Wednesday, March 30, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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Earth's Future?

The state of the world? It is on the brink of disaster
Steve Connor
The Independent
30 March 2005

Planet Earth stands on the cusp of disaster and people should no longer take it for granted that their children and grandchildren will survive in the environmentally degraded world of the 21st century. This is not the doom- laden talk of green activists but the considered opinion of 1,300 leading scientists from 95 countries who will today publish a detailed assessment of the state of the world at the start of the new millennium.

The report does not make jolly reading. [...]

Slow degradation is one thing but sudden and irreversible decline is another. The report identifies half a dozen potential "tipping points" that could abruptly change things for the worse, with little hope of recovery on a human timescale.[...]

Walt Reid, the leader of the report's core authors, warned that unless the international community took decisive action the future looked bleak for the next generation. "The bottom line of this assessment is that we are spending earth's natural capital, putting such strain on the natural functions of earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted," Dr Reid said.

"At the same time, the assessment shows that the future really is in our hands. We can reverse the degradation of many ecosystem services over the next 50 years, but the changes in policy and practice required are substantial and not currently under way," he said.

The assessment was carried out over the past three years and has been likened to the prestigious Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - set up to investigate global warming - for its expertise in the many specialisms that make up the broad church of environmental science.

In summary, the scientists concluded that the planet had been substantially "re-engineered" in the latter half of the 20th century because of the pressure placed on the earth's natural resources by the growing demands of a larger human population.

"Over the past 50 years, humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than at any time in human history, largely to meet rapidly growing demands for food, fresh water, timber and fibre," the reports says.

The full costs of this are only now becoming apparent. Some 15 of the 24 ecosystems vital for life on earth have been seriously degraded or used unsustainably - an ecosystem being defined as a dynamic complex of plants, animals and micro-organisms that form a functional unit with the non-living environment in which the coexist.

The scale of the changes seen in the past few decades has been unprecedented. Nearly one-third of the land surface is now cultivated, with more land being converted into cropland since 1945 than in the whole of the 18th and 19th centuries combined.

The amount of water withdrawn from rivers and lakes for industry and agriculture has doubled since 1960 and there is now between three and six times as much water held in man-made reservoirs as there is flowing naturally in rivers.

Meanwhile, the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that has been released into the environment as a result of using farm fertilisers has doubled in the same period . More than half of all the synthetic nitrogen fertiliser ever used on the planet has been used since 1985.

This sudden and unprecedented release of free nitrogen and phosphorus - important mineral nutrients for plant growth - has triggered massive blooms of algae in the freshwater and marine environments. This is identified as a potential "tipping point" that can suddenly destroy entire ecosystems. "The Millennium Assessment finds that excessive nutrient loading is one of the major problems today and will grow significantly worse in the coming decades unless action is taken," Dr Reid said.

"Surprisingly, though, despite a major body of monitoring information and scientific research supporting this finding, the issue of nutrient loading barely appears in policy discussions at global levels and only a few countries place major emphasis on the problem.

"This issue is perhaps the area where we find the biggest 'disconnect' between a major problem related to ecosystem services and the lack of policy action in response," he said.

Abrupt changes are one of the most difficult things to predict yet their impact can be devastating. But is environmental collapse inevitable?

"Clearly, the dual trends of continuing degradation of most ecosystem services and continuing growth in demand for these same services cannot continue," Dr Reid said.

"But the assessment shows that over the next 50 years, the risk is not of some global environmental collapse, but rather a risk of many local and regional collapses in particular ecosystem services. We already see those collapses occurring - fisheries stocks collapsing, dead zones in the sea, land degradation undermining crop production, species extinctions," he said.

Between 1960 and 2000, the world population doubled from three billion to six billion. At the same time, the global economy increased more than six- fold and the production of food and the supply of drinking water more than doubled, with the consumption of timber products increasing by more than half.[...]

Agricultural intensification, which brought about the green revolution that helped to feed the world in the latter part of the 20th century, has increased the tendency towards the loss of genetic diversity. "Currently 80 per cent of wheat area in developing countries and three-quarters of all rice planted in Asia is now planted to modern varieties," the report says. Dr Reid said that the authors of the assessment were most worried about the state of the earth's drylands - an area covering 41 per cent of the land surface and home to a total of two billion people, many of them the poorest in the world.

Drylands are areas where crop production or pasture for livestock is severely limited by rainfall. Some 90 per cent of the world's dryland regions occur in developing countries where the availability of fresh water is a growing problem.[...]

So what can be done in a century when the human population is expected to increase by a further 50 per cent?

The board of directors of the Millennium Assessment said in a statement: "The overriding conclusion of this assessment is that it lies within the power of human societies to ease the strains we are putting on the nature services of the planet, while continuing to use them to bring better living standards to all.

"Achieving this, however, will require radical changes in the way nature is treated at every level of decision-making and new ways of co-operation between government, business and civil society. The warning signs are there for all of us to see. The future now lies in our hands," it said. [...]

"The Millennium Assessment cuts to the heart of one of the greatest challenges facing humanity," Roger Higman, of Friends of the Earth, said.

"That is, we cannot maintain high standards of living, let alone relieve poverty, if we don't look after the earth's life-support systems," Mr Higman said.

"Yet the assessment hasn't gone far enough in specifying the radical solutions needed. At the end of the day, if we are to respect the limits imposed by nature, and ensure the well-being of all humanity, we must manage the global economy to produce a fairer distribution of the earth's resources," he added.



As population densities increase and living space extends into once pristine forests, the chances of an epidemic of a new infectious agent grows. Global travel accentuates the threat, and the emergence of Sars and bird flu are prime examples of diseases moving from animals to humans.


The introduction of an invasive species - whether animal, plant or microbe - can lead to a rapid change in ecosystems. Zebra mussels introduced into North America led to the extinction of native clams and the comb jellyfish caused havoc to 26 major fisheries species in the Black Sea.


A build up of man-made nutrients in the environment has already led to the threshold being reached when algae blooms. This can deprive fish and other wildlife of oxygen as well as producing toxic substances that are a danger to drinking water.


Reefs that were dominated by corals have suddenly changed to being dominated by algae, which have taken advantage of the increases in nutrient levels running off from terrestrial sources. Many of Jamaica's coral reefs have now become algal dominated.


Overfishing can, and has, led to a collapse in stocks. A threshold is reached when there are too few adults to maintain a viable population. This occurred off the east coast of Newfoundland in 1992 when its stock of Atlantic cod vanished.


In a warmer world, local vegetation or land cover can change, causing warming to become worse. The Sahel region of North Africa depends on rainfall for its vegetation. Small changes in rain can result in loss of vegetation, soil erosion and further decreases in rainfall.

Comment: Here at Sign's Central we've pretty much given up on counting the numerous ways we could meet our inglorious end on this planet. It was probably sometime after we read about clouds of cosmic dust that could bring on a nuclear winter lasting several years, that after the threat of comets, meteors, and other gifts from heaven.

Our civilisation is a fragile creature for all its bluster and violence. As in any non-linear system, a small change here and there can have radical long-term consequences. Imagine what might happen if several of these changes lead to a chaotic situation all at the same time, reinforcing the tendency for a quantum leap within the system as a whole. Sitting here in our office, the sky is grey. The wind is picking up. The first shoots on the trees, that soft and tender green so characteristic of spring, lend a touch of warmth to the landscape of grey and brown that we have become accustomed to during the winter. There is a power and force out there that does not need human society to thrive. In fact, the contrary may well be the case. As we destroy our planet by setting entropic barriers to her ability to create, our oh so self-important, arrogant, and pretentious society may be viewed as a cancerous growth that needs to be lopped off to protect the health of the other parts of life.

We are special only to the extent that we fulfill our role in the larger order of life. If we do not, we will be replaced by something that can.

The universe is a vast canvas upon which Creation and Entropy play. Each of us as individuals have a part in this dance as one or the other force manifests through us in our choices. Groups of individuals come together according to their place within this field of the interplay and combine to transduce the energy as a collectivity. A node that transduces entropy is a little knot where Creativity is unable to enter. Creativity will seek another path. The energy transduced through an entropic node will burst out in war, in earthquakes, in storms, in violent manifestations of the downward spiral of devolution. Our own inner lives are no different. We are at war with ourselves and subject to the shaking of quakes and the violence of great storms within. But how could it be otherwise as long as we continue to accept the lies of our leaders, choose the path of least resistance, and continue on as if everything were fine. We know that nothing is fine. We know that continuing down this path leads to our destruction, be it as a society or in our lives as individuals. We see it but ignore it, hoping someone else will clean up the mess or prevent the situation from getting out of hand.

Putting electric currents through metal, you can magnetise that metal. The currents of Creation and Entropy are flowing through each of us. We can each be magnetised, but to which pole? The analogy only goes so far, however, because in this work, like attracts like. By magnetising yourself to the entropic pole, you will not attract creativity.

Our civilisation is magnetised to the pole of entropy. With each day, that attraction to chaos becomes ever stronger. But the planet itself may well be magnetised to Creation. We see the battle between the two all around us. Is there also a battle occurring on levels that we cannot see between our entropic civilisation and the planet?

Laura Knight-Jadczyk touches on this question in her book The High Strangeness of Dimensions, Densities and the Process of Alien Abduction:

Among those implications, which just happens to confirm some current observations, is the likelihood that this planet is going to have a rough ride not too many years down the road, including the idea that a lot of the human race may be checking out at that time. Quite a number of other “sources” are telling their followers that they are soon going to ascend to the “fifth dimension, skipping the fourth”, and this is indeed the truth, though they don’t fill in the details. Fifth density is where you go when you die.

This information we have assembled suggests that there is a reason for this current state of affairs - the cyclical nature of such events - that organic life on earth is a transmitter of energy that feeds the cosmos - that what we observe in nature - that there is a food chain - is something that exists at all levels - and we are not at the top!

We also have the idea that we can possibly get off this train before it runs off the track. It’s a scary, remote idea to most of us because of the very Matrix that we are studying, and which we have the idea is not quite as solid as it has been presented to humanity down through the millennia.

In the series, Adventures with Cassiopaea, I became aware of the important question of the psychopath. Those of you who have read that series may remember the long, and careful exposition of the facts, the data, the observations that lead up to the following remarks:

And we see that the ultimate aim of the psychopath, as living representatives of the [Non-Being] hierarchy, is to master creative energy. To assimilate it to the self, to deprive others of it by inducing them to believe lies. Because, when you believe the lie of the psychopath, you have given him control of your Free Will - the essence of Creativity.

The planetary entity is the focal point of a specific density of mind/body interaction. At certain cosmic moments, or “crossroads”, such a planetary entity may be scheduled to polarize into a higher density. The Negative hierarchy sees this as a “ripe moment” to induce that polarization to take place negatively so that the planetary entity will participate wholly in the Negative 4th density reality rather than the Positive reality. Negatively polarized beings require a negatively polarized planetary base from which to function, just as higher-density positive beings need positively polarized planetary bases.

The Hermetic maxim again: Economics of light energy above, and economics of control of minds and will below. They want to use humanity’s own creative energy to “lock” our planet under their domination.

What we see now in terms of the diminishing resources of our planet, the intensified UV bombardment of our atmosphere, is not an “unfortunate but inevitable byproduct of industrialization”: it is part of the deliberate, covert effort of the Negative hierarchy to prepare the biochemical and electrical composition of this planet for negative polarization.

There are such things as “evil planets” and dark stars. And the real question at this time is: Is Mother Earth about to become one?

Organic life on Earth serves as a “transmitter station”. As such a transmitter, during times of Transition, as it is in the case of a quantum wave collapse, what is being “transmitted/observed” determines the “measurement”.

There are approximately 6 billion human beings on the planet at this moment of transition, most of them contributing to the quantitative transmission. But what is missing is the qualitative frequency response vibration that will create the template for the new world.

The quality of humanity has changed little in the past many millennia. Most human beings are still ruled by fear, hunger and sex in states of misery and chaos. The disinformation machine of the Matrix has worked very hard to keep this state of affairs intact, with great success. The nonsense propagated as “ascension” is evidence of that fact. This is because the Negative hierarchy has been working for millennia to elaborate the control system in such a way that at the “ripe moment” of transition, utilizing the massive release of energy from the enormous numbers of human beings on the planet, they wish to induce that polarization to take place negatively.

Now, to put this in perspective, let me repeat again: Organic life on Earth serves as a “transmitter station”. As such a transmitter, during times of Transition, as it is in the case of a quantum wave collapse, what is being “transmitted/observed” determines the “measurement”. There are approximately 6 billion human beings on the planet at this moment of transition, most of them contributing to the quantitative transmission. But what is missing is the qualitative frequency response vibration that will create the template for the new world.

What do you think this means?

What is the “time of transition”?

What is being transmitted?

Think about it: 6 billion human beings... transmitting what?

In other words, humanity is being set up to be batteries to fuel an “event” that the Entropic forces hope will result in their aims of being masters of the planet in 4th Density.
What do you think that means?

You don’t think that six billion people on the planet have aligned themselves consciously with the force of Creation do you? And we know there aren’t a whole lot of them ready to graduate to conscious alignment with Entropy either.

So what does the Matrix want?


In short, although the potential for the global intensity of transmission has grown exponentially, the quality of energies has been gradually and cunningly co-opted to the negative polarity. This is the esoteric meaning of 9/11, the real purpose behind the plans of the Bush Reich and the Zionists. Remember what the C’s told us:

A: We have told you before: the Nazi experience was a “trial run”, and by now you see the similarities, do you not?

Little did I know what was in store for us!

If the negative polarity has been growing, the planet lacks massive amounts of the finest energies of the psyche which would serve as the template for the transition to result in the restoration of the pre-Fall state of Eden. Only human beings on the verge of true spiritual ascension are capable of ensuring the transmission of these energies in sufficient quality and quantity.

How do we become the people necessary to ensure the transmission of these finest energies? By seeing the world as it is. And the first step in that process is to see ourselves as we really are, free from our filters. Are we still controlled by our basic drives of hunger, fear, and sex? If we think we are not, is this true or have we simply found more subtle masks for these drives?

Are we honest in our relationships? Are we in them for what we can give or for what we can get? Do we continue on as we are because it is the easiest thing to do and tell ourselves that things will change, if we just give them the time? When we have a moment of lucidity, a flash where we see things as they really are, do we quickly clamp it down and push it aside? Do we make one small bargain after another with ourselves, each seemingly unimportant, but when brought together forming a wall that has locked us out of ourselves?

These bargains are lies we tell to ourselves to make an insupportable and untenable situation bearable.

The taking from others under the mask of being the loving mother, father, friend, or dutiful son or daughter are more lies. To believe that someone else will fix us is another lie. Our future is in our own hands in the decisions and choices we make today. Getting down to the roots of these programs takes years of hard and painful work. As our discernment develops, so does our ability to elaborate stories to fool ourselves into thinking we are making progress.

Our thoughts are not our own. Without a deep understanding of this truth we are lost and will finish as fuel for the negative polarising of the planet.

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Two-thirds of world's resources 'used up'
Tim Radford, science editor
Wednesday March 30, 2005
The Guardian

The human race is living beyond its means. A report backed by 1,360 scientists from 95 countries - some of them world leaders in their fields - today warns that the almost two-thirds of the natural machinery that supports life on Earth is being degraded by human pressure.

The study contains what its authors call "a stark warning" for the entire world. The wetlands, forests, savannahs, estuaries, coastal fisheries and other habitats that recycle air, water and nutrients for all living creatures are being irretrievably damaged. In effect, one species is now a hazard to the other 10 million or so on the planet, and to itself.

"Human activity is putting such a strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted," it says.

The report, prepared in Washington under the supervision of a board chaired by Robert Watson, the British-born chief scientist at the World Bank and a former scientific adviser to the White House, will be launched today at the Royal Society in London. [...]

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Suppressing free speech: Follow Up To Colorado Secret Service Removal of Three
Karen Bauer, Leslie Weise. Alexander Young, Denver residents
March 29

In Unusual "Signaling" Move, Secret Service Admits White House is Suppressing Free Speech at Bush Events Financed by Taxpayers. This Would be Impeachable if Republicans Cared About Our Constitution. And It Happens Again and Again.

This is incredible: Very rarely does the everyday public get a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes in a normally-secret Bush Administration.

But Monday, March 28, the Secret Service called three everyday people into their offices to discuss why we were kicked out of a presidential event in Denver last week where Bush promoted his plan to privatize Social Security. What they revealed to us and our lawyer was fascinating.

There we were - three people who had personally picked up tickets from Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez's office and went to a presidential event. But as we entered, we were told that we had been "ID'ed" and were warned that any disruption would get us arrested.

After being seated in the audience we were forcibly removed before the President arrived, even though we had not been disruptive. We were shocked when told that this presidential event was a "private event" and were commanded to leave.

More astonishingly, when the Secret Service was contacted the next day they agreed to meet with us this Monday, March 28 to discuss the circumstances surrounding our removal. We had two big questions going into this meeting:

How is the Bush Administration "ID'ing" citizens before presidential events? Why was an official taxpayer-funded event called a "private event" - leading to citizens being kicked out?

Most shocking of all, we got answers to both questions.

The Secret Service revealed that we were "ID'ed" when local Republican staffers saw a bumper sticker on the car we drove which said "No More Blood For Oil." Evidently, the free speech expressed on one bumper sticker is cause enough to eject three citizens from a presidential event. (Similarly, someone was ejected from Bush's Social Security privatization event in Arizona the same day simply for wearing a Democratic t-shirt.)

The Secret Service also revealed that ticket distribution and staffing of the Social Security event was run by the local Republican Party. They wanted us to be clear that it was a Republican staffer - not the Secret Service - who kicked us out of the presidential event. But this revealed something else that should be startling to all Americans.

After allowing taxpayers to finance his privatization events (let's call them what they really are after all,) and after using the White House communications apparatus to set them up, Bush is privatizing the ticket distribution and security staffing at his events to the Republican Party. The losers are not just taxpayers, but anyone who values the First Amendment. Under the banner of a "private event" the Republican Party is excluding citizens from seeing their president because of the lone sin of expressing the wrong idea on a bumper sticker or t-shirt. The question for Americans is - will we allow our freedom to be privatized?

Comment: "The question for Americans is - will we allow our freedom to be privatized?" Sure looks that way.

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Capitol bill aims to control ‘leftist’ profs
Alligator Staff Writer

TALLAHASSEE — Republicans on the House Choice and Innovation Committee voted along party lines Tuesday to pass a bill that aims to stamp out “leftist totalitarianism” by “dictator professors” in the classrooms of Florida’s universities.

The Academic Freedom Bill of Rights, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, passed 8-to-2 despite strenuous objections from the only two Democrats on the committee.

The bill has two more committees to pass before it can be considered by the full House.

While promoting the bill Tuesday, Baxley said a university education should be more than “one biased view by the professor, who as a dictator controls the classroom,” as part of “a misuse of their platform to indoctrinate the next generation with their own views.”

The bill sets a statewide standard that students cannot be punished for professing beliefs with which their professors disagree. Professors would also be advised to teach alternative “serious academic theories” that may disagree with their personal views.

According to a legislative staff analysis of the bill, the law would give students who think their beliefs are not being respected legal standing to sue professors and universities.

Students who believe their professor is singling them out for “public ridicule” – for instance, when professors use the Socratic method to force students to explain their theories in class – would also be given the right to sue.

“Some professors say, ‘Evolution is a fact. I don’t want to hear about Intelligent Design (a creationist theory), and if you don’t like it, there’s the door,’” Baxley said, citing one example when he thought a student should sue.

Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, warned of lawsuits from students enrolled in Holocaust history courses who believe the Holocaust never happened.

Similar suits could be filed by students who don’t believe astronauts landed on the moon, who believe teaching birth control is a sin or even by Shands medical students who refuse to perform blood transfusions and believe prayer is the only way to heal the body, Gelber added.

“This is a horrible step,” he said. “Universities will have to hire lawyers so our curricula can be decided by judges in courtrooms. Professors might have to pay court costs — even if they win — from their own pockets. This is not an innocent piece of legislation.”

The staff analysis also warned the bill may shift responsibility for determining whether a student’s freedom has been infringed from the faculty to the courts.

But Baxley brushed off Gelber’s concerns. “Freedom is a dangerous thing, and you might be exposed to things you don’t want to hear,” he said. “Being a businessman, I found out you can be sued for anything. Besides, if students are being persecuted and ridiculed for their beliefs, I think they should be given standing to sue.”

During the committee hearing, Baxley cast opposition to his bill as “leftists” struggling against “mainstream society.”

“The critics ridicule me for daring to stand up for students and faculty,” he said, adding that he was called a McCarthyist.

Baxley later said he had a list of students who were discriminated against by professors, but refused to reveal names because he felt they would be persecuted.

Rep. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, argued universities and the state Board of Governors already have policies in place to protect academic freedom. Moreover, a state law outlining how professors are supposed to teach would encroach on the board’s authority to manage state schools.

“The big hand of state government is going into the universities telling them how to teach,” she said. “This bill is the antithesis of academic freedom.”

But Baxley compared the state’s universities to children, saying the legislature should not give them money without providing “guidance” to their behavior.

“Professors are accountable for what they say or do,” he said. “They’re accountable to the rest of us in society … All of a sudden the faculty think they can do what they want and shut us out. Why is it so unheard of to say the professor shouldn’t be a dictator and control that room as their totalitarian niche?”

In an interview before the meeting, Baxley said “arrogant, elitist academics are swarming” to oppose the bill, and media reports misrepresented his intentions.

“I expect to be out there on my own pretty far,” he said. “I don’t expect to be part of a team.”

Comment: So, let us get this straight. Professors who teach evolution are espousing "leftist totalitarianism" and are "dictators"? That appears to be the conclusion given that the evolution/creationist debate is the only specific example given by Baxter. And one way they do this is by using the Socratic Method to have students defend their ideas. Hmmm. Let's look into this leftist method of humiliation. From the Wikipedia:

Socratic method

[Socrates'] most important contribution to Western thought is his dialogical method of inquiry, known as the Socratic method or method of elenchos, which he largely applied to the examination of key moral concepts and was first described by Plato in the Socratic Dialogues. For this, Socrates is customarily regarded as the father and fountainhead for ethics or moral philosophy, and of philosophy in general.

The Socratic method is a negative method of hypotheses elimination, in that better hypotheses are found by steadily identifying and eliminating those which lead to contradictions. The method of Socrates is a search for the underlying hypotheses, assumptions, or axioms, which may unconsciously shape one's opinion, and to make them the subject of scrutiny, to determine their consistency with other beliefs. The basic form is a series of questions formulated as tests of logic and fact intended to help a person or group discover their beliefs about some topic, exploring the definitions or logoi (singular logos), seeking to characterise the general characteristics shared by various particular instances. To the extent to which this method is designed to bring out definitions implicit in the interlocutors' beliefs, or to help them further their understanding, it was called the method of maieutics. Aristotle attributed to Socrates the discovery of the method of definition and induction, which he regarded as the essence of the scientific method. Oddly, however, Aristotle also claimed that this method is not suitable for ethics.

A skillful teacher can actually teach students to think for themselves using this method. This is the only classic method of teaching that is known to create genuinely autonomous thinkers. There are some crucial principles to this form of teaching:

* The teacher and student must agree on the topic of instruction.
* The student must agree to attempt to answer questions from the teacher.
* The teacher and student must be willing to accept any correctly-reasoned answer. That is, the reasoning process must be considered more important than facts.
* The teacher's questions must expose errors in the students' reasoning or beliefs. That is, the teacher must reason more quickly and correctly than the student, and discover errors in the students' reasoning, and then formulate a question which the students cannot answer except by a correct reasoning process. To perform this service, the teacher must be very quick-thinking about the classic errors in reasoning.
* If the teacher makes an error of logic or fact, it is acceptable for a student to correct the teacher.

Since a discussion is not a dialogue, it is not a proper medium for the Socratic method. However, it is helpful -- if second best -- if the teacher is able to lead a group of students in a discussion. This is not always possible in situations that require the teacher to evaluate students, but it is preferable pedagogically, because it encourages the students to reason rather than appeal to authority.

More loosely, one can label any process of thorough-going questioning in a dialogue as an instance of the Socratic method.

Socrates applied his method to the examination of the key moral concepts at the time, the virtues of piety, wisdom, temperance, courage, and justice. Such an examination challenged the implicit moral beliefs of the interlocutors, bringing out inadequacies and inconsistencies in their beliefs, and usually resulting in puzzlement known as aporia. In view of such inadequacies, Socrates himself professed his ignorance, but others still claimed to have knowledge. Socrates believed that his awareness of his ignorance made him wiser than those who, though ignorant, still claimed knowledge. Although this belief seems paradoxical at first glance, it in fact allowed Socrates to discover his own errors where others might assume they were correct. This claim was known by the anecdote of the Delphic oracular pronouncement that Socrates was the wisest of all men.

Socrates used this claim of wisdom as the basis of his moral exhortation. Accordingly, he claimed that the chief goodness consists in the caring of the soul concerned with moral truth and moral understanding, that "wealth does not bring goodness, but goodness brings wealth and every other blessing, both to the individual and to the state", and that "life without examination [dialogue] is not worth living". Socrates also argued that to be wronged is better than to do wrong.

So, according to the writer of this entry in the Wikipedia, "A skillful teacher can actually teach students to think for themselves using this method. This is the only classic method of teaching that is known to create genuinely autonomous thinkers." People thinking for themselves! Horrors! Students becoming "genuinely autonomous thinkers"! We can't have that!

Furthermore, "The method of Socrates is a search for the underlying hypotheses, assumptions, or axioms, which may unconsciously shape one's opinion, and to make them the subject of scrutiny, to determine their consistency with other beliefs." Probing a fundie Christian student on the basis of his or her beliefs is going to provoke a certain amount of discomfort, wouldn't you think? We can't have that in our schools!

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Iraq assembly delays naming speaker
Tuesday 29 March 2005, 16:03 Makka Time, 13:03 GMT

Iraq's parliament has indefinitely delayed naming a new candidate for the post of parliament speaker, after last-minute negotiations failed to produce a suitable candidate.

The delay, announced by interim speaker Dhari al-Fayadh, was met with disdain by several members of the assembly.

A woman in full-length black robes, one of 85 women elected to parliament, stood up to say the eight million Iraqis who risked their lives to vote on Jan. 30 deserved better.

"The people should know who is behind all this delay, they have the right to know and they should know," she said, her voice quavering and her finger occasionally jabbing.

The speaker did not identify herself.

A verbal battle ensued as other parliament members stood up and voiced their anger, prompting al-Fayadh to interrupt the session and order the media to leave.

Continuous delays

A meeting late on Monday between Shia, Kurdish and Sunni representatives had failed to come up with a name for the Sunni Arab candidate that legislators promised would be announced during Tuesday's assembly session.

The session's start was delayed on Tuesday as officials held frantic meetings aimed at reaching agreement.

The Shia-led United Iraqi Alliance's leader, Abd al Aziz al-Hakim, and Kurdish politician Barham Salih met interim President Ghazi al-Yawir, a Sunni Arab whom Alliance and Kurdish members seem to be trying to persuade to accept the parliament speaker position.

Al-Yawir had earlier turned down the post, asking to be one of two Iraqi vice-presidents instead.

The delay is now likely to prolong talks on forming a new Iraqi government. [...]

Comment: The US has insured instability in Iraq by playing the regional differences against each other and forcing the Parliament to have 66% agreement on the government in order to keep the Shi'ites from forming a government on its own.

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Iraqi lawmakers regroup after delays
Wednesday 30 March 2005, 11:51 Makka Time, 8:51 GMT

Iraqi lawmakers have regrouped after failing to name parliamentary leaders during their contentious second session, seeking to forge an agreement by the end of the week.

They hope to focus on their primary task - writing a new constitution.

The impasse, two months after the country's historic national elections, is rooted in disagreements about the posts that should be granted to Sunni Arabs in an attempt to incorporate members of the minority group that dominated under Saddam Hussein, in the new government.

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Iraqi parliamentary session ends in chaos 2005-03-30 07:58:51
BEIJING, Mar. 30 -- The second Iraqi parliamentary session has ended without designating a speaker or making arrangements for the formation of a government.

The second session of the Iraqi parliament was mostly held behind closed doors after a nearly three-hour delay. It was eventually adjourned until this weekend.

Salama al-Khafaji, a member of the parliament, said the speaker would likely be chosen on Sunday.

"So at the last we reach the point that we finish this meeting for today and give another opportunity in next Sunday that they will choose the one who represent them and they will come back."

The presidency is expected to go to Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani and the prime minister's post to Shiite politician Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Nearly two months after Iraq's January 30 elections, negotiations to form a new government have stalled over Cabinet posts and how to include the Sunni minority.

Interim President Ghazi al-Yawer and interim Minister of Interior Falah al-Naqib walked out of the session before it ended.

Despite the chaotic nature of the parliament meeting, US president George W Bush hailed the session in Washington.

"Today, Iraqis took another step on the road to a free society when the assembly held its second meeting. We expect a new government will be chosen soon and that the assembly will vote to confirm it."

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Paris 'reassured' over missing Iraq reporter
PARIS, March 29 (AFP) - France has steady contacts with the Iraqi kidnappers of missing French reporter Florence Aubenas and has been given "reassuring information" about her fate, Prime Minister Jean Pierre Raffarin said Tuesday.

"We now have contacts that seem steady, which allows us to have some hope," Raffarin told lawmakers in the lower-house National Assembly.

"Since the appeal we launched for the kidnappers to communicate only with official French services, those services now have reassuring information" about the fate of Aubenas. [...]

France backs Annan ahead of oil-for-food report
PARIS, March 29 (AFP) - France on Tuesday voiced its "full support" for embattled UN Secretary General Kofi Annan ahead of the publication of a report on the scandal-plagued oil-for-food programme in Iraq.

"As for Kofi Annan's work in general as secretary general of the United Nations, I can tell you that we offer him our full support and confidence," foreign ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei told reporters.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the latest report from former US banking chief Paul Volcker will fault Annan for not recognising the conflict of interest over his son Kojo's work for a company contracted by the programme.

But Annan's spokesman said Monday he expected to cleared of any wrongdoing.

When asked about the report, Mattei replied: "We're waiting to see the report. For now, we don't have a copy of it. Once we have it, we can comment on it."

On Monday, the United States reaffirmed its confidence in Annan but stopped short of saying whether he was able to carry through his ambitious plans to reform the world body.

Comment: The US has done its best to remove Annan from his post, as documented in the story Harassing Kofi Annan. The recent appointment of John Bolton as US ambassador to the UN will ensure that the pressure is maintained.

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Annan cleared of corruption charge 2005-03-30 07:28:26
UNITED NATIONS, March 29 (Xinhuanet) -- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was cleared by an independent inquiry team on Tuesday of any personal wrongdoing in the oil-for-food corruption scandal, but he was criticized for failing to detect and stop a conflict of interest posed by his son, employed by a UN contractor.

"There is no evidence that the selection of Cotecna in 1998 was subject to any affirmative or improper influence of the secretary-general in the bidding or selection process," said the report.

"Having weighed all the evidence and the credibility of the witnesses, the evidence is not reasonably sufficient to show that the Secretary-General knew in 1998 that Cotecna was bidding on the humanitarian inspection contract," it added. [...]

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Bring our troops back home
By: Kevin Alfred Strom
3/28/2005 5:54:00 PM GMT
The greatest dangers to the life and liberty of the American people are the expanding war in the Middle East and the invasion pouring across our southern borders. Help us awaken others to these dangers -- and encourage them to become part of the solution.

I OFTEN HATE IT when my predictions come true. I hate the fact that my prediction of a protracted war in Iraq came true. I hate the fact that Americans and innocents of many nationalities are dying for Israel in that bloodbath. And I especially hate the fact that my prediction of the neocon push for an even wider Middle East war is coming true before our eyes.

The next targets are Iran and Syria. This coming expansion of the War for Israel may well be several orders of magnitude larger than what we've experienced so far, may involve several nations simultaneously, and has the potential to develop into a World War, with huge losses for America and the West as well as for the other innocent victims of Zionist ambition and Jewish supremacist hate.

Yesterday the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, who is to Britain what George Bush is to the United States -- in other words, an opportunist who follows the Jewish supremacist line because that's what pays -- said in a magazine interview that "Nobody is planning military action against Iran over its nuclear program at the moment." He then added "Let's just pursue the diplomatic path for the moment. No one is talking about anything else at the moment." That's three "for the moments" or "at the moments" in three sentences. Also notice Blair's careful qualification that no military action is planned against Iran over its nuclear program -- leaving open the possibility that plans may be afoot to start a war under some other pretext. (Could the pretext be the shooting down of one of the American spy planes which are being sent over Iranian airspace as an obvious provocation, even though spy satellites give us all the information we need?) Blair also added "Iran is not Iraq," something of which only remedial reading students and Bush voters need to be reminded.

As I've said before, when professional con artists like Tony Blair start to solemnly assure us that they are definitely under no circumstances even considering doing something, we should immediately get a third mortgage on the house, buy tickets for Las Vegas, and make substantial wagers that the very something will happen pretty soon.

Even by the neocon's own standards -- which essentially amount to whatever is good for Israel is good, whatever is bad for Israel is bad -- the invasion and occupation of Iraq has not been an unqualified success. The Iraqi resistance continues as strong as ever. The credibility of the neocon war hawks, virtually all of them Jews, and their nonexistent WMD excuse for war, has plummeted to near zero among the educated and well-informed. The election in Iraq gave the largest share of power to the Shiite majority which looks with favor on powerful Iran, certainly no friend of Israel. Iran and its allies in Iraq also constitute a powerful opponent of the Jewish scheme to set up controlled media in that region to destroy the culture and the youth there, and control their elections -- just as they've done in America and most other Western nations.

The ignorant vote got Bush reelected, so there will be no punishment any time soon for the criminals who are forcing our troops to kill and be killed for Israel, nor for their lies about hidden Iraqi nukes and chemical weapons which never existed, nor for their lies about the utterly fictional connection between Iraq and 9/11, nor for their bloodthirsty and horrific war crimes -- including some involving women and children -- against a nation which never did the United States even the slightest harm. Not only is there no punishment, but the criminals are being elevated to even higher levels of power and influence by the current regime in Washington. For example, Paul Wolfowitz has been named by his employee in the White House to head the World Bank, where, if confirmed, he will supervise the distribution of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to regimes which are favored by the Jewish supremacists. He will also supervise the shutting off of the credit and money tap to ensure the economic strangulation of regimes which do not accept Jewish supervision.

Despite the fact that Iraq isn't quite working out the way the Israel-firsters who pushed for this war would have preferred, the Zionists still have their hands on U.S. foreign policy -- much to the dismay of many in the State Department and the FBI, I might add. Their "solution" for their failed war is to expand that war.

They've already started their destabilization campaign against Lebanon and Syria. Even one major establishment newspaper, Britain's Guardian, admits that the murder of the widely admired former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Al Hariri was very unlikely to have been carried out by the Syrians whom the controlled media are blaming for the hit. Instead, the murder bears all the marks of a major intelligence agency's targeted killing. The Guardian states that if Syria did it, it would have to be judged an "act of political suicide," since it has only benefited their most powerful enemies, an act which would "hand its enemies a weapon with which they can deliver the blow that could finally destabilise the Damascus regime, and even possibly bring it down." And the Guardian actually goes so far as to point out that most likely of culprits based on past history and on the logical answer to the question: Who benefits?

"Israel's ambition has long been to weaken Syria, sever its strategic alliance with Iran and destroy Hezbullah. Israel has great experience at 'targeted assassinations' - not only in the Palestinian territories but across the Middle East. Over the years, it has sent hit teams to kill opponents in Beirut, Tunis, Malta, Amman and Damascus.

"Syria, Hezbullah and Iran have stood up against the U.S. and Israeli hegemony over the region. Syria continues to demand that Israel returns the Golan Heights, seized in 1967. Damascus will not allow Lebanon to conclude a separate peace with Israel unless its own claim is also addressed.

"Hezbullah, in turn, is possibly the only Arab force to have inflicted a defeat on Israel. It's guerrillas forced Israel out of south Lebanon after a 22-year occupation."

Neocon bosses David Wurmser and Douglas Feith (of AIPAC spy operation fame), both ardent Zionists with direct ties to Israel, have been publicly urging armed and violent efforts to destabilize Syria since the 1990s. Why would they go back now, when a golden opportunity presents itself?

The hysteria over "weapons of mass destruction" is starting all over again, this time about alleged nukes in Iran, all coming from the same tainted sources who lied to us about Iraq. In a healthy society, these liars would be ignored if not locked up, but in media-driven America, they are treated with reverence and respect as "experts."

Some of their propaganda operations are so inept they'd be funny if it weren't for the fact that innocent people are going to die because of them. We reported last month on that CNN was using the same satellite photo to illustrate two different nuclear facilities in two different "Axis of Evil" countries. CNN promptly removed the photo from its North Korea slideshow and attributed the photo to the supposed Iranian facility -- naturally so, since Iran is a danger to Israel and Korea is not.

The next day, researchers found out that the U.S. government propaganda outlet Radio Free Europe (RFE) had used a photo of the very same facility early last year, attributing it to North Korea! And apparently, these two instances weren't the only times the photo was used.

More than one per cent of the huge U.S. force in Iraq is now dead.

We mustn't permit this exploitation and murder to continue. We must do the honorable thing; we must do what it takes to stop it. We must break the spell that enslaves them to the Jewish war machine.

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Palestinian–Israeli Relations ‘Heading Towards Real Crisis’
Israel Wavering on its Obligations, US and Quartet to Blame

Palestine Media Center – PMC

The Palestine National Authority (PNA) said Monday that Palestinian–Israeli relations “are heading towards a real crisis” because of Israel’s wavering on the implementation of the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings in light of the absence of an active US and international presence.

“The Israeli side is making statements without moving on the ground,” Palestinian Cabinet Secretary General Samir Hlaileh told Al-Quds daily on Monday.

“Maintaining the current state of affairs will create a deep crisis with dire consequences,” he said.

Hlaileh held the United States and the Quartet Committee, comprising the UN, US, EU and Russia responsible for the Israeli wavering.

He demanded “intensive and immediate US and international presence ahead of two major developments, namely the Israeli unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip and the upcoming Palestinian elections.”

“The absence of an active political international presence is encouraging Israel not to implement the understandings, to continue its settlement activities,” and to procrastinate in releasing Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails, he said.

The only US involvement after the summit between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on February 8 was the visit by US envoys Elliot Abrams, the US deputy national security adviser, and David Welch, the US assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, last week, Hlaileh noted.

“No political timetable came out of the visit of Abrams and Welch to commit each side to what it had pledged and no timetable was drawn to enhance confidence-building,” he said.

Similarly, Palestinian Deputy Premier and Minister of Information Nabil Shaath said that Israel was trying to absolve itself from Sharm el-Sheikh understandings.

“Israel is trying to avoid implementing the agreements, especially with regard to the Israeli withdrawal from five Palestinian regions in the West Bank,” the Ramallah-based Al-Ayyam daily quoted him as saying on Monday.

Israel is delaying handing over control of the northern West Bank town of Qalqilya to the PNA, claiming that the Palestinians have not met demands in handing over wanted anti-occupation activists.

Israeli “defense” minister Shaul Mofaz has ordered the delay, Israel Radio reported Sunday.

Mofaz alleged, in a closed cabinet meeting, that Palestinian intelligence agents were involved in bringing Strella missiles into Gaza through smuggling tunnels under the Egyptian border.

“Last week, several Strellas were smuggled in by Palestinian military intelligence. If the Palestinians don't get a hold of the Strellas, we will,” Mofaz was quoted as saying.

Shaath refuted Mofaz’s accusations as an attempt to undermine the truce and to absolve Israel of its obligations according to the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings.

“I hope these reports are not a prelude to an upcoming Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people,” he said in Gaza Sunday.

Early Monday, the IOF stormed into the northern West Bank city of Jenin and the neighboring village of Fahmeh, detaining eight Palestinian anti-occupation activists.

Another PNA minister went further to say that Israel is weakening President Abbas.

Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs Mohammad Dahlan told reporters on Sunday that the current Israeli policy of “loitering and postponing the implementation of the reached understandings would certainly weaken President (Mahmoud) Abbas.”

Dahlan blamed Israel for “not making any progress in the peace process since Abbas was elected President of the PNA.”

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Tanya Reinhart*

To judge by the political discourse, being a leftist today means supporting Sharon. Even when his government decides yet again to postpone the evacuation of the illegal outposts to an unknown future date, the pundits explain that the mere fact that he even raised the matter for discussion in the government is indicative of the seriousness of his intentions. Sharon will evacuate Gaza first, they say, and afterwards the outposts, and in the end maybe even the West Bank. And those who most believe that Sharon will dismantle settlements are the parties of the Left. On what basis?

Sharon is known as a man who has not always told the truth. At the time of the Lebanon war, he succeeded in concealing his plan even from the then-Prime Minister, Menachem Begin. He has no problem making promises and then not fulfilling. For three years now he has been promising the US that he will immediately evacuate at least the outposts that were created during his current term as Prime Minister. So what? - He can always propose a new commitment that would postpone the realization of the previous one. Why should the Gaza “Disengagement” be any different? The answer that the Right and the Left agree on is that this time Sharon has changed. That is an interesting answer in the realm of psychology. But what confirmation does it have in the realm of facts? It is much easier at the present to imagine many scenarios in which there will not be any evacuation of settlements in July, than the one in which there will be an evacuation.

Let’s take for example the problem of the evacuees. That is a real problem. The Gaza Strip settlers went there at the behest of the Israeli government. They must be compensated for this dreadful idiocy, to allow them to rebuild their lives. A government that really wanted to evacuate them would have already given them the compensation, so they could leave before the evacuation. In the evacuation of Yamit, in 1982, the overwhelming majority of the residents were compensated and left before the evacuation. Those who were present in the confrontation on the scene were settler activists from the outside, with whom it is easier to deal than with families actually living there. According to Yonatan Bassi, head of the Disengagement Administration, over half of the present Gaza Strip settlers have already expressed their willingness to leave (1). So why doesn’t Sharon facilitate their immediate departure? Could it be that he wants the photographs of the first attempt to evacuate them to show us entire families with their children, whose world has been destroyed, so that we will understand through empathy that it is simply impossible to evacuate?

And why this foot-dragging over the Budget? What the right-wing opponents of the Budget are demanding is a referendum. The mainstream of the settlers camp is not interested in a complete break with Israeli society. Their leaders are saying that they will be ready to accept the decision, but only if it is proven clearly that it is the will of the majority. The Likud rebels of course have their own agenda, which they hitch to this demand. But precisely on this issue, it is a simple matter to call their bluff by giving them what they demand. According to all the polls, there is a decisive and stable majority of 60%-70% in favour of the evacuation of Gaza. Even in the poll taken a couple of days after the terror attack at the Stage Club in Tel Aviv, 66% said they would have voted “yes” for the plan, had a referendum taken place that day (2). The disengagement will pass in a referendum. That is clear even to the Right. Why then does Sharon oppose it? Perhaps he does not really want the settlers to compromise and accept the will of the majority? Maybe he is afraid that if the evacuation decision passes in the referendum it will have to be actually carried out sooner or later?

All there is, then, is the faith that Sharon has changed. In its name, all the parties of the Left are obediently lined up behind him. Not only the Labour, which would be probably willing to sit in any government, even one headed by “Gandhi”*; but also Yahad and Hadash**. Sharon is submitting for approval a budget of plunder and robbery, that cuts further the surviving remnants of public services, and all the left-wing parties have to say is that we have to help him to pass it, because he said that he will evacuate settlements.

Of the 100,000 people who showed up for the demonstration of the Left parties a year ago, that demanded a pullout from Gaza, 90,000 stayed home in this week’s demonstration. Could it be that many of them feel in their heart of hearts that they are being deceived? The Israeli Left chose to commit suicide. It is no longer beholden to its voters. It is beholden only to Sharon.

* “Gandhi” is the peculiar nickname in Israel of Rehavam Ze’evi, a former general and politician who was assassinated in 2001 while serving as Israel’s Minister of Tourism. He had a reputation as an extreme nationalist and anti-Arab chauvinist who openly supported transfer. The present Sharon- Labour government decided lately to establish a national memorial day for him, similar to that of Rabin. [M.M] ]
** Yahad is a moderate Zionist party headed by Yossi Beilin. It supports a two-state solution. Hadash is the Israeli Communist Party, headed by Muhammad Barakeh. It is a non-Zionist Jewish/Arab party. [M.M]


(1) “Some 800 of the 1,700 families living in Gush Katif and northern Samaria have already expressed willingness in principle to leave their homes under the disengagement plan and negotiate over financial compensation, according to Yonatan Bassi, who heads the disengagement administration. Of the remaining 900 families, he believed …[only] 300 families, the hard core of settlers opposed to the evacuation, would refuse to leave of their own accord” (Gideon Alon, Ha’aretz, March 2, 2005).
There is ample information in the Israeli media regarding the frustration of the Gaza Strip settlers, who feel that the government is leaving them in the dark. Alex Fishman interviewed Itzick Ilia, deputy Mayor of the regional council of the Gaza Strip settlements, who says he represents between 70 and 80 percents of the settlers who are willing to leave. He reports a meeting where “people poured out their problems… People cried and shouted. No one talks to them. There is some new law that appeared in the internet, but people don’t even know what exactly are their compensation rights” (Yediot Aharonot, Weekend Supplement, March 18, 2003).

(2) Sima Kadmon, Yidiot Aharonot, Weekend Supplement, March 4, 2005, (Mina Zemach’s “Dahaf”’ poll).

* Professor Tanya Reinhart teaches linquistics at Tel Aviv University and Ultrect University in The Netherlands.

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WWII-era Jewish land in Poland now said to be worth $30 billion
By Amiram Barkat

The Jewish property left in Poland on the eve of World War II is today worth more than $30 billion, according to a comprehensive report drawn up at the request of the Israeli government.

The estimate does not include communal buildings and facilities held by the various Jewish communities in different parts of Poland. The report was drawn up by experts from the government, the business sector and non-profit and non-governmental organizations.

Some 10 percent of Poland's population was Jewish before the Holocaust.

The report relates not only to the value of the property but also to its legal status, and proposes to the government how to proceed. It will be discussed at the upcoming meeting of the ministerial committee on returning Jewish property.

The Foreign Ministry is opposed to explicit government intervention in returning Jewish property in eastern Europe, saying it could affect ties with these countries, particularly with Poland.

The government approved a proposal by Diaspora Affairs Minister Natan Sharansky at the end of 2003 to set up under his leadership a ministerial committee on the subject. A steering committee, headed by Sharansky's adviser on Jewish property affairs, subsequently heard historians, legal experts and representatives of Jewish organizations, and examined archival material in various places including Yad Vashem and Poland.

According to a source close to the committee, many of the Polish Jews were very wealthy.

"They controlled the oil and textile industries, and held expensive properties, many of which are now in the downtown areas of the cities," the source said.

The Hebrew daily Maariv reported yesterday that the Polish government had proposed a new draft law permitting heirs to receive 15 percent of the worth of their property. Sources said it was unlikely that the law would be approved, and that the sum was insufficient, but expressed satisfaction that such a precedent had been set.

Since 90 percent of Polish Jewry perished in the Holocaust, it was unlikely that there would be many heirs, they said, and therefore a joint Jewish body should be set up and recognized as representing the Jewish people, as had been done in Germany.

Foreign Ministry sources say that the issue of returning property is a very sensitive one in Polish society today, and should be handled by Jewish organizations rather than the Israeli government.

There is a great deal of tension over German demands for possible restitution for German citizens who were forced to leave Poland, they say. However, the former Israeli ambassador to Poland, Shevah Weiss, said yesterday that there was a strong moral responsibility to return the property to the Jews of Poland.

"I don't believe the Poles will break off diplomatic relations over this moral issue," he said, "particularly in light of the fact that the elite in Poland certainly has an awareness of the issue and the readiness to make amends."

WRH Comments:

Let's put this in context. The Catholic Church's wealth is based in large part on wealth confiscated from condemned heretics, including all the condemned witches, the Cathars, and while the main portion of the Templar Treasure escaped the treachery of Philip le Bel and Pope Clement V, the vast land holdings and buildings were confiscated by Philip and Clement.

Therefore, under the same precident that Israel is setting in Poland, all descendants of witches, Cathars, & Templars now have valid grounds to sue the Vatican and the government of France to force them to evict the people now living on those lands, and return those lands.

Comment: Not to mention the fact that the Native Americans can use the precedent to sue the American government for the return of the entire United States...

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Lebanese PM-designate to step down
Tuesday 29 March 2005, 12:57 Makka Time, 9:57 GMT

Lebanon's pro-Syrian prime minister-designate Umar Karami plans to stand down because of his failure to form a national unity government, his adviser has said.

"Mr Karami is to meet parliament speaker Nabih Birri on Tuesday before being received by President Emile Lahud on Wednesday to inform him of his refusal to form a new cabinet that is not a government of national unity," the aide, Khaldun Sharif, said on Tuesday.

"The prime minister is sticking by his undertaking to form only a government of national unity."

The pro-Syrian prime minister resigned on 28 February in the face of a wave of protests sparked by the killing of former premier Rafiq al-Hariri in a bomb blast two weeks earlier.

But on 10 March Lahud invited Karami to form a new government.

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US officials meet with Syrian opposition members 2005-03-29 08:37:32

WASHINGTON, March 28 (Xinhuanet) -- The United States confirmed on Monday that its officials met with a dozen Syrian opponents of President Bashar Assad last week to assess the political situationin that country.

The Thursday meeting was focused on the current situation in Syria, the state of reform efforts, and the views of civil society leaders there, deputy spokesman of the State Department Adam Erelitold a news briefing.

Ereli dismissed suggestions that the meeting was part of US contingency planning in the event that the government of President Bashar Assad, under heavy pressure for its presence in Lebanon, might collapse.

"This is not where we're going in those discussions. The discussion was, how can we support the Syrian people's desire for reform, for greater freedoms, for greater opportunity within the system that exists there now."

The Washington Post reported last Saturday that the meeting was triggered by growing concerns that unrest in Lebanon could spill over and suddenly destabilize Syria.

The Washington Post and the Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat said the meeting with the Syrian dissidents was hosted by Elizabeth Cheney, deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.

Also reportedly on hand were aides to her father, Vice President Dick Cheney, as well as officials from the Pentagon and the National Security Council.

The Syrian side reportedly included leaders of the Syrian Reform Party, a small US-based group set up after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks to promote democratic and economic reforms and secular government back home.

The US newspaper quoted French President Jacques Chirac as telling US President George W. Bush last month that Bashar's government could fall if Syria pulled its 14,000 troops out of Lebanon and allowed free elections there.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Washington Postin an interview on Friday that Washington was talking to "as many people as we possibly can" about potential scenarios for Syria and Lebanon.

"What we're trying to do is to assess the situation so that nobody is blindsided because events are moving so fast and in such unpredictable directions that it is only prudent at this point to know what's going on," she said.

Comment: Sure, the US is only interested in not being blind-sided. It would never intervene in the internal affairs of a foreign country, especially a country it has put on the list of the Axis of Evil.

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Do you think it possible that AIPAC was caught assisting Israel in betraying American spy networks in Iran?
Monday, March 28, 2005
Now that the AIPAC Two are being prepared [1] to take the rap for whatever it is the FBI thinks AIPAC has done, the whole matter will be swept [2]under the rug and the apparent complete control of Israel over American politics will be allowed to continue in its normal course. We will never know what information the FBI was able to present to the Grand Jury, and will never know even the tip of the iceberg of AIPAC shenanigans. But we can speculate.

One of the difficulties in guessing what AIPAC might have done is that recent past history [3] has proven that it is impossible for Israeli spies to create any consternation whatsoever in official Washington. They can drive white vans wherever they want, hang around military installations and power plants to their heart's content, set up hundreds (?) of fake moving companies to do God knows what, send 'art students' to every office in the country, including into the offices of the DEA, conduct industrial espionage, film rural Oklahoma [4], fill all the shopping malls with agents selling cheap children's toys, assist in the Israeli manufacture and distribution of illegal drugs, follow the alleged 19 9-11 hijackers around all over the country without saying boo about it to the U. S. government, and even film [5]and cheer the destruction of the World Trade Center, all without the tiniest concern from American officials. The worst that happens is that the spies are quietly - very quietly - deported. So what is left that AIPAC could have done that would provoke the FBI to investigate?

The two word answer is: Jonathan Pollard. If you are an Israeli spy you can do just about anything, but you can't do what Jonathan Pollard did. That's the apple you can't eat, or you are thrown out of the Garden of Eden. Pollard and his Israeli handlers sent important American strategic secrets to a real American enemy, in this case Russia, in return for emigration favors from the Russians. The American Powers That Be remain so furious about this that Clinton was not allowed to pardon Pollard - they had to settle for the consolation prize of Marc Rich - and even the Israel-lovin' Bush Administration has been able to resist the unrelenting Israeli [6]pressure to let him go. Of course, the issue of Pollard has become symbolic for Israel. The Israelis know that if they can pry Pollard free they will then officially own the United States. As the Israelis chose to play power politics over this issue, Pollard remains in jail.

If AIPAC did something so wrong it would lead to a Grand Jury, it would have had to have been a Pollard-level crime, i. e., turning strategically important American secrets over to a real enemy. The Americans treat the whole world as an enemy these days, but the only real enemies are China and the Axis of Evil. While we can't rule China out, particularly as Israel is clearly moving to make China its new best friend after the United States ruins itself helping the Zionists build Greater Israel, I think it is more likely that the enemy in question is in the Axis of Evil. Iran is the most likely subject. What could the Israelis offer Iran, and what could Iran offer in return?

The Americans have admitted that their intelligence in Iran is terrible, as the Iranians manage to find and execute all their agents. The obvious reason for this is that the Iranians are getting information on who these agents are. Do you think it possible that AIPAC was caught assisting Israel in betraying American spy networks in Iran? The Iranians could offer in return to free captured Israeli spies. The deal would essentially be to destroy American spies and the American ability to gather intelligence in return for the lives of Israeli spies and the continued ability of Israel to gather intelligence. I'm obviously just guessing, but my guess tracks the cover [7]story printed in the Jerusalem Post, that the information in the 'entrapment' related to the lives of Israeli spies in Kurdistan (a cover story important enough that they decided to admit they had agents in Kurdistan, something they had previously denied). If this is indeed a spy story, Iran is the most likely country being spied upon, particularly as both Israel and the United States want to know where to bomb. Betraying an American spy network in a country considered to be a real enemy would be a Pollard-type crime, and at a Pollard-level of importance. It would be enough to get AIPAC into some serious trouble. Does Israel already own the United States to the extent it can pull AIPAC out of trouble?




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Russia, Israel and Media Omissions

As is often the case with AP's coverage of news having to do with Israel, there's a serious omission in its reporting on the Russia-Israel connection even when it involves oil and the United States.

The day after the State of the Union Address, two Interpol fugitives attended the "National Prayer Breakfast" held in Washington DC. The day before that, these fugitives from the law were the guests of honor at an hour-long meeting of the International Relations Committee on Capitol Hill, invited by ranking Democrat Tom Lantos (Calif.)

You would think it would be hot news when wanted men being hunted by European police suddenly pop up in the US particularly on Capitol Hill and at events attended by the US president.

Yet, there was not a single AP story in the US on any of this. [1] Not a single national network television or radio news program even mentioned these facts. In fact, Google and LexisNexis searches four days after these events took place turned up only three newspaper articles on them anywhere in the entire country. [2]

Who are these fugitives from the law, wanted by Interpol, who are meeting at the highest levels of the US government? And why didn't we learn of them?

Therein lies the story. These two men, it turns out, are just the tips of a colossal iceberg. And this iceberg doesn't just have 90 percent of its mass hidden under water; this iceberg is almost entirely submerged.

They are Mikhail Brudno and Vladimir Dubov, Israeli-Russian partners in the giant Russian oil company Yukos. They, along with a number of their cronies, are wanted by Interpol for allegedly bilking Russian citizens out of billions of dollars. To elude Russian prosecution, these men have taken up residence in Israel. [3]

As the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz explains: "In recent years Russian authorities began investigating [Yukos], its managers and major stockholders, many of whom are of Jewish origin. The probes caused several of the managers to flee to Israel, and resulted in Khodorkovski's [Yukos CEO] arrest and a Kremlin attack on Yukos."

The fact is that Israel is an important factor in the ongoing, nation- shaking power struggle now going on in Russia. Yet AP virtually never reports this connection. For example, a few months ago in a typical AP story on this power struggle, "Report: Russia again charges Berezovsky," [4] Moscow AP Bureau Chief Judith Ingram makes no mention anywhere that Berezovsky is an Israeli citizen, or of his many connections to Israel.

Such omissions by AP and large swaths of the American media leave Americans seriously disadvantaged in deciphering what is going on in Russia, and its profound significance for the world. [...]

Boris Berezovsky is one of seven "oligarchs," as they are known both inside and outside Russia: massively rich, powerful manipulators who through violence, theft and corruption acquired a mammoth percentage (reports range from 70 to 85 percent) of Russia's resources, from its oil to the auto industry to mass media outlets.

At the same time, the group steadily gained control over much of the country's political apparatus. Using extraordinary financial resources and insider dealing, the oligarchs handpicked prime ministers and governmental leaders and barely even bothered to do this behind the scenes.

In 1997 Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky, one of the group and Russia's sometimes richest man (several of the oligarchs trade the top spot back and forth) told an interviewer before he was arrested and imprisoned by Putin last year:

"If we rank all the fields of man's activity by profitability, politics will be the most lucrative business. When we see a critical situation in the government, we draw lots in order to pick out a person from our milieu for work in power." [5]

Almost all of these oligarchs, it turns out, have significant ties to Israel. In fact, Berezovsky himself has Israeli citizenship a fact that caused a scandal of Watergate proportions in Russia in 1996 when it was exposed by a Russian newspaper. [6]

Do Berezovsky's dual loyalties really matter? Yes. In the realm of global dominance, Israel's interests and Russia's are considerably divergent. It is in Israel's interests to bring to power a regime in Russia friendly to Israel, rather than the current one under Putin, which Israeli leaders feel is supportive of its enemies. Not long ago, for example, Putin met with Syrian leaders an action highly disturbing to Israel.

Having an Israeli citizen at the highest levels of the Russian government is ideal, from Israel's point of view. In Berezovsky they had such a man. The Jerusalem Post article mentioned above is revealing. It describes Ber ezovsky as "the Godfather of the Oligarchs' and Kingmaker of Russia's Politics'" and reports Berezovsky's statement that "Putin's Russia is dangerous for Israel." Berezovsky goes on to assert that Putin "supports terror" in the Middle East through Russia's previous relations with Iraq and current relations with Iran. [7]

While Israelis may have been delighted at Berezovsky's position in Russia, It is not surprising that Russian citizens were somewhat less so. Finding that a powerful leader and member of the Russian Security Council was an Israeli citizen was disconcerting, at best.

As a result of the media uproar over Berezovsky's Israeli citizenship and other events, the Oligarchs' connections to Israel are widely known in Russia and elsewhere. In Israel they are covered frequently, often with adulation, including a recent hit Israeli TV series called "The Oligarchs."

"Some of its episodes," according to Israeli writer Uri Avnery, "are simply unbelievable or would have been, if they had not come straight from the horses' mouths: the heroes of the story, who gleefully boast about their despicable exploits. The series was produced by Israeli immigrants from Russia."

Avnery writes that the oligarchs used "cheating, bribery and murder," as they "exploited the disintegration of the Soviet system to loot the treasures of the state and to amass plunder amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars. In order to safeguard the perpetuation of their business, they took control of the state. Six out of the seven are Jews."

According to a Washington Post story by David Hoffman, the group bought and controlled Russian governmental officials at the highest levels. After financing Yeltsin's election in 1996, Hoffman writes: "The tycoons met and decided to insert one of their own into government. They debated who and chose [Vladimir] Potanin, who became deputy prime minister. One reason they chose Potanin was that he is not Jewish, and most of the rest of them are, and feared a backlash against the Jewish bankers." [9]

In Russia, the oligarchs are deeply loathed, considered villains who worked to bleed the country dry; during their reign many Russian citizens saw their life savings disappear overnight. A new term was coined for their dominance, "semibankirshchina" (the rule of the seven bankers), and they were widely known to have wielded small, murderous armies. There are rumors that Berezovsky, subject of the respectful AP article, was even responsible for the gunning down of an American journalist, Forbes Moscow editor Paul Klebnikov. [...]

"Berezovsky boasts that he caused the war in Chechnya," Avnery reports, "in which tens of thousands have been killed and a whole country devastated. He was interested in the mineral resources and a prospective pipeline th ere. In order to achieve this he put an end to the peace agreement that gave the country some kind of independence. The oligarchs dismissed and destroyed Alexander Lebed, the popular general who engineered the agreement, and the war has been going on since then.

"In the end," Avnery writes, "there was a reaction: Vladimir Putin, the taciturn and tough ex-KGB operative, assumed power, took control of the media, put one of the oligarchs (Mikhail Khodorkovsky) in prison, caused the others to flee (Berezovsky is in England, Vladimir Gusinsky is in Israel, another, Mikhail Chernoy, is assumed to be hiding here.)"

Yet, apart from the Washington Post, American media report on almost none of this. Instead, US coverage largely portrays Berezovsky and his crowd as American-style entrepreneurs who are being hounded by a Russian government whose actions are, to repeat the media's commonly used phrase, "politically motivated."

US news stories, even when they occasionally do hint at questionable practices, tend to use such phrases as "brash young capitalists" to describe the oligarchs. [11] For example, a long series co-produced by FRONTLINE and the New York Times referred to these men as "shrewd businessmen," and asked "what it's like to be young, Russian and newly affluent?" [12] Massive violence, dual loyalties, and control of resources are rarely, if ever, part of the picture.

When AP Moscow bureau chief Ingram was asked for this article about Berezovsky's Israeli citizenship, she claimed to know nothing about it, a curious contention for someone who has been an AP news editor in Moscow since 1999. When Ingram was queried further, she hung up the phone. [...]

Before Putin's crackdown, according to the Washington Post, oligarchs had succeeded in seizing "the reins of Russia's print and broadcast media, vital to the evolution of the country's fledgling democracy and growth of its nascent civil society." Berezovsky crony Gusinsky, who is close friends with Rupert Murdoch and was about the launch a satellite network, fled to Israel when it appeared he would be arrested." [...]

AP is the major news source for the thousands of news outlets around the country who cannot afford to have their own foreign correspondents. When AP chooses not to cover something, its omission is felt throughout the nation. When national news networks and others leave out the same facts, the cover-up is almost total.

Russia, despite its current turmoil, contains enormous power. Its natural resources are gargantuan: it possesses the world's largest natural gas reserves, the second largest coal reserves, and the eighth largest oil reserves. It is the world's largest exporter of natural gas, the second largest oil exporter, and the third largest energy consumer.[14] Russia's significance on the world stage now, as in the past, is immense.

Similarly, the United States is currently the most powerful nation on earth. It is therefore essential that its citizens be accurately informed on issues of significance. Israeli citizens, Russian citizens, and citizens of nations throughout the world know the information detailed above. It is critical that American citizens be no less well informed.

For years, the neocons' push for war against Iraq was largely uncovered by the US media. For even longer, the neocons' close connections to Israel have gone largely unmentioned in mainstream American news reports. As a result, very few Americans know to what degree many of those responsible for the tragic US invasion and occupation of Iraq have been motivated by Israeli concerns.

The omission in coverage of Iraq has been profoundly disastrous, both for the Middle East and for Americans. In fact, it is quite likely that only history will show the true extent of this disaster. It is deeply troubling to see the same kind of omission occurring on Russia.

Comment: How many of the top neocons in Washington have Israeli citizenship? Might that be a conflict of interest? When did 60 Minutes last do a show on that?

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Conflicting reports say Schiavo 'struggling' or 'very peaceful'
Last Updated Mon, 28 Mar 2005 20:28:16 EST
CBC News
PINELLAS PARK, FLA. - Two starkly contrasting descriptions of Terri Schiavo's state emerged on Monday, as her parents and sister insisted the brain-damaged Florida woman was fighting to stay alive and her husband's lawyer maintained she was "very peaceful."

Schiavo's sister, Suzanne Vitadamo, appeared angry as she spoke with reporters outside the Florida hospice where the 41-year-old woman was going through her 11th day without the feeding tube that had sustained her since she slipped into a vegetative state 15 years ago.

"She's weaker but she's still trying to talk," Vitadamo said.

"I will tell you this, the look on her face is, 'Please help me.' ...She's fighting, she's struggling, and does this sound like someone who wants to die? I don't think so."

Earlier in the day, her father, Bob Schindler, said his daughter Terri was beginning to resemble a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp.

"She's very, very, very weak. But she's still showing facial expressions," Schindler said. "... She's failing, but she's still with us."

He also said he was worried that staff at the hospice in Pinellas Park, Fla., would try to speed up her death by giving her an overdose of morphine.

Schiavo calm, 'very peaceful': lawyer

But Michael Schiavo's lawyer, George Felos, dismissed the allegations, saying they weren't borne out when he visited Schiavo for 1½ hours that afternoon.

He said Schiavo looked much the same as when he last saw her on Saturday.

"She looked very peaceful, she looked calm, there was music in the room, there were flowers in the room," Felos said at a news conference.

"I'd say the primary difference is Terri's eyes do look more sunken than when I saw her last and her breathing seemed a little on the fast side."

Comment: A reader wrote in to comment on our remarks on this case, suggesting that we were attempting to slip in a "Right to Life" agenda.

Well, no. We think that each case merits an independent investigation and decision. We do not defend the Right to Life as a principal that overrides everything else. As always, there is the creative path and the entropic path and the concrete situation which determines which is which. In this case, we think that there is enough evidence that points to behaviour on the part of Michael Schiavo to raise a serious question as to whether he defends the best interests of Terri.

However, the ultimate lesson from this case is that the world we live in is insupportable for people with a conscience, who are capable of empathising with another's suffering. Why should the interests of this woman be solely in the hands of her husband? Why should her family be locked out?

Our world is such that the individuals within it are often thinking only of their own needs to the detriment of others. Or we see the opposite, people, such as some women, who devote themselves exclusively to their families and lose themselves in the process. The problematic is the same: people learn to feed, and this feeding can be of both types. Until we are capable of stopping such feeding off of one another, the world won't change. To pose the problem is to understand the impossibility of its resolution because it must happen from within each individual; each of us must understand the dynamic and make the choice to stop it in one's life. Such change can never be dictated or ordered from the top. What are the chances of 6 billion people, including OPs and psychopaths al deciding to change their ways?

It is hard enough for one person who has faced the bankruptcy of his or her life.

As soon as one takes such a decision, those around us get upset because their feeding tubes have been closed off. They begin fighting back and will try all sorts of ruses to get us to stick the tube back in.

In this case, the case of Terri Schiavo takes on a whole new symbolism. The important question is not that of euthanasia but of saving our souls by removing the feeding tubes that others have stuck into each of us and we have stuck into others.

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U.S. court grants review in Schiavo case
Last Updated Wed, 30 Mar 2005 08:14:17 EST
CBC News

ATLANTA, GA. - A U.S. federal appeal court agreed early Wednesday to consider a request for a new hearing on whether to reconnect Terri Schiavo's feeding tube.

The ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, announced before 1 a.m. local time Wednesday, came as the brain-damaged Florida woman edged closer to death on her 13th day without nourishment.
Jesse Jackson, left, prayed with Terry Schiavo's parents outside a hospice in Pinellas Park, Fla., on Tuesday.

Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have fought a seven-year court battle because they believe their daughter wants to live and can recover after 15 years of being in a persistent vegetative state.

Michael Schiavo insists his wife, who is now 41, would never have wanted to live in her current state.

The federal appeal court ruling was sure to surprise many legal experts, who said the Schindlers had exhausted all legal options after they lost two more appeals in Florida courts on Saturday.

In their latest request for a new hearing, the Schindlers argued that a federal judge in Tampa should have considered the entire state court record and not just the procedural history when he ruled against them last week.

The appeals court did not say when it would decide whether to grant the new hearing.

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Terri Schiavo: Judicial Murder

Her crime was being disabled, voiceless, and at the disposal of our media

by Nat Hentoff March 29th, 2005

For all the world to see, a 41-year-old woman, who has committed no crime, will die of dehydration and starvation in the longest public execution in American history.

She is not brain-dead or comatose, and breathes naturally on her own. Although brain-damaged, she is not in a persistent vegetative state, according to an increasing number of radiologists and neurologists.

Among many other violations of her due process rights, Terri Schiavo has never been allowed by the primary judge in her case—Florida Circuit Judge George Greer, whose conclusions have been robotically upheld by all the courts above him—to have her own lawyer represent her.

Greer has declared Terri Schiavo to be in a persistent vegetative state, but he has never gone to see her. His eyesight is very poor, but surely he could have visited her along with another member of his staff. Unlike people in a persistent vegetative state, Terri Schiavo is indeed responsive beyond mere reflexes.

While lawyers and judges have engaged in a minuet of death, the American Civil Liberties Union, which would be passionately criticizing state court decisions and demanding due process if Terri were a convict on death row, has shamefully served as co-counsel for her husband, Michael Schiavo, in his insistent desire to have her die.

Months ago, in discussing this case with ACLU executive director Anthony Romero, and later reading ACLU statements, I saw no sign that this bastion of the Bill of Rights has ever examined the facts concerning the egregious conflicts of interest of her husband and guardian Michael Schiavo, who has been living with another woman for years, with whom he has two children, and has violated a long list of his legal responsibilities as her guardian, some of them directly preventing her chances for improvement. Judge Greer has ignored all of them.

In February, Florida's Department of Children and Families presented Judge Greer with a 34-page document listing charges of neglect, abuse, and exploitation of Terri by her husband, with a request for 60 days to fully investigate the charges. Judge Greer, soon to remove Terri's feeding tube for the third time, rejected the 60-day extension. (The media have ignored these charges, and much of what follows in this article.)

Michael Schiavo, who says he loves and continues to be devoted to Terri, has provided no therapy or rehabilitation for his wife (the legal one) since 1993. He did have her tested for a time, but stopped all testing in 1993. He insists she once told him she didn't want to survive by artificial means, but he didn't mention her alleged wishes for years after her brain damage, while saying he would care for her for the rest of his life.

Terri Schiavo has never had an MRI or a PET scan, nor a thorough neurological examination. Republican Senate leader Bill Frist, a specialist in heart-lung transplant surgery, has, as The New York Times reported on March 23, "certified [in his practice] that patients were brain dead so that their organs could be transplanted." He is not just "playing doctor" on this case.

During a speech on the Senate floor on March 17, Frist, speaking of Judge Greer's denial of a request for new testing and examinations of Terri, said reasonably, "I would think you would want a complete neurological exam" before determining she must die.

Frist added: "The attorneys for Terri's parents have submitted 33 affidavits from doctors and other medical professionals,all of whom say that Terri should be re-evaluated."

In death penalty cases, defense counsel for retarded and otherwise mentally disabled clients submit extensive medical tests. Ignoring the absence of complete neurological exams, supporters of the deadly decisions by Judge Greer and the trail of appellate jurists keep reminding us how extensive the litigation in this case has been—19 judges in six courts is the mantra. And more have been added. So too in many death penalty cases, but increasingly, close to execution, inmates have been saved by DNA.

As David Gibbs, the lawyer for Terri's parents, has pointed out, there has been a manifest need for a new federal, Fourteenth Amendment review of the case because Terri's death sentence has been based on seven years of "fatally flawed" state court findings—all based on the invincible neglect of elementary due process by Judge George Greer.

I will be returning to the legacy of Terri Schiavo in the weeks ahead because there will certainly be long-term reverberations from this case and its fracturing of the rule of law in the Florida courts and then the federal courts—as well as the disgracefully ignorant coverage of the case by the great majority of the media, including such pillars of the trade as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, and the Los Angeles Times as they copied each other's misinformation, like Terri Schiavo being "in a persistent vegetative state."

Do you know that nearly every major disability rights organization in the country has filed a legal brief in support of Terri's right to live?

But before I go back to other Liberty Beats—the CIA's torture renditions and the whitewashing of the landmark ACLU and Human Rights First's lawsuit against Donald Rumsfeld for his accountability in the widespread abuse of detainees, including evidence of torture—I must correct the media and various "qualified experts" on how a person dies of dehydration if he or she is sentient, as Terri Schiavo demonstrably is.

On March 15's Nightline, in an appallingly one-sided, distorted account of the Schiavo case, Terri's husband, Michael—who'd like to marry the woman he's now living with—said that once Terri's feeding tube is removed at his insistent command, Terri "will drift off into a nice little sleep and eventually pass on and be with God."

As an atheist, I cannot speak to what he describes as his abandoned wife's ultimate destination, but I can tell how Wesley Smith (consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture)—whom I often consult on these bitterly controversial cases because of his carefully researched books and articles—describes death by dehydration.

In his book Forced Exit (Times Books), Wesley quotes neurologist William Burke: "A conscious person would feel it [dehydration] just as you and I would. . . . Their skin cracks, their tongue cracks, their lips crack. They may have nosebleeds because of the drying of the mucous membranes, and heaving and vomiting might ensue because of the drying out of the stomach lining.

"They feel the pangs of hunger and thirst. Imagine going one day without a glass of water! . . . It is an extremely agonizing death."

On March 23, outside the hospice where Terri Schiavo was growing steadily weaker, her mother, Mary, said to the courts and to anyone who would listen and maybe somehow save her daughter:

"Please stop this cruelty!"

While this cruelty was going on in the hospice, Michael Schiavo's serpentine lawyer, George Felos, said to one and all: "Terri is stable, peaceful, and calm. . . . She looked beautiful."

During the March 21 hearing before Federal Judge James D. Whittemore, who was soon to be another accomplice in the dehydration of Terri, the relentless Mr. Felos, anticipating the end of the deathwatch, said to the judge:

"Yes, life is sacred, but so is liberty, your honor, especially in this country."

It would be useless, but nonetheless, I would like to inform George Felos that, as Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas said: "The history of liberty is the history of due process"—fundamental fairness.

Contrary to what you've read and seen in most of the media, due process has been lethally absent in Terri Schiavo's long merciless journey through the American court system.

"As to legal concerns," writes William Anderson—a senior psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a lecturer at Harvard University—"a guardian may refuse any medical treatment, but drinking water is not such a procedure. It is not within the power of a guardian to withhold, and not in the power of a rational court to prohibit."

Ralph Nader agrees. In a statement on March 24, he and Wesley Smith (author of, among other books, Culture of Death: The Assault of Medical Ethics in America) said: "The court is imposing process over justice. After the first trial [before Judge Greer], much evidence has been produced that should allow for a new trial—which was the point of the hasty federal legislation.

"If this were a death penalty case, this evidence would demand reconsideration. Yet, an innocent, disabled woman is receiving less justice. . . . This case is rife with doubt. Justice demands that Terri be permitted to live." (Emphasis added.)

But the polls around the country cried out that a considerable majority of Americans wanted her to die without Congress butting in.

A March 20 ABC poll showed that 60 percent of the 501 adults consulted opposed the ultimately unsuccessful federal legislation, and only 35 percent approved. Moreover, 70 percent felt strongly that it was wrong for Congress to get into such personal, private matters—and interfere with what some advocates of euthanasia call "death with dignity." (So much for the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of due process and equal protection of the laws.)

But, as Cathy Cleaver Ruse of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops pointed out:

"The poll [questions] say she's 'on life support,' which is not true [since all she needs is water], and that she has 'no consciousness,' which her family and dozens of doctors dispute in sworn affidavits."

Many readers of this column are pro-choice, pro-abortion rights. But what choice did Terri Schiavo have under our vaunted rule of law—which the president is eagerly trying to export to the rest of the world? She had not left a living will or a durable power of attorney, and so could not speak for herself. But the American system of justice would not slake her thirst as she, on television, was dying in front of us all.

What kind of a nation are we becoming? The CIA outsources torture—in violation of American and international law—in the name of the freedoms we are fighting to protect against terrorism. And we have watched as this woman, whose only crime is that she is disabled, is tortured to death by judges, all the way to the Supreme Court.

And keep in mind from the Ralph Nader-Wesley Smith report: "The courts . . . have [also] ordered that no attempts be made to provide her water or food by mouth. Terri swallows her own saliva. Spoon feeding is not medical treatment. This outrageous order proves that the courts are not merely permitting medical treatment to be withheld, they have ordered her to be made dead."

In this country, even condemned serial killers are not executed in this way.

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US warship visits Vietnam 2005-03-29 18:10:44
HANOI, March 29 (Xinhuanet) -- A US Navy ship named USS Gary arrived at Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday, starting its five-day goodwill visit, and becoming the third US warship to visit the country since the Vietnam War ended in 1975.

Lieut. Col. Robert Marin, commanding officer of the frigate, and other officers paid courtesy visits to the municipal People's Committee, Vietnam's Zone 7 Military Command and the country's Navy Command, Vietnam News Agency reported on Tuesday.

The ship's crew members will play sports with students of the Vietnam People's Navy Technical School, visit historical places and engage in some social activities during their stay in the city.

The USS Gary is an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate with 15 officers and nearly 200 sailors. It is equipped with one naval gun,one launcher for anti-ship and anti-air missiles, two launchers for torpedoes, four machines guns, one anti-missile system, and two helicopters.

In November 2003, a US frigate named USS Vandegrift with complement of 201 people docked at the city-based Saigon Port, becoming the first US navy ship to visit Vietnam since the end of the Vietnam War.

Between late July and early August 2004, a US warship named USSCurtis paid a visit to Vietnam's central Da Nang city.

In May 2004, Commander of the US Army-Pacific (USARPAC) Lieut. Gen. James L. Campbell visited Vietnam's capital Hanoi to meet with officials of the ministries of defense and foreign affairs, and to build on the military-to-military relationship between the United States and Vietnam.

Comment: The US wants to reopen its bases in Vietnam in order to encircle China. Events in Kyrgyzstan would appear to be part of this encirclement as the US already has a quickly expanding base in that country.

For the moment, China's most powerful means of retaliation is economic, given its US dollar reserves and important role as a manufacturing base for the US economy.

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China's shares hit 6-year low 2005-03-29 08:15:32
BEIJING, Mar. 29 -- China's shares Monday hit their lowest intraday level in nearly six years due to a piling up of weak investor sentiment.

The benchmark Shanghai composite index, which groups foreign currency B shares and local currency A shares, slid 0.46 per cent to close at 1,200.113 points after initially docking at 1185.45 points at noon, 1.71 points lower than 1,187.26 -- the previous record logged in May 1999.

Turnover in Shanghai hit 4.910 billion yuan (US$592 million) and Shanghai's biggest decliner -- Dongfeng Technology -- shed 10.05 per cent to close at 7.35 yuan (88 US cents).

Analysts foresaw more losses ahead with sentiment extremely weak after an unremitting share slump. [...]

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2005-03-29 14:17
MOSCOW, March 29 (RIA-Novosti) - According to Nikolai Bordyuzha, the secretary general of the Collective Security Council Organization (CSTO) including Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan), CSTO leaders had the necessary levers to influence the situation in Kyrgyzstan ahead of the revolution, Izvestia reported.

Bordyuzha personally offered ousted President Askar Akayev consultations with CSTO representatives to prevent pillage and lawlessness in the country. The CSTO had no plans to keep Akayev in power to push a revolution. However, Akayev said that the situation was still within the norm and thought it premature to engage the CSTO.

"We can see the result - a revolution that, among other things, tastes like opium," Bordyuzha said.

The local administration office was already burning in Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan. Yet, Akayev believed he could solve the problem. He might have thought that if he had agreed to use the CSTO, it would have meant acknowledging his own weakness. However, he did consult the EU and the U.S. ambassadors.

"Perhaps, some of them were against assisting us," he said.

The masses were the driving force behind the democratic opposition's coup. The opposition included two forces, one of them participated in the presidential race last autumn, and the other, from Osh and from outside Bishkek, went to destroy the offices of the government agencies and loot local businesses.

But most alarming, Bordyuzha said, is what is happening in Osh where the presence of "the drug mafia is very strong". He believes that the Islamic terrorist organization, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, "is working hard" in the region.

Bordyuzha said coordinated efforts are needed to prevent the drug cartel's spread to CSTO countries, noting that Article 2 of the Collective Security Treaty provides for immediate consultations in case of escalation.

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Geopolitics at Heart of Kyrgyzstan Unrest

Created: 23.03.2005 18:45 MSK (GMT 3), Updated: 02:07 MSK
Anna Arutunyan

The violent events in former Soviet Kyrgyzstan are very different from the Ukrainian and Georgian scenarios that many observers in Russia and the West had hoped for. Political scientist Igor Ryabov, just back from the region, talks about what — and who — is really behind the unrest in this Central Asian CIS state.

Unlike the Ukrainian scenario, Moscow has not expressed any support for any particular side in the Kyrgyz conflict. Is this because Russia has fewer interests in the region, or because the Kremlin doesn’t want to suffer another public defeat like it did when Viktor Yanukovich lost the elections?

The Kremlin, of course, doesn’t want to repeat its mistake. Ukraine was a defeat for it, and the Kremlin doesn’t want to repeat that scenario. It was a defeat for Russia’s PR, it lost to America. And it does not want to repeat such mistakes again.

The Kremlin has expressed an official line concerning the events in Kyrgyzstan: that the events should remain within the framework of the law. As for the opposition, Moscow has met with some opposition leaders in the last months. But this by no means entails any support for the opposition. Moscow is not involved in any way in what is happening in Kyrgyzstan. But of course it has interests there — like the military base it has in Kant, which was built before the U.S. air base in Menas. And, despite the fact that Kyrgyzstan has a small population, strategically it is in a very important position.

Primarily, in terms of natural resources, it has a lot of fresh water. It is positioned in such a way that you have access to China, to Afghanistan... and, of course, this is a reason why many countries are trying to establish political influence there, including Russia.

Did statements by the OSCE and officials in the United States following the parliamentary elections act as a catalyst for the uprisings?

The OSCE did not really condemn the elections, neither in the first round nor the second. It recognized the elections as valid. Of course, it noted violations in the first round and in the second, but it did not see those violations as grave enough to invalidate the elections. Mostly it was the Kyrgyz opposition that spoke out about the violations, and certain politicians in the United States. U.S. influence is very strong in Kyrgyzstan — a number of non-governmental organizations are active on its territory, and they they are financed by U.S. organizations. They are the Soros Foundation, and Freedom House. The printing press that prints opposition newspapers is actually owned by Freedom House. The head of this organization is James Woolsey, the former CIA director. And congressmen who have criticized the Kyrgyz government are in fact quite close to these power structures.

In particular, such statements were made by Senator John McCain.

Of course, tensions didn’t start to escalate right away. But three days after the first round McCain came out with some harsh critical statements, and in effect issued an ultimatum: either Akayev corrects the violations, or the country will face “consequences”. After this rather aggressive public statement, the OSCE distanced itself, and repeated that it recognized the elections as valid.

The radicalization in Jalal Abad coincided with the statements by the U.S. senator. But the people that are running about Osh and Jalal Abad with sticks and bottles are residents of very poor neighborhoods in the outskirts. Theoretically, the same thing can happen in [the capital] Bishkek. Right now, the fact that the opposition is being urged to negotiate is rather strange, because they don’t have any control over the situation. And it’s unclear where all of this may lead in the future.

Does the opposition have the mass support of the people, like the Ukrainian and Georgian opposition?

There is discontent with President Askar Akayev’s regime, in particular this is discontent with the people who surround him. All of the country’s business is practically concentrated in the hands of his son and his son-in-law. On the other hand, the opposition doesn’t really have any political resources. Virtually no one knows its leaders, even Roza Atanbayeva only appeared as a political figure at the beginning of this year. The most popular politician is in jail.

The fact that the unrest took place mainly in the south is also understandable. There was an attempt to create a sort of Maidan [Kiev’s Square of Independence where the opposition protests were centered], they even set up a tent, but police dismantled it. And so no one was successful in organizing any mass protests in Bishkek, although attempts were made. Once in a while, the opposition would rally some 150 protesters, and the protests would be shown in Moscow as if it was the start of a revolution. Russian journalists flocked to the elections and were very disappointed, because there was really nothing going on. No one really traveled to the south, and no one really understands what’s happening there. Then they return to Moscow, see the broadcasts, and then get hyped up about a revolution starting up. As far as I can see at this point, the Kyrgyz government has a pretty calm outlook about what is going on.

Did you ever get the impression that the mass protests in the south were provoked artificially? And if so, is there any proof of this?

When there is economic discontent — and compared to Russia and Kazakhstan the people in Kyrzyzstan are pretty poor off, although they are faring much better than Tajikistan — then of course you can rally up the people if you put effort into it.

And then the clan system is very strong there, and clan conflicts have resonance. So one clan pitted against another can turn into a political showdown. So one deputy who didn’t make it into parliament can just say one word to rally some 500 people. And that was what was going on. Those who provoked the events in Jalal Abad were deputies that didn’t make it into the second election. The anarchy that is happening there is first of all convenient for the narcotics trade. And it’s the narcotics party that has really won from all this. The road from Afghanistan to Russia goes through the Ferghana Valley.

How is the situation with energy resources in the country? How are Russian and U.S. companies involved?

Recently after Akayev’s [visit to the United States] an agreement was signed concerning $2 billion in investments into the country’s energy system — this including building an aluminum plant and a hydro-electric station running on fresh water that is abundant in the mountains there. Two countries — Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan — are interested in joint control over the water resources, which, of course, the government of Kyrgyzstan doesn’t want. For example, Turkmenistan has gas, Kazakhstan has oil, and Kyrgyzstan has its water. Kazakhstan considers it has full ownership of its oil, Turkmenistan owns its gas, but they both consider Kyrgyzstan’s water common property. So regional politics revolve around this issue.

Of course, somehow these problems were resolved. A couple of years ago, there were instances when electricity and gas was cut off. But now they’ve learned to agree. And now, recently, [Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan] Nazarbayev offered to create a closer union between Central Asian states that would include Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. So while the relations are calm, they are paying close attention to the events in Kyrgyzstan

What are the United States’ particular interests in Kyrgyzstan? Does Akayev have any sort of relationship with Washington?

For many years, Akayev had friendly relations with both the United States and Russia, it was his particular skill to maneuver between the two. From the United States he got investments, and also money from the use of the military bases. And of course the Americans really invested a lot in building a civil society there. This network of NGO’s was being used by the U.S. as its political base. But the thing is — this whole approach towards a civil society is really an American model that is more natural in European countries. But to dig deeper — into the clan relations, for example — and you realize that the Americans just don’t understand how their society is built. That is why all these NGO’s are there to eat up money, hold seminars and don’t have anything to do with real life in the country.

For example, a “human rights activist” was recently arrested there — he was called a human rights activist because he headed one of the NGO’s. And he was arrested for provoking the violent unrest. Also, he had close ties with the U.S. ambassador Stephen Young. When the opposition lost during the first round of elections, there were rumors that Young was being relocated to Taiwan. That’s how big his status is. He is a very public figure there, he travels the country freely, and often the government doesn’t even know his given location. And now, when all this unrest developed after the second round of elections, he offered himself as a mediator between the opposition and the Kyrgyz government. The offer was pretty much ignored.

For the Americans, Kyrgyzstan is important on a geopolitical scale. This means that it neighbors China, it neighbors Afghanistan, and the United States wants a strong position in this region. How the domestic events are going to turn out after everything they’ve done there — they’re not really concerned about that. They need a government that they can control. Taking this into account, it’s not clear why they’re ruining their relations with Akayev, because he’s been loyal to them all this time. And it’s Kyrgyzstan where the U.S. has its military base.

In Kyrgyzstan the scenario of an attempted “bloodless revolution” like in Georgia and the Ukraine could lead to a Tajikistan, with civilian casualties, anarchy, and a flourishing narcotics trade. So far, it’s brought about popular governors in the south, but it’s also brought about growing prices for bread, it’s brought about cases where the electricity has been cut off, where planes don’t fly there anymore. It’s brought about an economic crisis.

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The Tulip Revolution takes root
By Pepe Escobar
Mar 26, 2005

It all went down at the speed of light. In only a few hours on Thursday in Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek, the palace was stormed, the tyrant fled and a new order was starting to take shape. Or was it?

The revolution had traveled by bus - 500 winding kilometers from Osh, of Silk Road fame, in the south through high mountain passes to Bishkek - before the planned kurultai (assembly) in front of the presidential palace took a swift, epic turn.

It was all about alleged rigged elections in February and March and astounding corruption exercised by the clan of autocrat president Askar Akayev, who has now fled the country. With his new parliamentary majority, Akayev was practically set to change the constitution - or do one better, appoint his daughter Bermet Akayev to the throne.

Moscow, via Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, had already criticized the European Union and reminded everyone that Bishkek was a partner in a collective security treaty. Russia's top diplomat Sergei Lavrov accused Javier Solana, the EU's top diplomat, of being politically incorrect: Solana had insisted that the Kyrgyz elections had not respected Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe criteria. At this crucial juncture, Akayev, 15 years in power, badly overplayed his hand.

Two months ago, Akayev went to Moscow to introduce his son to President Vladimir Putin. He was already plotting a dynastic transfer of power: after all, it had worked with the Aliev clan in Azerbaijan. Akayev again went to Moscow on a secret trip last Sunday, according to the Russian newspaper Vremia Novosti. He tried to meet with Putin, but this time he didn't make it. He met with Russian diplomats instead.

Back in Bishkek he said he would consider negotiating with the opposition. But as events fast spiraled out of control, he said he would not negotiate with "revolutionaries" who were "financed and controlled by outsiders". The "revolutionaries" deposed him with a bang. For the West, this is a "Tulip Revolution" (or "Lemon Revolution", as it's being called in France and Belgium). For many Russians, on the other hand, this is the work of a bunch of thugs.

Central Asian observers are betting their bowls of laghman (noodles) on what Kazakhstan's Nursultan Nazarbayev and Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov are thinking right now. Could this be the beginning of (their) end? Could they also be toppled by people-power? Should they consider a move to Lake Geneva - after what happened in the so-called Switzerland of Central Asia? Or should this be the sign to go for all-out totalitarian repression?

Compared to its ultra-hardcore neighbors, Kyrgyzstan was a paradigm of democracy. Now the Kyrgyz opposition - something of an unruly mob, composed of southern barons and former regime stalwarts - has to face other, more pressing problems. The Western media are positively agog because they cannot stamp a "face" to the Tulip Revolution - unlike the photogenic Mikhail Saakashvili in Georgia and the poisoned Viktor Yushchenko in Ukraine. Should it be former prime minister Kurmanbek Bakiyev? Or former foreign minister Roza Otunbaeva? Or maybe Omurbek Tekerbayev? They do not exactly agree with each other. Now they must because they are in power and cannot run the risk of a civil war. Parliament has appointed Bakiyev as acting premier and president.

It's the economy, stupid

Kyrgyzstan was thrust into independence by the end of 1991 with the distinction of being the only former Soviet republic in Central Asia controlled by a (relative) democrat, and not by a former party apparatchik. Akayev did introduce multi-party democracy. He also went down the privatization road and followed the International Monetary Fund's (IMF's) diktats.

In 1998, Kyrgyzstan became the first Central Asian republic to join the World Trade Organization. But then Akayev fell victim to the usury of power and started playing Stalin - politically - and Suharto - economically. The economy became the Akayev clan's economy.

The IMF one-size-fits-all recipe once again was a disaster. Thanks to the IMF, the tiny republic now has the largest debt per capita in Central Asia. This has also meant a massive loss of jobs and next to 60% of the population living below the poverty line, according to World Bank figures. Increased poverty led to increased dissent. Once again, "it's the economy, stupid" - nothing to do with Islamic terrorism.

When a credible opponent, former vice president Felix Kulov, appeared in 2000, Akayev put him in jail for "abuse of power". Kulov, now released, has every chance of becoming the next Kyrgyz leader.

Asia Times Online traveled across Kyrgyzstan in autumn 2003 (see Silk Road Roving). Already at the time, businessmen as well as the urban middle class in the Russified north were fed up with their tight budgets and official corruption.

But that was nothing compared to the south, home of the volatile Fergana Valley - a 300-kilometer lush oasis divided by Josef Stalin among three Soviet republics, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The Kyrgyz Fergana is crisscrossed by a disgruntled, vocal and relatively well-organized Uzbek minority. In Osh and Jalalabad - the capitals of the current Tulip Revolution - everyone complained about their lack of political power in Bishkek, and how there was no investment in their region. One just had to walk the dark, crumbling and empty streets of Osh at night in the freezing cold to prove their point.

A visit to the sprawling Dar Doil bazaar, outside of Bishkek and one of the largest in Central Asia, also proved the point of how a great deal of the Kyrgyz population depends for its survival on commerce with China.

At least 700,000 Kyrgyz out of a population of 5 million have been forced to emigrate to find work. Most survive as clandestine slave laborers at construction sites in Russia or Kazakhstan. The stagnant economy revolves around gold mines, hydroelectric equipment and some tourism. The country's external debt - US$2 billion - is equivalent to its gross national product.

No Caliphate, thank you

Geostrategically, the Central Asian neighbors plus Russia, China and the US simply cannot afford a chaotic or ethnically fractured Kyrgyzstan. As a side effect of the "war on terror", Kyrgyzstan is a de facto key pawn for Russia, the US and China in the New Great Game - not least because of its strategic location, squeezed between China and Kazakhstan.

The Russian military base in Kant, 20 minutes away from Bishkek, is described by Defense Minister Ivanov as "a deterrent to international terrorism". The neighboring American military base at Manas - civilian - airport is theoretically set up as a support for Bagram in Afghanistan, but is more effective as a psychological tool to rattle the Chinese, being so close to Xinjiang. Beijing, not surprisingly, also wants to set up its own Kyrgyz military base.

The Russians were especially caught by surprise with the Tulip Revolution: from the Kremlin to the generals, the mantra was always that the threat to Central Asia came from radical Islam in the Fergana Valley.

Two serious developments could derive from the Tulip Revolution. The aggressive Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the non-violent Hizb ut-Tahrir may advance their agendas: based on the Kyrgyz Fergana, they could spread their influence to southern Kazakhstan, western Tajikistan and even Xinjiang in China.

But one has to remember that the Kyrgyz - descendants of Genghis Khan's Golden Horde who migrated south from Siberia - are nomads who were absorbed into Islam only in the 15th century. For them the al-Qaeda caliphate world view is totally alien.

A more probable, and much more worrying scenario, would be Kyrgyzstan spiraling down to something like the Tajik civil war of 1992-97, which caused tens of thousands of victims.

One thing is already certain: the Tulip Revolution will inevitably be instrumentalized by the second Bush administration as the first "spread of freedom and democracy" success story in Central Asia. The whole arsenal of US foundations - National Endowment for Democracy, International Republic Institute, Ifes, Eurasia Foundation, Internews, among others - which fueled opposition movements in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine, has also been deployed in Bishkek. It generated, among other developments, a small army of Kyrgyz youngsters who went to Kiev, financed by the Americans, to get a glimpse of the Orange Revolution, and then became "infected" with the democratic virus.

Practically everything that passes for civil society in Kyrgyzstan is financed by these US foundations, or by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). At least 170 non-governmental organizations charged with development or promotion of democracy have been created or sponsored by the Americans.

The US State Department has operated its own independent printing house in Bishkek since 2002 - which means printing at least 60 different titles, including a bunch of fiery opposition newspapers. USAID invested at least $2 million prior to the Kyrgyz elections - quite something in a country where the average salary is $30 a month.

Opposition leader Otunbaeva has recognized publicly that "yes, we are supported by the US". The investment will have paid off if a "democratic revolution" can be sold worldwide as the sterling example of a country with a Muslim majority joining the Bush crusade. But the public relations blitz will amount to nothing if the new Kyrgyz order is not immune to corruption and does not try very hard to at least alleviate the widespread sense of economic injustice. Yes, it's the economy, stupid.

Comment: One by one, the countries are falling to the soft revolutions funded by the United States. The new imperial power is placing its troops on the different squares in readiness.

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US scatters bases to control Eurasia
By Ramtanu Maitra
Mar 30, 2005
The United States is beefing up its military presence in Afghanistan, at the same time encircling Iran. Washington will set up nine new bases in Afghanistan in the provinces of Helmand, Herat, Nimrouz, Balkh, Khost and Paktia.

Reports also make it clear that the decision to set up new US military bases was made during Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's visit to Kabul last December. Subsequently, Afghan President Hamid Karzai accepted the Pentagon diktat. Not that Karzai had a choice: US intelligence is of the view that he will not be able to hold on to his throne beyond June unless the US Army can speed up training of a large number of Afghan army recruits and protect Kabul. Even today, the inner core of Karzai's security is run by the US State Department with personnel provided by private US contractors.

Admittedly, Afghanistan is far from stable, even after four years of US presence. Still, the establishment of a rash of bases would seem to be overkill. Indeed, according to observers, the base expansion could be part of a US global military plan calling for small but flexible bases that make it easy to ferry supplies and can be used in due time as a springboard to assert a presence far beyond Afghanistan.

Afghanistan under control?

On February 23, according to the official Bakhter News Agency, 196 American military instructors arrived in Kabul. These instructors are scheduled to be in Afghanistan until the end of 2006. According to General H Head, commander of the US Phoenix Joint Working Force, the objective of the team is to expedite the educational and training programs of Afghan army personnel. The plan to protect Karzai and the new-found "democracy" in Afghanistan rests on the creation of a well-trained 70,000-man Afghan National Army (ANA) by the end of 2006. As of now, 20,000 ANA personnel help out 17,000-plus US troops and some 5,000-plus North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops currently based in Afghanistan.

In addition, on February 28, in a move to bring a large number of militiamen into the ANA quickly, Karzai appointed General Abdur Rashid Dostum, a regional Uzbek-Afghan warlord of disrepute, as his personal military chief of staff. The list of what is wrong with Dostum is too long for this article, but he is important to Karzai and the Pentagon.

Dostum has at least 30,000 militiamen, members of his Jumbush-e-Milli, under him. A quick change of their uniforms would increase the ANA by 30,000 at a minimal cost. Moreover, Dostum's men do not need military training (what they do need is some understanding of and respect for law and order). Another important factor that comes into play with this union is the Pentagon-Karzai plan to counter the other major north Afghan ethnic grouping, the Tajik-Afghans.

Since the presidential election took place in Afghanistan last October, Washington has conveyed repeatedly that the poison fangs of al-Qaeda have been uprooted and the Taliban is split. There was also reliable news suggesting that a section of Taliban leaders have accepted the leadership of two fellow Pashtuns, Karzai and US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, and are making their way into the Kabul government.

With al-Qaeda defanged and the Taliban split, one would tend to believe that the Afghan situation is well under control. But then, how does one explain that a bomb went off in the southern city of Kandahar, killing five people on March 17, the very day US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice landed in Kabul on her first visit to Afghanistan? And why has Karzai pushed back the dates for Afghanistan's historical parliamentary elections, originally planned for 2004, and then to May 2005, now to September 2005?

One thing that is certainly not under control, and is surely the source of many threats to the region, is opium production. During the US occupation, opium production grew at a much faster rate than Washington's, and Karzai's, enemies weakened. In 2003, US-occupied Afghanistan produced 4,200 tons of opium. In 2004, US-occupied and semi-democratic Afghanistan produced a record 4,950 tons, breaking the all-time high of 4,600 tons produced under the Taliban in the year 2000.

Though the problem is known to the world, the Pentagon refuses to deal with it. It is not the military's job to eradicate poppy fields, says the Pentagon. Indeed, it would antagonize the warlords who remain the mainstays of the Pentagon in Afghanistan, say observers.

Back on the base

When all is said and done, one cannot but wonder why the new military bases are being set up. Given that al-Qaeda is only a shadow of the past, the Taliban leaders are queuing up to join the Kabul government, and the US military is not interested in tackling the opium explosion, why are the bases needed?

A ray of light was shed on this question during the recent trip to Afghanistan by five US senators, led by John McCain. On February 22, McCain, accompanied by Senators Hillary Clinton, Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham and Russ Feingold, held talks with Karzai.

After the talks, McCain, the No 2 Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was committed to a "strategic partnership that we believe must endure for many, many years". McCain told reporters in Kabul that America's strategic partnership with Afghanistan should include "permanent bases" for US military forces. A spokesman for the Afghan president told news reporters that establishing permanent US bases required approval from the yet-to-be-created Afghan parliament.

Later, perhaps realizing that the image that Washington would like to project of Afghanistan is that of a sovereign nation, McCain's office amended his comments with a clarification: "The US will need to remain in Afghanistan to help the country rid itself of the last vestiges of Taliban and al-Qaeda." His office also indicated that what McCain meant was that the US needs to make a long-term commitment, not necessarily "permanent" bases.

On March 16, General Richard Myers, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said no decision had been reached on whether to seek permanent bases on Afghan soil. "But clearly we've developed good relationships and good partnerships in this part of the world, not only in Afghanistan," he added, also mentioning existing US bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

A military pattern

But this is mere word play. Media reports coming out of the South Asian subcontinent point to a US intent that goes beyond bringing Afghanistan under control, to playing a determining role in the vast Eurasian region. In fact, one can argue that the landing of US troops in Afghanistan in the winter of 2001 was a deliberate policy to set up forward bases at the crossroads of three major areas: the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia. Not only is the area energy-rich, but it is also the meeting point of three growing powers - China, India and Russia.

On February 23, the day after McCain called for "permanent bases" in Afghanistan, a senior political analyst and chief editor of the Kabul Journal, Mohammad Hassan Wulasmal, said, "The US wants to dominate Iran, Uzbekistan and China by using Afghanistan as a military base."

Other recent developments cohere with a US Air Force strategy to expand its operational scope across Afghanistan and the Caspian Sea region - with its vital oil reserves and natural resources: Central Asia, all of Iran, the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the northern Arabian Sea up to Yemen's Socotra Islands. This may also provide the US a commanding position in relation to Pakistan, India and the western fringes of China.

The base set up at Manas outside Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan - where, according to Central Asian reports, about 3,000 US troops are based - looks to be part of the same military pattern. It embodies a major commitment to maintain not just air operations over Afghanistan for the foreseeable future, but also a robust military presence in the region well after the war.

Prior to setting up the Manas Air Base, the US paid off the Uzbek government handsomely to set up an air base in Qarshi Hanabad. Qarshi Hanabad holds about 1,500 US soldiers, and agreements have been made for the use of Tajik and Kazakh airfields for military operations. Even neutral Turkmenistan has granted permission for military overflights. Ostensibly, the leaders of these Central Asian nations are providing military facilities to the US to help them eradicate the Islamic and other sorts of terrorists that threaten their nations.

These developments, particularly setting up bases in Manas and Qarshi Hanabad, are not an attempt by the US to find an exit strategy for Afghanistan, but the opposite: establishing a military presence.

Encircling Iran

On February 28, Asia Times Online pointed out that construction work had begun on a new NATO base in Herat, western Afghanistan (US digs in deeper in Afghanistan ). Another Asia Times Online article said US officials had confirmed that they would like more military bases in the country, in addition to the use of bases in Pakistan (see The remaking of al-Qaeda , February 25).

Last December, US Army spokesman Major Mark McCann said the United States was building four military bases in Afghanistan that would only be used by the Afghan National Army. On that occasion, McCann stated, "We are building a base in Herat. It is true." McCann added that Herat was one of four bases being built; the others were in the southern province of Kandahar, the southeastern city of Gardez in Paktia province, and Mazar-i-Sharif, the northern city controlling the main route to central Afghanistan.

The US already has three operational bases inside Afghanistan; the main logistical center for the US-led coalition in Afghanistan is Bagram Air Field north of Kabul - known by US military forces as "BAF". Observers point out that Bagram is not a full-fledged air base.

Other key US-run logistical centers in Afghanistan include Kandahar Air Field, or "KAF", in southern Afghanistan and Shindand Air Field in the western province of Herat. Shindand is about 100 kilometers from the border with Iran, a location that makes it controversial. Moreover, according to the US-based think-tank Global Security, Shindand is the largest air base in Afghanistan.

The US is spending US$83 million to upgrade its bases at Bagram and Kandahar. Both are being equipped with new runways. US Brigadier General Jim Hunt, the commander of US air operations in Afghanistan, said at a news conference in Kabul Monday, "We are continuously improving runways, taxiways, navigation aids, airfield lighting, billeting and other facilities to support our demanding mission."

The proximity of Shindand to Iran could give Tehran cause for concern, says Paul Beaver, an independent defense analyst based in London. Beaver points out that with US ships in the Persian Gulf and Shindand sitting next to Iran, Tehran has a reason to claim that Washington is in the process of encircling Iran. But the US plays down the potential of Shindand, saying it will not remain with the US for long. Still, it has not been lost on Iranian strategists that the base in the province of Herat is a link in a formidable chain of new facilities the US is in the process of drawing around their country.

Shindand is not Tehran's only worry. In Pakistan, the Pervez Musharraf government has allowed the commercial airport at Jacobabad, about 420km north of Karachi and 420km southeast of Kandahar, as one of three Pakistani bases used by US and allied forces to support their campaign in Afghanistan. The other bases are at Dalbandin and Pasni. Under the terms of an agreement with Pakistan, the allied forces can use these bases for search and rescue missions, but are not permitted to use them to stage attacks on Taliban targets. Both Jacobabad and Pasni bases have been sealed off and a five-kilometer cordon set up around the bases by Pakistani security forces.

Reports of increased US operations in Pakistan go back to March 2004, when two air bases - Dalbandin and Shahbaz - in Pakistan were the focus for extensive movements to provide logistical support for Special Forces and intelligence operations. Shahbaz Air Base near Jacobabad appeared to be the key to the United States' 2004 spring offensive. At Jacobabad, C-17 transports were reportedly involved in the daily deliveries of supplies. A report in the Pakistani newspaper the Daily Times on March 10, 2004, claimed that the air base was under US control, with an inner ring of facilities off limits to Pakistan's military.

Ramtanu Maitra writes for a number of international journals and is a regular contributor to the Washington-based EIR and the New Delhi-based Indian Defence Review. He also writes for Aakrosh, India's defense-tied quarterly journal.

Comment: Spreading democracy and freedom sure demands a lot of troops in every corner of the globe. With all those bases, where will Bush get the soldiers to man them? A draft? An imposed national service? Or simply through tanking the economy and forcing the poor and ruined to find a career in the military?

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Peak Oil
Debate or Vendetta?
March 24, 2005
I sometimes think peak oil has already hit Manhattan as subways become increasingly unpredictable (although surveillance cameras are state-of-the-art) and escalator shut-downs present stair master survival challenges, a kind of perverse underground amusement. Unfortunately, surfacing on Fifth Avenue does not end the scenario, for where once there was excellence and exquisite fashion, now there are bargain stores catering to New Yorkers who are poor, and yes ­ even starving.

So I was particularly fascinated by the opportunity to listen-in to the telephone conference call that JP Morgan held for its clients on April 7 and 8, "Peak Oil: Fact or Fiction", which I was given exclusive permission to monitor . Maybe there would be answers as to whether or not Manhattan is a harbinger of what's to come for the rest of the nation, and whether it's fleeting opulence (not counting all the questionably-financed real estate extravaganzas rising up) is energy-related.

The main speakers faced-off on separate days. First Dr. Colin Campbell, Founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil, succinctly gave his position saying that peak oil is "such a geological matter". Campbell says we're now at the halfway mark and that "by 2010 volatility comes to an end and then terminal decline" sets in.

The pronouncement is chilling. What's more, Campbell says that "over the next few years everybody will become aware of this, and in some ways the perception of this growing situation is as serious as the event itself". Campbell's a retired geologist with decades of experience in the oil industry in both exploration and executive positions. He compares peak oil to old age ­ saying that a man knows when it has set-in.

Campbell was followed the next day by Michael Lynch, a computer oil and gas modeler for the past 25 years, President/Director of Global Petroleum, Strategic Energy and Economic Research. Lynch came out slugging, informing conference callers that Campbell refuses to appear with him since 1997, saying "you'll understand why very shortly". He seems to view Campbell as old school and too tired to be optimistic about the future. Perhaps a bit like Cheney and Rumsfeld having their last hurrahs before retiring into the bed & breakfast business on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Lynch believes the Hubbert model that Campbell's theory relies on ­ discoveries and production follow a bell curve ­ is not only "incorrectly modeled", but is "much closer to being junk science". He says further, that while Campbell and his colleague, Jean Laharrere, have now "stopped saying that" . . . they've "never admitted they were wrong".

Lynch takes the position that URR ­ Ultimately Recoverable Resources ­ is not a static amount and therefore cannot follow such creaming curves. "It grows over time," he says, "as a result of economic changes, development in an area, but also because of technology, and in some cases, better scientific knowledge."

Campbell says today's oil supply is finite and that it all came into being during two periods of global warming 90 million and 150 million years ago when "excessive" algal blooms formed on the seas and lakes, became heavier and heavier, and sank to the bottom of the rifts where they were "preserved" and pressure-cooked. The resulting oil and gas then began leaching its way back up to the surface through the sandstone (in the pore spaces between the grains of sand) and rock.

Campbell is adamant about the peak oil issue not being an economic or political one, but simply a case where we've now so depleted our "endowment" that peak oil will occur by 2010, and that soon after there will be a rapid fall-off in oil resources, which will profoundly affect world civilization.

So the conference began with a bit of posturing and name calling ­ with Campbell announcing "no common ground" with the "flat Earth economists" (Lynch et al.), who he says believe there's an infinite supply of oil. (No one believes this, including Saudi Aramco).

Lynch called Campbell, Laharrere (and investment banker Matt Simmons) Malthusian pessimists, and obliquely referred to Simmons's upcoming book on peak oil as "content free".

Fortunately, JP Morgan's clients pressed speakers for details, which made the conference truly worth listening to. Campbell advised that peak discovery of oil was in 1964 and that it's been falling for 30 years. He also said that by 1981 the world was using more than it produced ­ 1 barrel is now found for every 6 consumed ­ and that there's little spare capacity anywhere in the world.

As further proof of peak oil, Campbell adds that the major oil companies are getting out of the business ­ shedding staff, divesting marketing sectors, outsourcing jobs, cutting back on exploration and drilling fewer wells ­ the seven sisters are now four. He notes the majors are also buying back company shares (i.e., BP), and argues that "the value of their past is more important than their future". He quotes the late Robert Anderson of Arco: "This is a sunset industry and the sun is fairly low in the sky."

However, Campbell does spare the more "nimble" independent oil companies, who he says will press on producing what's left, subcontracting to state companies however they can, through initiative, enterprise and bribes. And that oil in the ground will become increasingly valuable.

Lynch argues the oil majors are alive and well, thinking about returns and making their money upstream, just not investing in things like refineries, etc. downstream. He says lack of spare capacity and any pullback from the oil business is not because there's not enough oil out there. It's due to economics and politics.

Campbell counters that the picture is far worse than anyone's thought because he's "pretty sure" we may have to remove over 200 billion barrels of oil from world estimates as a result of Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer, and Kuwait misrepresenting their oil numbers. Says Campbell, "If you're limited to public information and you're watching reserves grow, you can believe it can go on forever."

John J. Hoey, who served as President of Atlantic Refining Company as well as Hondo Oil (Robert Anderson was CEO), and is currently founder and Director of Tethys Oil in Stockholm, says the "Peak Oil debate is just that ­ a debate." Hoey believes the adverse remarks about lack of disclosure and transparency of sovereign entities like Saudi Arabia, Russia, etc. appear self serving and disparaging, that the oil producing countries are not public companies and have no duty or obligation to disclose any more than they deem appropriate. He advises: "Try to get some technical information from a major oil company on a specific 'tight' well being drilled or completed in a highly sensitive geological area."

Moreover, Hoey says he's listened to all the peak oil arguments (including the JP Morgan call-in) and "gravitates" towards Lynch rather than Campbell or Harvard Business School alumnus and friend, Matt Simmons. He also lived in Saudi Arabia during the 70s and worked closely with Aramco and Petromin; Hoey says he has the "highest respect for the professionalism, integrity and future of their petroleum industry".

Campbell presents a litany of pessimism on future oil as he deconstructs reserve reporting: He says Iran and Iraq may also have been manipulating their numbers but he's "less sure". That UK gas and oil will be "virtually exhausted" by 2020, as acknowledged by the UK government (BBC reports Wood Mackenzie oil consultants described UK North Sea exploration as "the industry's biggest waste of money over the past five years"). That North American oil and gas is hopelessly depleted ­ it took 40 years for the US to go from peak discovery to peak decline ­ and that "Canada is way into decline". Norway has the Ecofis "exceptional chalk reservoir," which has been kept going through technology, but that doesn't change the overall pattern of decline. Germany has "no hope" and is long past peak. Argentina's production is down. Colombia has peaked. Egypt, with a teeming population, has hit its peak and has no money for exploration ­ "where will it get its oil from?" Indonesia has "no reason to remain in OPEC".

The only upbeat pronouncements from Campbell were that Iran will have a "rapid rise" in oil production until 2015 (and then fall), even though a Power Bridge Associates caller told Lynch he's been studying reserves in southwest Iran's Khuzestan field and that Iran has about 200 billion barrels of oil and needs capital to develop. He says Iraq holds "north of 300 billion".

Campbell believes Russia will see a second peak in 2010 ­ the first was under Soviet rule and influenced by OPEC price cutting in the 1980s which made Soviet oil uncompetitive. The increase in OPEC production stemmed from revisions in reserve estimates which allowed OPEC to exceed reserve-connected quotas. Heavy oils of Canada and Venezuela he believes will grow, but so will costs of getting oil out. Canadian oil sands may be a good investment with an expected price of about $20 a barrel, but right now the project is stuck, and is consuming Alberta's natural gas meant for the MacKenzie pipeline and North America's gas needs. Polar oil has "uncertain possibilities". "Deep water booms and goes quickly." Kashagan field in the Khazakstan sector of the Caspian will produce 10-15 billion barrels, Campbell says, "but not what was hoped for".

Moreover, Campbell's bleak scenario includes not only a challenge to home heating and the gas tank. He reminds that the growing of agricultural products (crop nutrients and farm machinery) and their transportation are heavily dependent on petroleum ­ meaning global food shortages.

Lynch's principal role seemed to be one of resuscitating the audience after Campbell's address. He backed up the Saudi Aramco claim that its definition of "oil initially in place" (according to Society of Petroleum Engineers, World Petroleum Congress and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists) is the "volume or the amount of oil that's presently in the subsurface". Lynch also disclosed during the talk that he has worked off and on for the Saudis and does work in the short sell market, saying "I'm sure there'll be questions about that." Curiously, there were none.

Campbell explained the origin of the oil numbers system saying it all began with SEC reporting practices. For financial reasons, US oil company owners were allowed to report both proved producing reserves and proved undeveloped wells. The SEC model then became an international standard. He said "companies found it convenient to be very conservative about what they reported; they effectively reported as much as they needed to give a satisfactory financial result, that meant the build-up of stock of under-reported reserves".

The Saudi "oil initially in place" numbers, which Lynch refers to, were presented at a Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) meeting in Washington February 24 by Aramco's Manager of Reserves Management, Dr. Nansen Saleri, and Mahmoud Abdul Baqi, VP of Exploration. They both said that in the last 20 years Saudi Arabia's oil in the subsurface has grown by 100 billion barrels and it currently has "in the ground" 700 billion barrels.

Aramco also claims a 52% success rate with 64 exploratory wells drilled in the past 10 years and says that for the fourth year in a row the company reduced its water cut levels with the total company aggregate water cut for 2003 less than 27% (Russia's is 80%); water cuts pose a problem because while water flushes out some oil, it tends to further seal-in a lot of what remains. Aramco cites reserves at 261 billion barrels ­ reserves defined as "oil that can be recovered commercially with current technology". Aramco says they expect to produce 12 million barrels of oil a day though 2025.

Lynch also obliquely referenced Matt Simmons's CSIS presentation, calling him an investment banker who "sort of said I read some technical articles and they describe engineering problems in the field. He made a whole bunch of mistakes which the Saudis corrected. . . . And he admitted he wasn't an engineer." Simmons referred to Aramco's sophisticated "MRC (maximum reservoir contact) wells" with multiple branches and high resolution digital imaging ­ as "bottle brush" wells.

Lynch did not question the Aramco claim that by 2025 Saudi Arabia expects to have 900 billion barrels of oil in the ground; Saudi Aramco's position is that only 14% of their "tank" has been tapped and that the main field Ghawar (actually many fields in one) is only 48% tapped. Lynch did say Saudi Arabia was virtually unexplored when it comes to oil, backing up Aramco statements regarding plans to push forward to the promising Saudi-Iraqi border (Campbell says you won't find much there) as well as into the previously inaccessible Rub'al-Khali ­ making use of "intelligent wells" and remote control digital imaging with a 10-million and soon 100-million cell resolution.

OPEC advises its figures also refer to member countries' remaining reserves and not total discovered, but says it does not ask member countries to verify reported numbers unless there is a major discrepancy. OPEC says its figures are in line with USGS and BP numbers, however this means that they are based on projected demand, which leaves things a bit fuzzy. Matt Simmons has called the very concept of proven reserves "still an art form".

OPEC's acting Secretary General and Director of Research is Dr. Adnan Shihab-Eldin, a Berkeley-trained nuclear physicist ­ perhaps the most dynamic personality to emerge at OPEC since Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani. Shihab-Eldin is guiding the organization towards greater transparency in reporting its oil numbers by participating in JODI (Joint Oil Data Initiative) with APPEC (Asian and Pacific Petroleum Exporting Countries), IEA and UNSD. Shihab-Eldin previously served as a director of the International Atomic Energy Association and as Director, Kuwait Institute for Scientific Institute ­ where I first met him in the late 1970s when KISR was developing solar energy projects.

Shihab-Eldin said the following regarding world oil supply:

"In the current scenario of heightened political uncertainty in the Middle East, it is widely recognized that there is a premium on current crude prices, related to these events, of as high as $4-$5/b, rather than any basic lack of supply. . . . Our projections, derived from the OPEC World Energy Model, show world oil demand growing from 76 million barrels per day in 2000 to 89 million barrels per day by 2010, and by over 106 million barrels per day by 2020. Two-thirds of the increase in demand over that 20-year period will come from China and developing countries. This highlights the relevance of such projects as the new multi-billion dollar pipeline which will stretch from Eastern Siberia in Russia to Northeast China ­ with construction due to start in 2003. . . . Non-OPEC production is expected to increase throughout the entire period, with the expected decline in North Sea output more than compensated by increases in developing countries, the CIS and the Caspian region [which he says will add an additional 4 million barrels a day to world supply by 2015 and believes that new discoveries will get a boost from newer technologies]. " ­ Conference on Oil and Gas Transportation in the CIS and Caspian Region, Vienna, Austria, Oct. 2002

Neither Campbell nor Lynch referred to the JODI figures, but there is little doubt that the time has come for the numbers to be counted. Even Lynch admits that OPEC's reserves numbers in the past were often referred to as "political reserves". Lynch says: "I was in Kuwait in 1987 and we were laughing about the reserves numbers. Everyone knew those numbers were not reliable".

And Lynch still believes "There are no good reserve numbers anywhere in the world ­ especially in the past 30 years." But he says he's referring to "proved reserves" not the ultimate amount available. And that proved reserves numbers are not really very important in long-term modeling.

He characterizes Colin Campbell's and Jean Laharrere's modeling as"curve fitting" ­ not geological research ­ "like people who look at stock market cycles and try to come up with waves". Lynch acknowledges that field size is determined by geology but says "the process of discovery is an economic one."

Lynch also accuses Laharrere of mixing up political and economic events with geological ones in terms of the pause in oil exploration in the Middle East after 1980, when Lynch says there was a world oil glut, and the Saudis and Kuwaitis stopped exploring because they have 100 years of oil left. And then the wars happened, Iran/Iraq and the Gulf War. What's more, Lynch says the creaming curves Campbell produces are not reliable estimates because field sizes are not stable ­ citing field growth according to the IHS database in Norway (where horizontal drilling is producing results which could never be realized otherwise, he says), in Britain and Canada.

Lynch says that Jean Laharrere told the Abu Dhabis their oil was scarce and he just wasn't believed and that OPEC doesn't even want to deal with this "nonsense" but people keep asking them. Says Lynch, "If you look at all their [Campbell, Laharrere] curves, what you find is they're not doing serious statistical analysis. They're just drawing curves and then eyeballing then. Just looking at them and saying, does this appear to follow a pattern?"

Lynch looks at slides regarding British North Sea production. He says we were told the big fields have been discovered and the small fields don't matter and new technology won't increase recovery. But he says Campbell was wrong about his 1991 predictions of 500,000 barrels a day, citing current production at 2 million b/p/d and that this suggests "you don't know that the estimate of total resources in the UK is reliable, that it is stable".

Lynch also claims Campbell is himself raising estimates of URR as well as extending the peak out ­ that Campbell first predicted peak oil for 1989. He says in 2002 Campbell updated a table from his 1997 book increasing the amount of URR by over 100 bb in 5 years, attributing it to countries discovering more oil "than they ever would have in 1997".

Lynch concludes that the danger in the Middle East is more political when it comes to the supply of oil, and not it's running out. A Barron's 4/5/2004 editorial suggests the real scare is that "OPEC producers will stop pricing their oil in dollars and switch to a basket of currencies for both the pricing and settlement of crude-oil transactions". And Crown Prince Abdullah's historic visit to Moscow and talks with Vladimir Putin are further proof of politics as oil's ace card.

Says Lynch, "If you believe resouces are scarce and companies should run up their debt levels, buy up reserves, sign a long-term contract for engineers, do everything they can ­ nobody's doing that. They're trying to hunker down against another price collapse because that's much more likely than prices staying up at $35."

A caller from Arc Asset Management wanted to know why investments in US public oil companies weren't being realized in the past 2-3 years, although there had been substantial increases in exploration and development spending. The caller questioned why there was a lack of production response, was it because the decline rates have been getting much steeper? (The 1997 oil hype in Azerbaijan, which took me to Baku, came to mind; after the smoke screen came down there were dry holes, investors threatening to jump off the roof and the gobbling up of Amoco by BP plus the resignation of the US Energy Secretary.)

Lynch responded by saying give Capex time, you haven't seen the results yet, and that "it's partly delay because what you're seeing is companies putting money into big projects like deep water West Africa that take longer to come online than a shallow Gulf of Mexico field." He said the Chad pipeline took 2- 3 years, and mentioned costs on such projects could go up as much as 30%-40%.

John Hoey of Tethys Oil agrees. "It would be folly," he says, "to solely rely on the old school theories of recoverable reserves, tertiary recovery methods and technologies, old maps and geological interpretations." Hoey says the technology is moving too fast; they are now drilling faster, smarter deeper and more effectively, revisiting areas that were abandoned, looking for different plays ­ all helped by the economics of $30/bbl oil. He argues, "The worldwide deepwater drilling market expenditures have been estimated at $40 billion between 2003 and 2007 versus a fraction of this amount 10 years earlier, and were virtually nonexistent 10 years prior to that."

Lynch's talk was followed by a presentation by Dr. William Fisher, Director of Geoscience at the University of Texas and an advisor to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. He held up a slide with some Shell figures (odd, considering Shell's in the hot seat for overstating its reserves by 20%), which looked at the range of conventional vs unconventional oil in terms of a price scenario ­ ultimate at 3 trillion barrels and unconventional at another trillion barrels ­ and said cost probably will come down due to technology.

Fisher says he concurs with USGS "folks in Denver" who project peakings "at either a high demand of 3% a year out to 2025, and at 1% or less, it extends substantially". Fisher says future trajectory will be demand-defined not constrained by physical shortage.

Fisher also says, fuel reserve growth "has been the biggest dynamic over the past 25 years". He notes that the USGS "roughly equates reserve growth potential with new field discovery ­ it's about 650 bb of each". Fisher says he feels it's necessary to address this because some "early peakers" think reserve growth is a myth or assume it's accounted for in "proved reserve base" numbers.

Fisher sees "multicomponent seismic coming along" to deal with complex high density rock, carbonate rocks, and expects there will be a lot more computer imaging. He says 3D seismic works best in sandstone.

Surprisingly there is some common ground with Colin Campbell. Fisher suggests the oil age is pretty much over ­ though not because the world is running out of oil ­ but because oil will have outlived its usefulness (what will replace it is less clear). Fisher and Campbell both think coal-bed methane will be important. Fisher believes we're at the "threshold of the methane economy". And he says worldwide stranded pockets of gas will lead to cost-effective LNG (at a stable price of $4.50 to $5 a barrel).

Over the next 30-50 years, he believes natural gas will be the source for any development of the hydrogen fuel cell. Yet nowhere did he acknowledge well-documented recent supply shortages or obstacles to overseas importation. He says further that some of the downward curves on crude oil demand "out here about 20 or 25 years are factoring in a substantial introduction of the hydrogen fuel cell in the transportation mode." Now we're talking volatility!

Suzan Mazur first visited Saudi Arabia as a guest of the Saudi Arabian National Center for Science and Techology in 1984 researching a television documentary on solar energy and prior to that interviewed scientists at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, then headed by OPEC's now acting Secretary General, Dr. Adnan Shihab-Eldin. Her reports have appeared in the Financial Times, Economist, Forbes, Newsday, Philadelphia Inquirer (partial list), and on PBS, CBC and MBC. She has been a guest on McLaughlin, Charlie Rose and various Fox television programs. Email:

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RIA Novosti, Oksana Guseva
March 29

PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY, March 29 (RIA Novosti, Oksana Guseva) - The height of the cupola of Shiveluch volcano in Kamchatka has grown by more than 50 m during 20 days and keeps increasing, senior researcher of the institute of volcanology and seismology of the Far-Eastern Department of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexei Ozerov told RIA Novosti.

The cupola is growing due to the increased speed of the coming of the new magma substance, "released" during the destruction of the volcano's body, onto the surface.

As a result of the eruption, on February 27 the western part of Shiveluch's cupola was completely destroyed. The height of the volcano diminished by more than 200 m. A powerful more than 20-kilometers-long pyroclastic flow (an avalanche of gas, ashes and fragments of the magma material with a temperature of 800 deg Celsius), which destroyed the one-storey building of the volcanologists' base and the seismic station, went off the giant's slope.

The ash cloud spread to a distance of more than 700 km to the west of the volcano, having covered the peninsula and the adjacent water area of the Sea of Okhotsk with a strip, which was wide up to 150 km. The powerful ash deposits on the snow with an area of 310 x 150 km were clearly seen on the photographs from space provided by the Alaska volcanological laboratory.

The nearest neighbor of Shiveluch - Klyuchevsky volcano - is in the state of high activity. In the past 24 hours the ash train stretched to a distance of over 200 km from the volcano.

Several flows of lava with a temperature of the order of 1,100 deg Celsius have been continually flowing on the slopes of Klyuchevsky (its height is 4,822 m). The dramatic difference of temperatures during the interaction of lava with snow and ice causes high-yield phreatic explosions (ruptures of the magma material) with release of ashes. The ejections of volcanic bombs reach the height of 1,000 m.

Klyuchi settlement is situated between the two volcanoes - Shiveluch and Klyuchevsky. Volcanic ash periodically falls in the settlement but the population is not in danger now.

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And Finally...

Boy Scout director charged with having child porn Organization 'dismayed and shocked ' by news

NBC News and news services
March 29, 2005

DALLAS, Texas - A longtime Boy Scouts of America official who directed a national task force to protect children from sexual abuse has been charged with possession and distribution of child pornography.

Douglas Sovereign Smith Jr., 61, was accused of receiving images over the Internet in February of children engaging in oral sex, intercourse and other sexually explicit conduct. The charges were filed by federal prosecutors March 21.

“We’re shocked and dismayed to learn of this,” said Gregg Shields, national spokesman for the Boy Scouts, based in the Dallas suburb of Irving. “Smith was employed by the Boy Scouts for 39 years and we had no indication of prior criminal activity.” [...]

Smith was a national program director and staff adviser of the Boy Scout’s renowned Youth Protection Task Force. Shields said Smith took over the task force a couple of years ago when another employee retired. Smith managed the distribution of literature, video tapes, a Web site and other resources that teach children and adults at schools, churches and Boy Scout troops how to detect and prevent child abuse.[...]

Smith’s indictment was the result of a joint investigation between German and U.S. authorities to look into child porn distributed over the Internet.[...]

The Scouts have been under fire in recent years for refusing to allow gays, atheists or agnostics into the organization. [...]

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