Tuesday, May 03, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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From A Reader: I'm trying one more time to send you the satellite image of Fallujah that I got on 03, December, 2003. As you know, the U.S. bombing of the city continued for another 2 or 3 weeks after that, but no additional aerial or satellite images were allowed to escape.

This image was in the BBC's earliest morning web news, which I receive at precisely 1:05 a.m. each and every morning. (The Brits do love to be punctual...) I was following the tiny drops of news from Fallujah very closely, and I went to the BBC site at once when I saw the article's subtitle "Satellite image shows extensive damage to Fallujah as U.S. continues battle with insurgents."

BBC news feature links expire after 30 days, normally, but this one was gone after 30 minutes. An article about Fallujah showing the effects of U.S. bombing "in areas controlled by insurgents" was there instead, and NO
image was shown. It got yanked off just that fast.

THE WHOLE WORLD NEEDS TO SEE THIS IMAGE: IT MAY WELL BE A "SMOKING GUN" FOR PRESSING WAR CRIMES CHARGES AGAINST BUSH & CO., as is the attempted assassination of Giuliana Sgrena and all of her companions.

Italy media reveals Iraq details
By David Willey
BBC News in Rome

Italian media have published classified sections of an official US military inquiry into the accidental killing of an Italian agent in Baghdad.

The 40-page report was censored by the Pentagon before being officially published on Saturday.

Italy has refused to accept the US report's findings and is to publish its own version of events later this week.

Details of the official report were published in newspapers on Sunday with censored material restored in full.

A Greek medical student at Bologna University who was surfing the web early on Sunday found that with two simple clicks of his computer mouse he could restore censored portions of the report.

He passed the details to Italian newspapers which immediately put out the full text on their own websites.

The missing text contains the names and ranks of all of the American military personnel involved in the killing of Nicola Calipari, the Italian agent who was given a state funeral and awarded Italy's highest medal of valour.

It also reveals the rules of engagement in operation at the military checkpoint near Baghdad airport which have been contested by the Italian authorities.

The censored sections include recommendations that the American military modify their checkpoint procedures to give better and clearer warning signs to approaching vehicles.

The official Italian report on the incident expected to be published this week will accuse the American military of tampering with evidence at the scene of the shooting.

The Americans invited two Italians to join in their inquiry, but the Italian representatives protested at what they claimed was lack of objectivity in presenting the evidence and returned to Rome.

Relations between Rome and Washington remain tense.


US military:
- Car approaches checkpoint at high speed
- Troops attempt to tell driver to stop with arm signals, lights and warning shots
- Soldiers shoot into engine

Italian government:
- Italy makes all necessary contacts with the US for safe passage
- The driver stops immediately when a light flashes 10m away
- At the same time, shots are fired into car for 10-15 seconds

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The gagging of dissent
Green Left Weekly
May 4, 2005

Gag Rule: On the Suppression of Dissent and the Stifling of Democracy
By Lewis H. Lapham
The Penguin Press, 2004
178 pages, US$19.95 (hb)

When the US went to war against Iraq, a majority of people in the US opposed the invasion but their voices, writes Lewis Lapham, "couldn't make it past the security guards at the White House or CNN" and were muted to faint echoes "in literary journals of modest circulation, in the letters to the editors of the Washington Post or the New York Times, among a scattering of guests on National Public Radio, in the farther reaches of the Internet".

Lapham is the editor of Harper's Magazine, one of those "literary journals of modest circulation" that carried the voices of dissent, and in his latest book of essays, Gag Rule, he continues his erudite and scathing assault on lying governments, their gagging of dissent, and their faithful media lap dogs.

As US President George Bush's administration primed a reluctant population for war, the corporate media performed their patriotic duty with natural, and long-practised, skill, "content to forgo any moral or legal questions in favour of their obsession with the logistics - timing, troop numbers, tactics". Their camera lenses could see only khaki.

When former Secretary of State Colin Powell played the United Nations in February 2003, "every newspaper in the country" ran rave reviews. Their political theatre critics were awestruck as "the Secretary held up air force surveillance photographs requiring the same kind of arcane exposition that New York art critics attach to exhibitions of abstract painting". They marvelled at other theatrical effects involving vials of white powder and "satellite telephone intercepts of Iraqi military officers screaming at each other in Arabic". All the while, they evaded the question, "why does America attack Iraq when Iraq hasn't attacked America?".

The "Secretary's powerpoints", notes Lapham, "didn't add to the sum of a convincing argument but then neither had the advertising copy for the Spanish-American War or the sales promotions for the war in Vietnam". But the "agitprop" was good enough for the major US news media, which dismissed the unprecedented mass global protests 10 days after Powell's exhibition, as the inconsequential, anti-US stammerings of uninformed ageing hippies, Hollywood celebrities and focus groups.

When the invasion began and Saddam Hussein's reputed "weapons of mass destruction" failed to materialise, the corporate media, confident in their powers of propaganda, regurgitated the White House's changed rationale for war from removing "the totalitarian menace threatening all of Western civilisation" to liberating the Iraqi people. "One excuse for war was as good as any other." What price truth compared to oil?

The "demonstration effect" of the war, however, was genuine - delivering a shock and awe precedent to other disobedient regimes and/or peoples (Syria, Iran, North Korea) and to detractors (France, Germany). "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business", was the crudely accurate annotation of the resident "scholar" in the "Freedom Chair" at the American Enterprise Institute.

As war became occupation, attorney-general John Ashcroft capitalised on the opportunity with his message, as Lapham puts it, that "if America was to be kept safe from further harm, then the laws must become more vigilant, not less", because "the continuing bloodshed on the streets of Baghdad" is "indicative of terrorists lurking under the Brooklyn Bridge, driving bomb-laden trucks north to Boston, south to Tallahassee". Seguing seamlessly, and shamelessly, between Al Qaeda and Iraq, the Bush administration invoked "national security" in the cause of "deleting another few paragraphs from the Bill of Rights" in the grand tradition of previous US governments.

At the turn of the 20th century, the enemy was social and political reform, and striking coal miners. War against Spain in Cuba and the Philippines, and the annexation of Puerto Rico, helped to lance the "anarchistic, socialistic and populistic boil". Love of the flag was aroused against Spain's "fifth-rate colonial power" (described in the words of the McKinley administration as "the most wicked despotism there is today on this earth"). Next, the patriotic pulse was agitated by new demons - Germany in the first world war, which was erroneously said by the Wilson administration to be able to land 387,000 troops, fresh from roasting Belgian nuns over burning coals, on the coast of New Jersey in just 16 days. Hussein's equally mythical ability to launch intercontinental weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes was but a reprise of its alarmist antecedent.

Love, of the patriotic kind, is as blind to political faults as its romantic counterpart is to personal faults. Under first world war espionage and sedition acts, socialists and pacifists were slapped in jail, journals banned from the post, and dissent criminalised. By 1920, after the "Red" had replaced the "Hun" as the new post-war villain, an aspiring deputy of the attorney-general (the future FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover) had compiled dossiers on "two million American citizens suspected of an illicit relationship with the ideas of Karl Marx". Ten-thousand "aliens" were deported for lack of "loyalty".

The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) continued to hunt the "red menace" from the late 1930s. Loyalty oaths and blacklists purged Hollywood screenwriters, actors, authors and musicians, such as Charlie Chaplin, Leonard Bernstein, Paul Robeson, Orson Welles, Dorothy Parker and more than 300 others. HUAC's Senator McCarthy fired up the post-war Cold War - he "accepted rumours as evidence and accused anybody and everybody who cou ld be placed at the scene of a subversive thought". Between 1947 and 1954, 6 million US citizens "fell into the nets of government investigations strung together with illegal wiretaps, false testimony and synthetic evidence".

During the '60s, clandestine surveillance of "citizens objecting to the Vietnam War, demonstrating on behalf of the civil rights movement, talking too loudly in favour of women's rights" was in full swing. The CIA and FBI , in a massive law-breaking spree, spied on several millions, opened 500,000 pieces of private mail, infiltrated organisations, jailed and entrapped hundreds and "engaged, when occasion arose, in blackmail, false arrest and assassination".

Now, following 9/11, the spooks have been unshackled from the restrictions that had been placed on them following the expose of their illegal operations in the '60s - "no longer will the FBI's 11,000 agents sit feebly in their chairs ... waiting ‘to sift through the rubble following a terrorist attack'". In the attorney-general's words, they can now "intervene early and investigate aggressively". They have, writes Lapham, a fully renewed "license to commit crimes", disposing of civil rights as "nuisances that get in the way of law enforcement officers rummaging through bank records and lingerie drawers in order to protect the American people from the swarm of terrorists in their midst".

Protection measures are also well in place for Bush. "Free speech areas" are set up when Bush travels the country, so that those wanting to voice dissent are "quarantined behind chain-link fences at a discreet distance fr om the Presidential motorcade (preferably out of earshot and far enough away to avoid notice on the evening news)".

The evening news and the rest of the corporate media are the essential accomplices in the government's stripping of civil liberties. Lapham, who began his professional life as a journalist, observes that "the risk of inde pendent thought" is averted in the newsrooms by a winnowing out of the partisans of truth, and self-censorship by those for whom self-advancement and privileged access to the powerful, are the career rewards. At the apex of the docile are the heavyweight, gold-plated news anchors and media celebrities, "expensive publicists" for political, economic and military power, rather than journalists.

And the point of herding dissent behind the "ropelines of consensus", says Lapham, is to defend (and extend!) the 80% of the wealth held by 10% of the population. There is only one winner from suppression of civil rights, gagging of dissent, and military spending of US$17 trillion since 1950 - the "American ruling class", that elusive beast that Lapham, with deadly wit, beats from its euphemistic cover ("the business community") in the intellectual landscape.

A left-liberal not a socialist, a commentator not an activist, Lapham's preferred weapon is the word, his delivery system the essay. Few, however, wield these arms with more flair, greater relish or better aim, than Lewis Lapham.

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Google gags dissent
Barry Fox
Special Report from New Scientist Print Edition
30 April 2005

GOOGLE has plans that will dramatically improve the results of internet news searches, by ranking them according to quality rather than simply by their date and relevance to search terms.

The ambitious system is revealed by patents filed in the US and around the world (WO 2005/029368) by researchers based at the company's headquarters in Mountain View, California.

At the moment the company's search engine throws up thousands of "hits" in response to simple entries such as "Iraq", which lead to news websites. These are ranked either in order of relevance or by date, so that the most recent or most focused appear at the top of the huge list.

This means that articles carrying more authority, say from CNN or the BBC, can be ousted from the first page of results, simply because they are not as recent or as relevant to the keyword entered in the search line.

Comment: An article carries more authority simply because it comes from a major news outlet like CNN or the BBC? Google is obviously not interested in the accuracy of the information in an article, or even the popularity of the article, but rather the perceived "authority" of the site from which the article originates.

Now Google, whose name has become synonymous with internet searching, plans to build a database that will compare the track record and credibility of all news sources around the world, and adjust the ranking of any search results accordingly.

The database will be built by continually monitoring the number of stories from all news sources, along with average story length, number with bylines, and number of the bureaux cited, along with how long they have been in business. Google's database will also keep track of the number of staff a news source employs, the volume of internet traffic to its website and the number of countries accessing the site.

Google will take all these parameters, weight them according to formulae it is constructing, and distil them down to create a single value. This number will then be used to rank the results of any news search.

The patent also reveals that the same system could be roped in to rank other search results, not simply news. So sales and services could in the future be listed on the basis of price and the reputation of the company involved.

Comment: In other words, it doesn't matter what the majority thinks or wants to read, it is what Google and its Military Industrial complex masters WANT you to read and think.

Seems that the only hope for the Truth is for someone to create a new search engine that will outrank Google... Any takers out there in tech land?

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Bushzarro Google: the Quality of Omission and Lies
Kurt Nimmo
May 1st 2005

Considering Google's plan "to build a database that will compare the track record and credibility of all news sources around the world, and adjust the ranking of any search results accordingly" (see Google To Implement Bias Towards Mainstream News), I am reminded of George Creel.

Creel ran the Committee on Public Information (CPI), a warmongering propaganda outfit set up by president Wilson on April 13, 1917. "CPI recruited heavily from business, media, academia, and the art world," writes Propaganda Critic. "Like modern reporters who participate in Pentagon press pools, journalists grudgingly complied with the [CPI's]official guidelines in order to stay connected to the information loop. Radical newspapers, such as the socialist Appeal to Reason, were almost completely extinguished by wartime limitations on dissent."

Of course, nowadays, there is no CPI telling newspapers and web sites what they will publish or post—and there does not need to be because censorship (or propaganda by omission) is a built-in feature of the corporate media and information services, as Google demonstrates. Note Google's assertion that it is simply adjusting the "credibility" of news sources, as if the New York Times and the Washington Post, two "mainstream" corporate newspapers guilty of telling lies about Saddam Hussein's illusory weapons of mass destruction and thus cheerleading Bush's illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, are more "credible" than other news sources that told the truth about what Bush and his clique of warmongering Strausscons were up to, indisputable facts borne out after the fact (and generally ignored by the corporate media).

In short, after Google installs its "quality" control algorithm, a search of the words "Fallujah" and "war crimes" will return stories by the corporate media (who have basically ignored the war crimes in Fallujah) and sort those stories at the top of the list while stories by Francis A. Boyle posted in Counterpunch or Christopher Bollyn of the American Free Press will sorted at the distant end of a list of 400,000 results.

In order to use Google effectively in the future, it may be necessary to click on the page numbers at the bottom of the page until you reach the end of the list. Remember, in Bushzarro world, everything is backwards, up is down, night is day, mass murder is democracy, etc. Bushzarro Google, as a large corporate leviathan with a strangle hold on the "search market," will naturally follow these dynamics. In order to find the truth, more work will be required.

Nobody said it would be a rose garden.

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Congress May Require Closer Scrutiny to Get a Driver's License
The New York Times
May 3, 2005

WASHINGTON, May 2 - Congress is moving quickly toward setting strict rules on how states issue driver's licenses, requiring them to verify whether each applicant for a new license or a renewal is in this country legally.

A House and Senate conference now taking place has included the requirements, which apply to all 50 states and other jurisdictions that issue licenses, in a supplemental appropriations bill for Iraq, aides involved in the process said on Monday. The draft legislation will be completed in the next few days and is all but certain to pass.

State officials complain that the new requirements will add a costly, complicated burden to the issuance of driver's licenses, which has been their responsibility for almost a century. Civil rights organizations and privacy advocates say that they are concerned that a standardized driver's license would amount to a national identification card and that a central database would be vulnerable to identify theft.

The proposed regulations, intended to deter terrorist attacks, would replace a provision of the intelligence bill passed in December that called on state and federal agencies to develop new rules for licenses. That law did not specifically require states to check the citizenship or immigration status of applicants. [...]

Under the rules being considered, before granting a driver's license, a state would have to require proof of citizenship or legal presence, proof of an address and proof of a Social Security number. It would need to check the legal status of noncitizens against a national immigration database, to save copies of any documents shown and to store a digital image of the face of each applicant.

The licenses issued must include the driver's address and a digital photograph, and would incorporate new authentication features designed to prevent counterfeits. The new law would also require that the licenses of legal temporary residents expire when their visas do. The rules would also apply to renewals, an aide involved in the conference said.

Supporters of the law say it addresses important security problems and note that some of the Sept. 11 hijackers used driver's licenses as identification when checking in for their flights, and that a few had expired visas. [...]

Comment: Never mind that the Sept 11 hijackers were agents of MOSSAD ... and that it is clear that there is NO WAR on Terrorism... it is a POLITICAL CONTROL game.

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Brigadier shocks and awes: there is no war on terrorism
By Cynthia Banham, Defence Reporter
April 27, 2005

The so-called global war on terrorism does not exist, a high-ranking army officer has declared in a speech that challenges the conventional political wisdom.

In a frank speech, Brigadier Justin Kelly dismissed several of the central tenets of the Iraq war and the war on terrorism, saying the "war" part is all about politics and terrorism is merely a tactic.

Although such wars were fuelled by global issues, they were essentially counter-insurgent operations fought on a local level. This would result in Australian soldiers fighting in increasingly urban environments.

Speaking at a conference on future warfighting, Brigadier Kelly, the director-general of future land warfare, also suggested that the "proposition you can bomb someone into thinking as we do has been found to be untrue".

His speech appears to fly in the face of a comment by the Prime Minister, John Howard, last year that the "contest in Iraq represents a critical confrontation in the war against terror ..."

The brigadier said populations were being cut off from their traditional roots, giving them "aspirations that cannot be immediately met", and fuelling a search for identity.

Terrorists were exploiting local issues - such as ethnic wars - to pursue global ends. From a military point of view, the job was now one of counter-insurgency, he said.

As a result, Australia's future soldiers would fight increasingly close to populations, with the enemy "continuing to retreat into complex terrain".

While success in battle was critical, it would not of itself deliver victory - that would come by winning over the hearts and minds of the local people.

The war of the future would be "out of human control". There was "no alternative" but to engage the population and "convince them of your rightness".

"Our proximity to populations enables us to influence and control the populations, [it] enables us to dominate the environment, generate intelligence and eventually bring the conflict to a resolution," the brigadier told the conference last week.

To fight such a war, a new kind of soldier was needed - one not only proficient in the latest technologies, but who had been educated in "cultural understanding" and sensitivity.

Brigadier Kelly said modern war could be defined as "conflict, using violent and non-violent means, between multiple actors and influences, competing for control over the perceptions, behaviour and allegiances of human population groups".

He said he found it interesting that "if you take out violence out of the first line, it's a description of politics".

Comment: So, let's do it: "Politics is nothing more than a conflict between multiple actors and influences, competing for control over the perceptions, behaviour and allegiances of human population groups".

You got it from the horse's mouth.

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Flashback: Hijack 'suspects' alive and well
Sunday, 23 September, 2001

Another of the men named by the FBI as a hijacker in the suicide attacks on Washington and New York has turned up alive and well.

The identities of four of the 19 suspects accused of having carried out the attacks are now in doubt.

Saudi Arabian pilot Waleed Al Shehri was one of five men that the FBI said had deliberately crashed American Airlines flight 11 into the World Trade Centre on 11 September.

His photograph was released, and has since appeared in newspapers and on television around the world.

He told journalists there that he had nothing to do with the attacks on New York and Washington, and had been in Morocco when they happened. He has contacted both the Saudi and American authorities, according to Saudi press reports.

He acknowledges that he attended flight training school at Daytona Beach in the United States, and is indeed the same Waleed Al Shehri to whom the FBI has been referring.

But, he says, he left the United States in September last year, became a pilot with Saudi Arabian airlines and is currently on a further training course in Morocco.

Mistaken identity

Abdulaziz Al Omari, another of the Flight 11 hijack suspects, has also been quoted in Arab news reports.

He says he is an engineer with Saudi Telecoms, and that he lost his passport while studying in Denver.

Another man with exactly the same name surfaced on the pages of the English-language Arab News.

Meanwhile, Asharq Al Awsat newspaper, a London-based Arabic daily, says it has interviewed Saeed Alghamdi.

He was listed by the FBI as a hijacker in the United flight that crashed in Pennsylvania.

And there are suggestions that another suspect, Khalid Al Midhar, may also be alive.

FBI Director Robert Mueller acknowledged on Thursday that the identity of several of the suicide hijackers is in doubt.

Comment: Nevertheless, the mainstream media is still selling the 19 hijackers story as we see next...

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The 9/11 Hijackers
By Jonathan Yardley
Washington Post
Sunday, May 1, 2005; Page BW02

The Hijackers: Who They Were, Why They Did It
By Terry McDermott. HarperCollins. 330 pp. $25.95

Earlier this year the British writer Gerald Seymour constructed an exceptionally good novel, The Unknown Soldier, around the premise that the men who are drawn into the embrace of al Qaeda are not at all who we think they are. We believe, as one of his characters puts it, that they are "brainwashed," when in fact "Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants . . . have refined a skill in identifying young men of varying social backgrounds and economic advantage who are prepared to make supreme sacrifices for a cause." They are not necessarily loners but are attracted to "the excitement of being a part of that select fugitive family," they have strong "personal self-esteem," they seek "adventure and purpose."

Now, in Perfect Soldiers, Terry McDermott provides the hard facts behind the fictional picture that Seymour so persuasively draws. A reporter for the Los Angeles Times who has been on the story of the September 2001 terrorist attacks since the day they occurred, McDermott has talked to everyone -- everyone who will talk, that is -- and read everything, the result of which is what may well be, for now at least, the definitive book on the 19 men who brought such devastation and terror to this country nearly four years ago. Clearly written in good, plain English, Perfect Soldiers is a group portrait of ordinary men who were driven to do a surpassingly evil thing.

McDermott takes his title from Dashiell Hammett: "He was the perfect soldier: he went where you sent him, stayed where you put him, and had no idea of his own to keep him from doing exactly what you told him." The last part of that equation is not wholly true of these young men -- Mohamed Atta, for example, was a planner of the Sept. 11 attacks as well as an instrument of al Qaeda's will -- but the overall description is accurate. Having discovered a cause for which they were ready -- indeed, often eager -- to sacrifice their own lives, these young jihadists followed orders as precisely and dutifully as the most assiduously trained U.S. Marine.

They were not born to be soldiers -- none seems to have come from a military background -- and there was little in their early lives to suggest that they would become what they did. The pilot of the first plane to hit the World Trade Center, Atta, came from "an ambitious, not overtly religious middle-class household in Egypt" and had led "a sheltered life" until he arrived in Hamburg, Germany, in 1992 to do graduate study in architecture. The pilot of the second plane, Marwan al-Shehhi, was an amiable, "laid-back" fellow from the United Arab Emirates who had joined the UAE army, "not the world's most effective fighting force but one of its most generous, paying [its scholarship] students monthly stipends of about $2,000," which may have been his primary reason for enlisting; this enabled him to go to Hamburg, though there is little evidence that he "had any serious scholarly ambitions."

Hani Hanjour, the Saudi pilot who flew American Airlines flight 77 into the Pentagon, "had lived in the United States off and on throughout the 1990s, mostly in Arizona, intermittently taking flying lessons at several different flying schools." He was, in the view of one of his flight instructors, "intelligent, friendly, and 'very courteous, very formal,' a nice enough fellow but a terrible pilot." He finally got a commercial license from the FAA but was unable to find work here or in the Middle East. As for Ziad Jarrah, the pilot of the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, he was "the handsome middle child and only son of an industrious, middle-class family in Beirut," a "secular Muslim" family that "was easygoing -- the men drank whiskey and the women wore short skirts about town and bikinis at the beach." At university in Germany he met Aysel Sengün, "the daughter of conservative, working-class Turkish immigrants"; eventually they got married, but he disappeared for long periods, usually without explanation, leaving her frantic.

His disappearances, like changes in the other men's lives, were traceable to his discovery of radical Islam and jihad -- not jihad as "the individual's daily struggle for his own soul," but jihad as a Muslim's " obligation to fight on behalf of his beliefs, against nonbelievers and corrupters of belief." Eventually he too found his way to Hamburg, where he joined many other young Muslims in prayer and discussion, sometimes at a mosque called al Quds (the Arabic name for Jerusalem), sometimes in one of the various group houses where the men lived austerely and piously: "The Hamburg men who joined their plights to that of fundamentalist Islam chose not simply a new mosque or religious doctrine but an entry to a new way of life, the acquisition of a new world view, in fact, of a new world." To Atta and a friend who called himself Omar (ultimately he became the backstage coordinator of the 2001 attacks under his real name, Ramzi Binalshibh), "no matter where they fought, their real enemies were the Jews, and ultimately the Americans. 'One has to do something about America,' Omar said."

For all of them, radical Islam and jihad soon became obsessions, eclipsing everything else. Studies were abandoned, families ignored, the outer world denied as they plunged themselves into their fanatical version of faith. As a German investigator put it: "They are not talking about daily life stuff, such as buying cars -- they buy cars, but they don't talk about it, they talk about religion most of the time . . . these people are just living for their religion, meaning for them that they just live now for their life after death, the paradise. They want to live obeying their God, so they can enter paradise. Everything else doesn't matter." Talking one week of Kosovo, the next of Chechnya or Afghanistan, the "men were agreed: they wanted to fight -- they just didn't know which war."

It was, of course, Osama bin Laden who gave them their war. A preview of it had been staged in early 1993, when an ad hoc jihadist group under the leadership of the "master terrorist," Abdul Basit Abdul Karim, a.k.a. Ramzi Yousef, planted a bomb in the basement of the World Trade Center's North Tower, "killing six people, injuring 1,000, and causing $300 million in damage." The United States was shocked, but clueless:

"To a considerable extent, America did not recognize the advent of a new age but whether anyone knew it or not, an era of religious terror had arrived. Intermingling religious and political goals had been the norm for most of human history. Islam itself came into the world with secular as well as sacred aims. What had changed in this latest incarnation had more to do with the world it was in than Islam itself. By the latter half of the twentieth century, the movement toward secular government had triumphed almost everywhere except in the Islamic world. The advocates of political Islam became aberrant simply by outlasting the political ambitions and empires of other religions. They might have been mere curious anachronisms had not the modern world provided them the means to wed their old beliefs to new, readily accessible technologies. The outcome of that union is terror on a scale not previously known."

Al Qaeda, McDermott argues, was almost ideally suited to waging this new war. Insisting that "all states in the Muslim world . . . be returned to Muslim doctrine" as they saw it and preaching "violent revolt against insufficiently Islamist regimes in the Middle East," al Qaeda came up with a doctrine perfectly suited to young, pious, single-minded men, and it had the organizational apparatus to mobilize them. It "was never the huge organization its opponents sometimes portrayed," having a core of "at most a couple hundred men," and its operations often were "crude," but its small size was one of its great strengths: "If Al Qaeda were a nation with all of the infrastructure that implies, it would have been more vulnerable to penetration by American intelligence. . . . The September 11 attacks were by far the biggest thing it had ever attempted, but even at that, the number of people involved in the plot could be counted by the handful. The scale helped keep it hidden."

Among that handful were the 15 hijackers who joined the pilots aboard the four airplanes. All but one were from Saudi Arabia, most "were from families headed by tradesmen and civil servants, well-off, but not wealthy," mostly "unexceptionable men," none of whom "stood out for their religious or political activism." As McDermott writes, "that young men from good backgrounds would leave homes and families without fanfare or discouragement was evidence of the broad support within Saudi Arabia for jihad." Contrary to rumor, McDermott says they knew they would die and welcomed martyrdom: "The men were trained in hand-to-hand combat in the Al Qaeda camps [in Afghanistan], taught the physical skills they would need for the sole task given them -- to physically overpower flight crews. The pilots were the leaders. The new men would be the muscle."

All 19 of these "perfect soldiers" now are dead. Whether they are in the paradise to which they believed their attack would deliver them we cannot possibly know, but McDermott's well-told, meticulously researched cautionary tale makes one thing clear: There are more of them. Whether we are more prepared for their next strike than we were for their last is something else we cannot know, but this much is certain: It will happen.

Jonathan Yardley's e-mail address is yardleyj@washpost.com.

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APRIL 30, 2005

(EIRNS) - Executive Intelligence Review and the LaRouche Political Action Committee have been informed by several extremely reliable Washington, D.C. sources that in the past several days, a prominent Republican United States Senator has been confronted by Karl Rove and other White House officials on his alleged "connections with Lyndon LaRouche." The Senator, who is not, in fact, in any way associated with LaRouche, denied the charges, but his denials were not believed by the White House officials. He was pressed by Rove, according to the sources, to issue a public statement denouncing LaRouche, to "prove" his denials. EIR has cross-checked the initial incident report with several other well-informed Washington, D.C. sources, and is satisfied that the essential features of the report are accurate and can be further documented.

Upon being informed of the incident today, Lyndon LaRouche observed that this account of the confrontation with the U.S. Senator, combined with President Bush's public performance on Thursday evening, April 28, makes it clear that the entire White House inner circle has gone stark-raving mad. This insanity and apparent flight-forward reaction to the growing political influence of Lyndon LaRouche and his associates, poses a serious national security threat. At a moment when the United States is facing a global disintegration of the post-Bretton Woods floating exchange rate, dollar- based monetary system, and is also facing an imminent loss of the combined physical productive capabilities of the U.S.A. aerospace/airline and auto industries, such insanity at the top of the Executive Branch of the Federal government is a matter of grave concern. Emergency remedial action is going to be forced upon a reluctant Executive Branch and U.S. Congress by the imminent bankruptcies of both General Motors and Ford. Yet the White House leadership is apparently losing all touch with reality.

LaRouche singled out President Bush's performance during his Thursday evening White House press conference. In response to a reporter's question about his Social Security privatization scheme, the President, in effect, announced the sovereign default of the United States Government, by declaring that the U.S. Treasury Bonds in the Social Security Trust Fund were worthless IOUs. Yet, just seconds later, the President said that worried investors could place their privatized Social Security accounts in bonds, rather than in risky Wall Street stocks.

The President said, according to the official White House transcript of the April 28, 2005 press conference: "Now, it's very important for our fellow citizens to understand that there is not a bank account here in Washington, D.C., where we take your payroll taxes and hold it for you and then give it back to you when you retire. Our system here is called pay-as-you-go. You pay into the system through your payroll taxes, and the government spends it. It spends the money on the current retirees, and with the money left over, it funds other government programs. And all that's left behind is file cabinets full of IOUs."

Then, in response to the same question, the President continued: "People say, well I don't want to have - take risks. Well, as I had a line in my opening statement, there are ways where you don't have to take risk. People say, I'm worried about the stock market going down right before I retire. You can manage your assets. You can go from bonds and stocks to only bonds as you get older."

But the President had just described the U.S. Treasury Bonds in the Trust Fund as "file cabinets full of IOUs." This, LaRouche observed, is clinical insanity. How will the governments of Japan, South Korea and China, who all hold vast reserves of U.S. Treasury Bonds respond to the President's declaration that these are worthless IOUs? Has the President, by his foolishness, triggered a potential pullout of U.S. Treasuries, thereby triggering a near-term dollar crash? How close are we to such a cataclysmic event, as the result of the President's foolishness?

LaRouche added that the credible report of the Rove incident with the Republican U.S. Senator also indicates that others in the inner circle of President Bush are equally mad, and that this pervasive insanity in and around the Oval Office is a matter of immediate grave concern for all Americans, and for leading officials around the world, whose own security is very much tied to the state of mind of the U.S. Presidency. The collective insanity at the White House, LaRouche concluded, can not go ignored, but at the gravest threat to world stability.

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Bush sees future like a man leaving elections in past
May 1, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Anyone who thought voting for George W. Bush in November meant sticking with the status quo is entitled to be confused.

We're seeing the metamorphosis of a president who, freed from the harness of re-election, is able to follow his bliss. And his bliss lies in change -- not subtle, around-the-edges change, but sweeping, radical change.

In his first term, Bush cut taxes massively. He changed the conditions under which we go to war -- from last resort to pre-emptive self-defense.

Now, he wants to make fundamental changes in Social Security and the income- tax system. [...]

For 60 of the first 100 days of his second term, Bush and his team have been trying to sell the idea of private investment accounts, allowing workers to invest part of their Social Security taxes privately.

Having failed to gain traction on that idea, Bush last week proposed something really controversial -- cutting benefits.

The White House may figure that advocating what amounts to a benefit cut -- even one wrapped up in protecting the poor -- will make private accounts more attractive. No politician wants to take anything away from anybody. [...]

In the Vietnam era, the military said we had to burn the village to save it. Clinton said we needed to change welfare as we know it. Bush now is arguing that we have to destroy Social Security as we know it to save it.

He sounds like a man who doesn't have to face the voters again. Members of Congress do.

Marsha Mercer is Washington bureau chief of Media General News Service. E- mail mmercer@mediageneral.com

Comment: Perhaps not. There is really nothing to stop Bush from simply doing away with Congress altogether.

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Religious right seeks judiciary that dissolves church-state separation
Knight Ridder Newspapers

PHILADELPHIA (KRT) - Religious conservatives, emboldened by President Bush's re-election and confident of their political clout, are not interested in merely overhauling the judiciary. Ideally, they are seeking a judiciary that would remove the wall of separation between church and state.

This ambition is stated clearly in numerous legal briefs currently on file at the U.S. Supreme Court in connection with a pending case; they seek removal of "a Berlin wall" that is "out of step with this nation's religious heritage." In fact, their leaders argue in interviews that the church-state barrier is a "myth" invented by the high court in 1947, thanks to a twisted interpretation of our founding documents. [...]

Yet their desire to breach the church-state wall - coupled with their incessant attacks on "liberal activist" judges and their success in prodding Republicans to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case - is sparking a backlash that threatens to sow new divisions. As Carlton E. Veazy, a Baptist leader in Washington, charged in a conference call the other day, "We are being led to this theocracy by the Christian right, who will not stop until they take over the government."

Critics think the church-state barrier is being breached already: [...]

One Christian program in northeastern Pennsylvania, financed by Bush's faith-based initiative, requires each worker to be "a believer in Christ and Christian life today" and has spent taxpayer money on construction of church property. The sponsoring Firm Foundation is now being sued in federal court by six local residents who say they don't want government to promote Christianity with their taxes. In response, Firm's lawyer, Steven Aden, says the group has been targeted "simply because it (works) from a faith-based perspective."

All told, there is a growing concern, even among some conservative analysts, that the religious right's Republican allies might pay a political price for their close collaboration. These analysts, for example, cite an April 14 remark by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who assailed the judiciary for trying "to impose a separation of church and state that's nowhere in the Constitution." [...]

Those fears are reflected in the latest Gallup poll, which reports that, by a 2-to-1 ratio, Americans now say that the religious right has too much influence on the Bush administration. This poll, conducted immediately after the Schiavo case, contrasts sharply with surveys conducted between 2001 and 2003, when sentiment about the religious right's influence was evenly split.

So it's noteworthy that Bush, in his news conference Thursday night, took issue with religious-right orthodoxy. Christian leaders implied a week ago that those who seek to block Bush's court nominees are not "people of faith." But Bush said, "I don't ascribe a person's opposing my nominations to an issue of faith," and he added that he opposed any religious tests: "If you choose not to worship, you're equally as patriotic as somebody who does worship."

No Christian leaders took issue with Bush. But they do expect fealty from the GOP.

In the words of conservative Christian strategist Gary Bauer: "We are now at such a crucial time in the culture war. The Left is in full screaming mode, and they are counting on Republican knees to buckle, as they have so many times in the past." He said it's critical to overhaul a judiciary "that is replacing our Judeo-Christian heritage with moral relativism."

Mark Rozell, a political analyst at George Mason University who tracks the religious right, said Thursday: "They feel that the political circumstances won't be this good again - a strongly conservative Congress, a religiously conservative president. They've toiled for nearly 30 years, and the Republicans always said, 'Wait your turn.' They believe the time is now."

And that means it's time to convince Americans that President Thomas Jefferson, in a famous 1802 letter, was not really trying to curb religion when he endorsed "building a wall of separation between church and state." The high court invoked the phrase when it formally erected the wall in 1947. The religious right sees this as regrettable; its members believe the ruling is marred by "numerous and serious historical errors."

In legal briefs filed in a pending Supreme Court case on the posting of the Ten Commandments, religious-right groups point out (accurately) that Jefferson's phrase appears nowhere in the Bill of Rights or the Constitution and that Jefferson wrote the phrase merely as a show of support for Connecticut's Baptists, who were upset that the state government was officially favoring the Congregationalists (independent scholars say the religious right also is correct about this).

But the briefs don't mention 1786, when young Jefferson was the author of a Virginia law separating church from state. This law is cited on his grave, at his request. A preamble excerpt: "To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagations of (religious) opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical." Another: "Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry."

Barry Lynn, who directs the Washington-based Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said, "The religious right would love the court to say, 'We've been wrong since the '40s, so now you can do whatever you want.' Failing that, it'll push for 'theocracy lite' - to make sure that you're a second-class citizen if you have different beliefs. But America's sensible center is saying, 'Hold on; going to the edge of the cliff is not what we had in mind.'"

Bush's remarks Thursday night appear to acknowledge the danger of a backlash. But Staver believes, as a matter of principle, that it's worth pushing the high court to renounce the 1947 reasoning that erected the wall between church and state.

"There's an old saying," Staver said, "and it comes from the Book of Proverbs 18:17." That passage reads partly as follows: "He that is first in his own cause seemeth just." The point of this is that Staver and his allies acknowledge the secularists had the first word in the cause. But they intend to have the last word.

Comment: Keep in mind that this is the same gang that is opposed to theocracies in other countries!

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10-Year-Old Boy Burned After Cell Phone Explodes
April 30, 2005

A 10-year-old boy in Sherman Oaks, Calif., suffered first-degree burns on his leg and groin area when a cell phone exploded in his pocket, according to a Local 6 News report.

Leobarda Villalobos recently purchased a Motorola phone for her son, Yovani. At some point, the phone exploded in Yovani's pants.

He was treated at the Grossman Burn Center.

The family is trying to determine what could have gone wrong since the cell phone has not been recalled, according to the report.

Motorola officials are not commenting.

Comment: A few days ago, we also ran the following two articles:

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Flashback: Alarming behaviour
By Paul Revel

VILLAGERS say they are being plagued by a mystery interference which is playing havoc with their cars.

Meopham residents say their lives have been disrupted for two weeks by the strange happening.

They have seen their cars' remote-controlled locking systems go berserk meaning many motorists have been locked out of their own vehicles.

And to add to their fury, the cars' alarms are going off day and night apparently for no reason.

Former maintenance engineer John Broad, 67, said: "We want to get to the bottom of this. Whoever is responsible should sort it out. People are very concerned.

"One bloke even had his car towed away to the dealership for diagnostics but they couldn't find anything wrong with it."

Father-of-two Mr Broad has been having trouble with his Nissan Almeria but the mysterious electronic gremlins are striking a range of cars including Toyotas, Volkswagens and Land Rovers.

He added: "One chap goes to work at 5am and when he's having problems his car's loud alarm wakes up the whole street."

Villagers suspected the Vodafone mast at Meopham train station but the company has said there is no way it is responsible.

News Shopper has reported in the past how motorists have been locked out of their cars because of phone mast interference.

Normally upgraded 3G masts, which allow people to send pictures and videos via their mobiles, are to blame.

In one case, car manufacturer Subaru confirmed its cars can be affected by radiation from masts.

But Vodafone says the Meopham station mast has been operating for many years and there have been no recent alterations or upgrades.

A spokesman said it was highly unlikely the phone mast was affecting the car alarms.

She explained the phone network operated between 900 and 2,100 megahertz which is far removed from the key-fob remote controls for cars, which operate at around 300 megahertz.

She added more likely causes could be radio transmissions from ambulances and police cars, or even amateur radio hams' operating in the area.

Mr Broad said: "It's mystifying.We are at the end of our tether. If any readers can give us a clue as to why this is happening we want to hear from them.

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Flashback: Scientists stumped by exploding toads
Thursday 28 April 2005, 23:10 Makka Time, 20:10 GMT

More than 1000 toads have puffed up and exploded in a Hamburg pond in recent weeks, baffling scientists.

German scientists still have no explanation for what's causing the combustion, an official said on Wednesday.

Both the pond's water and body parts of the toads have been tested, but scientists have been unable to find a bacteria or virus that would cause the toads to swell up and pop, Janne Kloepper, of the Hamburg-based Institute for Hygiene and the Environment said.

"It's absolutely strange."

"We have a really unique story here in Hamburg. This phenomenon really doesn't seem to have appeared anywhere before," she said.

Sci-fi stuff

The toads at a pond in the upscale neighbourhood of Altona have been blowing up since the beginning of April, filling up like balloons until their stomachs suddenly burst.

"It looks like a scene from a science-fiction movie," Werner Schmolnik, the head of a local environment group, told the Hamburger Abendblatt daily.

"The bloated animals suffer for several minutes before they finally die."

Biologists have come up with several theories, but Janne Kloepper said that most have been ruled out.

The pond's water quality is no better or worse than other bodies of water in Hamburg.

The toads did not appear to have a disease, and a laboratory in Berlin has ruled out the possibility that it is a fungus that made its way from South America, Klopper said.

She said that tests will continue. In the meantime, city residents have been warned to stay away from the pond.

Comment: Yesterday, we mentioned 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. There was another series of violent incidents we reported on recently, and the following article provides additional information:

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Update: Clues Sought in Series of California Highway Shootings
The New York Times
Published: May 3, 2005

LOS ANGELES, May 2 - A spate of apparently random highway shootings in recent weeks has left at least four drivers dead and several more injured in Southern California and has prompted the authorities to increase undercover police patrols on the region's roadways, the busiest in the world.

Since early March, there have been at least seven shootings on highways in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside Counties, three of them this past weekend alone.

Here in Los Angeles, where most of the shootings have occurred, a police spokeswoman, Sgt. Catherine Plows, said on Monday that a victim of a shooting early Sunday in the San Fernando Valley described his assailants as a group of four or five young Hispanic men with shaved heads. The description led detectives from the police department's gang unit to look into the possibility that the shooting was part of an initiation ritual.

Sergeant Plows said that after being shot, the 19-year-old victim was able to get off the freeway and drive a few blocks before encountering paramedics who had responded to an unrelated accident. The man was treated at the scene and later taken to a hospital, where he was expected to survive.

The police say they do not know whether the other shootings might be gang-related. Highway shootings are not a new phenomenon here or elsewhere in the country, but the frequency of the recent attacks here has put drivers on edge. [...]

In the past, most highway shootings in and around Los Angeles have been ascribed to road rage. The trend gained national attention in the summer of 1987, when, displaying hair-trigger impulses reminiscent of the frontier West, Southern California drivers were responsible for the deaths of at least five of their fellow travelers. More than a dozen people were injured.

More recently, a rash of highway shootings near Columbus, Ohio, that began in May 2003 resulted in the death of a 62-year-old woman and unnerved thousands of travelers. Ten months later, the police arrested Charles A. McCoy Jr., 29, and concluded that he had fired at dozens of vehicles, houses and a school.

Sergeant Plows, the Los Angeles Police Department spokeswoman, said Monday that there had been 11 shootings this year on highways in her department's jurisdiction. Two people were killed and 13 were injured, she said.

The shootings appeared to be random, she said, when the demographics of the 15 victims were taken into account: Ten were Hispanic, four African-American and one Filipino, Sergeant Plows said.

Last year, there were 36 highway shootings in Los Angeles, she said, with one death; there were 46 such incidents in 2003, with 4 deaths, and 46 in 2002, 3 of them fatal.

"Not all of them hit the target, and they're not all necessarily car-to-car," Sergeant Plows said, referring to the likelihood that some of the gunmen were standing on firm ground when they fired at the vehicles.

Armando Clemente, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol, said Monday that the agency had increased its highway patrols, in some cases by adding troopers on overtime.

"We're looking for anything out of the ordinary," Officer Clemente said. "Drivers who are overly aggressive, tailgating, making quick, unsafe lane changes - anything that may be an occasion for something not appropriate going on."

Even if it has precedents, Officer Clemente said, the wave of shootings is hardly commonplace. "It is frustrating and it is alarming for us," he said, "and we'll do whatever we can to put an end to this."

Judy Gish, a spokeswoman for Caltrans, the state transportation agency, which oversees 915 miles of freeways and highways in Los Angeles County, said the dozens of cameras on the roadways transmitted live pictures to traffic management centers but did not use videotape, so they were limited in their ability to record crimes as they occur.

Because the gunmen are in most cases in a moving vehicle, police say, escape is quick. Their victims, meanwhile, often crash, sometimes exacerbating whatever injuries they might have suffered. On April 13, James Wiggins, 47, smashed his car into a wall and died on the Harbor Freeway south of downtown Los Angeles after being shot by an unknown assailant. Mr. Wiggins and another man in his car had been on their way to a Bible study class.

Comment: Exploding frogs, exploding cell phones, malfunctioning car alarms, family members stabbing each other over 100 times, and now this?

Comment from the C's with no apologies:

Q: (T) Are you aware of [the alleged] Dr. Greenbaum and his mind control experiments, that we've been looking at lately?

A: Yes.

Q: Is what's said there factual? I won't say true, but is it factual? Most of it?

A: Close.

Q: (T) OK, the question is, is the fellow that just shot three professors in San Diego, I think it was, the University, before they read his thesis, because he was afraid they would throw his thesis away, and make it look bad, and flunk him. Was he a Greenbaum [victim]?

A: Yes.

Q: (T) Why did they turn him 'on' at that point?

A: Not correct concept. What if: those programmed in the so called "Greenbaum" projects are preprogrammed to "go off" all at once, and some "malfunction," and go off early? [August 17, 1996]

The programming is mainly intended to produce erratic behavior, for the purpose of "spooking" the population so that they will welcome, and even demand, a totalitarian government. [October 5, 1996]

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MK Barakeh hurt by stun grenade at anti-separation fence rally
By Arnon Regular, Haaretz Correspondent

MK Mohammed Barakeh (Hadash) was among 10 left-wing activists and a press photographer who were lightly hurt Thursday when security forces dispersed a demonstration against the separation fence close to the West Bank village on Bal'in.

An estimated 1,000 Israeli and Palestinian protesters showed up for the protest in Bal'in, which is located north of the Jerusalem-Modi'in highway Bal?in has been the site of daily demonstrations against the fence by Palestinians and Israeli leftists. Hundreds of dunams of village land, which is over the Green Line, were confiscated for use in construction of the fence.

Police officers and Israel Defense Forces troops at the site clashed with the hundreds of protesters who attended the anti-fence rally. The security forces fired rubber bullets and sprayed tear gas to disperse the crowd. During the clashes, which also included fist-fights, an Associated Press photographer was lightly hurt, apparently by a stun grenade thrown by police officers.

According to the demonstrators, at one point, a stun grenade also went off near Barakeh's leg. He was treated by an ambulance crew at the site.

During the clashes, undercover security forces mingled with the demonstrators and began to throw stones at the soldiers and police. Demonstrators said the undercover security forces had provoked the police and soldiers into opening fire with rubber bullets and tear gas. The demonstrators said they had not thrown stones at the soldiers and police.

Barakeh added that the protest had been calm and that the security forces had unnecessarily used excessive force in an effort to disperse the protest. He said he had identified himself to the commander of the forces and that while exchanging words with him, the stun grenade had been thrown.

Later in the day, Barakeh sent a letter to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, Military Advocate General Avihai Mandelblit and the head of the Justice Ministry's police investigations department, Herzl Shviro, demanding that a criminal investigation be opened against those responsible for the firing of the stun grenade.

Military sources charged that Barakeh and the commander of the forces at the scene had not exchanged words; the sources added that the undercover forces had only started throwing stones after Palestinian youths had adopted such tactics. "Stone-throwing by the undercover forces is part of the way in which they operate in such instances," the sources said.

According to the demonstrators, at one point, a stun grenade also went off near Barakeh's leg. He was treated by an ambulance crew at the site.

During the clashes, undercover security forces mingled with the demonstrators and began to throw stones at the soldiers and police. Demonstrators said the undercover security forces had provoked the police and soldiers into opening fire with rubber bullets and tear gas. The demonstrators said they had not thrown stones at the soldiers and police.

Barakeh added that the protest had been calm and that the security forces had unnecessarily used excessive force in an effort to disperse the protest. He said he had identified himself to the commander of the forces and that while exchanging words with him, the stun grenade had been thrown.

Later in the day, Barakeh sent a letter to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, Military Advocate General Avihai Mandelblit and the head of the Justice Ministry's police investigations department, Herzl Shviro, demanding that a criminal investigation be opened against those responsible for the firing of the stun grenade.

Military sources charged that Barakeh and the commander of the forces at the scene had not exchanged words; the sources added that the undercover forces had only started throwing stones after Palestinian youths had adopted such tactics. "Stone-throwing by the undercover forces is part of the way in which they operate in such instances," the sources said.

Comment: While the placement of government-sponsored undercover "agents provocateurs" amongst peaceful protestors is nothing new, in this case it is a verification of our beliefs that Israel NEEDS a Palestinian threat to justify its existence. Now that we have clearly established that Sharon has absolutely no qualms about faking terrorism, readers can extrapolate out to the other incidences of alleged "Palestinian violence" that may well have had an Israeli source.

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Seoul Denies Report on NK A-Bomb Test
By Ryu Jin
Staff Reporter

South Korean officials dismissed as groundless a news report that the United States has warned its allies that North Korea may be ready to carry out an underground nuclear test as early as June.

A senior diplomat in Seoul, deeply involved in the nuclear problem, said Sunday such a story was "unheard of,'' adding that Christopher Hill, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, didn't talk about that either when he visited Seoul last week.

"We shouldn't take this kind of media reports, which lack concrete evidence, seriously as if it were a fact,'' he said. "Some can call that a likely scenario, but I wouldn't say that is quite likely.''

Another government official, also denying the report, said, "There is nothing we cannot say about the possibility. But is there any one among those recent reports that is backed up by concrete evidence?''

Citing unnamed diplomats in Vienna, the AP news agency reported on Saturday that the information on the North's possible test of an atomic weapon had been gathered in part from satellite imagery.

Comment: Ah yes, the ubiquitous US "satellite imagery". The very same satellites that identified masses of Iraqi troops and artillery on the Kuwaiti border in 1991 giving justification for the first Gulf War, which, in the end, turned out to nothing more than sand dunes.

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Rice: US has deterrent capability over DPRK
www.chinaview.cn 2005-05-03 17:08:33

WASHINGTON, May 2 (Xinhuanet) -- The United States on Monday boasted its deterrent capability over the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) after reports that the DPRK test-fired a short-range missile.

"We have, after all, a very strong alliance with South Korea and a very strong alliance with Japan. And of course the United States maintains significant -- and I want to underline 'significant' -- deterrent capability of all kinds in the Asia-Pacific region," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said after talks with French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier.

"I don't think there should be any doubt about our ability to deter whatever the North Koreans are up to, but that does not mean that it is not a serious problem and that the North Koreans shouldn't come back to the six-party talks," Rice said.

The test of DPRK's missiles "will at some point have to be a part of the discussions," Rice said.

"It appears that there was a test of a short-range missile by the North Koreans and it landed in the Sea of Japan. We're not surprised by this. The North Koreans have tested their missiles before, " White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said in an interview with CNN's "Late Edition."

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The U.S.' secret dirty war against Castro
Miami Herald
Sun, May. 01, 2005

A former Herald editor's research helps prove that attempts to overthrow the Cuban government were nefarious and unlawful.

THE CASTRO OBSESSION: U.S. Covert Operations Against Cuba, 1959-1965.

''The legacy of the unsuccessful six-year secret war against Fidel Castro,'' Don Bohning asserts in this engaging, disturbing and important book, ''is not an admirable one.'' As his impressive and abundant evidence demonstrates, Bohning's assessment is well warranted. In trying to overthrow the Cuban government in the early 1960s, U.S. officials trained paramilitary soldiers, directed them to engage in numerous terrorist acts and supported them when they undertook their own ''autonomous'' operations -- all of which wounded and even killed innocent Cubans.

Operations included hit and run attacks against supposed ''strategic'' targets, the sinking of boats in Cuban waters and the bombing of Cuban factories, hotels and mills. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson and their attorneys general repeatedly violated international laws, compromised U.S. safety by enlisting the services of organized crime leaders and probably aroused the Soviets into sending nuclear missiles to Cuba to protect the regime.

The Castro Obsession describes a group of policymakers who shared a belief that ''U.S. policy toward Cuba should aim at the downfall of Castro,'' as a May 1961 National Security Council directive declared. But they could not justify outright military aggression to achieve the goal, and so resorted to nefarious schemes intended to provide "pretexts for invasion.''

Consider Operation Northwoods, a proposed series of deceptive U.S. actions made to look like Cuban provocations, which included the sinking of ''a boatload of Cubans en route to Florida.'' Approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Northwoods was vetoed by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. But the fact that the plans went as high as they did conveyed a sort of license to subordinates who may have then acted without higher approval. It becomes more difficult now to dismiss seemingly incredible Cuban charges about U.S. interventions, such as spreading dengue fever on the island.

Bohning, who served as the Latin America editor of The Herald for many years, aptly calls some of the schemes ''nutty.'' For example, Operation DIRTY TRICK was supposed to provide ''proof'' of Cuban sabotage if the Mercury manned orbital vehicle failed. At one point, he reports, ''the CIA decided its propaganda slogan [for the Cuban resistance] should be Gusano Libre, or Free Worm.'' This led one critic to remark, 'I doubt whether `worms of the world unite' will cause people to revolt.''

Yet the pervasive climate of secrecy that enveloped the ''war'' plans remains with us today and creates similar problems. The story of how Richard Bissell, the CIA's deputy director for plans, betrayed his lieutenants and the exiles for whom they were responsible, conveys haunting overtones of Iraq. Jake Esterline and Jack Hawkins had warned Bissell that the final plan would fail and implored him to inform Kennedy of their forecast. Instead he kept Kennedy in the dark.

Most of the revelations in The Castro Obsession have been aired before. Bohning makes good use of declassified documents obtained and disseminated by the National Security Archive, a non-partisan Washington research organization, and of statements made by former CIA officials at a 1996 conference organized by the Archive and Brown University. Still, the accumulation of details into a readable narrative provides a freshness and an appreciation for the considerable effort the United States made to overthrow Castro. And Bohning's interviews with major CIA managers of the war against Castro -- Jacob Esterline, Tom Parrott, Theodore Shackley and Sam Halpern -- provide a deeper understanding about the extent to which this six-year covert war oozed into the far corners of our national security apparatus and distorted priorities.

This is an important sub-theme in the book. Overthrowing Castro was an obsession, not a rational goal, Bohning argues, because it did not serve vital U.S. interests. At the same time it did undermine the U.S. ability to achieve important foreign policy goals. Given Bohning's well-deserved reputation for balanced and accurate reporting, his judgment conveys a wisdom from which current policymakers could well benefit in many areas.

Philip Brenner is a professor at American University.

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'His authority was extraordinary. He was charming'
Hitler's nurse on his final hours
Luke Harding in Berlin
The Guardian
Monday May 2, 2005

Survivor of bunker tells of admiration for Goebbels' wife and hatred for Eva Braun

She is the last witness. For 60 years, Erna Flegal said nothing about her starring role in the Third Reich. Her family knew that in the last, desperate weeks of the second world war she had lived in Berlin. But she never spoke of her job as Hitler's nurse and of her time in the Führer's Berlin bunker.

Now, as the 60th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe nears, Ms Flegel has spoken out for the first time about her experiences - of Hitler's final hours, of her friendship with the "brilliant" Magda Goebbels, and her jealous loathing for Eva Braun. Her testimony casts fresh light on the last days of the Nazi era and has never appeared in the countless books written about Hitler.

In an interview with the Guardian, Ms Flegel, now 93 and living in a nursing home in north Germany, yesterday described how she began working as a Red Cross nurse at the Reichschancellery in Berlin in January 1943. She had been transferred there from the eastern front.

As the German army collapsed, Hitler stayed in Berlin continuously from November 1944, eventually retreating into the bunker with his entourage. From then on, Ms Flegal saw him frequently.

"I was in the building and someone said, 'The Führer is here,'" she said. "The first time it didn't particularly affect me. He was away from Berlin for a long time before someone announced again, 'The Führer is back.' Hitler shook hands with all the people he hadn't greeted before. After that he talked to us regularly.

"His authority was extraordinary. He was always polite and charming. There was really nothing to object to."

As the Russians approached, and Berlin came under direct artillery fire, the mood in the bunker changed. "The circle got increasingly small. People were pushed together. Everyone became more unassuming."

Ms Flegel's existence only emerged after the transcript of an interview she gave to American interrogators in November 1945 was declassified four years ago by the CIA. The Guardian discovered her insider's account of Hitler's final hours in a Washington vault and published it.

But her fate remained a mystery. Two months ago a Berlin-based newspaper, the BZ, tracked down her relatives via the German Red Cross and war archives. To the paper's astonishment, her family revealed that Ms Flegel was still alive.

She is the last surviving female witness to have been inside the bunker. Traudl Junge - Hitler's secretary, whose memoirs provided the inspiration for the Oscar-nominated film Downfall, and who gave numerous interviews to journalists and historians - died in 2002. The only other survivor, 88-year-old Rochus Misch, Hitler's telephonist, refuses to talk.

Speaking at her nursing home, which has a picturesque river view, Ms Flegel yesterday said that as the Russians had drawn closer to Berlin, those inside the bunker began to live "outside reality".

In the middle of April 1945, Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi's propaganda chief, his wife Magda and their six children moved in. Ms Flegel, whose original job had been to look after wounded SS soldiers, said she had got to know Magda Goebbels well. When it became clear that the situation was hopeless, she had tried to persuade her to send her children out of Berlin.

"She was a brilliant woman, on a far higher level than most people," Ms Flegel told the Guardian. "I wanted her to take at least one or two of them out of the city. But Mrs Goebbels simply said, 'I belong to my husband. And the children belong to me.'

"One evening she told me, 'I have to go to the dentist and can't be with them. I would like you to say goodnight to the children.' I said, 'Of course. I'll do it. Don't worry.'"

Ms Flegel, then 33, sang the children to sleep. "The children were charming. They would have delighted anybody. They played with each other in the bunker," she said. "They should have been allowed to live. They had nothing to do with what was going on around them. Not to spare the children was madness, dreadful."

Hitler was fond of them, she added, and drank hot chocolate with them and allowed them to use his bathtub.

Magda Goebbels, meanwhile, tolerated her husband's frequent and well-known infidelities. "She didn't say anything. Nobody liked Goebbels. There were always people who hung around him, of course. They included many women who were young and pretty, who had an easier time of it than the rest of us. I don't know the details. It was all gossip and trash."

In her original testimony, Ms Flegel also described how in the final days before his suicide on the afternoon of April 30 1945, Hitler had begun to crumble before her eyes. "When parts of Berlin were already occupied, and the Russians were coming closer and closer to the centre of the city, one could feel, almost physically, that the Third Reich was approaching its end," her statement said.

"Hitler required no care; I was exclusively there for the care of the wounded. To be sure, he had aged greatly in the last days; he now had a lot of grey hair, and gave the impression of a man at least 15 to 20 years older. He shook a good deal, walking was difficult for him, his right side was still very much weakened as a result of the attempt on his life."

Yesterday Ms Flegel said that before his wedding to Eva Braun on the night of April 28 Hitler "sank into himself".

In her statement she gives a shrewish portrait of Eva Braun, whom she dismisses as "a completely colourless personality". She would not have been conspicuous among a crowd of stenographers, she said.

Hitler's decision to marry Braun made it "immediately clear to me that this signified the end of the Third Reich", she added, claiming that the death of Hitler's wolfhound Blondi "affected us more" than Braun's suicide.

Yesterday Ms Flegel made little effort to hide her dislike of a woman, who, she suggested, was little more than a Hitler groupie. "Oh dear God. She didn't have any importance. Nobody expected much of her. She was just a young girl, really," she said of Braun, who was only six months her junior. "She wasn't really his wife."

By April 29, the once mighty German Reich had been reduced to an area the size of a large football field, stretching between Potsdamer Platz and Friedrichstrasse. Heavy fighting engulfed the city centre. Radio communications with the outside world ceased. Shock troops brought news of the latest Russian positions.

At 10.30pm that evening, Ms Flegel was summoned with the rest of the medical team to line up and take their leave of the Führer. "He came out of the side room, shook everyone's hand, and said a few friendly words. And that was it," she told the Guardian.

During her interrogation after the war she said: "At the end we were like a big family. The terrific dynamics of the fate which was unrolling held sway over all of us. We were Germany, and we were going through the end of the Third Reich and the war. Everything petty and external had fallen away."

The next afternoon Hitler shot himself. Braun took prussic acid. "There were a few people who heard it [the shot]. Others didn't," Ms Flegel said yesterday. "The remaining staff then had to decide whether to stay or not stay. I knew that Hitler was dead because there were suddenly more doctors in the bunker. I didn't see his body. But it was taken up to the chancellery garden and burned."

The next morning the survivors were told that they were released from their oath of loyalty and some, including Martin Bormann, Hitler's private secretary, joined an ill-fated attempt to fight their way out to the west. Others shot themselves. Ms Flegel said she had been convinced there was no way that Bormann, "an older man", could have survived.

Ms Flegel stayed and witnessed the deaths of the Goebbels family. Dr Helmut Kunz, a dentist, had injected the children aged four to 12 with poison, she said. Later the same evening their parents killed themselves.

Until Hitler's death Ms Flegel had not even considered survival, she said. "We simply didn't think about it," she told the Guardian. "We knew naturally, who was in charge, and until he was gone, we couldn't talk about it. The soldiers gradually left. Then they were suddenly gone. Many people tried to reach the U-Bahn in the hope that they could escape the Russians. Everybody was trying as bravely as they could to get out of this bedlam intact."

On the morning of May 2, 60 years ago today, Russians soldiers poked their head round the bunker's entrance.

"By this stage there were only six or seven of us left in the bunker," Ms Flegel said. "We knew the Russians were approaching. A [nursing] sister phoned up and said, 'The Russians are coming.'

"Then they turned up in the Reichschancellery. It was a huge building complex. The Germans were transported away."

Ms Flegel insists that the Russians she had encountered treated her "very humanely", despite the mass rape of German women by Russian soldiers elsewhere in the city. They had a "look round", discovered the bunker's underground supplies, and then left, she said, advising her to lock her front door.

The Red Army allowed her to continue work as a nurse for the next few months, treating wounded Russians, until she ended up in the hands of the US Strategic Services Unit, one of the precursors of the CIA.

Ms Flegel said her "interrogation" by the Americans in November 1945 was little more than an informal chat over dinner. "They invited us to have dinner with them and treated us to six different courses in order to soften us up. It didn't work with me, though."

Ms Flegel's testimony - including her conviction that Hitler was dead, an important statement for the victorious allies - was deemed sufficiently important that it remained classified.

The interview went missing until 1981, when a Connecticut doctor and amateur historian stumbled on it in an army archive and sent it to Richard Helms, the US intelligence chief in 1945 Berlin and later CIA director. He wrote back saying: "It is probably one of the most accurate interviews obtained and has thus far never been quoted, as far as I know, in any of the massive books about Hitler's Germany."

Yesterday Ms Flegel was evasive about her own attitude to the Nazi era and her role in it. Asked why she had kept quiet for so long about her job as Hitler's nurse, she replied: "After 1945 people started pointing fingers at each other. A great many people didn't say anything. Later it was still a source of controversy. I didn't discuss it."

She had never been tempted to write her memoirs. "I didn't want to make myself important."

The film Downfall, which she watched in her nursing home, gave an accurate portrayal of the Third Reich and its final hours, she said. "They got a few small details wrong. But generally it was correct," she said, adding: "I even recognised myself as a nursing sister."

After the war, Ms Flegel continued her career as a nurse, and also worked as a youth social worker and travelled to remote regions including Ladakh and Tibet. She never married. At the age of 90 she visited Crimea where she had worked as a nurse during the war before her transfer to Berlin.

At 93, she is still mobile and lucid. She has few visitors. The only memento in her tiny room of her time at Hitler's side is a Reichschancellery tablecloth.

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Rumsfeld offered Saddam freedom- Report
5/1/2005 3:18:00 PM GMT

The U.S. Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld paid a secret visit to former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and offered him freedom and a possible return to public life if he made a televised request to rebel groups for a ceasefire with allied forces, a media report said.

Quoting from the London based Arab daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Ynetnews reported that Saddam promptly rejected the offer.

The visit to Saddam occurred when Rumsfeld paid a ‘surprise’ visit to Iraq some two weeks ago and was known only to a few Iraqi officials in Jordan, the Arab daily reported quoting sources. [...]

Comment: Yup, the phoney Saddam in prison in Iraq. We haven't been hearing much about him recently. The real Saddam must be looking on from wherever he was squirreled away with much amusement.

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U.S. jets vanish over Iraq, 1 pilot found dead
Last Updated Tue, 03 May 2005 09:24:27 EDT
CBC News

BAGHDAD, IRAQ - The U.S. military has found the body of one of its missing pilots after losing contact with two Marine Corps. fighter jets over Iraq, officials said Wednesday.

The military last heard from the F/A-18 Hornet jets at about 10:10 p.m. local time on Monday night, a spokesman said.

Staff Sgt. Nick Minecci said there was "no initial indication of hostile fire" involved in the area at the time.

Early Wednesday, the military said in a brief statement that one pilot's body had been found.

It did not reveal whether any wreckage had been found, or where the pilot's body has been located.

There was speculation that the jets might have collided.

The jets were from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

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Italy blames US soldiers for killing
Tuesday 03 May 2005, 6:06 Makka Time, 3:06 GMT

Italy has blamed US soldiers manning a Baghdad roadblock for the killing of Italian agent Nicola Calipari.

Despite being an ally of the United States, Rome also criticised the US military for failing to establish rules for checkpoints in Iraq.

In a 52-page report on the "friendly fire" incident, Italy said the shooting of Calipari was not intentional, but it took issue with US findings released at the weekend that exonerated US troops.

Calipari was shot by US soldiers on the night of 4 March as he was escorting freed hostage Giuliana Sgrena to Baghdad airport.

Conflicting accounts

The US inquiry into the incident, in which Sgrena and another Italian secret service agent were wounded, determined it was a "tragic accident" and that US forces followed correct procedures.

Italy sat on the same inquiry, but refused to sign on to the US conclusions and instead issued its own findings in which it accused US troops of failing to set up "the most elementary precautions" to warn drivers of the approaching checkpoint.

"The attention with which the roadblock was planned and organised was careless to say the least," the report said.

It also denied there were communication problems between the Italians and the US forces before the shooting.

"It is likely that tension ... inexperience and stress led some of the US troops to react instinctively and with little control," the Italians said.

Strained ties

The dispute has strained ties between Rome and Washington, prompting calls in Italy for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to withdraw 3000 Italian troops deployed in Iraq.

The US report put much of the blame on Italy for the fatal shooting, saying Italian agents had failed to communicate to US officials their plans to take Sgrena to the airport.

Rome denied that, saying US authorities were "indisputably" aware of the presence of Calipari and a second Italian agent in Baghdad even if "it is likely that they were not aware of the details of their mission".

It added that the Italian agents were not under any obligation to inform the US military about their journey to the airport, but said the roadblock should have adequate signals to give drivers a chance to slow down.

The Italian report condemned the US military for failing to lay down precise rules for its checkpoints, saying this had added to the confusion.

"The lack of formal reference points within clear rules, which could and should have been observed, makes it difficult to identify precisely ... individual responsibilities," it added.

Scared soldiers

The seven US reservists involved had been warned of attacks in the area and were forced to stay in an exposed temporary roadblock position for much longer than was necessary or normal because of a lapse in US communications.

"It is likely that tension ... inexperience and stress led some of the US troops to react instinctively and with little control"

Italian report

When the Italian car approached, the soldier first flashed a spotlight at it, then had to fire warning shots and finally lethal rounds, all within seconds, the US report said.

The Italians said the soldier had been given far too many tasks.

"He said he felt threatened by the approaching car, to have thought about his daughters and was literally overwhelmed by actions that needed to be performed in very little time," the report said.

The report also criticised US forces for removing forensic evidence from the scene of the shooting, making it impossible to reconstruct the precise chain of events.

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New Iraqi government to be sworn in
Tuesday 03 May 2005, 15:52 Makka Time, 12:52 GMT

Iraq's new government is set to be sworn in on Tuesday after successful last-minute talks between Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Sunni Arab legislators on filling remaining portfolios.

The agreement followed the Iraqi National Assembly's approval for a partial cabinet lineup.

The government will be sworn in at 5pm (1300 GMT) at a ceremony in the Green Zone, a high-security area in Baghdad which is home to parliament and the US embassy, government protocol chief Jasim Msawil said.

It was not immediately clear if all ministry posts had been filled or if some interim appointments that were agreed to on Thursday would remain in effect.

Shia-Sunni deal

Al-Jaafari and Sunni Arab legislators reportedly reached a deal on Monday to appoint Sunni Arab figures chosen by them as ministers in the interim government.

In an interview with Aljazeera on Monday, Iraqi MP Mishaan al-Jiburi said Sunni Arabs had been under-represented at the ministerial level.

"Several parties have attempted to appoint representatives for us in the government based on their own values and points of view, but in the end our viewpoint has prevailed," al-Jiburi said.

"However, we regret that others were able to veto our nominees, without us Sunni Arabs having the same power of vetoing their nominees."

The MP noted that while Shia politicians had vetoed Sunni nominees, Sunnis had not been empowered to use any veto themselves.

Two issues

Al-Jiburi said that while nobody could claim to represent Sunni Iraqis - due to election boycotts and a fragile security situation - two issues were of particular concern to them.

"Freeing detainees and reconsidering the law for eliminating the Baath Party ... these are Sunni Arab demands which the Iraqi government has pledged to include in its official speech tomorrow," he said.

Al-Jaafari announced a partial lineup last Thursday after several weeks of political haggling, but several key posts were left vacant and Sunni leaders complained of under-representation. [...]

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Israel to be sued by slain British film makers family
5/2/2005 7:00:00 PM GMT

British documentary filmmaker James Miller whose family are to sue Israel.

It emerged today that the family of the award-winning British film maker shot dead in Gaza by Israeli occupation forces (IOF) is taking civil action against the Israeli government.

James Miller was making a documentary about Palestinian children in the Rafah refugee camp when he was murdered by an Israeli soldier in May 2003.

The 34-year-old Miller and his colleagues were attempting to leave the home of a Palestinian family in Rafah on May 2. The group attests they were carrying a white flag and called out to troops stationed nearby to inform them that they were British journalists.

As they walked towards an armoured personnel carrier, a soldier opened fire and seconds later aimed a second shot at reporters, striking the father-of-two in the neck between his body armour and helmet.

The officer who fired the deadly shot is a first lieutenant in the Bedouin Desert Reconnaissance Battalion and was commanding the unit at the time of the killing.

He was due to face a disciplinary hearing but was then acquitted by Brigadier General Guy Tzur, the head of the army's southern command.

A spokeswoman for the family said that Israeli lawyers and human rights lawyer Avigdor Feldman issued a writ yesterday on behalf of the family against the state of Israel in connection with his death two years ago.

His wife Sophy, 34, and family have fought a long campaign to bring his killer to justice.

Mrs. Miller said: "In our first meeting with the (IOF) in July 2003 we said categorically that we would not go away and our resolve has never been stronger.

"It is easy to fight compared to living without James.

"In placing James' case in the hands of the judiciary will stand to serve truth and justice. We are hopeful that the supreme court will act where politicians and institutions have failed."

She added: "The recent (IOF) decision not to indict the officer responsible and its acquittal of that officer even with the disciplinary measures recommended by the advocate general does nothing to change our perceptions that there is a culture of impunity in the Israeli military.

"It is our hope that as well as accountability for James' death a successful civil case will go somewhere towards changing this and in doing so may make Israeli soldiers think twice about shooting innocent civilians."

Mr Miller's sister Katie added: "The family has been given no choice but to issue a civil writ at enormous personal and financial cost, it being the only route left open to finding an approximation of justice for a man who dedicated his personal life to exposing injustice."

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4's Today programme Katie Miller said: "The basic tenets of our argument are that they know we know who fired that fatal shot.

"They deliberated for 13 seconds before taking that shot and the officer has been cleared of even disciplinary charges and continues to command a unit, which is not justice in our view.

"It looks quite unlikely the single individual will have justice meted out in the form that we would expect from this country.

"What we would like to do would be to make the idea more accountable that before the next soldier pulls the trigger against an innocent civilian carrying a white flag they would think twice."

Comment: The death of James Miller is one instance among many of journalists becoming targets. It isn't enough that the media is completely in the hands of those doing the killing, ensuring that most people do not get any alternate news sources. The journalists who are attempting to get a different point of view out must be silenced. If it isn't by a bullet, it is through kidnapping. A climate of terror is being intalled to ensure that voices of truth become to afraid to speak out.

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Journalist death toll in 2004 was worst since 1955
Lisa Marks
Tuesday May 3, 2005

Reporters Without Borders has branded 2004 "a year of mourning" after 53 journalists were killed around the world.

It is the highest number of deaths since 1955, when at the height of attacks by Islamic radicals in Algeria more than 50 journalists lost their lives.

Robert Menard, the group president of Reporters Without Borders, said: "It goes to show how we're in a period of violence that is beyond common measure, when more people are taking aim at journalists, and wars are more and more dangerous for the press."

Iraq remains the most dangerous place to be, with 19 journalists and 12 of their assistants killed in the country in 2004. More than a dozen journalists have been kidnapped.

The Committee to Protect Journalists this week listed the five deadliest spots for journalists over the past five years. They are Iraq, the Philippines, Colombia, Bangladesh and Russia. So far this year 22 journalists have been killed worldwide - nine of them in Iraq.

At this tough time for reporters, groups around the world met today to mark the 15th World Press Freedom day.

The theme of this year's three-day conference in Dakar is media and good governance.

Mr Koichiro Matsuura, the director general of Unesco, said: "World Press Freedom Day is an opportunity to remind the world of the importance of protecting the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and freedom of the press as stated in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

"Without these rights, democracy cannot prevail and development remains unattainable. Unesco has decided to pay tribute to this critical role played by the media in promoting democracy and good governance by choosing media and good governance as the key theme for this year's celebration."

And today the International News Safety Institute formally launched a global inquiry into the rising death toll among journalists.

The investigation, which is the first of its kind, is led by a panel comprising news organisations, individual journalists, journalist support groups and legal experts.

The committee's chairman, Richard Sambrook, who is the director of BBC Global News, said: "It is entirely fitting that we launch this inquiry today.

"There is no greater threat to press freedom around the world than the deaths of journalists seeking to keep free societies informed."

The inquiry aims to examine the reasons behind the killings. It will hear from journalists who have direct experience of violence aimed at the news media in their own countries as well as on foreign assignment.

The first of these fact-finding sessions will be held in Kuala Lumpur for Asian journalists on May 10, followed by Doha on May 23 for journalists in the Middle East.

Killings are not the only way to silence journalists. Reporters Without Borders also report that 107 journalists were in prison around the world on January 1 2005. China remains the world's biggest prison for journalists, with 26 detained.

The press freedom group, which has been monitoring trouble spots for over 20 years, suffered its first loss in December with the murder of its Gambia correspondent.

Deyda Hydara, who was the co-editor of The Point newspaper in Gambia and correspondent of Agence France-Presse, was shot dead by gunmen. He was one of the most widely read government critics.

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Paris rejects call to disarm Hizb Allah
Tuesday 03 May 2005, 15:25 Makka Time, 12:25 GMT

France has turned down a US request to call for the disarmament of Hizb Allah in Lebanon.

Aljazeera learned from sources close to French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier - on a visit to Washington - that Paris did not respond to the US demand and avoided talking about Hizb Allah.

After Barnier's meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the two countries issued a joint statement welcoming the formation of the new Lebanese government and its intention to hold a free and just election.

The statement stressed that the new government should spread its control over all Lebanese territories, but stopped short of pointing out Hizb Allah.

Lebanese journalist Ibrahim Awad told Aljazeera from Beirut the French position had been vacillating in the past few days.

He said France first called for the disarming of the resistance group Hizb Allah, but later issued another statement saying Paris understood the situation and the issue should be a pure Lebanese one, he said.

He added that the French position was not clear.

"When France says the Lebanese government should spread its sovereignty over all Lebanese lands, it hints at southern Lebanon, where Hizb Allah is based," Awad said.

"All US demands focus now on deploying army troops in southern Lebanon. However, Lebanon has always rejected this issue under the justification that army troops cannot be deployed in areas close to, or face to face with, the enemy [Israel]," he added. [...]

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Mystery French 'rail bombing' deadline approaches

PARIS, May 2 (AFP) - France on Monday set up a crisis cell on the eve of a deadline set by the shadowy AZF group, which in March threatened train bombings - a new "Madrid tragedy" - if Paris did not fulfil its demands for money.

"Save yourselves from the Madrid tragedy," said the group, in reference to the March 11, 2004, train bomb attacks in Spain that killed 191 people.

"Do not compromise your fellow citizens' security," it said in a letter sent on March 15 to both French President Jacques Chirac and the interior ministry.

"From May 3, we will again be in contact with you," the group - or individual - wrote, adding that it expected a response to its
eventual demands "within a short period of time".

The letter did not specify a monetary amount demanded by the group.

Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin, whose ministry has set up the crisis response team to coordinate dealings with AZF, said: "Our services are mobilized to act discreetly."

The March letters bore a different logo but used the same code name as a group that first appeared in December 2003, threatening to blow up French railway lines unless it was paid millions of euros in cash.

The February 2004 discovery of a sophisticated bomb hidden under stones on a train line between Paris and Toulouse underlined the seriousness of the initial AZF threat.

Police and the first group of blackmailers communicated via classified ads in the daily press, lending a veneer of intrigue to the case, which was only heightened with the failure of a complex ransom drop in March 2004.

On March 25 last year - one day after another of its devices was found on a railway line - AZF suspended its actions, but warned it would be back with a more effective "force of persuasion".

The name AZF is believed to refer to the AZF factory in the south-western city of Toulouse that was destroyed in an explosion in September 2001. The blast killed 30 people and injured more than 1,000.

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Beijing to lift ban on travel to Taiwan
www.chinaview.cn 2005-05-03 09:51:05

SHANGHAI, May 3 (Xinhuanet) -- Relevant departments of the Chinese mainland will soon allow mainland residents to tour in Taiwan, according to an announcement made here Tuesday morning by Chen Yunlin, director of the Taiwan Work Office of CPC Central Committee and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.

Removal of the ban for mainland residents to travel to Taiwan will not just expand people-to-people contacts between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits, but is conducive to boosting Taiwan's tourism, food and beverage and other related industries and will bring concrete benefits to the general public in Taiwan as well, said Chen.

"For reasons known to all, the issue was long pending," he said."The Kuomintang (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) have expressed on many occasions the Taiwan compatriots' desire for mainland residents to travel to Taiwan -- the PFP has come up with specific proposals on this issue." [...]

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NZ halts offshore "high-risk" visa processing
www.chinaview.cn 2005-05-03 21:54:10

WELLINGTON, May 3 (Xinhuanet) -- New Zealand Government stopped from Tuesday offshore processing of "high-risk" visa applications after two former high-ranking Iraqi officials entered the country.

They came in on visitor's visas issued at the New Zealand Embassy in Bangkok, said the government.

Immigration Minister Paul Swain confirmed Amer Mahdi Alkhashali,a former Iraq Minister for Agriculture and Agrarian Reform under the Saddam Hussein regime, is in New Zealand.

The second man, former Iraqi ambassador to Cuba and Bangladesh, had his visitor's visa revoked Monday following a search of records by the Immigration Service.

"I am extremely unhappy with this situation," Swain told reporters.

The minister said he no longer had confidence in the approval process for visa applications from "high risk" countries at the Immigration Service's Bangkok office.

The New Zealand Embassy in Bangkok processes all visa applications from Asia and the Middle East, which account for about 90 percent of requests from 54 countries deemed "high risk" following new immigration procedures introduced two years ago.

Swain issued Tuesday night instructions to the Immigration Service that all applications from all high risk countries under all immigration categories now be processed in New Zealand.

He also announced the establishment of a special team to process the applications and review all applications from high risk countries over the past two years.

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Death toll from rare virus in Angola reaches 280; fatality rate of 89%
10:02 AM EDT May 03

LUANDA, Angola (AP) - The rare Marburg virus has killed 280 people in Angola over the past six months, at a fatality rate of 89 per cent, authorities said.

The Health Ministry and the World Health Organization said in a joint statement late Monday that officials have recorded 313 cases since the outbreak began in October.

All but 11 of the deaths have occurred in the northern province of Uige, where international medical organizations are helping local officials combat the epidemic.

There is no cure for the Ebola-like virus, which spreads through contact with bodily fluids and can kill rapidly. Entire families have died from Marburg, officials say.

The last and previously most severe outbreak of Marburg occurred in neighbouring Congo between 1998 and 2000, killing 128 people.

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Powerful quake jolts western Iran
5/3/2005 11:00:00 AM GMT

Iran is located on some of the world's most active seismic fault lines

A powerful earthquake measuring 5.5 degrees on the Richter scale shook the western Iranian town of Borujerd on Tuesday, the official news agency IRNA has reported.

The agency added that there hasn’t been immediate reports of damages or injuries.

The quake hit Borujerd and its surrounding areas, located in Lorestan province, at 11:51 am (07:21 GMT).

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

Last February another strong earthquake struck Zarand causing widespread destruction in the area.

The quake, measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale, struck the town at 05:55 hours local time (02:25 GMT) on Feb 22, 2005, killing over 600 people and injuring over thousands others.

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

It totally destroyed four villages and damaged some 40 villages by over 25 percent.

On Dec 26, 2003, a devastating earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 on the Richter scale flattened the Iranian city of Bam, killing more than 30,000 people and injuring thousands more.

Iran is located on some of the world's most active seismic fault lines.

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Strong shallow earthquakes in South Island
03.05.05 12.00pm

Two strong, shallow earthquakes near Haast on the West Coast early today reportedly caused minimal damage, but were felt as far away as Christchurch.

The first quake, measuring 6 on the Richter scale, struck at 3.35am 10km south of Haast, the second five minutes later measured 5.7 and was 10km southwest of the town. Both were between 10km and 15km deep.

Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences seismologist Ken Gledhill told NZPA the quakes appeared to have been strongly felt in Haast.

"But I think they're rugged individuals there. I talked to someone who runs a motel there, who said it was a decent earthquake but no real damage. It sounded like some goods off shelves."

The centres of the two earthquakes had been close together and close to the Alpine Fault, which ran almost the length of the South Island, Dr Gledhill said.

But today's quakes appeared to be a kind of pushing up motion, rather than along, so were probably not directly related to the fault.

The second earthquake was larger than normal for an aftershock, but otherwise there had been fewer and smaller aftershocks than would have been expected.

A couple of magnitude 3 aftershocks had been felt, but for a shallow magnitude 6 earthquake, several magnitude 5 aftershocks would have been expected, he said.

Scientists were considering whether to move extra equipment to the area to get more information about today's earthquakes, but that would only be worthwhile if there were many aftershocks.

The quake was strong enough to wake people on the other side of the South Island. The first shake was felt in Christchurch, 360km from Haast, as a strong, sharp swaying for about 10 seconds. The aftershock was felt for about five seconds.

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Meteor light show peaks on Thursday
Date: 03/05/05
By Rosemary Desmond

One of the most spectacular meteor displays of the year is on show this week for those up early enough to see it.

Up to 50 meteors an hour will charge into the Earth's atmosphere as it passes through the eta Aquarids, the trail of gravel and ice left in the wake of Halley's Comet, said Vince Ford at the Mount Stromlo Observatory near Canberra.

Activity this year will peak in the north-eastern sky a couple of hours before dawn on Thursday morning before the meteors taper off, Mr Ford said.

"Usually these travel fairly fast and because these are in the morning, we are meeting them head-on," he said.

"Sometimes you get yellows and greens, rather than just the normal orange streak, depending on the sort of gravel you run into and if it's mostly ice or a little bit of gravel mixed in."

Halley's Comet has swept through the inner solar system every 76 years and every autumn, the Earth travels through the comet's trail of particles up to the size of a small pea.

These slam into the earth's atmosphere at such speed they heat it until glowed, creating a meteor shower visible without a telescope.

Mr Ford said not all meteor showers were visible from the southern hemisphere but Australians would be able to get a good view of the eta Aquarids.

"It's worth getting up to have a look at," he said.

The next major meteor show will be the Perseids in August.

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Study Finds Reno and Tahoe at Risk of Major Quake
News 10

Seismologists say detailed mapping of faults suggests that Washoe Valley, the Minden area and Lake Tahoe Basin lie in a greater earthquake hazard zone than previously thought.

Scientists are basing that conclusion on detailed mapping of three active faults under Lake Tahoe. The information was presented at the annual Seismological Society of America meeting in Incline Village last week.

The mapping of the Incline Village, West Tahoe, and North Tahoe/Stateline faults under the lake shows there have been three prehistoric earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater. San Diego State University and Nevada seismologists were able to examine the Incline Village fault in some detail last summer because part of it is exposed in the community of Incline Village. The fault also runs right next to an elementary school.

Seismologists are not certain if the three lake faults are interconnected. If they are, an earthquake in one could trigger movement in the others.

Since the faults run under Lake Tahoe, scientists also predict an earthquake could trigger a tsunami. They estimated the tidal wave could reach 10 meters, or nearly 40 feet high.

Although the likely location of earthquakes can be determined, the "when" of earthquakes is much less precise. The seismologists who studied the Lake Tahoe faults estimated the region could experience a quake of 3.0 or greater magnitude in the next 50 years.

Last summer a swarm of about 1,600 tiny earthquakes struck the Lake Tahoe region. At the time, the California Geological Survey office said the earthquakes may have been caused by magma moving deep in the earth.

The general area's most recent large earthquake was a magnitude 6.0 temblor that shook the nearby Donner Pass region in 1943. The earthquake cracked dams on the Truckee River, damaged the dome of the Nevada state capitol in Carson City and was felt as far away as San Francisco.

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Quake insurance just a bad deal
Whittier Daily News

NEW laws making it tougher to declare bankruptcy coupled with a low number of earthquake-insured dwellings could leave homeowners holding a bag of broken dreams should a major earthquake destroy their homes. Only about 15 percent of homeowners carry earthquake insurance under the auspices of the California Earthquake Authority, the only earthquake coverage available.

The reason? Policies carry high deductibles, making owners responsible for 15 percent of repair costs. That can mean $75,000 on the average priced home, now pushing $300,000 in our region.

Once the ground stopped shaking from the 6.7 Northridge temblor of 1994, the biggest insurance companies in the state were staring at $12.5 billion in insured residential damage alone.

These major carriers threatened to leave the state and refused to write new homeowner policies until the state law mandating earthquake coverage was repealed. Lawmakers instead mandated bare-bones mini-policies.

Despite considerably reducing their risk, insurers dug in and held out on issuing new policies, a move that threatened the housing market in the state.

The Legislature responded in 1996 by creating the California Earthquake Authority, taking private companies out of the earthquake-insurance market except through the authority. Composed of a consortium of insurance companies, the state- run insurance program offers high cost coupled with high deductibles to the insured but comparatively low risk to carriers.

Clearly, these high-priced, low return policies aren't' high on consumers' lists of must haves. They should be. But CEA further limits choice by tying coverage to homeowner insurance through member insurers.

Little wonder then that so few California homeowners carry earthquake insurance, figuring they could declare bankruptcy and/or turn to low-rate government loans or no-cost grants. Now Congress has made it tougher for individuals to declare bankruptcy.

That ought to move the state Legislature to lower the deductibles under CEA, even if that means higher premiums. Californians don't mind paying but they would like a better return on what can be more than a $1,000 annual premium in addition to homeowner's insurance. [...]

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USGS report stresses danger of park volcano

Of The Gazette Staff
Billings Gazette

Yellowstone National Park harbors a potentially dangerous volcanic system and more needs to be done to keep track of it, according to a new report by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Improving monitoring at Yellowstone is listed as a "high priority" along with watching volcanoes in Alaska, California, Washington, Oregon and Hawaii.

The report, the first-ever comprehensive review of the 169 volcanoes in the United States, calls for a round-the-clock National Volcano Early Warning System that can help predict hazardous volcanic eruptions.

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

'Basic level' monitoring

About half of the most threatening volcanoes are monitored at a "basic level" and a few are well-monitored with a suite of modern instruments, the report said. But in some places, the equipment is sparse, antiquated or nonexistent.

There are 24 seismic stations keeping track of volcanic activity at Yellowstone, including 19 inside the park's borders. There are also six global positioning system stations that watch the "huffing and puffing" of the Yellowstone caldera.

Henry Heasler, Yellowstone's lead geologist, said officials at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory are looking into upgrades for the seismic stations and an additional six GPS stations.

Those tools will help improve efforts to better understand the volcanic system and detect major activity.

"For volcanic eruptions, we're working hard to approach adequate," Heasler said.

But Heasler said there's a "major concern" that very little is being done to monitor for small hydrothermal explosions in geyser basins, events that are local but can be dangerous.

Heasler also said more work needs to be done to monitor the sometimes-poisonous gas emitted by Yellowstone's vast geothermal network. Last year, five bison dropped dead near Norris Geyser Basin after inhaling toxic gases that were trapped near the ground by unusually cold and windless weather.

"It gave fairly dramatic evidence that gases should be monitored in the park," Heasler said.

Officials are planning to put together a long-range plan for the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory that will provide a future road map for monitoring and prioritize equipment and instrumentation.

"The ultimate goal is public safety whether that be volcanic eruptions or small hydrothermal explosions," Heasler said.

The USGS report said there have been 45 eruptions and 15 cases of "notable volcanic unrest" at 33 U.S. volcanoes since 1980, including activity at Yellowstone.

Volcanoes of the highest priority

The report highlighted several "highest priority" volcanoes that need better monitoring. Topping the list were Mount St. Helens and 36 others in the Cascades, Alaska and Hawaii.

Unlike many other natural hazards, volcanic eruptions can be anticipated in the days, or perhaps years, of unrest when magma rises toward the Earth's surface, the report said. With proper equipment and networks, enough warning can be given to forewarn communities at risk.

Failing to set up a "robust" monitoring network is "socially and scientifically unsatisfactory" and will leave scientists and communities to simply react to a dangerous situation rather than prepare for it, the report said.

At Yellowstone, monitoring volcanic activity comes with a few other points to consider, Heasler said. When deploying new equipment, scientists try to minimize the effects on the natural environment and the animals that live there, he said.

"It's an interesting balance between getting the necessary information versus preserving the wilderness," Heasler said.

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Another Warning - Another Arkansas Earthquake
Sam Penny

Sunday's moderate earthquake in northern Arkansas on the New Madrid Fault warns us that the fault will someday fracture like it did in 1811 and 1812. The US Geological Survey says the odds are one in ten that will happen in the next fifty years. When the earthquake happens, it could destroy 10% of the US GDP and kill or injure hundreds of thousands. More attention, planning, and preparation must be given to this worst natural disaster that could tear the heart out of our country.

(PRWEB) May 3, 2005 -- Sunday morning, May 1, at 7:37:32 am, yet another moderate earthquake struck on the New Madrid Fault. It measured magnitude 4.1, the same as the warning of just over two months ago on February 10. Once again seismic forces ripped a fracture the size of a 160-acre farm through the basement rock, this time 10 kilometers below the Little River drainage, 6 miles west-southwest of Dell, Arkansas. Residents of Keiser a few miles south reported the shaking intensity in their town as high as level VI, strong enough to cause some damage.

Residents in six states reported feeling the shaking – from Little Rock, Arkansas, to Nashville, Tennessee, and from Carbondale, Illinois, to Tupelo, Mississippi, and even folks in Alabama. Some in sophisticated Memphis, 50 miles away, wondered if the time for the Big One had come when the level IV shaking began.

The New Madrid Seismic Zone, stretching from east central Arkansas to the southern tip of Illinois, is a major source of concern to the US Geological Survey and FEMA. The fault zone fractured in 1811 and 1812, producing a series of giant earthquakes felt across what is now the eastern half of the United States. The heaving of the land created ten new lakes in the Mississippi valley, tilted the land, and forced the Mississippi River to run backwards. It reportedly rang church bells in Boston, over a thousand miles away—the strongest earthquake to strike the contiguous 48 States in recorded history.

The USGS says there is a one in ten chance of another giant earthquake on the New Madrid Fault in the next fifty years. Most seismologists agree that a giant New Madrid earthquake is eventually inevitable. It is only a matter of time before an earthquake of magnitude 7.9, roughly the size of the first earthquake that struck December 16, 1811, once again fractures the New Madrid.

In the novel Memphis 7.9, the fictional Dr. Paul Kenton reported on the first fictional earthquake, “At 9:12 this morning a magnitude 4.4 earthquake occurred at a depth of 11.3 kilometers with an epicenter near Dell, Arkansas. While this temblor is stronger than usual, events like this are a common occurrence on the New Madrid Seismic Zone, and there is nothing to worry about.”

“There is nothing to worry about”—words to live in infamy, words some continue to use today.

How Bad Could It Be—What Is The Risk?

An estimated five thousand white settlers and black slaves could be found along the Mississippi River in 1811, and less than a million resided west of the Appalachian Mountains. These hardy frontiersmen and their families lived close to the earth in the forests and along the riverbanks in log cabins or on their boats. Eleven deaths were officially reported, but some historians estimate that as many as a thousand souls perished along the river during the two months of shaking. The fatality rate in the fracture zone could have been 10% or more.

The USGS and FEMA have published studies to estimate the expected shaking intensity from earthquakes of various magnitudes along the New Madrid Fault. When those estimates are cross-multiplied by the US census, the results are staggering. Today, an estimated 32,000,000 people live in the 300,000-square-mile area surrounding the fault that would be at risk of significant damage from a giant earthquake of magnitude 7.9 on the New Madrid.

In a worst-case scenario, the death toll would be 20,000 and grow to 80,000 if major flooding resulted from the shaking. Half a million people would be injured, and as many as 10,000,000 could be left homeless. And to make matters worse, the 99% who survive—and are faced with bringing about the recovery of the United States—could find that 10% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product and 20% of its shipping capacity had been wiped out in the space of 13 minutes, the time it takes for the seismic waves to spread across the eastern half of our country from an epicenter on the New Madrid.

The seismic events of February and May in Arkansas tell us once again that the New Madrid Seismic Zone is a very active fault. It is only a matter of time before another giant earthquake will once again rip through the center of the United States. There is no way to stop the earthquake, but we can—and must—reduce the potential damage.

Preparation and Planning Make a Difference.

A lesson for our country to learn is that by becoming aware and preparing and planning, we can make a difference. Too often, local leaders and business interests downplay the danger, unwilling to invest in a safe future even when the risk is the destruction of our country’s way of life. The human race can significantly reduce the level of the tragedy associated with such a natural disaster, but not by sticking its collective head in the sand.

Pro-active leadership is required. Support of the seismological and structural research efforts of the Universities, the public education efforts of the Central United States Earthquake Consortium, and the preparedness and mitigation efforts of the state and local Emergency Management Agencies is vital. More funding from the government and business is needed. Public awareness of what the future holds is essential.

Five years ago some scientists wondered, “What would happen if a giant tsunami should strike in the Indian Ocean?” Now they know. Had the governments been proactive at that time, the toll would have been much less than the 325,000 who have died so far.

Now is the time for everyone across the country to realize the stake they have in how well the people in the New Madrid damage zone plan and prepare for this inevitable event. True, it may not happen in our lifetime, but what if it does? Now is the time to become proactive in the central United States.

Mother Nature gives us only so many warnings. After May 1 we have two less than at the beginning of the year on the New Madrid.

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