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Goodyear blimp crashes

Jun. 17, 2005. 09:09 AM

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. — A Goodyear blimp crashed last night in a Florida industrial park, authorities said.

The two people on board were not injured.

The Stars & Stripes blimp went down shortly after taking off from Pompano Beach Air Park, where it is based. Both people onboard were trapped briefly while electrical crews cleared the site, authorities said.

Bad weather may have forced the blimp down. There were thunderstorms in the area at the time, authorities said.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration was investigating.

"It went right over our building and was making really loud noises," said Maryann Clark, general manager of a nearby restaurant.

The blimp is one of three Goodyear blimps based in the United States. Goodyear leases about 12 hectares at the air park as a blimp base, the park's website said.

Comment: There is something symbolic in the Stars & Stripes blimp going down in a thunderstorm. Thankfully no one was killed. It brings to mind the May 6, 1937 explosion of the zeppelin the Hindenburg at Lakehurst, New Jersey. The Hindenburg disaster came four years after the Reichstag fire and two years before the invasion of Poland that set off the Second World War. The crash of the Star & Stripes comes four years after 9/11.

Coincidence? Who knows?

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3.5 earthquake hits Sonoma County

Friday, June 17, 2005
(06-17) 21:17 PDT Bodega Bay, Calif. (AP)

A 3.5 magnitude earthquake hit Sonoma County at 8:42 p.m. Friday night.

The quake hit 14 miles southwest of Fort Ross, 26 miles northwest of Bodega Bay.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

"I haven't received any calls," said Bodega Bay Deputy Sheriff Charlie Bone.

Californians have experienced a troubling cluster of earthquakes this week.

A 6.6-magnitude earthquake struck Thursday night off the coast of Northern California just days after a larger temblor in the region generated a tsunami warning that sent residents scrambling.

A magnitude-5.2 quake shook the Anza area of Riverside County in Southern California on Sunday. A temblor of magnitude 4.9 hit earlier Thursday near Yucaipa in San Bernardino County in Southern California.

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Moderate earthquake rocks northern Bulgaria
Bulgarian News Network

SOFIA (bnn)- A moderate earthquake with epicenter in neighboring Romania rattled northernt Bulgaria on Saturday, the national seismological institute said.

It said the temblor measured 4.5 on the Richter scale in Bulgaria's border town of Ruse. No injuries or damages were reported.

The epicenter of the quake was located in the seismic Mount Vrancea in central Romania, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) northeast of Sofia, the report said.

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Hurricanes 'to get stronger'
Alok Jha
Friday June 17, 2005
The Guardian

Hurricanes are likely to get more extreme as a result of climate change, say scientists.

Computer models of the Earth's water cycle suggest that hurricanes will intensify as warmer temperatures draw more ocean water into the atmosphere.

The research follows a record number of hurricanes affecting Florida and typhoons striking Japan last year.

Kevin Trenberth, a researcher at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, who led the research, said warmer seas and increased atmospheric water vapour would add energy to the showers and thunderstorms that fuel hurricanes. "Computer models also suggest a shift ... toward extreme hurricanes," he said.

Most of the hurricanes that strike the US coastline are formed in the tropical north Atlantic, where sea-surface temperatures over the past decade have been the warmest on record.

"Over the 20th century, water vapour over the global oceans increased by 5% and that probably relates to about a 5% increase in intensity and probably a 5% increase in heavy rainfalls," says Dr Trenberth, whose research is published today in Science. "That relates directly to the flooding statistics."

Present models suggest a 7% increase in the moisture in the atmosphere for every degree celsius that the earth warms. As the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases and global temperatures rise, so the amount of water in the atmosphere goes up.

However, the effect of climate change on hurricane numbers and landfalls is uncertain, said Dr Trenberth.

Models disagreed on how global warming might affect the wind sheer that can either support or discourage hurricane formation.

The number of hurricanes and typhoons tends to hold steady from year to year. When activity increases in the Atlantic, it often decreases in the Pacific, and vice versa. So, it is hard to make long term predictions on the number of storms or how they will move.

"There is no sound theoretical basis for drawing any conclusions about how anthropogenic climate change affects hurricane numbers or tracks, and thus how many hit land," said Dr Trenberth.

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In China, cigarettes are a kind of miracle drug
June 11, 2005

GUIYANG, CHINA -- Here's some exciting medical news from the Chinese government: Smoking is great for your health.

Cigarettes, according to China's tobacco authorities, are an excellent way to prevent ulcers.

They also reduce the risk of Parkinson's disease, relieve schizophrenia, boost your brain cells, speed up your thinking, improve your reactions and increase your working efficiency.

And all those warnings about lung cancer? Nonsense.

You're more likely to get cancer from cooking smoke than from your cigarette habit.

Welcome to the bizarre parallel universe of China's state-owned tobacco monopoly, the world's most successful cigarette-marketing agency.

With annual sales of 1.8 trillion cigarettes, the Chinese monopoly is responsible for almost one-third of all cigarettes smoked on the planet today.

If you believe the official website of the tobacco monopoly, cigarettes are a kind of miracle drug: solving your health problems, helping your lifestyle, strengthening the equality of women, and even eliminating loneliness and depression.

"Smoking removes your troubles and worries," says a 37-year-old female magazine editor, quoted approvingly on the website. "Holding a cigarette is like having a walking stick in your hand, giving you support.

"Quitting smoking would bring you misery, shortening your life."

Such statements are widely believed in China. [...]

Comment: The rest of this story is an anti-smoking diatribe. For the other side, check out this....

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The purpose of this website is to assist you in writing a persuasive letter to a friend, a family member or a local legislator, a letter which will persuade that person to quit being an anti smoking health nazi.
This site will provide a wealth of facts, and ideas for presenting them in a persuasive manner.

1) Comprehensive anti-smoking campaigns were invented by the Nazi Party of Germany:
Yes, THAT Nazi Party - the one responsible for World War Two, the one that was responsible for the murders of as many as 6 million Jews and possibly 10 million other innocents. The one that systematically murdered persons with deformities and other physical or mental disabilities, within their own country's population.
This fact was first made public by Professor Robert Proctor's "The anti-tobacco campaign of the Nazis: a little known aspect of public health in Germany, 1933-45". Proctor reveals that members of the medical profession in Nazi Germany were instigators, enablers and purveyors of all manner of horrific and murderous schemes - and were also fanatical anti-smoking campaigners;

"Medical historians in recent years have done a great deal to enlarge our understanding of medicine and public health in Nazi Germany. We know that about half of all doctors joined the Nazi party and that doctors played a major part in designing and administering the Nazi programmes of forcible sterilisation, "euthanasia," and the industrial scale murder of Jews and gypsies."

"Germany had the world's strongest antismoking movement in the 1930s and early 1940s, supported by Nazi medical and military leaders worried that tobacco might prove a hazard to the race. Many Nazi leaders were vocal opponents of smoking. Anti-tobacco activists pointed out that whereas Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt were all fond of tobacco, the three major fascist leaders of Europe--Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco--were all non-smokers."

2) Anti smoking health nazis twist, distort and betray the noble principles upon which the medical sciences are founded:
Those principles have always held that the treatment of sick and injured persons is the sole focus of a physician's work. The original Hippocratic Oath specifically forbids medical professionals from concerning themselves with their patient's personal affairs or revealing such matters to others.

By contrast, anti smoking health nazis are intrusive busy-bodies and gossips, self-appointed managers of other people's personal affairs. Rather than treating the sick, health nazis advocate "preventing illness" and "promoting wellness" by inventing ways to force people - who are not even ill - to live their lives in ways health nazis claim will be least likely to result in illness.

Anti smoking health nazis perversion of the centuries-old approach to medicine - helping the patient live his life in the manner that suits him best by treating whatever illness might arise from the patient's choices - into a doctrine of controlling potential patients and sabotaging their ability to live their lives by their own free choices, twists the noble medical caduceus into this;

3) Anti smoking health nazis STINK!:
Health nazis give off a foul reek of self-righteousness. The stench of their arrogant claims to know better than you do, what is best for you in your life - and the putrid odor of their hypocrisy in claiming to care about the wellbeing of people that they are doing everything they can, to tax into bankruptcy, to alienate from their friends and family, to turn into social outcasts and ban from public view entirely - this stink not only guarantees health nazis will be the last ones asked to dance at a party, but also clings to anyone they associate with.

4) Anyone who believes that forcing their friends and loved ones to give up freely chosen behaviors will "save their lives", is hopelessly deluded:
You can't save someone's life unless they are in immediate danger of dying! Paramedics sometimes save lives, as do surgeons, police officers and firemen. Busy-bodies who harass people they know to quit smoking, lose weight, exercise more often, eat this thing, don't eat that thing, etc. have never and will never "save someone's life". Anti smoking health nazis' pathetic attempts to leech off some of the glory that is rightly due to those who really do save lives, demonstrates they must understand - deep down inside themselves - that they are nothing but annoying little non-entities with no life, and so desperate to be 'important' that they would debase the acheivements of true heroes in our society by falsely claiming to "save lives" themselves.

5) Health nazis always come to a bad end:
History demonstrates that anti smoking health nazis end up suffering all the financial loss, pain, public humiliation, and social ostracism that they attempt to inflict on others.

The crazed fanatics who devised and ran Nazi Germany's anti-smoking campaigns all got what was coming to them, in the end. Robert Proctor says;

"Karl Astel, head of Jena's Institute for Tobacco Hazards Research (and rector of the University of Jena and an officer in the SS), committed suicide in his office on the night of 3-4 April 1945.
Reich Health Fuhrer Leonardo Conti, another anti-tobacco activist, committed suicide on 6 October 1945 in an allied prison while awaiting prosecution for his role in the euthanasia programme.

Gauleiter Fritz Sauckel, the guiding light behind Thuringia's antismoking campaign and the man who drafted the grant application for Astel's anti-tobacco institute, was executed on 1 October 1946 for crimes against humanity."

6) Anti smoking health nazis CAN QUIT!
It is true that sticking your nose in other people's business, trying to run their lives for them, and fascist impulses to force others to conform to your personal ideals about "healthy living" are all as addictive as heroin or cocaine use.

There is hope, however! You don't have to go on being a pointless pain in the backside to everyone you care about. You really can quit being a health nazi.

Overcoming the addiction to these anti-social and self-destructive behaviors is actually quite simple, but requires committment and perseverance. Here are some things you can do to become a normal person once again;

- Stop making rationalisations for interfering in other people's lives. Recognise that there is no rational justification for your health nazi behaviors, and that these behaviors are driven by deep-seated feelings of your own worthlessness.

- Stop trying to make yourself look and feel important by riding on the coat-tails of genuine health heroes. Confront the delusion that health nazi behaviors can "save people's lives" and accept that you can be a person of value and worth without ripping off glory that doesn't belong to you. Stop telling yourself and others that your health nazi behaviors have anything to do with saving people's lives.

- Get a life! Find genuinely worthwhile, fulfilling and socially positive activities to occupy your time. Volunteer with community agencies, but - tut,tut,tut! - remember your addictions and stay away from anything self-described as "health promotion" or "wellness promotion".

Comment: We received the following from a reader. It gives a glimpse into the ideologues who are bending and twisting scientific research to serve their agendas:

Lately my days are like this: Morning seminars either in the department of physiology or or at the psychiatric institute, then afternoons in the lab working on the genetic expression of dopamine receptors in schizophrenia.

After reading the signs entry on the brains of alcoholics I am reminded of two seminars I attended. Both were presenting research results from two vastly different labs. They don't say anything we don't already know but they are interesting.

At the psychiatric institute the researcher presented the results of her studies on smoking and what it does to the brains of people with a genetic mutation that causes poor conduction of electro-chemical messages due to poor myelination of neurons projecting to glutaminergic neurons. More so the mutation is in one of the many genes linked with schizophrenia and the cognitive deficits like poor sensory motor gating. (BTW It seems smoking helps to reduce deficits by increasing and maintaining the potentiation of these neurons.) When she showed her data the room burst into discussion.

Many of the MDs and PhD said openly that maybe we should reconsider the institution's smoking ban by having smoking rooms for hospital patients suffering from these cognitive deficits. Right now one hospital in town has a smoking room. For me the issue explained so well why a high percentage of schizophrenics are heavy smokers because not only do they have this deficit to contend with, they have cognitive deficits like, poor behavioral flexibility and working memory due to disrupted dopaminergic transmission as well. More interesting is that non-schizophrenics could have the mutation and it doesn't mean one can't learn enough to function 'normally' only that it takes much more effort and time to learn compared with one without the mutation and if they have normal dopamine function, they will still want to smoke because it makes up for the glutamate malfunction. The response from the main funder of the research who dutifully sits in on every lab update, was "you can't say that." I only wonder if the researcher (an award-winning one at that), will be brave enough to discuss some of these issues if and when she publishes her results.

In another seminar I attended last week at dept of physiology, another research discussed her research that found a genetic trait that protects smokers from the dreaded lung cancer we hear about. She recounted how even though she is not a supporter of smoking, that she could not omit this solid data from her paper. However,the reviewers gave her hell and she lost funding because it was seen as advocating smoking, even though she said it only applied to those with a specific version of the gene. She had to scramble to find other sources and even used some of her own money to continue researching lung and heart disease because for a while the only ones willing to fund her studies,which she refused, were the tobacco companies. At least her paper made it to publication; the first researcher I'm not sure will.

In essence smoking increases cognition but you all know that already. For those interested in dopamine, serotonin, glutamate and their implications in disorders such as schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder autism and the like the research is interesting. The synapes of the former two neurotransmitters have been an intense target area for the pharmaceuticals (prozac anyone?). Also, the chromosomes # and position of these genes that affect these neurotransmitters read like a prime number game.

I am only now beginning to have a better understanding of why the hyperdimensional genetic engineers may have chosen those particular genes for manipulation of our 'uplink'. They certainly know how to use the primes.

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Elderly woman dies at a military roadblock near Bethlehem
Saed Bannoura, IMEMC & Agencies - Friday, 17 June 2005

A Palestinian medical source in Bethlehem reported that a 70-year-old died on Gilo checkpoint, near the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

The source stated that Zahra Issa Zboun, 70, from al-Azza refugee camp in Bethlehem, died after the Israeli soldiers barred her from crossing into Jerusalem to conduct Friday prayers at al-Aqsa mosque, in Jerusalem.

Zboun was waiting under the sun for several hours, which increased the level of her blood pressure, especially amidst the extremely hot weather in the area.

Soldiers forced Zboun, along with hundreds of residents to wait under the son for longs periods without allowing them to cross into Jerusalem.

Soldiers, and since early morning hours closed several roadblocks and crossings in the Palestinian territories barring the residents from moving between the Palestinian area, in addition to closing the Rafah border crossing leading to Egypt, and the Eretz crossing which leads to the industrial zone in the Gaza Strip, and to Israel.

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Ran HaCohen: The Quiet Occupation
Friday, June 17 2005
By Ran HaCohen

(ANTIWAR.COM) - What is the first picture the term "occupation" raises in our mind? Probably some kind of extreme violence among civilians: lethal fire in the middle of town, terrified kids in pajamas watching heavily armed soldiers searching a house, a helicopter firing a missile in the midst of Gaza. All these violent scenes do happen, but they do not give an adequate picture of what the occupation really looks like.

Very few people realize that Israel has turned life in the occupied territories (Israeli settlers excluded) into complete misery without any need to fire a single bullet. A unique, invaluable glance into the mechanisms that constitute this "quiet" occupation, usually hidden behind the literal smokescreen of violence, is given by the first annual report of the Israeli human rights group Machsom Watch, presented in a press conference in Tel Aviv last week.

West Bank Checkpoints: The Basics

Machsom – "roadblock" in Hebrew – stands for a whole arsenal of obstacles spread throughout the occupied territories: temporary or permanent roadblocks, manned checkpoints or roads closed off by heavy cement blocks, gates in the Wall, earth mounds, trenches, observation towers. The least known but most significant fact about these various physical obstacles is that almost all of them are NOT "border checkpoints" located between Israel and the occupied territories; almost all of them are placed WITHIN the occupied territories, hampering the movement from one Palestinian town or village to another.

Within the last four years – signs were clear enough in early 2002 – Israel made every movement of every Palestinian dependent on Israeli permit. Incredible, but true: a Palestinian wishing to get out of (or reenter) his or her immediate surrounding – a town, a village, a neighborhood, or just an arbitrarily cut-off part of a village – has to get a permit from Israel in advance and show it at every Israeli-manned checkpoint. You cannot just go to work, to do some shopping or business, to school, to visit family or friends, to a hospital – you have to go through one or several Israeli checkpoints first.

The numbers are horrifying. The UN's Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (OCHA) counted in November 2004 not less than 719 (!) physical obstacles throughout the West Bank. Machsom Watch reports that less than 70 of them were removed in the recent "calm" period, some only to be replaced by the rapidly progressing Wall. An army general reported that the 25 central checkpoints under his command required 1,000 soldiers, and up to 5,000 soldiers are employed on special alerts (Ha'aretz, July 22, 2003); no wonder the checkpoints are consistently undermanned, resulting in endless queues.

None of the more than 2 million Palestinians in the West Bank thus live more than a couple of miles away from a roadblock or checkpoint. A short route through the West Bank would inevitably take you through several Israeli checkpoints, some of them five minutes' ride from each other. Lucky to have gone through one checkpoint? The next one is just a few minutes ahead, where you'll have to start all over again.

Checkpoints are closed on Israeli, Jewish, Muslim, and other holidays and public occasions, paralyzing Palestinian economic and social life. Machsom Watch reports that

"From March to May [2004], a closure was imposed that included full encirclement in many areas of the West Bank. The closure started for the Passover holiday, continued uninterrupted until Israeli Independence Day (several weeks later) and from then to the Likud party's referendum, and it was finally lifted after the Final Four playoff games."

A Personal Aside

When I was 18, I had my basic training with an Israeli infantry unit notorious for its ferocity. The most difficult aspect of the 100 days I spent there, in early 1983, was not the physical hardship: it was bad enough, but a piece of cake compared to the permanent stress caused by the intentional, systematic policy of keeping the new recruits under complete uncertainty. We had no idea what might happen a few minutes later – would we be taken to a lecture, a physical exercise, a meal, or moved to a remote base? We were sent to bed late at night only to be awakened half an hour later; a weekend off at home would be announced and withdrawn several times till Friday afternoon; and individual soldiers would be punished for no clear reason. As my officer later told us, the idea was to "break us down as civilians in order to rebuild us as soldiers." At least the first part was accomplished successfully: The unbearable stress caused many of us severe mental damage, like shock, identification with the aggressor, or post-traumatic syndromes.

Through the Checkpoint

Machsom Watch activists say they have seen the idea behind the checkpoints policy actually written in a military document: Keeping the Palestinian population under permanent uncertainty. Precisely the same principle, then, used to "break down" recruits during basic training, is applied to an entire population, children and adults, women and men, sick and elderly. The checkpoints are at the heart of this policy.

The moment you start a journey through the West Bank, you are no longer master of your time. You do not know whether you'll be able to make it at all, nor even roughly how long it will take. Due to "surprise checkpoints" and checkpoints manned only during certain hours, you cannot even tell how many checkpoints you'll have to go through. Any checkpoint can be closed at any time, without prior notice nor any indication whether and when it will reopen. You can pass three checkpoints on your way, only to be stopped at the fourth. Crossing a checkpoint can take minutes or hours, due to unpredictable queues. The army may also suddenly impose the notorious "Stop All Life Procedure" – a total freeze on movement that lasts for hours at a time.


Even when a checkpoint is open, individuals are exposed to extreme arbitrariness and uncertainty. Having a permit is a necessary condition to pass through the checkpoint, but not a sufficient one. With a hardly noticeable gesture of his or her finger, a 19-year-old soldier may decide your document needs "inspection" and detain you. Such a detention can take 20 minutes; but it can also take several hours, during which you have to wait in the unroofed Jora ("hole" in Arabic, "sewage hole" in Hebrew), where you may be ordered to remain standing, or to sit on the ground facing the wall. If you are a bus driver, all your passengers will have to wait with you. Your document may be sent for inspection immediately; but it may have to wait until 20 or 30 other documents are accumulated and sent together. When it returns with an OK, you may proceed; but some documents often get lost in the process.

Who is detained? Here are some answers Machsom Watch activists got from checkpoint soldiers: "Anyone who looks stressed" (under these circumstances, who wouldn't?); "Every ninth man"; "Everyone called Mohammed"; "Everyone who wants to go through my checkpoint." Arbitrariness incarnate. Many soldiers refer to detention at checkpoints as a kind of punishment or "educational measure," and even order those in charge: "Detain this guy for a long time."

English Weather

Behind this system are myriads of human beings with sometimes heartbreaking stories – the arrested kidney patient, the beaten student. Some of these stories clearly fall under abuse. Israel's efficiency in turning Palestinian life into hell disappears when complaints are to be processed: out of 100 complaints sent by Machsom Watch in 2004 to several state and army offices, 87 percent were ignored or insufficiently answered. Two years ago, the army admitted that out of 1,200 "inquiries" into checkpoint complaints, only 18 had led to military police investigations; the rest – 98.5 percent – had been shelved (Ha'aretz, July 22, 2003).

But it is important not to let the cases of abuse distract from the "normal" routine: Palestinian daily life is unbearable even on what Machsom Watch activists call "an English weather," i.e., a usual day without any exceptional event. If the roots of Palestinian frustration, despair, and violence – "terrorism," if you like – are to be sought, the checkpoint system is an excellent place to start.

Comment: It is clear that Israeli government oppression of Palestinians has little to do with security concerns and everything to do with harassing and often murdering Palestinian civilians and leaders in order to prevent them from establishing themselves as a independent people with a sovereign voice on the world stage.

Central to this goal is the continued portrayal of any Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation as "terrorism" when, in reality, resistance (including armed) to an occupying power is a fundamental right laid down in the article four of the third Geneva Convention.

However, according to humanitarian law, in order to lawfully use force in a conflict you must first be designated a lawful 'combatant'. To be a 'combatant', you have to belong to an 'armed resistance group' and that group must belong to a 'party' to the conflict. It is in this fact that we find one of the chief reasons why Israel will NEVER willingly allow the creation of a Palestinian state.

As long as Palestine does not have official state status, any Palestinian resistance group cannot claim to be a party in the conflict and must remain a simple independent resistance group, or a "terrorist" group in modern parlance.

Not only did the developed world oversee the theft of Palestinian land in order to create the state of Israel in 1948, but in continuing to refuse to lobby for an independent Palestinian state, they ensure that any Palestinian resistance to Israeli aggression is delegitimised in advance.

The day that Palestine is recognised as an independent state by the world (don't hold your breath) is the day that Israel will no longer be able to bulldoze Palestinian homes or execute Palestinian school children and claim that they are "fighting terrorism". On that day, Palestinian resistance will be legitismised and the actions of the IDF recognised for the war crimes that they are.

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Israel to build underwater barrier
MIddle East Online

JERUSALEM - Israel is to build an underwater security barrier on its coastal border with the Gaza Strip in a bid to prevent infiltrations from the sea by would-be Palestinian attackers, security sources said Friday.

The navy-built barrier is expected to stretch nearly one kilometre (about half a mile) out into the Mediterranean Sea.

The first 150 metres will be a concrete wall with its foundations buried into the seabed near the northern Gaza Strip. A floating metal fence will then stretch for another 800 metres, according to a report in the English-language Jerusalem Post.

The barrier "consists of elements that are above and below the water level," a security source told AFP.

"In order to provide protection for the Israeli homefront and in order to prevent infiltrations of terrorists via the sea, the navy is establishing a security system which will help stop such infiltrations and alert the security forces," the source said.

When the Israeli military pulls out of the Gaza Strip later this month, it will lose a naval base in southern Gaza, which is home to a vast surveillance system. Some have speculated that the impending base loss provided the impetus for Israel to announce the underwater fence project.

Israel is currently building a massive barrier across the West Bank in what it also says is a bid to stop attacks. The barrier has been hugely contentious because it often juts into Palestinian territory, leading to accusations that its real intent is to pre-empt the final borders of the Palestinians' promised future state.

Comment: And all because the Zionist Israeli government refuses to agree to a just settlement with the Palestinian people, preferring instead to continue to heighten tensions and provoke the large scale war that now seems all but inevitable.

If we look objectively at the psychology of the Israeli Palestinian conflict we realise that the unreasonable hatred and aggression that shown by the current Israeli government towards the Palestinian people is, strangely enough, a result and legacy of the illegal and unjust theft of Palestinian land by previous Israeli administrations. One might think that the majority of any resentment would be the right of the dispossessed Palestinians, yet this is not the case as the index of Palestinian Vs Israeli fatalities shows. What seems to be the case is that that the very fact of the continued existence of the Palestinian people is a daily reminder, not only to Israel but to the world, of the injustice upon which the modern state of Israel was founded and indeed the lie that is the Zionist biblical claim to Jewish specialness and their claim to their "ancestral homeland", bestowed upon them by the fictional Yahweh.

Like a murderer who has somehow subverted the course of justice and walked free, those people who constitute the power elite in Israel will stop at nothing to obliterate the eyewitnesses to their crime. In the case of Israel, there are approximately 2.5 million 'eyewitnesses' in the occupied Palestinian territories, and Israel, aided and abetted by the "Zionists" currently occupying the halls of power in Washington, are preparing the ground for a final solution that will allow them to 'clear' their collective conscience.

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Downing Street Memos: Impeachment For Bush?
SOTT Analysis
Jim Staley

Last night, cspan2 ran the coverage of the meeting/hearing held by John Conyers in a basement room in the House on Thursday, June 16, 2005 at 2:30pm.

This "hearing" was held to determine whether or not there is enough within the Downing Street Memo to begin impeachment proceedings against Bush et al. Joe Wilson, the career state department pro whose wife was outed as a CIA Agent by the Bushies; Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq and who is the head of Gold Star Families for Peace; Paul Bonifaz, lawyer who is head of, who is spearheading the legal end of the impeachment efforts, and Ray McGovern, ex Cia analyst and head of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, (and who seems to be reading the SOTT page) were on the panel. Many Democrat Congressmen and women were also in attendance.

All commented on how the Republican leadership of the Judiciary Committee would not let them have a regular meeting room and relegated them to the aforementioned basement room which was small, cramped and apparently warm. Also, they all mentioned how over 11 votes were scheduled for the same time the hearings were on, which was cited as a ploy to disrupt the meeting/hearing. More than one congressperson directly said the republicans are engaging in a cover up of the Downing Street Memo.

Now, what I came away with after watching the three hour meeting is that these people are very strongly convinced that they have a smoking gun in the form of the Downing Street Memo(s), and that they are not going to be sidetracked or stopped in their pursuit of Bush and the fact that he lied to Congress and the American people to get the war with Iraq underway. They are hell bent on pursuing impeachment. After the meeting they were to head to the White house to hand deliver Conyers letter to Bush with the by now 122 signatures of congressmen and over 500,000 signatures of citizens, as discussed on yesterdays' SOTT page.

The Bush administration's refusal to respond to these developments, and the very developments surrounding the Downing Street Memo(s), lead me to think only one thing: this whole episode is destined to shortly be overtaken by events. What the events will be is open to speculation, another large scale attack? Who knows, but it just seems like Conyers is putting Bush in a corner, and thus, who knows what will happen. If anything untoward is going to happen, it seems it might be sooner rather than later.

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Democrats call for inquiry into 'Downing Street Memo'
Last Updated Thu, 16 Jun 2005 22:04:17 EDT
CBC News

Senior Democrats are calling for a full investigation into a memo that appears to accuse U.S. President George W. Bush of misleading Americans into backing the war with Iraq.

Bush has always maintained that "the use of force has been and remains our last resort."

But the memo, called the Downing Street Memo, could be the first documentary proof that Bush deceived the American people.

During a forum organized by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee held to investigate the implications of the memo, Rep. John Conyers said the document "means that more than 1,600 brave Americans and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis would have have lost their lives for a lie."

"Quite frankly, the evidence that appears to be building up points to whether or not the president has deliberately misled Congress to make the most important decision a president has to make, going to war," said Rep. Charles Rangel.

The memo is based on a briefing given to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top security advisers in July 2002, eight months before the war.

Labelled "top secret," the memo summarizes a report from Richard Dearlove, the head of British intelligence, who had just met senior Bush officials in Washington.

The memo says: "Military action was now seen as inevitable."

That "Terrorism and WMD [weapons of mass destruction]" would be used to justify the war.

But, the memo says, "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Neither Bush nor Blair has challenged the authenticity of the Downing Street Memo. But earlier this month both said it is wrong.

"The facts were not being fixed in any shape or form," said Blair.

"Somebody said we had made up our mind to use military force to deal with Saddam [Hussein]," said Bush. "There is nothing further from the truth. My conversation with the prime minister was how we can do this peacefully."

A separate document says Blair pressured Bush to take his case to the United Nations to give a legal justification for the war.

Michael Smith, the reporter for the Sunday Times who obtained the leaked memos, said that was a brilliant case of misdirection.

"The whole business about going to the UN is not to avert war, but actually to get an excuse to carry out war. And I think that's the killer document for me."

At the hearing, Democrats called for a congressional investigation and some witnesses said Bush may have to be impeached.

"It is a high crime to engage in a conspiracy to deceive and mislead the American people about the basis for taking the nation to war," said constitutional lawyer John Bonifaz.

The U.S. media have given scant coverage to the Downing Street Memo, so it may not have much of an impact in Washington.

On Thursday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan dismissed the allegation in the Downing Street Memo. He said the Democrats were "simply trying to rehash old debates that have already been addressed. And our focus is not on the past. It's on the future and working to make sure we succeed in Iraq."

But what is having an impact is the surging number of American soldiers killed or wounded in Iraq. New poll numbers now show that most Americans feel the war wasn't worth fighting.

Comment: We've talked a lot about the Downing Street memo. We think that it is the evidence needed, as if more evidence were in fact needed, to show that Bush's mind was made up and the rest was theatrics.

Will it lead to Bush's impeachment?

If the coverage of Conyers' meeting from the Washington Post is any indication, don't count on it... see the following:

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Mocking the Downing Street Memo
By Robert Parry
June 18, 2005
If American progressives think they have enough media clout to make a real issue of George W. Bush’s possible impeachment over the Iraq War, they should read the account of Rep. John Conyers’s rump hearing on the Downing Street Memo that appeared in the Washington Post.

The story by political correspondent Dana Milbank drips with a sarcasm that would never be allowed for a report on, say, a conservative gathering or on a topic involving any part of the American political spectrum other than the Left.

“In the Capitol basement yesterday, long-suffering House Democrats took a trip to the land of make-believe,” Milbank wrote. “They pretended a small conference room was the Judiciary Committee hearing room, draping white linens over folding tables to make them look like witness tables and bringing in cardboard name tags and extra flags to make the whole think look official.”

And the insults – especially aimed at Rep. Conyers – just kept on coming. The Michigan Democrat “banged a large wooden gavel and got the other lawmakers to call him ‘Mr. Chairman,’” the snide article said. [For the full flavor, see the Washington Post’s “Democrats Play House To Rally Against the War,” June 17, 2005]

Washington Post editors – having already dismissed the leaked British government documents about the Iraq War as boring, irrelevant news – are now turning to the tried-and-true tactic for silencing any remaining dissent, consigning those who won’t go along to the political loony bin.

Those of us who have covered Washington for years have seen the pattern before. A group without sufficient inside-the-Beltway clout tries to draw attention to a scandal that the Post and other prestigious news arbiters have missed or gotten wrong. After ignoring the grievances for a while – and sensing that the complainers have no real muscle – the news arbiters start heaping on the abuse.


A previous example is the way the major newspapers reacted to Gary Webb’s San Jose Mercury-News series in 1996, which alleged links between the CIA, the Nicaraguan contra rebels and cocaine traffickers in the 1980s.

At first, the big papers were silent about this upstart challenge to their long-standing dismissal of the contra-cocaine issue as a “conspiracy theory.” But when the story spread on the Internet and was taken up by the African-American community, the major newspapers lost their patience. They attacked the stories as nonsensical, called blacks “conspiracy prone,” and destroyed Webb’s career.

Rather than reexamining the contra-cocaine evidence seriously, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times simply cast the issue outside the realm of rational discourse.

Even when the CIA’s inspector general issued reports in 1998 stating that the contra-cocaine connection actually was worse than had been known – and admitting that the CIA had protected some drug traffickers – the major media made only slight adjustments to the contemptuous tone that had long surrounded the issue.

Hounded out of journalism and running out of money, Webb committed suicide last December, an event that prompted hostile obituaries from the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers. [See’s “America’s Debt to Journalist Gary Webb” or Robert Parry’s Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press and Project Truth.]

Right’s Reaction

The Right’s experience has been different. After Richard Nixon’s resignation over the Watergate scandal in 1974, conservatives recognized the political danger that came from the media’s power to set the parameters of permissible debate.

So, over the past three decades, the conservative movement has invested billions of dollars to build a protective wall around itself and its issues through the creation of its own media infrastructure. [For details, see Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq.]

Now, the conservative media has the power to inflict as much – or more pain – on the mainstream media as the mainstream media can on conservatives. In other words, between the Mainstream and the Right in Washington, there is now a balance of fear.

Indeed, Dana Milbank, as the Post’s White House correspondent, has drawn conservative ire from time to time for not showing sufficient respect for George W. Bush. But if Milbank were tempted to write an over-the-top attack on Bush – like he did on Conyers and the Downing Street Memo hearing – he would pay a high price from retaliating conservatives who would accuse him of bias and flood his editors with complaints.

Almost certainly, Milbank would have second thoughts about such an article or his editors would for him. Without doubt, the story would not have appeared in the openly insulting form that it did when Democrats and liberals were the target.

Though no one wants to say it, everyone in mainstream journalism knows intuitively that there is no real risk in ripping liberals. Most often, it’s a win-win. Not only can you write almost whatever you want, but it buys the journalist a measure of protection from conservatives, who have a long record of costing reporters their jobs.

Milbank, for instance, must know that his putdown of the Downing Street Memo hearing means he can wave the article in front of Bush supporters the next time they criticize something he’s written about the president.


The reason for that part of the dynamic is largely that funders on the Left – unlike their counterparts on the Right – have chosen over the past three decades to divert money away from media into other priorities, such as “grassroots organizing” or direct-action projects, such as feeding the poor or buying up endangered wetlands.

Sometimes this refusal by wealthy liberals to “do media” seems so extreme that one has to wonder whether – except perhaps for some indigenous tribes in the jungles of Borneo – any group on the planet has less a grasp of the importance of information and media than American liberals do.

Even the Arabs – not usually known as information pioneers – have learned how investments in media, such as the satellite news channel al-Jazeera, can change the political dynamic of an entire region.

Though there have been a few positive developments in liberal media – particularly the growth of AM progressive talk radio at Air America and Democracy Radio – Left funders still show few signs of understanding how valuable media could be to a liberal political renaissance.

The latest trend in liberal grant-giving has been for “media reform,” such as trying to “save PBS” even as it adds more and more conservative programs. But the Left funders still shy away from the construction of media outlets and the creation of independent journalistic content.

Without that strong media, liberals can do little more than gnash their teeth when the Washington Post and other mainstream news outlets banish issues like the Iraq War deceptions beyond the bounds of Washington debate. [For more on the Post’s treatment of this issue, see’s “LMSM – the ‘Lying Mainstream Media.”]

Certainly, any thoughts about impeaching Bush are little more than pipedreams given the reality of today’s national media. In that sense, the Post’s attacks on the Downing Street Memo hearing should serve as a splash of cold water in the face of the American Left.

While Web sites and progressive talk radio have helped puncture the image of Bush’s invulnerability, a much broader media infrastructure would be needed if issues, such as the Iraq deceptions, are to be forced consistently into the national debate.

Comment: What's with this? Ridicule because these people want an investigation that should have happened years ago? From the Washington Post, that brave and courageous paper that broke Watergate, leading to the demise of the despicable Richard Nixon? Watergate served a great purpose in promoting the ideal of the investigative journalist and the power of the press to ensure the overthrow of corruption when the Republic goes bad. Trouble is, that was over thirty years ago. Where are they now? They are the propaganda voices of the White House.

Reading the day's news from the US leaves when with the strong impression of a country completely isolated from the rest of the world. Its view of itself and its view of the rest of the world is so different from the reality that if it were a person, this person would be locked away for being delusional. But like any psychopath, it can be charming. US culture is the charm that is seducing people the world over: its music, its television, its movies. Like the psychopath, it has a thousand stories to tell that fascinate and seduce and lull the listener while looking for ways to take advantage.

The ridicule thrown in the face of Conyers and the others who are investigating the memo and the possibility of impeachment is but another manifestation of the rot that has set in. Without a free press there can be no informed citizenry. The rise of the internet permits more voices to be heard, but only to a marginal audience. The majority prefer to sink into their couches and shut off their brains. In a certain sense the memo doesn't bring anything new to the table because it has been clear from the start that Bush was saying whatever he needed to say to whip up the American people to war in Iraq. That the press is dismissing it, though, shows that they are willing and conscious partners in this war, and in its crimes. If the guilty are ever brought before a court, the owners and editors of these papers should join them.

They are at the head of the list of collaborators.

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Yesterday, we ran the following article:

An Open Letter to US Troops in Afghanistan and Iraq

I was a soldier for most of the time between 1970 and 1996. I signed out on my retirement from 3rd Special Forces in Ft. Bragg. I had also served in 7th Special Forces, on three Ranger assignments, with Delta for almost four years, as a Cavalry Scout for a while, and in the 82nd Airborne Division as an infantryman. I started my career in Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

I thugged around in eight different places in East Asia, Latin America, and Africa, where I pointed guns at people. Like you, I was an instrument of American foreign policies ­ policies controlled, then as now, by the rich.

In the course of that career, I heard everything you have heard and felt everything you have felt about "loyalty."

Tricky thing, loyalty.

Nowadays, when I talk with some of you, or when I hear conversations recorded with you, I hear many who have very serious reservations about these wars of occupation. I had more than reservations from the get-go about Iraq and Afghanistan, and I opposed them as hard as I could, and so did millions of other people around the world. [...]

And in these conversations that many of you have with me and thousands of other people, we hear you say ­ more and more often now ­ that you know this war is wrong, but that you have to "do your job," because you are loyal to your buddies; because you feel that you have to back them up; and because if you don't go, someone else will have to. And I respect that sentiment.

But I have to challenge this loyalty thing, and I do it out of respect for you, and because I care about you, and because my own son is back there for his second go-around.

A young friend of mine, Patrick Resta, who recently returned from Iraq, and who is now a member of an organization called Iraq Veterans Against the War, recently told me, "My platoon sergeant tried to get us to violate the Geneva Convention, and when we resisted, he threatened us with punishment. He told us that 'the Geneva Convention doesn't exist in Iraq, and that is in writing at the Brigade level.'" [...]

One of the ways they will get you to do things that you will not want to live with for the rest of your lives is to impose that group-think on you. If one of us is guilty, we are all guilty. And "what happens in Iraq stays in Iraq." This is one of the many ways they take that buddy-to-buddy loyalty and twist it into a way to control you, even when they are trying to get you to violate the law and not only the formal law, but to violate what you know is right, to violate your own conscience and jeopardize your own peace of mind for the rest of your life.

And I'm telling you that you do not owe them or anyone else that kind of loyalty.

They know that many of you know that you were sent to do this thing for a pack of lies about weapons of mass destruction and mushroom clouds over New York City and phony al Qaeda connections (and then when that fell apart, you were there to deliver democracy at gunpoint). So they know that many of you can't stay committed to this violent occupation out of loyalty to that gang of thugs in Washington DC, who are busy every day at home undermi ning the same Constitution you swore to protect (from all enemies foreign and DOMESTIC).

They know that you know that plenty of the officers are out there trying to get new fruit salad medals on their Class-A uniforms, and bucking for promotion, by risking your asses on pointless glory patrols. So they know t hat they can't rely on the loyalty of many of you to the chain of command any more either.

Where do they have to go with this, then, after all? What do they tell you?

"You get out there on that Humvee, and face those IEDs ­ together, as loyal buddies."

"You get out there and ransack people's houses in the middle of the night, and make their babies cry ­ together, as buddies."

"You get out there and set up a road block without Arabic signs or interpreters and get put into that situation where you are tense and don't know, and you shoot up that car and kill parents in front of their children, an d you have to live with that for the rest of your lives ­ together, because you are loyal buddies."

"You get out there and lose life, limb, or eyesight face mental and physical ailments for the rest of your lives together, as an act of loyalty to your buddies."

That's the pressure you have on you today. Cover your buddies, and for some of you, go to Iraq so someone else doesn't take your place.

But let's look at the bigger picture here, and for that I'll take you back to Vietnam, before many of you were born. We heard this same bullsh*t then. Almost verbatim. And do you know what one of the main contributing fac tors was for getting us out of that war?

We quit being good soldiers.

The United States military got to the point where it was no longer an effective fighting force, because US soldiers quit taking orders. It got to the point where an officer who was using his men's bodies to chase medals might find himself on the wrong end of a Claymore mine. Now I'm not advocating that again, and I hope we can stop this before it goes that far. [...]

Comment: Too late. See next article...

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US sergeant charged with murder of officers in Iraq
By Andrew Buncombe in Washington
The Independent
18 June 2005

A US Army sergeant has been charged with murdering two officers in the first alleged case of 'fragging' since the start of the Iraq war.

Alberto Martinez, 37, is being held in a military jail in Kuwait after being charged with the premeditated killing of Cpt Phillip Esposito and Lt Louis Allen. The three men served with the 42nd Infantry Division, a reserve unit drawn from the New York National Guard.

A statement issued by the Pentagon said the officers were killed by a blast in Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, on 7 June. Initial inquiries suggested an enemy mortar blast was responsible, but further investigations found circumstances "inconsistent with a mortar attack". The Pentagon has declined to provide further details.

The case is the first of its kind involving US troops in Iraq, although in April another army sergeant was convicted of fragging (military slang for killing a senior officer). Hasan Akbar killed two officers in March 2003 by rolling grenades into their tent on the Kuwait border as they prepared for the invasion. He has been sentenced to death, the first US soldier convicted of murdering a colleague in war since Vietnam.

A neighbour of Sgt Martinez in Troy, New York, said he had just lost his home to a fire and moved to his childhood home. His mother had died in recent years, the neighbour said.

The bodies of the two dead men have been returned to their families. Lt Allen was buried in Milford, Pennsylvania, where he lived. Denis Petrilak, head teacher at the George Baker High School, where the officer had taught science for the past five years, said: "Today we're just focused on Lieutenant Allen."

Cpt Esposito's mother said her son's wife, Siobhan, and 18-month-old daughter, Madeline, deserved to know the details of his death. He had wanted to be a soldier since he was a boy, she said.

A family friend, Barry Lennihan, said he was a "very, very solid individual". He said Cpt Esposito had attended space camp as a boy and might have been an astronaut if not for imperfect eyesight.

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We are all complicit in these vile acts of torture
Robert Fisk – The Independent June 18, 2005

I still have my notes from a man who knew all about torture, a Druze friend in the 1980s, during the Lebanese war, pleased with himself because he'd just caught two Christian militiamen trying to plant a car bomb on the Beirut seafront. "I saw two Phalangists over there. I knew who they were. They had a bomb in their car. I called the PSP [Walid Jumblatt's Progressive Socialist Party] and they took them off for questioning." What happened to them? "Well, they knew what would happen to them; they knew there was no hope. They were questioned here for a couple of days and then they were taken up to Beit Eddin."

Ah, Beit Eddin, one of the prettiest villages in Lebanon, the palace of the Emir Bashir, site of one of the country’s finest music festivals – run by Jumblatt’s glamourous wife Nora. But Eddin was different in the 1980s. “The guys are always told that they are going to die, that there’s no point in suffering – because they are going to be killed when they talk,” my Druze friend told me. “There’s a centre. They don’t survive. There are people there who just press them until they talk. They put things in a man’s anus until he screams. Boiling eggs, that sort of thing. They kill them all in the end. It’s only a few days and it’s all over. I don’t really like that sort of thing. I really don’t. But what can I do?

It’s a good question again now. What can we do? What can we do when an American president dispatches “suspects” to third world countries where they will be stripped, wired up, electrocuted, ripped open and tortured until they wish they had never be born? What can we do with a prime minister – ours – who believes that information from tortured victims may be of use to us and may be collected by us? How can we clean our hands when we know that men are being subject to “rendition” through our own airports? Doesn’t a policeman have the right to go aboard these CIA contract jets that touch down in Britain and take a look at the victims inside and – if he believes the man may be tortured – take him off the plane?

I started thinking about this in the beautiful little town of Listowel in Co Kerry – not far by chance, from Shannon airport – where I went to give a talk at the recent writers festival. I was handed a flyer by a bearded man in the audience. “Who was on board the CIA-chartered plane Reg No N313P that landed at Shannon on December 2003 en route from Iraq?” it asks.

Now, a little fast checking suggest that the Tralee anti-war group got the details right. And planes have also gone in the other direction – to Uzbekistan and Egypt and other countries where the Geneva Conventions – already disregarded by the lads and lassies in charge of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib – are used as lavatory paper. In Uzbekistan they boil “suspects” in fat. They take out their nails. In Egypt, they whip prisoners and sometimes sodomise them. In one Egyptian prison complex a local human rights group found that guards forced prisoners to rape each other. But no friendly Garda walks up to find out who’s aboard at Shannon. The Irish government will not investigate these sinister flights. Outside, Irish eyes may be smiling. But they won’t be allowed a peek into these revolting aircraft.

It’s not difficult to trace our journey to this perdition. First, we had Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara, who in November 2003 was ranting away at a joint press conference with George Bush, “in the face of terror there must be no holding back, no compromise, no hesitation in confronting this menace”. In tandem with this drivel, we had writers such as David Brooks at the New York Times perniciously asking readers what would happen to “the national mood” when “the news programmes start broadcasting images of brutal measures our own troops will (sic) have to adopt… The president will have to remind us that we live in a fallen world, that we have to take morally hazardous action…” Indeed.

Already there’s an infamous case in Canada of a Syrian-born Canadian citizen who was transiting the United States, who was arrested and put on a plane to Damascus where he was duly tortured until the Syrians decided he had nothing to tell them. Then he came back to Canada – only to find that the Canadian authorities might have tipped off the US spooks that he was a wanted man. Now I’m quite an expert on Syrian torture. A beating is about the best you can expect. But there exists in one of their “mukhabarat” basements an instrument known as the German chair, installed long ago by the now defunct German Democratic Republic. The victim is strapped down and the back then moves inwards until the prisoner’s spine is snapped. A homemade version – the Syrian chair – was nastier. It broke the prisoners back more slowly.

And as we all know – and Saddam’s torture boys were also experts at this – prisoner’s families can be brought to prisons to be beaten, raped, and sodomised if the inmate still refuses to talk. With all this are we now complicit. As long as we send men off to this to this physical hell, we have the electrodes in our hands; we are the torturers. As long as our government accepts information drained out of these emasculated creatures, it is we who are pulling out the fingernails; it is we who are holding the whips.

Mind you, our American friends are already, it seems, dab hands at smearing prisoners with excrement and beating them and – given the evidence I’ve heard from a prisoner who was at Bagram in Afghanistan – sticking brooms up men’s anuses. And, of course, just killing them. Thirty prisoners have now died in US custody. I don’t believe in the few bad apples line. It’s happened on far too great a scale. And how do we excuse this filth? How do excuse ourselves for this immorality? Why, we say, Saddam was worse than us.

Saddam had women raped; he shot them down into mass graves. He was much worse. But if Saddam’s wickedness has to be the tuning fork against which all our iniquities have to be judged, what does that say about us? If Saddam regime is to be the moral compass to define our actions, how bad – how iniquitous – does that allow us to be?

Saddam tortured and executed women in Abu Ghraib. We only sexually abused prisoners and killed a few of them and murdered some suspects at Bagram and subjected them to inhuman treatment in Guantanamo and sent others off to be killed by our “friends” without the embarrassment of being present. Saddam was much worse. And thus it became the inevitable that the symbol of Saddam’s shame – Abu Ghraib – subsequently became the symbol of our shame too.

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Iraq Water Torture
Charles Walker Poff

June 17, 2005 - Centuries ago the Emperor of China would use on occasion what is termed "Chinese Water Torture" whereby the unfortunate victim would be lashed to a table and a water would drop drip by drip hitting between the victim's eyes. Not an especially gruesome torture, as torture goes, but one by its relentless nature would break the victim mentally.

Today the United States is undergoing a somewhat simliar fate on a much grander and bloodier scale in its military occupation of Iraq.

Yesterday a marine dies in Ar-Ramadi, today three soldiers are killed in Tikrit, tomorrow two marines bite the dust in An-Anbar and a soldier has an appointment with Death in Samarra. Yesterday twelve American troopers are wounded in Haditha, today five more wounded in Baghdad, tomorrow seven in Mosul. Yesterday fortified base is mortared, today a suicide car bomb explodes, tomorrow a remote control roadside bomb detonates. Drip by drip American blood, and Iraqi blood on a hundred fold scale, water the burning sands of Iraq.

Fallujah is flattened, Al-Qaim is quashed, Al-Hit hit by missiles. Houses blasted by tanks, orchards bulldozed, innocent Iraqi citizens bound and hooded are trucked to the bowels of American torture chambers. Yet the next day Fallujah fights on, Al-Qaim battles back, and Al-Hit is not "pacified".

At the bottom the grunts openly grumble and count the days left of this futile "tour of duty", hoping only to return home in one piece. Junior Officers voice private doubts on the tactics and strategy, and just as fervently as the lower ranks hope to come home alive.

Flag rank officers, eyeing their next star, wax optimistic about the putative successes which occur under their watch. Of course no officer of flag rank (Brigadier General or Rear Admiral and above) has been killed or wounded and given their position far from danger are much more likely to be injured or killed by a drunken fall than blown to bits by a bomb or shot in a firefight.

At the very top, is the bullshit water torture; whereby the war criminals responsible for this catastrophe subject the citizens of America to an unending barrage of pathological lies, outright evasions, and pure bunkum. Perhaps in telling so many lies, so often, they have come to believe their hallucinations are reality.

The morale of the public sags, undermined by the obvious daily carnage and anarchy which is contrasted by the pollyanna pronouncements of victory in sight. Even the most rabid of warniks and armchair generals have trouble reconciling that rising casulties equal a promising future.

The appeal of a glorious martial death fades and the Armed Forces face a recruiting drought as young sensibly understand that becoming cannon-fodder is not a bright career move. Meanwhile another oil pipeline in Iraq is destroyed yet again, and Congress is told that many more billions of dollars are needed. Another day of pounding blood and treasure into a sand-hole. Drip by drip the Iraqi Water Torture grinds on.

The "Coalition of the Willing" is beset by defectors, as the publics of Spain, Netherlands, and The Phillipines, demand their governments withdraw their troops from Iraq. Drip by drip, soon the only "allies" left are either leaders that don't listen to their public like Great Britian, Australia, and Japan, or leaders who do not allow the public a voice like Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan.

500 dead Americans, 1,000 dead Americans, 1,500 dead Americans, 1,700 dead Americans. 10,000 dead Iraqis, 50,000 dead Iraqis, 100,000 dead Iraqis. Drip by drip. Hour by Hour, Day by Day, Month by Month, Year after Year after Year. Drip by Drip.

Such a torture may not be as graphic as breaking bones, but in the end it breaks the sufferer far more effectively, as the mere sound of water dripping brings to mind horrific and unendurable memories. This is precisely the outcome Chinese Emperors of yore desired.

It is also precisely the outcome the American public must prevent before it erodes the very core of their national soul.

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U.S. Campaign Produces Few Convictions on Terrorism Charges

Statistics Often Count Lesser Crimes
By Dan Eggen and Julie Tate
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, June 12, 2005; Page A01

On Thursday, President Bush stepped to a lectern at the Ohio State Highway Patrol Academy in Columbus to urge renewal of the USA Patriot Act and to boast of the government's success in prosecuting terrorists.

Flanked by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, Bush said that "federal terrorism investigations have resulted in charges against more than 400 suspects, and more than half of those charged have been convicted."

Those statistics have been used repeatedly by Bush and other administration officials, including Gonzales and his predecessor, John D. Ashcroft, to characterize the government's efforts against terrorism.

But the numbers are misleading at best.

An analysis of the Justice Department's own list of terrorism prosecutions by The Washington Post shows that 39 people -- not 200, as officials have implied -- were convicted of crimes related to terrorism or national security.

Most of the others were convicted of relatively minor crimes such as making false statements and violating immigration law -- and had nothing to do with terrorism, the analysis shows. For the entire list, the median sentence was just 11 months.

Taken as a whole, the data indicate that the government's effort to identify terrorists in the United States has been less successful than authorities have often suggested. The statistics provide little support for the contention that authorities have discovered and prosecuted hundreds of terrorists here. Except for a small number of well-known cases -- such as truck driver Iyman Faris, who sought to take down the Brooklyn Bridge -- few of those arrested appear to have been involved in active plots inside the United States.

Among all the people charged as a result of terrorism probes in the three years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, The Post found no demonstrated connection to terrorism or terrorist groups for 180 of them.

Just one in nine individuals on the list had an alleged connection to the al Qaeda terrorist network and only 14 people convicted of terrorism-related crimes -- including Faris and convicted Sept. 11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui -- have clear links to the group. Many more cases involve Colombian drug cartels, supporters of the Palestinian cause, Rwandan war criminals or others with no apparent ties to al Qaeda or its leader, Osama bin Laden.

But a large number of people appear to have been swept into U.S. counterterrorism investigations by chance -- through anonymous tips, suspicious circumstances or bad luck -- and have remained classified as terrorism defendants years after being cleared of connections to extremist groups.

For example, the prosecution of 20 men, most of them Iraqis, in a Pennsylvania truck-licensing scam accounts for about 10 percent of individuals convicted -- even though the entire group was publicly absolved of ties to terrorism in 2001. [...]

Justice Department officials say they have not sought to exaggerate the importance or suspected associations of those prosecuted in connection with terrorism probes, and they argue that the list provides only a partial view of their efforts.

Officials said all the individuals were first put on the list because of a suspected connection or allegation related to terrorism. Last week, they also said that the department had tightened the requirements for including a case on the terrorism list.

Barry M. Sabin, chief of the department's counterterrorism section, said prosecutors frequently turn to lesser charges when they are not confident they can prove crimes such as committing or supporting terrorism.

Comment: In other words, when prosecutors realise that they don't have a leg to stand on, they find some other reason - any reason - to keep the accused locked up instead of releasing them. After all, you can't have a fake war on terror without fake terrorists.

Many defendants also have been prosecuted for relatively minor crimes in exchange for information that is not public but has proved valuable in other terrorism probes, he said.

"A person could not have been put on this list if there was not a concern about national security, at least initially," he said. "Are all these people an ongoing threat presently? Arguably not. . . . We are not trying to overstate or understate what we're doing. You don't want to put language or a label on people that is inconsistent with what they have done."

The Numbers

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Justice Department database has served as the key source of statistics on the status of terrorism investigations in the United States and has been cited frequently in official speeches and testimony to Congress. The list obtained by The Post includes 361 cases defined as terrorism investigations by the department's criminal division from Sept. 11, 2001, through late September 2004. Thirty-one entries could not be evaluated because they were sealed and blacked out. (The list does not include about 40 cases filed since then that account for Bush's total of about 400.) The Post sought to update and correct data whenever possible, including noting convictions or sentences handed down within the past nine months.

The list of domestic prosecutions does not include terrorism suspects held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba or at secret locations around the world. Nor does it include many of the approximately 50 people the Justice Department has acknowledged detaining as "material witnesses," or three men held in a military prison in South Carolina, one of whom has been released. [...]

More than a third of the cases on the list arose from a post-Sept. 11 FBI dragnet, which resulted in the arrests of hundreds of Muslim immigrants for minor violations unrelated to the hijackings or terrorism.

"What we're seeing over time is the equivalent of mission creep: Cases that would not be terrorism cases before Sept. 11 are swept onto the terrorism docket," said Juliette Kayyem, a former Clinton administration Justice official who heads the national security program at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. "The problem is that it's not good to cook the numbers... We have no accurate assessment of whether the war on terrorism is actually working."

Tracking Al Qaeda

Before the Sept. 11 attacks, many veteran U.S. counterterrorism officials assumed that al Qaeda sleeper cells were hiding in the country, awaiting orders to launch attacks. The strikes -- carried out by 19 hijackers who arrived in the United States and trained here undetected -- prompted an aggressive campaign by the Justice Department, the FBI and other agencies to identify al Qaeda operatives on U.S. soil.

The results from the Justice Department database, however, raise the possibility that the presence of al Qaeda operatives and sympathizers within the United States is either limited or largely undetected, many terrorism experts say.

Comment: Why should the author limit our choices to "either limited or largely undetected"? How about "nonexistent"? Or "a massive deception"? If the shoe fits...

"These kind of statistics show that we really don't know if they exist here in any significant way," said Martha Crenshaw of Wesleyan University in Connecticut, who has studied terrorism since the late 1960s. "It's possible that they could have sleepers planted here for a long time and we could always be very surprised. But I'd say that's less likely compared with them trying to repeat a 9/11-style infiltration from the outside."

Other experts and government officials say the relatively small number of domestic terrorism prosecutions is partly the result of the administration's strategy to handle some of its most dangerous suspects -- such as Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed -- outside U.S. courts.

As a result, only a limited number of potentially significant cases have been pursued publicly in U.S. courts.

Viet D. Dinh, a Georgetown law professor who headed the Office of Legal Policy at Justice before and after the attacks, said the primary strategy is to use "prosecutorial discretion" to detain suspicious individuals by charging them with minor crimes.

"You're talking about a violation of law that may or may not rise to the level of what might usually be called a federal case," Dinh said, referring to credit-card fraud and other offenses. "But the calculation does not happen in isolation; you are not just talking about the crime itself, but the suspicion of terrorism. . . . That skews the calculation in favor of prosecution."

Bush administration officials have frequently compared the strategy to the anti-Mafia campaign by former attorney general Robert F. Kennedy, who vowed to prosecute mobsters for crimes as minor as spitting on a sidewalk. But many defense lawyers and civil liberties advocates argue that the Mafia analogy is misplaced.

David Z. Nevin represented Idaho graduate student Sami Omar Al-Hussayen, a Saudi national who was acquitted of federal terrorism charges in a closely watched trial last summer but agreed to be deported rather than fight immigration charges. Nevin said there are key differences between current counterterrorism cases and the prosecutions of gangsters such as Al Capone, who was famously convicted of tax evasion to get him off the street. "Everybody knew that Al Capone was committing murders and was doing all sorts of things. They just couldn't convict him," Nevin said.

"That's fine if you take it as a given that you have the devil here," he continued. "The problem is that you end up with people like Sami Al-Hussayen. . . . Whenever you live in that realm, you're going to make mistakes and you're going to hurt innocent people."

Using One Case to Build Another

In the end, most cases on the Justice Department list turned out to have no connection to terrorism at all.

Comment: Read that sentence again...

They include Hassan Nasrallah, a Dearborn, Mich., man convicted of credit-card fraud who has the same name as the leader of Hezbollah, or Party of God. Abdul Farid of High Point, N.C., was arrested on a false tip that he was sending money to the Taliban and was deported after admitting he lied on a loan application. Moeen Islam Butt, a Pakistani jewelry-kiosk employee in Pennsylvania, spent eight months in jail before being deported on marriage-fraud and immigration charges.

And there is the case of Francois Guagni, a French national who made the mistake of illegally crossing the Canadian border on Sept. 14, 2001, with box cutters in his possession. It turned out that Guagni used the knives in his job as a drywall installer. He was deported in March 2003 after pleading guilty to unlawfully entering the country.

"His case had nothing to do with terrorism, as far as I've ever been told," said Guagni's attorney, Christopher D. Smith.

Some of the cases, however, remain murky. The question of involvement in terrorism lingers even after formal allegations of such ties have been dropped.

Consider the case of Enaam Arnaout, director of the Illinois-based Benevolence International Foundation, who was indicted amid great fanfare in October 2002 for allegedly helping to funnel money and equipment to al Qaeda operatives on three continents. The charity was shut down.

Less than a year later, prosecutors dropped six of the seven charges against Arnaout, and he pleaded guilty to a single count of racketeering for funding fighters in Bosnia and Chechnya. During a sentencing hearing in August 2003, U.S. District Judge Suzanne B. Conlon told prosecutors they had "failed to connect the dots" and said there was no evidence that Arnaout "identified with or supported" terrorism.

The administration views the case differently. Bush, in a speech Friday at the National Counterterrorism Center in Northern Virginia, said investigators had "helped close down a phony charity in Illinois that was channeling money to al Qaeda."

Sabin, the Justice Department's counterterrorism chief, said he could not discuss the specifics of most cases. But he said one case in particular illustrates the government's strategy: the conviction of Abdurahman Alamoudi, who admitted to taking $1 million from Libya and using it to pay conspirators in a scheme to kill Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

Alamoudi, who once worked with senior U.S. officials as head of the American Muslim Council, has agreed to cooperate with federal investigators as part of a plea agreement. Sabin said the case is "a significant success story" that shows how prosecutors can use one case to help build others.

"We have been successful in obtaining information and fueling our intelligence gathering efforts with many of these cases," Sabin said.

Comment: Now add to this charade the fact that many imprisoned terrorist suspects have been tortured, and their "confessions" are therefore completely worthless. It is clear that the Bush regime's so-called war on terror is nothing more than a war on the freedoms of both Americans and peoples around the world.

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Iraq Used For Transit Of Drugs, Officials Say

Smuggling Arrests Up Since U.S. Invasion
By Jonathan Finer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, June 12, 2005; Page A22

BAGHDAD -- The manager of the addiction unit at Baghdad's largest treatment center for substance abusers took a long drag from his Craven cigarette and offered his assessment of the drug problem in Iraq.

"There is no drug problem in Iraq," said Abbas Fadhil Mahdi, a former brigadier general in Saddam Hussein's army who is now a psychiatrist at the capital's Ibn Rushud hospital.

"We have immunity against addiction," he continued. "Islam protects people from indulging in such illicit, harmful intake of substances. And unlike in the West and in America, we have cohesive and supportive extended families. So there is no problem with drugs."

Iraqi government officials and a U.N. agency that monitors drug trafficking disagree. Hamid Ghodse, president of the United Nations' International Narcotics Control Board, said that since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Iraq has become a transit point in the flow of hashish and heroin from Iran and Afghanistan, the world's largest producer of opium poppies, to Persian Gulf countries and Europe.

Comment: Gee, if the US invades Iran, they'll have full control of the distribution and production of drugs destined for Europe and the Middle East! But of course, it's just a COINCIDENCE that, following the US invasion and appropriation of the country of Afghanistan, the opium production skyrocketed!

Under Hussein's authoritarian rule, alcoholism and addiction to medications such as Valium were prevalent, health officials here say. The use of illegal drugs, a subject not discussed publicly, was thought to be rare. But since the invasion, the same porous borders that U.S. and Iraqi officials describe as conduits for foreign insurgents have become well-traveled smuggling routes for drug traffickers, according to U.N. and government officials. As a result, the Health Ministry says, addiction rates are climbing steadily.

High-profile drug busts, once unheard of here, are becoming more common. On Wednesday night in the southern province of Najaf, authorities arrested 20 smugglers trying to move more than 1,500 pounds of hashish into Saudi Arabia using pickup trucks packed with large barrels, according to Brig. Gen. Hussein Ghazali, the border police chief. The street value of the drugs, he said, was nearly $10 million.

"The pattern is similar to what we have seen in other post-conflict situations," Ghodse said at a recent news conference. "Whether it is due to war or disaster, weakening of border controls and security infrastructure make countries into convenient logistic and transit points, not only for international terrorists and militants but also for drug traffickers. It is therefore all the more important that both the government of Iraq as well as the international community act swiftly and take preventive measures before the situation escalates."

A statement released by Ghodse's agency in May said "cases of drug-related intoxication are on the rise in hospitals in Baghdad and around the country."

But interviews with health officials here, and a visit with Mahdi, his patients and his staff at the treatment center's 10-bed inpatient ward, indicate that few, if any, drug addicts are seeking medical help and that the Hussein-era propensity to play down the problem remains.

Only three of the beds were occupied, two by alcoholics and one by a user of Artane, a prescription muscle relaxant used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease. In his two years at the facility, Mahdi said, he had not encountered a single patient addicted to narcotics.

"They want to exaggerate that there are addicts on many drugs," he said of the Iraqi government. "It's for political reasons, so they can say the countries surrounding Iraq don't work to stop smuggling."

One of the patients on the addiction ward, Thamir Kamil Ghassab, 36, said he had checked himself in to the hospital and stayed for eight days because he was drinking more than a pint a day of arrack, a Middle Eastern liquor. He also popped Artane pills, he said. But when asked if he knew of anyone who took narcotics, he recoiled.

"Of course not, we would kill them," he said. "Everything about it is wrong."

That long-standing stigma here surrounding narcotics use discourages addicts from seeking help, making it hard for the government to gather data on drug use and addiction, said Sirwan K. Ali, a psychiatrist at the Health Ministry who manages Iraq's substance abuse control program.

Comment: Note the contradiction between the above paragraph and the views of the Iraqi government and the UN that drug use and trafficking in the country have increased. How can they make such a a statement if the Saddam-era stigma makes it hard for the government to gather data on drug use?

"The drug problem in Iraq is like the early part of an epidemic, a rising storm, and if it increases we cannot withstand the severity because we have no infrastructure to control it, no experience in treating it," he said. "But it is almost impossible for us to know the size of the problem because of the security situation and because it is kept in the dark. Until recently, these things were not spoken about."

Even in the absence of much hard data, the government is taking steps it hopes will prevent the flow of drugs from escalating. When it reestablished capital punishment last year, it made drug dealing the only nonviolent crime punishable by death. The Health Ministry has established committees in each province to monitor what Ali called a "sharp rise" in addiction rates and smuggling.

Last November, when the ministry held its first conference on illegal drugs, it published an illustrated book, "Drugs and Their Influence on Society," which compiled national statistics on arrests and hospitalizations. A drawing on the back cover showed a young man crouching with an agonized expression as a demonic figure emerged from the smoke of his cigarette.

But the assembled data reflected only a fraction of Iraq's drug problem because reporting from provincial health authorities and police was sporadic, Ali said. For example, from May to November 2004, police nationwide reported only nine smuggling incidents and 24 cases of people taking illegal drugs.

But police in several Iraqi provinces say drug arrests have become increasingly common in cities, particularly in Baghdad, Iraq's largest city with about 5 million inhabitants, and in places frequented by religious pilgrims from abroad such as Najaf and Karbala, which are home to Shiite Muslim shrines. Ghazali, the Najaf border police chief, said drug smugglers often bury their contraband in the desert before transporting it into Saudi Arabia.

In its statement last month, the International Narcotics Control Board said that authorities in Jordan had noted a major increase in drug trafficking from Iraq over the previous year and that in April, 3 million pills of Fenethylline, a stimulant with effects similar to amphetamines, had been seized at the Iraqi border. "Significant quantities" of cannabis resin and chemicals used to manufacture heroin had also been discovered, the statement said.

For Iraq's security forces, perhaps the most unsettling recent incident came in late May, when six Iranians were arrested in the northern city of Sulaymaniyah with what police said were large quantities of an unspecified type of narcotics. About 50 gallons of a material described in local news reports as "a precursor to explosives" were also found at the scene, Iraq's al-Watan daily newspaper reported.

Last October, 21 Iranians and Afghans were arrested while trying to enter Iraq with weapons and illegal drugs in their possession, border police in Sulaymaniyah said.

"All of this is because the borders are not well protected," said Waleed Sharka, a member of the Iraqi National Assembly and one of the few politicians to speak out publicly on the issue. "Now the terrorists are bringing the drugs with them."

Comment: How to explain this? Isn't the US government waging a war on drugs?? Well, yes, war and drugs are part of it, but the "on" word is not quite correct, it's more of a war FOR drugs you see...

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Former DEA Agent: Mexican Commandos Killing In South West US To Protect Bush Drug Cartel
Prison Planet | June 9 2005

Retired DEA Agent Celerino "Cele" Castillo III served for 12 years in the Drug Enforcement Administration where he built cases against organized drug rings in Manhattan, raided jungle cocaine labs in the amazon, conducted aerial eradication operations in Guatemala, and assembled and trained anti-narcotics units in several countries.

Cele appeared on the Alex Jones show and dropped the bombshell that los Zetas, Mexican drug commandos trained in the U.S. at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia to be the elite "special forces" of the Mexican military are now murdering police and conducting hits all over the South West US.

This partially came out in the national media last week but the spin was that it was just a case of blowback and that these US trained commandos had come back to haunt their former handlers. The truth is that they are still working for the US government in protecting drug routes to keep the wheels of Wall Street oiled.

These commandos are working directly for the Bush drug cartel in carrying out hits on rival drug smugglers who aren't paying their cut. Witnesses and innocent police, DEA and FBI agents are also being murdered.

Here is the partial transcript from the show. Click here to listen.

Cele Castillo: "That same blueprint they used in Guatamala and in Vietnam they have now brought it to Iraq and the same Colonel who ran the death squads down in El Salvador Colonel James Steele is now running those commando unit death squads in Iraq. So basically we have the same individuals, same cell grups that were in Vietnam that came to central America and Miami and so forth and are now in Iraq and some of them are being trained here in south Texas. There's warehouses down here we're they're training more Zetas individuals that work for the cartels.

Alex Jones: "Now for those that missed that, you have evidence as a former veteran, peace officer and then head DEA agent in Latin America and you live in south Texas, that down there they are training these los Zetas groups and again they're now targeting rival cowboys that are not paying their cut, do you agree with that statement?"

Cele Castillo: "Absolutely but not only that just recently last month we had a female US customs agent driving down the highway and a couple of individuals drove up to her and just shot the hell out of the car and she got hit on the ankle and they're not gonna take any more prisoners. They're now gonna target FBI agents, DEA agents and people that were able to get away from...."

Alex Jones: "And Bush has ordered the border patrol to stand down there in the Tuscon sector because, this was official, because it was cutting in on their drug profits."

Cele Castillo: "Well exactly and now they're planning to come to south Texas and they're gonna do the same thing here in south Texas and there was a story just today in the paper which says border patrol agents say you know what we can't stop these people from coming across the border and the reason that we can't stop them is because our government is not letting us do it."

Alex Jones: "Well I read in the Brownsville paper, the Dallas Moring News you name it that they're conducting murders all over Texas and killing police officers but it's a national secret Cele, it's in regional papers....

Cele Castillo: "Well one of the most major things that people don't realize that's going on is a lot of these people getting murdered are informants for the DEA and FBI and basically people don't wanna admit the fact or let the public know that these people are informants working for the government."

Alex Jones: "Cop killers that work for Bush."

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Abu Ghraib scandal inspires darker work from artist
CBC Arts
Thu, 16 Jun 2005 13:03:36 EDT

A popular Latin American artist known for cheery, rotund portraits has included work depicting the abuse of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib in a new retrospective of his art.

Fans of Fernando Botero heading to the new exhibit at Rome's Palazzo Venezia will still find paintings, sketches and sculptures featuring the Colombian artist's usual jovial and chubby images of everyone from presidents to prostitutes. However the show, which opened Thursday and runs through Sept. 23, also includes work from The Horrors of Abu Ghraib, a series on display for the first time. After reading about the abuse of prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib Prison, Botero was immediately inspired to channel his reaction - anger - into new works, he said at a press conference inaugurating the show in Rome.

"There are a lot of things that hit me, but the torture at Abu Ghraib is something different," Botero, 73, told those gathered. "I didn't expect it, like most people, like the majority of Americans, this conduct from a so-called civilized country."

About 45 of the more than 60 works he has produced since last October are on display in the new exhibit. Botero said he drew from stories in The New Yorker and other media for the series. One painting includes a prisoner stripped from the waist down and another shows prisoners, who have been dressed in women's lingerie, piled on top of each other.

Botero said he hoped the series would be a "permanent witness to a great crime" like Pablo Picasso's mural Guernica, which invoked the tragedies of the Spanish Civil War.

"The first thing I had to do was get it out of my heart, but art has this capacity to keep on accusing and I hope that will be the impact in the long term," he told Reuters.

When the retrospective closes in September, the Abu Ghraib works will be exhibited in Germany and Greece. A U.S. show is scheduled for 2006.

Though he refrained from being political in his art earlier in his career, in 1999 Botero began creating works about the drug wars and the related kidnappings and shootings that affect everyday Colombians. Some of these works have been shown in European museums.

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Zarqawi and the Scarlett Pimpernel
Juan Cole
Informed Comment

WESTLEY: ' Well, Roberts had grown so rich, he wanted to retire. So he took me to his cabin and told me his secret. "I am not the Dread Pirate Roberts," he said. "My name is Ryan. I inherited this ship from the previous Dread Pirate Roberts, just as you will inherit it from me. The man I inherited it from was not the real Dread Pirate Roberts, either. His name was Cummerbund. The real Roberts has been retired fifteen years and living like a king in Patagonia." Then he explained the name was the important thing for inspiring the necessary fear. You see, no one would surrender to the Dread Pirate Westley." '

-William Goldman, "The Princess Bride"

Bill Montgomery's "Form over Substance" goes beyond expressing skepticism about the shadowy stories coming out of Iraq about top aides of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi being arrested. He suggests that the stories are a combination black psy-ops operation to influence public opinion, and scripted Hollywood entertainment value. I would only add that it is now often forgotten that the major politicians running Iraq are the same people who lied to the US public about Saddam's WMD and about Baath links to terrorism, etc. Vice-Premier Ahmad Chalabi, Member of Parliament Iyad Allawi, and others told bald-faced lies or provided to Western intelligence defectors who told bald-faced lies. They told Tony Blair that Saddam could launch a chemical weapons attack on Western interests "within 45 minutes." Chalabi's lies and those of his cronies would fill a multi-volume print encyclopedia. How likely is it that now that they are running the Iraqi government, we can suddenly trust everything their spokesmen tell us? Yet the Western press dutifully reports these allegations about the attrition against the Zarqawi network as though it is gospel. I almost never refer to such reports, because they seem to me obviously questionable and impossible to verify, except that obviously someone continues to go on blowing things up in Iraq despite Iraqi government claims about all these arrests.

Meanwhile, Reuters says that an internet site associated with the Zarqawi network denies that any Zarqawi aides were arrested recently in Iraq or in Spain, as had been reported in the press. There is no way of knowing who posts these supposed communiques, and there is every reason to be suspicious of the information in them.

Comment: We've been repeating it since the name Zarqawi was first linked to Iraq: it is disinfo, a false flag operation, most likely carried out by the Israelis.

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Theocracy Alert - Their God is not on our side
Frank Scott, Online Journal Contributing Writer

June 17, 2005—In the political battle between America's brainless and its gutless, agreement seems clear on one issue. They demand we remain in Iraq until the horrid mess we've created becomes somehow uncreated.

Perhaps when an iraqi teenager takes a gun to school and blows away a dozen classmates we will leave, since they will have finally achieved our level of democracy.

As the death toll and misery increase, the regime and its echo chamber opposition join in stressing the need for Americans to stay until we've corrected all our mistakes, no matter what it costs the Iraqis. A call for immediate troop withdrawal is, so far, drowned out in the din of agreement between the dreadful regime and its dismal opposition.

Will suicide car bombings have to strike America before a majority of the opposition calls for an end to this madness? Must we absorb more tragedy ourselves before we understand how much it hurts others? How many more lies will we tolerate before we demand the truth?

The cover story for destroying Afghanistan was finding Osama bin Laden—remember him? That fable seems forgotten; the warlords never left, the Taliban is back, the drug business flourishes, misery prevails, and our stylishly upscale puppet leader and his regime are helpless outside of downtown Kabul.

The bigger lies about Iraq's hidden weapons are now as believable as its secret plan to invade Cleveland. Should we assume that those who produced these fables are not in jail due to our cherished freedom of expression? Or is it our incredible ignorance? Our freedom does not extend to people of Middle Eastern complexion who fit the terrorist profile formulated by those who profit from this murderous idiocy, inspired by godly revelation, performed with ungodly deceit.

Two years ago, the White House occupant boldly announced "mission accomplished" to his troops. The only accomplishment was a staged photo-op with heroic leader wearing military drag, addressing a phalanx of fawning media stenographers, with backdrop of young warriors such as his wealth enabled him to avoid becoming when he was their age. It was great viewing, for fans of TV wrestling. But thousands have died since then, civil society has broken down, and a government of mostly former exiles has shown its only value is lapdog obedience to American and Israeli direction.

We have reduced a highly developed secular nation with an educated middle class, to a near anarchy of poverty, suffering and sectarian violence. Our military occupation is hated by most Iraqis, regardless of their politics or religion. The sectarian breakdown of their country benefits three forces: Christian fanatics who believe they are doing the work of God; Jewish fanatics who believe they are doing the work of God, and market fanatics who know they are doing the work of God. While the religionists plan their immaterial intimacy with the invisible king of the universe, the corporados get materially rich from rebuilding what their war has destroyed, and cash in on a massive theft of national wealth. But they are not alone in enjoying material benefit from Iraqi suffering.

Israel is especially pleased to see a once powerful Arab nation that refused to give it recognition and aided the Palestinians, reduced to chaos, division and weakness. It was Israel's zealots among American policy makers who played a major role in getting the U.S. to invade Iraq. But whether one of these groups had more to gain should not be a subject for debate. That all are in league is what matters and must be confronted.

While the innocent are programmed to fear Islamic fundamentalism, it is the fanatic forces of Judeo-Christianity's most dangerous sects which are the real threat. The lunatic liaison of evangelical Christians, awaiting "his" rapturous destruction of everything in the universe but them, with believers in a Hebrew messiah and "his" real estate promise of their very own domain, represents a threat to humanity far more serious than alleged Islamic fundamentalism. The temporary unity enjoyed by these disturbed Judeo-Christians will eventually end and find them at each others' throats in their scriptural war of immaterial prophecy. This could be good for humanity, if it only threatened their perverted pipe dreams. But given that these fanatics control the U.S. and Israeli governments and their nuclear arsenals, they could destroy everyone.

The staggering financial cost of this holy war has contributed to a growing loss of faith in the American government. Partisan battles over legislative procedure take precedence over real problems for those who find the cost of gasoline, health care and housing far more important than spending billions to destroy Iraq. Or raising millions for political combat over selecting judges most people won't know or ever deal with. Dividing the nation into fictional blue state and red state opponents only makes sense to the minorities who actually participate in the political party with two wings; the center and the right. The majority of Americans work to support this insanity with their tax dollars. They grow more sickened by the power structure, and therein lies the hope.

If we continue interfering in other people's lives, Iraq, and the Middle East, will be in our cities, our malls and on our highways. We need to avert the disaster of religious lunacy and a maniacal political economy, and take control away from forces bent on destruction. We are ruled by people who should be in an institution, not running it. Religious believers in a God of love and secular believers in a humanity of love need to take matters out of the hands of irrational murders.

The reign of terror instituted by competitive fanatics who worship a God of demonic fear, represents a threat to the future of the human race. It must be so acknowledged, and dealt with. We should begin that process by getting all our troops out of Iraq. Immediately!

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Iraqis struggle to make ends meet as food rations shrink
Louise Roug

June 17 2005 - After his American employers left and monthly food rations began to shrink, Hussein Hadi started selling his furniture. His bed was the last thing to go. Now Hadi, his wife, sister, mother, two brothers, three children and a nephew sleep on his living- room floor in Baghdad, their blankets sewn from flour sacks. Some nights they fall asleep hungry.

"Hope is small," said his wife, Zainab. Like many Iraqis, the Hadis depend on food rations distributed by the government. Sometimes the sugar they receive has been hardened by rainwater and the rice is crawling with maggots. The soap is so harsh it causes rashes. On the rare occasions when the Hadis received all the items - sugar, rice, flour, baby milk, tea, vegetable oil and a few other essentials - they thought themselves lucky.

The United Nations World Food Programme, which monitors the distribution of rations, recently reported "significant countrywide shortfalls in rice, sugar, milk and infant formula".

Families in Baghdad have received no sugar or baby milk since January. Newspapers have also begun reporting that the tea and flour hand-outs contain metal filings and that people have fallen ill after consuming food rations.

Officials with the trade ministry, which is in charge of distributing the rations, said the media have created the crisis. But they have refused to release results of the tests for contamination they said they are doing. Retail agents who sell the food baskets say the ministry is corrupt, a charge supported by Radhi Radhi, the government's anti-corruption chief.

Mr Radhi said in a recent interview that trade ministry officials had spread rumours of contaminated food to discredit the current flour supplier and renegotiate the contract. Some agents speculate that ministry employees have added metal filings to cheat on the parcels' weight. The same employees also sell tea and flour on the black market, agents say.

Like the Hadis, many Iraqi families rely on the heavily subsidised rations, which were previously distributed under the United Nations' oil-for-food programme to mitigate the effect of sanctions after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. After the removal of Saddam Hussein, the programme was handed over to the trade ministry.

More than half of Iraq's population lives below the poverty line. The median income fell from $255 (£144, €211) in 2003 to about $144 in 2004, according to a recent UN survey. Families buy the food baskets for a few dollars at state-licensed shops.

Ahmed Mukhtar, director-general of the ministry, blamed the shortage of rations on security threats that created bottlenecks at the borders with Jordan, Syria and Turkey. "We're attempting to make sure the supplies are safely delivered," Mr Mukhtar said. "Anything that disturbs the food supplies is a critical situation."

Zainab Hadi said she and other women had been forced to buy food at the market, pushing prices up. The cost of tea and flour has almost tripled. At food markets, a 35-pound can of vegetable oil, which just a few months ago cost $4 - a little more than an average day's wage - now costs $12. Mr Hadi recently lost his job as an electrical engineer with US troops and now works as a minibus driver.

Over the doorway of the Hadis' tiny house, a small blue ceramic plaque offers praise to God. The 10 family members share two rooms. The upstairs living room doubles as a bedroom. In their kitchen, a poster of the Shia Muslim martyr Hussein shares pride of place with a world map. The fridge is largely empty. Sprite and Coke bottles filled with tap water share shelf space with medicine to relieve the aching joints of Hadi's widowed mother.

In Sadr City, a Baghdad slum into which 2m people are crammed, the reduction in food rations is also taking a toll. Intisan Karim, 26, lives with 24 family members in a small house. If rations continue to shrink, she joked, laughing without mirth, "we'll start eating each other".

Outside sewage flowed along the streets; goats gnawed on rubbish.

"The food basket is shrinking and the people's hopes are also shrinking," said Amir Huseini, who dealt with social issues in an office affiliated with Moqtada al-Sadr, the anti-American Shia cleric.

"One or two missing items have become three, four and five, until this point when the really vital item - the flour - is also missing."

He had visited many families locally, trying to raise morale and hope, he said, "although this does not fill the stomachs of the hungry".

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Security Breach Could Expose 40M to Fraud
Jun 17, 7:44 PM (ET)

NEW YORK (AP) - A security breach of customer information at a credit card transaction company could expose to fraud up to 40 million cardholders of multiple brands, MasterCard International Inc. said Friday.

The credit card giant said its security division detected multiple instances of fraud that tracked back to CardSystems Solutions Inc., which processes credit card and other payments for banks and merchants.

The compromised data included names, banks and account numbers - not addresses or Social Security numbers, said MasterCard spokeswoman Sharon Gamsin. Such data could be used to steal funds but not identities.

It was the latest in a series of security breaches affecting valuable consumer data at major financial institutions and data brokers in an increasingly database-driven world.

The breach appears to be the largest yet involving financial data, said David Sobel, general counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

"The steady stream of these disclosures shows the pressing need for regulation of the industry both in terms of limitation in the amount of personal information that companies collect and also liability when these kinds of disclosures occur," Sobel said.

A flurry of disclosures of breaches affecting high-profile companies including Citigroup Inc. (C), Bank of America Corp. (BAC) and DSW Shoe Warehouse has prompted federal lawmakers to draw up legislation designed to better protect consumer privacy.

CardSystems was hit by a virus-like computer script that captured customer data for the purpose of fraud, Gamsin said. She said she did not know how the script got into the system. The FBI was investigating.

MasterCard, which said about 14 million of its own cards were exposed, first announced the breach in a news release late Friday afternoon, saying it was notifying its card-issuing banks of the problem. [...]

CardSystems, which has a processing center in Tuscon, Ariz., has been in business for more than 15 years and handles transactions for more than 115,000 small to mid-sized businesses, according to the company's Web site. The company says it processes transactions worth more than $15 billion annually.

Sobel said the fact that the latest breach involved a third party "indicates that this is a shadowy industry where the consumer never really knows who is going to be handling and using their personal information," he added. "Presumably, the affected consumers thought they were dealing with MasterCard."

Earlier this month, Citigroup said United Parcel Service lost computer tapes with sensitive information from 3.9 million customers of CitiFinancial, a unit that provides personal and home loans.

There have also been breaches involving other kinds of sensitive data.

ChoicePoint Inc. (CPS) said in February that thieves using stolen identities had created 50 dummy businesses that pulled data including names, addresses and Social Security numbers on as many as 145,000 people.

In March, LexisNexis Inc. disclosed that hackers had commandeered a database and gained access to the personal files of as many as 32,000 people.

The company has since increased its estimate of the people affected to 310,000. Information accessed included names, addresses and Social Security and driver's license numbers, but not credit history, medical records or financial information, corporate parent Reed Elsevier Group PLC said in a statement.

"Hardly a week goes by without startling new examples of breaches of sensitive personal data, reminding us how important it is to pass a comprehensive identity theft prevention bill in Congress quickly," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

Comment: Never fear! Big Brother will save the day!

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Oil sets new record at $58.60
By Bernie Woodall
Fri Jun 17, 4:13 PM ET

NEW YORK - Oil prices set a new record of $58.60 a barrel on Friday, after the United States and other Western nations shut consulates in oil-producing Nigeria following a terrorist threat.

Concerns about the ability of U.S. refiners to cope with strong U.S. demand, despite rising fuel costs, also helped propel prices above the record of $58.28 set in April.

U.S. crude hit the record near the end of Friday's trading session on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In London, Brent crude also hit an all-time high of $57.95 a barrel on the International Petroleum Exchange, breaking the former record of $57.65 set in April.

U.S. crude settled at $58.47 a barrel, up $1.89. Brent settled at $57.76 a barrel, up $1.54.

The new records are for nearest-month futures, which are July delivery for U.S. crude and August delivery for Brent. U.S. December crude futures hit a record of $60.40 a barrel, the all-time high for any monthly contract.

Worries about security of supply were highlighted by the closure in Nigeria of the U.S., German and British consulates in Lagos, after a warning of a terrorist threat.

Nigeria is the world's eighth-largest crude exporter and the fifth-biggest exporter oil to the United States. Its exports to the United States have risen to 1.1 million barrels per day in the most recent government statistics -- about 10 percent of U.S. crude imports.

While there was concern about Nigeria as an oil source, the country continued to produce and export crude on Friday.

U.S. authorities shut their consulate after a threat involving foreign Islamic militants, U.S. military and diplomatic sources said.

Intelligence information from foreign Islamic militant channels indicated a specific threat to the U.S. presence in Nigeria and its Lagos consulate, a diplomatic source said.

Nigeria has been named by Islamic militant leader Osama bin Laden as a candidate for "liberation" and the United States said last month it had uncovered links between his al Qaeda network and Nigerians.

In a survey of industry executives this week in Boston, more than half considered "political upheaval in a strategic country" as the most likely cause of a disruption in oil supply.


Demand strength also supported prices.

U.S. data this week showed brisk consumption of transport fuels, renewing concerns about refiners' ability to meet peak summer gasoline demand and to build heating OIL and diesel FUEL inventories for later in the year. [...]

Demand for gasoline over the past four weeks is up 3 percent from a year ago, while consumption of distillates -- diesel, heating oil and jet fuel -- has risen by 6.5 percent, U.S. government data showed this week. [...]

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Anger erupts as EU summit fails
Last Updated: Saturday, 18 June, 2005, 09:54 GMT 10:54 UK

A bitter war of words has erupted among EU states after the failure to reach an agreement on the union's future budget.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder blamed UK and Dutch obduracy for one of the EU's "gravest" crises.

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw expressed sadness, but said the failure could prove a turning point.

The EU's current president Jean Claude Juncker said he was ashamed poorer countries had offered to cut their EU income to reach a deal.

The summit collapsed after Britain refused to accept a demand by France and some other countries to accept a reduction in its EU rebate.

The BBC's correspondent in Brussels, William Horsley, says the recriminations mark perhaps the deepest and most spectacular bust-up ever in the EU.

It comes just weeks after voters plunged the union into uncertainty by rejecting its proposed new constitutional treaty.

UK 'pathetic'

The failure of the talks gave way to verbal sparring, as France, Germany and Luxembourg rounded on fellow member states.

French President Jacques Chirac said Britain's behaviour was "pathetic", adding he was shocked by the "arrogance of several rich countries" in the talks.

The UK rejected proposals to limit its annual rebate without a wider reform of the EU's agricultural subsidies.

Chancellor Schroeder said the summit failed because of the "totally unaccepting attitude" of Britain and the Netherlands, while Luxembourg Prime Minister and EU President Jean-Claude Juncker spoke of a "profound crisis" in Europe.

Britain, however, defended itself against the criticism, saying it was not alone in rejecting the proposed deal.

Speaking to the BBC on Saturday, Jack Straw said he was dismayed but optimistic.

"It is in many ways a sad day for Europe. But out of this sad day there is an opportunity to reconnect."

He said Britain would take the responsibility of leading the debate on the EU's future when it assumes the body's rotating presidency next month, although he conceded the task would be difficult.

"This will be seen as something of a turning point for the European Union. Sometimes to secure a turn in democracies, there has to be a shock," he said.

'Cause for shame'

As the talks disintegrated, 10 EU newcomers from Eastern Europe offered to cut their funding to salvage a deal, although their call went unheeded.

Mr Juncker said that only made matters worse.

"When I heard one after the other, all the new member countries, each poorer than the other, say that in the interest of reaching an agreement they would be ready to renounce some of their financial demands, I was ashamed."

But Britain said it has the backing of four or five other EU states in its rejection of the budget.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said the rebate was needed to compensate for the distortions caused by agricultural subsidies, the biggest beneficiary of which is France.

Comment: As usual, the reports on the meeting put the blame on different actors depending upon the political positions of the writers. Chirac is to blame if you support Blair while it's the Brits if you support Chirac and Schroeder. With Britain taking up the rotating presidency for the next six months, it should be amusing to watch.

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More countries drop plans to vote on pact
Patrick Wintour
Saturday June 18, 2005
The Guardian

A phalanx of countries yesterday announced that they were dropping plans to ratify the EU constitution, as their leaders agreed that the prospect of reviving the treaty was close to zero.

Some EU leaders still insisted that the constitution was not dead and buried, even though the summit collectively accepted on Thursday that each country could decide to suspend the ratification process at least until June 2006.

Haggling over the precise summit text on how to respond to the French and Dutch no votes continued yesterday as a subsidiary argument to the main battle over the budget. The draft text spoke of campaigning for the constitution.

"The constitution is not dead and buried," said the Belgian prime minister, Guy Verhofstadt, one of the strongest advocates of integration.

"It's important that we go ahead with this," he said. But Sweden and Finland said they were postponing their parliamentary votes on the treaty. Ireland and Portugal came to the same conclusion on Thursday night.

A draft declaration discussed by the leaders yesterday said that the French and Dutch no votes "do not call into question either citizens' attachment to the construction of Europe or its continuing development". The declaration recommended that the campaign for the constitution "be intensified and broadened", even though it also announced a pause.

The French also insisted that the period for reflection should be active, a phrase designed to suggest that the constitution was not being put on hold indefinitely.

The leaders agreed to hold a "period of reflection" to consider the future of European integration and to decide in June 2006, during the Austrian presidency of the union, whether to set a new ratification deadline. Britain would have preferred a more definitive statement that the constitution was irrecoverable.

The French and Dutch governments were unable to tell their fellow EU leaders when, if at all, they would hold fresh referendums on the existing EU constitution text.

The Swedish prime minister, Goran Persson, told Swedish Radio yesterday: "If they [the French and Dutch governments] are not ready to go to their people again with a new referendum about the same constitution, then it has fallen by definition, and there is no reason for us to start a ratification process."

Portugal's foreign minister, Jose Socrates, had suggested the 13 countries which still have to vote on the treaty should do it at the same time.

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Italian press slams 'lame duck' Chirac

ROME, June 17 (AFP) - Italian newspapers Friday laid into France's President Jacques Chirac, labelling him an obstacle to the course of the European Union and calling on Italy to swing over to Britain's vision of the future of the bloc.

The economic daily Il Sole 24 Ore, in a hard-hitting front-page editorial, called the French leader "the enemy of the EU," while Confindustria, organ of the Italian employers' federation, said Chirac should take the first step to get Europe out of its current deadlock, by resigning and vanishing from the political stage.

The left-wing La Repubblica said Chirac, who has failed to bounce back since French voters shocked him by rejecting the EU
constitution in a March 29 referendum he had called, was a beaten man.

"His weakness in France makes him a lame duck in Europe," the paper said, contrasting him with the right's rising star, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

Renato Brunetta, an economic adviser to Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, told La Stampa daily that the French-German axis within Europe was now dead, adding, "Italy must support Tony Blair, the only one able to exercise leadership at present."

Other newspapers agreed, with Il Corriere della Sera saying that while France's interest in sustaining the Common Agricultural Policy was well known, "we, who are losing competitiveness in the markets, have other interests, other priorities to assert."

Comment: When you know that the Italian press is mostly owned by Silvio Berlusconi, you can take these reports with a grain of salt. Of course Berlusconi is going to work for a tighter alliance with Blair and Bush and do what he can to isolate Chirac.

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US Congress passes bill on cutting UN dues 2005-06-18 04:57:06

WASHINGTON, June 17 (Xinhuanet) -- The US House of Representatives passed a bill on Friday that would cut the United States' dues to the United Nations if the world body does not undergo tough reforms.

The bill, introduced by Henry Hyde, a Republican who chairs theHouse International Relations Committee, was passed as 221 lawmakers were in favor of it and 184 were against it.

However, the bill is unlikely to become law as the White House has said it is against it.

The bill demands the United Nations engage in a total of 39 reforms. If the US secretary of state would not be able to confirm32 of the 39 reforms by September 2007, and all 39 reforms by the year 2008, the United States would halve its dues to the United Nations.

The United States is by far the largest financial contributor to the United Nations by paying about 22 percent of the world body's annual general budget of some 2 billion US dollars.

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Annan: Withholding dues not productive to reform 2005-06-18 04:57:06

UNITED NATIONS, June 17 (Xinhuanet) -- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Friday that the US Congress' threat to withhold dues for the United Nations could jeopardize the outcome of the September summit of the world body.

He issued the warning after the US House of Representatives voted earlier in the day in favor of a bill, under which the Congress would withhold half of the US dues for the United Nations unless it conducts reforms.

He "does not feel that withholding dues is productive route to achieving reform and indeed that it could jeopardize the outcome of the Sept. summit," said a statement released by a UN spokesman.

"The secretary-general is deeply committed to UN reform," the statement said. "He is undertaking a number of management reforms and has laid out a broader agenda of institutional reform and renewal that is being actively discussed by member states in the run-up to a 'reform summit' of heads of government in September."

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Iran facing presidential runoff election, no candidate likely to win outright
06:42 AM EDT Jun 18

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran headed toward the first runoff presidential election in its history as a key government official predicted Saturday none of the seven candidates - including the favorite contender Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani - would win enough votes for outright victory.

Turnout in Friday's vote appeared stronger than expected and polls stayed open an extra four hours, with voting booths even set up at Tehran's main cemetery for those paying weekly visits to family graves.

An Interior Ministry official involved in the counting said a second round of voting would take place June 24, the first time since the 1979 Iranian Revolution a second round of voting has been required. He said the vote-count he had seen makes it impossible for any one candidate to collect the required 50 plus one per cent to win.

The results of next week's run-off would decide who inherits a long list of challenges, including nuclear talks with the West and demands for reform at home.

Some credited U.S. denunciations of the election for goading more Iranians to cast ballots after a western-style campaign that has reshaped Iranian politics. A runoff would almost certainly include Rafsanjani, a political veteran and leader of the Islamic Revolution who now portrays himself as a steady hand for uneasy times.

With 90 per cent of the votes tallied in his home province Kerman in southern Iran, Rafsanjani took only 45 per cent of the votes, Rasoul Moazemi, provincial election official, said. Rafsanjani's son Mahdi, who has been working on the campaign, said he did not expect his father to win the 50 per cent of the popular vote he would need to avoid a run-off.

The bigger question is how voters will treat Rafsanjani's main rivals: a former police chief backed by conservatives, and another allied with outgoing president Mohammad Khatami's stumbling reform movement.

Final results are expected Saturday. [...]

"Fight the enemy by casting a vote," said Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - head of the non-elected Islamic theocracy whose near-absolute power can override both the president and parliament.

After polls closed, Interior Ministry spokesman Johanbakhsh Khanjani announced turnout in some provinces had exceeded 80 per cent. In others it varied between 65 and 80 per cent. Turnout reached nearly 67 per cent four years ago in a Khatami landslide.

All Iranians understood Khamenei's code word for the United States and other foes of the Islamic system. A day earlier, President George W. Bush denounced the election as a futile exercise since the clerics retain the real power - comments hardliners in Iran said would only inspire more Iranians to vote.

But many voters appeared to draw most enthusiasm from the range of choices - a seven-candidate field spanning from Moin to hardliners with ties to the regime's military guardians.

Moin, 54, a former culture minister, is considered the heir of Khatami's eight-year legacy - which permitted groundbreaking social freedoms such as dating and wide-open Internet access but failed to chip away at the ruling clerics' power. Moin has promised to name Khatami's brother as vice-president. Khatami was prevented from running for a third term by the Iranian constitution. [...]

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SPECIAL REPORT: A Great Nuclear-Age Mystery Solved

By Greg Mitchell
Published: June 16, 2005 11:45 PM ET
Editor & Publisher

NEW YORK One of the great mysteries of the Nuclear Age was solved today: What was in the censored, and then lost to the ages, newspaper articles filed by the first reporter to reach Nagasaki following the atomic attack on that city on Aug. 9, 1945?

The reporter was George Weller, the distinguished correspondent for the now-defunct Chicago Daily News. His startling dispatches from Nagasaki, which could have affected public opinion on the future of the bomb, never emerged from General Douglas MacArthur's censorship office in Tokyo. Carbon copies were found just two years ago when his son, who talked to E&P from Italy today, discovered them after the reporter's death.

Four of them were published today for the first time by the Tokyo daily Mainichi Shimbun, which purchased them from Anthony Weller. He told E&P he hopes to put them and others together into a book.

The articles published in Japan today reveal a remarkable and wrenching turn in Weller's view of the aftermath of the bombing, which anticipates the profound unease in our nuclear experience ever since. "It was remarkable to see that shifting perspective," Anthony Weller says.

An early article that George Weller filed, on Sept. 8, 1945 -- two days after he reached the city, before any other journalist -- hailed the "effectiveness of the bomb as a military device," as his son describes it, and makes no mention of the bomb's special, radiation-producing properties.

But later that day, after visiting two hospitals and shaken by what he saw, he described a mysterious "Disease X" that was killing people who had seemed to survive the bombing in relatively good shape. A month after the atomic inferno, they were passing away pitifully, some with legs and arms "speckled with tiny red spots in patches."

The following day he again described the atomic bomb's "peculiar disease" and reported that the leading local X-ray specialist was convinced that "these people are simply suffering" from the bomb's unknown radiation effects.

Anthony Weller, a novelist who lives near Gloucester, Mass., told E&P that it was one of great disappointments of his father's life that these stories, "a real coup," were killed by MacArthur who, George Weller felt, "wanted all the credit for winning the war, not some scientists back in New Mexico." Others have suggested that the real reason for the censorship was the United States did not want the world to learn about the morally troubling radiation effects for two reasons: It did not want questions raised about the use of the weapon in 1945, or its wide scale development in the coming years.

"Clearly," says Anthony Weller, "they would have supplied an eyewitness account at a moment when the American people badly needed one."

How did George Weller get the scoop-that-wasn't?

After years of covering the Pacific war, Weller arrived in Japan with the first wave of reporters and military in early September. He had already won a Pulitzer for his reporting in 1943. Appalled by MacArthur's censors, and "the conformists" in his profession who went along with strict press restrictions, he made his way, with permission, to the distant island of Kyushu to visit a former kamikaze base. But he noted that it was connected by railroad to Nagasaki. Pretending he was "a major or colonel," as his son put it, he slipped into the city (perhaps by boat) about three days before any of his colleagues, and just after Wilfred Burchett had filed his first report from Hiroshima.

Once arrived, Weller toured the city, the aid stations, the former POW camps, and wrote numerous stories within days. According to his son, he managed to send the articles to Tokyo, not by wire, but by hand, and felt "that the sheer volume and importance of the stories would mean they would be respected" by MacArthur and his censors.

Although Weller did not express any outward disapproval of the use of the bomb, these stories -- and others he filed in the following two weeks from the vicinity -- would never see the light of the day, and the reporter lost track of his carbons. He would later summarize the experience wit the censorship office in two words: "They won."

In the years that followed, Weller continued his journalism career, winning a George Polk award and other honors and covering many other conflicts. Neither the carbons nor the originals ever surfaced, before he passed away in 2002 at the age of 95. It was then that his son made a full search of the wildly disorganized "archives" at his father's home in Italy, and in 2003 found the carbons just 30 feet from his dad's desk.

And what a find: roughly 75 pages of stories, on fading brownish paper, that covered not only his first atomic dispatches but gripping accounts by prisoners of war, some of whom described watching the bomb go off on that fateful morning. Remarkably, Anthony also found a couple dozen photos his father had snapped in Nagasaki.

Anthony Weller says he attempted to package the material as a book or a major magazine piece in the States, but after a slow response, sold a partial package to Mainichi Shimbun, one of the largest-circulation newspapers in the world.

In the first article published today by the Japanese paper, the first words from Weller were: "The atomic bomb may be classified as a weapon capable of being used indiscriminately, but its use in Nagasaki was selective and proper and as merciful as such a gigantic force could be expected to be." Weller described himself as "the first visitor to inspect the ruins."

He suggested about 24,000 may have died but he attributed the high numbers to "inadequate" air raid shelters and the "total failure" of the air warning system. He declared that the bomb was "a tremendous, but not a peculiar weapon," and said he spent hours in the ruins without apparent ill effects. He did note, with some regret, that a hospital and an American mission college were destroyed, but pointed out that to spare them would have also meant sparing munitions plants.

In his second story that day, however, following his hospital visits, he would describe "Disease X," and victims, who have "neither a burn or a broken limb," wasting away with "blackish" mouths and red spots, and small children who "have lost some hair."

A third piece, sent to MacArthur the following day, reported the disease "still snatching away lives here. Men, women and children with no outward marks of injury are dying daily in hospitals, some after having walked around three or four weeks thinking they have escaped.

"The doctors ... candidly confessed ... that the answer to the malady is beyond them." At one hospital, 200 of 343 admitted had died: "They are dead -- dead of atomic bomb -- and nobody knows why."

He closed this account with: "Twenty-five Americans are due to arrive Sept. 11 to study the Nagasaki bomb site. Japanese hope they will bring a solution for Disease X."

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Revealed: how oil giant influenced Bush

White House sought advice from Exxon on Kyoto stance

John Vidal, environment editor
Wednesday June 8, 2005
The Guardian

President's George Bush's decision not to sign the United States up to the Kyoto global warming treaty was partly a result of pressure from ExxonMobil, the world's most powerful oil company, and other industries, according to US State Department papers seen by the Guardian.

The documents, which emerged as Tony Blair visited the White House for discussions on climate change before next month's G8 meeting, reinforce widely-held suspicions of how close the company is to the administration and its role in helping to formulate US policy.

In briefing papers given before meetings to the US under-secretary of state, Paula Dobriansky, between 2001 and 2004, the administration is found thanking Exxon executives for the company's "active involvement" in helping to determine climate change policy, and also seeking its advice on what climate change policies the company might find acceptable.

Other papers suggest that Ms Dobriansky should sound out Exxon executives and other anti-Kyoto business groups on potential alternatives to Kyoto.

Until now Exxon has publicly maintained that it had no involvement in the US government's rejection of Kyoto. But the documents, obtained by Greenpeace under US freedom of information legislation, suggest this is not the case.

"Potus [president of the United States] rejected Kyoto in part based on input from you [the Global Climate Coalition]," says one briefing note before Ms Dobriansky's meeting with the GCC, the main anti-Kyoto US industry group, which was dominated by Exxon.

The papers further state that the White House considered Exxon "among the companies most actively and prominently opposed to binding approaches [like Kyoto] to cut greenhouse gas emissions".

But in evidence to the UK House of Lords science and technology committee in 2003, Exxon's head of public affairs, Nick Thomas, said: "I think we can say categorically we have not campaigned with the United States government or any other government to take any sort of position over Kyoto."

Exxon, officially the US's most valuable company valued at $379bn (£206bn) earlier this year, is seen in the papers to share the White House's unwavering scepticism of international efforts to address climate change.

The documents, which reflect unanimity between the company and the US administration on the need for more global warming science and the unacceptable costs of Kyoto, state that Exxon believes that joining Kyoto "would be unjustifiably drastic and premature".

This line has been taken consistently by President Bush, and was expected to be continued in yesterday's talks with Tony Blair who has said that climate change is "the most pressing issue facing mankind".

"President Bush tells Mr Blair he's concerned about climate change, but these documents reveal the alarming truth, that policy in this White House is being written by the world's most powerful oil company. This administration's climate policy is a menace to humanity," said Stephen Tindale, Greenpeace's executive director in London last night.

"The prime minister needs to tell Mr Bush he's calling in some favours. Only by securing mandatory cuts in US emissions can Blair live up to his rhetoric," said Mr Tindale.

In other meetings documented in the papers, Ms Dobriansky meets Don Pearlman, an international anti-Kyoto lobbyist who has been a paid adviser to the Saudi and Kuwaiti governments, both of which have followed the US line against Kyoto.

The purpose of the meeting with Mr Pearlman, who also represents the secretive anti-Kyoto Climate Council, which the administration says "works against most US government efforts to address climate change", is said to be to "solicit [his] views as part of our dialogue with friends and allies".

ExxonMobil, which was yesterday contacted by the Guardian in the US but did not return calls, is spending millions of pounds on an advertising campaign aimed at influencing politicians, opinion formers and business leaders in the UK and other pro-Kyoto countries in the weeks before the G8 meeting at Gleneagles.

Comment: Of course the Bush Administration took its orders from Exxon and the oil lobby. You just have to look at the strong links between the major figures in the Bush government and the oil lobby to know that is true. Remember Cheney's energy task force, the secret meetings that were held with people who could not be named in order to work out an energy policy for the new administration? Why would it all have to be so secret if the list of invitations wasn't made up of Cheney's oil pals?

As to the absurd idea that Bush would ever return the favour to Tony Blair, it only shows the delusional state of the British PM: he's lost in wishful thinking and the illusion of his own importance.

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Growing deserts 'a global problem'
Friday, June 17, 2005 Posted: 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)

(CNN) -- Millions of people could lose their homes and livelihoods as the world's deserts expand because of climate change and unsustainable human activities, an environmental report warned on Friday.

The report, part of a series examining the state of the world's biological resources, was released on the eve of "World Day to Combat Desertifcation," which marks the 11th anniversary of a UN agreement to tackle spreading deserts.

But Zafar Adeel of the United Nations University International Network on Water, Environment and Health, an expert on water management and a leading author of the report, warned that more needed to be done to combat desertification.

"Desertification has emerged as a global problem affecting everyone," said Adeel. "There are serious gaps in our understanding of how big deserts are, and how they are growing."

Drylands, which range from "dry sub-humid" to "hyper-arid" regions, make up more than 40 percent of the world's land surface and are home to two billion people. The largest area stretches from Saharan Africa across the Middle East and Central Asia into parts of China.

Most of Australia is also classified as drylands, along with much of the western U.S., parts of southern Africa, and patches of desert in South America.

The report said that that up to 20 percent of those areas had already suffered some loss of plant life or economic use as a consequence of desertification.

It said that global warming was likely to exacerbate the problem, causing more droughts, heat waves and floods.

But human factors have also played their part, with over-grazing, over-farming, misuse of irrigation and the unsustainable demands of a growing population all contributing to environmental degradation.

Adeel warned that some of the world's poorest populations were likely to be among the worst affected, with large swathes of Central Asia and the areas to the north and south of the Sahara in danger of becoming unsuitable for farming.

"Without strong efforts to reverse desertification, some of the gains we've seen in development in these regions may be reversed," he said.

Desertification has also been linked to health problems caused by dust storms, poverty and a drop in farm production, with infant mortality in drylands double the rate elsewhere in developing nations.

But the problem causes dangerous changes to the environment on a global scale, the report warned, with dust storms in the Gobi and Sahara deserts blamed for respiratory problems in North America and damage to coral reefs in the Caribbean. Scientists estimate that a billion tons of dust from the Sahara are lifted into the atmosphere each year.

While very difficult to reverse, the report said that specific local strategies should be employed to tackle spreading deserts. Alternative livelihoods such as ecotourism and fish farming could provide an alternative to intensive crop farming, while better management of crops and irrigation and the adoption of alternative energy sources such as solar power would all contribute to environmental sustainability.

The first Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report, released in March, warned that approximately 60 percent of the ecosystem supporting life on Earth was being degraded or used unsustainably and that the consequences of degradation could grow significantly worse in the next half century.

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Ancient glass making site discovered in Egypt
Last Updated Fri, 17 Jun 2005 18:57:59 EDT
CBC News

Ancient Egyptians made glass out of raw materials more than 3,000 years ago, say archeologists working in the eastern Nile delta.

Since Bronze-Age glass was first discovered in the late-19th century, scientists have disagreed about whether the Egyptian artifacts were made from scratch or with reworked materials.

In ancient times, glass was considered a valuable commodity. The fragile material was used to make vividly coloured artifacts, boosting the power, status and political allegiances of the elite, archeologists said.

Now Thilo Rehren of University College, London, and Edgar Pusch of Pelizaeus Museum in Hildesheim say they've found fragments from at least 250 crucibles at a glassworks.

The find at Qantir-Piramesses dates to the 13th century BC.

Glass was made by melting quartz in the crucibles in a two-stage process, the pair report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

In the first step, glass was heated at low temperatures in oval crucibles, which were then shattered to get the glass out.

Next, the material was coloured and melted to form glass ingots in cylindrical molds.

Glass from the workshops was then finished into objects at other locations that lacked the key cylindrical vessels needed for glass making, the researchers said.

Significantly, much of the glass was red, which requires using copper in a technologically sophisticated process.

"Rehren and Pusch convincingly show that the Egyptians were making their own glass in specialized facilities that were under royal control," wrote archeologist Caroline Jackson of the University of Sheffield in England in a journal commentary.

"At Qantir, production was linked specifically to the use of copper to colour the glasses either red or blue, and glass was manufactured in the form of ingots to be reworked elsewhere."

The pair's research was funded by the German Research Council and the British Academy.

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Jaffa Lizards
By Israel Shamir

This May was a time of great disillusionment for Russians. Years have passed since they parted with Communism, broke up the Soviet Union, granted independence to (or gave away to the US) every land they ever controlled, allowed Western companies to buy and sell their heirlooms and livelihood, closed down their military bases, let their missiles and submarines rust in peace, fulfilled every demand and desire of the US. Then they prepared a great celebration of V-Day, invited guests, brushed up their medals, retold the stories of supreme heroism – and were cold-shouldered by the US and UK, their erstwhile allies in the World War II. President Bush, tactful as ever, went to Tbilisi and declared that there was no big difference between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.

“O God, why did we fight for them?” thought many Russians. “Why did we support the Anglo-American landing in Normandy instead of signing a separate peace treaty with practically defeated Germany in the spring of 1944, when our territory was liberated? Why did so many Russian soldiers have to fight and die while liberating Poland or Czechoslovakia or West Ukraine? Now we see that the Czechs and the Poles prefer German hegemony; they let them in via the EU treaty. The West Ukraine celebrates their volunteers in the SS division and pushes for NATO membership. We could let them have it their way; stay put behind the old borders and let the Wehrmacht deal with Private Ryan.”

If time messaging were possible, have no doubt – that is what would happen in 1944; and we would be living today in a different world. In that alternative world, the Russians would not have to listen to the complaints of an American president about why they were so rough with their enemy.

Such grossly unjust philippics appear in the Western media because the Western and the Eastern visions of the War differ greatly. For the Russians and their neighbours, the important thing was their great victory over the German enemy; but in the West, the Jewish holocaust blotted out the victory of Stalingrad and Berlin. The West adopted a strange narrative centred on the Jewish fate. According to this narrative, the Germans decided to exterminate all Jews, from babies to the old men; that is why they fought the war. The world callously disregarded the Jewish tragedy, but a miracle occurred: Jews were saved and created their state of Israel from the ashes of the Holocaust.

From the Russian point of view, the USSR did not ‘callously disregard’, but shed the blood of its best sons and daughters. The war was not fought for Jews or because of Jews; but Russia deserves their eternal gratitude anyway for saving them from their peril. Because of this claim on Jewish gratitude, the Russians went a long way with the creators of the holocaust narrative; but Jewish gratitude was extremely short-lived (as it usually is – google up my essay Prince Charming).

In the present Jewish narrative that became the official version of modern history in the West thanks to efforts of Jewish media lords, the USSR/Russia is conspicuous by its absence. Even the Americans appear in this story as people who failed to bomb Auschwitz and supplied their know-how to the Germans. In the endless corridors of the Yad va-Shem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, the Red Army is not even mentioned. Millions of perished Russian soldiers find no place in the Zionist narrative of the Jewish tragedy, Jewish heroic fight and an indifferent gentile world.

The American and European leaders fully accepted the Jewish narrative, not least because it released them from their obligations towards the ally that shouldered the immense burden of the war. They watched with incomprehension and irritation the V-Day celebrations in Moscow. For them, the key event took place a few months earlier in Auschwitz: as opposed to Moscow, none failed to appear there and to ask for Jewish forgiveness. For them, the Jewish tragedy was the only important event of 1945; as for victory – what victory?

That Victory was stolen. In Israel this May 9 they spoke of the heroism of Jewish soldiers and partisans, as if they had won the war single-handedly. The Israeli school syllabus does not refer to the War except in the context of the holocaust. Israeli well-nurtured ignorance is complete:

A Russian student wrote a thesis on the Battle of Moscow, in the winter 1941, and mentioned it while meeting with the Israeli students in Tel Aviv. “Who actually fought whom at Moscow in 1941?” asked an Israeli youth. After a brief silence, an Israeli teacher explained: the Germans fought the Japanese!

Thus the story of the Jewish holocaust obscured the war and the Soviet victory. The Western anti-communists wanted to steal the victory; the Zionists helped them while minding their own interests. Now they collect billions in reparations, while the heroic feat of our fathers is forgotten. For me, a dweller of Jaffa, this turn of events recalls the myth of Perseus and his victory over the Sea Monster. You probably remember how the Sea Monster threatened Jaffa with destruction lest the Princess Andromeda were delivered into his paws; how Perseus beheaded the Medusa Gorgona, donned the winged sandals of Hermes, flew to Jaffa and turned the Sea Monster into stone, thus saving Princess Andromeda.

Now imagine that a few years after this exploit, a young man named Jason decided to check the story and have a peek at the Princess. He gathered his friends, young Athenian gentlemen with much spare time on their hands, and sailed his black ship east. Winds and currents were favourable, and the ship reached Jaffa safely and speedily. If the Athenians had any doubts about Perseus’s veracity, these were dispelled most convincingly: the vast bulk of the sea monster was beached on the rocks a hundred yards from the shore, thus creating a cosy nook of a harbour. (It is still here, and is shown to tourists).

In a café serving local arrack, a fiery, milky drink not dissimilar to the Hellene Ouzo, the Athenians enquired about the Sea Monster.

“Yes, this skeleton is timeless reminder of the great lizard tragedy,” said the barman.

“What lizard tragedy?” asked a sailor.

“The Monster was devouring the lizards,” said the barman. “The lizards, these harmless, exquisite and gracious creatures, were his favourite food. Every day he would swallow them by thousands. The lizards would be eliminated if the Monster were not slain. Until now, we have a Lizard tragedy remembrance day, and here is the memorial of the Devoured Lizard.”

Indeed, our sailors had not noticed until now a modest sculpture embellishing the city square. It depicted a lizard in a tortured pose, his tail gone and small paws raised to the blue Jaffa sky.

“Strange! We have never heard of this lizard angle from Perseus,” muttered Jason.

“Ah, Perseus!” exclaimed the barman. “He never cared for lizards. There are dreadful stories that he killed many lizards himself. When he carelessly flashed his weapon, the Medusa head, thousands of lizards were turned into stone. Some people say that Perseus was not better than the dragon.”

The barman’s son intruded into their conversation, “We learned in school that this Perseus was very weak on morals, too. He had many sordid adventures, took advantage of the old women Graiae, assassinated the poor Gorgon in her sleep; and worse -- he murdered his own father!”

“He was a mass murderer,” intervened another Jaffaite, busy with his arrack and olives, “he murdered his mother’s suitor Polydectes and many others by means of the same Gorgon head. Perseus is not our hero, just remember it!”

“Every time we look at our harbour and see the Monster, we bless the Almighty God for saving the lizards,” piously intoned a priest.

“But he vanquished the dragon!” – bellowed Jason.

“The dragon was defeated by the joint efforts of brave lizards and their human friends. Perseus played but a minor role in this drama. Anyone could do what he did: he just flashed the Medusa head at the dragon and turned it into stone. But before that, our Allied forces carried out a dangerous and brutal war; thousands of lizards attacked the monster, and we all prayed for the Monster’s end. Don’t you think that our prayers should be mentioned first as the greatest reason for victory?”

“But why are we talking about defeating the dragon?” asked the barman’s son. “The dragon was defeated by everybody and anyway, the important story is that of the Lizards’s Tragedy. And Perseus is not our hero.”

“Are you Lizards?” asked daring Jason.

“Oh no, we are humans. But the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to us. We always follow their advice.”

“And what happened to Andromeda?” – asked Jason.

“Nothing special. Her house is out there, on Lizards Street.”

The sailors paid for their drinks and proceeded to the house which the barman pointed out. Andromeda the Beautiful was there. She was obviously astonished when the sailors brought her the regards of Perseus.

“It seems the people of Jaffa forgot who saved them from the Dragon. But you, Andromeda, surely you remember Perseus who saved you?” asked Jason.

“Perseus?” asked the Princess, gazing through the window at the monument of the Devoured Lizard. “Perseus? He never cared about the Lizards.”

The Greek team rose and departed back home in visible disgust. Since then, mankind has been divided into those who read the story of Perseus the Victorious, and those who worship the Devoured Lizard. [...]

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Former Russian PM Primakov Says UN Must Sanction Pre-Emptive Strikes on Foreign States

Created: 17.06.2005 16:59 MSK (GMT 3), Updated: 13:37 MSK

Former Russian prime minister Yevgeny Primakov says that any interference in foreign states, including pre-emptive strikes on terrorists, must first be sanctioned by the UN Security Council.

The former Russian official is known for turning his Washington-bound aircraft back to Moscow in protest at the start of the U.S. bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999.

Primakov, who now occupies a seat in the UN Council of Sages, said in an interview with the Politichesky Zhurnal magazine that this body had prepared a report to the UN Secretary General in which it called for a change of attitude towards the possibility of interference in other countries’ internal affairs, including pre-emptive strikes on terrorist bases.

Today the UN attitude towards this issue was very negative — interference was not allowed in any way. Now the position must change, but such interference must be first sanctioned by the UN Security Council and the criteria for the decision must be pre-defined, Primakov said.

“This is definitely a step forward,” Primakov said speaking of the suggestions.

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Ukranian MP Demands U.S. Ambassador’s Expulsion

Created: 17.06.2005 16:44 MSK (GMT 3), Updated: 18:13 MSK

A member of the Ukrainian parliament Vladimir Sivkovich demands that U.S. ambassador to Kiev, John Herbst, be expelled for interfering in the country’s internal affairs, Interfax news agency reported.

Sivkovich claims that the ambassador has broken the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and says he is going to make a request for an appreciation of Herbst’s activities from the U.S. Congress.

According to the recently published text of a tapped telephone conversation between Herbst and Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Svyatoslav Piskun, the U.S. ambassador asked the senior official to release a U.S. preacher detained in Ukraine and promised Piskun political asylum in the U.S. if he is ever victimized by his political opponents.

Earlier this month Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s office launched a criminal case into the taping of the controversial telephone conversation.

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Another Tasering Results In Death

WEST PARK, Fla. (AP) -- A Fort Lauderdale man died after Broward sheriff's deputies shocked him with a Taser. Officers had been responding to a call about a home invasion in West Park.

The homeowner says 48-year-old Horace Owens broke in while he was watching television. He says the intruder ran from room to room yelling, in these words, "Please don't let them kill me."

Deputies got Owens outside, but he struggled with them. He was hit with the electrical shock outside the house. Officers tried to resuscitate Owens, but he was pronounced dead later at the hospital.

Owens is the seventh person to die in South Florida after being shocked by a Taser since 2002.

Comment: Latest reports on this most recent extra-judicial killing tell us that the heart attack that the victim suffered was caused by the cocaine that the coroner found in his blood rather than the 50,000 volts from the Taser. This is surely good news for the millions of Americans that already have a heart condition or who have ingested any of the millions of legal stimulants prescribed by their doctors because they need never worry about bearing the shame of having 'death by Taser' printed on their death certificate.

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Welcome to Ave Maria - Catholic block after Catholic block after Catholic block

Recently the Boston Phoenix's Adam Reilly took a gander at Dominos founder Tom Monaghan's plans for a Catholic "utopia" in Florida.

Ave Maria won’t be just a university, he continues. It will also be a new town, built from scratch, in which the wickedness of the world will be kept at bay. "We’ve already had about 3500 people inquire on our Web site about buying a home there — you know, they’re all Catholic," Monaghan says excitedly. "We’re going to control all the commercial real estate, so there’s not going to be any pornography sold in this town. We’re controlling the cable system. The pharmacies are not going to be able to sell condoms or dispense contraceptives." A private chapel will be located within walking distance of each home. At the stunning church in the center of town, Mass will be said hourly, seven days a week, from 6 a.m. on. "So," Monaghan concludes, with just a hint of understatement, "it’ll be a unique town." As he exits the stage, the applause is thunderous.

This isn't just a pizza baron's daydream. Tom Monaghan has influential friends in high places. Antonin Scalia and the pope's old pal Reverend Joseph Fessio are just two of his many upper crust Catholic buds.

This puts Fessio in a remarkably prominent position in American Catholicism, and will surely help Monaghan as he markets Ave Maria in the coming years. But liberal American Catholics will likely find Fessio’s rise discouraging. Last month, I asked Fessio if American Catholics are obligated to embrace a specific political identity. "I can’t give you a yes-or-no answer to that," he replied — and then, for all intents and purposes, he did exactly that. "I think it’s more difficult for someone who’s trying to live his life consistently with the Catholic faith to vote for Democratic candidates, because the party’s platform includes things which are clearly against Catholic teaching, such as abortion and homosexual marriage and so on," Fessio said. True, he continued, Democrats support the welfare state and Republicans do not — but despite the Church’s doctrine of a "preferential option for the poor," Fessio refused to call this a Democratic strength. "These are things which the Catholic Church can accept different points of view on," he claimed, somewhat mysteriously. Later, Fessio insisted that any Catholic politician who supports legalized abortion should be denied communion. "This is a very simple question, a question of integrity and consistency and identity," he argued. "Look — if you are sincerely convinced, that’s fine. I won’t vote for you. But please don’t call yourself a Catholic in good standing. And don’t behave in such a way that would give the impression that you are."

Although there is no mention of cheesy bread communion wafers, the entire article is worth a read. Just don't get your hopes up. Monaghan doesn't appear to be planning on setting aside one of the houses of the holy for the winner of an updated Find the Popes in the Pizza Contest.

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Football chief wants to see more sweaty girls
By Sally Pook and Tony Leighton
Women's football could make money by promoting the players' physical attributes, the president of Uefa, European football's governing body, said yesterday.

In an interview with Radio 5 Live about tomorrow's Euro 2005 final, Lennart Johansson said: "Companies could make use of a sweaty, lovely-looking girl playing on the ground. It would sell."

Only moments earlier, he had criticised comments made by Sepp Blatter, his Fifa counterpart, who once called for "tighter shorts" in the women's game. Strangely, Mr Johansson felt Mr Blatter had overstepped the mark.

Rachel Yankey, 25, England's most capped current international, interpreted Mr Johansson's comments generously.

"They are a little sexist but in a way he is right," she said. "Women's football needs more sponsorship. It is just one way of looking at the sport."

Comment: Meanwhile, over in the "land of the free"...

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Cheerleaders who save their loudest shout for God
By Tom Leonard in Waxahachie
(Filed: 18/06/2005)
It is a sight to cheer Texan politicians who have been trying to ban raunchy cheerleading from their schools. Just a half-hour drive from the home of the famously hot-panted, crop-topped and raunchy Dallas Cowgirls, more than 270 fresh-faced girls are cheering for a higher purpose.

Unlike the girls who turn out for the Dallas Cowboys American football team, their outfits are modest and their moves are clean.
Cheerleader being flung into the air

Summer camp, which started this week across America, will be busier than ever for the evangelist Federation of Christian Cheerleaders. It already has 15,000 members and is growing, while a similar organisation, Christian Cheerleaders of America, has 7,000.

The recent complaint by Al Edwards, a Texas Democrat, that "overtly sexually suggestive" cheerleading was undermining high school morality has focused attention on the Christian alternative.

At the FCC's camp at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, students aged nine to 18 spent this week learning how Christian values can even play a part in the secular pursuit of cheering on your school football or basketball team.

Stephanie Frank, 23, the camp's director, said: "We are teaching them that the talents that God has given them in cheerleading can be upheld in his ministry. We challenge them to break that stereotype of a ditz in a short skirt."

Deani Merrell coaches the Christian Heritage Academy team from Del City, Oklahoma. "We want our girls to represent the Lord in a way pleasing to him," she said.

"We want to know when we walk off the pitch that we haven't offended anybody."

The four-day camp, attended by girls from private Christian schools, combined Bible reading and prayers with training in jumps, pyramids, tumbling and synchronised cheers.

Serious practitioners of cheerleading are no longer content simply to look decorative as they encourage the boys from the touchline.

Miss Frank says the routines she teaches are "cutting edge but clean and appropriate". The backing music is rap and hard rock but with Christian lyrics. Hip gyrations and chest shimmying is cut to a minimum.

There is no FCC dress code but most Christian squads specify that skirts must be between 4in and 7in above the knee when kneeling, and midriffs and shoulders must be covered up. When hosting competitions involving secular teams, the Christian teams often offer to pray with their non-religious competitors before it starts.

But, as religion is banned in state schools, Christian cheerleaders have to be careful about using the "J" word. Camp teaches religious "fun cheers" such as "Hip Hop, Jesus Rocks, Let Me See That Left Foot Drop," but they are "supplementary" to standard refrains like "G-O, Let's Go".

Comment: Gimme a "G" Gimme an "O" Gimme a "D" Gimme an "H" Gimme an "E" Gimme an "L" Gimme a "P" Gimme a "U" Gimme an "S" Gimme 5 exclamation marks! What've ya got?

Too late! Look out! The Christians are coming!...

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U.S. Christians nearing a new unity
Tue Jun 14, 2005
By Michael Conlon

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A coalition that would for the first time unite the major Christian faiths in the United States is taking years to coalesce, but its organizers say that's a good sign and are not discouraged.

One day the group could speak with a single voice on important issues in a country of 296 million where historically three of every four people claim to be Christian or at least identify with that faith.

The group, Christian Churches Together in the USA, began in 2001 when more than two dozen church leaders met to find a way to spread the patchwork quilt of U.S. churches on a single table.

They range from Bible Belt Baptists and black Protestants to Orthodox ethnics to more ritualized Episcopalians and Catholics. Historic suspicions and theological divisions have often kept them fragmented.

Organizers had spoken of formalizing the group this spring, with a public debut worship service in Washington in the autumn. But a steering committee meeting in California earlier this month instead produced a decision to meet again for further work in the spring of 2006. [...]

Comment: "And the deluded, the mesmerised, the witless, the loopers shall come together as one voice and having subverted the pre-ordained and righteous use of their asses, they shall begin to spake nonsense out of them onto the nations and many shall be convinced and thereby deceived." Eclesiasticusfantasticus 10:2

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UFOs Spotted Over Eger

Two friends on a night fishing expedition in the wine town of Eger took six photos of a unidentified flying object believed to be a, er, UFO, reports. The photos were taken by two men - who are only identified as Tibor and Ferenc in the accompanying video - while they were fishing on a lake formed by an abandoned mine. The pictures show a bright object in different positions in the dark sky. Nobody knows what the thing was, but, say Tibor, Ferenc and others, it was clearly not a disco laser or car headlight. "The light came from the inside of it," Tibor said. "It had volume, it was three-dimensional. If I compare it to the moon, its light was much stronger. It was right ahead of us, 150 meters away."

The two men arrived at the lake at around 9:30 p.m on the evening of May 24. Only a few minutes had passed when the object appeared and flew towards them without making a sound. Then it suddenly stopped and disappeared behind the forest. The electric discharge of the object caused Tibor's watch to stop, and the two men lost their sense of time and space. Meanwhile, the bright light frightened animals in the area; Tibor's dog ran to the forest whining and wasn't found until fifteen minutes later, cowering in a hole in a tree trunk.

"Now I think that [aliens] exist," Tibor said. "When the time comes, they show themselves. This was the time. I have to admit, the hair on my arm still stands up when we talk about it."

One of Hungary's leading UFO experts, Tibor Sós, who has analyzed more than 100 UFO sightings over the past fifteen years, said the photos weren't manipulated. "Whatever it was, the typical saucer shape can be seen on it. The diameter is about eight or ten meters." Sós took a reading of radiation in the area, which he said was normal, indicating that the UFO didn't land.

Sós also said that he believes aliens are friendly, but just don't like to be seen. Which seems odd, given some of the things other Magyars who have had close encounters of the UFO kind have told the Szeged-based alienist. In fact, it makes us wonder if someone should be taking a closer look at him.

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