Wednesday, June 15, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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Out of Reach
Copyright 2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte

The O'Reilly Factor

Ignacious O'Reilly
SOTT Roving Correspondent

"Other web-based news shows are guest-driven," says award-winning broadcast journalist Ignacious O'Reilly. "'The O'Reilly Factor' is driven by me. I will not stand for 'spin.' I look for guests who will stand up and verbally battle for what they believe in."

"The O'Reilly Factor" uncovers news items from the established wisdom and goes against the grain of the more traditional interview-style programs. O'Reilly's signature "No Spin Zone" cuts through the rhetoric as he interviews the players who make the story newsworthy.

Pushing beyond just the headlines, "The O'Reilly Factor" also features issues from local markets that do not find the national spotlight on other newscasts. According to O'Reilly, "Just because a story originates from somewhere the networks typically avoid, doesn't mean it contains less challenging issues, or compelling ideas."

So I am back in the saddle here at Signs Central Virtual today. They called me in so that they could go off once again to the Pyrenées on another top secret Signs investigative mission. Don't expect any reports on this one, though. It's classified. So, equipped with my laptop and wireless uplink from a remote and undisclosed location, here are the stories that caught my eye, presented with my award-winning, no spin commentary.

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Boy, 4, dies on Disney ride
Mission: Space ride simulates rocket launch

Jun. 14, 2005. 07:16 PM

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - A 4-year-old boy died after a spin on a Walt Disney World spaceship ride so intense some riders have been taken to the hospital with chest pain.

Daudi Bamuwamye lost consciousness Monday aboard Mission: Space, which spins riders in a giant centrifuge that subjects them to twice the normal force of gravity. The boy's mother carried him off the ride and paramedics and a theme park worker tried to revive him but he died at a hospital.

An autopsy Tuesday showed no trauma so further tests will be conducted and a cause of death may not be known for several weeks, said Sheri Blanton, a spokeswoman for the Medical Examiner's Office in Orlando, Fla.

The sheriff's office said the boy met the minimum 44-inch height requirement for the ride.

The $100-million ride, one of Disney World's most popular, was closed after the death but reopened Tuesday after company engineers concluded it was operating normally.

Disney officials said in a statement they were "providing support to the family and are doing everything we can to help them during this difficult time."

No changes were made to the ride or in who is permitted to ride it.

"We believe the ride is safe in its current configuration," Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Polak said. [...]

One other death was reported at Disney World this year. A 77-year-old woman who was in poor health from diabetes and several ministrokes died in February after going on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. A medical examiner's report said her death "was not unexpected."

Florida's major theme parks are not directly regulated by the state and have their own inspectors.

Comment: Don't ya love the spin coming out of the Disney PR department? They're doing all they can, "providing support" to the family "during this difficult time". I wonder how much they paid some consulting firm specialized in crisis management to come up with that line? Maybe they'll offer the family a lifetime pass to Disney World.

Don't get me wrong. I love a good thrill as much as the next guy. That it should finish with the death of a child is heartbreaking, for the pain and grief of losing a child is inexpressible. Just ask a Palestinian mother whose child has been gunned down by an IDF sniper or an Iraqi mother who has lost a child and maybe the rest of her family in Fallujah. Do you think Disney will ever have an "Occupied Territories" ride where you can go and be shot at, see your home crushed under bulldozers, and finish up behind a massive wall preventing you from leaving until you've undergone four hours of humiliation at the hands of a 20 year old? It's what passes for family entertainment for too many Palestinian families, and we all know how important family entertainment is to the Disney empire.

Ariel Dorfman, who had a certain amount to say about the influence of Disney worldwide, wrote the following about the US:

America has been interpreted, time and again, as the domain of innocence. In a sense, a more extraordinary feat than changing thirteen colonies into a global empire in less than two centuries is that the US managed to do it without its people losing their basic intuition that they were good, clean, and wholesome. Its citizens never recognized themselves as an empire, never felt bound by the responsibility (or the moral corruption) that comes with the exercise of so much power...They desired the power which can only come from being large, aggressive, and overbearing; but simultaneously only felt comfortable if other people assented to the image they had of themselves as naive, frolicsome, unable to harm a mouse.

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Possible Chupacabra Sighting
LAST UPDATE: 6/13/2005 8:58:43 PM
Posted By: Walker Robinson

Another mystery beast has surfaced in South Texas, and some say it might be a chupacabra.

The first one surfaced in Elmendorf last year. Now, one man in Luling, east of San Antonio, tells News 4 WOAI he caught a mysterious beast on video tape.

Chris Coble says he and a friend were driving and saw the creature peer out from behind a bush.

“We were driving down the road and he'd seen it, probably about 30 yards off the road,” Coble said of his friend. They were in a wooded area up near Luling.

“It was three foot tall, hairless, long, and had like a hunch back,” Coble said.

He brought the videotape to News 4 WOAI. On videotape, the animal looks like it could be a dog or coyote, but Coble says it could be a chupacabra.

A rancher in Elmendorf claimed last year he found a mystery beast on his property. That animal was sent away for DNA testing.

News 4 WOAI went to wildlife experts about the newest claim about the animal in Luling.

“I really don't think it is a chupacabra,” Tiffany Soecthing with Natural Bridge Caverns Wildlife Ranch said of Coble’s creature. “I would lean towards a dog that has a hair problem.”

Soeching said she has seen animals like it before and Coble’s "beast" looks like a wolf hybrid.

Comment: I admit that I have never seen a chupacabra. Only in photos. The only thing even resembling a paranormal experience happened when I was young at Mardi Gras, but I think that was the alcohol. However, I have read John Keel's The Mothman Prophecies, and that scared the dickens out of me. Personally, I'd prefer not to have some trans-dimensional portal open up above my head dumping chupacabra's or other window fallers into my reality, but some folks say that we'll be seeing more and more of this kind of thing over the next few years. Who knows?

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Ancient Civilisations: Six Great Enigmas

Enigma 2: The Origin Of Dogs – Biogenetic engineering

Now we turn to a mystery that nearly equals the pyramid, though it is a little known conundrum hidden in the mists of remote antiquity. Let us start with a simple question that appears to have an obvious answer: what is a dog? It turns out geneticists in the past decade have shown the answer is not so obvious. In fact, generations of anthropologists, archaeologists and wildlife biologists turned out to be dead wrong when it came to the origins of “man’s best friend”.

Prior to DNA studies conducted in the 1990s, the generally accepted theory posited that dogs branched off from a variety of wild canids, i.e., coyotes, hyenas, jackals, wolves and so on, about 15,000 years ago. The results of the first comprehensive DNA study shocked the scholarly community. The study found that all dog breeds can be traced back to wolves and not other canids. The second part of the finding was even more unexpected – the branching off occurred from 40-150,000 years ago.

Why do these findings pose a problem? We have to answer that question with another question: how were dogs bred from wolves? This is not just difficult to explain, it is impossible. Do not be fooled by the pseudo-explanations put forth by science writers that state our Stone Age ancestors befriended wolves and somehow (the procedure is never articulated) managed to breed the first mutant wolf, the mother of all dogs. Sorry, we like dogs too, but that is what a dog is.

The problems come at the crucial stage of taking a male and female wolf and getting them to produce a subspecies (assuming you could tame and interact with them at all). Let us take this one step further by returning to our original question, what is a dog? A dog is a mutated wolf that only has those characteristics of the wild parent, which humans find companionable and useful. That is an amazing fact.

Think about those statements for a moment. If you are thinking that dogs evolved naturally from wolves, that is not an option. No scientist believes that because the stringent wolf pecking order and breeding rituals would never allow a mutant to survive, at least that is one strong argument against natural evolution.

Now, if our Paleolithic ancestors could have pulled off this feat, and the actual challenges posed by the process are far more taxing, then wolf/dog breeders today certainly should have no problem duplicating it. But like the Great Pyramid, that does not seem to be the case. No breeders have stepped up to the plate claiming they can take two pure wolves and produce a dog sans biogenetic engineering techniques.

The evolution of the domesticated dog from a wild pack animal appears to be a miracle! It should not have happened. This is another unexplained enigma.

Comment: This article discusses several other enigmas including the Great Pyramid, Mohenjo Daro, Sumeria, Teotihuacán, and High Technology In Stone Age Peru. If you're interested in unraveling these enigmas, a good place to start in my opinion is The Secret History of the World by Laura Knight-Jadczyk. Sure, I work with her and have some sort of vested interest in that sense. However, it was Laura's research into these questions that provoked me to do my own. I was a complete skeptic on ancient civilizations until I stumbled upon her website. Reading her work was a revelation because every time she started talking about this stuff, I would recoil, and then a little voice in the back of my head would say, "Ignacious, you claim to be open-minded. How much research have you actually done into these subjects? Is your dismissal due to knowledge or prejudice? Is this really YOUR idea, or is it something handed down to you from someone else?"

I had to admit that I had not done the research. I had not investigated these questions myself. So I did, and I found that my opinions changed. There is a mass of evidence for the existence of civilisations prior to the Sumerian.

Why there are few remnants of this part of our past may have something to do with our next story.

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Quake hits off California coast
Last Updated Wed, 15 Jun 2005 00:17:49 EDT
CBC News

An earthquake struck about 145 kilometres off the coast of northern California on Tuesday night.

The quake prompted precautionary tsunami warnings along the Pacific coast from the California-Mexico border to Vancouver Island. The tsunami warnings were cancelled about an hour later.

The 7.0 magnitude quake struck at about 10:50 p.m. ET (7:50 p.m. PT), according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The USGS termed it a 'major' quake, in a news release on its web site. But Charles McCreery, the center's director, said he was "not expecting anything huge from an event this size."

There have been no reports of deaths, injuries or damage, however some residents are being asked to leave areas around the low-lying areas Crescent City, California.

Comment: The old blue marble has been rockin' and rollin' of late. The entire Ring of Fire appears to be coming to life, from the series of quakes in Japan last fall to the tsunami and quake of December 26, 2004, through the recent volcanic and activity and earthquakes from Indonesia to South America, up to Oregon and the Aleutian Islands, over to eastern Siberia, and down through Japan, the Philippines and back to Indonesia. All of the articles kindly remind us that this is to be expected because it is, after all, the Ring of Fire, and it is strewn with fault lines.

On the other hand (isn't there always an "other hand"?), when you're standing over a pot watching the water that will never boil, you do notice that just prior to boiling, the water begins to generate tiny bubbles. The stability of the system begins to break before the phase transition occurs. If you take the pot off of the heat, you can stop the phase transition. If you leave it on, then it boils. What does this show? That a system that begins to show disturbances, that begins to show small discontinuities, may well be on the verge of a greater one: the phase shift.

Recent activity in the Ring of Fire, seen in this light, may be the prelude to natural upheaval that we have been taught to discredit because evolution and natural development proceeds in a calm and uninterrupted pace.

So, hey, don't worry. Be happy!

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The bugs are back with a biting vengeance
Anchorage Daily News
June 12th, 2005

They buzz and bite and swarm. They drive people indoors, torment gardeners, stampede the tourists.

It's the Incredible Return of the Bugs, sequel to last spring's fierce hatch, and many people say they've never been pricked and pestered with such vengeance.

We're talking jillions here: mosquitoes, aphids, dragonflies, midges, gnats, hornets, beetles and assorted creepy-crawlies with all those weird Latin names.

But then, don't we always say that?

"I wouldn't get into a panic, thinking, 'Oh my god! Something has happened in the environment that's going to overwhelm us!' " said Fred Sorensen, coordinator of integrated pest management for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service in Anchorage. "Or that they're getting more aggressive. It's not like they've turned feral. They are already. It's just that there are a lot more out there."

No one keeps statistics; there's no "bug index." But many people insist they've never seen the like. Walk through the brush, and you get aphid dandruff. Mosquitoes battle all attempts to plant, weed and prune.

It feels like war, and by most accounts the bugs, especially mosquitoes, have won.

"They're horrendous," said Matanuska-Susitna resident Bea Adler. "When you're in an area that's got no relief in the form of concrete or pavement, and it's just greenery, you are food. ... I spray myself down with bug repellent and go outside and start, and as soon as I disturb some dirt they're on me."

The backyard delphiniums will have to wait, said Gretchen Nelson, a school librarian who lives next to Ti-kishla Park in East Anchorage. "I'll start gardening, and it's like -- veerroom! -- the fighter jet mosquitoes. It's not the big slow bombers that overwinter in the snow."

Anchorage geologist Kevin Frank said building a dock at his cabin on West Beaver Lake in the Valley was horrible. "Somehow they always know when your hands are full," he said.

Tourists at Earthquake Park were seen running back to their bus, batting the air and holding their heads. Mosquitoes shut down a family fishing trip to the Little Susitna River last weekend, said Bear Valley resident Jackie Morrissey.

"There were about 1,000 of them, probably in each swarm," said her 8-year-old daughter, Haley. When it was all over, the third-grader from Denali Elementary School counted 132 bites on her body -- 47 on one arm alone.

Outdoor workers may have it worst of all.

"There's pretty much a black cloud around as you walk -- they're everywhere," said Mike Wintch, who maintains trails and campgrounds at Nancy Lake State Recreation Area.

"We're loading on the DEET and wearing head nets and wearing gloves. Campers that are coming up, they aren't even getting out of their RVs. ... We had two trail volunteers come up and quit after two days because they couldn't take the bugs another day."

People cutting fire breaks in the Mat-Su Borough say the mosquitoes "ran away with a helmet and an ax the other day," joked fire mitigation officer Hugh Matthews. "They're so bad, they're filing FAA flight plans."

As usual, there are skeptics. "They're a bit more noticeable than last year, but not that bad," said Louise Preyer, a part-time worker at the Eagle River Nature Center. "I don't see much of a difference."

From an Interior perspective, all us Southcentral types are wimps anyway.

When a trail crew from Serve Alaska Youth Corps worked in Chugach State Park last week, mosquitoes were timid compared to Steese Highway country north of Fairbanks, said one of the coordinators, Tynille Rufenacht.

"That's where the bugs are," she said. "We wore head nets basically the entire time, and you try not to have any exposed skin. When you look down, you're completely covered."

Still, Anchorage is pretty grim. Sorensen has been interviewed by three TV stations and three newspapers since last week, all with the same basic question: Why are we under attack? Whom did we offend?

It's not that complicated or unexpected, Sorensen said. A winter of decent insulating snow, followed by early spring with no late frosts, basically created bug paradise. The jump start has put 2005 about three weeks ahead of schedule, he added.

"It's just an ideal situation for aphids, it's an ideal situation for mosquitoes," he said. "I don't think it's this huge influx. I just think conditions are really good."

His advice? Remove sources of standing water that breed up mosquitoes. Use reliable bug dope or anti-bug devices, but beware of getting conned by newfangled products making outlandish promises.

And please, try not to scratch: "Oftentime the infection comes from what's underneath your fingernails," he said.

There is a bright side. Not all species of mosquitoes target people, and only females need that blood meal for their eggs. So at any moment, most skeeters ignore you.

"Think of all the bats and swallows and birds and fish," Sorensen said. "This is the food chain, and they are going to benefit from all these mosquitoes. It's all cumulative. It's just going to be a banner year."

Comment: Don't worry. Be happy!

But the bugs in Alaska are not the only ones we need to worry about. In the US there's a breed called "Televangelist" that can get into even the hermetically sealed home.

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Televangelist breached guidelines: TV standards council
Last Updated Tue, 14 Jun 2005 19:00:44 EDT
CBC Arts

When televangelist Jimmy Swaggart said he would kill a homosexual who looked at him romantically, he violated the ethics code of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, an industry panel has ruled.

Swaggart made the remarks during a discussion of same-sex marriage on a Sept. 12 broadcast that was carried by the Toronto station Omni 1.

"I'm going to be blunt and plain: If one ever looks at me like that, I'm going to kill him and tell God he died," Swaggart said.

Swaggart also said that politicians who are undecided on the issue of same-sex marriage "all oughta have to marry a pig and live with him forever."

The comments prompted a complaint that was filed with the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, the arm of the CAB that deals with viewer feedback.

A few days later, Swaggart backtracked, saying the expression was a figurative one. He said he has used the expression "killing someone and telling God he died" in jest thousands of times.

"If it's an insult, I certainly didn't think it was, but if they are offended, then I certainly offer an apology," he told the Associated Press.

The council ruled that Omni 1 was entitled to broadcast Swaggart's views opposing same-sex marriage, as well as his criticism of politicians who take no stand.

But it added that the station breached the CAB's human rights and religious programming clauses "on the basis of Swaggart's suggestion that killing someone would be the proper way for one to respond to homosexuality."

The panel said the debate over same-sex marriage is "more than legitimate" and "democratically essential" but said Swaggart's "negativity" was "visceral."

"The problem of Swaggart's language is, in a sense, exacerbated by the fact that he, as a religious figure, can be presumed to set an example for his community. It would, therefore, be easy for someone to infer that this might be the proper way for a Christian of this sect (or possibly of any sect) to respond to homosexuality," the ruling added.

Omni 1 issued an on-air apology shortly after the broadcast, so it is not required to broadcast the council's decision.

Both the CAB and CBSC are non-governmental organizations.

Comment: "If it is an insult", says the good minister?

I wonder if there were any complaints in the US about this broadcast?

The language used against homosexuality by the Christian Right is getting increasingly violent, as if the language of right-wing pundits in general against "liberals".

Does your telephone company support the homosexual agenda? If so, read this:

AmeriVision Communication’s "LIFELINE" is a long distance telephone service dedicated to raising much needed funds to promote in our culture the values that you and I hold dear to our hearts. If you sign up your long distance telephone service with "LIFELINE," Elijah Ministries will receive 10% of your phone bill to "contend for the faith" and to "fight the good fight of faith" throughout out nation....You will no longer risk subsidizing the abortion and homosexual agendas through your telephone bill.

And from another site, there is this:

LifeLine seeks to help Christian organizations who are bringing people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. LifeLine also helps promote Biblical family values and fights against abortion, the homosexual lifestyle, and sex and violence on T.V.

Dare to compare LifeLines Christian concept with that of AT&T, U.S. Sprint and MCI.

AT&T has thrown its support behind numerous homosexual rights causes, including Movement Research which prints offensive "art," depicting transvestites, transsexuals and Christ as a homosexual. AT&T was a corporate sponsor of the 1994 Gay Games in New York, and has also been cited for being a major sponsor of sex, violence and profanity on T.V.

U.S. Sprint is the carrier for two long distance affinity companies soliciting business specifically from the homosexual community - Working Assets and The Pride Network. Working Assets is a long distance company that returns a percent of its customer's long distance charges to leftist organizations, such as ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

MCI joined the national Gay and Lesbian Business Alliance in a marketing campaign aimed at homosexuals. MCI has also purchased advertising in "10 Percent", a popular magazine aimed at homosexuals.

Send a message to the big three; AT&T, U.S. Sprint and MCI ---- Let them know you want your hard earned dollars to go toward advancing the Kingdom of God and not to the advancement of the devils workshop, and you can do just that by switching your long distance telephone service to LifeLine.

In an attempt to win clients, the "Christian" phone companies are phoning potential clients and asking them to take a poll on whether or not they oppose gay marriage. Eugene Mirman taped some of the calls. He made some outrageous statements against gays to see how they would be received:

After the call reaches a person they are prompted to press "1" if they oppose gay marriage. A holding message says "Please do not hang up ... This information will describe how the ACLU and gays are getting gay marriage in every state." The operator then enters the conversation:

Operator: Did you press 1 to oppose same sex marriages?

Mr. Mirman: Oh, I pressed it, yes.

Operator: Okay, that's great to hear. And are you against same sex marriages?

Mr. Mirman: Well, I want to destroy it, yes.

Operator: Okay. That's great to hear... -

Mr. Mirman: Like the fist of God we will smash them!

Operator: Exactly.

In one of the calls, the operator tells Mirman that his tirades against gays, saying they should be killed, sound just like her boss. So much for Christian tolerance.

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Christian Coalition: Gay Warning Labels

by Newscenter Staff
Posted: June 13, 2005 12:01 am ET Updated 5:00 pm ET

(New York City) The leader of a conservative Christian lobby group appears to suggest that gays should be required to wear warning labels, although he denies that was his intention.

"We put warning labels on cigarette packs because we know that smoking takes one to two years off the average life span, yet we 'celebrate' a lifestyle that we know spreads every kind of sexually transmitted disease and takes at least 20 years off the average life span according to the 2005 issue of the revered scientific journal Psychological Reports," Rev. Bill Banuchi, executive director of the New York Christian Coalition told the Mid Hudson News.

The journal regularly publishes articles described by many mainstream psychologists as misleading and faulty. The homosexuality morbidity study was conducted by the conservative anti-gay Family Research Institute.

Banuchi called LGBT Pride celebrations held in New Paltz, north of New York City, and other areas of the country on the weekend "sad".

He called on people to "pray for those who are deceived by the lies of popular culture, who are caught up in a destructive lifestyle, and for the children who are being zealously evangelized by radical homosexuals."

Despite using the analogy of cigarette labels, Banuchi tells that he is not advocating gays specifically be labeled.

Banuchi also alleges that he has received hate mail since his remarks were published.

The issue of labels is particularly sensitive to gays. In Nazi Germany they were forced to wear the pink triangle to differentiate them from other internees at concentration camps.

Comment: The trouble with true believers (and the fanatics who think they are going to be raptured away before, during, or after the "tribulations" are certainly true believers) is that they have little tolerance for people whose ideas clash with their own. This sickness is seen all across the political spectrum, all across the spectrum of belief systems.

David Neiwert is a freelance journalist based in Seattle who has been doing investigations into the rise of what he calls "proto-fascism" in the US. He has studied very closely the Patriot groups and is documenting the rise in violent language among them. Right-wing pundits on Fox and the other US propaganda spin machines are also notorious for their violent denunciations of their opponents. Although when pushed about particular statements, they tend to backtrack or dismiss them as rhetoric, they are creating an atmosphere where being different is becoming dangerous. The meanness of US political campaigns is a case in point. The attacks become personal and vicious, as witness the attacks on Kerry for his war record while Bush's AWOL days were ignored. Kerry was never in physical danger, but many of the targets of this kind of abuse are not so fortunate.

There is a part of the American population that has gone completely off the rails. They believe in the innocence of their country and are incapable of seeing the truth. Then there is the infection known as the God virus. People get it and it is almost incurable. Here's a story about some folks with a particularly bad case...

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The Disposed of Boys

Booted for being young and virile

Steve Gilliard
Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Atrios picked this up.

Lost to the Only Life They Knew
# Officials say more than 400 teenage boys have fled or been driven from a polygamous sect.

By David Kelly, Times Staff Writer

ST. GEORGE, Utah - Abandoned by his family, faith and community, Gideon Barlow arrived here an orphan from another world. At first, he played the tough guy, aloof and hard. But when no one was watching, he would cry. The freckle-faced 17-year-old said he was left to fend for himself last year after being forced out of Colorado City, Ariz., a town about 40 miles east of here, just over the state line.

"I couldn't see how my mom would let them do what they did to me," he said.

When he tried to visit her on Mother's Day, he said, she told him to stay away. When he begged to give her a present, she said she wanted nothing.
"I am dead to her now," he said.
Gideon is one of the "Lost Boys," a group of more than 400 teenagers - some as young as 13- who authorities in Utah and Arizona say have fled or been driven out of the polygamous enclaves of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City over the last four years.
His stated offenses: wearing short-sleeved shirts, listening to CDs and having a girlfriend. Other boys say they were booted out for going to movies, watching television and staying out past curfew.
Some say they were sometimes given as little as two hours' notice before being driven to St. George or nearby Hurricane, Utah, and left like unwanted pets along the road.
Authorities say the teens aren't really being expelled for what they watch or wear, but rather to reduce competition for women in places where men can have dozens of wives.
"It's a mathematical thing. If you are marrying all these girls to one man, what do you do with all the boys?" said Utah Atty. Gen. Mark Shurtleff, who has had boys in his office crying to see their mothers. "People have said to me: 'Why don't you prosecute the parents?' But the kids don't want their parents prosecuted; they want us to get the No. 1 bad guy” Warren Jeffs. He is chiefly responsible for kicking out these boys."

The 49-year-old Jeffs is the prophet, or leader, of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The FLDS, as it is known, controls Hildale and Colorado City.


On Friday, Jeffs was indicted in Arizona on charges that he had arranged a marriage between a 28-year-old man, who was already married, and a 16-year-old girl.

He faces two years in prison if convicted, though he hasn't been arrested and is thought to be in Texas.

A few days earlier, a Utah judge froze the assets of the United Effort Plan, an FLDS trust that owns most of the homes and land in the polygamous towns. And on May 24, the records of the financially troubled Colorado City Unified School District were seized to prevent any evidence of potential wrongdoing from being spirited away, according to the Arizona attorney general's office.

At the same time, Jeffs is being sued by five of the Lost Boys, who claim he conspired to banish them so church elders would have less competition for wives.
Jeffs has not responded to the lawsuit, filed in Utah's 3rd District Court, leaving him open to a default judgment from the bench.
"There is a virtual Taliban down there. You tell people this stuff happens and they don't believe it," said Dan Fischer, a former FLDS member and dentist living outside Salt Lake City who helps educate and house the exiled teens. The exodus "has been far more dramatic in the last year."
As traumatic as the experience has been, Gideon said, it has taught him a crucial lesson about family and faith.
"No loving God would tear a family apart," he said. "Because a family is meant to be together."

OK, there was a documentary on this on ABC over a year ago, but this didn't become a story until it was on Dr. Phil. I would bet that was the impetus to crack down on this nonsense. When Phil's son Jay went down to this place, the "sherriff" told him , "hey this worked for Hitler". Dr. Phil was speechless.Why didn't the state of Utah prosecute these sick bastards? Because these folks have money and power and connections in Salt Lake.

Until that bright spotlight of TV and someone who likes to ask questions was shined on this abomination, no one was going to do shit. It took years of exposes to get polygamist Tom Green behind bars like the rest of the pedophiles.

Comment: Is there a mother out there that can imagine throwing her son out of the house like this? Driving them over the border and dumping them out, leaving them to fend for themselves?

Yup, sounds like the Taliban to me. Think there is any oil out there in Utah and Arizona? We could then maybe persuade Cheney's pals to organize an invasion to clear 'em out.

As long as we're on the subject of being cast out into the desert, here's an item from the Zionist entity, Israel.

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Israel to give pullout plan to PNA 2005-06-15 17:00:58

GAZA, June 15 (Xinhuanet) -- Israel has agreed to give the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) plan of its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank due in mid-August, the Palestinian Interior Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

The statement said the agreement was reached at an overnight meeting which ended at predawn Wednesday between Israeli Defense Forces Deputy Chief of Staff Major General Moshe Kaplinski and Palestinian Deputy Interior Minister Jamal Abu-Zaid over coordination of the pullout.

Terming the atmosphere of the meeting as "positive," the statement said the Israeli side agreed to give the Palestinians all needed information on the withdrawal including timetable.

It also said the Palestinian side asked Israel to hand over the northern West Bank city of Jenin in order to enable Palestinian forces to better control security during the evacuation.

Israel is scheduled to evacuate troops and settlers from all the 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and four out of 120 in the West Bank in mid-August.

Israel and the Palestinians have stepped up coordination efforts over the coming pullout.

Comment: No mention of when this information would be given to the Palestinian Authority. How many here think that the pullout is going to really happen? Raise your mice.

Me neither, but we'll see. The Israelis are excellent when it comes to delaying tactics. Another false flag "suicide bombing" or two and the deal will be off.

That whole Yahweh thing is a real kicker, too. Imagine believing that "God" spoke to them and gave them the Holy Land, exhorting them to go and wipe out the people who were already living there. They claim to have done it once 3,000 years ago with Jericho and its crumbling walls. Imagine having your entire identity defined by and built upon a fairy story of miraculous apparitions. Or, the dead man on the stick, for that matter. Do you still think there is some historical basis for the Jesus story as it is told in the Bible? If so, check out Laura's article on the Q document. It is all a lie. At least the version that comes down in the Gospels. Then think of the millions of Americans that are waiting for the Second Coming, for the rapture, including George W!

How do you talk to those people? How do you get through to them?

You can't. But to better understand why, a little background on organic portals and psychopathy is helpful.

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The New CIA Revelations About Posada
Extradition US-Style

June 14, 2005

The secret documents recently disclosed by the National Security Archive throw new light on the responsibility of the government of the United States--and especially of the CIA, which was directed at that time by George H. W. Bush--in the horrendous mid-flight destruction on October 6, 1976 of a Cuban civilian airliner and the murder of all 73 people on board.

We already knew, by declassified documents published in May, that from at least June 1976 Washington was aware of the plan to carry out this terrible crime, had information about who its authors would be, and knew that the main guilty parties--Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles ­ were seeking to escape Venezuelan justice.

But, what is now known via one of the documents published only two days ago, that's the last straw!: the US government itself sought to save the terrorists, with US diplomats in Caracas conspiring to do so with some local officials.

The document is a secret cable sent to Washington by the CIA station chief in Caracas on October 14 1976. The last paragraph refers in detail to the meetings of the morning of October 10, the afternoon of October 12, and again on the morning of October 13, that the US Embassy had with several individuals, including the Director of the DISIP (the Venezuelan secret police), Raúl Giménez Gainza, and Orlando García, advisor to then President Carlos Andrés Pérez.

The object of the meetings was the delivery of Orlando Bosch to the US authorities--without a diplomatic note, without an extradition request. Nothing of this appears in the report. In these three meetings those attending, who were supposedly speaking on behalf of the Venezuelan president, have promised to give up Bosch. It's that simple.

On what source did the CIA base this information? This time it was not an anonymous informant. The person is clearly identified on page 4 and his words reporting the meetings, rightly in quotes, are cited with great care. He is none other than the US ambassador to Venezuela.

His Excellency complains that "I have still not received official confirmation about the President's (Carlos Andrés Pérez) decision."

The George W. Bush regime has spent three months helping Luis Posada Carriles, refusing to extradite him to Venezuela and seeking to shield him with invented chicanery and technicalities.

The father, George H. W. Bush, didn't worry about legal steps or diplomatic procedures ­ suffice to plot in the shadows. Then, as now, it was a US-style extradition:

* to try to remove Bosch from Venezuela in October of 1976 and take him to the United States to avoid justice;

*to keep Posada today and not extradite him to Venezuela;

* to prevent justice.

Now, as then, the son like the father is an accomplice and a protector of murderers. This makes them terrorists as well ­ and just as guilty as those they shelter.

Comment: From the time of the Monroe Doctrine, the US has considered Latin America to be its private reserve. There's one boss, and that's Uncle Sam. America's first imperialist war was fought against Spain to bring Cuba under the "protection" of the good Uncle.

The fighting has never stopped. The list of US interventions, both overt and covert, is too long to repeat here. However, you can download this little ditty about it. But that's as we should expect, our world being what it is and human nature being what it is -- until one actively begins to work on oneself to change it. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't stand up for what is right, for the truth. We need to stand up and expose the lies of the Bush gang, the lies of Sharon and the Zionists, the bankers, the corporations, the bureaucrats and politicians around the world who want to run the world like a big, well-oiled machine. In one way, they are right: it is a big machine, and we are all little cogs in that machine, as mechanical and predictable as your laptop or wristwatch.

How often during the day are we engaged in unthinking, mechanical behavior? How often are the words running through our heads just appearing from nowhere with no conscious intention on our part, spun on through some hidden form of association that we don't comprehend?

How much of the day are we on autopilot?

On to Iraq...

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Iraq 'no more safe than in 2003'
Tuesday, 14 June, 2005, 19:10 GMT

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has acknowledged that security in Iraq has not improved statistically since Saddam Hussein's fall in 2003.

Mr Rumsfeld told the BBC insurgents crossed Iraq's "porous" borders from Iran, Syria and elsewhere.

But he said Iraq's military forces were growing in numbers and he was confident the insurgency would be defeated.

On Tuesday, at least 22 people were killed in a suicide bombing in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk.

Police say most of the dead were civil servants lining up outside a government-owned bank to get their salaries or pensions.

They believe the bomber walked up to the queue with up to 30kg (66lbs) of explosives hidden under his clothes.

Among the 50 people wounded were 10 children, who had small stalls on the side of the road.

More than 900 people, mostly Iraqis, have died in insurgent attacks across the country since the government of Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafaari took office six weeks ago.

The latest violence came as Mr Jaafari's 37-member cabinet and its programme secured a vote of confidence in the Iraqi National Assembly.

The Shia-dominated government, which was finalised on 8 May, was overwhelmingly approved by a show of hands in the 275-member transitional parliament.

Belief in the future

In an interview for the BBC's Newsnight programme, Mr Rumsfeld said Iraq had passed several milestones, like holding elections and appointing a government.

He said that efforts had shifted from counter-insurgency to helping the Iraqi security forces.

"The important thing ... is to recognise that this insurgency is going to be defeated not by the coalition - it's going to be defeated by the Iraqi people and by the Iraqi security forces, and that it's going to happen as the Iraq people begin to believe they've got a future in that country," he said.

He added that Syria was not doing enough to stop the insurgency and that Iran was meddling in Iraqi politics. [...]

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Mother of dead soldier vilifies Bush over war

By Frank E. Lockwood
June 14, 2005

The president of Gold Star Families for Peace, a mother who lost a son in Iraq, criticized the United States' "illegal and unjust war" yesterday during an interfaith rally in Lexington.

Cindy Sheehan of Vacaville, Calif., accused President Bush of lying to the nation about a war which has consumed tens of billions of dollars and claimed more than 1,700 American lives -- including the life of Army Specialist Casey Austin Sheehan.

Sheehan was one of more than a dozen activists who were scheduled to speak at yesterday's anti-war rally at the Red Mile, which was organized by the Clergy and Laity Network and co-sponsored by dozens of liberal religious organizations.

Sheehan ridiculed Bush for saying that it's "hard work" comforting the widow of a soldier who's been killed in Iraq.

"Hard work is seeing your son's murder on CNN one Sunday evening while you're enjoying the last supper you'll ever truly enjoy again. Hard work is having three military officers come to your house a few hours later to confirm the aforementioned murder of your son, your first-born, your kind and gentle sweet baby. Hard work is burying your child 46 days before his 25th birthday. Hard work is holding your other three children as they lower the body of their big (brother) into the ground. Hard work is not jumping in the grave with him and having the earth cover you both," she said.

Since her son's death, Sheehan has made opposition to the Bush administration a full-time job.

"We're watching you very carefully and we're going to do everything in our power to have you impeached for misleading the American people," she said, quoting a letter she sent to the White House. "Beating a political stake in your black heart will be the fulfillment of my life ... ," she said, as the audience of 200 people cheered.

The "Freedom and Faith Bus Tour" -- which brought Sheehan to Lexington, has already visited New York, Chicago and Indianapolis. The next stops include Columbus, Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

Other speakers included state Rep. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, Clergy and Laity Network executive director Rev. Albert Pennybacker of Lexington, Kentucky Council of Churches executive director Nancy Jo Kemper and Baptist Seminary of Kentucky Professor Glenn Hinson.

Quoting scripture and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Hinson suggested the nation is greedy and morally bankrupt and warned that America's fear of terrorism is excessive and unhealthy. Denouncing "fear that immobilizes, fear that causes you to lash out mindlessly, fear that prompts a nation to launch a preemptive strike against an imagined enemy, fear in excess," Hinson said, "Only God's love can bring that kind of fear under control."

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Aubenas recounts Iraq kidnap ordeal

PARIS, June 14 (AFP) - A French journalist freed from a hostage ordeal in Iraq relived her five months of captivity Tuesday as she told reporters of the cruel conditions she was kept in - and became emotional but tight-lipped when asked about Romanian journalists who claimed to have been held with her.

Florence Aubenas, the 44-year-old senior correspondent for the Liberation newspaper, who was released Saturday with her Iraqi interpreter, Hussein Hanun, said she did not know whether a ransom was paid, only that "no one ever spoke to me about money."

"I still don't know why I was freed," she told a media conference in Paris.

Frequently giggling and looking relaxed but gaunt, Aubenas said with a voice turning hoarse from lack of use that she and Hanun were seized close to Baghdad's university.

She then endured tough months hidden in a cramped, four-by-two-metre (13-by-six foot) basement too low to stand up in, with her feet and hands bound and a blindfold always over her eyes.

She shared her captivity with another hostage she was not allowed to speak with, and only found out days before her release that it was Hanun.

Her captors, who vaguely presented themselves as members of an unspecified Sunni "religious movement", permitted no exchanges that might have created bonds.

She said they beat her when they thought she made too much noise on her mattress or might have spoken to the other hostage, and called her by the name "Leila" or "number 6". Hanun was called prisoner "number 5".

At one point the leader, identified to her only as "the Boss" or "Hadji", ordered her up for questioning and accused her of being a spy.

She was told to make a video which was broadcast March 1 in which she was ordered to say she was in bad physical condition and make an appeal to a French MP who led a failed unofficial bid to free two other French reporters.

The MP, Didier Julia, has been ostracised by President Jacques Chirac's ruling party for his renegade campaign to free the two reporters in Iraq, who ended up being released to French officials in December.

She said "the Boss" told her he had spoken directly to Julia by telephone once and stated: "I know Mr Julia and I've heard about him from friends."

Her kidnappers also knew the two other French reporters, Christian Chesnot of Radio France Internationale and George Malbrunot of Le Figaro newspaper, she said.

Asked about three Romanian reporters who claimed to have been held with her before their own release last month, Aubenas became uncharacteristically tight-lipped and a distraught expression crept over her face.

"The situation is delicate.... I can't speak about the Romanians," she said.

Her comments deepened a mystery about the Romanians, television reporter Marie-Jeanne Ion, newspaper reporter Eduard Ohanesian and cameraman Sorin Miscoci, who were seized on March 28 and freed on May 22.

The trio have kept silent about the details of their release until Sunday because of what they said were fears that any account might jeopardise the lives of Aubenas and her Iraqi interpreter.

Ion told Romanian television on Sunday: "We were held in the same place for almost a month.... Florence was remarkable throughout. She constantly encouraged us. She is amazingly strong. She never allowed us to give up hope that we will be released."

Their account was confirmed by former French foreign minister Michel Barnier, who headed the hostage negotiations up to two weeks ago, when he was ousted in a government reshuffle.

The presence of the Romanians "was reported to us immediately after their release and we kept that information to ourselves, naturally. They had been detained together in the same place," he told radio station RMC.

Nevertheless, Aubenas resisted persistent questions about the Romanians, her face becoming unusually grave.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, speaking in parliament minutes before Aubenas's media conference, paid homage to Romania's authorities and especially to Romanian President Traian Basescu.

According to Le Monde newspaper, Romanian intelligence services had traced back the kidnapping of the Romanian journalists to a group called the Brigade of Muad bin Jabal and were looking for an Iraqi going by the name "Abu Sahar".

New French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said clues about Aubenas's kidnappers were "often contradictory" but that "discretion, a sense of responsibility, commitment and, obviously, often silence before during and after every hostage-taking had to prevail."

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Bush and Blair Committed to War in April, 2002
Leaked Cabinet Briefing Shows British Knew War was Illegal
Juan Cole
Informed Comment

The London Times has dropped another bombshell document concerning the planning of the Iraq war in Washington and London.

The leaked Cabinet office briefing paper for the July 23, 2002, meeting of principals in London, the minutes of which have become notorious as the Downing Street Memo, contains key context for that memo. The briefing paper warns the British cabinet in essence that they are facing jail time because Blair promised Bush at Crawford in April, 2002, that he would go to war against Iraq with the Americans.

As Michael Smith reports for the London Times, "regime change" is illegal in international law without a United Nations Security Council resolution or other recognized sanction (national self-defense, or rescuing a population from genocide, e.g.). Since the United Kingdom is signatory to the International Criminal Court, British officials could be brought up on charges for crimes like "Aggression."

Smith quotes the briefing and then remarks on how it shows Bush and Blair to be lying when they invoke their approach to the UN as proof that they sought a peaceful resolution of the Iraq crisis:

' “It is just possible that an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject,” the document says. But if he accepted it and did not attack the allies, they would be “most unlikely” to obtain the legal justification they needed.

The suggestions that the allies use the UN to justify war contradicts claims by Blair and Bush, repeated during their Washington summit last week, that they turned to the UN in order to avoid having to go to war. The attack on Iraq finally began in March 2003. '
The Cabinet briefing makes crystal clear that Blair had cast his lot in with Bush on an elective war against Iraq already in April, 2002:
"2. When the Prime Minister discussed Iraq with President Bush at Crawford in April he said that the UK would support military action to bring about regime change, provided that certain conditions were met: efforts had been made to construct a coalition/shape public opinion, the Israel-Palestine Crisis was quiescent, and the options for action to eliminate Iraq's WMD through the UN weapons inspectors had been exhausted."
This passage is unambiguous and refutes the weird suggestion by Michael Kinsley that the Downing Street Memo did not establish that the Bush administration had committed to war by July, 2002.

British Attorney General Lord Goldsmith is quoted in the Downing Street Memo:
"The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change."
The briefing paper discusses this issue further:
"11. US views of international law vary from that of the UK and the international community. Regime change per se is not a proper basis for military action under international law. But regime change could result from action that is otherwise lawful. We would regard the use of force against Iraq, or any other state, as lawful if exercised in the right of individual or collective self-defence, if carried out to avert an overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe, or authorised by the UN Security Council."
It makes me deeply ashamed as an American in the tradition of Madison, Jefferson, Franklin, Lincoln, and King, that in their private communications our international allies openly admit that the United States of America routinely disregards international law. The Geneva Conventions were enacted by the United Nations and adopted into national law in order to assure that Nazi-style violations of basic human rights never again occurred without the threat of punishment after the war. We have an administration that views the Geneva Conventions as "quaint." The US has vigorously opposed the International Criminal Court.

The cabinet briefing, like Lord Goldsmith, is skeptical that any of the three legal grounds for war existed with regard to Iraq. Iraq was not an imminent threat to the US or the UK. Saddam's regime was brutal, but its major killing sprees were in the past in 2002. And, the UNSC had not authorized a war against Iraq.
"The legal position would depend on the precise circumstances at the time. Legal bases for an invasion of Iraq are in principle conceivable in both the first two instances but would be difficult to establish because of, for example, the tests of immediacy and proportionality. Further legal advice would be needed on this point."
The tactic of presenting Saddam with an ultimatum that he should allow back in weapons inspectors, in hopes he would refuse, is again highlighted in this document:
"14. It is just possible that an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject (because he is unwilling to accept unfettered access) and which would not be regarded as unreasonable by the international community. However, failing that (or an Iraqi attack) we would be most unlikely to achieve a legal base for military action by January 2003. "
In his report about the Cabinet briefing, Walter Pincus focuses on the passages that worry about the apparent lack of planning by Bush for the day after the war ended.

The briefing says:
"19. Even with a legal base and a viable military plan, we would still need to ensure that the benefits of action outweigh the risks. . . A post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise. As already made clear, the US military plans are virtually silent on this point. Washington could look to us to share a disproportionate share of the burden. Further work is required to define more precisely the means by which the desired endstate would be created, in particular what form of Government might replace Saddam Hussein's regime and the timescale within which it would be possible to identify a successor. We must also consider in greater detail the impact of military action on other UK interests in the region."
The British were clearly afraid that the US would get them into Iraq without a plan, and then Bush might just prove fickle and decamp, leaving the poor British holding the bag.

The briefing is also prescient that the Middle East region would be hostile or at most neutral with regard to an Iraq war, and that less international participation would lessen the chances of success.

I found the passage on the information campaign chilling:
"20. Time will be required to prepare public opinion in the UK that it is necessary to take military action against Saddam Hussein. There would also need to be a substantial effort to secure the support of Parliament. An information campaign will be needed which has to be closely related to an overseas information campaign designed to influence Saddam Hussein, the Islamic World and the wider international community. This will need to give full coverage to the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, including his WMD, and the legal justification for action. "
The polite diplomatic language hides the implications that there would be a global black psy-ops campaign in favor of the war, conducted from London. Since the rest of the briefing already admits that there was no legal justification for action, the proposal of an information campaign that would maintain that such a justification existed must be seen as deeply dishonest.

One press report said that the British military had planted stories in the American press aimed at getting up the Iraq war. A shadowy group called the Rockingham cell was apparently behind it. Similar disinformation campaigns have been waged by Israeli military intelligence, aiming at influencing US public opinion. (Israeli intelligence has have even planted false stories about its enemies in Arabic newspapers, in hopes that Israeli newspapers would translate them into Hebrew and English, and they would be picked up as credible from there in the West.

The International Criminal Court home page is here. We find in its authorizing legislation, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the Section on Jurisdiction, which reads as follows:
"Article 5
Crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court

1. The jurisdiction of the Court shall be limited to the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole. The Court has jurisdiction in accordance with this Statute with respect to the following crimes:

(a) The crime of genocide;

(b) Crimes against humanity;

(c) War crimes;

(d) The crime of aggression."
It is not clear to me that the court is yet able to take up the crime of aggression, because legal work remained to be done in defining the crime precisely and in having that language adopted by the UNSC.

If it were able to do so, some groups in Europe may now feel that there is a basis for proceeding against the Blair government for knowingly committing an act of aggression. They might argue that when, in March, 2003, it became clear that the United Nations Security Council would not authorize a war against Iraq; and when it was clear from the reports of the UN weapons inspectors that they were finding no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons programs; and when it was murky as to whether Saddam was actively killing any significant numbers of Iraqis in 2001-2003--that Blair should have pulled out and refused to cooperate in an Iraq invasion. The cabinet brief and the memo of the July 23 meeting demonstrate conclusively that members of the Blair government knew that they were involved in plans that were as of that moment illegal, and that no legal basis for them might be forthcoming. Ignorance is no excuse under the law, but here even ignorance could not be pleaded.

The US has not ratified the ICC--and in fact has been attempting to undermine it. The Bush administration became especially alarmed about its implications in 2002. It has attempted to put US officials beyond its reach by concluding a series of bilateral treaties with other nations such that they would hold US personnel harmless despite their being signatories to the ICC. It may therefore be difficult for anti-war groups to use it against Bush. [Thanks to the diarists at for this link and clarifications.]

Comment: It was apparent to anyone who wasn't blinded by preconceived ideas about the nature of the presidency that Bush and his cronies were lying through their teeth from day one about Iraq. And yet they pulled it off. By carrying out the 9/11 attacks on their own country, they were able to put the American people, and a goodly number of others around the world, into such a state of shock that Bush himself, the fearless Commander-in-Chief, had an approval rating of 90%! They had the press eating out of their hands and successfully created an environment where to question the President was to cross the line to treason.

Luke, don't underestimate the dark side.

They don't think like you or me. Their wiring is different.

Their weakness is their wishful thinking, summed up by the White House insider who told a journalist that the problem with critics of Bush was that they were "reality-based" while the Bushies were creating reality on the ground. Well, we've seen how that is going in Iraq where the discrepancy between what Bush, Rummy, and the others say is happening is diverging more and more from the facts. One would think that it is bound to have a boomerang effect, that eventually reality will claim back its rightful position of superiority over the demented ravings of the White House. The question is how long will it take and what is going to happen in the meantime? How bad will it have to get?

In another issue where wishful thinking is meeting up with reality, in this case the reality of new technology, the Bushistas are being forced to scale back, at least a bit, their programme of biometric passports. Seems the technology isn't as reliable as they had hoped.

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US expected to abandon Biometric passport plan
Published Monday 13th June 2005 14:23 GMT

Rules requiring Irish citizens to carry high-tech passports when visiting the US are to be dropped because the technology behind the scheme is seen as unreliable. The US Department of Homeland Security had previously set an October 2005 deadline for the inclusion of biometric information chips in the passports of European citizens who avail themselves of the Visa Waiver programme. This programme allows people to make short-term visits to the US without a visa. The chips would have included a variety of biological information about the passport holder, such as their fingerprints and retina scans.

But according to a report in the Sunday Times, Ireland has shelved plans to include biometric chips in passports amid expectations that the US is to abandon its biometric passport requirements.

"Biometrics are just a tool, the real concern is that the information would be used for more than immigration control," said Aisling Reidy, director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, speaking to "There is also a significant risk of false positives, that people could be wrongly identified, because the technology is not reliable."

The Sunday Times, meanwhile, quoted a spokesperson from the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, who said that the US has now recognised the technical challenges involved in implementing biometric information.

Trials carried out in the UK last year, for the purposes of introducing a biometrics-based UK national identity card, showed significant levels of failure in the registration and verification of iris, fingerprint and facial recognition trials involving 10,000 British citizens.

Under a new arrangement, holders of passports that include digital photographs could continue to avail of the visa waiver programme. The latest Irish passports include a secure digital photograph, but do not include biometrical information.

The new arrangement is understood to have been devised following discussions between the US and the European Commission. European officials believe the Americans have taken on board concerns that the move would reduce the number of people traveling to the US for business and leisure purposes.

Biometric passports have been under consideration since 2002, when US legislators passed a law requiring the 27 countries in the Visa Waiver programme to start issuing high-tech passports by October 2004. The deadline was subsequently extended to October 2005.

Comment: I don't think for a minute that this minor setback will stop the new fascists in their drive for complete control over the world's population. From credit cards to bank machines, from strict controls on who gets in and out of the US to rising energy prices, the world of free movement of peoples -- such as it was -- is coming to an end. When the next pandemic breaks out, this, too, will be used a s a means of shutting down the circulation of humans. In modern economics, it is capital that is guaranteed freedom of movement, not flesh and blood beings.

I may even have to give up my job as roving reporter.

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Blair's EU cash ultimatum

PM admits gulf with Chirac but insists farm subsidy reform is now Europe's priority

Patrick Wintour, chief political correspondent
Wednesday June 15, 2005
The Guardian

Tony Blair yesterday raised the stakes ahead of tomorrow's EU summit, warning fellow leaders that they must radically reshape the common agricultural policy before attempting to revive plans for further political integration.

Speaking at a solo press conference at the British embassy in Paris after talks with Jacques Chirac, he admitted that there was now "sharp disagreement" between Britain and France over the EU budget. "It is very difficult to see how these differences are going to be bridged," he said.

Mr Blair has spent the last four days demanding that Europe responds to the crisis caused by the no votes in the referendum on the constitution by re-examining its priorities, including a budget skewed towards subsidies for agriculture.

Shrugging off the prospect that Britain could be isolated at the EU summit, Mr Blair bluntly set out his red line on the £3.2bn British EU rebate.

"If people want a reconsideration of the rebate there has to be a reconsideration of the reasons for the rebate," he said. "This is not some special thing that has been given as a special privilege to Britain. This is a mechanism of correction for something that would otherwise be grossly unfair."

Mr Blair said that even with the existing level of rebate Britain was a larger net contributor than France, and the second largest net contributor after Germany. Earlier he had rejected proposals from Jean-Claude Juncker, prime minister of Luxembourg and current president of the EU, that would have cut the value of the British rebate. Instead he suggested that EU heads of government will be forced to agree to formally suspend ratification of the constitution, thrown into chaos earlier this month by the French and Dutch no votes. "It is right to have some pause for reflection and it is possible and sensible to reach an agreement collectively that we have this pause for reflection for a period of months," he said.

Following his discussions across Europe in the past 48 hours including talks with Gerhard Schröder in Germany, Mr Juncker, and President Chirac in Paris, he insisted that the EU must "reconnect the priorities that people have in Europe with the way we spend the money in Europe. It's difficult to see how you can have a change in the finances that does not involve changes to the common agricultural policy."

Mr Blair signalled that he favoured highly-controversial moves to return agricultural policy to member states.

In future it should largely be for individual states to subsidise their farmers rather than for the subsidy to be funded through the EU, he indicated.

He said: "I totally understand why countries may want to give their money to support farmers. What I have an objection to is the European Union deciding collectively it is going to give 40% of its budget into an area that has got 4% of its people. It makes no sense. And because it makes no sense people say 'the EU is not connected with me'."

Other solutions being advanced include EU commissioner Peter Mandelson's suggestion that new entrant poorer countries are exempted from contributing to the British rebate, a move that is said to be "seriously considered" in some European diplomatic circles.

Mr Blair suggested that there was no absolute necessity to reach a deal at this week's summit. "I do not think it will send us into crisis at all, provided we get the right answer and do so in a political context that people understand," he said.

But he made clear that France and Germany could no longer expect to dominate the EU in the way they once did. "I think that the French-German relationship is extremely important but it cannot comprise all of what now drives the European Union," he said.

Comment: The family farm remains a viable economic unit in France because of these subsidies. Because France is still a largely rural country with small town economies and markets, this permits a way of life to continue that would disappear without these subsidies that Mr. Blair denounces. His figure of 4% is disingenuous because these subsidies are maintaining a way of life in France and other EU countries that affects many more people than the farmers. Of course, some of this cannot be quantified and reduced to the numbers and figures and graphs so dear to politicians, bureaucrats, and CEOs. A commodity value cannot be placed upon it. It is difficult to render it intelligible in a Power Point presentation.

The British have always been the odd man out in Europe, the Trojan Horse designed to prevent the Union from becoming a strong and unified force to counter-balance the Atlantic alliance. De Gaulle was correct to fight to keep them out of the EC.

However, when Blair speaks of the fact that people say "the EU is not connected to me", he is correct. While they feel themselves Europeans, many Europeans do not feel anything in common with the bureaucrats in Brussels. The Union has been built and managed as an economic unit with little real input from the population. However, Blair represents the ideology of the bureaucrats, the neoliberal economic prison they are seeking to impose that would prevent the individual states from using the economic tools at their disposal to regulate their individual economies.

Our suggestion is that a new referendum be held to throw the UK out of the EU.

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Best of times, the worst of times at Elysée
Jon Henley in Paris
Wednesday June 15, 2005
The Guardian

There was, tellingly, no joint press conference. An apparently warm handshake on his arrival at the Elysée Palace soon after noon, yes; an impassioned plea to business leaders for help on Africa, of course; a nervous joke that fell predictably flat, that too.

But when Tony Blair faced the television cameras and the microphones yesterday to recount what had been billed as perhaps the most bitter diplomatic ding-dong so far between himself and Jacques Chirac, he did so a good hundred yards away from the French president - and on home ground, at the residence of the British ambassador in Paris.

If he felt at all relieved to have escaped his wounded opponent's den and regained the sanctuary of a building resolutely British ever since the Duke of Wellington acquired it in the name of the Crown a few months before Waterloo, the prime minister hid it well.

"There are a lot of you," he said, bouncing in red tie and grey suit into the residence's gilded ballroom to report on an "excellent and constructive meeting with Jacques Chirac on next month's G8". He then added hastily: "Although I don't say that to distinguish it from anything else."

The problem, of course, was that there was a lot else. The occasion was a momentous one. Tony and Jacques have rowed before, over the common agricultural policy and Iraq in particular: Tony has called Jacques "a demagogue"; Jacques has called Tony "badly brought-up". But the stakes have rarely been as high as these. On this latest trial of strength between the two leaders, the pundits say, could rest the future shape of the European Union.

Even the most Gallic of French commentators are now admitting that Mr Blair is Europe's coming man (Mr Chirac, plainly, is on the way out). You only have to look at the numbers the French papers trumpeted all last week: "Le Blairisme" works; " le modèle social français " does not. Mr Blair, freshly re-elected and revelling in the domestic plight of both Chancellor Schröder and President Chirac, is cooking up a Third Way for Europe.

The winner of the current Blair-Chirac spat, ostensibly over Britain's EU rebate and France's EU farm subsidies, will, this argument runs, dictate the very nature of the union over the years and decades to come: an Anglo-Saxon supermarket of free trade and minimal rules, or a protective Gallo-Germanic retirement home for ageing and undynamic economies. That, at least, is the way it is being rather gleefully painted here.

Arriving shortly after noon in the gravel forecourt of the Elysée, a hundred yards down the stately if boutique-filled rue du Faubourg St Honoré from the British embassy, Mr Blair was, therefore, welcomed with the excessively firm handshake of a desperate man.

Jacques Chirac, having gambled and lost France's referendum on the EU constitution, is currently the least popular president of France since pollsters started measuring such things in the late 1970s. Humiliated at home, where in the words of one commentator he has "finally lost all the credibility he never had", he has yet to establish how much the referendum defeat will weaken him on the European stage. But he must have a pretty shrewd idea.

But Mr Blair, oddly, did not appear entirely at ease either. Granted, he takes up the rotating EU presidency next month, which must help at times like this, but he nonetheless stands alone against all 24 other EU member states, none of which thinks Britain's rebate is any longer justified (largely because, an irony of sorts, Blairism has performed such wonders for the British economy).

But he got into his stride at a UN-organised meeting at the Elysée of 140 business leaders from around the world aimed at encouraging the private sector to help lift Africa out of poverty. He told the meeting on the Global Compact, a voluntary UN charter of corporate ethics: "We have moved a very long way from the days when business was seen as creating the problems of the world. I think most people accept a strong and vibrant business sector is part of the solution."

There followed a working lunch with UN secretary general Kofi Annan and Mr Chirac, a quick hour of interviews with the French media at the embassy, and a return to the Elysée for the real business of the day: the tête-à-tête with the president. "It was very difficult," he cheer fully admitted later. The meeting was "immensely amicable", but "there is a sharp disagreement".

In essence, Mr Blair said, "there can be no reconsideration of Britain's rebate without reconsideration of the reasons for the rebate", which are that Britain got a lousy deal when it first joined the EU. Also, the EU is spending money on all the wrong things (like agriculture) when it should be investing in the right things (like science, technology, R&D) that will help it compete in the future.

Mr Chirac, who was once an agriculture minister and knows all about the importance of the farm vote, disagrees vehemently. He is also, some might say, trying to stoke this latest row to distract attention from his humbling referendum defeat. But the pair have long been building up to yesterday's confrontation.

They last rowed bitterly over the CAP in October 2002, when Mr Blair asked the president: "How can you defend the common agricultural policy and then claim to be a supporter of aid to Africa? Failing to reform the CAP means being responsible for the starvation of the world's poor." Mr Chirac was livid. "You have been very badly brought up," he retorted. "No one has ever spoken to me like that."

Until now, the two leaders' relationship has proved remarkably resilient. But perhaps no longer. "What has changed," Mr Blair said carefully in response to a French journalist's question, "is that it is no longer possible to run Europe in the way it used to be run." There you have it, Mr Chirac.

Comment: The idea that the European subsidies are the cause of the "starvation of the world's poor" is promoted in many quarters, and this Oxfam analysis is one example. While the dumping of agricultural products purchased from farmers above the market cost into other markets at below cost prices is a factor in stifling the exports from poor countries that cannot afford such subsidies, the real factor is the international economic system that sets profit above human need. Oxfam and others accept the system in place and wish to tweak it in ways to make it more just. This is commendable, but given psychopathy and the values emanating from the center of entropy, the US, it is not very likely that reform will be possible.

The starvation in the former colonies and present neo-colonies has to do with relations between the advanced capitalist countries and the territories they exploit for their resources. Look at the profits that come to the large multinational corporations, look at the money that is funneled out of these countries by the IMF, look at the military budget of the United States. If this money were used to ensure food for the world, to ensure health care and decent housing, some radical changes could be wrought.

Clearly, the question is one of priorities. Liberal economists have the self-serving philosophy that if the market is left to itself, everyone will prosper, an idea with which not even Adam Smith was in agreement. From time to time, when the situation gets so bad that it leaks out into the Western press, our leaders step up to the microphones and make declarations. Such as this...

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Annan calls on business to end Africa poverty

PARIS, June 14 (AFP) - UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urged globe-girdling corporations Tuesday to play a bigger role in lifting Africa out of poverty, at a seminar to promote corporate responsibility in the developing world.

Speaking in Paris alongside French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Annan said governments still bear the "main responsibility" for meeting the UN's Millennium Development Goals.

"But business has a central role to play," he added. "Business generates employment and wealth ... It is the absence of broad-based business activity, not its presence, that condemns much of humanity to suffering."

"Indeed, what is utopian is the notion that poverty can be overcome without the active engagement of business."

The UN Millennium Development Goals call for 500 million people to be "lifted out of extreme poverty" by 2015, 115 million children put in school, and a halt of the spread of AIDS.

They dovetail with Blair's determination to put Africa, as well as climate change, at the heart of the summit of leaders of the Group of Eight leading industrialised nations at Gleneagles, Scotland next month.

"Business is of vital importance to the goals," Annan said, hailing the participation of 2,000 companies from 80-plus countries in the UN Global Compact that he launched six years ago.

The initiative calls for corporations to assume more responsibility in the developing world by rejecting corruption, embracing ethical management, spreading AIDS awareness and providing help to local entrepreneurs. [...]

Comment: Asking a corporation to conduct itself ethically is a bit of a laugh in a culture that gets its values from the psychopath. The joke is on us.

Reformers, revolutionaries, and a wide variety of do-gooders have been attempting to bring justice to this planet for thousands of years, to no avail. There we confront the issue that is discussed often on these pages: our nature as beings. It always comes back to this fundamental question. There is no escaping it. It is the bedrock, the foundation for everything else. How can we expect a just and equitable world when the beings that inhabit it are not living examples of these values? And how can we ever expect this world be to any different when there exist a group of beings among us that look like you and me but who are psychopaths, beings with only the mask of sanity, beings with traits that enable them to rise to positions of power in our society where they can exploit everyone around them and all of those subject to their influence in politics, economics, business, entertainment, religion, and law, to name but a few?

Surely believing that this world can be changed given the reality is to engage in wishful thinking worthy of Bush himself.

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Something Rotten in Ohio
By Gore Vidal, The Nation. Posted June 14, 2005.

The disturbing truths about the last election in Ohio have been largely ignored by the press and the Congress.

Outside the oil and gas junta that controls two and a half branches of our government (the half soon to be whole is the judiciary), there was a good deal of envy at the late British election among those Americans who are serious about politics. Little money was spent by the three parties and none for TV advertising. Results were achieved swiftly and cheaply. Best of all, the three party leaders were quizzed sharply and intelligently by ordinary citizens known quaintly as subjects, thanks to the ubiquitous phantom crown so unlike our nuclear-taloned predatory eagle. Although news of foreign countries seldom appears in our tightly censored media (and good news, never), those of us who are addicted to C-SPAN and find it the one truly, if unconsciously, subversive media outlet in these United States are able to observe British politics in full cry.

I say "subversive" not only because C-SPAN is apt to take interesting books seriously but also because its live coverage of the Senate and the House of Representatives is the only look we are ever allowed at the mouthpieces of our masters up close and is, at times, most reflective of a government more and more remote from us, unaccountable and repressive. To watch the righteous old prophet Byrd of West Virginia, the sunny hypocrisy of Biden of Delaware -- as I write these hallowed names, I summon up their faces, hear their voices, and I am covered with C-SPAN goose bumps.

At any rate, wondrous C-SPAN has another string to its bow. While some executive was nodding, C-SPAN started showing us Britain's House of Commons during Question Time. This is the only glimpse that most Americans will ever get of how democracy is supposed to work.

These party leaders are pitted against one another in often savage debate on subjects of war and peace, health and education. Then some 600 Members of Parliament are allowed to ask questions of their great chieftains. Years ago the incomparable Dwight Macdonald wrote that any letter to the London Times (the Brits are inveterate letter writers on substantive issues) is better written than any editorial in the New York Times.

In addition to Question Time, which allows Americans to see how political democracy works, as opposed to our two chambers of lobbyists for corporate America, C-SPAN also showed the three party leaders being interrogated by a cross section of, for the most part, youthful subjects of the phantom crown and presided over by an experienced political journalist. Blair was roughly accused of lying about the legal advice he had received apropos Britain's right to go to war in Iraq for the US oil and gas junta. This BBC live audience asked far more informed and informative questions than the entire US press corps was allowed to ask Bush et al. in our recent election. But Americans are not used to challenging authority in what has been called wartime by a President who has ordered invasions of two countries that have done us no harm and is now planning future wars despite dwindling manpower and lack of money. Blair, for just going along, had to deal with savage, informed questions of a sort that Bush would never answer even if he were competent to do so.

So we have seen what democracy across the water can do. All in all a jarring experience for anyone foolish enough to believe that America is democratic in anything except furiously imprisoning the innocent and joyously electing the guilty. What to do? As a first step, I invite the radicals at C-SPAN who take seriously our Constitution and Bill of Rights to address their attention to the corruption of the presidential election of 2004, particularly in the state of Ohio.

One of the most useful members of the House -- currently the most useful -- is John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat who, in his capacity as ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee, led the committee's Democratic Congressmen and their staffers into the heart of the American heartland, the Western Reserve; specifically, into the not-so-red state of Ohio, once known as "the mother of Presidents."

He had come to answer the question that the minority of Americans who care about the Republic have been asking since November 2004: "What went wrong in Ohio?" He is too modest to note the difficulties he must have undergone even to assemble this team in the face of the triumphalist Republican Congressional majority, not to mention the unlikely heir to himself, George W. Bush, whose original selection by the Supreme Court brought forth many reports on what went wrong in Florida in 2000.

These led to an apology from Associate Justice John Paul Stevens for the behavior of the 5-to-4 majority of the Court in the matter of Bush v. Gore. Loser Bush then brought on undeclared wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the greatest deficits in our history and the revelations that the policies of an Administration that -- much as Count Dracula fled cloves of garlic -- flees all accountability were responsible for the murder and torture of captive men, between 70 percent and 90 percent of whom, by the Pentagon's estimate, had been swept up at random, earning us the hatred of a billion Muslims and the disgust of what is called the civilized world.

Asked to predict who would win in '04, I said that, again, Bush would lose, but I was confident that in the four years between 2000 and 2004 creative propaganda and the fixing of election officials might very well be so perfected as to insure an official victory for Mr. Bush. As Representative Conyers's report, Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio (3.2 MB PDF link), shows in great detail, the swing state of Ohio was carefully set up to deliver an apparent victory for Bush even though Kerry appears to have been the popular winner as well as the valedictorian-that-never-was of the Electoral College.

I urge would-be reformers of our politics as well as of such anachronisms as the Electoral College to read Conyers's valuable guide on how to steal an election once you have in place the supervisor of the state's electoral process: In this case, Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, who orchestrated a famous victory for those who hate democracy (a permanent but passionate minority). The Conyers Report states categorically, "With regards to our factual finding, in brief, we find that there were massive and unprecedented voter irregularities and anomalies in Ohio. In many cases these irregularities were caused by intentional misconduct and illegal behavior, much of it involving Secretary of State Kenneth J. Blackwell, the co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio." In other words, the Florida 2000 scenario redux, when the chair for Bush/Cheney was also the Secretary of State. Lesson? Always plan ahead for at least four more years.

It is well-known in the United States of Amnesia that not only did Ohio have a considerable number of first-time voters but that Blackwell and his gang, through "the misallocation of voting machines led to unprecedented long lines that disenfranchised scores, if not hundreds of thousands, of predominantly minority and Democratic voters."

For the past few years many of us have been warning about the electronic voting machines, first publicized on the Internet by investigator Bev Harris, for which she was much reviled by the officers of such companies as Diebold, Sequoia, ES&S, Triad; this last voting computer company "has essentially admitted that it engaged in a course of behavior during the recount in numerous counties to provide 'cheat sheets' to those counting the ballots. The cheat sheets informed election officials how many votes they should find for each candidate, and how many over and under votes they should calculate to match the machine count. In that way, they could avoid doing a full county-wide hand recount mandated by state law."

Yet despite all this manpower and money power, exit polls showed that Kerry would win Ohio. So, what happened?

I have told more than enough of this mystery story so thoroughly investigated by Conyers and his Congressional colleagues and their staffers. Not only were the crimes against democracy investigated but the report on What Went Wrong in Ohio comes up with quite a number of ways to set things right.

Needless to say, this report was ignored when the Electoral College produced its unexamined tally of the votes state by state. Needless to say, no joint committee of the two houses of Congress was convened to consider the various crimes committed and to find ways and means to avoid their repetition in 2008, should we be allowed to hold an election once we have unilaterally, yet again, engaged in a war -- this time with Iran. Anyway, thanks to Conyers, the writing is now high up there on the wall for us all to see clearly: "Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin." Students of the Good Book will know what these words of God meant to Belshazzar and his cronies in old Babylon.

Gore Vidal is a contributing editor to The Nation, and a novelist, playwright and essayist. His recent books include Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta and Imperial America, out in paperback this September (Thunder's Mouth/Nation Books).

Comment: While it is true that the parliamentary form of government permits backbenchers to pose questions to the Prime Minister, one shouldn't be taken in by the theatrics into believing that we are seeing democracy in action. Certainly it is a different form of theatre than we see in the US where Bush hides in the White House out of the reach of his political opponents. One can't imagine Bush making it through a single parliamentary question period without throwing a tantrum. His is, after all, an imperial presidency.

Once again, the real root of the problem goes much deeper. What kind of democracy can exist in a society where the citizen is not given all the facts, where mass social control is exercised by the media, where education is geared towards getting a job, not learning to think critically for oneself?

I leave you today with the following. When you think of Saudi Arabia, what comes to mind? Hold that image in place while you read the following.

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Open Letter to Saudis
Tanya C. Hsu, Arab News

Having returned from the Kingdom, four weeks in an abaya and hijab, I am angry and frustrated. As an analyst specializing in Saudi Arabia I knew much of what to expect, thus covering and not being able to drive were nonissues. Landing in Jeddah I dropped ten degrees body temperature switching from linen to an abaya. Four weeks later, I flew through to Atlanta without removing my abaya, not only to test American reactions but because it was comfortable and practical. In Riyadh’s Bedu Souk I added a burqa and realized, for the first time in my adult life, men spoke directly to me rather than to a physique. That is respect.

Having completed my book on the Kingdom, I had been invited to the Saudi American Interactive Dialogue in Jeddah. Staying to gather material for a second book, I met with people from all walks of life: Rich, poor, mothers, working women; the highly successful, the unemployed, royalty, Bedouin market sellers, and those in between. I met with Saudis by birth, Saudis by choice, and foreigners. I lived with Saudi families, those with domestic help and those without. All were open and eager to share their opinions. I traveled freely across the country, an “Arab” woman alone. Fed monumental amounts of food in Saudi homes nightly, unable to escape such generous hospitality, I never witnessed men separate from women. In Riyadh I used a Saudi friend’s office for a fortnight, was treated equally and was privy to top-level business discussions. Thus began my irritation.

I had expected to return to the US, defensive posture prepared. Since Sept. 11, I have tried in vain to explain the Kingdom to a country reluctant to understand or listen, have been the target of attacks, and have had professional difficulty for insisting on clarity on Saudi issues. It is acceptable in the US to be anti-war, anti-Bush, or support the Palestinians; it is not acceptable on either side of the political spectrum to be “pro-Saudi”. That is “sleeping with the enemy” or “hero worship”. Little of Saudi Arabia is covered in the West other than trade, oil, and proclamations of reform. Sadly, within the Kingdom and despite access to satellite television, newspapers and the Internet, even Jarir Bookstore has yet to catch up: Only travel and photography books, or historical biographies of Gertrude Bell and Harry Philby were available. Not permitting political material available to a hungry public belies logic at this stage.

I experienced few inconveniences. Prayer time forces the habit of pausing. Time passes differently in the United States as we race from work to school to the grocery store to after-school activities to dinner, housecleaning and laundry, finally collapsing in exhaustion having barely spoken to our children eating in separate rooms at different times. Families walk together along the Jeddah corniche, flying kites or riding donkeys, barbecues permeating the air — vastly different to the deafening X-rated rap music that invades main streets in America as teens cruise.

So why am I angry?

During all my conversations one question remained unanswered. When asked, What makes you proud to be Saudi, “being Muslim” or “being Arab” was as common a reply as “being the home of the Two Holy Cities”. One can easily define Palestinian anger, Iraqi angst, or Syrian character, yet I received nothing on Saudi national patriotism. Can you not see?

For years you have publicly apologized for comparatively low levels of violence, lack of reform, or the slow pace of change. Repeatedly I heard the despair and cynicism blinding you to what is happening in front of you: Palpable change, construction growth, new institutions, reform efforts, and the mutawa. You have much to be proud of, but your politeness and kindness allows the West to trample you, naming you a threat to “democracy” and the world.

You cannot let this continue. Pre-empt the increase in anti-Saudi hostility and stop re-emphasizing your weaknesses. You are a dignified people, so take pride in your country in action, not just spirit. Explain to the world how you respect women, how safe and free from crime you are, and how family takes priority. Demand how the US, world leader in murder, rape and domestic violence, dare accuse you of human rights abuses. Ask how Americans can defend their preferred method of capital punishment by electrocuting women, minors and the mentally handicapped. How, if democracy includes the export of the largest pornographic industry throughout the world, can they judge the Kingdom for its restrictions? Why can a Saudi leave his wallet, laptop and digital camera on the front seat of a car, as I did, and return to find everything intact? Americans live in gated subdivisions with security alarms; child molesters roam free in every neighborhood. Half empty compounds in the Kingdom are triple barricaded, one Alkhobar compound protected by five security walls and armored trucks. Murderers don’t return to the scene of their crime, so why such fear? Nuns, priests, Jewish settlers, rabbis and Catholics cover their heads but Saudi women are “oppressed” for such? Why apologize for your rate of progress when it took the United States two hundred years, until 1920, to grant women the right to vote? American women are paid seventy-five cents to the dollar compared to men; the Prophet’s first wife was his employer, a successful and powerful businesswoman.

Another wife, Aisha, fought in battle alongside men, and Islam forbids racism. How then did it take until 1963 after riots and protests before blacks were granted civil rights, the end to segregation, and freedom? Bias remains rampant and races still do not mix freely.

Why can the US government attack any Arab nation when not one Arab state has ever threatened America? Is this “democracy”? More importantly, is this what you want?

Of course, there is much to fix within the Kingdom. All regions rise and fall. There is little difference in the speed of bureaucracy between Saudi Arabia and Sweden or France; ministers settle in to roles of government power and have no desire for change.

You have a ready-made group available for pressing issues: The mutawa could be assigned to fine dangerous drivers (intent to kill is haraam) or punish anyone seen littering: It is a disgrace to the religion, the environment and people’s health.

Globalization and technology are here to stay, so as Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab brought reform for the sake of unity in the eighteenth century, again use ijtihad (individual interpretation) and contextualization to unite for the sake of the Kingdom, Islam, and national pride.

There is indeed something enigmatic about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — perhaps the people, perhaps the history, perhaps the land. Had I the chance to stay I would have searched until I found an answer. A piece of my heart remained in the Kingdom. I can only hope that I may soon return to find out why.

— Tanya C. Hsu is the author of the forthcoming book, “Target: Saudi Arabia”. She may be reached at

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California hit by (another) big earthquake
Wednesday June 15 2005

A large earthquake has struck just off the coast of northern California, sparking a temporary tsunami warning.

There are no reports of casualties and the tsunami warning, stretching from Mexico to Canada, has been cancelled.

The quake happened 10km under the sea at 8pm on Tuesday evening local time, and measured 7 on the Richter scale.

Witnesses reported that buildings shook following the Califirnian earthquake, but so far there have been no reports of damage.

Emergency warning

In Crescent City, about 483 km north of San Francisco, telephone lines were jammed and local residents left low-lying areas near the coast, after an emergency warning siren sounded.

But officials soon gave the all clear and people returned to their homes.

Comment: This is the second major earthquake in as many days to hit off the California coast and the latest in a series that has been rocking the California region for the last few months. Can "the big one" really be far behind?

But, then again, who cares? With our busy "important" lives, who has time to stop and think about the implications of such things? Who is interested in the historical archeological, paleontological and dendrochronological evidence showing that our planet has gone through what appear to be CYCLICAL catastrophes and that we are OVERDUE for the next one?

If you are one of those people that might be interested in facts that have profound significance for the entire human race, then you may want to read Laura Knight-Jadczyk's seminal work: "The Secret History of the World".

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