Saturday, March 26, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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Pinellas County Sheriff's deputies, and Pinellas Park, Fla., police officers arrest 10-year-old Joshua Heldreth, of Charlotte, N.C., for trespassing on Woodside Hospice property in Pinellas park, Fla. Heldreth was attempting to bring Terri Schiavo a glass of water.
(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

The Politics of Terri Schiavo
SOTT Editorial
Ignacius O Reilly
They come along periodically and generally we ignore them here on the Signs page. They are sensationalist, emotionally gripping, they pander to the population's penchant for a lurid peek at the details of the lives of their fellow citizens. While there have been a number of "right to die" cases that have grabbed the headlines over the past few decades, few have been as widely publicized and debated as the poignant and disturbing case of Terri Schiavo.

Schiavo suffered severe brain damage in 1990 when a chemical imbalance allegedly brought on by an eating disorder caused her heart to stop beating for a few minutes. Since then, her parents and family members say that she has often responded to stimulus and is obviously aware of her surroundings. Her husband, Michael Schiavo, refutes this, claiming that his wife is essentially dead and should be allowed to die rather than kept alive artificially. The most remarkable aspect of the entire case is that there is yet to be an official proclamation on Terri's exact status which might resolve the matter once and for all. Part of the problem it seems is that Terri's husband has almost complete control over what happens to his wife, including rights to any doctors reports or photographs or footage of her. To date Michael Schiavo has forbidden the release of any images or footage of Terri that might suggest that she is in fact responding to stimulus.

Added to this is speculation that there may be more than a desire to fulfill his wife's wishes in Michael Schiavo's insistence that Terri be "allowed to die". It is true that Michael Schiavo's reason for insisting that his wife's feeding tube be removed is somewhat unreasonable. While he claims that he is simply committed to fulfilling his wife's wishes to "not be kept artificially alive", there is no way to prove that Terri expressed such a wish other than the word of her husband.

Certainly it seems that there was no love lost between the couple. Within a few months of Terri's accident, Michael Schiavo was openly living with another woman. He is also on record as asking about his incapacitated wife: "is the bitch dead yet?" Terri Schiavo's parents have also sought the advice of a psychiatrist who has determined that Michael Schiavo fits the profile of "men who exhibit pathology in their relationships with women" and even the offer of $1million was not enough to entice him to transfer rights to Terri's parents.

Of course, the Bush administration immediately recognised the Schiavo case as an opportunity to acquire some political capital. President Bush personally intervened signing an extraordinary law allowing a federal court to intervene in the case. Bush, in a written statement, promised to "stand on the side of those defending life for all Americans. The law signed by Bush gave Schiavo's parents the right to file suit in federal court over the withdrawal of nourishment and medical treatment needed to sustain their daughter. We suspect that Bush specified "Americans" in his statement to avoid having to answer difficult questions about the US military's clear disregard for non-American life in other parts of the world. In this case however, the subservience that Bush has in the past commanded from the US justice system, particularly in getting Florida judges to appoint him President in 2000, was not forthcoming, and his intervention came to naught.

The clear implication of course is that Bush's intervention was nothing more than a charade designed to promote his "caring nature" in the minds of the American people. There is also the possibility that this was an effort to use the President's "apparent" powerlessness against the US courts as a way to leverage public support for the concentration of even more power in the hands of the fascists currently occupying the White House. Perhaps Dubya will get to be "Furher" after all.

We should not forget that, as a general rule, such widely publicized and emotionally charged episodes occur when the American government is up to no good, either at home or abroad, and need to keep the American people's attention focused elsewhere. In this case, while the attention of those Americans who still maintain the capacity to think for themselves is trained on events in Florida, two US aircraft carriers are steaming towards the Persian Gulf, to join the one already stationed there. Iran has no nukes, there is no reason for either an Israeli or US attack on Tehran, but when no one is watching, who needs a reason?

We do, however, sympathise with the difficult choice that confronted Karl "Daddy Bear" Rove over the Schiavo affair. What to do? If he opted to allow Bush to override the US courts and "heroically save" Schiavo's life, he would surely have increased the President's approval rating among the American people, but then the whole show would have been over and forgotten within a few days. On the other hand, if he instructed Bush to ignore the matter and allow the injustice and brutality of the US justice system to work its magic thereby prolonging the time in which the American people were engrossed in the "Schiavo affair", he risked damaging the President's carefully crafted image as a "respecter of human life". In the end he found a way to enjoy the benefits of both approaches - Bush gets to appear as if he tried his best to save Terri, and Terri gets to starve to death slowly, with the American people watching on, unaware that, far from their gaze, the seeds of their own demise are being carefully sown in the Middle East.

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The Politics of Death
SOTT Editorial
Kingsley Marea

Death is all around us. It is the one certainty that we all face. We will not know how or when, whether we will be old enough to have a family and children, or so old that our last years are spent in some form of delirium. Will our death be quick and painless or drawn-out and painful? Will it be natural or due to war?

Many people are afraid of death. They refuse to think about it. Is it death of which they are afraid or is it the idea of a long and painful death, of suffering? The young believe themselves immortal. Unless they are surrounded by death in their daily lives, such as the children and young men and women of Iraq or Palestine, it has no reality.

But what is it that dies?

If you believe that there is no eternal spark within, then you consider that it is your body with which you have so long identified, YOU yourself, that dies, you who have been the centre of your universe for your entire life. You cease to exist. It is what the Tradition calls the Personality that dies, the temporary superstructure erected over the soul in each life.

But if there is a divine spark, a piece of you that is directly connected with the Creative force that engendered all of Creation, that spark would continue to exist.

Unfortunately, under Christianity, we have been told all sorts of stories about God in his white robes and long white beard, sitting on his throne, waiting to judge us. We have heard stories of angels and their harps, the most infantile paradise imaginable, awaiting us. Death has been ridiculed and shut off in a land of make-believe at the same time that it has taken over our television screens and movie theatres. It has been drained of all meaning.

Why is it that science has sectioned off the question of Death as a legitimate field of inquiry, leaving it to the priests and other religious leaders?

Boris Mouravieff writes:

Homo Sapiens lives immersed in his everyday life to a point where he forgets himself and forgets where he is going; yet, without feeling it, he knows that death cuts off everything.

How can we explain that the intellectual who has made marvelous discoveries and the technocrat who has exploited them have left outside the field of their investigations the ending of our lives? How can we explain that a science which attempts everything and claims everything nevertheless remains indifferent to the enigma revealed by the question of death? How can we explain why Science, instead of uniting its efforts with its older sister Religion to resolve the problem of Being -which is also the problem of death -has in fact opposed her?

Whether a man dies in bed or aboard an interplanetary ship, the human condition has not changed in the slightest.

[...] Here we are touching on the great problem of Death. The more man identifies himself with his Personality, the less he thinks of death. Contrary to all evidence as he sees everything die all around him, man has no spontaneous feeling of his mortality. Though gifted with fertile imagination, man can conceive of his own death only with difficulty. An effort is needed in order to come to the idea of one's own death, and to create its image. All man can imagine in this respect is to evoke the image of his own corpse: he can never exclude from this representation the observer who contemplates this image. This fact is known, and certain authors have seen it as proof of our immortality. There is in this a fragment of truth. Without his being aware of it, the mental effort of representing his own death detaches man a little, unaccountably not only from identification with his own body, but also from his Personality- so that he identifies himself, partially and for a few instants, with his real 'I'. Otherwise, the latter remains neglected, generally forgotten somewhere in the deepest parts of our waking consciousness -which is the consciousness of the' I' of our Personality, accompanied by the consciousness of the 'I' of the body.

This exercise is useful and even necessary. In Esoteric Orthodoxy, it is imposed on students together with the prayer of Jesus as a daily exercise, under the title of remembrance of death. Death is the only real and unique event which happens to us without fail. In other words, constantly bearing in mind the idea of death approaching nearer every day is a concrete means of facing an implacable reality -before which all the joys and all the worries of the Personality fade. It is thus that one learns that in effect: 'all is vanity and torments of the mind.'

Death is with us daily in our newspapers and in the nightly news. Not the glorious deaths from Hollywood, but the heart-rending deaths of innocents around the world. In most cases, it is ignored. Then, as this past December when over 200,000 people died in an instant, the press and the politicians wake up. Death by attrition isn't news. Death by catastrophe is.

The past two weeks have seen death in the headlines once again, although this time for a completely different cause. The Christian Right in the US has been mobilising over the right to life of Terri Schiavo, the woman who has spent 15 years on life support. President George Bush has stepped into the fray to turn the issue into a political football with which he can score points. It has also served as a diversion away from the realities of the Middle East.

We have not studied the documents of this case in any detail. It is therefore difficult to come to any conclusions about which side is correct. We can however raise some questions that we think are worthy of answers.

First, if Terri Schiavo is still alive it is due to the progress in modern science and technology. Clearly, both fields progress in a mechanical way that ignores the question of the spirit. Advances come with no thought to their application. Most scientists feel that it is not in their domain to worry about these uses; they are simply adding to the store of human knowledge. In a society where the evolution of the human soul was seen as the purpose of life, science and technology would have a different form because the scientists doing that science would be different. Their BEing would be different and so the products of their Creativity would BE different as well.

Second, the husband has legal authority over the life of his wife. There is some evidence that indicates that Mr. Schiavo is more interested in getting rid of a burden than in the best interests of his wife.

Third, the patient's parents are willing to take over the care of their daughter. Why would Mr. Schiavo prevent that? Why did Mr. Schiavo never give his wife any of the therapy that might have permitted her to learn to do some basic functions such as eating? The care of his wife does not seem uppermost in his mind.

Four, why has the Bush family, from Florida governor Jeb to president George, decided that this case is worth pushing into the headlines? Given GW's record on the death penalty, his willingness to sacrifice innocent lives for his political agenda, and his inclusion in a clause of his famous 1999 bill on unplugging patients in Texas the stipulation that one of the criteria to be included in making the decision was the ability of someone to pay for the continued maintenance of life. Right to life or right to profits? Which do you think is uppermost in Bush's thoughts? We think the real reason is definitely not a concern over life. We speculate below that the rationale given by the Bush's that they can not intervene because "their hands are tied" may well be the first step in passing legislation that would free up those hands to override state laws and the courts. Might the Schiavo case be the first step in consolidating even more power in Bush's hands?

The life and death of Terri Schiavo has become a religious and a political question, but it is anchored in a religion and a politics that guarantees death. The world scene shows us that Bush's politics are the politics of entropy, guiding the world towards war, climate change, and a rendezvous with catastrophe. The politics of fundamentalist Christianity push in the same direction: towards the End Times and the Second Coming of Jesus. The life of one woman is of no importance to the people elaborating either of these scenarios, scenarios that are, in fact, one and the same.

To view the life of Terri Schiavo from the point of view of the evolution of the soul is difficult. Why is she confronting this situation? How did her life end up in the hands of someone else, a man who obviously does not love her? What is she learning from this experience, from passing fifteen years bedridden and obliged to rely on someone else for all of her needs?

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Doctors are simply ignored
Posted 3/22/2005
By Marc Siegel
Terri Schiavo has lingered for 15 years in what many neurologists call a persistent vegetative state. Because the public has seen her plight largely through a political prism — right to life vs. right to die — core medical issues have been overlooked and distorted.

Regardless of where one stands on this issue, as a physician, I'm disturbed that the medicine of this case has become an afterthought. Doctors have become the medical marionettes as the courts and attorneys pull the strings.

Though most end-of-life specialists are willing to remove feeding tubes, many of the rest of us — physicians who treat severely disabled patients — are not. The only consensus in the medical community on this issue is that we should be consulted, not expected to blindly follow judicial decrees.

Much has been made about the fact that Schiavo's life lacks quality, but this assertion is not a permission slip to end it. The pathway to death should not be inhumane just because more humane choices, such as physician- assisted suicide, are not legal. Because she breathes on her own and is not in apparent pain, there is no quick or rational way to end her life. Until there is, we should let her live.

Most neurologists would contend that Schiavo cannot feel anything, even pain or thirst. The problem with this assertion is that no one has come back from such a state of neurological impairment to verify or dispute this contention. She reportedly lacks upper brain function, meaning her thinking centers are still, but it cannot be proved that the lower brain would not allow her to feel discomfort.

I recall one brain-damaged patient in my hospital practice, not quite as sick as Terri, who did wake up. Initially, his eyes were open, but he didn't respond. For months, he was fed through a tube, until the day when his heart rate began to subtly increase whenever his family visited. A few months later, he was conversing and eventually was discharged to resume his life as a waiter in a restaurant where he had been the chef.

Could Terri be blessed with such an outcome? There's no indication from the court-appointed physicians that she could. Even so, the contrast is a useful reminder that each case should be weighed on its own merits — the medical ones, not solely the legal ones.

Drawing a line in which one life has quality and another doesn't is contentious enough, but extending this to an initiative to withdraw nutrition is a legal move that doesn't adequately consider the medicine. Even if Terri had a living will, many physicians would still not feel comfortable executing it in this manner. It shouldn't be assumed that doctors can simply be ordered to starve their patients.

It is generally accepted that a physician's role in health care is to prolong life or relieve undue suffering. The only time a true medical debate emerges is when these two roles come into conflict. The Schiavo case is not such a time. It is difficult to argue for euthanasia because she does not appear to be suffering. Working to prolong her life simply means providing nutrition, which physicians usually do without endless debate.

The case of a terminal cancer patient, for instance, is quite different because, by increasing morphine, a physician may legitimately choose relieving suffering over prolonging life. Treating cancer, a doctor can sometimes justify ending a pain-wracked life.

The most disturbing aspect of the Schiavo case is that the doctors are portrayed as those who will simply abide by the final decision and either put the tube back in or keep it out — a job for a medical yo-yo rather than a professional. But doctors are not court-appointed mechanics. Our own code of ethics and standards must drive us. Removing feeding tubes is not part of my job description. It should not be part of a physician's job at a Florida hospice either.

This doesn't mean that I'm against hastening death to reduce suffering. In certain cases — use of pain medications to treat the terminally ill, for instance — such actions might be warranted. But the end in any case would be rapid and controlled by medication.

In the Schiavo case, a physician removing a feeding tube of a patient who does not appear to be suffering could lead to a protracted, uncomfortable death. This would undermine a physician's basic role — first, do no harm — as suggested by the Hippocratic Oath.

Marc Siegel is a clinical associate professor of medicine at New York University.

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Documents in the Schiavo Case
Some News Source

The following documents have been collected from case evidence, testimony and other sources in the public record.

These items give significant illustration that the circumstances surrounding Terri's collapse may be suspect and that the following actions by the guardian should be investigated.

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Schiavo's Parents Nearly Out of Options

Mar 24, 2005

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. (AP) - With Terri Schiavo visibly drawing closer to death, her parents were rebuffed by the U.S. Supreme Court and judges in Florida on Thursday in their battle to reinsert their brain-damaged daughter's feeding tube.

Bob and Mary Schindler held onto the slim hope that Gov. Jeb Bush would somehow find a way to intervene or a federal judge who had turned them down before would see things their way. But Bush warned that he was running out of options.[...]

"The real grievance is not they (the Schindlers) did not have a day in court, that they did not have due process," Felos said. "The real grievance is they disagree with the result." [...]

The dispute has led to what may be the longest, most heavily litigated right- to-die case in U.S. history.

The U.S. Supreme Court, without explanation, refused Thursday to order the feeding tube reinserted. The case worked its way through the federal courts and reached the Supreme Court after Congress passed an extraordinary law over the weekend to let the Schindlers take their case to federal court.

Later Thursday, Pinellas County Circuit Judge George Greer declined to hear Bush's new allegations that Schiavo was neglected and abused, and that her diagnosis as being in a persistent vegetative state may be wrong.

"The requested intervention ... appears to be brought for the purpose of circumventing the courts' final judgment and order setting the removal date in violation of the separation of powers doctrine," Greer wrote.

Bush appealed that decision to the 2nd District Court of Appeal. The Florida Supreme Court later declined to take up a separate appeal of a Greer injunction that blocked the state's social services agency from taking temporary custody of Schiavo while challenges are argued. State law allows the Department of Children & Families to act in emergency situations of adult abuse.

Also Thursday, the department filed another petition before Greer seeking to provide emergency protective services for Schiavo. Greer had not scheduled a hearing, but he indicated one could occur Monday, according to Bush's office.

Even before the flurry of adverse court rulings, the governor acknowledged Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press that his hands were increasingly tied.

"It is frustrating for people to think that I have power that I don't, and not be able to act," Bush said. "I don't have embedded special powers. I wish I did in this particular case."

In his decision, Greer said an affidavit from a neurologist who believes that Schiavo is "minimally conscious" was not enough to set aside his decision to allow the withdrawal of food and water.

"By clear and convincing evidence, it was determined she did not want to live under such burdensome conditions and that she would refuse such medical treatment-assistance," Greer wrote.

Comment: There are a couple of very important issues in this situation that may bear on all Americans in days to come. First note what the judge has rightly pointed out: "The requested intervention ... appears to be brought for the purpose of circumventing the courts' final judgment and order setting the removal date in violation of the separation of powers doctrine," as opposed to what Governor Jeb Bush has said: "It is frustrating for people to think that I have power that I don't, and not be able to act," Bush said. "I don't have embedded special powers. I wish I did in this particular case."

Now, put those two items together and what do you have? You have a platform for sweeping changes leading to a dictatorship that has the power to override the Rule of Law and place final, totalitarian powers in the hands of a single individual.

It certainly doesn't seem that the current administration "planned" this one, but their use of it is evident. Michael Schiavo and the Evil Judges are playing "bad cop" and the Bush Brothers and their neocon allies are playing "good cop."

Anyone who has not read the complete court case is not in a position to make any judgements about it, including us here at SotT. We do, however, deplore the fact that has been publicized, that Terri Schiavo was never given any therapy. Certainly, if she could eat on her own (and no therapy to help her do so has ever been given), the entire problem would be solved. That, in itself, is questionable.

We have looked at the videos of Terri "responding" to her parents. These videos do seem to show some level of awareness, but again, it is difficult to know if there is full consciousness functioning inside that simply cannot master the controls of the body, or if the minimal functioning is evidence of minimal consciousness. The fact is, if Terri Schiavo has full consciousness trapped in a damaged physical body that she cannot control, it would be a terrible tragedy for her to have to continue to live for years and years in that state of imprisonment. Who, in the final analysis, would want to live that way?

On the other hand, what parent could bear to let the ruins of a beloved child go? How many of us have sufficient faith in the existence of consciousness to be able to give honor to the eternal spirit and set it free at the expense of losing the "object" of that spirit's manifestation which we cling to so desperately for our OWN needs?

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The Politicization of Terri Schiavo
The Progress Report
March 21, 2005.

A brain-damaged woman's tragic case is being used as an opportunity for political grandstanding.

Just like countless other families, the family of Terri Schiavo has struggled for years with the intensely difficult decision of how to match her course of treatment to her wishes.

Comment: We would like to point out that Terri's case is slightly different because her parents and her husband have been battling over what her REAL wishes might be. Thus far, it is only Michael Schiavo's word we have to go on, and his word doesn't seem to be worth much when all the evidence is considered.

Now President George W. Bush, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) are using the tragic case of Schiavo ­ a severely brain-damaged woman who has been incapacitated for the past 15 years ­ as an opportunity for political grandstanding.

A memo, which the AP reports was distributed by Senate leadership to right- wing members, called Schiavo "a great political issue" and urged senators to talk about her because "the pro-life base will be excited."

Over the weekend, DeLay and Frist held special sessions of Congress to facilitate passage of a bill that would allow a federal court to overturn years of Florida jurisprudence ­ encompassing seven courts and 19 judges ­ and intervene in the Schiavo case. (Underscoring that this was about the politics of the Schiavo case and not policy, the bill was written explicitly to apply only to Terri Schiavo.)

President Bush played his part in the spectacle, flying to Washington from his ranch in Crawford to sign the bill, even though waiting a few hours for the bill to be flown to him would likely "have made no difference in whether Ms. Schiavo lives."

In a statement released early this morning, President Bush said he will "continue to stand on the side of those defending life for all Americans."

Comment: Too bad Bush can't stand on the side of those defending the lives of other human beings in the world that are on the other side of the "political railroad tracks," so to say; Iraqis and Palestinians come to mind...

But the facts make it hard to believe that Bush is standing on principle.

In 1999, then Gov. Bush signed a law that "allows hospitals [to] discontinue life-sustaining care, even if patient family members disagree."

Just days ago the law permitted Texas Children's Hospital to remove the breathing tube from a 6-month-old boy named Sun Hudson. The law may soon be used to remove life support from Spiro Nikolouzos, a 68-year-old man. Bush has not commented on either case.

At every opportunity, Tom DeLay has sanctimoniously proclaimed his concern for the well-being of Terri Schiavo, saying he is only trying to ensure she has the chance "we all deserve."

Schiavo's medications are paid for by Medicaid. Just last week, DeLay marshaled a budget resolution through the House of Representatives that would cut funding for Medicaid by at least $15 billion, threatening the quality of care for people like Terri Schiavo. Because the Senate voted to restore the funding, DeLay is threatening to hold up the entire budget process if he doesn't get his way.

Bill Frist has been positioning himself in the media as a champion for Schiavo's interests. Yet, much of Schiavo's medical care has been financed by $1,000,000 from two medical malpractice lawsuits Schiavo won after her heart attack 15 years ago.

Frist has been leading the charge to limit recovery for people like Schiavo who are severely debilitated. If Frist is successful, people like Schiavo would not be able to recover any punitive damages no matter how severe their injuries.

Comment: While we have some serious questions about the husband's claim that Terri wants to die, and even that she is in a "persistent vegetative state," considering that he has never allowed any of the funds mentioned above to be used for therapy, and has been quoted as asking regularly "Is the bitch dead yet?", we consider the activities of the Bush Reich in regards to this case as stunning hypocrisy.

We also note that in the law Bush passed in Texas, one of the criteria that was to be used in determining whether or not the patient would be "allowed to die" was financial: was there someone who could pay the medical bills. Once more, the great compassion of US politicians is overridden by the bottom line.

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Legal Fiction
Joseph Sobran
Have conservative Republicans been inconsistent, even hypocritical, in seeking Federal intervention to save Terri Schiavo? What about the principles of states’ rights and the sanctity of the family?

It’s a striking departure from the causes they usually espouse, all right; but they have the very human excuse of wanting desperately to save a life. What is less excusable is that liberal Democrats, with honorable exceptions, have just as suddenly embraced the same principles, which they usually minimize and even mock.

Michael Schiavo wants his wife to die. He invokes the sanctity of marriage to justify not only starving and dehydrating her, but causing her parents the cruelest agony parents can suffer.

He says he is only trying to honor the promise he made to Terri, that he would never prolong her life in such a condition. This is a remarkable case of recovered memory, since it took him seven years to remember this pledge. We are supposed to believe the subject came up so early in their life together? How did they know Terri, and not he, would be in this plight? Or did he exact a reciprocal pledge from her at the time, never to prolong his life if he should be the afflicted one? He hasn’t said.

Even if Terri told him she wouldn’t want to be kept alive in a “persistent vegetative state,” she could hardly have imagined the specific difficulties that have come to pass in her case. We may doubt that she’d want her parents to be tortured this way so that her husband could “move on,” as he so aptly puts it, from his marriage to her.

What makes Michael Schiavo’s story even more fishy is that the sanctity of his alleged promise to Terri hasn’t stopped him from violating an even more basic promise: He has indeed “moved on” and taken another woman, whom he calls his “fiancée,” and by whom he already has two children. Many men commit adultery, but few announce their engagements to other women while still married to living wives. This “fiancée” should take a close look at the man she intends to marry.

How has it come about that Terri Schiavo’s life is at the mercy of the very man who wants her dead? The law presumes that a husband has the best interests of his wife at heart. But the interests of spouses may not be identical, but opposed. No woman’s life should depend on the good will of her enemy. After all, nobody who stands to gain by an accused murderer’s execution would be allowed to sit on his jury.

This issue has been confused by legal abortion. A mother is presumed to have the best interests of her child at heart; she can hardly be impartial. But, in fact, many women, finding themselves inconveniently pregnant, pay abortionists to solve what they see as their problems. It’s disingenuous to say, in such circumstances, that the interests of mother and child are identical. The law now prefers the interests of the mother, as she unilaterally defines them; the child’s interests don’t count.

In the same way, Terri Schiavo (as of this moment) is a problem for Michael Schiavo. He pretends that her interests and his are identical, citing his alleged privileged knowledge of her wishes. He is relying on the legal fiction, often useful but sometimes false, that spouses want what is best for each other. Terri’s death, a near certainty since the courts have refused to save her, would be good for her husband and his “fiancée”; but he also wants us to believe that it would be good for Terri.

When a man is tried for murder, his interests are protected and represented; he can have a lawyer to insist on his rights. But there are no legal safeguards for the unborn child, or for Terri Schiavo. They are at the mercy of those who want to get rid of them. This is why the people who favor legal abortion, including feminists, generally support Michael Schiavo; the people who oppose legal abortion generally support Terri’s right to live — and in most cases, the sanctity of marriage too.

Honoring Michael Schiavo’s claim that he represents what his wife wanted — including her family’s anguish — is carrying a legal fiction to the point of absurdity. Her fate should have been left to those who love her.

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DER SPIEGEL'S The Schiavo Effect
March 23, 2005

The disturbing case of US coma patient Terri Schiavo has Europeans buzzing about America's Christian agenda -- and scurrying to write their own living wills.

A quirk of the courts -- and of the Christian right -- has made Terri Schiavo into a household word.

Do you have a living will? Most don't, and frankly, just considering the gruesome task of writing one sends shivers up our spines. Still, with the tragic case of US coma patient Terri Schiavo making headlines across Europe, many on the old continent are wondering what they would do -- or want their families to do -- if the unspeakable occurred. In Germany, for example, news programs and papers on Wednesday are abuzz with commentaries exploring the scary shadows that separate life from death and looking at the God-like ability to choose who should live and who should die.

For the most part, socially liberal Germany tends to side with Schiavo's husband, who has been fighting for the right to let his wife -- a vegetable for the past 15 years -- die. Her parents, however, insist she would want to live and after failing to get Florida court approval to keep their daughter alive they -- stunningly -- got a nod from US President George W. Bush. Bush's intervention has so far come to naught; the case has since been reviewed by a federal court which upheld the decision to remove the feeding tube.

But it is Bush's decision to step in that has many scratching their heads, and indeed, such a presidential intervention in a case involving a single, previously unknown woman seems extraordinary. Some German commentators have lashed out at the Bush administration for gutting states' rights by labeling the Schiavo case an exception to the rules. And, despite Bush's efforts to avoid turning the case into a precedent, his involvement is problematic. Essentially, Schiavo's family managed to get America's increasingly influential religious right to push her case under the noses of Congress and onto the radar of the nation's born-again Christian president. One can't help but wonder if this means that US laws can be changed for those with enough political pull to present themselves as exceptions.

But while Germans stew over what they fear are yet more signs America is headed off the religious-right deep end, their real concern is for themselves. For two days, commentators have admonished Germans to conquer their queasiness and write a living will. Interestingly, most assume that Germans would prefer death to muted life. On the popular evening news program "Tagesthema," commentator Georg M. Hafner insisted Tuesday night that the Schiavo case should send a message to everyone to " write down what you want to happen when you want to die but can't." The conservative daily Die Welt on Tuesday called making a living will "the requirement of the hour" because society has become so hands-on that it has even begun to intervene when life "has reached its natural end." The news program "Heute" has posted an info box on living wills on its Web site. And in Wednesday's Berliner Zeitung editorial writer Maritta Tkalec writes "if it were to happen to me, then let me die in peace." (2:25 p.m.CET)

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Schiavo case raises questions for people seeking living wills
Last Updated Tue, 22 Mar 2005 20:04:46 EST
CBC News

EDMONTON - The case surrounding what to do about Terri Schiavo's feeding tube has prompted many questions in Canada about living wills.

Schiavo has been in a vegetative state for 15 years, locked in an unprecedented legal battle between her parents, who want to keep her alive, and her husband.

At the normally quiet offices of Dying with Dignity in Toronto, the case has led people to call in with questions. The group has received close to 60 calls and e-mails inquiring about how to prepare a "living will."

"We're hearing from folks who have said, 'Oh my goodness, I've thought about this for the last couple of years, haven't done anything about it,'" said Kathy St. John of the group.

A complicated, gut-wrenching situation like Schiavo's could happen in Canada, said Helen Ward, a lawyer in Edmonton who specializes in such cases.

"Those kind of dynamics that are in a family dispute which are so difficult could certainly happen," said Ward.

A living will is important for Elizabeth Grandbois, who has ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. More important, Grandbois said, is naming someone who can make decisions on your behalf, if you can't.

"It's [about] the communication within the family and the trust that you have with the people you are giving the power to make these decisions when you can no longer speak," said Grandbois, who lives in Burlington, Ont.

The laws on living wills and trustees vary from province to province. In the simplest approach, people can simply write their wishes on the back of an envelope, signed by a witness.

Experts say the best approach is to have a long discussion with family, write down your wishes and have it checked by a lawyer and doctor.

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Schiavo is 'down to last hours'
The father of a brain-damaged US woman fighting to keep his daughter alive has said she was weakening and down "to her last hours".

Terri Schiavo has been without food or water for a week, after courts agreed that she should be allowed to die.

On Friday her parents lost their latest legal appeal to order doctors to resume feeding the 41-year-old patient.

An appeals court in Georgia said the family had not presented any new arguments to overturn previous rulings.

Reports say the ruling marked the third time in four days the court had denied an emergency request made by Mrs Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, who are not her legal guardians.

Earlier on Friday, a federal judge refused an appeal a day after the Supreme Court said it would not consider their request to have the feeding tube re-inserted.

Internet threats

Terri Schiavo suffered brain damage in 1990 when her heart stopped briefly because of a chemical imbalance.

Mrs Schiavo's husband, Michael, her legal guardian, says she in a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery, and that she would not want to be kept alive artificially.

Feb 1990: Mrs Schiavo collapses
May 1998: Mr Schiavo files petition to remove feeding tube, triggering legal battle
Feb 2000: Court rules to remove feeding tube
Oct 2003: Florida's lower house passes "Terri's Law", allowing governor to order doctors to feed Mrs Schiavo
Sept 2004: Florida Supreme Court strikes down law
18 Mar 2005: Florida court again allows removal of tube
22 Mar 2005: Federal judge turns down parents' appeal
23 Mar 2005: Appeals court backs federal ruling
24 Mar 2005: Supreme Court refuses appeal
25 Mar 2005: Federal judge rejects parents' second appeal
25 Mar 2005: Appeals court rejects bid to overturn federal judge ruling

Her parents disagree.

After Friday's latest ruling, the Schindlers again appealed to Florida Governor Jeb Bush to intervene.

"[Bush] has put Terri through a week of hell and our family through a week of hell by not acting," Mr Schindler said. "He has to come up to the plate."

The Schindlers also filed a new motion on Friday in which they argue that their daughter has expressed the wish to live.

"She managed to articulate the first two vowel sounds, first articulating 'ahhhhhhh' and then virtually screaming 'waaaaaaa,'" the motion said.

Mr Schiavo's lawyer, George Felos, called the motion "outrageous" and "an abuse of the legal system".

A ruling is expected by 1200 (1700 GMT) on Saturday.

Without nourishment, the patient is expected to die within the next few days.

Friends say Mrs Schiavo is showing signs of being dehydrated.

The BBC's James Coomarasamy in Washington says the chances of Mrs Schiavo's life being saved are now rapidly dwindling, but as long as she is alive her parents and their supporters are unlikely to throw in the towel.

Eight more people - including a 10-year old boy and 13-year-old twin girls - were arrested on Friday for trying to bring her water, the Associated Press reports.

Meanwhile, FBI agents have arrested a man in North Carolina on suspicion of soliciting offers over the internet to kill Mr Schiavo and the judge in the case.

He is accused of offering $250,000 for the killing of Mr Schiavo and another $50,000 for the judge.

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US unveils plans to make India 'major world power'
Fri Mar 25,11:11 PM ET

WASHINGTON, United States - The United States has unveiled plans to help India become a "major world power in the 21st century" even as it announced moves to beef up the military of New Delhi's nuclear rival, Pakistan.

Under the plans, Washington offered to step up a strategic dialogue with India to boost missile defense and other security initiatives as well as high-tech cooperation and expanded economic and energy cooperation.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has presented to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the Bush administration's outline for a "decisively broader strategic relationship" between the world's oldest and largest democracies, a senior US official said.

"Its goal is to help India become a major world power in the 21st century," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We understand fully the implications, including military implications, of that statement."

He did not elaborate but noted that South Asia was critical, with China on one side, Iran and the Middle East on the other, and a somewhat turbulent Central Asian region to the north.

The US-India plan was announced as Washington decided Friday to sell an undetermined number of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan under a plan to prop up Pakistan on the political, military and economic fronts. [...]

Comment: The US can't very well start World War III unless more nations are armed to the teeth...

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U.S. forces thwart major escape in southern Iraq
By Albert Eisele
March 25, 2005

CAMP BUCCA, IRAQ -- U.S. military police Friday thwarted a massive escape attempt by suspected insurgents and terrorists from this southern Iraq Army base that houses more than 6,000 detainees when they uncovered a 600-foot tunnel the detainees had dug under their compound.

"We were very close to a very bad thing," Major Gen. William Brandenburg said Friday after troops under his command discovered the tunnel that prisoners had painstakingly dug with the help of makeshift tools.

Within hours of the discovery on the first tunnel, a second tunnel of about 300 feet was detected under an adjoining compound in the camp, which holds 6,049 detainees. The elaborate escape is reminiscent of the 1994 movie, "The Shawshank Redemption," where a prisoner burrows his way out of prison.

The key difference, however, is that not one Iraq prisoner got out.

The discoveries came just hours before Brandenburg, who commands Multinational Force detainee operations in Iraq, toured the camp with Gen. George Casey Jr., the top Army general in Iraq and commander of the Multinational Coalition, who was making his first visit to this remote desert camp in southwestern Iraq near the Kuwaiti border.

Brandenburg said the prisoners, who include Iraqis and suspected terrorists from other Arab countries, probably were waiting for the dense fog that often rolls in at night from the nearby Persian Gulf before attempting their escape. [...]

Comment: The allusion to the movie The Shawshank Redemption is entirely appropriate. In the film, the protagonist escapes from jail by digging a concealed hole through his cell wall after being wrongly imprisoned for the murder of his wife and her lover years earlier. In the end, the crooked warden commits suicide, and the most sadistic corrections officer is taken away in handcuffs. Unfortunately, real life often does not have a happy Hollywood ending.

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Pentagon Will Not Try 17 G.I.'s Implicated in Prisoners' Deaths
The New York Times
March 25, 2005

WASHINGTON - Despite recommendations by Army investigators, commanders have decided not to prosecute 17 American soldiers implicated in the deaths of three prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, according to a new accounting released Friday by the Army.

Investigators had recommended that all 17 soldiers be charged in the cases, according to the accounting by the Army Criminal Investigation Command. The charges included murder, conspiracy and negligent homicide. While none of the 17 will face any prosecution, one received a letter of reprimand and another was discharged after the investigations.

To date, the military has taken steps toward prosecuting some three dozen soldiers in connection with a total of 28 confirmed or suspected homicides of detainees. The total number of such deaths is believed to be between 28 and 31.

In one of the three cases in which no charges are to be filed, the commanders determined the death to be "a result of a series of lawful applications of force."

Comment: Well, sure... Torture is lawful according to the Bush regime.

In the second, the commanders decided not to prosecute because of a lack of evidence.

Comment: Nevermind that the vast majority of the imprisoned "terrorists" are being held without any evidence or trials. Lack of evidence is only valid when it is used to defend those who support America's crusade.

In the third, they determined the soldier involved had not been well informed of the rules of engagement. [...]

Comment: "Sir, I didn't know that murder and negligent homicide were not allowed."

If the above argument was made by a civilian accused of murder in a US court, and all the evidence clearly pointed to his guilt, what do you think the jury's verdict would be?

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We're all paranoid

Sure, the people with the 9/11 conspiracy theories are a little odd. But not everything they're saying is entirely crazy.
By Steven T. Jones
San Francisco Bay Guardian
March 23, 2005

THE GRAND LAKE Theater in Oakland was filled almost to capacity March 10, just as the Guild Theatre in Menlo Park was the night before and the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco would be the next night, all for a documentary with bad production values and even worse leaps of logic.

This was the local premiere of The Great Conspiracy: The 9/11 News Special You Never Saw, a benefit screening for the Northern California 9/11 Truth Alliance, whose activists have been laboring for more than three years to dispel popular belief in the government's version of the events on that fateful day.

And to fill that void, they offer a wide variety of alternative theories, carefully laid out in the dozens of books and DVDs that local truth-movement leader Carol Brouillet sold from a table in the theater lobby, or in the hundreds of Web sites devoted to debunking the official story.

Brouillet is what most people think of when they use the term "conspiracy theorist." Ever since she saw the Oliver Stone film JFK – which she describes as her moment of awakening – she has been trafficking in the dark world of a shadow government executing secret plots. She's been gathering every relevant document she can find, meticulously connecting every dot into an elaborate proof.

It is a worldview in which there are no tragic accidents or strange coincidences, no pieces that don't fit into the puzzle, only a carefully orchestrated grand plan by powerful interests to achieve world domination. And for those who tend to see the world in this way, as Brouillet and others told me, "9/11 is the mother of all issues."

The film by Canadian television producer Barrie Zwicker rehashed much of the disparate "evidence" that has been developed since 9/11: indications of an intentional military stand-down on the morning of 9/11, the belief that the World Trade Center's Twin Towers and Building 7 couldn't have fallen the way they did without being laden with explosives, speculations as to what really hit the Pentagon. [...]

Zwicker and Brouillet feel hopeful that things are about to change, that the mainstream media will have to deal with this stuff at some point, that somehow, in some way, the people will rise up and finally demand a real investigation into 9/11.

"Belief in the official story is a mile wide and an inch deep," Zwicker told me. "There's a lot of anecdotal evidence that the movement is gaining ground."

They may be wrong about their chances for success anytime soon. [...]

Yet the most disturbing thing about the 9/11 truth movement, something you learn when you really dissect their most compelling evidence, is that the activists are raising critically important questions about the Bush administration's lies, cover-ups, and geopolitical strategy – questions that are being almost entirely ignored by the mainstream media.

And they may well be right that more went down on 9/11 than the government wants us to know.

Everyone who has seriously considered the 9/11 attacks is a conspiracy theorist. To not try to put the pieces together is to be incurious about the most profound event of this new American century.

The Bush administration offered its conspiracy theory while the buildings were still ablaze, has done little since then to deviate from it – and has done almost nothing to prove its veracity beyond a shadow of a doubt.

It goes like this: Nineteen fanatical Muslims conspired with Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders to plan and execute the hijacking of four commercial airplanes using box cutters and the element of surprise, and to fly those planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and probably the White House.

Three of those planes hit their targets with pinpoint accuracy before the U.S. military could react – two of them causing the most catastrophic structural failures of steel skyscrapers in history – while a passenger rebellion in the fourth airplane forced the hijackers to crash it into a Pennsylvania field. All this was unexpected and couldn't have been prevented. The attacks were an act of war launched by a well-organized and well-funded international terrorist operation.

To believe this theory, you must accept that, despite receiving an unprecedented flurry of intelligence warnings about imminent terrorist attacks on the United States, the military was caught so off guard that it couldn't even pull the commander in chief out of his elementary-school photo op or get fighter jets in place during the 34 minutes between when the second tower and the Pentagon were hit – even though everyone knew that the United States was under attack and that Flight 77 was known to have been hijacked and was being tracked on radar the entire time it barreled toward the nation's military headquarters. (Each of these facts is from the official 9/11 Commission Report.)

And you have to believe that the Bush administration cover-ups that came next – from denying information requests from the commission, Congress, and criminal courts to telling lies about its intelligence and actions – were entirely about avoiding political embarrassment or for some undisclosed national security reason, and that nothing more ominous (or related to the geopolitics of oil) was remotely intertwined with any of this.

You have to believe, in other words, that one of the most secretive and manipulative administrations in U.S. history is telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth about an event it has aggressively exploited to implement long-standing and far-reaching political plans, from the USA PATRIOT Act to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The 9/11 truth movement has it own theories, which range from the plausible to the preposterous. One of them goes like this: A pair of Texas oilmen become president and vice president in 2000, thanks to support from the military-industrial complex, Wall Street, and neoconservative ideologues determined to have the United States retain its dominance as the last remaining superpower.

Those political leaders and strategists believe the key to continued U.S. economic and military supremacy – indeed, the American way of life – is control of Eurasia and its vast oil reserves. It's a belief they've openly expressed in lectures, papers, and books. And their meetings with top energy officials confirm that the United States will need to have that control sooner than later, despite rising anti-Americanism in an area that also happens to be the center of the Islamic world.

They know the American people won't support such crude empire building without some trigger, some "new Pearl Harbor," as Dick Cheney's Project for the New American Century called it in a paper it put out in 2000. So when they start getting intelligence briefings with titles like "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in U.S.," they either simply do nothing, or maybe some faction of them actively facilitates this attack by the former Central Intelligence Agency asset's terrorist group.

To believe this theory, you have to believe U.S. officials are willing to allow the deaths of thousands of innocent people – and to perpetuate a vast set of lies and cover-ups – in order to further what they consider to be vital U.S. strategic and economic interests. Put another way, you have to believe the attacks of 9/11 could have been another in a long line of appalling events in U.S. history that were manipulated and, in some cases, entirely fabricated as a pretext for war – from the sinking of the Maine to the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

It's not terribly surprising that a lot of people – including people who are by no means crazy conspiracy theorists – are willing to consider that possibility.

"The official story of 9/11 is a conspiracy theory," researcher Ken Jenkins told the International Inquiry into 9/11, a conference activists staged at San Francisco's Herbst Theatre a year ago. "So it's not a matter of whether you believe in conspiracy theories, but a matter of which theory you believe."

To blindly believe the U.S. government at times like these is to ignore history and dismiss warnings from people in positions to know how power is really wielded in this country.

Even before President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us in 1961 about the secretive power of "the military-industrial complex," a significant segment of the public already understood the world in those terms, employing what groundbreaking historian Richard Hofstadter in 1952 dubbed the "paranoid style of political thought." He didn't necessarily mean it in a derogatory way. As the old joke goes, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.

Since the dawn of civilization, there have been people whose worldviews were formed by the fear of enemies, real or imagined. But it was the 20th century that ushered in conspiracy theories as an important form of political communication, used by people to understand an increasingly complex world and by governments to manipulate their citizens.

It has little to do with ideology. Both Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany effectively used conspiracy theories to maintain their power. In the United States, the paranoid style of political thought was most pervasive among conservatives, starting with the Russian Revolution, but it spread across the political spectrum after U.S. excesses in the cold war came to light.

Suddenly, it seemed crazy not to be paranoid, as people were targeted by a series of terrifying plots by mysterious forces: the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's COINTELPRO, CIA-backed revolutions, medical and nuclear tests conducted on unknowing citizens, the rise of deceptive advertising and public relations campaigns, the recently declassified Operation Northwoods plan for the CIA to stage the downing of a commercial airliner as a pretext for invading Cuba, the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, Iran-Contra.

The Muslim world was also given good reason to be paranoid about covert U.S. influence as it watched the CIA help install the Shah of Iran and the Saudi royal family before propping up and then taking down Saddam Hussein in Iraq. In fact, many Muslims saw the first Gulf War as nothing but a pretext for building U.S. military bases in the region, which al-Qaeda cites as the reason for its terrorist attacks.

Under President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, the paranoid style of political thought has become the dominant U.S. worldview, animating the administration's foreign policy, its domestic suspension of civil liberties (and even its views on Social Security), and the themes and language of the president's speeches – which are almost always based on the perception of threats to the American way of life.

Just consider this analysis from Hofstadter, which could today be applied equally to bin Laden, Bush, and the 9/11 truth movement writers:

"A feeling of persecution is central to the paranoid style, but whereas the clinically paranoid person perceives a world hostile and conspiratorial against him or herself, the spokesperson for the paranoid style finds it directed against a nation, a culture, a way of life whose fate affects not himself alone but millions of others," Hofstadter wrote in his 1965 essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics." "His sense that his political passions are unselfish and patriotic, in fact, goes far to intensify his feeling of righteousness and his moral indignation."

Michael Ruppert approaches investigations like a cop, which is what he was with the Los Angeles Police Department until 1978, when he says he got mixed up in an elaborate plot involving the CIA, Iran, international smugglers of arms and drugs, the Mafia, and the company Brown and Root, which (as Kellogg, Brown, and Root) is now a subsidiary of Halliburton.

Ever since then, he has been an investigator and journalist out on the political edge, using books, lectures, and his From the Wilderness Web site ( to build the case that the United States is run by a shadow government controlled by military and financial elites, funded by laundered drug profits and control of world gold and oil supplies, and bent on world domination.

So when 9/11 hit, Ruppert was one of the earliest and strongest critics of the official story, laying the foundation and basic framework for many truth movement researchers and writers who followed. All the 9/11 researchers and activists interviewed for this story give credit to Ruppert. [...]

Comment: Indeed, Mike Ruppert is one of the big names in the 9/11 movement. Don't miss Co-Opting the 9/11 Truth Movement, which is an analysis of the work of Ruppert and Daniel Hopsicker.

It's absolutely true, for example, that the government's theory has never been subjected to the usual rigors applied to a case of mass murder.

The government has never sought to have any of its evidence heard in a court of law. In fact, its refusal to make relevant witnesses and evidence available has caused the only successful 9/11-related prosecution – a German court's conviction of Mounir el-Motassadeq on charges of helping alleged 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta's terrorist cell in Hamburg – to be overturned on appeal last year.

Even Zacarias Moussaoui – an alleged coconspirator who acted suspiciously at flight school and was arrested by Minneapolis FBI agents the month before the attacks (agents who at the time told FBI headquarters they were "trying to keep someone from taking a plane and crashing into the World Trade Center," according to testimony to the 9/11 Commission) – has been ordered released by a judge because the federal government refuses to allow for his fair trial.

Congressional inquiries were obstructed and denied documents and testimony by the White House, yet even with a cursory review of the intelligence documents they could get, the hearings revealed the fact that the Bush administration had received dozens of urgent, credible warnings that the attacks were coming.

"It now becomes clear why the Bush Administration has been vigorously opposing congressional hearings," Rep. Cynthia McKinney, the only member of Congress who has consistently challenged the White House over 9/11, wrote on in May 2002. "The Bush Administration has been engaged in a conspiracy of silence. If committed and patriotic people had not been pushing for disclosure today's revelations would have been hidden by the White House."

Until then, Bush had opposed the creation of an independent commission to look into 9/11, even though such commissions have been formed immediately after every major U.S. tragedy, such as Pearl Harbor and JFK's assassination. He finally bowed to political pressure from the victims' families to allow the creation of a supposedly independent 9/11 Commission.

But who did Bush name to head the commission? Henry Kissinger, the man who oversaw more dastardly covert operations designed to further U.S. realpolitik interests than any person alive, someone who can't even travel to many foreign countries because he's sought as a material witness for so many ongoing war-crimes prosecutions. If you're looking for someone to cover up your official misdeeds, Kissinger is the man. Unfortunately for Bush, Kissinger refused to disclose his client lists – something required under federal conflict of interests laws – so he didn't get the job.

Instead, Republican Thomas Kean was picked to head the commission, and for executive director, he chose one of Bush's own staffers, Phillip Zelikow, a neoconservative hawk who had cowritten a book with then-national security advisor Condoleezza Rice – a key figure in the intelligence breakdown – who has since been promoted to secretary of state. Oh yeah, and she just recently hired Zelikow as a member of her staff.

Zelikow and Kean were also nice enough to let Bush and Cheney – both of whom 9/11 activists accuse of culpability in the attacks – testify together, in private, and without being placed under oath. And even after all that, the administration used its executive authority to classify whole sections of both the commission and congressional reports, most notably the section on Saudi Arabia, where bin Laden and 15 of the 19 alleged hijackers are from.

Despite consistent denials that the administration could have foreseen the attack, the New York Times recently reported on a classified section of The 9/11 Commission Report from the spring of 2001 in which the Federal Aviation Administration warned airports that if "the intent of the hijacker is not to exchange hostages for prisoners, but to commit suicide in a spectacular explosion, a domestic hijacking would probably be preferable" to a flight from overseas.

And the report that was released is riddled with contradictions, conclusions unsupported by the facts, apologias for gross incompetence, and the omission of any facts that don't neatly fit with the official theory. It was, as a Harper's Magazine cover story labeled it, a "whitewash" that "defrauds the nation."

Investigation as whitewash

There are some obvious signs that the 9/11 Commission hadn't sought for its report "to be independent, impartial, thorough, and nonpartisan," as the authors billed it. Rather, it seemed to see its charge as providing a detailed proof of the government's theory. One key sign is that it didn't actually try to investigate who really hijacked those planes.

The 19 hijackers were identified by name on the morning of 9/11, names that were taken from the passenger logs and haven't changed since. But in the days after 9/11, several of those identified hijackers contacted a variety of reputable news outlets – including the Guardian of London, the London Telegraph, the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, the BBC, Arab News, and Asharq al-Awsat – to say they were alive and innocent.

One of those alleged hijackers, Waleed al-Shehri – whom the U.S. government says was one of two "Shehri brothers" who helped crash Flight 11 into the World Trade Center – told the BBC, other journalists, and U.S. authorities just after the attacks that it was his picture in the papers and that he had indeed attended flight school in Daytona Beach, Fla., during the time the government says he did. But he was living in Morocco on 9/11 and working as a pilot for Saudi Arabian Airlines.

Another alleged hijacker from the same flight, Abdulaziz al-Omari, told journalists he had lost his passport while studying in Denver.

Now, it's entirely possible the real hijackers had stolen the identities of these and the five other identified hijackers who have turned up in various press reports. Yet what's amazing is that the 9/11 Commission never even addressed the issue and stated the identities and backgrounds of the hijackers (all gathered from U.S. intelligence services) as if they were incontrovertible facts.

Such ambiguities would have really mucked up riveting prose like "As it began, some of the hijackers – most likely Wail al Shehri and Waleed al Shehri, who were seated in row 2 in first class – stabbed the two unarmed flight attendants who would have been preparing for cabin service."

Yet The 9/11 Commission Report wasn't really intended to be an investigation as much as it was meant to bring closure to this terrible period, to reassure everyone that the system worked, that problems were being fixed, and that everyone was going to be OK. And in that respect, it was a phenomenal success.

The book, with its built-in drama and relevance, spent weeks atop the best- seller lists and was even a finalist for the National Book Award. Like all good conspiracy-theory proofs, it explained everything in such staggering detail and such a tone of certainty that the casual, uninformed reader came away feeling convinced.

Curiouser and curiouser

Most people's understanding of 9/11 snapped into place at some key moment, in most cases on that heart-wrenching morning as we watched the unspeakable tragedy unfold.

We accepted the dominant story because the alternatives were too horrible to consider and we just haven't wanted to revisit it.

Yet why haven't the mainstream media raised the possibility of official complicity, or seriously questioned flaws in the official story?

"I think it's a good question, but I don't think we have a good answer," said Aly Colón of the Poynter Institute, a media foundation.

Modern standards of objective journalism make it difficult to raise speculative questions that reflect badly on official sources, but Colón said the galvanization of patriotism that followed the 9/11 attacks and subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq made it even tougher for journalists to question the accepted reality of 9/11. [...]

Later, as the war waged in Iraq, it became increasingly clear the White House had lied about that country's weapons of mass distraction. And we learned from former White House terrorism expert Richard Clarke that the Iraq plans had been laid on 9/11 even though the officials acknowledged Hussein wasn't responsible.

People began to take note. A Zogby poll taken just before last year's Republican National Convention showed that 41 percent of New York State residents, and 49 percent of New York City residents, agreed with the statement that some U.S. officials "knew in advance that attacks were planned on or around 9/11/01 and that they consciously failed to act."

A fragmenting movement

But as the public reached its pinnacle of being open to considering alternative views of 9/11, the truth movement fractured into disparate subgroups, each pushing its own pet theories, torn by internal divisions over strategy, and unable to mount a cohesive strategy that would break through the din of election-year politics. [...]

But other 9/11 activists soldier on undeterred, just as their compatriots in the effort to uncover who really killed JFK still meet to pore over the yellowing evidence of that crime. Time may prove them correct – just as polls now show most Americans don't believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone – but justice is probably a long way off.

Bay Area residents Don Paul and Jim Hoffman recently met me at Café Abir in San Francisco to run through their evidence.[...]

Having recently seen a PBS special and read the Popular Mechanics investigation that tried to debunk the explosives explanation and supported the government's "pancake theory" – the notion that the upper parts of the buildings crushed the lower floors into one another – I argued with them for a while: Why wouldn't the pressure of this collapse cause the dust? Why haven't any reputable structural engineers supported your theory? How could they have planted so many explosives without being noticed?

Pretty soon our heated conversation was drawing attention from people around us, and random people started jumping in. And to my surprise, all of them expressed doubts over the official 9/11 story.

"It did not go down the way they said," bystander Eric Basher said. "I don't know if Bush did it, but something isn't right here."

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'Fox Blocker' more than a choice for maker ... it's a lifestyle
Paola Farer
3/25/2005 3:11 PM MST

UNDATED (AP) - An Oklahoma man who's been selling gizmos to block Fox News from TV sets says it's not an attack on free speech, but a form of protest -- like burning a draft card.

He's taking that message to Fox advertisers. People who buy the little metal device for eight dollars and 95 cents are shown a letter they can send via the on-line Fox Blocker site.

Device creator Sam Kimery says he doesn't object to views expressed on Fox News, but he contends it's not news at all.

He says he's sold about a hundred Fox Blockers. And there may be more orders, after a recent "Boston Legal" episode on ABC that referred to the blocking device. ABC had references to Fox News removed from the script.

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Merck's infant vaccine stirs new controversy

Company said it had stopped using mercury preservative but kept distributing stockpile for two more years
March 8, 2005

Merck & Co. continued to supply infant vaccine containing a mercury preservative for two years after declaring that it had eliminated the chemical.

In September 1999,amid concern about the risks of mercury in childhood vaccines,Merck announced that the Food and Drug Administration had approved a preservative-free version of its hepatitis B vaccine.

"Now, Merck's infant vaccine line is free of all preservatives," a Merck news release said. But Merck continued to distribute vaccine containing thimerosal until October 2001,according to an FDA letter sent in response to a congressional inquiry.

Merck executives confirmed the details in the FDA letter but defended the accuracy of the Merck announcement in 1999, saying the company had begun to produce preservative-free vaccine.

Merck continued to supply the preservative-containing version "during the transition period to ensure an adequate supply of vaccine to help protect the nation's children," said spokeswoman Mary Elizabeth Blake. She said package labels disclosed which lots of vaccine were preservative-free. Parent groups and a congressional critic of U.S. vaccine policy are crying foul. "As far as the world knew,the product coming out of Merck had no thimerosal in it," said Sallie Bernard,executive director of Safe Minds,a group concerned about childhood exposure to mercury,a neurotoxin. Parents and doctors who wanted a thimerosal-free product "would be totally confused," she said. [...]

Thimerosal,which is nearly 50 percent ethyl mercury,has largely been eliminated from most routine childhood vaccines, although it is present in most flu shots. It had been widely used as a sterilizing agent to prevent bacterial contamination from repeated insertion of needles into multidose vials of vaccine. [...]

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It's your turn to pull out, Syria tells US

WASHINGTON: Syria's ambassador to Washington said on Wednesday he hoped the United States and Israel would follow his country's example and withdraw from Iraq and Palestinian areas, just as Syria was leaving Lebanon.

"We will withdraw (from Lebanon) as soon as possible, the sooner the better. And we are not talking of two or three months. We will do this very, very quickly," Syria's envoy Imad Moustapha said in a speech at Georgetown University.

"I hope this will inspire other countries in the Middle East to withdraw their occupations from Iraq and Palestine and from Syria itself," he said.

"President Bush has many times spoken about making Iraq a model that will inspire the whole Arab world... I think the Arab people will love to see this (Syrian) model followed by the Americans and the Israelis." [...]

Moustapha was critical of US policies throughout his speech, saying many were hypocritical or dictated by Israel.

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Earthquakes Rock Northern Argentinean Province of Catamarca
Prensa Latina
Buenos Aires, Mar 25

Argentina"s northern province of Catamarca, at the foot of the Andes, was shaken today by an earthquake, the fourth detected since March 14.

The National Earthquake Warning Institute said the epicenter of this tremor (4.0 on the Richter scale) was located almost 19 miles south east of the provincial capital, San Fernando de Valle.

Although there was understandable panic amongst the population, there were no reports of injury or damage.

A 6.5 shake was felt on the 21st, and a 5.9 degree one in Salta that was clearly felt in Catamarca, Santiago del Estero and Tucuman Provinces.

On the same day a tremor of 4.1 spread panic among the population in San Fernando de Valle because of its strength, even though it lasted just a few seconds. People fled the buildings and parents evacuated their children from schools.

In September 2004 a tremor caused wide-spread destruction of buildings but did not claim any lives, and now any tremor causes fear and chaos.

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Experts say central U.S. should continue to watch out for quakes
Associated Press
Posted on Fri, Mar. 25, 2005

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Two earthquake experts say the quake that produced the deadly tsunami in the Indian Ocean in December should remind residents of the central United States that they live in an area where a devastating quake could occur.

Haydar Al-Shukri, a professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and Harley Benz, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist, cite a 4.2-magnitude earthquake last month at Caraway in northeast Arkansas as another piece of evidence of activity along the New Madrid fault line.

"We have the USGS and others in the area that have been worried about and monitoring the New Madrid System for a long time," said Benz, who runs the National Earthquake Information Center for the USGS. "We know it has produced large earthquakes in the past."

Benz was referring to three massive earthquakes in southeast Missouri in 1811 and 1812 that are now assigned magnitudes of more than 8.0. The New Madrid fault system that produced them extends 150 miles southward from Cairo, Ill. into northeast Arkansas and includes parts of Kentucky.

"The area over which you can have damage is much larger than in tectonic reactive areas like California," Benz said. "The impact of an earthquake like that can be quite different."

Al-Shukri said that, while there have not been any damaging earthquakes in the region since the turn of the 20th century, residents in the Midwest and the South need to be aware of the risks.

Benz was in Little Rock on Friday to discuss the lessons learned from the tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia on Dec. 26. He said the lack of precautionary measures in some of that region's countries made the tsunami's impact much greater.

Al-Shukri said media attention focused on the tsunami could help other areas in the world prepare for earthquakes, including the central United States.

"Every large magnitude earthquake that you see in the media generates some interest and action," said Al-Shukri, the director of the Arkansas Earthquake Center at UALR. "Public education is a very integral part of the whole thing."

Benz said that, while there is no way to predict an actual earthquake, there are ways to monitor tendencies and draw conclusions from them.

"We are trying to assess their habits," he said. "We are trying to understand the systems better so we can assess the probability of future earthquakes, which is different from being able to predict them."

Al-Shukri said the earthquake at Caraway should be viewed as a cautionary indicator.

"It's a warning," he said. "It's telling us that there is all this activity and is continuously moving. When you see a fault that is continuously moving, this zone has the potential for generating larger-magnitude earthquakes."

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Asia quake aftershocks strengthen
Denver, CO, Mar. 25 (UPI)

Another earthquake hit the Indian Ocean area Friday where a giant quake struck last Dec. 26.

The U.S. National Earthquake Information Center reported a magnitude 5.9 quake hit the northwestern part of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Though an event of this magnitude is considered moderate, it is stronger than the quakes hitting the area over the past few weeks.

In all, since Dec. 26, a total of 583 significant aftershocks have hit the area, which includes the northwestern portion of Sumatra, and the Nicobar and Andaman islands, which belong to India. The current pattern generally is for only one or two quakes -- in the range between magnitude 4.5 and magnitude 5.5 on the Richter scale -- to hit in close proximity, with some daily clusters containing as many as five quakes and some days registering no activity at all.

Some earthquake scientists have warned the area remains seismically dangerous. The main earthquake -- a magnitude 9.3 event and the second-strongest ever recorded -- unleashed tsunamis that killed nearly 300,000 people in coastal areas as far away as Sri Lanka and India.

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