Friday, April 15, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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You think he was kiddin'?

IDF: War may be brewing on northern border

By Jerusalem Newswire Editorial Staff
April 11th, 2005

JERUSALEM - Senior IDF officials reported Monday that their intelligence indicates the Hizballah terrorist organization will at any moment initiate large-scale hostilities along Israel’s northern border.

"There is an expectation of escalation on the northern border," Arutz 7 quoted Brig.-Gen. Gadi Shamni, head of the IDF's General-Staff Operations Division, as saying.

Brig.-Gen.l Yossi Kuperwasser, head of IDF Intelligence Research Division, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee the same thing. His assessment was backed up by another senior General Staff operations officer.

Security sources along the northern border reported Hizballah had begun making changes in its deployment and reinforcing certain defensive positions.

According to Arutz 7, there has also been in increase in the number of soldiers reporting incidents of Hizballah reconnaissance in the area. [...]

Comment: A brief look at the history of Israeli foreign policy shows that Israel has provoked most acts of violence and war with its neigbors and Palestinian fighters. As then Israeli General Matityahu Peled told Ha'aretz newspaper on 19 March 1972:

"The thesis that the danger of genocide was hanging over us in June 1967 and that Israel was fighting for its physical existence is only bluff, which was born and developed after the war."

Because the state of Israel was founded on land that was stolen from the Palestinian people, successive Israeli leaders realised that Israel would always be at war with its neigbors and were reluctant to sit back and wait for the day when their ill-gotten gains would be taken from them. It is well understood among right-wing Israeli politicians that the ultimate solution Israel's problems will have to involve the removal of all threats to its existence. This can be achieved either by forced selective and progressive "regime change" in neigboring Arab countries or a large-scale war that would do the job in one fell swoop.

Always conscious of the need to maintain the appearance of the moral high ground in the face of international opinion, up until now the strategy employed by Israeli politicians and military men to contain their enemies has been to either provoke Middle Eastern Arab states into acts of violence against Israel, to which Israel can then "justifiably" respond, or to use "false flag" operations i.e. attack your own people and blame it on your enemy, allowing for a similarly "justifiable" military response. It is in the light of this history that the above report from the IDF of "war brewing on northern border" should be considered.

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The dangerous spin-meisters
By Israel Harel

Like drug users who begin with soft drugs and end up in hard drugs, the propaganda machinists, those creators of spin among the disciples of uprooting, are insatiable and know no limits. The latest spin, perhaps less important than the previous one about "the conquest of the Temple Mount" but certainly no less vicious, is the confession by the prime minister to NBC's audience that Israel is "on the verge of civil war."

Ariel Sharon knows firsthand from information others are not privy to that there is no potential for civil war, that perhaps there will be violence, maybe some civilians, police and soldiers will get hurt, but to say "civil war" - military units or groups of armed citizens fighting each other - means descending to the lowest levels of propaganda slime the way former head of Mossad Danny Yatom did this weekend, predicting a military junta.

Particularly grave is the way that absurd spin was delivered in the U.S., where they still suffer from the trauma of civil war. Sharon's statement can make an impression there, and the result is that he has libeled his own people. But after all the earlier spins, Sharon needs to upgrade his intimidation-defamation campaign, even if it means baseless inventions.

The previous spin, about "the burning of the Temple Mount" - created by the police, Shin Bet and the political and media supporters of someone who was once accused of trying to set the mount ablaze - was a lot more dangerous. So much more dangerous that it is necessary to say: the person who fans the flames of the propaganda - and lies that are constantly repeated are eventually going to be considered facts - by saying that the Jewish opponents of the disengagement will be ready to damage the mosques of the Temple Mount, is the same person who fans the flames of hatred that is burning relations between Jews and Arabs and between Jews and Jews.

The burning match is in the hands of those flamethrowers, far more than in the hands of those about whom they are issuing warnings.

And then there's the media, of course. It knows very well that the intimidation, especially this week, was mostly spin. But that knowledge did not stop it from leading the campaign. It needed the delusional Revava affair, among other reasons, to create the association between a handful of eccentrics whom it knowingly turned into tens of thousands, and the legitimate campaign to prevent the uprooting that has supporters among many seculars.

The frequent alerts, especially by the head of the Shin Bet, about the danger posed to the Temple Mount encourages the deranged precisely because it is so apocalyptic; it convinces the lunatics that they have it in their capability to start Armageddon. And there is no price, including life itself, that certain crazies are not prepared to pay, to place their stamp on history and to change it.

So when the head of the Shin Bet and the police issue warnings about attacks on the Temple Mount, who exactly are they warning? Themselves. For the attackers - if any exist - the very ruckus about it is a catalyst, proof of how big and important they are.

And in addition to them, they now fuel the propaganda machinery by enlisting suicide terrorists into the cause. Islamic organizations are grateful for the spin-meisters: Because of them, tens of thousands are enlisting in the cause to protect Islamic holy sites. The flames reach all the way to the Muslim world, particularly in the Arab countries, and the harsh words of kings, rulers and religious leaders prove it.

And then there's Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi's urgent visit to Jordan. If the chief is looking for truly calming statements he should tell King Abdullah that the charge that people are trying to harm the mosques of the mount to prevent the disengagement is a lie. The disengagement opponents know that if, heaven forbid, the mosques are damaged, the result will be the opposite of stopping the disengagement: The public fury in Israel and the world will be so great it will paralyze the opposition to the disengagement.

Those who frighten the world with the intensification of the fiction called Revava therefore cynically sicced the children of Mohammed's religion against the children of Moses' religion. Most knew it was a joke, and nonetheless they "built" some crazies into leaders of a movement that planned to "take over the Temple Mount."

Nobody will pay the price for this, not even in the upper echelons of the police, which called up thousands of police even though it knew that Revava was a bluff that the police helped to create. It's enough that the media is not conducting any professional soul searching about the spin it ran, which inflamed the Arab street in Israel and Judea, Samaria and Gaza, enraged the Arab world, and widened the split in Jewish society in Israel and in the world.

To hell with the internal split, say the spin-meisters, and to hell with the damage abroad. So what if Israel is depicted as a state as dark as Afghanistan, and that the religious element within is depicted as the twin of the murderous Taliban?

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Work Goes On at Settlement in West Bank Despite Bush Rebuke
Hisham Abu Taha, Arab News

RAMALLAH, 13 April 2005 — Despite a rare US rebuke for Israel, laborers were hard at work yesterday building a new neighborhood in a West Bank settlement near Jerusalem.

In unusually sharp words for his close ally, President George W. Bush publicly reminded Prime Minister Ariel Sharon three times at their summit Monday that Israel was obliged to freeze all settlement activity in the occupied territories as part of its commitments to the Middle East road map peace plan. Bush’s comments were prompted by the Israeli government’s recent decision to approve plans for 3,500 new homes at Maaleh Adumim.

Maaleh Adumim is already home to some 28,000 people but Sharon’s ultimate objective is to effectively link the settlement to Arab East Jerusalem, thus severing the link between the rest of the West Bank and the part of the city which the Palestinians want as the capital of their promised future state. In a bid to downplay disagreements with the Bush administration, Sharon’s camp has been emphasizing that the implementation of the project to build the 3,500 new homes is not even on the horizon. But a tour of Maaleh Adumim, organized yesterday by the anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now, showed that Israel is already clearly flouting the road map’s call to freeze all settlement activity.

Comment: While the planned Gaza withdrawal is being touted in the mainstream press as a generous peace move by Sharon, we have to wonder where generosity and peace figure into imprisoning 1.4million people in a tiny strip of land and refusing them the right to leave. How does "peace" relate to the transplanting of already illegal Israeli settlers from Gaza to equally illegal outposts on Palestinian land in the West Bank? Clearly, Sharon has decided to disengage from Gaza because he has successfully imprisoned Gazans in their own homes and streets and is now moving to annex the Arab quarter of Jerusalem and the West Bank.

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UNHRC slams Israel over violence, settlements
An Israeli soldier points his rifle at a Palestinian man in the West Bank town of Hebron
In its annual session, the UN Human Rights Commission adopted a resolution that denounces Israel’s aggression against Palestinian civilians and demands the Jewish state to stop building settlements in the occupied territories.

The resolution, passed by a 39-2 vote with 12 abstentions, states that Israel must "prevent any new installation of settlers in the occupied territories."

It also demands Israel to "reverse the settlement policy in the occupied territories," including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, and "as a first step towards their dismantlement to stop immediately" their expansion.

"The continued settlements are an obstacle to peace," Egypt's ambassador Naela Gabr said on behalf of Arab countries.

Also Palestinian ambassador Mohammad Abu-Koash accused Israel of being "out of step with the world."

The resolution also urges Israel to take the necessary measures to ensure the safety of the Palestinian civilians, demanding it to confiscate weapons and enforce sanctions "with the aim of preventing acts of violence by Israeli settlers,"

The United States and Australia were the only members that voted against the resolution.

Britain, Canada, Germany and Italy also joined the U.S. in voting against a text denouncing Israel for use of force, including executions, and its "continued systematic violations" in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

U.S. ambassador Rudy Boschwitz claimed that the settlement text is biased and imbalanced.

Comment: We have lost count of the times over the past several decades that the US has been the sole objector to UN resolutions condemning the inhuman way in which the Israelis treat the Palestinians. The situation in Palestine alone, and the US government's continuing support of Israel, is enough to make a farce of any suggestion that successive US governments have been dominated by anything but brutal and ruthless dictators.

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Israel clears officer of killing journalist who had white flag
By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
15 April 2005

The British government formally protested to Israel after the army officer who opened fire when the film-maker James Miller was shot dead in Gaza two years ago was acquitted of disciplinary charges.

The decision by the head of Israel's Southern Command to clear the officer overturned a recommendation by the military advocate general that he should be severely disciplined. Mr Miller was killed in Rafah in 2003 while walking back to his lodgings displaying a white flag and clearly identifying himself to troops as a journalist.

The officer acquitted yesterday has admitted opening fire and a 79-page report by Brigadier-General Avihai Mandelblit, the advocate general, held that the first lieutenant in the Bedouin Desert Reconnaissance Battalion had fired in clear breach of army rules of engagement.

Mr Miller's widow Sophy said the decision "makes a mockery of Israeli claims that they follow due process where IDF soldiers have acted criminally and outside their own rules of engagement".

Mr Miller's family had been bitterly disappointed when they were told at a meeting with General Mandleblit in Tel Aviv last month that the officer would not be prosecuted because of a lack of ballistic evidence proving the bullet which killed Mr Miller came from the officer's weapon. But they - and British officials - were assured that the advocate general was recommending a stiff disciplinary sentence.

Baroness Symons, the Foreign Office minister, has summoned Zvi Heifetz, the Israeli ambassador in London, on Monday to protest at the decision and urge that it be reversed, a message also strongly conveyed in a letter last night by Simon McDonald, the British ambassador in Tel Aviv, in a letter to Shaul Mofaz, Israel's Defence Minister.

Yesterday, Baroness Symons said she was "shocked and saddened" by the decision by the Brigadier-General Guy Tzur, the Southern Command chief of staff. The Israeli army said General Tzur decided that under the conditions then - including "frequent terrorist attacks; thick darkness and earlier that same day the soldiers were fired at by anti-tank missiles" - the shooting was "reasonable". The family's lawyers are seeking reversal of the decision. .

Mr Miller, an award-winning documentary maker who had been working on a film about Palestinian children caught up in the conflict, was shot while walking openly with two colleagues to their apartment.

They were carrying a white flag with a torch shone on it, their helmets were clearly marked "TV" and they called out that they were British journalists as they approached an armoured personnel carrier to ask permission to leave. Israeli claims of heavy fire between Palestinians and Israeli troops at the time were disproved because an Associated Press cameraman filmed the incident.

Mrs Miller said the family believed there had been no "genuine will" to uncover the truth because the site of the shooting had not been secured for forensic investigation. It was bulldozed three days later and Israeli authorities took 11 weeks to impound the guns involved in Mr Miller's death for ballistic examination.

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Mossad - The Israeli Connection To 911
By Christopher Bollyn
Exclusive to American Free Press

U.S. investigators and the controlled media have ignored a preponderance of evidence pointing to Israel's intelligence agency, the Mossad, being involved in the terror attacks of 9/11.

From the very morning aircraft smashed into the World Trade Center (WTC) and the Pentagon, news reports have indicated Israeli intelligence being involved in the events of 9/11 - and the planting of "false flags" to blame Arab terrorists and mold public opinion to support the pre-planned "war on terror."

Shortly after the destruction of the twin towers, radio news reports described five "Middle Eastern men" being arrested in New Jersey after having been seen videotaping and celebrating the explosive "collapses" of the WTC.

These men, from a phony moving company in Weehawken, N.J., turned out to be agents of Israeli military intelligence, Mossad. Furthermore, their "moving van" tested positive for explosives.

Dominic Suter, the Israeli owner of Urban Moving Systems, the phony "moving company," fled in haste, or was allowed to escape, to Israel before FBI agents could interrogate him. The Israeli agents were later returned to Israel on minor visa violations.

The Assistant Attorney General in charge of criminal investigations at the time was Michael Chertoff, the current head of the Dept. of Homeland Security. Chertoff, the son of the first hostess of Israel's national air carrier, El Al, is thought to be an Israeli national.

One of the Israeli agents later told Israeli radio that they had been sent to "document the event" - the event which took the lives of some 3,000 Americans.

Despite the fact that the Israelis arrested in New Jersey evidently had prior knowledge or were involved in the planning of 9/11, the U.S. mainstream media has never even broached the question of Israeli complicity in the attacks.


On September 12, 2001, the Internet edition of The Jerusalem Post reported, "The Israeli foreign ministry has collected the names of 4,000 Israelis believed to have been in the areas of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon at the time of the attack."

Yet only one Israeli was killed at the WTC and two were reportedly killed on the "hijacked" aircraft.

Although a total of three Israeli lives were reportedly lost on 9/11, speechwriters for President George W. Bush grossly inflated the number of Israeli dead to 130 in the president's address to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001.

The fact that only one Israeli died at the WTC, while 4,000 Israelis were thought to have been at the scene of the attacks on 9/11 naturally led to a widespread rumor, blamed on Arabic sources, that Israelis had been forewarned to stay away that day.

"Whether this story was the origin of the rumor," Bret Stephens, the Post's editor-in-chief wrote in 2003, "I cannot say. What I can say is that there was no mistake in our reporting."


Evidence that Israelis had been forewarned several hours before the attacks surfaced at an Israeli instant messaging service, known as Odigo. This story, clear evidence of Israeli prior knowledge, was reported only briefly in the U.S. media - and quickly forgotten.

At least two Israel-based employees of Odigo received warnings of an imminent attack in New York City more than two hours before the first plane hit the WTC. Odigo had its U.S. headquarters two blocks from the WTC. The Odigo employees, however, did not pass the warning on to the authorities in New York City, a move that could have saved thousands of lives.

Odigo has a feature called People Finder that allows users to seek out and contact others based on certain demographics, such as Israeli nationality.

Two weeks after 9/11, Alex Diamandis, Odigo's vice president, reportedly said, "It was possible that the attack warning was broadcast to other Odigo members, but the company has not received reports of other recipients of the message."

The Internet address of the sender was given to the FBI, and two months later it was reported that the FBI was still investigating the matter. There have been no media reports since.

Odigo, like many Israeli software companies, is based and has its Research and Development (R&D) center in Herzliya, Israel, the small town north of Tel Aviv, which happens to be where Mossad's headquarters are located.

Shortly after 9/11, Odigo was taken over by Comverse Technology, another Israeli company. Within a year, five executives from Comverse were reported to have profited by more than $267 million from "insider trading."

Through Israeli "venture capital" (VC) investment funds, Mossad spawns and sponsors scores of software companies currently doing business in the United States. These Israel-based companies are sponsored by Mossad funding sources such as Cedar Fund, Stage One Ventures, Veritas Venture Partners, and others.

As one might expect, the portfolios of these Mossad-linked funding companies contain only Israeli-based companies, such as Odigo.

Reading through the strikingly similar websites of these Israeli "VC" funds and their portfolio companies, one can't help but notice that the key "team" players share a common profile and are often former members of "Israel's Intelligence Corps" and veterans of the R&D Department of the Israel Air Force or another branch of the military. Most are graduates of Israel's "Technion" school in Haifa, Mossad's Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, or a military program for software development.

The IDC, a private, non-profit university, is closely tied to the Mossad. The IDC has a "research institute" headed by Shabtai Shavit, former head of the Mossad from 1989 to 1996, called the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism.

The IDC also has a "Marc Rich Center for the Study of Commodities, Trading and Financial Markets" and a "Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy." The cosmetics magnate Ronald S. Lauder, who is a supporter of Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his far-right Likud Party, founded the Lauder school.

Lauder, president of the Jewish National Fund and former chairman of New York Governor George Pataki's Commission on Privatization, is the key individual who pushed the privatization of the WTC and former Stewart AFB, where the flight paths of the two planes that hit the twin towers oddly converged. Ronald Lauder played a significant, albeit unreported, role in the preparation for 9/11.

Pataki's wife, Libby, has been on Lauder's payroll since at least 2002 and reportedly earned $100,000 as a consultant in 2004. According to The Village Voice, between 1994 and 1998, Gov. Pataki earned some $70,000 for speaking to groups affiliated with Lauder.


Ptech, a mysterious software company has been tied with the events of 9/11. The Quincy, Massachusetts-based company was supposedly connected to "the Muslim Brotherhood" and Arab financiers of terrorism.

The firm's suspected links with terrorism resulted in a consensual examination by the FBI in December 2002, which was immediately leaked to the media. The media reports of the FBI "raid" on Ptech soon led to the demise of the company.

Ptech "produced software that derived from PROMIS, had an artificial intelligence core, and was installed on virtually every computer system of the U.S. government and its military agencies on September 11, 2001," according to Michael Ruppert's From the Wilderness (FTW) website.

"This included the White House, Treasury Dept. (Secret Service), Air Force, FAA, CIA, FBI, both houses of Congress, Navy, Dept. of Energy, IRS, Booz Allen Hamilton, IBM, Enron and more," FTW reported.

"Whoever plotted 9/11 definitely viewed the FAA as the enemy that morning. Overriding FAA systems would be the most effective way to ensure the attacks were successful," FTW reported. "To do this, the FAA needed an evolution of PROMIS software installed on their systems and Ptech was just that; the White House and Secret Service had the same software on their systems - likely a superior modified version capable of 'surveillance and intervention' systems."

But did the U.S. government unwittingly load software capable of "surveillance and intervention" operations and produced by a company linked to terrorism onto its most sensitive computer networks, or was Ptech simply a Mossad "cutout" company?

Oussama Ziade, a Lebanese Muslim immigrant who came to the U.S. in 1985, founded Ptech in 1994. But the company's original manager of marketing and information systems was Michael S. Goff, whose PR firm, Goff Communications, currently represents Guardium, a Mossad-linked software company.

And Goff comes from a well-to-do line of Jewish Masons who have belonged to Worcester's Commonwealth Lodge 600 of B'nai Brith for decades. So, why would a recently graduated Juris Doctor in Law leave a promising law career to join forces with a Lebanese Muslim's upstart company sponsored with dodgy funders in Saudi Arabia?

"As information systems manager [for Ptech], Michael handled design, deployment and management of its Windows and Macintosh, data, and voice networks," Goff's website says. "Michael also performed employee training and handled all procurement for software, systems and peripherals."

AFP asked Goff, who left the Worcester law firm of Seder & Chandler in 1994, how he wound up working at Ptech. "Through a temp agency," Goff said. Asked for the name of the agency, Goff said he could not remember.

Could it be Mossad Temps, or maybe Sayan Placement Agency?

Goff, the original marketing manager for Ptech software, said he did not know who had written the code that Ptech sold to many government agencies. Is this believable?

Goff leaves a legal practice in his home town to take a job, through a temp agency, with a Lebanese Muslim immigrant who is selling software, and he doesn't know who even wrote the code?

AFP contacted the government agencies that reportedly have Ptech software on their computers, and IBM, to ask if they could identify who had written the source code of the Ptech software.

By press time, only Lt. Commander Ron Steiner of the U.S. Navy's Naval Network Warfare Command had responded. Steiner said he had checked with an analyst and been told that none of the Ptech software has been approved for the Navy's enterprise networks.

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U.S. Military Bases Closing at Home, to be rebuilt in Foreign Countries
The Associated Press

While Closing Bases at Home, U.S. Considers Offers From Foreign Governments

KABUL, Afghanistan Apr 14, 2005 — Even as the Pentagon prepares to shutter dozens of military bases at home, it is weighing offers from many foreign governments to set up shop on their soil or, in the case of Afghanistan, stay put.

The Bush administration is eager to maintain a military presence in Central Asia, a traditional crossroads and lately a haven for terrorists and Islamic extremists. But it has yet to make final arrangements and faces political uncertainties in countries like the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan.

The U.S. military has nearly 1,000 troops stationed at Ganci air base, which is located at Manas airport in Kyrgyzstan. It has been an important logistics and support base for the war in Afghanistan. Air Force KC-135 refueling aircraft and C-130 cargo planes operate from Ganci.

Pentagon officials say they see no sign they will lose Ganci despite the March 24 uprising in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek in which protesters stormed the presidential office, the opposition seized power and President Askar Akayev fled to Russia, where he submitted his resignation.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who visited Afghanistan on Wednesday and spent the night in Pakistan, is known to favor keeping the basing arrangement in Kyrgyzstan, but his vision for a future U.S. military presence elsewhere in Central Asia is not entirely clear.

A U.S. military contingent is based in Uzbekistan, another former Soviet republic that played a key role in allowing U.S. forces to use the staging grounds they needed for the war in Afghanistan.

These bases provide a significant economic lift for the host governments, and public opposition is not nearly as serious as it has been in some traditional U.S. partner countries like Japan and South Korea.

In Kabul on Wednesday, President Hamid Karzai said he will make a formal request to President Bush for a long-term security partnership, making permanent a relationship that began when U.S. forces invaded his country in October 2001. He did not say when he would do so. [...]

"The Afghan people want a long-term relationship with the United States," Karzai said. "They want this relationship to be a sustained economic and political relationship and, most importantly of all, a strategic security relationship to enable Afghanistan to defend itself, to continue to prosper."

Comment: Firstly, Karzai is a US puppet. Secondly, he does not speak for the Afghan people, being little more than the mayor of Kabul where is usually confined behind rows of bodyguards, afraid to venture outside the city limits for fear he may not return in one piece. Thirdly, the sustained relationship that Karzai wants with the US is an attempt to give a legitimate veneer to the fact that Afghanistan has become one huge US jail.

The fact that the US government is closing down military bases in the US, only to later reopen them in client regimes around the world, is one of the starkest signs that the point of no return has already been passed. Whether or not Foreign Policy planners in the Pentagon actually created the current precarious global climate is difficult to say, but it would appear that they have certainly been preparing for it for many years. The rush to establish US military bases around the world can mean only one thing - war, on a more or less global scale. The only thing that is yet to be revealed to the public at large is the details of exactly how the fuse will be ignited - although we certainly expect it to come from the Middle East.

Of course, the the boys at the Pentagon are not so stupid as to neglect the "home front". For world war to be waged public opinion must be tightly controlled. Yet it seems that US government foreign policy over the next few years may be outrageous enough to awaken even the American people. As such, contingency plans have already been drawn up and training is underway...

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Special Guard Units Prepare for Domestic Terrorism
By Rachael McDonald
Oregon Public Broadcasting

RICHLAND, WA 2005-04-13 - The National Guard is preparing for domestic terrorism, not just attacks from foreigners. Special teams from the Northwest are training this week at a facility in the Tri-cities.

The scenario: a standoff between authorities and a religious cult. Officials suspect the group has stockpiles of dangerous chemicals or radioactive material.

Emergency trainer Matt Fox is teaching National Guard Teams from Washington, Idaho and Alaska what to do.

Matt Fox: "Anytime you're dealing with ne'er-do-wells you make entry into established compounds there have been booby traps found, from something as simple as fish hooks to something as extravagant as explosives."

The teams are training for three days at a special Department of Energy facility called HAMMER. The units are specially equipped with portable labs.

Although they're part of the National Guard they do not travel oversees and are deployed domestically to respond to terrorism threats.

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Roundup Nabs More Than 10,000 Fugitives
Friday April 15, 2005
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Jose Rivera-Sanchez, a fugitive since tunneling out of a Puerto Rican prison 11 years ago, took a new name and found new lodgings in Connecticut. Authorities finally caught up with him at his Waterbury apartment. Rivera-Sanchez was arrested along with more than 10,000 fugitives wanted for murder, rape, child abuse and other crimes in the largest coordinated crackdown by federal, state and local law enforcement officials in history.

The number of arrests during the weeklong effort last week was 10 times the average for such a period, according to the U.S. Marshals Service, which led the nationwide dragnet timed to coincide with National Victims Rights Week.

At the same time, however, those arrests represent just 1 percent of the 1 million fugitives in the FBI's national database, the Marshals Service says.

More than 150 of those nabbed April 4-10 were wanted for murder, 550 were sought on rape or sexual assault charges, and more than 600 had outstanding arrest warrants for armed robbery, federal officials said Thursday.

Among those captured were 150 gang members and 100 unregistered sex offenders, said Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who held a news conference with U.S. Marshals Service Director Ben Reyna to announce the results of ``Operation Falcon'' - an acronym for Federal And Local Cops Organized Nationally.

Gonzales, appearing Friday on NBC's ``Today'' show, was asked whether the roundup amounted to a publicity stunt. ``We now have over 10,000 very dangerous people off the streets and awaiting their day in court,'' he replied. ``I consider it a very successful effort. It is only a start.''

``We have developed new relationships, new lines of communication'' with state and local law enforcement authorities, he said on CNN. ``It's the first time we've done it on a nationwide basis. We, quite frankly, were surprised at how effective it was.''

Rivera-Sanchez might still be on the run if not for the crackdown, which prompted authorities to take a new look at older cases. Marshals in Puerto Rico realized they had never submitted his fingerprints to the FBI. Once they did, they found that the man who had been serving a 37-year sentence for attempted murder, assault and robbery had been arrested twice in Connecticut under an assumed name.

Others arrested included Eddie Kelly, 24, wanted by Dallas police for allegedly killing a man by shooting him five times after leaving a drug house on Feb. 13, and Marcel Baldwin, 21, of Atlanta, who was found beneath a trap door in his kitchen. He was wanted on charges of assault and sexual offense against a child.

Nathan T. Speights, 28, of Syracuse, N.Y., was picked up in Baltimore on Sunday an hour after a warrant was issued for him in connection with the April 3 killing of Mark Sardella, 26, outside a private motorcycle club in Syracuse.

Gonzales said more than 70 percent of those picked up had prior arrests for violent crimes.

``We know from history - and from the bitter experiences of far too many victims - that a fugitive with a rap sheet is more desperate, more predatory, and more likely to commit the crimes that plague citizens and communities,'' Gonzales said at the news conference

The number of fugitives caught was at 10,472 Thursday, but officials said that could change as local police finish processing heavy caseloads from the past week.

Congress gave the Marshals Service more money and authority to go after fugitives when it refocused the FBI's mission toward stopping terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, said Marshals Service spokesman David Turner, noting that the agency now has five permanent regional task forces to search for fugitives.

The Marshals Service spent $900,000 on the weeklong exercise, most of it to pay overtime to local and state police. More than 3,000 officers from 960 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies took part.

``Our goal was to find out what impact we'd have in a nationwide effort,'' Reyna said.

Some of those arrested, particularly for the most violent crimes, would have been high on the marshals' lists no matter when warrants were issued. But officials said it was important to get state, local and federal officials to work together on such a broad initiative.

For all of last year, marshals arrested more than 36,000 people wanted on federal warrants, and worked with state and local authorities in catching another 31,600 fugitives, according to the Marshals Service's Web site.

Comment: Now, let's do the numbers. We have 10,340 people who have been arrested, and only 1450 of them are what we might call "criminal elements." That means that 8,890 people were "rounded up" for unknown reasons. It is likely that many U.S. Citizens will think that this action is going to make them safer. What they don't realize is that it is preparing them and setting a precedent for massive, organized roundups of Americans under strong, official, military-style "Operation ___" names.

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Judge Sentences Woman Accused Of Making Anti-Semitic Comments
April 14, 2005

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. -- An Orange County judge handed down an unusual sentence for a woman accused of yelling anti-Semitic comments at her Jewish neighbor. Geraldine Ballard wasn't charged with a crime. What happened in court Thursday will not show up on her record unless she violates the conditions of her probation.

Orange County judge Mike Murphy handled the sensitive case by drafting a creative sentence for Ballard. Ballard is accused of threatening Lisa Green and her children by shouting derogatory remarks at them as they walked in front of her property on their way to the Jewish Community Center in Maitland.

"I truly have to say, the system worked, it really worked," said Green.

The judge sentenced Ballard to 180 days of probation with the condition she either serve 50 hours of community service or visit one of three holocaust museums in Washington DC, St. Petersburg or the Jewish Community Center located in her own neighborhood.

Ballard has denied the accusations against her all along and Thursday she refused to talk about the conditions of her probation.

Ballard must also undergo a mental health evaluation. If she fails to comply, she'll be back in court where she could be criminally charged.

Ballard will have to pay $250 in court costs and she cannot have any contact with Green and her family.

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Muslims keep eye on case of detained NY girls
New Zealand Herald
14.04.05 1.00pm

NEW YORK - Immigrants and Muslim communities watched with concern today as the US government prepared a case against two local teenage girls detained on immigration charges amid reports that they were seen as possible suicide bombers.

The two girls, both 16, one born in Bangladesh and one in Guinea, were being held in federal custody at an immigration centre in Pennsylvania.

While US authorities said the girls were accused of immigration violations, and there are no other charges against them, initially the charges seemed dire.

The New York Times cited a government document saying the FBI believed the the girls posed "an imminent threat to the security of the United States based on evidence that they plan to be suicide bombers".

The two, who live in New York, were arrested on March 24.

Neighbours, friends and classmates called the suicide-bomber suggestions absurd.

"This is part of a larger pattern, we feel, that targeted a lot of vulnerable and innocent people," said Adam Carroll of the Islamic Circle of North America, who was acting as a family spokesman for the girl from Bangladesh.

"It is scary and it alarmed a lot of the community here. A lot of Muslims feel that there is a pattern of over-reaching and guilt by suspicion," he said.

Yet the initial suggestion of "suicide bomber" remains worrisome, said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute in Washington, DC.

"The fact that it's out there is troubling because we've seen that too many times," said Zogby.

"We've seen the issue of leaks or suggestions and ... it creates a broader suspicion which almost always turns out to be bogus.

"It creates broader fear in the community, and it creates suspicion about the community," he said.

The United States has arrested countless people on terror charges since September 11, 2001, holding some for years without charge but has seen several high-profile cases collapse.

Comment: But every Muslim is a potential suicide bomber! Isn't that what the US government and its various agencies have been actively programming the American people to believe for over 3 years now? Have Bush Cheney et al not made it their prime directive to encourage the American people to believe in black and white, good and evil, us and them? Have they not encouraged the masses to eschew logic and critical thought and incited them to fear-based responses? While there are many brutal regimes around the world that are responsible for the daily torture and murder of innocent people, it is only in America that such brutality and inhumanity is pursued under the deception of "freedom and democracy". It is this sickening hypocrisy that makes the US stand out from all others as the "great satan".

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Flashback: CIA admits employing Nazis
BBC News
28 April, 2001

Files released by the Central Intelligence Agency in the United States have confirmed that World War II Nazi war criminals were employed by Western intelligence agencies.

However, the files dispel the widespread view that one of Hitler's closest allies, Gestapo chief Henrich Muller, survived World War II and went on to work for the CIA.

As a body, the real winners of the Cold War were Nazi criminals, many of whom were able to escape justice

Eli Rosenbaum, Justice Department
They show that Muller died in 1945, but that other former Nazi officers were employed by the CIA, in particular for their knowledge of the Soviet Union.

A US Justice Department spokesman, Eli Rosenbaum, said the files demonstrated that the real winners of the Cold War were Nazi war criminals.

Other declassified documents give more background information on key Nazi figures, and a report which suggests that Adolf Hitler's own doctor thought the Fuhrer was insane.

Mr Rosenbaum said many Nazi war criminals "were able to escape justice because East and West became so rapidly focused after the war on challenging each other that they lost their will to pursue Nazi persecutors".

He deplored the CIA's use as intelligence sources of war criminals such as Klaus Barbie, the infamous "Butcher of Lyon".

Barbie was eventually convicted of crimes against humanity by a French court.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles, a Jewish human rights organisation, said the publication of the CIA material was "long overdue".

One CIA document says that in 1937, Hitler's doctor thought he noticed growing signs of insanity in the Nazi leader before the start of World War II, and predicted he could become "the craziest criminal the world ever saw".

Later that year, the doctor said "the swing towards insanity" seemed to have taken place.

Waldheim 'not a CIA source'

The files also shed light on former United Nations Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim, finding that he was not among CIA sources, as had been suspected by some historians.

Mr Waldheim, a former president of Austria, was barred from entering the US in 1987 after an investigation of his wartime activities as a German army lieutenant in the Balkans.

The file on Mr Waldheim suggests that the CIA knew little about him and that neither the US State Department nor other government agencies that had an interest in his appointment to the UN asked for a background check on him when he was a candidate for the job.

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Suit Details Abuse Allegations at Guantanamo
Thu Apr 14, 2005

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. jailers at Guantanamo Bay beat a Bosnian detainee so badly he suffered facial paralysis and stuffed the man's head in a toilet, repeatedly flushing it until he nearly drowned, a suit filed Wednesday stated.

The suit, filed against the Bush administration in U.S. District Court in Boston, detailed severe beatings it said were inflicted on Algerian-born detainee Mustafa Ait Idir at the prison for foreign terrorism suspects at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The United States has held him as an "enemy combatant" without charges since January 2002 at Guantanamo, where about 540 detainees are imprisoned.

The suit said guards once entered Ait Idir's cell, secured his hands behind his back and "picked him up and slammed his body and his head into the steel bunk in his cell."

The guards escalated the beating, the suit stated. "The guards picked him up again, stuffed Mr. Ait Idir's face in the toilet and repeatedly pressed the flush button. Mr. Ait Idir was starting to suffocate and he feared he would drown," it said.


After removing him from the cell, it added, "They held him down and pushed a garden hose into his mouth. They opened the spigot. As the water rushed in, Mr. Ait Idir began to choke. The water was coming out of his mouth and nose."

The suit said a guard falsely claimed Ait Idir had assaulted him. It did not state when the incident occurred.

The suit said in early 2004 guards ordered detainees to surrender their pants, which Muslim men must wear for prayers.

After he refused, it said, members of an "Immediate Response Force" entered his cell to forcibly remove his pants. "He was sprayed in the face with chemical irritant, and one IRF member squeezed Mr. Ait Idir's testicles until he fell to the ground in a fetal position."

It said jailers jumped on him repeatedly and one slowly bent back his fingers until one broke.

Days later, the suit stated, jailers again sprayed his face with the chemical, and threw him bound onto a floor of crushed stones, with one jailer jumping on the side of his head using full body weight. It said Ait Idir suffered a stroke after the beating, leaving half his face paralyzed.

Comment: The "land of the free and home of the brave" - are you getting the hypocrisy yet? What about America's wonderful justice system? Much better than those evil Chinese eh?...

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US lethal injection 'is not humane'
James Meikle, health correspondent
Friday April 15, 2005
The Guardian

Murderers executed by lethal injection in the United States may have suffered excruciating pain because they were not properly anaesthetised, researchers said yesterday.

A study published in the Lancet analysed information from Texas and Virginia, where about 45% of executions take place, and found executioners had no training in anaesthesia and administered the drugs remotely from behind a screen without monitoring for anaesthesia.

The researchers, led by Leonidas Koniaris of the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine, also analysed autopsy reports from 49 executions in Arizona, Georgia and North and South Carolina. In 43 cases concentrations of the anaesthetic in the blood were lower than required for surgery, and in 21 of those the levels were consistent with people retaining awareness.

It was possible, said the researchers, "that some of these inmates were fully aware during their executions. We certainly cannot conclude that these inmates were unconscious and insensate. However, with no monitoring, and with the use of the paralytic agent, any suffering of the inmate would be undetectable."

Lethal injection has been used in 788 of the 956 executions since the US supreme court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The practice has been regarded as more humane than other methods such as electrocution, gas, hanging or gunfire.

The researchers call for an end to such executions pending a public review. In its editorial the Lancet lambasted doctors who were prepared to put people to death.

"Doctors should not be in the job of killing," it said. "Those who do participate in this barbaric act are shameful examples of how a profession has allowed its values to be corrupted by state violence."

Comment: Ah yes! Bush wants to spread American values around the world. Can you blame anyone for politely declining the offer? What about "old sparky", have you heard of him? He lives down in Florida and has been toiling away for years meting out American human justice to criminals:

Allen Lee Davis was executed on the Florida electric chair "Old Sparky". Davis' face was bloodied and photographs taken, which were later released by the Florida Supreme Court.

Florida only offers execution via the chair, and thus after the publicity following this execution, inmate Thomas Provensano filed suit claiming cruel and unusual punishment.

On August 2, a judge ruled this argument ineligible to stay his execution. Previously, on March 24 1999, during the execution of Pedro Medina on the same chair, twelve inch flames were seen to erupt from the face and head of Medina, and the stench of burnt flesh was evident after the execution. No photos are available from that execution, but these of Davis's are quite vivid.

Yes please! Give us some of your "American Democracy", with extra helpings of your wonderful freedom!

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Being a Loser in America
David R. Hoffman
04/13/2005 16:15

My name is David R. Hoffman, Legal Editor of Pravda. And I am a loser.

Actually, this inauspicious status was conferred upon me before I was even born, because I made the one critical mistake that, in American society, constantly delineates the boundary between what qualifies as success and what qualifies as failure: I did not choose my family wisely.

Fortunately, my prenatal destiny did not cause any adverse effects during my childhood years. While my parents were far from rich, I seldom missed a meal or doctor's appointment because of financial hardship, and, since my social circle was limited to children similarly situated to myself, I rarely experienced any sense of deprivation.

This changed during my high school years, when the austere realities of "loserdom" first made their appearance. I was one of the few "have-nots" taking college preparatory courses, and the experience of being surrounded (and ignored) on a daily basis by the surfeit of "haves" in the classroom provided an ominous glimpse into the realities of my existence.

So, after graduation, I prepared myself for a life of mundane labor. After all, people like me never make a difference in the world. We eat, sleep, work, grasp at vestiges of entertainment when we can afford to, and dream of retiring healthy enough to enjoy our twilight years.

But even that dream was not to be. One afternoon in 1991 I received a telephone call advising me that the company I had devoted fifteen years of my life to was closing down the department where I worked and eliminating all the employees. But even though this unforeseen development made me feel as discarded as yesterday's rubbish, and I was without health insurance or income, I had a contingency plan.

Or at least I thought I did. Just a few years earlier a documentary about the life and times of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had expunged the dismal memories of my high school "college preparatory" years, and inspired me to obtain a higher education. Fortunately, at the time I lost my employment, I was just one semester away from obtaining my undergraduate degree.

But the years of stagnation in a dead-end job had left their mark, and I was weary of indulging the quixotic hope that my next employment venture would somehow spawn everlasting happiness. So, on little more than a whim, I took the law school entrance examination (LSAT), and soon found myself enrolled in law school.

After graduating and passing the bar (law licensing) exam, I idealistically looked forward to entering a profession where truth and justice prevailed over politics and propaganda--a profession that could allow me to make a positive difference in the world.

Reality, however, was not so cooperative. Law firm after law firm sent rejection letters praising my qualifications but denying me employment. Undeterred, I decided to visit law offices in several cities, hoping my physical presence would make more of an impression than mere words on a resume.

It was then I discovered I had not chosen my family wisely. Time and again I was informed that all available positions were being reserved for individuals whose relatives already worked at the firm.

After a few months of frustration, I found myself stocking pet food at a local grocery store for a few cents above minimum wage, a position I could have obtained without incurring the onerous debt of a law school education. So, rudely awakened from my idealistic slumber, I soon learned that the legal system is not the only industry fueled by nepotism and cronyism.

During the Reagan presidency in the 1980s a political phenomenon known as the "angry white male" erupted against affirmative action policies, which had permitted employers to consider the race, gender or national origin of an applicant or employee when making hiring or promotion decisions. The primary criticism of these policies was their alleged proclivity to give "preferential treatment" to minority candidates, thereby negating the rewards of seniority, hard work and discipline.

Yet one does not have to look very far to see the hypocrisy of such criticism. The White House is currently occupied by a man whose educational, business, political and military careers (performing some nebulous National Guard duties to avoid serving in Vietnam) were augmented by his family's wealth and political connections. Yet he still possessed the audacity to denounce affirmative action policies as "preferences." The entertainment and business worlds are also inundated with the offspring of the wealthy and/or famous. Yet nobody condemns them for benefiting from preferential treatment. Instead they are the staples of movies and television shows, and coveted guests on the glut of programs devoted to kissing celebrity posteriors.

My attempted sojourn into the legal world had confirmed one American reality: the backlash against affirmative action was not to preserve the principals of hard work and discipline, but to maintain the ability of the rich and powerful to exploit the poor.

Subsequently I decided to open my own law practice, thus encountering more American realities: First, the legal "system" is more adept at rationalizing injustice than doing justice; Second, the wealthy and powerful are constantly favored by the legal "system" over the poor and weak; Third, in the eyes of the legal "system," the Constitution and Bill of Rights are not the cornerstones of freedom and individual rights, but simply nuisances to be explained away or ignored. In such a system, an attorney can profit handsomely by simply taking a client's money and going through the pretense of legal representation. But the price is one's soul.

Fortunately (or so I thought) I did not need to engage in such Faustian deals. To supplement my income while I was in the practice of law, I had begun teaching part-time at a local university. After a few years of this, I was encouraged to "phase out" my law practice and move into teaching full-time. A few months after completing this phase-out, I was verbally informed that I had been awarded a full-time position.

But approximately a month later I received a letter, prominently signed by the very person who had offered me the job in the first place, stating that I was not even being considered for an interview. For several months, I tried to convince the university to honor its original commitment, even offering to undergo a polygraph examination to prove the employment offer had not only been extended, but accepted. I soon discovered, however, that even in the world of academia, the truth can be meaningless.

So I returned to the practice of law, working for an attorney on a commission basis with a small base salary. But on the eve of potentially settling my first major case, I experienced, as baseball great Yogi Berra once said, "Deja-vu all over again." Suddenly the percentage of the profits I had originally been promised was dramatically reduced. Thus ended my second foray into the legal world.

Those who have heard of these incidents inevitably ask one question: "Did you get these offers in writing?"

The answer is no. And while I must agree that I would have been wise to do so, the fact that this question is foremost on people's minds confirms yet another American reality: The culture is so dishonest that no profession or institution can be trusted to act with integrity. Although many administrators in the academic world stress the teaching of ethics in the classroom and demand honesty from both students and faculty, they predictably feel no obligation to adhere to such standards themselves when it doesn't serve their interests. The legal profession as well is allegedly governed by a code of "ethics." Yet while attorneys are frequently "disciplined" for relatively minor infractions, the most egregious misconduct is often met with silence. In some cases attorneys have not even been reprimanded for sleeping during trials, for intentionally withholding crucial evidence that would have exonerated an accused, or for participating in government-orchestrated frame-ups or perjury.

In fact the opposite is often true. While some attorneys have actually lost their jobs for refusing to criminally prosecute innocent people, those with no such scruples have become politicians, judges, or highly paid consultants for the government, the media or corporate America. So naturally the injustices persist.

I will admit that I was reluctant to write this article. After all, it is not easy to confess to a worldwide forum that one is a loser. But last night, partially for the sake of research and partially to reflect upon dreams past, I began reading about the America of my youth, the 1960s and early 1970s. I remembered how people were beaten, imprisoned, tortured and murdered simply for protesting an unjust war in Vietnam and/or an unequal caste system at home, where the wealthy (like America's current Vice President and unindicted war criminal, Dick Cheney) were granted deferment after deferment to avoid the military draft while the poor were sent into combat.

I recalled the activism and political awareness of America's youth, and their willingness to risk their futures, their livelihoods, and even their lives for causes they had little hope of winning. I also recalled how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., later in his career, had denounced the folly of militarism and war, and how that portion of his dream is consistently ignored by politicians and pundits in the war-crazed culture of today.

But what haunted me most about the 1960s and early 70s were the injustices, human rights abuses and murders that were ignored (and in some cases perpetuated) by the American power structure as a routine part of "doing business." While there may have been other times in our nation's history where governmental excesses were more egregious, the 1960s revealed that many of the agencies supposedly created to uphold the Constitution were actually more lawless than many of those they targeted. Thus another reality was exposed: America is not a nation of laws, but simply of powerful people who operate above the law, who manipulate the legal system for their own gain, and who protect criminals who uphold the "status-quo," while harshly punishing criminals, and even innocents, who oppose it.

For many years the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), under the auspices of J. Edgar Hoover, failed to acknowledge the existence of organized crime and only cursorily investigated crimes against civil rights workers in the American South. Yet this same agency had no hesitation in employing any tactic, legal or illegal, to undermine the civil rights movement, and to destroy the Black Panther Party, the American Indian Movement, and the Weather Underground.

Tragically, a significant percentage of Americans also revealed that such lawlessness would be quiescently accepted, and even applauded, when directed against racial minorities or those considered to be "leftists"-thereby casting doubt (at least in American culture) on Che Guevara's theory that the violent repression of small groups of revolutionaries will plant the seeds of revolution in the larger population.

As I contemplated the meaning of the 1960s, I also wondered what I might have done if I had been of college age during this era. Would I have had the courage to risk a criminal record, imprisonment, injury or even death for what I believed was a greater cause? Or would I have feared what the future could bring if I made such a commitment?

Would I have become one of the wrongfully imprisoned or martyred, many of whom are unfairly forgotten, or would my commitment have opened doors, as it did for many activists and radicals who went on to become professors, authors and business people?

Now, in the twilight of my years, closer to death than away from it, as I look back on what has been and what might have been, I face the somber reality that, despite having "played the game" by working hard, striving to be honest, and furthering my education, life has remained a struggle, where the moments of joy are too frequently overshadowed by the hours of sorrow.

On a national scale, I've watched the future I once dreamed of produce technological progress and sociological regress, as America, under the Bush dictatorship, has plunged once again into the quagmire of racism, injustice, hatred, despair, and war based on lies.

I thought about the duplicity of politicians who, as in the Terri Schiavo case, waxed poetic about the "sanctity of life," yet are unwilling to sacrifice the millions of dollars "contributed" to their political campaigns by health-care and insurance company lobbyists, even though there are millions of Americans, like myself, who cannot afford health insurance. How many of these uninsured will die in America this year because their inability to pay for health care or prescription drugs compels them to put off seeking necessary medical treatment until it is too late?

How many condemned Dr. Jack Kevorkian, now sitting in prison in the State of Michigan, because he supposedly denigrated this "sanctity of life" by ending the suffering of those with debilitating or terminal illnesses, yet remained silent while, in this very same State, a judge mocked the suffering of Maurice Carter, a terminally ill African-American man who spent decades in prison for a crime many believe he did not commit? Although Carter was ultimately given a "medical commutation" by Michigan's governor so he could seek medical treatment, (she refused to grant him a pardon, an act Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn called a "profile in cowardice"), it was too late. He died just three months after his release.

This cowardice and disdain for life is also evident in the case of Roger Coleman, who was executed by the State of Virginia for a crime he insisted he did not commit. Although evidence exists that could potentially clear Coleman's name, the Virginia courts, under the guise of "mootness," have refused to allow posthumous DNA testing on this evidence. But what is ignored in this "mootness" facade is the very real prospect that an unapprehended murderer is safely walking the streets simply because gutless officials are unwilling to admit they may have killed an innocent man.

Of course, no "profile in cowardice" would be complete without the mention of the man who has the ignoble "honor" of being America's first "pro-life" war criminal: George W. Bush.

After presiding over more than one hundred-and-fifty executions while governor of Texas, Bush boasted that not one innocent person had been killed "under his watch." Yet those who endeavored to challenge this braggadocio soon discovered that after an execution all evidence related to the case was conveniently destroyed.

But even when this evidence existed, and even when DNA testing was exonerating the wrongfully convicted across the nation, Bush consistently denied thirty-day reprieves to death-row inmates who requested such tests, even though the results would have virtually eliminated the risk of executing an innocent person. His actions, along with the actions of countless judges and politicians in Michigan, Virginia and throughout the nation, lead to yet another American reality: Those who pontificate the most about the "sanctity of life" are often those who demonstrate the most contempt for it.

Of course, Bush's cowardice and the absence of a military draft have produced many emulators, like Bill O'Reilly, Dennis Miller, Toby Keith, Kid Rock, Richard Perle and countless others, who have aggrandized their careers by exploiting the popularity of the Iraqi war, yet who have never served in combat situations themselves.

O'Reilly, in a pathetic attempt at bravado during an interview with film maker Michael Moore, actually demonstrated how low these warmongering cowards will sink. When asked by Moore if he would be willing to sacrifice the lives of his children in the war against Iraq, O'Reilly replied, "I'd sacrifice myself."

Not surprisingly, while the Iraqi war drags on, O'Reilly, hypocrite that he is, remains safely ensconced in the studios of the so-called "Fox News Network," and his evasion of Moore's question establishes yet another American reality, one that existed during the 1960s and still exists today: While the rich promote the wars, they always expect the poor to die in them.

Now America is reaping the antithesis of what was sown during the 1960s. Although the motives for the Iraqi war, like the war in Vietnam, were based upon government lies, this has not resulted in an analogous sense of outrage. Instead the alleged "reasons" for going to war are no longer relevant. What apparently is important to a substantial portion of the population, and the corrupt, corporate-controlled media, is the need to show the "peaceniks" that "true" Americans will "support the troops," regardless of what they are dying for.

But even in these terrible (and some may say apocalyptic times) there's still a cursed thing called hope, that nagging little trickle of faith to make one believe that, in spite of the incessant triumph of evil, someday things will get better, that the universe will somehow seek a balance, and that all those causing the ugliness, death, and injustice will eventually be punished for their crimes.

But this hope of future justice provides little solace when I think of those wrongfully imprisoned in American gulags simply because gutless politicians and judges are more concerned about their own careers than doing justice. Nor can I forget those who were martyred. I just wish they could tell me whether their sacrifice was worthwhile. But death, the ultimate censor, has condemned them to silence.

So I ask, "Who are the wise and who are the fools? Are the wise those who live long lives, acquiring material possessions through stealth, deceit and the exploitation of others while being trumpeted with sycophantic praise? Are the fools those who dare to struggle for a better world, thus spending their often too brief time on earth in suffering, hardship and frustration?

I do not know the answers. But I cannot help but think that thousands, perhaps millions, ask these same questions everyday.

The famed mathematician Descartes once said, "I think therefore I am." But in American society this motto has been transformed into: "To be one must conspicuously consume." So, in the eyes of the society I live in, I do not exist.

Of course invisibility is a fitting fate for a loser. But considering how low people will often sink in their quest to become "winners," perhaps being a loser is not so terrible after all.

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Bush Says His Privacy Must Be Protected

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush said Thursday that the public should know as much as possible about government decision-making, but national security and personal privacy - including his - need to be protected.

``I believe in open government,'' Bush said at a meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. ``I've always believed in open government. I don't e-mail, however. And there's a reason: I don't want you reading my personal stuff.''

Comment: Bush believes in open government? That is why he fought long and hard not to turn over White House documents to the whitewash investigation on 911?

Bush once was a prolific e-mailer. But he signed off from cyberspace just before taking office in 2001 after lawyers told him that his presidential e- mail communications would be subject to legal and archival requirements.

``There's got to be a certain sense of privacy,'' Bush said. ``You're entitled to how I make decisions and you're entitled to ask questions, which I answer. I don't think you're entitled to read my mail between my daughters and me.''

White House records are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, which allows reporters and others to obtain unclassified government records that officials would not otherwise release.

Official presidential documents are subject to eventual release under the federal Presidential Records Act unless they are classified or otherwise exempt for reasons, including personal privacy.

Steve Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Secrecy Project, said, ``Protecting the president's personal e-mail does not in any way justify the pattern of withholding that we've seen.''

Aftergood said classification activity is increasing, records are being withdrawn from government Web sites and access barriers are being put in place at reading rooms at federal agencies.

``Information which used to be easy to obtain is now difficult or impossible to get,'' he said. ``Trivial things such as the Pentagon phone directory have been marked for official use only and are no longer public.''

Claiming national security concerns, the Bush administration clamped down on declassification of government documents after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The trend toward keeping more government information secret began even before that and those who advocate for openness in government are worried that the freedom of U.S. citizens is eroding with every file they are not al lowed to read.

Just a month after the terrorist attacks, the administration set a higher threshold for releasing information under the Freedom of Information Act.

Under the Clinton administration, federal agencies were urged to resolve disclosure decisions by releasing, not withholding, government information. In October 2001, however, former Attorney General John Ashcroft changed that policy.

In a memo, Ashcroft required federal agencies to carefully consider national security, law enforcement concerns and personal privacy before releasing information. Ashcroft reassured the agencies that the Justice Department would defend their decisions not to release any information there was a ``sound legal basis'' for withholding.

Bush said he knows there is ``tension'' about how the government decides what can be released without jeopardizing the fight against terrorism and that there's a ``suspicion'' his administration is too security-conscious.

He said he will review a Senate bill to create a 16-member panel that would recommend ways to speed FOIA requests, which can drag on for years.

``We look forward to analyzing and working with legislation that would help put a free press' mind at ease that you're not being denied information you shouldn't see,'' Bush told the editors.

``I will tell you, though, I am worried about things getting in the press that puts people's lives at risk. It's that judgment about what would put someone's life at risk and what doesn't is where there's tension,'' the president said.

Comment: Sure, if the truth about 911 were to come out in the mainstream press, Bush and his cronies would have to get out of Dodge pretty darn quick.

Bush refused to discuss a high-profile case about a news column that disclosed the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame. Her name was first published in a 2003 column by Robert Novak, who cited two unidentified senior administration officials as his sources.

The White House has been criticized for outing Plame's identity. Matthew Cooper of Time magazine and Judith Miller of the New York Times have refused to disclose their sources, which federal prosecutors say have stalled their case into who leaked the information.

Asked whether he thought the reporters were right not to reveal their sources, Bush said: ``You think I'm going there? You're crazy.''

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Row deepens over UN oil scandal
The US and Britain have rejected allegations by UN chief Kofi Annan that they turned a blind eye to oil smuggling by Saddam Hussein's regime.

Mr Annan suggested the two had inadequately policed UN sanctions against Iraq, enabling the regime to earn huge amounts in illegal deals.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the charges were "inaccurate", while Washington was also dismissive.

The UN has itself been under fire over the so-called oil-for-food programme.

The $60bn (£32bn) programme allowed Saddam Hussein's Iraq to sell oil in order to buy civilian goods - including medicine - and thereby ease the impact of UN sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

US Senate investigators have alleged that the Iraqi regime received some $4bn (£2.13bn) in illegal payments from oil companies involved in the programme.

But this figure is dwarfed by the $14bn (£7.5bn) that allegedly came from "sanctions-busting" - the illegal sale of oil to neighbouring states such as Jordan and Turkey.

Overland route

"The bulk of the money that Saddam [Hussein] made came out of smuggling outside the oil-for-food programme, and it was on the American and British watch," Mr Annan said.

"Possibly they were the ones who knew exactly what was going on, and that the countries themselves decided to close their eyes to smuggling to Turkey and Jordan because they were allies."

In his statement, Mr Straw said: "I regret to say that suggestions that the United Kingdom ignored smuggling of oil from Iraq to Jordan and Turkey are inaccurate."

He said Britain was "active against oil smuggling in the Gulf", and that it had tried to get the UN to do more about the illegal trade.

He also turned the spotlight on other unnamed UN Security Council members for their "ambiguous approach... to the Saddam regime".

The US spokesman at the UN, Richard Grenell, said Washington did not know of any oil smuggling at the time, but said there was a "very public waiver... granted to some countries".

Mr Annan said smuggling to Jordan and Turkey had been accepted as a way of compensating them for lost trade with Iraq.

The BBC's Jonny Dymond in Istanbul says there was a very busy oil route from Iraq to Turkey, and it is difficult to believe the US and UK would not have known about it.

The oil-for-food programme has been the subject of several corruption investigations.

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Rice dismisses nuclear threats from Iran 2005-04-15 15:08:20

BEIJING, April 15 -- US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has played down any nuclear threats from Iran and said she is confident that Europe can rein in Iran.

Rice expressed her belief that European diplomacy had put Iran's nuclear program "under suspension," and that negotiations would keep the program strictly non-military.

In an interview this Thursday with The Wall Street Journal, she said that the US considers the diplomatic course to be the right course, although at some point in time the UN Security Council might also be an option.

The crucial question, Rice said, is how serious Iran is agreeing to the "objective guarantees" that it will not resume uranium enrichment programs aimed at developing nuclear fuel or a nuclear bomb.

Comment: It looks like Condi has been given the good cop role played by Colin Powell during Bush's first term. She'll go around, playing piano and convincing everyone in Europe that she's a real cultured gal, selling them on the new, peaceloving Bush, while the war criminals back home make their plans to topple the mullahs in Iran and to continue their series of "democratic revolutions" financed in the USA.

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Unused food: What a waste
15 April 2005
By Cahal Milmo

Britain throws away £20bn worth of unused food every year - equal to five times our spending on international aid and enough to lift 150 million people out of starvation

From entire crops of barely blemished potatoes, to shelves of supermarket sandwiches on their sell-by dates, it is a roll call of waste created by one nation that could lift 150 million people from starvation in one year.

The ability of Britons to throw away food deemed imperfect, out-of-date or surplus to requirements was put into sharp relief yesterday with the revelation that 30 to 40 per cent of all produce is simply binned.

Research based on government statistics has found that, every year, food worth £20bn is discarded on its journey from the farmyard to the fridge.

That £20bn of discarded food is equivalent to almost five times what Britain spent last year on international aid, including the ammount of debt relief to the world's poorest countries. [...]

"Just think of the energy that goes into producing, distributing this food. There will be two to three billion more people to feed on the planet in the next 30 years without the land or water to produce their food. If the rest of the world adopts our behaviour, then the world will have real problems."

A study published this month in America after a 10-year survey by the University of Arizona put the figure for food waste in the United States at 40 to 50 per cent. [...]

Despite such schemes, critics of the supply system criticised the "obsession" of retailers with unblemished produce. One arable farmer who, until last year, supplied Tesco with potatoes, told The Independent: "Two years ago, I was forced to discard a whole crop because the potatoes failed a blemish test. They were all perfectly good to eat but they rotted in the ground because they did not live up to our twisted idea of perfect food. We have our priorities wrong."

Comment: Not to worry, there is a plan in place to deal with this problem....

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NWO Plans To Depopulate The Earth
By Steve Jones

"If I were reincarnated, I would wish to be returned to Earth as a killer virus to lower human population levels" -Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh

World population is, by all intents and purposes, completely out of control.

Plans are underway now, implemented by the New World Order Elite, to depopulate the planet's 6-7 billion people to a manageable level of between 500 million and 2 billion.

There are many means and methods of depopulation that are being employed today, the 3 primary of which include; unsustainable/exploitative international development, which leads to massive hunger, starvation and famine worldwide (at least 40 million deaths annually), the fomentation of war, hatred and military procurements throughout the nations leading to millions of deaths worldwide, and finially, the creation and spread of infectious diseases leading to global pandemic, plague and pestilence on an unprecedented scale.

Other methods used include; the build-up and use of nuclear, chemical and biological agents, weapons and warfare, the poisoning and contamination of the planet's food and water supplies, the introduction and use of deadly pharmacuetical drugs in society, weather modification and the triggering of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis through electromagnetic psychotronic weapons both on Earth and in space, the promotion of homosexuality to limit population growth and spread the deadly AIDS virus, forced sterilization in countries such as China, forced vaccinations, abortion, euthanasia etc...

Death, and the management of who lives and who dies, has become the central organizing principle of the 21st century.

The previous century has been, by far, the bloodiest in human history. Hunger, famine and disease took billions of innocent lives. World Wars 1 and 2, along with the despotic regimes of Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin, Hitler, Reagan, Bush and others, took hundreds of millions. The 21st century is shaping up to accelerate this dismal trend where hunger, famine and disease are reaping record levels of death (the equivalent of 7 jewish holocaust annually). Contemporary wars continue to rage on and proliferate. In the nation of Iraq, the killing fields have taken the lives of more than 2 million men, women and children (mostly children) this past decade from foreign and economic intervention. Vastly unreported is the genocide occuring in the Congo, where more than 4 million people have been slaughtered, mutilated and massacred recently with only scant world attention given. Add to this the unrestrained and very profitable build-up of weapons of mass destruction- nuclear, chemical and biological- in the world, particularily in the volatile Middle East region, with the expressed desire and willingness to actually use them, and you have an Apocalypse of World War 3 becoming a virtual inevitability. The death toll of THIS war is sure to surpass all previous in scale and in magnitude, as has been planned.

The international campaign to eliminate the "useless eaters" (according to the Club of Rome) on behalf of the planet's priviledged ruling elite, is surely to take a more voracious toll as global population levels continue to rise.

To implement their "final solution" to depopulate 4-5 billion people from the Earth, the world's elite will undoubtedly harness the newly emerging biotech and nanotechnology industries to create a super 'bioweapon' virus creating a global 'kill-off' pandemic through which only they will have the cure.

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2 nations never received deadly flu kits: WHO
Last Updated Fri, 15 Apr 2005 11:14:57 EDT
CBC News

GENEVA - Some samples of a pandemic flu strain accidentally sent to labs around the world never made it to their destinations in Lebanon and Mexico, the World Health Organization said Friday.

Officials at the United Nations health agency aren't sure that the samples were actually sent, however.

"Some of the countries and laboratories never received anything," said the organization's flu expert, Klaus Stohr. "They were on the address list of the college, but never received anything."

WHO officials are trying to confirm whether kits were shipped to Mexico and Lebanon before launching an intensive search for the supposedly missing samples, he said.

Beginning in October, the College of American Pathologists mistakenly sent 3,747 international laboratories a strain of H2N2 influenza similar to the one that killed 4 million people when it sparked a 1957 flu pandemic.

It was contained in kits used routinely to test for pathogens.

Flu vaccines have contained no protection against the H2N2 strain since 1969, so people below the age of 37 have no immunity against the disease.

Researchers at Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory detected the mislabelled samples on March 26, warning WHO that the H2N2 virus was being distributed instead of the less dangerous H3N2 strain.

Of the 18 countries whose labs received the samples, 12 have now confirmed that the virus material has been destroyed, Stohr said.

That accounts for two-thirds of all the labs that received the kits.

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America's finest rivers awash with raw sewage
By Andrew Buncombe in Washington
14 April 2005

Back in the mid-1950s US President Dwight Eisenhower used to travel to the Fraser River in Colorado to spend his summers fishing for trout. He was such a regular visitor and an avid fisherman ­ typically casting a Red Quill fly ­ that the Byers Peak Ranch where he used to stay became known as the Western White House.

But now the Fraser River on which the President spent his afternoons fishing the cold, clear waters is imperiled like never before. Having long been plundered by the regional water board, the 30 mile stream was yesterday named in a report as one of the 10 most threatened rivers in the US.

"For years the Denver Water Board has siphoned 65 per cent of the Fraser River's water and piped it across the mountains to fuel runaway development," said the report by AmericanRivers.Org, a Washington-based environmental campaign group. "Now it plans to take most of the rest."

The 10 rivers highlighted by the group are spread across the US. While several are located in states known for their industry, such as Ohio, others are in the west and in the Rockies. The Fraser River forms in the snowfields of the nation's continental divide and flows 30 miles to the north and west before it joins the Colorado River, itself little more than a mountain stream at that stage.

The threat to the river is from over-extraction. In the years since President Eisenhower stayed in a lodge at the ranch overlooking the small town of Fraser, the Denver Water Board has been taking 65 per cent of the river's flow to meet the demands of burgeoning development in an area on the east of the mountains known as the Front Range. Now the board, the largest utility in the state, is to seek permission to extract up to 85 per cent of the river's flow.

Adam Cwiklin, a local councillor from Fraser, where people have launched a project to collect photographs, documents and oral histories relating to Eisenhower's visits, said the extraction was slowly killing the river. He said: "This is called the Fraser River Valley and there are several towns that depend on the river. Soon it may be that we no longer have a river, just a dry riverbed."

Over-extraction is just one of the problems affecting America's waterways. Yesterday's report highlighted a number of threats including pollution from development and factory farming, as well as the building of dams and reservoirs. One of the biggest problems was the release of untreated sewage. Last year more than 860bn gallons of untreated sewage was poured into US rivers, making millions of people ill and causing widespread environmental damage. At the same time the Bush administration is planning to lower clean water standards.

"All across America, rivers link one town's toilets to the next town's faucets," said Rebecca Wodder, president of AmericanRivers.Org. "And when it rains, sewage pours into those rivers, billions of gallons every year. [...]s

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A bloody revolt in a tiny village challenges the rulers of China
Jonathan Watts in Huankantou
The Guardian
Friday April 15, 2005

There is a strange new sightseeing attraction in this normally sleepy corner of the Chinese countryside: smashed police cars, rows of trashed buses and dented riot helmets.

They are the trophies of a battle in which peasants scored a rare and bloody victory against the communist authorities, who face one of the most serious popular challenges to their rule in recent years.

In driving off more than 1,000 riot police at the start of the week, Huankantou village in Zhejiang province is at the crest of a wave of anarchy that has seen millions of impoverished farmers block roads and launch protests against official corruption, environmental destruction and the growing gap between urban wealth and rural poverty.

China's media have been forbidden to report on the government's loss of control, but word is spreading quickly to nearby towns and cities. Tens of thousands of sightseers and wellwishers are flocking every day to see the village that beat the police.

But the consequences for Huankantou are far from clear.

Having put more than 30 police in hospital, five critically, the 10,000 residents should be bracing for a backlash. Instead, the mood is euphoric. Children have not been to school since Sunday's clash. There are roadblocks outside the chemical factory that was the origin of the dispute. Late at night the streets are full of gawping tourists, marshalled around the battleground by proud locals who bellow chaotic instructions through loudspeakers.

"Aren't these villagers brave? They are so tough it's unbelievable," said a taxi driver from Yiwu, the nearest city. "Everybody wants to come and see this place. We really admire them."

"We came to take a look because many people have heard of the riot," said a fashionably dressed young woman who had come from Yiwu with friends. "This is really big news."

Although the aftermath is evident in a school car park full of smashed police buses, burned out cars and streets full of broken bricks and discarded sticks, the origin of the riot is hazy.

Initial reports suggested that it started after the death of two elderly women, who were run over when police attempted to clear their protest against a chemical factory in a nearby industrial park.

Witnesses confirmed that the local old people's association had kept a 24-hour vigil for two weeks outside the plant. Many said they had heard of the deaths, but no one could name the victims. The local government of Dongyang insists there were no fatalities.

Like many of the other disputes that have racked China in the past year, frustration had been simmering for some time. Locals accused officials of seizing the land for the industrial park - built in 2002 - without their consent. Some blamed toxins from the chemical plant for ruined crops, malformed babies and contamination of the local Huashui river.

The village chief reportedly refused to hold a public meeting to hear these grievances. Attempts to petition the central government also proved fruitless. Locals said they had lost faith in the authorities.

"The communists are even worse than the Japanese," said one man.

Memories are still fresh of the fighting on Sunday. "It was about 4am and I was woken up by an unusual noise," said a Ms Wang, a shopkeeper who lives next to the school where the fiercest fighting took place. "When I looked out of the window, I saw lots of riot police running into the village. Many men rushed out of their houses to defend our village."

Accounts of the conflict differ. Residents say 3,000 police stormed the village, several people - including police - were killed, dozens wounded and 30 police buses destroyed. But the Dongyang government says about 1,000 police and local officials were attacked by a mob, which led to 36 injuries and no deaths.

The outcome is also unclear. Locals say the village chief has fled. In his place, they have established an organising committee, though its members are a secret. This suggests a fear of recriminations, but the public mood is one of bravado.

"We don't feel regret about what we have done," said a middle-aged man. "The police have not come back since they withdrew on Monday. They dare not return."

Some, however, admitted to anxiety. Among them was an old woman - also a Mrs Wang - who reluctantly opened her doors to visitors who had come to see her collection of trophies from the battle.

"I am scared," she said, as she showed two dented riot police helmets, several empty gas canisters, a policeman's jacket and several truncheons and machetes. "This is getting bigger and bigger."

But there have been no arrests and no communication from the authorities. The current leadership will be keen to avoid a Tiananmen Square-style confrontation, including prime minister Wen Jiabao, who pleaded with the Tiananmen protesters to leave before the tanks came. At the same time, the authorities are committed to social stability.

According to government statistics, protests increased by 15% last year to 58,000, with more than 3 million people taking part. In many provincial capitals, roadblocks occur more than once a week. Last weekend, anti-Japanese demonstrators rallied in three cities, including Beijing.

But in Huankantou, villagers do not seem to realise that although they have won the battle, they may be far from winning the war.

Amid a crowd of locals beside a wrecked bus, one middle-aged woman won a cheer of approval by calling for the government to make the first move towards reconciliation.

"It's up to them to start talking," she said. "I don't know what we would do if the police came back again, but our demand is to make the factory move out of the village. We will not compromise on that."

Comment: Perhaps the future of the U.S. can be seen in this example of what happens when people are oppressed for too long.

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Lessons for US Radicals
Students Rise Again in Québec
April 15, 2005

Right next door to the apathy that is almost universal on U.S. campuses, there has been an amazing revival of student activism unseen for decades in Québec. Yet almost no U.S. students will know anything about it because of a virtually complete black-out in mainstream U.S. media--and very little coverage even on U.S. alternative and left-wing sites. Perhaps that doesn't matter, since most U.S. students seem perfectly content with the status quo. But if U.S. radicals knew more about the Quebec upheaval, they might find ways to spread the fire to the young south of the border.

Between 60,000 and 100,000 militant students marched in Montréal on March 16. Thousands more marched in Québec City, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivière, and just about every other Québec locality with a CEGEP (somewhat similar to U.S. community colleges) or University. Students blocked the Port of Montréal, closed down the lucrative Montréal casino, blocked Federal Highway 40, and occupied various government and Liberal party offices in Québec City and Montréal--often for days at a time. In all, close to 300,000 students went on strike, closing almost all public higher education in Quebec for up to seven weeks (and continuing on many campuses). Up to 15,000 secondary school students joined demonstrations in solidarity--with backing from teacher's unions. Many University and CEGEP professors' and administrators' associations also endorsed the strike--as did a wide range of Quebec's other labor unions.

The strike began February 23 with a walkout by 30,000 CEGEP and University students, organized by the most radical of the three major student associations, CASSÉÉ (a coalition of the Association for Student Union Solidarity--ASSÉÉ--and unaffiliated student groups). The motivating grievance was a drastic cut in student stipends from the Quebec government, announced by the Liberal Minister of Education--some $103 million (Canadian dollars--U.S. equivalent about $80 million)--per year, beginning with this academic year's promised amount. ASSÉÉ included in its demands an end to the Liberal government's planned privatization and decentralization of some CEGEPs and other higher education programs, as well as a call for free tuition, and "humanistic curricula."

Tuition in Quebec is already the lowest in Canada--which is, of course, lower than almost all public institutions in the United States. Disabled and very low income students receive further assistance, which were not included in the cuts. Yet student groups were nearly unanimous in outrage at the take back of scholarship money. The two largest federations of students--FECQ for CEGEPs and FEUQ for universities--endorsed the strike almost immediately. Even traditionally conservative associations representing students in medicine, law, business and education, joined in. The elite private, English-speaking universities took symbolic but important steps by staging a one-day strike (Concordia) and issuing supportive statements--though the militant atmosphere did not carry over to the Anglo institutions, for the most part. (Concordia's radical student government was ousted after a huge and heavily funded media campaign vilifying it's pro-Palestinian stance last year.) Among the French-speaking, working-class students, CASSÉÉ itself grew rapidly in membership--now up to about 60,000.

All during March, the cities of Montréal and Québec were swarming with student militants. The daily protests have often been quite creative, including hunger strikes, streets barricaded with tires and garbage, and "bed-ins" (more intimate than sit-ins). There was also an assortment of cultural events ranging from dance and film showings to "24 hours of radical philosophy" at UQAM, the university in Montréal with a primarily working class student body. Everywhere, from the fashionable cafés of St. Denis to the gay village, the tourist-filled Old City and the Parc LaFontaine (Montréal's Central Park), the red felt patch symbolizing resistance was visible, not only on students, but on many sympathizers among the gentry of the Plateau and the queens along St. Catherine's. March was cold this year, and students often wore scarves and hoods and quilted parkas, but seemed undeterred by the winds and snow. Drivers in cars blocked by demonstrators waited patiently and smiled or waved at the students. Call-in shows were full of supportive comments--and opinion polls showed more than 70% of Québecers still supported the strike at the end of March, after all the disruptions.

The political ferment throughout Québec this spring has not been seen there at least since 1975--during the drive for independence--and recalls for many the student uprisings in the U.S. and throughout Europe between 1968 and 1972. One striking UQAM student, spoke to me of "a revolutionary consciousness that is growing again among young Québecers." I attended a rally of about 10,000 students in Parc LaFontaine where many of Québec's leading singers and comedians performed. "More of a circus, really," said one young woman, "Don't get the wrong impression--we are serious, but we also like fun at the same time." Clifford Kraus reported in the Canadian on-line journal, Autonomy & Solidarity, April 3, that students told him the same thing. One young woman at UQAM told him, "It is a really special moment....with deeper, more radical possibilities." "The cultural revolution" could come again, she hoped.

The provincial Liberal government of Jean Charest--elected by a slim margin two years ago--already had the highest disapproval rating of any sitting government--about 70%. Other strikes by workers and social service agencies staged a variety of protests against proposed cuts in housing assistance and the "$5 day care" available to all Quebec children. The Federal government is a "minority" government, with Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin only propped up by the left-leaning Bloc Québecois (which won almost all Quebec seats in last year's Federal election) and the moderately socialist New Democrats (NDP). Martin has already taken some important symbolic steps to satisfy the left--most important was his about-face in refusing to support Bush's missile defense program. The wrath of students has spared neither the Québec nor the Federal Liberals.

And the strike has been a huge success. On April 3, the Liberal government caved almost completely on the student stipends--promising to restore immediately $70 million this year, and to return to the $103 million for coming years. They also shelved immediate plans for privatization and decentralization (seen as an attempt to divide students).

The FECQ (CEGEPS) did not take a stand, urging members to decide for themselves. FEUQ (Universities) favored accepting the proposal, seeing it as a complete victory. Campus by campus votes were taken, and some already began to reopen by April 6. Others--including the largest unit at UQAM in Montréal--extended the strike at least until April 15. The elite campus of the University of Montréal voted April 8 for its 40,000 students to remain on strike. ASSÉÉ itself urged rejection, and as of April 12, final votes of its members had not been tabulated, though it appeared that those favoring a continued strike would win. Radical demands had not been met, of course, but some radicals saw the strike result as a victory that could lead to further victories.

CASSÉÉ took the lead in attempting to broaden the student strike toward a more general protest against Liberal cutbacks. They declared a second round of so-called "echo" demonstrations in solidarity with all workers and social services against the "neo-liberal" platform of Charest--with major demonstrations planned for April 14. Although eschewed by traditional labor unions, CASSÉÉ joined a wide range of other "civil society" groups including the anti-globalization network,CLAQ, in calling for a day of mobilization, that some called a general strike. Meanwhile, groups of anarchist students held sit-ins at Walmart (waging a struggle against unionization), the state liquor warehouse (under strike from workers) and the Stock Exchange. Police counter-actions brought several minor injuries and arrests.

Whether most faculties and campuses will continue the strike is unclear, as is public reaction to a broadened set of social protests, but all agree that significant organizing has begun, with important consequences for all labor and for Quebec society itself. An ASSÉÉ organizer, a young woman student, told Radio Canada on April 11, "Whether the vote is to continue the strike or not, we have won--this is a step toward real change." The direction of change was clear from the slogan of the proposed general strike: the social peace is finished! Most activists--including those from traditional unions and neighborhood associations--predict a huge turn-out for the May day demonstrations this year.

I asked my Québec friends why they think so little of this gets reported in the U.S. media. "The isolation of Québec from the rest of North America works two ways. It's partly a cultural and linguistic veil--we would like it to be a wall, really--that also keeps out some of the worst elements of U.S. and Anglo culture and politics here--so it's not altogether negative." Yet one wonders if the veil could be lifted long enough for U.S. radicals--and potential student activists--to get a whiff of the potent political and cultural winds now blowing just across the northern border.

Comment: The upsurge in Quebec started a few years ago with large demonstrations against the WTO in the city of Québec. Two years ago, in the period of war mongering leading up to the invasion of Iraq, 250,000 people marched in Montreal in sub-zero weather to stand together against the US-led war. Because of the ever-present national question, politics is a Québecois national sport.

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The politics of poison
Polly Toynbee
Friday April 15, 2005
The Guardian

The overhyped ricin case has played straight into the hands of Howard and his asylum scaremongering

The most explosive issue in this campaign burst out again yesterday with the collapse of the ricin trial. "Asylum and immigration" are the public words that tell of unspoken passions on race, Britishness, Islam and other things winked and nudged at in "Are you think what we're thinking?"

The trial of police murderer and ricin plotter Kamel Bourgass ended in chaos as eight other Algerians were set free with no terrorist conspiracy found. After wild claims of a massive terror plot, finding out that Bourgass was a murderous but inept loner, whose ricin recipes were never tried, embarrassingly echoed the failure to find WMD in Iraq. But the Conservatives were more interested in the asylum implications. With triumphant glee the Mail splashed: "Murdered because we've lost control of our borders". Eight of the nine men were illegal immigrants and Michael Howard was quick in his press conference yesterday to claim that 250,000 people refused asylum have never been deported.

The politics of this are poisonous: no government can survive long if voters feel their borders really are "out of control". Any uncertainty over who belongs, who pays taxes and on whom those taxes are spent threatens social democratic ideals. Paying collectively for public services, contributing to universal social security and redistributing from rich to poor depends on general agreement on who belongs within that shared community of interest. The alternative "open-door" model is an American society where the only "liberal" cause George Bush has espoused was letting in large numbers of Hispanics because it keeps wages low and fits a Wild West every-man-for-himself and devil-take-the-hindmost free society of rugged individualism where no one expects anything from a minimal state.

On the doorsteps, the Conservatives are making headway on immigration. Whatever the polls say - and people lie on this to polite pollsters - Labour campaigners find it everywhere. Howard's posters, speeches and tactics may be despicable but they work, however preposterously impossible his party's policies.

Here's a reminder: they will create a new British Border Control Police to keep 24-hour surveillance on 35 ports and airports. (There are 650 ports.) Yet they will halve the immigration service budget. Anyone seeking asylum would be processed in some other country - but no such fantasy island has been found yet. The UNHCR sternly rebuked them a few days ago but the Tories say they will pull out of the Geneva convention anyway. They will fix a quota for refugees; once the quota is full, every asylum seeker is turned away. No Conservative campaign since the war has used asylum and immigration like this. But it works. At one cabinet minister's adoption meeting last weekend, even some Labour party stalwarts stood up to say the Tories had the best policy on asylum. "Keep them out" has always been a good rallying cry. So how should Labour best respond? Howard hoped Labour would denounce him as a racist and make him a martyr of political correctness so he could claim to be the only one "telling the truth", turning asylum into the key battleground. But Labour hasn't fallen into that trap.

However, Labour's record has been abysmal in recent years - incompetent in administering the system, and when it flared up, inflaming the alarm. When cool words were needed to calm unreasonable fears, David Blunkett used the petrol of inflammatory language. His gesture policies pushed through more brutal rules and fell foul of human rights laws, just like Howard before him. Labour colluded with anti-asylum sentiment to such a degree that even when they did get control of the system and numbers fell fast, they kept tightening the screw, which implied "swamping" was in progress. They never turned to challenging public fears and misinformation; appeasing the Mail would always be a losing strategy.

It is unfair to blame an embattled government alone. Where was civil society when decency was under attack? Where are the churches, the legal and medical professions, the charities and anyone else with trusted authority when a loud voice is needed to say the country is not being "swamped"? When political flak is in the air, all these duck under the parapet, too afraid of losing that trust instead of mounting a defence of asylum. However, Labour's manifesto at last strikes a better note. Setting out the economic and humanitarian case, it boasts of the 180,000 migrants who help fill 600,000 job vacancies, contributing 10-15% to economic growth. "Immigration has been good for Britain. We want to keep it that way. We need skilled workers. We can and should honour our obligations to victims of persecution."

Calmly, it lays out reassuring facts: asylum applications have dropped by two-thirds since 2002. The backlog of claims, bequeathed by Howard at 50,000, is now 10,000 and new cases are fast-tracked. Airline liaison officers on the Asian subcontinent and in Africa turned back 30,000 last year. The system that lost track of Bourgass is much changed: all asylum seekers are fingerprinted and will soon be electronically tagged. By the end of this year, more failed asylum seekers will be removed than new ones applying. Charles Clarke's less punitive approach is securing agreements with previously recalcitrant countries to take back their failed asylum seekers.

But it will take much louder voices to turn back the tide of fear that Howard and his press are stirring. The statistics pale beside huge pictures in yesterday's Star and Mail of migrants queueing for charity food in Calais. They purported to show that, despite the closure of Sangatte, hundreds of "would-be illegal immigrants continue to find ways of crossing the Channel". Does it matter that they gave no evidence of a single recent case succeeding? UK immigration officers in Calais, Dunkirk and Boulogne now check every passenger heading for Dover by boat, while electronic monitors check every lorry. Yet one picture can tell a mendacious story better than a hundred dry, true facts.

Undeterred, the government is pressing on with making better settlement arrangements for newly accepted refugees. It should ease resentment in some of the poorest communities too often forced to cope alone with new arrivals. But more needs to be done. There is no evidence that treating asylum seekers cruelly stops others coming: numbers went up when cash benefits were replaced with meagre vouchers. Innocent would-be migrants or asylum seekers are not criminals, even if they are refused. Letting them work would stop them starving in limbo while they wait. Many applicants never even get basic legal advice.

The unpalatable truth is that desperate people who have walked for months across continents, fleeing wars, will still often be turned away under any system. Even if the rules are fair, keeping people out is a cruel business. Keeping hold of justice and humanity gets harder in the face of this panic-mongering from the right. At least Enoch Powell was ejected from his party, as opposed to leading it.

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Gas Price Spike Weighing Down Consumers
By Pedro Nicolaci da Costa
April 15, 2005

NEW YORK - U.S. consumers felt less confident about economic conditions in April than in March as gasoline prices soared, reinforcing nascent concerns that growth in the United States may be on the brink of a slowdown.

The University of Michigan said its measure of confidence slid to 88.7 so far this month from 92.6 in March, according to market sources who saw the subscription-only report. Analysts had forecast a more modest dip to 91.5.

The decline in confidence largely reflects record prices at the gasoline pump, which could trigger a host of economic problems for a nation whose consumers rely so heavily on cars.

"It seems that at least on the surface that higher oil prices are having an effect on both businesses and consumers," said Elisabeth Denison, economist at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein. "So the momentum of economic activity going into the second quarter is less vigorous than we expected.

Consumer spending is the backbone of the U.S. economy, accounting for two-thirds of overall activity, so a drop in confidence could be a precursor to softer growth.

The Michigan survey was only the latest piece of evidence that tougher times may be ahead for the world's largest economy after around two years of robust growth.

Earlier this week, retail sales figures for March suggested consumers were finally beginning to retrench while a record trade deficit indicated domestic demand for imported goods was far outpacing foreign interest in American products.

Given that reality, many on Wall Street have begun revising down their forecasts for first-quarter gross domestic product, predicting an expansion closer to 3.5 percent rather than the 4 percent consensus that had prevailed until this week.

While oil prices have pulled back closer to $50 a barrel this week, many analysts believe that supply fundamentals and geopolitical realities continue to hint at yet another rebound in energy costs.

The sudden downturn in economists' views this week was so severe that financial markets had been bracing for an even worse sentiment number.

Treasury bonds, which as a safe-haven tend to benefit from adverse economic conditions, pared early gains, with the yield on ten-year notes trading near a six-week low at 4.31 percent.

Data on expectations from Michigan fell to 79.0 from 82.8, while perceptions of current conditions tumbled to 103.9 from 108.

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Active volcanoes linked to disaster earthquake
14/04/2005 - 07:32:42

Indonesian scientists today were closely monitoring three volcanoes that have rumbled into life – activity they link to last December’s monster earthquake off the coast of Sumatra Island and the countless other powerful tremors that followed.

Thousands of people have been evacuated from the slopes of Mount Talang in west Sumatra, which erupted on Tuesday, showering dust over nearby villages and spreading panic among villagers.

Today, many of the villagers returned home to tend their crops and animals, but were planning to return to makeshift camps and public buildings like schools and mosques for the night.

Authorities have declared the other two – Anak Krakatoa off Sumatra’s southern tip and Tangkuban Perahu in west Java province – off limits to hikers, citing a build up of gas inside the peaks and increase in volcanic eruptions.

Scientists have been dispatched to all three mountains, but there were no signs of imminent eruption, said Syamsul Rizal, a government volcanologist.

Rizal, who was speaking from a monitoring station on Tangkuban Perahu, said he suspected that “the activities at these volcanoes were triggered by the December 26 tremor under the Indian Ocean seabed of Sumatra.”

The 9.1 magnitude earthquake in December triggered the Indian Ocean tsunami. Three months later, an 8.7 magnitude quake erupted from the same fault line, killing more than 600 people on islands off Sumatra’s west coast.

The mountains are among at least 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation.

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France fears summer of drought as rains fail
Jon Henley in Paris
Thursday April 14, 2005
The Guardian

France faces its worst drought in 30 years, the environment ministry warned yesterday, saying parts of the country have received 90% less winter rainfall than normal and at least six areas have already introduced water rationing.

"We're ringing the alarm bells now, which is exceptional," said a ministry spokesman.

"Unless we start conserving resources immediately, things could start getting very difficult indeed this summer."

All of France's regions bar three - Alsace and Burgundy in the east and Languedoc-Roussillon in the south - are affected by the drought, the ministry said.

On average, some 30% less rain than normal has fallen in France since last October, while a broad swath of the Rhone valley from Valence to Nimes, Marseille and Toulon in the south is 75% to 90% down on its usual level.

According to the government hydrological office, which measures the volume of water in France's rivers, 86% of 778 readings revealed levels lower than half those normally recorded in April. In the Ardeche département, every major watercourse has already run dry, a phenomenon not usually encountered until August. In rainswept Brittany, the rivers have not been so low for 40 years.

"The month of March has reinforced the risk of drought in many of France's départements this summer," the ministry said in a statement. A government meteorologist, Michel Schneider, told Le Parisien that the scenario was "very similar" to 1976, one of the worst droughts in the last hundred years. "Unless we get more rainfall soon, we will be in a situation as critical as we were then," he said.

In 1976, France's stricken farmers could produce less than half their normal harvest; some 500km of riverbeds dried up and towns like Enghien scooped 500kg of dead fish a day from their all but empty lakes. Some 7 million French people suffered drinking water shortages; the army had to be called in to distribute hay to starving cattle; and an emergency "drought tax" was imposed to help the worst hit.

"The spring rainfall we're seeing at the moment is nowhere near enough to offset the shortfall," Mr Schneider said. "It won't top up the water tables because it won't get through the dried-out soil. It'll either evaporate or be absorbed by the parched spring vegetation."

Six départements, mainly in the south-west, have already barred farmers from irrigating their crops, banned the watering of public parks, golf courses and sports grounds, and ordered private individuals not to fill their swimming pools or wash their cars with hoses. France's farmers have also been urged to switch from crops like corn, which demand heavy irrigation, to alternatives like sunflowers or peas that consume less water.

The one glimmer of hope comes, unexpectedly, from Britain, where the Met Office has said that according to its statistics, this summer should be warm but also more than usually wet in France. Not many Frenchmen, however, are prepared to take London's word for it.

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Australian Farmers Watch Skies as Drought Returns
April 14, 2005
Planet Ark

SYDNEY - Wheat farmer Xavier Martin stares at bare patches on the hills around his property in eastern Australia. The grass has died and even the trees are thinning out.

It has not rained properly for months. The drought that hit in 2002, Australia's worst in a century, is beginning to return.

Martin's 2,000 hectare (4,942 acres) farm at Gunnedah, in northwestern New South Wales, is on the edge of an expanding band of serious drought which the Australian weather bureau says has spread right across the centre of the country.

He is typical of Australia's 35,000 wheat farmers who are weighing up whether to plant big crops in the next few weeks or to play safe and plant small.

"You pick up the calculator more often than you normally would," Martin said. "I'm quite apprehensive about the season if we don't get a rain break by the end of May."

After a very dry start to the 2005/06 season, less than two weeks remain for most of Australia's grain growers to receive rain in time to set up a big crop. April 25 is the rule-of-thumb date which Australian farmers use to calculate whether enough rain has fallen to go for a big crop.

"It's dried up right through the wheat belt around Australia," Martin said.

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New Species of "Slime-Mould" Beetles Named After Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld
Agencies in New York
Friday April 15, 2005
The Guardian

They are synonymous with American power, conservatism and the projection of military might.

Now the names of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld have gained a second, somewhat less formidable connotation: two scientists have named a species of beetle after America's paramount triumvirate.

Quentin Wheeler and Kelly Miller, who had the task of naming 65 newly discovered species of slime-mould beetles, settled on Agathidium bushi, Agathidium cheneyi, and Agathidium rumsfeldi as names for three of them.

It is intended to pay homage to them, said Dr Wheeler, who taught at Cornell University for 24 years and now is the head of entomology at the Natural History Museum in London.

"We admire these leaders as fellow citizens who have the courage of their convictions and are willing to do the very difficult and unpopular work of living up to principles of freedom and democracy rather than accepting the expedient or popular," he said.

Comment: We cannot think of a more fitting tribute to Bush Cheney and Rumsfeld than to have their names forever associated with slimy, mouldly insects.

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And Finally...

South Korean Man Passes Driving Test on 271st Attempt
April 15, 2005

SEOUL - The motto for one would-be South Korean driver likely is "if at first you don't succeed, then try, try again another 271 times."

Seo Sang-moon passed the academic part of his driver's license examination on his 272nd attempt earlier this week.

The repairman, from a small town in the southeastern part of the county who will soon turn 70, said he was illiterate and used the test process to teach himself the rules of the road because he could not read them in a manual.

Since the oral exam was launched, Seo took the test as often as he could, paying about $1,000 in fees along the way. Each failure taught him a little more, and after 271 attempts, he was able to get the minimum score needed to pass the academic test.

Test officials were thrilled to see Seo pass.

"He has been coming here for more than five years and we regard him almost as being one of the family," an official from the exam office said by telephone.

Seo said he was preparing for his road test, and was discussing with his wife what kind of car to buy once he get his license. "Driving seems a bit hard. But after trying 271 times to pass the oral exam, what do I have to be afraid of?," Seo said.

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