Monday, June 27, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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News report says US to produce plutonium 238 for secret missions

The United States reportedly plans to resume production of plutonium 238, a substance so radioactive that a speck can cause cancer.

The material, used as a power source, would primarily be used for secret national security missions... In the past nuclear batteries made from plutonium 238 were used to power satellites, planetary probes and spy devices, it said...


Rumsfeld: Torture claims false
26/06/2005 20:20

Washington - US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld on Sunday rejected allegations of widespread prisoner abuse at US-run overseas detention facilities.

"The idea that there's any policy of abuse or policy of torture is false - flat false," he told the Fox News Sunday television program.

"People have been instructed to treat people humanely," Rumsfeld said.

The defence secretary pointed out that in instances where they have been prisoner abuse has been substantiated "people have been punished and convicted in a court martial."

Rumsfeld rejected calls from some US lawmakers, civil libertarians and others that terror suspects be prosecuted in the general civilian criminal justice system.

"I'm not a lawyer, but the president and the attorney general decided after 9/11 that putting terrorists into the ... criminal justice system as though they were car thieves or bank robbers or something like that .... wasn't the way to do it," Rumsfeld said. [...]

Comment: Rummy is out of the loop, obviously... or he isn't reading his memos. See the following:

US admits using torture

June 25 2005 at 10:12AM

Geneva - Washington has for the first time acknowledged to the United Nations that prisoners have been tortured at United States detention centres in Guantanamo Bay, as well as in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The acknowledgement was made in a report submitted on Friday to the UN Committee against Torture, said a member of the 10-person panel.

The US mission to the UN institutions in Geneva was unavailable for comment on the report.

"They are no longer trying to duck this, and have respected their obligation to inform the UN," the committee member said anonymously, adding that the US described the incidents as "isolated acts" carried out by low-ranking members of the military who were being punished. [...]

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Bush Calls Freedom from Torture "Inalienable Human Right"
26 June 2005

President says U.S. committed to expanding democracy, freedom worldwide

In remarks commemorating United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture June 26, President Bush says freedom from torture is "an inalienable human right."

In a statement released by the White House the same day, Bush said the United States "is committed to building a world where human rights are respected and protected by the rule of law." He added that the United States is working to expand democracy worldwide and "will help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way."

The president acknowledged that many people throughout the world are "stand[ing] up for their right to freedom," but said that too many are "paying a terrible price for their brave acts of dissent" by being "detained, arrested, thrown in prison, and subjected to torture by regimes that fail to understand that their habits of control will not serve them well in the long-term." [...]

Comment: Guess Bush also missed the memo...

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Politicians demand inquiry into CIA operations in Italy
By Peter Popham in Rome
The Independent
27 June 2005

Senior politicians are calling for a full inquiry into the activities of United States intelligence operatives in Italy, after a Milan judge issued arrest warrants for 13 CIA agents. The agents allegedly abducted a suspected Islamic militant and took him to Egypt for interrogation.

Paolo Cento, a Green party MP who is vice-chairman of the Justice Committee of the lower house of parliament, has demanded an explanation of the episode from both the Italian interior and defence ministers.

"What has emerged from the investigations requires a political clarification," he said. "We want to know if US secret agents are free to operate in Italy, and if that is the case, we want to know how the government will ensure national sovereignty."

In issuing the warrants, Judge Chiara Nobili took an unprecedented stand against the US policy of "extraordinary rendition", popularly known as "outsourcing torture".

The 13, three of them women and one of them allegedly a former US consul in Milan, are said to have seized the Islamic suspected from a street in Milan and flown him to Egypt. [...]

For many Italians, the behaviour of the CIA agents betrays a contempt for territorial boundaries that leaves them near-speechless. The investigators were able to build up a detailed picture of the Americans' movements because they took no precautions, staying at Milan's most expensive hotels for weeks on end and using Italian cellphones and insecure hotel landlines for long conversations.

Italian investigators are also fuming at the casual way the Americans sabotaged their own investigations. "We supplied them with information about Abu Omar, then they used the information against us, undermining our entire operation against his terrorist network," a senior Italian investigator told The New York Times. [...]

Guido Salvini, the judge in charge of preliminary investigations in the case, said the abduction "was illegal because it violated Italian sovereignty, but it also had a negative impact on the overall war on terror".

If the CIA had not intervened, he went on, "Abu Omar might be standing trial in Italy now".

Extraordinary rendition, the American practice of exporting foreigners suspected of involvement in terrorism to countries where torture is routine, has been practised since the mid-1990s, but became frequent after the 11 September attacks. Egypt is the most common destination, but suspects have also been sent to Syria, Morocco and Jordan.

The indignation of the Italian authorities has been further fuelled by emerging evidence of an attempted cover-up of the abduction by the CIA, which in 2003 informed Italian anti-terrorism officers that the Milan imam had fled to Bosnia to evade police investigations.

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Egyptians protest alleged torture by regime
Sun Jun 26, 2:54 PM ET

CAIRO - Some 200 demonstrators gathered outside state security headquarters in Cairo to protest torture in Egypt, a practice rights groups have long accused the regime of using in prison interrogations.

Surrounded by hundreds of riot police wearing helmets and carrying clubs, protestors chanted anti-regime slogans at the rally, organised by human rights advocates to coincide with World Day Against Torture.

The protest grew heated as demonstrators yelled "Down with (President Hosni) Mubarak" and "Gamal (Mubarak's son) tell your father all Egyptians hate him."

Demonstrators also called for Interior Minister Habib al-Adly, whom they deem responsible for the practice, to step down.

Some carried banners with pictures of the minister with the word "Resign," while others read: "Judge the pashas of torture," using the word to describe military authorities.

Egypt approved a key electoral reform in May to allow multi-candidate presidential elections for the first time, but the move was criticised by opposition as being too restrictive and voting day was marred by violence.

Prior to the referendum, in a move to clamp down on opposition, Egyptian police arrested hundreds of members of the banned but tolerated Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood.

Some 1,300 members have since been released, but 300 remain behind bars, group leaders say.

The National Council for Human Rights led by former UN secretary general Boutros Boutros Ghali counted nine cases of torture in May and said "regrettable violations" of the right to life were committed, which led to "the death of some citizens apparently as a result of torture."

Comment: Note the comment in the previous article that Egypt is the country to which the CIA has sent the most prisoners since the mid-1990's.

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Abu Ghraib expanded as violence sweeps Iraq
By Kim Sengupta
The Independent
27 June 2005

Faced with unremitting violence, the United States is building new detention areas at Iraqi prisons including the notorious Abu Ghraib.

President George Bush had declared that Abu Ghraib would be torn down in a symbolic gesture after shocking pictures emerged of Iraqi inmates being abused and tortured by American forces.

But the continuing insurgency and rising death toll has meant that not only can the US not hand over Abu Ghraib to the new Iraqi government, according to a planned timetable, but other prisons including Camp Bucca in the British-controlled south of the country are being expanded.

The numbers of prisoners being held by the US in Iraq has reached record levels this month, with 10,783 in custody, up from 7,837 in January and 5,435 in June last year. American Iraqi officials agree there is no sign of the resistance or the prisoners it produces abating soon. "It's been a challenge" said Col James Brown, commander of the 18th Military Police Brigade. "Many of the people we have captured have not given up the struggle."

President Bush will make a nationwide television address tomorrow after opinion polls showed increasing numbers of Americans are disenchanted with the war.

But the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, was forced to admit yesterday that the fighting could go on for years, adding: "We are not going to win against the insurgency, the Iraqi people will win against the insurgency". Mr Rumsfeld tried to play down reports that the US and Iraqi officials had been meeting representatives of the Sunni insurgency to try to forge a peace deal. He insisted such contacts were "routine".

The decision by American commanders to add to the detention facilities instead of their planned decommissioning would be seen as an admission of just how much the situation is out of control more than two years after invasion. [...]

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The tipping point

US public opinion on the Iraq war dips with every dead soldier, and plummets at the first sniff of defeat
Gary Younge
The Guardian
Monday June 27, 2005

[...] In Malcolm Gladwell's book, The Tipping Point, he describes the conditions that are necessary to transform Hush Puppies from the old school to new cool. "The world of the tipping point is a place where the unexpected becomes expected, where radical change is more than a possibility," he argues. "It is - contrary to all our expectations - a certainty."

American public opinion appears to be approaching just such a point in relation to the war in Iraq. The last fortnight has revealed a growing impatience with the military misadventure in the Gulf and an irritation with the White House's persistent denials that anything is wrong. This has translated into more urgent and widespread calls to bring the troops home that has finally percolated up to the political class. This new phase has put George Bush on the back foot, forcing him to deliver a major address tomorrow night to rally public support, which is evidently draining away. He will tell them that America needs "resolve". For the White House Iraq has become the latest faith-based initiative.

A recent Gallup poll revealed that 56% said the war "wasn't worth it". Meanwhile, for the first time, a majority say they would be "upset" if Bush sent more troops, and a new low of 36% say troop levels should be maintained or increased. An earlier Washington Post poll showed that two-thirds of the public believe the US military is bogged down in Iraq while almost three- quarters think the level of casualties is unacceptable. The figures match or exceed the previous high-water mark of public disenchantment. More than half believe the war has not made them safer and 40% believe it has striking similarities to the experience in Vietnam.

Anti-war sentiment had always been part of mainstream national conversation here. But with the Democratic party and its presidential candidate having supported the war, such views remained marginal in the body politic. Now, as these statistics make themselves felt in the postbags and phone logs of congressmen, the notion that not only is the war not going to plan but that the plan might itself be flawed is finding expression in the most unlikely places. On June 16, the Republican congressman Walter Jones, the man largely responsible for introducing freedom fries to the congressional menu, co-sponsored a bipartisan resolution persuading the president to set a timetable for troop withdrawal.

When the secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld, testified before a Senate armed services committee last week, the Republican senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, said: "I'm here to tell you sir, in the most patriotic state that I can imagine, people are beginning to question. And I don't think it's a blip on the radar screen. I think we have a chronic problem on our hands. We will lose this war if we leave too soon. And what is likely to make us do that? The public going south. And that is happening."

The critical factor driving this slump, explains Christopher Gelpi, associate professor of political science at Duke University who specialises in public attitudes to foreign policy, is not how many soldiers they lose but whether the mission for which they have fallen is likely to be successful. "The most important single fact is that the public perceive the mission as being destined for success. The American public is partly casualty-phobic but it is primarily defeat phobic. You can muster support for just about any military operation in the US so long as you can get enough of the defeat-phobic people on board." [...]

Until earlier this year, the White House had an easy-to-follow narrative for success on its own terms. When weapons of mass destruction were not found, it simply changed the story to fit the absence of facts. The final chapter then became the democratisation of the Arab world. First there would be a "handover" of power, then elections, all leading up to Iraqis regaining control of their own country. The carnage, in terms of human life, regional stability and international law, was dismissed as a price worth paying for the bigger picture. For a while, a majority of the American public bought it. But in recent months they have proved reluctant to wear it.

You can keep spinning just so long before you fall flat on your face. The administration's insistence that things are on track and all it must do is stay the course is beginning to grate. US efforts to reshape the world through a policy of pre-emption have been buttressed by an attempt to remould reality through the power of assertion. Since Vice-President Dick Cheney claimed that the insurgency was "in its last throes" 77 American soldiers and about 600 Iraqi civilians have died. His tortured explanation, late last week, that "if you look at what the dictionary says about throes, it can still be a violent period", adds insult to injury.

"We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue," wrote George Orwell in his essay In Front of Your Nose. "And then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield."

Comment: Perhaps the administration is misjudging the American public the same way they misjudged Iraq. Maybe the American Public isn't as concerned with "success" as they are concerned about the growing awareness that the Bush Administration has done nothing but lie from day one. Perhaps Americans aren't "defeat-phobic," but Lie-phobic??? What will the Bushies do about THAT?

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Bush administration crafting new message on Iraq
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Sun, Jun. 26, 2005

Stung by plummeting polls, the Bush administration is working on a new message about Iraq. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld road-tested it on the Sunday talk shows, and President Bush will flesh it out during a speech Tuesday night. The basic message, as articulated by Rumsfeld, goes something like this:

1. "Progress is being made politically and economically" in Iraq.

2. But the casualties could get worse over the next six months, and fighting could go on for "five, six, eight, 12 years."

3. And we have never miscalculated, erred, or misled you.

Comment: See, we seem to recall statements about Saddam Hussein's WMD's and the fact that he was prepared to use them against the US. So, where are the WMD's?

It's an ambitious message - a mix of the upbeat, the downbeat and the defiant.

Comment: An ambitious message?! Let's think about this: A group of psychopathic liars hoodwinks an entire nation into going to war. The population of the country begins to wake up and see how the wool was pulled over their eyes. In response, the psychopaths simply lie again, stating, "No, REALLY - we're not liars, thieves, and scumbags. Honest!"

Whether a restive public buys the message may depend not on Bush's persuasive powers, but on the news from the battlefield. And this message arrives at a crucial juncture, with solid majorities of Americans now saying that invading Iraq was a mistake (a sharp reversal of the polls one year ago). At this point, 91.5 percent of all American military deaths have occurred since Bush declared on May 1, 2003, that "major combat" was over.

Worse yet, an administration known for its message discipline has been plagued lately by top officials sending contradictory signals. While Vice President Cheney is insisting that the insurgency is in its "last throes," military leaders are telling Congress that the insurgency is at least as strong as it was six months ago, buoyed by an ongoing influx of foreign fighters.

Bush, in his speech Tuesday night, will ask Americans to help him "stay the course" - in essence, to trust him anew as a war president. But for those who are increasingly skeptical about the war, trust may be the biggest hurdle. Only 32 percent of independent voters now support the war, according to Gallup, and the big drop in recent months has been fueled not just by the mounting casualties but by the perception that Bush and his war planners promised a short and relatively bloodless conflict.

As evidenced Sunday by Rumsfeld's televised remarks, however, it's clear that the administration, while seeking people's trust, does not want to entertain any suggestion that it made any mistakes in the past, whether intentional or not.

Rumsfeld told "Fox News Sunday," for example, that he had not made optimistic predictions during the prelude to war. Such a claim, he said, is "false. ... I have been balanced and measured."

Yet, on Feb. 7, 2003, more than a month before the war began, he predicted that "it could last six days, six weeks, I doubt six months." On Feb. 20, 2003, he told PBS that the Americans "would be welcomed," as happened in Afghanistan, where people in the streets were "playing music, cheering, flying kites." (Seven months later, when a broadcast journalist asked Rumsfeld about his PBS remarks, he replied: "Never said that. Never did. ... You're thinking of somebody else.")

Comment: Does anyone actually expect this man to suddenly start speaking the truth? Of course not. Bush's televised address to the nation will no doubt be laughable. The real problem is not the speech; the problem is what Bush and the Neocons will do when the speech doesn't work on the American people... What happens when you corner a wild animal?

Also Sunday, Rumsfeld told NBC's "Meet the Press" that any rosy prewar predictions (which he denies were made) would have been inappropriate. He said: "Anyone who tries to estimate the end, the time, the cost, or the casualties in a war is making a big mistake." Yet it was Cheney, on March 16, 2003, who said "I think it will go relatively quickly ... weeks rather than months." A month earlier, Bush budget official Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. publicly estimated that the war could cost roughly $60 billion. (The current cost is $208 billion.)

Clearly, the administration is seeking a clean slate on forecasts. Rosy talk is out. The new message is designed to prepare the public for a long slog, figuring that Americans will stay the course if they get the bad news up front. Talk of "progress" will be tempered by talk about the grim realities of war. In Rumsfeld's words Sunday, "it's violence, it's tough, it's terrible."

Comment: This is their brilliant plan?? Many Americans are opposing the Bush regime because they already know the bad news, and they are sick of the incessant lies. How will this message help matters any?

He recalled that, during the run-up to war, he had prepared for Bush a list of "15 things that could go terribly wrong," including oil fields set afire and mass refugees on the roads. NBC interviewer Tim Russert then asked whether he had put "a robust insurgency" on the list. Rumsfeld replied: "I don't remember if that was on there." [...]

Rumsfeld did seek, at several points, to defend Cheney's contention that the insurgency is in its last throes. He told "Fox News Sunday" that "last throes could be a violent last throes, or a placid and calm last throes," his way of saying that the insurgency could burn out quickly or persist for years. He did say, however, that "I will anticipate that you'll see an escalation of violence between now and the (next round of Iraqi) elections" next winter.

In essence, the message is that America will be fighting in Iraq through the end of Bush's tenure, and that people should not dwell on what Rumsfeld calls "the negative day after day, in the press and on television." (He didn't address the fact that some of the most negative reports lately have come from publications such as the Marine Corps Times, which has written about inadequate body armor, and recalls of armored vests.) [...]

Comment: The Bush administration's new "plan" is so blatantly obvious and useless that either they they really are that desperate and blind, or they have something up their sleeve. While only time will tell, we suspect the latter possibility...

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General admits to secret air war
Michael Smith
June 26, 2005

THE American general who commanded allied air forces during the Iraq war appears to have admitted in a briefing to American and British officers that coalition aircraft waged a secret air war against Iraq from the middle of 2002, nine months before the invasion began.

Addressing a briefing on lessons learnt from the Iraq war Lieutenant-General Michael Moseley said that in 2002 and early 2003 allied aircraft flew 21,736 sorties, dropping more than 600 bombs on 391 “carefully selected targets” before the war officially started.

The nine months of allied raids “laid the foundations” for the allied victory, Moseley said. They ensured that allied forces did not have to start the war with a protracted bombardment of Iraqi positions.

If those raids exceeded the need to maintain security in the no-fly zones of southern and northern Iraq, they would leave President George W Bush and Tony Blair vulnerable to allegations that they had acted illegally.[...]

A leaked memo previously disclosed by The Sunday Times, detailing a meeting chaired by the prime minister and attended by Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, Geoff Hoon, the then defence secretary, and Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, chief of defence staff, indicated that the US was carrying out the bombing.

But Moseley’s remarks, and figures for the amount of bombs dropped in southern Iraq during 2002, indicate that the RAF was taking as large a part in the bombing as American aircraft.

Details of the Moseley briefing come amid rising concern in the US at the war. A new poll shows 60% of Americans now believe it was a mistake.

Comment: Well, if they were doing all this covert "pre-war" stuff to "soften up" Iraq and "lay the foundations" for victory, how come the U.S. is losing even now? What this admission amounts to is that we have now been de facto at war with Iraq for a lot longer than is generally know, which makes the current state that much more intolerable. And this is just in addition to the fact that Bush and Blair went to war behind the backs of their people and their governments.

Now consider the rumors that the Israelis and/or the US have been conducting covert strikes against Iran...

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No need for ties with Washington, says Iran's hardline new President
By Angus McDowall in Tehran
The Independent
27 June 2005

In his first statements since a landslide election victory on Friday, Iran's new hardline President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, defended his government's right to a nuclear programme and said that the country had "no significant need" for ties with the United States.

The former mayor of Tehran also sought to assuage domestic fears that he would crack down on social and political freedoms, saying in a press conference that "no extremism will be acceptable in popular government".

Mr Ahmadinejad's triumph has been greeted with dismay in Western capitals, which fear a newly confrontational approach from Tehran after months of tortuous negotiations over Iran's uranium-enrichment programme, which it claims is only intended to satisfy domestic energy needs. But although he was dismissive of American claims that the election was flawed and illegitimate, Mr Ahmadinejad was more conciliatory towards Europe, which has led the nuclear negotiations.

"Preserving national interests and emphasising the right of the Iranian nation for using peaceful nuclear technology," said the new President, "we will continue the talks," adding that they should be concluded "quickly".

With America however, it appears that Mr Ahmadinejad is prepared to let relations go into a deep freeze. His defeated opponent, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, made improved dialogue with the US a pillar of his election campaign. But, asked yesterday about Washington's persistent criticism of poll arrangements, the president-elect angrily replied: "In the democratic elections in our country, the people have chosen their president. Those who defend dictatorships cannot pass judgement on us." [...]

Comment: How convenient for Bush and Co. that Iran's new president is a hardliner who allegedly intends to fire up his nuke program and crack down on civil liberties. Why, you might say that Ahmadinejad's election was a gift to the Neocons and Zionists... What other excuse do they need to invade Iran now?

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Israel: Ahmedinajad's Election is a Danger for the Entire World
By Cihan News Agency
Published: Sunday 26, 2005

The Israeli administration has warned the international community that the election of Ahmedinajad will increase the problems in the region and claimed that Tehran's diplomatic isolation will increase as well.

The Israeli deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres released a declaration after the Iranian elections claiming that the elections cannot be determined as free and fair.

Furthermore, Amos Gilad from the Israel Foreign Ministry, speaking on Israeli radio, said that the Iranian elections had terminated the reforms and efforts for change in Iran.

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Will Israel launch against Iran on Tuesday?

Here you have an analysis I hope you don't have need to long remember...
June 27, 2005

First Unocal as a predicate...

The US has a little known entity that can reject the Chinese interest and intent regarding Unocal on national security/interest grounds. Remember that the beneficiary of the current Unocal deal is Chevron (NWO).

What you need to think about first is whether China wants the NWO to have this entity reject the overture.

If you think about it for a moment, China WANTS the US to reject it. Why? BY rejecting it the NWO affords China totally validity in doing what it wants to do: reject future NWO enmeshment via purchase of Chinese enterprise! China will broaden the doctrine and of course will not object to the US broadening it as well. What is the national security interest is within the pale of definition by the respective country. What is important to China is for the US to set up is the principle, which it will do openly now in rejecting China's interest in outbidding Chevron.

What if the deal is allowed to go through? China doesn't mind. Then it will resort to the contention that the US had the discretion to reject it or not. That it did not reject it does not limit China from applying it on a more stringent standard for its own interests.

Conclusion: China has everything to gain and nothing to lose in pursuing Unocal. It is again a brilliant Chinese maneuver. What it does is bring up the issue that the US can if it wants reject it. Thus, China cannot be faulted from applying the same standard as it deems best for the interests of its own country.

Now, look at the Iranian elections...

Did the NWO want the extremist candidate to win or lose?

It wanted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to win to open the portal for Israel to attack Iran. [...]

The Unocal analysis shows you that every act of China is cast with the intent that regardless of the outcome China improves its position. The Iranian election analysis shows you that what the NWO wants is not always apparent from what it says it wants. The fact that Bush is going to speak live from a military base announced hours before the election results asking live television coverage when we all know he has little to say positive about Iraq means that he is setting the stage to probably defend an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites, the probability being near 100% that Israel will justify a strike on such sites now based on the Ahmadinejad win and the record of his statements anti-West and anti-Israel.

So China pursues Unocal with its own agenda and Bush adds big bucks to the ante by pursuing Iran. Bush says his strategy will assure that China proves itself the paper tiger and Bush will have Iran and once having Iran he will explain that it abates most of all opposition in Iraq, thus proving important for US troops and US interests. Bush will further explain that Syria once Iran "loses it nuclear threat capability" will also prove of no consequence to US troops and interests in Iraq. Of course reinterpreted it means the NWO will move for control of oil in both Iraq and Iran and neutralize Syria which will mean Bush will complete his mission as per

What are the chances of this unfolding on Tuesday: 50%, which is very high for such an extreme war scenario. It means Israel must attack, Israel must be somehow injured to allow US troops in Iraq to move in Iran to protect Israel. It also serves as an excuse for China not to intervene against US intervention for "injured" Israel.

A more important dynamic is what are the chances of the scenario (or something similar) unfolding in the foreseeable future? Answer: 80%. The NWO is arguing that the new Iranian leadership can only result in making the NWO position in Iraq totally untenable. Thus, the only conclusion per 9-11 is that it wanted Ahmadinejad to win because he was the sine qua non for the NWO to push through for the US and Israel the inevitable need to quash the nuclear sites and in doing so open the portal for US troops to enter Iran. This of course suggests some plan to effectuate a successful response/counterattack on Israel. [...]

Comment: Yes, indeedy. Given the Bush administration's severe lack of a plan to win over the American people, it seems that an excuse to move on Iran was just what the doctor ordered.

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Wind Of Change In D.C.
June 25, 2005

Granted, the winds of corruption and shortsightedness still dominate. More so than at any time in recent memory, high-level officials are indistinguishable from right-wing lobbyists, gutting government's ability to regulate corporate power.

This may seem like a weird time for progressives to feel optimistic, but a confluence of recent events suggests the faintest breeze of hope in the air.

Granted, the winds of corruption and shortsightedness still dominate. More so than at any time in recent memory, high-level officials are indistinguishable from right-wing lobbyists, gutting government's ability to regulate corporate power. The Justice Department is throwing the fight against the tobacco companies; the White House is busy editing the science out of regulations that might restrain polluters.

Meanwhile, the administration and its congressional allies continue the fiscal recklessness that has been their hallmark since they got here. If they continue to have their way -- and they recently added a new slew of regressive tax cuts to their 2006 budget -- it will eventually be impossible for government to fulfill essential functions, from safety nets to investment in future technologies. (I know, that's the point: Starve the beast.)

Given this gale force of business as usual, where's this hopeful little breeze coming from? In fact, from a number of places:

* Infighting: There is clearly more dissension within conservative ranks. It might be that midterm elections are within sight, and members of Congress are paying a little more attention to polls showing their popularity ratings coming in just above that of Lyme disease. There's been uncharacteristic pushback from former White House allies on George W. Bush's domestic (stem-cell research, Social Security "reform") and foreign agendas (the war in Iraq).

* Speaking of Social Security, the more people learn about the president's plan, the less they like it. What's so notable here is that one of the most sophisticated and heretofore successful spin machines in the history of politics has been unable to sell the public on the benefits of privatization.

* A counter-theme is evolving. As these political phenomena are unfolding, leading newspapers have been providing a critically important "back story" regarding trends in economic inequality and mobility. A theme -- moving away from risk shifting and back to risk sharing -- is emerging.

The subject of this theme surfaced in 2004 in a prize-winning series by Los Angeles Times reporter Peter Gosselin. As stated in the introduction to the series, the piece questions "[w]hy so many families report being financially less secure even as the nation has grown more prosperous. The answer lies in a quarter-century-long shift of economic risks from the broad shoulders of business and government to the backs of working families. Safety nets that once protected Americans from economic turbulence -- safeguards like unemployment compensation and employer loyalty -- have eroded or vanished… The result is a daunting 'New Deal' for many working Americans -- one that compels them to cope, largely on their own, with financial forces far beyond their control."

And remember, Gosselin wrote this before Bush was offering future Social Security recipients the chance to play the stock market with what would otherwise be a guaranteed pension.

More recently, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal both ran series on, among other things, the sharp increase in income inequality and the lack of income mobility (including the amazing factoid that there's more economic mobility in France, Canada, and Denmark than in the United States).

In other words, while markets are delivering less equitable outcomes, the rules and norms that formerly offset those outcomes have eroded.

It just may turn out that the failure to sell Social Security privatization is the tipping point where enough people say, "Enough, already" to the risk shifting that underlies the conservative agenda.

The final hint I have that help may be on the way comes from the words of someone who not only gets what the risk-shifters are up to but can talk about it in some of the most compelling ways I've heard in decades.

Here's the way it looks to Senator Barack Obama, from a graduation speech he gave a few weeks ago. There are those, he says, who believe:

" … That the best idea is to give everyone one big refund on their government -- divvy it up by individual portions, in the form of tax breaks, hand it out, and encourage everyone to use their share to go buy their own health care, their own retirement plan, their own child care, their own education, and so on.

"In Washington, they call this the 'ownership society.' But in our past there has been another term for it: social Darwinism -- every man or woman for him or herself. It's a tempting idea, because it doesn't require much thought or ingenuity..." …

"But there is a problem: It won't work. It ignores our history. It ignores the fact that it's been government research and investment that made the railways possible and the Internet possible. It's been the creation of a massive middle class, through decent wages and benefits and public schools that allowed us all to prosper. Our economic dependence depended on individual initiative. It depended on a belief in the free market; but it has also depended on our sense of mutual regard for each other, the idea that everybody has a stake in the country, that we're all in it together and everybody's got a shot at opportunity."

Did someone just open the window? Where's that breeze coming from?

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Signs Economic Commentary
Don Hunt
June 27, 2005

In the U.S. stock market, the Dow closed at 10,297.84 on Friday, down 3.2% from the previous week’s close of 10,623.07. The NASDAQ closed at 2,053.27 on Friday, down 1.8% from 2,090.11 the week before. The yield on the ten-year U.S. Treasury bond closed at 3.92, down from 4.08 the previous Friday. The dollar closed at 0.8263 euros, up 1.5% from its close on the previous Friday of 0.8142 euros, or 1.2102 dollars to the euro compared to 1.2282 the week before. Oil closed at 59.84 dollars a barrel up 2.3% from $58.47 on the previous Friday. In terms of euros, a barrel of oil would cost 49.45 euros compared to 47.61 the week before, an increase of 3.9%. Gold closed at $441.60 an ounce, up a half percent from $439.50 on the Friday before. Gold in euros would be 364.90 an ounce on Friday, up 2% compared to 357.84 a week earlier. Comparing gold to oil, an ounce of gold on Friday would buy 7.38 barrels of oil, compared to 7.52 the week before, a rise of 1.9%.

Gold has been rising steadily of late. What has some observers puzzled is gold’s rise in the face of the dollar’s rise:

Gold on the cusp of 2005 peak, more gains seen

By Veronica Brown

LONDON, June 24 (Reuters) - Gold was poised to hit a new 2005 peak above $445 an ounce on Friday as fund and trade buyers ignored the traditional link between bullion and the dollar.

Gold has built steadily this month, with the market gaining just over seven percent to sit under $4 away from the March 11 high at $446.70 -- the highest level seen this year.

The move has been all the more remarkable given the dollar's strength against the euro, which would normally tend to make dollar-priced gold more expensive for non-U.S. investors.

"Can we get through $446.70 - I think we can. I think we will be testing $450, this will be a short-lived rally but will push higher still," Barclays Capital analyst Kamal Naqvi said.

Spot gold moved to $443.40/444.15 per troy ounce by 1020 GMT from $440.85/441.60 late in New York on Thursday. The market earlier hit $443.50 -- its highest since March 17.

"The market has found a great momentum, and this is providing great potential. An upside correction in the euro today could take gold even higher," MKS Finance analyst Frederic Panizzutti said.


The euro fell briefly below $1.20 for the first time in 10 months against the dollar on Friday, buckling under the weight of expectations of lower interest rates in the euro zone. It was last at $2.2071.

Already at 2 percent, a cut in euro zone rates would further bolster the dollar's yield appeal as the Fed is expected to raise interest rates again next week to 3.25 percent.
Although a softer euro would normally scare-off foreign investors, analysts said bullion was merely reflecting a market feeding off its own momentum.

"I think it's not the start of a grand new era where gold moves up no matter what happens," Naqvi said.

"Should we see some sort of approach towards normality in the euro-zone then it's all over," he added.

Analysts also said gold's move higher was significant against a backdrop of falls in base metals, with copper futures seeing a five percent drop on Thursday.

"Despite the weakness in base metals, which has proved the old adage that seems to have been forgotten by many of the bulls that the value of an investment can go down as well as up, gold prices have remained firm of late, with dips very well bid," HSBC metals analyst Alan Williamson said in a daily report.

The rise of gold in the face of drops in other metals and strength in the dollar is not a good sign for the world economy. High gold prices don’t cause problems, but they are indicators of problems in the economy. What are those problems? Geopolitical instability, for one. With the Neoconservatives still in power in the United States, who can bet that the United States won’t invade Iran and Syria, even as they are losing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? They want to win back what they have just lost with one more reckless throw of the dice. Second, there is the economic instability with the twin deficits in the United States budget and balance of payments. Either new wars or a burst of the housing bubble can send everything crashing down, and I think people are sensing this.

Al Martin has this to say about the housing bubble:

The Federal Reserve pointed out in its study last Thursday, which Greenspan referred to in his testimony before the joint economic committee, although he didn’t refer to it in detail and I could understand why – that the current speculative bubble in real estate, even if it were to unwind in the same manner as all other speculative real estate bubbles have unwound in this nation, wherein there was experienced, over a 3-year period, an average 17% decline in median home prices, which is the average for the unwinding of a speculative bubble and is, indeed, the decline we saw from the 4th quarter of 1989 to the 2nd quarter of 1991 when the real estate bubble of the late 80's unwound–even this unwinding, would, according to the Federal Reserve, lead to 20 million mortgage defaults in the nation.

To put this into comparison: the speculative bubble of the late 80's, when that unwound from `89 to `91, there were 3.6 million mortgage defaults.

What the Federal Reserve is now saying is that there would likely be 20 million mortgage defaults. Because in the unwinding of the speculative bubble in property from `89 to `91, the debt-to-equity ratio was still 37% -- meaning the people had 37% of equity.

Now, the median debt-to-equity ratio of property in the United States is only 14%, a record low, due to the $3 trillion that has been taken out of property equities since 2001 in order to sustain consumer spending.

What the Fed pointed out is that even an unwinding of this speculative bubble to the extent of the historical average would wipe out $2 trillion of equity of the GSE’s: Ginnie Mae, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, more specifically.

How would that happen? Because of the enormous amount of mortgage defaults, which are going to occur in an unwinding of the speculative bubble because the debt-to-equity ratio is so low.

What the Fed is saying is that $2 trillion of capital would be taken out, would essentially evaporate within the GSE’s. Further, the nation’s commercial banks and mortgage lenders, which are indirectly guaranteed by the U.S. Treasury through various pools (FDIC, FSLIC, FSCL and so on), would potentially be exposed to a $2 trillion hit, if, and this is only assuming, if this current speculative bubble in real estate only unwinds to the extent of the national average of unwinding of speculative bubbles in property, a la 1989 to 1991.

This is the scenario as opposed to what others believe, including the Economic Policy Institute and Remember Fed Governor Susan Beis remarks about a potential 40% loss in the national median home price average over 5 years when the bubble begins to unwind. A 40% loss, which is privately calculated by the General Accounting Office and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Housing Administration. That is what those three institutions actually believe is going to happen. A 40% decline over 5 years of the median home price in the United States would collapse the economy of the United States, to use Walker’s words.

It would be an unprecedented debacle, and the only remedies are (and, unfortunately Alan Greenspan, I think, is the impediment) for the General Accounting Office, the OCC and the FHA to take action now to begin to pressure the speculative bubble in real estate by ending the availability of interest-only mortgages in what they call hot zones, where there is the greatest depreciation, in regions like California and Florida.

You know the reason why Alan Greenspan is against this? According to the Federal Reserve, real estate hot zones now include 68% of all of the transacted real estate in the nation. That’s how widespread the speculative bubble has become.

Thus the Fed is in yet another conundrum of its own creation. The Fed is literally frightened to go along with the OCC and other government agencies in imposing regulation that they know would lead to the collapse of the speculative bubble. Because they don’t want to be blamed for the economic consequences of it.

Think of what a conservative estimate of 20 million mortgage defaults means, in both human and economic terms. Then think of the fact that the Bush regime has taken steps to seal the entrances of the sweatshop before setting the fire, not only with the new personal bankruptcy law but also, quietly, they are making it harder for average people to take money out of the country:

The blogger at Cryptogon wrote about trying to get some money out of the United States:

Now, which of the following do you think would involve the most red-tape?

A. Getting a driver’s licence
B. Buying a gun
C. Setting up a corporation
D. Establishing a daytrading account to trade stocks and bonds on margin (that is, with money you don’t have)
E. Having the ability to send your money out of the U.S. at will

Hmmm?? Any guesses?

E is the correct answer.

Commenting on this is the Deconsumption blogger, who wrote:

As you may know, I work for a major financial firm, and the last three years have seen an unprecedented flurry of regulations being brought down on the industry. Various reasons are given for these regulations, all of them nominally being to "protect the public" or to "prevent crime/terrorism"--and certainly that is true. But at some point, like Kevin at, you perhaps begin to wonder whether the over-arching reason is nothing more than simply to establish greater and greater control over individuals. And if you actually come to realize that you want to draw the line somewhere for yourself, you discover you may be too late....

Everyone has probably heard the term "offshore hedge fund"--these are "investment accounts" established outside of U.S. tax and governmental jurisdiction, sort of like hyper-active versions of the legendary "Swiss bank account". The amount of money in them is unknown, but without doubt it is in the hundreds of billions, if not trillions. And this doesn't even address the actual 'corporate' money which has gone into overseas investment and holding companies, ne'er again to return....

This is the money of people who did pay attention to the direction things were headed, who did draw the line somewhere. This is the so-called "smart money". And so maybe this gives you a little bit of an insight into the future that they are betting on....

Usually the dominant power in the world is also the largest lender of money. Never has the dominant power been by far the world’s largest borrower, but this is in fact the case now. What this tells me is not that the rules have changed, but that the United States will not be the dominant power very soon. That is why the smart money has already bailed. Once the crash happens, they will be able to step in and buy everything at pennies on the dollar. This is why they are locking the exits and are still spreading cheap credit around: to make the crash harder, the pain worse for the average person in the United States.

The United States' super-elite and the corporations think that they can maintain their position even if the U.S. economy crashes. Remember that the inhabitants of the Italian peninsula became much poorer as the Roman Empire became richer during the imperial period. Rome had the more heavily urbanized East do what it did best (trade, make things and be more wealthy and urban) impoverishing the bulk of the people in Italy, where they fell under the domination of a very few, super-rich elite (the Senatorial class). The population in the West then was assigned to do what it did best: join the Roman legions, be poor, and be dominated by a soon-to-be feudal elite. Sound familiar?

Charley Reese has this:

Third World, Here We Come

Many Americans are living in a state of delusion, fed by the politicians who keep telling us we're the greatest, the strongest, the freest, the wealthiest, etc., etc., and so forth. Actually, we are heading toward becoming a Third World country.

The difference between a First World country and a Third World country is this: First World countries manufacture finished goods and import raw materials; Third World countries export raw materials and import manufactured goods.

Why does this account for a difference in standard of living? It's easy to explain. A skilled machinist adds more value to a product than someone who flips a burger with a spatula. Therefore, the machinist can demand a higher salary. Unfortunately, our manufacturing base is rapidly diminishing, and the villains are none other than our own corporate executives, who are moving production to cheap-labor countries.

The law of supply and demand works this way in regard to labor. Countries that have a surplus of people can bid the price of labor way down. India, China and Central America have a surplus of people. The alternative in those countries to taking a job with stingy wages and no benefits is to face no job and no income.

That was the old way of looking at economics, but there is a new factor that makes the old economic theory break down. That new factor is the multinational corporation. Much of what the U.S. government classifies as "exports" and "imports" are really nothing more than intracorporate transfers.

Under the old theory, if, say, all the bluejeans sold in America were manufactured in El Salvador, then El Salvador would prosper. After all, it would be exporting manufactured goods. Unfortunately for El Salvador, under the new theory all of the bluejean factories would be owned by American corporations. Thus, the multinational corporation screws both the people of El Salvador and the American consumer. The Salvadoran gets a low wage, and the American consumer pays an inflated price for a very cheaply produced garment. The capitalists pocket the profits.

But in the meantime, what happens to the Americans? Well, as their income is reduced by the loss of high-paying manufacturing jobs, they will at first take out second mortgages and max out their credit cards in a vain attempt to maintain their standards of living. This will eventually, however, result in bankruptcies and foreclosures. Interest will eat them alive. Then there will be a shrinking market for the high-priced goods no matter where they are manufactured.

Poverty will also affect the services sector. Poor people can't afford a doctor, a lawyer, an architect, an interior decorator, life or medical insurance, a nursing home or a funeral. The idea once touted by the wet-behind-the-ears gurus in Washington that we could easily replace manufacturing with services is false. A consumer economy only works if the consumers have money to spend, and they can only have money to spend if they can find jobs that pay a decent wage.

You can see the signs of the gradual impoverishment of America if you think about what is happening. First, supermarkets started accepting credit cards; then fast-food joints did. Many car dealers are now reduced to "sign and drive" promotions - nothing down, low monthly payments. What all of that tells you is that more and more Americans are squeezed for income.

All of this damage has been done under the guise of free trade. That is a false label. It's actually managed trade, and it's designed to facilitate the off-shoring of American jobs. The evidence of the failure of this policy is plain, but ignored. It has produced nothing but huge trade deficits and turned us into a debtor nation. The amount of U.S. dollars held by Asian countries is about $1 trillion. We will eventually be tenants in our own country if we don't change course.

President George Bush likes to talk about an "ownership society," but what he and his predecessors are creating is a "sharecropper's society." The only consolation Americans will have when everything goes south is that they will have done it to themselves.

It now is becoming clear that the successor power to the United States will not be Europe, it will be China. The U.S. Neocons and the Israeli Likud strategists think that there is a shot that Israel can be the successor power if it gets control of oil and more land, but their pursuit of this most likely will do no more than hasten the demise of U.S. power by entangling the U.S. in expensive, losing wars in southwest Asia. Certainly Israel is hedging their bets by selling advanced weapons systems to China over the objections of the United States.

Surfing the headlines, I came across this item which has not generated much commentary:

Chinese Oil Giant in Takeover Bid for US Corporation

By David Barboza and Andrew Ross Sorkin
The New York Times
Thursday 23 June 2005

Shanghai - One of China's largest state-controlled oil companies made a $18.5 billion unsolicited bid Thursday for Unocal, signaling the first big takeover battle by a Chinese company for an American corporation.

The bold bid, by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), may be a watershed in Chinese corporate behavior, and it demonstrates the increasing influence on Asia of Wall Street's bare-knuckled takeover tactics.

The offer is also the latest symbol of China's growing economic power and of the soaring ambitions of its corporate giants, particularly when it comes to the energy resources it needs desperately to continue feeding its rapid growth.

CNOOC's bid, which comes two months after Unocal agreed to be sold to Chevron, the American energy giant, for $16.4 billion, is expected to incite a potentially costly bidding war over the California-based Unocal, a large independent oil company. CNOOC said its offer represents a premium of about $1.5 billion over the value of Unocal's deal with Chevron after a $500 million breakup fee.

Moreover, the effort is likely to provoke a fierce debate in Washington about the nation's trade policies with China and the role of the two governments in the growing trend of deal making between companies in the countries.

This week, a consortium of investors led by the Haier Group, one of China's biggest companies, moved to acquire the Maytag Corporation, the American appliance maker, for about $1.3 billion, surpassing a bid from a group of American investors.

Last month, Lenovo, China's largest computer maker, completed its $1.75 billion deal for I.B.M.'s personal computer business, creating the world's third-largest computer maker after Dell and Hewlett-Packard.

After years of attracting billions in foreign investment and virtually turning itself into the world's largest factory floor, China appears to be nurturing the growth of its own corporate giants into beacons of capitalism. China wants to be a player on the world stage, and it is eager to have its own energy resources, its own multinational corporations and its own dazzling corporate names.

And some of China's biggest companies are now on the hunt, trying to snap up global treasures.

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Housing bubble trouble - Mass. home sales plunge 11.1 percent
By Jay Fitzgerald and Jerry Kronenberg
Boston Herald
Friday, June 24, 2005

The bubble hasn't burst, but the air may be leaking out.

Massachusetts may be finally entering a buyer's market for homes, experts said yesterday after new data showed the volume of single-family house sales plunged in May by the largest amount in nearly three years.

About 4,142 single-family homes sold last month, down 11.1 percent compared to the same period last year. It was the second straight month in which the number of year-over-year home sales declined in the Bay State, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors reported.

The decline was the sharpest since August 2002, when sales drooped 14.1 percent in year-to-year comparisons.

Prices of both homes and condominiums continued to rise last month - by 6.2 percent for single-family dwellings and 4.7 percent for condos. The average price for a home was $359,900 in Massachusetts, while condos were going for a red-hot average of $279,900, an all-time record.

But the year-to-year percentage increases in prices were still only in single-digit figures, something that's become rare in Massachusetts in recent years.

Maggie Tomkiewicz, president of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors and owner of M. Macdonald Realty, said the figures show prices moderating - though she said it's too soon to tell if that moderation will continue.

Karl Case, a Wellesley College economist, said "people are really getting spooked'' by media talk of a housing bubble. "People are getting cautious with their bids. So it's partially a self-fulfilling prophecy.''

He said continued low interest rates, a low housing supply and strong demand are keeping the market going. But sooner or later those dynamics are going to change, he said.

"I think it's in part the real McCoy,'' he added of a possible fundamental market shift already underway. "We're not growing the economy very strongly. But if you mean, 'Am I anticipating a big price decline?,' I still don't expect that to happen. I don't think (a) crash... is likely.'' [...]

Comment: Remember the irrational exuberance of the dot com years? Remember when so many experts declared that the tech bubble wasn't going to burst - that America was spearheading the "New Economy"? Remember how basic economic principles, like the need for businesses to make a profit, were ignored? The signs were all there. The signs are all here now, too.

The only difference between the dot com era and now is that this time, it's going to be a lot worse...

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Maria Luisa Tucker

Thousands of low-wage Wal-Mart workers are on public assistance. Many state lawmakers say it's time the megastore was forced to provide affordable employee health insurance. [...]

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US caused more deaths in Iraq than Saddam, says anti-war tribunal
June 26 2005

The World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI), a grouping of NGOs, intellectuals and writers opposed to the war in Iraq, on Friday 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. [...]

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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Bomber hid explosives under watermelons
26/06/2005 - 10:06:45

A suicide bomber hid explosives under watermelons in the back of a pick-up truck which he drove into a police headquarters in northern Iraq today,killing five people and wounding eight others, police and hospital officials said.

The explosion partially destroyed Bab al-Toob police station in central Mosul, 225 miles north-west of Baghdad.

The blast happened at about 6.30am local time in a busy shopping district that includes a market.

Policeman Mohammed Hussein Ali, 30, said he witnessed the attack in which a man driving a pickup truck with watermelons in the back slammed into the station.

“We didn’t suspect him. Everyday we see such cars because we’re near a market,” Ali said.

All the roads were blocked at the time except for one that leads to the market, he said.

Four policeman and a civilian were killed in the blast, police Brig. Gen. Saaid al-Gibouri said.

Comment: So the actual facts of the case are that a truck carrying watermelons to a market that was close to a police station exploded, yet this is deemed a "suicide bombing". Consider this story in light of several accounts from Iraq that seem to suggest that many of the suicide bombings in Iraq have nothing to do with Iraqi insurgents:

Sick Strategies For Senseless Slaughter

The murderous fools are not trying to end the war;
they're trying to keep it going as long as they can

By John Kaminski

The cat is out of the bag now.

It happened quite by accident, as most revelations do. And it is seen by most of the world as the most revolting of the American/Israeli atrocities in the past few years, although it's hard to prioritize that claim because of the level and frequency of barbaric acts that are committed on a regular basis by those affluent automatons who call themselves the good guys.

Yet everyone but the comatose American populace - blinded by its Orwellian media and stupefied by its demented diet of physical and mental poisons - can see it.

So permit me to spell it out for those cowardly people who say they're living in the freest country on Earth, but absolutely refuse in their silent ignorance to see the blood they're spilling. No country that condones deliberate torture for any reason can ever be trusted.

The first hint came in Imad Khadduri's "A warning to car drivers" written in Arabic and posted on on May 11. The dispatch was quickly picked up by two of the most realistic and reliable news sites on the Web,, which I try to read every day, and, which I try to read every week, since it offers less breaking and more analytical news. I consider these two sites essential to keeping up with the real news of the world, and highly recommend that you monitor them, too.

Khadduri recounted a scam that opens up a clear window to seeing who is perpetrating all this inexplicable violence in Iraq. Beyond the American attempt to pacify an outraged and abused nation through demonic destruction, and beyond the Iraqi attempt to resist this totalitarian takeover by a foreign conqueror, there are more than numerous acts of violence that simply can't be understood by straightforward explanations.

I mean, when a mosque blows up and Americans blame Islamic terrorists, whether Sunni or Shiite, it makes no sense. Muslims never blow up their own houses of worship. Or when reporters sympathetic to either the Iraqi cause of freedom, or even just general principles of international justice, are suddenly assassinated and the blame is placed on often imaginary Islamic extremists whose perspective is supported by these writers, how can anyone believe that Muslims did it, even thought this is what the Zionist American press and government continue to insist.

So who’s doing all these demented deeds? As if we didn’t know ....

Khadduri’s report went like this:

“A few days ago, an American manned check point confiscated the driver license of a driver and told him to report to an American military camp near Baghdad airport for interrogation and in order to retrieve his license. The next day, the driver did visit the camp and he was allowed in the camp with his car. He was admitted to a room for an interrogation that lasted half an hour. At the end of the session, the American interrogator told him: ‘OK, there is nothing against you, but you do know that Iraq is now sovereign and is in charge of its own affairs. Hence, we have forwarded your papers and license to al-Kadhimia police station for processing. Therefore, go there with this clearance to reclaim your license. At the police station, ask for Lt. Hussain Mohammed, who is waiting for you now. Go there now quickly, before he leaves his shift work”.

The driver did leave in a hurry, but was soon alarmed with a feeling that his car was driving as if carrying a heavy load, and he also became suspicious of a low flying helicopter that kept hovering overhead, as if trailing him. He stopped the car and inspected it carefully. He found nearly 100 kilograms of explosives hidden in the back seat and along the two back doors.

The only feasible explanation for this incident is that the car was indeed booby trapped by the Americans and intended for the al-Khadimiya Shiite district of Baghdad. The helicopter was monitoring his movement and witnessing the anticipated “hideous attack by foreign elements”.

The same scenario was repeated in Mosul, in the north of Iraq. A car was confiscated along with the driver’s license. He did follow up on the matter and finally reclaimed his car but was told to go to a police station to reclaim his license. Fortunately for him, the car broke down on the way to the police station. The inspecting car mechanic discovered that the spare tire was fully laden with explosives."

If this were the only example of this type I heard, I might have let it pass as just a story. But it wasn’t.

There was also the sorry tale of the Iraqi man who saw American soldiers plant a bomb which shortly thereafter exploded, and when he said so out loud for all to hear, he was hauled away, never to be seen again.

This story was reported on arguably the most authentic and riveting source of news from Iraq, the heart-rending "Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq," which is compiled by someone known only as Riverbend or Iraqi Girl <>. Again, recommended reading.

She recounts, "the last two weeks have been violent ....

The number of explosions in Baghdad alone is frightening. There have also been several assassinations - bodies being found here and there. It's somewhat disturbing to know that corpses are turning up in the most unexpected places. Many people will tell you it's not wise to eat river fish anymore because they have been nourished on the human remains being dumped into the river. That thought alone has given me more than one sleepless night. It is almost as if Baghdad has turned into a giant graveyard.

The latest corpses were those of some Sunni and Shia clerics - several of them well-known. People are being patient and there is a general consensus that these killings are being done to provoke civil war. Also worrisome is the fact that we are hearing of people being rounded up by security forces (Iraqi) and then being found dead days later - apparently when the new Iraqi government recently decided to reinstate the death penalty, they had something else in mind.

But back to the explosions. One of the larger blasts was in an area called Ma'moun, which is a middle class area located in west Baghdad. It’s a relatively calm residential area with shops that provide the basics and a bit more. It happened in the morning, as the shops were opening up for their daily business and it occurred right in front of a butcher’s shop. Immediately after, we heard that a man living in a house in front of the blast site was hauled off by the Americans because it was said that after the bomb went off, he sniped an Iraqi National Guardsman.

I didn’t think much about the story - nothing about it stood out: an explosion and a sniper - hardly an anomaly. The interesting news started circulating a couple of days later. People from the area claim that the man was taken away not because he shot anyone, but because he knew too much about the bomb. Rumor has it that he saw an American patrol passing through the area and pausing at the bomb site minutes before the explosion. Soon after they drove away, the bomb went off and chaos ensued. He ran out of his house screaming to the neighbors and bystanders that the Americans had either planted the bomb or seen the bomb and done nothing about it. He was promptly taken away.

The bombs are mysterious. Some of them explode in the midst of National Guard and near American troops or Iraqi Police and others explode near mosques, churches, and shops or in the middle of sougs. One thing that surprises us about the news reports of these bombs is that they are inevitably linked to suicide bombers. The reality is that some of these bombs are not suicide bombs - they are car bombs that are either being remotely detonated or maybe time bombs. All we know is that the techniques differ and apparently so do the intentions. Some will tell you they are resistance. Some say Chalabi and his thugs are responsible for a number of them. Others blame Iran and the SCIRI militia Badir.

In any case, they are terrifying. If you're close enough, the first sound is a that of an earsplitting blast and the sounds that follow are of a rain of glass, shrapnel and other sharp things. Then the wails begin - the shrill mechanical wails of an occasional ambulance combined with the wail of car alarms from neighboring vehicles… and finally the wail of people trying to sort out their dead and dying from the debris.

Then there was this one.

On May 13, 2005, a 64 years old Iraqi farmer, Haj Haidar Abu Sijjad, took his tomato load in his pickup truck from Hilla to Baghdad, accompanied by Ali, his 11 years old grandson. They were stopped at an American check point and were asked to dismount. An American soldier climbed on the back of the pickup truck, followed by another a few minutes later, and thoroughly inspected the tomato filled plastic containers for about 10 minutes. Haj Haidar and his grandson were then allowed to proceed to Baghdad.

A minute later, his grandson told him that he saw one of the American soldiers putting a grey melon size object in the back among the tomato containers. The Haj immediately slammed on the brakes and stopped the car at the side of the road, at a relatively far distance from the check point. He found a time bomb with the clock ticking tucked among his tomatoes. He immediately recognized it, as he was an ex-army soldier. Panicking, he grabbed his grandson and ran away from the car. Then, realizing that the car was his only means of work, he went back, took the bomb and carried it in fear. He threw it in a deep ditch by the side of the road that was dug by Iraqi soldiers in preparation for the war, two years ago.

Upon returning from Baghdad, he found out that the bomb had indeed exploded, killing three sheep and injuring their shepherd in his head. He thanked God for giving him the courage to go back and remove the bomb, and for the luck in that the American soldiers did not notice his sudden stop at a distance and his getting rid of the bomb.

"They intended it to explode in Baghdad and claim that it is the work of the 'terrorists', or 'insurgents' or who call themselves the 'Resistance'.

I decided to expose them and asked your reporter to take me to Baghdad to tell you the story. They are to be exposed as they now want to sow strife in Iraq and taint the Resistance after failing to defeat it militarily. Do not forget to mention my name. I fear nobody but God, as I am a follower of Muqtada al-Sadir."

The background and admission of guilt for such satanic shenanigans was clearly outlined in Frank Morales' piece on "The Provocateur State: Is the CIA Behind the Iraqi 'Insurgents' - and Global Terrorism," by Frank Morales <> clearly demonstrates how Donald Rumsfeld said he was going to do exactly what these three sorry episodes show he actually did.

Morales writes:

Back in 2002, following the trauma of 9-11, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld predicted there would be more terrorist attacks against the American people and civilization at large. How could he be so sure of that? Perhaps because these attacks would be instigated on the order of the Honorable Mr. Rumsfeld. According to Los Angeles Times military analyst William Arkin, writing Oct. 27, 2002, Rumsfeld set out to create a secret army, "a super-Intelligence Support Activity" network that would "bring together CIA and military covert action, information warfare, intelligence, and cover and deception," to stir the pot of spiraling global violence.

We never got the full story on those ghastly beheadings of Nick Berg and others. Nor have we ever understood who killed the American mercenaries in Fallujah that eventually precipitated one of the great slaughters in history. Nor have we ever been able to discern if Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is actually a real person or just another bin Ladenesque boogeyman. Nor if the al-Qaeda website which claims responsibility for various atrocities is not really run by the CIA.

Provoking this type of violence also further conceals the sinister genocide the Israelis continue to perpetrate on the hapless Palestinians, which is exactly its point, as is the entire Iraq invasion and destruction, and as was the inside job mass murder on 9/11 in New York City. The purpose of all these despicable acts is to conceal what the Israelis and the Americans have been doing all along to the entire Arab world, namely enslaving and destroying it.

There is not now nor ever was an Arab terror threat. That was all invented by Rothschild, Rockefeller, Kissinger, Brzezinski, Bush, Cheney, Sharon, Zakheim, Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, Abrams and Warren Buffett. These people are all traitors to not only their countries but to humanity in general, and should all be slammed and RICOed into Guantanamo immediately.

And so should the government officials, media lackeys, and ordinary citizens who, by their complicity or their ignorance, support them.

The main point in understanding these deliberate provocations to prevent peace is to understand how the American capitalist system, now hijacked by billionaires with no trace of conscience, thrives on war and profits from the misery of others.

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Israeli government apologises to New Zealand
New Zealand Herald

Israel has apologised for the spy scandal and has promised it will take steps to ensure no similar incident happens again.

Prime Minister Helen Clark today said she was pleased New Zealand and Israel would now be able to resume friendly diplomatic relations.

The relationship has been frosty since Israel refused to apologise for what Miss Clark described as "utterly unacceptable" behaviour surrounding two alleged Mossad agents, Uriel Zoshe Kelman and Eli Cara, who were arrested in March 2004 and charged with trying to fraudulently obtain New Zealand passports.

They were convicted in July last year, then deported last September after serving two months of their six-month prison sentences.

Miss Clark imposed diplomatic sanctions pending an apology from Israel, including delaying approval for the appointment of a new Israeli ambassador.

In addition, she postponed foreign ministry consultations and Israeli officials who wanted to visit New Zealand had to apply for visas.

The strained relationship meant Israeli President Moshe Katsav was not invited to extend a visit to include New Zealand when he was in Australia in February. [...]

In a brief letter dated today, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Israel attached great importance to its relationship with New Zealand and he was pleased to reiterate its desire to continue to develop and enhance this relationship in the future.

"In this context, we wish to express our regret for the activities which resulted in the arrest and conviction of two Israeli citizens in New Zealand on criminal charges and apologise for the involvement of Israeli citizens in such activities.

"Israel commits itself to taking steps to prevent a recurrence of similar incidents in the future," Mr Shalom said. [...]

Comment: Translation: Israel is sorry it got caught and won't get caught again.

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Israeli diplomat denies using influence to free drug-smuggler daughter
By Harry de Quetteville in Jerusalem
The Telegraph

Israel's ambassador to Britain faces fresh embarrassment after being accused of using diplomatic influence to secure the early release of his daughter from a six-year jail sentence for smuggling cocaine. The appointment last summer of Zvi Heifetz, 48, a Russian-born lawyer and former newspaper tycoon, was heavily criticised by British-based Jewish groups who pointed to his lack of diplomatic experience and relatively poor grasp of English.

His ambassadorship was further disrupted this spring when he was recalled to Israel to face legal investigators looking into a money-laundering scandal. No charges have been brought.

Now it has emerged that his daughter, Lee, 21, was freed early from jail in Peru, prompting accusations of favouritism.

Miss Heifetz was convicted of smuggling 4.5kg of cocaine, with a street value of about £250,000, from Peru to Holland. While Mr Heifetz was being considered for the post in London, he asked the Israeli press not to publicise her conviction, wishing to keep it out of the public gaze.

His daughter, however, turned herself into something of a high-profile inmate at the Santa Monica jail in Lima, the Peruvian capital. In September last year, 10 months into her sentence, she won a beauty contest after appearing in high heels and a skimpy top.

Photographs which surfaced of her posing in her silver crown and sash prompted the Israeli press to reveal details of the conviction for the first time last week.

Miss Heifetz was released two months ago after serving less than 18 months of her sentence, which was handed down in May last year and then reduced to three years in February.

"[Zvi Heifetz] has got a lot of cards stacked up against him and his daughter is another card," said Jerry Lewis, senior vice president of the Board of Deputies, Britain's influential Jewish association. "Some say it's time for him to go."

Mr Heifetz, who flew regularly to Peru to visit his daughter in jail, insisted he would not be driven from office. "I will not step down," he told The Sunday Telegraph. "Why should I? No one has asked me to."

His daughter's release has not only affected her father's diplomatic career but also damaged the reputation of the Peruvian president, Alejandro Toledo, whose approval ratings have plummeted to just 10 per cent. [...]

Comment: These are the people "in charge" of other people? Most of us wouldn't invite them into our homes...

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Flashback: Mossad local assistants or sayanim operating in western countries

Extract from 'By Way of Deception', Ostrovsky, Victor and Hoy, Claire, St. Martin's Press, 1990

Sayanim are a unique and important part of the Mossad's operation. Sayanim "assistants" must be 100 percent Jewish. They live abroad, and though they are not Israeli citizens, many are reached through their relatives in Israel. An Israeli with a relative in England, for example, might be asked to write a letter saying the person bearing the letter represents an organization whose main goal is to help save Jewish people in the diaspora. Could the British relative help in any way?

There are thousands of sayanim around the world. In London alone, there are about 2,000 who are active, and another 5,000 on the list. They fulfill many different roles. A car sayan, for example, running a rental agency, could help the Mossad rent a car without having to complete the usual documentation. An apartment sayan would find accommodation without raising suspicions, a bank sayan could get you money if you needed it in the middle of the night, a doctor sayan would treat a bullet wound without reporting it to the police, and so on. The idea is to have a pool of people available when needed who can provide services but will keep quiet about them out of loyalty to the cause. They are paid only costs. Often the loyalty of sayanim is abused by [MOSSAD agents] who take advantage of the available help for their own personal use. There is no way for the sayan to check this.

One thing you know for sure is that even if a Jewish person knows it is the Mossad, he might not agree to work with you, but he won't turn you in. You have at your disposal a nonrisk recruitment system that actually gives you a pool of millions of Jewish people to tap from outside your own borders. It's much easier to operate with what is available on the spot, and sayanim offer incredible practical support everywhere. But they are never put at risk nor are they privy to classified information.

Suppose during an operation a [MOSSAD agent] suddenly had to come up with an electronics store as a cover. A call to a sayan in that business could bring 50 television sets, 200 VCRs, whatever was needed, from his warehouse to your building, and in next to no time, you'd have a store with $3 or $4 million worth of stock in it.

Since most Mossad activity is in Europe, it may be preferable to have a business address in North America. So, there are address sayanim and telephone sayanim. If a [MOSSAD agent] has to give out an address or a phone number, he can use the sayan's. And if the sayan gets a letter or a phone call, he will know immediately how to proceed. Some business sayanim have a bank of 20 operators answering phones, typing letters, faxing messages, all a front for the Mossad. The joke is that 60 percent of the business of those telephone answering companies in Europe comes from the Mossad. They'd fold otherwise.

The one problem with the system is that the Mossad does not seem to care how devastating it could be to the status of the Jewish people in the Diaspora if it was known. The you get if you ask is: "So what's the worst that could happen to those Jews?' they'd all come to Israel - Great."

[MOSSAD agents] in the stations are in charge of the sayanim, and most active sayanim will be visited by a [MOSSAD agent] once every three months or so, which for the [MOSSAD agent] usually means between two and four face- to-face meetings a day with sayanim, along with numerous telephone conversations. The system allows the Mossad to work with a skeleton staff. That's why, for example, a KGB station would employ about 100 people, while a comparable Mossad station would need only six or seven.

People make the mistake of thinking the Mossad is at a disadvantage by not having stations in obvious target countries. The United States, for example, has a station in Moscow and the Russians have stations in Washington and New York. But Israel doesn't have a station in Damascus. They don't understand that the Mossad regards the whole world outside Israel as a target, including Europe and the United States. [...]

[There is also something called] "white agents," individuals being recruited, either by covert or direct means, who may or may not know they're working for Israel. They are always non-Arabs and usually more sophisticated in technical knowledge. The prejudice in Israel is that Arabs don't understand technical things. It shows itself in jokes, like the one about the man selling Arab brains for $150 a pound and Jewish brains for $2 a pound. Asked why the Arab brain was so expensive, he says, "Because it's hardly been used." A widely held perception of Arabs in Israel.

White agents are usually less risky to deal with than "black," or Arab, agents. For one thing, Arabs working abroad are very likely to be subjected to security by Arab intelligence and if they catch you working with one as a black agent, they'll want to kill you. The worst that would happen to a Mossad agent caught working with a white agent in France is deportation. But the white agent himself could be charged with treason. You do everything you can to protect him, but the main danger is to him. If you're working with an Arab, both of you are in danger. [...]

Victor Ostrovsky, now living in Canada, hosts a weekly radio show called Spytalk.

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Israeli troops tell of tactics to abuse Palestinians
The Scotsman
Mon 27 Jun 2005

JERUSALEM -- FORMER soldiers in the Israeli Defence Force have come forward with claims of widespread abuses against the Palestinians amid what they say is a growing climate of "moral corruption".

A group of 300 ex-service personnel gathered together by the Breaking the Silence group made a series of damaging allegations about the behaviour of soldiers.

In public testimonies, the troops alleged the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) routinely carried out "deterrent gunfire" into Palestinian areas without a specific target and also used Palestinian civilians to investigate suspected bombs and as human shields during arrest operations.

The claims, which are beginning to filter into the Israeli media, contrast sharply with government assertions that the Israeli army is a "role model for the world" because of its particularly moral behaviour. [...]

Comment: Gee, where have we heard that one before?

However, while allegations of mistreatment made by Palestinians or human rights groups are dismissed by many Israelis as hostile, those from Israel's own soldiers, who undergo three years of mandatory military service, carry added weight.

What emerges from the testimonies is that far from being aberrations, abuses of Palestinian civilians are institutionalised and come from the highest levels of the army. [...]

Breaking the Silence, which was launched a year ago, recently released testimonies showing that the Israeli army in 2001 had killed 15 Palestinian policemen as revenge for the killing of six soldiers.

Avichay Sharon, an activist in the group, said the incident reflected a pervasive "moral corruption" resulting from the occupation of Palestinian territory. "If it's sergeant at a checkpoint, he will slap people around," said Mr Sharon.

"If it's an officer, he will give crazy rules of engagement, if it's a brigadier-general it's giving rules in which tanks shoot into cities. Even the public becomes morally corrupt. What has happened here is a war on civilians, a war on civilian life, a war against women, children, men, against millions of people." [...]

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U.S. proposes rules for safer skyscraper after 9/11
Thu Jun 23, 2005 10:22 PM ET
By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. government on Thursday unveiled recommendations for building safer skyscrapers based on lessons learned from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but cautioned the new standards were not meant to protect against another hijacked plane attack.

A three-year probe into the collapse of the World Trade Center towers that killed 2,749 people produced 30 recommendations for improved structural integrity, enhanced fire resistance materials, better evacuation procedures and communications systems for police and firefighters.

"Our recommendations are for a normal range of events. We were not measuring how a high-rise building would withstand an airplane impact," said Dr. Shyam Sunder, lead investigator for the National Institute of Standards and Technology's 10,000-page study. "It is better to keep terrorists away from airplanes and keep airplanes away from buildings."

The agency recommended fortifying and fireproofing horizontal beams and trusses in floors and not just the building's support columns -- something Sunder said could save lives.

Officials also urged building owners and public officials to evaluate existing skyscrapers to improve their safety.

Earlier this year, the agency said its probe found that the World Trade Center fires raged out of control because critical fireproofing was dislodged at impact when the hijacked airliners crashed into the towers.

Asked if developers rebuilding at Ground Zero had embraced the new recommendations, Sunder said agency officials had one meeting with them and were hopeful leaseholder Larry Silverstein would seek further consultation once design plans were finalized.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is part of the U.S. Commerce Department, cannot demand builders follow their advice, but can pressure developers, builders and fire safety professionals to implement its recommendations and change codes, standards and practices.

The Freedom Tower centerpiece of the new Trade Center complex has been sent back to the drawing board due to police concerns that the building was placed too close to the street, where car bombs could cause serious damage.

Daniel Libeskind, who developed the master plan for site, sought to counter public impatience with the rebuilding process in an Op-Ed piece in Thursday's New York Times.

Libeskind said the new Freedom Tower plan, expected in a few weeks, would be "the safest tower in the world."

"Yes, work has been delayed by security concerns, but we may make up for this with an expedited construction schedule and a simpler, more slender design.

"Symbols matter," Libeskind wrote. "The quality of what we achieve at Ground Zero will, after all, define the New York skyline and give shape to our aspirations and dreams."

Comment: It would appear that this is nothing more than an attempt by the Bush regime to offset the fallout from the recent comments by a government insider that the WTC towers appear to have been demolished by detonation charges.

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Chicago pairing surveillance cameras with gunshot recognition systems
June 26, 2005

The police are watching. And in Chicago, they're listening, too.

City officials are using new technology that recognizes the sound of a gunshot within a two-block radius, pinpoints the source, turns a surveillance camera toward the shooter and places a 911 call. Officials can then track the shooter and dispatch officers to the scene.

Welcome to crime-fighting in the 21st century.

"Instead of just having eyes, you have the advantage of both eyes and ears," said Bryan Baker, chief executive officer of Safety Dynamics in Oak Brook, which makes the systems.

After a successful pilot program, Chicago officials have installed 30 of the devices alongside video surveillance cameras in high-crime neighborhoods, with 12 more on the way, and dozens more to follow, Baker said.

The system's formal name is Smart Sensor Enabled Neural Threat Recognition and Identification -- or SENTRI. And the technology is not just gaining favor in Chicago.

In Los Angeles County, the sheriff's department plans to deploy 20 units in a pilot test, and officials in Tijuana, Mexico, recently bought 353 units, Baker said. Police in Philadelphia and San Francisco are close to launching test programs of their own, and New Orleans and Atlanta have also made inquiries.

Safety Dynamics also works with the U.S. Army and Navy, developing projects that could detect a range of sounds like diesel trucks slowing in an unexpected location or breaking glass, Baker said. On Tuesday, a military contractor in Iraq responsible for detecting explosive devices contacted the company about mounting systems on vehicles that carry U.S. military personnel.

"They want to put 20 of them on Humvees to be able to detect gunshots," Baker said. "The soldiers, they're getting shot at, but they don't know where the shots are coming from."

In Chicago, police hope the gunshot detection systems will add momentum to a technology-fueled crackdown on guns and gang violence. The city in 2004 reduced its homicide rate to its lowest level since 1965 and police seized 10,000 guns -- successes that were in large part credited to a network of "pods," or remote-controlled cameras that can rotate 360 degrees and feed video directly to squad-car laptops. The SENTRI systems are an addition to that network. [...]

Comment: Don't worry, Big Brother is just trying to protect you and your family...

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Tens of thousands gather for Graham crusade in NY
Fri Jun 24, 2005
By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Ailing television evangelist Billy Graham, making what is likely his last crusade, urged tens of thousands of people on Friday to become born-again Christians and help cure the world's ills.

Spit on me Billy!

The 86-year-old man known as "America's Preacher" spoke in a strong voice and asked the rapt crowd at Flushing Meadows Corona Park to open their hearts and minds to the teachings of the Bible.

"The greatest need in the world today is the transformation of human nature to make us love instead of hate," he said in a half-hour sermon. "But Jesus said it's possible to start life all over again. That's why he said you must be born again.

"Man's civility is lagging behind his technological ability. It could mean disaster and catastrophe for the whole world," he added. "We're all sinners, everyone of us, and a radical change is needed for all of us."

Considered the father of American evangelism, the stately Graham has preached to 210 million people in 185 countries and written 24 books, many of them bestsellers.

He has been a spiritual adviser to U.S. presidents since the 1950s. President Bush, a Methodist, has credited Graham with inspiring him to return to Christianity and get his life back on track after years of drifting and excessive drinking. [...]

A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, Graham has long been popular in rural America. But he is no stranger to New York even though the city tends to more liberal views and religious diversity.

His crusade in New York in 1957 is considered by many to have sparked the modern Christian evangelical movement and "televangelism."

The 1957 crusade was scheduled for six weeks at Madison Square Garden but stretched to 16 weeks. More than 2 million people came to hear Graham preach.

Comment: Given that Graham is credited with reviving Bush's faith in the Christian god which Bush has subsequently used to justify the invasion of Iraq and the murder of over 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians, it is a little rich for Graham to now be talking about love and curing the world's ills.

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No more cover-up of nudes at Justice Dept
Fri Jun 24, 2005
By Deborah Charles

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The cover-up is over at the U.S. Justice Department.

After more than three years of being blocked by large blue drapes, two Art Deco aluminum statues of semi-nude figures in the building's Great Hall can be seen again.

The "Spirit of Justice" and the "Majesty of Justice," which loom over the stage in the Great Hall, were blocked from view by curtains installed by the department in January 2002, when former Attorney General John Ashcroft was in office.

The curtains were quietly removed on Friday after a decision by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Justice Department spokesman Kevin Madden said.

At one end of the stage is a 1930s-era female statue representing the "Spirit of Justice." Although she wears a toga-style garment, one breast is exposed. At the other end of the stage, a male statue represents the "Majesty of Justice," and has a cloth draped by his waist.

When they were covered up, officials working for Ashcroft -- a devout Christian -- said the move to spend about $8,000 for curtains to cover the figures were made for "TV aesthetics."

"The assistant attorney general for administration, Paul Corts, made a recommendation to remove the drapes from the Great Hall and the attorney general agreed with the recommendation," Madden said.

Comment: Even as the self-righteous Attorney General Ashcroft was plotting how to imprison as many innocent Arab-Americans as possible in the Guantanamo Gulag, one of his main priorities was to ensure that naked statues were covered up at the Justice Department. A fine example of the warped and twisted values of Bush and his cronies.

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California Earthquake
June 27, 2005, 06:30 AM

A light earthquake shook Northern California Sunday morning.

The 4.8 magnitude quake was centered about eight miles Southeast of Truckee, California and about 20 miles Southwest of Reno.

In Reno, Police officers received several calls about the quake. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

Seismologists say the earthquake was felt as far east as Sacramento.

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Intense earthquake off northeastern Indonesia on tsunami anniversary
Sun Jun 26, 1:37 PM ET

JAKARTA - An intense earthquake occurred in northeastern Indonesia on the six-month anniversary of a massive quake and tsunamis in the country, seismologists said.

There were no initial reports of injuries or damage.

The quake measured 5.8 on the Richter scale and occurred at 4:20 pm (0820 GMT) 122 kilometres (76 miles) east of Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi province, the Indonesian meteorology and geophysics agency said.

Hong Kong's Observatory estimated the quake's intensity at 5.5 on the Richter scale and placed the epicentre near the Molucca Sea. [...]

Comment: A reader sent us the following graph (click to enlarge) and comments:

The graph shows yearly data since 1980 using the USGS database. The plot clearly shows that the frequency of occurance of earthquakes in the past 20 years has been increasing, and apparently exponentially. What is not included in my graph are earthquakes of magnitudes 5.0 and above. However, those do not seem to be rising in frequency, at least not according to the USGS database. I think this is interesting as well. Perhaps as a member of SOTT noted a few days ago, this is like boiling water. We first see an exponential increase of little "bubbles", and the big bubbles will come almost all at once, very very quickly, when the system has reached a critical state. Given the data, it is probably not too far away now, and the only warning we may have is the increase of the little earthquakes/bubbles. Of course IF such is true, this would make the sudden dissapearance of data for very low magnitude quakes even more suspicious, osit.

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Tsunami Survivors Deal With New Illness
AP Medical Writer
June 26, 2005

Many who survived the killer tsunami waves recall first being smashed by the sheer force, then sucking in mouthfuls of saltwater, mud and sand as they gasped for air and struggled to swim.

In at least one case, dirty water taken into the lungs was likely polluted with bacteria that moved through the nervous system to the brain, causing paralysis to parts of the body, according to a report in the June 23 edition of The
New England Journal of Medicine.

The condition has been dubbed "tsunami lung" by doctors who treated such patients following the Dec. 26 tsunami. [...]

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Poorest get worst deal in tsunami aid handout
Amelia Hill and Martin Bright
Sunday June 26, 2005
The Observer

Six months after the horror of the Boxing Day disaster, the worst-hit families are still struggling to survive

Six months after the Indian Ocean tsunami, a survey by Oxfam has found that the poorest victims have benefited the least from the massive relief effort.

The charity's study found that aid has tended to go to businesses and landowners, exacerbating the divide between rich and poor, with the most needy survivors likely to spend longer periods in refugee camps, where it is harder to find work or rebuild lives.

'Desperately poor people have been made poorer still by the tsunami,' said Barbara Stocking, director of Oxfam Great Britain. 'The aid effort must now increase its emphasis on targeting poor people, marginalised groups and women to ensure they are not excluded from the reconstruction efforts.'

The report, Targeting Poor People, comes on the eve of the tsunami's six-month anniversary and shows that its impact on poor people has been compounded by a reconstruction effort that has focused on landowners, business people and the most high-profile cases.

Poor communities were disproportionately affected by the wave's force because the brick houses of the rich were more likely to survive, but poorer villages in remote areas are nevertheless having to wait far longer to receive help and aid.

The survey also found that the provision of housing for poor people is presenting difficulties. Before the tsunami, many of the most marginalised people were not landowners - but even those who had land are now dispossessed because vital proofs of ownership have been destroyed.

The unprecedented international response to the Boxing Day earthquake tragedy meant that the immediate relief effort was a great success, stopping the outbreak of disease and providing people with basics such as shelter and water. But the survey found marginalisation of dalits - outcasts in India - and specific problems in Sri Lanka, where aid has gone to businesses and landowners rather than the landless.

The poverty gap is worst in Aceh, the Indonesian province which was the most badly affected area and was already impoverished by conflict before the tsunami hit. Half a million people in Aceh are now homeless - but Oxfam found that it is largely the wealthiest survivors who have been able to start rebuilding their lives.

Another survey by a group of British academics at Action Aid, who have been monitoring the delivery of aid, has found that there is little evidence of permanent accommodation being built for most people.

Oxfam also called for people to have more realistic expectations about the speed of reconstruction, saying that the media needed to recognise the scale of devastation. 'The media have a crucial role to play in keeping the tsunami in the spotlight, applying pressure on everyone to deliver and exposing problems when they arise. But they also need to be realistic,' said Stocking.

'While there are problems that need to be resolved and some things are taking too long, to expect everything to be rebuilt within six months is unrealistic,' she added, pointing out that rebuilding all the houses destroyed by the tsunami would be the equivalent of rebuilding Birmingham twice over.

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How the world's richest countries arm the poorest
By Trevor Royle Diplomatic Editor

Merchants of death come in many different guises in Africa. There is the machete-wielding thug high on drugs and tribal animosity who hacks people to death for no other reason than they are different to him. There is the man-child, old beyond his years, for whom an AK-47 assault rifle is both a killing machine and a passport to security. There is the jumpy militiaman at the checkpoint angrily waving an Uzi machine-pistol and demanding dollars. There is the policeman on the make cradling his Browning handgun before concealing it for use later. There is the mercenary with his rocket- propelled grenade launcher , ready to fire it at any target provided the money is right.

And then there is the granddaddy of them all, the dealer who wears a sharp Savile Row suit, carries a slim briefcase and uses a Blackberry. He wears a familiar-looking tie (no doubt regimental); a signet ring graces his left little finger; he is no stranger to living high on the hog; he knows politicians and senior financiers by their Christian names; he lives in London where the world’s most lucrative arms deals are brokered and then factored; and he knows his way about the Middle East and Africa where arms are at a premium. His trade is carried out with the utmost discretion because it involves millions of dollars.

What he does is not illegal but it is all big business. Over the past four years, Britain has sold more than £1 billion worth of arms to Africa, flogging everything from handguns through body armour to armoured vehicles and artillery. Together with sales from the other G8 countries, this amounts to more than 80% of the world’s arms export sales to some of the world’s poorest and least effective countries.

In 2003 alone, the G8 countries exported arms worth $12bn (£6.6bn) to the developing world, and six of their number – the US, UK, France, Russia, Germany and Italy – lead the world’s top 10 arms suppliers. The figures were confirmed last week in a report published by the Control Arms Campaign, which includes Oxfam, Amnesty International and the International Action Network on Small Arms. The figures were produced by the US Congressional Research Service and refer to the period 1996-2003.

In advance of the Gleneagles summit, this is a source of huge embarrassment because, according to the report’s findings, all the G8 countries have been implicated in “failing to prevent irresponsible arms transfers”.

Canada: There are no figures available for the period 1996-2003, but in 2003 Canada exported $556 million of conventional weapons, including aircraft, artillery, armoured vehicles and radar systems, to countries involved in armed conflict or human rights abuses. These include Saudi Arabia , the Philippines and Colombia .

France: Conventional arms sales worth $3.2bn. This includes small arms ammunition and light weapons to Burma and Sudan, and tear gas to Kenya. The French government is also criticised for a lack of transparency in weapons sales, and the report found a loophole which allowed the sale of “leg-irons, thumb-cuffs, and electric shock stun weapons which can easily be used as a means of torture and ill treatment”.

Germany: Sales worth $1.8bn. Although the country has tough export regulations for arms sales, many German components are used in weapons systems “that could easily be used to facilitate human rights violations or contribute to conflict of internal repression”. This includes components for military vehicles in Burma.

Italy: Sales worth $2.7bn to customers including Algeria, Colombia, Eritrea, Indonesia, Israel, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sierra Leone. A loophole in Italian law permits the unhindered export of “non- military” weapons, including sporting rifles, pistols and shotguns. The police in Brazil report that the most frequently confiscated sidearm is the Italian-made Beretta, which accounts for 8% of the world’s gun fatalities.

Japan: According to its government, Japan “does not export any arms whatsoever” but, like Italy, it produces and exports non- military weapons. Among the recipients are the Philippines. In 2001, Japan exported small arms worth $70.3m.

Russia: Sales worth $2.62bn. Customers include Algeria , Ethiopia and Uganda. Russia has also been in discussions with Burma, Nigeria and North Korea over upgrading existing military supplies. Other important markets include Sudan and Yemen, both of which have “long-standing and acute human rights problems”.

UK: Sales worth $4.3bn. The government claims to have “one of the strictest and most transparent arms export licensing systems of any country”, and new controls next year will limit international arms brokering activity. However, there are breaches in the code, caused by “open licences”, which make it possible for exporting companies to make multiple exports without the need for further scrutiny. Moral anomalies include the sale of 42 BAe Hawk strike aircraft to India in 2002 at the very time that Tony Blair was trying to avert a war between India and Pakistan.

US: The world’s leading arms supplier with sales of $151.9bn. Although US law forbids the export of arms to countries involved in the gross violation of human rights, recent customers have included Colombia, Israel, Nigeria, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka, and in 2003 the US lifted its ban on military assistance to Rwanda. Four US companies are the world’s leading arms manufacturers: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon.

All this comes at a price that is usually born by those countries which can least afford to spend lavish sums of money on arms. According to the report, 20% of the debts owed by the world’s impoverished countries, mostly African, come from past arms sales from G8 countries. However, it is a win-win situation for the firms doing the deals. All the G8 countries operate some form of export credit system – in the UK the Export Credit Guarantee Department underwrites arms sales and pursues defaulters. The result is overarching misery because many of the countries suffer from chronic poverty and disease, and their populations struggle to survive on a dollar a day per person.

“Each year hundreds of thousands of people are killed, tortured, raped and displaced through the misuse of arms,” says Irene Khan, secretary-general of Amnesty International. “How can G8 commitments to end poverty and injustice be taken seriously if some of the very governments are undermining peace and stability by deliberately approving arms transfers to repressive regimes, regions of extreme conflict or countries that can ill afford them?”

To its credit, the UK government consults the Department for International Development before issuing arms licences, but this has not prevented arms sales to countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Colombia, which have dubious human rights records. Neither does it do anything to stop the illegitimate sale of arms, a market which only exists because of the worldwide proliferation of weapons and the impossibility of bringing illegal arms sales under control. In this curious netherworld, arms deals can be worth anything up to $100m, and for the international arms dealer – or “consultant”, as he styles himself these days – the rewards can be worth the effort.

First, he gets his shopping list from the appropriate minister in the country seeking new weapons . Then he talks to various arms manufacturers and haggles a price, usually by asking for a percentage if he is appointed sole agent. Once everything is in place, he factors the contract, getting the necessary licences from the government of the supplying country and finally bribing officials in the client country to make sure that there are no last-minute hitches. Everyone gets a slice of the action but the country purchasing the weapons suddenly finds that it is one day older and deeper in debt. Even a $50m deal can ratchet up enormous repayment rates which quickly become unsustainable.

And because this below-the-counter trade is beyond regulation, it is difficult to stop. Most weapons start off as legal devices and are sold as such – governments need to equip their security forces and there is a legitimate need for small arms sales of this kind. The trouble comes when the weapons are moved on, to be sold on the open market to the highest bidder, either legally or illegally. At the last count, there were 1250 small-arms manufacturers operating in 90 countries. With sales amounting to $4bn a year, the industry attracts unscrupulous dealers who are impossible to regulate.

“Brokers carry out a wide range of activities that are instrumental in diverting weapons from legal to illegal markets, such as arranging a contact between a shady customer and an unscrupulous supplier, providing finance and transport,” says Pasi Patokallio, chair of the UN’s 2005 Biennial Meeting of States on Small Arms, who last week called for the eradication of illegal small-arms sales at next month’s G8 summit. “As of now, brokers can act almost entirely without oversight in much of the world. Controls on legal and illicit brokering are strongly linked: unless states regulate the first they are unable to effectively prevent the second.”

Carried out in the shadows, or openly and legitimately in the corridors of power, the arms trade has every reason to be a central issue at the G8 summit . The leaders sitting down to discuss world poverty have announced their intention to introduce economic models and adopt policies which address poverty reduction, but at the same time five of their number are responsible for producing 89% of the world’s arms transfers. And there is a link. All the G8 countries give tax breaks to arms manufacturers and fund research and development – at the same time, these countries provide money for aid to developing countries and have wiped out the debts of 18 countries under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries initiative.

According to the Control Arms Campaign, the G8 summit will fail in its duty if its members do not “clean up their act by enforcing existing laws prohibiting the export of weapons to states that violate human rights and international humanitarian law”. What this means is a new global arms treaty which forces all countries to abide by the same rules and standards . This is what the African Union wants. The Control Arms Campaign has produced undeniable evidence that the problem needs to be solved, and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has given backing to the concept, but even before the summit begins the G8 foreign ministers have failed to reach agreement on dealing with the arms trade. It is hard to see the Gleneagles summit reacting positively when the organisation itself is such a major part of the problem.

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Bodies of three missing boys found in Camden, N.J.
Fri Jun 24, 2005

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - The bodies of three young boys missing for two days were found on Friday in the trunk of an abandoned car in Camden, New Jersey, police said.

Police said they had no immediate information on how the children -- Anibal Cruz, 11, Jesstin Pagan, 5, and Daniel Agosto, 6 -- died or whether they were victims of foul play.

Police used helicopters, boats and search dogs to comb the area since the boys disappeared from a backyard late on Wednesday afternoon.

The mother of one of the boys said earlier she had been outside with the boys but went inside to check on food cooking in the kitchen. When she came back outside, she said, they were gone.

The abandoned car was near where the boys were last seen, police said.

Family members held a news conference earlier on Friday pleading for the children's safe return and offering a $9,000 reward.

The southern New Jersey city of 80,000 people, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, is America's most crime-ridden city, ranking worst in six categories of crimes including murders and rapes. It is also one of the nation's poorest cities, and half its children live in poverty.

Comment: We wonder what Pastor Graham would have to say about this story, or the recent story of child molestation and ritual murder at the Hosana Church in Louisiana.

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Fireworks Likely When NASA Blows Up Comet
Jun 26, 5:14 PM (ET)

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Not all dazzling fireworks displays will be on Earth this Independence Day. NASA hopes to shoot off its own celestial sparks in an audacious mission that will blast a stadium-sized hole in a comet half the size of Manhattan. It would give astronomers their first peek at the inside of one of these heavenly bodies.

If all goes as planned, the Deep Impact spacecraft will release a wine barrel-sized probe on a suicide journey, hurtling toward the comet Tempel 1 - about 80 million miles away from Earth at the time of impact.

"It's a bullet trying to hit a second bullet with a third bullet in the right place at the right time," said Rick Grammier, project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Scientists hope the July 4 collision will gouge a crater in the comet's surface large enough to reveal its pristine core and perhaps yield cosmic clues to the origin of the solar system.

NASA's fleet of space-based observatories - including the Hubble, Spitzer and Chandra telescopes - along with an army of ground-based telescopes around the world are expected to record the impact and resulting crater.

The big question is: What kind of fireworks can sky-gazers expect to see from Earth?

Scientists do not know yet. But if the probe hits the bull's-eye, the impact could temporarily light up the comet as much as 40 times brighter than normal, possibly making it visible to the naked eye in parts of the Western Hemisphere.

"We're getting closer by the minute," Andrew Dantzler, the director of NASA's solar system division, said earlier this month. "I'm looking forward to a great encounter on the Fourth of July."

If the $333 million mission is successful, Deep Impact will be the first spacecraft to touch the surface of a comet. In 2004, NASA's Stardust craft flew within 147 miles of Comet Wild 2 on its way back to Earth carrying interstellar dust samples.

Scientists say Deep Impact has real science value that will hopefully answer basic questions about the solar system's birth.

Comets - frozen balls of dirty ice, rocks and dust - are leftover building blocks of the solar system after a cloud of gas and dust condensed to form the sun and planets 4 1/2 billion years ago. As comets arc around the sun, their surfaces heat up so that only their frozen interiors possess original space material.

Very little is known about comets and even less is known about their primordial cores. What exactly will happen when Tempel 1 is hit on the Fourth of July is anybody's guess. Scientists believe that the impact will form a circular depression that will eject a cone-shaped plume of debris into space.

But not to worry. NASA guarantees that its experiment will not significantly change the comet's orbit nor will the smash-up put the comet or any remnants of it on a collision course with Earth.

Discovered in 1867, Tempel 1 is a short-period comet, meaning that it moves around the sun in an elliptical orbit between Mars and Jupiter and can be sighted every six or so years.

The Deep Impact spacecraft shares the same name as a 1998 Hollywood disaster movie about a comet headed straight for Earth. NASA says that the names for the space mission and blockbuster movie were arrived at independentl y around the same time and by pure coincidence.

The spacecraft blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., in mid-January to make its six-month, 268 million-mile voyage. In March, scientists got a scare when test images from one of Deep Impact's telescopes were slightly out of focus. The problem was fixed, and a month later, Deep Impact took its first picture of Tempel 1 from 40 million miles away, revealing a big snowball of dirty ice and rock. Last week, scientists processed the first images of the comet's bright core taken from 20 million miles away, which should help the probe zero in on its target.

The real action starts in the early morning of July 3 (Eastern time) when the spacecraft separates, releasing an 820-pound copper probe called the "impactor" on a one-way trip straight into the path of the comet. During the next 22 hours, mission control at Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena will steer both craft toward Tempel 1.

Two hours before the July 4 encounter, the impactor kicks into autopilot, relying on its self-navigating software and thrusters for the rest of the journey to steer toward the sunlit part of the comet's nucleus so that space and Earth-based telescopes can get the best view.

Meanwhile, the spacecraft - with its high-resolution camera ready - will veer out of harm's way some 5,000 miles away, as it stakes out a ringside seat for recording the collision. The spacecraft will make its closest fly by minutes after impact, approaching within 310 miles.

The collision is expected to occur around 1:52 a.m. EDT when the comet, traveling through space at 6 miles per second, runs over the impactor, which will be shooting some of the most close-up pictures of Tempel 1 up until its death.

Grammier has likened it to standing in the middle of the road and being hit by a semi-truck going 23,000 mph - "you know, just bam!" The energy produced by the crash will be like detonating nearly 5 tons of TNT.

The high-speed collision is expected to excavate a crater that can range anywhere from the size of a house to a football stadium, and from two to 14 stories deep. A spew of ice and dust debris will likely shoot out from the newly formed hole, possibly revealing a glimpse of the comet's core.

Scientists say if the comet is porous like a sponge, the impact should produce a stadium-sized crater about 150 feet deep and 650 feet wide. This suggests that the comet's inside holds some of the pristine material of the early solar system.

But if the comet is packed like a snowball, the crater formed would be much smaller. Another scenario is that the comet is so porous that most of the impactor's energy is absorbed, creating an even smaller but deep crater.

The mothership has less than 15 minutes to snap images from the cosmic collision and resulting crater before it's bombarded with a blizzard of debris. Scientists expect to receive near real-time data from the impactor and spacecraft.

"We get one chance," said Michael A'Hearn, a professor of astronomy at the University of Maryland and Deep Impact principal investigator.

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Charles Fort (1874-1932) was a saint of scholarship, a garret-dweller who dedicated his life to the collection, classification and interpretation of anomalous events. The typical Fortean event would be something like the downpour of frogs that concludes Thomas Anderson's cult movie, MAGNOLIA. It is absurd, unaccountable and cannot be fitted into the rationalist-scientific model of the world and how it works.

Fort's remit extended to UFOs - long before they were so named,
cryptozoology and so-called "paranormal" phenomena like eleportation and telepathy. His purpose in drawing attention to the cracks in everyday "reality" was to expose scientific orthodoxy for the fraud he believed it was. The scientific establishment's reaction to the anomalous has always been to disregard it. By piling up thousands of examples of the weird and peculiar, Fort aimed to make that attitude of disregard a little more difficult to sustain.

He was, of course, disregarded himself. He published four books in his
lifetime, but is only now coming into his own. POLITICS OF THE IMAGINATION should, if there is any justice in the world, carry this process forward. Bennett argues for Fort both as an important thinker and as a writer of genius. He compares him to Joyce, Kafka, Orwell and Thomas Mann. The quotations that dot the text bear him out. They are complex, syntactically challenged, playful, witty, visionary, astounding. I am a convert. And by the time I was halfway though the book I was placing an order on Amazon for Fort's Collected Works.

Bennett himself is a writer in the Fortean vein. His writing is poetic and difficult. It rages at the boundaries of what is sayable and thinkable as it argues for a way of perceiving the world which does not cramp the imagination the way the scientific paradigm does. Following Fort, Bennett suggests that imagination is itself a factor in the creation of the world as we experience it. Science attempts to reduce the universe to facts - but in so doing it has to disregard whole swathes of what actually occurs. The paradigm that Bennett favours is the Renaissance one - the universe of Hamlet and King Lear - in which the inner world of the imagination and the outer world of Nature are not distinct but continuous, in which thought and emotion reach out into the realm of matter and mould it into sympathetic shapes.

This is a remarkable and important book. No-one who reads it with an open mind is going to emerge unshaken.

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