Tuesday, April 12, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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A picture is worth a thousand words. Bush offers Sharon some American government made chocolates wrapped in Israeli flags during their meeting at Bush's ranch yesterday.

Israel to resist Bush pressure for freeze on construction in settlement blocs
By Associated Press
April 9, 2005

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said settlement expansions "need not be done with drums and cymbals," but made clear that the Israeli government had no plans to reverse its plans to expand the Jerusalem satellite city of Ma'aleh Adumim.

"Essentially Israel views the settlement blocs as parts of Israel and therefore we stand by our opinion on this matter and I would say that our opinion is represented by most of the political streams in this country," he told Israel Radio.

"I'm sure that if this issue is brought up [by U.S. President George W. Bush], [Prime Minister Ariel Sharon] will make his position clear, which is that the settlement blocs are a part of Israel. Between friends you can agree to disagree," Shalom said.

Bush said Friday he will tell Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon he should adhere to obligations of a Mideast peace plan that calls for a construction freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Bush and Sharon will meet Monday at the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas, quickening the pace of U.S. involvement. The president will meet with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah at the ranch on April 25 and will see Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas when he visits the United States next month, an administration official said.

Bush dampened speculation in Israel that he would avoid raising the sensitive settlement issue with Sharon. "What I say publicly, I say privately. And that is (that) the road map (peace plan) has clear obligations on settlements and that we expect the prime minister to adhere to those road map obligations." The president made his comments to reporters on Air Force One as he flew back to the United States from Rome after the funeral of Pope John Paul II.

The settlement issue is an area of dispute between Washington and Jerusalem. Israel insists it has the right to strengthen settlements, and plans to build 3,650 homes in the largest West Bank settlement, Maaleh Adumim. The United States says settlement expansion threatens peace with the Palestinians. The planned Maaleh Adumim expansion is especially contentious because it would link the settlement to east Jerusalem, separating Arab neighborhoods of the city from the rest of the West Bank.

Israel's housing minister, Isaac Herzog, said in Washington on Monday his government had no immediate plans to go ahead with the new homes.

Comment: Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said that the Israeli government is not planning to reverse its plans to expand Ma'aleh Adumim, while housing minister Isaac Herzog said there were no immediate plans to expand the city. Are you confused yet?

Bush and Sharon will meet a year after the prime minister announced plans for withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Bush said he would talk with Sharon "about the need to work with the Palestinian government, President Abbas, to facilitate success, to enhance success" as Israel turns the area over to the Palestinians.

"Success in the Gaza will make success on the West Bank easier," Bush said. [...]

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Bush to Israel: Halt settlement growth
Monday 11 April 2005, 23:11 Makka Time, 20:11 GMT

US President George Bush has told Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon the Jewish state can maintain its settlements but must freeze their expansion in the West Bank.

Palestinian officials welcomed the statement on Monday but voiced disappointment at comments by Bush that it was unrealistic to expect a full Israeli departure from the occupied territory.

Nevertheless, they welcomed calls by the US leader for Israel to dismantle unauthorised settlement outposts and not to proceed with plans to expand a large settlement called Maale Adumim on the outskirts of occupied Jerusalem.

"We hope that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will hear the appeal of President Bush to halt settlement activity because to continue would mean destroying the vision of two states," chief Palestinian negotiator Saib Uraiqat said.

Bush made clear in his meeting with Sharon at his Texas ranch that he saw the recently approved plan for 3500 new homes at Maale Adumim as a violation of the US-backed road map peace plan.

Outposts opposed

The US president also expressed continued frustration of Washington that Israel has torn down few of the dozens of "wildcat" settlements that are dotted across the West Bank, nearly two years after agreeing to do so when the road map was launched.

"I told the prime minister of my concern that Israel not undertake any activity that contravenes road map obligations or prejudices final status negotiations.

"Therefore, Israel should remove unauthorised outposts and meet its road map obligations regarding settlements in the West Bank," Bush said at a joint press conference with Sharon.

Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Nabil Shaath said Bush's comments showed he understood that settlement expansion undermined the prospects of a "viable Palestinian state".

"I think that the president was quite positive and I think that he has a real feeling of what's important to keep this process going," Shaath told CNN.

The expansion of Maale Adumim and the continued presence of the settlement outposts was "a real threat to getting back to the peace process", Shaath added.

Support reaffirmed

Bush used the summit as an opportunity to reaffirm his support for Sharon's so-called disengagement plan which will see Israel leave the Gaza Strip this summer.

Sharon is hoping that the pullout from the lesser half of a future Palestinian state will ease some of the pressure for a more complete Israeli withdrawal from parts of the West Bank.

He will likely be grateful that Bush repeated earlier assertions that it was "unrealistic" for Israeli to make a "full and complete" departure from the West Bank.

Nabil Abu Rudaina, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, criticised any move which he said would legitimise settlement activity.

"What is needed now is to start to apply the road map. There is no need to legitimise settlement activity, of whatever kind," Abu Rudaina told AFP.

Responding to a call from Bush to work with Israel to ensure the success of the Gaza pullout, Shaath said that "talks are going on", without giving further details.

"We are going to do everything possible so that once the Israelis withdraw, we will run it properly with security for all," Shaath said.

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Sharon Defies Bush
Juan Cole

The AP headline gets it right: Sharon dismisses Bush Warning on Settlement Expansion.

I would have called it "large-scale land theft" rather than "settlement expansion," but it comes to the same thing.

Wait a second. Isn't that Ariel Sharon, whose government gets billions of dollars a year from the United States (who even gets some from your household if you are an American, whether you like it or not)? Doesn't he owe us anything?

He doesn't think so.

On September 11, the United States was struck a grievous and unexpected blow by a handful of fanatics. Their stated purpose was to punish the U.S. for its support of Israel's crackdown on the Palestinians. Khalid Shaik Muhammad, among the masterminds of the operation, had wanted it moved up to April of 2001 to make the point that Israel's actions of that spring were being punished.

What was the reaction of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to this horrific attack on the US? Was it at least caution, given the price Americans had paid for supporting his colonization and theft of land in the Occupied Territories? Was it a cooling-off period while we dug the bodies out of the rubble and assessed the likelihood of a further attack? Was it any show of respect at all for the needs of the United States at that parlous moment?


It was a "stepping up" of Israeli attacks on Palestinians!

The Advertiser, September 14, 2001

"Three die as tank raids stepped up"

ISRAELI tanks and bulldozers rolled into Jenin and Jericho in the West Bank early yesterday, shelling buildings and triggering gunfights that killed three Palestinians and wounded 18 . . . Amid the tensions, US Secretary of State Colin Powell called Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat late on Wednesday. Mr Arafat agreed to Mr Powell's request that he meet Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, but no date was set for a meeting.
Well, then, you might think, at least Sharon would agree to talk and show some flexibility if he insisted on killing more Palestinians just days after the US was attacked?

September 15, 2001, The Washington Post:

HEADLINE: Sharon Defies Bush's Request for Peace Talks;
Foreign Minister Is Ordered Not to Meet With Arafat as Planned on Sunday

Defying a request from the Bush administration, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon today forbade his foreign minister, Shimon Peres, to meet Sunday with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. President Bush had telephoned Sharon earlier today urging him to renew talks with the Palestinians to end the year-long Middle East violence. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell also had called with a similar message. But Sharon, under pressure from hard-liners in his government, ruled out the meeting that Peres has been trying for weeks to arrange to discuss a cease-fire with Arafat.
But what would happen if Bush continued to press Sharon to cool it? What if Bush swung around and declared for a Palestinian state, in an attempt to outflank al-Qaeda in the Muslim world? Surely Sharon would see the light and accommodate an old ally, which had transferred tens of billions of dollars and lots of high-tech weaponry to Israel over the years?

The Scotsman, October 5, 2001


THE Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, last night fired an angry broadside at the United States, likening its efforts to enlist moderate Arab countries in Washington's war on terrorism to appeasement of Nazi Germany in 1938.

In caustic language seldom heard between the two allies, Mr Sharon charged that Washington, which has pressed his government to adhere to a ceasefire with the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, was being soft on Palestinian terrorism, which he defines as including attacks in the occupied territories, even as it pursues Osama bin Laden.

"We can only rely on ourselves and from now on we will only rely on ourselves," Mr Sharon said, adding security forces would "take all necessary steps" to defend Israeli citizens and implying that US pressure for army restraint would be of no consequence.

"I turn to the United States and say don't go back on the same mistakes as the democracies made in 1938. That is when Czechoslovakia was sacrificed for a convenient, temporary solution.

"Do not appease the Arabs on our account. Israel will not be Czechoslovakia. We will defend ourselves."
So Sharon branded Bush a Chamberlain and the United States an appeaser because it pressured him to make peace with the Palestinians. You see, he didn't think that his grabbiness had caused enough trouble in the world yet. He wanted to go on grabbing other people's land and he wasn't going to let the mere fact that he had helped drag the United States into a hot war with terrorists give him pause.

I remind you that Sharon bad-mouthed the United States just after September 11. It wasn't any old time. The country was reeling. We were trying to understand what had happened. We were reaching out to Muslims who would be allies, like Pakistan and Egypt and Jordan. They were all telling us that the Muslim rank and file was angry about the Israeli predations in Palestine. Sharon in essence accused the 9/11 families who argued for the need to seek Middle East peace of being Chamberlains and appeasers.

Ariel Sharon must be among the most odious elected prime ministers now serving in the world. Guilty of numerous war crimes, from the 1982 invasion of Lebanon (which killed nearly 20,000), to ultimate responsibility for the massacre of unarmed Palestinian civilians by his Phalangist allies at Sabra and Shatila, to his recent policy of simply murdering persons he suspected of crimes, such as Sheikh Ahmad Yasin, the wheelchair-riding old clerical leader of Hamas. (Yasin may have deserved the death penalty, but there is no reason he could not have been arrested and tried. Just murdering people sets a bad example, aside from being illegal and a capital crime.)

Asking him nicely to abide by the US-backed road map for peace is not enough, obviously. Congress should cut him off without a dime until he stops stabbing the United States of America in the back with his aggressive expansionism.

And he should stop making enemies for the US among one billion Muslims who care about the fate of the Palestinians, just as 19th-century Americans cared about the fate of the Texans at the Alamo.
Comment: What Sharon knows that Cole refuses to accept is that it was elements in the US that were behind the attacks of 911, with the help of Israel. The 911 attacks were carried out in part to permit Sharon to continue his genocidal policies against the Palestinians while the neocons in Washington opened up the offensive against Arabs in other countries.

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Sharon: Kleptomania in Palestine to Continue
Kurt Nimmo

For more than fifty years the Palestinians have endured the duplicitous Zionists who have no intention of ever allowing them to form their own state. Ariel Sharon, the international war criminal—most notably for his actions resulting in the massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon and more recently the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank—has told the world from Bush’s fake ranch in Texas the Israelis have no intention of ever giving an inch to the Palestinians.

“President Bush cautioned Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Monday against West Bank settlement growth but Sharon gave no commitments and pressured Palestinians to act on terrorism,” reports Reuters. In other words, Bush mouthed a few useless words and Sharon said what Sharon always says—the Palestinians will never realize a state, no matter what happens. In the meantime, the Israelis will continue building illegal “settlements” on stolen land, actions most civilized people consider criminal behavior.

“Looking ahead to prospects for peace after the July pullout, Sharon also said at a news conference with Bush that negotiations on a Palestinian state could begin only after President Mahmoud Abbas mounted a ‘real war’ against militants.” Translation: so long as Palestinians insist on self respect and harbor dreams of their own state and maintaining a cultural heritage—in other words, so long as they refuse to pack up and leave or remain behind as “hewers of wood and drawers of water” for the racist Israelis (as predicted by Lord Curzon), they will be engaging in terrorism. In essence, what Sharon is asking for is a civil war—his capo Mahmoud Abbas and his CIA-trained paramilitaries against Palestinian nationalists, or those not yet rubbed out in targeted assassinations—a cataclysmic event that would put a smile on the face of every Jabotinsky Zionist in Israel.

Sharon’s vision for the Arabs is Ma’ale Adumim, the largest Israeli settlement in the West Bank. “Ma’aleh Adumim was established on lands taken from Palestinians, from the villages of Abu Dis, Al Izriyyeh, Al Issawiyyeh, Al Tur and Anata. Other lands had been inhabited for dozen of years by the Jahalin and Sawahareh Bedouin tribes,” explains Eitan Felner of Le Monde diplomatique.

But to fully appreciate the cumulative, staggering consequences that Ma’aleh Adumim and the other settlements have had on the Palestinians, one cannot simply count those directly affected, those whose land was confiscated or house demolished for the construction of this or that settlement or by-pass road. Each dispossession cannot be properly appraised unless it is considered in the broader context of the national dispossession these policies brought about.

Reuters reports: “[Sharon] went a step too far for Washington earlier this month by pledging to pursue a plan for the construction of 3,500 homes for Israelis in a narrow corridor between the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim and Jerusalem…. Seeking to assure the United States no new building work was imminent, Sharon said it ‘might take many years’ before contiguity is achieved between the settlement and the holy city.” In other words, the Zionists will continue to dispossess—that is to say kill Palestinians (as three young Palestinians were killed in Gaza the other day for playing football in an "unauthorized zone") or at minimum demolish their homes—and continue to do what they do best: make worthless promises (i.e., tell lies and obfuscate their sincere intentions) and build “settlements” on stolen land.

As if to dispel any doubt, Sharon declaimed: “It is the Israeli position that the major Israeli population centers will remain in Israel’s hands under any future final status agreement,” in other words when the Israelis finally get around to making a deal with the Palestinians—in ten, twenty, or fifty years, if ever—they will keep all the land they have stolen, including the outrage Ma’aleh Adumim, the very crown jewel of Israeli apartheid scheme and grand theft larceny.

“Bush applauded Sharon’s ‘courageous initiative to disengage from Gaza and part of the West Bank’ and urged the Palestinian leadership to accept the prime minister’s offer to coordinate the withdrawal,” reports Reuters. In Bushzarro world, the steady and unrelenting theft of Palestinian land—as teenagers are killed for playing football on “unauthorized” (stolen) land—is not an outrage and a slap in the face but a “courageous initiative” of the sort that has in the past inspired Izz el-Deen al-Qassam (the armed wing of Hamas) to send home-made Qassam rockets screaming into Sderot or a kibbutz or two in the western Negev.

As usual, whatever the Zionists want, the Zionists get, and Bush really has no choice but to play along, not that he would actually do otherwise, being a good Christian Zionist or at least pretending to be one for the sake of his “base,” that is to say crackpot far right religious fruitcakes who believe they will sail out of their cars and clothes at any minute, float right up to heaven, leaving the rest of us behind to suffer their demented vision of Armageddon. Even the Zionists and Israeli apartheid settlers believe these guys are nuts, but then nut cases are often put to good use, especially if the (unelected twice in a row) president of the United States agrees with them.

Sharon’s visit to Dubya’s fake ranch in Crawford, Texas, was simply the latest insult directed not only against the Palestinians, but the American people who are now beginning to suffer the economic after effects of the invasion and occupation of Iraq—spawned by a brood of Zionists in the White House and the Pentagon at the behest of the Likudites in Israel—and who are paying billions to maintain the Zionist kleptocracy in the Middle East. One would hope that sooner or later the average American will wake up, smell the coffee, and see this for what it is and demand that the tiny outlaw state of Israel either cut a sincere deal with the Palestinians or short of that demand Congress sever the sugar daddy umbilical cord once and for all.


Incidentally, the latest Israeli outrage, emanating from Bush’s private property in probably the most regressive state in America, is especially outrageous since April 9 was anniversary of the Deir Yassin massacre, an event completely ignored by the corporate media in the United States. “Early in the morning of Friday, April 9, 1948, commandos of the Irgun, headed by Menachem Begin, and the Stern Gang attacked Deir Yassin, a village with about 750 Palestinian residents,” explains the Deir Yassin Remembered web site. As if to explain the mentality of the average Israeli, the murderous and excessively racist Menachem Begin was elected to lead Israel, same as the serial killer Ariel Sharon was later elected by the “only democracy in the Middle East,” as the corporate press in the United States likes to muse. Of course, much the same can be said about the mentality of the average American who "elected" Bush.

Deir Yassin had a peaceful reputation and was even said by a Jewish newspaper to have driven out some Arab militants. But it was located on high ground in the corridor between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and one plan, kept secret until years afterwards, called for it to be destroyed and the residents evacuated to make way for a small airfield that would supply the beleaguered Jewish residents of Jerusalem…. By noon over 100 people, half of them women and children, had been systematically murdered…. Of about 144 houses, 10 were dynamited. The cemetery was later bulldozed and, like hundreds of other Palestinian villages to follow, Deir Yassin was wiped off the map. By September, Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Poland, Rumania, and Slovakia were settled there over the objections of Martin Buber, Cecil Roth and other Jewish leaders, who believed that the site of the massacre should be left uninhabited. The center of the village was renamed Givat Shaul Bet. As Jerusalem expanded, the land of Deir Yassin became part of the city and is now known simply as the area between Givat Shaul and the settlement of Har Nof on the western slopes of the mountain…. The massacre of Palestinians at Deir Yassin is one of the most significant events in 20th-century Palestinian and Israeli history. This is not because of its size or its brutality, but because it stands as the starkest early warning of a calculated depopulation of over 400 Arab villages and cities and the expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinian inhabitants to make room for survivors of the Holocaust and other Jews from the rest of the world.

In other words, Deir Yassin served as a template of things to come—massive and unrelenting ethnic cleansing and brutality directed against a mostly defenseless people “to make room” for other people who either claimed a religious right to land they never personally owned (let alone set eyes upon) or felt they had no other choice but to steal, considering Hitler and the Holocaust (an excuse used to this day to blackmail Germans out of billions of deutschmarks, Germans who were not alive during the Holocaust and have no responsibility for it).

Is it possible Sharon steered the date of his meeting with Bush the Lesser as close to the anniversary of Deir Yassin as possible? It sure looks that way and considering the macabre nature of Likudite Zionists it certainly should not be ruled out.

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Exhumations part of Gaza withdrawal
Bodies to be relocated in Israel proper
Apr. 12, 2005. 06:59 AM

GUSH KATIF, Gaza Strip - When the Israeli government comes calling for the Jewish settlers of Gaza this summer, it isn't just the living it will have to contend with.

The painful details of disengagement extend also to the dead, whose bodies are to be exhumed by an Israeli army unit specializing in religious affairs.

Comment: Here we are being set up in the second paragraph to have sympathy for the bodies of illegal settlers, the ones carrying our illegal raids on Palestinians, uprooting Palestinian olive groves, stealing their land, etc. They shouldn't be there, and yet we are supposed to feel oh so sorry for them.

That there are only 47 graves to relocate is a testament to the relative youth of these 21 mostly agrarian settler communities, which comprise nearly 8,000 Israelis. But however small their number, disengaging the dead is an issue so sensitive that those in line for the coming upheaval, scheduled to begin July 20, are only beginning to confront it.

None feel the angst more than the grief-stricken family of Gideon Rivlin, 50, who died three months ago when the jeep he was riding in passed over a Palestinian bomb planted at the margins of the southernmost Jewish settlement of Morag.

Comment: If he hadn't been an illegal settler, he wouldn't have met such a fate.

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the killing. Later that day, hundreds of settlers gathered at the nearby Jewish cemetery of Neve Dekalim, as Rivlin became the most recent body laid to rest under sandy soil soon to be handed back to Palestinians.

For Rivlin's widow Simha, 50, the battle to save her home was lost that morning, supplanted by the sorrow of sudden loss and the daunting crisis of fending for five children, the youngest of whom is 11, just as her community begins to melt away.

Comment: Her "community" is an illegal settlement. What about the countless Palestinian communities that have been destroyed?

"The fight to stay here is more or less over. But now I'm frightened. I'm concerned. And I'm scared. I don't know where I will be the day after," Simha Rivlin told the Toronto Star.

"It's too much. When you have tough times but you have a stable foundation, there is a way to get through it. But my children lost their father, and there is no stable foundation.

"They will lose everything, their friends, their community, their home."

Comment: Her "community" is an illegal settlement. What about the countless Palestinian communities that have been destroyed?

Simha Rivlin knows not what to do about her husband's body. "When I look at his grave now, I don't even feel that he is there," she said. Rabbi Beryl Wein, a Jerusalem-based authority on Jewish law, describes the coming exhumations from Gaza as the most painful dimension of the Israeli government plan.

"Moving the bodies will be the most traumatic of all the events of the disengagement," said Wein. "It's so sensitive, even more than the issue of moving the living. It releases such emotion. It's gruesome."

Judaic law, according to Wein, forbids exhumation on the grounds that it constitutes an act of disrespect for the dead and because, "in the Kabbalistic sense, the sleep of the dead is disturbed."

Comment: Yes, indeed. The body of a dead Jew is more important and more holy than the many living bodies of the Palestinians they are forcing off their land.

But there are exceptions. It is permitted to exhume and transfer a body buried abroad to the biblical land of Israel as an act of spiritual homecoming, said Wein. The bodies buried in Gaza, meanwhile, are eligible for reburial under religious law because of widespread Israeli fears the graves might be subject to desecration after withdrawal.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon addressed the subject last week, announcing that along with the bodies buried in Gaza his government is also planning to relocate every synagogue in the settlements targeted for withdrawal.

But sources close to the Israeli government agency in charge of the Gaza disengagement acknowledge the issue of reburials already has ignited family quarrels, as relatives of the dead grapple over where the new graves should be.

A branch of the Israeli army dedicated to rabbinical issues is expected to handle the exhumations, according to Haim Altman, an official with Israel's disengagement commission.

"All we can say is that we promise to let the families decide, because it is so very sensitive that is the right thing to do," said Altman.

"We are giving each family full authority about what they want to do with their beloved. We will support and act on those wishes exactly as they direct us."

For the Rivlins, such a promise provides little comfort since they have no idea where they will go.

The Sharon government warmed last week to a settler-led proposal to relocate all 21 settlements in Gaza en masse to Nitzanim, a picturesque stretch of environmentally sensitive sand dunes that flanks the Mediterranean a short distance north of the Gaza Strip, in Israel proper.

But the relocation proposal faces staunch resistance from Israeli government planners and environmentalists alike, who argue that the Nitzanim area is too fragile to endure any such residential development.

"Even if we were to go to Nitzanim, it wouldn't be ready for us for another three years," said Sihma Rivlin. "I want my husband's body to be as close to us as possible, but how many times can you move someone?"

The Rivlins came to Gaza in 1978, co-founding the enclave of Ganei Tal, one of the 10 Jewish communities that comprise the southern settlement bloc known as Gush Katif. They built a home and greenhouses.

Sihma now works in the Gush Katif agricultural office, as a liaison between the Israeli government and the area farmers. Gideon took a second job as well, working as contractor overseeing the construction of the electrified fences that fortify the Israeli settlements against Gaza's 1.3 million Palestinians.

It was the making of the fence that cost Gideon his life Jan. 12, when he accompanied three Israeli soldiers on a journey to survey lines for the last links still to be built, on the edge of Morag settlement.

Comment: The body in question belongs to a man who was building the apartheid wall enclosing the Palestinians in the Zionist version of gated communities.

The Rivlin's eldest son, Nir, 25, wishes it to be known that the family is not especially religious. He cringes at what he describes as the "typical media portrayal" of the movement.

"Ask people in Tel Aviv what is a settler and they will say, `Someone with a kippa, jumping on hills, fighting soldiers and burning tires on the Ayalon (highway)," Nir said.

"But my father was not super-Orthodox. When he came in the 1970s, he just wanted to be a pioneer, which was not a bad word at the time. My father just loved the land." The dedication on his headstone describes how he "loved, lived and breathed the land of Israel."

Sihma has no intention of staying to see the bitter end of Gush Katif. But Nir, an Israeli army reservist, insists on staying put. Not to battle the Israeli withdrawal forces but to bear witness out of respect for his father.

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Israel Limits Rafah Radioactive Screening After Protests
By Mustafa el-Sawwaf
Palestine Chronicle
Friday, April 08 2005

"Some 3,000 men, women and children were crammed into a parking lot about half the size of a soccer field.."

GAZA, Gaza Strip - Israeli occupation forces said they would limit the use of a controversial “radioactive” screening room at Rafah border checkpoint after medical experts warned of its life-threatening impact on Palestinian travelers.

“The Israelis told us on Wednesday, April 7, that they would use the radioactive machine to check suspects only,” Emad Mikhamer, the public relations office at the checkpoint, told reporters.

Mikhamer gave no further details on the Israeli decision.

Walid Al-Salhi, the director of preventive security at the Rafah crossing, said the room is made of lead-coated glass and is holding inside it a one-meter high cylinder-shaped device.

Palestinian medics said that potential diseases include thrombocytopenic, sterility, congenital anomalies, cancer, leukemia, mental retardation and ductless glands disorder, warning that Palestinians are slipping toward slow death.

The Gaza Community Mental Health Program has launched a campaign against the Israeli use of the radiation inspection system.

It threatened to file a compliant to the Israeli Supreme Court if Israel did not respond to the complaints.

'Collective Punishment'

Meanwhile, a workshop was organized by Woman Medical and Information Center in Gaza, on the Israeli practice on Wednesday.

The participants, Palestinian experts and specialists, described the use of such machine as a “war crime” and “a breach of international law,” according to the Palestinian News Agency (WAFA).

A radiology expert at Al-Shifa Hospital, Dr. Fatima Al Hindi, highlighted the risks of radiation on pregnant women, warning the practice is the most dangerous during the first three months of pregnancy.

He affirmed that such radiation may cause “fetal mutations” and “physical deformations”.

“Israeli occupation forces have no exceptions, as pregnant women, children and cardiac diseases patients are also subjected by the said machine,” said Anwar Atallah, a physicist specialized in radiological protection.

Director of Public Relation at Al-Shifa Hospital, Dr. Jum'a Al-Saqqa, posted the participants on his experience with the machine.

He said the passengers enter the small room, raise their hands and stand up on a specific point spreading legs.

The operation is repeated twice in different positions, according to Al-Saqqa.

He added that a woman suffered abortion and several others suffered vomiting and nausea from the screening.

A radiation specialist, Dr. Anwar Diab, said that unlike the X-Ray machines in hospitals - that produce a high energy radiation that penetrates the body and does not remain inside - the radiation produced by the Israeli machine produces a very intensive low energy, and tends to remain inside the body, causing various side effects.

On the legal consequences, representative of Al-Mizan Center for Human Rights, lawyer Jamil Sarhan, said that in the case of assuring the harmful affects on human health, it means that Israel implements “organized killing” of the Palestinian people.

International laws, he added, state that the occupying power must protect the occupied people and provide them with health care and treatment.

He said the Israeli machine is a “war crime” in the case of assuring its affect on human health, affirming that such procedure is a “humiliation” to the Palestinian people.

Israel usually shuts down the Rafah crossing under security pretexts.

The suffering of Palestinian travelers swelled in August when the occupation army closed the checkpoint for up to 17 consecutive days.

Some 3,000 men, women and children of all ages were crammed into a parking lot about half the size of a soccer field with only two doors for ventilation and straw mats serving as beds.

Comment: If the parallels between this "screening" of Palestinians and the "showers" that concentration camp Jews and others were treated to during WWII are not screaming at you from the page then you are not Seeing what is happening.

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Tamihere to call Labour's bluff
12 April 2005

John Tamihere will face his caucus colleagues and apologise today despite earlier being sent on indefinite stress leave.

Labour president Mike Williams announced the change of plan last night after Mr Tamihere's Tamaki Makaurau electorate committee had met.

It is understood Mr Tamihere is trying to force the party's hand – to either accept his promise of loyalty or force him out.

Earlier, sources said he might have to agree to an extended period of psychiatric counselling if he wanted to stay in Labour, after further revelations were made of his views on the Holocaust, women in power and his closest ally, MP Clayton Cosgrove.

But those close to Mr Tamihere said it was part of a smear campaign and he was unlikely to bow to those conditions.

A Sunday newspaper reported that in an interview with Investigate magazine, Mr Tamihere said he was "sick and tired of hearing how many Jews got gassed", not because he was not revolted or violated by it, but because he already knew.

"How many times do I have to be told and made to feel guilty?" he said.

A director of Jewish human rights organisation the Simon Wiesenthal Centre suggested he seek psychological assistance to help him empathise with the victims of genocide.

"Holocaust fatigue is simply a new form of mental illness, which is a condition which should disqualify him from public service," Efraim Zuroff said from Jerusalem.

A Labour source said psychiatric counselling was an option. "But it would have to be an extended period because he's got some very bloody serious issues going."

There was nothing shameful about cracking under stress in a job such as politics.

Some caucus members, however, were too angry to accept that solution.

Other options facing Mr Tamihere were to accept that politics was not for him and to step down at the election, or to fight, whereupon the party would start moves for his expulsion.

Former MP Willie Jackson said it was "just bullshit" that Mr Tamihere needed counselling.

"If you go down that track he should have had counselling years ago, because the Tamihere I see is still the Tamihere I've known for years. He's always been a bit of a crazy man, but that's his appeal."

He said Mr Tamihere was under stress, but was not "losing it as the (Beehive) ninth floor are trying to paint it".

Mr Tamihere should be given another chance for "redemption". He would not go easily and he had strong backing among ordinary Maori. Mr Jackson said Mr Tamihere would most likely end up as an independent.

Mr Tamihere's electorate secretary, Honey Heemi, also rejected suggestions he needed counselling. He had called the meeting of his electorate organisation to seek a motion of confidence. She did not know of anyone who wanted Mr Tamihere to stand down.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said Mr Tamihere had not set out to cause offence and had been given "space to reflect on issues around this most unfortunate interview".

His comments had shattered his colleagues' confidence, and it would be "futile" for him to seek election to the Cabinet.

"The decision for Mr Tamihere is whether to embark on the long, slow and difficult road to redemption and a political career that leads somewhere, or whether to say, 'This looks too tough for me'."

Comment: "Holocaust fatigue"?!

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Local Party faithful back their man
by Jon Stokes
New Zealand Herald

John Tamihere will go to Wellington today with the full backing of his
Tamaki Makaurau Labour Party members.

A meeting of electorate strategists, rank-and-file Labour supporters, kaumatua and kuia passed a motion unanimously backing Mr Tamihere. "We continue to have faith in our MP," it said.

The hour-long meeting, which was punctuated by the singing of waiata and laughter, also pledged its support for the Labour Party.

Whether the two can be reconciled will be revealed today when Mr Tamihere faces the Labour Party caucus and some colleagues he has called "queer", "a tosser" and "smarmy".

Speakers at Mangere's Nga Tapuwae Community Facility said Labour needed an MP like Mr Tamihere in Parliament.

Labour Party president Mike Williams was told that Mr Tamihere had grass-roots support in the electorate, which he holds with a 9444-vote majority.

Supporter Chris Wilson said: "He's got a bit of work to do but we still
support him 100 per cent."

He said that support stretched outside Auckland to Mr Tamihere's own tribal area, Ngati Porou, on the East Coast.

Afterwards, Mr Tamihere left by the back door to avoid the waiting media.

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Rumsfeld: No Iraq exit strategy
Tuesday 12 April 2005, 13:44 Makka Time, 10:44 GMT

The United States has no exit strategy from Iraq and any pullout depends on the readiness of Iraqi forces to ensure security, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said on a surprise visit to Iraq.

"We don't really have an exit strategy. We have a victory strategy. We are here for a mission to set the country on the path of democracy, freedom and representative government," Rumsfeld said on Tuesday.

"We have to see the institutional capacity developed so that they can take over the security responsibility and as that takes place the responsibility of the coalition forces will decline and they will be able to move away and leave this country with the full responsibility for its own country."

Permanent bases

Iraq's new leaders have said the local security forces, which are being trained by the US military, are weak and not yet ready to take over full responsibility for security in a country still battling fighters opposed to the presence of foreign troops.

But there have been a number of street demonstrations in recent days with Iraqis calling for the 140,000 US soldiers to leave immediately.

Asked if the US planned to have permanent bases in Iraq, Rumsfeld said the issue would have to be discussed with the government that emerges after a permanent constitution is in place and new elections are held in December.

"We do not currently have any plans for any permanent presence in this country," he said, adding: "It wouldn't be proper for us to discuss [this issue] with the transition government."

Rumsfeld urged new interim President Jalal Talabani and interim Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari to stick to a timetable set in transition laws passed under the previous US-led occupation authority which call for the constitution to be put to a referendum in October.

"I sure hope no delay occurs. Some may say we cannot do this, let's delay it," he said. "I think the Iraqi people deserve to have a constitution."

Comment: So, everyone who believes Rumsfeld when he says the US has no plans for permanent military bases in Iraq, raise your hands.

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US to fund democracy in Iran
Tuesday 12 April 2005, 13:21 Makka Time, 10:21 GMT

The United States has devoted a sum of $3 million to promote democracy in Iran, and says the initiative does not violate the Algeria non-interference agreement.

US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said non-governmental educational and other groups inside Iran, which are willing to work towards achieving democracy in Iran, are eligible to compete for the money.

Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, Muhammad Javad Zarif, called the plan a clear violation of a US-Iranian agreement which was signed in Algeria in 1981 following the release of 52 US embassy employees held hostage in Tehran for 444 days.

No violation

Boucher denied that the initiative violates the agreement, under which the US pledged "not to intervene directly or indirectly, politically or militarily in Iran's internal affairs".

The US has consistently maintained that its pro-democracy activities abroad are non-partisan and do not constitute intervention.

Hostility between the two countries has not abated since the hostage crisis of 1979.

US suspicions that Iran is developing nuclear weapons is just one of many sources of friction.

Aside from Cuba, Iran is the only country with which the US does not maintain a political dialogue.

Comment: The US has also been financing "democracy" in Georgia, the Ukraine, Lebanon, and the Central Asian countries. Back in the 1930s and 40s when Moscow was financing the US Communist Party, which also talked in terms of a workers' democracy, the US wasn't so sanguine about foreign interference. Of course, when you consider yourself the beacon of democracy in the world, comparisons with the old Soviet Union are likely to rankle.

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Threat to the U.S.: Irans "nukes" or the Euro?

Iran's nuclear projects, alleged WMD's, or its supposed support of "terrorist organisations" as the Bush administration claims does not pose a threat to Washington. What does pose as a threat is Iran's attempt to re-shape the global economical system by converting it from a petro-dollar to a petro-euro system.

Such a conversion is looked upon as a flagrant declaration of economical war against the U.S. which would flatten the revenues of the American corporations and could eventually cause an economic collapse.

In June 2004, Iran declared its intention in setting up an international oil exchange (a bourse) denominated in the Euro currency. Many oil-producing as well as oil-consuming countries had expressed their welcome to such petro-euro bourse.

According to Iranian reports this bourse is due to start trading in early 2006. Naturally such an oil exchange would compete against London's International Petroleum Exchange (IPE), as well as against the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), both owned by American corporations.

Oil consuming countries have no choice but to use the American Dollar in order to purchase their oil, since the dollar has so far been the global standard monetary fund for oil exchange. This in turn requires these countries to keep the dollar in their central banks as their reserve fund, therefore 'helping' in strengthening the American economy.

However, if Iran, followed by other oil-producing countries, begins to accept the Euro as another choice for oil exchange the American economy would suffer greatly, what many would call 'a real crisis'.

A 'crisis' such as this could be witnessed as early as the end of 2005 and beginning of 2006 when oil investors would have the choice to pay $57 a barrel of oil at the American (NYMEX) and at London's (IPE), or pay 37 Euros a barrel at the Iranian oil bourse.

Such a choice would reduce trade volumes at both the Dollar-dependent NYMEX and the IPE.

Many countries have studied the conversion from the ever weakening petro-dollar to the gradually strengthening petro-euro system. The de-valuation of the dollar was caused by the American economy shying away from manufacturing local products, except those of the military, by outsourcing American jobs to cheaper developing countries and depending only on the general service sector, and by the huge cost of two major wars that are still going on.

What's more, foreign investors have started to withdraw their money from the shaky American market causing further devaluation of the dollar.

Any keen follower of financial markets would not have failed to notice that the devaluation of the U.S. dollar began since November 2002, while the purchasing power of the Euro has slowly, but surely crept upward. The U.S. dollar has also dropped in value in comparison to the Japanese Yen while the British pound climbed another notch.

Economic reports published early March pointed at the nose-dive the American economy has taken and to the quick rise of the deficit, up to $665.90 billion at the end of 2004. The worst is still to come.

These numbers worried international banks, who'd warned the Bush administration of something like this would happen.

Iran is treading the same economical war path Saddam Hussein started when in 2000 he converted all of the Iraq's reserve from the dollar to the Euro, and demanded payments in Euro for Iraqi oil.

Many economists then mocked Saddam because he had lost a lot of money in this conversion. Yet they were very surprised when he recuperated his losses in less than a year due to the valuation of the Euro.

The American administration became aware of the threat when central banks of many countries started keeping Euros alongside dollars as their monetary reserve and as an exchange fund for oil.

In order to avoid an economical collapse the Bush administration hastened to invade and destroy Iraq under false excuses so as to set it as an example for any country who may contemplate dropping the dollar. It was also an attempt to manipulate OPEC's decisions by controlling the second largest oil resource - sale of Iraqi oil has since been reverted back to the petro-dollar standard.

There is only one technical obstacle concerning the use of a euro-based oil exchange system, which is the lack of a euro-denominated oil pricing standard, or oil 'marker' as it's referred to in the industry. The three current oil markers are U.S. dollar denominated, which include the West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI), Norway Brent crude, and the UAE Dubai crude. Yet this did not stop Iran from requiring payments in the Euro currency for its European and Asian oil exports since spring 2003.

Iran's determination in using the petro-euro is inviting in other countries such as Russia and Latin American countries, and even some Saudi investors. This determination has led to the aggressive American political campaign in using the same excuses applied against Iraq: WMD in the form of nuclear bomb, support to "terrorist" Lebanese Hezbollah organization, and threat to the peace process in the Middle East.

The question now is what will the Bush administration do? Will it invade Iran as it did Iraq?

The American military is already involved knee-deep in Iraq and the global community, with the exception of Britain and Italy, isn't offering any military relief to the U.S.

Hence an American strike against Iran is highly unlikely.

Iran is not Iraq; it has a more robust military power, has anti-ship missiles based in the "Abu Mousa" island which sits in the strait of Hermuz at the entrance of the Persian Gulf. Iran could easily close the strait and block all naval traffic carrying Gulf oil to the rest of the world causing a global crisis ratcheting the price of an oil barrel to $100. The U.S. cannot topple the regime by spreading chaos the same way it did to Mussadaq's regime in 1953 since the Iranians are now more aware of such a trick.

Besides Iranians have a patriotic pride of what they call "their bomb".

What Washington has resorted to is the instigation and encouragement of Israel, to strike Iran's nuclear reactors the way it did to Iraq. Leaked reports have revealed that Israeli forces are training for such an attack expected to take place next June.

Israel is afraid of an Iranian bomb which would threaten its military hegemony in the Middle East; would extract Israeli concessions and create an arms race which would gobble a lot of Israeli defense expenditure. Furthermore the bomb would force the U.S. to enter into negotiations with Iran further limiting Israeli expansion ambitions.

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India and China agree to form 'strategic partnership' in major policy shift
07:20 AM EDT Apr 12

NEW DELHI (AP) - India and China agreed Monday to form a "strategic partnership," creating a diplomatic bond between Asia's two emerging powers that would tie together nearly one-third of the world's population.

The agreement, announced during a South Asia tour by Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, reflects a major shift in relations between the two nuclear countries, whose ties have long been defined by mutual suspicion. It also is another step in a charm offensive by Beijing, which is trying to build ties with its neighbours and ensure regional stability for economic growth.

The United States, which also has courted warmer ties with India, welcomed efforts by New Delhi and Beijing to find ways of co-operating.

"This is an important visit. We are working to promote friendly ties of co-operation between our two countries," Wen said after a ceremonial welcome by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at New Delhi's presidential palace.

Wen also has been to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in recent days, hoping to reassure its neighbours that increasing clout does not make it a regional danger.

"Some people are worried that a stronger and more developed China would pose a threat to other countries. Such worry is completely misplaced," Wen told a meeting of Asian officials in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, last week.

But the agreement with India also underscored the power the two countries are increasingly comfortable about wielding.

"India and China can together reshape the world order," Singh said Monday.

Left out of the equation, for now, was the United States, which announced last month it wanted to help India become a world power. However, India and China, which together have a population of more than 2.3 billion, took care not to offend the United States on Monday.

Chinese leaders insist they're not worried about the warming U.S.-India ties, despite Washington's apparent attempts to counter China's power in Asia by boosting India's economic and political profile.

Last month, U.S. officials announced the sale of F-16 jet fighters to Pakistan and signalled that India could move ahead with its own weapon buys. India expressed "great disappointment" over the sale and said doing so would tilt the military balance in the region and could harm India-Pakistan peace talks that began last year. The sale will likely be discussed Thursday on a visit to Washington by Indian External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh.

In Washington, a State Department official said the United States welcomed the meetings between India and China, especially if they can lead to peace, prosperity and security, not only in the region but also globally.

Analysts said the agreement would not be a major concern for Washington.

"I think the U.S. doesn't have a problem" with China and India growing closer, said Teresita Schaffer, a former State Department expert on South Asia now with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. "The U.S. should see this as a stabilizing factor in the region. . . . I realize some people will interpret this in a classic balance-of-power sense, but I don't think that's how the United States is looking at it right now."

China and India, which fought a brief war in 1962 over border disagreements, sealed their agreement with the joint statement and a set of accords aimed at ending one longstanding border dispute and boosting economic ties.

"The leaders of the two countries have therefore agreed to establish an India-China strategic and co-operative partnership for peace and prosperity," the statement said.

The partnership would promote diplomatic relations, economic ties and contribute to the two countries "jointly addressing global challenges and threats," it said.

Under the agreement, China has recognized the Himalayan territory of Sikkim as a part of India, and the two reached consensus on principles leading to an overall settlement of their decades-old boundary disputes, said Shyam Saran, a top official in the External Affairs Ministry.

"A new map which the Chinese have published shows Sikkim as part of India. This is no longer an issue between us," he told reporters.

Sikkim, located between Nepal and the kingdom of Bhutan, was an independent principality before being annexed by India in 1975. China never recognized Sikkim as an Indian possession and has claimed part of the territory as its own. But in 2003, China removed Sikkim from a government website that showed it to be a part of China, a sign it was moving toward officially recognizing the area as part of India

India says China still holds about 41,000 square kilometres of its territory in the Kashmir region, while Beijing lays claim to a wide swath of territory in India's northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, which shares a 1,045-kilometre border with China's Tibet region.

Monday's talks also resulted in a raft of agreements for co-operation in such diverse areas as civil aviation, finance, education, science and technology, tourism and cultural exchanges.

China, which is one of five members of the 15-member United Nations Security Council with veto power, also signalled its support for India's quest for a seat in an expanded version of the powerful body.

Both countries have been seeking to expand their influence as their economic power has grown. But Beijing, in particular, has been on a diplomatic initiative.

In the last week, Wen signed a co-operation treaty with Pakistan promising to help it resolve disputes with India. China is already Pakistan's main trading partner and a major military backer.

A day later, Wen was in Bangladesh, signing accords to help the poverty-ridden country. From there he flew to Colombo, offering to help Sri Lanka rebuild harbours, roads and other infrastructure destroyed by the December tsunami.

The diplomatic offensive is rooted in two things China desperately wants abroad: resources and tranquility.

China is already the world's No. 2 oil importer, and its appetite for all sorts of industrial raw materials is growing, sparking such agreements as oil and gas deals with Venezuela, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Australia and Russia. On Monday, Indian officials suggested the two countries co-operate for the world's shrinking energy resources.

"A bidding war does not help either India or China," Saran said. In oil-rich Central Asia or Africa, "Indian and Chinese oil consortiums could work in tandem."

In Asia, though, what matters most to Beijing is stability.

Despite its galloping economy, the vast majority of Chinese have missed out on the economic boom, and China wants a stable region, allowing it to focus its energy inward.

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Global Eye: The Big Fix
By Chris Floyd
Published: April 8, 2005

Let's face the facts. The game is over and we -- the "reality-based community," the believers in genuine democracy and law, the heirs of Jefferson and Madison, Emerson and Thoreau, the toilers and dreamers, all those who seek to rise above the beast within and shape the brutal chaos of existence into something higher, richer and imbued with meaning -- have lost. The better world we thought had been won out of the blood and horror of history -- a realm of enlightenment that often found its best embodiment in the ideals and aspirations of the American Republic -- is gone. It's been swallowed by darkness, by ravening greed, by bestial spirits and by willful primitives who now possess overwhelming instruments of power and dominion.

A gang of such spirits seized control of the U.S. government by illicit means in 2000 and maintained that control through rampant electoral corruption in 2004. The re-election of President George W. Bush last November was a deliberately shambolic process that saw massive lockouts of opposition voters; unverifiable returns compiled by easily hackable machines operated by avowed corporate partisans of the ruling party; and vast discrepancies between exit polls and final results – gaps much larger than those that led elections in Ukraine and Georgia to be condemned as manipulated frauds. Indeed, a panel of statisticians said last week that the odds of such a discrepancy occurring naturally were 959,000 to 1, the Akron Beacon-Journal reported.

The copious documentation of the Bush fraud keeps growing. Last month, experts using actual machines and returns from the 2004 election showed Congress how a lone hacker could skew a precinct's results by 100,000 votes without leaving a trace. More than 40 million votes in 30 states were cast on such computer systems, BlackBoxVoting noted.

Late last year, Congress heard sworn testimony from Florida programmer Clint Curtis, who created vote-rigging software in 2000 at the request of Tom Feeny, a Bush Family factotum. Feeny wanted Curtis (a fellow Republican) and his employer, Yang Enterprises, to produce untraceable programs that could "control the vote" as needed, investigator Brad Friedman reported. Feeny also told Curtis of Bush plans to "suppress the black vote" with "exclusion lists." This is exactly what happened. BBC investigator Greg Palast has shown that tens of thousands of legitimate African-American voters were deliberately "purged" from the rolls by a private Republican-controlled corporation hired by Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Afterwards, Feeny -- who had been Jeb's running mate in his first gubernatorial campaign -- was rewarded for his dutiful service with a plum congressional seat.

In 2002, Raymond Lemme, a Florida state government inspector, took up Curtis' charges, which included other corruption allegations involving Feeny, Yang Enterprises and a Yang employee charged with peddling military technology to the Chinese. In June 2003, Lemme told Curtis he had "tracked the corruption all the way to the top" and that "the story would break in a few weeks." On July 1, 2003, Lemme was found dead in a Georgia hotel room, just across the Florida border.

Local police ruled that Lemme, a happily married man eagerly planning his daughter's wedding, had suddenly decided to slash his wrists. At first they said there were no photos of the death scene; but then the pictures turned up on the Internet and were confirmed as authentic by the embarrassed police. The photos clearly contradicted the original suicide report on several points -- presenting evidence, for example, that Lemme had been beaten before his death. The investigation was reopened after Curtis' Congressional testimony -- and then abruptly shut down after local police spoke to a never-identified "someone" in the Florida state government.

Needless to say, nothing has been done to clarify the murk surrounding Lemme's convenient death. Nor has there been any action toward rectifying the highly profitable degradation of the American electoral process -- beyond the appointment of yet another "blue-ribbon panel" of Establishment worthies to oversee "election reform." The seriousness of this endeavor can be seen in the man appointed to co-chair the effort: James Baker, the notorious Bush family fixer (and Saudi bagman) who spearheaded the sabotage of the 2000 vote in Florida. Baker's presence on the panel ensures that nothing will be done to lessen the ruling clique's chokehold on power.

So let's have no illusions about where we are. Gangsters are in charge, and nothing and no one will be allowed to challenge their dominion. They are waging aggressive war to cement their position and that of their allies: the energy barons, the arms merchants, the construction and services cartels, the investment bankers. These power blocs now command monstrous resources and unfathomable profits; they can buy out, buy off or bury any force that opposes them. Meanwhile, they use the loot of the stolen Republic -- its blood and treasure -- as fuel for their ever-expanding war machine: Bush now has a "secret watch-list" of 25 more countries ripe for military intervention, the Financial Times reported.

With more war crimes afoot, last month Bush issued an official "National Defense Strategy" that openly declares "judicial processes" as one of the enemies confronting the United States, actually equating them with terrorism, The Associated Press reported. Law is "a strategy of the weak," says the Bush Doctrine, in a chilling echo of Hitlerian machtpolitik: Might makes right. The judicial process must not be allowed to "constrain or shape" American behavior in any way, the gangsters declared.

Think of it: Law is now the enemy. Democracy, as we've seen above, is the enemy. This, the demented code of criminals and tyrants, has become the ruling doctrine of the United States -- replacing the Constitution, replacing the noble struggle for liberty and enlightenment with the howl of the beast, with a freak show of avarice and death.

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Inside Guantanamo's secret trials
By Adam Brookes
BBC News, Guantanamo Bay
Friday, 8 April, 2005, 09:13 GMT

The legality of holding terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay is once again before the US courts.

Lawyers for an inmate at Guantanamo Bay, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, are arguing that his trial by military commission violates international law.

The case is part of a wrenching battle in the US courts that goes to the heart of the war on terrorism and its legality.

The Bush administration has argued that holding detainees without trial is imperative for national security, but lawyers for the Guantanamo Bay inmates argue that the detentions have no basis in law.

And they label as unconstitutional the procedures put in place in Guantanamo Bay to review the detentions and charge some detainees.

Some 540 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay.

There they go through three procedures which the Bush administration and the US military argue provide them with sufficient protection of their rights.

A Combatant Status Review Tribunal decides if the detainee is an 'enemy combatant'.

An Administrative Review Board, or ARB, decides if a detainee should be released because they pose no threat to the US, or whether they should be detained for another year.

And a military commission will try those who are deemed to have committed crimes.

Different standards

The BBC observed an ARB - the first time journalists had been allowed to do so. We saw only the unclassified part of the proceedings.

Our military escorts took us into Camp Delta - where the detainees are held - to a prefabricated building.

Before the proceedings began, they briefed us on what we would see. One officer likened the proceedings to a parole hearing - even though the detainees have not been found guilty of any crime.

He stressed that this was not a legal hearing, and standards of proof and evidence normal for a civilian court would not apply.

The detainee whose review we would witness was a young man from Saudi Arabia, we were told.

Under no circumstances were we to publish his name, said our escorts, and we had to sign a piece of paper to that effect.

But the detainee was suffering from a stomach upset. We watched, on camera, as he was examined in an adjoining room.

A doctor questioned him gently through an interpreter, and decreed he was too ill to go ahead with the review board. The proceedings were postponed.


The following day we returned. The detainee was apparently feeling better and the proceedings went ahead.

Three military officers sat on the board. None of them were lawyers.

Military hearings do not work to the same standards as courtrooms
Their job, as they described it, was to review the evidence and come to a recommendation as to whether the detainee constituted a continued threat to the US and should be further detained, or whether he should be transferred to his home country, or released.

The detainee was already sat when we entered the room. He wore an orange jumpsuit, signalling that he was a "non-compliant" prisoner.

His hands and feet were shackled to the floor. At a guess he was in his late 20s, a rangy young man with a thin beard and a shock of curly hair.

He looked rigidly at the floor, apparently to avoid any eye contact.

At the detainee's side was an "Assisting Military Officer". His role was to assist the detainee in presenting his case, but he appeared well short of legal representation.

Also present was a "Designated Military Officer", whose role was to present the evidence. He did not resemble a prosecutor. There was no adversarial argument.

After the board had been sworn in, they listened to a litany of allegations against the detainee.

'Rifles and trenches'

We were not permitted to record the proceedings, so the following is reconstructed from my notes.

We heard that he had travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan. He had allegedly received weapons training in a camp in Afghanistan run by Lashkar e-Tayyiba, a group listed by the state department as a terrorist organisation.

In 2001, we heard, the detainee had fought on the front line in Afghanistan, alongside the Taleban during the retreat from Bagram, and there he had fired his Kalashnikov rifle. He then fled to a location near Jalalabad, where he "dug trenches and waited".

His name was found, the board heard, on the hard drives of computers seized during raids on al-Qaeda safe houses in Pakistan.

The sources of these allegations were never revealed. It was unclear to us if they came from his own testimony, or intelligence, or elsewhere.

No witnesses were called, and the detainee sat silent throughout the hearing.

During the interrogations that followed his capture, we heard, he had stated that he would follow any religious decree; that an attack on the US was necessary; that infidels should either convert to Islam, or pay a fee, or be killed.

He had also threatened to kill prison guards and their families.

Comment: Did the prisoner make these statements before or after he was tortured?

In mitigation

The board then heard a list of "mitigating factors". The detainee had told his captors that he had gone to Afghanistan for sightseeing. He had gone to Pakistan to buy hashish. On hearing this, in his only visible show of emotion, a broad smile spread across the detainee's face.

He had said he had never picked up a weapon. And he had no knowledge of terrorist attacks against the US, nor did he have anything against the US.

Much of what came under "mitigating factors" stood in direct contradiction to what had gone before.

It was unclear to us what criteria the board intended to use to weigh these contradictory accounts of the young man's past.

Finally it was time for the detainee to speak (translated through an interpreter, a young Arab-American woman who appeared extremely competent).

"I don't have hostility to any person and I want the whole world to live in peace," he said.

He said he had gone to Pakistan "for a change of weather", and to get to know the country.

He was quietly spoken, calm, and brief.

The Assisting Military Officer weighed in. He went through the evidence against the detainee point by point and detailed which elements the detainee rejected as false.

True or false?

Next came questioning by three officers on the board. A good 10 minutes was taken up with the board trying to establish the correct spelling of the detainee's name.

Comment: There, see? There's nothing to worry about - the brave men and women conducting these secret military trials are perfectly competent...

The chairman asked what the detainee would do if he were released.

Detainee: "I would go back to my country. I don't know what I would do. I would live with my family."

Question: "Who did you fire your rifle at?"

Detainee: "I never fired a rifle."

Question: "Why were you firing?"

Detainee: "I never fired."

Question: "Why were you in Afghanistan?"

Detainee: "For a visit."

Question: "How do you explain the differences in the evidence?"

Detainee: "I can't."

Comment: It's too bad that the prisoner was "tried" in a kangaroo court, because it is plainly obvious that the "prosecution" would have a hard time making any of their accusations stick in a real court.

Question: "How would you describe your behaviour with the guards here [at Guantanamo Bay]?

Answer: "If the guards treat me well and respect me, I will treat them well and respect them. If they are different from that, I will give them my back and not talk to them, because it will cause me problems and I don't want problems.

"The soldiers [the camp guards] lie about us a lot. They say an incident happened and it did not. They say we spit at them when we did not. They lie a lot."

Cursory questioning

There were questions regarding the detainee's health, and with that, it was over. The officers went into a classified session during which they would hear secret evidence.

And the detainee would never know what secret evidence against him existed.


Question: "How do you explain the differences in the evidence?"
Detainee: "I can't."

How can this man possibly defend himself against secret evidence?

We were struck by the cursory nature of the questioning, and the absence of an attempt to reconcile conflicting claims as to what the young, sullen detainee had actually done.

More than 60 of these boards have now taken place.

And on the basis of their recommendations, senior Pentagon officials decide if detainees remain in captivity or go free.

But the legal challenges to the procedures in place in Guantanamo Bay are mounting, and some judges are proving sympathetic to those challenges.

Comment: It's a good thing that so many Americans don't seem to have a problem with these completely unjust show trials, because they may find themselves sitting in one a lot sooner than they know.

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Bush's Poll Position Is Worst on Record

Second Terms are Tough, and No President Has Banked Less Political Capital for the Fights Ahead
By Terry M. Neal
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Monday, April 11, 2005; 8:29 AM

With apologies to George Tenet, the first 100 days of President Bush's second term have been no slam-dunk.

How rough has it been? Bush has the lowest approval rating of any president at this point in his second term, according to Gallup polls going back to World War II.

Bush's erosion of support among independents in particular has helped bring his overall approval rating down to 45 percent. Forty-nine percent disapprove of his performance.

Compare Bush's Gallup numbers taken in late March to poll numbers taken at the same point in the presidencies of the six previous men who served two terms:

Clinton: 59 percent approval versus 35 percent disapproval
Reagan: 56 percent versus 37 percent disapproval
Nixon: 57 percent versus 34 percent
Johnson: 69 percent versus 21 percent
Eisenhower: 65 percent versus 20 percent
Truman: 57 percent versus 24 percent

True enough, Bush's numbers weren't all that high to begin with. In the last Gallup poll before the election, he was at 48 percent approval to 47 percent disapproval -- yet he still won and helped his party in the process. [...]

Only 38 percent of respondents said they believed Bush had done an excellent or good job in his first 100 days, compared to 58 percent who believed he had done a fair or poor job, according to a poll conducted March 31 to April 1 by Westhill Partners and the National Journal's Hotline.

People will analyze the data differently. But here are a few things that I believe have hurt the administration in the last few months:

Overconfidence: The president beamed with confidence after his November defeat of John Kerry. After the election, Bush told a news conference, "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style." This statement was certainly no surprise, given that Bush governed as though he had a clear mandate even after losing the popular vote by a half-million to Al Gore in 2000. But the reality of Bush's victory in 2004 was that he won with 50.7 percent of the popular vote to Sen. John F. Kerry's 48.2 percent. You'd have to back to at least the early 1800s to find a president who has been re-elected by a closer margin.

The nation remains nearly evenly divided, yet Bush came out of the blocks as if he'd won by a Reaganesque landslide.

Social Security: [...] By the time Bush took the nation to war in March 2003, he had been building his case, piece-by-piece, for months. But during his reelection campaign, he said little about Social Security. Had he made it a major issue, Kerry might be sitting in the White House today, a point that is reinforced by the reluctance of voters to accept Bush's proposal today. Democrats certainly would have been able to use the issue to bludgeon Bush among older voters, who also comprise the most reliable block of voters.

After the election, Bush signaled clearly that Social Security reform would be the first domestic priority of his second term, putting the issue on the table before clearly laying out the case for the need to make changes. [...] Meanwhile, most polls show the public is strongly opposed to private accounts.

Terri Schiavo: Bush declined to cut short his vacation after the southeast Asian Tsunami disaster, even as it became clear that it would be of epic proportions. Then, months later, he interrupted another vacation in Texas to fly back to Washington in the middle of the night to sign legislation, pushed through in a rare weekend session, designed to keep a severely brain-damaged Florida woman alive. The actions of Bush and his party appeared to deviate from their stated principles supporting states' rights and the sanctity of marriage and their opposition to judge shopping. Most polls have shown widespread disapproval of the president's handling of the issue, even among Republicans.

Iraq: [...] The administration has long maintained, essentially, that everyone in the world believed that Hussein was building WMD. But there was never anything close to unanimity within the intelligence community about Hussein's stockpiles or capability to deliver them. Whatever the case, the public remains dissatisfied about the president's handling of Iraq, with 41 percent approving and 54 percent disapproving, according to the Westhill Journal poll.

The economy: A majority of Americans -- 56 percent according to the Westhill poll -- oppose the president's handling of the economy. [...]

The signature economic achievements of Bush's first months of his second term -- new laws restricting class action lawsuits and bankruptcy protections -- could be two issues that resonate little with Joe and Jane Sixpack. [...]

One of the enduring realities of the American presidency is that second terms are often politically tougher than first terms.

What's unusual in Bush's case is that the public's typical second-term disillusionment began so early. In one sense, this matters little because Bush will never run for another election. But it could be an early sign of trouble for his party, especially when you consider that the Republican-run Congress's approval rating has dropped to its lowest point in nearly a decade, with only 40 percent or fewer approving of the job it is doing, according to several recent polls.

Among political professionals, the campaign season runs continuously. So even though there's little news about it in the nation's papers and broadcasts, both parties are already in the thick of candidate recruitment for the 2006 midterm congressional elections. [...]

"There have been six of these elections in the post-World War II era (1950, 1958, 1966, 1974, 1986, and 1998). The average loss for the White House in these sixth year elections has been six Senate seats -- double the overall midterm average loss of three seats," wrote Larry J. Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, in a recent analysis.

A loss of six seats for Republicans would put Democrats back in control of the Senate. [...]

"[Bush] got no real bounce out of the election," said nonpartisan election analyst Stuart Rothenberg. "He has had an ambitious but controversial agenda and doesn't start off with widespread support. And I think it's relevant a couple ways, both down the road and over the next six months. First it will affect candidate recruitment. And it will also impact his ability to intimidate the Hill."

Some left-wing activists are becoming increasing engaged in an effort to defeat the bankruptcy bill in the House. They appear to be energized not only by the president's troubles on the economy, but by their anger at the 18 Democrats who broke ranks to support the bill in the Senate.

And the Schiavo case may complicate the GOP's efforts on other parts of its domestic agenda, particularly the nomination of conservative Bush appointees to the bench. Democrats are planning to use the Schiavo case -- and the disparaging comments made by congressional Republican leaders about the judges in that case -- to argue against the elimination of the filibuster in judicial nominations, which some Republicans are advocating.

Of course, none of Bush's problem matters if the Democrats can't get on the same page. Already the party has shown deep fissures on the Schiavo case as well as the class-action lawsuit and bankruptcy bills. Nearly as many Democrats voted for the Schiavo bill as voted against it, which will complicate the party's efforts to make a sustained case about GOP extremism in coming months.

The Republican triumph of 2004 was less about the electorate's overwhelming love for the Bush agenda than it was about the failure of Kerry and the Democrats to present an enticing and viable alternative and a cohesive vision for the future.

As it stands today, there's little evidence -- outside of the Social Security issue -- that the Democrats have changed all that much since Kerry's defeat in November. They don't appear positioned to take advantage of Bush's dropping poll numbers any more than Republicans are queuing up behind the president as a strong leader of the party. It seems in some ways that both parties are doing their best to lose.

Comment: As one of our readers wrote in the Signs Forum:

America turned out in amazing numbers last November NOT to vote FOR Bush, but to vote AGAINST him. But, since Bush and Co already had control of the election process, from recording the ballots to counting them, it was a foregone conclusion that Bush would be "elected." This gang will not be dislodged by any election process that is not conducted and monitored by impartial international experts. As Joseph Stalin said: "It is not those who vote who have the power. The power belongs to those who count the votes." It took a long time for an issue with such clear-cut lines to come along, but we finally got an accurate set of polling parameters with which to measure the facts regarding the real numbers of Americans who support BUSH & CO....

When polls were taken asking if Americans approved of what the president and the congress had done regarding Terri Schiavo's pathetic straits, 82% DISAPPROVED. What does that tell us? Loudly, clearly, that all of the religious right and radical right put together comprises a MINORITY of about 18% of the American People.

The problem is: The Zionist controlled Media.

Certainly, the above report that broadcasts Bush's "low ratings" is being publicized for a reason. What could that reason be? Perhaps the report is in response to Bush recently criticizing Zionist controlled Israel and raising the issue of Israel's lack of compliance with IAEA oversight of nuclear programs.

So, don't be fooled by such reports of Bush's "low poll ratings." Those who truly oppose Bush & Co. are neither heard nor seen unless it suits the agenda of the Zionists.

Though Americans demonstrated against Bush and his war by the millions, nationwide, just last month, in more than 800 cities and towns from coast to coast, no one in America, let alone abroad, heard one word about it in the media.

America is NOT a Nation of Monsters. America is a Nation being destroyed by Monsters who are supported by a small, lunatic fringe who get the media coverage.

Isn't that the same tactic that was used by Adolf Hitler? By Saddam Hussein?

ALL Americans are NOT the willing followers and supporters of Bush & Co. The Zionist controlled Media and the Zionist controlled Administration is setting America up to be hated by all the world. This global hatred is constantly being fueled and spread until it cannot be stopped, which is exactly what the Zionists controlling Bush & Co. want. Americans who have Love and Empathy for all humanity and who are horrified to see what America has become must UNITE and form bonds of trust, communication, reason, common cause and TRUTH that will help us to find the ways and means, as peacefully as possible, to get these psychopaths who are destroying America and other countries, who aim at nothing less than the ownership and destruction of the entire Earth, confined in a way and a place where they can never again do to humanity what they are doing now.

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Many Iraqis killed in US air attack
Tuesday 12 April 2005, 12:50 Makka Time, 9:50 GMT

Twenty Iraqis have been killed and 22 injured after US helicopters and heavy artillery bombed houses in al-Rummana village north of al-Qaim city.

Seven children, six women and three old men were among the dead, witnesses said, while the injured included 13 children, seven women and two old men.

The witnesses added that the shelling started after US forces, who landed near al-Qaim on Monday night, came under several attacks.

Early reports indicated one house was completely destroyed and three others partially damaged in the bombing, Aljazeera learned.

On Monday, five car bombs hit US military targets in the western Iraqi city of al-Qaim near the border with Syria, wounding at least two US soldiers.

Iraqi journalist Ahmed Khalid told Aljazeera that two of Monday's attacks were simultaneous. Three bombs hit a building used as a US military headquarters, while a fourth targeted a US military convoy.

Clashes erupted later between fighters and US troops in the city, damaging a number of houses, the journalist said.

However, no civilians were injured in those clashes as they had fled.

A spokesperson for the US marines said on Monday three of their soldiers were wounded in the attack, which occurred outside Camp Gannon, a base in al-Qaim, about 300km west of Baghdad in al-Anbar province.

Kirkuk attack

Late on Monday, armed men opened fire on a police patrol in the northeastern Iraq city of Kirkuk, injuring two members of the security service, police Brigadier Sarhat Kadier said.

Attackers also placed a bomb in the undercarriage of a doctor's car, but the device exploded as the physician entered a Kirkuk store to buy bread, sparing him but wounding two nearby civilians, Kadir said.

It was not known why attackers targeted the doctor.

Also on Monday, the US embassy in Iraq announced that an American contractor working on a reconstruction project had been captured.

Polish troop withdrawal

Meanwhile, Poland's defence minister said the government wants its troops to leave Iraq in the first weeks of 2006 after the authorising United Nations resolution expires.

"It is the government's opinion that, together with the end of the UN mandate for the stabilisation mission, all the activity of the Polish stabilisation mission should also end," said Defence Minister Jerzy Smajdzinski.

Poland, one of Washington's closest allies in Europe, runs a multi-national stabilisation force in south-central Iraq, where it has about 1700 soldiers.

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Let them eat bombs

The doubling of child malnutrition in Iraq is baffling
Terry Jones
Tuesday April 12, 2005
The Guardian

A report to the UN human rights commission in Geneva has concluded that Iraqi children were actually better off under Saddam Hussein than they are now.

This, of course, comes as a bitter blow for all those of us who, like George Bush and Tony Blair, honestly believe that children thrive best when we drop bombs on them from a great height, destroy their cities and blow up hospitals, schools and power stations.

It now appears that, far from improving the quality of life for Iraqi youngsters, the US-led military assault on Iraq has inexplicably doubled the number of children under five suffering from malnutrition. Under Saddam, about 4% of children under five were going hungry, whereas by the end of last year almost 8% were suffering.

These results are even more disheartening for those of us in the Department of Making Things Better for Children in the Middle East By Military Force, since the previous attempts by Britain and America to improve the lot of Iraqi children also proved disappointing. For example, the policy of applying the most draconian sanctions in living memory totally failed to improve conditions. After they were imposed in 1990, the number of children under five who died increased by a factor of six. By 1995 something like half a million Iraqi children were dead as a result of our efforts to help them.

A year later, Madeleine Albright, then the US ambassador to the United Nations, tried to put a brave face on it. When a TV interviewer remarked that more children had died in Iraq through sanctions than were killed in Hiroshima, Mrs Albright famously replied: "We think the price is worth it."

But clearly George Bush didn't. So he hit on the idea of bombing them instead. And not just bombing, but capturing and torturing their fathers, humiliating their mothers, shooting at them from road blocks - but none of it seems to do any good. Iraqi children simply refuse to be better nourished, healthier and less inclined to die. It is truly baffling.

And this is why we at the department are appealing to you - the general public - for ideas. If you can think of any other military techniques that we have so far failed to apply to the children of Iraq, please let us know as a matter of urgency. We assure you that, under our present leadership, there is no limit to the amount of money we are prepared to invest in a military solution to the problems of Iraqi children.

In the UK there may now be 3.6 million children living below the poverty line, and 12.9 million in the US, with no prospect of either government finding any cash to change that. But surely this is a price worth paying, if it means that George Bush and Tony Blair can make any amount of money available for bombs, shells and bullets to improve the lives of Iraqi kids. You know it makes sense.

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U.S. media coverage ignores high Iraqi civilian deaths

The media coverage during the past three weeks has been spent mainly on the dying and deaths of two individuals than they have on the Iraqi civilian casualties since the start of the war.

One of the deaths, Pope John Paul II, certainly deserved coverage, but the other death coverage, Terri Schiavo's, focused on a woman with fewer accomplishments -- the chief one being losing a lot of weight in a fairly short period of time, a leading cause of the calamity that befell her.

Before heading off to the Vatican to attend the Pope's funeral, President Bush awarded the first Medal of Honor of the Iraq war, posthumously, to Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith, for valor above and beyond the call of duty. The award was made on the anniversary of Smith's death.

Given the description of the incident that led to the honor, the medal could be dispensed more frequently than once, given the nature of the Iraq conflict.

The award was given for a firefight incident which came about when Smith's men were creating a temporary jail for captured Iraqis. They were set upon by 100 members of Saddam's Republican Guard whom Smith held off with a .50 caliber machine gun till he was killed.

Building a temporary prison was certainly putting the cart before the horse, given the circumstances, but a single soldier got some attention in the midst of the avalanche of coverage afforded Schiavo and the pope.

But ordinary Iraqis have been, and are, paying a high price for their liberation. And the Bush administration is more than willing for them to pay that price.

The hope of 24/7 television news is that there is so much time to fill that every once in a while something of substance will be uttered or revealed. But as experience has shown that's not always the case. A viewer of the Schiavo and pope's coverage must leave the surface and go to print. The television age has paradoxically left people more informed and more ignorant at the same time.

During this period of selective mourning, the White House oversaw the release of yet another not-so-independent commission's report, one reviewing the intelligence failures of all the pre-9/11 spy organisations.

It went out of its way to claim -- a point the White House emphasized -- that no political pressure was exercised to gain the faulty intelligence the Bush administration was so eager to spread about and act upon.

Most of that scandal was buried under the two death watches on TV, and administration spin was hardly necessary.

It isn't an intelligence failure that the number of Iraqi civilian deaths still remains either contested or unknown -- pick your own figure: 10,000 or more than 100,000 -- but a more troubling failure: that so few Americans even want to know.

Comment: Iraqi civilian deaths isn't the only effect of the bogus "war on terror" that the White House-owned US mainstream media is deliberately ignoring...

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Afghan city mourns its lost children, looks back to Taleban
10 April 2005
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - In the photograph, 12-year-old Mohammed Tahir looks barely conscious. A bloodied rag covers his left hand, where the kidnappers hacked off his finger and sent it, along with the picture, to his family.

“We are not Muslims. We don’t know God, so don’t ask us for sympathy. Just send us money,” the ransom note read.

His family begged and borrowed the 10,000 dollars the kidnappers asked for, but two days after they left the money in an abandoned school in the southern city of Kandahar, his battered body was found nearby.

In another incident blamed on the same gang, 13-year-old Nakibullah’s body was unrecognisable when he was found nine days after his family paid kidnappers the same amount for a ransom.

Wild animals had destroyed his face and right arm, and only the missing finger on his left hand showed who he was.

“When we went there and I saw my son, whatever my feelings only I know, my heart knows and my God knows,” said the boy’s father Haji Bismillah, sitting in a room he has barely left since his son was found dead last month.

The boys were among six children kidnapped since the New Year in Kandahar, once the spiritual heartland of the fundamentalist Taleban regime, according to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).

Low confidence on law and order

The disappearances have sparked a political firestorm in the deeply conservative city. Many people have begun to feel life was better under the harsh Islamic law of the Taleban, because they could at least guarantee the safety of their children.

On March 7 more than 3,000 people took to the streets of Kandahar demanding the resignation of the governor and the police chief, accusing police of collusion with the kidnappers and demanding a restoration of law and order.

The protest turned violent. Three people were shot and another 15 were injured according to security sources and hospital doctors in the city.

Demonstrators have in part achieved their ends. On March 16, President Hamid Karzai ordered a sweeping shake-up of provincial police leaders and sent Kandahar’s police chief Khan Mohammed to the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

Karzai is right to be worried. The Taleban came to power in Kandahar after a similar spate of child kidnappings, when the now fugitive leader of the movement intervened to stop a fight between two militia commanders who were battling in the streets over a boy they wanted to sodomise.

According to one of the many urban legends surrounding the regime, the Taleban soldiers freed the boy and were welcomed by residents of the city.

But now people are worried about their children again.

“Three of the boys were abused and then murdered in the most violent ways. Two of them had been raped,” Shamsuddin Tanrir, director of the Children’s Rights Section at the AIHRC said about the latest spree of abductions.

According to Tanrir’s records a further nine boys were kidnapped last year, and he suspects many more children were snatched but their parents have kept quiet after their offspring were returned once they had paid a ransom.


“A lot of children go missing. And Kuchi or Baluchi children whose parents are nomads and not part of the system are probably never traced,” a western security source in Kandahar told AFP.

Afghan Independent Radio, which broadcasts a program in Kandahar city, reports that missing children declarations are the most commonly placed adverts on the show.

“We get about four or five missing children a month. About 20 percent of them are found before we hit the air,” said Ismael Tahir, director of radio programming at the station.

However, others are taken for child labour, or abuse, or are runaways, Tahir said, adding that the station is planning to log their names and addresses to help with investigations.

The radio station is at the front line of the search for missing children because public confidence in the police has sunk so low. Even the newly appointed police chief, Lieutenant General Mohammed Ayoub Salangi, concedes that there was probably official corruption behind the kidnappings.

“It seems as if local militia or tribal commanders were involved,” he told AFP.

For Mohammed Tahir’s family their nightmare had only just begun when they lost their son. Police arrested two of the child’s uncles, keeping one of them, Abdul Zahir, for 18 days and torturing him to try and force him to admit to the crime.

“I couldn’t admit it because I haven’t done anything, but now our whole family wants to leave Kandahar because we think there were powerful people involved,” he said.

No police investigators have been to look at the pictures the kidnappers sent to try to find out who might be behind the killings, he added.

“It should be possible to work out where this was developed and try to trace the kidnappers that way,” he said holding out a picture of his dead nephew.

Salangi said that police were still investigating the case, but while a handful of people were arrested and later released, no one has been charged.

“One of the biggest problems we face here is police corruption and judicial corruption. If the police can’t find the real killer they will often arrest an innocent man and try and get him to confess,” said AIHRC’s Tanrir.

Abdul Zahir said he hopes things will improve under the new police chief Salangi, who is a Tajik from northern Afghanistan, rather than an ethnic Pashtun like the majority in Kandahar.

“We don’t care if he’s Pashtun, Tajik or an animal. We just want him to bring security,” he said.

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Pentagon to Use Lasers to Warn Pilots
By LESLIE MILLER, Associated Press Writer
Mon Apr 11,11:13 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon said Monday it will use lasers to warn pilots when they've flown into restricted airspace near the Capitol, even though federal officials have warned that terrorists might use the beams of light to blind pilots as they approach airports.

There have been more than 100 incidents nationwide since November in which laser beams have been flashed into cockpits. The aircraft all landed safely, but federal aviation officials are concerned that a laser could be used to blind pilots and cause a crash.

The FBI has investigated many of the incidents, and last month a New Jersey man was indicted for allegedly pointing a powerful green laser beam at a small passenger jet.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, said its laser warning system will start in 30 to 45 days. The low-intensity lights are less powerful than the ones that prompted warnings, and tests have shown they are safe for the eyes, according to NORAD.

NORAD spokesman Michael Kucharek said the laser-based warning system someday could replace fighter jets as a way to warn pilots to stay away from the Capitol and the White House.

Hundreds of small private planes have strayed into the restricted airspace in Washington, a 15-3/4-mile radius around the Washington Monument.

In some cases, NORAD has had to divert or scramble fighter jets to escort them away from the area at a cost of $30,000 to $50,000 each time, Kucharek said.

The challenge for NORAD will be to educate pilots that the red-red-green flashing laser beams mean they're flying in restricted airspace. [...]

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LexisNexis Data on 310,000 People Feared Stolen
April 12, 2005

NEW YORK/AMSTERDAM - Data broker LexisNexis said Tuesday that personal information may have been stolen on 310,000 U.S. citizens, or nearly 10 times the number found in a data breach announced last month.

An investigation by the firm's Anglo-Dutch parent Reed Elsevier determined that its databases had been fraudulently breached 59 times using stolen passwords, leading to the possible theft of personal information such as addresses and Social Security numbers.

LexisNexis, which said in March that 32,000 people had been potentially affected by the breaches, will notify an additional 278,000 individuals whose data may have been stolen.

Of the initial group contacted, only 2 percent asked the company to conduct an investigation of their credit records. LexisNexis has found no cases of identity theft, such as using a stolen Social Security number to apply for a credit card. [...]

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U.S. slips lower in coding contest
By Ed Frauenheim
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
April 7, 2005, 2:04 PM PDT

In what could be an ominous sign for the U.S. tech industry, American universities slipped lower in an international programming contest.

The University of Illinois tied for 17th place in the world finals of the Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest, which concluded Thursday. That's the lowest ranking for the top-performing U.S. school in the 29-year history of the competition.

Shanghai Jiao Tong University of China took top honors this year, followed by Moscow State University and the St. Petersburg Institute of Fine Mechanics and Optics. Those results continued a gradual ascendance of Asian and East European schools during the past decade or so. A U.S. school hasn't won the world championship since 1997, when students at Harvey Mudd College achieved the honor.

"The U.S. used to dominate these kinds of programming Olympics," said David Patterson, president of the Association for Computing Machinery and a computer science professor at the University of California, Berkeley. "Now we're sort of falling behind."

The relatively poor showing of American students is a red flag about how well the United States in general is doing in technology, compared with its global rivals, said Jim Foley, chairman of the Computing Research Association, a group made up of academic departments, research centers and professional societies.

"This confirms concerns expressed by the Computing Research Association about the U.S.'s status in the worldwide race for technological leadership," said Foley, who is also a professor in the College of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

A number of developments in recent years suggest the world's tech leadership could shift from Silicon Valley and other U.S. locales to Asian nations such as China, Korea and India. One sign is the way American technology companies are conducting some of their research and development activities in Asia.

The U.S. educational system is another area of concern. Technology leaders, including Intel's Craig Barrett, have pointed to education woes as a major problem for the U.S. tech industry. Student interest in computer science departments in the United States has waned in the wake of the dot-com collapse and amid reports that companies are shipping some of their technology work to low-wage countries like India.

Also alarming to some is a dip in applications from international students to U.S. graduate schools. [...]

While those in the United States may be fretting over their tech future, some in China are celebrating. A photo on the Web site of the programming contest seems to show students from Shanghai Jiao Tong University tossing someone into the air in the wake of the school's victory.

Comment: One CNET reader responded to the article as follows:

"My dad makes more installing toilets than I do programming, and he doesn't even speak English. Screw this profession! You get no respect either at work or from society at large. As soon as I've saved up enough money I'm heading for law school. The American Dream has no place for programmers." --Chung Leong

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Sumatra volcano sparks panic
12/04/2005 08:13 - (SA)

Jakarta - A volcano on the Indonesian island of Sumatra spewed ash on Tuesday, sparking panic among a population that has yet to recover from a recent earthquake, officials said.

A meteorology and geophysics official in the west Sumatran town of Padang Panjang said that nearby Mount Talang had erupted at 20:42 GMT on Monday, coughing volcanic ash about one kilometre around the peak.

The 2 599 metre Mount Talang is just some 40 kilometres east of the coastal capital of West Sumatra province, Padang.

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Strong earthquake hits New Caledonia
12 April 2005

NOUMEA - A severe earthquake estimated at 6.6 on the Richter scale struck the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia early Tuesday, but without causing major structural damage or casualties.

The epicentre of the quake, which struck at 4:09 am (1709 GMT Monday), was under the seabed some 425 kilometres (260 miles) east of Noumea, Bernard Pelletier from the local seismology institute said.

The quake was felt both by residents of the nearby Loyalty islands and those living in Noumea and its surrounding areas, but without causing any reported damage.

The tremor struck a so-called subduction zone where one tectonic plate is pushed under another, creating friction.

The region is frequently hit by seismic activity. A quake measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale hit the same region last Friday, but without being felt in Noumea.

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Earthquake rattles San Diego County; no damage, injuries reported
Associated Press

JAMUL, Calif. - An earthquake rattled southern San Diego County early Tuesday but no damage or injuries were reported.

The magnitude-4.0 quake struck at 4:06 a.m. and was centered three miles east of Jamul and about 18 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a preliminary report from the U.S. Geological Survey.

A magnitude-2.4 aftershock was recorded four minutes later.

There were no reports of damage or injury, said county sheriff's Lt. Edna Ito, whose office is about 25 miles east of town.

"I did feel it," she said. "It sounded like somebody jarred my floor."

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Video Shows UFO Moving Through Sky Behind St. Peter's During Pope John Paul II Funeral
By Donna Anderson
RNU News Reporter

Indianapolis News Channel 8 released a video taken Thursday evening of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City showing what appears to be an unidentified flying object moving across the upper left portion of the screen. The video, taken from a network feed camera at around 6:00 am Roman time, was filmed as Pope John Paul II lay in state.

24 Hour News 8 meteorologists said the white object seen passing on a diagonal trajectory from the upper middle part of the screen to the left could possibly be a bird. Others were not so sure.

Comment: See here for a look at some UFOs in religious art throughout the ages.

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