Saturday-Sunday, May 07-08, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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©2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte

Moronic Quote of the Week:

"I love the fact that you're a free nation and willing to speak out so clearly for freedom"

- (Unelected) US President Bush, on his arrival in Latvia Saturday 7th May 2005

Row After Columnist's Article On Stolen 2004 Election

Mainstream Journo Penning Election Reform Column Has Article Rejected for First Time in Career!

What began innocently enough with a watershed article several weeks ago by Tribune Media Service's Robert Koehler on the need for Election Reform and an investigation into the results of Election 2004, has now erupted into a full-fledged firestorm resulting Wednesday afternoon in the unprecedented rejection of Koehler's latest column by the higher-ups at TMS where Koehler is both a columnist and editor!

Tribune Media Services is the syndication arm of the Tribune Company which, in turn, is the parent company to the Chicago Tribune.

Koehler's original ground-breaking column from April -- the first by an American Mainstream Media journalist that we know of to out-and-out charge that the 2004 Election was stolen -- was written a few days after Koehler attended the National Election Reform Conference last month in Nashville. The piece was headlined "The Silent Scream of Numbers: The 2004 election was stolen - will someone please tell the media?"

He followed it up the next week with another stunner headlined "Democracy's Abu Ghraib - If they can disable an election, what's coming next?"

While both pieces were distributed via TMS to syndicate member newspapers, only a handful chose to run either of those two columns.

Most notably, however, despite Chicago Tribune itself having chosen to run neither column, their "Public Editor", Don Wycliffe, found it appropriate to write a column in the Trib's pages wherein he rebutted Koehler's original piece. Wycliff's rebuttal, as reported here previously, attempted to discredit Koehler's column, Koehler himself, and those of us who might give a damn about democracy and the responsibility that the people (and yes, that would include the media) have to remain vigilant in order to sustain it.

Wycliff's column, citing the "moral example" of Richard Nixon (yes, not kidding) as the figure whom American's ought to follow in regards to potentially stolen elections, has erupted in a torrent of email directed towards the misguided and/or misinformed Wycliff and in support of Koehler.

Koehler once again hits a home-run with this week's column in response to Wycliff's. Or at least he would have had the Masters of Tribune Media Services not killed the article for the first time in Koehler's career!...

Here's the spiked column that haw been posted on Koehler's personal website, Common Wonders


By Robert C. Koehler
Tribune Media Services

"Where there is a free press the governors must live in constant awe of the opinions of the governed." - Lord Macaulay (one of many stirring quotes on the sacred role of the Fourth Estate adorning the lobby of the Chicago Tribune)

My fantasy of the mainstream media actually doing their job, and living up to the words they carve in marble to describe their own importance, is an 80-point (Terri Schiavo- or even Pope John Paul II-sized) headline running across the top of tomorrow's paper: ELECTION RESULTS IN DOUBT.

That would stop a few hearts. But the nation's major newspapers, even as they struggle with declining readership, have no intention of being quite that relevant to their readers - no intention, it appears, even to begin the process of looking into the hornets' nest of vote fraud allegations abuzz in meticulously researched reports on electronic voting (see or the voluminous Conyers Report on what happened in Ohio on Nov. 2 (see

Isn't our democracy at stake? Doesn't that matter?

"If John Kerry and the Ohio Democratic Party and all the other folks who had the most to gain from the election were making this challenge, I would get interested. But when the people with the most at stake don't step up, I'm suspicious."

So Don Wycliff, the Chicago Tribune's public editor, wrote to me in an e-mail exchange a few days ago, explaining why he, if not the Tribune itself, had no intention of investigating the issue with any seriousness.

It followed a strange breach in the Tribune's deathly silence on the irregularities of the 2000 and 2004 elections, which came about after readers began bombarding the Tribune with mail suggesting they run a column I had written, "The Silent Scream of Numbers," addressing these irregularities and reporting on a national election-reform conference in Nashville last month.

My column didn't run, but Wycliff wrote a column, "When Winning Isn't Everything," dismissing their concerns and telling them to ponder the moral leadership of Richard Nixon, who patriotically swallowed his close defeat in 1960 without complaint. In others words, shut up and get over it.

Wycliff was speaking only for himself, not "the media," but because his column was one of the few pieces to appear in a major publication even acknowledging that a huge number of Americans are distraught at mounting evidence of large-scale disenfranchisement in 2004 (and no guarantee that 2006 and 2008 will be any different), his words, by default, have special resonance. They stand in for the prejudices of the media as a whole.

Of all my objections to what he wrote, his contention that Kerry has the most at stake in all this is the most dispiriting, and most reflects the wrongheaded, "horse race" coverage of elections the media have shoved down our throats for as long as I can remember.

In his column, Wycliff even used a sports analogy, pointing out that "it's not the pregame prognostication and expert opinions that count, but the numbers on the scoreboard after the contest has actually been played." The Bush team won; the Kerry team lost. And the voters must be the equivalent of sports fans then, either jubilant or disappointed when the game is over, but couch potatoes either way, not participants.

Anyone else just a little bit offended? As one of the hundred or so readers who responded to the column (and cc'd me) put it, "Winning isn't everything, but fair elections are everything."

Nearly a week after Wycliff's column ran, the Tribune has printed only one letter in response to it - and this letter was about Nixon. It didn't have a word to say about the 2004 election. So much for my naïve optimism that an actual debate would ensue on the pages of the Trib.

Once again I quote exit-poll analyst Jonathan Simon: "When the autopsy of our democracy is performed, it is my belief that media silence will be given as the primary cause of death."

The stakes are getting higher and higher. Could it be we can't have election reform without media reform? The "respectable press" refuses to confer the least legitimacy on the citizens who are questioning this election and demanding accountability in the voting process.

How do we make them care? How do we make them look for themselves? How do we make them stand outside with us in the rain, waiting to cast our ballot for democracy?

Robert Koehler, an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist, is an editor at Tribune Media Services and nationally syndicated writer. You can respond to this column at or visit his Web site at

Comment: Readers take note. The above article by respected mainstream journalist Robert Koehler was CENSORED by his superiors because it alludes to the DAMNING EVIDENCE that Bush WAS NOT ELECTED PRESIDENT BY THE AMERICAN PEOPLE in november 2004.

One of the main arguments against the suggestion that America now bears all the hallmarks of a fascist state, and that the Bush administration is remarkably similar to the Nazi regime in Germany leading up to and during WWII, is that there is not the obvious and blatant censorship of the press in the US that was so evident under Hitler. Yet what many people fail to realise is that this does not mean that Americans are not just as deceived by their government as Germans were by the Third Reich.

The reason that the censorship of the press and crass government propaganda was so noticeable in Nazi Germany was due to the fact that, prior to Hitler seizing control of the country, Germany was a relatively free nation with a relatively free press. Due to Hitler's sudden rise to power and the speed with which he desired to achieve his goals however, the Nazis had no choice but to quickly and obviously quash such freedoms. This is however not the case in the modern USA. The reason that average Americans do not see any obvious signs of censorship of the press is because such censorship has been in place in the US for over a generation and most have become comfortably unaware of it.

Below is Koehler's original article which outlines the case for the theft of the 2004 election that was carried by only a handful of outlets and which lead to the blatant censorship of his subsequent submissions on the same topic. It is followed by his second article, "Democracy's Abu Ghraib", which was also syndicated but again carried by just a handful of outlets.

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The Silent Scream of Numbers
by Robert C. Koehler
April 14 2005

The 2004 election was stolen — will someone please tell the media?

As they slowly hack democracy to death, we’re as alone — we citizens — as we’ve ever been, protected only by the dust-covered clichés of the nation’s founding: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

It’s time to blow off the dust and start paying the price.

The media are not on our side. The politicians are not on our side. It’s just us, connecting the dots, fitting the fragments together, crunching the numbers, wanting to know why there were so many irregularities in the last election and why these glitches and dirty tricks and wacko numbers had not just an anti-Kerry but a racist tinge. This is not about partisan politics. It’s more like: “Oh no, this can’t be true.”

I just got back from what was officially called the National Election Reform Conference, in Nashville, Tenn., an extraordinary pulling together of disparate voting-rights activists — 30 states were represented, 15 red and 15 blue — sponsored by a Nashville group called Gathering To Save Our Democracy. It had the feel of 1775: citizen patriots taking matters into their own hands to reclaim the republic. This was the level of its urgency.

Was the election of 2004 stolen? Thus is the question framed by those who don’t want to know the answer. Anyone who says yes is immediately a conspiracy nut, and the listener’s eyeballs roll. So let’s not ask that question.

Let’s simply ask why the lines were so long and the voting machines so few in Columbus and Cleveland and inner-city and college precincts across the country, especially in the swing states, causing an estimated one-third of the voters in these precincts to drop out of line without casting a ballot; why so many otherwise Democratic ballots, thousands and thousands in Ohio alone, but by no means only in Ohio, recorded no vote for president (as though people with no opinion on the presidential race waited in line for three or six or eight hours out of a fervor to have their say in the race for county commissioner); and why virtually every voter complaint about electronic voting machine malfunction indicated an unauthorized vote switch from Kerry to Bush.

This, mind you, is just for starters. We might also ask why so many Ph.D.-level mathematicians and computer programmers and other numbers-savvy scientists are saying that the numbers don’t make sense (see, for instance,, the Web site of Dr. Richard Hayes Phillips, lead statistician in the Moss v. Bush lawsuit challenging the Ohio election results). Indeed, the movement to investigate the 2004 election is led by such people, because the numbers are screaming at them that something is wrong.

And we might, no, we must, ask — with more seriousness than the media have asked — about those exit polls, which in years past were extraordinarily accurate but last November went haywire, predicting Kerry by roughly the margin by which he ultimately lost to Bush. This swing is out of the realm of random chance, forcing chagrined pollsters to hypothesize a “shy Republican” factor as the explanation; and the media have bought this evidence-free absurdity because it spares them the need to think about the F-word: fraud.

And the numbers are still haywire. A few days ago, Terry Neal wrote in the Washington Post about Bush’s inexplicably low approval rating in the latest Gallup poll, 45 percent, vs. a 49 percent disapproval rating. This is, by a huge margin, the worst rating at this point in a president’s second term ever recorded by Gallup, dating back to Truman.

“What’s wrong with this picture?” asks exit polling expert Jonathan Simon, who pointed these latest numbers out to me. Bush mustered low approval ratings immediately before the election, surged on Election Day, then saw his ratings plunge immediately afterward. Yet Big Media has no curiosity about this anomaly.

Simon, who spoke at the Nashville conference — one of dozens of speakers to give highly detailed testimony on evidence of fraud and dirty tricks from sea to shining sea — said, “When the autopsy of our democracy is performed, it is my belief that media silence will be given as the primary cause of death.”

In contrast to the deathly silence of the media is the silent scream of the numbers. The more you ponder these numbers, and all the accompanying data, the louder that scream grows. Did the people’s choice get thwarted? Were thousands disenfranchised by chaos in the precincts, spurious challenges and uncounted provisional ballots? Were millions disenfranchised by electronic voting fraud on insecure, easily hacked computers? And who is authorized to act if this is so? Who is authorized to care?

No one, apparently, except average Americans, who want to be able to trust the voting process again, and who want their country back.

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Democracy's Abu Ghraib
By Robert C. Koehler Tribune Media Services

"That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn't even any rioting in the streets. People stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn't even an enemy you could put your finger on." - Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale

What if it could happen here?

This is the disquieting question I hesitate to ask because, once asked, it pretty much changes everything. The answer roars in behind it, as obvious as a Florida hurricane, an Ohio twister, ripping up the complacent heart. What if it could? What if it did? I think of my daughter, quickly, guiltily, and the country she'd inherit. I can no longer stay on the sidelines. No breath comes easily afterward.

It's what I would call the spirit of Nashville, where a national conference was held in early April on the issue of vote fraud and election reform - a conference of expert testimony on dirty tricks, uncounted ballots, needlessly long lines, weird numbers and evidence of electronic vote tampering, adding up to a crime against democracy.

As angry as I've ever been with the direction of any given administration's foreign or domestic policy, I never doubted the bedrock premise that the country itself was sound and free, and that political activity - speaking up, attempting to sway public opinion - always had the chance of reversing that policy. I never doubted, even after moving to Chicago in the mid-'70s, with the old Daley Machine ("vote early and vote often") still huffing and wheezing, that elections mattered and could alter the balance of power. I never felt disenfranchised. Now that certainty is gone, replaced by dread.

I do know that I'm not alone. The column I wrote about the conference last week hit a nerve, generating more e-mail and more hits to my formerly obscure Web site,, than anything else I've ever written, by several powers of 10. It was not "sore loser" stuff. John Kerry, indeed, was hardly a candidate to inspire that kind of loyalty. I heard from readers who saw irregularities firsthand last Nov. 2 that churned their stomachs:

"I live near Toledo, Ohio and worked 12 hours on Election Day driving people to the polls, mostly in the inner city," one woman wrote. "I saw up close what was happening - the long lines, the aggressive Republican challengers, the broken machines. I personally live in an upscale, predominantly Republican suburb of Toledo and people sailed through the lines at my voting place. The difference in voting conditions vs. in poorer areas couldn't have been more glaring."

There was a malice afoot that day directed at our electoral process that cannot be explained away as mere flaws in a basically sound system, as Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell attempted to do, shrugging off his critics with the glib observation that "There's no such thing as an error-free election."

No, no, we can't let copouts and smug catchphrases stand as answers to the serious questions the nation must ask. What happened on Nov. 2 were not "errors," honest or otherwise, to be tolerated as harmlessly inevitable. Nor were they random. Nor did they occur "on both sides."

There were, on that day, a "dizzying list of electoral problems that might make some wonder how any ballots were counted in November." So the Washington Post reported the other day, as part of the coverage of the opening session of the Commission on Federal Election Reform hearings.

Well, gosh. Think of that. This is not page 17 news, though that's where the Post buried it, in its unfathomable news judgment. But at least the story is seeping out. This requires national outrage, an unstinting demand that the details of fraud and disenfranchisement be outed, the perpetrators punished and, most important of all, future elections secured from a repeat. It's democracy's Abu Ghraib.

I fear that a force is loose in the land that will stop at nothing to impose its agenda on the nation. We already have a permanent state of war and the USA Patriot Act. Now the Senate Republicans are attempting to implement the "nuclear option" and eliminate the filibuster - what William Rivers Pitt calls "the last lingering firebreak" separating church from state - so that 12 far right nominees to the federal judiciary (a mere 5 percent of the Bush administration's total) can be confirmed over Democratic objection.

". . . right now they believe they have the power to get anything they want," writes Pitt, referring to the "theocracy" wing of the GOP. In the context of a disabled electoral process, this is truly chilling. Could it happen here?

With God on your side, who needs democracy?

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Christian Praydators capitalise on horror

New Hope for Nias Island as Bible Pathway Distributes Word of God
Christian Today
Posted: Friday, May 6 , 2005, 17:14 (UK)

Bible Pathway Ministries, which is providing free Bibles for global distribution to over 186 countries around the world in over 20 languages, is now distributing the Word of God in Indonesian Nias Island to renew hope for earthquake victims.

Many people have lost everything and many buildings are now laying in ruins, the lives of people have been turned upside-down, but Christians working in the area have given these suffering people an incredible testimony.

Karen Hawking from Bible Pathway Ministries shares: "These people are praising God and saying if it hadn't been for the tsunami, if it hadn't been for this last earthquake we wouldn't be as close to God as we are now."

Comment: Close to God in what sense? Waiting to be killed when the next one strikes?

Bible Pathway plays a very important role in this 'hope effort' and with many people reaching out for some hope, it has opened the way for extensive requests for the Bible and its distribution.

"We can't go, but we are partnering with missionaries who are on the ground. They have been established for some time. And, they have been able to purchase Bibles. And, then we have paid for the Bibles for them to give to the pastors and the church members in Nias," continues Karen Hawkins.

Many people have made decisions or recommitments as they were counselled or given Bibles and it is not just one person, but there are entire families and entire communities that are being changed by God's word.

Comment: Descending upon a ravaged land, the Praydators strike a people still in shock after an earthquake and tsunami that saw their lives shattered, their families destroyed along with their homes, their work, and that of everyone they know. The Christian missionaries are vultures whispering in the ear of the Indonesians: "See how close to God you are now!"

"But my brother is even closer to God. He is dead," replies the Indonesian.

"Did he have Jesus as his personal saviour?"

"No, he was a Catholic."

"Then he is not close to God, my son. He is in the hands of Satan."

Such reassurance, such empathy.

If you are going to help someone, don't use it as an excuse to convert them. The act of helping should be freely given, with no strings attached. However the Christians are not there to help, they are there to convert, to impose their view of the world on people struggling to remake their lives after disaster struck. Because conversion is the "Christian's" primary purpose, therefore their aid is worthless. It is not aid, it is manipulation.

The people in these ministries appear to live in a bubble, divorced from reality where suffering takes back seat to the question of eternity. Was the devastation on Nias greeted with smiles: "What an opportunity God has given us!"?

Decide for yourselves. Here is the blurb from Bible Pathways on aiding the tsunami victims:


Send Bibles and Bible Pathway to those hurting and seeking answers.

The world is rushing humanitarian aid to the victims of the recent tsunami; and that is as it should be. However, where these people will ultimately spend eternity is the most pressing concern. Bible Pathway Ministries is seeking to follow behind those giving physical aid to help people find answers to their questions. Probably their biggest question now is, "Why did I survive when my family and friends did not?" And then, "Where is God in all of this?"

The Bible holds all of the answers to all of the questions of a lifetime; therefore, we are seeking to provide Bibles and Bible Pathway. These will be distributed by pastors, missionaries and Bible schools that are already ministering in these areas. Prior to the storm, we received letters from all 11 of the affected countries from the Pacific Rim and Indian Ocean area asking for Bibles and Bible Pathway. Since they wrote to us in English, we will be supplying mainly English Bibles. These leaders, in turn, will preach and teach in their national languages. As we are able to supply Bibles in other languages, we will do so.

For only $10.40 you can provide hope to someone who is hurting badly and seeking answers. Checks and money orders may be sent to Bible Pathway Ministries, PO Box 20123, Murfreesboro, TN 37129-0123 USA. Credit Card gifts may be sent via fax to 615-893-1744 or called in to 615-896-4243. Please specify that your gift is for the Tsunami victims.

Yes, Children, fax in that Credit Card gift, and don't forget to specify that it's for the target population victims in Indonesia.

What is striking is that these "Christians" do not doubt for a minute that what they are saying or believing is 100% true, that they are doing God's work, that they are moved by the Holy Spirit. There is no room for doubt, for critical thought, for scientific inquiry. The Bible has the answers, folks, and for dollars a month, we'll bring you the one, true interpretation of the Word of God to your doorstep.

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Stations Of The Cross

How evangelical Christians are creating an alternative universe of faith-based news
By Mariah Blake

It's the first Tuesday of April. In Washington, D.C., the magnolia trees are blooming, tourists crowd the sidewalk cafés, and Congress has just returned from its spring recess. CBN News has chosen this time to unveil its new and greatly expanded Washington bureau in the Dupont Circle area, where many major networks have their local headquarters; the three-story brick fortress that houses the Washington operations of CBS News is less than a block away.

CBN's new digs are abuzz with activity. The Republican Senator Trent Lott came by for an interview earlier in the day, as did Jim Towey, who directs the White House office of faith-based initiatives. Now Lee Webb, the CBN anchor in from Virginia, sits behind the desk in one of the studios preparing to deliver the network's first half-hour nightly newscast from this gleaming set. Behind him is a floor-to-ceiling world map illuminated in violet and indigo and a screen emblazoned with CBN's logo. At his side, just beyond the camera's view, sits a squat pedestal that holds a battered American Standard Bible. Webb lowers his head and folds his hands. "Father, we are grateful for today's program," he says. "We pray for your blessing. We ask that what we're about to do will bring honor to you." Then the cameras roll.

To many people - especially in blue-state America - God, news, and politics may seem an odd cocktail. But it's this mix that fuels much of CBN's programming.

CBN's flagship program, the 700 Club with Pat Robertson, is familiar to many Americans. But few outside the evangelical community know how large the network is - it employs more than 1,000 people and has facilities in three U.S. cities as well as Ukraine, the Philippines, India, and Israel - or how diverse its programming. And CBN, or Christian Broadcasting Network, is just one star in a vast and growing Christian media universe, which has sprung up largely under the mainstream's radar. Conservative evangelicals control at least six national television networks, each reaching tens of millions of homes, and virtually all of the nation's more than 2,000 religious radio stations. Thanks to Christian radio's rapid growth, religious stations now outnumber every other format except country music and news-talk. If they want to dwell solely in this alternative universe, believers can now choose to have only Christian programs piped into their homes. Sky Angel, one of the nation's three direct-broadcast satellite networks, carries thirty-six channels of Christian radio and television - and nothing else.

As Christian broadcasting has grown, pulpit-based ministries have largely given way to a robust programming mix that includes music, movies, sitcoms, reality shows, and cartoons. But the largest constellation may be news and talk shows. Christian public affairs programming exploded after September 11, and again in the run-up to the 2004 presidential election. And this growth shows no signs of flagging.

Evangelical news looks and sounds much like its secular counterpart, but it homes in on issues of concern to believers and filters events through a conservative lens. In some cases this simply means giving greater weight to the conservative side of the ledger than most media do. In other instances, it amounts to disguising a partisan agenda as news.

Comment: Giving more weight to conservative ideas than the mainstream media!!! Holy moly, Batman! How is that possible?! A true miracle! Praise Jay-sus!

Likewise, most guests on Christian political talk shows are drawn from a fixed pool of culture warriors and Republican politicians. Even those shows that focus on non-political topics - such as finance, health, or family issues - often weave in political messages. Many evangelical programs and networks are, in fact, linked to conservative Christian political or legal organizations, which use broadcasts to help generate funding and mobilize their base supporters, who are tuning in en masse. Ninety-six percent of evangelicals consume some form of Christian media each month, according to the Barna Research Group.

Given their content and their reach, it's likely that Christian broadcasters have helped drive phenomena that have recently confounded much of the public and the mainstream media - including the surge in "value voters" and the drive to sustain Terri Schiavo's life, a story that was incubated in evangelical media three years before it hit the mainstream. Nor has evangelical media's influence escaped the notice of those who stroll the halls of power. They've been courted by the likes of Rupert Murdoch, Mel Gibson, and George W. Bush. All the while, they've remained hidden in plain sight - a powerful but largely unnoticed force shaping American politics and culture.

Christians have been flocking to broadcasting ever since the first radio programs began crackling across the airwaves in the early 1900s. By the 1930s, evangelicals were lobbying for policies that would ensure their dominance in the religious broadcasting realm. Their activism was catalyzed by the fact that early on, the big-three networks donated rather than sold airtime to religious organizations. The Federal Council of Churches, which represented the more liberal mainline denominations, favored this system, which it believed would help keep the religious message from getting corrupted. But evangelicals worried that networks would lavish mainline churches with free airtime while giving their own ministries short shrift. In 1944, they formed the National Religious Broadcasters(NRB), and that organization lobbied federal regulators. The strategy worked; the government eventually decided to let religious organizations purchase as much airtime as they could afford. Evangelical preachers were soon flooding the airwaves, while mainline broadcast ministries all but vanished from the radio dial.

In the sixty-one years since its founding, the NRB has grown to represent 1,600 broadcasters with billions of dollars in media holdings and staggering political clout. Its aggressive political maneuverings have helped shape federal policy, further easing the evangelical networks' rapid growth. In 2000, for instance, the Federal Communications Commission issued guidelines that would have barred religious broadcasters from taking over frequencies designated for educational programming. The NRB lobbied Congress to intervene, at one point delivering a petition signed by nearly half a million people. Legislators, in turn, bore down on the FCC, and the agency relented.

At least one mainstream media mogul has taken note of religious broadcasters' political might. In 2002, Rupert Murdoch met with NRB leaders and urged them to oppose a proposed Echostar-DirecTV merger, which they did. After the FCC nixed the deal, Murdoch's News Corporation bought DirecTV and gave the NRB a channel on it.

The NRB has taken a number of steps to ensure it remains a political player. The most dramatic came in 2002, after Wayne Pederson was tapped to replace the network's longtime president, Brandt Gustavson. He quickly ignited internal controversy by telling a Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter that he intended to shift the organization's focus away from politics. "We get associated with the far Christian right and marginalized," Pederson lamented. "To me the important thing is to keep the focus on what's important to us spiritually." That didn't sit well. Soon members of the executive committee were clamoring for his ouster. Within weeks, he was forced to step down.

Frank Wright was eventually chosen to replace Pederson. He had spent the previous eight years serving as the executive director of the Center for Christian Statesmanship, a Capitol Hill ministry that conducts training for politicians on how to "think biblically about their role in government." Wright acknowledges that he was chosen for his deep political connections. "I came here to re-engage the political culture on issues relating to broadcasting," he says. "The rest is up to individual broadcasters."

As the NRB has grown larger and more powerful, so have the broadcasters it represents. Over the last decade, Christian TV networks have added tens of millions of homes to their distribution lists by leaping onto satellite and cable systems. The number of religious radio stations - the vast majority of which are evangelical - has grown by about 85 percent since 1998 alone. They now outnumber rock, classical, hip-hop, R&B, soul, and jazz stations combined.

Despite their growing reach, Christian networks still lag behind many secular heavyweights when it comes to audience size. About a million U.S. households tune in daily to each of the most popular Christian television shows; about twenty times that number watch CBS's top-rated program, CSI. Likewise, Christian radio stations draw about 5 percent market share, on average, while regular news and talk stations attract triple that percentage. But more and more people are tuning into Christian networks. Christian radio's audience, in particular, has climbed 33 percent over the last five years, thanks in large part to the emergence of contemporary Christian music. No other English-language format can boast that kind of growth.

The goal of a more diverse program lineup is to attract larger audiences. CBN's founder, Pat Robertson, who started this trend in the late 1970s by converting the 700 Club into a 60 Minutes-style magazine, says he originally considered making it a music showcase. But he decided news and talk would bring more viewers. "News provides the crossover between religious and secular, and it bridges the age gap," he explains. Robertson continues to see news and current affairs as a means to an end. "If you buy a diamond from Tiffany's the setting is very important," he says. "To us, the jewel is the message of Jesus Christ. We see news as a setting for what's most important."

After remaking the 700 Club, Robertson went on to launch the first Christian radio news network, called Standard News, in the early 1990s. It was later purchased by Salem Radio. Over the next several years, American Family Radio, USA Radio, and Information Radio Network unveiled news operations. All of them, except American Family Radio, syndicate their news programming. And they've been picking up affiliates at a lightning pace, even as regular news has been dropping off the radio dial. Salem Communications, which started with around 200 stations, now airs on 1,100 - seven times as many as broadcast National Public Radio programs. USA Radio, which in the beginning had just a handful of news affiliates, now has more than 800. Its news also can be heard on two XM Satellite Radio stations and Armed Forces Radio. USA Radio's rapid growth is due, in part, to the fact that many mainstream stations are picking up its programming.

Christian radio news networks experienced their largest growth spurt in the months after September 11. That was also when CBN launched NewsWatch, the first nightly Christian television news program. The show is on three of the six national evangelical television networks, as well as regional Christian networks and the ABC Family Channel. FamilyNet TV, part of the Southern Baptist Convention's media empire, followed suit in 2004 by hiring a news staff. And at the 2005 NRB convention, Christian television networks from around the world joined forces to form a news co-op. They intend to pool footage and other resources as a means of improving coverage and helping more Christian stations get into the news business.

Many Christian broadcasters attribute the success of their news operations to the biblical perspective that underpins their reporting in a world made wobbly by terrorist threats and moral relativism. "We don't just tell them what the news is," explains Wright of the NRB. "We tell them what it means. And that's appealing to people, especially in moments of cultural instability."

It's Good Friday. The NewsWatch anchor Lee Webb is sitting behind his desk in CBN's Virginia Beach headquarters, describing the events of the day to people across America. Webb - a wiry man with dark eyes and a white kerchief peaking out of his breast pocket - spent much of his career in local television. He delivers the news with an air of cultivated neutrality.

Today he begins with a story on Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman whose story not only riveted America, but was seized by Congress and the White House. Her feeding tube had been pulled a week earlier and, Webb tells his viewers, she's succumbed to the ravages of dehydration. He says she has "flaky skin," a parched mouth, and "sunken eyes," and now resembles "prisoners in concentration camps," according to her brother. Whether or not her lips and skin have actually dried out will become a matter of debate in the mainstream media, with Schiavo's parents contending that they have, and her husband's lawyer insisting that they haven't, and that she is not suffering. But this debate will never enter CBN's coverage.

Next, NewsWatch cuts to an interview with Joni Eareckson Tada, a wheelchair-bound woman whom Webb bills as a "disability rights advocate." She warns that the Schiavo case will "affect thousands of disabled people whose legal guardians may not have their best wishes at heart." Tada, in fact, runs an evangelical ministry and hosts a popular Christian radio show. Webb closes the segment on a revealing, if lopsided, note, announcing that "the pro-life community says the Terri Schiavo case is proof positive that the country has a problem when it comes to activist judges."

The CBN report echoes hundreds of others that have run on Christian radio and television networks. While Terri Schiavo's name appeared in the mainstream national media only sporadically before this year, her case has been a top story on Christian news and talk programs for much of the last three years, as it combines two issues that are of critical importance to religious conservatives - the power of the courts and the "sanctity of life." Much of the coverage on Christian networks has distorted Schiavo's condition by indicating she retained the ability to think, feel, and function. Some newscasts reported as fact her parents' contested claim that she tried to utter the words "I want to live" before her feeding tube was pulled for the last time. Others, like Janet Folger, host of the radio and TV call-in show Faith2Action, described Schiavo as actually sitting up and talking. Evangelical pundits also demonized Schiavo's husband, Michael, and the Florida judge George Greer, who presided over the case, referring to them as murderers and invoking holocaust rhetoric. Indeed, Christian broadcasters seemed to set the tone for the emotional language that would burst into the mainstream media and the halls of Congress during Schiavo's final days.

Schiavo's parents welcomed the Christian broadcasters' attention. Months before they became the stuff of nightly news they were blazing a trail through the Christian talk show circuit. They also attended the NRB's 2005 conference, held in mid-February, to help build momentum for a grass-roots campaign to keep their daughter alive. By then they had already seen proof of the Christian broadcasters' power. D. James Kennedy - who, in addition to hosting several talk shows, heads a lobbying organization called the Center for Reclaiming America - boasted at one point that he was collecting 5,000 signatures an hour for a "Petition to Save Terri Schiavo." Other leaders, including James Dobson, perhaps the most influential evangelical host, shut down phone lines within Governor Jeb Bush's office by urging their millions of constituents to call.

After the Schiavo story, NewsWatch carries one about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to China. Rice is shown climbing off the plane in Beijing, posing for grip-and-grin shots with President Hu Jintao, and responding to a reporter's question about China's record on religious freedoms. Then the report veers into the plight of China's house churches. The narrator details how those "who worship in places other than state churches continue to suffer severe persecution." Images on the screen show people singing hymns in a dusty courtyard, then a man preaching to a crowd of people who sit huddled on a living room floor. The front door is flung open, and the light pouring in lends the scene an otherworldly glow.

Evangelical networks focus a great deal of attention on stories involving persecution of the faithful. They have, for instance, kept a close eye on the conflicts that have rocked Sudan, including its Darfur region. Government-backed militias there have been marauding villages, driving millions of black Africans, many of them Christians, from their homes. More than 200,000 people have died as a result. Mainstream coverage has been sparse, given the conflict's human toll.

Christian broadcasters also tend to home in on stateside skirmishes involving Christians that are off the mainstream media's radar. This includes the case of eleven evangelicals who were arrested in 2004 while picketing Outfest, an annual gay pride event that sprawls across eight Philadelphia city blocks. The protesters, led by Michael Marcavage, a confrontational evangelical crusader and founder of "Repent America," were told by the police to leave. When they refused, they were arrested. Four of the eleven were charged with, among other things, fomenting a riot, criminal conspiracy, and "ethnic intimidation" - as Philadelphia calls hate crimes.

The story got virtually no mainstream national coverage. But Christian news networks picked up on it promptly, and a number of evangelical talk show hosts discussed it at length. Much of the conversation revolved around the potential pitfalls of hate-crime laws, which stiffen penalties for offenses that are motivated by race or sexual orientation. Evangelical pundits argued that such laws threaten to "criminalize" Christianity, especially when they're extended to speech.

After the segment on Chinese house churches comes a special Good Friday package. This includes a tour of Jerusalem and an interview with Mel Gibson, who released a less-bloody version of The Passion of The Christ several weeks earlier. Webb tells viewers, "In light of its re-release CBN News visited many of the places where The Passion actually took place." He then introduces the reporter Chris Mitchell, who works out of CBN's only international bureau, in Jerusalem. Mitchell - perched on the Mount of Olives surrounded by sweeping views of the city - invites viewers to tour the sites of "the biblical drama that changed the world." Soon he's strolling through the Garden of Gethsemane, the dense olive groves where Christ is said to have prayed on the night of his arrest, and touring the Sisters of Zion Convent, which houses the paving stones where some believe Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate. He continues on to the Via Dolorosa, down which Jesus carried the cross. The narrow street, which wends its way through the old Jerusalem, is now thronged with tourists. Mitchell interviews some of them about the "profound experience" of visiting Jerusalem after seeing The Passion. "When you see the movie, you internalize it," says one woman, who weeps as she speaks. "Then you come here and see the street where he walked, the place that he was, and you're just thankful. You're just so thankful for his grace and his mercy, his forgiveness and for the price that he paid."

Such intimate expressions of faith are scarce in mainstream media, even though faith underlies many global conflicts and guides the choices made by millions of Americans. Religion coverage tends either to focus on institutions or to reduce religious practice to a curious spectacle. This, Christian network executives say, is part of the reason they felt compelled to enter the news and public affairs arena. They also feel that their viewers needed a "family friendly" alternative to regular news, which sometimes leans on lurid descriptions of sex and violence. The Michael Jackson trial and other sordid stories get a bare-bones treatment on Christian networks.

Christian news networks devote an enormous amount of airtime to Israel, and their interest has theological underpinnings. In addition to being the place where many biblical events unfolded, Israel plays a pivotal role in biblical prophecy. Most evangelicals emphasize that God granted Israel to the Jews through a covenant with Abraham. They believe that the Jews' return to Israel was biblically foreordained, and that Jewish control over Israel will trigger a cascade of apocalyptic events that will culminate in Christ's second coming. Israel's strength is vital to their own redemption.

Such beliefs explain the unwavering support for Israel expressed by some evangelical talk show hosts. Among them is Kay Arthur, whose radio and TV program, Precepts For Life, offers audiences biblical solutions to everyday dilemmas such as divorce and addictions. She took to the stage at the Israeli Ministry of Tourism Breakfast, held in conjunction with the 2005 NRB conference, and told the hundreds of broadcasters in the audience, "If it came to a choice between Israel and America, I would stand with Israel." Janet Parshall, host of a popular political program that also runs both on radio and TV, implored the Israelis in attendance, "Please, please, do not give up any more land." Lest anyone think her alone in her zeal, she urged all those who believed "in the sovereignty of Israel" to stand. Virtually everyone in the room got up.

Some influential evangelical hosts - among them Arthur, Parshall, and Pat Robertson - sometimes broadcast live from Israel and urge listeners and viewers to visit the country. Their pleas have helped persuade thousands of American Christians to brave the bloody Intifada for a chance to savor the sights and smells of Christ's homeland, while supporting Israel's battered economy.

The Israeli government has responded with gratitude. Senior officials meet regularly with evangelical broadcasters. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent Pat Robertson a taped message for his seventy-fifth birthday, thanking him for his stalwart support. In addition to staging lavish events in the broadcasters' honor, the country's tourism ministry rents one of the largest booths at each year's NRB conference. This year's event also featured a number of other Israel-focused exhibits, including the burned-out hull of a Jerusalem city bus that was struck by a suicide bomber in January 2004. Part of the roof had been ripped off and all that was left of the rear seats was a jumble of twisted steel and charred upholstery. Near the bumper hung a poster with images of bomb-laden Palestinian boys. It read: "When Palestinians love their children more than they hate Israel, then there will be peace in Palestine."

The turmoil gripping the Middle East has proven to be a particularly appealing topic for shows like the International Intelligence Briefing and Prophecy in the News, which interpret world events - be it the rise of the European Union or the Asian tsunami - in light of biblical prophecy. This approach tends to cast events that flow from controversial human choices as the natural and inevitable march of destiny. Prophecy-focused shows suggest that the war in Iraq was foretold in the Bible, for instance.

Some political talk shows go even further out on the apocalyptic edge. Among them is the 700 Club, which airs on numerous mainstream stations and reaches about a million U.S. viewers each day. Its February 25 edition featured an interview with a man named Glenn Miller, touted on the 700 Club Web site as a "proven prophet." A scholarly looking man, Miller sat nestled in an armchair, a faux-urban skyline glittering in the background, and explained why God had sent America to war with Iraq. "It has nothing to do with terrorism," he told Pat Robertson's son, Gordon. "It has nothing to do with oil. It has everything to do with that there's 1.2 million Muslims that have been deceived by the false God Allah, and that the God of heaven, Jehovah, is now in the process of doing war if you will against that spirit to . . . break the power of deception so those people can be exposed to the gospel." As Miller spoke, Robertson nodded in sympathy. At one point, Robertson chimed in with the tale of a CBN reporter who was embedded with one of the first infantry divisions to march into Baghdad: "He said there was a sense among the troops - and he had this personal sense as well - that this was a spiritual victory, that this was a movement in the heavenlies."

Some evangelical talk show hosts see more conflict on the horizon in the Middle East. For instance, J.R. Church of Prophecy in the News recently predicted that the United States would attack Syria, probably with a nuclear bomb. As proof the host pointed to a passage from Isaiah, which warned that Damascus would be reduced to a "ruinous heap."

Once NewsWatch's Jerusalem tour is over, Mel Gibson appears. He's sitting on a dimly lit sound stage opposite the reporter Scott Ross. The walls are covered with posters for The Passion, and throughout the interview images from the film flash across the screen. Gibson talks about the making of the movie, which he calls "the culmination of a fifteen-year journey of faith," and about how America "is a huge nation based on Christian principles from the Constitution."

Gibson began appearing regularly on Christian news and talk shows in the months leading up to the The Passion's original release - part of a well-coordinated marketing campaign that leaned heavily on Christian radio and TV. Christian networks ran hundreds of promotional spots and behind-the-scenes specials on the film. It was a fruitful partnership for Gibson, who has watched The Passion become the highest-grossing R-rated film in U.S. box office history. As he told those at the 2005 NRB conference, "It was largely because of the people in this broad organization that the film was able to get out there and be seen."

Gibson's words notwithstanding, it's difficult to know just how much of The Passion's success can actually be attributed to Christian broadcasters, since it was also promoted through other channels. But the story of The Omega Code, a 1999 apocalyptic thriller, provides a clearer illustration of the broadcasters' power. The film's release wasn't accompanied by the standard flurry of marketing. No advance press screening, no reviews, and minimal advertising. But the family of one of its producers, Matthew Crouch, owns Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), the largest of the Christian TV networks, which promoted the film tirelessly. The result: The Omega Code was the tenth highest-grossing film on its opening weekend, with a per-screen average of nearly $8,000 - higher than that of any other movie that weekend. The film's success stunned the mainstream media, Hollywood insiders, and even TBN executives. "We had no idea we had that power in America," says Robert Higley, the network's vice president for sales and affiliate relations.

In the years since The Omega Code's release, Christian broadcasters have brought their power to bear in the political arena as never before. This began a few months after the 2000 presidential election, when President Bush invited the NRB's executive committee to join him and Attorney General John Ashcroft for a meeting in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. After the gathering the NRB's board chairman wrote an exuberant message to members, saying there was a "new wind blowing in Washington, D.C., and across the nation . . . . The President has surrounded himself with a wonderful staff of people of faith. And it's obvious that people of faith are being welcomed back to the public square." The message also urged members to seize the opportunity to "make a difference in our culture" - which in the parlance of religious conservatives generally means effecting political change.

In the months that followed the Roosevelt Room gathering, the NRB executive committee continued to meet periodically with senior White House staff members. On occasion, Bush himself attended. And monthly NRB-White House conference calls were established to give rank-and-file NRB members a direct line to the Oval Office.

George W. Bush also attended NRB's 2003 convention and gave a speech, much of it dedicated to promoting the looming war in Iraq. At the event, the NRB passed a resolution to "honor" the president. Though the NRB is a tax-exempt organization, and thus banned from backing a particular candidate, the document resembled an endorsement. The final line read, "We recognize in all of the above that God has appointed President George W. Bush to leadership at this critical period in our nation's history, and give Him thanks."

Many evangelical networks and program producers are also tax-exempt nonprofits. But while most were careful not to endorse candidates by name, they openly pushed the Republican ticket in the run-up to the 2004 election. During his last pre-election broadcast, the International Intelligence Briefing host Hal Lindsey told audiences that liberals were determined to "bring about our literal annihilation," and that "a vote for the conservative cause . . . is a vote to . . . reverse America's decline and restore her to the path of morality, conscience, and strength of character. It's a vote to continue America's return to her rightful place as the strongest beacon of hope in a terrified world." Other broadcasters went further, launching and promoting massive voter-registration drives with the apparent goal of helping Republicans clinch a victory. The host James Dobson held pro-Bush rallies that packed stadiums and told his 7 million U.S. listeners that it was a sin not to vote.

During the pre-election frenzy FamilyNet, the television arm of the Southern Baptist Convention's media empire, added a political talk show to its formerly entertainment-heavy lineup. It was also during this period that it established its news department. The network, which reaches 30 million homes, reported live from both parties' conventions, and ran evening coverage on election day - all of it salted with pro-Bush commentary. Several other Christian networks also ran continuous, live election coverage for the first time. Much of it carried a clear bias. USA Radio Network, for example, ran pieces produced to sound like news stories, but with a single conservative perspective. One segment, based solely on an interview with the former CIA analyst Wayne Simmons, reported that Osama bin Laden spent years laying plans to destroy America, only to have them thwarted by a tough-talking Texan. "He never planned on running into a president with the strength, character, and conviction of George W. Bush," Simmons said. "If George W. Bush wins the presidency, his fate - meaning Osama bin Laden's fate - is sealed. If John Kerry wins, he'll go back to business as usual because he knows he'll have another administration in there where he did nothing and let them plan attacks on us."

The role that evangelicals are credited with playing in the recent election seems only to have improved broadcasters' access to power. During the opening session of the 2005 NRB convention, Wright described a recent lobbying excursion to Capitol Hill. "We got into rooms we've never been in before," he said. "We got down on the floor of the Senate and prayed over Hillary Clinton's desk." He also explained that the NRB was lobbying to get its handpicked candidate appointed to the FCC - although he refused to identify the person by name. At the convention, the NRB also unveiled its new "President's Council," a committee dedicated to strengthening "relationships with men and women in positions of influence and power," according to the glossy brochure. The council's next event, scheduled for September, is to include a private, after-hours tour of the U.S. Capitol, a special White House policy briefing, and a hobnobbing session with lawmakers.

Meanwhile, the broadcasters have turned their attention to what has become the front line of the culture wars: the courts. Conservative Christian pundits have long proclaimed that our nation is in moral tatters, and blamed a series of court decisions - among them Roe v. Wade and the 1962 ban on school prayer - for unraveling our mores. But the raging battle over President Bush's judicial nominees and the prospect of a Supreme Court vacancy have pushed the issue of the "out of control" judiciary to the top of their agenda.

In recent months, evangelical broadcasters have dedicated program after program to bemoaning "judicial tyranny," and urging audiences to agitate for the "nuclear option" - changing Senate rules so Democrats can no longer filibuster and thereby block nominees they oppose. The judiciary was also front and center during opening week at the network's new Washington bureau. A parade of senators - all of them Republican - made their way into the studio, to go on camera advocating the nuclear option. During his interview, broadcast as part of NewsWatch's inaugural Washington, D.C., program, Trent Lott stood with studio lights glinting off the American flag pin on his lapel, and held up a scrap of paper with a list of senators' names and how they intended to vote on the initiative. The tally seemed to be stacking up in his favor. Pat Robertson, who interviewed Lott, asked no tough questions and offered not even a passing nod to opposing viewpoints. Instead, Robertson scored Democrats for trying to "eliminate religious values from America" by blocking the appointment of conservative judges. All the while, the dizzying blend of God, news, and politics that he has crafted and honed was bouncing off satellites, winding through thousands of cable systems, rippling over the airwaves, and glowing on television screens across America.

Comment: Get a satellite dish and take a look at the number of Christian, evangelical channels you can get for free. And this, no matter where you are in the world. Christian broadcasting is both big business and big politics, moving in to shape people's minds and influence their voting. Living in a black and white world where you are either saved or the Devil's tool, people become convinced they are doing "God's work"! Look at George the Third and his belief that it was God who counseled the invasion of Iraq.

With their self-righteous smiles and complete lack of doubt about anything they do, they are an army of unthinking robots, dispensing dime-store truths to a population so dumbed down they believe they are being given diamonds. And those are the best of them; the others are quite likely psychopaths who never miss an opportunity to fleece a new flock.

Here's an interview with Marjoe Gortner, a former evangelical preacher who discusses very openly how to do this fleecing:

"As the preacher, I'm working with the crowd, watching the crowd, trying to bring them to that high point at a certain time in the evening. I let everything build up to that moment when they're all in ecstasy. The crowd builds up and you have to watch that you don't stop it. You start off saying you've heard that tonight's going to be a great night; then you begin the whole pitch and keep it rolling."

For Marjoe, who had seen it a million times, the divine moment of religious ecstasy had no mystical quality at all. It was a simple matter of group frenzy that had its counterpart in every crowd.

"It's the same as a rock-and-roll concert. You have an opening number with a strong entrance; then you go through a lot of the old standards, building up to your hit song at the end."

The hit song, however, was spiritual rebirth, the product of a time-tested recipe for evangelical religion to which the preacher and every member of the audience contribute some small but active ingredient. Afterwards, according to Marjoe, the only fitting encore to the overwhelming moment of being saved is a personal demonstration of the power of that newfound faith. This is the motivating factor that prompts speaking in tongues, also known as the 'receiving of the holy ghost.' As Marjoe explained it, this well-known evangelical tradition required even greater participation on the part of the tongues recipient and the entire audience.

"After you've been saved," Marjoe continued, "the next step is what they call 'the infilling of the Holy Spirit.' They say to the new convert, 'Well, now you're saved, but you've got to get the Holy Ghost.' So you come back to get the tongues experience. Some people will get it the same night; others will go for weeks or years before they can speak in tongues. You hear it, you hear everyone at night talking in it in the church, and they're all saying, 'We love you and we hope you're going to get it by tonight.' Then one night you go down there and they all try to get you to get it, and you go into very much of a trance - not quite a frenzy, but it is an incredible experience.

"During that moment the person forgets all about his problems. He is surrounded by people whom he trusts and they're all saying, 'We love you. It's okay. You're accepted in Christ. We're with you, let it go, relax.' And sooner or later, he starts to speak it out and go dut-dut-dut. Then everyone goes, 'That's it! You've got it!' and the button is pushed and he will in fact start to speak in tongues and just take off: dhandayelomosatayleesaso... and on and on."

Marjoe paused. We were dumbfounded by his demonstration, although he hadn't gone into the jerking, trancelike ecstasy that is commonly associated with the tongues moment. ...Yet even in this restrained demonstration, he seemed almost uncannily to be triggering some innate releasing or babbling mechanism. We asked him how he brought it about.

"You'll never get it with that attitude," he joked. Then he went on to explain the true nature of the experience.

"Tongues is something you learn, " he emphasized. "It is a releasing that you teach yourself. You are told by your peers, the church and the Bible - if you accept it literally - that the Holy Ghost spake in another tongue; and you become convinced that it is the ultimate expression of the spirit flowing through you. The first time maybe you'll just go dut-dut-dut-dut and that's about all that will get out. Then you'll hear other people and the next night you may go dut-dut-dut-UM-dut-DEET-dut-dut and it gets a little better. The next thing you know, it's elahandosatelayeekcondelemosandreyaseya... and it's a new language you've got down."

Except that, according to Marjoe, it's not a real language at all. Contrary to most religious understanding, speaking in tongues is by no means passive spiritual possession. It must be actively acquired and practiced. Although the "gift" of tongues is a product of human and not supernatural origin, Marjoe displayed tremendous respect for the experience as an expression of spirituality and fellowship.

"I really don't put it down," he said. "I never have. It's just that I analyze it and look at it from a very rational point of view. I don't see it as coming from God and say that at a certain point the Holy Spirit zaps you with a super whammy on the head and you've 'gone for tongues' and there it is. Tongues is a process that people build up to. Then, as you start to do something, just as when you practice the scales on the piano, you get better at it."

During his years on the Bible Belt circuit, Marjoe came to see the evangelical experience as a form of popular entertainment, a kind of participatory divine theater that provided its audiences with profound emotional rewards.

"The people out there don't see it as entertainment," he confessed, "although that is in fact the way it is. Those people don't go to movies, they don't go to bars and drink, they don't go to rock-and-roll concerts - but everyone has to have an emotional release. So they go to revivals and they dance around and talk in tongues. It's socially approved and that is their escape.

"It was my duty to give them the best show possible," he said. "Say you've got a timid little preacher in North Carolina or somewhere. He'll bring in visiting evangelists to keep his church going. We'd come in and hit the crowd up and we were superstars. It's the charisma of the evangelist that the audience believes in and comes to see.

"When I was traveling, I'd see someone who wanted to get saved in one of my meetings, and he was so open and bubbly in his desire to get the Holy Ghost. It was wonderful and very fresh. But four years later I'd return and that person might be a hard-nosed intolerant Christian because he was better than anyone who drinks and better than the world because he had Christ. That's when the danger comes in. People want an experience. They want to feel good and their lives can be helped by it. But then as you start moving into the operation of the thing, you get into controlling people and power and money.

"Moon's [Unification Church] is doing the same thing I do, only he's taken it one step further. He's suggesting to people that he IS the Messiah. In my religion, the old-time religion, it's total blasphemy to suggest that. Moon has gone too far, but that's a very heavy number on people, because everyone wants to meet a Messiah."

Marjoe was quick to point out that Moon' preaching powers, like his own, were by no means divine or even innate. Marjoe acknowledged that his power over an audience derived primarily from the skills he perfected as a child, techniques of rhetoric and public speaking that have passed down from the Greeks.

"It's the same whether you're a preacher, a lawyer or a salesman," he told us. "You start off with a person's thought processes and then gradually sway him around to another way of thinking in a very short time."

Many of the techniques he commanded were simple and age-old, but so effective that they proved equally powerful even when an audience had been explicitly forewarned of their use. Toward the end of our conversation, Marjoe told us a story that revealed the fineness of his skills. In contrast to the massive physical experiences, intense group rituals and intimate personal crises that [are popular in the New Age crowd], Marjoe demonstrated how words alone, artfully manipulated, may be used to influence groups and individuals, even to the point of evoking the overwhelming emotional response of being "saved."

"I lecture in about twenty colleges a year," he began, "and I do a faith-healing demonstration - but I always make them ask for it. I tell them that I don't believe in it, that I use a lot of tricks; and the title of the lecture is 'Rhetoric and Charisma,' so I've already told them how large masses are manipulated by a charismatic figure. I've given them the whole rap explaining how it's done, but they still want to see it. So I throw it all right back at them. I say, 'No, you don't really want to see it.' And they say, 'Oh, yes. We do. We do!' And I say, 'But you don't believe in it anyway, so I can't do it.' And they say, 'We believe. We believe!' So after about twenty minutes of this I ask for a volunteer, and I have a girl come up and I say, 'So you want to feel better?' And I say 'You're lying to me! You're just up here for a good time and you want to impress all these people and you want to make an ass out of me and an ass out of this whole thing, so why don't you go back and sit down?' I really get hard on her, and she says, 'No, no, I believe!' And I keep going back and forth until she's almost in tears. And then, even though this is in a college crowd and I'm only doing it as a joke, I just say my same old line, In the name of Jesus! and touch her on the head, and WHAM! they fall down flat every time!" [Snapping, Conway and Siegelman, 1978]

Praise the Lord.

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Flashback: Their beliefs are bonkers, but they are at the heart of power

George Monbiot
Tuesday April 20, 2004
The Guardian

US Christian fundamentalists are driving Bush's Middle East policy

To understand what is happening in the Middle East, you must first understand what is happening in Texas. To understand what is happening there, you should read the resolutions passed at the state's Republican party conventions last month. Take a look, for example, at the decisions made in Harris County, which covers much of Houston.

The delegates began by nodding through a few uncontroversial matters: homosexuality is contrary to the truths ordained by God; "any mechanism to process, license, record, register or monitor the ownership of guns" should be repealed; income tax, inheritance tax, capital gains tax and corporation tax should be abolished; and immigrants should be deterred by electric fences. Thus fortified, they turned to the real issue: the affairs of a small state 7,000 miles away. It was then, according to a participant, that the "screaming and near fist fights" began.

I don't know what the original motion said, but apparently it was "watered down significantly" as a result of the shouting match. The motion they adopted stated that Israel has an undivided claim to Jerusalem and the West Bank, that Arab states should be "pressured" to absorb refugees from Palestine, and that Israel should do whatever it wishes in seeking to eliminate terrorism. Good to see that the extremists didn't prevail then.

But why should all this be of such pressing interest to the people of a state which is seldom celebrated for its fascination with foreign affairs? The explanation is slowly becoming familiar to us, but we still have some difficulty in taking it seriously.

In the United States, several million people have succumbed to an extraordinary delusion. In the 19th century, two immigrant preachers cobbled together a series of unrelated passages from the Bible to create what appears to be a consistent narrative: Jesus will return to Earth when certain preconditions have been met. The first of these was the establishment of a state of Israel. The next involves Israel's occupation of the rest of its "biblical lands" (most of the Middle East), and the rebuilding of the Third Temple on the site now occupied by the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosques. The legions of the antichrist will then be deployed against Israel, and their war will lead to a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. The Jews will either burn or convert to Christianity, and the Messiah will return to Earth.

What makes the story so appealing to Christian fundamentalists is that before the big battle begins, all "true believers" (ie those who believe what they believe) will be lifted out of their clothes and wafted up to heaven during an event called the Rapture. Not only do the worthy get to sit at the right hand of God, but they will be able to watch, from the best seats, their political and religious opponents being devoured by boils, sores, locusts and frogs, during the seven years of Tribulation which follow.

The true believers are now seeking to bring all this about. This means staging confrontations at the old temple site (in 2000, three US Christians were deported for trying to blow up the mosques there), sponsoring Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, demanding ever more US support for Israel, and seeking to provoke a final battle with the Muslim world/Axis of Evil/United Nations/ European Union/France or whoever the legions of the antichrist turn out to be.

The believers are convinced that they will soon be rewarded for their efforts. The antichrist is apparently walking among us, in the guise of Kofi Annan, Javier Solana, Yasser Arafat or, more plausibly, Silvio Berlusconi. The Wal-Mart corporation is also a candidate (in my view a very good one), because it wants to radio-tag its stock, thereby exposing humankind to the Mark of the Beast.

By clicking on, you can discover how close you might be to flying out of your pyjamas. The infidels among us should take note that the Rapture Index currently stands at 144, just one point below the critical threshold, beyond which the sky will be filled with floating nudists. Beast Government, Wild Weather and Israel are all trading at the maximum five points (the EU is debat ing its constitution, there was a freak hurricane in the south Atlantic, Hamas has sworn to avenge the killing of its leaders), but the second coming is currently being delayed by an unfortunate decline in drug abuse among teenagers and a weak showing by the antichrist (both of which score only two).

We can laugh at these people, but we should not dismiss them. That their beliefs are bonkers does not mean they are marginal. American pollsters believe that 15-18% of US voters belong to churches or movements which subscribe to these teachings. A survey in 1999 suggested that this figure included 33% of Republicans. The best-selling contemporary books in the US are the 12 volumes of the Left Behind series, which provide what is usually described as a "fictionalised" account of the Rapture (this, apparently, distinguishes it from the other one), with plenty of dripping details about what will happen to the rest of us. The people who believe all this don't believe it just a little; for them it is a matter of life eternal and death.

And among them are some of the most powerful men in America. John Ashcroft, the attorney general, is a true believer, so are several prominent senators and the House majority leader, Tom DeLay. Mr DeLay (who is also the co-author of the marvellously named DeLay-Doolittle Amendment, postponing campaign finance reforms) travelled to Israel last year to tell the Knesset that "there is no middle ground, no moderate position worth taking".

So here we have a major political constituency - representing much of the current president's core vote - in the most powerful nation on Earth, which is actively seeking to provoke a new world war. Its members see the invasion of Iraq as a warm-up act, as Revelation (9:14-15) maintains that four angels "which are bound in the great river Euphrates" will be released "to slay the third part of men". They batter down the doors of the White House as soon as its support for Israel wavers: when Bush asked Ariel Sharon to pull his tanks out of Jenin in 2002, he received 100,000 angry emails from Christian fundamentalists, and never mentioned the matter again.

The electoral calculation, crazy as it appears, works like this. Governments stand or fall on domestic issues. For 85% of the US electorate, the Middle East is a foreign issue, and therefore of secondary interest when they enter the polling booth. For 15% of the electorate, the Middle East is not just a domestic matter, it's a personal one: if the president fails to start a conflagration there, his core voters don't get to sit at the right hand of God. Bush, in other words, stands to lose fewer votes by encouraging Israeli aggression than he stands to lose by restraining it. He would be mad to listen to these people. He would also be mad not to.

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Flashback: Evangelist Pat Robertson warns Bush over Jerusalem

Oct. 6, 2004

Israel is alone in recognising Jerusalem as its capital

American evangelist Pat Robertson has warned President George Bush that he will risk losing the support of evangelical Christians if he changes his support for Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.

During a visit to Jerusalem, Robertson has spoken repeatedly in favour of Israel and lambasted Arab countries, warning that the establishment of a Palestinian state would threaten Israel's survival and interfere with "God's plan".

Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed the section of the city as part of its capital. Palestinians want east Jerusalem for the capital of a future state. The holy city is revered by Muslims, Jews and Christians.

Most nations, including the United States, never recognised Israel's annexation of east Jerusalem and keep their embassies in Tel Aviv.

Overwhelming support

Evangelical Christians - estimated at tens of millions of Americans - overwhelmingly support Bush for his pro-Israel policies, Robertson told a Jerusalem news conference on Monday. "But if he touches Jerusalem and he really gets serious about taking east Jerusalem and making it the capital of a Palestinian state, he'll lose virtually all evangelical support," Robertson said. "I think this is the key issue."

Bush had promised in his election campaign in 2000 to move the US embassy to Jerusalem as a sign of US backing for Israel's hold on the city.

But he later thwarted congressional action to move the embassy, reflecting official US policy that the fate of the city should be negotiated by Israel and the Palestinians.

God's plan

Robertson said Israel should not have to give up land for a Palestinian state but Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt should take in the 3.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The fiercely anti-Islamic Robertson accused Islam of wanting to destroy Israel.

"I see the rise of Islam to destroy Israel and take the land from the Jews and give East Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority. I see that a Satan's plan to prevent the return of Jesus Christ, the Lord," said the evangelical broadcaster.

The founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network unabashedly said he favoured Israel over the Palestinians, saying: "It isn't a question of politics, it's just a question of God's plan."

Jews and Christians have a common heritage and a different God than the Muslims, Robertson said.

The Virginia-based reverend is visiting Israel as a guest of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

More than 4000 evangelical Christian pilgrims are touring Israel during Sukkot, the Feast of the Tabernacles, a Jewish holiday some Christians also celebrate.

Exclusivist doctrine

Evangelical fundamentalist Christians in the US, who number as many as 50 million, follow the doctrine of dispensationalism which stipulates that the creation of Israel in Palestine in 1948 was a fulfilment of Biblical prophecy and presages the second coming of Christ.

"But if he touches Jerusalem and he really gets serious about taking east Jerusalem and making it the capital of a Palestinian state, he'll lose virtually all evangelical support"

Some evangelist leaders have enthusiastically supported Israel's wanton atrocities against the Palestinians, such as the 1982 Sabra and Shatila refugee camp slaughter as well as the Jenin Refugee Camp massacre in the Spring of 2002 on the grounds that such events ushered the near second coming of Jesus.

Evangelical doctrine also teaches that a universal apocalyptic war between good and evil, called Armageddon, will take place in Palestine in which most Jews will be annihilated except some 40,000 who would accept Jesus and become Christians.

The Evangelicals are considered Israel's most fanatical supporters in the West, especially in the United States where they hold a swaying influence on the Republican party and could decide the outcome of the current presidential election campaign.

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Flashback: Where Are The Good Christians?

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Wednesday, April 6, 2005
The fanatics and nutjobs now running the show sure give honest believers a bad name

I know they're out there.

I forget, often, too often, just how many there are but I know they exist in much larger numbers than you might be led to believe by current spiritually embarrassing headlines and I know they are just as, if not more, passionate and healthy and deeply felt in their beliefs than the overpublicized sects of angry and frothing "true believers" screeching into the megaphone of the culture, the ones yanking BushCo's chain and pounding their Bibles and hiding their warped porn fetishes and forcing their way into our lives and laws and bedrooms right now.

They are the decent Christians. They are the calm, morally progressive, compassionate, open-hearted Jesus-loving folk who don't really give a damn for archaic church dogma or pious noise or sanctimonious candlelight vigils, for repressing women or bashing gays or slamming Islam and, in fact, turned to Christianity precisely because they believe these things are abhorrent and wrong and, well, anti-Christian.

They are Episcopalians, for example, that most nimble and intelligent and groundbreaking of Christian churches, a rather revolutionary sect that recently elected its first openly gay bishop and supports gay marriage and dares to ordain women as priests.

And they're still deeply involved in amazing charity work, AIDS and orphanages and Africa and stuff that makes you humble and amazed and they have not, due to this seemingly blasphemous dichotomy and much to the shock of their homophobic conservative brethren, been struck by lightning or doomed to hell for all eternity -- or, rather, if they have, they'll go down happy and intelligent and singing and believing in Jesus anyway, all the way down.

They are the legions of recovering Catholics, people for whom the radiant and positive aspects of this most intense of faiths still hold powerful sway but who just can't abide by the ridiculous and outdated and often homophobic and sexist doctrines hurled forth like so much flaccid manna from the unhappy red-robed automatons of Vatican City.

They are the moderate Christians, the ones who do not support illegal wars or the killing of all doctors who perform abortions and who are all for social justice and who think Bush is a bit of an imbecile, and even if they find themselves for some unfortunate reason in support of the Republican cause overall, they still think it's rather abhorrent that the man dares invoke God to support his lie-ridden wars and the smashing down of women's rights and gay rights and abuse of the environment et al.

How do I know they're out there? Because I hear from them all the time, especially when I get carried away and lump them all together in my often overly harsh criticisms of the faith and my utter lack of patience for its more rabid and small-minded and hateful practitioners and its more violently self-righteous elements, stuff so completely antithetical to what true Christianity, what true faith, true spiritual connection, is all about, it would make Jesus wince.

And these Christians -- let us call them "normal" or perhaps "natural" or even "organic" (i.e.;, devoid of poisons or preservatives or Sanctimonious Growth Hormones) -- they are filling all manner of funky or progressive (or Unitarian) churches across many a large city in America, right now.

They are streaming into huge beautiful nonjudgmental buildings all over San Francisco and Chicago and New York and Boston, etc., places that welcome gays and oddballs and spiritual nomads and pantheists and anyone else who might be feeling a divine pull, and please leave your Jesus extremism at the door and let's talk about Sufism.

And they discuss stuff that sounds much closer to mystical or cosmological or otherwise paganistic energy work than the narrow, spittle-filled believe-in-Jesus-or-burn-in-hell angles of approach you keep hearing about and that tend to slash at your heart and insult your soul.

They're not radical. They're not rabid. They're not full of venom and Rapture and they read books other than the childish Left Behind series and they don't loathe sex or despise other religions or hate their genitalia like Tom DeLay loathes congressional law, and they know full well that Mel Gibson is a rather insane misogynistic blood fetishist who knowingly swiped an illiterate 18th-century stigmatic nun's bizarre and ultraviolent hallucination to use as some sort of dangerous literal truth. Amen.

They are, in short, those who understand the deep irony that, when it comes to religion, the ones who scream and stomp and whine the loudest are often the ones who understand their faith the least.

But there is a reason these calm and moderate and private Christians don't make the news, why, despite their enormous numbers, they are not setting the cultural agenda like some sort of sanctimonious meth-addled monkey (hi, Sen. Santorum!) right now.

It's because they are not organized. They are not a club. They do not have a unified attack agenda. They do not have pamphlets or advertising budgets or congressional lobbyists or the complaint line of every TV network and program except Fox News and "The 700 Club" on speed dial.

They do not call themselves the Parent's Television Council or the Right to Life Marauders or the Family Values Coalition or some other dumbly misleading and patently bogus moniker. They are not attempting to cram already gutted public school textbooks with imbecilic "Intelligent Design" BS, nor are they writing uptight letters to the FCC en masse or ranting about nipples or dildos or low-cut jeans on teenage girls while at the same exact moment repressing their own gay fantasies and kiddie-porn collections.

They understand that our children are at much higher risk of moral and spiritual damage from, say, decimated school budgets and violent presidential warmongering and noxious Kraft Lunchables than they could ever be from Janet Jackson or Abercrombie and Fitch or healthy teen sex.

Most spiritually healthy Christians are simply living their lives, praying deeply, carefully, privately, seeing the divine all around them and choosing Jesus' teachings as the best moral compass, especially the parts about love and healing and empathy and acceptance and turning the other cheek, about how God is not some sneering angry bearded puppeteer but rather a radiant energy force inside everyone and every living thing, always, just waiting for you to tap into it. You know, just like every other religion in existence.

They are the ones who understand that Jesus was, quite simply, one hell of a powerful teacher, and healer, and mystic, and visionary, a pacifist, a liberal, a feminist, the ultimate outsider, one of the finest examples in all of history of how to radiate pure love and compassion and divine interconnection and Lord knows we could all use more of that.

The bad news is, the rabid evangelical set is growing, this cluster of lost and weirdly undereducated people for whom the Bible is literal word-for-word verbatim truth and the Rapture is imminent and the Earth is just a disposable lump and the flesh is a disgusting afterthought and should be ignored and loathed and made really really fat and sexless and sad. And, to my mind, these people deserve all the fiery verbiage and raw satire and intelligent ideological counterforce I can possibly lob their way.

But. Just as there are moderate and wonderfully articulate pro-choice Republicans and just as there are moderate and fiscally conservative liberals, so there are millions of Christians who don't adhere in the slightest to the narrow and spiritually numb worldview now being touted by the BushCo Right. And if we're going to get anywhere with this increasingly desperate and fractured American social experiment, we need to remember that.

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Minister ex-communicates members for not backing Bush
The Associated Press
Published: May 6, 2005
Modified: May 6, 2005

WAYNESVILLE, N.C. -- The minister of a Haywood County Baptist church is telling members of his congregation that if they're Democrats, they either need to find another place of worship or support President Bush.

Already, the Reverend Chan Chandler has ex-communicated nine members of East Waynesville Baptist Church. Another 40 members have left in protest.

During last Sunday's sermon, he acknowledged that church members were upset because he named people, and he says he'll do it again because he has to according to the word of God.

Chandler could not be reached for comment today, but says his actions weren't politically motivated.

One former church member says Chandler told some of the members that if they didn't support George Bush, they needed to resign their positions and get out of the church, or go to the altar, repent and agree to vote for Bush.

A former church treasurer says she's at church to worship God and not the preacher.

Comment: Hey, he's only acting according to the Word of God, and somewhere in the Bible it DOES say that if you don't support George, you go to hell. We're sure of it.

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Left or right, madness is still madness
By Joan Chittister, OSB

In the late '60s, as a graduate student at a major university, I watched the hippies in the country flaunt all manner of institutional norms and thought they were all teetering on the edge of madness. Now 45 years later, I'm watching the world's radical fundamentalists, our own included, do the same thing and I'm inclined to think they are teetering a bit, too.

The problem is that both groups have total sincerity on their side. Because of both groups the rest of the world is being forced to give serious thought to what they are saying. Both groups help the rest of us clear our heads about what we have either taken for granted or aren't even conscious enough to think about.

The hippies demanded that we take the war in Vietnam seriously, examine its implications, look carefully at the slim thread of legitimacy to which it was tied when all the rest of us were saluting on command. They questioned the very morality of war and America's messianic self-image in an era plump with the notion of American innocence.

Today's radical fundamentalists, who are on the other end of the social and religious spectrum from the hippies, are making us think. Unfortunately, this time we're not being led to think about how to deal with the future. We're being required to think now about how to avoid returning to a past where some kinds of people, some ideas, some other ways of being human were unacceptable, in some cases even illegal.

We're not thinking about the nature of excessive far-left individualism now, we're thinking about far-right extremism in religion. We're trying to tell one kind of religion from another.

Three incidents make the situation all too clear.

In the first, according to the March 19 edition of The New York Times, 12 IMAX theaters in Texas, Georgia and the Carolinas decided not to show the science documentary "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea" because it mentions evolution. In fact, IMAX theaters in those states have declined to screen several IMAX films due to their evolutionary content. The problem is that IMAX caters to museums and science centers where, it is assumed, a student ought to be able to find all present explanations of multiple scientific problems: like the number of galaxies in the universe, perhaps, or the notion of a universe of universes or the possibility of life on other planets.

Spokespersons for the company say the decision was made on the grounds that the movie's comparisons of DNA in deep sea creatures with that of human DNA could offend religious sensibilities in the area concerning evolution. "Blasphemous," 10 percent of the film's preview audience of 136 people called it.

As a result, students from religious traditions, including Roman Catholic, that accept the notion that evolution is at least one explanation for the way God created the world, will not be able to see this presentation on sea creatures in the museums and science centers of these states. Whether or not the company will also ban films about creationism on the grounds that they will offend other traditions is unclear.

In the second instance in which religion figures -- and does not seem to figure, at the same time -- President George W. Bush interrupted a vacation to fly back to Washington. The urgency lay in the need to sign an order of Congress requiring a delay of 23 judicial decisions authorizing the removal of a feeding tube from a woman who has been, at very best, comatose for 16 years and declared to be in a "persistent vegetative state" by a bevy of neurologists. "The most important thing," Bush said, "is that we err on the side of life." A very religious sentiment, indeed.

But this same George Bush, as governor of Texas, presided over the execution of 152 capital punishment cases, deaths far from "natural" and rife with legal mistakes. In fact, in 1995 George Bush supported passage of a law that shortened death-penalty appeals and so risked an even greater loss of innocent life in the process. Erring on the side of life did not seem to be quite as urgent then.

Comment: And we note that one of the criteria for deciding whether or not each individual life would be celebrated down in Texas was the ability of the patient's family to continue to pay the medical bills. Send in those Credit Card gifts! Hallelujah!

Finally, the use of force in Iraq on the basis of poor intelligence gathering, on information over a decade old and in spite of the conscientious disapproval of the rest of the human community, raises the religious question again. This groundless invasion of another sovereign nation and the uncounted, unreported and callous loss of innocent life -- both adults and children -- that has followed from it was not a call to "err on the side of life." Instead, it is called "a noble venture."

Thanks to the radical right, we are now forced to ask ourselves what kind of religion it is that stops people from thinking and calls it a good thing?

What kind of religion is it that "errs on the side of life" in some cases but squanders life pitilessly in others?

What kind of religion is it that honors the conscience of some but not of others, that sets out to make the conscience of some the law of the land and dismisses the conscience of the rest as unsound?

From where I stand, it seems to me that religion that can stamp out the right to conscience in one instance and impose it in another is very close to being irreligious itself.

Comment: Only very close?

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The Peculiar State
Friday, 06/05/2005
Analyses | Droits humaine
John Chuckman

A lawyer gave a brief opinion piece on Canada's public radio, the CBC, in which he flatly said that criticism of Israel is a form of anti-Semitism.

I guess we should be grateful that people in Canada are much less violent in their opinions than people in the U.S. where one lawyer wrote an essay, published on the Internet, seriously advocating the execution of the families of those who commit terrorist acts in Israel. Another American lawyer, a very prominent one, has advocated protocols governing the legal use of torture in the United States.

I can't blame the CBC for once broadcasting what is essentially political smut because, on the whole, the network is fair, enlightened, and far freer of nasty political pressure than public radio in the United States. Everyone who makes an honest effort is entitled to make an honest mistake now and then.

Calling people names because you dislike their views is not logic and is not any form of argument. It is not even decent. I can't see how this lawyer's words differ from American Senator McCarthy using the dangerously-loaded slur, Communist, applied to anyone he didn't want working in the State Department or in Hollywood.

If I indulge this lawyer's name-calling, saying it resembles logic, what comes to mind is another lawyer's argument at the trial many years ago of a man who had slashed a woman's throat and then tried to strangle her with a lamp cord. That lawyer claimed his client had only been applying a tourniquet to a wound he accidentally inflicted.

This lawyer's fantasy argument is that the very selectivity of Israel's critics ipso facto proves their anti-Semitism. Why aren't these same people out criticizing China about Tibet he demanded? Apart from the fact that many of them do criticize other injustices in the world - a fact which makes the lawyer's words into the cheap trick of a straw-man argument - one has to ask just whom he includes in his indictment?

Does he include decent, honorable people like Uri Avnery, former member of the Knesset, a citizen of Israel who writes regularly of the injustices committed by the country he loves? Does he include the great pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim who grew up partly in Israel and has many times criticized its policies? Does he include the chief rabbi of the United Kingdom who expressed his rejection of Sharon's brutality? Does he include Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela who both have described what they see in Israel as the apartheid with which they are intimately familiar?

All people supporting any cause must be selective. You can't focus on the facts if your attention is distributed among fifty causes, and advocacy or criticism without facts is vacuous. Ghandi had a focus as did Martin Luther King as did Tutu as did all the early Zionist leaders as did Arafat. Taking on every injustice in the world plainly makes it impossible to say much to the point about any of them.

So why does anyone focus on Israel? In part, for the simple reason that we are overwhelmed with awareness of Israel in our press. A day almost cannot pass that we do not have a news story about Israel. The slightest statement of Ariel Sharon is reported with about the same weight as the words of major world statesmen. We hear of every change in his cabinet. We hear of every change in his plans. We hear of every meeting he has with other leaders. When was the last time you read or heard a story about Tibet?

As a quick check of the intuitive truth of this claim, do a Google search of leaders' names. At this writing, a search of Sharon turned up 24,700,000 references. A search for Blair turned up 24,400,000. Bush, which includes two presidents of the United States plus governors and cabinet posts, nets us 88,700,000 references. China's leader, Hu Jintao had 770,000 references. All of these searches, of course, include people other than the individual in question, but the world's population of Sharons is not large.

The population of Israel is a fraction of the size of cities like Shanghai or Mexico City. Its population is roughly the size of Guatemala's or Ecuador's or that of Ivory Coast. How many stories do you read or hear about these places? Can you name the Mayor of Shanghai or the President of Ecuador? The mayor of Shanghai, one of the world's largest cities, is a man by the name of Han Zheng. That name rang up 304,000 references, but with China's huge population sharing something on the order of only about a hundred traditional family names, those references include many people who are not even distantly related to the mayor.

Why would it surprise any thoughtful person that Israel is far more on people's minds than Tibet? But the question of focus on Israel involves far more than constant repetition, important as that fact is.

A good deal of the mess that we find ourselves in today, the so-called War on Terror and the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people, largely pivots on Israel's policy and behavior towards the Palestinians and on America's policy towards Israel. The problem of Israel versus the Palestinians has become a kind of geopolitical black hole which threatens to consume much of the energy and substance of Western society. Surely, we all have a right, and even a moral obligation, to address such a threatening situation without being called names.

Why doesn't Israel just make peace? Israel holds virtually all the cards. The weapons. The intelligence information. The economic advantages. The immensely powerful ally. At least certainly compared to the pathetic group of people, the Palestinians, it calls its enemy.

The pointless destruction of Iraq, with at least a 100,000 civilians killed, a reign of terror unleashed, and the loss of some of civilization's greatest ancient artifacts was never about oil. It was intended to sweep Israel's most formidable, traditional opponent from the map. Never mind that Hussein no longer had any threatening weapons (a fact confirmed by experts several times over), and never mind that Iraqis suffered horribly under American-imposed sanctions for a decade.

Hussein was nasty but no nastier than dozens of thugs with whom the U.S. has comfortably done business since World War II. Power is what always takes precedence over principles in these matters, and Hussein opposed some American policies. Israel's policy has followed the same path. For instance, Israel worked closely with the apartheid government of South Africa, heavily engaging in trade and military assistance. The South African atomic bomb, which quietly and quickly vanished with the changeover in government, unquestionably was the fruit of Israeli cooperation. Israel received its early assistance in creating atomic weapons from France in exchange for important support around France's battles in its (now former) North African colonies.

So what do we hear from Sharon, as American Marines turn the once-thriving city of Fallujah into a rubbish pile, as horrific resistance bombs keep ripping apart Baghdad? Sharon, time after time, tells us the United States also should invade Syria and Iran. To intimidate Syria, he has Israeli Air Force planes buzzing the presidential palace in Damascus, the only reason Syria is buying short-range anti-aircraft missiles from Russia, missiles to which Israel strenuously objects. What would the news stories here be were Syrian planes capable of doing the same thing in Tel Aviv?

Is Israel the only country somehow magically immune to Lord Acton's dictum about power? I think not, but in saying that I risk being classified an anti-Semite.

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Some Call Him "Venezuelan Strongman," I Call Him "Truthteller Supremo"
Posted by James Wolcott

Via Raw Story, this thunderbolt of candor from the southern hemisphere.

"HAVANA, Cuba (AP) -- Saying that U.S. citizens are oppressed by their own government, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez promised Friday that he would not visit the United States again until Americans 'liberate' their nation.

"Chavez, in Havana for trade talks, told an international gathering of activists here that before an earlier trip to Cuba, a U.S. State Department undersecretary he did not identify warned him not to go because he would no longer be received in Washington.

"He said he went ahead with that trip anyway, and later traveled to the United States to visit U.S. President George W. Bush, who he said greeted him with a Coca-Cola in his hand.

"'I have not returned, nor do I think about returning again, until the people of the United States liberate that nation,' said Chavez, saying that Americans are 'oppressed' by their government and U.S. media."

Gee, after all those decades in which the U.S. was accused of engaging in Coca-Colonization, greeting the Venezuelan president with a Coke and a smile probably wasn't the swiftest diplomatic move.

Comment: And here is Wolcott's recent description of George Bush:

"Dubya places religion over science, refuses to acknowledge that global warming even exists as a planetary peril, and has never shown the slightest interest in conservation, mass transport, or anything else that might prevent the paving over of every inch of countryside. He would plant oil rigs in Arlington Cemetery and shovel straight through the bones of dead soldiers if reserves were discovered beneath the rows of white crosses, and chainsaw the last tree in the rainforest out of pure spite."

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CIA to move domestic division out of Washington 2005-05-07 01:01:35

WASHINGTON, May 6 (Xinhuanet) -- The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has plans to relocate its domestic division from the agency's headquarters in Langley, just outside Washington, to Denver, the capital city of the central-west state of Colorado, The Washington Post reported Friday.

The move was designed to promote innovation, and about 20 million US dollars have been tentatively budgeted to relocate employees of the CIA's National Resources Division, which is responsible for operations and recruitment in the United States, intelligence and law enforcement officials were quoted as saying.

The Denver relocation reflected the desire of CIA Director Porter J. Goss to develop new ways to operate under cover, including setting up more front corporations and working closer with established international firms, officials said.

The move was also in keeping with Goss's desire to stop the growth of CIA headquarters and headquarter-based group-think, something he criticized frequently when he was chairman of the Intelligence Committee in the House of Representatives, the report quoted associates of Goss as saying.

The main function of the domestic division, which has stations in many major US cities, is to conduct voluntary debriefings of US citizens who travel overseas for work or to visit relatives, and to recruit foreign students, diplomats and business people to become CIA assets when they return to their countries, according to the report.

The Denver move is tentatively scheduled for next year, but has not been finalized, the report said.

Comment: "New ways to operate under cover"? More front corporations? Can you give us the list of the ones it has already set up?

International firms? Well, there's al Qaeda....

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Senior Al Qaeda Leader's Notebook Seized
ABC News

Al-Libbi's Notebook Believed to Contain Valuable Contact Information, Source Says

- U.S. officials are working feverishly to decipher numbers and apparent codes in a notebook retrieved from suspected al Qaeda leader Abu Faraj al-Libbi, ABC News has learned.

Al-Libbi -- believed to be third in command of al Qaeda leader after Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri -- was arrested by Pakistani authorities on Monday.

He is suspected of leading two failed assassination attempts on the life of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

Sources said officials believe al-Libbi's seized notebook contains "hot" contact information. They said officials are hopeful the notebook contains useful information because al-Libbi was stunned when he was captured.

One senior official described al-Libbi as "shocked" and enraged.

"He thought he was invincible," the source said. "He was caught with his pants down. This was not the time and place of his choosing."

Al-Libbi was trying to destroy the notebook when he was apprehended, multiple sources said.

Comment: How very helpful of all these "al-Qaeda" operatives to be caught with notebooks full of juicy information for the US media to salivate over. You see, it really is much more convenient for a "terrorist" to be caught with a portable computer that contains information to not only indict him but provide justification for the continued pursuit of "al-qaeda", than that he be caught with actual physical documents. Documents can be requested you see, and any forgeries in said documents might be easily spotted. On a computer, it is much easier to insert bogus information and get away with it. Readers may remember that, on March 1st 2003, alleged al-qaeda mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was captured with a portable computer full of juicy details also. The only problem at that time was the serious questions over just who Khalid Shaikh Mohammed really was. See this Cooperative Research report for more on this.

In the above report, "US officials" tell us that recently arrested suspected al Qaeda leader Abu Faraj al-Libbi is also wanted for attempted assassinations on the Pakistani President, however, readers may also remember that at least one of the assassination attempts on Musharraf in the last few years was carried out on the orders of Musharraf himself.

What are we to make of all of this? Well, there are lies, then there are damned lies, and then there is the world of global political and economic power broking.

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CIA keeps silent on moving plans

Paper says office to relocate to Denver
By Rocky Mountain News
May 7, 2005

WASHINGTON - If the CIA plans to move some of its operations to Colorado, it hasn't let state lawmakers in on the secret.

State congressional offices were still in the dark on Friday, after The Washington Post reported that the intelligence agency plans to relocate the headquarters of its National Resources Division to Denver.

Citing unnamed government sources, the newspaper reported that the CIA had tentatively budgeted $20 million to move an undetermined number of employees from the agency's headquarters in Langley, Va., to Denver.

Agency officials declined to comment Friday, and it was unclear whether the story represented a preliminary trial balloon or a concept further along in planning.

"We would certainly welcome the move of the domestic intelligence division or any other part of the CIA to Denver if it fell into the interests of national security," said Josh Freed, a spokesman for Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver.

"I think it is in such early stages of consideration that numerous angles need to be looked at and considered before it can be determined how serious this is."

Such a move could affect DeGette's district, but neither she nor Colorado's two U.S. Senate offices had been briefed as of Friday.

Transferring the sensitive CIA operations would require extensive consultation with the Senate and House of Representatives' intelligence committees, which do not have any Colorado members. Committee representatives declined comment Friday.

Part of the National Resources Division's mission is to recruit foreign citizens in the United States to work with the CIA and provide intelligence once they return home. It also tries to glean information from Americans returning from overseas trips.

Sources told The Washington Post that the move is consistent with new CIA Director Porter Goss' hopes of ending "group-think" by limiting growth at the CIA's sprawling Virginia headquarters. Other officials reportedly questioned whether Colorado-based agents could get "disconnected." The state already has a prominent military presence, with a busy Army base at Fort Carson, Air Force bases and missile defense facilities in and around Colorado Springs, and sensitive facilities at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora that download data from intelligence-gathering satellites.

Comment: "Group think"? As in everyone thinking the same thing as Bush, irregardless of whether or not it fits the facts? No, that's simply living by the Word of God.

That aside, let's do some wild and crazy speculation. Colorado has a "prominent military presence" as the article so gracefully puts it. Now the domestic division of the CIA will be joining them. We note, as well, that the CIA's sister alphabet soup agency, the NSA, recently sent some of its employees to San Antonio, Texas. Is there more to this movement to leave Washington than the desire to breathe the clean, fresh air of the Rockies or the dry air of the desert?

Like maybe they know something about future events on the East Coast and are slowly setting up the framework for a post-cataclysmic government? Spies, soldiers... it sounds like fun.

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Pentagon cut and paste
By Pepe Escobar

Talk about rebel technology: the Pentagon this week was not overwhelmed by a dirty bomb or a jet converted into a missile, but by a simple cut and paste job. Like anyone else, the Pentagon uses Adobe Acrobat. At first, the 42 pages of the report which would supposedly shed some light on the March 4 killing of Italian secret agent Nicola Calipari and the wounding of kidnapped journalist Giuliana Sgrena in Baghdad showed up on the Centcom website as a PDF file heavily censored with large sections blacked out - including the significant omission, among others, of the names of all the soldiers involved in the shooting, as well as entire pages.

But because the Pentagon failed to save the file properly, all it took was for someone to cut and paste the document into a word-processing application to give Italy and the rest of the world access to the full, uncensored version.

The Pentagon was enveloped by huge clouds of embarrassment. Its first reaction was a "no comment". Lieutenant Colonel Barry Venable, a press officer, repeatedly told Italian journalists that if they wanted to find out how substantial, uncensored sections of the Calipari report could have been available "by mistake" on the Centcom website last Saturday night, they had to contact "the multinational force in Iraq". It took the Pentagon practically the whole of Monday to rebuke Italian journalists, until it offered the final confirmation that it was an "error of procedure" which didn't alter the essence of the report anyway. According to a Pentagon spokesman, the consequences were "more tactical than strategic".

Truths collide

The uncensored Pentagon report at least allows the international public to know that there were no less than 15,527 attacks on the occupation forces from July 2004 to March 2005. In Baghdad alone, from November to March 12, there were 2,404 attacks. These numbers confirm that when US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his minions spin that the situation in Iraq is under control they are essentially lying. In the three months since the Iraqi elections there may have been fewer American casualties, but there were countless more assassination attempts against the so-called Iraqi security forces, all of them based on precise intelligence. Every day, there are at least 20 bomb attacks in Baghdad alone, and at least 60 throughout Iraq.

As for the Calipari/Sgrena affair, the Italian report - written by diplomat Cesare Ragaglini and General Pierluigi Campregher - contests point by point the Pentagon report. And stealing a page from Pentagon procedure, this is also a sanitized version: embattled Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi went overboard to salvage what he considers his privileged relationship with Washington, to the point, according to Italian daily Il Messagero, that he "read, reread, corrected and tweaked the report before handing it back to Italian military intelligence".

Regardless, the Italian report is devastating. Among the most important issues:

1) American soldiers did not signal or warn the Toyota Corolla carrying Calipari and Sgrena - a fact confirmed even by a US official, who sheepishly ventured that the Italian driver did not understand the road signs "because they are written in English and Arabic". Sgrena, as well as the driver, a major with the Italian carabinieri, have always been adamant: there were no warning shots.

2) The soldiers at the checkpoint fired away due to "stress and inexperience". Specialist Mario Lozano was the man who shot and killed Calipari.

3) The Toyota was traveling at no more than 50 km/h (the Pentagon says it was close to 100 km/h). The road was wet, the major was driving with only one hand because he was talking on a mobile phone, and to top it all he was approaching a 90-degree turn.

4) The crime scene was not isolated and secured. Evidence simply "disappeared".

5) The Americans knew about Calipari, and that he was on a mission in Baghdad, even if they didn't know the details. US command was informed by the Italians of a delicate mission hours before the shooting, and they knew that Sgrena had been released 25 minutes before Calipari was killed.

But in the end, nothing happened. Nobody is to blame - because by definition the Pentagon can do no wrong. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is happy, Berlusconi is happy. The same would not apply to Italian public opinion.

Simply unaccountable

The 15th World Press Freedom Day was celebrated this Tuesday. Paris-based Reporters without Borders took the occasion to issue its annual report. The numbers are grim: 53 journalists were killed - the largest number in the past 10 years - and 107 thrown into jail in 2004.

Asia does not cut a good figure: 16 journalists were killed in 2004 - six of them in the Philippines. Twenty-six journalists remain in jail in China. In Myanmar, five journalists may have been liberated in 2004, but one is partially deaf and the other died a few days after leaving prison. North Korea has no press freedom whatsoever. In Turkmenistan, there's no press, apart from that which hails the glory of Dear Leader Saparmurat Niyazov.

But it's Iraq - the alleged model for Middle East democracy - that remains the most dangerous country in the world for journalists: 19 were killed and 16 kidnapped in 2004 - including Sgrena, who was writing for Il Manifesto. Twelve fixers have been killed. Since the start of 2005, four journalists have been assassinated. Florence Aubenas of France's Liberation was kidnapped along with her fixer on January 5. Both are still missing.

Repression against journalists is inextricably linked to the absence of law and democracy. In Iraq, independent journalists are just pawns in a power game, trying to give some voice to the voiceless and establish some facts dissimulated by clouds of propaganda. Repression against journalists may also be inextricably linked to superpower military impunity.

Sgrena believes she was the victim of a Pentagon hit because she was trying to establish what really happened in the offensive against Fallujah in November, 2004. This may be very difficult to prove. But the worldwide perception of Pentagon unaccountability remains strong. The Pentagon is unaccountable for the death of Calipari and the wounding of Sgrena, unaccountable for the killing of tens of thousands of civilians, unaccountable for obliterating a whole city and turning its residents into refugees, unaccountable for Abu Ghraib. It will take more than a cut and paste job for the whole truth to emerge.

To read the Pentagon's original, censored report, click here.
For the uncensored version, click here.

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Former Abu Ghraib prison commander demoted
Fri May 6, 3:27 AM ET

WASHINGTON - President George W Bush ordered the demotion of Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, the former commander of the Abu Ghraib prison, after an army investigation found her guilty of dereliction of duty and shoplifting, the army said.

The action made Karpinski, an army reservist, the highest ranking officer to be punished in the wake of the prisoner abuse scandal at the Iraqi prison.

"Today, the president approved a recommendation to vacate the promotion of Brigadier General Karpinski from her rank of brigadier general," the army said in a statement. "This decision reduces her to the rank of colonel in the US Army Reserve."

Karpinski was arrested for shoplifting at a US air force base in the United States but failed to report it to her superiors or on official forms that asked if she had ever been arrested, an official familiar with the investigation said.

The army's inspector general also substantiated allegations against her of dereliction of duty, the army said, citing leadership failures rather than specific actions that contributed to the abuse at the prison.

"Though Brigadier General Karpinski's performance of duty was found to be seriously lacking, the investigation determined that no action or lack of action on her part contributed specifically to the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib," the army said.

Karpinski commanded the Abu Ghraib prison during the period in late 2003 and early 2004 when military guards were photographed abusing and sexually humiliating Iraqi prisoners.

She has said she had no knowledge of the abuse and insisted she was being made a scapegoat to protect higher-ups and the role in the abuse of military intelligence.

Comment: The charge of shoplifting is rather curious, isn't it?

The army inspector general cleared Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the US commander in Iraq at the time, of responsibility for the scandal.

Major General Walter Wojdakowski, then deputy commander in Iraq, and Major General Barbara Fast, the top military intelligence officer in Iraq, and Colonel Marc Warren, the command's legal adviser also were cleared, the army said.

Investigations into Colonel Thomas Pappas, commander of the military intelligence brigade at the prison, and Lieutenant Colonel Steve Jordan, the military officer in charge of interrogations, are still open, an official said.

The Abu Ghraib scandal triggered 10 investigations that have shone a spotlight on the treatment of detainees at other military-run prisons in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and
Afghanistan as well as Iraq.

Before being demoted, Karpinski was given a career-ending memorandum of reprimand and removed from her command by the army's vice chief of staff, General Dick Cody.

The shoplifting arrest surfaced in the course of the investigation, the official familiar with the investigation said.

The official, who asked not to be identified, said she was caught stealing cosmetics of nominal value at an air force commissary.

"The issue was she didn't inform the military about it. When you do a security clearance you have to put down if you ever been arrested, for anything in you whole life," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Seeking to counter criticism that only low ranking soldiers have been punished, the army said 25 percent of those punished to date have been officers.

The army said a colonel, four lieutenant colonels, three majors, 10 captains, four 1st lieutenants, two 2nd lieutenants, and two chief warrant officers have also been punished as a result of investigations set in motion by the scandal.

The punishments ranged from letters of reprimand or non-judicial punishment for higher ranking officers to court martials for some junior officers. [...]

Comment: In other words, the higher ranking officers get a slap on the wrist, and the "little people" get dishonorable discharges or thrown in prison. Karpinski is the scapegoat to prevent the need for any other higher-ups, including Rumsfeld, from having to face the music over the continuing torture of prisoners in the War on Terror.

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Saved by the Carrots...
Baghdad Burning
Monday, May 02, 2005

These last few days have been explosive- quite literally. It started about 4 days ago and it hasn't let up since. They say there were around 14 car bombs in Baghdad alone a couple of days ago- although we only heard 6 from our area. Cars are making me very nervous lately. All cars look suspicious- small ones and large ones. Old cars and new cars. Cars with drivers and cars parked in front of restaurants and shops. They all have a sinister look to them these days.

The worst day for us was the day before yesterday. We were sitting in the living room with an aunt and her 16-year-old son and listening patiently as she scolded the household for *still* having our rugs spread. In Iraq, people don't keep their carpeting all year round. We begin removing the carpeting around April and it doesn't come back until around October. We don't have wall to wall carpeting here like abroad. Instead, we have lovely rugs that we usually spread in the middle of the room. The best kinds are made in Iran, specifically in Tabriz or Kashan. They are often large, heavy and intricately designed. Tabriz and Kashan rugs are very expensive and few families actually have them any more. Most people who do have Tabriz rugs in Baghdad got them through an inheritance.

We have ordinary Persian rugs (which we suspect aren't really Persian at all). They aren't expensive or even particularly impressive, but they give the living room that Eastern look many Iraqi houses seem to have- no matter how Western the furniture is. The patterns and colors are repeated all over the rugs in a sort of symmetrical fashion. If you really focus on them though, you can often see a story being told by the flowers, geometrical shapes and sometimes birds or butterflies. When we were younger, E. and I would sit and stare at them, trying to 'read' the colors and designs- Having them on the ground is almost like having a woolly blog for the floor.

So my aunt sat there, telling us we should have had the rugs cleaned and packed away long ago- like the beginning of April. And she was right. The proper thing would be to give the rugs a good cleaning and roll them up for storage in their corner in the hallway upstairs, to stand tall and firm for almost 7 months, like sentinels of the second floor. The reason we hadn't gotten around to doing this yet was quite simple- the water situation in our area didn't allow for washing the rugs in April and so we had procrastinated the rug situation, until one week became two weeks and two weeks melted into three... and now we were in the first days of May and the rugs faced us almost disapprovingly on the floor.

Within 20 minutes, the aunt decided she was going to stay and help us remove said rugs the next day. We would go upstairs to clean the roof of the house very thoroughly. We would drag the rugs to the roof the next day and one by one, beat them thoroughly to get out the excess dust, then wipe down the larger ones with my aunts secret rug-cleaning mix and wash the smaller ones and set them out to dry on the hot roof.

Her son couldn't spend the night however, and he decided to return home the same day. It was around maybe 1 pm when he walked out the door, planning to walk the two kilometers home. He listened to my aunt as she gave him instructions about heating lunch for his father, studying, washing fruit before eating it, picking up carrots on the way home, watching out for suspicious cars and people and calling as soon as he walked through the door so she could relax. He shook his head in the affirmative, waved goodbye and walked out the gate towards the main street.

Three minutes later, an explosion rocked the house. The windows rattled momentarily and a door slammed somewhere upstairs. I was clutching a corner of the living room rug where I had pulled it back to assure my aunt that there were no bugs living under it.

"Car bomb." E. said grimly, running outside to see where it had come from. I looked at my aunt apprehensively and she sat, pale, her hands shaking as she adjusted the head scarf she wore, preparing to go outside.

"F. just went out the door..." she said, breathlessly referring to her son. I dropped the handful of carpeting and ran outside to follow E. My heart was beating wildly as I tried to decide the direction of the explosion. I sensed my aunt not far behind me.

"Do you see him?" She called out weakly. I was in the middle of the street by then and some of the neighbors were standing around outside.

"Where did it come from?" I called across the street to one of the neighborhood children.

"The main street." He answered back, pointing in the direction my cousin had gone.

"Did it come from the main street?" My aunt cried out from the gate.

"No." I lied, searching for E. "No- it came from the other side." I was trying to decide whether I should go ahead and run out to the main street where it seemed more and more people were gathering, when I saw E. rounding the corner, an arm casually draped around my cousin who seemed to be talking excitedly. I turned to smile encouragingly at my aunt who was sagging with relief at the gate.

"He's fine." She said. "He's fine."

"I was near the explosion!" F. said excitedly as he neared the house. My aunt grabbed him by the shoulders and began inspecting him- his face, his neck, his arms.

"I'm fine mother..." he shrugged her off as she began a long prayer of thanks interspersed with irrational scolding about how he should be more careful.

"Did anyone get hurt?" I asked E., dreading the answer. E. nodded and held up three fingers.

"I think three people were killed and there are some waiting for the cars to take them to the hospital."

Back in the house, E. and I decided he'd go back and see if he could help. We gathered up some gauze, medical tape, antiseptic and a couple of bottles of cold water. I turned back to my cousin after E. had left. He was excited and tense, eyes wide with disbelief. His voice was shaking slightly as he spoke and his lower lip trembled.

"I was just going to cross the street but I remembered I should buy the carrots" He spoke rapidly, "So I stopped by that guy who sells vegetables and just as I was buying them- a big BOOM and a car exploded and the one next to it began to burn... If I hadn't stopped for the carrots..." The cousin began waving his arms around in the air and I leaned back to avoid one in the face.

My aunt gasped, stopping in the living room, "The carrots saved you!" She cried out, holding a hand to her heart. My cousin looked at her incredulously and the color slowly began to return to his face. "Carrots." He murmured, throwing himself down on the sofa and grabbing one of the cushions, "Carrots saved me."

E. came home an hour later, tired and disheveled. Two people had died- the third would probably survive- but at least a dozen others were wounded. Every time I look at my cousin, I wonder- gratefully- how it was that we were so lucky.

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Hamas success in Palestinian elections signify emergence as political force
07:13 AM EDT May 07

QALQILIYA, West Bank (AP) - The Islamic militants of Hamas won nearly a third of the West Bank and Gaza towns up for grabs in local elections, unofficial results said Friday, cementing the group as a significant political force as Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas tries to make peace with Israel.

Abbas' corruption-tainted Fatah movement, which had feared defeat, did better than expected and held on to control over most of the area, winning in 45 of 84 communities. But he will no longer be able to ignore Hamas, which has long opposed negotiations with Israel.

Thousands of flag-waving Hamas supporters took to the streets, shooting off fireworks, handing out candy and honking car horns. In Qalqiliya, a West Bank town of 45,000 on the frontier with Israel, the green Hamas banner was hoisted over city hall as the group swept all 15 local council seats.

Hamas candidates also won control of the two other biggest towns holding elections, Rafah and Beit Lahiya in Gaza.

The election, the third round of local voting by Palestinians this year, was the final test for Abbas before parliamentary elections in July that could add to pressures to bring Hamas into the Palestinian administration.

Abbas has an ambivalent view of Hamas and its political aspirations. He has encouraged Hamas to transform itself into a political party, hoping this will help him quiet extremists and shore up the truce with Israel.

But an increasingly strong Hamas as an opposition party could hinder peace talks. Hamas opposes the existence of the Jewish state and its members have staged dozens of suicide bombings, shellings and shooting attacks on Israel in recent years.

Supporters of bringing Hamas into politics, including some Hamas members, argue that will force the group to moderate its approach.

Hamas leaders on Friday tried to allay concerns that they will impose hardline religious views in the communities they now will govern, saying the group will focus on providing better services in the municipalities.

"We are not Iran or the Taliban," said Mohammed Ghazal, a senior Hamas official in the West Bank. "We believe that personal freedom is one of the foundations of Islam."

However, the rise of Hamas - branded by Israel, the United States and the European Union as a terror group - poses challenges. Many basic municipal functions, such as electricity supply, telephones and trash collections are handled jointly with Israeli service providers.

The group is an avowed enemy of Israel, although it has agreed to suspend violence as part of a February truce arranged by Abbas.

An Israeli government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed concern that Hamas will emerge as the largest faction in this summer's parliamentary elections and begin influencing Palestinian policy. Hamas has not yet said whether it will seek posts in Abbas' cabinet after the July vote.

The official said the government would not negotiate with anyone associated with terrorists.

But Israeli analyst Yossi Alpher said it was possible Israel could talk with a Palestinian government that included a more moderate Hamas. "I can conceive of Israel dealing with (Hamas) - the question is at what point do they give up their arms," he said.

Hamas officials in Qalqiliya predicted that being in power would moderate the group. "We are not dealing with politics, we are trying to improve the daily services of the people of Qalqiliya," said a Hamas spokesman there, Mustafa Sabri.

Qalqiliya is particularly sensitive because of its nearness to the Israeli town of Kfar Saba.

Kfar Saba was once intertwined with Qalqiliya in a relationship that transcended the conflict. Palestinians from Qalqiliya went to Kfar Saba for work and to buy little luxuries. Israelis from Kfar Saba went to Qalqiliya to dine, buy produce and get their cars fixed.

Even today, with a security barrier separating the two towns, many municipal services are still combined. "I say to the Israelis, our neighbours, we are not here to cause problems for anyone. We are here only to give good service to our citizens," Sabri said.

Thursday's vote was the third - and largest - round of municipal voting since December. One more round is to be held later this year.

More than 400,000 Palestinians were eligible to vote Thursday. Turnout was reported at 80 per cent in Gaza and 70 per cent in the West Bank. Final unofficial results showed Fatah winning 56 per cent of the votes and Hamas winning 33 per cent, with the remainder going to independents and smaller parties.

According to an Associated Press tally, Fatah won a majority in 45 communities and Hamas in 23. In 16 towns and villages, neither side won a majority, with independents or small groups getting the most votes.

Fatah activists attributed the movement's better than expected showing to its decision to hold primaries and field candidates with broader popular appeal. But Mohammed Horani, a Fatah legislator who advocates sweeping reform, said the party will have to work hard to fend off Hamas in the summer.

Fatah and Hamas both claimed winning more races than the unofficial tally showed. Both sides apparently claimed independent candidates as their own. Fatah demanded a recount in Rafah and Bureij, but did not explain why it suspected irregularities there.

Comment: Hmm, Palestinian elections in July where some people think Hamas could win a majority. Israel was scheduled to pull out of Gaza in July but has pushed back the date until August. Could these two items be connected? Is Israel waiting for Hamas, an organisation started in the 80s with funding from Israel in order to undermine Arafat's position in the Palestinian community, to get more power so that Israel can then refuse to pull out of Gaza and stop the "peace" process altogether?

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Chinese embassy commemorates reporters killed in US bombing 6 years ago 2005-05-07 20:40:30

BELGRADE, May 7 (Xinhuanet) -- The Chinese embassy in Belgrade held a ceremony Saturday to commemorate the three Chinese journalists killed in US-led NATO's missile attack on the embassy six years ago.

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Spain, US to reinforce anti-terror cooperation 2005-05-07 12:17:43

MADRID, May 6 (Xinhuanet) -- The Spanish government vowed on Friday that it will further cooperate with the United States against terrorism despite the difference of viewpoints between thetwo governments.

Robert Mueller, director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), will visit Madrid next Tuesday and he will hold talks with Spanish Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso.

The two sides will discuss measures to combat the financing of terror groups and the traffic of explosives, according the Interior Ministry.

They will also discuss ways of reinforcing security cooperation"at a political and operative level," and boosting information exchanges, said the ministry, adding the two countries may set up a state-security body.

Relations between Spain and the US cooled down for the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq last year.

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Britain's 'Iron Lady' comes to Bolton's defense
Thu May 5, 5:26 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has thrown her weight behind the troubled nomination of John Bolton to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

In a letter to Bolton made available to reporters on Thursday, Thatcher praised his candor and intellect and said she could not imagine anyone better suited for the job.

Bolton's nomination has been dogged by allegations that he bullied State Department subordinates and tried to pressure analysts to write reports that conform to his hard-line views.

Thatcher, nicknamed the "Iron Lady," told Bolton "how strongly" she supported him for the job, saying "on the basis of our years of friendship, I know from experience the great qualities you will bring to that demanding post."

"To combine, as you do, clarity of thought, courtesy of expression and an unshakable commitment to justice is rare in any walk of life. But it is particularly so in international affairs," Thatcher said.

"A capacity for straight talking rather than peddling half-truths is a strength and not a disadvantage in diplomacy," she added.

"Those same qualities are also required for any serious reform of the United Nations ... I cannot imagine anyone better fitted to undertake these tasks than you," she said, signing her letter "All good wishes, yours ever, Margaret."

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to vote on Bolton's nomination on May 12.

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Thousands die early as poverty gap widens

By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor
29 April 2005

Thousands of people are dying prematurely in deprived inner cities as the gap between rich and poor in Britain widens. The difference in life expectancy between the poorest and most affluent parts of the country has grown to 11 years and is now more pronounced than in Victorian times, researchers say.

Comment: Certain readers write to us and suggest we should be more positive. Here goes:

If conditions continue to deteriorate in Britain, it will provide an excellent opportunity for another Dickens to emerge, and English literature will greatly benefit.

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Calling Mr. Dickens
Towards Debtors' Prisons?
May 3, 2005
Sacramento, California

The bankruptcy reform bill that President Bush just signed into law will do more than discipline those who live riotously on loans without paying them back in full. Think for a moment about new prisons to house the indebted. This trend will expand investment opportunities. Surely, Wall Street is salivating at the thought of housing incarcerated debtors. Bonds, some of them tax-exempt, will need to be issued to fund such construction projects, with many fees to be paid from the public purse. Some of this cash will get invested in Congress. Honest graft. Today, profits and punishment are the mother's milk of American politics.

In the 2005 slow/no jobs "recovery," debtor's prisons will expand payrolls. Many construction estimators, laborers and superintendents will be needed to build these facilities. Lower-paid and more numerous service workers will be hired to staff them. Behold this flavor of "economic development" that creates growth with employment. Where are you when we need you most, Mr. Dickens? Mr. Hogarth?

We know that the American people believe in work and wages. Some are such believers in this dynamic duo that they have multiple jobs. There are about 7.6 million of these Americans now. You may be one of them. I was and could be again depending on what the future holds, financially speaking.

Yes, even in California, home to 36 million people. Courageously, state leaders from both parties and their business brethren have contributed to the growth of the national prison-industrial complex. But there's still room for more building in the Golden State. Debtors, beware.

Which brings me to a special shout-out to one of California's heavy-weight political groups that will surely back getting tough on debtors by locking them up. I refer you to the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, a labor union whose time has come in more ways than one. The CCPOA's legendary influence-peddling in the Capitol helped to fuel the state's prison-building boom, itself sparked by the War on Drugs, the sustained campaign to lock up the black and brown population.

Prisons for debtors won't just increase the U.S. inmate population of 2.1 million mostly nonwhite folks held in jails and prisons about a year ago. Incarcerating bankrupt working people, half of whom have gone bust from being unable to pay for corporate health care according to a recent academic study, will lower the jobless rate. What could be better than that, I ask you? Here's the thing: these debtors will be uncounted in the Labor Department jobs reports, thus invisible as prisoners/surplus workers are in official-speak. Wall Street will cheer as more of the unemployed are pencil-whipped from sight on government spreadsheets.

Cut to politicians with sturdy shovels and simian grins as they break ground on new prisons for debtors. Later, they boast before media cameras about how this "economic development" will make us safe, add jobs and fuel growth. Such a penal building boom could go on for quite some time, given the record debt levels of U.S. households, Main Street's weakness and Wall Street's clout.

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Bush's New Math
By Molly Ivins
Posted May 4, 2005

Attention, all campers! "Progressive indexing" is just another word for "cutting Social Security benefits." Do not be fooled by this idiot locution. Just as sure as "extraordinary rendition" now means "shipping the guy to another country so he can be tortured," progressive indexing means cutting benefits. Got it?

In another interesting development from President Bush's news conference, if you make more than $20,000 a year, you are wealthy. That's what the president said -- "wealthy."

Would you hire this man as an investment consultant? Bush said, "I know some Americans have reservations about investing in the stock market, so I propose that one investment option will consist entirely of treasury bonds, which are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government." These are exactly the same treasury bonds that currently guarantee Social Security and have been described by Bush, including in the very same press conference, as a cabinet full of "worthless IOUs."

He continued, "Options like this will make voluntary personal retirement accounts a safer investment that will allow an American to build a nest egg that he or she can pass on to whomever he or she chooses." Nope, under that option, what you get is not a nest egg, but a rotten egg.

Brad DeLong, the blogging economics professor who specializes in this subject, ran the numbers. "The safest long-term investment the U.S. Treasury offers is the 20-year, inflation-protected TIP. ... What Bush is not telling you is that, under the Bush plan, if you divert $1,000 from your Social Security to private accounts, that amount is clawed back -- charged to an account associated with your normal Social Security benefit, that amount is then compounded at 3 percent per year plus the rate of inflation, and then after you retire, deducted over time from you normal Social Security benefit.

"If you are 45 and if Bush's plan were available today ... follow George W. Bush's advice, divert $1,000 into your private account, invest it in TIPS, and at the 1.85 percent per year interest rate you will indeed be able to collect an extra amount worth $10.11 a month in today's dollars when you retire at 65. ...

"But the clawback would reduce your normal Social Security benefit by $14.16 a month. You're $4.05 a month behind."

That's why privatizers never mention the clawback.

Basically, you have to beat 3 percent plus inflation to come out ahead, and the only way to do that is to gamble in the stock market.

Further technical analysis by Jason Furman shows how really badly the plan screws the middle class and that it would not close 70 percent of the shortfall problem, as Bush claimed, but 57 percent, including cuts for the disabled. Bottom line, it's a bad deal.

By the way, to the bird-brain on television who said it's only four percent of your Social Security and who wouldn't take some risks with a mere four percent? -- jeez. The four percent they are talking about is four percent of the 12 percent in total Social Security tax. Four is one-third of 12, and that comes to 33 percent. It's not that hard, honey.

Bush used another common disinformation claim out of Washington -- we are not cutting the benefits, we are merely slowing the rate of growth in the benefits. This is a perennial form of government lying.

"Of course we are not cutting Head Start. We are spending more money on Head Start than ever -- look, here's this figure in our budget, it is more than it was last year, and so that is an increase."

Except, since there are ever more kids who qualify for Head Start (and even at the lowest level, the program has never been fully funded), when the increase in funding is way too small to cover the increase in the number of most needy kids, what you have effectively done is decrease the spending per child in the program, and that is, in fact, cutting the program. It will not work as well. That this old dog still hunts is a shame on the arithmetic teachers of America.

Look, Social Security has a long-term financing problem that is not particularly dire and in fact not nearly as troubling as the Medicare shortfall. The Social Security shortfall can be solved by any one of a number of combinations of benefit cuts and tax increases. One thing you could do is let the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of 10 years, as they were originally supposed to do, or you could take the cap off Social Security taxes, which is now set at $90,000. That means at present any income you make over $90 K is not subject to Social Security taxes, one of the most flatly regressive features in the tax code. Removing the cap would solve the projected Social Security deficit, despite right-wing claims to the contrary.

And all I can say for Bush's energy plan is, if he thinks Americans want to give even more huge tax breaks to the oil companies when they are already making obscene profits, he's been talking to people on the wrong planet.

Molly Ivins is a best-selling author and columnist who writes about politics, Texas and other bizarre happenings.

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S&P cuts GM and Ford to junk status
By Dan Wilchins
Thu May 5, 6:05 PM ET

NEW YORK - Standard & Poor's on Thursday cut its ratings on about $290 billion of General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. bonds to junk, jolting financial markets and further hampering the automakers as they grapple with brutal competition.

The downgrades, the largest ever of their kind, sent stocks and the U.S. dollar lower, while safe-haven Treasury bond prices jumped.

"Junk," or speculative-grade bonds slumped as investors braced for the market to grow by as much as 15 percent in short order. With junk ratings, the automakers have fewer avenues for raising funds because many large institutional investors cannot buy speculative-grade debt. These types of issuers are deemed more likely to default.

Both companies said they were disappointed with the action.

The companies' shares and bonds dropped about 5 percent and the cost of protecting Ford and GM debt against default surged. The cuts to junk were expected, but came much sooner than investors had anticipated.

The automakers are struggling with high health-care, pension and materials costs. At the same time, vehicles made by foreign automakers have captured a growing share of the U.S. auto market from the Big Two.

"I don't see anything helping them out now. I don't see any rays of sunshine," said Wilmer Stith, who helps manage some $2 billion of bonds at MTB Investment Advisors in Baltimore. MTB has small holdings of General Motors bonds. [...]


Many investors fear the junk bond market could be overwhelmed by GM and Ford debt. But some analysts say fears of excessive selling are overblown.

Some analysts noted that the S&P news was not all bad. The companies have ample cash for at least the next several years, and although they will have trouble issuing unsecured bonds in the near term, they can still issue secured bonds.

Even billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian, who announced on Wednesday that he was raising his stake in GM to 9 percent, said he is still committed to the automaker. [...]

Standard & Poor's cut GM and its General Motors Acceptance Corp. finance unit's long-term credit ratings by two notches to "BB," the second-highest junk rating. The outlook on the new rating is negative, signaling that another downgrade in the next 24 months is possible.

The agency cut Ford and Ford Motor Credit Co.'s long-term credit ratings by one notch to "BB-plus," the highest junk rating, from "BBB-minus." The outlook on the new rating is also negative.

A GM spokesman said the company was disappointed with the downgrades, but that it has ample cash and liquidity to fund its business for the foreseeable future. [...]


S&P's cutting GM and Ford forces many investment-grade investors to sell their holdings to the much smaller group of portfolio managers eligible to hold junk debt. [...]

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Penalty reduced for student who took call from mom in Iraq
School says he was suspended for behavior, not phone call
Saturday, May 7, 2005 Posted: 1343 GMT (2143 HKT)

(CNN) -- A Columbus, Georgia, student will return to class Monday after spending three days at home for an incident that began when his mother, a soldier serving in Iraq, called his cell phone while he was at school.

Kevin Francois was initially suspended for 10 days for what Spencer High School officials said was his use of profanity after a teacher interrupted a cell phone conversation he was having with his mother.

Her name is Sgt. 1st Class Monique Bates, The Associated Press reported.

The suspension gained national attention Friday, prompting a flood of e-mails to school officials. By Friday afternoon, they told Francois his 10-day suspension would be shortened to the three already served.

"All I want to do is just go back to school," Francois said.

Muscogee County School District Superintendent John Phillips Jr. said Friday the suspension was not because of the phone call, but the result of Francois' reaction to the teacher interrupting it.

"The suspension was really incidental to the telephone, it was the behavior of the student, using profanity, screaming at the teacher," Phillips said.

"He became very belligerent and very threatening to her" when she asked him to turn over the phone, Phillips said.

"He said he was 17 years old and he would do what he wanted to do," Phillips told CNN-affiliate WTVM.

The teacher took him to the principal's office, where "he became very unruly and out of control," said Phillips. "It was escalating to a point where they were getting ready to call security."

Francois disputed the school's version of the story.

"I was just talking to them and they wouldn't listen to me about talking to my mom," he said. "I didn't curse at them."

Francois received the call from his mother, who left for duty in Iraq in January, during a lunch break.

Phillips said Francois did not tell the teacher he was talking to his mother in Iraq.

"I'm sure if she was aware of that, she would have acted much differently in dealing with the matter," Phillips said.

Phillips said the school, which is located near Fort Benning, often arranges for students to receive calls from parents who are deployed. More than 3,700 students in the district come from military families.

Francois lives with an aunt while his mother is deployed, the superintendent said.

The student knew it was against school policy to use a cell phone on school grounds, he added.

"We try to protect instructional time. We try to make sure the environment in the school is appropriate," Phillips said. "The young man knows what the rules and regulations are."

Muscogee County is located at the Alabama state line, in west-central Georgia.

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Patriot Act Stirs Defenders, Detractors
Associated Press
Thu May 5,12:30 PM ET

GREENWICH, Conn. - U.S. Attorney Kevin O'Connor often meets with community groups and asks audience members how many of them believe the government uses the Patriot Act to search library records and find out what people are reading.

"Just about every hand goes up," the Connecticut prosecutor says.

He assures them the U.S. government is not looking at people's reading lists.

"While I may be fascinated in the books you read, I just don't have that luxury to go on fishing expeditions," he says.

As Congress weighs whether to renew some of the most controversial aspects of the Patriot Act, some federal prosecutors are acting as defense attorneys for the anti-terrorism law.

U.S. attorneys in Florida, Michigan and Iowa last week wrote newspaper opinion columns defending the law. Other prosecutors, like O'Connor, make frequent speeches to community groups.

The Justice Department encourages such articles and speeches but has not issued a directive, spokesman Kevin Madden said. Federal law prohibits the use of government agencies to lobby the public to pressure Congress.

"U.S. attorneys have been a very valuable asset in educating the American public about the Patriot Act's importance," he said.

The Patriot Act was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. But since then, 379 towns and cities have approved resolutions opposing provisions in the act, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Idaho, Montana, Maine, Vermont, Hawaii and Alaska have also passed resolutions objecting to sections.

The most antipathy is reserved for the so-called libraries provision, which allows authorities to examine "tangible items" such as business records, credit card receipts and library records as part of foreign intelligence or international terrorism investigations. Another provision makes it easier to obtain secret search warrants, once exclusively for use in foreign intelligence cases, in criminal cases.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and others have repeatedly said the government has never asked for anyone's library records.

But the fear and suspicion are out there. Mansfield, Conn., which has a population of about 11,000 and is home to the University of Connecticut, adopted a resolution against the Patriot Act because of concerns about invasions of privacy.

"Theoretically, the FBI could go into the library and look to see what certain people are reading," Mayor Elizabeth Paterson said. "The librarian would not be able to disclose that. We felt it put employees in a very difficult situation."

Federal authorities say the law has been key to a number of major arrests and convictions. Among them: an Islamic scholar in Virginia found guilty of exhorting followers to help the Taliban fight U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and the arrests last year in England of three men who allegedly were gathering information on the New York Stock Exchange and other U.S. financial institutions in preparation for an attack.

The ACLU contends the government has repeatedly abused and misused the Patriot Act, citing examples that include the case of Brandon Mayfield, who was wrongly arrested by the FBI in connection with the Madrid train bombings. Gonzales said last month that there has been no substantiated allegation of abuse of the Patriot Act.

Tim Edgar, national security policy counsel for the ACLU, which is part of a broad coalition that backs changes to the law, said the effort by U.S. attorneys to aggressively defend the law is "kind of close to the line of legality."

Charles W. Larson, who is U.S. attorney in Iowa and is on special assignment in Iraq, wrote in a column for the Globe-Gazette of Mason City, Iowa, that the Patriot Act allowed terrorism investigators to catch up with technology. He said "misconceptions and half-truths" are circulating about the law.

"I have seen firsthand the oppression and lack of freedom that result when truth takes a back seat to rhetoric," Larson wrote.

Comment: The US government snooping on its citizens' reading habits is the least of the worries presented by the Patriot Act. While not all of the components of the Patriot Act have been used, the War on Terror ain't over yet. As for the Bush administration's claims that the Patriot Act isn't being used and abused, it seems that they lied...

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Flashback: FBI asked for secret Patriot Act searches
Reuters News Service
June 18, 2004, 12:33AM

NEW YORK -- The FBI has asked to use a controversial anti-terrorism law that allows it to secretly review everything from confidential business records to what books a person checks out of the library, the nation's top civil rights group said Thursday.

The American Civil Liberties Union said documents uncovered during court challenges to the Patriot Act reveal for the first time that the FBI sought permission last year to conduct secret searches under Section 215 of the law.

Last September, at a time when the section was drawing widespread criticism from librarians, booksellers and civil rights groups, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said the power had never been used. Records obtained by the ACLU show that the FBI asked for permission to use the law a few weeks later.

The provision allows the FBI to get court permission to search confidential records as part of terrorism investigations. The target need not be a suspected terrorist, and the government can review personal data without the targets ever knowing. [...]

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Flashback: The 'Patriot' Search

Buying a home? Prepare to pay to have your name checked against a government list of suspected terrorists
By Brian Braiker
Updated: 11:21 a.m. ET June 09, 2004

June 3 - Buying a home can be stressful, expensive and bewildering. "Essentially," humorist Dave Barry wrote in his 1988 book "Homes and Other Black Holes," "what you must do, in the Ritual Closing Ceremony, is go into a small room and write large checks to total strangers. According to tradition, anybody may ask you for a check, for any amount, and you may not refuse." He may have been joking, but the number of checks homebuyers are being asked to write has recently increased by one.

With the passage of the USA Patriot Act of 2001, which required that financial institutions create anti-money-laundering compliance programs, anyone purchasing property must be checked against a list of names of known and suspected terrorists. The list has been around since before the September 11 attacks, but increasingly the ritual closing ceremony has involved writing yet another check to the title company that runs the homebuyer's name against that list.

What's behind it? The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control maintains the "specifically designated nationals" (SDN) list of people blocked from participating in "any transaction or dealing … in property or interests" within the United States. These people have been identified "to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism," according to White House Executive Order 13224, which was issued Sept. 24, 2001. Although the blocked-persons list has been around in some form for about a decade, under the order private individuals (be they jewelers, pawnbrokers or suburban families) buying or selling property are now considered "financial institutions" by the government. And the responsibility has fallen to the title companies to check all parties involved in a transaction against the list. "The SDN list has been around for years. Obviously, since 9/11 the use of charities and banks and different organizations for terrorists to move money have brought it more to light in recent days," says Molly Millerwise, a Treasury spokesperson, explaining why homebuyers in the heartland are considered financial institutions under the jurisdiction of the Office of Foreign Asset Control. Terrorists, she says, use property to launder money.

But some lawyers and civil libertarians question that assertion. "It's not a very liquid investment," says Ann von Eigen of the American Land Title Association. "You would have to, if you planned on laundering money through real estate, make sure your appreciation is better than the cost of the transaction." Others charge that the search is a redundancy. "Your money is already going to have been checked. You're going to have had the background checks at the banks," says Charlie Mitchell of the ACLU. "It's sort of emblematic of a lot of the Patriot Act. Some of the intentions are good, but there's just a casting too wide a net to be particularly effective and there's a lot of unintended consequences when you do that." [...]

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Flashback: High School Prank Gets Student Arrested Under Patriot Act
Capital News 9 web staff

Colonie police have made an arrest stemming from Monday's lockdown at Colonie Central High School.

John Pompeii, 16, of Colonie has been arrested for the crime. Police said he put two smoke bombs inside a tin box, about the size of a shoe box. An incense fuse, called a punk, was attached to the smoke bombs through a puncture in the tin box.

Police said the device was lit and left in a bathroom stall. A teacher discovered the device and immediately notified the principal.

Students were confined to their classrooms for over two hours as bomb-sniffing dogs patrolled the hallways.

Colonie Police Chief Steve Heider said, "This is a very serious thing. You have to understand, with school safety and the school setting, this actually falls under the Patriot Act. We'll be looking at federal charges, in addition to state and local charges. So, do we want to call it a prank? No. This is a very serious, unforgiving act by someone who was hell bent, obviously, on obstructing the school process."

Pompeii faces a felony charge of placing a false bomb in the first degree, and two misdemeanor charges.

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Flashback: Signs of the Times - April 18, 2004

The following information from the American Civil Liberties Union web site outlines some of the measures and results of the Patriot Act:

  • Expands terrorism laws to include "domestic terrorism" which could subject political organizations to surveillance, wiretapping, harassment, and criminal action for political advocacy.
  • Expands the ability of law enforcement to conduct secret searches, gives them wide powers of phone and Internet surveillance, and access to highly personal medical, financial, mental health, and student records with minimal judicial oversight.
  • Allows FBI Agents to investigate American citizens for criminal matters without probable cause of crime if they say it is for "intelligence purposes."
  • Permits non-citizens to be jailed based on mere suspicion and to be denied re-admission to the US for engaging in free speech.
  • Suspects convicted of no crime may be detained indefinitely in six month increments without meaningful judicial review.
  • 8,000 Arab and South Asian immigrants have been interrogated because of their religion or ethnic background, not because of actual wrongdoing.
  • Thousands of men, mostly of Arab and South Asian origin, have been held in secretive federal custody for weeks and months, sometimes without any charges filed against them. The government has refused to publish their names and whereabouts, even when ordered to do so by the courts.
  • The government is allowed to monitor communications between federal detainees and their lawyers, destroying the attorney-client privilege and threatening the right to counsel.
  • New Attorney General Guidelines allow FBI spying on religious and political organizations and individuals without having evidence of wrongdoing.
  • President Bush has ordered military commissions to be set up to try suspected terrorists who are not citizens. They can convict based on hearsay and secret evidence by only two-thirds vote.
  • American citizens suspected of terrorism are being held indefinitely in military custody without being charged and without access to lawyers.

Reread the last item above. American citizens suspected of terrorism are being held indefinitely in military custody without charge or legal recourse. Sounds crazy, right? After all, only fascist dictatorships - instituted and funded by the US government - in other countries have such draconian laws. But wait - it gets better! The Domestic Security Enhancement Act, better known as Patriot Act 2, adds the following goodies to the US government's sack of completely legal fascist tricks:

  • Further dismantles court review of surveillance, such as by terminating court-approved limits on police spying on religious and political activity (sec. 312), allowing the government to obtain credit records and library records secretly and without judicial oversight (secs. 126, 128, 129), and by allowing wiretaps without a court order for up to 15 days following a terrorist attack (sec. 103);
  • Allows government to operate in secret by authorizing secret arrests (sec. 201), and imposing severe restrictions on the release of information about the hazards to the community posed by chemical and other plants (sec. 202);
  • Further expands the reach of an already overbroad definition of terrorism so that organizations engaged in civil disobedience are at risk of government wiretapping (secs. 120, 121) asset seizure (secs. 428, 428), and their supporters could even risk losing their citizenship (sec. 501);
  • Gives foreign dictatorships the power to seek searches and seizures in the United States (sec. 321), and to extradite American citizens to face trial in foreign courts (sec. 322), even if the United States Senate has not approved a treaty with that government; and
  • Unfairly targets immigrants under the pretext of fighting terrorism by stripping even lawful immigrants of the right to a fair deportation hearing and stripping the federal courts of their power to correct unlawful actions by the immigration authorities (secs. 503, 504).

Sounds like a big joke, right? Imagine that, secret arrests in the good old US of A. Besides, Bush said the Patriot Act is fully consistent with constitutional protections. The president of the Greatest Country on Earth would never lie, right?

After all, when has Bush ever lied before?

Comment: Now, after reading the above articles, ask yourself if the Patriot Act is nothing to worry about...

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Your Papers Please! Real ID Act Sneaked In
Charlie Savage, Globe Staff | May 5, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Congressional negotiators have agreed on a sweeping new system that would nationalize standards for driver's licenses and state identification cards, requiring states to verify the authenticity of every document that people use to prove their identity and show their legal residency.

If the House and Senate both pass the bill next week as expected, by May 2008 every state will be required to contact the issuers of birth certificates, mortgage statements, utility bills, Social Security cards, and immigration papers before granting a driver's license. States will also have to keep copies of those documents for seven years.

Touted as an antiterrorism measure, the Real ID Act would effectively erase laws in nine states that allow undocumented immigrants to obtain standard driver's licenses, which are widely accepted as official identification for boarding airplanes, opening bank accounts, and entering federal courthouses.

''The Real ID Act contains vital border security provisions aimed at preventing another 9/11-type attack by disrupting terrorist travel," said Representative James Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and the bill's primary author. ''Issuing driver's licenses to anyone, without knowing whether they are here legally or who they really are, is an open invitation for terrorists and criminals to hide in plain sight."

Existing licenses would remain valid until they expire, and drivers who want to renew would then have to undergo the new identity verification process, Sensenbrenner said. If a state does not comply, its residents will no longer be able to use their driver's licenses for federal government identification.

Sensenbrenner and other House Republicans attached the Real ID Act to a supplemental appropriations bill funding US troops in Iraq that is considered sure to pass. Several senators from both parties objected, and some of them signed a letter to Senate majority leader Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee, saying they were concerned the bill never received a hearing in either chamber. State governments also warned that it will cause longer lines at motor vehicle bureaus and cost hundreds of millions more than Congress has estimated.

But after a week of conference negotiations, Republicans from both chambers reached a compromise that leaves most of the bill intact. Among the notable changes, the House backed away from its demand that every state submit its driver information into a single national database that would be shared with Mexico and Canada.

Civil libertarians objected to the national database, saying a shared pool of information would be vulnerable to identity thieves and would effectively create a national ID card. That provision was changed so that each state will maintain its own database. Sensenbrenner said the interstate links would be used only to make sure an applicant does not have a license elsewhere. [...]

Comment: No act of draconian legislation is ever introduced as such. While the Bush administration is using the terrorist card to push this piece of legislation through, the simple fact is that there is no terrorist threat as described by Bush and Co, which then begs the question: why are they doing this? Time will tell...

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Sneak Attack

Lawmakers yesterday forced what was originally known as the Real ID bill through the House of Representatives; it's scheduled to pass the Senate next week. Didn't hear much debate over this sweeping bill before it passed? That's because there wasn't any. This version of the Real ID Act never received a hearing in either chamber of Congress. In a particularly odious trick, it was tacked on to the $82 billion supplemental appropriations bill which was designed to fund U.S. troops in Iraq. That bill must pass; thus the Real ID Act gets a free ride without any serious or conscientious discussion. The New York Times sharply criticizes the maneuver, saying, "Attaching a bad bill to a vital one is a sneaking business, making it nearly impossible for thoughtful members of Congress to vote against it." The legislation does little to keep Americans safe; nothing in the bill involves major reform to immigration policies. Instead it's a poorly conceived, hasty piece of legislation which targets asylum seekers, puts a huge burden on states to clean up a federal mess and grants overreaching powers to the Department of Homeland Security.

SHIFTING THE BURDEN OF PROOF: Thanks to the Real ID Act, it will become more difficult for people persecuted for their religious beliefs to receive asylum in the United States. The legislation shifts the burden of proof of persecution onto the shoulders of applicants. For example, it requires documented evidence of torture, something "people on the run rarely have." As the ACLU put it, that's like asking "asylum seekers to prove what amounts to ... a note from their persecutor." As a result, many refugees tortured, raped and brutalized on the basis of their race, national origin or political opinions would be turned away.

NOT SAFER: Proponents of the bill, namely Rep. James Sensenbrenner(R-WI) claim the clampdown on asylum seekers is necessary "to prevent another 9/11-type attack by disrupting terrorist travel." Not so fast; current law already bars anyone who poses a security risk from being granted asylum.

YOU THOUGHT THE DMV WAS FUN BEFORE: Don't like the long lines at your local Department of Motor Vehicles? Well, bring something to read because, thanks to Real ID, the lines at DMV are about to get a whole lot longer. Under the new legislation, everyone applying for a drivers' license will be required to show birth certificates, a photo ID, proof of their Social Security number and various other documents to prove name and address. Then, in a new logistical nightmare, DMV employees must verify each document by whichever agency issued it. "How, precisely," writes the Rocky Mountain News, "is a motor-vehicle clerk in Denver supposed to verify a Chinese or Iraqi birth certificate?" The Washington Post sums up the problem, saying, "This will turn motor vehicle departments across the country into de facto enforcers of immigration law, add a huge bureaucratic burden and force many states to set up dual systems -- in effect making states pay for federal policy failure." And it's not cheap. According to Cheye Calvo of the National Conference of State Legislators, it will cost states between $500 and $700 million to meet these new demands.

NOT SAFER: Jeff Lungren, spokesman for the House Judiciary Committee, said Real ID was "aimed at preventing another 9/11-type of attack by targeting terrorist travel." As proof, he charged 18 of the 9/11 hijackers used state-issued IDs and drivers' licenses to board the plane. Actually, all of the 9/11 hijackers had viable passports and visas (some gained using fraudulent documents) which allowed them to get licenses.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, ABOVE THE LAW: Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff is on the brink of becoming the most powerful man in the country. This new bill gives him the authority to bypass Congress and the courts to waive any law -- federal, state or local -- that he wants while he's building a fence along U.S. borders. And there's no recourse; the legislation " shields the waiver decisions from court scrutiny" and also " strips courts of any power to order remedies for anyone harmed by the consequences of such decisions." This means child labor laws, civil rights laws and minimum wage requirements are all at risk. (For example, Chertoff could "give no-bid contracts for border construction to private companies and then shield those contractors from all employment discrimination and workplace safety laws." It also exempts the DHS from all environmental laws, putting thousands of acres of national parks, forests and wildlife refuges at risk of serious damage.

NOT SAFER: Few believe the fence will do much to limit the number of undocumented immigrants into the United States. Border security does need to be strengthened. However, it would make more sense to fully fund and enforce existing border security measures instead of sneaking half-measures through Congress with no debate. Border patrols are still underfunded and undermanned. Terror watch lists still aren't reliable and the consolidated terror list the DHS was supposed to finish by last December still doesn't exist. And last year, border agents admitted that due to a lack of resources, "they've been forced to release most illegal immigrants back onto American streets within hours of catching them - even some who are criminals or from countries known to produce terrorists."

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'Propaganda' bill nixed in House
Connecticut Post
05/05/2005 02:21:50 AM

WASHINGTON - House Republicans Wednesday soundly rejected an effort by Democrats to ban the Department of Education from spending money on "covert propaganda."

The House voted 224 to 197 against a measure, championed by Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, and George Miller, D-Calif., aimed at blocking the department from creating sham news stories or hiring columnists to promote policies.

The lawmakers had hoped to attach the ban to legislation on vocational education that was debated Wednesday in the House.

They had previously sponsored a bill seeking a government-wide ban after it was revealed in a series of news reports that the Bush administration had used taxpayer dollars to finance covert propaganda campaigns.

In January, USA Today was first to report that the Bush administration paid Armstrong Williams $240,000 to promote the No Child Left Behind Act on his syndicated television show, and to urge other black journalists to do the same.

Last month, the department's inspector general issued a "very troubling" report on the contract, Miller said.

"It appears likely that substantial sums were paid not only for commercials that were never produced, but for Mr. Williams' political commentaries," he said.

The Bush administration has also hired actors to pose as journalists in videos promoting its Medicare and drug-control policies.

The videos aired on television stations across the country, and viewers at home were never told that what they were seeing was paid for with their own tax dollars, Miller said. And, the administration paid a syndicated columnist more than $40,000 for advice on its marriage initiatives while she also promoted the initiative in her syndicated column.

"Covert propaganda has no place in our democracy," DeLauro told her colleagues Wednesday. "This is a dangerous precedent. Our government's agenda should be able to stand on its own two feet."

Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, argued against the proposal saying that newly appointed Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has taken steps to ensure such contracts will not be awarded again.

"What happened with Armstrong was stupid, but passing laws to outlaw stupidity is not Congress' job," he said.

Boehner said the proposal was simply a "partisan cheap shot" aimed at embarrassing the Bush administration. "It really has no place in this bill," he said. [...]

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Eighty-eight members of Congress call on Bush for answers on secret Iraq plan

Eighty-eight members of Congress have signed a letter authored by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) calling on President Bush to answer questions about a secret U.S.-UK agreement to attack Iraq, RAW STORY has learned.

In a letter, Conyers and other members say they are disappointed the mainstream media has not touched the revelations.

"Unfortunately, the mainstream media in the United States was too busy with wall-to-wall coverage of a "runaway bride" to cover a bombshell report out of the British newspapers," Conyers writes. "The London Times reports that the British government and the United States government had secretly agreed to attack Iraq in 2002, before authorization was sought for such an attack in Congress, and had discussed creating pretextual justifications for doing so."

"The Times reports, based on a newly discovered document, that in 2002 British Prime Minister Tony Blair chaired a meeting in which he expressed his support for "regime change" through the use of force in Iraq and was warned by the nation's top lawyer that such an action would be illegal," he adds. "Blair also discussed the need for America to "create" conditions to justify the war."

The members say they are seeking an inquiry.

"This should not be allowed to fall down the memory hole during wall-to-wall coverage of the Michael Jackson trial and a runaway bride," he remarks. "To prevent that from occuring, I am circulating the following letter among my House colleagues and asking them to sign on to it."

The letter follows.


May 5, 2005

The Honorable George W. Bush President of the United States of America The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write because of troubling revelations in the Sunday London Times apparently confirming that the United States and Great Britain had secretly agreed to attack Iraq in the summer of 2002, well before the invasion and before you even sought Congressional authority to engage in military action. While various individuals have asserted this to be the case before, including Paul O'Neill, former U.S. Treasury Secretary, and Richard Clarke, a former National Security Council official, they have been previously dismissed by your Administration. However, when this story was divulged last weekend, Prime Minister Blair's representative claimed the document contained "nothing new." If the disclosure is accurate, it raises troubling new questions regarding the legal justifications for the war as well as the integrity of your own Administration.

The Sunday Times obtained a leaked document with the minutes of a secret meeting from highly placed sources inside the British Government. Among other things, the document revealed:

* Prime Minister Tony Blair chaired a July 2002 meeting, at which he discussed military options, having already committed himself to supporting President Bush's plans for invading Iraq.

* British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw acknowledged that the case for war was "thin" as "Saddam was not threatening his neighbours and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea, or Iran."

* A separate secret briefing for the meeting said that Britain and America had to "create" conditions to justify a war.

* A British official "reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

As a result of this recent disclosure, we would like to know the following:

1) Do you or anyone in your Administration dispute the accuracy of the leaked document?

2) Were arrangements being made, including the recruitment of allies, before you sought Congressional authorization go to war? Did you or anyone in your Administration obtain Britain's commitment to invade prior to this time?

3) Was there an effort to create an ultimatum about weapons inspectors in order to help with the justification for the war as the minutes indicate?

4) At what point in time did you and Prime Minister Blair first agree it was necessary to invade Iraq?

5) Was there a coordinated effort with the U.S. intelligence community and/or British officials to "fix" the intelligence and facts around the policy as the leaked document states?

We have of course known for some time that subsequent to the invasion there have been a variety of varying reasons proffered to justify the invasion, particularly since the time it became evident that weapons of mass destruction would not be found. This leaked document - essentially acknowledged by the Blair government - is the first confirmation that the rationales were shifting well before the invasion as well.

Given the importance of this matter, we would ask that you respond to this inquiry as promptly as possible. Thank you.


Members who have already signed letter:
Neil Abercrombie
Brian Baird
Tammy Baldwin
Xavier Becerra
Shelley Berkley
Eddie Bernice Johnson
Sanford Bishop
Earl Blumenauer
Corrine Brown
Sherrod Brown
G.K. Butterfield
Emanuel Cleaver
James Clyburn
John Conyers
Jim Cooper
Elijah Cummings
Danny Davis
Peter DeFazio
Diana DeGette
Bill Delahunt
Rosa DeLauro
Lloyd Doggett
Sam Farr
Bob Filner
Harold Ford, Jr.
Barney Frank
Al Green
Raul Grijalva
Louis Gutierrez
Alcee Hastings
Maurice Hinchey
Rush Holt
Jay Inslee
Sheila Jackson Lee
Jessie Jackson Jr.
Marcy Kaptur
Patrick Kennedy
Dale Kildee
Carolyn Kilpatrick
Dennis Kucinich
William Lacy Clay
Barbara Lee
John Lewis
Zoe Lofgren
Donna M. Christensen
Carolyn Maloney
Ed Markey
Carolyn McCarthy
Jim McDermott
James McGovern
Cynthia McKinney
Martin Meehan
Kendrick Meek
Gregory Meeks
Michael Michaud
George Miller
Gwen S. Moore
James Moran
Jerrold Nadler
Grace Napolitano
James Oberstar
John Olver
Major Owens
Frank Pallone
Donald Payne
Charles Rangel
Bobby Rush
Bernie Sanders
Linda Sanchez
Jan Schakowsky
Jose Serrano
Ike Skelton
Louise Slaughter
Hilda Solis
Pete Stark
Ellen Tauscher
Bennie Thompson
Edolphus Towns
Stephanie Tubbs Jones
Chris Van Hollen
Nydia Velazquez
Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Maxine Waters
Diane Watson
Melvin Watt
Robert Wexler
Lynn Woolsey
David Wu
Albert R. Wynn

To read the letter in PDF format, including signatures, click here.

Comment: So does this mean that the US government has a hand in European divisions?...some things never change it seems...

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Bush: U.S. Had Hand in European Divisions
Associated Press
May 7, 2005

RIGA, Latvia - President Bush said Saturday the Soviet domination of central and eastern Europe after World War II will be remembered as "one of the greatest wrongs of history" and acknowledged that the United States played a significant role in the division of the continent.

Bush said the agreement in 1945 at Yalta among President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Soviet leader Josef Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill "followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact." The decisions at Yalta led to the division of eastern Europe and creation of the Soviet bloc.

"Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable," the president said, opening a four-nation trip to mark the 60th anniversary of Nazi Germany's defeat. "Yet this attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left a continent divided and unstable."

"We will not repeat the mistakes of other generations - appeasing or excusing tyranny, and sacrificing freedom in the vain pursuit of stability." [...]

Comment: That's funny, because - as the above articles on the Patriot Act so clearly illustrate - Bush and gang are sacrificing the freedoms of Americans and citizens of other countries alike in the pursuit of stability and safety from "al-Qaeda".

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Andrew Aaron Weisburd of Internet Haganah: Cyber Terrorist
Utah Indymedia with Intro by SOTT

Two weeks ago, the Washington Post published an article about so-called civilian internet 'watchdogs' entitled: Watchdogs Seek Out The Web's Bad Side.

The article focused on one particular individual, A. Aaron Weisburd, who, the article claims, spends his days uncovering "terrorist" web sites which he then attempts to hack into and destroy. Since then,, which has suffered several attacks by Weisburd, has published an exposé of the truth about Weisburd and his motivations. Below is the original Washington Post article with Indymedia's response interspersed:

A. Aaron Weisburd slogged up to his attic at 5 a.m. to begin another day combing through tips he had received about possible pro-terrorist activity on the Internet.

It did not take long for one e-mail to catch his attention: was offering instructions on how to steal people's personal information off their computers. It was a new development for an Islamic discussion site accustomed to announcing "martyrdom operations," or suicide bombings, against U.S. troops and others in Iraq.

Weisburd quickly listed the discovery in his daily log of offensive and dangerous sites, alerting his supporters. A few days later, Ekhlaas experienced an unusual surge in activity, the hallmark of a hacker attack, forcing the company hosting the site to take it down.

Indymedia translation:

Having no life of is own, A. Aaron Weisburd got up at 5 a.m. to begin another day of harassing people online. Though, in the example, he claims to have been investigating an Islamic discussion site, his long history under the project KOBE proves that his motivation has nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with an irrational hatred for Muslims. When he states that the website was announcing "martyrdom operations", you can be sure that what he read was nothing more than discussion of the news about such activities.

Weisburd's KOBE operation openly discusses and publishes information about how to hack anarchist websites. His group hacks anarchist websites and steal personal information from his target's personal computers. Therefore, his concern about someone publishing some comment about stealing people's personal information on the Islamic forum is utterly fake and hypocritical. Moreover, since Weisburd's operation has a history of publishing such comments under the names of his targets, his own organization probably posted the offensive material in order to provide "justification" for an attack.

Weisburd, then, sent his group of mentally deranged cyber criminals after the website to commit various crimes such as denial of service attacks and harassment of the website's host.

If the site was, in fact, a threat to national security, Weisburd prevented the FBI from monitoring the website and gathering valuable information concerning terrorist attacks. Without the website there, the FBI could not monitor it. As a consequence, assuming Weisburd's claims that the website was a terrorist website, Weisburd increased the probability of a successful terrorist attack against Americans by denying the FBI the opportunity to monitor communications on the website. Anyway you look at it, Weisburd is a criminal, harasser and assistant to terrorism.

It was another small victory for Weisburd, one of a new breed of Internet activists. Part vigilantes, part informants, part nosy neighbors, they search the Web for sites that they say deal in theft, fraud and violence.

Indymedia translation:

Let's make it clear exactly what kind of activities Weisburd and associates are engaged in. Also, let's make it clear there is nothing new, from a political standpoint about their behavior.

(1) Weisburd's operation does not merely "inform." Weisburd's operation publishes forged article and posts in the name of his targets to frame them. They file false reports with government agencies to provoke investigations (a crime). They libel and slander their targets.

(2) They are not "nosy neighbors." They are online stalkers who illegally hack into the personal computers of their victims and steal personal information. They use this information to harass their victims. These activities are criminal.

(3) Weisburd's operation deals in theft, fraud and violence. They have provoked violence against some of their targets through false allegations.

(4) There s nothing new in this behavior. The only new twist is that most of it takes place online. Past examples of this same behavior in other venues include Hitler's brownshirts, goon squads in Latin America, and rightwing vigilante harassment of leftists throughout US history.

(5) Weisburd's operation is racist. He targets Arabs and Muslims and does not target Israelis, even when engaged in similar activities.

Weisburd said he and his supporters are responsible for dismantling at least 650 and as many as 1,000 sites he regards as threatening, especially Islamic radical sites.

"I'm sort of like a freelance investigator," Weisburd said.

indymedia Translation:

Weisburd has not merely "dismantled" websites. He has harassed individuals engaged in perfectly legal online dissident, threatened their family members, harassed their employers, and harassed their web hosts. He regularly uses lies, disinformation and threats to accomplish these goals. Weisburd decides what is "threatening." He has decided that effective criticism of George Bush, for example, is threatening. He has decided that display of upside down US flags on websites is threatening. He considers all effective dissent threatening.

Like the foes they pursue, online crusaders like Weisburd are adept at using the Internet's unique characteristics -- its anonymity, speed and ability to reach across nation-state boundaries. Some work alone and in secret; others like Weisburd have managed to put together well-organized operations that run almost like companies. Their causes can vary widely, be it stopping spam or holding large corporations accountable for poor products or service. There are groups that investigate murders and those that fight terrorism and other crimes.

Indymedia translation:

Many of Weisburd's "foes" are innocent Americans exercising their right to free speech. Making any kind of equivalence between these innocent Americans and Weisburd is absurd. In fact, Weisburd is the biggest menace to the Internet.

The activists often operate at the boundaries of what is legal and illegal. For his part, Weisburd insists that he uses only legal means to go after his targets. A posting on his site explains that in fighting crime he does not think it proper to commit one, but he admits he cannot always control the actions of those who help him.

Indymedia translation:

Weisburd knows that those who help him are violating the law, yet he continues to solicit their help. Therefore, he does condone illegal activities and recruit others to engage in illegal activities. His argument is no stronger than the arguments of members of White Aryan Resistance who claimed that their calls for action, which resulted in the murder of a Jewish radio host, were not their own fault for they did not explicitly ask for the murder. A jury found that their actions encouraged illegal activities and the founder of White Aryan Resistance was successfully prosecuted. What Weisburd is doing is encouraging others to engage in hate crimes against Arabs, Muslims and Anarchists.

Government agencies and others are not sure what to make of him. Some law enforcement officials praise his efforts. Kenneth Nix, a police detective from Missouri who is on the Internet Crimes Task Force, said Weisburd often provides information that "we didn't have before."

Indymedia translation:

Weisburd and his volunteers obtain their information illegally by:

(1) Hacking into the personal computers of their targets.

(2) Getting "volunteers" inside of web service providers and telecom companies to illegally provide the information.

These activities are criminal. Weisburd provides this information to police who use it harass innocent Americans engaged in First Amendment free speech. The police are actively and knowingly protecting an individual who engages in criminal activities on their behalf.

But others say that he is making more trouble than he is doing good. Some U.S. officials think that they can learn more about terrorist operations by monitoring suspicious sites as they operate. Weisburd said an analyst from a federal agency recently wrote him a scathing letter calling him a "grave threat to national security" because his work was interfering with its investigations.

Marshall Stone, a spokesman for the FBI, said that while the agency encourages citizens to report alleged wrongdoing, it believes any attempt to stop criminals should be left to the government.

Indymedia translation:

Weisburd is a grave threat to national security. He shuts down online communications exchange points that the Federal Government monitors to find possible information on terrorist threats, thereby making it more difficult for federal authorities to do their work. Weisburd reports innocent Americans engaged in legal dissent to federal authorities provoking wasteful investigations which take resources away from the fight against terrorism.

Without due process, evidence could be tainted and become unusable in court cases or, worse, targets could be condemned as guilty when they are really innocent, said Paul Kurtz, executive director of the Cyber Security Industry Alliance, a coalition of tech company chief executives. "When we all become 'law enforcement officers' justice becomes very blurry," he said.

Indymedia translation:

Police cooperation with Weisburd has already resulted in police involvement with online racial hate crimes against the family members of a dissident in Massachusetts (specifically, the Dedham Police Department). Not only does this compromise the police, he recruits them to commit civil rights crimes.

Comment: The very positive slant that the Washington Post gives to Weisburd's hate crimes is evidence enough of the anti-Muslim bias in the US manistream media, yet the fact that Weisburd is essentially an apologist for Israeli crimes against humanity and that he was chosen as for the Washington Post report, provides more than a hint about the real source of power in the US mainstream media.

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Russia Says It Foiled Major Terror Plot
Associated Press
Thu May 5, 3:05 PM ET

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia - Russian security forces said they foiled a major terrorist attack Thursday, discovering a truck bomb and a cache of poisons days before dozens of dignitaries arrive in Moscow for celebrations marking the Allied victory over Nazi Germany.

The find is likely to raise fears that other terror attacks could be in the works as the world turns its attention to Russia and Monday's ceremonies marking the end of World War II. Russian authorities almost immediately blamed the planned attacks on militants, including some with reputed ties to al-Qaida.

The truck with more than a ton of explosives was found near the Chechen capital, Grozny, said Maj. Gen. Ilya Shabalkin, chief spokesman for the federal forces in the North Caucasus region. The truck frame and chassis had been fitted with about 2,640 pounds of explosives, he said.

"The only thing left to do was to put a suicide bomber behind the wheel and turn on the electric detonator," Shabalkin was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

State-run television broadcast video of a man in camouflage fatigues and a black mask removing a tightly wrapped packet from beneath the cab of a blue-canopied truck parked on a muddy road. Other shots showed a man in fatigues extending an antenna from what looked like a briefcase used for remote-control detonation.

Authorities linked the incident to Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, and leaders Doku Umarov and Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev, the successor to slain rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov.

Russia claimed the rebel leaders had also planned attacks using poisons and toxic substances in the capitals of the North Caucasus region and several large regional centers elsewhere in Russia.

A cache containing a cyanide-based substance was discovered in an unidentified settlement on the Chechnya-Ingushetia border, the Federal Security Service said. It said the components were not produced in Russia or elsewhere in the former Soviet Union. It was not clear how much of the substance was found.

"Experts have concluded that the application of these strong-acting poisons in minimal doses in crowded places, in vital enterprises and water reservoirs could produce numerous victims," said the security service, which is the successor agency to the KGB.

It said that experts believe that less than an ounce could kill around 100 people.

Security services have been on alert for major terrorist attacks before Monday, the 60th anniversary of the Allied victory over the Nazis in Europe. Militants have struck twice in the past on the holiday - one of the most important dates on the Russian calendar.

An attack last year killed Kremlin-backed Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov and as many as 24 others attending a parade in Grozny. A bombing in 2002 on a parade in the southern town of Kaspiisk killed 43 people.

Underscoring the tension, Moscow authorities have reported almost daily this week that explosives or grenades had been found in cars. Special police and soldiers have been more visible on the streets and guarding station entrances.

Chechnya's Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov told Interfax that two female suicide bombers blew themselves up as security forces attempted to detain them in a remote Chechen region. Two other fighters and a police officer were killed in the blast, Interfax said. It was unclear when the incident happened. [...]

Authorities blamed a militant group operating in Ingushetia for the planned chemical attacks. It said the main organizer was a Jordanian named Abu Majahid, who it said had arrived in Chechnya in 1992 and served as an emissary of al-Qaida.

The attack was to have been carried out by the so-called Amanat (Silence) jamaat, a group of adherents to the extremist Wahhabi branch of Islam, the FSB said. The group is headed by Alash Daudov, a former police official whom the service accused of complicity in the 2002 seizure of a Moscow theater, attacks on police in Grozny and Nazran in 2004, and the seizure of more than 1,200 hostages at a school in Beslan in September.

The FSB alleged that Daudov had received the poisons intended for the attack through Abu Mujahid, who was believed to have obtained them from an Arab state, which it did not identify.

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Putin sets Bush trip off to a bad start
Sat, May. 07, 2005

RIGA, LATVIA - On the eve of a meeting with President Bush, Russian President Vladimir Putin questioned Bush's goals in Iraq and suggested that Russia is more democratic than the United States.

In an interview scheduled for release Sunday, Putin signaled that he's in no mood for any criticism from Bush when the two leaders meet Sunday at Putin's vacation house near Moscow. Bush arrived in Latvia late Friday on his way to the Russian capital.

The strains between Bush and Putin were apparent as the two men shadowboxed in advance of their meeting. Bush is traveling to Moscow for a ceremony on Monday marking the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.

Putin will host a private dinner for Bush and his wife, Laura, the night before the two presidents join more than 50 other world leaders in Moscow's Red Square for a military parade.

Bush wants Putin's help in dealing with international issues such as the spread of nuclear weapons but also is committed to pressing for greater democracy in Russia. As part of his balancing act, Bush is tentatively scheduled to meet Monday with pro-democracy representatives of Russian civil society, in something of a throwback to the days when U.S. presidents met on the side with Soviet dissidents during visits to Moscow.

Putin is likely to press Bush for assurances that the American effort to promote democracy around the world will not extend to an attempt to destabilize his government.

Before leaving Washington, Bush told Latvian journalists that he could understand why some countries are boycotting the Moscow celebration.

For Baltic and Eastern European countries, the war was followed by decades of oppression under the Soviet Union.

Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga is going to Moscow, but Lithuania and Estonia, two other Baltic countries that fell under Soviet domination, are boycotting the celebration. Despite protests from Moscow, Bush will meet with leaders from all three Baltic nations on Saturday.

"I understand there's a lot of people in the Baltics who... don't view the celebration in Russia as a day of liberation," Bush said in an interview with Latvian National Television. "I can understand why some leaders of countries aren't going and some others are."

Putin fired back in an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes" that's scheduled to air Sunday. The television network released excerpts of the interview Friday.

The Russian leader bristled at suggestions that he's backsliding on his commitment to encourage democracy in Russia.

Putin cited the U.S. electoral college system and the disputed 2000 presidential election as evidence that Russia could be considered "even more democratic" than the United States.

"In the United States, you first elect the electors and then they vote for the presidential candidates. In Russia, the president is elected through the direct vote of the whole population. That might be even more democratic," Putin told journalist Mike Wallace.

"And you have other problems in your elections," he added. "Four years ago, your presidential election was decided by the court."

Putin also questioned Bush's effort to bring democracy to Iraq.

"Democracy cannot be exported to some other place," he said. But Putin, whose opposition to the war contributed to the tensions between the White House and the Kremlin, urged Bush to finish the job in Iraq.

"If the U.S. were to leave and abandon Iraq without establishing the grounds for a united and sovereign country, that would definitely be a second mistake," he said.

With leaders of more than 50 countries arriving, authorities are mobilizing 30,000 police and severely restricting vehicle traffic in the heart of Moscow. Police have been conducting strict document checks in the capital for days. [...]

Comment: The 60 Minutes web site also includes the following excerpt from the interview:

Wallace gets quite a reaction from Putin by asking him about a recent change the Russian leader made.

Says Wallace, "There was a time when the regional governors were elected, correct? And all of the sudden, Putin says, 'No, no, no. I shall appoint the governors.' That's democracy? That's not democracy the way I understand it."

"The principle of appointing regional leaders is not a sign of a lack of democracy," Putin retorts. "You're absolutely wrong. For instance, India is called the largest world democracy. But their governors have always been appointed by the central government and nobody disputes that India is not a democracy."

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N.B. police probe Taser death
Last Updated Fri, 06 May 2005 21:48:43 EDT
CBC News

MONCTON, N.B. - RCMP in New Brunswick are investigating the death of a psychiatric patient whom police shot with a Taser outside a Moncton bar.

Police were called to the Right Spot bar in the city's downtown around 11 p.m. local time on Thursday.

When they arrived, police say they were confronted by Kevin Geldart, 34.

Geldart matched the description of a patient who had been reported missing from a local psychiatric ward earlier in the evening.

Police say the six-foot-six-inch, 300-pound man was being "combative and violent," so they used a Taser to control him.

The weapons can deliver up to 50,000 volts of electricity, causing muscle tissue to contract and immobilize the victim.

The shock knocked the man unconscious.

Geldart was later pronounced dead at the Moncton Hospital.

RCMP Corporal Terry Lee Kennedy said police are still trying to determine exactly what happened at the bar.

He said they also want to know how Geldart managed to walk away from the psychiatric ward.

"It appears that he may have walked away after having a cigarette break," said Kennedy.

RCMP from Fredericton are handling the investigation, which involved officers from the Codiac detachment of the RCMP, based in the Moncton area.

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Police toy with 'less lethal' weapons
02 May 2005
New Scientist

DO YOU prefer your police officers to be armed with a gun or a good old-fashioned truncheon or night stick? Or perhaps something in between: say a radio-frequency stun weapon, or a semiconductor laser that can bring down a man from across the street?

Such "less lethal" weapons are closer to reality than many people realise. New Scientist has learned that the research arm of the US justice department, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is funding research into three such devices, all of which are intended to be used by the nation's police forces to bring down suspects and control crowds. In theory they should be less harmful to both their intended targets and bystanders than existing weapons like tear gas and rubber bullets. But such is the secrecy shrouding the new weapons that it is impossible for independent outsiders to judge.

In a statement given to New Scientist, the NIJ has provided a limited description of all three devices. The first is a radio-frequency weapon being developed by Raytheon at Palo Alto, California, which appears to be based on a similar concept to the Active Denial System weapon that Raytheon developed for the US marines in 2001. The military version is designed to heat people's skin with a 95-gigahertz microwave beam (New Scientist, 27 October 2001, p 26). With a range of 600 metres, it causes severe pain but, according to Raytheon, no damage. The NIJ has contracted the company to build a prototype suitable for use by police forces. Because it will be portable, it will presumably use less power and work over a shorter range.

The second device is described by the NIJ as "the first man-portable heat compliance weapon of its kind". It uses a semiconductor laser for "force protection, crowd control, and access denial". Though the Air Force Research Laboratory in Kirtland, New Mexico, has been contracted to produce a test-bed system, there is no known weapon, military or otherwise, that appears to work this way. Its effects and effectiveness can only be guessed at.

Further clues to the nature of these two devices can be gleaned from a November 2004 report produced by the NIJ's research division. In it, Joe Cecconi of the NIJ described a possible directed-energy prototype weapon as being shotgun-sized, producing an area of intense heat 15 centimetres in diameter at a range of 16 metres, with a magazine capable of delivering 12 shots each of less than a second. The NIJ would not confirm or deny whether this was a description of either the radio-frequency or the heat weapon.
“These less-lethal weapons may not leave any identifiable traces, so allegations of abuse will be hard to prove”

A third type of less-lethal weapon commissioned by the NIJ is a laser which produces a "plasma flash bang" at the point of impact, stunning and disorienting the victim. This is similar to the Pulsed Energy Projectile (PEP) system developed for the US marines (New Scientist, 5 March, p 8). The military system uses a chemical laser and weighs around 200 kilograms. The NIJ has commissioned Sterling Photonics of Albuquerque, New Mexico, to produce a "technology platform" for a police version that will be electrically powered and portable.

All three research programmes are due to end in September. But the information provided by the NIJ has so little detail about factors such as wavelengths and power levels that it is impossible to judge how safe the new weapons might be. There is no publicly available information on the effects of the Active Denial System weapon or plasma flash bangs.

As yet there are no non-lethal directed-energy weapons in use by law enforcers. The closest comparable devices are police electric-shock weapons, the best known of which is the Taser. This weapon was introduced in the 1970s, and became popular with police forces in the US during the 1990s. Critics have recently alleged that Tasers have caused the deaths of a number of suspects, and are prone to abuse (see "Taser troubles" - below), raising concerns that this pattern could be repeated with the new weapons.

Neil Davison of the Bradford Non-Lethal Weapons Research Project at the University of Bradford, UK, says more information about these weapons needs to be made public. "The non-lethal weapons community is always complaining about bad treatment in the media. But without more transparency about what is being developed, and what the effects on people are, suspicion is bound to be created." He also points out that as these weapons may not leave any identifiable traces, allegations of abuse will be hard to prove.

He also notes there has long been a demand for a capability to turn the power output of these weapons up or down. "Some of these weapons may have a 'lethal' setting," he warns.

Mike McBride, editor of the authoritative Jane's Police and Security Equipment journal, says: "Until these systems have proven to be safer than existing systems - baton rounds, Tasers, tear gas - there is little likelihood of them being deployed operationally."

THE Taser is fast becoming the non-lethal weapon of choice for police forces in the US and the UK despite widespread concerns about its safety.

The hand-held weapon fires barbed darts connected to a power source that delivers a debilitating 50,000-volt jolt. A person who has been hit momentarily loses control of their muscles, and collapses instantly.

Many police officers have welcomed the weapon as an alternative to lethal firearms. But Amnesty International this month said it had catalogued 103 cases in which the targeted person has later died. Calling for "an independent, comprehensive medical study" into Taser safety, Amnesty listed drug intoxication, pre-existing heart conditions and "excited delirium" as serious risk factors in Taser-related deaths.

Taser International of Scottsdale, Arizona, which makes the weapon, says its tests and the weapon's use in the field show it to be safe.

Tests on the effect of Taser shocks on the hearts of anaesthetised pigs due to begin this month have also been criticised by animal rights groups as cruel, and not representative of the effects on humans.

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2 Die in Apparent Houston Murder-Suicide
Associated Press
Thu May 5, 7:12 PM ET

HOUSTON - A lawyer working for an oil-services company walked into an office Thursday morning armed with two handguns and shot a co-worker to death before turning the gun on himself, police said.

Investigators said the gunman was heavily in debt and left a suicide note at his apartment, but that the note shed no light on the motive.

Two handguns - one a .357 caliber revolver and a semiautomatic - were found in the victim's office. Police also found more ammunition in the gunman's briefcase, which he had left in his car.

Both the victim, shot in the head and back, and the gunman were patent lawyers with Cameron, a division of Cooper Cameron oil-equipment company. Police did not release the men's names Thursday because they had not yet reached either man's family. Police described them both as white men in their 50s or 60s.

Capt. Dwayne Ready said police had no immediate clues as to a motive.

The shooting happened on the fifth floor of the Cameron building in west Houston.

About 700 people work in the nine-story building, and normal operations had resumed by midmorning everywhere but on the fifth floor, which remained closed. Police were interviewing the 50 employees who were on the floor when the shooting occurred.

"There are a whole lot of people who are walking around kind of stunned," Ready said.

The building had no metal detectors, but Ready said homicide detectives were reviewing tapes from the building's security cameras. [...]

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Researchers Tested AIDS Drugs on Children
By JOHN SOLOMON, Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Government-funded researchers tested AIDS drugs on hundreds of foster children over the past two decades, often without providing them a basic protection afforded in federal law and required by some states, an Associated Press review has found.

The research funded by the National Institutes of Health spanned the country. It was most widespread in the 1990s as foster care agencies sought treatments for their HIV-infected children that weren't yet available in the marketplace.

The practice ensured that foster children — mostly poor or minority — received care from world-class researchers at government expense, slowing their rate of death and extending their lives. But it also exposed a vulnerable population to the risks of medical research and drugs that were known to have serious side effects in adults and for which the safety for children was unknown.

The research was conducted in at least seven states — Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Colorado and Texas — and involved more than four dozen different studies. The foster children ranged from infants to late teens, according to interviews and government records.

Several studies that enlisted foster children reported patients suffered side effects such as rashes, vomiting and sharp drops in infection-fighting blood cells as they tested antiretroviral drugs to suppress AIDS or other medicines to treat secondary infections.

In one study, researchers reported a "disturbing" higher death rate among children who took higher doses of a drug. That study was unable to determine a safe and effective dosage.

The government provided special protections for child wards in 1983. They required researchers and their oversight boards to appoint independent advocates for any foster child enrolled in a narrow class of studies that involved greater than minimal risk and lacked the promise of direct benefit. Some foster agencies required the protection regardless of risks and benefits.

Advocates must be independent of the foster care and research agencies, have some understanding of medical issues and "act in the best interests of the child" for the entirety of the research, the law states.

However, researchers and foster agencies told AP that foster children in AIDS drug trials often weren't given such advocates even though research institutions many times promised to do so to gain access to the children.

Illinois officials believe none of their nearly 200 foster children in AIDS studies got independent monitors even though researchers signed a document guaranteeing "the appointment of an advocate for each individual ward participating in the respective medical research."

New York City could find records showing 142 — less than a third — of the 465 foster children in AIDS drug trials got such monitors even though city policy required them. The city has asked an outside firm to investigate. [...]

Comment: While human beings are free to believe whatever they like about the real nature of life here on the 'Big Blue Marble' and the people that sit in control over it, the actual and unsavory reality is never too far below the surface, and usually hidden from them by their leaders and the mainstream press.

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Over 600 Earthquakes Spread Panic in El Salvador
Prensa Latina
San Salvador, May 5

More than 600 tremors reported within 24 hours sets off the alarm in El Salvador and although there have not been victims, many families ready to spend the night in the open.

The chain of tremors began early on Wednesday at the mountain range of Los Naranjos and remains one of the strongest to affect the west section of the national territory in the latest years.

So far, near 70 shakes have been graded as sensitive (3 - 4.9 degrees in the Richter Scale) by the Environment Ministry Domestic Studies Services.

So far, the tremors have destroyed 63 houses in Regalo de Dios, in Apaneca, 89 km west the capital, said Raul Murillo, head of the National Emergency Committee Warning and Monitoring Unit. Official reports tell of another ten houses damaged in Juayua, at Sonsonate Department.

The Major in Apaneca, Osmin Antonio Guzman, said the people consider this an Earthquake and chose to sleep in tents rather that inside their homes.

Although slighter, these tremors were also felt in the center of the country, seat f the capital, that is also sensitive to these phenomena.

Three of these shakes were reported here between 2001 and 2003, the latest on October 10 when 12 consecutive tremors rocked the capital"s north east section.

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Report: Magnitude 4.3 Earthquake Rattles Tokyo Area Saturday

An earthquake with a magnitude of 4.3 jolted western Tokyo and surrounding areas in eastern Japan early Saturday, the Japan Meteorological Agency said, the news service Kyodo reported.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage from the 4:52 a.m. (1952 GMT) quake.

According to Kyodo, the agency said the quake measured 3 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7 in Tokyo's Nerima Ward, Chofu and Kokubunji in western Tokyo and Kawasaki and Sagamihara in Kanagawa Prefecture.

The focus of the quake was in Tokyo's eastern Tama region, the agency said. - AP

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Magnitude 6.5 Quake - SOUTH OF PANAMA
2005 May 5 19:12:18 UTC

A strong earthquake occurred at 19:12:18 (UTC) on Thursday, May 5, 2005. The magnitude 6.5 event has been located SOUTH OF PANAMA. (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)

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Magnitude 5.9 Quake - SOUTH OF PANAMA
2005 May 5 23:41:53 UTC

A moderate earthquake occurred at 23:41:53 (UTC) on Thursday, May 5, 2005. The magnitude 5.9 event has been located SOUTH OF PANAMA. (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)

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Small earthquake shakes Kern County
Associated Press
Thu, May. 05, 2005

MARICOPA, Calif. - A magnitude-4.1 earthquake hit Kern County on Thursday but no damage or injuries were reported.

The temblor struck at 7:29 p.m. and was centered 13 miles east of Maricopa and 24 miles south-southwest of Bakersfield, according to a preliminary report from the U.S. Geological Survey.

A sheriff's dispatcher said there were no reports of damage or injuries.

A magnitude-5.1 earthquake struck in the same area April 16 and was felt as far away as downtown Los Angeles. Several dozen aftershocks followed that quake.

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Earth's Gravity Scar
European Space Agency

A new ESA study predicts that the devastating Sumatran earthquake, which resulted in the tragic tsunami of 26 December 2004, will have left a 'scar' on Earth's gravity that could be detected by a sensitive new satellite, due for launch next year.

The Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) mission will measure high-accuracy gravity gradients and provide a global model of the Earth's gravity field and of the geoid. The geoid (the surface of equal gravitational potential of a hypothetical ocean at rest) serves as the classical reference for all topographical features.

The Sumatran earthquake measured 9 on the Richter scale and caused widespread devastation and death when it struck unexpectedly late last year. Thankfully, earthquakes of this magnitude are rare events, taking place perhaps once every two decades.

Seismological data suggests that, during the event, the seafloor on either side of a fault line running for 1000 km along the bottom of the Indian Ocean dramatically changed height, producing a ledge, 6 metres high. Such a large-scale movement will change the gravitational field of the Earth. Roberto Sabadini and Giorgio Dalla Via, University of Milan, and colleagues have calculated this change. They found that the Earth's gravity altered, in an instant, by as much as is expected from six years' worth of melting at the Patagonian Ice Fields in southernmost South America.

It may seem surprising that Earth's gravity is not equally strong at all points of the globe. Instead, it varies by a small fraction due to the presence of such things as mountains or deep ocean trenches. The tides and ocean circulation patterns also affect the gravity, as does the rotation of the Earth itself, which bulges out the planet's equator and makes its diameter 21 kilometres wider than the pole-to-pole distance.

In order to measure the deviations from the average level of gravity, Earth scientists invented the concept of the geoid. This is a bit like a hi-tech version of 'sea level', which is often used to give an absolute height measure. Today's modern measurements need something more accurate, however.

The geoid is a hypothetical surface, on which the gravitational pull of the Earth is the same everywhere. It wraps itself around the Earth, moving away from the real surface when it is over areas of greater density and therefore stronger gravity. Over less dense regions, the geoid moves closer to the real surface.

When material is moved around, either instantaneously in an earthquake or gradually as in a melting ice field, the Earth's gravity in the local region changes and so does the height of the geoid. In the Sumatran earthquake, Sabadini and Dalla Via found that the total geoid movement was some 18 mm -- a lot for a geoid!

ESA's Gravity Field and Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) is designed to sensitively investigate the gravitational field of the Earth from orbit. As the spacecraft passes over regions of stronger and weaker gravitational pull, it will bob up and down. Such deviations are far below the perceptible limits of humans but GOCE is equipped with a device called a gradiometer than can detect these ultra-subtle differences. By measuring the deviations in the geoid, scientists can gain a unique window into our planet.

"This work is at the frontier of geophysics and the perfect complement to seismology," says Sabadini, "Seismology is good for detecting the slip of earthquake faults and the location of the epicentre, geoid monitoring can determine how much mass is actually being moved around."

It can also be used in the quest to understand climate change as ocean circulation also affects the geoid. Changes in climate, which in turn affect the ocean circulation pattern, will show up as a yearly change in the geoid. With so much to offer, the GOCE satellite is scheduled to launch in 2006. A paper on the Sumatran Earthquake by Roberto Sabadini, Giorgio Dalla Via, Masja Hoogland, Abdelkrim Aoudia is published in EOS, the journal of the American Geophysical Union.

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A moderate tremor to kill thousands
Saturday May 07 2005

At least 25 to 30 percent buildings of Dhaka will collapse instantly killing thousands of people if the city is hit by a tremor of magnitude five on the Richter scale as most buildings have been constructed here ignoring the earthquake risk, engineers said at a press conference yesterday.

No fewer than 90 percent buildings in the capital are constructed without proper soil test, which poses a serious disaster risk caused by earthquake, said ANH Akhtar Hossain, general secretary of the Engineers Institution, Bangladesh (IEB), at the conference presided over by IEB President engineer M Anwarul Azim and held at the IEB office. [...]

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Yellowstone Rated High for Eruption Threat
Fri May 6, 8:52 PM ET

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. - The Yellowstone caldera has been classified a high threat for volcanic eruption, according to a report from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Yellowstone ranks 21st most dangerous of the 169 volcano centers in the United States, according to the Geological Survey's first-ever comprehensive review of the nation's volcanoes.

Kilauea in Hawaii received the highest overall threat score followed by Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainer in Washington, Mount Hood in Oregon and Mount Shasta in California.

Kilauea has been erupting since 1983. Mount St. Helens, which erupted catastrophically in 1980, began venting again in 2004.

Those volcanoes fall within the very high threat group, which includes 18 systems. Yellowstone is classified with 36 others as high threat.

Recurring earthquake swarms, swelling and falling ground, and changes in hydrothermal features are cited in the report as evidence of unrest at Yellowstone.

The report calls for better monitoring of the 55 volcanoes in the very high and high threat categories to track seismic activity, ground bulging, gas emissions and hydrologic changes. [...]

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Wisconsin Forest Fire Destroys 15 Homes
Associated Press
May 7, 2005

BIG FLATS, Wis. - A fast-moving forest fire destroyed 30 homes and forced dozens to flee as it spread to almost 4,000 acres before being contained overnight, officials said Friday.

No major injuries were reported.

The wind-whipped fire - described as the largest wildfire in Wisconsin in 25 years - swept across nearly 3,900 acres, destroying 30 permanent and seasonal homes, at least 30 camper trailers and about 60 sheds or similar structures, Big Flats Fire Chief Dick Meyers said. About 125 families were evacuated, and about two dozen spent the night at an elementary school.

The total loss will be in the millions of dollars, said David Weitz, a spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources.

More than 200 homes and businesses lost electricity as the flames consumed utility poles, damaged transformers and burned at least 25 miles of power lines.

The blaze in rural Adams County began Thursday when a landowner started a small fire to clear grass before building a campfire, said Steve Courtney, a Natural Resources incident commander.

Along with the homes, the fire destroyed camper-trailers and other outbuildings, Fire Chief Dick Meyers said. Gov. Jim Doyle, who surveyed the damage by helicopter, said he saw many houses still standing. [...]

Some people reported seeing flames shooting 120 feet into the air, said Trent Marty, head of the state's forest protection bureau. [...]

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Earth shows new glow
Last Updated Fri, 06 May 2005 18:30:48 EDT
CBC News

WASHINGTON - The Earth has been getting brighter since 1990, reversing a trend called global dimming, scientists reported on Friday in the journal Science.

A brighter Earth means more sunlight is reaching the ground. The scientists wrote that there appeared to be fewer particles in the air to reflect light back into space before it hits the ground.

The planet has become about four per cent brighter, the researchers said, although they could not pinpoint exactly why.

The scientists, led by Martin Wild of the Institute of Atmospheric and Climate Science in Switzerland, suggested the reason could be less pollution.

"This may be ... due to more effective clean air regulations and the decline in the economy with the political transition in Eastern European countries in the late 1980s," Wild and his co-authors wrote.

The trend could explain why higher temperatures as forecast by global warming did not occur until the late 1990s.

The study said the dimming effect found by other scientists between the 1960s and the 1980s, perhaps due to cloud composition and pollution, masked the greenhouse effect.

But the atmosphere began to change from the mid-1980s, Wild's team wrote, with less carbon dioxide and other gases that trap heat in the atmosphere.

"This masking of the greenhouse effect and related impacts may no longer have been effective thereafter, enabling the greenhouse signals to become more evident during the 1990s," they wrote.

Wild's study also found the dimming trend continues in some areas, such as China and India, where pollution remains largely unabated.

The scientists behind another study published in the same issue of Science supported Wild and his colleagues.

Bruce Wielicki of the NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia and his team used satellites to show the Earth has increased its reflectivity.

They also discounted the suggestion that changing cloud patterns could be responsible for the Earth's new glow.

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Meteor recalls 'Great Fireball' of 1966
Friday, May 06, 2005

On Sunday, April 24, people from Maine to Long Island reported everything from UFOs to missiles in the sky around 7:45 in the evening. Having ruled out a plane crash, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman fingered the Lyrid meteor shower - a typically weak annual display that peaked days earlier - as the likely culprit. She said the "shower sparked a flurry of frantic phone calls to police departments across New England."

Accounts of an object's color, direction, or time, can be inconsistent, and leave the impression that multiple objects have appeared. But like others familiar with such sightings, I knew the reports likely originated from a single event. Witnesses calling the National Weather Service in Taunton, and the personnel who field those calls, tend to be more experienced skywatchers; thus their early conclusion that this was one fireball high in the atmosphere visible over wide areas.

The object appeared too early in the evening, and traveled in the wrong direction, to be a Lyrid. Not associated with any known shower, this was by definition a "sporadic" meteor - possibly a small asteroid 5 or 10 feet across. To my knowledge, if any fragments survived the plunge to earth, none have been found. Fragments from other falls can be seen at the Springfield Science Museum's "Rocks from Space" permanent exhibit.

What is certain is that this was one dazzling sight. "It was such a weird thing," said Elizabeth Duquette of Longmeadow, who spotted the fireball through her car windshield as she drove south along Main Street in Wilbraham. "The sky was still perfectly light," she said. "The ball was very distinct, and bright, bright green, and had a long bright white tail." Her view - limited by roadside trees - lasted only a few seconds. "If I had looked down to change my radio, I might have missed it," she said.

Bright fireballs actually occur quite often, but most go unnoticed in the daylight, late at night, or over uninhabited ocean. Fireballs that get news coverage tend to happen when people are out and about, which leads to more witnesses. One widely reported fireball over Spain this year appeared on Jan. 29, a Saturday night, at 10:30 p.m. Another passed over the northwestern U.S. at 7:40 p.m. on Saturday, March 12.

While talking about the April 24 event with Richard Sanderson, curator of physical science at the Springfield Science Museum, we realized that the great fireball of April 25, 1966, occurred 39 years ago almost to the day from last week's event. Seen by thousands from Washington, D.C., to eastern Canada, it was the most widely observed and photographed fireball of its time.

Sanderson noted that the museum had possession of a famous 16 mm film of the 1966 event shot from the Municipal Group in downtown Springfield by Channel 22 news photographer George Gambino (see photo).

How lucky I feel to have witnessed that incredible event. I was 13 years old and playing with a neighbor near my home in Florence just after sunset when I noticed a star in the southwest - strange since it was still almost daylight. Barely had that registered when a thin white line shot out of the "star's" left side. The "star" rapidly brightened and grew, and in an instant I realized it was the "star" moving, not that white line.

Yelling to my friend, we both watched it intensify into a flaming ball the size of a full moon that lumbered sluggishly across the western sky. The head became a hellish churning mass of blazing red eruptions, its teardrop shape leaving a swirling vortex of flame and smoke in its wake. Flaring brightly several times, this qualified as an exploding meteor, or bolide.

The detail visible through the clear air gave the impression this thing was low and close as fragments dropped away leaving their own smoke trails. Excited and terrified, who knows what we nervously shouted to each other. Never would we have guessed that it was 60 miles up and 100 miles away. Skimming the treetops to the northwest, it was disintegrating as it finally disappeared below the ridge line - at least 100 degrees from where it all began.

We hightailed it to alert family, neighbors and everyone else we could. The smoke train lingered for 20 minutes, long enough to share with others. Tuning in to WHMP, our local AM radio station, we were surprised to hear the announcer describe the smoke train from his studio's window in downtown Northampton.

Near the Campanile in Springfield, WWLP-TV news cameraman George Gambino managed to record much of the 31 second-long event on black and white 16 mm film. Frames from his movie soon graced the pages of Life Magazine's May 6 issue, and Sky & Telescope's June 1966 edition.

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Image may be Mars Polar Lander

An imaging scientist thinks he may have found Nasa's Mars Polar Lander (MPL).

The US space agency probe went missing as it attempted to touch down at the Red Planet's south pole in 1999.

Michael Malin's team has re-examined pictures taken by the orbiting Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft, which searched for the lander in 1999-2000.

He reports the assessment of the images in the July issue of Sky and Telescope magazine, and says they could help confirm why the mission failed.

"The observation of a single, small dot at the centre of the disturbed location suggests that the vehicle remained more or less intact after its fall," he writes.

Michael Malin is president and chief scientist of Malin Space Science Systems, which operates the camera aboard Global Surveyor.

The image processing and interpretation skills of his company have already produced remarkable pictures of the landing locations of the current US rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.

Indeed, it was that success which prompted Dr Malin's team to go back to the MPL search shots.

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Human babies 'grown in lab'
By Oliver Stallwood, Metro
5 May 2005

Human eggs which could grow into embryos have been created in a laboratory for the first time, scientists announced yesterday.

They were created by scraping stem cells off the surface of ovaries and exposing them to a chemical which stimulated growth.

The breakthrough suggests limitless supplies of eggs could be grown, solving the problem of the acute shortage of donor eggs for infertile women wanting IVF treatment.

But the idea has horrified pro-life groups after scientists admitted they could use the technique to 'farm' embryos for their research.

The procedure was tested by a University of Tennessee team, which took ovarian stem cells from five women aged 39 to 52.

Cells which were treated with a type of oestrogen called phenol red grew into healthy eggs.

The US researchers say their technique offers hope to cancer sufferers who become infertile through chemotherapy. They also believe they could extend the fertility of a woman nearing the menopause by between ten and 12 years.

Prof Antonin Bukovsky said it offered 'new strategies' for treatment of female infertility.

Fertility watchdogs will have to approve the technique for use in Britain but welcomed its apparent medical benefits.

But pro-life campaigner Matthew O'Gorman said: 'The artificial harvesting of eggs is synonymous with the intention to manufacture human beings for research. This is unethical, unnecessary and unacceptable.'

Comment: And who says the "manufacturing" of human beings is anything new?!?

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Alien Notion
By Gary Singh

BESIDES being a successful Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Jacques Vallee has researched the UFO phenomenon perhaps more than any other person currently alive. He has written almost a dozen books on ufology, and he was the real-life model for the French UFO scientist in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Vallee lives in San Francisco, but he recently infiltrated Silicon Valley to summarize his four decades of research in a public presentation at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto.

The reason Vallee has irked so many ardent UFO believers for decades is that he doesn't believe UFOs are nuts-and-bolts machines from outer space or spinning silver disks operated by aliens from another universe. Crudely simplified, he was the first scientist to suggest that UFO experiences are in fact interactions with interdimensional beings that have always existed among us-invisible hands toying with human society from a different level of consciousness. It's not just a physical phenomenon. It's a sociological, spiritual and psychic experience all wrapped up into one.

Vallee also suggested in several books that many of these so-called "abduction" tales are the result of manipulation, either by the government or the interdimensional beings themselves. Even though his work was documented in former Metro scribe Jonathan Vankin's 80 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time, Vallee has commanded a huge amount of respect over the years, even from UFO debunkers. As he's been quoted everywhere, "The UFO Phenomenon exists. It has been with us throughout history. It is physical in nature, and it remains unexplained in terms of contemporary science. It represents a level of consciousness that we have not yet recognized, and which is able to manipulate dimensions beyond time and space as we understand them. It affects our own consciousness in ways that we do not grasp fully, and it generally behaves as a control system." He has also theorized that UFO experiences echo those of traditional contact with nonhuman consciousness in the form of elves, fairies or demons throughout several cultures for millennia.

Since Vallee has spent decades filtering out the lunatic fringe on this matter, he didn't want any advance press about his lecture, and I went along with that. He understandably didn't want kooks with preconceived conclusions showing up and turning the whole presentation into a circus. Instead, he wanted to keep the lecture purely a scientific one.

So it only makes sense that the event was hosted by the Foundation for Mind-Being Research (FMBR), a 25-year-old Silicon Valley-based organization of scientists, engineers, spiritualists, artists, philosophers, psychics and psychologists devoted to establishing consciousness studies as a bona fide science. One of FMBR's main principles is that the four-dimensional space-time world of ordinary human experience may be inadequate to accommodate the physics of the mind sciences. Vallee's research throughout the last four decades intertwines with that theory.

"This lecture was an experiment," he explained via email afterward. "I am staying away from the media and public presentations because the field has become so polarized between different ideologies that anything I would say as a scientist would be lost in the noise. The FMBR group is unique because it is open-minded and understands the nature of research. Thus it provided an opportunity to test my current conclusions about the phenomenon before a responsive, yet critical audience."

In the presentation, he explained that the entire UFO discourse has degenerated into a confrontational and polarized situation between the hard-core skeptics and the extraterrestrial believers, and we need new radical hypotheses. So Vallee and others are going back underground and returning to the days of the Invisible College, the title of his 1975 book about a group of scientists researching UFOs while keeping their names and activities out of the press.

"The phenomenon presents great opportunities to learn about the world and human nature," he explained. "I continue to do research, but I do it with my own resources, in communication with a small network of scientists and investigators around the world. Good progress can be done this way, in an environment of trust rather than confrontation or hype."

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Area 51 Turns 50 This Month
By George Knapp
KLAS-TV Investigative Reporter

It's hard to believe now, but not too many years ago, few people outside of Nevada had ever heard of Area 51, the secret military base that turns 50 years old this month.

All of that changed in 1989 when KLAS-TV aired a series of reports about alleged alien technology being tested in and around the Groom Lake facility. The UFO stories changed Area 51 forever, and spawned all sorts of spin-offs.

I-Team Investigative Reporter George Knapp is the guy who first broke the UFO tales back then and is here now with an update.

For better or worse, those Channel 8 stories did put Area 51 on the map. The first time George Knapp read about UFOs at Area 51, it was in the pages of the Las Vegas Review Journal back in the mid '80s. The paper reported it as a mere rumor.

KLAS-TV reports a few years later made quite a splash, even internationally, and Area 51 has never been the same. The reason for all of the attention is a man who said he worked on flying saucers.

Dennis said, "There were 9 flying saucers, flying discs..."

A live interview with the shadowy Dennis in the spring of 1989 was the beginning of the end for Area 51's anonymity. Dennis, a pseudonym, claimed to be working on a top-secret project involving flying saucers of extraterrestrial origin. In November of '89, the true identity of Dennis was revealed.

Bob Lazar, former government scientist, said, "Physical contact with another intelligence could be the biggest event in history. It's real and it's there."

Bob Lazar said he was hired by the Navy to work at a facility called S-4, adjacent to Papoose dry lake, south of Groom Lake. Several hangars were built into a mountainside, he said, and inside each hangar was a flying saucer.

Lazar continues, "They were all different, as if they got the assortment pack."

The story set off a stampede. UFO enthusiasts took bus trips to the outskirts of Area 51, staged saucer watches, told even wilder tales about alien beings running amok at Groom Lake. Media outlets poked fun at the so-called saucer nuts, and at Lazar, but in the years that followed, every major news organization in the world visited or wrote about the base. TV specials aired in many countries. Tens of thousands of visitors trekked to the base to see for themselves.

In nearby Rachel, Nevada, the town closest to Area 51, residents recognized a good thing. The Rachel Bar and Grill became The Little A'le'inn, plastered its walls with UFO photos, put a few clever doo-dads and eye catchers outside, and began selling alien merchandise.

Pat Travis, owner of The Little A'le'inn, says, "I have candles, patches, pins, coffee cups, badges, licenses, shot glasses..." -- along with post cards, posters, cookie jars, and alien spoons -- "mini playing cards, guitar straps, sunglasses. You name it, we've got it."

They have books too, including this one by Area 51 gadfly Chuck Clark. Clark says, "Yeah, it still sells. I keep it up to date with changes as necessary."

The Las Vegas Stars baseball team became the Las Vegas 51's. There's an Area 51 rock band, video game, dance troupe, and fireworks company. Oh, and alien jerky stands.

The base has been featured in numerous TV dramas and a movie or two. Area 51, the base that didn't officially exist, has become a household name all over the world, to the chagrin of the so-called cammo dudes who have to keep trespassers out.

The notoriety inspired the State of Nevada to dedicate the Extraterrestrial Highway, the only one of its kind on this planet, anyway. While critics think its all nonsense, a lot of people have seen glowing objects over the base. True, some of the photos are probably secret craft made in the USA, but a few look and act like, dare we say it, flying saucers.

The vantage points once used to look at the base have been seized, but skywatchers still catch a glimpse now and then of something strange. Chuck Clark said, "Every once in awhile there'll still be a sighting, one of the weird objects moving in that air space."

Several other people have come forward in the years since Lazar and have told the I-Team bits and pieces of the same story. But after Lazar's reputation was so thoroughly pummeled, none of the other witnesses were willing to appear on camera or let us use their real names.

These days, Lazar is alive and well in a western state and still stands by his story.

If you're interested in Area 51, or want information about the 50th anniversary activities later this month, check out some of the links above.

Comment: Speaking of Area 51. Google's satellite images recently turned up an very interesting formation near an airstrip at an unknown facility in the vicinity of Groom Lake aka Area 51. The image in question has been described as a SAM missile battery formation for the purpose of practice bombing runs by US war planes. Sounds somewhat farfetched to us. The image of the the "SAM battery" is below. We will let readers ponder the more likely possible explanations for themselves.

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Student organizes time traveler conference
By Michael Kunzelman, Associated Press Writer

BOSTON - Attention, time travelers: Amal Dorai hopes you enjoyed the party he's throwing this weekend. Dorai, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is hosting a Time Traveler Convention on campus this Saturday. Make plans now, because it's the last such party.

"You only need one," he said. "The chance that anybody shows up is small, but if it happens it will be one of the biggest events in human history."

There's no dress code. No need to R.S.V.P. Refreshments (chips and dip) will be provided.

Dorai only asks his guests to show proof they come from the future: Bringing the cure for cancer, a solution for global poverty or a cold fusion reactor would suffice.

In case MIT is long gone by the time a time machine is invented, Dorai's invitation includes geographic coordinates for the East Campus Courtyard (42:21:36.025 degrees north, 71:05:16.332 degrees west).

To spread the word, Dorai asked friends to scribble invitations on pieces of acid-free paper and slip them into obscure library books. He is also giving media interviews and posting his thoughts on a Web site.

"The World Wide Web is unlikely to remain in its present form permanently," he wrote. "We need volunteers to publish the details of the convention in enduring forms, so that the time travelers of future millennia will be aware of the convention."

The convention starts at 8 p.m. For dramatic effect, time travelers are encouraged to show up at 10 p.m. sharp. In between, revelers will take in a lecture on time travel by an MIT physics professor and listen to student bands belting out time-themed songs.

MIT physics professor Alan Guth is weighing an invitation to speak at the convention. Guth's work involves applying theoretical particle physics to the early universe, but he said he has dabbled in writing about time travel theories.

"Most of us would bet it's impossible, but none of us can prove it's impossible either," he said.

Dorai doesn't consider himself a believer or a skeptic.

"I'm an experimentalist," he said. "If there's only going to be one, it should be here at MIT."

Apart from the near-certainty that time travel is impossible, Dorai sees another potential problem. "If thousands of time travelers come, then the MIT police might try to shut the party down," he said

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And Finally...

Mobile phones to detect adolescent depression
By Kristyn Maslog-Levis
ZDNet Australia
04 May 2005

The Murdoch Children's Research Institute is trialling a Java-based mobile application that helps with early warning-sign detection and monitoring of adolescent depression.

The product -- developed by Object Consulting -- is believed to be the first mobile phone application used in healthcare field research in Australia. A focus group of 40 adolescents supplied with Nokia 6260 smart phones pre-loaded with the application is presently testing its effectiveness. A larger study -- involving 400 young people -- is scheduled for next year.

According to Dr Sophie Reid, Child and Adolescent Research psychologist at the Institute, depression and anxiety affects up to 30 percent of adolescents and is likely to become the number one disease in Australia by 2020.

"A critical factor in the difference between healthy adjustment and subsequent depression is how young people respond to distress. The application that Object has developed will play a crucial role in facilitating the research, collection and analysis of data to develop early warning software," she said.

The application -- which gathers information into how adolescents experience and respond to distress -- is expected to provide more comprehensive and accurate data than traditional research tools such as written questionnaires. It initially comprises a set of questionnaires that pop-up on the phone at random intervals three to four times during the day.

The respondent enters a PIN or ID code and answers a list of questions on the phone through the text function.

Questions being asked by the program range from the respondent's location and activity to their immediate company and events of the day. It also includes open-ended questions such as "Did something stressful happen today? How did you cope with it?"

The application uses the text function to store the answers within the phone until the end of the week in which the questionnaires are distributed. After this, the phone is taken to the Institute and the answers downloaded via Bluetooth or infrared.

"Approximately 83 percent of high school students currently have mobile phones, making the technology the ideal medium for research," Reid said.

The Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition (J2ME)-based application has been developed for use on mobile information device profile (MIDP) 2.0 smart phones. Object has also delivered the back-end integration of data into a relational database for reporting and analysis. The mobile application is the first phase of the project being undertaken by the institute. [...]

The initial application development was completed in March 2005. Reid said the institute was collaborating with Harvard Medical Institute to secure future opportunities for the technology.

Comment: The company is also working with major pharmaceutical companies to develop a phone that not only diagnoses depression, but also prescribes and administers doses of antidepressants while the user is talking on the phone.

To more effectively deal with patients who become suicidal after taking the antidepressants, the phone will also contain a taser function.

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