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New Questions About Real Identity of 9-11 Hijackers

Ticket agent says Atta, Alomari were dressed in business suits; surveillance photos don't match
By Greg Szymanski

He sat silent for years, keeping a secret Americans were dying to hear. Not able to talk, there were days he cried uncontrollably, days he pounded his fists on the table like a madman, wondering if he could have prevented so many people from dying the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. For years, he tossed and turned, cursing himself for letting Mohammad Atta and Abdul-azziz Alomari, two of the alleged 19 hijackers, slip through his fingers at 5:40 a.m. on 9-11.

There's an old saying that "a moment can change a lifetime." And the moment that changed U.S. Airways ticket agent Michael Tuohey's life was when he says he was face to face with the two purported hijackers, one being Atta, the man the federal government claims was the ringleader of the entire operation.

But there are major discrepancies to the story that have yet to be explained by federal authorities and are still perplexing to Tuohey. The following relates the unanswered questions that form the basis of the government's explanation of what happened on that day.

Tuohey's brief encounter took place at the U.S. Airways ticket and baggage check-in at the airport in Portland, Maine. Working the ticket counter as he did most every morning for 37 years, he remembered two clean-shaven Arab-looking businessmen with tickets in hand approaching his workstation, both looking elegant and wearing suits and ties.

He remembers they were running late for their flight as they presented prepaid, one-way tickets from Portland to Boston and then onto Los Angeles on Flight 11. Looking back, he recalls nothing unusual about the alleged hijackers, saying both appeared calm, and the younger Alomari acting happy-go-lucky.

"Not like you'd expect from someone knowing he is going to die," recalls Tuohey, now retired and living near Portland. "There are certain things in my job you are trained to look for that red-flags danger. One is adult males with a one-way ticket paying in cash.

"If they had paid in cash, we probably would have run them through security, checked their bags, and they might have never gotten on the flight," he said. "I can't tell you how many nights I have seen their faces in my dreams and how many nights I second-guessed myself for not stopping them."

Asked why he waited so long to tell his story, which came to public attention on national television as well as in an article in The Portland Press-Herald he added: "No one really ever asked. However, looking back, I probably wasn't ready to face the public since I had asked the FBI to keep my name out of the papers. Thank God they kept their word."

Behind the emotions and the human interest Tuohey's story evokes, there is an ulterior motive behind those now questioning him about his encounter with Atta and Alomari. Those now asking questions are hoping his eyewitness accounts and recollections help clear up a controversy brewing over the only airport surveillance photo ever released of Atta and Alomari.

The government claims the surveillance photo released in the Portland airport conclusively shows them walking through the security clearance gate about 100 yards away from where Tuohey checked the pair's tickets and bags. Critics, however, contend that the government altered the photos since they were not a clear match of other independent mug shots released of Atta and Alomari.

These same critics claim Atta and Alomari never boarded the 19-seat airplane. This, they claim, is just another small piece of the larger 9-11 government conspiracy puzzle.

And now since Tuohey was one of the last to see the alleged hijackers before the controversial surveillance photos were taken, his words are being dissected and interpreted, perhaps misinterpreted, with the obvious goal of trying to establish if Atta and Alomari actually boarded Flight 11.

"I know about the conspiracy theories and about the surveillance camera shots released, but all I can tell you is what I saw. I'll tell you what I told the FBI agents when I was interviewed on 9-11," said Tuohey. "I believe the two men in front of me on 9-11 were Atta and Alomari. I have no reason to believe otherwise. They looked like the same two guys that were in the mug shots shown to me by the FBI agents the same morning."

As for details, Tuohey is very precise about the appearance, demeanor and attitudes of the alleged hijackers even after four years when memories fade and prior visions become cloudy.

"You don't forget something like this," he added. "I remember looking into Atta's eyes like it was yesterday. He spoke good English, and the other one never spoke. Looking back, they appeared to have rehearsed the proper way to act and the proper things to say. Atta appeared to understand everything I said.

"When I asked how many bags they were checking in, Atta simply said 'two.' He then asked for a one-stop boarding pass, which means he wouldn't be again checked at Logan if I gave it to him," he said.

"It was customary back then to give one-stop boarding passes on connector flights, but I never did it, because I figured I worked for U.S. Airways and not for American, which was their connector flight," Tuohey added. "When I didn't give it to him, he became noticeably agitated. But he stopped short of making a scene and hurriedly left in order to catch his flight."

One of the major inconsistencies between Tuohey's description of their appearance and the surveillance photo released was that the two men in the photo were dressed casually in shirts without suits and ties, and there was no white shawl over Alomari's head.

"They left my workstation in suits and ties. I didn't see them take their coats off," recalls Tuohey. "Atta left carrying a small duffel bag and the other had a very small bag. I guess they could have placed the jackets, ties and shawl in Atta's bag. I just don't know."

Asked if a surveillance camera was posted by his workstation, he said he was told by the FBI on 9-11 that the video camera had been out of order for several weeks and no other pictures were available.

"I had worked there a long time and never knew the cameras were broken until I was told by the agents," said Tuohey, adding they were installed by airport officials and not U.S. Airways.

To shed light on Tuohey's vivid recollections, an independent 9-11 researcher, who prefers to remain anonymous due to prior government harassment, added these important details after numerous interviews and countless hours of researching the two hijackers' movements in and around Portland prior to 9-11:

"Atta and Alomari were conveniently captured on video cameras at three different locations in Portland the night before 9-11. Yet none of the stills taken from those locations, Jetport Gas, the ATM machine and Wal-Mart, were clear enough, as posted on the FBI web site, to confirm that they were the same two men whose FBI mug shots were displayed prominently on the major networks for weeks along with the other 17 hijackers.

"The Portland Press Herald article that came out back in October of 2001, the first publication to print the now famous Atta and Alomari surveillance photo, was also too fuzzy to make the confirmation that they were the same two men.

"When I interviewed 'Jerry,' the attendant at Jetport Gas in early 2002 who saw the hijackers, he told me that the 'second one could not have been the Alomari the FBI showed on TV because he was too tall.' He also told me that 'they spoke such poor English that I had to give them directions to Wal-Mart three times.' This clearly contradicts Tuohey's statements that Atta spoke perfect English.

"The eyewitness quoted in the original Portland Press Herald article, who put Atta and Alomari on the 19-seater to Logan, was Jane Eisenberg of Cape Elizabeth, Maine. I interviewed Ms. Eisenberg around the same time as Jerry, and she told me when asked if she could confirm if the two men she saw on the 19-seater were the same two men the FBI was displaying all over the major networks, 'No, I cannot.'

"And remember, it was the FBI who told Tuohey the camera he worked under every day hadn't worked for some time. They knew that, but a guy who worked directly under it every day didn't know?

"Also, a friend of Tuohey's, who took that flight to Boston, was quoted as saying, he recalled seeing the two leaving the plane in Boston in suit coats and ties.

"Like Tuohey mentioned, Alomari also wore a shawl of some type that is missing in the famous photo. Although he assumed they must have placed these articles of clothing in their carry-on bags, his friend on the plane didn't mention them dressing up again on the flight.

It should be mentioned that the short distance between Tuohey's workstation and the security check-in, the size of Alomari's carry-on piece and the fact that they were running late for the flight, make it very suspicious that they would first take off their jackets and ties before boarding.

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Signs Economic Commentary
Donald Hunt
April 4, 2005

The euro closed at 1.2904 dollars last week which means the dollar is worth .7750 euros, a rise of 0.4% for the dollar compared to the previous week's close of .7716 euros to the dollar or 1.2960 dollars to the euro. Gold closed at 428.80 dollars an ounce, up 0.9% from the previous week's close of $425.00. Gold in euros closed at 332.30 per ounce, up 1.3% compared to the previous week's 327.93. Oil closed at $57.27 a barrel, up a full 4.4% for the week compared to March 25th's price of 54.84. Looking at the price of oil in euros (Bush's nightmare), oil closed at 44.38 euros a barrel, up 4.9% compared to the previous week's close of 42.31. As for the gold/oil comparison, last week saw oil gain ground, closing at 7.49 barrels for an ounce of gold, down 3.5% from the previous week's 7.75. In the United States' stock market, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 10,404.30, down 0.37% from the previous week's close of 10,442.87, while the NASDAQ closed at 1984.81, down 0.31% from the previous week's 1991.06.

Now that we are one quarter of the way through 2005, let's look at the quarterly statistics. The big story was oil, which rose from $43.45 to $57.27 or 31.8% in the first quarter of 2005. That's after rising 33.6% in 2004. The euro lost ground against the dollar in Q1 2005, falling from 1.3540 to 1.2904 dollars (4.9%) after rising 8% in 2004. Gold went from $437.10 to $428.80 falling 1.9% in dollar terms. In euros, gold went from 332.32 euros an ounce to 332.30, virtually unchanged. The Dow fell in the first three months of 2005, going from 10,783 to 10,404, down 3.6%, wiping out all of its gains from 2004. Similarly, the NASDAQ went from 2175 to 1985, falling 9.6% after rising 8.6% in 2004.

The dollar has gained in 2005, due most likely to interest rate rises, which threaten to puncture the debt-driven bubble in the United States. For that reason, there is not much to celebrate in the recent rise of the dollar. And, if you look at the last five years, the dollar has still fallen sharply against the euro and other currencies. If, for example, we look at the price of gold in dollars for the past five years, we might think that the price of gold has been rising sharply. These charts from Kitco's web site show that it has, but only in dollars:

What we are seeing, however, is a drop in the dollar, not a rise in gold, as we can see in the next chart, comparing gold prices in dollars and euros:

Notice how gold has gone up only 13.8% in euros over the last five years but 53.3% in dollars. In fact, the average price of gold in 1999 dollars for the two hundred year period 1801-1999 was $435! That is very close to recent prices. Of course, for those two centuries, the dollar was a strong currency, which means that if the price of gold increases sharply, the dollar will be weakening - not that gold is increasing in value.

The big news last week was the release of March's job creation numbers for the United States. 110,000 new jobs were created, half of what most analysts expected.

Weak jobs report suggests cooler economy

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US economy generated 110,000 jobs in March, the government said in a report sharply weaker than economists' forecasts and suggesting cooling economic momentum.

The Labor Department figure was half as strong as the 220,000 new jobs expected, on average, by Wall Street economists, and the weakest pace since July.

The unemployment rate fell to 5.2 percent in March from 5.4 percent in February, the agency said based on a separate survey that sometimes gives contradictory signals. The figure was better than the 5.3 percent expected on Wall Street.

New job creation is seen as one of the best indicators of economic momentum and the latest report was likely to shift views about the pace of growth of the world's largest economy.

John Lonski at Moody's Investors Service said the report "comes as a surprise and brings attention to above average risk aversion among businesses."

To make matters worse, the Labor Department revised downward its estimates for job growth in February to 243,000 (from 262,000) and in January to 124,000 (from 132,000).

Service sector jobs were up 86,000 but manufacturing lost 8,000 jobs. Retail employment fell by 10,000 in March. Several industries added jobs in March, notably construction, health care and mining.

Economists say about 150,000 jobs are needed each month to absorb new labor market entrants.

The analysts quoted in that article then go on say that if you average the job creation numbers for the past six months you get about 175,000 new jobs a month, more than needed to accommodate new entries. The U.S. economy, then, is on a steady growth pace of about 3.5 to 4.0% annually, which is a stable, sustainable number. Why is it so hard to feel confident, then? Part of it is the rapid rise in oil prices. Of course, there's also the dire fiscal situation of the United States, which is running half-trillion budget deficits. The real wild card, though, is the question of whether or not the United States is going to invade two or three more countries, after having botched the last two invasions. Things don't look good for Iran, Syria and Venezuela, but they also don't look good for the United States either, if that country tries to push its military advantage from such a weak economic position.

What all these things have in common, though, is the increasing potential for catastrophic changes in direction, changes that conventional economics is incapable of foreseeing. Martin Hutchinson makes the point that the inability of conventional neo-classical economists to incorporate non-linear dynamics prevents them from predicting the economic future with any accuracy:

The Bear's Lair: Beware of singularities

By Martin Hutchinson

Washington, DC, Mar. 28 (UPI) -- As the Fed raises interest rates quarter point by quarter point, the financial environment may seem to be changing little, but in reality it is becoming increasingly at risk of singularities, financial tornadoes that appear from a clear sky and produce economic devastation.

Conventional economics deals primarily with equations that are linear or exponential. Relationships between the different components of the economy are held to be linear, economic growth is held to be exponential, with the economy increasing in size each year by a constant or even an increasing rate, depending on productivity growth, which is supposed to be constant in the short run albeit possibly increasing in the long run. Linear and exponential equations have the great virtue of being relatively easy for economists to solve; they also tend to behave in smooth ways, so that if an economy behaves in one way in one year it will behave in a similar way in the following year; change is always gradual, and there are no point "singularities" at which sudden changes occur.

It's an attractive if somewhat sterile picture, no doubt useful when teaching economics to the less academically gifted students. It allows simple folk such as the George W. Bush economic team to make confident predictions of continued economic progress, halving of the Federal budget deficit within five years etc., without more than the usual barrage of politically motivated criticism. However, it doesn't bear a great deal of resemblance to reality, and nor should we expect it to.

The reality is more complex, and the complexities are not simply errors of detail in the standard economic model, but fundamental flaws in its underlying mathematics. You only have to read a standard economic textbook to realize that many of the relationships described in it, such as the demand curve, the interaction by which comparative advantage takes effect, and the interaction between marginal tax rates and economic output are neither linear nor exponential, but some quite different relationship -- the standard demand curve, for example, is fairly close to a hyperbola.

Equations were simplified to linear and exponential forms by the early econometricians, who were not particularly good mathematicians and wished to construct computer models of the economy using equations they thought they understood. Even then they got it wrong: the notorious MIT/Club of Rome model of the world economy constructed in 1971, which purported to prove that whatever policies were pursued, the world was due for an exploding ecological crisis within no more than a few decades, wasn't wrong because of its details, it was wrong through technical error. The model extrapolated exponential equations for 30 or 40 years into the future without taking account of the fact that if you extrapolate exponentials on a finite digital computer, the errors caused by rounding to a finite number of digits also increase exponentially, and after a few dozen iterations explode the graph off the screen in some random direction no matter what the underlying reality.

In reality, a significant number of economic equations appear to be determined not by linear or exponential equations, but by power series equations, mostly of the quadratic, cubic or quartic order. This fits economics in well with physics, chemistry and other "hard" sciences where such relationships are relatively common.

Although simple quadratic equations are easily solvable, complex systems with such equations intermingled are not. The principal difference between such systems and linear/exponential systems is the existence of singularities, where a small change in conditions or a small interval of time produces a large and discontinuous change in the output, a discontinuity in the "phase space."

Modern mathematics, in particular "catastrophe theory" and "chaos theory" have examined these types of systems in much more detail than was possible 30 years ago. Discontinuities in the system do not occur randomly; over large areas of the system there are no discontinuities, while in other areas where the equation set is "critical" there are many discontinuities or even an infinite number of them.

Turning with relief back to the real world, we can see that economic crises follow this pattern quite closely. During some lengthy periods, there are no crises, and obvious areas of unsoundness in the system have very little effect, continuing or even intensifying themselves for years, without causing the damage that is predicted for them. During other periods, crises occur with bewildering rapidity, while institutions that have appeared entirely stable and well managed suddenly spiral into bankruptcy with very little warning. Areas of unsoundness that have persisted for years or even decades, without apparently leading to any ill effects, suddenly cause a major financial collapse with large adverse economic consequences, and often further collapses in areas only distantly related to the first.

... The "landscape" of the economy thus correlates pretty closely with the cost and availability of capital. When capital is cheap, with a bubbly stock market and low interest rates, frauds almost certainly proliferate but they do little damage; individual bankruptcies and exposed frauds do not lead to adverse economic consequences and the economic ship continues to sail ahead without difficulty. When real interest rates are high, on the other hand, the stock market is low, and capital is expensive, frauds are much less likely, but unexpected bankruptcies caused by the high cost of capital happen quite often, and the adverse effect on investor confidence and the economy in general from such events is severe.

This is why investors today should beware of singularities. Short term interest rates are increasing steadily, and may have to increase faster because even at 2.75 percent the Federal Funds rate remains significantly below the steadily rising rate of inflation. Banks, which have covered up an almost infinite quantity of insane consumer and corporate lending by the profits from the "carry trade" of borrowing short term and lending long, are looking at a bleak future. Either short term rates will overtake long term rates, in which case the "carry trade" will go into reverse, wiping out a huge source of profits, or long term rates will increase enough to prevent this, in which case banks are looking at huge losses on their mostly unhedged bond portfolios, particularly corporate bonds (whose yields can be expected to rise more that Treasuries) second quality consumer debt (whose default rates will soar in a period of tighter money) and mortgage backed securities, whose refinancing rate will drop to zero, defaults rise and maturity extend to infinity, as homeowners can no longer refinance and get into financial difficulty.

These non-linear singularities in our world are much more likely to be catastrophically bad than to lead to a greater and more prosperous order. Why is that? Why does there seem to be nowhere to go but down? To answer questions like these it may be more useful to turn away from mainstream economists and analysts and to consider the analysis of someone normal society would consider crazy, a poor man in Tennessee suffering from severe pesticide poisoning who corresponds with the writer Joe Bageant. Bageant published some emails from the guy in Counterpunch including this that seems to speak to the deep karmic fear that most of us try not to acknowledge:

Meanwhile, the sheer carnage of our terrible national enterprise is staggering! Yet no one mentions the back rooms of research facilities filled with mutilated tortured beings kept alive for study or force-fed Drano to see how long it takes fifty-percent of them to die. I am always astonished at how very few people know what goes on in medical and corporate research labs, not to mention the meat industry. "For every action... " It's the nature of reality. It's physics. There will be a reckoning for the culture that creates a holocaust of that magnitude. The fact that there is something terribly wrong with anyone who does such a thing, and that this same "lack" will therefore affect EVERYTHING he/she does, eventually creating magnificently awful problems. Elevating carnage to cultural protocol is very dangerous. And official rationalization of it is disastrous. Why isn't someone talking about these things? We have no examples. We have no ideals. We have only corruption and self-justifying silliness in service of capitalism as it runs further and more terribly amok.

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US Economic Collapse Approaches

Last week marked the three year anniversary of the Signs of the Times page. Over 1,000 daily analyses of the state of our world and its apparently inexorable decline. For those readers that are as yet unaware of the reason for such unwavering dedication, it can be summed up with the words "wake up". Our goal is to provide a resource that offers the internet public the opportunity to See the world as it is truly is. Of course, this has been as much a process of awakening for ourselves as it has been for our readers. The task however, has been far from easy, and while it appears that we have indeed helped many individuals to come to a more accurate understanding of the reality of the world, it seems that much of this understanding is of an intellectual nature.

The obvious reason for this is that much of the horror of the world that we present has not touched any of our readers in a direct way and is therefore to some extent "unreal". While we strove to present as explicit a portrait as possible of the US-induced suffering of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan for example, at the end of the day it was still only pictures and words on a page and allowed many people to remain complacent in the face of such horror. While Iraqis were dying by the thousands, American and European citizens went about their daily lives. They still had a roof over their heads, food on the table, "normal lives" to live. Indeed, the argument could be made that, if the world really is ruled by such a group of immoral despots determined to destroy as much of it as possible, how is it that the lives of so many Westerners, who survive by the patronage of said despots, remain more or less unchanged?

While we take no delight in saying it, it would appear that all of this is about to change.

The first salvo in the coming economic collapse of the West, specifically the US, has been fired. A worldwide trade war has already begun between "developed" countries that, up until now, have worked together to exploit poorer nations.

Canada to Impose 15% Tariff On Wide Range of U.S. Products

Bloomberg Mar, 31 2005

The European Union and Canada said Thursday they will impose a 15% tariff on U.S. products starting May 1 to punish Washington for failing to repeal the Byrd Amendment, an antidumping law ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization.

The EU's move would impose the additional duties on such U.S. products as paper, textiles, machinery and farm produce. The EU head office said it took its latest step "in light of the continuing failure of the United States to bring its legislation in conformity with its international obligations."

Ottawa will impose the tax on U.S. live swine, cigarettes, oysters and certain specialty fish starting May 1, a statement from International Trade Minister Jim Peterson said. "For the last four years, Canada and a number of other countries have repeatedly urged the United States to repeal the Byrd Amendment," Mr. Peterson said. "Retaliation is not our preferred option, but it is a necessary action. International trade rules must be respected." [...]

Japan, Mexico Prepare to Follow EU, Canada Sanctions on U.S.

Bloomberg Apr 1, 2005

"Japan and Mexico are preparing to follow the European Union and Canada in imposing extra import duties on U.S. goods after Congress failed to repeal a law that has handed companies such as Timken Co. more than $1 billion in tariffs paid by their competitors. [...]

Add to this the downward spiral of the dollar and the continued rise in oil prices and the stage is set.

Oil Hits New Record

Sun Apr 3, 2005
By Joanne Collins

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Oil prices raced to a new all-time peak on Monday, climbing toward $58 a barrel as OPEC signaled it would discuss a second output rise to try to quell the market's relentless rally.

"I would have thought prices would struggle to go much higher. The market fundamentals suggest lower prices," said Mark Pervan, an analyst with Daiwa Securities in Melbourne.

"I think they will struggle to get over $60 in the next couple of weeks -- that is a big psychological barrier."

OPEC President Sheikh Amhad al-Fahd al-Sabah said on Saturday he would likely start consulting member producers on Sunday over a 500,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) increase to group supplies to cool the market.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries lifted output limits by 500,000 bpd to 27.5 million bpd in mid-March and left room for a second rise before a June ministerial meeting if prices failed to ease below $55.

U.S. oil prices have surged 33 percent this year, with big-money speculative funds buying heavily on signs that rapid demand growth in Asia's emerging economies and the United States would strain world supply.

Prices have gained more than $3 since Thursday when top energy derivatives trader Goldman Sachs (GS.N: Quote, Profile, Research) released a report saying oil markets might have entered a "super-spike" period which could eventually drive them toward $105.

Concerns about the adequacy of U.S. gasoline stocks ahead of the peak summer demand season were also partly behind last week's price jump after a handful of refiners had production problems.

If one were to look at these factors in isolation, one could suggest that all of this is simply the ebb and flow of international economics and that things will return to normal in the near future. But when these events are placed within the broader frame of domestic and foreign political polices, the picture takes on a decidedly negative appearance. For example, recently, the US Senate passed a "tough bankruptcy bill":

Senate passes tougher bankruptcy bill

Friday, March 11, 2005

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate passed legislation Thursday making it easier for banks, retailers, credit card companies and other creditors to recoup some money they're owed by many of the 1.5 million people who file for bankruptcy every year.

Eighteen Democrats and the Senate's lone independent joined Republicans in approving the bill on a 74-25 vote. It goes to the House next month and onto President Bush, who made it a priority after the GOP increased its majorities in the election last fall.

"I applaud the strong bipartisan vote in the Senate to curb abuses of the bankruptcy system," Bush said in a statement. "Reforming the system with this common sense approach, more Americans -- especially lower-income Americans -- will have greater access to credit."

Lenders had been pushing the legislation for eight years. They argued too many people with ability to repay at least a portion of the money they owe were walking away from all their debts under current law.

"Those who can pay their bills should pay their bills. That's the American way," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

"It will have a real impact on real people all over this country," said Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin.

Over the past two weeks, Republicans knocked down Democratic attempts to ease the impact of the legislation on people facing huge debts they cannot pay, including single parents, the unemployed and the ill.

Wall Street investment bankers won a provision that will enable the same firm to work for a company both before and after it files for bankruptcy. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman William Donaldson opposed the measure; he said it would further undermine investor confidence already shaken by the Enron, WorldCom and other corporate scandals.

The bill is the second piece of pro-business legislation that Congress is acting quickly on this year. Last month it sent him a bill placing most large multistate class action lawsuits under federal court jurisdiction, making it more difficult for plaintiffs to join together and win multimillion-dollar judgments in state courts.

Now ask yourself, given the precarious state of the US economy, (7 trillion in foreign debt) why would Bush be so eager to pass an 8 year old bill at this precise time? The likely answer is that the Bush administration is well aware that, in the very near future, millions of Americans and their businesses are going to "go bust" and this bill has been passed to ensure that the massive debts that the US government has wantonly accrued over the years get passed on to the American people. It is only in times of economic collapse (always manufactured) that the people get to realise just how indebted they are to their beloved country.

Yet the passing of the bankruptcy bill is not the only precaution that the US government is taking. In times of extreme need, where millions of people are out of work and struggling to feed their families, the chance of civil insurrection is greatly increased. In an effort to avoid having to experience events as 'unsavory' as those that transpired in France at the end of the 18th century, the Bush administration have been hard at work putting certain strictures in place that will allow them to maintain a careful watch on a restless citizenry. On top of the massive loss of civil liberties that the Patriot Act entails, all citizens will soon be in direct communication with their "leaders:"

Texas Considers Putting RFID Tags in All Cars

Saturday April 02

"In section 601.507 of Texas HB 2893, the Texas Legislature is considering replacing all vehicle inspection stickers with RFID tags. The legislation also makes provision for the government to use the devices for insurance enforcement. The bill contains limited privacy provisions, but does not seem to exclude other law enforcement usage."

One of the more bizarre pieces of evidence that the ruling "elite" in Washington are preparing for a dramatic change is the fact that, for many months now, leading NeoCons like Frank Gaffney have been loudly proclaiming the need for Americans to cut back on their oil consumption, specifically in their over-sized cars, and embrace a greener way of life like buying hybrid electric cars. In presenting his argument, Gaffney makes use of the "evil terrorist" angle, declaring that reducing oil consumption in the US will also reduce US dependency on oil-rich terrorist regimes. In doing so, these leading Neocons find themselves the unlikely position of sharing a podium with their ideological opposites such as Liberals and Green Party members.

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Russian bank funds placement up in some countries, down in others
4:49 GMT, Apr 04, 2005

MOSCOW - Russian banks had more interbank loans and deposits with banks in Germany, France and Italy, but less in the United States, Britain and Austria in 2004, the Central Bank of Russia reported on its website.

The proportion of Russian bank funds placed with banks in Germany increased from 2.4% to 7.2%, in France from 1.6% to 3.1% and in Italy from 1.0% to 1.8%.

But the proportion of funds in banks in the United States decreased from 8.2% to 6.7%, in Britain from 9.0% to 6.6%, in Austria from 6.8% to 6.1% and in other countries from 18.8% to 14.5%.

The proportion of funds placed in Russian resident banks was 54.0% last year versus 54.2% the year before. It had been 37.9% on the first of January 2002 and 41.1% one year later.

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Ford Aims to Cut 1,000 White-Collar Jobs
April 5, 2005

DETROIT - Ford Motor Co. told employees this week that it will offer buyout packages to white-collar employees, with the aim of cutting an estimated 1,000 jobs, the Detroit News reported on Tuesday. [...]

Ford said last month that it expects profits this year to be at the lower end of its previous forecast. Ford faces many of the same problems as GM, including rising health-care costs and falling U.S. market share, factors that have spurred Standard & Poor's to cut the bond ratings at both automakers to one step above "junk" status.

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Israel 'is sealing off Jerusalem Arabs'
Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
Tuesday April 5, 2005
The Guardian

Palestinians accuse Sharon over go-ahead for 3,500 homes linking settlements with capital

Ariel Sharon told the Israeli parliament yesterday that he would press ahead with the construction of thousands of homes to link one of the largest Jewish settlements with Jerusalem, despite US concern that it would jeopardise the possibility of a viable Palestinian state.

The Palestinian leadership says the plan to build 3,500 homes between Maale Adumim and Jerusalem is another step toward sealing off the city's Arab neighbourhoods from the rest of the West Bank.

Israel has already accelerated the construction of an 8 metre high concrete "security barrier", seized land and expanded other settlements.

Palestinians have accused Mr Sharon of using the political credit gained overseas for his unprecedented plan to remove Jewish settlers from the Gaza strip as a cover to consolidate Israel's grip on Arab East Jerusalem and prevent it from becoming the capital of a Palestinian state. Israel claims the entire city as its capital.

The prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, said he suspected Mr Sharon was trying to pre-empt negotiations about the future of the city. This could prove the single largest obstacle to a peaceful resolution of the conflict, because the Palestinians insist they will not relinquish their claim to East Jerusalem.

"Without Jerusalem there will be no stability, no security and no peace," said Mr Qureia.

White House spokesman Scott McClennan said "settlement activity will be a subject that comes up" when Mr Sharon and George Bush meet next Monday. Asked about Mr Sharon's plans in the West Bank, Mr McClellan said: "We oppose the expansion of any settlement activity. That has been our view and that remains our view."

The Palestinians estimate that by the time Israel completes its withdrawal from the Gaza strip in October the wall and barrier through Jerusalem will separate about 250,000 Arabs living in the city from the rest of the occupied territories, with severe social and economic consequences.

"Things are snowballing in East Jerusalem," said Hind Khoury, the Palestinian cabinet minister with responsibility for Jerusalem. "The disengagement plan has been given a very high profile as the way forward and the world has embraced that. But if you look at what else is going on, there is extreme intensification of settlement expansion, the continuation of the construction of the wall, the areas that Israel is annexing; it is creating realities and influencing final status talks."

The construction of thousands of homes in the three-mile corridor to Maale Adumim would not only extend Jerusalem deep into the West Bank but would sever the main link between Palestinian towns to the south, such as Bethlehem, and those to the north, including Ramallah.

Israel already effectively views Maale Adumim as part of Jerusalem by including it within the "greater Jerusalem" boundary that extends half way across the West Bank toward Jericho. Last month, the government announced that the "security barrier" would enclose Maale Adumim, home to about 30,000 people, and another large settlement block, Gush Etzion, near Bethlehem, on the Jerusalem side.

Homes for tens of thousands more Jews are under construction or planned in these and other settlements ringing Jerusalem. An eastern bypass is being built alongside the wall and links the settlements.

While Jewish settlements are drawn ever closer to Israel, Arabs living in and around Jerusalem are increasingly cut off from communities on the West Bank to which they have close ties.

In addition to the obstacles created by construction, the government plans to prevent most of the city's Arabs from travelling to towns such as Ramallah and Bethlehem by requiring them to obtain passes to leave Jerusalem via any of the 10 gates in the barrier. Almost all Palestinians living on the West Bank are barred from entering Jerusalem.

"What will be left will be small isolated [Palestinian] neighbourhoods," said Ms Khoury. "I really don't see the prospect of a capital and two states. Jerusalem has always been the central city for institutions, for shopping. People can't see a state without Jerusalem as its capital, but East Jerusalem is a strangled city."

East Jerusalem accounts for about a third of the Palestinian economy through trade and employment in tourism, education and health services. But the barrier and tighter restrictions on the movement of Palestinians has already diminished economic ties between Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied territories.

"It's reduced from a city that was the economic heart for the Palestinians to a bunch of disconnected Palestinian enclaves," said Jeff Halper, an Israeli peace activist who has campaigned for many years against the government's discriminatory policies in Jerusalem.

Israel is also working with messianic groups that are buying Arab-owned properties in an attempt to create a ring of Jewish neighbourhoods around Jerusalem's old city and its disputed religious sites.

One of the groups, Ateret Cohanim, wants to create what it calls the "Jerusalem shield" of Jewish neighbourhoods between the old city and the Arab population.

Another group using similar tactics, Yerushalayim Shelanu (Jerusalem is Ours), was founded a year ago to "ensure a united Jerusalem under Israel".

Ateret Cohanim is starting to build a settlement just inside the barrier called Kidmatzion, meaning "front line of Zion". Mr Halper said construction of Jewish homes along the barrier made a nonsense of the government's claim that the wall can easily be removed and has no lasting consequences. "Even if they take the wall away, these settlements will be left to continue to claim the land for Israel."

Comment: Are there no decent people left in the world? Is there no political leader willing to stand up and state that which is patently obvious? How much more evidence do we need before we decide once and for all that Sharon has absolutely NO interest in peace and will do everything in his power to quash forever the Palestinian people's aspiration to have a state of their own. Must we wait until Sharon gets his ultimate wish - the ethnic cleansing of greater Israel - before we conclude that he is a brutal war criminal and that he is being backed to the hilt by equally brutal men in the White House and Pentagon??

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50,000 Public Figures in Russia Seek Ban on Jewish Groups - Paper

Some 50,000 well known public figures and church officials in Russia have signed a petition asking the country’s state prosecution to ban Jewish groups, the Haaretz newspaper reported on Monday, quoting information broadcast by Army Radio.

The petition uses quotations from an abridged guide to Jewish law, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, to support its contention that Judaism is “an extremist and racist ethnicity that hates non-Jews”.

The signatories - including former army generals, artists and an unnamed former international chess champion - argue that this definition of Judaism makes the activity of Jewish groups illegal, according to the radio.

A similar petition was signed by 20 Russian lawmakers about two months ago, the radio said.

Foreign Ministry official Nimrod Barkan warned Sunday that Russians were effectively getting the message that anti-Semitism would be tolerated.

“There’s the expansion of the number of anti-Semitic incidents, including violent incidents [in Russia]; the enforcement institutions avoid taking effective steps,” said Barkan, who heads the Diaspora and religion department in the ministry.

“This sends a message, also to those sitting on the fence,” he told Army Radio, “that it’s comfortable and secure to be anti-Semitic in Russia.”

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Flashback: Shock Over Petition to Ban Jewish Groups
January 26, 2005
By Mike Eckel
The Associated Press

A senior rabbi and Israel's embassy on Tuesday criticized a group of nationalist State Duma deputies who accused Jews of fomenting ethnic hatred and called for all Jewish organizations in Russia to be banned.

The Foreign Ministry expressed regret about the matter and stressed that the Russian leadership rejects anti-Semitism.

In a petition, dated Jan. 13, some 20 Rodina and Communist deputies appealed to the prosecutor general to launch proceedings "on the prohibition in our country of all religious and ethnic Jewish organizations as extremist."

Echoing anti-Semitic tracts of the tsarist era, the petition's authors accused Jews of working against the interests of the countries where they live and of monopolizing power worldwide.

"It is possible to say that the entire democratic world today is under the monetary and political control of international Judaism, which high-profile bankers are openly proud of," it says. [...]

Comment: The important point that is being overlooked (deliberately?) here is that there is no such thing as "Jews" as a homogenous group. There are, Semitic Jews, non-Semitic Jews, Semitic Jews living in Israel, Semitic Jews not living in Israel, non-Semitic Jews living in Israel and non-Semitic Jews not living in Israel.

If we must speak in generalities, then we suggest that there are two groups: all people of Jewish faith on one side and Jewish leaders on the other. The simple fact is that history suggests that certain "Zionist" leaders played a significant role in creating the political climate that lead to Hitler's rise and WWII, and that they did this in order that the state of Israel could be created and millions of persecuted Jews would be inclined to emigrate to populate it.

We are talking about manipulation on a grand scale that began with the fomenting of anti-Jewish sentiment BY THE JEWISH "LEADERS" THEMSELVES!

Given that history tends to repeat itself (with a little help from certain groups of course) these recent events in Russian do not bode well for the future of ANYONE on this planet.

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Investigators Suspect Judge Killed Himself
By LYNN BREZOSKY, Associated Press Writer
Tue Apr 5, 6:30 AM ET

WESLACO, Texas - Investigators suspect suicide in the death of an embattled judge who won a third term despite a widely reported FBI raid of his home and courthouse chambers, authorities said.

The body of State District Judge Ed Aparicio, 46, was found Monday shortly after a news release was issued announcing he was resigning to dedicate more time to his family and to personal family matters that required immediate attention.

"The demands of my position as judge have unfortunately taken a toll on my personal life," the judge said. The release did not elaborate.

Aparicio was found dead in a pool of blood in the den of his home after he failed to show up for work. All the doors of the house were locked.

"At this time, it's being investigated as a suicide," Weslaco police spokesman David Molina said. He said he wasn't aware of a suicide note being found.

District Attorney Rene Guerra said he could not comment on a federal investigation. A telephone call to the judge's attorney was not immediately returned.

Aparicio's chambers and home had been the target of an FBI search in January 2004, when an anti-corruption task force seized dozens of paintings, photos and documents. Federal prosecutors have declined to release details of the search or say what prompted it.

The raid did not stop Hidalgo County voters from re-electing Aparicio to a third term in March 2004. The former Houston attorney was first elected judge in 1997.

Mark Garza, 34, whose 5-year-old son played with Aparicio's son in a Christian basketball league, said the news of Aparicio's death came as a shock.

"He was a good man, the way he spoke about his family, all the time about his kids," he said. "He hardly missed a basketball game."

Weslaco is a town of about 25,000 people in the southern tip of Texas near the Mexican border.

Comment: In a KRGTV news clip, we learn the following:

A judge found dead today was the subject of an FBI investigation last year in which his home and office were raided. Hundreds of items, including paintings and statues as well as boxes of documents were seized from Aparicio's home and office. The raid occurred just before last year's primary elections.

The judge said he had no idea why he was being investigated. Several days after the raid, Aparicio, accompanied by his wife, issued a statement.

“I'm bewildered by the events and quite disturbed by the timing,” Aparicio said, “I can't help but feel their action is politically motivated.”

Strangely enough, Aparicio claims he never knew why his house was raided, since no charges were filed against him. More than a year after winning the judgeship again despite the raid, he resigns for "personal reasons" and supposedly commits suicide.

Aside from the fact that police seem too certain too quickly that Aparicio committed suicide, why was he never charged with any crime? If he was actually guilty, why wouldn't a "politically motivated" opponent splash the allegations of wrongdoing all over the controlled media? Aparicio would not have been re-appointed, and the problem would have been solved. Instead, the former judge was given an opportunity to say that he felt that the federal agents' actions were politically motivated, and the secret nature of the raid obviously helped him win another term.

There are obviously pieces to this puzzle that are not being released to the public.

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Key lawmaker calls for criminalizing TV indecency
04/05/2005 02:22

SAN FRANCISCO - The chairman of one of the entertainment industry's most important congressional committees says he wants to take the enforcement of broadcast decency standards into the realm of criminal prosecution.

Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner III, R-Wis., told cable industry executives attending the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. conference here on Monday that criminal prosecution would be a more efficient way to enforce the indecency regulations.

"I'd prefer using the criminal process rather than the regulatory process," Sensenbrenner told the executives.

The current system -- in which the FCC fines a licensee for violating the regulations -- casts too wide a net, he said, trapping those who are attempting to reign in smut on TV and those who are not.

"People who are in flagrant disregard should face a criminal process rather than a regulator process," Sensenbrenner said. "That is the way to go. Aim the cannon specifically at the people committing the offenses, rather than the blunderbuss approach that gets the good actors.

"The people who are trying to do the right thing end up being penalized the same way as the people who are doing the wrong thing."

It was unclear exactly how he would go about criminalizing violations of the indecency statutes. Typically, the Federal Communications Commission notifies the alleged offender and, if no settlement is reached, issues a fine.

When asked how he intended to criminalize the violations, Sensenbrenner repeated his assertion that it was the best way to penalize people who violate the statute but avoid "penalizing people who are not violating the law." [...]

Although cable and satellite TV are not covered by the indecency statutes, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, have said they want to bring multichannel programmers into the legal mix. [...]

Comment: US lawmakers are up in arms over Janet Jackson's breast being shown on TV, yet they seem to have no problem with officially-sanctioned murder and torture in the "war on terror".

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UK poised for major terrorism test
Apr 4 2004

Britain is set for an unprecedented security test as it heads into the formal general election campaign.

Ministers and security chiefs are braced for the threat of a major terrorist atrocity as election day nears.

Despite the close alliance between America and the UK, culminating in the coalition in the Iraq war, Britain has yet to see a terror attack linked to Islamic extremism.

But security chiefs have warned that attacks have been frustrated and predict fresh attempts over coming weeks and months.

Meanwhile, the UK on Monday began a five-day international counter-terrorism exercise with the United States and Canada.

The exercise, referred to as 'Atlantic Blue' in the UK, is part of the Home Office's national exercise programme and has been designed to test simultaneous responses to internationally linked terrorist incidents.

Ministers have fought hard over recent weeks to persuade MPs and peers to back new laws to put terrorist suspects under house arrest.

The government hopes that these new laws, in addition to a comprehensive security operation underway since September 11, will be enough to prevent al Qaeda mounting an attack between now and polling day.

However the government is mindful of the Spanish general election, during which terrorists linked to the group staged a series of bomb attacks on rush hour trains in Madrid.

The recent breakdown in the Northern Ireland peace process has also heightened fears that the IRA could return to terrorism following several years in ceasefire

Comment: It should be noted that these are not "anti-terror" but "post-terror" exercises. It seems that the actual attack is a foregone conclusion, which makes us wonder how our leaders can be so sure. One might almost think they had inside information...

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U.S. Stages Biggest Mock Attacks to Test Ability to Respond
April 4 (Bloomberg)

The U.S. today begins a five-day exercise, the largest of its kind, simulating twin terrorist attacks with biological and chemical weapons on New Jersey and Connecticut and testing the nation's ability to respond.

At least 10,000 people representing more than 275 government agencies, private organizations and international bodies are participating, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The congressionally mandated drill begins with reports that terrorists have spread a biological agent through New Jersey's Middlesex and Union Counties -- less than an hour's drive from New York City -- and have detonated a chemical weapon in New London, Connecticut. The attacks trigger a U.S. health crisis.

"We want to be able to work out the kinks and make the mistakes in the practice field, not in Main Street USA when the next incident occurs,'' said Frank Cilluffo, a former homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush who heads the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington.

Since the terrorist hijackings of Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. has stepped up preparations for possible attacks using biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. A report released last week by a presidential commission on intelligence said U.S. officials underestimated the progress made by terrorists worldwide in developing biological weapons.

"There are critical intelligence gaps with regard to each al-Qaeda unconventional weapons capability -- chemical, biological and nuclear,'' the report said.

Lacking Preparedness

In a December report, the Washington-based Trust for America's Health, a private advocacy group, said only six of 50 states are prepared to distribute and administer vaccines and drugs the federal government stockpiles for bioterrorist attacks.

This week's drill, the third since 2000, tests whether a national plan released in January improves coordination among federal, state and local governments.

In the exercise, government officials rush to provide medicine, deal with contamination and investigate. In New Jersey, volunteer victims show up at hospitals with cards describing their symptoms, and law enforcement officials recover the vehicle used to disburse the biological agent. Federal officials deploy the Strategic National Stockpile, the nation's repository of antibiotics, antidotes, antitoxins and medical supplies.

At Fort Trumbull State Park in New London, the setting for the mock chemical weapon strike, urban rescue teams pull dummies from a giant pile of rubble while other first responders disinfect volunteer victims.

Unknown Details

The scenario is "plausible but purely fictional,'' according to a Homeland Security fact sheet. Though participants know about the drill in advance, many details will emerge as it progresses.

"All the participants know is what has been reported in the papers, that there is a biological attack in New Jersey and a chemical attack in Connecticut,'' said Marc Short, a spokesman for the Homeland Security Department. ``They're not aware of the agents or how they are transmitted. Nor do they know how quickly these agents can be spread.''

In concurrent exercises, Canadian officials will help investigate the plot and monitor cross-border traffic for signs of contagious people while the U.K. copes with a separate attack.

The Securities Industry Association and the Bond Market Association will test their emergency notification procedures and review how the simulated attacks might affect market operations.

Howard Sprow, director of business-continuity planning with the securities association, said a drill tomorrow will activate a sequence of calls among financial firms, regulators, exchanges and service providers.

Two-Year Cycle

"There are literally dozens of calls that would take place in a 24-hour period'' after a disaster or attack, Sprow said. "This is a test to see how that sequence works. It's not a test of how the market would respond to any type of event.''

More companies and private groups than ever will be involved in the program, said Jim Kish, director of the national exercise program at Homeland Security. The exercise is called TOPOFF 3, shorthand for Top Officials.

The live exercise completes a two-year cycle of planning and seminars. Each cycle costs about $16 million.

A similar drill in 2003 involved the simultaneous release of pneumonic plague in Chicago and detonation of a radiological dispersal device, or dirty bomb, in Seattle. The Homeland Security Department declared that exercise a success and a "tremendous learning experience.''

Novel Inspired

Among other lessons, it revealed confusion about what actions agencies should take when the Homeland Security Advisory System is raised to red, or severe, according to a report released in December 2003. The exercise also highlighted problems with coordinating the collection of data on the released radiation in Seattle.

The report also said the mock attack in Chicago overwhelmed telephone and fax communication capabilities and showed how difficult it is to ration limited medication across a wide area.

The first exercise took place in 2000, inspired in part by ``The Cobra Event,'' a 1998 novel about a bioterrorism attack that caught the attention of then-President Bill Clinton, Kish said. The program was expanded after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Comment: Missing from the above is the fact that the likelihood of a "terrorists" actually being able to carry out a biological or chemical attack is extremely small. For example:

A report by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), "Biological Weapons Proliferation," prepared in June 2000, notes that while the 30 microbes that "directly or indirectly afflict humans" and have been considered likely Biological Warfare agents, are easy and cheap to produce, it is much more difficult to develop BW munitions that have a predictable effect. Furthermore, these pathogens and toxins are "susceptible to such environmental stresses as heat, oxidation and desiccation, to be effective they must maintain their potency during weapon storage, delivery and dissemination."

A March 2003 report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) -- "Terrorist Motivations for Chemical and Biological Weapons Use: Placing the Threat in Context" -- found that terrorist groups face numerous problems with acquiring BW materials, maintaining them, transforming them into weapons, and disseminating them.

Dissemination of a biological agent is best done by dispersing a low-altitude aerosol cloud. For such purposes, weapons designers have designed spray-tanks, cluster bombs, and bomblet dispensers, but in turn are faced with the problem of storage. Even if refrigerated, most of the organisms have a limited lifetime.

Use of a bomb to disseminate the agent is unacceptable since an explosive charge is likely to kill the organisms.

A widespread fear is that terrorists will poison a community's water supply. Reservoirs are poorly guarded and a number of BW agents are stable in water. However, the enormous amounts of agent needed to be mixed into the water supply to effectively achieve a terrorist's goal makes this impractical.

The "Ataxia" report states, "Chemicals commonly used to purify water, such as gaseous chlorine and sodium hypochlorite, kill the microbes that cause glanders, plague, Q fever, epidemic typhus, encephalomyelitis, viral hemorrhagic fevers, smallpox, typhoid, and cholera, the most lethal water-borne agent. On its way to the spigot, some of the agent would also bind, nonspecifically, to the pipes."

Another popular scenario is that of a terrorist cell brewing biological agents in their bathtubs or garages. And while such attempts are possible, it is difficult to link them to a mass casualty attack. The "Ataxia" report notes that about a liter of nerve agent contains roughly a million lethal doses, "but in practice, over a ton of nerve agent would be needed to kill ten thousand people outdoors." It would take a terrorist roughly two years to make enough sarin in a basement-sized operation to kill five hundred and another eighteen years to produce the ton of gas required to kill ten thousand."

The conclusion reached in 1997 by the U.S. Defense Department confirms what many nongovernment experts believe. "Conventional terrorism was far more prevalent, far more harmful, and far more deadly than chemical or biological terrorism. Therefore, if the past is any predictor of the future, terrorist incidents involving chemical and biological substances will continue to be small in scale and far less harmful than conventional terrorist attacks." (U.S. Secretary of Defense, "Proliferation: Threat and Response," (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Defense, 1997).

So are the US, Canadian and British governments lying about the threat of a bio/chemical attack by "terrorists"? Of course they are, politicians often lie when it serves their interests. In this case, why would they go to so much bother to conduct such large scale operations? Well, firstly, there is the scare factor. The very fact that governments ARE going to such lengths tends to convince the average citizen that the "terrorist" threat must be real. Secondly, and just as important, is the knowledge gained from such attacks.

Think about it this way. If you were part of a government, or supra-government, group that desired to carry out a terror attack and blame it on "Muslim terrorists", the first thing you would want to know would be the capabilities of the enemy - the enemy in this case being the US security infrastructure and the people who are tasked with, and genuinely sincere about, protecting the US. The best way to gain accurate information about the security structures that you must circumvent to carry out the fake terror attack or "false flag" operation, is to stage a mock terror attack like the one currently being staged by the US, Canada and the UK. This done, you are then in a position to plan and carry out the bogus attack with a very good chance of success. Simple, ain't it?

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Why World War IV can't sell
By John Brown

In a recent essay (Are we in World War IV?) Tom Engelhardt of Tomdispatch commented quite rightly that "World War IV" has "become a commonplace trope of the imperial right" of the United States. But he didn't mention one small matter - the rest of the US, not to speak of the outside world, hasn't bought the neo-cons' efforts to justify President George W Bush's militaristic adventures abroad with crude "we're in World War IV" agitprop meant to mobilize Americans in support of the administration's foreign-policy follies. That's why, in his second term, Bush - first and foremost a politician concerned about maintaining domestic support - is talking ever less about waging a global war and ever more about democratizing the world.

A neo-con global war

America's neo-conservatives have long paid lip service to the need for democracy in the Middle East, but their primary emphasis has been on transformation by war, not politics. You'll remember that, according to America's right-wing world warriors, we Americans are inextricably engaged in a planetary struggle against fanatic Muslim fundamentalists. There will, they assure us, be temporary setbacks in this total generational conflict, as was the case during World War II and the Cold War (considered World War III by neo-cons), but we can win in the end if we "stay the course" with patriotic fortitude. Above all, we must not be discouraged by the gory details of the real, nasty war in Iraq in which we're already engaged, despite the loss of blood and treasure involved. Like so many good Soviet citizens expecting perfect communism in the indeterminate future, all we have to do is await the New American Century that will eventually be brought into being by the triumphs of US arms (and neo-con cheerleading).

Since at least September 11, 2001, the neo-cons have rambled on ... and on ... about "World War IV". But no matter how often they've tried to beat the phrase into our heads, it hasn't become part of the US mindset. Peace and honest work, not perpetual war and senseless conflict, still remain our modest ideals - even with (because of?) the tragedy of the Twin Towers. True, right before the presidential election, World War IV surfaced again and again in the media, fed by neo-con propaganda; and even today it appears here and there, though as often in criticism as boosterism. Pat Buchanan and Justin Raimondo have recently used the phrase to criticize neo-con hysteria in their columns; and in its Winter 2005 issue, the Wilson Quarterly published "World War IV", an important article by Andrew J Bacevich, which turns the neo-cons' argument on its head by suggesting that it was the US that started a new world war - a disastrous struggle for control of Middle Eastern oil reserves - during the administration of president Jimmy Carter. For Bacevich, it appears, the neo-cons' cherished verbal icon should not be a call to arms, but a sad reminder of the hubris of military overreach.

Try it long

For all the absurdity of their arguments, neo-cons are, in many ways, men of ideas. But they do not live on another planet. They know that "World War IV" or even the milder "global war on terrorism" are not the first things ordinary Americans have in their thoughts when they get up in the morning ("Does anyone still remember the war on terror?" asked that master of the zeitgeist, Frank Rich of the New York Times, early in January). This unwillingness among us mere mortals to see the world in terms of a universal death struggle, which neo-con sympathizer Larry Haas, a member of the Committee on the Present Danger, believes is caused by "our faith in rationality", upsets some of the Spengler-like neo-cons, most noticeably their cantankerous dean, Norman Podhoretz.

In February in Commentary (a magazine he once edited), Podhoretz offered the world "The war against World War IV", a follow-up to his portentous and historically falsifying September 2004 piece, "World War IV: How it started, what it means, and why we have to win". In his latest piece, stormin' Norman castigates Americans right and left - including "isolationists of the paleo-conservative Right", "Michael Moore and all the other hard leftists holed up in Hollywood, the universities, and in the intellectual community at large", and "liberal internationalists" - for being "at war" with his Rosemary's baby "World War IV". Somewhat defensively (for a rabid warmonger), he assures us that we, the American people, will, despite the best efforts of the critics, continue to support Mr Bush, who in turn will not fail to uphold the "Bush Doctrine", which reflects, Podhoretz leaves no doubt, his own "brilliant" World War IV ideas (as admiring fellow neo-pundit William Safire described them in a New York Times column last August).

Mr Podhoretz is angry at those who simply cannot accept his crude Hobbesian view of humanity, so he keeps shouting at us, but less virulent neo-cons and their allies, realizing "World War IV" has not caught on, are thinking up new terms to con Americans into the neos' agenda of total war.

Foremost among these is "the long war", evoking - to my mind at least - World War I, "the Great War" as it was known, which did so much to lead to the rise of fascism in Europe. (But how many Americans actually care about World War I?) A Google search reveals that as early as May 2002, in a Cato Policy Analysis, "Building leverage in the long war: Ensuring intelligence community creativity in the fight against terrorism", James W Harris wrote of a "long war" in describing post-September 11 world tensions. In June of last year, John C Wohlstetter, a senior fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, proclaimed:

Now George W Bush must rally the nation in the latest fight to the finish between imperfect civilization and perfect barbarism, that of free countries versus mega-death terror from both "WMD states" and groups like al-Qaeda. The Gipper's [former US president Ronald Reagan] testamentary gift to us is what should be our goal in a long war that strategist Eliot Cohen calls World War IV.

Podhoretz himself mentioned the "long war" in his September Commentary article. "We are only," he noted, "in the very early stages of what promises to be a very long war." But the real star of the long-war proponents is Centcom commander General John Abizaid, about whom pro-Iraqi invasion journalist David Ignatius wrote a fawning portrait in the Washington Post in late December. "If there is a modern Imperium Americanum," Ignatius announced, "Abizaid is its field general." Playing the role of intrepid "action" journalist at the forefront of the global battle lines in "Centcom's turbulent center of operations", Ignatius breathlessly informs his readers that

I traveled this month with Abizaid as he visited Iraq and other areas of his command. Over several days, I heard him discuss his strategy for what he calls the "Long War" to contain Islamic extremism ... Abizaid believes that the Long War is only in its early stages. Victory will be hard to measure, he says, because the enemy won't wave a white flag and surrender one day ... America's enemies in this Long War, he argues, are what he calls "Salafist jihadists". That's his term for the Muslim fundamentalists who use violent tactics to try to re-create what they imagine was the pure and perfect Islamic government of the era of the prophet Mohammed, who is sometimes called the "Salaf".

So now we understand why we're in a long war: to free ourselves of the salacious Salaf.

If you think it's not long enough, how about millennium?
Former Central Intelligence Agency director James Woolsey, an early proponent of "World War IV", is now turned on by the "long war" idea as well. In December, in remarks titled "The war for democracy", he said:

Well, let me share a few thoughts with you this morning on what I have come to call the Long War of the 21st Century. I used to call it World War IV, following my friend Eliot Cohen, who called it that in an op-ed right after [September 11, 2001] in the Wall Street Journal. Eliot's point is that the Cold War was World War III. And this war is going to have more in common with the Cold War than with either World War I or II.

But people hear the phrase World War and they think of Normandy and Iwo Jima and short, intense periods of principally military combat. I think Eliot's point is the right one, which is that this war will have a strong ideological component and will last some time. So, in order to avoid the association with World Wars I and II, I started calling it the Long War of the 21st Century. Now, why do I think it's going to be long? First of all, it is with three totalitarian movements coming out of the Middle East.

The three totalitarian movements, Woolsey goes on to say, are "Middle East Fascists"; "the Vilayat Faqih, the Rule of the Clerics in Tehran - Khamenei, Rafsanjani and his colleagues"; and "the Islamists of al-Qaeda's stripe, underpinned, in many ways, by the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia".

With all this war-talk from the neo-cons, it's always reassuring to hear the voices of those who, if our world warriors had their way, would enthusiastically give up their lives for the "long war". On December 31, reader Robert S Stelzer wrote a letter to the Denver Post in which he said the following regarding Ignatius' paean to Abizaid:

I interpret the article as a propaganda piece to get the American population used to the idea of a long war, and then a military draft. Maybe we need an empire to maintain our standard of living, but if we have democracy we need an informed electorate.

Despite rare dissident voices like Stelzer's, the reaction of most Americans to the "long war" jingle (as to "World War IV") has in essence been that of a silent majority: nothing. Count on the neo-con bastion the Weekly Standard (in January) to try to whip up those silent Americans with a ratcheted-up attack-the-mortal-enemy battle cry headlined "The Millennium War" by pundit Austin Bay, a colonel, who noted that "the global war on terror is the war's dirt-stupid name. One might as well declare war on exercise as declare war on terror, for terror is only a tactic used by an enemy ... In September 2001, I suggested that we call this hideous conflict the Millennium War, a nom de guerre that captures both the chronological era and the ideological dimensions of the conflict."

But Austin B's MW (apologies to the German car maker) has not sold either, being even less repeated in media commentaries than the "long war" itself - which brings us to the Bush administration's current attitude toward the neo-cons' World War IV branding.

Drop that war! The product no longer sells!

If there's one thing the sad history of recent years has amply demonstrated, it's that the Bush White House is profoundly uninterested in ideas (even the superficial ones promulgated by the neo-cons). What concerns Dubya and his entourage is not thought, but power. They pick up and drop "ideas" at the tip of a hat, abandoning them when they no longer suit their narrow interests of the moment. (The ever-changing "justifications" for the war in Iraq are a perfect illustration of this attitude.) The Bushies are short-term and savvy tacticians par excellence, with in essence one long-term plan, rudimentary but focused: Republican - as they interpret Abraham Lincoln's party - domination of the United States for years to come. White House political adviser Karl Rove's hero, after all, is William McKinley, the 25th president of the United States, who, some argue, was responsible for creating Republican control of US politics for decades.

The current US administration, perhaps more than any other in history, illustrates George Kennan's observation that "our actions in the field of foreign affairs are the convulsive reactions of politicians to an internal political life dominated by vocal minorities". Indeed, there is a strong case to be made that the war in Iraq was begun in essence for domestic consumption (as White House chief of staff Andrew H Card Jr suggested to the New York Times in September 2002, when he famously said of Iraq war planning, "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August"). While all the reasons behind this tragic, idiotic war - which turned out far worse than the "mission accomplished" White House ever expected - may never be fully known, it can be said with a strong degree of assurance that it was sold to the US public, at least in part, in order to morph Bush II, not elected by popular vote and low in the polls early in his presidency, into a decisive "commander-in-chief" so that his party would win the upcoming congressional - and then presidential - elections.

The neo-cons - including, in all fairness, those among them honest in their unclear convictions - happened to be around the White House (of course, they made sure they would be) to provide justification for Bush's military actions after September 11 with their Darwinian, dog-eat-dog, "us vs them" view of the world. And so their "ideas" (made to sound slightly less harsh than World War IV in the phrase "global war on terrorism") were cleared by Rove and other Republican politicos and used for a while by a domestically driven White House to persuade voters that the invasion of Iraq was an absolute necessity for the security of the United States.

But now Americans are feeling increasingly critical of our Iraqi "catastrophic success". "The latest polls show that 53% of Americans feel the war was not worth fighting, 57% say they disapprove of Mr Bush's handling of Iraq, and 70% think the number of US casualties is an unacceptable price to have paid," reported the Christian Science Monitor, referring to a Washington Post-ABC News poll. To the Pentagon's great concern, the military is having difficulties recruiting; National Guardsmen are angry about excessively long tours of duty in Iraq; spouses of soldiers complain about their loved ones being away from home for far too much time.

So, as their pro-war manifestos become less and less politically useful to the Bush administration, the neo-cons are getting a disappointing reward for their Bush-lovin'. Far from being asked to formulate policy to the extent that they doubtless would like, they have been relegated to playing in essence representational roles, reminiscent of the one performed by the simple-minded gardener named Chance played by Peter Sellers in the film Being There - at the United Nations (John Bolton) and at the World Bank (Paul Wolfowitz), two institutions that no red-blooded Republican voters will ever care about, except as objects of hatred.

At the same time, and despite disquieting many foreigners by the selection of Bolton and Wolfowitz (widely perceived abroad as undiplomatic unilateralists) to serve in multinational organizations, Bush appears to have recognized the existence of anti-American foreign public opinion, which has been intensely critical of the neo-cons' bellicose views and US unilateral action in Iraq. The selection of spinmeister Karen Hughes, a Bush confidante who happened to be born in Paris (no, not Paris, Texas), as under secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs at the State Department suggests that the White House staff has begun (against its gut instincts) to acknowledge what it dismissed in Bush's first term - the usefulness of "soft power" in dealing with other nations. This may only be from fear of excessively bad news coming from abroad that could lead to lower opinion polls at home and thus threaten current Republican hegemony in the United States, but no matter.

We don't demolish, we democratize!

Few have actually been conned into the neos' war, whatever ingredient it be flavored with - "IV", "long" or "millennium". Now the White House, far from promulgating neo-con World War IV ideas, has been dropping most references to war as Bush's second term begins. America's commander-in-chief, still undergoing an extreme makeover as a man who considers peaceful negotiations at least an option, is being turned into an advocate of the politically oppressed in other countries and so has come up with a new explanation to sell his dysfunctional foreign "policy": global democratization, with a focus on the Middle East.

Bush did mention democratization in his first term, but today it has suddenly become the newest leitmotif for explaining his misadventures abroad. What, he now asks the American people, are we doing overseas? And he responds, we're not demolishing the world - we're democratizing it! And thanks to our democratizing so far in the Middle East, including the bombing and invading of Iraq, the Arab world is like Berlin when the Wall came down. (Forget about the fact that these two events took place during different centuries and in very different parts of the world based on the implementation of very different US policies.)

And don't you forget, Bush tells us, that we're on a path to reform our Social Security system, far more important than the war in Iraq - though Dubya's call for personal accounts may, in appeal, prove the World War IV of domestic policy. As for democracy at home, that can wait.

So, after all the Bush administration has done to ruin America's moral standing and image overseas - "preemptive" military strikes that violate simple morality and the basic rules of war; searching in vain for non-existent weapons of mass destruction; mindlessly rushing to implement "regime change" in a far-off Third World country, an ill-planned effort that could result in the establishment of an anti-Western theocracy harmful to US interests; brutally incarcerating "terrorists" with little, if any, respect for international law; arrogantly bashing "old Europe" just to show off all-American Manichean machismo; and insulting millions abroad by writing off their opinions - Americans are now being told by Dubya and his gang what we've really been up to all this time across the oceans: We're democratizing the Middle East, and with great success thus far!

I don't believe a word of it.

Here's what the military newspaper Stars and Stripes wrote in 1919:

Propaganda is nothing but a fancy name for publicity, and who knows the publicity game better than the Yanks? Why, the Germans make no bones about admitting that they learned the trick from us. Now the difference between a Boche and a Yank is just this - that a Boche is someone who believes everything that's told him and a Yank is some one who disbelieves everything that's told him.

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PM calls general election
By Joe Murphy, Political Editor, Evening Standard
5 April 2005

Tony Blair today fired the starting gun for a 5 May general election.

He ended months of phoney election campaigning just as four shock polls showed Labour's commanding lead faltering.

The Prime Minister headed for Buckingham Palace after a series of last-minute planning meetings to ask the Queen formally to dissolve Parliament. [...]

Mr Blair's announcement - planned in detail for more than a year - was jolted by a series of last-minute upsets, including a a 24-hour delay because of the death of the Pope. The unpleasant surprises for ministers continued with the new opinion polls all pointing to a markedly reduced majority in a historic third Labour term in power.

The Government's lead over the Conservatives was put at two or three points in three surveys. Although this was a fraction of the nine-point lead that Labour claimed its private polls were showing, experts said quirks in the electoral system meant that was enough for Mr Blair to achieve victory with a Commons majority of between 70 and 90.

More alarmingly, a survey for the Financial Times said the Conservatives enjoy a five-point lead among Britons who claim they are certain to vote. Coupled with a Times poll predicting a record low turnout of 56 per cent, the findings cut straight to the heart of Mr Blair's fears that a low turnout by disillusioned Labour supporters could deny him a big enough majority to push ahead with planned reforms. [...]

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News White People like to read about Africans
Joh Domingo
Brisbane, Australia
Apr 2005

Like many African expatriates, I am sick and tired of the brainless reporting from afar that characterizes most news reporting on Africa, which consist primarily of cant dressed as informed comment. Mostly it is the propaganda press releases of their handlers, quoting compromised sellouts playing to a gallery. It is the kind of news White people like to read about Africa: an affirmation of their own political impotence and compensation for the lack of political influence the average western person has in the political affairs in their own countries. Western people believe they have control of their own political destiny, if they pretend that Africans are incapable of political maturity. They are pre-disposed to swallow anything negative about Africa, and like hogs, gulp down the shovel loads of swill fed to them by the masters of discourse.

If you are living in the West, the past few years have consisted of a trickle diet of news about David Livingstone's savages in Rhodesia, and their diabolical, sooty tyrant. Occasionally it would become a spurt, when an uncontaminated white democratic politician blasts some or other maniacal incantation they claimed had been inflicted on the hapless opposition; in what for most of them is deepest, darkest Africa. Starting a few weeks ago, we have been subjected to an account of a litany of sins that was being perpetrated on the defenders of democracy in landlocked Zimbabwe, in preparation for a farcical election. The story rear ended reality last Thursday as Zimbabweans peacefully, and apathetically, discarded the charade of a nation divided against itself; as it dumped on the rudderless Movement for Democratic Reform and its policy-free international campaign. Nevertheless, old habits die hard, and rather than investigate seriously, the Western News Distribution Networks continue to publish MDC press releases as if it were news.

The WOW! factor of other recent chromatic revolutions in Georgia, The Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan was curiously absent, as Morgan Tsvangirai grappled with the intricacies of fermenting revolt in the wake of a superlative number crunching campaign by the Ruling ZapuPF Government that targeted the wafer thin majorities in MDC held electorates. An electoral analysis in the Zimbabwean Herald crunches the electoral statistics, and reveals the mechanics of how the popular vote translated into electoral seats. The outcome reflects the situation where the ruling party fought an election, while the opposition merely fought, for the sake of it, and provided scant indication of their policy direction in the unlikely event they were to win the popular vote.

Like many countries, the rural vote is favorably weighted in Zimbabwe, and has a pronounced "what's in it for me?" bias. ZapuPF campaigned vigorously on land reform in these areas, since land reform benefited rural voters most. The MDC on the other hand preferred to campaign in the capitals of Europe, whose governments and NGO's were disenfranchised in a wicked last-minute anti-colonial maneuver by the Ruling ZapuPF government. They decided that 700 accredited electoral observers and 500 Journalist were quite enough for such a small country.

They were gleefully complying with a compact agreed to by the SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) last year, to implement Principles and Guidelines for elections. These guidelines seeks to align the electoral laws of South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Mauritius, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Angola, in order to minimize foreign interference in their elections.

Zimbabwe is the first of this group to hold general elections since the compact. With an unbroken tradition of holding regular elections, it was important that these elections set an example by being free and fair. Africans were determined to hobble attempts to interfere, by the self-appointed western agitators who believed they had the moral capital to undermine political processes around the globe.

In response to the suggestion that International observers 'lend more credibility' to regional elections; Pumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, South African Minister for Minerals and Energy, who also heads the 68 member SADC observer Mission said: "I think the SADC countries know what they are doing, and they don't need anybody chaperoning them on how to conduct elections,"

Zimbabwe has a well-established routine for national elections and has had general elections every five years since liberation. It is the first of the group of SADC countries to implement the compact by enacting laws establishing a triumvirate consisting of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to Administer Elections, the Delimitation Commission to mark constituency boundaries, and the Electoral Supervisory Commission charged with supervising the elections, voter registration, and the conduct of the elections.

The SADC has provided the recent elections with a clean bill of Health and is encouraged by its success. A view endorsed by the African Union, the Iranian Observer team, the Electoral Commissions Forum (ECF) and the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), a Zimbabwean NGO.

Two unidentified the British Embassy officials stated after observing the election: "Voting went on peacefully in all the areas we visited and it would be unfair to judge the polls otherwise." It is a contrast to the harangue of the British Foreign Minister:

"Zimbabwe's 2005 parliamentary elections were fundamentally flawed…," Mr Straw said.

Most of this will be greeted with incredulity by those that have been subjected to the unrelenting negative reporting about Zimbabwe over the past few years. Especially so, from the White nationalist dissidents accustomed to a diet of inimical opinion about Africa that is reflexively regurgitated in the Western Media. They should ask themselves: does the media distort reality only when it relates to your pet causes? Can they provide any substantiation for any of the charges that relate to the recent Zimbabwe elections? Perhaps not. Perhaps it is just a case of them not caring enough to take the trouble to do so. Let me help by examining the charges.

  1. The lead up to the election was fraught with intimidation and violence.
  2. This well worn slogan has been revealed as empty rhetoric. National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairman Lovemore Madhuku circulated a report two weeks ago, to the media and diplomatic missions in Harare alleging that the elections could not be free and fair due to widespread 'human Rights Abuses' and 'Violence' perpetrated by ZapuPF supporters and uniformed officers of the Police Force in the lead up period. Police convened a Press Briefing to which Madhuku was invited to present his evidence of abuses and incidents of violence. When he did not show, they invited him to present it at his earliest convenience and pledged to take action against anyone who was implicated. He never showed.

  3. The results obviously undermine the will of the people.
  4. Such a charge presupposes that the people share the opposition's hatred for Mugabe. It discounts completely, the impact that policies and campaigning have on the outcome of elections. Despite contesting three elections over the past five years, the MDC is yet to present any policy documents or platform, aside from its consistent campaign to demonize Robert Mugabe. It has almost exclusively indulged itself in soft media coverage from outside the country. This lack of a political platform has led to the steady erosion of support, even from those that despise ZapuPF. MDC insiders said as much in the lead up to the election. Trevor Ncube, owner of the Mail & Guardian Media and strong MDC advocate, expressed the view that:

    "Never since independence has Zimbabwe desperately needed President Robert Mugabe as much as it does now. The country, the ruling party and the opposition are all in chaos and only he can get the nation out of this hole. Zimbabwe faces an acute leadership crisis that only Mugabe has the capacity to resolve, if he so decides."

    Munyaradzi Gwisai, the former MDC MP said that the MDC would be slaughtered by Zanu-PF in the just ended poll mainly because most ordinary people were disillusioned by the MDC's inept leadership (Daily Mirror March 16 2004)

  5. The vote counts were fraudulent.

This can be divided into three main categories of allegations:

    • That 20% of voters were turned away at the polls.

It has been observed by several observer missions that many voters were turned away at the polls. The African Union and the ECF observer missions noted this in their report, but also observed that it was a failure in voter education rather than a deliberate attempt to deprive the opposition of votes. Most were turned away because they were in the wrong constituency, had no identification, or had not registered. The suggestion that it the number affected was 20% is ridiculous, as are most of the unsubstantiated and wild accusations of the opposition.

    • The votes do not tally with the number of voters.

The opposition seems to base this allegation on a half-hearted attempt to provide running totals in some constituencies. When the final totals were certified, it was claimed that the "numbers do not tally with the number of votes." i.e. The final tallies were significantly higher than the preliminary running totals. Well … duh!

It has to be noted that the final totals were not announced until after the various candidates had certified the results. The opposition claims that fraud occurred in 31 constituencies. The SADC observer mission head noted that while the MDC has made numerous complaints, it has yet to respond to requests for substantiation.

"We operate on facts. As late as last night (Saturday) we were still chasing (the MDC for evidence). Unfortunately up to now it (fraud allegation) has not been backed up. We urge them to make a formal complaint to ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission). Up to the time we were involved we are happy with the situation,"

    • The Electoral registration roll contained the names of One million dead voters.

The new Delimitation Commission conducted a massive voters registration drive in May/June of 2004. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission conducted an auditing process, and put the rolls out for public inspection in January of this year. Mr Theophilus Gambe, of the Electoral Supervisory Commission issued a statement that the purging of dead voters was problematic because:

    • Voters did not choose the timing of their death.
    • The requirement for a death certificate in order to purge a voter from the roll.
    • It was not a problem peculiar to Zimbabwe, but common across the board in elections.
    • The charge of 'millions' was ridiculous, and that even 'tens of thousands' could not be confirmed. It was an insignificant, but undetermined number, compatible with estimates in any election, anywhere.

A study conducted by the Chicago Tribune found that the voter rolls in six States (New Mexico, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota ) had 181,000 dead people registered as voters.

4. Mugabe appoints 30 members, so the election is structurally rigged.

Zimbabwe's Parliament is made up of 120 elected members, 10 chiefs chosen by their colleagues, 12 non-constituency MPs appointed by President Mugabe and eight Provincial Governors. 18 of these thirty seats are elected, and thereafter in compliance with the constitution, that reflects the heterogeneous nature of Zimbabwe society. 12 are appointed by the ruling party and are could be said to be undemocratically appointed. Despite this handicap, the MDC has never managed to win a majority of the remaining 120 seats. The appointment of 12 non-constituency members is a matter for a constitutional committee, and is quite irrelevant in the context of this election.

5. Mugabe was seeking a two-thirds majority in order to overall the constitution.

Mugabe has publicly stated that does not intend to overhaul the constitution.

"We can't overhaul the whole Constitution. In my opinion, it's not proper for Parliament to overhaul the Constitution. Overhauling the Constitution needs going to the people,"

He said he intends to push through much needed amendments to regularize the Parliamentary and Presidential elections, and to re-introduce a Senate, a move, he says, the opposition supports.

There are notable omissions in the Opposition rhetoric about the elections. The most notable is the complete absence of opinion polls to bolster their charges. It is not alleged that ZapuPF won after opinion polls had predicted a loss. This is not surprising since the opinion polls tend to confirm the eventual result. Recent independent polls prior to the election were predicting a rout for the opposition.

Dr Kurebwa, a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe's department of political and administrative studies released results of a survey he conducted.

The survey predicted that Zanu-PF would win at least 72 seats (60 percent of the constituencies) whilst the MDC was tipped to win 45 seats (37,5 percent of the constituencies).

Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI) poll predicted a 65.2 % vote for ZapuPF and a 34% vote for the MDC.

A study in Aug 2004 conducted jointly by the Institute for Democracy in South Africa, the Center for Democratic Development of Ghana and Michigan State University found that Mugabe's popularity has more than doubled in five years to 46 percent.

"Brian Raftopoulos, head of the department of development studies at the University of Zimbabwe, says he is not surprised by the survey's results. He said in an analysis published Friday, both the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, whose leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, got an 18-percent approval rating, and civil rights activists, paid insufficient attention to constructing an alternative vision of Zimbabwe to that of the government."

The report is highly critical of the Zimbabwean government; yet it findings underline the inevitability of the election results. There are simply no grounds for believing that the opposition could make electoral inroads given their lack of organization and political platform.

His domestic popularity, as measured by the opinion poll, makes Mugabe the most popular domestic leader in Africa, exceeding the domestic popularity of South Africa's President Mkbeki.

Just how popular is Robert Mugabe? While the perception is that of a leader isolated from the international world and despised by Africans and Europeans alike, the evidence is that Africans are not buying the relentless demonization campaign being conducted against him.

A survey by the British-based New African magazine, which conducted an online international survey to find the 100 Greatest Africans of all time between December 2003 to August 2004 ranked President Robert Mugabe as the third greatest African after former South African president Nelson Mandela and Ghana's founding President Dr Kwame Nkrumah.

The magazine said, "President Mugabe's high score was particularly interesting given that in the last four years a high profile campaign in the (international) media has painted him in bad light.''

MDC Pays for Myopia

Despite the obvious desire of the Western Elite to control socio/political outcomes in former colonies, they are not all-powerful in the face of the organized resistance and leadership from the people of former colonies. Zimbabwe is testament that neo-colonialism is not inevitable, and can be resisted in an organized manner. It is imperative that the requirement that the rulers of former colonies be saints, before the people enjoy the solidarity of progressive western activist, be discarded, because it is at heart racist and prejudiced. Mugabe is overwhelmingly well regarded by Africans, Asians, and South Americans, as the embodiment of resistance to neo-colonialism; it is time Western progressives recognize that reality.

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Drenching Rain Floods Delaware River
By MICHAEL RUBINKAM, Associated Press Writer
Tue Apr 5, 4:08 AM ET

EASTON, Pa. - After the remnants of Hurricane Ivan filled their little ranch house with several feet of water, Dale and Charlotte Barr spent $40,000 to get it back in shape.

They were just about to tackle the last room - the kitchen - when the Delaware River overflowed its banks again this weekend.

"We're tired," said Dale Barr on Monday. "I'm 65 years old. I can't continue to do this every six months."

Flooding left one person dead and forced the evacuation of thousands of people in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. The New Jersey Statehouse, located near the banks of the Delaware, was shut down for the day. [...]

In New Jersey, where about 3,500 people were evacuated, acting Gov. Richard J. Codey declared a state of emergency, estimating property damage would approach $30 million. More than 4,000 homeowners were evacuated in Pennsylvania. [...]

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Fresh Twist on When, Where, Why Tornadoes Strike
Michael Schirber
April 5, 2005

The time to be most wary of a tornado is a spring afternoon in Texas or Oklahoma with thunderstorms brewing. But twisters do not limit themselves to these conditions or locations, a new study shows.

"If you're driving in a midnight rain in October near Lake Michigan, remember that a tornado is not outside the realm of possibility," says Robert Trapp of Purdue University.

Trapp and his colleagues studied more than 3,800 tornadoes in the United States from 1998 to 2000. Many of these were not of the typical variety that form in Tornado Alley - the flat, twister-prone region through the central plain states.

"In the heart of Tornado Alley, twisters most often develop from relatively small 'cell' storms that look like blotches on a Doppler radar weather map," Trapp said.

The conventional wisdom is that the tornado threat goes down when the cells merge into 100-mile-long line storms. But Trapp's team found this to be wrong, especially beyond the Alley. For example, about half of Indiana's 20 tornadoes a year come from line storms.

Nationwide, 79 percent of tornadoes arise out of cells, whereas 18 percent form from line storms, according to the study, which was supported by the National Science Foundation and reported in the February issue of the journal Weather and Forecasting.

"This implies that we may be overlooking many tornado-breeding storms in the Midwest and elsewhere," Trapp said. [...]

"We're not trying to be alarmist with these findings," Trapp said. "But we hope that people will stay alert to tornado risk even outside the traditional severe storm season."

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Professor predicts active Atlantic hurricane season
By Reuters | April 2, 2005

MIAMI -- Like last year, the coming Atlantic hurricane season will be fiercer than normal, with a heightened probability of a major hurricane making landfall in the United States, a noted forecaster said yesterday.

After one of the most destructive hurricane seasons on record, William M. Gray, a professor at Colorado State University, said 2005 would see 13 named storms, of which seven would turn into hurricanes. He predicted three major hurricanes with winds exceeding 111 miles per hour.

The long-term average for the Atlantic basin is 9.6 named storms and 5.9 hurricanes, of which 2.3 are intense hurricanes, per season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.

''All of the information we have collected and analyzed through March indicates that the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season will be an active one," Gray said in a statement.

Gray and Philip J. Klotzbach, an atmospheric research scientist at Colorado State, said they might increase their predictions for the number of storms in 2005 if weather conditions continued to point to a lack of significant conditions in the Pacific for El Nino. The El Nino weather phenomenon produces a distinct warming of Pacific waters and tends to suppress storm activity in the Atlantic.

''If the next few months verify our beliefs about the lack of significant El Nino conditions, it is likely that we will be raising our forecast numbers in our coming May 31 and Aug. 5 forecast updates," Klotzbach said.

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Strong Earthquake Likely to Hit Korea
By Lee Jin-woo
Staff Reporter

A local seismologist has predicted an earthquake of magnitude 5.5 will possibly hit the Korean Peninsula within a few years, following a 7-magnitude earthquake that hit Fukuoka, Japan on March 20.

An earthquake of magnitude 5.5 is considered relatively strong, causing minor damage to buildings. Tremors of magnitude 7 or more often cause serious damage such as warping railways.

''Previous records have shown that strong earthquakes in Japan and China have been followed by smaller ones in Korea in the past,'' Chi Heon-cheol, director of the Korea Earthquake Research Center at the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources, told The Korea Times.

Chi mentioned a 5-magnitude quake that hit Hongsong, South Chungchong Province in 1978, damaging 118 poorly built buildings and injuring two people.

It was just two years after a strong earthquake of magnitude 7.8 struck Tangshan, northeastern China, obliterating the city and killing over 240,000 people in 1976.

When Korea was hit by another earthquake of magnitude 4.7 in Yongwol, Kangwon Province in 1996, it was just one year after a massive earthquake shook Kobe, Japan in 1995, killing 6310 people. The magnitude of the Kobe quake was estimated at 7.2.

Chi said the common belief that Korea is earthquake-free is not really true.

''Records of earthquakes have been found several times in ancient history books,'' Chi said.

As one example, Chi said Samguksagi, or the History of the Three Kingdoms, tells of around 100 people dying in an earthquake that shook Kyongju, North Kyongsang Province, in 779. [...]

Experts expect a magnitude-7 earthquake off the west coast of Japan might cause a 3 to 4 meter high tsunami to hit the South Korean coast.

A one-meter-high tsunami is strong enough to destroy poorly built wooden constructions located 3 to 5 meters from the sea.

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A great earthquake may be 'overdue' in the Himalayas
By N. Gopal Raj

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, APRIL 4. A 100 years ago today, a powerful earthquake, estimated to have had a magnitude of 7.8, with its epicentre near Kangra in Himachal Pradesh claimed over 20,000 lives and caused extensive damage. Experts worry that some parts of the Himalayas could be ready for another dangerous quake.

Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado in the United States has long argued that a great earthquake is "overdue" in the Himalayas. There were a dozen examples of regions across the Himalayas that could rupture and produce an earthquake with a magnitude over 8, Dr. Bilham said in a talk at a conference to mark the centenary of the Kangra earthquake. "Potentially the most dangerous of these is the so-called Central Himalayan Gap whose rupture in 1505 may have occurred as a 600-km-long rupture, similar to the tsunamigenic initial phase of the 2004 Sumatra earthquake," he said. [...]

With greater population density, up to 300,000 lives could be lost if an earthquake the size of the 1905 Kangra earthquake was to occur today, warned Harsh K. Gupta, currently Secretary to the Department of Ocean Development, in the December 2000 issue of EQ News, a newsletter published by the Department of Science and Technology.

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