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Signs Economic Commentary
Donald Hunt
July 11, 2005

The U.S. dollar closed at 0.8357 euros on Friday, down 0.5% from last week's close of 0.8397.  The euro, then, went from 1.1908 dollars on July 1 to 1.1966 on July 8. Gold closed at 424.90 dollars an ounce, down 1% compared to $429.30 an ounce a week earlier.  Gold in euros would be 355.09 an ounce, down 1.5% compared to 360.51 euros an ounce at the previous week's close. Oil closed at $59.04 up 0.5% compared to $58.75 a barrel on July 1. Oil in euros was unchanged this week at 49.34.  The gold/oil ratio was 7.20, down 1.5% compared to 7.31 a week ago.In the U.S. stock market, the Dow closed at 10,449.14 up 1.4% from last week's 10,303.44, shaking off any terrorism effects even before the end of Thursday.  The NASDAQ closed at 2112.18 up 2.7% from the previous Friday's close of 2057.37.  The yield on the ten-year U.S. Treasury bond closed at 4.10 percent up six basis points from 4.04 on July 1.

The market reaction to the London bombings showed that "normal" terrorist events are now already factored into world market prices:

World economy defies new terror onslaught

Fri Jul 8 6:44 PM ET AFP

Global terrorism is now such a tragic fact of life that major economies will prove more resilient to the attacks on London than to the shock of 9/11, analysts said. Compared to the pandemonium that broke out on financial markets after the attacks in the United States of September 11, 2001, markets this time have quickly got back in their stride after Thursday's rush-hour carnage in London. Major European stock markets rose Friday with London's FTSE 100 index closing up 1.43 percent at 5,232.2 points. New York stocks also rallied strongly. "Unfortunately, western societies have come to expect some type of terror attack somewhere from time to time," US broker Ryan Beck and Co. said in a research note. "As a result, terror risk premiums already exist in all financial markets," it said. Analysts at Claymore Research played down the wider impact of the four bomb blasts on London's public transport system Thursday morning, which killed at least 50 people and injured more than 700. "Many worry that terrorism threatens both the US recovery and the global economy," they said.

"But, if we look to 9/11 as an example, overall spending in the US economy was actually higher in November 2001 than it was in August.

"While airlines and hotels suffered for years, other spending accelerated, and the US consumer rebounded quickly." On that reading, the British and other European economies will be barely affected as a whole by the carnage in London.

Indeed, there has been an upswing of economic optimism in the United States in the past week. This has come from some water-treading employment figures, strong retail sales (meaning a continued housing bubble) and, I believe, a reorienting of public attention away from probable felony indictments of Bush's top advisor, Karl Rove, away from a rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq and Afghanistan for the U.S., and away from a collapse of support for Bush personally (below 40% approval ratings) which usually means political turmoil and uncertainty, towards the "war on terrorism" on Bush terms after the London bombing.  The political boost given to Bush and Blair by the bombing (a godsend for them, really) and by the G8 summit where they could pretend to care about Africa on human terms and not on the next destroyed region ripe for predatory capitalist exploitation can only be good news for the capitalist system, still dominated by the Anglo-American axis (Axis of Mammon?). However, the problems we have been following here this year have not changed, and it is hard to see a bombing of the transit system of the center of the world finance system, no matter who did it, as in any way being good news.

So, first the good news:

Is the economy accelerating?

by Chad Hudson July 6, 2005

Throughout the first half of the year, the economic data has been ambiguous. Growth in the manufacturing sector has moderated from the rapid growth in 2004. Consumer spending has showed signs of abating, with unseasonable weather cited as the primary reason. Over the past week, economic data indicates that economic growth has started to accelerate.

ISM manufacturing survey rose 2.4 points to 53.8. This was the first gain in six months and higher than economists expected, which was no change from May. Most of the increase was due to the jump in new orders. New orders increased 5.5 points to 57.2, the highest level this year. The prices paid component dropped 7.5 points to 50.5. While this was the lowest the prices paid component has been since February 2002, this was the 40th consecutive month that manufacturers reported that prices had increased. After contracting in May, manufacturers reported that employment held steady in June, rising 1.1 points to 49.9. The June non-manufacturing survey was also better than economists expected. Instead of a 0.2 point gain, the index increased 3.7 points in June to 62.2. Six of the components rose. The employment component increased the most, jumping 4.0 points to 57.4. This was the highest since February and the second highest level since the survey started in 1997. While manufactures said that prices stabilized in June, non-manufacturers reported that prices accelerated in June. The prices paid component increased 2.0 points to 59.8. This was the first increase this year. Factory orders jumped 2.9% in May due to a 21.1% jump in transportation orders.

Excluding transportation, factory orders declined 0.1% from April. While factory orders excluding transportation dropped 0.1% from April, orders were up 7.2% compared to last year. Orders for consumer goods rose 10.5% from last year, which was the strongest growth since November 2004.

June annualized vehicle sales reached 17.5 million units, which was better than the 17.0 million unit pace forecasted and the fastest selling pace this year. General Motors sales soared 47% after extending its employee discount to everyone. This incentive eliminated the rebates that GM had been offering and set prices at a no-haggle low price. It is interesting that this increased that average incentive by less than $500. According to Autodata, the employee discount increased the average incentive by $449 to $4,458. This week, GM announced it will extend the employee-discount pricing until August 1 and Chrysler announced that will also sell vehicles at the employee price. This forced Ford to match the offer. Last week, the Federal Reserve raised rates by 25 basis points. More importantly it said monetary policy remains accommodative and further tightening will be measured. The statement also caused traders to reassess how many more times the Federal Reserve will increase rates this year. Before the meeting, Fed Funds futures were trading at 3.78% yield, meaning that traders expected the Federal Reserve to increase rates by another 50 basis points this year. Now, the December contract is trading at 3.895%, so now traders expects three 25 basis points hikes over the next four meetings this year.

Wal-Mart announced that its same store sales rose about 4.5% in June, slightly better than its plan of 2%-4%. Additionally, throughout June the retailer said that general merchandise was stronger than its food sales, which had been stronger in May. Last week, Target said that June same store sales were running above its plan of 4%-6% growth. Some analysts attribute the recent strength to the pent-up demand after poor weather hindered purchases of seasonal items. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, retail sales increased 3.8% during the first week of July, from last year. It also expects sales to have increased by 4.5% in June. This would be the strongest year-over-year growth since February's 4.7% increase. The uneven economic growth over the past six-months has caused economists to forecast a weakening economy. Similar to other "soft-patches", interest rates headed lower, which in turn ignited the already hot housing market. Recent economic reports have revealed that the economy has expanded at a faster pace than initially perceived. In the past, interest rates have moved higher on stronger economic news. While shorter-term bonds have increased, long-term interest rates remain close to two-year lows. If the employment number is stronger than the 198,000 gain economists expect, its likely that the bond market will start to price in a stronger economy. 

In fact, the employment number was around 146,000, less than expected. While the unemployment rate dropped a bit in June, the June job growth numbers in the United States were still high enough to keep the economy from turning downwards.

US economy creates 146,000 jobs in June

AFP Fri Jul 8, 5:33 PM ET

The US economy created 146,000 more jobs in June, the government said, less than expected by Wall Street but still enough to reinforce evidence of healthy growth. Analysts were expecting a June rise in the closely watched "non-farms payroll" figure of 195,000. But the Labor Department also revised up the data for previous months. For May, the figure was raised to 104,000 from 78,000 given initially. The number for April was increased to 292,000 from 274,000. US Treasury Secretary John Snow said the numbers "are a reminder that the American economy is thriving". With the revisions thrown in, the June figure reads closer to a more satisfying rise of 190,000, Nomura chief economist David Resler said. "That is amazingly close to the average of about 183,000 for the past year and a half," he said. "Labor markets are in a steady state of growth, with wage rates offering no hint of inflation pressures."

The US unemployment rate fell to a four-year low of 5.0 percent in June, down from 5.1 percent in May, the Labor Department said.

But economists say the total number of jobs created is a more reliable indicator of the US economy's health than the jobless rate. They reckon that an average rise of 150,000 a month is needed to keep pace with population growth. The non-farms payroll data has been choppy of late. The May and April revisions come after February saw a big rise of 300,000.

Other data have given encouraging signs of growth in the world's biggest economy. First-quarter gross domestic product has been revised up to 3.8 percent, while industrial and services indicators have been solid.

The health of the jobs market is crucial for economic confidence, with consumer spending remaining the biggest motor of growth. In June, average hourly earnings rose three cents, or 0.2 percent, to 16.06 dollars. Earnings are up 2.7 percent in the past year. Job creation was concentrated in professional and business services, which added 56,000 posts, in healthcare and education (up 38,000) and leisure (19,000). Construction firms added 18,000 jobs. Employment losses were concentrated in the auto sector, which lost 18,000 jobs. Among 84 manufacturing industries, 35.7 percent were hiring in June, the lowest level since October 2003. The report will feed into the Federal Reserve's thinking on interest rates when it next meets on August 9, analysts said. The figures inspired a powerful rally on Wall Street as share traders focussed on an economic scenario that is not too hot, but not too cold. "The US economy's performance may once again start inspiring the 'Goldilocks' metaphor, with growth and hiring both running at a pace that is nearly just right for the Fed," said CIBC World Markets analyst Leslie Preston.

Now for the bad news. The following article on the real U.S. budget situation is worth quoting at length:

Federal Deficit Reality: An Update

by John Williams July 7, 2005

John Williams is publisher of "Shadow Government Statistics" which looks behind the government's reported economic numbers.

When the U.S. Treasury reported the official 2004 federal budget deficit at a record $413 billion last October, the hisses and boos in the financial media were unrelenting. Two months later, the Treasury reported the actual 2004 deficit using generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) to be an incredulous $11.1 trillion, up from $3.7 trillion in 2003, yet nary a word was heard in the financial media, from Wall Street or from any political denizen of that former malarial swamp on the Potomac. An exception, of course, was Treasury Secretary John Snow, who signed the government's financial statements, but the data release was as low key as physically possible.

The silence partially reflects the financial-market terror that would accompany an effective national bankruptcy. Such is the risk when a government's fiscal ills spin so wildly out of control that they no longer are containable within the existing system.

Consider the traditional solution of raising taxes. Putting the $11.1 trillion deficit in perspective, if the government raised individual and corporate income taxes to 100%, seizing all salaries, wages and profits, the government's 2004 operations still would have been in deficit by trillions of dollars. The deficit has moved beyond practical fiscal control! Many in government and the markets are aware of the underlying deficit reality, but few dare to sound the alarm, for the ultimate resolutions to the situation all are political or financial nightmares.

The government's GAAP-based accounting generally is as used by Corporate America. It includes accrual accounting for money not yet physically disbursed or received but that otherwise is committed. The largest differences come from the bookkeeping related to Social Security and Medicare, where year-to-year changes in the net present value (discounted for the time value of money) of any unfunded liabilities are counted. In contrast, traditional deficit accounting is on a cash basis. It counts the cash received from payroll taxes (social Security, etc.) as income, but it does not reflect any offsetting obligations to the Social Security system.

That type of accounting for Social Security would be fine as far as I'm concerned as long as they kept it separate from the rest of the budget, which they don't.  That means that the payroll taxes paid into Social Security are considered income for the whole budget.

For nearly four decades, officially sanctioned accounting gimmicks have masked federal deficit reality. Surpluses in trust accounts, such as Social Security, have been used to obscure the true shortfall in government spending. With less than one tenth of the actual deficit being reported each year, a cumulative negative net worth for the U.S. government has built up in stealth to a level that now tops $45 trillion, with total obligations of $47.3 trillion (more than four times annual GDP). The problem has moved beyond crisis to an uncontrollable disaster that threatens the existence of the U.S. dollar and global financial stability.

Indeed, the unfolding fiscal nightmare likely will entail a U.S. hyperinflation and a resulting collapse in the value of the world's primary reserve currency, the dollar. With surviving politicians looking to restore public faith in the global currency system, a new system probably will be based on gold, the only monetary asset that has held public confidence for millennia.

This article updates and expands upon our original background piece on the topic, "Federal Deficit Reality", published in September 2004, and a special economic alert, "Financial Report of the United States Government (FY 2004)", which appeared last December. Portions of those articles are revised and incorporated herein.

Current Detail and Options

While the official cash-accounting deficit for fiscal-year 2004 (year-ended September 30) widened by 10.0% to $413 billion, the broad GAAP-based deficit (including Social Security, etc.) blew up to $11.1 trillion (96% of GDP) in 2004, triple the 2003 deficit level of $3.7 trillion.

Much of the increase in the broad GAAP-based deficit was due to a set-up charge from booking the 2004 "enhancements" to the Medicare system. Net of the $6.4 trillion one-time increase in net unfunded liabilities, the annual broad deficit was about $4.7 trillion, which still would have been a shortfall with 100% taxation.        

  U.S. Government - Alternate Fiscal Deficit and Debt (Source: US
    Treasury; $s Are Either Billions or Trillions, as Indicated)
             Formal   GAAP    GAAP       GAAP         Tot.         Federal
             Cash-    Ex-SS    With SS    Federal       Gross     Obliga-
Fiscal   Based    Etc.        Etc.          Negative     Federal   tions
  Year   Deficit    Deficit   Deficit      Net Worth   Debt       (GAAP)
              (Bil)           (Bil)         (Tril)       (Tril)         (Tril)     (Tril)
             ------        ------     ------      ------        ------    ------
2004  $412.8    $615.6     $11.1*   45.9          $7.4     $47.3
2003    374.8       667.6         3.7     34.8             6.8       36.2
2002    157.8       364.5         1.5     32.1             6.2       32.7
  *$4.7 trillion, excluding one-time setup costs of the Medicare
    Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003
    (enacted December 8, 2003).

Nonetheless, the total numbers reflect something close to true liability. The new Medicare charges show how quickly politicians can make an already impossible situation significantly worse. By adding features to Medicare without setting up full funding for same, the Administration and Congress helped increase the total net present value of unfunded federal government obligations by 31%, from $36.2 trillion to $47.3 trillion in just one year.

In like manner, any "fix" to Social Security, such as raising the retirement age, would result in a one-time change to the unfunded liabilities, but the ongoing annual shortfalls would be affected only minimally. An annual minimum broad GAAP-based deficit of $4.5 to $5.0 trillion appears to be in place.

Wall Street hypesters recently have been touting how the official 2005 federal deficit will narrow from 2004, and the Administration is promising ongoing deficit reductions from the official 2004 level. First, if the economy falls into recession, which it appears to be doing, all such projections are worthless. Second, even if the promised cuts came to pass, after full reductions in an about $4.5-trillion broad GAAP-based deficit, the mere billions saved would still leave the annual deficit rounded to about $4.5 trillion.

The impossibility of the current circumstance working out happily is why lame-duck Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has been urging politicians in Washington to come clean on not being able to deliver promised Social Security and Medicare benefits already under obligation. He suggests, correctly, that there is no chance of economic or productivity growth resolving the matter. The funding shortfall projections already encompass optimistic economic assumptions.

The current circumstance also is why the Bush Administration has been pushing for Social Security reform, but the plans discussed do not come close to touching the magnitude of the problem. Most Congressional Democrats will not even admit there is a problem. Indeed, neither side of the aisle is willing even to mention the scope of the actual shortfall or talk about the Medicare problem, which is even worse than Social Security.

If the Administration and Congress were willing to address the unfolding fiscal Armageddon, only two very unpleasant general solutions are available:

* The first solution is draconian spending cuts, particularly in Social Security and Medicare, accompanied by massive tax increases. The needed spending cuts and tax increases are so large as to be political impossibilities.

* In the absence of political action, the second solution is tacit bankruptcy, with the U.S. government facing some form of insolvency within the next decade or so. Shy of Uncle Sam defaulting on debt, the most likely eventual outcome is the Fed massively monetizing the U.S. debt, triggering a hyperinflation. U.S. obligations then would be paid off in a significantly debased and devalued dollar at literally pennies on the hundred dollars.

These alternatives are politically unthinkable and unspeakable for the Administration and Congress, hence the silence. Yet, these same political bodies are responsible for the current circumstance, along with the acquiescence of the financial community and an uninformed or disinterested voting public.

Decades of Deception -- Historical Perspective

Misleading accounting used by the U.S. government, both in financial and economic reporting, far exceeds the scope of corporate accounting wrongdoing that keeps making financial headlines. The bad boys of Corporate America, however, still have been subject to significant regulatory oversight and at least the appearance of the application of GAAP accounting to their books. In contrast, the government's operations and economic reporting have been subject to oversight solely by Congress, America's only "distinctly native criminal class."

Nearly four decades ago, President Lyndon Johnson's political sensitivities led him and the Congress to slough off some of the costs of an escalating Vietnam War through the use of accounting gimmicks. To mask the rapid growth in the federal government's budget deficit, revenues from the surplus being generated by Social Security taxes were added into the general cash fund, without making any accounting allowance for the accompanying and increasing Social Security liabilities. This accounting-gimmicked reporting was dubbed "unified" budget accounting.

The government's accounting then, as it is now, was on a cash basis, reflecting cash revenues versus cash expenditures. There were no accruals made for monies owed by or due to the government or to the government's trust funds at some time in the future.

The bogus accounting understated the actual deficit for decades and even allowed for claims of budget surpluses in the years 1998 to 2001. While there were extensive self-congratulatory comments between the President, Congress and the Fed Chairman, at the time, all involved knew there never were any actual budget surpluses. There has not been an actual balanced budget, let alone a surplus, since before Johnson and his cronies cooked the bookkeeping.

The doctored fiscal reporting complemented the short-term political interests of both major political parties. Additionally, the ignorance and/or complicity of Pollyannaish analysts on Wall Street and in the financial media -- eager to discourage negative market activity -- helped to keep the fiscal crisis from arousing significant concern among a dumbed-down U.S. populace.

Dollar, Debt and Hyperinflation

The financial-market counterpart to the federal deficit is federal debt, where gross federal debt was $7.8 trillion as of June 30, 2005. That level was $7.4 trillion at the end of fiscal 2004, of which $4.3 trillion was borrowed from the public and $3.1 trillion was borrowed from the government (i.e. Social Security). Therein lies the problem. There is and will be too much debt from the U.S. government for the financial markets to absorb and remain stable.

The burgeoning deficit means the U.S. government will be increasing its debt level significantly for years to come. Near term, the amount borrowed will increase more rapidly than the markets are expecting, with the economy slowing down and entering recession. The ultimate question is who will lend the money to the U.S. Treasury? The answer is not U.S. investors.

The Federal Reserve's flow of funds accounts show that foreign investors, both official and private, owned 42.5% of U.S. Treasuries at the end of 2004, up from 18.2% at the end of 1994. In 2004, foreign investors bought 98.5% of new U.S. Treasury issuance. (See "A Look at Foreign Investment Behavior in the Latest Flow-of-Funds Data," courtesy of Gillespie Research Associates.)

Part of the reason for this relates to another deficit crisis the United States faces on the trade front, where an exploding trade deficit is throwing excess dollars into global circulation. By holding dollars and investing in Treasuries, instead of converting dollars to a local currency, foreign investors have been helping to fund much of the U.S. deficit.

The combination of the rapidly deteriorating trade and budget deficits guarantee this will change. At some point, willingness among foreign investors to hold dollars will evaporate along with the reality that currency losses are more than offsetting any investment gains. When sentiment shifts away from the greenback, not only are foreign investors going to stop buying U.S. Treasuries, but also they likely will dump their holdings of existing Treasuries along with the U.S. dollar. Such actions would lead to a sharp dollar decline, a sharp spike in interest rates and a sharp sell-off in equities. The question, again, is who is going to buy the Treasuries?

With new debt continually hitting the market, eventually the Fed will have to step in to buy the Treasuries -- as lender of last resort -- effectively monetizing the debt. The more the Fed monetizes, the greater will be the growth in the money supply, the greater will be the weakness in the dollar, the greater will be the rate of inflation.

Where the numbers already are there for this to happen, fiscal pressures will get even worse. Already, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation looks like it needs a federal bailout. As the economy deteriorates, the Congress or the Fed will step in as needed to prevent the collapse of any major financial institution that would threaten the system. Such action, though, will prove fiscally expensive.

The Fed let the banks fail in the 1930s, which helped intensify a decline in the money supply. That in turn was given major credit for deepening the Great Depression. The Fed will try to avoid the mistakes of the 1930s, but, in the process, it likely will end up triggering a hyperinflationary depression.

…Such has been the traditional cure for countries that borrowed so far beyond their means that they ended up with a choice between bankruptcy and hyperinflation. Hyperinflation seems to be the easier political route, although, for the first time, it will involve the world's primary reserve currency.

In a hyperinflation, the currency very rapidly becomes worthless. In the classic case of the Weimar Republic of the 1920s, a 100,000-Mark note became more valuable as toilet paper than as currency; wheel barrows full of currency were needed to buy a loaf of bread; an expensive bottle of wine one night was worth even more the next morning, empty, as scrap glass. That is the eventual environment the United States faces because of its out-of-control fiscal madness.

For decades, "The deficit doesn't matter" and "The dollar doesn't matter" have been guiding principles in Washington. The deficit and the dollar do matter, greatly, as Washington, the U.S. public and the global markets will learn shortly.

A New Gold Standard?

The dollar, as we know it, soon will be history. Dollar inflation has been through a number of cycles since the founding of the Republic, but its current perpetual uptrend -- net of some bouncing during the Great Depression -- only began once the Federal Reserve was created in 1914. Now, with fiscal policy careening beyond any chance of containment, the Federal Reserve will get to oversee the U.S. currency's demise.

It is not that the Fed wants to monetize the federal debt and trigger a hyperinflation -- the U.S. Central Bank certainly will do its utmost to avoid that outcome -- but it will have no politically acceptable alternative. The system otherwise would tend to right itself anyway through the economic shakeout of a hyperinflationary depression. While the Fed might hope to mitigate and to control the disaster, given the Fed's nature, it is more likely to exacerbate conditions rather than to improve them.

When the dollar loses most of its value, through hyperinflation and/or currency dumping, the global currency system and economy will be in shambles, and a new currency system will have to be established. Those setting up the new system will need to establish its credibility, and there is only one monetary asset that can accomplish that: Gold.

Gold is the only commodity that has held up as a liquid store of wealth over the millennia. The amount of gold used to buy a loaf of bread in Ancient Rome still buys a loaf of bread today. In like manner, the amount of gold that bought a regular haircut for a man in 1914, still buys a similar haircut today. Where the public does not trust today's politicians and central bankers, it does trust gold.

Whatever structure evolves for the new currency system, it most likely will have gold at its base. That is one reason that central banks rarely have followed through on threatened gold sales in recent years. The threats usually were nothing but jawboning aimed at depressing current market prices. Those countries holding the most gold will have the greatest advantage in any new currency system, and the central bankers know that, including Mr. Greenspan.

Timing of Related Currency and Financial Market Troubles

Central banks, OPEC, corporations and investors, both foreign and domestic -- as holders of U.S. dollars -- increasingly will sense or realize the greenback is headed for the dumpster. It only is a matter of when, not if.

The dumping of the U.S. dollar and/or U.S. debt by investors likely will hit quickly, with little advance notice. All the official actions that in turn could trigger hyperinflation would follow rapidly, with a full-fledged dollar collapse and developing hyperinflation possibly unfolding in a matter of weeks.

When this will happen is the tough question. It could be years; it could be next week. Without knowing the precise proximal trigger of the shift in sentiment against the U.S. currency, the timing is impossible to call. Nonetheless, some early warning signs may be evident in unusual anti-dollar activity in the currency markets, or in unusually sharp and unexplained spikes in the price of gold.

It would be extraordinarily surprising if the ultimate dollar collapse can be held off a decade, let alone three-to-five years. The pending global financial crisis conceivably could break in the immediate future, triggered possibly by one or more of the following developments: action by China to peg its currency to a basket of currencies instead of the dollar, OPEC pricing oil using a basket of currencies instead of the dollar, a sovereign credit rating downgrade on U.S. Treasuries, a major terrorist act, a very bad monthly trade report, a misstatement by an Administration official or some other event that may appear obvious in retrospect.

The dire financial straights the United States government finds itself in, after decades of bleeding the financial health of the government and the society for the enrichment of a few, helps explain the desperation of the foreign policy of the United States.  It is the behavior of someone who is robbing a store to pay off huge gambling debts.

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London 'open for business,' say police
Last Updated Mon, 11 Jul 2005 08:49:19 EDT
CBC News

With London's police and mayor urging a return to normal routine, commuters boarded subways and buses Monday for the first full work week since bomb blasts killed at least 49 people and injured hundreds.

People crowded onto subway trains while buses in the city were running at near normal service.

Transport police said people in the city should use the transit system to defy those responsible for attacks on three subway trains and one bus on Thursday. At least 49 people were killed and more than 700 were injured.

"London is open for business. If we don't do that, then the terrorists will have won and that's not what we want," said Andy Trotter, deputy chief constable of the British Transport Police.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone boarded the subway Monday in a show of support, saying the bomb attacks can't change the city's way of life.

"We are going to work. We carry on our lives," said Livingstone. [...]

British police on Sunday arrested three men under anti-terrorism provisions but later released them. Police refused to connect the arrests to the bombings.

Comment: Maybe it is just us, but we are offended by the idea that "London is open for business", as if the criteria of doing "business" is the summum of human activity and the scale by which we measure whether the "terrorists" have won. Is the global "war on terror" only about making the world safe for business?

Ask the question and you have the response. Of course that is at least one of the goals, to clean out the opposition to corporate control over the markets and people of the our globe.

Add to the mix the high probability that the bombs were the work of the same people who brought us 9/11 and you see the "war on terror" is a self-perpetuating campaign to keep the sheep terrorised and depending upon their good shepherds. Blair and Bush have lied about everything since 9/11. Why should we believe a word they say now?

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Blair's blowback

Of course those who backed the Iraq war refute any link with the London bombs - they are in the deepest denial
Gary Younge
Monday July 11, 2005
The Guardian

Shortly after September 11 2001, when the slightest mention of a link between US foreign policy and the terrorist attacks brought accusations of heartless heresy, the then US national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice got to work. Between public displays of grief and solemnity she managed to round up the senior staff of the National Security Council and ask them to think seriously about "how do you capitalise on these opportunities" to fundamentally change American doctrine and the shape of the world. In an interview with the New Yorker six months later, she said the US no longer had a problem defining its post-cold war role. "I think September 11 was one of those great earthquakes that clarify and sharpen. Events are in much sharper relief."

For those interested in keeping the earth intact in its present shape so that we might one day live on it peacefully, the bombings of July 7 provide no such "opportunities". They do not "clarify" or "sharpen" but muddy and bloody already murky waters. As the identities of the missing emerge, we move from a statistical body count to the tragedy of human loss - brothers, mothers, lovers and daughters cruelly blown away as they headed to work. The space to mourn these losses must be respected. The demand that we abandon rational thought, contextual analysis and critical appraisal of why this happened and what we can do to limit the chances that it will happen again, should not. To explain is not to excuse; to criticise is not to capitulate.

We know what took place. A group of people, with no regard for law, order or our way of life, came to our city and trashed it. With scant regard for human life or political consequences, employing violence as their sole instrument of persuasion, they slaughtered innocent people indiscriminately. They left us feeling unified in our pain and resolute in our convictions, effectively creating a community where one previously did not exist. With the killers probably still at large there is no civil liberty so vital that some would not surrender it in pursuit of them and no punishment too harsh that some might not sanction if we found them.

The trouble is there is nothing in the last paragraph that could not just as easily be said from Falluja as it could from London. The two should not be equated - with over 1,000 people killed or injured, half its housing wrecked and almost every school and mosque damaged or flattened, what Falluja went through at the hands of the US military, with British support, was more deadly. But they can and should be compared. We do not have a monopoly on pain, suffering, rage or resilience. Our blood is no redder, our backbones are no stiffer, nor our tear ducts more productive than the people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those whose imagination could not stretch to empathise with the misery we have caused in the Gulf now have something closer to home to identify with. "Collateral damage" always has a human face: its relatives grieve; its communities have memory and demand action.

These basic humanistic precepts are the principle casualties of fundamentalism, whether it is wedded to Muhammad or the market. They were clearly absent from the minds of those who bombed London last week. They are no less absent from the minds of those who have pursued the war on terror for the past four years.

Tony Blair is not responsible for the more than 50 dead and 700 injured on Thursday. In all likelihood, "jihadists" are. But he is partly responsible for the 100,000 people who have been killed in Iraq. And even at this early stage there is a far clearer logic linking these two events than there ever was tying Saddam Hussein to either 9/11 or weapons of mass destruction.

It is no mystery why those who have backed the war in Iraq would refute this connection. With each and every setback, from the lack of UN endorsement right through to the continuing strength of the insurgency, they go ever deeper into denial. Their sophistry has now mutated into a form of political autism - their ability to engage with the world around them has been severely impaired by their adherence to a flawed and fatal project. To say that terrorists would have targeted us even if we hadn't gone into Iraq is a bit like a smoker justifying their habit by saying, "I could get run over crossing the street tomorrow." True, but the certain health risks of cigarettes are more akin to playing chicken on a four-lane highway. They have the effect of bringing that fatal, fateful day much closer than it might otherwise be.

Similarly, invading Iraq clearly made us a target. Did Downing Street really think it could declare a war on terror and that terror would not fight back? That, in itself, is not a reason to withdraw troops if having them there is the right thing to do. But since it isn't and never was, it provides a compelling reason to change course before more people are killed here or there. So the prime minister got it partly right on Saturday when he said: "I think this type of terrorism has very deep roots. As well as dealing with the consequences of this - trying to protect ourselves as much as any civil society can - you have to try to pull it up by its roots."

What he would not acknowledge is that his alliance with President George Bush has been sowing the seeds and fertilising the soil in the Gulf, for yet more to grow. The invasion and occupation of Iraq - illegal, immoral and inept - provided the Arab world with one more legitimate grievance. Bush laid down the gauntlet: you're either with us or with the terrorists. A small minority of young Muslims looked at the values displayed in Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay and Camp Bread Basket - and made their choice. The war helped transform Iraq from a vicious, secular dictatorship with no links to international terrorism into a magnet and training ground for those determined to commit terrorist atrocities. Meanwhile, it diverted our attention and resources from the very people we should have been fighting - al-Qaida.

Leftwing axe-grinding? As early as February 2003 the joint intelligence committee reported that al-Qaida and associated groups continued to represent "by far the greatest terrorist threat to western interests, and that that threat would be heightened by military action against Iraq". At the World Economic Forum last year, Gareth Evans, the former Australian foreign minister and head of the International Crisis Group thinktank, said: "The net result of the war on terror is more war and more terror. Look at Iraq: the least plausible reason for going to war - terrorism - has been its most harrowing consequence."

None of that justifies what the bombers did. But it does help explain how we got where we are and what we need to do to move to a safer place. If Blair didn't know the invasion would make us more vulnerable, he is negligent; if he did, then he should take responsibility for his part in this. That does not mean we deserved what was coming. It means we deserve a lot better.

Comment: The right wing pundits in the United States call the argument presented in this article "blame America first" -- that is, blame "terrorist" attacks on the US or its allies on US foreign policy. Seems reasonable to us. The other choice is to demonise the Arabs and portray them as cold-blooded, murderous, savages who are less than human and deserving of the contempt and firepower of the "civilised" countries.

Blair, Bush, Sharon, the neocons and the Christian zionists choose the second explanation. The Christians, of course, add on the bit that the Arabs are worshipping a false God, as well. It is fed and nourished by attacks such as Thursday's on London, and it was given a major shot of adrenalin by the attacks of 9/11. Without 9/11, we'd not be in this so-called "war on terror".

After 9/11, Bush refused to have an official inquiry. The evidence at the site of the collapsed towers in New York was quickly removed and shipped to China as scrap metal, so quickly in fact that no investigation was ever carried out on the support structures, an investigation that would have shown whether or not they collapsed due to metal fatigue as claimed by the official story, or whether they had been weakened by explosive charges, as suggested by many independent investigators into 9/11. Many people claim to have heard explosions, and one man says he was in the basement of one of the towers where minutes prior to the plane crash dozens of stories above there was an explosion that took out some of the supports.

There are holes in just about every aspect of the official story, from these in New York, to questions about the "crash" of Flight 93, to the Pentagon, the standing down of North American air defense, and on and on. No wonder Bush did not want an inquiry.

The official commission that submitted its report last summer was to have been the first of two. After Bush's "re-election", it was announced the second would never occur.

All of which raises serious questions about who was in fact responsible for the 9/11 attacks. If you were the president of the UNited States, and your country was attacked, killing almost 3,000 of your countrymen, wouldn't you want to do everything in your power to find out how and why it happened? If you don't, doesn't that seem a bit suspicious, as if such an inquiry might uncover some disquieting truths?

The fallback story for 9/11 is that such an investigation would have shown the intelligence agencies failed,and this is what the Commission's report concluded. The president was protected from scrutiny and no fault was found. Nice to be able to appoint your friends to do the investigation in times like these... What was never looked at is the idea that members of the Bush Administration knew in advance because they were among the organisers of the attack.

We have gone over a bit of "ancient history" because, lo and behold, we find a similar response to the London bombings from Tony Blair. Blair has rejected the opposition's call for an inquiry into the London bombings.

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Downing Street rejects Howard call for inquiry

MI5 plans internal investigation
Patrick Wintour and Richard Norton-Taylor
Monday July 11, 2005
The Guardian

Downing Street has rejected a call by Michael Howard yesterday for a full inquiry into possible security failures before the London bombings.

In a television interview, the Conservative leader said: "Let's look again at our arrangements, let's have an inquiry into what happened and whether anything more could have been done."

Tony Blair will today make his first statement to parliament since the attacks, focusing on the hunt for the terrorists, the continuing search for bodies and the arrangements being led by the culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, to provide advice and help for bereaved families.

In a separate development, the Guardian has learned that MI5 is to conduct an internal investigation into the bombings to try to establish how the terrorists avoided detection.

Security and intelligence officials said yesterday they had "absolutely nothing to hide" and described MI5, the domestic security service, as a "self-critical organisation".

They added: "[MI5] wants to find out how this got through".

Mr Howard, speaking on BBC News 24, said it was too early to say whether the government had made mistakes in its handling of the attacks: "The inquiry we have asked for is an inquiry into what happened, what went wrong."

His remarks drew short shrift from government.

An official said: "It is pretty preposterous when we have a vital police investigation under way for the police and security services to spend their time on an inquiry. The prime minister has absolute confidence in the security services and the police."

Mr Howard said: "Clearly in an ideal world we would have been able to prevent this dreadful attack and we weren't able to do that.

"It is not to say that was anybody's fault. We cannot achieve a guarantee of total immunity from these attacks in today's world. But it is sensible to have an inquiry with the benefit of hindsight into what was done and what wasn't done to see if there are lessons which can be learned. Perhaps there are, perhaps there aren't."

The Conservatives favour a new border police and a minister for homeland security, two issues raised by Mr Howard during the election.

The Tory leader said the government must not be panicked into introducing draconian measures following the attacks.

He did not believe determined terrorists could be stopped by tagging them or ordering them to stay at home.

"Let's look at all these things calmly, not as a knee-jerk reaction," he added.

David Davis, the shadow home secretary, again rejected identity cards and said any control orders should be issued by a high court judge, and not the home secretary.

The government is reviewing the use of control orders in the next few months.

Charles Kennedy, leader of the Liberal Democrats, who opposed the Iraq war, said he did not believe the bombings were prompted by the war.

"I wouldn't link what's happened in London to Iraq," he said on News 24.

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Blair rejects calls for probe into bombings
By James Blitz, Political Editor, and Jimmy Burns
Published: July 10 2005 20:55 | Last updated: July 10 2005 20:55

Tony Blair will on Monday reject Conservative demands for a government inquiry into last week's London bomb attacks, insisting such a move would distract from the task of catching the perpetrators.

As the death toll rose to 52 and police and security services continued searching for the bombers - thought to be Islamist terrorists - Downing Street said the prime minister believed an inquiry now into the outrage which killed at least 49 people would be a "ludicrous diversion."

Instead, in a statement to the Commons on Monday following last week's Group of Eight summit, Mr Blair is expected to focus on the direction the government must take to ensure future terrorism is defeated.

In particular, the prime minister believes there must be far greater co-operation among European Union governments in the fight against terrorism - a view Charles Clarke, the home secretary, is expected to drive home at an emergency meeting of EU interior ministers this week.

He is expected to tell his counterparts governments must ensure operators keep data on telephone and internet exchanges for up to a year.

He also indicated on Sunday that he would consider granting further "control orders" if he thought they were necessary.

Mr Clarke said he was "very optimistic indeed" that last Thursday's bombers would be tracked down. But he feared further attacks could take place until that happened. "That is why the number one priority has to be the catching of the perpetrators."

Police continued to sift through the debris from Thursday's four explosions - three in the London Underground and one on a bus - and to examine witness accounts and intelligence as part of their hunt for the bombers.

But police chiefs indicated that had yet to establish the identity or the whereabouts of the terrorists they suspect belong to an extremist Islamist cell in sympathy with the aims of Al-Qaeda.

Tension several cities remained high over the weekend. Police said they had arrested, under prevention of terrorism laws, three British nationals on an inward flight at Heathrow early on Sunday but insisted that any link with last Thursday's bombings was speculative. The three were released later on Sunday night without charge.

But the arrests, the dozens of bomb alerts in the English capital and an evacuation in the Birmingam city centre over the weekend reflect the nervousness of both police and the general public at the prospect that the bombers were still at large and capable of striking again.

The police also revealed that there had been a few cases of attacks on British Muslims in the wake of the bombings - including one in which an individual was "seriously injured."

The revelation came as some government officials expressed irritation that an article in a Sunday newspaper by Sir John Stevens, the former Metropolitan Police commissioner, might stir up racial tensions. He said the bombers were "almost certainly" British - with many more born and bred here willing to attack.

Comment: So, no inquiry into the bombings because everyone is needed in tracking down the perpetrators. In the meantime, it is time to lock down the hatches and impose an ever greater control over the population.

British Home Secretary Charles Clarke raised the issue of Control Orders. Let's take a look at what they are and some of the reactions to them. First, here is the Home Office description:

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Control Orders
Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 (ATCSA)

The Government has decided to replace the Part 4 powers with a new system of Control Orders. Control Orders would be applied to any suspected terrorist, whether a UK national nor a non-UK national, whatever the nature of the terrorist activity (international or domestic).

The control orders will enable the authorities to impose conditions ranging from prohibitions on access to specific items or services, and restrictions on association with named individuals, to the imposition of restritions on movement or curfews.

The controls under the new scheme would not include detention in prison although it is intended that a breach of a control order should be a crimnal offence and prosecuted in the usual way.

Control Orders Proposals – The Facts
1. The Home Secretary will make a control order based on an assessment of the intelligence information.

2. The specific conditions imposed under a Control Order would be tailored to each case to ensure effective disruption of terrorist activity.

3. Conditions that could be imposed range from the imposition of curfews, tagging, and a restriction on the use of specific things (such as computers) to reporting to a specified person at particular times and limitations on people with who an individual could associate.

4. Control Orders could be varied and controls changed if the threat an individual poses changes.

5. The individual concerned is entitled to appeal against the Secretary of States decision to the High Court decision. The court may consider the case in open or closed session – depending on the nature and sensitivity of the information under consideration. Special advocates will be used to represent the interests of appellants in any closed sessions.

6. Control Orders will be time limited and may be imposed for a period of up to 12 months at a time. They would be renewable thereafter.

7. Breach of a condition imposed by a control order will be a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment. Steps taken to monitor compliance with control orders may include electronic tagging, or regular reporting ot a nomnated person.

Comment: First, we have seen in the United States how the idea of who is a terrorist can be very broad. Right wing pundits are calling people who criticise Bush "terrorist supporters". While this is rhetoric for the moment, do think for a moment that it might not become something more real in the future.

Second, we have more than enough examples of how intelligence agencies can cook the evidence when it suits their political masters.

Control orders amount to a means to detain an individual for as long as the government sees fit. If the government argues that the case is of a sensitive nature, it can hear an appeal in a closed session. We wouldn't be surprised if evidence were withheld from the defendant for reasons of "sensitivity" as well, as the so-called "twentieth hijacker", Zacarias Moussaoui, who was tried in a kangaroo court in Virginia, was not allowed to see the much of the evidence against him.

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Europe condemns UK's terror control orders

Commissioner warns of human rights being viewed as 'obstructions'
Audrey Gillan
Thursday June 9, 2005
The Guardian

The following correction was printed in the Guardian's Corrections and clarifications column, Friday June 10, 2005.

In the following article we referred to Alvaro Gil-Robles as the "European commissioner for human rights". To clarify, he represents the Council of Europe, which is custodian of the European court of human rights. As we pointed out in the previous day's report, the court is not a part of the EU.

The government was yesterday severely criticised for its policies on anti-terror legislation, frequent use of anti-social behaviour orders, high numbers of children held in detention and its treatment of asylum seekers.

A scathing report by the European commissioner for human rights, Alvaro Gil-Robles, condemned use of control orders for terrorist suspects and other anti-terrorism measures, which he said had had "a repercussion extending beyond their impact on individual persons to entire communities".

The long-delayed report said the UK has not been immune "to a tendency increasingly discernible across Europe to consider human rights as excessively restricting the effective administration of justice and the protection of the public interest".

Mr Gil-Robles said the British government had occasionally overstepped the mark. "Against a background, by no means limited to the UK, in which human rights are frequently construed as, at best, formal commitments and, at worst, cumbersome obstructions, it is perhaps worth emphasising that human rights are not a pick-and-mix assortment of luxury entitlements but the very foundation of democratic societies.

"As such, their violation affects not just the individual concerned but society as a whole: we exclude one person from their enjoyment at the risk of excluding all of us," he said.

To limit the application of human rights or to deny them was "to effect ourselves of what terrorists wish to achieve". Some control orders constituted criminal punishment without trial.

A further report on the treatment of suspected international terrorists detained in the UK under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (ATCSA) 2001 is to be published today by the European Committee for Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Last night rights organisations such as Amnesty International, Liberty, and Human Rights Watch said that the commissioner's report confirmed what they had known all along, "that the government's counter-terrorism strategy is on the wrong track".

The report condemned use of evidence obtained under conditions of torture and used in court as an "entirely indefensible practice". It said: "Torture is torture, whoever does it; judicial proceedings are judicial proceedings, whatever their purpose - the former can never be admissible in the latter."

An appeal court ruling last year said that ATCSA 2001 allowed the admission of "evidence" obtained by torture provided it was not committed or connived at by British officials. The ruling, which outraged human rights campaigners, is to be challenged by an appeal to the law lords.

The commissioner was also critical of the frequent use of Asbos, which he said were "being touted as a miracle cure for urban nuisance".

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said the report was "a serious wake-up call to politicians who have rubbished notions of fairness and basic human dignity for too long. There should be a full parliamentary debate into all the key recommendations."

The prime minister's official spokesman said: "There is a balance to be struck between the human rights of individuals and the human rights of citizens to be protected against terrorist threat.

"That is a difficult balance, but we believe our legislation achieves that balance. It is always difficult to achieve that balance, but you have to bear in mind both sides of human rights."

Comment: Yes, that overused word "balance". "We need to strike a balance". Which translates to: "We don't have any evidence, but we don't like the looks of this guy. Trust us."

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UK: Proposed "control orders" would violate human rights
Amnesty International
Press release, 02/22/2005

The prevention of terrorism bill makes a mockery of human rights and the rule of law and contravenes the spirit, if not the letter, of the December 2004 Law Lords' judgment, Amnesty International said today.

The United Kingdom (UK) Home Secretary Charles Clarke unveiled his proposals for "control orders" which range from tagging to "house arrest" without charge or trial and would apply to UK citizens and foreigners alike. The decision to impose such orders will be taken by the executive alone. The introduction of "house arrest" without charge or trial requires derogations from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

"The United Kingdom (UK) government's proposal to issue, debate and pass a piece of legislation -- introducing draconian measures and further derogating from obligations under international treaties -- within the next few weeks, is a repeat of the way in which they railroaded the enactment of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (ATCSA) in 2001. As such it shows contempt for parliamentary and public scrutiny and debate," Amnesty International said.

"House arrest without charge or trial is no different from internment at Belmarsh, Woodhill or Broadmoor. It is still deprivation of liberty. The provisions for judicial involvement post facto do not alter the arbitrary nature of this bill," Amnesty International said.

"Those suspected of involvement in 'terrorism' must be charged with a recognizably criminal offence and tried in proceedings which fully comply with international fair trial standards."

Amnesty International considers that rather than tabling ill-conceived and dangerous legislation that contravenes domestic and international human rights law -- and that if implemented, would lead to serious human rights violations -- the UK authorities should:

  • commit themselves to upholding the rule of law and human rights;
  • end executive powers to deprive people of their liberty;
  • release immediately all those interned unless charged with a recognizably criminal offence and tried;
  • withdraw the derogation from the ECHR and ICCPR;
  • end the use of secret evidence to deprive people of their liberty or restrict their freedoms of movement, expression or association;
  • ban the use of torture evidence in any proceedings.

The Home Secretary Charles Clarke justified the draft bill on prevention of terrorism with the necessity to counter "terrorists" who allegedly want to attack the UK.

Amnesty International condemns, in the strongest terms, acts of violence against civilians, whoever the perpetrator and whatever the motive, but at the same time the organization urges the UK government to ensure that any measure taken to prevent or respond to such attacks fully conforms with its obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law.

Amnesty International is studying the legislation in detail and will make its concerns public at a later stage.

Comment: But maybe these are simply the fears of wimpified liberals - you know, the kind that think we should talk and discuss things over with "terrorists", rather than destroying their families and towns. Well, here's the experience of one man detained in the UK under a Control Order...

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Control order flaws exposed

First interview with ex-detainee reveals a regime that leaves him in despair : Ex-detainee exposes flaws in terror control orders
Audrey Gillan and Faisal al Yafai
Thursday March 24, 2005
The Guardian

The bizarre world of the government's controversial anti-terrorist control orders was yesterday revealed when one of the 10 men who had been detained in high-security institutions for more than three years walked into the Guardian offices without any security escort.

Highlighting the stark contradictions in the control orders, Mahmoud Abu Rideh, who had been detained without charge and trial in Belmarsh prison and Broadmoor psychiatric hospital, is kept under house arrest at night, but is able to roam freely under tagging during the day.

The Palestinian refugee, who was held for three-and-a-half years, says he cannot understand the double standards of the order, and said it was further exacerbating his psychiatric difficulties. He has been diagnosed as mentally ill.

In the first interview from any of the 10 detainees placed under control orders, he said: "I go everywhere now - on the underground, buses, the mosque. But I must be home by 7pm. People think I am dangerous, but I am not dangerous. The government is playing games. If I am a risk to security, why are they letting me out to be with people? I wouldn't do anything silly. I am not a dangerous man."

Mr Abu Rideh's control order says he is a key UK-based contact and provider of financial and logistical support to extreme Islamists with connections to al-Qaida. It says: "You belonged to and have provided support for a network of north African extremists directly involved in terrorist planning in the UK, including the use of toxic chemicals."

Mr Abu Rideh denies this is the case.

The control orders were rushed through parliament earlier this month in the face of widespread opposition. The contradictions inherent in them are clear from Mr Abu Rideh's experiences since being released on bail almost two weeks ago:

  • He is not allowed to make arrangements to meet anybody, but he can drop in to see anyone if he does so unannounced;
  • He cannot attend any pre-arranged meetings or gatherings, but was present at the anti-war demonstration at Hyde Park last Saturday. He says he stumbled across it while playing football in the park with his children;
  • He is banned from having visitors to his home unless they are vetted in advance, but he is allowed to arrange to attend group prayers at a mosque;
  • He thinks he is being followed on the tube, but if he calls a taxi, no one tails him.

Mr Abu Rideh told the Guardian that his confusion over how the control orders work, and his lack of support, led him to take a drug overdose last weekend. He was taken to Charing Cross hospital after he swallowed 35 tablets and was not released until Monday evening. He says he cannot bear to live under the conditions imposed by the home secretary.

He said: "I only want to kill myself. I don't want to kill anybody else. I am not a danger to anybody else, but this government has made me a danger to myself. It is just as bad to be free with a control order as it is in Belmarsh prison or Broadmoor hospital."

The control orders authorised by the home secretary, Charles Clarke, caused a parliamentary crisis two weeks ago and were only shunted through after 30 hours of ferocious tussling between the two houses and a compromise on the part of the government.

The 10 men include Abu Qatada, the Islamist preacher who has been described by a judge as a truly dangerous individual who was "at the centre of UK terrorist activities associated with al-Qaida".

At the time of the parliamentary debate, the Home Office said that the 10 released men were still a risk to national security. This week, lawyers for Mr Abu Rideh and the other men began a legal challenge to the control orders. They told a high court judge that the orders were confused and difficult to work with, saying: "It has been continuous crisis management for the past 10 days."

Yesterday, Mr Abu Rideh explained some of these problems. "The conditions are too complicated and they don't work. The Home Office emergency number doesn't work. I phoned Fulham police station and they said it's not their problem," he said.

He claims that the voice recognition system operated by the tagging company, Premier Monitoring Services, does not work and the Guardian found that the Home Office control order hotline was an answering machine.

Mr Abu Rideh is so frustrated that he has threatened to take direct action similar to Fathers4Justice. He said: "I will go to Big Ben and make a demonstration, I will chain myself to the railings of the high court or the House of Commons. My lawyer has told me not to, but if I don't get justice I will."

The transition from being in Belmarsh and then in a hospital with the criminal mentally ill to being at home with his wife and five children is proving to be fraught. "I think they will arrest me again. My kids worry that when they get back from school I will be gone and they might not find me again. My wife can't sleep. She is asking me not to go out."

Surprise searches by Scotland Yard officers leave his family on edge, he said, and his wife sleeps fully clothed in case of any eventuality. He complained that officers rifled through his wife's underwear drawer. "That's wrong in anybody's culture," he said. "I asked them, What are you searching there, do you think I have a bomb in my house, do you think I would kill my kids?"

But the most frustrating thing of all is that, despite being called an international terrorist by the government, he has never been told where he crossed the line.

He said: "I want to talk to whoever locked me up. Talk to me. Tell me, why? See my face, see my body. But I can't find anybody to talk to me."

A spokesperson for Premier said the company could not discuss individual cases.

Comment: Abu Rideh's experiences sound like they were written by Franz Kafka. He lives in a netherworld where he is neither innocent nor guilty, subject to apparently contradictory rules, with no one on the other end of the line to explain to him the unfathomable logic.

If conditions develop along the lines of force currently dominant, we'll all be wearing electronic bracelets one day. Already our movements can be tracked through our credit card and bank card purchases the GPS chips in our car. Our thoughts and interests can be tracked and noted through our use of the Internet.

We're all on someone's list.

We have flipped into a society where everyone is considered guilty until they can obtain Top Secret clearance...and even then, they'll be someone with Above Top Secret clearance who will continue to watch.

Utopias are easy to imagine yet impossible to build; dystopias are both easy to imagine and easy to create. We are collectively creating such a dystopia -- truth be said, it is already here, only the pretty wrappings haven't quite been enough removed to make it apparent to those who are too caught up in their daily affairs to notice. This dystopia, a corporate fascism where capital and business legal individuals have more rights than individuals of flesh and blood, has been slowly but steadily manifesting since the dry run in Germany and Italy seventy years ago. Those in power have been studying society with great care to find a way of making us willing accessories, and they are succeeding.

Step by step, drop by drop, with the occasional unexpected shock to our collective nervous system for good measure, we are being imprisoned with legal restrictions, with fear, with ideology and dogma, with prejudice against those who do not dress, speak, walk, or look like us.

The slogan "We are all Londoners" was seen after last week's bombing. But we are also all Fallujans, we are all Palestinians, we are the Americans who died on 9/11. We are all being manipulated and set against each other to serve aims of which we have no conception, of which we can only discern by carefully reading between the lines, by seeing the overall pattern that emerges from a study of history, of science, of geology and archaeology.

To get an understanding of what we are referring to, we point you to The Secret History of the World and How to Get Out Alive.

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Terror alert highest ever as police fear new attack
By Michael Evans, Sean O'Neill, Daniel McGrory and Stewart Tendler
Times Online
July 11, 2005

BRITAIN'S terrorist alert has been raised to its highest-ever level because the London rush-hour bombers are alive and planning another attack, The Times has learnt.

Security services, military and police are on "severe specific" alert - the second highest status and higher than after the September 11 atrocities - after it emerged that the terrorists who killed as many as 70 people were not suicide bombers.

The Times understands that the country's biggest manhunt is focusing on evidence being gathered from King's Cross station, which all three of the bombed Tube trains passed through on Thursday morning.

A re-examination of the timings of the explosions has revealed that the Underground bombs exploded within seconds of one another at 8.50am.

Investigators believe that the bombers assembled at the huge station, with its many rail connections, before dispersing to plant their devices around the Tube network.

The Circle Line bombs detonated when the Aldgate train was eight minutes east of King's Cross and the Edgware Road train was eight minutes to the west. The Russell Square train was blown up seconds later, south of King's Cross on the Piccadilly Line.

The bombers who killed 191 people in Madrid last year also gathered at one place before separating to plant devices timed to explode simultaneously.

Examination of CCTV footage from the dozens of security cameras around King's Cross is a priority for investigators.

Scotland Yard also appealed yesterday for Tube passengers to send in mobile phone pictures and videos they may have made in the bombings. Streets and car parks near the station are being searched to discover if the terrorists left a vehicle.

The bombers travelled from outside London. "We believe they started out together, to ensure that there were no slips on the journey. Then they are likely to have split up to join separate trains," a senior anti-terrorist source told The Times. "We need to find where these men were staying in the days before the attacks and where they collected the rucksack bombs."

The other main line of inquiry is to recover forensic evidence from the mangled remains of the No 30 bus at Tavistock Square, where officers think a fourth bomber may have died at 9.47am. Police are trying to discover why his bomb - thought to have been of the same size and design as the Tube bombs - detonated 57 minutes after the synchronised devices.

One theory is that the man was to launch a second wave of attack, targeting people fleeing closed Tube stations.

When he found that stations had been quickly shut, the terrorist may have panicked, or been under orders to switch his attention to a bus, another symbol of London's travel network.

One Scotland Yard source said: "We will never know for certain what happened in those last few minutes. He might not have woken up that morning as a suicide bomber, but circumstances meant he became one."

Passengers on the bus noticed a 6ft tall, olive-skinned man, thought to be aged in his early 20s, looking agitated and rummaging in a rucksack.

Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, said that the Government's priority was catching the surviving bombers before they struck again. [...]

Three Britons were arrested under the Terrorism Act at Heathrow after being refused entry to the US but police said that they were not suspects. A US report that a Pakistani man was detained at Stansted on Friday, in possession of a marked Tube map, was dismissed. [...]

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British police release trio detained at Heathrow Airport
Mon Jul 11, 3:00 AM ET

LONDON - Police arrested three people at London's Heathrow Airport under anti-terrorism laws but said no link had been established with the Underground and bus bombings and later released the trio.

"Three people have been arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act at Heathrow Airport but it is not known at this stage whether those arrests are linked to this inquiry or not," a senior London police spokesman, Commander Brian Paddick, told a news conference Sunday morning.

Within hours police said that the men had been released without charge.

Paddick had warned on announcing their arrest against linking the three to the attacks.

"I am told that it is inappropriate and pure speculation at this stage to be drawing any direct linkages with the attacks in London, and at this stage we are not in a position to give any further information." [...]

Britain's Press Association said the men were three British nationals who had been detained as they arrived from abroad, but it quoted sources as saying they were not being linked to the bombings.

Police said they had received valuable information from the public, who had flooded a tip-off line with 1,700 calls.

The confirmed death toll from the four blasts that destroyed a double-decker bus and crumpled Underground trains was 49, but police were still searching for trapped bodies deep below street level near London's Russell Square station.

The three London Underground bombs were detonated within 50 seconds of one another at about 8:50 am (0750 GMT), a level of coordination that bore the hallmarks of an attack by suspected Al-Qaeda operatives.

There have been two claims of responsibility by groups linked to Osama bin Laden's organisation.

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Israel's Sharon muzzles ministers on London blasts
By Matt Spetalnick
July 9, 2005

JERUSALEM - Israel's Ariel Sharon has imposed a gag order on his cabinet over the London bombings to avoid offending British sensibilities with comparisons to his country's fight against Palestinian militants, officials said.

The prime minister muzzled his normally talkative cabinet after Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom seemed to equate Thursday's deadly attacks with suicide bombings against Israeli civilians, comments that Israeli commentators said were ill-timed.

"Keep quiet. Limit any response to expressions of condolences," was Sharon's message to his ministers after rush-hour blasts killed more than 50 people in central London.

"The feeling is the last thing the British need right now is Israeli ministers preaching to them about the war on terror," a Sharon confidant said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has condemned the London bombings as an "ugly crime."

After al Qaeda's September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, Sharon was quick to draw parallels to Israel's own struggle against Islamic militancy. At the time, Israelis were battling a wave of suicide bombings in a Palestinian uprising.

But with a five-month-old ceasefire in effect, Sharon is taking a different tack in response to the London bombings, which British officials said bore the hallmarks of al Qaeda.

He issued a statement telling Londoners that Israelis "feel their pain." But he wants to keep a low profile to avoid stirring anti-Israel sentiment in Britain or causing any fallout in relations, which have sometimes been rocky, officials said.

Despite Sharon's directive, Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, visiting London at the time of the blasts, wrote in the daily Maariv: "Now the British have unwillingly joined not only us, the Israelis, in absorbing murderous attacks in the heart of their cities.

"They also join the Americans, Spanish, Russians and others who were marked as targets on the firing line of Islamic terror."

Netanyahu told Sky television in a separate interview that pressure should be applied by Western nations on Iran and Saudi Arabia, countries he accused of supporting terrorist groups.

"Without this kind of support al Qaeda would be in a much more difficult state ... in fact its defeat would be much more imminent," Netanyahu said.


Some ordinary Israelis voiced hope the London bombings would cause the British and other Europeans, whom they regard as biased in favor of the Palestinians, to have more sympathy for Israelis killed or wounded in Palestinian attacks.

Comment: Who benefits?

"Jerusalem-on-Thames" read a front page headline in the Haaretz daily. In Jerusalem, hard hit by bombers in the past 4-1/2 years, guards stand outside cafes and markets, and shoppers must pass through metal detectors to enter malls.

"I'm hoping people will have a little bit more solidarity with us and the hardships that we go through," Jerusalem resident Ben Katz said.

In the meantime, Israeli pundits appeared torn between admiring the way London's emergency services, news media and citizens coped with the bombings and criticizing the apparent intelligence failure that meant the bomb plot went undetected.

Palestinians have matched Israeli condemnation of the bombings.

But the militant Islamic group Hamas, whose suicide bombers have killed hundreds of Israeli civilians in public places since the start of the Palestinian uprising, nuanced its response.

While denouncing the London attacks, Hamas -- sworn to Israel's destruction -- called for an end to "occupation, aggression and injustices against Islamic and Arab nations" which it said created the climate for such bombings.

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Flashback: U.S. Army Officers Say: 'Mossad May Blame Arabs'
Michael Collins Piper
American Free Press
September 26, 2001

Sometimes "the most likely suspect" in an act of terrorism is actually a "false flag" working for-or otherwise "framed" by- those who are responsible.

Top U.S. Army analysts believe Israel's intelligence agency, the Mossad, is "ruthless and cunning," "a wildcard" that "has [the] capability to target U.S. forces and make it look like a Palestinian/Arab act."

This eye-opening assertion about America's supposed closest ally was reported in a front page story in The Washington Times on September 10-just one day before the terrorist attacks in America that are being blamed on "Arabs."

The Times reported that this serious charge by U.S. Army officers against the Israelis appeared in a 68-page paper prepared by 60 officers at the U.S. Army's School for Advanced Military Studies, a training ground for up-and-coming Army officers.

Then, just hours after the terrorist tragedies, a well-known pro-Israel analyst, George Friedman, proclaimed Israel as the primary beneficiary.

"The big winner today, intended or not, is the state of Israel," wrote Fried man, who said on his Internet website at that "There is no question … that the Israeli leadership is feeling relief" in the wake of the terrorist attack on America as a result of the benefits that Israel will glean.

Considering the U.S. Army's questions about possible provocations by Israel, coupled with this noted intelligence analyst's suggestion that Israel was indeed "the big winner" on Sept. 11, a previous report in the Aug. 3, 1993 issue of The Village Voice that Israel's Mossad was perhaps involved in (or had foreknowledge of) the previous "Arab terrorist" attack on the World Trade Center, takes on new dimensions.

The events of Sept. 11 do require careful attention in light of the fact that Israel has had a long and proven record in planting "false flags"-orchestrated assassinations and acts of terrorism for its own purposes and pinning those atrocities on innocent parties.

Perhaps the best-known instance in which Israel used a "false flag" to cover its own trail was in the infamous Lavon Affair. It was in 1954 that several Israeli-orchestrated acts of terrorism against British targets in Egypt were carried out. Blame for the attacks was placed on the Muslim Brotherhood, which opposed the regime of Egyptian President Gamul Abdul-Nasser. However, the truth about the wave of terror is found in a once-secret cable from Col. Benjamin Givli, the head of Israel's military intelligence, who outlined the intended purpose behind the wave of terror:

[Our goal] is to break the West's confidence in the existing [Egyptian] regime. The actions should cause arrests, demonstrations, and expressions of revenge. The Israeli origin should be totally covered while attention should be shifted to any other possible factor. The purpose is to prevent economic and military aid from the West to Egypt.

Comment: It seems the Mossad has a history of conducting false-flag operations against British interests...

Ultimately the truth about Israel's involvement became public and Israel was rocked internally in the wake of the scandal. Competing political elements within Israel used the scandal as a bludgeon against their opponents. But the truth about Israel's use of a "false flag" had come to international attention and demonstrated how Israel was willing to endanger innocent lives as part of its grand political strategy to expand its influence in the Middle East.


A shadowy "right wing" group known as "Direct Action" was accused of the attack on Goldenberg's Deli in Paris on Aug. 9, 1982. Six people died and 22 were injured. The leader of "Direct Action" was Jean-Marc Rouillan who had been operating in the Mediterranean under the cover name of "Sebas" and had been repeatedly linked to the Mossad. All references to Rouillan's Mossad links were deleted from the official reports issued at the time.

However, the Algerian national news service, which has ties to French intelligence, blamed the Mossad for Rouillan's activities. Angry French intelligence officers were believed to have leaked this information. Several top French security officials quit in protest over the cover-up of Mossad complicity in Rouillan's crimes. However, other Mossad false flag operations also took place on French soil.

Comment: Well, it seems Mossad also conducted false flag operations against France! It will be interesting to see how many more "terrorists attacks" are required in Europe before the various nations all start dancing to the Zionists' tune like Bush and Blair...


On Oct. 3, 1980, a synagogue on Copernicus Street was bombed in Paris. Four bystanders were killed. Nine were injured. The media frenzy which followed the incident was worldwide. Reports held that "right wing extremists" were responsible. Yet, of all the "right wing extremists" held for questioning, none was arrested. In fact, all were released. In the upper echelons of French intelligence, however, the finger of suspicion was pointed at the Mossad.

According to one report: "On April 6, 1979, the same Mossad terror unit now suspected of the Copernicus carnage blew up the heavily guarded plant of CNIM industries at La Seyne-sur-Mer, near Toulon, in southeast France, where a consortium of French firms was building a nuclear reactor for Iraq.

"The Mossad salted the site of the CNIM bomb blast with 'clues' followed up with anonymous phone calls to police-suggesting that the sabotage was the work of a 'conservative' environmentalist group-'the most pacific and harmless people on earth' as one source put it."

Comment: Sound familiar?


On June 28, 1978, Israeli agents exploded a bomb under a small passenger car in the Rue Saint Anne in Paris, killing Mohammed Boudia, an organizer for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Immediately afterward, Paris police received anonymous phone calls accusing Boudia of involvement in narcotics deals and attributing his murder to the Corsican Mafia. A thorough investigation subsequently established that Mossad special-action agents were responsible for the terrorist killing.

In October 1976 the same Mossad unit kidnapped two West German students named Brigette Schulz and Thomas Reuter from their Paris hotel. Planted "clues" and anonymous phone calls made it appear that a Bavarian "neo-nazi" formation had executed the abduction. French intelligence established that the two German youths had been secretly flown to Israel, drugged, tortured, coerced into a false "confession of complicity" in PLO activities, and then anonymously incarcerated in one of the Israeli government's notorious political prisons.

In February 1977 a German-born, naturalized U.S. citizen named William Jahnke arrived in Paris for some secretive business meetings. He soon vanished, leaving no trace. Paris police were anonymously informed that Jahnke had been involved in a high-level South Korean bribery affair and "eliminated" when the deal went sour. A special team of investigators from SDECE, the leading French intelligence agency, eventually determined that Jahnke had been "terminated" by the Mossad, which suspected him of selling secret information to the Libyans. Along with other details of this sordid case, the SDECE learned that Jahnke had been "fingered" to the Mossad by his own former employer, the CIA.


One of Israel's most outrageous "false flag" operations involved a wild propaganda story aimed at discrediting Libyan leader Muamar Qaddafi. In the early months of the administration of President Ronald Reagan, the U.S. media began promoting a story that a "Libyan hit squad" was in the United States to assassinate the president. This inflamed public sentiment against Libya.

Suddenly, however, the "hit squad" stories vanished. Ultimately it was discovered that the source of the story was Manucher Ghorbanifar, a former Iranian SAVAK (secret police) agent with close ties to the Mossad. Even the liberal Washington Post acknowledged that the CIA itself believed that Ghorbanifar was a liar who "had made up the hit-squad story in order to cause problems for one of Israel's enemies."

The Los Angeles Times had already blown the whistle on Israel's scare stories. "Israeli intelligence, not the Reagan administration," reported the Times, "was a major source of some of the most dramatic published reports about a Libyan assassination team allegedly sent to kill President Reagan and other top U.S. officials... Israel, which informed sources said has 'wanted an excuse to go in and bash Libya for a longtime,' may be trying to build American public support for a strike against [Qaddafi]."

In other words, Israel had been promoting the former SAVAK agent, Ghorbanifar, to official Washington as a reliable source. In fact, he was a Mossad disinformation operative waving a "false flag"-yet another Israeli scheme to blame Libya for its own misdeeds, using one "false flag" (Iran's SAVAK) to lay blame on another "false flag" (Libya).

The Mossad was almost certainly responsible for the bombing of the La Belle discotheque in West Berlin on April 5, 1986. However, claims were made that there was "irrefutable" evidence that the Libyans were responsible. A U.S. serviceman was killed. President Ronald Reagan responded with an attack on Libya.

However, intelligence insiders believed that Israel's Mossad had concocted the phony "evidence" to "prove" Libyan responsibility. West Berlin police director Manfred Ganschow, who took charge of the investigation, cleared the Libyans, saying, "This is a highly political case. Some of the evidence cited in Washington may not be evidence at all, merely assumptions supplied for political reasons."


On April 18, 1986, Nezar Hindawi, a 32-year-old Jordanian man was arrested in London after security guards found that one of the passengers boarding an Israeli plane bound for Jerusalem, Ann Murphy, 22, was carrying a square, flat sheet of plastic explosive in the double bottom of her carry-on bag.

Miss Murphy told security men that the detonator (disguised as a calculator) had been given to her by her fiancee, Hindawi. He was charged with attempted sabotage and attempted murder.

Word was leaked that Hindawi had confessed and claimed that he had been hired by Gen. Mohammed Al-Khouli, the intelligence director of the Syrian air force. Also implicated were others including the Syrian ambassador in London. The French authorities warned the British prime minister that there was more to the case than met the eye-that is, Israeli involvement. This was later confirmed in reports in the Western press.


In 1970, King Hussein of Jordan was provided incriminating intelligence that suggested the Palestine Liberation Organization was plotting to murder him and seize power. Infuriated, Hussein mobilized his forces for what has become known as the "Black September" purge of the PLO. Thousands of Palestinians living in Jordan were rounded up, some of the leaders were tortured, and in the end, masses of refugees were driven from Jordan to Lebanon.

New data, coming to light after the murder of two leading Mossad operatives in Larnaka, Cyprus, suggested that the entire operation had been a Mossad covert action, led by one of its key operatives, Sylvia Roxburgh. She contrived an affair with King Hussein and served as the linchpin for a major Mossad coup designed to destabilize the Arabs.

In 1982, just when the PLO had abandoned the use of terrorism, the Mossad spread disinformation about "terror attacks" on Israeli settlements along the northern border in order to justify a full-scale military invasion of Lebanon. Years later, even leading Israeli spokesmen, such as former Foreign Minister Abba Eban, admitted that the reports of "PLO terrorism" had been contrived by the Mossad.

It is also worth noting that the attempted assassination in London of Israeli ambassador Shlomo Argov was initially blamed on the PLO. The attempted assassination was cited by Israel as one excuse for its 1982 incursion into Lebanon. In fact, the diplomat was one of Israel's "doves" and inclined toward a friendly disposition of Israel's conflict with the PLO and an unlikely target of PLO wrath.

It appears that the assassination attempt was carried out by the Mossad-under yet another "false flag"-for two purposes: (a) elimination of a domestic "peacenik" friendly toward the Palestinians; and (b) pinning yet another crime on the PLO.

Comment: Having read the above reports of the repeated lies and false flag operations used by Israeli intelligence, think about all the recent "terrorists" attacks blamed on "al-Qaeda". Then think about how anyone who dares to suggest Mossad involvement - no matter how many facts they have gathered - is labeled an anti-Semite...

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Italian police arrest 142 in security sweep
Sat Jul 9, 4:07 PM ET

MILAN - Italian police rounded up 142 suspects, more than half of them illegal immigrants, in a massive two-day security sweep across the northern Lombardy region in the wake of the London bombings, police officials announced.

The swoop came as the government mulls giving wider powers to police in the fight against terrorism, including so-called "aggressive monitoring" of Islamic communities, and the establishment of a national anti-terrorism agency to coordinate diverse investigations, media reports said.

The operation, which involved 2,000 Carabinieri officers, began in and around the area of Milan as part of Italy's upgraded security measures implemented shortly after the London attacks, which have been claimed by two groups purporting to be Al-Qaeda affiliates.

Police combed through public squares, metro, rail and bus stations over the previous 48 hours, questioning more than 7,000 people, including around 800 immigrants and foreigners.

Lombardy's Carabinieri commander, General Antonio Girone, said the security forces had concentrated on Milan, Italy's business capital, because "it constitutes a possible prime target for possible terrorist action."

He said 83 of those arrested in the security sweep were illegal immigrants, of which 52 have been given expulsion orders.

Girone also said a quantity of explosives had been discovered during the searches, but declined to say if this was linked to any of the arrests.

Reform Minister Roberto Calderoli welcomed the arrests, saying recent events in London had "demonstrated the need to intervene immediately to prevent and stifle any attempt at a terrorist attack on our territory."

Italy has been directly threatened in Internet statements from the two groups claiming affiliation to Al-Qaeda since the London blasts.

Security has been stepped up around airports, train and bus stations in the wake of the attacks.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu was in telephone contact Saturday with several European Union colleagues to discuss the agenda of an extraordinary meeting of EU interior ministers on Wednesday, the ministry said.

Pisanu chaired a three-hour meeting of security and intelligence chiefs on Friday with a view to implementing tougher security measures across Italy in the wake of the London attacks. The minister visited President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi on Friday evening to keep him abreast Italy's intended response to the threats.

"There is no real and specific threat to Italy apart from deductions based solely on the logic that after Madrid and London, the next target could be Italy," the minister said.

He also acknowledged it was "impossible to protect every possible place which could be a target for terrorist attacks."

Italy currently protects around 14,000 sites around the country deemed to be a high security risk, including military bases, including
NATO and US bases, embassies, airports, train stations, ports, hospitals and schools.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi confirmed on Friday at the end of the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland that he would start pulling Italian troops out of Iraq in September -- beginning with 300 soldiers, 10 percent of the 3,000-strong contingent.

Back in Rome on Saturday, Berlusconi sought to deflect criticism that the timing of his statement was aimed at deterring extremists from striking at Italy next.

"This is something which I announced some time ago, and which is part of the plans of the (Italian) command in Iraq. The allies are aware, as is the Iraqi government."

Berlusconi first announced in March that he hoped to begin withdrawing troops by September, with the agreement of British and US allies.

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Israel approves separation barrier for Jerusalem, drawing Palestinian ire
09:05 AM EDT Jul 11

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel's cabinet, ignoring Palestinian objections and U.S. misgivings, on Sunday endorsed a Jerusalem separation barrier meant to stop suicide bombers but that will cut off 55,000 Palestinian residents from the city.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last week ordered the acceleration of construction of the Jerusalem segment of the barrier and government ministries have until Sept. 1 to complete their preparations.

The wall around Jerusalem, originally approved in January 2004, is part of the partially completed barrier along the West Bank.

Israel began building the controversial barrier at the height of a suicide bombing campaign by Palestinians more than two years ago. Attackers crossed the unmarked and largely unguarded ceasefire line between the Israel and the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 war, and blew themselves up in Israeli cities, killing hundreds.

But the route of the barrier dips into Palestinian territory in several places to encircle main settlements, and Palestinians denounce it as a land grab.

In its decision Sunday, the cabinet said it sees "great importance in the immediate completion of the security fence in the Jerusalem area, in order to improve the level of personal security for the residents of Israel."

The barrier's route around Jerusalem is particularly contentious.

It reshapes the boundaries of the city - claimed by Israelis and Palestinians as a capital - and dramatically changes its demographics.

The barrier leaves four Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, with some 55,000 residents, on the West Bank side, while including the largest Jewish West Bank settlement, Maaleh Adumim with close to 30,000 people, on the Jerusalem side.

The fate of Jerusalem was to have been determined in talks on a final peace deal. The Palestinians say the barrier pre-empts the outcome of negotiations, and separates east Jerusalem - the sector they claim for a capital - from its West Bank hinterland.

Israel has portrayed the barrier as a temporary security measure, to keep out Palestinian bombers and gunmen. The United States says Israel has the right to defend itself, but should minimize hardship to Palestinians in drawing the barrier route.

The cabinet on Sunday approved a plan to build 11 passages through the Jerusalem barrier. The ministers did not explain how they would ensure quick passage of tens of thousands of Arab residents who need to get to schools, jobs and hospitals and the centre of the city.

The government said it would build new schools and clinics in the Arab neighbourhoods cut off by the barrier.

Israeli Vice Premier Ehud Olmert said Sunday once the barrier around Jerusalem is completed, some 55,000 Palestinian residents of the city would find themselves on the wrong side.

Jerusalem has about 700,000 residents, including about 230,000 Palestinians who carry blue Israeli identity cards that identify them as permanent residents, grant them freedom of movement and make them eligible for Israel's social services.

The barrier will slice through four outlying Palestinian neighbourhoods of Jerusalem-Kufr Aqab, Anata, Qalandia and the Shufat refugee camp. Residents of these neighbourhoods, who have Israeli identity cards, will find themselves on the West Bank side of the divider, making it increasingly difficult for them to get to jobs, schools and hospitals in the city. Some 3,600 students would be among those cut off from the city, Israel Radio said.

Silvia Albina, whose home in Kufr Aqab will fall on the West Bank side, said anxiety about the future may eventually force her to leave and emigrate to the United States.

Albina's daughter Leila, 4, goes to nursery school in Jerusalem. Her husband, Tony, owns one of the oldest travel agencies in the heart of the city where family and friends reside. Even with the barrier not yet completed, it takes father and daughter an average of 45 minutes every day to get to Jerusalem because of waiting at army roadblocks. The journey should take only about 15 minutes.

Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian official, said Israel must stop building the barrier, which he said was bringing "catastrophe" upon the Palestinians.

"The wall is separating between Palestinians and Palestinians," Erekat said. "We have exerted every possible effort with the Israelis themselves, the Americans, the international community but the only thing that is happening is that the wall is being completed."

Comment: The article forgets to mention that the wall was declared illegal last year by the International Court, not that any Israeli government has ever abided by an international decision that went against their interests.

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Feds blacklist 'illegal' Cuban Web sites
By Anne Broache
July 8, 2005, 2:42 PM PDT

Americans should think twice before booking a Cuban holiday through scores of travel Web sites that the U.S. government has deemed to be off-limits.

The U.S. Treasury Department has blacklisted more than 60 Cuba-centric sites, many maintained by a travel company called Tour & Marketing International. The last update to the list was published by the department's Office of Foreign Assets Control on June 30.

Certain travel-oriented Web sites made it to the verboten list because they provide easy access to Cuba for Americans who choose to break the law, the OFAC says. While visiting the sites may be permitted, downloading software from them probably isn't.

The reason lies in a section of federal law prohibiting people living under U.S. jurisdiction from doing business with those on the OFAC's list of "specially designated nationals," a category that also includes known terrorists, narcotics traffickers and rogue regimes, such as Iran, Iraq and Syria. (Many of the Cuba sites have been on the list since a December update.)

It's already illegal to go to Cuba without a special Treasury Department-issued license, typically granted based on educational or professional purposes. Tourism, according to federal guidelines, is not allowed. Once licensed, travelers must make travel arrangements with an organization chosen from a list of OFAC-approved agencies.

But if booking travel with an unauthorized dealer is already illegal, then is booking travel through a company also on OFAC's verboten list an even greater offense? Lawyers aren't sure.

"I don't know what penalties OFAC would propose in connection with the use of these sites," said Daniel Waltz, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who specializes in U.S. embargoes. "They might take the view that because they're listed (with OFAC), the penalties should be higher. They might take the view that we'll penalize you once for travel and impose a second penalty for use of the listed site."

"The problem, really, with the OFAC regulations and export controls generally is they weren't designed for the Internet," said Douglas Jacobson, a sanctions lawyer in Washington, D.C.

Several of Tour & Marketing's sites--with as the flagship--allow customers to make online reservations for flights, hotels, rental cars and tour packages in Cuba by traveling via a "third country." The site mandates that customers pay online and claims to be "not only Cuba's number one agency for American travelers, but to serve all travelers--regardless of whether they have a Treasury-issued license," according to a Treasury Department press release.

The bulk of the sites under the company's ownership provide information about the geography, history and tourist attractions in a host of Cuban locales, from Baracoa to Varadero Beach. Ads--also operated by the company--rim each page and point to the e-commerce sites.

It doesn't seem to be a crime to check Cuban weather or read up on Ernest Hemingway's ties to the island at the sites. Signing up for free e-mail lists would also be permissible, said Treasury spokeswoman Molly Millerwise, provided that they did not include "interactive software." That's because transfer of "intangible" goods, like information, is exempt from the regulations, but goods considered tangible, such as software, are not.

Using the sites to get money to Cuban companies would clearly be illegal, but lawyers suggested that enforcement may be a little fuzzier.

"Theoretically, yes, a person can be prosecuted and subject to civil or criminal penalties by OFAC for purchasing a ticket or doing any businesses with any of these Web sites," Jacobson said. "The reality is, the chances of them actually being caught is relatively slim, because there's really no way to track that information. The only way they would do it is to raid their offices, take the server, get e-mail addresses...But I don't think they would go that far."

Owned by Stephen Marshall, a British entrepreneur, Tour & Marketing takes a strong stance on Cuban trade relations, defending the country's sovereignty and calling on the U.S. and British governments to cease their embargoes. According to an online statement by the company, "The United States' aim in stepping up the blockade is to isolate Cuba, strangle it economically and create the conditions for external intervention." Attempts to reach Marshall on Friday were unsuccessful.

The current OFAC list also contains, a PayPal-esque electronic money transfer service, and Cimex, a corporation that runs travel agencies but does not appear to engage in e-commerce. Another site,, which OFAC added to the list in February 2004, furnishes a 403 Forbidden screen when called up.

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450 Sheep Jump to Their Deaths in Turkey
The Associated Press
Friday, July 8, 2005; 9:30 AM

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- First one sheep jumped to its death. Then stunned Turkish shepherds, who had left the herd to graze while they had breakfast, watched as nearly 1,500 others followed, each leaping off the same cliff, Turkish media reported.

In the end, 450 dead animals lay on top of one another in a billowy white pile, the Aksam newspaper said. Those who jumped later were saved as the pile got higher and the fall more cushioned, Aksam reported.

"There's nothing we can do. They're all wasted," Nevzat Bayhan, a member of one of 26 families whose sheep were grazing together in the herd, was quoted as saying by Aksam.

The estimated loss to families in the town of Gevas, located in Van province in eastern Turkey, tops $100,000, a significant amount of money in a country where average GDP per head is around $2,700.

"Every family had an average of 20 sheep," Aksam quoted another villager, Abdullah Hazar as saying. "But now only a few families have sheep left. It's going to be hard for us."

Comment: One can learn a lot from sheep about the consequences of blindly following the herd...

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'Fires wiped out' ancient mammals
By Helen Briggs
BBC News science reporter

The first humans to arrive in Australia destroyed the pristine landscape, probably by lighting huge fires, the latest research suggests.

The evidence, published in Science magazine, comes from ancient eggshells.

These show birds changed their diets drastically when humans came on the scene, switching from grass to the type of plants that thrive on scrubland.

The study supports others that have blamed humans for mass extinctions across the world 10-50,000 years ago.

Many scientists believe the causes are actually more complex and relate to climate changes during that period, but, according to Dr Marilyn Fogel, of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, US, chemical clues gleaned from the eggshells suggest otherwise.

"Humans are the major suspect," she said. "However, we don't think that over-hunting or new diseases are to blame for the extinctions, because our research sees the ecological transition at the base of the food chain.

"Bands of people set large-scale fires for a variety of reasons including hunting, clearing and signalling other bands.

"Based on the evidence, human-induced change in the vegetation is the best fit to explain what happened at that critical juncture."

Carbon clues

Dr Fogel's team, based in the US and Australia, examined hundreds of fragments of fossilised eggshells found at several sites in Australia's interior dating back over 140,000 years.

They looked at the indigenous emu and the Genyornis, a flightless bird the size of an ostrich that is now extinct.

The type of carbon preserved in eggshells gives a picture of the food the birds ate.

Before 50,000 years ago, emus pecked at nutritious grasses. But after humans arrived, about 45,000 years ago, they switched to a diet of trees and scrubs. Genyornis, however, failed to adapt and died out.

"The opportunistic feeders adapted and the picky eaters went extinct," said Professor Gifford Miller, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, US.

"The most parsimonious explanation is these birds were responding to an unprecedented change in the vegetation over the continent during that time period."

The data sheds light on the contentious issue of what led to the extinction of 85% of Australia's large mammals, birds and reptiles, after about 50,000 years ago, when human settlers arrived by sea from Indonesia.

Climate change theory

Mass extinctions on other continents also coincide with the arrival of modern humans, suggesting the two events are linked.

In North America, for example, the disappearance of the likes of mammoths and ground sloths is coincident with the arrival on the landmass of new stone-spear technologies carried by humans about 12,000 years ago.

In Australia, scientists have debated whether climate changes, human fires or excessive human hunting were the cause of the continent's big extinction.

Dr Fogel's team doubts the climate explanation but there are plenty of others who support the theory - such as Clive Trueman of the University of Portsmouth, UK.

He says some large mammals survived long after the sudden changes in vegetation identified by Dr Fogel's team.

"While there may be a connection between the arrival of humans and changes in vegetation, as demonstrated by carbon isotopes, sudden changes cannot be largely responsible for megafaunal extinctions as the beasts survived for at least 15,000 more years," he told the BBC News website.

"It is likely that extinctions were not caused by any single event, but reflect compounding factors such as natural climate changes associated with the Ice Age fluctuations and, quite possibly, the arrival of humans," Dr Trueman added.

Comment: We tend to agree with those who look to other factors than the arrival of humans for the extinction of these species. The world is subjected to periodic bombardments from the heavens, and cyclic earthquake and volcanic activity that could well be factors. The extinction mentioned above that occurred 12,000 years ago left mass graveyards that contained thousands upon thousands of remains, all blown inexplicably towards the north. Human fires would be incapable of causing that.

Until scientists accept the fact of cyclic catastrophes, they will be missing important data that could help them understand our past. Of course, the admission that such catastrophes occur and reoccur would raise questions as to the future: when will they come again. These are questions that our dear leaders would prefer we not pose.

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G-8 say global warming requires urgent action
By Reuters
July 8, 2005, 8:49 AM PDT

The Group of Eight powers meeting in Scotland declared Friday that global warming required urgent action, but set no measurable targets for reducing the greenhouse gases that trigger it.

The leaders recognized that "climate change is a serious and long-term challenge that has the potential to affect every part of the planet."

Their final declaration, seen by Reuters, acknowledged that human activity contributed in large part to global warming, and said there was a need to reduce greenhouse gases--mostly the product of the fossil fuels that power much modern industry.

They pledged to "act with resolve and urgency" to tackle the problem. But they set no yardsticks or clear goals.

And their declaration made only cursory reference to the binding Kyoto accord on cutting greenhouse gases, which was signed by all G-8 powers except the United States--President Bush has branded it as economic suicide.

Sidestepping any further rancor over Kyoto, the G-8 agreed a wide-ranging "action plan" to promote energy efficiency and the use of cleaner fuels. France, which has championed Kyoto, made clear on Thursday that it saw the outcome as only just sufficient.

"Even if it does not go as far as we would have liked, it has one essential virtue in my eyes--that is, to re-establish a dialogue and cooperation between the Kyoto seven and the United States on a subject of the highest importance," French President Jacques Chirac said.

In the event, the G-8 declaration also went some way to meeting other demands from Kyoto signatories.

In particular, they had been concerned that the Bush administration continued to be skeptical about the view of most scientists, including American experts, that global warming is largely man-made and is affecting the climate.

The text said that, while uncertainties remained in understanding climate science, enough was known to act now to "put ourselves on a path to slow and, as the science justifies, stop and then reverse the growth of greenhouse gases."

Environmentalists were dismissive of the text's failure to commit the G-8 to any measurable reduction in greenhouse gases.

"The agreement lacks a clear acknowledgement of the urgent need for action and fails to state any significant steps G-8 leaders will take to tackle climate change," the activist group Greenpeace said in a statement.

It said the Bush administration had been the main block to a stronger outcome.

The eight powers did pledge to launch a wider dialogue on climate change, clean energy and sustainable development, bringing in other major energy consumers. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said these talks would begin in Britain on Nov. 1.

The document said it was in the interests of all to work with large emerging economies--a reference in particular to China and India, which attended the Gleneagles summit and are expected to produce more pollution as their industries grow.

The G-8 powers pledged to promote the transfer of new technology to developing countries and also stated that the United Nations provided the appropriate forum to negotiate a future multilateral regime to address climate change.

Comment: Meanwhile, back in the real world...

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North Atlantic Ocean Temps Hit Record High
Jul 8, 10:00 AM (ET)

ST. JOHN'S, Newfoundland - Ocean temperatures in the North Atlantic hit an all-time high last year, raising concerns about the effects of global warming on one of the most sensitive and productive ecosystems in the world.

Sea ice off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador was below normal for the tenth consecutive year and the water temperature outside St. John's Harbor was the highest on record in 2004, according to a report released Wednesday by the federal Fisheries Department.

The ocean surface off St. John's averaged almost two degrees Fahrenheit above normal, the highest in the 59 years the department has been compiling records.

And bottom temperatures were also one degree higher than normal, according the report.

"A two-degree temperature anomaly on the Grand Banks is pretty significant in the bottom areas, where temperatures only range a couple of degrees throughout the year," said Eugene Colbourne, an oceanographer with the Fisheries Department.

Water temperatures were above normal right across the North Atlantic last year, from Newfoundland to Greenland, Iceland and Norway.

The Newfoundland data is another wake-up call on climate change, say environmentalists.

Anchorage, Alaska, has seen annual snowfall shrink in the past decade, high river temperatures are killing off millions of spawning salmon in British Columbia and northern climates around the world have noticed warming.

Meanwhile, ocean temperatures have risen around the globe, and species are already dying, said Bill Wareham, acting director of marine conservation for the Vancouver-based David Suzuki Foundation.

"I don't think there's a question about whether these changes are happening," Wareham said.

But "everyone's quite shocked at the speed at which these things are changing."

Air temperatures in the Newfoundland region were also higher than normal, but Colbourne said the results are not conclusive.

Water temperatures in the cold Labrador current were actually below normal levels. And while the other temperatures were record highs, a similar warming trend occurred in the 1960s, Colbourne said.

"We really can't say for sure if what we're seeing in Newfoundland waters is a consequence of global warming, when we've only got 50 years of data or so," Colbourne said.

"It may be related to global warming but, then again, it may be just the natural cycle that we see in this area of the world."

Comment: If northern climates around the world have noticed a warming trend, the problem is obviously not limited to just Newfoundland.

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Hillary Issues Call to Save Mt. Everest
Associated Press
Sun Jul 10, 8:10 PM ET

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Edmund Hillary, the first climber to conquer Mount Everest with his Sherpa guide, on Monday urged that the world's highest mountain be placed on the United Nations' list of endangered heritage sites because of the risks of climate change.

Himalayan lakes are swelling from the runoff of melting glaciers, environmental campaigners warned as the 29th session of the U.N. Environmental, Scientific and Cultural Organization's World Heritage Committee got under way Sunday in Durban. Many could burst, threatening the lives of thousands of people and destroying Everest's unique environment, they said.

"The warming of the environment of the Himalayas has increased noticeably over the last 50 years. This has caused several and severe floods from glacial lakes and much disruption to the environment and local people," Hillary said in a statement released Monday. "Draining the lakes before they get to a dangerous condition is the only way to stop disasters."

The New Zealander, who with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay first scaled the world's highest peak on May 29, 1953, is one of a collection of climbers and others who have joined environmental groups in calling for the inclusion of Nepal's Everest National Park on UNESCO's World Heritage in Danger List.

Inclusion would commit UNESCO to assessing the risk to the park and developing corrective measures in conjunction with the government of Nepal.

Climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions from industrialized countries also threatens the coral reefs in Belize and glaciers in Peru, according to activists who have petitioned for their inclusion too on the endangered list. [...]

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Hurricane Dennis Blows Through Ala., Fla.
The Associated Press
Monday, July 11, 2005; 2:04 AM

PENSACOLA, Fla. -- Hurricane Dennis roared quickly through the Florida Panhandle and Alabama coast Sunday with a 120-mph bluster of blinding squalls and crashing waves, but shellshocked residents emerged to find far less damage than when Ivan took nearly the same path 10 months ago.

The tightly wound Dennis, which had been a Category 4, 145-mph monster as it marched up the Gulf of Mexico, weakened just before it struck less than 50 miles east of where Ivan came ashore. And despite downed power lines and outages affecting more than half a million people, early reports indicated no deaths and relatively modest structural damage.

"We're really happy it was compact and that it lasted only so long," said Mike Decker, who lost only some shingles and a privacy fence at his home near where the storm came ashore. "It was more of a show for the kids."

The storm indeed put on a show as it blew ashore at 3:25 p.m. EDT midway between the western Panhandle towns of Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach.

White-capped waves spewed four-story geysers over sea walls. Sideways, blinding rain mixed with seawater blew in sheets, toppling roadside signs for hotels and gas stations. Waves offshore exceeded 30 feet, and in downtown Pensacola, the gulf spilled over sidewalks eight blocks inland. Boats broke loose and bobbed like toys in the roiling ocean.

But Dennis, which was responsible for at least 20 deaths in the Caribbean, spared those to the north because of its relatively small size and fast pace. Hurricane winds stretched only 40 miles from the center, compared with 105 miles for Ivan, and Dennis tore through at nearly 20 mph, compared to Ivan's 13 mph.

Rainfall was measured at 8 inches, rather than the expected foot. [...]

Dennis caused an estimated $1 billion to $2.5 billion in insured damage in the United States, according to AIR Worldwide Corp. of Boston, an insurance risk modeling company. [...]

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Hot Weather Hampers Colorado Firefighters
Associated Press
July 10, 2005

WETMORE, Colo. - Gusty wind and temperatures heading into the 90s prompted authorities to evacuate about 70 more homes Sunday east of a 2,900-acre wildfire in southern Colorado.

"The fire has got the advantage right now," said fire incident commander Marc Mullenix.

Officials had already evacuated 150 homes since the fire was reported Wednesday.

Black smoke billowed over the mountains Sunday as residents evacuated from the west side of the fire were given four hours to check their homes. Firefighters, meanwhile, hoped to burn vegetation around a ranch in fire path's. The fire was spreading in an area about 25 miles west of Pueblo. [...]

Lightning was suspected as the cause of both the Colorado and South Dakota blazes.

Thirteen large wildfires were active Sunday in nine states, and had burned more than 688,000 acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Since January, wildfires have burned slightly more than 3 million acres, similar to the acreage burned by the same date last year.

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Eastern Japan shaken by earthquake; no reports of injuries or property damage
07.11.2005, 02:43 AM

TOKYO (AFX) - An earthquake measuring 4.7 on the Richter scale shook eastern Japan on Monday but there was no risk of a tsunami, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

The quake occurred at 7.27 am (2227 GMT), with its focus located 30 kilometers below the sea surface off Ibaraki prefecture, 150 kilometers northeast of Tokyo, the agency said.

There were no reports of injuries or property damage.

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Earthquake hits Palu, Indonesia 2005-07-10 13:24:29

JAKARTA, July 10 (Xinhuanet) -- A strong earthquake hit Palu in Indonesian Central Sulawesi province at 7:55 a.m. on Sunday, making hundreds of thousands of people panic.

The local people felt the tremor and run out of their homes, Antara News Agency reported. The quake also caused blackout, said the report.

The meteorological Institute said it has not known where is the epicenter of the quake and how much is the quake measured on the Richter Scale.

But the Hong Kong Observatory said earlier an earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale rocked sea waters near SulawesiIsland of Indonesian at 8:05 a.m. Hong Kong time (0005 GMT) Sunday.The epicenter was initially determined to be 0.8 south latitude, 119.3 east longitude, about 70 kilometers west of Palu.

No immediate report on casualties, material losses and damages was available, the Antara report said.

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Earthquake Hits Sea Waters near Japan's Izu Islands
2005-7-10 13:10:15

An earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale rocked sea waters near Japan's Izu Islands on Sunday morning.

The Hong Kong Observatory reports that the epicenter was initially determined to be about 270 kilometers southeast of Tokyo.

An earlier quake measuring 4.2 on the Richter scale shook northern Japan on Saturday, but there was no risk of a tsunami.

The quake occurred about 250 kilometers north of Tokyo, with its focus located 10 kilometers underground.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or property damage.

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Earthquake shakes northeast Albania
TIRANA, July 11 (

A strong earthquake shook northeast Albania on Sunday.

The earthquake, measuring 6 on the Richter scale, damaged several homes in the Tropoja region, but there were no reports of injuries.

The Albanian Seismologic Institute said the epicenter was just a few kilometers outside the town of Bajram Curri. The earthquake was also felt in neighboring Kosovo and Montenegro.

Media reports said the earthquake lasted for about 30 seconds and caused some panic among the region's citizens.

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U.S. losing lead in science and engineering-study
Fri Jul 8, 3:55 PM ET

WASHINGTON - More than half a century of U.S. dominance in science and engineering may be slipping as America's share of graduates in these fields falls relative to Europe and developing nations such as China and India, a study released on Friday says.

The study, written by Richard Freeman at the National Bureau of Economic Research in Washington, warned that changes in the global science and engineering job market may require a long period of adjustment for U.S. workers.

Moves by international companies to move jobs in information technology, high-tech manufacturing and research and development to low-income developing countries were just "harbingers" of that longer-term adjustment, Freeman said.

Urgent action was needed to ensure that slippage in science and engineering education and research, a bulwark of the U.S. productivity boom and resurgence during the 1990s, did not undermine America's global economic leadership, he added.

The United States has had a substantial lead in science and technology since World War II. With just 5 percent of the world's population, it employs almost a third of science and engineering researchers, accounts for 40 percent of research and development spending and publishes 35 percent of science and engineering research papers.

Many of the world's top high-tech firms are American, and government spending on defense-related technology ensures the U.S. military's technological dominance on battlefields.

But the roots of this lead may be eroding, Freeman said.

Numbers of science and engineering graduates from European and Asian universities are soaring while new degrees in the United States have stagnated -- cutting its overall share.

In 2000, the paper said, 17 percent of university bachelor degrees in the U.S. were in science and engineering compared with a world average of 27 percent and 52 percent in China.

The picture among doctorates -- key to advanced scientific research -- was more striking. In 2001, universities in the
European Union granted 40 percent more science and engineering doctorates than the United States, with that figure expected to reach nearly 100 percent by about 2010, the study showed.

The study said deteriorating opportunities and comparative wages for young science and engineering graduates has discouraged U.S. students from entering these fields, but not those born in other countries.

These trends are challenging the so-called North-South global economic divide, the paper said, by undermining a perceived rich-country advantage in high technology.

"Research and technological activity and production are moving where the people are, even when they are located in the low-wage South," Freeman wrote, citing a study saying some 10-15 percent of all U.S. jobs were "off-shorable."

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Allegations of Fake Research Hit New High
AP National Writer
Sun Jul 10, 8:29 AM ET

Allegations of misconduct by U.S. researchers reached record highs last year as the Department of Health and Human Services received 274 complaints - 50 percent higher than 2003 and the most since 1989 when the federal government established a program to deal with scientific misconduct.

Chris Pascal, director of the federal Office of Research Integrity, said its 28 staffers and $7 million annual budget haven't kept pace with the allegations. The result: Only 23 cases were closed last year. Of those, eight individuals were found guilty of research misconduct. In the past 15 years, the office has confirmed about 185 cases of scientific misconduct.

Research suggests this is but a small fraction of all the incidents of fabrication, falsification and plagiarism. In a survey published June 9 in the journal Nature, about 1.5 percent of 3,247 researchers who responded admitted to falsification or plagiarism. (One in three admitted to some type of professional misbehavior.)

On the night of his 12th wedding anniversary, Dr. Andrew Friedman was terrified.

This brilliant surgeon and researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School feared that he was about to lose everything - his career, his family, the life he'd built - because his boss was coming closer and closer to the truth:

For the past three years, Friedman had been faking - actually making up - data in some of the respected, peer-reviewed studies he had published in top medical journals.

"It is difficult for me to describe the degree of panic and irrational thought that I was going through," he would later tell an inquiry panel at Harvard.

On this night, March 13, 1995, he had been ordered in writing by his department chair to clear up what appeared to be suspicious data.

But Friedman didn't clear things up.

"I did something which was the worst possible thing I could have done," he testified.

He went to the medical record room, and for the next three or four hours he pulled out permanent medical files of a handful of patients. Then, covered up his lies, scribbling in the information he needed to support his study.

"I created data. I made it up. I also made up patients that were fictitious," he testified.

Friedman's wife met him at the door when he came home that night. He wept uncontrollably. The next morning he had an emergency appointment with his psychiatrist.

But he didn't tell the therapist the truth, and his lies continued for 10 more days, during which time he delivered a letter, and copies of the doctored files, to his boss. Eventually he broke down, admitting first to his wife and psychiatrist, and later to his colleagues and managers, what he had been doing.

Friedman formally confessed, retracted his articles, apologized to colleagues and was punished. Today he has resurrected his career, as senior director of clinical research at Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical Inc., a Johnson & Johnson company.

He refused to speak with the Associated Press. But his case, recorded in a seven-foot-high stack of documents at the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine, tells a story of one man's struggle with power, lies and the crushing pressure of academia.

Some other cases have made headlines:

- On July 18, Eric Poehlman, once a prominent nutrition researcher, will be sentenced in federal court in Vermont for fabricating research data to obtain a $542,000 federal grant while working as a professor at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. He faces up to five years in prison. Poehlman, 49, made up research between 1992 and 2000 on issues like menopause, aging and hormone supplements to win millions of dollars in grant money from the federal government. He is the first researcher to be permanently barred from ever receiving federal research grants again.

In 2001, while he was being investigated, Poehlman left the medical school and was awarded a $1 million chair in nutrition and metabolism at the University of Montreal, where officials say they were unaware of his problems. He resigned in January when his contract expired.

- In March, Dr. Gary Kammer, a Wake Forest University rheumatology professor and leading lupus expert, was found to have made up two families and their medical conditions in grant applications to the
National Institutes of Health. He has resigned from the university and has been suspended from receiving federal grants for three years.

- In November, 2004, federal officials found that Dr. Ali Sultan, an award-winning malaria researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health, had plagiarized text and figures, and falsified his data - substituting results from one type of malaria for another - on a grant application for federal funds to study malaria drugs. When brought before an inquiry committee, Sultan tried to pin the blame on a postdoctoral student. Sultan resigned and is now a faculty member at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, according to a spokeswoman there.

While the cases are high-profile, scientists have been cheating for decades.

In 1974, Dr. William Summerlin, a top-ranking Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute researcher, used a marker to make black patches of fur on white mice in an attempt to prove his new skin graft technique was working.

His case prompted Al Gore, then a young Democratic congressman from Tennessee, to hold the first congressional hearings on the issue.

"At the base of our involvement in research lies the trust of American people and the integrity of the scientific exercise," said Gore at the time. As a result of their hearings, Congress passed a law in 1985 requiring institutions that receive federal money for scientific research to have some system to report rulebreakers.

"Often we're confronted with people who are brilliant, absolutely incredible researchers, but that's not what makes them great scientists. It's the character," said Debbi Gilad, a research compliance and integrity officer at the University of California, Davis, which has taken a lead on handling scientific misconduct.

David Wright, a Michigan State University professor who has researched why scientists cheat, said there are four basic reasons: some sort of mental disorder; foreign nationals who learned somewhat different scientific standards; inadequate mentoring; and, most commonly, tremendous and increasing professional pressure to publish studies.

Comment: It's those darn foreigners again!

His inability to handle that pressure, Friedman testified, was his downfall.

"And it was almost as though you're on a treadmill that starts out slowly and gradually increases in speed. And it happens so gradually you don't realize that eventually you're just hoping you don't fall off," he told a magistrate during a state hearing in 1995. "You're sprinting near the end and taking it all you can not to fall off."

At the time he started cheating, Friedman was in his late 30s, married and a father of two young children. Following the path of his father, grandfather and uncle who were all doctors and medical researchers, he was an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School and chief of the department of reproductive endocrinology at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

His reputation was tremendous and his work groundbreaking. His 30-page resume highlighted numerous awards and honors, lectures in Canada, Europe and Australia, and more than 150 articles, book chapters, reviews and abstracts. Of those, 58 were original research articles, where he had designed studies, conducted clinical trials, enrolled patients, collected and analyzed data and made conclusions.

In the end, investigators found - and Friedman confessed - to making up information for three separate journal articles (one of them never published) involving hormonal treatment of gynecological conditions.

He testified that he was working 80 to 90 hours a week, seeing patients two days a week, doing surgery one day a week, supervising medical residents, serving on as many as 10 different committees at the hospital and the medical school and putting on national medical conferences.

He did seek help, both from a psychiatrist, who counseled him to cut back, and from his boss, who demanded Friedman increase his research and refused to reduce Friedman's patient load.

As good as Friedman was as a doctor, surgeon and researcher, he was actually a lousy cheater. One thing that brought about his demise, in fact, was that the initials he used for fictitious patients were the same as those of residents and faculty members in his program.

Unlike many scientists who file immediate lawsuits when they're caught, Friedman was repentant, resigning from his positions at both Brigham and Women's, and Harvard.

In 1996, Friedman agreed to be excluded for three years from working on federally funded research. During the next three years he consulted with drug companies, he paid a $10,000 fine to the state of Massachusetts and surrendered his medical license for a year, became very active with the American Red Cross, donating more than 500 hours, and attended several lectures on ethics and record-keeping.

"Andy can never undo the damage that his actions have caused. However, he has paid the price - his academic career is ruined, his reputation sullied, and his personal shame unremitting," wrote Dr. Charles Lockwood, then chair of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University School of Medicine, in a letter on Friedman's behalf.

In 1999, after successfully petitioning to get his license reinstated, he went to work as director of women's health care at Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceuticals. The job, which he still has, involves designing and reviewing clinical trials for hormonal birth control, writing package insert labels and lecturing to doctors. Lately he's appeared on television and in newspaper articles responding to concerns about the safety of the birth control patch.

Mary Anne Wyatt, a retired biochemist in Natick, Mass., is one of several former patients.

"I think it's not at all surprising that a drug company would hire somebody who is very comfortable with hiding the effects of very dangerous drugs," said Wyatt, who unsuccessfully sued him.

Ortho-McNeil spokeswoman Bonnie Jacobs said the company was well aware of Friedman's history when it hired him. "He is an excellent doctor, an asset to our company," she said.

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Military's Energy-Beam Weapons Delayed
AP Technology Writer
Sun Jul 10,11:22 AM ET

ARLINGTON, Va. - For years, the U.S. military has explored a new kind of firepower that is instantaneous, precise and virtually inexhaustible: beams of electromagnetic energy. "Directed-energy" pulses can be throttled up or down depending on the situation, much like the phasers on "Star Trek" could be set to kill or merely stun.

Such weapons are now nearing fruition. But logistical issues have delayed their battlefield debut - even as soldiers in
Iraq encounter tense urban situations in which the nonlethal capabilities of directed energy could be put to the test.

"It's a great technology with enormous potential, but I think the environment's not strong for it," said James Jay Carafano, a senior fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation who blames the military and Congress for not spending enough on getting directed energy to the front. "The tragedy is that I think it's exactly the right time for this."

The hallmark of all directed-energy weapons is that the target - whether a human or a mechanical object - has no chance to avoid the shot because it moves at the speed of light. At some frequencies, it can penetrate walls.

Since the ammunition is merely light or radio waves, directed-energy weapons are limited only by the supply of electricity. And they don't involve chemicals or projectiles that can be inaccurate, accidentally cause injury or violate international treaties.

"When you're dealing with people whose full intent is to die, you can't give people a choice of whether to comply," said George Gibbs, a systems engineer for the Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad Program who oversees directed-energy projects. "What I'm looking for is a way to shoot everybody, and they're all OK."

Almost as diverse as the electromagnetic spectrum itself, directed-energy weapons span a wide range of incarnations.

Among the simplest forms are inexpensive, handheld lasers that fill people's field of vision, inducing a temporary blindness to ensure they stop at a checkpoint, for example. Some of these already are used in Iraq.

Other radio-frequency weapons in development can sabotage the electronics of land mines, shoulder-fired missiles or automobiles - a prospect that interests police departments in addition to the military.

A separate branch of directed-energy research involves bigger, badder beams: lasers that could obliterate targets tens of miles away from ships or planes. Such a strike would be so surgical that, as some designers put it at a recent conference here, the military could plausibly deny responsibility.

The flexibility of directed-energy weapons could be vital as wide-scale, force-on-force conflict becomes increasingly rare, many experts say. But the technology has been slowed by such practical concerns as how to shrink beam-firing antennas and power supplies.

Military officials also say more needs to be done to assure the international community that directed-energy weapons set to stun rather than kill will not harm noncombatants.

Such issues recently led the Pentagon to delay its Project Sheriff, a plan to outfit vehicles in Iraq with a combination of lethal and nonlethal weaponry - including a highly touted microwave-energy blaster that makes targets feel as if their skin is on fire. Sheriff has been pushed at least to 2006.

"It was best to step back and make sure we understand where we can go with it," said David Law, science and technology chief for the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate.

The directed-energy component in the project is the Active Denial System, developed by Air Force researchers and built by Raytheon Co. It produces a millimeter-wavelength burst of energy that penetrates 1/64 of an inch into a person's skin, agitating water molecules to produce heat. The sensation is certain to get people to halt whatever they are doing.

Military investigators say decades of research have shown that the effect ends the moment a person is out of the beam, and no lasting damage is done as long as the stream does not exceed a certain duration. How long? That answer is classified, but it apparently is in the realm of seconds, not minutes. The range of the beam also is secret, though it is said to be further than small arms fire, so an attacker could be repelled before he could pull a trigger.

Although Active Denial works - after a $51 million, 11-year investment - it has proven to be a "model for how hard it is to field a directed-energy nonlethal weapon," Law said.

For example, the prototype system can be mounted on a Humvee but the vehicle has to stop in order to fire the beam. Using the vehicle's electrical power "is pushing its limits," he added.

Still, Raytheon is pressing ahead with smaller, portable, shorter-range spinoffs of Active Denial for embassies, ships or other sensitive spots. [...]

In the meantime, Raytheon is trying to drum up business for an automated airport-defense project known as Vigilant Eagle that detects shoulder-fired missiles and fries their electronics with an electromagnetic wave. The system, which would cost $25 million per airport, has proven effective against a "real threat," said Michael Booen, a former Air Force colonel who heads Raytheon's directed-energy work. He refused to elaborate.

For Peter Bitar, the future of directed energy boils down to money.

Bitar heads Indiana-based Xtreme Alternative Defense Systems Ltd., which makes small blinding lasers used in Iraq. But his real project is a nonlethal energy device called the StunStrike.

Basically, it fires a bolt of lightning. It can be tuned to blow up explosives, possibly to stop vehicles and certainly to buzz people. The strike can be made to feel as gentle as "broom bristles" or cranked up to deliver a paralyzing jolt that "takes a few minutes to wear off."

Bitar, who is of Arab descent, believes StunStrike would be particularly intimidating in the Middle East because, he contends, people there are especially afraid of lightning.

At present, StunStrike is a 20-foot tower that can zap things up to 28 feet away. The next step is to shrink it so it could be wielded by troops and used in civilian locales like airplane cabins or building entrances.

Xtreme ADS also needs more tests to establish that StunStrike is safe to use on people.

But all that takes money - more than the $700,000 Bitar got from the Pentagon from 2003 until the contract recently ended.

Bitar is optimistic StunStrike will be perfected, either with revenue from the laser pointers or a partnership with a bigger defense contractor. In the meantime, though, he wishes soldiers in Iraq already had his lightning device on difficult missions like door-to-door searches.

"It's very frustrating when you know you've got a solution that's being ignored," he said. "The technology is the easy part."

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L.A. police kill gunman holding baby; child also dies
Monday, July 11, 2005 Posted: 1259 GMT (2059 HKT)

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- A toddler who was killed in a gunbattle between a suspect and police was being used by the man as a shield, officials said. The suspect also died and an officer was wounded.

The man killed Sunday night after an hours-long standoff was identified as Jose Raul Lemos, and the girl, about 17 months old, was related to him, police said. The officer, who was not immediately identified, was shot in the shoulder and was expected to recover.

"He was using the baby as a shield," Assistant Police Chief Jim McDonnell.

"We showed a tremendous amount of restraint, but unfortunately the suspect's actions dictated this," he said. "It's a true tragedy."

It was unclear who fired the shot that hit the girl, but officers were struggling with the thought that they killed a baby, he said.

"The officers are taking it very hard," McDonnell said. "Anytime you have a baby killed, it takes its toll."

The standoff began at around 3:50 p.m. when officers responded to an area in South Los Angeles after residents reported an armed man standing near an intersection with a toddler and behaving erratically and aggressively.

There were three exchanges of gunfire between police and Lemos, who was about 35, McDonnell told reporters. In the final exchange, at around 6:20 p.m., Lemos held the girl as he shot.

"We did everything we could to hold our fire," McDonnell said.

At one point, Lemos retreated into an apartment building, where police said he held the girl hostage.

Police called in a SWAT team and tried to speak with the man; when they at one point attempted to help a neighbor escape the area, he fired at them and they fired back, McDonnell said.

Under police regulations, officers may only fire "when it reasonably appears necessary" to protect themselves or others from death or serious injury.

The man had a 9 mm handgun and a shotgun and was intoxicated on drugs and alcohol, police said.

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Man Beaten to Death With Own Bike Lock
July 10, 2005

CHICAGO - A student at the University of Illinois at Chicago was beaten to death with his own bicycle lock during a fight near campus, and two men were arrested, police said Sunday.

Tombol Malik, 23, of Chicago, was pronounced dead shortly after the beating early Saturday at the University Village housing complex several blocks from campus.

Police believe the two suspects struck Malik repeatedly in the face and head with the bicycle lock. Investigators also found a stun gun on the ground nearby.

Officials would not comment on a motive.

The death came several weeks after a UIC history professor was beaten to death in suburban Oak Park. Peter D'Agostino was found unconscious outside a home on June 22 and died later. Police said Saturday there had been no arrests in that case.

Charges of first degree murder and aggravated battery were filed against Muaz Haffer, 21, of Burr Ridge, and Mantas Matulis, 20, of Clarendon Hills, said police Officer Patrice Harper. A hearing was held Sunday and bail for each man was set at $900,000.

UIC spokesman Bill Burton said Malik was a sophomore majoring in political science. Friends said he had planned to study in Germany for at least part of the upcoming academic year.

Malik and another man were leaving a party at the housing complex when they encountered the two suspects, said Samil Malik, the victim's brother. One of the suspects appeared injured and when Malik's friend asked if they needed help the men attacked, he said.

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And Finally...

Skateboarder Clears Great Wall of China
Sun Jul 10,11:16 AM ET

LOS ANGELES - Daredevil skateboarder Danny Way rolled down a massive ramp at nearly 50 mph and jumped across the Great Wall of China on Saturday, becoming the first person to clear the wall without motorized aid, an event sponsor said.

Way botched the landing on his first attempt but then successfully completed the jump across the 61-foot gap four times, adding 360 degree spins on his last three tries, sponsor Quiksilver, Inc. said.

"I was aware of the dangers and my heart was pumping in my chest the whole time, but I managed to pull it off with the help of my team, and I'm honored to have my visions embraced by the people of China," Way said in a statement.

A crowd of several thousand people, including China's ministers of extreme sports and culture, gathered at the Ju Yong Guan Gate about a 40-minute drive from Beijing, Quiksilver's greater China marketing director Ryan Hollis said.

"It was pretty fantastic," Hollis said in an interview from Beijing. "He really has spent quite a few years even thinking about this whole idea. It's been in logistical planning for about eight months. ... It was pretty amazing today to see this happen, to see it adopted by the culture, adopted by the government."

Way's made the jump on an adaptation of the so-called mega ramp, a gigantic structure that he helped create near his home in the Southern California desert. He set a skateboard jump world record for distance (79 feet) on a mega ramp at last summer's X Games, and in 2003 set the height record of 23 1/2 feet at the desert ramp.

Event sponsor Quiksilver, based in Huntington Beach, makes skateboard apparel.

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