulence'

Critics have accused him of going back on election promises to trim government spending in the impoverished state.

MPs are having to rent a venue for when parliament reconvenes at the end of March, after a gap of six months.

At one stage, it appeared they might have to meet in a sports stadium and parliamentary committees have met in a motel.

The president justified his decision to evict parliament by arguing that the New State House had originally been built as a presidential residence.

Kamuzu Banda, Malawi's founding president, spent only 90 days in the palace which took 20 years to build and cost $100m.

With its 300 air-conditioned rooms, it is set in 555 hectares (1,332 acres) of land outside the capital.

When Bakili Muluzi, Mr Mutharika's predecessor, came to power in 1994 he refused to live there, condemning its "obscene opulence".

Instead, he used the Sanjika Palace in Malawi's commercial capital, Blantyre.

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