Wednesday May 18, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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©2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte

'Fireball' lights up sky
18/05/2005 15:09 - (SA)

Helsinki - An exceptionally bright "fireball" was spotted late on Tuesday slicing through the sky over Finland before exploding over the country's border with Russia, the Finnish Astronomical Association (URSA) said on Wednesday.

The phenomenon was witnessed by dozens of people in the eastern part of the country.

"Our mathematicians have roughly calculated that the (fireball) began its decent over our eastern border and ended in an explosion over the Russian Karelia region," URSA newsletter editor Marko Pekkola said.

Closer calculations will be needed to determine the exact route taken by the "fireball", which was probably an incandescent meteorite, Pekkola added.

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'Fireball' lights up Senate: George Goes to Washington
SOTT Commentary

No, not GW. We are referring to yesterday's testimony by British MP George Galloway, outspoken critic of the US and British led invasion and occupation of Iraq, now accused of profiting from the Oil for Food programme in what appears clearly to be a smear campaign against a politican who tells tell the truth about the situation in Iraq. Accused, tried, and convicted in the Senate and the US press last week, Galloway came to Washington to clear his name. Of course, he is well aware that the neocons don't care about truth and justice and that nothing he said would make a difference to their findings, therefore he used the opportunity to condemn the disaster in Iraq, the pack of lies from US officials that justified it, as well as coming back repeatedly to the number of Iraqis and Americans who are dead because of those lies.

However, as Mr Galloway was not speaking directly to the American people, the reports of his testimony come filtered through the political agendas of those controlling the news. We see that in the coastal cities, the papers go into more depth on Galloway's remarks, while in the heartland of Homeland Security, those reamrks are mostly edited out and the focus is on his refusal to answer loaded questions with a simple yes or no. Such is the way the red states stay red.

Below we have the transcript of Mr Galloway's opening statement, but first we have a selection of articles from a number of US publications on his appearance.

The Telegraph, the British paper that lost a libel case Galloway brought against it when they published forged documents, and one of the main voices of Zionism in the UK, avoided Galloway's criticisms of US war policy in their report, preferring to focus on Galloway's refusal to directly answer a couple of questions. Galloway was asked by Senator Levin, a Democrat, whether he was troubled that his friend, Jordanian businessman Fawaz Zureikat, may have profited from the Oil for Food programme. Refusing to be drawn into simple yes or no answers that accept the assumptions of the hostile question ("Have you stopped beating your wife?"), Galloway gave a long response on his opposition to the programme, the absurdity of giving .30 a day for food, medicine, education, etc for each Iraqi during the embargo. He also pointed out the absurdity of claiming that the money Mr Zureikat donated to his Mariam's Charity came from the kickbacks when he was a very rich man who did much more business in Iraq and elsewhere, and returned again and again to the fact that the Senate's investigation shows it was American companies who were responsible for more improprieties than everyone else combined, and that these improprieties were done with the knowledge and agreement of the US government.

To the moralist Senators, whose indignation at ignoring UN rulings extends only to certain hand-picked programmes where the US has been able to impose its will (Where was this indignation when Israel ignores condemnation after condemnation or when the Security Council refused to legalise the Bush Reich invasion of Iraq?), Galloway's evasiveness was proof that he was an unreliable witness.

Galloway repeatedly pointed out that the evidence against him was flimsy at best and that if they had had anything concrete, it would have been published. They had nothing concrete.

The New York Times unleashed their neocon reporter Judith Miller, the same reporter who was embedded in Iraq with the fraudster and discredited Chalabi and whose reporting came up for such scathing criticism. She was then transfered to the UN where she has been one of the loudest conspirators in bringing down UN Secretary General Kofi Annan over the Oil for Food scandal. Annan has so far been vindicated of every charge of impropriety.

We ran an article yesterday by Wayne Madsen chronicling Coleman's ties with AIPAC and the neoconservatives. Be clear. The campaign against the British anti-war activist and harsh critic of Bush's poodle Tony Blair, as well as a Frenchman and a Russian, have all the earmarks of a vendetta against those who opposed the US rape and pillage of a country that was no threat to US security. As the Iraq disaster becomes more and more obvious, the Senate is indeed throwing up what Galloway so aptly termed "the mother of all smokescreens".

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British lawmaker denies oil-for-food allegations

Posted on Wed, May. 18, 2005
Syndicated from the LOS ANGELES TIMES
Lexington Header-Leader

WASHINGTON - A prominent British politician linked to illegal payments in the Iraqi oil-for-food program told U.S. senators yesterday that their investigation was "the mother of all smokescreens" to divert attention from "the real scandal": U.S. policy in Iraq.

British legislator George Galloway is one of several foreign politicians who the Senate subcommittee on investigations claimed last week received options to buy discounted Iraqi oil in return for helping Saddam Hussein's regime evade U.N. sanctions.

But Galloway, an outspoken critic of the Iraq sanctions and the U.S.-led invasion of the country, was the only one to travel to Washington to defend himself.

He testified under oath and without immunity, but with harsh language that shook up the usually staid hearing room.

Last week, Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., the subcommittee chairman, released a report charging that Galloway received oil allocations of 20 million barrels from 2000 to 2004, and had a Jordanian associate, Fawaz Zureikat, sell the oil and funnel the revenues through a charity.

The report also said that former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan and former Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz confirmed that Galloway was on their list of friends to be rewarded.

Galloway said he neither traded oil nor had anyone trade it on his behalf, and questioned the validity of any information extracted from a prisoner facing war crimes charges.

Comment: The article above is how the syndicated LA Times article appeared in its much shortened version when it was reprinted in a Kentucky newspaper. Below we print the same article as it appeared on the LA Times web site. Notice the cuts made for middle America. They are in red.

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Accused British Official Slams the U.S. on Iraq

George Galloway tells senators their oil-for- food probe is a cover-up for the war. Amid the vitriol, he denies any role in illicit deals.

By Maggie Farley and Johanna Neuman
LA Times Staff Writers
May 18, 2005

WASHINGTON — A prominent British politician linked to illegal payments in the Iraq oil-for-food program told U.S. senators Tuesday that their investigation was "the mother of all smoke screens" to divert attention from "the real scandal": U.S. policy in Iraq.

British legislator George Galloway is among several foreign politicians whom the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations accused last week of receiving options to buy discounted Iraqi oil in return for helping Saddam Hussein's regime evade United Nations sanctions. The holders of such options could sell them to oil traders at a profit. Former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua and Russian lawmaker Vladimir V. Zhirinovsky were also named. All three have denied wrongdoing.

But Galloway, an outspoken critic of the sanctions on Iraq and the U.S.-led invasion of the country, was the only one who traveled to Washington to defend himself. He testified under oath and without immunity but used harsh language that shook up the typically staid hearing room.

Galloway described the committee chairman, Minnesota Republican Norm Coleman, as a "pro-war, neocon hawk and the lickspittle of George W. Bush" who, he said, sought revenge against anyone who did not support the invasion of Iraq.

"Now, I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice," he said, accusing Coleman of not giving him a chance to respond to the charges before circulating the committee's report. "I am here today, but last week you already found me guilty."

Last week, Coleman released a report charging that Galloway had received oil allocations of 20 million barrels from 2000 to 2004 and had a Jordanian associate, Fawaz Zureikat, sell the oil and funnel the revenue through a charity.

The report also says that former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan and former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz confirmed that Galloway was on their list of friends to be rewarded.

Galloway denied trading oil or having anyone trade it on his behalf and questioned the validity of any information extracted from a prisoner facing war crimes charges, "knowing what the world knows about how you treat prisoners," he said.

"Now, you have nothing on me, senator, except my name on lists of names from Iraq, many of which have been drawn up after the installation of your puppet government in Baghdad," he told Coleman.

Asked what he had accomplished at the hearing, Galloway told a reporter he thought he had served as a reminder that the war was wrongheaded.

"Most people think the real villains of the piece in Iraq are not [U.N. Secretary-General] Kofi Annan and [French President Jacques] Chirac but here in Washington and in the White House and in the Republican majority," he said.

After the hearing, Coleman said that "nothing was said today that at all discounted the veracity, the reliability of those documents that were affirmed by senior Iraqi officials."

Both Coleman and Carl Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said it was "simply not credible" that Galloway — who described himself as a "dear friend" of Aziz, one of three Iraqi officials, according to Coleman, who selected the contract recipients — did not know that his partner and the man who funded his campaign against the war was making oil deals with Hussein.

"If in fact he lied to the committee, there will have to be consequences," Coleman said.

The Senate panel had more detailed documentation on other implicated politicians. The report states that Pasqua, now a French senator, was allocated 11 million barrels of oil.

On Monday in Paris, Pasqua repeated his denial that he had received anything in such transactions and pointed out that his name disappeared from the list when his advisor, Bernard Guillet, began receiving allocations in 2000.

"If my name appears in certain Iraqi documents, that can only be the result of fraudulent behavior on the part of certain people who have used my name," he said.

French authorities arrested Guillet in April for money laundering and influence peddling related to the U.N.'s oil-for-food program.

The Senate committee issued a separate report on prominent Russian politicians who allegedly received Iraqi oil rights. President Vladimir V. Putin's former chief of staff, Alexander S. Voloshin, and the presidential council received oil rights worth nearly $3 million in exchange for working to lift U.N. sanctions, the report charges.

It also says that Zhirinovsky, a prominent ultranationalist politician, received rights to buy 75 million barrels of oil.

Zhirinovsky reportedly boasted that his party was responsible for helping lift Russia's sanctions against Iraq. Investigators pointed out that Iraq rewarded Russia with extra allocations after it blocked a U.N. Security Council attempt to tighten sanctions in the spring of 2001.

But Coleman did not directly say that Russia's pro-Iraq policy was a result of the oil awards or that any country had changed its policy because of individuals' reported allocations. "We're just presenting the facts," he said.

Coleman said the subcommittee would hold hearings on U.N. reform in the fall.

Comment: Notice that even if the original article was cut, it still ignores most of Galloway's criticisms and gives focus to Coleman and Levin's reactions, the insinuation that Galloway was lying and that he wasn't credible. There is no mention of the lies of the Bush government that led to the current disaster, no mention of the errors in the Senate report that Galloway raised, no mention of AIPAC.

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NY Post

May 18, 2005 -- WASHINGTON — British politician George Galloway went eyeball to eyeball with Senate investigators yesterday, calling allegations he took oil bribes from Saddam Hussein a "pack of lies" and labeling the U.N. oil-for-food scandal probe "the mother of all smokescreens."

In an appearance before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that was stunning in its audacity, the anti-war member of Parliament launched a furious counter-assault on President Bush and Republican probers. Galloway claimed the oil-for-food scandal was cooked up to slander anti-war critics.

"You have nothing on me, senator, except my name on lists, many of which have been drawn up after the installation of your puppet government in Baghdad," Galloway said to the panel's chairman, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.).

"I am not now, nor have I ever been an oil trader, and neither has anyone on my behalf.

"I know that standards have slipped over the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice."

Coleman and other senators were caught flat-footed by the ferocity of Galloway's counter-offensive. They cut short the questioning of him and abruptly stopped the hearing.

Coleman said later that despite the theatrics, Galloway gave evasive answers to some questions and was unable to refute the documentary evidence collected by his investigators. He said he would send the committee's report to British authorities.

Galloway demanded to appear before the Coleman committee after it released a report last week detailing evidence it obtained from Iraqi government documents and interviews with Saddam's top aides, including former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yashin Ramadan, now in U.S. custody.

The committee said the new evidence indicates that Galloway received allocations for 20 million barrels of discount Iraqi oil.

The shady deals were allegedly arranged through a mysterious Jordanian businessman and in one case laundered through a charity Galloway created for a 4-year old Iraqi girl with leukemia.

But Galloway counterpunched — calling facts in the report "schoolboy howlers" and challenging the evidence and the credibility of former regime witnesses, especially Ramadan.

"I know he is your prisoner. I believe he is in the Abu Ghraib prison. I believe he is facing war crimes charges punishable by death," Galloway said.

"In these circumstances, knowing what the world knows about how you treat prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, in Bagram Air Base, in Guantanamo Bay . . . I'm not sure how much credibility anyone would put on anything you manage to get from a prisoner in those circumstances," Galloway added.

Galloway, who was elected to a heavily Muslim district earlier this month despite being kicked out of the Labor Party, also denied he was a Saddam apologist and said he only met the Butcher of Baghdad twice.

"As a matter of fact, I met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met with him," Galloway said, referring to meetings the defense secretary had during the Reagan administration.

Comment: The Post, a New York tabloid that thrives on sensationalism, includes some of Galloway's more combative remarks, but only those that related to the personal attacks against him. Other than a remark about Abu Ghraib, The Post ignored the MP's criticisms of US war policy. Not surprising for a paper with Zionist politics.

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Brit MP denies paying kickbacks to Saddam
Last Updated Tue, 17 May 2005 19:46:00 EDT
CBC News

WASHINGTON - A British MP implicated in the United Nations oil-for-food scandal denied he received vouchers from Saddam Hussein to buy millions of barrels of Iraqi oil.

"I am not now nor have I ever been an oil trader and neither has anyone on my behalf," said George Galloway, who testified at U.S. senate subcommittee hearing on Tuesday.

"I was an opponent of Saddam Hussein when British and American governments and businessmen were selling him guns and gas."

The subcommittee of the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs alleged last week that Galloway paid kickbacks to Saddam in exchange for the lucrative allocations. A similar claim has been made against a French senator and several top-ranking Russian politicians.

Galloway rejected the charges that he profited from the program and demanded an apology for what he called a "bizarre, grotesque" senate investigation process.

He complained that it's "a process whereby somebody investigates you without telling you they're investigating you, without ever contacting you, without ever asking you a single question, without a letter or a phone call – any contact at all."

The oil-for-food program was designed to let Iraq sell some of its oil under UN supervision so that revenues could be used to buy food and medical aid for Iraqi citizens.

Comment: The CBC ran this antiseptic piece on their web site. Once again, the criticisms of US policy in Iraq are absent.

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British lawmaker, senators trade shots in oil-for-food probe
Associated Press
May 18, 2005

WASHINGTON -- British lawmaker George Galloway denounced U.S. senators on Tuesday, denying accusations that he profited from the U.N. oil-for-food program and accusing them of unfairly tarnishing his name.

Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., questioned Galloway's honesty and told reporters, "If in fact he lied to this committee, there will have to be consequences."

Galloway's appearance was an odd spectacle on Capitol Hill: A legislator from a friendly nation, voluntarily testifying under oath, without immunity, at a combative congressional hearing where neither side displayed diplomacy.

"Now, I know that standards have slipped over the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer, you're remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice," Galloway told Coleman, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs investigation subcommittee.

The panel is investigating allegations that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein manipulated the $64 billion oil-for-food program to get kickbacks and build international opposition to U.N. sanctions against Iraq set up after Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Galloway is a member of the anti-Iraq war Respect party. He has been an outspoken opponent of both Iraq wars and of U.N. sanctions. Coleman's subcommittee claimed that Galloway received allocations worth 20 million barrels from 2000 to 2003 and funneled proceeds through a fund he established in 1998 to help a 4-year-old Iraqi girl suffering from leukemia.

Comment: Here in the Associated Press feed picked up by many US papers, we see that focus is given to Norm Coleman's response to Galloway, not to Galloway's remarks and criticisms of US policy, setting up the rest of the article in the light of the slur "if he was lying..." No mention is made of the errors in the Senate report that Galloway raised in his testimony.

Well, gosh, if lying is all of a sudden out of favour in the Senate, then what about impeaching the president and his entire government?

The next piece comes from the blog of a writer for the liberal publication The Nation.

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Mr. Galloway Goes to Washington
John Nichols
The Nation

Norm Coleman is an idiot.

Not an ideological idiot, not a partisan idiot, but a plain old-fashioned, drool-on-his-tie idiot.

The Minnesota Republican senator who took Paul Wellstone's seat after one of the most disreputable campaigns in American political history, has been trying over the past year to make a name for himself by blowing the controversy surrounding the United Nations Oil-for-Food program into something more than the chronicle of corporate abuse that it is. The U.S. media, which thrives on official soundbites, was more than willing to lend credence to Coleman's overblown claims about wrongdoing in the UN program set up in 1996 to permit Iraq -- which was then under strict international sanctions -- to buy food, medicine and humanitarian supplies with the revenues from regulated oil sales. Even as Coleman's claims became more and more fantastic, he faced few challenges from the cowering Democrats in Congress.

But when Coleman started slandering foreign politicians he exposed the dramatic vulnerability of his claims that the supposed scandal was something more than a blatant example of U.S. corporations taking advantage of their powerful connections in Washington to undermine official U.S. policy, harm the national interest and profit off the suffering of the poor.

The Senate investigation that Coleman sought regarding the Oil-for-Food program has already revealed that the Bush administration failed to crack down on widespread abuse of the oil-for-food program by U.S. energy companies, and that U.S. oil purchases accounted for the majority of the kickbacks paid to Saddam Hussein's regime in return for sales of impensive oil. Indeed, the report concludes, "The United States (government) was not only aware of Iraqi oil sales which violated UN sanctions and provided the bulk of the illicit money Saddam Hussein obtained from circumventing UN sanctions. On occasion, the United States actually facilitated the illicit oil sales."

Instead of forcing the president, his aides and the executives of Bayoil, the Texas oil company that the report shows paid "at least $37 million in illegal surcharges to the Hussein regime" -- money that helped the Iraqi dictator solidify his grip on power -- Coleman started to make wild charges about European officials such as British parliamentarian George Galloway.

Galloway called Coleman's bluff and flew to Washington for a remarkable appearance before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. "I am determined now that I am here, to be not the accused but the accuser," Coleman announced as he stood outside the Capitol Tuesday. "These people are involved in the mother of all smoke screens."

The member of parliament tore through Coleman's flimsy "evidence," issuing an unequivocal denial that began, "Mr Chairman, I am not now, nor have I ever been an oil trader and neither has anyone been on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one, and neither has anybody on my behalf." He accused Coleman of being "remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice" and pointed out error after error in the report the senator had brandished against him.

For instance, Galloway noted that he had met Saddam twice -- not the "many" times alleged by the report. "As a matter of fact I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times that (Secretary of Defense) Donald Rumsfeld met him," said the recently reelected British parliamentarian. "The difference is that Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns."

For good measure, Galloway used the forum Coleman had foolishly provided to deliver a blistering condemnation of Coleman's war. "Now, Senator, I gave my heart and soul to oppose the policy that you promoted. I gave my political life's blood to try to stop the mass killing of Iraqis by the sanctions on Iraq which killed one million Iraqis, most of them children, most of them died before they even knew that they were Iraqis, but they died for no other reason other than that they were Iraqis with the misfortune to born at that time. I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq. And I told the world that your case for the war was a pack of lies," Galloway informed the fool on Capitol Hill.

"I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.

"If the world had listened to (UN Secretary General) Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to (French) President Chirac, who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the anti-war movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that we are in today. Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported, from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq's wealth," argued Galloway.

Then the Brit turned the tables on Coleman and steered the committee's attention toward "the real Oil-for-Food scandal."

"Have a look at the 14 months you were in charge of Baghdad, the first 14 months when $8.8 billion of Iraq's wealth went missing on your watch. Have a look at Haliburton and other American corporations that stole not only Iraq's money, but the money of the American taxpayer," Galloway said.

"Have a look at the oil that you didn't even meter, that you were shipping out of the country and selling, the proceeds of which went who knows where. Have a look at the $800 million you gave to American military commanders to hand out around the country without even counting it or weighing it. Have a look at the real scandal breaking in the newspapers today, revealed in the earlier testimony in this committee. That the biggest sanctions busters were not me or Russian politicians or French politicians. The real sanctions busters were your own companies with the connivance of your own Government."

(John Nichols's new book, Against the Beast: A Documentary History of American Opposition to Empire (Nation Books) was published January 30. Howard Zinn says, "At exactly the when we need it most, John Nichols gives us a special gift--a collection of writings, speeches, poems and songs from thoughout American history--that reminds us that our revulsion to war and empire has a long and noble tradition in this country." Frances Moore Lappe calls Against the Beast, "Brilliant! A perfect book for an empire in denial." Against the Beast can be found at independent bookstores nationwide and can be obtained online by tapping the above reference or at

Comment: We leave the final word to the MP himself. Here is a transcript of his opening statement.

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Galloway vs. The US Senate: Transcript of Statement
Published on Tuesday, May 17, 2005 by the Times Online (UK)

George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, delivered this statement to US Senators today who have accused him of corruption

"Senator, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader. and neither has anyone on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one - and neither has anyone on my behalf.

"Now I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice. I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And you call that justice.

"Now I want to deal with the pages that relate to me in this dossier and I want to point out areas where there are - let's be charitable and say errors. Then I want to put this in the context where I believe it ought to be. On the very first page of your document about me you assert that I have had 'many meetings' with Saddam Hussein. This is false.

"I have had two meetings with Saddam Hussein, once in 1994 and once in August of 2002. By no stretch of the English language can that be described as "many meetings" with Saddam Hussein.

"As a matter of fact, I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns. I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war, and on the second of the two occasions, I met him to try and persuade him to let Dr Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country - a rather better use of two meetings with Saddam Hussein than your own Secretary of State for Defense made of his.

"I was an opponent of Saddam Hussein when British and Americans governments and businessmen were selling him guns and gas. I used to demonstrate outside the Iraqi embassy when British and American officials were going in and doing commerce.

"You will see from the official parliamentary record, Hansard, from the 15th March 1990 onwards, voluminous evidence that I have a rather better record of opposition to Saddam Hussein than you do and than any other member of the British or American governments do.

"Now you say in this document, you quote a source, you have the gall to quote a source, without ever having asked me whether the allegation from the source is true, that I am 'the owner of a company which has made substantial profits from trading in Iraqi oil'.

"Senator, I do not own any companies, beyond a small company whose entire purpose, whose sole purpose, is to receive the income from my journalistic earnings from my employer, Associated Newspapers, in London. I do not own a company that's been trading in Iraqi oil. And you have no business to carry a quotation, utterly unsubstantiated and false, implying otherwise.

"Now you have nothing on me, Senator, except my name on lists of names from Iraq, many of which have been drawn up after the installation of your puppet government in Baghdad. If you had any of the letters against me that you had against Zhirinovsky, and even Pasqua, they would have been up there in your slideshow for the members of your committee today.

"You have my name on lists provided to you by the Duelfer inquiry, provided to him by the convicted bank robber, and fraudster and conman Ahmed Chalabi who many people to their credit in your country now realize played a decisive role in leading your country into the disaster in Iraq.

"There were 270 names on that list originally. That's somehow been filleted down to the names you chose to deal with in this committee. Some of the names on that committee included the former secretary to his Holiness Pope John Paul II, the former head of the African National Congress Presidential office and many others who had one defining characteristic in common: they all stood against the policy of sanctions and war which you vociferously prosecuted and which has led us to this disaster.

"You quote Mr Dahar Yassein Ramadan. Well, you have something on me, I've never met Mr Dahar Yassein Ramadan. Your sub-committee apparently has. But I do know that he's your prisoner, I believe he's in Abu Ghraib prison. I believe he is facing war crimes charges, punishable by death. In these circumstances, knowing what the world knows about how you treat prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, in Bagram Airbase, in Guantanamo Bay, including I may say, British citizens being held in those places.

"I'm not sure how much credibility anyone would put on anything you manage to get from a prisoner in those circumstances. But you quote 13 words from Dahar Yassein Ramadan whom I have never met. If he said what he said, then he is wrong.

"And if you had any evidence that I had ever engaged in any actual oil transaction, if you had any evidence that anybody ever gave me any money, it would be before the public and before this committee today because I agreed with your Mr Greenblatt [Mark Greenblatt, legal counsel on the committee].

"Your Mr Greenblatt was absolutely correct. What counts is not the names on the paper, what counts is where's the money. Senator? Who paid me hundreds of thousands of dollars of money? The answer to that is nobody. And if you had anybody who ever paid me a penny, you would have produced them today.

"Now you refer at length to a company names in these documents as Aredio Petroleum. I say to you under oath here today: I have never heard of this company, I have never met anyone from this company. This company has never paid a penny to me and I'll tell you something else: I can assure you that Aredio Petroleum has never paid a single penny to the Mariam Appeal Campaign. Not a thin dime. I don't know who Aredio Petroleum are, but I daresay if you were to ask them they would confirm that they have never met me or ever paid me a penny.

"Whilst I'm on that subject, who is this senior former regime official that you spoke to yesterday? Don't you think I have a right to know? Don't you think the Committee and the public have a right to know who this senior former regime official you were quoting against me interviewed yesterday actually is?

"Now, one of the most serious of the mistakes you have made in this set of documents is, to be frank, such a schoolboy howler as to make a fool of the efforts that you have made. You assert on page 19, not once but twice, that the documents that you are referring to cover a different period in time from the documents covered by The Daily Telegraph which were a subject of a libel action won by me in the High Court in England late last year.

"You state that The Daily Telegraph article cited documents from 1992 and 1993 whilst you are dealing with documents dating from 2001. Senator, The Daily Telegraph's documents date identically to the documents that you were dealing with in your report here. None of The Daily Telegraph's documents dealt with a period of 1992, 1993. I had never set foot in Iraq until late in 1993 - never in my life. There could possibly be no documents relating to Oil-for-Food matters in 1992, 1993, for the Oil-for-Food scheme did not exist at that time.

"And yet you've allocated a full section of this document to claiming that your documents are from a different era to the Daily Telegraph documents when the opposite is true. Your documents and the Daily Telegraph documents deal with exactly the same period.

"But perhaps you were confusing the Daily Telegraph action with the Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor did indeed publish on its front pages a set of allegations against me very similar to the ones that your committee have made. They did indeed rely on documents which started in 1992, 1993. These documents were unmasked by the Christian Science Monitor themselves as forgeries.

"Now, the neo-con websites and newspapers in which you're such a hero, senator, were all absolutely cock-a-hoop at the publication of the Christian Science Monitor documents, they were all absolutely convinced of their authenticity. They were all absolutely convinced that these documents showed me receiving $10 million from the Saddam regime. And they were all lies.

"In the same week as the Daily Telegraph published their documents against me, the Christian Science Monitor published theirs which turned out to be forgeries and the British newspaper, Mail on Sunday, purchased a third set of documents which also upon forensic examination turned out to be forgeries. So there's nothing fanciful about this. Nothing at all fanciful about it.

"The existence of forged documents implicating me in commercial activities with the Iraqi regime is a proven fact. It's a proven fact that these forged documents existed and were being circulated amongst right-wing newspapers in Baghdad and around the world in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Iraqi regime.

"Now, Senator, I gave my heart and soul to oppose the policy that you promoted. I gave my political life's blood to try to stop the mass killing of Iraqis by the sanctions on Iraq which killed one million Iraqis, most of them children, most of them died before they even knew that they were Iraqis, but they died for no other reason other than that they were Iraqis with the misfortune to born at that time. I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq. And I told the world that your case for the war was a pack of lies.

“I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.

If the world had listened to Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to President Chirac who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the anti-war movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that we are in today. Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported, from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq's wealth.

"Have a look at the real Oil-for-Food scandal. Have a look at the 14 months you were in charge of Baghdad, the first 14 months when $8.8 billion of Iraq's wealth went missing on your watch. Have a look at Halliburton and other American corporations that stole not only Iraq's money, but the money of the American taxpayer.

"Have a look at the oil that you didn't even meter, that you were shipping out of the country and selling, the proceeds of which went who knows where? Have a look at the $800 million you gave to American military commanders to hand out around the country without even counting it or weighing it.

"Have a look at the real scandal breaking in the newspapers today, revealed in the earlier testimony in this committee. That the biggest sanctions busters were not me or Russian politicians or French politicians. The real sanctions busters were your own companies with the connivance of your own Government."

Comment: It has likely been years since true words such as these were spoken in the American Congress. Certainly, as the old saying goes, truer words have never been spoken in those hallowed halls. The phony Republican/Democrat debate and illusion of democracy it so reassuringly gives to the populace has nothing to do with the real government of the people, by the people and for the people so hailed in the US mythology. Our world is the world of the lie, and people who speak the truth are slandered, smeared, and lynched.

Coleman and Levin know that Galloway's testimony isn't going to make a bit of difference to Bush's plans. As we saw, the US mainstream press is ignoring that part of his words that speak directly to US crimes. They ignore his point that the major Oil for Food scandal is the billions of dollars that have gone missing or that have been paid to US corporations. However, in a non-linear universe, the speaking of the truth so eloquently and forcefully in the den of corruption, that cesspool known as Capital Hill, may have effects none of us can imagine. What counts is that someone had the courage to go and confront the hangmen, stare them straight in the eye, and speak his peace.

Can you imagine what would happen to the other George in front of a hostile crowd? The one time it happened, during GW's visit to Ireland last summer when he was asked some pointed questions by an Irish journalist, he was furious. And that wasn't even a crowd!

Galloway has had his fifteen minutes of fame in the US media. The lethargic public may have raised its collective head momentarily when it heard something out of the usual occurred to Norm Coleman, only to fall back into its deep slumber when they realised it was a British politician and not a rock star or movie queen. Today it is back to business as usual. Another scandal or diversion will appear, our attention will be focused elsewhere, and the words of Norm Coleman, the man put into office by the murder of Paul Wellstone, calling Galloway's integrity into question will be repeated until they are believed in the same way that other sound bites hypotised Americans into believing it was a gang of Iraqi "terrorists" who hijacked the planes on 9/11. The smears will continue while Galloway's accusations of American crimes, condoned by his accusers, will be forgotten.

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Staying What Course?
Published: May 16, 2005

Is there any point, now that November's election is behind us, in revisiting the history of the Iraq war? Yes: any path out of the quagmire will be blocked by people who call their opponents weak on national security, and portray themselves as tough guys who will keep America safe. So it's important to understand how the tough guys made America weak.

There has been notably little U.S. coverage of the "Downing Street memo" - actually the minutes of a British prime minister's meeting on July 23, 2002, during which officials reported on talks with the Bush administration about Iraq. But the memo, which was leaked to The Times of London during the British election campaign, confirms what apologists for the war have always denied: the Bush administration cooked up a case for a war it wanted.

Here's a sample: "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and W.M.D. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

(You can read the whole thing at

Why did the administration want to invade Iraq, when, as the memo noted, "the case was thin" and Saddam's "W.M.D. capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea, or Iran"? Iraq was perceived as a soft target; a quick victory there, its domestic political advantages aside, could serve as a demonstration of American military might, one that would shock and awe the world.

But the Iraq war has, instead, demonstrated the limits of American power, and emboldened our potential enemies. Why should Kim Jong Il fear us, when we can't even secure the road from Baghdad to the airport?

At this point, the echoes of Vietnam are unmistakable. Reports from the recent offensive near the Syrian border sound just like those from a 1960's search-and-destroy mission, body count and all. Stories filed by reporters actually with the troops suggest that the insurgents, forewarned, mostly melted away, accepting battle only where and when they chose.

Meanwhile, America's strategic position is steadily deteriorating.

Next year, reports Jane's Defense Industry, the United States will spend as much on defense as the rest of the world combined. Yet the Pentagon now admits that our military is having severe trouble attracting recruits, and would have difficulty dealing with potential foes - those that, unlike Saddam's Iraq, might pose a real threat.

In other words, the people who got us into Iraq have done exactly what they falsely accused Bill Clinton of doing: they have stripped America of its capacity to respond to real threats.

So what's the plan?

The people who sold us this war continue to insist that success is just around the corner, and that things would be fine if the media would just stop reporting bad news. But the administration has declared victory in Iraq at least four times. January's election, it seems, was yet another turning point that wasn't.

Yet it's very hard to discuss getting out. Even most of those who vehemently opposed the war say that we have to stay on in Iraq now that we're there.

In effect, America has been taken hostage. Nobody wants to take responsibility for the terrible scenes that will surely unfold if we leave (even though terrible scenes are unfolding while we're there). Nobody wants to tell the grieving parents of American soldiers that their children died in vain. And nobody wants to be accused, by an administration always ready to impugn other people's patriotism, of stabbing the troops in the back.

But the American military isn't just bogged down in Iraq; it's deteriorating under the strain. We may already be in real danger: what threats, exactly, can we make against the North Koreans? That John Bolton will yell at them? And every year that the war goes on, our military gets weaker.

So we need to get beyond the clichés - please, no more "pottery barn principles" or "staying the course." I'm not advocating an immediate pullout, but we have to tell the Iraqi government that our stay is time-limited, and that it has to find a way to take care of itself. The point is that something has to give. We either need a much bigger army - which means a draft - or we need to find a way out of Iraq.

Comment: The argument that the US should continue in Iraq even if the invasion was a mistake (as opposed to being a major war crime) because those bloodthirsty Iraqis would be at each others' throats without the presence of the US troops, is as full of sewage as Iraq's rivers under the occupation. It is the US and its Israeli godfather that have been setting Sunni against Shi'ite and the Kurds against them both. Contrary to US imperialist propaganda, the Iraqis themselves have a strong sense of national pride that overrides the regional or religious differences the occupiers are attempting to stoke in the age-old colonialist strategy of divide and conquer.

The argument that the US must stay regardless of the reasons that sent them in reeks of imperialist arrogance, a rationalisation to justify acts and a presence that in no way can be justified. The US presence is restricted to small areas of the country. The colonial administrators hide in Baghdad's green zone. American journalists never leave their hotel, leaving it to Iraqis to go out and brave the possibility of kidnapping or death while collecting information on the ground that will later be massaged and made nice for the evening news back Stateside.

The entry entry from Riverbend's Baghdad Burning blog provides evidence of US responsibility for some of the bombings in Iraq.

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The Dead and the Undead...
She stood in the crowded room as her drove of minions stood around her...?A huddling mass trying to draw closer to her aura of evil. The lights flashed against her fangs as her cruel lips curled into a grimace. It was meant to be a smile but it wouldn't reach her cold, lifeless eyes? It was a leer- the leer of the undead before a feeding...

The above was not a scene from Buffy the Vampire Slayer- it was just Condi Rice in Iraq a day ago. At home, we fondly refer to her as The Vampire. She's such a contrast to Bush- he simply looks stupid. She, on the other hand, looks utterly evil.

The last two weeks have been violent. The number of explosions in Baghdad alone is frightening. There have also been several assassinations- bodies being found here and there. It's somewhat disturbing to know that corpses are turning up in the most unexpected places. Many people will tell you it's not wise to eat river fish anymore because they have been nourished on the human remains being dumped into the river. That thought alone has given me more than one sleepless night. It is almost as if Baghdad has turned into a giant graveyard.

The latest corpses were those of some Sunni and Shia clerics- several of them well-known. People are being patient and there is a general consensus that these killings are being done to provoke civil war. Also worrisome is the fact that we are hearing of people being rounded up by security forces (Iraqi) and then being found dead days later- apparently when the new Iraqi government recently decided to reinstate the death penalty, they had something else in mind.

But back to the explosions. One of the larger blasts was in an area called Ma'moun, which is a middle class area located in west Baghdad. It?s a relatively calm residential area with shops that provide the basics and a bit more. It happened in the morning, as the shops were opening up for their daily business and it occurred right in front of a butchers shop. Immediately after, we heard that a man living in a house in front of the blast site was hauled off by the Americans because it was said that after the bomb went off, he sniped an Iraqi National Guardsman.

I didn?t think much about the story- nothing about it stood out: an explosion and a sniper- hardly an anomaly. The interesting news started circulating a couple of days later. People from the area claim that the man was taken away not because he shot anyone, but because he knew too much about the bomb. Rumor has it that he saw an American patrol passing through the area and pausing at the bomb site minutes before the explosion. Soon after they drove away, the bomb went off and chaos ensued. He ran out of his house screaming to the neighbors and bystanders that the Americans had either planted the bomb or seen the bomb and done nothing about it. He was promptly taken away.

The bombs are mysterious. Some of them explode in the midst of National Guard and near American troops or Iraqi Police and others explode near mosques, churches, and shops or in the middle of sougs. One thing that surprises us about the news reports of these bombs is that they are inevitably linked to suicide bombers. The reality is that some of these bombs are not suicide bombs- they are car bombs that are either being remotely detonated or maybe time bombs. All we know is that the techniques differ and apparently so do the intentions. Some will tell you they are resistance. Some say Chalabi and his thugs are responsible for a number of them. Others blame Iran and the SCIRI militia Badir.

In any case, they are terrifying. If you're close enough, the first sound is a that of an earsplitting blast and the sounds that follow are of a rain of glass, shrapnel and other sharp things. Then the wails begin- the shrill mechanical wails of an occasional ambulance combined with the wail of car alarms from neighboring vehicles? and finally the wail of people trying to sort out their dead and dying from the debris.

The day before yesterday, a bomb fell on Mustansiriya University- Khalid of Secrets in Baghdad blogs about it.

We've been watching the protests about the Newsweek article with interest. I?m not surprised at the turnout at these protests- the thousands of Muslims angry at the desecration of the Quran. What did surprise me was the collective shock that seems to have struck the Islamic world like a slap in the face. How is this shocking? It's terrible and disturbing in the extreme- but how is it shocking? After what happened in Abu Ghraib and other Iraqi prisons how is this astonishing? American jailers in Afghanistan and Iraq have shown little respect for human life and dignity- why should they be expected to respect a holy book?

Juan Cole has some good links about the topic.

Now Newsweek have retracted the story- obviously under pressure from the White House. Is it true? Probably? We've seen enough blatant disregard and disrespect for Islam in Iraq the last two years to make this story sound very plausible. On a daily basis, mosques are raided, clerics are dragged away with bags over their heads? Several months ago the world witnessed the execution of an unarmed Iraqi prisoner inside a mosque. Is this latest so very surprising?

Detainees coming back after weeks or months in prison talk of being forced to eat pork, not being allowed to pray, being exposed to dogs, having Islam insulted and generally being treated like animals trapped in a small cage. At the end of the day, it's not about words or holy books or pork or dogs or any of that. It's about what these things symbolize on a personal level. It is infuriating to see objects that we hold sacred degraded and debased by foreigners who felt the need to travel thousands of kilometers to do this. That's not to say that all troops disrespect Islam- some of them seem to genuinely want to understand our beliefs. It does seem like the people in charge have decided to make degradation and humiliation a policy.

By doing such things, this war is taken to another level- it is no longer a war against terror or terrorists- it is, quite simply, a war against Islam and even secular Muslims are being forced to take sides.

Comment: The US planting the bombs itself in order to foment civil war? How outrageous! How preposterous! How true! The dismembering of Iraq has been Israel's goal from the beginning.

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The deserters: Awol crisis hits the US forces
16 May 2005

As the death toll of troops mounts in Iraq and Afghanistan, America's military recruiting figures have plummeted to an all-time low. Thousands of US servicemen and women are now refusing to serve their country. Andrew Buncombe reports

Sergeant Kevin Benderman cannot shake the images from his head. There are bombed villages and desperate people. There are dogs eating corpses thrown into a mass grave. And most unremitting of all, there is the image of a young Iraqi girl, no more than eight or nine, one arm severely burnt and blistered, and the sound of her screams.

Last January, these memories became too much for this veteran of the war in Iraq. Informed his unit was about to return, he told his commanders he wanted out and applied to be considered a conscientious objector. The Army refused and charged him with desertion. Last week, his case - which carries a penalty of up to seven years' imprisonment - started before a military judge at Fort Stewart in Georgia.

"If I am sincere in what I say and there's consequences because of my actions, I am prepared to stand up and take it," Sgt Benderman said. "If I have to go to prison because I don't want to kill anybody, so be it."

The case of Sgt Benderman and those of others like him has focused attention on the thousands of US troops who have gone Awol (Absent Without Leave) since the start of President George Bush's so-called war on terror. The most recent Pentagon figures suggest there are 5,133 troops missing from duty. Of these 2,376 are sought by the Army, 1,410 by the Navy, 1,297 by the Marines and 50 by the Air Force. Some have been missing for decades.

But campaigners say the true figure could be far higher. Staff who run a volunteer hotline to help desperate soldiers and recruits who want to get out, say the number of calls has increased by 50 per cent since 9/11. Last year alone, the GI Rights Hotline took more than 30,000 calls. At present, the hotline gets 3,000 calls a month and the volunteers say that by the time a soldier or recruit dials the help-line they have almost always made up their mind to get out by one means or another.

"People are calling us because there is a real problem," said Robert Dove, a Quaker who works in the Boston office of the American Friends Service Committee, one of several volunteer groups that have operated the hotline since 1995. "We do not profess to be lawyers or therapists but we do provide both types of support."

The people calling the hotline range from veterans such as Sgt Benderman to recruits such as Jeremiah Adler, an idealistic 18-year-old from Portland, Oregon, who joined the Army believing he could help change its culture. Within days of arriving for his basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, he realised he had made a mistake and said the Army simply wanted to turn him into a "ruthless, cold-blooded killer".

Mr Adler begged to be sent home and even pretended to be gay to be discharged. Eventually, he and another recruit fled in the night and rang the hotline, which advised him to turn himself in to avoid court-martial. He will now be given an "other than honourable discharge".

From southern Germany where he is on holiday before starting college in the autumn, Mr Adler told The Independent: "It was obviously a horrible experience but now I'm glad I went through it. I was expecting to meet a whole lot of different types of people; some had noble reasons. I also met a lot of people who [wanted] to kill Arabs." In one letter home to his family, Mr Adler wrote that when he arrived he was horrified by the things he heard other recruits talking about, things that in civilian life would result in someone being treated as an outcast. In another letter he said he could hear other recruits crying at night. "You can hear people trying to make sure no one hears them cry under their covers," he wrote.

Mr Adler now provides advice to other recruits who have decided the military is not for them. "When people contact me I tell them go Awol; it's the quickest way to get out," he said. "I was told I would be facing 20 years hard labour at Fort Leavenworth [military prison] because that is what the sergeant will tell you. I learnt that was not the case."

Jeremy Hinzman, 26, a reservist with the 82nd Airborne Division who served in Afghan-istan, decided to go Awol after his unit was ordered to Iraq. He took his wife and child and fled to Canada, hoping to be welcomed, as were the 50,000 or so young Americans who sought refuge north of the border to avoid the Vietnam war.

But in March he was refused refugee status by the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board. Mr Hinzman, who is appealing the decision, told the hearing: "We were told that we would be going to Iraq to jack up some terrorists. We were told it was a new kind of war, that these were evil people and they had to be dealt with ... We were told to consider all Arabs as potential terrorists ... to foster an attitude of hatred that gets your blood boiling."

Campaigners say recruits who decide they want to leave the military are the most vulnerable to pressure from sergeants and officers who try to force them to stay. Some are told they will go to jail, others are told they will never be able to get a job if they receive a "less than honourable discharge", they say. They also face intense peer pressure and abuse, as they try to get out and after they manage to do so.

Campaigners have also drawn attention to the often scurrilous tactics used by US military recruiters, who for three months have failed to meet their targets for recruits. After several cases where recruiters had illegally covered up recruits' criminal and medical records, threatened one prospect with jail for failing to meet an appointment and provided another with laxatives to help him lose weight and pass a physical, the Pentagon is halting all recruiting on 20 May for a day of retraining.

Senior commanders have said the present recruiting environment - with the war in Iraq having cost the lives of more than 1,600 servicemen and women and the economy able to offer other jobs - is their most difficult. Despite this, the Pentagon insists it is committed to finding recruits in a fair and transparent process. Colonel Joseph Curtin, an Army spokesman, said the retraining day would give recruiters time to "focus on how they can do a very tough mission without violating good order and discipline".

JE McNeil, who heads the Centre for Conscience and War in Washington DC, a Christian group whose members also staff the GI Rights Hotline, said many troops she spoke with had been lied to by recruiters. "I had an 18-year-old who was told he did not have to serve in Iraq. 'I was told I'd get a job where I would not be sent', he told me," said Ms McNeill, a lawyer. "He was recruited to be an military policeman. They are the people they are sending to Iraq. People all the time are told [by recruiters] 'I can get you a job where you will not have to go to war'."

Campaigners say that despite pressure on unhappy recruits exerted in the barracks and the insults they will likely face, if a recruit follows the correct legal procedure they can usually get out of the military. One of the biggest hurdles for those who want out is obtaining the correct information on how best to proceed. Usually, the advice to those on the run is to turn themselves in. After 30 days of being Awol a serviceman is considered a deserter, and a warrant is issued for his arrest. At that point, he can be returned to his unit, court-martialled or given jail time or - and this is more often than not the outcome for recruits - they will be given a non-judicial punishment and an less-than-honourable discharge. Volunteers say usually the military is more inclined to let go those who have had the least training and are the least specialised. But an experienced Air Force pilot, for instance, in whom the military has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars, could face a much more difficult time in getting out. "The most important thing we do is listen and not lie," Ms McNeil said. "Sometimes I tell people there is nothing they can do. I don't enjoy saying it but some times that is it."

Kevin Benderman is anything but a raw recruit. He joined the US Army in 1987, served in the Gulf War and received an honourable discharge in 1991. He rejoined in 2000 and served during the invasion of Iraq with the 4th Infantry Division. He says what he saw there left him morally opposed to returning to war applied to be a CO. The military says that on 10 January he failed to show up when his unit was to ship out.

Last week, at Fort Stewart, a military judge started a so-called Article 32 hearing to decide whether there is sufficient evidence for a full court-martial of Sgt Benderman. The proceedings recommence on 26 May. Sgt Benderman's wife, Monica, who had been heavily involved in organising his defence, said: "A lot of what they are saying about Kevin is not true. He never went Awol and was never a deserter. He is staying strong. I am proud of him. He has had a lot thrown at him over the past three days. If you consider what he has gone through he is doing very well. If people cannot see he is genuine, then they are not looking at him."

The Pentagon says it does not keep records of how many try to desert each year. A spokeswoman, Lieutenant Colonel Ellen Krenke, said the running rally had declined since 9/11 from 8,396 to the present total of 5,133. She added: "The vast majority of those who desert do so because they have committed some criminal act, not for political or conscientious objector purposes."

Comment: When we look at the military's line on deserters, we are reminded of the slurs thrown at George Galloway. In both cases, the moral issues are discounted and they are accused of being criminals! Once more, the psychopath accuses the victim of that which he is doing himself.

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Start a War, No Money Down!
Published: May 14, 2005

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ANNOUNCER: In the old days, war profiteering was a grueling round-the-clock job. You actually had to make something, like planes or guns, and then overcharge the government obscenely. Now, thanks to the Republicans, countless Americans are becoming "war profiteers" in their spare time - and you can, too. Riches once thought to be the exclusive preserve of a few unsavory arms merchants have been made available to thousands of successful Americans, many of whom pull in the cash literally as they sleep!

What's their secret? With "The Republican Guide to Wartime Tax Cuts," you can find out what's in the playbook of Republican professionals. You'll get the war you want without laying out a dime, even as you benefit from huge tax cuts to boot (note: certain income thresholds apply).

And here's the kicker: you can slip the bill for all of this - both the war and your tax cut - to unsuspecting children!

I know what you're thinking: "I don't have the self-confidence or social skills to reach for such dreams." But here's the truth: neither did Republicans a few years ago. Yet just this week they came through again. On Wednesday, George Bush signed into law an additional $82 billion for Iraq, which brings the amount America has spent to oust Saddam Hussein and occupy the country close to $300 billion.

Now, whatever you thought about Saddam, the best news is this: we got this war for no money down and zero payments for 10 years. That's right: every penny spent on this war has been added to the deficit. And this latest $82 billion sailed through without a hitch, with no pesky questions as to whether we should actually pay for our own wars today.

(Yes, there was one scare, when Joe Biden said we could do that by repealing a sliver of the tax cuts with which the G.O.P. has incentivized important Americans. Luckily this notion was swatted away as "nongermane.") Now the drive for more tax cuts continues, even as yearly deficits close in on half a trillion dollars!

If you're ready to bring into your own life the power that this total suppression of fiscal and moral reality can offer, "The Republican Guide" is for you. Our CD's and training manuals will teach you how to profit during wartime without ever leaving your home. In an age of everlasting war, we'll show you which congressmen to call to make sure your tax cuts are permanent to match.

But there's more. Beyond learning how to maximize your own wartime tax cuts, you'll master previously undisclosed behavioral secrets that let you act as if there's nothing wrong with getting yours while the getting's good - just as top Republicans do!

Don't take my word for it. Listen to how someone just like you changed his life in a few short hours of study.


THIRTY-SOMETHING MALE: I never felt strong enough to utterly ignore Judeo-Christian ethics, even though I suspected that could get me the life I dreamed of. That's why "The Republican Guide" is so inspiring.

Believe it or not, there was actually a time when it was considered offensive to fight wars and cut taxes at the same time. In those days, conservatives were ostracized for wanting to scrap estate taxes for wealthy heirs while soldiers died in distant lands and their families scraped by on food stamps. I know - it seems so far away!

That's when I had to ask myself: if Republicans could find the courage to put these inhibitions behind them, imagine what I could do to reach for the brass ring in my own life. Now, though I'd rather not go into the details, I make more money, pay less taxes and have a beautiful wife and child.

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ANNOUNCER: So what are you waiting for? Our operators are standing by at call centers in India. Let "The Republican Guide to Wartime Tax Cuts" change your life, just as it's changed America.


WARNING: Support for the Republicans' wartime fiscal policy may include such side effects as 50 million uninsured, crumbling roads and bridges, and swelling inequality. If you are concerned about any of these symptoms, please call Dr. Howard Dean.

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USA Following Israel in Public Assassination Policy
By Billy Johnston
Al-Jazeerah, May 16, 2005

Over the last 4 years or so, the Israeli military assassinated the entire leadership of the Palestinian people. Shaik Yassin, Abdul Aziz Al Rantisi, and many others were assassinated by missiles fired from helicopters. Once all possible successors of Yasser Arafat had been assassinated, it appears that Yasser Arafat himself was murdered by poison. This was done so that only collaborators or the weak would be left to form a Palestinian government.

The Israeli government called these assassinations "extra judicial killings". As if inventing a propaganda phrase for the act of murder somehow confers legitimacy on such heinous acts. Back in the days of morality and law, before the coup in the United States that installed George Bush as president, before the illegal invasion of Iraq, assassinations were reviled by the international community. Assassination was condemned by all law abiding nations and rightly so.

Now that the Israeli shadow government has completed it's takeover of the USA, the USA is duplicating Israeli behavior. The Israeli shadow government has ordered the USA to use public assassination in order to further its goals.

It has been reported that a man named Haitham al-Yemeni was assassinated by the USA in the country of Pakistan last week. The assassination was carried out by firing a missile from a drone at a car carrying al-Yemini. Just as Abdul Aziz al-Rantisi and many other Palestinians were assassinated by missiles as they were driving in a car.

The USA has officially denied the assassination so that the collaborators in the Pakistani government can continue to help the USA murder people on Pakistani soil. Unofficially, military and other sources say that al-Yemeni was assassinated because they were afraid they would lose track of him.

Let us make this perfectly clear.

If the USA suspected this man of some crime, he should have been captured and brought to trial where a jury would examine the evidence and decide on the guilt or innocence of the man. This is what is done in civilized countries that believe in justice and law. If the USA knew the location of Al-Yemeni well enough to murder him with a missile, they knew his location well enough to capture him. According to news reports, al-Yemeni was guilty of no crimes. He did not blow up anyone, he did not kill anyone.

The USA is now completely in thrall to the Israeli shadow government. These people have remade the USA government into a mirror image of themselves. The entire campaign of lies about WMD became a "mistake". The cultural heritage of Iraq has been looted and their assets are currently being stolen. These are "accidents" and "accounting errors". The murder of innocent people in Iraq on a daily basis does not even merit an excuse. They say they can't be bothered to keep track of how many innocent civilians they kill.

History will record this era as the time when the Israelis threw off their cloak of secrecy and assumed full public control of the USA in order to further their plans for world domination. The historical records will show that the USA changed from being a champion of freedom and justice into a client state of Israel. Reviled and hated by the rest of the world just as Israel is reviled and hated by the rest of the world.

For the selfish reason of wanting to be good neighbors and deserving of the respect and admiration and well wishes of the rest of the world, the USA should immediately stop and unequivocally reject the Israeli policy of public assassination.

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Diplomats taken to Uzbek town, miss killing scene
By Dmitry Solovyov
May 18, 2005

ANDIZHAN, Uzbekistan - Uzbekistan's government on Wednesday took foreign diplomats to the town where witnesses said troops shot dead hundreds of people but did not show them the actual site of the massacre.

Authorities have blamed the killings in the eastern town of Andizhan on Muslim rebels, but witnesses said some 500 people, including women and children, were gunned down by security forces who opened fire on protesters last Friday.

"Write that down in your story that they never took us to the school," one diplomat shouted to reporters from a bus taking the envoys and foreign journalists back to the airport.

It was outside School No. 15 on Cholpon Avenue that witnesses said the killings took place.

"It's really weird. Why should they want to go to this school?" this reporter heard one Uzbek official say to another.

The group included diplomats from a number of European countries, including Britain, Romania and the Czech Republic, and China and
South Korea.

Heavily armed special forces accompanied the busloads of visitors as they traveled around the deserted town, where the normally bustling tea houses and kebab shops were empty apart from the police and soldiers patrolling them.

The more than two-hour tour of the Central Asian town, in the densely populated Ferghana Valley, was led by Interior Minister Zakirdzhon Almatov who repeated government insistence that it was rebels, not Uzbek troops, who were behind the bloodshed. [...]

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Protesters Subjected To 'Pretext Interviews'

FBI Memo Shows No Specific Threats
By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 18, 2005; Page A04

New FBI documents to be released today show that anti-terrorism agents who questioned antiwar protesters last summer in Denver were conducting "pretext interviews" that did not lead to any information about criminal activity.

The memos were obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union as part of ongoing litigation and provide a glimpse of the FBI's controversial efforts to interview dozens of members of leftist protest groups before the party conventions last year in Boston and New York.

FBI officials and then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft said at the time that the interviews were based on indications that radical protesters may be planning violent disruptions. Authorities said one specific threat involved plans to blow up a media van in Boston.

But the new memos provide no indication of specific threat information. Instead, one heavily censored memo from the FBI's Denver field office, dated Aug. 2, 2004, characterized the effort as "pretext interviews to gain general information concerning possible criminal activity at the upcoming political conventions and presidential election."

Another memo from December 2004 indicated that Sarah Bardwell, one of the Denver activists singled out for interviews, was targeted because she had helped organize an antiwar protest and was a member of a group called Food Not Bombs, which the memo characterized as having a "close association" with a radical anarchist group.

ACLU officials said yesterday that the documents show that investigators from the FBI and the local Joint Terrorism Task Force were on a fishing expedition.

"These documents confirm that the FBI's anti-terrorism force has been collecting information about peaceful protesters and dissenters and targeting people for attention on the basis of constitutionally protected association and advocacy," said Mark Silverstein, legal director of the ACLU's Colorado chapter. "It lends credence to what a lot of critics have said: that the FBI is starting to regard some forms of dissent as potential terrorism."

FBI officials said the interviews stemmed from specific threat information, but they declined to provide details.

"The interviews reflected in these isolated documents were based on a specific and credible threat received by the FBI regarding potential violent criminal activity that could have caused death or serious bodily injury and was to occur during the Democratic National Convention," the bureau said in a statement. "It is the FBI's top priority to prevent any act of terrorism, which requires special agents of the FBI to thoroughly investigate every credible threat received."

Bardwell, 21, who helped organize antiwar protests on behalf of a local chapter of the American Friends Service Committee, said she had no plans to attend either of the political conventions and was troubled by the FBI's attempt to interview her and her friends. None of the activists consented to the interviews.

"It's very clear to me that the purpose of those interviews was to intimidate activists in the Denver area from exercising their First Amendment rights," she said.

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Artwork Angers Calif. Immigration Foes
Sun May 15, 5:47 PM ET

BALDWIN PARK, Calif. - Members of a group that opposes illegal immigration protested a piece of public art with inscriptions they claim are anti-American, sparking heated exchanges with residents of this heavily Hispanic city.

Police in riot helmets separated the 40 members of Save Our State and scores of residents during the rally Saturday, but there were no reports of arrests or injuries. The protesters were then escorted away from the site.

The artwork, called "Danza Indigenas," has a 20-foot-high arch with inscriptions that read, "It was better before they came" and "This land was Mexican once, was Indian always and is, and will be again."

The Ventura-based Save Our State organization, formed seven months ago, said it wants the inscriptions removed before the Fourth of July.

"I find it incredibly offensive," said Joseph Turner, the group's executive director. He said the inscription "is seditious in nature. It essentially talks about returning this land to Mexico."

The artwork was created 12 years ago by artist Judy Baca and commissioned by the city. Baca said the structure is a "layered history piece" that honors American Indians, immigrants and other groups who have lived for centuries in the area.

Baca said that Save Our State's complaint was misguided. She said the quote, "It was better before they came," was originally uttered by a "white man from Arkansas," who was complaining about the arrival of Mexican-Americans after World War II.

Comment: The artwork was not talking about returning America to those from whom it was taken by force, but was instead intended to glorify the xenophobic attitude of some Americans. Geez, could Save Our State be any more misguided??

"When it went on the arch, its ambiguity became profound," she said. "The 'they' could be any 'they.'"

Baldwin Park, about 70 percent Hispanic, is 15 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

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Government Pledges Action for D.C. Scare
Associated Press
Sun May 15, 4:59 AM ET

WASHINGTON - The government is pledging to take serious action against the pilot whose small plane strayed over Washington last week, leading to the panicked evacuations of the White House, the Capitol and the Supreme Court.

"Any enforcement action we might take is not done lightly," said Greg Martin, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration. An investigation could result in the revocation of Hayden "Jim" Sheaffer Jr.'s pilot's license. Student pilot Troy D. Martin, who was also in the single-engine Cessna 150, does not have a pilot certificate, so he will not be subject to the same action.

"It's quite evident from anybody who witnessed Wednesday's incident that the pilot clearly had no idea what he wandered into," Greg Martin said Saturday.

Sheaffer, 69, froze when a Black Hawk helicopter appeared near his right wing as he was flying toward the White House and had a hard time handling his small aircraft, officials told The Washington Post. Troy Martin, 36, who had logged only 30 hours of flight time, took over the controls and landed the plane at an airport in Frederick, Md., the paper reported Saturday.

Sheaffer and Martin took off from Smoketown, Pa., on Wednesday to go to an air show in Lumberton, N.C.

Their plane entered restricted airspace and then continued flying toward highly sensitive areas, prompting evacuations of tens of thousands of people as military aircraft scrambled to intercept it. Alert levels at the White House and the Capitol were raised to their highest level - red.

Customs officials had scrambled a Black Hawk helicopter, which peeled away when two F-16 fighter jets arrived at the scene. The jets dipped their wings - a pilot's signal to "follow me" - and tried to contact the pilot on the radio. When the Cessna didn't change course, the jet pilots dropped flares.

Finally, when the Cessna came within three miles of the White House - just a few minutes flying time - it altered course.

After landing in Frederick, the pilot and student pilot were handcuffed and questioned before being released. Authorities said the two had become lost en route to North Carolina from Pennsylvania.

Sheaffer and Martin have not been available for comment.

Sheaffer didn't take the most basic steps required of pilots before operating an aircraft, the Post reported, citing FAA records. He failed to check the weather report before leaving Smoketown, and he didn't check the FAA's "Notices to Airmen," which informs pilots of airspace restrictions.

Greg Martin, the FAA spokesman, would not confirm the Post's account.

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Alitalia jet diverted to Maine
May 17, 2005

BOSTON (CP) - An Alitalia jet en route to Boston from Milan was diverted to Maine on Tuesday, escorted by Canadian fighter jets, because the name of a passenger on board matched that of a person on the U.S. government's no-fly list, officials said.

But the FBI later said the man was not a suspected terrorist. Flight 618 landed shortly before 1 p.m. at Bangor International Airport in Maine, where one passenger was removed from the plane along with his luggage. The plane took off again about an hour later and headed to Boston.

The man was questioned at the airport by the FBI, which decided not to arrest him, spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz said.

Canadian fighter jets escorted the flight through Canadian air space, and it was picked up by U.S. fighters in American air space, said Ann Davis, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration.

The two F-15 Eagles from Otis Air National Guard base on Cape Cod accompanied the flight into Bangor, said Davis, adding there was "no report of any unusual activity on board." [...]

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Officer Suspended Over Teen Taser Incident
5/17/2005 10:42:42 AM

JACKSONVILLE, FL (AP) -- An officer has been suspended for three days for allegedly zapping a 13-year-old girl with a stun gun while she was handcuffed in his caged patrol car. [...]

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Chronic hugger runs afoul of rules

Detention angers girl's mother
School says aim is to teach manners

May 17, 2005. 01:00 AM

BEND, Ore.—A 14-year-old girl received detention over a lingering hug she gave her boyfriend at school, infuriating her mother and putting school officials on the defensive.

School officials said they had warned Cazz Altomare that lingering hugging was unacceptable, but she continued to disobey the rule when she received the detention earlier this year.

Rules at Sky View Middle School in Bend permit "quick hello and goodbye hugs."

But administrators said some students have been taking advantage of it.

"It's not like we are the hug Nazis," Laurie Gould, spokeswoman for the Bend-La Pine School District, said yesterday.

"Kids hug, they hug hello and they hug goodbye, but if you take it farther, you make people uncomfortable.''

Cazz got detention after giving her boyfriend a protracted hug in the hallway at Sky View Middle School in Bend.

Her mother, Leslee Swanson, was infuriated by the punishment.

When she went to pick her daughter up from detention, she gave her a good, hard hug.

"I'm trying to understand what's wrong with a hug," Swanson, 42, said in a story Sunday in The Bulletin of Bend.

People should not "blindly accept these fundamental rights being taken away from them," she said. [...]

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Air Force Seeks Bush's Approval for Space Weapons Programs
The New York Times
May 18, 2005

The Air Force, saying it must secure space to protect the nation from attack, is seeking President Bush's approval of a national-security directive that could move the United States closer to fielding offensive and defensive space weapons, according to White House and Air Force officials.

The proposed change would be a substantial shift in American policy. It would almost certainly be opposed by many American allies and potential enemies, who have said it may create an arms race in space.

A senior administration official said that a new presidential directive would replace a 1996 Clinton administration policy that emphasized a more pacific use of space, including spy satellites' support for military operations, arms control and nonproliferation pacts.

Any deployment of space weapons would face financial, technological, political and diplomatic hurdles, although no treaty or law bans Washington from putting weapons in space, barring weapons of mass destruction.

A presidential directive is expected within weeks, said the senior administration official, who is involved with space policy and insisted that he not be identified because the directive is still under final review and the White House has not disclosed its details.

Air Force officials said yesterday that the directive, which is still in draft form, did not call for militarizing space. "The focus of the process is not putting weapons in space," said Maj. Karen Finn, an Air Force spokeswoman, who said that the White House, not the Air Force, makes national policy. "The focus is having free access in space."

With little public debate, the Pentagon has already spent billions of dollars developing space weapons and preparing plans to deploy them.

"We haven't reached the point of strafing and bombing from space," Pete Teets, who stepped down last month as the acting secretary of the Air Force, told a space warfare symposium last year.

"Nonetheless, we are thinking about those possibilities." [...]

Last month, Gen. James E. Cartwright, who leads the United States Strategic Command, told the Senate Armed Services nuclear forces subcommittee that the goal of developing space weaponry was to allow the nation to deliver an attack "very quickly, with very short time lines on the planning and delivery, any place on the face of the earth." [...]

Comment: Note the contradiction between the statements from Maj. Karen Finn and Gen. James Cartwright. Finn said, "The focus of the process is not putting weapons in space. The focus is having free access in space." Cartwright, on the other hand, states very clearly that the purpose is to allow the US to deliver attacks very quickly to any place on Earth. We suspect that Cartwright's statement is more on the mark, as the Pentagon already seems to have developed the weapons.

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Toughening Its Line, U.S. Warns China About Currency
The New York Times
May 18, 2005

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration warned China on Tuesday that its currency policies were distorting world trade, and it brandished the threat of retaliation against the country's exports if Chinese leaders did not change course in the next year.

In language far harsher than it has used before, the Treasury Department declared that China's fixed exchange rate between its currency, the yuan, and the dollar posed a risk to its economy and the economies of much of the rest of the world.

The administration stopped short of accusing China of outright currency manipulation, a move demanded by American manufacturers who complain that the Chinese have artificially undervalued their currency to make exports cheaper in the United States.

But the new language marked a change in relations, which the administration has until now handled with painstaking delicacy.

"Current Chinese policies," the Treasury Department said in a report to Congress on Tuesday, "are highly distortionary and pose a risk to China's economy, its trading partners and global economic growth." [...]

Comment: Yup, it's all China's fault! We are meant to believe that the outsourcing and offshoring committed by American companies is irrelevant. We are supposed to forget all about the massive US trade deficit and the sky-high personal debt levels in the US. Above all, we must never even consider that the Bush administration's war on terror has done nothing but harm the US economy and the average US consumer as mountains of cash are dumped onto the military and arms manufacturers, even as ordinary Americans can't find jobs, must pay exorbitant medical insurance premiums, and watch helplessly as their financial nest eggs are obliterated by psychopathic corporations and their psychopathic pals in government.

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China rejects criticism on yuan, textile
By Kevin Yao and Sebastian Tong
Wed May 18, 3:25 AM ET

BEIJING/SINGAPORE - China on Wednesday dismissed U.S. criticism of its fixed currency peg and attacked European and U.S. steps to curb Chinese textile exports as unfair.

The war of words reflects growing political unease on both sides of the Atlantic over jobs that are being lost because of a relentless increase in low-cost imports from China -- many of them made in factories built by U.S. and European companies.

Comment: Exactly. So how can the US or Europe blame China?

The U.S. Treasury warned Beijing on Tuesday it could be labeled a manipulative trading partner unless it took steps toward scrapping the yuan's decade-old peg against the dollar.

Commerce Minister Bo Xilai said Beijing was studying the Treasury's report but it disagreed with its conclusions.

"I believe they are not reasonable," Bo told Reuters on the sidelines of a business forum. [...]

Hours after the U.S. accusation, China kicked off a new foreign exchange dealing system that allows trading in currencies other than the yuan, a milestone in the country's effort to reform its tightly controlled currency regime.

China has long said that it intends to unshackle the yuan, also known as the renminbi, which has been pegged near 8.28 to the dollar since the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. [...]

Wei said accusations that China was deliberately holding down the yuan were groundless and told the United States to "put its own house in order before blaming others" for its trade deficit. [...]

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Blair, on weaker footing, presses ahead with controversial ID cards
18 May 2005 0119 hrs - AFP

LONDON - Prime Minister Tony Blair embarked on his third term and final in office with controversial plans for identity cards, a scheme likely to test out his Labour Party's sharply reduced majority in parliament.

The ID card plan was among anti-terror and security measures announced Tuesday by Queen Elizabeth II at the official re-opening of parliament following the May 5 general election, when Blair's Labour Party won re-election.

The monarch, making the traditional government-scripted statement of intent ahead of a parliamentary session, announced a programme of roughly 40 planned measures which will form a sizeable part of Blair's final political legacy.

The prime minister, in power since 1997, has promised to step down near the end of his third term, although a series of Labour rebels have called on him to go more quickly, with finance minister Gordon Brown seen as a likely successor.

At the general election, Labour was re-elected with a parliamentary majority of 67, comfortable by historic standards but well below the 167 seen at the 2001 election.

The passage of the ID card bill through parliament is likely to be the prime minister's first big challenge in quashing rebelling among rebel Labour MPs keen to take advantage of this newly-reduced margin.

"Legislation will be taken forward to introduce an identity cards scheme," said the monarch, resplendent in crown, heavy ermine robe and full ceremonial jewellery, in the only mention of the plan in the 25-minute address known as the Queen's Speech.

The measure was planned before the election, but met fierce opposition within Labour and was dropped in the days before parliament was dissolved due to lack of time.

ID cards are commonplace in most European countries, but they have never been permanently introduced in Britain, where many citizens fear they would compromise their civil rights.

The measure is officially aimed at combatting people fraudulently obtaining state benefits, but is also part of the government's broader fight against terrorism, following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

Human rights organisations have long condemned the plan, with Shami Chakrabarti, head of the group Liberty, condemning "a Queen's Speech revealing a chronic lack of respect for our democratic traditions".

Elsewhere in the monarch's address, she outlined other plans to "continue the fight against terrorism in the United Kingdom and elsewhere", measures expected to include a law creating new the criminal offences of "acts preparatory to terrorism" and "glorifying or condoning" terrorism.

Additionally, the government promised an ambitious programme of reform to areas including immigration controls -- which will be made tougher -- education, the National Health Service (NHS) and criminal law.

Addressing the House of Commons later Tuesday, Blair labelled the programme "quintessentially New Labour", a term closely associated with the prime minister, which refers to the centrist line the party has pursued under Blair.

"At the heart of the Queen's Speech are policies that prepare our economy for the future, continue the investment in and reform of the NHS and our educational system, protect our citizens from terrorism and crime," he said.

He also served notice that the plan for ID cards would not be postponed again, calling them the "obvious policy for security in the time in which we live."

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Top spy appointed new ambassador to US
May 17, 2005 - 1:26PM

Australia's top spy Dennis Richardson has been appointed as Australia's next ambassador to the United States.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said today Mr Richardson, who is the director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, would help foster relations between the two countries.

"He has made a major contribution to Australia's security in this [the ASIO] role, especially since September 11, 2001, and will be a highly effective ambassador to the United States," Mr Downer said.

Mr Richardson will replace Michael Thawley, who left the post earlier this month. [...]

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Why puberty now begins at seven
By Michelle Roberts
BBC News health reporter

Whether it is sprouting hair, budding breasts or a breaking voice, the signs that herald puberty can be distressing and difficult to cope with.

In the western world children are reaching puberty at younger and younger ages - some girls at the age of seven.

The reasons for this trend is unknown, although several theories have been suggested.

Swedish scientists at the Karolinska Institute aim to find out by tackling the puzzle from different angles.

Precocious puberty

It is accepted that the normal age for a girl to begin to develop the first signs of puberty is 10 and above. Boys develop slightly later, generally at eleven-and-a-half.

However, the age has been decreasing in developed countries.

In 1990, the first signs of puberty were around the age of eight for girls - the whole process taking two years to complete.

Now, according to researchers, some enter puberty as young as seven.

Boys, too, are entering puberty at an earlier stage, albeit still slightly later than girls.

But it is unclear whether this is a simply a shift of the norm, or a if more children are experiencing a phenomenon called precocious puberty - when they develop the first signs of puberty abnormally early.

Controversial theories have been put forward, including how watching too much television could distort the hormonal balance of adolescents and push many of them into early puberty.

Psychologists have said young girls who have close relationships with their fathers might enter puberty later than girls with distant or non-existent links.

Now 12 European teams are carrying out research as part of a three-year project to get to the root of the problem, looking at the most likely culprits.


Professor Olle Söder from the Karolinska Institute is leading one study which will look at whether rising obesity rates are to blame.

His team will study whether animals that are overfed produce more of the male and female sexual hormones that trigger puberty.

"We believe that this has a nutritional background and that the obesity explosion we have seen in the US, and which is coming to Europe, is important," he said.

Colleagues in Germany will gather data on around 50,000 children to look at whether those who are plumper reach puberty earlier.

A London group will look at strains of mice renowned for early or late onset of puberty and see whether they can modify this with diet.

Researchers have shown that overfed and rapidly growing newborn babies go on to reach puberty earlier than other babies.

Also, adoption studies show undernourished children who have catch-up growth after being placed with more affluent families have earlier onset of puberty than siblings who remain in their home place.

Pesticides and pollution

"Another thing that might be important is environmental factors that mimic hormones, such as pesticides," said Professor Söder.

A team of Belgian researchers pointed the finger at a chemical derivative of the controversial pesticide DDT.

Jean-Pierre Bourguignon and colleagues from the University of Liege found children who had emigrated from countries such as India and Colombia were 80 times more likely to start puberty unusually young.

Three-quarters of these immigrant children with "precocious" puberty had high levels of a chemical derivative of DDT in their blood.

However, there is no firm evidence. Some of the European researchers will probe this further.

Equally, he said it might be down to genetics.


A team of researchers in the UK and the US recently pinpointed a gene that they believe controls puberty through the regulation of a protein called GPR54.

The US scientists, from Massachusetts General Hospital, found that the gene that codes for GPR54 was mutated in all members of a Saudi Arabian family who failed to reach puberty.

At the same time, scientists at the UK biotechnology company Paradigm Therapeutics contacted the US doctors to tell them they had bred mice that had failed to reach puberty.

They had "knocked out" the gene for GPR54 in these mice.

Regardless of whether it is down to one factor or many, it is not clear whether children entering puberty earlier is a problem, said Professor Söder.

Some say girls who reach puberty earlier are more likely to drop out of school and have lower incomes.

Data shows that they are also more likely to become mums earlier.

With more and more women putting off having a baby until later life, this might help be a good thing and help reverse trends of top heavy ageing population, said Professor Söder.

But equally, it might mean more women reach the menopause earlier too and miss their chance to become a mum, he said.

Either way, "it will have a societal impact," he warned.

Comment: Another story that illustrates how little we really know. We are caught in the midst of a rapidly changing world, from climate change to disease to early puberty. We continue recklessly careening ahead.

Notice the reference to gene GPR54, a gene that shows some indication of relating to puberty. Now take a look at our report on ethnic specific weapons. Now put the two together. In a world as corrupt as our own, we have no doubt that advances in the mapping of the genome will be used for nefarious purposes before anything is done with them for the good of humanity. When have people in power ever done anything that is good for humanity?

As plans proceed for the "depopulation" of the planet, we imagine that many different methods will be used. War, of course, is very effective, as is disease and famine. Civil war can be very useful in killing off a wide range of people. Natural catastrophes such as earthquakes will account for a few more. Why not some strange disease that keeps people as children? Sure, it is outlandish, but when has that ever stopped Them?

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HIV is 'out of control' in India

A senior Aids expert has warned that HIV in India is "out of control".

The executive director of the Global Fund to Fight Aids said that the epidemic in India is spreading rapidly and nothing is being done to stop it.

Richard Feachem warned that India has overtaken South Africa as the country with the most HIV positive patients.

He warned that the epidemic has spread so quickly that India needed to "wake up" and take the problem seriously, otherwise millions of people will die.

Official statistics 'wrong'

"The epidemic [in India] is growing very rapidly. It is out of control. There is nothing happening in India today that is big or serious enough to prevent it," Mr Feachem said.

He warned that India has now overtaken South Africa as the country with the highest number of people living with Aids or the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV.

"Official statistics show India in second place and South Africa in first place," he said, "but the official statistics are wrong. India is in first place," he told the AFP news agency.

Latest figures provided by the UN agency UNAids - released in July 2004 - show that South Africa had the highest total of people with HIV or Aids in the world, with an estimated 5.3 million infected adults and children in a range of 4.5 to 6.2 million.

India's total was put at 5.1 million, but the range estimate was far wider - from 2.5 to 8.5 million - because of the lack of reliable data there in relation to the HIV pandemic.

India has to wake up and India has to take this very, very seriously
Richard Feachem, executive director, Global Fund to Fight Aids

Mr Feachem warned that the illness would spread faster among India's Hindu population than among Muslims, because Muslims tend to be circumcised, which he said was "an acknowledged protective factor" against the Aids virus.

Widespread ignorance

The Global Health Fund was set up in 2001 by the G8 group of industrialised countries to provide funding for projects in countries worst affected by HIV/Aids, Malaria and TB.

Mr Feachem said that the biggest form of transmission in India is from heterosexual intercourse with prostitutes.

He said the problems were compounded by widespread ignorance about HIV, an illness which he said had become stigmatised.

He also criticised the high prices in India of anti-HIV drugs.

"It is easier to get Indian generic drugs in Africa than it is to get them in India. That is a scandal and has to be changed."

The Global Fund has committed more than $3bn to 300 programmes in 127 countries for combating HIV/Aids, TB and malaria.

Comment: Speaking of depopulation....

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Ape hunters pick up new viruses
Chimpanzee or Bush Meat Eater?
Chimpanzees carry viruses which can jump to humans

Two new viruses from the same family as HIV have been discovered in central Africans who hunt nonhuman primates.

Researchers say their work proves it is not unusual for potentially dangerous viruses to jump from primates to man.

They say it is important to monitor disease in bush meat hunters closely, as any virus they contract from animals may spread to the community at large.

The study, led by Johns Hopkins University, is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The new viruses identified in the latest study come from a group known as the retroviruses, which are known to cause serious illnesses in humans.

They have been named Human T-lymphotropic Virus types 3 and 4 (HTLV-3 and HTLV-4).

Humans have previously been infected by HTLV-1 and HTLV-2. In most cases infection does not produce symptoms, but it can trigger neurological problems, and even leukaemia.

Lead researcher Dr Nathan Wolfe said: "The emergence of HIV from primate origins has cost millions of lives.

"The discoveries of HTLV-3 and HTLV-4 show that, far from being rare events, retroviruses are actively crossing into human populations."

Blood samples

The research team collected and examined blood samples from more than 900 people living throughout Cameroon.

All the individuals studied reported some exposure to blood and body fluids of nonhuman primates, contact mostly due to hunting and butchering of bush meat, and in some cases to keeping primates as pets.

Analysis of the blood samples showed that various simian (ape) viruses had infected the participants.

The two previously unknown viruses were found in two bush meat hunters.

HTLV-3 is similar to a simian virus called STLV-3, and was most likely contracted through direct contact with a primate during hunting.

HTLV-4 does not have a known primate counterpart, making its origin less clear. The researchers believe it could have arisen through cross-species transmission from an animal carrying an unknown form of STLV.

The same team discovered another primate retrovirus - the simian foamy virus (SFV) - in bush meat hunters last year.

Threat unclear

At this stage it is unclear whether either of the two newly discovered viruses, of SFV are harmful to humans, or can be transferred from person to person.

However, the researchers say their work clearly shows that hunting provides the opportunity for viruses to jump the species barrier.

Dr Wolfe said: "Ongoing collaboration with hunters in central Africa gives us the potential to predict and prevent disease emergence.

"Given the incredible potential costs of a new human retrovirus into the general population, the development of sentinel systems for forecasting disease emergence - such as long-term surveillance of hunters - should be seen as a human health imperative."

Dr Deenan Pillay, an expert in virology at University College London, told the BBC News website that it had been thought few viruses jumped the species barrier.

"This research suggests that there seems to be far more transmission of a whole range of primate viruses into humans than was previously thought," he said.

"But that is not alarming in its own right. If the virus fails to replicate, or to be passed on to others, then it does not pose a threat.

"However, if cross-species transmission is such a frequent event, then all it takes is for one virus to really take hold in somebody, and be passed on to others for it to take off in humans."

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Bird flu 'may pass to humans'
Published: 17 May 2005
By: Julian Rush

Scientists are warning that the virus which causes bird flu could soon be able to pass between humans.

New evidence seen by Channel 4 News points to an increased risk of a global flu outbreak because of the way the virus has started to mutate.

It has killed 52 people in Asia in the last two years, and despite the slaughter of millions of birds has not stopped spreading. Now we've seen a report by World Health Organisation scientists which warns that the risk of a global flu outbreak is increasing.

These are the first signs the bird flu virus H5N1 is evolving and evolving in ways that make a global pandemic more likely. [...]

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Rural mobile phone users 'risk tumours'

Scientists claim link between area and illness

Tim Radford, science editor
Tuesday May 17, 2005
The Guardian

Swedish scientists have just identified a potential new hazard of country life. Mobile phone users in rural areas could face a greater risk of developing a brain tumour than those living in towns and cities.

The finding is likely to prove contentious. British scientists appointed by the government to look into health risks associated with mobile phones have repeatedly failed to identify any convincing evidence, but also failed to rule out the possibility that some threat might emerge with continued use. Others have claimed to be able to detect a link.

One of them is Lennart Hardell of the University of Orebro in Sweden, who reports in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine that he and colleagues studied the cases of more than 1,400 adults in Sweden aged between 20 and 80, who suffered either malignant or benign brain tumours. They also interviewed a similar number of healthy adults. Both groups were asked about their use of mobile and cordless phones, and about their employment history.

The Swedish scientists found no evidence that the length of time spent using a phone could be linked with tumour risk. But they did find that digital and cordless phone users living in a rural area for more than three years were three times more likely to be diagnosed with a brain tumour than those in towns and cities. Those who had used a mobile for five years ran four times the risk. And people who lived in rural areas and used digital mobile phones were eight times more likely to contract malignant brain tumours.

Brain tumours are among the less common cancers. In Britain there are 4,300 cases reported each year, compared with 38,400 cases of lung cancer - and although mobile phone use has multiplied hugely in the last decade, the incidence of brain tumours has dropped very slightly.

The Swedish researchers warned their statistics were based on a very small set of results, and needed to be treated with caution. But cellphone base stations were likely to be further apart in rural areas, with a higher signal intensity to compensate. "Clearly our results support the notion that exposure may differ between geographical areas," the scientists said. "In future studies, place of residence should be considered in assessment of exposure to microwaves from cellular phones."

Ed Yong of Cancer Research UK said: "These results are interesting, but they should be interpreted with caution. Most scientific studies have shown that mobile phones do not increase the risk of brain cancer. But mobile phones are a recent invention so we cannot be completely sure about their long-term effects.

"The government and various health agencies have recommended a precautionary approach to mobile phone use. People, especially children, are advised to keep their calls short until definitive research is published," he said.

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Small Earthquake Recorded In Southwest OKC
POSTED: 11:12 am CDT May 17, 2005

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A small earthquake was felt by people near the Oklahoma-Cleveland county line, but there were no reports of damage or injuries.

The magnitude 2.8 quake occurred at 5:31 p.m. Monday about 2.7 miles west of Moore, said Jim Lawson, chief geophysicist of the Oklahoma Geological Survey. [...]

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Thousands flee homes after Krakatau rumor hits Indonesian town
Associated Press
May 17, 2005

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - A rumor that a remnant of the legendary Krakatau volcano was erupting sent thousands of residents of Indonesia's tsunami-hit Sumatra island fleeing in panic, witnesses and media reports said.

Residents of the seaside town of Bandar Lampung ran for higher ground when a tale spread early Tuesday that Anak Krakatau, or the Son of Krakatau, was exploding and had caused a tsunami that was about to crash down on the town.

Those who fled returned only after daybreak, when they could see the volcano _ and that no smoke was rising from it, the state news agency Antara reported.

Anak Krakatau is a small volcanic island that rose into sight after the volcanic blast that tore apart Krakatau island in 1883. The explosion, which echoed across a vast part of Asia, caused a tsunami that killed an estimated 37,000 people and sent ash and rock into the air that altered the Earth's weather patterns for years, was the most powerful ever recorded _ 30 times stronger than a nuclear bomb.

The island lies off Sumatra's southern tip, on the same tectonic faultline as the undersea earthquake that sent tsunami waves crashing into Indian Ocean coastlines on Dec. 26, though it is more than 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) away.

More than 128,000 people in Sumatra were among the more than 176,000 killed in the tsunami. The island has been rocked by countless smaller earthquakes since Dec. 26, and many of its people remain jumpy.

It was unclear how the rumor began, but it quickly spread by word of mouth and mobile telephone short message services, Antara reported. By about 2.a.m. Tuesday, almost all the mosques in Bandar Lampung were broadcasting tsunami warnings from their loudspeakers along with religious verses, it said.

"People were running around shouting the water is rising, Anak Krakatau is erupting," said local police officer Lt. Ayatullah. "The panic increased when the mosques started telling people to run to higher ground."

Police with loudspeakers atop patrol cars toured the city, saying there was no danger and urging people to return to their homes, but it had little effect, said Ayatullah, who goes by a single name.

Unfounded rumors have sparked similar panic in other parts of Indonesia since the tsunami.

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Mount St. Helens Victims' Kin Sound Off
Associated Press
May 18, 2005

MOUNT ST. HELENS NATIONAL MONUMENT, Wash. - The four, their lungs filled with ash, were found inside their car after Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980, with the force of a hydrogen bomb.

Rescuers also discovered a cassette recorded by Ron and Barbara Seibold's children, ages 7 and 9, as the family drove toward the volcano.

"They were goofing around - asking whether or not they would see lava coming out of the mountain," said Jim Thomas, an emergency worker at the time. "One asked if it was dangerous, and both parents cheerfully reassured their kids that they'd be safe."

They weren't.

Like the Seibolds, most of the volcano's 57 victims were caught in the avalanche of boiling mud and ash in sections of the mountain considered safe for camping and recreation. Most died of suffocation as ash filled their throats, noses and lungs.

Twenty-five years after the fatal eruption, victims' families want to stress that their loved ones did not die because of their own recklessness.

"My mother would never ever, ever, ever, ever have killed her own daughter," said Roxann Edwards, of Scio, Ore., who was 18 when her mother and sister set off for a day trip to the mountain. Their bodies were found in the branches of separate hemlock trees, about four miles outside the restricted zones.

On television the day after the eruption, then-Gov. Dixie Lee Ray said most of the victims had ignored official warnings and deliberately went into harm's way. President Carter echoed that comment, saying: "One of the reasons for the loss of life that has occurred is that tourists and other interested people, curious people, refused to comply with the directives issued by the governor."

On Monday, victims' families asked for an apology from Gov. Christine Gregoire on behalf of the late Gov. Ray.

Gregoire said she has no firsthand knowledge of the decisions from that time, but added there has been much progress in preparing for natural disasters.

"I hope it is some consolation to their families that the knowledge we've acquired will help us avoid further tragedy," she said in a prepared statement.

In the weeks leading up to the eruption, tourists were routinely trying to get by roadblocks, said Bob Landon, former chief of the Washington State Patrol. But when the bodies were finally recovered, it became clear that only a handful had died within the off-limits area, he said.

Of the 57 who died on the mountain, only three are known to have been killed within the "red zone," the area cordoned off by officials before the eruption. Another three - all miners carrying permits - died in the adjacent "blue zone," an area closed to the general public but open to permit-carrying workers.

Washington state officials argued that the blast was unprecedented and that there was no way for them to have foreseen the scale of the disaster, which ripped trees out of the ground 17 miles from the crater and devastated an area spanning 230 square miles. Within hours, its plume had blocked the sun over much of eastern Washington. Ash fell like snow as far away as Montana.

The possibility of a far larger eruption had been discussed, but it stayed among scientists, said Richard Waitt, a geologist at the
USGS's Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver. [...]

Comment: Unfortunately, we suspect that we will be seeing more tragedies like the one that involved the Siebold family. The article notes that back before the 1980 eruption, the possibility of a large eruption had been discussed, but the public was not advised. Today, we see countless reports of earthquakes, volcanic activity, and even meteors falling from the skies. Each time, government officials and scientific "experts" assure us that there's nothing to worry about. We are quoted statistics and probabilities to convince us that the likelihood of a major catastrophic event is so low that we should all just go about our daily lives as if nothing is wrong. If we listen to the lies and half-truths, if we fail to check the facts for ourselves, we may end up exactly like the Siebolds.

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Seventeen people killed in storms in Bangladesh
18 May 2005 0133 hrs - AFP /dt

DHAKA : At least 17 people died and more than 1,000 homes were destroyed Tuesday in pre-monsoon storms in northwestern Bangladesh, police officials told AFP.

The storms uprooted trees and flattened hundreds of bamboo and tin roofed dwellings, killing 13 people in Natore district, said district additional superintendent of police Mustafizur Reza. Four others died in adjoining Rajshahi district, about 160 kilometres (100 miles) from the capital Dhaka, added a district police spokesman.

The victims died when they were hit by falling trees and other objects, the officials said.

Phone lines to some of the areas had been cut, they added.

In another storm in central Bangladesh Tuesday, a ferry carrying more than 100 people capsized.

At least one person has been confirmed dead and a salvage operation to recover bodies thought to be trapped in the sunken vessel was due to begin early Wednesday.

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Wilderness camp overwhelmed by flood waters
Last updated May 17 2005 12:36 PM CDT
CBC News

YELLOWKNIFE – People living in a wilderness camp downriver from Fort Good Hope narrowly escaped the floodwaters of the Mackenzie River late last week.

The 14 Sahtu Dene at Charlie Tobac's camp on the Tida River, 60 kilometres down river from the community, had to be evacuated when waters swept through the camp.

The group had been in contact with Fort Good Hope and had heard about the flooding in the community, so knew they were next to face the rising waters.

Tobac says they placed as much of their equipment and supplies as they could on stilts, and started hauling the remainder of their goods up a slope away from the river.

But the speed of the rising waters still caught them off guard, and Tobac says the flood waters were terrifying.

"All that water was just going over the cliff and it was just like rapids. I heard trees breaking like sticks and sounds like shots of rifles. It was really loud," he says.

Tobac says they had a radio, but the had to save the radio's one remaining battery to start their outboard in case they had to make a fast escape by water.

By Wednesday, the Fort Good Hope band became alarmed by their radio silence, and sent out a helicopter.

The helicopter relayed a total of eight people from Tobac's camp that day and the next.

But the camp was flooded out before the chopper could return for the last six on Friday.

The remainder had to take to their boat in search of higher ground.

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A puzzle in C.R.: Whose boulder is this?
May 17, 2005

A farm crew is having to work around a giant rock that appeared - somehow - in a field.

Cedar Rapids, Ia. - This must have been some rock 'n' roll. But we're not talking music here.

Farmworkers found a boulder, estimated at 15,000 pounds, in the middle of a Cedar Rapids-area farm field about a month ago. They have no idea how it got there.

Meteorite? Not likely, said Bob Taylor, 51, who works for Balderston Farms of Central City. But the colossal curiosity did make its way to the field as though it was on some kind of magical mystery tour - without tracks.

The rotund rock wasn't burned, or particularly dirty, and wasn't sitting in a crater.

The rock wasn't there last year, Taylor said. It's too big to have worked its way out of the ground, as many field stones do.

"We picked the corn last fall, and the field was fine," Taylor said. "We came back this spring to do some fieldwork, and this big rock was here."

Taylor wondered whether the boulder rolled off a truck that was hauling it to a nearby housing development.

One fence post leans a little toward the rock, as if it might have been grazed by the boulder as it rolled down the embankment and into the field. But that seems like a rocky theory.

"Why didn't it make some kind of indentation from the road to here?" Taylor asked. "That's the mystery."

There are scratch marks on the boulder, as if it had been lifted by a machine. But it's unlikely someone plopped the rock onto the field with a crane in preparation for another housing development.

Randy Balderston has been renting the ground to farm for 15 years, and nobody told him or Taylor about the sensational stone.

"Nobody's said anything about it," Taylor said. "Nobody's claimed it. Nobody's moved it."

For now, Taylor said, they will farm around it.

"I can't lift it," he said. "We figure whoever owns it, a contractor or whatever, will come back for it."

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Do you know this man?

Mystery of the silent, talented piano player who lives for his music
Steven Morris
The Guardian
Monday May 16, 2005

Dripping wet and deeply disturbed, the smartly-dressed man was discovered walking along a windswept road beside the sea. Over the next few days he steadfastly refused, or was unable, to answer the most simple questions about who he was or where he had come from.

The mystery 'piano man' who has refused to speak since he was found wandering on a windswept road on the Isle of Sheppey, and, right, his sketch that led to hospital staff finding him a piano on which he plays melancholy music. (Photograph: Mike Gunnill)

It was only when someone in hospital had the bright idea of leaving him with a piece of paper and pencils that the first intriguing clue about the stranger's past emerged. He drew a detailed sketch of a grand piano. Excited, hospital staff showed him into a room with a piano and he began to skilfully perform meandering, melancholy airs. Several weeks later he has still not spoken a word, expressing himself only through his music.

Some who have heard the "piano man", as he has been nicknamed, believe he may be a professional musician. One theory is that he has suffered a trauma which has caused amnesia, one of the methods the mind uses to retreat from a shock. Personal memories can be lost while the ability to communicate - or, for instance, play the piano - is not.

The man's carers have become so desperate to find out who he is and what has happened to him that they have allowed his photograph to be taken in the hope that someone will solve the mystery.

The "piano man" was found on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, last month. He wore a black jacket, smart trousers and a tie, all dripping wet. Police officers tried to find out who he was and if he had fallen into the sea, been pushed or even swum ashore from a boat - but the man remained silent. They dried him off as best they could and took him to accident and emergency at the Medway Maritime hospital in Gillingham.

Doctors examined the man, who appeared to be in his 20s or 30s, and found nothing wrong with him, but still he failed to respond to questions. He was difficult to assess as he appeared terrified of any new face, sometimes rolling himself into a ball and edging into a corner.

After hours of trying to elicit any scrap of detail about his life, someone had the idea of leaving him with a drawing pad and pencils. When they returned an hour later they found he had produced an excellent and detailed sketch of a grand piano. Realising that music might be the key to unlock the mystery, he was taken to the hospital's chapel, which contains a piano. The man sat down at the instrument and began to play. The doctors were amazed at the transformation. For the first time since he had been found on Sheppey he appeared calm and relaxed. He was also a good player - some say exceptional.

In the following weeks the "piano man" returned regularly to the chapel. He played sections from Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky but most often seemed to prefer to perform what appear to be his own compositions, which have been compared to the work of the Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi. Some hospital staff are convinced he is a professional musician and may even have been performing not long before he was found - hence his smart black clothes.

Canon Alan Amos, the hospital chaplain, said: "He likes to play what I would call mood music - quite circular in nature without defined beginnings or endings." Mr Amos suggested he was using music as an anaesthetic. "Playing the piano seems to be the only way he can control his nerves and his tension and relax. When he is playing he blanks everything else out. He pays attention to nothing but the music."

If allowed to he would play the piano for three or four hours at a stretch and at times has had to be physically removed from it because he refused to stop. When he is away from the piano he almost always carried a plastic folder with sheet music inside. Mr Amos said he did not believe the man was a professional musician, but someone who played well for his own pleasure. He suggested that he might have been wearing dark clothes on the day he was found because he had been to a funeral. He said: "It's a very sad case. Clearly there must have been some sort of trauma and it is important to find out what it was."

The "piano man" was eventually transferred to a psychiatric unit in Dartford, where he was given access to a piano. Manager Ramanah Venkiah said: "He has been playing the piano to a very high quality and staff say it is a real pleasure to hear it. But we don't know what his position is because he is not cooperating at all."

Research has suggested that exposure to familiar music can help people suffering post-traumatic amnesia. Some therapists offer music to help such patients recover lost memories and face the traumatic event which led to their state. Meanwhile social workers have issued a missing persons' bulletin on him. Until he is identified he will no doubt continue to play his sad but soothing music to the pleasure of those caring for him and his fellow patients.

Anyone who has information that might help to identify the "piano man" should email

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World's Computers Infected by Racist Spam from German Neo-Nazi Party
Monday, May 16, 2005 by Doug Ireland

If you've been getting e -mails with subject lines like "Bloody Self-Justice," "Multi-Kulturel=Multi-Kriminell," or Turkey in the EU -- with a short message saying "read for yourself" and links you're supposed to follow -- then you're the victim of a Sober.Q worm sent to infect your computer by the NPD (German National Party), a neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic party that has scored heavily in some parts of the country by preaching racist, anti-immigrant xenophobia. So reports Der Spiegal Online this morning. This brown-shirted worm is attacking computers all over the planet.

Last year, the NPD shook Germany when it got a frightening 9.2% in elections in Saxony, winning representation in the parliament there for the first time ever. This January, the dozen NPD legislators in Saxony caused an international scandal when they disrupted a moment of silence in the parliament to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp by Allied forces during World War II -- the NPDers walked out, and made statements belittling the Holocaust that killed 6 million Jews. (The NPD's leaders frequently make anti-Semitic remarks).

The racist spam that has flooded inboxes from Australia to Anaheim with hundreds of thousands of e-mails is designed to boost the NPD's score in elections this coming Sunday in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populated state. The Sober.Q virus, Der Spiegel says, is "the newest version of the Sober virus, a worm that infects address books and sends a copy of itself to all the entries. Various security firms have released warnings that they received hundreds of thousands of Sober.Q emails within the first 24 hours of the virus' outbreak."

Furthermore,"Sober steals mail-addresses from infected computers and distributes itself in the name of any mail-address it can find. Another thing. Sober.Q runs on computers previously infected by an earlier version of the virus, Sober.P, which appeared only a week ago disguised as an email proclaiming free tickets to the Soccer Cup in 2006. That virus, which was able to switch into German or English, was particularly effective in soccer-crazed Germany, which will be hosting the cup matches," Der Spiegel says. (The Register in the U.K. also has a piece on this worm, and Pandagon has a ton of e-mails from readers complaining they've gotten from a dozen to hundreds of these spammed racist e-mails. )

The government of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder tried to have the NPD banned as racist two years ago. But the case blew up when it was revealed that many of the NPD's leaders named in the case against it were agents of Schroeder's security services, and that these government moles had initiated some of the provocative, violence-inducing actions that were included in the list of charges the government cited in calling for the party to be outlawed.

The NPD's vote in Saxony last year was, in part, a reaction to the government's attempt to ban it. I've always opposed attempts to ban hate speech or parties that engage in it -- such actions always contributed to the martyrdom complex such extremists always cultivate, bring them attention they would not have received otherwise, and make them attractive to disgruntled, politically illiterate, unemployed youth of the kind who made up Hitler's brownshirted private army, the S.A., whose strong-arm tactics helped bring him to power.

Anti-immigrant campaigns have allowed far right and neo-fascist parties all over Europe to grow by surfing on the Continent-wide new wave of racism, an atmosphere of hate and fear that is also fueled by starkly declining birth rates among the native white populations and intensive breeding by the largely Arab and Turkish immigrants. But let's hope Germans aren't fooled by the NPD next Sunday.

Comment: Perhaps this Neo-Nazi spam is being sent by Elvis!

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Presley devil in disguise
Blue suede salute ... Elvis gives Nazi wave in footage

ELVIS Presley gives his most shocking performance ever ... as a World War Two Nazi.

The pictures — taken from a grainy half-hour home cine film — show The King wearing a Nazi cap and giving a sickening Nazi salute.

All shook up ... film of Elvis in Nazi capThe pictures, believed to be from the Sixties, were taken during a boat trip with friends.

Mark Vernon, 34, who owns the tape said: “I was given it ages ago, I think when I used to own a bar.

The Fuhrer of Rock & Roll

“But I had never watched it. It wasn’t until I found it in the loft that I decided to. When I did I was shocked.”

Prince Harry also sparked outrage when photos showing him in a Nazi uniform at a party were printed in The Sun earlier this year.

The Elvis video has surfaced at the same time as home movies of the singer were released by ex-wife Priscilla.

Elvis, who died in 1977, is seen with Priscilla and baby daughter Lisa Marie.

Elvis, whose many hits included Devil In Disguise, married Priscilla in 1967 but they split six years later.

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