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"Hmmm, where did George say to meet?"
©2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte

May 4, 1970 - Burned into World Memory
Axis of Logic
Special Report with Photos
May 3, 2005, 08:54


"They’re worse than Brown Shirts and the Communist element, and also the nightriders and the vigilantes. They’re the worst type of people we have in America ... we will use whatever force necessary to drive them out of Kent!"

- Gov. James Rhodes, May 3, 1970

"'s very hard to ignore that Kent State thing.
They were down there, man, ready to do it.
You can see them, they're all kneeling there,
they're all in the kneeling position
and they got their slings tight
and they're ready to shoot.
And there's this kid, this long-haired kid
standin' there with a flag wavin' it...
I mean, I cannot be a man,
and be a human, and ignore that." 

- David Crosby, July, 1970
Rolling Stone interview

"It was like -- oh my God, I can't believe it. So everybody came out and there were kids lying on the ground, running all over the place,...There isn't a day in my life that goes by that I don't wake up without some conscious thought of this. I was in Vietnam twice before. I didn't have the fear that I had on this campus -- helicopters swooping down, tear gas, bullets. It was a scary thing. I get goosebumps talking about it right at this moment,"

- Kent State Student, Bob Carpenter


"When I saw the students in their pools of blood, I said this is it, it's got to stop -- the protests, the war. It's gone too far,"

- Kent State Student, Paul Tople 

"I like to call it murder. I see no justification and no justice,"

- Kent State Student, John Darnell

"I don't care if you've never listened to anybody before in your life. I am begging you right now, if you don't disperse right now, they're going to move in. It will only be a slaughter. Please, listen to me. Jesus Christ, I don't want to be part of this. Listen to me,"

- Kent State Professor Glenn Frank

By noon May 4, two thousand people had gathered in the vicinity of the commons. Many knew that the rally had been banned. Others, especially commuters, did not know of this prohibition. Chants, curses and rocks answered an order to disperse. Shortly after noon, tear gas canisters were fired...The guard moved forward with fixed bayonets, forcing demonstrators to retreat...The guardsmen then retraced their line of march. Some demonstrators followed as close as 20 yards, but most were between 60 and 75 yards behind the guard. Near the crest of Blanket Hill, the guard turned and 28 guardsmen fired between 61 and 67 shots in 13 seconds toward the parking lot. Four persons lay dying and nine wounded. The closest casualty was 20 yards and the farthest was almost 250 yards away. All 13 were students at Kent State University.

The four students who were killed were Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, William Schroeder and Sandra Scheuer. The nine wounded students were Joseph Lewis, John Cleary, Thomas Grace, Alan Canfora, Dean Kahler, Douglas Wrentmore, James Russell, Robert Stamps, and Donald MacKenzie. Dean Kahler was permanently paralyzed from his injury.

Kent State Vice President Ronald Roskens, right, as he appeared in a 1970 Daily Kent Stater poster. He later was fired as chancellor of the University of Nebraska under secretive circumstances only to be hired by the White House as director of Agency for International Development. Allegations were made that he used his agency access for personal financial gain.

"You know, you see these bums, you know, blowin' up the campuses. Listen, the boys that are on the college campuses today are the luckiest people in the world, going to the greatest universities, and here they are, burnin' up the books, I mean, stormin' around about this issue, I mean, you name it —- get rid of the war, there'll be another one."

- Richard Nixon, May 2, 1970
New York Times

Vigil Held In Honor Of KSU May 4 Shootings

A silent 12-hour candlelight vigil to remember the Kent State tragedy is being held this morning, NewsChannel5 reported.

Thirty-four years ago, four students were shot and killed by the National Guard at the KSU campus. They were protesting the Vietnam war.

The memorial started Monday night to honor the four students killed and nine others injured May 4, 1970.

The May 4th Task Force, students who are putting the memorial together, said this year's theme is the Patriot Act.

The kick off to this year's remembrance began last night. At 11 p.m., students marched with candles to the site where the students were shot.

At noon, students will detail what led up to the shooting along with ringing the victory bell at 12:24 p.m. 15 times in honor of those who lost their lives in Kent State and Jackson State that year.

WEWS reported many students believe this year's memorial is extra special because of the war on terror and the loss of troops in Iraq. -

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We're finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are gunning us down
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are gunning us down
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We're finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.

- Neil Young
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

Editor's note: There is credible evidence that there was a pre-existing government plan for the National Guard to open fire on the students as a desperate step to put an end to the student movement against the war in Viet Nam. But many believe the public hearings held, were a whitewash and coverup. No person was ever convicted of committing these state-executions at Kent State on May 4, 1970. The U.S. government may be gearing up to reinstate the draft again due to its pending defeat in Iraq and its failure to recruit sufficient numbers of young people into its "volunteer army". Will we see repeats of the Kent State killings by the government as the "war on terrorism" mirrors the war in Viet Nam? We are already seeing them in the "volunteer army", aren't we? There is one lesson we can learn from the Kent State killings and every war the U.S. government has conducted: Noone should have any lingering question about what the U.S. government is capable of doing to its own people. - Les Blough, Editor

Comment: Vietnam, Kent State, September 11, 2001, Iraq. Killing Americans comes easy to those in power. Although these deaths are always either blamed on someone else or justified because everyone needs to make sacrifices to stay free, the truth is that we are all nothing but cannon fodder for the rulers and an energy source for their controllers. We are the means to their ends.

We can only continue to be fooled as long as we buy into their ends, the values that our materialist society considers so highly while clutching their Bibles and singing the praises of the Lord. As long as we believe the lie that anyone in America can succeed as long as she or he works hard, that there is an equal opportunity for the daughter of a poor Black family in Mississippi as there is for the son of a Bush, or that even if we do not become a celebrity, we are better than everyone else because, at least, we are American, the bullets will remain in the rifles and those rifles will remain pointed at us.

There is no democracy in the United States. There is no real participation of the citizen in the political process. By and large, most people don't care. They elect a congressman or a president to take care of business for a few years and then either re-elect him or change horses. Decisions are taken behind closed doors, and when Bush makes a public appearance to discuss his policies, he presents his case in front of hand-picked zombies who take his smirk for a show of concern and his psychopathic inability to express empathy as proof that he is "one of us". Bush is president because of two rigged elections not because he was elected.

Those who attempt to stand up to this wall of contempt for individual rights and the principles upon which their country was founded are hustled out of the audience, thrown into pens for "free speech", and ridiculed with spiteful glee by right-wing pundits on the airwaves. They are denounced as un-American and suggestions are made that they either be thrown into jail or be killed. Freedom of speech means the freedom to agree with the war president, the former AWOL National Guardsman, now commander-in-chief, with a thing for uniforms and maybe even the men in them or out of them.

Can enough Americans wake up to the truth of what is happening in their country to change the course? We doubt it. Even if they wake up, the fanatics are still in power and a few more dead protestors aren't going to make them lose any sleep. The alphabet soup agencies are likely scouring the Internet for voices of dissent and compiling the lists of those to be hauled in during the first sweep, and the second, and the third.... The Democrats are as corrupt as the Republicans. What choice do Americans have on the political landscape?

A future crisis provoked by an economic crash or some un-dreamed of natural disaster (by those who aren't following very closely the news about meteor sightings, or volcano and earthquake threat) could shift the political and natural landscape in the blink of an eye. However, the powers that be are very likely fully aware of the possibility of such dangers and are probably making their plans as you read these lines.

The next time around, four dead in Ohio may seem like nothing.

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Signs Economic Commentary

Donald Hunt
May 9, 2005

A stronger than expected U.S. jobless report for April lifted U.S. stocks last week.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed Friday at 10,345.40 up 1.5% from the previous week’s close of 10,192.51. The NASDAQ closed at 1967.35 up 2.4% from the previous week’s 1921.65. The yield on the ten-year U.S. Treasury bond closed at 4.26%, up from last week’s 4.20%. The euro closed at 1.2824 dollars, or .7791 euros to a dollar, up 0.3% against dollar from the previous week’s 1.2866 or .7772 euros/dollar.  Gold closed at $426.80 an ounce (332.81 euros/ounce) Friday, down 2% from the previous Friday’s close of $435.50 (338.49 euros/ounce), down 1.7% in euros.  Oil closed at $50.96 a barrel, up 2.5% from the previous week’s close of $49.72. That would put oil in euros at 39.74 a barrel up 2.8% from the previous Friday’s close of 38.64.  At Friday’s close, an ounce of gold would buy 8.43 barrels of oil, down 3.9% from the previous Friday’s close of 8.76.

Let’s take a look at the good news the U.S. analysts were trumpeting, the “strong” jobs numbers:

By Glenn Somerville Sat May 7, 6:45 AM ET

The addition of a surprisingly strong 274,000 U.S. jobs in April plus upward revisions for hiring numbers in two prior months showed the economy rebounding from a first-quarter slowdown.The April jobs total, reported by the Labor Department on Friday, eclipsed analysts' expectations of 170,000 new jobs. It implied that interest rates are likely to keep rising since lofty energy prices have not sapped the durability of the three-year old economic expansion. Further underlining the surge, the government said 93,000 more jobs were created in February and March than it previously reported -- 146,000 in March instead of 110,000 and a whopping 300,000 in February instead of 243,000. "So much for soft spots, unless you think it is possible to create 700,000 jobs in the past three months and not have a solid economy," said economist Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pennsylvania. The unemployment rate, which is calculated from a separate survey, was unchanged at 5.2 percent in April. The jobs data sent U.S. Treasury debt prices skidding lower on a conviction that a strong economy will keep the Federal Reserve pushing interest rates higher to curb inflation.


U.S. central bank policy-makers on Tuesday raised the bellwether federal funds rate, charged on overnight loans between banks, for an eighth straight time since last June to 3 percent and analysts see it going higher as a bulwark against price pressures. A Reuters poll of 20 big banks that deal directly with the Fed found they unanimously expect another quarter percentage point rate hike after their next policy session on June 29-30. Almost all foresee a further quarter point hike on Aug. 9. "The risk is that unless the Fed puts a speed-bump in the way of the economy that we will see a rise in end-user inflation," said Stuart Schweitzer, global investment strategist with J.P. Morgan Asset Management in New York. Schweitzer said the Fed is "well along but not nearly finished" with its rate-rising campaign and predicted the fed funds rate will move up to 4 percent by the end of the year. April job gains were broad-based with manufacturing the only major sector to shed positions. Construction employment snapped back after a soft March, adding 47,000 to payrolls for the strongest hiring since March 2004.


Treasury Secretary John Snow, in a blitz of television appearances after the jobs report was issued, said the economy was well poised for steady expansion. "I think we can continue to have good strong, noninflationary growth that creates lots of jobs going forward," Snow said on CNBC television.

So far in 2005, about 210,000 jobs a month have been created, ahead of the roughly 150,000 that economists estimate are needed just to absorb new entrants to the workforce. Economist Gary Thayer of A.G. Edwards and Sons Inc. of St. Louis, Missouri, said the first-quarter softening in the pace of economic growth now appears to have been temporary rather than a portent of a broader slowdown, judging by corporations' willingness to bet on the future by adding to payrolls. "It suggests that the cooling off we've seen is not a significant problem. High energy prices are hurting confidence, but don't appear to be hurting job creation," he added. The strong data were a balm for financial markets after recent nervousness that recent data might point to a spreading economic soft spot. Major stock indexes rose after the report but the gains were checked by heightened concern over prospective interest-rate rises. The major indexes closed on Friday virtually unchanged. "Not only is the April report strong, but it's stronger than what the summary suggests," said economist Richard DeKaser of National City Corp. in Cleveland. "We have huge upward revisions. We see hours worked rising sharply in the month of April, which indicates how the workforce is being utilized." Average hourly earnings in private industry climbed five cents to a record $16 in the month, while the average workweek increased to 33.9 hours from 33.7 in March.

The zeal with which the Bush-allied officials and analysts seized on these numbers could be an indication of their desperation earlier this week when most of the news was bad. 

The dollar has been holding its own against the euro as well, lately, with the European economy looking shaky at the moment.  From a survey of the world economy by Nick Beams:

According to a report issued by the European Commission, economic confidence is falling across the region. The commission said the decline in its “economic sentiment” index to the lowest level since October 2003 indicated “a considerable slowing of output growth in the first half of 2005”. Amelia Torres, the EU spokeswoman for the economy and finance commented that “the situation is not exactly rosy at the moment”. Growth-oriented policy changes in countries like Germany, she said, were “taking time to bear fruit”. This is a reference to new regulations which bring in severe cuts to unemployment benefits and have helped push unemployment rates to over 5 million. Ken Wattret, an economist with BNP Paribas in London, told the International Herald Tribune that the numbers showed a European economy in trouble. “We thought services would rebound in anticipation of better prospects in industry, and so pessimism really is the order of the day.” The commission said the biggest decreases in its economic sentiment index, which covers industrial, retail, construction, services and consumer confidence, had been in the UK, followed by France. French unemployment has risen to a five-year high of 10.2 percent with a report showing that business confidence in April was at an 18-month low. The business leaders interviewed for the survey were particularly downbeat about the prospects for exports.

While the German unemployment rate declined slightly last month, revised data issued last week show that the economy is in a technical recession, with two consecutive quarters of negative growth in the second half of 2004. The governments of Germany and Italy have both revised downward their estimates of economic growth from 1.6 percent to 1 percent and from 2.1 percent to 1.2 percent respectively.

German business confidence is down to its lowest level since September 2003, after three months of successive declines. Consumer confidence is also reported to be falling.

Asia is looking shaky as well, as the whole world looks in trepidation at the ability of consumers in the United States to keep buying as while being paid less and while falling deeper in debt. Again from Nick Beams:

Despite the continuing boom in the Chinese economy, the overall situation in Asia is little better. Last week, the Bank of Japan acknowledged that the economy, the world’s second largest, is still stuck in deflation in spite of three years of stop-start growth. While the fall in prices of 0.2 percent in the year to March was less than the 0.8 percent declines experienced in each of the previous two years, the bank does not expect prices to start rising until 2007.

The latest result means that Japan has experienced eight years of deflation since the collapse of the real estate and share market bubble in the early 1990s. With interest rates at zero and plenty of liquidity there is little financial authorities can do to boost the economy. Increased government spending is also ruled out because previous measures, which failed to provide any long-term revival, have left Japan with a public debt equivalent to 160 percent of gross domestic product.   Japan’s domestic economy is virtually stagnant, with real domestic demand only averaging an annual increase of 0.9 percent over the past years.

What growth there has been is largely the result of exports, especially to China, which have increased at a rate of 7.4 percent over the same period. But even this source of growth could dry up if China’s growth rate begins to fall as a result of a slowdown in the US. The dependence of the Chinese economy on the US and other foreign markets is reflected in the share of exports as a percentage of GDP: up from 20 percent in 1999 to 35 percent in 2004. Of these exports, one third goes to the US. The picture is the same throughout Asia. According to calculations by Morgan Stanley economists, over the past five years exports from non-Japan Asia have increased at an annual rate of 15.3 percent; more than triple the 4.9 percent annual increase in domestic consumption spending over the same period.

These figures underscore the growing reliance of China and the rest of Asia on the expansion of the American market and signify that any sustained slowdown in the US economy, not to speak of a recession, will have far-reaching consequences.

Notice how long Japan has had to spend burning off all the bad debt from the collapse of their real-estate bubble.  Will the United States be next to hear the bubble pop? If it does, say goodbye to overvalued stock prices.  Will the United States have the luxury Japan has had, selling goods to the United States and still investing abroad while trying to sweat out all the bad loans?

How will the United States ever get out of debt? The government is now doing little more than funneling tax money to corporations via procurement contracts and various privatization schemes. The tax cuts on the wealthy are being made permanent. The people are being impoverished with falling wages, fewer benefits and more resposibility for their own catastrophic losses with the systematic dismantling of social insurance.  The people can only default on the debts they have incurred out of their optimistic nature: the belief that they will be earning more in the future. After the default, when Americans lose everything and the dollar crashes, workers in the United States can provide cheap labor for other countries, kept in line by Patriot Act laws.

Without a radical redirection of economic policy, what else can happen at this point?  What does the United States as a whole produce? Raw materials, of course, like any continental nation.  But supplying raw materials to the world market is a recipe for poverty.  The United States grows food in abundance (if in a heavily petroleum-using way).  The United States also jointly controls with Canada (with whom it is trying to merge) a large percentage of the world’s surface fresh water in the Great Lakes.

The United States produces culture, but, as Peter Jackson’s new film complex in New Zealand shows, culture can move quickly and historically has moved quickly, following the money.  The film industry is the one part of the culture industry which has the largest infrastructure of fixed assets and its center of gravity could shift to Hong Kong, Bombay (Bollywood), or Wellington.

The United States produces knowledge, but has always done so by attracting scholars from all over the world to supplement its native born talent, but that era is ending.  Patriot Act laws and visa restrictions make it harder to bring in foreign students and scholars, and the obnoxious foreign policy of the Bush administration is making it so no one who has other choices wants to come here. We may even see a brain drain of native talent leaving for other shores.

But what high-end, high value-added commodities?  Where is the heavy adding of value done?  One of the only type of advanced manufacturing done completely in the United States is advanced weaponry (don’t want to outsource THAT to China or India!).  The U.S. is also turning out lots of people trained to operate these weapon-systems and are spending a lot of money and effort trying to recruit U.S. children to do just that. The bet, then, is on advanced weapons keeping the ruling classes of the United States in place as the hegemonic world power.  No wonder the rest of the world sees the United States as the greatest threat to world peace.

The former members of the American middle class will not be helped by that hegemony, though.  They will have the choice of serving in the war machine or in the civilian work camps.

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US to spend billions to improve security systems 2005-05-08 02:07:57

WASHINGTON, May 8 (Xinhuanet) -- The US government plans to spend billions of dollars to replace or alter much of the anti-terrorism equipment installed after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, which is now described as ineffective, unreliable or too expensive to operate, US media reports said on Sunday.

Although some of changes are being made because of new technology that has emerged in the past few years, many of them are planned because devices currently in use have done little to improve security, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

Based on interviews with government officials, independent experts and a review of government documents, the report listed a number of problems concerning the current security systems, including radiation monitors at ports and borders that cannot differentiate between radiation emitted by a nuclear bomb and naturally occurring radiation from everyday material like cat litter or ceramic tile.

The report also faulted postal service machines that test only a small percentage of mail and look for anthrax but not other biological agents.

The defects in current security system can be partly traced back to the pressure the US government faced after 9/11 to move quickly to install monitoring tools to fence off possible new attacks. In some cases, agencies did not seek competitive bids or consider cheaper, better alternatives, and not all the devices were tested to see how well they worked, the report said.

US homeland security officials said that they have already moved carefully to address some of the initial problems. In Nevada, for example, contractors are being paid to build prototypes of radiation detection devices that are more sensitive and selective. Similar competitions are under way elsewhere to evaluate new air-monitoring equipment and airport screening devices.

In order to create a virtual shield around the United States, the US federal government will likely need to spend as much as seven billion dollars more on screening equipment in the coming years, according to government estimates.

Comment: While Bush tours the country trying to convince his Christian followers that Social Security needs to be abandoned because there isn't any money, the government is still spending billions turning the United States into a prison, not to mention the hundreds of billions it is channelling to its cronies at places like Haliburton in the name of the war on terrorism [sic].

Fear works.

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US to fund Indonesian highway
Last Updated 09/05/2005, 12:17:33

The United States has signed an agreement to build a US$245 million road along the western coast of the Indonesian province of Aceh.

The area was devastated by the earthquake and tsunami on December 26, 2004.

The 240-kilometre highway will connect the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, with the city of Meulaboh, which was almost wiped out by the tsunami. [...]

Comment: While US infrastructure crumbles, the US is funding develoments such as this overseas. Foreign aid is never given without strings. The strings will be greater US penetration into the area. Very likely, the construction will be coordinated by a US corporation like Bechtel or Halliburton

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The silent scream of numbers

The 2004 election was stolen - will someone please tell the media?
Tribune Media Services

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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FAQ: How Real ID will affect you
By Declan McCullagh
Staff Writer, CNET
Published: May 6, 2005, 4:00 AM PDT

What's all the fuss with the Real ID Act about?

President Bush is expected to sign an $82 billion military spending bill soon that will, in part, create electronically readable, federally approved ID cards for Americans. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the package--which includes the Real ID Act--on Thursday.

What does that mean for me?

Starting three years from now, if you live or work in the United States, you'll need a federally approved ID card to travel on an airplane, open a bank account, collect Social Security payments, or take advantage of nearly any government service. Practically speaking, your driver's license likely will have to be reissued to meet federal standards.

What's new:

The House of Representatives has approved an $82 billion military spending bill with an attachment that would mandate electronically readable ID cards for Americans. President Bush is expected to sign the bill.

Bottom line:

The Real ID Act would establish what amounts to a national identity card. State drivers' licenses and other such documents would have to meet federal ID standards established by the Department of Homeland Security.

The Real ID Act hands the Department of Homeland Security the power to set these standards and determine whether state drivers' licenses and other ID cards pass muster. Only ID cards approved by Homeland Security can be accepted "for any official purpose" by the feds.

How will I get one of these new ID cards?

You'll still get one through your state motor vehicle agency, and it will likely take the place of your drivers' license. But the identification process will be more rigorous.

For instance, you'll need to bring a "photo identity document," document your birth date and address, and show that your Social Security number is what you had claimed it to be. U.S. citizens will have to prove that status, and foreigners will have to show a valid visa.

State DMVs will have to verify that these identity documents are legitimate, digitize them and store them permanently. In addition, Social Security numbers must be verified with the Social Security Administration.

What's going to be stored on this ID card?

At a minimum: name, birth date, sex, ID number, a digital photograph, address, and a "common machine-readable technology" that Homeland Security will decide on. The card must also sport "physical security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication of the document for fraudulent purposes."

Homeland Security is permitted to add additional requirements--such as a fingerprint or retinal scan--on top of those. We won't know for a while what these additional requirements will be.

Why did these ID requirements get attached to an "emergency" military spending bill?

Because it's difficult for politicians to vote against money that will go to the troops in Iraq and tsunami relief. The funds cover ammunition, weapons, tracked combat vehicles, aircraft, troop housing, death benefits, and so on.

The House already approved a standalone version of the Real ID Act in February, but by a relatively close margin of 261-161. It was expected to run into some trouble in the Senate. Now that it's part of an Iraq spending bill, senators won't want to vote against it.

What's the justification for this legislation anyway?

Its supporters say that the Real ID Act is necessary to hinder terrorists, and to follow the ID card recommendations that the 9/11 Commission made last year.

It will "hamper the ability of terrorist and criminal aliens to move freely throughout our society by requiring that all states require proof of lawful presence in the U.S. for their drivers' licenses to be accepted as identification for federal purposes such as boarding a commercial airplane, entering a federal building, or a nuclear power plant," Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, said during the debate Thursday.

You said the ID card will be electronically readable. What does that mean?

The Real ID Act says federally accepted ID cards must be "machine readable," and lets Homeland Security determine the details. That could end up being a magnetic strip, enhanced bar code, or radio frequency identification (RFID) chips.

In the past, Homeland Security has indicated it likes the concept of RFID chips. The State Department is already going to be embedding RFID devices in passports, and Homeland Security wants to issue RFID-outfitted IDs to foreign visitors who enter the country at the Mexican and Canadian borders. The agency plans to start a yearlong test of the technology in July at checkpoints in Arizona, New York and Washington state.

Will state DMVs share this information?

Yes. In exchange for federal cash, states must agree to link up their databases. Specifically, the Real ID Act says it hopes to "provide electronic access by a state to information contained in the motor vehicle databases of all other states."

Is this legislation a done deal?

Pretty much. The House of Representatives approved the package on Thursday by a vote of 368-58. Only three of the "nay" votes were Republicans; the rest were Democrats. The Senate is scheduled to vote on it next week and is expected to approve it as well.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan has told reporters "the president supports" the standalone Real ID Act, and the Bush administration has come out with an official endorsement. As far back as July 2002, the Bush administration has been talking about assisting "the states in crafting solutions to curtail the future abuse of drivers' licenses by terrorist organizations."

Who were the three Republicans who voted against it?
Reps. Howard Coble of North Carolina, John Duncan of Tennessee, and Ron Paul of Texas.

Paul has warned that the Real ID Act "establishes a national ID card" and "gives authority to the Secretary of Homeland Security to unilaterally add requirements as he sees fit."

Is this a national ID card?

It depends on whom you ask. Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's technology and liberty program, says: "It's going to result in everyone, from the 7-Eleven store to the bank and airlines, demanding to see the ID card. They're going to scan it in. They're going to have all the data on it from the front of the card...It's going to be not just a national ID card but a national database."

At the moment, state driver's licenses aren't easy for bars, banks, airlines and so on to swipe through card readers because they're not uniform; some may have barcodes but no magnetic stripes, for instance, and some may lack both. Steinhardt predicts the federalized IDs will be a gold mine for government agencies and marketers. Also, he notes that the Supreme Court ruled last year that police can demand to see ID from law-abiding U.S. citizens.

Will it be challenged in court?

Maybe. "We're exploring whether there are any litigation possibilities here," says the ACLU's Steinhardt.

One possible legal argument would challenge any requirement for a photograph on the ID card as a violation of religious freedom. A second would argue that the legislation imposes costs on states without properly reimbursing them.

When does it take effect?

The Real ID Act takes effect "three years after the date of the enactment" of the legislation. So if the Senate and Bush give it the thumbs-up this month, its effective date would be sometime in May 2008.

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N.C. federal judge appointed to America's 'Secret Court'
The Kinston Free Press

First N.C. judge to be appointed

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. District Judge Malcolm J. Howard of Greenville has been appointed by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The court, commonly referred to as America's Secret Court, considers requests for surveillance and physical search orders from the U.S. Department of Justice and various U.S. intelligence agencies.

This court has nationwide jurisdiction to authorize the U.S. government to conduct electronic surveillance and physical searches for national security purposes when the target is a foreign power or when an individual is acting as an agent for a foreign power.

The Supreme Court Chief Justice appoints the members of this court to seven-year, non-renewable terms. The court was established in 1978 under provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Although the establishment of the court and the appointment of its member judges are public knowledge, the work of the court is secret and classified.

Howard was appointed to the federal bench in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan. Howard will continue to discharge his duties as a federal district judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina while simultaneously serving as a judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. [...]

Howard was graduated from Wake Forest University Law School in 1970. His legal career included serving as a federal prosecutor, deputy special counsel for former President Richard Nixon during Watergate, and general law practice in Greenville. He was appointed to the "lifetime" federal judgeship for the Eastern District of North Carolina by former President Ronald Regan in 1988. [...]

Howard's daughter Shannon was executive assistant to U.S. Senator Lauch Faircloth during his term in the Senate and is director of governmental affairs for the cellular telephone industry.

His son Josh, an attorney, has been associate counsel in the office of the Independent Counsel (Whitewater), federal prosecutor in Charlotte for four years, and is an attorney in the Office of Legal Policy at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

Comment: Of course, there is nothing in the above of any concern to the average American, just as long as the Office of Homeland Insecurity doesn't decide to redefine the word terrorist...

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Ohio Mulls Tougher Ecoterrorism Penalties
Associated Press
May 9, 2005

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Though arson, vandalism, assault, break-ins and other tactics by radical animal rights activists and environmentalists are already illegal, some officials want to take punishments a step further.

A national group of conservative state lawmakers has been promoting laws creating a separate offense of ecoterrorism since 2003, when California passed such a law. Similar bills have died in Texas and Arizona, and others are pending in Pennsylvania, New York and Missouri.

Bills in Ohio would add that state to the growing number that seek harsher penalties for attacks, including those against dog food makers, farms where animals are caged, and university animal labs.

Sponsors say the bills are needed because of fire-bombings at ski resorts and new subdivisions, break-ins to free disease-carrying laboratory animals, and threats against corporate executives and their families.

The Humane Society of the United States opposes using violence in the name of protecting animals but considers the bills too broad, lobbyist Julie Janovsky said. The New York and Missouri proposals would outlaw videotaping without permission in private farms and labs.

"At the root they are trying to prohibit investigations into animal cruelty," Janovsky said.

Ohio Republican Sen. Jeff Jacobson included the language on animals in a bill that would outlaw many activities considered domestic terrorism, such as donating money to groups on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations.

Jacobson said he would work to ensure the animal provisions apply only to felonies. His bill would add attacks on lawful animal activities such as farming, food processing and hunting to the list of offenses that could be prosecuted under state racketeering law, allowing the state to seize assets after a conviction, or sue if the suspect is acquitted.

A 1992 federal law forbids interfering with "an animal enterprise" but enforcement is difficult, said FBI Special Agent James Turgal, who heads the agency's Ohio terrorism unit.

He said the state ecoterrorism bills could allow more federal terrorism prosecutions under the Patriot Act. Only a small percentage of the FBI's active terrorism investigations in Ohio involve environmental activists, but they are increasing, he said.

The states take varied approaches.

The proposed bill in New York - considered the toughest by the Humane Society - would ban any attempt to impede animal research or commerce, forbid financial donations to "animal or ecological terrorist organizations" and create a registry of such groups.

Missouri's bill bans releasing disease-causing agents in animal and research facilities and would expand a state law that bans damaging or stealing records from the facilities.

Pennsylvania's bill, like Ohio's, creates harsher penalties for people convicted of vandalism, assault or other offenses if they involve intimidation or obstruction of legal research and commerce involving animals and natural resources. It also allows suing for damages.

"The penalties in the past don't seem to have deterred actions of the activists," said John Ellis, executive director of the Pennsylvania Society for Biomedical Research.

Animal rights activists have claimed more than $1.3 million in damage to pharmaceutical labs and researchers' homes in western Pennsylvania alone, he said. In Philadelphia, animals were stolen from an agricultural high school.

A Washington state law against damaging animal laboratories has a separate declaration that it gives "full consideration to the constitutional rights of persons to speak freely, to picket, and to conduct other lawful activities."

Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed Arizona's bill in March as too broad.

Nathan Runkle, head of Mercy for Animals, a Columbus-based animal rights group that has videotaped conditions at egg farms, said he fears Ohio's bill would infringe on lawful, peaceful demonstrations.

Activists had the same concerns before the California law took effect in January 2004. The San Diego-based Animal Protection and Rescue League had filmed ducks and geese being force-fed several pounds of corn mush to fatten their livers for foie gras. The video helped a successful campaign for the state to outlaw force-feeding.

The group is still taping and protesting a year later, member Kath Rogers said. "It hasn't really affected us too much," she said. "It's pretty much a misdemeanor either way."

Comment: There, see? There's nothing to worry about. Sure, more and more crimes are being labeled "terrorism" by the Bush administration, but nothing has really changed. Let's just all go back to sleep now...

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Scientists Boycott Kan. Evolution Hearings
Associated Press
Sun May 8, 4:54 PM ET

TOPEKA, Kan. - Scientists have refused to participate in state Board of Education hearings this past week on how the theory of evolution should be treated in public schools, but they haven't exactly been silent.

About a dozen scientists, most from Kansas universities, spoke each day at news conferences after evolution critics testified before a board subcommittee. They expect to continue speaking out as the hearings wrap up on Thursday.

"They're in, they do their shtick, and they're out," said Keith Miller, a Kansas State University geologist. "I'm going to be here, and I'm not going to be quiet. We'll have the rest of our lives to make our points."

The scientists' boycott was led by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Kansas Citizens for Science, which believe the hearings are rigged against the teaching of evolution.

Scientists said they don't see the need to cram their arguments into a few days of testimony, like out-of-state witnesses who were called by advocates of the "intelligent design" theory.

But the boycott has frustrated board members who viewed their hearings as an educational forum.

"I am profoundly disappointed that they've chosen to present their case in the shadows," board member Connie Morris said. "I would have enjoyed hearing what they have to say in a professional, ethical manner."

The theory of evolution says that changes in species can lead to new species, and that different species, including man and apes, have common ancestors. Intelligent design advocates contend the universe is so complex it must have been created by a higher power.

In 1999, the board deleted most references to evolution in the science standards. But standards were adopted later to include evolution as a key education concept.

The state board's standards determine what is on statewide tests, but local school boards decide what is actually taught and which textbooks are used. The state board plans to consider changes to its standards this summer.

Leaders of the science groups said the three subcommittee members already have decided to support language backed by intelligent design advocates. All three are part of a conservative board majority receptive to criticism of evolution.

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Scientist puts faith in evolution debate
By Nina J. Easton
Boston Globe
May 8, 2005

TOPEKA, Kan. -- As scientists who advocate the new ''intelligent design" theory stepped to the microphone at an auditorium here last week to argue that schools should teach doubts about evolution, a 49-year-old geologist sporting Birkenstock sandals and an early-Beatles haircut sat quietly in an aisle seat in the back row.

The man is an evangelical Christian who says he was ''called by God to be a geologist." But Keith B. Miller, a Kansas State University professor, is also an ardent defender of evolution -- and thus one of established science's most effective weapons in the battle to keep intelligent design, creationism, and other attacks on evolution out of the nation's public schools.

As the theory of evolution pioneered by Charles Darwin comes under assault in communities from Kansas to Pennsylvania to Georgia, Miller carries a message that plays especially well here: Faith, even fundamental Christian faith, is not at odds with Darwin.

''I say I believe God [created life], and I want to find out how," Miller said. ''They say, 'God did it; end of discussion.' "

The Kansas state school board has been ground zero for the evolution debate since 1999, when religious conservatives first drew international attention by having evolution downplayed in the school curriculum. Last week, the antievolution forces were back, arguing in hearings concluding this week that doubts about Darwin be inserted into school standards.

This time, Darwin's critics insist they are not religiously motivated creationists, but are scientists who believe that certain things in the universe, including human life, are too complex to be explained by natural causes and must be the product of an intelligent creator.

They call this theory ''intelligent design," and while they resist publicly declaring that a Christian God's hand is at work, they also suggest that proponents of a key tenet of evolutionary theory -- that changes over time can result in new species -- are atheists or secular humanists.

Stung by these charges, scientists who support evolution are trying to demonstrate that faith and science can exist side by side. ''I want to dispel their extreme worldview that there is any warfare between science and the Christian faith," Miller said. [...]

Comment: Note how the "debate" has shifted from "science versus religion" to "science with a little religion versus science with a lot of religion". While we find that current evolutionary theory has holes that are often swept under the rug, the push by religious conservatives to patch those holes with "God did it" is a solution that is just as reckless and unscientific as ignoring the holes.

The point is that there are many questions left unanswered. Until there is more data, permitting us to come up with a better theory, any and all explanations are just hypotheses. Theories that start off as attempts to justify a theological position, in this case, God did it or God didn't do it, aren't looking for the truth, they are looking for confirmation.

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Russia marks V Day with parade at Red Square 2005-05-09 16:06:40

MOSCOW, May 9 (Xinhuanet) -- Thousands of soldiers and war veterans paraded across Red Square on Monday as leaders of 50 states joined celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany and the end of World War II.

In a keynote speech at the start of the parade, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated participants in the military parade on Victory Day and praised all those who fought for the victory and freedom and independence of other nations.

"I bow low before all veterans of the Great Patriotic War," said the Russian leader, describing Victory Day as "a day of victory of good over evil, freedom over tyranny."

"The most cruel and decisive events unfolded on the territory of the Soviet Union," said Putin. "We know that the Soviet Union in those years lost tens of millions of its citizens."

The war shows that resorting to force to solve problems will result in tragedy in the world, so a peaceful order should be safeguarded based on security, justice and cultural exchanges, Putin said.

The world must never allow a repeat of the Cold War or a real war, Putin said. [...]

Russia lost a staggering 27 million people in the war, and Victory Day is a revered holiday.

Comment: The US likes to take the credit for defeating fascism. Pity it doesn't want any of the credit for putting Hitler into power in the first place. The 27 million dead in Russia fighting against the German invasion, along with the destruction of much of the infrastructure of the country, makes the US contribution pale in comparison. As the next article notes, the US lost 400,000 lives in the war.

Moreover, not one battle was fought in the US. None of the US industrial capacity was lost. No homes were destroyed. No families died in massive firebombings on US cities. No families were wiped out by atomic bombs. The US had it very easy compared to the countries invaded by the fascist armies.

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Who Beat Hitler?

Monday, May 9, brings us the sixtieth anniversary of the defeat of Nazism in Europe. I remember the first VE Day in 1945, sitting on my father's shoulders on the side of some London street, watching the tanks rumble by and a soldier in a tin hat popping up and down in the hatch.

Each time May 9 rolls around Americans have to be reminded who did most of the fighting and who bore most of the losses. In 1944 the Allied forces commanded by Eisenhower faced 53 German divisions in western Europe. The Red Army had to deal with 180 German divisions in the east. The US lost about 400,000 in its armed forces, Britain, 260,000. Historians have been revising upwards Soviet military deaths, to a level as high as 14 million and beyond, with estimates of civilian casualties ranging from 7 to 20 million.

You can say ­ and many do ­ that many among these millions died because Stalin's generals were willing to sacrifice division upon divisions in order to obey the schedules demanded by a psychotic tyrant. True no doubt, but that doesn't alter the sacrifice or the immensity of the numbers lost on the eastern front in the defeat of fascism, or the fact that it was the Soviet Union that played the prime role in defeating Hitler.

Not for the first time, the White House's contribution to these commemorations of victory over Hitler has been to indulge in seamy political antics. On his way to a D-Day memorial in 1988 Reagan stopped off to salute the dead at Bitburg, including members of Hitler's SS. Bush Jr is playing to the Baltic and Georgian galleries.

Roberta Manning, professor of history at Boston College, has a good comment on these antics:

"For Russians, Belorussians, Ukrainians and many Caucasians and Central Asians, like the Jews, World War II was a Holocaust, given the magnitude of the sheer human sacrifice now estimated to range for the former USSR anywhere from 28-35 million war dead. If Israel can mourn the loss of six million of people without having anyone throwing the ongoing plight of the Palestinians in their face, surely Russia and the Soviet successor states have the right to do the same.

"There is no Putin problem. The problem is Bush, whose advisors finally realized that it is easier to divide the EU over anti-Russianism than over Iraq. Dividing the EU over Russia is essential to the global strategy of the Republican Party's increasingly powerful and ever more totalitarian Neo-Conservative-Born-Again Ideologues who openly espouse US-Evangelical domination of the world and its resources in the 21st Century. A unified EU that develops close ties to a democratic Russia would prove a potent obstacle to these plans. The real problem of the world today is to manage America's decline while dealing with an ideologically driven US leadership that lives in a world of fantasy and cannot deal with the rise of China and India much less a real European Union no longer under its political control. We should remember that United States never once criticized Yeltsin's dictatorship."

Comment: The Second World War was a holocaust for many countries and peoples, not only the Jews. To make of that event a uniquely Jewish drama is to mock the sacrifices of the rest of the victims. To then use the war to justify the slaughter of the Palestinians is a cruel joke.

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Israel envoy to Germany: Our relations still remain ambivalent
By DPA and Reuters

Relations between Germany and Israel continue to be ambivalent even four decades after formal diplomatic ties were established, Israel's Ambassador to Berlin Shimon Stein said Saturday.

He called the process of reconciliation a "continuing duty" that will become even more challenging in the future as World War II fades into history and the viewpoints of both the perpetrators and their victims change with different generations. [...]

Comment: In other words, the Israeli government is determined to never allow modern day Jews, or the world for that matter, to "get over" the Jewish holocaust. "Getting over" the holocaust does not involve forgetting about the terrible events of that time, but is in fact essential if the lesson of "never again" is to be fully learned and implemented. By keeping the crimes of the Jewish Holocaust current, the Israeli government and lobby groups ensure that the psychological wound stays fresh and open and can therefore be used to justify Israeli vengeance against their chosen enemy du jour - the Palestinians.

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Putin Questions American Democracy
08/05/2005 - 12:48:01

US President George Bush paid homage today to the “terrible price” paid by World War II soldiers who never came home from their fight against tyranny.

US President George Bush paid homage today to the “terrible price” paid by World War II soldiers who never came home from their fight against tyranny.

“On this peaceful May morning, we commemorate a great victory for liberty,” Bush said at Europe’s third-largest cemetery for American soldiers near Margraten in the Netherlands.

“We come to this ground to remember the cost for which these soldiers fought and triumphed.”

Bush marked the 60th anniversary of the May 1945 signing of the Berlin armistice that ended the war in Europe in a solemn remembrance at the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial,where 8,301 US veterans are buried.

Bush and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands laid wreaths of tribute, a bugler played the tribute to the fallen known as ‘taps’ and military aircraft streaked above the graveyard’s sweeping arcs of headstones.

First lady Laura Bush laid flowers at the grave of a Medal of Honour winner who was in the 104th Division, in which her late father served during the war.

“Our debt of gratitude is too great to express in words,” Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said of the American liberation of the Netherlands from the Nazis. “They gave us the most precious gift – freedom. Today, I salute them.”

From the ceremony, Bush flew to Moscow where he and dozens of other world leaders are continuing the VE Day celebrations at a Red Square military parade that Russian President Vladimir Putin is staging on the day regarded there as a great historical date.

Tonight, Bush and Putin meet privately amid an escalating fight over US pressure on Russia to own up to its wartime past. In Russia, victory in the “Great Patriotic War” is treasured as an unvarnished triumph, while many of its Eastern European neighbours regard the Red Army’s success also as the start of 50 years of brutal Soviet oppression.

Anger over that unacknowledged history remains particularly potent in the Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, which were annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940 and won independence just 14 years ago.

Bush’s meeting in Latvia with the leaders of the three countries on the way to Russia was meant to help temper his attendance at the Moscow ceremony that offers only a one-sided version of the Soviet Union’s war legacy.

Bush has promised that such matters, part of Washington’s broader concerns about Putin’s commitment to democracy, will come up when the two meet – first formally, then over dinner with their wives – at the Russian leader’s dacha.

Putin said the US has little business criticising Russia’s internal affairs because the US system of electing presidents, including the Electoral College, has its own flaws.

“But, we’re not going to poke our noses into your democratic system, because that’s up to the American people,” Putin said.

Comment: A Reuters' report tells us that Putin also said:

"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."

It is the height of arrogance for the Bush administration to lambaste other countries about their Democratic record when there remain so many questions over the results of the 2004 US election. Then again, the current US administration has become somewhat synonymous with arrogance and deceit.

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Putin warns against pullout from Iraq
Monday 09 May 2005, 9:51 Makka Time, 6:51 GMT

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said in a TV interview that, although he believes the Iraq war was a serious mistake, a US withdrawal before the county stabilises would compound the problem.

"Democracy cannot be exported to some other place. This must be a product of internal domestic development in a society," Putin said in the interview aired on Sunday night on the CBS' news magazine programme 60 Minutes.

"But if the United States were to leave and abandon Iraq without establishing the grounds for a united country, that would be a second mistake," he said.

Democracy not dying

In the interview, Putin rejected suggestions that he was rescinding Russian democracy by measures such as ending the direct election of governors.

He also took at swipe at the US presidential election system, in which voters choose electors who then elect the president.

"In Russia, the president is elected through the direct vote of the whole population. That might be even more democratic," Putin said, and then went on to note the legal disputes over the US presidential vote in 2000.

"You have other problems in your elections. Four years ago your presidential election was decided by the court. But we're not going to poke our noses into your democratic system because that's up to the American people," he said.

The comment reflected Russia's frequent contention that foreign criticism in effect amounts to interference in its internal affairs.

Putin also said that despite differences of views with US President George Bush, he regarded him as a trustworthy politician.

"He is a truly reliable person who does what he says he
will do," Putin said.

Comment: Bush is, indeed, reliable. You can count on him invading the entire rest of the world if he needs to to impose "democracy" and US imperial rule.

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How to End the War
by Naomi Klein

The central question we need to answer is this: What were the real reasons for the Bush administration’s invasion and occupation of Iraq?

When we identify why we really went to war—not the cover reasons or the rebranded reasons, freedom and democracy, but the real reasons—then we can become more effective anti-war activists. The most effective and strategic way to stop this occupation and prevent future wars is to deny the people who wage these wars their spoils—to make war unprofitable. And we can’t do that unless we effectively identify the goals of war.

When I was in Iraq a year ago trying to answer that question, one of the most effective ways I found to do that was to follow the bulldozers and construction machinery. I was in Iraq to research the so-called reconstruction. And what struck me most was the absence of reconstruction machinery, of cranes and bulldozers, in downtown Baghdad. I expected to see reconstruction all over the place.

I saw bulldozers in military bases. I saw bulldozers in the Green Zone, where a huge amount of construction was going on, building up Bechtel’s headquarters and getting the new U.S. embassy ready. There was also a ton of construction going on at all of the U.S. military bases. But, on the streets of Baghdad, the former ministry buildings are absolutely untouched. They hadn’t even cleared away the rubble, let alone started the reconstruction process.

The one crane I saw in the streets of Baghdad was hoisting an advertising billboard. One of the surreal things about Baghdad is that the old city lies in ruins, yet there are these shiny new billboards advertising the glories of the global economy. And the message is: “Everything you were before isn’t worth rebuilding.” We’re going to import a brand-new country. It is the Iraq version of the “Extreme Makeover.”

It’s not a coincidence that Americans were at home watching this explosion of extreme reality television shows where people’s bodies were being surgically remade and their homes were being bulldozed and reconstituted. The message of these shows is: Everything you are now, everything you own, everything you do sucks. We’re going to completely erase it and rebuild it with a team of experts. You just go limp and let the experts take over. That is exactly what “Extreme Makover:Iraq” is.

There was no role for Iraqis in this process. It was all foreign companies modernizing the country. Iraqis with engineering Ph.D.s who built their electricity system and who built their telephone system had no place in the reconstruction process.

If we want to know what the goals of the war are, we have to look at what Paul Bremer did when he first arrived in Iraq. He laid off 500,000 people, 400,000 of whom were soldiers. And he shredded Iraq’s constitution and wrote a series of economic laws that the The Economist described as “the wish list of foreign investors.”

Basically, Iraq has been turned into a laboratory for the radical free-market policies that the American Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute dream about in Washington, D.C., but are only able to impose in relative slow motion here at home.

So we just have to examine the Bush administration’s policies and actions. We don’t have to wield secret documents or massive conspiracy theories. We have to look at the fact that they built enduring military bases and didn’t rebuild the country. Their very first act was to protect the oil ministry leaving the the rest of the country to burn—to which Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld responded: “Stuff happens.” Theirs was an almost apocalyptic glee in allowing Iraq to burn. They let the country be erased, leaving a blank slate that they could rebuild in their image This was the goal of the war.

The big lie

The administration says the war was about fighting for democracy. That was the big lie they resorted to when they were caught in the other lies. But it’s a different kind of a lie in the sense that it’s a useful lie. The lie that the United States invaded Iraq to bring freedom and democracy not just to Iraq but, as it turns out, to the whole world, is tremendously useful—because we can first expose it as a lie and then we can join with Iraqis to try to make it true. So it disturbs me that a lot of progressives are afraid to use the language of democracy now that George W. Bush is using it. We are somehow giving up on the most powerful emancipatory ideas ever created, of self-determination, liberation and democracy.

And it’s absolutely crucial not to let Bush get away with stealing and defaming these ideas—they are too important.

In looking at democracy in Iraq, we first need to make the distinction between elections and democracy. The reality is the Bush administration has fought democracy in Iraq at every turn.

Why? Because if genuine democracy ever came to Iraq, the real goals of the war—control over oil, support for Israel, the construction of enduring military bases, the privatization of the entire economy—would all be lost. Why? Because Iraqis don’t want them and they don’t agree with them. They have said it over and over again—first in opinion polls, which is why the Bush administration broke its original promise to have elections within months of the invasion. I believe Paul Wolfowitz genuinely thought that Iraqis would respond like the contestants on a reality TV show and say: “Oh my God. Thank you for my brand-new shiny country.” They didn’t. They protested that 500,000 people had lost their jobs. They protested the fact that they were being shut out of the reconstruction of their own country, and they made it clear they didn’t want permanent U.S. bases.

That’s when the administration broke its promise and appointed a CIA agent as the interim prime minister. In that period they locked in—basically shackled—Iraq’s future governments to an International Monetary Fund program until 2008. This will make the humanitarian crisis in Iraq much, much deeper. Here’s just one example: The IMF and the World Bank are demanding the elimination of Iraq’s food ration program, upon which 60 percent of the population depends for nutrition, as a condition for debt relief and for the new loans that have been made in deals with an unelected government.

In these elections, Iraqis voted for the United Iraqi Alliance. In addition to demanding a timetable for the withdrawal of troops, this coalition party has promised that they would create 100 percent full employment in the public sector—i.e., a total rebuke of the neocons’ privatization agenda. But now they can’t do any of this because their democracy has been shackled. In other words, they have the vote, but no real power to govern.

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US launches major attack on insurgents
09/05/2005 - 14:01:27

American troops backed by helicopters and war planes have launched a major offensive against insurgents in a remote desert area near the Syrian border, and about 75 militants were killed in the first 24 hours, the US military said.

Marines, sailors and soldiers from Regimental Combat Team Two, 2nd Marine Division, were conducting the offensive in an area north of the Euphrates River, in the al-Jazirah Desert, a known smuggling route and sanctuary for foreign insurgents, the military said.

The brief statement did not specify when the operation began, how many troops were involved or whether there had been any US casualties.

The Chicago Tribune reported that more than 1,000 US troops supported by fighter jets and helicopter gunships on Sunday raided villages in and around Obeidi, about 185 miles west of Baghdad, in an operation expected to last several days.

The report, by a journalist embedded with the US forces, said the offensive “was seeking to uproot a persistent insurgency in an area that American intelligence indicated has become a haven for foreign fighters flowing in from Syria”.

Some US forces were north of the Euphrates River, but most were stuck south of the waterway as engineers tried to build a pontoon bridge there on Sunday, the Tribune said.

The report quoted some Marines as saying residents of one riverside town had turned off all their lights at night, apparently to warn neighbouring towns of the approaching US troops.

Comment: The final paragraph above makes a mockery of the idea that US troops are fighting against Iraqi terrorists that have no grass roots support. Clearly the US military is not merely attempting to crush the will of the insurgents but that of a majority of the Iraqi population. There can be no doubt now that the US military campaign in Iraq is nothing more than an imperial war of attrition.

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America's shame, two years on from 'Mission Accomplished'
By Robert Fisk - 08 May 2005
Uk Independent

Two years after "Mission Accomplished", whatever moral stature the United States could claim at the end of its invasion of Iraq has long ago been squandered in the torture and abuse and deaths at Abu Ghraib. That the symbol of Saddam Hussein’s brutality should have been turned by his own enemies into the symbol of their own brutality is a singularly ironic epitaph for the whole Iraq adventure. We have all been contaminated by the cruelty of the interrogators and the guards and prison commanders.

But this is not only about Abu Ghraib. There are clear and proven connections now between the abuses at Abu Ghraib and the cruelty at the Americans’ Bagram prison in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. Curiously, General Janis Karpinski, the only senior US officer facing charges over Abu Ghraib, admitted to me a year earlier when I visited the prison that she had been at Guantanamo Bay, but that at Abu Ghraib she was not permitted to attend interrogations - which seems very odd.

A vast quantity of evidence has now been built up on the system which the Americans have created for mistreating and torturing prisoners. I have interviewed a Palestinian who gave me compelling evidence of anal rape with wooden poles at Bagram - by Americans, not by Afghans.

Many of the stories now coming out of Guantanamo - the sexual humiliation of Muslim prisoners, their shackling to seats in which they defecate and urinate, the use of pornography to make Muslim prisoners feel impure, the female interrogators who wear little clothing (or, in one case, pretended to smear menstrual blood on a prisoner’s face) - are increasingly proved true. Iraqis whom I have questioned at great length over many hours, speak with candour of terrifying beatings from military and civilian interrogators, not just in Abu Ghraib but in US bases elsewhere in Iraq.

At the American camp outside Fallujah, prisoners are beaten with full plastic water bottles which break, cutting the skin. At Abu Ghraib, prison dogs have been used to frighten and to bite prisoners.

How did this culture of filth start in America’s "war on terror"? The institutionalised injustice which we have witnessed across the world, the vile American "renditions" in which prisoners are freighted to countries where they can be roasted, electrified or, in Uzbekistan, cooked alive in fat? As Bob Herbert wrote in The New York Times, what seemed mind-boggling when the first pictures emerged from Abu Ghraib is now routine, typical of the abuse that has "permeated the Bush administration’s operations".

Amnesty, in a chilling 200-page document in October, traced the permeation of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s memos into the prisoner interrogation system and the weasel-worded authorisation of torture. In August 2002, for example, only a few months after Bush spoke under the "Mission Accomplished" banner, a Pentagon report stated that "in order to respect the President’s inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign, [the US law prohibiting torture] must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his Commander- in-Chief authority." What does that mean other than permission from Bush to torture?

A 2004 Pentagon report uses words designed to allow interrogators to use cruelty without fear of court actions: "Even if the defendant knows that severe pain will result from his actions, if causing such harm is not his objective, he lacks the requisite specific intent [to be guilty of torture] even though the defendant did not act in good faith."

The man who directly institutionalised cruel sessions of interrogation in Abu Ghraib was Major-General Geoffrey Miller, the Guantanamo commander who flew to Abu Ghraib to "Gitmo-ize the confinement operation" there. There followed the increased use of painful shackling and the frequent forcible stripping of prisoners. Maj-Gen Miller’s report following his visit in 2003 spoke of the need for a detention guard force at Abu Ghraib that "sets the conditions for the successful interrogation and exploitation of the internees/detainees". According to Gen Karpinski, Maj-Gen Miller said the prisoners "are like dogs, and if you allow them to believe they’re more than a dog, then you’ve lost control of them".

The trail of prisons that now lies across Iraq is a shameful symbol not only of our cruelty but of our failure to create the circumstances in which a new Iraq might take shape. You may hold elections and create a government, but when this military sickness is allowed to spread, the whole purpose of democracy is overturned. The "new" Iraq will learn from these interrogation centres how they should treat prisoners and, inevitably, the "new" Iraqis will take over Abu Ghraib and return it to the status it had under Saddam and the whole purpose of the invasion (or at least the official version) will be lost.

With an insurgency growing ever more vicious and uncontrollable, the emptiness of Mr Bush’s silly boast is plain. The real mission, it seems, was to institutionalise the cruelty of Western armies, staining us forever with the depravity of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and Bagram - not to mention the secret prisons which even the Red Cross cannot visit and wherein who knows what vileness is conducted. What, I wonder, is our next "mission"?

Ten bloody days in Iraq: 338 dead, 588 wounded

Thursday 28 April

Roadside bomb leaves four American troops dead and two wounded. Two other US troops die in an accident. Five Iraqis killed in attacks.

Friday 29 April

Seventeen bombs, including four suicide attacks in almost as many minutes in Azamiyah, and 13 car bombs in Baghdad area, leave at least 50 dead, including two US servicemen, with 114 Iraqis and seven Americans wounded.

Saturday 30 April

Eleven car bombings, at least two roadside attacks and several rocket, mortar attacks and ambushes. Five car bombs in Baghdad, six more in Mosul, the worst of which, hidden in a mosque shrine, kills a woman and two children. Total of 17 Iraqis and one American dead, plus 32 wounded.

Sunday 1 May

Car bomb attack on mourners at a funeral near Mosul kills around 30, wounds more than 50. Five Iraqi police shot dead at checkpoint; four die and 12 injured in Baghdad car bomb; and one dies, two wounded in bomb at Baghdad amusement park. Other attacks leave one Iraqi dead and 24 injured. Five Americans injured in six other car bombs in Baghdad. Australian civilian taken hostage.

Monday 2 May

Three car bombs in Baghdad kill nine, suicide bombers in Mosul kill one child, injure 15. British soldier killed by roadside bomb is 83rd to die since March 2003. In the north, car bomb kills woman and injures four. Two US soldiers wounded by roadside bomb in Mosul. One US soldier dies, two injured by another roadside bomb. Two US F/A-18 Hornet planes crash, killing both pilots.

Tuesday 3 May

Two Bulgarian soldiers die in road crash. Firefight in Ramadi kills 12 insurgents, Iraqi soldier and two civilians and injures eight, including a small girl. Two US soldiers die in roadside bombings.

Wednesday 4 May

Sixty Iraqis die, 150 hurt, as suicide bomber strikes in Kurdish city of Arbil. Suicide bomber kills 15 and wounds 16, including 10 civilians, in Baghdad. One dead and two wounded in Baghdad firefight.

Thursday 5 May

Suicide bomber hits Baghdad army recruitment centre, killing 13, injuring 18. Car bomb kills four Iraqi police in Mosul and wounds five. Gunmen ambush police convoy, killing 10, wounding two. Car bomb kills one, wounds six.

Friday 6 May

Suicide bomber in car strikes at southern vegetable market, killing 31, injuring 45. Another kills eight police in Tikrit. Bodies of 12 men dressed in civilian clothes and blindfolded, found in Baghdad.

Saturday 7 May

Suicide car bomb explodes, killing 22 and injuring around 35. US soldier killed, and four more bodies found at mass grave. Two men found executed in Ramadi.

Comment: When are the American people going to wake up to the fact that their government and military are engaged in a war not for democracy or freedom but for profit and control and that their opponents are not a small band of insurgents but the entire Iraqi population? The answer to that question is, of course: "when the American mainstream media starts reporting facts rather than US government propaganda."

When might that happen? Read on to learn what the US is doing to journalists in Iraq who attempt to report the truth.

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US imprisons Iraqi journalists without charges
By Bill Van Auken
7 May 2005

At least nine Iraqi journalists who worked for major Western news organizations have disappeared into the network of concentration camps in which the US military is holding an estimated 17,000 citizens of the occupied country, the French news agency AFP reported May 5.

An even larger number of Iraqi reporters and other Arab journalists who do not have connections to the international media have also been thrown into prison.

The ruthless and often lethal suppression of the press has been a persistent feature of the war that Bush administration hails as a crusade for democracy and freedom in Iraq.

US repression—both detentions and shootings—combined with the ever-present threat of being kidnapped or killed by elements of the Iraqi resistance or criminal gangs has had the effect of reducing independent reporting to a minimum. More than 65 journalists and media workers have been killed in Iraq since the war began a little over two years ago. As far as the Pentagon is concerned, this is an altogether welcome development that severely limits exposure of the scale of the crimes carried out by US imperialism against the Iraqi people.

Most US journalists do not leave their hotels and, in some cases, even their rooms in heavily fortified compounds in and around the Green Zone, the US military’s Baghdad enclave.

Their reporting, based in large part on handouts from the US occupation officials or material gained while “embedded” with US military units, is supplemented by on-the-spot accounts and interviews obtained by Iraqi “stringers,” who risk their lives for a fraction of the salary paid to their Western counterparts. In the course of their work, many have been killed, imprisoned or subjected to violent attacks and threats.

The Iraqi stringers serve as a kind of journalistic cannon fodder in the media’s coverage of the US war in their country. Like temporary workers everywhere, they are largely regarded as expendable.

Colonel Steve Boylan, a spokesman for the US military occupation forces, acknowledged that some of the detained journalists have been “held for several months.” None of them have been formally charged with any crime or even presented in court, nor apparently are they going to be. “We have not been briefed that there are any changes at this stage,” Boylan said, indicating that the military’s interrogation of the journalists is continuing.

Among the latest arrests is that of AFP’s photographer Fares Nawaf al-Issaywi, who was seized by Iraqi police while taking pictures in the shattered city of Fallujah and then turned over to American forces. The US occupation authority has taken extreme measures to prevent any independent reporting of the massive damage to the Iraqi city for fear of the impact on public opinion both in the Arab world and in the US itself.

According to Reuters, Issaywi was to have received a “photo of the year” award at an international press ceremony in China on May 28. “US forces have so far been unable to confirm they are holding him,” the news agency reported.

Among the other imprisoned reporters is another Reuters employee, Ammar Daham Naef Khalaf, who was dragged from his home in Ramadi by US soldiers on April 11. He has apparently since been transferred to Abu Ghraib prison, where occupation forces hold people for up to 60 days incommunicado.

The news agency also highlighted the case of Abdul Ameer Hussein, a cameraman working for the American network, CBS News. He was shot and wounded by American troops while covering the aftermath of a bombing in Mosul last month. Arrested by US troops as he left the hospital, he was charged with being a “danger to coalition forces” and thrown into Abu Ghraib as well.

A statement issued by US military authorities claimed that the cameraman “tested positive for explosive residue,” and that “Multinational forces continue to investigate potential collaboration between the stringer and terrorists, and allegations the stringer had knowledge of future terrorist attacks.” It added that he would be “processed as any other security detainee.”

Also arrested in Mosul by the US-organized Iraqi security forces on April 25 were a Reuters television cameraman, Nabil Hussein, his driver and another journalist. Hussein’s father was also arrested when he went to inquire about his son’s fate. Though the other journalist and the driver were released the same day, Hussein and his father were held for 11 days without charges.

On the same day as these arrests, an Iraqi television cameraman working for the Associated Press, Saleh Ibrahim, was shot to death at the scene of an explosion. His brother-in-law, a photographer for AP, suffered shrapnel wounds to the head in the incident. He was briefly detained by US troops. Witnesses said that a US patrol was in the immediate area when the shooting broke out. AP called for “US military officials to help determine how he [Ibrahim] was killed.”

Among others arrested recently is Waael Issam, a cameraman for the Dubai-based satellite news channel Al-Arabiya, who was detained at Baghdad International Airport on March 28 as he was leaving the country for Dubai. While no charges were filed against the cameraman, officials indicated he was arrested for having videotapes showing armed Iraqis.

Meanwhile, in March, the Pentagon announced that it would not accede to Reuters’s demands for reopening an investigation into the detention, torture and sexual abuse of three of its employees in Fallujah in January 2004.

The three—journalist Ahmad Mohammad Hussein al-Badrani, cameraman Salem Ureibi and driver Sattar Jabar al-Badani—were grabbed by US troops while covering the aftermath of a helicopter’s downing by resistance fighters. A cameraman working for NBC, Ali Mohammed Hussein al-Badrani, was arrested with them.

The four were taken to a US base near Fallujah where they were beaten, deprived of sleep and subjected to acts of sexual humiliation, while soldiers taunted and took pictures of them.

The Pentagon claimed there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the charges but never interviewed any of the four Iraqis. While US officials promised to take a second look at the allegations after the Abu Ghraib revelations, the case has been swept under the rug along with the atrocities at Abu Ghraib itself.

Though the Reuters and AFP news agencies have publicly protested the arrests and abuse of their Iraqi employees, the reaction of the US-based television networks has been considerably more circumspect.

To forcefully press for an accounting would be to challenge the pervasive atmosphere of impunity that characterizes the US occupation in Iraq. The US mass media has helped create this atmosphere, all but ignoring the carnage suffered by Iraqi civilians at the hands of occupation troops.

The political enforcement of this code of silence was clearly exhibited last January, when CNN’s chief news executive Eason Jordan let slip at an international conference that US forces had deliberately “targeted” some of the scores of journalists killed in Iraq. The remark triggered a right-wing furor, and Jordan was forced to resign.

Comment: By controlling the movement of information, the US is seeking to control support for the war at home. Fallujah, in particular, is being erased from the public memory much as it was physically erased from the map by the US razing of the city. Clearly, Fallujah was a signal sent to the Iraqi resistance that the US was prepared to kill any and every Iraqi who stood in its way. The message was certainly heard throughout Iraq. The US doesn't want that message to be heard at home.

When Il Manifesto reporter Giuliana Sgrena was attacked by US troops as she approached the Baghdad airport on a secure road, the media pundits on the US airwaves lost no time in denouncing her as a communist and suggesting that she only got what she deserved. This reaction is a perfect example of how deeply press freedoms are cherished in among the right-wing in the US. Anyone who is reporting information that doesn't support the Bush line is giving support and succor to the enemy and should be treated as an enemy combatant. As any real reporting coming out of Iraq portrays the US occupation in its true light, all journalists who speak the truth are potential targets.

And that is what the facts on the ground are showing.

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Criminals Belong in Prison

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Friday 06 May 2005

"There are a hundred or more people wandering around Washington today who have heard the 'real stuff,' as they put it - and despite their professional caution when the obvious question arises, there is one reaction they all feel free to agree on: that nobody who felt shocked, depressed or angry after reading the edited White House transcripts should ever be allowed to hear the actual tapes, except under heavy sedation or locked in the trunk of a car. Only a terminal cynic, they say, can listen for any length of time to the real stuff without feeling a compulsion to do something like drive down to the White House and throw a bag of live rats over the fence."
- Hunter S. Thompson, 04 July 1973

The document almost reads like satire. "Bush wanted to remove Saddam," reads the leaked secret British intelligence memo dated 23 July 2002, "through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy? You don't say.

Plenty of people have been bellowing about this for years now, often risking their own well-being and that of their families in the process. Richard Clarke, former White House Counter-Terrorism Czar, spent a lot of time talking about how the books were being cooked to justify an invasion of Iraq. Tom Maertens, who was National Security Council director for nuclear non-proliferation for both the Clinton and Bush White House, backed up Clarke's story with his own eyewitness testimony.

Roger Cressey, Clarke's former deputy, witnessed one of the most damning charges that has been leveled against the administration by Clarke: They blew past al Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks, focusing instead on Iraq. Donald Kerrick, a three-star General who served as deputy National Security Advisor under Clinton and stayed for several months in the Bush White House, likewise saw this happening.

Paul O'Neill, former Treasury Secretary for George W. Bush, was afforded a position on the National Security Council because of his job as Treasury Secretary, and sat in on the Iraq invasion planning sessions which were taking place months before the attacks of September 11. Those planning sessions kicked into high gear when the Towers came down.

Greg Thielmann, former Director of the Office of Strategic, Proliferation, and Military Issues in the State Department, watched with shock and awe as the White House rolled out the 'uranium from Niger' war justifications that had been so thoroughly debunked. Joseph Wilson, former ambassador and career diplomat, was the one who debunked it.

After Wilson described what he didn't see in Niger in the New York Times, the White House reached out and crushed his wife's career. His wife, Valerie Plame, was a deep-cover CIA agent running a network dedicated to tracking any person, group or nation that would give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. The White House torpedoed her career and her network as a warning to Wilson, and to any other whistleblower who might come forward.

The most damning testimony regarding "fixing intelligence and facts around the policy" came from Air Force Lt. Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski. Kwiatkowski worked in the office of Undersecretary for Policy Douglas Feith, and worked specifically with a secretive outfit called the Office of Special Plans. Kwiatkowski's own words tell her story: "From May 2002 until February 2003, I observed firsthand the formation of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans and watched the latter stages of the neoconservative capture of the policy-intelligence nexus in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq."

"I saw a narrow and deeply flawed policy," continued Kwiatkowski, "favored by some executive appointees in the Pentagon used to manipulate and pressurize the traditional relationship between policymakers in the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies. I witnessed neoconservative agenda bearers within OSP usurp measured and carefully considered assessments, and through suppression and distortion of intelligence analysis promulgate what were in fact falsehoods to both Congress and the executive office of the president."

In other words, they fixed the intelligence and facts around the policy. The policy, of course, was invasion.

Each of these people, and others like them who reported similar intelligence book-cooking, were brushed off by the White House, dismissed out of hand as liars, or worse, Democrats. With the leaking of the secret British intelligence memo, however, their reports have been confirmed.

Some other tasty tidbits from the memo:

1. "It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."

Despite the fact that Hussein was considered less of a threat than Iran, North Korea and even Libya, Bush had made up his mind to invade. Wrapping this around the flatly-declared statement that the intelligence and facts were being framed around the 'policy,' i.e. the invasion, is damning.

2. "The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change."

The British Attorney General made it clear that the war plan as constituted was illegal. Therefore, other justifications for war were required. "The situation might of course change," reads the text. It did. They fabricated WMD evidence to justify self-defense.

3. "The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors. Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD. There were different strategies for dealing with Libya and Iran. If the political context were right, people would support regime change. The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work."

In many ways, this is the worst of the three. Hans Blix and his inspectors went into Iraq and found no weapons of mass destruction in their searches. Ergo, there was no self-defense justification and no legal basis for war. Yet in order to create the legal and political justification of self-defense, as stated in the memo, Hussein had to be seen as blocking those inspections. He didn't. In fact, it was the Bush administration that thwarted Blix while stacking hundreds of thousands of troops on the border. At one point, Bush even went so far as to declare that Hussein had actually not allowed the inspectors in, even as Blix and his people were shaking the Iraqi dust off their boots.

Ray McGovern, a 27-year veteran CIA analyst, nails it to the door. "It has been a hard learning - that folks tend to believe what they want to believe," wrote McGovern in an essay regarding this leaked memo. "As long as our evidence, however abundant and persuasive, remained circumstantial, it could not compel belief. It simply is much easier on the psyche to assent to the White House spin machine blaming the Iraq fiasco on bad intelligence than to entertain the notion that we were sold a bill of goods. Well, you can forget circumstantial."

The butcher's bill to date: 1,594 American soldiers dead, times ten grievously wounded; over 100,000 Iraqi citizens dead, uncounted more wounded, with a recent upsurge of violence claiming more than 200 lives in the last week alone; a nine-figure pricetag that spirals ever-upwards by the day, mortgaging our children's future for the profits of the few; no weapons of mass destruction anywhere in Iraq.

We need two exit strategies: one to get our forces out of that country as soon as humanly possible, and the other to get George W. Bush out of the White House and into a cellblock in The Hague. Save a bunk for Mr. Blair, too. Criminals belong in prison.

Comment: So Bush and his cronies fixed the intelligence. What else is new? Is this news going to change anything? Is it even being reported in the US press?

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Pte England is 'surprised' at row over abuse photos
By Sam Ingleby
09 May 2005

Private Lynndie England, the US army reservist who posed for the now infamous Abu Ghraib photos, has expressed her surprise at the storm provoked by the images. Speaking to the BBC's Newsnight she revealed that she had received death threats and talked about her role in the photograph showing a pyramid of naked Iraqi prisoners.

"They had been stripped and handcuffed and they were then placed in a pyramid pile by [fellow reservist, Charles] Graner... There were seven... I thought it was odd, kind of weird, but, it was kind of like, if everyone else is doing it, you know, you're doing it."

Ms England recently gave birth to a son, conceived with Graner who was jailed for 10 years for his part in the scandal. Ms England faces a second court martial after the first was declared a mistrial last week.

Comment: Empathy: The ability to feel the hurt and pain of another human being. It could be said it separates the "wheat from the chaff" here on planet earth.

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Captured Al-Qaeda kingpin is case of ‘mistaken identity’

May 08, 2005
Christina Lamb and Mohammad Shehzad Islamabad

THE capture of a supposed Al-Qaeda kingpin by Pakistani agents last week was hailed by President George W Bush as “a critical victory in the war on terror”. According to European intelligence experts, however, Abu Faraj al-Libbi was not the terrorists’ third in command, as claimed, but a middle-ranker derided by one source as “among the flotsam and jetsam” of the organisation.

Al-Libbi’s arrest in Pakistan, announced last Wednesday, was described in the United States as “a major breakthrough” in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.

Bush called him a “top general” and “a major facilitator and chief planner for the Al- Qaeda network”. Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, said he was “a very important figure”. Yet the backslapping in Washington and Islamabad has astonished European terrorism experts, who point out that the Libyan was neither on the FBI’s most wanted list, nor on that of the State Department “rewards for justice” programme.

Another Libyan is on the FBI list — Anas al-Liby, who is wanted over the 1998 East African embassy bombings — and some believe the Americans may have initially confused the two. When The Sunday Times contacted a senior FBI counter-terrorism official for information about the importance of the detained man, he sent material on al-Liby, the wrong man.

“Al-Libbi is just a ‘middle-level’ leader,” said Jean-Charles Brisard, a French intelligence investigator and leading expert on terrorism finance. “Pakistan and US authorities have completely overestimated his role and importance. He was never more than a regional facilitator between Al-Qaeda and local Pakistani Islamic groups.”

According to Brisard, the arrested man lacks the global reach of Al-Qaeda leaders such as Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden’s number two, Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, or Anas al-Liby.

Although British intelligence has evidence of telephone calls between al-Libbi and operatives in the UK, he is not believed to be Al-Qaeda’s commander of operations in Europe, as reported.

The only operations in which he is known to have been involved are two attempts to assassinate Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, in 2003. Last year he was named Pakistan’s most wanted man with a $350,000 (£185,000) price on his head.

No European or American intelligence expert contacted last week had heard of al-Libbi until a Pakistani intelligence report last year claimed he had taken over as head of operations after Khalid Shaikh Mohammad’s arrest. A former close associate of Bin Laden now living in London laughed: “What I remember of him is he used to make the coffee and do the photocopying.”

What is known is that al-Libbi moved from Libya to Pakistan in the mid-1980s before joining the jihad in Afghanistan. He married a Pakistani woman and is said to specialise in maps and diagrams. He is thought to have joined Bin Laden in Sudan with other Libyan nationals in about 1992 and to have become Al-Qaeda’s co-ordinator with home-grown Pakistani terrorist groups after 9/11.

Some believe al-Libbi’s significance has been cynically hyped by two countries that want to distract attention from their lack of progress in capturing Bin Laden, who has now been on the run for almost four years.

Even a senior FBI official admitted that al-Libbi’s “influence and position have been overstated”. But this weekend the Pakistani government was sticking to the line that al-Libbi was the third most important person in the Al-Qaeda network.

One American official tried to explain the absence of al-Libbi’s name on the wanted list by saying: “We did not want him to know he was wanted.”

Whatever his importance, al-Libbi is the sixth Al-Qaeda figure to have been caught in Pakistan, suggesting that the country is now the organisation’s centre of operations. The interior minister, Aftab Khan Sherpao, conceded that Bin Laden and his deputy might be hiding in a Pakistani city.

“But the capture of al-Libbi will have made them very apprehensive. Whether big fry or small fry, they’re on the run, I can tell you that.”

Comment: Don'tcha just love this line:

One American official tried to explain the absence of al-Libbi’s name on the wanted list by saying: “We did not want him to know he was wanted.”

Give the man a raise for thinking on his feet.

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Ghetto wall casts long shadow
Warsaw trip sparks debate on Mideast

May 9, 2005. 09:08 AM

WARSAW - At a remnant of the Warsaw Ghetto wall, a bit of grim masonry that survived the retributive destruction of the Jewish quarter in 1943, a historical guide rattles off the chilling numbers.

Four hundred thousand Jews, one-third of the city's population, confined behind the barriers of Europe's largest ghetto. One-quarter of them are under the age of 15.

A daily food allocation of 183 calories, with Nazi scientists using the ghetto as an urban laboratory to determine the minimum nourishment required for human subsistence.

Three hundred thousand deported to Treblinka over a mere six-week period, nearly all of them condemned to extermination in the gas chambers.

In the intermittent rain, a group of non-Jewish Canadian university students absorbs these facts and tries to flesh out the reality of life in the ghetto from the few remaining ruins, including this five-metre-thick chunk of brick barrier and barbed wire.

One of them, a Toronto-born self-described non-Muslim Palestinian, asks a provocative question.

"What is the difference between this wall and the one being built in Israel to keep out Palestinians?"

The subtext is clear. Jews, with their horrific experience of segregation and suffering, should not be erecting walls along an arbitrary border, further excluding and entrapping the Palestinian populace.

It is not my place, as a reporter invited to share this educational experience, to provide an answer for the young man.

But I could say — and not by way of defending a barrier that I believe to be ill-conceived at best, a pre-emptive land grab at worst — that the difference is this:

The Nazis wanted to keep Jews in; the Israelis want to keep Palestinians out.

Comment: !!!!!!! What! Does this statement really pass for a counter-argument? Isn't "in" or "out" a question of where one is standing? The Nazis wanted Jews out of their society, just like the Israelis want the Palestinians out of Israel. The Israelis want to keep the Palestinians 'in' their bantustans, just like the Nazis wanted to keep the Jews in their ghetto. What is the West Bank or Gaza is not the Palestinian's ghetto? The reporter's bias is clear. She identifies with the Jews in the ghetto, not with the Palestinians.

Jews in Warsaw were not a threat to anybody. Their crime was to be Jewish and therefore barely human. Militant Palestinians have attacked Jews with ruthless regularity, justifying their assaults as legitimate resistance against military occupation. [...]

Comment: !!!!! The entire Palestinian people need to be put behind a wall, locked into their land, because some of them have fought against Israeli oppression? The Warsaw uprising is seen as a heroic fight by the ghetto Jews against their oppression. Why are the Palestinians not given the same right to self-defence as is extended to the Jews in Warsaw? Why are the Jews heroic while the Palestinians are labeled "terrorists"?

And, please, we do not for one minute discount the heroism of those in the Warsaw ghetto who fought in the uprising. We are simply disgusted with the double standard.

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Lawyer: "Any Criticism of Israel is a Form of Anti-Semitism"

The Peculiar State


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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The deeper significance of our fight against Zionism
By John Spritzler
Apr 28, 2005, 14:33

Alison Weir has an extremely interesting article about NYT biased reporting on Palestine/Israel, focusing on a careful, rigorous and long term study by her group, If Americans Knew, on NYT reporting of Israeli versus Palestinian deaths, and her recent meeting with the NYT ombudsman (giving him a slide show of her study). Result: the ombudsman wrote a column essentially ignoring the bias documentation and saying essentially, "Hey, we're not perfect, but we try to be fair and objective".

Pro-Zionist forces have been adept at influencing, if not controlling corporate media coverage of Israel and Palestine. A related example of Zionist influence in the media can be seen in the pressure on the Comcast Corporation by Zionist groups to remove ads that describe the humanity of Palestinians and their suffering under the oppression of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF).

The Palestine/Israel Conflict as a Means of Control

The NYT is not only biased in a "Jews are good and their lives are important, Palestinians are bad and their lives are unimportant" kind of way.

It is also biased because of its very wrong subtext, which is: "The Palestine/Israel conflict is an ethnic war, not a war fomented by elites to control ordinary people, both Jews and Arabs." The way elites foment ethnic war is by portraying one ethnic group as the innocent victim of the other ethnic group's evil. The NYT and the pro-Zionist forces are engaged in fomenting ethnic war between "Jews and we Americans who should of course identify with them" against "Palestinians and Arabs in general who are, well, Arabs."

It is becoming increasingly evident that the elites running the U.S. and Israel and the Middle East dictatorships intentionally foment ethnic/national war as a means of social control. Sharon and Hamas use each other. The pattern is very similar to the way elites fomented ethnic war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s to control a working class population there who were not pre-occupied with who was a Croat and who was a Serb (intermarriage rates were very high) and whose strikes and massive military draft refusals were threatening elite power. The strategy consists of elites of a particular ethnic group (and often of the "opposing" group as well, in a symmetrical fashion) carrying out vicious violent attacks on the other ethnic group in the name of one's own, followed by attacks, verbal and sometimes violent, on members of "one's own" ethnic group who don't go along with the ethnic war attacks. In Yugoslavia the Serb and Croat elites worked together to pit their respective populations against each other.

The Same Strategy used in WWII

This same pattern was carried out by the rulers of the U.S., Germany and Japan to control working people in each of those nations who, in the 1930's and early 40's, were mounting sharp struggles that the rulers feared were about to turn into revolutions. The rulers instigated World War II to regain control over their own populations. (See my book, The People As Enemy: The Leaders' Hidden Agenda in World War II, for a full treatment of this story.) We've seen the same use of deliberately fomented ethnic war used as a social control strategy in Ireland. And the current war in Iraq and the larger War on Terror are similarly about social control, practically lifted from the pages of Orwell's 1984.

The Importance of Fighting Zionism

The significance and the importance of our effort to expose Zionism and build opposition to it, is not only the immediate but modest changes that we might win and might lose again, as so often is the case. It is also significant and important in that it enables us to discuss with our friends and neighbors and colleagues the most important facts about the world in which we live - Facts which, when fully appreciated by millions of people, make it possible to really change the world in fundamental ways:

1. Elites foment ethnic/national wars and attack ordinary people's best values of equality and solidarity and democracy precisely for the purpose of controlling us;

2. The vast majority of people in the world share these very positive values and aspirations and they try to shape the little corner of the world over which they have any control with these values, in the face of elite attacks on their efforts;

3. Elites fear ordinary people coming to power so much that they resort to mass murder to foment ethnic/national wars to undercut the unity of the masses.

4. Our opposition to Zionism is part of something much bigger: the opposition of billions of people in the world to elite rule;

5. Numbers 1 through 4 mean that a revolution to make a truly democratic and equal and solidaristic society is both necessary and possible.

These are the reasons why we are compelled to fight Zionism if we want real peace - not only in the Middle East but wherever a relatively few powerful men foment war and divide the people as a means of control and oppression.

Comment: While we agree with much of what Spritzler says, we find his point five to be a little naive. When has a revolution ever accomplished the idealistic goals that served as its banner? Revolutions don't change the inner life of an individual. Whether they work and fight under a capitalist or socialist economy, the human material is the same, the basic drives are the same. Only when man himself has changed will the world change, and that is not work that can be imposed by a revolutionary party or a benevolent leader.

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When your best friend spies on you…
Hassan Al-Haifi
Yemen iImes

When Common Sense cited reports about the Larry Franklin spy case in the US Pentagon, the observer indicated that if it’s a case of spying for Israel, you can be sure the American -Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is right there behind it (See CS 777). Thus, it is easy to confirm now that where there is an American snoop case for the benefit of Israel, many of those nice sounding NGO or lobby groups working for and on behalf of Israel will be right there behind the snoops.

But in the American Likudnik atmosphere that prevails these days, spying for Israel is not an unhealthy affair in American-Israeli relations: “this case bears little resemblance to more serious espionage cases such as the Jonathon Pollard case. Pollard was “an intelligence analyst for the Navy who pleaded guilty to spying for Israel in the 1980s”. That is how the unbiased New York Post sees it. In other words, it is no big deal that Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, John Bolton and all those other members of the “policy think tank group” at the US Pentagon, who have given this world hell for the past five years and their coziness to Israel pose no serious threat to American interests (To these guys, American interest is farthest from their minds!). Yet, the Bush Administration is raising hell and high water for a few Syrian intelligence personnel in Lebanon. It does not seem to worry the White House that American organizations are actually working against the United States within the highest echelons of Government. In fact to the wonderful media in the US, spy cases like these are not even considered top headline news, but are nicely covered up here and there and then only apologetically reported. In many cases the press will pass a “not guilty verdict”, before even the case goes to trial.

Thanks, however, to the relentless pursuits of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the Larry Franklin spy case, within the leading citadel of American defense, is actually going to be more serious than the Jonathan Pollard Case. Remember that case of a US Navy Officer spying on behalf of Israel? Let us look at the facts:

1. The Larry Franklin case involves the insidious crime of not only “providing information” to the “best friend” of the United States, but actually providing the directions and pursuits of US foreign policy. We are talking about links to the highest levels of US Government, who the whole world knows have geared US foreign policy to the likings of such gung-ho Likudniks as Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister of Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu, the Finance Minister and former Prime Minister – the rightist of the Israeli right!

2. Everyone, who has an inkling of knowledge about the US Defense Policy Committee working under the Pentagon and indirectly under the Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney (Douglas Feith and friends) will easily recall the outstanding efforts each of these individuals have exerted on behalf of the Zionist State, long before their highly sensitive appointments to the highest echelons of American Government. Their relationship with AIPAC does not end with the “less serious” Franklin case. AIPAC was found to have a strong relationship with the Pollard case as well, but has easily managed to get away with that. In fact, AIPAC will probably get away with the Franklin case as well, even though the FBI insists that AIPAC was the go between in the Franklin case as well. In other words, AIPAC did all the hard work of coordinating (and financing of course) the heavy intelligence work of the Israeli Mossad within the US Government with a heavy dose of influence peddling that should send warning signals to any loyal Americans that there is something wrong way up there in policy land in the United States Government.

3. It is no secret the great inroads that US (Pro Israel) NGOs have made in advancing the interests of Israel within the US Government, especially under the George W. Bush Administration. What else can be said, when all current foreign policy renditions are guided by the principle that “if it is good for Israel, let us do it!”?

4. If the Larry Franklin case is assessed from an objective point of view, with respect to AIPAC and the workings of the many “interest” peddlers that the Zionist state relies on within the US Government, it is not hard to categorically say that US policy is now underwritten in Tel Aviv rather than in Washington. So, why does the New York Post see this as a “minor case”? In fact AIPAC is just one of the hundreds of US interest peddler groups that are serving the interests of “America’s best friend. One might suggest that the US is run by remote control by the International Zionist Establishment and it is time for the US Government to recognize that it has forgotten that America’s interests should be dictated by guidelines that do not lead to the death of hundreds of American troops (Remember the WMD scenarios? One can be sure that AIPAC and her sister organizations had a lot to do with it).

The United States is under scrutiny by the international community after its debacle in Iraq and with so much Israeli intrusion into the US Government, engineered by the likes of AIPAC, there simply can be no credibility, sincerity or honesty in any foreign policy renditions coming out of Washington these days.

One should see this as the hopeful opening of investigative work on the operations of all these interest peddlers on behalf of the International Zionist Establishment. But with the way the case is being handled now (Mr. Franklin is actually still working in the Pentagon!), it seems that the US Zionist Establishment is well set in to wiggle out of this one, as it did with the Pollard Case. In that case, at least someone took all the rap for the many intricacies that do not exonerate AIPAC or any of the other “American” principals involved. But in the Franklin case, it is business as usual and with an open heart. Mr. Wolfowitz is now in charge of the World Bank. John Bolton is for all practical purposes in charge of the United Nations. So, the successful engineering of AIPAC has actually put the International Zionist Establishment at the top of the world!

God, help us!

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US bomb victims sue Saudi royal family for 'negligence'
By Mark Hollingsworth
The Independent
08 May 2005

The Saudi royal family and its National Guard is being sued for alleged negligence and inept security by the victims of an al-Qa'ida suicide bombing which killed 35 people and injured 200 at a housing compound in Riyadh in May 2003, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

The victims, former military trainers of the Vinnell Corporation, which has an $800m (£460m) contract to advise the Saudi National Guard, will claim in a legal complaint this week that the terrorist bombing was unchallenged because of non-existent security measures by the Saudis. This was despite repeated and detailed warnings by Robert Jordan, then US ambassador in Riyadh, that Islamic militants were planning an attack.

The writ is being filed in the US District Court of Washington DC on behalf of 17 former and current Vinnell employees who claim they were unable to arm or protect themselves because of the kingdom's laws and their contract with the Saudi National Guard.

They allege the compound was not monitored by security cameras; the National Guard officers were unarmed; clear signals of an attack were ignored; security was not upgraded after the warnings; and security assessments were never conducted.

The lawsuit comes after revelations in the IoS last year that the al-Qa'ida terrorists were secretly assisted by certain members of the Saudi National Guard before the bombing. Former Vinnell employee Lt-Colonel Raphael Maldonado said some members of the National Guard gave a detailed map of the target to al-Qa'ida beforehand. A "training exercise" was also organised by the National Guard to remove security staff and leave the compound "defenceless".

The allegations will revive the controversy over the failure of the Saudi royal family to deal with Islamic insurgents and complacency by some senior Saudis towards al-Qa'ida. Two days before the Riyadh bombing Prince Nayef, the Interior Minister, said publicly al-Qa'ida was not a serious threat inside Saudi Arabia.

The claims for compensation are based on horrific injuries and tragedy. One victim, Jerry Heroth Jr, was sitting on his bed in the Vinnell compound talking to a friend when the bomb exploded. His friend was immediately decapitated in front of him by a shard of glass. Mr Heroth was also injured, but the psychological damage was far worse. He was unable to work and suffered post-traumatic stress disorder which was so severe that he committed suicide. The tragedy has had devastating consequences for his wife and two young children, who are part of the legal complaint.

Two other Vinnell military trainers were killed in the explosion - James Carpenter and Quincy Knox. Both left young families who have suffered mental anguish and needed extensive counselling.

All the claimants sustained serious and permanent injuries, notably multiple lacerations, brain concussion, multiple fractures, burns and loss of hearing and eyesight. But they say that the psychological consequences have been more serious, with all suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Their multimillion-dollar claim for compensation is based on the Saudi government being responsible for security at the compound. All negotiations to create the contract for Vinnell to train the National Guard were conducted by the Saudi regime.

Vinnell, a subsidiary of the US defence contractor Northrop Grumann, denies that its security arrangements were deficient. It maintains the compound was secure. Some Saudi royals admitted there were security lapses. The Foreign Minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, said: "We have to learn from our mistakes to improve our performance in this respect."

How the Saudi royal family responds to this new lawsuit could be a test of how seriously it is being taken.

Comment: Isn't it curious that two days before the bombing, the Saudi interior minister said that al-Qaeda was not a threat inside Saudi Arabia? Even more curious is the fact that employees of Vinnell are suing the Saudi royal family for not providing adequate security, when it is the Vinnell employees themselves who have trained Saudi security forces. The following flashbacks present a bit of the history of the Vinnell Corporation...

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Flashback: Vinnell Corporation: 'We Train People to Pull Triggers'
Special Series
By Pratap Chatterjee
Special to CorpWatch
March 20, 2003

Vinnell corporation ... has been controlled in the past through a web of interlocking ownership by a partnership that included James A. Baker III and Frank Carlucci, former U.S. secretaries of state and defense under presidents George Bush senior and Ronald Reagan respectively.

Perhaps the most important military contract Vinnell landed was in 1975 when the Pentagon helped the company win a bid to train the 75,000 strong Saudi Arabian National Guard, a military unit descended from the Bedouin warriors who helped the Saud clan impose control on the peninsula early in last century.

An article in Newsweek at the time described the company's first recruitment efforts with the aid of "a one-eyed former U.S. Army colonel named James D. Holland" in a cramped office in the Los Angeles suburb of Alhambra to put together "a ragtag army of Vietnam veterans for a paradoxical mission: to train Saudi Arabian troops to defend the very oil fields that Henry Kissinger recently warned the U.S. might one day have to invade."

"We are not mercenaries because we are not pulling triggers," a former U.S. Army officer told the magazine. "We train people to pull triggers." One of his colleagues wryly pointed out: "Maybe that makes us executive mercenaries."

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Flashback: Firm was 'cover for CIA'
Times Online
By Ian Cobain

AS BEFITS a company that has been accused of being a CIA front, of recruiting 'executive mercenaries' and attempting to overthrow the Prime Minister of a Commonwealth state, the Vinnell Corporation kept a low profile in Riyadh.

Its discreet security fooled nobody, however: the bomb attack was the second it has suffered in eight years. In 1995 seven people were killed. This shadowy corporation is said to have been founded during the Depression. Dan Briody, author of The Iron Triangle, a study of Vinnell's one-time owners, the Carlyle Group, serialised last week in The Times, says that there is "no publicity, no press releases, no news clippings".

He adds: "No one knows who the original owners were."

Vinnell's work in Saudi Arabia dates back almost 30 years, when it won a contract to train Saudi troops to guard oilfields. A congressional inquiry found that it had agreed a 'no Jews' clause. In the 1991 Gulf War Vinnell employees were seen fighting alongside Saudi troops.

The company has helped the Saudis build their National Guard from 26,000 troops to around 70,000.

In the early Eighties Time magazine reported that two employees were embroiled in a failed attempt to overthrow Maurice Bishop, the left-wing Prime Minister of Grenada, and soon after that a former employee was implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal.

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Flashback: Saudi Bombing - A Calculated Act With a Political Message
Commentary, William O. Beeman
Pacific News Service
May 14, 2003

The brutal bombings in Riyadh that killed at least 30 people were far from random, irrational acts directed primarily at Americans, writes PNS contributor William O. Beeman. Their target -- a U.S.-based company that trains the Saudi National Guard –- suggests local, anti-monarchist motivations and attackers who may have little or no connection to Osama bin Laden.

President Bush characterized the May 12 suicide bombing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as being carried out by “killers whose only faith is hate.” In fact, the devastating attack was a calculated, political act that was probably not orchestrated by al Qaeda and not directed primarily against the United States.

A thorough understanding of the incident -- a repeat of a similar attack that took place in 1995 -- might help the United States to act in a responsible and measured manner.

Both the recent bombings and the 1995 attack were made against the same target. This was the Vinnell Corp., a Fairfax, Va., company recently acquired by Northrop-Grumman that trains the 80,000 member Saudi Arabian National Guard under the supervision of the U.S. Army.

Why Vinnell?

The Vinnell operation represents everything that is wrong with the U.S.-Saudi relationship in the eyes of anti-monarchist revolutionaries. The corporation, which employs ex-military and CIA personnel, has close connections with a series of U.S. administrations, including the current one. It has had a contractual relationship to train the Saudi Arabian National Guard since 1975. The corporation was instrumental in the American “Twin Pillars” strategy, whereby both the Saudi Arabian regime and the Shah of Iran would serve as U.S. surrogates in the Gulf region to protect American interests against the possible incursion of the Soviet Union.

Even before the first Gulf War, when the United States established a formal military presence in Saudi Arabia, Vinnell was a “stealth” military presence in the Kingdom. It was seen as a military colonizing force. The Saudi Arabian National Guard, by extension, was seen as a de-facto American military force.

Additionally, the Guard has the specific duty of protecting the Saudi Royal Family, which the revolutionaries see as corrupt. Without the National Guard, the family would be weakened, perhaps to the point of dissolution.

Thus, since the Vinnell operation looks to revolutionaries like a body of United States-sponsored mercenaries shoring up the National Guard, and by extension, the royal family, striking the Vinnell operation is a logical strategy to damage the Saudi regime.

Comment: Wouldn't that be convenient for the US? Bush and the gang could just waltz right into Saudi Arabia and secure all that oil without a fight. Remember the comment in the previous article about Vinnell being a CIA front company? Put that together with the idea that al-Qaeda is a CIA/Mossad creation.

There is another reason for attacking Vinnell. The dissidents know that the United States has agreed to withdraw the 5,000 troops stationed at the Saudi Arabian Prince Sultan Air Force Base. However, the withdrawal would not cover the Vinnell contract employees, who presumably will stay in Saudi Arabia and keep propping up the regime. Since the revolutionaries want all Americans out of Saudi Arabia, they are looking to the ouster of this group as well as the troops based at the Prince Sultan base.

Furthermore, the compound that was bombed was a relatively easy target. It was not as heavily defended as an embassy or ministry.

This is not the first attack involving Vinnell. In 1995, the terrorists attacked the Saudi National Guard Headquarters, where the Guard was trained by Vinnell. The bomb killed six people and injured many more. Among the dead were five U.S. citizens, including two soldiers.

Comment: Looks like Vinnell employees didn't file a law suit against the Saudi royal family back in 1995, or after the 2003 attack...

Two Saudi opposition groups took responsibility for the blast, the Tigers of the Gulf and the Islamic Movement for Change. Both have previously criticized the ruling Saudi monarchy and U.S. military presence.

The facts of this earlier attack call into question the theory that the al Qaeda operation was responsible for the May 12 bombing. Ali al-Ahmed, executive director of the Washington-based Saudi Institute for Development and Studies, said on the PBS NewsHour of May 13 that this was a “home-grown operation” that borrowed ideas from al Qaeda but was not directed by Osama bin Laden. [...]

Comment: To top it all off, Vinnell has been quite busy in Iraq...

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Flashback: US Awards $48 Million Contract To Train Iraqi Army
June 28, 2003

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon has awarded a 48-million-dollar contract to train the nucleus of a new Iraqi army to Vinnell Corporation, a US firm which also trains members of the Saudi National Guard.

Work on the contract announced Wednesday was to begin July 1. The Fairfax, Virginia-based company, a subsidiary of the US aerospace firm Northrup Grumman, said on its website it was hiring former US army and marine officers to train light infantry battalions and combat service support units for the new Iraqi army.

The new army is expected to reach 12,000 troops within a year and swell to 40,000 within two years...

Vinnell has for the past 20 years trained members of Saudi Arabia's National Guard and those of other Middle Eastern military forces.

Ten of the company's employees -- two Filipinos and eight US nationals -- were among those killed in May 12 suicide attacks on compounds for foreign workers in Riyadh.

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France urged to admit 1945 massacre
Sunday 08 May 2005, 22:31 Makka Time, 19:31 GMT

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has called on France to admit its part in the massacres of 45,000 Algerians who took to the streets to demand independence as Europe celebrated victory over Nazi Germany on 8 May 1945.

Algeria is marking the 60th anniversary of the repression of pro-independence demonstrators under French colonial rule as Europeans celebrate the end of World War Two in Europe.

"The paradox of the massacres of 8 May 1945, is that when the heroic Algerian combatants returned from the fronts in Europe, Africa and elsewhere where they defended France's honour and interests ... the French administration fired on peaceful demonstrators," Bouteflika said in a speech published by state media on Sunday.

Colonial forces launched an air and ground offensive against several eastern cities, particularly Setif and Guelma, in response to anti-French riots, which killed some 100 Europeans.

Brutal crackdown

The crackdown lasted several days and according to the Algerian state left 45,000 people dead. European historians put the figure at between 15,000 and 20,000.

"The French administration fired on peaceful demonstrators"

President Bouteflika in a speech commemerating the 6oth anniversary of World War Two
It marks one of the darkest chapters in the history of Algeria and France, which ruled the North African country brutally from 1830 until 1962.

France's ambassador to Algeria said in February that the Setif massacre was an "inexcusable tragedy". It was the most explicit comments by the French state on the event.

"The Algerian people are still waiting for ... the declarations of the ambassador of France to be followed by a more convincing gesture," Bouteflika said in the speech given in Setif on Saturday. [...]

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Chavez demands foreign oil companies pay taxes 2005-05-09 16:51:57

BEIJING, May 9 -- Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday that many private oil companies have been evading taxes for years, and they must be charged retroactively with interest on any debts.

"If they don't pay, they must leave. They have to follow Venezuelan law," he warned.

According to Venezuelan law, oil companies must pay a 30 percent royalty, but companies producing expensive heavy crude, were allowed to pay 1 percent royalty until last year, when the government raised it to 16 percent.

Officials say many declare losses to avoid paying income tax, and as many as 2 billion US dollars may have evaded.

Comment: Boy, Hugo Chavez just won't quit! Imagine, now he is demanding the oil companies pay their taxes! My god! And what is he going to do with that money should it arrive before the US troops? By golly, he'll just siphon it off to his cronies in the poor sections of Venezuela, those powerful lobbyists who are in so thick with his government demanding health care and other social benefits!

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France and US learn to love each other again

Peter Beaumont says Britain is being supplanted as the key American ally in Europe

Sunday May 8, 2005
The Observer

It was not that long ago that the French mocked the 'special relationship' between Britain and its American ally as that of master and poodle.

Now, in an unexpected reversal, France is claiming a remarkable global coup: of supplanting Britain in the closest counsels of the US to forge a new, distinctly Gallic 'rapport'.

Having been Washington's 'impossible friend' - blamed for blocking a second UN resolution over Iraq that would have explicitly authorised war - France is now claiming to have repositioned itself as America's indispensable partner in Europe.

The claims of France's rapidly emerging influence follow last week's visit by French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier to Washington to meet Condoleezza Rice where, on first name terms, they dedicated themselves to 'confronting together the deepest problems of the globe'.

The visit was so successful that one gleeful French diplomat expressed the view to Libération that 'in the final reckoning, it is us who have won the place Tony Blair dreamed of after agreeing to the war in Iraq: that of Europe's privileged partner with the United States, capable of influencing its decisions.' It is a claim greeted by British officials with the grinding of teeth and not a little laughter.

The Franco-US love-in follows two years of culture wars between the two allies in America's War of Independence from Britain that have seen an avalanche of prose, some vulgar, some learned, exploring the roots of their mutual distaste.

The most recent contribution is Philippe Roger's scholarly The American Enemy: The History of French Anti-Americanism which joins tomes like Richard Z. Chesnoff's The Arrogance of the French: Why They Can't Stand Us - and Why the Feeling is Mutual.

Indeed, such was the antipathy at one stage around the time of the Iraq war that American consumers essayed their own unilateral boycott of all things French - the most infamous being when French fries became Freedom fries.

France's efforts to rebuild the relationship with the Bush administration follow one of the most troubled periods in Franco-US history over French opposition to the invasion of Iraq, which led Rice - as National Security Adviser - to famously suggest that the US should 'punish France, ignore Germany and forgive Russia'.

In two years, however, and since her appointment as Secretary of State, the world has changed. Now it seems that France has been forgiven, Germany is still being ignored, and it is Russia that is meeting US displeasure.

While even French officials find the quotes by the diplomat in Libération to be hyperbolic, they insist France is the beneficiary of a reordering of influence as America is confronted with the new challenges after the fall of Saddam's Iraq.

Foremost among the issues leading the two countries into what one official described as a new pas de deux has been the intertwined issues of Syria and Lebanon, where France and America found themselves in concert - calling for the end of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon - and over Lebanon's future.

French officials date the warming of relations between Bush and Jacques Chirac to their meeting at last year's D-Day celebrations and again on the eve of Bush's visit to the European Commission in February. It was during these meetings, say French officials, that there was mutual recognition of how 'much damage the issue of Iraq had done', and on the American side that France may have been right in its insistence about moving quickly to a political process in Iraq, which was said by the former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, to be 'unrealistic'.

France is certainly pursuing a more cordial relationship with Washington; it remains to be seen if America's principal ally - the so-called poodle - can be a French one.

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Of Two Minds
New York Times

The human brain is mysterious -- and, in a way, that is a good thing. The less that is known about how the brain works, the more secure the zone of privacy that surrounds the self. But that zone seems to be shrinking. A couple of weeks ago, two scientists revealed that they had found a way to peer directly into your brain and tell what you are looking at, even when you yourself are not yet aware of what you have seen. So much for the comforting notion that each of us has privileged access to his own mind.

Opportunities for observing the human mental circuitry in action have, until recent times, been almost nonexistent, mainly because of a lack of live volunteers willing to sacrifice their brains to science. To get clues on how the brain works, scientists had to wait for people to suffer sometimes gruesome accidents and then see how the ensuing brain damage affected their abilities and behavior. The results could be puzzling. Damage to the right frontal lobe, for example, sometimes led to a heightened interest in high cuisine, a condition dubbed gourmand syndrome. (One European political journalist, upon recovering from a stroke affecting this part of the brain, profited from the misfortune by becoming a food columnist.)

Today scientists are able to get some idea of what's going on in the mind by using brain scanners. Brain-scanning is cruder than it sounds. A technology called functional magnetic resonance imaging can reveal which part of your brain is most active when you're solving a mathematical puzzle, say, or memorizing a list of words. The scanner doesn't actually pick up the pattern of electrical activity in the brain; it just shows where the blood is flowing. (Active neurons demand more oxygen and hence more blood.)

In the current issue of Nature Neuroscience, however, Frank Tong, a cognitive neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University, and Yukiyasu Kamitani, a researcher in Japan, announced that they had discovered a way of tweaking the brain-scanning technique to get a richer picture of the brain's activity. Now it is possible to infer what tiny groups of neurons are up to, not just larger areas of the brain. The implications are a little astonishing. Using the scanner, Tong could tell which of two visual patterns his subjects were focusing on -- in effect, reading their minds. In an experiment carried out by another research team, the scanner detected visual information in the brains of subjects even though, owing to a trick of the experiment, they themselves were not aware of what they had seen.

How will our image of ourselves change as the wrinkled lump of gray meat in our skull becomes increasingly transparent to such exploratory methods? One recent discovery to confront is that the human brain can readily change its structure -- a phenomenon scientists call neuroplasticity. A few years ago, brain scans of London cabbies showed that the detailed mental maps they had built up in the course of navigating their city's complicated streets were apparent in their brains. Not only was the posterior hippocampus -- one area of the brain where spatial representations are stored -- larger in the drivers; the increase in size was proportional to the number of years they had been on the job.

It may not come as a great surprise that interaction with the environment can alter our mental architecture. But there is also accumulating evidence that the brain can change autonomously, in response to its own internal signals. Last year, Tibetan Buddhist monks, with the encouragement of the Dalai Lama, submitted to functional magnetic resonance imaging as they practiced ''compassion meditation,'' which is aimed at achieving a mental state of pure loving kindness toward all beings. The brain scans showed only a slight effect in novice meditators. But for monks who had spent more than 10,000 hours in meditation, the differences in brain function were striking. Activity in the left prefrontal cortex, the locus of joy, overwhelmed activity in the right prefrontal cortex, the locus of anxiety. Activity was also heightened in the areas of the brain that direct planned motion, ''as if the monks' brains were itching to go to the aid of those in distress,'' Sharon Begley reported in The Wall Street Journal. All of which suggests, say the scientists who carried out the scans, that ''the resting state of the brain may be altered by long-term meditative practice.''

But there could be revelations in store that will force us to revise our self-understanding in far more radical ways. We have already had a hint of this in the so-called split-brain phenomenon. The human brain has two hemispheres, right and left. Each hemisphere has its own perceptual, memory and control systems. For the most part, the left hemisphere is associated with the right side of the body, and vice versa. The left hemisphere usually controls speech. Connecting the hemispheres is a cable of nerve fibers called the corpus callosum.

Patients with severe epilepsy sometimes used to undergo an operation in which the corpus callosum was severed. (The idea was to keep a seizure from spreading from one side of the brain to the other.) After the operation, the two hemispheres of the brain could no longer directly communicate. Such patients typically resumed their normal lives without seeming to be any different. But under careful observation, they exhibited some very peculiar behavior. When, for example, the word ''hat'' was flashed to the left half of the visual field -- and hence to the right (speechless) side of the brain -- the left hand would pick out a hat from a group of concealed objects, even as the patient insisted that he had seen no word. If a picture of a naked woman was flashed to the left visual field of a male patient, he would smile, or maybe blush, without being able to say what he was reacting to -- although he might make a comment like, ''That's some machine you've got there.'' In another case, a female patient's right hemisphere was flashed a scene of one person throwing another into a fire. ''I don't know why, but I feel kind of scared,'' she told the researcher. ''I don't like this room, or maybe it's you getting me nervous.'' The left side of her brain, noticing the negative emotional reaction issuing from the right side, was making a guess about its cause, much the way one person might make a guess about the emotions of another.

Each side of the brain seemed to have its own awareness, as if there were two selves occupying the same head. (One patient's left hand seemed somewhat hostile to the patient's wife, suggesting that the right hemisphere was not fond of her.) Ordinarily, the two selves got along admirably, falling asleep and waking up at the same time and successfully performing activities that required bilateral coordination, like swimming and playing the piano. Nevertheless, as laboratory tests showed, they lived in ever so slightly different sensory worlds. And even though both understood language, one monopolized speech, while the other was mute. That's why the patient seemed normal to family and friends.

Pondering such split-brain cases, some scientists and philosophers have raised a disquieting possibility: perhaps each of us really consists of two minds running in harness. In an intact brain, of course, the corpus callosum acts as a constant two-way internal-communications channel between the two hemispheres. So our everyday behavior does not betray the existence of two independent streams of consciousness flowing along within our skulls. It may be, the philosopher Thomas Nagel has written, that ''the ordinary, simple idea of a single person will come to seem quaint some day, when the complexities of the human control system become clearer and we become less certain that there is anything very important that we are one of.''

It is sobering to reflect how ignorant humans have been about the workings of their own brains for most of our history. Aristotle, after all, thought the point of the brain was to cool the blood. The more that breakthroughs like the recent one in brain-scanning open up the mind to scientific scrutiny, the more we may be pressed to give up comforting metaphysical ideas like interiority, subjectivity and the soul. Let's enjoy them while we can.

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Strong tremor hits Banda Aceh
Last Update: Monday, May 9, 2005. 1:19pm (AEST)

An earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale has shaken the capital of Indonesia's Aceh province, Banda Aceh.

Inhabitants rushed out of their homes and offices and gathered in the streets as the earthquake hit at 8:30 am local time (11:30am AEST).

The meteorology and geophysics office says the earthquake was centred 33 kilometres under the ocean floor, 153 kilometres west of Banda Aceh.

Aceh was devastated by a massive earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale, that shook the region on December 26 and triggered deadly tidal waves that left more than 230,000 people dead around the Indian Ocean.

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Two temblors shake the Bay Area

Bay City News
Sunday, May 8, 2005

A pair of light earthquakes shook the Bay Area this morning from Napa to Oakland, the United States Geological Service reported.

The first earthquake, measuring 4.1 on the Richter scale, struck at 1:43 a.m. and was centered 9 miles northeast of Napa and 10 miles northwest of Fairfield, according to USGS.

The second earthquake, measuring 3.4 on the Richter scale, shook Alameda County at 3:35 a.m., the USGS reported. The quake was centered one mile northeast of Piedmont.

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