Thursday, April 21, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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Out On a Limb
©2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte

Iraq prime minister escapes assassination bid
Rory Carroll in Baghdad
Thursday April 21, 2005
The Guardian

Iraq's interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, last night escaped a suicide bomb assassination attempt, hours after officials said dozens had been killed in two separate massacres, raising fears of an escalation in the insurgency.

Mr Allawi's convoy was attacked as he headed to his home in the Iraqi capital after talks on the formation of the new government, which is likely to be unveiled today, a government spokesman said.

One policeman was killed and two were injured in the attack, but the prime minister escaped unscathed. Bursts of gunfire were heard after the explosion rocked a police checkpoint in the western neighbourhood where Mr Allawi's home and party headquarters are located.

At least eight other Iraqis were killed in a spate of other suicide bombs that rocked the capital yesterday.

Further afield, officials acknowledged two grisly discoveries that yielded at least 70 corpses and, if confirmed, would underline the audacity of an insurgency which seems able to slaughter at will, despite coalition claims that it is losing momentum.

President Jalal Talabani said more than 50 corpses had been dragged from the Tigris river, though he did not specify where. And at Haditha, 140 miles north-west of Baghdad, 19 men were found dead in a stadium.

"We have the full names of those who were killed and those criminals who committed these crimes," Mr Talabani said of the grim discovery in the Tigris.

He did not specify the location or timing while answering questions about a search for hostages allegedly seized last week in Madaen, 14 miles south of Baghdad.

An unnamed police lieutenant-colonel told the AFP news agency that 57 decomposing bodies of men, women and children were found between al-Wahda and al-Hafriya, about 10 miles downriver from Madaen. He said police had photographed and buried the bodies outside the town of Suwayrah.

The claim deepened the mystery over what happened at Madaen. Shia politicians said last weekend that Sunni gunmen had taken dozens of civilians and had threatened to kill them if other Shias did not leave. Some reported relatives missing.

But when Iraqi security forces entered Madaen they found no hostages but plenty of residents saying the story was untrue. Some mainstream Sunni leaders agreed with militants that Shia politicians had manufactured the drama.

If bodies have been found it will inflame tension between the majority Shia, poised to assume power after decades of oppression, and the Sunnis.

In Haditha, residents heard gunshots from a football stadium and reportedly found the bodies of 19 men by a bloodstained wall. They wore civilian clothing but were believed to have been soldiers on their way home for a religious holiday.

More than 400 Iraqi police and soldiers have died in the past two months, many ambushed while off-duty. [...]

Comment: There seems to be something seriously wrong with this picture. Over the last few days there have been conflicting reports about an alleged mass-kidnapping of Iraqi Shias by Sunni "insurgents" in the town of Madaen. Iraqi forces who later entered the town found no evidence of hostages, as well as denials from the townspeople there that any such kidnappings took place. Today, 50-70 bodies of men, women and children are pulled from the Tigris river and Kurdish President Jalal Talabani goes on television to announce that these bodies are proof that hostages were taken and murdered by the Sunni insurgents, yet refuses to identify the timing or place where the bodies were found. Consider this similar report from the UK's Independent Newspaper...

Iraq slid towards deepening sectarian violence yesterday after the President announced that the bodies of 50 people, believed to be Shia hostages, had been found in the river Tigris.

"More than 50 bodies have been brought out from the Tigris and we have the full names of those were killed and those criminals who committed these crimes," President Jalal Talabani said.

"We will give you details in the coming days ... terrorists committed crimes there. It is not true that there were no hostages. There were but they were killed and thrown into the Tigris.''

His statement, even if it is not confirmed, will infuriate Shias who have been the victims of repeated bomb attacks by Sunni fanatics. Shia leaders have been restraining their followers from seeking revenge.

Shia officials claimed at the weekend that a total of 50 Shia had been taken hostage by Sunnis in the farming town of Madain on the southern outskirts of Baghdad. The militants allegedly threatened to kill them unless Shias in Madain, where they comprise half of the population, left the town.

The Iraqi security forces surrounded Madain but, on entering, found no hostages or evidence they had ever been held or that there were any gunmen present. Shia officials then said that bodies had been found in the Tigris south of Madain, but residents and police in the area said they had not seen the bodies.

Mr Talabani, one of the two main Kurdish leaders, has a reputation for making explosive off-the-cuff remarks without considering the consequences. The most fanatical Sunni Arab groups have denied that any Shia were killed, saying it was a hoax by the government.

Such is the level of violence in Iraq that even the massacre of 50 people is difficult to establish. Official information is unreliable and journalists cannot enter many areas for fear of being kidnapped or murdered.

Indeed, this last comment says it all... "such is the level of violence in Iraq that even the massacre of 50 people is difficult to establish."

What real facts can the average reader ascertain from the above stories? Only perhaps that over 50 people have been murdered and dumped into a river, and no one knows when they were killed or who really killed them. What logical conclusions can be drawn as to the real perpetrators of this horrific crime? This is where discernment and critical thinking may help one come to a reasonable inference of culpability, and then only in a probabilistic sense.

Now, consider for a moment that these so called "insurgents" are really just ordinary Iraqis opposed to the brutal occupation of their country by an militarily superior army, and who choose to take up arms against the invaders. Imagine that your country is being occupied by foreign troops, who are stealing your land, torturing your friends and wantonly killing your family. Wouldn't you want to fight back? If a few of your neighbors down the street joined with the invading army as police troops and soldiers, wouldn't you consider them as traitors and perhaps legitimate targets of resistance also?

Then imagine that the situation becomes a little more complicated because some of your neighbors are of a slightly different religion than you, perhaps Catholic to your Protestant. And even though you've had your differences in the past, your common enemy is still the invading army, who seems to be going out of its way to deliberately pit you against each other.

But even amidst all the chaos, pain, strife and war, would you ever consider it a viable strategy against the foreign army to march into the Catholic town down the road and start taking innocent women and children hostage, fellow citizens of your own country, and then murder them and dump their bodies into a river? It just doesn't add up. And furthermore, why would the people in the town, who after supposedly witnessing this hostage taking, go on the news and say they haven't seen anything of the sort? Again, the picture makes no sense.

Perhaps, when trying to come to an understanding of the truth of a situation like this, it is useful to ask "Who benefits?" Wouldn't the invading army be the ones most likely to benefit from these deaths that are blamed on the so-called insurgents? What better way to maintain complete control of a country's citizens and resources than by murdering, in cold blood, members of one faction of the populace and then blaming the other faction. That way the two groups will always be fighting each other, and never have the strength to join together to rise up against their common enemy.

This is just a reasonable hypothesis; there is no way to prove it. Not as long as the invading army controls your politicians and your media. But if one was to make a bet as to who was really behind these killings, the strong money would be on the Mossad or CIA. You can take that to the bank.

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Iraq Govt Seen Delayed; Violence Hits Baghdad
By Luke Baker
April 21, 2005

BAGHDAD - Last-minute disagreements appeared to have derailed Iraq's hopes of unveiling a government on Thursday, nearly three months after elections, with negotiations also strained by a surge in violence.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani told Turkish television he did not think a deal could be reached, reversing hopes he expressed on Wednesday. Disagreement remained evident among the main factions -- Shi'ite Muslims, Kurds and Sunnis.

"I think the government will not be announced today ... We want to see the Sunni Arabs represented as well ... Negotiations also continue over the allocation of some posts," the Kurdish leader told Turkey's CNN Turk television in an interview.

Disputes surfaced at a meeting late on Wednesday, with caretaker Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who narrowly escaped assassination shortly after the talks, rejecting an offer to join the cabinet, sources involved in the negotiations said.

"The talks were going well, but the Shi'ites offered Allawi just two ministries, not the four that he wants, and he rejected the offer," one source said, referring to ministries offered to Allawi's political grouping.

"There was also continued disagreement over what ministries the Sunnis should get. The question really is whether the Shi'ites want to create a government of national unity, or just a Shi'ite-Kurd government," he said. [...]

Comment: Given the troubles between the Shi'ites and Sunnis, think about what would have happened if the assassination attempt on Allawi had been successful. Who would have benefited the most?

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Iraqis Find 70 Bodies in River, Arena, 19 Iraqi soldiers executed
By Patrick J. McDonnell and Solomon Moore
LA Times Staff Writers
April 21st
An Iraqi woman argues with a translator for the US army 1st Battalion 5th Infantry to release her husband held during a roundup of middle age males made in the Palestine district of the city of Mosul.
Those in the Tigris may have been Shiite hostages; soldiers were killed at a stadium. Many fear a leadership void has stoked violence.

BAGHDAD — On one of the grisliest days of the nearly 2-year-old insurgency, Iraq's new president on Wednesday confirmed the discovery of more than 50 slain hostages in the Tigris River south of the capital.

In a separate discovery, a hospital official said the bodies of 19 Iraqi soldiers were found in a soccer stadium in the western city of Haditha, apparent victims of assassination.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that outgoing Prime Minister Iyad Allawi escaped an assassination attempt when a suicide bomber in a car attacked his convoy near his home, one of several loud blasts that echoed in the capital after dark. Earlier in the day, at least three car bombs went off in the city.

The fresh carnage and chaos, part of an upsurge in violence this month, came amid indications that Iraqi lawmakers were poised to announce a new transitional government after almost three months of delay. Legislators have been squabbling about still-unfilled Cabinet posts and other political appointments since Jan. 30 elections.

Many Iraqis have voiced fears that the ongoing leadership void encouraged attacks by insurgents bent on fomenting instability.

"Terrorists committed crimes here," transitional President Jalal Talabani said during a televised news conference.

Talabani was referring to the bodies of more than 50 people, believed to be victims of sectarian hostage-taking and killings, found in the Tigris near the town of Suwayrah, about 30 miles southeast of Baghdad.

Details of how and when they were killed and found remained sketchy. But Talabani said authorities had ascertained "the full names" of the dead as well as the identities of "those criminals who committed these crimes."

The president indicated that the victims were hostages taken in the nearby village of Madaen, where, according to Shiite Muslim leaders, as many as 150 Shiites were seized last week.

The dead included men, women and children, according to news reports from Suwayrah.

Some bodies were mutilated and headless, police told Iraqi journalists. Some were found in sacks; many corpses were discovered snared on wire mesh set in the river to trap water-borne weeds, a police officer told the Al Arabiya television channel.

Comment: Bush supporters often make the argument that, regardless of the fact that the original justification for an invasion of Iraq was a lie, the removal of Saddam is still a positive step forward for the Iraqi people and that, furthermore, the Middle East and world are now safer places without Saddam.

While we do not believe that Saddam was anything but a cruel tyrant, under his rule, there was not the lawlessness and open ethnic conflict that we are currently witnessing as a result of the US invasion and government by proxy where Shias are attacking and murdering their Sunni coutrymen. Given Israel's long-held designs on Iraq and the wider Middle East, it is quite possible that the road to civil war that Iraq seems now set upon and the likelihood that it will be divided into impotent and subservient Israel-friendly statelets is a part of an Israel-inspired plot. The Israeli right wing and the Washington NeoCons must surely be rubbing their hands with glee.

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Iraqi deputies demand US apology for mistreatment of MP
Turkish Press

BAGHDAD - Iraqi deputies demanded Tuesday an official apology from Washington over the manhandling by US soldiers of an MP at a Baghdad checkpoint, with some calling for the fortified Green Zone to be "liberated from the occupation".

Deputies suspended their session for an hour in protest at the incident involving Fatah al-Sheikh, a partisan of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr and member of the dominant United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) bloc.

They then voted unanimously on a motion demanding an official apology from the US embassy and Washington, and the punishment of the US soldier involved.

"When I told the translator with the soldier that I was a member of the National Assembly, he answered: to hell with you and the National Assembly," Sheikh told his colleagues.

"I got really upset, so I got down from my vehicle to confront him and at that moment a US soldier came over and grabbed my neck and choked me for a minute or so."

Sheikh said the whole fracas started when he lined up in his car with other deputies to enter the Green Zone, the seat of the transitional government and home to the US embassy, foreign advisors and contractors.

He said he decided to get out of line and come back later when it was less crowded, but that as he began to pull out, a US soldier came over and kicked his car.

"I showed him my badge, but he grabbed it from my hand and tossed it in my face," said the bearded Sheikh. "When I got out of my car, the soldier twisted my arm."

The US military said it was investigating the incident and refused to comment.

"I saw the whole thing and adding insult to injury was when Iraqi soldiers drew their rifles at brother Fatah as he was being mistreated by the Americans," said Ali Yushaa an independent Shiite MP.

Deputies took turns to speak for almost two hours about the many indignities that they and the Iraqi population suffer when coming in contact with US troops.

"According to the Geneva conventions, an occupying force must respect the occupied nation," said Abdul Khaliq Zanganah, a Kurdish MP. "This offending soldier must be thrown out of our country."

A Sunni MP, Mudhar Shawkat, handed in the green VIP badge issued by the US military authorising him and other deputies to enter the Green Zone and said he would only attend parliament if sessions were moved to another location.

"They should be put on notice and given two months -- no more -- to leave the Green Zone," he said before walking out.

Another unidentified MP shouted: "Yes, the end of occupation begins here. The Green Zone must be liberated from occupation!"

Speaker Hajem al-Hassani said he would suspend sessions altogether unless they move within a week to a building on the fringes of the Green Zone that has its own entrance and would be guarded by Iraqi soldiers.

"Enough is enough!" he said before adjourning parliament until Sunday.

At the end of March British troops blasted into the home of MP Mansur al-Tamimi in the southern city of Basra arresting 12 members of his family, who were later released.

The sprawling Green Zone used to house Saddam Hussein's Republican Palace, whose annex is being used now as the US embassy.

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Father of Accused Soldier Wants Probe
By ESTES THOMPSON, Associated Press Writer
April 21, 2005

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - The father of a black Army sergeant accused of killing two officers in an attack at the start of the Iraq war said his son was in a platoon with soldiers who have tattoos with Nazi, KKK and Confederate Flag symbols.

John Akbar told The Associated Press in a statement Wednesday that Sgt. Hasan Akbar had complained to superiors about threats, slurs and taunts he faced as the only black and Muslim in his platoon.

But he said little was done before the March 2003 grenade and rifle attack in Kuwait that also wounded 14 and he urged the military to investigate the alleged harassment.

"They would mock him while he prayed and say, 'Look at you kissing the ground for your god and praying five times a day. ... You act like them, pray like them, and look like them, so we might just mistake you for one of them."'

Jurors were to return Thursday for closing arguments and the start of deliberations, a day after testimony concluded in Akbar's court-martial on murder charges. Akbar could get the death penalty if convicted.

The court-martial is the first since the Vietnam era in which an American has been prosecuted on charges of murdering a fellow soldier during wartime.

Lt. Col. Ed Loomis, spokesman for the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., said there was no investigation of incidents described in the father's statement - titled "Concerned Father Seeks Justice For Loved Son" - beyond what was happening in the court-martial. He said the division does not tolerate extremist behavior.

Akbar allegedly confessed several times to tossing grenades into the tents of sleeping soldiers and then raking them with rifle fire.

Akbar's lawyers don't dispute his responsibility but are trying to spare him a possible death sentence by portraying him as mentally incapable of premeditating the attack.

The statement from Akbar's father is similar to entries from Hasan Akbar's diary that were introduced by the prosecution to show how he had planned the attack.

"I suppose they want to punk me or just humiliate me," Akbar wrote more than a month before.

"I am not going to do anything about it as long as I stay here. But as soon as I am in Iraq, I am going to try and kill as many of them as possible," he wrote.

According to testimony in the court-martial, Akbar was asked at least twice by officers if he had problems with going into Iraq because he is Muslim and Akbar said he did not.

Comment: This case is a wonderful tool for the Bush administration's efforts to demonise Muslims. It reinforces the programmed belief that Muslims can't be trusted, and that they will stab "patriotic" Americans in the back the first chance they get.

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Why we ask for a boycott
Omar Barghouti
Lisa Taraki
Wednesday April 20, 2005
The Guardian

The statements against the proposed academic boycott of Israeli universities (Letters, April 19) miss the clear analogy between Israel's apartheid system and South Africa's. Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu has recently drawn similarities between the two, calling for boycotts against Israel. In South Africa's case, the UN established a regime of sanctions that eventually ended apartheid. Academics, athletes, artists and business people were all subject to boycott then, and British academics and intellectuals played a distinguished role in those campaigns.

The anti-apartheid sanctions were mainly triggered by the advisory opinion of the international court of justice in 1971, which denounced South Africa's illegal occupation of Namibia. When the ICJ issued a similar advisory opinion in July 2004 condemning Israel's colonial wall and occupation regime, Palestinians, Arabs and progressives hoped people of conscience the world over would adopt similar punitive measures against Israel to bring about its compliance with international law. The recent decision by the World Council of Churches to "give serious consideration to economic measures" against Israel to bring an end to its occupation of Palestinian territories is most inspiring in this regard.

Israeli academic institutions are all implicated in their state's racist and colonial policies by providing the practical and ideological support necessary for the maintenance of the occupation. For example, they provide consultancy services to the military and security establishment and sponsor research that justifies ethnic cleansing, extra-judicial killings, racial segregation and land expropriation. No Israeli university body has publicly censured academics producing racist work under the guise of scholarship.

Some well-meaning academics have suggested that joint Palestinian-Israeli academic activities can somehow make peace more attainable. But joint projects are not apolitical - they deliberately disregard the context of colonial oppression and deceptively imply the possibility of achieving peace and reconciliation without addressing the root causes of conflict. The only joint projects that ought to be encouraged are those that contribute to resisting injustice. The Palestinian call for boycott targets Israeli academic institutions, not individuals. It remains a morally and politically sound, non-violent and justified response to Israel's unrelenting colonial oppression.

Omar Barghouti
Lisa Taraki
Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, Bir Zeit

Comment: Israeli leaders and their rabid defenders become infuriated when the obvious comparisons are drawn between apartheid and Israeli treatment of the Palestinians. The usual and expected denunciations of anti-Semitism are once more hauled out and freely hurled. As with the white racists who ran South Africa, many Jews do not consider the Palestinians as being human. Only Jews are human. The rest of us are somewhat less than human.

"If every single cell in a Jewish body entails divinity, is a part of God, then every strand of DNA is a part of God. Therefore, something is special about Jewish DNA. Later, Rabbi Ginsburgh asked rhetorically, 'If a Jew needs a liver, can you take the liver of innocent non-Jew passing by to save him? The Torah would probably permit that. 'Jewish life has infinite value' he explained. 'There is something infinitely more holy and unique about Jewish life than non-Jewish life'". [See next article.]

"When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle." Raphael Eitan, Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defence Forces, New York Times, 14 April 1983.

"We have to kill all the Palestinians unless they are resigned to live here as slaves." Chairman Heilbrun of the Committee for the Re-election of General Shlomo Lahat, the mayor of Tel Aviv, October 1983.

"Jewish blood and a goy's [gentile's] blood are not the same." Israeli Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg, Inferring that killing isn't murder if the victim is Gentile. Jerusalem Post, June 19,1989.

"There was no such thing as Palestinians, they never existed." Golda Maier Israeli Prime Minister June 15, 1969.

"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." Israeli General Matityahu Peled, Ha'aretz, 19 March 1972.

"We shall reduce the Arab population to a community of woodcutters and waiters" Uri Lubrani, PM Ben-Gurion's special adviser on Arab Affairs, 1960. From "The Arabs in Israel" by Sabri Jiryas.

"[The Palestinians are] beasts walking on two legs." Menahim Begin, speech to the Knesset, quoted in Amnon Kapeliouk, 'Begin and the "Beasts"', New Statesman, 25 June 1982. [These quotes and others can be found here.]

One Israeli who has done much to bring to light the racism inherent in Jewish law is Israel Shahak. His book Jewish History, Jewish Religion goes into great detail on how the Jews see non-Jews, a glimpse into what is said behind close doors when the goyim aren't listening.

The following article is taken from a response Shahak wrote to a criticism of his work by an American Jew. The criticism and Shahak's reply can be read in full here.

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Answer to the slanders of Stefan Bialoguski against "Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel" by Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky
Israel Shahak

SOTT Note: The following is excerpted from a much longer reply.

[...] Let me now pass to the more important issue of prohibition of killing in the cases where a Jew kills a non Jew. (There is no dispute that Halacha prohibits both Jews and non Jews to kill a Jew, except under special circumstances, and also prohibits non Jews to kill each other.) As in the case of stealing, Bialoguski quotes at me the general prohibition out of Shulchan Aruch that Jews are prohibited to kill non Jews, even idol worshippers. Jews should be the first to beware of using such general prohibitions as their only defense, since during all the times when they were killed or exterminated the general prohibition against killing was present in the codes of law of the states or religions responsible for their killing. Let me add that when the Indians were massacred in all parts of American continent, often by forces of the state, a law prohibiting killing of anybody was always in the code of the state guilty of murdering or condoning the murder. Legally, and in practice condoning a killing of a person because he belongs to a certain group is done by keeping a general prohibition against killing followed by laws permitting or even enjoining the prohibited act in certain circumstances, or making the killing of human beings of a certain category or under certain circumstances into an act which is not punished or even enjoined.

Let me give some examples of such attitudes out of Halacha itself in case of killing of non Jews by Jews. Since Bialoguski is quoting Shulchan Aruch, composed by rabbi Yoseph Karo, I will quote Karo's opinion about what should be done to non Jews with whom Jews are at war. When Karo comments on Maimonides' rule about Jews "with whom we are not at war" which states that they should neither killed nor saved when in danger ­ contrary to the treatment meted to Jewish heretics who should be killed by any possible way (Maimonides, of Murderer and Preservation of Life, chapter 4, rule 11; quoted in full in "Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel", p. 120), in his commentary "Kesef Mishneh", he adds what should the Jews do with the non Jews with whom they are at war. Writes Karo: "Our rabbi (i.e. Maimonides) used a precise language when he wrote 'non Jews with whom we are not at war', since it is written at the end of Tractate Kidushin, and also in Tractate Sofrim 'You should kill the best of the non Jews'; that means [you should do so] during a war". This horrible law did not remain buried in abstract rabbinic discussion but has been frequently quoted by important rabbis as a guidance to what the State of Israel, and also individual pious Jewish soldiers should actually do.

Out of many such instances which sometimes ­ but not always, I am sorry to say ­ caused a scandal among secular Israeli Jews and the media, but never among the rabbis in the USA, let me quote just three cases. Quite recently, rabbi Ginsburgh (about whom more below) was interviewed by the Hebrew paper "Maariv", one of the three major Israeli papers. When asked how Israel should behave in the current war, Ginsburgh first proposed destroying of Arab property and then: "Secondly, I propose to liquidate all saboteurs. Any who has blood on his hands should be liquidated at once, and let us not to wait for him to sit in prison and be freed afterwards. Nests of saboteurs can be liquidated within one hour. Yamit (a settlement in Sinai, evacuated by orders of Begin in 1982. I. Shahak) which was a worthy Jewish town, was evacuated in one hour. It is possible to do the same to Beit Jallah. Places where are shootings or confrontations should be blown up immediately" Question: "Even if innocent people live in such places?" Answer: "According to Halacha, during the war one makes no distinction. One gives an opportunity to those who want to escape to do so; afterwards one fights against everyone, including children, women and old folks. The entire village should be destroyed. We are speaking about what was done to Sodom and Gomorrah. But under Arafat we speak about murderous leadership hating us, and doing everything until it gets the entire State of Israel. Thus, just as it happened in Sodom and Gomorrah, had there been there a few innocents we, perhaps, could consider further. . But under Arafat most people are totally wicked. Therefore we should say to the few righteous ones: 'go out' and then blow up the entire city" Maariv Friday Supplement, 12 January, 2001).

No Orthodox or Conservative rabbi said a word against this view about what Halacha says Jews should do to Arabs, presumably because they all know that it is the correct view. I also presume that whatever Bialoguski, the ADL and similar Jewish organizations say against me for having translated the learned ruling of rabbi Ginsburgh, none of them will dare to say in public that he misrepresents the Halacha and enter into learned discussion with him about the question whether the Jewish religion in its Orthodox form really enjoins the killing of "children, women and old folks" during war, or whether Palestinians should be compared to the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah and the Israeli army to angels of the Lord who had destroyed them.

The second example was already quoted in my "Jewish History, Jewish Religion (pp. 77-79). It concerns a case of pious Jewish soldoer in the Israeli army who studied in the prestigious religious college "Midrashiyat Noam", who asked his teacher, rabbi Shimon Weiser, "whether it is permitted to kill unarmed men ­ or women and children? Or perhaps we should take revenge on the Arabs?" noting that standing regulations of the Israeli army prohibit such acts. His questions, the learned answer of rabbi Weiser, who condemns the regulations of the Israeli army for being derived from non Jewish sources, and the answer of the soldier in which he specifies what he has learned, were published in the 1974 yearbook of that college. Rabbi Weiser quotes in full the dictum shortened by rabbi Karo. "Rabbi Shimon used to say: 'kill the best of the non Jews, dash the brain of the best of the snakes" as being applicable to what the Jewish soldiers should do during a war. After learned halachic discussion his instructions to pious soldiers are to kill all non Jews except if "it is quite clear that he has no evil intent". The soldier responds: "As for the letter itself, I have understood it as follows: In wartime I am not merely permitted, but enjoined to kill every Arab man and woman whom I chance upon, if there is reason to fear that they help in the war against us, directly or indirectly. And as far as I am concerned I have to kill them even if that might result in an involvement with the military law". I heard about no rabbi who questioned that ruling. My last example is chosen in honor of our newly elected Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon. His first major exploit was the massacre of Kibyeh, in which many Palestinian civilians, including women and children were killed. Since some Israeli Jews (not too many) protested against this, many rabbis rushed to Sharon's defense, proving that the massacre was conducted according to the strictest standards of the Halacha. The most eminent of those rabbis was Rabbi Shaul Israeli, for many years one of the highest rabbinic authorities of the National Religious Party and of the religious Zionism in general, who published an article entitld "Kibyeh Incident According to the Halacha" in the yearly rabbinic journal "The Religion and the State" (in Hebrew "Hadat Ve'Hamdinah") for the year 5713 (1953). The article, a dazzling display of halachic scholarship quoting and discussing every possible source from Talmud till the modern times, comes to following conclusion: "We have established that there exists a special term of 'war of revenge' and this is a war against those who hate the Jews and [there are] special laws applying to such war Accordingly, if the enemies of the Jews had attacked them once but retreated, and they intend to attack them again they are to be defined as the haters of the Jews and a war of revenge should be waged against them. In such a war there is absolutely no obligation to take precautions during warlike acts in order that non-combatants would not be hurt, because during a war both the righteous and wicked are killed. But the war of revenge is based on the example of the war against the Midianites (see Numbers, chapter 31) in which small children were also executed (verse 17, ibid. "Now, therefore, kill every male among the little ones") and we might wonder about this, for how they had sinned? But we have already found in the sayings of our Sages, of blessed memory, that little children have to die because of the sin of their parents And our final conclusion is that we should continue with acts of retaliation and revenge against the haters of the Jews and such acts are considered to be a war of religious obligation (in Hebrew "milhemet mitzvah"). Every calamity and hurt that happens to the enemies, their allies and their children from such actions is caused by them and is [merely] the reward of their sins. There is absolutely no obligation to refrain from acts of retaliation out of an apprehension that innocents would be hit by them, because it is not we who are causing all this but them, and we are innocent".

Indeed, the learned opinion of Rabbi Israeli has been followed, so far as I know, by all Orthodox rabbis of any standing in the case of wars waged by the Jewish State. It is only in wars waged by non Jewish state such as the USA, which does not enjoy the benefit of Biblical and Talmudic precedents, that some of such rabbis have permitted themselves (hypocritically, in my view) to raise humanitarian objections and castigate non Jewish authorities.

Our next consideration will be the issue of punishment prescribed by the Halacha for a Jew who killed a non Jew, compared with punishment for killing a Jew. After all, spitting on the street and murder are both forbidden by law but are, nevertheless, very different acts. The punishment legally inflicted for a given offence shows us the view of the authors of the code about its gravity, and to a great extent also the opinion of the society about it. In case of a religious code, such differences also show us the view about the gravity of the sin committed when a believer does something prohibited by the code of his religion. Just as in Christianity there is a great difference between a mortal and venial sin, so in Orthodox Judaism there is a graduation of sins according to punishment to be inflicted, if possible, for committing them.

The greatest sins are those meriting the punishment of death and the smallest those where no human punishment is to be inflicted, but are left to God's judgment. Killing a Jew is regarded as one of the three worst sins of the first category. However, Maimonides, who like Shulhan Aruch begins his "Laws of Murderer and Preservation of Life" with a general prohibition of killing anybody (chapter 1, rule 1), states a few rules afterwards: "One who kills a resident alien is not to be put to death by a rabbinic court because it is written 'If a man willfully attacks his friend to kill him' (Exodus, chapter 21, verse 14), and it is unnecessary to add he is not put to death for killing a non Jew" (ibid. chapter 2, rule 11). "Mechiltah", an important and ancient collection pf laws from the Talmudic period, states explicitly that the punishment of a Jew who kills a non Jew is "reserved to Heaven" (chapter "mishpatim", section 4).

In the next rule Maimonides states that a Jew who kills a non Jewish slave of any Jew is put to death because "the slave had accepted the commandments of the Jewish religion (in Hebrew "mitzvoth") and became a part of God's inheritance". The same distinction is repeated in the case of accidental killing. In case of Jew who had accidentally killed another Jew the penalty is exile to a special refuge town. A Jew who killed incidentally a non Jew is not punished. In case of a non Jew, even a residential alien, who had accidentally killed a Jew, death penalty is inflicted. (See Maimonides, ibid. chapter 5, rule 3). The Halacha has no system of alternative penalties. One who, for whatever reason, is absolved from a punishment due to him, is free from any further human punishment, except in the case of killing a Jew which will be described below (Maimonides, Laws of Murderer and Preservation of Life, chapter 4, rule 9).

Therefore when Halacha states that a Jew who killed a non Jew is not put to death, this means that he will not receive any human punishment, exactly as stated in "Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel". Bialoguski who object to this statement, cleverly refrains to state that according to Halacha a Jew who killed a non Jew should not be punished; instead he prates about the prohibition of such killing. Yes, killing of non Jews by Jews is prohibited by Halacha in the same way that spitting on street is prohibited in a city; such killings are treated by Orthodox Jews as being venial sins. This is the real reason why Gush Emunim rabbis and let me add, other rabbis as well, who anyhow object to the Israeli code of laws as being "un-Jewish" because it is based on English and latterly also on American law which, contrary to the very Jewish Halacha punishes killers without a distinction of the religion of their victims, try to obtain amnesties or reductions of punishments for every Jew who killed an Arab, but make no such effort in the case of a Jew who killed a Jew. The Hebrew press discusses such cases, which occur frequently, in great detail. I forbear to discuss the purely hypothetical case of an extreme anti-Semite daring to propose in the USA that there should be difference in legal punishment inflicted on one who killed a Christian and one who killed a Jew and try to excuse his offence by claiming that he is, nevertheless, against killing of Jews, just as Bialoguski does.

Even though it is very difficult to inflict a death penalty on a Jew according to the Halacha (it is much easier to inflict it on a non Jew, but this is another issue), murderer of a Jew is put to death in a most barbarous way, described by Maimonides. "One who kills a Jew (literally "who kills souls", in Hebrew "horeg nefashot"), without presence of two witnesses who saw him at the same time but was seen by one after the other; or if he killed before witnesses who did not warn him; or if witnesses were found invalid during a check but not in interrogation (those are necessary conditions to inflict death penalty on a Jew according to the Halacha); then those murderers are imprisoned in a small cell and fed with small amount of bread and a little water until their guts become narrow, and afterwards they are fed with barley until their belly bursts and they die from seriousness of their illness" (Maimonides, Laws of Murderer and Preservation of Life, chapter 4, rule 8). The difference between this treatment, amounting to torturing a person to death, in case of one who killed a Jew and the absence of any human punishment in the case of a Jew who killed a non Jew, shows us the difference between the value of life of a Jew and non Jew in the Halacha, and also explains many things in Israeli politics. It also affords us a glimpse about the kind of state Israel will become, if it becomes a state according to the Halacha, fully attuned to ancestral Jewish morality and tradition, as so many Orthodox Jews desire. It can be presumed that Bialoguski is a part of this tendency.

Let me add that the wish to establish Halacha as law of Israel is particularly strong among those whom "Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel" calls "Messianists" because they believe that they prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah ­ who will, of course, rule according to the Halacha. Gush Emunim movement can be regarded as the most active part of the Messianists.

One of most important aims of "Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel" was to warn people outside Israel, but especially the American Jews (who because of their ignorance of Judaism tend to be especially gullible about the aims and the principles of Orthodox Jews in general and those in Israel in particular) about what Israel influenced by Jewish Orthodoxy might do when Halacha will fully determine its policies. In my view, proved by the examples I quoted above, influence of Halacha will bring about atrocities worse than any committed by Israel so far, but also dangers. Many American Jews may not be very concerned by dangers to Arabs or to world peace, but it is obvious that policies based on Halachic ruling of what the Jews can do to non Jews when they are powerful enough will turn to be also dangerous to the Jews themselves. In the first place, they will corrupt them.

The trivial value of life of non Jew in Halacha is shown also by its manner of reasoning why Jews are prohibited to kill non Jews and by Halachic laws about life of non Jews both ancient and modern. According to great majority of Halachic authorities the prohibition to kill non Jews is not derived by the Halacha from the commandment "You shall not kill" (in Hebrew it is "You shall not murder") in the Decalogue, just as we have seen above that the prohibition not to steal from not Jews is not derived from the commandment "You shall not steal" in it (see the detailed survey in Talmudic Encyclopedia, the original Hebrew, volume 5, article "goy", pp. 355-356.

The survey adds that the prohibition of killing non Jews is valid only in the absence of war, since "during war the saying 'kill the best of non Jews' applies.) In fact, Halacha is based on complete separation between Jews and non Jews. I will illustrate this attitude by one law not affecting the lives of non Jews, showing both the extent of the separation and the extent of tolerance granted by Halacha to non Jews when Jews have the power. Writes Maimonides: "A non Jew who studies Torah (Old Testament and Talmud are included in this term) is guilty of offense meriting death. He should study nothing except their Seven Commandments (the sa called Noahide Commandments given to Noah). In the same manner a non Jew who did not work on Sabbath, even [if he did not work] on another day of the week, if he made it into a Sabbath, is guilty of offense meriting death. Needless to say he is guilty [of offence meriting death] if he had established a holiday.

The general rule is that one should not allow them to innovate about religion from their own reasoning. A non Jew should either convert to Judaism and accept all commandments, or stay in his religion without either adding or subtracting anything from it. [However], if he (a non Jew) did study the Torah or refrained from working on the Sabbath, or innovated anything, he should be beaten up and punished and be told that he is guilty of offence meriting death for what he had done, but he is not executed" (Laws of Kings, chapter 10, rule 9).

Let me add a few other laws or modern rabbinic pronouncements where disregard for a life of a non Jew or even putting him to death is especially glaring. Let us begin with the case of sexual intercourse between Jewish male and non Jewish female, regarded as much worse by the Halacha than the equally forbidden sexual intercourse between Jewish female and non Jewish male, one presumes because of the attitude to the female as a temptress prevalent in Judaism no less than in other religions. Maimonides pronounces: "If a Jew has coitus with a non Jewish woman, whether she is be a child of three or an adult, whether married or unmarried, and even if he is a minor aged only nine years and one day ­ because he had a willful coitus with her, she must be killed as is the case with a beast, because through her a Jew got into trouble (Laws of Prohibited Intercourse, chapter 12, rule 10; the law is also enunciated in the article "goy" of the Talmudic Encyclopedia). The words "as is the case with a beast" refer to the halachic law stating that a beast with which a Jew had sexual relations is to be killed, for a similar reason to the killing of non Jewish female. Even more important is the prohibition on the Jews to save the life of a non Jew in normal times, and especially the prohibition to violate Sabbath for the sake of saving a non Jewish life as the Jews are enjoined to do for sake of saving a Jewish life. The subject is treated in "Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel" (p. 120), and I have treated it more extensively in my "Jewish History, Jewish Religion" (pp. 80-87), so I will quote here only one law. If Jews see on the Sabbath a ship in danger of sinking they are forbidden to violate the Sabbath in order to save it "if nothing at all is known about the identity of those on board", because the probability is that passengers are non Jews. This pronouncement occurs in one of the major commentaries on Shulchan Aruch written by renowned Rabbi Akiva Eiger who died only in 1837, and the commentary is printed regularly with the text (ibid. Orach Hayim, paragraph 329). I assume that Bialoguski can ask rabbi Lauffer of Jerusalem about his behavior when he sees on the Sabbath a ship in danger in the case he was not previously informed whether there are Jews among the passengers. Rabbi Lauffer must be thoroughly familiar with this law. I have not yet heard about one Orthodox rabbi opposing rabbi Eiger or any Reform rabbi referring to this law, although I should add that opposing him is not enough: he should be condemned as an immoral person, in the same way as the worst anti-Semites are.

After many quotations from Hebrew let me finish my vindication with an English language quotation, taken from an important Jewish publication appearing in New York, and so easily available to all, about the real attitude of Orthodox Jews to non Jews. On April 26, 1996 "Jewish Weekly" important American Jewish magazine published a long and very respectful interview of its staff writer, Lawrence Cohler, with rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburgh, under the title: "Hero Or Racist? Are Jewish lives really more valuable than non-Jewish ones? Radical rabbi just freed from an Israeli prison thinks so".

Let me explain that Ginsburgh was imprisoned without trial some time after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, because as one who had publicly approved from the halachic point of view the massacre of Baruch Goldstein, and lauded that murderer to the skies, was suspected of some involvement in encouraging the murder of Rabin. Let me quote from that interview (worthy of being studied by everyone who wants to know what Orthodox Judaism is. Ginsburgh is correctly described in that interview as an important leader of the Lubavitch Hassidic sect. Let me quote some of Ginsburgh views from that interview. "Citing explicit instructions he says he received from the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Ginsburgh has also strongly defended Jewish revenge attacks on Arabs, at least after-the-fact.

Whether he would tell a Jew to engage in in such a random attacks beforehand 'is a different story', Rabbi Ginsburgh said. But after such an attack took place in response to an Arab provocation, 'You can't even hint it was a bad thing'. Among other things, he explained, the jurisdiction of an Israeli court in such a case is illegitimate because 'Legally, if a Jew does kill a non-Jew, he's not called a murderer. He didn't transgress the Sixth Commandment: Thou Shall not murder. This applies only to Jews killing Jews. Therefore [in a Jewish state] his punishment is given over to heaven' rather than to a secular court". Let me emphasize the key word in this morally repulsive passage is "random", and that Halacha as correctly enunciated by Ginsburgh permits Jews to kill not only Arabs but non Jews in general at random, if other non Jews "made a provocation". In other words, Halacha allows Jews to lynch non Jews.

In terms of the Halacha Ginsburgh is simply accurate and no rabbi had tried to prove him wrong. What I had stated above and what was written in "Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel" is only a milder version of what Ginsburgh said, but the real offence was to say it to everybody and not to a Jewish audience. The interview says that "in 1989, Rabbi Ginsburgh was personally involved in the events that led to such a killing when he led a large group of his yeshiva students on an armed West Bank 'walking tour' that slipped around Israeli Army restrictions and assertively through a Palestinian village. The tour ended in a melee that saw the rabbi stoned by angry villagers, the yeshiva boys rampaging through the village setting fires and vandalizing, and a 13-year-old Palestinian girl who was sitting in her house shot by one of the yeshiva tourists". In other words, the event described by The Jewish Week as "tour" was just a pogrom, one of the many organized in the West Bank by Halacha-keeping Jews in the last decades. The most interesting thing about those Jewish pogroms was that no rabbi of importance condemned any of them. In this case, no Orthodox rabbi found a word to say about that "13-year-old Palestinian girl", who was murdered by Halacha-keeping Jews. "At the trial of the yeshiva boy charged with the killing, Rabbi Ginsburgh said bluntly, "The people of Israel must rise and declare in public that a Jew and a goy are not, God forbid, the same. Any trial that assumes that Jews and goyim are equivalent is a travesty of justice".

In accord with this principle of total difference between Jews and non Jews and absolute inferiority of the latter, Rabbi Ginsburgh asserted that "If every single cell in a Jewish body entails divinity, is a part of God, then every strand of DNA is a part of God. Therefore, something is special about Jewish DNA. Later, Rabbi Ginsburgh asked rhetorically, 'If a Jew needs a liver, can you take the liver of innocent non-Jew passing by to save him? The Torah would probably permit that. 'Jewish life has infinite value' he explained. 'There is something infinitely more holy and unique about Jewish life than non-Jewish life'".

On the day of the publication of this article, the item about halachic permission to stop "innocent non-Jewish passing by" tt his liver, this part of interview was translated into Hebrew and published in Haaretz, the most prestigious Israeli paper, by its correspondent Yair Shaleg. (The story did not appear in the New York Times.) A few days afterwrds, Sheleg called on Orthodox rabbis to oppose this view and declare that it contradicts the Halacha. No one did so till the present day.

Let me add that the few New York rabbis asked by The Jewish Week to comment on Ginsburgh did not say that his views are wrong or that they should be condemned. One said they are based on "statements out of context". Another admitted that "The sad thing is, these statements are in our books," but they are "purely theoretical." (Apparently, the murder of that 13-old-girl was "purely theoretical" because she was not Jewish.)

No one said even a fraction of what I presume he would say had similar statement been made with the word "Jew" and "non-Jew" reversed. In addition to what I had quoted in this Vindication, I conclude from the refusal of any Orthodox rabbi (including "Rabbi Lauffer of Jerusalem" so trusted by Bialoguski) that Ginsburgh's views represent correctly the views of Halacha and of Jewish Orthodoxy about non Jews, and about how Jews should treat them if only they have the power to behave according to Halacha.

Let me add to those who kept silent because, presumably, they agree with Ginsburgh about the non Jews, not only in the Middle East, the Anti Defamation League and similar Jewish organization who follow the media to protest against what they consider a defamation of Judaism. It can be presumed that Ginsburgh's views are for the ADL not a defamation but a part of Judaism. It is against this situation that I wrote this Vindication.

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Dear President Bush

April 19, 2005

Dear President Bush,

On the eve of (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon's visit to your ranch in Texas, my son Khalid was playing football (soccer) near our doorsteps. In less than an hour, he was brought back in a bundle of blood. The Israeli soldiers have killed him and two other playmates of his.

While you were receiving your visitor, Mr. President, we were preparing for the children's funeral. I hoped you would condemn the killing, first as a father, and second as president of the world's greatest power.

The three children were guiltless, except for being born Palestinian in Palestine. And there I was, another bereaved mother, joining the ranks of thousands of Palestinian mothers who lost their children to the bullets or prisons of the occupation.

In spite of the grief we live, thanks to your unconditional support to the Israeli occupation, I cannot find it in my heart to wish you, or any other mother or father, the pain of loosing your child. The loss is too grave to be endured; it shatters your soul and heart, it could drive one insane.

Your discussions of the "issues" were irrelevant to my pain. The issue, Mr. President, is not withdrawal from Gaza, or evacuating the settlers from Gaza. Once (former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak) Rabin said it all loud and clear -- as you might remember -- when he wished he would wake up one day "to find that Gaza had been swallowed by the sea."

The core issue, Mr. President, is occupation and settlement. Two roads towards one goal: depriving us of our lands and waters, after killing some and forcing the rest out. When you describe our struggle for freedom as terrorism, and Israeli crimes as kin to your war on terrorism, you are entrapping Americans in an unjust war. You are abolishing the legitimate Palestinian rights to state and freedom. You are allowing Sharon to kill Palestinians wherever and whenever he wants, even if they were only few children playing football.

I watched on hoping for a stand against the settlements, where immigrants are being imported to consume Palestinian space. I hoped you would ask for dismantling -- not freezing -- them, as the U.N. Security Council Resolutions demand. Incidentally, Mr. President, there are no legitimate and illegitimate settlements. Settlements -- i.e., Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands -- are only illegitimate, as all international norms dictate. Occupation is a breach to the human rights and freedom you proselytize for media consumption when other countries are concerned.

I hoped you would express anger at the Israeli apartheid wall (the separation barrier). Do you not in your speeches call for "building bridges" between people?

I hoped for more anger at the Israeli tampering with the identity of Jerusalem. Is it not the holy city of all three monotheistic religions, where no one can exclude the other?

I wished the walk around your ranch would inspire an objection to Israelis uprooting our olive trees, poisoning our water wells, or shooting our livestock. We live on those things Mr. President; you only take pleasure in your ranch.

I swallowed my pain, hoping for a word to set the hearts of Palestinian mothers at peace, and reassure them that Sharon will no longer assassinate their children. The longer I watched, the more it seemed that I wouldn't be the last Palestinian mother to loose her child to an Israeli bullet, just as I was not the first.

I wondered if you had seen the assassination of the child Muhammad al-Durra on TV five years ago. Ever since, the Israeli troops have assassinated hundreds of Palestinian children and thousands of Palestinian men and women. You can't have seen any of those killings, otherwise you would have condemned the crimes.

Consumed in my wishful thinking, I woke up to your cordial grin presenting Sharon with a box of chocolate wrapped up in an Israeli flag. Sharon has deprived my child of life, myself of joy, and my fellow Palestinians of freedom and independence. Why do you still furnish him with financial and political support, Apache helicopters, and now chocolate?

Mr. President, I hear you calling for freedom and democracy, why don't you call for Palestinian freedom and democracy too? What prompts your indifference? Our human tragedy, Mr. President, is one of the cruelest in the 20th century.

Khalid, my son, and his friends were killed just because the Israeli government wanted the lands of their fathers and forefathers. They were not even resisting; they were just playing football.

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Palestine US exhibit stirs controversy

By Linda Isam Haddad in Los Angeles
Wednesday 20 April 2005, 6:05 Makka Time, 3:05 GMT

A unique art exhibition showcasing the works of 23 Palestinian artists is facing uncertain times in the United States, with major museums refusing to play host.

Chronicling the modern history of Palestinians since 1948, Made in Palestine had its first showing in the United States at the Station Museum in Houston, in May 2003.

The exhibit displays the works of selected Palestinian artists from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as well as those living in exile in countries such as Jordan, Syria and Germany.

Currently on display in San Francisco, the opening attracted up to a thousand people. But alongside the accolades, it has also drawn the ire of some politicians.

As a result, most museums are fearful that hosting an exhibit that is pro-Palestinian could cost them their funding.

"I thought I had enough contacts to get this exhibit shown in museums across the nation, but I found out that even people who I considered close contacts said off-the-record they would lose their museum funding if they were to hold an exhibit that was pro-Palestinian," lamented James Harithas, curator of the Made in Palestine exhibition.

Once the current show draws to a close on 21 April, organisers suspect it could be curtains for the exhibition.

Negative imagery

"We are dealing with immense ignorance here and it's unfortunate that people have one image of Palestinians and automatically deny anything created by the Palestinian people," Harithas told

Other art connoisseurs shared his dismay.

"It is absolutely tragic the exhibit is only showing in San Francisco for a short time," said Samia Halaby, a Palestinian artist and retired professor of Yale University's school of art.

New York protest

Two New York legislators and an assemblyman protested against the fundraiser in written statements, calling the exhibit a promotion of terrorism and anti-American as well as anti-Israel.

Legislators George Oros and Jim Maisano said the fundraiser promoted offensive art that glorified terrorism.

Comment: When young school girls are shot in the head and branded terrorists by citizens of what is alleged to be the greatest Democracy on earth, what hope can there be for our future? As is noted in the above article, the problem with America is the "immense ignorance" among the population, which is deliberately crafted by the government-contolled media, that allows them to hold and express views that sanction mass murder by their elected representatives. While the black out on truth has been almost complete in the US, there have been moments when the truth was there for all to see...for example

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Flashback: Bush's Iraq WMDs joke backfires

Friday, 26 March, 2004
The president could be seen bending over to peer at the floor of the Oval Office
US President George W Bush has sparked a political row by making a joke about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

At a black-tie dinner for journalists, Mr Bush narrated a slide show poking fun at himself and other members of his administration.

One pictured Mr Bush looking under a piece of furniture in the Oval Office, at which the president remarked: "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be here somewhere."

After another one, showing him scouring the corner of a room, Mr Bush said: "No, no weapons over there," he said.

And as a third picture, this time showing him leaning over, appeared on the screen the president was heard to say: "Maybe under here?"

If George Bush thinks his deceptive rationale for going to war is a laughing matter, then he's even more out of touch than we thought

The audience at Wednesday's 60th annual dinner of the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association obviously thought the quips hilarious - there were laughs all round - but the next morning, in the cold light of day, things looked far less amusing.

The joke about the fruitless search for Iraqi WMDs so far, Washington's prime justification for the US-led invasion, has been branded as tasteless and ill-judged.

'Undermining' sacrifices

Mr Bush's election challenger Senator John Kerry described the president's attitude as "stunningly cavalier".

"If George Bush thinks his deceptive rationale for going to war is a laughing matter, then he's even more out of touch than we thought," he said in a written statement.

"This cheapens the sacrifice that American soldiers and their families are dealing with every single day."

More than 500 US soldiers have died in the war and thousands more have been injured.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was asked what he thought of this incident at a press conference on Friday, but he dodged the issue, saying that he couldn't comment as he hadn't been at the event.

Comment: In this one incident, Bush's complete lack of empathy for the suffering of others was on display for all to see, yet most brushed it off as simply poor taste. When the time comes, as it surely must, for the Bush administration to demand complete allegiance from all of its citizens, we suspect that many will come to experience first hand Bush's poor taste, or rather, his complete lack of empathy for the suffering of ANY human being, regardless of nationality.

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Israeli army to reopen shooting case
Thursday 21 April 2005, 15:40 Makka Time, 12:40 GMT

The Israeli army says it is reopening proceedings against an officer cleared by a court martial of charges he illegally used his weapon in the shooting death of British filmmaker James Miller.

A military statement said on Thursday the advocate-general had filed an appeal against last week's ruling by a brigadier-general acquitting the soldier, a lieutenant in the Beduin Desert Reconnaissance Battalion, despite a military court recommendation that harsh disciplinary action be taken against him.

The statement did not give a date for the appeal hearing.

British filmmaker James Miller was shot in the neck in May 2003 by Israeli troops in Rafah, adjacent to the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt.

Military prosecutors could not prove that the lieutenant killed Miller, but they did say he fired in contravention of standing rules of engagement, for which he should be punished.

Miller was filming a documentary on the lives of Palestinian children. The killing was filmed by an APTN cameraman, whose footage was included in Miller's documentary and later broadcast on HBO.

White flag

The footage of Miller's killing shows that the cameraman and his colleagues, who were leaving the home of a Palestinian family in the Rafah refugee camp after dark, carried a white flag and called out to let troops know they were British journalists.

Miller's widow and the British government had protested against the earlier acquittal.

His wife, Sophy, and his sister, Katie, said they were told by military investigators last month that the officer admitted to firing his weapon in Miller's direction.

They said they were told that the officer acknowledged he knew when he fired the weapon that journalists were in the house, and that the area surrounding it was well-lit.

Comment: Because Miller was a British subject, slightly more pressure can be brought to bear in his case. The hundreds if not thousands of Palestinians who have been murdered by Israeli troops under similar circumstances, that is, the Israelis knew there was no threat but shot anyway, perhaps for the sport, will never receive justice. The above article by Shahak makes this very, very clear.

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Yale Divinity Consultants Warned Air Force
By ROBERT WELLER, Associated Press Writer
Wed Apr 20,10:42 PM ET

DENVER - Consultants from Yale Divinity School told the Air Force Academy last summer that a Protestant chaplain had promoted Christianity with a fire-and-brimstone warning during cadet basic training.

The Yale report, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, was compiled after the visitors attended the training at the academy's request in July.

Academy spokesman Johnny Whitaker said Wednesday that commanders had taken the Yale report into consideration when they developed religious tolerance classes that are now mandatory for cadets and staff.

The classes were a response to complaints that evangelical Christians wield so much influence at the school that anti-Semitism and other forms of religious harassment have become pervasive.

"We're making strides out here. We recognize the problem," Whitaker said.

The academy, still emerging from a sexual assault scandal, had asked the Yale team to review how the school's chaplains serve cadets.

Kristen Leslie, a Yale professor of pastoral care who led the group, said the chaplain told 600 cadets "to go back to their tents and tell their fellow cadets that those who are not born again will burn in the fires of hell."

She said the fact that the people speaking to cadets were in positions of power "suggests the cadets were supposed to assume this was the party line."

In the religious tolerance classes, cadets and staff are told that teachers and commanders should not invite cadets to attend their churches. Whitaker said the academy is developing a follow-up program that will include firmer boundaries on permissible behavior.

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State Department Cuts Data from Terror Report
By Arshad Mohammed, Reuters
Mon Apr 18, 6:27 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The State Department said on Monday it will stop releasing annual statistics on terrorism deaths after officials botched last year's count, leaving the intelligence community to publish and explain the data.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the National Counterterrorism Center, a newly created office responsible for compiling the statistics, would release them. It was unclear when this would happen.

Critics suggested the State Department might be removing the data from its terrorism report because they could show a rise in attacks and deaths and raise questions about the Bush administration's claims to be winning the war on terrorism.

Philip Zelikow, a top aide to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who advised her on whether to stop publishing the numbers, denied this and said he did not know what the recent data showed.

"That wasn't the reason for the decision," said Zelikow, who was executive director of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. He argued that the NCTC should release the data because a law overhauling U.S. intelligence agencies last year gave it responsibility for compiling them.

"If the numbers ultimately end up showing that the problem has gotten worse, then the administration will still have some questions to answer regardless of who puts out the numbers," he said. "One way or another I am sure the numbers are going to be made available to Congress."

The State Department was fiercely criticized last year when it initially used faulty data compiled by the intelligence community in its 2003 "Patterns of Global Terrorism Report" to argue the United States was winning the war on terrorism.

The government later revised the figures, saying the number of people killed and injured in terrorist attacks in 2003 was more than double what it had first reported.

The CIA, which is handling media inquiries for the nascent NCTC, said no decisions had yet been made on what data it would provide. [...]

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U.S. should 'close borders' with Mexico, governor says
By Laura Kurtzman
Mercury News
Wed, Apr. 20, 2005

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday the United States should "close the borders'' with Mexico, in answer to a question about what policies he would recommend on immigration.

"It's a federal issue, and the only thing I can say and add to this is, really, close the borders,'' Schwarzenegger said during a question-and-answer session at a national convention for newspaper publishers in San Francisco. "Close the borders in California and all across between Mexico and the United States, because I think it is just unfair to have all of those people coming across and to have the borders open the way it is and have this kind of a lax situation. I think we here in California have to still finish the border.''

Margita Thompson, the governor's press secretary, was quick to tell reporters that Schwarzenegger did not really mean what he said at the Newspaper Association of America conference. "He means secure the borders,'' she said.

However, the governor made a similar remark during the 2003 recall election in an interview with Fox News.

"We have to close the borders, make them tighter,'' he said Tuesday. He then he went on to speak about the need to "negotiate with them,'' referring apparently to political leaders in Mexico. [...]

Comment: As the U.S. moves ever closer towards being a full-fledged police state, Gov. Schwarzenegger may soon get his wish. When the borders do finally close, however, it won't be the Mexicans that are kept from entering, but regular Americans who'll be kept from leaving.

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Schwarzenegger Apologizes For Border Remark
NBC San Diego
2:28 pm PDT April 20, 2005

SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger moved quickly Wednesday to apologize for suggesting that California's border with Mexico should be closed in an effort to solve the nation's illegal immigration problem.

Schwarzenegger said he misspoke in comments to newspaper editors and publishers Tuesday, intending to say the border should be secured. The governor blamed the error on his sometimes flawed use of English -- his second language.

"Yesterday was a total screw-up in the words I used," the governor said at a press conference. "Because instead of closing, I meant securing. I think maybe my English, I need to go back to school and study a little bit."

The contrition seemed to quell the issue at the Capitol. Hispanic lawmakers -- many of whom are also rival Democrats -- said they accepted his apology.

"I don't think the governor identifies himself with that kind of rhetoric," said Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles. "I don't know why he said it but I'm very pleased he has totally removed himself from those folks who espouse that kind of hatred."

Nunez's office, however, pointed out that Schwarzenegger said something very similar in a 2003 interview with Fox TV host Bill O'Reilly.

Margita Thompson, Schwarzenegger's spokeswoman, said it was unfortunate Nunez was promoting a "story that has no merit." [...]

"We have a terrific relationship with Mexico," Schwarzenegger said. "I filmed four movies in Mexico, I love to go on vacation to Mexico. We have a great trade agreement with Mexico."

Thompson said that by securing the border, the governor means that existing immigration laws should be better enforced, that there should be better security that people and goods are crossing back and forth properly.

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Woman Claims She Was Shocked 15 Times With Taser Gun
Wed Apr 20, 6:15 PM ET

Patricia Skelly says she was shocked with a Taser gun 15 times after her arrest last month in North Florida on Easter Sunday.

She and her attorney Ellis Rubin say pictures show the scars from the Taser burns that cover her back and legs.

Skelly was staying at a motel in Valparaiso and police were called when she was 20 minutes late checking out.

Skelly, who is a 47-year-old mother of two who was staying alone at the motel, says she was taken to the Okaloosa County correctional facility where either the police officers or the corrections staff, she can't remember which, shocked her with a Taser again and again.

"I just don't want this happening to anybody else. I lived through 15 Tasers and it was the most horrendous experience," Skelly said.

"At one point I just pretended like I was dead because I thought if I pretended like I was dead then they would stop," she said.

Skelly says she has no criminal record and only a minor past issue with drugs. She says she was trying to move back to Florida, after raising two boys in Vermont.

Valparaiso police charged her with trespassing and resisting arrest with violence.

A department spokesperson said no Valparaiso officer used a Taser gun on Skelly, but added she could not speak for corrections staff at the jail.

Attorney Ellis Rubin said, "Handcuffed and weighing 110 pounds and she resisted arrest? I feel they wrote that to justify the Tasering."

Rubin will represent Skelly at her arraignment next month and he says he will try to identify the officers that he says had no need or right to use a Taser gun on Skelly so many times, if at all.

"It's just not right what happened to me and how I lived through this, I don't know," Skelly said.

Comment: Of all the recent instances of police brutality, how many have resulted in the dismissal of the officers involved and/or criminal charges? Law enforcement officials in the US have carte blanche to brutalize and effectively torture ordinary citizens who haven't even committed any crime. Who needs electrified bed frames in a filthy cell buried inside a prison somewhere when every officer can be equipped with a taser?

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Warning on spread of state surveillance
Richard Norton-Taylor
Thursday April 21, 2005
The Guardian

Governments are building a "global registration and surveillance infrastructure" in the US-led "war on terror", civil liberty groups warned yesterday.

The aim is to monitor the movements and activities of entire populations in what campaigners call "an unprecedented project of social control".

The warning came from the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, including the American Civil Liberties Union, and Statewatch, a UK-based bulletin which tracks developments in the EU.

Article continues They point to the system whereby all visitors to the US are to be digitally photographed and fingerprinted. The EU has agreed that member states must fingerprint all passport holders by the end of 2007. The information will be held on databases.

National ID cards, they warn, will become a "globally interoperable biometric passport". The setting up of airlines' passenger name records (PNRs) could include more than 60 different kinds of information, including meal choices which could reveal personal, religious or ethnic affiliations.

The US and EU governments are expanding legal powers to eavesdrop and to store the product of intercepted personal communications, the groups warn.

They also point to an agreement between Europol - the EU's incipient police headquarters - and the US giving what they say will be an unlimited number of American agencies access to sensitive information on the race, political opinions, religious beliefs, health and sexual life of individuals.

The groups point to increasingly close cooperation between national police, security, intelligence, and military establishments.

To achieve their ends, they say, governments have suspended judicial oversight over law enforcement agents and public officials, concentrated unprecedented power in the hands of the executive arm of government, and rolled back criminal law and due process protections that balance the rights of individuals against the power of the state.

These initiatives, say the civil liberty groups, are not effective in identifying terrorists.

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Woman accuses Bolton of harassment
By Barbara Slavin, USA TODAY
April 21, 2005

The Bush administration's nominee to be ambassador to the United Nations once threw a file folder and a tape dispenser at an American businesswoman in Moscow, disparaged her weight and alleged she was gay in an attempt to get her to withdraw criticism of a foreign-aid project, the woman said Wednesday.

In a telephone interview, Melody Townsel, who heads her own public relations firm in Dallas, discussed allegations she made in a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before the panel began confirmation hearings on John Bolton, who was until recently the State Department's top diplomat for arms control.

Bolton's nomination is in jeopardy because of last-minute objections by Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, who told the committee Tuesday that allegations about Bolton's behavior suggest he does not meet standards of propriety appropriate for such an important position. Faced with objections from Voinovich and at least two other Republican senators, the committee agreed to postpone a vote on Bolton's nomination until next month. [...]

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Bush's X-Files

Fake Fights, Sleights of Hand and Sucker Punches
April 21, 2005

From the X-files of political conspiracy theory, here's a nasty thought: What if Bush and Karl Rove aren't really expecting to win on Social Security?

What if this whole campaign and road show is a grand diversion designed to keep Democrats, and especially progressives and the labor movement, all worked up and focused on saving Social Security, while the White House and congressional Republicans (and their quizling Democratic supporters like Joe Lieberman) do major damage in myriad other areas.

Notice how little effective opposition there was in Congress, and especially out in the street and in communities, over the bankruptcy bill, over the latest round of $82 billion in funding for the War against Iraq, over the restrictions on class action lawsuits.

Look at how the voting integrity issue, the question of fraud in the 2004 election, and drilling in the Artic Refuge, have all died away.

Look at how little attention is being paid to the Congressional assault on liberal judges.

When you consider that this president is among the least popular chief executives to have won a second term in the history of the White House (if he indeed won at all), and that his party's majority in both houses of Congress is thin, it's nothing short of astonishing that he's been having such an easy time of it, legislatively.

One might even argue that there's method to the madness of putting rabid dogs like John Bolton up for a nothing job like UN ambassador--a post that has traditionally been the equivalent of being put out to pasture. Like the campaign against Social Security, it gets the more progressive Democrats all riled up, but ends up having them waste time and energy opposing something that, in the grand scheme of things, is really rather meaningless.

Comment: Lindorff does have a good point. After all, Bush has already declared the UN to be irrelevant during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

The Democrats, who at this point stand for nothing, are particularly vulnerable to such a strategy of diversion, because, with nothing to campaign or stand for, they are looking for sound-bite friendly issues to bluster on about, without having to really do anything of substance.

The administration has handed them several of these non-issue issues to play with already.

Viewed this way, there is really no downside for the White House. If the president loses on Social Security, he can just say he tried. If the Democrats ultimately beat back the idea of private accounts in place of the current system for younger workers, and a compromise is found that involves offering private accounts on top of Social Security, the president will claim that as a victory (and he'll be correct).

As for Bolton, if his nomination is defeated with the help of one or two Republican votes, it will be a defeat for Bush but so what? The Democrats in Congress, being the wusses that they are, will not be emboldened by that victory to start blocking other more important appointments. More likely, they'll figure that they'd better avoid looking like obstructionists, and will support the next batch of right-wing hacks and charlatans the White House puts up for federal posts.

Comment: Remember the Democrats' comment about being perceived as "obstinate"?

House Democrats have decided to quit emphasizing that they will not negotiate changes to Social Security until President Bush drops his idea for private accounts. The switch in strategy comes after Democrats learned from focus groups that people frown on the lawmakers for being obstinate.

"People feel like it doesn't show a good-faith effort," said a top House aide, who like several others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the internal data. "It makes us seem like we're 'typical politicians.'"

Bolton could, in other words, be like the helmet on a stick that gets held up during a trench war, so that a platoon can make a charge while the enemy is concentrating its fire on the empty hat.

As long as the Democratic Party continues to play defense, and refuses to challenge the underlying pro-corporate, anti-worker, imperial agenda of the Bush administration, Bush and Rove will be able to keep Congressional Democrats, mainstream Democratic voters and even the left running around from issue to issue like ants disoriented after the rock covering their home has been lifted.

Meanwhile, while they scurry around ineffectively, the U.S. economy is being hollowed out, health insurance is being terminated by even large corporate employers, the environment is being destroyed, schools are being turned into test centers, the country is getting dragged ever deeper into an endless war, cities are falling back into decay, the Constitution is being trashed, and corporations and the rich are getting ever richer.

It's all devilishly clever.

Dave Lindorff is the author of This Can't Be Happening. He can be reached at:

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Housing starts slide 18%

Decline is biggest in 14 years; weather accounts for some of the decline.
April 19, 2005: 1:49 PM EDT

NEW YORK - The news was bad: Housing starts plunged 17.6 percent in March, marking their steepest drop in more than 14 years, a Commerce Department report showed Tuesday.

But analysts weren't ready to use that indicator to call an end to the housing boom just yet.

"You have to realize that [starts] declined from a level in February that was a 20-year high," David Joy, capital markets strategist for American Express Financial Advisors. "If you look at the average for the first quarter, it is still the highest rate in over 20 years."

The weather was another factor, according to Dave Seiders, chief economist with the National Association of Home Builders. He notes that builder permits for March, though down 4 percent, were still fairly strong and an indication that demand is still healthy. Since builders don't tend to take out costly permits unless they plan to use them, a big discrepency between starts and permits can point to poor weather holding up construction.

"I was surprised [by the decline in starts]," said Seiders, who like most economists was expecting housing starts to decline between 4 percent and 5 percent. "But I'm not panicked when I look at the rest of the report."

Some of the decline, however, may be attributable to builders turning a little more cautious. One concern among builders, Seiders said, is that speculators are buying in new housing developments, which drives demand in the short term but could show up as excess supply down the road. "If the investor community should get worried, we could have a wholesale tumbling." [...]

Single-family housing starts slid 14.4 percent to a 1.539 million unit pace, the largest drop since January 1991, when they fell 19.6 percent. Starts on structures with five or more units also tumbled, falling 31.6 percent and marking the biggest decline since a 38.3 percent drop in March 2000.

Housing starts fell 29.3 percent in the U.S. Midwest, 18.0 percent in the South, 12.7 percent in the West and 3.6 percent in the Northeast, the Commerce Department said.

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Two boys, 10, charged with sexual assault
Associated Press
Published on: 04/20/05

LAGRANGE - Authorities in LaGrange have charged two 10-year-boys with sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl.

LaGrange police Sgt. Roger Pointer said the boys are charged with kidnapping and aggravated sodomy.

All three children live in the same apartment complex.

Pointer said police were called to the apartment complex around 7 p.m. Monday. He said the girl was walking to a playground when the boys walked up to her and made sexual comments.

The girl told them to leave her alone and she continued walking toward the playground. He said the boys then grabbed her, took her in some bushes and sexually assaulted her.

The boys, who are both in the fourth grade, left after the alleged incident. A woman at the apartment heard the girl crying and started talking to her.

A court appearance for the boys has been scheduled for Thursday in Troup County Juvenile Court.

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Prosecutors: Slain Girl Was Buried Alive
April 21, 2005

HOMOSASSA, Fla. - A 9-year-old girl was found raped, bound and buried alive behind the mobile home where her alleged killer was living, state prosecutors said in newly released documents.

Jessica Lunsford's body was found March 19 buried, kneeling and clutching a purple stuffed dolphin just 150 yards from her house in Homosassa, about 60 miles north of Tampa, according to the documents released Wednesday.

The body was wrapped in two plastic trash bags knotted at her head and feet in a grave covered by a mound of leaves, the state attorney's office said in the documents.

Jessica was found wearing shorts and a shirt - different from the pink nightgown her family said she was wearing when they reported her missing Feb. 24, the documents show.

Detective David Strickland wrote that Jessica's hands appeared to be bound in front of her with speaker wire. Strickland also wrote that a medical examiner noted signs of sexual battery.

Jessica died of asphyxiation, according to a coroner's report. A convicted sex offender, John Evander Couey, 46, is charged in her slaying. He has pleaded not guilty.

Officials said they believe Jessica may have been alive in Couey's home while police and volunteers searched for her. After she was killed, Couey fled to Georgia. [...]

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Arrest made in 2 court bomb threats
By Alicia A. Caldwell | Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted April 20, 2005

DELAND -- A DeBary man investigators say was trying to avoid a court appearance has been arrested on charges that he called in two bomb threats, including one about a "dirty bomb," that shut down Volusia County courthouses.

Records show that 36-year-old Mark J. Frisch, who has been arrested on two felony counts of making a false report of planting a bomb, was scheduled to go before a judge twice in the past year for child-support hearings. But on both days the courthouses were shut down after 911 dispatchers received threats about a series of bombs, Volusia County Sheriff's Office investigators said.

The first threat was made April 12, 2004, by a man who called 911 and said that there were "seven bombs in the Volusia County Courthouse in DeLand set to go off at 10 a.m. this morning. Free the innocents."

A second threat was called in on Jan. 19. That time, investigators said, the caller told a dispatcher that a man who was "pretty nuts" put six bombs in courthouses around the county.

"One of 'em is dirty, with depleted uranium he got from the Army...," the caller told a dispatcher, according to reports. "They're supposed to go off before 10 o'clock."

The threats temporarily shut down courthouses in the county, even briefly delaying jury selection in Roy Lee McDuffie's double-murder trial in January, and left Volusia County sheriff's investigators stymied.

Sheriff's officials also stepped up security at the county courthouses after the January threat and began random searches with explosive-sniffing dogs, sheriff's spokesman Gary Davidson said.

But then in February investigators received a tip about Frisch, who has a lengthy criminal history in Florida, and the coincidence of his scheduled hearings, Davidson said.

Investigators later compared a recording of Frisch's voice to recordings of the threats and determined that he was the caller. Three people who know Frisch well also identified the voice of the caller as his, Davidson said.

Davidson said Frisch was arrested Tuesday at the Volusia County Branch Jail in Daytona Beach, where he has been jailed since February on a charge of contempt of court in reference to child-support arrears.

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Berlusconi offers resignation, bids to relaunch government
Wed Apr 20, 1:25 PM ET

ROME - Italy's embattled Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi offered his resignation in a bid to resolve a row threatening to tear apart his four-year-old coalition.

Earlier, Berlusconi went before the Italian parliament to say he would resign and form a new government with the same four-party coalition but with a revamped government programme.

Two coalition allies had demanded far-reaching policy changes in the wake of a resounding defeat for the government in regional elections earlier this month, including more state aid for the poorer southern regions.

President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi did not formally accept his resignation, however, and asked Berlusconi to remain in power "to dispatch current business" while inviting him to further talks with his coalition allies.

A statement released by Ciampi's office after a 40-minute meeting with the prime minister said Ciampi would begin consultations with the government parties beginning early Thursday.

"Thursday morning we will begin the consultations and they will be finished at midday Friday," Berlusconi said.

Earlier, the embattled prime minister seemed to have resolved his latest crisis, saying his coalition partners had agreed to a relaunched government and a new programme.

"A little over two weeks ago, in the regional elections, the country sent a signal of malaise which, in its magnitude, had a clear significance. I understood this signal and intend to give an adequate response," the 68-year-old prime minister said in a brief speech before the upper house.

"To relaunch our efforts, I plan to update our programme, increase our strength to protect the purchasing power of families, to support our businesses and to ensure renewed and certain development in the south.

"To do this I intend to reinforce the government team," Berlusconi said, without giving details of the expected ministerial reshuffle. [...]

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France backs China anti-secession law, vows to push for end to arms embargo
Thursday April 21, 4:10 PM

France threw its support behind a law that allows China to attack Taiwan while vowing to keep pushing for an end to an EU arms embargo that could open the door for Paris to sell Beijing weapons.

On a three-day visit to China, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said Paris had no objections to the anti-secession law, appearing to put it at odds with the European Union.

"The anti-secession law is completely compatible with the position of France," he said in a joint press conference with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao.

At the same time, he vowed that his government would continue to push for the lifting of what he called the "anachronistic" and "discriminatory" arms embargo against China.

The two issues are closely linked, with one of the main concerns of the 25-member EU bloc as it mulls when to remove the embargo being China's sabre-rattling stance on Taiwan.

The EU has made clear it is opposed to any use of force between China and Taiwan and has warned against "any unilateral action".

The timing of the ban's lifting is in doubt because of current difficulties in Beijing's relations with not just Taiwan but also Japan, which has been the target of widespread recent protests in China over its wartime past.

The United States has warned that removing the embargo would upset the balance of power in the region. [...]

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New pope's brother very concerned about his election
Wednesday April 20, 09:22 AM

REGENSBURG, Germany - The brother of Pope Benedict XVI Georg Ratzinger, 81, said he was "very concerned" and "shocked" upon hearing that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had been elected as head of the Roman Catholic Church because of his age and frail health.

"I am very concerned. I would have thought his advanced age and his health which is not very stable would have been reason enough for the cardinals to pick someone else," said a visibly moved in an interview on German television after the election of his 78-year-old brother.

"But the cardinals made their decision and that is the will of God," said Ratzinger, himself a prelate.

He said he was "shocked" upon hearing the news Tuesday that his younger brother had been elected pope.

"I got used to the idea during the night but it is still overwhelming," he added.

Ratzinger said he had yet to speak with his brother following his election and expected to see him less often as he takes on the job as leader of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics.

"We will still have close ties but we will be much less in contact," he said.

Ratzinger had said last month that he did not believe his brother had a chance at being elected pope because of his advanced age and his German nationality.

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Court clears way for suit against the Vatican Bank for Nazi gold
Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal
2:32 PM PDT Monday
April 18, 2005
Claims against the Vatican Bank by people who suffered at the hands of a Nazi puppet regime in the Croatia-Ukranian area of Eastern Europe should be heard, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday in San Francisco. 

The ruling came in a split decision by a three-judge panel of the full court. 

Supreme Court decisions strictly limit the role of federal courts in international affairs, but the appellate court says a California district court erred in tossing the lawsuit by Holocaust survivors against the Vatican Bank and the Order of Friars Minor. 

"In the landscape before us, this lawsuit is the only game in town with respect to claimed looting and profiteering by the Vatican Bank," says the majority opinion, written by Circuit Judge Margaret McKeown. "No ongoing government negotiations, agreements, or settlements are on the horizon. The outside chance that the Executive Branch will issue a statement in the future that has the "potentiality of embarrassment" when viewed against our decision today does not justify foreclosing the Holocaust Survivors' claims, especially when '[t]he age and health of many of the class members also presses for a prompt resolution.'" 

In its decision, the appeals court allowed only claims for conversion, unjust enrichment, restitution, and an accounting of what happened to the property, including perhaps tens of millions of dollars in gold, which the Nazis took from their victims. It tossed claims related to human rights violations, saying it was precluded to entering those areas because of the separation of powers in U.S. government. 

The suit does not name the Vatican itself as a defendant but rather focuses on a closely related entity, the Vatican Bank, the court says, adding, "The exact relationship between the Vatican and the Vatican Bank is less than clear at this stage of the proceedings." 

The Vatican Bank has its principal place of business in Vatican City and is headed by a bishop, but it conducts transactions worldwide including "for-profit merchant banking transactions in the United States, California, and elsewhere." 

"The actual dealings of the bank, however, are murky," the court says. "Indeed, the Vatican Bank's holdings and its specific transactions are opaque." 

The bank was named because, according to the original lawsuit, when the Nazi regime collapsed at the end of World War Two, all or a portion of the treasury of its puppet government in Eastern Europe "was transferred to cooperative Roman Catholic clergyman [sic] and Franciscans for transport to Rome" where the funds eventually "found their way into the hands of the Vatican Bank, among other recipients." 

Flashback: God's Banker

February 13, 2003

One of the world's most notorious holy men is quietly giving Mass in Sun City

Marcinkus, front, clearing the way for Pope John Paul II on an early U.S. tour. A woman in her 60s answers the knock at the door. I ask for Paul Marcinkus. She says he can't talk. She says he is recovering from hip surgery. I give her my card. Please have him give me a call, I say. 

She says it is unlikely that he will call. Why is that? She says he never talks to people about his past. 

"Has he ever talked to you about his past?" I ask. 


"How long have you known Archbishop Marcinkus?" 

"Thirty-five years," she says, growing increasingly unfriendly. "And he has told me nothing. I don't know anything about the things I'm sure you want to ask about. And he won't talk. Do you understand? Now it is time you go away." 

So I go away from this humble white cinderblock house backed up to a country club fairway in the heart of Sun City. 

And so one of the most notorious figures in the history of the Catholic Church remains shrouded in secrecy. 

Archbishop Paul Marcinkus was president of the Vatican Bank from 1971 to 1989. As such, he held the purse strings for the international church. He was constantly seen accompanying Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul I and Pope John Paul II, and he was considered by many to be the second most powerful man in the church. 

He arguably held the most power in the Catholic Church of any American in the history of the church. 

But by the early 1980s, Marcinkus was increasingly being implicated in massive financial scandals, scandals that spent months on the front pages of newspapers and magazines throughout Europe. His dealings were also the subject of several books published in the 

In the mid-'80s, Italian authorities tried to arrest Marcinkus in connection with a stunning array of crimes, including assassination financing, arms smuggling, and trafficking in stolen gold, counterfeit currencies and radioactive materials. 

Italian authorities also wanted to talk to Marcinkus regarding what he knew about numerous murders. Through the late 1970s and early 1980s, most every key player involved in schemes with Marcinkus ended up dead. A journalist investigating Marcinkus, the Vatican Bank and their ties to the mob also was murdered at the time. 

But Marcinkus was never interviewed or arrested. Pope John Paul II sheltered Marcinkus in the Vatican, protecting him for seven years with Vatican City's sovereign immunity, an immunity granted to the Vatican in 1929 by Benito Mussolini. 

Then Marcinkus was shipped off to Chicago, his home. Then, soon after, he moved, or was moved by the church, to Sun City. 

Now, the 80-year-old Marcinkus gives Mass at Sun City churches within the Diocese of Phoenix, with the full knowledge of Bishop Thomas O'Brien, as investigators around the world continue to fight Marcinkus' Vatican immunity. 

O'Brien is even willing to use Marcinkus and his high rank to bring star power to local fund raisers and church events. For example, just last spring, Marcinkus was a guest of honor at a Valley Knights of Columbus event over which O'Brien presided honoring top church officials such as Monsignor Dale Fushek, the embattled founder of the church's Life Teen program. 

This while Marcinkus was wanted for questioning in numerous civil and criminal cases around the world, according to prosecutors. 

Last week, according to the Italian paper Gazzetta del Sud, Marcinkus was again implicated in mob financial dealings in a five-hour deposition of a mob informant by Italian prosecutors. 

In the coming weeks, Italian prosecutors will pursue new legal avenues to finally force Marcinkus to tell what he knows about the Vatican Bank's links to mob money during the 1970s and 1980s. 

Prosecutors still may not get him. Marcinkus lives in Sun City under the protection of a Vatican State diplomatic passport, which gives him the same immunity as when he was hiding behind the gates of the Vatican. No cops, let alone plaintiffs' attorneys, can even approach him. 

"Marcinkus is a crook, a criminal, a man who in the normal world would have served a long prison sentence for his part in a whole array of financial crimes," alleges British author David Yallop, who wrote about Marcinkus' myriad scandals in his famous 1984 book In God's Name. 

"What saved him from justice?" Yallop asks me rhetorically. "The Vatican." 

Clearly with lots of aiding and abetting from folks here in the Phoenix Diocese. 

Who, we learned last week in the Arizona Republic, were also willing to quietly harbor a priest by the name of John M. Picardi, a man with a sickening history of sexual misconduct who was recommended for defrocking in 1996 by a sexual abuse board under Boston Cardinal Bernard Law. 

Picardi successfully appealed that 1996 decision to the Vatican. In 
1997, according to documents released as part of a Boston lawsuit against pedo-priests, Cardinal Law asked O'Brien if he could transfer Picardi to Phoenix. O'Brien agreed and placed Picardi in an unsuspecting parish in Scottsdale. 

Apparently, O'Brien has no problem harboring men even the nation's most notoriously unconscionable cardinal found abhorrent. 

For his part, Archbishop Marcinkus, back when he talked, consistently denied knowledge of any wrongdoing fraud, murder or otherwise. 

His claims of innocence often reach the absurd, though. He has, on various occasions, claimed he didn't know people who were proven by mountains of evidence to be intimate friends and business associates. The evidence, according to Italian newspapers and prosecutors, is building weekly. 

Last year, he even told an investigative journalist that he wasn't Paul Marcinkus, even though the journalist had a photo of him and had watched the archbishop give Mass only a few hours earlier. 

In my mind, the Marcinkus case sheds even more light on the attitude of the international church, and the local diocese, toward criminal priests. 

Do you really think Phoenix Bishop Thomas O'Brien is going to be totally forthcoming regarding sexual abuse by his priests when he is willing to give harbor to one of the most wanted men in the world? 

O'Brien acts as the church acts. And the church has a millennium-and- a-half history of covering up its sins and sinners, and nobody exemplifies this truth more than Paul Marcinkus. 

In the past six months, the Marcinkus case has taken on renewed interest around the world. 

Attorneys for Croatian holocaust victims want Marcinkus deposed in their billion-dollar case. They want to know what Marcinkus knows about hundreds of millions of dollars taken from Croatians by the Nazis during World War II. Authorities have discovered that much of the money passed through the Vatican Bank during Marcinkus' tenure as bank president. 

Indeed, a 1998 U.S. State Department report confirmed that at least $47 million of Nazi gold was laundered by Marcinkus' bank. The money "was originally held in the Vatican before being moved to Spain and Argentina," the report said. 

Marcinkus has been silent on the issue. His silence clearly has the blessings of the church. 

"He is the first person I would want to depose in this case," says Jonathan Levy, who leads the monumental class-action suit. "But I don't know if it will ever happen. Marcinkus is heavily protected, and he has no willingness to talk about the incredible amount of things he knows." 

He also has been pursued by attorneys for plaintiffs in Italy, Luxembourg, Switzerland and the Bahamas. 

Marcinkus, in the meantime, up until his hip surgery, had been playing a lot of golf at Palmbrook Country Club, behind his house. The staff there knows him well. 

Another person who wants Marcinkus to talk is Carlo Calvi. Calvi, a 49-year-old Montreal banker, wants to know what Marcinkus knows about the murder of his father, Roberto Calvi, who was the chairman of Banco Ambrosiano, Italy's largest bank group until its collapse in the early 1980s that had close ties to Marcinkus and the Vatican Bank. 

Calvi's father was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London on the morning of June 19, 1982. At the time, the death was ruled a suicide. 

Calvi had been forced to flee Italy after his Banco Ambrosiano went bankrupt with debts of up to $1 billion. Much of that money, it was later learned, had been siphoned off via the Vatican Bank under Paul Marcinkus. 

The Vatican later paid $200 million to creditors after the bank's downfall. The Vatican admitted no legal responsibility, but did acknowledge it had a "moral involvement" in the case. 

In the late 1990s, Italian criminal investigators exhumed Roberto Calvi's body. Using forensic technologies not available 20 years ago, pathologists determined that Calvi had indeed been murdered. They determined he had been strangled before he was hung from the bridge. 

Three known Mafiosi were arrested for the murder. And Carlo Calvi and Italian prosecutors would love to hear what Paul Marcinkus knows about what was, for him, a fortuitous death. At the time of his murder, Calvi allegedly was promising to provide proof of more money- laundering activities between the Vatican Bank and Banco Ambrosiano. 

"I want to try to ensure that we get to the bottom of things [in the case] and show that my father was not simply the victim of Mafia hoods," Carlo Calvi says. 

Besides the most recent testimony by Vincenzo Calcara last week, testimony by known Mafiosi in the last decade has continually linked Marcinkus to money laundering of Mafia cash and other illicit moneys through the Vatican Bank. 

"Marcinkus is the key to so many things," Carlo Calvi told me in a phone interview last week. "But nobody can get to him." 

And Archbishop Marcinkus is fine with that. And Bishop O'Brien is fine with that. And Pope John Paul II is fine with that. 

So much moral authority doing nothing moral in this case. 

Carlo Calvi first met Paul Marcinkus in the late 1970s. Marcinkus had come to visit Calvi's father at the Calvi family home in the Bahamas. Marcinkus, Calvi says, was in the Bahamas for the wedding of the daughter of one of his closest banking associates, Michele Sindona. 

Sindona was later convicted in the United States on dozens of counts of fraud. In 1984, Sindona was extradited to Italy where he was sentenced to life in prison. Two years later Sindona was murdered in prison. 

In 1981, Carlo Calvi says, he found a letter written by Marcinkus in 
1978 to his father. The letter, Calvi alleges, was evidence that Marcinkus was involved personally with money laundering. Carlo Calvi says he turned the document over to United Nations investigators. 

But, as usual, Marcinkus avoided prosecution in the matter. Archbishop Marcinkus refused to talk to investigators about the issue, and the Vatican protected him. 

Another issue about which Marcinkus has never spoken was the death of John Paul I, who was pope for 33 days in 1978 after the death of Marcinkus' dear friend, Pope Paul VI. 

In the early stages of his 33 days as pope, John Paul I, Albino Luciani, promised a thorough investigation of the growing scandal involving Marcinkus, Robert Calvi, Michele Sindona and the Vatican Bank. 

As David Yallop documents in his book, John Paul I wanted Marcinkus removed immediately from his position with the Vatican Bank. 

But days before that was to happen, John Paul I died in his bed from what was officially described as an accidental overdose of medication. The pope's body was embalmed that same day, a bizarre breach of protocol that also meant no autopsy could be performed to determine if poison might have been the cause of death. 

John Paul I's death was the most fortuitous death in Marcinkus' career. Marcinkus kept his position with the Vatican Bank until he was run out of Italy a decade later. 

This is not the Paul Marcinkus the people of Sun City know. They have been told nothing of his past. As usual, the Phoenix Diocese has avoided telling parishioners the full story about a man presented to them as an emissary of a loving God. 

Marcinkus is described by his neighbors and parishioners as a deeply caring and deeply involved priest. He often goes out of his way to visit sick parishioners in the hospital, they say. He is clearly concerned about the spiritual well-being of his flock at St. Clement of Rome church in Sun City, they say. 

The difference between the man described by parishioners and neighbors and the man described by investigative journalists, attorney and prosecutors is a stunning duality. 

It is a duality I see mirrored in the actions of the Diocese under which Marcinkus is allowed to give Mass. So caring in one regard, so guarded of dark secrets in the other. 

Paul Marcinkus will soon be visited by more journalists and prosecutors seeking comment. The BBC apparently is in the beginning stages of a documentary on the Vatican Bank scandals. Other news organizations will surely follow as interest grows internationally regarding Roberto Calvi's murder and the lawsuits claiming Vatican Bank complicity in laundering World War II Nazi loot. 

Marcinkus was even portrayed by Rutger Hauer in an Italian movie, God's Banker, which was released last year. 

Marcinkus gave no comment about being portrayed as a man intimate with the church's financial scandals and the murder of his longtime friend Roberto Calvi. 

There soon may be many more "no comments" from him. There will be many more knocks on the door. 

And one of the questions that needs to be asked, and surely won't be answered, is a simple question of integrity: 

Is your continued silence regarding scandals that affected so many thousands any way for a man of God to act? 

It is a question not only to be asked at Archbishop Marcinkus' door. It's a question to be asked also at the door of Bishop Thomas O'Brien and any other church authority who has given harbor to, and provided a veil of silence for, priests with scandalous pasts. 

Flashback: Vatican told bishops to cover up sex abuse
Antony Barnett, public affairs editor
Sunday August 17, 2003
The Observer

Expulsion threat in secret documents

The Vatican instructed Catholic bishops around the world to cover up cases of sexual abuse or risk being thrown out of the Church.

The Observer has obtained a 40-year-old confidential document from the secret Vatican archive which lawyers are calling a 'blueprint for deception and concealment'. One British lawyer acting for Church child abuse victims has described it as 'explosive'.

The 69-page Latin document bearing the seal of Pope John XXIII was sent to every bishop in the world. The instructions outline a policy of 'strictest' secrecy in dealing with allegations of sexual abuse and threatens those who speak out with excommunication.

They also call for the victim to take an oath of secrecy at the time of making a complaint to Church officials. It states that the instructions are to 'be diligently stored in the secret archives of the Curia [Vatican] as strictly confidential. Nor is it to be published nor added to with any commentaries.'

The document, which has been confirmed as genuine by the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, is called 'Crimine solicitationies', which translates as 'instruction on proceeding in cases of solicitation'.

It focuses on sexual abuse initiated as part of the confessional relationship between a priest and a member of his congregation. But the instructions also cover what it calls the 'worst crime', described as an obscene act perpetrated by a cleric with 'youths of either sex or with brute animals (bestiality)'.

Bishops are instructed to pursue these cases 'in the most secretive way... restrained by a perpetual silence... and everyone... is to observe the strictest secret which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office... under the penalty of excommunication'.

Texan lawyer Daniel Shea uncovered the document as part of his work for victims of abuse from Catholic priests in the US. He has handed it over to US authorities, urging them to launch a federal investigation into the clergy's alleged cover-up of sexual abuse.

He said: 'These instructions went out to every bishop around the globe and would certainly have applied in Britain. It proves there was an international conspiracy by the Church to hush up sexual abuse issues. It is a devious attempt to conceal criminal conduct and is a blueprint for deception and concealment.'

British lawyer Richard Scorer, who acts for children abused by Catholic priests in the UK, echoes this view and has described the document as 'explosive'.

He said: 'We always suspected that the Catholic Church systematically covered up abuse and tried to silence victims. This document appears to prove it. Threatening excommunication to anybody who speaks out shows the lengths the most senior figures in the Vatican were prepared to go to prevent the information getting out to the public domain.'

Scorer pointed out that as the documents dates back to 1962 it rides roughshod over the Catholic Church's claim that the issue of sexual abuse was a modern phenomenon.

He claims the discovery of the document will raise fresh questions about the actions of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.

Murphy-O'Connor has been accused of covering up allegations of child abuse when he was Bishop of Arundel and Brighton. Instead of reporting to the police allegations of abuse against Michael Hill, a priest in his charge, he moved him to another position where he was later convicted for abusing nine children.

Although Murphy-O'Connor has apologised publicly for his mistake, Scorer claims the secret Vatican document raises the question about whether his failure to report Hill was due to him following this instruction from Rome.

Scorer, who acts for some of Hill's victims, said: 'I want to know whether Murphy-O'Connor knew of these Vatican instructions and, if so, did he apply it. If not, can he tell us why not?'

A spokesman for the Catholic Church denied that the secret Vatican orders were part of any organised cover-up and claims lawyers are taking the document 'out of context' and 'distorting it'.

He said: 'This document is about the Church's internal disciplinary procedures should a priest be accused of using confession to solicit sex. It does not forbid victims to report civil crimes. The confidentiality talked about is aimed to protect the accused as applies in court procedures today. It also takes into consideration the special nature of the secrecy involved in the act of confession.' He also said that in 1983 the Catholic Church in England and Wales introduced its own code dealing with sexual abuse, which would have superseded the 1962 instructions. Asked whether Murphy-O'Connor was aware of the Vatican edict, he replied: 'He's never mentioned it to me.'

Lawyers point to a letter the Vatican sent to bishops in May 2001 clearly stating the 1962 instruction was in force until then. The letter is signed by Cardinal Ratzinger, the most powerful man in Rome beside the Pope and who heads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - the office which ran the Inquisition in the Middle Ages.

Rev Thomas Doyle, a US Air Force chaplain in Germany and a specialist in Church law, has studied the document. He told The Observer: 'It is certainly an indication of the pathological obsession with secrecy in the Catholic Church, but in itself it is not a smoking gun.

'If, however, this document actually has been the foundation of a continuous policy to cover clergy crimes at all costs, then we have quite another issue. There are too many authenticated reports of victims having been seriously intimidated into silence by Church authorities to assert that such intimidation is the exception and not the norm.

'If this document has been used as a justification for this intimidation then we possibly have what some commentators have alleged, namely, a blueprint for a cover-up. This is obviously a big "if" which requires concrete proof.'

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Nepal army says 22 rebels, three soldiers killed in latest fighting
Associated Press
April 19, 2005

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) - Nepal's army killed 22 communist guerillas in fighting Tuesday in the country's mountainous midwest, officials said.

Three soldiers also died in the clashes in Rolpa district, about 400 kilometers (125 miles) west of the capital Katmandu.

The Royal Nepalese Army headquarters in Katmandu said there were two separate gunbattles and that the rebel casualties could be much higher.

The rebels, who claim to be inspired by Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong, began their violent campaign in 1996. More than 11,500 have been killed in the insurgency.

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Child dies in Iranian air crash
Robert Tait in Tehran
Thursday April 21, 2005
The Guardian

A child was killed and several passengers were injured last night when an Iranian plane with 157 passengers on board crash landed at Tehran's Mehrabad airport last night.

The plane, owned by Saha, a local airline, caught fire as it slammed into the runway, state television reported. Eyewitnesses reported seeing white smoke as the aircraft skidded along the ground.

Part of the plane landed in the nearby Kan River. Passengers were able to jump out of the craft, but many sustained broken bones and were taken to hospital for treatment. [...]

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Bird flu claims Cambodian woman
April 20, 2005 - 4:24PM

A Cambodian woman suspected of having bird flu has died in a hospital in southern Vietnam.

The 20-year-old woman from Kampot province was admitted early Tuesday to the hospital in Kien Giang province, bordering Cambodia, with a serious lung infection. She was connected to a respirator but died later in the day, hospital director Pham Van Dom said.

Swab samples taken from the woman are being tested, he said.

Bird flu is confirmed to have killed 51 people so far in Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia since a severe strain of the disease emerged in late 2003 to strike poultry farms across the region. Cambodia has reported three deaths, Thailand 12 and Vietnam 36.

The woman's relatives said there were dead chickens in her neighbourhood and that she ate chicken eight days before falling ill, Wednesday's Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported. [...]

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Drought leaves poor Cambodian farmers struggling to survive
20 April 2005 1255 hrs

KAMPONG SPEU, Cambodia: The worst drought to hit Cambodia in 50 years has left farmers like Sopheap Penh with nothing but despair as he stares at his barren fields.

"My animals are sick, my fields and the river have been dry for months. We can't hold on for long like this," he says.

The Prek Tkmaout river, which a few months ago irrigated all the fields in Kampong Speu province, west of Phnom Penh, has run dry and left hundreds of hectares (acres) of dusty rice paddies and fields.

With no rain since October, some provinces are baking in 40-degree Celsius (104-degree Fahrenheit) heat, evaporating what little water remains.

"The drought is so bad these last months that we have lost our entire harvest. It's a disaster," says Ta Mom, chief of Paing Lovea village, in Kampong Speu, one of the kingdom's hardest-hit provinces.

"At least 537,340 tonnes of rice has been lost this year on the two million hectares (4.9 million acres) cultivated in Cambodia. That's an enormous shortfall that will hurt the country in the months to come," says Nhim Vandha, deputy director of the national disaster management agency.

"The rice stored in reserves won't be enough to feed the entire population if a humanitarian crisis occurs," he says, describing the drought as the worst in 50 years.

"Only the rain can save us."

Fourteen of Cambodia's 24 provinces have been hit by drought, or about 289 communities. [...]

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Update: 56 hurt as big earthquake hits Japan
Posted on Wed, Apr. 20, 2005
The Yomiuri Shimbun

FUKUOKA, Japan - Fifty-six people were injured - at least five seriously - (KRT) - Wednesday morning when a strong earthquake struck Japan.

The quake hit Fukuoka and Kasuga, Fukuoka Prefecture, at 6:11 a.m., Japan's Meteorological Agency reported.

According to the agency, the focus was located at a depth of about 14 kilometers (about 8.7 miles) with a magnitude of 5.8 on the Richter scale and upper 5 on the Japanese intensity scale of 7.

The earthquake registered lower 5 in Genkaijima island off Fukuoka and other cities.

From the focus and the way the faults slid, the agency regards it as an aftershock of the March 20 earthquake that measured lower 6 in Fukuoka and other cities. [...]

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Earthquake hits Kern County, strongest of aftershocks
5:20 p.m. April 20, 2005

BAKERSFIELD – A small earthquake hit Kern County on Wednesday, the strongest in a series of aftershocks that have struck the area since a magnitude-5.1 earthquake rattled the region over the weekend.

No damage or injuries were reported.

The magnitude-3.6 temblor struck at 3:40 p.m. and was centered eight miles northeast of Pine Mountain Club and about 32 miles south of Bakersfield, according to a preliminary report from the U.S. Geological Survey. [...]

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Powerful cyclone brings hurricane winds and downpours to Primorye
April 20 (Itar-Tass)

VLADIVOSTOK, - A powerful cyclone from South East Asia brought last night hurricane winds with gusts up to 30 meters per second and downpours to the Primorye Territory. It will swoop down on the Khabarovsk Territory and the Amur Region over the next few days. Wind gusts tore away house roofs in Vladivostok. Window glasses were smashed in many houses.

Several flights were stranded at the Vladivostok airport over hurricane winds. The Primorye weather center told Tass on Wednesday that two cyclones – from China and Mongolia – approached Primorye last night. They joined into a powerful whirlwind over the territory. The cyclone will rage up to April 24.

A storm warning was also flashed out in the Amur Region. Heavy precipitations in the form of rain and wet snow may aggravate the flood situation in the south of the Russian Far East.

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Tornado in Eastern China Kills Seven
Thursday April 21, 2005 3:01 AM

BEIJING (AP) - A tornado tore apart houses in two towns in eastern China, killing seven people and injuring more than 80 others, a news report said Thursday.

The tornados hit two counties on the outskirts of Yancheng, a city in Jiangsu province northwest of Shanghai, on Wednesday afternoon, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The report said Xinhua reporters who visited the village of Dazhi, one of the hardest-hit areas, found "half of the houses at the village collapsed and the only township hospital crowded with some 60 villagers waiting for treatment.''

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Thunder squalls, rain hit Goa
Wednesday, April 20, 2005

(Panaji): Thunder squalls and rainstorm hit Goa this evening snapping power supply in most parts of the state and causing widespread damage to properties.

However, there were no reports of any loss of human life.

As a result of raging winds, billboards and metal roofs came crashing down and hampered visibility considerably.

The entire state capital was plunged into darkness after power went off as several tress and electricity poles were uprooted. Some trees were uprooted in Raj Bhavan causing some damage. [...]

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Elephants stampede in Seoul
Jonathan Watts
Thursday April 21, 2005
The Guardian

Seoul has long had a reputation as one of Asia's wildest concrete jungles, but even residents who thought they had seen everything would have done a double take yesterday when a small herd of elephants stampeded through the city's streets.

The six elephants, which had escaped from an amusement park, trumpeted through crowded roads, blundered their way into a restaurant and wandered through a garden.

A woman, Roh In-sun, was injured by the trunk of one of the beasts as it charged through a narrow alley, sending pedestrians flying.

Article continues "She fell, and I ran away because I was scared," said Ms Roh's landlord, Lee Hye-ja, who had been standing next to her.

The rampage began when one of the elephants bolted as it was being led on a daily parade outside their enclosure in Seoul Children's Grand Park.

The five others followed "because they have the tendency to do that," a zoo official told Reuters.

Police and firefighters rounded up five of the elephants, but they had to cordon off streets before they could catch the sixth.

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Earthquake Detector Finds Solid Earth Core
By Larry O'Hanlon, Discovery News

April 20, 2005 — For the first time, the solid inner core of the Earth has been directly detected and its existence confirmed, seismologists have reported.

New evidence of a solid iron inner core to the planet comes from a digital broadband seismic array in Germany that is located in a lucky enough position to have captured a faint, but telltale, seismic signal. The signal was sent through the Earth from a particularly clear sort of earthquake deep in the crust on the other side of the planet.

The seismic discovery was announced in the April 15 issue of the journal Science.

"The earthquake they used was at the right depth and magnitude," said seismologist Adam Dziewonski of Harvard University, referring to the discovery team from University of California-Berkeley and the University of Tokyo. "It provided a lot of energy in just the right phase."

That energy traveled from the earthquake rupture zone, deep in the crust under the South Pacific, downward into the Earth's mantle in the form of pressure waves, called P-waves, which are a lot like sound waves.

When those P-waves pass into the liquid outer core, they are changed into shear waves (S-waves) and deflected slightly, similar to how light is shifted when it enters water and makes a straight straw look bent.

The S-waves then pass into the solid inner core, deflecting a bit more and becoming P-waves again. Then same series is done in reverse as the seismic waves pass out of the inner core, through the outer core and mantle and up to the Gräfenberg Seismic Array in Germany, about 140 degrees away from Tonga on the great circle of the Earth.

If the Earth were homogenously solid or liquid, the seismic waves would have passed straight through to 180 degrees without any deflections or changes.

The special, inner-core-detecting series of wave changes is called PKJKP, with each letter denoting a change as it passes from source to seismograph. The J is the part of the wave that passes through the solid inner core.

Further confirmation of the PKJKP will come from additional work on historic seismograms, said co-discoverer Aimin Cao of University of California, Berkeley.

For instance, there could be more PKJKPs to discover in Japanese seismic data, he said. The Gräfenberg Seismic Array was a good place to start looking, Cao said, because it is the oldest array of its type and has the most data search through for hidden PKJKPs.

Other seismologists have been trying to detect PKJKPs since the 1970s, said Dziewonski, but failed. "This is the first one that I really believe is convincing," he said.

Besides requiring the serendipitous alignment of the right earthquakes with the right seismic array, Dziewonski said, you just have to be lucky to catch seismic waves passing through the relatively small inner core.

"It's very small," Dziewonski said, "less than one percent of Earth's volume."

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'Bigfoot' tape thrills Manitoba community
Last Updated Thu, 21 Apr 2005 07:26:40 EDT
CBC News

NORWAY HOUSE, MAN. - Hundreds of residents of Norway House First Nation in Manitoba are convinced the Bigfoot legend is real after a local man captured a strange creature on videotape.

Ferry operator Bobby Clarke was taking a vehicle barge across the Nelson River at the northern end of Lake Winnipeg Saturday morning when he noticed something on the shore.

He grabbed his camcorder and shot a 49-second clip of a tall, dark humanoid-like figure moving on the riverbank.

"It's not a bear or human walking around," said Clarke's father-in-law, John Henry. "You can tell by the features."

People who have seen the video say the figure is three-metres tall and resembles past descriptions of the legendary shy, hairy giant long rumoured to inhabit remote woodlands in western parts of North America.

"Couple of my friends and cousins have seen it, and some of them, first didn't believe in anything like that," said Joey Robertson. "When they seen the video, it convinced them."

But local residents flocking to Clarke's house to see the video are now coming away disappointed.

The Clarke family has stopped showing the videotape, saying they're arranging for an expert to enhance the video as they hold out for the best cash offer from a media agency.

Offers have already come in from places ranging from Florida to Toronto, they say.

Linda Queskekavow, one of Clarke's neighbours, says there's nothing to be worried about even if it turns out that Norway House is home to the legendary Bigfoot, also known by its Canadian name Sasquatch (meaning "wild man" or "hairy man" in the Salish language).

"That Sasquatch is not harmful," said Queskekavow, who saw the videotape. "I think it's scared of people."

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Ancient Egypt corpses unearthed
Wednesday 20 April 2005, 23:43 Makka Time, 20:43 GMT

Archaeologists digging in a 5600-year-old funeral site in southern Egypt have unearthed seven corpses thought to date to the era, as well as an intact figure of a cow's head carved from flint.

The American-Egyptian excavation team made the discoveries in what they described as the largest funerary complex ever found that dates to the elusive five millennia-old Predynastic era, Egypt's Supreme Council of antiquities said on Wednesday.

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'Da... Nyet, Nyet, Nyet!' Rice Tells Russians
Wed Apr 20, 6:47 AM ET

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tried out her rusty Russian in a Moscow radio interview Wednesday, only to get caught out by a question on whether she might run for president.

"Da (Yes)," Rice answered in Russian, before realizing her misunderstanding and hastily adding "Nyet" (No) -- seven times.

Rice's interview on Ekho Moskvy radio turned into a linguistic ordeal when the Soviet expert and former provost of Stanford university fielded a schoolgirl listener's question on how she achieved her career success.

"It's too complicated to answer!" Rice, in Russia to meet President
Vladimir Putin, started out in English. "It is an opportunity for me to come back to Russia, a place I love very much. I love the culture and the language."

She then switched into Russian, but quickly hit trouble.

Apparently meaning to say that she would like to do her next interview in the language of her host, she chose a verb that sounded more like "to earn money" than the Russian for "to do."

"You understand it will be very difficult because I am out of practice, and in your language there are these awful cases!" she continued. "It's very difficult for us, and it is very difficult to talk without making mistakes."

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