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No Charges in Taser Gun Death
Reported By: Jerry Carnes
Web Editor: Manav Tanneeru
Last Modified: 4/29/2005 10:38:36 PM

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - A Gwinnett County grand jury had decided not to pursue charges in the Taser gun-related death of an inmate at the county jail.

Inmate Frederick Williams died last year after Gwinnett deputies used a Taser gun to subdue him.

Williams' widow, Yanga Williams, said he was in a rage when she called officers to her home last May. She says her husband's violent behavior was due to his failure to take medication for epilepsy.

Eleven deputies and a video camera were there when he arrived at the Gwinnett County Jail in handcuffs, and his feet bound, but still fighting.

The video, taken by the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department and obtained by 11Alive News, shows Williams struggling as deputies tried to remove the handcuffs and place him in a restraint chair.

A deputy then uses a Taser on Williams. A deputy is shown placing the Taser against Williams' chest a total of five times. Eventually, he passes out.

"I do feel there's some criminal act in this," Yanga Williams said.

An investigation by the sheriff's department concluded deputies acted properly. A police investigation also cleared the deputies of criminal wrongdoing.

"It's a terrible, terrible incident, but nothing criminal happened, certainly nothing criminal from my deputies," said Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway.

According to the Gwinnett county medical examiner, it is unclear if the Taser caused Williams' death.

District Attorney Danny Porter provided details of the investigations to a grand jury and that grand jury decided not to pursue an investigation of their own. They, however, chose not to view the videotape taken at the jail.

"They were aware of the tape and the disturbing aspects of it, but chose not to view it," Porter said. "They chose not to see it and chose not to go any farther."

"For all intents and purposes, this ends my case," he said.

"At times it gets pretty frustrating, frustrating to the point where I want to scream," Yanga Williams said.

She has hired a lawyer, and may turn her frustration into a civil lawsuit. She has not seen the video tape, but Melvin Johnson, her lawyer has. "We're horrified by what we've seen," he said.

"Mr. Porter told the wife in my presence that because the wife did not notify him or did not ask his permission, basically, to bring in the feds, he's pissed off, for a lack of a better word, and is no longer bringing charges," he added.

Johnson says Porter presented the wrong evidence to the grand jury and he wants the officers indicted.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is still conducting its probe.

Comment: This article leaves out a few important details...

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Video Shows 5 Taser Shocks In 1 Minute, Inmate Death
April 30, 2005

Frederick Williams last words as he was carried into the Gwinnett County jail were, "Don't kill me, man. Don't kill me." It turned out to be an unheeded plea - minutes later he was dead after receiving 5 direct stuns from a Taser gun in the span of 60 seconds. [...]

Before sending the case to the grand jury the DA declined to prosecute any of the deputies involved in the incident.

Is this a tragic accident or criminal (or civil) negligence? Watch the video for yourselves [Windows Media] and see if you think the application of 5 direct tasers shots to the chest was an appropriate level of force. Be sure to listen for the line, "Do you want it again?" from one of the deputies, which might change your mind if you were initially inclined to give deputies the benefit of the doubt.

Comment: First of all, why was tasering the man necessary? If he was indeed "hog-tied" and thrown in the back of a police cruiser, the officers involved had control of the situation. The man could then very easily be transported into a prison cell and further restrained to a bed, for example, to prevent him from injuring himself or others.

The previous article states that officers were attempting to remove Williams' handcuffs and place him in a restraining chair. If the police were indeed told about his medical condition and offered his medication, then simply keeping him restrained and calling on a competent medical authority to administer the medication would have been the logical course of action. Why didn't they have an ambulance meet them at the jail to administer his medication and/or a tranquilizer? Better yet, why not just call an ambulance after they had secured him in the back of the police car at his house?

Certainly, shouting at him and subsequently beating him with a baton is not a logical course of action if you know that he has a medical condition and is not in a mentally stable state.

The question remains as to why the man was not taking his medication, but police are generally not trained to deal with such complex situations - medical professionals such as doctors and psychiatrists are.

Many individuals have posted comments to this article, which appeared on The following are excerpts that give the general tone of the the responses favoring the police:

"Premeditated murder? Are you kidding me? You actually think the deputies planned on killing that man? Manslaughter, maybe, assuming someone can demonstrate the taser was responsible. Having been in this situation before, I wonder what should have been done. Leave him in the cell with hand and legs cuffed? And if he never calms down? At what point do you have the responsiblity of removing the restraints? If you think one guy can not seriously injure himself and a number of officers if he just doesnt care, then your wrong." - buzz

"My goodness! Who knew there were so many forensic pathologists and use of force experts on this blog. They can't even determine cause of death yet you are willing to blame the deputies for it. Are you arguing that the written policies of the sheriff's office in the proper use of the taser are defective? How? Or, that they were not followed? Again, how were they not followed? Are any of you even familar with the proper use of a taser and when it maybe used by law enforcement? Can you people be any more biased towards police officers?" - kma

"'You want it again?' That makes me think the cops did NOT intend him harm. They wanted him to calm the hell down. He didn't calm down, so he got it again. The use of tasers is a policy issue, and if they were used according to policy, the cops involved are blameless." - Mark J

"Several days ago you ran a story about an out-of-control inmate who put 3 police officers trying to subdue him into the hospital. I believe the injuries included a fractured vertebrae, fractured jaw, and blown-out eye socket. The police are damned-if-they-do and damned-if-they-dont."
- KobeClan

"I guess any police actions short of perfection are negligence, or murder, to some people. The man was combative, for whatever reason, and wouldn't stop even though he was in the custody of a large number of armed policemen in a jailhouse. What would he have done to medical personnel? As a former EMT, I can tell you people like that don't get medical treatment until they are subdued. It's a tragic situation, but getting litigious about it, or calling those who disagree with you something other than 'objective-minded-red blooded-human's, is adding insult to injury." - Uncle Mikey

"If he died two days later, it is unlikely the tasering did it. If someone croaks as a direct result of being roughed up and tasered, they generally croak on the spot. If someone is violent with eleven police deputies, he is going to take a thumping. While police are often arrogant, vicious and brutal, this kind of incident is not their fault. If someone is violent with me, I am going to beat the crap out of him, not knowing or caring that he failed to take his medication or that he has a dicky heart. Police act the same. Doesn't everyone?" - James D.

"Just what exactly is the reason this guy didn't take his required epilepsy drugs? Seems to me like he should've done what he was supposed to do, anything that happens as a result of his willful negligence is his own fault. Those cops could've been protecting innocent people instead of dealing with this idiots self-imposed situation."
- shark

"His death was unfortunate but, to be blunt, when will
violent criminals learn to not resist arrest? This guy didn't deserve to die but he certainly deserved the tasers." - Bill

"Considering the fact that over 100 people have died after being hit with tasers, the taser should have been banned YEARS ago.

Bull. Again, you are referring to a stat which includes any death where a taser was employed – NOT where the taser was the cause of death. The vast majority of the deaths were the result of cocaine and meth overdoses.

Rule of thumb: If you are out of shape, fat, have a pre-existing heart or other medical condition – don't consume massive quantities of meth and cocaine and fight the cops.

They shock your heart, and stop it. PERIOD.

Really? Where's your proof? And part of the training for law enforcement is that they have a taser used on them. So, why aren't they dead? PERIOD.

There are no conclusive medical studies that prove tasers as being safe, so they should be banned, without question.

You mean that there are no studies that prove they are unsafe." - KMA

It is highly probably that none of us will ever have all the details we need to legally determine if any crime was committed in this case, which is a particularly disturbing reality in and of itself. Why all the conflicting reports? Why didn't the grand jury want to watch the video tape of Williams being tasered? What about the fact that two inmates in Gwinnett County have died after being shocked with a taser in the past eighteen months?

Even more troubling is the fact that this situation is not an isolated incident. We have presented numerous articles in recent Signs pages about US citizens who have been injured or killed with tasers under suspicious circumstances. For example:

Suspension suggested in Taser case

By Becky Purser
Telegraph Staff Writer

WARNER ROBINS - A former school resource officer who discharged a Taser stun gun to get the attention of a sleeping student may be placed on a three-day suspension, according to city of Centerville documents. [...]

Dead after cop scuffle

April 24, 2005

Authorities and witnesses differ over officers' struggle with a man who died after being shot by stun gun

(Long Island, N.Y.) - A Ronkonkoma man died Friday night after a violent encounter with nine Suffolk police officers, during which he was shocked five times with a Taser gun, Suffolk police said.

Yesterday, as the Suffolk County medical examiner's office found evidence of cocaine and alcohol in John Cox's blood and began an examination to determine exactly how he died, police and witnesses on the outside offered differing accounts of what transpired inside the battered home on Taylor Avenue in Bellport. [...]

Woman To File Police Complaint Over Taser Incident

POSTED: 7:06 am CDT April 21, 2005

OMAHA, Neb. -- An Omaha woman said she plans to file a complaint with the police department over a stun gun incident at a house fire Sunday night.

Jasmine Franklin told KETV Newswatch 7 that a police officer used a stun gun on her three times as she tried to get inside her burning home because she thought her 2-year-old daughter was still inside. [...]

Woman Claims She Was Shocked 15 Times With Taser Gun

Wed Apr 20, 6:15 PM ET

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reservist says deputy had no reason to use stun gun

The Associated Press
Posted April 5, 2005

TALLAHASSEE -- A deputy sheriff shocked a Marine reservist with a Taser stun gun in a case of mistaken identity just days after the reservist had returned from an overseas assignment.

Leon County deputies responding to reports of a domestic disturbance wrongly went to Demar Jackson's apartment instead of the correct one next door.

Jackson tried to tell Deputy John Daly he was at the wrong apartment, but Daly told him three times to turn around. When Jackson did not turn, Daly shot him with his Taser, sending 50,000 volts of electricity into Jackson's bare chest and abdomen as his wife and 3-year-old son watched. [...]

Video shows details of Taser incident at LAX

By Ian Gregor
Daily Breeze

Criticism intensifies over the arrest that involved an airport police sergeant shocking a 78-year-old man after he resisted being handcuffed.

A videotape released Thursday appears to show that an elderly man was resisting attempts to handcuff him but not fighting with officers right before a Los Angeles International Airport police sergeant shocked him with a 50,000-volt Taser last month.

Other than attempting to handcuff the 78-year-old man, the three officers who were present in the LAX police station lobby do not appear to have tried less aggressive means of restraining him before turning to the Taser. [...]

Report Cites 103 Taser-Related Deaths


There were 103 Taser stun gun-related deaths in the United States and Canada between June 2001 and March 2005, according to an Amnesty International report released Friday.

In the first three months of this year, there were 13 Taser-related deaths - compared with six during the same period last year, the report said. [...]

To top it all off, it appears that the situation in the Land of the Free will only get worse:

Sweeping stun guns to target crowds

New Scientist Print Edition
16 June 04

Weapons that can incapacitate crowds of people by sweeping a lightning-like beam of electricity across them are being readied for sale to military and police forces in the US and Europe.

At present, commercial stun guns target one person at a time, and work only at close quarters. The new breed of non-lethal weapons can be used on many people at once and operate over far greater distances.

But human rights groups are appalled by the fact that no independent safety tests have been carried out, and by their potential for indiscriminate use.

The weapons are designed to address the perceived shortcomings of the Taser, the electric-shock gun already used by 4000 police departments in the US and undergoing trials with some police forces in the UK. [...]

Given all the information that is so widely and readily available on the abuse of tasers, how is it that so many Americans will respond in defense of the authorities as occurred in the Williams case on

The first element to consider is the controlled media in the US. Most articles reporting on a law enforcement official's use of a taser do not include the facts. Many reporters even declare that no deaths have been caused from the use of any type of stun gun, even though the reality is obviously quite different. It is far more comfortable to believe the lie. The powers that be are well aware of this simple fact, and they continue to use it to their advantage. The allegations that Saddam was prepared to use his nonexistent WMD's against the US before the invasion of Iraq is a prime example. Many Americans still believe that Saddam had WMD's, even though none have been found and the search for said weapons has been called off. For those Americans who do see what is occurring in the US at present, the official culture of psychopathy in the US makes it rather difficult to spread the truth.

Another facet of the problem to consider is mind control. Contrary to popular belief, methods of altering the behavior of the masses exist and are not science fiction. Richard Dolan reports in his monumental and thoroughly well-researched book UFOs and the National Security State:

By the early 1970s, there were already means available to alter the moods of unsuspecting persons. A pocket-sized transmitter generating electromagnetic energy at less than 100 milliwatts could do the job. This is no pie-in-the-sky theory. In 1972, Dr. Gordon J.F. McDonald testified before the House Subcommittee on Oceans and International Environment on the issue of electromagnetic weapons used for mind control and mental disruption. He stated:

"[T]he basic notion was to create, between the electrically charged ionosphere in the higher part of the atmosphere and conducting layers of the surface of the Earth, this neutral cavity, to create waves, electrical waves that would be tuned to the brain waves. ...About ten cycles per second. ...You can produce changes in behavioral patterns or in responses."

The following year, Dr. Joseph C. Sharp, at Walter Reed Hospital, while in a soundproof room, was able to hear spoken words broadcast by 'pulsed microwave audiogram.' These words were broadcast to him without any implanted electronic translation device. Rather, they reached him by direct transmission to the brain. [...]

Changes in behavioral patterns or responses...

Law enforcement officials' increasing use of excessive force could certainly be considered changes in behavioral patterns. Then think about all the recent violence in the news, including: 15-year-old stabs his mother 111 times and Mother stabs each of her two children over 100 times. The 15-year-old and the mother were both described as good, peaceful people - until they decided, only two days apart, to stab those they loved over 100 times. To add to the strange behavior, the jittery bride who faked her kidnapping may be charged in Gwinnett County, Georgia - the same county where the taser deaths have occurred. The segment of the American population who seems to trust and support the police and politicians no matter what happens could definitely be exhibiting changes in their responses to external events, as well.

The reader may be familiar with a US government project called HAARP (High-frequency Active Aural Research Program). The generally accepted "real purpose" of HAARP is that it is a secret project to control the weather. As Laura Knight-Jadczyk explains in her article The Canary in the Mine, weather control is the least likely purpose of HAARP:

While pondering, let's think about the HAARP deal from another angle. Do we really think that the amount of money that has gone into this project, not to mention the extraordinary secrecy that has surrounded it, has anything at all to do with "advertising in space?" Or "lighting for the suburbs?"

Yeah, right.

Or do we suspect that the activation of HAARP may have had something to do with the Massacre in Madrid and some of the general mayhem flying about the planet at other assorted times?

The Alternative News and Conspiracy watching crowd have long been attached to the idea that HAARP is a project designed to control weather or cause geological disasters - sort of an "environmental weapon," so to say. We here at Signs of the Times have argued against this since we do credit those in power with a few firing neurons, even if they think only about themselves. In fact, that is the point. Having some idea of the nonlinear dynamics of weather and geological events, it is hardly likely that they would be stupid enough to diddle with the weather or to try to create earthquakes to cause problems for their enemies. Such things are too uncontrollable, too many variables, and too much danger of doing unintended damage to the self.

We notice in our data collection that there seems to be no direct relationship between the weather events because they occurred in a couple of theoretical time windows and not in others. Therefore, let us theorize that weather issues are indeed a problem, as the above cited Pentagon report stated, but that they are not caused by, or under the control of, any Secret Government. One might even speculate that the clusters of craziness could be generated to keep people's attention focused elsewhere. For example, the possible activation of the HAARP array around the time of the election of Arnie in California. Hmmm...

The idea that HAARP was created to control weather was promoted in a big way by Nick Begich in a book entitled Angels Don't Play This HAARP. The HAARP project has been recently connected to the December Malaysian earthquake, and a year before, was connected to the BAM earthquake. You might want to read the December 31, 2003 Signs of The Times page where you will find:

In the past week there have been FIVE major earthquakes, culminating in the most recent one in Iran. 2003/12/26 6.5 Southeastern Iran 2003/12/25 6.0 Southeast Of Loyalty Islands 2003/12/25 6.5 Southeast Of Loyalty Islands 2003/12/25 6.0 South Of Kermadec Islands 2003/12/25 6.5 Panama-Costa Rica Border Region

The media have barely mentioned these other quakes, however such a spate of earthquakes in so brief a period is curious. But what is really unusual is the actual timing of the Iranian quake. Just as Iran was about to challenge Israel's nuclear supremacy in the Middle East, it is rocked by a devastating quake that could claim up to 50,000 lives and take years to recover from. Was it a coincidence that Iran was moving into a position to challenge Israel's nuclear dominance of the region when the tremor struck? [...]

Now he is saying that this most recent disaster was not the result of natural forces. The Americans are behind it, probably working at the behest of their Zionist overlords, and using secret high technology, most probably HAARP.

With this in mind the following article, written over two years ago, is more pertinent than ever... Weapons of the New World Order "Technology will make available, to the leaders of major nations, techniques for conducting secret warfare, of which only a bare minimum of the security forces will be appraised…Techniques of weather modification could be employed to produce prolonged periods of drought or storm." Illuminati strategist and front man Zbigniew Brzezinski writing in "Between Two Ages" 1970. [...]

Unfortunately the above is not just speculation. The ability to trigger earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and even effect peoples brains and the Earth's own tectonic plates is now a very real possibility; the research has been done, the tests completed and the weaponry has been deployed, and maybe even used. It's called HAARP (High-frequency Active Aural Research Program) and was developed as part of the "Star Wars" initiative. According to Dr. Nicholas Begich HAARP is: "A super-powerful radiowave-beaming technology that lifts areas of the ionosphere (upper layer of the atmosphere) by focusing a beam and heating those areas. Electromagnetic waves then bounce back and penetrate everything – living and dead." Aside from disrupting normal weather patterns it would also bombard those targeted with deadly radiation. Thus in the words of Dr. Rosalie Bertell, HAARP is: "a gigantic heater that can cause major disruption in the ionosphere, creating not just holes, but long incisions in the protective layer that keeps deadly radiation from bombarding this planet."

Our own interactions with the folks that financed Begich's book, as well as controlled its content, chronicled in the Adventures With Cassiopaea series, (do read this for some inside details of how COINTELPRO approaches are made), suggest that describing HAARP as a "weather" or "geological weapon," is merely disinformation. Again, let us note that the above cited HAARP experiment took place on March 10, 2003, followed by violence and a number of behavioral incidents of surpassing strangeness. It may be that Zbigniew Brzezinski had something altogether different in mind when he said: "Technology will make available, to the leaders of major nations, techniques for conducting secret warfare, of which only a bare minimum of the security forces will be appraised…"

When this information is coupled with a daily analysis of world events and America's march towards fascism, it seems that occurrences such as taser deaths are signs of a far larger trend in both the US and other nations. For a more in-depth analysis of the effects of projects like HAARP, be sure to read The Canary in the Mine in its entirety. To discover how any of this madness is even possible today, don't miss The Secret History of the World and How to Get Out Alive.

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Draft U.S. paper allows commanders to seek preemptive nuke strikes
By Kyodo

05/01/05 "Kyodo News" - - The U.S. military plans to allow regional combatant commanders to request the president for approval to carry out preemptive nuclear strikes against possible attacks on the United States or its allies with weapons of mass destruction, according to a draft new nuclear operations paper (Link to original document .pdf file).

The paper, drafted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces, also revealed that submarines which make port calls in Yokosuka, Sasebo and Okinawa in Japan are prepared for reloading nuclear warheads if necessary to deal with a crisis. 

The March 15 draft paper, a copy of which was made available, is titled "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations" providing "guidelines for the joint employment of forces in nuclear operations...for the employment of U.S. nuclear forces, command and control relationships, and weapons effect considerations." 

"There are numerous nonstate organizations (terrorist, criminal) and about 30 nations with WMD programs, including many regional states," the paper says in allowing combatant commanders in the Pacific and other theaters to maintain an option of preemptive strikes against "rogue" states and terrorists and "request presidential approval for use of nuclear weapons" under set conditions. 

The paper identifies nuclear, biological and chemical weapons as requiring preemptive strikes to prevent their use. 

But allowing preemptive nuclear strikes against possible biological and chemical attacks effectively contradicts a "negative security assurance" policy declared by the U.S. administration of President Bill Clinton 10 years ago on the occasion of an international conference to review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. 

Creating a treaty on negative security assurances to commit nuclear powers not to use nuclear weapons against countries without nuclear weapons remains one of the most contentious issues for the 35-year-old NPT regime. 

A JCS official said the paper "is still a draft which has to be finalized," but indicated that it is aimed at guiding "cross-spectrum" combatant commanders how to jointly carry out operations based on the Nuclear Posture Review report adopted three years ago by the administration of President George W. Bush. 

Citing North Korea, Iran and some other countries as threats, the report set out contingencies for which U.S. nuclear strikes must be prepared and called for developing earth-penetrating nuclear bombs to destroy hidden underground military facilities, including those for storing WMD and ballistic missiles. 

"The nature (of the paper) is to explain not details but cross spectrum for how to conduct operations," the official said, noting that it "means for all services, Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine." 

In 1991 after the end of the Cold War, the United States removed its ground-based nuclear weapons in Asia and Europe as well as strategic nuclear warheads on warships and submarines. 

But the paper says the United States is prepared to revive those sea-based nuclear arms. 

"Nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missiles, removed from ships and submarines under the 1991 Presidential Nuclear Initiative, are secured in central areas where they remain available, if necessary for a crisis," the paper says. 

The paper also underlined that the United States retains a contingency scenario of limited nuclear wars in East Asia and the Middle East. 

"Geographic combatant commanders may request presidential approval for use of nuclear weapons for a variety of conditions," the paper says. 

The paper lists eight conditions such as "an adversary using or intending to use WMD against U.S. multinational or alliance forces or civilian populations" and "imminent attack from adversary biological weapons that only effects from nuclear weapons can safely destroy." 

The conditions also include "attacks on adversary installations including WMD, deep, hardened bunkers containing chemical or biological weapons" and countering "potentially overwhelming adversary conventional forces." 

Comment: Tasers on the home population, nukes for the rest. The Bush Doctrine for the second term is getting better and better defined.

Given that we know that the US government is prepared to lie and claim that countries have WMD where there are in fact no WMD, this policy is an open door to the use of nuclear weapons by the US where and when they see fit. The US has already proven itself ready to invade and occupy a foreign country based upon lies of WMD. It uses depleted uranium, poisoning the environment, the civilians of the occupied territories, as well as its own troops. There isn't much of a leap to the use of "tactical nukes". The mindset is already in place, the lack of regard for anything but their own psychopathic wants.

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Signs Economic Commentary
Donald Hunt
May 2nd, 2005

The U.S. Stock market gained a bit by the end of the week, with the Dow closing at 10,192.51, up 0.34% from the previous Friday’s close of 10, 157.71. It was a volatile week, however, with the Dow gaining 122 points on Friday. The NASDAQ, while also gaining nearly a percent on Friday lost ground for the week, closing at 1921.65, down 0.55% compared to the previous week’s close of 1932.19. The yield on the ten-year U.S. Treasury bond closed at 4.20 percent down from last week’s 4.25%. The dollar rose against the euro closing at .7772 dollars to a euro, up 0.44% from last week’s .7738. A euro then, would buy 1.2866 dollars compared to the previous week’s close of 1.3066 dollars. Oil dropped sharply last week, below $50 at $49.72, down 11.4% from the previous week’s $55.39. Oil in euros would be 38.64 euros a barrel, down 9.7% compared to last week’s 42.39 Gold closed at $435.50 per ounce, down a dollar (0.23%) from the previous week’s close of $436.50. In euros, an ounce of gold would cost 338.49, down 1.3% from last week’s 334.07. An ounce of gold would buy 8.76 barrels of oil, up 11.2% from last week’s 7.88 barrels.

Before we break out the champagne about the growth in stocks and the drop in oil prices on Friday, we need to look at the reason for it:

Economy Surprises Experts With Sudden Slowdown

By Nell Henderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 29, 2005; E01

U.S. economic growth slowed sharply in the first three months of the year, to the weakest pace in two years, as surging energy costs caused consumers and businesses to rein in their spending.

The nation's gross domestic product, which is the value of all goods and services produced, rose at a 3.1 percent annual rate during the first quarter, down from a 3.8 percent rate in the final three months of last year, the Commerce Department said yesterday.

The news confirmed other recent signs of a cooling economy. Job growth, retail sales, factory production and consumer confidence fell in March. New orders for big-ticket manufactured goods have declined in each of the past three months. The trade deficit keeps growing to new monthly records.

The economy has slowed after two years in which growth was boosted by government stimulus -- in the form of tax cuts and low interest rates -- provided in response to extraordinary turmoil.

The Fed cut its benchmark rate dramatically, from 6.5 percent in late 2000 to 1 percent by June 2003, to support the economy through a succession of shocks, including the bursting of the late 1990s investment bubble, the 2001 recession, the terrorist attacks that year, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and corporate scandals.

The White House and Congress also passed several tax cuts during that time, spurring additional household spending. Policymakers had expected that consumers would keep the economy going at a decent pace until businesses eventually rejoined the game and started investing, expanding and hiring again with some gusto.

That last piece of the recovery seemed to be falling into place late last year, when business spending on nonresidential structures, equipment and software rose at double-digit rates. Economists had hoped that would continue into the new year, even after the end-of-December expiration of a tax break designed to boost investment, providing plenty of fuel for economic growth even as consumers grew winded.

Instead, business spending in that category slowed in the first quarter, rising at a 4.7 percent annual rate, down from a 14.5 percent pace in the previous quarter.
Meanwhile, consumers also pulled back, finding their wallets pinched by gasoline prices above $2 a gallon, lagging wage growth and rising interest rates. Consumer spending rose at a 3.5 percent annual rate in the January-through-March period, down from a 4.2 percent pace in the October-through-December quarter.

The slowing U.S. economy led investors to conclude that there is now less pressure on the Federal Reserve Board to raise interest rates, which led to a rise in stocks. The way the mainstream press is describing this weakening (a “soft patch”) presumes that we were in a healthy recovery in the last four years. There is nothing healthy about an anemic expansion fueled by government military spending, tax cuts and personal debt built on asset inflation, or as Kurt Richebacher put it, “wealth deception:”

The Great Wealth Deception

April 27, 2005

This is the most important economic question in and for the world: Has the U.S. economy's rebound since 2001 been aborted, or is it only delayed? Our rigorous disagreement with the global optimistic consensus over this question begins with four observations that we regard as crucial:
1. In the past four years, the U.S. economy has received the most prodigious monetary and fiscal stimulus in history. Yet by any measure, its rebound from the 2001 recession is by far the weakest on record in the post-World War II period.

2. Record-low interest rates boosted asset prices and, in their wake, an unprecedented debt-and-spending binge on the part of the consumer.

3. What resulted was a badly structured economic recovery, which - due to grossly lacking growth in capital investment, employment and wage and salary income - never gained the necessary traction to become self-sustainable.

4. Sustained and sufficiently strong economic growth implicitly requires a return to strong business fixed capital spending. We see no chance of this happening. Above all, the outlook for business profits is dismal from the macro perspective.

This takes us to the enormous structural changes that the Fed's new monetary "bubble policy" has imparted to the U.S. economy over the years. While consumption, residential building and government spending soared, unprecedented imbalances developed in the economy - record-low saving; a record-high trade deficit; a vertical surge of household indebtedness; anemic employment and income growth from wages and salaries; outsized government deficits; and protracted, unusual weakness in business fixed investment.

None of these shortfalls is a typical feature of the business cycle. Instead, they are all of unusual structural nature. Yet the bullish U.S. consensus simply ignores them, bragging instead about the U.S. economy's resilience and its ability to outperform most industrialized countries.

To be sure, all these structural deformations tend to impede economic growth. Some, like the trade deficit and slumping investment, do so with immediate effect; others become repressive only gradually and in the longer run. Budget deficits stimulate demand as long as they rise. An existing budget deficit, however large, loses this effect. Rather, it tends to become a drag on the economy. In the past few years, clearly, the massive monetary and fiscal pump-priming policies have more than offset all these growth-impairing influences.

Assessing the U.S. economy's future performance, it is necessary to distinguish between two opposite macro forces: One is the drag on the economy exerted by the various structural distortions; the other is the enormous demand-pull fostered by the housing bubble and the associated rampant credit creation.

Measured by real GDP growth, the demand-pull driven by the housing bubble has, so far, overpowered the structural drags, provided you believe in the accuracy of the GDP numbers. We do not. Yet even by this measure, as repeatedly explained, it is actually by far the U.S. economy's weakest recovery on record in the postwar period. In fact, measuring the growth of employment and wage and salary income, there has been no recovery at all.

Our stance has always been and remains simple. Asset bubbles and their demand effects invariably fade over time; structural effects invariably worsen over time if not attended to. It is our strong assumption that the negative structural effects are overtaking the positive bubble effects.

We come to another feature of economic recoveries that American policymakers and economists flatly ignore. That is its pattern or composition.

Past cyclical recoveries were spearheaded by three demand components: durable consumer goods, residential building and business fixed investment, regularly following prior sharp downturns caused by tight money during the recession. Importantly, the tight money had always created pent-up demand in these three categories, which promptly catapulted the economy upward when monetary policy eased. For sure, the pent-up demand played a key role in the recovery dynamics.

With its rapid and drastic rate cuts, the Fed rewrote the rules of the traditional business cycle and related policies. It managed a seamless transition from equity bubble to housing bubble. Consumer spending on durable goods continued to forge ahead during the 2001 recession at an annual rate of 4.3%. Residential building never retreated, while business fixed investment took an unusual plunge.

From 2000-04, consumer spending soared by 27.3% on durable goods and 25.4% on residential building. Government spending, too, rose sharply, by 13.9%. Together, the three components accounted for 123% of real GDP growth.

But in the rest of the economy, it was all misery. Despite a modest rebound, business nonfinancial fixed investment in 2004 was still down 0.2% from 2000. Exports of goods posted a minimal gain of 0.1%, whereas imports of goods shot up by 16.5%.

…For generations of economists, it used to be a truism that "wealth creation" implies capital formation in terms of generating income-creating tangible assets. The emphasis was on capital formation and the associated income creation. To indiscriminately put this label of "wealth creation" on rising asset prices in the absence of any income creation is plainly a novel usurpation of this concept. It is in essence wealth creation through a stroke of the pen.

Measured by their net worth (market value of household assets minus debts), American households have amassed unprecedented riches in the past few years, despite spending in excess of their current income as never before.

…The growth of home mortgages exploded from an annual rate of $368.3 billion in 2000 to an annual rate of $884.9 billion in 2004, compared with a simultaneous increase in residential building from $446.9 billion to $662.3 billion. Altogether, the United States experienced a credit expansion of close to $10 trillion during these four years. This equates with simultaneous nominal GDP growth of $1.9 trillion. America's financial system is really one gigantic credit-and-debt bubble.

…A credit expansion in the United States of close to $10 trillion - in relation to nominal GDP growth of barely $2 trillion over the last four years since 2000 - definitely represents more than the usual dose of inflationary credit excess. This is really hyperinflation in terms of credit creation.

More and more people blame Alan Greenspan for the asset inflation bubble, Morgan Stanley’s Stephen Roach prominent among them:

In all my years in this business, never before have I seen a central bank attempt to spin the debate as America’s Federal Reserve has over the past six or seven years. From the New Paradigm mantra of the late 1990s to today’s new theories of the current-account adjustment, the US central bank has led the charge in attempting to rewrite conventional macroeconomics and in making an effort to convince market participants of the wisdom of its revisionist theories. The problem is that this recasting of macro is very self-serving. It is a concentrated effort on the part of the Fed to exonerate itself from the Original Sin of failing to address asset bubbles. The result is an ever-deepening moral hazard dilemma that poses grave threats to financial markets.

I am not a believer in conspiracy theories. But the Fed’s behavior since the late 1990s is starting to change my mind. It all began with Alan Greenspan’s worries over “irrational exuberance” on December 5, 1996, when a surging Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 6437. The subsequent Fed tightening in March 1997 was aimed not only at the asset bubble itself, but at the impacts such excessive appreciation in equity markets were having on the real economy -- consumers and businesses alike. It was a classic example of the Fed playing the role of the tough guy -- the central bank that, to paraphrase the words of former Chairman William McChesney Martin, “takes away the punchbowl just when the party is getting good.” Unfortunately, the tough guys weren’t so tough after all. Predictably, there was a huge outcry on Capitol Hill as the Fed took aim on the US stock market. But rather than stay the course as an independent central bank should, the Fed ran for cover in the face of political criticism. Not only were its initial bubble-containment efforts put aside, but Alan Greenspan went on to champion the notion of a sea-change in the macro climate -- a once-in-a-century productivity miracle that would justify the stock market’s exuberance as rational. That was the Original Sin that has since been compounded in the years that have followed.

Out of that pivotal moment in the late 1990s, a New Economy actually did come into being. But it was not the new economy of ever-accelerating productivity growth that infatuated the New Paradigm Crowd and legions of equity-market speculators. Instead, it was the Asset Economy that enabled consumers and businesses to draw on the pixie dust of a new source of purchasing power -- asset appreciation -- as a means to augment what has since turned into a stunning shortfall of organic domestic income generation.

Unfortunately, the asset-based spending model has given rise to many of the distortions and imbalances evident in the US today. That’s especially true of low saving rates, the housing bubble, high debt loads, and a runaway current account deficit. When the equity bubble burst, asset-dependent American consumers barely skipped a beat. Courtesy of an extraordinary shift to monetary accommodation, the pendulum of asset depreciation quickly swung into property markets; US house-price inflation has since surged to a 25-year high. To the extent that equity extraction from ever-rising property appreciation was viewed as a substitute for organic sources of labor income generation, hard-pressed consumers went deeply into debt to monetize the windfall. As a result, household sector indebtedness surged to nearly 90% of US GDP -- an all-time record and up over 20 percentage points from levels in the mid-1990s when the Asset Economy was born. Secure in the asset-driven spending posture that resulted, consumers saw no need to save the old-fashioned way out of earned labor income. That’s why the personal saving rate has collapsed and currently stands near zero. Asset-based consumption is also at the core of America’s current-account problem. In an income-based accounting framework, the “missing saving” has to come from somewhere. In this case, that “somewhere” is the foreign saver -- giving rise to the current-account and trade deficits required to attract the foreign capital. As a result, the US current-account gap probably exceeded 6.5% of GDP in the first quarter of 2005 -- easily another record and well in excess of the 4% deficit prevailing in the mid-1990s.

This whole story, in my view, remains balanced on the head of a pin of absurdly low real interest rates. And the Fed has certainly been pivotal in nurturing this low-interest-rate regime. In an extraordinary display of policy accommodation, the real federal funds rate is only now moving above the zero threshold after having spent three years in negative territory. Of course, a central bank has little choice to do otherwise if it has made a conscious decision to underwrite the Asset Economy. After all, it takes low interest rates to provide valuation support to most financial assets -- initially stocks, then bonds, and now property. Furthermore, it takes low rates to make refi debt -- and the equity extraction it sponsors -- look attractive from a carrying cost perspective. Low rates also discourage income-based saving by underscoring the paltry returns available to savers in traditional asset classes. A migration to riskier assets -- such as property and “spread” products (i.e., high-yield and emerging market debt) -- is encouraged as a result. And low real rates make it easier to finance an ever-widening current-account deficit -- especially if the incremental flows come from foreign central banks, where there is reason to tolerate subpar returns in exchange for currency competitiveness. In short, without low real interest rates, the Asset Economy -- and all of its inherent imbalances and excesses -- is nothing.

The Fed is not only hard at work in the engine room in keeping the magic alive with a super-accommodative monetary policy but is has also become the intellectual architect of the New Macro. Time and again, since Alan Greenspan rolled out his New Paradigm theory in the late 1990s, senior Federal Reserve policy makers have taken the lead role as proselytizers of a new macro spin that condones the saving, debt, property bubble, and current-account excesses of the Asset Economy. The examples are far too numerous to mention, but consider the following highlights:

* Chairman Greenspan has made light of traditional measures of household indebtedness -- even going so far as to urge consumers to move from fixed to floating rate obligations (see his February 23, 2004, speech, Understanding Household Debt Obligations. Note: All references are to speeches available on the Fed’s website at

* Fed governors have also borrowed a page from the Roaring 1990s in denying the possibility of a housing bubble (see Chairman Greenspan’s October 19, 2004, speech, The Mortgage Market and Consumer Debt, and Governor Kohn’s April 1, 2004, speech, Monetary Policy and Imbalances).

* More recently, an army of senior Fed officials -- namely, Chairman Greenspan, Vice Chairman Ferguson, and Governors Bernanke and Kohn -- have unleashed a veritable broadside against the time-honored notion of the current-account adjustment (see their various 2005 speeches, especially Governor Kohn’s April 22 speech, Imbalances and the US Economy, Vice Chairman Ferguson’s April 20 speech, U.S. Current Account Deficit: Causes and Consequences, and Chairman Greenspan’s February 4 speech, Current Account).

* Governor Bernanke has also led the charge in coming up with a new theory of national saving -- that the United States is actually doing the world a favor by absorbing a so-called glut of global saving (see his April 14, 2005, speech, The Global Saving Glut and the U.S. Current Account Deficit); Vice Chairman Ferguson has been on a similar wavelength in dismissing concerns over subpar personal saving (see his October 6, 2004, speech, Questions and Reflections on the Personal Saving Rate).

Is this is an appropriate role for a central bank? In my view, absolutely not. The problem with an activist central bank is that decision makers in the real economy -- consumers and businesspeople alike -- mistake the Fed’s point of view for strategic advice. And so do financial market participants. After hearing the Fed pound the table, consumers feel left out if they don’t spend their housing equity. Business managers felt equally deprived in the late 1990s if their companies didn’t achieve the dotcom-type valuations in the stock market that Chairman Greenspan insisted in the late 1990s and even early 2000 were well grounded in a once-in-a-century productivity miracle. The resulting overhang of excess IT spending was a direct outgrowth of this perceived deprivation. Needless to say, when investors and financial speculators saw the equity train leave the station and the Fed condone the high growth of a productivity-led economy by leaving interest rates low, they saw no reason to believe that a bubble was about to burst. When consumers hear from a Fed chairman that it makes little sense to take on fixed rate debt, they rush to floating rate instruments; not by coincidence, the adjustable rate portion of newly originated mortgage debt shot up in the immediate aftermath of Chairman Greenspan’s comments on consumer indebtedness. And should asset-dependent, saving-short, overly indebted American consumers feel at risk if the Fed assures them that there is no housing bubble -- that the asset-based underpinnings of their decision making are well grounded? A record consumption share in the US economy -- 71% of GDP since 2002 versus a 67% norm over the 1975 to 2000 period -- speaks for itself.

The rhetorical flourishes of America’s central bankers have dug the US economy -- and by definition, a US-centric global economy -- into a deep hole. To this very day, the Fed has never confessed to the Original Sin of condoning the equity bubble. On the contrary, Greenspan & Company have been on the defensive ever since by dismissing the increasingly dangerous repercussions of the original post-bubble shakeout. Far from playing the role of the tough guy that is required of independent central bankers, the Fed has become an advocate of the easy money of a powerful liquidity cycle. One bubble has since begotten another -- from equities to bonds to fixed income spread products (i.e., emerging market and high-yield debt) to property. And financial markets have gone along for the ride -- not just in the US but also around the world as global investors and foreign central banks have rushed with reckless abandon to finance America’s record current-account deficit.

The day is close at hand when US monetary policy must get real. At a minimum, that will require a normalization of real interest rates. Given the excesses that now exist, it may even require a federal funds rate that needs to move into the restrictive zone -- possibly as high as 5.5%. Yes, this would cause an outcry -- perhaps similar to that which occurred in the spring of 1997 on the occasion of the Original Sin. But in the end, there may be no other choice. Fedspeak has taken us into the greatest moral hazard dilemma of all -- how to wean an asset-dependent system from unsustainably low real interest rates without bringing the entire House of Cards down. The longer the Fed waits, the more perilous the exit strategy.

One of the things I have been meaning to write about recently, particularly in the context of strategically placed financial explosives that could cause the economy to collapse in a “controlled demolition” is the financial time bomb of derivatives and hedge funds. It occurred to me that one set of strategically placed explosives could easily be the derivatives market. Michel de Chabert-Ostland said this in a post from Le Metropole Café sent to me by a friend:

RE DERIVATIVES RISK TIME BOMB: I'll quote from the FT of April 11th, article by John Plender:

" Equally worrying is that the number and size of the black holes in the financial system appears to be increasing by the day. Take the burgeoning derivatives market. Of the $88,000bn notional value of derivatives at US-insured commercial banks at the end of 2004, according to the latest data from the US Comptroller of the Currency, no less than 93 per cent was traded in the non-transparent over-the-counter market in which banks trade directly with each other. Five banks account for 96 per cent of the $88,000bn. Most of their shareholders, I suspect, have little grasp of the risks involved. "

Do you fully realize the meaning of the words above " ....traded in the non-transparent over- the-counter market ". I read that to mean that NO ONE knows where the skeletons in the closet may be and when we do find out, it will be too late to act ( except for a few insiders who will get the news before you and I read about it ). The numbers above are simply mind boggling and I have to believe that, in the not distant future, there is going to be some hair raising losses and systemic financial problems. When this happens, the dollar will have its biggest single day fall ever, gold and silver will fly, and the stock market will take a severe tumble.

The problem, though, was that I didn’t understand enough about the reason why derivatives (basically leveraged futures contracts pegged to values of currencies, stock indexes, commodities or interest rates) present such risks to write about them. Then I read an article by the CEO of Financial Risk Management Advisors Co., Ed McCarthy, whose main point is that these financial instruments are so complicated that virtually NO ONE really understands them, which is a main reason why they present such risks for the whole financial system. He compares them to the types of financial arrangements made by Enron:

There is, at least, a workable hypothesis that the Enron rise and collapse is a possible microcosm of the global bubble ongoing, stoked by massive credit emanation currently believed to be the New Wave of Economic Growth. In its time, Enron was believed to be the new model of corporate growth, expanding exponentially more rapidly than prosaic forebears, incorporating marketing and financial genius, transforming industries and economies and enriching vast constituencies. It was, in fact, a gigantic scam and sham able to deceive with aplomb virtually all areas of expertise in understanding and analyzing risk and reward. A combination of fraud, greed, obliviousness, unbridled ego, unquestioned belief in growth, and fascinated obsession with financial innovation catalogues the “E” debacle. Virtually all these elements are in plentiful supply in global financial markets and the players therein as the world “reflates” with a vengeance in every nook and cranny having a medium of exchange and the means to exchange it.

There is no question of the criminality of many of the players in the Houston company’s demise, however, there is also clear proof that the complexities of modern finance are beyond the comprehension and understanding of many extremely intelligent and supposedly well informed “leaders” of the mammoth organizations now proliferating at excessively rapid growth rates across the global economy.

…Market and corporate growth have expanded beyond the ability of those in charge to be aware of and comprehend the indcredibly rapidly growing risks, both business and ethical/integrity, assumed in this growth!

… Layered on top of the “visible” credit expansion (balance sheet) and the aforementioned “repo” world of credit is a new game rapidly reaching prodigious proportions. CDS (Credit Default Swaps) is the fastest growing game in Speculation Town, the fastest growing gambling town in human financial history. A survey done by Fitch found the total under the purview of U.S. banking regulators at $3.1 Trillion by the end of 2004, having DOUBLED during the course of the preceding year. A recent look at the Bank for International Settlements year end derivatives numbers showed this category globally at $6.4Trillion and Bloomberg totals $8.4Trillion throughout all markets. By the way, the same annual compilation by the BIS showed total notional derivatives outstanding at the end of 2004 of $221 Trillion! The mind boggles.

… “Financial Engineering, applauded by the eminent Alan, may disperse risk, thereby reducing it, or it may contain the seeds of greater risk an/or deals of questionable or even fraudulent provenance. Warren Buffett, of unquestioned integrity, is now caught up in the Greenberg/AIG deal, of which he knew. The fact that on March 29, Berkshire said in a statement repeated in the WSJ 3/30 that Mr. Buffett “WAS NOT BRIEFED ON HOW THE TRANSACTIONS WERE STRUCTURED OR ON ANY IMPROPER USE OR PURPOSE OF THE TRANSACTIONS.” Leaves two possibilities. 1) He is dissimulating or 2) the size of Berkshire and General Re, the complexity of financial engineering and some generalizations by a, presumably, trusted subordinate after a non-detail conversation with Greenberg previously, left Buffett feeling comfortable about a questionable transaction.

We are inclined towards 2 above and that makes the point of the thesis: The best, most honest, brightest of CEO’s cannot possibly stay on top of what goes on in these complicated financial megaliths. If the presumed honest, such as Buffett cannot, how can anybody believe that it is possible in the convoluted world of an AIG, driven by a CEO consumed by the company’s stock price (per statements by Wall St. analysts on the pressure from “Hank” for laudatory comments) and executives, motivated by excessive compensation for achievement of outlandish financial goals, that anyone within the company actually knows what is really going on. AIG is clearly out of control and only time will tell the order of magnitude. The question is how many other Financial Giants and BFB’s (Big Famous Banks) are in similar condition.

As best as I can understand it, derivatives provide a hedging for financial institutions that protect them against normally foreseeable risks. The problem is that certain unusual circumstances can cause them to crash in unimaginably costly ways. What has kept money pouring into these devices is a tacit understanding that the U.S. Federal Reserve Board will step in in the case of a hedge fund collapse and flood the market with money to avoid the hedge fund collapse causing the collapse of the whole system. This happened in 1998 with the famous Long Term Capital Management bailout. Bailouts like that work until the one time it doesn’t work. What the bailout can accomplish is to spark rises in stock markets right after crises (see here) because investors see that the Fed has bet heavily on a rise in stocks. And that, in turn prevents smaller, more manageable crashes while increasing the magnitude of a crash when it finally does happen.

Two years ago, in March 2003, Robert Samuelson wrote the following in the Washington Post:

Just last week, legendary investor Warren Buffett denounced derivatives as "financial weapons of mass destruction" that could cause economic havoc. By contrast, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan says derivatives have improved economic stability. Who's right? This is an important debate, because derivatives have exploded and are implicated in two recent financial scandals -- Enron's bankruptcy and the near-bankruptcy in 1998 of Long-Term Capital Management (LTCM), a private investment fund.

…Hedging has spread far beyond the farm. Four-fifths of derivatives now involve interest rates; another 10 percent or so involve currency exchange rates. These provide protection for companies whose businesses involve lots of debt or foreign trade. One benefit, Greenspan has argued, has been the mortgage-refinancing boom. Investors in mortgage-backed securities face the risk that, if interest rates fall, homeowners will refinance. Investors lose. To minimize that risk, they can hedge against lower interest rates. If they couldn't, they might impose larger prepayment penalties or charge higher interest rates.

Similarly, Greenspan has noted that despite $1 trillion in worldwide lending to telecommunications companies from 1998 to 2001, the subsequent telecom bankruptcies have not caused any major bank failures. One reason, he contends, is that banks spread their lending risks to other investors (say, insurance companies) through "credit derivatives." Dispersing risk has made the financial system sturdier, he argues.

Buffett doesn't deny derivatives' theoretical benefits. Indeed, he's not worried by standard futures contracts such as wheat (traded on exchanges, such as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange). What frightens him is the possibility that newer derivatives (traded "over the counter'' -- between one customer and another) could trigger a panic. Financial markets require trust. Without it, people won't deal with each other. Credit and confidence shrivel. To Buffett, derivatives are "time bombs" that could shatter confidence in three ways.

First, a few big banks dominate the market. Among U.S. banks, seven (led by JPMorgan Chase, Citibank and Bank of America) account for 96 percent of derivatives holdings. "The troubles of one could quickly infect the others," he writes.

Second, weakness could feed on itself. A company whose credit rating is lowered -- for whatever reason -- typically has to put up more collateral against its derivatives contracts. A "corporate meltdown" and defaults could ensue because the company needs more cash just when cash is least available.

Third, complex accounting rules for derivatives can lead to overstatements of profits (this was true of Enron) and confusion. All the "long footnotes" on derivatives convince Buffett "that we don't understand how much risk" is involved.

…Even Greenspan concedes "the remote possibility of a chain reaction, a cascading sequence of defaults" that would impel the Fed, heeding Bagehot, to try to rescue the financial system -- an outcome that no one should want.

That was two years ago. Since then, the growth of derivatives has continued to explode, calling into question the ability of the Federal Reserve Board to rescue the system in case of a default. Now we see this:

Hedge Fund Assets Top $1 Trillion for First Time

From Bloomberg News
April 28, 2005

Hedge funds attracted a record $27.4 billion from institutional and wealthy investors in the first quarter, helping to push assets to more than $1 trillion for the first time, according to Hedge Fund Research Inc.

Money streamed in faster than at any other time since Hedge Fund Research began gathering data in 2000, topping the fourth quarter's $27 billion, the firm said Wednesday.

Total industry assets reached $1.01 trillion, it said.

Pension funds, endowments and other big investors have been pouring money into the loosely regulated private pools to boost returns and diversify their investments. Hedge funds pursue a wide range of investment strategies, unlike most conventional mutual funds, which tend to buy and hold stocks or bonds.

Hedge fund assets have grown from $39 billion in 1990, when there were 610 funds. There now are more than 7,900 funds.

Common sense should tell us that the exponential growth in hyper-complex financial instruments may lead to a hyper-collapse at the point when the default tsunami becomes greater than anything the U.S. Federal Reserve Board can handle. That day may be coming soon, since, in the end, the Fed represents the hegemony of the U.S. dollar and the U.S. empire, both of which are now running on fumes.

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Neo-Nazi leaflets left on driveways investigated      
By John Berhman
April 28, 2005

RANCHO BERNARDO – Police are investigating the distribution of hundreds of fliers here promoting a neo-Nazi group.

Although the two-page notice is headlined "Support Our Troops. Bring them home and put them on the Mexican Border!" much of the missive is an anti-Israel and anti-Semitic message.

The flier says "powerful Jewish lobbyists and advisers who had wormed their way into the Bush administration" are responsible for the U.S. involvement in Iraq.

The second page is a membership application to the organization, the National Alliance, listing a post office box in Hillsboro, W. Va. Applicants are asked to certify that "I am a white person of good moral character with no disqualifying characteristics."

One Rancho Bernardo resident said she was upset about receiving it.
"My late husband was in the Air Force, and I definitely support the troops," Betty Stoneburner said yesterday.

"But this had nothing to do with supporting our troops. It was an anti-Semitic piece and I wanted no part of it."

Stoneburner said she found the flier on her driveway Sunday morning when she went out to pick up her newspaper. She said she looked up and down the street and could see one at every home.

She estimated that 220 to 240 homes are on her street, Rueda Acayan, and nearby Camino Ancho, in the Oaks North neighborhood.

San Diego police were not aware of the flier until asked about it Tuesday by this reporter.

"It doesn't appear as though a crime has occurred," San Diego police Detective Margaret Wiegand-Pierce said yesterday. "There was no advocacy of any violence or crime in the flier, but we are investigating it further.

"We have no idea where they might have come from." [...]

Morris Casuto, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said yesterday that he had heard about the flier in Rancho Bernardo and that one had also been distributed in a North Coast community. He declined to say where.

"I think this group is one of the more virulent racist and anti-Semitic groups in the United States," Casuto said. "But their membership is dwindling since their former leader, William Pierce, died, and they are trying to build it up.

"This is a group that is looking for recruits, but this type of message has no impact at all. I think most people are horrified by the nature of the material."

Comment: One excerpt from this supposed neo-Nazi flyer, "Powerful Jewish lobbyists and advisers who had wormed their way into the Bush administration are responsible for the U.S. involvement in Iraq", is most interesting because essentially it is true. The Neocon Jews in the Bush administration are largely responsible for U.S. foreign policy in Iraq, as well as trumping up claims of bogus WMD for the media. Although it's not quite correct to imply that they "wormed their way in", as recent high-level appointments indicate that Bush seems quite willing to be controlled by Israeli Zionists. As Kalle Lasn from Adbusters magazine writes...

[...] A lot of ink has been spilled chronicling the pro-Israel leanings of American neocons and fact that a the disproportionate percentage of them are Jewish. Some commentators are worried that these individuals – labeled ‘Likudniks’ for their links to Israel’s right wing Likud party – do not distinguish enough between American and Israeli interests. For example, whose interests were they protecting in pushing for war in Iraq?

Drawing attention to the Jewishness of the neocons is a tricky game. Anyone who does so can count on automatically being smeared as an anti-Semite. But the point is not that Jews (who make up less than 2 percent of the American population) have a monolithic perspective. Indeed, American Jews overwhelmingly vote Democrat and many of them disagree strongly with Ariel Sharon’s policies and Bush’s aggression in Iraq. The point is simply that the neocons seem to have a special affinity for Israel that influences their political thinking and consequently American foreign policy in the Middle East. [...]

So, the article above seems to imply that those who point out Zionist influence on Bush's cabinet are not only anti-Semitic, but we are also supposed to believe that they are affiliated with the white supremacist movement as well.

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Behind the smoke screen of the Gaza pullout
Tanya Reinhart, The Electronic Intifada, 19 April 2005

Ariel Sharon travelled to the United States as a hero of peace, as if he had already evacuated Gaza and only the follow-up remained to be worked out. What has completely disappeared from the public agenda is what is happening, meanwhile, in the West Bank. The media continue to deluge us daily with disengagement storms, like the Nitzanim bubble. But for now the disengagement exists only on paper. On the ground, no settler has yet received compensation. Even those who agreed to accept compensation are now waiting, because if they have a chance to get Nitzanim settlement on Gaza's beach — the pearl of Israeli real estate — why hurry?

In the meantime, three and a half months before the projected date of evacuation, it is still not clear where the evacuees will be housed until the discussions regarding their final relocation destination are concluded. Contrary to the prevailing impression, no infrastructure has been set up even for their temporary dwellings.

On 8 April 2005, Ofer Petersburg reported in Yediot Ahronot that "The Settlement Department of the Jewish Agency, responsible for providing the 'caravillas' [the caravans that were supposed to host the evacuated settlers temporarily] has so far received no order from the government."

If Sharon intends to evacuate the Gaza settlements, he is doing so with outrageous inefficiency. He is far more efficient in the West Bank. There, plans are carried out precisely as scheduled. Right from the start, during the first agreements between Sharon and Netanyahu one year ago about the disengagement plan, it was agreed that the disengagement would not be put into effect before the separation fence was completed on the western side of the West Bank.[1]

Indeed, the construction of the wall is moving towards completion. In July, which is the announced date for the beginning of the Gaza evacuation, the wall surrounding East Jerusalem and cutting it off from the West Bank, will be in place. The Palestinians who live there will be able to leave only with permits. The centre of life in the West Bank will become an enclosed prison. As well, the northern wall, which has already imprisoned the residents of Tulkarem, Qalqilya and Mas'ha, and which has robbed them of their land, continues to advance southwards. Now the bulldozers are headed for the land of Bil'in and Safa, bordering the settlements of Modi'in Elit. The farmers who are losing their land are trying to stand their ground, together with Israeli opponents of the wall. But who will hear about their sufferings and their struggle amidst the tumult over the disengagement?

The disengagement plan was born in February 2004, at the height of a wave of international criticism over the wall and on the eve of the opening of deliberations at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. In the ruling that was handed down in July, the Court determined that the route of the wall was a blatant and serious violation of international law. Moreover, the court indicated that there was a danger of "a further change in the demographic composition as a result of the departure of the Palestinian population from certain areas" (at para 122). In other words, the court warned of a process of transfer.

According to United Nations data, 237,000 Palestinians will be trapped between the wall and the Green Line and 160,000 others will remain on the Palestinian side, cut off from their land. The route that was approved at the government's meeting in February 2005 reduces their number only slightly.[2]

What is to be expected for those people, for the farmers who lose their land, for the imprisoned who are cut off from their families and their livelihoods? In the ghost towns of Tulkarem and Qalqilya and the villages around Mas'ha, many have already left in order to seek subsistence on the edges of towns in the centre of the West Bank. How much longer will the others be able to hold on under conditions of despair and atrophy, inside villages which have become prisons?

"Transfer" is associated in the collective memory with trucks arriving at night to take Palestinians across the border, as occurred in some places in 1948. But behind the smoke screen of disengagement, a process of slow and hidden transfer is being carried out in the West Bank today. It is not easy to judge which method of "transferring" people from their land is more cruel. Nearly 400,000 people, about half the number of Palestinians who were forced to leave their land in 1948, are now candidates for "voluntary emigration" to refugee camps in the West Bank. And all this is currently being passed over in silence because maybe Sharon will disengage.

Prof. Tanya Reinhart is a lecturer in linguistics, media and cultural studies at the Tel Aviv University. She is the author of several books, including Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948, from which this article was excerpted from an updated chapter. This article first appered in Yediot Aharonot on 13 April 2005 and was translated from Hebrew by Mark Marshall.


1. For example, some reports from April last year:

  • "The prime minister took a commitment that the separation fence will be completed before evacuation starts... Security echelons estimate that the fence can be completed at the earliest towards the end of 2005. In other words: it is possible that Israel will not be able to complete the evacuation at the date that was promised to the US" (Yosi Yehushua, Yediot Aharonot, 19 April 2004).
  • "Netanyahu announced that he intends to support the disengagement after the three conditions he posed were met ...[including] completion of the fence before the evacuation" (Itamar Eichner and Nehama Duek, Yediot Aharonot, 19 April 2004).

    2. These figures are from the ICJ advisory opinion of July 9. Similar figures were provided in the Israeli media — for example, Meron Rappaport, Yediot Aharonot, 23 May 2003; Akiva Eldar, Ha'aretz, 16 February 2004. The new line of the barrier as approved by the Israeli cabinet on 20 February 2005 reduces the size of Palestinian land to be annexed by the barrier by 2.5%, mainly in the Southern Hebron area, where work is only starting (so the barrier route can still change many times as the work progresses). There were smaller adjustments in other areas, dictated by decisions of the Israeli Supreme Court, which means that some of the encircled villages should get some of their land back. But this does not effect the total number of Palestinians encircled by the wall. In Khirbet Jbara in the Tulkarm Governorate, the cabinet approved moving a 6km section of the barrier closer to the Green Line. As a result, the Palestinian population in this area will no longer be located in a completely closed area, but rather on the West Bank side of the barrier. This will reduce the overall Palestinian population completely isolated from the West Bank by about 340 persons, according to UN OCHA report of March 2005 on the preliminary analysis of the effects of the new wall route approved in February 2005 (
  • Comment: The following message comes from Israel Shamir's Togethernet discussion group. It is a report about Israeli police agent provocateurs at a demonstration at a demo as Bili'in, mentioned above as a site where work on the apartheid wall is continuing.

    Savage Attack On Peaceful Palestinian-Israeli Demo

    Friday, 29 April 2005, 1:31 pm
    Opinion: Translation by Sol Salbe

    Savage attack on peaceful Palestinian-Israeli demo against the wall in Bili'in

    [Over the past few hours this news service has received several reports about events at the Palestinian village of Bili'in. They are disturbing indeed. The use of agents provocateurs (apparently captured by Israeli TV stations) by the authorities to provoke a bloody confrontation is something that ought to be condemned by all who care about civil liberties, whether they support the aim of the demonstration or not,

    Professor Avraham Oz of Haifa University summarised the events this way:

    "While extreme religious zealots are rioting against the building of a new Israeli motorway, because they think its route collides with some ancient Jewish graves (were those Muslim ones, none would protest); and while the settlers are gathering masses of demonstrators to proclaim civil disobedience against Sharon's disengagement plan, where does the Israeli police reveal its genuine creativity? A fairly modest joint Jewish-Arab demonstration against the bulldozers building the evil wall is infiltrated by undercover soldiers clad as Arabs; At a certain point the undercover provocateurs start throwing rocks at the police; the police answers by throwing tear-gas at the demonstrators. The rest is anything but silence: several demonstrators, including MK Mohammad Barake are injured, other arrested. The police has brought back law and order to my country."

    The most comprehensive report is from Gush Shalom. It is included below. Gush Shalom (pronounced like Bush Sharon), the Israeli
    Peace Bloc has included the URLs for various Israeli media reports below. - Sol Salbe]



    The cameras succeeded in proving a shocking fact: the stones which were thrown at the security forces and served as pretext for their savage behaviour, were thrown by undercover members of the special unit disguised as Arabs (called Mista'aravim "Arabised"). They mingled with thedemonstrators and threw big rocks at the soldiers. When they were exposed, they turned on the nearest demonstrators and arrested four - two Palestinians and two Israelis.

    [The independent Middle East News Service concentrates on providing alternative information chiefly from Israeli sources. It is
    sponsored by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the AJDS. These are
    expressed in its own statements]

    Bili'in, April 28

    On the invitation of Bili'in village, west of Ramallah, Gush Shalom participated today (Thursday, 28.4.05) in a demonstration against the Separation Fence which is being built on the land of the village. The fence, which almost touches the houses of the village, separates the village from most of its land, on which the ultra-orthodox settlement of Kiryat Sefer will be enlarged even more. This settlement is built wholly on land taken from the adjoining Palestinian villages.

    Together with Gush Shalom, "Anarchists Against the Wall", "Ta'ayush" and the Women's Coalition for Peace" took part.

    All the participants - about 1000 Palestinians and 200 Israelis - undertook in advance to avoid all violence. However, before the demo could reach the site of the fence, it was savagely attacked by the security forces, which bombarded it with tear gas bombs without the slightest provocation.

    Many of the demonstrators succeeded in going around the chain of soldiers, but clashed further on with a second chain and were
    attacked with tear gas. The first section of the demo, which included the Palestinian minister Fares Kadura [A supporter of the Geneva Accord], presidential candidate Mustafa Barghouti, Uri Avnery and Knesset members Barakeh, Dahamshe and Sakhalka, got to within 50 meters of the bulldozers, when they were viciously attacked. A tear gas bomb was thrown between the feet of MK Barakeh from a distance of less than a meter. Barakeh was slightly wounded. A soldier pushed Avnery violently and threw him down.

    Only then the reason for this violence became clear: for the first time, a special unit of the Prison Service, called Masada, was put into action, using new means of riot control, such as specially painful plastic bullets covered with salt, pepper bombs
    and more. Several demonstrators, both Israeli and Palestinian, were wounded.

    The cameras succeeded in proving a shocking fact: the stones which were thrown at the security forces and served as pretext for their savage behaviour, were thrown by undercover members of the special unit disguised as Arabs (called Mista'aravim "Arabised"). They mingled with the demonstrators and threw big rocks at the soldiers. When they were exposed, they turned on the nearest demonstrators and arrested four - two Palestinians and two Israelis.

    The clashed lasted for four hours, and the demonstrators agreed to withdraw only after they were promised that the arrested men would be released.

    (A video film of the demonstration will be shown on the Gush Shalom website immediately after the completion of the editing work.)

    See also:

    MK Barakeh hurt by stun grenade at anti-separation fence rally

    We were in Bili'in today at the big demonstration against the fence

    Hebrew original:

    Ma'ariv (Hebrew): Undercover police "demonstrating" against the fence

    Comment: Putting provocateurs into demonstrations to provoke the police is a basic tactic of COINTELPRO-type operations. There are no surprises here. The media can then report that the Palestinians were being "violent" again, while ignoring the violence done to them by the apartheid wall.

    Click here to comment on this article

    A Zionist War
    By Kristoffer Larsson

    Some weeks ago I happened to watch Oliver Stone’s great production Born the Fourth of July for the second time. In the movie, Ron Kovic (played by the handsome as always Tom Cruise) signs up for the army. He wants to go to Vietnam to fight Communism. “Better dead then red” is his motto. He leaves for Vietnam as a well-trained, young, brave American standing up for democracy fully prepared to die in order to fight the Communist threat wherever it arises. When he comes back from Vietnam, he is paralyzed from the waist and down. But he’s not meet by his fellow citizens as a hero. Instead he is met by demonstrators in his own age setting American flags on fire. He doesn’t understand why. Expressing his hatred for the demonstrators when at the Bronx Veteran Hospital, he soon comes to realize the black nurses have quite another view of the war. As a male nurse explains to him, “Vietnam is the White man’s war, the rich man’s war.” Later, as many other Americans in Vietnam, Kovic came to realize that war was not about democracy at all. Young Americans like himself were sent there to oppress a people fighting for their own freedom.

    Some decades later, the world’s biggest war-machine is now under way with genocide once again, this time in Iraq. The mass slaughtering is implemented by young boys who aren’t really sure why they’re there, but it’s ordered by the White House on behalf of a ruthless, powerful elite. It was no surprise that Iraq didn’t possess any weapons of mass destruction. After all the U.S. is not stupid enough to attack a state that actually so does – it could be dangerous! But although we for sure know that this war indeed was not a “preemptive war” or about “liberating” Iraq, the “war for oil”-theory - adopted by the greater majority in the anti-war movement - loses ground by the day. One ought to at least question if oil was the main reason for going to war. Oil tastes good, but the Americans want cheap oil, not expensive. The occupation of Iraq cost the American tax payers more then 5.8 Billion dollars a month. [1] Thus, it would have been cheaper to support dictators in the region instead of overthrowing them – with the result of almost no oil at all. But this is not a White man’s war. Nor is it the oil companies’ war. No, this is a Zionist war.

    In his outstanding essay The Shadow of Zog, Israeli author Israel Shamir writes about what was probably the real reason for invading Iraq:

    “As the head of the Occupation Administration, Jay Garner's task is to create a new Iraq, friendly to Israel. The Jerusalem Post, a hard-line Zionist daily published by Conrad Black, friend of Pinochet and Sharon, carried an interview with one of his wannabe Quislings, Ahmad Chalabi's right hand man, Musawi.

    'Musawi talks enthusiastically of his hopes for the closest possible ties with Israel. There will be no place for Palestinians in the new Iraq, for the large Palestinian community is regarded by INC leaders (and presumably by their Zionist instructors) as a loathsome fifth column. Instead, an 'arc of peace'; would run from Turkey, through Iraq and Jordan to Israel, creating a new fulcrum in the Middle East.'

    The Occupation Regime in Iraq was installed by the US army in the interests of Zionists, and it may be rightly called ZOG, Zionist Occupation Government if anything.”[2]

    The war on Iraq – just like the U.S.-threats against Iran – can be traced to Israel’s interests in the region. Israel and its powerful lobby has for long been after the U.S. to deal with the Iraqi regime. The destabilization of the region is more favorable to Israel than it is to the U.S. After discussing “what is possibly the unacknowledged real reason and motive behind the policy” of going to war on Iraq, historian Paul W. Schroeder, in a footnote, wrote that if this is accurate

    “it would represent something to my knowledge unique in history. It is common for great powers to try to fight wars by proxy, getting smaller powers to fight for their interests. This would be the first instance I know where a great power (in fact, a superpower) would do the fighting as the proxy of a small client state.”[3]

    The Jews constitute no more then between 2% and 2.5% of the American population, a fact which seems hard to believe for most Americans. According to a pull, published in October 2002, the average non-Jewish American believed that no less then 18% of the population were Jews.

    Every fourth American asked answered that between 10% and 19% of the Americans were Jewish, while almost every fifth guessed that the Jews constitute between 20% and 29%. Some 12% thought the number was between 30 and 49%! “Pretty wild?” Lenni Brenner comments, and continues:

    “But why should gentile Americans know better? Their guesses are based on what they see. Turn on the TV, go to the movies, pick up a newspaper, follow an election, and in every case Jewish involvement is far above 2.5%. (...) Twelve percent of our Jews think they are 2% of Americans, 13% think Jews are 3%, and 11% say they don't know, which is also a 'proper' answer. But 7 % of America's Jews think they are 1% of Americans. Five percent of the Jews thought Jews are 4%. Ten percent of the Jews said they are 5%. Eighteen percent believed Jews are 6-10%. Six percent estimated our Jews to be 11-15%, and 18% of America's Jews projected themselves as over 15% of the population, a whopping margin of error of over 600%.”[4]

    However, being a Jew does not make one a Zionist (although, unfortunately, almost all organized Jews are Zionists). In fact, the majority of the (non-organized) American Jews opposed the Iraqi War. But the way too powerful Israel lobby did support it. Its strong support for the war was definitely a major factor that shouldn’t be overseen. Still today Zionist Jews stands for a big share of the contributions to the two big parties in America. As the Swedish daily Aftonbladet pointed out,

    “The Jews pump enormous amounts of money into American politics, 30 times more then the Arab Americans. They have power. They rule by the motto 'money talks'.”[5]

    As a matter of fact, close to half the American billionaires are Jews (This phenomenon is however not limited to the United States. Six of the seven Russian Oligarchs are Jews![6]). In his foreword to late Professor Israel Shahak’s great book Jewish history, Jewish religion, the American dissident and author, Gore Vidal reveals a story which has affected the Middle East in a crucial way during the last sixty years:

    “Sometime in the late 1950s, that world-class gossip and occasional historian, John F. Kennedy, told me how, in 1948, Harry S. Truman had been pretty much abandoned by everyone when he came to run for president. Then an American Zionist brought him two million dollars in cash, in a suitcase, aboard his whistle-stop campaign train. 'That's why our recognition of Israel was rushed through so fast.' As neither Jack nor I was an antisemite (unlike his father and my grandfather) we took this to be just another funny story about Truman and the serene corruption of American politics. (...)

    I shall not rehearse the wars and alarms of that unhappy region. But I will say that the hasty invention of Israel has poisoned the political and intellectual life of the USA, Israel's unlikely patron.

    Unlikely, because no other minority in American history has ever hijacked so much money from the American taxpayers in order to invest in a 'homeland'. It is as if the American taxpayer had been obliged to support the Pope in his reconquest of the Papal States simply because one third of our people are Roman Catholic. Had this been attempted, there would have been a great uproar and Congress would have said no. But a religious minority of less than two per cent has bought or intimidated seventy senators (the necessary two thirds to overcome an unlikely presidential veto) while enjoying support of the media.”

    Shahak himself translated an article which appeared in hebrew in Kivunim, the journal of The World Zionist Organization, in February 1982, and has become known as the Kivunim-plan. The article, written by a Oded Yinon, had the title A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties and its idea for the Middle East was “based on the division of the whole area into small states, and the dissolution of all the existing Arab states,” as Shahak summarized it. Although he considered it way too optimistic, or in fact “pure fantasy,” Shahak added that

    “The idea that all the Arab states should be broken down, by Israel, into small units, occurs again and again in Israeli strategic thinking. For example, Ze'ev Schiff, the military correspondent of Ha'aretz (and probably the most knowledgeable in Israel, on this topic) writes about the "best" that can happen for Israeli interests in Iraq: "The dissolution of Iraq into a Shi'ite state, a Sunni state and the separation of the Kurdish part" (Ha'aretz 6/2/1982). Actually, this aspect of the plan is very old.”[7]

    As happens, in the New York Times in November 2003, an article appeared by former president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former editor of the Times, Leslie H. Gelb, with the headline The three-state solution. The idea presented was that the U.S. should consider dividing Iraq into three different states with “Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shiites in the south.” Gelb writes that “This three-state solution has been unthinkable in Washington for decades... But times have changed.”[8] Thus, the plan conceived by Zionists is everything but dead.

    While almost the whole world denounces Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinian people, the Zionists demonstrate their control over Washington. Not only do they finance a great deal of the presidential campaigns, they also have mainstream media in their control. “For the media is the nerve system of a modern state,” writes Shamir.

    “Modern democracy in practice in a very complicated society can be compared to a sophisticated computer. Its machinery can function successfully on one condition: there is a free flow of information across the system. While every input is instinctively checked and sieved on one criterion, whether it is good for Jews, it is not odd that the machine produces such freak output as “revenge on Babylon for its destruction of Jerusalem in BC 586”. Indeed, in long-gone 1948 the first ruler of Israel, David Ben Gurion, promised: "We shall mete historic vengeance to Assyria, Aram and Egypt". Now it comes to pass, as Iraq, Syria and Egypt are targeted by Zog.”[9]

    Three decades after the death of Ben Gurion, the Guardian reports that “troops from the US-led force in Iraq have caused widespread damage and severe contamination to the remains of the ancient city of Babylon.”[10] It took some time, but the prophecy has come true. But the late Ben Gurion did not just have dreams of meting revenge. He had dreams of creating a Greater Israel, too. In a speech in Knesset, on the third day of the Suez War, as then Prime Minister he recognized that the real purpose of fighting the war was “the restoration of the Kingdom of David and Salomon” to its biblical borders.[11] His successor Ariel Sharon has the same dream, and is fully prepared to fulfil it when given the opportunity. When the time is right, the mass slaughter and expulsion of the remaining Palestinians in the region will take place, no doubt.

    Jeff Blankfort refers to Washington as the "the Zionists' Most Important Occupied Territory". He is right. Zionist Jews are more powerful then ever before. With the devoted support from Zionist Christians, Israel’s interests are secured. The Zionist grip over American foreign policy on the Middle East has become impossible to deny. It is not in the interest of America to always do what’s best for Israel. The U.S. is not ruled by the Americans, but by an elite and lobbies that finances (and threatens) politicians into obedience. Fighting wars in countries most Americans can’t find on maps are of course not in the interest of the people. Despite greedy capitalists, there is one major factor that has to be taken into consideration when finding the motives for war. Far too many underestimate the strong importance Zionism plays in American foreign (and, to a lesser extent, domestic) affairs.

    The U.S. is a “lobbyocracy” – a state ruled by powerful lobbies. Politicians are dependent of financial support from them to even stand a chance in electoral races. So is the case with the contemporary regime in Washington. President Bush and colleague war criminals in the White house have stocks in the war industry and are financed by it. They personally gain from the war. However, the American foreign policy on the Middle East and the unreserved U.S. support to Israel cannot be explained simply by this fact. Control over the Iraqi oil supplies alone are not reason enough for sending 150 000 American Soldiers to Iraq, at a so high cost. It is important to acknowledge that there is devoted Zionists in leading positions fully prepared to do whatever necessary as long as it’s good for Israel. I’m speaking of the neoconservatives, shortly refered to as the neocons. Actually, Israel was the main issue for the neocons to leave the Democratic Party, where they once were to be found. Back in 1993, Professor of Political Science, Benyamin Ginsburg wrote:

    “One major factor that drew them inexorably to the right was their attachment to Israel and their growing frustration during the 1960s with a Democratic party that was becoming increasingly opposed to American military preparedness and increasingly enamored of Third World causes. In the Reaganite right's hard-line anti-communism, commitment to American military strength, and willingness to intervene politically and militarily in the affairs of other nations to promote democratic values (and American interests), neocons found a political movement that would guarantee Israel's security.”[12]

    The neocons’ commitment to Israel, the great influence of the Jewish lobby and the captivation of the Christian Communities by Zionism, is indeed the explanation for the constant U.S. support to Israel. It might seem foreign to some, but today it would be wrong referring to Israel as the client state of U.S. Nowadays it’s more correct to say it’s the other way around if anything. This was well put by Israeli born musician Gilad Atzmon, when interwieved:

    “I think that originally Israel was there to support western colonialism (Balfour Declaration, etc.). It didn't stop there. American administrations realised in the late '70s and '80s that the only real danger to western globalization is Arab opposition and Islamic resistance. Israel was there to maintain a continuous conflict in the region. The Americans got involved in the peace process, not in order to push for peace, but rather to maintain the conflict forever. So, in a sense, at least historically, you are right. Israel was there to serve American interests, but things have changed. In the last ten years we face a shift in the balance of power. The new bond between Zionists, Republican, and right-wing Christian groups introduced a completely new phase in the American-Israeli relationship. I think that American people would do themselves a great favour if they start to scrutinise the acts of their government. Americans should ask themselves whether it is American interests that are looked after or rather Israeli ones. The war in Iraq is a good place to start such an intellectual exercise.”[13]

    In the case of the war on Iraq, the interests of greedy politicians selling themselves to the highest bidder (or keeping their mouth shut if they disagree), and the interests of the devoted Zionists as the neocons are, goes hand in hand. Peace will not come to the Middle East until the Americans have liberated themselves from the Zionist’s grip over Washington and some peoples´ conviction of always doing what’s best for Israel over what’s best for America. Conservative Pat Buchanan well summarized what the neocons´ ideology is all about:

    “What these neoconservatives seek is to conscript American blood to make the world safe for Israel. They want the peace of the sword imposed on Islam and American soldiers to die if necessary to impose it.”[14]

    Truer words have never been written. In the end the Americans, just like Kovic, will have to ask themselves the one crucial question: What is it all good for us?

    [1] Iraq Monthly War Cost Rises To $5.8 Billion, Set To Go Higher;

    [2] Shadow of Zog;

    [3] Iraq: The Case Against Preemptive War;

    [4] The Demographics of American Jews;

    [5] Freden dör på stadens gator;

    [6] The Oligarchs, by Uri Avnery;

    [7] A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eightees, translated by Israel Shahak with a foreword;

    [8] The three-state solution, by Leslie H. Gelb, New York Times, November 25 2003;

    [9] Shadow of Zog;

    [10] Destroying Babylon;

    [11] Jewish History, Jewish Religion, by Israel Shahak (p. 8 in the Swedish edition)

    [12] Quoted in “The Shadow of Zog”.

    [13] The Gilad Atzmon Interview;

    [14] Whose war?;

    Click here to comment on this article

    Red Easter
    By Israel Shamir
    From Moscow

    Easter has no fixed abode; this most important movable feast of the Orthodox Christian year flies like a shuttle between March and May and weaves the diverse important dates into a single metaphysical narrative. In the memorable year 2000, it coincided with the Western Easter proclaiming Christendom’s underlying bedrock unity. Last year, the Good Friday fell on April 9, the Deir Yassin Massacre Day, when apostles’ children were slaughtered by Jewish terrorists in the land of Christ. This year, Resurrection Sunday comes on May Day, weaving back the unnecessary tear between the Reds and the Christ. The Russians, among whom I celebrate today, christened it Krasnaya Pascha, “Red Easter”.

    In this unique country – nay, civilisation, - thousands of men and women stand up for the all-night long Easter service and in the morning join mass demos under the Red banner. Paradox? Not really. Even universal faiths have some local colour, and Russian Communism and Russian Orthodox Church share the same background. On every turn of their development, whether in their old Pravoslav Tsardom, or in the Red Republic, the Russians strove for unity and brotherhood of Man, were motivated by compassion and acceptance of losers. They consistently rejected Mammon. The Russians despise money and material belongings; for them, poverty is a welcome sign of an honest man rather than a mark of social leprosy as in the West. They suspect rather than admire a moneybag. The old adage of ‘the Spiritual East’ as opposed to ‘materialistic’ West still holds true: who does not like East, does not love Spirit.

    Comment: A recent poll taken in Russia confirms this suspicion of the moneybags. See the article Few Russians Take Pride in Country’s Super-Rich. The poll found that:

    39 percent of respondents said they felt ashamed that Russia had so many billionaires, 15 percent were envious as they would like to see their own names on the list; another 15 percent said it made them curious and only 7 percent said they felt proud of their compatriots. 24 percent were undecided.

    Younger respondents proved more tolerant in their attitude towards billionaires. 28 percent of respondents aged 18-24 said they themselves would like to become rich; 21 percent of the same age group take an interest in information about billionaires. 16 percent of the younger respondents have a sense of pride because of the country’s rich, while 13 percent said they felt shame that there were so many rich people in Russia.

    More of the older respondents expressed shame because of Russia’s rich. 62 percent of the respondents aged over 60 said they felt shame for Russia. Respondents with high incomes, on the contrary, feel no shame at all and dream of getting on the list themselves.

    I came to Russia for the last weeks of their Lent and for Easter. The spring was unusually long and cold; until recently, white snow covered the eternally green boughs of the pines and naked white bodies of birches in the forest. Thick ice allowed fishermen to drill holes and catch fish in the frozen streams until mid-April. It was good: Russia is beautiful like a bride in her white dress of snow and ice, while pink-cheeked and blue-eyed Russian girls in their modest fur coats are irresistible in the frosty days. And the churches with their multicoloured onions and domes are clad in exquisite icons and frescoes, glorifying Our Lady.

    The Russian Christianity is centred on the Lady. Her image occupies the place usually preserved for the Cross in the Western churches. She is often presented as the Queen sitting on the throne with the crowned Child on her lap. If Dan Brown were to visit Russia, he would never write his Da Vinci Code, for the female divinity is not suppressed or replaced in this country. In his very American bestseller, the Catholic Church tries to suppress the cult of Mary Magdalene as it is afraid of femininity; while the Jews (of all people) protect and guard Mary’s remains. In real life, Jews have no female saints and dislike Our Lady even more than they dislike Her Son, while the Church venerates the Lady and adores the female saints. But Dan Brown had to fit his perfectly normal, true and justified longing for the Earth-connected Mediatrix into the Judaeo-American neo-Calvinist picture of the world, where Jews are always right and the church is always wrong. That is why he turned everything upside down; the New York Times spread its fame and the public bought it.

    In Russia, he won’t be able to misrepresent: here, the Lady reigns supreme, and the Russians have no need or fear of the Magdalene’s remains. If recovered, she would be venerated like every saint; for indeed the Orthodox Church grants her the highest rank of holiness, ‘equal to Apostles’. That is why the Gnostic heresy does not fascinate the Russians as it does the Westerners. Russian priests are married men; and it completely undermines another complaint of Dan Brown.

    On a deeper level, relationship of Man and Nature in the Russian Orthodox Universe differs from the Western view. The Nature represented by the Mother of God is divine, connected with the Spirit and bears Him in Her womb. The Russians do not feel the need to change Nature; they try to fit into their landscape.

    This attitude is successful as we can learn from mass attendance of churches – in no place in the West you will find so many believers; but again, Russia is not in the West. The Western Churches will do well if they draw from this reservoir of spirit and tradition.

    Today, the Russian Reds are reconciled with the Church; Zuganov’s Communist Party is in favour of the Pravoslav tradition. It is a good change, for the Reds’ advent to power and subsequent loss can’t be understood but in context of Russian spiritual quest. The Russian communists did not overthrew the Tsar as it is claimed. In October 1917, they removed the liberal Westernisers who seized the power in February same year. The liberals were for introducing capitalism in Russia; but the Russian soul had a very strong faith-based rejection of Mammon. The Communists were as anti-Mammonite as anybody; they modernised Russia, they created a society of mutual support. They could not give villas and Cadillac cars to everybody, so they gave what they could. Everybody had more or less the same: they had their safe and assured employment, their free accommodation, free electricity, telephone, heating, public transport.

    But they forgot to attend to spiritual needs of the Russians. They forgot the teleological ‘What for’. And people can’t live without a purpose. This lack of purpose became obvious when the pressing material needs of the people were satisfied. The Russians accepted Communism – not in order to live better; they had a greater goal of spiritual perfection. The trouble began from the top: the de-spiritualised Soviet elites of the last decades drifted to the right; they loved Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, and accepted the neo-liberal world-view long time before the collapse.

    Indeed, in the West, the neo-liberals solved the problem of “What for” by creating massive social insecurity: people are not liable to think of spirit if they can be thrown out of their homes by a bank. Gorbachev copied their solution when he allowed the Soviet ship to capsize. He was supported by the pro-Western liberals, the heirs of February 1917 reformers.

    The West is full of variety and contains many ideas and paradigms. But the Russian Westernisers were narrow-minded lot; they embraced the Chicago school of Milton Friedman with fervour, despised Russian people, their history and tradition. They privatised Russian property, sold it to the trans-national companies and tried to integrate Russia as a supplier of raw materials. However, their victory was not as final and conclusive as they thought.

    There are clear signs of Russians reasserting their history after the clean break of 1991. It is not only churches lovingly restored and filled with worshippers; not only restoration of historic names – thus Kalinin Avenue (named after a Soviet leader) became again the Invention of the Cross street. It was done by the winners of 1991. But the Soviet past is being reasserted, too. The great celebrations of V-day due on May, 9 are a sign of the change. The liberal reformers of 1991 asserted that there was no difference between the Communists and the Nazis, between Hitler and Stalin. They mocked the veterans saying “Pity you weren’t defeated: we would live like Germans”. They forbade celebrations of the V-day: not out of love to Hitler, but because of their hate to the Soviet anti-Mammonite past.

    This year, every street in Russia bears some congratulatory poster blessing the vets for their great victory. Here again, it is not a sign of hate to Germany or to Nazis, but of reconciliation with the Soviet past. Stalin is referred to in much more positive words. It’s not that the Russians miss Gulag or industrialisation; but Stalin and his rule are a part and parcel of Russian history.

    The struggle for Russian future is far from over; it just started. Some people may think that this great country became an irrelevancy, a rusty oil pipeline and a consumer of Chinese goods and American ideas. But Russia is alive: the Russians write great books still unknown in the West, make new great cinema, and think of new solutions to the problems. Their problems are our problems, too: the Soviet collapse coincided with (or ushered in) the global Ice Age of social deep freezing. More and more people in the once-protected West find themselves marginalised; the Third World outpoured unto New York and London; compassion is outlawed; spiritual search is non-existent.

    But Russians had additional problems, too. The US rulers are too ruthless, too keen: they try to use the critical moment to strip Russia of its assets and enslave its people. Thus a new challenge to Russia came into being; and great civilisations are formed by their responses to the challenges. The recently demised Russian thinker Alexander Panarin wrote of invigorating cold wind of challenge waking up the Russian soul from its long slumber. He believed that the Orthodox Christian paradigm has a way to deal with the coming neo-liberal Ice Age by bringing in the Christian Eros as the force to revitalise the Universe. Russia may yet raise again the banner to summon the defeated, the outcast, the disenfranchised, the discarded against the new Masters of the World, he wrote.

    Will it happen? Russia is on the crossroads. While President Putin’s ability to change and lead powerful reform can’t be dismissed out of hand, there are other options. The Americans are fomenting an Orange revolution in Russia like they did in the Ukraine; but destabilisation can have unpredictable consequences. Nobody could expect the Bolshevik victory even a few months before it occurred. Yes, the Bolsheviks were supported by the German General Staff, by New York Jewish bankers and by the British Intelligence – but in the end they dispatched the yesteryear supporters without a thank you. This eventuality can be repeated. While return to Soviet Communism is as unlikely as restoration of the Pravoslav Empire, creative forces of the Russians may still move mankind forward, out of the present impasse. The divine spark in Man’s soul is not easy to extinguish, the Spirit will win as sure as Christ is Risen.

    Comment: Not the typical viewpoint of Russia that one reads in the West where what you have is much more important than who you are.

    Having vs Being. Some choice, isn't it? And it is anchored deep within, leading someone to make choices throughout one's life that encourage the expression of who one is rather than what one can obtain. For some people it is as natural as breathing. For others, it is as foreign as attempting to breathe water.

    One thing is certain, it is nearly impossible for their to be understanding across this divide of realities, for how can someone whose values are tied to material success and "having" ever understand someone whose choice it is to Be?

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    Neo-Nazi crime in Germany at highest level since 2000
    27 April 2005

    BERLIN - Neo-Nazi crime in Germany has soared to its highest level since 2000, the chief of Germany's police trade union warned on Wednesday.

    Konrad Freiberg said there were over 12,000 right-wing extremist crimes reported in Germany last year - the highest level in the past four years.

    Berlin's Tagesspiegel newspaper gave the figure for last year as 12,051. Official data is due in the coming weeks.

    This would be the second highest level of neo-Nazi crime since Germany began reporting nationwide figures in 1992. The worst year for far-right crime was 2000 when 15,951 cases were reported.

    In comparison, there were 10,795 neo-Nazi crimes in 2003 and 10,054 in 2001, said a spokesman for the police union. [...]

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    Torture state now valued US partner
    By Don Van Natta
    May 2, 2005

    Seven months before September 11, 2001, the US State Department issued a human rights report on Uzbekistan. It was a catalogue of horrors.

    The police repeatedly tortured prisoners, State Department officials wrote, noting the most common techniques were "beating, often with blunt weapons, and asphyxiation with a gas mask".

    Separately, international human rights groups had reported that torture in Uzbek jails included boiling body parts, using electric shocks on genitals and pulling off fingernails and toenails with pliers. Two prisoners were boiled to death, the groups reported.

    Immediately after the September 11 attacks, however, the Bush Administration turned to Uzbekistan as a partner in the "war on terror".

    The former Soviet republic granted the US the use of a military base for fighting the Taliban across the border in Afghanistan. The US has given Uzbekistan more than $US500 million ($640 milllion) for border control and other security measures.

    There is now growing evidence that the US has sent terrorist suspects to Uzbekistan for detention and interrogation, even as Uzbekistan's treatment of its own prisoners continues to be attacked around the world, including by the State Department.

    The so-called rendition program, under which the CIA transfers terrorist suspects to foreign countries to be held and interrogated, has linked the US to several states with poor human rights records. But the turnabout in relations with Uzbekistan is particularly sharp.

    Before September 11 there was little high-level contact between Washington and Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, beyond US criticism of Uzbekistan.

    Its role as a surrogate jailer for the US has been confirmed by current and former intelligence officials working in Europe, the Middle East and the US. And there is other evidence of the US's reliance on Uzbekistan. On September 21, 2003, two US-registered aircraft landed at Tashkent's airport, flight logs obtained by The New York Times show.

    Former and past intelligence officers have confirmed that the two aircraft were frequently used to ferry terrorist suspects around the world for questioning.

    The logs show at least seven flights were made to Uzbekistan by those planes from early 2002 to late 2003, but the records are incomplete.

    A high-level military investigation into allegations of abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has concluded that several prisoners were mistreated or humiliated, perhaps illegally, as a result of efforts to gain information.

    The report on the investigation will deal with accounts by FBI agents who complained after witnessing detainees subjected to several forms of harsh treatment.

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    North Korean missile fired towards Japan
    Justin McCurry in Tokyo
    Monday May 2, 2005
    The Guardian

    International efforts to persuade North Korea to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons programme were in danger of unravelling yesterday amid reports that it has launched a short-range conventional missile into the Sea of Japan.

    "It appears that there was a test of a short-range missile by the North Koreans and it landed in the Sea of Japan," the White House chief of staff, Andrew Card, told CNN.

    US agencies were still assessing the information to determine exactly what took place.

    Article continues Yonhap, the official South Korean news agency, quoted intelligence officials in Seoul saying a missile was launched just north of Hamhung on North Korea's east coast.

    Japanese media had earlier quoted government sources as saying that the missile, launched at around 8am Japanese time, had a range of about 60 miles and was most likely to have been an anti-ship or small ballistic missile. It was not immediately clear whether the launch was a test.

    There have been US warnings that Pyongyang has been preparing to conduct an underground nuclear test, possibly within two months.

    The launch of a missile would almost certainly damage the prospects for the multi-party nuclear talks involving the two Koreas, China, the US, Russia and Japan, which have been stalled for almost a year.

    But analysts say such launches are part of a familiar negotiating tactic - that of creating a minor crisis which could force concessions.

    The North is thought to have test-fired short-range missiles into the sea at least three times in 2003 amid condemnation of its suspected nuclear ambitions. In 1998 it test-fired a long-range missile over Japanese territory and into the Pacific Ocean, which prompted Tokyo to start work on missile defence with the US.

    The US defence intelligence agency has said that Pyongyang could soon be able to mount a nuclear warhead on a missile capable of striking the US west coast.

    In February North Korea said it had nuclear weapons, and would no longer take part in the six-party negotiations, citing bellicose language from the Bush administration. It later said it would return to talks if Washington showed more "trustworthy sincerity".

    Concern was raised when Pyongyang shut down a 5,000kW nuclear reactor: weapons-grade plutonium can be extracted from fuel rods that have been removed from reactors and left to cool.

    The North's calls for more aid, coupled with direct talks with the US, have so far been unsuccessful. It has also demanded an apology from the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, for calling it an "outpost of tyranny" this year.

    Last Thursday George Bush labelled the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, a "dangerous person" and a "tyrant".

    A day later the official North Korean news agency quoted the North Korean foreign ministry as calling Mr Bush a "hooligan, bereft of any personality as a human being, to say nothing of stature as president of a country. He is a half-baked man in terms of morality, and a philistine whom we can never deal with."

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    40 killed in terror attacks in Iraq
    Last Updated Sun, 01 May 2005 19:37:27 EDT
    CBC News

    BAGHDAD - About 30 Iraqis were killed and more than 50 were wounded when a bomb exploded at a funeral Sunday, while at least 10 more people died in other violent incidents.

    At least 110 people, including 11 U.S. soldiers, have been killed in a wave of attacks since the Iraqi National Assembly chose a Shia-dominated cabinet on Thursday. The minority Sunnis are believed to be the main supporters of the militant attacks.

    Sunni factions had been promised six ministers and one deputy prime minister, but they received four portfolios considered relatively insignificant.

    In the most deadly attack Sunday, a Kurdish official was being buried in Tal Afar in northern Iraq when a suicide car bomb blew up.

    Many other well-planned car bombings and ambushes were reported on Sunday in Baghdad and other places in Iraq.

    Iraqi police are a frequent target.

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    Family shooting drama in Germany claims 6 lives
    02 May 2005

    BERLIN: An estranged husband in Germany shot to death five members of his family and then turned the gun on himself, later dying of his injuries, police said.

    Police believe family problems prompted the 41-year-old German from the southwestern town of Rheinfelden to kill his wife, two young children and parents before he shot himself.

    The man alerted authorities to his whereabouts on Saturday evening in an emergency call and then hung up, police from nearby Loerrach said in a statement.

    At the scene, officers found the bodies of his Somalia-born wife, 30, his daughter, 7, his 4-year-old son, and his parents, who were both in their seventies. They found the man lying seriously injured in a bedroom with a revolver next to him.

    Police said a note the man left suggested domestic tensions and the couple's impending divorce sparked the shootings. The couple had been living apart for some months.

    They believe the husband first shot his parents and children and waited for his wife before killing her and shooting himself.

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    Millions of Latin Americans rally to mark Labor Day 2005-05-02 12:35:50

    MEXICO CITY, May 1 (Xinhuanet) -- Millions of Latin Americans took to the streets on Sunday to mark Labor Day and demand higher pay, more jobs and better work conditions, while Cuba called for a lift of US blockade and sanctions against it.

    More than 1 million Cubans gathered in Havana's Revolution Square to celebrate the holiday. They demanded that the United States lift the four-decade sanctions against Cuba and condemned the United States for abusing the prisoners detained in Guantanamo Bay.

    Fidel Castro Ruz, president of the Council of State and Council of Ministers, said at the rally that Cuba did not collapse after decades of US sanctions and blockade and this shows a failure of Washington's anti-Cuba policy.

    He criticized the United States for harboring Cuban terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, who is reportedly in the United States and is believed to involved in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban civilian airliner that killed all the 73 people on board as well as a failed attempt to assassinate Castro with explosives in Panama in November 2001.

    He said the Posada case "reveals the empire's (the United States') immense hypocrisy, lies, and singular cynicism."

    Millions of Cubans attended rallies held throughout the country.

    In Brazil, about 2 million people gathered in Sao Paulo and marched through the downtown to demand better pay, tax cuts and more employment.

    In Venezuela, thousands of people held peaceful demonstrations in Caracas and called for higher pay and better working conditions.

    In Mexico City, tens of thousands of people gathered in the Zocalo Square. They protested the government's failure to improve employment and demanded better pay.

    Similar rallies also were held in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia.

    Comment: The US labour movement was purposely cut off from the rest of the world when Labor Day was decreed to be the first Monday in September, rather than the traditional May 1. The corporatist US unions were in the hands of the owners. US wealth, pillaged from other parts of the world, was enough to give US workers a higher standard of living than workers in other countries, further entrenching the idea that the US was special.

    And it worked. Today, as the standard of living of American workers declines, they retain the idea that the US, and they themselves, are somehow special. Solidarity with the working class of other countries is ridiculed. To make an alliance with the workers in banana republics, one might have to come to the realisation that they live themselves in a banana republic.

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    A genius explains

    Daniel Tammet is an autistic savant. He can perform mind-boggling mathematical calculations at breakneck speeds. But unlike other savants, who can perform similar feats, Tammet can describe how he does it. He speaks seven languages and is even devising his own language. Now scientists are asking whether his exceptional abilities are the key to unlock the secrets of autism. Interview by Richard Johnson

    Saturday February 12, 2005
    The Guardian

    Daniel Tammet is talking. As he talks, he studies my shirt and counts the stitches. Ever since the age of three, when he suffered an epileptic fit, Tammet has been obsessed with counting. Now he is 26, and a mathematical genius who can figure out cube roots quicker than a calculator and recall pi to 22,514 decimal places. He also happens to be autistic, which is why he can't drive a car, wire a plug, or tell right from left. He lives with extraordinary ability and disability.

    Tammet is calculating 377 multiplied by 795. Actually, he isn't "calculating": there is nothing conscious about what he is doing. He arrives at the answer instantly. Since his epileptic fit, he has been able to see numbers as shapes, colours and textures. The number two, for instance, is a motion, and five is a clap of thunder. "When I multiply numbers together, I see two shapes. The image starts to change and evolve, and a third shape emerges. That's the answer. It's mental imagery. It's like maths without having to think."

    Tammet is a "savant", an individual with an astonishing, extraordinary mental ability. An estimated 10% of the autistic population - and an estimated 1% of the non-autistic population - have savant abilities, but no one knows exactly why. A number of scientists now hope that Tammet might help us to understand better. Professor Allan Snyder, from the Centre for the Mind at the Australian National University in Canberra, explains why Tammet is of particular, and international, scientific interest. "Savants can't usually tell us how they do what they do," says Snyder. "It just comes to them. Daniel can. He describes what he sees in his head. That's why he's exciting. He could be the Rosetta Stone."

    There are many theories about savants. Snyder, for instance, believes that we all possess the savant's extraordinary abilities - it is just a question of us learning how to access them. "Savants have usually had some kind of brain damage. Whether it's an onset of dementia later in life, a blow to the head or, in the case of Daniel, an epileptic fit. And it's that brain damage which creates the savant. I think that it's possible for a perfectly normal person to have access to these abilities, so working with Daniel could be very instructive."

    Scans of the brains of autistic savants suggest that the right hemisphere might be compensating for damage in the left hemisphere. While many savants struggle with language and comprehension (skills associated primarily with the left hemisphere), they often have amazing skills in mathematics and memory (primarily right hemisphere skills). Typically, savants have a limited vocabulary, but there is nothing limited about Tammet's vocabulary.

    Tammet is creating his own language, strongly influenced by the vowel and image-rich languages of northern Europe. (He already speaks French, German, Spanish, Lithuanian, Icelandic and Esperanto.) The vocabulary of his language - "Mänti", meaning a type of tree - reflects the relationships between different things. The word "ema", for instance, translates as "mother", and "ela" is what a mother creates: "life". "Päike" is "sun", and "päive" is what the sun creates: "day". Tammet hopes to launch Mänti in academic circles later this year, his own personal exploration of the power of words and their inter-relationship.

    Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Centre (ARC) at Cambridge University, is interested in what Mänti might teach us about savant ability. "I know of other savants who also speak a lot of languages," says Baron-Cohen. "But it's rare for them to be able to reflect on how they do it - let alone create a language of their own." The ARC team has started scanning Tammet's brain to find out if there are modules (for number, for example, or for colour, or for texture) that are connected in a way that is different from most of us. "It's too early to tell, but we hope it might throw some light on why we don't all have savant abilities."

    Last year Tammet broke the European record for recalling pi, the mathematical constant, to the furthest decimal point. He found it easy, he says, because he didn't even have to "think". To him, pi isn't an abstract set of digits; it's a visual story, a film projected in front of his eyes. He learnt the number forwards and backwards and, last year, spent five hours recalling it in front of an adjudicator. He wanted to prove a point. "I memorised pi to 22,514 decimal places, and I am technically disabled. I just wanted to show people that disability needn't get in the way."

    Tammet is softly spoken, and shy about making eye contact, which makes him seem younger than he is. He lives on the Kent coast, but never goes near the beach - there are too many pebbles to count. The thought of a mathematical problem with no solution makes him feel uncomfortable. Trips to the supermarket are always a chore. "There's too much mental stimulus. I have to look at every shape and texture. Every price, and every arrangement of fruit and vegetables. So instead of thinking,'What cheese do I want this week?', I'm just really uncomfortable."

    Tammet has never been able to work 9 to 5. It would be too difficult to fit around his daily routine. For instance, he has to drink his cups of tea at exactly the same time every day. Things have to happen in the same order: he always brushes his teeth before he has his shower. "I have tried to be more flexible, but I always end up feeling more uncomfortable. Retaining a sense of control is really important. I like to do things in my own time, and in my own style, so an office with targets and bureaucracy just wouldn't work."

    Instead, he has set up a business on his own, at home, writing email courses in language learning, numeracy and literacy for private clients. It has had the fringe benefit of keeping human interaction to a minimum. It also gives him time to work on the verb structures of Mänti.

    Few people on the streets have recognised Tammet since his pi record attempt. But, when a documentary about his life is broadcast on Channel 5 later this year, all that will change. "The highlight of filming was to meet Kim Peek, the real-life character who inspired the film Rain Man. Before I watched Rain Man, I was frightened. As a nine-year-old schoolboy, you don't want people to point at the screen and say, 'That's you.' But I watched it, and felt a real connection. Getting to meet the real-life Rain Man was inspirational."

    Peek was shy and introspective, but he sat and held Tammet's hand for hours. "We shared so much - our love of key dates from history, for instance. And our love of books. As a child, I regularly took over a room in the house and started my own lending library. I would separate out fiction and non-fiction, and then alphabetise them all. I even introduced a ticketing system. I love books so much. I've read more books than anyone else I know. So I was delighted when Kim wanted to meet in a library." Peek can read two pages simultaneously, one with each eye. He can also recall, in exact detail, the 7,600 books he has read. When he is at home in Utah, he spends afternoons at the Salt Lake City public library, memorising phone books and address directories."He is such a lovely man," says Tammet. "Kim says, 'You don't have to be handicapped to be different - everybody's different'. And he's right."

    Like Peek, Tammet will read anything and everything, but his favourite book is a good dictionary, or the works of GK Chesterton. "With all those aphorisms," he says, "Chesterton was the Groucho Marx of his day." Tammet is also a Christian, and likes the fact that Chesterton addressed some complex religious ideas. "The other thing I like is that, judging by the descriptions of his home life, I reckon Chesterton was a savant. He couldn't dress himself, and would always forget where he was going. His poor wife."

    Autistic savants have displayed a wide range of talents, from reciting all nine volumes of Grove's Dictionary Of Music to measuring exact distances with the naked eye. The blind American savant Leslie Lemke played Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No1, after he heard it for the first time, and he never had so much as a piano lesson. And the British savant Stephen Wiltshire was able to draw a highly accurate map of the London skyline from memory after a single helicopter trip over the city. Even so, Tammet could still turn out to be the more significant.

    He was born on January 31 1979. He smiles as he points out that 31, 19, 79 and 1979 are all prime numbers - it's a kind of sign. He was actually born with another surname, which he prefers to keep private, but decided to change it by deed poll. It didn't fit with the way he saw himself. "I first saw 'Tammet' online. It means oak tree in Estonian, and I liked that association. Besides, I've always had a love of Estonian. Such a vowel rich language."

    As a baby, he banged his head against the wall and cried constantly. Nobody knew what was wrong. His mother was anxious, and would swing him to sleep in a blanket. She breastfed him for two years. The only thing the doctors could say was that perhaps he was understimulated. Then, one afternoon when he was playing with his brother in the living room, he had an epileptic fit.

    "I was given medication - round blue tablets - to control my seizures, and told not to go out in direct sunlight. I had to visit the hospital every month for regular blood tests. I hated those tests, but I knew they were necessary. To make up for it, my father would always buy me a cup of squash to drink while we sat in the waiting room. It was a worrying time because my Dad's father had epilepsy, and actually died of it, in the end. They were thinking, 'This is the end of Daniel's life'."

    Tammet's mother was a secretarial assistant, and his father a steelplate worker. "They both left school without qualifications, but they made us feel special - all nine of us. As the oldest of nine, I suppose it's fair to say I've always felt special." Even if his younger brothers and sisters could throw and catch better than him, swim better, kick a ball better, Daniel was always the oldest. "They loved me because I was their big brother and I could read them stories."

    He remembers being given a Ladybird book called Counting when he was four. "When I looked at the numbers I 'saw' images. It felt like a place I could go where I really belonged. That was great. I went to this other country whenever I could. I would sit on the floor in my bedroom and just count. I didn't notice that time was passing. It was only when my Mum shouted up for dinner, or someone knocked at my door, that I would snap out of it."

    One day his brother asked him a sum. "He asked me to multiply something in my head - like 'What is 82 x 82 x 82 x 82?' I just looked at the floor and closed my eyes. My back went very straight and I made my hands into fists. But after five or 10 seconds, the answer just flowed out of my mouth. He asked me several others, and I got every one right. My parents didn't seem surprised. And they never put pressure on me to perform for the neighbours. They knew I was different, but wanted me to have a normal life as far as possible."

    Tammet could see the car park of his infant school from his bedroom window, which made him feel safe. "I loved assembly because we got to sing hymns. The notes formed a pattern in my head, just like the numbers did." The other children didn't know what to make of him, and would tease him. The minute the bell went for playtime he would rush off. "I went to the playground, but not to play. The place was surrounded by trees. While the other children were playing football, I would just stand and count the leaves."

    As Tammet grew older, he developed an obsessive need to collect - everything from conkers to newspapers. "I remember seeing a ladybird for the first time," he says. "I loved it so much, I went round searching every hedge and every leaf for more. I collected hundreds, and took them to show the teacher. He was amazed, and asked me to get on with some assignment. While I was busy he instructed a classmate to take the tub outside and let the ladybirds go. I was so upset that I cried when I found out. He didn't understand my world."

    Tammet may have been teased at school, but his teachers were always protective. "I think my parents must have had a word with them, so I was pretty much left alone." He found it hard to socialise with anyone outside the family, and, with the advent of adolesence, his shyness got worse.

    After leaving school with three A-levels (History, French and German, all grade Bs), he decided he wanted to teach - only not the predictable, learn-by-rote type of teaching. For a start, he went to teach in Lithuania, and he worked as a volunteer. "Because I was there of my own free will, I was given a lot of leeway. The times of the classes weren't set in stone, and the structures were all of my own making. It was also the first time I was introduced as 'Daniel' rather than 'the guy who can do weird stuff in his head'. It was such a pleasant relief." Later, he returned home to live with his parents, and found work as a maths tutor.

    He met the great love of his life, a software engineer called Neil, online. It began, as these things do, with emailed pictures, but ended up with a face-to-face meeting. "Because I can't drive, Neil offered to pick me up at my parents' house, and drive me back to his house in Kent. He was silent all the way back. I thought, 'Oh dear, this isn't going well'. Just before we got to his house, he stopped the car. He reached over and pulled out a bouquet of flowers. I only found out later that he was quiet because he likes to concentrate when he's driving."

    Neil is shy, like Tammet. They live, happily, on a quiet cul-de-sac. The only aspect of Tammet's autism that causes them problems is his lack of empathy. "There's a saying in Judaism, if somebody has a relative who has hanged themselves, don't ask them where you should hang your coat. I need to remember that. Like the time I kept quizzing a friend of Neil's who had just lost her mother. I was asking her all these questions about faith and death. But that's down to my condition - no taboos."

    When he isn't working, Tammet likes to hang out with his friends on the church quiz team. His knowledge of popular culture lets him down, but he's a shoo-in when it comes to the maths questions. "I do love numbers," he says. "It isn't only an intellectual or aloof thing that I do. I really feel that there is an emotional attachment, a caring for numbers. I think this is a human thing - in the same way that a poet humanises a river or a tree through metaphor, my world gives me a sense of numbers as personal. It sounds silly, but numbers are my friends."

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    Bird flu mutates and now more infectious
    By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
    01 May 2005

    Deadly bird flu is mutating to spread from person to person, bringing a disastrous global pandemic closer, experts fear.

    Evidence from South-east Asia suggests that the virus, which could kill tens of millions of people worldwide, is becoming less virulent, but at the same time more infectious to people.

    Death rates from the virus have plunged in northern Vietnam, says the World Health Organisation (WHO), though it is still killing more of its victims than any previous outbreak. The instances where it appears to have spread from person to person are rising.

    Six weeks ago, The Independent on Sunday revealed that the Government had told mortuaries and emergency services to prepare for up to 750,000 deaths from the disease in Britain. Flu pandemics occur when three developments take place: a virus emerges to which humans have little or no immunity; it is able to infect people; and it mutates to spread efficiently among them.

    The bird flu virus - codenamed H5NI - has crossed the first two barriers, and experts fear it is now about to breach the third.

    "It's a very different virus that might suddenly become extremely transmissible," said Peter Horby, of the WHO office in Hanoi.

    He said that it was impossible to predict when that might happen, but there were "a number of indications" that the virus was already becoming more dangerous.

    Ironically, one of the main ones is that the virus is becoming a less ruthless killer. By allowing more of its victims to survive, it enables them to live to infect other people. [...]

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    Canada geese may spread superbugs
    Last Updated Sat, 30 Apr 2005 16:08:55 EDT
    CBC News

    TORONTO - Canada geese can carry antibiotic-resistant superbugs and may be spreading bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella wherever they migrate, a study suggests.

    Researchers with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control spent months testing goose feces from four water areas in Georgia and North Carolina to see if the birds could pick up and deposit E. coli.

    They found antibiotic-resistant strains even though the birds hadn't been treated with drugs.

    Geese from a North Carolina flock that often lingered near a pig farm had particularly high levels of the superbugs – and often showed resistance to more than one antibiotic, the researchers found.

    Pig farms, like other livestock-rearing operations, can use high levels of antibiotics to tamp down diseases.

    "Some of these geese were landing in a lagoon that had some run-off from a pig operation," said Dr. Scott Weese, of the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph.

    "So presumably there was resistance in E. coli from some of the pigs. The geese landed in the environment and through just normal eating or grooming in that environment, they ingested the E. coli."

    Although the flocks observed were non-migratory, the U.S. study – posted on the CDC's Emerging Infectious Diseases website – concludes that Canada geese could spread the pathogens.

    "This species could serve to disperse bacteria between widely separated locations," warned the study, to be published in the June issue of a medical journal called Emerging Infectious Diseases.

    "In addition, since these birds use farm ponds and waste lagoons and graze on pastures inhabited by cattle and other livestock, the opportunities exist for new health problems in wildlife populations to emerge."

    Weese, who studies diseases that can pass between humans and animals, said that scientists have recently realized that some pathogens previously thought to be found either in animals or in humans are actually found in both.

    However, he said the study shouldn't spark panic. The kinds of bugs found in the birds, E. coli and salmonella, are common – and, study or no study, most people don't want to get very close to bird droppings.

    Comment: Look at what our species has done to this world. We are poisoning the other species because of our thoughtless -- is it really "thoughtless"? -- pursuit of Mammon. If it comes back to haunt us, is it anything more than our due karmic retribution?

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    Strong earthquake jolts Zarand in Kerman
    Monday, May 02, 2005 - ©2005

    LONDON, May 2 (IranMania) - A strong earthquake jolted Zarand in the southern Kerman province at 00:15 hours local time (1945 GMT) Monday morning.

    The seismological base affiliated to Tehran University geophysics institute measured the tremors at 5.5 degrees on the opend-ended richter scale.

    The epicenter of the quake was centered at 'Douhoyeh' and 'Hectan'in the vicinity of Zarand.

    There are no reports of damages or injuries.

    In February a strong earthquake shook Zarand causing widespread destruction in the area.

    The quake, measuring 6.4 on the open-ended Richter scale, struck the town at 05:55 hours local time (0225 GMT) on Feb 22, 2005, killing over 600 people and injuring over thousands of others.

    The epicenter of the quake was 60 kilometers (35 miles) northwest of the city of Kerman.

    The quake destroyed four villages by 100 percent and damaged some 40 villages by over 25 percent.

    A killer earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 on the Richter scale flattened the historical city of Bam in the same province on Dec 26, 2003, killing over 30,000 people and injuring thousands more.

    Iran is situated on some of the world's most active seismic fault lines and quakes of varying magnitudes are of usual occurrence.

    A killer earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 on the Richter scale flattened the historical city of Bam in the same province on December 26, 2003, killing over 30,000 people and injuring thousands more.

    Iran is situated on some of the world's most active seismic fault lines and quakes of varying magnitudes are of usual occurrence.

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    Mild quake felt across wide area of nation's middle
    Posted on Sun, May. 01, 2005
    Associated Press

    MANILA, Ark. - A mild earthquake Sunday morning, centered in far northeastern Arkansas, was felt across a wide area of the nation's center, a geologist says, but no major damage was reported.

    The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the quake, magnitude 4.1, occurred at 7:36 a.m. CDT. The tremor was centered about 4 miles south-southeast of Manila, in Mississippi County. [...]

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    Saint John facing more water
    Last Updated Sun, 01 May 2005 22:04:06 EDT
    CBC News

    FREDERICTON - Flooding is easing in the upper reaches of New Brunswick's St. John River valley, but the water is still rising downstream, the province's Emergency Measures Organization and River Watch 2005 said on Sunday.

    "Persons living or working along the lower St. John River and in low-lying areas should remain on the alert and take steps to protect their property," a news release said.

    In some areas, the only way to get around is on canoe.

    From Jemseg, roughly halfway between Fredericton and Saint John, down to salt water, the river is still rising. But upriver from the town, it has peaked and is beginning to drop.

    Even so, for Fredericton and nearby areas, "flooding is expected to continue for the next few days as the water levels slowly decrease," EMO said. [...]

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    Drenching Storms Bring Flood Threats, Power Outages
    UPDATED: 11:41 am CDT May 1, 2005

    BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- April made a stormy exit in Alabama.
    Thunderstorms this weekend brought a flood threat to coastal retreats along the Styx and Fish rivers, and downed some trees and knocked out power in the Birmingham metro area.

    The National Weather Service warned residents along the rivers in south Baldwin County to brace for high water caused by the downpour.

    The Styx River near Elsanor was expected to crest near 17.7 feet early Sunday and fall back below flood stage Sunday evening. Moderate flooding was forecast for the Fish River near Silverhill. The river was expected to crest near 14.7 feet early Sunday and fall back below flood stage early Monday.

    The thunderstorms, packing high winds and lightning, also moved across north-central Alabama early today. The storms caused nearly 16,000 temporary power outages in the Birmingham-Hoover metro area. [...]

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    Drought to Persist in North America Due to La Niña

    Experts at the Climate Modeling Group at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), part of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, expect drought to worsen in the Plains and the West over the next several years due to La Niña-like conditions. LDEO's "Persistent Drought in North America" Web site provides an in-depth examination of drought in this region.

    Using observations and models, LDEO scientists learned that all the major dry and wet events in the American West in the last century and a half were forced by slowing varying tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures (SSTs). On the Web site, Climate Modeling Group scientists show that decadal variations of these SSTs are predictable to a modest degree a few years in advance.

    The group’s research on whether rising greenhouse gases will induce an El Niño-like (causing increased precipitation over the American West) or La Niña-like (causing less precipitation over the American West) response in the tropical Pacific Ocean provides additional insight on whether the American West is entering a more drought-prone period than any seen since European settlement. [...]

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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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    Astronomers Confirm The First Image Of A Planet Outside Of Our Solar System

    An international team of astronomers reports April 29 the confirmation of the discovery of a giant planet, approximately five times the mass of Jupiter, that is gravitationally bound to a young brown dwarf. This discovery puts an end to a yearlong discussion on the nature of this object, which started with the detection of a red object close to the brown dwarf.

    In February and March of this year, the astronomers took new images of the young brown dwarf and its giant planet companion with the state-of-the-science NACO instrument on the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope in northern Chile. The planet is near the southern constellation of Hydra and approximately 200 light years from Earth.

    "Our new images show convincingly that this really is a planet, the first planet that has ever been imaged outside of our solar system," said Gael Chauvin, astronomer at the ESO and leader of the team of astronomers who conducted the study. [...]

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