Wednesday May 11, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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Real-ID Passes U.S. Senate 100-0

Last-minute attempts by online activists to halt an electronic ID card failed Tuesday when the U.S. Senate unanimously voted to impose a sweeping set of identification requirements on Americans.

The so-called Real ID Act now heads to President Bush, who is expected to sign the bill into law this month. Its backers, including the Bush administration, say it's needed to stop illegal immigrants from obtaining drivers' licenses.

If the act's mandates take effect in May 2008, as expected, Americans will be required to obtain federally approved ID cards with "machine readable technology" that abides by Department of Homeland Security specifications. Anyone without such an ID card will be effectively prohibited from traveling by air or Amtrak, opening a bank account, or entering federal buildings.

After the Real ID Act's sponsors glued it to an Iraq military spending bill, final passage was all but guaranteed. Yet that didn't stop a dedicated cadre of privacy activists from trying to raise the alarm in the last few days. [...]

Comment: Clearly the US government was aware that a national ID would NOT be supported even by a najority of Congress, much less the American people. For this reason it was tacked on as a "provision" to the bill for a further $82 billion to continue the bloody invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan which was unanimously passed.

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National ID Cards Won't Stop Terrorism or Illegal Immigration
May 10, 2005
by Rep. Ron Paul, MD

The US House of Representatives passed a spending bill last week that contains provisions establishing a national ID card, and the Senate is poised to approve the measure in the next few days. This week marks the American public’s last chance to convince their Senators they don’t want to live in a nation that demands papers from its citizens as they go about their lives.

Absent a political miracle in the Senate, within two years every American will need a conforming national ID card to participate in ordinary activities. This REAL ID Act establishes a massive, centrally-coordinated database of highly personal information about American citizens: at a minimum their name, date of birth, place of residence, Social Security number, and physical characteristics. The legislation also grants open-ended authority to the Secretary of Homeland Security to require biometric information on IDs in the future. This means your harmless looking driver’s license could contain a retina scan, fingerprints, DNA information, or radio frequency technology.

Think this sounds farfetched? Read the REAL ID Act, HR 418, for yourself. Its text is available on the Library of Congress website. A careful reading also reveals that states will be required to participate in the “Drivers License Agreement,” which was crafted by DMV lobbyists years ago. This agreement creates a massive database of sensitive information on American citizens that can be shared with Canada and Mexico!

Terrorism is the excuse given for virtually every new power grab by the federal government, and the national ID is no exception. But federal agencies have tried to create a national ID for years, long before the 9-11 attacks. In fact, a 1996 bill sought to do exactly what the REAL ID Act does: transform state drivers’ licenses into de facto national ID cards. At the time, Congress was flooded with calls by angry constituents and the bill ultimately died.

Proponents of the REAL ID Act continue to make the preposterous claim that the bill does not establish a national ID card. This is dangerous and insulting nonsense. Let’s get the facts straight: The REAL ID Act transforms state motor vehicle departments into agents of the federal government. Nationalizing standards for driver's licenses and birth certificates in a federal bill creates a national ID system, pure and simple. Having the name of your particular state on the ID is meaningless window dressing.

Federally imposed standards for drivers' license and birth certificates make a mockery of federalism and the 10th amendment. While states technically are not forced to accept the federal standards, any refusal to comply would mean their residents could not get a job, receive Social Security, or travel by plane. So rather than imposing a direct mandate on the states, the federal government is blackmailing them into complying with federal dictates.

One overriding point has been forgotten: Criminals don’t obey laws! As with gun control, national ID cards will only affect law-abiding citizens. Do we really believe a terrorist bent on murder is going to dutifully obtain a federal ID card? Do we believe that people who openly flout our immigration laws will nonetheless respect our ID requirements? Any ID card can be forged; any federal agency or state DMV is susceptible to corruption. Criminals can and will obtain national ID cards, or operate without them. National ID cards will be used to track the law-abiding masses, not criminals.

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US Capitol, White House, Briefly Evacuated
Breaking News Now
Terrorised by the words of their own government, Americans flee from something, although no one seemed to know exactly what. Said one scaredy cat: "I don't know what I am running from, but I heard it was out to get my freedoms and democracy, and that's good enough for me."
"Run! This is no joke!" screamed the U.S. Secret Service agent as the blip on the radar screen moved ominously closer into the restricted airspace over the White House. "This better not be another damn cloud!" growled Cheney as Standing Order "Presidential Pooper Scoop" seamlessly swung into action.

One burly SS agent was soon sprinting down the hallway that leads to the White House bunker, apparently unfazed by the womanly screams of an obviously terrified President Bush dangling over his right shoulder. Two other agents were moving somewhat slower with a red-faced, yet surprisingly calm, Vice President Cheney in a "fireman's lift" configuration.

Not long thereafter however, the all-clear was given and both men cautiously re-emerged to continue protecting the country.

The cause of the alert has since been revealed as a wayward single-engined aircraft which was "flying in a manner that threatened the freedom of the American people" according to a White House official who was understandably speaking on condition of anonymity.

Some members of the ever vigilant freedom-hating, camel jockey-loving "left-wing" blogging community, have once more used the opportunity to cast doubt on the integrity of the American administation, claiming that, since today is the 11th day of the month, this "alert" was nothing more than yet another piece of government propaganda designed to ever so subtly remind the American people that "they" still hate us because of our:

A: Freedoms

B: Democracy

C: Flab

D: Regulation checkered shorts that all American tourists wear

E: Tendency to believe anything we are told, regardless of how ridiculous

As one noted internet freedom fighter quipped in response to the above image of American political types fleeing their nations seat of power:

"I mean, really! Look at that picture! This is supposed to be the government of the greatest military power on earth! These people are poised to run and hide at a moment's notice, yet they do not even realize that they have created the world that frightens them so and in which their own destruction is inevitable..."

Strong stuff indeed, but what if it's true?

In a further development, White House spokesman Scott McClelland, who asked not to be named, said that the President had been inspired by his administration's success in the war on terrorism and was confident that he could expand the war on tactics such as terrorism to include a war on even more nebulous concepts and ideologies, such as:

War on not waging war

War on not believing that a war on terrorism makes any sense

War on waging war and then running away

War on people thinking of new ways to wage war (apart from the Bush administration)

War on exposing the lies and manipulations of the US government or its allies

War on other people thinking bad things about the US or Israel

War on critical unemotional thinking

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Ridge Says Bush Administration Faked Terror Threat Level
5/10/2005 11:21 PM
By Mimi Hall, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration periodically put the USA on high alert for terrorist attacks even though then-Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge argued there was only flimsy evidence to justify raising the threat level, Ridge now says.

Ridge, who resigned Feb. 1, said Tuesday that he often disagreed with administration officials who wanted to elevate the threat level to orange, or "high" risk of terrorist attack, but was overruled.

His comments at a Washington forum describe spirited debates over terrorist intelligence and provide rare insight into the inner workings of the nation's homeland security apparatus.

Ridge said he wanted to "debunk the myth" that his agency was responsible for repeatedly raising the alert under a color-coded system he unveiled in 2002.

Comment: Ok. So if Ridge and his agency i.e. Homeland (In)Security were not responsible for the decision to announce the unfounded terror alerts, then who was?

"More often than not we were the least inclined to raise it," Ridge told reporters. "Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment. Sometimes we thought even if the intelligence was good, you don't necessarily put the country on (alert). ... There were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said, 'For that?' "

Comment: Sound like he is implicating the "intelligence community", but...

The level is raised if a majority on the President's Homeland Security Advisory Council favors it and President Bush concurs. Among those on the council with Ridge were Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI chief Robert Mueller, CIA director George Tenet, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Comment: So other than the head of the CIA and FBI, Rummy, Bush, Powell and Ashcroft were all involved in the decision to 'up' the fear factor. But, other than scaring he bejesus out of (or perhaps into) the citizenry in order to ensure their continuned compliance, what other reasons might Bush and Co have for putting the nation on "alert"?..

The threat level was last raised on a nationwide scale in December 2003, to orange from yellow — or "elevated" risk — where the alert level is now. In most cases, Ridge said Homeland Security officials didn't want to raise the level because they knew local governments and businesses would have to spend money putting temporary security upgrades in place.

Comment: Ah yes! How could we forget! Money of course!

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Is Congress Taking Handouts From the Drug Companies?

Since 1998, drug companies have spent $758 million on lobbying -- more than any other industry. That is over half a billion dollars that have a dramatic influence on how drugs are viewed politically.

Since the government ultimately determines which products drug companies can market and how they're labeled, their lobbying is really having a serious impact on you. So, with the drug industry facing the possibility of increased regulation -- due to mounting concerns about the safety of the nation's drug supply -- many drug companies are doing whatever it takes to wine and dine members of Congress to lean in their favor.

For example, the drug companies' corporate planes have been made available for dozens of trips taken by powerful lawmakers. The absolute clincher, however, is the amount of money drug companies are willing to spend in order to protect themselves and their drugs for meeting their doom.

Big Spenders

Drug companies and their officials contributed at least $17 million to federal candidates in last year's elections, including:

* Nearly $1 million to President Bush.
* More than $500,000 to his opponent, John Kerry.
* At least 18 members of Congress received more than $100,000 apiece.

And if that doesn't seem like enough schmoozing, consider this fact again: Drug companies have spent more than $750 million over the past seven years on lobbying alone. According to government records analyzed by the Center for Public Integrity, that's more than any other industry!

Lobbyists' Political Success

The drug industry employs almost 1,274 lobbyists, including 40 former members of Congress. Over the years those lobbyists have been extremely successful, proving they know politics just as well as they know chemistry. Specifically, they've:

Won coverage for prescription drugs under Medicare in 2003 while preventing the government from negotiating prices downward.

So far kept out imports of cheaper medicines from Canada and other countries.

Protected a system that uses company fees to speed the drug-approval process.

Unfortunately, this information serves as a sad reminder of just how deeply the mega-pharmaceutical industry influenceswhat is seen and heard in the media.

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End Times Imperialism: Biblical Prophecy and Christian Zionism
May 7 / 8, 2005

The Christian right, generally speaking, embraces religious Zionism---not simply support for the modern Jewish state, but a certain view of the past, present and future based on a Bible-centered understanding of history and a prophetic vision of the future. That entails, in bare outline, the following narrative.

Prophecy and the Basic Bible Story

God, who created everything, chose a man named Abraham about 4000 years ago to bless the world through his descendents. Those descendents include the progeny of his eldest son Ishmael (regarded by many Jews, Christians and Muslims as the Arabs), and those of his second son Isaac, the Jews. The latter hold a special status in the universe. God has spoken with many of them, through angels, in dreams or directly, and provided them with the Ten Commandments, directly in writing. He has sent them prophets to inform humankind about the future. The Jewish scriptures comprising the Old Testament of the Bible are God's Holy Writ, originally in Hebrew.

God's covenant with Abraham involved a promise of a homeland. His descendents were to possess all the land between the Nile and the Euphrates. (One can interpret this to mean it all goes to the Jews, or that it is shared by the descendents of both Ishmael and Isaac.) Isaac's grandson Joseph, sold by his brothers into slavery in Egypt, became a great man in Egypt and ultimately forgiving his brothers arranged for them and his father Jacob to settle in that country. There, over generations, they became numerous. But becoming enslaved they yearned for deliverance, and were miraculously led out of Egypt by Moses.

After 40 years wandering in the Sinai Desert, in the course of which they received the Ten Commandments, they were (minus Moses) able to enter the Promised Land (Canaan), slaughter its inhabitants in fulfillment of God's command, and settle it. After many years of leadership by "judges" they set up a kingdom (Judea) under King Saul, who was followed by King David. After the death of David's son Solomon, the nation split into Judah and Israel. In the seventh and sixth centuries BCE, as punishment for the sins of the Jewish kings and their subjects, foretold by their prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah, God had the Babylonians defeat both kingdoms, destroy the Temple in Jerusalem, and carry many of their inhabitants off to Babylon. (This is called the "Babylonian Captivity.") But in fulfillment of prophecies, the Jews were able to return to the Promised Land in the fifth century, rebuild the Temple, and flourish although subject to Persian, then Hellenistic and Roman domination. Under foreign rule, they longed for the messiah or "anointed one" foretold by the prophets and for the rebirth of an independent Jewish kingdom.

Here's where the narrative of religious Jewish Zionists and the Christian Zionists diverges. The latter of course believe that God became incarnate among the Jews, born of a Jewish virgin descended from King David. God's son Jesus was the messiah, or (in Greek) the christ. Suffering for the sins of the entire world (not only those of the Jews but those of Gentiles too), the messiah was crucified but rose from the dead, offering all those who believe that he is the messiah, and God, eternal life. This is what the Apostle Paul, who specialized in proselytizing among the Gentiles, called the "new covenant" involving God and Christians (2 Corinthians 3:6 and elsewhere).

Some Christians believe that since the majority of Jews didn't accept Jesus as the messiah and son of God (or in extreme cases, because "They killed Jesus!") God punished them by allowing the Romans to destroy the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, and to disperse them once again. Thousands were sold into slavery. After the rebellion in the 130s Jews were banned from Jerusalem, and Emperor Hadrian took measures to eliminate Judaism by banning the Jewish calendar, circumcision, and the teaching of Judaism. Many Jews believe all this was divine punishment as well, God's chastisement of his people through history being a recurring Biblical theme.

Both Christians and Jews can explain the subsequent trials of the Jewish people by reference to Biblical prophecy, such as the prophecy in Deuteronomy which states that as punishment for their disobedience God will "scatter [them] among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other." "Among those nations there will be no repose for you, no rest for the sole of your foot; Yahweh will give you a quaking heart, weary eyes, halting breath. Your life from the outset will be a burden to you: night and day you will go in fear, uncertain of your life" (28:64-67). However, Jeremiah 16:14-16 tells us that God "will restore [the Jews] to the land [he] gave their forefathers." One might say from the context that the prophet is only referring to the return from Babylonian exile, but religious Zionists, Jewish or Christian, apply this to the "miraculous" reestablishment of Israel after the terrors of exile in the twentieth century.

New Testament prophecy, supplemented by Old Testament prophecy, allows for a various future scenarios, by the Christian right is inclined to believe that the reestablishment of Israel was foretold in the Book of Revelation and as a prelude to apocalyptic events, including a horrific war centering around Jerusalem, global rule by the Antichrist, Jesus' return as a merciless judge, a "rapture" rewarding the upright (i.e., themselves) and the end of the world.

Critique of the "History"

Now, I don't know that belief in this exciting narrative is confined to the politically active, dangerous religious right bent on obtaining "dominion" over the United States. There might be some---especially young people--- inclined to accept it, or much of it, but still open-minded enough to consider some questions about it. In fact I'm sure there are, since I myself once believed but gradually became unable to, being a restlessly inquiring youth. I won't burden the reader with how I came to reject the fundamental theistic premise, but only question the Biblical history and role of prophecy in it.

Abraham, whose story is so crucial to the three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) is supposed to have lived about 2000 BCE. (I use BCE, or "before the Common Era" as opposed to BC, so as not to privilege the Christian faith. Sorry it if this, and my lower-case h's---him not Him---annoy some readers.) The Biblical chronology is difficult, but however one reads it he's located between 2100 and 1900. However, the earliest Hebrew writing dates back only to the 11th or 10th century BCE. The Hebrew alphabet was derived from Phoenician, which evolved out of the proto-Canaan alphabet (18th or 17th century BCE).

The Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible, including much of the above storyline) was written and edited from the 9th century at the earliest and probably not completed until the fifth. Deuteronomy is probably a seventh-century work. In other words, at least a millennium goes by before the stories of Abraham and his sons gets set down on papyrus. These tales are replete with references to lengthy age spans (Abraham's supposed to have lived 175 years), miraculous pregnancies (Abraham's wife Sarah bears Isaac at age 90), encounters with God and with angels, etc.

Of course none of this proves that it didn't all happen, just as the Good Book says. The creator of the universe---provided there is one---could have planted in some Jews' minds an oral tradition (including interminable lists of who begat whom and how long they lived, along with a massive compendium of law and sometimes contradictory accounts of events), up until the time that, having acquired writing from other people, they could set it all down as scripture.

Or, alternatively, we might say that the material is so inherently implausible, requiring us to imagine an earth so different from ours today, and the events so far-removed from the time the texts were composed that we should consider it a mix of legend, myth and history. As we do, for example, the Epic of Gilgamesh. The standard version of this text was written in Akkadian between 1300 and 1000 BCE, but the original Sumerian was set down around 2000, or about 400 years after the reign of King Gilgamesh. Included in the Sumerian King List (what I consider to be the oldest historical document in any language), Gilgamesh was probably a real person. The epic includes reference to real places and describes real habits and customs. But it is, after all, mostly fiction.

In this work predating Genesis by centuries, there is a tale about a great flood. Floods being common in Mesopotamia, they figure prominently in mythology. This particular flood, at least in one version, results from the gods' irritation at all the noise humans were making. They decide to wipe out humankind, but a god warns the upright man Utnapishtim, who collects all life forms in a huge boat thereby saving them. The waters recede after either seven (in some versions, forty) days and nights. Sound familiar? Some want to believe the Sumerians got the story from the Jews but became confused about the "real" details. More likely, the Jews borrowed a Mesopotamian tale and rewrote it to reflect their own moralistic and monotheistic outlook. It's an issue to think about, anyway, although there are people who fear that very thought process.

Abraham is a more plausible figure than say, Noah (who died at age 955, while Abraham was still alive, having lived through the near-total destruction of all life on earth) or Utnapishtim. Perhaps Abraham was a great patriarch with large herds who had migrated from the city of Ur in Mesopotamia (Genesis 11:31) to the Levant some time in the second millennium BCE. Perhaps his descendents, influenced by neighboring peoples (the practice of circumcision from Egypt, the seven-day week from Mesopotamia), developed a belief system that featured monotheism, and belief in a special nexus between God (Yahweh) and Abraham and themselves as a special people. The Biblical narrative suggests that the Jews from "the beginning" always possessed knowledge of the One God, even though they sometimes opted for paganism and idolatry bringing down his wrath. An alternative possibility would be that they originally worshipped a tribal deity, but acknowledged the existence of other gods, and gradually (by the time of the Babylonian Exile, exposure to Zoroastrian monotheism, and the practice of worshipping Yahweh in a foreign land) came to see their deity as a more universal one. The only one.

Between Abraham and the Babylonian Captivity the most dramatic Biblical Event is the Exodus. But there is precious little historical evidence to support the presence of Jewish slaves (or Jews at all) in Egypt before 1000 BCE. Nor is their evidence of a dramatic departure, or sudden invasion of Canaan. As Rabbi David Wolpe of the Sinai Temple in Los Angeles declared a few years ago: "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." Archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery." And why would those who had crossed the Red Sea after God paved the way by parting the waters wander around in such a tiny peninsula for 40 whole years?

The Exodus is supposed to have occurred, if it occurred, sometime between the sixteenth and thirteenth centuries. So between it and the first written record of it pass at least three and more likely five centuries. The Egyptian sources are silent on an event that supposedly the pharaoh (which one is completely unclear) fought tooth and nail to prevent and which involved all kinds of horrible divine punishments on Egypt. There may be one or two references to Jews in Egyptian texts before the thirteenth century, but there's no scholarly consensus even on that. It's quite likely that some event such as the expulsion of the Hyksos, a Semitic people from Arabia driven out of Egypt in the sixteenth century, or an influx of Bedouin into Canaan became integrated into an evolving account of Jewish origins as the Pentateuch was compiled centuries later.

In a society just acquiring literacy, a welter of legends can quickly take the form of a more or less coherent narrative. The oldest surviving Japanese text (712 CE), for example, probably integrates sacred oral histories from rival groups cobbled together not long before the acquisition of written language. It includes highly implausible information about the relationship between Japan and Korea, and may, for example, confuse a proto-historic Japanese invasion of Korea for the opposite. In representing the Japanese as descended from the gods, hence different from all other humans, it may obscure much about the ethnic origins of the Japanese, whom modern science suggests have strong affinities with Koreans and other northeast Asian and Siberian peoples, and connection to Malays and the Ainu as well. The Shinto religious tradition stressing only divine origins ignores all that.

We read in the Old Testament of intermarriages between Jews and Moabites, Amorites, Hittites, Egyptians, Canaanites and others (Nehemiah 9:1). Is it not possible that the gene pool of those composing their collective history coalesced long after the supposed flight from Egypt? That God never gave Canaan to invading Jews, or miraculously brought down the walls of Jericho, but that different tribes in Canaan merely unified over time and produced a fanciful tale about their primeval roots? There are Israeli scholars who believe that.

When we come to the Babylonian Captivity, we are on more solid ground. Ancient empires did uproot whole peoples; the Persians for example had uprooted Ionian Greeks from the Aegean coast and sent them way off to Afghanistan. Jews, or least many of them, were relocated to Babylon. They did return, according to the Bible because God had worked through Persia's (Zoroastrian) king Cyrus to free them from their exile. They rebuilt the Temple, believing that God had given them and them alone the land of Israel. But during Hellenistic and Roman times, the land acquired a more mixed population and culture. In the large city of Sepphoris, literally within sight of Nazareth in Jesus' day (but mentioned nowhere in the Bible), there were a Roman theater and bath.

Greek was widely spoken throughout the Roman east. Meanwhile by the first century Jews lived in cities throughout the Roman world, and were indeed even "scattered" as far away as India. About one quarter of the population of Alexandria, Egypt was Jewish. That is, even before the Diaspora Jews were dispersed and the population of Roman Palestine highly mixed. Surely the Roman Diaspora was horrible, but its impact on the already dispersed Jews, who often prospered outside their ancestral homeland is questionable. The tide for global Jewry turned in the fourth century, when the triumph of Christianity in Rome and its alliance with a state demanding a uniform orthodoxy placed all non-believers and heretics in jeopardy.

Surely there were many Jews who remained in the vicinity of Roman Palestine after the 130s. At the time of Muhammed, the tribes of Arabia were exposed to Christianity and Judaism due to their commercial activities up and down the Hejaz. Presumably many Jews and Christians converted to Islam after the seventh-century conquests, voluntarily responding to incentives or as a result of duress. In any case by the modern period, Palestine was Muslim and Arab Christian, for explicable historical reasons, while Jews comprised large communities in Europe and resided in tens of thousands in such Arab cities as Baghdad, Casablanca and Cairo.

Such Jews in exile, think our religious Zionists, were fated to reestablish a Jewish state in Israel, in order to fulfill the prophecy and to end the horrors that had dogged them through centuries of exile, culminating in the Shoah. Having done so, their state deserves absolute support, as a religious duty and expression of faith in prophecy.

Critique of the Prophecies

So here we must proceed from a critique of the record of the past to a critique of such prophecy in general. I won't just say that it's utterly irrational to imagine that we can know the future for certain, as some think one can do through astrology or parapsychology or joss sticks. I know that if one believes there is a God in charge of all time and space, that premise alone leads to the assumption that there is a Plan and that some people chosen by God can be made privy to it. There are many serious people who read the Bible and believe that, and come away convinced that its books have been amazingly accurate in their prophecies. I'm not persuaded.

Let's look at prophecies supposed by believers to relate to the life of Jesus. Below is a listing of 10 Old Testament prophecies about Jesus listed on the fundamentalist website "Jesus Plus Nothing: Christ Centered Bible Study" along with their "New Testament fulfillments." The list ends with the impressive statement:

"Statisticians have calculated that for all of the above prophecies to be fulfilled in one person it is a combined probability of One chance in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000! And this is limiting ourselves to just these 10 prophecies! Jesus claimed to be the fulfillment of the Old Testament Messianic prophecies, and now we have seen that His life and death did accurately fulfill these prophecies made hundreds of years before."

How calculated to impress the impressionable mind! I'd really like the names and credentials of those statisticians, and their academic and religious affiliations. Anyway, here are the Big 10 with my humbly questioning comments following each. I just want to suggest an approach to this sort of material. As an historian I ask (leaving aside for the moment the validity of prophecy generally): When were texts written? What influenced them? What does the Old Testament text actually say? Does the writer cited really intend to "prophesize"? What does the New Testament writer want to do with the "prophecy"?

1. [Jesus to] Be Born in Bethlehem

OT Prophecy: Micah 5:2 'But you, Bethlehem, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old.'

NT Fulfillment: Matt 2:1 'After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea...'
The Old Testament passage was probably written about 730, predicting that a future ruler from the line of King David will be born in Bethlehem, which according to I Samuel was David's home town. The Book of Ruth reports that Ruth, a Moabite who settled with her Jewish mother-in-law in Bethlehem and married the Jew Boaz, was an ancestor of King David. This explains Matthew's inclusion of Ruth among Jesus' ancestors (1:5), a detail found nowhere else in the New Testament.


(a) Only Matthew and Luke suggest that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, with Luke explaining it was necessary to go there from Nazareth in order to register for the empire-wide census.

(b) The two accounts differ, the one mentioning the Magi and the flight into Egypt, the other mentioning the shepherds' visit.

(c) Matthew's account of the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt is highly improbable; in it, the Magi (Persian Zoroastrian astrologers following the Star of Bethlehem) tell evil King Herod that "the king of the Jews" will be born in Bethlehem. So Herod has all boys under two years old systematically slaughtered in that district, an atrocity unnoted in any record outside of scripture, in a Roman Empire inclined to note such things. Joseph is warned in a dream to escape with mother and child to Egypt, in fulfillment of the scripture. Which scripture? Hosea 11:1, which is obviously not intended as a messianic prophecy at all but is a reference to the Exodus and is here misquoted at that. Matthew 2:18 cites more prophecy (Jeremiah 31:15) about women weeping for their children to allude to the mothers grieved by Herod's action.

(d) Some commentators explain plausibly that the Bethlehem story is included specifically to incorporate a "fulfilled prophecy,"

(e) the Book of Ruth set generations before King David (10th century) is almost surely imaginative fiction written after the return from the Babylonian Captivity, and thought by many to have been intended to validate Jewish-Gentile intermarriage at a time when it was under attack.

2. Preceded by a messenger

OT Prophecy: Isaiah 40:3 'The voice of him that cries in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.'

NT Fulfillment Matt 3:1-2 'In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'

This passage supposedly composed during Hezekiah's reign speaks poetically and vaguely of future consolation when Yahweh will forgive the sins of Jerusalem. The voice is not attributed to a future prophet preparing the way for a messiah. Again Matthew is attempting to weave in Old Testament allusions as though they were specifically foretelling events in the life of Jesus.

3. Enter Jerusalem on a colt

OT Prophecy: Zech 9:9 'Rejoice greatly O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy King comes to you... humble riding on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey'

NT Fulfillment Luke 19:35 'They bought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and they put Jesus on it.'

This does refer to a prophecy about the messiah. But it goes on immediately to say that the messiah will banish chariots from Ephraim and horses from Jerusalem; the war bow will be banned; he will proclaim peace for the nations, extend his empire from sea to sea. The author of Luke left this material, which would seem wholly inapplicable to Jesus' career, out.

4. Be Betrayed by a friend

OT Prophecy: Psalm 41:9 'Yes, my own friend in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.'

NT Fulfillment Matt 26:47-50 'And while he spoke, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords... Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whosoever I shall kiss, that same is he; hold him fast... and Jesus said unto him, Friend, why have you come?'

This "prophecy" is from a psalm, attributed (questionably) to David, expressing the point of view of a sick, lonely man. Read in context, it would seem to have nothing to do with a future messiah. Nor do the psalms in general seem designed to predict specific future events.

5. Have his hands and feet pierced

OT Prophecy: Psalm 22:16 'The assembly of the wicked have enclosed me. They have pierced my hands and my feet.'

NT Fulfillment Luke 23:33 'And when they came to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.'

Same as above. This really requires a stretch. Many of the psalms convey existential anguish and extreme situations, then conclude with statements of faith in God's mercy. This one includes the passage quoted above, rendered by the Jerusalem Bible as "a gang of villains closes me in; they tie me hand and foot, and leave me lying in the dust of death." There is no "piercing," and it doesn't sound like a crucifixion scene. The psalm does begin with the familiar, "My God, my God, why have you deserted me!" which Matthew imputes to Jesus on the cross, and perhaps that inspired Luke to invoke the psalm as prophecy.

6. Be wounded and whipped by his enemies

OT Prophecy: Isaiah 53:5 'But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon him and by his stripes we are healed.'

NT Fulfillment Matt 27:26 'Then they released Barabbas unto them and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.'

This is from one of the 'suffering servant" songs in Isaiah, interspersed with passages rejoicing at the return of the exiles from Babylon and praising Cyrus. He is endowed with God's spirit, but does not cry out or should aloud. He makes no resistance (to some unspecified attack). He speaks in the past tense, saying he had "offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who tore at my beard; I did not cover my face against insult and spittle." (50:5-6). He was called by God from the womb, "to bring Jacob back to him, to gather Israel to him."

Here he is described as healing "our wounds" through "his stripes" which dovetails nicely enough with the doctrine of Jesus as redeemer. Taken by force of law, torn away from the land of the living, given a grave with the wicked, he nevertheless "shall see his heirs, he shall have a long life" (53:8-10) This is the most seemingly relevant "prophesies" to the gospel account of Jesus' life and meaning. But it also sounds a lot like the Tammuz literature that praises that Babylonian god, who supposedly died a terrible death, is associated with the cross, and rose from the dead on the third day, resurrecting dead souls with him The Jews knew of this story (see Ezekiel 8:14).

7. Be sold for thirty pieces of silver

OT Prophecy: Zech 11:12 'And I said to him, If you think it is good in your sight, give me my wages... So they weighed out thirty pieces of silver for my price.'

NT Fulfillment Matt 26:15 'What will you give me if I deliver him unto you? And they agreed with him for thirty pieces of silver.'

Mark and Luke say Judas was given money; only Matthew mentions 30 pieces of silver. The passage in Zechariah is a complicated parable in which the prophet is likened to a shepherd offered an insultingly small wage (the price of a slave, 30 shekels, specified in the Laws of Moses) by his employer. The point is that the Jewish rulers are insulting Zechariah and therefore Yahweh. How this points towards Judas receiving that sum for betraying Jesus is not, to put it mildly, crystal clear.

8. Be spit upon and beaten

OT Prophecy: Isaiah 50:6 'I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked out my hair: I did not hide my face from the shame and spitting.'

NT Fulfillment Matt 26:67 'Then did they spit in his face, and hit him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands.'

Another citation of the "suffering servant" passages in Isaiah, alluding to forms of abuse that may occur in many contexts.

9. The betrayal money thrown in the temple and used for a potters field

OT Prophecy: Zech 11:13 'And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter that magnificent price at which I was valued by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the Lord.'

NT Fulfillment Matt 27:5-7 'And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple... And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter's field as a burial place for strangers.' This is a remarkable prophecy [comments the website editor] for it is God who says 'Cast it to the potter that magnificent (sarcasm!) price at which they valued me...' How could man put a price on God? It doesn't make sense until God Himself, Jesus Christ, came to earth and was valued and betrayed for exactly 30 pieces of silver!"

The elided passage here actually misquotes Zechariah, adding a passage about the purchase of a field from the book of Jeremiah (32:6-15). It's another of those appearing only in Matthew, who seems to want to show how the Old Testament has anticipated all his details.

10. Cast lots for Jesus' clothing

OT Prophecy: Psalm 22:18 'They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.'

NT Fulfillment Matt 27:35 'And when they had crucified Him, they divided up His garments among themselves by casting lots.'

This division of the clothes appears in all the gospels. So the psalm (not some passage from a prophet) miraculously describes Roman legionnaires' dice game while God dies. Remarkable indeed.

Interestingly this website doesn't mention a significant detail mentioned in Matthew and Luke (although not the other two): the virgin birth (Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:33-36). Only Matthew shows how this fulfills prophecy, citing Isaiah 7:14. But he misquotes it, saying that "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son" whereas Isaiah really says, "the maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son" in a context more related to the future of King Ahaz's house than to messianic prophecy. This "fulfilled prophecy" so central to Christian doctrine turns out to be due to a misunderstanding of the Hebrew word almah.

The End Times

What's true of prophecies pertaining to Jesus is true of prophecies pertaining to the present and future. Just as the gospel writers fit squares into round holes to "prove" that Jesus was the long expected messiah, so the religious fundamentalists today insist that it's clear as day that Israel's modern resurrection fulfills Old Testament prophecy. But those prophecies pertain mainly to the return after the Babylonian Captivity. Daniel predicts a revival of Israel after Hellenistic rule. But this is an historical novelette, written after the events it purports to predict. I find no Old Testament prophecy about Roman occupation, the Roman Diaspora, 2000 years of trials and tribulations, particularly in Europe, followed by a Zionist state displacing hundreds of thousands of Arabs. I suspect those who do find it because they want to so badly.

But there are Orthodox rabbis, who have a right to their opinions, who opine that the Jewish covenant with God involving a Jewish homeland in the original venue no longer pertains. As someone who doesn't believe in prophecy, period, I'd just like to call them to the Christian Zionists' attention. I'd also suggest one wonder why all this prophecy so excludes important events throughout the world. If one grants that normal fallible Jewish people wrote all of this stuff, it would make sense that the focus, past present and future, is on this relatively minor piece of real estate. (Not that the Jews weren't among the more cosmopolitan of ancient peoples, as their trade relationships from Spain to India attest, and as the presence of plausibly Jewish-descended peoples from Ethiopia to Burma also affirms.) But the focus is always on the land flowing with milk and honey, far from China or the Americas or places of otherwise greater interest. Why did the God who chose the Jews as his people not supply greater advance intelligence about events outside the world known to the chosen, and those who as Christians came to revere the Jewish scriptures? Is it not possible that "End Times" cheerleaders, fixated on Bush moves in the "Greater Middle East" will find themselves thrown for a loop when events in East Asia or elsewhere wholly unanticipated by Isaiah or Jeremiah produce a scenario inexplicable by Biblical references?

Puzzled, such people may consult the main text of specifically Christian Zionist millenarianism, the Book of Revelation. This is filled with enough vague symbology that those who seek will find at least some answers there. You can find all kinds of answers by learned idiots with websites claiming the Beast of that book (identified with the Antichrist) is some specific contemporary character, or that a place name therein refers to a particular contemporary nation. It is a strange book, unlike anything else in the New Testament, depicting Jesus as an avenger, ignoring the doctrine of the Trinity, so puzzling that Martin Luther seriously considered leaving it out of the German Bible. But basically what that book says, relevant to our topic, is that the tribes of Israel will be amassed in Jerusalem and that the select number who embrace Jesus Christ as their savior will be saved.
This is key. For the Christian fundamentalist's hope of hopes to be realized---to live through the Rapture---requires a Jewish state, which (thank you, Jesus!) we've had since 1948. And it requires a whole lot of horrific bloodshed before the peace that transcends all understanding descends on the earth.

Those seduced by this "End Times" scenario might at least, if inclined towards some critical reflection on the issue, ask the following:

1. Is it true that there was a lot of "apocalypse" literature written between 300 BCE and 200 CE by Jews and Christians, most of which nobody reads anymore?

2. Is it true that the author of the Book of Revelation is almost certainly not John the disciple of Jesus in the gospels?

3. Is it true that it's really mostly an expression of great hatred for the Roman Empire, persecuting Christians under Nero?

4. Is it true it was written at a time when Christians thought the Second Coming was right around the corner?

5. Is it true that it was written at a time when Christianity was in flux, without a center, a cluster of cults rather than a well-organized church with a clear unified theology?

6. Is it true that it almost didn't make it into the Bible, the composition of which wasn't settled until the fourth century by the Catholic Church and remained questionable in parts of the "Christian world" for centuries thereafter?

7. Is it true that the New Testament's "Antichrist" has been identified with dozens of people over the centuries, and that New and Old Testament prophecy has often been used politically, to rally people behind causes, and get them to hate and fear specific targets?

8. If the answer to most of the above is "yes" does it weaken your inclination to take the text literally, or support the political uses that the "End Times" religious publishing industry and propaganda machine want to promote? Specifically, an expanded war involving Syria and Iran with End Times believers in unquestioning support?

True enthusiasts find in scriptural prophecy what they want to see happen, and redouble their efforts to make it happen, to be on God's side. Or they justify contemporary realities as God's stated will. They often do so in defiance of common sense, to say nothing of historical perspective or critical reasoning. Inhabiting a closed mental world resistant to and frightened of science, they boast of their special arcane insight into unfolding events. Why bother with real issues (terror links, weapons of mass destruction, and lies about such things) when regime change in the Middle East under any pretext, pursued by a godly Christian man, will facilitate the great war in Israel that will usher in the Rapture?

Belief in Biblical prophecy surely provides hope and comfort for the believer, and I take no pleasure in attempting to subvert humble faith. But the belief in prophecy that justifies imperialist aggression, especially when joined to bull-headed support for an ignorant president who pompously fancies himself a "religious scholar" is frightening. More frightening than the beliefs that led Japanese religious fanatics to try to usher in the End Times by releasing sarin gas in the Tokyo subway ten years ago. One can't just shrug these off as the eccentric beliefs of a few gullible fools. They are powerful delusions wielded---as weapons of mass, apocalyptic destruction---by growing movements of highly motivated people. They have to be challenged, among other ways, by patient logic.

Comment: Let's turn the idea of prophecy on its head. We concur with Mr. Leupp that the fundamentalist Christians who pick and choose verses in the Bible to fit their doomsday scenario are engaging in trickery and not prophecy. They are picking and choosing from a huge reservoir of words to justify their beliefs. However, that should not exclude us from considering that there is in fact a message in the Bible addressed to us of extreme importance, one that deals with coming death and destruction. However, the "prediction" or the "prophesying" of such an event would have nothing supernatural about it if it was something that had happened before and our ancestors were attempting to warn us to be on the lookout for signs that it was set to come around yet again. In that case it would be a message in a bottle thrown out into the ocean of history, the writer hoping that someone would open the bottle and find the message in time to put the warning into effect.

Regular readers of this page are aware that we think that there is quite a bit of evidence that shows that such catastrophic events have occurred on a regular and cyclic basis for much if not all of the planet's history. There are cycles of smaller disasters where a region of the planet suffers the effects; there are cycles that are so large that most of the planet is affected, leading in some cases to mass extinctions, in others to the fall of great civilisations. Yesterday's page discussed the recurring mass extinctions shown in the geological record. So let us take as a working hypothesis that such disasters are regular (cycles of several thousands of years) and recurring.

If myth and tradition pass down to us the memory of such events, it is possible that generations previous to the last great catastrophe also left records of this type to their descendants, our ancestors, who then, realising the truth of the ancient warnings ensured the tradition continued to be passed on. Regardless of the scientific knowledge of a people, stories "predicting" or warning of such events indicate prior knowledge and prior experience. Whether or not the realisation that their ancestors must have experienced that same thing comes to a people before or after the event, it is likely that those remaining in the post-cataclysmic world would document as clearly as they could the signs of which we should be aware in order to keep alive the warning.

It may well be these signs that are the real "prophesies" of the Bible and other holy literature the world over, of the myths and legends that have come down to us. Over the centuries, they become obscured and rewritten to serve other ends. The prophecy may serve political ends and the "Beast" can be portrayed as the current political villain of the hour. As successive regimes come and go without bringing on the heralded apocalypse, the predictive quality of the text can fall into disrepute. However, that should not close our eyes to the possibility of a real danger, especially as the facts on the ground (or in the ground when it comes to earthquakes and volcanoes) must not be ignored. And, of course, the "prophecy" in the ancient texts must be matched against the latest scientific data in order to determine the probability of such a disaster in the near future.

One shouldn't cry wolf at every natural disaster. Not should one close one's eyes to a very real threat.

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America's shame, two years on from "Mission Accomplished"
by Robert Fisk
The 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 [2003], 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"? [...]

Comment: It is typical of the Culture if Filth that is the Bush Reich that Janet Karpinski, one of the few higher ranking individuals to speak out against the inhumane treatment of prisoners by the U.S. is the one who has been demoted and made a scapegoat for those who want to continue to abuse human rights.

Interesting that the Bible Bush and Co claim to believe in describes their activities... and their fate.

13:2 And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; [9-11?] and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.

And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.

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British memo: U.S. data manipulated for Iraq war
By Warren P. Strobel and John Walcott
Chicago Tribune
Published May 8, 2005

WASHINGTON -- A Michigan congressman is seeking more information from President Bush about a classified British memo, leaked during Britain's recent election campaign, that claims the president decided by summer 2002 to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and was determined to ensure that U.S. intelligence data supported his policy.

The memo, in which British foreign policy aide Matthew Rycroft summarized a July 23, 2002, meeting of Prime Minister Tony Blair with top security advisers, reports on a U.S. visit by Richard Dearlove, then head of Britain's MI-6 intelligence service.

The memo does not specify which Bush administration officials met with Dearlove.

The visit took place while the Bush administration was saying publicly that no decision had been made to go to war.

Rep. John Conyers, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, is circulating a letter asking Bush for an explanation, an aide said.

The MI-6 chief's account of his U.S. visit was paraphrased by the memo: "There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and [weapons of mass destruction]. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. ... There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."

No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion.

The White House repeatedly has denied accusations that intelligence estimates were manipulated.

The memo, first disclosed in full by the Sunday Times of London, hasn't been disavowed by the British government.

A White House official said the administration wouldn't comment on the document.

Comment: It seems this story was published by major US newspapers. Nevertheless, it has had no effect on Bush...

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In Britain, Iraq news that rolled off Bush damaged Blair severely
By Adam Nagourney
The New York Times
MONDAY, MAY 9, 2005

LONDON Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush were bound together in the war against Iraq, and the conflict provided a backdrop for their re-election campaigns - with its nightly images of casualties, shifting justifications for removing Saddam Hussein and waves of antiwar sentiment.

But as became clear on Friday after the British election, that is where the similarities ended. Six months after Bush won a second term by a comfortable enough margin to claim a mandate, Blair returned to No. 10 Downing Street visibly chastened. His party's delegation to Parliament was slashed by nearly 100 seats, a sobering setback that Blair's advisers attributed largely to his partnership with Bush in advocating the war.

In the American campaign, Bush arguably succeeded in turning the war into an electoral asset, linking the pursuit of Saddam to the fight against terrorism that he began after the Sept. 11 attacks. Even the failure to find prohibited weapons and the continuing spasms of violence in Iraq seemed not to matter to American voters, to the frustration of Senator John Kerry, his Democratic opponent.

Comment: Not very likely. It is clear that Bush's control of the media and judiciary, gave him the means and confidence to literally steal an election by fraud. Obviously, Blair does not have the same control over Britain. THAT's the real reason.

Blair's situation could not have been more different. His campaign became gripped and battered in the final two weeks by the very kind of Iraq news that seemed to roll off Bush: The death of a British soldier, the appearance of the dead soldier's tearful mother denouncing Blair and orchestrated leaks of government documents that challenged the truthfulness of the case he had made for war.

Comment: Again we see the evidence that Bush's control of the media in the U.S. - a media, that we should point out, belongs largely to Israelis - is the difference that makes the difference.

"The leak of documents really created an Iraqi firestorm that shifted a lot of voters," said Mark Penn, an American pollster working for Blair. "It brought back a protest on Iraq that had died down."

Comment: Because the media gave it considerable coverage. The media in the U.S. has still not given this matter the coverage it deserves.

The reason for the divergence was plainly the gulf between the United States and Europe over Iraq.

Comment: No, the divergence is plainly due to the Zionist control of the American media in cahoots with the Bush Reich.

There has been no recent terrorist attack on British soil, so the visceral argument that Bush made to American audiences for invading Iraq is far less potent in Britain. "Britain wasn't attacked in September of 2001," said Daniel Finkelstein, the associate editor of The Times of London and a former Conservative Party official.

"It has a different attitude to the war on terror."

Comment: Different levels of control of the media.

This campaign also took place six months after the American elections, a period in which frustration among opponents of the war has grown in Britain.

"The troops are still there and are still being killed - there's no endgame here," said Christopher Bailey, a professor of politics at Keele University in Staffordshire.

From the outset, antiwar sentiment in Britain has been deeper than in the United States: A demonstration in February 2003 drew one million people in London alone. And many of those protesters were members of Blair's Labour Party, an indication of the considerable risk that Blair took in embracing the war, which had the effect of pitting him against his own base.

Blair received an unsettling reminder of that at what should have been a happier moment: when he was officially informed that he been re-elected to Parliament. This is part of a sometimes humiliating election night custom here, in which all the candidates for a seat stand on stage in front of television cameras to listen to the announcement of the vote count.

Comment: Gee, it would be great if Bush had to stand on a stage in front of television cameras after a legitimate election in the U.S.

One of Blair's opponents in his constituency was Reg Keys, whose son had died in Iraq. "I hope in my heart that one day the prime minister may be able to say, 'I'm sorry,"' Keys said as an ashen Blair stared straight ahead.

Beyond that, polling showed that a sizable number of Americans thought that Saddam had been involved in the attack on the World Trade Center, a perception that the White House did not go out of its way to debunk. That suggestion is viewed with much more skepticism in Britain by a public that is wary of the United States in general and Bush in particular, political analysts said.

Comment: Again we note that the foundational reason for this is due to the Zionist control of the media in the U.S.

So one of the reasons the resurgence of Iraq news might have hurt Blair was that it reminded Britons of an alliance that Blair would just as soon they forget: Labour Party officials said their polling showed that Bush was highly unpopular in Britain. An Election Day cartoon in The Guardian read: "Vote Labour Today and Wake Up with George Bush."

Comment: And why were the Britons being reminded? Because the truth was being published, something that rarely happens in the U.S. these days.

Stanley Greenberg, a pollster advising the Labour Party, said: "Iraq was a unique event here because Blair owned it - he owned it together with George Bush, who is immensely unpopular here. If you look back at this campaign, it was this continuing growing concern about Iraq. Why not apologize? Why not explain?"

Bush and Blair did share one bit of political luck, drawing principal opponents who could not cash in on the war. Both Michael Howard, the Conservative Party leader, and Kerry had voted for the war. As a result, both men often had to strain to figure out ways to criticize their opponents on the issue.

But there was one crucial difference that presented Blair with his biggest problem. In Britain, there was a credible choice for opponents of the war - the antiwar Liberal Democrats. Those third-party candidates siphoned off Labour Party voters, accounting for much of the party's losses, Blair's advisers said.

"If the Lib Dems were not sitting there as an attractive and temporary alternative, would these same voters have gone over to the Tories?" Penn asked. "There was a place for them to go. And then the opportunity was created by the firestorm that was lit."

Comment: Unfortunately, because of the Zionist control of the media and MOSSAD blackmail activities vis a vis members of the American Congress, there were no viable alternatives in the U.S. election. John Kerry was quite simply a "straw man" who agreed to play his part as "token opposition" in order to create the illusion of a "democratic election."

Tony Travers, a political analyst with the London School of Economics, said that ultimately what was so damaging about this for Blair was that it came at a time when the public had already grown weary and mistrustful of him.

Comment: America is also weary and mistrustful of Bush, you just don't hear about it in the Zionist controlled media, nor does anyone really dare to stand up against Bush (even if they could) due to his control of the judiciary.

"Iraq came along at the right time to provide a lightning rod and erode trust," he said. "The Iraq issue acted as a lightning rod for a more general sense of disenchantment."

Comment: It's really amazing that this writer talks all around the issue and doesn't seem to get the point.

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THE MEMO is the final straw: Bush and Blair must be prosecuted
Ben Frank
Monday 9th May 2005

THE MEMO is the final straw.

We're not talking circumstantial evidence anymore. It is now verified fact that George Bush and Tony Blair agreed to go to war in early 2002, and that they "fixed the facts" to make the case for war. If this isn't a case for impeachment, then nothing is.

What facts did they fix?

John Conyers highlighted these key facts from The Memo :

  • Prime Minister Tony Blair chaired a July 2002 meeting, at which he discussed military options, having already committed himself to supporting President Bush's plans for invading Iraq.
  • British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw acknowledged that the case for war was "thin" as "Saddam was not threatening his neighbours and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea, or Iran."
  • A separate secret briefing for the meeting said that Britain and America had to "create" conditions to justify a war.
  • A British official "reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Greg Palast: Read that again: "The intelligence and facts were being fixed...." For years, after each damning report on BBC TV, "Isn't this grounds for impeachment?" Vote rigging, a blind eye to terror and the bin Ladens before 9-11, and so on. Evil, stupidity and self-dealing are shameful but not impeachable. What's needed is a "high crime or misdemeanor." And if this ain't it, nothing is.

Ray McGovern: The intelligence was not simply mistaken; it was manufactured, with the president of the United States awarding foreman George Tenet the Medal of Freedom for his role in helping supervise the deceit. The Bri tish documents make clear that this was not a mere case of "leaning forward" in analyzing the intelligence, but rather mass deception-an order of magnitude more serious. No other conclusion is now possible.

Michael Rivero: No magazine puff-piece, no comic book, no movie can make America look great if, when the time calls for it, Americans fail to be a great people. Great people are willing to stand up to a government gone wr ong, to force their government to be truthful and honest and moral. Great people know that freedom is impossible under a government that lies because lies are tools of enslavement, and that chains built of false beliefs h old slaves tighter than chains made of steel. Slaves will cower before a government they know lies to them, bless the face that lies to them, and ask for more. And now the world watches to see if Americans are a great peo ple, or just slaves living under the delusion they are a free people. Free men or slaves. Time to choose. The whole world is watching.

William Rivers Pitt: 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.

Cindy Sheehan: Ask your Congressman to introduce and/or support Articles of Impeachment for Bush and Cheney. It is the only moral thing to do to try and stop these immoral people who are waging an immoral war.

Articles of Impeachment:

Article 1.

In his conduct while President of the United States, George Walker Bush, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve , protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in disregard of his constitutional duties as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of the United States and to take care that the laws be faithfully execute d, willfully, knowingly and without lawful cause or excuse made false, misleading and deceitful statements to the Congress regarding evidence justifying military action against Iraq.

Article 2.

In his conduct... [Bush] actively participated in a conspiracy with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to mislead and deceive Congress and the Parliament of the United Kingdom regarding evidence justifying military action against Iraq.

There are more - but do you really need more?

It is time to apply intense pressure to every member Congress: Vote for impeachment or you will go to prison right alongside the war criminals. Failing one's sworn duty to uphold and defend The Constitution is TREASON. Make no mistake about it, the evidence calls for impeachment.

Comment: Impeachment is hardly likely to happen no matter what the American people think or say or do. Keep in mind that the Bush Reich has control of the judiciary and the media, which means that no one can touch them.

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At Least 71 die in Iraqi suicide bombings

Wednesday 11 May 2005

A series of attacks in Iraq has killed at least 71 people and wounded at least 133.

A car bomb exploded in a small market near a police station in Tikrit, killing at least 31 people and wounding 70, a police officer said.

Police Lieutenant-Colonel Saad Daham said when security forces prevented the attacker from exploding the vehicle in front of the station in Saddam Hussein's hometown on Wednesday, he swerved into a crowd of people at the nearby market.

It was 7.15am (0315 GMT), and many day labourers who had travelled to Tikrit from poorer areas of Iraq were waiting at the market to be picked up for work at local construction sites, Daham said.

At Tikrit general hospital, Dr Faisal Mahmud said the facility was too small to handle so many casualties.

Tikrit, 130km north of Baghdad, has been the scene of growing unrest since the US-led invasion of Iraq more than two years ago.

Recruits targeted

Also on Wednesday, a man with explosives hidden under his clothes set them off while standing in a line of job applicants waiting outside a police and army recruitment centre in northern Iraq, killing 30 people and wounding 35, police said.

"I was standing near the centre and all of a sudden it turned into a scene of dead bodies and pools of blood"

Police first thought the powerful blast in Hawija, a small town 240km north of Baghdad, was caused by a car bomb, but police Major Sarhad Qadir later said they found it was an attacker waiting in a line of about 150 recruits.

"I was standing near the centre and all of a sudden it turned into a scene of dead bodies and pools of blood," said police Sergeant Khalaf Abbas. "Windows were blown out in nearby houses, leaving the street covered by glass." [...]

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Soaring birth deformities and child cancer rates in Iraq
James Cogan – May 10, 2005

Iraqi doctors are making renewed efforts to bring to the world’s attention the growth in birth deformities and cancer rates among the country’s children. The medical crisis is being directly blamed on the widespread use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions by the US and British forces in southern Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War, and the even greater use of DU during the 2003 invasion.

The rate of birth defects, after increasing ten-fold from 11 per 100,000 births in 1989 to 116 per 100,000 in 2001, is soaring further. Dr Nawar Ali, a medical researcher into birth deformities at Baghdad University, told the UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) last month: “There have been 650 cases [birth deformities] in total since August 2003 reported in government hospitals. That is a 20 percent increase from the previous regime. Private hospitals were not included in the study, so the number could be higher.”

His colleague, Dr Ibrahim al-Jabouri, reported: “In my experiments we have found some cases where the mother and father were suffering from pollution from weapons used in the south and we believe that it is affecting newborn babies in the country.”

The director of the Central Teaching Hospital in Baghdad, Wathiq Ibrahim, said: “We have asked for help from the government to make a more profound study on such cases as it is affecting thousands of families.”

The rise in birth defects is matched by a continuing increase in the incidence of childhood cancers.

Six years ago, the College of Medicine at Basra University carried out a study into the rate of cancer among children under the age of 15 in southern Iraq from 1976 to 1999. It revealed a horrific change between 1990 and 1999. In the province of Basra, the incidence of cancer of all types rose by 242 percent, while the rate of leukaemia among children rose 100 percent. Children living in the area were falling ill with cancer at the rate of 10.1 per 100,000. In districts where the use of DU had been the most concentrated, the rate rose to 13.2 per 100,000.

The results were cited at the time in campaigns to end the UN-imposed and US-enforced sanctions against Iraq, which were held responsible for the death of as many as 500,000 Iraqi children from malnutrition and inadequate medical treatment.

The study noted: “Most doctors and scientists agree that even mild radiation is dangerous and increases the risk of cancer. The health risk becomes much greater once the [DU] projectile has been fired. After they have been fired, the broken shells release uranium particles. The airborne particles enter the body easily. The uranium then deposits itself in bones, organs and cells. Children are especially vulnerable because their cells divide rapidly as they grow. In pregnant women, absorbed uranium can cross the placenta into the bloodstream of the foetus.

“In addition to its radioactive dangers, uranium is chemically toxic, like lead, and can damage the kidneys and lungs. Perhaps, the fatal epidemic of swollen abdomens among Iraqi children is caused by kidney failure resulting from uranium poisoning. Whatever the effect of the DU shells, it is made worse by malnutrition and poor health conditions....

“Iraq holds the United States and Britain legally and morally responsible for the grave health and environmental impact of the use of DU ...” (A version of the report is available at:

Terrible as these results were, the last six years have witnessed a further rise in the number of children under 15 falling ill with cancer in Iraq. The rate has now reached 22.4 per 100,000—more than five times the 1990 rate of 3.98 per 100,000.

Dr Janan Hassan of the Basra Maternity and Childrens Hospital told IRIN in November 2004 that as many as 56 percent of all cancer patients in Iraq were now children under 5, compared with just 13 percent 15 years earlier. “Also,” he said, “it is notable that the number of babies born with defects is rising astonishingly. In 1990, there were seven cases of babies born with multiple congenital anomalies. This has gone up to as high as 224 cases in the past three years.”

The statistics point to the long-term consequences of depleted uranium contamination. Munitions containing an estimated 300 tonnes of DU were unleashed by coalition forces in southern Iraq in 1991. A decade after the war, DU shell holes are still 1,000 times more radioactive than the normal level of background radiation. The surrounding areas are still 100 times more radioactive. Experts surmise that fine uranium dust has been spread by the wind, contaminating swathes of the surrounding region, including Basra, which is some 200 kilometres away from sites where large numbers of DU shells were fired.

A 1997 study into the cancer rate among Iraqi soldiers who fought in the Basra area during the 1991 Gulf War found a statistically significant increase in the rate at which they were stricken with lymphomas, leukaemia, and lung, brain, gastrointestinal, bone and liver cancers, as compared to personnel who had not fought in the south. One in four of the American personnel who fought in first Iraq war—more than 150,000 people—are also suffering a range of medical disorders collectively described as “Gulf War Syndrome”. While the US military denies there is any relationship, exposure to depleted uranium is one of the factors blamed by veterans and medical researchers.

Somewhere between 1,000 and 3,000 tonnes of DU was expended during the three-week war in 2003. Unlike 1991, however, where most of the fighting took place outside major population centres, the 2003 invasion witnessed the wholesale bombardment of targets inside densely-populated cities with DU shells. Christian Science Monitor journalist Scott Peterson registered radiation on a simple Geiger counter at levels some 1,900 times the normal background rate in parts of Baghdad in May 2003. The city has a population of six million.

Given that it was two to four years after the 1991 war before cancer and birth defect rates began to rise dramatically, the fear among medical specialists is that Iraq will face an epidemic of cancers by the end of the decade, under conditions where the medical system, devastated by years of sanctions and war, is unable to cope with the existing crisis.

Dr Amar, the deputy head of the Al-Sadr Teaching Hospital in Basra, one of the main hospitals treating Iraqi cancer patients, told the Sydney Morning Herald on April 29: “We don’t have drugs to treat tumours. I have a patient with tumours who is unconscious and I don’t have drugs or a bed in which to treat him. I have two women with advanced ovarian cancer but I can give them only minimum doses of only some of the drugs they need.

“Two or three days ago we had to cancel all surgery because we had no gauze and no anaesthetics. Our wards are like stables for horses, not humans. We can’t properly isolate patients or manage their diets. We don’t have proper laboratory facilities....

“If you are sick don’t come to this hospital for treatment. It is collapsing around us. We’re going down in a heap.”

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King of Jordan to pardon Iraq's deputy PM over $300m bank fraud
By Patrick Cockburn in Baghdad
11 May 2005

King Abdullah of Jordan has agreed to pardon Ahmed Chalabi, the controversial Iraqi political leader, who was sentenced to 22 years in prison for fraud after his bank collapsed with $300m (£160m) in missing deposits in 1989.

Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi President, asked the king to resolve the differences between Jordan and Mr Chalabi, now Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, during a visit to Amman this week. [...]

Comment: It you ever wondered why some people are attracted to political office, now you know. Steal $300m from the Jordanian people. Run away when caught. Get yourself appointed as Iraqi deputy PM by your friends in the White House. Receive a pardon for your crimes.

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An Honest Tampa Tribune?

Al-Arian's attorneys say that would be a good idea

Tampa Tribune news boss Janet Weaver had to eat crow last week: A reporter had fantasized part of a story on towing companies. The scribe's head is now spiked as a warning to other Tribfolk.

Weaver, in a front page mea culpa, declared that her newspaper longs "to be truthful, to be fair, to be credible." Passing off fiction as fact is certainly untruthful. Carrying water for, say, a foreign government and its disinformation agents -- while claiming objectivity -- is likewise dishonest. So is not reporting all of the truth or distorting the truth.

Weaver and her predecessors have never told readers about reporter Michael Fechter's journalistically unholy alliance with another nation's spooks and professional liars -- including, as I've disclosed, that Israeli officials were broadcasting specifics of Fechter's reporting weeks before publication.

Nor did Weaver address the Trib's most enduring example of distortion, Fechter's coverage of Sami Al-Arian. If she had, she would have had to explain a motion filed for the Trib on April 20 by attorney Gregg Thomas. The newspaper has somehow overlooked reporting on its own legal foray.

The motion seeks access to juror questionnaires in the Al-Arian case. "The public perception of these defendants, indeed of entire ethnicities and religions, reflected in these responses, is of immense public importance," Thomas intoned.

Al-Arian's defense filed a motion for a change of venue on Friday. It argues that the media -- the Trib and Fechter most egregiously -- have poisoned public perceptions of Arabs, Muslims and Al-Arian, who along with three codefendants, is slated for trial later this month.

The prosecution would love nothing better than to seat a jury from among the 500 prospects mailed questionnaires. Despite response after response reflecting extraordinary prejudice against Arabs and Muslims, and an equally extraordinary ignorance of facts, the government will argue that jurors can be fair.

The change-of-venue motion states: "[T]he Tampa Tribune, has saturated the community to the extent it is impossible to sit a fair impartial jury in this case. At the forefront of the publicity is the notion that somehow the community ... was unsafe because of the presence of Sami Al-Arian."

Certainly, the content of the questionnaires is relevant to any coverage of the trial. But the Trib's coverage is itself likely to be brought up in court. Al-Arian's defense attorneys have asserted to me that Thomas' motion to gain access to the questionnaires was more about gaining intelligence for the paper's own damage control than about acquiring background for a news report.

"The Trib has a long history of trying to get Dr. Al-Arian," defense attorney Linda Moreno told me -- at a recent dinner where the Trib editor overseeing Al-Arian coverage was present. That editor, Tampa newcomer Howard Altman, wasn't amused that Moreno had invited me to join the dinner. He asked that his comments remain off the record, and I'll honor that. Moreno made no such request.

Moreno told me that when she asked Altman about his feelings on the Middle East, he responded that he was disturbed that "my people are occupiers." That objectivity is commendable, and Altman has a record for fairness (although I couldn't find anything significant by him on the Arab-Israeli dispute). However, with the Trib already accused of a stridently pro-Israeli bias, it's easy to understand Moreno's concern over Altman's personal identification with one side. Could one even imagine -- at the Trib or any major American news organization -- turning over supervision of Middle East coverage to a journalist who proclaimed that Palestinians were "my people"? (Altman, in a later conversation at the dinner, did not dispute Moreno's characterization of his remarks; his exact response was believable, passionate and eloquent, but off the record.)

According to Moreno, Altman asked to speak with her because the newspaper wanted to secure an interview with Al-Arian; the newspaper is planning a series on Al-Arian to be written by Fechter. But the interview ain't gonna happen. The defense won't talk to Fechter. And Al-Arian's team is wise to the Trib's disingenuous tactic of fielding other reporters to act as Fechter's go-between.

As The Miami Herald's senior writer, Martin Merzer, noted seven years ago, Fechter has routinely ignored "innocent" interpretations of events and consistently suggested "extremely dark forces were on the prowl in Tampa." When a federal immigration judge five years ago ruled that the feds had no case, and the government decided to drop the Al-Arian persecution (and released his brother-in-law, held for four years on "secret evidence"), Israel cranked up "intelligence" funneled through Fechter, and that led to the current case. Fechter also, according to producers for Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, slipped a highly one-sided account of Al-Arian to the network. That led to an O'Reilly ambush of Al-Arian, who had been enticed to the show to talk about Arab attitudes.

Fechter and his mentor, Israeli disinfo operative Steve Emerson (whose lies, deceptions, associates and funding have never been explored by the Trib), are glaringly obvious on where they side in the dispute.

The prosecutors, too. They want to eliminate all mention from the trial that Palestinians might have a grievance -- such as during 2004 Palestinian children were murdered at a rate 22 times greater than Israeli children, although media coverage, according to one study, rendered three times more space to the Israeli deaths.

Or: Israel recently honored nine of its agents who, in what is dubbed the Lavon Affair, in 1954 committed terrorist acts against American and British targets in Egypt - with the intent of blaming the atrocities on Arabs. By comparison, Al-Arian and the groups he is charged with supporting have never targeted American interests. You won't read about the Lavon Affair "honors" in the Trib (or the St. Petersburg Times for that matter).

I have long detailed Fechter's journalistic jihad. Just one example: When a Middle East newspaper retracted an entire story in the late '90s that had claimed one of Al-Arian's associates belonged to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Fechter went on citing the story as proof of the membership. When I asked Fechter why he quoted a story whose authors had admitted it was false, he said that they hadn't specified exactly which portions were untrue.

The venue motion refers to the origin of Fechter's reporting, his account right after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that maladroitly tried to link the incident to Al-Arian. The Trib has never corrected that awful falsehood.

Janet Weaver disputes the Al-Arian defense team notion that the paper sought the jury questionnaires for "damage control."

"We don't have any damage control we need to do," she said on Monday. But Weaver would not comment on questions about why the Trib's April 20 motion had not yet been reported, or on the Trib's past and future coverage of Al-Arian.

She should hire an independent ombudsman, or, even better, an Arab journalist to balance Fechter's coverage. But that's not likely to happen -- leaving Weaver with a big job restoring credibility to her newspaper.

For more on John Sugg's coverage of the Al-Arian case, see:

Group Senior Editor John Sugg can be reached at 404-614-1241 or at

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Bloggers strike back
Associated Press
Monday, May 9, 2005

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Bloggers - those Internet-based writers without rules - are fighting back against criticism that their work is unreliable, libellous or just poorly done.

More than 300 bloggers came to town Friday for a two-day conference that was heavy on teaching techniques used by journalists in what bloggers term "the mainstream media." One class taught students how to access and analyze government statistics.

Conference organizer Bill Hobbs called blogging "citizen journalism."

"If freedom of the press belongs to those who have the press, then blogging expands ownership of the press," Hobbs said.

Right now, more than 8-million people write blogs, said Bob Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association. Blogs, short for Web logs, are running commentaries on whatever their authors are interested in. Content often focuses on politics or media criticism and usually includes feedback from readers.

Participants such as Shelley Henderson said they want to expand their research capabilities to strengthen their commentaries. Henderson, of Los Angeles, dedicates her blog to keeping the Internet unregulated.

Blake Wylie of Nashville was among the participants who took exception to criticisms from politicians and mainstream media pundits that their work is often inaccurate.

Wylie said bloggers often provide links to let readers go directly to their sources of information.

Hobbs noted that blogs entries are corrected more thoroughly and prominently than in other forms of media.

"We write and then our readers edit us," Hobbs said.

Linda Seebach, a columnist for The Rocky Mountain News, said traditional media outlets are experimenting with involving bloggers in their news reports. Her newspaper this week launched a series of 40 community-oriented blogs to serve the Denver area.

Hobbs said bloggers and the news media are linked because bloggers use them for source material and that the relationship could grow closer.

The prevalence of blogs seems certain to expand even more as people explore ventures such as global blogger news services. Hobbs said the usefulness of such projects was shown when the Indian Ocean tsunami struck last year and some early accounts and pictures from the area came from bloggers.

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Aid to Christian School In Alaska Spurs Lawsuit
By Brian Faler
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, May 9, 2005; Page A21

There are those who complain that Congress does not care about the concerns of the little guy. But those people do not attend Alaska Christian College.

The school, founded five years ago and affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church, has 37 students. It is not accredited and does not grant degrees. It offers, instead, certificates in biblical studies at the end of a student's first year and certificates in biblical and general studies to those who complete a second. Over the past two years, Congress has given the school more than $1 million.

That amounts to a significant chunk of the school's annual operating budget, although its president declined to say exactly how much. It is also an unusually large amount of federal aid for a school its size, some outside education policy experts said. It has proved enough to attract critics -- more critics, perhaps, than the school has students -- who complain that the school is a thoroughly religious institution that, by law, is not eligible to receive the money.

The Anchorage Daily News criticized the appropriations last year, writing in an editorial that "Alaska's congressional delegation might just as well have put a $1 million check in the church collection plate." The American Civil Liberties Union is looking into the case. But the school's most important critics these days are 3,600 miles away in Wisconsin, where the Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation is suing the Education Department to rescind the funding.

The advocacy group, which supports maintaining a strict separation between church and state, contends in a lawsuit filed last month that the subsidies amount to an unconstitutional government endorsement of a religion. The government is allowed to give money to schools with religious affiliations. But the money must be used for secular purposes -- which, the group contends, the Alaska school does not have.

"It has no purpose except to proselytize. It is not, truly, a college. It doesn't even offer math or English," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, the group's co-president. "We have something called the separation of church and state, and that is what they are violating with this kind of appropriation."

ACC President Keith Hamilton rejected those complaints, pointing to the school's course offerings -- choir, physical education, a class in leadership -- that he said have little to do with religion. He also said the school, which is predominantly Native American and has applied for accreditation beginning in 2007, helps students make the transition from high school to college.

"It's essentially a Christian college, not a Bible school," he said. "Bible schools traditionally only teach Bible courses. We're broader than that."

Comment: Yeah, right. We have to wonder about the choir and leadership courses that Hamilton claims have little to do with religion. To be fair, it is difficult to see how religion could be easily integrated into a physical education course...

The fact remains that Congress approved $1 million in funding for a school that is not accredited and doesn't even offer degrees. Congress doesn't just give any "school" $1 million dollars at the drop of a hat.

The money has come in chunks, the most recent of which -- $430,000 -- was buried in a catch-all spending bill Congress approved last year. That money came out of the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, an obscure government program.

But in recent years, the fund has been increasingly used to pay for lawmakers' earmarks -- also known as pork -- to benefit schools back home. The Education Department said it would forgo the annual competition this year, saying lawmakers did not give the program enough money to cover their earmarks, the financial commitments to previous, multiyear projects and a new round of grants.

Some experts bemoan the trend toward earmarks, contending that the money is now granted according to connections rather than merit. Lawmakers say they know constituents' needs better than officials in Washington.

A spokesman for Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who took credit in a November news release for finding the $430,000 for ACC, did not return calls seeking comment. The Education Department also declined to comment on the suit.

Comment: This will show, again, that there is NOT a "majority" of Americans who support the fanatic fringe religionist right. It also points out how the Bush Reich's puppets in Congress have been funneling funds needed desperately by REAL schools and social services into totally bogus fanatic fringe "religious" venues.

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United Air Wins Right to Default on Its Employee Pension Plans
The New York Times
May 11, 2005

United Airlines, which is operating in bankruptcy protection, received court permission yesterday to terminate its four employee pension plans, setting off the largest pension default in the three decades that the government has guaranteed pensions.

The ruling by Judge Eugene R. Wedoff of Federal Bankruptcy Court came after a lengthy hearing in a crowded Chicago courtroom, near where United is based.

Despite pleas by union lawyers, Judge Wedoff sided with United, which had insisted that it could not emerge from bankruptcy protection with its pension plans in place.

The ruling releases United, a unit of the UAL Corporation, from $3.2 billion in pension obligations over the next five years. The federal agency that guarantees pensions, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, will assume responsibility for the plans, which cover about 134,000 people.

Some retirees could see sharply lower pension payments as a result; others will see little change in benefits, depending on a variety of factors. Some retirees at US Airways, which has terminated its plans, have seen benefits drop by as much as 50 percent.

The airline, which has been in bankruptcy protection since December 2002, has been pushing to end its pensions since losing its bid for a federal loan package last year. But unions representing United's employees fought the action, threatening to strike if the pensions were set aside.

Along with raising that prospect, the action has significant implications for the airline industry, which has lost more than $30 billion since 2000, and perhaps for other industries like automobiles, with similarly heavy legacy costs.

Comment: Yes, indeedy. Many are predicting that the recent change in GM's rating to junk status will have far-reaching and devastating effects on the US economy. Perhaps we are witnessing the beginning of the crash...

Analysts have predicted that if United won its case, there could be a domino effect as other airlines are forced to seek bankruptcy protection to bring their pension costs down to United's levels.

That move would probably swamp the pension agency, which was created in 1974.

"It's a scale, and this is another weight on the side of the scale that puts pressure on the other airlines to follow in United's footsteps," said Gary M. Ford, a lawyer specializing in pension and bankruptcy issues at the Groom Law Group who is representing some of the other large airlines. "The question is, Do you want to just watch this movie again, or is Congress going to act in a way that would make these plans affordable for the remaining carriers?"

Legislation has been introduced in Congress that would allow major airlines to stretch out $20 billion in unpaid pension liabilities over 25 years, but the measure's future is uncertain.

US Airways, which is under court protection for the second time since 2002, terminated the last of its pension plans earlier this year. As a result, the federal government has taken over the responsibility to pay US Airways' current and future retirees $3 billion worth of benefits.

And Delta Air Lines disclosed yesterday that it might have to seek bankruptcy protection if it is not able to renegotiate terms of more than $600 million in loans, or if its cash reserves dwindle. It also said it expected a significant loss for 2005. The disclosure, made in a securities filing, caused a 10 percent decline in Delta stock.

Although the ruling freed United from $3.2 billion in pension contributions over five years, even that amount would not fully finance the plan. If United had been able to pay it, the amount would have simply brought it into compliance. The government measures United's pension shortfall at close to $9.8 billion. [...]

"It's a hammer blow to thousands of retirees who will have to somehow make do with lower pension checks," said Joseph Tiberi, a spokesman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. "The promises United made to them are worthless,"

Mr. Tiberi said his union would appeal the judge's decision.

But Judge Wedoff, speaking to a courtroom packed with United employees and retirees, said the move was unavoidable.

"The least bad of the available choices here," the judge said, "has got to be the one that keeps an airline functioning, that keeps employees being paid."

United, meanwhile, called the action an important step in its bid to restructure.

The termination at United is nearly three times the size of the 2002 default by Bethlehem Steel.

Last month, United reached agreement with the agency on a $1.5 billion plan that would give the agency a stake in United, along with other debt, when the airline emerges from bankruptcy protection.

In return, the agency would assume the pension plans. The agency had already moved to take control of two of the four pension plans after United stopped making its legally required contributions last summer. United said that it needed to terminate the plans to attract the financing it needs to leave bankruptcy protection, but it had been trying to time the terminations to get the maximum possible insurance coverage from the agency. That prompted the agency to intervene.

But sending the plans to the federal government could be difficult if labor strife erupts. Flight attendants have threatened to start unannounced strikes against United, while the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association also warned it might stage walkouts. Members of the machinists union are completing a vote on whether to support a strike, with results expected today.

The company contends any strikes would be illegal because the rest of the workers' labor agreements remain in effect. Airline workers are covered by the federal Railway Labor Act, which forbids them to strike as long as labor agreements are in place. Wages and benefits for workers at United have been cut twice while United has been in reorganization. [...]

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RIA Novosti

MOSCOW, May 10 - The Soviet Union could not occupy the Baltic states in 1941 because they acceded to it in 1940, Russian President Vladimir Putin replied to an Estonian journalist during a press conference following the Russia-EU summit meeting in Moscow. Thus, "the Soviet Union could not occupy them in 1941 because they were part of it," Putin said.

Vladimir Putin believes the resolution by the Congress of the People's Deputies of 1989 denouncing the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact settled the issue.

"What else can we say about that more precisely and unambiguously? Or do you want us to do so [denounce the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact] every year? We believe the matter has been closed. It was denounced, and that's enough," the Russian president said.

The Estonian reporter asked him in Russian why Russia did not want to apologize for the alleged occupation of the Baltic states.

"You speak Russian so well that I am certain you can read in Russian as well. Please, read the resolution of the Congress of the People's Deputies where it is written in black and white: "The Congress of the People's Deputies is denouncing the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and regards it as legally invalid. It did not reflect the opinion of the Soviet people and was a personal matter of Stalin and Hitler," Putin said.

"We should not allow the dead to grab us by our sleeves, preventing us from moving ahead," he stated.

Putin said that there had been the Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk concluded in 1918, which was "essentially, a collusion between Germany and Russia."

"This is what the Estonian statehood dates back to," the president said.

"At the time, Russia had to give part of its territory to Germany," Putin said, and in 1939 "there was another collusion between Russia and Germany, and Germany returned the territory to Russia," Putin said.

He reasserted that he considered the events to be "a collusion, in which small states and small peoples became small change."

"Whether it was good or bad, let us drop the subject. It was a historic fact just like the use of slave labor in America was," the president said.

Comment: Ole Vlad can sure stick it to the Yanks when he sets his mind to it. He may yet earn the nickname Vlad the Impaler if he keeps up the digs at the current rate.

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RIA Novosti

MOSCOW, May 11 - Although 60 years have passed since the end of the Great Patriotic War (WWII), people still dispute the price of victory.

In an interview published in today's Rossiiskaya Gazeta, a pro-governmental daily, political scientist Leonid Radzikhovsky says if Stalin had not been ruling Russia then, the country would not have lost nearly 30 million people, but neither would it have won the war.

The colossal contribution made by Stalin (meaning his party and system) to victory is obvious. The phrase, "The people won without Stalin," is emotionally colored but senseless. The people clearly fought, but they were organized and guided from above.

Four dead Soviet soldiers per one German (the Germans lost 3,200,000 on all fronts) or ten dead Soviet citizens per one German soldier - this was Stalin's war and victory. And this did not represent the "price" for Stalin's mistakes but the material form of the logic, the ideology and the very "anthropology" of Stalinism-Bolshevism, for which the death of one man was a tragedy, but the death of millions were statistics.

The Bolshevik-Stalinist state machine was created to fight wars, both internal and external. After Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union, the Stalinist state continued to fight against its own people. About a million men and officers were shot by special departments and tribunals on the front. The state used absolutely identical methods to fight the enemy and its own people; it was a total war waged by a totalitarian state. Complaining that "Stalin did not spare soldiers" is senseless. When people are crushed into dust in hard labor camps, the losses of "dust" are not counted.

The Stalinist leadership did not think about the price of victory; by their logic, 30 million lives was not a high price. Could the country have won otherwise? No, not against Hitler. The Germans crushed Europe because Europe spared its soldiers. This is why if Stalin had not ruled the Soviet Union and the 30 million lives had not been lost in that war, the country would not have won it.

So, the Stalinist system saved the world from a worse fate.

Comment: Trouble is, many Americans and right-wingers in Europe and elsewhere think that fascism wasn't a worse choice than communism. That's why they have never given up the crusade. The forces at work in the US at the moment, represented by the Bush crime family as they are so lovingly known by many on the Internet, were financing Hitler and National Socialism and made certain that many thousands of Nazis made it to America after the war as part of Project Paperclip where they were able to pick up where they left off, only this time with the world's fastest expanding economy.

Many people would not object to an openly fascist government in the United States, as long as they could continue living their lives as before. What happens to dissidents and those defending freedom of speech doesn't matter as long as they can hold a job, pay the bills, down a few brewski every night or play with the kids.

The final point made in this article is interesting because, for all of the empty appeals to democracy we hear in the US, in Europe, and in the corporatist press, most people would rather live as slaves than fight to be free. Fighting is such a hassle. And it is dangerous! This is as true for defending the freedoms heralded by the 18th Century Enlightenment as compared with living under a fascist state as it is for higher, spiritual truths that might set us free from the chains of our material world.

How many people truly wish to live free?

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From Baghdad to Brasilia
By Pepe Escobar

There could hardly be a more graphic instance of an emerging new world order than Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and the premiers of both Syria and Lebanon all flying for a get-together in Brasilia in Brazil, designed from scratch in the 1950s by modernist icon Oscar Niemeyer as the futuristic capital of the new world.

They were among the heads of state and ministers from 33 South American and Arab League states gathered in the Brazilian capital for the first-ever Arab-South American summit. Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim has described the summit as an "alliance of civilizations" - a reference to 150 years of Syrian-Lebanese immigration to South America. More than 10 million people of Arab descent live in South America, most of them in Brazil, which holds the largest Arab diaspora in the world.

The "Declaration of Brasilia" to be endorsed this Wednesday calls for close political and economic ties between South America and the Arab world; demands that Israel disband its settlements in the West Bank, including "those in East Jerusalem", and retreat to its borders before 1967; criticizes US "unilateral economic sanctions against Syria", which violates principles of international law; and forcefully condemns terrorism. Israel is also implicitly criticized for holding an undeclared nuclear arsenal. The declaration also calls for a global conference to define the meaning of terrorism, and defends peoples' rights to "resist foreign occupation in accordance with the principle of international legality and in compliance with international humanitarian law".

It's unlikely that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will lose any sleep over what happened in Brasilia - despite all the inevitable hardline Israeli-American rumblings. Arab League secretary general Amr Moussa said, "It's their [Israel's] problem if they are concerned. If they don't want to be concerned anymore, they should change their policy in the occupied territories."

Washington was so concerned about the summit turning into a forum against President George W Bush's Greater Middle East and against Israel that it pressured the pliable, dependent leaders of Egypt, Jordan and Morocco not to attend. As much as Brazil counts on Arab support in its pledge for a permanent United Nations Security Council seat, the Arab League counts on South America to support an Egyptian bid.

South America is avidly cultivating much stronger ties with China, Russia and the Arab world - and there's little Washington can do about it. The US officially requested to be an observer at the summit. The Brazilians politely declined: "It's a public meeting, you can watch it on TV."

Not surprisingly, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Abbas were welcomed in Brasilia as heroes. Brazilian President Luis Ignacio "Lula" da Silva diplomatically praised the Palestinians for their "patience" during the Middle East peace process. Al-Jazeera went live with the opening remarks by the co-hosts, Lula and Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, also the current president of the Arab League. Lula insisted once again that "poor countries [must] receive the benefits of globalization". The Algerians are excitedly talking about "a coalition on cultural, political and economic terms". Al-Sharq al-Awsat, a leading Arab paper, stressed how the summit could influence the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The London Arabic-language daily al-Hayat published a half-page photo of Talabani arriving in Brasilia.

South-South cooperation

The key point of all this is economic. Bilateral trade between South America and the Arab world stands only at US$10 billion a year, but growth possibilities are endless. The main success of the summit is the PetroSul agreement, which creates a continental oil major composed by Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela.

Arabs are delighted to find good products and competitive prices in South America and a business climate much more relaxed than in Europe, and especially post-September 11 US. For instance, Brazil will export even more sugar, beef and chicken to the Middle East. According to the Arab-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, exports may double within five years.

According to Georgetown University's Tarik Youssef, "From the Arabs' perspective, Latin America is probably the best case to benchmark the pace of progress in the Arab world," meaning in both the political and economic spheres. Arabs may learn one or two practical things in South America in terms of privatization and fiscal and political reforms. Brazil is forcefully engaged in a campaign for the elimination of rich countries' agricultural subsidies - a popular theme also in the Arab world. The summit is the first step toward a future free trade agreement between the Mercosur and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

No wonder Washington hawks are uneasy. There's an emerging geopolitical axis on the map - Arab-South American. It's non-aligned. And it's swimming in oil. Between them, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Egypt, Qatar, Libya, Oman, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina and Brazil pump about 27.2 million barrels of oil a day, about 32.5% of global production.

One of the key reasons for Talabani's presence at the summit is that Brazil will inevitably be back to oil-field development in Iraq. Brazil had very close commercial relations - in the oil service industry and in the military sector - with Iraq during Saddam Hussein's time. Brazilian technical expertise helped in the discovery of some of the largest Iraqi oilfields. Both Venezuela and Brazil hope to win plenty of service contracts in the Arab world. Venezuela, instead of just supplying about 13% of the daily US oil consumption, is avidly diversifying - striking new deals with Spain and China. The last thing Hugo Chavez wants is to be dependent on the US market.

The writing on the (global) wall is now inevitable: region-to-region economic deals, more exports, and increased distancing from the weak dollar. In this renewed South-South cooperation, trade and commerce prevail over invasion and regime change; respect to UN resolutions regarding military occupations prevail over alienated terrorism rhetoric. There's an alternative global agenda in town.

Comment: We don't know how much time these countries have to forge an alliance before the fecal matter hits the rotating device a) from the skies, b) through earthquakes or volcanoes, or 3) the US invades Venezuela or finds some other way to put an end to the Bolivarian revolution.

With GM's bonds being given junk status, some pundits are announcing the beginning of the end for the US economy. Will more military action be needed to take people's attention off the misery at home?

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Gaza pullout diverting media gaze
By Lawrence Smallman
Wednesday 11 May 2005, 10:02 Makka Time, 7:02 GMT

A top Palestinian official has told that while the world is focusing on the withdrawal of Israeli occupation forces from Gaza, Tel Aviv has strengthened its grasp on the West Bank.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saib Uraiqat told on Wednesday Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government was forging ahead with land confiscations, illegal settlement expansion and barrier building.

He said Tel Aviv's policies were not only prejudicing any final peace agreement, but were also turning the West Bank into a series of walled ghettos that could never be part of a contiguous Palestinian state.

"The Gaza withdrawal is pre-occupying the media. Yes, they (Israeli soldiers) are leaving Gaza but they are also taking tracts of land in the West Bank. Israeli spokesmen stress they are 'only' taking 8% when we should be holding peace negotiations," Uraiqat said.

In February, Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery also alluded to the "only 8%" remark, observing that if Mexico were to annex 8% of the US, it could wall off the whole of Texas.

Uraiqat added that he did not fear that the West Bank would be virtually annexed at some point in the future, because he said it was already happening now.

"I am seeing our population centres split up and this illegal wall continue to be constructed. Illegal settlements - and the security roads and soldiers they inevitably bring with them - are effectively cutting the West Bank away from Jerusalem.

"Palestinians will all soon be living in a walled prison," Uraiqat added.

Israeli comment

Uraiqat's remarks come in reaction to Sharon's comments on Tuesday.

The Israeli prime minister said that despite the impending withdrawal of occupation troops from Gaza, Israel had fulfilled a "significant part of its dream" in the West Bank.

Speaking to participants of the International Bible Quiz in Jerusalem, Sharon affirmed Tel Aviv's resolve to maintain control over large blocs of West Bank settlements.

"Settlement blocs will be part of the state of Israel and contiguous with Israel," Sharon said on Tuesday. "Although the settlement enterprise is being rolled back in Gaza, it has allowed Israel to fulfil a very significant part of its dream."

He also stressed that Washington supported Israel's policy on holding on to West Bank settlement blocs under a final peace accord.

Comment: The right hand takes back what the left hand gives. Not that Sharon has actually given anything yet in Gaza. It is still in the realm of vague promises for an undefined future, a future that could be continually pushed back with excuse after excuse of Palestinian failure to "deal with the terrorists". How many years has Israel used the same excuse? Why change a winning strategy?

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Pro-Israel bias found in US TV news
Tuesday 10 May 2005, 15:42 Makka Time, 12:42 GMT

Television coverage of the Middle East conflict in the US slants news towards Israel's point of view by giving disproportionate coverage to Israeli deaths, a journalist says.

Independent journalist Alison Weir said on Monday: "Our analysis reveals troubling patterns of omissions and disparities in emphasis that, we feel, profoundly hamper the ability of viewers to understand this conflict."

ABC, CBS and NBC gave 3.0 to 4.4 times more coverage to Israeli deaths than they gave to Palestinian deaths in 2000-2001, at the beginning of the intifada or popular uprising against Israeli occupation, and again in 2004, said Weir, founder of If America Knew.

The difference is even greater when the networks cover children, giving 9.0 to 12.8 times more coverage in 2004 to deaths of Israeli children than to deaths of Palestinian children.

No justification

"We could find no basis on which to justify this inequality in coverage," she said.

Weir offered several possible sources for bias: Israeli public-relations campaigns; journalists who are based in Israel; US news media bending to pro-Israel pressures; or pro-Israel leanings of reporters, editors or media owners.

She said the networks had not responded to her study.

Weir used statistics supplied by Israeli human-rights group B'Tselem Israeli Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, which seeks to change Israeli policy in the conflict.

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Israeli army slaps curfew on West Bank, Gaza till Saturday 2005-05-11 16:27:28

JERUSALEM, May 11 (Xinhuanet) -- The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) imposed a full curfew on the West Bank and Gaza Strip from the early hours of Wednesday, local Ha'aretz daily reported.

The curfew will remain in effect during Israel's annual memorial day in honor of the thousands of soldiers killed in the nation's wars and the Independence Day which fall on Wednesday and Thursday and will be lifted on Saturday night, according to the report.

During the course of the curfew, Palestinians will only be permitted to enter Israel in "humanitarian emergencies" and only with requisite permits.

Israeli security forces have imposed curfews every year ahead of the Independence Day for the past five years.

Police were on high alert ahead of Wednesday's Memorial Day services and Independence Day celebrations.

Comment: "Round those cattle up, get 'em into the pens. Look out! We gotta get this done by sundown. Give it a kick, and it'll move. If not, shoot it with this..."

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EPA on Threshold of Brave New World of Human Testing
Monday 09 May 2005
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

EPA Invites Industry to Mimic Practices of Discontinued CHEERS Study.

Washington, DC - In the wake of the recent cancellation of the CHEERS study in which parents were to be paid to expose their infant children to pesticides, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing a new policy that encourages the same type of human dosing studies by industry. Today EPA closes public comment on its "no safeguards" policy of accepting all human subject experiments submitted by industry, according to a filing today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Under its new policy, EPA would accept all human chemical dosing studies "unless there is clear evidence that the conduct of these studies was fundamentally unethical… or was significantly deficient relative to the ethical standards prevailing at the time the study was conducted." Since industry is not required to disclose the conditions under which experiments were conducted, it is not clear how EPA will ever learn of "fundamentally unethical" practices. Moreover, EPA is unwilling to define what ethical lapses would disqualify an industry submission from being used for regulatory purposes.

"The Bush Administration is setting the ethical bar so low that only the most sleazy cannot limbo under it," stated PEER Program Director Rebecca Roose. "The basic problem is this: the safeguards that apply to experiments involving development of drugs to help people are far more stringent than EPA's standards for experiments to determine how much commercial poisons harm people."

EPA's refusal to adopt basic safeguards requiring proof of informed consent, independent review or protections for children is part of a Bush Administration drive to liberalize rules on human testing of pesticides and other chemicals. Without actual human experimental data to justify higher chemical exposures for children, industry must abide by the 1996 amendments to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act setting ten-fold stricter exposure standards for children.

At the same time it is encouraging industry to expose human subjects, EPA itself is conducting similar experiments that serve to provide a template for industry. Last month to avoid a hold on his confirmation, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson reluctantly cancelled a controversial study financed jointly by EPA and industry called CHEERS (Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study) that would have paid Florida parents to apply pesticides and other chemicals in the rooms primarily occupied by their infant children. During his confirmation, Johnson disclosed that EPA is also conducting more than 250 other human experiments, several of which involve chemical testing on children, including

* Exposing children (ages 3 to 12) to a powerful agricultural insecticide (chlorpyrifos) to test absorption in their systems through "urinary biomarker measurements";

* Paying "young male volunteers" to inhale methanol vapors at levels described as "a worst case scenario"; and

* Having asthma sufferers inhale potentially harmful ultrafine carbon particles.

"The need for safeguards is particularly acute because EPA is giving industry an economic incentive to push the edge of the ethical envelope," Roose added. "It is distressing that a federal agency is using tax dollars to write a primer for commercial exploitation of human subjects."

Comment: The thing is, the Bush Administration does not have any 'ethical bar' at all. The hypocricy and distortion of ethical behavior of the world is so obvious, for those who truly want to see. A world where parents are willing to poison their children and where govenments actively seek it... is simply sad. We are an experiment indeed.

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Over 12 mln trapped in forced labor worldwide: report 2005-05-11 21:40:04

GENEVA, May 11 (Xinhuanet) -- At least 12.3 million people are trapped in forced labor around the world, the International Labor Organization (ILO) said in a new study released Wednesday.

The new report, entitled "A global alliance against forced labor", says that nearly 10 million people are exploited through forced labor in the private economy. Of these, the study estimatesa minimum of 2.4 million to be victims of human trafficking.

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Illinois father confessed killings, prosecutors say

WAUKEGAN, Ill. - The father of an 8-year-old girl who was slain along with her best friend admitted to authorities that he was the killer, saying he was angry at the girl for breaking curfew, authorities said Wednesday.

A judge denied bond Wednesday for Jerry Hobbs after prosecutors described a videotaped interview in court in which he allegedly told investigators he stabbed the girls to death.

Hobbs' 8-year-old daughter, Laura Hobbs, and her friend Krystal Tobias, 9, were found dead Monday in a park in Zion, the day after they vanished.

The father, who had been released from a Texas prison last month, told investigators he was angry at Laura when he tracked her and Krystal in the wooded park, punched her and then killed both girls, prosecutors said.

Hobbs, shackled and in a dark blue jail uniform, stared at the floor as Assistant Lake County State's Attorney Jeff Pavletic described the case against him.

Hobbs led police to their bodies Monday morning, claiming then that he found them while searching for his missing daughter. In videotaped interviews, however, prosecutors say Hobbs told them he killed the girls, stabbing his daughter repeatedly in the neck and eyes, after Laura refused to leave the park when he ordered her to go home.

State's attorney Michael Waller told NBC's Today earlier Wednesday that the father had showed a lack of emotion and that "things didn't add up" in his interviews with police.

The prosecutor said Hobbs went looking for his daughter and that Krystal "just happened to be there," before the father killed both girls.

Hobbs has an extensive criminal history dating to 1990 in Texas, including arrests for assault and resisting arrest, according to Texas Department of Public Safety records.

Just last month, he was released from a Texas prison after serving time for an assault in 2001. He had argued with Laura's mother, Sheila Hollabaugh, then grabbed a chain saw and chased neighbors until someone hit him in the back with a shovel, according to Rick Mahler, assistant district attorney for Wichita County, Texas. No one was injured.

Comment: The unemotional reaction is typical, psychopathic behaviour. He kills his daughter and her friend the way another swats a fly. What's the big deal?

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Light quake rattles Shasta County, no injuries or damage reported
KESQ Channel 3 News

BURNEY, Calif. A light earthquake has rattled a mountainous region of Northern California this afternoon. The U-S geological Survey reports that the preliminary four-point-four magnitude temblor struck was centered about seven miles northwest of Burney and 41 miles northeast of Redding in Shasta County.

Authorities received between ten and 15 calls from people asking whether the jolt was an earthquake. We now know it was.

There have not been any reports of damage or injuries.

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Dotsero volcano may erupt
Donna Gray
Post Independent Staff
May 11, 2005

Four thousand years ago, a volcano erupted and left a mark that's barely visible today. But the Dotsero volcano, now a pile of ash and reddened soil on the east end of Glenwood Canyon north of Interstate 70 and the Eagle River, has appeared on the radar screen of the U.S. Geological Survey, which recently rated the threats of volcanoes across the country.

"This is the first comprehensive report on volcanoes since Mount St. Helens" erupted 25 years ago, said Clarice Ransom, spokesman for the USGS in Reston, Va.

Dotsero is rated as a moderate threat for its potential to spew volcanic ash into the air at such altitudes that it could disrupt airplane traffic. Sunset Crater in Arizona is also a moderate threat.

"Where you sit in Colorado, that part of the U.S. is heavily trafficked by jet airplanes," said Jim Quick, USGS program coordinator for volcanic hazards. "If Dotsero should erupt with an explosive event, it would put ash up to flight altitudes and threaten aircraft."

Quick explained that the USGS evaluated volcanoes in the United States as well as its territories, and scientists believe any volcano that has erupted in the last 10,000 years, during the geologic Holocene Era, could become active again.

The report identified a handful that are not well-monitored but could present a danger. Four are currently erupting: Mount St. Helens; Anatahan, in the Marianas Islands of the western Pacific; Mount Spurr, in Alaska; and Kilauea, in Hawaii. Thirteen were rated as very high threats, including nine in the Cascade Mountains and four in Alaska, and 19 were identified as having a high potential to disrupt airplane flights with volcanic ash, primarily in Alaska and the Marianas. Another 21 volcanoes need individual monitoring, including the Yellowstone caldera, which underlies most of Yellowstone National Park, the report said.

Dotsero is not one of those, however. The volcano is not likely to erupt in our lifetime.

"The probability of it happening in a human lifetime is pretty low," Quick said. "But at some time in future? That's harder to judge, especially in the absence of monitoring."

"In terms of your and children's lifetimes, I wouldn't worry too much" about Dotsero, Quick added.

Quick explained that Dotsero is a "maar," or explosive volcano.

"Because it's a maar it ended up with a moderate threat rating. Because it has erupted we feel it could happen again," he said.

Dotsero also produced "lahars," mudflows of water and volcanic ash that traveled about one and a half miles downstream of the volcano and diverted the flow of the Eagle River to the south side of the valley.

"(They) can be quite devastating downstream," Quick said. Such lahars, or mudflows, from the eruption of Mount St. Helens 25 years ago dammed a river and resulted in extensive damage to buildings.

"They have the density and viscosity of wet concrete," Quick said of the mudflows.

Volcanic flow from the Dotsero crater was cut by I-70 and is visible on the south side of the highway. The crater itself is north of the interstate, above the trailer park.

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Print version

YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, May 11 (RIA Novosti) - An earthquake measuring 4.0 on the Richter scale hit Sakhalin's north. The quake occurred 650 kilometers to the north of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, an officer on duty at the local seismological station told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.

The earthquake measured 4.0 on the Richter scale in Sabo and 2.0-3.0 in Okha. Hanging objects were swinging and glassware was rattling in multi-storied buildings. There are no victims and destructions, RIA Novosti's interlocutor said.

The quake occurred before the 10th anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Neftegorsk (May 28, 1995) which had killed 2,000 people.

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Dismissal of the Claims of a Biological Connection for Natural Petroleum

[...] The claims which have traditionally been put forward to argue a connection between natural petroleum and biological matter have been subjected to scientific scrutiny and have been established to be baseless. The outcome of such scrutiny comes hardly as a surprise, given recognition of the constraints of thermodynamics upon the genesis of hydrocarbons.

If liquid hydrocarbons might evolve from biological detritus in the thermodynamic regime of the crust of the Earth, we could all expect to go to bed at night in our dotage, with white hair (or, at least, whatever might remain of same), a spreading waistline, and all the undesirable decrepitude of age, and to awake in the morning, clear eyed, with our hair returned of the color of our youth, with a slim waistline, a strong, flexible body, and with our sexual vigor restored. Alas, such is not to be. The merciless laws of thermodynamics do not accommodate folklore fables. Natural petroleum has no connection with biological matter.

However, recognition of such fact leaves unanswered the conundrums which eluded the scientific community for more than a century: How does natural petroleum evolve ? And from where does natural petroleum come ?

The theoretical resolution of these questions had to await development of the most modern techniques of quantum statistical mechanics. The experimental demonstration of the required equipment has been only recently available. The following article substantially answers these questions. [...]

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