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Signs Economic Commentary
Donald Hunt
June 6, 2005

The euro closed at 1.2236 dollars on Friday, down 2.5% from last week’s 1.2542. That puts the dollar at .8173 euros compared to .7973 the week before. In the U.S. stock market, the Dow closed at 10,460.97, down 0.78% from the previous Friday’s close of 10,542.55. The tech-heavy NASDAQ closed at 2071.43, down 0.2% from 2075.73 a week earlier. The yield on the ten-year U.S. Treasury bond fell again to 3.98% at Friday’s close compared to 4.07% a week earlier. Oil closed at $55.40 a barrel, up sharply (6.8%) from the previous Friday’s $51.85. Oil in euros increased even more sharply, closing at 45.28 euros a barrel, up 9.5% from the previous week’s close of 41.34 euros. Gold closed at $426.10, up 0.8% compared to $422.70 an ounce the week before. Comparing gold to oil, an ounce of gold would buy 7.69 barrels of oil on Friday, down 6.0% compared to 8.15 the previous Friday.

The big news, then, from the past week was the expected drop in the value of the euro following No votes against the proposed EU constitution in France and the Netherlands and the sharp rise in the price of oil. The United States also released the jobs report for May and, although spun positively, was not good news. Only 78,000 non-farm jobs were added in May, a number half as large as expected, with the gains coming in construction and health care. Construction jobs, of course, are heavily dependent on the increasingly fragile housing bubble. There was also a lot of talk about the “conundrum” mentioned by Alan Greenpsan: rising short-term interest rates coinciding with falling long-term rates. Here’s Mark Gilbert on Bloomberg:

Greenspan's Bond Conundrum Ripens Into an Enigma:

Mark Gilbert

June 3 (Bloomberg) -- The 10-year U.S. Treasury note was a “conundrum” to Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan in mid- February at a yield of about 4.10 percent. After cracking the 4 percent barrier this week, it looks more like Winston Churchill's Russia: “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”

The median forecast of 62 of the finest minds in finance, surveyed by Bloomberg News in December, was for the 10-year bond to yield 4.78 percent by mid-year. Instead, the note pays about 3.9 percent, the lowest in more than a year. Barring a market crash in the next four weeks, that's quite a margin of error.

Bond mavens are now lining up to call for lower yields. Morgan Stanley Chief Economist Stephen Roach said earlier this week he's turning bullish on bonds, with a 3.5 percent level possible in the coming year. Bill Gross at Pacific Investment Management Co., never shy to predict an increase in value for the securities he owns, said May 18 that the 10-year rate could drop to 3 percent by the end of the decade.

Gabe Borenstein, managing director of global investments at Investec Holdings Ltd. in New York, predicts a 10-year yield of 2.5 percent in the current business cycle, which has 18 months or less to run. Higher energy costs, renewed wariness among indebted consumers, and continued recycling of dollars into Treasuries by overseas investors will help drive down yields, he says.

‘Serious Recession’

“All of the economic forces point to a dramatic slowdown ahead which will turn into a serious recession, with almost no tools left to abort that possibility,” says Borenstein, whose firm manages $100 billion globally.

What they are saying is that things are going to get worse and more frightening, so people with money will invest them in something safe with guaranteed returns and will bid up the prices, thereby decreasing yields (because, for example, if someone purchases a ten-year bond for $1,000 at 5.00%, say, and sells it to someone for $1,200, the person paying $1,200 will still get the same return, that is $50 a year, only, since they paid $200 more, the yield has now dropped to 4.17%). Remember that these long term interest rate drops fuel the housing bubble, since they keep mortgage rates low. Remember also, that these drops come after a year of the Federal Reserve Board trying to increase interest rates, to cool down the increase in consumer debt as the following chart shows:

(Interesting how Fed-controlled rates hit their lowest point at the beginning of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.)

Does this mean that the financial elite, who, after all, are the ones bidding up long term debt instruments, are losing faith in the economic future? It looks that way.

CFOs' Optimism Declines, Study Finds

Corporate financial chiefs express concern over the continuing surge in the cost of healthcare and energy.

From Reuters
June 3, 2005

Optimism among U.S. chief financial officers tumbled to a three-year low this quarter as executives struggled with high fuel and labor costs, rising interest rates and pricing pressures, according to a business outlook survey released Thursday.

In the survey, 40% of company financial chiefs were more optimistic about the economy than they were in the previous quarter, down from 46% last quarter and 70% a year ago, the survey of 365 U.S. chief financial officers by Duke University and CFO Magazine showed.

"In a situation like this, where the optimists barely outweigh the pessimists, we can expect to see sluggish economic growth," said John Graham, professor of finance at Duke's Fuqua School of Business.

The survey, which also polled hundreds of Asian and European corporate finance chiefs, showed Asian CFOs were as cautious as U.S. CFOs, while almost a majority of European financial chiefs were explicitly pessimistic.

American CFOs were most concerned about the cost of healthcare. They expected those costs to rise 9% in the coming year, on average, the survey showed. They also were concerned about high fuel prices, particularly in the face of limited pricing power.

CFOs also were nervous about the effects on the economy if the Federal Reserve continued to raise its key short-term interest rate, now 3%.

"Right now, the CFOs say we're kind of at a tipping point, where further increases in interest rates would start to put a drag on the economy," Graham said.

Of CFOs surveyed, 83.2% said a Fed rate of 4% would slow U.S. economic growth overall, but far fewer — 43% — said it would slow growth at their own firms.

As rising interest rates contribute to higher costs, many CFOs said they would reduce their capital spending plans.

To make matters worse the Bush administration this past week gave the green light for white-collar crime by replacing the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the main regulator of the stock markets and corporate finance in the United States,

Bush picks anti-regulatory hard-liner to head Wall Street oversight board

By Joseph Kay
4 June 2005

On Thursday, President George Bush nominated Christopher Cox, a Republican congressman from southern California, to head the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the main government regulatory agency for Wall Street.

Cox’s selection is a brazen move by the Bush administration to shift the SEC toward an even more openly pro-corporate policy. It portends an end to the probes into corporate fraud that have occurred in the wake of Enron, WorldCom and other business scandals, and the effective reversal by administrative means of the limited regulatory reforms put in place over the past three years.

Cox has made a name for himself as a partisan of unfettered capitalism, à la Ayn Rand. He is an unabashed defender of big business and an adamant opponent of corporate regulation and taxation. In Congress, he has pushed for measures to cut back or eliminate taxes on capital gains and dividends, championed the repeal of the estate tax, and opposed the mandatory expensing of stock options. He sponsored a key piece of legislation in the mid-1990s that limited the ability of investors to file lawsuits over corporate malfeasance.

Cox’s nomination has been universally hailed by business groups as heralding an end to “regulatory excesses” at the SEC under its outgoing chairman, William Donaldson, also a Bush appointee. Donaldson, a Rockefeller Republican, is considered a turncoat in Republican and corporate circles because he has on numerous occasions sided with the two Democratic members of the five-member SEC in implementing new regulations and fining corporations for wrong-doing.

Marc Lackritz, president of the Securities Industry Association, responded to Bush’s announcement by noting that Cox “has a particular sensitivity to costly and unnecessary regulation.” Lackritz continued, “He understands that the increased costs of regulation put an unnecessary tax on investors.” The Wall Street Journal editorial page, which has long championed Cox, declared on Friday, “We assume the appointment marks the end of the era of post-Enron regulatory overkill.”

Cox entered politics as a staunch anti-communist in the Reagan administration. He served as a legal adviser for Reagan during the Iran-Contra scandal, and later took a position at the elite corporate law firm of Latham & Watkins, serving clients such as Arthur Andersen and Merrill Lynch. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1988, and since that time has promoted the interests of his major campaign contributors: Wall Street, the technology giants of Silicon Valley, and the major accounting firms.

More than anything else, his role in pushing through a 1995 bill known as the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act has won him the backing of Wall Street. The act, which was passed with bi-partisan support over the veto of President Clinton, significantly raised the standard of proof required in investor lawsuits against corporations and executives.

…Cox has been a strong critic of class action lawsuits in general, helping to push the bill passed into law earlier this year that severely limits the ability of ordinary Americans to use this legal mechanism as a way to challenge the actions of big business.

…Cox is expected to reverse a period of mild regulatory actions taken by the SEC under the leadership of Donaldson, who stepped down on June 1. Wall Street has opposed a measure that had been supported by Donaldson and the two Democrats on the commission—Goldshmid and Roel Campos—that would have given shareholders more power over corporate boards of directors.

Hedge funds—the elite investment companies that cater only to wealthy investors—are strongly opposed to a measure proposed by Donaldson that would have required the funds to register their advisors. This was part of an effort to increase the transparency of hedge funds, which are notoriously opaque to investors and regulators.

While Donaldson cited family reasons for his decision to leave the SEC, the fact that his departure was so quickly followed by the Cox nomination is a clear indication that he was pushed out by the Bush administration. In recent months, actions he has proposed have been publicly criticized by Bush administration officials, including Treasury Secretary John Snow and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

…After the wave of accounting scandals that began three-and-a-half years ago with the collapse of Enron, the Bush administration made a show of implementing measures to curb corporate criminality. These measures included the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which requires corporate executives to personally certify the accounting books of their corporations. The administration has also prosecuted a handful of corporations and executives for their role in scandals at Enron, WorldCom, Tyco and elsewhere.

The appointment of Cox is an unmistakable signal that even these limited measures will be rolled back. His appointment comes the same week as a Supreme Court decision overturning the obstruction of justice conviction of accounting firm Arthur Andersen for its role in accounting fraud at Enron. The ruling will likely make it harder to charge companies with obstruction of justice, frequently used against white-collar criminals.

There is a degree of extraordinary recklessness in the Bush administration’s policy, which will eliminate even the minimal forms of accountability that had been put in place. The Democrats and sections of the Republican Party—including Donaldson—have pushed these measures as a means of restoring investor confidence in American corporations, a confidence that was severely undermined by the corporate scandals of 2001 and 2002.

That these measures could be characterized as “regulatory overkill” is an indication of the determination of the administration and its backers to eliminate all constraints on the most wealthy and corrupt sections of the American ruling elite.

Are they opening the gates for one last orgy of theft before the whole system comes crashing down?

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Bush says economic growth on track
Sat Jun 4, 9:17 PM ET

CRAWFORD, Texas - President Bush said on Saturday that the U.S. economic expansion was solid, with thriving small-business and factory sectors, despite a report showing weak payroll growth.

"America's economy is on the right track," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "Small businesses are flourishing. Factory output is growing. And families are taking home more of what they earn."

Bush did not mention Friday's report from the Labor Department showing U.S. employers added only 78,000 workers to their payrolls in May, the weakest job growth in nearly two years.

The figure fanned fears on Wall Street of a slowing economy. Stock prices slid nearly 1 percent.

The news was not entirely bearish as the Labor Department also said the unemployment rate edged down to 5.1 percent, its lowest since September 2001, from April's 5.2 percent as a survey of households found job growth much more robust.

Bush urged lawmakers to pass some of his priorities, including a broad energy bill and the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA.

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The shock of being shocked

"The spirit we have, not the work we do, is what makes us important to the people around us."

By Joan Chittister, OSB

A Benedictine Sister of Erie, Sister Joan is a best-selling author and well-known international lecturer. She is founder and executive director of Benetvision: A Resource and Research Center for Contemporary Spirituality, and past president of the Conference of American Benedictine Prioresses and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Sister Joan has been recognized by universities and national organizations for her work for justice, peace and equality for women in the Church and society. She is an active member of the International Peace Council.

Am I the only one who's shocked by this? And if not, why aren't we hearing an outcry about it.

It may seem a little naive, I realize, to claim to be "shocked" at the obvious. After all, I've gone to graduate school. I've taught at all levels of the educational system. I've been around the world a couple times. I am, in other words, a living example of what is now a rather sizable segment of the current population. I'm not an isolate, not ghettoized, by any means. By this time, given that kind of background, that kind of experience, I should be a little jaded, a touch cynical. A "realist," I think they call it.

But I am also part of the generation who were taught to fear Communists, who were trained to hide under school desks or sit on the floor in darkened basement corridors to protect ourselves from nuclear attack, who were told lurid tales about Russian gulags. And who, most of all, in my case, learned that when the godless Communists came, they would take down the crucifixes on our schoolroom walls and destroy our religion with them.

We prayed public prayers for "the conversion of Russia" after every Mass, in fact.

These people, these barbarians, these Communists, wanted to impose a way of life on us that went to the core of the American dream and ate out the heart of the Catholic faith. They believed in the common ownership of goods rather than good old Yankee capitalism with its ethic of "rugged individualism" -- the notion that if you worked hard enough you could get anything you wanted. They considered religion "the opium of the people," the way you got a people to offer up hard times in this world as the will of God for you and so be content to wait for good times in the next.

It was a time of tension, of great enemies, of implacable resistance.

Laugh now, if you will. But those were very real and present horrors then. Especially the part about the suppression of religion.

We were prepared to do anything to avert such a fate, to destroy such an enemy. We built bombs big enough to destroy the globe. We sent thousands of young Americans into the jungles of Vietnam to block the advance of the Red Tide and brought thousands of them home in pine boxes. We had defeated the Germans. We would defeat the Russians, too. Whatever the cost.

We were a Messianic people. We did no wrong, and we destroyed the Darth Vaders who did. We were international heroes. If you were a citizen of the United States somewhere else in the world, you were, indeed, received with flowers and cheers. Drum roll, please.

Then we won the Cold War, became the world's only Super Power, set out to make the rest of the world just like us, and began immediately to lose -- our international image and our integrity. Our president told us that it was all because people were jealous of us. "Some people hate freedom," he said. And, apparently, some people believed it.

Then, in May, Amnesty International, the world's most reputable human rights organization, released its annual report on the state of human rights around the world. That's where the shock came in.

Amnesty International, founded by British lawyer Peter Benenson in 1961, functions as a kind of watchdog organization of volunteers whose purpose is to monitor and evaluate the practice of Human Rights around the globe as defined by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Human rights are in retreat worldwide, this year's report states, and -- most disturbing of all -- the United States bears most of the responsibility for it. Citing routine abuse of detainees, detention without trial, fishnet roundups of men labeled "enemy combatants" without cause, and U.S. attempts to circumvent both domestic and international bans against terror, the report is a scathing indictment of U.S. dishonor and international lawlessness.

What's more, the report says, U.S. actions, imposed by the military but sanctioned by the government, justify repression, dictatorship and abuse by oppressive regimes everywhere. Irene Khan, secretary general of Amnesty International explained, "When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a license to others to commit abuse with impunity."

The U.S. war on terror, Amnesty International argues, has been used as an excuse for "murder, mayhem and abuse of women and children" from one end of the globe to the other.

The U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, the report goes on, "has become the gulag of our times."

President Bush, of course, dismissed the report as "absurd." Vice President Cheney said he was offended. Now what are we to make of that? Irene Khan is quick to answer. If our allegations are false, she said, open up the detention centers and let us look. "Transparency is the best antidote to misinformation," she said. Not a likely event.

So now people are marching in the streets from Indonesia to the Middle East, in every Islamic country on earth, not because they fear the Soviet Union or Russia. They are marching because they fear the United States.

They are as sure that we are coming to destroy them as we once were that the Communists were coming to do the same to us.

They fear the loss of a culture, a lifestyle, a value system. They fear the destruction of their religion, the loss of their way of life, the violation of their women, and the enslavement of their children to decadence and destruction.

They fear exactly what we feared. And, like us back then, they are willing to do anything --anything at all -- to preserve it.

Surely we can understand that. Why are we so surprised? We did the very same things 50 years ago, only worse. We armed the globe. We threatened the existence of the planet. We sent thousands of our best into the rice paddies of Vietnam, young and wrapped around with explosives, who never returned.

From where I stand, the shock of becoming what we say we hate is at least as bad as fearing it. Amnesty International says it all: We are the new gulag. You and I.

Why aren't we all shocked? Why -- instead of simply insisting that it is unpatriotic to say the obvious -- why aren't we all saying stop?

Comment: Why? Because it has been done stealthily, carefully, one step at a time. The Arabs have been demonized for years, slowly, carefully, one newspaper article or 20 second news report at a time. Then, in a coup so outrageous and daring that few could believe it, the Bush fascists pulled off the 2001 version of the Reichstag fire, attacking the WTC and the Pentagon and blamed it on "Islamic fundamentalists" when it was Jewish and Christian extremists who are in fact the guilty parties.

Too many Americans will react like Bush at his news conference; they will refuse to believe it because America is so well-known around the world for being the beacon of democracy. Whether Bush believes it or not is another question, but his reaction is setting up the sheeple to know what line to take.

Does good Sister Joan think that Bush and his friends, both in the US and Israel, were behind 9/11?

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US running 'archipelago' of secret prisons: Amnesty International
June 5, 2005

WASHINGTON - The US government is operating an "archipelago" of prisons around the world, many of them secret camps into which people are being "literally disappeared," a top Amnesty International official said. [...]

Amnesty refers in the May 25 report to Rumsfeld and US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as alleged "torture architects." [...]

The furor sparked by Amnesty's claims shows no signs of abating.

The New York Times said Sunday that the Guantanamo Bay prison should be closed down, saying it had become "a national shame" and a "propaganda gift to America's enemies."

"What makes Amnesty's gulag metaphor apt is that Guantanamo is merely one of a chain of shadowy detention camps that also includes Abu Ghraib in Iraq, the military prison at Bagram Air Base in
Afghanistan and other, secret locations run by the intelligence agencies," the Times said.

The Washington Post, whose editorial page has been more critical of Amnesty's gulag claim, reported Sunday -- citing Schulz -- that Amnesty's donations have quintupled and new memberships have doubled in the past week since it released its report.

Comment: Wouldn't increased donations and memberships in Amnesty International after the release of the torture information indicate that many Americans agree and are fed up with the Bush government's lies? After all, if we are to believe that the majority of Americans back the Bush Reich as the Neocon gang would have us believe, then Amnesty's torture report should have generated anger and resentment instead of huge support. It seems that many Americans aren't listening to the propaganda in the mass media this time around.

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US running secret jails worldwide: Amnesty 2005-06-06 08:48:07

BEIJING, June 6 -- The chief of Amnesty International USA alleged Sunday that the Guantanamo Bay detention camp is part of an "archipelago" of U.S. prisons worldwide, "many of them secret," where detainees are mistreated and even killed.

A weeks-long dispute has raged since England-based Amnesty International's report, released on May 25, cited "growing evidence of U.S. war crimes" and labeled the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay as "the gulag of our times."

"The U.S. is maintaining an archipelago of prisons around the world, many of them secret prisons, into which people are being literally disappeared, held in indefinite, incommunicado detention without access to lawyers or a judicial system or to their families," William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty's Washington-based branch, told "Fox News Sunday."

"And in some cases, at least, we know they are being mistreated, abused, tortured and even killed."

Schulz recently dubbed U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld an "apparent high-level architect of torture" in asserting he approved interrogation methods that violated international law.

"It would be fascinating to find out. I have no idea," Schulz said.

"The United States should be the one that should investigate those who are alleged at least to be architects of torture, not just the foot solders who may have inflicted the torture directly, but those who authorized it or encouraged it or provided rationales for it," he said.

Human Rights Watch said U.S. interrogators had inflicted religious humiliation on Muslim detainees, a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

The U.S. military on Friday released details about five cases in which the Koran was kicked, stepped on and soaked in water.

A Newsweek story in its issue dated May 9 reported that American military investigators had found evidence that interrogators at the Guantanamo prison facility had flushed a Koran down a toilet to get inmates there to talk.

The article, which was retracted by the magazine one week later, sparked violent protests in Afghanistan, where 16 were killed and more than 100 injured, Pakistan and other Muslim countries.

About 520 prisoners, most of whom were captured during the US-led war in Afghanistan, are still being held at Guantanamo Bay, and some of them have been detained there for more than three years without charges and access to lawyers.

Comment: Of course Rumsfeld is aware that this has been going on. Of course Rumsfeld knows about the detention centres across the globe where prisoners are sequestered, torture, perhaps meeting their deaths.

Of course the Koran has been desecrated. Of course prisoners have been humiliated, beaten, subjected to psychological stresses and physical abuse. What happens to blacks or hispanics or native Americans in US jails and prisons?

One clarification: it was not "water" that was spilled on the Koran, it was urine.

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Quran Splashed with Urine at Guantanamo
Juan Cole
Informed Comment

The Pentagon released this news late Friday in order to defeat the US news cycle, which closes down for the American weekend. I deliberately kept it for Monday morning.

The Pentagon now admits that it found evidence in its files of the Quran being "mishandled" at Guantanamo. (Muslims would say "defiled.") All this after poor Newsweek was pilloried by the Bush administration. Moreover, I cannot for the life of me understand why the Pentagon thinks all the interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo were carefully recorded for posterity.

Comment: So, they didn't flush it down the toilet; they used it as a toilet. We are certain that is a subtlety the world's Moslem population will appreciate.

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Judge orders Pentagon to release 100 new photos of Abu Ghraib prison abuse
By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
The Independent
05 June 2005

A US judge has ordered the Bush administration to release more than 100 new photographs and videos of abused prisoners at Abu Ghraib, creating a fresh public relations nightmare for government officials as they seek to rebut accusations that the US is sponsoring torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond.

The ruling comes as Tony Blair prepares to fly to Washington for meetings this week with George Bush. Although the Prime Minister's trip is part of a series of visits to fellow G8 leaders before next month's summit at Gleneagles in Scotland, Downing Street has said that the two men will also discuss Iraq, where violence has recently surged. [...]

But fresh evidence of abuse at Abu Ghraib is likely to complicate Iraq's already precarious security situation. Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the New York federal court granted a petition by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to release the materials after viewing eight sample photos last week. It is not known exactly what the 144 photographs and videos depict, but they are from the same sources as the graphic images of prisoners being piled up on top of each other, threatened by attack dogs and forced into sexually compromising positions that triggered scandal and outrage just over a year ago.

"These images may be ugly and shocking, but they depict how the torture was more than the actions of a few rogue soldiers," said ACLU director Anthony Romero. "The American public deserves to know what is being done in our name. Perhaps after these and other photos are forced into the light of day, the government will at long last appoint an outside special counsel to investigate the torture and abuse of detainees."

Comment: Does a murderer or rapist get to appoint an "outside special counsel" to investigate his crimes? Why don't the people simply demand accountability from their government and prosecute those responsible for war crimes??

Government lawyers argued that releasing the photographs would reveal the prisoners' identities, a violation of their rights under the Geneva Conventions. But the ACLU said that objection could be easily overcome by blocking out the prisoners' faces. The judge agreed, and gave the White House until the end of the month to hand over the material.

More pointedly, the ACLU also said the government's reasoning was absurd because the violation of the Geneva Conventions began with the abuse, not with attempts to uncover it.

Comment: Let's see if we have this straight: The ACLU alleges that US detainees were systematically tortured in a clear violation of the Geneva conventions. All the while, the US government claimed that either the conventions were being followed, or they did not apply. Now the Neocons want to use those same international laws to defend themselves, and the ACLU and the judge involved in the case simply agree?! It is painfully obvious that this case will do nothing to stop the illegal detainment and torture of those deemed "terrorists".

But a Pentagon spokesman indicated yesterday that the administration would not give up the materials without a further fight.

Comment: Why not? The only conclusion that can be drawn is that the Pentagon has something to hide. After all, if the prisoners' faces are blocked out in the images, no one will know who the prisoners actually are; we will simply be able to see how they were mistreated. Therefore, any arguments involving "protecting national security" or "intelligence" are clearly just an attempt to prevent the truth of the widespread use of torture from getting out.

President Bush has come under increasing scrutiny over his repeated claims to be interested in spreading freedom around the world, most recently in the damning Amnesty International report on conditions at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.

The White House has, in turn, responded aggressively to its critics, savaging Amnesty for its use of the word "gulag" to describe Guantanamo and impugning the journalistic ethics of Newsweek magazine over the "Koran-in-the-toilet" story, which was largely, if not wholly, untrue.

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In New Book, Weldon Says He Had Secret Terrorism Source Before Sept. 11
By Eileen Sullivan, CQ Staff
June 3, 2005 – 8:45 p.m

Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., knew the United States was a terrorist target before the Sept. 11 attacks because of a secret source - "Ali" - but the CIA refused to listen, the congressman writes in a new book.

In "Countdown to Terror: The Top-Secret Information That Could Prevent the Next Terrorist Attack on America . . . and How the CIA Has Ignored It," Weldon details intelligence secrets "Ali" has provided and warns that Iran, not al Qaeda, is the United States' biggest enemy, according to the book's description on The 256-page book, published by Regnery Publishing, will be released June 13.

In the book, Weldon exposes warnings from his source that Iran will attack America next; that Iran, not al Qaeda, is actually the nexus of Islamic terrorism; and that Iran has an advanced nuclear program.

Weldon is vice chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces. He has been outspoken about the federal government's lack of attention to terrorism before the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Countdown" is his first book. A company in his Pennsylvania district, DIANE Publishing Co., has repackaged some of Weldon's congressional testimony for sale, for which his staff said he did not receive any remuneration.

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Poll: Religious Devotion High in U.S.
AP Religion Writer
Mon Jun 6, 3:00 AM ET

Religious devotion sets the United States apart from some of its closest allies. Americans profess unquestioning belief in God and are far more willing to mix faith and politics than people in other countries, AP-Ipsos polling found.

In Western Europe, where Pope Benedict XVI complains that growing secularism has left churches unfilled on Sundays, people are the least devout among the 10 countries surveyed for The Associated Press by Ipsos.

Only Mexicans come close to Americans in embracing faith, the poll found. But unlike Americans, Mexicans strongly object to clergy lobbying lawmakers, in line with the nation's historical opposition to church influence.

"In the United States, you have an abundance of religions trying to motivate Americans to greater involvement," said Roger Finke, a sociologist at Penn State University. "It's one thing that makes a tremendous difference here."

The polling was conducted in May in the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico,
South Korea and Spain.

Nearly all U.S. respondents said faith is important to them and only 2 percent said they do not believe in God. Almost 40 percent said religious leaders should try to sway policymakers, notably higher than in other countries.

"Our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian policies and religious leaders have an obligation to speak out on public policy, otherwise they're wimps," said David Black, a retiree from Osborne, Pa., who agreed to be interviewed after he was polled.

In contrast, 85 percent of French object to clergy activism - the strongest opposition of any nation surveyed. France has strict curbs on public religious expression and, according to the poll, 19 percent are atheists. South Korea is the only other nation with that high a percentage of nonbelievers.

Australians are generally split over the importance of faith, while two-thirds of South Koreans and Canadians said religion is central to their lives. People in all three countries strongly oppose mixing religion and politics.

Researchers disagree over why people in the United States have such a different religious outlook, said Brent Nelsen, an expert in politics and religion at Furman University in South Carolina.

Some say rejecting religion is a natural response to modernization and consider the United States a strange exception to the trend. Others say Europe is the anomaly; people in modernized countries inevitably return to religion because they yearn for tradition, according to the theory.

Some analysts, like Finke, use a business model. According to his theory, a long history of religious freedom in the United States created a greater supply of worship options than in other countries, and that proliferation inspired wider observance. Some European countries still subsidize churches, in effect regulating or limiting religious options, Finke said.

History also could be a factor.

Many countries other than the United States have been through bloody religious conflict that contributes to their suspicion of giving clergy any say in policy.

Comment: The US would do well to learn from the lessons of these other countries...

A variety of factors contribute to the sentiment about separating religion and politics.

"In Germany, they have a Christian Democratic Party, and they talk about Christian values, but they don't talk about them in quite the same way that we do," Nelsen said. "For them, the Christian part of the Christian values are held privately and it's not that acceptable to bring those out into the open."

In Spain, where the government subsidizes the Catholic Church, and in Germany, which is split between Catholics and Protestants, people are about evenly divided over whether they consider faith important. The results are almost identical in Britain, whose state church, the Church of England, is struggling to fill pews.

Italians are the only European exception in the poll. Eighty percent said religion is significant to them and just over half said they unquestioningly believe in God.

But even in Italy, home to the Catholic Church, resistance to religious engagement in politics is evident. Only three in 10 think the clergy should try to influence government decisions; a lower percentage in Spain, Germany and England said the same.

Within the United States, some of the most pressing policy issues involve complex moral questions - such as gay marriage, abortion and stem cell research - that understandably draw religious leaders into public debate, said John Green, an expert on religion and politics at the University of Akron.

The poll found Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to think clergy should try to influence government decisions - a sign of the challenges ahead for Democrats as they attempt to reach out to more religious voters.

"Rightly or wrongly, Republicans tend to perceive religion as, quote-unquote, 'on their side,'" Green said.

The survey did find trends in belief that transcend national boundaries. Women tend to be more devout than men, and older people have stronger faith than younger people.

The Associated Press-Ipsos polls of about 1,000 adults in each of the 10 countries were taken May 12-26. Each has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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Authorities Stage Terror Drill in Boston
Associated Press
Sun Jun 5, 5:47 AM ET

BOSTON - Authorities staged an elaborate anti-terrorism drill Saturday at Logan International Airport, responding to a simulated hijacking reminiscent of the December 2001 plot to detonate a shoe bomb aboard a trans-Atlantic flight.

Operating on the premise that gun-toting terrorists were trying to hijack a United Airlines plane carrying 169 passengers from Paris to Chicago, two F-15 Eagle fighter jets intercepted the airliner over the Atlantic Ocean and forced it to land at Logan.

On the ground, FBI and State Police tactical teams stormed the plane, freed the volunteer "hostages" and arrested two "terrorists" after negotiators failed to yield a peaceful end to the fictional hijacking.

"Things went just as we hoped they would go," said Amy Corbett, regional administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration.

"Operation Atlas," which cost roughly $700,000 and brought together about 50 federal, state and local agencies, was billed as the first training drill involving a real airborne intercept of a commercial airliner.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said the exercise, paid for by a federal Homeland Security grant, was money "well-spent."

"It's about practice," he said. "I would rather have a glitch today than (during) an actual terrorist attack."

Many of the same emergency workers from Saturday's drill also responded to the 2001 incident on American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami.

That flight was diverted to Boston and landed safely at Logan after Richard Reid, a self-proclaimed member of the al-Qaida terrorist network, tried to ignite explosives in his shoe. Reid, now serving a life sentence, was subdued before the flight landed and then arrested.

Logan officials had warned neighboring residents, pilots, airlines and passengers in terminals that Saturday's display was only a drill. The exercise didn't cause any delays at Logan, according to a Massport spokesman.

In April, New Jersey and Connecticut teamed up for the five-day "TOPOFF 3" drill, which included a simulated bioterror and chemical weapons attacks resulting in 6,508 fake deaths and the arrests of five mock terrorists in a raid.

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U.S. Agents Raid Fla. Migrant Labor Camp
The Associated Press
Sunday, June 5, 2005; 10:29 AM

EAST PALATKA, Fla. -- Federal agents raided a migrant farm labor camp where homeless men and women were kept in what labor officials called a version of modern-day slavery.

Four people, including the camp's owner, Ronald Evans, face federal charges in a case that officials said is likely to grow. Investigators are looking into alleged environmental violations and drugs found at the camp in Friday's raid.

"The word is out that we are concerned about human trafficking, and we will leave no stone or camp unturned," said Steve Cole, a spokesman for Jacksonville U.S. attorney Paul I. Perez.

Officials said homeless people were recruited to the Evans Labor Camp through offers of room and board, along with alcohol, tobacco and drugs, which they bought on credit. But they never made enough in the field to pay it off, according to an investigative summary.

"A lot of times, they get them indebted even before they get back to the camp," said federal agent Rebecca Hall.

In a small central shed, investigators found about 100 rocks of suspected crack cocaine along with cigarettes and beer. Detective Lt. John Merchant described the shed as a "shop" where the rocks were sold for $20 each.

Department of Labor agents were joined in the raid by local officials and agents from the Environmental Protection Agency, which was investigating illegal dumping of raw sewage into a tributary of the St. Johns River.

"They've found what clearly looks like EPA violations, discharging raw sewage into the environment," said Putnam County Sheriff's Capt. Gary Bowling.

Seventy-eight potato field workers were interviewed at the compound south of Jacksonville. Some were arrested on unrelated, outstanding warrants.

Federal civil rights attorneys waited outside the camp to talk to the workers, offering them help getting out of the camp and finding other work. About 20 left with the attorneys.

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U.S. May Push U.N. to Punish North Korea
Associated Press
June 5, 2005

BANGKOK, Thailand - The Bush administration may ask the
United Nations to punish North Korea for refusing to return to international talks about its nuclear weapons program, Pentagon officials say.

Such a move would signal the failure of the six-nation talks aimed at persuading the communist country to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Since the discussions broke off last June, North Korea has claimed that it possesses nuclear weapons and has rebuffed calls to resume bargaining. The other countries involved in the talks are China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

At an Asian security conference in Singapore over the weekend, U.S. and Japanese officials floated the possibility of sending the matter to the U.N. Security Council for consideration of economic penalties and other punishments.

North Korea has said it would interpret U.N. penalties as an act of war. But it is not clear whether North Korea actually would consider military action or whether the statement was just more of the country's harsh rhetoric.

The U.S. plans to decide by month's end what to do next about North Korea, according to a senior defense official traveling with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the administration was seriously considering idea of referring the matter to the Security Council.

Rumsfeld told reporters on his trip that U.S. policy on North Korea is under review. He would not offer further details.

Japan's defense chief, Yoshinori Ono, said at the security conference on Saturday that taking the issue to the United Nations was possible if the U.S., China, Japan, Russia and South Korea agreed that was the best option.

Rumsfeld also raised the possibility, saying the world is threatened by North Korea's nuclear weapons.

"It would require, certainly, the United Nations to ask itself, does it want to have a role in trying to avoid allowing the kind of proliferation that is threatened?" Rumsfeld said during a question-and-answer session at the security conference. [...]

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A greater threat now looms over mankind

Kenneth T. Tellis

Today, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov spoke out against the U.S. Missile Defence System, because it would set a dangerous precedent. Consider the reasons why Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov was against the U.S. Missile Defence System. What were the guarantees that they would not be used by a rogue government in the U.S. to subjugate peaceful countries? If the U.S. has already voided international covenants like the United Nations Charter, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Immunity and The Geneva Conventions, what guarantee is there that they will abide by any agreement they now make with any country?

In both Afghanistan and Iraq the United States of America has taken on the role that Nazi Germany had during World War II. It has openly used torture and murder to attain what it cites as information. But further than that, it has used Depleted Uranium Shells against civilian men, women and children, knowing fully well, that this is in violation of international agreements.

In Venezuela, that U.S. is bent on overthrowing the Bolivarian government of President Hugo Chavez Frias, in an attempt to gain control of Venezuela's OIL. The Bush regime has already lost all credibility and feels that it has nothing to lose in overthrowing the Chavez government in Venezuela. The Bush regime has a "GO FOR BROKE" attitude, thus it will not hesitate to even invade Venezuela if necessary to control its OIL. But the point is, will the Bush regime stop at Venezuela? That is the moot point. If it succeeds in Venezuela, then there can be no doubt that IRAN will be its next victim.

Right now, that Bush regime has only vassals that do its bidding, and has no real friends. If common sense had any play, then the U.S. might think seriously of withdrawing its forces that are in occupation of other lands. Because at least they might have some friends left. Under the present scheme, U.S. soldiers are dying in foreign lands that cannot be subjugated. Its a morass like Vietnam, and will than likely end up like Vietnam, where the U.S. forces were pulled out with one hours notice on April 30, 1975. The present morale of the U.S. forces in both Afghanistan and Iraq is not very high. U.S. soldiers are returning home with their minds blown to hell. They are quite unfit to return to normal daily life in the U.S. The shame of it is that it could have be averted, had the Bush regime not cooked up the false story of the Weapons of Mass Destruction to invade Iraq. But that is now water under-the-bridge, and they cannot go back to where they started. Future generations of Americans will remember this part of their history, as an error in judgment by a government that was greedy and vicious.

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Administration's offenses impeachable
By Robert Shetterly

06/02/05 "Bangor Daily News" - - A British citizen leaked a memo to London's Sunday Times. The memo was of the written account of a meeting that a man named Richard Dearlove had with the Bush administration in July 2002. Dearlove was the head of the England's MI-6, the equivalent of the CIA. On July 23, 2002, Dearlove briefed Tony Blair about the meeting. He said that Bush was determined to attack Iraq. He said that Bush knew that U.S. intelligence had no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and no links to foreign terrorists, that there was no imminent danger to the U.S. from Iraq. But, since Bush was determined to go to war, "Intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy." "Fixed" means faked, manufactured, conjured, hyped - the product of whole cloth fabrication.

So we got aluminum tubes, mushroom clouds imported from Niger, biological weapons labs in weather trucks, fear and trembling, the phony ultimatums to Saddam Hussein to turn over the weapons he didn't have and thus couldn't. We got the call to arms, the stifling of dissent, the parade of retired generals strategizing on the "news" shows, with us or against us, flags in the lapel, a craven media afraid to look for a truth that might disturb their corporate owners who would profit from the war. Shock and Awe. Fallujah. Abu Ghraib.

It was all a lie. Many of us have said for a long time it was a lie. But here it is in black and white: Lies from a president who has taken a sacred trust to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

So, what does it mean? It means that our president and all of his administration are war criminals. It's as simple as that. They lied to the American people, have killed and injured and traumatized thousands of American men and women doing their patriotic duty, killed at least 100,000 Iraqi civilians, destroyed Iraq's infrastructure and poisoned its environment, squandered billions and billions of our tax dollars, made a mockery of American integrity in the world, changed the course of history, tortured Iraqi prisoners, and bound us intractably to an insane situation that they have no idea how to fix because they had no plan, but greed and empire, in the first place.

What does it mean? It means that everyone in this administration should be impeached. It means that our Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and our Congressmen Tom Allen and Mike Michaud should call for immediate impeachment. They were lied to by their president, voted for war, and are thus complicit in the multiply betrayals of the American people unless they stand up now for the truth.

Richard Nixon was impeached for a cover-up of a two-bit break-in. William Cohen, a young Maine Republican, played an important role for the prosecution in those proceedings. Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about sex with an intern. Now we have the irrefutable evidence that George W. Bush lied about the reasons for taking the United States to war. The intelligence wasn't flawed. The weapons weren't hidden. Our elected leaders were lying.

Democracy, like any sound relationship between people, is built on trust. We trust our leaders to tell the truth so that the consent that we give them is honestly informed. If the consent is won through manipulation, propaganda, fear, or lies, the basis of our democracy has been subverted. It is no longer democracy at all, but we continue to call it that because we have not the courage or stamina to demand its overhaul.

We live a lie when we fail to hold leaders accountable for their lies. By not calling now for impeachment, we are saying that we condone hypocrisy, pseudo-democracy, and murdering thousands of Americans and Iraqis for strategic control of energy resources that we have no right to. Patriotism demands that we insist on the ideals of democracy, not that we support the "leaders" who cynically destroy them.

What's curious is why anyone like me should have to even point this out. Don't our senators and congressmen feel betrayed? Are they content to continue the murdering rather than do what truth demands? Do they think they can lie to history, too. Do they think that this little Iraq problem will somehow just go away, that the courageous resistance to the United States occupation will give up and hand Bush the keys to the oil wells? Do they think that any of the grave crises facing the world now - energy consumption, global warming, species extinction - can be solved by lying about them?

We are living in an age of no accountability. It's also an age upon which may hang the survival of human life on this earth. One should not bet one's future on people who abjure responsibility. The first courageous step is to come to terms with what we know is true: America's president lied to America's people to create an unnecessary war. I ask Sens. Snowe and Collins, Reps. Allen and Michaud to take that step. Begin impeachment proceedings. It's really no more or less than their duty. It's also the first step toward restoring America's integrity.

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When did the U.S. become Brazil?
By Derrick Z. Jackson

Saturday, May 28, 2005 - It is stunning to see the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times simultaneously devote a series to the American class divide. The Journal reported last Friday, "Despite the widespread belief that the U.S. remains a more mobile society than Europe, economists and sociologists say that in recent decades the typical child starting out in poverty in continental Europe or in Canada has had a better chance at prosperity.'

In an echo, the Times wrote virtually the same thing, adding that in America, a child's economic background is a better predictor of school performance than in Denmark, the Netherlands or France. The best that could be said was that class mobility in the United States is "not as low as in developing countries like Brazil, where escape from poverty is so difficult that the lower class is all but frozen in place.'

Oh joy. This is what we have come to? Comparisons to developing countries?

Another odd thing about the series is that the mainstays of the mainstream press are making a big deal out of the divide after years in which many economists warned that our policies were plunging us straight toward Brazil. For years, groups like the Boston-based United for a Fair Economy and the Institute for Policy Studies sent up smoke signals that should have been a smoking gun.

In 1973, the ratio of CEO pay to worker pay was 43-to-1. By 1992, it was 145-to-1. By 1997, it was 326-to-1. By 2000, it hit a sky- high 531-to-1. The post Sept. 11, 2001, shakeouts and corporate scandals of recent years on the surface narrowed the gap back to 301-to-1 in 2003. But a much worse parallel global gap is emerging in the era of outsourcing. United for a Fair Economy published a report last summer that found CEOs of the top U.S. outsourcing companies made 1,300 times more than their computer programmers in India and 3,300 more than Indian call-center employees.

Such groups say if the minimum wage kept up with the rise in CEO pay, it would be $15.76 an hour instead of its current $5.15. Looking at it another way, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, another often written-off liberal think tank, published a report last month that in the last three years, the share of U.S. national income that goes toward corporate profits is at its highest levels since World War II, while the share of national income that goes to wages and salaries is at a record low.

This completes a perfect storm over the last quarter century of corporate welfare for those with the most among us and vilification for those with the least. Americans have been seduced by simplistic notions of rugged individualism to vote more to punish people (welfare mothers, prison booms, affirmative action in the 1990s, and gay marriage in 2004) than for programs and policies that might lead to healing the gaps (national health care and revamped public schools).

It is obvious that Americans believed that none of the inequalities long endured by the poor (because it's all their fault, right?) would seep into our lives. We were wrong. With suburban schools slashing their budgets, health-care costs rising, retirement funds in doubt, and the next generation facing a drop in their life span from obesity and diabetes, the nation is sliding into a dangerous place.

A quarter century of a "mine, all mine' ethos continues to work for CEOs and the upper class. The rest of America finds the ladder taller and steepening. Much of the nation is now one catastrophic injury away from falling into poverty. It should be a national emergency that stratification in the richest nation in the world has us fading from the relative mobility of Europe and sinking toward the discouragement in developing countries.

It is no wonder why politicians who protect the wealthy scream "class warfare' every time someone talks about inequity. It is a diversion to keep those who vote against their own interests from realizing they are victims of friendly fire.

Comment: We continue to get critical emails from US readers when we say something positive about socialism, government intervention, or health care. Go figure.

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Galloway Wary Of Staged Terror Attack As Pretext For Iran Invasion
Prison Planet | June 1 2005

George Galloway made worldwide headlines on May 17th when he appeared in front of a Senate committee on investigations, after its members accused him of profiteering from Saddam Hussein's regime by receiving vouchers for oil, despite the fact that such allegations against Galloway had already been proven to be based on forged documents.

Galloway did what no American on Capitol Hill could, he told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Galloway turned the tables and put the entire US establishment on trial for arming Saddam, imposing genocidal sanctions which killed a million Iraqis, and then the two illegal wars which killed and maimed hundreds of thousands more.

Galloway appeared as a guest on The Alex Jones Show to discuss his Senate appearance and the subsequent fallout it generated.

At the end of the show Alex Jones asked Galloway if he thought an invasion of Iran was on the horizon. Galloway was confident that massively opposed public opinion would stop an attack from taking place, unless a staged terror attack carried out by the military industrial complex and blamed on Iran was carried out.

JONES: "What do we do if the military-industrial complex carries out a terror attack to blame it on them?"

GALLOWAY: "Well that's another very real danger. There's no way we can legislate for that but we we must be on guard. We need a vigilant citizenry."

JONES: "Unbelievable."

GALLOWAY: "We need a vigilant citizenry that are wise to all the tricks that these monkeys are up to."

Comment: Even though America is in the grip of "terrorist fever", seeing shadows of Bin Laden and Zarqawi around every street corner and under every bed, it seems unlikely that the majority of the populace would support a unilateral attack on Iran, given the growing awareness of the bogus intelligence that lead to the current quagmire in Iraq.

Here, Mr. Galloway has hit upon one of the main weapons in the arsenal of the PTB, that of the "false-flag operation", whereby those in the Bush Reich, desirous of more regime change in the Middle East, carry out a major terrorist attack against their own people and blame it on the next country to be invaded, in this case, Iran.

It worked in Afghanistan and Iraq by blaming al-Qaeda for what was obviously a Mossad/CIA operation. The PTB have the element of surprise on their side, as well as the resources and manpower to pull it off. Considering how many people still believe the official version of 9/11, it seems likely that the next big terrorist attack will have a similar effect in mobilizing the masses in support of an all-out Iranian invasion.

It's only a matter of time.

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US, Venezuela clash at OAS meeting 2005-06-06 12:45:56

BEIJING, June 6 -- The US' call to support what they called "fragile" democracies in the West was immediately met by Venezuelan accusation of seeking to impose what they called a "global dictatorship."

The United States hopes to use a three-day meeting of the 34-member Organization of American States to advance its idea of allowing private groups to help monitor democracy by raising their concerns with the OAS.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters that it's very clear that the institution needs to be better capable of dealing with fragile democracies.

She did not directly mention Venezuela, but Washington and other critics of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez did say that although twice elected, the Venezuelan President is showing authoritarian tendencies in office.

On his weekly "Hello President" TV and radio show, Chavez said the US is going to try to monitor the Venezuelan government through the OAS.

He added that if there is any government that should be monitored by the OAS, it should be the U.S. government. He argued that the US government backs terrorists, invades nations, tramples over its own people, and seeks to install a global dictatorship.

The OAS meeting began Sunday in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Comment: How can Condi such such things with a straight face!?!? Bush only got back into office because the vote was rigged. Furthermore, he dreams of being a dictator where he wouldn't have to put up with the Senate and House having the power to refuse his judicial and other appointments. Once more we see that the psychopath accuses his victims of that which he has done or will do.

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Palestinian militants storm PA offices
Monday, June 06, 2005

Abbas faces deepening rift with Hamas over postponement of parliamentary electionsCompiled by Daily Star staff

Militants loosely affiliated to the Fatah Party of Mahmoud Abbas stormed public offices in Nablus under a hail of gunfire, accusing the Palestinian president of failing to honor security promises. The drama occurred as Abbas was locked in talks with his governing Fatah Party, which is facing a deepening rift with rivals Hamas over his decision to delay parliamentary elections.

Besides discussing the postponed elections and Abbas's recent trip abroad, Fatah agreed to delay its first party conference in eight years, which had been scheduled just days before Israel is to begin pulling out of the Gaza Strip.

On the ground, some 15 members of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades fired in the air at the entrance to Nablus Governor Mohammad al-Aalloul's office and stormed into the Interior Ministry in the West Bank city. Nablus governor Aalloul was in Ramallah at the time.

"We demand that the Palestinian Authority, especially Abu Mazen (Abbas), keeps their promises. He promised us jobs in the security services and that he would secure our safety. We have seen none of it," Al-Aqsa said in a statement.

Witnesses said an employee at the governor's office was slightly wounded in the incident. A spokesman for the brigades said the gunmen shot him accidentally.

The takeover was the latest sign of chaos in the West Bank and Gaza, where armed gangs have become increasingly powerful in more than four years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting. Abbas has promised to restore order, so far with few results. [...]

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Israeli troops admit "eye for eye" killing spree
03 Jun 2005 08:44:37 GMT
Source: Reuters

JERUSALEM, June 3 (Reuters) - Israeli commandos killed eight Palestinian policemen in "eye for an eye" shootings three years ago that were ordered to avenge comrades slain in an ambush on an army checkpoint in the West Bank, a newspaper said on Friday.

The report in the Maariv daily, confirmed by senior Israeli security sources, was the latest public challenge to the Jewish state's official insistence that its forces have abided by a strict code of ethics in battling a Palestinian uprising.

After gunmen from the Palestinian faction Fatah killed six soldiers at a checkpoint outside the West Bank city of Ramallah on Feb. 19, 2002, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon approved stepping up the scale and variety of retaliations.

"The feeling was that this would be 'an eye for an eye'," an ex-soldier who took part in the shooting spree three years ago told Maariv.

Eighteen Palestinians were killed in various retaliatory attacks, including eight policemen shot while manning their checkpoints near Ramallah and Nablus, another West Bank city.

"'We are going to liquidate Palestinian policemen at a checkpoint in revenge for our six soldiers that they killed'," the ex-commando quoted his commander as ordering the troops.

At one of three checkpoints raided the Palestinians managed to return fire, but caused no Israeli casualties, Maariv said.

"The moment we knew we were going to eliminate them, we no longer saw them as human," another former commando said.

Maariv's interviewees, whose names were withheld for what the newspaper called legal reasons, said they decided to come forward as part of "Breaking the Silence", a campaign by former soldiers to expose alleged Israeli abuse of Palestinians.

The army said in a statement in response to the Maariv report that its forces attacked "checkpoints manned by Palestinian policemen who facilitated the passage and actively assisted terrorists".

The Palestinian Authority, which at the time denied that members of its security forces were complicit in attacks on Israelis, has since acknowledged some moonlighted as militants.


Reprisals have long loomed large in Israel's strategic planning, beginning in the 1950s when it answered cross-border raids by Arab irregulars in kind. After 11 Israeli athletes were killed by Palestinian gunmen during the 1972 Munich Olympics, Israel sent agents to assassinate that attack's masterminds.

But while Israel has openly assassinated leading Palestinian militants during the current conflict, it rejected charges by human rights groups that this constituted illegal extra-judicial killing, saying the men targeted were planning imminent attacks.

In its statement, the army said that after it lost six soldiers in the 2002 ambush, it had been "instructed by the political echelon to change the mode of operation and adjust it to the harsh reality on the ground".

Soldiers were told to "hunt down all those involved in terror activities, including members of the Palestinian Authority security apparatus" until the PA prevented "terror attacks emanating from Palestinian towns and cities".

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Israeli Apartheid
Jamal Juma on the World Bank, international aid and the Bantustanisation of Palestine

As US President George W Bush had his first White House meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas -- a summit giving Bush a platform for his phony $200 million "aid" package -- devastating new realities are being constructed in Palestine. The Apartheid Wall and accompanying infrastructure of Jewish-only bypass roads, military zones and settlements, are rapidly moving towards the permanent ghettoisation of the Palestinian people. Bush's "aid" package, however, neither stops these crimes nor helps Palestinians: most of it is destined for occupation projects such as new checkpoints. As part of global "aid" efforts outlined and coordinated by the World Bank, it supports not liberation but Bantustanisation of Palestine.

The Bank's latest publication -- Stagnation or Revival? -- leaves no doubt about these aims as it meticulously maps out a vision of economic development "for" Palestine that serves to provide long-term financial support of the Israeli Apartheid system. It begins by repeating the lie that Israeli "disengagement" will provide Palestinians with a "significant amount of land" and an ideal environment for development. In reality, Gaza will be totally imprisoned, surrounded by a second eight- metre high wall, with all borders, coastline and airspace controlled by Israel.

In the West Bank, just four tiny settlements are being disbanded. Simultaneously, 46 per cent of the West Bank is being annexed through the wall and Apartheid infrastructure to further expand colonies such as Maale Adumim and the Gush Etzion bloc. Against international law, the Bank sees the economic boundaries of "Palestine" as dictated by the Apartheid Wall and the "disengagement" plan, which translates into active engagement in the colonisation of the remaining lands of Palestine.

Despite the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling the wall illegal and instructing all nations "not to render any aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by it," the Bank steps in with an economic formula to sustain and prop up this system of expropriation, dispossession and permanent occupation.

These plans can be broken down into two key areas: the exploitation of Palestinian labour and achieving total control over Palestinian movement.

Massive industrial zones are to be built on Palestinian land annexed by the wall, where ghettoised Palestinian labour will work in the dirtiest and most toxic industries. The so-called Tulkarm Peace Park, an archetype of this project, is to be built on farmland stolen from the village of Irtah; land that sustained 50 families for generations and formed an integral part of community and family life.

Moreover, the Bank praises the wall for acting as a device by which to control Palestinians, using this as a motivation for Israel to maintain the current permit system so that cheap Palestinian labour can be herded over the Green Line to continue to undertake the most demeaning and worst paid jobs.

In fact, the most fundamental cog, if this high-tech system of Apartheid is to be sustainable, is the cementing of the checkpoint system as a permanent feature of Palestinian life, to facilitate freedom of movement for goods but not people. This will enable the transfer of Palestinians from their ghettos to work places. It will necessitate funding -- which the US has already promised -- for prison gates in the wall, to maintain the humiliating and degrading checkpoint system imposed on the Palestinian people.

Agriculture, traditionally the core sector of the economy, is barely mentioned in the report, presumably because the Bank realises that Palestinians will be left with no land to cultivate. The Bank's vision of "co-existence" involves Palestinian natural water supplies, systematically stolen by the occupation (to the tune of 80 per cent of output every year), being bought back by Palestinians under occupation "at Israeli commercial rates".

That the Bank's co-ordination with the occupation serves to the detriment of Palestinian liberation and international law requires little elaboration.

The World Bank and donor community, however, follow their own laws and logic: they seek to impose, on top of the occupation, neo-liberal economics for "free" markets owned by Israeli and foreign capital and the restriction of Palestinian people into disparate ghettos. The World Bank, alongside the US and significant portions of the international community, are using the Palestinian Authority (PA) as an institution through which these policies can be implemented and an "attractive environment for investors" created.

The PA will be given the role of prison guard, preventing the Palestinian people from defending their lands and rights. The responsibility of the authority towards the Palestinian people necessitates that it stands up against these projects -- not by "modifying" or "only partially backing" them, but by completely refusing and opposing them.

The industrial zones and Bantustans are not new ideas; they represent the same type of economic "development" pursued by racist South Africa. Like black South Africans, Palestinians will not tolerate economic models of subservience. Nor do they struggle for ways to make the wall and the occupation more bearable, but to break them down.

The partnership between Israel and the World Bank highlights the extent to which international support sustains the occupation. Without the $5 billion of annual US aid, the World Bank investment and the contributions of countless governments, corporations and organisations, the Zionist project is simply not sustainable.

Palestinians are not asking for the bogus aid which the USA imposes, but genuine political support by which the massive economic backing to Israel can be cut. Individuals and civil society the world over have enormous leverage and responsibility to strengthen the movement to pressure and isolate Apartheid Israel, in support of the Palestinian struggle for justice and liberation.

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Breaking the Silence: Israeli Soldiers Reflect on Patrolling Hebron
Yitzhak Laor is a novelist who lives in Tel Aviv. This article was originally published in the London Review of Books, V26, N.14, on July 22, 2004.

Israel's Independence Day fell this year on 27 April. For his homework my nine-year-old son had to interview me about my military past. Before giving out the assignment, his teacher had invited the father of one of the children, an IDF colonel, to give a talk in full military uniform. The children were fascinated. Urged to ask questions, they mostly wanted to know whether he was afraid, though they also asked if he had killed Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, whose picture and the picture of his destroyed wheelchair were quite a hit on Israeli TV. The colonel said it was another unit, not his, "but he deserved to die," and he promised the children that "we don't kill unless there is a really good reason." He ended the talk by telling the children he hoped that they too would one day have the chance to become senior officers in the IDF.

Our life worsens, poverty is spreading, education and health services are deteriorating, the middle class is shrinking, and we are ruled by a junta whose money and power have increased to an extent people refuse to believe, even when they are confronted with the figures. A 45-year-old colonel who retires from the army gets a lump sum of close to two million dollars, in addition to a lifetime pension and a second career, usually as an executive of one of the huge corporations, or in arms dealing.

To explain these privileges, the average Israeli points out that "throughout his career the colonel has been risking his life." But that's been a myth for at least two decades now. The colonel hasn't been risking his life because there is no longer a serious enemy. There is only the Palestinian desire to live as a free nation which in the form of the terrorist campaign is represented as an existential threat to the state of Israel. But it doesn't threaten the existence of Israel. It never did, but it sure helps the military ride the wave of panic.

The real struggle in Israeli society today is not between doves and hawks, but between the majority who take for granted the IDF's image as the defender of our nation, with or without biblical quotes, and the minority who no longer buy it. If the army does something bad it is always an exception (harig, in Hebrew). Those who believe that we are fighting for our lives also believe that we do our best to be humane, and more or less succeed. This fragile complex of axioms depends either on foolish optimism ("soon everything will be resolved") or on images. Arguments don't work anymore.

The most effective images are those of dismembered bodies, screaming mothers and mourning fathers. But that is exactly why the BBC World Service is considered 'hostile' here. It isn't because of the Vanunu affair, but because of the images it broadcasts of everyday suffering on the other side of the road, a ten-minute drive from the safety of our homes, our swimming pools, our happy lives. Even CNN was considered hostile as long as it 'misbehaved,' bringing us pictures which contradicted the basic image of our existence. Atrocities are always perpetrated against us, and the more brutal Israel becomes, the more it depends on our image as the eternal victim. Hence the importance of the Holocaust since the end of the 1980s (the first intifada), and its return into Hebrew literature (David Grossman's See under: Love). The Holocaust is part of the victim imagery, hence the madness of state-subsidized school trips to Auschwitz. This has less to do with understanding the past than with reproducing an environment in which we exist in the present tense as victims. Together with that comes the imagery of the healthy, beautiful, and sensitive soldiers.

This is the context, at the crossroads between the expanding (slowly, and maybe too little too late) refusenik movement and the ever growing despair, evident at an exhibition called "Breaking the Silence" ("Shovrim Shtika") which opened in early June in Tel Aviv College: an exhibition of photographs taken by mostly unnamed conscripts who served in Hebron. (Their brigade commander was the colonel who gave the talk to my son's class.) Sixty of the 90 photos record aspects of the conflict between the Palestinians and the settlers, but 30 show the soldiers at their daily routine -- and the routine tells all. Indeed, towards the end of June, the IDF's military police raided the exhibit, "confiscating," as Haaretz put it, "a folder containing newspaper clips about the exhibit, as well as a videotape including statements made by 70 soldiers about their experiences in Hebron." Four of the young men who organized the exhibition were called in for interrogation. What were they interrogated about? Well, they are suspected of having committed the crimes they documented on their video -- abusing Palestinians, destroying property, etc.

Every once in a while opposition arises from within the monster. Hence the Courage to Refuse movement, the letter last September signed by 27 pilots who refused to attack civilian populations in the Occupied Territories, the letter in December from an elite commando unit that refused to fight, and so on. A society living in the past as if it were the present is vulnerable: the past/present becomes a double-edged sword. You may be sued if you call anybody here a "Nazi," but one hears it a lot. It would be more appropriate to compare Israeli brutality with the French in Algeria, or the British in Sudan or Malaysia, but we are taken up with the notion of "our past turning into our present."

Moral repulsion isn't the only factor, however. Young men who join the army want to fight in the most sophisticated tanks, to fire the most frightening cannon, to fly the brand new jet fighters, to operate the Apache helicopters, to conquer the most heavily fortified enemy positions, to parachute behind enemy lines. Then, after all their extremely difficult training, after all the suffering and ambition, they find there is no heroism, no glory, no diving as marine commandos under the waters of the Persian Gulf. Instead, all they do is throw families out of their homes in the middle of the night, demolish their houses, bomb a six-story building in Gaza, starve a town, harass women at checkpoints, watch Shin Bet torture detainees, bring more misery to the refugee camps.

What the Israeli army (like the Israeli state) needs to reproduce in its soldiers is either sheer racism -- that is, faith in "the murderous nature of the Arabs" -- or a brand of religious messianism, neo-Nazi ideology wrapped in Judaism. One of the photographs in the exhibition shows a piece of settler graffiti in Hebron which reads: "Arabs to Gas Chambers." This kind of discourse has its weakness: it needs soldiers to fight for it. There are a lot who won't.

Right now, the former soldiers who took part in the exhibition -- now closed -- are working on what they call journalistic research, though it looks as if they are collecting evidence for some sort of imaginary trial. The exception incriminates an individual soldier; if you can show that it is the rule you incriminate the true criminals of war, the heads of the IDF and the government. These ex-soldiers are making contact with conscripts and reservists from other brigades, gathering photos, confessions, testimonies for further exhibitions. What they are telling us is common knowledge beyond the hill, across the checkpoints, in every shattered Palestinian kindergarten. They are doing it because they still believe in some sort of Israeli justice. That faith, I fear, has no basis in reality. On the other hand, how else can one become a decent person, if not by believing in some sort of justice, in some sort of place to come to terms with power? The Place is one of the many names of God in Hebrew.

"First week, first time at the check-point, at the passage between the Palestinian area and a street where only Jews can go. Those guys have to stop, there's a line, then they hand you their ID cards through the fence, you check them, and let them through. This guy with me yells: 'Waqif! Stop!' The man didn't understand and took one more step. Then he yells again, 'Waqif!' and the man freezes. So the soldier decided that because the guy took this one extra step he'll be detained. I said to him: 'Listen, what are you doing?' He said: 'No, no, don't argue, at least not in front of them. I'm not going to trust you anymore, you're not reliable.' Eventually one of the patrol commanders came over, and I said: 'What's the deal, how long do you want to detain him for?' He said: 'You can do whatever you want, whatever you feel like doing. If you feel there's a problem with what he's done, if you feel something's wrong, even the slightest thing, you can detain him for as long as you want.' And then I got it, a man who's been in Hebron a week, it has nothing to do with rank, he can do whatever he wants. There are no rules, everything is permissible."

"Another thing I remember from Hebron is the so-called 'grass widow' procedure -- the name for a house the army takes over and turns into an observation post, the home of a Palestinian family, not a family of terrorists, just a family whose home made a good observation post. You're in somebody's house, and everything is littered with shit, there are cartridges and glass on the stairs, so you can hear if anyone is approaching. It's a house covered in camouflage netting so people can't see what you're doing inside. You find yourself in a Palestinian neighborhood, in some family's home, and it's totally surreal, because there you are sitting in the living room, listening for people coming to attack you. There was food left behind, and there was TV, but we weren't allowed to turn it on -- to use their electricity, this would be too much, this would be considered 'bad occupation.'"

"It was Friday night, and the auxiliary company, which was stationed with us in Harsina, eliminated two terrorists. Friday night dinner was, of course, a very happy affair, and the whole base was jumping. As I was leaving dinner, an armored ambulance arrived with the terrorists' corpses, and the two terrorists' corpses were held up in a standing position by three people who were posing for photographs. Even I was shocked by this sight, I closed my eyes so as not to see and walked away. I really didn't feel like looking at terrorists' corpses."

"Our job was to stop the Palestinians at the checkpoint and tell them they can't pass this way any more. Maybe a month ago they could, but now they can't. On the other hand there were all these old ladies who had to pass to get to their homes, so we'd point in the direction of the opening through which they could go without us noticing. It was an absurd situation. Our officers also knew about this opening. They told us about it. Nobody really cared about it. It made us wonder what we were doing at the checkpoint. Why was it forbidden to pass? It was really a form of collective punishment. You're not allowed to pass because you're not allowed to pass. If you want to commit a terrorist attack, turn right there and then left."

"I was ashamed of myself the day I realized that I simply enjoy the feeling of power. Not merely enjoy it, need it. And then, when someone suddenly says no to you, you say: what do you mean no? Where do you get the chutzpah from to say no to me? Forget for a moment that I think that all those Jews are mad, and I actually want peace and believe we should leave the Territories, how dare you say no to me? I am the Law! I am the Law here! Once I was at a checkpoint, a temporary one, a so-called strangulation checkpoint blocking the entrance to a village. On one side a line of cars wanting to get out, and on the other side a line of cars wanting to get in, a huge line, and suddenly you have a mighty force at the tip of your fingers. I stand there, pointing at someone, gesturing to you to do this or that, and you do this or that, the car starts, moves towards me, halts beside me. The next car follows, you signal, it stops. You start playing with them, like a computer game. You come here, you go there, like this. You barely move, you make them obey the tip of your finger. It's a mighty feeling.'"

"On patrol in Abu Sneina we make a check post where you stop cars and check them out. We stop a guy we know, who always hangs around, doesn't make trouble. Connections are made, even if we don't speak the same language and even if it's hard to explain. The commander stops him. 'You cover the front. You cover the back.' So I cover the front. The commander says to him: 'Go on, get going. Get our your jack.' The guy just stands there and stares. He doesn't understand what they want. So the commander yells at him that he should get out his jack and begin to take the wheels off. I'm standing near a stone wall and the guy comes over and takes a stone to put under the car, and then another stone. At that point, the commander comes over to me and says: 'Does this look humane to you?' He has this horrible grin on his face. It's awful. I can't do anything. I don't have enough air to say anything. I take my helmet off and lean on the stone wall, still covering the front, and I cry."

"Once a little kid, a boy of about six, passed by me at my post. He said to me; 'Soldier, listen, don't get annoyed, don't try to stop me, I'm going out to kill some Arabs.' I look at the kid and don't quite understand exactly what I'm supposed to do. So he says: 'First, I'm going to buy a popsicle at Gotnik's' -- that's their grocery store -- 'then I'm going to kill some Arabs.' I had nothing to say to him. Nothing. I went completely blank. And that's not such a simple thing, that a city, that such an experience can silence someone who was an educator, a counselor, who believed in education, who believed in talking to people, even if their opinions were different. But I had nothing to say to a kid like that. There's nothing to say to him."

"The very existence of the checkpoint is humiliating. I guard, or enable the existence of, 500 Jewish settlers at the expense of 15,000 people under direct occupation in the H2 area and another 140,000-160,000 in the surrounding area of Hebron. It makes no difference how pleasant I am to them. I will still be their enemy. As long as you want to keep these 500 people in Hebron alive and enable them to go about their existence in a reasonable manner, you have to destroy the reasonable existence of all the rest. There's no alternative. For the most part, these are real security considerations. They're not imaginary. If you want to protect the settlers from being shot at from above, you have to occupy all the hills around them. There are people living on those hills. They have to be subdued, they have to be detained, they have to be hurt at times. But as long as the government has decided that the settlement in Hebron will remain intact, the cruelty is there, and it doesn't matter whether or not we act nice."

"Whenever we feel like it, we chose a house on the map, we go on in. 'Jaysh, jaysh, iftah al bab' -- 'army, army, open the door' -- and they open the door. We move all the men into one room, all the women into another, and place them under guard. The rest of the unit does whatever they please, except destroy equipment -- it goes without saying -- and there's no helping yourself to anything: we have to cause as little harm to the people as possible, as little physical damage as possible. If I try to imagine the reverse situation: if they had entered my home, not a police force with a warrant, but a unit of soldiers, if they had burst into my home, shoved my mother and little sister into my bedroom, and forced my father and my younger brother and me into the living room, pointing their guns at us, laughing, smiling, and we didn't always understand what the soldiers were saying while they emptied the drawers and searched through the things. Oops it fell, broken -- all kinds of photos, of my grandmother and grandfather, all kinds of sentimental things that you wouldn't want anyone else to see. There is no justification for this. If there is a suspicion that a terrorist has entered a house, so be it. But just to enter a home, any home: here I've chosen one, look what fun. We go in, we check it out, we cause a bit of injustice, we've asserted our military presence and then we move on."

"That morning, a fairly big group arrived in Hebron, around 15 Jews from France. They were all religious Jews. They were in a good mood, really having a great time, and I spent my entire shift following this gang of Jews around and trying to keep them from destroying the town. They just wandered around, picked up every stone they saw, and started throwing them in Arabs' windows, and overturning whatever they came across. There's no horror story here: they didn't catch some Arab and kill him or anything like that, but what bothered me is that maybe someone told them that there's a place in the world where a Jew can take all of his rage out on Arab people, and simply do anything. Come to a Palestinian town, and do whatever he wants, and the soldiers will always be there to back him up. Because that was my job, to protect them and make sure that nothing happened to them."

Comment: Daily life under the occupation. Here it is Palestine. It could be Iraq. Here we read the stories of Israelis who have seen the horror for which they are responsible. We imagine the same realisation is slowly dawning on US troops in Iraq.

There is no excuse.


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Israel bugged Syrian first lady's e-mails
Uzi Mahnaimi
Times Newspapers

THE personal computer of Syria's British-born first lady was bugged by Israeli military intelligence to build up a profile of her husband, President Bashar al-Assad, it emerged last week.

The Israelis used "Trojan horse" spy software to record her messages, including e-mail exchanges with her husband, and forward them to a server computer.

Intelligence sources quoted in an Israeli newspaper admitted to the operation after police arrested 22 suspects in Israel's biggest industrial espionage scandal last week.

The so-called Trojan Horse affair involved leading defence contractors stealing secrets from rivals by sending spy software to their computers disguised as a package of confidential documents. The programme recorded every keystroke and collected business documents and e-mails, which it then sent to a server computer registered in London.

Intelligence sources claimed the Syrian leader and his wife had proved ideal targets. Assad is said to be addicted to computer games.

Asma, his wife, is a computer science graduate from King's College London, and is known to spend long hours corresponding online with her friends and family.

The sources claimed Assad was aware that Israeli intelligence experts had gained access to all his wife's e-mails and documents and had complained about it to "some European leaders".

Another military intelligence expert said: "The wives of leaders are soft targets."

Most leaders, including Assad, would have well-protected computers, he said, but those belonging to their spouses were less secure. "Sometimes they do not even have a basic firewall."

Syria's first lady, the former Asma al-Akhras, now 29, graduated in 1996 and worked as an economist for Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan. She married Assad, who trained as an eye surgeon in London, in December 2000.

The intelligence official said Asma's personal correspondence was of little value but the bugging provided an ideal method of monitoring the thoughts of the president.

"Israel is, of course, interested in the husband, not the wife," he said. "Assad, even after five years in power, is an enigma."

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Mossad spied on far-right Austrian
By Roger Boyes
Times Online
June 02, 2005

THE ISRAELI secret service spied on Jörg Haider, the right-wing Austrian populist, using one of his closest aides to gather information on his contacts with Arab dictators. Peter Sichrovsky said that he had been a Mossad informant for five years until retiring from politics in 2002.

"I wanted to help Israel and certainly did not do anything wrong," said Herr Sichrovsky who was secretary-general of Herr Haider's Freedom party and a member of the European Parliament. The Austrian state prosecutor said yesterday that he would open an investigation to determine whether Herr Sichrovsky should be prosecuted. Spying for a foreign power carries a jail sentence of up to three years in Austria.

The revelations, in the news weekly Profil, stunned the Austrian political class. Herr Sichrovsky, who is of Jewish origin, was a controversial figure for the conservative Right. The Jewish community regarded him as a traitor for working with Herr Haider, while anti-Semitic Freedom party activists made no secret of their distrust.

The Freedom party became a member of Austria's governing coalition in 1999, prompting a diplomatic boycott by the European Union. Herr Haider had publicly praised the SS and Hitler's employment policies. Israel withdrew its ambassador.

Herr Sichrovsky was supposed to help Herr Haider to make peace with the Jewish community. But at the same time the Israeli secret service was anxious to know what Herr Haider was up to.

"I was certainly not a James Bond," said Herr Sichrovsky, now a businessman concerned with military co-operation between Israel and China. "It's true, though, that I co-operated with Mossad until my withdrawal from politics in 2002."

Herr Haider had extensive contacts with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, and enjoyed a close friendship with one of the dictator's sons. "Israel wanted to use Haider as a bridge to Arab countries with which it did not have official contacts," Herr Sichrovsky said.

His ties with the Israelis went well beyond occasional debriefings. In the autumn of 2000 Herr Sichrovsky held talks with Syrian politicians about the fate of three Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah in Lebanon. He was accompanied by Herbert Scheibner, the Austrian Defence Minister, who was also a member of the Freedom party. The idea was to demonstrate to both the European Union and to Israel that Austria was a respectable member of the world community.

Herr Sichrovsky helped to arrange secret meetings in Austria between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. Yesterday he claimed to have set up Herr Haider's controversial visit to Baghdad to meet Saddam Hussein in 2002. At the last minute Herr Sichrovsky was denied an Iraqi visa so he could not pass on first-hand information to Mossad. "They were, in any case, sure that Haider was meeting a double," he said.

Herr Haider remained calm yesterday. He said: "There were always people in the party who warned me that he'd been sent by Mossad but there was never anything concrete. If he was really sent by a secret service, then he must have given them very little."

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AIPAC Source to Be in Court June 13
15:57 Jun 05, '05

Larry Franklin, the Pentagon worker who is accused of passing information to two American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) analysts, faces a court hearing June 13, his attorney Plato Cacheris said. Cacheris did not confirm or deny a Washington Post report that a grand jury has already indicted Franklin.

AIAPC has fired the two senior staffers who received the information. Steve Rosen was the pro-Israel lobby group's foreign policy director and Keith Weissman was a specialist on Iran. Federal officials still are investigating, and observers expected that both men will be charged.

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Carl Cameron Investigates Part 1 - Israel Is Spying In And On The U.S.?

Part 1 of a 4-Part Series
Author: Carl Cameron
12/12/01 FOX News

These items have since been removed from the FOX News web site:

Part I:
BRIT HUME, HOST: It has been more than 16 years since a civilian working for the Navy was charged with passing secrets to Israel. Jonathan Pollard pled guilty to conspiracy to commit espionage and is serving a life sentence. At first, Israeli leaders claimed Pollard was part of a rogue operation, but later took responsibility for his work.

Now Fox News has learned some U.S. investigators believe that there are Israelis again very much engaged in spying in and on the U.S., who may have known things they didn't tell us before September 11. Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron has details in the first of a four-part series.


CARL CAMERON, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Since September 11, more than 60 Israelis have been arrested or detained, either under the new patriot anti-terrorism law, or for immigration violations. A handful of active Israeli military were among those detained, according to investigators, who say some of the detainees also failed polygraph questions when asked about alleged surveillance activities against and in the United States.

There is no indication that the Israelis were involved in the 9-11 attacks, but investigators suspect that they Israelis may have gathered intelligence about the attacks in advance, and not shared it. A highly placed investigator said there are "tie-ins." But when asked for details, he flatly refused to describe them, saying, "evidence linking these Israelis to 9-11 is classified. I cannot tell you about evidence that has been gathered. It's classified information."

Fox News has learned that one group of Israelis, spotted in North Carolina recently, is suspected of keeping an apartment in California to spy on a group of Arabs who the United States is also investigating for links to terrorism. Numerous classified documents obtained by Fox News indicate that even prior to September 11, as many as 140 other Israelis had been detained or arrested in a secretive and sprawling investigation into suspected espionage by Israelis in the United States.

Investigators from numerous government agencies are part of a working group that's been compiling evidence since the mid '90s. These documents detail hundreds of incidents in cities and towns across the country that investigators say, "may well be an organized intelligence gathering activity."

The first part of the investigation focuses on Israelis who say they are art students from the University of Jerusalem and Bazala Academy. They repeatedly made contact with U.S. government personnel, the report says, by saying they wanted to sell cheap art or handiwork.

Documents say they, "targeted and penetrated military bases." The DEA, FBI and dozens of government facilities, and even secret offices and unlisted private homes of law enforcement and intelligence personnel. The majority of those questioned, "stated they served in military intelligence, electronic surveillance intercept and or explosive ordinance units."

Another part of the investigation has resulted in the detention and arrests of dozens of Israelis at American mall kiosks, where they've been selling toys called Puzzle Car and Zoom Copter. Investigators suspect a front.

Shortly after The New York Times and Washington Post reported the Israeli detentions last months, the carts began vanishing. Zoom Copter's Web page says, "We are aware of the situation caused by thousands of mall carts being closed at the last minute. This in no way reflects the quality of the toy or its salability. The problem lies in the operators' business policies."

Why would Israelis spy in and on the U.S.? A general accounting office investigation referred to Israel as country A and said, "According to a U.S. intelligence agency, the government of country A conducts the most aggressive espionage operations against the U.S. of any U.S. ally."

A defense intelligence report said Israel has a voracious appetite for information and said, "the Israelis are motivated by strong survival instincts which dictate every possible facet of their political and economical policies. It aggressively collects military and industrial technology and the U.S. is a high priority target."

The document concludes: "Israel possesses the resources and technical capability to achieve its collection objectives." [...]

Comment: View the videos here: [Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4]

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Hezbollah, allies claim a clean sweep of seats in southern Lebanon
08:24 AM EDT Jun 06

BINT JBEIL, Lebanon (AP) - Hezbollah and its Shiite allies claimed a massive victory in southern Lebanon in Sunday's second stage of national elections, a vote the militant group hopes will prove its strength and send a message of defiance to the United States.

Hundreds of Hezbollah supporters people drove through the streets of Beirut waving the group's yellow flag and the green flag of Amal in celebration. In Beirut's predominantly Shiite southern suburbs, people up lit the sky with fireworks.

Four hours after polling stations closed, Hezbollah's deputy leader, Sheik Naim Kassem, and election ally Nabih Berri of the Shiite Amal movement, said they had won all 23 seats in this region bordering Israel. Official results aren't expected until Monday.

"It has become clear that all members of the Resistance, Liberation and Development Ticket have won in (southern Lebanon's) two regions," Kassem told reporters. "The south has declared through this vote its clear stance in supporting this track."

He said that in one constituency, with more than half the votes counted, Hezbollah official Mohammed Raad was leading with 69,207 votes against his closest rival, Elias Abu Rizk, with 7,000 votes. In the another, with more than third of votes counted, Berri was leading with 35,560 while his closest opponent, Riad Asaad had 5,304 votes, Kassem said.

Berri thanked the people for "renewing the confidence in the ticket that all its members have won."

The elections, divided by region and spread over four consecutive Sundays, began last week in the capital Beirut where the dominant issue was the February assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. His killing triggered massive street protests at home and international outrage abroad that eventually forced Syria to pull its army out of Lebanon, ending three decades of military domination.

"All the south came out today to send a clear message to the Americans that they embrace the resistance (Hezbollah's) weapons and that they are independent in their decision and they are not subservient to international resolutions," Sheik Nabil Kaouk, Hezbollah's commander in southern Lebanon, told reporters shortly after voting began.

The United States, which labels Hezbollah a terrorist organization, wants the guerrilla group to abandon its weapons in line with last year's United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559. Hezbollah has refused to disarm, a position backed by Lebanese authorities.

Voter turnout was noticeably heavy in Shiite areas and lower in Christian and Sunni districts, according to preliminary estimates by candidates' campaigns and local television stations. Amal and Hezbollah campaigners estimated voter turnout at about 45 per cent.[...]

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Qazi says 9/11 was a planned conspiracy to crush Muslims
Sunday, June 05, 2005
Staff Report

LAHORE: The events of 9/11 were designed to crush Muslims all over the world, said Qazi Hussain Ahmad, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) president and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) ameer, on Saturday.

After the fall of Communism, the US made Muslims its prime target and the NATO secretary general declared that after Communism, Islamic fundamentalism was the biggest danger to the world, Qazi said while addressing the annual certificate distribution ceremony of Syed Maududi International Institute of Islamic Education.

Qazi said the Pakistani government was working as an “agent” of the US and NATO, who have established military bases in Afghanistan near Pakistani borders. He said that General Pervez Musharraf is working as an American ally against Islamic movements and is also a friend of India. He condemned Musharraf for saying that Israeli premier Ariel Sharon was a brave general and soldier.

The MMA accused Gen Musharraf of provoking people against religious forces and asking them not to vote for religious parties because they are extremists, which was a violation of the constitution. He said that Musharraf was an opponent of Muslim unity and was dividing the Muslims. [...]

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Saddam faces trial for gassing Kurds
06/06/2005 - 12:10:15

Former Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein faces a range of charges from gassing thousands of Kurds to executing political and religious leaders, a list of the cases against him showed today.

Iraqi officials want the case against Saddam, who could face 500 charges if prosecutors want to proceed on all counts, to concentrate on about a dozen thoroughly-documented cases authorities believe the ousted leader will be convicted on.

A list obtained early today from the special tribunal, which will hear the case against Saddam and 11 of his henchmen, showed prosecutors seemed to be concentrating on 14 cases. Many received international attention during Saddam’s three decades in power. The list contains few details.

Iraqi authorities believe the trial against Saddam, which could commence within two months, will have a major effect on curbing the violent insurgency raging throughout the country, which has killed at least 844 people since the new Shiite Muslim-led government was announced on April 28. [...]

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Stratia Wire
MARCH 11 2003

Very little attention has been paid to Stephen Pelletiere’s op ed piece in the New York Times (Jan. 31, “A War Crime or an Act of War”).

Pelletiere was the CIA’s senior political analyst on Iraq during the 1980s war between Iraq and Iran, and later served as a professor at the US Army War College (1988-2000).

His op ed piece attacks the theory that Saddam gassed the Kurds. You know, “Saddam gassed his own people.” That oft-repeated charge that makes up a significant part of the administration’s argument for war now.

Pelletiere had access to a lot of the classified data that was generated around the Kurd matter. He was in charge of the 1991 Army probe that investigated the question: How would Saddam fight a war against the US?

The major gassing incident occurred in March 1988 at a town called Halabja. “But the truth is,” Pelletiere writes, “all we know for certain is that Kurds were bombarded with poison gas that day.” This occurred near the end of the Iraq-Iran war.

Pelletiere writes, “…immediately after the battle [at Halabja] the United States Defense Information Agency investigated and produced a classified report, which it circulated within the intelligence community on a need-to-know basis. That study asserted that it was Iranian gas that killed the Kurds, not Iraqi gas.”

Obviously, this report has been intentionally ignored by several presidents and their major mouthpieces.

Pelletiere goes on to write that both the Iraqis and the Iranian troops used gas at Halabja. “The condition of the dead Kurds’ bodies, however, indicated that they had been killed with a blood agent---that is, a cyanide-based gas---which Iran was known to have. The Iraqis, who are thought to have used mustard gas in the battle, are not known to have possessed blood agents at the time.”

If Bush were simply saying that Saddam deserves to die because he used mustard gas, then Bush might want to mention, as well, that the US employed tons and tons of Agent Orange (a chemical, the last time I looked) in Vietnam.

Then Pelletiere raises and answers a very interesting question. Why was the battle of Halabja fought? “…Iraq has the most extensive river system in the Middle East…Iraq had built an impressive system of dams and river control projects, the largest being the Darbandikhan dam in the Kurdish area. And it was this dam the Iranians were seeking to take control of when they seized Halbja.”

Pelletiere points out that a water pipeline through Iraq “could bring the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates south to the parched Gulf states, and by extension, Israel.”

To date that pipeline has not been built. But after Gulf War 2? Would Israel become one of the prime beneficiaries in the aftermath?

Remember, the charge that has been leveled at Saddam is, he gassed his own civilians. Pelletiere is offering evidence collected by US intelligence and military analysts that refutes that charge.

Bush, Powell, Blair, and the rest of the crew are brushing all this off without a glance.

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Taiwan successfully test fires first cruise missile
05 June 2005 1320 hrs - AFP /ch

TAIPEI : Taiwan has successfully test fired its first cruise missile, which would allow the island to hit major military targets in southeast China, a newspaper here reports.

The Hsiung Feng cruise missile, developed by the military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, has a range of 1,000 kilometres and could be used to attack military bases in southeast China, the China Times said. "Once deployed, it would mark the first time that Taiwan is able to put 'strategic weapons' into use. Its political and military impact would be far-reaching," the paper said.

The defence ministry declined to comment on the report.

The newspaper said Defence Minister Lee Jye witnessed the test firing of the missile from Chiupeng military base in the southern Pingtung county.

The missile flew over 500 kilometres before hitting its target.

The report did not specify when the test took place but speculated that it could have been in March.

The missile is expected to go into pilot production later this year or next year.

Taiwan is striving to build up its missile defense capabilities to counter the military threat from China, which officials say has targeted the island with at least 700 ballistic missiles.

Taiwan's cabinet last month approved a revised arms deal with the United States worth almost 15.5 billion dollars after the previous proposal was rejected by parliament.

The arms package over a 15-year period from 2005, pending final approval by parliament, includes eight conventional submarines, a modified version of the Patriot anti-missile system and a fleet of anti-submarine aircraft.

The massive budget proposal has stirred heated debate on the island as critics said the spending could further provoke China and heighten cross-strait tensions.

China sees Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification since they split at the end of the civil war in 1949, and has repeatedly threatened to invade if the island moves towards formal independence.

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Defector accuses China of frequent kidnappings in Australia

SYDNEY - A Chinese diplomat seeking asylum in Australia says he fears being kidnapped and taken back to China, something he says has happened to many others.

Chen Yonglin, 37, has applied for a protection visa, saying he fears for his life after he walked out of the Chinese consulate-general in Sydney 11 days ago. Since then he has been in hiding with his wife, Jin Ping, 38, and 6-year-old daughter.

He emerged to front a Sydney rally on Saturday, telling protesters that Chinese people have no political or religious freedom.

"Chinese agents are looking for me and they could kidnap me," he told the rally. "If I am sent back to China I will be persecuted. I am very frightened. I am afraid it will be easy for them to find me."

Mr Chen, who had two minders, said Chinese spies had previously kidnapped critics of Beijing in Australia and returned them to China.

"They have successfully been kidnapping people in Australia back to China," he said. "Each year they have kidnapped a good number."

Mr Chen claimed 1000 Chinese spies were operating in Australia.

The reaction of China was to accuse the envoy of telling lies to avoid returning home.

"To achieve the aim of staying in Australia, Chen Yonglin fabricated stories, which are unfounded and purely fictitious," said a spokesman for the Chinese consul-general, Qiu Shaofang.

Mr Chen had decided to leave the consulate on May 26, knowing his stint in Australia was up, the spokesman said. [...]

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China seeks gradual yuan convertibility 2005-06-06 13:56:01

BEIJING, June 6 -- China will gradually push for the full convertibility of the yuan, Vice Premier Huang Ju told a forum on Monday in a restatement of long-standing government policy.

Huang said that China will gradually push for the full convertibility of the yuan in a restatement of long-standing government policy.

Speaking to the International Monetary Conference, a grouping of senior commercial bankers, Huang said: "We will relax controls on cross-border capital flows on a selective and step-by-step basis and gradually achieve convertibility of the renminbi on the capital account."

Huang gave no timetable for convertibility of the yuan, also known as the renminbi. The authorities have been slowly easing controls by, for example, letting Chinese tourists take more money abroad and encouraging companies to invest more overseas.

China is under growing pressure to abandon the yuan's decade-old peg of near 8.3 to the dollar and to open its border to more non-trade-related transactions, steps that the United States and many independent economists believe would result in a strengthening of the currency.

U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow said on Friday he believed Beijing would eventually relax its controlled currency regime.

The vice premier also said China would be watchful in the way it runs monetary policy.

"We will continue to implement a prudent monetary policy, make comprehensive use of various monetary policy tools and appropriately control the scale of monetary credit to prevent both inflation and deflation," he sad.

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Blair gives up on his EU dream
By Melissa Kite, Toby Harnden and Tony Paterson
The Telegraph

Tony Blair has given up on Europe as an issue worth fighting for, senior allies of the Prime Minister have told The Sunday Telegraph.

A leading Blairite cabinet minister made the admission last night as the European Union descended into deeper turmoil, with doubts surfacing over the future of the single currency.

Mr Blair, who will seek to shift the focus of his administration on to poverty in the Third World this week during talks with President Bush, has told his closest allies: "Africa is worth fighting for. Europe, in its present form, is not."

The signal is an astonishing U-turn for a leader who said three years ago that the euro was "our destiny" and who announced a British referendum by proclaiming: "Let the battle be joined." But one of his closest allies said that Mr Blair no longer believed that putting Britain at the heart of Europe could be his legacy: "Europe is back to the drawing board. Africa will become more important."

Mr Blair flies to Washington tomorrow to try to secure support for proposals to tackle poverty ahead of next month's G8 summit in Gleneagles. But the Prime Minister is unlikely to be able to divert attention completely from the chaos over Europe's future.

President Chirac of France and Germany's Chancellor Schröder held a summit in Berlin last night after the No votes in France and Holland on the constitution.


Yet the crisis widened beyond the document alone, with a media offensive being mounted to bolster the euro after German officials and an Italian minister openly discussed its possible demise. In the first rumblings of a call for the franc to be reinstated, Nicolas Dupont-Aignant, a member of Mr Chirac's ruling UMP party, said: "France, Italy and Germany would be in a better state without the euro. However, I don't believe we should ditch it now.

"But either it is reformed, and the central European Bank kick-starts growth by lowering interest rates and pursuing a more American-style monetary policy, or the euro will explode in mid-air."

The governor of France's central bank, however, rushed to the euro's defence. Christian Noyer said that the currency was "in no way under threat" following its fall in value since the No votes of the past seven days. He dismissed as "absurd" the idea of a temporary withdrawal from the euro by individual states.

"The euro is a solid currency which brings us a lasting guarantee of stable prices and thus the maintenance of purchasing power for our wages and savings," he told Le Parisien newspaper.

The markets have been slowly adjusting to the possibility of the break-up of the euro, with the spread between government bonds in different countries widening.

Last night, John Redwood, the leading eurosceptic Tory MP, said: "You can't have a single currency without a single government. They are in a mess because they have only done half of it and they are now discovering in a painful way what that means."

The No campaign in Britain will launch a campaign tomorrow demanding a referendum on any aspects of the constitution that leaders might attempt to salvage. It will also unveil 46 new business backers, including Stuart Rose, chief executive of Marks & Spencer.

An ICM poll for the No group found that 81 per cent of voters say that it would be unacceptable to bring in any of the proposals without a referendum in Britain first.

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Lawsuit Claims Police Used Taser To Seriously Injure Man
created: 6/3/2005 8:40:30 AM

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A lawsuit claims that police in the northeast Missouri town Moberly used a Taser to shock a man up to 15 times while he suffered an allergic episode.

David Lash Senior claims he was left unconscious for days and suffered temporary kidney failure. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the 40-year-old man is seeking more than $5 million from Taser International Incorporated and unspecified damage from the city of Moberly and several officers. [...]

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Researchers Say Intelligence and Diseases May Be Linked in Ashkenazic Genes
Published: June 3, 2005

A team of scientists at the University of Utah has proposed that the unusual pattern of genetic diseases seen among Jews of central or northern European origin, or Ashkenazim, is the result of natural selection for enhanced intellectual ability.

The selective force was the restriction of Ashkenazim in medieval Europe to occupations that required more than usual mental agility, the researchers say in a paper that has been accepted by the Journal of Biosocial Science, published by Cambridge University Press in England.

The hypothesis advanced by the Utah researchers has drawn a mixed reaction among scientists, some of whom dismissed it as extremely implausible, while others said they had made an interesting case, although one liable to raise many hackles.

"It would be hard to overstate how politically incorrect this paper is," said Steven Pinker, a cognitive scientist at Harvard, noting that it argues for an inherited difference in intelligence between groups. Still, he said, "it's certainly a thorough and well-argued paper, not one that can easily be dismissed outright."

"Absolutely anything in human biology that is interesting is going to be controversial," said one of the report's authors, Dr. Henry Harpending, an anthropologist and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

He and two colleagues at the University of Utah, Gregory Cochran and Jason Hardy, see the pattern of genetic disease among the Ashkenazi Jewish population as reminiscent of blood disorders like sickle cell anemia that occur in populations exposed to malaria, a disease that is only 5,000 years old.

In both cases, the Utah researchers argue, evolution has had to counter a sudden threat by favoring any mutation that protected against it, whatever the side effects. Ashkenazic diseases like Tay-Sachs, they say, are a side effect of genes that promote intelligence.

The explanation that the Ashkenazic disease genes must have some hidden value has long been accepted by other researchers, but no one could find a convincing infectious disease or other threat to which the Ashkenazic genetic ailments might confer protection.

A second suggestion, wrote Dr. Jared Diamond of the University of California, Los Angeles, in a 1994 article, "is selection in Jews for the intelligence putatively required to survive recurrent persecution, and also to make a living by commerce, because Jews were barred from the agricultural jobs available to the non-Jewish population."

The Utah researchers have built on this idea, arguing that for some 900 years Jews in Europe were restricted to managerial occupations, which were intellectually demanding, that those who were more successful also left more offspring, and that there was time in this period for the intelligence of the Ashkenazi population as a whole to become appreciably enhanced. [...]

Comment: While often mired in controversy, there does appear to be some interesting and unusual distinctions in the genetic profile of the different Jewish tribes that may be significant in how the Ashkenazi's differ from their Semitic counterparts, and what it may really mean as these "end times" play out on the world stage. The interested reader may want to read Laura Knight-Jadczyk's in-depth article in her series Jupiter, Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, and the Return of the Mongols.

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Meningococcal epidemic spreads despite vaccinations
By Martin Johnston

Two people in Waikato who had received their first injection of the New Zealand meningococcal B vaccine caught the disease anyway and had to be treated in hospital.

They are among nine Waikato people to be hospitalised this year with the epidemic B strain, along with four more treated in hospital for other strains, prompting a warning from health authorities.

The national campaign to vaccinate under-20s with a vaccine targeting the strain began last July; it reached Waikato in January.

The Waikato District Health Board says some of the infected were so ill they were put in intensive care and one had limbs amputated.

Waikato public health physician Dr Anita Bell said she was highlighting the region's meningococcal disease epidemic figures because "it's not going away", despite a drop in numbers last year. [...]

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Patients killed by new bug strain

A new and more virulent strain of a potentially fatal hospital infection is being seen in the NHS.

At one trust - Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire - 12 patients have died and 300 have been infected since 2003.

Clostridium difficile, which causes severe diarrhoea, mainly affects elderly people, although the new strain has also affected younger patients.

Health experts said measures to stop the bug spreading amongst patients have been introduced.

The most recent death at Stoke Mandeville, famous for its spinal injuries unit, occurred around 10 days ago.

The Health Protection Agency said it was keeping a "watching brief" on the new strain.

C. difficile, the most common cause of diarrhoea among hospital patients, was discovered in 1978.

It usually affects the elderly, and can prove fatal if antibiotic treatment fails to kill all the spores in the gut, and they take hold again before the patient's own gut bacteria has had chance to mount a resistance.

C.difficile is also very difficult to eradicate from the ward environment, which means it is easy for other patients to become infected.

Rapid increase

Experts say new strains, such as the one being seen now, do develop from time to time.

The strain seen at Stoke Mandeville hospital is related to one which has emerged in the US and Canada

Keeping them contained involves measures such as ensuring all affected patients are in the same ward, and preventing them from moving around the hospital and potentially spreading the infection to others.

The most well-known hospital-acquired infection is the superbug MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus).

But, while it has received the most attention, it only accounts for around 7,000 of the 300,000 hospital-acquired infections each year.

In 2004, there were 43,672 cases of C.difficile, a 98% increase from 2001.

However, experts stress that much of this increase is due to the fact that mandatory reporting of cases was introduced last year.

The spores of C.difficile are very hardy, and cannot be destroyed by hand gels, as the MRSA can. [...]

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HK public asked to avoid wild monkeys over virus scare 2005-06-06 13:14:46

BEIJING, June 6 -- Hong Kong has warned people not to approach or feed wild monkeys after Taiwan reported that some of the animals tested positive for a virus deadly to humans.

The strain, CHV-1, also known as Monkey B virus, is common and harmless to monkeys, but with humans it can cause acute encephalitis, which is often fatal.

The virus, usually contracted by lab workers, is transmitted by monkey bites, scratches or contact with fluids and tissue.

Health officials in Taiwan's second-biggest city, Kaohsiung, have recently reported that wild monkeys have tested positive for the virus.

Although Hong Kong is known for its densely populated urban neighborhoods, the city also has large tracts of park space and undeveloped mountainous areas, where the monkeys live.

Donald Lam, a spokesman for Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, said officials are monitoring the cases in Taiwan but have not begun testing monkeys in Hong Kong.

He added that the conservation department usually tells people to stay away from the animals even when there's no threat of infection because feeding or having other contact with the monkeys affects their natural behavior.

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Spanish forced to ration water
Giles Tremlett in Madrid
The Guardian
Monday June 6, 2005

Water is being rationed in half of Spain to save it for domestic use, as parts of the country suffer the worst drought for 60 years.

Weeks before the tourist season starts, swimming pools are empty, city fountains are turned off and golf courses ordered to reduce watering.

Some reservoirs in the south-east are more than three-quarters empty. With no fresh rain expected in the affected areas until the autumn, authorities have decided they must protect domestic supplies through the busy summer season.

Eastern Spain is the worst hit, with the north-eastern province of Huesca deciding not to fill public swimming pools this summer and public parks and golf courses throughout Catalonia ordered to ration use of non-recycled water.

Barcelona has turned off its public fountains for most of the day as the authorities impose restrictions.

The Costa Brava in the north-east and the region south of Alicante, both big tourist centres, are among the worst-affected areas. Public showers on the south-eastern beaches of Murcia have been shut off.

Spain attracts more than 50 million foreign visitors a year, including 14 million Britons, most of whom will arrive over the next four months.

In 27 towns along the east coast near Alicante a stable population of 150,000 is pushed up to 1.1 million in August.

Water pressure has been reduced in some areas and 95% of towns in Catalonia, which is experiencing its worst drought since 1945, have imposed restrictions. A handful of villages in the interior of Catalonia and Huesca are having to distribute water in jerry cans.

Crops in some areas are being left to wither as irrigation, which accounts for three-quarters of Spain's water, is heavily restricted in order to save water for domestic use.

Farmers near the south-eastern city of Elche say they have been told they can only water their crops for eight minutes a day. But authorities say there is just enough domestic water available to get through the summer.

"Problems of supply may get to households at the end of September," El País newspaper warned in an editorial.

But little rain is expected before then. And there are concerns about next summer.

Spain's Socialist-dominated parliament last week cancelled plans by the previous People's party government to divert water from northern rivers such as the Ebro to the parched south-east.

"Now everybody loses. The only winner is the Mediterranean Sea ... which is where all our left-over water will go," complained Mariano Rajoy, the leader of the People's party.

Spain will, instead, build desalination plants along the east coast to turn salt water into fresh water.

Environmentalists, who were opposed to diverting water from the north, have complained that desalination is not the best solution and want restrictions on building for tourism in the south-east.

Spain is estimated to be building around 180,000 holiday homes a year, with up to 40% for British buyers. Water consumption in the Balearic islands had increased 15-fold between 1980 and 1995, a recent WWF report said.

The environment minister, Cristina Narbon, has announced an emergency €370m (£249m) package to stave off the effects of the drought and prevent domestic rationing.

But while one half of Spain gasps for water, the other is well stocked. Spain's green north-west has abundant supplies and the Costa del Sol in the south was not expected to suffer serious problems this year.

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France's Total, Japan form alliance to mass produce 'clean' fuel
Sun Jun 5, 8:38 PM ET

KUSHIRO, Japan - In the often snow-covered landscape of northern Japan, French oil giant Total is working with a Japanese consortium with a goal of mass producing by 2010 a new eco-friendly fuel derived from natural gas.

At Kushiro on Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido, a factory is serving as a testbed for the production of the "clean" gas dimethylether, or DME.

When it is at normal temperature and pressure, DME could pass for water, but vaporizes quickly. Spread on the ground, it evaporates within seconds. But when it is set alight, the flame is blue and it becomes a gas -- one which emits no sulphur oxides.

Among the advantages -- it is produced through renewable resources or fossil fuels, it releases little greenhouse gas and is easily transportable as a liquid. Questions, however, remain about its profitability.

"When you produce DME, there is a lot less carbon dioxide, or other kinds of waste. And when you use it, there are no more carbon dioxide emissions than with LNG (liquefied natural gas) and a lot less than with coal," said Hubert de Mestier, Total's Northeast Asia chief representative.

"It could in time replace diesel and LPG (liquefied petroleum gas). It doesn't need a catalytic exhaust pipe and is probably cheaper than conventional fuels," said de Mestier.

DME is non-toxic but highly inflammable. In addition to natural gas, it can be produced from a base of industrial waste or oil residue.

It can be put to diverse use, serving as home cooking gas, a propellant for spray cans or powering small to medium sized power plants and automobiles.

DME can also work as a substitute for diesel, with experiments already conducted to set up a DME-electric hybrid car.

"We are able to have at once a fuel that is very clean and emits little green house gas," Total chief executive Thierry Desmarest told AFP at a recent sustainable development forum in Tokyo.

"It's a good solution both environmentally and in terms of resources as the world's resources of gas are greater than those of oil," he said.

DME came about because of the particular circumstances of Japan.

"In Japan, for many years, steel factories were confronted with the question: What do you do with the gas coming out of blast-furnaces?" explained Osamu Inokoshi, director general of the DME project at JFE Holdings, Japan's second largest steelmaker.

"Instead of throwing away the emissions, you could save them. That's why we tried to come up with a technology to save the gas," he said.

The discovery of DME came by chance in the course of research by NKK Corp., which became part of JFE Holdings through a 2002 merger with Kawasaki Steel. Studies began in 1989 at the University of Tokyo.

The first pilot project to produce five tonnes of DME a day was launched in 1997 in Kushiro with the help of subsidies from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).

In October 2001, Total participated to an alliance with a consortium of eight Japanese companies -- JFE Holdings, Idemitsu Kosan, Nippon Sanso, Toyota Tsusho, LNG Japan, Hitachi, Marubeni and Inpex. Japex (a daughter company of former Japan National Oil Corporation) has since joined up.

Total, a large supplier of LNG to Japan, has lent to the project its expertise in oil and gas, petrochemicals and refining.

The project is costing about 250 million dollars over five years. METI is forking up 65 percent of the cost, with the partners sharing the rest. The ministry has also provided separate subsidies to develop particular parts of the project such as turbines and engines.

In December 2003, a new production pilot was launched in Kushiro aiming to make 100 tonnes of DME a day.

Up to mid-December 2004, some 150 days of tests were carried out producing nearly 8,000 tonnes of DME.

A fourth test of longer duration is expected in 2005, with all the trials to be completed by the end of 2006.

"After that, we want to move towards industrial production. We don't intend to do this in France or in Japan but in a country where there is gas, probably in the Middle East," Total CEO Desmarest said.

Total's first ambition is to build a commercial factory that can produce 6,000 tonnes a day, expected to be in Qatar, by 2010. A minimum of 3,000 to 6,000 tonnes a day must be produced to make DME profitable.

"The liquefication of natural gas is an extremely capital-intensive activity which can only be justified for major fields," Desmarest stressed.

"One of the issues of the cooperation between Total and its Japanese partners is how to free itself from this size constraint to get liquid hydrocarbons from smaller gasfields," he said.

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Three quakes hit Taiwan, no casualties reported
05 June 2005 1200 hrs - AFP /ch

TAIPEI : Three earthquakes measuring up to 4.8 on the Richter scale rocked Taiwan on Sunday, the Seismology Centre said, but there were no reports of damage or casualties.

The 4.8 magnitude quake occurred at 9:16 am (0116 GMT), with its epicentre 14.8 kilometres southeast of Kukeng, a town in southern Taiwan. It originated 8.2 kilometres under the ground.

The other two temblors, with magnitudes of 4.3 and 4.1, struck eastern Hualien county earlier in the morning.

Taiwan's worst earthquake, measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale, occurred in September 1999 and left about 2,400 people dead.

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Mexico's Colima volcano erupts, spewing rock; no injuries reported
11:43 PM EDT Jun 05

MEXICO CITY (AP) - A volcano in western Mexico erupted Sunday, spewing burning rock and raining ash on nearby villages, authorities said.

The eruption at the 3,820-metre Colima volcano, located about 700 kilometres northwest of Mexico City, sent a massive column of black ash into the clouds above.

Satellite images suggested the plume of ash extended up to five kilometres into the sky, according to the Jalisco state Civil Protection Department.

"It's an event that is among the strongest in the past 20 years," said department spokesman Jorge Sapien.

Ash fell on the nearby settlements of Tonila and San Marcos, but evacuations were ruled out after authorities toured communities near the volcano. There were no reports of injuries.

Volcano specialists were to meet Monday to discuss whether to extend a safety perimeter around the volcano that currently stretches at least eight kilometres from the crater.

Roiling debris from the explosion at 2:20 p.m. engulfed the peak and sparked small fires on the lower slopes.

Known as the Volcano of Fire, the summit's first recorded eruption came in 1560. The volcanic system is considered to be among the most active and potentially the most destructive of the volcanoes in Mexico.

A 1913 blast left a crater 500-metre deep.

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Floods kill 200 across China
Monday, June 6, 2005. 0:07am (AEST)

A week of torrential rains and heavy flooding has killed at least 204 people in China and left 79 others missing, but forecasters warned the worst was yet to come, state media said.

The heavy downpours, which began in many parts of China last week, have affected more than 17 million people, including many who have lost property or been forced to flee flooded areas, Xinhua news agency said.

Official statistics showed that 614,000 hectares of farmland were destroyed as flooding affected several provinces, Xinhua said.

Tens of thousands of livestock have also been killed.

Strong rainfall is expected to pound the Yangtze River, China's longest river, in the coming 10 days and trigger more floods and landslides, according to China's Meteorological Bureau.

Local governments across the country have been ordered to mobilise resources to battle the floods, with the focus on ensuring major rivers and reservoirs are not breached.

Vice Premier Hui Liangyu told a meeting of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters that measures should be taken to reduce human casualties and keep property loss to a minimum, Xinhua said.

The worst-affected province was Hunan in central China where 75 people were reported dead and 46 others missing, said Xinhua. [...]

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Five die of heat stroke
Sunday, June 05, 2005

MULTAN, Pakistan: At least five people have died of heat stroke in southern Punjab as the mercury swelled to 44 degrees Celsius on Saturday, officials said.

A railway pensioner, Allah Bakhsh, died in Multan, two people died in Mailsi and Muzaffargarh, while a student of class two and Shabbir Ahmed, a recently married man, died in Sargodha, Dr Muhammad Ali told Daily Times. Dr Ali, Nishtar Hospital’s chief medical officer, said more than 20 people were taken to the emergency ward of the hospital after falling unconscious due to the severe heat. [...]

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U.S. rocket dumped toxic fuel in Grand Banks: report
Last Updated Sun, 05 Jun 2005 22:32:59 EDT
CBC News

A U.S. booster rocket that came down into waters off Newfoundland's Grand Banks in April was carrying up to 2.25 tonnes of highly toxic chemicals.

They were in leftover fuel inside part of a Titan IVB rocket that launched over the East Coast from Florida on April 29, according to a newly released government report.

The document, prepared by the Public Safety and Emergency Preparedneess Canada, says two chemicals in the fuel – dimethylhydrazine and nitrogen dioxide – are poisonous and corrosive.

The report, obtained under the Access to Information Act, says inhaling vapours from the chemicals can kill a person.

However, Environment Canada told the Canadian Press it doesn't believe the chemicals pose a long-term danger to the Grand Banks.

The 10,000-kg booster rocket fell into the North Atlantic near the Hibernia platform on the Grand Banks.

Before the rocket's launch, its flight plan drew objections from Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams, Canadian oil companies and others.

The launch was delayed several times amid fears that the rocket could land on an oil platform, killing people and possibly causing an ecological disaster.

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Studies: Permafrost melting under N.W.T. roads

(CP) - Roads and airstrips across the Western Arctic are sagging, cracking and washing away as climate change slowly melts the permafrost beneath them.

And as engineers try to adapt transportation networks and buildings to warmer weather, some say the consequences of doing nothing are already apparent just a short drive out of Yellowknife.

"It literally looks like an earthquake zone," says Northwest Territories transportation planner Jayleen Philps about an old stretch of Highway 4.

Maintenance on the 700-metre section stopped after a new road was built around it in 1999.

Now, cracks in the asphalt can swallow a fist and the shoulders have washed away. The surface, parts of which have sunk by more than a metre, is more roller-coaster than road.

"It gives you a vision of the amount of maintenance that would be required," says Philps.

Research suggests climate change is occurring up to three times faster in the North than anywhere else on the globe. The northwest corner of the N.W.T. is heating up especially quickly.

Those warmer temperatures threaten permafrost, the permanently frozen subsoil water that is widespread across all three territories and the northern reaches of most provinces.

It can provide a stable base for roads and homes, but that stability is lost once the permafrost melts.

In Yellowknife, an insulating liner had to be installed four metres under a 100-metre section of runway with a history of sagging.

In Inuvik, freezing rain that used to fall as snow has caused a tenfold increase in the volume of de-icer and gravel used at the airport.

Workers have had to terrace embankments along the Dempster Highway south of Inuvik to keep sections from collapsing. Even then, the roadbed has been sinking and new construction includes insulation under the asphalt.

Portions of the road from Yellowknife to Fort Providence have been abandoned and rebuilt over more stable permafrost.

The season for ice bridges and ice roads - crucial to industry for moving in supplies - has shrunk from an average 75 days before 1996 to about 47 days.

Transport Canada says 42 airports in the zone are likely to be most affected. [...]

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