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Liberating the Iraqi People

A U.S. Marine writes an identification number on the forehead of an Iraqi man detained during a search in Haditha, 220 kilometers (140 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Weeping Madman in Sweltering Baghdad
Juan Cole
Informed COmment

Andy Mosher and Bassam Sebti with Naseer Nouri draw the curtain back on the real Baghdad, a Mad Max scene of unpredictable explosions, scattered body parts, inadequate and undependable electricity, lack of refrigeration, water sabotage, and weeping madmen:

'Nearby, a scruffy young man in dirty pants and an unbuttoned shirt stood staring at vegetables scattered on the ground by one of the explosions. Bending over and picking up an onion spattered with blood, he began to cry. "Every one of you in Karrada calls me Crazy Ali," he said to no one in particular. "But I would never do such a thing. I am better than you sane people. At least I do not hurt you."'

Comment: No comment necessary.

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Remembering the lessons of Germany's past
Chuck Baldwin June 16, 2005

For years, I struggled to comprehend how the good people of Germany could allow someone such as Adolph Hitler to lead them into what became World War II. After all, before Hitler's rise to power, Germany had a rich Christian heritage. The Reformation out of the Dark Ages had its roots deeply imbedded in Germany and surrounding countries.

Furthermore, Germany has long produced some of the most intelligent and creative people on the planet! Many of the world's greatest engineers and scientists have come from Germany and Austria. When it comes to knowledge and education, the Germanic people take a back seat to no one.

How, then, could the good, intelligent people of Germany follow and support someone such as Hitler? For years I struggled to find the answer to that puzzle. Now, I believe I understand.

Obviously, one does not gain the trust and confidence of people by portraying himself as a monster. Does anyone truly believe that the German people would have supported Hitler if they had thought he was some kind of ogre? As with most leaders, Hitler preached faith, family, and patriotism. His speeches were laced with references to God. He personally claimed Christ to be his Savior. Even his adopted Nazi symbol was created around the Christian cross. As far as the German people were concerned, Adolph Hitler was loyal to historic, conservative Christian values. Why should they have thought otherwise?

However, it did not take long for Hitler to begin turning Germany from an independent, peaceful republic into an aggressive global empire. And it is at this point that the German people, and especially the German church, must share culpability for Hitler's sins.

First, On March 23, 1933, the newly elected members of the Reichstag (the German Parliament) met in the Kroll Opera House in Berlin to consider passing Hitler's "Ermächtigungsgesetz" or, The "Enabling Act." This Act was officially called the "Law for Removing the Distress of the People and the Reich."

Opponents of the "Enabling Act" rightly warned that, if adopted, the Act would make Hitler a de facto dictator. They worried that the Act would dismantle constitutional liberties. History would prove that their worries were valid.

At the time, however, it was anything but certain that Hitler would prevail in convincing German lawmakers to pass his "Enabling Act." Then, suddenly, terrorists struck the Reichstag building.

After the Reichstag was burned on February 28, 1933, President Hindenburg and Hitler invoked Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, which permitted the suspension of civil liberties during national emergencies. As a result, freedom of the press, free expression of opinion, individual property rights, right of assembly and association, right to privacy of postal and electronic communications, states' rights of self-government, and protection against unlawful searches and seizures were suspended. Shortly afterward, the "Enabling Act" was passed, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Of course, historians have widely speculated that it was Nazis, themselves, that had set the fire in order to facilitate passage of the "Enabling Act" and ensconce Hitler as Germany's Fuhrer. No one knows for sure who burned the Reichstag, but what we do know is that Hitler used that act of terrorism to gain the support of the people as a "wartime president."

The German people were convinced that their country was under attack and that Hitler was the leader who could protect them. Consider the statement of one of Hitler's most trusted cabinet members, Hermann Goering, "The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger." (Source: Transcript of Nuremberg Trials)

Compare Goering's statement to former Attorney General John Ashcroft who, in defending the USA Patriot Act (which does much the same thing as Hitler's "Enabling Act") said, "To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve." (Source: Press Report, Center for Public Integrity)

Is it only a coincidence (or a repeat of history) that Republicans have introduced a bill in Congress to nullify the 22nd Amendment thereby opening the door for President George W. Bush to become permanent president? (Source: U.S. House of Representatives, H.J. Res. 24 "Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to repeal the 22nd amendment to the Constitution" introduced February 17, 2005.)

Add to H.J. Res. 24 the World Net Daily report that "A former Bush team member during his first administration is now voicing serious doubts about the collapse of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

"Morgan Reynolds, former chief economist for the Department of Labor during President George W. Bush's first term, says the official story about the collapse of the Twin Towers is 'bogus' and that it is more likely that a controlled demolition destroyed them and adjacent Building No. 7."

WND quotes Reynolds as stating further, "Only professional demolition appears to account for the full range of facts associated with the collapse of the three buildings."

Whether the Twin Towers and Building 7 were brought down via "an inside job" or not, one thing is certain: the attacks of September 11, 2001 became the catalyst that propelled Congressmen to quickly pass the USA Patriot Act even though none of them had read it.

Much is being made over the fact that on Wednesday of this week, the House of Representatives removed some "sneak and peek" features regarding public libraries from the Patriot Act. Of course, President Bush is livid and is threatening to veto the bill without that segment of the Act included. However, what few people seem to notice is that a host of egregiously unconstitutional abridgments of freedom remain intact in the Patriot Act.

Under the Patriot Act, government agents can conduct searches in your home or business and search your belongings without informing you and without a court order. Government agents are permitted to arrest and detain individuals and to hold them indefinitely, without being charged with a crime, and without being allowed access to an attorney. In other words, the Patriot Act (like Hitler's "Enabling Act") expunges our Fourth Amendment protections against illegal searches and seizures and our right to be secure in our persons, houses, papers, and effects.

Furthermore, the Patriot Act (like Hitler's "Enabling Act") destroys our Fifth Amendment right to be held for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, without an indictment of a grand jury. The Patriot Act also eviscerates a citizen's constitutional right of Habeas Corpus.

The point is, as with Hitler's Germany, so, too, the American people, and especially America's churches, are willingly and enthusiastically surrendering constitutional liberties in order to accommodate President Bush's desires for authoritarian power as a "wartime president."

Consider, too, Hitler's invasion of Germany's neighbors. People cheered as German troops attacked other nations. And even though those nations had not participated in any attack against Germany, Hitler had convinced people that preemptive attacks against those nations were necessary as they would make Germany "more secure." Does this or does this not sound just like President Bush's justification for invading Iraq?

Once again, please remember that the German people believed Hitler to be a patriotic, Christian man. As a result, Hitler had the unflinching support of Germany's conservative Christian ministers. How else would they be pe rsuaded to follow Hitler into the nightmare of the Nazi regime?

Remember, also, that to most German ministers, the Nazi Party was "God's Party." They really believed they were being faithful to God by being faithful to Hitler. Therefore, should we not be concerned today when we hear of Christian ministers excommunicating church members who do not support President Bush or the Republican Party? Should not "red flags" go up in our minds when we hear Christian ministers excuse Bush's unconstitutional con duct by proclaiming, "Bush is God's man for America, therefore, we cannot criticize him!"?

Yes, my friends, it is now obvious to me how Adolph Hitler seized power in Germany, because the same principles that Hitler used in the 1930's are being used by America's leaders today.

Am I saying that I believe President Bush is another Hitler? Of course not. I am saying, however, that the same tactics and strategies being used by President Bush are eerily similar to those of the former German leader's. Certainly, we all pray for a fate far better than that of Hitler's Germany. But to obtain a better future for America, it is obligatory that we remember the lessons of Germany's past.

Comment: While Bush himself clearly lacks the intellect and oratory skills to be "another Hitler", there is much evidence to suggest that there are many others - the real power brokers in Washington - who share the exact same ideologies as Hitler. As such, we can probably expect a much worse outcome than that which the world experienced during and after WWII.

In the US today, you can't compare Bush to Hitler. The black shirts of the right will be all over you. Baldwin goes right up to the precipice and then does a rhetorical back step. He may need to do that so as not to alienate his listeners. Readers of this page have learned to read between the lines, to discern the signs in the world around us.

Yes, the events of Nazi Germany are repeating in the United States. Yes, the same means are being used to install a new Commander in Chief for life. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

Baldwin raises the issue of church support for Hitler. Christianity is one of the pillars of power in the western countries, and it is certainly nowhere more so than in the US of A, In God We Trust, and all that. Whether God trusts the US of A is another question, and he has unfortunately not returned our emails querying him on the matter. While we await the definitive response from the Creator himself, we can look at the origins of the Christian cult and come to our own conclusions...

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Behind The Bible Fraud - What Was The Church Trying To Hide?
By Robert Adams
New Dawn

When I first spoke to a close Christian friend of mine about the publishing of Tony Bushby's The Bible Fraud, her reaction was one that many Christians have expressed, and one that made me aghast. She didn't want the book available because it would "persuade them away from the Bible and the word of God." Further discussions with her and many other Christians around the world about The Bible Fraud all result in the Bible being quoted as the ultimate reference for the apparent "words of God," and therefore the basis for their arguments. The problem lies in that they believe the Bible is infallible. [...]

As Tony points out, the history of our 'genuine' Bibles is a convoluted one. Firstly we cannot be sure that we have the full version as it was originally intended. In 1415 the Church of Rome took an extraordinary step to destroy all knowledge of two second century Jewish books that it said contained the true name of Jesus Christ. The Antipope Benedict XIII firstly singled out for condemnation a secret Latin treatise called "Mar Yesu" and then issued instructions to destroy all copies of the book of Elxai. The Rabbinic fraternity once held the destroyed manuscripts with great reverence for they were comprehensive original records reporting the life of Rabbi Jesus.

Later, Pope Alexander VI ordered all copies of the Talmud destroyed, with the Spanish Grand Inquisitor Tomas de Torquemada (1420-98) responsible for the elimination of 6,000 volumes at Salamanca alone. Solomon Romano (1554) also burnt many thousands of Hebrew scrolls and, in 1559, every Hebrew book in the city of Prague was confiscated. The mass destruction of Jewish books included hundreds of copies of the Old Testament and caused the irretrievable loss of many original handwritten documents.

The oldest text of the Old Testament that survived, before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls was said to be the Bodleian Codex (Oxford), which was dated to circa 1100 AD. In an attempt by the church to remove damaging Rabbinic information about Jesus Christ from the face of the earth, the Inquisition burnt 12,000 volumes of the Talmud. In 1607, forty-seven men (some records say fifty four) took two years and nine months to re-write the Bible and make it ready for press. It was, by the order of King James, issued with a set of personal 'rules' the translators were to follow. Upon its completion in 1609, it was handed over to the King James for his final approval. However, "It was self evident that James was not competent to check their work and edit it, so he passed the manuscripts onto the greatest genius of all time... Sir Francis Bacon" The first English language manuscripts of the Bible remained in Bacon's possession for nearly a year. During that time ... "he hammered the various styles of the translators into the unity, rhythm, and music of Shakespearean prose, wrote the prefaces and created the whole scheme of the Authorized Version. At the completion of the editing, King James ordered a 'dedication to the King' to be drawn up and included in the opening pages. He also wanted the phrase 'Appointed to be read in the churches' to appear on the title page. The King James Bible is considered by many today to be the 'original' Bible and therefore 'genuine' and all later revisions simply counterfeits forged by 'higher critics'. Others think the King James Bible is 'authentic' and 'authorized' and presents the original words of the authors as translated into English from the 'original' Greek texts. However, as Tony points out, the 'original' Greek text was not written until around the mid fourth century and was a revised edition of writings compiled decades earlier in Aramaic and Hebrew. Those earlier documents no longer exist and the Bibles we have today are five linguistic removes from the first bibles written. What was written in the 'original originals' is quite unknown. It is important to remember that the words 'authorized' and 'original', as applied to the Bible do not mean 'genuine', 'authentic' or 'true'.

By the early third century, it became well noted that a problem was occurring . politics! In 251AD, the number of Presbyter's (roving orator or priest) writings had increased dramatically and bitter arguments raged between opposing factions about their conflicting stories. According to Presbyter Albius Theodoret (circa 255), there were "more than two hundred" variant gospels in use in his time. In 313, groups of Presbyters and Biscops (Bishops) violently clashed over the variations in their writings and "altar was set against altar" in competing for an audience and territory. [...]

Comments on Adams' article on are along the following lines:

Comment Alton Raines 6-21-5; While few, even Roman Catholics, would argue that there have indeed been both Popes of questionable, if not evident rancor to the faith and to morals in history, likewise few would argue that there have been upheavals of church politics of every variety imaginable in 1800 years, some of which has effected church function and even doctrine to this day. An imperfect church hierarchy does not ipso facto mean everything about the Lord Jesus Christ or the Bible is a lie or fabrication!

The foundation stone of Bushby's erratic, nonsensically woven tale of two Jesii is conjecture and wild imagination, at best, having a remarkably embarrassing lack of evidence and/or reference materials for any given statement or postulation. This is typical of the current rash of De- Christers who are dead set on confounding the issues surrounding who Jesus/Y'shua of Nazareth "really" was and locking that element into centuries of both real and unsubstantiated accounts of church malfeasance (some authentic, most invented, almost all irrelevant to the issue of Biblical veracity). Most such disastrous doctrinal defects wound up in 'catechisms', not holy scripture (though sadly, some to this day regard the two as equal) [...]

The Bible Fraud is just that. A fraud.

Comment Tim Rivera 6-22-5: re. "Behind The Bible Fraud - ..." by Robert Adams, posted at Please forgive the length of what follows, but typically it is a much more difficult (and involved) matter to give rebuttal than it is to make assertions. Rather than reading the pseudo-scholarly works that are all the rage on this topic (and those related to it - ala "The Da Vinci Code"), the author of this piece would have been better served to have actually read CREDIBLE sources on this topic; namely, reading the polemics/apologies which surrounded the matter discussed at the Council of Nicea (which sadly, is a favourite point of attack for enthusiastic, but terribly ill-informed new-agers and so called "free thinkers"). You'll have to forgive me if this sounds presumptuous, but I can hardly believe someone who is actually familiar with the history of this period (whether a Christian or not; religious or secular in outlook) and has read primary sources on the context in which the Council of Nicea occured, could have written such an incredibly unfortunate article. [...]

Thus the idea that the big bad "Council of Nicea" was assembled to determine what Christianity in it's most basic sense amounts to, is ridiculous. Indeed, for many moderns (for whom "ideas" are not something important enough to get worked up over) much of the debate before, during, and after the Council of Nicea can seem tedious and like hair splitting - which round aboutly, demonstrates that what Christianity in it's basics "was", including it's sacred books (since this was what the "Bible" is - a library, not a single book), was not so controversial by the time 325 A.D. rolled around. The author also makes another fatal error - the confounding of the Roman Catholic Church with the "Church of Nicea", and anachronistically reading the absurdities and excesses of later "Papism" upon this "Nicean Church". The fact of the matter is, those assembled at Nicea would not have recognized what the local Roman Church became in later centuries - indeed, the Bishops of Rome contemporary to that period would not recognize the "Church of the Crusades" or the pretended "infalliblity" of the 19th century Popes as her own. If you want to see descendents of "Nicene" Christianity, you'd be better off going to Greece, Russia, or Egypt, than looking to later Rome, which by their lights, represents a false, schismatic church, not the "Catholic Church" proper. IOW, for all of the pretense of open mindedness, the author has taken an extremely narrow view of the topic - and in fact, is guilty of buying into the anachronistic propaganda of the Vatican itself (which tries to present itself as the "ancient church", when in reality it's a schism from the Orthodox Church of the East, which to this day has a nominal membership in the hundreds of millions, though is largely unknown to westerners.)

Comment Marcea Ray 6-22-5: I was surprised to see Robert Adam's article describing, and in support of, the Bible Fraud. I haven't researched the sources of the assertions that the author of the Bible Fraud uses as "proof" for his claims, so I hesitate to offer up an opinion, but from Adam's article, and the responses of Jack Manuelian and Alton Raines, it seems as if the Bible Fraud is yet another outrageous attempt to discredit the Bible and Christianity, but this isn't anything new or unusual, it's been going on for two thousand years now. [...]

Comment Mohamed Imtiaz 6-22-5:I am a Muslim and was very interested in reading the article "Behind The Bible Fraud - What Was The Church Trying To Hide? By Robert Adams New Dawn However, after reaching where he talked about Jesus (peace be with him), I realized that Mr. Robert Adams is trying to deceive your audiences. Our source of guidance is the Quraan. We believed what has been revealed to Jesus (peace be with him) is from Allah. We also have evidences proving the Bible of today is not in its original form and has been altered. What the Muslims cannot tolerate is the blasphemy Mr. Adams is leveling against Allah's Messenger.(paragraph 20-21)

The Holy Quraan says:
1. Jesus (peace be with him) was born from virgin Mary (peace be with her).
2. Jesus (peace be with him) was never married.
3. Jesus (peace be with him) was never a thief.
4. Jesus (peace be with him) was never murdered nor crucified. He is alive and will be sent back to earth near the end of this world. There is an empty spot alongside the grave of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). That's where Jesus (peace be with him) will be buried. [...]

Comment Vencislav Bujic 6-22-5: My comment to Robert Alves:

The so-called "Josephus paragraph" is a forgery, there is excelent web page about paragraph and about other "non-Christian" testimony of Jesus:

Comment Matt Vooro 6-24-5 The bible is a collection of ancient writings going back thousands of years. To some degree it describes the history of man. It provides in allegory, prophecy, law, epistle, parables and poetry, the belief system of the Christian faith.

The specific books included in the bible were cherry picked out of many similar books. Once Christianity became a state religion, various changes and deletions were made in 325 AD during the first Council of Nicea. These changes continued well into the 12th Century. Entire books were rejected including books that included topics like reincarnation and the multi-dimensional nature of man, his soul and his spirit. All topics, which were in conflict with the official state views, were simply rejected whether they were true or not.

The fact that we are all sons and daughters of the Holy Spirit and that we can all achieve Christ Consciousness as Jesus had done, did not fit the state controlled belief system even though this was the real message of Jesus. From that time on the teachings changed from people teaching themselves to worshipping the man Jesus who would forgive them their sins. Whereas the original Christians were told that they were responsible for everything that they did, suddenly they were told that Jesus came to die for their sins. [...]

Some of our religious institutions are literally holding their followers in a time warp that is several thousand years old. They not only ignore modern science and medicine but also new spiritual understanding and revelations. When did our church last teach us anything new about the magnificence of our multi-dimensional soul or spirit? Have they ever explained during their service what a soul really is and how to communicate with our soul? Christ Consciousness is something that every individual can achieve and not only Jesus. One does not need a middleman to communicate with ones own God presence within, our Soul. This was Jesus' real message. Churches can help but ultimately we need to find this Spirit within ourselves. Some Bible critics claim that biblical story of Jesus is a collection of old myths which were resurrected around the story of Jesus during the Roman Empire to help stop the various religious wars in the various parts of the their empire. These critics point to many similar myths associated with Horus of Egypt, Mithra of Persia, Krishna of India, Promethus of Greece and many others. Many of today's sacred holidays were already pagan days of worship before the time of Jesus. Perhaps all great past teachers struggled under similar circumstances in order to get their message across.

Others have difficulty in accepting some sections of the bible that:

1] Teach its believers to fear God rather than love god
2] Teach that God requires animal and blood sacrifice
3] Tell that God waged ethnic cleansing by supporting a certain race only which was the so called "chosen people '
4] Tell that God openly waged and supported war and killing
5] Portrayed God as angry, jealous, emotional and revengeful
6] Placed women lower than men

Some critics feel that these sections were the actual teachings of that time but the God referred to in these sections were gods spelled with a small 'g' or other powerful entities who pretended to be God. The people of that time did not know any different and referred to all these as God. Perhaps various cosmic races interacted with man during those times. Perhaps parts of the real story of Christ's life on earth are somewhat different from the story told in the Bible. Perhaps the complete and true story is yet to be revealed. Perhaps Christianity is not yet ready for the truth. Sometime the myth becomes stronger than the truth and the people refuse to accept the truth even when they are shown it. [...]

Comment: Laura has recently written an excellent review of The Book of Q and Christian Origins by Burton Mack. Here the reader will learn that "Q" is short for the German word Quelle (which is source). Q is one of the two sources for Matthew and Luke, the other being old Mark, but the unknown lost source is now named Q. While this subject comes up under the subject heading of Q hypothesis - (synoptics criticism), since the discovery of the Gospel of Thomas, it really isn't a hypothesis anymore.

Read that last bit again: It really isn't a hypothesis anymore. In the analysis of the Q Document, you can discover what has the highest probability of being the truth of Christianity available today. In short, this is probably the real scoop on the so-called "Bible Fraud."

Mack writes:

In Q there is no hint of a select group of disciples, no program to reform the religion or politics of Judaism, no dramatic encounter with the authorities in Jerusalem, no martyrdom for the cause, much less a martyrdom with saving significance for the ills of the world, and no mention of a first church in Jerusalem. The people of Q simply did not understand their purpose to be a mission to the Jews, or to gentiles for that matter. They we re not out to transform the world or start a new religion.

Q's challenge to the popular conception of Christian origins is therefore clear. If the conventional view of Christian beginnings is right, how are we to account for these first followers of Jesus? Did they fail to get his message? Were they absent when the unexpected happened? Did they carry on in ignorance or in repudiation of the Christian gospel of salvation? If, however, the first followers of Jesus understood the purpose of their movement just as Q describes it, how are we to account for the emergence of the Christ cult, the fantastic mythologies of the narrative gospels, and the eventual establishment of the Christian church and religion? Q forces the issue of rethinking Christian origins as no other document from the earliest times has done. [...]

With Q in view the entire landscape of early Christian history and literature has to be revised. [...]

The narrative gospels can no longer be viewed as the trustworthy accounts of unique and stupendous historical events at the foundation of the Christian faith. The gospels must now be seen as the result of early Christian mythmaking. Q forces the issue, for it documents an earlier history that does not agree with the narrative gospel accounts. [...]

The issues raised are profound and far reaching. [...] They strike to the heart of an entrenched reluctance in our society to discuss the mythic foundations for attitudes and values, both shared and conflictual, that influence the way we think, behave, and construct our institutions. Q can hardly be discussed without engaging in some honest talk about Christian myth and the American dream. [The Lost Gospel by Burton L. Mack]

Mack's discussion shows how the Jesus movement was a vigorous social experiment that was generated for reasons other than an "originating event" such as a "religious experience" or the "birth of the son of God."

The Jesus movement seems to have been a response to troubled and difficult times. Mack outlines and describes the times, and shows how the pressures of the milieu led to thinking new thoughts about traditional values and experimenting with associations that crossed ethnic and cultural boundaries. The Jesus movement was composed of novel social notions and lifestyles that denied and rejected traditional systems of honor based on power, wealth, and place in hierarchical social structures. Ancient religious codes of ritual purity, taboos against intercourse across ethnic boundaries, were rejected. People were encouraged to think of themselves as belonging to the larger, human family. Q says: "If you embrace only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?"

The Jesus people not only rejected the old order of things, they were actively at work on the questions of what ideal social order they wanted to manifest and promote. The attraction of the Jesus people to its followers was not at all based on any ideas to reform a religious tradition that had gone wrong, nor was it even thought of as a new religion in any way. It was quite simply a social movement that sought to enhance human values that grew out of an unmanageable world of confusing cultures and social histories. It was a group of like-minded individuals that created a forum for thinking about the world in new ways, coming up with new ideas that included the shocking notion that an ethnically mixed group could form its own kind of community and live by its own rules.

In addition to reconstructing the times in which the Jesus people lived, Mack presents the Q document itself, showing that it was built up in three layers, each layer being additions made in response to external pressures on the group. What is most interesting is the analysis of the first layer, the one that must be composed of the actual teachings of the man called Jesus. It seems that Jesus' challenge to his followers was to take a deeper look at their world and challenge it in how they lived their lives.

Seven clusters of teachings, or sayings, emerged from the study of Q, and each of these express a coherent set of issues. These sayings comprise a comprehensive set of sage observations that delight in critical comment on the everyday world and unorthodox instructions that recommend unconventional behavior! The ever-present theme of Jesus' teachings was a review of life and conventional values that promoted the idea that customary pretensions are hollow, wealth, learning, possessions, secrets, rank, and power are meaningless in terms of the true value of a human being. Jesus was promoting the idea that the Emperor is naked, though in no way did he propose any idea of changing the system. Implicit in his critique is the idea that there is a better way to live. The challenge was to be able to live without being consumed with worry even if one was fully aware that the world "out there" was a dangerous jungle that required care to navigate.

When fully analyzed and compared with other norms of the time, Jesus emerges as a man living the life of the popular philosophy of the Cynic. This is striking because the Cynics are remembered as distinctly unlovable because they promoted biting sarcasm and public behavior that was designed to call attention to the absurdity of standard conventions.

Apparently many responded to the movement and associations of like-minded people began to form. And then, something very interesting happened... Suddenly, in the next layer of Q, a heightened sense of belonging to a movement becomes obvious because injunctions given as aphorisms now become rules supported by arguments. At this point, the idea of the "Kingdom of God" enters the picture. This "Kingdom" was, apparently, a realm or domain in which the rule of God is actualized. The rule of God is what the Q people said they were representing in the world. For the Jesus people, this meant something quite different from what Christians now assume it to mean. First of all, there was nothing at all apocalyptic about it (all that came later). For the Jesus people, the Kingdom of God was compared repeatedly to the natural process of growth as witnessed in Nature. Everything about this "Kingdom of God" was practical, having to do with things that can be accomplished in contrast to the conventional life.

The match between the Cynics and the Jesus people is not exact in all cases because the Jesus people DID have an interest in the "Divine" aspect of "God." Unfortunately, there is little in the Q document that explains this Divine source other than the fact that the Jesus people represented it as a "Father" and those who could successfully resist the ruin of social evils were the "children of God." The way the Jesus people referred to God was a bit more serious than the way the Cynics referred to such ideas. The Q people were concerned with the care of their members as a "family." I would suggest that there was a perception of differences in human beings among the Q people, though Mack does not make a special point of analyzing that issue.

Mack continues to examine and identify the stages in the Jesus movement, including the point at which the movement experienced rejection, criticism, and censure. A sudden shift in tone is noted in the third layer of Q. This is one of the more interesting parts of the book which describes an extremely troubled phase of the movement. There is a concern with loyalty noted, which suggests that there had been pressure from some outside authority, and betrayal from within. At this point, the role of Jesus was expanded, and this seems to have been related to mutual recognition of other "Jesus people." The movement must have been growing quite fast and threatening the authorities, and some action must have been taken which resulted in the need to find criteria for who was or was not a real follower of the teachings. So it was that concern for loyalty to the teachings resulted in the need to recast Jesus as the authoritative founder of the movement whose teachings must be "kept". That is to say, the shift in focus was from the teachings to the teacher. The next step was, of course, loyalty to Jesus himself.

The question is, of course, what happened? The document doesn't tell us, though it hints at the nature of the problem by virtue of the additional text that dealt with the issues. There were, obviously, painful experiences that were turned to a lesson. Mack suggests that the formation of Jesus people "families" must have seriously offended certain authorities.

It seems that families were being split, and ethnic conventions were being personally challenged over loyalty to the movement. The evidence indicates that this occurred in relation to Judaism.

Here we find the most fascinating twist of all in the development of Christianity. If the Jesus people had not been attacked by the Jewish authorities, they would not have sought to justify their movement in terms of the Jewish religion. It was only in defense that they did this. They ran afoul of the Pharisaic code, probably because they had Jewish members whose families were horrified at the participation of their children or relatives in the new movement. The issue of loyalty came to be phrased as a "Jewish" question, and the Jesus people felt they had to answer it in Jewish terms.

And so it was that the Jesus people turned to the labor of mythmaking. They had to find ways to best their critics by turning their own words against them. They began to search for self-justifying arguments, examples in support of their own movement. They were only doing it in the sense of the Cynic system of argumentation, but the results were nonlinear. What they presented as their arguments was then adopted as REAL, and the Jesus people made an implicit claim on the cultural heritage of the Jews.

It is clear that the individuals who did this were not well versed in the Jewish writings. They made no appeals to such obvious things as the promises to the patriarchs, the priestly covenants, the Mosaic law, the Davidic covenant, and so on. Most of the allusions to Judaism were taken from popular oral traditions that would have been available to non-Jews of the time.

Mack next takes the reader through the process of exactly how the subsequent myth was built, layer by layer, and it is fascinating. Effectively, what happened was that a group of people created a myth of broad - even global - horizons by elaborating on the sayings of an unlikely sage of Cynic persuasion who was reconceived as a wisdom teacher, an apocalyptic prophet, the son of God, and the means of atonement for all the world's sins if people would just "believe." By degrees, Jesus was saying things that only the wisdom of God could reveal. An amazing accommodation with Jewish piety against which earlier battles had raged was made, and Jesus was now quoting scriptures as proof texts that he was the son of God whose kingdom would only be revealed at the end of time.

This brings us back to the fact that Christians don't like myths. At some level they surely know that Christianity based on the narrative gospels is a myth, but they are in denial. They cannot deal with the fact that, for the original followers of the teachings of Jesus, there was no need to claim any epic legitimacy. To them, Jesus was simply a Cynic sage whose insights were tried and tested and found to be good. His success was in his masterful Cynic discourse that challenged others to try a different way of living.

The most ironic thing about the development of Christianity as a global religion is that it has aligned itself with Judaism as a "daughter" when the facts indicate that the adoption of a "Jewish" heritage was merely the result of a defensive maneuver. The Jesus people simply usurped the epic of their main detractors and used it against them. "Get off our backs. Your own history should tell you that what we represent is a critical voice in unhealthy times and has always been needed. See, we are OK even on your own terms." It was never intended to be a serious alignment. Mack writes:

"Q puts us in touch with the earlier history of the Jesus movements, and their recollections of Jesus are altogether different. The first followers of Jesus did not know about or imagine any of the dramatic events upon which the narrative gospels hinge. [...] All of these events must and can be accounted for as mythmaking in the Jesus movements, with a little help from the martyrology of the Christ, in the period after the Roman-Jewish war. The narrative gospels have no claim as historical accounts. The gospels are imaginative creations whose textual resources and social occasions can be identified. The reasons for their composition can be explained. They are documents of intellectual labor normal for people in the process of experimental group formation. [...]"

From the above, we can almost understand why so many must insist on denying these conclusions. So much energy, for two thousand years, has been put into this mythology, into related mythologies, including an entire industry that today tries to come up with novel and alternative explanations for who Jesus was, whether or not he was married, did he die of a blood clot, is the Shroud of Turin authentic, and so on and so on. It seems, based on the Q document, that it is unlikely that Jesus was even Jewish.

Mack is NOT saying that there was not something going on at that period of history. Clearly there was. Clearly, there WAS a teacher and a teaching and followers. Of that, there can be no doubt.

Biblical scholars, of course, work very hard trying to find ways to "enhance" the picture of Jesus. For a very long time, they (and even alternative writers such as Bushby, Lincoln, Leigh, Baigent, and others) have assumed that Jesus was a unique individual, and his teachings and life must have been novel. But even this approach has failed to save the story told in the narrative gospels. When scholars reveal the results of their work outside scholarly circles, there is generally an anguished public outcry. People cannot bear to be told that Jesus did not say what Matthew, Mark and Luke say he said, and the scholars who are trying to save the buns from the fire don't seem to be able to adequately explain to the public how they arrive at their conclusions. There is a complete lack of basic knowledge on the part of the general public about the formations of early Christianity, generally encouraged by the purveyors of the "religion" itself. "Thou shalt not ask questions," they intone solemnly, and the threats of hell-fire and damnation are intimated for those who even open the cover of a book on the subject.

The average Christian is horrified to think that Matthew was either lying, or was mistaken, or he made it all up and didn't bother to inform the reader that he was making stuff up. Mack deals with this issue in some detail and even if the explanation will produce discomfort in many Christians, the explanation is "eminently understandable." The fact is, the authors of early Christian texts, following a tradition of Greco-Roman attitudes and practices with regard to sayings or maxims of a teacher, felt perfectly free to attribute new sayings, and even deeds, to Jesus. At various points in the history of these early groups, when certain tensions arose, it was seen as necessary and useful to recast the character of Jesus by speech attribution and narrative changes. This is exactly what was done, and the evidence is in the textual analyses. It was in this sense that the history of the Q community was traced.

At the first stage, the discourse was playful and the behavior public. The people of Q were challenging one another to live a life of integrity despite the social repercussions.

The second stage was that of forming groups. Apparently, these experiments in behavior produced satisfying results and more and more people were attracted to the idea. Human relationships became a particular focus, and there was no evidence of any idea of reforming society or any demand for conversion of outsiders.

And then, the third shift: apparently, when groups were formed, this attracted very negative attention. The distress signal in the text is evident, and it is also evident that it was not a consequence of weariness with reproach or discouragement, but rather that there was a definite and dangerous social conflict relating to certain members of the Q groups.

And then, another stage occurred, a period during which the people of Q began to see themselves as carriers of a social movement with a purpose in the grander scheme of things.

It was in this context that the ideas of the Christ cult of northern Syria overshadowed and even erased the memories and importance of Jesus, the Cynic teacher. As Mack points out, the cost of surviving the Roman-Jewish war must have been very high. This part of the discussion is particularly interesting, and one can speculate on the possibility of an esoteric tradition being combined with the social experiment and converted into a history. The "real" Jesus disappeared from the story because the narrative gospels told a more exciting tale that promised wonderful things in terrible times, and Jesus became the "lynchpin" of all history.

After reading Mack's book, Tony Bushby's The Bible Fraud is even sillier than I originally thought. It will have to join a host of others - including Holy Blood, Holy Grail, the Da Vinci Code, The Templar Revelation, The Jesus Conspiracy, Jesus the Magician, and just about everything that assumes a priori that there is ANYTHING even remotely historical in the narrative gospels - on the trash heap.

Yes, it's all a fraud, no doubt about that, but not exactly the way so many are claiming nowadays when they create their equally ridiculous "New Age" or "alternative" mythologies to replace the Dead Man on a Stick nonsense.

I say good riddance to all of it.

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FBI Turned Loose

Privacy rights may disappear if a new Senate Intelligence Committee bill passes
by Nat Hentoff
June 23rd, 2005

[Since 9-11] the Constitution has gone from an objective to be satisfied to an obstacle to national defense. . . . As these changes mount, at what point do we become other than a free and democratic nation?
- George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, Los Angeles Times, January 2, 2003

Civil liberties had their origin and must find their ultimate guarantee in the faith of the people. If that faith should be lost, five or nine [votes on the Supreme Court] could not long supply its want.
- Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, Douglas v. City of Jeannette (1943)

On June 6, in a closed-door session, the Senate Intelligence Committee approved a bill that, if Congress and the president agree (and he will), would dramatically expand the FBI's powers under the Patriot Act to issue secret administrative subpoenas for an unprecedented range of personal records - without having to go to a judge.

The FBI will write its own subpoenas - just as British customs officials in the colonies did before the American Revolution - using general search warrants (writs of assistance) to go into homes and offices at will to look for contraband. These raids so inflamed 18th-century Americans that the "general search warrant" was one of the precipitating causes of our revolution.

The ACLU's superb Washington staff bluntly explains the impact of the proposal: "This power would let agents seize personal records [it deems relevant to an intelligence investigation] from medical facilities, libraries, hotels, gun dealers, banks and any other businesses, without having to appear before a judge, and without any evidence that the people whose records are collected are involved in any criminal activity."

If the FBI is targeting you in its dragnet operations for some amorphous connection to terrorism (do you go to a mosque or organize against the war?) you will not know that your personal records have been seized - and put into any number of data banks.

Since these are secret administrative subpoenas, the third-party record holders who get them can't tell you what they've given up to the FBI.

While this unleashing of the FBI was being debated at a May 24 open hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee, several Democrats asked a highly pertinent question of a witness, Valerie Caproni, general counsel for the FBI: Is there any evidence that the delay - caused by having to get a judge's approval for a subpoena - has ever harmed national security?

This was her answer: "Can we show you, because of delays, that a bomb went off? No, but it could happen tomorrow. It could."

Comment: This sounds a lot like, "Can we show you that Saddam is prepared to use weapons of mass destruction against the US? No, but it could happen tomorrow. It could."

But hey, it works! Why mess with a good thing?

The administration's shadow Constitution, made up as Bush goes along, trashes the rule of law on the basis of what might happen.

That's how so many thousands of Japanese Americans were herded into internment camps during the Second World War as the army gave false prospective information to President Franklin Roosevelt and the Supreme Court. If anything like 9-11 happens here again, startled speculation, fueled by fear, could bring back those internment camps - with a multicultural range of inmates.

Listening to the FBI general counsel's testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee was Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who, until that moment, had been a stalwart defender of the Patriot Act, much to the administration's delight. Hearing Valerie Caproni justify awarding the FBI such overwhelming authority that this administration had previously failed to get through, Senator Feinstein was somewhat shaken.

"This is a very broad power," she said, "with no check on that power. It's carte blanche for a fishing expedition." She got it!

Because that vote was taken at a closed session of the Intelligence Committee, the yeas and nays have not been officially revealed. (And George W. Bush calls this "a transparent democracy"!) But I have learned that four Democrats voted against the bill as a whole, including the FBI's expanded administrative subpoenas. They were Dianne Feinstein, Jon Corzine of New Jersey, Carl Levin of Michigan, and Ron Wyden of Oregon.

Republican Pat Roberts of Kansas, the aggressive chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, moved this bill fast to steal a march on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which also has oversight authority over the Justice Department and its FBI.

Among the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, ranking minority member Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Richard Durbin of Illinois, and Russell Feingold of Wisconsin - the latter being the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act in 2001 - should mount strong opposition to the administrative subpoenas and other parts of the bill.

For example, empowering the FBI to get from postal inspectors, The New York Times reports, the "names, addresses and all other material appearing on the outside of letters sent to or from people connected to foreign intelligence investigations."

(These mail covers also fish widely, and with little meaningful judicial supervision. It's the FBI that guesses how you may be "connected.")

Lisa Graves, the admirably knowledgeable senior counsel for legislative strategy at the ACLU, says the Intelligence Committee, fearing this bill would lose in the Judiciary Committee, quickly moved to get it out first as a fait accompli, so those who oppose it can be charged with being "soft on terror."

In the May 18 Counterpunch, Lisa Graves adds: "I guess now we'll have to see whether the people on the Judiciary Committee will have the political courage to stand up on this."

I also wonder how long before New York senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton address themselves to these secret FBI vacuum cleaners of information.

And it would be useful if the so-called Democratic leadership (Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and the strutting Howard Dean) would join Bob Barr of the American Conservative Union in saying loud and clear that this bill "would essentially render the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizure completely meaningless." To be continued.

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If Congress Has It's Way, This Site Could Be Cause for Arrest--Yours and Mine
Friday, June 24, 2005

Warren Apel, a civil libertarian, has produced a website, The Burning Flag Page, which does an excellent job of explaining the threat to liberty that is posed by the Congressional move to ban flag-burning. I agree with him wholeheartedly.

As he notes, the proper way to dispose of old, worn-out US flags, including those little things handed out as party favors or displayed from car windows, is burning--something Boy Scout troops often do as a public service. In other words, burning the flag itself is not a crime. It's what the person who burns one is "thinking" at the time of the act.

So what Congress is attempting to do with the Flag Amendment, is to make thinking certain things a crime, punishable by prison. [...]

My own perspective on this is the result of my having lived for over a year in the People's Republic of China, a country where flags are nearly as ubiquitous as they are in the U.S., and where desecration of the flag is a severly punishable offense. Living in China, I never thought I'd see the day that my own country would sink to this level of jingoism and thought control.

As the child of two WW II veterans and the grandson of a Silver Star recipient from WW I, I understand the pain that burning the flag in protest might cause to some who put their lives on the line defending America, or to their relatives. But the answer is not to adopt the totalitarian tactics of a nation like China; it is to honor the high-minded thoughts of the founders of this nation, who made it clear in the First Amendment of the Constitution that Congress would take no action limiting freedom of speech. [...]

The flag amendment which just passed the House by a huge margin, and which may pass in the Senate this time around and even become a part of the Constitution, was predictable. After all, the last refuge of a scoundrel is patriotism, and the scoundrels infesting the capital, who put this country into an unwinnable and pointless war based upon lies, along with the gutless sycophants in Congress who backed them, are now being increasingly called to account by an American public finally grown weary of the war and the lies.

What to do? Dredge up that moldering corpse--the flag protection amendment.

The joke is that the flag is desecrated daily for commercial purposes, waving proudly in front of the corporate headquarters of war profiteers like Halliburton, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Bechtel, GE, Westinghouse and Exxon Mobil, and the homes of tax cheats like disgraced Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski. It decorates all manner of commercial products from the backsides of women's shorts to a line of patriotic condoms.

None of this abuse of the national symbol bothers the right-wing charlatans in Washington. Only burning the thing.

The late Yippie co-founder Abbie Hoffman had Congress' number when he responded to a subpoena to testify in Washington wearing a shirt rendered from a cut-up American flag.

What a pathetic joke it will be for future schoolchildren, reading the high-minded and carefully crafted words of the Constitution, with its careful detailing of the branches of government, the delineation of powers, the enumeration of the rights of the citizenry and the banning of slavery, when they come to this cheap amendment telling them that the beautiful First Amendment guaranteeing free speech which they read earlier is not really true: If they want to protest government actions by burning a piece of red, white and blue cloth, they can be locked up.

And all to cover up the mendacity and cowardice of a gang of war criminals in 2005.

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IRS probing possible data security breaches
By Caroline Drees, Security Correspondent
Jun 24, 4:36 PM (ET)

WASHINGTON - The Internal Revenue Service is investigating whether unauthorized people gained access to sensitive taxpayer and bank account information but has not yet exposed any privacy breaches, an official said on Friday.

The U.S. tax agency -- whose databases include suspicious activity reports from banks about possible terrorist or criminal transactions -- launched the probe after the Government Accountability Office said in April that the IRS "routinely permitted excessive access" to the computer files.

The GAO team was able to tap into the data without authorization, and gleaned information such as bank account holders' names, social security numbers, transaction values, and any suspected terrorist activity. It said the data was at serious risk of disclosure, modification or destruction.

"There is no evidence that anyone who was not authorized accessed the data outside the GAO," said Sheri James, a spokeswoman for the Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which is working with the IRS to address the concerns of the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress.

"The assessment remains ongoing at this time," James said.

IRS officials were not immediately available for comment.

FinCEN is responsible for administering the Bank Secrecy Act, under which banks must file suspicious activity reports on transactions they believe could be linked to money laundering or terrorism financing. The IRS stores this data for FinCEN.

As their name suggests, these reports are filed based on suspicions, not necessarily proof, and the vast majority never lead to investigations or prosecutions.

Unauthorized access to the information held by the IRS raises concerns about the privacy rights and civil liberties of innocent banking clients as well as ordinary taxpayers.

From October, when FinCEN rolls out a new computer system called BSA Direct, the agency will for the first time take control of all BSA data from filing to dissemination, which it hopes will significantly bolster data security.

Taxpayer data will remain with the IRS, which the Treasury says is addressing its "computer security deficiencies."

Concerns about privacy violations through weak computer security are mounting in the United States, where a string of companies this year have reported stolen or misappropriated customer data, including Bank of America Corp., ChoicePoint Inc. and Reed Elsevier .

Since ChoicePoint announced in February that it mistakenly sold 145,000 consumer profiles to a ring of identity thieves, dozens of other organizations, from banks to universities, have announced security breaches of their own.

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Iraq: Bush Myths vs. Reality
By Martin Frost
FOX News
Saturday, June 25, 2005

We have clearly entered a new phase of our involvement in Iraq - public opinion is turning against the administration and the president will be devoting a good bit of his time trying to convince the American public that our policy should not change. This is the right time to take a close look at myths and realities about Iraq.

Comment: Is this really FOX???

I approach this subject as a Democrat who voted to authorize the use of force against Saddam Hussein (search) on two separate occasions: In 1991 when Bush 41 was president and in 2002 when Bush 43 sought congressional approval to launch the current military campaign.

Myth: Saddam Hussein was a part of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States and possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Reality: Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, in one of his last interviews before leaving office, made it clear that Saddam was not involved in Sept. 11. Additionally, we thoroughly searched Iraq for weapons of mass destruction and could not find any. The administration is now justifying our involvement in Iraq on the basis of nation-building (democratization) - something President Bush derided during the 2000 campaign.

Myth: We did not need a large occupying force after initial combat. Vice President Dick Cheney said on NBC's "Meet the Press" in March of 2003 that it was inaccurate to say that we would need several hundred thousand troops in Iraq after military operations ceased. "I think that's an overstatement," he said.

Reality: Former Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki had told Congress that we would need a force of at least 200,000 to occupy Iraq. Gen. Shinseki, who had been responsible for our successful peacekeeping effort in Bosnia, was correct. By not committing enough troops to Iraq, we were unable to seal the borders and this made it possible for foreign terrorists to enter the country and help launch the current waves of attacks against our military.

Myth: Democrats have not supported the War on Terror.

Reality: Democrats first proposed the new Department of Homeland Security and strongly supported our efforts against terrorists in Afghanistan, where Usama bin Laden was believed to be hiding after Sept. 11. A significant number of Democrats voted to authorize force against Saddam, and Democrats have overwhelmingly voted to fund our efforts in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Comment: Yes indeed, and that's part of the problem: There is no real organized resistance to the fascist policies of Bush and Co.

Myth: There is a partisan divide over our policy in Iraq, with Democrats opposing the president and Republicans supporting him.

Reality: A number of Democrats have raised questions about whether the administration has a clear plan for future involvement in Iraq, but leading Democrats are not calling for unconditional withdrawal.

For example, former President Clinton has opposed a hard-and-fast timetable for withdrawal. And now some Republicans are raising serious questions about the wisdom of Bush's approach. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., has called for a specific timetable for withdrawal, starting in October of 2006. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., has said, "the White House is completely disconnected from reality" about Iraq. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has added that he is not as optimistic as the White House about our current progress in Iraq.

Where does all of this leave us today? There is no question that Saddam was a tyrant and that the Middle East is better off with him no longer in power. Also, a democratic Iraq could have a real impact on the future of the entire Middle East. If nation-building (democratization) had been the administration's real objective from the beginning, it should have leveled with the American public at the outset rather than relying on now-discredited claims of weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi involvement in Sept. 11.

Comment: The author seems to find nothing wrong with the idea that the US has the right to "democratize" other nations - not to mention the fact that true democracy, by definition, cannot be imposed on a people.

The American public is perfectly capable of dealing with the truth. The Bush administration needs to level with the public about the difficulty of the job ahead in Iraq rather than making general statements indicating that all is well. We will stay the course in Iraq if the country is convinced that Bush has a realistic plan for the future. It's time for less myth and more reality.

Martin Frost served in Congress from 1979 to 2005, representing a diverse district in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. He served two terms as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, the third-ranking leadership position for House Democrats, and two terms as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Frost serves as a regular contributor to FOX News Channel. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a law degree from the Georgetown Law Center.

Comment: At the end of the article, we find the answer to our first question: Is this really FOX??? Note that even though the author admits that the Bush administration lied about Saddam's connection to 9/11 and WMD's in Iraq, he doesn't seem to feel that anything should be done about the administration's actions. Why not call for impeachment? Bush lied, people died. What more do you need?

We suspect that when Bush addresses the nation next week, he will give the American people "the truth". In other words, he will do just as the author suggests, and "level with the public about the difficulty of the job ahead in Iraq". Bush's honesty will be praised by the controlled media, and all will be well again in the "Land of the Free". On the other hand, perhaps the reason that the US mainstream media is rounding on the Bush administration is designed to send a subtle warning, all the way from Israel... After all, it is no secret that most US media corporations are owned by staunch Israeli supporters...

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Iraq reality check: Americans go from delusion to denial to depression
By Max J. Castro

Slowly, grudgingly, the American people are being compelled by reality to accept the truth: The Bush administration has led this country into a quagmire in Iraq. The result: in the latest poll, only 42 percent approve of the way Bush is handling his job.

On Iraq, the majority of Americans has gone from delusion to denial to the awareness, now just dawning, that they were misled and that the war is a tragic mistake. The main reason for this new and still emerging consciousness is that this war, at the outset opposed by almost the entire world but supported overwhelmingly by Americans, has cost more in lives and money than its enthusiastic backers, among the blindly patriotic masses and the cunning politicians, ever imagined.

It is one thing to watch gleefully, like in a video game, tens of thousands of Iraqi troops, hopelessly outgunned and fleeing, being slaughtered by weapons fired safely from above or afar. But this is not the Gulf War, and it is a far different thing to see, despite the official ban on photographic images, the mounting toll of your own dead and wounded, maimed by crude but lethal weapons.

One thing is to go to war with the legitimacy of the United Nations, a real military coalition, and the financial support of many countries ­ and with the justifiable purpose of defeating and expelling an invader. It is something else to wage an illegal war under false pretenses, to wage it nearly alone ­ morally, financially and militarily ­ only to become an occupying force existing in constant fear and under permanent attack. And, most significantly and ominously for Bush and for the country, it is not the same to win and get out than to engage in a protracted stalemate with no end in sight, a black hole endlessly swallowing flesh and funds.

Much too late for Kerry, too late for tens of thousands of dead Americans and Iraqis, and perhaps too late to avert further tragedy, the people of this country are waking from their long stupor. All the polls show it; most Americans now say the war has not been worth the price and that the country is no safer for it. A Gallup poll in mid-June found that a strong majority (59 percent) of Americans wants to withdraw some or all American troops. As to the comparison with Vietnam, despite the administration's furious efforts to deny any similarity, nearly two thirds (65 percent) of Americans believe the United States is bogged down in Iraq.

It has taken a long time for many Americans who backed the war to admit that they were wrong ­ mistaken, deceived, or manipulated. Indeed, many cling stubbornly to their original beliefs in spite of any and all evidence; one third of Americans continue to affirm that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But the newest numbers imply that a significant percentage of the public now has crossed the psychological barrier that has prevented from admitting they erred.

In the latest survey, a New York Times/CBS News Poll taken June 10-15, 51 percent of the public said that, looking back, they thought the United States should have stayed out of Iraq. Only 45 percent still believe military action was the right thing to do.

As to the present, the public's outlook is bleaker and getting bleaker. A strong majority of Americans say the effort by the United States to stabilize Iraq is going badly ­ 60 percent, up from 47 percent in February. And the data imply Bush is not escaping blame for the Iraq fiasco; only 37 percent believe that Bush is handling the conflict well.

With victory in Iraq nowhere on the horizon and Bush's campaign to con the American people on social security nearly dead, the President's approval ratings have taken a sharp plunge. It is no wonder: in the New York Times/CBS News poll, Americans who thought the country was going in the wrong direction outnumbered those who thought the country was on the right track by nearly 2-1.

The media is finally ­ and carefully ­ beginning to take notice. Last weekend, a network White House correspondent noted that one has to go back to Richard Nixon and Watergate to find such a low approval rating for a newly reelected president ­ only to quickly and emphatically add that no one expects the Bush presidency will meet the same end as Nixon's.

Another leading indicator is the defection of some former stalwart supporters, most famously Representative Walter B. Jones, the conservative North Carolina Republican who once called for the House cafeteria to rename French fries "freedom fries" and now calls on the administration to set a firm date for withdrawal from Iraq. GOP heavyweights such as Senators Chuck Hagel and John McCain have stopped short of calling for withdrawal but have been sharply critical of the administration's unrealistic optimism and called for Bush to tell the truth to the American people on Iraq. That truth, McCain said, is that American troops will have to remain ­ and take casualties ­ for at least two years.

So far the administration is keeping to its positive spin while vowing to hold the course, arguing that setting a withdrawal date would encourage the insurgents, dismay U.S. allies, and possibly lead to the collapse of the Iraqi government. This is that rare occasion in which Bush's analysis, if not his policy, may be correct on all grounds. The hubris of the Bush administration has led the United States into a classical no-win situation. The cost of withdrawal would be high, especially for the Bush legacy and for the dominant and dominating global role the neoconservatives want for the United States. But staying will have a huge cost too ­ an enormous human, military, economic, political, and moral price ­ a cost to be borne mainly by the Iraqi population, the U.S. military, and the American people. The polls suggest that a growing percentage of the latter understand this and are unhappy about it.

Comment: And from here to a recognition that US troops in Iraq are an occupying force against which the Iraqi people have the right to fight? That the US is completely in the wrong? That the insurgents are only doing what any American would do in the same circumstances: fight the aggressor?

This fact is why the chatter from "progressives" about "supporting the troops" is playing into the hands of the war criminals. The only "support" for the troops is to bring them home now. Each day they stay, more Iraqis die. Each day they stay, more Americans die. The US is in the wrong on every point: historical, factual, moral. Not only that, its leaders lied their way to war. "Supporting our troops" is as much an illusion as believing that "Bush didn't know the intelligence was wrong" or "it was worth it to get rid of Saddam Hussein".

It was not worth it. It was illegal, immoral, and the perpetrators and the troops who carry out the occupation are all war criminals.

We repeat: the US is in the wrong all down the line in Iraq. There are no excuses, no mitigating circumstances, nothing to ease the conscience, no form of self-calming to justify or temporise the situation.

Anything less is a lie, an illusion, an attempt to save the discredited myth of America the Beautiful, the defender of democracy, and all the other pious platitudes that come out of the mouth of the Commander in Chief.

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America turns on Bush over Iraq

Three in five want troops out as President vows to stay
By Rupert Cornwell in Washington
25 June 2005

Beset by fading public support for the war and growing violence on the ground, President George Bush flatly rejected any timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq, vowing the United States would stay until the insurgency was defeated and democracy had been established.

"This is a time of testing, a critical time," Mr Bush acknowledged yesterday after a meeting at the White House with Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the Iraqi Prime Minister. The insurgents "feel that if they can shake our will and affect our public opinion, we'll give up on the mission. But I'm not giving up the mission, we're doing the right thing". The President was speaking amid unprecedented challenges to his whole Iraq policy. A week of carnage in that country was capped by news that six marines were killed on Thursday in the former rebel stronghold of Fallujah, lifting the total American death toll in Iraq to a total of 1,730.

Several victims were believed to be female marines. The Pentagon said they died when a suicide car bomber exploded his vehicle as a US military convoy was passing. The attack is the 479th recorded car bombing since the handover of sovereignty on 28 June 2004. Even more serious is the ebbing support on the home front. Polls show a majority of Americans believe the March 2003 invasion to topple Saddam Hussein was a mistake. Some 60 per cent now favour a troop pullout, while Mr Bush's approval rating has tumbled to little more than 40 per cent, the lowest of any second-term president since Richard Nixon in the throes of Watergate.

Tense Congressional hearings moreover laid bare this week the growing divide between the sombre assessments of the situation from US commanders on the ground, and the resolutely optimistic picture painted by the civilian leadership - notably the recent assertion by Dick Cheney, the Vice- President, that the insurgency was "in its last throes". In a bid to rally public support, Mr Bush will deliver a televised address on Iraq when he visits the army base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Despite appearances, progress was being made, the President insisted. [...]

Mr Jaafari sounded equally determined, arguing against any withdrawal timetable for US troops. He spoke of "steady and substantial progress", adding that the constitution would be completed on scheduled and "there is a will in Iraq to succeed".

For all the brave talk, however, the spectre of Vietnam is stirring. In terms of duration and casualties, the two conflicts are hardly comparable - the Vietnam war lasted a decade, and claimed 58,000 US lives, while fewer than 2,000 American troops have died in Iraq since the invasion two years ago.

But the similarities in the national mood are hard to ignore. The word "quagmire" has returned to the debate - Mr Bush even made a joking reference to it yesterday, when asked by a journalist about his declining popularity and political difficulties.

More serious is a decline in public support for the war, which proved fatal to the Vietnam enterprise three decades ago. Republicans and Democrats are complaining that the administration has no credible plan for victory, while General John Abizaid, the commander of US forces in Iraq, has voiced the military's alarm over the public mood.

Troops in Iraq were becoming aware of the decline in enthusiasm for the war at home, General Abizaid told a Congressional hearing, and the troops were asking him "whether or not they've got support from the American people". [...]

Speaking of his native South Carolina, Senator Lindsay Graham told General Abizaid that "in the most patriotic state I can imagine, people are beginning to question ... I think we have a chronic problem on our hands."

The blame lies mainly with the unrelenting tide of bad news. Grim images of Baghdad streets devastated by Thursday's car bombings dominated the main US papers yesterday. "They know the carnage they wreak will be on TV. They know it bothers Americans to see death. It bothers the Iraqis. It bothers me," Mr Bush said.

Comment: So, what is the solution for Bush? Why, censor the news, of course!

And step up the propaganda. We'll no doubt get an earful on Tuesday night when he addresses the American people from Fort Bragg. Get your sick bags ready.

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The Downing Street Fixation
Fixing to Fix "Fixed"
Former CIA Analyst
June 24 , 2005

The Downing Street papers are proving a formidable challenge to the White House PR machine as it desperately tries - in often-ludicrous ways - to slow down a train that has already left the station. And interest continues to build. The leaked British documents are now on the top-ten list of Google queries.

One huge fly in the ointment for the administration was British Prime Minister Tony Blair's early decision that it would be a fool's errand to challenge the authenticity of the papers. Why? Because there is still a relatively free Fourth Estate in the U.K. together with patriotic whistleblowers willing to risk jail for exposing the government dishonesty.

This has prevented the White House from labeling the documents spurious. And Michael Smith, the British journalist who was given them has now acknowledged that more than one such patriot has been involved.)

Smoke Rather Than Denial

With Blair forced to acknowledge that the documents are authentic, the White House could hardly label them spurious. Smoke, rather than outright denial, is had to be the chosen course.

Thus, many too-clever-by-half interpretations are now being offered for the eleven words with which the head of British intelligence, fresh back from Washington in July 2002, unwittingly gave the game away:

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

This sentence has edged out other strong contenders in garnering honors as the most revealing/damning sentence among many in the official Downing Street papers. Those with stomachs strong enough to have digested those documents know that they show a British establishment desperately trying to place a veneer of legality on Prime Minister Tony Blair's premature promise to President George W. Bush that the U.K. would join the U.S. in launching unprovoked war on Iraq.

The documents provide a wealth of information supplementing what has already been revealed - like the unsung but powerful example of Elizabeth Wilmshurst, then-deputy legal adviser to the British Foreign Office. Wilmshurst kept insisting that the attack on Iraq could not be squared with international law and would start "a war of aggression." When her more malleable male bosses caved in to Blair, Wilmshurst did the honorable thing. She resigned.

The information in the Downing Street papers now needs to be collated carefully with evidence (much of it suppressed in mainstream media, but abundant on the Internet and from other sources) regarding what was going on in top policymaking circles in Washington at the time. Perhaps some patriotic whistleblowers on this side of the Atlantic will summon the courage to emulate our British cousins and throw into the mix documents from the American side.

Meanwhile, what seem necessary is to institute smoke-detector patrols to identify and dispel the smoke being blown by Bush administration officials and their surrogates in Operation Enduring Smoke. The task is not difficult. It might even be fun, were not the deceit-heaped-on-deceit responsible for so much unnecessary killing and maiming. The tortured rhetoric of those trying to defend the administration is so transparent that it takes only a puff or two to blow the smoke away. I only quintessential wordsmith William Safire could be enlisted in the bloodless battle of semantics. I find myself wondering what he must be thinking as he watches administration-friendly pundits painfully parsing the meaning of "fixed" - as in "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Pulling the Woolsey Over Our Eyes

The usual suspects are being trotted out, and it came as no surprise that fleet-of-foot former CIA director and neo-conservative darling James Woolsey was put in at the top of the line-up. Some will recall that just five days after 9/11 Woolsey appeared on Nightline to advocate striking Iraq for sponsoring terrorism.

Ted Koppel: "Nobody right now is suggesting that Iraq had anything to do with this [9/11]. In fact, quite the contrary."
James Woolsey: "I don't think it matters. I don't think it matters."

Since then, Woolsey's intelligence reporting on Iraq has been, well, spotty. As an intelligence professional I have been musing over what kind of "source description" CIA reports officers assign him at this point. It would have to read something like:

After 9/11, source was assigned by then-chair of the Defense Policy Board Richard Perle to midwife reports like the since-disproved allegations of a meeting between 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague and the canard about Iraqi mobile laboratories for producing biological weapons. Source's strong ideological/political views may affect his objectivity.

In any case, on MSNBC's Hardball on June 21 Rhodes scholar Woolsey made a frontal assault on the word "fixed." Taking issue with interviewer David Gregory's suggestion that the infamous sentence is about "fixing intelligence to meet the policy," Woolsey countered:

"I think that's not what fixing means in these circumstances. I think people are not listening to British usage. I don't think they're talking about cooking the books.... I think people ought to back off a bit on this notion..."

...and focus more on Saddam Hussein's "rape rooms" (boilerplate in Woolsey's speeches, which he managed to include later in the interview).

Other pundits have joined the smoke-machine. On June 19, Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler opined that "maybe ‘fixed' means something different in British-speak." And Christopher Hitchens, in an article posted on Slate the same day Woolsey went on Hardball, wrote:

"Never mind for now that the English employ the word "fix" in a slightly different way - a better term might have been ‘organized.'"

Can someone explain to me how this advances the argument?

Some Candor

Michael Smith, the Sunday Times reporter who broke he story thinks he knows what "fixed" means. On June 16, he told the Washington Post:

"There are a number of people asking about ‘fixed' and its meaning. This is a real joke. I do not know anyone in the UK who took it to mean anything other than fixed, as in fixed a race, fixed an election, fixed the intelligence. If you fix something, you make it the way you want it. The intelligence was fixed...the head of MI-6 has just been to Washington. He has just talked with George Tenet. He said the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. That translates in clearer terms as the intelligence was being cooked to match what the administration wanted it to say to justify invading Iraq."

I contacted a number of British friends who are close observers of the political scene, to get their opinion. Here is one recent email reply:

"Nobody that I have come across here in London interprets the term ‘fixed' in this context as other than cooked/manipulated/selected. Fixed refers to trickery - as in ‘the fix is in.' What Woolsey and Co. may think...that is completely irrelevant. It is what we British think that counts. The memo was written to be read by us British, not by Woolsey. It appears that he and his "neoconservative" friends are getting a bit desperate. He would probably be one of the people to go to jail at the end of this, given the key role he has played."

Or, from VIPS colleague Col. Patrick Lang, USA (ret), who tends to be more succinct: "Fixed is fixed, man."

And Finally: A Constructive Proposal

The Washington Post's Getler did offer a good suggestion; namely, that Blair produce the former intelligence chief and the drafter of the minutes of July 23, 2002 for a news conference or open parliamentary session and let reporters or legislators pursue clarification. Given the seriousness of the issue and the documentary nature of the evidence, my own suggestion would be to subpoena testimony from George Tenet and other senior U.S. officials whose views were reported to Blair - and the sooner the better.

Comment: It doesn't seem to matter to what depth of absurdity the Bush pundits and war criminals in waiting descend; they can get away with bigger and bigger lies. Sure, more than half of Americans believe the war was wrong, but what are they doing about it?

It is a little late now to say it was a bad idea with 140,000 troops occupying the country. Where were they two and three years ago when it is clear that Bush was lying, that his mind was made up, and that he would drag the country into the quagmire it is now in? It is cheap to be against the war now, especially if it amounts to saying, as DNC chair Howard Dean has said, that we need to make the best of a bad situation and support our troops. That is a phrase meant to appease the people who may have questions but who don't see the truth, who still cling to their illusions about the US. Such a discourse does nothing to change anything on the ground. US troops are still there, the Iraqis are still occupied by those US troops, and lives are being lost.

Americans continue to believe that their system will prevail, that the checks and balances of government will overcome tyranny, that with the next election, the slate will be cleansed.

How many more will die before then? Into what kind of chaos will Iraq have descended in another three and one-half years? And what other tyrannical measures will be in place in the US to prevent dissent?

The situation is far, far worse than most Americans are willing to admit. One-third believe that Saddam was behind 9/11! How long will it take before the American people realise it was their own government, or a faction within it, that is guilty? Without recognition of this, oh, so important fact, what kind of strategy can be elaborated to rectify the errors and the crimes?

How far are the American people lost in illusion and what will it take to shake them out of it?

Is it even possible?

Certainly a few see things as they are and see who are the true villains of 9/11. Even if there are a few million, that leaves another 290,000,000 to convince.

Is it even possible?

And if even one-half of the population came to recognise Bush's guilt, where would the country be then? Split down the middle between those who hold Bush as the greatest traitor the country has ever seen and those who believe he is the hand of God carrying out God's plan? Do you see the implications of that? Those who put Bush before the Republic will not even care if he was part of the conspiracy to organise and carry out 9/11, killing thousands of Americans and justifying the new crusade, because it will be understood as part of God's plan, and who are we to judge the working of the Almighty?

Can you see how bad it could get?

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Neoconservatives Speechless!
by Karen Kwiatkowski

Neoconservatives from the left, right and middle, including George W. Bush, believe that they create their own reality, live in their own world, and make their own history.

It's kind of funny how they don't want to talk about it right now.

Freshly ironed World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz, when asked about the Downing Street Memoranda, had this to say:

"There will be a time and place to talk about history," he added, "but I really don't believe it's now."

Highly classified and eyes-only official government records, written by the British counterpart to George Tenet at the time, record the Bush decision in early 2002 to invade Iraq – long before the Congress or the American public was alerted by the administration to any national security risk involving Iraq.

The Downing Street memoranda also indicate that the George W. Bush administration crafted and disseminated half-truths and falsehoods to Congress and the media to support this predetermined policy.

I saw it, many others saw it, and we could not stop it. Each and every day since the war in Iraq was illegally launched, long before actual invasion in March 2003, people have died as a result. Cities and entire nations have been destroyed as a result. Billions and billions of U.S. borrowed money – added to the oppressive tab already owed by our children and grandchildren – has been wasted as a result.

These memoranda from Downing Street, circa 2002, also indicate that the Bush administration was attempting – through increased military attack beyond enforcement of the Northern and Southern No-Fly Zones and through an obscenely oppressive international inspection regime – to goad Saddam Hussein into some action that could then be used to justify a military action by the United States.

Tragically for the neoconservatives, Saddam Hussein did not take the bait. He sat passively as the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy attempted to soften up the Iraqi battlefield. Saddam Hussein eagerly welcomed the most intrusive inspection regime imaginable. The inspectors had full access, and they – like David Kay's team after them – found no weapons of mass destruction. No stockpiles, no existent capability, no programs.

But Wolfowitz prefers not to discuss such history. He remains, in his own mind, a hugely successful instrument in gaining the war he had long fantasized and craved. What's not to like?

Where is Donald Rumsfeld on the Downing Street Memoranda? Increasingly, Rummy seems to embody the utter dementia that permeates the current administration. He seems to not to understand questions, not to have seen the news, not to have heard of the policy, not to be aware of the facts, not to conceive of the gravity of his personal situation in historical terms.

Ah, but there is time for that later, they say.

Dick Cheney, beyond identifying and denunciating presumed enemies of America behind every shrub at the Naval Observatory and beyond, has had little to offer. While Cheney makes history – for himself, Halliburton, Iraq, energy policy and American neoconservatism – discussion of that history can wait. Let's not talk about it now.

George W. Bush gave another speech this week, regarding energy. It occurred to me again, as I watched and listened to his words, that we have elevated only knaves and fools to Washington. Like Spanish conquistadors witnessed for the first time, we believe them gods and kneel.

Perhaps a better analogy is seen in The Gods Must Be Crazy, where a Coke bottle dropped from an airplane leads to a new "culture" of worship for an African tribe – a culture filled with hatred, envy, and discontent.

Young George spoke this week about future energy technologies, ethanol from corn, and bio-diesel from soybeans. He said taxpayers should be glad that he is spending "our money" to pay for programs to teach people to conserve energy and to subsidize research into energy saving practices, devices and vehicles.

Higher oil prices – made higher by wars and threats of war and embargoes and government managed international trade and expansion of unpopular U.S. military operations around oil pipelines and fields – in another world, would amply fuel this type of alternative energy research.

But no, the American government needs to extract more tax receipts and can somehow spend it more smartly than the marketplace of a billion choices could do. This fatal conceit is shocking. That it spews forth from a so-called Republican in the White House is in itself historic, or on second thought, perhaps not. Maybe the Whigs are back.

But of course, let us study all that later.

And who says the Congress has sat idly by? Why, there is a bipartisan move to repeal the 22nd Amendment, to remove the restriction that a President serve only two consecutive terms. The Senators fuss over the idiotic Bolton nomination while they vote 100 to 0 for the REAL ID and grant more of "our money" for the President's every whim. They quibble over Bolton's mediocre incompetence while smoothly confirming the far more deadly and corrupt Negroponte as super-intelligence czar, and integrating domestic and foreign intelligence and law enforcement in a constitutionally inscrutable way. J. Edgar Hoover would have been so proud.

Imagine what history we could postpone talking about if we repealed the 22nd Amendment! You'd think that the Democratic and Republican sponsors of the 22nd Amendment Repeal bills in the House and Senate could think of some other stupid laws to repeal, like say, the Patriot Act, the Intelligence Reform, the REAL ID. Perhaps they could eliminate funding for the illegal war they were seduced into supporting. But no, they can only get it up for giving some future President the right to be a permanent ball and chain in Washington, bequeathing to the rest of us an American version of the aging and interchangeable Presidents and Prime Ministers of France. Who knew?

History in the reality-based world, that is to say – real history – is made by individuals, who simply put, act.

Like North Carolina Republican Representative Walter Jones who, following his father's advice to "vote my conscience first, my constituency second, and my party third," publicly repudiated the President's past and continuing lies about Iraq and called for an exit.

Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush don't want to talk about the Downing Street evidence. Perhaps this is on the advice of counsel. But if I may recall a Chaucerian phrase, "Time and tide wait for no man."

When the Coke bottle worshipping Bushmen realized the utter nastiness of life in thrall of a piece of trash, they sent out one of their own to simply throw the garbage out. That strategy sounds really good about now.

Comment: Notice the snide remarks about France. They just can't help themselves, even some of those who are against Bush. But, yes, the idea of impeaching Bush is a good one. Too bad all three branches of government are in the hands of his cronies. How will they be able to impeach Bush when Congress and the Supreme Court have already shown they are willing to do whatever the man asks, including illegally making him president to begin with.

The idea that he could be impeached is a pipe-dream. It would take something as serious as the massive uncovering of the role of his friends in 9/11, and as we point out above, even then there are people who will make excuses. It might lead to civil war, not the peaceful process of impeachment.

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Voluntary Amnesia in the Service of War 
by Norman Solomon 

Forget it! 

That seems to be an unstated motto for American media coverage of the Iranian presidential election. The axiom comes down to: "Don't let history get in the way of spin." 

Evasion smoothes the way to the next war. 

For maximum propaganda effect, the agenda-setting must be decoupled as much as possible from clear truths -- about the current president's mendacity in connection with Iraq, and about the record of U.S. government actions toward Iran. 

While a seriously discredited President Bush strains to do damage control about his past lies and present machinations on Iraq, the U.S. media coverage typically presents his statements about Iran without so much as a whiff of suspicion. A proven liar is treated like a presumptive truth-teller. 

The ambient noise of American media evokes history -- distant or recent -- as an option we may choose to decline, like mustard on a burger. We're encouraged to mentally disconnect from relevant historic events. Double standards prevail. 

Red-white-and-blue journalists don't doubt that the past sins of Washington's present-day foes are quite relevant today. So, it's assumed to be incisive when reporters keep reminding news consumers that Saddam Hussein committed huge crimes such as mass killing of Kurds. But what about the fact that most of the worst of those crimes occurred while the United States was supportive of Hussein's regime? That question gets short shrift. 

Likewise -- while American viewers, listeners and readers are apt to be aware that in 1979 some radical Iranians took American diplomats hostage at the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held them for more than a year -- other historical facts tend to be hazy or entirely absent. That suits the White House just fine. From a Machiavellian standpoint, the best remedy for unpleasant historical facts -- distant or recent -- is silence about them. 

For instance: Under diplomatic cover, U.S. intelligence operatives engineered a coup that brought down the democratically elected prime minister Muhammad Mussadiq in 1953 and installed the tyrannical Shah, who ruled with an iron and torturing hand until an Islamic revolution triumphed in early 1979. Iranians have ample reasons to be extremely wary of the U.S. government. Yet major American news media scarcely acknowledge that the CIA-organized 1953 coup was a pivotal and destructive event in Iranian history. 

From afar, history is optional. But there's a direct line from the 1953 coup to the predicament that Iranians find themselves in today. Washington installed a dictatorship that gave rise to a revolution that founded the repressive Islamic Republic of Iran. Now, under that regime, advocates for theocracy and democracy are in the midst of an intense struggle. 

A week ago, on June 17, during Iran's first round of voting for president, I visited a few polling stations in neighborhoods of southern Tehran. One of the people who agreed to be interviewed was a 27-year-old woman who gave her name as Leilah. She stood in line with other Iranian women (men had a separate line) waiting to get inside the school to cast their ballots. When I asked who she intended to vote for, Leilah said that she still might choose not to cast a ballot for any of the presidential candidates. "I don't believe in any of them," she said. 

Her evident despair was rooted in history that cannot be understood without reference to the 1953 coup that jolted Iran off its democratic course. 

While routinely omitting even a mere mention of such matters as U.S. support for the overthrow of a duly elected Iranian leader 52 years ago, American journalists -- with few exceptions -- have kept news coverage of Iran in a zone where history is always pliable. Now you see it, now you don't. Under such conditions of skewed reporting, the deep suspicion that infuses Iranians' views of the U.S. government is apt to seem inexplicable. 

In contrast to claims from the Bush administration (and from avowedly liberal media sources like editorial writers at the New York Times), the Iranian presidential elections this month have included important elements of democratic participation. In recent weeks, Iranians have publicly and intensively debated Iran's domestic policies, with very significant differences between the presidential contenders. While American journalists often seem to be suffering from selective amnesia in their reporting, many Iranians are acutely mindful of the need to understand their country's real history and begin a more hopeful chapter. 

Meanwhile, there are strong indications that the Bush administration is ramping up preparations for some kind of military attack on Iran. The assault could include a sustained series of missile strikes -- but even a single day of bombing would have a wide range of grim effects, including severe damage to Iran's fledgling human rights movement. Activists in the United States should work to avert such a catastrophe.

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Flashback: P-I Focus: The road the U.S. traveled to Baghdad was paved by 'Scoop' Jackson
The hawks' hawk
Sunday, April 6, 2003

America's attack on Iraq started 65 years ago in the wooded curving inlets and gentle fog of Snohomish County.

At least that's one genealogy of the war, curling back through closed-door politics where so much of U.S. history happens.

Nineteen thirty-eight was the year Henry Martin Jackson, an ambitious 26- year-old Democrat from Everett fresh out of the University of Washington Law School, was elected prosecuting attorney for Snohomish County. As usual, few outside Washington state noticed the obscure local vote. But it launched a fateful political career, and ultimately led to the U.S. missiles, tanks and troops flung into Iraq last month.

Jackson rose rapidly from the Everett courthouse. Making a name for himself chasing bootleggers and gamblers, he shot on to Congress in 1940. He served five terms in the House, broken by a stint as a World War II GI, and by 1952, had gained the Senate, where "Scoop," as he was called, became a national force. [...]

With another local prosecutor raised to Senate power, King County's Warren Magnuson, Jackson also saw to it that generous appropriations and contracts were sluiced to his home state, especially the Puget Sound area. "Scoop" especially would be known scathingly in congressional corridors as the "Senator from Boeing" for being on-call to the corporate giant.

But it was in national security that Jackson's impact was deepest. The hawks' hawk, he was to the right of many in both parties. Not even the massive retaliation strategy and roving CIA interventions of the Eisenhower '50s were tough enough for him. Perched on the mighty Armed Services Committee as well as his other bases of power, he went on over the next decade to goad the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, urging the Vietnam War, fatter military budgets, stronger support of Israel in the Middle East and a more aggressive foreign policy in general.

It was then, 40 years ago, that Jackson began to be linked directly, if furtively, to some of the uglier and little-known origins of the war on Iraq in 2003. Overseeing the CIA's "black budget" for covert operations and interventions from a subcommittee of Armed Services, he was one of a handful of senators who gave a nod to two U.S.-backed coups in Iraq, one in 1963 and again in 1968. Those plots brought Saddam Hussein to power amid bloodbaths in which the CIA, exacting the price for its support, handed Saddam and his Baath Party cohorts lists of supposed anti-U.S. Iraqis to be killed.

The result was the systematic murder of several hundred and as many as several thousand people, in which Saddam himself participated. Whatever the toll, accounts agree that CIA killing lists comprised much of Iraq's young educated elite -- doctors, teachers, technicians, lawyers and other professionals as well as military officers and political figures -- Iraqis who would not be there to oppose Saddam's growing tyranny over ensuing years or to help rebuild or govern Iraq, as the United States now hopes to do, after the current war.

By 1969, Jackson was so prominent in military and national security affairs, and so at odds on those issues with many in his own party, that newly elected Republican Richard Nixon thought to name the Washington Democrat his secretary of defense, though the senator declined the job.

But Snohomish County's favorite son coveted the White House himself and was soon a sharp critic of Nixon's arms control and détente. Added to his cold warring was even greater zeal for Israel, a certainty that the United States should endorse the Israelis' own hard line -- absorbing the West Bank after its conquest in the 1967 Middle East War, the long-term subjugation of Palestine and an abiding hostility to Iraq and other Arab states.

As Jackson grew nationally prominent, he attracted the inevitable ambitious staffers and partisans boarding his coattails to advance both their own hawkish views and themselves. Among them was a recent graduate of the University of Southern California who was fanatic about amassing and projecting U.S. power, especially on behalf of Israel, and not least about his own strategic genius. The young New Yorker named Richard Perle became Jackson's chief assistant from 1969 to 1980.

I saw these origins firsthand working in the Senate in the early '70s after resigning from Henry Kissinger's National Security Council staff over the invasion of Cambodia. Seen from the inside, Jackson's Senate heft was considerable. [...]

His belligerence also exerted (and still does) a kind of extortionist pull on liberal Democrats deathly afraid of appearing "weak" on national defense or in standing up to the Russians and anyone else. There was no question that "Scoop," from the mountains and straits of the far northwest corner of the continental United States, caught the unease and reflexive combativeness of much of America in dealing with a planet we knew so little despite our power. [...]

As for Perle, he was a pear-shaped, slightly fish-eyed man of self- consciously affected locution, the too-hungry, too-sly and too-toadying aide familiar in bureaucracies public and private. His views were patently uninformed, and he wore his conference-room warrior's zealotry no more gracefully than his expensive blue pinstriped suits. It seemed obvious that the bellicose policies he and Jackson embodied were not only wrong for America, but would also usher Israel into the ruinous isolation I and other admirers of its brave people most feared. "Scoop" & Co. would remain, I assumed, an extremist fringe. How wrong I was.

Jackson, of course, never got the White House. With big pro-Israeli money though stolid style, he lost the presidential nomination in 1976 to Jimmy Carter, who offered a fresh face in the national weariness in the wake of the Watergate scandal. But when Jackson died seven years later back in Everett, ending more than four decades on the national scene, he had spawned a cult following. [...]

For his part, Perle missed a long-coveted chance to make presidential policy when Jackson stumbled in 1976. But the aide promptly moved on to the next coattails in classic, if banal, Washington, D.C., style. Relentlessly levering the system he learned under Jackson, he cultivated the media, courted politicians in both parties and used old allies in the politically potent pro-Israeli and military-industrial lobbies. By the Reagan '80s, he was an assistant secretary of defense, veteran of the now-venerated Jackson tradition of military expansion and a self-promoted strategist for a Republican president as comfortably as for a Democratic senator.

Whatever "Scoop" Jackson's mix of political principle and opportunism, Perle's politics were largely himself.

On the way up, Perle gathered his own disciples -- Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and others who would go on themselves in similar fashion to become key officials in the current administration. Like Perle, who was appointed to chair the administration's influential Defense Policy Board, they're all longtime advocates, years before the Sept. 11 attacks, of pre-emptive American military invasions in Iraq and elsewhere and of implicit, if not open, support for the expansionist and repressive policies of their right- wing counterparts in Israel. By all accounts, their concerted influence was decisive in going to war in Iraq.

Grown wealthy in the revolving door between government and corporate plunder, Perle has drawn notoriety lately not only for his intimate ties to Israel but also for his connections to companies standing to profit obscenely from the war he's mongered. When Michigan Congressman John Conyers Jr. and Sen. Carl Levin began to prod Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about the disreputable dealings, Perle angrily resigned March 27 from the chairmanship of the board, though he continues to sit as a full-fledged member of the pivotal body. Token resignation aside, it all reeks of the seedy conflict-of-interest "Scoop" once would have prosecuted in Snohomish County. But in the rest of their martial provincialism, Perle and his minions are Jackson's offspring.[...]

Roger Morris, who served on the National Security Council staff under Presidents Johnson and Nixon, is an investigative journalist and historian. He is at work in Seattle on a book on U.S. covert policies in the Near East and South Asia.

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Baghdad Airport shut down by security workers' strike 2005-06-25 19:06:03

BAGHDAD, June 25 (Xinhuanet) -- Baghdad Airport have been shut down after its security workers went on strike, leaving government officials and civilian travelers stranded Saturday, an Iraqi Airways official said.

"The airport is blocked and even our staff from the Iraqi Airways are not allowed to enter," an official in the airways only named himself as Saud told Xinhua.

Global Risk Strategies, a British security company, was negotiating with the government for money that have not been paid for their employees for several months, Saud said.

"We expect the strike will be over within a day," he added. The company workers were working on the checkpoints outside the heavily fortified Baghdad Airport.

They are also responsible for checking passengers, baggage screening at the airport.Baghdad Airport has been closed several times in the recent weeks for sandstorms, which caused visibility problems and for security reasons, Saud said.

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Something is bothering the FBI
By Ze'ev Schiff
It is a mistake to think the FBI has concluded its investigations after indictments were served against Pentagon employee Lawrence Franklin for leaking classified security material to people close to Israel. Franklin, an intelligence investigator and an expert on Iran, has been linked to Naor Gilon, a diplomat at the Israeli embassy, and to two senior officials in the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). Apparently the FBI investigations have widened, and are now focusing on another Pentagon official and his connections. All this is taking place against the background of the current debate in the United States, in which the FBI is being blamed for its failure to discover the terror attack by Osama bin Laden's men in time.

It is clear that something is disturbing those in charge of the FBI investigation regarding Israel and those close to Israel in the United States. Many of those being interrogated are Jews. The prosecution was cautious in its wording of the indictment sheet against Franklin and Israel was not accused of intelligence gathering in the United States, which can be defined as espionage. On the other hand, it mentions that Franklin had met with AIPAC representatives. There is also mention of the fact that Franklin received a gift certificate from Naor Gilon.

If this is not espionage, which is a groundless accusation, maybe the FBI is disturbed by the Israeli influence that is organized by a government body in Washington. Maybe that is how we can explain the "conversation" conducted by FBI investigators with former Mossad man Uzi Arad, who was also political adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu when he was prime minister. Some claim the most recent proceedings are tainted with a desire to undermine the group of neoconservatives in the Pentagon.

One doesn't have to be an expert detective to understand that some of the material against Franklin was also based on wiretapping of the Israeli embassy in Washington. This is especially obvious from a conversation conducted by Steve Rosen of AIPAC with the Israeli embassy, in order to transmit information that came from Franklin, regarding the intention of the Iranians to harm Israelis who are operating in Kurdistan, Iraq. This information was transmitted by Franklin, who was convinced by the FBI to participate in a "sting operation" against two AIPAC representatives.

The prosecution is now also being cautious about making accusations against AIPAC. The moment AIPAC declared it had severed itself from its two senior employees, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, who have not yet been indicted, AIPAC attorneys were told there is no accusation of the Israeli lobby. But even a relatively naive person will conclude that keeping track of senior AIPAC employees has been going on for several years, even before Franklin was suspected of contacts with them.

Why was it necessary to conduct a "sting operation" against the Jewish lobby that was designed to reveal not only how the information flows but that also included deliberate steps to trip up AIPAC? It is clear that the FBI is aiming to create conflict between Steve Rosen and the organization in which he has worked for some 23 years. Perhaps it hopes that Rosen, in his anger, will point to others, so that the FBI will be able to widen its investigations. The FBI has made an effort to talk with wealthy Jews as well, apparently in order to deter them from supporting Rosen financially.

If the Israeli security apparatus were to use FBI methods when it comes to the leaking of classified material to American representatives, indictments would have to be served against dozens of Israeli officials who feel themselves too free in their conversations with the representatives of Israel's greatest ally. The affair is far from the climax and it will certainly draw a great deal of attention, one reason being the future publication of books on this subject.

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Simulated oil meltdown shows U.S. economy's vulnerability
By Kevin G. Hall
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Posted on Fri, Jun. 24, 2005

WASHINGTON - Former CIA Director Robert Gates sighs deeply as he pores over reports of growing unrest in Nigeria. Many Americans can't find the African nation on a map, but Gates knows that it's America's fifth-largest oil supplier and one that provides the light, sweet crude that U.S. refiners prefer.

It's 11 days before Christmas 2005, and the turmoil is preventing about 600,000 barrels of oil per day from reaching the world oil market, which was already drum-tight. Gates, functioning as the top national security adviser to the president, convenes the Cabinet to discuss the implications of Nigeria's spreading religious and ethnic unrest for America's economy.

Should U.S. troops be sent to restore order? Should America draw down its strategic oil reserves to stabilize soaring gasoline prices? Cabinet officials agree that drawing down the reserves might signal weakness. They recommend that the president simply announce his willingness to do so if necessary.

The economic effects of unrest in faraway Nigeria are immediate. Crude oil prices soar above $80 a barrel. June's then-record $60 a barrel is a distant memory. A gallon of unleaded gas now costs $3.31. Americans shell out $75 to fill a midsized SUV.

If all this sounds like a Hollywood drama, it's not. These scenarios unfolded in a simulated oil shock wave held Thursday in Washington. Two former CIA directors and several other former top policy-makers participated to draw attention to America's need to reduce its dependence on oil, especially foreign oil.

Fast-forward to Jan. 19, 2006. A blast rips through Saudi Arabia's Haradh natural-gas plant. Simultaneously, al Qaida terrorists seize a tanker at Alaska's Port of Valdez and crash it, igniting a massive fire that sweeps across oil terminals. Crude oil spikes to $120 a barrel, and the U.S. economy reels. Gasoline prices hit $4.74 a gallon.

Gates convenes the Cabinet again. Members still disagree on whether America should draw down its strategic oil reserves. Homeland Security chief James Woolsey, who ran the CIA from 1993 to 1995, argues that a special energy czar is needed with broad powers to bypass the bureaucracy and impose offshore oil drilling and construction of refineries.

That won't help now, though, or resolve any short-term issues, counters Gene Sperling, who was President Clinton's national economic adviser.

The energy secretary suggests that relaxing clean-air standards could help refiners squeeze out every last drop of gas. That makes the interior secretary, former Clinton Environmental Protection Agency chief Carol Browner, bristle. She blames Detroit for the mess because automakers failed to develop hybrids and other fuel-efficient cars.

The Cabinet can't agree on even the simplest short-term solutions. There aren't many options beyond encouraging car pools and lowering thermostats. There's no infrastructure in place to deliver alternative fuels such as ethanol or diesel made from soybeans or waste products.

Fast-forward again, to June 23, 2006. Emboldened Saudi insurgents attack foreign oil workers, killing hundreds. A mass evacuation follows from the world's pivotal oil producer, the one country that could be counted on to boost production during shortages in global supplies.

A take-charge guy with a Texas accent who led the CIA from 1991 to 1993, Gates calls yet another war-room meeting. Global recession looms. The world economy turns on cheap oil. Without foreign oil workers, how will Saudi Arabia meet its production targets and quench the oil thirst of America, China and India?

Oil prices have reached an unthinkable $150 a barrel. In Philadelphia, Miami and Kansas City, Mo., gas prices reach $5.74 a gallon. Now it takes $121 to fill that midsized SUV.

You get the picture. The scenario is intended to show how vulnerable the U.S. and world economies are because of dependence on oil from places where political instability threatens orderly production and distribution.

This year the world is consuming about 84 million barrels of oil a day. America alone guzzles about 20.8 million barrels a day. Experts think oil-producing nations have only 1.5 million barrels a day or less of unused production capacity right now. A disruption anywhere could cause market panic and spiking prices. That's largely why oil and gasoline prices are so high right now.

Saudi Arabia and other countries are trying to increase production, but that won't help much before next year at the earliest. Meanwhile, any hiccup in production, delivery or refining could cause disaster.

"A million or a million and a half barrels of oil a day off the market is a very realistic kind of scenario. You can think of a dozen different countries around the world ... where you can see that happening. Or even a natural disaster could do that," Gates said in an interview.

Former CIA chief Woolsey described as "relatively mild" the scenarios that the National Commission on Energy Policy and the advocacy group Securing America's Future Energy simulated. Both groups are pushing for reduced dependence on conventional oil.

"It was striking that by taking such small amounts off the market, you could have such dramatic impact" on world oil prices, said Robbie Diamond, the president of Securing America's Future Energy.

Richard Haass was a top adviser to former Secretary of State Colin Powell until 2003. The simulation taught him how little influence policy-makers would have in reversing an oil shock wave.

"I think where most of the work has to happen now, both intellectually and politically, is on demand" reduction, Haass said.

Comment: Note that in the cases of unrest in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, former CIA director Gates' response was to call for essentially invading and occupying those nations to "restore order" and secure the US oil supply. Is it that much of a stretch, then, to suggest that oil is one of the primary reasons for the so-called war on terror?

As events unfold over the next 18 months, it will be interesting to see if this little simulation was more of a US foreign policy strategy planning exercise than an attempt to predict the actions of "terrorists".

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Poll Finds Most Oppose Return to Draft
Associated Press
June 25, 2005

WASHINGTON - Most Americans don't want to see the return of the military draft, although men, older Americans and Republicans were most likely to say it's a good idea, an AP-Ipsos poll found.

A majority of those polled also wouldn't encourage their own children to enlist - highlighting the problems faced by the military as recruiting is in a slump.

"Things have been working well with the all-volunteer army and that's how it should stay," said Kathy Fowler, a 44-year-old mother from Chillicothe, Ohio.

Unfortunately, the military's efforts to meet recruiting goals in the all-volunteer service haven't been going well this year.

The Army is falling behind its recruiting goals as the country is fighting extended wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army has repeatedly missed its monthly recruiting goals this year, falling short by 42 percent in April.

And all four branches of military service are having trouble attracting recruits to their reserve forces.

Despite the recruiting problems, seven in 10 Americans say they oppose reinstatement of the draft, and almost half of those polled strongly oppose that step, the poll found. About a quarter of the people they favor reinstating the draft. [...]

The shortfalls in military recruiting have led to speculation that the government might be forced to reinstitute the draft. But Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has ruled it out, saying the all-volunteer force has proved the wisdom of ending the draft in 1973. "There isn't a chance in the world that the draft will be brought back," Rumsfeld told a House hearing Thursday.

One draft supporter said expanding the size of the armed forces might help move the Iraq campaign along faster.

"If we had more manpower in the Middle East we could get this over with," said James Puma, a retiree from Buffalo, N.Y. "I'm a Republican, I'm with the president. But things in Iraq are not going good at all."

However, Jeremy Miller, a sales manager from Denver, said the Iraq war is "a situation the president has gotten us into and should be able to get us out of" without bringing back the draft.

More than half of those polled said they would discourage a son from enlisting in the military, while two-thirds said they would discourage a daughter from joining.

Democrats were more likely than Republicans to say they would discourage sons and daughters from enlisting.

If a military draft were reinstated, more than half in the poll, 54 percent, said they would oppose women being drafted.

Women were more likely than men to be opposed to drafting women. Adults born after the end of World War II but before 1965 were more likely than people of other age groups to favor the drafting of women.

The American public has strongly opposed reinstating the draft for the past few decades, according to polls. And decreasing support for the war in Iraq suggests that is unlikely to change anytime soon.

"People simply don't want their kids to be sent off to Iraq to be shot at in a situation in which the value of the war is becoming more and more questionable," said John Mueller, a political science professor at Ohio State University and author of "War, Presidents and Public Opinion."

"The draft has never been popular and there's little reason to believe it would be popular now," public opinion analyst Karlyn Bowman said.

The poll of 1,000 adults was conducted June 20-22 for the AP by Ipsos, an international polling firm, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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We shelter behind the myth that progress is being made
Robert Fisk
June 23, 2005 - "The Independent"

So we are going to support the myth. As the headless bodies are found along the Tigris, as the mortuaries fill up, as the American dead grow far beyond 1,700 - and, let us remember, the Iraqi dead go into the tens of thousands - Europe and the rest of the world still support the American project.

The Brussels summit was - and of course I quote our good friend Mr Kofi Annan, secretary general of the United Nations - "a clear sign that the international community will be determined and dedicated to [the Iraqis] on the tough walk ahead".

You can say "tough" again. How many suicide bombers have now immolated themselves against the Americans and their mercenaries and the new Iraqi army and the new Iraqi police force and their recruits? The figure appears to stand at around 420. Back in the days of Hizbollah's war against Israeli occupation in Lebanon, a suicide bomber a month was regarded as phenomenal.

In the Palestinian "intifada", one a week was amazing. But in Iraq, we reach seven a day; Wal-Mart suicide bombing that raises the darkest questions about out ability to crush the uprising.

Condoleezza Rice says she wants more Arab ambassadors in Baghdad. I bet she does. When King Abdullah of Jordan promises to send his man to Iraq "as soon as it is safe", you know that the Arabs have understood the situation in a way the Americans have not. Who wants to be a late ambassador? Who wants to put his head on the block in Baghdad?

The reality - unimaginable for the Americans and their self-deluding allies, tragic for the Iraqis themselves - is that Iraq is a hell-disaster. Visit any Iraqi embassy in Europe, talk to any Iraqi in Baghdad - unless they live in the dubious safety of the pallisaded "Green Zone" - and you will hear their narrative of violence and have to accept that we have failed.

We are to be, so the myth-makers of Brussels claimed yesterday, "a full partner in the emergence of a new Iraq", to prove that "the people of Iraq have plenty of friends". Oh yes indeed. Except that most of these "friends" dare not visit Iraq (like the putative Jordanian ambassador) lest they have their heads chopped off.

American journalists now writing optimistically about the war - or the "insurgency" as we still insist on calling it - either travel with US forces in Iraq or conduct a form of "hotel journalism" from their heavily guarded Baghdad hotel rooms, working their mobile phones to talk to the self-imprisoned people of Iraq or their foreign mentors. A few American reporters still venture out - may they receive their appropriate awards (preferably not in heaven) - but the voice that now speaks of Iraq is that of officialdom, the narrative written by men and women who will, so they fervently hope, never have to visit real Iraq.

The representatives of more than 80 countries are urging the elected Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to reach out to Sunnis - the same Sunnis who are destroying American and Iraqi lives on a shocking scale across the country - but the official line, so cringingly enunciated by the BBC last night, was that "top diplomats" (I like the "top" bit) had "thrown their weight behind US efforts to build a democratic Iraq". Only the word "efforts" suggested the truth.

The reality is that Iraq is more insecure than ever, that no foreigner dare now travel its highways, that few will venture into the streets of Baghdad. And we are told that things are getting better. And still we believe these lies. And still we fool ourselves in the movie-world of the Pentagon and the White House and Downing Street and, these days, the UN.

If all those dignitaries and puffed-up politicos and self-important diplomats were so sure that Iraq was going to be a success story, why didn't they meet in Baghdad rather than Brussels? And of course, we all know the answer.

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Baghdad Burning
Riverbend Blog
Tuesday, June 21, 2005

General Update...

The cousin, his wife S. and their two daughters have been houseguests these last three days. They drove up to the house a couple of days ago with several bags of laundry. "There hasn't been water in our area for three days…" The cousins wife huffed as she dragged along a black plastic bag of dirty clothes. "The water came late last night and disappeared three hours later… what about you?" Our water had not been cut off completely, but it came and went during the day.

Water has been a big problem in many areas all over Baghdad. Houses without electric water pumps don't always have access to water. Today it was the same situation in most of the areas. They say the water came for a couple of hours and then disappeared again. We're filling up plastic containers and pots just to be on the safe side. It is not a good idea to be caught without water in the June heat in Iraq.

"I need to bathe the children and wash all these clothes," S. called to me as the older of the little girls and I hauled out their overnight bag. "And the sheets- you know nothing has been washed since last weeks ajaja…" We call a dust storm an "ajaja" in Iraq. I don't think there's a proper translation for that word. Last week, a few large ajajas kept Baghdad in a sort of pale yellow haze. What happens when an ajaja settles on the city is that within a couple of hours, the air becomes heavy and thick with beige powdery sand. Visibility decreases during these dust storms and it often becomes difficult to drive or see out the window.

On such occasions, we rush about the house shutting windows tightly in a largely futile attempt to keep dust out of the house. For people with allergies or asthma- it's a nightmare. The only thing that alleviates the situation somewhat is air conditioning. The air feels a little less dusty when there's an air conditioner pumping cool air into the room.

One dust storm last week was so heavy, E. slept for a couple of hours during its peak and woke up with little beige-tipped lashes from the dust that had settled on his face while he was dozing. You can even taste the dust in the food sometimes. These storms can last anywhere from a few hours to several days.

After the ajaja is over and the air has cleared somewhat, we begin the cleaning process. By this time, the furniture is all covered with a light film of orangish dirt, the windows are grimy, and the garden, driveway and trees all look like they have recently emerged from a sea of dust. We spend the days after such storms washing, wiping, polishing and beating dust out of the house.

"I've been dying to wash the curtains and sheets since the ajaja…" S. breathed, pulling out dusty curtains from the plastic bag. She paused suddenly, a horrific idea occurring to her, "You have water, right? Right?" We had water, I assured her. I didn't mention, however, that there had been no electricity for the better part of the morning and the generator was providing only enough for the refrigerator, television and a few lights. The standard washing machine consumed too much water and electricity- we would have to use the little ‘National' washing tub, or ‘diaper machine' as my mother called it.

The pale yellow plastic washing tub is a simple device that is designed to hold a few liters of water and to swish around said water with a few articles of clothing tossed in and some detergent. Next, the clothes have to be removed from the soapy water and rinsed separately in clean water, then hung to dry. While it conveniently uses less water than the standard washing machine, there is also a risk factor involved- a sock or undershirt is often sacrificed to the little plastic blade that swishes around the water and clothes.

We spent some of yesterday and a good portion of today washing clothes, rinsing them and speculating on how our ancestors fared without washing machines and water pumps.

The electrical situation differs from area to area. On some days, the electricity schedule is two hours of electricity, and then four hours of no electricity. On other days, it's four hours of electricity to four or six hours of no electricity. The problem is that the last couple of weeks, we don't have electricity in the mornings for some reason. Our local generator is off until almost 11 am, and the house generator allows for ceiling fans (or "pankas"), the refrigerator, television and a few other appliances. Air conditioners cannot be turned on and the heat is oppressive by 8 am these days.

Detentions and assassinations, along with intermittent electricity, have also been contributing to sleepless nights. We're hearing about raids in many areas in the Karkh half of Baghdad in particular. On the television the talk about ‘terrorists' being arrested, but there are dozens of people being rounded up for no particular reason. Almost every Iraqi family can give the name of a friend or relative who is in one of the many American prisons for no particular reason. They aren't allowed to see lawyers or have visitors and stories of torture have become commonplace. Both Sunni and Shia clerics who are in opposition to the occupation are particularly prone to attacks by "Liwa il Theeb" or the special Iraqi forces Wolf Brigade. They are often tortured during interrogation and some of them are found dead.

There were also several explosions and road blocks today. It took the cousin an hour to get to work, which was only twenty minutes away before the war. Now, he has to navigate between closed streets, check points, and those delightful concrete barriers rising up everywhere. It is especially difficult to be caught in traffic and that happens a lot lately. Baghdad has been cut up into sections and several of them may be found to be off limits immediately after an explosion or before a Puppet meeting. The least pleasant situation is to be caught in mid-day traffic, on a crowded road, in the heat- waiting for the next bomb to go off.

What people find particularly frustrating is the fact that while Baghdad seems to be falling apart in so many ways with roads broken and pitted, buildings blasted and burnt out and residential areas often swimming in sewage, the Green Zone is flourishing. The walls surrounding restricted areas housing Americans and Puppets have gotten higher- as if vying with the tallest of date palms for height. The concrete reinforcements and road blocks designed to slow and impede traffic are now a part of everyday scenery- the road, the trees, the shops, the earth, the sky… and the ugly concrete slabs sometimes wound insidiously with barbed wire.

The price of building materials has gone up unbelievably, in spite of the fact that major reconstruction has not yet begun. I assumed it was because so much of the concrete and other building materials was going to reinforce the restricted areas. A friend who recently got involved working with an Iraqi subcontractor who takes projects inside of the Green Zone explained that it was more than that. The Green Zone, he told us, is a city in itself. He came back awed, and more than a little bit upset. He talked of designs and plans being made for everything from the future US Embassy and the housing complex that will surround it, to restaurants, shops, fitness centers, gasoline stations, constant electricity and water- a virtual country inside of a country with its own rules, regulations and government. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Republic of the Green Zone, also known as the Green Republic.

"The Americans won't be out in less than ten years." Is how the argument often begins with the friend who has entered the Green Republic. "How can you say that?" Is usually my answer- and I begin to throw around numbers- 2007, 2008 maximum… Could they possibly want to be here longer? Can they afford to be here longer? At this, T. shakes his head- if you could see the bases they are planning to build- if you could see what already has been built- you'd know that they are going to be here for quite a while.

The Green Zone is a source of consternation and aggravation for the typical Iraqi. It makes us anxious because it symbolises the heart of the occupation and if fortifications and barricades are any indicator- the occupation is going to be here for a long time. It is a provocation because no matter how anyone tries to explain or justify it, it is like a slap in the face. It tells us that while we are citizens in our own country, our comings and goings are restricted because portions of the country no longer belong to its people. They belong to the people living in the Green Republic.

Comment: Even as Iraqi children are dying for lack of basic medical supplies, waste away from malnutrition or contract any number of diseases from drinking polluted water, their benevolent overlords inside the Green Zone live it up and proclaim to the world that they are bringing freedom and Democracy to the Iraqi people.

The Green Zone in Baghdad has become something of an Evil Emerald City where it is the Wicked Witch of the West who is in control while claiming to be the Wizard. The inhabitants have been thrown out into the surrounding poppy fields while the crazy flying monkeys patrol above.

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US caused more deaths in Iraq than Saddam, says anti-war tribunal
Fri Jun 24 2005

ISTANBUL (AFP) - The World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI), a grouping of NGOs, intellectuals and writers opposed to the war in Iraq, accused the United States of causing more deaths in Iraq than ousted president Saddam Hussein.

"With two wars and 13 years of criminal sanctions, the United States have been responsible for more deaths in Iraq than Saddam Hussein," Larry Everest, a journalist, told hundreds of anti-war activists gathered in Istanbul.

Founded in 2003, the WTI is modelled on the 1960s Russell Tribunal, created by the British philosopher Bertrand Russell to denounce the war in Vietnam. It has held about 20 sessions so far in different locations around the world.

A symbolic verdict was to be handed down on Monday by the 14 "jurors of conscience" -- including the militant Indian novelist Arundhati Roy, winner of the 1997 Booker Prize for "The God of Small Things."

The tribunal has for the past two years been gathering what it says is evidence that the war launched in March 2003 to oust Saddam was illegal, and it has also been gathering evidence of exactions allegedly committed by coalition troops.

Its verdict on Monday after its final session is expected to condemn both the United States and Britain.

Roy told the gathering here: "The evidence collated in this tribunal should ... be used by the International Criminal Court -- whose jurisdiction the United States does not recognize -- to try as war criminals George Bush, Tony Blair, John Howard, Silvio Berlusconi, and all those government officials, army generals, and corporate CEOs who participated in this war and now benefit from it."

She added that the tribunal was "an act of resistance, a defense mounted against one of the most cowardly wars ever fought in history."

Hans von Sponeck, former director of the UN's so-called oil-for-food programme for Iraq, told the Istanbul gathering that the humanitarian programme "was totally irrelevant."

Von Sponeck ran the programme until 2000 when he resigned because he said it failed to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people.

The oil-for-food programme ran from 1996 to 2003. It allowed Baghdad to sell oil in exchange for humanitarian goods the country lacked due to international sanctions imposed in 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait.

Critics said the sanctions led to the deaths of tens of thousands of children and a drastic decline in living standards for almost the entire Iraqi population.

The Iraqi government under Saddam swindled millions of dollars from the 64-billion-dollar scheme, and the scandal has become a huge embarrassment for the United Nations.

"The UN handling of Iraq will be listed as a massive failure," von Sponeck said. "We didn't speak out despite knowing what the economic sanctions had created as a human disaster."

He singled out the United States and British governments for allegedly blocking projects that would, he said, have allowed more people to survive.

Some 200 non-governmental organsiations -- including the environmentalist group Greenpeace, the anti-globalization ATTAC and Vietnam Veterans Against the War -- as well as a number of prominent intellectuals such as US linguist Noam Chomsky and Egyptian sociologist Samir Amin are involved in the WTI.

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Novel Written by Saddam to Be Published
Associated Press Writer
Fri Jun 24 2005

Saddam Hussein's family will publish next week a novel written by the ousted Iraqi leader before the U.S.-led war, his daughter said Friday.

"Get Out, Damned One" tells the story of a man called Ezekiel who plots to overthrow a town's sheik but is defeated in his quest by the sheik's daughter and an Arab warrior.

The story is apparently a metaphor for a Zionist-Christian plot against Arabs and Muslims. Ezekiel is meant to symbolize the Jews. [...]

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Torture Gone Wild: the Camp Gitmo Reality Show
Saturday June 25th 2005
Kurt Nimmo

Now that the United States has admitted torturing abductees, the right-wingers need to call Dick Durbin and apologize for questioning his patriotism. "Washington has for the first time acknowledged to the United Nations that prisoners have been tortured at United States detention centers in Guantanamo Bay, as well as in Afghanistan and Iraq," reports the Independent on Saturday. "The acknowledgement was made in a report submitted on Friday to the UN Committee against Torture, said a member of the 10-person panel." So there you have it. Ever since Durbin made mention of an FBI report citing torture at Camp Gitmo, the wingers have skewered him and called him everything from a traitor to an Osama symp. Point is, I suspect a lot of right-wingers are not appalled by torture.

In fact, the wingers seem to believe Gitmo is a resort and Muslims shouldn't complain. "They're living in the tropics. They're well fed. They've got everything they could possibility want," said Dick Cheney. In other words, the abductees, who are mostly "Pakistani and Afghan farmers, shoemakers and taxi drivers who were forced to fight for the Taliban," according to the Guardian, should quit their bitching and relax, get used to sodomy with chemical lights, and remember they are on holiday in the tropics. Since, in Bushzarro world, torture is not torture and Gitmo and Bagram are resort get-aways, I think it is about time the wingers call for a new television reality show. Call it "Persuasion in Paradise" and run it on the Fox channel.

Of course, there is the problem of the FCC, all worked up in a lather over Janet Jackson's breast, so I'm not sure how they will handle a scene portraying an abductee with an electrical wire attached to his penis or the rape of children (this would be a cost saver for Fox, since the video already exists) at the Abu Ghraib Hilton. Well, maybe the Fox reality show isn't a good idea. Instead, some enterprising winger might market it on DVD, following the example of the Girls Gone Wild DVDs. Rush Limbaugh can do the marketing and promotion in his spare time.

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WTC Basement Blast And Injured Burn Victim Blows 'Official 9/11 Story' Sky High; Eye Witness Testimony Is Conclusive That North Tower Collapsed From Controlled Demolition
June 24, 2005
By Greg Szymanski

WTC janitor pulls burn victim to safety after basement explosion rocks north tower seconds before jetliner hit top floors. Also, two other men trapped and drowning in a basement elevator shaft, were also pulled to safety from underground explosion..

What happened to William Rodriguez the morning of 9/11 is a miracle. What happened to his story after-the-fact is a tragedy.

But with miracles and tragedies comes truth. And truth is exactly what Rodriguez brings to the whole mystery surrounding 9/11.

Declared a hero for saving numerous lives at Ground Zero, he was the janitor on duty the morning of 9/11 who heard and felt explosions rock the basement sub-levels of the north tower just seconds before the jetliner struck the top floors.

He not only claims he felt explosions coming from below the first sub-level while working in the basement, he says the walls were cracking around him and he pulled a man to safety by the name of Felipe David, who was severely burned from the basement explosions.

All these events occurred only seconds before and during the jetliner strike above. And through it all, he now asks a simple question everybody should be asking? How could a jetliner hit 90 floors above and burn a man's arms and face to a crisp in the basement below within seconds of impact?

Rodriguez claims this was impossible and clearly demonstrates a controlled demolition brought down the WTC, saying "Let's see them (the government) try to wiggle out of this one."

Well, they haven't wiggled out of it because the government continues to act like Rodriguez doesn't exist, basically ignoring his statements and the fact he rescued a man burnt and bleeding from the basement explosions.

His eye witness account, ignored by the media and the government, points the finger squarely on an official cover-up at the highest levels since the government contends the WTC fell only from burning jet fuel. And after listening to Rodriguez, it's easy to see why the Bush administration wants him kept quiet.

Bush wants him quiet because Rodriguez's account is ‘proof positive' the WTC was brought down by a controlled demolition, not burning jet fuel. And Bush knows if he's caught lying about this or caught in a cover-up, it's just a matter of time before the whole house of cards comes tumbling down.

In fact, Rodriguez's story is so damaging – so damning – it literally blows the lid off the government story, literally exposing the whole 9/11 investigation as a sham and a cover-up of the worst kind.

And it appears the cover-up also extends to the media.

NBC news knew about his story several years ago, even spending a full day at his house taping his comments. But when push came to shove, his story was never aired. Why?

His eyewitness account, backed up by at least 14 people at the scene with him, isn't speculation or conjecture. It isn't a story that takes a network out on a journalistic limb. It's a story that can be backed up, a story that can be verified with hospital records and testimony from many others.

It's a story about 14 people who felt and heard the same explosion and even saw Rodriguez, moments after the airplane hit, take David to safety, after he was burnt so bad from the basement explosion flesh was hanging from his face and both arms

So why didn't NBC or any other major news outlets cover the story? They didn't run it because it shot the government story to hell and back. They didn't run it because "the powers that be" wouldn't allow it.

Since 9/11, Rodriguez has stuck to his guns, never wavering from what he said from day one. Left homeless at times, warned to keep quiet and subtly harassed, he nevertheless has continued trying to tell get his message out in the face of a country not willing to listen.

Here is his story:

The Miracle

It's a miracle Rodriguez, 44, who worked at the WTC for 20 years, is even alive. Usually arriving to work at 8:30am, the morning of 9/11 he reported 30 minutes late. If he'd arrived on time, it would have put him at the top floors just about the same time the jetliner hit the north tower.

"It was a miracle. If I arrived on time, like always, I'd probably be dead. I would have been up at the top floors like every morning," said Rodriguez about the quirk of fate that saved his life.

But since he was late, Rodriguez found himself checking into work in an office on sub-level 1 when the north tower was hit, seemingly out of harms way. However, the sound and concussion of a massive explosion in the sub-levels right below his feet changed that.

"When I heard the sound of the explosion, the floor beneath my feet vibrated, the walls started cracking and it everything started shaking," said Rodriguez, who was huddled together with at least 14 other people in the office.

Rodriguez said Anthony Saltamachia, supervisor for the American Maintenance Co., was one of the people in the room who stands ready to verify his story.

"Seconds after the first massive explosion below in the basement still rattled the floor, I hear another explosion from way above," said Rodriguez. "Although I was unaware at the time, this was the airplane hitting the tower, it occurred moments after the first explosion."

But before Rodriguez had time to think, co-worker Felipe David stormed into the basement office with severe burns on his face and arms, screaming for help and yelling "explosion! explosion! explosion!"

David had been in front of a nearby freight elevator on sub-level 1 about 400 feet from the office when fire burst out of the elevator shaft, causing his injuries.

"He was burned terribly," said Rodriguez. "The skin was hanging off his hands and arms. His injuries couldn't have come from the airplane above, but only from a massive explosion below. I don't care what the government says, what scientists say. I saw a man burned terribly from a fire that was caused from an explosion below.

"I know there were explosives placed below the trade center. I helped a man to safety who is living proof, living proof the government story is a lie and a cover-up.

"I have tried to tell my story to everybody, but nobody wants to listen. It is very strange what is going on here in supposedly the most democratic country in the world. In my home country of Puerto Rico and all the other Latin American countries, I have been allowed to tell my story uncensored. But here, I can't even say a word."

After Rodriguez escorted David to safety outside the WTC, he returned to lead the others in the basement to safety as well. While there, he also helped two other men trapped and drowning in the basement elevator shaft, another result he says of the explosives placed below the tower.

In fact, after leading these men to safety, he even made another trip back into the north tower, against police orders, in order to rescue people from the top floors.

"I never could make it to the top, but I got up to the 33rd floor after getting some of my equipment and a face mask out of the janitor's closet," said Rodriguez, adding he heard a series of small explosions going off between the 20th and 30th floors, unrelated to the airplane strike, while making his way through the stairwell to the top floors.

"Also, when I was on the 33rd floor, I heard strange sounds coming form the 34th floor, loud noises like someone moving and thumping heavy equipment and furniture. I knew this floor was empty and stripped due to construction work so I avoided it and continued to make my way up the stairs."

Rodriguez said he finally reached the 39th floor before being turned back by fire fighters and then, reluctantly, started his descent back down and his own flight to safety while, at the same time, hearing explosions coming from the South Tower.

The Tragedy

The concerted effort by the media and the government to silence Rodriguez is the tragedy behind this American hero's story. And there is no question, Rodriguez is a "silent hero" for saving so many lives and for having the courage to continue telling his story against tremendous odds.

In an effort to open a fair and honest investigation as to why the WTC collapsed, Rodriguez has been ignored by government officials, the 9/11 Commission and the National Institute of Safety and Technology (NIST).

NIST, an independent investigative group funded by the government, put the finishing touches this week on its 2 year $35 million 9/11 investigation. This week Rodriguez made his final plea to have his story heard while testifying at the final public hearing held in New York.

" I disagree 100% with the government story," said Rodriguez. "I met with the 9/11 Commission behind closed doors and they essentially discounted everything I said regarding the use of explosives to bring down the north tower.

"And I contacted NIST previously four times without a response. Finally, this week I asked them before they came up with their conclusion that jet fuel brought down the towers, if they ever considered my statements or the statements of any of the other survivors who heard the explosions. They just stared at me with blank faces and didn't have any answers.

"Also, The FBI never followed up on my claims or on the other part of my story when I told them before 9/11, I encountered one of the hijackers casing the north tower."

Besides the explosions, Rodriguez also has provided testimony to the 9/11 Commission that he stumbled across one of the supposed 19 Arab hijackers inside the WTC several months before 9/11

"I had just finished cleaning the bathroom and this guy asks me, 'Excuse me, how many public bathrooms are in this area?'" Rodriguez told the 9/11 Commission. "Coming from the school of the 1993 [Trade Center] bombing, I found it very strange. I didn't forget about it"

Rodriguez, claims he saw United Airlines Flight 175 hijacker Mohand Alshehri in June 2001, telling an FBI agent about the incident a month after the attacks. Never hearing back from the bureau, he later learned agents never followed up on the story.

"I'm very certain, I'll give it 90%" that Alshehri was casing the towers before the attacks," said Rodriguez.

Regarding the media's apathetic approach to his story, Rodriguez said immediately after 9/11 some newspapers picked it up but his words were never taken seriously and quickly forgotten.

"During the 9/11 hearings, NBC brought a crew out to my house and spent a day taping my story but they never did air a word of it," said Rodriguez. "Since then, some reporters and commentators have subtly warned me to keep quiet, told me my life could be in jeopardy and warned me that I really didn't understand who I was dealing with.

"I have been receiving this type of subtle harassment for years, but I keep telling everybody I can't be intimidated because I am on a mission. Whenever someone asks why I keep talking or warns me that I could be killed, I just tell them I have nothing to lose.

"I tell them I lost 200 friends and I am their voice now. I tell them I will do everything in my power to find out the truth since I am living on borrowed time since I probably should be dead anyway."

Besides trying to tell his explosive story, Rodriguez has been active raising money for 9/11 victims, being involved with charity groups that have raised more than $122 million. He says he has used over $60,000 of his own money, originally earmarked to buy a new house, in order to get at the truth behind 9/11.

Also seeking justice at the highest level, Rodriguez is the lead plaintiff in a federal RICO lawsuit filed against President Bush and others, alleging conspiracy to commit murder and other crimes in the deaths of more than 3,000 at the WTC.

The case, filed last November in a Philadelphia federal district court, recently was moved to New York in a change of venue after a government's motion to dismiss was overruled, allowing legal discovery to continue.

"Even if the case goes no farther, I feel we have scored a victory by winning this first battle," said Rodriguez. "At least the judge seems willing to listen which is a victory of sorts. However, I sincerely hope we can eventually take the case all the way to trial and reveal the truth to the American people about 9/11."

For more informative articles, go to where kind donations are also accepted to keep the truth flowing in the wake of media apathy.

Comment: Slowly, piece by piece, the true story is emerging, the cracks in the official story. While the media don't pick up these pieces, there are outlets, such as our page, that do. We do so not in the hope that our work will change anything. We think that the deck is comfortably stacked against the truth in this world of psychopaths and organic portals.

Yet we continue because what is the choice? If we wish for truth to exist in this corner of creation, it is up to us to carry its banner and its torch.

This does not mean that we believe we have the exclusive hold on truth. We know far too little and remain blinded by our own subjectivity, but we think that it is an ongoing work, an ongoing quest, and that it is a direction by which we orient our lives. We remain open to new data and are willing to reevaluate our working hypotheses according to that new data if we see that our ideas need to change to incorporate it.

We have no idea if the speculation we have offered today on how the current situation will play out in the United States is correct. It may be, it may not be. We are not attached to it one way or another. However, we do think that the situation is far worse than most Americans are willing to admit or even consider. But as life is a great, non-linear system, and we have no crystal ball that tells us how things are going to play out, we look for the main lines of force. The introduction of new variables could change things beyond our ability to imagine. But for those variables to come into play, we must each tap into that part of the creative force that works through us to create something genuinely new and unpredictable, some small flapping of the proverbial butterfly wing that will change events.

It may happen; it may not. The world may be too far gone down the path of entropy. The future may well be one of the dark force of fascism controlling all we do and think. We are certainly well down that path. How many people have thoughts that are genuinely their own and that are not the product of their socialisation and education? Hand-me down ideas that are acceptable not because they are true but because they are shared by millions of other unthinking and mechanical people? It is a disease that is shared by people the world over and is not limited to those in the US. It is a disease we catch at birth no matter where we are born, what language we speak, what social system governs us, what colour is our skin.

But we can find the cure; we can regain our health, if we are willing to put everything we know and believe into question, subjecting it to critical thought and self-reflection and by joining with others who are committed to the same goal in order to root out those programmes and beliefs that are so deep-rooted that we are blind to them within ourselves.

It is not easy. The stories and allegories of the process speak of death, flaying, crucifixion, beheading, and the like. There is a reason for these metaphors: rooting out these programmes is like facing a thousand deaths.

But what other choice is there?

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Giving Chutzpah New Meaning
June 23, 2005
Jon Wiener

What do you do when somebody wants to publish a book that says you're completely wrong? If you're Alan Dershowitz, the prominent Harvard law professor, and the book is Norman Finkelstein's Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, you write the governor of California and suggest that he intervene with the publisher--because the publisher is the University of California Press, which conceivably might be subject to the power of the governor.

Schwarzenegger, showing unusual wisdom, declined to act. The governor's legal affairs secretary wrote Dershowitz, "You have asked for the Governor's assistance in preventing the publication of this book," but "he is not inclined to otherwise exert influence in this case because of the clear, academic freedom issue it presents."

In a phone interview Dershowitz denied writing to the Governor, declaring, "My letter to the Governor doesn't exist." But when pressed on the issue, he said, "It was not a letter. It was a polite note."

Old-timers in publishing said they'd never heard of another case where somebody tried to get a governor to intervene in the publication of a book. "I think it's a first," said Andre Schiffrin, managing director at Pantheon Books for twenty-eight years and then founder and director of the New Press. Lynne Withey, director of the University of California Press, where she has been for nineteen years, said, "I've never heard of such a case in California."

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Galileo Before the Inquisition

The alleged search for "balance" in journalism disguises a vehicle for suppressing the truth.
By William Marvel

For eight years I worked as a newspaper reporter, covering everything from automobile accidents and municipal meetings to homicides and political scandals. It was supposed to be a part-time job, but somehow it never worked out that way. Most news will not wait for attention, and my three-day week often consumed all or part of seven days.

Frankly, I hated the job. I hated having to interview people in the middle of their personal tragedies. I hated spending one of my days off covering the welcome-home party of some kid who had just completed the Appalachian Trail, only to have his father write a letter berating me for the misinformation his boy relayed. I hated the occasional realization that I really had made a mistake that could never be effectively corrected. I hated having to sit through hours of unbearably boring public meetings, knowing that the public's real business would be conducted in executive session after I left.

Most of all, perhaps, I hated having to seek self-exculpatory comment from disingenuous politicians, public officials, or corporate mouthpieces, and then having to publish those comments as though I actually believed them. Such statements usually came in lieu of candor, and they often followed an absolute refusal to answer any prying questions, but they provide what is called "balance," and some schools of journalism consider balance a good way to answer the demand for objectivity. From my point of view, it seemed more like an adroit means of avoiding liability at the expense of obscuring the truth.

Part of my motivation for staying so long at a job I didn't like (besides being able to meet my financial obligations) was the conviction that a free society requires keeping a close eye on the factions that would abuse governmental power. That sort of vigilance requires a healthy dose of skepticism, which I owned in abundance, and that seemed to make me the best candidate for the job. After eight years' observation of all levels of our executive, legislative, and judicial systems, that skepticism cured into cynical amusement.

Understand that I have no degree in journalism: I never even took a course in it. After eight years in the business, though, I came to the conclusion that that was my foremost asset. Those encumbered with the most illustrious journalistic training seemed professionally and stylistically crippled by a preternatural fear of revealing that they were bright enough to hold an opinion. Their pieces often lumbered along, shifting from one side of a story to the other and straining to maintain artificial balance long after the evidence had accumulated lopsidedly in one camp or the other.

Balance has now become a national issue in the full-scale war against rational thought. The Christian right demands it, insisting that faith-based arguments for creationism ought to enjoy equal time against the teaching of evolution in public schools. The political right demands it, seeking to emasculate public radio and public television by counterbalancing thoughtful reporting with ill-disguised party propaganda.

Such appeals for balance demonstrate their own insincerity. After all, the would-be Christian Taliban that considers ancient, metaphorical legend equivalent to decades of scientific observation and analysis probably has no real interest in balance: once having established creationist theory in public schools, the faithful are unlikely to reciprocate by teaching evolution in Sunday school.

The right-wing assault on public broadcasting likewise lacks any honest desire for fairness. Ultra-conservatives who have no qualms about unfettered government subsidies to their corporate friends vastly exaggerate the token federal subsidies to public radio and television in order to justify taking intellectual control of those media. Under Bush-appointed political partisans, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has spent a large part of that subsidy to make the case for pretended balance in public radio and television.

The real aim, of course, is to make public broadcasting more like commercial radio and television, which pander unashamedly to the decidedly unbalanced tastes of the popular masses - whose emotions and ability to reason they effectively control. A citizen who can think poses a serious danger to autocratic rule, as kings and demagogues have long understood. Even more dangerous is any medium that offers the thinking citizen an effective voice.

William Marvel is a free-lance writer and U.S. Army veteran living in northern New Hampshire. His books include Andersonville: The Last Depot and Lee's Last Retreat: The Flight to Appomattox.

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China more popular than U.S. overseas

New poll finds Iraq war a key factor in tattered image of U.S.
June 23, 2005

WASHINGTON - The United States' image is so tattered overseas two years after the Iraq invasion that China, which is ruled by a communist dictatorship, is viewed more favorably than the U.S. in many countries, an international poll found.

The poor image persists even though the Bush administration has been promoting freedom and democracy throughout the world in recent months and has sent hundreds of millions of dollars in relief aid to Indian Ocean nations hit by the devastating Dec. 26 tsunami.

"It's amazing when you see the European public rating the United States so poorly, especially in comparison with China," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Eleven of the 16 countries surveyed by the Pew Research Center - Britain, France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Russia, Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Jordan and Indonesia - had a more favorable view of China than the United States.

India and Poland were more upbeat about the United States, while Canadians are as likely to see China favorably as they were the United States.

Iraq war taints U.S. image

The poll, which was released Thursday, found suspicion and wariness of the United States in many countries where people question the war in Iraq and are growing wary of the U.S.-led war on terror.

"The Iraq war has left an enduring impression on the minds of people around the world in ways that make them very suspicious of U.S. intentions and makes the effort to win hearts and minds far more difficult," said Shibley Telhami, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

The overseas image of the United States slipped sharply after the Iraq invasion in 2003, the Pew polling found, and it has not rebounded in Western European countries like Britain, France, Germany and Spain. The U.S. image remains relatively poor in Muslim countries like Jordan and Pakistan, but has bounced back in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country which benefited from U.S. aid to tsunami victims, as well as in India and Russia. [...]

The survey found that a majority in most countries say the United States doesn't take the interests of other countries into account when making international policy decisions. It also found most would like to see another country get as much military power as the United States, though few want China to play that role. People in most countries were more inclined to say the war in Iraq has made the world a more dangerous place.

People in other countries who had unfavorable views of the United States were most likely to cite Bush as the reason rather than a general problem with America. [...]

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Putin Amendment May Allow Third Term
Associated Press Writer
June 24, 2005, 2:50 PM EDT

MOSCOW -- Lawmakers are considering an electoral amendment next week that could open the way for President Vladimir Putin to run for a third term, prompting the opposition to accuse his supporters of trying to cling to power.

Putin has repeatedly said he will not change the constitution, which bars presidents from serving more than two consecutive terms.

A senior member of his United Russia party, however, submitted a legislative amendment Thursday that would allow Putin to stand for re-election if he stepped down before the end of his second term ends in March 2008, and if the next presidential poll held without his participation is declared invalid -- for example, because of low turnout.

The lawmaker, Alexander Moskalets, deputy head of the lower house's constitutional legislation committee, declined to comment on the initiative, which was part of a package of electoral legislation to be voted on in its second reading Wednesday.

But speculation has been rife that Putin would seek to stay in power beyond 2008. The 52-year-old former secret service chief, hand-picked to succeed former President Boris Yeltsin, has been highly popular since he was first elected in 2000.

Critics in the opposition accused the Kremlin clan of seeking a backdoor means for keeping Putin in office because they could not find a popular enough successor.

"They have decided to come up with various scenarios that would enable the president to stay on beyond 2008, because otherwise they will fear for their personal interests," said the leader of the nationalist Rodina (Homeland) party, Dmitry Rogozin, according to the news Web site

Liberal opposition politician Irina Khakamada, who ran for president in 2004, suggested Putin's supporters, including in the powerful secret service faction that now hold top positions in state companies, were worried about their future.

"There is a real problem surrounding the succession. All they are interested in is redistribution of assets," she said.

But she doubted the amendment would pass, saying Putin himself had no wish to tarnish his image or "burn his bridges with the international community" by circumventing the constitution.

In April, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington was concerned about democratic backsliding in Russia, and that the U.S. expected Putin to respect the constitution and step down at the end of his term.

During his time in power, Putin has placed national television under effective state control, abolished the direct election of regional governors to make them virtual Kremlin appointees, and eliminated the right of independent lawmakers to run for parliament.

Comment: We will be sure to remind Condi and the rest of the Neocon gang of their comments about Russia if the US constitution is amended to allow Bush to remain in office for a third term.

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Telling Fact Of The Week

The population of the US constitutes less than 5% of the world's population, yet it consumes 25% of the world's oil. Such gross over indulgence denies billions of other people around the world the basic necessities that would enable them to climb out of the contrived poverty trap. Not only that, but the US also consumes about 30% of the world's food, and wastes 50% of it.

Did such a scenario come about by chance? Is it possible that there is a relationship between these figures and the fact that 60% of the world's population have never made a telephone call? That over 50% of the world's population survives on less than 1$ per day? That 33% of the African population - 184 million people - suffer from malnutrition? That 20% of the world's population - 1.2 billion people - do not have access to clean and safe drinking water? That the net wealth of the 10 richest billionaires is $ 133 billion, which is more than 1.5 times the total national income of the least developed countries? That a child in developing countries dies every three seconds and one in six African children die before the age of 5, number that is 25 times higher in sub-Saharan Africa than in the OECD countries?

These figures are just the tip of the iceberg. This severe imbalance in the distribution of the world's resources is clearly not a matter of chance but a deliberately orchestrated policy by the world's elite to ensure that they remain in control of as much of the planet as possible.

Where then does this leave Bush's talk of "freedom" for the world? Does "freedom" as understood by Bush not include the right to the means to ensure than your child has a chance of living beyond the age of 5? What does an African mother care about phony terrorism when death by starvation stalks her and her family every day? This world is governed by a group of people that are corrupt to their very essence, yet they attempt to blind us with lies and rhetoric that all to many of us willingly swallow in an attempt to avoid facing the harsh reality that we live in a world gone mad, where, from the point of view of those that hold the reins of power, any human life over and above the profit they can extract from it, is literally worthless.

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Flashback: Poor, but pedicured
George Monbiot
The Guardian
Tuesday May 6, 2003

It appears that those at the bottom are getting richer - but sadly the maths just doesn't add up

The global economy is working. The rich may be acquiring an ever greater

share of the world's wealth, the ecosystem may be collapsing, but - or so we believe - the poor are emerging from poverty. This is portrayed as the ultimate test of the great neo-liberal experiment: if, as the world's resources are privatised and its corporations deregulated, the war against poverty is being won, then the accompanying inequality and destruction can be accounted as little more than collateral damage.

There is only one set of figures which provides a global view of whether the incomes of the poor are rising or falling, and it is cited everywhere. The trend, it suggests, is slow but significant: between 1990 and 1999, the percentage of the world's people living in absolute poverty fell from 29% to 23%. Ugly as some of its characteristics may be, the existing economic model is helping the poor.

The figures are compiled by the World Bank. It claims to know, to within the nearest 10,000, how many of the world's people are living below the international poverty line. The response of those who criticise the way the global economy works is to accept the bank's calculations, but to argue that there are more equitable and less destructive means of achieving the same results. But the figures are without foundation.

A new paper by the economist Sanjay Reddy and the philosopher Thomas Pogge demonstrates that the World Bank's methodology is so flawed that its calculations cannot possibly be correct. Not only does it appear wildly to underestimate the level of global poverty, but the downward trend it purports to show appears to be an artefact of the way in which it has been compiled. The World Bank's figures, against which the success or failure of the entire global economy is measured, are useless.

Most of the world's people do not use US dollars to purchase what they need, and a dollar's worth of currency in one part of the world can buy more than a dollar's worth in another. So to try to discover how many people live on less than the equivalent of $1.08 per day (deemed to be the absolute poverty line), the World Bank employs a method called "purchasing power parity".

This measures the amount of goods or services which the equivalent of a dollar can buy in different countries.

The bank's calculations suffer, the paper suggests, from several fatal deficiencies. The most obvious of these is that its estimate of the purchasing power of the poor is based on the measure of their ability to buy any of the goods and services an economy has to offer: not only food, water and shelter but also airline tickets, pedicures and personal fitness training. The problem is that while basic goods are often more expensive in poor nations than they are in rich ones, services tend to be much cheaper, as the wages of the people providing them are lower.

If, for example, one dollar in the US can purchase either the same amount of staple foods that 30 rupees can buy in India, or the equivalent of 3 rupees' worth of services (such as cleaning, driving or hairdressing), then a purchasing power parity calculation which averages out these figures will suggest that someone in possession of 10 rupees in India has the same purchasing power as someone in possession of one dollar in America. But the extremely poor, of course, do not purchase the services of cleaners, drivers or hairdressers. A figure averaged across all the goods and services an economy can provide, rather than just those bought by the poor, makes the people at the bottom of the heap in this example appear to be three times richer than they are.

The bank would derive a far more accurate view of the purchasing power of the poor if it measured only the cost of what they buy, rather than what richer people in the same economies buy. Complete figures do not yet exist, but Reddy's and Pogge's initial calculations, based on the cost of bread and cereals, suggest that the bank's analysis might have underestimated the number of the world's people living in absolute poverty by some 30%-40%.

As the service sector expands in poor nations, the bank's figures will create the impression that the purchasing power of the poor is increasing, whether or not their real economic circumstances have changed. The same false trend is established by a shift to the service sector in rich nations, as one dollar there will then buy a smaller proportion of the total of available goods and services. The relative purchasing power per dollar of the people of poor nations is increased by this measure, even though their absolute cost of living remains unchanged. When house prices boom in New York, the shanty-dwellers of Lusaka appear to get richer.

These statistical artefacts create a downward trend in the poverty figures where no real trend exists. The bank has exacerbated it by recalibrating the international poverty line to reflect the pattern of total global consumption. As the world economy migrates towards the service sector, the poorest people in the poorest nations appear to require less money than they might otherwise have needed to maintain their standard of living.

Perhaps more gravely still, the figures which appear to be so precise that we can tell to within the nearest 10,000 how many of the world's 6 billion people are suffering from extreme poverty are, in reality, based on a mixture of guesswork and wild extrapolation. The first of the bank's two principal surveys measured price levels in only 63 countries.

Embarrassingly, China was not among them, and neither that nation nor India figured in the second survey (from which the trend has been established). A set of global poverty figures, presented with six-digit precision, which contains no useful comparative data from the two largest nations on earth, could be described as imaginative.

The bank's statistics, moreover, do not account for changes in inequality. If a nation's total consumption is rising only because the rich have become richer, the figures will not show this: they will suggest, instead, that everyone has prospered. Yet we know that in many countries - especially those in which the privatisation, deregulation and reduction in social spending introduced by the neo-liberal model have been most extensive - the rich are becoming richer at the expense of the poor.

That the key global economic statistic has for so long been derived by means which are patently useless is a telling indication of how little the men who run the world care about the impact of their policies. If they cannot be bothered even to produce a meaningful measure of global poverty, we have no reason to believe their claim that they wish to address it. Development on earth proceeds at present without any reliable means of determining whether or not it is making the poorest people poorer.

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John Pilger isn't celebrating victory
John Pilger
The New Statesman
Monday 27th June 2005
This "victory" (over poverty in Africa?) was proclaimed in the UK newspaper "The Observer" last Sunday.

Tony Blair's "vision for Africa" is about as patronising and exploitative as a stage full of white pop stars (with black tokens now added).

The front page of the Observer on 12 June announced, "$55bn Africa debt deal 'a victory for millions'". The "victory for millions" is a quotation of Bob Geldof, who said, "Tomorrow 280 million Africans will wake up for the first time in their lives without owing you or me a penny . . ." The nonsense of this would be breathtaking if the reader's breath had not already been extracted by the unrelenting sophistry of Bob Geldof, Bono, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, the Observer et al.

Africa's imperial plunder and tragedy have been turned into a circus for the benefit of the so-called G8 leaders due in Scotland next month and those of us willing to be distracted by the barkers of the circus: the establishment media and their "celebrities". The illusion of an anti-establishment crusade led by pop stars - a cultivated, controlling image of rebellion - serves to dilute a great political movement of anger. In summit after summit, not one significant "promise" of the G8 has been kept, and the "victory for millions" is no different. It is a fraud - actually a setback to reducing poverty in Africa. Entirely conditional on vicious, discredited economic programmes imposed by the World Bank and the IMF, the "package" will ensure that the "chosen" countries slip deeper into poverty.

Is it any surprise that this is backed by Blair and Brown, and Bush; even the White House calls it a "milestone"? For them, it is a useful facade, held up by the famous and the naive and the inane. Having effused about Blair, Geldof describes Bush as "passionate and sincere" about ending poverty. Bono has called Blair and Brown "the John and Paul of the global development stage". Behind this front, rapacious power can "reorder" the lives of millions in favour of totalitarian corporations and their control of the world's resources.

There is no conspiracy; the goal is no secret. Gordon Brown spells it out in speech after speech, which liberal journalists choose to ignore, preferring the Treasury spun version. The G8 communique announcing the "victory for millions" is unequivocal. Under the section headline "G8 proposals for HIPC debt cancellation", it says that debt relief will be granted to poor countries only if they are shown to be "adjusting their gross assistance flows by the amount given": in other words, their aid will be reduced by the same amount as the debt relief. So they gain nothing. Paragraph two states that "it is essential" that poor countries "boost private sector development" and ensure "the elimination of impediments to private investment, both domestic and foreign".

The "$55bn" claimed by the Observer comes down, at most, to £1bn spread over 18 countries. This will almost certainly be halved - providing less than six days' worth of debt payments - because Blair and Brown want the IMF to pay its share of the "relief" by revaluing its vast stock of gold, and passionate and sincere Bush has said no. The first unmentionable is that the gold was plundered originally from Africa. The second unmentionable is that debt payments are due to rise sharply from next year, more than doubling by 2015. This will mean not "victory for millions", but death for millions.

At present, for every $1 of "aid" to Africa, $3 are taken out by western banks, institutions and governments, and that does not include the repatriated profit of transnational corporations. Take the Democratic Republic of Congo. Thirty-two corporations, all of them based in G8 countries, dominate the exploitation of this deeply impoverished, minerals-rich country where millions have died in the "cause" of 200 years of imperialism. In Cote d'Ivoire, three G8 companies control 95 per cent of the processing and export of cocoa, the main resource. The profits of Unilever, a British company long in Africa, are a third larger than Mozambique's GDP. One American company, Monsanto - of genetic engineering notoriety - controls 52 per cent of South Africa's maize seed, that country's staple food.

Blair could not give two flying faeces for the people of Africa. Ian Taylor at the University of St Andrews used the Freedom of Information Act to learn that while Blair was declaiming his desire to "make poverty history", he was secretly cutting the government's Africa desk officers and staff. At the same time, his "Department for International Development" was forcing, by the back door, privatisation of water supply in Ghana for

the benefit of British investors. This ministry lives by the dictates of its "Business Partnership Unit", which is devoted to finding "ways in which DfID can improve the enabling environment for productive investment overseas and . . . contribute to the operation of the overseas financial sector".

Poverty reduction? Of course not. Instead, the world is subjected to a charade promoting the modern imperial ideology known as neoliberalism, yet it is almost never reported that way and the connections are seldom made. In the issue of the Observer announcing "victory for millions" was a secondary news item that British arms sales to Africa had reached £1bn. One British arms client is Malawi, which pays out more on the interest on its debt than its entire health budget, despite the fact that 15 per cent of its population has HIV. Gordon Brown likes to use Malawi as an example of why "we should make poverty history", yet Malawi will not receive a penny of the "victory for millions" relief.

The charade is a gift for Blair, who will try anything to persuade the public to "move on" from the third unmentionable: his part in the greatest political scandal of the modern era, his crime in Iraq. Although essentially an opportunist, as his lying demonstrates, he presents himself as a Kiplingesque imperialist. His "vision for Africa" is as patronising and exploitative as a stage full of white pop stars (with black tokens now added). His Messianic references to "shaking the kaleidoscope" of societies about which he understands little and watching the pieces fall have translated into seven violent interventions abroad, more than any British prime minister in half a century. Bob Geldof, an Irishman at his court, duly knighted, says nothing about this.

The protesters going to the G8 summit at Gleneagles ought not to allow themselves to be distracted by these games. If inspiration is needed, along with evidence that direct action can work, they should look to Latin America's mighty popular movements against total locura capitalista (total capitalist folly). They should look to Bolivia, the poorest country in Latin America, where an indigenous movement has Blair's and Bush's corporate friends on the run, and Venezuela, the only country in the world where oil revenue has been diverted for the benefit of the majority, and Uruguay and Argentina, Ecuador and Peru, and Brazil's great landless people's movement. Across the continent, ordinary people are standing up to the old Washington-sponsored order. "IQue se vayan todos!" (Out with them all!) say the crowds in the streets.

Much of the propaganda that passes for news in our own society is given to immobilising and pacifying people and diverting them from the idea that they can confront power. The current babble about Europe, of which no reporter makes sense, is part of this; yet the French and Dutch No votes are part of the same movement as in Latin America, returning democracy to its true home: that of power accountable to the people, not to the "free market" or the war policies of rampant bullies. And this is just a beginning.

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35-hour week had no negative impacts: INSEE
June 24, 2005

PARIS - A reduction in the French working week to 35 hours created 350,000 jobs between 1998 and 2002 and had no negative impact on businesses, which increased productivity, the national statistics institute INSEE reported on Friday.

The agency in the latest edition of its publication Economy and Statistics said that the 35-hour week, a hotly contested initiative undertaken by a previous Socialist government, had not led to chaos for businesses, as had been predicted by employers.

It said the plan sought a balance between shorter working hours, salary moderation, productivity gains and state aid, and had caused no "apparent financial imbalances for businesses".

The 35-hour week, according to INSEE, "had appeared to have had no negative effects on business" and made possible productivity gains of 4.0-5.0 percent in the period under study.

It noted that 59 percent of the workers surveyed found that the shorter work week constituted "an improvement in daily life", an opinion more apparent among manager-level employees than among workers. Most appreciative of the 35-hour week were mothers with children aged under 12.

Comment: This report seems to call into question the push for the "Americanisation" of EU economic policies.

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NATO, Russia hold talks on fight against drug, terrorism in Afghanistan, Central 2005-06-25 06:11:27

MOSCOW, June 24 (Xinhuanet) -- Russian and NATO leaders put under scrutiny the prospects of jointly fighting terrorism and drug trafficking in Central Asia on Friday during NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer's visit to Moscow.

In a meeting with the NATO chief in the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin gave an upbeat assessment of Russian-NATO cooperation, saying the two sides "have passed from general declarations to specific projects," the Interfax news agency reported.

"If Russia and NATO in the near future work out and enforce a pilot project to train experts in combating drugs in Afghanistan and, say, Central Asia, that would make a fair contribution to solving one of the most serious and complicated problems of today," Putin told de Hoop Scheffer.

De Hoop Scheffer called Putin's proposal "a very important project," saying drug trafficking is a "very destabilizing factor in Afghanistan and also in Central Asia."

Drug trafficking has been rampant in Afghanistan since a US-ledwar ousted the Taliban regime in 2001.

Putin's proposal came a day after he voiced worries about the growing drug trade and continuing function of terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan remains a source of growing drug exports, Putin said Thursday after a summit meeting of a regional security bloc that unites some former Soviet republics.

"We're concerned about the continuing presence of terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, as well as some secret services' involvement in them," Putin said.

Speaking after a meeting with de Hoop Scheffer Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia has information about the periodical transfer of terrorists trained in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan to the Ferghana valley in Central Asia.

"People are being trained in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan with the help of Taliban for acts of terrorism that target Russia," Lavrov said. "Periodically these people are transferred to the Ferghana valley."

"We are ready to work on this with NATO in the framework of ourjoint plan for fighting international terrorism," Lavrov said.

De Hoop Scheffer said it is "vital" to jointly combat terrorism,which, among others, is a priority in Russia-NATO cooperation.

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Cruise clashes with NBC "Today" show host 2005-06-25 14:01:26

BEIJING, June 25 -- Tom Cruise criticized NBC "Today" show host Matt Lauer on Friday when Lauer mentioned Cruise's earlier criticism of Brooke Shields for taking anti-depressants.

Cruise told Lauer he didn't know what he was talking about. "You don't know the history of psychiatry. I do," Cruise said.

The interview became more heated when Lauer, who said he knew people who had been helped by the attention-deficit disorder drug Ritalin, asked Cruise about the effects of the drug.

"Matt, Matt, you don't even - you're glib," Cruise responded. "You don't even know what Ritalin is. If you start talking about chemical imbalance, you have to evaluate and read the research papers on how they came up with these theories, Matt, OK. That's what I've done."

When asked if he could be with someone at this stage in his life who doesn't have an interest in the Church of Scientology - girlfriend Katie Holmes has said she's embracing the religion - Cruise told Lauer: "Scientology is something that you don't understand. It's like you could be a Christian and be a Scientologist."

"It is a religion. Because it's dealing with the spirit. You as a spiritual being. It gives you tools you can use to apply to your life."

Comment: And here's a transcript of the exchange:


Excerpts from Tom Cruise's faceoff with NBC's Matt Lauer about Brooke Shields' battle with depression and psychiatric drugs like Ritalin:

Lauer: Tom, if she said that this particular thing helped her feel better, whether it was the antidepressants or going to a counselor or psychiatrist, isn't that enough?

Cruise: Matt, you have to understand this. Here we are today, where I talk out against drugs and psychiatric abuses of electric shocking people against their will, of drugging children with them not knowing the effects of these drugs. Do you know what Aderol is? Do you know Ritalin? Do you know now that Ritalin is a street drug? Do you understand that?

Lauer: Aren't there examples, and might not Brooke Shields be an example, of someone who benefited from one of those drugs?

Cruise: All it does is mask the problem, Matt. And if you understand the history of it, it masks the problem. That's what it does, that's all it does. You're not getting to the reason why. There is no such thing as a chemical imbalance.

Lauer: But aren't there examples where it works?

Cruise: Matt, Matt, Matt, you don't even - you're glib. You don't even know what Ritalin is. If you start talking about chemical imbalance, you have to evaluate and read the research papers on how they came up with these theories, Matt, okay? That's what I've done.

We saw that Tom Cruise lacks a sense of humour about himself last week when he faced the squirting microphone at a premier in London. He appears to take himself far too seriously -- which is a pity because we agree with what he is saying here about psychiatry and the heavy reliance on pills. He is making a very good point, although in a very clumsy way, a way that makes it easy for the press to pick up on and ridicule.

Yes, the host of the TV programme most likely knows nothing about Ritalin. He most likely accepts the official story on psychiatry, parroting the party line, the line taught in schools and propounded in the media. But if he is glib, Mr. Cruise comes across as a little too earnest.

We have no problems that Cruise is a Scientologist. That is his private choice and others should honour it, although we think he is over the top in his promotion of it. If he wishes others to respect his choice, he should perhaps be a little more circumspect about it in his public comments.

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French PM says pleased by Blair's speech on EU modernization 2005-06-25 06:14:17

PARIS, June 24 (Xinhuanet) -- French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin on Friday that he was pleased by his British counterpart Tony Blair's speech on modernisation of the EU on Thursday in Brussels.

"I am pleased to hear these words from the mouth of Tony Blair.I am happy to see that today in the presidency of the European Union he wants to move forward," he said on France Inter radio.

"I simply want to be sure we are talking about the same thing. I am not accusing him of anything. But we must judge him by his acts," he said.

Over the EU's budget Villepin said: "We were unable to reach a deal in spite of some reasonable propositions ... including an increase of 1.5 billion euros (1.8 billion dollars) in French contributions."

"If Britain takes into account this situation to make an effortitself and if it removes the blockages on the budget, I can only be very glad.

"But I am waiting to see this translated into action. We need to reach a budgetary agreement to get over this difficult phase for Europe," he noted.

On Thursday before the European Parliament, Blair called for reform and renewal of the European Union, launching his country's presidency of the EU to start from July 1st.

"The issue is not about the idea of the European Union, it is about modernization," he warned that the European Union risks failure if it does not modernize and meet the needs of its citizens.

"Investment in knowledge in skills in active labor policies higher education, in urban regeneration in help for small businesses -- this is modern social policy, not regulation and jobprotection," said Blair.

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Wildfires Blaze Across Calif., Ariz., Nev.
June 25, 2005

KELSO, Calif. - Firefighters struggled to surround a 52,000-acre wildfire in a southeast California wilderness preserve that includes horse corrals from the 1870s, historic mines and sites with ancient Indian pictographs.

Meanwhile, Arizona residents who fled a wind-blown blaze began returning home Friday as a more than 60,000-acre blaze turned away from their upscale community northeast of Phoenix.

And in southern Nevada, 19 blazes charred nearly 54,000 acres of parched grass, desert shrubs and mountain pines, casting a pall of smoke over the Las Vegas Strip.

The wildfire in the rugged Mojave National Preserve was only 10 percent contained late Friday with no estimate on when it might be brought under control, said Capt. Greg Cleveland, a spokesman for the Southern California Incident Management Team.

Lightning strikes had sparked five separate fires earlier in the week in the preserve near the Nevada state line, Cleveland said. Several of the fires then merged, prompting residents in the region's Fourth of July Canyon and Round Valley areas to evacuate. The exact number of evacuees was not immediately known.

The fires destroyed five homes, six trailers and other structures and damaged some historic ranch homes, Cleveland said. Officials could not immediately say if any of the archaeological sites also were damaged. More than 500 firefighters battled the flames.

Elsewhere in California, firefighters were encircling two fires totaling more than 5,000 that also ignited earlier in the week. One, a 3,022-acre fire, destroyed six houses and one other structure in the Morongo Valley.

In Arizona, many residents of an upscale community north of Phoenix found their homes intact but others saw houses and cabins reduced to piles of ash with only the chimneys standing. [...]

In Nevada, authorities said they could not predict when most of the 19 fires burning there might be brought under control. The
National Weather Service warned of hazardous fire conditions after predicting triple-digit temperatures, low humidity and gusty winds for Friday.

"It's extremely bad weather for fire behavior," said Heather Davis, a weather service forecaster in Las Vegas. She said 10- to 20-mph winds were expected to gust to 35 mph through Saturday.

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Massive Crack Opens In Earth In Texas
By First Coast News Staff
6/24/2005 11:57:37 PM

CLAUDE, TX -- A massive crack in the earth opened up last week in Claude, Texas and its creating a stir among geologists.

Geologists said Tuesday the crack was a joint in the earth's crust. They believe the opening is the result of a weak point in the joint where one spot slips away from the other.

Some parts measure more than 30-feet deep and it drained what use to be a pond. Experts say earth cracks are common but the size of the crack in Claude is not.

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Recent Earthquakes


A moderate earthquake occurred at 13:11:48 (UTC) on Friday, June 24, 2005. The magnitude 5.0 event has been located in NEAR THE COAST OF NORTHERN PERU.


A moderate earthquake occurred at 08:25:28 (UTC) on Saturday, June 25, 2005. The magnitude 5.2 event has been located in NEAR THE COAST OF NICARAGUA.

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Small earthquake hits S. Utah
The Associated Press

A minor earthquake was reported Friday in a remote area of southern Utah. The epicenter of the magnitude 3.6 quake was 6 miles northwest of Alton and 31 miles east-southeast of Cedar City. It happened at 7:01 a.m., said Walter Arabasz, director of the University of Utah Seismograph Stations. The shock was reportedly felt at Alton, about 230 miles south of Salt Lake City. The Garfield County Sheriff's Office reported no damage. A magnitude 2.8 shock occurred in the same area Thursday at 3:45 p.m.

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Moderate Earthquake In Northwest Sumatra
June 25, 2005 11:52 AM

KUALA LUMPUR, June 25 (Bernama) -- A moderate earthquake measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale occurred at 5.45am Saturday in northwest Sumatra, 151km from Banda Acheh, and 846km northwest of Kuala Lumpur.

According to the Malaysian Meteorological Services Department, the earthquake occurred at 4.7 degrees North and 94.6 degrees East of northwest Sumatra.

"Tremors may not be felt in the west coast of peninsular Malaysia. Based on its location and magnitude, the earthquake is not expected to generate a tsunami that could affect the coasts of Malaysia," it said in a statement here.

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Cedar City rattled by earthquakes
No damage reported from 2.8, 3.6 temblors

CEDAR CITY - The area 31 miles east-southeast of Cedar City experienced two earthquakes within the past 48 hours.

The earthquake Thursday afternoon was a magnitude 2.8 shock, and the earthquake Friday morning was a magnitude 3.6 shock. The epicenter was 6 miles northwest of Alton, and the magnitude of these quakes created a slight sensation, but there was no property damage or injuries reported.

University of Utah Seismograph Center Manager Relu Burlacu said Utah is a state that is prone to earthquakes.

"It's not unusual that we have earthquakes in that area," he said. "It's part of the Intermountain Seismic Belt."

Burlacu said if one looks at a map of the seismography in Utah, there is a band of earthquakes going from the southwest of the state all the way to the north, and Alton falls in that area.

"With every occasion, we try to convey that we are in earthquake country," he said. "There is potential for a 7 or 7.5 magnitude earthquake on the Wasatch Fault."

When there is an earthquake in Utah, anyone who felt the quake is asked to fill out a survey with the Seismography Center, Burlacu said.

By late Friday morning, five responses, all from Alton, reported that they felt the shaking ground.

The last time an earthquake was reported in the Cedar City area was Dec. 18, 2004. It also had a magnitude 3.6 shock.

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Another day, another earthquake in sunny California
Dan Glaister in Los Angeles
The Guardian
Saturday June 25, 2005

The first account of an earthquake in Los Angeles noted that the shaking of the ground lasted "as long as half an Ave Maria". Fra Juan Crespi's earthquake measuring scale, which he coined as chronicler of the 1769 Portolá expedition, might have come in useful last week.

But I didn't notice anyone praying as the shockwaves of the 4.9 magnitude earthquake that struck Yucaipa, 79 miles east of Los Angeles, rippled through the city. [...]

Angelenos seem to have a blasé relationship with the approaching Armageddon. Gil the surfer, star of the novel Lucifer's Hammer, rides the ultimate, tsunami-fuelled wave: "If death was inevitable, what was left? Style, only style ... The wave's frothing peak was far above him". The 1974 novel Earthquake, on which the Charlton Heston disaster film was based, emphasises the sense of thrill: "With incredible speed, the city of Los Angeles virtually disintegrates."

Five earthquakes hit California last week. The strongest, some 90 miles off the coast near the California-Oregon border, prompted a tsunami warning along the entire western seaboard. Unfortunately, if you weren't tuned into the Weather Channel you wouldn't have known. Most people only learned of the warning after it had been lifted.

The subsequent quakes may or may not have been aftershocks. Seismologists are divided. But then seismology is starting to sound increasingly like underground astrology.

"We can present a theory that cannot be disproved until long after we are dead," US geological survey seismologist Lucy Jones told the LA Times.

One thing they agree on is that earthquakes tend to come in clusters: a busy period of seismic activity often follows a quiet period.

The day after the Yucaipa shock last week, a handy flyer dropped into my letterbox. Looking like one of the glossy real-estate entreaties that arrive each day, this one was from the California Earthquake Authority and bore its sunny slogan: "Every day is earthquake season in California."

Perhaps that's the future of this place, a disaster theme park, complete with landslides, earthquakes, drought, tsunamis, and epic gridlock.

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Major quake likely in Central U.S. study says
June 24, 2005

BALTIMORE -- The rate of strain building up in the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) is similar to other seismic zones in the country. That announcement came Wednesday in a study by scientists from the University of Memphis Center for Earthquake Research and Information (CERI). The study was detailed in the journal Nature.

According to study member Dr. Michael Ellis, this new research overturns previous studies that claimed otherwise.

"The most important point is that for the first time, these results confirm what the geological evidence has been showing for decades now "- that strain is accumulating," said Ellis, a geology professor at the university and program director of land use dynamics for the National Science Foundation.

"Earlier results did not confirm this, so earlier people suggested that the seismic hazard there should be reduced" -- we can throw that out the window now and move on."

The NMSZ is named for the small town of New Madrid, MO, where three devastating magnitude 8 earthquakes struck in the winter of 1811-1812. The quakes were felt in 27 states and as far away as Boston and Charleston, S.C. According to witness accounts in journals and newspapers from the time, the ground rolled in waves and sections of the earth sank or rose. Thousands of aftershocks also plagued the region during the winter as well.

Seismologists estimate the 1811-1812 earthquakes were felt strongly over 50,000 square miles and moderately across nearly one million square miles. By comparison, the historic San Francisco earthquake of 1906 was felt moderately over 60,000 square miles.

What makes the NMSZ unusual is that it is not a seismic zone based on plate tectonics -- meaning that its seismic potential is not based on plates in the Earth's crust moving against each other. In fact, the nearest plate boundary to the NMSZ is more than 1,200 miles away.

Ellis said the surface of the NMSZ accumulating strain by moving in a manner that resembles someone squeezing a block very slowly. He noted in the Nature article that how earthquakes happen within a plate interior is not understood.

"Seismic zones like the New Madrid are not very common, which is why the whole thing is enigmatic and has stirred up so much controversy," explained Ellis, whose research has already been greeted with some disagreement by researchers who previously studied the area. [...]

Yet scientists are saying that another significant earthquake is possible for that region. Small earthquakes occur along the NMSZ every day, including magnitude one and two tremors felt in Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, and Kentucky. On Monday, June 20, an earthquake with a magnitude of 3.9 was reported just east of Cairo, IL and a 3.6 quake was reported in Western Kentucky.

If an earthquake comparable to those of 1811 and 1812 struck the NMSZ today, the results would be far different than then due to the increased population of the region.

"Unfortunately, it would do a considerable amount of damage," said Jim Wilkinson, executive director of the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC). "The region has just grown tremendously since that point. Seismic building codes didn't start showing up in the region until the late 1980s and 1990s. [...]

Wilkinson said Wednesday's study also just validates what the consensus has been for years: that history and science have shown that the region has experienced significant earthquakes before.

The timing of this study will help garner interest, he added. The recent increased seismic activity around the globe -- from Southeast Asia to Southern California -- has made the public want to learn more about earthquakes.

The NMSZ has experienced more seismic activity recently, too, with more magnitude 4 quakes than average shaking the area in the past year. [...]

Comment: Notice that this article, toward the end, acknowledges the "increased seismic activity around the globe." Obviously, someone is paying attention. The question is: Why isn't it getting more press coverage? Why are we still killing people in Iraq and Afghanistan when it is altogether likely that our planet is going to kill a lot of us - and rather soon - and we ought to be devoting our resources to finding out about when, where, how and why?

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Some 732 dead or missing in China floods as rivers rise
Fri Jun 24, 1:24 PM ET

BEIJING - China braced for the start of the rainy season along the flood-prone Yangtze river as the death toll from torrential downpours this year jumped to 567 with at least 165 more missing.

Although the relentless rains in southern parts of the country were expected to ease, water levels on the Pearl river remained at record highs as they surged toward the regional capital of Guangzhou, flood control officials said.

Guangdong provincial governor Huang Huahua urged the government to fast-track relief efforts throughout the province, including Guangzhou, which was experiencing the worst rains in 90 years.

Across the border from Guangdong, heavy rains pounded Hong Kong, bringing flooding and landslides as well as traffic gridlock. Flights were delayed and ferry services cancelled while primary schools suspended classes.

Major flooding across China this year has so far wreaked economic losses valued at 22.9 billion yuan (2.76 billion dollars), with more than 44 million people affected, the civic affairs ministry's flood headquarters said.

At least 2.45 million people have been evacuated.

"From the overall situation, the losses brought on this year by flood disasters is on the same level as what we experienced in the 1990s, but still lighter than the big disaster years of 1991 and 1998," the ministry said. [...]

"According to past experience, at the end of June the rain belt moves northward toward the Yangtze river, but this year from what we have seen it is late and the rain belt has remained over Guangxi and Guangdong," a researcher surnamed Zhang at the National Climate Center told AFP. [...]

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Fears grow Glastonbury could become a washout
Irish Examiner

Thunderstorms and torrential rain were today threatening to turn this year's Glastonbury Festival into a wash-out.

Thousands of music fans arriving at the Worthy Farm site in Somerset last night were greeted with heavy downpours and even lightning as the glorious sunshine came to an abrupt end.

Weather forecasters have warned an expected crowd of around 150,000 to prepare for a mud bath – as rain threatens to waterlog the site and turn camp sites into bogs.

Festival organiser Michael Eavis said he was keeping his fingers crossed that there would be no repeat of the infamous mudfest of 1997.

He said: "It's really starting to rain now. I can hear thunder. But it's different from 1997 when the site was very muddy. We've had four or five days of good weather so the ground is firm.

"We've also spent a lot of money on the drainage, so the main site should be okay. I don't know if the weather might spoil it but we'll just have to see."

US rock duo White Stripes are headlining the event tonight on the main Pyramid stage. On the other is Fatboy Slim, and festival-goers can also see The Tears - former Suede bandmates Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler – on the John Peel stage.

Coldplay and Basement Jaxx will headline on Saturday and Sunday respectively at this year's festival.

The festival, which first began in 1970, boasts 11 stages and more than 200 performers, ranging from the well-established to untested and quirky newcomers.

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Freak storms hit Paris, disrupt metro and flights
June 23, 2005

PARIS - A violent electrical storm struck the Paris region on Thursday, flooding hundreds of houses, disrupting two lines on the metro system and causing delays at the city's two main airports.

Elsewhere, lightning struck an electrical centre in Switzerland, blocking about 100 trains in the second major breakdown to hit the Swiss railway system in two days.

The Paris fire department said it had received about 500 calls because of flooded basements, fallen trees and short circuits.

In the surrounding Essone and Yvelines regions, firemen were called out on hundreds of other emergencies.

In the old royal court city of Versailles, firemen attended about 300 emergency calls.

No casualties were reported, but a motorcyclist had to be rescued when he was engulfed by water under a Paris road tunnel.

Officials at Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports said all flights had to be suspended for more than hour, but they said the situation returned to normal later in the evening.

Determined to prevent a repetition of a heatwave disaster two years ago in which thousands of elderly people died, Health Minister Xavier Bertrand, said he would announce improvements in a nationwide emergency system next week, including a requirement that all establishments for the elderly should be provided with at least one air-conditioned room.

He also said his ministry would publish an additional six million copies of a leaflet telling elderly people how to avoid become heatwave victims. Three million copies of the document have already been distributed.

Heatwave protection was stepped up to the third of four levels in three eastern regions of France, putting hospitals on alert and requiring social workers to make contact with members of the public at risk from heat-stroke. [...]

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Scientists Studying Gulf's 'Dead Zone'
Fri Jun 24, 8:59 PM ET

PASCAGOULA, Miss. - Through mid-July, scientists from NOAA's National Coast Data Development Center and the agency's Fisheries Service at Stennis Space Center will look at data about dissolved oxygen from the "dead zone" areas in the Gulf of Mexico.

The scientists believe the zone forms in June and stretches 5,000-square-miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River toward the Texas coast.

The condition, known as hypoxia, occurs when the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water is too low to support most marine life. The scientists say the trend has increased dramatically since studies first began in the early 1980s.

Researchers believe the dead zone is caused by an influx of polluted freshwater from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers. Freshwater floats over salt water and acts as a barrier to oxygen. Meanwhile, pollution flows from the rivers into the Gulf, creating algae plumes that further choke off the oxygen.

"The science community is determined to find the causes and impacts of hypoxia to marine life in the Gulf," said Gregory W. Withee, assistant administrator for NOAA Satellite and Information Service, NCDDC's lead agency.

The scientists, aboard the NOAA vessel, Oregon II, will study the Gulf waters from Brownsville, Texas, to the mouth of the Mississippi River. The team will measure seawater temperatures, salinity, chlorophyll and dissolved oxygen levels at more than 200 locations.

During its four-week study, the scientists will continually generate new maps and provide that data on the Internet. The first map will look at the continental shelf from Brownsville to Corpus Christi, Texas and the final maps will look at the Texas-Louisiana coast.

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Are we ready for a possible "killer flu" outbreak?

Tell Congress you support the AVIAN Act
Trust for America's Health

S. 969, the AVIAN (Attacking Viral-Influenza Across Nations) Act of
2005, introduced by Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), addresses the
possibility of a deadly pandemic flu outbreak, and how the United
States can better prepare itself and its citizens from the harm
caused by such an outbreak.

One particular influenza [Influenza A (H5N1)], commonly known as the avian or bird flu, is a significant public health danger. It is
possible this strain of flu could mutate into a highly-transmissible
form that humans have no natural immunity against. As of May 19,
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported
that 97 humans in Asia have contracted the avian flu, resulting in
53 deaths thus far. Experts predict that millions of Americans
could die if the avian flu spreads to the U.S.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called upon countries to take "increased steps to improve risk assessment procedures, to
strengthen the ability of affected countries to respond promptly to
local outbreaks, [and] to implant or complete pandemic preparatory actions as soon as possible."

The U.S. needs to be prepared for this deadly strain of flu, and others. Among other things, S. 969 urges the U.S. to stockpile the anti-viral medication, Tamiflu, to treat people who get sick from this lethal flu strain. Produced by one manufacturer in Switzerland, this medication is an essential stop-gap measure to treat people while an effective vaccine is developed. WHO estimates that pandemic flu outbreak cold affect 25 percent of the population worldwide. Currently, the U.S. has and/or has ordered only 2.3 million doses, which would only take care of less than one percent of the U.S. population.

We need to be prepared. All Americans are susceptible to the avian
flu, and we must urge Congress to pass this important legislation.

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MIT Physicists Create New Form Of Matter

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- MIT scientists have brought a supercool end to a heated race among physicists: They have become the first to create a new type of matter, a gas of atoms that shows high-temperature superfluidity.

Their work, to be reported in the June 23 issue of Nature, is closely related to the superconductivity of electrons in metals. Observations of superfluids may help solve lingering questions about high-temperature superconductivity, which has widespread applications for magnets, sensors and energy-efficient transport of electricity, said Wolfgang Ketterle, a Nobel laureate who heads the MIT group and who is the John D. MacArthur Professor of Physics as well as a principal investigator in MIT's Research Laboratory of Electronics.

Seeing the superfluid gas so clearly is such a dramatic step that Dan Kleppner, director of the MIT-Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms, said, "This is not a smoking gun for superfluidity. This is a cannon."

For several years, research groups around the world have been studying cold gases of so-called fermionic atoms with the ultimate goal of finding new forms of superfluidity. A superfluid gas can flow without resistance. It can be clearly distinguished from a normal gas when it is rotated. A normal gas rotates like an ordinary object, but a superfluid can only rotate when it forms vortices similar to mini-tornadoes. This gives a rotating superfluid the appearance of Swiss cheese, where the holes are the cores of the mini-tornadoes. "When we saw the first picture of the vortices appear on the computer screen, it was simply breathtaking," said graduate student Martin Zwierlein in recalling the evening of April 13, when the team first saw the superfluid gas. For almost a year, the team had been working on making magnetic fields and laser beams very round so the gas could be set in rotation. "It was like sanding the bumps off of a wheel to make it perfectly round," Zwierlein explained.

"In superfluids, as well as in superconductors, particles move in lockstep. They form one big quantum-mechanical wave," explained Ketterle. Such a movement allows superconductors to carry electrical currents without resistance.

The MIT team was able to view these superfluid vortices at extremely cold temperatures, when the fermionic gas was cooled to about 50 billionths of a degree Kelvin, very close to absolute zero (-273 degrees C or -459 degrees F). "It may sound strange to call superfluidity at 50 nanokelvin high-temperature superfluidity, but what matters is the temperature normalized by the density of the particles," Ketterle said. "We have now achieved by far the highest temperature ever." Scaled up to the density of electrons in a metal, the superfluid transition temperature in atomic gases would be higher than room temperature. [...]

The MIT research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, NASA and the Army Research Office.

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Fire, Explosion Rock St. Louis Gas Plant
Associated Press
June 25, 2005

ST. LOUIS - A blaze at an industrial plant sent huge fireballs shooting into the sky Friday afternoon and cast a towering cloud of black smoke over the area.

There were no immediate reports of any injuries and no word on the cause of the rapid-fire series of spectacular explosions at Praxair Distribution, which processes propane and other gases for industrial use.

Company spokeswoman Susan Szita Gore said she wasn't certain how many of the plant's 70 employees were there at the time of the explosions, but all employees were evacuated safely.

The explosions appeared to come from tanks outside the plant and from the plant itself. Cars and trucks parked nearby caught fire.

Firefighters held back at first before trying to battle the blaze as the blasts sent flames more than 150 feet in the air. The fire and smoke could be seen for several miles.

"At the height of the event, it was just fireball after fireball rising into the air," said Chris Casey, an employee of Saint Louis University several blocks away. "It looked like movie pyrotechnics. I've never seen anything like it before."

Homes and businesses were being evacuated in the mostly residential area south of downtown. Police Chief Joe Mokwa said Interstate 64 was shut down near the site for fear that additional cylinders might explode.

Angelita Deppe, 38, who works at a nearby United Parcel Service facility that was evacuated by police after the explosions began, said cylinders that had been blasted into the air landed on the ground.

The company is part of Praxair Inc. of Danbury, Conn. A spokesman had no immediate information on the fire.

The company's primary products are atmospheric gases such as oxygen, nitrogen, argon and rare gases, along with process and specialty gases like carbon dioxide, helium, hydrogen, semiconductor process gases and acetylene.

Leland Darrow, assistant area director of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration office in St. Louis, said he was not aware of any safety violations at the plant.

Mayor Francis Slay said the city was monitoring air at the site to make sure no hazardous materials were being released. "So far we have not detected any," he said.

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Anglican share vote angers Israelis
Vikram Dodd
The Guardian
Saturday June 25, 2005

Anglicans yesterday voted to urge their member churches to consider disinvesting from companies involved in Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands.

The Anglican consultative council voted unanimously for the measure, which was opposed by the last archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbi, who fear it will damage Jewish and Christian relations. Among those voting for yesterday's measure was Dr Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, a council spokesman said. [...]

One company that could be affected is the US-based Caterpillar, whose bulldozers are used by the Israeli security forces to demolish the homes of Palestinians as punishment for attacks against Jewish civilians or troops.

The Church of England has £2m invested in the firm, and after the vote a spokesman said the church's ethical investment body would be "looking at whether they should be invested in Caterpillar. [...]

The move followed a decision by the church in the US to disinvest. The motion "commends the resolve of the Episcopal Church (USA) to take appropriate action where it finds that its corporate investments support the occupation of Palestinian lands or violence against innocent Israelis". [...]

Rabbi Barry Marcus, who holds the Israel portfolio in the cabinet of the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, said: "Moves toward divestment ... will do nothing to advance the twin causes of security for Israel and statehood for the Palestinians."

Speaking before the vote, the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, the Rt Rev Riah Hanna Abu El-Assal, told the BBC: "This is the time for some sort of action. The root cause [of the violence] is the occupation and when the occupation is no more I believe there will be peace and Israel will enjoy security."

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Charges Against Teen Upgraded After Dog He Allegedly Raped Dies
FOX Carolina News
June 23, 2005

SPARTANBURG, SOUTH CAROLINA - A Campobello teen is accused of raping one neighbor's dog and another neighbor's two little girls. Now the dog has died and charges against the teen have been upgraded.

After receiving word that the dog died possibly because of the rape. Fox Carolina called the Solicitor's office to see if now new charges would be filed against the teen. An hour later Solicitor Trey Gowdy called to say that the charges will be upgraded to the "most serious animal cruelty charges they have on the books."

The dog's owner Sylvia Jones says, "At first when it happened, I couldn't eat or sleep every morning I'm waking up thinking Princess is there but she's not.

Princess's little dog house is empty now. Sylvia Jones says she died of internal bleeding this past Sunday because of the rape. "The vet told me she had a little blood in her urine and that she was bleeding inside."

Sylvia says she and her husband would not have believed Cory Williamson raped Princess exactly two weeks to the day she died had they not seen it with their own eyes.

"When I got here we were laying on the deck looking at him and he had his pants down and he was doing sexual activity with the dog like a man would do to a woman."

The Jones family says Princess wouldn't eat or play anymore after the attack. "She (Princess) couldn't even sit down, her bottom was swollen sore."

Sylvia says she knows Princess was just a dog, but she wants people to know that Princess was also a part of her family. A family that now has been forever changed. "She looked so pitiful. It's sad, there was nothing I could do for her."

Neighbors worry that if Williamson is accused of raping a dog and molesting two girls in the same neighborhood, who knows what might happen next.

Neighbor Bill Johnson says, "As a community we shouldn't have to watch our kids every second they're playing. We want him out of this neighborhood."

The Solicitor's office says it wants to make sure Williamson is out of this neighborhood while he's awaiting trial on the molestation and dog rape charges so they are requesting that his bond be revoked. Williamson's bond hearing will be held next Friday.

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'Menstruating' boy stuns doctors
M Chhaya in Kolkata
June 20, 2005 18:12 IST

In an extremely unusual case, a Kolkata doctor is treating a teenage boy who has been showing symptoms of menstruation.

The 15-year-old 'effeminate' boy's bleeding has been occurring in the second week of every month and lasts three days. During the period he experiences stomach aches, cramps, nausea and mood swings.

"We examined the boy. Though he has male organs, his behaviour and traits are like a woman," said physician Sudip Mondal.

"If tests of blood samples prove the presence of ovum, this would be a very rare medical case," he added.

Tarak, the boy who was identified by only one name, works as a domestic help in Kalna town, some 200 km north of Kolkata.

He began 'menstruating' more than a year ago, but hid the fact from his employers and his impoverished family for the fear of losing his job.

Doctors, who say this is a very rare case but not unprecedented, are now planning chromosomal and hormonal tests on the boy.

"The presence of female functional endometrial in a male prostrate gland can cause this type of anomaly," said Pradip Mitra of the West Bengal Gynaecological Society.

"The boy needs immediate medical attention or else this could cause fatal complications," Mitra warned.

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Japanese robot guards to patrol shops, offices
Thu Jun 23,10:38 AM ET

TOKYO - Burglars beware, robot guards are here.

In an idea straight out of science fiction, robots could soon begin patrolling Japanese offices, shopping malls and banks to keep them safe from intruders. Equipped with a camera and sensors, the "Guardrobo D1," developed by Japanese security firm Sohgo Security Services Co., is designed to patrol along pre-programmed paths and keep an eye out for signs of trouble.

The 109-cm tall robot will alert human guards via radio and by sending camera footage if it detects intruders, fires, or even water leaks.

Such robots are vital from a business standpoint when considering Japan's aging population, Sohgo Security said.

"In the near future, it is certain that securing young and capable manpower will become even more difficult ... and the security industry will feel the full brunt of the impact," the company said in a statement.

Around one in five Japanese are now 65 or over and the proportion is expected to rise to one in three in 2040, according to government data.

Sohgo Security is negotiating with several clients, and after an initial trial run hopes to begin offering a robot-assisted security system within a year, the company said.

Pricing has yet to be decided.

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Phantom flyers
Mark Pilkington
Thursday June 23, 2005
The Guardian

The notion that large, hitherto unidentified creatures may exist in our oceans and wildernesses is one that most people are comfortable with. But could colossal, primitive lifeforms, invisible to human eyes, also populate our skies?

Trevor James Constable, sailor, aircraft historian and scientific iconoclast, certainly thinks so. Inspired by Wilhelm Reich's orgone energy, Ruth Drown's radionics, the writing of Charles Fort and Arthur Conan Doyle's story The Horror of the Heights, Constable became convinced that the UFOs he heard so much about in the 1950s weren't alien spacecraft, but living beings.

Armed with a camera fitted with high-speed infrared film and an ultraviolet filter, Constable set out to reveal these sky beings to the world. His photographs certainly show something. To the untrained eye they look like discolorations produced during the developing process. But stare long enough and they take on the appearance of floating, zeppelin-sized amoebas.

In his 1975 book The Cosmic Pulse of Life, Constable calls them "critters". "As living organisms," he writes, "critters appear to be an elemental branch of evolution probably older than most life on Earth, dating from the time when the planet was more gaseous and plasmatic than solid ... They will probably one day be better classified as belonging to the general field of macrobiology or even macrobacteria inhabiting the aerial ocean we call the sky."

The critters are, thankfully, usually invisible to us, existing for the most part in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum. When they do stray into our frequency band, they are mistakenly identified as flying machines.

Constable's theory, a synthesis of science, ufology, occultism and cryptozoology, struck a chord with readers at the time; one zoologist named the creatures Amoebae constablea, after their discoverer.

Thirty years on, even ufologists consider Constable a fringe character. But his spirit lives on in lesser phenomena such as "rods" - alleged airborne lifeforms that can be captured only on digital camcorders - and "orbs", balls of light, beloved of ghost hunters, found mainly in digital images. These modern variations have been effortlessly trapped and dismissed by digital debunkers while, somewhere up there, Constable's skywhales roam free.

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