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Spider Crab in Poppy
©2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte

In US custody, half-naked Saddam

LONDON: A British tabloid has run a humiliating, half-naked photo feature on Saddam Hussein, the prisoner firmly in US military custody, sparking fears of an Arab backlash and an investigation into possible human rights abuses.

The US authorities have promised to investigate how and when the intimate photographs of the former Iraqi dictator wound up in The Sun , Britain's best-selling newspaper. The tabloid, frontpaged on Friday a photograph of a bare-chested Saddam standing in white underpants and folding a pair of trousers.

The photograph is headlined 'Tyrant's in his pants' and sets the tone for still more humble ones inside the tabloid. The inside photographs show the man who once had a palace in every part of Iraq meekly washing his clothes by hand. Yet another photograph shows Saddam asleep on his bed. The Sun , which refused on Friday, to reveal where, when and how it came by the sensational photographs of the Butcher of Baghdad, would only quote American military sources to say they handed over the photos in the hope of dealing a body blow to the resistance in Iraq.

"Saddam is not superman or God, he is now just an ageing and humble old man. It's important that the people of Iraq see him like that to destroy the myth," the American source is quoted to say. The source added, "Maybe, that will kill a bit of the passion in the fanatics who still follow him. It's over, guys. The evil days of Saddam's Baath Party are never coming back - and here's the proof." But a furore has erupted over the release of the photographs, with presumed American logistical support, from Saddam's American-run prison, at a compound near Baghdad since his December 2003 capture.

British military experts pointed out that the photographs, which may or may not be up to one year old, could still be deemed to have contravened Saddam's rights as a prisoner and could have violated the Geneva Convention.

West Asian observers said the photographs of the toppled dictator wearing nothing but white underpants risked re-igniting the Arab sense of burning rage over the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib. Under the Geneva Convention, Iraq's invaders, the US-UK-led military alliance, are not allowed release photographs and details about prisoners of war such as Saddam.

Saddam's status as a high-profile prisoner of the West makes the photographs particularly sensitive because Arabs might feel the West is poking fun at it.

Western diplomats said the photographs could spark a new wave of violence against the West.

Comment: The photos also appeared in the New York Post, which - like the Sun - is owned by die-hard Israeli supporter and media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Note the fact that the reason given for the release of the pictures was in order to deal a "body blow" to the Iraq insurgency. The clear implication in this statement is that the Iraq insurgency is being carried out by Saddam loyalists, which is of course completely untrue. Yet it suits the US and Israel very well for the world to believe the lie that the Iraqi insurgents are a fringe group of supporters of an evil tyrant rather than the truth that they are ordinary Iraqis attempting to oust a foreign occupying power.

All of the evidence (below) points to the fact that the man that appears in these most recent pictures is NOT the real Saddam Hussein. It is laughable to suggest that Saddam would ever have allowed himself to be demeaned in this way. Indeed, it is laughable that the Americans would have allowed Saddam to be demeaned in this way. While, Saddam was a tyrant, and no worse than the many other tyrants that the US placed in power, he was first and foremost one of the power brokers of this world, holding large quantities of stocks in US and other multinational companies. As a member of the world's "elite" Saddam is afforded immunity from prosecution. Currently the real Saddam probably resides in Belorussia as stated by Donald Rumsfeld just prior to the 2003 Iraq invasion. (see below)

Note: More pictures appeared in The Sun today (Saturday) of Ali Hassan al-Majid or 'Chemical Ali' and Saddam.


Iraqi Commander Swears he saw USAF fly Saddam out of Baghdad

Bill Dash
Alamo Christian Ministries Online

Film will soon be made public of an Iraqi Army officer describing how he saw a US Air Force transport fly Saddam Hussein out of Baghdad. The explosive eyewitness testimony was shot by independent filmmaker Patrick Dillon, who recently returned from a risky one-man odyssey in Iraq. In the film, the officer, who told Dillon that he commanded a special combat unit during the battle for Baghdad airport and whose identity is temporarily being withheld, explains in detail how he watched as the Iraqi dictator and members of his inner circle were evacuated from Iraq's capital by what he emphatically insists were United States Air Force cargo planes. [...]

Dillon says his film lends major support to what many have believed for years: that Saddam was little more than an american tool, a stage-managed "evildoer", just one in a long line of useful villains bought and paid for by the United States in order to better manipulate international politics and commerce. [...]


Hussein Given Safe Haven in Belarus?

The World Tribune – 25 April 2003

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has obtained safe haven in Belarus, several intelligence agencies believe.

Western intelligence sources said several intelligence agencies in the Middle East and Europe base this assessment on new information about a March 29 flight from Baghdad to Minsk. They said the flight of a chartered cargo plane could have transported Saddam, his sons and much of his family to Belarus.

"There's no proof that Saddam was on the plane but we have proof that a plane left on that day from Baghdad airport and arrived in Minsk," a senior intelligence source said. "If you can think of anybody else who could obtain permission to fly out of Baghdad in the middle of a war, then please tell me."

U.S. officials and Iraqi opposition sources said Saddam and his sons appear to have escaped two assassination attempts during the war. But they did not confirm the registration of a cargo flight from Baghdad to Minsk on March 29, Middle East Newsline reported.

The sources said the cargo aircraft took off from an unspecified Baghdad-area airport and entered Iranian air space on the flight toward Minsk. They said Iran did not attempt to interfere with the Iraqi flight.

About two weeks later, a registration of the cargo flight was found by the U.S. military in wake of the capture of the airport and the rest of the Baghdad area. Baghdad International Airport was captured on April 4.

U.S. officials said Saddam had been exploring the prospect of fleeing to Belarus over the last year. They said the Iraqi ruler was in close contact with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and that Minsk became a major military supplier to Baghdad.

Within hours after the departure of the cargo flight to Minsk on March 29, the Saddam regime was awash with rumors that the president had escaped. Intelligence sources said the rumors spread rapidly throughout the military command and among field officers.

"There was a significant decline in Iraqi combat strength starting from around March 31," an intelligence source said. "In interviews with coalition interrogators, Iraqi commanders have attributed the decline in combat to the feeling that Saddam had fled."

While the above article is interesting and informative, it fails to draw one critical conclusion: Given that coalition forces had complete mastery over Iraqi airspace, the US government must have authorised Hussein's flight out of Iraq.

Saddam in Belarus?

However, according to our information, the deposed ruler and his sons were carried to safety in Minsk in late March aboard two chartered airliners. This week, the Polish news agency PAP sent a team of reporters to the Belarus capital to check on this account. They quote Natalia Pietkiewicz, spokesperson at President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s bureau, as evading a direct reply when asked if the former Iraqi ruler was in the country. She said: “We have no information that Saddam Hussein is in Belarus.” This is a long way from a flat denial.

The big question is how did the trio and its following of several hundred manage to elude coalition air forces, by then in full command of Iraqi skies, a question which leads to another: How did the men at the pinnacle of enemy power come to survive the two wars the Bush administration fought in less than two years?

This last question is an excellent one and goes right to the heart of the matter. The simple answer is that these "enemies" were not enemies at all, but either useful idiots or actual agents of the US government. As such, when they became no longer useful, they were retired from service with an excellent pension.

Saddam may find refuge in Belarus

Ottawa Citizen
Tony ALLEN-MILLS in Washington and Hilary MACKENZIE in Baghdad

The former Soviet republic of Belarus has emerged as a possible refuge for Saddam Hussein after American officials hinted that the Iraqi leader might be allowed to flee into exile to avert a U.S. assault on Baghdad.

A visit to Iraq by a presidential delegation from Belarus last week coincided with a suggestion by U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that Mr. Saddam and his family could "leave the country."

Mr. Rumsfeld said in a television interview: "If he doesn"t care to give up his weapons of mass destruction, then he"s got the choice of leaving."

As military preparations intensified with the mobilization of two more aircraft carrier battle groups and a 1,000-bed hospital ship, U.S. officials emphasized that no deal had been struck to allow Mr. Saddam to escape.

Mr. Rumsfeld's remark may have been no more than a psychological gambit intended to stir confusion in Baghdad.

Yet the Belarus visit heightened American suspicion that Mr. Saddam might be making contingency plans for a last-minute dash.

While it remains far from certain that the Iraqi dictator would flee, Mr. Rumsfeld recently singled out Belarus as one of the few countries that might offer him sanctuary.

"If Saddam Hussein is in a corner, it is because he has put himself there," he told a congressional committee.

"One choice he has is to take his family and key leaders and seek asylum elsewhere. Surely one of the 180-plus countries would take his regime — possibly Belarus."

The former Soviet republic has become a pariah state under the dictatorial rule of President Alexander Lukashenko and is suspected of violating United Nations sanctions against Iraq.

Saddam Pre 2003
"Saddam" on trial 2004

Consider also the testimony of Former Russian Prime Minister Primakov that Saddam had made a "pre-war deal" with the US...


'Saddam, US had pre-war deal'

24/06/2004 - (SA)

Moscow - Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein cut a deal with the United States before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, former Russian prime minister Yevgeny Primakov said in an interview published on Thursday.

"There was an understanding with the Americans, as paradoxical as it may seem," Primakov told the Russian daily Gazeta in a lengthy interview.

"Why weren't the bridges of the Tigris blown up when the American tanks approached Baghdad? Why weren't Iraqi aviation and tanks used, and where are they now?" asked Primakov, a former head of the Russian secret service and a specialist in Arab affairs who was formerly on good terms with Saddam.

"Why was there an immediate ceasefire? Why was there practically no resistance a year ago?" he added.

Primakov, who now heads Russia's chamber of trade and industry, also cast doubt on the authenticity of footage of Saddam's reported capture that circled the world on December 14.

"They showed two soldiers with guns with palm trees in the background near the hole (where Saddam was reportedly hiding). At that time of year, date palms are never in bloom," he said.

"Finally, any man can tell you that such a long beard (as Saddam had when he was reportedly caught) could not grow in seven months," he said.

"All evidence suggests that Saddam surrendered earlier and the story of the hole was invented later," he said.

Primakov, who was also Russian foreign minister, made two secret trips to Iraq at the request of President Vladimir Putin, shortly before the invasion by US and British troops.

Iran then backed up the Russian Prime Minister's story...

Flashback: Iran Media Leaks Secret US Deal with Saddam

Source: Gulf News Apr 15, 2003

AN Iranian news agency close to top conservative military figures attributed the fall of Baghdad to a secret tripartite agreement between Saddam Hussein, Russia and the US.

According to the Baztab agency, 13 days after the start of the war, Saddam and Russian intelligence allegedly pledged to hand over Baghdad with minimal resistance to allied forces provided they spared the lives of Saddam and a hundred of his close relatives. The US, for its part, promised to safely send Saddam and his entourage to a third country.

Baztab added that Mohammed Saeed Al Sahaf, Iraqi Information Minister, was instructed to stay in Baghdad until the very last moments to lend the impression that everything in Saddam's camp was under control. The agency also claimed that Russia gained $5 billion to orchestrate this agreement. [...]

Flashback: Saddam's wife could not recognize her husband


Last week, American authorities arranged a meeting of the former Iraqi dictator with his wife.

She was the first of Hussein's relatives to meet with the ex-leader of Iraq at a new place, at the American military base in Qatar. Accompanied by Sheikh Hamad Al-Tani, Sajida Heiralla Tuffah has arrived from Syria on his private jet in the end of March.

The outcome of their meeting turned out to be quite scandalous. Sajina claims that the person she encountered was not her husband, but his double. If someone were to say for sure that it was not insinuation, it would have been easy to believe the wife with a 25-year experience. It is also possible to assume that Saddam has simply changed since the day of his sons' deaths, June 24 2003. This however is highly unlikely. In case we believe Hussein's wife, all DNA testing of the ex-Iraqi leader should be considered a mere fake. Overall, today there remain more questions then there are answers.

Flashback: McDermott in Hot Water for Saddam Quip

Associated Press Writer
December 15, 2003, 9:07 PM EST

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., who earned headlines across the globe last year for criticizing President Bush while in Baghdad, is enmeshed in a new controversy over remarks he made about the capture of Saddam Hussein.

In an interview Monday with a Seattle radio station, McDermott said the U.S. military could have found the former Iraqi dictator "a long time ago if they wanted."

Asked if he thought the weekend capture was timed to help Bush, McDermott chuckled and said, "Yeah. Oh, yeah."

McDermott went on to say, "There's too much by happenstance for it to be just a coincidental thing."

When interviewer Dave Ross asked again if he meant to imply the Bush administration timed the capture for political reasons, McDermott said: "I don't know that it was definitely planned on this weekend, but I know they've been in contact with people all along who knew basically where he was. It was just a matter of time till they'd find him.

"It's funny," McDermott added, "when they're having all this trouble, suddenly they have to roll out something."

State Republicans immediately condemned McDermott's remarks, saying the Seattle Democrat again was engaging in "crazy talk" about the Iraq war. [...]

In these troubled times, the truth is labeled "crazy talk". Remember that. Mc Dermott wasn't the only US politician to hint that the was more to the capture of Saddam than the public were being told.

Flashback: LaHood: Hussein's capture imminent

Pantagraph Staff
Tuesday, December 2, 2003

BLOOMINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood held his thumb and forefinger slightly apart and said, "We're this close" to catching Saddam Hussein." [...]

A member of The Pantagraph editorial board -- not really expecting an answer -- asked LaHood for more details, saying, "Do you know something we don't?"

"Yes I do," replied LaHood. [...]

So on the 2nd December, a full 11 days before Saddam was actually "captured" by US troops, LaHood all but admitted that Saddam had already been captured. Are we then to believe that he was left lying in his "spider hole" under vegetables for all that time? Clearly the "capture" of Saddam was staged, which then gives us reason to believe that the Saddam that actually "caught" is a fake also.

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How to enrage Iraq's Sunnis.
By Fred Kaplan
Posted Wednesday, May 18, 2005, at 2:04 PM PT

The most dismaying thing I've read in a while is a Page One story in the May 17 Philadelphia Inquirer, by staff reporters Hannah Allam and Mohammed al Dulaimy, headlined, "Iraqis Lament a Call for Help." If you want to know why we're not winning in Iraq, and why we're not likely to win anytime soon (if ever), there is no more brutally illustrative tale.

The story concerns Operation Matador, last week's clash between U.S. forces and foreign jihadists in the desert villages of western Iraq. Officials have portrayed the operation as a grand success. Allam and Dulaimy depict it as a grave disaster.

For months, they report, Iraqi tribal leaders in the area had formed a vigilante group called the Hamza Forces to stave off the Islamic extremists streaming across the Syrian border. Outnumbered, at least three of the tribal chiefs asked the Iraqi defense ministry and the U.S. Marines for help.

Rather than respond in a coordinated fashion, U.S. forces blazed in with armored vehicles and helicopter gun ships and simply pummeled the place. Fasal al-Goud, a former governor of Anbar province and one of the sheiks who had asked for assistance, told the Inquirer, "The Americans were bombing whole villages, and saying they were only after the foreigners."

Villagers who returned after the fighting were stunned to find entire neighborhoods destroyed. Men who had stayed behind to help were found dead in shot-up houses. Over 100 jihadists were killed, but so were a lot of Iraqis fighting on the side of the Americans, to say nothing of several bystanders caught in the crossfire.

Fasal al-Goud now says he regrets calling for help. Allam and Dulaimy heard confirming accounts and similar sentiments from two other tribal leaders, who asked not to be named because the jihadists (who, it seems, weren't expelled entirely) are still holding some tribesmen hostage.

This story is depressing in two ways, beyond the obvious horror of needless death and destruction. First, a number of encouraging news stories have appeared recently-including a column in today's Washington Post-about a surge of creative, new thinking inside the U.S. military: a revival of counterinsurgency doctrines, training in small-arms tactics, instruction in Arab languages and culture, and so forth. Yet, at least in the short term, nothing seems to be changing. From Fallujah to Ramadi and now to the desert villages around Qaim, our commanders ultimately fall back on the big kaboom. Leveling towns, bombing every suspicious target in sight-this is not how hearts and minds are won or how persistent insurgencies are defeated.

Second and more disheartening still, U.S. officials have realized for some time now that a crucial strategic task in this war must be to separate Iraq's Sunni nationalists from the jihadist fighters in their midst. Most nationalists despise the U.S. occupation, but many also resent the jihadists, whose presence they tolerate either out of fear or as (in their bitter, dispossessed eyes) the lesser evil. The trick for American policymakers is, 1) to distinguish the nationalists from the jihadists (the passive abetters from the active enemy); 2) to drive a wedge between them; and 3) to kill and defeat the latter without alienating the former.

Operation Matador offered a golden opportunity to try out both categories of new thinking: a) smarter counterinsurgency tactics that b) distinguish and separate the nationalists from the jihadists. Here was an unusual, perhaps unique, case of real Sunni tribal leaders asking us to come in and help them fight the common enemy. And we bungled it by confusing victory with mere firepower and by brushing aside-not even consulting with-a serious group of aspiring allies.

This failure is all the more appalling given that the interim Iraqi government is in shambles-and the prospects for a free and democratic Iraq are uncertain, at best-in large part because of growing sectarian splits among the country's three main ethnic groups: Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds. The Sunnis, who comprise (or shelter) the most lethal factions of the insurgency, are demanding a greater share of power in the central government. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a trip to Baghdad last week to urge the predominantly Shiite leaders to satisfy this demand for the sake of stability. It's generally accepted these days that merely killing insurgents creates more insurgents and that a peaceful settlement will come about, if at all, only after a political settlement.

And yet, here comes the U.S. military, roaring across the western deserts, strafing and shelling anyone with a gun and everything all around him. In short, Operation Matador was a double-whammy of old thinking: kaboom, kaboom, kaboom-and in a way that alienated precisely the people we should be assuring. Maybe Fasal al-Goud and the Hamza Forces won't go so far as to join the insurgency. But it's unlikely now that they'll keep up their resistance, consider the Americans as their friends, or-more devastating-see the Iraqi politicians in Baghdad as their government.

Comment: We have our doubts about the "surge of creative, new thinking" in the Pentagon, at least among the neocons. Their goal all along has been the dismemberment of Iraq. The setting of Sunni against Shi'ite and Shi'ite and Sunni against the Kurds is the desired outcome.

At home in the States, Operation Matador served to draw attention once more to that dastardly country Syria now that it has pulled out of Lebanon, setting up another excuse for a future war against Damascus.

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The unknown unknowns of the Abu Ghraib scandal

Seymour Hersh: The 10 inquiries into prisoner abuse have let Bush and Co off the hook
Saturday May 21, 2005
The Guardian

It's been over a year since I published a series of articles in the New Yorker outlining the abuses at Abu Ghraib. There have been at least 10 official military investigations since then - none of which has challenged the official Bush administration line that there was no high-level policy condoning or overlooking such abuse. The buck always stops with the handful of enlisted army reservists from the 372nd Military Police Company whose images fill the iconic Abu Ghraib photos with their inappropriate smiles and sadistic posing of the prisoners.

It's a dreary pattern. The reports and the subsequent Senate proceedings are sometimes criticised on editorial pages. There are calls for a truly independent investigation by the Senate or House. Then, as months pass with no official action, the issue withers away, until the next set of revelations revives it.

There is much more to be learned. What do I know? A few things stand out. I know of the continuing practice of American operatives seizing suspected terrorists and taking them, without any meaningful legal review, to interrogation centres in south-east Asia and elsewhere. I know of the young special forces officer whose subordinates were confronted with charges of prisoner abuse and torture at a secret hearing after one of them emailed explicit photos back home. The officer testified that, yes, his men had done what the photos depicted, but they - and everybody in the command - understood such treatment was condoned by higher-ups.

What else do I know? I know that the decision was made inside the Pentagon in the first weeks of the Afghanistan war - which seemed "won" by December 2001 - to indefinitely detain scores of prisoners who were accumulating daily at American staging posts throughout the country. At the time, according to a memo, in my possession, addressed to Donald Rumsfeld, there were "800-900 Pakistani boys 13-15 years of age in custody". I could not learn if some or all of them have been released, or if some are still being held.

A Pentagon spokesman, when asked to comment, said that he had no information to substantiate the number in the document, and that there were currently about 100 juveniles being held in Iraq and Afghanistan; he did not address detainees held elsewhere. He said they received some special care, but added "age is not a determining factor in detention ... As with all the detainees, their release is contingent upon the determination that they are not a threat and that they are of no further intelligence value. Unfortunately, we have found that ... age does not necessarily diminish threat potential."

The 10 official inquiries into Abu Ghraib are asking the wrong questions, at least in terms of apportioning ultimate responsibility for the treatment of prisoners. The question that never gets adequately answered is this: what did the president do after being told about Abu Ghraib? It is here that chronology becomes very important.

The US-led coalition forces swept to seeming immediate success in the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, and by early April Baghdad had been taken. Over the next few months, however, the resistance grew in scope, persistence and skill. In August 2003 it became more aggressive. At this point there was a decision to get tough with the thousands of prisoners in Iraq, many of whom had been seized in random raids or at roadside checkpoints. Major General Geoffrey D Miller, an army artillery officer who, as commander at Guantánamo, had got tough with the prisoners there, visited Baghdad to tutor the troops - to "Gitmo-ise" the Iraqi system.

By the beginning of October 2003 the reservists on the night shift at Abu Ghraib had begun their abuse of prisoners. They were aware that some of America's elite special forces units were also at work at the prison. Those highly trained military men had been authorised by the Pentagon's senior leadership to act far outside the normal rules of engagement. There was no secret about the interrogation practices used throughout that autumn and early winter, and few objections. In fact representatives of one of the Pentagon's private contractors at Abu Ghraib, who were involved in prisoner interrogation, were told that Condoleezza Rice, then the president's national security adviser, had praised their efforts. It's not clear why she would do so - there is still no evidence that the American intelligence community has accumulated any significant information about the operations of the resistance, who continue to strike US soldiers and Iraqis. The night shift's activities at Abu Ghraib came to an end on January 13 2004, when specialist Joseph M Darby, one of the 372nd reservists, provided army police authorities with a disk full of explicit images. By then, these horrors had been taking place for nearly four months.

Three days later the army began an investigation. But it is what was not done that is significant. There is no evidence that President Bush, upon learning of the devastating conduct at Abu Ghraib, asked any hard questions of Rumsfeld and his own aides in the White House; no evidence that they took any significant steps, upon learning in mid-January of the abuses, to review and modify the military's policy toward prisoners. I was told by a high-level former intelligence official that within days of the first reports the judicial system was programmed to begin prosecuting the enlisted men and women in the photos and to go no further up the chain of command.

In late April, after the CBS and New Yorker reports, a series of news conferences and press briefings emphasised the White House's dismay over the conduct of a few misguided soldiers at Abu Ghraib and the president's repeated opposition to torture. Miller was introduced anew to the American press corps in Baghdad and it was explained that the general had been assigned to clean up the prison system and instil respect for the Geneva conventions.

Despite Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo - not to mention Iraq and the failure of intelligence - and the various roles they played in what went wrong, Rumsfeld kept his job; Rice was promoted to secretary of state; Alberto Gonzales, who commissioned the memos justifying torture, became attorney general; deputy secretary of defence Paul Wolfowitz was nominated to the presidency of the World Bank; and Stephen Cambone, under-secretary of defence for intelligence and one of those most directly involved in the policies on prisoners, was still one of Rumsfeld's closest confidants. President Bush, asked about accountability, told the Washington Post before his second inauguration that the American people had supplied all the accountability needed - by re-electing him. Only seven enlisted men and women have been charged or pleaded guilty to offences relating to Abu Ghraib. No officer is facing criminal proceedings.

Such action, or inaction, has special significance for me. In my years of reporting, since covering My Lai in 1969, I have come to know the human costs of such events - and to believe that soldiers who participate can become victims as well.

Amid my frenetic reporting for the New Yorker on Abu Ghraib, I was telephoned by a middle-aged woman. She told me that a family member, a young woman, was among those members of the 320th Military Police Battalion, to which the 372nd was attached, who had returned to the US in March. She came back a different person - distraught, angry and wanting nothing to do with her immediate family. At some point afterward, the older woman remembered that she had lent the reservist a portable computer with a DVD player to take to Iraq; on it she discovered an extensive series of images of a naked Iraqi prisoner flinching in fear before two snarling dogs. One of the images was published in the New Yorker and then all over the world.

The war, the older woman told me, was not the war for democracy and freedom that she thought her young family member had been sent to fight. Others must know, she said. There was one other thing she wanted to share with me. Since returning from Iraq, the young woman had been getting large black tattoos all over her body. She seemed intent on changing her skin.

Comment: Everything is going according to the script. The enlisted personnel take the blame and get the prison sentences, the elected officials and career officers get off. With the control of the media by Republican party supporters, the bad news doesn't make it into the press. Americans who do not consciously seek out alternative news outlets are living in a dream world...

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Not a Pretty Picture

Looking this war in the face proves difficult when the press itself won't even put in an appearance
by Sydney H. Schanberg
Village Voice

"History," Hegel said, "is a slaughterhouse." And war is how the slaughter is carried out.

If we believe that the present war in Iraq is just and necessary, why do we shrink from looking at the damage it wreaks? Why does the government that ordered the war and hails it as an instrument of good then ask us to respect those who died in the cause by not describing and depicting how they died? And why, in response, have newspapers gone along with Washington and grown timid about showing photos of the killing and maiming? What kind of honor does this bestow on those who are sent to fight in the nation's name?

Baghdad E.R. doctors examine a child who was fatally wounded in an aerial bombing attack. (photo: David Leeson/The Dallas Morning News)

The Iraq war inspires these questions.

The government has blocked the press from soldiers' funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. The government has prevented the press from taking pictures of the caskets that arrive day after day at the Dover Air Force Base military mortuary in Delaware, the world's largest funeral home. And the government, by inferring that citizens who question its justifications for this war are disloyal Americans, has intimidated a compliant press from making full use of pictures of the dead and wounded. Also worth noting: President Bush's latest rationale for the war is that he is trying to "spread democracy" through the world. He says these new democracies must have a "free press." Yet he says all this while continuing to restrict and limit the American press. There's a huge disconnect here.

More than 1,600 American soldiers have died in this war that began a little over two years ago. Wounded Americans number about 12,000. No formal count is kept of the Iraqi civilian dead and wounded, but it is far greater than the military toll. But can you recall the last time your hometown newspaper ran a picture spread of these human beings lying crumpled at the scene of the slaughter? And when was the last time you saw a picture of a single fallen American soldier at such a scene?

Yes, some photos of such bloodshed have been published at times over the span of this war. But they have become sparser and sparser, while the casualty rate has stayed the same or, frequently, shot higher. At the moment, five GIs die every two days.

Some readers may object to my use of the word slaughter. I do respect other points of view. But I served in the military, and as a reporter I covered several wars - in India, Vietnam, and Cambodia. I came away persuaded that whether one considers a particular war necessary or misguided, the military goal in armed combat is always to kill and thus render helpless those on the other side. That being the case, what is a government's basis for depriving the public of candid press coverage of what war is all about? How else can voters make informed decisions about a war their government has led them into? The true reason why a government - in this case, the Bush administration - tries to censor and sanitize coverage is to prevent a public outcry against the war, an outcry that might bring down the administration.

The photographs that accompany this piece are not gratuitously violent. They are merely real. All but one were taken by David Leeson, a highly regarded photographer at The Dallas Morning News. He and his Morning News colleague Cheryl Diaz Meyer were awarded the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in breaking-news photography "for their eloquent photographs depicting both the violence and poignancy of the war with Iraq."

Zahraa Ali, four years old, lies in the burn unit of a Baghdad hospital. Her family was hit by an aerial bombing attack while driving. Her parents, 24-year-old brother, and nine-year-old sister died. Zahraa eventually died. Only her three-month-old sister survived.
(photo: David Leeson/The Dallas Morning News)

Realize there are other sides to the story. One is the government's side. President Bush says that none of the government's actions can be characterized as censorship or intimidation of the press. He says he is merely honoring the fallen by protecting the privacy of their families in their time of grief. A New York Times columnist - his name is not needed; the issue is what's important - offered another slant a week ago. He called for less coverage of the war's violence because the press was "frantically competing to get gruesome pictures and details for broadcasts and front pages" at a time when there is "really nothing new to say." He seemed to think the use of these "gruesome pictures" was on the rise - though others in the media-watching industry, such as Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post, have been recording a decline. The Times columnist said the press was, wittingly or not, assisting the "media strategy" of the suicide bombers and their leaders.

A columnist, of course, is permitted to offer up pretty much any opinion he or she chooses, but still it's very odd to see a journalist - since we historically have always pressed for transparency - recommending that information be left out of stories. He insisted he was "not advocating official censorship" but simply asking the media for "a little restraint." Also, he cited the press controls used by former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani as a model for achieving "restraint." Giuliani, the column said, had told his police department "to stop giving out details of daily crime in time for reporters' deadlines," in order to keep "the day's most grisly crime" off the 11 o'clock television news.

I don't hold much esteem for the usual crime-and-catastrophe formula on most late-news shows, but I have even less for contentions that withholding information from the public is good for them. Because we are a country of diverse culture groupings, there will always be differences of view, about war photographs and stories, over matters of taste and "shock" issues. But, while the reporter or photographer must consider these impact and shock issues his primary mission has to be one of getting the story right. And getting it right means not omitting anything important out of timidity or squeamishness. When I would return from a war scene, I always felt I had to write the story first for myself and then for the reader. The goal was to come as close as possible to make the reader smell, feel, see, and touch what I had witnessed that day. "Pay attention," was my mental message to the reader. "People are dying. This is important."

A generation later, the photographer David Leeson, whom I talked with on the phone, has similar passions.

He said: "I understand the criticisms about blood and gore. I don't seek that. When I approach a body on the ground after a battle, I'm determined to give dignity to that person's life and photograph him with respect. But sometimes, as with my pictures of child victims, the greatest dignity and respect you can give them is to show the horror they have suffered, the absolutely gruesome horror." Leeson went on: "War is madness. Often when I was in it, I would think of my work as dedicated to stopping it. But I know that's unrealistic. When I considered the readers who would see my photos, I felt I was saying to them: 'If I hurt inside, I want you to hurt too. If something brings me to tears, I want to bring you to tears too.' "

I don't see any place for "restraint" in this picture.

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Tarnished image abroad fails to register with Americans at home
Jonathan Steele
Saturday May 21, 2005
The Guardian

The US faces an uphill struggle to win a positive image for its foreign policy after the disclosures of torture and other atrocities at Bagram air base, according to senior American and international analysts.

"The Abu Ghraib pictures have become an icon of the occupation of Iraq. It's difficult to erase them from people's minds. Bagram only adds to the problem," Nadim Shehadi, acting director of Chatham House's Middle East programme, said yesterday.

The Bagram revelations - described by the New York Times as "a narrative counterpart to the images from Abu Ghraib" - are the latest in a string of episodes which started soon after President George Bush launched his so-called war on terror.

They began with pictures of hooded prisoners being flown to the US base at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba in 2002. The first detainees released spoke of torture, sleep deprivation and other forms of ill-treatment.

The scandal over the US-run prison at Abu Ghraib a year later was more dramatic and shocking, both because the torture was caught on camera, but also because of the strong element of sexual humiliation. Reporters found evidence that torture was not just the action of a few soldiers, but had the consent of officers and was systematic.

Policy statements emerged to show that Mr Bush and the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, had authorised US interrogators and military prison officials to ignore the statutory rights of detainees. In February 2002, Mr Bush ruled that the Geneva convention did not apply to the conflict with al-Qaida, and that Taliban fighters would not be accorded the rights of prisoners of war.

More recently, it was disclosed that the US has sent detainees to be interrogated in countries which practise torture. The aim, apparently, is to avoid leaks from witnesses and whistleblowers about the prisoners' treatment, although US officials deny that the practice (known as rendition) amounts to outsourcing torture.

According to Professor Richard Sennett, a US sociologist at the London School of Economics, pressure on the Bush administration from US public opinion is weak because most Americans do not believe that the atrocities are systematic.

"With all due respect to my countrymen, I don't think they realise how bad the US image is. It's still the 'rotten apple theory' when this stuff happens. This is an administration which has practised a lot of denial. Criticism is swept under the carpet by being treated as anti-Americanism," he said yesterday.

A new survey shows widespread anger at the US among Muslims. "Many Muslims are so alienated that they claim they would not like to visit the United States, nor would they mind if the US withdrew, politically, economically, and militarily, from the Muslim world", says the report based on focus groups in Egypt, Indonesia and Morocco.

The report was carried out for the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations by Charney research, a New York polling firm.

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Cowardice in Journalism Award for Newsweek
Goebbels Award for Condi
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
by Greg Palast

"It's appalling that this story got out there," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on her way back from Iraq.

What's not appalling to Condi is that the US is holding prisoners at Guantanamo under conditions termed "torture" by the Red Cross. What's not appalling to Condi is that prisoners of the Afghan war are held in violation of international law after that conflict has supposedly ended. What is not appalling to Condi is that prisoner witnesses have reported several instances of the Koran's desecration.

What is appalling to her is that these things were reported. So to Condi goes to the Joseph Goebbels Ministry of Propaganda Iron Cross.

But I don't want to leave out our President. His aides report that George Bush is "angry" about the report -- not the desecration of the Koran, but the reporting of it.

And so long as George is angry and Condi appalled, Newsweek knows what to do: swiftly grab its corporate ankles and ask the White House for mercy.

But there was no mercy. Donald Rumsfeld pointed the finger at Newsweek and said, "People lost their lives. People are dead." Maybe Rumsfeld was upset that Newsweek was taking away his job. After all, it's hard to beat Rummy when it comes to making people dead.

And just for the record: Newsweek, unlike Rumsfeld, did not kill anyone -- nor did its report cause killings. Afghans protested when they heard the Koran desecration story (as Christians have protested crucifix desecrations). The Muslim demonstrators were gunned down by the Afghan military police -- who operate under Rumsfeld's command.

Our Secretary of Defense, in his darkest Big Brother voice, added a warning for journalists and citizens alike, "People need to be very careful about what they say."

And Newsweek has now promised to be very, very good, and very, very careful not to offend Rumsfeld, appall Condi or anger George.

For their good behavior, I'm giving Newsweek and its owner, the Washington Post, this week's Yellow Streak Award for Craven Cowardice in Journalism.

As always, the competition is fierce, but Newsweek takes the honors by backing down on Mike Isikoff's exposé of cruelity, racism and just plain bone-headed incompetence by the US military at the Guantanamo prison camp.

Isikoff cited a reliable source that among the neat little "interrogation" techniques used to break down Muslim prisoners was putting a copy of the Koran into a toilet.

In the old days, Isikoff's discovery would have led to Congressional investigations of the perpetrators of such official offence. The Koran-flushers would have been flushed from the military, panels would have been impaneled and Isikoff would have collected his Pulitzer.

No more. Instead of nailing the wrong-doers, the Bush Administration went after the guy who reported the crime, Isikoff.

Was there a problem with the story? Certainly. If you want to split hairs, the inside-government source of the Koran desecration story now says he can't confirm which military report it appeared in. But he saw it in one report and a witness has confirmed that the Koran was defiled.

Of course, there's an easy way to get at the truth. RELEASE THE REPORTS NOW. Hand them over, Mr. Rumsfeld, and let's see for ourselves what's in them.

But Newsweek and the Post are too polite to ask Rumsfeld to make the investigative reports public. Rather, the corporate babysitter for Newsweek, editor Mark Whitaker, said, "Top administration officials have promised to continue looking into the charges and so will we." In other words, we'll take the Bush Administration's word that there is no evidence of Koran-dunking in the draft reports on Guantanamo.

It used to be that the Washington Post permitted journalism in its newsrooms. No more. But, frankly, that's an old story.

Every time I say investigative reporting is dead or barely breathing in the USA, some little smartass will challenge me, "What about Watergate? Huh?" Hey, buddy, the Watergate investigation was 32 years ago -- that means it's been nearly a third of a century since the Washington Post has printed a big investigative scoop.

The Post today would never run the Watergate story: a hidden source versus official denial. Let's face it, Bob Woodward, now managing editor at the Post, has gone from "All the President's Men" to becoming the President's Man -- "Bush at War." Ugh!

And now the Post company is considering further restrictions on the use of confidential sources -- no more "Deep Throats."

Despite its supposed new concern for hidden sources, let's note that Newsweek and the Post have no trouble providing, even in the midst of this story, cover for secret Administration sources that are FAVORABLE to Bush. Editor Whitaker's retraction relies on "Administration officials" whose names he kindly withholds.

In other words, unnamed sources are OK if they defend Bush, unacceptable if they expose the Administration's mendacity or evil.

A lot of my readers don't like the Koran-story reporter Mike Isikoff because of his goofy fixation with Monica Lewinsky and Mr. Clinton's cigar. Have some sympathy for Isikoff: Mike's one darn good reporter, but as an inmate at the Post/Newsweek facilities, his ability to send out serious communications to the rest of the world are limited.

A few years ago, while I was tracking the influence of the power industry on Washington, Isikoff gave me some hard, hot stuff on Bill Clinton -- not the cheap intern-under-the-desk gossip -- but an FBI report for me to publish in The Guardian in England.

I asked Isikoff why he didn't put it in Newsweek or in the Post.

He said, when it comes to issues of substance, "No one gives a sh--" -- not the readers, and especially not the editors who assume that their US target audience is small-minded, ignorant and wants to stay that way.

That doesn't leave a lot of time, money or courage for real reporting. And woe to those who practice real journalism. As with CBS's retraction of Dan Rather's report on Bush's draft-dodging, Newsweek's diving to the mat on Guantanamo acts as a warning to all journalists who step out of line.

Newsweek has now publicly committed to having its reports vetted by Rumsfeld's Defense Department before publication. Why not just print Rumsfeld's press releases and eliminate the middleman, the reporter?

However, not all of us poor scribblers will adhere to this New News Order. In the meantime, however, for my future security and comfort, I'm having myself measured for a custom-made orange suit.

Comment: And when their lives collapse, be it suddenly or over a long, steady decline, they will ask themselves what went wrong. When their homes are taken from them, their jobs are lost, when their neighbors are taken away in the early morning and their sons and daughters conscripted for yet another foreign war, they will shake their heads and mutter under their breath how things have changed so quickly, without warning.

Matthew 24: 36"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

42 "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."

We return to this quote from the New Testament not because we think it is a prophecy. Rather, it is the faithful transcription of a warning passed down to us from our ancestors who have experienced the same catastrophe. They knew the catastrophe would recur and sought to alert us to its coming. There is no date given in the Bible for this return. Deciphering that date is up to us, based not upon intuitions borne of fear of a final judgment, but based upon scientific research into the past disasters that have swept across the face of the planet. Are there cycles of destruction that can be identified? Can they be dated and a pattern seen in the data?

By combining geological and historical data, such a pattern can be seen. There is overwhelming evidence for recurring disasters that wipe out large portions of the globe's population. There is overwhelming evidence that earthquakes, volcanoes, and meteorites have put the end to civilisations.

Only modern hubris would lead us to think our civilisation is different.

We have been warned by our as in the days of Noah, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. They were acting as if nothing was happening. They were not reading the Signs of the Times.

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Editorial: Damage to U.S./White House, look in the mirror
May 21, 2005 ED0521A

It is said by the White House that Newsweek magazine damaged U.S. standing abroad with its since-retracted, short report on Qur'an abuse at Guantánamo. Because reports of such abuse have abounded for years, and have been reconfirmed by the Red Cross, we doubt that very much. But there is something else to be said on this issue: If Newsweek's story caused damage, it is but a speck compared with the damage caused by this administration and its well-documented habit of abusing prisoners in Guantánamo, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The latest, infuriating evidence comes from a confidential file of the Army's criminal investigation into abuse at the Bagram Collection Point in Afghanistan, a copy of which was obtained by the New York Times and reported on Friday:

"Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him.

"The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.

"Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar's face.

" 'Come on, drink!' the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. 'Drink!'

"At the interrogators' behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.

" 'Leave him up,' one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying.

"Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen."

The writer of that dramatic piece is Tim Golden. Will White House spokesman Scott McClellan now accuse him and his editors of also damaging American standing abroad?

This atrocity was committed in our name, each of us, our children and grandchildren. So was the abuse at Abu Ghraib. So was the abuse at Guantánamo. So was the fictional account of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction used to justify an unnecessary war. So were the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths that war has caused. And White House officials have the gall to accuse Newsweek of damaging the name of this beloved nation?

Comment: The Minneapolis Star-Tribune is horrified. It is the largest paper in Norm Coleman's home state. He's the Senator who had the truth slapped in his face by George Galloway this week. Coleman is also the Senator who was elected after the Bush Crime Family murdered Paul Wellstone.

Minnesota is a fairly liberal state. Minneapolis has a long history of supporting labour, even if such a history ended quite a few decades ago. Eugene McCarthy, the Senator who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968 on a peace platform, was from Minnesota. He lost to Hubert Humphrey, another Senator from Minnesota, who was part of the Democratic political machine.

Are decent Americans finally getting fed up enough to say something? To stand up to the lies and killing done in their name?

It might be a ray of hope, but when one looks at how far they have to come along to really see the horror of Bush's lies, right back to the faked attacks of 9/11, one wonders if they will have the energy to go all the way.

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Rice: Syria out of step with region
Saturday 21 May 2005, 11:02 Makka Time, 8:02 GMT

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said Syria has fallen behind in what the administration of President George Bush perceives as a trend towards change in the Middle East.

Rice Bares Her Teeth

"This is a Syria that needs to understand that it should not think itself immune from the way that the region is going."

"It really is time for Syria to realise that it is clearly out of step with where the region is going," Rice said on Friday after meeting Iraq's Minister of Planning Barham Saleh in Washington.

"This is a Syria that needs to understand that it should not think itself immune from the way that the region is going."

The Bush administration has set itself a target of spreading democracy in what it calls the Greater Middle East.

"This is a power, Syria, which has begun to move its forces from Lebanon, which was standing in the way of a free Lebanon, a Syria that is supporting Palestinian rejectionists at a time when the Palestinians and Israelis are trying to find their way to a two-state solution that would clearly serve the interest of the Palestinian people, and a Syria that is allowing its territory to be used to organise terrorist attacks against innocent Iraqis," Rice said.

US concerns

She said the US government was concerned "in particular about Syrian behaviour on its own border, about the support for terrorists that appears to be taking place from Syrian territory, about perhaps financial support that is coming from Syrian territory".

"Neighbours should remember that stability in the neighbourhood is going to be good for the neighbours as well as for the people of Iraq.

"This is a historic but difficult time, and neighbours must do everything that they can to support the processes in Iraq," Rice said.

The Iraqi minister also made a veiled criticism of Syrian actions.

"The new Iraq wants to be at peace with the neighbours of Iraq and they should welcome that," he said.

"Some of the neighbours have been cooperating and have been true to their commitments to the government of Iraq. But I would say that some other neighbours need to do better and need to be more serious about the commitments that they declare."

Comment: First the strike on Syria's borders, then the ratcheting up of the rhetoric. Condi wants to sink her teeth into Syria and tear the flesh from the bones of its people.

Problems in Iraq? It's Syria's fault. It's not the fault of the Bush government. No way!

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FLASHBACK! 'Undercover Mossad agents' in UN team
BBC News

A UK MP has said that four members of the United Nations weapons inspection team in Iraq are Israeli spies.

Labour's George Galloway, who has campaigned against air strikes on Iraq, named four people he alleged were agents of Mossad, the Israeli secret service, working under false names and papers with the Unscom team.

But Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said he had "no corroboration" of the claims, which he said emanated from Baghdad.

Mr Galloway also said a senior UN official had told him that Unscom head Richard Butler was "a congenital liar" - an allegation "utterly" rejected by Mr Cook.

The clash came in Commons exchanges after the Foreign Secretary made a statement on the deepening crisis over Iraq's withdrawal of co-operation with the UN weapons inspectors.

Unscom's former chief of inspectors, Scott Ritter, has alleged the organisation received substantial aid from Mossad.

Mr Galloway demanded: "Isn't the problem the total bankruptcy of Unscom as a credible player in this whole affair?

'Working under pseudonyms'

"Recently a very senior official of the UN described to me Richard Butler, the head of Unscom, as a congenital liar - and this on the basis of decades of knowledge of the man."

He said: "Scott Ritter since his resignation had admitted that he was working with Israeli intelligence whilst being the deputy head of a UN mission in Baghdad."

The Glasgow Kelvin MP went on: "In the last few hours it has been revealed that four inspectors working in Iraq under pseudonyms and carrying false passports were in fact Colonel Khadouri, Lieutenant Shamani, Colonel Rabscon and Jador Dalal Shamoni - all operatives of the Mossad Israeli intelligence."

Mr Galloway added: "All of us hope that these inspectors can get back to work monitoring these awful weapons, which exist not only in Iraq but throughout the region, not least in Israel.

"But a new and credible leadership of Unscom, and transparency in its work, will be required as a precondition for credibility to be restored."

He demanded a timescale for the ending of sanctions against Iraq, which he said were killing 6,000 Iraqi children each month.

Replying, Mr Cook said: "I have heard of the reports that there have been four people alleged by Baghdad to be working for Israel within Unscom.

"I have to say to the house at the present time that I have no corroboration of these reports - and they do stem from Baghdad."

He told Mr Galloway: "I have to say in respect of Mr Butler that I strongly disagree with his characterisation.

"I have known Richard Butler long before he became the head of Unscom. I am bound to say I know him to be a committed diplomat.

"I would utterly acquit him of the charges made against him."

Mr Cook added: "Baghdad's main complaint against Richard Butler is that simply he has been too robust in carrying out the job that the UN asked him to do."

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In the belly of the beast
Scott Ritter
Saturday May 21, 2005
The Guardian

In the recent parliamentary elections, the British people, given the choice between standing for the rule of law or embracing partisan politics, chose the latter, voting with their pocketbooks, even though it meant re-electing a man who led Britain into an illegal war of aggression, based on lies and misrepresentation of fact.

Tony Blair is a man who has shown himself more subservient to an American president with empire in his eyes than to a British tradition of respect for the rule of law that dates back to the Magna Carta. There is at least one politician, however, that the citizens of Britain can today be proud of, regardless of how one views his politics. This is a man who, back in 2002, had the courage to stand up to Blair and George Bush, calling Blair a liar and declaring that both were behaving like "wolves" towards Iraq. For speaking the truth, he was castigated, thrown out of the Labour party and smeared with false allegations of corruption - at the same time as the US government hid its role in enriching Saddam Hussein's government with illegal kickbacks. He has now charged back, winning a parliamentary seat previously controlled by the very party that evicted him.

And now the same man has done something that no other British politician has been brave enough to do: cross the Atlantic and confront the United States over the lies spread about the reasons for war with Iraq, the oil for food agreement and the failure of US lawmakers to do their own job when it comes to the rule of law.

George Galloway, the politician in question, stared down the US Senate subcommittee on homeland security and government affairs, and its notoriously partisan chairman Norm Coleman, and blasted as totally unfounded the committee's allegations that he had profited from oil vouchers in exchange for his anti-war stance. He emerged from the hearing victorious. If only more politicians, British and American alike, were able to display such courage in the face of the atmosphere of neoconservative intimidation prevalent in Washington these days.

Galloway is now the darling of the American left, and has fed punch lines for late-night comics and generated headlines like the New York Post's "Brit fries senators in oil". But mainstream America still seems unable to digest the horrific reality that the MP's testimony underscored: that Senator Coleman's McCarthy-like hearings are but a smoke screen for a crime of horrific proportions.

Galloway has nevertheless had the courage to stand up to unjust charges and an unjust war - and that is the only way that opinion will shift. Two years ago I wrote that the accusations of corruption against Galloway were too convenient, designed to silence one of the Iraq war's harshest critics. The honourable member for Bethnal Green and Bow has entered the lair of a conservative American political body to confront it head-on about a war and occupation that many on both sides of the Atlantic, politicians and public alike, seem only too willing to sweep under the carpet. So, Mr Galloway, please accept from this American three cheers for a job well done.

Comment: Mr Ritter uses the word "convenient" to describe the accusations against George Galloway. Looking back over the years since 9/11, it is a word that fits many different events. Let's look at a few of them.

9/11. On September 10, 2001, Bush is low in the polls. Enron is on the verge of collapse. The public face of his presidency is one of ineptitude. The corrupt cronyism of the the Bush Crime Family seems to be leading his administration into a quagmire. By the time of Bush's appearance at the memorial service in Washington several days later, he was "The Commander-in-Chief", quite the metamorphosis. 9/11 was very convenient for Mr Bush.

Afghanistan: On October 7, 2001, the US began bombing Afghanistan. Americans wanted revenge for the attacks in September. What they didn't know at the time was that the previous summer, negotiations between the US and the Taliban for a Unocal pipeline to be built through Afghanistan had collapsed. The US representative threatened war. God must really be on Bush's side because, conveniently, Osama bin Laden gave Bush the excuse he needed and the plans drawn up for war prior to 9/11 were miraculously foresighted in predicting that the fighting would start no later than mid-October. How convenient.

Enron and Iraq: Enron declared bankruptcy in December of 2001. The Unocal pipeline that was to feed its new plant in India wasn't finished in time to save it from bad books and corruption. A few months later, WorldCom went bankrupt. After the "great success" of the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, things were looking bad for the Commander-in-Chief who was a close friend of Ken Lay, head of Enron. Fortunately, Bush and his advisors/string pullers, had plans for an invasion of Iraq. During the summer of 2002 the war rhetoric about Saddam and his WMD was turned up full blast, deflecting the news from the economic scandals of the Republican beneficiaries. How convenient.

Terrorist Attacks against those who were against the invasion of Iraq: In the period prior to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the United States was playing a game with the rest of the world. While the decision to go to war had been taken prior to Bush taking the oath of president, his administration was pretending that if Saddam would disarm, would get rid of his non-existent WMDs, then war could be averted. France and Russia were the strongest voices against the invasion. The population of Australia, Italy, Spain, among other countries, were largely opposed as well. So who is it that the clumsy "terrorists" of al Qaeda and their allies attack? A French vessel, a Moscow theatre, and an Australian vacation spot! How convenient.

Bin Laden election appearance: In late October 2004, the rascal Osama bin Laden, who had somehow managed to escape the clutches of his arch-adversary George Bush in spite of advanced US communications and tracking technology, makes a special guest appearance in favour of Bush just prior to the US election. How convenient.

Bush and his killing crew are not the only ones to benefit from the convenience of having God on their side to bring about certain synchronous occurrences that mesh with their politics. Israel, too, has such direct connections with the Almighty, as one would expect for any "Chosen People". Think of the suicide bombing that occurred right after the judgment of the International Court that said Israel's apartheid wall was illegal? Or any of the numerous suicide bombings that occur in a timely way to give Israel the excuse not to carry out its promises under its agreements with the Palestinians.

We'll go out on a limb here, today, and we'll predict that there will be more of these conveniences in the months ahead as Israel "prepares to withdraw from Gaza".

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How they forged the case against Galloway
Written by Chris Sedlmair
Tuesday, 17 May 2005
Simon Assaf and Charlie Kimber, assisted by Ann Ashford, Socialist Worker

George Galloway's name 'appears' in the list

The central document used against George Galloway this week by the senate committee in Washington is a forgery. Investigation by Socialist Worker shows that evidence crucial to the alleged case against the Respect MP is a fake, created after the fall of Baghdad in 2003.

The entire assault is another desperate attempt to smear the opponents of the war on Iraq and to make them appear as the corrupt hirelings of tyranny.

In Britain the material is another dirty weapon to be employed in an effort to destroy George Galloway and break the rise of Respect.

Most of the accusations hurled against George Galloway by Norm Coleman's senate committee on investigations this week were based on testimony which was supposedly freely given by former Saddam Hussein regime officials who are now held by US forces.

In many cases they are not even named.

But there is one piece of evidence that at first glance seems persuasive. It is in the findings of the Duelfer Report - the conclusions of the Iraq Survey Group headed by Charles Duelfer which last year admitted Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction.

The senate committee's document says, "According to the evidence in the Duelfer Report, the Hussein regime granted Galloway six oil allocations totalling 20 million barrels of oil".

In the section of the Duelfer Report on "Regime finance and procurement", there is an annex (Annex B) of "Known oil voucher recipients".

According to Duelfer, "This annex contains the 13 secret lists maintained by Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan al-Jizrawi and the Minister for Oil, Amir Rashid Muhammad al-Ubaydi. A high-level Iraqi State Oil Marketing Organisation (SOMO) official provided the Iraq Survey Group with both English and Arabic versions of these lists on 16 June 2004. The lists reproduced here are the original SOMO translations in English."

The list has hundreds of names of individuals and corporations many of which, according to Duelfer, acted legally in dealing in Iraqi oil under the UN Oil for Food programme.

The first mention of George Galloway is contract M/09/23. This alleges that 1.014 million barrels of oil were allocated to "Mr Fawwaz Zurayqat - Mr George Galloway -Aredio Petroleum (French)".

Look closely at the entry

  • The typeface (font) used for "Mr George Galloway" is different to the rest of the line. Indeed the only time the font is used in the entire document is for George Galloway entries.
  • "Mr George Galloway" does not line up with the rest of the words in the entry, it is at an angle to the other words.
  • The spacings between "Mr George Galloway" and the rest of the words are inconsistent.
  • The dash after the words "Mr George Galloway" touches the following word.
  • The words "Mr George Galloway" are at a different density (lighter) than the rest of the line.

The most likely explanation is that the words "Mr George Galloway" have been imported after the list was prepared, perhaps stuck on and then photocopied to produce the list in the Duelfer Report.

Elsewhere the Duelfer Report revisits this same contract note and, citing an internal Iraqi document, says the allocation was to "Fawaz Zuraiqat - Mariam's Appeal".

Was this the original name which was then changed to smear George Galloway?

The documents used by the Senate committee allegedly come from the Iraqi oil ministry, seized by the US military immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

At the time it was run by a group of Iraqi exiles, including Fadhil Chalabi - a cousin of Ahmed Chalabi, the fraudster whose fake intelligence was used by Bush and Blair in the run-up to the war.

After some names who had allegedly profited from oil trading under Saddam Hussein were published by the Iraqi Al-Mada newspaper in January 2004, two Iraq-based investigations began looking into the matter.

One was set up by Paul Bremer, then proconsul of Iraq, along with Ihsan Karim, the head of Iraq's Board of Supreme Audit, aided by Ernst & Young, an auditing firm.

The other was conducted by Claude Hankes-Drielsma, a close associate of Ahmed Chalabi, directed by Chalabi himself, and aided by the British firm KPMG.

Bremer and Chalabi clashed, with each side trying to say it was the real investigation.

The most stunning allegations - of international figures implicated in the scandal - all came from Chalabi's office, though no one else was allowed to verify his documents.

In a May 2004 raid on Chalabi's offices, Bremer reportedly seized files related to the Oil for Food programme.

Meanwhile, Ihsan Karim signed an agreement in June to turn over his board's findings to an independent investigative team led by former US Reserve Bank chairman Paul Volcker. In July 2004, however, Karim was killed by a car bomb.

The investigation led by Paul Volcker has made use of Chalabi's lists to make its allegations, and it is these names which were included in the Duelfer Report.

Even Volcker's team said it had not been able to verify independently the names on the list. "We name those individuals and entities here in the interest of candour, clarity and thoroughness," the Duelfer report said, adding that it did not "investigate or judge those non-Iraqi individuals."

The accusations against George Galloway are esentially a reheated version of the lies produced by the Daily Telegraph in April 2003.

These resulted in 150,000 libel damages and 1.2 million in costs.

The following should be read alongside this article:
A forger gives his account

The Mariam Appeal

Who is Norm Coleman?

Evidence from the torture chambers

George Galloway's view

A history of smears and lies

Sanctions and the oil for food programme

Copyright Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original and leave this notice in place.

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Galloway lashing spoils America party

Washington, May 18: It was as if the Boston Tea Party had been reversed all over after 232 years!

Hours after it happened yesterday, BBC newsreaders could not hide their smirk of satisfaction. In the Senate office buildings here, Americans gasped in disbelief that this was happening.

George Galloway, the British MP who gave Tony Blair a black eye last fortnight by winning in a Labour stronghold after having been expelled from the ruling party, stormed up Capitol Hill yesterday to answer charges before a US Senate committee that he profited from the UN's "oil-for-food" programme in Iraq.

But instead of the usually meek testimony from witnesses under oath that Senators are used to and the civil exchanges that journalists covering the US Congress routinely report on, what happened at the Permanent Sub-committee on Investigations yesterday was unprecedented.

Well, almost. Some 50 years ago, V.K. Krishna Menon, the most influential adviser to Jawaharlal Nehru then on foreign policy, did something similar here.

Galloway coined new and memorable phrases at his hearing to denounce the Bush administration's war in Iraq. "The mother of all smokescreens," he called America's excuses such as weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein's defiance of UN resolutions to attack Iraq, in a coinage reminiscent of Saddam's threat to wage the "mother of all battles" to defend his invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

"Lickspittle Republican committee," he called the team that advised Bush to go to war on Baghdad. "Pro-war lynch mob," he called the Senators who had assembled in the hope of subjecting him to an inquisition.

Journalists got it too, as Galloway walked up to the much-awaited hearing, TV cameras in tow. "You are a drink-soaked former Trotskyist popinjay," Galloway told Christopher Hitchens, who has been writing in support of the war, even as the MP refused to answer questions from Hitchens.

Clearly, the Senators were unprepared for the assault from Galloway in front of live TV cameras, footage from which will be played over and over again on American TV.

Norm Coleman, a first time Republican Senator from Minnesota who has been handpicked by the White House to hunt down UN secretary-general Kofi Annan for his refusal to support Bush's war on Iraq, is chairman of the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

His weak smile during and after the hearings, when he faced reporters, betrayed embarrassment that tables had been turned on America by a maverick British anti-war politician.

"I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq... Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong," Galloway told Coleman.

But the unkindest cut from the British MP came when he was asked about his meetings with Saddam. "I met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him," Galloway replied. "The difference is that Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns."

Nearly, half a century ago, when Krishna Menon was here, he was similarly expected to be pulverised for his views and the Indian embassy specifically advised him against appearing on a live radio programme hosted by an extreme conservative host.

Menon, typically, rejected the advice. He was given a lecture by the aggressive host and asked if it was true that Menon was a communist.

Without batting an eyelid, Menon returned the lecture and concluded it with a question to the host. "But tell me, is it true that you are a bastard?" For once, the radio host was silenced, at least momentarily by a visiting host.

Capitol Hill veterans recall only one precedent in the Senate similar to Galloway's verbal assault yesterday. In 1950, Joseph McCarthy, the infamous Republican Senator from Wisconsin, gained national attention with his allegations that communists had infiltrated the state department and other federal agencies.

Three years later, he became chairman of the Senate's Permanent Sub-committee on Investigations, the same post Coleman is holding now.

At one hearing, McCarthy charged that an attorney working with Boston lawyer Joseph Welch, who was appearing before the panel, had ties to a communist organisation.

Like Galloway yesterday, Welch broke the norm on Capitol Hill and lashed out at the Senator: "Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?"

That episode began a process that ended McCarthy's career.

Comment: Could this be a turning point? It is possible, we live, after all, in a nonlinear universe? It is not surprising, however, that the Galloway testimony is not getting the play in the US that this journalist might have hoped.

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Galloway Senate testimony PDF goes AWOL

Evidence 'missing' from Committee website
Iain Thomson, 20 May 2005

The website for the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs has removed testimony from UK MP George Galloway from its website.

All other witness testimonies for the hearings on the Oil for Food scandal are available on the Committee's website in PDF form. But Galloway's testimony is the only document not on the site.

"I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him," Galloway told the Committee.

"The difference is that Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns."

Press representatives for the Committee had no comment.

Comment: Curious that numerous web sites have George Galloway's statement while the Senate Committee can't seem to find it. We ran it on May 18, the day after his testimony. All it says on the Senate web site is the following:

George Galloway , Member of Parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow, Great Britain
Mr Galloway did not submit a statement

The rest of the world is aware that Mr Galloway submitted a statement. The article above suggests that it was on the site and removed. In any case, American censorship lives on.

Clicking on the link for the Real Player stream of the hearing gives you the following:

Not Found
The requested object does not exist on this server. The link you followed is either outdated, inaccurate, or the server has been instructed not to let you have it. Please inform the site administrator of the referring page.

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Mary Carey Comes to Washington: Porn Star to Dine with Bush
May 19, 2005

Oh my. This Bush administration is something else. On one hand they are all about "family values" and Jesus. On the other they are all about raising mad loot so they can maintain control of Washington. It's not their conservative principles that really matter; it's all about the loot and the power it buys. And Bush's new dining partners have very deep pockets.

Former California gubernatorial candidate and popular porn star Mary Carey, whose real name is Mary Cook, will be joining her boss Mark Kulkis in attending a dinner with President Bush on June 14.

Not kidding. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is hosting the swank fundraising event, where hundreds of well-heeled Republicans will be corralled in DC to hobnob with President Bush. Over the course of the two-day event, conservative interest groups will be talking with Bush administration officials about real "important" issues. As usual, money buys access: An individual ticket to the dinner festivities alone costs $2,500. And no, Laura won't be sharing any new jokes with the crowd.

Of course, Carey, Kulkis, and the porn industry have valid reasons for lobbying Washington, such as worker rights and protection. But Carey and Kulkis hardly represent those interests. Carey's run for the governor of California, which was marketed by Kulkis, was nothing more than a flaunted publicity stunt. Her platform included, among other things: Taxing boob jobs. Making lap dances tax deductible. Recruiting porn stars to be "ambassadors of good will." And putting web cams up in every room of the Governor's mansion (okay, that one is intriguing).

"I'm hoping to run as Lieutenant Governor of California next year," said Carey, who was arrested in Tacoma, Washington for touching herself in a sexual manner this past week. "Since Arnold [Schwarzenegger] is a Republican, I thought this dinner would be a great networking opportunity for me."

"I'm honored to be invited to this event," Kulkis said. "Republicans bill themselves as the pro-business party. Well, you won't find a group of people more pro-business than pornographers. We contributed over $10 billion to the national economy last year." She's got a point I suppose.

Kulkis' company, Kick Ass Pictures, guarantees that "no fake boobs and no condoms" will ever be seen, even though Mary Carey, who appears in many of Kulkis' productions, has said in several interviews that her own boobs are fake. Kulkis is currently an Honorary Chairman on the NRCC's Business Advisory Council, a roundtable of millionaire business entrepreneurs who advocate for a robust "pro-business agenda."

Isn't it funny how the Bush administration could really give two-sh*ts about the Christian Right? The bible thumpers are good for votes, and the porn industry is good for money.

"I'm especially looking forward to meeting Karl Rove," Carey said about her forthcoming visit to DC. "Smart men like him are so sexy. I know that he's against gay marriage, but I think I can convince him that a little girl-on-girl action now and then isn't so bad!"

I wish.

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Bush Proposes Corps to Aid New Democracies
By Deb Riechmann
The Associated Press
Thursday 19 May 2005

Washington - President Bush, seeking to put muscle behind a promise to support young democracies, said Wednesday the administration is creating a special corps of federal workers that will deploy quickly to help foreign governments in crisis.

Citing the lengthy and difficult task of setting up the U.S.-run occupation government in Iraq after Saddam Hussein's ouster, Bush is proposing $100 million next year for a new conflict response fund and $24 million for a new Office of Reconstruction and Stabilization in the State Department. That office will coordinate U.S. government efforts to support emerging democracies, with the new Active Response Corps of foreign and civil service officers as a crucial tool, Bush said.

"This new corps will be on call - ready to get programs running on the ground in days and weeks instead of months and years," Bush said at a dinner hosted by the International Republican Institute, a federally funded group that promotes democracy worldwide. "If a crisis emerges and assistance is needed, the United States of America will be ready."

Bush cited a series of what he referred to as revolutions during the past 18 months in ex-Soviet republics and across the Middle East: in Georgia, Ukraine, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan and Lebanon.

"We are seeing the rise of a new generation whose hearts burn for freedom - and they will have it," Bush said.

He aimed to encourage nations in uncertain times that sometimes follow new, democratic elections.

What must follow, Bush said, is the building of strong institutions, such as a vibrant press, independent judiciary, peaceful opposition and free economy, to support the new freedoms. America progressed to a mature democracy only after fits and starts over many decades, Bush said.

"When people risk everything to vote, it can raise expectations that their lives will improve immediately, but history teaches us that the path to a free society is long and not always smooth," the president said.

He promised U.S. assistance on a number of fronts.

The administration has spent $4.6 billion over more than four years supporting democratic change and will increasingly focus future funding on programs to help new democracies after elections are over. Bush also promised that military forces will be rebalanced with an eye toward making them more effective in helping societies move from war and despotism to freedom and democracy, in part by adding military police and civil affairs specialists.

"Those who claim their liberty will have an unwavering ally in the United States," said Bush, who along with Pope John Paul II, received the group's 2005 Freedom awards. "This administration will stand with the democratic reformers - no matter how hard it gets."

Comment: In other words, US support of "freedom and democracy" by installing puppet governments in places like Latin America and Iraq will no longer be part of "Black Ops" - it will be official and openly funded by US taxpayers.

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Bill Would Tie U.S. Dues to U.N. Reform
Associated Press
May 20, 2005

UNITED NATIONS - A U.S. congressional committee has drafted a bill that threatens to withhold tens of millions of dollars in dues from the
United Nations unless the world body conducts wide-ranging reforms, possibly setting the stage for a funding battle like the one that plunged the U.N. into financial crisis a decade ago.

The "United Nations Reform Act of 2005" targets a panoply of issues that have troubled critics of the United Nations, particularly Republicans, for years. Among other things, it would seek to cut funding for programs seen as useless and bar human rights violators from serving on U.N. human rights bodies.

The 80-page bill, from Illinois Republican Henry Hyde's House International Relations Committee, is still in an early form and has only recently been distributed to Democrats, who are likely to oppose several elements. It was sent to a few U.N. officials Thursday night, when a copy was obtained by The Associated Press.

One of the bill's most controversial proposals will be linking dues to the changes it spells out. The document stipulates that if the reforms are not carried out, Congress will withhold 50 percent of U.S. dues to the U.N. general budget, taking the money from programs it deems inefficient and wasteful.

"No observer, be they passionate supporter or dismissive critic, can pretend that the current structure and operations of the U.N. represent an acceptable standard," Hyde said in a hearing on U.N. reform before the document was sent to a few U.N. officials.

The proposed changes would shake the U.N. system at its foundations. The United States, the biggest financial contributor to the United Nations, pays a little under 25 percent of the annual $2 billion general budget. That doesn't include money for peacekeeping, international tribunals, or programs like the U.N. Development Program and UNICEF, which are funded separately.

It could also put Hyde's committee on a collision course with
President Bush, who has told U.N. officials in the past that he doesn't believe in withholding dues.

Comment: Horse hockey. The Bush administration declared the UN "irrelevant" in the past.

For many, the move could be reminiscent of the 1990s, when the United States fell millions of dollars behind in its dues, throwing the U.N. into financial crisis, because former Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and other lawmakers argued the payments were excessive and bureaucracy was too bloated.

That earlier crisis also strained ties with other countries opposed to the U.S. strategy. In 1998, the United States almost lost its voting rights in the General Assembly over unpaid contributions.

Mark Malloch Brown, chief of staff to U.N. Secretary-General
Kofi Annan, echoed those fears at Hyde's hearing on Thursday.

"We feel very strongly that your reform ideas, what we know of them, are very good and very strong and very consistent with what other countries want," Malloch Brown said. But, he added, withholding dues "separates you from your allies because it's seen as America acting alone."

A few of the document's ideas resemble changes that Annan laid out earlier this year under his report "In Larger Freedom," which seeks some of the most sweeping reforms in the world body's 60-year history. But most of the bill's contents are unrelated.

The lynchpin of the proposed bill is the requirement that several U.N. programs now funded under the general budget instead raise their money through voluntary contributions from governments and individual donors.

The idea is that by requiring these programs to seek funding on their own, they would have to become more efficient and transparent, or shut down if they couldn't compete. Republican leaders point to programs that are funded that way and now run smoothly, including the U.N. Development Program, the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

The bill gives a list of 18 programs that should be included under the new umbrella. They include lesser-known programs such as the New Partnership for Africa's Development and the U.N. Human Settlements Program. But there are well-known ones as well, including the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, and UNRWA, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees.

If those programs do not change, a portion of the dues normally meant for them would be redirected to programs in three categories - internal oversight, human rights or humanitarian assistance. That means that the changes would not necessarily result in less U.S. dues to the United Nations, just that payments would go elsewhere.

Other elements of the bill include strengthening the U.N. whistleblower policy and making the U.N. internal watchdog an independently funded agency. The bill would put in place new ways to crack down on sex abuse by peacekeepers and require annual financial disclosure statements by senior U.N. officials.

Comment: The US government continues to approve and order the torture of detainees in the war on terror. Renditioning prisoners - sending them to countries like Egypt and Uzbekistan to be tortured - does not change the fact that it is the US administration and those who support it that are responsible for such humans rights violations. Now the US - the biggest financial contributor to the United Nations - intends to withhold money from the UN until the Bush administration is granted the power to effectively decide which countries are guilty of human rights abuses, and therefore which countries should be allowed to participate in UN human rights bodies. Given the Bush administration's complete and obvious disdain for international laws prohibiting torture, what is the one reason why Bush and his gang would seek to control the UN in such a manner?

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Lawyers: Bush Slay Plot Suspect Tortured
Associated Press
Thu May 19, 3:54 PM ET

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - Two doctors who examined a Virginia man accused of joining al-Qaida and plotting to assassinate
President Bush have concluded that he was tortured while in Saudi custody, according to defense lawyers.

The torture resulted in Ahmed Omar Abu Ali giving a false confession to Saudi authorities, according to the lawyers, who are seeking to have the statement thrown out.

"The physical and psychological abuse that Abu Ali suffered over a two-year period critically impaired his capacity for self-determination and overcame his will," wrote defense lawyer Ashraf Nubani. "It resulted in him making involuntary, false statements to alleviate his suffering and appease his interrogators."

Federal prosecutors have consistently denied that Abu Ali was tortured.

Nubani also accused the U.S. government of complicity in the Saudis' alleged torture of Abu Ali.

The court filings do not include details of the doctors' examinations of Abu Ali, who has said he has the scars on his back as proof of whippings.

But a defense motion indicates that the doctors hired by the defense - Allen Keller, a professor at New York University and director of the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture; and Lynne Gaby, a psychiatrist at George Washington University - concluded that Abu Ali had been physically and psychologically tortured.

Abu Ali, 24, of Falls Church, is accused of joining al-Qaida while attending college in Saudi Arabia in 2001. The government contends that he discussed numerous possible attacks, including plans to assassinate Bush or members of Congress.

Comment: No one is safe from the Neocon War Machine. It doesn't matter if you aren't a terrorist. It doesn't matter if you've never broken the law. It doesn't matter if you aren't an Arab. If you are unfortunate enough to be arrested and charged with terrorism, you have two choices: confess and be tortured and probably killed, or assert your innocence and be tortured and probably killed. Either way, the Bush administration and the lapdog US media will still use you as ammunition in their war.

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60 Illegal Immigrants Arrested in 6 States
Sat May 21, 6:50 AM ET

BEAUMONT, Texas - Sixty illegal immigrants employed as contract workers at industrial plants - including refineries, power plants and an air cargo facility - were arrested as possible threats to homeland security, officials announced Friday.

The suspects "had access to sensitive critical infrastructure locations and therefore pose a serious homeland security threat," said Michael J. Garcia, assistant secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "Not only are their identities in question, but given their illegal status, these individuals are vulnerable to potential exploitation by terrorist and other criminal organizations."

The arrests - made Thursday and Friday in California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas - came as part of federal efforts to protect key facilities around the country.

The illegal immigrants were working at seven petrochemical refineries, three power plants, an air cargo facility and a pipeline facility. There is no evidence the individuals - from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras - have terrorist ties.

The immigrants worked for Brock Enterprises, which supplies contract workers to facilities nationwide. Brock is not a target of the investigation and is cooperating, government officials said.

Brock spokesman John Thomasson declined to comment.

The workers were arrested on administrative immigration violations, but some could face federal criminal charges for re-entering the country after deportation or use of fraudulent documents to gain employment.

The arrests came after immigration officials found discrepancies in their review of employment records of some of Brock's contract workers.

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Jane Fonda Film Banned From Ky. Theaters
May 17, 7:47 PM (ET)

ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. - The owner of two Kentucky theaters has refused to show the new Jane Fonda film "Monster-in-Law" because of the activist role the actress took during the Vietnam War.

Ike Boutwell, who trained pilots during the Vietnam War, displayed pictures of Fonda clapping with a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft crew in 1972 outside the Elizabethtown Movie Palace to show his disapproval. The marquee outside Showtime Cinemas in nearby Radcliff reads: "No Jane Fonda movie in this theater."

Both theaters are just a few miles from the Army post of Fort Knox, south of Louisville.

"I think when people do something, they need to be held responsible for their actions," Boutwell said. "When you give the enemy aid, it makes the war last longer."

Fonda has apologized for being photographed on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun, but not for opposing the war.

"Monster-in-Law" raked in more than $23 million last weekend as the top-grossing movie across the country, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. and Nielsen EDI Inc. In the film, Fonda plays Jennifer Lopez's villainous prospective mother-in-law, trying to stop Lopez from marrying her son.

Sal Mancuso, an Elizabethtown resident, said he personally thanked Boutwell for not showing the film.

"I think Vietnam veterans appreciate this," said Mancuso, who fought in the Mekong Delta during the Vietnam war. "There is no defense for what she did."

Boutwell also banned previous Jane Fonda films, as well as Michael Moore's film, "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Comment: Gee, the guy says, "I think when people do something, they need to be held responsible..." We agree. Even when they start illegal wars such as the one Jane Fonda protested against, not to mention the current war in Iraq.

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U.S. urged not to arm space

Scientists warn of new weapons race
American policy review under fire
May 20, 2005. 01:00 AM

UNITED NATIONS-A scientists' group has warned the United States against putting weapons in space, saying the move would be prohibitively expensive and could set off a new arms race.

The Union of Concerned Scientists said the United Nations should eye drafting a treaty that would ban interfering with unarmed satellites, removing any justification for putting weapons in space to protect them.

"The United States has a huge lead in the space field. It can afford to try out the multilateral approach," said Jonathan Dean, a former U.S. ambassador and an adviser on global security issues.

The scientists' demand comes as the George W. Bush administration is reviewing U.S. space policy. Some worry the review will set out a more aggressive policy that could lead to greater use of militarization of space.

White House spokesperson Scott McClellan told reporters Wednesday the review was not considering weapons in space but new threats to U.S. satellites have emerged since American space doctrine was last reviewed in 1996 and those satellites must be protected.

The Bush administration has included some money in the budget for space-based weapons programs to defend satellites, strike ground targets and defend against missile attacks, said Laura Grego, a scientist with the union.

Developing a shield to defend against a single missile attack would require deploying 1,000 space-based interceptors and cost from $20 billion (U.S.) to $100 billion, said David Wright, co-author of a recent report on feasibility of space weapons.

Wright said space-based ground attack systems aren't yet practical either. One - which would fire rods of tungsten from space - would cost 50 to100 times what a similar attack from the ground would.

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Space weapons report prompts evasive moves
May 19, 2005, 6:33AM
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - The White House distanced itself Wednesday from a report that it was considering developing new weapons in space, but left open the possibility of future programs to protect U.S. satellites.

The somewhat contradictory stance came as the Bush administration works to finish a draft of a new national space policy. Spokesman Scott McClellan said the policy would take into account "the threats and challenges" to maintaining U.S. space capabilities.

"The policy that we're talking about is not looking at weaponizing space," McClellan said. "I expect it's likely to continue to emphasize the sovereignty of space systems and the right of free passage of those space systems."

Some analysts, however, noting the support of both President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for space-based weapons programs, predicted a concurrent push for developing such systems.

"The idea of a greater movement toward space weaponry might be said to have been on the horizon since the beginning of this administration," said Karl Mueller, a political scientist and national security expert at Rand Corp., an independent research organization.

Second term and beyond

But putting weapons in space faces several immediate hurdles, Mueller noted. Among other things, the costs are prohibitive, the science is untested and world opinion is generally against it.

"I would imagine there would be continued efforts to develop programs in this area over the course of the next term and beyond," Mueller said. "Some of this might take the form of things we think of as space weapons, the others would cover space control."

Responding to questions about reports detailing the Air Force's interest in developing space weapons, McClellan said the forthcoming national space policy is likely to address national security issues, but from a more defensive standpoint.

"I talked about the importance of protecting our space systems. Obviously, that's something we have to look at. And there are changes that have occurred over the last eight or nine years, and there are countries that have taken an interest in space," he said. "And they have looked at things that could, or technologies that could, threaten our space systems."

Space has become integral to U.S. military operations, which rely on satellites for targeting, reconnaissance, tracking and communication.

Other countries also use satellite technology. Proponents of space weapons say that opens a new front and new vulnerabilities in wartime.

Opponents say development of space weapons could provoke countries such as China to develop their own weapons systems and spark another costly arms race.

Limited by physics

John Pike, an expert on defense and space policy and director of, said work on new space-based weapons systems has been going on for years and is separate from the national space policy.

He estimated the Pentagon has spent $130 billion in the past two decades researching and developing space weaponry. Asked what's stopping deployment, Pike said, "physics."

"There are a lot of things that are describable where the physics doesn't make any sense," Pike said.

Putting weapons systems into orbit presents its own challenges, he said, since a weapon would only be in proper position for a short time each day. And land-based weapons that could pierce through space also are an untested and expensive undertaking.

At the same time, Pike noted, concern over the nuclear aspirations of nations such as North Korea could give new momentum to proponents of such programs.

McClellan dismissed a suggestion that the new policy would represent a significant shift that could open the door for deploying space weapons.

"We believe in the peaceful exploration of space, and there are treaties in place and we continue to abide by those treaties," he said.

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Vial Prosecution
Like the plague, the Bush administration strikes down Texas scientist
by James Ridgeway
May 17th, 2005 11:44 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C.-Tucked away near the bottom of the contents page of the current issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, among the studies on kidneys and colitis, there is a listing for an extraordinary article that for the first time suggests the often complacent scientific community has begun to fight the Bush government's crackdown on civil liberties.

Signed by a string of 14 eminent scientists, this article is a brief for the defense of the distinguished Dr. Tom Butler, whose work on oral rehydration is known and widely respected throughout the world, having helped save the lives of millions of children suffering from uncontrolled diarrhea. It is also a call to the scientific world, which so often shrinks from any political action, to stand up and fight.

In short, here is Butler's case as set forth in the article: In January 2003, Butler, working to discover antibiotics that could effectively combat bioterror strikes of the plague, could not locate 30 vials of plague specimens. He reported this to the safety officer at Texas Tech University, where he had worked for many years. The university notified the FBI, and 60 agents soon arrived. Butler was interviewed by the agents without the presence of a lawyer-he waived his rights to legal counsel because for years he had worked with military and federal agencies, and he wanted to help the FBI allay public fears.

Butler was interrogated hour after hour with no sleep. He had been promised that the questioning would prevent legal action. But when the agents were finished, he was handcuffed, led away to jail, and accused of lying to the FBI. After spending six nights jailed, Butler was allowed to post bond of $100,000, which then was increased to $250,000. He was put under house arrest with electronic monitoring. He couldn't use his computer or otherwise contact colleagues who had been put on a witness list.

He was offered a plea bargain: six months in jail and a guilty plea. Wanting to clear his name, Butler refused. The possibility of bio-terrorism was absurd, and the government did not pursue it. Instead, the Justice Department buried Butler in a blizzard of charges having no relation to bioterrorism or the loss of the vials. These included illegal transportation of plague bacteria, tax evasion, embezzlement, and fraud. In all there were 69 charges carrying a maximum sentence of 469 years in prison and $17 million in fines. At trial, government prosecutors called Butler an "evil genius" and compared him to "a cocaine dealer." And as it does in so many detainee cases, the government suggested-but never charged-that terrorism was involved, that he lied to the FBI, and that he put the public at risk.

The jury acquitted Butler of lying to the FBI and tax evasion, but he was found guilty of technical charges involving an express mail package of "lab specimens" sent to collaborators in Tanzania. He was also convicted of administrative charges connected with drug company grants that the university had encouraged him to seek. Members of the Texas Tech administration testified against Butler, while his colleagues supported him.

The result of this Justice Department foray into "terrorism" was that this eminent scientist was stripped of his professorship, tenure, salary, and medical license. He has spent his life savings and retirement funds to defend himself. Butler is married and has four children but no longer any income. Even the federal judge in his case, Sam Cummings-renowned as "Hanging Sam"-went out of his way to push the federal sentencing guidelines downward, pointing out, among other things, "There is not a case on record that could better exemplify a great service to society as a whole."

Butler, 63, is in his first year of a two-year sentence. The case is on appeal; a hearing is scheduled for June 8.

Comment: In this story we see all the threads that have been laid down since 9/11 to bring about the slow and considered imposition of fascism in the United States. Notice how carefully the pieces have been put into place: the phony "terrorist" attack to stun the population into accepting draconian laws to preserve their freedom and, above all, their safety; then the wars that demand unthinking and unquestioning support for the "Commander-in-Chief"; then the Potemkin village public appearances by said Commander-in-Chief that bring him into contact with only the most rabid of his supporters; the insinuations among right-wing pundits that liberals should be shot; the thorough clamping down on any free press and ability to report news or ideas that the White House doesn't vet.

Slowly, carefully, with much consideration drawn from the study of previous fascist takeovers, the Bush Reich is turning up the heat one degree at a time.

The frog is getting very warm, may even be starting to burn a bit, but the transition has been so carefully stage-managed that the victim thinks it is an Islamic terrorist that has his hand on the dial.

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State Capitol evacuated after governor's office gets suspicous package
By DEBORAH BAKER | Associated Press
May 20, 2005

SANTA FE, N.M. - The state Capitol was evacuated Friday afternoon after the governor's office received a package containing an unknown white powder and a threatening letter.

The threat was against Gov. Bill Richardson, who was in his office at the time, Department of Public Safety Secretary John Denko said in a news conference outside the building.

"It was a threat, and it was a bit nasty," he said.

He would give not describe the letter or give details about its contents, saying it's part of the investigation. The FBI has been called in to help.

"We're hopeful that this is just a bogus thing, but we have to assume the worst," Denko said. [...]

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State locates 537 predators
Fri, May 20, 2005

A statewide sweep of missing sex offenders finds 537 -- but upward of 1,200 are still missing.

After a month of searching for missing sex offenders, authorities have found 537 of them throughout Florida and have made 203 arrests, Gov. Jeb Bush announced Thursday while showcasing the statewide sweep begun in the wake of two child murders at the hands of molesters.

''This is part of a comprehensive strategy to deal with the fact that sexual offenders, particularly (violent) sexual predators, have committed atrocious crimes and -- if we're not vigilant -- will continue to do so,'' Bush said.

State investigators acknowledged that more than 330 of the offenders identified got deported, have died, were rearrested or were living where they were supposed to be.

Bush said the operation was ongoing -- a must, considering that authorities located only 30 percent of the absconded sex offenders, leaving upward of 1,200 still on the loose. [...]

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7 Members of Louisiana Church Charged With Abuse of Children
Published: May 20, 2005

The pastor of a Louisiana church and six of its members, including the pastor's wife and a sheriff's deputy, have been arrested in what the police described as a cult-like sex ring that abused children and animals.

All seven are being held on charges of aggravated rape, including rape of a child younger than 13, which can be prosecuted as a capital crime in the state, the authorities said.

Five other adults were identified yesterday as "persons of interest" at a meeting of seven law enforcement agencies, including the F.B.I., said Deputy Chuck Reed, a spokesman for the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office.

Deputy Reed said the police wanted to interview as many as 24 children as possible victims in incidents that might date to 1998.

The Rev. Louis Lamonica, 45, pastor of Hosanna Church in Ponchatoula, a town of 5,000 about 40 miles northwest of New Orleans, is both the chief suspect and the man who broke the case, which deputies had been investigating since a woman called from Ohio five weeks ago. She said her children had been abused but was reluctant to give specifics, Deputy Reed said.

On Monday afternoon, the authorities said, Mr. Lamonica walked into the Livingston Parish sheriff's office and began to confess. "I don't really know what motivated him," said Detective Supervisor Stan Carpenter in Livingston Parish.

Deputy Reed said Mr. Lamonica "began to recount some horrific instances where children from the age of toddlers to pubescents to teenagers had been involved in sex acts in affiliation with this church."

Mr. Lamonica also spoke of a poodle and cat that had died from abuse, Deputy Reed said. Among those arrested was Chris Labat, 24, a deputy sheriff in Tangipahoa Parish.

Mr. Lamonica was charged shortly after he confessed on Monday, Mr. Labat the next day, and the other two on Wednesday. Last night, three more people, including the pastor's wife, Robbin Lamonica, 45, were arrested and charged with aggravated rape, Deputy Reed said.

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Judge finds former clown guilty of abusing girl, 4, in 2000
By Art Barnum
Tribune staff reporter
Published May 20, 2005

A Chicago man who worked as a clown at children's parties was convicted Thursday by a DuPage County judge of molesting a 4-year-old former La Grange Park girl in 2000. [...]

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Teacher faces sex charges involving fifth-grade girls
Friday, May 20, 2005

Man, 55, allegedly violated 7 students at North Seattle school

King County prosecutors charged a Seattle elementary school teacher yesterday with child molestation after police said an investigation found that he had touched or kissed seven female students since 2001. [...]

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3 seventh-graders questioned over 'assassination list'
The Arizona Republic
May. 19, 2005 03:30 PM

Three seventh-graders at McKemy Middle School in Tempe have been questioned by police over an "assassination list," authorities said.

School officials discovered a list with 18 students and 6 faculty members' names. When the three students were questioned, they called it "an assassination list."

Those on the list have been contacted, though their names have not been released, and the school will be sending home a letter with all students at the end of classes Thursday.

Police have not recovered any physical evidence that would show that the students involved had the means to carry out any threats, police said. The school has removed one student from the campus.

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Rebels have recruited 137 children since tsunami

Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels have recruited 137 children into their ranks since the Indian Ocean tsunami, nine of whom were taken directly from relief camps, the UN children's agency said today.

Geoffrey Keel, UNICEF spokesman in Colombo, said however the rate of child recruitment by the rebels, accused of enlisting youngsters throughout their two-decade insurgency, appeared to be falling.

"But any recruit is one too many," he said, adding the children who have joined Tiger ranks in recent weeks were between 14 and 18 years of age. [...]

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Helpless deer mutilated by gang of sick youths
Thursday, 19th May 2005
Ailsa Cranna

A GANG of youngsters pelted a wild deer with stones as the animal desperately searched for an escape route from a school playground in Pendleton.

Earlier a group of yobs had used their dog to herd the terrified animal and its mate into the grounds of St James RC Primary School, off Ellor Street.

The female escaped but the male deer suffered appalling injuries as it tried to get away from the crowds of jeering onlookers.

Eventually the three-year-old animal, watched by youths from the roof of the school, became entangled in railings and had to be cut out by firemen from Broughton station.

But the extent of its injuries, and the severe distress it was in from its ordeal, forced vets at Pet Medics, in Walkden to destroy it.

Adrian Webber, 29, from Irlam-based sanctuary Animals in Distress, who helped in the rescue, said: "This was one of the worst things I have ever witnessed. We received a call from a very distressed woman who said youths were pursuing deer through the streets, using a dog in the chase.

"When we got to the school, only the male deer was there but it was absolutely terrified because wherever it turned, there were crowds chasing it and, we were told, it was being stoned at the same time.

"It kept on trying to headbutt the railings - there was blood everywhere - and eventually it became stuck in the fence.

"Quite the worst part for me was trying to put a blanket over it to calm it down and seeing the animal look at me as it screamed in agony."

Workers are now desperately searching for the female deer, who they believe is still at large.

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Bird flu virus found in 45 eggs at Chinese airport checkpoint
19 May 2005

Passengers flying from Vietnam to Guangzhou, China, were carrying eggs infected with the bird (avian) flu H5N1virus, say Chinese officials. Officials say they have detected a total of 45 infected eggs from two separate flights. This is the first case of infected eggs in a Chinese airport in two years.

Officials were concerned because the eggs came from a variety of birds (chicken, goose and duck) and two separate flights. Many are wondering how many have got through.

The whole area has been disinfected (where the eggs were).

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Pacific hurricane Adrian makes landfall in El Salvador
20 May 2005 1546 hrs

MIAMI : Hurricane Adrian, packing high winds, torrential rains and flash flood danger, has made landfall on the Pacific coast of El Salvador, US weather officials said, as Nicaragua declared a yellow alert and Honduras made plans to evacuate up to 160,000 people.

Hurricane Adrian had sustained winds of some 120 kilometres (75 miles) per hour, making it a Category 1 hurricane on the five-level scale, officials at the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said in a statement at 0600 GMT.

"A hurricane warning remains in effect for the entire coast of El Salvador. A tropical storm warning remains in effect for the Pacific coast of Guatemala east of Sipicate to the border of El Salvador," the centre said, adding that Honduras' Pacific coast was under a tropical storm watch. [...]

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4.2 earthquake hits 30 miles south of Indio (California)
Friday, May 20, 2005

An earthquake shook the southland this evening. We felt a quick jolt here at the studio and a number of viewers have called to say they felt the shaking.

It was picked up on our own Seismo 3. The quake had a preliminary magnitude of 4.2. It was centered very close to Ocotillo Wells, 34 miles south of Indio.

It struck at 5:39 pm.

There are now immediate reports of damage or injuries.

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Tremor rattles Lawrence, Tennessee
By Curt Hodges

LYNN -- "I thought a large truck was passing by," Lawrence County Judge Alex Latham observed. The judge was at home in Portia about 9:20 a.m. Thursday preparing to take a shower before he went to his office in Walnut Ridge.

"I looked out the window, but no truck passed," he said. "I dismissed it and went on about my business.

"I realize now what it was," he said.

The judge said several people in the county told him they felt the tremor Thursday morning.

Portia is approximately nine miles northeast of where the Center for Earthquake Information (CERI) at the University of Memphis placed the epicenter of the tremor.

The earthquake, of magnitude 2.5, was recorded at 9:19 a.m. Thursday centered about five miles east of Lynn in Lawrence, which would place it about halfway between Lynn and Clover Bend and not too far from Portia. The depth of the temblor was placed by the reporting agency as seven miles.

An early report of the quake centered it about five miles east of Eaton, which is north of Lynn on Arkansas 25.

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Borrego Springs area hit by 4.2-magnitude quake

6:39 p.m. May 20, 2005

BORREGO SPRINGS – A 4.2-magnitude earthquake shook the eastern reaches of San Diego County today, getting people's attention on a warm evening but causing no reported problems.

The temblor, which hit at 5:39 p.m., was centered nine miles east of Borrego Springs, according to the California Integrated Seismic Network.

The county Sheriff's Department received no reports of injuries or damage stemming from the quake, a dispatcher said.

It was, however, a "pretty good" jolt in Borrego Springs, said Stephen Peters, front desk clerk at Palm Canyon Resort in the desert community.

"It was enough to make our chandelier move," he added.

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Small Earthquake Shakes Oahu
Posted: May 20,2005 06:49 PM

Scientists at the US Geological Survey say a small earthquake shook O'ahu at 5:52 a.m. Friday morning.

The 4.1 quake was centered 21 miles Northeast of Kahalu'u.

It did not cause any damage or generate a tsunami.

"This is probably just a change in the distribution of the weight of the islands on the lithosphere of the earth and the lithosphere just made a little adjustment," said University of Hawai'i Geophysicist Gerard Fryer.

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Scientists Unveil Earthquake Forecast
Thursday May 19, 4:39 AM

Californians wondering if tomorrow's forecast will be sunny can now find out if there's also a chance of afternoon tremors.

Scientists launched a Web site Wednesday that calculates the probability of strong ground-shaking at specific locations over a 24-hour period.

The forecast maps, updated hourly, would be most useful after a temblor strong enough to break windows and crack plaster, according to U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Matthew Gerstenberger, who developed the site.

After a big earthquake hits an area, scientists know there will be aftershocks, but they can't pinpoint when or where. Now residents rattled by a quake can go online and check for the possibility of more jolting in their area.

Details appear in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

The chances of the maps showing when and where a significant earthquake will strike, however, are slim most of the time, scientists say.

"It doesn't tell us when the 'Big One' is coming," said Lucy Jones, scientist in charge of the USGS office in Pasadena. "It tells us there's an increased chance of shaking."

California residents already can view real-time earthquake maps with the click of a mouse, but those are usually posted and updated within minutes of a temblor occurring. Now they can click on real-time, color-coded maps that provide earthquake probabilities in a specific region. Areas shaded in red represent a high chance of strong shaking within the next 24 hours (less than a 1 in 10 chance) while those in blue represent a very remote chance, say, more than 1 in a million.

"If there's a red spot, then make sure you've done what you need to do in terms of earthquake preparedness," Gerstenberger said.

While the forecast maps are not a "silver bullet" in quake prediction, they are the first steps in providing the public with more refined quake probabilities, said Tom Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center.

The earthquake forecast maps are created by considering a variety of factors, including seismic monitoring of the San Andreas Fault and other active faults in California. Scientists also factor in any recent history of small and large temblors and aftershocks on those same faults.

In an accompanying commentary, Duncan Agnew of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, noted that the latest forecast maps give earthquake victims a "much more precise answer" about the risk of aftershocks after a strong tremor. Agnew, who was not part of the project, also said he would like to see the same method used in other countries that are vulnerable to earthquakes.

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Heavy rains cause 4 deaths and widespread chaos in Maracaibo
Friday, May 20, 2005
Bylined to: Patrick J. O'Donoghue

Venezuela is bracing for another cycle of heavy rains, which have already hit the western Venezuelan city of Maracaibo (Zulia). 4 deaths, mudslides and upheaval of citizen life are the results of a 3-day rainy spell.

Manuel Ramirez (12) and Omar Lombana (17) died by drowning ... Mauricio Montiel (1.3) suffered an asthma attack at his home which had been cut off by the floods and Irwin Ligardo (21) was electrocuted.

Maracaibo Firefighters commander, Major Jonh Bravo says 500 families have been affected by the rains ...

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Drought, Locusts Leave Millions Hungry in Niger

UNITED NATIONS - Drought and a locust infestation have left 3.6 million people in critical need of food aid in Niger, the United Nations said on Thursday and appealed for $16.2 million in emergency funding for the impoverished West African nation.The needy include 800,000 children under 5, and 150,000 of them suffer from severe malnutrition, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

"A silent crisis is looming in Niger," the UN office said. "All indicators point towards increased poverty due to population increases, desertification, locust infestations and rain shortfalls."

Niger, with a total population of about 12 million, ranks as one of the world's least developed, lowest-income countries.

Most of its families depend on subsistence farming, growing only enough food to survive until the next harvest. Even in the best of years, 40 percent of its children are malnourished, the UN office said.
The food situation could become even more dire should a new drought or locust invasion occur during the 2005 growing season, which ends in September, the world body said. [...]

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As Climate Shifts, Antarctic Ice Sheet Is Growing
May 20, 2005
By Robert Lee Hotz, Times Staff Writer

Increased snowfall on the central icecap partly offsets effects of melting glaciers, researchers say.

As glaciers from Greenland to Kilimanjaro recede at record rates, the central icecap of Antarctica has been steadily growing for 11 years, partially offsetting the rise in seas from the melt waters of global warming, researchers said Thursday.

The vast East Antarctic Ice Sheet - a 2-mile-thick wasteland larger than Australia, drier than the Sahara and as cold as a Martian spring - increased in mass every year from 1992 to 2003 because of additional annual snowfall, an analysis of satellite radar measurements showed.

"It is an effect that has been predicted as a likely result of climate change," said David Vaughan, an independent expert on the ice sheets at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, England.

In a region known for the lowest temperatures recorded on Earth, it normally is too cold for snow to form across the 2.7 million square miles of the ice sheet. Any additional annual snowfall in East Antarctica, therefore, is almost certainly attributable to warmer temperatures, four experts on Antarctica said.

"As the atmosphere warms, it should hold more moisture," said climatologist Joseph R. McConnell at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, who helped conduct the study. "In East Antarctica, that means there should be more snowfall."

The additional snowfall is enough to account for 45 billion tons of water added to the ice sheet every year, just about equal to the amount of water flowing annually into the ocean from the melting Greenland icecap, the scientists reported in research published online Thursday by the journal Science.

Rising sea level, which could swamp many coastal and island communities, is considered one of the most serious potential consequences of global warming, according to the most recent assessment by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Overall, sea level is estimated to be rising by 1.8 millimeters a year worldwide because of the expansion of warming water and the added outwash from melting glaciers in Greenland, Alaska, tropical highlands and some areas of Antarctica.

Every millimeter of increased sea level corresponds to about 350 billion tons of water a year. [...]

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Huge iceberg drifts into Antarctic bay
May 19, 2005

A MASSIVE iceberg twice the size of Malta has drifted into a bay near Australia's Casey station in Antarctica.

The 50km-long iceberg, called B15G, is part of a huge iceberg – B15 – that broke away from the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica more than five years ago.

The iceberg has drifted more than 1000km to arrive in Vincennes Bay, off Casey station, earlier this month.

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Hostile Grackles Attack People in Houston
May 18, 7:24 AM (ET)

HOUSTON - Like a scene from the horror movie "The Birds," large black grackles are swooping down on downtown Houston and attacking people's heads, hair and backs.

Authorities closed off a sidewalk after the aggressive birds, which can have 2-foot wingspans, flew out of magnolia trees Monday in front of the County Administration Building.

"They were just going crazy," said constable Wilbert Jue, who works at the building. "They were attacking everybody that walked by."

The grackles zeroed in on a lawyer who shooed a bird away before he tripped and injured his face, Jue said. The lawyer was treated for several cuts.

It appears that the birds are protecting their offspring. On Monday a young grackle had fallen out of its nest and adult birds attacked people who got too close, Jue said.

Another bird attacked a deputy county clerk.

"I hit him with a bottle," said Sylvia Velasquez. "The other birds came, and one attacked my blouse and on my back."

Two women came to help her after she fell to the ground, and the birds attacked them as well. The group escaped by running into the building.

"This is a very Hitchcock kind of story. Very Tippi Hedren," said downtown worker Laura Aranda Smith, referring to one of the stars of Alfred Hitchcock's move "The Birds."

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Pit Bull Kills Toddler in West Virginia
May 18, 12:36 PM (ET)

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - A pit bill that had once bitten a person fatally mauled a young girl before being subdued by firefighters using a fire extinguisher, officials said.

The girl, who was 2 or 3 years old, was pronounced dead at a hospital following the attack Tuesday at the dog owner's home, police Sgt. Dan Underwood said. Her name was not released.

"The girl, her mother and at least two other people were apparently hanging out on the house's porch," Underwood said. "The homeowner apparently told them all to stay out of the house where the dog was."

It was not known what provoked the dog.

Huntington firefighter Jason Price said the dog was wild-eyed and the hair on the back of its neck was raised, and that it rammed the door like a bull.

"Hollywood couldn't have made this dog look more evil," he said.

The pit bull's owner, who also was not identified, had posted several "beware of dog" signs and was keeping the dog inside the house because it had previously bitten another person, said Debbie Young, office manager for Huntington-Cabell-Wayne Animal Control.

"A lot of people are under the impression that once they put those warning signs, they are in the clear. ... They are responsible for that animal," Young said.

No charges have been filed, authorities said Wednesday.

Young said animal control officials will ask a judge to order that the dog be destroyed.

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Dogs tag-team postal carrier
By GEORGE MOORE, Staff Writer
New Britain Herald

SOUTHINGTON, CONNECTICUT -- A pair of dogs tag-teamed a Plantsville postal worker Wednesday, biting him in the leg and face midway through a week when many of his peers stressed to residents the need to keep pets under control.

James McAloon, 56, was delivering mail to 103 Norton St., Plantsville, at around 10:25 a.m. when a pit bull mix and a Labrador ran out from the house and attacked him, said police spokesman Sgt. Lowell DePalma.

As McAloon was walking away from the mailbox at the address, the 2-year-old pit bull, Napoleon, tackled McAloon by biting onto his thigh. The 7-year-old Labrador, Cody, then bit McAloon around the mouth area, DePalma said.

McAloon managed to tear himself away from the dogs and got back into his mail truck. He drove himself back to the Plantsville Post Office, 847 S. Main St.

Employees there immediately recognized that McAloon had been attacked; he was transported to Bradley Memorial Hospital for treatment, DePalma said. McAloon was reportedly released after treatment.

The owner of the dogs, Dawn R. Corley, 31, was charged by police with two counts of having a vicious nuisance dog, and one count each of failure to vaccinate a dog and failure to license a dog. These charges commonly lead to fines, DePalma said.

Corley said she had never seen her dogs act that way before.

"I'm really sorry that it ever happened," she said.

The two dogs were quarantined at the Southington Dog Pound and will be placed under observation for 14 days. In all likelihood, the dogs will be returned to their owner at the end of the 14 days unless any particularly threatening behavior is noted, DePalma said.

McAloon is expected to take at least 10 days of paid leave to recover in hopes of a full recovery, said Postal Service spokesman Carl Walton.

The attack comes at the middle of the U.S. Postal Service's National Dog Bite Prevention Week.

"That's the irony of this," Walton said. [...]

The Postal Service says that there were 3,400 dog bites reported by mail carriers in 2003, and 3,800 in 2002.

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Woman Charged With Cutting Husband's Penis
Wed May 18, 4:33 PM ET

WAUPACA, Wis. - A rural woman was charged with substantial battery for allegedly cutting her husband's penis with scissors - an injury that required 15 stitches to repair.

A criminal complaint said the husband let his wife, Theresa L. Hedtke, bind his hands with duct tape. Hedtke then used the scissors in an effort to get him to confess to having an affair, according to the complaint.

Hedtke, 42, allegedly told police she didn't intend to cut her husband. He was treated at New London Family Medical Center.

Hedtke appeared Monday in Waupaca County Circuit Court, where Judge Raymond Huber released her on a $5,000 signature bond.

The substantial battery charge carries maximum three and a-half years in prison upon conviction.

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Elderly woman survives nine-story fall
Associated Press
May 11, 2005

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (AP) - A 70-year-old woman survived a nine-story fall from an apartment tower Wednesday when she landed on a canopy, officials said.

The woman was cleaning her balcony when she fell at Coral Ridge Towers and landed on a first-floor canopy, according to the Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue.

The woman, whose identity was not released, was alert and talking when rescuers arrived.

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Calf Born in N.M. With 5 Legs, 6 Hooves
Associated Press
May 19, 8:31 PM (ET)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - One of Orlando Romero's calves has a leg up on the other 25 calves born within the last two weeks on his ranch east of Tucumcari. The calf was born with an extra leg, with two hooves, growing from its back.

Ranchers in the area aren't quite sure what to make of the little Limousin heifer. That is, if they can catch her.

"She moves like a damn deer. I had a heck of a time trying to catch her," said Jess Weaks, the ranch caretaker. "She's pretty ornery, that's for sure."

The week-old calf's extra leg does not touch the ground. It is attached to the calf's back between the shoulder blades, and hangs to its right side.

The branch-like growth is the only major difference between the copper-colored calf and the rest of the herd, said Shane Jennings, a neighbor who first spotted the heifer.

"It's just cosmetic. She's out there in the pasture right now, like any other cow. The little booger's doing good. It's in real good health," Jennings said.

Jennings was in the field checking on yearlings last week when he saw that one cow was close to giving birth. He left to tend to other work, and when he returned he saw the cow with her new calf.

But he was startled by what he saw when he approached the hours-old calf.

"I thought, 'What in the world is that?' and as I got a closer look and saw the extra leg I said 'Oh boy, what am I gonna come up with next?'" Jennings said.

Jennings said he's seen deformities in calves before and that Tucumcari's ranch supply store used to have a stuffed two-headed, stillborn calf.

"But I've never seen anything like this," he said.

Neither have most people, said Milton Thomas, professor of beef cattle physiology and genetics at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. He said extra body parts are a freak occurrence.

"It's very, very rare," Thomas said. "Generally, a lot of these don't do well."

Thomas said extra appendages result of a cellular mix up during the replication of genetic material in early embryo development. Certain cells will develop into tissues such as muscles or organs, but some receive skewed signals and grow into unnecessary parts.

"This calf wasn't exposed to anything in the environment or anything like that. This happens to all mammalian species," Thomas said.

Weaks said Romero has talked with veterinarians about removing the leg, and will likely transport the calf to his other ranch in Sapello, where it will become an ordinary cow.

"All (Romero) did was laugh when I told him about the calf," Weaks said. "I think he's gonna keep her. She's so cute. Women would die for eyelashes like hers."

Comment: How can Thomas be certain that the calf's deformity had nothing to do with pollution or other environmental factors?

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EU warns it could widen action to stem Chinese textile surge
Friday May 20, 9:35 AM

The European Union has warned it could extend emergency measures to curb a surge in Chinese textile imports, on which it has already launched action covering two key categories.

The European Commission, which this week demanded urgent talks with the Chinese on surging imports of T-shirts and flax yarn, also said it would be "disappointed" if Chinese authorities did not rein in exports voluntarily.

"If the Chinese authorities did not show moderation, it is perfectly possible that we would proceed on other categories," said commission spokeswoman Francoise Le Bail. [...]

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Snow names envoy to head currency bid
By Glenn Somerville
May 19, 2005

WASHINGTON - Calling it "critical" for China to act, U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow on Thursday named a new special envoy to head up a bid to persuade Beijing to let its yuan currency rise in value against the dollar.

Olin Wethington, a 56-year-old counselor to Snow who represented Treasury in the economic reconstruction of
Iraq and the reduction of its debt, will take over from Paul Speltz, the U.S. executive director at the Asian Development Bank, who has held the position for the past 13 months.

The Bush administration has been urging China for two years to modify its pegged currency regime, which holds the yuan at about 8.28 per dollar, and this week raised the threat of potential trade retaliation if China continues to balk.

In a semiannual report to Congress, Treasury on Tuesday said that China "likely" will be named as a manipulative trade partner later this year unless it modifies its exchange-rate policies. In the U.S. Congress and industry sectors, anger has been mounting as China piles up record trade surpluses.

Treasury spokesman Tony Fratto said Wethington, a Harvard-trained lawyer whose university studies included Chinese history and language, will have a broader mandate than his predecessor.

"His role will be to make clear our seriousness (about) why the Bush administration believes that it's in China's best interest and in the interest of the greater global economy that China implement sound economic reforms and to encourage the implementation of those reforms, including currency flexibility," Fratto said.

Comment: Fratto's statement's would be hilarious if the situation weren't so dire. Think about it: The US, whose economy is in tatters and only a few short steps away from completely falling apart, is going to tell China how to, "implement sound economic reforms". It's no wonder that China told the Bush administration to mind its own business - literally.


Washington is unabashedly turning up the heat on China to let the yuan appreciate, partly because it says normal market adjustments are thwarted since Chinese government policies shield its products from price changes.

As the dollar's value fell over the past two years, critics say Chinese imports have remained relatively cheap because of the yuan's peg to the U.S. currency.

The Bush administration is also worried about the difficulty of controlling rising sentiment on Capitol Hill for imposing punitive tariffs against Chinese imports.

Comment: Horse hockey. The Bush administration intends to rile up the emotions on Capitol Hill.

The United States has already announced emergency import restrictions on some clothing and textiles from China as has the
European Union.

But the record $162 billion deficit that the United States incurred on trade with China last year has fueled deep anger among lawmakers who are hearing complaints about lost U.S. jobs and shuttered factories.

Comment: How can US lawmakers be angry at China about lost US jobs and shuttered factories when it was US companies that outsourced and offshored so much work to China? Perhaps the answer to that question is quite simple: Politicians get elected because they have funding from rich friends in the business world. US officials wouldn't want to anger their biggest supporters, now would they? Besides, like our good friend Dick Cheney, many of the politicians are most certainly profiting at least indirectly from their friends' business deals.

Fratto said the selection of Wethington as special envoy to China represented a move to "a different phase in our relationship."

Speltz, who is based in Manila, had the task of building contacts and developing a technical cooperation program with Chinese officials while the Bush administration sought through "quiet diplomacy" to convince China to change its policies.

"The emphasis will start to move to financial diplomacy with Chinese economic officials and other governments in the region," Fratto said, a point that Snow also made in a statement in which he said the United States wanted to "intensify a constructive dialogue" with Beijing.

"This is a critical time for China to implement necessary economic reforms -- most notably, reform of its currency regime and the adoption of market-based exchange policies," the U.S. Treasury chief said.

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Maytag to be acquired for $1.125 bln
By Ellis Mnyandu
Thu May 19, 9:00 PM ET

NEW YORK - Maytag Corp., one of the premier brand names in America for nearly a century, but struggling recently with sagging market share and profits, said on Thursday it agreed to be acquired for $1.125 billion by investors led by private equity firm Ripplewood Holdings LLC.

The group will pay $14 a share and assume $975 million in debt, according to Maytag. The offer implies a premium of 21 percent to Maytag's closing share price of $11.56 on the
New York Stock Exchange.

However, that premium evaporated almost immediately after the announcement as the stock rose more than 20 percent to $14.01 in after-hours trading.

The deal comes as Maytag, an American brand icon which makes washing machines and driers and other household appliances like Hoover vacuum cleaners, struggles with higher steel prices and fierce competition from rivals.

In addition, the company has lost display space at retailers like Best Buy Co. Inc., which is dedicating more shelf space to products from Asian competitors like LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics.

Comment: You mean the Evil Asian Competitors didn't hold US executives at gunpoint and force them to stop selling American-made products??

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US overstated China's military spending, study says
By Jim Wolf
May 20, 2005

WASHINGTON - The Defense Department may have overestimated China's total military spending by more than two-thirds, according to a report for the Air Force released on Thursday.

The RAND Corporation, a research group that studies many issues for the Pentagon, estimated China's military spending totaled $31 billion to $38 billion in 2003, which it said was the most recent year for which full data was available.

By contrast, the Defense Department has put the 2003 figure as high as $65 billion, 71 percent greater than the high end of RAND's estimate.

The communist state itself has used a figure of about $25 billion, but U.S. experts say that does not include research and development, pensions and some other costs normally included by western militaries.

RAND's figure could raise questions about some of the arguments used by U.S. decisonmakers to justify continued spending on big-ticket weapons systems.

The Defense Department, asked to comment on the findings, said it was standing by the numbers it used in its fiscal 2003 annual report to Congress on Chinese military power.

The Pentagon "asks for greater transparency in China's People's Liberation Army military budget reporting," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Hicks, a Pentagon spokesman.

"It is well known that the PLA is embarked on an ambitious, long-term military modernization effort to develop capabilities to fight and win short-duration, high-intensity conflicts along its periphery," Hicks said.

The Defense Department monitors China's military modernization closely, "particularly those aspects that are directed at Taiwan," he said. The United States is committed to helping Taiwan's self-defense but without provoking China, which deems Taiwan a rogue province.

In its fiscal 2004 annual report to Congress on China's military power, released on May 28 last year, the Pentagon put China's military outlays at $50 billion to $70 billion.

China's military has denounced the Pentagon figures as wildly exaggerated. In a commentary on June 15, the People's Liberation Army said the true sum was about $25 billion, which it equated to 1/19th of U.S. national defense spending.

China, the PLA said, was "one of the countries with the lowest per capita national defense expenditure."

RAND estimated China's defense spending at 2.3 percent to 2.8 percent of gross domestic product in 2003. Using what it called newly available Chinese-language primary sources, it said this was 1.4 to 1.7 times the official Chinese number.

By comparison, U.S. defense spending was 3.8 percent of
GDP in 2003, or about $417.5 billion.

"China's defense spending has more than doubled over the past six years," almost catching up with Britain and Japan, said Kent Crane, the RAND study's lead author. "Although the rate of increase has slowed, by 2025 China will be spending more on defense than any of our allies."

James Mulvenon, an analyst who contributed to the report before leaving RAND to join another consulting group, said the U.S. government had been using a lot of "wild-assed guesses" about Chinese military spending rather than digging into original source material.

"Basically, we're correcting a lot of U.S. government estimates that weren't based on empirical fact," said Mulvenon, now at the Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis, a Washington-based group that consults for U.S. intelligence agencies.

Comment: It seems the Bush administration also lied about the threat presented to the world from China's military. Given the lies about 9/11, the war on terror, Afghanistan, Osama, Iraq, and the US economy, we have to wonder if George W. Bush has ever told the truth about anything. Furthermore, given that it is well-known that Bush is a habitual liar, why would anyone even consider believing anything that he or his administration say without first doing their homework??

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Russian parliament ratifies border treaty with China 2005-05-20 20:14:27

MOSCOW, May 20 (Xinhuanet) -- Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, ratified Friday a supplementary agreement signed last year between Russia and China on their eastern border.

Russian lawmakers voted 307-80 to approve the agreement, with two abstentions. A total of 226 votes were needed for the deal to breeze through the State Duma, Interfax news agency reported.

Russia and China signed the agreement during President Vladimir Putin's visit to China last October.

The agreement defines the borderline on two sections, which constitute less than two percent of the Russian-Chinese border, left unsettled since 1991 when the two sides signed a border treaty on the eastern part of the common border. Russia and China share a 4,300 km-long border.

The sections include the Bolshoi Island in the upper reaches ofthe Argun River and the area near Tarabarov and Bolshoi Ussuriisky Islands in the confluence area of the Ussuri and Amur Rivers.

The supplementary agreement "meets Russia's long-term interests and will promote Russian-Chinese strategic cooperation," an explanatory note to the agreement says.

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Britain creates cloned human embryo 2005-05-20 18:37:52

LONDON, May 20 (Xinhuanet) -- British scientists have created a cloned human embryo for the first time, placing the country in the vanguard of a technology with the potential to cure conditions such as Parkinson's, diabetes and paralysis, The Times reported on Friday.

The Newcastle University team produced three cloned embryos, one of which survived to the blastocyst stage of about 100 cells, at which stem cells can be collected. All these cells are clones of patients with type 1 diabetes, spinal injuries or an immune system disease.

Genetic testing has confirmed that the cells would be immunologically compatible were they to be transplanted, but it is too early to attempt this safely, the newspaper said.

"We are bringing science a step forward towards the day when some of humankind's most devastating diseases and injuries can be treated through the use of therapeutic stem cell," the paper quoted professor Hwang, member of the team, as saying.

The development came as the South Korean researchers who pioneered human cloning last year announced breakthroughs that bring its medical promise closer to reality.

These advances pave the way for using cloned embryonic stem cells -- master cells that can form any tissue in the body -- to create spare part tissue for treating disease.

The research has reignited controversy over the ethics of humancloning even for therapeutic purposes.

Critics said that the new research would assist efforts to produce a cloned baby as the methods involved are virtually identical. They also objected to the destruction of embryonic lifeand said that any form of cloning insults human dignity.

Other critics, however, said it would be immoral not to proceed."To fail to develop therapies that would save 100,000 people is morally equivalent to killing 100,000 people," the paper cited Professor Julian Savulescu, of Oxford University, as saying.

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Lawmakers Vote To Repeal Law Banning American Indians From Boston
POSTED: 9:55 am EDT May 20, 2005

BOSTON -- John "Sam" Sapiel gets an uneasy feeling when he crosses Boston city limits, where the full-blooded Penobscot Indian is technically a persona non grata.

An archaic law has forbidden American Indians from setting foot in the city since 1675, when settlers were at war with area tribes. Although the law hasn't been enforced for centuries, the fact that it still exists is a lingering source of anger for American Indians.

"I feel kind of put out on the whole thing, because we're being singled out as Indian people," said Sapiel, 74, who lives in Falmouth. "I think about it quite a bit."

Now, some 330 years after its passage, the state Legislature voted Thursday to strike down the old law. [...]

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Social Security and the Stupid Splinter Group

How the GOP will Destroy Itself
May 18, 2005

A letter to his brother, Milton, written November 8, 1954:

Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history.

There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things.

Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas.

Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

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GOP Aides Say New Patriot Act Obliges Bush
Associated Press
May 18, 8:12 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee is working on a bill that would renew the Patriot Act and expand government powers in the name of fighting terrorism, letting the
FBI subpoena records without permission from a judge or grand jury.

Much of the debate in Congress has concerned possibly limiting some of the powers in the anti-terrorism law passed 45 days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

But the measure being written by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., would give the FBI new power to issue administrative subpoenas, which are not reviewed by a judge or grand jury, for quickly obtaining records, electronic data or other evidence in terrorism investigations, according to aides for the GOP majority on the committee who briefed reporters Wednesday.

Recipients could challenge the subpoenas in court and the Bush administration would have to report to Congress twice a year exactly how it was using this investigatory power, the aides said.

The administration has sought this power for two years, but so far been rebuffed by lawmakers. It is far from certain that Congress will give the administration everything it wants this year.

Roberts' planned bill also would make it easier for prosecutors to use special court-approved warrants for secret wiretaps and searches of suspected terrorists and spies in criminal cases, the committee aides said.

Eight expiring sections of the law that deal with foreign intelligence investigations would become permanent, they said.

So, too, would a provision that authorizes wiretapping of suspected terrorists who operate without clear ties to a particular terrorist network.

Comment: In other words, the government would have permanent powers to legally spy on any US citizen for pretty much any reason.

The aides spokes on condition of anonymity because Roberts has yet to make public the bill's contents.

Opponents of expanding the Patriot Act said Roberts' proposal would amount to an expansive wish list for the administration.

"While we're fighting to bring provisions ... back into balance with the Bill of Rights, here we have the intelligence committee moving to give the government more power outside the judicial system to gain access to records of Americans," said former GOP Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia, a critic of the law.

Lisa Graves, the American Civil Liberties Union's senior counsel for legislative strategy, said the new subpoena power would "be a dramatic expansion of secret search powers."

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other administration officials have been adamant that the expiring provisions become permanent, with few changes.

They also have pushed for the administrative subpoena power, which they say prosecutors already are using in health care fraud and other criminal cases.

Justice Department officials have been consulted on the legislation and offered technical advice, department spokesman Kevin Madden said.

"The Department of Justice appreciates that the Senate Intelligence Committee has signaled their intention to support provisions that enhance law enforcement's ability to combat terrorism effectively," Madden said.

Committee aides said the committee planned to meet in private when it considers the bill because the discussions would involve intelligence operations.

Barr said he was distressed that the committee "would do something like this in secret."

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., the panel's senior Democrat, has not said publicly whether he would support the entire bill that Roberts was working on or seek changes.

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Retired Carrier USS America Sunk Off U.S.
Fri May 20,11:26 PM ET

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - The retired aircraft carrier USS America is on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, sunk by the Navy in a series of explosive tests that upset some veterans.

The 84,000-ton, 1,048-foot warship that served the Navy for 32 years rests about 60 miles off the coast and more than 6,000 feet down, according to Pat Dolan, a spokeswoman for Naval Sea Systems Command.

She did not give a location, but the Navy previously said the explosions would take place off North Carolina.

Dolan said the America went down May 14, finally flooded after the series of explosions over 25 days. No announcement was made at the time.

Dolan did not immediately return a telephone message left Friday by The Associated Press.

No warship this size or larger had ever been sunk, and plans to sink the America caused controversy.

"Not a day goes by that I don't think about it," said Lee McNulty, president of the USS America Foundation, which wanted to turn the ship into a museum. "Of all the carriers, that one should have been saved, just for the name America."

The America launched warplanes during the Vietnam War, the 1986 conflict with Libya, the first Gulf War, and over Bosnia-Herzegovina in the mid-1990s.

The Navy said in March that the explosive tests would provide valuable data on survivability for the next generation of aircraft carriers, which are now in development.

Since its decommissioning in 1996, the America had been moored with dozens of other inactive warships at a Navy yard in Philadelphia.

Comment: A huge aircraft carrier, generally viewed as a symbol of American military might, was blown up and sunk by the US military itself. To top it all off, the vessel was named the USS America. Coincidence? We think not.

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Latest 'Star Wars' Movie Is Quickly Politicized
The New York Times
May 19, 2005

LOS ANGELES - For sheer lack of subtlety, the light-saber-wielding forces of good and evil in George Lucas's "Star Wars" movies can't hold a candle to the blogging, advertising and boycotting forces of the right and left. (Or left and right.)

More a measure of the nation's apparently permanent political warfare than of a filmmaker's intent, the heroes and antiheroes of Mr. Lucas's final entry, "Episode III - Revenge of the Sith," were on their way to becoming the stock characters of partisan debate by mid-Wednesday, hours before the film's opening just after midnight:

- The liberal advocacy group was preparing to spend $150,000 to run advertisements on CNN over the next few days - and to spread leaflets among audiences in line at multiplexes - comparing Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, to the movie's power-grabbing, evil Chancellor Palpatine, for Dr. Frist's role in the Senate's showdown over the confirmation of federal judges.

- Conservative Web logs were lacerating Mr. Lucas over the film's perceived jabs at President Bush - as when Anakin Skywalker, on his way to becoming the evil Darth Vader, warns, "If you're not with me, you're my enemy," in an echo of Mr. Bush's post-9/11 ultimatum, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."

- A little-trafficked conservative Web site about film, - for "Patriotic Americans Boycotting Anti-American Hollywood" - added Mr. Lucas to its list of boycotted entertainers, along with more than 200 others, including Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn and the Dixie Chicks.

- Even the Drudge Report Web site got into the act: beneath a picture of Darth Vader, it compared the White House press corps to the vengeful Sith, after reporters peppered a press secretary for pressing Newsweek magazine to "repair the damage" in the Muslim world caused by a retracted report about desecration of the Koran.

There is nothing all that new or imaginative, of course, about politicians borrowing from popular movies to score points; witness Ronald Reagan's co-opting of the "evil empire" metaphor for use against the Soviet bloc, or his critics lampooning his missile defense ideas as something straight out of "Star Wars." And Senator John McCain of Arizona, a Republican rebel of sorts, compared his 2000 primary campaign to Luke Skywalker's fighting his way out of the Death Star.

But it is highly unusual for a mainstream Hollywood movie to wind up in the swirl of politics even before it has opened - though that did occur with 20th Century Fox's "Day After Tomorrow," with its apocalyptic vision of global warming's consequences, which advocates including and Al Gore used to protest the Bush administration's environmental policy.

As a rule, Hollywood studios go to great lengths to ensure that their projects - both in the development stage and especially when they are positioned in the marketplace - are free of messages that could be offensive to any great swath of the moviegoing public. Like, say, people who vote for one political party or the other.

All of which calls into question Mr. Lucas's decision to have the premiere of the "Star Wars" finale at the Cannes Film Festival. France is sometimes called the biggest blue state of all, after all. And just what was Mr. Lucas - who could not be reached for comment Wednesday - thinking when he told a Cannes audience that he had not realized in plotting the film years ago that fact might so closely track his fiction?

Alluding to Michael Moore's remarks about "Fahrenheit 9/11" at Cannes a year earlier, Mr. Lucas joked, "Maybe the film will waken people to the situation."

Apparently in all seriousness, though, he went on to say that he had first devised the "Star Wars" story during the Vietnam War. "The parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we're doing in Iraq now are unbelievable," he told an appreciative audience.

Peter Sealey, a former marketing chief at Columbia Pictures, said the partisan tug of war over the new "Star Wars" episode seemed absurd, likening the political interpretations of it to a Rorschach test. But he said Mr. Lucas was probably savvy in adding sizzle and relevance to a movie that otherwise might have earned publicity only by its effectiveness as entertainment.

"He could've come out and said, 'That's ridiculous - this is the white hats and black hats of the 1950's in space,' and quashed it," said Mr. Sealey, who teaches entertainment marketing at the University of California, Berkeley. "Did he do that? No, and it was probably smart. If he can get 'Star Wars' brought into the debate over unilateralism and the Iraq war, it just brings a current spin to it. And I don't think it's going to rule people out."

Indeed, it is extremely unlikely that all the online screeds and boycotts put together will leave so much as a dent in the movie's box office results. Hollywood insiders have estimated that "Episode III" will have ticket sales of $120 million or more in its first four days.

But Mr. Sealey said other filmmakers and marketers might do well to inspect their pictures for latent political messaging before the public does it for them.

He noted that a Universal Pictures marketing executive had given a lecture to his marketing class about "King Kong," which is coming out later this year. "Is there a political overtone to it?" Mr. Sealey said. "I suspect he's got to think that through today. The political sensitivities are so great that you have to take that calculus into consideration. Is somebody going to read into 'King Kong' that it's pro-Iraq, or it's going to get PETA upset?"

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Fool's gold
Mark Pilkington
Thursday May 19, 2005
The Guardian

25 May 1782. The culmination of a month's worth of startling experiments, 15 prestigious observers, among them lords and fellows of the Royal Society, watched keenly as a 24-year-old chemist, James Price, mixed mercury with a tiny amount of a mysterious red powder. These were heated in a crucible for several minutes, then left to cool, leaving behind a yellow metal, later identified by an independent goldsmith as gold.

Generally speaking, there are two schools of thought about western European alchemy. The more literal approach regards the alchemists of the 16th and 17th centuries as chemists, whose direct successors James Price had recently joined in the Royal Society. The other sees them as mystics, their descriptions of physical experiments actually allegories for the transformation of the soul.

Such a distinction would have meant little to many of the early alchemists, for whom spirit and matter were intrinsically connected; but by the time of Price's experiment, the art had one goal - to turn base metals into gold.

News of Price's transformation spread quickly and caused a sensation. He wrote accounts of his experiments for the popular newspapers, was awarded a doctorate by Oxford University and presented a gold sample to an approving King George III.

But within the Royal Society all was not well: many members, not least its president, Joseph Banks, were deeply sceptical of Price's claims. They demanded that Price reveal the composition of the red powder. He refused, but as the pressure grew, he finally agreed to a conclusive demonstration.

His reputation now in tatters, in early August 1783, Price invited three wary members of the Royal Society into his home. Accounts of what happened vary, but at some point Price downed a glass of highly poisonous laurel water, and within hours he was dead.

Was Price a fraud who feared exposure? Was he suffering delirium as the result of mercury poisoning? Or perhaps, as a researcher, Guy Ogilvy, has suggested, the mystery powder was passed to him by another adept and he was unable to reveal its secrets because he didn't actually know them?

The answer died with him, and so too did the golden age of alchemy.

Comment: Or maybe not quite.... Yes, the birth of modern science gave rise to a current of scientists who refused the tenets of alchemy, however the alchemists have continued their work down to this day. Two fundamental texts of alchemy were written and published within the last 80 years; we speak, of course, of the work of Fulcanelli, the French alchemist whose works The Mystery of the Cathedrals and The Dwellings of the Philosophers were published in 1926 and 1930.

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Woe! Lake begone!
23-acre body of water disappears in St. Louis suburb
The Associated Press
Updated: 4:42 p.m. ET June 11, 2004

WILDWOOD, Mo. - To folks around Wildwood, it is nothing but freaky: an entire 23-acre lake vanished in a matter of days, as if someone pulled the plug on a bathtub.

Lake Chesterfield went down a sinkhole this week, leaving homeowners in this affluent St. Louis suburb wondering if their property values disappeared along with their lakeside views.

"It's real creepy," said Donna Ripp, who lives near what had been Lake Chesterfield. "That lake was 23 acres - no small lake. And to wake up one morning, drive by and it's gone?"

What once was an oasis for waterfowl and sailboats was nothing but a muddy, cracked pit outlined by rotting fish.

The sight had 74-year-old George English scratching his head.

"It's disheartening, getting out on your deck and seeing this," he said as he stood next to wife, Betty, and the "lakeside" condominium they bought in 1996 for its view. "One day it's a beautiful lake, and now, bingo, it's gone."

Some residents said they noticed that the lake, after being swelled by torrential rains weeks earlier, began falling last weekend. The Englishes said they noticed the drop-off Monday.

By Wednesday, the manmade lake - normally seven to 10 feet deep in spots - had been reduced to a mucky, stinky mess.

David Taylor, a geologist who inspected the lakebed Wednesday, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the sinkhole was formed when water eroded the limestone deep underground and created pockets in the rock. The sinkhole was "like a ticking time bomb."

The lake and surrounding housing development date to the late 1980s. The development now includes more than 670 condominiums and houses, about one-tenth of them bordering the lake.

Because the lake is private property, the subdivision's residents will have to cover the cost of fixing it, probably through special property assessments. George English expects it to cost $1,000 a household.

It is a price English said he is willing to pay. He just wants the unsightly pit gone, either by refilling it with water or dumping enormous amounts of dirt into it to create green space or usable land.

"I think it'll come back again," he said. "You have to hope they can fix it."

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Iceland Lake Disappearing Into New Crack in Earth
Bijal P. Trivedi
for National Geographic Today
October 1, 2001

Icelanders are accustomed to their land being stretched, split, and torn by violent earthquakes and haphazardly rebuilt by exploding volcanoes. But everyone was surprised when a large lake began to disappear into a long fissure created by one of last summer's earthquakes.

The draining lake is an oddity even by Icelandic standards, and has lured hordes of curious onlookers to it barren shores.

"If you put your ear to the ground, you can hear the lake draining," said geologist Amy Clifton of the Nordic Volcanological Institute in Reykjavik, Iceland. "It sounds like water going down the sink."

Last year, during a leisurely Sunday drive, a geologist noticed a large gash in the landscape about 20 kilometers (13 miles) from Reykjavik and reported it to Clifton. When she arrived she found a fissure-about a foot wide and 400 meters (1,280 feet) long-that led directly into Lake Kleifarvatn and disappeared beneath the water.

Lake Kleifarvatn, which measured about six kilometers (3.7 miles) long and 2.3 kilometers (1.4 miles) wide last year, has shrunk dramatically. Now it is only 3.5 kilometers long and roughly 1.8 kilometers wide, said Clifton.

Kleifarvatn is draining at about one centimeter (one-third of an inch) a day, according to Clifton. "You can almost see the lake level drop," she said.

Summerhouses that were once mere steps from waterfront are now more than a kilometer away from the water's edge. The placid waters have dropped more than four meters in the last year. In their place is a barren lake bed speckled with sulphur-rimmed thermal springs that spit boiling water and mud.

Clifton spends much of her time mapping and measuring "rips, gashes, and holes" in the Icelandic landscape. Describing herself as a "walking pencil," because her treks are all mapped by global positioning system (GPS) technology, she investigates open cracks, torn vegetation, rock falls, sinkholes, and other disturbances and tries to determine what caused them.

But what phenomenon created the large fissure at Lake Kleifarvatn is an enigma. "I couldn't find an earthquake in our database that was big enough to cause such a huge rupture in the surface," said Clifton.

She and some of her colleagues think a "quiet earthquake" may be responsible. Explaining such a scenario, Clifton said the water may have "lubricated the fault lines, allowing them to slide quietly and slowly, preventing the shock waves that would normally accompany an earthquake."

The earthquake thought to be responsible for the fissure at Lake Kleifarvatn occurred last year on June 17, about 80 kilometers (49 miles) east in the South Icelandic seismic zone. "No one ever expected earthquakes in this region to affect the surface in the Reykjanes Peninsula, where Lake Kleifarvatn is located," said Clifton.

Clifton hopes to eventually understand the relationship between the movement of faults deep within Earth and their surface effects in the region. Such knowledge is important for mapping areas that may be subject to future hazards, especially in regions where the population is growing.

While the Lake's dramatic disappearance is, for Clifton, "alarming, interesting, and unusual," she and her colleagues assume the waters will return. The last time a similar event happened was in 1912, after a magnitude 7 earthquake, and it took about three decades for the water level to normalize, she said.

Iceland experiences violent geological events because it sits at the Mid-Atlantic ridge-the boundary of the North American and European continental plates. The North American plate is shifting westward and the European plate is moving eastward. In the middle is a "hot spot," which spews the magma that has created the island of Iceland. Iceland grows by two centimeters (three-fourths of an inch) every year because of stretching and building caused by the combination of plate movements and volcanic activity.

Clifton said: "Iceland is a natural laboratory for studying this stretching and understanding the time scale on which these events occur."

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Restoring a Disappearing Lake
by Georgann Penson

When Lake Jackson "disappeared," governmental agencies jumped in. The Northwest Florida Water Management District, along with state and local governments, were prepared to implement a massive clean-up plan to restore the lake to its previous ecological health and to its renown trophy largemouth bass days. [...]

On September 16, 1999, most of the water remaining in the southern portion of Lake Jackson drained through Porter Hole Sink, an eight-foot wide sinkhole, leaving only isolated pools. The largest pool in the northwest portion of the lake drained slowly into Lime Sink over the next six months and in May 2000, this portion of the lake was completely dry.

The first documented disappearance of the lake's water was in May of 1907. The lake also disappeared in 1909, 1932, 1935, 1936, 1957 and 1982. Today, water managers call this process a natural drawdown, dewatering, draining or drydown.

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Slovenia - Photo enquiry 2 A disappearing lake
Staffordshire Learning Net
Cerknisko jezero is an intermittent lake and covers 26 km2 when is full - even up to 38 km2!. It is 10 km long and 5 km wide. That makes it the largest lake in Slovenia.

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Jackass had sex
Right-winger condemns 'beast fornicators,' but loves his mule
by James Ridgeway
May 17th, 2005 11:44 AM
Village Voice

Alan Colmes, on his Fox radio talk show last week, asked anti-abortion extremist Neal Horsley if he was kidding when Horsley once claimed to have had sex with animals as a boy growing up in Georgia. Horsley is best known for his "Nuremberg Files," which, according to Planned Parenthood, lists abortion doctors "marked for death." Here was the exchange between Colmes and Horsley:

Horsley: Hey, Alan, if you want to accuse me of having sex when I was a fool, I did everything that crossed my mind that looked like I . . .

Colmes: You had sex with animals?

Horsley: Absolutely. I was a fool. When you grow up on a farm in Georgia, your first girlfriend is a mule.

Colmes: I'm not so sure that that is so.

Horsley: You didn't grow up on a farm in Georgia, did you?

Colmes: Are you suggesting that everybody who grows up on a farm in Georgia has a mule as a girlfriend?

Horsley: It has historically been the case. You people are so far removed from the reality. . . . Welcome to domestic life on the farm. You experiment with anything that moves when you are growing up sexually. You're naive. You know better than that. . . . If it's warm and it's damp and it vibrates, you might in fact have sex with it.

Not knowing whether or not to believe this, we called Horsley and read him the quotes. "That's correct," he said. Then we looked at his website. Here's what it says: "Now when homosexuals, or adulterers, or fornicators, or pedophiles, or beast fornicators and beast suckers, or any sexual outlaws, parade themselves around as if they could be followers of Jesus Christ, they demonstrate a lie and blasphemy and abomination."

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Kabbalist Blesses Jones: Now´s the Time to Find Holy Lost Ark

An unnamed Kabbalist has granted blessing to famed archeologist Dr. Vendyl Jones to uncover the Holy Ark of the Covenant. Jones plans to excavate the Lost Ark by the Tisha B’Av Fast this summer.

The famed archaeologist, the inspiration for the “Indiana Jones” movie series, has spent most of his life searching for the Ark of the Covenant. The ark was the resting place of the Ten Commandments, given to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai, and was hidden just before the destruction of the First Temple.

The Talmud says the Ark is hidden in a secret passage under the Temple Mount. Jones says that the tunnel actually continues 18 miles southward, and that the Ark was brought through the tunnel to its current resting place in the Judean Desert.

Throughout the many years of his quest, Jones has been in close contact and under the tutelage of numerous Rabbis and Kabbalists. Extremely knowledgeable in Torah, Talmud and Kabbalah sources dealing with Holy Temple issues, Jones has now received permission from both known and secret Kabbalists to finally uncover the lost ark.

Dr. Jones, who divides his time between Texas and Israel, has been here since March 9th ready to finally reveal the Ark. However, he has been waiting for both permission from the mysterious Kabbalist and for project funding to come through.

Jones’ daughter Sarah converted to Judaism many years ago, and currently lives in the Shomron. She has been in touch with a great unnamed Kabbalist from whom she requested a blessing that her father merit success in finding the ark.

As recently as last month, the rabbi, who only communicates via messenger, told Jones that the time was not yet right to discover the Temple vessels.

Last Thursday, however, Dr. Jones received a communication from the rabbi reading, “The time is right.” [...]

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