Saturday, July 02 - Sunday, July 03, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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Our friend Pierre-Paul was excited to have taken this photo of the entire
cloud structre of a supercellular storm on June 28. He says it is the first time
that such a picture has been taken in France. Congrats, PP!

Copyright 2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte

The Dangers of Ignorance
Pippin Misses The Point
Today (Saturday) 200,000 people marched through the streets of Edinburgh, Scotland in a protest against "Third World" debt. The march was timed to coincide with today's "Live 8" concerts and next week's G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. One of the speakers at the Edinburgh rally was Billy Boyd, better known as Pippin from the Lord of the Rings Film trilogy. Boyd told the crowd:

"With so many people here today, the leaders have to do something."

If only.

The history of the 20th century shows that when people rise up and step out to demand that their leaders change their course of action, they are studiously ignored by said leaders. Oh sure, the politicians will applaud their efforts and laud the wonderful demonstration of Democracy in action, but they do so, only because they are confident that the only thing that will result is Democracy inaction. Take the world-wide anti-war marches of 2003 for but one example. 11 million people, by all accounts constituting the majority of public opinion in Europe, North America (maybe), Latin America and Australia, demanded that their elected officials NOT wage what was clearly a needless war for profit on Iraq. The result?

Celebrities such as Boyd do the public a great disservice by refusing to recognise the reality of our predicament - that Democracy in industrialised nations is no more representative of the will of the people than the Islamic regimes that the leaders of industrialised nations are so eager to demonise and overthrow. To perpetuate the fantasy that the people have any power to reverse the decline of our society simply serves to lull the average citizen even further into complacency.

The greatest weapon any of us possess is our ability to wake up to the truth about the true nature of the so-called "leaders of the free world" - that they are not even fit to be our leaders, let alone exponents of true freedom and true Democracy.

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Why I won't be watching Live 8
By David Stubbs Reviews editor of The Wire music magazine

On Saturday 2 and Wednesday 6 July, the multiple line-ups for Live 8 will attract a massive worldwide audience.

Rarely mentioned on these occasions are the equally, if not more impressive numbers of people who will not be tuning in.

I will be one of them.

I watched Live Aid. I was depressed by the mullet-headed music, that puzzling logo of a fretboard protruding from the African continent, and resented being browbeaten by multi-millionaires to empty my pockets.

And then there was the euphoria of the crowd, which reached a worrying zenith when they clapped along to Queen's Radio Ga-Ga.

What were they feeling so victorious about? Did they actually think that Africa had been saved by David Bowie's gracious decision to appear onstage alongside Status Quo?

They appeared to labour under the sort of collective, intoxicating delusion that overcomes any mass of people when they gather together and feeling triumphs over thinking.

'No sea change'

Live Aid had the best motives. But to pretend this emotional, ad hoc response to the complex and chronic problem of famine in Africa made a positive difference was naive, rooted in a fictional idea that rock changes the world.

It cannot and it did not in 1985.

Money from Live Aid saved lives but, as aid expert David Rieff recently argued, it may also have led to the loss of just as many lives.

There was no sea change in attitudes. That wave of compassion did not stop millions voting for right wingers like Thatcher, Bush and Kohl in subsequent elections.

Today, Africa is, if anything, worse off.

Now we are about to go through it all again. This time the emphasis is on debt cancellation rather than aid, but still I am sceptical.

I simply do not think it is right that ex-pop star Bob Geldof should be the human catalyst for one of the biggest problems facing mankind - it is beyond the wisdom of Solomon, let alone Geldof. He is not up to the job.

He is making the same mistake in 2005 as he did in 1985 regarding black acts, surprising for someone so passionate about feeding Africans.

His argument that the dominance of white faces among the Live 8 line-up reflects the need for big names ignores the importance of symbolism in mass spectacles like this.[...]

Geldof has been a spectacularly tireless fundraiser.

But inevitably, given his profession, he is addicted to the spotlight and despite his reputation as a plain and profane speaker, rather too chummy towards the powerful over the years - be it Prince Charles, the Pope, Mother Teresa, Tony Blair or George Bush.

But these people front the very institutions - church, empire, Western states - that can be argued have done little to alleviate African misery.

They should be interrogated, not cosied up to. Geldof's un-punkishly conciliatory stance to these people creates the illusion that, as with the tsunami, "no one is to blame".

Ultimately, however, I will not be watching Live 8 because the bill is pretty dire.

Apart from the reams of has-beens and rock icons turned cabaret acts, there are the present-day brigade such as Coldplay and Dido, whose hugely popular yet unthreatening music signifies rock's decline into corporate functionalism.

These people will not solve the problem. They are the problem.

Instead of watching Live 8, I will be doing something considered morbid in these emotionalist times - I am going to go upstairs and have a good think.

Comment: Africa's debt could be wiped out in 5 minutes but that would only solve half of the problem. Many of the African despots that have been helped into power by the US, British, French etc. governments would then have to be removed and a representative system of government allowed to take root. But the US, British French etc. governments are not about to shoot themselves in the foot in this way. The pillaging of Africa over the past few centuries has been extremely lucrative for the western "power elite".

As long as industrialised nations continue to lack credible leaders that are unwilling to take action to redress the imbalances from which they and their friends have gotten obscenely rich, Africa will remain mired in poverty and suffering. Yet the lack of a solution to this problem should not lead us to descend into wishful thinking and fantasy and pretend that the problem does not exist, or worse still, begin to see things from the point of view of the corrupt officials, using pat rationalistions such as "t'was ever so" to convince ourselves that we are best to cut our losses and join the enemy camp.

Our only defence against the predations of big government and big industry is to expose the reality of how and why they got "big" in the first place and NOT to succumb to their propaganda. The dim flame of hope for a better world that yet remains alive would certainly be snuffed out if those of who us actually have the will to see and speak the truth were to relinquish this most precious of resources.

The world really does need a policeman, but one that is dedicated to justice and equality rather than the current mafioso thugs that have been running the show for decades.

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Zambians march to call on rich nations to act on promises 2005-07-01 19:34:12

LUSAKA, July 1 (Xinhuanet) -- Hundreds of Zambians from civil society organizations marched through the capital Friday, urging the world's rich nations to act on promises to help African countries get out of poverty.

The march, coming ahead of the Group 8 club of industrial nations meeting in Britain next week, is part of a global call for action against poverty, debt and trade injustice demanded by poor nations. [...]

Comment: As we write, people the world over are easing their consciences by watching the day's Live8 concerts. The question is, what is going to be done tomorrow? We do not necessarily mean in terms of activism on the issues of hunger in Africa or the nature of the global economic system. Some may be motivated to work in those areas. But what about others, people who see that the world is in a very bad state but who also recognise that people have been working to improve conditions for thousands of years to no avail. We are condemned to watch an endless pendulum swing from tyranny over to a modicum of freedom, defined of course by the freedom of the body to exist, to procreate, and to live free from fear.

But it is just that, a swing between these two poles. the world being what it is, it seems that the greatest freedom is found at times in countries that are themselves guilty of lording over others. Where else would the wealth needed to buy off great portions of the home population be found?

So what to do? If the Live8 concerts have made you aware of the exploitation of Africa, then work to see exploitation elsewhere, including the subtle and manipulative ways you use to exploit others. Begin the path of seeing through the veils that hide the true workings of the world and the true reasons that we are here upon this earth. Study and increase your knowledge of how things work. Think critically and don't accept everything you hear from others simply because they claim to be an authority; check it out for yourself.

You can neither change this world nor any other human being; you can only change yourself. The work to change yourself will be the most difficult job you have ever undertaken because the roots go deep into your every thought and action. Do you even know why you do many of the things you do during the day? If not, then can you even claim to be DOing them at all, or are they automatic, mechanical, no more conscious than a robot guided by a computer programme?

How much of your life is mechanical?

More than you probably recognise if you are anything like us.

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Sixty Percent Of All International Aid Is 'Phantom': Actionaid
Jun 30, 2005

New Delhi - Some 60 percent of all announced international aid does not exist, global pressure group ActionAid said Thursday, singling out the United States and France as the main culprits in "phantom" aid.

A "classic example" of real versus phantom aid is money pledged for victims of last year's Asian tsunami disaster, John Samuel, Asia director of ActionAid International, told a news conference.

He cited Australia, which he said had so far only managed to give seven percent of the money it had pledged. He also named France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States as among other countries who have not delivered on their tsunami promises.

"In 2003, total aid announced by developed countries was 65 billion dollars of which 50 billion dollars was (pledged) by the G7," Samuel said.

"How much money actually reached the receivers? Only 27 billion dollars, or just 0.1 percent of the countries' combined national income," Samuel said while releasing "RealAid", a report on the status of global aid mechanisms.

"For the United States and France, two of the world's largest donors, almost 90 percent of their contributions are phantom aid."

The activist said figures quoted in the report were based on official data of aid given and aid received apart from field studies. These had been vetted by top experts.

"Over the last two years, most of the aid has been directed towards buying arms and ammunition," Samuel said. "As we speak today, 30,000 children are dying of malnourishment and 800 million are going hungry. We demand accountability and transparency from the G8."

"Aid diversification for military purposes is being done by the donors, particularly the US, especially after 9/11," he said.

The G8 countries - Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and new entrant Russia - are due to hold a summit from July 6 to 8 in Scotland.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has also been invited to attend.

In a recent decision, the group decided to write off total debts of 18 poor nations, a move which organisations like ActionAid say was due to their pressure tactics.

Samuel said more than 300,000 people are expected to take part in a "white-band" protest in Edinburgh on July 2 as part of a "Make Poverty History" campaign.

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A World Without Bosses?
By Traci Hukill
Common Ground
July 2, 2005

A handful of Northern California collectives take cues from an innovative Basque cooperative in Northern Spain. But can they really make a difference?

As pizza counter guys go, Willie Perez is unusually cheerful, especially for the middle of a lunch rush that, by all rights, should be tailing off. At half-past one on a spring Tuesday, a line of hungry customers is snaking out The Pizza Collective storefront on Berkeley's Shattuck Avenue, the ovens are gusting heat into the kitchen and flushed workers in aprons and tennis shoes are darting about in what appears to be barely organized bedlam. This is not the best time for an interview, I think, as I make my way to the front. But Perez's face breaks into a huge smile of welcome, he greets me like an honored guest and I am ushered to a table with a delicious slice of organic vegetarian pizza.

Thin and quick, with guileless blue eyes and Tiggerish enthusiasm, the 28-year-old father of two has good reason to be happy. He's making close to $30 an hour, gets medical benefits for his family, enjoys four to five weeks paid time off each year and believes passionately in his work. Not the work of making pizza, particularly, but the work of running, along with 38 other people, a thriving worker-owned cooperative built on the principles of democracy and economic fairness. "I have a personal mission," Perez confesses. "I want to see more cooperatives."

Worker's Paradise?

It's easy to see why Perez is a tireless proselytizer who has worked to establish three spin-off coops, the Arizmendi bakeries in Oakland, San Francisco and Emeryville. To anyone who has slogged through a wage-slave job or had a domineering boss, a collectively run cooperative sounds like a workers' paradise. It has no hierarchy and no supervisors because everyone is an owner. Everyone makes the same amount of money and everyone is responsible for making the business work. Everyone does all the jobs. No one gets summarily fired. Decisions are made by consensus. At the end of the year, some money goes to charity and some is invested back into the business. The rest of the profits, instead of enriching one or two individuals, are returned to all the worker-owners -- a rising tide lifting many boats.

This level of emotional and financial investment creates a radically different attitude toward work, Perez says, one emphasizing personal responsibility and flexibility. "If we don't have a boss and I tell you to turn out the lights when you leave, you're going to do it because it means more money for all of us," Perez says. "But if someone is breathing down your neck, you might not."

He says he used to work at a big-box retailer. "Corporate America, okay? They don't treat you like human beings. They treat you like robots. Your opinion is not appreciated."

Terry Baird, 59, a member of the Arizmendi Cooperative on Oakland's Lakeshore Drive since it opened in 1997, jokes (or not) about the effect of this. "If you work here and go somewhere else, you're kind of wrecked for the traditional work environment," he says. "The first time you say to your boss, 'Let's vote on this,' they're gonna look at you funny."

There's something else about cooperatives. In an economy with a lot of coops, the number of well-paid, self-directed workers would mean a larger, wealthier middle class, and therefore a healthier community. The goal is a society in which all people, not only the fittest, enjoy economic security.

The Pizza Collective and its parent coop, the Cheese Board, recently brought in a member in his sixties. "And it was, well, this is physical work. Do we want to bring in an older person?" Perez recalls. "But he helps us, we help him, we help his family -- and that's one less family left to the wolves of Corporate America."

The Miracle of Mondragon

In the United States, some 300 business concerns operate as worker-owned collectives, according to the National Cooperative Business Association. Some are relatively high-profile, like the Eugene, Ore.-based Burley Design Corporation, which manufactures distinctive yellow-and-blue bike trailers for children. Most, however, are local, and they are few and far between. Here, the worker-owned society is a dream, but in the Basque country of northern Spain it's become a reality.

The Bay Area's Arizmendi cooperative bakery/pizzerias take their name from a remarkable young Basque priest who ignited a movement from the rubble of Spain's ruinous civil war. A defeated revolutionary who had entered the priesthood, Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta arrived in the Basque town of Mondragon in 1941 and soon set up a technical school where he taught the skills necessary for Spain's reconstruction. There he also taught Catholic Social Doctrine, with its emphasis on human dignity and better conditions for laborers.

In 1956, a handful of Arizmendi's students, determined to put those principles into action, opened a worker-owned stove factory. Three years later, they opened a credit union, and the seeds of the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation were born. Today the 500-plus cooperatives that make up the MCC employ 72,000 people (about half are worker-owners, with more in the pipeline as membership catches up to rapid growth). The group posted 15 percent growth in profits last year to reach $612 million. It pours money into education, incubates new cooperatives, and provides worker benefits and collateral so members can buy houses.

When Perez visited Mondragon several years ago, he was stunned by the collective response to a fire that had leveled a refrigerator factory. The refrigerator factory workers were given jobs in other coops, even though that would almost surely mean lower profits for everyone at the other coops. "They're so unselfish in the way they run their business," Perez marvels.

The Cheese Board, which started in 1967, and the Pizza Collective, which opened in 1990, are attempting to replicate the MCC on a very small scale. They have helped establish the three Bay Area Arizmendis through training and recipe sharing, but each coop functions independently. They all, however, shovel four percent of gross profits back into the Arizmendi Association -- seed money to help start other coops and cushion economic blows.

A World Without Bosses

All the Arizmendis have needed help in learning to function as collectives. Not all cooperatives are collectives. Sunkist, for example, is a typical agricultural cooperative; it consists of a number of citrus growers who market their products as a group under the Sunkist label. A collective, on the other hand, is a flat organization with no hierarchy, no fatherly arbiter to say: "You're right, and you're wrong," which means people have to cooperate. Which is hard.

Lisa Bruzoni, who at 50 has been at the Cheese Board for 15 years, acknowledges that the $18 an hour the members make, plus the $9.99-per-hour profit-sharing bonus everyone got last year, is attractive. "Twenty-eight dollars an hour sounds like a great amount of pay, especially for what we're doing," she says. "But there are certain people who would want to work in a cooperative and certain people who wouldn't. It can be very frustrating."

Without exception, all the people interviewed for this story said the hardest thing about their jobs was learning to get along with others in an environment where no one -- or everyone, really -- is the boss.

For one thing, big decisions at these businesses must be made by consensus (that means everyone must agree that they can live with whatever is decided), and the only opportunity to do this is at monthly board meetings. Consequently, it takes a long time to get anything done. "It took us three years to write a book," says Bruzoni, who co-authored The Cheese Board Collective Works along with several other members. "Anywhere else, it would have taken a year and a half, but we kept having to check with the coop."

The gritty problem of personality conflicts is also wearing. Elizabeth Medina, 27, describes joining the Pizza Collective as "the most stressful thing I've ever done in my life." It was during her six-month probation period that some personality conflicts emerged. Knowing that any member could single-handedly block her bid to join, made the pressure that much worse. "It was so tough. I felt like I was totally under a microscope. I remember going home to my husband and crying and saying, 'Oh my God, this person doesn't like me.'"

Since most people join a collective for a long period of time -- the $1,000 buy-in at the Cheese Board and Pizza Collective is meant to foster commitment -- there's a sense that the relationships cannot be escaped. That seems to force people to figure out how to get along. "This place will humble you," says Perez, "because a lot of people aren't willing to say, 'Hey, can you cut pizza for me today?' to someone they had an argument with yesterday."

Then there is the more deeply personal issue of self-motivation. "Everybody thinks they don't want to have a boss," says Baird of the Oakland Arizmendi. "But what they haven't thought about is they don't want to be a boss, either. That is maybe the most revolutionary aspect to what we do here. People have to become in charge of themselves, and not everybody's equipped to do that."

Cooperatives, especially the collectively run variety, are a rarity. Even in the Bay Area, as progressive as it is, there is only a handful. This begs the question of whether they can make a difference.

Baird has given this some thought. "Sometimes I wonder, what is the meaning of all this?" he muses. "I enjoy the work, and I can live on the pay. But is it really gonna change things? And I think it does. When I read biographies about exceptional people, it never comes from nowhere. Rosa Parks wasn't just some lady; she was active in the civil rights movement. So yeah, I think we do good work. We do work we like and in a democratic fashion, and maybe it rubs off on people."

Traci Hukill is a freelance journalist based in Monterey, Calif.

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Memo to Iraq War: This Is the First Day of the Rest of Your Death
By Norman Solomon
Posted July 1, 2005

On the propaganda front, it's been another tough week for Washington's warmakers. But for them, where there's hope there's death.

Let's address the Iraq war directly:

It's too soon to know whether the Bush administration's new PR offensive will do anything for you in terms of public opinion. But rest assured that the U.S. military effort in Iraq won't be curtailed anytime soon. Despite the downward trend of public backing for the war -- and in spite of the mass media's inadequate yet significant widening of debate in recent weeks -- a combination of factors is in place to sustain your deadly momentum.

One key dynamic is the U.S. military's institutional adrenaline for fulfilling its mission of mass destruction. To a large extent, war correspondent Michael Herr's description of the Vietnam War is an apt summary of the perpetual motion that the Pentagon keeps implementing in Iraq: "We took space back quickly, expensively, with total panic and close to maximum brutality. Our machine was devastating. And versatile. It could do everything but stop."

On the home front, another pivotal aspect of the Iraq war is that President Bush's solid-core constituencies are still in his corner. Despite some spin from mainstream and progressive media, the prominent Republicans who are making critical noises about the war are rarely doing more than mumbling their misgivings.

Yes, Sen. Chuck Hagel did say: "The White House is completely disconnected from reality." But he's complaining about the efficacy -- not the morality -- of the war effort. And while the moral basis for this war is hopeless, for many the hope that the U.S. military fortunes in Iraq will improve is apt to spring eternal.

Fortunately for a continuation of the occupation-driven carnage in Iraq, there's a huge disconnect between the massive problem and the mincing remedies being most widely promoted. While outlets like the New York Times have editorialized their discontent with Bush's speech Tuesday night, the biggest underlying beef is that the U.S. forces aren't winning.

So long as enough Americans go along with the phantom goal of "victory," you get to keep killing in Iraq. To that end, a massive PR operation is underway.

"The White House recently brought onto its staff one of the nation's top academic experts on public opinion during wartime, whose studies are now helping Bush craft his message two years into a war with no easy end in sight," the Washington Post reported Thursday. "Behind the president's speech is a conviction among White House officials that the battle for public opinion on Iraq hinges on their success in convincing Americans that, whatever their views of going to war in the first place, the conflict there must and can be won."

What about most Democratic critics of the war on Capitol Hill? They keep saying that they want the U.S. military to succeed in Iraq, too. Here's Sen. Joseph Biden midway through this week, cheering on the war under the guise of critiquing it: "I really do think it's winnable, but you've got to keep the American people following with you. That's why I urged them to give the speech. He told us the why. He didn't tell us the how. Business as usual won't get us there. I think he has to change some policy or alter some policy."

And what about the Chuck Hagels of the political world? Well, listen to what Hagel had to say after Bush's much-drumrolled June 28 speech: "I have had differences with the administration over the planning and execution of our postwar policy in Iraq. However, we all are working toward finding a way to succeed in Iraq."

And what about organizations like, now featuring Hagel's purported dissent in a new TV ad? Running to catch up with its antiwar base after many months of absenting itself from the antiwar movement, MoveOn did a poll of its email recipients as summer began -- offering them an up-or-down vote on a congressional measure so weak that even if it became law, the U.S. military would be unimpeded from continuing its catalytic role in Iraq's carnage for a very long time.

Consider the much-hyped and somewhat repentant "Freedom Fries" congressman from North Carolina, Rep. Walter Jones. He's moving in a good direction, but where's his ballyhooed congressional measure really at? Jones had this to say at a June 16 news conference: "The resolution I am co-sponsoring will do no more than call on the president to set a plan and a date to begin reducing the number of troops we have in Iraq. It does not in any way, shape or form set a date certain for complete withdrawal."

Under the terms of the measure, withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq would begin no later than October 1, 2006. That's right. Withdrawal of troops would BEGIN in autumn 2006. On Capitol Hill, that kind of scenario might seem drastic -- but for the militarized productivity of the grim reaper, under the circumstances, it's a pretty good deal.

So, here's an executive summary of this memo to the Iraq war: As long as the main issues revolve around how you can be won and how you must not be quickly halted, there's a lot of death left in you.

Norman Solomon's latest book, "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death," will be published in early summer.

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Thousands of Karabila residents return to devastation
Report, IRIN, 30 June 2005
Karabila - damage to property in the town following a recent US offensive against insurgents (photo: IRIN)

KARABILA, 28 Jun 2005 (IRIN) - Thousands of residents are gradually returning to the town of Karabila, 325 km west of the capital, Baghdad, after fleeing a heavy US-led attack two weeks ago but for many there is little to go back to.

Nearly 7,000 residents were displaced to the desert near the Syrian border during the fighting, according to the Iraq Red Crescent Society (IRCS). The town, which is home to 60,000 people, showed signs of extensive devastation following the battle, a five day operation which ended on 22 June. Nearly 1,000 residents are still displaced and living in the desert.

"I couldn't find anything left of my house. It has been totally destroyed and my family has become homeless and dependent on humanitarian support," said Salua Ibraheem, 42, a Karabila resident who had her home completely destroyed.

"People started to go back trying to get what is left from their destroyed homes. Based on information from our volunteers inside the village, near 40 percent of the village buildings have been partially or totally destroyed," Mazeen Saloon, general secretary of the IRCS, said.

The offensive, named "Operation Spear", was designed to root out insurgent strongholds. According to US forces, about 90 insurgents were killed and others detained for interrogation and they are calling the operation a complete success.

The IRCS reported 65 deaths and 85 injured as a result of the conflict, mainly civilians. But the bodies of many residents lie under the debris and rubble and their deaths have not been recorded, according to local officials.

"It is complicated to get exactly numbers of dead and injured because many people have already been buried and the hospital does not give the right number," Sallon explained.

Utility services have been destroyed and now thousands of families are without power, clean water or sewage according to local officials.

"My husband was killed in the battle and I returned back to my house and found it dirty, without water and electricity. My two children are sick because of the dirty water and my baby is without milk and I don't have anywhere to go to search for help," Yasmin Rawi, a Karabila resident, told IRIN.

According to Sallon, the only hospital in the area is located in the town of al-Qaim, 3km from Karabila.

"We have been helping the hospital with supplies but since the last fight in the area, the hospital has been working over-capacity and requires urgent support," he said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross in the Netherlands has sent a convoy of medical supplies to the area to help with the supply shortage.

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Iraq envoy accuses US of killing

Iraq's ambassador to the UN has demanded an inquiry into what he said was the "cold-blooded murder" of his young unarmed relative by US marines.

Samir Sumaidaie said his 21-year-old cousin was shot as he helped marines who were carrying out searches at his village in the restive Anbar province.

Mr Sumaidaie said the ramifications of such a "serious crime" were enormous for both the US and Iraq.

US officials said the allegations would be thoroughly investigated.

Meanwhile, a suicide bomber has killed at leat 20 people outside a special police recruiting centre in the capital Baghdad.

It is the latest in a spate of attacks targeting the country's security forces.

English exercise

In a letter to colleagues, Mr Sumaidaie explained in detail what happened to his cousin Mohammed al-Sumaidaie on 25 June in the village of al-Sheikh Hadid.

He said Mohammed, an engineering student, was visiting his family home when some 10 marines with an Egyptian interpreter knocked on the door at 1000 local time.

He opened the door to them and was "happy to exercise some of his English", said the ambassador.

When asked if there were any weapons in the house, Mohammed took the marines to a room where there was a rifle with no live ammunition.

It was the last the family saw him alive. Shortly after, another brother was dragged out and beaten and the family was ordered to wait outside.

As the marines left "smiling at each other" an hour later, the interpreter told the mother they had killed Mohammed, said Mr Sumaidaie.

"In the bedroom, Mohammed was found dead and laying in a clotted pool of his blood. A single bullet had penetrated his neck."

The US military said the allegations "roughly correspond to an incident involving coalition forces on that day and in that general location".

Maj Gen Stephen T Johnson said the allegations were being taken seriously and would be thoroughly investigated.

Acting US ambassador to the UN, Anne Patterson, had "expressed her heartfelt condolences" to Mr Sumaidaie, said a spokesman.

She has urged the Pentagon and state department to look into the matter immediately.

"All indications point to a killing of an unarmed innocent civilian - a cold blooded murder," said Mr Sumaidaie in his letter.

"I believe this killing must be investigated in a credible and convincingly fair way to ensure that justice is done, and the sense of grievance is mitigated, and to deter similar actions in the future."

Comment: To think that this killing is an isolated incident is the height of wishful thinking, or psychopathic lying. US troops in Iraq are an occupying army, the fascist occupiers dictating life and death to Iraqis in their own country, who were never "invited" in, much less welcomed as the heroic liberators so dear to Messers Rumsfeld and Cheney. They are America's storm troopers, the frontline of the new tyranny that seeks to submit the rest of the globe to the will of Bush's puppet masters.

But if you are reading this page, you knew that already.

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The lies behind the lies

Roy Greenslade salutes Dilip Hiro's Secrets and Lies, a depressing but magisterial assessment of the reasoning that led to the invasion of Iraq
Saturday July 2, 2005
The Observer

Secrets and Lies: The True Story of the Iraq War
by Dilip Hiro
564pp, Politico's, £9.99

Millions across the world who marched in the hope of preventing the invasion of Iraq were angered by the fact that their opposition was ignored. If they read this book their anger will be redoubled. But the people who will surely feel even more embittered are those who were taken in, having been persuaded by the arguments of President Bush and Prime Minister Blair to support the war.

Dilip Hiro coolly dismantles the political lies, distortions and obfuscations that allowed the United States and Britain to launch an illegal invasion of Iraq. That he does the job so meticulously - even, arguably, in too detailed a fashion on occasion - makes his overall indictment even more powerful than the scatter-gun approach of other war critics, such as Michael Moore.

Hiro brings to the subject a thorough knowledge of the Middle East, having written extensively about the region in several of his previous 26 books. Here is an author for whom, to paraphrase Bush's secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld, there are no unknown unknowns. He has made it his business to know exactly how Bush's White House team managed to prosecute a war based on a giant fabrication. That, of course, was the claim that Iraq's dictator, Saddam Hussein, had defied the United Nations by holding on to weapons of mass destruction that presented a threat to global stability. In order to support the central lie, to give it the semblance of credibility, there were scores of intertwined supporting lies. Saddam was not linked to al-Qaida and was not, therefore, responsible for 9/11. He did not buy uranium oxide from Niger. Iraq did not have a fleet of unmanned aircraft nor did it have mobile labs to produce chemical and biological weapons. Nor was it operating poison factories.

Hiro is painstaking as he holds up every piece of fake intelligence to scrutiny, revealing both its falsity and the propaganda use to which it was put. Every excuse advanced by Bush and Blair for the invasion is shown to be hollow, as they seek to conceal the main reason for their pre-emptive strike: the desire for regime change. In some of the most telling passages, Hiro reveals the key roles played by the sinister group who surrounded Bush, such as his deputy, Dick Cheney; Rumsfeld's deputy, Paul Wolfowitz; the under secretary of defence, Douglas Feith; the defence adviser Richard Perle; the president's chief political adviser, Karl Rove; and, of course, the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice. Meanwhile, the senior man, Colin Powell, the secretary of state, was largely isolated from Bush's gung-ho squad. Despite his policy disagreements however, he performed important tasks on behalf of the warriors, none more so than his lengthy speech to the UN Security Council in the build-up to the invasion. Hiro's point-by-point rebuttal of Powell's allegations is masterly.

In similar fashion he destroys the so-called evidence in Blair's now infamous dossiers on WMD and the far-fetched claim about Iraq being able to deploy such weapons within 45 minutes. Evidently, even the Americans scoffed at the statement, though they grew less concerned themselves about the WMD reasoning because they had successfully convinced their public that Saddam was one of the 9/11 culprits.

Hiro mounts convincing evidence that Bush was determined to invade Iraq on virtually any pretext soon after his first election victory. He also shows how, some seven months before the war, US special forces were operating within Iraq at the behest of Rumsfeld. Their work was specifically linked to an invasion that had not even been raised with the UN and while its weapons inspectors were still carrying out their tasks with what later transpired to be great efficiency.

The geopolitical manoeuvres are certainly riveting, but the more human, and inhuman, story emerges in the passages that tell of the invasion itself. There are several examples of just how badly the civilian Iraqi population suffered as the Anglo-American forces swept through their country. But the haunting moments come, just as they did in the revelations about the reality of the Vietnam war, when one discovers that neither politicians nor military leaders ever tell the truth. For example, the Pentagon strenuously denied that it had used napalm in Iraq, despite an Australian correspondent witnessing its use. That wasn't napalm, said a spokesman, it was a Mark 77 firebomb. As Hiro observes this statement was "cynical sophistry", since the Mark 77 is a mixture of kerosene and polystyrene, while napalm is a mixture of jet fuel and polystyrene. The result is just the same: death in a fireball.

There were also official denials about the use of lethal, and indiscriminate, cluster bombs. Yet Hiro is not only able to state that 1,566 cluster bombs were dropped along with more than 20,000 cluster munitions, he also reproduces a map to show exactly where they were used.

In the greater scheme of things it was a small lie, just one among so many. The promulgation of pre-war lies was followed by further lies during the war. Now Bush and Blair tell us that life in post-Saddam Iraq is improving. But why should we believe them?

Comment: There have been so many lies told by the principal war criminals during this war that it is hard to keep track. It is good to see them being assembled into one book. Not that it will change the minds of the Bush worshippers in the US who find his speeches so moving and eloquent. There are still many Americans who believe that Saddam was connected with 9/11, some of whom are in the Congress...

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GOP lawmaker: Saddam linked to 9/11

N.C. representative says 'evidence is clear'

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A Republican congressman from North Carolina told CNN on Wednesday that the "evidence is clear" that Iraq was involved in the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001.

"Saddam Hussein and people like him were very much involved in 9/11," Rep. Robin Hayes said.

Told no investigation had ever found evidence to link Saddam and 9/11, Hayes responded, "I'm sorry, but you must have looked in the wrong places."

Hayes, the vice chairman of the House subcommittee on terrorism, said legislators have access to evidence others do not.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said that Saddam was a dangerous man, but when asked about Hayes' statement, would not link the deposed Iraqi ruler to the terrorist attacks on New York, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania.

"I haven't seen compelling evidence of that," McCain, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told CNN.

On Tuesday night, President Bush mentioned the September 11 attacks five times during his address on the war in Iraq, prompting criticism from congressional Democrats.

The 9/11 commission, appointed by Bush, presented its final report a year ago, saying that Osama bin Laden had been "willing to explore possibilities for cooperation with Iraq" at one time in the 1990s but that the al Qaeda leader "had in fact been sponsoring anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan, and sought to attract them into his Islamic army."

The 520-page report said investigators found no evidence that any "contacts ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship."

"Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States," it said.

President Bush said in September 2003 that "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11 [attacks]."

Nevertheless, Hayes insisted that the connection between al Qaeda and Saddam and "folks who work for him" has been seen "time and time again."

"Nobody disputes 9/11," Hayes said. "They would do it again if not prevented."

Comment: Here's the transcript:

Carol Costello: President Bush said in his speech, "We're there to fight terrorists." But he failed to explain how a war to remove a dictator bent on using nuclear weapons has turned into a fight against Muslim militants. Doesn't he owe us an explanation?

Rep. Robin Hayes: He gave us a very good explanation of what the war's about. It's winning the war against terror and people who would kill us, innocent woman and children. This is about a military action against ruthless, brutal killers who have no conscience whatsoever about destroying us.

Costello: We understand that, but that's not what it started out [as], when the United States invaded Iraq. It's changed, hasn't it?

Hayes: I don't think it's changed at all. It's very clear that terrorists are connected to what Saddam Hussein was all about. That again faces us as the most severe threat going forward.

Costello: But there is no evidence that Saddam Hussein was connected, in any way, to al Qaeda.

Hayes: Ma'am, I'm sorry but you're mistaken. There is evidence everywhere. We get access to it. Unfortunately, others don't. But the evidence is very clear.

Costello: What evidence is there?

Hayes: The connection between individuals who are connected to Saddam Hussein, folks who worked for him. We've seen it time and time again. But the issue is, where are we now? Nobody disputes 9/11. They would do that again, if not prevented. Preventing 9/11 wherever it might happen in America, winning the war overseas, not bringing it here to our shores is the issue in that regard.

Costello: Are you saying that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11?

Hayes: I'm saying that Saddam Hussein -- and I think you're losing track of what we are talking about here -- Saddam Hussein and people like him were very much involved in 9/11. Did he make a phone call [trail off] ...

Costello: There's no evidence of that.

Hayes: I'm sorry you haven't looked in the right places.

Costello: I must not have. Because I know of no evidence connecting Saddam Hussein to Osama bin Laden or al Qaeda ...

It is a convenient excuse to say that the evidence exists but that it only being shown to members of the government for reasons of national security. It is disquieting that this exchange, on CNN, is being cited by certain analysts as tenacious:

Perhaps Costello became a little fixated, continuing to hammer Hayes on a statement that she had already made clear was not true. And that's good; it's about time TV news drew a line in the sand about acknowledged fact and refused to let people cross that line just because they are elected officials. [...]

Costello's tenacity was impressive -- an alert CNN anchor catching an obscure Congressman exposing the degree of his ignorance at 6 o'clock in the morning -- but should that be the news of the day?

The news is so bad in the US that this exchange serves, in some way, as a model for how it could be better!

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Analyst: Cooper Documents Reveal Karl Rove As Source

Time disclosure puts ‘turd blossom' in the frame
by OfficialWire NewsDesk

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- According to an article published Friday by Editor & Publisher, Assistant to the President, Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor Karl Rove is the confidential source who outed Valerie Plame to reporters as a CIA operative.

E&P reported that during a syndicated McLaughlin Group political talk show, senior MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O'Donnell said: "What we're going to go to now in the next stage, when Matt Cooper's e-mails, within Time Magazine, are handed over to the grand jury, the ultimate revelation, probably within the week of who his source is.

"And I know I'm going to get pulled into the grand jury for saying this but the source of...for Matt Cooper was Karl Rove, and that will be revealed in this document dump that Time magazine's going to do with the grand jury."

Retired ambassador Joseph C. Wilson already named Rove, back in August 2003, as the White House insider who leaked his wife's identity to the press.

Given Rove's track record for dirty-tricks and questionable ethics, few will be surprised.

In February 2005, Bush said: "Karl Rove is a long-time advisor and trusted member of my team. His hard work and dedication have been invaluable. I appreciate Karl's willingness to continue to serve my Administration in this new position."

While we wait for confirmation by the grand jury following Time magazine's decision to hand over subpoenaed records, it will be interesting to see how George W. Bush responds to the likelihood that his turd blossom may be headed to a federal prison.

Comment: Bush's brain is going to prison? Yeah, right...

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Supreme Court Justice O'Connor retires
By James Vicini
Friday, July 1, 2005; 4:39 PM

WASHINGTON - Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court and a moderate conservative who often cast the decisive vote on abortion and other contentious issues, announced her retirement on Friday, and a political battle immediately began over her successor.

"This is to inform you of my decision to retire from my position as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, effective upon the nomination and confirmation of my successor," O'Connor, 75, said in a letter to President Bush.

O'Connor gave no reason why she was resigning from the nine-member court, whose decisions play a central role in shaping the social, cultural and political fabric of the United States. It has been closely divided on such hot-button issues as abortion, the death penalty and church-state separation.

A court spokeswoman cited O'Connor's age and said the justice, who is one of America's most powerful women, needed to spend time with her husband. He has Alzheimer's disease, people close to the family have said.

"It has been a great privilege, indeed, to have served as a member of the court for 24 terms," O'Connor said in the one-paragraph letter released by the Supreme Court.

Her resignation was announced four days after the end of the court's term. There had been widespread speculation that Chief Justice William Rehnquist, 80, who has thyroid cancer, would resign at the end of the term, and even some of her colleagues did not think O'Connor would be leaving.

Her resignation allows Bush to make his first appointment to the high court, which must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Bush held off naming a replacement for at least a week but urged lawmakers to give his nominee "fair treatment."

Who Bush nominates could trigger a fierce fight between Republicans and Democrats and threaten a shaky truce over judicial nominations that has kept intact the minority's ability to block a controversial candidate.

Foreshadowing the likely battle over her successor, Bush came out into the White House Rose Garden with a message for lawmakers.

"The nation deserves and I will select a Supreme Court justice that Americans can be proud of. The nation also deserves a dignified process of confirmation in the United States Senate, characterized by fair treatment, a fair hearing and a fair vote," he said.

Comment: Of course, by "fair", Bush means biased in his favor...

O'Connor's departure, the first in more than a decade, could shift the balance of power on the court, which has been closely divided between the conservative majority and a more liberal faction. Her announcement immediately set off a flurry of comment and activity among interest groups and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, a leading liberal in the Democratic Party, immediately challenged Bush.

"If the president nominates someone who threatens to roll back the rights and freedom of the American people, the American people will insist we oppose that nominee, and we will do so," the Massachusetts lawmaker said.

O'Connor has been a key vote to preserve the constitutional right to abortion and to allow race to remain a factor to be considered in admissions at universities.


Bush pledged to be "deliberate and thorough" in naming a replacement and said he would announce a nominee in a timely manner in hopes of having the new justice start work when the court reconvenes for its new term in October.

One possibility is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the former White House counsel and a longtime Bush aide dating back to when Bush was governor of Texas. Bush may want to make history by selecting the first Hispanic American for the Supreme Court.

Other possible candidates are conservative U.S. Appeals Court judges J. Harvie Wilkinson, J. Michael Luttig, Michael McConnell, John Roberts, Samuel Alito and Emilio Garza.

If Bush wants to name a conservative woman, possibilities include federal appeals court judges Edith Jones and Edith Brown Clement and Judge Janice Rogers Brown of the California Supreme Court, who was recently confirmed as a U.S. appeals court judge.

O'Connor's resignation triggered dueling news conferences and speeches by Senate Democrats and Republicans as they jockeyed for position in the pending confirmation contest.

Simultaneously, special interest groups from the right and left revved up their multimillion-dollar radio, TV and Internet campaigns that will seek to shape public opinion and thus Senate votes on whoever Bush ultimately picks.

Sen. Arlen Specter, the Republican head of the Senate Judiciary Committee that will take up the nomination, said he would hold hearings in August if necessary. "The judiciary committee is prepared to proceed at any time," he said.

Senate Democrats, who blocked 10 of Bush's appeals court nominees during his first term, urged the president to consult with them before picking a Supreme Court candidate. Bush promised to consult with senators but was not specific.

Traveling in the Midwest, O'Connor got off a flight at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, preceded by Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad, who told her, "I hate to see you go."

"I hate to go too," she replied. "It's been a real privilege."

Comment: One of the chief means by which Hitler and the Nazis were able to commandeer Germany was by taking over the German judicial system. With O'Connor's departure a done deal and the impending retirement of Rehnquist, Bush and the Neocons have a prime opportunity to push through their nominations and secure their grip on the nation's Supreme Court.

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Kissinger regrets India comments
BBC News
Friday, 1 July, 2005
Henry Kissinger - next stop the Primordial Soup
Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has expressed regret over anti-India comments he made to former US President Richard Nixon.

"The Indians are bastards," Mr Kissinger said shortly before the India-Pakistan war of 1971, it was revealed this week.

Mr Kissinger also called former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi a "bitch" during the conversation.

At the time, the US saw India as too close to the Soviet Union.

The conversation was revealed in documents the US State Department declassified this month on US foreign policy of the time.

According to the documents, President Nixon called Indira Gandhi an "old witch" in a conversation with Mr Kissinger.

'High regard'

Mr Kissinger, 82, has now told a the private Indian television channel NDTV that his comments did not reflect American policy during the 1970s.

"I regret that these words were used. I have extremely high regard for Mrs Gandhi as a statesman," he said.

"The fact that we were at cross purposes at that time was inherent in the situation but she was a great leader who did great things for her country."

One key conversation transcript comes from the meeting between President Nixon and Mr Kissinger in the White House on 5 November 1971, shortly after a meeting with the visiting Indira Gandhi.

"We really slobbered over the old witch," says President Nixon.

"The Indians are bastards anyway," says Mr Kissinger. "They are starting a war there."

He adds: "While she was a bitch, we got what we wanted too. She will not be able to go home and say that the United States didn't give her a warm reception and therefore in despair she's got to go to war.

Mr Kissinger told NDTV that this was not a "formal conversation".

"This was somebody letting off steam at the end of a meeting in which both President Nixon and I were emphasising that we had gone out of our way to treat Mrs Gandhi very cordially," he said.

"There was disappointment at the results of the meeting. The language was Nixon language."

Relations between India and US have strengthened since Mr Kissinger's days.

"The US recognises that India is a global power, that is a strategic partner of the US on the big issues," Mr Kissinger said.

However, President Nixon and Mr Kissinger's remarks have angered India's ruling Congress party.

"It is shocking that the head of state of a country and his principal adviser chose to use such intemperate language against a popularly elected prime minister of another country," party spokesman Anand Sharma said.

"These words have no relevance today... we hope the present US leader also rejects these remarks which were definitely in very poor taste.

Comment: What a wonderful insight into the true nature and minds of those people who rise to the position of our "leaders". People make the mistake of thinking that, just as the cream rises to the top, so too only the best of humanity seek positions of power and are therefore the best choice to lead the rest of us. Of course, the exact opposite is true. As a general rule it is those people with an innate and strong proclivity towards self-interest and authority over others that seek political office, and their success in attaining more and more power is only limited by their ruthlessness. That is not to say that there aren't well-intentioned people that also enter the political arena, but such people get "eaten alive" and soon realise that they lack the qualities required to reach the top.

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Americans buying more guns, sales up 11%
Big News
Wednesday 29th June, 2005

Gun sales in the United States are shooting up, according to current and projected firearms sale figures from gunmaker Smith & Wesson Corp.

The 153-year-old Massachusetts company Wednesday said firearms sales for fiscal 2005 are expected to increase by approximately 11 percent over fiscal 2004 levels.

"We expect fiscal 2006 revenue growth in our core business in the range of 10 percent to 12 percent, with gross margins continuing to improve over the course of 2006," said Michael Golden, the company's chief executive.

"We plan to support this growth with incremental revenue from new products, including shipments of our award-winning Model 460-XVR revolver, named Handgun of the Year by the Shooting Industry Academy of Excellence."

Smith & Wesson is one of the largest gunmakers in the world.

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CIA methods exposed by kidnap inquiry
John Hooper in Rome
Saturday July 2, 2005
The Guardian

Agents' use of commercial mobiles gives Italian police detailed picture of how Muslim cleric was abducted

"I was walking down Via Guerzoni with my little girl and I saw a man with a long beard and a djellaba being stopped by two westerners with a mobile telephone. They were asking him, in Italian, for his documents, the way the police do," the witness said.

"At the junction with Via Croce Viola there was a pale-coloured van on the pavement," she continued. "Then, all I heard was a loud noise like a thud. The van suddenly shot backwards and then set off again, away from the mosque, passing me at high speed. And the three people I'd seen, they weren't there any longer."

One of them was Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, otherwise known as Abu Omar, a radical Muslim cleric living in Milan and under investigation by the Italian authorities on suspicion of involvement in Islamist terrorism.

His disappearance, in February 2003, caused an inquiry that attracted worldwide attention last month when a Milan judge ordered the arrest of 13 American secret service agents accused of the cleric's abduction.

Details from the inquiry have provided a unique glimpse of the way in which the CIA seizes its foes abroad. The prosecutors in charge of the inquiry claim that Abu Omar was the target of what the US terms an "extraordinary rendition", the seizure of a suspect by agents for dispatch to a third country, often one in which torture is common.

Washington says it obtains guarantees that suspects grabbed in this way will not be tortured. But, in a call to his wife last year after he was released and before he disappeared again, Abu Omar said he had almost died under torture in an Egyptian jail. His current whereabouts is unknown, though associates say he was rearrested last year.

By ploughing through hundreds of thousands of mobile phone records, tracing hotel registrations and bugging phone conversations, the Italian police have built up a picture of the CIA's operation that offers several surprises.

According to the police version of events, the CIA's special removal unit (SRU) can whistle up private jets to fly its captives unseen across international frontiers.

A Learjet allegedly took Abu Omar from the joint US base at Aviano in Italy to another US base at Ramstein, Germany, then a chartered Gulfstream V whisked him to Cairo. Yet barely a dollar was spent on making the team's communications secure.

The secret agents used ordinary mobile phones. Italian investigators put names to the abductors by matching their calls to the phone contracts they had signed. And they could be sure of the team's movements because they could see when the calls had been made and from which mobile phone.

In at least one case, calls were traced to a phone that was apparently returned to a US diplomatic pool. After a silence it was reactivated by an American citizen using the antenna 100 metres from the US embassy in Rome.

Investigators suspected Abu Omar was taken to Aviano, on discovering three calls made after the abduction by the apparent leader of the SRU to the mobile of the base's then security chief.

A second surprise is the numbers involved. The Italian investigators say they have identified 23 members of the operation, and have been able to put names to 20 of them. At least six were women and - a third surprise - there seem to have been intimate links between male and female colleagues.

SRU members made several, apparently recreational, trips within Italy as they waited to seize Abu Omar and, on at least two occasions, couples booked into double rooms.

Most of the names on their passports were false. But two are not, and one belongs to the man the Italian prosecutors claim was the coordinator of the operation.

The suspected operational leader of the SRU remains unidentified.

The inquiry showed that the biggest number of calls converged on the phone of someone identified in court papers merely as X.

On the day of the abduction, as the coordinator monitored events from his office at the consulate, X deployed his team.

Italian investigators concluded that the lookout was one of the women, a 33-year-old; and that a six-strong team actually carried out the abduction and delivered Abu Omar to the entrance to the A4 motorway where a second team of six was waiting to speed him to Aviano.

The last trace of X is a call the same day to Virginia, the state in which the CIA has its headquarters.

But the coordinator's Italian mobile sprang to life again on March 3 2003. And the company's records show that by then he, like Abu Omar, was in Egypt.

Yesterday, Mel Sembler, the US ambassador to Rome, who had been out of Italy, returned after being summoned to explain to the prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, an operation about which the Italian government insists it was never informed.

Mr Berlusconi demanded that the US "fully respect Italian sovereignty".

The US embassy declined to comment on the kidnapping allegations, though it did say yesterday that relations would continue to be underpinned by "mutual respect".

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Dahlan: Settlers poisoning land
The Jerusalem Post
Jun. 29, 2005 22:30

Palestinian Authority Minister of Civil Affairs Muhammad Dahlan, who is in charge of coordinating with Israel the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, on Wednesday accused Jewish settlers of "poisoning" the lands in the settlements slated for evacuation.

Dahlan told reporters in Gaza City that the aim of "poisoning" the lands was to cause severe damages to them so that the Palestinians would not be able to use them after the Israeli pullout.

"We have information that the Israeli settlers are poisoning the lands in order to damage them and to prevent Palestinians from using them in the future," he said.

Dahlan, said that the Palestinians regard the withdrawal from any piece of land as a "victory" for their will and an "achievement accomplished through the sacrifices of thousands of martyrs and wounded."

He warned, however, that Israel was planning to turn the Gaza Strip into a "big prison" after its withdrawal, noting that the PA was insisting that all border crossings into the area be handed over to the Palestinians.

"If Israel doesn't relinquish its control over crossings and terminals, this means that Israel is not withdrawing from the Gaza Strip; it means that Israel is deepening its occupation," Dahlan added.

Dahlan said that coordination with Israel was focusing on three issues; the Rafah border terminal, the safe passage between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and the Palestinian airport and harbor.

He said the coordination talks were also focusing on the assets inside the settlements and the "legal status" of the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank after the withdrawal.

According to Dahlan, the coordination with Israel does not mean that the Palestinians should make any concessions.

Dahlan complained that Israel was continuing its policy of foot-dragging with regards to the coordination process, pointing out that the Israeli government was refusing to hand over to the PA full information on the settlement assets.

"In principle, Israel will evacuate the border crossings, but details about that was not discussed and they didn't give clear answers about it. The Israeli government will keep the Karni [commercial] crossing working as it is now but with introducing some advanced technologies," Dahlan claimed.

He also claimed that Israel was not interested in having contiguity between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank because it prefers the current situation to remain as it is after the withdrawal. "The Israeli government doesn't understand the issue of the airport and they don't want us to use it or fix it or even reopen it after the withdrawal," he said.

Asked about the smuggling operations across the Egyptian border, Dahlan suggested that a third party should be involved in this issue to make sure that no weapons are smuggled into the Gaza Strip.

He described the recent meeting in Jerusalem between PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as "bad," adding that it had increased Palestinians' fears that Israel was planning to renege on the understandings reached earlier this year at the Sharm e-Sheikh summit.

Dahlan urged all Palestinian factions to coordinate with the PA their moves ahead of the withdrawal.

"These factions have not given responses yet as to whether they want to work with us," Dahlan said, adding that the "window of opportunity" was still open for all the groups.

Dahlan also called on Hamas and Islamic Jihad to consider joining a PA "national unity" cabinet.

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40 settlers beat Palestinian boy while soldiers watch
Palestine News Network, 10:30 am 30.06.05

As Jewish settlers become more violent in the Gaza Strip, even Israeli PM Sharon is calling yesterday's brutal attack on a Palestinian boy in Mawasi, "a barbaric, wild and heartless act."

Hilal Majidi is critical condition in the hospital after 40 settlers began attacking him after taking over a Palestinian home in the southern Gaza Strip. The settlers had nearly beaten the 18 year old to death before an Israeli journalist and cameraman pulled him away.

Israeli television broadcast images of Israeli settlers throwing stones and iron at the bloody boy while he was on the ground and an occupation soldier stood to the side and watched. Majidi tried to get up yet suddenly lost consciousness. An Israeli radio station reporter, Nisim Kanal, was an eyewitness. He reported that the Israeli soldiers prevented Palestinian ambulances and medical crews from reaching the boy. Another Israeli journalist, Itzik Saban, ran behind the soldier and pulled the injured boy away.

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Sharon: "Gaza will not have Jewish majority, other areas will"
Saed Bannoura, IMEMC & Agencies
Friday, 01 July 2005

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Thursday evening that disengagement from the Gaza Strip remains on track to be implemented on August 15, in accordance with the timetable previously approved by the government.

Speaking at the Caesarea Economic Forum in Jerusalem, Sharon said that he initiated the disengagement plan because he believes it is the best way to create needed national change.

"Disengagement from the Gaza Strip will have important effects on all aspects and issues in the state," Sharon said. "It will improve the situation in Israel, and might motivate the Palestinians to stop violence."

Sharon added that Israel decided to withdraw from the Gaza Strip because it is an area which will not have a Jewish majority and will not be part of Israel in any future solution.

"Therefore, we decided to increase the Jewish presence in the Negev, the Galilee, Greater Jerusalem (including east Jerusalem), settlement blocs in the West Bank, and all security zones," said Sharon.

"Now the whole world knows that Israel is ready for painful concessions,"
Sharon said, adding that his plan strengthened the "coalition between the United States and Israel." He referred to the letter he received in April 2004 from US President George Bush, approving Sharon's plan to annex settlement blocs in the West Bank and his rejection of Palestinian refugees' right of return.

Comment: And so we have it from the horses mouth. There will be no justice for the dispossessed Palestinian people, despite the Gaza Pullout. The 1.3 million Palestinians that are currently crammed into the 28 x 10 mile Gaza Strip will remain there, probably worse off than before while Messianic "Zionist" Jews continue their theft and destruction of the West Bank.

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Withdrawal is a prelude to annexation

US hypocrisy is not new but Condi Rice has taken it beyond chutzpah
Avi Shlaim
Wednesday June 22, 2005
The Guardian

Condoleezza Rice hailed the understanding between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on the need to destroy the homes of the 8,000 Jewish settlers in Gaza as a historic step on the road to peace. This is a fatuous statement by one of the most vacuous US secretaries of state of the postwar era.

American foreign policy has habitually displayed double standards towards the Middle East: one standard towards Israel and one towards the Arabs. To give just one example, the US effected regime change in Baghdad in three weeks but has failed to dismantle a single Jewish settlement in the occupied territories in 38 years.

The two main items on America's current agenda for the region are democracy for the Arabs and a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. America, however, insists on democracy only for its Arab opponents, not for its friends. As for the peace process, it is essentially a mechanism by which Israel and America try to impose a solution on the Palestinians. American hypocrisy is nothing new. But with Dr Rice it has gone beyond chutzpah.

With Ariel Sharon, by contrast, what you see is what you get. He has always been in the destruction business, not the construction business. As minister of defence in 1982, Sharon preferred to destroy the settlement town of Yamit in Sinai rather than hand it to Egypt as a reward for signing a peace treaty with Israel. George Bush once described his friend Sharon as "a man of peace". In truth, Sharon is a brutal thug and land-grabber.

Sharon is also the unilateralist par excellence. The road map issued by the quartet (US, UN, EU and Russia) in the aftermath of the Iraq war envisaged three stages leading to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel by the end of 2005. Sharon wrecked the road map, notably by continuing to expand Jewish settlements on the West Bank and building an illegal wall that cuts deep into Palestinian territory.

He presented his plan for disengagement from Gaza as a contribution to the road map; in fact it is almost the exact opposite. The road map calls for negotiations between the two sides, leading to a two-state solution. Sharon refuses to negotiate and acts to redraw unilaterally the borders of Greater Israel. As he told rightwing supporters: "My plan is difficult for the Palestinians, a fatal blow. There's no Palestinian state in a unilateral move." The real purpose of the move is to derail the road map and kill the comatose peace process. For Sharon, withdrawal from Gaza is the prelude not to a permanent settlement but to the annexation of substantial sections of the West Bank.

Sharon decided to cut his losses in Gaza when he realised that the cost of occupation is not sustainable. Gaza is home to 8,000 Israeli settlers and 1.3 million Palestinians. The settlers control 25% of the territory, 40% of the arable land and most of the water. This is a hopeless colonial enterprise, accompanied by one of the most prolonged and brutal military occupations of modern times. Bush publicly endorsed Sharon's plan to withdraw from Gaza and retain the four main settlement blocks on the West Bank without consulting the quartet - a reversal of the US position since 1967 that viewed the settlements as an obstacle to peace. Last year Sharon proposed handing the remaining Israeli assets in Gaza to an international body. Now he proposes to destroy the homes and farms.

The change of plan is prompted by Israeli fear that Hamas will claim credit for the withdrawal and raise its flag over the buildings vacated by the settlers. This is inevitable both because Hamas, not the PA, is the liberator of Gaza and because Israel is refusing to coordinate its moves with the PA. Another fear is that Hamas, supported by 35-40% of the Palestinian population, will emerge as a serious electoral challenger to Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement.

This is Condi's conundrum. If she is serious about spreading democracy in the Arab world she must accept the outcome of free elections; in most of the Arab world they would produce Islamist, anti-US governments. Israel has contributed more than any other country to this sorry state of affairs. Condi and the American right regard Israel as a strategic asset in the war on terror. In fact Israel is America's biggest liability. For most Arabs and Muslims the real issue in the Middle East is not Iraq, Iran or democracy but Israel's oppression of the Palestinian people and America's blind support for Israel.

America's policy towards the Middle East is myopic, muddled and mistaken. Only a negotiated settlement can bring lasting peace and stability to the area. And only America has the power to push Israel into such a settlement. It is high time the US got tough with Israel, the intransigent party and main obstacle to peace. Colluding in Sharon's selfish, uncivilised plan to destroy the Jewish homes in Gaza is not a historic step on the road to peace.

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The 3rd Category and the Palestinian Solidarity Movement
Gilad Atzmon

As far as self perception is concerned, those who call themselves Jews could be divided into three main categories:

1. those who follow Judaism.

2. those who regard themselves as human beings that happen to be of Jewish origin.

3. those who put their Jewishness over and above all of their other traits.

Obviously, the first two categories specify an harmless group of people. We do tend to respect religious people, as they are generally expected to be living inspired by their beliefs and are expected to abide by some sort of a higher spiritual code. Needless to say, we have no problem with the second category as well. One cannot choose one's origin. We agree that people must be respected and treated equally regardless of their origin or their racial and ethnic belonging.

However the third category is largely problematic. Clearly, its definition may sound inflammatory to some. And yet, bizarrely enough, it is a general formulation of Chaim Weizmann's view of the Jewish identity as expressed in his famous address at the First Jewish Congress: "There are no English, French, German or American Jews, but only Jews living in England, France, Germany or America."[1]

According to Weizmann, a prominent Zionist figure, Jewishness is a primary quality. You may be a Jew who dwells in England, a Jew who plays the violin or even a Jew against Zionism. But above all else you are a Jew. And this is exactly the idea conveyed by the 3rd category. It is all about viewing Jewishness as the key element in one's being. Any other quality is secondary.

This is exactly the message the early Zionists were interested in promulgating. For Weizmann, Jewishness is a unique quality that stops the Jew from assimilating within the nation he is a citizen of. He will always remain an alien. This very line of thinking was more than apparent in most early Zionist writings. Jabotinsky, the founder of right wing Zionism, takes it even further. He is more than firm that assimilation is impossible due to some biological conditioning. Here is what he had to say about the German Jew: "A Jew brought up among Germans may assume German customs, German words. He may be wholly imbued with that German fluid but the nucleus of his spiritual structure will always remain Jewish, because his blood, his body, his physical racial type are Jewish." (Vladimir Jabotinsky, 'A Letter on Autonomy', 1904). The reader may notice that these outrageous racist ideas predate Nazism. Jabotinsky wasn't alone, even the Marxist Ber Borochov who refers the Jewish condition to some historical and material circumstances is suggesting a remedy that is particular to Jewish people, i.e. Jewish Nationalism in which Jews will practice some proletarian activity, namely production. As it seems, Borochov lets Jews be separated from the international proletarian revolution. Why does he do this? Just because Jews are uniquely Jewish or at least the Zionists tend to believe they are.

However, one may rightly ask whether it was the Zionists who invented this 3rd category?

In fact, it is not that way at all.

Seemingly, Shakespeare had noticed this very pattern three hundred years earlier. Shylock, the famous money lender from Venice was a proper 3rd category Jew. He clearly admits that more than anything else he is a Jew who possesses many human features. ‘I am a Jew' says Shylock, "Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?" And yet Shylock insists that he shares many human features: "Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is." Shylock claims to be essentially similar to the entire humanity: "If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?...."[2] Noticeably, according to Shylock the Jew is as vulnerable as an ordinary human being and yet he is primarily Jewish.

This is indeed the essence of Zionism, The Zionist is first and foremost a Jew. He can't be just an ordinary British citizen who happens to be of a Jewish descent. He is rather a Jew who dwells in Britain. He is a Jew who speaks English, he is a Jew who gets his health services from the NHS, he is a Jew who happens to drive on the left side of the road. He is the ultimate Other. Generally speaking, 3rd category Jews are the ultimate Others. Just because they are always somewhere at the margins of or apart from any given human condition or human landscape.

Zionist agents

As it seems, Shylock was a Zionist, he fitted perfectly into Weizmann's model. He was a 3rd category Jew. However, Shylock didn't make it to Palestine. He didn't engage himself in confiscating Palestinian land. He wasn't even an Israeli soldier. In fact the 3rd category Jew doesn't have to move to Palestine. Apparently, dwelling in Zion is merely just one possible practice within the Zionist philosophy. In order to become a proper Zionist you don't have to wander. Sometimes it is actually better if you stay exactly wherever you are. Let us read what Victor Ostrovsky, an ex-Mossad agent, is telling us about 3rd category Jews.

"The next day Ran S. delivered a lecture on the sayanim, 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 telling the person bearing the letter that he 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." [3]

I assume that it must be clear that sayanim are basically 3rd category Jews. People who regard themselves primarily as Jews. The sayan is a man who would betray the nation in which he is a citizen just to satisfy a bizarre notion of a clannish brotherhood.

Zionism, an International Network

We are now starting to realise that Zionism shouldn't be seen merely as a nationalist movement with a clear geographical aspiration. It isn't exactly a colonial movement with an interest in Palestine. Zionism appears to be an international movement that is fuelled by the solidarity of 3rd category subjects. To be a Zionist means just to accept that more than anything else you are primarily a Jew.

Ostrovsky continues:

"You have at your disposal a non-risk 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….Now one might suggest that, for example, Great Britain could use a similar system and recruit among WASPS around the world. But they don't, because they can't. It takes an extraordinary degree of racial solidarity and racial motivation to develop and maintain such a "non-risk recruitment system" and see to it that it works properly. Remember, all of these activities are spying, with long prison sentences if caught. Americans of English, Irish and Italian ancestry may have some residual loyalties to the old "mother country." But this residue is nothing like the racial solidarity of the Jews. Such racial feelings are so strong and so pervasive among Jews that the Mossad knew in advance that their recruitment system was "non-risk." Britain, Ireland, Italy and the Vatican know better than to try to implement such a thing. [4]

Ostrovsky is talking here about ‘racial solidarity'. But in fact, Jews are far from being a single race. As funny as it may sound, most Palestinians are more racially Jewish than the Ashkenazi Jews.

So if it isn't a racial solidarity, what is it that leads the sayan to run the risk of years of imprisonment? What did Jonathan Pollard have in his mind when he clearly betrayed his country? What do those 2,000 sayanim here in London have in their minds when they betray their Queen? I assume that we are left here with one possibility: the solidarity of the 3rd category Jews. It is namely a solidarity of the people who regard themselves primarily as Jews.

I tend to regard Ostrovsky's testimony as a very reliable report. As we know, at the time, the Israeli government was using every possible means to stop the publication of his books. In fact, this strange Israeli activity was more than an affirmation that Ostrovsky was indeed a Mossad agent and that the story that he is telling is rather genuine.

In a radio interview Joseph Lapid, at the time an Israeli senior columnist, opened his heart and told the world what he thought of Ostrovsky: "Ostrovsky is the most treacherous Jew in modern Jewish history. And he has no right to live, except if he's prepared to return to Israel and stand trial."[5]

Valerie Pringle, the journalist on the other side of the line asked Lapid: "Do you feel it's a responsible statement to say what you've said?"

Lapid: "Oh yes, I fully believe in that. And unfortunately the Mossad cannot do it because we cannot endanger our relations with Canada. But I hope there will be a decent Jew in Canada who does it for us."

Pringle: "You hope this. You could live with his blood on your hands?"

Lapid: "Oh no. It's to...only it will not be his blood on my hands. It will be justice to a man who does the most horrible thing that any Jew can think of, and that is that he's selling out the Jewish state and the Jewish people for money to our enemies. There is absolutely nothing worse that a human being, if he can be called a human being, can do".

Lapid, later a member in Sharon's cabinet, makes it more than clear: to be a Jew is a deep commitment that goes far beyond any legal or moral order. It is far more essential than any universal ethical perception. Clearly, for Lapid, Jewishness is not a spiritual stand, it is a political commitment. It is a world view that applies to the very last Jew on this planet. As he says: the Mossad can't really kill Ostrovsky, thus, it is down to a ‘decent Canadian Jew' to do the job. As is evident, a Zionist journalist is expressing here the most outrageous of views. He encourages a fellow Jew to commit a murder in the name of the Jewish brotherhood. In short, not only does Lapid affirm Ostrovsky's report about the world of sayanim, he also confirms Weizmann's view that from a Zionist point of view, there are no Canadian Jews but only Jews who live in Canada.

I think that the above leaves us with enough room to conclude that at least in the Zionists' eyes, Jewishness is basically an international network operation. Ostrovsky calls it ‘racial solidarity', I call it 3rd category brotherhood and Weizmann calls it Zionism. But it all means the very same thing. It is all about commitment, a global agenda that pools more and more Jews into an obscure, dangerous fellowship. Apparently, Zionism is not about Israel. Israel is just a colony, a territorial asset violently maintained by a mission force composed of 3rd category Jews. In fact, there is no geographical centre to the Zionist endeavor. It is hard to determine where the centre of Zionist decision making is. Is it in Jerusalem? In the Knesset, in Sharon's cabinet, in the Mossad, or maybe in the ADL offices in America? It might as well be somewhere in Wall Street? Who knows?

But then, it is of course more than possible that there is no decision making process at all. The beauty of a network operative system is that not a single operator within the network is fully familiar with the network but is only aware of his personal role within it. This is probably the biggest strength of the Zionist movement.

Looking at Zionism as a global network operation would determine a major shift in our perspective of current world affairs:

The Palestinians, for instance, aren't just the victims of the Israeli occupation, they are rather the victims of 3rd category Jews who decided to transform Palestine into a Jewish national bunker. The Iraqis, are better seen as the victims of the those 3rd category Jews who decided to transform the American army into a Jewish mission force. The Muslim world should be seen as a subject to some neo-conservative 3rd category tendency to make Nathan Sharansky's Democratic ideology into the new American Bible for the 3rd world.

It is pretty depressing indeed.

The Jewish humanist

The Palestinian activist Reem Abdehadi, when asked for her opinion about Jewish anti Zionist campaigners, said sarcastically: "they are very nice, all fifteen of them…"

We must admit that not many Jews are there to fight against Zionism. However, amongst those few who engage themselves in this battle we find some people who insist upon doing so under the Jewish banner, e.g. Jews Against Zionism, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, etc.

While writing this paper I have started to ask myself what category those Jewish leftist groups belong to. Clearly, they do not fit into the 1st category. Jewish left is a ‘religious' atheist tendency. They really don't like to involve God in politics or in anything else. In most cases they are hostile to Judaism and even to those Orthodox Jews who happen to stand up to Zionism. But it isn't only Judaism that they dislike. They aren't fond of Islam or Christianity either. Those amongst them who endorse the idea of a one state solution do insist that the future Palestine must be ‘a secular' and a democratic state'. Not that I am in any position to suggest what the future Palestine is going to be, I would just try to propose that it must be down to the citizens of this future state to decide what type of kingdom they prefer to live in.

Anyhow, those Jewish leftists fail as well to fit into the 2nd category. They do not regard themselves as ordinary humanists who happen to be of Jewish descent. If they were, they would simply join the Palestinian Solidarity movement like other Jews who prefer to act mainly as humanists. But then, rather than joining the Solidarity Campaign, they form some exclusive political cells that allow them to operate under the Jewish banner.

Consequently, we must admit that they all belong to the 3rd category. In fact they prefer to regard themselves as ‘Jews who hold some leftist views'. Clearly, amongst those groups you will find some wonderful people who genuinely believe that Zionism is wrong, that Zionism is racist and nationalist. But in fact these people are themselves operating as 3rd category Jews. They all act politically under a Jewish banner. In practical terms, they all follow Weizmann's school. Rather than being Humanists who happen to be Jewish (2nd category), they are Jews who happen to be Humanists. But then, since acting politically under a Jewish banner is in fact the very definition of Zionism, it is reasonable to deduce that all Jewish left activity is in practice not more than a form of left Zionism. One may ask whether it is really possible to be a left Zionist? Is there left and right in a network group that is set primarily on a racial category and clannish brotherhood?

The answer is no. There is no left and right within Zionism but rather different right wing political apparatuses. Some Zionist political calls are adopting the shape of left discourse. I had noticed for instance that Jewish Marxists insist upon calling each other comrade. In fact they are mainly engaged in Marxist verbal rituals. But apparently, this isn't enough. Ideology is more than a mere language game. In reality, those Jewish left clubs are operating as the body shield of the 3rd category identity. This may explain the fact that as far as the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign is concerned, those groups are primarily engaged in guarding some 3rd category Jewish interests that have very little to do with the Palestinians and their daily misery.

If to be more precise, those Jewish left groups are engaged mainly in searching for ‘anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers and Jew haters. Somehow, they always find them amongst the most active and devoted 2nd category Jews. As it seems (to me at least), for these Jewish sporadic cells, Palestinian solidarity is just another instrument to draw attention to the myth of Jewish humanism. I will try to be very clear and transparent here. There is no Jewish secular humanism. No doubt many humanists happen to be Jewish and yet there is not a single Jewish secular humanist theorem or text.[6] This is mainly because Jewish secularity is not a philosophical position. It is rather a complete abandonment of God. Jewish secularity is a form of ethnicity based merely on some exclusive tendencies and a vague collective memory of some ritual heritage.

So, is there a Jewish Conspiracy to run the world?

Not really. First it must be clear that 1st and 2nd category Jews have nothing to do with all the above. For 1st category Jews, being Jewish means practicing Judaism. To follow a spiritual call and to obey God's law. As we know, Zionism is still far from being popular amongst ultra orthodox Rabbis. However, I must admit that some would rightly argue that following the teaching of the Talmudic law many religious Jews do regard themselves as a chosen category. For me, this simply means that they fall into the 3rd category rather than the 1st one. This probably applies to the orthodox sects that allied with Zionism throughout the course of time.

The second category Jews have no intention of taking part in any global Jewish networking. They regard themselves as an ordinary and liberated human beings with no special privilege. Amongst the 2nd category Jews we find the most enlightening emancipated humanists. Those very great intellects that contributed to 20th century liberal and humanist thinking. As we all know, hardly any of them came from Israel or a Zionist faction.

When it comes to the 3rd category, we are faced with a slight problem. I tend to believe that the 3rd category Jews are mutually acting together. But then whether they are fully aware of it or not is a big question. Throughout the years they have formed a network that operates as a global Zionist body shield. They simply act in harmony, they protect each other. Even when they fight against one another, they depict an image of pluralism. I think that this is the essence of Zionism's miraculous success.

A week ago I read a brilliant insight by Rowan Berkeley on Peacepalestine website. Rowan, a Londoner whom I know vaguely, had been flirting in the past with the idea of becoming a Jew. In the following comment he is aiming to explain the common Jewish take on Zionism. In fact, without realising it, he describes the 3rd category tactic:

"First they ask, Do you believe that (Jewish) Nationalism is a Good Thing, or a Bad Thing?

"If you say it is a Good Thing, they will direct you to the Jewish Right, which will tell you that Jews have as much of a right to be nationalistic as anybody else does.

"If you say it is a Bad Thing, they will direct you to the Jewish Left, which will tell you that you are not allowed to protest against Zionism on any basis other than Marxist or Anarchist Proletarian Internationalism - thus disqualifying almost all the actually existing anti-Zionist movements in the Arab world.

"They can get away with this ideological shell game because each individual discursive arena is controlled by one or another Jewish faction."[7]

Yes, I do believe that Rowan's insight hits the nail right on the head. He is absolutely correct. But then, unlike Rowan I do believe that Jews Against Zionism are genuine. They simply fight Zionism without realising that they themselves are Zionists. Without realising that they are the most orthodox followers of Weizmann's school. If they are really interested in bringing Zionism down, their tactics are obviously wrong.

I wrote to some of them about the subject before, I have seen some discussion about my views in many different Jewish left circles and yet, I have never come across any argumentative response from any of those sporadic exclusive groups. Rather than being confronted with my thoughts, they are solely engaged in labeling. I have already been: ‘a self hating Jew', ‘a Christian fundamentalist', ‘a Holocaust denier', ‘an apologist for Holocaust deniers', ‘a neo-nazi', ‘a Stalinist', ‘a Zionist agent', ‘an anti-Semite' and many more.

Two weeks ago, a small group of Jewish leftists picketed against me in front of a Marxist bookshop. I tried to write to them arguing that if Palestine is on top of one's agenda, a protest in front of the Israeli embassy or any other 3rd category Jewish institute would be far more effective. They dismissed my call.

I am fully aware of the fact that crucifying me and burning my books is no doubt a proper 3rd category practice, but unfortunately it isn't going to help the Palestinian at the checkpoint. It isn't going to help the millions of refugees who have been living for almost six decades without elementary rights.

Israel is an inhuman political setup and we therefore must fight it as human beings rather than as sporadic ethnic or religious groups.


[1] (Chaim Weizman, First Zionist Congress 1897).

[2] (Shylock, The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare).

[3] By Way of Deception", Victor Ostrovsky , St. Martin's, 1990 pg 86-7

[4] Ibid pg 87


[6] If anything, Zionism in its early days was aiming towards the establishment of such a philosophy, a form of Jewish secular ethics. Obviously such an attempt was doomed to failure. Just because Zionism is unethical by definition, being that it engages in the continual ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian people.


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Academics 'bullied' over ID cards

Ministers "bullied" academics who wrote a report criticising plans for identity cards, the director of the London School of Economics (LSE) has alleged.

The LSE report sparked a row after it claimed the cost of ID cards could reach three times the government's estimate of £6bn over 10 years.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke said the study was "technically incompetent".

In a letter to the Times, LSE's Howard Davies said the government had adopted a "bullying" approach to his team.

Mr Clarke said the findings of the study, published earlier this week were "fabricated" and did discredit to the LSE's reputation.

In a Commons debate on the subject, he also accused one of the academics who helped to prepare the report of being "partisan" because he was already set against the cards.

The report was the result of six months' work, involved the contributions of more than 60 people and had been overseen by a dozen professors from LSE, Mr Davies said in his letter.

'Honest views'

Mr Clarke had branded the study as "mad" before he had even seen it, Mr Davies added.

"The report is not, of course, a corporate LSE document," he said.

"It does, however, represent the honest and considered views of a team of experts.

"It is unfortunate that, on an issue where the civil liberties concerns are so serious, the government should have chosen to adopt a bullying approach to critics whose prime motivation was to devise a scheme which might work at an acceptable cost."

'Details leaked'

The LSE report also claimed plans for ID cards were too risky and lacked the trust of the public.

And the government's proposed system was so complex it could itself become a target of terrorists, the academics warned.

Responding to the letter, a Home Office spokesman said Mr Clarke stood by his comments last week.

"Details of the LSE report have been leaked to the media over a period of two weeks," he said.

"The Home Office was repeatedly asked to comment on those details and it therefore seemed appropriate to ask for a copy.

"Despite numerous requests, the LSE refused to provide one."

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Nobody has nothing to hide

Identity cards will deprive the innocent of one of their most basic rights
Muriel Gray
Saturday July 2, 2005
The Guardian

Years ago, we lived next door to a delightful old bachelor called Charlie. In his 60s when we met him, he told us he'd been an RAF pilot in the war, had never married and was spending his nest egg by constantly touring Scotland on luxury coach trips on which he invariably befriended coiffured ladies.

It was only on his deathbed that he told our flatmate his name was not Charlie. The fighter pilot tales were true, but he had been married with two daughters and, in a disquieting parallel with King Lear, had been so appalled by their behaviour during his wife's illness and after her death that he fled, changing his identity to ensure that they would never find him to lock him in a home and steal his money. He died peacefully under his invented name, having had 10 years of joy and freedom.

I also recall Mary (let's call her that), who worked in television production in London, but came from rural Ireland. It took years to come out, but she eventually revealed to trusted friends that she lived under an assumed identity. Two male family members had sexually abused her since childhood, which her mother refused to believe. When she left she knew the entire family were searching for her with a vigour that included private detectives. The fear that they would find her and make themselves part of her future children's lives was too terrible to contemplate. Life as someone else was a chance to start again, a chance she grabbed with huge courage.

The reason for recalling these cases is that in the continuing debate over the government's baffling adherence to its insidious identity card scheme, its defence boils down to one cliche: if you're innocent you have nothing to hide. This is not simply an outrageously stupid statement, but also plain wrong. Charlie and Mary were entirely innocent but they had plenty they wished to hide.

The argument for and against compulsory ID cards has so far focused mainly on the delicate relationship between state and citizen, concentrating on the very real potential for the government to betray our trust and covertly use the information for its increasingly barking mad purposes.

What has been ignored, however, is that the inevitable commercial and practical implications of a compulsory card will have consequences just as far-reaching as the MI5 man being able to idly scan your hospital appointments to see when your warts were burned off.

There is no question whatsoever that, should compulsory cards be introduced and their production required to access government services, commercial services will immediately follow suit. Regardless of Charles Clarke's weak assurances on the card's limited application, we can be sure that it will quickly become impossible to book a hotel room, hire a car, open a bank account or make any kind of significant commercial transaction without producing the card.

Currently, you or I can open a bank account under any name we wish. We can procure a credit card under that name. We can have gas, electricity and telephone lines brought to our home and pay for them under that name. We can book into a hotel as Donald Duck or travel round our own country by air or train as Pocahontas, all of which will be rendered impossible when the commercial sector decides to exploit a scheme that ensures customers can hide nothing.

Never again will a couple book into that Cornish hotel as Mr and Mrs Smith and fail to show for breakfast. The staunch defenders of the ID scheme question why one would wish to fabricate such deceptions, but the reason is that the enigmatic stranger is a keystone of the British notion of freedom. The romantic ideal that anyone can be who they wish to be is so stitched into our mythology and literature - from strangers on trains to millionaire philanthropists posing as paupers and ambitious youngsters escaping class restraints by altering their identity - that its loss would be a tragedy.

The "innocent have nothing to hide" cliche implies that it is only the guilty who wish to deceive, to be deeply secretive, when in fact the innocent also have plenty of valid reasons to wish to do so. Since it will be the commercial demands for the proof of identity that will bring about the practical and daily curtailment of freedom, the government will be able to hold up its hands in mock horror and say: "But we never insisted you show your ID card to join a health club or buy a TV set." Yeah, right.

Ironically, criminals will be ably assisted by the ID card, which they will doubtless forge with great skill. Meanwhile those of us who like our secrets kept will be exposed by market forces when they bully us to conform. The innocent have much to hide. It's called a private life.

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Exhausted Schröder clears the way for early election
By Tony Paterson in Berlin
The Independent
Published: 02 July 2005

Describing his ailing Social Democrat-led government as torn by dissent and without trust in his policies, Germany's Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, has deliberately lost a parliamentary vote of confidence in a move that opens the way for early elections this autumn.

In a long-awaited and dramatic session of the Bundestag yesterday, MPs voted against the government by 296 votes to 151 with 148 abstentions after Mr Schröder delivered a damning account of his coalition's inability to pursue his economic reform programme.

The vote of no-confidence, a tactic last employed by Mr Schröder's predecessor, Helmut Kohl more than 20 years ago, allows President Horst Köhler 21 days to decide whether to call an early general election, likely to be held on 18 September.

Opinion polls suggest that the opposition Christian Democrats are on course to oust Mr Schröder's coalition of Social Democrats and Greens and sweep Angela Merkel, the conservative leader, to power as the first female chancellor.

Looking pale and visibly distraught, Mr Schröder told the Bundestag that his government was in effect a lame-duck administration unable to pursue its policies at home, in Europe or abroad. "Without a new mandate my political programme cannot be carried forward," he said. "We need the support of voters to continue what has been begun."

The Chancellor's decision to call for a general election this autumn, a year earlier than planned, was prompted by the shattering defeat suffered by the Social Democrats last May in elections in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Mr Schröder's party was ousted by the opposition conservative Christian Democrats for the first time in 39 years in the country's most populous state. The vote was widely seen as massive popular rejection of his attempts to reform Germany's sluggish economy and reduce the burden of 4.7 million unemployed.

The Chancellor provided an insight yesterday, into the shortcomings of his own Social Democrats, a party torn by arguments over his Agenda 2010 economic reform programme and filled with left-wing dissenters threatening to quit and join a new left-wing party.

"The defeat in North Rhine-Westphalia has led to heated debate within the party about its future course. It is simply come down to the question of whether the Agenda 2010 reforms are necessary at all or whether they should be revoked," he said.

"The steady confidence that I need to carry out my reforms is no longer present even within my own coalition government. Dissent and criticism of my policies are on the increase. This is a high price to pay for reform."

Mr Schröder's merciless portrayal of his own administration was welcomed by Mrs Merkel. She described his decision to call for an early election as " an unavoidable course of action which will spare months of tortuous debate".

Yet despite the gravity of the occasion, Germany's first prospective female chancellor managed to cause outbursts of laughter and jeers in the Bundestag after making a series of embarrassing slip-ups in her speech. Mrs Merkel's attempt to savage Mr Schröder for his "inability to rule effectively" came out as "I offer my respect for your ability" and was met by a chorus of laughter.

Her later attempt to say that her conservative CDU could govern more effectively became: "The CDU together with the SPD", earning more laughter, jeers and an ear-to-ear smile from an otherwise exhausted-looking Mr Schröder.

"Don't laugh too soon" was Mrs Merkel's retort.

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Coal, Ore Shipping Costs Decline Near 21-Month Low
June 16, 2005

Shipping costs for commodities such as iron ore and coal fell near the lowest since September 2003 as the global fleet expanded and Chinese steel mills reduced imports, cutting expenses for mining companies and steelmakers.

About a third of the dry-bulk vessels scheduled for delivery from shipyards this year have been sent to owners, according to Paris-based shipbroker Barry Rogliano Salles. Steel mills in China, the world's biggest importer of iron ore, held 40 million metric tons of reserves in April, equal to about three months of production, UBS AG said in a May 27 report.

"There was clearly an oversupply of iron ore held in China, which has reduced demand on long haul routes from Brazil,'' said Colin Cridland, director of research at London-based Braemar Seascope Group Plc. Brazil is the second-biggest iron ore exporter after Australia.

Companies such as Melbourne-based BHP Billiton, the world's biggest mining company, and Rio de Janeiro-based Cia. Vale do Rio Doce, the world's biggest iron ore producer, use ships to transport their products. Falling freight rates cut raw-material transport costs for mining companies and steel producers.

The Baltic Dry Index, which measures the cost of hauling commodities on ships of several sizes and routes, fell 50 points, or 1.9 percent, to 2586, the lowest since Sept. 23, 2003, according to the Baltic Exchange in London. The index has slumped 58 percent from a record 6208 points on Dec. 6.

Share Decline

Shares of Golden Ocean Group Ltd., an Oslo-based owner of dry bulk ships, closed at 3.60 kroner (55 cents) in Oslo, down 0.09 krone, or 2.4 percent.

Steel production in China rose 36 percent in May, Beijing- based Mainland Marketing Research Co. said June 15, hurting prices worldwide. Benchmark steel in Europe slumped 13 percent this month to $465 a metric ton, according to Metal Bulletin.

China's industrial production rose a faster-than-expected 16.6 percent from a year earlier to a record 570 billion yuan ($69 billion), the Beijing-based National Statistics Bureau said on its Web site yesterday.

"I expect we may see weaker numbers in the statistics for June and July,'' said Jarle Hammer, chief economist at Oslo-based shipbroker Fearnleys.

Dry-bulk shipping rates also slumped last year, dropping 54 percent from a peak in January to a six-month low of 2622 points on June 22, as measured by the Baltic Dry Index. Freight rates are set to rebound in the second half, Hammer said.

'Probably Pick up'

"The market will probably pick up sharply,'' Hammer said. "It's not like China is being turned off. They are taking a breather before hurrying along again,''

About 124 dry-bulk vessels were sent to owners so far this year, Barry Rogliano said. Another 219 vessels are scheduled for delivery during the rest of the year.

Freight rates for Capesizes transporting iron ore from Brazil to China's Beilun and Baoshan ports fell 19 cents, or 1 percent, to $18.67 a metric ton, according to the Baltic Exchange, down from a record $46.56 a ton on Dec. 8.

Capesizes are the largest dry-bulk ships and carry as much as 170,000 tons of cargo.

The Baltic Capesize Index, which measures rates for ships loading 150,000 tons of cargo or more, fell 2.3 percent. Panamax ships fell 2 percent to 2619 points. The biggest ships that can navigate the Panama Canal, they load about 70,000 tons. Handymax vessels, loading about 50,000 tons, fell 1.4 percent today.

China has fueled a boom in shipping demand that has lasted more than two years. Surging demand for coal and iron ore has caused congestion at ports, tying up capacity.

Comment: A reader sent us the following article from The Privateer:


Phase I was the prolonged period of interest rate cutting - started by the Fed and quickly echoed by other Central Banks - in an attempt to overcome an economic slowdown by the typical means of accelerating the credit expansion. This method literally papers over the real underlying economic problems at the cost of piling outstanding debts ever higher.

The method is popular because, for a while, the accelerated issuance of credit underpins many global players and they continue to operate. The problem is that their commercial problems remain unaddressed. Now, here comes the biggest of these problems, global ocean freight rates.

In A Matter Of Weeks:

Over the past six weeks, global shipping charter rates have crashed. Iron ore rates from Australia to China have plunged by 67% to less that $US 10 a ton. Those from Brazil to China have fallen more than 50% to less than $US 21 a ton. While most commodity and basic material prices are close to historic highs, the price of shipping them has suddenly crashed.

Now, the prices of these basic materials have started to fall. Bulk steels have fallen by more than $US 100 a ton (that's more than 17 percent) since the start of March. Hot rolled steel prices have fallen by more than 30 percent since last October. Sector by sector, the prices of basic steel are now going down, sector by sector.

Over the course of the global business cycle, ocean freight rates are often the last "prices" to move upwards. When they do move, they validate the global upswing. Older ships are re-commissioned. Later in the upswing, newer ones are built. As long as ocean freight rates climb, the upturn is for real. But when freight rates top out and start to dive, they give the global signal of the downturn. [...]

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Shark Bites Tourist's Ankle in Florida
Fri Jul 1, 6:06 PM ET

BOCA GRANDE, Fla. - A shark bit an Austrian tourist on the ankle Friday while he stood in chest-deep water in the Gulf of Mexico, the state's third shark attack in a week.

Armin Trojer, 19, of Baden, Austria, was airlifted by helicopter to a hospital in Fort Myers, where he was in good condition, hospital spokeswoman Pat Dolce said. He is scheduled to have surgery Friday to repair torn ligaments and tendons.

"It is a confirmed shark attack," Lee County sheriff's spokeswoman Ileana LiMarzi said. "Someone else in the water saw a shark."

Paramedics also indicated the wound was consistent with a shark bite, she said. The man was bitten near the lighthouse at Gasparilla Island Beach.

"We are out there right now letting people know, notifying people on the beach about what happened," LiMarzi said. The beach was not closed to swimmers as no other sharks were spotted during helicopter flights over the area.

Two other young people have been bitten since Saturday along Florida's Gulf Coast. Friday's incident was about 280 miles from an attack Monday on a 16-year-old Tennessee boy who lost his leg and about 350 miles from the spot where a 14-year-old Louisiana girl was killed Saturday.

Experts believed bull sharks attacked both teens in the Florida Panhandle. The type of shark involved in Friday's attack was not immediately determined.

Florida averaged more than 30 shark attacks a year from 2000 to 2003, but there were only 12 attacks off the state's coast last year, said George Burgess, curator of the International Shark Attack File at University of Florida.

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Deep Impact Spacecraft Ready for Mission
Jul 1, 5:28 PM (ET)

PASADENA, Calif. - A NASA spacecraft was speedily closing in on its target Friday, a comet scientists hope to smash open this weekend, producing celestial fireworks for the Independence Day weekend.

But the real purpose is to study the comet's primordial core.

Mission scientists said the Deep Impact spacecraft was 1 1/2 million miles away from Tempel 1, a pickle-shaped comet half the size of Manhattan.

"We're closing in very rapidly, but we're still very far away," said Michael A'Hearn, an astronomer at the University of Maryland and principal investigator of the $333 million project.

The cosmic fireworks will not be visible to the naked eye. But skygazers with telescopes can view the collision 83 million miles up from parts of the Western Hemisphere - in the United States, west of a line from Chicago to Atlanta, around 2 a.m. EDT Monday if all goes as planned.

Launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., Deep Impact began a six-month, 268-million-mile voyage Jan. 12 toward Tempel 1. If all goes well, it will be the first time that scientists have ever peered into the heart of a comet.

The collision will not significantly alter the comet's path around the sun and scientists say the experiment poses no danger to Earth. [...]

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Deep Impact
SOTT Commentary

It's all over the news and the internet: the US, which loves big explosions and light shows, is celebrating the Fourth of July this year with the rendezvous between spacecraft "Deep Impact" and the comet Tempel 1, at which time Deep will shoot a projectile into the comet's surface in order to, as the PR department puts it, "solve one of the mysteries of the solar system".

Exactly what they will discover or are hoping to discover is a little vague in the popular accounts. "Scientists expect the collision to blast a crater in the comet and hurl the pristine subsurface material out from the pit. Comets are considered remnants of the solar system's building blocks and studying them could provide clues to how the sun and planets formed 4 billion years ago." The scientific objectives are spelled out more clearly here on at the mission web site. The idea is that seeing beneath the surface of the comet will give us a look into the deep past of our solar system. For a contraian opinion, see the next article.

Whether the data confirms or contradicts the established views, it is good that we will have new data. Whether the data that is released to the public is accurate or has been massaged by NASA to conform to the results it wants, is, of course, a different question. Our own research has shown us that much data from our study of the heavens disappears into the black hole of, well, who really knows, and is not available, even to specialists in the field.

The Deep Impact mission is the first time that earthlings have attempted to smash into a comet, in this case using a 350-kg (770-lb) copper mass impactor that is expected to create a spectacular football field-sized crater, or a less spectacular crater the size of an SUV, seven stories deep on a comet 6-km (approximately 4 miles) in diameter, or maybe only 2 stories high.

That's what the mainstream astrophysicists expect. So far so good. Most of today's "accepted" astronomy/cosmology is based on the assumption that electrical fields, currents, and plasma discharges are not important in space. Only gravitational and magnetic fields are important.

But is this picture of the universe, how the astrophysicists describe it, and what we learned at school, a correct view? Not according to the proponents of the theory of the Electric Universe, which proposes that the cosmos is highly electrical in nature. They hypothesise that 99% of the universe is made up not of "invisible matter", but rather, of matter in the plasma state. Electrodynamic forces in electric plasmas are much stronger than the gravitational force.

Could this have an effect on "Deep Impact"? According to the EU theory, yes, indeed, and Deep Impact is becoming something of an experiment to test their theory, even if it was not intended that way by the designers.

The representatives of the electric universe propose this scenario:

[...] The electrical model suggests the likelihood of an electrical discharge between the comet nucleus and the copper projectile, particularly if the comet is actively flaring at the time. The projectile will approach too quickly for a slow electrical discharge to occur. So the energetic effects of the encounter should exceed that of a simple physical impact, in the same way that was seen with comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 at Jupiter. Changes to the appearance of the jets may be seen before impact. The signature of an electrical discharge would be a high-energy burst of electrical noise across a wide spectrum, a "flash" from infra-red to ultraviolet and the enhanced emission of x-rays from the vicinity of the projectile. The energy of a mechanical impact is not sufficient to generate x-rays.

If the arc vaporizes the copper projectile before impact the comet will not form the crater expected. On the other hand, any copper metal reaching the surface of the comet will act as a focus for an arc. And copper can sustain a much higher current density than rock or ice. There would then be the likelihood of an intense arc, with possibly a single jet, until the copper is electrically "machined" from the comet's surface. Copper atoms ionized to a surprisingly high degree should be detectable from Earth-based telescopes. Electrical discharges through the body of a poor conductor can be disruptive and are probably responsible for the breakup of comets. It is not necessary for them to be poorly consolidated dust and ice and to simply fall apart. So there is some small chance that astronomers will be surprised to see the comet split apart, if the projectile reaches the surface of the comet and results in an intense arc.

What will be the results? We aren't into prophecy or prediction when we don't have the necessary data. Perhaps Monday we'll have some more.

Welcome to the Electric Universe

The Electric Universe

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NASA's Deep Impact mission will only prove what scientists think they already know about the birth of the solar system, says one University of Missouri-Rolla researcher.
Source: University of Missouri-Rolla

The July 4 "comet shot" is expected to yield data dating back 4.5 billion years, when most scientists believe the solar system was formed out of an interstellar cloud of gas and dust. Since the frozen interiors of comets are thought to possess information from that time, it is believed we can learn more about the original cloud of gas and dust by sending a projectile into the core of a passing comet.

Not so, says Dr. Oliver Manuel, professor of nuclear chemistry at UMR.

"Comets travel in and out of the solar system, toward the sun and away from the sun, losing and gaining material," Manuel explains. "But the building blocks that made the outer parts of the solar system are different from the building blocks that made the inner solar system."

For the record, Manuel believes the sun was born in a catastrophic supernova explosion and not in a slowly evolving cloud of space stuff. According to Manuel's model, heavy elements from the interior of the supernova created the rocky planets and the sun; and the lighter elements near the surface of the supernova created the outer, gaseous planets.

Therefore, Manuel says, data from Deep Impact won't be useful.

"The comet data will show a mixture of material from the inner and outer layers of the supernova, but it won't tell us anything about the beginnings of the solar system," Manuel says. "NASA still says the solar system was born in an interstellar cloud and that the sun is a ball of hydrogen with a well-behaved hydrogen fusion reactor in the middle of it. But it's not, and that will color the data from Deep Impact. It will appear to confirm a flawed theory about the birth of the solar system."

Manuel says the sun is the remains of a supernova, and that it has a neutron star at its core. According to a paper he presented last week at a nuclear research facility in Dubna, Russia, neutron emissions represent the greatest power source ever known, triggering hydrogen fusion in the sun, generating an enormous magnetic field, explaining phenomena like solar flares and causing climate change on earth.

Findings published by other researchers last year in Science magazine (May 21, 2004) suggested that, in fact, a nearby supernova probably did contribute material (Iron-60) to an ambiguous cloud that formed the solar system. What Manuel reported 27 years earlier in Science (Jan. 14, 1977) is that the supernova blast created the entire solar system and all of its iron.

"So Deep Impact is NASA's big cosmic fireworks show for the Fourth of July, but they're going to end up using smoke and mirrors to help validate this theory about a big cloud of dust that supposedly made the solar system," Manuel says.

Comment: Unfortunately, we were looking the other way when the solar system was formed and can neither corroborate nor refute Manuel's theory. We offer it as one more bit of evidence that we do not know nearly as much as the official view of science would have us believe....which does not in any way mean that we should retreat into literal interpretations of the Bible for either our science or our history.

But neither should we reject everything that has come down to us from ancient cultures, such as the nearly universal association of comets with death, destruction, and disease, as the author of the following piece attempts to do.

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Comets in Ancient Cultures
By Noah Goldman
U. Maryland, College Park Scholars

Comets have inspired dread, fear, and awe in many different cultures and societies around the world and throughout time. They have been branded with such titles as "the Harbinger of Doom" and "the Menace of the Universe." They have been regarded both as omens of disaster and messengers of the gods. Why is it that comets are some of the most feared and venerated objects in the night sky? Why did so many cultures cringe at the sight of a comet?

When people living in ancient cultures looked up, comets were the most remarkable objects in the night sky. Comets were unlike any other object in the night sky. Whereas most celestial bodies travel across the skies at regular, predictable intervals, so regular that constellations could be mapped and predicted, comets' movements have always seemed very erratic and unpredictable. This led people in many cultures to believe that the gods dictated their motions and were sending them as a message. What were the gods trying to say? Some cultures read the message by the images that they saw upon looking at the comet. For example, to some cultures the tail of the comet gave it the appearance of the head of a woman, with long flowing hair behind her. This sorrowful symbol of mourning was understood to mean the gods that had sent the comet to earth were displeased. Others thought that the elongated comet looked like a fiery sword blazing across the night sky, a traditional sign of war and death. Such a message from the gods could only mean that their wrath would soon be unleashed onto the people of the land. Such ideas struck fear into those who saw comets dart across the sky. The likeness of the comet, though, was not the only thing that inspired fear.

Ancient cultural legends also played a hand in inspiring a terrible dread of these celestial nomads. The Roman prophecies, the "Sibylline Oracles," spoke of a "great conflagration from the sky, falling to earth," while the most ancient known mythology, the Babylonian "Epic of Gilgamesh," described fire, brimstone, and flood with the arrival of a comet. Rabbi Moses Ben Nachman, a Jew living in Spain, wrote of God taking two stars from Khima and throwing them at the earth in order to begin the great flood. Yakut legend in ancient Mongolia called comets "the daughter of the devil," and warned of destruction, storm and frost, whenever she approaches the earth. Stories associating comets with such terrible imagery are at the base of so many cultures on Earth, and fuel a dread that followed comet sightings throughout history.

Comets' influence on cultures is not limited simply to tales of myth and legend, though. Comets throughout history have been blamed for some of history's darkest times. In Switzerland, Halley's Comet was blamed for earthquakes, illnesses, red rain, and even the births of two-headed animals. The Romans recorded that a fiery comet marked the assassination of Julius Caesar, and another was blamed for the extreme bloodshed during the battle between Pompey and Caesar. In England, Halley's Comet was blamed for bringing the Black Death. The Incas, in South America, even record a comet having foreshadowed Francisco Pizarro's arrival just days before he brutally conquered them. Comets and disaster became so intertwined that Pope Calixtus III even excommunicated Halley's Comet as an instrument of the devil, and a meteorite, from a comet, became enshrined as one of the most venerated objects in all of Islam. Were it not for a Chinese affinity for meticulous record keeping, a true understanding of comets may never have been reached.

Unlike their Western counterparts, Chinese astronomers kept extensive records on the appearances, paths, and disappearances of hundreds of comets. Extensive comet atlases have been found dating back to the Han Dynasty, which describe comets as "long-tailed pheasant stars" or "broom stars" and associate the different cometary forms with different disasters. Although the Chinese also regarded comets as "vile stars," their extensive records allowed later astronomers to determine the true nature of comets.

Although most human beings no longer cringe at the sight of a comet, they still inspire fear everywhere around the globe, from Hollywood to doomsday cults. The United States even set up the Near Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT) program specifically to guard us from these "divine" dangers. However, although they were once regarded as omens of disaster, and messengers of the god(s), today a scientific approach has helped allay such concerns. It is science and reason that has led the fight against this fear since the days of the ancients. It is science and reason that has emboldened the human spirit enough to venture out and journey to a comet. It is science and reason that will unlock the secrets that they hold.

Comment: Unfortunately, this article is emblematic of the kind of "reasoned" work that passes for science on comets these days. The fact that almost every ancient culture of which we have historical records associated comets with death and destruction is dismissed by our learned authorities as poor savages misreading the apparently irregular movement of comets (as compared to the stars or planets) as messages from the gods.

Well, there where did the association between comets and plagues arise? What would have been the effect of the cometary and meteor impacts that created the craters we see on the earth's surface? Is nuclear winter such an inviting prospect that we needn't be worried about it? Are the 500,000 craters that form the Carolina Bays something to ignore and relegate to the pre-history of the planet, and, therefore, of no immediate interest or concern?

The arrogant purveyors of our scientific greatness may have to learn the hard way.

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Discovery of unusual planet has scientists puzzled
Mainichi Daily News
July 1, 2005

A Japanese-U.S. joint research team has found a planet covered by a thick layer of gas like Jupiter but which has an unusually large core of rocks and ice -- a discovery scientists say could overthrow the established theory of planet formation.

The planet, belonging to the Hercules constellation about 250 light years away from Earth, does not fall into the category of either Jupiter-type, gas-covered planets that have low density, or high-density, Earthlike planets.

The discovery, made by a research team including experts from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) and San Francisco State University, was reported in the July 1 issue of Astrophysical Journal, a U.S. science magazine.

The research team used Japan's Subaru telescope in Hawaii to observe the planet when it passed a fixed star. By analyzing the fixed star's light as the planet passed it, the team successfully clarified the density and size of the planet.

The mass of the planet is 1.2 times that of Saturn but its diameter is only 0.86 times that of Saturn, meaning it is dense and covered in a thick layer of gas. The mass of its core, made up of Earthlike rocks and ice, is 70 times that of Earth.

It is one of several planets whose structures have been defined from among about 150 plants outside the solar system.

If the mass of the core of a planet that consists of rocks reaches 10 to 20 times the mass of Earth, its gravity is believed to gather massive amounts of gas, thereby forming a planet covered by a thick layer of gas, just like Jupiter and Saturn, according to Associate Prof. Shigeru Ida, a member of the team. Scientists believe this layer of gas prevents rocks from entering the planet's surface from outside.

The mass of the cores of Jupiter, Saturn and several planets outside the solar system whose structures have been defined is estimated to be about 10 to 20 times that of Earth.

Ida pointed out that the unique structure of the newly observed planet could overthrow the established theory of formation of planets.

"Once a planet is covered by gas, it's technically impossible for rocks to enter its surface from outside. It's a mystery why it was not covered by gas until the mass of its core reached 70 times the mass of Earth. We need to reconsider the theory of planet formation."

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Fires blaze in south of France and Corsica
Jul 01, 2005

MARSEILLE, France -- Fires fanned by strong winds and probably started deliberately on Friday swept through hundreds of hectares (acres) of woodland and scrub in southeastern France and the Mediterranean island of Corsica.

Corsica was particularly hard hit, with flames sweeping through some 1,400 hectares (five square miles) in the north of the island.

"There is no doubt about the criminal origin" of the fires, a senior government official in northern Corsica told AFP, saying that the blazes had been deliberately started three kilometres (two miles) apart.

With winds gusting to 90 kilometres (55 miles) an hour the flames spread swiftly Friday despite the efforts of more than 260 firefighters and aircraft dropping water.

Two babies, among 50 people who had taken shelter in a church, suffered mild problems from smoke inhalation.

There were no reports of loss of property. Local people were asked by the authorities to take shelter in their homes or in churches.

In Provence, in southeastern France, a fire broke out Friday and fanned by a strong northern mistral wind devastated 200 hectares (495 acres) of scrub and pine forest.

This blaze was also thought to be of criminal origin, as it started in two separate places. Two main highways were cut and isolated houses were evacuated.

In another part of Provence, where 160 hectares had been hit by fires Thursday, a further 100 were ablaze Friday.

North of the port city of Marseille between 40 and 50 hectares were on fire.

Weather forecasters said that the wind should drop in Corsica Friday but the mistral would continue to blow in Provence until Saturday.

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France's rivers run dry
By John Lichfield
The Independent
Published: 02 July 2005

Parched meadows and water shortages indicate France is already facing a summer drought. Meanwhile, its scientists are warning killer heatwaves will become the norm.

Just west of Parthenay in the rolling grasslands of western France is a panorama that could be Pembrokeshire or the west of Ireland. Here, in the département of Deux-Sèvres, amid lush, green meadows, you find low hills, hedges, clumps of trees and granite outcrops. Except that, this summer, the meadows are not lush or green. They are a dusty and sickly yellow-grey. The meadow grasses and wild flowers have died back to their roots, as if scorched by a giant hair-dryer. They have been "grilled", in the word of a local sheep farmer, Jean-Louis Chamard, by a winter and spring with virtually no rain and a blazing early summer with temperatures reaching 35C (95F) day after day.

A little further north lies the Cebron reservoir, a lovely artificial lake that supplies the centre of the département with drinking water. It is normally two-thirds full now, and a breeding ground for two species of tern, which come to this sheltered spot from the shores of the Atlantic 100 miles to the west.

This year there are few terns. The lake has been reduced to a large, mud-rimmed pond. Despite severe restrictions - no farm irrigation, no lawn sprinkling, no car washing, no filling of swimming or paddling pools - the nearby town of Parthenay has warned its citizens that they may run short of tap water by later summer or early autumn.

Deux-Sèvres is one of the three or four worst afflicted areas but a drought has already been declared in 28 of the 94 départements in metropolitan France. Even before the hottest and thirstiest months of the summer, France is running short of water.

This is not a drought as Africans, or even Australians, would recognise the term. The grass has died back but not turned to dust. The trees are in glorious leaf. There are no dead sheep or cows in the fields.

All the same, something odd is happening. Many of the worst-affected areas are along the western seaboard of France - from the Oise north of Paris, to Eure in Normandy to Charente-Maritime around La Rochelle. Many easterly and southerly parts of France are also suffering, but they are more used to dry winters and scorching summers. The départements of the west and centre-west - beloved of British tourists and exiles - are not.

Jacques Dieumegard, 60, a retired science teacher who is in charge of water supplies in the Parthenay area, said: "We always used to teach that France was a temperate country. Now, with a run of hot summers and dry winters, with periods of drought but also periods of intense cold, tropical downpours of rain and flash floods in the south, the experts are beginning to ask whether France can still be described as temperate." A study by weather futurologists at Météo France warned that by the second half of this century stifling summer months, like the August of 2003 that killed 15,000 old people in France, could become the norm.

France has had droughts before. In 1976, sheep and cows did die in the fields. It is impossible to say for certain whether this year is a one-off dry season or a sign of a radical change in rain patterns. Four years ago France had a torrential winter. Since then most winters have been unusually dry, especially in the west.

The great western drought of 2005 - said by many to be worse than 1976 - does, however, fit a wider pattern of climate change, which goes beyond the western seaboard of France. It might have been useful to bring President George Bush to Deux-Sèvres for the G8 summit next week, rather than to the green fairways of Gleneagles.

Wildlife is adapting. Many French swallows and house martins did not bother to emigrate to Africa last winter. For several years now, unusual species of butterfly, normally found in Africa, have been appearing farther and farther north. People find it much harder, especially farmers. In the great western drought of 2005, farmers are among the worst-hit victims. They are also, according to some local campaigners, the greatest water-hogging villains.

Farmers are not responsible for the change in the weather. They are, however, partly responsible for the acute shortage of water and especially the disastrous fall in the level of underground water-tables in some parts of western France.

Deux-Sèvres, like many neighbouring départements, used to be animal-rearing country, with small fields, hedges and trees. In the rocky centre of the département that pattern remains. In the south and east, however, there has been a steady conversion in the past two decades to large fields growing wheat and maize to take advantage of subsidies for cereals farming.

Maize, especially, demands huge amounts of water - about 1,000 cubic metres, or two-thirds of an Olympic-sized swimming pool, for every acre. Long, humped-back watering machines, metallic Loch Ness monsters, have become a familiar sight in northern and western France in the past 20 years.

In the summer months in Deux-Sèvres in a "normal" year, farmers use twice as much water as domestic consumers. Just under half of all the water used in France is now taken by farmers (not including private farm ponds and wells, which further lower the water table.)

Cereal-growers have been banned from using public water supplies in Deux-Sèvres since April. Many took the public-spirited decision not to plant maize this year after the dry winter and spring. Others, less far-sighted, are furious, staring at their stunted maize fields and complaining that farmers in neighbouring areas are being allowed to irrigate regardless.

Several cereal farmers in Deux-Sèvres refused to speak to me, partly because I was British and they regarded me as an emissary of Tony Blair. Beyond that, they said, they were too angry to speak to an unsympathetic press, British or French.

Jean-Pierre, a 50-something farmer, south of Parthenay said: "There is a lot of resentment. Many people are talking about violence but I don't see how that would help us. We are not asking for the right to use water to make big profits. We accept that some maize fields are done for. We only want to grow enough maize to feed our own animals in the winter. Otherwise, I don't see how some of us can survive."

Some local environmental activists are calling for a permanent ban on farm irrigation on Deux-Sèvres. Even moderate local politicians, such as M. Dieumegard, say that it is time for farmers to accept their part in responsibility for the acuteness of the drought.

"The change in farming methods has had two effects," M. Dieumegarde said. "Water tables have been pumped out faster than they used to be. But the larger fields for cereal farming have also meant the building of more elaborate and efficient systems of field drainage. That means much of the rain that does fall runs off straight into streams, rivers and then the sea, rather than sinking into the sub-soil and the water tables, which supply reservoirs such as Cebron."

Jean-Louis Chamard, 52, the sheep farmer with the "grilled" meadows, west of Parthenay, accepts there is "some truth" in this argument. He does not grow maize; his rocky terrain does not permit it. He is already feeding his winter supplies of hay to his 1,200 ewes and 800 lambs.

"There is nothing for them in the fields," he said. "There has been a little rain this week but the soil is so dry that the rain just vanishes on contact. It would take 10 days of continuous rain to bring some grass back. If that does not happen, we will have used all of our winter feed in the summer and we will be in serious difficulties."

M. Chamard, a local farm union activist, says it is easier to point the finger at cereal farmers than to offer an alternative. The movement to bigger farms means that growers have to earn larger amounts each year to pay off their loans. It would not be possible for all farmers in Deux-Sèvres to go back to animal rearing (for which the profits, and EU subsidies, are smaller).

"It is all very well for ecologists and others to say irrigation should be banned," M. Chamard said. "Maybe some restrictions are justified, but 20 per cent of the jobs in this département depend on farming, directly or indirectly. What is going to replace those?"

The reverse side of that argument is that 80 per cent of jobs in Deux-Sèvres - one of the least urbanised départements in France - do not depend on agriculture. Forty years ago, the figures would have been reversed.

Even in small towns such as Partnenay, whose prosperity depends partly on the farmland all around, there is much resentment of farmers. Isabelle, a 35-year-old mother of three, emerging from a local supermarket, said: "My friend told me that farmers were still watering their fields at night, while we're not supposed to fill a paddling pool for our kids. That's not right." [...]

The tensions within Deux-Sèvres suggest that farmers can no longer expect to get their own way politically in France - not even in La France profonde. One up to Mr Blair. On the other hand, if permanent climate change becomes reality, the present arguments about agricultural subsidies may come to seem quaint and academic in the years ahead.

The whole pattern of our agriculture will have to change, from Africa to northern Europe. The problems of irrigating maize fields in Deux-Sèvres may be a harbinger of much greater problems of food production still to come. And food, as we know, is not just an issue for farmers.

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Extremists win if EU reform fails, says PM

Barroso promises to review 'Old' Europe's social model, as Blair launches Britain's EU presidency
Nicholas Watt, European editor
Saturday July 2, 2005

Extremist parties on the far right and left will flourish across Europe unless the EU embraces radical reforms to tackle high levels of unemployment, Tony Blair warned yesterday.

In a sign of his determination to shake up "Old" Europe's cherished social model, which Britain blames for pushing unemployment up to 20m across the EU, the prime minister will host a special summit to assess its "sustainability".

To the delight of Downing Street, the European commission president Jose Manuel Barroso announced that his commission will review the social model ahead of the informal summit in October.

Speaking at the launch of Britain's six-month presidency of the EU, Mr Blair issued a blunt warning of the need to reform what he regards as hidebound labour markets.

"If sensible moderate people on the centre ground do not grasp the challenge of change, what happens is that the extremes start peddling solutions to the public that are not actually fair solutions at all," the prime minister said at a joint Foreign Office press conference with Mr Barroso.

Comment: What a joke! Blair as a "sensible moderate" person! This is the man who conspired with George Bush to "fix" policy to justify the invasion of Iraq. Now he is attempting to position himself as the great mediator to resolve Europe's crisis, when he provoked the current budgetary crisis by refusing to compromise on the payments Britain receives for its membership in the EU.

"People say the problem is all immigration or the problems are all globalisation. You will end up with the extremes on the left and the right taking the agenda."

Downing Street wants to place economic reform at the heart of Britain's EU presidency, which was launched yesterday. In a ritual, which takes place every time the presidency changes hands on January 1 and July 1, the 25 European commissioners met the cabinet yesterday.

Amid the imperial splendour of the Foreign Office's Durbar Court, Mr Blair said: "Europe is not just about free trade and it is not just about the economy, but it is no use us trying to compete in the tough, changing world unless we are prepared to make the changes necessary, including not abandoning our social model, but updating it and modernising it." Mr Blair admitted that he was "taking a risk" in raising the issue of the social model because Jacques Chirac blamed the no vote in the French referendum on the EU constitution on the "Anglo-Saxon model" of free markets.

But Mr Barroso has agreed that his commission will carry out a report into the "sustainability of the social model in Europe in the light of the changes that are happening all around us today". [...]

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China continues to ban imports of cow, beef from US 2005-07-01 21:48:41

BEIJING, July 1 (Xinhuanet) -- China will continue to ban imports of cow, beef and related products from the United States following confirmation of the country's first homegrown case of mad cow disease, a spokesman with the Ministry of Agriculture said on Friday.

Jia Youling, the spokesman, said the ministry will adopt strict measures to prevent the occurence of the disease in China.

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Death toll in Russian terrorist attack rises to 11 2005-07-02 17:48:19

MOSCOW, July 2 (Xinhuanet) -- The death toll in Friday's terrorist blast in southern Russia rose to 11 and the number of wounded was found to be 27, the Itar-Tass news agency reported on Saturday.

Earlier reports said 10 servicemen were killed and about 20 people, a mix of soldiers and civilians, were injured in the blast in Makhachkala, capital of Daghestanian Republic.

The death toll rose as a soldier, who was seriously injured, died. All the killed servicemen were from troops of the Russian Interior Ministry.

Some injured people were taken to the Daghestanian Interior Ministry's medical center on Friday evening and one of them had been transferred to Moscow overnight, Itar-Tass quoted hospital sources as saying.

Eight civilians remained in hospital until Saturday, it said.

Terrorists set off two bombs near a bath house at the city's Atayev Street at 2:15 p.m. local time (1015 GMT) on Friday, as the soldiers were passing by.

The Daghestanian prosecutor's office has launched an investigation into the attack. But the search efforts for the perpetrators were so far unsuccessful.

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China to fill strategic oil reserve 2005-07-01 20:45:34

HANGZHOU, July 1 (Xinhuanet) -- China will start to fill its strategic oil reserve in the fourth quarter of this year with its own oil, according to sources with the administration of one of the reserve bases on Friday. [...]

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Report offers no clue to cause of plane crash
Saturday, July 2, 2005

The pilot who crashed his small Cessna airplane into Hamburg Mountain on June 19 had what appeared to be a routine takeoff from Sussex County Airport - but crashed only minutes after achieving his maximum altitude, a preliminary report released Friday says.

The report, by the National Transportation Safety Board, says pilot Roland Melanson of Wantage had refueled just before taking off around 7:30 a.m. Melanson, who was bound for Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Bridgeport, Conn., had filed the required flight plan and was cleared to fly at an altitude of 3,000 feet, the report says.

Minutes after takeoff - at 7:34 - Melanson radioed that he was at 3,000 feet. That was last time the plane was heard from, as it disappeared off the radar screen.

The plane spiraled downward and crashed into a thickly-wooded side of Hamburg Mountain, about six miles southeast of Sussex Airport, the report says. The plane came to rest upside-down, its cockpit destroyed and its wings sheered off, the report says.

Melanson was found amid the wreckage when a search and rescue team spotted the plane four days later. His body was removed by the Sussex County Medical Examiner's for an autopsy, which will determine if Melanson experienced a sudden illness in the sky which may have led to the crash. Results of that autopsy have not been released.

Investigators from the NTSB examined the engine, which had been torn from the fuselage, but so far have not found any signs of mechanical failure. The report says both fuel tanks had been torn open by the impact of the crash. There were no signs of fire, before or after the crash.

Weather also did not appear to be a factor. Although skies were overcast that morning, visibility was 10 miles and the wind light, the report says.

The plane crashed into a remote section of Hamburg Mountain, about a mile from Silver Lake swamp. The dense foliage and rough terrain hindered searchers.

Resident Nan Storm told a reporter that she heard a plane flying low around 7:30 on the morning of June 19. Storm said she then heard the plane engine cut out, followed by the sound of crackling wood. Storm said she thought a plane had crashed, and mounted her own search on foot. But she turned back after being confronted by a black bear.

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Crashed plane still submerged in pond
July 2, 2005

NEW YORK - A plane in Bowline Pond remained submerged yesterday as authorities continued an investigation into the crash that sent a Manhattan man to Nyack Hospital.

The same incident had sent eyes upward when a rocket on the plane exploded to free a parachute that helped slow the craft's descent to the water.

Ilan Reich issued a Mayday and deployed the parachute on his four-seat Cirrus SR22 airplane at 4:40 p.m. Thursday. He escaped through a window and the craft quickly sank into the Hudson River cove.

The 50-year-old Reich suffered a fractured vertebra in his back and remained in Nyack Hospital last night, state police said.

State police, Haverstraw village police and the Federal Aviation Administration are leading the investigation. It is the owner's responsibility to arrange for removal of the plane, state police said.

But Reich got help yesterday as authorities worked to assist the effort. It appeared last night that Town Boat USA of Tarrytown had been approved by Reich's insurance company to retrieve the plane, said Senior Investigator Kevin McGrath of the state police.

The hope was to get a barge and crane to the pond at first light this morning and to have the plane removed before afternoon, he said.

"We want to get it done as soon as possible," McGrath said.

The plane was leaking gasoline into the water, but a small amount and not enough to raise serious safety concerns, McGrath said.

As a precaution, special buoys were placed to prevent any contamination from entering the intake values at the Bowline Point power plants, which use water from the river for cooling equipment.

The plane's manufacturer, Cirrus Design Corp., sent an accident investigation team to assist in the recovery effort and aid crash investigators. The team also will tell recovery workers how best to raise the aircraft.

Once lifted, the plane will be inspected by the FAA, agency spokeswoman Holly Baker said. The National Transportation Safety Board may then step in and take over the probe, she said. [...]

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Plane crashes at Fort Payne airport
July 1, 2005, 04:23 PM

ALABAMA - A plane crashed while taking off at the Fort Payne Municipal Airport Thursday morning. Two people were in the twin-engine Navaho airplane when it went down. But, luckily neither was seriously hurt.

The pilot tells WAFF 48 News the plane had just gotten out of the engine shop Wednesday. He says everything seemed to be working fine until he got about 15 feet in the air.

The pilot, 24-year-old Ryan Carter of Sylvania, says as he was taking off he knew something wasn't right. He says a guage in the plane showed the left engine was losing pressure.

"As I looked at it, I watched it fall back to almost nothing. Which means you have no power on one side. And full power on the other side," says Carter.

Carter says when only one engine works a plane has a tendency to roll over on its side. A witness says that's what started to happen.

J.D. Crowell was with a road crew working on Airport Road when he saw the plane crash.

"It just going back and forth and sideways. Then it come over here in the grass," says Crowell.

"Instead of letting the plane go over and land on its top, then I decided it would be best to shove it in the ground," says Carter.

The road crew ran to the downed plane to help.

"They jumped the fence here and went over there and pulled them out," says Crowell.

The plane was on fire. But the pilot isn't sure if that fire started before or after the crash.

"I just noticed that the engine was on fire as I was sitting in the left seat in the cockpit. And that we needed to get out," says Carter.

Carter's passenger, 57-year-old Mike Stenson of Scottsboro, was treated and released from the hospital.

The FAA and the NTSB are investigating the accident.

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Pilot was cool on way down

Family escaped injury in crash-landing
July 1, 2005

FLORIDA - Jerry Robinson wouldn't change a thing he did two weeks ago today when he was forced to crash-land his single-engine plane in a swamp with his wife and son aboard.

"I believe that everything happens for a reason. I knocked on God's door, and he told me to come back later," Robinson said earlier this week as he sat behind his desk at Preferred Realty Group in Naples.

His handling of the plane and a little luck were enough to allow Robinson, 44, Janice, 42, and Andrew, 15, to walk away from the crash with only cuts and bruises.

"I never gave up on the airplane," he said. "The airplane gave up on me."

The National Transportation and Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating what went wrong before Robinson's plane crashed about a mile from Southwest Florida International Airport.

An NTSB investigator examined the wreckage and found a hole in the top of the engine crankcase, which encases the engine, according to a preliminary crash report.

The flight began shortly before 8 a.m. when Jerry Robinson climbed into the pilot seat and his wife and son fastened their seat belts in two of the four back passenger seats.

The Robinsons were taking Andrew to Asheville, N.C., for a three-week stay at a nearby camp. Robinson said he hates to drive long distances and prefers the four-hour flight to the two-day drive.

Everything seemed fine as the Cherokee PA-32-300 climbed to 5,000 feet. Robinson had just received his squawk code, which identifies his plane on radar, from Southwest Florida International Airport when he felt the engine change.

He checked his gauges. The oil pressure, temperature gauge and tachometer were normal. Then, a pressure gauge caught his eye as it briefly spiked and alerted him to a problem in the engine.

"I radioed the airport and told them I needed to make an emergency landing," he said.

Airport officials directed him to runway 240, a strip he saw in the distance as the engine's rattle got worse.

"Something gave in the engine, and something started to vibrate the yoke or the steering mechanism of the airplane," Robinson said. [...]

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Pilot survives crash after plane engine quit
July 1, 2005

INDIANA - A former military pilot who crashed his single-seat airplane in rural Putnam County Thursday night escaped with minor injuries.

Vernon Bothwell, 54, Cloverdale, crashed minutes after taking off near I-70 and Ind. 243, Indiana State Police said.

Bothwell took off from the Clover Nole Airport -- on his own property -- at about 7:30 p.m. His engine failed at about 300 feet, said Trooper Chris Harcourt of the State Police's Putnamville post.

Bothwell turned the single-engine, 1982 Stewart Headwind around to try to land on the Clover Nole airstrip, but the plane nose-dived into the ground and flipped over, Harcourt said.

When State Police arrived, Harcourt was strapped in his seat with a cut on his head but was conscious and talking.

Bothwell had served as a pilot in the military, Harcourt said.

"I'd say Mr. Bothwell is very lucky," Harcourt said. "He has some angels up there."

Bothwell was taken to Putnam County Hospital in Greencastle in good condition, police said.

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FDA issues warning on antidepressant drugs

Use associated with possible increased suicide risk, says U.S. agency
Jul. 1, 2005. 05:20 PM

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a second public warning today that adults who use antidepressants should be closely monitored for warning signs of suicide, especially when they first start the pills or change a dose.

Much of the concern over suicide and antidepressants has centred on children who use the drugs. The FDA last fall determined there is a real, but small, increase in risk of suicidal behaviour for children and ordered the labels of all antidepressants to say so.

A year ago, the FDA issued a warning that adults, too, may be at increased risk. The agency began reanalysing hundreds of studies of the drugs to try to determine if that's the case, and told makers to add or strengthen suicide-related warnings on their labels in the meantime.

Since then, several new studies have been published in medical journals about a possible connection. Citing them, FDA issued a new public health advisory reminding doctors and patients to watch closely for suicidal thinking or worsening depression and seek medical care if it happens.

It's a difficult issue to sort out because depression itself can lead to suicide and studies show that antidepressants have helped many people recover.

But there are concerns that antidepressants may cause agitation, anxiety and hostility in a subset of patients who may be unusually prone to rare side-effects. Also, psychiatrists say there is a window period of risk just after pill use begins, before depression is really alleviated but when some patients experience more energy, perhaps enabling them to act on suicidal tendencies.

In addition to the advisory, the FDA also updated its website with a notice about a higher-than-expected rate of suicide attempts in research with the newest antidepressant, Eli Lilly's Cymbalta.

Those studies were in women trying Cymbalta as an incontinence treatment; it was never approved for that use. The FDA insisted when it approved Cymbalta last year that studies of depressed patients showed no suicide link.

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Preparing for the Next Pandemic
By Michael T. Osterholm
From Foreign Affairs, July/August 2005

Summary: If an influenza pandemic struck today, borders would close, the global economy would shut down, international vaccine supplies and health-care systems would be overwhelmed, and panic would reign. To limit the fallout, the industrialized world must create a detailed response strategy involving the public and private sectors.

Michael T. Osterholm is Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, Associate Director of the Department of Homeland Security's National Center for Food Protection and Defense, and Professor at the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health.


Dating back to antiquity, influenza pandemics have posed the greatest threat of a worldwide calamity caused by infectious disease. Over the past 300 years, ten influenza pandemics have occurred among humans. The most recent came in 1957-58 and 1968-69, and although several tens of thousands of Americans died in each one, these were considered mild compared to others. The 1918-19 pandemic was not. According to recent analysis, it killed 50 to 100 million people globally. Today, with a population of 6.5 billion, more than three times that of 1918, even a "mild" pandemic could kill many millions of people.

A number of recent events and factors have significantly heightened concern that a specific near-term pandemic may be imminent. It could be caused by H5N1, the avian influenza strain currently circulating in Asia. At this juncture scientists cannot be certain. Nor can they know exactly when a pandemic will hit, or whether it will rival the experience of 1918-19 or be more muted like 1957-58 and 1968-69. The reality of a coming pandemic, however, cannot be avoided. Only its impact can be lessened. Some important preparatory efforts are under way, but much more needs to be done by institutions at many levels of society.


Of the three types of influenza virus, influenza type A infects and kills the greatest number of people each year and is the only type that causes pandemics. It originates in wild aquatic birds. The virus does not cause illness in these birds, and although it is widely transmitted among them, it does not undergo any significant genetic change.

Direct transmission from the birds to humans has not been demonstrated, but when a virus is transmitted from wild birds to domesticated birds such as chickens, it undergoes changes that allow it to infect humans, pigs, and potentially other mammals. Once in the lung cells of a mammalian host, the virus can "reassort," or mix genes, with human influenza viruses that are also present. This process can lead to an entirely new viral strain, capable of sustained human-to-human transmission. If such a virus has not circulated in humans before, the entire population will be susceptible. If the virus has not circulated in the human population for a number of years, most people will lack residual immunity from previous infection.

Once the novel strain better adapts to humans and is easily transmitted from person to person, it is capable of causing a new pandemic. As the virus passes repeatedly from one human to the next, it eventually becomes less virulent and joins the other influenza viruses that circulate the globe each year. This cycle continues until another new influenza virus emerges from wild birds and the process begins again.

Some pandemics result in much higher rates of infection and death than others. Scientists now understand that this variation is a result of the genetic makeup of each specific virus and the presence of certain virulence factors. That is why the 1918-19 pandemic killed many more people than either the 1957-58 or the 1968-69 pandemic.


Infectious diseases remain the number one killer of humans worldwide. Currently, more than 39 million people live with HIV, and last year about 2.9 million people died of AIDS, bringing the cumulative total of deaths from AIDS to approximately 25 million. Tuberculosis (TB) and malaria also remain major causes of death. In 2003, about 8.8 million people became infected with TB, and the disease killed more than 2 million. Each year, malaria causes more than 1 million deaths and close to 5 billion episodes of clinical illness. In addition, newly emerging infections, diarrheal and other vector-borne diseases, and agents resistant to antibiotics pose a serious and growing public health concern.

Given so many other significant infectious diseases, why does another influenza pandemic merit unique and urgent attention? First, of the more than 1,500 microbes known to cause disease in humans, influenza continues to be the king in terms of overall mortality. Even in a year when only the garden-variety strains circulate, an estimated 1-1.5 million people worldwide die from influenza infections or related complications. In a pandemic lasting 12 to 36 months, the number of cases and deaths would rise dramatically.

Recent clinical, epidemiological, and laboratory evidence suggests that the impact of a pandemic caused by the current H5N1 strain would be similar to that of the 1918-19 pandemic. More than half of the people killed in that pandemic were 18 to 40 years old and largely healthy. If 1918-19 mortality data are extrapolated to the current U.S. population, 1.7 million people could die, half of them between the ages of 18 and 40. Globally, those same estimates yield 180-360 million deaths, more than five times the cumulative number of documented AIDS deaths. In 1918-19, most deaths were caused by a virus-induced response of the victim's immune system -- a cytokine storm -- which led to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). In other words, in the process of fighting the disease, a person's immune system severely damaged the lungs, resulting in death. Victims of H5N1 have also suffered from cytokine storms, and the world is not much better prepared to treat millions of cases of ARDS today than it was 85 years ago. In the 1957-58 and 1968-69 pandemics, the primary cause of death was secondary bacterial pneumonias that infected lungs weakened by influenza. Although such bacterial infections can often be treated by antibiotics, these drugs would be either unavailable or in short supply for much of the global population during a pandemic.

The arrival of a pandemic influenza would trigger a reaction that would change the world overnight. A vaccine would not be available for a number of months after the pandemic started, and there are very limited stockpiles of antiviral drugs. Plus, only a few privileged areas of the world have access to vaccine-production facilities. Foreign trade and travel would be reduced or even ended in an attempt to stop the virus from entering new countries -- even though such efforts would probably fail given the infectiousness of influenza and the volume of illegal crossings that occur at most borders. It is likely that transportation would also be significantly curtailed domestically, as smaller communities sought to keep the disease contained. The world relies on the speedy distribution of products such as food and replacement parts for equipment. Global, regional, and national economies would come to an abrupt halt -- something that has never happened due to HIV, malaria, or TB despite their dramatic impact on the developing world.

The closest the world has come to this scenario in modern times was the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) crisis of 2003. Over a period of five months, about 8,000 people were infected by a novel human coronavirus. About ten percent of them died. The virus apparently spread to humans when infected animals were sold and slaughtered in unsanitary and crowded markets in China's Guangdong Province. Although the transmission rate of SARS paled in comparison to that of influenza, it demonstrated how quickly such an infectious agent can circle the globe, given the ease and frequency of international travel. Once SARS emerged in rural China, it spread to five countries within 24 hours and to 30 countries on six continents within several months.

The SARS experience teaches a critical lesson about the potential global response to a pandemic influenza. Even with the relatively low number of deaths it caused compared to other infectious diseases, SARS had a powerful negative psychological impact on the populations of many countries. In a recent analysis of the epidemic, the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine concluded: "The relatively high case-fatality rate, the identification of super-spreaders, the newness of the disease, the speed of its global spread, and public uncertainty about the ability to control its spread may have contributed to the public's alarm. This alarm, in turn, may have led to the behavior that exacerbated the economic blows to the travel and tourism industries of the countries with the highest number of cases."

SARS provided a taste of the impact a killer influenza pandemic would have on the global economy. Jong-Wha Lee, of Korea University, and Warwick McKibbin, of the Australian National University, estimated the economic impact of the six-month SARS epidemic on the Asia-Pacific region at about $40 billion. In Canada, 438 people were infected and 43 died after an infected person traveled from Hong Kong to Toronto, and the Canadian Tourism Commission estimated that the epidemic cost the nation's economy $419 million. The Ontario health minister estimated that SARS cost the province's health-care system about $763 million, money that was spent, in part, on special SARS clinics and supplies to protect health-care workers. The SARS outbreak also had a substantial impact on the global airline industry. After the disease hit in 2003, flights in the Asia-Pacific area decreased by 45 percent from the year before. During the outbreak, the number of flights between Hong Kong and the United States fell 69 percent. And this impact would pale in comparison to that of a 12- to 36-month worldwide influenza pandemic.

The SARS epidemic also raises questions about how prepared governments are to address a prolonged infectious-disease crisis -- particularly governments that are already unstable. Seton Hall University's Yanzhong Huang concluded that the SARS epidemic created the most severe social or political crisis encountered by China's leadership since the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. China's problems probably resulted less from SARS' public health impact than from the government's failed effort to allay panic by withholding information about the disease from the Chinese people. The effort backfired. During the crisis, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao pointed out in a cabinet meeting on the epidemic that "the health and security of the people, overall state of reform, development, and stability, and China's national interest and image are at stake." But Huang believes that "a fatal period of hesitation regarding information-sharing and action spawned anxiety, panic, and rumor-mongering across the country and undermined the government's efforts to create a milder image of itself in the international arena."

Widespread infection and economic collapse can destabilize a government; blame for failing to deal effectively with a pandemic can cripple a government. This holds even more for an influenza pandemic. In the event of a pandemic influenza, the level of panic witnessed during the SARS crisis could spiral out of control as illnesses and deaths continued to mount over months and months. Unfortunately, the public is often indifferent to initial warnings about impending infectious-disease crises -- as with HIV, for example. Indifference becomes fear only after the catastrophe hits, when it is already too late to implement preventive or control measures.


What should the industrialized world be doing to prepare for the next pandemic? The simple answer: far more. [...]

Comment: Pandemics occur in cycles, and some specialists believe that the world is overdue for another major crisis. The epidemics in the 50s and 60s were nowhere near as strong as that following the First World War.

See out flu supplement for more information.

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Bloggers surfing, sharing science in quest to understand pandemic threat
2005-06-30 14:00:00

TORONTO (CP) - They religiously monitor Asian newspaper articles, devour World Health Organization reports, scan medical literature. They debate the principles that drive the evolution of influenza viruses and critique government preparations for a flu pandemic.

But they aren't virologists, microbiologists, epidemiologists or public health leaders. (Well, most of them aren't, anyway.) They are regular folk - housewives, writers, college instructors - who share an obsession over what they believe is the looming threat of a flu pandemic.

Meet the Internet's dedicated and growing community of flu bloggers.

Some blog to educate themselves. Some blog to inform others. Some blog in the hopes of spurring public officials to action.

"We're like a little tribe of hunter-gatherers and we're kind of scattered around looking for things to eat under rocks," explains Crawford Kilian, author of a blog entitled H5N1 and an instructor of communications at Capilano College in North Vancouver.

"And once in awhile we find something: 'Hey, get a load of this iguana.' And everyone takes a look. And then we go scattering off looking for more iguanas. And in the process, we kind of keep each other informed."

The community is tiny, but the number of hits the sites are getting is on the rise, perhaps signalling a burgeoning public awareness of the growing concern in the scientific community that the H5N1 strain could be poised to trigger the first pandemic of this century.

"The blogosphere is making these issues a little more permeable," Kilian says. "It's slowly spreading the news."

The blogger or bloggers who run a site called Effect Measure first seized upon avian influenza's potential to spark a pandemic - and the seemingly anemic response to that threat - as a metaphor for the state of the U.S. public health system.

"Here's a freight train coming down the tracks and nobody's doing anything about it," says one of the editors, who post from behind the alias "Revere."

"I wanted to sort of goad people. Get some action at the leadership level."

That blog bears the disclaimer that the editors are well-known public health scientists or practitioners who choose to obscure their identity for maximum freedom of expression. (The Revere quoted here is indeed a recognizable name.)

Melanie Mattson is the author of Just a Bump in the Beltway, a proudly left-of-centre political and public affairs blog with a strong interest in pandemic flu.

A self-employed writer from Falls Church, Va., Mattson is an avid amateur epidemiologist who has been following developments with H5N1 since 1997. That's when the bird virus set off scientific alarm bells by becoming the first known strain of avian flu to directly infect humans.

She scours the web for flu science, sharing finds with people she deems to be "rational actors" and eschewing those she feels are trying to use the subject to support fringe views.

"This is citizen journalism at its best. And also its worst," she says. Why worst? "Because there are the people out there who are saying it's a CIA conspiracy."

Mattson, the Reveres and the blogger behind The Next Hurrah this week launched a Flu Wiki, a resource guide that will evolve from entries written and edited by visitors to the site. The wiki (the term is based on wiki wiki, the Hawaiian word for quick or informal) has been averaging about 1,500 hits a day since it launched, with the average reader viewing about 15 pages of the text per visit.

In general, the flu blogs and discussion boards that they interact with contain a broad mix of up-to-the-minute news, science, opinion and advice. Effect Measure recently ran an item on how long different foodstuffs last, for those putting aside supplies on the assumption the food distribution network could be severely disrupted by a pandemic.

Other discussions relate to how or whether to try to put aside personal stockpiles of oseltamivir, a prescription antiviral drug that blunts the blow of human flu and is believed to be effective against H5N1 as well.

One frequent contributor, known in the flu cyberworld as CanadaSue, constructed a lengthy scenario - posted on the Flu Wiki - that details what life could be like in her hometown, Kingston, Ont., during a pandemic.

CanadaSue - Sue Smith, a homemaker and former nurse - thinks people need to start putting some thought into how they might deal with the hardships a pandemic could provoke.

"My position is that individuals need to be thinking about it themselves and thinking about what they're going to do in their individual circumstances. Yeah, that might be food in the basement. For some it might be Tamiflu," says Smith, who adds she's not a proponent of personal stockpiles of the drug.

"I'm trying to make the public, those who are interested - and frankly, not that many are yet - I'm just trying to get them interested in thinking: OK, how will this affect me? How will it affect my family? How will it affect my job?"

Mattson shares that view.

"I think that it's responsible for people to know that there is this threat lurking out there," she says.

"Trying to strike the balance in tone between saying 'My God, we're all going to die,' and saying 'This could be nothing, it could be something, probably you should know about it,' is the daily balancing act that I'm trying to walk."

Kilian too worries about balance. In his case, it's the balance between opinion and fact - and whether blog surfers know how to distinguish one from the other.

"Just because I'm out there, shovelling this information onto my blog does not mean that I know what the hell I'm doing or what I'm talking about," he admits.

"And yet because the information's there and the blog looks kind of tidy it acquires a sort of false aura of expert knowledge. And that in itself can be a real hazard. That can be a downside of the web and blogging in particular. And that is that just because you're out there and you're shooting your mouth off, people start treating you like a guru."

Some blogs which focus on pandemic influenza:

-Crawford Kilian's H5N1,

-The Flu Wiki,

-Effect Measure,

-Melanie Mattson's Just a Bump in the Beltway,


-Avian Flu,

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Earthquake rocks Nicaragua, no injuries or damage reported 2005-07-02 14:32:50

MANAGUA, July 1 (Xinhuanet) -- An earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale jolted Pacific waters near Nicaragua late Friday.

There have been no reports of human injuries or material damage.

Nicaragua's national earthquake network said the epicenter was in the Pacific Ocean, about 142 km southwest of the capital Managua. Tremor could be felt in Managua and a number of cities along the Pacific coast. The quake was followed by several aftershocks, the strongest of which had a magnitude of 5.

The official network said the quake was caused by plate collision.

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