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Three Killed, Seven Injured in Two Cairo Attacks
By Tom Perry and Edmund Blair
Sat Apr 30, 2005 02:01 PM ET

CAIRO (Reuters) - A bomber and two veiled women attacked tourists in separate incidents in Cairo on Saturday, targeting people near a popular museum and a bus in the south of the city, official sources said.

An Egyptian man, probably the bomber, and the two women were killed, they said. Seven people were injured near the Egyptian museum, a key tourist attraction for its pharaonic treasures, in what Cairo's security chief said was a suicide attack.

Those injured in the bombing were three Egyptians, an Israeli couple aged 60 and 55, an Italian man aged 26, and a Swedish man aged 28, the Interior Ministry said.

In the bus attack -- the first in living memory by women in Egypt -- the two veiled women opened fire at the back window of a tourist coach, the Interior Ministry said. No one in the bus was hit but shattered glass from a windshield lay on the road.

Two bombings in the last seven months have had little effect on Egypt's tourism industry, which brought in $6.6 billion in 2004, a record year with more than eight million tourists, but economists say a string of attacks could hit Egypt hard.

Health Minister Mohamed Awad Tag el-Din said the injured had superficial wounds caused by nails which witnesses said were in the bomb. He said most of the wounded were in good condition, except for the Swede, whose wounds were "moderate."

"They are in stable condition in hospital," added Tourism Minister Ahmed el-Maghrabi.

The two veiled woman, identified by the Interior Ministry as the bomber's sister Negat Yousri and his girlfriend Iman Ibrahim Khamees, attacked on the Salah Salem highway, one of the main arteries through the south of the city.

The ministry said Negat committed suicide. Khamees died in hospital of her wounds but it was not clear who shot her.

It said the man who blew himself up was Ihab Yousri Yassin, a fugitive member of the group which planned an April 7 bombing which killed three tourists in a Cairo bazaar.

It said he had jumped from the bridge into the square below, where he detonated the bomb. "They found his papers, and the identity card of the perpetrator of the Azhar (bazaar) incident," the ministry said in a statement.

Police have arrested in the last few hours the two other fugitive members of the group, named as Ashraf Said Youssef and Gamal Ahmed Abdel-Aal, the ministry added.

Other security sources said someone had thrown a bomb from a bridge which passes behind the museum.

Two groups -- the Mujahideen of Egypt and the Martyr Abdullah Azzam Brigades -- said on an Islamist Web site that their people carried out the attacks. It was not possible to verify their authenticity and some of the details of their claims did not appear to match witness accounts.

Behind the museum, the body of the dead man lay on its back in a pool of blood under the bridge. His head was blown apart but the rest of his body was apparently intact. He was wearing a light blue shirt and dark trousers, a Reuters journalist said.

Police gathered together pieces of his head and laid a newspaper on the street to soak up the blood.

At the scene of the shooting attack in south Cairo, witnesses saw shattered glass, blood on the street, newspaper to soak it up, a pistol and what appeared to be a pair of black gloves of the type worn by veiled women.

The April 7 bombing was the most serious in the Nile Valley since 1997. But in October last year, a group led by a Palestinian attacked Red Sea resorts frequented by Israelis, killing 34 people.

Diaa Rashwan, an analyst of violent Islamist groups, said: "It seems like we are talking about a small group of family and friends carrying out these attacks ... These people have no real organization. They are motivated by anger. It's difficult for the security people to find out much about them."

Comment: It's difficult for Egyptian security to find out much about these organisations because, in all likelihood, they do not exist as they are portrayed. Putin's recent visit to Egypt and Israel has done much to legitimise the Palestinian cause and, as a result, dealt a blow to Israel and the US' attempts to demonise all Arabs as terrorists in the mind of the world public. Israel has a track record of staging phony Islamic terror attacks at such moments. Egyptian police would therefore be much better advised to look towards Israel for the culprits.

Interestingly, both of the two previous "Islamic terrorist" attacks in Egypt that are mentioned in the above report were probably carried out by by Israeli agents. As we wrote at the time of the Sinai bombing last October:

Since the concept of government deception is a hot topic these days, we would like to highlight a very pertinent recent event. On Thursday night, 3 car bombs exploded at an Egyptian Red Sea resort, less than a mile from the heavily guarded Israeli border. The attack occurred in the same week that Israel was being mildly chastised (for that is the extent of any rapprochement of Israeli actions these days) by Western governments for its child killing spree in Gaza. Coincidence? Clearly not. Not surprisingly, Israel and the US blamed the attacks on the mythical "al-Qaeda".

'Al Qaeda signs' in Egypt blast
Friday, October 8, 2004
TABA, Egypt -- An Israeli defense official and terrorism analysts said Friday that the three blasts at Egyptian vacation spots frequented by Israelis bear al Qaeda hallmarks.

Israel's Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim made his comments the day after the bombings killed at least 29 people and wounded dozens more in Taba.

Egyptian and Israeli officials have been combing through wreckage at the Hilton Hotel searching for victims of the attack.

At least 30 people are missing and officials fear the death toll will rise.

Only 10 bodies had been identified -- six Egyptians, four Israelis.

Egyptian officials said authorities were still working to determine the exact source of the explosions, although they are calling it an attack on the hotel.

Boim said the attacks are similar to those of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network, although he said he's not ruling out the possibility that a Palestinian militant group could be responsible.

Comment: Well, it's nice to see that the Israeli official is at least keeping an open mind. Either it was an attack by evil Arab terrorists, or it was an attack by other evil Arab terrorists.

Two terrorism analysts told CNN they suspect Egyptian Jihad, a group that merged with al Qaeda in the late 1990s.

But Israeli officials said it is not yet clear who's responsible, and U.S. officials warned against jumping to any conclusions.

Comment: Too late!

Three different, little-known or previously unknown groups have claimed responsibility for the bombings.

All three claims appeared on Islamist Web sites. The third came from a group that said it is associated with al Qaeda.

CNN cannot authenticate any of the claims. [...]

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met with his Cabinet in emergency session and spoke with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to coordinate efforts. The two men agreed to concentrate efforts and forces in the war on terrorism, a statement from Sharon's office said.

The two nations' foreign ministers have been in direct contact as well.

Gillerman said Israel does not suspect the involvement of Egyptians.

"Egypt is a victim of this attack and we have great sympathy," he said. "Egypt is just another moderate Arab government just like Morocco, just like Tunisia, who is suffering because of its moderation at the hands of these extremists and fundamentalists who must be eradicated."

Al-Qaida suspected in resort bombings

Saturday, October 9, 2004

TABA, Egypt - Israeli officials said Friday they believe al-Qaida was probably behind three suicide car bomb attacks targeting Red Sea resorts filled with Israeli tourists, as investigators searched for evidence and rescuers pulled bodies from the twisted wreckage of a five-star hotel and casino.

Thursday night's bombings in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula killed 29 people, according to Israeli authorities, who were leading the rescue effort.

Egyptian officials could confirm only 24 dead. More than 100 people were injured, with reports as high as 160. [...]

Participants in an emergency meeting of the Israeli Cabinet said the military intelligence chief told them al-Qaida was probably behind the attacks. Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim called Osama bin Laden's terrorist network the most likely suspect.

Egyptian authorities were more cautious. "We have to wait until the investigation is over to make sure if the attack was related to al-Qaida, or any other organization, or not," said Maged Abdel Fattah, spokesman for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

In Washington, a U.S. counterterrorism official, discussing intelligence on the condition of anonymity, said American officials suspect — but aren't certain — that al-Qaida had a role in the bombings. [...]

There were several claims of responsibility — including one from an al-Qaida-linked group — but none appeared credible.

"This is a terrorist attack, but who did it?" asked Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit. "We can't tell, as the investigation has just begun." [...]

Israeli security sources said all three bombs were suicide attacks.

Officials initially reported at least 30 dead, but scaled back. The Israeli army said Friday night that 29 people were confirmed dead. Egypt's interior minister reported 24.

An official at Taba hospital, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that 24 people were killed, including five Israelis, seven Egyptians and the rest foreigners whose nationalities were not immediately determined. The Israeli fire chief said a female tourist from Russia was among those killed. [...]

Egypt's tourism minister, Ahmed El Maghraby, indicated the attacks were political: "Look at the timing. Look at the choice of place."

He didn't say what he was referring to, but other officials drew links to the Israeli military operation against the Palestinians in the neighboring Gaza Strip, where more than 80 Palestinians have been killed in an Israeli offensive that began Sept. 29. [...]

Comment: As it turned out, yet another "previously unknown group" claimed responsibility for the attack, citing it as a "first direct shot in the face of the Jews"...

'Islamic Unity Brigades' claim Sinai attacks

First Published 2004-10-08
Middle East online

Previously unknown group says attack is in revenge for Israel's assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

The previously unknown group said the attack, which killed at least 19 people and left another 38 missing, was in revenge for Israel's assassination last March of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, founder of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, and was "the first direct shot in the face of Jews."

Comment: Note that the number of dead has since been revised up to 29. While these "Arab terrorists" claim that Jews are their target, the bombings killed just 5 Israelis out of a total of 29 dead.

Like the "Iraqi insurgents" who seem to have decided that the best way to oust the US military from Iraq is to kill mostly Iraqi civilians, and despite what their name suggests, the "Islamic Unity Brigades" seem determined to play into the hands of Sharon and the Washington NeoCons and perpetrate attacks that further demonise all things Islamic and Arabic in the minds of Westerners, thereby FACILITATING the continuation of the "war on terror".

On that point, we are not the only ones who see something seriously amiss with the tactics of "Arab terrorists"

The Houston Chronicle yesterday published an article on the Sinai attacks entitled "Death in Sinai". Towards the end the author states:

"The Israeli government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, intends to withdraw Israeli settlers and troops from Gaza. But deadly rocket fire from Gaza into Israel caused the redeployment of Israeli troops into Gaza. Wouldn't all Palestinians, even the most militant, be better off without Israeli forces in their midst and without retaliatory attacks by Israeli aircraft? Who benefits from the fighting?"

Indeed. It just makes no sense, especially if one is looking in the Arab community for the perpetrators...

Israel To Benefit From Sinai Bombings: Experts

October 8 2004
Abdul-Raheem Ali, IOL Staff

CAIRO, October 8 – A cohort of Egyptian security, political and diplomatic experts have concluded that Israel is the only party to benefit from the blasts that rocked tourist resorts in the Egyptian Sinai peninsula on Thursday, October7 , ruling out any possible Egyptian involvement.

Former Egyptian Assistant Interior Minister Mohammad Omar Abdel-Fattah said that while analyzing any such operation security experts should always seek an answer to the basic question of who stands to benefit.

"Israel is the only party to gain from this operation," the international security expert told

He pointed out that the Israelis and their agents are the only people who have free access to the targeted area.

Abdel-Fattah said the booby-trapped vehicles used in the bombings do not carry the trademark of terrorist groups who usually resort to suicide bombers instead.

He stressed that the Israeli right has been cornered due to mounting pressures from the US on Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon after Washington had to wield its veto power to kill a resolution condemning Israel for the onslaught on the Gaza Strip.

Israel needed something to dodge such American pressures and throw the ball at the American court till the end of the elections, said the expert.

Targeting Egypt

Former Egyptian Assistant Foreign Minister Abdullah Al-Ashaal also agreed that several indications suggest an Israeli foul play.

"Israel’s ultimate goal to undermine Egypt’s regional role and force it on its knees," he told IOL.

"All indicators suggest an Israeli involvement, especially that the area is very close to the Israeli borders."

He also recalled the recent Israeli travel warning against visiting the Sinai peninsula.

Al-Ashaal said that by jumbling to heap the blame on Al-Qeada, Israel wanted to embroil Egypt in Washington’s so-called war on terror.

The Egyptian tourism sector, a main foreign currency earner, would bear the brunt of the bombings, he added.

Diaa Rashwan, an expect in the Islamic movements affairs in Al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, an Egyptian think-tank, also agreed that Al-Qaeda was not a likely culprit.

According to American intelligence 70 percent of Al-Qeada leaders have been either killed or kidnapped while the rest are taking shelter on Afghanistan’s borders with Pakistan, he said.

"Sinai bombings carry the trademark of careful planning which means those involved had a hand-on experience on the area, which is already under tight security."

The expert suggested that "foreign intelligence" are directly or indirectly involved in such "dirty attacks."

Rashwan agreed with the other experts that Israel would be the only part to make gains from the attacks, especially that Israel would exploit them to associate itself with Washington in its so-called war on terror.

He also expected the Sharon’s Likud party to use the blasts to undermine the Egyptian role in the Palestinian cause.

Palestinians Suspected

Another group of expects did not rule out a possible involvement by Palestinian factions in the bombings and that they refrained from claiming responsibility to avoid a face-off with Egypt.

Political analyst Al-Sayed Yassin said the operation came in retaliation for the unparalleled state terrorism practiced by Israel against unarmed citizens in Gaza Strip.

He ruled out the involvement of Al-Qaeda in such bombings, as the network has no experience in working in the region.

The expert also undermined suggestions that the operation would be exploited to attack Egypt over security lapses.

"Egypt can not be accused of security lapses because those groups penetrate Israeli security on daily basis through operations committed not far from Sharon's residence," he said.

He also recalled that similar attacks have been mounted against targets inside New York and Washington.

Comment: The Egyptian Tourist Minister makes the case quite clear, and we note the VERY interesting last comment from the "political analyst" he says: "...similar attacks have been mounted against targets inside New York and Washington." A thinly veiled reference to Israeli involvement in 9/11? Apparently so.

Remember what we said yesterday?

The question each person must answer is:

"Do you agree that it is possible that the political, social or world views of a population can be influenced by "terrorist" attacks?

For example, if an attack was carried out which was later attributed to "communists", would your view of "communists" be affected by such information?

If you agree that this is indeed possible, you must then ask yourself:

"Is it possible that a government, or some section of government, understanding that public opinion can be influenced in this way, would fake a terrorist attack in order to achieve some political or social goal."

For most, the answer to the first question is a resounding "yes".

To the second question, most will probably answer that, theoretically, "it is possible that a government might sanction a fake terrorist attack in order to achieve some political or social goal." But having come thus far, most will qualify their assertion with all manner of rationalisations to avoid taking the next step of examining any evidence that holds the promise, or the threat, of transforming the theory into an explanation that is very distinctly possible, and even certain.

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Insurgents Unleash 17 Bombs in Iraq, Killing at Least 50 in Attempt to Shake Government
By Thomas Wagner Associated Press Writer
Published: Apr 29, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Insurgents set off at least 17 bombs in Iraq on Friday, killing at least 50 people, including three U.S. soldiers, in a series of attacks aimed at shaking Iraq's newly formed government. An audio tape by one of America's most-wanted insurgents, Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi, warned President Bush there was more bloodshed to come.

The well-coordinated attacks, which also wounded 114 Iraqis and seven Americans, came as political leaders are trying to curb the insurgency by including all of Iraq's main religious and ethnic groups into an uncertain new Shiite-dominated government that takes office Tuesday. Most of the bombing targets were Iraqi security forces and police, whom insurgents accuse of collaborating with the Americans.

An association of Sunni Muslim clerics believed to have links with the insurgency, saw little prospect for peace as long as U.S. forces remain in Iraq.

"We don't believe that the government will solve the problems of an occupied Iraq. We don't trust the government," Harith al-Dhari, head of the Association of Muslim Scholars, told Turkey's Anatolia news agency. "We don't see hope because the occupation is continuing."

U.S. officials had hoped the new Cabinet approved Thursday would help dent support for the militants within the Sunni Arab minority that dominated under ousted leader Saddam Hussein and is now believed to be driving the insurgency. However, the lineup excludes Sunnis from meaningful positions and leaves the key defense ministry in temporary hands.

"You, Bush, we will not rest until we avenge our dignity," al-Zarqawi said in the audiotape that was posted on the Internet. "We will not rest while your army is here as long as there is a pulse in our veins." He threatened more attacks against U.S. forces and warned against collaborating with Americans.

In Washington, an intelligence official said the tape appeared to be genuine.

The deadliest of Friday's attacks were multiple bombings in the small Baghdad neighborhood of Azamiyah and in the town of Madain, 12 miles southeast of the capital.

Despite the day's bloody toll, the U.S. military maintained that attacks are diminishing overall in Iraq.

"We see these attacks as another desperate attempt by the terrorists to discredit the newly formed Iraqi government" and "drive a wedge between the Iraqi people and their right to choose their own destiny," the military said in a statement.

Gen. Wafiq al-Samarie, Iraq's presidential adviser for security affairs, urged Iraqis to stand up to insurgents.

"Today too many car bomb attacks took place, but this is not the end," he said in an interview with al-Jazeera television. "Our people should stand up against these criminals. ... Security is everybody's responsibility."

At least 13 car bombs exploded in and around the capital Friday, killing at least 23 Iraqi security force members and wounding 31, the U.S. military said. Iraqi police said they included six suicide attacks.

In the worst attack, four suicide car bombings took place within minutes in Azamiyah, said police chief Brig. Gen. Khalid al-Hassan. The first hit an Iraqi army patrol, the second a police patrol, and the third and fourth exploded at separate barricades near the headquarters of the police special forces unit.

The Azamiyah blasts killed at least 20 Iraqis, including 15 soldiers and five civilians, Col. Hussein Mutlak said At least 65 were injured, including 30 troops and 35 civilians, he said.

Policemen crouched in fear after the explosions, which set fire to the special forces headquarters. One residential building was severely damaged, its white faEcade blackened and its first-floor shops completely destroyed.

An Iraqi soldier who had rushed to the scene vented his anger against the insurgents, saying: "These people aren't soldiers."

A nearby hospital was filled with seriously wounded Iraqis lying in beds with blood-soaked sheets.

As Louay Mohammed Saleh writhed in pain, covered with bandages, his uncle said the police officer was in a patrol rushing to one of the bomb sites when another bomb exploded near his car.

"I'm dying," Saleh screamed.

In another highly coordinated attack, insurgents detonated a roadside bomb in Madain, then sent two suicide car bombers from two different directions into police special forces as they arrived to investigate, said police Lt. Jassim al-Maliky. At least two more car bombs detonated in the area, one near the city hospital and another targeting a police patrol, police said.

The Madain attacks, which killed 13 people and wounded 20, came less than two weeks after Iraqi forces raided the region to clear it of insurgents. The U.S. military had praised the operation as evidence of the progress made by Iraq in assuring its own security.

In Baqouba, 35 miles north of Baghdad, a suicide attacker blew up an ambulance packed with explosives near a police special forces patrol, killing four Iraqis, including two policemen, said police Brig. Gen. Adel Molan. Twenty Iraqis were injured, including four police, he said.

Also in Baqouba, an Iraqi man armed with grenade walked out of the city's al-Aqsa mosque and threatened to throw it at Iraqi and U.S. forces surrounding the building, the U.S. military said. They opened fire and killed the man, the military said.

Ali Fadhil, of the city's U.S.-Iraqi joint operations center, identified the man as a Sunni cleric believed to be a senior member of al-Zarqawi's Al-Qaida in Iraq terrorist group.

"Imam Abdul Razaq Rashid Hamid ... came out from the mosque with two hand grenades as our forces were surrounding the mosque," Fadhil said. "He threw one of the grenades at the forces while blowing himself up with the second one."

The two accounts could not immediately be reconciled.

West of Basra, about 340 miles southeast of Baghdad, a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi border guard patrol killed one soldier and wounded two, said Iraqi Lt. Col. Abdul Hadi al-Najar.

At least nine more Iraqis were killed and nine wounded in other scattered violence, including bombings, shootings and mortar fire, officials said.

One American soldier was killed and two others wounded in a car bombing about 18 miles north of the capital, the military said. Two more U.S. soldiers were killed in another car bombing near Diyarah, about 30 miles south of Baghdad.

At least seven American soldiers were wounded in the attacks in and around the capital, said military spokesman Greg Kaufman.

At least 1,575 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

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Death sentence for Muslim soldier
Julian Borger in Washington
Saturday April 30, 2005
The Guardian

An American Muslim army sergeant has been sentenced to death by a military court for killing two fellow soldiers and wounding 14 others in the first days of the Iraq invasion.

Sergeant Hasan Akbar, of the 101st Airborne Division, expressed regret for throwing grenades into officers' tents in the Kuwait desert and opening fire on the survivors on 23 March 2003.

"I want to apologise for the attack," the 34-year-old soldier told the 15-member jury on Wednesday, in a hushed voice and speaking for the first time at his trial. "I felt that my life was in jeopardy, and I had no other options. I also want to ask you for forgiveness."

His father, John Akbar, had claimed Hasan was the target of racial and religious taunts from other soldiers, who he said had worn Nazi and Ku Klux Klan tattoos. His defence lawyers also argued that he was mentally ill at the time of the attack.

The prosecution denied he had been victimised and presented the murder as the premeditated act of a religious zealot.

"He is a hate-filled, ideologically-driven murderer," said the chief prosecutor, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Mulligan. He pointed to a diary entry in 1997, in which Akbar wrote: "My life will not be complete unless America is destroyed."

"I suppose they want to punk me or just humiliate me," Akbar wrote in another diary entry a month before the attack. "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."

Akbar becomes the eighth man awaiting execution on the US military death row. Six are black and one Asian, a fact that has drawn criticism from civil rights activists.

Comment: The past 2 years of American military murder and mayhem in Iraq has brought us many reports of US soldiers "lighting up" any Iraqi that came within firing range. We have heard young Marines talk about "rag-heads" and "camel-jockeys", we had a US Major claim that it was "fun to shoot people" in Iraq. So we ask; when are we going to see murder trials for the many US soldiers and politicians who are guilty of indiscriminately killing innocent Iraqi civilians? Yes, we know, it is somewhat unlikely, particularly given that long-term CIA asset Ahmed Chalabi has just been appointed Deputy PM in the new US proxy government in Iraq.

Chalabi, readers will remember, was, we are told, the one who more or less single-handedly deceived the entire US intelligence apparatus by offering extremely suspect "evidence" about Saddam's WMD's in the lead-up to the Iraq war through his aide, known as "curveball" to the CIA. That, of course, is the official story. The truth is that a case for war was desired, so the Washington Neocons (Chalabi being a long time friend of Paul Wolfowitz) cherry picked the best man for the job. Michel Chossudovsky of The Centre for Research on Globalisation maintains that Chalabi's arrest last year by the US military was simply a ploy to try and legitimise Chalabi in the eyes of the Iraqi people. We might say that their ploy has worked, but then again, who said the appointment of the top positions in the new Iraqi government-by-proxy has anything to do with the the will of the Iraqi people. After all, the people of which we speak have already successfully forced at least two unelected administrations on the American people.

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Defense Department Invokes Geneva Conventions to Withhold Torture Photos
April 29, 2005

NEW YORK -- In a federal court brief filed late last night, the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the government's claim that turning over photographic evidence of detainee abuse in Iraq would violate the Geneva Conventions.

"Until now, this administration has shown only contempt for the Geneva Conventions, and it has built its policies dismissing the application of international humanitarian law," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "It's simply astounding that the Defense Department has now invoked the Geneva Conventions to suppress evidence that prisoners have been abused. The government cannot cloak its attempts to protect itself from public embarrassment in a newfound concern for the Geneva Conventions."

Through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the ACLU and the New York Civil Liberties Union have sought the release of photographs and videotapes, in addition to documents, that would shed light on the systemic abuse of detainees held by the United States overseas. The Defense Department has refused to turn over photographic evidence, stating that to do so would violate the government's obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

In its reply brief, the ACLU argued that the release of photographs would not infringe the personal privacy of the detainees depicted if all identifying details were redacted. The ACLU also submitted declarations from leading international law experts stating that releasing the photographs would be consistent with the Geneva Conventions. One expert noted that photography exposing inhumane conditions at German and Japanese concentration camps played a powerful role in the historical development of the Geneva Conventions themselves.

The ACLU also questioned the sincerity of the government's commitment to the Geneva Conventions, pointing to previous declarations from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that the Conventions do not apply to detainees held at Guantánamo Bay or in Afghanistan. Recently, the ACLU obtained a memo signed by Lieutenant General Ricardo A. Sanchez authorizing 29 interrogation techniques for use in Iraq, including several techniques that the group says clearly violate the Geneva Conventions. Among other things, the Sanchez memo allowed interrogators to use military dogs "to exploit Arab fears" and to subject detainees to painful stress positions and extended isolation.

"The Geneva Conventions were intended to protect prisoners, not to provide governments with a basis for withholding evidence that prisoners have been maltreated," said ACLU attorney Jameel Jaffer. "It's disgraceful that the Defense Department is attempting to contort the Conventions in this way."

The ACLU also charged in its brief that:

* The CIA has improperly refused to confirm or deny the existence of documents that have been reported on by the press. The CIA has invoked a legal argument known as the "Glomar" response to avoid acknowledging even the existence of two Justice Department memos regarding the legality of certain interrogation techniques. It has also invoked Glomar with respect to an order from President Bush authorizing the CIA to set up detention facilities outside the United States.

* The Defense Department has improperly withheld documents pertaining to the International Committee of the Red Cross. The ACLU is seeking Defense Department documents that were generated in response to concerns raised by the ICRC over the treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. Although the ICRC reports themselves are confidential, the ACLU has argued that memos produced by the Defense Department in response to the ICRC findings cannot be withheld from the public.

* The CIA has failed to justify the withholding of documents on "Ghost Detainees." The ACLU is seeking the release of documents relating to CIA Director George Tenet's request that Secretary Rumsfeld hold an Iraqi prisoner but not list him on the prison rolls, as well as Secretary Rumsfeld's order implementing that request. Neither the Defense Department nor the CIA has provided an adequate response to this request, and the ACLU is asking the court to order the immediate release of these documents. [...]

Comment: It would appear that the hypocrisy of the Bush regime knows no bounds. To subvert the Geneva conventions, which were designed to protect prisoners rights, and use them to protect those that abuse prisoners rights is the height of arrogance and cynicism.

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Detainee Questioning Was Faked, Book Says
By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 29, 2005

The U.S. military staged the interrogations of terrorism suspects for members of Congress and other officials visiting the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to make it appear the government was obtaining valuable intelligence, a former Army translator who worked there claims in a new book scheduled for release Monday.

Former Army Sgt. Erik Saar said the military chose detainees for the mock interrogations who previously had been cooperative and instructed them to repeat what they had told interrogators in earlier sessions, according to an interview with the CBS television program "60 Minutes," which is slated to air Sunday night.

"They would find a detainee that they knew to have been cooperative," Saar told CBS. "They would ask the interrogator to go back over the same information," he said, calling it "a fictitious world" created for the visitors.

Saar worked as a translator at Guantanamo from December 2002 to June 2003. During that time, several members of Congress reported visiting the base, but military officials said they do not know precisely how many toured it.

Saar also told CBS, and claims in his upcoming book, "Inside the Wire," that a few dozen of the more than 750 men who have been held at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay were terrorists, and that little valuable information has been obtained from them.

A spokesman for the U.S. military's Southern Command, which oversees Guantanamo Bay operations, dismissed the allegation of mock interrogations.

"I can say that we do not stage interrogations for VIP visits at Guantanamo," said Col. David McWilliams. "I don't want to characterize or comment on what Sergeant Saar believes. He's written his book."

A Defense Department official familiar with interrogations said Saar would not be privy to interview strategies. He noted that interrogators often ask the same questions in separate sessions to check a detainee's account.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said she was "initially impressed" by interrogations she saw on a tour of Guantanamo Bay in February 2004 with members of the Homeland Security Committee. The delegation watched through mirrored glass as interrogators spoke in conversational tones and rewarded cooperative detainees with ice cream. Now, she believes, "we were duped."

"The amount and depth of the torture that's been alleged and corroborated leaves no doubt in my mind that what we saw was a staged interrogation," Norton said.

Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has led the legal challenge of detainees' imprisonment and alleged abusive interrogation techniques, said Saar's claims support lawyers' suspicions that the official tours of Guantanamo were phony.

"They couldn't show people what they were really doing, because what they were really doing was illegal and inhumane," Ratner said. "It's such a fraud. It reminds me of the special concentration camps set up in World War II. They would take the Red Cross there to see there was an orchestra and all sorts of nice things."

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Abu Ghraib reservist to plead guilty
Saturday 30 April 2005, 12:45 Makka Time, 9:45 GMT

Private First Class Lynndie England will plead guilty to abusing Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib prison, about a year after photos of her sexually humiliating inmates made her the face of a scandal that damaged the credibility of the US military.

England will plead guilty in a military court on Monday to seven of the nine counts against her: two counts of conspiracy, four counts of maltreating prisoners and one count of dereliction of duty, said Rick Hernandez, her civilian lawyer.

England, a 22-year-old army reservist who was a clerk at the Baghdad-area prison, was scheduled to go to trial on Tuesday at Fort Hood, Texas. Hernandez said the plea deal was reached on Friday afternoon during a meeting with military prosecutors at the army post.

"This is in her best interests," he said. [...]

England, from Fort Ashby, West Virginia, was one of seven members of the Maryland-based 372nd Military Police Company charged with humiliating and assaulting prisoners at the prison near Baghdad. She became a focal point of the scandal after photos of her surfaced, including one that showed her smiling and posing with nude prisoners stacked in a pyramid.

In one notorious photo from the prison, England is shown holding a hooded, naked Iraqi prisoner on a leash. In another she is smiling and pointing at a naked detainee's genitals while a cigarette dangles from the corner of her mouth.

The Abu Ghraib scandal, which went public last April, weakened confidence in America's military leadership in the US, ignited outrage around the world, and spawned several high-level government investigations. So far, only low-level soldiers have been charged, although the defendants and other critics have alleged higher-level officials condoned the abuse.

England's lawyers had argued she and others in her unit were acting on orders from military intelligence to soften-up prisoners for interrogations.

But army investigators testified during hearings last summer that England said the reservists took the photos while "they were joking around, having some fun".

[Hernandez] said the defence would also present evidence to the sentencing jury that England had severe learning disabilities and mental health problems.

Comment: Aren't they supposed to have ways of preventing people with "severe learning disabilities and mental health problems" from joining the armed forces? Some sort of tests? Or is that so "yesterday" in the new, modern, shoot anything that moves US military?

On the other hand, when you're bringing back torture and you want to be certain the top dogs are not going to be blamed, what better way to do it than bring in people with learning disabilities. Moreover, it proves you're an equal opportunity employer. That'll shut up the liberals. Why not empty the mental hospitals and ship them all off to Iraq? After all, it's expensive to keep them in the facilities. You have to feed them, change sheets. Better to let 'em lose in Iraq. Better to give their deaths meaning. They can die fighting for democracy rather than in the new Bush eugenics programme.

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G.I. Denied Conscientious-Objector Status
Associated Press
Fri Apr 29, 7:00 PM ET

SAVANNAH, Ga. - The Army said Friday it has denied conscientious objector status for a soldier who refused to deploy to Iraq for a second tour, saying he became morally opposed to war during the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Sgt. Kevin Benderman, 40, filed his objector application Dec. 28, just 10 days before he skipped his unit's deployment flight. The Army mechanic faces a court-martial May 12 on charges of desertion and missing movement.

The conscientious-objector denial came Wednesday from the Army's Headquarters Department, Fort Stewart spokesman Lt. Col. Robert Whetstone said.

Benderman and his military attorney, Maj. Scott Sikes, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment Friday.

Benderman, who has served 10 years in the Army, has said his eight months in Iraq in 2003 included scenes of misery such as a badly burned young girl and mass graves filled with men, women and children.

He had faced tough questions about his sincerity at a February hearing on his application, especially regarding his decision to file his claim days before the Fort Stewart-based 3rd Infantry Division began deploying 19,000 troops to Iraq in January.

His commanders contend Benderman was obligated to deploy with his unit, the 3rd Forward Support Battalion, while the Army processed his objector claim.

The military defines a conscientious objector as someone who opposes war in all forms for deeply held moral or religious reasons.

If convicted at his court-martial, Benderman faces up to seven years in prison, reduction in rank to private and a dishonorable discharge.

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Mass Grave with Up to 1,500 Bodies Found in Iraq
Sat Apr 30, 7:13 AM ET

NEAR SAMAWA, Iraq - Investigators have uncovered a mass grave in southern Iraq containing as many as 1,500 bodies, most of them thought to be Kurds forcibly removed from their homes in the late 1980s.

The site, near the town of Samawa, about 180 miles south of Baghdad, consists of 18 shallow trenches dug by earth-moving vehicles into hard limestone rock.

Most of the victims were women and children who were apparently lined up in front of the pits and shot with AK-47 assault rifles, according to a U.S. investigator.

Around 110 bodies have been excavated from the site so far, nearly two thirds of them children and teenagers.

They are being forensically examined and evidence gathered will be used to build cases against Saddam Hussein and his top deputies for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

The site appears to have been carefully chosen and was well concealed, factors prosecutors believe will convince a court of the systematic nature of the crime.

Many of the victims were wearing clothing that is traditionally Kurdish, and even specific to certain villages. They were wrapped in multiple layers, suggesting they knew they were being moved somewhere, investigators said.

The site was first identified early last year by the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, but proper examination did not begin until early this month and finished on April 24.

Comment: We have to wonder why it took well over a year to examine the site. One thing is certain: the Bush administration is getting a lot of mileage out of the story.The timing of this article is also particularly curious given that the Abu Ghraib abuse is in the news again. America just found out that Lynndie England will plead guilty, and here we have a nice story about Saddam's abuses of the Iraqi people to distract the masses.

A reporter was taken to visit the site with Iraq's minister of human rights, an Iraqi judge and international experts.

It is one of around 300 suspected mass graves that have been discovered around Iraq since Saddam was overthrown. Some contain as few as a dozen bodies, while others, including one near the southern city of Basra, contain several thousand.

In the area around Samawa, a largely Shi'ite Muslim town where Saddam cracked down against locals after an uprising in 1991, 27 suspected grave sites have been found.

An official from the Regime Crimes Liaison Office, a U.S. body working with Iraqi authorities to build evidence of crimes committed by the former government, said the Kurds were probably moved south during the Anfal campaigns of 1987-88.

During that period, Saddam and his top lieutenants oversaw the rounding up and forced removal of hundreds of thousands of Kurds from towns and villages across northern Iraq.

Saddam's armies crushed Kurdish opposition throughout the region and are accused of gassing residents of Halabja, near the Iranian border, killing more than 5,000 people.

The excavation of grave sites at this point is focused on gathering evidence for trials against former Iraqi leaders due to begin this year. Precise identification of victims, including DNA analysis, is not expected to happen for some time.

Bakhtiar Amin, Iraq's outgoing human rights minister, who is a Kurd, said Iraqi authorities needed to set up some sort of fund for the victims of Saddam's rule. He suggested that five percent of oil revenues be allocated for compensation.

"Compassion is not sufficient," he said. "Something tangible needs to be done for the victims of Saddam's regime."

Comment: What about the victims of Bush's regime? Sure, Saddam was cruel, but ordinary Iraqis are far more concerned with today's Iraq, where safety from trigger-happy US troops, freedom from occupation, and basic goods and services are scarce.

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Italy, U.S. disagree over death of Italian agent
Last Updated Fri, 29 Apr 2005 22:39:18 EDT
CBC News

ROME - After a month-long investigation, the U.S. and Italy said they cannot agree on whether American soldiers are to blame for the death of an Italian intelligence officer at a Baghdad checkpoint.

In a statement, the two countries, which participated in a joint investigation into the March 4 death of agent Nicola Calipari, said they could not come to any "shared final conclusions."

Calipari was killed by gunfire coming from U.S. forces as they tried to stop a car carrying him, two other agents and a freed hostage, Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena.

Calipari died as he shielded Sgrena from the gunfire.

Soldiers at the checkpoint have said that the car was speeding toward them and that the driver ignored warnings to stop.

But the Italian officer driving the car and Sgrena have claimed that they saw a warning light at the same time gunfire broke out. The agent has also testified he was driving slowly.

"The investigators did not arrive at shared final conclusions even though, after examining jointly the evidence, they did agree on facts, findings and recommendations on numerous issues," the statement said.

Comment: That's an eloquent way of putting it. They agreed that Calipari and Sgrena were in the car. They agreed that the shot that killed Calipari, a four-inch shell, lodged in Sgrena's shoulder and punctured her lung. They agreed that the car was on a secure road that only cars previously secured by US checkpoints would travel. There's a lot they can agree on.

The killing sparked outrage in Italy and put pressure on Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to withdraw Italy's estimated 3,000 troops from Iraq.

Italy's foreign minister, Gianfranco Fini, said there was no way the Italians could have approved of the American version of events. "The Italian government could not have been asked to sign off on reconstruction of the facts that as far as we know does not correspond to what happened that night," he told reporters.

Fini said a final report will be released in a few days which will make it clear "why the Italian government could not sign off a reconstruction of events that in our opinion does not capture 100 per cent what happened."

Italy has launched its own criminal inquiry into Calipari's death.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the two countries had agreed to disagree and that it was time to move beyond the dispute.

"The mark of a strong relationship is to be able to work together to find the areas of agreement, to accept the areas of disagreement, to put them all in the proper perspective and then to move on," he said.

He also said the Americans would release their own report based on the joint investigation soon.

Comment: Yeah, you, Italians, let's just put this unfortunate incident behind us. It's not like the guy that died was an American or something.

In a report filed for the French paper Le Figaro (and now pulled from their site], it was stated that the US had satellite photos showing that the car was going 100 km/h. So if they could identify the car and determine its speed from satellite photos, why can't they find Osama and Al Zarqawi?

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Giuliana Sgrena Blasts U.S. Cover Up, Calls for U.S. and Italy to Leave Iraq
Democracy Now!

AMY GOODMAN: Yesterday, Giuliana Sgrena blasted the results of the investigation at a news conference in Rome.

    GIULIANA SGRENA: [translated] Sgrena says, "I didn't have great confidence in this inquiry given the past experiences of similar incidents and inquiries. Obviously, if what leaked today as the result of the inquiry, then it's even worse than what I had anticipated, because earlier the Americans have spoken about a tragic mistake and they had somehow taken on some responsibilities. Now they seem unwilling to accept responsibility," she says.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Giuliana Sgrena. The U.S. government has said it will not comment on the report until it is officially released. This is Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld and Joint Chief of Staff, Richard Myers, speaking at a news conference at the Pentagon yesterday.

    DONALD RUMSFELD: My latest information is that they have not come to a final agreement on a joint report, and the -- it will -- whatever is issued will be issued in the period ahead and we'll know when it's issued. It's an investigation. It was done together intimately, and I think that we'll just have to wait and see what they come out with.

    RICHARD MYERS: I would say it will most likely be announced in Baghdad. That's the plan right now, when they come to their final conclusions.

    REPORTER: Has the report essentially found that American troops will not be punished in this --

    RICHARD MYERS: It's not final yet, so we cannot say.

    REPORTER: So it hasn't determined whether or not --

    RICHARD MYERS: We haven't seen the report. General Casey, he's still got the report.

    REPORTER: Is there the possibility it that it might be two separate reports?

    RICHARD MYERS: Don't know. We'll have to wait and see, and it will be announced in Baghdad.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Richard Myers, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Meanwhile, Italian judges are conducting a separate investigation into the killing. The report comes at a bad time for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was forced to resign last week in the wake of his center-right coalition's defeat in recent regional elections. The defeat was blamed in large part on Berlusconi's unpopular decision to send troops to Iraq. He quickly put together a new cabinet, hoping to cling to power through elections due next spring.

Yesterday, I spoke with Giuliana Sgrena by telephone from Rome, where she is recovering from the injuries she suffered as a result of the shooting. I began by asking her reaction to the Pentagon report.

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes, for the moment we have not an official result of the reports, but we have some rumors about the conclusion of the report, so I am very sad about that because I was – is words that I was waiting. I thought that maybe the Americans will spoke of accident or something like that, but now they say that the US military because they have no responsibility for what happened the 4th of March in Baghdad. They say that they respected all the engagement rules, and that is not true, because I was there and I can testify that they just shoot us without any advertising, any intention, any attempt to stop us before. So I think that it's very bad this conclusion because they don't want to assume any responsibility and they don't mind about our testifying, my one and the one of the Italian intelligence agent that these are quite the same. We were there and we are in a position to testify what happened, so it's not true that the Americans say, what the commission say. So we are very afraid, we are very worried about that, and also the Italian government for the moment, they doesn't accept this conclusion, and those of the Italian members that were in the commission, so it is a very bad situation. They wanted to give a strike to the Italian government even if they are allied in the war in Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: Giuliana, the US military says your car was going very fast.

GIULIANA SGRENA: That's not true, because we were slow, and we were slowing down, because we have to turn. And before there was some water, so it's not true that the car was going fast.

AMY GOODMAN: They say the soldiers used hand and arm signals, flashed white lights and fired warning shots to get the driver to stop.

GIULIANA SGRENA: No, they didn't. No, no. No light, no air fire, nothing at all. They were beside the road. They were not on the street. They were away ten meters, and they didn't give us any sign that they were there, so we didn't saw them before they started to shoot.

AMY GOODMAN: Did they shoot from the front or from the back?

GIULIANA SGRENA: No, on the back, not on the front. They shot on the back, because Calipari was on the back on the right and he was shot dead immediately, and I was injured on my shoulder, but I was shot by the back. So I am a proof that they were shooting on the back and not in front of the car. We can see by my injured where I was shot.

AMY GOODMAN: Did the Italians do this report with the US military?

GIULIANA SGRENA: There were two Italians in the commission, but they don't accept the conclusion of the commission, so now there is some discussion between the Italian authorities and the American ambassador here in Rome. But the two members of the commission, they don't accept the conclusion of the commission, so there is a problem.

AMY GOODMAN: Did the Italians -- were they able to inspect the car?

GIULIANA SGRENA: No, we are expecting for the car tonight in Rome. We are supposed, the car will be in Rome tonight, and so the judges that they are doing the normal inquiry they can, they could see the car. I hope to see the car also, but we don't know in which condition we will receive the car. And the Italian judges, they don't know also the names of the soldiers that were involved in the shooting.

AMY GOODMAN: The other person in the car.


AMY GOODMAN: Did the two of you testify?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes, he did the same testifying as mine, but the American, the commission didn't take in account our testifying. It seems to be like that, because they didn't mention about our testifying.

AMY GOODMAN: After they shot you and killed Calipari, what happened to the other man?

GIULIANA SGRENA: The other man left the car and was shouting that we were Italian and of the embassy, and he was speaking on the telephone with the Italian government. And we have, my husband, for example, he was there listening the call. And at a certain moment the soldiers, they imposed to these agents because these are agents of the Italian intelligence, and they imposed him to cut the call with the weapons.

AMY GOODMAN: Say that again. What did they do?

GIULIANA SGRENA: They stopped him to -- he was talking by telephone with the Italian member of the government. It was Berlusconi there and the -- it was his advisor Letta, there was the chief of the intelligence and also my husband and the director of my newspaper, because they were there waiting for our news of the liberation. And they was talking about the shooting and at a certain moment the soldier, the American soldier stopped him and with the weapon they imposed him to cut the communication.

AMY GOODMAN: And then what happened?

GIULIANA SGRENA: And then what happened I don't know, because I was injured, so they brought me to the hospital, and I don't know what happened to the other man, to the other agent.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you get permission, did Calipari get permission to drive on the road to the airport?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Of course, I was there when they called. They called the Italian, because there is an official that is linked to the Americans. And this Italian general spoke to the Captain Green, that is the American one, telling him that we were on this road and that they were aware that we were on that road. And this happened at least 20-25 minutes before the shooting.

AMY GOODMAN: This road…

GIULIANA SGRENA: They knew that we were on this road.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you know that they knew?

GIULIANA SGRENA: I know because I was there when the agent called the Italian one, the general that is in charge for the communication with the Americans, and this general did a testifying, telling that he was there with the Captain Green, and Captain Green was immediately informed about our traveling to the airport. And the Captain Green didn't say no, so I think that he's right. And he's a general. I don't think that this general made a wrong, false testifying.

AMY GOODMAN: So you're saying Calipari spoke to -- this was an Italian or US general?

GIULIANA SGRENA: The Italians, they can't speak to the Americans directly. There is a man, a special man, a general that is in charge for the communication with the American commanders. It's impossible for an agent, an Italian agent, to speak with the Americans directly. I knew the rules because I was there many times. And I know that every time always in Iraq there is an Italian that is in charge for the communication with the Americans. And in this time, in this moment, was a general that was there speaking with the Commander Green that was the correspondent, American one. So I knew about that. And in all the newspaper, Italian newspaper, was published that. So there is no problem of communication. Commander Green knew about our presence on that road. If he didn't inform the mobile patrol, we don't know. But he knew, the commander, the American commander knew about it.

AMY GOODMAN: And where did the conversation take place? Was it in the Green Zone?


AMY GOODMAN: The one where Calipari talked to the Italian general.

GIULIANA SGRENA: I don't know. I don't know. I don't follow the general, because they are the places in the Green Zone I don't know where, I can't know where are the general. You know is a secret place. Because it is very dangerous in Baghdad, they don't say where they meet.

AMY GOODMAN: Giuliana Sgrena, can you explain the road? This wasn't the regular Baghdad -- the road to the airport that you traveled on? This was a special road?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes. It was a special road for people that are working in embassies, or they are Americans, or they are contractors. Special people that go to the airport.

AMY GOODMAN: And did Calipari inform the Americans when he arrived in Iraq what he was doing?

GIULIANA SGRENA: I don't know. This I don't know. I can't testify about it. But I think that the intelligence has the possibility to do -- anyway, he got a badge from the US commanders, because he has to go around with weapons and so. But I didn't know what he told to the Americans he wanted to do. I can't say.

AMY GOODMAN: You mean a badge he got, like permission to go?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes. I don't know. To go around in Iraq you need a badge. And Calipari got a badge from the American commanders in the airport. And they knew that he was there with a car, with weapons, and with another agent, and all these kind of things, because if not, he couldn't go around. But what he really said to the Americans, I can't say. I can't know. They are intelligence. They don't say to other people like me what they say, what they are doing. You know?

AMY GOODMAN: Giuliana, did you encounter any other US military on that road before you were shot?

GIULIANA SGRENA: No. No, we didn't.

AMY GOODMAN: And where did Calipari pick you up? How did you get rescued?

GIULIANA SGRENA: I don't know, but I was not -- I was covered.

AMY GOODMAN: Right now, do you think that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is doing enough in your case?


AMY GOODMAN: Do you think your prime minister, Berlusconi, is doing enough in your case?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes, because I am free. I think that he did before. Now I don't know what he is doing? But before, he did, because I am free now, you know? And I am happy to be free.

AMY GOODMAN: What do think should happen right now, Giuliana Sgrena?

GIULIANA SGRENA: I don't know.

AMY GOODMAN: What are you calling for?

GIULIANA SGRENA: I am calling for the withdrawal of the troops.


GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes, of course. The Italian troops from Iraq, and also the Americans. But for the moment, as I am Italian, I ask for the withdrawal of the Italian ones. But my situation will be the withdrawal of all the troops from Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you satisfied with Berlusconi saying they will come out by the end of the year?


AMY GOODMAN: Are you satisfied that Berlusconi has said they will pull out the troops by the end of the year?

GIULIANA SGRENA: I am not so sure they will, so before, I want to wait if they will really withdraw all the troops.

AMY GOODMAN: And in terms of your report right now, the US military is saying the Italians don't want to sign off on it. Will the Italian commissioners sign this report?

GIULIANA SGRENA: I don't know. How can I know? I don't know. I can't meet the Italian members. I don't know.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel like a fair investigation has been done?

GIULIANA SGRENA: No, I don't think so.

AMY GOODMAN: Who do you think should be held responsible?

GIULIANA SGRENA: I don't know. I wanted to know, but if there is no further inquiries, it's impossible to know.

AMY GOODMAN: Right now, you are calling for the troops to come out. Are you now continuing to write about Iraq? How are you feeling?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Now I am very bad, because my physical situation is very bad, so I can't work for the moment. This is my problem. I am not well, I am very sick. Still I am still very sick, so I can't work for the moment. I am going every day to the hospital. I am very tired, you know?

AMY GOODMAN: Where did the bullet lodge in your body?

GIULIANA SGRENA: The bullet was in the shoulder, but some pieces reached the lung, so I am very, very sick.

AMY GOODMAN: And your time in captivity, do you know who held you? And how were you treated?

GIULIANA SGRENA: I was treated normally, treated from the material point of view. But I was prisoner, so I was without freedom. And this is very terrible. But I didn't know where I was. I was in Baghdad, but I don't know where.

AMY GOODMAN: And do you know who held you?


AMY GOODMAN: We all saw the videotape. What were the circumstances of the videotape?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Of course when you hostages, they tell you what you have to do, what you have to say, you know? But I don't like so much to speak about my period of kidnapping, because I spoke so much about it that every time that I think about that I am so sick. That is bad for my health, you know? I always go back to these things and I prefer it, if possible, don't to speak so much about that, because it is very bad for my health.

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush. Do you have a demand of the US President, the American President?

GIULIANA SGRENA: No. I want only the truth. But they don't seem to be interested to find the truth about what happened in Baghdad that night.

AMY GOODMAN: Will you go back to Iraq?


AMY GOODMAN: What will you do?


AMY GOODMAN: What will you do?

GIULIANA SGRENA: I don't know. For the moment, I don't know. I have to take care of my health, you know? I am very bad -- in very bad situation.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel like there is a cover-up here?


AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel like there is a cover-up? Do you feel that the investigation has been covered up?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes, of course. They don't want the truth. They don't want to tell the truth.

AMY GOODMAN: What would make them tell the truth?

GIULIANA SGRENA: I don't know. I don't know. I don't really know. Maybe if the Americans, they press the American government to tell the truth. Because, if the Americans, they don't mind; we are small, we are Italians, we are few Italians, what we can do? I think that it is important that the Americans, they press their government to tell the truth, because it's in the interest also of Americans, the truth. Not only of Italians, I think. So if you make actions with press on the government, you, maybe you can do something for us.

AMY GOODMAN: And when you were in Iraq, as a reporter, before you were captured, what do you think was the most important story for us all to understand?

GIULIANA SGRENA: I was looking around to see what the people were thinking about. And overall, I was interested in Fallujah. But when I went to interview some people from Fallujah, I was kidnapped. Some people were not interested in my story about Fallujah, I think.

AMY GOODMAN: What did you have to say about Fallujah? What did you discover?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Just stories. I have not a scoop about Fallujah, just stories.

AMY GOODMAN: Why did you go to Iraq to begin with? It was a dangerous place. You knew that.

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes, I knew. But I am a journalist. I went to Somalia. I went to Afghanistan. I went to Algeria. I went every places. And I went to Iraq also. I can't go only where the places are not dangerous. It is our work that is dangerous.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you regret having gone to Iraq?

GIULIANA SGRENA: No, I don't regret.

AMY GOODMAN: And in the car, before you were shot and Calipari was killed, what did he say to you? What did you talk about?

GIULIANA SGRENA: About the liberation, about experiences. About I don't remember, really. I was very happy to be free. But I was happy only for 20 minutes, and then it's finished. And now I am very sad. I am very painful, I am very tired. I am very…

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us.

GIULIANA SGRENA: Okay. Thank you.

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(AGI) - Rome, Italy, April 30 -

Silvio Berlusconi is denying that a ransom was paid in order to free Giuliana Sgrena. On the subject of the Calipari case, he says he hasn't spoken to George Bush on the phone, though he "definitely" will be in touch.

Regarding the ransom, "The CBS has made allegation which contrast with the information I have on it," said the premier. "I haven't spoken to Bush, not on this occasion, not recently, but I know the situation well".

For Berlusconi, however, with the USA, "our ties of friendship are unshakeable. Our presence in Iraq is also due to reasons which have to due with installing democracy and freedom in a country which has had decades of bloody dictatorship". A democracy, Berlusconi concluded, "which is crucial in that region and which is an important step for spreading democracy more widely around the world".

Comment: Blah, blah, blah. Instead of a bloody dictatorship, now the Iraqi people have an even bloodier "Democracy", a ruined infrastructure, no jobs and a US proxy government. They really must be overjoyed. Oh yes, and just in case you missed it, not that it really matters anymore, but the hunt for the WMD's that were used as the excuse to initiate the Iraq travesty is finally and officially over. The result? Yeah, you guessed it...

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Weapons Inspector Ends WMD Search in Iraq
By KATHERINE SHRADER, Associated Press Writer Tue Apr 26

WASHINGTON - Wrapping up his investigation into Saddam Hussein's purported arsenal, the CIA's top weapons hunter in Iraq said his search for weapons of mass destruction "has been exhausted" without finding any.

The Bush administration justified its 2003 invasion of Iraq as necessary to eliminate Hussein's purported stockpile of WMD.

"As matters now stand, the WMD investigation has gone as far as feasible," Duelfer wrote in an an addendum to the report he issued last fall. "After more than 18 months, the WMD investigation and debriefing of the WMD-related detainees has been exhausted."

In 92 pages posted online Monday evening, Duelfer provided a final look at an investigation that, at its peak, occupied more than 1,000 military and civilian translators, weapons specialists and other experts. His latest addenda conclude a roughly 1,500-page report released last fall.

Among warnings sprinkled throughout the new documents, one concludes that Saddam's programs created a pool of weapons experts, many of whom will be seeking work. While most will probably turn to the "benign civil sector," the danger remains that "hostile foreign governments, terrorists or insurgents may seek Iraqi expertise."

"Because a single individual can advance certain WMD activities, it remains an important concern," one addendum said.

Another addendum noted that military forces in Iraq may continue to find small numbers of degraded chemical weapons — most likely misplaced or improperly destroyed before 1991. In an insurgent's hands, "the use of a single even ineffectual chemical weapon would likely cause more terror than deadlier conventional explosives," the addendum said.

And still another said the survey group found some potential nuclear-related equipment was "missing from heavily damaged and looted sites." Yet, because of deteriorating security in Iraq, the survey group was unable to determine what happened to the equipment, which also had alternate civilian uses.

Comment: How convenient that Bush's invasion of Iraq meant that a continued embarrassing search for non-existent WMD's could not continue. And just in case Bush and Co raise the specter of "transfer", you can preemptively assign that one to the long list of lies told by the US government.

Among unanswered questions, Duelfer said a group formed to investigate whether WMD-related material was shipped out of Iraq before the invasion wasn't able to reach firm conclusions because the security situation halted its work. Investigators were focusing on transfers from Iraq to Syria.

The questioning of Iraqis did not produce any information to support the transfer possibility, one addendum said. The Iraq Survey Group believes "it was unlikely that an official transfer of WMD material from Iraq to Syria took place. However, ISG was unable to rule out unofficial movement of limited WMD-related materials."

Comment: So does anyone feel cheated, lied to, deceived and taken for an idiot yet? Lots of people in the UK should certainly be feeling something along those lines...

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Exposed: Blair is a serial liar
David Hughes – The Daily Telegraph April 29, 2005

Tony Blair's credibility was blown apart yesterday by the bombshell leak of the Attorney-General's top-secret legal advice on invading Iraq.

It revealed that the Prime Minister persistently lied to Parliament and the public about the legal basis for the war.

For two years Mr Blair has refused to publish the advice, citing confidentiality, while insisting the Attorney-General, Lord Goldsmith, was "unequivocal" that the war was lawful.

Last night's sensational leak to a TV news station reveals the true reason for its suppression – it was full of warnings that the invasion could be illegal.

It means the PM has not told the truth on the pivotal question: Was the war legal? The revelation came minutes after Mr Blair declared on TV: "I have never told a lie."

Lord Goldsmith's advice, handed to the PM personally on March 7, 2003 and never shown to the Cabinet, was so guarded and equivocal it would have made an invasion impossible to justify to Parliament.

Yet just 10 days later, under pressure from Downing Street, the Attorney-General published new advice stripped of all the caveats. It was on this "doctored" advice that Mr Blair sent British troops to war.

In a statement last night, Lord Goldsmith confirmed that the leaked document was genuine. [...]

Leading constitutional expert Professor Peter Hennessy said: "The whole thing reeks. There is only one word for it . . . it reeks.

"Even if the Prime Minister wins handsomely on polling day this will stain him and his premiership as long as people remember it, just as Anthony Eden's name is forever associated with Suez."

Shadow attorney-general Dominic Grieve said Mr Blair had been guilty of a "gross deception" on Parliament and the public.

Comment: Indeed, and if the British public still possess even a modicum of pride they will take the opportunity in the upcoming general election to show Blair what they think of war criminals.

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Putin Meets Abbas, Supports Palestinian Independence

The final goal of the Middle East settlement is the creation of an independent Palestinian state, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a news conference in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority, after meeting the PA head Mahmoud Abbas.

Russia wants direct negotiations on the definitive status of Palesine to be held with the assistance of the Quartet of Middle East peace
negotiators in a bid to complete the peace process in the region, Putin was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying.

Putin called on both Israel and Palestine to be consistent with the agreements achieved earlier, including the cease-fire declaration, the release of political detainees, and an agreement on the freedom of movement.

The Russian side is ready to develop economic, political and security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, Putin went on. Initially, Moscow will send a delegation of observers to work at the parliamentary elections scheduled for June 17.

Before the start of the Ramallah negotiations Putin laid a wreath at the grave of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Near the official residence of Mahmoud Abbas the Russian leader was met by several Russian women with children, who had left Russia for Palestine in the early 1990s. They carried posters with slogans "Putin, listen to us!" and "There are Russians here!" written in Russian. They said the Russian community in Ramallah amounted to 600 people. When the president got out of the car the crowd started shouting "Putin, Putin!" and then sang the famous World War II song Katusha.

Putin is the world's first president to visit Palestine since Mahmoud Abbas was elected the head of the authority on Jan. 9 after the death of Arafat.

Comment: Comparatively little has been said in the mainstream press about Putin's recent visit to Israel. The fact that the stopover was requested by Moscow, not Israel, left some in the Israeli press a little bemused about its purpose. While his meeting with Sharon, where he allegedly gave assurances about his intentions to sell missiles to Syria and enriched uranium to Iran, was claimed as a success by the Israelis, Putin's visit with Abbas, and his talk of an independent Palestinian state, not to mention the laying of a wreath at Arafat's grave, must surely have sent Sharon (and the US Neocons) another message altogether.

Reading between the lines, we can perhaps say that the intent was to send a clear signal that Russian is not about to sit back and watch the US and Israel have everything their own way in terms of the reshaping and appropriating of the Middle East and that, if and when needed, Russia will not hesitate to protect its own "vital interests" in the region. As for how far Putin might be prepared to go to convince the world that he is serious; well, time will tell we suppose...

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Russia to Start Nuclear Fuel Supplies to Iran in 2005

The Russian nuclear fuel trader TVEL announced on Friday that fuel shipments for a Russian built nuclear reactor in Iran will start in the middle of 2005, six months before the plant becomes operational in early 2006.

TVEL's vice president Anton Badenkov was quoted by the Russian news agency RIA-Novosti as saying that the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant was progressing and that the nuclear fuel should be shipped to the site half a year before the unit is launched.

"The unit should become operational at the beginning of 2006," said Budenkov, who also heads the board of directors of Atomstroiexport, the firm constructing the Bushehr reactor.

Russia and Iran signed a fuel supply deal in February 2004.

A key part of the deal obliges Tehran to return all spent nuclear fuel to Siberian storage units, a move which Russia hopes will allay U.S. worries that Iran may use the spent fuel, which could be reprocessed into weapons-grade plutonium.

"We have already signed the deal to take back the spent fuel from the plant, on which the international agencies were insisting, and all obstacles are removed," Budenkov said. "We are now awaiting a license from the Russian authorities for nuclear fuel exports," he said.

Iran's nuclear energy program aims to produce 7,000 megawatts at 20 nuclear power plants by 2025, according to a decision taken by the Iranian Atomic Energy Council in August 2004. Such a large-scale program would require huge investment and is hardly feasible without reaching an agreement with the EU and the United States. Russia is for maintaining its cooperation with Iran in the nuclear field, with China and Japan showing interest, too.

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Bush Says Putin Cannot Trust Iran
"ooh ooh, ahh, ahh"
At a prime time televised press conference Thursday President George W. Bush said that despite Moscow's aid to the Iranian nuclear program he was certain Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin understood Iran could not be trusted with nuclear weapons.

Russia is building Iran's first nuclear reactor at Bushehr despite protests from Israel and the United States.

The United States has pressured Russia over its assistance to Iran's civilian nuclear program, which Western countries fear could be adapted to produce nuclear weapons.

"What Russia has agreed to do is to send highly enriched uranium to a nuclear civilian power plant and then collect that uranium after it's used for electricity, power," Bush was quoted by the CNN website as saying.

"I appreciate that gesture, what they recognized and what America recognizes and what Great Britain and France and Germany recognizes is that we cannot trust the Iranians when it comes to enriching uranium."

"What Russia has said is 'we will provide you the uranium, we will enrich it for you and provide it to you and then we will collect it'," Bush said.

"I think Vladimir is trying to help there, and I know Vladimir Putin understands the danger of Iran with nuclear weapons and most of the world understands that as well," he added.

Iran has long denied accusations it is secretly seeking nuclear arms and has received strong backing from Putin, who sees cooperation with the Islamic Republic as a way to strengthen Russia's role in the Middle East, Reuters reports.

In February, Moscow and Tehran signed the fuel supply deal long opposed by Washington, which believes Iran could use Russian know-how to make nuclear weapons, Reuters added.

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Putin promises Russian training and equipment to Palestinian security forces
06:57 AM EDT Apr 30

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin promised Friday to provide the new Palestinian leaders with helicopters and other equipment and training to help maintain order after Israel's promised withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank of the Jordan River this summer.

In the first visit to the Palestinian territories by a Kremlin leader, Putin also pledged to help the Palestinians rebuild their infrastructure in anticipation of a viable Palestinian state on the West Bank and in Gaza.

In a nod to Israel, Putin promised any assistance to the Palestinians would be co-ordinated with both sides, saying: "We want this co-operation to be absolutely open."

The Palestinians and Moscow have a long history of political and cultural co-operation dating to the Cold War, when the Soviet Union backed Arab states and the Palestinians in their fight against the U.S.-backed Israelis. About 15,000 Palestinians studied in Russia. In recent years, however, Russian ties with Israel have warmed - and Putin said Friday his visit had "turned over a new page" with Israel.

His three-day Mideast trip is seen as an attempt to bolster Russia's international standing and raise its profile in Mideast peacemaking.

"We will provide the Palestinian leadership with technical help, supplies of equipment and training of personnel," Putin said after a two-hour meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who greeted him warmly at the Palestinian headquarters, known as the muqata.

Israel has reacted coldly to a Russian proposal to give the Palestinians 50 armoured vehicles, fearing they could fall into hands of militants. But Putin said the Palestinians will need resources to bring order to their territories and heed Israeli and international calls to rein in militants.

"If we expect chairman Abbas to fight terrorism effectively, he can't do it with slingshots and stones," Putin said.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser Al-Kidwa said Russia would provide the Palestinians with two helicopters and talks on supplying armoured vehicles would continue.

Khairi al-Oriedi, the Palestinian representative to Moscow, said the two Russian helicopters would be used to transport Abbas. Israel destroyed the Palestinian Authority's presidential helicopters as part of its campaign to limit the movement of late leader Yasser Arafat.

Putin also said Russia is looking at ways to help rebuild the Palestinian economy and infrastructure, badly damaged in more than four years of fighting with Israel.

Israel plans to pull out of the impoverished Gaza Strip this summer, and Palestinian efforts to maintain order will be viewed by many as a test case for their handling of a future state.

A day after talks with Israel's prime minister and president, Putin visited Arafat's tomb at the Palestinian compound. He bowed his head, stood silently at attention for a few seconds, bowed again and walked away.

A Palestinian honour guard greeted Putin as a military band played the Russian and Palestinian national anthems as Putin and Abbas stood side by side.

In Jerusalem, Putin condemned anti-Semitism amid calls by his critics to do more to fight it in Russia. He also paid tribute to Holocaust victims by visiting a museum dedicated to the Nazi campaign to exterminate Jews and presenting Israel with a sculpture dealing with the subject. He came to Israel from Cairo, the first Russian or Soviet leader to make an official visit to the Egyptian capital in 40 years.

Putin's trip saw no breakthrough. He found himself manoeuvring through conflicting interests as he juggled his bid to cement closer relations with Israel with moves to rekindle warm ties to its longtime Arab enemies.

Putin arrived in the region promoting a fall Mideast peace conference in Moscow but after a cool reception from Israel he played down the idea Friday, saying instead he was talking about a "meeting of high-level experts," rather than a summit. Russia is one of the four co-sponsors of the "road map" peace plan, along with the United States, United Nations and the European Union but the Americans have taken the lead.

During the visit, Putin attempted to persuade Israel short-range missiles he plans to sell to Israel's foe, Syria, are not a threat, saying they can only be used for defensive purposes. Israel appeared unconvinced.

Putin said Russia will go ahead with construction of a nuclear-power plant in Iran, a grave source of concern to Israel and the United States. But he repeated a warning he issued in Jerusalem a day earlier, saying Iran must show the world it does not seek nuclear weapons and forgo efforts to acquire uranium-enrichment technology.

"Nuclear weapons proliferation is dangerous in general and in such an explosive region as the Middle East it is very dangerous. From a military standpoint it is illogical and from a humanitarian standpoint it is unacceptable," Putin said - a statement apparently aimed both at Iran and Israel, which is widely believed to have nuclear weapons. Israel has never confirmed or denied it has them.

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Putin, Abbas pushing for Mideast conference 2005-04-30 11:44:08
RAMALLAH, April 29 (Xinhuanet) -- Talks between visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas are focusing on holding an international peace conference on Mideast peace, spokesman for the Palestinian National Authority Nabil Abu Rudeineh said Friday.

Rudeineh told reporters as the Abbas-Putin summit was underway that Abbas was determined to push forward holding such an international conference.

After talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday, Putin suggested that an international conference be held in Moscow later this year to discuss the implementation of roadmap peace plan.

The proposal drew an immediate welcome from Palestinian leaders and the European Union, but was turned down by Israel and the United States as premature.

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U.S. accused of pro-Israel bias at 2000 Camp David
By Nathan Guttman

WASHINGTON - A member of the U.S. peace team during the 2000 Camp David talks has accused the United States of adopting a distinct pro-Israeli policy that, together with other mistakes, led to the failure of the negotiations between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat.

"Far too often, we functioned in this process, for want of a better word, as Israel's lawyer," said Aaron Miller at a seminar in the U.S. capital on Monday. "I say this without any effort to diminish the importance, again, of gaining Israeli trust. [Secretary of State Henry] Kissinger gained it. [President Jimmy] Carter gained it, and [Secretary of State James] Baker gained it. And they produced agreements. They were also fairer and tougher".

Miller, who serves today as president of the Seeds of Peace organization, charged that the United States should not have accepted Barak's proposals as "generous," but should have questioned whether they were fair and could be worked with in order to achieve a peace deal.

Dennis Ross, who coordinated the peace talks at the time, rejected Miller's charges. "I can tell you, Barak said to me on more than one occasion that I was Arafat's lawyer. Why? Because I was always in there making the case for what the Palestinians needed," he said.

Participating in the seminar, organized by the Middle East Institute, were all four of the top U.S. officials who played a part in the peace process during the Clinton administration - Ross, Miller, Martin Indyk and Rob Malley. The four presented opposing views regarding the reasons for the failure of the talks, but all four agreed that now was the time for increased U.S. involvement in the process with the objective of strengthening the regime of PAChairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Comment: As we have said before, perhaps the only Israeli politician of recent decades with any real intentions of hammering out a just and fair peace deal with the Palestinians was Yitzhak Rabin, and, as detailed by Barry Chamish, his own countrymen took it upon themselves to deal with that particular threat to Israel.

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Nineteen wounded as Occupation unleashes brutal wave of attacks as Bil’in villagers continue resistance
The Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign,
April 28th, 2005

Twelve Palestinians were wounded as Occupation Forces unleashed a torrent of bullets, tear gas canisters and sound bombs in the village of Bil’in on Thursday 28th of April. Over 600 protestors gathered by the village mosque and marched to the west of Bil’in where land is being razed for the construction of the Apartheid Wall, which will trap the village in a ghetto. Around 10 Occupation bulldozers have been at work constantly over the last two weeks, in the project to annex Palestinian land for the expansion of nearby settlements.

Starting at 11 am, dozens of schoolchildren led a lively and colourful march, carrying an enormous Palestinian flag to the confiscated lands. Occupation Forces tried to prevent the crowd from reaching the lands but were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and resilience of protestors chanting “No to the Apartheid Wall” and “This Wall Must Fall.”

In an effort to disrupt the demonstration, Occupation Forces disguised as Palestinians infiltrated the protest and began to throw stones towards the area in which the bulldozers were operating. Upon confrontation by angry villagers, who demanded to see their identification papers, the disguised group claimed to be from the nearby village of Saffa. Knowing this to be false, Palestinians clashed with the unit leading to two of the Occupation Forces being injured. Their true identity was established as they revealed pistols and withdrew with their casualties from the area.

A flurry of rubber bullets was then pumped into the unarmed crowd. Dozens were wounded as sound bombs and tear gas were used in the attempt to push the demonstrators back. Around 50 protestors were able to break through into the Wall-path area where the bulldozers were engaged in their destruction of Palestinian trees and lands

Comment: While many are unaware of it, the continued brutalising of Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the West Bank is of extreme relevance to every American. The simple fact is that Sharon and the IDF would be unable to carry out their murderous acts if the US government did not fully and openly sanction them. This fact gives us an important insight into the value that members of the Bush administration, and many of the elected officials in the US that support US policy in the Middle East, place on human life in general.

US politicians are as removed from the daily lives and cares of American citizens as they are from the lives of Palestinians, despite the facade of a caring responsible democracy. To those that occupy the upper echelons of power, all inhabitants of this planet are seen as little more than cattle, to be used and manipulated as needed. It is for this reason then that American citizens should be extremely wary of the intentions of their government towards them. History shows us that successive US governments were only too willing to deliberately deceive and even murder members of the US population in order to further their own goals.

At this point in our history, we are clearly witnessing the outplaying of a global agenda by various members of the "elite", and the stakes appear to be very high indeed. We ahve previously provided evidence of the research being conducted by government scientists into a new breed of genetically specific Bio weapons. All of our readers should take time to reflect on that story and the topic in general and ponder the reasons why governments might be interested in ways to kill millions under the guise of a deadly form of Flu or other common virus.

In the final analysis, are any of us able to state categorically that there is anything "they" would not do if it served their goals in some way, however warped those goals might be from our perspective? After all, dead men, or billions of dead men women and children tell no tales.

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Over 10,000 demonstrate against 'Israel' in New York City
April 28, 2005

Over 10,000 Orthodox Jews protesting the existence of the state of Israel, and the recent beating of Orthodox Jews who protested in Israel against the uprooting of Jewish cemeteries of antiquity which was done in order to enable the construction of a highway #6, near Haifa, Israel – protest in front of the Israeli consulate New York City, Thursday, April 28, 2005

Comment: The group sponsoring the above demonstration answers the following questions about why they staged the protest. Here are some excerpts:

To Those who May Wonder Why We Are Here Today
April 28, 2005

Questions and Answers Concerning Protest Outside the Israeli Consulate, 28 April 2005

  • Q. What is the purpose of today's protest?
    A. We have two goals. One is local, the other global. First, we are demanding the immediate end to archeological digs, being conducted at this very moment by the Israeli government, that unearth centuries old Jewish graves in Jerusalem. Second, we are here to declare that the Israeli government itself and the Zionist ideology which it incarnates are in no way legitimate representatives of the Jewish people, or of the Torah faith, which is the sole basis of our very existence.

  • Q. First things first, why are these excavations taking place?
    A. The Israeli government has always demonstrated a callous disregard towards the buried remains of our ancestors. Whether using the pretext of road construction or scientific research, they have dug up thousands of graves with impunity through the years. [...]

  • Q. Why is this a pressing problem?
    A. Today, Zionism stands revealed before the Jewish people and, indeed, all mankind, as a failed enterprise. Zionism's founds (all, Jews who had rejected their ancestral faith) claimed that it was going to solve the problem of Jewish exile and suffering. It would offer a safe haven for all of world Jewry. Over half a century later, it has proven itself incapable of the far less grandiose task of so much as protecting the Jews already living in the Holy Land.

  • Q. But the state has survived, hasn't it?
    A. It is farcical to call a government that has subjected its citizens to five wars and endless suffering as a desirable "survival". How much blood must be shed till Jewry shakes off the shackles of world Zionism's domination and begins to rethink this ideology's root assumptions?

  • Q. What Assumptions are you referring to?
    A. The core of Zionist thinking is the dogma, at the most a century old, that Jewish exile is man-made, that it is the result of the superior strength of the Roman army which destroyed the TEmple and that it can be ended by military and political action. This reductionist misreading of Jewish history represented a break with two thousand years of Torah belief and tradition on two counts:
    • a. The founding of the Zionist state is in direct contradiction to the teachings of the Torah which forbids the establishment of a Jewish state and commands Jews to remain in exile until released from that exile by G-d Himself, without any human intervention, at which time all Nations of the World will live together in peace.

      Two thousand years ago, at the time of the Temple's destruction, the Jewish people were forbidden by the Creator (kesubos 111a)
      • To go up en masse to the land of Israel
      • To rebel against the nations
      • To in any way attempt to end the exile
      Torah faithful Jews are to behave in a civil, honest and grateful manner towards their hosts throughout the world.

      The Zionist intervention against G-d's will by establishing the "state of Israel" represents an official rebellion against G-d and the Torah, a rebellion which has generated untold pain and suffering.
    • b. Jews have always viewed their exile as a Divine punishment. They saw the sole means to their deliverance as repentance and good deeds. By casting the drama of Jewish history in materialist, this--worldly terms, Zionism was essence of the spiritual odyssey of the Torah nation. It was doomed to failure.
  • Q. Why doomed?
    A. Because the Talmud and Midrash have foretold that rebelling against G-d, by physically attempting to end Jewish exile, will result in ceaseless and horrible bloodshed and because it is simply metaphysically impossible for a rejection of Judaism, led by those who deny Torah, to lead and represent the Jewish people with any success.

  • Q. Why, then, is Zionism so popular?
    After the terrible destruction of the Second World War, European Jewry had lost many of its great leaders. In addition, there was a sense of confusion that permeated many survivors. The non-Jewish world was anxious to make amends for its passivity during the Holocaust. Hence, the Zionist triumph in 1918. However, a dispassionate reading of Jewish history will yield the conclusion that, since its inception, Zionism was opposed by the overwhelming majority of Torah observant and believing Jews.

  • Q. Was this opposition caused solely by Zionist philosophy?
    No. In fact, it was the deeds of Zionists, both before they came to power and after they became a state that revealed the true essence of this movement. The Israeli state has long warred on the practice of Judaism. It has violated the sanctity of Jewish graves for archeological studies, desecrated dead bodies by performing wholesale autopsies, has caused vast numbers of Jewish youth to abandon their religion, has maintained the moral decadence of mixed sex armies. . . The list is endless.

  • Q. Surely, now though, the state is a fact. It could only disappear with great loss of Jewish life.
    Surely it only survives with great loss of Jewish life! We know what the state's existence has cost in blood and suffering. The price of its dismantling is unknown. However, we trust that would the Jewish people be true to G-d and His Torah and sincerely sun the philosophy of Zionism, then a peaceful means would be found to dismantle its apparatus.

  • Q. What is the global goal of today's protest?
    Beyond the short term goal of ending the current excavation, we are committed to letting the world know that non-believers, even though they may call themselves "Israel," exhibit the Star of David and display menorahs, have no right to speak in the name of world Jewry. As Rav Saadya Gaon (882 - 942), post Talmudic, Babylonian leader of the Jewish people, said, "We are only a nation by virtue of the Torah." Any formulations of Judaism that reject Revelation at Sinai, are distortions of the faith that was handed down over four thousand years ago. Those not professing the truths of Sinai, while Jews (and probably themselves the victims of the age of heresy in which we live), are not and cannot be truthful representatives of Judaism.

  • Q. Do you have any hope that your message will be heard?
    Today, more than ever before, the total failure of the Zionist mania is obvious. Peace plans have failed. The "greatest" of right wingers, Ariel Sharon, has shown himself utterly incapable of solving anything. Daily the death toll mounts. All alternatives within the Zionist assumptions have been tried. People are willing to step beyond the old cliches and entertain new -- really old and traditional -- solutions. The cost of failing to rethink Zionism mounts everyday.

  • Q. If not Israel, what will be the focus of American and world Jewry?
    The focus of Jews throughout the centuries was the service of the Almighty via Torah and mitzvoth (good deeds). This was and is, the only agenda of the Jewish people. By pursuing the imperative of righteousness, with quiet dignity, with the Creator's help, we may be worthy of inspiring and uplifting all men towards universal peace and G-d's service.

  • Q. Is Zionism in contradiction with this task?
    Most certainly. Firstly, as we stated above, the State of Israel and the ideology of Zionism, is expressly forbidden according to the Torah. Secondly, it drags the Jewish people into endless conflicts with other peoples. It forces us into an aggressive involvement in war, political maneuvering and pressure. These are not Jewish methods. In exile we are to accept our status and serve the Creator, while cultivating good will, honestly and friendly relations towards all. The haughty swagger and militarism of the Israeli state, are not in keeping with the appropriate response to exile, nor with the basic pieties of a G-d focused, sincere and loving people.

  • Q. So your program is . . . .
    To pray for the peaceful dismantling of the Israeli state, to encourage Jews the world over to sever their links to it, to proclaim before mankind that Judaism cannot be represented by heretics and to seek good relations with all individuals and nations.

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Update: IDF: Reservist killed by friendly fire, not by Palestinian taxi
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service

The Israel Defense Forces reservist killed Monday night in the West Bank died as a result of shots fired by his fellow soldiers and not because he was hit by a Palestinian taxi, the IDF informed the family of Sergeant Major Tziki Eyal on Thursday.

It was initially believed that Eyal was hit at a West Bank checkpoint by a Palestinian taxi, whose driver was then shot to death by the other soldiers.

The cause of Eyal's death was determined by pathologists at the Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir.

Eyal, 24, was laid to rest Tuesday night in his hometown of Mazkeret Batya. He was serving with a reserve armored battalion stationed in the Hebron region.

On Monday evening, soldiers from Eyal's unit set up a surprise roadblock on Halhul bridge, which serves Palestinian traffic between Hebron and Halhul. Soldiers at the roadblock said they spotted the Palestinian taxi coming from the southern direction of Hebron, and that when the driver saw the roadblock, he began to make a U-turn and then stopped.

The soldiers said the taxi was at a standstill for about 30 seconds, at which point Eyal came out from behind a concrete security block and approached the vehicle. The taxi then began moving quickly, breaking sharply to the right in Eyal's direction. Eyal managed to shoot toward it before being hit by the vehicle.

Apparently the soldiers opened fire on the taxi as it started moving again, and a bullet hit Eyal in the head.

OC Central Command Yair Naveh surveyed the scene Tuesday and spoke with the soldiers involved. He appointed an investigative team, headed by the Nahal Brigade commander, Colonel Roni Noma.

Palestinian sources said Tuesday that the taxi driver, Iyad Dwek, 28, of Hebron, had no record of security infractions, and none of his relatives had previously been hit by IDF fire, suggesting this was not a deliberate attack.

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Israeli Army Lied About Killing UK Filmmaker: Report
April 24, 2005 (

CAIRO, – Israeli soldiers lied and tampering with evidence in an attempt to obstruct an inquiry into the killing of a British filmmaker, according to leaked documents published by The Observer on Sunday, April 24.

"Evidence shows that Second Lieutenant H. heard his soldiers lying in their testimonies during the investigation, and unfortunately did not mention that fact to his commanders, that his soldiers are giving them details that are not true," said a 79-page report by the chief lawyer of the Israeli army's southern command into the shooting of James Miller in the Gaza Strip.

The version of events offered by the soldier originally implicated in the shooting, identified only as Second Lieutenant H, were so contradictory that his accounts were described in the report as coming "full circle".

Miller, 34-year-old award-winning television journalist, was shot dead in the town of Rafah near the Egyptian border in May 2003 as he was filming a stand-up for a documentary on the Israeli army's demolition of hundreds of homes in the Palestinian territories.

His crew said they were carrying a white flag and identified themselves as British media to Israeli troops in the area, but as they left a Palestinian home they were fired upon and a bullet struck Miller in the neck, between his helmet and bullet-proof vest.

An autopsy carried out in Israel with a British doctor present found that the freelance journalist was hit by a bullet from an M-16 assault rifle fired by Israeli soldiers facing him.

His father, Geoffrey, said that "by allowing vital evidence to be tampered with, the Israeli army was complicit in my son's murder".


According to the report, all the soldiers interviewed changed their testimonies from accounts given to an earlier inquiry by the military police.

"Their versions paint a poor picture, to say the least," it states.

"Not only that there are differences and contradictions between one soldier's version to another soldier's version, but there are also contradictions and differences within one soldier's testimony itself, many times in the same version one could not find any coherence."

By contrast, army lawyers said all journalists and Palestinian witnesses interviewed gave reliable accounts.

According to the report, the barrel of the rifle understood to have been used in the shooting two years ago was changed.

It maintained that rifles submitted as part of the investigation could not have been those used in the shooting because it was "impossible" that bullets found at the scene in Rafah belonged to the weapons surrendered.

"It is important to point out that during the investigation a concern was raised, based on intelligence information, that some of the soldiers later changed the barrel they used during the event with a different barrel," said the report.

More evidence of a cover-up is underlined by the disappearance of videotapes that would have been recorded by the army's observation system and may have filmed Miller's death.

"Despite several attempts to locate them, the tapes from 3 May 2003 have never been found", said the report.


Miller's widow condemned as a "mockery" of justice the Israeli army earlier decision not to take action against the officer accused of responsibility over the fatal shooting.

"It shows that Israeli military activities in Gaza are carried out with impunity," Sophie Miller, 34, said in a statement.

"We deplore the total failure to hold anyone responsible for the most serious breaches of Israeli rules of engagement."

The widow also accused the Israeli forces of having no interest in establishing the facts surrounding the killing.

"We believed at the outset there was no genuine will to uncover the truth because the site of James's death was not secured for forensic investigation; the site was destroyed by bulldozers three days after James's death; it took the Israelis 11 weeks to impound the guns involved in James's death," she said.

The Israeli army's judge advocate general had argued that there was insufficient evidence to press charges against the officer.

An Israeli army investigation into the death of 23-year-old American Rachel Corrie concluded that her being crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in Rafah in March 2003 had been an accident.

Tom Hurndall, a 22-year-old British activist, died of critical head injuries from a bullet fired by an Israeli soldier in Rafah in April 2003 as he was trying to pull Palestinian children out of danger.

In November 22, Israeli occupation forces gunned down Ian Hook, a British UN worker in Jenin refugee camp.

Three British lawmakers had also accused Israeli troops of firing at them twice during a UN-supervised fact-finding mission in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah.

Comment: Considering that this documentary film-maker was shot in the neck while wearing a protective helmet and bulletproof vest suggests that his killing was a deliberate targeted assassination by an IDF sniper in order to silence his film about ongoing Israeli destruction of Palestinian homes.

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Why are the Democrats Silent?
The New Assault on Women's Rights
April 29, 2005
Chicago, Illinois

Those "fundamentalist extremists" are at it again, trying to force women back to the Dark Ages. Christian fundamentalists, that is.

Intoxicated by their recent success at the voting booth, Christian fundamentalists are no longer satisfied with pressing their claim that fetal rights supercede those of a living, breathing woman. They are now championing the rights of the "unborn" zygote, a fertilized egg, destroyed by oral contraceptives in the moments after conception.

In a battle now raging in at least 23 states, the Christian Right has expanded its crusade against abortion to include these "killer" birth control pills. Pharmacy by pharmacy, members of "Pharmacists for Life" are refusing to fill doctors' prescriptions for emergency "morning after" pills and other oral contraceptives.

In addition, these pharmacists of conscience refuse to refer patients to other pharmacists to perform the deadly deed. Karen Bauer, the group's president, stated plainly, "A pharmacy should be for healing. It should not be for killing."

Meanwhile, back in Washington, Bush is doing his part to further advance anti-abortion mythology, announcing on April 22 his administration's intent to aggressively enforce "The Born-Alive Infant Protection Act of 2002," requiring doctors to keep a fetus alive that survives an abortion.

Bush administration officials admitted they don't know how often a fetus survives an abortion and noted no complaints about a lack of enforcement. This could be because there aren't any. No medical advancement can alter the laws of anatomical development, which preclude fetal survival outside the womb before hearts and lungs develop around the twentieth week of pregnancy.

The overwhelming majority of abortions after this point are performed only to save the health or life of the woman. In fact, only four one-hundredths of 1 percent of legal abortions are performed after the second trimester. And more than 95 percent of all abortions are performed during the first 15 weeks of pregnancy.

With ever more outlandish discourse, the Christian Right has gained the upper hand in the battle over abortion in Bush's second term. But the pro-choice movement has helped pave the way.

Just one year ago, a million pro-choice supporters gathered for the March for Women's Lives in Washington, D.C. Surely, the human material exists to form a "Pharmacists for Choice" group, to picket the local pharmacy that refuses to dispense birth control pills and to assert the rights of the three million women who face unplanned pregnancies in the U.S. each year. Yet the pro-choice movement is ceding ideological ground as fast as the Christian Right demands it.

NARAL Pro-Choice America, the nation's largest pro-choice organization, offered "no comment" in response to Bush's absurd announcement on "born-alive" fetuses. Its silence is deafening.

The pro-choice movement has reached a crisis point, stemming directly from its uncritical support for the Democratic Party. Having featured Hillary Clinton as an "honored guest" at last year's March for Women's Lives, the women's movement is paralyzed now that Clinton is leading the party's full retreat on abortion rights.

In January, Clinton called abortion a "sad, even tragic choice" in an overture to the religious right--while asking "people of good faith to find common ground in this debate."

Feminist Naomi Wolf, a political consultant for both Al Gore and Bill Clinton, has long stumped for the other side on key aspects of the abortion debate. In a 1997 New York Times editorial, Wolf called on pro-choice supporters to join abortion opponents to lower the nation's "shamefully high abortion rate."

"The pro-choice movement should give God a seat at the table," urged Wolf, lambasting the pro-choice movement for framing its defense of abortion rights around "a woman's right to choose," which she claimed is "abstract." Perhaps not surprisingly, Wolf is now proposing a ban on abortion after the first trimester, as Nation columnist Katha Pollitt noted with dismay in the May 2 issue.

Mainstream feminists and their organizations are doing more than shifting gears in the struggle for abortion rights. They are following the Democratic Party in abandoning it, at the very moment when the anti-abortion crusade is moving ahead at full throttle.

Comment: In 1985, Margaret Atwood wrote The Handmaid's Tale, a novel about the religious right coming to power in the United States:

In the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, far-right Schlafly/Falwell-type ideals have been carried to extremes in the monotheocratic government. The resulting society is a feminist's nightmare: women are strictly controlled, unable to have jobs or money and assigned to various classes: the chaste, childless Wives; the housekeeping Marthas; and the reproductive Handmaids, who turn their offspring over to the "morally fit" Wives. The tale is told by Offred (read: "of Fred"), a Handmaid who recalls the past and tells how the chilling society came to be. This powerful, memorable novel is highly recommended for most libraries. BOMC featured alternate. [Amazon description]

Twenty years have passed. We are closer than ever.

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Naked Power: The Bush - DeLay Axis
April 30, 2005

Pomona, California -- George W. Bush and Tom DeLay, his political enforcer in the House of Representatives, have changed long established rules of U.S. political culture as "bipartisanship" has become winner take all; debate and deliberation has devolved into Party line dictates; civility has turned into hostility.

This partnership for naked power involves the dousing of executive and legislative power as they still haven't taken the whole judicial branch ­ with liquefied Christian rhetoric. Concerned citizens and even some Congressional Democrats have finally gotten the idea, but have not yet formulated a strong political answer to the audacious Bush-DeLay axis.

In the Senate, liberal Democrats like Ted Kennedy (MA) and Dick Durban (IL) watch in disgust and horror as Bush re-nominates for federal judgeships the same incompetent people that the Senate has already rejected. For Circuit Court, Bush re-named California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown, who compared big government to slavery and referred to minimum wage laws as the triumph of our own socialist revolution. Senior citizens today, she claimed, cannibalize their grandchildren by getting free stuff from the political system. She weighed in heavily on the decision to end meaningful affirmative action in California. Bush also re-nominated 39-year-old Brent M. Kavanaugh for the Court of Appeals. His record of judicial achievement consists of his work with former Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr who tried unsuccessfully to convict Bill Clinton for lying about having sex with Monica Lewinsky. According to, Kavanaugh has a consistent record of bias against gays, lesbians and transgender people. The Senate rejected him just over a year ago after reviewing his record and finding little but ultra right wing views and lack of legal experience to recommend him.

These candidates, like other Bush re-nominees, share extreme right wing agendas and practice judicial activism on the right to end judicial activism everywhere else. Since God forbade gay marriages our law must certainly not allow it. And, of course, enemy combatants don't merit due process or any rights dictated by liberal documents like the Magna Carta.

Perhaps Bush only knows a very limited number of people, suggested comic Bill Maher, trying to generate a little optimism, and that's why he keeps sending the same names of ultra right wing cooks to the Senate.

Trying to put positive spin on the nomination of Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton for UN Ambassador, however, resembles an attempt to find the upside of heroin addiction. A Los Angeles Times editorial (April 20) described Bolton as a man who appears to have a mean streak, apparent arrogant restlessness that bodes ill for this assignment. The Times might have added his addiction to bad information that led him to scream at subordinates when they contradicted him with the facts. He has said on several occasions that Cuba possessed weapons of mass destruction, despite clear warnings from intelligence experts that the information indicated the very opposite. Senate testimony by Republican officials and letters sent to the Foreign Relations Committee by a Republican woman who had scary encounters with Bolton, show him as a pathological bully and molester of women aside from his apparent compulsion to repeat false information.

The Bush-Delay gang indeed behaves like people addicted to their drug of choice: power. The inner circles seem to have gotten so high on this dubious aphrodisiac that, once inhaled, forces them to say anything, push other people around and spend the nation's treasury on loony projects like wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This addiction, enabled by the change in the basic rules by which the U.S. government has operated for many decades, has also allowed their corporate and banking supporters to grow wealthier at the expense of the rest of us. When Democrats object, Bush talks about the political capital he earned in the 2004 election ­ as if government under law meant what Louis XIV said: "L'etat, c'est moi."

Comment: Perhaps most Democrats object because they simply want a bigger piece of the pie, and not because they want to "save America". See the next article for more information...

The monarchical disdain Bush has shown for the informal democratic process of U.S. government extends dramatically to the behavior of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. One dissident Member claimed that beyond personal peccadilloes, we're watching the destruction of the House of Representatives. In place of debate, discussion, hearings and Committee meetings, DeLay has substituted naked power: his. Referring to DeLay's acceptance of huge sums of money from corporate lobbyists to support his ambitions, the Congressman said that DeLay covers his corruption with layers of Christian babble. When adverse publicity threatens to drown him, he uses Jesus as his life preserver. Like Bush, the devout DeLay attends church and then makes deals with corporate donor. He took a $56,500 contribution for one of his political action committee fronts from Westar Energy Inc. In return, he promised the energy company a "seat at the table" with drafters of a critical energy bill. DeLay took oodles of corporate money and then leveled pious tirades at Godless liberals for murdering Terri Schiavo.

Lobbyists know that contributions in the hundreds of thousands of dollars can lead to legislation that means many millions in corporate profits. So, in May 2001, Enron's top lobbyists gladly contributed to DeLay's political coffers ­ in addition to the $250,000 the company had already pledged to the Republican Party that year. DeLay used some of the funds to help finance the successful redistricting of Texas even using federal power to try to force the recalcitrant Democrats into appearing for a 2004 vote.

After the Republicans gained House seats in Texas, an investigation began into the legality of corporate political donations to the Republican Party in Texas including large contributions by Enron officials in 2001 and 2002. According to Lou Dubose, DeLay may have flagrantly broken a Texas law that bars corporate financing of state legislature campaigns (Dubose, The Hammer: Tom Delay, God, Money and the United States Congress).

When it comes to raising money for his PACs, however, DeLay shows his mastery of the modern world. He saves his anti-modernism to explain the real causes for the school terrorism at Columbine. "Guns have little or nothing to do with juvenile violence. The causes of youth violence are working parents who put their kids into daycare, the teaching of evolution in the schools, and working mothers who take birth control pills (Stephen Pizzo, Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans," alternet May 16, 2002). The man who has promoted himself as a champion of children took "a $100,000 check from a private prison company" (the Corrections Corporation of America or CCA, which runs private prisons in Texas) while attending a fundraiser for his own children's charity, the DeLay Foundation for Kids. The Texas Observer (June 6, 2003) described CCA as a company whose history over 20 years has been "fraught with malfeasance, mismanagement, and abuse." CCA wanted DeLay, who wields heavy influence over the Texas legislature, to support a bill that would privatize half of Texas' jails.

Fundraising and Christian values mix for DeLay the way vodka goes with olives in an alcoholic's martinis. Ed Buckham, DeLay's former chief of staff, also his pastor, organized daily office prayer sessions and then became a lobbyist who organized a DeLay junket to South Korea. He was later indicted for illegal lobbying, but nevertheless still pushes the Traditional Values Coalition and its crusade to save America from the "war on Christianity." Finally, in 2004, even the Republican dominated House Ethics Committee had to respond to DeLay's offer of $100,000 to former Congressman Nick Smith's son, Brad, who vied for a House seat. In return, Brad would vote for the Medicare prescription drug bill. The Ethics Committee admonished DeLay (Roll Call, 11/22/04). DeLay responded by ousting the chair of the Committee and placing him with one of his own loyalists. The more pious than thou DeLay also took a first class trip to Europe ($4,285) at the expense of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who represented Indian gambling and Saipan sweatshop interests. In exchange, DeLay helped defeat the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, which would have made it a federal crime to place certain bets over the Internet and which Abramoff's clients opposed (Washington Post, March 1 and 12, 2005).

In 1997, DeLay had worked with Abramoff to foster sweatshop labor on Saipan. Referring to these women-abusing factories as "free market successes," DeLay urged textile industry owners in those territories to "stand firm" against those in Congress and the Clinton Administration who were urging the island to adopt humane labor and immigration laws [DeLay speech, December 1997, Tan Reception, CNMI].

DeLay, like Bush, represents the culture of naked power: endorsing illegal wars while ridiculing opponents' appeals to law and fairness. According to a senior democratic Member, DeLay routinely dismisses legislation authored by Democrats and rails against his own Members if they dare engage in bi-partisan authorship of bills. He laughs at those who question his taking large sums of corporate money and then invoking Jesus principles to justify the donation.

Fifty five million voted against these people and their policies in 2004. Now they must press the Democrats to either turn into a real opposition party or declare themselves terminally irrelevant.

Saul Landau teaches at Cal Poly Pomona University, where he is the director of Digital Media Programs and International Outreach, and is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. He is also the co-author of "Assassination on Embassy Row," which is about the Letelier and Moffitt murders. His new book is The Business of America.

Comment: The Democrats are already terminally irrelevant. Again, see the following article for more details.

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Richard Daley's Chicago: City for Sale
April 30, 2005

Chicago, Illinois - "He wields near-imperial power, and most of Chicago would have it no other way," Time magazine enthused about Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley in an April 18 article naming him one of the country's five best mayors. Daley, Time declared, has used his power "to steer the Windy City into a period of impressive stability, with declining unemployment and splashy growth."

Stability? A nice euphemism for politics in a place where there's less official opposition than in your average Central Asian dictatorship--and about as much corruption.

Declining unemployment? Never mind the fact that one in six Chicago families subsists below or near the poverty line, even though one family member is working, according to a recent study--or that a quarter of kids under five are poor, government statistics show.

Splashy growth? That's one way to describe the uncounted thousands who've been forced out of impoverished neighborhoods in recent years, thanks to the real estate speculation and skyrocketing rents, spurred on by targeted tax breaks often geared to Daley supporters.

Then there's the proposed $55 million "doomsday cuts" in public transportation that would cut service by almost 40 percent and lay off 2,000 workers unless the state legislature--run by Chicagoans--comes up with the money.

But none of this bothered the editorial writers at the Chicago Tribune, who recently hailed Daley's "strong sense of fairness" and his efforts to "narrow the racial chasm"--an astonishing description of what still remains one of the country's 10 most segregated cities, some 16 years after the mayor first took office. In fact, a 2003 Harvard University study found that racial concentration in Chicago schools is "only a few percentage points from an experience of total apartheid for Black students."

The Wall Street Journal isn't phased either. Earlier this year, it praised Daley as "a fix-it, a problem-solving man"--strange praise for a mayor who did nothing while an estimated 15,000 households went without heat during last year's frigid Christmas week. It was on Daley's watch in 1995 that a heat wave killed 700 people in what one disgusted city official called "murder by public policy."

How does Daley get away with it? The mayor has repackaged the ham-fisted methods of his father, who held the office from 1955 until his death in 1977. Daley Senior's crude bossism, so repugnant to 1960s middle-class liberals, has given way to his son's style of a can-do manager who tailors himself to yuppie sensibilities.

Where Richard I was caught on national television shouting, "Fuck you, you Jew son of a bitch, you lousy motherfucker, go home" to a U.S. senator at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Richard II installed rainbow street sculptures for the city's main gay district.

Where Richard I engineered "urban renewal" to corral African Americans into the high-rise ghettos of public housing, Richard II ordered those units demolished--for the good of the poor, of course, who are being shunted off to poor, segregated neighborhoods, while high-priced condos are built on the site of their previous homes.

And where Richard I relied on the Chicago cops to hound African Americans and Latinos and crack the heads of protesters...well, some things never change.

* * *

WELCOME TO the Chicago of the 21st century, de facto capital of Blue State America. While California is governed by the Republican's Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the mayor of New York City and governor of New York are also Republicans, Illinois is dominated by the Democrats--the Chicago Democratic machine, whose reach extends from the city's wards to the state legislature and the governor's mansion.

This Democratic utopia is devoted to corporate-dominated politics, symbolized by a $16 million tax break to get Boeing to relocate its headquarters to Chicago. Next comes the handover of 100 Chicago public schools to private business, putting kids under corporate control and gutting the teachers' union contract, even as 800 teachers face layoffs next year.

The school selloff reflects the way that the old patronage machine of Daley Senior has been restructured for the free-market, neoliberal era. Handouts today go not only to loyal ward heelers, but to transnational corporations with more clout than the old man ever dreamed of. As a recent University of Illinois-Chicago study put it, Daley's "patronage precinct captains are supplemented by candidate-based, synthetic campaigns using large sums of money from the global economy."

As a consequence, the elder Daley's backroom deals with unions have given way to his son's in-your-face, take-it-or-leave-it demands for job cuts and concessions. City College teachers had to wage a three-week strike last autumn to hold the line, and Chicago's municipal unions have been without contracts for more than two years as Daley demands $20 million in concessions.

But there's one element of today's Chicago politics that the elder Daley would recognize: nepotism. The current mayor's brother, John, sits on the Cook County Board--which encompasses Chicago--and sold insurance to crooked trucking firms that did business with the city. Another mayoral brother, William, former architect of NAFTA and secretary of Commerce in the Clinton White House, is president of the telecommunications company SBC, which smoothed the way with Illinois regulators for a takeover of the regional phone company.

To be fair, the Daleys aren't the only Illinois Democrats who treat politics as a family business. Gov. Rod Blagojevich moved from the U.S. Congress to the governor's mansion thanks to his father-in-law, Chicago Alderman Richard Mell. Blagojevich, who campaigned against the scandals that imploded the state Republicans, promptly rewarded campaign donors with $24.3 million in state construction contracts.

When he's not seeking TV cameras to record his imports of prescription drugs from Canada, the governor is taking a hard line with union negotiators and demanding cuts in public-sector workers' pensions and social spending--even though state poverty has soared 31 percent in the last five years.

Of course, there's a legal watchdog overseeing all this: State Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whose father happens to be the Chicago-based speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives.

Time Magazine once denounced such practices as an "intricately developed system of crony capitalism, in which personal connections trump the rule of law or markets almost every time." But that was in reference to East Asia in 1997. In today's Chicago, Time praises Daley for having "professionalized the city by hiring skilled managers and burnished its business-friendly image."

Chicago certainly is business-friendly--especially to businesses with connections to the Outfit, as the city's mob is known.

The current roster of wrongdoing by public officials includes the "hired truck" scandal, in which Outfit-tied companies billed the city for bogus work on construction sites; the towing scandal, in which impounded cars were sold to mob-tied companies that resold them for profit; the road-paving scandal, in which a contractor's father told reporters he bribed Daley administration officials to obtain $40 million in contracts; and the fake-minority business scandal, in which the city funneled $100 million in city contracts to white businessmen in the Outfit-linked Duff family--longtime Daley campaign contributors--working through dummy companies.

And that's the short list.

* * *

WHAT HAPPENED to the "people's movement" that propelled Harold Washington into office as the city's first Black mayor in 1983, seeming to vanquish the old Daley machine for good? The reality is that Washington was never the radical that his racist opponents alleged him to be. When he died suddenly in 1987, his camp fractured.

In 1989, Daley won a special election, undercutting the divided Black vote by cultivating alliances with Latino politicians like Luis Gutiérrez, who was rewarded with a promotion from alderman to Congress. An outspoken liberal in Washington, he's a loyal Daley ally at home.

Likewise, Daley positioned himself as gay-friendly to court the white "lakefront liberals" who had backed Washington, and he encouraged gentrification to win over younger middle-class voters.

This liberal camouflage has led many to forget that Daley built his political base as a race-baiting Cook County state's attorney--on whose watch Police Commander Jon Burge presided over a torture ring that sent innocent men to death row on the basis of coerced confessions. Racist police violence is still endemic in Daley Junior's Chicago--in 1999, Robert Russ and LaTonya Haggerty, two unarmed young African Americans, were killed in separate police shootings in a 24-hour period.

Such outrages should be fuel for political opposition, but Daley has bullied and bought off virtually all his would-be rivals. Thus, Alderman Helen Schiller, an old Washington ally and one of the last of the white liberal reformers, supported Daley in his last two reelection campaigns.

Dick Simpson, a former alderman turned university professor, studied Chicago City Council voting records and concluded that today's council is even more of a rubber stamp than under Daley Senior. Even the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., based in Chicago, and his son, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., effectively have a non-aggression pact with the mayor.

When protesters do take to the streets against the war on Iraq or other issues, they're typically surrounded by cops in riot gear--and often denied the right to march on their chosen route. The First Amendment applies in Chicago only when the mayor says it does. [...]

Lee Sustar is a regular contributor to CounterPunch and the Socialist Worker. He can be reached at:

Comment: Cronyism, corruption, and placing the interests of psychopathic corporations ahead of the people are not characteristics exclusive to the Republican party. It seems that the US is already a one-party system designed to benefit the wealthy elite, and the whole "Democrat versus Republican" charade is simply misdirection to distract the masses from the truth.

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By Greg Szymanski
American Free Hotel

Handful of Congressmen Could Rule America in Event of Catastrophe

No longer do Capitol Hill legislators need a quorum to do the people's business. Now under a piece of hotly contested legislation passed without media attention on Jan. 5, only a few members of Congress are needed to do official business in the event of a catastrophe instead of the usual 218.

Critics claim H. Res. 5 paves the way for tyranny, allowing "only a few to decide for so many."

The provision states: "If the House should be without a quorum due to catastrophic circumstances, then . . . until there appear in the House a sufficient number of representatives to constitute a quorum among the whole number of the House, a quorum in the House shall be determined based upon the provisional number of the House; and . . . the provisional number of the House, as of the close of the call of the House . . . shall be the number of representatives responding to that call of the House."

Supporters claim the bill, passed "under the cover of congressional darkness," is intended to allow the government to "continue operating" in the event of a catastrophic emergency or terrorist attack. However, constitutional experts say the law is blatantly unconstitutional and ripe for challenge.

Normally, 218 lawmakers out of the 435 members are needed to declare war, pass laws and validly conduct the people's business. But under the new rule a majority is no longer needed when circumstances arise, including natural disaster, attack, contagion or terrorist attacks rendering representatives incapable of attending House proceedings.

"It's another measure brought up by lawmakers that shows their callous disregard for democracy," said one California attorney who preferred to remain anonymous.

GOP House leaders pushed the controversial "doomsday legislation" through for passage as a part of a hefty and voluminous rules package. It drew little attention and was probably not even discovered by many who voted on it since the rules package centered on recent ethics violations.

"I think the new rule is disgusting, terrible and unconstitutional," said Norm Ornstein, of an independent, bipartisan panel called the Continuity of Government Commission which is studying the issue. "The way it was passed was deceitful and the intent behind the legislation was very foolish."

Rep. Brian Baird, (D-Wash.) agrees, arguing that the rule change violates the Constitution, which specifically states: "a majority of each Chamber shall constitute a quorum to do business."

"Allowing for as few as 12 lawmakers to make vital decisions and to possibly declare war on another nation is not what this country is all about.

Comment: Sadly, the rule of the few over the many is what America and most other Democracies have ALWAYS been about. If the day comes when America is reduced to an overt dictatorship where 12 men possess absolute power, then it will merely be the natural end product of a system, and a world, where the effluent always rises to the top.

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Christian fundamentalist bigotry reigns at US Air Force Academy
By Patrick Martin
30 April 2005
Evangelical Christians among the officers and cadets at the US Air Force Academy have created an atmosphere of systematic intolerance towards Jewish and non-religious students, according to reports by minority students and investigations by off-campus groups concerned about the rise of fundamentalist bigotry.

On April 19, academy officials revealed that 55 complaints against religious harassment by Christian fundamentalists have been filed in the last four years, including "saying bad things about persons of other religions or proselytizing in inappropriate places," a spokesman said.

In response to the complaints, the academy has created a program called RSVP, for Respecting the Spiritual Values of all People, which consists of a 50-minute class that all 4,300 cadets are required to attend. Similar sensitivity sessions will be held for the 9,000 staff and employees of the academy.

According to an account published in the Los Angeles Times, Mikey Weinstein, a graduate of the academy and lawyer in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who is Jewish, was outraged by the religious bigotry expressed against his son Curtis when he entered the academy. His son was called a "filthy Jew," among other slurs.

"When I visited my son," he told the Times, "he told me he wanted us to go off base because he had something to tell me. He said, 'They are calling me a ... Jew and that I am responsible for killing Christ.' My son told me that he was going to hit the next one who called him something."

"When I was at the academy, there wasn't this institutional notion that if you didn't accept Christ you would burn eternally in hell," he added. "This is not a Jew-Christian thing, it's an evangelical versus everyone else thing. I am calling for congressional oversight and for the academy to stop trivializing the problem by calling it non-systemic. If they can't fix it and Congress won't fix it, the next thing to do is go to the federal court and file a lawsuit alleging a violation of the Constitution and civil rights."

Members of the Yale Divinity School who visited the academy last year sent a memo subsequently documenting the overtly fundamentalist environment. During Protestant church services, they said, cadets chanted, "This is our Chapel and the Lord is our God." They were encouraged to proselytize to others and "remind them of the consequences of apostasy." Speakers declared that those not "born again will burn in the fires of hell," and cadets were "regularly encouraged to 'witness' to fellow" cadets.

On April 28, Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AUSCS) issued a report on the academy, including a long list of mandatory religious observances, proselytizing by teachers (many of them officers who are the military superiors of cadets) and allegations by minority students that Protestant fundamentalism is given preferential status at the school.

Barry Lynn, the group's executive director, said, "I think this is the most serious, military-related systemic problem I have ever seen in the decades I've been doing this work... There is a clear preference for Christianity at the academy, so that everyone else feels like a second-class citizen." He wrote to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld seeking an immediate investigation.

The report said that cadets who declined to attend an evening chapel service were marched back to their dorms by upperclassmen (who have command authority over them) in a procedure they called "heathen flight." Teachers openly identified themselves as born-again Christians, called on students to pray before exams, and sought to recruit students to their religious persuasion.

The report explains that the prayers regularly held before routine events at the Air Force Academy, including meals and award ceremonies, would be deemed unconstitutional if held in a public high school or college or a federally financed state-run military training school like Virginia Military Institute. Even non-sectarian prayers which make only a general reference to god are considered a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment, let alone prayers specifically invoking the name of Jesus Christ.

One incident demonstrating the institutional pressure on behalf of Christian fundamentalism is the publication of a full-page Christmas greeting in the academy's newspaper in December 2003, in which 300 signatories, including 16 heads or deputy heads of academic department, three deans and other top officials jointly declare that they "believe that Jesus Christ is the only real hope for the world" and urge cadets to contact any of the signatories to "discuss Jesus."

According to the AUSCS report, "faculty members and other officers who use their official positions to communicate such messages ... are sending a strong and unequivocal message of the Academy's and the United States Air Force's unconstitutional endorsement of religion." It concluded that the evidence showed "systematic and pervasive religious bias and intolerance at the highest levels of the Academy command structure."

The tone is set from the top: the academy commandant, Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida, is a professed "born-again" Christian who addresses the cadets in chapel service and urges them "to discuss their Christian faith" with other students. In an official "Commander's Guidance," he declared that cadets "are accountable first to your God." He also instructed cadets to engage in a call-and-response in which he would shout the word "Airpower" and they would reply "Rock Sir!", invoking the New Testament image of the church built on a rock.

The academy engaged in institutional religious discrimination, denying Jewish and Seventh-Day Adventist students permission to attend off-campus religious events on Saturdays, while permitting Christian students to attend such events on Sundays. A cadet who wanted to attend a Freethinkers' meeting off base was denied permission, and also denied the right to form a similar non-religious group on campus.

(Colorado Springs, Colorado, the city where the academy is located, is the headquarters of dozens of evangelical Christian groups, including Focus on the Family, the best-financed right-wing fundamentalist pressure group, as well as the International Bible Society and the New Life Church.)

Perhaps the most ominous allegation in the report from Americans United for Separation of Church and State is the following: "At a more basic level, we have been informed that General Weida has cultivated and reinforced an attitude—shared by many in the Academy Chaplains' Office and, increasingly, by other members of the Academy's permanent [staff]—that the Academy, and the Air Force in general, would be better off if populated solely by Christians. A stronger message of official preference for one particular faith is hard to imagine."

The implications of this are quite staggering: it means the Air Force officer corps is being educated not as a military force subordinate to a civilian authority, but as soldiers who are "accountable first to God." Those who will be placed in control of the vast destructive power of modern aerial weaponry, including "smart bombs" and nuclear missiles, are to constitute a sort of praetorian guard of Christian fundamentalists.

Aside from its dire meaning for American democracy, there is the overriding question of mankind's survival: The Pentagon is putting the power to incinerate the human race in the hands of religious zealots who believe in an imminent "second coming" in which Jesus Christ will stage a fiery return. Certainly an officer corps steeped in such a religious dogma will have few moral qualms about the use of nuclear weapons. Quite the contrary, they may well see a nuclear holocaust as a religiously ordained and even desirable way of hastening the "end time."

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Dehl Facing Kidnapping and Drug Charges
Associated Press
Sat Apr 30, 7:24 AM ET

BOISE, Idaho - A woman once held up by the Bush administration as a crusader against domestic violence is now facing kidnapping and drug charges.

Barbara Dehl, 49, conspired with her live-in boyfriend and another man to abduct a young couple after the three found money, jewelry and drugs missing from Dehl's safe, police said in court documents.

Dehl was indicted by a grand jury this week on two felony counts of kidnapping and one count of trafficking methamphetamine. The men also were indicted on a variety of charges.

All were in custody awaiting arraignment May 4, and they were appointed public defenders. Dehl's lawyer, Joseph Ellsworth, was not immediately available for comment reachable by telephone Friday.

Five years ago, Dehl stood teary-eyed next to Gov. Dirk Kempthorne as he signed a law named after her deceased daughter, Cassandra.

The 17-year-old was killed in 1999 by her boyfriend when he purposefully drove off the road while they were arguing. State courts had refused to issue a protective order against him, contending Idaho's domestic violence law did not apply to dating teenagers. A jury eventually convicted the boyfriend of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter.

After Cassandra's death, Dehl, a divorced mother, tirelessly lobbied state lawmakers to extend domestic abuse protections to teenagers trapped in abusive dating relationships.

When "Cassie's Law" passed, Kempthorne said Dehl's efforts would become "one of those lasting legacies ... that will save lives in the future."

In 2002, Dehl was appointed by Attorney General John Ashcroft to serve on the National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women. She attended a ceremony at the White House the next year when President Bush announced initiatives to combat domestic violence.

She appeared on national talk shows, won state citizenship awards and formed an educational nonprofit foundation dedicated to teen domestic violence prevention.

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Senate Panel Talks with CIA Official on Bolton
Fri Apr 29, 6:16 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The Senate committee weighing John Bolton's troubled nomination for U.N. ambassador on Friday interviewed former deputy CIA director John McLaughlin, who has been described as having clashed with Bolton on intelligence analyses.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff interviewed McLaughlin as part of the examination driven by Democrats and a few Republicans of whether Bolton bullied subordinates and tried to force analyzes of Cuba, Syria, North Korea and Iran to conform to his hardline views.

McLaughlin was asked about his intervention to block a transfer Bolton sought of Fulton Armstrong, then a national intelligence officer for Latin America, a Democratic committee aide said.

The aide said the committee staff also questioned three others about accusations brought by a former U.S. Agency for International Development contractor that Bolton angrily chased her through a Russian hotel, threw things at her and spread malicious rumors in a dispute over a foreign aid project.

The White House has stepped up its defense of Bolton, its current top diplomat for arms control. President Bush said in a news conference on Thursday Bolton's "blunt" style would be an asset in pushing reforms at the United Nations. [...]

Comment: "Blunt" isn't exactly the appropriate word to describe Bolton's past behavior. "Psychopathic" might do...

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US warns terrorists plan attacks in Central Asia
Saturday April 30, 4:13 PM

The US government warned that it had ongoing concerns about security in Central Asia, warning of "the potential for terrorist actions" there and urging US citizens to step up their own security.

"The US Government continues to receive information that terrorist groups in Central Asia may be planning attacks in the region, possibly against US Government facilities, Americans or American interests," the State Department said in a public announcement.

"Elements and supporters of extremist groups present in Central Asia, including the Islamic Jihad Group, Al-Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, have expressed anti-US sentiments in the past and have the capability to conduct terrorist operations in multiple countries."

The State Department noted use of improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers, targeting public areas, such as markets and local government facilities, in previous Central Asian attacks.

It warned Americans to exercise caution given that attackers might be looking for "softer targets" due to the increase in security at official locations.

Last July, the US and Israeli Embassies in Uzbekistan were attacked, with four Uzbek security guards killed, as well as police.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov has said the violence was coordinated from Kazakhstan and Pakistan.

The State Department also urged caution, given that hostage-takings and "skirmishes" had occurred near the border areas of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

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Rumsfeld says study of earth penetrating nukes makes "all the sense in the world"
(AFP) Apr 27, 2005

WASHINGTON - US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday it makes "all the sense in the world" to study the feasibility of designing a nuclear weapon capable of penetrating deeply buried targets.

Rumsfeld defended the proposed 8.5 million-dollar study of a "robust nuclear earth penetrator" at a Senate hearing after it came under fire from Senator Diane Feinstein, a California Democrat.

Feinstein noted that Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman has acknowledged in previous hearings that no missile could bore deep enough into the earth to trap all fallout from a nuclear explosion.

"It is beyond me as to why you are proceeding with this program when the laws of physics won't allow a missile to be driven deeply enough to retain the fallout which will spew in hundreds of millions of cubic feet if it is a hundred kilotons," Feinstein said.

Rumsfeld said more than 70 countries have programs to build facilities underground, and have available to them equipment that can dig chambers the size of a basketball court from rock in a single day.

"We can't go in there and get at things in solid rock underground," Rumsfeld said.

"The only thing we have is very large, very dirty nuclear weapons. So the choice is: do we want to have nothing and only a large, dirty nuclear weapon, or would we rather have something in between. That is the issue," he said.

He said the administration wanted see if it is feasible to develop weapons casings hard enough to penetrate "not with a large nuclear weapon but with either a conventional capability or a very small nuclear capability in the event that the United States of America at some point down the road decided they wanted to undertake that type of project."

"It seems to me studying it makes all the sense in the world," he said.

The proposal has been attacked by arms control advocates as a step toward developing a weapon that would lower the threshhold for the use of nuclear weapons.

Congress last year killed funding for the study, but the administration has requested resumed funding in its 2006 budget proposal. Besides 8.5 million dollars in 2006, the proposal calls for another 14 million dollars to complete the study in 2007.

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Lawman likes eye in sky as monitor
By Tarron Lively
April 30, 2005

If a kite appears to be following you in La Plata, Md., it very well may be.

The Charles County Sheriff's Office recently monitored a gathering of motorcycle riders by launching a remote-control aerial camera to watch for emergencies or troublemakers.

An official said yesterday the battery-powered spy plane was launched as a test run and that he's not sure whether the agency will buy the craft - but the results were good.

"I liked what I saw," said Lt. Chris Becker, the agency's commander of homeland security and intelligence. "A tactical operations team member could readily carry it in the trunk of his patrol car and assemble it in just minutes."

Still, not everybody is pleased with the mini spy plane, marketed by Cyber Defense Systems Inc. and sold regionally by Applied Techniques Corporation.

Susan Goering, executive director of the ACLU of Maryland, said devices such as CyberBug are an intrusion on a citizen's civil rights.

"The concern is, obviously, a privacy issue, but also that the constitutional right to assemble is being chilled," Miss Goering said. "We are fast approaching the time when the government will be monitoring our every move."

She also said the issue is of special concern when citizens rally against the government.

"Dissent in this country is the lifeblood of democracy," Miss Goering said. "If someone is attending an event that's [anti-government], they should be able to do so without fear the government will retaliate in some manner."

Lt. Becker said the "CyberBug" went on two 30-minute flights April 17 over the 12th annual Southern Maryland "Blessing of the Bikes" at the Charles County Fairgrounds, which organizers said was attended by about 8,000 people.

"I was quite impressed with how easy it was to launch and how well it monitored the area," he said. "Besides crowd and traffic control, I see law enforcement using the CyberBug in a multitude of applications especially when it comes to crime fighting and homeland security."

A base-model CyberBug costs $7,500 and can be placed in a stationary position or controlled with a joystick device. It can stay in the air for more than three hours and comes with a variety of features - including the camera, a global positioning system and an explosive trigger for qualified customers.

Cyber Defense Systems is marketing CyberBug as a low-cost way for law-enforcement agencies, military forces, business owners and state or local governments to monitor their properties, including potential terrorist targets.

Lt. Becker said Sheriff Frederick E. Davis will make the decision on whether to buy the CyberBug and that he knows of no other agencies in the region that have it.

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U.S. launches controversial rocket
Last Updated Sat, 30 Apr 2005 00:59:56 EDT
CBC News

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. - A U.S. rocket has blasted off without a hitch from a Florida air force station, after repeated delays amid fears it might drop debris on oil platforms off Newfoundland's shore.

The Titan IV rocket launched from Cape Canaveral shortly before 9 p.m. EST Friday and successfully cast off a military satellite several minutes later, observers said.

The mission caused a diplomatic scramble earlier in April, when officials revealed that a 10-tonne solid rocket booster and other materials would land near oil platforms on the Grand Banks, about 350 kilometres east of St. John's.

Newfoundland and Labrador's premier, Danny Williams, said three of the platforms – including Hibernia – would be evacuated. He called on the Americans to cancel the mission.

The U.S. Air Force Space Command postponed it repeatedly, blaming technical problems.

At the same time, it assured Canadians that the chance of anyone being hurt was 1 in a trillion. [...]

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North Korea gassing its citizens: rights group
Last Updated Wed, 27 Apr 2005 08:30:27 EDT
CBC News

WASHINGTON - A human rights organization known for tracking down Nazi war criminals is taking aim at North Korea, saying the regime uses deadly nerve gas on its own citizens and may even be operating experimental gas chambers.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center sent American rabbi Abraham Cooper, the centre's associate dean, to Asia to investigate the reports, which the North Korean regime denies.

Cooper interviewed a number of former North Korean officials who have since defected.

One man, a 55-year-old chemist, claimed he was in charge of an experiment to test the effect of deadly nerve gas on political prisoners.

"He said he was involved in the killing of two people – one who did not expire for 21⁄2 hours, and the second didn't die till 31⁄2 hours had passed," Cooper told CBC for a documentary airing Wednesday night on the radio program Dispatches.

Other defectors told him of "mass starvations, gruesome experimentations, and yes, as we now are beginning to learn and to confirm, gas chambers," he said.

Soon Ok Lee, a North Korean now living in the United States, said she spent years in a political prison camp before escaping.

"When I was in jail, there was at least once or twice in the prison camp, chemical testing on humans that I witnessed," she said. [...]

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Cops say mom was stabbed 111 times
April 27, 2005

An ongoing argument between a 15-year-old boy and his single mother about guns, porn and the teen's girlfriend may have led to a violent outburst sometime last weekend in which the son brutally killed his mom -- stabbing her 111 times, police said.

According to law enforcement officials, sometime before her death, Diane Michele took away the gun her son, a Rochester Hills high school freshman, apparently made out of PVC pipe to shoot marbles. She did not like that he played paintball. She found out he had been looking at porn.

The teenager, Christopher Dankovich, was arraigned Tuesday before 52-3 District Court Judge Nancy Carniak in Rochester Hills and charged with murder, accused of slashing his mother's body with a knife -- even poking her eyes. Police say he admitted to the killing. He is being held without bond in Children's Village, a juvenile detention facility in Pontiac.

If convicted, Dankovich could face life in prison.

To people who knew the 50-year-old victim, what is most shocking about her violent death is that Michele was a loving mom who constantly doted on her only son and often told them how he was her pride and joy.

A licensed professional counselor, Michele was a flamboyant woman, her friends said. She practiced holistic medicine and had an office off Woodward in Bloomfield Hills. She was a minister, and according to her Web site, she founded the HeartLight Metaphysical Ministry and offered her services at weddings, baptisms and funerals.

On the site, she referred to herself as a "Psychotherapist/Speaker/Teacher/Trainer/Minister." She taught classes on "Developing Your Intuition," "Starting Your Own Spiritual Path," "Near-Death Experiences," "Remote Viewing" and "Miracles."

Her Rochester Hills home was filled with inspirational sayings about love, police said. The license plate on her car was "LOVE4U." She dressed in flowing, colorful clothing and wore flashy jewelry, friends said. Purple was her favorite color, they said.

They said that the center of her world was her son.

"That son was the apple of her eye," said Sheila Becker of Birmingham, a friend of Michele who also is a psychologist. "She constantly told me she thanked God for her son because he was never on drugs or booze. They did everything together.

"She lived for that boy," Becker added. Law enforcement officials said the gruesome nature of the crime and the unclear motive for the violence troubles them. The boy, who according to neighbors and friends was quiet and "very nice," must have been filled with rage, police said."It's one of the most horrific crimes I've ever come across," Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca said.

Dankovich was a good student at Rochester Adams High School, school officials said. He kept to himself and walked the dog when his mom asked, a neighbor said. He got along with other students and had friends, his peers said.

Exactly why the teen killed his mother is unclear, Gorcyca said.

"That's the million-dollar question," Gorcyca said. "What motivated a 15-year-old, who was otherwise a well-behaved child, to butcher his mom? This investigation is far from complete. There has to be something in this boy's background for him to commit such an angry crime." [...]

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Mother charged with stabbing son, daughter to death
By Liam Ford
Tribune staff reporter
Published April 29, 2005, 4:20 PM CDT

Tonya Vasilev, a woman described by friends as kind, caring and godly, was accused Friday of slaying her two children in a frenzied attack at their Hoffman Estates home.

Vasilev, 34, was charged with two counts of first degree murder in the Wednesday night deaths of her children Christian, 9, and Gracie, 3. Each was stabbed more than 100 times, authorities said.

A heavy bandage covered Tonya Vasilev's left wrist and hand as she stood in court Friday afternoon and answered the judge's questions in a soft, shaking voice. The judge appointed a public defender to represent her and ordered her held without bail.

Assistant State's Attorney Richard Karwaczka described for the court the scene that Vasilev's husband found when he and a friend walked into the family's suburban Chicago home around 9:20 Wednesday night.

In the kitchen, Nikolai Vasilev spotted his 9-year-old son, Christian, lying on the floor in a pool of blood, Karwaczka said. The father scooped him up and carried him to the front door, where he frantically called 911. Then he and the friend started up the stairs.

At the top of the stairs, they found the Vasilevs' 3-year-old daughter, Grace, dead from stab wounds, the prosecutor said.

``Right next to Grace was the defendant, Tonya, sitting there with a knife,'' he said.

The 34-year-old mother was taken to the police station for questioning, where she ``admitted stabbing her son and daughter at their residence,'' Karwaczka said.

Hoffman Estates police would not speculate on a motive Friday afternoon. Lt. Rich Russo said it appeared the children struggled against their assailant, and that officers who came to the house in the 1100 block of John Drive pulled Christian outside to give him first aid, only to realize he was already dead.

The scene was so disturbing that the department was offering counseling to everyone from the dispatcher to the responding officers, Russo said.

"I don't think that it can get much worse that this," he said.
A preliminary hearing for Tonya Vasilev was set for May 20.

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L.A. on Edge After Freeway Shootings
Associated Press
Apr 29, 2:52 PM (ET)

LOS ANGELES - A string of highway shootings since mid-March has left four people dead in Southern California and raised fears of a return to the bad old days of the 1980s, when the Los Angeles area gained a reputation for freeway gunplay.

Authorities have increased freeway patrols and considered installing recorders on roadside traffic cameras.

Five people have been shot in their cars in apparently unrelated - and definitely unsolved - attacks. In at least three cases, the shooters were in other cars.

Manny Padilla, a California Highway Patrol chief in Southern California, said the bloodshed may reflect frustration with gridlock.

"Driving behavior has changed tremendously with all the congestion here. That causes people to be extremely short-tempered and inconsiderate," he said. "The courtesy we used to extend often isn't there anymore."

Authorities said the overall number of shootings so far this year appears to about the same as in other recent years. But so many deaths in so short span have some motorists on edge.

"We just hope things don't get worse and go back to the way they were," Esmeralda Miller, 65, said Friday at a gas station.

Still, few appear ready to give up driving the freeways, a Southern California way of life.

Nestor Tuazon added several minutes to his daily commute but gained peace of mind by driving side streets instead of a stretch of freeway where two motorists have been killed in Los Angeles. But after two days, he returned to the fast lane.

"I'm just extra careful," said Tuazon, 49, who travels the 110 Freeway between his Los Angeles home and job at a Gardena nursing home, "but I will not stop taking the freeway."

In 1987, Southern California seemed to be America's road-rage capital, with nearly 70 highway shootings over 10 summer weeks, according to Ray Novaco, a psychology professor at University of California at Irvine, who has written about the violence. The shootings left at least five people dead and 11 wounded.

"It was novel phenomenon then, so people grabbed onto it," Novaco said.

Some motorists began carrying guns in self-defense, afraid that a bullet could be just one bad lane change away.

The shootings dropped off after 1987, and since 2001 have averaged around 40 a year in Los Angeles alone, according to police.

In March, a 26-year-old engineer was fatally shot in the head along an Orange County freeway. Over the weeks that followed, two motorists, including a 47-year-old car salesman on his way to Bible study, were killed in separate shootings on the 110 Freeway in Los Angeles. A fourth motorist was gunned down on a Riverside County freeway east of Los Angeles on April 22. A fifth was wounded in Orange County on Sunday.

In the shooting of the car salesman, police suspect he may have angered another motorist without knowing it by making a move in traffic. In Riverside County, witnesses reported the two cars may have been driving alongside each other before the attack, but police do not know why. Other shootings may have stemmed from disputes that began off the freeway, authorities said.

No one has been arrested, and authorities say they have found no links among the five shootings, which took place at different times and places.

As in 1987, the recent wave of shootings has sparked concerns about copy cat attacks, but police said there is no indication that is happening.

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Vietnam celebrates reunification day 2005-04-30 15:32:18

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, April 30 (Xinhuanet) -- Vietnam on Saturday held a solemn ceremony with military parades and public marches in front of the Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Minh City to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the national reunification.

Addressing at the ceremony, which was attracted more than 50,000 people, Nguyen Minh Triet, secretary of the Communist Party of Ho Chi Minh City said the victory of April 30, 1975 opened a new era for the Vietnamese people. This is the victory of the revolutionary heroism and Vietnam's stuff and intellect.

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Chirac optimistic about French "yes" on EU constitution 2005-04-30 09:24:47

PARIS, April 29 (Xinhuanet) -- French President Jacques Chirac is "optimistic" about the opportunity that the French "yes" camp would win the May 29 referendum on the European Union constitution,French TF1 channel reported Friday.

Four weeks ahead the referendum, the French president has the feeling that the "no" camp declines, according to a source close to him.

The latest IFOP-JDD survey published Friday showed that 52 percent of the questioned French people would vote "no" to the European constitutional treaty, against 48 percent of "yes" vote.

A total of 70 percent of the respondents are sure of their choice, while 30 percent would change their opinion.

Chirac decided to multiply his interventions to convince the French that only the European constitution would make Europe more social, more independent and stronger to face up to big regional poles in the world and that the "no" would be a serious mistake toweaken France, said the source.

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Iran-Europe nuclear negotiations fail
Saturday 30 April 2005, 12:36 Makka Time, 9:36 GMT

The European Union's three biggest powers and Iran have failed to reach agreement over Tehran's nuclear programme but have decided to hold more talks in the future.

Iran had threatened before the five-hour meeting on Friday to resume sensitive atomic activities unless France, Britain and Germany agreed to allow it to carry out small-scale uranium enrichment.

"The informal talks have concluded. No conclusions were reached and both sides, the EU three and Iran, have agreed to go away and reflect on what was discussed and to continue the discussions in future," said a British Foreign Office spokesman.

But an Iranian official said some progress was made in the London talks.

Iranian negotiator Sirus Naseri told the AFP on Saturday: "We believe there has been some progress on the framework for a long-term agreement. The difference is about the timing."

Naseri was referring to a proposal concerning enrichment which the two sides discussed at a meeting on Friday.

Iran has been accused by the US of having a secret agenda to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the charge, saying its nuclear programme is solely for the generation of power.

The EU's three biggest powers, which share Washington's concerns, are leading talks intended to persuade Iran to scrap its atomic fuel programme in exchange for economic and political incentives. Tehran has refused.

The latest proposal from Tehran suggests it be allowed to build up its uranium enrichment programme in stages, beginning with a small pilot enrichment plant and ending with a commercial-scale complex.


The EU powers hope to leave the hard negotiations on Tehran's atomic ambitions until after Iran's 17 June presidential elections, on grounds that campaigning for the ballot could produce heightened tensions.

"We don't want to break things up now and have a row. We want to continue the negotiating process after the Iranian election," said a European diplomat, declining to be identified.

But Naseri said before the London meeting that he wanted agreement soon.

"The foundation for agreement is in place," said Naseri.

"We think it is unreasonable to avoid agreement," he added, insisting he was not putting undue pressure on the EU powers.

Programme suspended

Iran has suspended its enrichment programme under international pressure, but four months of talks with the Europeans have yielded no breakthrough and Iran says the programme must resume.

"If there is no agreement and the Europeans insist on further time ... we may have to readjust the situation so it will be a more balanced position. It will not be balanced if the suspension will remain," said Naseri, in an apparent threat to resume enrichment unilaterally.

He later told Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency (Irna): "In case of not reaching an agreement in London, Iran might be obliged to resume part of its uranium enrichment programme, but in that case it will still continue the talks."

'At any cost'

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, an influential former Iranian president preparing to run again in June, said Tehran was determined to embark on uranium enrichment and other branches of nuclear technology.

"And we will have it at any cost," he told worshippers in Tehran.

Washington warned Tehran not to leave the negotiating table or resume any parts of its enrichment programme.

It also reminded the EU of its pledge to help refer Iran's case to the UN Security Council, which could lead to economic sanctions, if Tehran followed through on its latest threats.

"If Iran chooses to walk away from talks with the EU three and end its current suspension ... the EU three have already made clear to Iran that they would work with us and others to report Iran's nuclear programme to the UN Security Council," a US official in Vienna said.

EU diplomats say Tehran knows the idea of pilot enrichment is unacceptable to them and to Washington, which takes a harder line than the Europeans despite last month giving its backing to the diplomatic initiative.

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Iran says may resume nuclear work if talks fail 2005-04-30 19:00:39

TEHRAN, April 30 (Xinhuanet) -- Iran will resume nuclear activities concerning uranium enrichment next week if it failed to reach an agreement with the European Union over Iran's nuclear file, the chief nuclear negotiator said on Saturday.

"Iran will make decision on resumption of uranium enrichment in Tehran next week," Hassan Rowhani, also secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying.

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Stirring the ethnic pot
By Iason Athanasiadis

TEHRAN - Today's Iran is the latest manifestation of a great and endlessly undermined Persian empire that once stretched from Iraq to Afghanistan, embracing a multitude of ethnicities along the way. The Islamic republic that came into being a generation ago is a microcosm of its imperial past, with Arabs, Azeris, Bakhtiaris, Balochis, Kurds, Turkmens and Lurs co-existing alongside the majority Persian population.

But as this month's riots by ethnic Arabs in the southern province of Khuzestan demonstrated, Iran's multicultural milieu could also be its Achilles' heel, an open door for foreign opportunists seeking to infiltrate this fledgling nuclear power.

Iran is particularly vulnerable to foreign penetration in that non-Persian, non-Shi'ite ethnic minorities inhabit its extremities. Aside from Khuzestan's Shi'ite Arabs, there are Sunni Balochis in the southeast, Sunni Kurds and Shi'ite Azeris in the northwest and Sunni Turkmens in the northeast.

All these areas adjoin countries that are either hostile to Iran's ruling clerics or contain US troops. The United States has dramatically expanded its presence in the region post-September 11, 2001, even as it has raised the level of its anti-Tehran rhetoric. US troops and advisers currently reside in Iraq, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan. At the same time, Tehran maintains ambiguous relations with neighbors Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iraq, although it is currently on a regional charm offensive and a pro-Iranian government seems poised to come to power in Baghdad.

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Bergen County Chief Of Police Jack Schmidig leads Regional Roll-Out of VeriChip by Receiving a VeriChip
DELRAY BEACH, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--April 22, 2005

With Hospital Emergency Room Infrastructure To Provide Secure ID and Medical Record Access For VeriChip Patients, Thought and Opinion Leaders to Play Key Role in Adoption of VeriChip(TM)

VeriChip Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Applied Digital (NASDAQ: ADSX), announced today that the Bergen County, New Jersey Chief of Police has been implanted with the VeriChip. Chief of Police Jack Schmidig, a member of the police force for over 30 years, received a VeriChip as part of the Company's strategy of enlisting key regional leaders to accelerate adoption of the VeriChip. With hospital emergency room infrastructure forming, patients will have the ability to provide secure ID and medical record access in an emergency or clinical situation.

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Spain suffers worst winter drought on record
30 April 2005

MADRID: Spain has suffered its driest winter and early spring since records began almost 60 years ago, data from meteorologists showed on Friday.

Rainfall from November to the end of March this year was 37 per cent below the average for the period and the lowest since records started in 1947, the National Meteorological Office said.

With water reserves in Spain at just 60 per cent of full capacity, farmers fearing water rationing say they are planting fewer crops.

Neighbouring Portugal is suffering its worst drought for 25 years and authorities there have imposed irrigation restrictions in the south, a popular tourist destination.

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Rain forces Quebecers from their homes
Last Updated Fri, 29 Apr 2005 21:40:45 EDT
CBC News

QUEBEC CITY - Heavy rains across Quebec and New Brunswick have brought flooding and forced dozens of families out of their homes.

Some areas have received as much as 100 millimetres of rainfall in the past week. Environment Canada's heavy rainfall warning was lifted on Friday, but the downpours have not stopped.

Rivers across Quebec are overflowing and the rain has caused landslides and washed out roads.

In the village of Petite-Rivière-St-François, north of Quebec City, more than two dozen families have been forced out of their homes. [...]

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Severe Thunderstorms in Arkansas
By The Associated Press
Fri Apr 29, 6:49 PM ET

Scattered thunderstorms brought showers to parts of the Tennessee Valley and southern Plains Friday, while light rain and scattered snow showers lingered across the central Rockies.

The most severe storms were in northern Arkansas, where 1.75 inches of hail fell in White and Lanoke counties and Russellville recorded 1.2 inches of rain.

Thunderstorms were also reported across the Tennessee Valley and lower Mississippi Valley, while light rain fell in portions of the Northeast, Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic. Rain totals generally remained under .4 inches.

The Great Lakes, Deep South and central Plains were mostly dry under partly cloudy skies.

In the West, the central Rockies saw light isolated rain showers and a few snow showers. Up to 6 inches of snow were recorded in elevations about 6,000 feet.

Light rain also fell in parts of the Pacific Northwest, while the northern Rockies, Great Basin, California and the Desert Southwest enjoyed partly cloudy skies and dry conditions.

Friday's temperatures around the Lower 48 states ranged from a low of 6 degrees in West Yellowstone, Wyo., to a midday high of 92 degrees in Laredo, Texas.

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Heavy Floods Hit Romania Making 3,700 Homeless
By Radu Marinas Fri Apr 29, 9:03 AM ET

BUCHAREST - Heavy rains in western Romania have flooded hundreds of villages, forcing 3,700 people to abandon their homes and disrupting rail and road traffic, the Environment Ministry said on Friday.

Television stations showed army helicopters and national guard dinghies arriving at disaster areas to evacuate shivering victims from what authorities called the worst floods in 50 years.

"I lost everything. My pigs drowned and I couldn't rescue them after my house crumbled in the water," said an elderly peasant from Otelec, where floods were two meters deep.

Up to 2,000 people, mostly from Timis county at the border with Serbia and Montenegro, were displaced to temporary shelters on nearby highlands. They are likely to stay there until at least Sunday, the Orthodox Easter.

But TV reports said many were risking their lives to defend saturated homes from looters by taking refuge in their lofts, which were liable to collapse at any moment.

In the city of Arad, near the border with Hungary, apartment blocks and streets were flooded, with stranded residents forced to use dinghies for transport.

The Environment Ministry said the floods were partly caused by broken 300-year-old dams on the Timis river but that waters were now beginning to ebb. [...]

Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu, who visited the flood-affected areas, said the government would rebuild destroyed houses with materials from the state reserves. The houses are expected to be ready by the winter.

The government has allocated 500 billion lei ($18 million) to repair the collapsed railway infrastructure and 280 billion for the dams. Some 30 billion will also go toward vaccines to prevent epidemics spreading, emergency food and basic supplies. [...]

The government had yet to present an overall assessment of the damage, but the farm ministry said 110,000 hectares (271,800 acres) of wheat, barley, sunflower and vegetables fields had so far been damaged at an estimated financial loss of 300 billion lei.

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Giant waves create panic along Andhra coast
Indo-Asian News Service
Hyderabad, April 29, 2005

Giant waves have been lashing some parts of Andhra Pradesh coast leading to panic, but experts have assured people that there is no threat of another tsunami.

Six to seven ft tall waves struck Uppada beach, about 20 km from the port town of Kakinada in East Godavari district, on Thursday. People living in other coastal villages in Prakasam district also experienced the unusually high tidal waves.

No loss of life or property was reported. [...]

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State Of Emergency in Brigham City
(Apr 28, 2005) --

Brigham City leaders have declared a state of emergency as they prepare for a few more days of heavy rain and flooding.

BRIGHAM CITY-(KSL News) -- Brigham City has declared a state of emergency because of the flooding.

"The reservoir is filling into the mayor's pond which is spilling into the Box Elder Creek."

Mayor Lou Ann Christensen says they've let water go into irrigation canals and onto the golf course so it doesn't clog the creek any more.

The city's emergency services director says the rain is what's causing this flooding.

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Disaster drill may be largest ever held in state
Friday, April 29, 2005
News Staff Reporter

Up to 1,100 people are expected to take part Saturday in what organizers say may be the largest mock disaster drill ever in Michigan involving public safety agencies from nine Michigan counties. [...]

The purpose of the simulated disaster is to "help our emergency services coordinate response to a (terrorist) situation and learn from the exercise," says Tom Gualdoni, assistant scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 350 in Brighton and scout organizer for the event. "It's quite a statement to the community that this many people would come forward and offer their services," he says.

The drill will unfold at around 9 a.m. at the ski area in Genoa Township.

"There is an initial explosion and release of a hazardous chemical, followed by arrival by a terrorist group which infiltrates the countryside, spreading pneumonic plague," Gualdoni says. The hazardous material wasn't being identified in advance, in order to test the agencies' ability to successfully identify it and respond appropriately, Waters says.

Emergency personnel will be on the scene to perform triage on the victims and give placebos in place of real medications. From there, victims will be taken to hospitals in Howell and Lansing. In the afternoon, a "terrorist group" will swarm on Maltby Middle School at Bauer and Brighton roads in Genoa Township and take over two classrooms, using students as hostages.

SWAT teams from the Livingston County Sheriff's Department and Brighton City Police will then converge on the school and take control of the situation from the terrorists.

"We're testing some procedures and plans we've never done before, and now we need to see where we need to do better," Waters says. "We'll see how this goes. It's a continuing process."

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Insecticides Linked to Lasting Human Nervous System Disorders
April 29, 2005 (ENS)

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, North Carolina, - Farmers who used agricultural insecticides experienced increased symptoms of nervous system disorders, even when they were no longer using the products, new research by federal government scientists shows.

The research is part of the ongoing Agricultural Health Study funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Cancer Institute, two of the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Data from 18,782 North Carolina and Iowa farmers linked use of insecticides, including organophosphates and organochlorines, to reports of reoccurring headaches, fatigue, insomnia, dizziness, nausea, hand tremors, numbness and other neurological symptoms.

Some of the insecticides addressed by the study are still on the market, but some, including DDT, have been banned or restricted. [...]

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WHO says 18 new cases of polio in Yemen, sparking fear of epidemic
01:15 AM EDT Apr 30

GENEVA (AP) - The UN health agency Friday said that 18 new cases of polio have been found in Yemen and more people are believed infected, sparking fears of an epidemic in the Middle East country with a low immunization rate among children.

"What we're facing now is a major epidemic in Yemen," said David Heymann, chief of the World Health Organization's polio eradication campaign. The latest cases bring to 22 the number of confirmed instances of polio in the country.

Heymann noted that the disease had spread across the country from the initial four cases that were recorded in the Red Sea port of Al-Hudaydah last week. The country was previously thought to be to be free of the disease.

"Ongoing field investigations have identified additional suspected polio cases across the affected governorates in Yemen," WHO said. "Low immunization rates among Yemen's children may facilitate the spread of the virus."

Heymann said all the infected so far were children.

"It will never be possible to tell how this virus came into Yemen," Heymann told reporters. "What's important is that the virus is there and that we have to stop it." [...]

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Report Urges Increased Volcano Monitoring
Apr 29, 2005
By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON — While Mount St. Helens and Kilauea generate the most attention, many other volcanoes in the United States have little or no regular monitoring and need to be watched for potential eruptions, a new report warns.

The U.S. Geological Survey said Friday that monitoring gaps exist for volcanoes in Alaska, California, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, Wyoming and the Northern Mariana Islands that could pose a hazard both on the ground and to aviation.

The report reviews the hazard of 169 volcanoes in the U.S. and its territories and calls for a 24-hour, seven-day Volcano Watch Office and increased monitoring at many of the peaks.

"We cannot afford to wait until a hazardous volcano begins to erupt before deploying a modern monitoring effort. The consequences put property and people at risk including volcano scientists on site and pilots and passengers in the air," said Survey Director Chip Groat.

"It forces citizens, scientists, civil and aviation authorities, and businesses into playing catch up with a dangerous volcano, a risky game indeed," he said.

Monitoring volcanoes in advance of problems is essential to help develop emergency response plans to keep communities safe, he said.

The study said three groups of volcanoes are the highest priority for study:

The volcanoes erupting now Mount St. Helens in Washington State, Anatahan in the Mariana Islands, Kilauea in Hawaii and the volcanoes that are showing periods of significant unrest, Mauna Loa in Hawaii and Mount Spurr in Alaska.

The 13 very high threat volcanoes with inadequate monitoring. These include nine volcanoes in the Cascade Range Rainier, Hood, Shasta, South Sister, Lassen, Crater Lake, Baker, Glacier Peak and Newberry. Also, four Alaskan volcanoes, Redoubt, Makushin, Akutan and Augustine. The agency noted that while Cascade volcanoes do not erupt frequently, they threaten major populations and developments. [...]

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FDA OKs Lizard-Derived Shot for Diabetes
Associated Press
Apr 29, 8:58 PM (ET)

WASHINGTON - Type 2 diabetics got a new option to help control their blood sugar Friday, a drug derived from the saliva of the Gila monster - but one that must be injected twice a day.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Byetta, known chemically as exenatide, the first in a new class of medications for Type 2 diabetes - but for now, it's supposed to be used together with older diabetes drugs, not alone.

Makers Amylin Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY) said the prescription drug would begin selling by June 1, but wouldn't provide a price. [...]

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