Monday, May 30, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."

G.W. Bush - May 24/05, Greece, New York


 
Brass And Chutzpah
Charley Reese

05/27/05 - I will give the Bush administration credit: it has more brass and more chutzpah than a pawnbroker in Bombay, India.

It has now proclaimed that America's miserably bad image in the Muslim world is entirely the fault of one or two lines that appeared in a Newsweek magazine story. The administration has even more or less demanded that Newsweek fix it.

Now, you gotta admit, that takes brass. No, it's not years of one-sided support of Israel; it's not the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq; and it's not all of the prison scandals, all of the bombing, all of the occupation, all of the administration's lies and threats and bombast. No, we would be widely loved in the Muslim world if only Newsweek had not printed that one story.

I'm referring, of course, to a story reporting that a military-investigation report would include the fact that a Quran, a very holy book for Muslims, was tossed into a toilet during an interrogation at Guantanamo, where people are being held indefinitely without charges.

That's not a new story. Several of the former detainees have said the Quran was desecrated as part of the interrogation techniques. The Bush administration, of course, piously proclaims that is false and that it has issued pages of regulations governing how the Quran is to be treated.

Well gosh, fellows, you're kind of short on credibility. You've denied or asserted everything until it was proven to be the opposite of your position. Now, if I don't believe you, why would you expect some guy in Kabul or Gaza or Pakistan to believe you? And exactly how many subscriptions to Newsweek do you think the desperately poor people in Afghanistan have?

The Bush administration reminds me of a client a lawyer-friend of mine represented. I asked my friend if he had put his client on the stand. "Hell, no," he said, "he would lie even if it was in his own best interest to tell the truth."

The Bush administration motto ought to be, "We hide, lie and deny."

Another example of how it shades the truth is provided in a story by Newsweek about some accidentally declassified report. You've all heard these rosy scenarios in Iraq reported by the TV talking heads standing on their hotel balconies, safe and sound. Here's what the official Defense Department report said:

"The U.S. considers all of Iraq a combat zone."

You know what that means, don't you? It means the only part of Iraq we control is the part our soldiers are standing on. The report goes on: "From July 2004 to late March 2005, there were 15,527 attacks against Coalition Forces throughout Iraq. From 1 November 2004 to 12 March 2005 there were 3,306 attacks in the Baghdad area."

Friends, that's far worse than Valdosta, Ga., on a Saturday night. It's even worse than Los Angeles on the weekend. But, gee whiz, we've already toppled the dictator, turned over sovereignty, held elections and installed a new government. I distinctly recall the neocons saying the Iraqis would throw flowers at us, and there would be dancing in the streets. I remember old Paul Wolfowitz, the old deputy SecDef, saying we didn't need all those troops the Army chief of staff said we needed, and not to worry, folks, Iraqi oil revenues will pay for the occupation and the rebuilding.

Most of you are probably too young to remember the Vietnam War. One thing about that war was there was always a light at the end of the tunnel. Of course, the light turned out to be from a Viet Cong explosion. The facts on the ground never matched the words coming out of the mouths of the brass in Saigon and the politicians in Washington.

Of course, the loss of that war was all Walter Cronkite's fault. If only the CBS news anchor hadn't been so shaken up by the Tet Offensive, we'd have found the light at the end of that tunnel.

Now, it's those scoundrels at Newsweek who are causing all of our troubles. Newsweek is denying you the kisses and hugs of 1 billion Muslims by reporting that one of our guys - some of whom don't hesitate to kill, maim and humiliate prisoners - dropped a Quran in a toilet. How can anyone believe an American prison guard would do such a thing? Shame on the press.

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The extraordinary pleas of Saddam's right-hand man
Antony Barnett
Sunday May 29, 2005
The Observer

Letters from Iraq's former deputy PM Tariq Aziz insist he is innocent and claim he is being held illegally.

He was the urbane, English-speaking deputy to Saddam Hussein, the bespectacled face of the former Iraqi dictator's regime, at home on the international stage.

Yet nothing had been heard or seen from Tariq Aziz since he surrendered to US forces on 24 April, 2003, as Iraq crumbled around him.

Today The Observer publishes several letters from the former cigar-smoking Deputy Prime Minister handwritten from Camp Cropper prison in Baghdad. Aziz scribbled these notes on pages from his lawyer's diary who was with him when he was questioned recently by the CIA and US politicians.

Two are in Arabic, the other three in English and addressed to: 'The world public opinion.' Aziz pleads for international help to end his 'dire situation'. He claims he is innocent and is being held unjustly without being allowed contact with his family. One letter reveals questions he had been asked about which politicians benefited from the controversial UN oil-for-food programme.

Although Aziz supporters claim he is a 'political prisoner' who did his best to restrain Saddam, his opponents have little sympathy. They describe him as the dictator's henchman who also bears personal responsibility for crimes committed by the Baathist regime, such as the gassing of Kurds at Halabja.

Aziz's letters are another remarkable snapshot into how Iraqi's former political elite are being held. This month the Sun published photographs of Saddam in his underpants in his Camp Cropper cell and The Observer revealed how prisoners are kept mostly in solitary confinement in tiny cells with no natural daylight.

The most recent letters by Aziz were written on 21 April, when he was being interviewed by US senators investigating allegations of corruption surrounding the oil-for-food programme, which allowed Saddam to sell oil in exchange for humanitarian goods and services.

Writing in Arabic, Aziz says: 'We are totally isolated from the world. There are 13 other detainees here, but we have no meetings or telephone contacts wth our families. I have been accused unjustly, but to date no proper investigation has taken place. It is imperative that there is intervention into our dire situation and treatment. It is totally in contradiction to international law, the Geneva Convention and Iraqi law as we know it.'

In a letter dated 7 March and written in English, Aziz states: 'We hope that you will help us. We have been in prison for a long time and we have been cut from our families. No contacts, no phones, no letters. Even the parcels sent to us by our families are not given to us. We need a fair treatment, a fair investigation and finally a fair trial. Please help us.'

In another letter, written in Arabic and English, he says: 'I haven't been accused of anything,' and 'I have not done anything contrary to law and human behaviour.'

Speaking from Jordan, his son, Ziad Aziz, who was jailed by Saddam, has defended his father's role as the former dictator's deputy, claiming that he was only following orders and would have been killed if he disagreed. 'My father is now in poor health and should be brought to trial or relased,' he added.

Aziz - the only Christian in Saddam's government - was 43rd in the US 'most wanted' set of 55 playing cards and not considered to be a member of the innermost circle, dominated by the Tikriti clan.

However, according to Indict, the committee seeking to prosecute the Iraqi leadership, he was a member of Saddam's Revolutionary Command Council and is therefore complicit in genocide and war crimes against Iran, Kuwait and his own Iraqi people.

An Iraqi tribunal has also implicated him in the 1988 gas attack on Kurds in Halabja. There have been unsubstantiated reports that Aziz will be a star witness in any trial of Saddam, providing crucial evidence that Saddam was personally responsible for war crimes.

One of Aziz's roles was as the principal contact for foreign individuals involved in the oil-for-food programme which has been dogged by allegations of corruption. Saddam offered favoured people allocations of oil which they could sell for huge profits. In return, the former Iraqi leader took illegal kickbacks that helped fund his regime.

In a note scribbled on his lawyer's diary, Aziz says: 'I was asked if I had recommended giving money or oil to President Chirac [of France], or Petros Gali [former UN general secretary Boutros Boutros-Ghali], Ekius [UN weapons inspector Rolf Ekeus]. My answer is NO. The same to President Megawati [Sukarnoputri of Indonesia]. NO.'

Chirac, Boutros-Ghali and Megawati have previously strenuously denied receiving any oil allocations. Ekeus, the Swede who led the UN's efforts to track down WMD from 1991 to 1997, has claimed he was offered a $2 million bribe from Aziz to doctor his reports, but turned it down.

Comment: If Aziz was Saddam's "right hand man" as the Americans claim, and guilty of all that they say he is, why should he not stand trial publically? The fact that Aziz has been held completely incommunicado for over 2 years would suggest that he possesses information that the Americans do not want exposed to the light of day. Note that he seems to have a lot to say about the alleged "oil for food" scandal and just who was and was not involved. Could this be part of the reason for his forced isolation from the world?

We are told that there are unsubstantiated reports that Aziz will be a star witness in any trial of Saddam, providing crucial evidence that Saddam was personally responsible for war crimes, yet we suspect that Aziz would have a LOT more to talk about than just Saddam. He might mention the fact that Saddam was effectively given a green light to invade Kuwait which Bush I used to justify the barbaric first Gulf War and the inhuman sanctions that followed:

Set up of Iraq

There were many ways in which the US government and other US institutions aided Saddam Hussein up to the point of the invasion of Kuwait. The support of US business interests over many years for Saddam Hussein is well documented, part of the general Western support for the Iraqi regime.

On April 12th, 1990 Saddam met with 5 US senators. Robert Dole, Alan Simpson, Howard Metzenbaum, James McClure and Frank Murkowski; the US ambassador, soon to be famous for her own 'green light' to Saddam, was also present. The US senators criticised the American press in their attempts to propitiate Saddam, emphasising that there was a difference between the attitudes of the US government and those of journalists. Senator Dole commented:

Please allow me to say that only twelve hours earlier President Bush had assured me that he wants better relations, and that the US government wants better relations with Iraq... I assume that President Bush will oppose sanctions, and he might veto them, unless something provocative were to happen...

It was clear that Iraq's war on Iran, its human record, and its increasingly bellicose efforts to impose its will on the Gulf region were not judged to be sufficiently 'provocative'. Ambassador Glaspie then chipped in to affirm that she was certain 'that this is the policy of the US'(that is, that Presidnet Bush saw nothing about Iraq that would impede the development of good relations).

Senator Howard Metzenbaum ('I am a jew and a staunch supporter of Israel') payed Saddam a compliment: '... I have been sitting here listening to you for about an hour, and I am now aware that you are a strong and intelligent man and that you want peace.. if.. you were to focus on the value of the peace that we greatly need to achieve in the Middle East then there would not be a leader to compare with you in the Middle East..'

On July 25 1990, a day after 2 Iraqi armoured divisions moved from their bases to take up positions on the Kuwaiti border, Saddam Hussein summoned US Ambassador April Glaspie to his office. Even at this late statge , with an obviosly deteriorating situation in the Gulf, Glaspie still made efforts to placate Saddam Hussein. She emphasised that President Bush had rejected the ideaof trade sanctions against Iraq, to which Saddam replied:

There is nothing left for us to buy from America except wheat. Every time we want to buy something, they say it is forbidden. I am afraid that one day you will say, "You are going to make gunpowder out of wheat."

Glapsie was quick to reassure to Saddam: "I have direct instruction from the President to seek better relations with Iraq." She then went to say her much-quoted comment that was perhaps the biggest 'green light' of all:

I admire your extraordinary efforts to rebuild your country. I know you need funds. We understand that, and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country.But we have no opinion on Arab-Arab conflicts like your border disagreement with Kuwait

In short, the US ambassador to Baghdad was here telling Saddam Hussein that he had a legitimate case against Kuwait and that the matter was no business of the United States.

On July 31 (2 days before the invasion of Kuwait), the US Assistant Secretary of state John Kelly testified on Capitol Hill before the Middle East subcommittee of the House of Representatives. Aimed at clarifying the attitude of the Bush administration to the escalating crisis in the Gulf:

Representative Hamilton: Defense Secretary Richard Cheney has been quoted in the press as saying that the United States was commited to going to the defese of Kuwait if she were attacked. Is that exactly what was said? Could Mr Kelly clarify this?
Assistant Secretary Kelly: .. We have no defense treaty relationship with any Gulf country...
Hamilton: Do we have a commitment to our friends in the Gulf in the event that they are engaged in oil or territorial disputes with their neighbors?
Kelly: As I said, Mr Chairman, we have no defense treaty relationships with any of the countries. We have historically avoided taking a position on border disputes or on internal OPEC deliberations...
Hamilton: If Iraq, for example, charged across the border into Kuwait, for whatever reason, what would be our position with regard to the use of US forces?
Kelly: That, Mr Chairman, is a hypothetical or a contingency, the kind of which I can't get into. Suffice it to say that we would be extremely concerned, but I cannot get into the realm of "what if" answers.
Hamilton: In that circumstance, is it correct to say, however, that we do not have a treaty commitment which would obligate us to engage US forces?
Kelly: That is correct.
Hamilton: That is correct, is it not?
Kelly: That is correct, sir.

These statements broadcast on the World Service of the BBC, were heard in Baghdad. At a crucial momment, a senior offical of the Bush administration had sent Saddam Hussein a signal that the US would not intervene. The American setup for the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait had been complete.

Of course, as Saddam's "right hand man" Aziz would also be well placed to make an authoritative statement on whether or not the person that the US military is holding in custody really is Saddam Hussein.

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Al-Zarqawi: Real or Imaginary? Inquiring Minds Want to Know
Newshounds Editorial
May 27, 2005

Earlier today, Judge Andrew Napolitano and retired Colonel David "Blood and Guts" Hunt discussed the possibility that terror mastermind, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, may be dying or dead. My Big Question of the Day: Do you believe that there is actually such a person as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi? Or has he been "created" by the Pentagon to distract from the fact that Iraq is a massive failure?

When we were being pushed into this illegal war, the administration made a big deal about the so-called "link" between Saddam and Al Qaeda validating it with the statement that al-Zarqawi was fitted with an artificial leg in Baghdad and lived and worked in Al Qaeda training camps in the northern Kurdish areas. However, the newly redesigned al-Zarqawi doesn't seem to have a bum leg. Even some FOX News guests have attempted to explain away this obvious discrepancy. A 17-page letter, purportedly intercepted last year from a deal Al Qaeda courier and allegedly written by al-Zarqawi, has still not been verified by certified document examiners. Yet the media treats it as if it was thoroughly and publicly vetted.

Last April, just prior to the first Fallujah stand-off, independent reporter Dahr Jamail reported that the average Iraqi didn't believe in the existence of al-Zarqawi.

I find that I'm in agreement with the average Iraqi.

This doubting Thomasina needs some real proof, not just the uncorroborated word of a Pentagon that lied about Jessica Lynch's rescue, lied about Pat Tillman's death, lied about WMDs, lied about aluminum tubes, lied about Niger, and now it seems lied about Koran abuse at Guantanamo.

We know through the statements last week of CNN co-founder Reese Shonfeld that no less a personage than "an undersecretary of Defense" confirmed to him that the Pentagon routinely lies in the "best interests" of the American people (or perhaps, in the best interests of the Pentagon?).

So, I'm asking our readers to discuss YOUR opinions and, if possible, present incontrovertible evidence of the physical existence of that master of disguise, that nefarious nemesis of democracy, that mad-dog killer, the Al Qaeda ringleader and general no-good-nik, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

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Shia Leaders...
Riverbend Blog
29/05/2005

In Baghdad there's talk of the latest "Operation Lightning". It hasn't yet been implemented in our area but we've been hearing about it. So far all we've seen are a few additional checkpoints and a disappearing mobile network. Baghdad is actually split into two large regions- Karkh (west Baghdad) and Rasafa (east Baghdad) with the Tigris River separating them. Karkh, according to this plan, is going to be split into 15 smaller areas or sub-districts and Rasafa into 7 sub-districts. There are also going to be 675 checkpoints and all of the entrances to Baghdad are going to be guarded.

We are a little puzzled why Karkh should be split into 15 sub-districts and Rasafa only seven. Karkh is actually smaller in area than Rasafa and less populated. On the other hand, Karkh contains the Green Zone- so that could be a reason. People are also anxious about the 675 check points. It's difficult enough right now getting around Baghdad, more check points are going to make things trickier. The plan includes 40,000 Iraqi security forces and that is making people a little bit uneasy. Iraqi National Guard are not pleasant or upstanding citizens- to have thousands of them scattered about Baghdad stopping cars and possibly harassing civilians is worrying. We're also very worried about the possibility of raids on homes.

Someone (thank you N.C.) emailed me Thomas L. Friedman's article in the New York Times 10 days ago about Quran desecration titled "Outrage and Silence".

In the article he talks about how people in the Muslim world went out and demonstrated against Quran desecration but are silent about the deaths of hundreds of Iraqis in the last few weeks due to bombings and suicide attacks.

In one paragraph he says,

"Yet these mass murders - this desecration and dismemberment of real Muslims by other Muslims - have not prompted a single protest march anywhere in the Muslim world. And I have not read of a single fatwa issued by any Muslim cleric outside Iraq condemning these indiscriminate mass murders of Iraqi Shiites and Kurds by these jihadist suicide bombers, many of whom, according to a Washington Post report, are coming from Saudi Arabia."

First of all- it's not only Kurds or Shia who are dying due to car bombs. When a car detonates in the middle of a soug or near a mosque, it does not seek out only Shia or Kurdish people amongst the multitude. Bombs do not discriminate between the young and the old, male and female or ethnicities and religious sects- no matter what your government tells you about how smart they are. Furthermore, they are going off everywhere-? not just in Shia or Kurdish provinces. They seem to be everywhere lately.

One thing I found particularly amusing about the article- and outrageous all at once-was in the following paragraph:

"Religiously, if you want to know how the Sunni Arab world views a Shiite's being elected leader of Iraq, for the first time ever, think about how whites in Alabama would have felt about a black governor's being installed there in 1920. Some Sunnis do not think Shiites are authentic Muslims, and they are indifferent to their brutalization."

Now, it is always amusing to see a Jewish American journalist speak in the name of Sunni Arabs. When Sunni Arabs, at this point, hesitate to speak in a representative way about other Sunni Arabs, it is nice to know Thomas L. Friedman feels he can sum up the feelings of the "Sunni Arab world" in so many words. His arrogance is exceptional.

It is outrageous because for many people, this isn't about Sunnis and Shia or Arabs and Kurds. It's about an occupation and about people feeling that they do not have real representation. We have a government that needs to hide behind kilometers of barbed wire and meters and meters of concrete- and it's not because they are Shia or Kurdish or Sunni Arab- it's because they blatantly supported, and continue to support, an occupation that has led to death and chaos.

The paragraph is contemptible because the idea of a "Shia leader" is not an utterly foreign one to Iraqis or other Arabs, no matter how novel Friedman tries to make it seem. How dare he compare it to having a black governor in Alabama in the 1920s? In 1958, after the July 14 Revolution which ended the Iraqi monarchy, the head of the Iraqi Sovereignty Council (which was equivalent to the position of president) was Mohammed Najib Al-Rubayi- a Shia from Kut. From 1958 - 1963, Abdul Karim Qassim, a Shia also from Kut in the south, was the Prime Minister of Iraq (i.e. the same position Jaffari is filling now). After Abdul Karim Qassim, in 1963, came yet another Shia by the namministerji Talib as prime minster. Even during the last regime, there were two Shia prime ministers filling the position for several years- Sadoun Humadi and Mohammed Al-Zubaidi.

In other words, Sunni Arabs are not horrified at having a Shia leader (though we are very worried about the current Puppets' pro-Iran tendencies). Friedman seems to conveniently forget that while the New Iraq's president was a polygamous Arab Sunni- Ghazi Al-Yawir- the attacks were just as violent. Were it simply a matter of Sunnis vs. Shia or Arabs vs. Kurds, then Sunni Arabs would have turned out in droves to elect "Al Baqara al dhahika" ("the cow that laughs" or La Vache Qui Rit- it's an Iraqi joke) as Al-Yawir is known amongst Iraqis.

This sentence,

"Some Sunnis do not think Shiites are authentic Muslims, and they are indifferent to their brutalization."

...Is just stupid. Friedman is referring to Sunni extremists without actually saying that. But he doesn't add that some Shia extremists also feel the same way about Sunnis. I'm sure in the "Christian World" there are certain Catholics who feel that way about Protestants, etc. Iraqis have intermarried and mixed as Sunnis and Shia for centuries. Many of the larger Iraqi tribes are a complex and intricate weave of Sunnis and Shia. We donÂ?t sit around pointing fingers at each other and trying to prove who is a Muslim and who isn't and who deserves compassion and who deserves brutalization.

Friedman says,

"If the Arab world, its media and its spiritual leaders, came out and forcefully and repeatedly condemned those who mount these suicide attacks, and if credible Sunnis are given their fair share in the Iraqi government, I am certain a lot of this suicide bombing would stop"

The Arab world's spiritual and media leaders have their hands tied right now. Friedman better hope Islamic spiritual leaders don't get involved in this mess because the first thing they'd have to do is remind the Islamic world that according to the Quran, the Islamic world may not be under the guardianship or command of non-Muslims- and that wouldn't reflect nicely on an American occupation of Iraq.

Friedman wonders why thousands upon thousands protested against the desecration of the Quran and why they do not demonstrate against terrorism in Iraq. The civilian bombings in Iraq are being done by certain extremists, fanatics or militias. What happened in Guantanamo with the Quran and what happens in places like Abu Ghraib is being done systematically by an army- an army that is fighting a war- a war being funded by the American people. That is what makes it outrageous to the Muslim world.

In other words, what happens in Iraq is terrorism, while what happens to Iraqis and Afghanis and people of other nationalities under American or British custody is simply "counter-insurgency" and "policy". It makes me naseous to think of how outraged the whole world was when those American POW were shown on Iraqi television at the beginning of the war- clean, safe and respectfully spoken to. Even we were upset with the incident and wondered why they had to be paraded in front of the world like that. We actually had the decency to feel sorry for them.

Friedman focuses on the Sunni Arab world in his article but he fails to mention that the biggest demonstrations were not in the Arab world- they happened in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan. He also fails to mention that in Iraq, the largest demonstration against the desecration of the Quran was actually organized, and attended by, Shia.

Luckily for Iraqis, and in spite of Thomas Friedman, the majority of Sunnis and Shia just want to live in peace as Muslims- not as Sunnis and Shia.

Comment: This final comment above would seem to be an accurate reflection of the reality of life in Iraq, yet this image of peaceful relations between Sunni and Shia is not one that jives with the image the Bush administration would like to convey to the American public. As such, not only does the US media disseminate distorted and simplistic nonsense about the reality of Iraqi social and religious tensions, it would appear that US and Israeli intelligence agencies are hard at work perpetrating phony "suicide bombings" that target Sunni and Shia civilians separately. The goal of such attacks is to open up divisions along religious lines between ordinary Iraqi, provide evidence of a need for US troops to remain in Iraq and give the American and Western public the impression that all Iraqis are crazy fundamentalist suicide bombers.

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Koran Story Exposes Myth of American Democracy and Morality
By Ray Hanania
Al-Jazeerah, May 14, 2005

In a way, you have to blame Americans like former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and media bigots like Sean Hannity and Daniel Pipes for the moral corruption that drives many of the abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan.

With their help, most Americans easily made the jump from not only hating the hijackers responsible for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but also all Arabs and Muslims.

Few Americans questioned their nation’s decision to expand the war on terrorism from Afghanistan, where the al-Qaeda was based, to Iraq, a secular Arab state equally threatened by al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

Even fewer Americans believe that their soldiers who have engaged in murder, torture, physical abuses and acts of religious desecration such as the flushing of a copy of the Koran down a toilet at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, are guilty and should be punished.

Why should they have when their government leaders had waived all of the civilized guidelines of military conduct, declaring, for example, that Arab and Muslim prisoners would not be protected by the protections of the Geneva Conventions, used to protect the prisoners of all civilized countries in wars going back to World War II.

In reality, most countries like Nazi Germany, the Empire of Japan, Stalinist Russia and the Vietcong, violated those protections as often as we did. But at least, none were arrogant to openly declare their intent to violate those rights.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq represented a new evolution in American racial patriotism and “Christian pride.” Americans rushed to fight in both Afghanistan and Iraq, not just to avenge those responsible or not responsible for Sept. 11. They went there to act out generations of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim animosity fanned by Hollywood movies, the mainstream media, our educational system and their elected government leaders.

Claiming to be a Democracy seeking to avenge an injustice, the United States acted more like a mob gone wild willing to string up any Arab they crossed, in much the same way they tolerated the lynching of Blacks falsely accused of having looked at White women with envy.

I don’t know if the Newsweek story that an American interrogator did or did not flush a copy of the Koran down a toilet at the Guantanamo Bay prison. It doesn’t matter. American soldiers have done worse to the Arab and Muslim prisoners, many of whom have been detained without any civil rights protections for more than two years.

Even a serial killer or mass murderer – historically all in the United States have been Christians and White – are accorded legal protections to have representation, to have the charges against them reviewed for truth, and to be able to fight the charges not only in court but in the public forum.

Not so for the thousands of Arabs and Muslims held at numerous American prisons. The conditions under which most are being kept would never have withstood the scrutiny given the prison conditions of prior wars.

And even as the evidence of American abuses mounts, rather than admit to the behavior as criminal, many Americans and media pundits continue to brush the abuses aside as “justified.”

In other words, immoral behavior is justified when it is us against “them.” Slaughtering innocent people and “suicide bombings” are immoral if the bombers are Muslim and the targets are American, but are justified when the victims are American.

We saw examples of how Americans historically crossed the line of moral behavior in numerous Hollywood movies including “The Patriot” starring Mel Gibson, and “Pearl Harbor” with Alec Baldwin playing the legendary avenger Col. Jimmy Doolittle. Doolittle (Baldwin) vowed that if he could not return from his mission over Tokyo, he would crash his plane into any Japanese building in a justified act of suicide that brought cheers from teary-eyed American audiences in movie theaters across the country.

Of course, while the populations of many Arab and Muslim countries are protesting the defiling of the Koran, most of their governments remain silent and afraid to challenge the American racial imperialism.

That should be as troubling to the Arabs and Muslims of the world as much as the act of an American defiling their holiest religious icon.

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Fox News Insults Iraqis
News Hounds
May 26, 2005

They didn't flush the Quoran down the toilet, but Fox News personalities Wednesday (May 25) did their best to insult America's allies in the fight against insurgents in Iraq.

Sitting in for the clueless John Gibson, Judge Andrew Napolitano interviewed Fox News military analyst Bill Cowan, a retired lieutenant colonel in the marines.

Discussing the possibility of eventually capturing terrorist leader al-Zarqawi, Napolitano mentioned the $25 million reward being offered for information leading to his apprehension. "Isn't that enough to shake loose some information about where he might be?" the judge asked.

"You'd think so," said Cowan, "but probably a lot of these people that are thinking about $25 million have no idea what that amount of money really is. We always kid around that what we ought to be offering is a couple goats and a brand new Toyota Land Cruiser and we'd probably have a lot more response to it."

In other words, according to Cowan, Iraqis are so dumb and backward, they don't understand modern concepts like money and can only relate to primitive things like goats and sheep. How insulting!

If such an attitude is common among military brass, it may well filter down to the troops in the street, who are charged with getting local Iraqis to cooperate with them in finding insurgents. What Iraqi is going to risk his life to help out an American who treats him or her like a backward peasant. The Ugly American still lives.

Comment: Indeed, it is infuriating to witness such repugnant arrogance and ignorance, yet, in the final analysis, we can only feel pity for such pathetic individuals who will most assuredly end up back in the primordial, sleeping soup of creation where they best fit.

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Wide World of Torture - The Road to Abu Ghraib
SHARON SMITH, CounterPunch
May 28 / 30, 2005

Even before the Bush administration invaded Iraq in March 2003, human rights organizations were raising allegations of torture at U.S. prisons in Afghanistan.

At the time, the State Department dismissed their allegations as "ridiculous" (just as the White House recently feigned outrage when Newsweek claimed that Guantanamo interrogators flushed the Koran down the toilet--even as evidence surfaced that they urinated on it). As recently as December, military spokesperson Lt. Col. Pamela Keeton claimed an Army investigation "found no evidence of abuse taking place" in Afghanistan, according to the BBC.

All that changed last week, when the New York Times exposed the sadistic killing of two Afghan detainees in December 2002--both kicked to death, while chained to the ceiling by their wrists at the Bagram air base--based on the Army's own leaked investigation. The Army investigation is just the tip of the iceberg, however, as mounting evidence exposes an expansive and overlapping system of torture and killing at U.S. detention facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay.

Afghan prisons, along with Guantánamo, provided the hands-on training for the interrogation techniques made famous at Abu Ghraib. Many of the same interrogators who honed their skills at Bagram ended up at Abu Ghraib in 2003--both times under the direction of Capt. Carolyn A. Wood.

Specialist Damien "Monster" Corsetti--known affectionately as the "King of Torture" among his Bagram colleagues--was later fined and demoted for forcing an Iraqi woman to strip during an interrogation at Abu Ghraib. Yet Corsetti remains a free man. Although Army investigators found "probable cause" to charge him with assault, prisoner maltreatment and indecent acts at Bagram, he has not formally been charged.

So far, only seven soldiers have been charged with any crime related to torture at Bagram--and no one has been convicted.

According to the watchdog group Human Rights First, the U.S. admits that 108 people died while in U.S. custody--63 of them at prisons other than Abu Ghraib. But this figure is suspect, since most of those detained by U.S. forces are never entered into the military's "system."

Since 2001, 65,000 people have been screened at U.S. detention facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo, but only 30,000 were eventually categorized as "detainees." By December 2004, the U.S. military still had no central database even for official detainees in Afghanistan.

Much of the worst abuse occurs right after arrest, in temporary holding facilities, where interrogators use torture to "soften up" prisoners to extract information. The International Committee of the Red Cross is rarely allowed access to these facilities to document treatment of prisoners--and then only after they have been held for at least 15 days. The two detainees murdered at Bagram in 2002 were dead long before then.

Nor does the U.S. command allow Afghanistan's human rights commission--a government body--into prisons, although the commission is flooded with requests from distraught Afghan citizens seeking the whereabouts of disappeared loved ones. As Newsday recently reported, "A top U.S. officer said the U.S. command is not fully convinced that the commission's members are all 'good guys.'"

In addition, prisoners held by the CIA often do not enter the military's statistics at all. The CIA runs a separate interrogation facility at Bagram, known as "the Salt Pit," where even U.S. military interrogators are denied access. In November 2002, a detainee froze to death in the Salt Pit after being stripped naked, chained down and left overnight. Yet his name never appeared in the military's database or even on the CIA's "ghost detainee" list, according to Human Rights First.

The lawlessness inside Afghanistan's detention facilities is a microcosm of Afghan society itself, where U.S. troops bomb villages, raid homes and murder at will--three-and-a-half years after "liberation."

Last September, in the middle of the night, U.S. troops shot and killed English teacher Muhammad Rais Khan while raiding his home and detaining his brother. A day later, his brother died in U.S. custody. Army officers dismissed their deaths to Newsday, explaining that the Khan brothers were "bad guys"--according to the local warlord, anyway, who had an axe to grind against them.

U.S.-backed warlords who control most of Afghanistan's countryside with private armies continue to enrich themselves with opium profits while the U.S. looks the other way. Far from a fledgling "democracy," U.S.-occupied Afghanistan is an experiment in barbarism.

Just as Bagram paved the way for Abu Ghraib, the war on Afghanistan provided the launching pad for the invasion of Iraq. Now the havoc produced by the U.S. occupation of both countries provides the excuse for the U.S. to remain.

The same web of lies used to invade Iraq was used to justify the war on Afghanistan--and forms the basis for the entire "war on terror."

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Amnesty International wants U.S. investigated
By Bob Dart
COX NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - Amnesty International USA urged foreign governments Wednesday to use international law to investigate Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other alleged American "architects of torture" at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and other prisons where detainees suspected of ties to terrorist groups have been interrogated.

"If those investigations support prosecution, the governments should arrest any official who enters their territory and begin legal proceedings against them," said William Shulz, executive director of the U.S. branch of the international human rights agency.

In its annual report on "The State of the World's Human Rights," Amnesty International said the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, "has become the gulag of our times" and accused U.S. officials of flaunting international law in their treatment of detainees.

There is no statute of limitations on crimes such as torture, Shulz said.

So for years to come, the director warned, "the apparent high-level architects of torture should think twice before planning their next vacation to places like Acapulco or the French Riviera because they may find themselves under arrest as Augusto Pinochet famously did in London in 1998."

Gen. Pinochet, a former dictator of Chile, was arrested on an international warrant issued by a Spanish judge while Pinochet was in England receiving medical treatment.

Charged with torturing Spanish citizens in Chile, he was held under house arrest in England for more than a year but eventually returned to his homeland and escaped an international trial.

If the United States "continues to shirk its responsibility" of investigating allegations of abuse to the top of the chain of command, Shulz said, foreign governments should uphold their obligations under international law by investigating all senior U.S. officials involved.

Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, called the charges "unsupported by the facts."

The well-publicized abuses of detainees have been a "stain on the image of the United States abroad," he conceded, but the exposures only reinforced the administration's commitment to human rights.

"We hold people accountable when there is abuse," he said.

Amnesty International's demand for international action came as a private activist group that spans the ideological spectrum called for President Bush and Congress to appoint an independent, bipartisan panel, modeled after the Sept. 11 commission, to investigate the "various allegations of abuse of terrorist suspects."

The group calling for appointment of such a commission ranged from former Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene and former Rep. Mickey Edwards, R-Okla., on the right to Thomas Pickering, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and Morton Halperin of the Center for American Progress on the left.

Pickering said his conversations during recent international travels confirmed the damage that prisoner abuse charges have done to the nation, disheartening our allies and giving ammunition to our enemies.

But others on the panel said they were not as concerned about foreign reaction as with domestic values.

"We should be opposed to this (torture) because of who we are -- not what they think," said Keene.

In issuing the Amnesty International report, Shulz specifically named those he regarded as potential "high-level torture architects."

In addition to Rumsfeld and Gonzales, they included former CIA Director George Tenet; Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq; Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, commander of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo; and Douglas Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy.

Shulz said the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment legally bind the countries that have signed them to exercise "universal jurisdiction" on people suspected of violations.

Certain crimes, including torture, amount to offenses against all of humanity so all countries have a responsibility to investigate and prosecute people responsible for such crimes, he said.

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British soldiers face war crimes charges
Rory Carroll in Basra
Monday May 30, 2005
The Guardian

Father tells of grief that followed death of Iraqi while in custody

After Baha Mousa died, his mother broke down every time she entered his room. So the family moved all his belongings out of sight and turned it into a sitting room reserved for special occasions.

Yesterday, beneath a whirring fan his father, brothers, cousins and two young sons gathered there to hear the reports from London that up to 11 British soldiers could be prosecuted under international war crimes legislation for his death.

It would be the first time British forces were charged under the International Criminal Court Act, a legal landmark with potentially far-reaching ramifications for future military engagements.

"If this brings justice, it's a good thing," said his father, Daoud, 59. "They hurt him so much, they ignored his cries.

"My wife cries all the time. The trip to Baha's grave in Najaf is long and perilous but she insists on going every few weeks. "She can't stop thinking about him."

Mr Mousa dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief and the other hand gripped a mobile phone so tightly the knuckles gleamed. "Baha did everything for us. I think we'll never get over it."

Members of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment allegedly beat Baha Mousa, 26, a hotel receptionist in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, to death in September 2003.

Four days after he was seized with six colleagues in a raid on the hotel, his father identified his battered corpse at the British military morgue.

At least four QLR soldiers face charges of murder and abuse and yesterday it was reported that they and another seven soldiers and officers could face wider war crimes charges under legislation enacted in 2001 after the establishment of the International Criminal Court.

The Army Prosecuting Authority has apparently yet to finalise its decision on who will be prosecuted, and on what charges, but the revelation that war crimes may be included in the charge sheet was welcomed by the victim's father.

The nuances of international law and legal precedent held little interest for Mr Mousa, but he hoped the development would bring justice and compensation a step closer.

"The punishment for the killers is for British law to decide. But if it was here in Iraq, and it was my choice, I would say execute them."

A police colonel built like a wrestler, he spoke softly as tears rolled down his cheeks.

On the sofa beside him, his two orphaned grandsons, Hussein, 7, and Hassan, 5, fidgeted and smiled, aware they were the focus of the assembled adults but unsure why.

Hussein is the image of his father. He has had trouble settling into school and is hyperactive. Hassan resembles his mother.

She succumbed to cancer six months before their father died. After that Baha would sleep between the boys.

On monthly visits to his grave, they expect to see him and they return home to Basra disappointed and puzzled, said relatives.

"When they see British patrols in the streets they point and say 'Those men killed my father'," said Mr Mousa. "But they don't really understand."

The occupation was six months old in September 2003 and the British-controlled port city was febrile, with sporadic attacks on British forces, when the soldiers raided the Ibn Al Haitham hotel.

They found five assault rifles and two pistols used for hotel security. Unable to locate their quarry, one of the hotel's owners, they took Baha and six colleagues to the British military base.

According to Kifah Taha, 46, a maintenance engineer who was one of the six, beatings started immediately. There was a competition to see which soldier could kickbox a prisoner the furthest, he claimed.

Each prisoner was allegedly given a footballer's name and beaten if he failed to remember it. Freezing water was allegedly poured through hoods placed over their heads.

Baha suffered the most and on the second night he was taken to another room from which Mr Taha said he could hear him moaning

"Blood. There's blood coming from my nose. I'm going to die."

After punches and kicks, Mr Taha's kidneys failed and he nearly died. He and the other five survivors were eventually released without charge.

Backed by human rights advocacy groups, including the UK-based Iraqi League, last year the six men launched a high court challenge to the government's refusal to order independent inquiries into the deaths.

Back at work yesterday, fixing the hotel's generator, Mr Taha said he still had nightmares.

"When I see the British in the streets, my soul leaves my body and I remember the day I was arrested."

Army prosecutors have been under pressure to act since the high court ruled last December that the UK had broken the Human Rights Act by failing to prevent Mr Mousa's death or to prosecute his alleged assailants.

British officers have visited the family home in the Kafa hat suburb of west Basra several times to apologise.

As a senior police officer, Baha's father works with and respects most British soldiers. "They make a good impression. We tackle terrorism together."

But he said he rejected as an insult the offer of $8,000 compensation, contrasting it with the $10m Libya agreed to pay for each victim of the Lockerbie bombing.

"Is an Arab life worth so much less? Are Arabs less human?"

Comment: Regarding this last question; the answer would seem to be a categoric "yes". The ruling elite have always perceived the remainder of us as "less" than them, and their very positions of 'elitehood' confirmed to them that they were correct in this assessment. As such, the deaths of however many millions or billions of 'ordinary' people is inconsequential and indeed to be preferred in certain circumstances.

Of course, given that the elite are few in number, they themselves could not easily carry out the many necessary (as they saw it) culls of the population over the centuries. No indeed, it was deemed much more practical that we take care of that task ourselves. Auto-regulation you might call it.

The most obvious way to achieve this was to generate discord and strife among the peoples of the world. To this end, religion has been extremely useful. At this late stage in our evolution, the setting of one group of plebs against another has been refined down to a fine art, with government media and church all conspiring to manipulate us to be the architects of our own destruction, while they sit in their self-satisfied arrogance and watch from the sidelines.

For their plan to be successful, the only essential ingredient is the willingness of the population of this planet to allow themselves to be continually and repeatedly duped by the lies that our leaders tell. If, for some strange reason, we were all to wake up to the reality of this world, their plan might fall flat on its face and, for the first time in a long time, we might find ourselves with the daunting task of deciding our own destinies.

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Death penalty returns to Iraq, with a vengeance
AFP
Sun May 29, 6:36 PM ET

BAGHDAD - With four death sentences handed down within the space of days, judicial executions are set to return to Iraq where the authorities are desperate for a deterrent to halt rampant insurgent attacks.

Seven convicted Iraqi criminals and insurgents are currently on death row and although the sentences have yet to be carried out, the interior ministry have vowed that the first hangings will take place next month.

While the looming prospect of executions is worrying human rights groups, the government insists it has no alternative. "We must maintain order and dissuade criminals and terrorists," said government spokesman Leith Kubba.

The death sentence was widely practised under now imprisoned former dictator Saddam Hussein, who himself could face the death penalty if he is ultimately found guilty of charges of crimes against humanity.

Capital punishment was suspended by the former US military commander in Iraq, General Tommy Franks, soon after the invasion, before being reinstated in June last year by the unelected interim Iraqi government.

Three common law criminals were sentenced to death in Karbala, southern Iraq, a month later for the murder of relatives, but the sentences have yet to be carried out.

On May 21 however, Interior Minister Bayan Baqer Solagh ended uncertainty over the use of the death penalty when he said it was "still applicable" and would be rigorously applied.

Since Iraq's first elected government took office in late March, judges have ordered that four men be executed for their crimes.

The day after Solagh's declaration, a special criminal court sentenced three rebels to death for rape, kidnapping and murder, the insurgents sent to death row. [...]

"This is what most Iraqis want," said Kubba. [...]

According to a poll conducted by the US International Republican Institute published earlier this month, 60 percent of Iraqis want the nation's constitution, currently being drawn up by lawmakers, to mention "extensive use of the death penalty". [...]

Comment: Yes, we are quite certain that most Iraqis, whose lives have been shattered by the US invasion and occupation of their country, want even more violence...

"It is very difficult for Iraqis to live in such a situation of insecurity," said lawyer Nizar al-Sammarai.

"For the time being, we need something to stop (the violence) and that's the death penalty."

Yet research has shown that the death penalty does not act as a deterrent, and is especially unlikely to in Iraq where almost daily suicide bombings testify to a ready supply of people prepared to die for their cause. [...]

"The death penalty alone is not enough," he said. "The government must also apply stringent security and political measures." [...]

Comment: It is obvious where this is all going. Now that a US puppet government is installed in Iraq, the next step is to reinstitute the death penalty and lock down the country through the use of a brutal security force.

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U.S. accused of reporting less than half its casualties in Iraq
Granma.cu

WASHINGTON, May 26 – Prensa Latina informs that official US reports on Iraq reflect less than half the numbers of soldiers killed in that war of aggression, according to an article by El Diario-La Prensa online in New York.

An article datelined San Juan, Puerto Rico, says that troops under the US command have suffered at least 4,076 fatal casualties over 799 days of action.

The information markedly contrasts with reports published by the authorities in Washington, which focus on the fallen wearing US uniforms, which totals 1,649, the article notes.

It refers to the difficulties encountered by the Puerto Rican government in obtaining a figure of total Puerto Rican casualties during the present war.

Even more difficult are estimates of the wounded, which the U.S. acknowledges are in excess of 12,600 troops, and the so-called medical casualties, about which only scraps of information emerge.

Congressman José Serrano, a New York Democrat, and Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, former colonial governor of Puerto Rico, managed to obtain a partial list enabling them to establish that almost 200 Puerto Rican casualties occurred last year, between dead and wounded. [...]

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Newsview: Bush's Global Clout Seen Growing
By TOM RAUM
Associated Press
Sat May 28, 9:37 PM ET

WASHINGTON - In the rarified club of world leaders, President Bush has taken his share of lumps. Critics have railed against his handling of Iraq, his perceived disdain for the United Nations and what they say is a swaggering approach to foreign policy.

But Bush probably would not want to trade places with any other head of state.

Nearly all his fellow leaders of the world's big industrial democracies have stumbled. It has left them vulnerable at home and weakened on the world stage.

The president, through it all, is riding what he sees as a strong re-election mandate to trumpet his goal of spreading democracy.

That helps explains why Bush, despite a slip in his approval rating among Americans, may find himself holding the stronger hand when he travels in early July to Scotland for the annual summit of the leaders of the eight major industrialized democracies.

"His counterparts all face ill political winds that make their domestic positions rather precarious," said Charles Kupchan, director of European studies with the Council on Foreign Relations, a private research group. "I do think it puts Bush in an advantageous position."

It is not the best of times be a world leader:

- Britain's Tony Blair, Bush's chief ally on Iraq, did win re-election this month to a third term as prime minister. But he prevailed by drastically reduced margins for his Labour Party, threatening his leadership abilities.

- Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, also a strong support of U.S. policy in Iraq, has seen parties in his government coalition lose in regional and local elections. Defeats even forced his resignation, although he cobbled together a new coalition to regain power.

- German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, a vocal critic of the Iraq war, has called for national elections for this fall - a year early. That followed his party's crushing defeat in Germany's most populous region. The loss, he said, cost him the mandate he needs to fix Germany's struggling economy.

- French President Jacques Chirac, also a foe of U.S. policy in Iraq, is taking heat for his decision to call a referendum on the European Union's first constitution. It's set him up for what could be a humiliating defeat. Chirac's approval ratings have declined and he faces opposition from within his own party.

- Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin faces serious challenges and demands that he resign. The House of Commons tied on a vote of confidence this month. It took a vote by the parliament speaker to give Martin's minority government a one-vote victory. Canada pledged to tighten its borders after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But Ottawa has declined to send troops to Iraq or sign on to the U.S. missile defense shield.

- Japan's prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, finds his popularity lagging after four years on the job. It's down about half from the 80 percent he once enjoyed. Koizumi may be in better shape than his European counterparts. But weighing him down are tensions with North Korea and China, and public concern about expected tax cuts and pension restructuring.

- Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to consolidate power and exercise more control over regional leaders. But his rollback of press and political freedoms and his pursuit of oil giant Yukos have drawn international condemnation and clouded Russia's business climate.

Analysts see common themes for the leaders' tough times: high unemployment and slow growth in Germany and France; social tensions associated with Muslim immigration; and a backlash against "globalization" as industries move their operations to low-wage countries.

Bush himself is having trouble on Social Security, judicial nominations and other domestic priorities. Yet, analysts suggest, the president has had strong run internationally over the past few months - even with the continuing violence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He persuaded European powers to negotiate with Iran over Tehran's nuclear ambitions. He watched democratic elections and the formation of a new government in Iraq. He successfully prodded Syria to withdraw from Lebanon.

And he is taking an active role in trying to nudge Israelis and Palestinians toward peace.

France's ambassador to the United States spoke recently of the effect of Bush's winning a second term.

"The moment President Bush was re-elected, he extended the hand of friendship and cooperation to the leaders of Europe," said Jean-David Levitte. "Style has changed."

Comment: Perhaps Bush's lack of troubles at home despite his falling approval rating are an indication that the US is simply more controlled than other nations, and not that the leaders of other nations have less "clout". Hitler was praised as a great leader even by US news publications before the Nazi regime went into overdrive and mercilessly slaughtered millions.

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White House reviewing anti-terrorism approach-paper
Reuters
Sun May 29, 9:11 AM ET

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration is undertaking a review of its anti-terrorism strategy in recognition that the al Qaeda network has morphed substantially in past years, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.

Frances Fragos Townsend, President Bush's top adviser on terrorism, told the newspaper the review was meant to broaden the U.S. approach from its focus on capturing and killing al Qaeda leaders linked to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"Naturally, the enemy has adapted," she was quoted saying. "As you capture a Khalid Sheik Mohammed, an Abu Faraj al-Libbi raises up. Nature abhors a vacuum."

Administration officials declined to specify the policies under consideration in the review, the newspaper said.

Still, it said much attention is focused on how to deal with a new generation of terrorists schooled in Iraq, including jihadists who have since moved to other countries across the Middle East and Western Europe.

Several administration officials said the review could lead to a new national security presidential directive superseding the October 2001 document signed by Bush that pledged the "elimination of terrorism as a threat to our way of life," the newspaper said.

Comment: In other words, the next phase of the "War on Terror" will soon begin.

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2 Accused of Conspiring to Aid Terrorists
By LARRY NEUMEISTER
Associated Press
May 29, 2005

NEW YORK - FBI agents in Florida and New York arrested two men who prosecutors said were secretly recorded during a two-year sting operation pledging their support and loyalty to al-Qaida.

Authorities said Sunday that Rafiq Abdus Sabir, 50, a Boca Raton physician, and Tarik Shah, 42, a self-described martial arts expert in New York, conspired to treat and train terrorists. Both are American citizens.

Both men were scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in federal court, Shah in New York and Sabir in Florida, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney David Kelley in Manhattan.

It was not immediately clear who would represent them in court. If convicted, each man faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

The one-count complaint claims the men allegedly took an oath pledging their allegiance to al-Qaida. The government said the men engaged in multiple recorded conversations with a confidential source and an FBI agent posing as an al-Qaida operative.

During the conversations, Shah also described how he and Sabir in 1998 tried to get to training camps in Afghanistan and said they were a "package" deal, Kelley said in the release.

Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly said, "It is particularly gratifying that someone using New York City as a base for terrorist support is now in custody."

As recently as May 20, during a meeting at a New York City apartment, Sabir indicated he would travel shortly to Saudi Arabia to treat the wounds of jihadists at a Saudi military base, prosecutors said. Travel records showed he was scheduled to leave Thursday.

Comment: "Jihadists" were being treated at a Saudi military base?? See the next article for more information on the Vinnell corporation, a US company that trains the Saudi military.

During recorded conversations, Shah also repeatedly indicated his desire to train Muslim "brothers" in the martial arts and hand-to-hand combat, the release said.

Shah took steps to find secret locations for jihad weapons training, at one point inspecting a Long Island warehouse, and described previous efforts to recruit others, prosecutors said.

Sabir was being held at the Palm Beach County Jail; it was not immediately known where Shah was being held. There was no phone listing for Sabir in Boca Raton, Fla. A phone number listed for Shah in Poughkeepsie, N.Y, rang unanswered Sunday evening.

Comment: Shah is the one who has made all the claims used to arrest Sabir, even saying they were a "package deal" - yet no one knows what prison Shah is in, and he doesn't have a phone number listed...

Shah's mother, Marlene Jenkins, called the charges against her son "ridiculous."

"He's no terrorist," Jenkins, of Albany, N.Y., told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Monday's editions.

Sabir is a licensed medical doctor in Florida, New York and Pennsylvania, according to the Florida Department of Health Web site. He received his medical degree from Columbia University in 1981 and his bachelor's degree from City of New York College.

Daniel McBride, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, said Sabir lived in a Boca Raton gated community with Arleen Morgan, a registered nurse, and their two young sons.

"While we were married he was a lovely father and husband, and nothing if not a hardworking man," Sabir's former wife, Ingrid Doyle, of New York City, told the newspaper. "I'm still reeling from this, and my daughter has been crying all day."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Signs Economic Commentary

Donald Hunt
May 30, 2005

The euro closed at 1.2542 dollars on Friday, down 0.17% from last week's 1.2563 dollars, with traders reacting in advance to France's rejection of the proposed EU constitution. That put the dollar at .7973 euros compared to .7960 the previous Friday. In U.S. stock markets, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 10,542.55 on Friday, up 0.67% from 10,471.91 a week earlier. The NASDAQ closed at 2075.73 up 1.4% from 2,046.42 the week before. The yield on the ten-year U.S. Treasury bond was 4.07% at Friday's close, down five basis points from 4.12 the previous Friday, continuing a trend of falling long-term interest rates recently in the United States at a time when short-term rates are rising. Gold closed at $422.70 an ounce up 1.2% from 417.60 on the previous Friday. Gold in euros would be 337.03 euros an ounce, up 1.4% from 332.40 a week earlier. Oil closed at 51.85 dollars a barrel, up sharply (9.2%) from last week's $47.50. In euros, a barrel of oil would cost 41.34 euros, up 9.3% from 37.81 at the previous week's close. An ounce of gold would buy 8.15 barrels of oil down 7.9% compared to 8.79 on the previous Friday.

The vote on Sunday the 29th in France to reject the proposed EU constitution, which polls had predicted during the past week, led to some continuing weakness in the euro and to some soul-searching in Europe.

Euro Drops Versus Dollar, Yen; France Rejects EU Constitution

May 30 (Bloomberg) -- The euro fell against the dollar and yen in Asia after France rejected the European Union constitution in a referendum, hindering integration of the region's economies.

The legislation was aimed at streamlining decision-making after the EU's expansion last year to 25 members from 15. The euro has dropped 2.8 percent this month as opinion polls showed ebbing support for the constitution and reports indicated the region's economy is struggling to grow.

"This is pretty bad news," said Luke Waddington, head of currency trading in Tokyo at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc. "It's quite straight-forward: sell the euro. It's going to go lower."

Against the dollar, the euro fell to $1.2540 as of 10:27 a.m. in Tokyo, from $1.2584 late on May 27 in New York, according to electronic currency-dealing system EBS. The currency was headed for its worst decline in four months against the dollar. It also fell to 135.33 yen from 135.82.

Waddington, who came in at 4 a.m. to monitor the results, said the euro may fall below $1.25 today.

Fifty-five percent of French voters cast their ballots against the constitution compared with 45 percent in favor, the Interior Ministry said.

The French "no" vote means "we're entering a period of high uncertainty, and investors don't like uncertainty," French Finance Minister Thierry Breton said on France 2 television.

Declines in the euro may be limited because many investors probably sold the currency in the weeks before the vote as opinion polls suggested a rejection of the treaty, said John Horner, a currency strategist at Deutsche Bank AG in Sydney.

"Widely Expected"

"It was widely expected we'd get a result like this," Horner said. "It's pretty closed to priced in. The euro may fall to about $1.2450 and that would pretty much do it."

...The French referendum result kills the EU constitution and may cast doubt on closer ties with members of the bloc that haven't adopted the euro, and set back plans by countries including Turkey and Croatia to join.

"A Problem"

Rejection by France, one of the EU's founding members, gives investors already disappointed by the region's faltering economy one more reason to sell the euro, said Guy Stern, who oversees $17.8 billion in assets as chief investment officer of Credit Suisse Asset Management's German business in Frankfurt. The currency is down 8 percent from a record $1.3666 on Dec. 30.

"We will have a problem with the euro," Stern said. "It could depreciate 5 percent to 10 percent."

 The poor growth numbers for the euro-zone countries has even led to some questioning as to whether the euro is a good thing for Europe or not. The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) released its semi-annual report last week, pointing to the slow growth in Europe and to the massive deficits in the United States as contributors to a possible "doomsday." Here's Nick Beams:

A summary of the report presented by OECD chief economist Jean-Philippe Cotis made clear that the continued lack of growth in Europe is causing increased concern. "The smooth scenario where the recovery was expected to spread more evenly across the OECD has not materialised. While some elements of this scenario, such as a relatively successful 'soft landing' in the United States and a rebound of activity in Japan may be in place, what is badly lacking is sustained momentum in the euro zone."

Cotis said that "circumstantial arguments" used to explain the lack of growth in Europe, such as the Iraq war, oil and commodity price shocks as well as currency fluctuations, were "not sufficient to explain the string of aborted recoveries in Europe."

..."These continuing divergences in domestic demand between Europe and some Asian countries on the one hand, and the United States on the other, cannot be treated with benign neglect," he said. Given the unsustainable US current account position, the pressure to correct the imbalances would grow, possibly taking the form of "an abrupt weakening of the dollar with adverse consequences for the OECD area as a whole."

Cotis told the Financial Times (FT): "Were not saying there will be doomsday tomorrow morning ... but because the adjustments (to global imbalances) are relatively slow, we are running the risk an accident will happen. That's where we are. Time is running out—the numbers are getting big, big, big."

What might be causing lack of growth in Europe?

For some years the prevailing mantra has been that Europe must undergo "structural reforms" - the adoption of "free market" measures, cuts in social welfare and a more "flexible" workforce - in order to boost growth. But, according to a member of the European Central Bank (ECB), these measures do not seem to be working.

Erkki Liikanen, governor of the Bank of Finland, told the Financial Times this week that reforms that allowed for increased competition had not overcome poor economic performance. The issue had been discussed in the ECB but "we don't have an answer. Perhaps the reforms first increase uncertainty." Liikanen said he was unsure whether the eurozone economy would pick up this year.

One reason for the sluggish domestic demand can be seen in the figures on real wages for the euro area prepared by the OECD. These show that, on average, real hourly rates across the region are falling at the rate of 1 percent, with the largest declines experienced in Italy and Germany. With falling wages putting a dampener on consumption demand, the OECD has called on the ECB to make a significant cut in interest rates, saying that in the context of low underlying inflation and weak aggregate demand, the case for an easing of monetary policy looked "rather compelling."

Could it be the euro itself that is hampering national economies in Europe? From Business Week:

Squeezed By The Euro

By Jack Ewing in Frankfurt, with Carol Matlack in Paris, Stanley Reed in London, Maureen Kline in Milan, Carlta Vitzthum in Madrid, and bureau reports

Fri May 27, 8:07 AM ET

Were the skeptics right? In early 1998, University of Bonn Professor Manfred J.M. Neumann mobilized 155 fellow economists to protest the coming introduction of the European common currency. The euro was dangerously premature, they argued in open letters published in major newspapers. Big countries such as Germany and France lacked the flexible labor markets they needed to compensate for losing control over monetary policy as a tool to promote growth. Needless to say, the protests had little effect. The euro blasted off on Jan. 1, 1999, as planned.

Six years later, Neumann's warning seems ominously prescient. Far from becoming a powerhouse to compete with the U.S. and Asia, Europe in the past four years has been nearly stagnant, with average annual growth in the euro zone of of 1.2% since 2002. Meanwhile, it's hard to overlook the superior economic performance of European Union members that stayed clear of the common currency. Britain and Sweden have enjoyed healthy expansions and lower unemployment. Britain's jobless rate is 4.7%, compared with 8.9% for the euro zone.

Even common currency champions such as European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet see little chance of a euroland boom anytime soon. Just as Neumann predicted, overregulated labor markets in much of the euro zone prevent pay scales from reacting fast enough to competitive pressure from abroad. And individual countries can no longer compensate for these rigidities by devaluing their currencies to boost exports, usually through the swift downward movement of interest rates. "Unfortunately," says Professor Neumann ruefully, "we were right."

That raises a larger question: Was the euro a mistake? Not even euro-skeptics such as Neumann argue that the currency should be scrapped now that euro coins and notes have become a fact of life from Finland to Greece. "It would be insane to give up the euro. We have to make the most of it," Neumann says.

Impatience On The Rise

Still, the question hangs in the air, especially amid evidence of growing popular discontent over core Europe's dreadful economic performance. A dramatic expression of that discontent came on May 22 when German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder's Social Democratic Party [SPD] was booted from power in North Rhine-Westphalia, an economically battered industrial state that had been ruled by the party for four decades. Schroder, in what amounts to an admission that his tepid economic reforms have failed, has called for national elections in September, a year early. In addition, French and Dutch voters may reject the proposed European constitution in referendums May 29 and June 1. If so, the votes will surely be interpreted as protests against a European system that seems ever more powerful yet ever more unable to deliver jobs and prosperity. The euro is integral to that system.

Stagnation and political upheaval were obviously not part of the plan when the currency was launched six years ago. At the time, euro-optimism was running high. The idea was this: Before they could adopt the currency, countries like France, Germany, Italy, and others would rein in their budget deficits, and afterwards keep public spending in check to support monetary union. The existence of one currency, backed by fiscal discipline across the board, would then turn the half-fiction of a common market into reality. As Europe's various economies melded together into one, internal barriers to competition would tumble and the best-managed countries and companies would pull ahead. Countries that lagged would respond by loosening labor rules and cutting taxes to boost competitiveness. Like the Bundesbank, which had made Germany a beacon of monetary stability, the ECB would squash any hint of inflation with a rate hike. If countries wanted to grow, they would have to deregulate their economies and keep wage hikes in line with productivity.

Of course, for Business Week, it is the fault of Europeans for not being "flexible" enough, but Europeans are smart enough to know that "flexibility" usually means that the rich get richer and everyone else gets poorer and less secure. And, sure enough, the article calls for those countries in the euro-zone which are lagging in "reform" (neo-liberal, low-wage, low-benefit, low-social spending reform) to get with the program in order to save the euro.

ECB President Trichet was at pains to point out the euro's benefits to an Italian business audience recently. But in a sign of growing nervousness within the bank, he also warned political leaders to step up the pace of reform. "Many countries have not adapted their economic, social, and legal frameworks in order to face the new challenges," Trichet said.

Some governments have pulled off those changes, cutting taxes, rolling back job regulations, and eliminating barriers to competition. That's true of countries in the euro, like Ireland, and outside it, like Britain, Denmark, and Sweden, which focused on deep structural reforms after experiencing wrenching economic crises. Now, Germany may get a reformist government in September led by Christian Democrat Angela Merkel.

In past weeks we have looked at the problem of outsourcing in Europe as well as the neoliberal attack on European social democracy. Clearly, global capital wants to reduce social safety net spending in Europe and to reduce wages there as well. Both of these things (falling wages and the real probability of falling benefits) will tend to reduce consumer spending. The only reason they haven't in the United States is the insane level of consumer debt there. In Europe, in contrast to the United States, long, often-painful, national histories provide the antidote to the temptation to live in a rosy illusion (American exceptionalism, and optimism). Consumer capitalism thrives on illusion, however, so it will entice suckers into the hall of mirrors whenever it can, and we in the United States like our illusions. As the American Al Martin (http://www.almartinraw.com) put it:

The Norwegians, unlike the British, have wisely subordinated all of their North Sea oil income for the first 30 years into a national trust fund, for the benefit of the Norwegian people.

Why can't we have that? Because we have Bushonomics. Norway is not plagued with Bushes. Norway is a Western European country; i.e., a country where citizens are more adroit, more educated, more aware of economics than Americans, and the fiscal practices practiced in the United States under Bushonian regimes would not be allowed. There is no other nation on earth that it would be allowed. It is only the naivete of the American people on all things economic which allows the fiscally destructive practice of Bushonomics to be maintained. Because the American people don't know the difference.

This then bespeaks of the growing schism between Washington and the rest of the planet.

Martin says that the rest of the world is starting to pull the plug on the United States economy:

[T]he US Treasury Department announced on May 16 that foreign investments in U.S. securities fell from $84.1 billion in February 2005 to $45.7 billion in March 2005.

This is a monthly statistic known as "net foreign flow of funds." It did raise some eyebrows since the net foreign inflows into the United States by about half of the number of the previous month. The Street was looking for a number of about $70 billion.

Another interesting thing about this number is that foreign accounts were net sellers of U.S. Treasury securities in April for the first time in 18 months.

... This is being accomplished the way that the South Korean central bank is doing it, which announced that they are actually allowing some of their 2-year U.S. Treasury notes to go into redemption without rolling them over.

In other words, the foreign central banks aren't actually selling U.S. Treasury securities outright. They are simply taking short term 2- and 3-year U.S. Treasury notes that they hold and simply not rolling them over. In essence, they are allowing them to go into redemption, as a way to withdraw funds from the United States.

As the South Korean bank, interestingly enough, points out, they were concerned about becoming direct sellers of U.S. Treasury instruments in a market which is increasingly uncertain. The South Korean bank was saying -- Who would be the potential buyers?

...However, if the central banks began selling, remember, this is what Paul O'Neill called 'The Bushonian Nightmare Scenario.'
If the central banks begin selling, and they constitute 2/3 of the buyers, there is no market for them.

As former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill pointed out,
the U.S. Treasury no longer has the ability to step into the markets, acting either on its own behalf or through the Federal Reserve, to purchase U.S. Treasury instruments on an emergency basis in order to stabilize the market. Why? Because the Bush Cheney regime has bled out from the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve all of its operating surplus accounts as well as the Federal Reserve's $20 billion emergency currency stabilization account.

Yet the housing bubble continues in the United States, with "McMansions" going up everywhere you look. According to Business Week, this housing-driven boom is distorting the U.S. economy by sending spending to the lower-tech sectors.

The Cost of All Those McMansions

By Michael Mandel

Thu May 26, 8:19 AM ET

It's like living in a parallel universe. Surprising most economists, mortgage rates have gone down in recent weeks rather than up. The housing market, instead of cooling, has stayed hot, with record sales of existing homes in April. And prices are up 15% over a year ago. Even Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who has regularly dismissed the possibility of a housing bubble, is worrying that current trends are "unsustainable."

But whether prices level out, crash, or even keep going up, the housing boom is already having pernicious economic effects. The real problem: the incredible amount of resources -- workers, materials, and money -- being sucked into home construction and renovation.

EVER UPWARD. Residential investment has become a black hole, absorbing a staggering 5.8% of gross domestic product. That's the highest level since the late 1940s and early '50s, when an entire generation of returning soldiers was setting up families and expanding into newly built suburbs. This time, Americans are building second homes and enlarging current ones at a record pace.

By comparison, the tech boom of the '90s was at worst a baby bubble. Starting in 1991, business investment in information technology and communications gear began a steady climb, going from 3.1% to a peak of 4.8% in 2000 before collapsing.

Without much fanfare, residential construction basically followed the same path in the 1990s. Starting at 3.4% of GDP in 1991, it rose to 4.6% in 2000. But rather than turn down, as tech did, spending on housing just kept climbing, fueled by low interest rates. Measured by the increase in its share of GDP, the housing boom so far is about 40% larger than the tech boom.

LOW-TECH. Is the housing boom a bubble? As Greenspan has said, it's hard to tell. But what's certain is that housing-driven growth, while creating jobs and lifting wealth, is also distorting the economy, benefiting low-tech commodity sectors rather than the high-tech industries at the heart of America's competitive strength.

New homes are built mainly out of materials, such as wood for the frame and floors, plasterboard for the walls, and fabricated metal parts for plumbing fixtures. High-tech equipment plays a very small role. Even when new homes include cable for broadband -- so-called structured wiring -- the high-tech component accounts for at most 1% or 2% of the entire cost of the home.

Calculations by BusinessWeek show that construction is among the least info-tech-intensive of all industries. In 2003, the latest data available, only 1.6 cents of every construction dollar was used for info-related products and services, such as computer gear, data-processing services, and telecom services. This includes both the tech-related products used in the building process and tech investment by construction companies. Most other industries -- including retailing, manufacturing, education, and health care -- are much heavier users of info tech.

Here again, we see the bourgeois, neo-liberal bias of Business Week in their unexamined assumptions. They seem to look down their noses at real substances ("New homes are built mainly out of materials..." no kidding! ). The problem is not where the money is going it's where it came from (debt). And the lack of investment in high-tech jobs (not companies) in the United States. The fact that the housing industry is not "high tech" is meaningless in this regard, since high-tech consumer spending goes towards electronics, which are not produced in the United States. The computer software industry, once a dominant strength of the United States, is offshoring its jobs as fast as it can to India. Construction trades cannot be offshored, someone has to come to your site and pound nails, connect wires and install the plumbing. And, not surprisingly, formerly rural townspeople in the exurbs (the far reaches of suburbia) have seen great increases in wealth during the housing boom of the last ten years (that, and the fact that most of the recipients of those jobs and that wealth were white male, small business owners provided a lot of votes for Bush in the last two elections). The class bias of the editors of Business Week is clear, the money should go to educated "innovators" not skilled craftspeople. After an economic crash, however, it may be the craftspeople who will have skills that still mean something.

Business Week concludes with this:

What happens when the housing boom finally slows? The share of GDP going into housing construction will fall sharply, hurting construction workers, architects, and homebuilders. Homeowners will no longer be able to draw on rising home equity. And what about Americans who borrowed heavily to buy properties for investment, expecting prices to keep climbing? Much like the companies who built miles of now-unused fiber-optic cable during the 1990s, they will be in deep trouble.

Yet even if there are temporary disruptions, the end of the housing boom may be good news for the overall economy. The U.S. doesn't need to drive growth with ornate new homes and elaborate kitchens with expensive marble counters. Instead, a shift away from housing could free up hundreds of billions of dollars for other, more productive investments.

That "deep trouble" will probably extend a lot farther than they are letting on in that article if the U.S. housing bubble pops. But articles like the one above do make it seem like they are setting the stage to pop the bubble soon. When the lumbering New York Times jumps on the bandwagon, the pop is well overdue. In contrast to Business Week, however, they do manage to understand the consequences:

Hear a Pop? Watch Out

NOW that even Alan Greenspan is talking about "froth" in real estate markets, how concerned should people be - not just about the value of their own homes, but about the entire country?

After all, we just had a big stock market bust and it barely dented the economy. Outside of brokers, speculators, and a few unlucky sellers, would a real estate crash really matter to the country as a whole?

In a word, yes. To understand why, first look at how pervasive the effects of real estate are throughout the economy.

Start with the so-called wealth effect. If people tend to spend more when their net worth increases, they'll spend less when it decreases. Economists use this rule of thumb: a $1 change in household wealth leads to a roughly 5-cent change in consumer spending. By that measure, a 10 percent decline in real estate prices would knock about half a percent off the gross domestic product.

Even more significant for the economy, though, would be a collapse in home equity lending. The industry has been booming as housing prices have soared. But if prices stop rising, new borrowing against home equity will drop, and may disappear.

That is important, because home equity lending amounted to more than $200 billion last year - or nearly 2 percent of the economy, according to Economy.com, a research group based outside Philadelphia. If all that borrowing - which freed up cash that was spent on new furniture, appliances, vacations, cars and the like - simply vanished, the effect could be large enough all by itself to send the economy into recession.

But that's not all. The housing sector has even broader effects on the economy, by some estimates accounting for 25 percent of all activity. A decline in property values would most likely lead to declines in other industries, like construction, brokerage, banking and insurance. And these are important for future growth. Construction, for example, amounts to 4 percent to 5 percent of the economy, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Then there's banking. Because of the leverage associated with real estate, a fall in values would affect banks and other lenders. It would probably lead to tightened credit standards, less lending and higher interest rates. If lenders begin to suffer steep losses, there is always the danger of financial contagion, in which problems at one institution ripple out to others it does business with.

And there's a new wild card for the economy. In 2004, adjustable-rate mortgages made up a third of new mortgage originations. No one knows what the effect of the widespread use of A.R.M.'s would be in a down market. A climb in interest rates, of course, would put downward pressure on real estate prices, but A.R.M. borrowers would feel the pinch rapidly. If those borrowers started to default, lenders would be hurt.

Adding it all up, it's easy to see how a drop in real estate prices would spell trouble for the economy. To put that in perspective, the International Monetary Fund conducted a detailed study in 2003 that assessed the potential economic impact of a property slump. Reviewing the experience in the United States and 13 other industrialized countries, the I.M.F. found that a real estate bust is far more dangerous to the economy than a stock market bust.

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A Principled No
Paul-Marie Coûteaux
Revue Républicaine

What should we retain from this campaign? First, an astonishing convergence, from Villiers to Fabius, from Chevènement to LePen, around what we could call the five dykes of the secular policy of France: The State, the Nation, the spiritual-temporal distinction, popular legitimacy, the primacy of politics.

The State. They all challenged the reduction of the Law, in the name of "liberalism", to almost nothing, such as the intervention in economic life so necessary since Philippe the Bel or Colbert: targeted by all was the absurd principle of unfettered competition that today would prohibit the creation of Airbus or ARIANE, would prevent States from establishing, alone or in co-operation, an industrial and commercial policy that alone could stop the disindustrialization of the continent.

The nation. All the "NON" refuse to define our foreign policy and our defense within the frameworks of NATO. This heteroclite assemblage, which formerly brought down the CED, reaffirms the principle of the United Nations as the only way of securing the world, its riches, its balances, the diversity of its people against the hubris of the absolute empire.

Distinction of spiritual and temporal, the old principle of biblical inspiration continues on the right as on the left under the vague name of "the secular": we are not surprized that the Islamists vote yes, understanding the benefits they could get from a Constitution that cuts Europe from its "Christian roots" for purposes of opening the door in Turkey.

Popular sovereignty. "No" supporters agreed also to condemn the omnipresence of the unelected Commission, an organisation without a link to any elected government. To the couple it forms with the Court of Justice of Luxembourg, a court whose power would be reinforced by the judicial uncertainty of such imprecision, the "Non" oppose the couples Council-Parliament, States and people, without whom no undertaking would have the least popular legitimacy.

The primacy of politics, French principle par excellence, inspires the same refusal of a text which inscribes once and for all in bronze the politics of twenty-five or thirty States exposed to so many contradictory challenges.

But, in fine, above all the arguments and noise, it is another voice that will emerge, a voice always silenced, always rediscovered: against a kind of yes felt as a fatalist consent to the world such as it is, will reappear here or there what Mr. Fabius called, in front of the "Academy of Gaullism", the "universal vocation of France", a France that overflows a Europe in some ways too small for it, and which, vis-a-vis two other universalisms of the day, American materialism and Islamic dogmatism, delivers everywhere the spiritual principles of which it remains the daughter, the humanistic tradition that makes France, in the eyes of so much of people, the guardian of humanity, a spiritual combat in a strict sense of the term.

In the end, what will be the question in the secrecy of the voting booth? It will be about France, the heritage of which we are not owners but only furtive agents; of forgetfullness or of gratitude, of mistrust or confidence — all things considered, as always, of Love.

Comment: The defeat of the Constitution is being portrayed in certain quarters as a rejection of the policies of the Chirac/Raffarin government, as if the French citizen is not capable of seeing what is going on in Europe. This article may be closer to the truth, framing the no vote in a tradition that has deep roots in France.

The vote was clear. Fifty-five percent of French voters do not want the liberal economics and capitalist psychopathy promoted in the rejected Constitution. For all of their fascination with and admiration of many things American, most French do not want to give up what they have, the strong social ties, the subsidies that keep French farming alive, the holidays and 35 hour week enjoyed by all French workers, and the other trappings of an economy where government intervention and control is necessary and desired.

However, many papers in France and elsewhere are repeating the line of the defeated politicians that Europe is in crisis. But is it Europe that is in crisis or simply a certain neo-liberal vision of Europe? Will the people of other countries, emboldened by the French vote, similarly express their displeasure? Or will the bureaucrats keep the voting under control by giving it to the Houses of Parliament and other assemblies where an "indirect" legitimacy can be secured?

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In terrorism fight, government finds a surprising ally: FedEx
Thursday, May 26, 2005
By Robert Block, The Wall Street Journal

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Before Sept. 11, 2001, when federal law-enforcement officials asked FedEx Corp. for help, the company had its limits. It wouldn't provide access to its databases. It often refused to lend uniforms or delivery trucks to agents for undercover operations, citing fears of retribution against employees as well as concerns about customer privacy.

Then came the attacks on New York and Washington and pleas from the government for private-sector help in fighting terrorism. Suddenly, the king of overnight delivery became one of homeland security's best friends.

FedEx has opened the international portion of its databases, including credit-card details, to government officials. It has created a police force recognized by the state of Tennessee that works alongside the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The company has rolled out radiation detectors at overseas facilities to detect dirty bombs and donated an airplane to federal researchers looking for a defense against shoulder-fired missiles.

Moreover, the company is encouraging its 250,000 employees to be spotters of would-be terrorists. It is setting up a system designed to send reports of suspicious activities directly to the Department of Homeland Security via a special computer link.

FedEx's newfound enthusiasm for a frontline role in the war on terror shows how the relationship between business and government has changed in the past few years. In some cases, these changes are blurring the division between private commerce and public law enforcement.

After Sept. 11, the U.S. government altered the definition of a good corporate citizen to include help running down al Qaeda operatives, often asking companies to act as the eyes and ears of federal law enforcement. The Bush administration and Senate Republican leaders are currently pushing an updated version of the Patriot Act that would expand the ability of law-enforcement agencies to demand business records without a warrant. Already, some companies are voluntarily increasing their level of cooperation with the government, say law-enforcement officials.

Federal agents privately praise Western Union for sharing information with Treasury and Homeland Security investigators about overseas money transfers. Time Warner Inc.'s America Online has set up a dedicated hotline to help police officers seeking AOL subscriber information and also proffers advice about wording subpoenas. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which has a sophisticated supply-chain security system, has been helping U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents figure out how to better track international shipping, say Homeland Security officials.

Spokespeople for Western Union, AOL and Wal-Mart all say their companies take consumers' privacy seriously and that they cooperate with legal investigations. They wouldn't provide details about their cooperation with the government.

Business associations say the government's call to arms gets a good reception in part because companies want to prevent the disruption and bad publicity that would come from terrorists using their systems. "All we are trying to do is to protect our assets and not have our assets be used for bad purposes," says Fred Smith, FedEx's chief executive.

Supporters of an expanded role for business in homeland security note that U.S. industry has often been a government ally in wartime. After the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. manufacturers responded by retooling factories to produce tanks, trucks, planes and munitions.

Cooperation between businesses and federal law-enforcement agencies generally isn't advertised and customers are seldom aware of it. In some cases, people waive their right to privacy when they use a particular company's service. With FedEx, customers consent to having shipments inspected as soon as they hand over their packages and sign the shipping forms.

Lee Strickland, a retired Central Intelligence Agency analyst and a specialist in privacy issues, says the new cooperation between business and the government takes place in a legal "gray zone" that has never been tested in court. He says these relationships could undermine existing privacy laws that restrict what the government can do with information it collects directly from individuals. In general, the government can only use information for the express reason it's collected.

"Since you don't know what information is being shared and how it is being stored, or how it is coded or accessed, and since you don't know what the government is looking for, there is always a possibility that it could be factored into other decisions," says Mr. Strickland. He is now the director of the Center for Information Policy at the University of Maryland.

Some companies in a position to assist aren't rushing to help. OnStar, General Motors Corp.'s in-car emergency communications system, says it won't provide information to authorities, such as the location of a vehicle, unless presented with a warrant. "OnStar philosophy is to err on the side of customer privacy," says Terry Sullivan, an OnStar spokesman. He says the company fears the public won't buy the system if people believe it's being used for surveillance.

Other shippers say they have refrained from granting a level of access similar to that of FedEx without court orders. At rival United Parcel Service Inc., spokesman David Bolger says the company won't disclose information about its customers' shipments unless required to do so by law or regulation.

The U.S. Postal Service says it doesn't provide customer payment information without a warrant. In addition, postal officials say, law-enforcement agencies are prohibited from collecting information from envelopes and packages sent through the mail without a court order.

Government officials say that the struggle against terrorism is an unorthodox fight where information and intelligence is as important as guns and bullets. Information is what FedEx has in spades.

To orchestrate its deliveries, FedEx has spent billions of dollars over the past 15 years on elaborate computer systems. It compiles troves of data about its customers and the six million packages carried daily across the world, tracking them from point of origin to final destination.

The company also maintains a large global security force, currently 500 strong. Before 9/11, it concentrated on combating employee theft and intercepting illegal shipments of narcotics, explosives or hazardous materials.

FedEx's change in mindset took place within hours of the attacks amid the confusion and frustration that followed. Mr. Smith sent a message to his subordinates "to do whatever it takes to cooperate" with federal agents, says FedEx spokeswoman Kristin Krause. This included opening up FedEx's operations in the Middle East to federal authorities and asking employees there to help investigators.

The reason behind the shift, FedEx security officials say: The company saw the nature of the threat changing. When the government wanted help fighting drugs and smuggling, FedEx felt many of its requests were intrusive and threatened to slow the pace of their deliveries.

When the worry was terrorism, Mr. Smith says, the company saw its entire system as vulnerable because trucks and planes have been the "instrument of choice" of extremists such as Timothy McVeigh as well as Islamist terrorists. FedEx's security team -- which includes several former federal law-enforcement officials -- took tactics for thwarting drug traffickers and adapted them for use against terrorism. Among them was encouraging employees to report unusual activity, no matter how small.

In December 2001, according to court records in Illinois, a FedEx driver became suspicious after making a series of deliveries of boxes to an apartment complex in suburban Chicago. The cartons were always the same size and shape and came from the same address in Los Angeles. Worried there was something sinister afoot, the driver informed his bosses and FedEx called the police.

Suspecting narcotics or explosives, the police showed up at the FedEx depot with bomb- and drug-sniffing dogs. The dogs didn't signal there was anything illicit in the boxes. FedEx then invoked the authority granted to it by every customer, which the police don't automatically have, permitting it to inspect any package without a warrant.

With a police officer looking on, FedEx popped the carton. Instead of anything dangerous, the boxes contained several hundred pre-recorded compact discs. Local police launched an investigation that eventually uncovered a CD-bootlegging operation.

At FedEx's main hub in Memphis, Tenn., cartons and envelopes whiz around a maze of automatic conveyer belts past giant laser scanners charting each package's journey. The parcels are sorted by employees armed with pocket guides to help identify suspicious packages. Security guards keep watch through a network of cameras. Customs agents' cars marked with the Homeland Security logo are parked outside some of the buildings.

By law, all express courier services are required to provide space for U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at their facilities. Since 9/11, FedEx has gone further and has granted customs inspectors access to the company's database of international shipments, which includes the name and address of a shipper, the package's origin and its final destination.

The databases also include credit-card information and other payment details that the government is not entitled to solicit outside of a criminal investigation. "Our guys just love it," says one senior customs official overseeing inspections at international courier companies.

The agents cross-reference the information from FedEx's systems with their own databases. That helps them flag suspicious packages for a manual inspection and also helps them determine whether credit cards have been used in other suspicious transactions. FedEx and customs officials say the close cooperation allows customs agents do their jobs faster and allows FedEx to avoid shipment delays.

Pat Jones, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, says having access to FedEx's database has resulted in the seizure of several packages, including forged Iowa drivers licenses sent from Argentina, although nothing related to terrorism.

Sitting in FedEx's huge Washington office, which has a commanding view of the Capitol building, Mr. Smith, 61 years old, dismisses privacy concerns stemming from his company's cooperation with federal agencies. He says people already hand over tremendous amounts of information to the government, including personal-income data and details contained on a driver's license.

"As far as asking people to identify who they are, I don't think that's a real imposition. And to make that information available to the people protecting the public, I don't understand why that's as controversial as that has become," says Mr. Smith, who started FedEx 34 years ago after two tours of duty in Vietnam as a Marine officer. He says FedEx is willing to cooperate with federal authorities "up to and including the line on which we would be doing a disservice to our shareholders."

In a recent article in Chief Executive magazine, Mr. Smith wrote that his fellow corporate leaders had a duty to report suspicious activity. It's only by "training and empowering our own employees" that terrorism can be contained, he wrote.

Mr. Smith also sees a quid pro quo: In the post-Sept. 11 world, he sees the government sharing more with the private sector. As the president of the Security Task Force of the Business Roundtable -- an association of top U.S. chief executives -- Mr. Smith is leading a drive to gain access to the government's secret terrorist watch lists. He says they would be an invaluable tool to help companies screen employees.

So far the FBI, which controls the lists, says there's no sign the government will grant access to the classified databases. But FedEx already has access to some classified information through other channels.

Two years ago, after intense lobbying by FedEx of the Tennessee state legislature, the company was permitted to create a 10-man, state-recognized police force. FedEx police wear plain clothes and can investigate all types of crimes, request search warrants and make arrests on FedEx property. The courier cops say their main job is to protect company property and systems from abuse and fraud and help combat terrorists and criminals.

As a recognized police force in Tennessee, it has access to law-enforcement databases. FedEx also has a seat on a regional terrorism task force, overseen by the FBI, which has access to sensitive data regarding terrorist threats. Robert Bryden, the recently retired vice president of FedEx corporate security, says it's "remarkable" for a private company to have a seat on the task force. Across the country, FedEx is the only one, the FBI says.

FBI agent George Bolds, general counsel in the bureau's Memphis field office, says the bureau believes the FedEx police have a contribution to make. He says they can't go on raids or undertake surveillance missions with other task-force members.

The government also recognizes FedEx's potential as a vast human-intelligence network. The company's teams of drivers and delivery staff ply regular routes and visit homes and workplaces across the world. That puts them in a unique position to recognize potentially dangerous activity.

In 2002, the Department of Justice, under then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, devised a program to create an army of domestic informants. Operation Terrorism Information and Prevention System, or TIPS, envisioned workers such as couriers, meter readers, utility companies, truck drivers, letter carriers and train engineers organized into a force that would "report suspicious, publicly observable activity that could be related to terrorism," the government said at the time.

TIPS was supposed to be up and running by fall of 2002 but was abandoned after a public outcry and complaints from some companies. When UPS first heard about the program, its officials told the Department of Justice their employees would not participate, says spokesman Mr. Bolger. "We said we don't have time and our employees don't know what to look for. We are not law enforcement," he says.

After the collapse of TIPS, FedEx pressed ahead with its own program, one that embodied many of the same objectives, much to the delight of the government.

In a June 2003 speech delivered at a law-enforcement conference, then-Assistant Attorney General Deborah J. Daniels praised the firm for demonstrating "the tremendous role that companies like FedEx can play in passing along information about publicly observed aberrant behavior."

Mr. Bryden, the former security chief, says FedEx worked with Homeland Security officials last summer to develop a computer system that simplifies the reporting of suspicious behavior. FedEx spokeswoman Ms. Krause says the two sides met again in March and says the program should soon go through testing. The Department of Homeland Security declined to comment on the program.

"We secure our supply chain and help the country," says Mr. Bryden. "And we believe that's exactly what our customers want."

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Two civilians wounded by Israeli drone: Palestinians
30 May 2005 0903 hrs - AFP/de

GAZA CITY : Two Palestinian civilians in the northern Gaza Strip were wounded late Sunday by a rocket fired from an Israeli drone pursuing Islamic Jihad militants, Palestinian security sources said.

The Jihad activists were not injured in the incident. The attack happened near the Jabaliya refugee camp.

An Islamic Jihad spokesman said that members of the Al-Qods Brigades, its armed wing, had fired two shells at a Jewish settlement in the area before the Israeli drone fired three rockets in their direction.

Israeli sources confirmed an air attack in the area against a "terrorist cell".

There has been an increase in violence in the Gaza Strip in recent days.

Both the Israeli and Palestinian sides have denied responsibility for the violence which threatens a de facto truce observed by armed groups since January.

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Israeli army kills more Palestinians
By Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank
Sunday 29 May 2005, 15:53 Makka Time, 12:53 GMT

Israeli occupation soldiers have shot and killed a Palestinian man in the southern West Bank town of Hebron, hours after the killing of another Palestinian near the northern city of Jenin.

Palestinian sources and witnesses said Israeli soldiers patrolling the streets of Hebron's old town on Sunday killed Omar Mahmoud al-Ghafi Hoshiyeh, 200 metres from the Ibrahimi Mosque.

Palestinian witnesses told Aljazeera.net there was a verbal confrontation between the victim and one of the Israeli occupation soldiers, after which the soldier shot him seven times.

However, an Israeli army spokesman said Hoshiyeh tried to stab a soldier.

Relatives of Hoshiyeh at the nearby town of Yatta denied the Israeli account, saying he was a simple labourer without any political affiliations.

"He was planning to get married this summer, I don't believe Israeli claims. You know, they lie in such circumstances," said Fatimah Hoshiyeh, a relative. [...]

Settler crimes

At least two other Palestinians, both teenagers, were shot and killed earlier this year at the same spot where Hoshiyeh was killed on Sunday morning.

Some Palestinians accused the Israeli army of deploying settler soldiers in Hebron who murder Palestinians for ideological reasons.

The claim seems to contain at least some truth.

In a television documentary due to be broadcast on Israeli Television, Channel 2 this Tuesday, a soldier in uniform appears on the camera telling the documentary presenter, Haim Yavin, a news anchorman for more than 30 years, that Hebron settlers were constantly urging him to kill Palestinian children.

Another killing in Jenin

Earlier, the Israeli occupation army shot and killed a Palestinian youth at the town of Araba, just south of the city of Jenin.

Palestinian sources said Israeli soldiers opened fire on a civilian vehicle outside the town, killing one man and injuring two others.

The Israeli army said shots were fired from the car toward a nearby Israeli army camp.

A third Palestinian died on Saturday at an Israeli army roadblock near the village of Amatin in the northern West Bank after Israeli soldiers denied him access to medical treatment at a nearby hospital.

The man, identified as Azzam Attiyeh Suwwan, 56, reportedly succumbed to his critical illness after he was kept waiting for a very long time by occupation forces at the Israeli roadblock.

'Let him die'

"The soldiers beat me and threatened to shoot me. I told them I had a critically ill person with me who needed to go to hospital. The soldiers told me: 'Let him die!'," said the taxi driver who carried Suwwan.

The driver said the soldiers allowed an ambulance to reach the roadblock after they made sure the man was dead.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government was due to approve the release of about 400 Palestinian prisoners.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was quoted as saying that the release was meant to strengthen what he called "the moderate Palestinian leadership".

Pure propoganda

Palestinian cabinet minister Ghassan Khatib had described Sharon's announcement this week as pure propaganda given that Israel had already pledged to release the inmates.

Dozens of Palestinians also protested in the streets of Hebron on Saturday, carrying banners saying "The prisoners are our honour," "Free the prisoners," and "400 freed prisoners is not enough".

Israeli sources said most of the prisoners to be released were imprisoned on political charges and that many of them were "administrative detainees," meaning they were incarcerated indefinitely without charge or trial.

There are as many as 8500 Palestinian political and resistance prisoners in Israeli jails and detention camps, at least 1200 of them are administrative detainees.

Israel views all Palestinians opposed to its occupation as "terrorists".

However, Israeli soldiers and settlers who murder Palestinians are usually given symbolic or light prison sentences not exceeding a few months or weeks by Israeli courts.

Comment: Again we remind our readers that the US government and most of Congress and the Senate, not to mention the US press and the so-called "Christian" right are fully supportive of these brutual crimes that the Israeli military and government are perpetrating against an innocent Palestinian population.

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Take No Prisoners - The Fatal Shooting of Palestinians by Israeli Forces During Arrest Operations
May 2005, Summary

Shades of Nazi Germany

During the second intifada, Israel formally adopted a policy of assassinating Palestinians suspected of membership in armed organizations waging battle against it. In an attempt to counter the sharp criticism against this policy, Israel argued, among other things, that targeted assassinations were only carried out when it was unable to apprehend the persons targeted for assassination.

According to B’Tselem’s figures, since the beginning of 2004, Israelis security forces have killed eighty-nine Palestinians during operations that the defense establishment refers to as arrest operations. At least seventeen of the persons killed were not wanted by Israel, but were civilians who were not suspected by Israel of having committed any offense. In addition, at least forty-three of those killed were unarmed, or were not attempting to use their arms against Israeli security forces at the time they were killed. None of these cases were investigated by the Military Police investigation unit.

Take No Prisoners presents four cases investigated by B’Tselem in which Palestinians were killed during these so-called arrest operations. Two of the cases relate to incidents in which IDF soldiers besieged a house in which Israel claimed that a wanted person was present, and then fired at another occupant of the house when he opened the door, without prior warning and without offering them a chance to surrender. In the other two cases, the security forces disarmed the wanted persons, but then shot and killed them. In all these cases, the security forces acted as if they were carrying out an assassination and not an arrest, in flagrant breach of international humanitarian law. Based on the report’s findings, there is a grave suspicion that execution of Palestinians has become a norm among the security forces.

At the beginning of the second intifada, the IDF changed the open-fire regulations, in particular as regards operations to arrest wanted persons. Soldiers were instructed to open fire also in situations in which they were not in life-threatening situations. The orders on when to open fire were given verbally, and were often vague, enabling a broad interpretation and making a partial or misleading transmission of the orders possible. Since the beginning of the intifada, the judge advocate general’s office has refrained from ordering Military Police investigations in cases in which Palestinians were shot and killed by soldiers, except in exceptional cases. This failure has created an atmosphere of impunity in which members of the security forces are not held accountable for their actions. These changes explain the creation of a practice of execution by security forces, even though no explicit order to kill wanted persons exists.

In conclusion, B’Tselem urges Israel to:

* instruct its security forces to refrain from opening fire when their lives are not in danger;

* provide all security forces with written open-fire regulations that state clearly and unequivocally the circumstances in which they are prohibited, or permitted, to use their firearms;

* investigate thoroughly all cases in which Palestinian civilians not involved in hostilities were shot and injured by Israeli forces and, where appropriate, prosecute the persons responsible;

* investigate thoroughly all cases in which Palestinian citizens who took part in hostilities were shot and injured, if there is reason to suspect that the shooting contravened international humanitarian law;

* instruct the security forces that it is forbidden in any instance to demand that civilians cooperate with Israel security forces and perform military tasks, and thoroughly investigate all cases in which security forces used civilians in this way, and prosecute the persons responsible.

Comment: The following is the testimony of an Iraqi woman whose husband was shot in cold blood and without justification by the Israeli Army. There are 6 other testimonies of 6 other cold-blooded slayings of unarmed and innocent Palestinians at this link

IDF soldiers kill Muhammad Diriyah, father of six, when he opens the door to his house for them, April 2004

Khairiya Diriyah, age 61

I am a resident of `Aqraba. I lived with my son, Muhammad Diriyah, 36, and his wife, Hayah Fathallah Diriyah, 28, and their six children: Ala’a, 12; Usama’a, 11; Amal, 9; `Asam, 6; Khawla, 4; and Deragham, who is one-year old.

On Sunday, 11 April 2004, at about 10:00 P.M., I was saying evening prayers. While I was praying, I heard about ten explosions of stun grenades and loud sounds of gunfire. I woke Muhammad and told him that the army was in the village. I asked him to wake the children, so that they would not be startled if the soldiers came into the house. Muhammad got up and walked toward the bedroom window, and said that he also thought there were soldiers in the village. After about five minutes, the sound of shooting and grenades grew louder, and bullets came flying into the house. You can still see the bullet marks on the walls. I told my daughter-in-law Hayah that it would be better to take the children out of the bedroom, and I went to their room. On the way, I heard the soldiers shout in Arabic, “Terrorist! Open the door!” They kept on shouting all the time, and I could not tell where they were standing. I stood some seven meters from the window and shouted to the soldiers to come to the front door of our house.

Muhammad went to open the front door. I followed him. This was not the first time that we had gone to open the door for soldiers who wanted to burst into our home. Muhammad moved me away from the door with his hand and told me that he would open it. I turned around and went to get the children and my daughter-in-law. I heard one of the soldiers say in Arabic, “We’ve killed a terrorist, we’ve killed a terrorist,” but I did not hear any shooting. When I returned with Hayah and the children, we saw Muhammad lying on the ground by the entrance to the house. The floor and the walls by the entrance were covered in blood. The strange thing is that I did not hear any shots. Maybe the soldiers used a silencer. Muhammad groaned. I didn’t know what to do or what to say. My beloved son was lying on the floor in his own blood. I shouted at the soldiers and said “Why did you kill him? He didn’t do anything.” I cursed them and told them, “Kill me like you killed him. Why did you kill him? He didn’t do anything.”

Hayah and the children were in shock. They were crying and shouting hysterically. The children brought towels and wiped up their father’s blood. The soldiers stood by and watched apathetically. I begged them to help Muhammad and call an ambulance, but they did not respond. There were about ten soldiers inside the house, and some of them searched the house. Hayah, the children, and I stood in the entrance to the house for about fifteen minutes. Then another group of about ten soldiers came over to us, and one of them ordered me to go up onto the roof of the house with them. He spoke to me in Arabic. The steps leading to the roof of the house are to the right of the main front door, where Muhammad was shot. I sat on the ground by Muhammad and lifted up his head. I saw that a bullet had struck the right, front side his head. I wiped the wound and told the soldier, “You have no God, you don’t have children, you don’t have a heart. I want to help my son.” Muhammad had lost a lot of blood and was unconscious, or perhaps he was already dead.

The soldier who spoke to me went up to the roof with another group of soldiers. They walked past Muhammad’s body and past the children who were crying and shouting. Four soldiers were standing at the entrance to the house, but I cannot identify them because their faces were covered in black and green paint, presumably as camouflage. After another fifteen minutes or so, the soldiers came down from the roof. One of them told me that they had first-aid equipment and there was a doctor with them. Several soldiers left the house and returned with a stretcher. They put Muhammad on the stretcher some twelve meters from the entrance to the house. One of the soldiers examined Muhammad and bandaged his head.

While I was standing outside by the stretcher, I heard other soldiers shouting “Open, open!” They were knocking on the door of the home of my other son, Ibrahim, who lives about thirty meters from Muhammad’s house. From the place where I was standing, I could not see the entrance to Ibrahim’s house, but I heard him answer the soldiers and tell them that he was coming to open the door. I heard the door open. The soldiers brought Ibrahim and made him stand two meters from Muhammad. Ibrahim’s hands were tied and his eyes were covered. The soldiers put him in an army jeep and left the area. Other soldiers took Muhammad in a military ambulance that was waiting by the house. Later, Ibrahim told me that the soldiers had removed his wife and baby daughter Asal from the house and searched it for about half an hour.

At about 4:30 A.M., the soldiers left the area. Later in the morning, our relatives and some residents of the village went to the Israeli District Coordinating Office to learn where Muhammad had been taken and what had happened to him. The commander of the liaison office informed them that Muhammad had died and that his body was at Rafidiya Hospital.

Khairiya `Ayash Sa`adah Diriyah, age 61, widow and mother of nine, resident of ‘Aqraba, near Nablus. Her testimony was taken by Salma Diba'i on 13 April 2004.

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One Big Prison: New Report Warns Against Continued Strangulation of Gaza Strip after Disengagement
BTselem

Israel has cut off the Gaza Strip from the rest of the world to such an extent that it is easier for Palestinians in Israel or the West Bank to visit relatives in prison than visit a relative in Gaza. This is one conclusion of the 100-page report that B’Tselem and HaMoked publish today. One Big Prison documents the ongoing violations of human rights and international law resulting from Israel’s restrictions on the movement of people and goods between Gaza and the West Bank, Israel, and the rest of the world. The report also warns against Israel’s attempt to avoid its responsibility toward residents of the Gaza Strip following disengagement.

Despite the easing of restrictions that Israel declared following the Sharm el-Sheikh summit in February 2005, there has been almost no improvement in the movement of Palestinians to and from Gaza, nor in the movement of goods. The report illustrates the extent to which Israel treats many fundamental human rights – among them the right to freedom of movement, family life, health, education, and work – as “humanitarian gestures” that it grants or denies at will.

Report Highlights:

* As a result of the economic siege on Gaza, more than 77 percent of Gazans (1,033,500 people) now live below the poverty line - almost double the number before the intifada. Some 23 percent of Gazans (over 323,000 people) are in “deep poverty,” meaning that they do not reach the subsistence poverty line even after receiving aid from international agencies.

* The forced isolation of Gaza tears many Palestinians from their families, and in some cases even separates spouses. The report includes the testimonies of a woman whose husband was expelled from the West Bank to Gaza, and of a mother whose son has never seen his father.

* Almost all the restrictions on movement are imposed on entire categories of people, based on sweeping criteria, without checking if the individual poses a security risk, and without weighing the harm the person will suffer, or if less harmful alternatives are available. In most cases, where Israel denies a permit and human rights organizations intervene, Israel reverses its decision to avoid an embarrassing legal challenge.

* Most components of the policy of strangulation are illegal under international and Israeli law.

The strangulation of the Gaza Strip increased following Palestinian attacks against civilians in Israel and the Occupied Territories over the past few years. Targetting civilians is a “war crime” and never justified. Israel is entitled, even obligated, to protect its citizens. However, Israel’s right to self-defense does not permit it to trample on the rights of an entire population.

Israel declared that “completion of the disengagement will invalidate the claims against Israel on its responsibility for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.” In the report, HaMoked and B’Tselem emphasize that all the suffering described in the report is likely to continue, and even worsen, after disengagement, for which Israel will be continue to bear legal responsibility.

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Israel completing capital's borders with walls
By Danny Rubinstein
Haaretz
29/05/2005

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership were very pleased with the results of the first summit meeting between Abbas and U.S. President George Bush.

Their satisfaction derived, among other things, from one of Bush's key statements: "Israel should not undertake any activity that contravenes road map obligations or prejudices final status negotiations with regard to Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem."

As far as Gaza is concerned, Bush's statements were superfluous, Palestinian spokespeople said over the weekend. After all, Israel intends to withdraw from Gaza completely. As for the West Bank, Israel has for years been establishing faits accomplis that affect the final status. They have already won partial American recognition of the settlement blocs.

Bush's statement was perhaps most important vis-a-vis Jerusalem. "The statements about Jerusalem are worthless," said one Palestinian commentator, noting that Bush was attempting, not even seriously, to close the stable doors after the horses have fled. He meant that after building Jewish neighborhoods in and around East Jerusalem, with more than 250,000 residents today, Israel has already fixed faits accomplis in the city borders, by completing the walls and separation fences.

There is hardly a single Palestinian who does not know what is being done on the borders of East Jerusalem. In Qalandiyah in the north of the city, and at the entrance to Bethlehem in its south, large-scale construction of terminals, perhaps the biggest in the world, is in full swing. The terminals will complete the borders of the greater Jerusalem, which are already entirely lined by giant walls, fences and electronic devices. Tens of thousands of Palestinians with Israeli identity cards will be left beyond the walls. In other words, Israel has already fixed the facts on the ground in East Jerusalem.

For the Palestinians, Jerusalem is the Old City and Al-Aqsa. Without them, there will be no Palestinian capital or Palestinian state. The Palestinian public response to Bush's statement was therefore more reserved than that of its leaders. The Hamas response was stern and hostile. Hamas saw Bush's praise of Abbas as blatant intervention in internal Palestinian affairs.

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Report: Austrian lawmaker says he worked for Mossad
May. 28, 2005 17:48
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

VIENNA, Austria - A former senior official in Austria's Freedom Party said he worked for Israel's spy agency while serving alongside its one-time populist leader Joerg Haider, a news magazine reported Saturday.

Peter Sichrovsky, a former general secretary of the Freedom Party, was quoted by the Austrian news magazine Profil as saying he worked with the Mossad at a time when Haider was holding talks with former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and other Mideast leaders.

"I cooperated with the Mossad until my resignation from politics," he was quoted by Profil as saying. "I wanted to help Israel and certainly did nothing wrong. I am no James Bond."

Sichrovsky could not be reached for comment Saturday. The interview is to appear in Profil's next issue, due on Monday.

Haider, who since has founded a new political party, was quoted by Profil as saying Sichrovsky's confession was "nonsense."

Haider had visited Saddam on the eve of the Iraq war and formed a friendship with Moammar Gadhafi when the Libyan leader was an international pariah.

Sichrovsky, a writer, said Israel was interested in exploiting Haider's connections.

"Israel wanted to use Haider as a bridge to the Arab lands with which no official contacts existed," he was quoted by Profil as saying.

Haider is known for past remarks sympathetic to the Nazis. He left the Freedom Party and founded the Union for Austria's Future earlier this year.

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Explosion shakes NATO headquarters in Kabul; no casualties reported
11:53 PM EDT May 29

KABUL (CP) - An explosion shook the headquarters of NATO's 8,000-strong security force in the Afghan capital Monday, but there were no immediate reports of injuries, a spokeswoman for the force said.

In Ottawa, Canadian military spokesman Lieut. Desmond James confirmed there were no casualties.

The blast occurred "in the vicinity" of the International Security Assistance Force compound, said Lt.-Col. Karen Tissot Van Patot. She said officers were investigating the cause of the explosion.

An Afghan police officer outside the compound, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a rocket had hit inside the heavily fortified base, which is near the U.S. Embassy and other diplomatic missions in central Kabul.

Sirens wailed across the city for about 30 minutes after the blast. [...]

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S. Korean students protest against U.S. military
Last Updated Sun, 29 May 2005 21:53:01 EDT
CBC News
South Korean students struggle with riot policemen during an anti-U.S. rally in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday. (AP Photo)

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - Students marched through Seoul on Sunday, protesting against the U.S. military presence there and the Americans' hostile attitude toward North Korea.

Police and witnesses said more than 10 people were injured as students clashed with riot police on Sunday and dozens were arrested.

Demonstrators paraded through the capital, before attempting to enter the Yongsan U.S. military base in the city's centre.

Another crowd gathered near the U.S. Embassy, calling for talks with diplomatic staff.

Reports of the size of the demonstrations varied widely, from about 1,000 to 15,000 people.

The students were upset by the U.S. government's hard-line attitude toward North Korea, especially in recent negotiations over Pyongyang's nuclear program.

The demonstrators also demanded the United States withdraw the 32,000 troops it has stationed in South Korea.

The Americans have maintained a military presence in the country since the 1950-53 Korean War.

The contingent is to drop to about 24,500 troops within a few years, in part because several thousand troops have been reassigned to Iraq.

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DREAD WEAPON SYSTEM: Devastating, Jam-Proof, and Silent
By David Crane
Editor, DefenseReview.com

No heat, no recoil, no sound, no gunpowder, no flash -- just 120,000 rounds per minute of pulverizing power. The next generation of weapons systems has arrived: the DREAD centrifuge-powered weapon system.

Maximum firepower: Design for the DREAD Weapon System.

Imagine a gun with no recoil, no sound, no heat, no gunpowder, no visible firing signature (muzzle flash), and no stoppages or jams of any kind. Now imagine that this gun could fire .308 caliber and .50 caliber metal projectiles accurately at up to 8,000 fps (feet-per-second), featured an infinitely variable/programmable cyclic rate-of-fire (as high as 120,000 rounds-per-minute), and were capable of laying down a 360-degree field of fire. What if you could mount this weapon on any military Humvee (HMMWV), any helicopter/gunship, any armored personnel carrier (APC), and any other vehicle for which the technology were applicable?

That would really be something, wouldn't it? Some of you might be wondering, "how big would it be," or "how much would it weigh"? Others might want to know what it's ammunition capacity would be. These are all good questions, assuming of course that a weapon like this were actually possible.

According to its inventor, not only is it possible, it's already happened. An updated version of the weapon will be available soon. It will arrive in the form of a tactically-configured pre-production anti-personnel weapon firing .308 caliber projectiles (accurately) at 2,500-3000 fps, at a variable/programmable cyclic rate of 5,000-120,000 rpm (rounds-per-minute). The weapon's designer/inventor has informed DefRev that future versions of the weapon will be capable of achieving projectile velocities in the 5,000-8,000 fps range with no difficulty. The technology already exists.
The weapon itself is called the DREAD, or Multiple Projectile Delivery System (MPDS), and it may just be the most revolutionary infantry weapon system concept that DefenseReview has EVER come across.

The DREAD Weapon System is the brainchild of weapons designer/inventor Charles St. George. It will be 40 inches long, 32 inches wide, and 3 inches high (20 inches high with the pintel swivel mount). It will be comprised of only 30 component parts, and will have an empty weight of only 28 pounds. That's right, 28 pounds. The weapon will be capable of rotating 360 degrees and enjoy the same elevation and declination capabilities of any conventional vehicle-mounted gun/weapon.

The first generation DREAD (production version), derived from the tactically-configured pre-production weapon, will most likely be a ground vehicle-mounted anti-personnel weapon. Military Humvees (HMMV's) and other ground vehicles (including Chevy Suburbans) equipped with the DREAD will enjoy magazine capacities of at least 50,000 rounds of .308 Cal., or 10,000 rounds of .50 Cal. ammo.

But, what is the DREAD, really? How does it work? In a sentence, the DREAD is an electrically-powered centrifuge weapon, or centrifuge "gun." So, instead of using self-contained cartridges containing powdered propellant (gunpowder), the DREAD's ammunition will be .308 and .50 caliber round metal balls (steel, tungsten, tungsten carbide, ceramic-coated tungsten, etc...) that will be literally spun out of the weapon at speeds as high as 8000 fps (give or take a few hundred feet-per-second) at rather extreme rpm's, striking their targets with overwhelming and devastating firepower. We're talking about total target saturation, here. All this, of course, makes the DREAD revolutionary in the literal sense, as well as the conceptual one. [...]

Comment: Coming soon to an American suburban neighborhood near you!

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U.S. Is Set to Test Missile Defenses Aboard Airlines
By ERIC LIPTON
Published: May 29, 2005

In an airplane hangar north of Fort Worth, technicians are preparing to mount a fire-hydrant-shaped device onto the belly of an American Airlines Boeing 767. It is an effort that could soon turn into a more than $10 billion project to install a high-tech missile defense system on the nation's commercial planes.

Detecting and Repelling Missiles

The Boeing 767 - the same type of plane that terrorists flew into the World Trade Center - is one of three planes that, by the end of this year, will be used to test the infrared laser-based systems designed to find and disable shoulder-fired missiles. The missiles have long been popular among terrorists and rebel groups in war zones around the world; the concern now is that they could become a domestic threat.

The tests are being financed by the Department of Homeland Security, which has been directed by Congress to move rapidly to take technology designed for military aircraft and adapt it so it can protect the nation's 6,800 commercial jets. It has so far invested $120 million in the testing effort, which is expected to last through next year.

Yet even before the tests begin, some members of Congress, and several prominent aviation and terrorism experts, are questioning whether the rush to deploy this expensive new antiterrorism system makes sense.

Homeland Security officials have repeatedly cautioned that no credible evidence exists of a planned missile attack in the United States. But there is near unanimity among national security experts and lawmakers that because of the relatively low price and small size of the missiles, as well as the large number available on the black market, they represent a legitimate domestic threat.

The concern is not just for the lives that would be lost in the shoot-down of a single plane, proponents say. It is for the enormous economic consequences that would result if the public were to lose confidence in flying.

"We are long overdue for a passenger aircraft to be taken down by a shoulder-launched missile," said Representative John L. Mica, Republican of Florida, who is pushing for the systems to be installed. "We have been extremely, extremely lucky."

But a significant contingent of domestic security experts say the administration's focus on these missiles may be misdirected. They cite the broad range of ways that terrorists might strike next and point to studies showing that shoulder-fired missiles - the most popular of which are American-made Stingers and Soviet-made SA-7's - present less of a threat at airports than do truck bombs or luggage bombs.

"People have probably assumed that these kinds of weapons would work with much greater certainty," said K. Jack Riley, the director of the public safety and justice program at the Rand Corporation, a nonprofit research organization that has studied threats from shoulder-mounted missiles. "This is not as big a threat as people might think."

Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems are competing to build the devices, which rely on plane-mounted sensors that detect heat-seeking missiles and then automatically fire infrared lasers to jam or confuse the missiles' guidance systems. The defense would be used for about a 50-mile area around airports, while planes land or take off.

The American Airlines Boeing 767 and two jets owned by Northwest Airlines and FedEx will be tested to determine whether they remain as airworthy with the new technology aboard and to figure out if, in simulated attacks, the defense system is reliable. For now, no passengers will be aboard. [...]

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Florida policeman uses stun gun on boy after father attempts suicide
May 29, 2005

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) - A deputy shocked a 16-year-old boy with a Taser gun after he protested when authorities handcuffed his bleeding father who had just slit his wrists in a suicide attempt.

Josh Welch and his father Leslie, 38, who suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, had been waiting for an ambulance, but deputies arrived first and handcuffed the bleeding man.

"They were just talking to him. The ambulance wasn't here. So I called 911 again," Josh Welch said. "I asked for cops who could do their job."

In a sheriff's report, the deputy wrote that Josh Welch "came at me with a lit cigarette in a threatening manner," the Palm Beach Post reported Sunday.

Paul Miller, Palm Beach County sheriff's spokesman, said he was not aware of the particular incident, but that the Josh Welch had a history of getting into trouble.

The teen said he talked back to deputies, but did not threaten them. He said deputies fired the stun gun from a distance of a few metres.

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Shooting in Ohio leaves six dead
30 May 2005 0639 hrs - AFP/de

CHICAGO : Six people were found shot dead on Sunday at two farmhouses near the town of Bellefontaine in central Ohio, while a seventh, a teenager, was seriously wounded, local police said.

Lieutenant A.J. Smith of the Logan County Sheriff's department said there was no explanation so far about why the shootings occurred in a rural section of the Midwestern state of Ohio. "Investigators are still on the scene and will be there for and undetermined amount of time," he told AFP.

He said that police were called at 1446 GMT and found victims on the first and second floors of a residential house.

"All of the victims had apparent gunshot wounds," Smith said.
He said five of the victims were members of one family, while two others were their friends.

The survivor is a Stacy Moody, 15, who was shot in the neck and is unable to talk, Sheriff Michael Henry told reporters.

All the victims had suffered gunshots, he said, and at least one weapon was found at the scene.

Henry added that police believed that the shooter was among the dead. However, he said that relationships among the victims had not yet been ironed out.

"In smaller counties everybody knows everybody, so we have some issues here to deal with. Some of these people may be related to some officers and things like that," Sheriff Michael Henry told Fox News.

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Man Arrested For Wearing Grinch Mask In Public
POSTED: 11:38 am EDT May 26, 2005

WHEELING, W.Va. -- A West Virginia man is in trouble with the law for wearing a Grinch mask in public.

Norman Gray was stopped by police in Wheeling on Tuesday. Officers told him to take the mask off and not put it on again.

Police say Gray took the mask off and asked why he couldn't wear it. After officers told him that wearing masks in public is illegal, he reportedly put the mask back on and said he didn't believe it.

Gray was then arrested and the mask confiscated.

Wearing a mask or hood in public is a misdemeanor under West Virginia law, punishable by a fine of up to 500 dollars, up to a year in jail, or both. Prosecutors say masks can hinder efforts by law enforcement officials to identify criminal suspects.

Children are allowed to wear masks. There are also exceptions for safety gear, theatrical productions and Halloween.

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Bush-As-Groucho Posters Spark Furor At High School
12:41 pm EDT May 27, 2005

LOS ANGELES -- Posters that depicted President Bush with a Groucho Marx-style mustache and cigar were ordered torn down at a high school after a student complained.

Theater students, who had created the posters to advertise a satirical play, countered with new posters with a First Amendment message.

Principal Kenny Lee ordered 100 posters removed from the campus of El Camino Real High School in the Woodland Hills area last week on grounds that they promoted smoking and "endorsing one ideology over another."

"That's our take on the student speech and conduct," Lee said.

The school-funded posters advertised the students' play, "The Complete History of America (Abridged)," which satirizes U.S. history.

A senior who supports the president wrote a complaint letter to the administration, teachers and students said.

"We had one student who was very upset," Lee said. "If something is bothering a student on campus, we're going to address it."

The poster ban infuriated some students.

"It taught us that the First Amendment certainly does not guarantee the right of free speech," said Jes Shah, 16, a junior in the school drama program.

The principal asked the drama students to come up with new posters. The new designs all feature a silhouette of Bush and a burning cigar, along with inscriptions such as "Free Expression for All (unless you are in high school)" and "What First Amendment?"

"They're good," Lee said. "I like the follow-ups."

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Prank assassination caption in yearbook sparks probe
05/28/2005 03:17:49 AM
By The Denver Post

Widefield - High school yearbooks were recalled so that administrators could black out a joke caption under one student's picture: "most likely to assassinate President Bush." Mesa Ridge High School officials recalled about 100 yearbooks earlier this month and had staffers use markers to obscure the words in them and in the still-undistributed copies. The Secret Service has launched an investigation.

"They kind of ruined our yearbook," said Christina Tredway, who just graduated from the school just south of Colorado Springs.

Most students thought the blacking-out was a bad idea since the caption obviously was a joke, she said.

Widefield School District officials called the caption a prank that wasn't caught

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Big Brother Tries to Muscle ISPs
Associated Press
May. 28, 2005

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration asked a federal appeals court Friday to restore its ability to compel Internet service providers to turn over information about their customers or subscribers as part of its fight against terrorism.

The legal filing with the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York comes amid a debate in Congress over renewal of the Patriot Act and whether to expand the FBI's power to seek records without the approval of a judge or grand jury.

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero of New York last year blocked the government from conducting secret searches of communications records, saying the law that authorized them wrongly barred legal challenges and imposed a gag order on affected businesses.

The ruling came in a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and an internet access firm that received a national security letter from the FBI demanding records. The identity of the firm remains secret.

The government was authorized to pursue communications records as part of a 1986 law. Its powers were enhanced by the Patriot Act in 2001.

The administration said the judge's ruling was off the mark because the company did mount a legal challenge to the demand for records. "Yet in this very case, the recipient of the national security letter did precisely what the NSLs supposedly prevent recipients from doing," the filing said.

The law's ban on disclosing that such a letter has been received also is appropriate because of legitimate security concerns, the government said.

But ACLU attorney Jameel Jaffer said the law does not contain a provision to challenge the FBI's demand for documents. The ACLU and the firm filed the lawsuit to challenge the law's constitutionality on the grounds that it doesn't contain such a provision, he said.

"Most people who get NSLs don't know they can bring a challenge in court because the statute doesn't say they can," he said. "No one has filed a motion to quash in 20 years."

The ban on disclosure is so broad that the ACLU initially filed the suit under seal and negotiated for weeks on a version that could be released to the public.

Previously censored material released several months after Marrero's ruling included innocuous material the government wanted withheld, the ACLU said, including the phrase "national security" and this sentence from a statement by an FBI agent: "I am a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

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Governor Schwarzenegger Sells Junk Food In Political Ads for Corporate Donors
Consumerwatchdog
May 25, 2005

Santa Monica, CA -- Governor Schwarzenegger should pull a political commercial off the air that promotes the junk food products of his campaign donors, consumer advocates said today. The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) called on Schwarzenegger to return the quarter-million dollars he received from companies featured in the ad, and for the corporations to pay the market value of the advertising to the state because it is improper for the governor to use public office to sell corporate products.

The TV ad, released in May, features Schwarzenegger talking to people in a lunchroom, and places Pepsi and Arrowhead Water in prominent spots next to the governor for 1/3 of the ad. Donors connected to Pepsi Co. and Arrowhead Water's parent company, Nestle, gave the governor a total of $279,800 in campaign contributions. Also recognizable on-screen are Ruffles, Sun Chips, Cheetos and a SoBe Beverage, all brands owned by Pepsi.

View the ad at: http://www.JoinArnold.com

The practice, known as "product placement," is unheard of in political advertising. In fact, political ads typically avoid using logos because companies may not want to be associated with a particular candidate or issue. However, studios receive significant payments for featuring a product in a film or television show.

"Schwarzenegger has turned the governor's office into a vending machine. It is inconceivable that Schwarzenegger didn't know that Pepsi and Arrowhead were in his commercial, or that the free air time and lucrative association with the Governor of California would benefit them. The governor should return their quarter million in campaign cash, and repay the state for misusing his office as a corporate spokesman for his political donors," said Carmen Balber, consumer advocate with FTCR. "Every second of a political ad is important, so every second is planned. As a Hollywood actor and businessman, Governor Schwarzenegger knows that product placements are worth millions to corporate sponsors."

Pepsi gave the governor $30,000 in campaign contributions. The CEO of Nestle, the parent company of Arrowhead, gave Schwarzenegger $21,200. Another Nestle family company, Dreyer's Ice Cream, and company executives gave the governor $228,600.

In March, at the Arnold Fitness Weekend, Schwarzenegger proposed a ban on all junk food in schools.

"Governor Schwarzenegger said he wanted to remove junk food from our schools -- he should be willing to pull political ads off the air that hawk junk food for his donors at California's expense," said Balber.

Schwarzenegger should disclose who the people are in the advertisement, whether they were paid, and where the ad was shot, said FTCR.

Governor Schwarzenegger has received attention for appearing to promote his donors' products in the past, including: a campaign-style stop at Galpin Ford where the governor urged Californians to buy cars -- Galpin & owners gave the governor $97,000; and an appearance at a groundbreaking at Dole's corporate headquarters -- Dole and affiliated companies gave Schwarzenegger $421,600.

Pepsi was also promoted in Schwarzenegger's movie, Terminator 2, with a marketing plan described by one film magazine as "the sledgehammer approach taken to promote Pepsi in T2."

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Three dead, eight injured after coal mine blast in China
30 May 2005 0245 hrs

BEIJING : Three coal miners were killed and eight injured after a gas explosion at a mine in the central Chinese province of Hubei, state media said Monday.

Eleven out of 22 miners working underground managed to escape after the blast early Sunday at the Hongjiaya Coal Mine in Maopingchang Township, the official Xinhua news agency said, quoting local government sources. All eight wounded were in a stable condition, a hospital source told the news agency.

Meanwhile, rescuers were also trying to save 12 miners who became trapped early Saturday after a separate coal mine was flooded in southeastern China's Fujian province, state media said.

The miners were trapped in the Chikeng coal mine near Longyan city after water leaked into the pit, the Xinhua news agency reported.

Only two miners managed to escape, according to Xinhua.

A rescue team of 260 was fighting to save the 12 but as of early Monday there was no news if they were still alive. [...]

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Bird flu death toll five times what had been reported, China
28 May 2005

An official from China's agricultural department said the death toll from bird flu in the West of China is five times greater than official reports had stated. The number of migratory birds killed was much larger than people had thought, he said. He added that the reports refer only to the death of birds and that no humans have died.

Rumours are rife among experts and throughout the internet that there has been a massive cover-up. People are saying nobody really knows how bad the situation really is/was. Rumours abound that many humans have perished.

Officials now say more than 1,000 migratory birds have died after being infected with the H5N1 strain of bird flu. The H5N1 is the most lethal one. Official reports had talked about just 178 birds, all of them geese, perishing in Qinghai Lake - now, they say the real number is over 500.

China has not reported one human death from bird flu - even though nearby countries such as Vietnam have had 38 deaths. In total, the number of human deaths from bird flu in South East Asia has totalled 54.

Health experts say that in order to tackle a possible pandemic which could spread to humans and become a human-to-human transmissible disease, we need accurate, reliable information. If authorities are not able to provide reliable figures it is virtually impossible to know what to do and when and where to do it. A pandemic could kill millions and millions of people throughout the globe.

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Canada overdue for killer tornado
By GREG BONNELL

TORONTO (CP) - It arrived encircled in a shroud of torrential rain so severe that nobody caught sight of its devastating presence until it was too late. When the high winds, hail and continuous thunder and lightning subsided, 11 were dead and 155 were injured as large swaths of a southern Ontario city and surrounding areas lay in ruin.

"Nobody, that we're aware of, actually saw the tornadoes on that day," Environment Canada meteorologist Geoff Coulson said of the storm that tore through Barrie, Ont., on May 31, 1985.

"The rain, instead of just staying well out ahead of the thunderstorm, was actually wrapped right around the tornado itself, making it basically (impossible) for anyone to distinguish it from a heavy rain."

Twenty years later, environmental scientists and storm watchers are sure of two things.

First, that advancements in weather tracking and improved emergency management strategies leave Canadians much better prepared for the next killer tornado.

Second, the next killer tornado - especially for Ontario - is long overdue.

"Our return period for a storm of that intensity is about 15 years in Ontario," said Coulson.

"We're now 20 years since that event, and we haven't seen its like since then. That potential still exists for us to experience a storm of that intensity again."

Roughly 80 of these destructive storms touch down each year in Canada's tornado alleys - southern Ontario, the prairies and southeastern Quebec. New Brunswick and the interior of British Columbia also see their share.

What's rare is the magnitude of the tornado that wreaked havoc on southern Ontario in 1985 - on the Fujita scale of zero to five, it measured a four.

"This was a real big super cell thunderstorm, probably twice the height of Mount Everest, that produced the tornado," said George Kourounis, a Toronto-based storm chaser.

Storms of that destructive magnitude are often noted for the lives and structures they spare thanks to their confounding patterns of destruction. [...]

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Small quake shakes Humboldt County in Northern California
Sunday, May 29, 2005

Rio Dell, Calif. (AP) -- A small earthquake shook Humboldt County early Sunday, and there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

The magnitude-3.0 quake hit at 12:44 a.m. about five miles west of Rio Dell and 21 miles south of Eureka, according to a preliminary report from the U.S. Geological Survey.

There were no reports of injuries or damage, a dispatcher with the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department said.

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Earthquake shakes central Japan
30 May 2005 0821 hrs - AFP/de

TOKYO : An earthquake measuring 4.6 on the Richter scale shook central Japan on Monday but there was no risk of a tsunami, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

The quake occurred at 7:34 am (2234 GMT) in Chiba, about 50 kilometres east of Tokyo, with its focus located 60 kilometres underground, the agency said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or property damage.

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India's last active volcano erupts on uninhabited Andaman island
30 May 2005 0932 hrs

PORT BLAIR, India : Smoke and lava are spewing from India's last active volcano on an uninhabited island in the Andaman and Nicobar chain, a defence command spokesman said.

"There is no danger as Barren Island is uninhabitated.... There is no big threat as the volcano is surrounded on all sides by the sea so the lava rolls into the sea," said Subhodh Kumar from the archipelago's joint defence command.

Kumar said Indian Coastguards had reported smoke and lava pouring out of the rim of the crater on Barren Island, which is located some 135 kilometres northeast of the capital Port Blair, and last erupted in 1996.

"A team of coast guards on the naval vessel 'Sagar' and pilots in a Dornier aircraft reported seeing smoke and lava erupt on Saturday on Barren Island," Kumar told AFP.

Kumar said the volcano, which runs about 150 fathoms deep under the sea, presents little real danger. [...]

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600 people flee forest fire in Quebec
Last Updated Sun, 29 May 2005 20:10:36 EDT
CBC News

MONTREAL - A forest fire has forced about 600 people to leave their homes in the Cree community of Chisasibi in northern Quebec.

The forest fire covers about 300 hectares and has forced 600 people from their homes.

Most of the town's 3,500 residents stayed, but officials said some people were ordered out as a health precaution.

"I think we had a couple of planeloads of people that have been flown to Val D'or. People with respiratory problems, chronic patients and expectant mothers," Chief Abraham Rupert said on Sunday after flying over the community, located near James Bay.

Most went to the nearby village of Radisson, although some were flown south.

The fire is still not considered under control. [...]

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Share now, pay later
By Daniel Costello
Times Staff Writer
May 23, 2005

Many people take pills prescribed for others; they save money but risk their health.

Family physician Mary Frank couldn't understand why one elderly patient with high-blood pressure wasn't responding to his medication. She had been steadily increasing his dose, but his blood pressure remained unstable.

Finally, the man admitted he had been sharing his pills with his wife. He also would stop taking his medication a few days before his appointment hoping his blood pressure would be higher so that he and his wife could then split a higher-dose drug.

But the practice put the couple at risk of a stroke or heart attack. "This is not something people should take lightly. It's truly dangerous and frustrating," said Frank, of Rohnert Park, Calif.

When it comes to prescription medications, many people embrace the adage to share and share alike. Armed with good intentions and largely unaware of the dangers, they gladly hand over leftover antibiotics, asthma inhalers, antidepressants, insulin and pain pills. After all, if the drugs worked for them, then perhaps they'll help similarly suffering family members, friends or colleagues. And, considering the drugs' expense, throwing away excess, out-of-date or ineffective pills can seem like a waste.

Some consumers even appear to be sharing medications for prolonged periods of time out of necessity. With the costs of drugs and medical care rising, they have trouble paying for their own prescriptions or the doctor visits required to obtain them.

Researchers say those most likely to share prescription drugs are the poor and the elderly, as well as family members who have a common chronic illness, such as diabetes.

"If you ask people why they are doing this, they say they have no other option," said Chien-Wen Tseng, an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii who has studied the ways people deal with rising prescription drug prices. "To many of them, it's better than not taking the medication at all."

Such cost-saving tactics have not been extensively studied, but dozens of interviews with researchers, doctors, pharmacists and senior centers in California and across the country suggest the problem is growing.

Moreover, the number of pills that can be shared is multiplying; almost half of Americans take a prescription drug and 17% take three or more. The dangers of sharing medications may be overlooked, experts say, by a public overly confident in its ability to self-medicate — a perception amplified by the dramatic rise in direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising in recent years. [...]

Comment: What a wonderful picture of the "land of opportunity", where almost half the population are drugged up in some way or another and many have to share the medication because the state simply does not care about the physical welfare of its citizens.

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Report: UFO Sighted In Olmsted Falls Sky
POSTED: 10:17 am EDT May 26, 2005

Ohio Has 2nd Most Sightings In Country

CLEVELAND -- Ohio is home to some of the most UFO sightings in the country. The strange sightings don't end in the night sky, they also lurk in the woods and lakes of northeast Ohio, NewsChannel5's Paul Kiska reported.

Kiska reported that police are even left stunned by some of the reports, and the video of UFO sightings can bring chills to even skeptics.

And Ohio has the second highest number of reported UFO sightings.
Last week, Olmsted Falls police officers took pictures after getting calls from anxious residents who saw strange green and red lights moving across the night sky.

Police officers observed the moving lights even though the Hopkins International Airport radar didn't indicate anything was in the area.

Police later heard that a new blimp from Akron Goodyear was being tested, but there were no sightings reported between Akron and Olmsted Falls, Kiska reported. [...]

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Bright Spot on Saturn's Titan Puzzles Experts
May 28, 2005
From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Scientists are baffled by an unusual bright spot about the size of West Virginia on Saturn's big moon, Titan.

The Cassini spacecraft captured an image of the 300-mile blotch during a flyby of Titan this year.

"At first glance, I thought the feature looked strange, almost out of place," Robert Brown, a member of the Cassini project, said Wednesday.

Scientists believe the spot could have formed recently as a result of an asteroid impact, a landslide or a volcanic eruption. Another Titan flyby in July could determine what the spot is.

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Jaywalking chicken ducks fine
Last Updated Sun, 29 May 2005 23:08:48 EDT
CBC News

RIDGECREST, CALIF. - A chicken fined $54 for crossing a road in California has had the charge thrown out in court.

The ticket was dismissed after a lawyer for the bird's owners argued that it was domesticated, not livestock.Under state law, it's illegal for livestock to be on highways. Domestic animals are free to get to the other side.

Linc and Helena Moore were fined on March 26 after their chicken wandered onto a road in the rural mining town of Johannesburg.

They said the sheriff's office targeted them because they had repeatedly complained that deputies weren't effectively policing the drivers of off-road vehicles.

"For the last two and a half years, no one has been able to stop the kids riding their bikes in the middle of the road or the neighbors' dogs running around our neighborhood," Linc Moore was quoted as saying.

"But when our chicken escaped and crossed the road once it became a huge issue."

The sheriff's office denies the accusations.

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