Tuesday, May 31, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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©2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte

Prime time for liars and sleaze artists

Why does the media dance to the tune of Peter Foster and his ilk?
Peter Preston
Monday March 8, 2004
The Guardian

Jayson Blair has brought us one boon, at least. He's opened up a debate. Would Peter Foster, Lord Brocket, Major Ingram, Jonathan Aitken, James Hewitt, Jeffrey Archer et al please sit quietly through the opening speeches? I expect Ant and Dec will get a word in later.

This Blair, to remind, is the young, black reporter who conned the New York Times. You may have read a chunk of his book of the con in Saturday's Guardian. And over here, because we're talking great American institutions falling on their noses, such publicity may perhaps (and I plead the fifth) be justified. But over there, because Blair is still a fresh stain on his profession, no such tolerances seem to apply.

When Katie Couric, the perky blonde from NBC, put Jayson on her chatshow sofa, the howls resounded. Tavis Bailey, one of the top black TV interviewers, said he "wouldn't give Blair even 60 seconds". The man "is an embarrassment to any African-American journalist in this country. What he did was wretched."

Enter Kurt Eichenwald, a Times reporter himself, sounding off in a Poynter Institute discussion. "What does it say about the state of modern journalism that reputable reporters and editors are spending time interviewing someone whose only claim to fame is as a deeply disturbed, pathological liar? ... Why are we participating in this freak show?

"Pathological liars are pathological liars. They lie. In my job, covering fraud for over a decade, I have come across more than my share of Blair-type liars. They are all the same. Once they are caught, they pretend to be confessing - then lie all over again ... And all of them - as you dig deeper into their false confessions - are thoroughly, thoroughly unrepentant ... I am appalled that some fools in our profession are actually demanding that people respond to Blair's latest accusations ... it appals me to watch professionals buying tickets to this circus, pretending to adhere to journalistic principles, when ... all they're doing is serving as a dishonest delivery system".

So, with barely a hop, skip or jump, we reach Peter Foster, the ex-boyfriend of Carole Caplin, returned from the jungles of Queensland ("I'm a con artist - get me out of here") to harry another Mr Blair and promise amazing memoir revelations of Downing Street life that "may bring down the prime minister". Sunday headlines dutifully took up his lurid refrain. Order your hard copies now.

Every word of the Eichenwald thesis magically reapplies. Pathological liars carry on lying; it's what they do. Their freak show never leaves town. Yet we suckers always give them an uneven, gawping, trusting break. [...]

Comment: We open with this article today because the traces of the pathological liar, or of the psychopath, can be seen in so much of the daily news. While reading the page today, keep in mind the description given above by Kurt Eichenwald and see where you think it fits in the day's stories.

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Myers Ties Iraq Progress, Insurgency Loss
The Associated Press
Monday, May 30, 2005; 11:39 AM

WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says success in defeating militants in Iraq is directly tied to the political process there.

Air Force Gen. Richard Myers told NBC's "Today" show that "progress in the political front is going to be key to progress against the insurgency." And he says that hinges on Sunni Muslims getting and accepting a greater role in the new government.

In the meantime, he says the international community can't give up the fight against militants. He calls the insurgents "savages" and "mass murderers."

Meanwhile, on ABC's "Good Morning America," Myers said the U.S. may begin to withdraw some troops "as Iraqi security forces get better and better." However, he did not specify a timetable.

In other developments, Myers said terrorism suspects held in the U.S. Navy prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are being dealt with "humanely" and with "dignity," disputing reported abuses by American soldiers.

In television appearances Sunday, Myers also said U.S. officials believe al-Qaida leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is wounded, but it's not known how badly.

Muslims in several countries have demonstrated in recent weeks over allegations that a Quran, their faith's holy book, was flushed down a toilet by guards at Guantanamo. Myers denied that.

The human rights group Amnesty International also released a report last week calling the prison camp "the gulag of our time."

Myers said the report was "absolutely irresponsible." He said the United States was doing its best to detain fighters who, if released, "would turn right around and try to slit our throats, slit our children's throats."

"This is a different kind of struggle, a different kind of war," Myers said on "Fox News Sunday."

"We struggle with how to handle them (the prisoners), but we've always handled them humanely and with the dignity that they should be accorded."

Myers repeated the Pentagon's contention that five cases of mistreatment of the Quran at Guantanamo had been confirmed. He did not give any other details about the mistreatment.

The U.S. military had detained more than 68,000 people since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he said, and looked into 325 complaints of mistreatment. Investigations have found 100 cases of prisoner mistreatment and 100 people have been punished, the general said.

On Zarqawi, who heads the al-Qaida insurgency in Iraq, Myers said U.S. officials believe postings on a militant Web site that Zarqawi had been wounded in a battle. He said he did not know whether Zarqawi had left Iraq for treatment in another country, as some Web sites and news organizations have reported.

In London, The Sunday Times reported that Zarqawi was being treated in Iran after a piece of shrapnel hit his chest during an attack on his convoy. Iran denies it is harboring Zarqawi.

Myers said he did not think the United States should have used more troops in the Iraq invasion but acknowledged that progress has proved slower than military officials had hoped.

"I don't think we understood that people had been suppressed, and their spirit had been suppressed to the point where it wasn't just going to naturally blossom once they had the opportunity," the general said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

On Monday, Myers said he believes there are plenty of positive developments as well.

"In Iraq, what I find encouraging is that the political process continues to march on ... looking for ways to get the Sunnis involved (in the new government)," he said on ABC's "Good Morning America." Myers called that "a key to success" there.

Asked when the United States might be able to withdraw its military men and women, Myers replied that "as Iraqi security forces get better and better," there will be an opportunity to recall troops, although he did not specify a timetable.

On Sunday, Myers joined Rolling Thunder, an annual motorcycle rally in the capital to support veterans. Thousands of bikers rode from the Pentagon to the National Mall, gathering at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Myers, wearing blue jeans and a shirt emblazoned with an American flag, told the crowd that Rolling Thunder and other such groups "helped Americans realize that no matter where they are sent overseas, we have to respect our military."

Among those attending were Keith and Carolyn Maupin, the parents of Sgt. Keith Maupin, the only U.S. soldier listed as missing and captured in Iraq. The 21-year-old soldier has been missing since his convoy was attacked west of Baghdad on April 9.

"To see these people and see their faces, and hear their caring and sincerity, it's just amazing," Carolyn Maupin said in a telephone interview. "It touches our hearts."

Comment: This article is so full of lies, you wonder how the media in the US can publish it with a straight face. Then you remember all the other lies they have repeated about Iraq and you're tempted to write off the US mainstream media completely. Or did we already do that years ago?

The stories of the humiliation of prisoners in Gitmo have been circulating for over a year, but given that these are people who, according to Myers, "would turn right around and try to slit our throats, slit our children's throats," such torture may well fall into his definition of humane and dignified treatment. It's clear he thinks the prisoners are animals. He calls the insurgents "savages" and "mass murderers", although what that makes daddy Bush et al who killed 1,000,000 Iraqis with sanctions during the 90's and who have killed thousands more since the occupation, is not a question to which the good general responded.

Myers also raises the issue of al Zarqawi. Below we have the supposed "response" of the mysterious Mr al Zarqawi, but let's not forget that the man was reported killed in 2004. Since then he has served the role of new demon of the hour, with every suicide bomb, kidnapping, and attack on the US occupiers being attributed to him and his followers.

The article below from Riverbend gives us an example of what happens to Sunni leaders who collaborate with the US occupation, an example of how hard the US is attempting to "get the Sunnis involved".

However, our personal favourite of the quotes above is the following:

"I don't think we understood that people had been suppressed, and their spirit had been suppressed to the point where it wasn't just going to naturally blossom once they had the opportunity."

This is a real kicker. Now the explanation for the lack of flowers and welcoming kisses from Iraqi women is that their spirit had been suppressed so much by Saddam that it is just going to take a little time for it to blossom! Yes indeed, just a few more carpet bombings of Iraqi towns and perhaps another few hundred thousand Iraqi civilian deaths and they're sure to blossom a wonderful bloody red colour.

Regularly read the blog Baghdad Burning by Riverbend for an Iraqi's take on the occupation, then decide for yourself whether Myers fits the description of pathological liar or not.

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Cheney offended by Amnesty criticism

Rights group accuses U.S. of violations at Guantanamo Bay
Tuesday, May 31, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday he was offended by Amnesty International's condemnation of the United States for what it called "serious human rights violations" at Guantanamo Bay.

"For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don't take them seriously," he said in an interview that aired Monday night on CNN's "Larry King Live."

Amnesty International was scathing last week in its criticism of the way the United States has run the detention center at its naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"We have documented that the U.S. government is a leading purveyor and practitioner of the odious human rights violation," William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said Wednesday.

On its Web site, the London, England-based human rights group says: "As evidence of torture and widespread cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment mounts, it is more urgent than ever that the U.S. government bring the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and any other facilities it is operating outside the USA into full compliance with international law and standards. The only alternative is to close them down."

The vice president said the United States has freed millions of people from oppression.

"I think the fact of the matter is, the United States has done more to advance the cause of freedom, has liberated more people from tyranny over the course of the 20th century and up to the present day than any other nation in the history of the world," he said.

"Just in this administration, we've liberated 50 million people from the Taliban in Afghanistan and from Saddam Hussein in Iraq, two terribly repressive regimes that slaughtered hundreds of thousands of their own people."

Cheney denied American wrongdoing at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, which Amnesty International compared to a "gulag."

"Guantanamo's been operated, I think, in a very sane and sound fashion by the U.S. military. ... I think these people have been well treated, treated humanely and decently," Cheney said. "Occasionally there are allegations of mistreatment.

"But if you trace those back, in nearly every case, it turns out to come from somebody who has been inside and been released ... to their home country and now are peddling lies about how they were treated."

Comment: Note exactly what Cheney says here. His argument is that the allegations of torture come from those prisoners who were held for a time, but then later released back to their own countries, where they lie about their incarceration. In other words, they were wrongfully imprisoned by the US - otherwise, they would have been deported and detained by the authorities in their home country. So, Cheney's strongest argument seems to be, "Look, we didn't actually torture these people. We just wrongfully imprisoned them for awhile and now they're bitter." In any case, it is clear that in true psychopathic fashion, Cheney blames his victims for the suffering he inflicted upon them.

Schulz responded to Cheney's comments: "It doesn't matter whether he takes Amnesty International seriously.

"He doesn't take torture seriously; he doesn't take the Geneva Convention seriously; he doesn't take due process rights seriously; and he doesn't take international law seriously.

"And that is more important than whether he takes Amnesty International seriously."

On Thursday, the commander of the Guantanamo Bay detention center said an investigation had identified five incidents in which the Quran appears to have been mishandled by his personnel.

But Brig. Gen. Jay Hood said he has found "no credible evidence" that personnel at the military prison flushed a Quran in a toilet.

On the issue of Iraq, Cheney told King that he believes the insurgency there is "in the last throes." He also predicted the fighting would end before the Bush administration leaves office.

Comment: No doubt. While the resistance to US occupation in Iraq will certainly continue for quite some time, the Bush administration has no intention of relinquishing control of the US. Two stolen elections and the passage of draconian laws has made that much crystal clear.

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Claims of abuse at Guantanamo are revealed
By Helen McCormack
The Independent
31 May 2005

Confidential papers detailing tribunal hearings held at Guantanamo Bay have revealed a further raft of allegations of US mistreatment of detainees held at the detention camp.

Detainees, including Jamil el-Banna, the Jordanian national who has lived in Britain since 1994 and is still held at the camp, alleged a range of mistreatment during tribunal hearings. One man said that the authorities' interrogation practices had rendered him incontinent. Another alleges that dogs were used as a means of intimidation.

The transcripts of tribunal hearings were released by the US Department of Defence after an application under the US Freedom of Information Act by the American news agency Associated Press.

Comment: There's nothing like a little actual investigation by the controlled US media to maintain the illusion of a "fair and balanced" press.

The agency said it had received 1,000 pages of documents after a lawsuit with the US government. It was not clear whether allegations of mistreatment shown in transcripts of tribunals had been either logged or investigated, the news agency said.

In some cases, the tribunal papers showed detainees making an allegation with no evidence of thorough questioning thereafter. One detainee, whose name and nationality were blacked out, along with many of names in the transcripts, said his medical problems from alleged abuse have not been taken seriously. "Americans hit me and beat me up so badly I believe I'm sexually dysfunctional," he said.

"I can't control my urination, and sometimes I put toilet paper down there so I won't wet my pants. I point to where the pain is. ... I think they take it as a joke and they laugh." The tribunal president promised to take up the man's medical complaint, but in five pages of questioning, never brought up the alleged abuse, the agency reported.

Another prisoner said he was abused and forced into making a confession. "I was in a lot of pain, so I said I had [military] training. At that point, with all my suffering, if he had asked me if I was Osama bin Laden, I would have said yes," he said.

A 24-year-old said a US interrogator "threatened me with a gun to my mouth, to try to make me say something". The tribunal president asked him about the alleged torture. When he heard it was purportedly carried out at a US facility in Kabul by an American, he moved on to other questions, the agency reported.

A military spokeswoman, Captain Beci Brenton, said the panel was charged with determining whether the men were enemy combatants - not with investigating abuse allegations, but it was obliged to report the allegations.

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Stripping Rumsfeld and Bush of Impunity
By Matthew Rothschild
The Progressive.
Posted May 31, 2005

Two respected human rights groups say there is prima facie evidence against Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush for war crimes and torture -- and they're asking foreign governments to do something about it.

When Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee last year, he was asked whether he "ordered or approved the use of sleep deprivation, intimidation by guard dogs, excessive noise, and inducing fear as an interrogation method for a prisoner in Abu Ghraib prison."

Sanchez, who was head of the Pentagon's Combined Joint Task Force-7 in Iraq, swore the answer was no. Under oath, he told the Senators he "never approved any of those measures to be used."

But a document the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) obtained from the Pentagon flat out contradicts Sanchez's testimony. It's a memorandum entitled "CJTF-7 Interrogation and Counter-Resistance Policy," dated September 14, 2003. In it, Sanchez approved several methods designed for "significantly increasing the fear level in a detainee." These included "sleep management"; "yelling, loud music, and light control: used to create fear, disorient detainee, and prolong capture shock"; and "presence of military working dogs: exploits Arab fear of dogs."

On March 30, the ACLU wrote a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, urging him "to open an investigation into whether General Ricardo A. Sanchez committed perjury in his sworn testimony."

The problem is, Gonzales may himself have committed perjury in his Congressional testimony this January.

According to a March 6 article in The New York Times, Gonzales submitted written testimony that said: "The policy of the United States is not to transfer individuals to countries where we believe they likely will be tortured, whether those individuals are being transferred from inside or outside the United States." He added that he was "not aware of anyone in the executive branch authorizing any transfer of a detainee in violation of that policy."

"That's a clear, absolute lie," says Michael Ratner, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who is suing Administration officials for their involvement in the torture scandal. "The Administration has a policy of sending people to countries where there is a likelihood that they will be tortured."

The New York Times article backs up Ratner's claim. It says "a still-classified directive signed by President Bush within days of the September 11 attacks" gave the CIA broad authority to transfer suspected terrorists to foreign countries for interrogations. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International estimate that the United States has transferred between 100 and 150 detainees to countries notorious for torture.

So Gonzales may not be the best person to evaluate the allegation of perjury against Sanchez.

But going after Sanchez or Gonzales for perjury is the least of it. Sanchez may be personally culpable for war crimes and torture, according to Human Rights Watch. And Gonzales himself was one of the legal architects of the torture policies. As such, he may have been involved in "a conspiracy to immunize U.S. agents from criminal liability for torture and war crimes under U.S. law," according to Amnesty International's recent report: "Guantánamo and Beyond: The Continuing Pursuit of Unchecked Executive Power."

As White House Counsel, Gonzales advised President Bush to not apply Geneva Convention protections to detainees captured in Afghanistan, in part because this "substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act," Gonzales wrote in his January 25, 2002, memo to the President.

Gonzales's press office refused to provide comment after several requests from The Progressive. In his Senate confirmation testimony, Gonzales said, "I want to make very clear that I am deeply committed to the rule of law. I have a deep and abiding commitment to the fundamental American principle that we are a nation of laws, and not of men."

Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel John Skinner says the ACLU's suggestion that Sanchez committed perjury is "absolutely ridiculous." In addition, Skinner pointed to a recent Army inspector general report that looked into Sanchez's role. "Every senior-officer allegation was formally investigated," the Army said in a May 5 summary. Sanchez was investigated, it said, for "dereliction in the performance of duties pertaining to detention and interrogation operations" and for "improperly communicating interrogation policies." The inspector general "found each of the allegations unsubstantiated."

The Bush Administration's legal troubles don't end with Sanchez or Gonzales. They go right to the top: to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and President Bush himself. Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International USA say there is "prima facie" evidence against Rumsfeld for war crimes and torture. And Amnesty International USA says there is also "prima facie" evidence against Bush for war crimes and torture. (According to Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, "prima facie evidence" is "evidence sufficient to establish a fact or to raise a presumption of fact unless rebutted.")

Amnesty International USA has even taken the extraordinary step of calling on officials in other countries to apprehend Bush and Rumsfeld and other high-ranking members of the Administration who have played a part in the torture scandal.

Foreign governments should "uphold their obligations under international law by investigating U.S. officials implicated in the development or implementation of interrogation techniques that constitute torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment," the group said in a May 25 statement. William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA, added, "If the United States permits the architects of torture policy to get off scot-free, then other nations will be compelled" to take action.

The Geneva Conventions and the torture treaty "place a legally binding obligation on states that have ratified them to exercise universal jurisdiction over persons accused of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions," Amnesty International USA said. "If anyone suspected of involvement in the U.S. torture scandal visits or transits through foreign territories, governments could take legal steps to ensure that such individuals are investigated and charged with applicable crimes."

When these two leading human rights organizations make such bold claims about the President and the Secretary of Defense, we need to take the question of executive criminality seriously.

And we have to ask ourselves, where is the accountability? Who has the authority to ascertain whether these high officials committed war crimes and torture, and if they did, to bring them to justice?

The independent counsel law is no longer on the books, so that can't be relied on. Attorney General Gonzales is not about to investigate himself, Rumsfeld, or his boss. And Republicans who control Congress have shown no interest in pursuing the torture scandal, much less drawing up bills of impeachment.

Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the ACLU, the American Bar Association, and Human Rights First (formerly known as the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights) have joined in a call for a special prosecutor. But that decision is up to Gonzales and ultimately Bush.

"It's a complete joke" to expect Gonzales to appoint a special prosecutor, concedes Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

John Sifton, Afghanistan specialist and military affairs researcher for Human Rights Watch, is not so sure. "Do I think this would happen right now? No," he says. "But in the middle of the Watergate scandal, very few people thought the President would resign." If more information comes out, and if the American public demands an investigation, and if there is a change in the control of the Senate, Sifton believes Gonzales may end up with little choice.

Human Rights Watch and other groups are also calling for Congress to appoint an independent commission, similar to the 9/11 one, to investigate the torture scandal.

Comment: And we all know how reliable and reasonable the conclusions of the 9/11 commission turned out to be...

"Unless a special counsel or an independent commission are named, and those who designed or authorized the illegal policies are held to account, all the protestations of 'disgust' at the Abu Ghraib photos by President George W. Bush and others will be meaningless," concludes Human Rights Watch's April report "Getting Away with Torture? Command Responsibility for the U.S. Abuse of Detainees."

But even as it denounces the "substantial impunity that has prevailed until now," Human Rights Watch is not sanguine about the likelihood of such inquiries. "There are obviously steep political obstacles in the way of investigating a sitting Defense Secretary," it notes in its report.

By not pursuing senior officials who may have been involved in ordering war crimes or torture, the United States may be further violating international law, according to Human Rights Watch. "Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, whenever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction," says the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Geneva Conventions have a similar requirement.

Stymied by the obstacles along the customary routes of accountability, the ACLU and Human Rights First are suing Rumsfeld in civil court on behalf of plaintiffs who have been victims of torture. The Center for Constitutional Rights is suing on behalf of a separate group of clients. The center also filed a criminal complaint in Germany against Rumsfeld and Gonzales, along with nine others. The center argued that Germany was "a court of last resort," since "the U.S. government is not willing to open an investigation into these allegations against these officials." The case was dismissed.

Amnesty International's call for foreign countries to nab Rumsfeld and Bush also seems unlikely to be heeded any time soon. How, physically, could another country arrest Bush, for instance? And which country would want to face the wrath of Washington for doing so?

But that we have come this far--where the only option for justice available seems to be to rely on officials of other governments to apprehend our own--is a damning indictment in and of itself.

The case against Rumsfeld may be the most substantial of all. While "expressing no opinion about the ultimate guilt or innocence" of Rumsfeld, Human Rights Watch is urging his prosecution under the War Crimes Act of 1996 and the Anti-Torture Act of 1996. Under these statutes, a "war crime" is any "grave breach" of common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment," as well as torture and murder. A "grave breach," according to U.S. law, includes "willful killing, torture, or inhuman treatment of prisoners of war and of other 'protected persons,' " Human Rights Watch explains in "Getting Away with Torture?"

Rumsfeld faces jeopardy for being head of the Defense Department when those directly under him committed grave offenses. And he may be liable for actions he himself undertook.

"Secretary Rumsfeld may bear legal liability for war crimes and torture by U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantánamo under the doctrine of 'command responsibility'--the legal principle that holds a superior responsible for crimes committed by his subordinates when he knew or should have known that they were being committed but fails to take reasonable measures to stop them," Human Rights Watch says in its report.

But Rumsfeld's potential liability may be more direct than simply being the guy in charge who didn't stop the torture and mistreatment once he learned about it.

First of all, when the initial reports of prisoner mistreatment came in, he mocked the concerns of human rights groups as "isolated pockets of international hyperventilation." He also asserted that "unlawful combatants do not have any rights under the Geneva Convention," even though, as Human Rights Watch argues, "the Geneva Conventions provide explicit protections to all persons captured in an international armed conflict, even if they are not entitled to POW status."

Secondly, he himself issued a list of permissible interrogation techniques in a December 2, 2002, directive that likely violated the Geneva Conventions, according to Human Rights Watch. Among those techniques: "The use of stress positions (like standing) for a maximum of four hours." On the directive, Rumsfeld, incidentally, added in his own handwriting next to this technique: "However, I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?" He also included the following techniques: "removal of all comfort items (including religious items)," "deprivation of light and auditory stimuli," "isolation up to 30 days," and "using detainees' individual phobias (such as fear of dogs) to induce stress."

On January 15, 2003, Rumsfeld rescinded this directive after the Navy registered its adamant objections. If, during the six weeks that Rumsfeld's techniques were official Pentagon policy at Guantánamo, soldiers mistreated or tortured prisoners using his approved techniques, then "Rumsfeld could potentially bear direct criminal responsibility, as opposed to command responsibility," says Human Rights Watch.

Rumsfeld may also bear direct responsibility for the torture or abuse of two other prisoners, says Human Rights Watch, citing the Church Report. (This report, one of Rumsfeld's many internal investigations, was conducted by the Navy Inspector General Vice Admiral Albert Church.) "The Secretary of Defense approved specific interrogation plans for two 'high-value detainees' " at Guantánamo, the Church Report noted. Those plans, it added, "employed several of the counter resistance techniques found in the December 2, 2002, [policy]. . . . These interrogations were sufficiently aggressive that they highlighted the difficult question of precisely defining the boundaries of humane treatment of detainees."

And Rumsfeld may be in legal trouble for hiding detainees from the Red Cross. "Secretary Rumsfeld has publicly admitted that . . . he ordered an Iraqi national held in Camp Cropper, a high security detention center in Iraq, to be kept off the prison's rolls and not presented to the International Committee of the Red Cross," Human Rights Watch notes. This prisoner, according to The New York Times, was kept off the books for at least seven months.

The Geneva Conventions require countries to grant access to the Red Cross to all detainees, wherever they are being held. As Human Rights Watch explains, "Visits may only be prohibited for 'reasons of imperative military necessity' and then only as 'an exceptional and temporary measure.'"

The last potential legal problem for Rumsfeld is his alleged involvement in creating a "secret access program," or SAP. According to reporter Seymour Hersh, Rumsfeld "authorized the establishment of a highly secret program that was given blanket advance approval to kill or capture and, if possible, interrogate 'high value' targets in the war on terror." Human Rights Watch says that "if Secretary Rumsfeld did, in fact, approve such a program, he would bear direct liability, as opposed to command responsibility, for war crimes and torture committed by the SAP."

The Pentagon vehemently denies the allegation that Rumsfeld may have committed war crimes. "It's absurd," says Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Skinner. "The facts speak for themselves. We have aggressively investigated all allegations of detainee mistreatment. We have had ten major investigations on everything from A to Z. We've also had more than 350 criminal investigations looking into detainee abuse. More than 103 individuals have been held accountable for actions related to detainee mistreatment. Our policy has always been, and will always remain, the humane treatment of detainees."

What about Bush? If Donald Rumsfeld can be charged for war crimes because of his command responsibility and his personal involvement in giving orders, why can't the commander in chief? Hina Shansi, senior counsel at Human Rights First, believes the case against Bush is much more difficult to document. And Sifton of Human Rights Watch says that since Bush is known as "a major delegator," it may be hard to pin down "what he's briefed on and what role he plays in the decision-making process."

Amnesty International USA, however, believes that Bush, by his own involvement in formulating policy on torture, may have committed war crimes. "It's the memos, the meetings, the public statements," says Alistair Hodgett, media director of Amnesty International USA.

There is "prima facie evidence that senior members of the U.S. Administration, including President Bush and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, have authorized human rights violations, including 'disappearances and torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment,' " Amnesty states in "Guantánamo and Beyond."

The first solid piece of evidence against Bush is his September 17, 2001, "Memorandum of Notification" that unleashed the CIA. According to Bob Woodward's book Bush at War, that memo "authorized the CIA to operate freely and fully in Afghanistan with its own paramilitary teams" and to go after Al Qaeda "on a worldwide scale, using lethal covert action to keep the role of the United States hidden."

Two days before at Camp David, then-CIA Director George Tenet had outlined some of the additional powers he wanted, Woodward writes. These included the power to " 'buy' key intelligence services. . . . Several intelligence services were listed: Egypt, Jordan, Algeria. Acting as surrogates for the United States, these services could triple or quadruple the CIA's resources." According to Woodward, Tenet was upfront with Bush about the risks entailed: "It would put the United States in league with questionable intelligence services, some of them with dreadful human rights records. Some had reputations for ruthlessness and using torture to obtain confessions. Tenet acknowledged that these were not people you were likely to be sitting next to in church on Sunday. Look, I don't control these guys all the time, he said. Bush said he understood the risks."

That this was Administration policy is clear from comments Vice President Dick Cheney made on Meet the Press the very next day.

"We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will," Cheney told Tim Russert. "We've got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we're going to be successful. That's the world these folks operate in, and so it's going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective."

If, as The New York Times reported, Bush authorized the transfer of detainees to countries where torture is routine, he appears to be in grave breach of international law.

Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture explicitly prohibits this: "No State Party shall expel, return, or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture." Article 49 of the Geneva Conventions is also clear: "Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive."

On February 7, 2002, Bush issued another self-incriminating memorandum. This one was to the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the Director of the CIA, the National Security Adviser, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was entitled "Humane Treatment of Al Qaeda and Taliban Detainees." In it, Bush asserted that "none of the provisions of Geneva apply to our conflict with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan or elsewhere throughout the world." He also declared, "I have the authority under the Constitution to suspend Geneva as between the United States and Afghanistan," though he declined to do so. And he said that "common Article 3 of Geneva does not apply to either Al Qaeda or Taliban."

This memo "set the stage for the tragic abuse of detainees," says William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

Bush failed to recognize that the Geneva Conventions provide universal protections. "The Conventions and customary law still provide explicit protections to all persons held in an armed conflict," Human Rights Watch says in its report, citing the "fundamental guarantees" in Article 75 of Protocol I of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions. That article prohibits "torture of all kinds, whether physical or mental," "corporal punishment," and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment."

In the February 7, 2002, memo, Bush tried to give himself cover by stating that "our values as a Nation, values that we share with many nations in the world, call for us to treat detainees humanely, including those who are not entitled to such treatment." He added that the United States, "to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity," would abide by the principles of the Geneva Conventions.

But this only made matters worse. His assertion that there are some detainees who are not entitled to be treated humanely is an affront to international law, as is his claim that the Geneva Conventions can be made subordinate to military necessity.

The Geneva Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention Against Torture all prohibit the torture and abuse that the United States has been inflicting on detainees. Article 2 of the Convention Against Torture states that "no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

Article VI of the Constitution makes treaties "the supreme law of the land," and the President swears an oath to see that the laws are faithfully executed.

As more information comes out, the case against Bush could get even stronger, says Sifton of Human Rights Watch. If, for instance, Bush said at Camp David on September 15, 2001, or at another meeting, "Take the gloves off," or something to that effect, he would be even more implicated. "Obviously, if he did make such an explicit order, his complicity would be shown," says Sifton. Somehow, that message was conveyed down the line. "There was a before-9/11 and an after-9/11," Cofer Black, who was director of the CIA's counterterrorist unit, told Congress in 2002. "After 9/11, the gloves came off." [...]

Amnesty International USA does not intend to back off. "Our call is for the United States to step up to its responsibilities and investigate these matters first," Executive Director Schulz says. "And if that doesn't happen, then indeed, we are calling upon foreign governments to take on their responsibility and to investigate the apparent architects of torture."

Inquiries to the embassies of Belgium, Chile, France, Germany, South Africa, and Venezuela, as well as to the government of Canada, while met with some amusement, did not reveal any inclination to heed Amnesty's call.

Schulz is not deterred. Acknowledging that the possibility of a foreign government seizing Rumsfeld or Bush might not be "an immediate reality," Schulz takes the long view: "Let's keep in mind, there are no statutes of limitations here."

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive.

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Iraq attack kills 27, US detains Sunni political chief 'by mistake'
31 May 2005 0129 hrs - AFP /dt

BAGHDAD : A double suicide bombing killed at least 27 people in a Shiite town near the Iraqi capital, while US forces released a Sunni political leader they had detained "by mistake".

Iraqi and US troops with sniffer dogs meanwhile scoured Baghdad's infamous Haifa Street as part of Operation Lightning, touted as the biggest domestic security operation since former strongman Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003. In the town of Hilla, south of Baghdad, two suicide bombers detonated their explosives belts in a crowd of about 500 former police commandos outside local government offices, police said Monday.

"We have 27 people killed and 118 wounded," an interior ministry source said.

The policemen had come to collect back-pay in the town, where a bomb in February killed 118 people, the largest single attack since the US-led invasion of March 2003.

The group of Al-Qaeda's frontman in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for the latest attacks, in Internet statements.

One of the bombers "immersed himself in a crowd of members of Iraqi special forces who were protesting infront of a police station demanding higher salaries ... he blew himself up and Allah annihilated them," it said.

The attack came as Iraqi authorities pressed on with their operation to halt widespread insurgent attacks in and around Baghdad.

Around 700 people have been killed in attacks this month, in a surge of violence that followed the May 8 inauguration of Iraq's first democratically elected post-Saddam government.

In Baghdad, US forces acknowledged they had mistakenly detained Iraqi Sunni leader Mohsen Abdel Hamid.

"This morning coalition forces detained and interviewed Mohsen Abdel Hamid. Following the interview it was determined that he was detained by mistake and should be released," a US military statement said.

"Coalition forces regret any inconvenience and acknowledge Mr Hamid's cooperation in resolving this matter."

The leader of the Iraq Islamic Party had been hooded and taken from his home along with his three sons before dawn by US troops, according to senior party official Alaa Makki. No reason had been given for the detention.

"Abdel Hamid is now resting at home with his children," Iraq Islamist Party member Nizar Hamdan told AFP. [...]

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'Al-Zarqawi' sends message to bin Laden
May 30, 2005. 07:00 PM

CAIRO, Egypt - Iraq's insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi purportedly made an audio address to Osama bin Laden today to assure the Al Qaeda leader that he was in good health after being wounded in a firefight with U.S. troops.

There was no way to confirm that the voice was that of the Jordanian-born terror leader. However, the recording was carried by a website frequently used by militant Islamic groups, and the voice sounded similar to that previously attributed to al-Zarqawi.

"I am sure you have heard through the media that I was wounded and treated in a Ramadi hospital. I would like to assure you and the Muslim nation that these were pure allegations. It was a light wound, thank God. We are back fighting them in the land of the two rivers."

The speaker addressed the message as "a letter from a soldier on the firing line to his commander."

The speaker purporting to be al-Zarqawi addressed bin Laden as his "Emir," or commander, asked bin Laden for guidance on conducting the insurgency. He said he sent bin Laden a war plan and asked for comments or approval.

Al-Zarqawi also claimed that his insurgent followers had won this month's bloody battle against U.S. troops at the town of Qaim near the Syrian border.

"It was one of the greatest battles of Islam," the speaker said. "We would like to assure you that we are continuing on the path of jihad, we are committed to our pledge. We will either win or die trying."

The U.S. military said it killed 125 militants during its weeklong offensive against al-Zarqawi's fighters. Nine U.S. marines were killed and 40 injured during the operation, one of the largest American campaigns since militants were driven from Falluja six months ago. The number of civilian casualties was not immediately known.

The recording posted Monday followed previous Internet postings saying the Jordanian was in good health and had returned to lead insurgent attacks in Iraq after being wounded.

On May 24, a statement allegedly by al-Zarqawi's group said he had been injured, without saying how or when. A U.S. official said the injury claim could be purposely misleading.

In October 2004, an Internet statement said al-Zarqawi's group declared allegiance to Al Qaeda and "father of all fighters" or bin Laden. Known then as Tawhid and Jihad - Arabic for "monotheism and holy war," the group later changed its name to "Al Qaeda in Iraq."

Bin Laden endorsed al-Zarqawi as his deputy in Iraq in an audiotape in December.

Al Qaeda in Iraq has claimed responsibility for many of the bloodiest suicide bombings and other attacks against U.S. troops and their Iraqi allies.

Comment: Ah, the demon alliance, al Zarqawi and Osama! Isn't it just a little too convenient that Osama and al Zarqawi seem to appear at moments when Bush needs a little boost in his crusade against Islam?

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The al-Qaeda Organization for Holy War in Iraq Melodrama
Kurt Nimmo

Like soap opera characters who tell us every excruciating detail of their personal lives, we are invited to tune in on the continuing saga, presented in yet another installment (via the internet), of Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi story.

"Al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi said he was 'lightly' wounded but still battling alongside his fighters in Iraq, in a voice message attributed to him posted Monday on the Internet," reports Forbes. "It was not possible to verify the authenticity of the statement, which comes after a series of sometimes conflicting messages about the health of the Jordanian-born extremist and his role in the insurgency."

Presently "authenticity" is not a required ingredient since we are so riveted to this evolving (and, not unlike a soap opera, wholly predictable) potboiler.

"I am currently with my brothers and my people in the land of Mesopotamia, where I am participating in combats against the Crusaders and the enemies of religion," declared the "voice," said to be al-Zarqawi, although certainty is left twisting in the wind like the end of a weekly run of Days of Our Lives (be sure to tune in next week).

And like a soap opera, the Abu Musab al-Zarqawi storyline is no stranger to outlandishness. For instance, over the weekend, it was said al-Zarqawi was in Iran (either with or without the permission of Iran's mullahs, who have no use for a Sunni claiming to hate Shi'as and is said to have killed a tidy number of them in Iraq) and then suddenly forty eight hours later the mercurial one shows up in Baghdad to micromanage "a response to a security push launched by Iraqi forces against rebels in Baghdad that resulted in a string of bombings at the weekend," as Forbes would have it. Abu may be of sub-standard intelligence, but he gets around, seemingly evades checkpoints and military patrols with ease, and possesses a super-human ability to heal his wounds (only days ago, al-Zarqawi's injuries were life-threatening, now they are described as "light," sustained as he engaged in combat with the infidels). "I think news has reached your ears through the media that I was seriously wounded … I would like to assure you and assure Muslims that these are baseless rumors and that my wounds are minor," confessed Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Iraq.

Like passive soap opera fans, we (or many of us) unquestioningly digest the absurd and often cartoonish Abu Musab al-Zarqawi storyline, either refusing or unable to question the inconsistencies and speciousness of it. And this is precisely what Bush and Crew want-to distract us from reality (and the reality is the United States cannot defeat the resistance in Iraq) and fill up our heads with fantastic stories, especially when lurid facts (soldiers killed when a helicopter is shot down near Baquba) and blunders (the embarrassing arrest Mohsen Abdul-Halim) make Iraq out to be something other than the United States wants us to believe it is.

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Police see al Qaeda link in Karachi mosque bombing
Tue May 31, 2005
By Faisal Aziz

KARACHI (Reuters) - Eleven people were killed in a night of violence in Karachi when a suicide attack on a mosque blamed on a group linked to al Qaeda spiralled into a riot that burned to death six at American fast-food outlet KFC.

Angry Shi'ite Muslims set fire to the restaurant in revenge after five people were killed and 18 wounded in the Monday night suicide bomb blast at a Shi'ite mosque in Karachi's middle-class Gulshan-e-Iqbal district, police said on Tuesday.

The mob torched the KFC outlet minutes after the blast at the mosque, and then ransacked a hospital, two petrol stations and burned more than a dozen vehicles.

The latest violence in one of America's allies in its war on terrorism came three days after a suicide bombing at a festival in Islamabad killed 19 people, mostly Shi'ite Muslims, the worst-ever attack in Pakistan's capital.

A crowd of Shi'ite youths chanting "Down with America" tried to set to fire to another KFC outlet on Tuesday during a funeral for a victim of Monday's attack, but police repelled them with batons.

Police also detained about two dozen protesters who threw rocks at cars, shops and police.

Shi'ite mobs often target symbols of U.S. influence after sectarian attacks as they accuse the government of failing to act to prevent religious violence.

Police said intelligence agents suspect Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned Sunni Muslim militant group with ties to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, had planned the mosque attack.

"The pattern of this attack has many similarities with attacks they have carried out in the recent past," said the district's police chief, Asif Ajaz Sheikh. "We are working on several other leads too."


Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is one of Pakistan's most feared underground militant groups. Its members have been implicated in attacks on Western targets in Karachi, including the kidnap and murder of U.S. reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002.

The group has also been blamed for two assassination attempts on President Pervez Musharraf and carried out dozens of deadly attacks on the minority Shi'ite community.

Comment: Ok, let's see, a Shiite Muslim Mosque is attacked, and a crowd of Shiites head off in search of revenge shouting "down with America" and decide to torch a KFC because it is an American-owned business. Then we are told that this often happens because Pakistanis accuse their own government of failing to act to prevent religious violence. Excuse us for asking but, what exactly is the connection with the US?

What this report should have gone on to say is that the policies of the Pakistani PM Musharraf are almost totally dictated by Washington. We are then told that, even though the mob rightly blames their spineless and sell-out government for doing the dirty work of the Bush administration in deliberately fomenting sectarian violence in Pakistan (like blowing up Mosques and blaming it on al-Qaeda), al-Qaeda is blamed for the attack.

Of course, now that every single act of violence in the Islamic world is being blamed on "al-Qaeda", news reports are reading more and more like nonsensical drivel rather than factual reporting. For example, the above Reuters report makes no attempt to explain why al-Qaeda, that arch enemy of America and Christian infidels, would want to blow up a Muslim mosque and kill their fellow Muslims. Nor does it cite last year's Washington Times report that the 9/11 Commission was given a stunning document from an "unimpeachable Pakistan source" claiming that Pakistani intelligence officers knew in advance of the 9/11 attacks.

Of course, very little was heard about this in the mainstream press and the 9/11 Commission simply ignored it. When we add in the factor that the ISI is essentially controlled by the CIA, both having collaborated on the creation and management of the Taleban and "al-Qaeda", it doesn't take a genius to figure out that members of the CIA also knew in advance that the 9/11 attacks were coming.

And we should not forget that Ex-director general of the Pakistani ISI Hamid Gul (who claimed that "As ISI director, I held the whole Mujahideen movement in the palm of my hands") is on record as having said that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington were the work of renegade U.S. Air Force elements working with the Israelis."

No indeed, like the duped men of the light brigade, ours is not to reason why, ours is but to believe the lies of our leaders and sacrifice ourselves for their gain.

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Basra out of control, says chief of police

Families can still stroll but militia gangs hold power in port city
Rory Carroll in Basra
Tuesday May 31, 2005
The Guardian

The chief of police in Basra admitted yesterday that he had effectively lost control of three-quarters of his officers and that sectarian militias had infiltrated the force and were using their posts to assassinate opponents.

Speaking to the Guardian, General Hassan al-Sade said half of his 13,750-strong force was secretly working for political parties in Iraq's second city and that some officers were involved in ambushes.

Other officers were politically neutral but had no interest in policing and did not follow his orders, he told the Guardian.

"I trust 25% of my force, no more."

The claim jarred with Basra's reputation as an oasis of stability and security and underlined the burgeoning influence of Shia militias in southern Iraq.

"The militias are the real power in Basra and they are made up of criminals and bad people," said the general.

"To defeat them I would need to use 75% of my force, but I can rely on only a quarter."

In fact the port city, part of the British zone, is remarkably peaceful. It is largely untouched by the insurgency and crimes such as kidnapping and theft have ebbed since the chaotic months after the March 2003 invasion.

In marked contrast to Baghdad, razor wire and blast walls are uncommon in Basra and instead of cowering indoors after dark families take strolls along the corniche.

But Gen Sade said the tranquillity had been bought by ceding authority to conservative Islamic parties and turning a blind eye to their militias' corruption scams and hit squads.

A former officer in Saddam Hussein's marine special forces, he was chosen to lead Basra's police force by the previous government headed by Ayad Allawi and he started the job five months ago.

He praised the establishment of a competent 530-strong tactical support unit and claimed that 90% of ordinary crime was detected.

But he was frustrated that a weak, fledgling state left him powerless to purge his force of members of Iraq's two main rival Shia militias: Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army and the Badr Brigade of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri).

Sciri is one of the dominant parties in the Shia-led government in Baghdad and Mr Sadr, a radical cleric, has become a mainstream political player since leading two uprisings against occupation forces last year.

Both groups have been implicated in targeting officials from Saddam's ousted regime. Since such people tend to be Sunni Arabs, the score settling is often perceived as sectarian.

"Some of the police are involved in assassinations," said Gen Sade. "I am trying to sort this out, for example by putting numbers on police cars so they can be identified."

In March, police watched impassively as their friends in the Mahdi army members beat up scores of university students at a picnic deemed immoral because music was played and couples mingled. Gen Sade identified the officers, but did not punish them for fear of provoking the militia.

If there is trouble at Basra, university staff still phone the police, said Professor Saleh Najim, dean of the engineering college. "But you can't be sure they will do their duty."

The police chief felt cut off from his superiors at the interior ministry in Baghdad and lamented that a government commission was forcing some of his best officers to resign over alleged links with the ousted regime. He did not know how long he would keep his job.

Colin Smith, a deputy chief constable and Britain's senior police adviser in Iraq, said the Basra force's ability to patrol and investigate crimes was an "exponential development" from two years ago and he expected improvements to accelerate.

"I'm optimistic. It's a five to 10 year project, it won't be overnight," he said.

He criticised previous British and American trainers for setting the bar too high for a force being built from scratch. "Too often we have given the Iraqis plans that don't work. We still don't have an Iraq police strategy."

For example police stations were given expensive cameras to photograph suspects without heed to the Iraqis' difficulty in replacing the batteries, said Mr Smith.

"A lot of the time we're not moving forward but rectifying the mistakes made in the past two years."

Comment: Notice the spin on this article. We are meant to be concerned because militia gangs hold the power in the city of Basra. Furthermore, they are Shia militia who are targeting Sunnis. The Western media is pushing the idea of an oncoming civil war in Iraq between the Sunni and the Shia, when another interpretation would be that the assassinations are a settling of accounts with former members of the Hussein government. Report after report from the Iraqis themselves indicates that they do not want a civil war in their country; they want the occupation forces out. The Shia, who had no political power under Saddam, are seeking to hold the former members of the government accountable. In the current climate, that means assassinations.

We do not condone assassination. However, the fact that the people of Basra can go out in the evenings while their compatriots in Baghdad and elsewhere are confined to their homes for fear of being murdered in the streets or kidnapped, says a lot about the difference between regions where the Iraqis are policing themselves and the areas where it is in the hands of the occupation.

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Baghdad Burning

Oh my.

Remember Muhsin Abdul Hameed? He's the head of the Iraqi Islamic Party in Iraq- a Sunni political party that was basically the only blatantly Sunni party taking part in post-occupation politics in Iraq. For those who have forgotten, Abdul Hameed was chosen as one of the rotating presidents back in 2003. Mohsin was actually, er, Mr. February 2004, if you will.

The last couple of days, we've been hearing about raids and detentions in various areas. One of these areas is Amriya. We've been hearing about random detentions of 'suspects' who may be any male between the ages 15 – 65 and looting by Iraqi forces of houses. It's like the first months after the occupation when the American forces were conducting raids.

We woke up this morning to the interesting news that Muhsin Abdul Hameed had also been detained! A member of the former Iraqi Governing Council, a rotating puppet president, and *The Sunni*. He is The Sunni they hold up to all Sunnis as an example of cooperation and collaboration. Well, he's the religious Sunni. There is a tribal Sunni (supposedly to appease the Arab Sunni tribes) and that is Ghazi Al Yawir and there is the religious Sunni- Muhsin Abdul Hameed.

The Americans are saying Muhsin was "detained and interviewed", which makes one think his car was gently pulled over and he was asked a few questions. What actually happened was that his house was raided early morning, doors broken down, windows shattered and he and his three sons had bags placed over their heads and were dragged away. They showed the house, and his wife, today on Arabiya and the house was a disaster. The cabinets were broken, tables overturned, books and papers scattered, etc. An outraged Muhsin was on tv a few minutes ago talking about how the troops pushed him to the floor and how he had an American boot on his neck for twenty minutes.

Talabani was seemingly irritated. He wondered why no one asked him about the arrest before it occurred - as if the he is personally consulted on every other raid and detention. The detention is disturbing. Now I am not personally fond of Muhsin Abdul Hameed- he looks somewhat like a dried potato, and he's a Puppet. It is disturbing, though, because if this was really a mistake, then just imagine how many other 'mistakes' are being unfairly detained and possibly tortured in places like Abu Ghraib. Abdul Hameed is one of their own and even he wasn't safe from a raid, humiliation and detention. He was out the same day, but other Iraqis don't have the luxury of a huffy Talabani and outraged political party.

Was it meant to send a message to Sunnis? That's what some people are saying. Many people believe it was meant to tell Sunnis, "None of you are safe- even the ones who work with us." It's just difficult to believe this is one big misunderstanding or mistake.

On the other hand, watching the situation unfold was somewhat like watching one of those annoying reality tv shows where they take someone off of a farm, for example, and put them in New York and then watch how they cope- what was it called? "Faking It"? How will Muhsin feel about raids and detentions now that he's been on the other side of them?

Comment: Here we see an example of what happens to a "good" Sunni. Imagine the consequences for the others.

It is hard to imagine that the operation was a mistake or error. What seems more realistic is that the intent of the US is to foment civil war in the country in order to break it up, the goal announced in the 90's by the neocons. This is the goal that Israel seeks because a strong Iraq is seen as a threat to the existence of the Zionist entity.

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The lie about liberty

Uzbekistan has shown former Soviet states that the west tolerates the repression of peaceful protest in return for oil
Nick Paton Walsh
Tuesday May 31, 2005
The Guardian

The Kyrgyz official stood in his office and surveyed the angry crowds circling the presidential administration below. "Akayev will not shoot his own people," he said, accurately predicting the decision by Askar Akayev, the former Kyrgyz president, to flee the building and country on March 24 rather than shoot the few thousand protesters who went on to loot his palatial White House.

Yet the halo that has since adorned Mr Akayev, generally the least brutal of central Asia's dictators, has not stopped his continued exile in Moscow, where he watches the wealth of his former fiefdom being redistributed among the remnants of its elite. One can only imagine his chagrin when, six weeks later across the border in neighbouring Uzbekistan, President Karimov gave the former Soviet Union's remaining authoritarians a textbook lesson in Stalinist repression: shoot them down and shut the doors; and soon the world will forget.

The brutal massacre of hundreds of civilians in Andijan is already beginning to fade from international consciousness. Islam Karimov's regime has efficiently prevented any transparent investigation of the town's fate. Germany, France, Nato, the EU, US and UN have all called for an independent international investigation. Mr Karimov has said Uzbekistan does not need to be "terrorised" by such requests. A veteran of 14 years of brutality, he appears to be sleeping well.

Jack Straw's insistence on an inquiry has not stopped the EU from continuing its aid packages to Uzbekistan. In truth, Europe has little leverage on a country with bigger, less sensitive friends. On Wednesday, Mr Karimov went to China, a nation practised in suppressing both Muslims and protest. Beijing gave him the requisite assurance that he did the right thing in suppressing the "separatism, terrorism and extremism" represented by the Andijan uprising, before striking a deal to prospect for oil in the central Asian state.

In this visit, Mr Karimov has astutely reminded his other ally, Washington, of its competitor in the region. The White House, which took six days to condemn a crackdown it initially said was in part against "terrorists", has too much at stake to get squeamish about Andijan. Washington appears to fear the possibility of Islamic insurgency in the region more than the consequences of the Karimov regime's long-term suppression of a country of 26 million. Uzbekistan - strengthened by $50.6m in US aid last year, a fifth of which was for "security and law enforcement" - remains the dominant, US-friendly hardman neighbour of every other central Asian state, a useful linchpin for a threadbare and volatile region.

While the Pentagon has said it will be "more cautious" in its use of a vital military base in Khanabad, and Condoleezza Rice has said the aid might be reviewed, that appears to be just about it. It has instead fallen to the US senator John McCain, after a visit to Tashkent, to brand the events a "massacre" yesterday. Mr Karimov is intent on keeping the media out - the Guardian has been waiting a fortnight longer than usual for a visa - as mass arrests ensure this crackdown cannot snowball into a full-scale revolt.

Soon other former Soviet republics will have to decide whether to take a leaf from Mr Karimov's freshly penned textbook. The White House's "beacons of liberty" rhetoric has fomented dreams of - and even plans for - revolution in the oil giants of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, both expecting elections by the end of the year that the government will characteristically try to fix.

The events in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan had sent shivers through the body politic of both countries, causing the Kazakh president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, to ban protests during election time, to shut opposition papers and to let his police beat youth protesters wearing orange, the colour of Ukraine's revolution. In a coup de grace for both irony and free speech in the country, yesterday an opposition figure went on trial for slander after he accused Mr Nazarbayev's daughter, Dariga, of illegally creating a media monopoly, allegations she denies.

On the other side of the Caspian, Azerbaijan's president, Ilham Aliev - his father's dynastic successor - regularly sends in riot troops to batter protesters. Pro-democracy revolutions are a luxury when geopolitical issues such as hydrocarbons are at stake. Last Wednesday's opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline - set to bring oil from the Azerbaijani Caspian and eventually Kazakhstan to European and American markets - helps spell out Washington's key principles in the region.

Mr Aliev felt comfortable enough in his relationship with Washington to ban a demonstration planned for the previous Saturday - protesting for free parliamentary elections this November - so as not to spoil the atmosphere for Wednesday's ceremony. When the protest went ahead all the same, he sent in the riot police, who hit some demonstrators with truncheons and made 100 arrests.

The Norwegian ambassador to Baku, Steinar Gil, whose vociferous criticism of human-rights abuses, despite his country's strategic investment in the BTC, is fast turning him into an Azerbaijani Craig Murray, was a lone voice among diplomats when he condemned the Aliev regime's "crude violence". The US embassy said it "regretted" that the right to assemble freely had been violated.

After Andijan, in the former Soviet Union at least, a state that shoots dead hundreds of peaceful protesters can no longer expect to become an international pariah. Its lesson will be apparent by the end of the year. When the protesters gather in November in Baku and in December in Almaty, Mr Aliev and Mr Nazarbayev could only better their Uzbek counterpart's performance by digging the mass graves before their troops take aim.

Comment: More evidence of the continuing American hypocrisy over freedom and democracy. Not that any more is really needed...

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C.I.A. Expanding Terror Battle Under Guise of Charter Flights
New York Times

SMITHFIELD, N.C. - The airplanes of Aero Contractors Ltd. take off from Johnston County Airport here, then disappear over the scrub pines and fields of tobacco and sweet potatoes. Nothing about the sleepy Southern setting hints of foreign intrigue. Nothing gives away the fact that Aero's pilots are the discreet bus drivers of the battle against terrorism, routinely sent on secret missions to Baghdad, Cairo, Tashkent and Kabul.

When the Central Intelligence Agency wants to grab a suspected member of Al Qaeda overseas and deliver him to interrogators in another country, an Aero Contractors plane often does the job. If agency experts need to fly overseas in a hurry after the capture of a prized prisoner, a plane will depart Johnston County and stop at Dulles Airport outside Washington to pick up the C.I.A. team on the way.

Aero Contractors' planes dropped C.I.A. paramilitary officers into Afghanistan in 2001; carried an American team to Karachi, Pakistan, right after the United States Consulate there was bombed in 2002; and flew from Libya to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the day before an American-held prisoner said he was questioned by Libyan intelligence agents last year, according to flight data and other records.

While posing as a private charter outfit - "aircraft rental with pilot" is the listing in Dun and Bradstreet - Aero Contractors is in fact a major domestic hub of the Central Intelligence Agency's secret air service. The company was founded in 1979 by a legendary C.I.A. officer and chief pilot for Air America, the agency's Vietnam-era air company, and it appears to be controlled by the agency, according to former employees.

Comment: Note: Air America in Vietnam was primarily used by the CIA to ferry drugs back to the US market.

Behind a surprisingly thin cover of rural hideaways, front companies and shell corporations that share officers who appear to exist only on paper, the C.I.A. has rapidly expanded its air operations since 2001 as it has pursued and questioned terrorism suspects around the world.

An analysis of thousands of flight records, aircraft registrations and corporate documents, as well as interviews with former C.I.A. officers and pilots, show that the agency owns at least 26 planes, 10 of them purchased since 2001. The agency has concealed its ownership behind a web of seven shell corporations that appear to have no employees and no function apart from owning the aircraft.

The planes, regularly supplemented by private charters, are operated by real companies controlled by or tied to the agency, including Aero Contractors and two Florida companies, Pegasus Technologies and Tepper Aviation.

The civilian planes can go places American military craft would not be welcome. They sometimes allow the agency to circumvent reporting requirements most countries impose on flights operated by other governments. But the cover can fail, as when two Austrian fighter jets were scrambled on Jan. 21, 2003, to intercept a C.I.A. Hercules transport plane, equipped with military communications, on its way from Germany to Azerbaijan.

"When the C.I.A. is given a task, it's usually because national policy makers don't want 'U.S. government' written all over it," said Jim Glerum, a retired C.I.A. officer who spent 18 years with the agency's Air America but says he has no knowledge of current operations. "If you're flying an executive jet into somewhere where there are plenty of executive jets, you can look like any other company."

Comment: Now here's a little exercise in imagination: What tasks do you think the US government would want to carry out anonymously? Donating food to the poor perhaps? What about saving the rainforest? No? What about carrying out illegal drug running and kidnapping operations? What about false flag terror operations? Is it possible that they would want to keep something like that secret?

Some of the C.I.A. planes have been used for carrying out renditions, the legal term for the agency's practice of seizing terrorism suspects in one foreign country and delivering them to be detained in another, including countries that routinely engage in torture. The resulting controversy has breached the secrecy of the agency's flights in the last two years, as plane-spotting hobbyists, activists and journalists in a dozen countries have tracked the mysterious planes' movements.

Inquiries From Abroad

The authorities in Italy and Sweden have opened investigations into the C.I.A.'s alleged role in the seizure of suspects in those countries who were then flown to Egypt for interrogation. According to Dr. Georg Nolte, a law professor at the University of Munich, under international law, nations are obligated to investigate any substantiated human rights violations committed on their territory or using their airspace.

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Court Overturns Arthur Andersen Conviction
The Associated Press
Tuesday, May 31, 2005; 11:25 AM

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned the conviction of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm for destroying Enron Corp.-related documents before the energy giant's collapse.

In a unanimous opinion, justices said the former Big Five accounting firm's June 2002 obstruction-of-justice conviction - which virtually destroyed Andersen - was improper. The decision said jury instructions at trial were too vague and broad for jurors to determine correctly whether Andersen obstructed justice.

"The jury instructions here were flawed in important respects," Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote for the court.

The ruling is a setback for the Bush administration, which made prosecution of white-collar criminals a high priority following accounting scandals at major corporations. After Enron's 2001 collapse, the Justice Department went after Andersen first.

Enron crashed in December 2001, putting more than 5,000 employees out of work, just six weeks after the energy company revealed massive losses and writedowns.

Subsequently, as the Securities and Exchange Commission began looking into Enron's convoluted finances, Andersen put in practice a policy calling for destroying unneeded documentation.

Government attorneys argued that Andersen should be held responsible for instructing its employees to "undertake an unprecedented campaign of document destruction."

But in his opinion, Rehnquist noted that jurors were instructed to convict Andersen if the accounting firm had an "improper purpose," such as an intent to impede or subvert fact-finding in an "official proceeding." He noted jurors were instructed to convict, even if Andersen mistakenly thought it was acting legally.

At trial, Andersen argued that employees who shredded tons of documents followed the policy and there was no intent to thwart the SEC investigation.

The probe into Andersen led to just one guilty plea, from the firm's former top Enron auditor, David Duncan. But the conviction of the Chicago firm forced it to surrender its accounting license and stop conducting public audits. Some 28,000 workers had to find other jobs, and the company was left a shell of its former self.

A ruling against Andersen would have had onerous consequences for businesses, whose discarding of files is an everyday occurrence. Experts say companies would have to keep all files for fear that any disposal, however innocent, could subject them to potential prosecution.

According to Andersen attorneys, notes and drafts of documents were thrown away under the firm's document-retention policy in part because they were preliminary and could have been misconstrued.

Andersen's appeal was backed by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. It argued in a friend-of-the-court filing that broad characterization of "obstruction" used in the jury instructions would also unfairly punish criminal attorneys who advise their clients to withhold evidence in legal ways.

Such a broad reading could open defense lawyers and others to prosecution if they merely advise clients of their rights to assert legal privileges or review document retention policies, the criminal defense group said.

The case is Andersen v. U.S., 04-368.

Comment: A setback for the Bush administration?? The Bush administration is perhaps the most pro-big business US administration ever. Look at Halliburton. Look at the numerous defense contractors who have profited handsomely from the war on terror. Look at the US corporations who received huge, no-bid contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq. Letting Andersen off the hook is really no setback at all for Bush and gang - it's just business as usual. The principal members of the Bush administration will just have to find some other scapegoat to take the rap for they crimes that they committed.

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Woman Drops Bid to Become Gold Star Mother
Mon May 30, 9:24 PM ET

YONKERS, N.Y. - A Yonkers woman has dropped her bid to become a Gold Star Mother. Ligaya Lagman was denied acceptance by the organization of mothers who have lost sons and daughter in combat because she is not a U.S. citizen.

Bob Foster of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Eastchester tells the Journal News that Lagman is shaken up by all the attention she has gotten and she wants to stay on the sidelines. But she wants to see the rules changed so other mothers are not turned down like she was.

Lagman came to the United States from the Philippines in 1983. She is a permanent resident but not a citizen. Foster says she is busy caring for her husband, who is seriously ill. Lagman's son, Anthony, was killed in a firefight in Afghanistan last year at age 26.

Veterans and politicians, among others, called for American Gold Star Mothers to change its policy to allow noncitizen mothers of fallen soldiers into the organization, after reports that Lagman had been excluded from the group.

The Gold Star's national monument is being built in Putnam County.

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Minister Takes Down 'Flush Koran' Sign
POSTED: 11:38 am EDT May 27, 2005

FOREST CITY, N.C. -- A North Carolina pastor is apologizing to Muslims for a sign in front of his church that said, "The Koran needs to be flushed."

The sign referred to a now-retracted Newsweek story alleging that U.S. interrogators flushed Islam's holy book down a toilet. There were anti-U.S. demonstrations in several countries and violent unrest in Afghanistan following the story.

But the Rev. Creighton Lovelace, of Danieltown Baptist Church in Forest City, said he meant to affirm and exalt the Bible rather than insult Muslims. In a statement, Lovelace said that after prayer and reflection, he now realizes that Muslims revere their holy book more than many Americans revere the Bible.

The statement said:

"Now I realize how offensive this is to them, and after praying about it, I have chosen to remove the sign. I apologize for posting that message and deeply regret that it has offended so many in the Muslim community. I remain committed to proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and renew my commitment to proclaiming that message in the true spirit of Christ's love."

Lovelace said the church sign's message has been replaced with a new one that reads: "Jesus said, 'I am the way.'"

Meanwhile, Pentagon officials said the detainee who reported the original allegation of the Quran being put in a toilet now says it was not true. However, investigators have confirmed five cases since 2002 in which military personnel at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison mishandled the Qurans of Muslim prisoners.

Officials said they found 15 incidents in which detainees mishandled or inappropriately treated the Quran. That includes one case of a detainee ripping pages from his holy book.

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5 killed in Karachi bombing
Last Updated Mon, 30 May 2005 19:09:37 EDT
CBC News

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - At least five people are dead and another 18 badly injured after a suicide bomb attack at a mosque in Karachi.

Two of those who were killed are said to have been the attackers. A third suspected attacker is unconscious and in critical condition in hospital.The attack was carried out inside a Shia Muslim mosque.

Police say the bomber blew himself up.

Pakistan has been troubled by religious violence since it joined the U.S.-led war on terrorism after the Sept. 11 attacks.

A suicide bombing at a Muslim festival in Islamabad a few days ago killed at least 19 people and wounded dozens of others, also mostly minority Shia Muslims.

More than 100 people have been killed in sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia militants in the past year.

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7 wounded in Kabul explosion
Last Updated Mon, 30 May 2005 19:03:47 EDT
CBC News

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - A bomb attached to an abandoned bicycle exploded in Kabul Monday, wounding at least seven Afghan civilians.

Police chief Mohammed Akbar says the remote-controlled bomb exploded along the main road from Kabul to the eastern city of Jalalabad.Four of the victims were in a taxi and three were pedestrians.

The blast came about eight hours after a rocket shook the headquarters of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in central Kabul, although no one was injured in that incident.

No one has claimed responsibility for either of the attacks.

Meanwhile, fighting between Afghan troops and suspected Taliban insurgents has left at least 10 insurgents and a soldier dead. The clashes broke out in the troubled southern Zabul province after the rebels ambushed an Afghan army patrol.

U.S. forces rushed to the scene of the assault, but the insurgents had already fled.

The assault is the latest against forces allied with President Hamid Karzai's government.

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Iran makes ballistic missile breakthrough
May 31, 2005

TEHRAN - Iran announced it had successfully tested a new solid fuel missile motor for its arsenal of medium-range ballistic missiles, a technological breakthrough that sparked fresh alarm in Israel.

"It was a test of a motor and not a test of a missile," a defence ministry official told AFP, clarifying earlier reports in the Iranian press that a missile itself was tested on Sunday.

A defence ministry statement quoted Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani as saying that "the more durable fuel allows the missile to be more accurate", and said the new technology could be built into Iran's Shahab-3 missiles.

The test was "100 percent successful", Shamkhani said. The ministry also denied a report on Iranian state television that a "two-stage rocket motor" -- in theory for a missile capable of hitting Europe -- had been tested.

Iran says the Shahab-3 has a range of at least 2,000 kilometres (1,280 miles) -- meaning that arch-enemy Israel and US bases in the region are well within range.

The country has recently upgraded the Shahab-3 ballistic missile, a single-stage device believed to be based on a North Korean design. Up to now it has been based on liquid-fuel technology.

Military experts contacted by AFP said the test, if indeed successful, would signify an important breakthrough for the Islamic republic's missile programme.

Firstly, in order to develop a missile with a range greater than 2,000 kilometres -- in effect a two-stage rocket -- a country needs to master the more complex solid fuel technology.

Iran has, however, denied developping a missile with a reach beyond the Middle East region. [...]

Comment: Remember when the US administration told the world that Saddam would soon have missiles capable of striking the US? How many such missiles were found in Iraq by US troops? Come to think of it, how many WMD's of any kind were found in Iraq by anyone?

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15 days left before war with Iran
Monday 23rd May 2005 (05h50)

Are we going to stand idly by as more sovereign countries are attacked? This farce has nothing to do with getting rid of nuclear weapons in the Middle East or else the US would shut down the billions of dollars of aid that Israel receives. Money that is funneled into its massive chemical, biological and nuclear arsenal, which is turning Israel into a dominant superpower.

Their military & political might remains unchecked. They are in firm control of the world's remaining superpower, the United States, and it's massive military force. Ariel Sharon is ordering the United States around like a drunken man abusing his wife. And like a typical abused wife, the United States refuses to acknowledge it. The transparency of the situation is obvious, how long are we going to let it continue?

Mr. Sharon and company may be biting off a bit more than they can chew if he attacks Iran though. Russia and Iran have a mutual defense agreement and it has been reported that Russia has SS-N-22 "Sunburn" missiles stationed in Iran that could turn Tel Aviv into glass should they attack.

Recently there have been large troop redeployments (see articles below) out of Iraq in preparation of an attack on Iran. Stateside nurses are being sent to 'field hospitals' too. Look for the attack to happen around June 6, 2005.

The reason Mossad has been killing off the microbiologist scientists could be that they are planning a false flag operation to wage a biological attack on the United States after Iran is attacked (most likely by Israel initially). They don't want anyone around that would be smart enough to see through their plan and trace the strains back to Israel. They did the same thing after Mossad attacked the WTC on 9/11 when the zionist Dr. Philip Zack sent Anthrax letters. This would increase hatred of Iran and justify the upcoming draft and all out war to increase Israel's borders. [...]

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Dance idol blasted for anti-Israeli quotes

Israel Prize winner and well-renowned Israeli dance choreographer slammed for telling Canadian newspaper Israeli army commits "war crimes" in the West Bank; He said he expressed personal opinion
By Itamar Eichner

TEL AVIV - The foreign ministry blasted a renowned prize-winning Israeli dance choreographer on Thursday for telling a Canadian newspaper that Israeli troops commit "war crimes" against the Palestinians, saying his words were harmful to the image of the Jewish state.

Ohad Naharin, currently in Montreal to choreograph a ballet, had told the Montreal Gazette that he volunteers as an interpreter for a women's organization that supervises military checkpoints in the Palestinian territories, where Palestinians often complain of humiliation and abuse by soldiers.

"I continue to do my job when people are participating in war crimes about 20 kilometers away from me," he told the newspaper on Wednesday, referring to army activity in the West Bank.

A source in the foreign ministry told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that Naharin's words were damaging to Israel, especially in light of him being a former winner of the prestigious Israel Prize.

"This is an unfortunate quality of people of culture, art and academia," a source said. "When they leave the country, they attack it and allow themselves to say things they wouldn't dare tell Israeli media. We are not opposed to criticism, but to accuse Israel of war crimes is very grave."

The army mans dozens of checkpoints and small roadblocks all over the West Bank and says they are essential for stopping potential suicide bombers from reaching Israeli towns and Jewish settlements.

Naharin, who Israelis have often accused of being pro-Palestinian, said in response that his words reflected his personal opinion as a citizen.

"I did not see the interview, but I imagine I was quoted for saying things I've already said many times in the past, such as the fact that most of us, Palestinians and Israelis alike, are becoming the innocent victims of our leaders and that evil, paranoia and lack of heart prohibit us from changing the twisted reality that we live in," he said.

Naharin, 53, is best known in Israel for his performances with the Batsheva Dance Company, where he's worked since 1990 as a dancer and artistic director. A former student at the Julliard School of Music, the Israeli native has performed with major dance companies in Europe, Australia and the United States.

Comment: To quote the "source in the Israeli foreign ministry", yes an allegation of war crimes is indeed very grave, and in this case it is 100% justified.

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Jew calls for sanctions on Israel
Monday 30 May 2005, 6:28 Makka Time, 3:28 GMT

An anti-Zionist Jewish activist at a meeting in Malaysia called for UN sanctions against Israel for violating the human rights of Palestinians, a news report has said. Uri Davis, who has written books on apartheid and democracy in Israel and the Middle East, said Israeli bans on trade between Jewish citizens and Palestinians violated UN principles, the New Straits Times reported.

"It is a violation of human rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948," Davis was quoted as saying at a meeting organized by the Malaysian Social Research Institute and the Islamic Welfare Society.

Dir Yasin commemoration

The meeting on Sunday afternoon was organised to commemorate a 1948 Jewish militia attack on the Arab village of Dir Yasin, in what is now Israel, killing more than 100 Arabs and forcing the rest to flee.

Organisers were not immediately available on Monday morning for comment.

Mostly-Muslim Malaysia and Israel do not have diplomatic ties, and leaders of this Southeast Asian country often have criticised Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad - who outraged world leaders when he told a summit of Islamic leaders in 2003 that "Jews rule the world by proxy" - said he was barred from entering Jerusalem and the West Bank town of Jenin when he tried to visit them two weeks ago.

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De Villepin appointed French PM

Dominique de Villepin has been named as France's new prime minister, following the government defeat in Sunday's vote on the EU constitution.

The former interior minister replaces Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who tendered his resignation minutes earlier.

President Jacques Chirac promised cabinet changes after the referendum, in which almost 55% voted "No".

Correspondents say the result reflects domestic discontent as well as wider anxiety about the European project.

Mr Raffarin said in a TV broadcast after his resignation that he had made his decision independently of the EU vote.

He attempted to justify his attempts to reform France, but acknowledged these had not been accepted by the French people.

He promised to offer his support to his successor, who must, he said, try to continue the vital European project.

Mr Chirac is due to address the nation on Tuesday evening.

Mr de Villepin has not yet named other members of the new government.

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Analysis: French wake-up call to EU elite
By Gareth Harding
May 30, 2005

Brussels, Belgium -- Something is rotten in the state of Europe.

Despite many EU leaders' best attempts to ignore the French rejection of the bloc's first ever constitution Sunday, the result highlights the growing divide between the Union's rulers and ruled and between the treaty's lofty goals and the more earthy desires of disgruntled voters.

The 'no' vote in France may not lead to the collapse of the Union, a slump in the euro value or even the specter of war among its members -- as some politicians warned ahead of the poll -- but it does plunge the 25-state club into an unprecedented institutional crisis and is likely to lead to years of navel-gazing as EU leaders attempt to salvage some of the treaty's proposals.

By rejecting the constitution by a wider than expected margin -- about 55 percent to 45 percent -- French voters have voiced their disquiet at the direction Europe is heading in. Not that you would notice in Brussels, the self-styled capital of Europe and home to the main EU institutions.

After the provisional result was announced late Sunday, politicians and senior EU officials rushed to broadcast studios and press conferences to declare that the treaty was not dead, that the 'show must go on' and that one country should not be allowed to decide for 24 others. They produced statistics showing the constitution, which aims to make the club more open, democratic and efficient, had already been ratified by nine countries representing half the EU's population. They questioned whether the French 'non' really was a 'no' as the anti-treaty camp was split into those wanting more Europe and those wanting less. And they pledged 'business as usual' on economic reform, eastern enlargement and creating an ever closer Europe of states and peoples.

"Just because one country said 'no' there's no reason to start questioning everything the EU does," European Commission spokeswoman Francoise Le Bail told reporters Monday.

Legally speaking she is right. Current EU law requires all 25 states to ratify a new treaty before it can enter into force. However, a declaration tacked on to the constitution states that if 20 states have ratified the constitution in late 2006 and one or more countries have failed to do so, EU leaders shall meet to decide what to do next. Clearly the intent is to push ahead with the ratification process in the hope that all but two or three countries will say' yes.' The miscreant states would then be politely asked to hold a second vote aimed at producing the 'right' answer.

Politically speaking, Le Bail is at best disingenuous and at worst contemptuous of the French electorate's sovereign decision. Although some voters said 'no' to give the center-right government a bloody nose, many rejected the treaty because they are opposed to Turkish membership of the Union, unhappy about last year's enlargement of the bloc to take in 10 mainly former communist states, fearful of losing out from globalization and worried about the commission's pro-free market and free trade stance on economic issues.

French voters are not the only ones uncomfortable with the EU project. The Danish said 'no' to the Maastricht treaty in 1992, the Irish said 'no' to the Treaty of Nice -- the EU's current rulebook -- in 2001, Swedes said 'no' to the single currency in 2003 and Dutch voters are almost certain to reject the constitution Wednesday.

The EU may be bigger than ever, wield more powers than ever and have more countries queuing up to join it than ever, but without the backing of European voters, it is likely to remain an elite project with foundations built on sand.

"The clear rejection of the proposed constitution by the French citizens is an indication of the alienation between the people and the governments", said Thomas Rupp, leader of the European No Campaign. "A constitutional project that has completely excluded the people from the beginning is a contradiction in itself and now the political elite has to pay the price."

Not all EU politicians tried to brush the French result under the carpet Monday. "There is a different level of debate going on amongst people in Europe that the political leadership in Europe has to address," said British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who takes over the rotating presidency of the EU on July 1. "I think that underneath all this there is a more profound question, which is about the future of Europe and in particular about the future of the European economy..."

Angela Merkel, the German Christian Democrat leader who is likely to become the country's next chancellor in the fall, said: "We must learn the right lessons for the future. If we overstretch the Union and do not reduce the excess of bureaucracy, it will be difficult for us to succeed."

There is a strong feeling in France, the Netherlands and many other European countries, that the EU has expanded too far and too fast, that its decision-making procedures are opaque and its rules Byzantine, that many of its decrees are unnecessarily meddlesome and that its political elites are arrogant and self-serving.

Some opponents of the treaty in France undoubtedly voted 'non' for selfish, xenophobic or irrational reasons. But most 'no' voters do not reject the European Union and the peace and prosperity it has helped bring to a divided and war-weary continent. They just want Brussels to act on everyday concerns like crime, unemployment and pensions.

It may be too much to expect well-paid eurocrats to suddenly start focusing on such bread-and-butter issues instead of drafting regulations on tractor noise and fishnet size. But until the EU starts to make a positive difference to the lives of its 450 million citizens, it is destined to lurch from crisis to crisis and remain remote, unloved and out-of-touch.

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EU, Washington Resume Battle Over Boeing
Associated Press
May 31, 2005

BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Union decided Tuesday to file a counter complaint at the World Trade Organization against the United States, claiming Boeing Co. receives illegal aid - launching a new trade war with Washington.

The move, announced by EU trade chief Peter Mandelson, reactivates a legal process at the WTO that was frozen by the EU when it entered negotiations with Washington in January to try to cut aid to both U.S.-based Boeing and its European rival Airbus. It is also a reaction to Washington's decision late Monday to abandon months of talks and take the EU to a legal panel at the WTO for Airbus subsidies.

"I can assure you Europe's interests will be fully defended," Mandelson said, adding that he was "disappointed that the United States has chosen this confrontation with Europe."

Mandelson blamed the United States for escalating the dispute into a full-blown trade war.

"America's decision will, I fear, spark the biggest, most difficult and costly legal dispute in the WTO's (10-year) history," he said, adding it would be "manifestly expensive and (involve) quite destructive litigation."

Mandelson said it would take years to resolve the standoff. "We will have to come back and negotiate," he said.

In announcing the U.S. decision late Monday, Trade Representative Rob Portman said the Bush administration felt it had to act because of preparations being made by EU member nations to commit $1.7 billion to Airbus for developing a new airplane, the A350, which is seen as a direct competitor to Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner in the market for midsize, long-distance jets.

"We still believe that a bilateral negotiated solution is possible, but the negotiations won't succeed unless the EU recommits to ending subsidies," Portman said.

The Dreamliner seats 200 to 300 people and is expected to be available for delivery in 2008. The A350 will not be available until 2010.

Mandelson said the U.S. move meant to stop aid to Airbus was ironic because the WTO action now opens the door for EU governments to feed Airbus the aid it needs to launch the new model.

"If the Americans had opted for a deal I offered on the table, and accepted a negotiated settlement, they would have immediately seen a sharp reduction" in launch investment, said Mandelson.

"This will take years to resolve, and in the meantime it's open to Airbus to receive any amount of launch investment from member states prepared to make that investment."

Mandelson said however that investment would be repaid to governments, unlike aid to Boeing.

"Nothing of the like exists in respect of Boeing, not one cent, not one dollar has to be paid back by Boeing," he said.

Mandelson lashed out at Boeing, saying it was more than coincidence the U.S. decision, which he said was heavily pushed by Boeing, came just ahead of next month's Paris Air Show, where Airbus was to announce the launch aid for the A350.

He said weekend comments by Boeing Chairman Lewis Platt against the EU in a newspaper interview were unfair.

Platt said it seemed unlikely the EU was negotiating in good faith.

"To characterize our approach as he did, it stone walled the whole thing," Mandelson said. "That did not correctly represent me or characterize the approach we were taking." [...]

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Canada Red Cross Guilty in Blood Scandal

HAMILTON, Ontario (AP) - The Canadian Red Cross pleaded guilty Monday to distributing blood tainted with HIV and hepatitis C in the 1980s, and was fined $4,000 in the public health disaster that infected thousands.

More than 1,000 Canadians contracted blood-borne HIV and up to 20,000 others were infected with hepatitis C after receiving the tainted blood products. About 3,000 people had died by 1997 and the death toll has grown, but recent estimates were not available.

"(The) Canadian Red Cross Society is deeply sorry for the injury and death ... for the suffering caused to families and loved ones of those who were harmed," said Dr. Pierre Duplessis, the secretary general of the Red Cross.

In a public apology demanded by survivors of the victims and played via videotape in the courtroom, Duplessis said the charity accepted responsibility for "having distributed harmful products for those that rely on us for their health."

In exchange for the guilty plea and public apology, prosecutors dropped criminal charges against the charity, including criminal negligence and common nuisance.

John Plater, who contracted HIV and hemophilia from the tainted blood, said the plea offered a measure of vindication.

"We (had) thought a terrible mistake had caused the worst public health disaster in this country's history and what we've heard today is: No, in fact, people broke the law," said Plater, who is also Ontario president of the Canadian Hemophilia Society.

In addition to the fine, the charity will set aside $1.2 million for scholarships for family members of those affected as well as a medical research project.

Federal prosecutor John Ayre said the fine was adequate given the Red Cross's status as a humanitarian organization, noting it no longer engages in blood collection or distribution.

The Canadian Red Cross has already paid victims $55 million in a separate fund.

The proceedings Monday were separate from charges against Dr. Roger Perrault, former director of blood transfusion for the Red Cross. He is charged along with three other doctors and the New Jersey-based Armour Pharmaceutical Co. They are accused of criminal negligence and endangering the public for allegedly allowing Armour's blood-clotting product, infected with HIV, to be given to hemophilia patients.

Perrault's lawyer has denied the doctor committed a crime.

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Nine-year-old girl charged in fatal stabbing
The Globe and Mail
Tuesday, May 31, 2005

New York (AP) - A nine-year-old girl fatally stabbed an 11-year-old girl in the chest with a kitchen knife during a fight over a ball, authorities said.

The nine-year-old, whose name wasn't released, was charged with manslaughter.

Police spokesman Paul Browne told the New York Times that he was "unaware of anyone younger implicated in such an act in New York City."

The victim, Queen Washington, 11, was pronounced dead at a hospital.

"I don't understand how this could happen," Joyce Porter, Queen's grandmother, told the Times. She said Queen's mother had called her earlier that afternoon. "She told me, 'Queen is dead,"' Ms. Porter said, adding, "It was over a ball."

The girls had been playing together at the nine-year-old's apartment, but the girl's mother had stepped out to borrow something from a neighbour, police said.

A spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney's office said the case would go to family court because the girl is younger than 14.

In 1999, 12-year-old Lionel Tate became the youngest person in modern U.S. history to be sentenced to life in prison for the killing of six-year-old Tiffany Eunick in Florida.

He won a new trial on appeal and went free in January, 2004, under a deal that placed him under house arrest for a year followed by probation for 10 years. Now 18, he was arrested this month for allegedly holding up a pizza delivery man at gunpoint.

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Teens accused of killing homeless man 'for fun'
Tuesday, May 31, 2005

HOLLY HILL, Florida -- Two Florida teenagers found a homeless man in the woods and beat and kicked him to death "to have something to do," according to Volusia County sheriff's investigators.

Christopher Scamahorn, 14, and Jeffery Spurgeon, 18, confessed to beating the 53-year-old victim with their fists and sticks and kicking him, sheriff's spokesman Brandon Haught said Sunday.

The pair were charged with murder Sunday. Spurgeon was being held without bail in Daytona Beach. Scamahorn was taken to a juvenile jail.

The teens said they attacked the man "for fun" and "to have something to do," Haught said. They went back to the woods three times after the initial attack to beat the man again, he said.

The victim was found Saturday, and the condition of the body indicated he had been dead for several days. An autopsy Sunday determined that the man died from blunt force trauma to the head and body, Haught said.

The victim's name has not been released.

"We're trying to find next of kin," Haught said Monday. "He apparently doesn't have any next of kin nearby."

Investigators said there may be more arrests.

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Boy shot and killed during family outing
Pat Pheifer and Matt McKinney, Star Tribune
May 30, 2005

A 4-year-old boy was accidentally shot and killed Sunday afternoon after he slipped undetected behind a paper target that family members and friends were using for gun practice. The boy was fatally wounded shortly before 1:45 p.m., authorities said.

The group had gathered for the long holiday weekend at a trailer on Lake Vermilion in northeastern Minnesota when the accident happened.

There had been light rain on and off all day, but the group decided to get in a little target practice in the yard.

They didn't see the boy standing behind one of the paper targets.

The target didn't completely obscure the child, but he was wearing camouflage pants, making him difficult to see against the foliage, said Sgt. James McKenzie of the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office.

A 40-year-old man who is a friend of the family was shooting a 45-caliber handgun at the target from about 30 feet away. The bullet hit the target and then struck the 4-year-old and killed him, McKenzie said. [...]

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Big Mac, fries and a vaccine -- fast food speeds up Indonesia's polio fight
May 31, 2005

Fast food restaurants have been transformed into makeshift clinics serving polio vaccines with burgers and fries as Indonesia began a frenetic campaign to immunise million of children and contain its first outbreak of the disease in a decade.

Banners offering "gratis" vaccines at McDonald's outlets and other makeshift clinics drew crowds of families as the country pushed to complete 6.4 million immunisations in just two days and put the global polio fight back on track.

In less than 40 seconds in one Jakarta restaurant, four-year-old Raihan, his brother Azra, aged five, and sister Vania, six, each received two vaccine drops in their mouths.

"It's tasty," said Raihan.

The little fingers of their left hands were dipped in ink to show they had received their medicine before they were sent back to school, dressed in their uniform white shirts and blue bermuda shorts.

Their mother, Shinta Algamar, said she had brought her children after being alarmed by 16 confirmed cases of crippling polio in Indonesia and alerted to the vaccination drive by a relentless radio advertising campaign.

"Suddenly the polio erupted, so I am worried," she said. "At the school they told the children to go to have their polio vaccinations at McDonald's."

Indonesia was declared polio-free nine years ago, but routine health checks by doctors last month found that a 20-month-old boy had contracted the waterborne virus in the region of Sukabumi, near Jakarta.

Since then, 15 more cases have been detected. The last two were confirmed on Tuesday even as consignments of vaccine were being delivered to health posts across the region.

"We have had 10 years without polio, therefore the families are worried," said Aida, a senior health officer working at a vaccination post in Jakarta's upmarket Menteng area.

The cases in Indonesia are believed to have originated in West Africa, where there was an outbreak after immunisations were suspended when radical Muslim clerics said the medical treatment was part of a US plot.

Health officials say the virus probably entered Indonesia via Saudi Arabia, carried by a migrant worker or Islamic pilgrim returning from the holy city of Mecca.

The latest Indonesian outbreak, and a larger epidemic in Yemen that has claimed more than 80 victims, have dealt a blow to a United Nations campaign to eradicate the disease by the end of 2005.

Polio is an incurable and sometimes fatal virus that usually affects children, causing paralysis and muscular atrophy. It remains endemic in six countries: Nigeria, Niger, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Health officials said they were confident that this week's campaign in Indonesia would stop the virus in its tracks.

"We must work together to fight this disease so Indonesia can once again be disease free," said UNICEF representative Gianfranco Rotigliano. "If the outbreak in Sukabumi proves one thing, it is that we must remain vigilant."

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Astronomers confirm evidence of gamma ray bursts from supernovae
Last Updated Mon, 30 May 2005 19:55:33 EDT
CBC News

MUNICH - Scientists in Germany said they had confirmed predictions that the largest explosions in the universe – the mysterious gamma ray bursts that can be seen billions of light years away – are linked to the deaths of giant stars.

Gamma ray bursts are extremely bright flashes of X-ray and gamma ray radiation that appear for only a few seconds. They happen all across the sky, several times a day, with no apparent pattern of position or strength, like flashbulbs in a stadium at night.

Since their discovery in 1969, they had baffled astronomers who couldn't determine what caused them, although orbiting telescopes in recent years had found the bursts were located in distant galaxies.

The explanation that they might be the result of exploding stars, or supernovae, was rejected because it was thought they couldn't produce the extreme energies that had been observed.

Now, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Munich have reported some stars do explode in a way that could explain gamma ray bursts.

If a star exploded aspherically, essentially shooting energy out of its poles like a jet, it could produce the energies seen, scientists reasoned. It had been thought that supernovae were mostly spherical explosions.

Poles must be aligned correctly to be seen

An international team of scientists built models in 2002 predicting that the spectrum of an aspherical supernova should look a particular way.

They found it in a recent supernova observed by telescopes in Hawaii, and published their findings in the May 27 edition of the journal Science.

A supernova occurs when a massive star, several times the size of the sun, exhausts its nuclear fuel and gravitational forces cause its core to collapse.

The resulting explosion can be as bright as an entire galaxy. But gamma ray bursts are even brighter in certain areas of the light spectrum. However, they are not visible on Earth if the star's poles are pointed in the wrong direction.

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Andromeda Galaxy 3 Times Bigger than Thought
Michael Schirber
Mon May 30, 8:53 PM ET

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - We know less about our nearest galactic neighbor than thought, astronomers announced today. A map of the outer suburbs of the Andromeda galaxy finds that its rotating disk of stars is three times bigger than previously measured.

The Andromeda galaxy is a spiral galaxy similar to our own Milky Way. Although there are smaller dwarf galaxies nearer to us, Andromeda is the closest large galaxy - at about 2 million light-years from Earth. A light-year is the distance light travels in a year, about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion kilometers).

Under dark skies, Andromeda can be seen by the naked eye as a large fuzzy blob.

3 times bigger

Scott Chapman from the California Institute of Technology presented the results of a survey of Andromeda's stellar motions here at the 206th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

"What we have done is measured the radial velocity of stars in the outer regions - basically, how fast they are moving towards us or away from us," Chapman said during a press conference this morning.

Chapman was one of a team of astronomers using the Keck telescope to measure speeds of 5,000 stars in the outskirts of Andromeda. They were surprised to find that these suburban stars were actually rotating as if they were part of the galaxy's disk. Their paths had been expected to be more random.

"Finding all these stars in an orderly rotation was the last explanation anyone would think of," Chapman said.

The implication is that the disk is 220,000 light years in diameter, instead of the earlier estimates of 70,000 to 80,000 light years. In our sky, that means Andromeda stretches out over the length of 12 full Moons.

This periphery of Andromeda is faint - it accounts for about 10 percent of the light from the galaxy. Still, there are millions of stars presumably orbiting in this outer region

A bizarre fossil record

By looking at separate components of a galaxy one can try to piece together how the galaxy built up over time. The central region of a spiral galaxy is believed to have formed first, with the rotating disk coming later. The type and orbit of stars in certain regions provides a kind of fossil record for the evolutionary history.

Andromeda is an "ideal laboratory" because it is so close, and yet it is outside our galaxy.

"It is very hard to study this evolution in our own galaxy because we are stuck in the middle of it," Chapman said.

And yet this laboratory is full of puzzles as to how it came to be. Besides Andromeda's new size, the researchers are scratching their heads over the fact that the outer rotating stars are arranged into about 20 identifiable clumps. This would imply that they formed out of the merger of smaller galaxies with the main galaxy.

But rotating disks and clumps are not compatible in galaxy formation models.

"This giant disk discovery will be hard to reconcile with computer simulations of forming galaxies," said Rodrigo Ibata of the Observatoire Astronomique de Strasbourg in France. "You just don't get giant rotating disks from the accretion of small galaxy fragments."

Chapman said that if a merger is the correct explanation, it would have had to occur relatively recently - within the last 200 million years. Otherwise, the clumps should have been "washed out." We may, therefore, be viewing our big neighbor at a rare moment in its history - right after it has gobbled up one of its little neighbors.

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Evidence of Einstein's gravitational wave theory found in dying stars
Last Updated Mon, 30 May 2005 19:43:18 EDT
CBC News

MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. - Evidence for Einstein's gravitational wave theory has been found in a pair of dying stars in a binary system, a NASA scientist reported on Monday.

In a binary system, two stars orbit each other.

Einstein's General Theory of Relativity predicted a binary star system should emit gravitational waves that rush away at the speed of light and cause the stars to move closer together.

As the stars move closer together, the orbital period decreases, and it can be measured by the orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory.

The orbital period of this system is decreasing by 1.2 milliseconds every year. This is a rate consistent with the theory that predicted loss of energy due to gravitational waves.

Brightest gravitational wave source in galaxy

The stars of this system known as J0806 might have the smallest orbit of any known binary system, about 80,500 kilometres or a fifth of the distance between the earth and moon.

"If confirmed, J0806 could be one of the brightest sources of gravitational waves in our galaxy," said Tod Strohmayer of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Md.

Strohmayer's data will be published in an upcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal.

The data indicate gravitational waves are carrying energy away from the star system at a prodigious rate, making it a prime candidate for future missions designed to directly detect these ripples in space-time.

A million mile an hour swirl

"It could be among the first to be directly detected with an upcoming space mission called LISA, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna," Strohmayer said.

The two white dwarf stars have used up their nuclear fuel and collapsed into super dense bodies. They pack half of the sun's mass into the size of the Earth.

As these two swirl around each other at about one million miles an hour, they produce an increasing number of gravitational waves and are destined to merge.

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Mercury, Saturn, Venus line up in June
Mon, May. 30, 2005
By David L. Richards
Special to the Beacon Journal

June presents a lovely planetary alignment midmonth.

Look for Mercury, Venus and Saturn in the west-northwest in Gemini, with Jupiter in the southwest in Virgo. On June 27, about 9 p.m., Mercury and Venus will be very close together, separated by only .06 degree. This same evening Saturn will be only 2 1⁄2 degrees from the two inferior planets, forming a beautiful triplet.

You will probably need a telescope to see Mercury distinctly, as Venus shines brightly at magnitude -3.91 and may overwhelm the less-bright (magnitude -.04) Mercury.

Mars rises about 2:30 a.m. on June 1 at magnitude .29 in the constellation Aquarius, and moves through the month into Pisces, then into Cetus, the Whale, and ends up back in Aquarius at month's end. On the 29th, Mars lies only 2 degrees from the dark limb of the waning crescent Moon.

June 21 marks the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.

Our sun goes through an 11-year cycle of activity, when more sunspots appear and solar flare activity increases. We are now in a period considered a solar minimum; nevertheless, there have been recent reports of large sunspots and flares, resulting in auroral activity visible as far south as Arizona. [...]

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Earthquake Hits Central America
May 30, 200
Hector Duarte Jr. - All Headline News Staff Reporter

Guatemala City (AHN) - The Associated Press reports a 5.1 magnitude earthquake, centered about 65 miles southwest of Guatemala, shook parts of Guatemala and El Salvador Monday.

According to officials in both countries, the earthquake was widely felt, but did not cause significant damage. Seismologists in Guatemala calculated the magnitude at 4.6, while those in El Salvador gauged it at 5.3

Comment: Guatemala and Mexico share border. This Earthquake and the Mexico Volcanic eruption (below) were separated by a relatively short distance and are undoubtedly linked.

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New blast shakes Mexican volcano
May 30 2005

Mexico City - An explosion shook western Mexico's Volcano of Fire early on Monday, sending a plume of ash and smoke five kilometres into the air and scattering hot rocks on the mountain's slopes, according to local officials.

The government of nearby Jalisco state said in a news release that the blast at 3.26am was slightly larger than one that shook the 3 820m volcano earlier this month.

"It was pretty energetic," said Tonatiuh Dominguez, director of the seismology centre at the University of Colima, which is in charge of monitoring the volcano.

He said there was no immediate danger to settlements closest to the mountain 690km west of Mexico City, but added that similar eruptions were likely in the future.

The Jalisco government said the eruption was "one of the most important explosions of the last 10 years", shooting glowing rock 800m into the air.

Dominguez said two ash plumes - one of them five kilometres high - drifted to the south-east and north-east.

Jalisco officials said ash fell on several nearby towns and cities, but it did not announce any evacuations.

The peak, part of the Colima Volcano complex, is considered one of the most violent in Mexico.

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Indian Andaman volcano spews smoke and lava
31 May 2005

NEW DELHI: A volcano on a tiny uninhabited island in India's tsunami-hit Andaman and Nicobar archipelago has started spewing smoke, dust and lava more than a decade after its last eruption, officials said yesterday.

An Indian coast guard ship sighted a thick plume of smoke on Saturday as it came close to Barren Island and authorities said they were monitoring the situation and had informed the state-run Geological Survey of India.

"There is smoke intermittently coming out from its crater and flames or lava have also been also sighted," Coast Guard spokesman, Commander Subodh Kumar told Reuters by phone from Port Blair, the capital of the chain of more than 550 islands.

The Andaman and Nicobar islands are situated on an undersea fault that continues to nearby Indonesia. The island chain has experienced hundreds of aftershocks following the powerful undersea earthquake that caused the Asian tsunami.

More than 430 people were killed and at least 3000 are still missing after the December 26 tsunami slammed into the Andamans.

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Earthquake rocks Indonesia's Aceh province
The Star

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) - A 5.6-magnitude earthquake rocked Indonesia's tsunami-ravaged Aceh province on Tuesday, causing frightened residents to flee homes and other buildings. There were no reports of damage or injuries.

Tuesday's quake measured 5.6 and was centered under the Indian Ocean, 150 kilometers (93 miles) southwest of Banda Aceh, the geophysics and meteorological agency said. The quake was not strong enough to trigger a tsunami.

An Associated Press reporter in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, said dozens of people fled from a five-story hotel and other buildings during the quake, which lasted about 10 seconds.

Aceh has experienced countless earthquakes since a massive tsunami-producing tremor off its coast on Dec. 26.

The disaster killed more than 128,000 in Aceh and more than 40,000 in 10 other countries across the Indian Ocean. Three months later, an earthquake caused extensive damage on Nias island, leaving more than 900 dead.

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Moderately strong earthquake rattles Japan
May 30, 2005

TOKYO -- A moderately strong earthquake shook southern Japan on Tuesday, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

The magnitude-5.7 temblor struck at 11:04 a.m., and was centered near the coastal city of Hyuga, in Miyazaki prefecture (state), Japan's Meteorological Agency said.

There was no danger of tsunami, potentially killer waves triggered by seismic activity, the agency said.

A Hyuga city police spokesman, who declined to be identified, said there were no reports of injuries or damage.

A magnitude-5 quake can damage homes and other buildings if it is centered in a heavily populated area.

Japan sits at the juncture of four tectonic plates -- or moving slabs of the earth's outer crust -- and is one of the world's most quake-prone regions.

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Bank Holiday revellers in Cambridgeshire enjoying a weekend of sunshine were stunned when the weather took a dramatic turn for the worse.

Three tornados up to half a mile wide hit the flat fenland farmland within an hour.

Benton Spencer, 24, was "absolutely stunned" to see the first from the A142 Newmarket to Ely road, as he and girlfriend Kate Ashby were driving to her family home in the village of Barway.

When they reached the village, near Soham, they saw another larger one on fields behind the house and minutes later a third over a nearby factory.

Mr Spencer told Sky News Online: "The first one appeared at about 10.30am. It was fairly well formed and about 2,000ft high, but it didn't come to ground.

"About half an hour later another one appeared, stayed together and came to ground. There was a good cloud of dust and it was about half a mile wide.

"It lasted two to three minutes and was moving in and out of the trees."

Mr Spencer said that when the freak weather struck he and several others stopped on the road to watch the event.

"A few of us pulled our cars over to watch and take pictures. Everyone was pretty shocked."

The nearby town of Newmarket was also hit by freak weather, with giant hailstones turning the streets white. [...]

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Cleanup under way after tornado rakes southwest Houston
04:14 PM CDT on Monday, May 30, 2005
By Reggie Aqui / KHOU

There will be no Memorial Day cookout for the residents in the 11000 block of Larkwood at the Carlyle Place Apartments, because there's nowhere dry to sit after an F-1 tornado swept through southwest Houston Sunday night.

Approximately 130,000 customers across Houston were without power at the peak of the storm.

Portions of the complex's roof were torn off forcing approximately eight to 10 families to seek other shelter.

"And all of the sudden, just, bam," said one resident. "There's a piece of tin like this one on the sidewalk, it went past my face. So I jumped back inside, grabbed the kids and we headed for the bathtub."

The cars that weren't damaged, were trapped because the parking lot was littered with glass, nails and debris that used to be part of the building's roof.

"That's right where my bedroom is," said one woman referencing a door-sized hole the storm punched in the building's wall.

"I'm just glad I wasn't laying in my bed," said another man, "because if I was laying in my bed, the big old glass fell right where I lay."

Despite the damage, there were no serious injuries. Seven people were treated at the scene for minor injuries, but no one required transport to the hospital. [...]

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Storms drop record rainfall at airport
May 30, 2005, 3:49PM
Houston Chronicle

Sunday's storms dropped a record amount of rain for that date at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport, the National Weather Service reported today, and more may be on the way.

A record rainfall of 3.56 inches fell at the airport Sunday, breaking the old mark of 3.36 inches set in 1978, the weather service said.

Flash flooding remains possible across portions of Southeast Texas today and the weather service has issued a flood watch effective until 7 p.m. today throughout the region. Counties included in the watch are Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, Polk and San Jacinto.

Additional rainful amounts of 1 to 2 inches appear likely this afternoon and early this evening, with isolated areas possibly experiencing 3 to 5 inches, the weather service said.

Heavy thunderstorms soaked much of the region Sunday, causing widespread street flooding, traffic tie-ups and some power outages, while lightning injured a northwest Harris County teenager and started an apartment fire in Jersey Village. In southwest Houston, a building collapsed, injuring 2.

Much of Southeast Texas was under thunderstorm and tornado watches and warnings throughout the afternoon and night. The National Weather Service office in League City reported up to 7 inches of rain in east Harris and Liberty counties. Though meteorologists had not confirmed any tornadoes, the Harris County Sheriff's Department received a report of a funnel cloud near Greenspoint Mall. [...]

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Storms Menace to Ruin Bulgarian Harvest
30 May 2005, Monday

The torrential storms and the tornado twister in the northern part of Bulgaria over the weekend have incurred damages of over BGN 4 M, according to preliminary estimates.

The damages as a result from the tornado, hailstorm and flood in the town of Turgovishte only stand at nearly BGN 4 M, local civil defence authorities said.

The storms and floods have shown no mercy also to national roads, farms and orchards most of which are badly ruined. Many people who occurred to be outside when the tornado blew suffered psychological traumas.

In some parts where the cherry-picking season in on the threshold, fruit is likely to get rotten, local farmers said. Grain plants in certain areas to the north of Bulgaria were killed by the severe hailstorms.

Bulging rivers to the north of the Balkans chain have left under water great parts of private and public farmland.

Lightning killed three people and a man was missing as storms swept Bulgaria, flooding farmland and destroying roads, police said on Monday.

A 74-aged woman died when she was struck by lightning while sheltering from torrential rain in the central town of Troyan on Sunday. In the southern towns of Haskovo and Plovdiv, two 20-aged men were struck and died in separate incidents.

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Czech Republic registers record temperature for 113 years
(AFP) May 28, 2005

PRAGUE - The Czech capital Prague on Saturday registered its hottest temperature for the day for 113 years, hitting 31.8 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit), the local authorities said.

The previous record for the day had been recorded in 1892 with 31.6 degrees Celsius.

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Huge rise in Siberian forest fires puts planet at risk, scientists warn
Tim Radford in Krasnoyarsk
Tuesday May 31, 2005
The Guardian

Fires in the Siberian forests - the largest in the world and vital to the planet's health - have increased tenfold in the last 20 years and could again rage out of control this summer, Russian scientists warn.

They say they have neither the money nor the equipment to control or extinguish the huge forests fires often started illegally and deliberately in the Russian far east by rogue timber firms who plan to sell cheap lumber to China.

In 2003, one of the hottest summers in Europe, 22m hectares of spruce, larch, fir, Scots pine and oak were destroyed, charred, scorched or in some way affected by fire. On one day in June that year, a US satellite recorded 157 fires across almost 11m hectares, sending a plume of smoke that reached Kyoto 5,000 kilometres (3,107 miles) away.

Forests absorb carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen. The world's forests are part of the calculations behind the Kyoto agreement, ratified by Russia, Britain and many other nations, but not the US or Australia, to control the greenhouse emissions that fuel global warming.

Forests have also become part of the currency of exchange, called carbon trading, intended to keep economies stable while limiting emissions overall. Most attention has been focused on the steady destruction of the surviving Amazon and Indonesian forests.

But the so-called "boreal" forests of Siberia, slow-growing but huge, are equally vital. They became a global issue in 2003, when so many fires raged in Siberia and the Far East that atmospheric scientists identified their smoke and soot in Seattle, on the far side of the Pacific.

"You should try to protect your forests, because they are the lungs of the planet: they absorb carbon dioxide," said Anatoly Sukhinin, of the Sukachev Institute of Forestry in Krasnoyarsk, the once-closed Siberian centre where the British Council has just opened Zero Carbon City, a touring exhibition on global warming. "It looks to me like these huge forests are currently being devoured by a powerful lung cancer."

Russia's forests stretch almost from the steppes of central Asia to the Arctic permafrost, and from European Russia almost to the Bering Sea. Vast areas are almost pristine, the preserve of migrating birds and the occasional hunter and trapper.

In the north, the trees grow slowly, some reach the age of 400-500 years, and are vulnerable to any disturbance. In the south, the forests become cluttered with dry underbrush, and at risk from electrical storms. But the biggest threats come from climate change and deliberate arson by people intent on illegal logging.

"One factor is global warming, and there is absolutely no doubt that this is happening. Global warming results in more extreme droughts: greater droughts, longer droughts, and more frequent droughts. The other factor is underfunding. We cannot do a good job to preserve and protect our forests," Dr Sukhinin said. "There is very little money to fund such work. We have some equipment left from the old times, we have some organisational support, but we are critically underfunded by the government."

Cooperation with US and Canadian partners means that they get the big picture from US government satellites.

In the enormous expanses of Siberia, they need specialised firefighting aircraft. The government in Moscow has designed and made some, but sells or leases them to other countries. Even when the foresters can identify the areas ablaze, they can do little.

The forests are at risk in early spring - after the dry cold of the Arctic winter - and in high summer, when temperatures soar. Fires in the forests are a threat to oil and gas pipelines, to wildlife and to the permafrost itself. Heat from the blazing underbrush and the parched canopy can disperse the clouds in a fierce thermal updraft, melting the frozen soil and leaving behind a landscape of charred stumps and dripping swamp.

On top of natural hazards, the Russian scientists count the risk of arson.

Paradoxically, forests have become money to burn. Licences to log healthy forest are expensive. But timber merchants and logging companies can buy cheap licences to clear stands of timber in some way damaged by fire.

Forests quickly recover from fires which rage through the underbrush. Many trees have adapted to survive periodic ground-level fire, and flourish on the ashes of their more lowly competitors.

"After a fire, the timber improves and is even better," said Dr Sukhinin. "And that is the time when people can come in, fell the trees, sell the timber to China and get good money.

"The Chinese themselves, they pay well and they pay the same money for timber from affected areas as for timber from unaffected areas - and that is the reason for the arsonists. It's illegal if you don't have a licence."

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Madly in love: Not just a myth
Scientists track activity in brain

New romance likened to craving
May 31, 2005. 01:00 AM

New love can look for all the world like mental illness, a blend of mania, dementia and obsession that cuts people off from friends and family and prompts out-of-character behaviour - compulsive phone calling, serenades, yelling from rooftops - that could almost be mistaken for psychosis.

Now for the first time, neuroscientists have produced brain scan images of this fevered activity, before it settles into the wine and roses phase of romance or routines of long-term commitment.

In an analysis of the images appearing in today's Journal of Neurophysiology, researchers in New York and New Jersey argue romantic love is a biological urge distinct from sexual arousal. It is closer in its neural profile to drives like hunger, thirst or drug craving, the researchers assert, than to emotional states like excitement or affection. As a relationship deepens, the brain scans suggest, the neural activity associated with romantic love alters slightly, and in some cases primes areas deep in the primitive brain that are involved in long-term attachment.

The research helps explain why love produces such disparate emotions, from euphoria to anger to anxiety, and why it seems to become even more intense when it's withdrawn. In a separate, ongoing experiment, the researchers are analyzing brain images from people whose lovers rejected them.

In the study, a computer-generated map of particularly active regions showed passion-related areas, hot spots deep in the brain below conscious awareness, in areas called the caudate nucleus and the ventral tegmental area. These areas are dense with cells that produce or receive a brain chemical called dopamine, which circulates actively when people desire or anticipate a reward.

The intoxication of new love mellows with time, of course, and brain scan findings reflect some evidence of this change, said study co-author Dr. Helen Fisher, of Rutgers University.

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Mich. Woman Survives War, but Dies at Home
Associated Press
Mon May 30, 9:24 PM ET

PLAINWELL, Mich. - Petty Officer 3rd Class Shane Schmidt and her father share a unique, yet tragic bond - both survived their war experiences in the Navy only to be killed in car accidents back home. The 32-year-old soldier also was buried on the 32nd anniversary of her father's death.

Still, friends and relatives say they would rather focus on Schmidt's life than on the coincidences, eulogizing her at a funeral service last month in Plainwell. [...]

Her father, Dan Vote, missed the birth of his daughter while serving a yearlong tour of duty in the Vietnam War. He returned to the United States when she was about 6 months old but died a few weeks later.

Vote was killed in a car accident on April 12, 1973, near Kalamazoo, where his parents used to live. Police said Vote was driving drunk at the time.

"I fathered her as much as I could," said Schmidt's grandfather, Norman Vote, 79.

Allegan Police Chief Rick Hoyer also became a surrogate father to Schmidt.

As a patrol officer, he recalled sometimes seeing her out late with a group of friends, trying to concentrate on doing homework. "The reason she was doing her homework so late at night was because she was working two part-time jobs to support her and her family," he said.

Because of difficulties at home, she sometimes lived with Hoyer and his wife. Over the years, the couple stayed in touch with the young woman. And, Hoyer said that he keeps Schmidt's last postcard from Iraq on his desk at work. [...]

Like her father, Schmidt walked away from the war unscathed, returning in mid-March. She died within weeks of being home.

On April 1, Schmidt was struck by a driver alongside a Florida highway as she talked to her husband on her cell phone. She had pulled off the road during a downpour, perhaps to wait until the rain eased up, said Lt. Bill Leeper, a spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol.

Authorities were awaiting toxicology results to determine whether the other driver, who survived, was legally drunk, Leeper said. [...]

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