Monday May 23, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
Signs Logo
Printer Friendly Version
Fixed link to latest Page

P I C T U R E   O F   T H E   D A Y

What a tangled web they weave

©2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte

Signs Economic Commentary
Donald Hunt
May 22, 2005

U.S. Stocks rose fairly sharply last week. The Dow closed at 10,471.91 on Friday, up 3.3% compared to the previous Friday's close of 10,140.12. The NASDAQ closed at 2,046.42, up 3.5% from the 1976.80 close from a week earlier. The yield on the ten-year U.S. Treasury bond fell one basis point to 4.12% on Friday the 20th from it's 4.12% close the previous Friday. The dollar closed at .7960 euros on Friday up 0.3% from .7933 euros a week earlier. That put the euro at 1.2563 dollars compared to 1.2606 the previous Friday. Oil closed at $47.50 a barrel on Friday, down again (2.5%) from $48.67. That represents a drop of 7.3% for the past two weeks. Comparing oil to euros, the price of oil converted to euros was 37.81 per barrel on Friday, down 2.1% from the previous Friday's 38.61. Gold closed at $417.60 an ounce, down 0.7% from the previous week's $420.60. In euros, gold closed at 332.40 euros an ounce, down 0.38% from last Friday's 333.66. At Friday's close an ounce of gold would buy 8.79 barrels of oil compared to 8.64 a week earlier, a decrease in the price of oil in gold terms of 1.8%.

It made for a strange contrast this past week, with the United States economy appearing stronger against the background of some disturbing stories from the United States' wars in southwest Asia and in that country's domestic politics. In fact, the Christian Science Monitor ran a story on Thursday that seems to encapsulate the subtle mix of scary facts, clever distortions and reassuring talk that we in the United States have been receiving from our media on both military and economic matters:

The rising economic cost of the Iraq war

By Peter Grier, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Thu May 19, 4:00 AM ET

Fighting in Iraq has been prolonged and remains intense enough that it has pushed the total cost of US military operations since Sept. 11, 2001, close to that of the Korean War.

Despite the yawning federal deficit, Congress hasn't blinked at this price. And while annual defense spending is now as high as it ever was during the Reagan buildup, the US economy as a whole is much larger, making it easier, in economic terms, for the nation to shoulder the bill.

Yet the costs for Pentagon operations are likely to pile up in years ahead. By 2010, war expenses might total $600 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Much depends on when - and how many - US military personnel can be withdrawn from the Iraqi theater of operations.

"We can't be any more certain about the trend of the defense budget than we can be about the number of troops that will be deployed overseas," says Steven Kosiak, director of budget studies for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

The demands and unpredictability of war have, in essence, turned the defense budget into a two-part allocation. First is the regular budget request, which contains acquisition and research and development funds as well as personnel and operations costs, and which Congress considers in its normal appropriations process. Second is the supplemental appropriations - the add-on emergency spending requested by the administration later in the year.

Here the normally left-of–center Monitor is parroting the Republican party line, that the reason they don't write the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars into the defense appropriation bill is that they don't know how much it will cost. That is clearly nonsense since at the time the bill is being written, "unnamed sources" tell us how much the next supplemental appropriation will be for. What is really happening, is that the Bush administration is reluctant to put the full amount the wars are costing into the main appropriation bill so as not to reduce support for either the wars or for their tax cuts for the rich.

Congress gave final passage to a 2005 supplemental defense bill just last week. Of the $82 billion contained in the bill, all but $76 billion will pay for Defense Department operations costs. The cost of the US military in Iraq is running about $5 billion a month, estimated the former Pentagon comptroller earlier this year.

Fighting in Iraq "is lasting longer, and is more intense, and the cost to keep troops in the theater of operations is proving to be much greater than anyone anticipated," wrote Rep. John Spratt (news, bio, voting record) (D) of South Carolina, ranking minority member of the House Budget Committee, in a recent Democratic report on war costs.

Speak for yourself, Rep. Spratt! SOME people anticipated just this sort of Vietnam-style quagmire.

Overall, Congress has approved about $192 billion for the Iraq war itself, according to an analysis by the Congressional Research Service. Another $58 billion has been allocated for Afghanistan, and some $20 billion has gone for enhanced air security and other Pentagon preparedness measures in the US.

That totals $270 billion for all military operations since 2001, according to the CRS analysis. The cost of war in Iraq by itself has already far exceeded the $85 billion inflation-adjusted price tag of the 1991 Gulf War, notes Mr. Kosiak. Plus, that war was largely paid for by contributions from US allies.

As for all military operations combined, add in the $50 billion in war spending the Senate Armed Services Committee last week added to the fiscal 2006 defense budget bill, and the total will surpass $320 billion in US funds. "That's close to the Korean war level of $350 billion [in today's dollars]," says Kosiak.

Unsurprisingly, operations and maintenance constitute the single largest extra expense of the Iraq war. Almost half of the just-passed emergency spending bill's defense funds went for ground operations, flying hours, fuel, and travel.

Iraq fighting has been particularly grinding, noted Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at a Senate budget hearing in February. On average, combat vehicles are experiencing four and a half years of peacetime wear in one year.

"A bradley fighting vehicle that usually runs about 800 miles a year - that's in peacetime training - now sometimes is being driven in the range of 4,000 miles in Iraq," said Secretary Rumsfeld.

About half of the remaining emergency defense funds was devoted to personnel. This means not basic pay but incremental costs: the extra money paid reserve troops when they are called to active duty, for instance, as well as hazard pay and other special compensation.

The rest went largely to weapons procurement, such as replacement of six National Guard UH-60 helicopters lost in Iraqi and Afghan operations.

More spending on the war is sure to come - even if the US begins to draw down troops levels. While it is difficult to estimate precisely, it is sure to be in the hundreds of billions, experts say. The Congressional Research Service pegs the cost of US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan at an additional $458 billion through 2014.

This is hardly cheap, but given the overall size of the US economy, and the levels of defense spending maintained during the cold war, it is well within the bounds of recent experience, according to Center for Strategic and International Studies military expert Anthony Cordesman.

Total defense spending in 2006 will probably be around 4 percent of gross national product, notes Mr. Cordesman. The average since 1992 for this measure has been 3.6 percent.

"When it does come to economic and federal 'overstretch,' defense is unlikely to be the cause," Cordesman argues in a recent report.

One of the reasons that apologists for the war such as Cordesman can be so reassuring about the United States' economy to handle the war, is the fact that much of the money spent on the war went to fatten the balance sheets of the Halliburtons, Lockheed-Martins and the shadowy "private security companies" (mercenaries) of the world. Note also how much was spent on "incremental personnel costs," much of it in the form of inducements for people to enlist or reenlist, not to mention death benefits for surviving families and medical costs for the large number of injured soldiers. That money certainly is a short-term stimulus for the domestic consumer economy. Such wars, however, only act as a stimulus to the economy of the perpetrator if they are short and successful, and this war will be neither.

Clearly, however, something is keeping the U.S. economy afloat. It appears to be those countries who have increased holdings of U.S. government debt lately, i.e., those most dependent politically on the success of the United States. First on the list of holders of U.S. Treasury debt is Japan who is far ahead of anyone else at nearly $700 billion followed by China at roughly $200 billion. Next comes the Caribbean offshore banking havens for the people who own the world (politicians, financiers, ruling-class wealthy, corporations, organized criminals, etc.). These entities combine for holdings in the $100 billion range. Then comes Tony Blair's United Kingdom, also in the 100s. It drops off a bit after that to the 40 to 70 billion dollar range where we find OPEC countries, Taiwan, Germany, Switzerland, Canada and Mexico. These are the countries that hold U.S. government debt. Why does Japan hold so much? Richard Duncan:

How Japan financed global reflation

May 17, 2005

Richard Duncan is a financial analyst based in Asia and author of "The Dollar Crisis: Causes, Consequences, Cures" (John Wiley & Sons, 2003), now available in a "Revised & Updated" paperback edition with 7 new chapters.

In 2003 and the first quarter of 2004, Japan carried out a remarkable experiment in monetary policy – remarkable in the impact it had on the global economy and equally remarkable in that it went almost entirely unnoticed in the financial press. Over those 15 months, monetary authorities in Japan created ¥35 trillion. To put that into perspective, ¥35 trillion is approximately 1% of the world's annual economic output. It is roughly the size of Japan's annual tax revenue base or nearly as large as the loan book of UFJ, one of Japan's four largest banks. ¥35 trillion amounts to the equivalent of $2,500 for every person in Japan and, in fact, would amount to $50 per person if distributed equally among the entire population of the planet. In short, it was money creation on a scale never before attempted during peacetime.

Peacetime? 2003? Perhaps this was Japan's contribution to the U.S. invasion of Iraq...

Why did this occur? There is no shortage of yen in Japan. The yield on two year JGBs is 10 basis points. Overnight money is free. Japanese banks have far more deposits than there is demand for loans, which forces them to invest up to a quarter of their deposits in low yielding government bonds. So, what motivated the Bank of Japan to print so much more money when the country is already flooded with excess liquidity?

The Bank of Japan gave the ¥35 trillion to the Japanese Ministry of Finance in exchange for MOF debt with virtually no yield; and the MOF used the money to buy approximately $320 billion from the private sector. The MOF then invested those dollars into US dollar- denominated debt instruments such as government bonds and agency debt in order to earn a return.

The MOF bought more dollars through currency intervention then than during the preceding 10 years combined, and yet the yen rose by 11% over that period. Historically, foreign exchange intervention to control the level of a currency has met with mixed success, at best; and past attempts by the MOF to stop the appreciation of the yen have not always succeeded. They were very considerably less expensive, however. It is also interesting, and perhaps important, to note that the MOF stopped intervening in March 2004 just when the yen was peaking; that the yen depreciated immediately after the intervention stopped; and that when the yen began appreciating again in October 2004, the MOF refrained from further intervention.

So, what happened in 2003 that prompted the Japanese monetary authorities to create so much paper money and hurl it into the foreign exchange markets? Two scenarios will be explored over the following paragraphs.

Duncan doesn't mention it, but clearly the most important historical event of 2003 was the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Could that, with a possible guarantee to Japan of oil supplies, be part of it?

In 2002, the United States faced the threat of deflation for the first time since the Great Depression. Growing trade imbalances and a surge in the global money supply had contributed to the credit excesses of the late 1990s and resulted in the New Paradigm technology bubble. That bubble popped in 2000 and was followed by a serious global economic slowdown in 2001. Policy makers in the United States grew increasingly alarmed that deflation, which had taken hold in Japan, China and Taiwan, would soon spread to America.

Deflation is a central bank's worst nightmare. When prices begin to fall, interest rates follow them down. Once interest rates fall to zero, as is the case in Japan at present, central banks become powerless to provide any further stimulus to the economy through conventional means and monetary policy becomes powerless. The extent of the US Federal Reserve's concern over the threat of deflation is demonstrated in Fed staff research papers and the speeches delivered by Fed governors at that time. For example, in June 2002, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System published a Discussion Paper entitled, "Preventing Deflation: Lessons from Japan's Experience in the 1990s." The abstract of that paper concluded "...we draw the general lesson from Japan's experience that when inflation and interest rates have fallen close to zero, and the risk of deflation is high, stimulus-both monetary and fiscal- should go beyond the levels conventionally implied by baseline forecasts of future inflation and economic activity."

From the perspective of mid-2002, the question confronting those in charge of preventing deflation must have been how far beyond the conventional levels implied by the base case could the economic policy response go? The government budget had already swung back into a large deficit and the Federal Funds rate was at a 41 year low. How much additional stimulus could be provided? A further increase in the budget deficit seemed likely to push up market determined interest rates, causing mortgage rates to rise and property prices to fall, which would have reduced aggregate demand that much more. And, with the Federal Funds rate at 1.75% in mid- 2002, there was limited scope left to lower it further. Moreover, given the already very low level of interest rates, there was reason to doubt that a further rate reduction would make any difference anyway.

In a speech entitled, "Deflation: Making Sure 'It' Doesn't Happen Here", delivered on November 21, 2002, Federal Reserve Governor Ben Bernanke explained to the world exactly how far beyond conventional levels the policy response could go. Governor Bernanke explained that the Fed would not be "out of ammunition" just because the Federal Funds rate fell to 0% because the Fed could create money and buy bonds of longer maturity in order to drive down yields at the long end of the yield curve as well. Moreover, he said, "In practice, the effectiveness of anti-deflation policy could be significantly enhanced by cooperation between the monetary and fiscal authorities. A broad-based tax cut, for example, accommodated by a program of open-market purchases to alleviate any tendency for interest rates to increase, would almost certainly be an effective stimulant to consumption and hence to prices."

He made similar remarks in Japan in May 2003 in a speech entitled, "Some Thoughts on Monetary Policy in Japan". He said, "My thesis here is that cooperation between the monetary and fiscal authorities in Japan could help solve the problems that each policymaker faces on its own. Consider for example a tax cut for households and businesses that is explicitly coupled with incremental BOJ purchases of government debt-so that the tax cut is in effect financed by money creation." These speeches attracted tremendous attention and for some time financial markets believed the Fed intended to implement the "unorthodox" or "unconventional" monetary policy options Governor Bernanke had outlined.

In the end, the Fed did not resort to unorthodox measures. The Fed did not create money to finance a broad-based tax cut in the United States. The Bank of Japan did, however. Three large tax cuts took the US budget from a surplus of $127 billion in 2001 to a deficit of $413 billion in 2004. In the 15 months ended March 2004, the BOJ created ¥35 trillion which the MOF used to buy $320 billion, an amount large enough to fund 77% of the US budget deficit in the fiscal year ending September 30, 2004. It is not certain how much of the $320 billion the MOF did invest into US Treasury bonds, but judging by their past behavior it is fair to assume that it was the vast majority of that amount.

Was the BOJ/MOF conducting Governor Bernanke's Unorthodox Monetary Policy on behalf of the Fed? There is no question that the BOJ created money on a very large scale as the Fed would have been required to do under Bernanke's scheme. Nor can there be any question that the money created was used to buy an increasing supply of US Treasury bonds being issued to finance the kind of broad-based tax cuts Governor Bernanke had discussed. Moreover, was it merely a coincidence that the really large scale BOJ/MOF intervention began during May 2003, while Governor Bernanke was visiting Japan? Was the BOJ simply serving as a branch of the Fed, as The Federal Reserve Bank of Tokyo, if you will? This is Scenario One.

If this was globally coordinated monetary policy (unorthodox or otherwise) it worked beautifully. The Bush tax cuts and the BOJ money creation that helped finance them at very low interest rates were the two most important elements driving the strong global economic expansion during 2003 and 2004. Combined, they produced a very powerful global reflation. The process seems to have worked in the following way:

US tax cuts and low interest rates fueled consumption in the United States. In turn, growing US consumption shifted Asia's export-oriented economies into overdrive. China played a very important part in that process. With a trade surplus vis-à-vis the United States of $124 billion, equivalent to 9% of its GDP in 2003 (rising to approximately $160 billion or above 12% of GDP in 2004), China became a regional engine of economic growth in its own right. China used its large trade surpluses with the US to pay for its large trade deficits with most of its Asian neighbors, including Japan. The recycling of China's US Dollar export earnings explains the incredibly rapid "reflation" that began across Asia in 2003 and that was still underway at the end of 2004. Even Japan's moribund economy began to reflate.

Whatever its motivation, Japan was well rewarded for creating money and buying US Treasury bonds with it. Whereas the BOJ had failed to reflate the Japanese economy directly by expanding the domestic money supply, it appears to have succeeded in reflating it indirectly by expanding the global money supply through financing the sharp increase in the MOF's holdings of US Dollar foreign exchange reserves. There is no question as to if this happened. It did. The only question is was it planned (globally coordinated monetary policy) or did it simply occur by coincidence, driven by other considerations?

What other considerations could have prompted the BOJ to create ¥35 trillion over 15 months? A second scenario is that a "run on the dollar" forced the monetary authorities in Japan to intervene on that scale to prevent a balance of payments crisis in the United States. This is Scenario Two.

During the Strong Dollar Trend of the late 1990s, foreign investors, both private and public, invested heavily in the United States. Those investments put upward pressure on the dollar and on US asset prices, including stocks and bonds. The trend became self-reinforcing. The more capital that entered the US, the more the dollar and dollar denominated assets rose in value. The more those assets appreciated, the more foreign investors wanted to own them. Because of the large sums entering the country, the United States had no difficulty in financing its giant current account deficit, even though that deficit nearly tripled between 1997 and 2001.

By 2002, however, with the US current account deficit approaching 5% of US GDP, it became increasingly apparent that the Strong Dollar Trend was unsustainable. The magnitude of the current account deficit made a downward adjustment in the value of the dollar unavoidable. At that point, the Strong Dollar Trend gave way and the Weak Dollar Trend began. Foreign investors who had invested in US dollar denominated assets during the late 1990s naturally wanted to take their money back out of the United States once it became clear that a sharp correction of the dollar was underway. Moreover, many US investors, and hedge funds in particular, also began selling dollar- denominated assets and buying non-US dollar-denominated assets to profit from the dollar's decline.

The change in the direction of capital flows can be seen very clearly in the breakdown of Japan's balance of payments.

… Traditionally, Japan runs a large current account surplus and a slightly less large financial account deficit, with the difference between the two resulting in changes (usually additions) to the country's foreign exchange reserves.

Beginning in 2003, however, there was a startling change in the direction of the financial account. Instead of large financial outflows from Japan to the rest of the world, there were very large financial inflows. For instance, in May 2003, Japan's financial account reflected a net inflow of $23 billion into the country. The net inflow in September was $21 billion. These amounts increased considerably during the first quarter of 2004, averaging $37 billion a month.

The capital inflows into Japan at that time were massive, even relative to Japan's traditionally large annual current account surpluses. But, why did Japan, which normally exported capital, suddenly experience net capital inflows on a very large scale in the first place? The most likely explanation is that very large amounts of private sector money began fleeing the dollar and seeking refuge in the relative safety of the yen.

When the Strong Dollar Trend broke, had the BOJ/MOF not bought the dollars that the private sector sold in such large quantities, the United States would have faced a balance of payments crisis, in which, in addition to having to fund a half a trillion dollar a year trade deficit, it would have had to find a way to fund a deficit of several hundred billion on its financial account as well.

Any other country facing a large shortfall on its balance of payments would have experienced a reduction in its foreign exchange reserves. The United States, however, maintains only a limited amount of such reserves; only $75 billion as at the end of 2003, far too little to fund the private capital outflows occurring at that time.

Once those reserves had been depleted, market-determined interest rates in the US would have begun to rise, in all probability, popping the US property bubble and throwing the country into recession. Under that scenario, a reduction in consumption in the United States would have undermined global aggregate demand and created a severe world-wide economic slump.

The US current account deficit more or less finances itself since the central banks of the surplus countries buy the dollars entering their countries to prevent their currencies from appreciating and then recycle those dollars back into US dollar-denominated assets in order to earn interest on them.

Large scale private sector capital flight out of dollars presented the recipients of that capital with the same choice. The central bank of each country receiving the capital inflow had the choice of either printing their domestic currency and buying the incoming capital or else allowing their currency to appreciate as the private sector swapped out of dollars. The European Central Bank chose to allow the euro to appreciate. The Bank of Japan and the People's Bank of China chose to print yen and renminbe and accumulate the incoming dollars to prevent their currencies from rising. If some central bank had not stepped in and financed the private sector capital flight out of the dollar, then sharply higher US interest rates most likely would have thrown the world into a severe recession. It is quite likely that this consideration also played a role in influencing the actions of the Japanese monetary authorities during this episode.

…The BOJ/MOF stopped intervening in March 2004. By that time, the Fed had indicated that it planned to begin tightening interest rates. That put a stop to the private sector capital flight out of the dollar. Therefore no more intervention was required. At the same time, by the end of the first quarter of 2004, it was becoming clear that strong economic growth in the US was creating higher than anticipated tax revenues. That meant a smaller than expected budget deficit. In July, the President's Office of Management and Budget revised down its estimate of the budget deficit from $521 billion to $445 billion. The actual deficit turned out to be $413 billion. Thus less funding was required than initially anticipated.

So, what did motivate the monetary authorities in Japan to create the equivalent of 1% of global GDP and lend it to the United States? Was it simply, straightforward self interest to prevent a very sharp surge in the value of the yen? Was it globally coordinated monetary policy designed to pull the world out of the 2001 slump and prevent deflation in the United States? Or, was it necessary to stave off a US balance of payments crisis that would have produced a global economic crisis?

Perhaps it was only straightforward foreign exchange intervention to prevent a crippling rise in the value of the yen. Intentionally or otherwise, however, by creating and lending the equivalent of $320 billion to the United States, the Bank of Japan and the Japanese Ministry of Finance counteracted a private sector run on the dollar and, at the same time, financed the US tax cuts that reflated the global economy, all this while holding US long bond yields down near historically low levels.

In 2004, the global economy grew at the fastest rate in 30 years. Money creation by the Bank of Japan on an unprecedented scale was perhaps the most important factor responsible for that growth. In fact, ¥35 trillion could have made the difference between global reflation and global deflation. How odd that it went unnoticed.

How odd that Duncan doesn't notice that Japan enabled the United States to invade Iraq, just as Japan contributed massive sums to the first Iraq War under Bush I. This is the sort of thing financial writers don't like to look at. If the United States economy had collapsed in late 2002, could the war have been started? With Bush, who knows, but it is worth asking the question.

What does Japan fear? No oil and China. The United States can help them with both. Many people have commented on the poodle-like subservience of Blair, but few have mentioned Koizumi's strong support of the war and complete backing of U.S. foreign policy.

Click here to comment on this article

'Buy American' legislation draws fire
By Ed Frauenheim
Staff Writer, CNET
Published: May 20, 2005, 1:09 PM PDT

Adding fuel to the debate over U.S.-international trade, a tech industry group is blasting "Buy American" legislation passed by the House of Representatives this week.

On Friday, the Information Technology Association of America called the measure bad security policy and bad economic policy. The legislation, an amendment to the Homeland Security Authorization Act, would force the Department of Homeland Security to buy products mostly made in America.

The legislation was authored by Rep. Don Manzullo, an Illinois Republican, and passed by the House on Wednesday. It would require more than 50 percent of the components in any end product procured by the department to be mined, produced or manufactured inside the United States.

"With this purchasing prohibition, I guess (the department) will have to learn to do without computers and cell phones," ITAA President Harris Miller said in a statement. "I cannot think of a single U.S. manufacturer that could meet this 50 percent threshold for these devices, and I doubt that those charged with protecting our safety here at home can either."

Manzullo said the measure is in the tradition of the Buy American Act, passed during the Great Depression. "When U.S. taxpayers' dollars are spent, we must make sure the federal government is buying as much of their goods and services possible from U.S. manufacturers," Manzullo said in a statement Wednesday. "This legislation preserves the intent of the Buy American Act while helping to restore the U.S. industrial base and creating jobs for Americans."

According to Manzullo, the Buy American Act has been undermined by pacts between the United States and other countries that allow the substitution of foreign components for U.S. ones. The Pentagon, Manzullo said, has agreements with 21 countries that waive the Act. Manzullo's amendment would prevent the Department of Homeland Security from waiving the 50 percent "Buy American" content restrictions like the Pentagon has done without approval from Congress.

Conflict over global trade has resurfaced in the past few years, coinciding with the growing shipment of white-collar jobs like programming to lower-wage nations. In the past week or so, tensions over commerce have risen between China and the United States. China has been accused of subsidizing its exports by pegging its yuan to the dollar, resulting in a currency value that is artificially low.

As that trade dispute simmers, the U.S. tech industry is keen to see changes by the Asian giant--but opinions vary on how hard to push.

In the short run, at least, U.S. techies may be more the losers than gainers in global trade arrangements. A report last year sponsored by ITAA on offshore outsourcing of software and IT services indicated that sacrifices by American IT workers would result in an improved U.S. economy overall. [...]

Comment: An improved US economy?! Unfortunately, the policies of psychopathic business leaders and politicians allowed them to profit handsomely while the average American suffered economically. Now it seems that the US economy as a whole will crash, and the masses are already being prepped to blame China and anyone else except for those same business leaders and politicians who have proven themselves to be so crooked.

Click here to comment on this article

Motion Sickness
Global Eye
By Chris Floyd
Published: May 20, 2005

They keep going through the motions in Washington, much like the Roman Senate used to meet in solemn conclaves and pretend that their flatulent oratory had some effect on the real engines of imperial power. Today, Congressional factions strive in fierce agon over profound constitutional issues: filibusters, judicial review, church and state, executive privilege. Commentators knit their brows in sage analysis of these historic events, while activists choose their champions and drive them on with partisan heat. Yet none of it means a thing.

The U.S. Congress gave away its powers long ago to corporate interests and the almighty executive branch that every legislator secretly hopes to lead one day, Pentagon thunderbolts in hand. (Who would curb Caesar that might Caesar be?) This "degradation of the democratic dogma" has been the work of more than 50 years of bipartisan goonery, but it has now reached its nadir in the festering pit of blood and bile that is the Bush Regime. American public life is now almost entirely a facade, a deadening -- and deadly -- sideshow: the multibillion-dollar electoral circuses, the increasingly frenzied "culture wars," the epic clash of interest groups across the media battlefields, the endless making, unmaking and remaking of laws. All this sound and fury merely obscures the ugly reality: that there are no effective restraints on the arbitrary exercise of power by the imperial court of President George W. Bush.

He can wage aggressive war based on lies. He can order the assassination of anyone on earth, anywhere, at any time, without trial, without evidence, at his unchallengeable whim, as we've often detailed here. He can set up torture chambers all over the globe. He can dole out billions of public dollars to corporate cronies in no-bid contracts. There is no punishment for these crimes, no political price paid for this corruption, no genuine resistance at all to this rape of liberty from the very institutions and civic structures being ravaged.

What's more, a great many of "the people" also embrace -- even celebrate -- this brutal reality. It is not at all true, as some progressives contend, that there is some kind of collective goodness in "just plain folks" – some magical kernel of broad-minded, open-hearted, democratic wisdom just waiting to be tapped if only "the people" could be freed from the bedevilling lies of their wicked leaders. Most lies succeed because people want to believe them.

This is doubly true in politics. Not only history but also our own daily experience shows us that those in power (or those seeking power) routinely lie, shuffle, deceive and manipulate. Nothing they say can be taken simply on faith; it must be met with stringent skepticism, examined in the harshest light. This has proved true in every single human society, without fail, throughout all recorded time. Yet millions of people willingly, happily swallow the most blatant political lies at face value. They have no wish to be undeceived and lose the illusions of their own specialness, their own righteousness, their exalted place in the world. If there must be violence to maintain this place, if someone out there must die, if someone must starve, if someone must wail, then so be it. If the truth convicts us, undermines us, discomforts us, then let the truth be changed. This is the unspoken credo of vast swaths of "the people." Leaders play upon this, they encourage it and prosper by it -- but they don't create it out of whole cloth.

This literally unspeakable situation accounts for much of the strange hollowness and sense of dislocation that pervades political life today. Leaders can't possibly say what they really mean or tell the whole truth about their policies, which rest ultimately on violence, corruption, suffering and fear. Nor do their followers want to hear the truth. The pious masks required to hide such unmitigated greed for loot and power thus become more outlandish, more cartoonish. That's why the maskers (and the "just plain folks" who support them) strive ever more ruthlessly to suppress or discredit all dissent -- they know that honest skepticism could destroy their ludicrous fraud.

In Iraq, for example, the war criminals of the coalition cannot possibly admit that they are killing, torturing and despoiling innocent people in order to maintain and extend their own geopolitical dominance. Bush cannot possibly say, "I tore the eyeballs from that little girl's skull, I churned that woman's entrails with steel splinters, I sodomized that teenage boy and smeared him with his own filth to make a few of my cronies rich and keep the rubes out there fat and happy with big cars, cheap gas and 37 different brands of corn chips" -- although that's exactly what he's doing. He can't say, "We know Iraq posed no threat to us but we wanted to invade them anyway, so we 'fixed the facts and intelligence around the policy'" -- although that's exactly what was revealed in the just-leaked "Downing Street memo," the record of a 2002 strategy session between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his advisers following top-level talks in Washington.

No, such undermining truths wouldn't do at all. Instead, we first get the implausible lies about WMD and now the laughable cant about a "noble mission" to bring democracy to the "dark places of the earth." This while Bush succors Islam Karimov even as the Uzbek despot massacres his own people and runs a regime several magnitudes worse than the factions recently overthrown -- with copious U.S. assistance -- in Georgia and Ukraine.

And so the imperial engines grind on, untouched, untroubled, unrestrained, churning the world's entrails behind the facade.

Comment: Indeed, "most lies succeed because people want to believe them." Here, Chris Floyd highlights one of the most important truths about our present reality and within it, offers a possible way out.

SEEing how the lies of our leaders are propagated and maintained by our complicity and belief in those lies allows us to take responsibility for our part in it, and by doing so, offers us the choice to do otherwise.

Psychopathic politicians whose only interest is serving themselves and their insatiable lust for more and more power will always lie, for it is in their interest to do so. It is what they do naturally, as an extension of their "being". Who can fault them for their unconscious and predatorial manipulations, when their inner orientation necessitates that they could be no different?

The fact that so many psychopaths are in positions of power does not mean that we, too, must go along with the charade, especially when so much direct evidence exists that reveals their lies. It is up to each of us individually to exercise our power of free will when confronted with the lie and choose not to take part in it.

This means refusing to be manipulated by those in positions of authority, who would use us for their for their own gain. It means questioning everything that issues from the mouths of such individuals by doing research, collecting facts and data, and comparing it objectively to what is offered as the "official government position". It means not standing idly by while the lie is being propagated, and taking a position for the truth that has been discovered, even when such a position puts one at odds with the mainstream "consensus reality".

The work of rooting out and uncovering the many lies we carry about our reality that have been conditioned into us by family, education, government and media is one of the most difficult and painful experiences a person can go through. Putting all our illusions aside and "sacred cows" out to pasture can almost feel as if a part of us is dying, as if our belief systems were a real part of us, like blood, flesh and bone.

Imagine the shock to the system of a fundamentalist Christian who finally understands that his one true God is actually the Devil in disguise. Or the right-wing patriot who suddenly sees that his beloved government democracy is actually a totalitarian police state. Or the soldier in Iraq, motivated to serve because of the horrific crimes of 9/11, awakens to find that the very army he serves was complicit in the attack. Once the realization truly hits home of how ingrained and pervasive the lies to the self are, it has been described literally as feeling like being "punched in the gut".

But these shocks are vital if we are to grow and evolve. This process may be the real work of spiritual progression and may be our only hope of making a different choice, developing a different way of being, and manifesting a different future. And who knows what radical and unforeseen changes might result from such a choice in a nonlinear universe.

Knowing, perceiving and standing firm in the truth can be the greatest reward in and of itself, for at least we will know that, if only for a moment, the truth existed on this planet because we made it so.

Click here to comment on this article

Library card? Check. Fingerprint? Really?
By James Kimberly
Tribune staff reporter
Published May 20, 2005

Citing security, Naperville libraries will make patrons prove their identities before using computers. Privacy advocates fear misuse of the data.

Before long, patrons wanting to use Naperville Public Library System computers without a hassle will have to prove their identity with a fingerprint.

The three-library system this week signed a $40,646 contract with a local company, U.S. Biometrics Corp., to install fingerprint scanners on 130 computers with Internet access or a time limit on usage.

The decision, according to the American Library Association, makes Naperville only the second library system in the country to install fingerprint scanners.

Library officials say the added security is necessary to ensure people who are using the computers are who they say they are.

Officials promise to protect the confidentiality of the fingerprint records.

But with Congress contemplating an expansion of the USA Patriot Act, which gives federal authorities access to confidential library records, and cameras watching the streets some Chicagoans drive or the sidewalks they stroll, privacy advocates are concerned about yet another erosion of personal liberty.

"We take people's fingerprints because we think they might be guilty of something, not because they want to use the library," said Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.
Yohnka said Naperville may mean well, but that does not mean the technology won't be used for something else at a later date.

"You're creating just another database of information about people," Yohnka said. "I'm sure they started out with the best of intentions of not sharing this information, but the reality is sometimes intentions go awry."

Currently patrons use their library cards and personal identification numbers to access the computers.

That will change once the scanners are installed. The glass-topped, silver metal boxes about the size of a package of Tic-Tacs read the print on a patron's index finger and use an algorithm to convert at least 15 specific points into a unique numeric sequence.

Once a patron's fingerprint has been recorded, accessing a computer will require only the touch of a finger.

Library Deputy Director Mark West said the system will be implemented over the summer beginning with a public education campaign in June. West said he is confident the public will embrace the technology once it learns its limitations.

The stored numeric data cannot be used to reconstruct a fingerprint, West said, nor can it be cross-referenced with other fingerprint databases such as those kept by the FBI or the Illinois State Police.

"Right now we give you a library card with a bar code attached to it. This is just a bar code, but it's built in," West said. [...]

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the ALA's office of intellectual freedom, acknowledged that requiring a fingerprint scan might dissuade some people from using library computers.

"There are going to be folks who come from different political situations, folks who come out of Central Europe who have had a history of living under authoritative regimes who may not be comfortable with this," Caldwell-Stone said.

Comment: Say it ain't so! Perhaps we should actually listen to these folks if they actually have experience with authoritative regimes and the loss of civil liberties and privacy... See next article.

But Caldwell-Stone said libraries already collect all kinds of personal information from patrons and at some point must be trusted to protect it.

U.S. Biometrics President Dave Delgrosso said his company's technology is seeping into the mainstream, popping up in banks, hospitals and other institutions where exact identifications are important.

Click here to comment on this article

Spy vs. Spy

By Bill Piper, AlterNet. Posted May 18, 2005.

Proposed legislation would compel people to spy on their family members and neighbors, forcing all Americans to become foot soldiers in the war on drugs.

Neighbors spying on neighbors? Mothers forced to turn in their sons or daughters? These are images straight out of George Orwell's 1984, or a remote totalitarian state. We don't associate them with the land of the free and the home of the brave, but that doesn't mean they couldn't happen here. A senior congressman, James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), is working quietly but efficiently to turn the entire United States population into informants--by force.

Sensenbrenner, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman, has introduced legislation that would essentially draft every American into the war on drugs. H.R. 1528, cynically named "Safe Access to Drug Treatment and Child Protection Act," would compel people to spy on their family members and neighbors, and even go undercover and wear a wire if needed. If a person resisted, he or she would face mandatory incarceration.

Here's how the "spy" section of the legislation works: If you "witness" certain drug offenses taking place or "learn" about them, you must report the offenses to law enforcement within 24 hours and provide "full assistance in the investigation, apprehension and prosecution" of the people involved. Failure to do so would be a crime punishable by a mandatory minimum two-year prison sentence, and a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Here are some examples of offenses you would have to report to police within 24 hours:

* You find out that your brother, who has children, recently bought a small amount of marijuana to share with his wife;
* You discover that your son gave his college roommate a marijuana joint;
* You learn that your daughter asked her boyfriend to find her some drugs, even though they're both in treatment.

In each of these cases you would have to report the relative to the police within 24 hours. Taking time to talk to your relative about treatment instead of calling the police immediately could land you in jail.

In addition to turning family member against family member, the legislation could also put many Americans in danger by forcing them to go undercover to gain evidence against strangers.

Even if the language that forces every American to become a de facto law enforcement agent is taken out, the bill would still impose draconian sentences on college students, mothers, people in drug treatment and others with substance abuse problems. If enacted, this bill will destroy lives, break up families, and waste millions of taxpayer dollars.

Despite growing opposition to mandatory minimum sentences from civil rights groups to U.S. Supreme Court Justices, the bill eliminates federal judges' ability to give sentences below the minimum recommended by federal sentencing guidelines. This creates a mandatory minimum sentence for all federal offenses, drug-related or not.

H.R. 1528 also establishes new draconian penalties for a variety of non-violent drug offenses, including:

* Five years for anyone who passes a marijuana joint at a party to someone who, at some point in his or her life, has been in drug treatment;
* Ten years for mothers with substance abuse problems who commit certain drug offenses at home (even if their children are not at home at the time);
* Five years for any person with substance abuse problems who begs a friend in drug treatment to find them some drugs.

These sentences would put non-violent drug offenders behind bars for as long as rapists, and they include none of the drug treatment touted in the bill's name.

At a time when everyone from the conservative American Enterprise Institute to the liberal Sentencing Project is slamming the war on drugs as an abject failure, Sensenbrenner is trying to escalate it, and to force all Americans to become its foot soldiers. Instead of enacting new mandatory minimums, federal policymakers should look toward the states. A growing number have reformed their drug sentencing laws, including Arizona, California, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, New Mexico, New York and Texas, and they have proved it is possible to both save money and improve public safety.

Simply put, there is no way H.R. 1528 can be fixed. The only policy proposal in recent years that comes close to being as totalitarian as this bill is Operations TIPS, the Ashcroft initiative that would have encouraged -- but not required -- citizens to spy on one another. Congress rightfully rejected that initiative and they should do the same with H.R. 1528. Big Brother has no business here in America.

Comment: While this legislation is reminisent of George Orwell's 1984, there is another more appropriate and real life analogy -Nazi Germany.

Click here to comment on this article

F.D.A. Considers Implant Device for Depression
May 21, 2005
NY Times

The Food and Drug Administration may soon approve a medical device that would be the first new treatment option for severely depressed patients in a generation, despite the misgivings of many experts who say there is little evidence that it works.

The pacemaker-like device, called a vagus nerve stimulator, is surgically implanted in the upper chest, and its wires are threaded into the neck, where it stimulates a nerve leading to the brain. It has been approved since 1997 for the treatment of some epilepsy patients, and the drug agency has told the manufacturer that it is now "approvable" for severe depression that is resistant to other treatment.

But in the only rigorously controlled trial so far in depressed patients, the stimulator was no more effective than surgery in which it was implanted but not turned on.

While some patients show significantly improved moods after having the $15,000 device implanted, most do not, the study found. And once the device is implanted, it is hard to remove entirely; surgeons say the wire leads are usually left inside the neck.

Proponents say that many severely depressed patients do not respond to antidepressants or electroshock therapy and that those patients are desperate for any treatment to relieve their suffering.

"These people have no other options, so we need to consider anything that shows potential to help," said Dr. Harold A. Sackeim, chief of biological psychiatry at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, who consults for Cyberonics Inc., the Houston company that makes the stimulator.

But Dr. Michael Thase, a psychiatrist at the University of Pittsburgh who consults for the company, said there was "simply not a good enough basis in evidence" for approval. While the device is promising, Dr. Thase said, "the shaky state of the evidence means we have to be very cautious with this and prepare for the possibility that the hoped-for benefit isn't there." [...]

In the study, doctors implanted the device in 235 severely depressed people. The stimulator sends timed pulses of electricity to the vagus nerve, which has wide connections throughout the brain.

Half of the patients then had their stimulators turned on. The investigators did not know which of their patients had their stimulators on.

After three months, researchers "unblinded" the study and compared levels of depression in the two groups based on standard measures of disease severity, the F.D.A. documents show. They found that 17 of the 111 patients who had implants turned on and completed the trial showed significant improvement. But 11 of 110 who had no stimulation and completed the trial also felt significantly better. The difference between the two groups was small enough to be attributable to chance. [...]

"The feeling was that anything that gives these people hope is potentially worthwhile," the chairwoman, Dr. Kyra Becker, a neurologist at the University of Washington, said in an interview. "But the whole meeting was uncomfortable, and everyone wanted to see another trial done, no question about it." [...]

Comment: It is certainly a sign of our troubled times when human beings are implanted with electronic devices to cover up the very depressing reality in which we all live. A much better treatment would be for people to open their eyes to the truth about this world and the very slim chances for survivial that we as a race have.

Click here to comment on this article

Holocaust Survivor Says He's Leaving The US
by Joey Picador

One of our neighbors is moving. I've been in this neighborhood for about six years now, but didn't really know them very well at all - just waves and nods, mostly.

So I heard the moving van pull up this morning. When I got home this evening I happened to spy my neighbor (he's like 85 years old - I don't know exactly, but he's old, talks and moves very slowly) standing on the sidewalk next to the van. I walked over and shook his hand, and we started talking. I asked him where he was moving, and he said, "Back to Germany."

I had been stationed in Germany for two years while in the military, so I lit up, and commented about how beautiful the country was, and inquired if he was going back because he missed it.

"No," he answered me. "I'm going back because I've seen this before." He then commenced to explain that when he was a kid, he watched with his family in fear as Hitler's government committed atrocity after atrocity, and no one was willing to say anything. He said the news refused to question the government, and the ones who did were not in the newspaper business much longer. He said good neighbors, people he had known all his life, turned against his family and other Jews, grabbing on to the hate and superiority "as if they were starved for it" (his words).

He said he was too old to see it happen right in front of his eyes again, and too old to do anything about it, so he was taking his family back to Europe on Thursday where they would be safe from George W. Bush and his neocons. He seemed resolute, but troubled, nonetheless, as if being too young on one end and too old on the other to fight what he saw happening was wearing on him.

I gotta tell you - it was chilling. I let him talk, and the whole time, my gut was churning, like I had mutated butterflies in my stomach. When he was finished, he shook my hand, gripping it really hard, until his knuckles turned white and he was shaking. He looked me in the eyes, hard, and said, "I will pray for your family and your country." He let go of my hand and hobbled away.

I have related this event to you in the hopes it will serve as a cautionary anecdote about the state of our Union, and to illustrate the path we Americans are being led down by a group of fanatics bent on global economic and military dominion. When a man who survived the fruits of fascism decides its time to leave THIS country because he's seeing the same patterns that led to the Holocaust and other Nazi horrors beginning to form here, it is time for us to recognize the underlying evil inherent in the actions of those who claim they work for all Americans, and for all mankind. And it is incumbent upon all Americans, Red and Blue, Republican and Democrat, to stop them.

Click here to comment on this article

More Patently Obvious Propaganda: Saddam in His Underwear
Kurt Nimmo

If there is any one single and indisputable fact about the Bushcons, it is that they are liars and war criminals. So when photos of a supposedly captured and incarcerated Saddam Hussein appear in Britain's mass circulation tabloid newspaper, the Sun, I am skeptical - not of the veracity of the photos, but rather if the person in the photos is indeed Saddam Hussein. According to the Associated Press, the publication of the photos have "angered U.S. military officials, who launched an immediate investigation into who took and provided the photographs of the former Iraqi dictator." Pentagon careerists are angry because the "embarrassing photographs [of Saddam in his underwear] are expected to be regarded negatively throughout the Arab region, and anger some who still respect Saddam for standing up to the United States," according to the AP.

I do not believe Saddam was dragged out of a "spider hole" and I believe the man secreted away in a small prison cell somewhere in Baghdad is one of Saddam's doubles. Take a look at this photo comparison and this one and decide for yourself if the two men pictured are the same (note the differences in teeth and bite; the fake Saddam on the left has pronounced under bite and irregular teeth whereas the real Saddam on the right does not). Moslem al-Asadi, a doctor living in exile in Iran, told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera Saddam Hussein died in 1999 of cancer of the lymph nodes and "they're just showing his doubles." And then Sajida Heiralla Tuffah, Saddam's wife, the first of Hussein's relatives to meet him after his supposed capture, said "the person she encountered was not her husband, but his double," according to a report published by Pravda. Naturally, this assertion by somebody who knows Saddam quite intimately was given short shrift in the corporate media here in the United States. Instead, for theatrical and propaganda purposes, we were subjected ad nauseam to images of a fake Saddam having his mouth examined, told over and over how the dictator was found crouching in a hole, dirty and disheveled. It was impetrative to show a defeated and humiliated Saddam, especially after Osama bin Laden eluded capture (mostly because he is dead) and Saddam had to move aside for new boogeyman, for instance the mercurial Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

"The embarrassing photographs are expected to be regarded negatively throughout the Arab region, and anger some who still respect Saddam for standing up to the United States," the AP reports, indicating the photos came from "U.S. military sources." Is it possible the Pentagon is not really "angered" by the release of the photos and purposely released them specifically to "anger some who still respect Saddam" as a part of ongoing psychological warfare directed at Muslims? Remarkably, the "U.S. military in Baghdad said in an announcement that the photos violated military guidelines 'and possibly Geneva Convention guidelines for the humane treatment of detained individuals,'" a quite absurd admission considering the massive violations of the Geneva Conventions committed by the United States against Muslims - specifically, "committing the supreme international crime, as defined by the Nuremberg Tribunal," by launching an unprovoked assault on Iraq in defiance of the UN Security Council, as noted by Lawyers Against the War. Bush's invasion and occupation is a "supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole," according to professor Michael Mandel of Canada's Osgoode Hall Law School.

So, obviously, the United States does not give a whit about the Geneva Convention guidelines. In fact, Bush's new AG, Alberto Gonzales, "warned more than [three] years ago that U.S. officials could be prosecuted for 'war crimes' as a result of new and unorthodox measures used by the Bush administration in the war on terrorism, according to an internal White House memo and interviews with participants in the debate over the issue," Michael Isikoff wrote for Newsweek (Mr. Isikoff was recently chopped off at the knees for telling the truth about the abuse of "detainees" [more accurately, abductees] and trashing of the Koran, so we should not expect any more scathing critiques of the Bush criminal cabal to emerge from his pen).

Angering Muslims is precisely what the Bush Strausscons want. "In their view, invasion of Iraq was not merely, or even primarily, about getting rid of Saddam Hussein. Nor was it really about weapons of mass destruction, though their elimination was an important benefit. Rather, the administration sees the invasion as only the first move in a wider effort to reorder the power structure of the entire Middle East," writes Joshua Micah Marshall. "History reveals that wars often end in chaos that continues for years," writes Gen. Tommy Franks in his autobiography, and although Franks would never admit it this chaos is precisely what the Strausscons, beholden to Israel and its racist and expansionist ambitions, have in mind for Muslims and Arabs. Chaos, anger, ethnic strife, religious polarization - all of these are currently used to divide and render impotent the Arab world, part and parcel of well-orchestrated "[s]ubversive operations designed to dismember the Arab world, defeat the Arab national movement, and create puppet regimes which would gravitate to the regional Israeli power," as the late Livia Rokach, daughter of Israel Rokach, Minister of the Interior in the government of Moshe Sharett, second prime minister of Israel, writes in her booklet Israel's Sacred Terrorism: A Study Based on Moshe Sharett's Personal Diary and Other Documents.

The Strausscon recipe for chaos is really quite simple: attack and render impotent Arab and Muslim military capability (beginning with Iraq, considered the most ominous threat to Israel prior to the invasion) and then, through covert and false flag operations (for instance, the divisive presence of the fake Abu Musab al-Zarqawi), spread social and political chaos, most notably along ethnic and religious lines. It is a very old and tested version of the colonial tactic of "divide and conquer," used effectively by the British Raj, playing off Hindus against Muslims (a few years ago the legacy of this tactic nearly resulted in a nuclear war between India and Pakistan). "Invaders quite typically use collaborators to run things for them. They very naturally play upon any existing rivalries and hostilities to get one group to work for them against others," Noam Chomsky told David Barsamian in 1993. "If the United States was conquered by the Russians, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Elliott Abrams and the rest of them would probably be working for the invaders, sending people off to concentration camps. They're the right personality types."

Indeed, it is the "right" personality type - Strausscon sociopaths dedicated to destroying the Muslim world in the name of Pax Israelica - that is busy at work sowing chaos and running black propaganda campaigns, most recently Saddam in his underwear, in order to turn up the heat a notch or two in the Arab world. But since the Strausscons and their vicious allies are historically retarded - unable to glean the lessons of history (most notably Vietnam and Algeria) - they will fail stupendously, as the gains of the actual Iraqi resistance (not the fake and counterproductive "insurgency" led by the mythical Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a campaign of suicide bombing directed against civilians and the gruesome beheading of "infidels" ) make painfully obvious for the United States, although, as in Vietnam, denial runs deep and is not a river in Egypt.

Click here to comment on this article

Dozens Have Alleged Koran's Mishandling
By Richard A. Serrano and John Daniszewski, Times Staff Writers
May 22, 2005

Complaints by inmates in Afghanistan, Iraq and Cuba emerged early. In 2003, the Pentagon set a sensitivity policy after trouble at Guantanamo.

WASHINGTON - Senior Bush administration officials reacted with outrage to a Newsweek report that U.S. interrogators had desecrated the Koran at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility, and the magazine retracted the story last week. But allegations of disrespectful treatment of Islam's holy book are far from rare.

An examination of hearing transcripts, court records and government documents, as well as interviews with former detainees, their lawyers, civil liberties groups and U.S. military personnel, reveals dozens of accusations involving the Koran, not only at Guantanamo, but also at American-run detention facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Pentagon is conducting an internal investigation of reported abuses at the naval base in Cuba, led by Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt. The administration has refused to say what the inquiry, still weeks from completion, has found so far.

But two years ago, amid allegations of desecration and hunger strikes by inmates, the Army instituted elaborate procedures for sensitive treatment of the Koran at the prison camp. Once the new procedures were in place, complaints there stopped, said the International Committee of the Red Cross, which monitors conditions in prisons and detention facilities.

The allegations, both at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, contain detailed descriptions of what Muslim prisoners said was mishandling of the Koran - sometimes in a deliberately provocative manner.

In one instance, an Iraqi detainee alleged that a soldier had a guard dog carry a copy of the Koran in its mouth. In another, guards at Guantanamo were said to have scrawled obscenities inside Korans.

Other prisoners said Korans were kicked across floors, stomped on and thrown against walls. One said a soldier urinated on his copy, and others said guards ridiculed the religious text, declaring that Allah's words would not save detainees.

Some of the alleged incidents appear to have been inadvertent or to have resulted from U.S. personnel's lack of understanding about how sensitive Muslim detainees might be to mishandling of the Koran. In several cases, for instance, copies were allegedly knocked about during scuffles with prisoners who refused to leave their cells.
In other cases, the allegations seemed to describe instances of deliberate disrespect.

"They tore it and threw it on the floor," former detainee Mohammed Mazouz said of guards at Guantanamo Bay. "They urinated on it. They walked on top of the Koran. They used the Koran like a carpet."

"We told them not to do it. We begged. And then they did it some more," said Mazouz, a Moroccan who was seized in Pakistan soon after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Recently released, he described the alleged incidents in a telephone interview from his home in Marrakech.

Ahmad Naji Abid Ali Dulaymi, who was held at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq for 10 months, singled out a soldier or noncommissioned officer known to detainees only as "Fox." He said prisoners were forced to sit naked, were licked by dogs, and were soaked in cold water and then forced to sit in front of a powerful air-conditioner.

"But frankly," he said, "the worst insult and humiliation they were doing to us, especially for the religious ones among us, is when they, especially Fox, tore up holy books of Koran and threw them away into the trash or into dirty water.

"Almost every day, Fox used to take a brand new Koran, and tear off the plastic cover in front of us and then throw it away into the trash container."

The hunger strikes erupted in 2002 at Guantanamo when word swept the camp that Korans were being desecrated. In response, the Defense Department's Southern Command, which oversees the prison, issued four pages of guidelines instructing soldiers in the proper way of "inspecting and handling" Korans.

In essence, the books are generally to be handled only by Muslim chaplains working for the military, and guards were instructed not to touch the Koran unless absolutely necessary.

Muslims revere the Koran as the word of God and have rules for handling it. It is always kept in a high place with nothing on top of it. A ritual ablution is required before touching a copy, which must be held above the waist. Some Muslims hold that nonbelievers must not touch the holy book.

At that time, the Red Cross was fielding similar complaints from prisoners, and with the January 2003 written policy the problems seemed to cease.

"The ICRC believes the U.S. authorities did take corrective measures," said Simon Schorno, a spokesman in Washington.

Other sensitivity training is continuing. At Ft. Lewis in Washington state, guards and other soldiers headed to Guantanamo Bay and other facilities go through classes and exercises to increase awareness of Arab and Muslim customs, said Lt. Col. Warren Perry. Much of the training deals specifically with the Koran.

Click here to comment on this article

Muslim world turned into a tinderbox
May 22, 2005. 01:00 AM

Iraq. Uzbekistan. The Qur'an. These issues in the news expose American double standards, hypocrisy and outright lies.

They also help explain how George W. Bush has turned the Muslim world into a tinderbox.

It is his policies, not a Newsweek item on the desecration of the holy book at Guantanamo Bay, that sparked the anti-U.S. protests that killed 17 people. What the magazine reported, albeit sloppily, is not new.

Four Britons, one Moroccan, one Kuwaiti and at least one Afghan released from the American base last year have said, separately, that the Qur'an was routinely stomped upon, ripped apart and strewn about toilets.

They spoke of three hunger strikes in protest.

The International Red Cross has confirmed it repeatedly told the Pentagon, starting in 2002, that detainees were complaining of Americans using the Qur'an as a tool of torture.

Whom are Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld and others fooling, other than their pliant half of the American electorate, with phony pronouncements about how America would never tolerate such criminality?

The Qur'an episodes are but one part of a broad offensive of violating the religious sensibilities of Muslims in Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and other prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Some had pork or alcohol forced down their throats; they had tape placed over their mouths for reciting the Qur'an; many Muslims were forced to be naked in front of each other, members of the opposite sex and sometimes their own families," said The Times of London.

Physicians for Human Rights also cited forced nudity, masturbation and other transgressions of religious and cultural norms.

The perversions recorded in the infamous Abu Ghraib photos, for which Lynndie England and eight others are being prosecuted, were not the work of an isolated few but part of a widespread program to break down the inmates. Yet here is the administration asking Newsweek to "repair the damage done by its reporting."

Who will fix the destruction unleashed by the administration when it sent the U.S. war machine abroad; killed, maimed or uprooted hundreds of thousands; violated the property, privacy, dignity and religious values of thousands picked up at random, including women and children; and psychologically tortured inmates and shipped others for physical torture to Egypt, Syria, Uzbekistan and other regimes it is in cahoots with?

It was no surprise, then, that Washington's initial response to the killings in Uzbekistan was to join Russia and China in soft-pedalling the biggest state crime in Asia since Tiananmen Square. It echoed Uzbek tyrant Islam Karimov who dismissed the popular uprising against his reign of terror as the agitation of "Islamic terrorists."

Karimov is Bush's man. For providing a military base, not just for the war in Afghanistan but as the last outpost of an oil-rich region, he got $500 million. And a licence to brand opponents as Muslim militants.

So, even as Bush hails democracy in Georgia, Ukraine and the Baltics, he's mute on Uzbekistan. (But why is Canada?)

Meanwhile, Iraq - the main theatre of American endeavour - is beginning to look like Algeria in the 1990s.

That was a time of a brutal civil war, triggered by the cancellation of elections there. Civilians were routinely slaughtered and the military regime sat back and stopped counting the dead.

The American liberators of Iraq never started the count. But they have presided over the same number of dead, as did the junta in Algiers: about 100,000.

As the insurgency gets bloodier, the American response has been to take maximum steps to minimize their own casualties and let the Iraqis take most of the hits from the terrorists. And to double up the propaganda.

The July 1 handover of power to the Iraqis was to be the turning point to peace. Then the fall assault on Falluja, the second one in eight months, was going to do it. Then it was the Jan. 30 election. Then the formation of the new government.

In reality, the insurgency kept escalating and is worse than at any time. And the Americans have no clue how to contain it.

When there's a lull in fighting, they say the rebels are in retreat. When the going gets bloodier, they say the rebels cannot possibly keep it up.

Iraq may or may not be another Vietnam. But can anyone recall a time when an American president made such a mess on so many fronts?

Click here to comment on this article

Laura Bush heckled in Jerusalem shrine visit
Sun May 22, 2005
By Adam Entous
Lizard Queen InThe Holy Land
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Protesters jostled and harangued U.S. first lady Laura Bush on Sunday when she visited a flashpoint Jerusalem shrine holy to both Muslims and Jews and at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli police and U.S. Secret Service agents formed a tight cordon around her to push back crowds in what for Bush, on a Middle East goodwill tour, was a rare close encounter with hostile demonstrators.

A small crowd of about two dozen people pressed in on Bush as she entered the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem's walled Old City. A Palestinian worshipper cried out at her: "You are not welcome here. Why are you hassling our Muslims? How dare you come in here?"

Bush, who made an appeal for peace later, did not respond to him or an old woman inside the mosque who shouted "Koran, Koran" at her in Arabic.

Bush, dressed in a black pantsuit, with black headscarf donned in religious respect and held tightly on her head, exited with police linking arms around her to ward off onlookers.

She began a Middle East trip on Friday acknowledging that the U.S. image in the Muslim world had been badly damaged by a prisoner abuse scandal and a magazine report, since retracted, that U.S. interrogators desecrated the Koran.

Shortly before visiting the mosque, Bush appeared at the adjacent ancient Western Wall and was confronted by dozens of nationalist Jews demanding Washington free convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard. They shouted and waved placards.

Bush inserted a small handwritten note in a cleft of the wall and paused there for about 60 seconds before returning to her heavily-guarded motorcade for the short trip to the mosque.

The disturbances during her trip to the Jerusalem holy site showed "what an emotional place this is as we go from each one of these very, very holy spots to the next," Bush said later during a stop in the West Bank oasis town of Jericho.


"We're reminded again of what we all want, what every one of us prays for...what we all want is peace," said Bush, who in Jericho heard complaints from Palestinian women about Israeli occupation policies such as roadblocks.

She said the chance of achieving peace "right now ... is as close as we've been in a really long time. It will take a lot of baby steps and I'm sure (there) will be a few steps backward on the way."

The shrine compound visited by Bush is known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif ("Noble Sanctuary") and Jews as Temple Mount and has been a frequent venue of violence rooted in conflicting Israeli and Palestinian claims to sovereignty over the site.

It is the most sacred site for Jews, the spot where biblical King Solomon built a temple and where a second temple was razed by the Romans, except for its Western Wall. It is Islam's third holiest site, home to the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosques.

Laura Bush's spokeswoman Susan Whitson played down the tense scene at the Dome of the Rock. "She completely understood what she was coming into," Whitson said.

Most worshippers in the Dome of the Rock were quiet during Bush's visit, with some curious women following her as she walked about. "It's so beautiful, just magnificent," she said, gazing up at the mosque's famed golden dome.

President Bush hopes to revive a "road map" plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace after the January election of moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who engineered a ceasefire after 4 1/2 years of bloodshed.

"The United States will do what they can in this process," said Laura Bush. "It also requires the work of the people here, of the Palestinians and the Israelis, to come to the table."

Her Sunday stops were the first time on her five-day trip, which has so far taken her to the Jordanian capital Amman and the Dead Sea, that she faced protesters.

"We neither welcome nor reject her visit. We have no stance," said Ikrima Sabri, the Muslim grand mufti of Jerusalem.

"We do object to the heavy Israeli security in order to give the impression to the visitor that Jerusalem is under Israeli sovereignty," Sabri told Reuters.

Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem, including the Old City, along with the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Middle East war. Palestinians want all three areas for a future state.

Comment: As Laura Bush visits Israel and talks of the potential for peace, her husband continues to facilitate Israeli Prime Minister Sharon in his plans to implement a final solution to the Palestinian question.

Click here to comment on this article

Ariel Sharon heckled during speech to Jewish leaders in Manhattan

NEW YORK (AP) - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was heckled during a speech to Jewish leaders Sunday, and about 1,500 demonstrators staged a noisy street protest against the Gaza disengagement plan he was defending. [...]

Click here to comment on this article

British Lord Visits Gaza - Sees Humiliation, Hatred and Imprisoning walls
Andrew Phillips
Sunday May 22, 2005
The Observer

A trip to Gaza has convinced a Lib Dem peer that Sharon's policy is self-defeating

The reality of Gaza, West Bank and East Jerusalem was far worse than my expectations, and they were bad enough. The humiliation, hatred and imprisoning walls are omnipresent as are, thank goodness, the decency, uncrushability and talent.

As one who grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust and who volunteered to fight for Israel in 1973, I wanted to see for myself, sharing in advance Tony Blair's view that the Israel-Palestine conflict infects not just the regional, but also the global body politic.

I returned, with the two others who were with me, believing that in the name of security Israel is destroying security. In its use of the iron fist, borne partly of a 'never again' self-pledge, Israel could yet convert tragedy (for that it is) into catastrophe. That could then dislodge the formal recognition by its Arab neighbours of Israel's right to a secure existence and would certainly destroy the recent truce between Ariel Sharon and the Palestinian Authority's new leader, Abu Mazen.

On the ground this much is clear: the initiative for preventing disaster rests mainly with Israel, which has overwhelming power and control; the Gaza withdrawal, highly contentious within Israel, must be a first and not (as most Palestinians suspect) the last step to peace; that withdrawal (8,000 settlers) is far less significant for peace than the continuing headlong expansion of settlements and outposts in the West Bank (200,000 plus settlers); the 113 km of wall steadily sealing off East Jerusalem from the West Bank and the other vast segregating walls must ultimately be as futile as all walls in all history, from Jericho to Berlin; the strangulation of movement of people and goods within as well as to and from the occupied territories is as demeaning, indeed hate-inducing, as it is economically disastrous.

Roughly 60 per cent of Palestinians have degrees yet the same proportion is unemployed. The main causes are the physical movement barriers (the World Bank report this year identified more than 700 in the West Bank) which typically increase related costs by 1,000 per cent and have decimated flower and fruit exports and disrupted every business. The Israelis, of all people, understand economic development and that investment in Palestine depends upon the removal of such barriers, albeit with borders effectively policed by the UN or neutrals. Only then will plummeting standards of living (barely a tenth of Israeli levels) be reversed, and the quiet, demoralising emigration be staunched. Palestinians suspect that to be Israel's covert subplot.

Some Israeli groups lay claim to the whole of Palestine as their God-given right. Hamas has the same claim vis-á-vis Israel, though in the run-up to the July elections they have put that in suspense. It is entirely understandable that even moderate Israelis and supporters around the globe are inclined to form their wider judgments in the light of that threat. But where that is used to justify current human rights abuses and creeping colonisation it is self-defeatingly wrong.

Most worrying in many ways is the relentless increase in the number of out posts - nascent settlements - in the West Bank that the Applied Research Institute in Jerusalem has detected from satellite photographs, the closed highways between many of them and the major tracts of Palestinian land trapped behind the segregation walls. These all breach agreements or international law creating what the Israelis like to call 'facts on the ground'. They increasingly appear to put the chances of a just settlement (the only one that will work) beyond reach.

Although the analogy is limited, it was only by addressing the underlying causes of Catholic disadvantage in Northern Ireland that the transformation there occurred. Israel's long-term security, too, must depend on winning the battle for Palestinian hearts and minds without which fanaticism cannot be defused. Part of that is to allow normal contacts between Israelis and Palestinians, which are all but non-existent.

One vivid exposure to the real state of things was my visit in the Rafa refugee camp to a UN school (one soon realises that without massive UN help the occupied territories would collapse). A class of 50 bright-eyed, articulate 13-14-year-olds visibly bridled when I asserted that renewed suicide bombings and Palestinian independence were incompatible. 'How are we to defend ourselves?' blurted a tearful girl whose father, I was told, had been 'murdered' by the Israelis. Another had had a brother killed and another a father. Thirteen had had their houses destroyed. Many families were in their third 'home' since being forced out in 1947/8. Yet despite such plangent demonstrations of passionate defiance, the key picture I gleaned from my trip was of a people yearning for peaceful closure for both sides. One illusion is to think the path to that goal is not strewn with dangers and setbacks. Another is that military might, and walls, can permanently end suicide bombings and worse.

While I was there, Israel announced postponement of withdrawal from Gaza for three months. It was also refusing to negotiate terms, particularly with regard to border controls and settlement property. That simply fuels cynicism.

As it is, the endless years of hardship and turmoil have left Palestinians in 2005 occupying only about one fifth of the territory left to them by the UN when Israel was created in 1948, and even that is unviably fragmented and hemmed in.

There are wrongs, of course, on both sides. But I returned convinced that the US, if it really has Israel's lasting good in mind, must now show tough love. The disparate, fearful and remarkable democracy that is Israel, still trapped in the long shadow of its pre-natal traumas, needs be confronted in friendship before it is submerged in hostility. The Road Map, at the very least, must be vigorously pursued. There is not much time.

· Andrew Phillips is Lord Phillips of Sudbury

Click here to comment on this article

End of the Line for Families of Baghdad's Missing: The City Morgue
Published: May 20, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 19 - A small window in the city morgue is the last hope for people looking for their dead. Holding photographs of the missing, they peer through it to a computer screen where a worker flashes pictures of all the bodies no one has claimed. In Baghdad these days it can be a lengthy process.

As the pace and intensity of the violence here increases, it is growing ever more difficult to match the missing with the dead. Car bombs explode, creating circles of chaos and mutilated bodies that often take days to sort out. Kidnappings punch holes in families for months.

Bodies, old and new, turn up daily. On Sunday alone, the authorities in Baghdad and three other cities found 46. Some of those found that day were buried in a Baghdad garbage dump. Others were discovered on a poultry farm south of here. Their tied hands and broken bodies are their most distinguishing features.

So people go to the window for answers.

"Every day people come to me," said Ahmed Ali, an Interior Ministry worker who displays the photographs. "I listen to their stories. People are in pain. They say: 'We know he's dead. We just want to bury him.' "

Bodies have surfaced almost without stop since the American invasion two years ago. First came the exhumation of mass graves from the time of Saddam Hussein. Those killings were often carried out in secret, and relatives were eager to finally find the bodies and some peace.

Since then the numbers of bodies have risen and fallen on the waves of violence that have rolled through the country. One crest was reached in January, before national elections, when 111 unidentified bodies were taken to the morgue, workers said. Only about half were claimed.

The violence is cresting again, with more than 400 Iraqis killed since late April. [...]

Comment: Leave it to the New York Times to take a story about the rising number of casualties, lost corpses and missing persons in Iraq, and slant the story to make it seem like it is the fault of Saddam or the insurgents, or even the Iraqi people themselves.

In this appalling piece of government propaganda, the reader is left with the impression that even though an increasing number of unidentified bodies have surfaced in Iraq since the start of the invasion, it has nothing to do with the invasion itself.

Click here to comment on this article

From 'Duty, Honor, Country' To Depleted Uranium Cancer

An Open Letter To Every American Serviceman
By Douglas Westerman

Dear U.S. Soldier:

Did you know that:

* You've helped deposit over 1 million lbs. Of Depleted Uranium (DU) dust in Iraq?

* You're told to stay away from DU as it could cause cancer?

* Numerous families in Iraq have multiple cancer victims?

* Many of these individuals have multiple cancers, a very rare occurrence in Iraq prior to the use of DU weapons?

* Hideous birth defects, once virtually unknown in Iraq are now commonplace?

* 600 children per day were being treated for radiation sickness at one hospital in 2003?

* Many of these kids will get cancer, leukemia, and die within the next 5-10 years?

* Former Army Colonel & expert in nuclear medicine, Dr. Asaf Duracovic says the V.A. told him to lie about the effects of DU?

* Dr. Durakcovic also says we have "committed war crimes by using weapons that kill indiscriminately, which are banned under international law."

* The Uranium Medical Research Centre says we have "poisoned a significant portion of the civilian population" in many areas of Afghanistan?

* In one returning unit, 40%, or eight out of twenty U.S. soldiers have cancer?

* In one 100 clean-up crew, 30 were dead within 10 years, with many others being sick, although the crew leader said, "We were all really healthy before going over."

* An Italian Newspaper reported 109 deaths among its troops from DU, saying this figure "exceeded deaths from all other causes?"

* The civilian population of Iraq is at a much greater risk than the Italian soldiers?

* The children of Iraq are at a greater risk than the adults?

* An international court of justice found your Commander-in-Chief guilty of war crimes?

* This Court's legitimacy had been ratified by every major Western Democracy?

* In one group of returning U.S. Soldiers, 67% fathered children with severe birth defects, even though all had fathered healthy children?

* The U.S. D.O.D. has a small army of spokespeople to convince you and the American Public that the above information is not true?

* You can verify the truth of the above information in a few hours with a good Internet Search Engine?

When a child is born in Iraq, the question is no longer "Is it a boy or a girl?" but rather, "Doctor, is the child normal?"

Douglas Westerman

For Further Information:

Click here to comment on this article

Coming Home
By Dahr Jamail

An Iraq Correspondent Living in Two Worlds

It isn't an accident that, after 11 weeks, only as I'm leaving again, do I find myself able to write about what it was like to come home -- back to the United States after my latest several month stint in Iraq. Only now, with the U.S. growing ever smaller in my rearview mirror, with the strange distance that closeness to Iraq brings, do I find the needed space in which the words begin to flow.

For these last three months, I've been bound up inside, living two lives -- my body walking the streets of my home country; my heart and mind so often still wandering war-ravaged Iraq.

Even now, on a train from Philadelphia to New York on my way to catch a plane overseas, my urge is to call Iraq; to call, to be exact, my interpreter and friend, Abu Talat in Baghdad. The papers this morning reported at least four car bombs detonating in the capital; so, to say I was concerned for him would be something of an understatement.

The connection wasn't perfect. But when he heard my voice, still so far away, he shouted with his usual mirth, "How are you my friend?" I might as well be in another universe -- the faultless irreconcilability of my world and his; everything, in fact, tied into this phone call, this friendship, our backgrounds… across these thousands of miles.

I breathe deeply before saying a bit too softly, "I just wanted to know that you're all right, habibi."

The direct translation for "habibi" in Arabic is "my dear." It is used among close friends to express affection and deep trust.

It's no fun having a beloved friend in a war zone. I'm all too aware now of what it must be like for loved ones and family members to have those close to them far away and in constant danger… It's no way to live. Having spent so many months in Iraq myself, I finally have a taste of what my own loved ones have been living with.

While bloody Iraq stories are just part of the news salad here for most Americans -- along with living and dead Popes, Michael Jackson, missing wives-to-be, and the various doings of our President -- I remained glued to the horrifying tales streaming out of Baghdad and environs. I emailed Abu Talat and other friends constantly to check on their safety in that chaotic, dangerous land I'd stopped being any part of.

Trying to live life here with some of my heart and most of my mind in Iraq, which is endlessly in flames, has felt distinctly schizophrenic. It's often seemed as if I were looking at my country through the wrong end of a telescope even as I walked down the streets of its well functioning cities, padded through a coffee shop where everyone was laughing, relaxed, or calmly computing away, or sat for hours in a room that possessed that miracle of all miracles -- uninterrupted electricity.

I ask Abu Talat if the most recent car bombs were close to his home. "There have been 10 car bombs in Baghdad today, habibi, at least 30 people killed with over 70 wounded. Iraqis are suffering so much nowadays. It's becoming unbearable, even for those of us who have known so much suffering for so long."

This time I find, to my amazement, that I'm wiping back the tears and forcing back the crazy desire I've been unable to dodge all these months to return to Baghdad. Right now. This second. That old pull to plunge back into the fire, despite the obvious risk. To be with my close friend, in solidarity, in a place that, absurdly enough, seems more real to me now that this one somehow doesn't. To be there on the front lines of empire, able to see, without blinking, without all the trimmings, the true face my country shows the world.

"Please stay safe habibi, and I will see you soon," I tell him as my train approaches New York where I am to catch my flight.

"Insh'Allah -- God willing -- I will stay safe and will see you soon, habibi. Insh'Allah," he replies.

Then he quickly tells me there's gunfire nearby. He has to go. I wait for him to hang up first. It's a kind of ritual. Only then do I push the button on my phone, set it down, and leave Iraq once again for this country of mine where I've never quite landed.

Just beyond the train window, trees and houses race past as we speed along. I watch the peaceful American countryside zip by, knowing Abu Talat, having just dropped his wife and children off at her father's for safety, is trying to make his way home through streets filled with fighting and criminal gangs, the constant threat of more car bombs in the night, and a military cordon around his neighborhood. He is concerned that his home will be looted if he isn't there, and feels it's worth the risk to return to his neighborhood to guard his belongings, even though the area has been sealed off by American soldiers.

I'll check in with him again later…obsessively… to see if he's in one piece at the other end of the invisible phone line that still seems to connect us, along with all my other friends there. Of course, it's just a regular day for him in Baghdad, and another irregular, out-of-body experience back here, where, with every long-distance chat, the duality in me seems to grow more extreme.

Questions of Identity

Coming home from the war in Iraq, I find another kind of duality. It seems to me that the war I've left is going on at home on many fronts -- and yet most people seem almost blissfully unaware of it.

I was in Juneau, Alaska, when the Senate voted to take another step toward opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling. So another, allied kind of war continues on the beautiful, precious land of my home state. I wonder how many of the proponents of drilling are aware that the oil drawn from ANWR won't even be used domestically, but will be sold to Japan. I wonder how many Americans, whatever their positions, know this.

For 10 weeks now, I've traveled along each coast, giving Iraq War presentations, most of the time to large crowds hungry for information. It's been heartening to see so many people so concerned, as well as angry, about what's being done in their name -- and with their tax money.

Upon returning from a presentation in Vancouver, Canada, I wait for a U.S. border agent to scan my passport. I watch him languidly flicking through my many pages of Jordanian/Iraqi/ Lebanese/Egyptian visas, staring at the Arabic script and stamps.

"What were you doing in the Middle East," he asks. I feel a little spurt of anger and glance up at the signs all across this border station informing non-US citizens that they will have their photos taken upon entry and then place their index fingers on a scanner -- solely for our safety and security, of course. I have that natural human urge to tell him it's none of his damned business where I've been; after all, the United States is, at least in theory, a free country. Instead, of course, I simply say, "I'm a journalist."

He looks at me, hands me my passport, and I come home yet again. As for the anger, it quickly dissipates. Such a small moment amid so many larger catastrophes. Besides, he's just doing his job.

Not too long after, I get an email from a friend in Baghdad who's just spoken with a friend of his, a teacher in Fallujah. She crossed another kind of "border" there, also guarded by Americans -- a border around her own city. She had to undergo a retinal scan mandated by the Americans and had all ten fingers printed in order to obtain the necessary identification badge which, unfortunately, she then lost while shopping in a Baghdad market. When she tried to return to Fallujah without it, Iraqi National Guard soldiers wouldn't let her back in.

"She told them she'd lost her ID in Baghdad at the market, that she wants to go home, that they have to let her in, but they refused," my friend wrote. "A neighbor of hers inside Fallujah was there and told them she was his neighbor, but they refused. She called her husband with her neighbors' mobile and he came to the checkpoint with her papers, showing that she is his wife and he lives in Fallujah but they still refused to let her in."

She was crying, my colleague said, as she related her woes to him. She had lost 9 relatives during the American assault on the city in November, 2004. Then he wrote: "I want you to tell your friends and your audience about this. Please ask them what would happen if they were prevented from getting inside their city although the people inside knew they were a teacher who had to get to their school?"

My friend also wanted me to ask what Americans would do if our country were invaded and the only ID that was worth anything was that given by the invading forces -- even though you had several of your regular forms of identification with you?

Being a Raving Lunatic and Other Confusions of War

Of course, most Americans back in this strange land know nothing about such doings in Iraq, thanks to the ongoing efforts of the Bush administration and its faithful loudspeaker, the corporate media, which has done such a fantastic job of whitewashing the degrading situation in Iraq: Fallujah begins to resemble a concentration camp; the death toll of innocent Iraqis continues to escalate; the Iraqi resistance and foreign terrorist groups are now focusing heavily on the new Iraqi government and the new Iraqi security forces; the American troops continue their aggressive operations -- and all that comes through here in this still peaceful-seeming land are flickering images of car-bomb carnage.

In 1968, in the Vietnamese village of My Lai, American troops massacred over 400 innocent civilians by far the majority of whom were women, children, and the elderly. In Fallujah during the November siege of the city, according to Iraqi medical personnel, well over 1,000 innocent civilians (the majority of whom were women, children and the elderly) were slaughtered. Over one thousand innocent civilians, people who, under the Geneva Conventions, an occupying power is required by law to protect, died in what was essentially a Vietnam-style "free-fire zone."

In Conditions of Atrocity written for the Nation magazine, Robert Jay Lifton, psychiatrist and well-known expert on humans in extreme moments, cited both My Lai and the Iraqi prison of Abu Ghraib as examples of what he called "atrocity-producing situations… so structured, psychologically and militarily, that ordinary people, men or women no better or worse than you or I, can regularly commit atrocities. In Vietnam that structure included ‘free-fire zones' (areas in which soldiers were encouraged to fire at virtually anyone); ‘body counts' (with a breakdown in the distinction between combatants and civilians, and competition among commanders for the best statistics); and the emotional state of US soldiers as they struggled with angry grief over buddies killed by invisible adversaries and with a desperate need to identify some ‘enemy.'"

Sound familiar?

"This kind of atrocity-producing situation," Lifton added, "…surely occurs in some degree in all wars, including World War II, our last ‘good war.' But a counterinsurgency war in a hostile setting, especially when driven by profound ideological distortions, is particularly prone to sustained atrocity -- all the more so when it becomes an occupation."

As my thoughts are being calmed by the blur of trees and houses out the train window, I'm suddenly brought back with a jolt -- as has happened over and over in these few weeks -- to Iraq-in-America. Another passenger seats himself next to me, reads the paper, and then turns -- I suppose simply because I'm there -- and asks, "Did you see Bush's press conference yesterday?"

I tell him I hadn't.

"This damned guy! When are people going to wake up to his bullshit?"

I assure him I have no idea -- and that's true. I've been wondering just the same thing ever since I came home. But he doesn't need much from me. As if he'd been reading my mind, he quickly lets loose with this: "I'm a Vietnam Vet. My son just got back from Iraq. He was in Fallujah in November. It's all bad, man. My son, he's like me, he won't talk to many people about what happened over there…but he told me."

He looks me in the eye intently and then points to the side of his head -- that familiar kid's gesture for insanity -- and continues, "Now my son has problems upstairs. He told me they don't have a plan, they don't have a solution, they're just trying to contain things over there."

He rattles on, angrily, and I nod while I glance out the window from time to time, letting his information settle in on top of what Abu Talat has just told me. I finally indicate to him that I understand, because I'm a journalist who has spent a fair amount of time in Iraq recently.

But he's not in need of encouragement. "Bush is a draft dodger and a deserter," he continues. "He and all his cronies are thieves and should be in jail! If I keep talking about this I'm going to lose it. Have a good trip."

He gets up and walks away. I take a deep breath. This isn't the first time I've had folks unload on me about Iraq. I guess it's in the air. I've had similar encounters with Iraq veterans from both our Gulf wars while traveling, as well as with civilians. Every encounter -- the ones where no one mentions Iraq as well as the ones where it comes up -- has its bruising aspects. I've had to go back to some of my family members and make amends for an outburst just after I returned. Feeling the desperation of the situation there and overwhelmed by the urge to bring Iraq home to people who truly have no idea what's happening tends to put one in an awkward situation where it's not too hard to come off as a raving lunatic.

Is There Anyone in the World…?

At least in these weeks, I've begun to understand what war veterans who have seen the bodies -- as I have -- get to deal with on returning home. Now that I've had a little time to get my head on straight, to process some of the atrocities I saw, and to take a little breath, I find myself, against my better judgment and everything I swore I wouldn't do, heading back to the Middle East; back to chronicle more of what's happening there. I keep wondering how long it can go on; how long so many people in my home country will continue to ignore it, to be complicit, whether they know it or not, in our brutal occupation -- so long after it was proven beyond a shadow of a shadow of a doubt that this war was illegal and based on nothing but lies. I can't help wondering as well how long they will be complicit as their tax dollars continue to be spent on a war machine that is eating their children and loved ones, along with innocent Iraqis; complicit as social programs and benefits, civil rights and liberties are stripped from them -- a little more with each passing day.

Even a debate among anti-war groups about whether the United States should withdraw immediately or propose a phased withdrawal on a timetable was capable of sending me off the rails. All I could think was: Silly debate. As though either view of how "we" should proceed mattered, as though their opinions carry the slightest weight with the no-timetable Bush administration.

I kept wondering why the streets here weren't filled with people every single day…

A couple of days ago, I forwarded an email to Abu Talat that had been sent to me by a man who attended one of my presentations. He had thanked me for telling and showing them the truth…the photos, the footage, the stories of Iraqis and of U.S. soldiers. He had written asking me to tell my Iraqi friends how horrified he was by what our country was doing in Iraq, that he was doing whatever he could to stop the occupation.

Abu Talat wrote back to him directly -- the longest email I'd ever seen him send -- and forwarded a copy to me. Here's what he said in his eloquent, though hardly perfect English:

"Thank you Americans (those who believe that American troops are destroying Iraq). Those who believe that facts cannot be hidden with chicken mesh. Who believe they have no right to put ideas in the minds of people of a civilized country, a country in which civilization began before the United States existed. Those people who know that democracy is not given, it is obtained. Who know that Iraqis are people who have to live just like any nation. Who believe that we are no different in the ability of our minds because God made us all so you cannot force us to have the ideas of others unless we accept it after we are fully contented. Those people of the world who raise their voices against colonialism, control, force, the invading of other countries… I thank them, I encourage them, and I ask God to save them.

"Other people of the world who are not on these ethics, who don't implement those ideas, I call them to look around themselves, to awaken themselves, to put themselves in our position. To face what we face, to remember that they don't accept in any way to be insulted, nor to be threatened or killed like what is happening in my country by the invaders. I ask God to spare any difficulty from their country rather than being invaded.

"…Is there anyone in the world who can accept to be killed? Or detained for no reason? Is there any of you who can accept to be put in the situation we are facing, to see their houses crashed or demolished, ended, to see your people treated with no respect, to have guns aimed at them wherever they go, to live without electricity when you used to have it, to see roads closed… whether they will live until tomorrow under a normal life, these are, my friends, just a few things to be told.

"So please tell your friends and people to raise their voices to pull the troops out from invaded Iraq. Seeking that God helps Iraqis to bare the situation done by the troops of the invaders."

From the window of my plane, I watch the lights of New York fade -- and the internal duality quickly begins to fade with the glowing lights of the colossal city. Somewhat to my surprise, it encourages me to know I'm now moving ever closer to the place where so much of my heart turns out still to be. Unsure whether or not I'll actually go into Iraq, at least I will be nearer to it, and to Abu Talat and my other friends who live the brutality of life there every day. At least I'm on my way back to a place where I feel I can do something…even if sometimes that only means providing moral support for habibis. At least I'm on my way back to a place where few can help but be aware of what is truly happening. At least I'm on my way, ever closer to occupied, inflamed Iraq.

Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist from Alaska who has spent 8 months reporting inside occupied Iraq. He writes regularly for the Sunday Herald, Inter Press Service and the Ester Republic among other outlets. He is a special correspondent for Flashpoints radio and appears on Democracy Now!, Air America, Radio South Africa, Radio Hong Kong and numerous other stations around the globe. He has recently returned to the Middle East to continue his reporting on the occupation of Iraq. Dahr Jamail's latest pieces from the region can be read at his website.

Click here to comment on this article

US calls for regime change in Venezuela

(Washington, D.C.): In a paper timed to coincide with a major hemispheric policy address by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Center for Security Policy warned today that the increasingly repressive - and aggressive - dictatorship in Venezuela must either change or be changed if the region is to avoid the terrible human costs of a new generation of revolutionary upheaval.

The Center's just-released Occasional Paper entitled, What to Do About Venezuela, documents the extent to which the so-called revolutionary "Bolivarian" regime in Venezuela is becoming a "clear and present danger" to the countries and people of Latin America and beyond.

In a stinging, point-by-point indictment of the regime of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, the paper calls on the Bush administration to repair its neglected and strained relationships across Latin America, and to work with neighboring democratic governments to ensure that the regime cannot consolidate itself or threaten its neighbors.

The paper strongly urges Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to reverse the Bush Administration's do-nothing approach toward Latin America, noting that, "over the past four years, Jimmy Carter has been the most visible - and arguably the most influential - U.S. leader in Latin America." Carter's imprimatur on the results of a rigged Venezuelan election process has given the regime priceless legitimacy.

"Nowhere is the lack of U.S. strategic policy more evident than in the unchecked rise of a self-absorbed, unstable strongman in Venezuela who has made common cause with terrorists and the regimes that support them, and has developed a revolutionary ideology that has begun to plunge the Americas again into violence and chaos," the paper says.

Noting that the Latin American Left is far from monolithic, the paper urges the Bush administration to work with the hemisphere's democratic governments, even anti-American ones like that of Brazil - which has displayed growing unease about the violence and chaos around its perimeter that Venezuela has been fomenting - in order to contain the subversion and prevent the further planned violence emanating from Caracas.

The paper stresses that regime change is still possible in Venezuela without the use of force, though military action might be needed if the dictator decides to take down the country's economic infrastructure with him, as Saddam Hussein tried to do in Iraq. Noting reports that Chavez is mentally unstable and has been under psychiatric supervision for years, the Center's paper urges the U.S. to "improve its psychological strategy and help the Venezuelan leader to hasten his own political self-destruction."

Comment: It would appear that the fact that the above article is chock full of lies and slander is of no consequence to its authors. The Center for Security Policy is nothing more than a NeoCon propaganda mouthpiece headed by 'respectable' fascist, Frank Gaffney.

Click here to comment on this article

Secret UK troops plan for Afghan crisis

DEFENCE chiefs are planning to rush thousands of British troops to Afghanistan in a bid to stop the country sliding towards civil war, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.

Ministers have been warned they face a "complete strategic failure" of the effort to rebuild Afghanistan and that 5,500 extra troops will be needed within months if the situation continues to deteriorate.

An explosive cocktail of feuding tribal warlords, insurgents, the remnants of the Taliban, and under-performing Afghan institutions has left the fledgling democracy on the verge of disintegration, according to analysts and senior officers.

The looming crisis in Afghanistan is a serious setback for the US-led 'War on Terror' and its bid to promote western democratic values around the world.

Defence analysts say UK forces are already so over-stretched that any operation to restore order in Afghanistan can only succeed if substantial numbers of troops are redeployed from Iraq, itself in the grip of insurgency.

The UK contribution to the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan presently stands at fewer than 500, compared with the contribution of 8,000 troops to the Coalition presence in Iraq.

Planners at the UK military's Northolt headquarters have drawn up emergency proposals to send up to 5,500 troops to Afghanistan to help avert a descent into more widespread bloodshed.

As well as increasing the British presence in Afghanistan 10-fold, it would require additional funding of almost £500m.

MoD sources confirmed last night that the secret plans have been firmed up in response to persistent concerns that the notorious rebel commander Gulbadeen Hikmatyar has teamed up with Taliban fighters in the south.

An MoD source told Scotland on Sunday: "We are going into an area where there's a civil war going on. It's dangerous and it's somewhere new. [...]

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is due in Washington this week to discuss the deteriorating situation.

He is also expected to raise concerns about fresh claims that his countrymen had been abused by their US captors in Iraqi jails, allegations that provoked sustained protests around the country.

But a newspaper last night claimed that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had said in a memo that a poppy eradication program aimed at Afghanistan's heroin trade was ineffective partly because of President Hamid Karzai's leadership.

Comment: Didn't hear about this one? Thought that Afghanistan had been "liberated"? Think again. The result of imperial wars for profit is not peace and prosperity but disaster.

Click here to comment on this article

NIST seeks gaming model for dirty-bomb emergency response training
By Mary Mosquera
GCN Staff

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has released a request for proposals for key components of a crowd-behavior simulation model prototype as part of an integrated and distributed emergency response simulation.

The first demonstration of the prototype will be to model a dirty-bomb scenario in Washington, D.C., NIST said in a posting on FedBizOpps.

NIST's Manufacturing Systems and Integration Division is developing a demonstration prototype for integrated simulation and gaming for emergency response training. The interoperability of simulation and gaming tools for emergency response can enhance the capability for planning, training and post-incident response. [...]

Comment: Why would the PTB want to develop a computer simulation model of crowd-behaviour during a dirty bomb attack, unless they anticipate or were planning such an event to occur in the very near future and are interested in gauging public response to such a scenario?

Click here to comment on this article

At least 50 injured as blasts rock two cinemas in Indian capital
23 May 2005 0250 hrs

NEW DELHI : At least 50 people were injured Sunday when blasts rocked two cinemas in New Delhi screening a controversial film condemned by Sikhs, police said, while local media said there had been fatalities.

A loud explosion shook the Liberty Cinema Hall in the crowded shopping district of Karol Bagh in the capital during a film screening and was followed by a bomb blast in the Satyam cineplex in neighbouring Patel Nagar. "The bomb was strapped to a seat in the fifth row of the Liberty Cinema Hall. A second bomb concealed in a bathroom of the Satyam cineplex went off fifteen minutes later," Delhi Police chief K.K Paul told AFP.

"We have sealed both the cinema halls. At least 18 people have been rushed to Lady Harding Hospital in a serious condition. There are others who have suffered minor injuries and have been given first aid," he added.

According to the Delhi Police, at least 44 people were injured in the low-intensity explosion in Liberty Cinema Hall while six people including three children were injured in the Satyam cineplex.

The Star News channel quoted a filmgoer as saying that he had pulled out seven dead bodies from the badly-damaged Liberty Cinema Hall.

Delhi chief Minister Shiela Dixit said there had been no deaths, while police declined to comment on the possibility of any fatalities.

Click here to comment on this article

Washington Times cartoon sets Pakistan on fire
MONDAY, MAY 09, 2005 03:36:30 PM

ISLAMABAD: A cartoon in The Washington Times lampooning Pakistan's role in the US war on terror has turned into a rallying point for nationalist passions and hidden anti-American sentiments here.

The "offensive" cartoon (published May 6) shows a US soldier patting a dog (Pakistan) that holds Abu Faraj Al Libbi (a terrorist linked with Al Qaeda) and saying, "Good boy ... now let's go find bin Laden."

President George W Bush had described the arrest of Al Libbi - the third-ranking leader in Al Qaeda who was arrested in Pakistan this month - as "a critical victory in the war on terror".

A survey carried out by Online news agency revealed hurt national pride, with people cutting across the class divide vocally demanding that the government quit supporting the US in its war against terrorism.

"I think the Pakistan-US relations on the war against terrorism would not continue any more. The US is wary of admitting that Pakistan helped the US to find out its enemies," said Nazeer Ahmed, a lawyer.

For Muhammad Ali, a student of Quaid-e-Azam University, the cartoon belittles Pakistan' anti-terror efforts and exposes how much the US values Pakistan's role in the war in terror.

Many students of this university are so sore with the US "assault on national pride" that they will settle for nothing less than an apology from US President George Bush. [...]

Click here to comment on this article

Two men sentenced on terrorism conspiracy charges

JACKSON, Miss. Two New Orleans men have been sentenced on federal charges that included conspiracy to provide fake driver's licenses and other documents to individuals they thought were affiliated with terrorists.

Chris Carpenter and Lamont Ranson were sentenced today in federal court in Jackson, Mississippi.

Carpenter and Ranson had pleaded guilty in February to charges related to their involvement in a conspiracy to sell false documents to a Philippines-based terrorist organization.

US Attorney Dunn Lampton says it was never shown during the investigation that the two actually made contact with any terrorist organization. [...]

Click here to comment on this article

Bush gets mixed reception at Christian college
Mon May 23, 2005
By Caren Bohan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Reuters) - President Bush on Saturday championed faith in American society, but ran into some criticism as he courted his Christian base in a commencement speech at a Michigan college.

"We need to support and encourage the institutions and pursuits that bring us together. And we learn how to come together by participating in our churches and temples and mosques and synagogues," Bush told graduating seniors at Calvin College, a Christian liberal-arts college.

The college describes itself as a "center of faith-anchored liberal arts teaching and scholarship," and Bush has aggressively sought to reinforce his support among religious conservatives who helped deliver him a reelection victory in 2004.

But anti-Bush ads that ran in the local newspaper, protests outside the event and buttons worn on graduates' robes made clear that many students and faculty objected to Bush's policies.

"We believe your administration has launched an unjust and unjustified war in Iraq," said a letter signed by about one-third the college's 300 faculty members and published in Saturday's Grand Rapids Press.

"As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers and to initiate war only as a last resort," it said.

The letter criticized economic policies that it said favored the wealthy over the poor, and faulted Bush for mixing religion and politics and exhibiting and "intolerance" for others' views.

It cited "conflicts between our understanding of what Christians are called to do and many of the policies of your administration."

The letter followed an earlier ad by students, alumni and faculty who said they were troubled that Bush was to be the commencement speaker.

Bush's speech emphasized community service and he urged graduates to volunteer. "This isn't a Democrat idea. This isn't a Republican idea. This is an American idea," he said.

Some graduating students wore buttons that said "God is not a Democrat or a Republican."

A few dozen protesters gathered outside, carrying signs that read, "Conservatives and moderates reject extremism" and "Thou shalt not torture."

But there were also many Bush supporters, with placards that said, "We love Bush" and "Cutie pie."

Comment: Such strong counter-arguments from the Bush camp - "cutie pie".

Click here to comment on this article

Lakeland policeman suspended for poor uses of Taser
Saturday, May 21, 2005
The Associated Press

LAKELAND, Fla. - A police officer who worked at Lakeland High School has been punished for using twice using his Taser inappropriately, including one time when five school baseball players asked him to shock them and he obliged.

The 29-hour suspension against Officer Michael Branch was issued Friday. It came after an internal affairs investigation determined Branch erred in shocking the five players and stunning two students who wouldn't get out of his way as he tried to break up a fight.

Branch was suspended for 21 hours for the baseball player incident and eight hours for the second. [...]

Click here to comment on this article

Taser victim dies: Stun gun was used 3 times on suspect
By Maggie Shepard
Tribune Reporter
May 21, 2005

An Albuquerque man has died almost two days after being shot by Albuquerque police with an electric-shock gun.

Randy Martinez, 40, died Friday afternoon at University of New Mexico Hospital.

He was shot at least three times with varying bursts of electricity Wednesday night, police said. The Taser delivers a high-voltage charge designed to temporarily paralyze the target.

Martinez's mother or grandmother had called for emergency help reporting that her son was out of control at their home in the 5900 block of 53rd Street Northwest, police said.

"And who better to know that her son or grandson wasn't being himself," said homicide Sgt. Carlos Argueta.

Martinez suffered a heart attack after being shot. Officers revived Martinez through CPR, but he remained in critical condition at the hospital, Argueta said.

Argueta had not received blood results to show what substances Martinez may have had in his system at the time.

But, Argueta said, "he was definitely on something."

An investigation into the incident has begun, Argueta said. [...]

Comment: Note how we are conditioned to believe that those who die from being shocked with a taser are drug addicts. Thus, the question of whether or not the police used excessive force in each case is effectively buried.

Click here to comment on this article

Taser trigger fingers
Published May 21, 2005
David Porter

My favorite quote this week comes from the Duval County Sheriff's Office in Jacksonville.

Allow me to set the scene:

Police get a call about a domestic disturbance between a 13-year-old girl and her mother. The mother told the two officers that she wanted medical treatment for her daughter, who had previously been hospitalized for emotional problems.

The handcuffed girl was put in a patrol car's back-seat prisoner cage. Apparently the girl squirmed until she got her handcuffed arms from her back to her front. Officers said she wouldn't comply with their orders. So an officer gave her two jolts with his Taser.

Important point: The girl is 4-foot-8 and weighs 65 pounds. The officer is 6-foot-2 and weighs 300 pounds.

The notable quote, reported this week in the Jacksonville newspaper, was uttered by a sergeant who arrived after the girl got zapped.

Upon seeing the girl, the sergeant turned to the officer with the Taser and said, "Please don't tell me this is the person you Tased."

The sergeant had good reason to be alarmed. A community uproar followed. Once again a Taser had been used unnecessarily.

What's remarkable, though, is that the officer's use of the Taser during the Feb. 7 incident did not violate Duval County Sheriff's Office guidelines. He was, however, suspended for three days for using bad judgment. [...]

Click here to comment on this article

4 Killed As Plane Hits Coney Island Beach
May 21, 2005

NEW YORK - Four people were killed Saturday afternoon when a small aircraft crashed on the beach in Coney Island, hitting the sand as stunned sunbathers looked on, officials said. There was no immediate word of additional injuries.

The four victims were dead at the scene following the 1:30 p.m. crash at the popular Brooklyn beach, said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Holly Baker. Police and fire officials were at the scene, where the shattered aircraft remained on the beach.

"It looks like it came down nose-first," said Dick Zigun, a Coney Island resident who was at the crash site. "The wings are broken off, and the cockpit glass was smashed up. It didn't look like anyone could survive that." [...]

Click here to comment on this article

Winnipeg boy, 10, set aflame
Last Updated Sun, 22 May 2005 20:52:42 EDT
CBC News

WINNIPEG - Winnipeg police have laid assault and other charges against two teenagers after a 10-year-old boy was doused with lighter fluid and set on fire.

The boy is recovering from second-degree burns after the attack on Saturday.

Police said it started after one group of youths invited another to play with lighter fluid. When they refused, the older group chased the younger, caught the youngster and assaulted him.

"This is one of the worst cases. Frankly, I myself have not seen a case like this in years. To have a 13, 14 and 11-year-old involved in such a vicious crime is very surprising," said Shelley Glover of the Winnipeg Police Service.

Police charged a girl, 13, with aggravated assault and uttering threats, and a boy, 14 with aggravated assault and assault with a weapon. The 11-year-old male suspect has not been charged. None of the youths can be named.

The victim's mother said it's another example of how violent the city's North End can be. Just two weeks ago, her son was almost stabbed.

"All I can say is they are bad kids," she said.

"I'm going to take my kids out of this city."

Click here to comment on this article

Florida girl found at landfill after being buried alive by attacker
May 22, 2005

LAKE WORTH, Fla. (AP) - An eight-year-old girl who had been sexually assaulted and buried under rocks in a trash bin was found alive Sunday by an officer searching a landfill, authorities said. A teenager was charged with attempted murder.

The girl had minor injuries and was taken to a hospital, they said. Her condition was not immediately known.

Milagro Cunningham, 17, who had been staying at the house of the girl's godmother, was charged with attempted murder, sexual battery on a child under 12, and false imprisonment of a victim under 13 years old, police said.

The girl was found about seven hours after she was reported missing, but authorities are still trying to determine how long she had been inside the container. An Amber Alert had been issued early Sunday.

Police Sgt. Mike Hall was scouring the landfill for the girl Sunday morning when he looked inside the trash bin and saw a yellow recycling container with a lid on it. When he opened the lid, he "saw a bunch of rocks, a foot and a hand," Sgt. Dan Boland said.

Hall then yelled out to see if the child was alive, alerting other officers to the discovery. A police lieutenant saw the girl's finger move and officers began pulling rocks off her, Boland said.

"It certainly was a miracle that we found this girl alive," Boland said, adding that the girl was able to talk to authorities after she was removed from the container.

Click here to comment on this article

South Koreans angry over Net pictures of newborn babies in cruel poses
21 May 2005 1631 hrs
By Kathy Paik, Channel NewsAsia's Korea Correspondent

SEOUL: South Koreans are up in arms over shocking pictures of newborn babies in cruel poses appearing on the Internet.

What outrages the South Koreans further is that the pictures were apparently taken by paediatric nurses, people who are supposed to be caring for the newborn babies.

The nurses working in the maternity clinics allegedly made the babies pose for photos in a cruel manner.

It's not clear how long these photo-taking sessions have been going on, but the pictures were discovered when Internet users uploaded photos from one of the nurses' homepage to other websites.

Parents of some of the newborns featured on the websites have made police reports, demanding that the nurses involved be charged with child abuse.

"I'm worried that my baby could also have been abused....It disgusts me," said a mother of a five-month-old baby. [...]

Click here to comment on this article

China takes emergency measures to prevent spread of bird flu 2005-05-21 00:00:22
By An Bei

BEIJING, May 21 (Xinhuanet) -- The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture(MOA) Saturday required the whole country to take emergency measures to curb further spreading bird flu shortly after they confirmed that the reported death of migratory birds in West China's Qinghai Province was caused by the deadly bird flu virus.

The ministry said the national bird flu reference laboratory confirmed that the latest death of migratory birds in Niannaisuoma village, in Gangcha County of Qinghai Province, reported on May 4 was caused by the deadly H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus.

Sources from the MOA confirmed that some migratory birds had been killed by the virus migrated from Southeast Asia. [...]

Click here to comment on this article

Bird flu patient dies in Ha Noi

HA NOI - A man admitted to the Institute for Clinical Research into Tropical Diseases with bird flu last Monday has died.

Nguyen Tien Cuu, 46, from Binh Kieu Commune in the Khoai Chau District of Hung Yen Province, about 40km west of Ha Noi, arrived in a very critical condition with lung inflammation and weak kidneys, says the Health Ministry.

He died on Thursday.

Two other patients undergoing treatment at the institute have tested positive for bird flu.

One is from central Thanh Hoa Province and the other from northern Vinh Phuc Province.

Both were suffering from lung inflammation and fever but their condition is now stable. [...]

Click here to comment on this article

Cold War secrecy's fallout
By Alex Rodriguez
Tribune foreign correspondent
Published May 20, 2005

In Russian village, nuclear waste points to legacy of neglect

MUSLYUMOVO, Russia -- The Techa River meanders through this tiny village of ramshackle cabins and garden plots on the southern edge of the Ural Mountains, seemingly a source of life for a sleepy farming hamlet that has lived off the land for nearly three centuries.

For decades, villagers swam in the Techa, ate its carp and pike, and grazed their cattle along the banks, unaware that the river had become a conduit for lethal radioactive waste from a Russian plutonium plant upstream.

Today, Russians in the region surrounding the plant get thyroid cancer at nearly twice the nation's average rate, according to a recent study. The incidence of lung cancer in the Techa region is 70 percent higher than the average for Russia; the rate of colon cancer is 44 percent higher.

"We think of ourselves as mice--laboratory mice," said Vera Ozhogina, 57, a retired math teacher from Muslyumovo. She blames the plant for the heart disease that killed her 47-year-old husband and now afflicts her 31-year-old daughter.

Located near the source of the Techa River in the closed city of Ozersk, the sprawling Mayak complex once was a vital cog in the Soviet Union's rush to build up its nuclear arsenal. Mayak produced 73 tons of plutonium from 1948 until 1990, supplying plutonium for the first Soviet atomic bomb.

Plutonium is one of the world's deadliest substances; a millionth of a gram is enough to cause cancer. Its half-life is 24,000 years.

Mayak and other weapons production plants that made up the Soviet military complex existed behind a Cold War shroud of secrecy, and the extent of the harm they caused to the environment was not fully disclosed until after the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991. By the early 1990s it became known that Mayak had dumped more than 20 billion gallons of radioactive waste into the Techa River.

Environmentalists say Mayak has made thousands of Russians in the region sick and believe scores more will fall ill. Victims include Russians who were children when they took part in cleanup work after a 1957 tank explosion that released twice the radiation associated with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. And they include children who today eat fish from the Techa and berries from contaminated fields.

Mayak, which stopped producing weapons-grade nuclear material in 1990 and now reprocesses spent nuclear fuel, continues to dump radioactive waste into the Techa, Russian prosecutors say. As a result, prosecutors opened a criminal case against the company last month, a rare move in a country that has a history of hushing up environmental disasters.

Villagers in Muslyumovo and the rest of the Techa River valley doubt the government's actions will amount to much.

"We feel any efforts now are useless," said Roza Valayeva, 53, of Muslyumovo, who had a uterine tumor removed in 1994. Her 67-year-old father died of lung cancer; skin cancer claimed her 43-year-old brother. A grandson's teeth have begun to crumble, she says.

"This has gone on for decades, and we don't believe anyone anymore," Valayeva said. "We cannot start from scratch somewhere else, so we're trapped. We cannot leave--and we cannot survive here." [...]

Click here to comment on this article

Eight girls drown at South Africa beach
23.05.05 9.00am UPDATE

JOHANNESBURG - Eight teenage girls swimming off South Africa's east coast were pulled out to sea by a strong tide on Sunday and drowned before lifeguards could reach them, officials said.

The girls were among dozens of high school students who went for an early morning swim during a weekend school outing to the Richard's Bay area.

"They went swimming at 7am, an hour before the lifeguards arrived," local official Captain Tienkie van Vuuren told Reuters by telephone.

"It seems several got into difficulties -- some were rescued when the lifeguards arrived, but I can confirm that seven drowned. The victims were all girls," she said. [...]

Click here to comment on this article

Area man says meteorite hit his driveway
By Patricia Wolff
of The Northwestern
Posted May 22, 2005

WAUTOMA, Wisconsin - When something that looked curiously like a meteorite landed in Bill Hicks's driveway and left a sizable indentation, he wondered out loud if maybe it was meant for his neighbor.

"We live near Camp Phillip. Maybe God was trying to speak to them and he missed," Hicks mused.

Pastor Tom Klusmeyer laughed out loud when he heard that."We've got some neighbors who wish we weren't here. Maybe he's one of them. We sing and make noise and praise God. Some of the neighbors want peace and quiet," Klusmeyer said.

Camp Phillip is a ministry of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod Church that caters year-round to children and families. Hicks lives about a mile from the camp on Buttercup Avenue west of Wautoma.

"I don't even hear them," Hicks said.

He definitely heard the rock that landed in his driveway about three weeks ago. It sounded like a big thunderclap so he didn't think much of it at the time.

"I got up in the morning and saw the hole and said, 'What the hell is that?'" Hicks said.

He filled the hole, which he estimated at about 2 feet deep, with cat litter, gravel and rocks so that his SUV wouldn't get snarled up when he tried to back out, he said.

Hicks and his roommate Larry Linde haven't shown the rock to any experts but they've asked someone from the astronomy department at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh to take a look at it.

"It definitely looks like pictures I've seen of meteorites," Linde said.
It measures about 4 inches by 6 inches and is reddish-brown in color.

Neither Hicks nor Linde would be surprised if the rock turned out to be a meteorite, they said. Other rare occurrences have happened on their property.

"We've been struck by lightning twice since I've been living here," Hicks said.

The same thing happened at the camp, Klusmeyer said.

But, a meteorite is more rare than that.

"You're four times more likely to get hit by lightning than a meteorite," Linde said.

Click here to comment on this article

Colombian Volcano Eruption Expected In Coming Weeks
May 21, 2005 1:40 p.m. EST
Hector Duarte Jr. - All Headline News Staff Reporter

Bogota, Colombia (AHN) - A volcanologist said Saturday that an eruption of the Galeras volcano in southwest Colombia is likely in the coming days or weeks.

The prediction comes after a surge in seismic activity and higher temperatures inside the crater.

Last April, The Galeras Volcano Observatory set its new warning system at level two, which indicates an eruption "in the short or medium term," according to director Diego Gomez.

The volcano last erupted in November, throwing rocks and ash for a distance of two miles, causing no injuries.

In 1993, nine were killed during an eruption. Five of the casualties were international scientists who were inside the crater sampling gases

Click here to comment on this article

Quake causes panic in Aceh
(AP) Sunday, May 22, 2005

(Jakarta): A 5.1-magnitude earthquake struck Indonesia's tsunami-ravaged Aceh province today, causing panic among residents.

However, there were no reports of damage or casualties.

The quake that occurred at around 06:00 local time (0430 IST), was centred under the Indian Ocean, about 58 km southwest of the Banda Aceh, said Suhardjono, an official at the Jakarta office of Meteorology and Geophysics Agency.

The quake, centred 40 km west-northwest of Banda Aceh, was recorded in Hong Kong at 7:07 am, the Hong Kong Observatory said in a statement.

The Hong Kong Observatory earlier said the quake measured 5.6 magnitude.

Witnesses in Banda Aceh said many residents ran out from their houses as the quake jolted the city for about 15 seconds.

Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the so-called Pacific 'Ring of Fire'.

Click here to comment on this article

Strong earthquake jolts Ecuador
22 May 2005 0209 hrs - AFP /ls

QUITO : A strong earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale jolted several cities in Ecuador early Saturday, but there were no immediate reports of injuries, authorities said.

The temblor at about 12:10 am local time (0510 GMT) was located off the coast beneath the Pacific Ocean, the Geophysics Institute said.

Meanwhile, authorities in neighboring Colombia raised the alert on the Galeras volcano, near the border with Ecuador, which they said could erupt "in days or weeks."

"The volcano is at level-two activity, which means there could be an eruption in days or weeks, unless activity eases," said Eduardo Zuniga, governor of Colombia's Narino department.

Click here to comment on this article

Earthquake jolts northeastern of Iran
Saturday, May 21, 2005

LONDON, May 21 (IranMania) - An earthquake hit suburbs of Chenaran city in the northeastern province of Razavi Khorasan on Friday night. It was measuring 3.5 degrees on the Richter scale, according to IRNA.

The provincial seismological center of Mashhad affiliated to the Geophysics Institute of Tehran University, recorded the tremor at 23:02 hours local time (1832 GMT).

The tremble was registered in an area located in 36.88 degree latitude and 59.16 degree longitude on the outskirts of Chenaran.

There are no reports of damage to properties caused by the quake, the report added.

Iran is situated in one of the world's most active seismic fault lines and quakes of varying magnitudes are of usual occurrence.

Click here to comment on this article

Los Angeles 'Big Squeeze' Continues, Straining Earthquake Faults

WASHINGTON -- Northern metropolitan Los Angeles is being squeezed at a rate of five millimeters [0.2 inches] a year, straining an area between two earthquake faults that serve as geologic bookends north and south of the affected region, according to NASA scientists. [...]

A team of scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and University of California at Los Angeles, led by Donald Argus, set out to distinguish between motions induced by human activity and those generated by movements of Earth's tectonic plates. Their results, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research (Solid Earth) in April, indicate human-caused motions are very slow and could not account for the significant ground shift observed in northern Los Angeles.

The new study used space-based navigation to determine the exact position of hundreds of points around the metropolitan area to measure the strain building up across faults. Scientists expect that the strain will ultimately be released in earthquakes much like the 1994 Northridge temblor. The study also suggests which faults might be most likely to rupture. "These findings remove uncertainty about the rate at which strain is building up in northern metropolitan Los Angeles," Argus said. "In addition, by taking into account the effects of humans and observations from the many new global positioning system sites established in the past few years, we can identify the areas where strain is building the fastest."

He cautioned, however, that more studies are needed, since scientists do not yet fully understand the consequences and risks of this stress accumulation. "Nevertheless, these data have important implications for hazard management and retrofitting strategies," he said. [...]

Click here to comment on this article

Flash flood warning for Yellowstone National Park
by: Dan Viens Web Producer
Created: 5/21/2005 9:33 AM MDT

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) - A flash flood warning was issued for Yellowstone National Park and northern Teton County last night after heavy rains drenched northwest Wyoming.

No damage was immediately reported.

The National Weather Service said that a half inch to an inch fell in a short time, and more was possible.

The heavy rain, combined with mountain snowmelt, caused rising waters across the Teton Range and southern portions of Yellowstone National Park from the south entrance to West Thumb Junction.

Click here to comment on this article

Utah Under Siege of Flood Warnings
May 20, 2005 6:23 pm US/Mountain

Utah rivers and streams continued their march to flood stage. Peak snowmelt flows could arrive as early as Sunday.

In eastern Utah, officials say the Ashley River threatens to swamp as many as 40 houses in Vernal. West of Salt Lake City, a mudslide blocked the intake to a culinary water system for Stockton.

Stockton is asking its 529 residents to limit their use of water until the city can push boulders from the intake.

In southern Utah, record flows continued to swamp the Sevier River, flooding agriculture lands.

A flood watch remained in effect for other parts of southern Utah. [...]

Click here to comment on this article

Tornado Touches Down in Wolfe County
WKYT 27 NewsFirst

Clean up continues after a tornado touches down in Eastern Kentucky.

The twister hit a community near Campton in Wolfe County.

The National Weather Service rates the tornado F-0, the lowest on its scale, packing winds near 70 miles an hour.

The tornado blew over roofs and tree limbs and sent one woman, Orinne Spencer, to the hospital.

Spencer is in stable condition. [...]

Click here to comment on this article

Indian heat wave death toll rises to 35
22 May 2005 0358 hrs

BHUBANESHWAR, India : At least 35 people have died from sunstroke and dehydration in India over the past two weeks with soaring temperatures gripping vast tracts of the country, officials said Saturday.

Twenty-four people have died in the eastern Indian state of Orissa because of a heat wave, said state revenue minister Manmohan Samal.

He said authorities were investigating whether far more people had been killed in the extreme temperatures.

"The government has heard reports that 113 people have died due to heat-related reasons but we can only confirm 24 deaths right now. We are still investigating the reports," Samal told AFP. [...]

Click here to comment on this article

Anti-abuse advocate arrested in assault
By Jason Auslander | The New Mexican
May 17, 2005

A woman who assists domestic-violence victims in state District Court was arrested Sunday night for allegedly punching her husband in the nose, police said Monday. [...]

Click here to comment on this article

New TV Season Jumps on Supernatural Trend
AP Television Writer
Sun May 22,12:34 PM ET

NEW YORK - Here's some advice to television viewers who want to know what next fall's season will be like: Be afraid, be very afraid.

Be afraid of poisonous spiders crawling over your face while you sleep; of aliens invading human bodies or landing in a spaceship in the Atlantic Ocean; of a ghostly woman in white who kills; of sickos who kidnap women and keep them in cages.

There's plenty to give you the creeps, both from the ever-replicating cop shows and the upcoming season's biggest trend — the supernatural.

CBS is introducing a two-hour block on Friday nights, with
Jennifer Love Hewitt talking to dead people in one, and the government massing against an alien invasion in another. ABC's "Invasion" takes another form: The aliens inhabit dead bodies. NBC's new "Fathom" is about a terrifying new form of life found in the ocean's depths. The WB's "Supernatural" traces two young, good-looking brothers who fight evil ghosts. [...]

Click here to comment on this article

Readers who wish to know more about who we are and what we do may visit our portal site Quantum Future

Remember, we need your help to collect information on what is going on in your part of the world!

We also need help to keep the Signs of the Times online.

Send your comments and article suggestions to us Email addess

Fair Use Policy

Contact Webmaster at
Cassiopaean materials Copyright ©1994-2014 Arkadiusz Jadczyk and Laura Knight-Jadczyk. All rights reserved. "Cassiopaea, Cassiopaean, Cassiopaeans," is a registered trademark of Arkadiusz Jadczyk and Laura Knight-Jadczyk.
Letters addressed to Cassiopaea, Quantum Future School, Ark or Laura, become the property of Arkadiusz Jadczyk and Laura Knight-Jadczyk
Republication and re-dissemination of our copyrighted material in any manner is expressly prohibited without prior written consent.