Wednesday, August 17, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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"You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and you'll stop the terrorism." - Cindy Sheehan


P I C T U R E   O F  T H E  D A Y

©2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte

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Bush Neighbor Lets War Protesters Use Land
Associated Press
Wed Aug 17, 3:48 AM ET

CRAWFORD, Texas - One of President Bush's neighbors will allow use of his land by dozens of war protesters who have camped in roadside ditches the past 11 days, giving them more room and halving their distance from Bush's ranch.

Fred Mattlage, an Army veteran, said he sympathizes with the demonstrators whose makeshift camp off the winding, two-lane road leading to Bush's ranch has angered most residents. Mattlage said the group will be safer on his corner 1-acre lot.

"I just think people should have a right to protest without being harassed," Mattlage told The Associated Press on Tuesday night. "And I'm against the war. I don't think it's a war we need to be in."

Cindy Sheehan of Vacaville, Calif., started the vigil Aug. 6 to honor her son Casey, who was killed in Iraq last year. Sheehan has vowed to remain through Bush's monthlong ranch visit unless he meets with her and other grieving families.

Mattlage's Monday night offer, accepted by protesters Tuesday, will put them about a mile from Bush's ranch, said Hadi Jawad of the Crawford Peace House, which is helping the group.

Demonstrators said they would start moving their tents, anti-war banners and portable toilets to the new site Wednesday and hope to have the new camp set up in time for a dusk candlelight vigil.

The vigil will be one of about 1,000 to be held across the country, an effort organized by liberal advocacy groups Political Action, TrueMajority and Democracy for America.

Larry Mattlage, a distant cousin of Mattlage's who owns nearby land, fired a shotgun twice into the air Sunday but no one was injured. But Fred Mattlage does not share his cousin's frustrations with the group.

For more than a week, the rural area has been a traffic nightmare as the camp attracted hundreds more protesters as well as Bush supporters holding counter-rallies.

A resident was arrested Monday night after authorities say he ran over hundreds of small wooden crosses bearing names of fallen U.S. soldiers.

Tuesday morning, several landowners asked county commissioners to extend for at least two miles the public "no parking" zone around Bush's ranch. The ordinance now prohibits cars from stopping on the road within about a quarter of a mile.

Bush, who said he sympathizes with Sheehan, has made no indication that he will meet with her. Sheehan and other families met with Bush two months after her son's death before she became a vocal opponent of the war.

Comment: Meanwhile, more parents are beginning to speak out against the war in Iraq...

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The exodus of grief and anger to Crawford
By Steve Duin

When the three Army officers finally tracked Michelle DeFord down at her Colton home last September, she didn't believe their story: "I kept thinking to myself, while the soldiers were talking to me, 'They're going to straighten this out, I know it's a mistake, David calls home every Monday.' "

And his message was always the same. "He kept telling me he wasn't doing anything dangerous," DeFord said. "He kept telling me he was safe." That gunfire in the background? "That was just Iraqis celebrating another soccer victory."

Thus, when the Army said she had 24 hours to notify her family before her son's death became public, DeFord didn't reach for the phone: "I just kept thinking that I don't want to get everyone upset, because I know this is wrong."

Almost a year after Spc. David W. Johnson, a 37-year-old cook turned machine gunner, was killed by a roadside bomb on a supply run to Taji, Michelle DeFord still thinks something is irrevocably wrong. That's why she and Lynn Bradach will fly to Texas on Wednesday, drive to "Camp Casey" and join Cindy Sheehan's vigil outside the Crawford ranch of President George W. Bush.

The nation is at war, the president is on an extended vacation, and DeFord and Bradach are the mothers of dead soldiers. Bradach's son, Marine Cpl. Travis J. Bradach-Nall, 21, of Portland, died in July 2003 while clearing a Karbala minefield.

In the months following her son's death, DeFord was too numb to wrestle with her pain in public. "I didn't speak out for a while," she said, "because I felt I'd be viewed as a grieving mother who was misguided."

But she has been inspired by Sheehan and her ability to energize the anti-war movement from a dusty outpost outside the president's 1,600-acre ranch. Sheehan has pledged to maintain her vigil in Crawford until Bush sits down to speak with her directly about the death of her son, Casey, a 24-year-old Army specialist who died in an Iraqi rocket attack.

DeFord first met Sheehan in Florida last October when both worked on a get-out-the-vote campaign. Since Sheehan formed Gold Star Families for Peace, the two women have grown quite close, staying in each other's homes when DeFord travels to the Bay Area or Sheehan journeys to the Pacific Northwest.

"I have never met anyone so determined, so calm, so rational and so well-spoken under these circumstances," DeFord said.

Sheehan makes no bones about her anger that Bush describes the death of her son as "noble." Her determination to keep that outrage and her anguished opposition to the war in public view, even as the president enjoys mountain biking and fundraising on his five-week August recess, has been particularly cathartic to other parents who count their sons and daughters among the 1,850 Americans who have died in Iraq.

"I'm so proud of Cindy," Lynn Bradach said. "I've had a really tough time this spring. I got to the point where I couldn't handle the news anymore." She was fleeing media coverage of the deaths of 19 Marine reservists from the same Cleveland battalion when she was swept away by the story of Sheehan's arrival in Crawford.

"The minute I read the article, I said I should be there to support her," Bradach said. "There should be many more mothers there."

This pair will tote backpacks and a tent into the sauna of summer in Texas and onto the firing range of those who scream these families aren't "supporting the troops."

"We're in Bush country," Bradach said. "There will be a lot of detractors, people saying we aren't patriots. I'd like to know what they've given up."

"There is no way our children died in vain, not if we pay attention, not if we learn. I'm proud of my son. I love the Marines. And I'm very much against this war and always have been."

"I guess our children went and were sacrificed for us to take a look at what we let happen. We let this war happen. If nothing else, this is a huge lesson. Watch who you vote for. Watch what they're telling you. Don't be so afraid."

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Parents of Fallen Marine Make Plea to Bush
Associated Press
Tue Aug 16,11:36 PM ET

CLEVELAND - The day after burying their son, parents of a fallen Marine urged President Bush to either send more reinforcements to
Iraq or withdraw U.S. troops altogether.

"We feel you either have to fight this war right or get out," Rosemary Palmer, mother of Lance Cpl. Edward Schroeder II, said Tuesday.

Schroeder, 23, died two weeks ago in a roadside explosion, one of 16 Ohio-based Marines killed recently in Iraq.

The soldier's father said his son and other Marines were being misused as a stabilizing force in Iraq.

"Our comments are not just those of grieving parents," Paul Schroeder said in front of the couple's home. "They are based on anger, Mr. President, not grief. Anger is an honest emotion when someone's family has been violated."

Palmer accused the president of refusing to make changes in a war gone bad. "Whether he leads them out by putting more troops on the ground or pulling them out - he can't just let it continue," she said.

White House spokesman Allen Abney declined comment other than to refer to remarks Bush made last week.

At a news conference Thursday, the president said: "Pulling troops out prematurely will betray the Iraqis. Our mission in Iraq, as I said earlier, is to fight the terrorists, is to train the Iraqis."

The Ohio couple have long opposed the war and tried to dissuade their son from joining the Marines, but have made their views public only since his death. On Tuesday they urged Americans to voice their opposition to the war.

"We want to point out that 30 people have died since our son. Are people listening?" Palmer asked.

More than 1,800 U.S. servicemen and women have been killed in the war.

Comment: Horse hockey. It has been reported numerous times now that the Pentagon has an interesting way of counting the number of soldiers killed in battle. If a soldier is wounded in action, transferred to a hospital, and later dies, she is not counted as KIA. Think about that: a US soldier, who sacrificed her life based on the lies of an AWOL president, is not even given the dignity of being counted among the killed American soldiers. She is viewed by the Bush administration as even less than a number...

On Monday, dozens of people, including several holding large American flags, lined the streets leading to the funeral for Schroeder, known to friends and family as "Augie" based on his middle name, August.

"Yesterday, it was Augie's day and we didn't want to intrude upon his day with politics," Palmer said. "We have to move on and keep his spirit alive by helping to protect his buddies who are still out there."

The couple applauded Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a fallen soldier who has camped out in protest near Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, for bringing the war to the public's attention.

"We consider her the Rosa Parks of the new movement opposing the Iraq war," Palmer said.

On posterboards, Schroeder displayed photos of his son - being cradled the day he was born; a blond boy eating corn on the cob; and the last photo the couple received of him, smiling in uniform, holding a Pepsi can and a rifle.

Their son went to Iraq filled with optimism about the mission but gradually became disillusioned with the war's progress, his parents said.

"He said the longer it went on the less and less worth it seemed," Palmer said. "They're not doing the job right now. It's not the fault of the troops. It's the fault of the plan."

Comment: The last photo the Schroeder's have of their son shows him holding a Pepsi can and a rifle. What an appropriate image for a war run by psychopathic leaders, based on lies, and intended to benefit the leaders themselves and psychopathic corporations at the expense of American and Iraqi children...

Speaking of children, why don't the Bush twins enlist?

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Are the Bush Twins AWOL?
Richard Bradley
Mon Aug 15,11:49 AM ET

Thanks in large part to Cindy Sheehan, people are starting to raise the issue of why Jenna and Barbara Bush aren't serving in the military. It's a tough question, but I think it's a fair one.

The President of the United States is calling on American young people to volunteer to go to war, but his own daughters, who are certainly of the appropriate age, are better known for their drunken nightclub escapades than for any acts of patriotism.

There's a precedent for prodding Bush on this question. Back in 1993, when Bill and Hillary Clinton moved to Washington, they decided to enroll Chelsea in a private, rather than public, school. Because the decision seemed to contradict the Clintons' stated faith in public schools, the press asked the Clintons about that decision, and they had to defend it - publicly. (And unlike the Bush daughters now, Chelsea was a minor.)

It's pretty simple, really. The military doesn't have enough soldiers; the president believes that this is a good and just war; he has two daughters who could enlist in the military, but haven't. These things don't add up.

So here's a question I think a White House reporter should ask the president: "President Bush, if your own two daughters won't enlist, how can you expect anyone else's children to join the military?"

Comment: Perhaps it would be easier for Bush to empathise with Cindy Sheehan if his daughters were shipped off to war. Then again, we've never seen any evidence that Bush is even remotely capable of empathy.

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Hitchens Slimes Cindy Sheehan

Sheehan is Not the One Uttering Piffley Bunk

I learned a new word today! Piffle!

I suppose it is not completely new, as I've probably come across it at various points in my life. However, today I read it in Christopher Hitchens' rather nonsensical gabbling as he added to the right-wing attempt to slander Cindy Sheehan (he referred to her work as "sinister piffle"), and was actually driven to seek a definition. Here's what I found:

Noun 1. piffle - trivial nonsense, balderdash, fiddle-faddle, hokum, meaninglessness, nonsense, nonsensicality, bunk - a message that seems to convey no meaning

Verb 1. piffle - speak (about unimportant matters) rapidly and incessantly blabber, palaver, prate, prattle, tattle, tittle-tattle, twaddle, gabble, gibber, blab, clack, maunder, chatter, mouth, speak, talk, verbalise, verbalize, utter - express in speech; "She talks a lot of nonsense"; "This depressed patient does not verbalize," blather, blether, blither, smatter, babble - to talk foolishly; "The two women babbled and crooned at the baby"

My first reaction was that I don't think that I have ever before come across such truly excellent synonyms for a word.

So, Hitchens is saying that Cindy Sheehan's effort and message is balderdash and hokem. That holding Bush, our government, and ourselves accountable for the deaths of nearly 2000 Americans, and tens of thousands of Iraqis is prattle, blither, smatter and babble.

This, I would say, is the fiddle-faddle of those among us who have somehow been brainwashed by the blathering and blethering of our so-called mission to spread freedom and democracy throughout the world. Too bad that Hitchens is not able to recognize that piffle becomes sinister when people die horrible and needless deaths as a result of our imperialistic endeavors, not when Cindy Sheehan acts from a place of moral clarity. Anything outside of that place, be it twaddling or action, is just bunk. Extremely sinister bunk.

Elisa Salasin lives in Berkeley, California, and can be contacted at

Many of her writings can be found on her blog, Two Feet In.

Comment: Hitchens does indeed completely miss the point of Cindy Sheehan's protest. It is not a question of who has "moral authority". If anyone is severely lacking in moral authority while at the same time stating - and probably believing - that god is directing his actions, it is George W. Bush. Apparently, there are those who would rather belittle what Sheehan is doing in speaking out against the lies of the Bush administration by attempting to steer the debate away from the facts and into the realm of "morality". Americans and Iraqis are dying. Iraq is less secure today and no more closer to "freedom and democracy" than before the US invasion. And Saddam's WMD's? Well, they never existed in the first place. The facts speak for themselves.

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Firefighters Drop WTC Foundation Support
Associated Press
Tue Aug 16,11:08 PM ET

NEW YORK - A union representing 22,000 active and retired firefighters announced Tuesday it has withdrawn its support for the foundation overseeing development of a memorial and other structures at the World Trade Center site.

Steve Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, cited objections to the planned International Freedom Center and a Drawing Center, which detractors say could include anti-American exhibits and draw attention from a planned memorial museum.

Cassidy said in a statement that his "membership and our 9/11 families believe that the memorial design will take away from the memory and sacrifice of the firefighters who bravely gave their lives during the most horrific terrorist attacks our country has had to face."

The Freedom Center and the Drawing Center are parts of cultural space long planned at ground zero. But in recent months family members have waged a campaign to remove the two institutions from the site.

The World Trade Center Memorial Foundation is charged with overseeing development of a memorial at the World Trade site as well as cultural space set aside for the two museums, two theater companies and a performing arts complex.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. oversees rebuilding of the entire 16-acre site, including a planned 1,776-foot tall Freedom Tower office building.

The memorial, called "Reflecting Absence," will include a field of trees and two large voids containing recessed pools. The pools and the ramps that surround them encompass the footprints of the twin towers. A cascade of water will feed the pools continuously.

Last week, John Whitehead - chairman of the LMDC's board of directors and a foundation board member - gave the International Freedom Center until Sept. 23 to work with family members and produce more specific plans and warned if the plans do not satisfy the rebuilding agency, "we will find another use or tenant consistent with our objectives for that space."

The Drawing Center is looking for a new home following the controversy.

Cassidy was adamant in calling the plans to house the Freedom and Drawing centers "unacceptable."

"This was the largest civilian rescue operation of its kind, and its victims must be at the forefront of whatever memorial is cast and not forced to play third fiddle," he said.

A spokeswoman said the foundation was "deeply saddened" by the union's decision. "We hope that the LMDC will work with the cultural institutions and the family members to resolve the concerns at the site," Lynn Rasic said.

The chairman and the vice chair of the International Freedom Center, Tom Bernstein and Paula Berry, said Tuesday they looked forward to meeting with the union officials to share their plans.

They said they were creating a family advisory council to ensure that everything at the International Freedom Center "is done with the greatest sensitivity and respect for the sacrifice so many heroes, both in and out of uniform, made that day."

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Va. Laptop Sale Turns Into a Stampede
Associated Press
August 17, 2005

RICHMOND, Va. - A rush to purchase $50 used laptops turned into a violent stampede Tuesday, with people getting thrown to the pavement, beaten with a folding chair and nearly driven over. One woman went so far as to wet herself rather than surrender her place in line.

"This is total, total chaos," said Latoya Jones, 19, who lost one of her flip-flops in the ordeal and later limped around on the sizzling blacktop with one foot bare.

An estimated 5,500 people turned out at the Richmond International Raceway in hopes of getting their hands on one of the 4-year-old Apple iBooks. The Henrico County school system was selling 1,000 of the computers to county residents. New iBooks cost between $999 and $1,299.

Officials opened the gates at 7 a.m., but some already had been waiting since 1:30 a.m. When the gates opened, it became a terrifying mob scene.

People threw themselves forward, screaming and pushing each other. A little girl's stroller was crushed in the stampede. Witnesses said an elderly man was thrown to the pavement, and someone in a car tried to drive his way through the crowd.

Seventeen people suffered minor injuries, with four requiring hospital treatment, Henrico County Battalion Chief Steve Wood said. There were no arrests and the iBooks sold out by 1 p.m.

"It's rather strange that we would have such a tremendous response for the purchase of a laptop computer - and laptop computers that probably have less-than-desirable attributes," said Paul Proto, director of general services for Henrico County. "But I think that people tend to get caught up in the excitement of the event - it almost has an entertainment value."

Blandine Alexander, 33, said one woman standing in front of her was so desperate to retain her place in line that she urinated on herself.

"I've never been in something like that before, and I never again will," said Alexander, who brought her 14-year-old twin boys to the complex at 4:30 a.m. to wait in line. "No matter what the kids want, I already told them I'm not doing that again."

Jesse Sandler said he was one of the people pushing forward, using a folding chair he had brought with him to beat back people who tried to cut in front of him.

"I took my chair here and I threw it over my shoulder and I went, 'Bam,'" the 20-year-old said nonchalantly, his eyes glued to the screen of his new iBook, as he tapped away on the keyboard at a testing station.

"They were getting in front of me and I was there a lot earlier than them, so I thought that it was just," he said.

Comment: On the August 15, 2005 Signs page, we had an article about potential trucking protests:

The truckers have heard of logging trucks parking in protest in Grays Harbor. Quietly, not openly yet, they are talking of parking their rigs.

Mike said: "I don't know (if) we can bring the price of fuel down by doing that; but, hopefully, it would get the government's attention. Something has to be done about it."

The wife of another long-haul driver, Judy Looney said: "That'd get a message to just about everyone -- when your grocery store start running out of food."

If people will act like animals just to get a four-year-old laptop computer for $50, what would they do to each other if food becomes scarce?

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July Inflation Jumps on Higher Gas Prices
Aug 16, 2005

WASHINGTON (AP) - Consumer prices shot up in July, reflecting higher prices for gasoline and other energy products while output at the nations' factories, mines and utilities slowed sharply.

The Federal Reserve reported that industrial production rose just 0.1 percent last, the weakest showing in three months. Output increases at factories and utilities slowed after big gains in June while mining output actually fell.

The overall increase was below what economists had been expecting but they are still looking for solid gains for the rest of the year as factories boost production to restock depleted store inventories.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department reported that its closely watched Consumer Price Index rose 0.5 percent in July, the biggest increase in three months. In July, overall inflation was driven higher by a big 3.8 percent jump in energy costs. [...]

So far this year, inflation is rising at a moderate annual rate of 3.5 percent as the explosion in energy costs has not yet triggered underlying inflation pressures. The core rate of inflation, excluding food and energy, is rising at an annual rate of just 2.2 percent so far this year.

But the soaring costs of fuel could have an adverse impact on the economy ultimately if consumers pressed by this higher expense cut back on their spending elsewhere. [...]

Comment: And it appears that the average consumer is beginning to do just that...

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Taking the Energy Out of Retailers

As Oil and Gas Prices Continue To Rise, Shoppers Are Increasingly Buying the 'Needs' And Leaving The 'Wants' On the Shelves
By Michael Barbaro and Anjali Athavaley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 17, 2005; Page D01

The nation's retailers are growing increasingly worried that as consumers pour more money into their gas tanks, they will devote less to filling up their shopping carts, with industry bellwether Wal-Mart Stores Inc. yesterday blaming higher prices at the pump for its weakest quarterly performance in four years.

So far, the relentless climb of oil and gas prices has pinched discount chains and dollar stores, which cater to lower-income shoppers. But if prices continue to rise, the pain could soon spread to chains that have long considered their customers immune to the fluctuating price of fuel, retail analysts said.

With oil and gas prices hovering in record territory, retailers are feeling yet another pressure: Their everyday cost of doing business is surging. A Barbie costs more to make. A diaper costs more to distribute. And a store costs more to cool and heat.

"It is a perilous time in retail," said Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates Inc., a retail consulting and investment banking firm, who says a combination of escalating gas prices, heavy consumer debt and low savings "will affect every retailer in America."

Wal-Mart, shopped by nearly half the country's population every week, fingered mounting gas prices yesterday when it cut its prediction for third-quarter profit. Wal-Mart chief executive H. Lee Scott. Jr., said he feels "good about the economy, but I worry about rising oil prices." Those prices, he said, could "erase improvements" in the economy for the chain's lower- and middle-income customers.

Those fears jolted the retail industry. "When Wal-Mart sneezes, retailing catches a cold," said Bill Dreher, a retail analyst at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc.

Consumers, stung by escalating gas prices, say they are switching from name brands to generic ones, avoiding pricier chains in favor of cheaper competitors and abstaining from impulse purchases.

The national average for a gallon of regular unleaded gas hit $2.52 yesterday, according to the auto club AAA.

Shopping at Ross Dress for Less in Alexandria yesterday, Shirley Lee, a retiree from Mount Vernon, was tempted to buy a lunchbox and container of gumdrops for her granddaughter.

Then she thought about filling her gas tank -- a $40 task -- and took a pass on the gifts. "I'm trying to cut down," she said.

Or, as Janine Whitfield, a teacher from Tysons Corner, put it, "we are going to have to rethink how we spend money and how we drive."

With oil and gas prices hovering in record territory, retail executives said shoppers are shying away from many purchases, such as bedding and curtains, and focusing instead on basics, such as clothing and laundry detergent -- "needs versus wants," said Kiley F. Rawlins, a divisional vice president at Family Dollar Stores Inc., the nation's second-largest dollar-store chain. [...]

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Chavez makes US oil export threat
Monday, 15 August 2005

Oil exports to the US could stop amid growing tensions between the two countries, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has said.

He described recent US government actions as "aggressive" in a speech at a youth festival in Caracas.

As a result, Venezuelan oil "instead of going to the United States, could go elsewhere," he said.

Venezuela exports about 1.3 million barrels a day to the US and is the world's fifth largest oil producer.

Tensions between the two countries have escalated since President Chavez accused the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of spying on his government.

Washington denies the charge and has accused Caracas of failing to cooperate in the fight against drug-trafficking.

On Friday the Venezuelan government withdrew diplomatic immunity from DEA agents working in the country in response to a US decision to revoke the visas of six Venezuelan officials based in Washington.

Venezuela is an important transport route for cocaine from neighbouring Colombia, which produces 80% of the world's supply.

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UK pension gap 'worse than US'
Tuesday, 16 August 2005, 11:35 GMT

Costs of pension schemes are rising as members live longer
UK company pension schemes are four times more likely to be in deficit than US schemes, research has suggested.

Just 5% of UK pension schemes are fully funded, which means that they have enough assets to meet their future obligations to members.

In the US, one in five pension schemes are fully funded, the research from AON Consulting found.

UK pension schemes are worse off than US schemes because employers' contribution rates are lower, AON said.

Left behind

Overall, the average pension deficit of a UK firm equated to seven months of pre-tax profits, whereas in the US the figure is two months.

Both US and UK pension schemes are finding it difficult to cope with the costs of members living longer, AON said.

However, US employers seem to be moving more swiftly to pay money into their workers' pension schemes.

"UK companies have not increased their level of cash contributions to the same extent as their counterparts in the US," Andrew Claringbold, spokesman for AON Consulting said.

Gap narrows

Recently, the outlook for UK pension schemes has shown modest signs of improvement.

Last week, actuary firm Lane, Clark and Peacock calculated that the combined pension deficit of the UK's top 100 companies had narrowed in the past year.

The combined pension fund deficit of the FTSE 100 companies fell from £42bn to £37bn in the year to July, the firm said.

Increased contributions from employers and improved stock market performance were the key reasons for the reduction.

But, if current trends continue, the black hole will not be closed until 2013, the group warned.

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Inflation rises to eight-year high
Mark Tran
The Guardian
Tuesday August 16, 2005

Britain's inflation rate has risen to its highest level in eight years, official figures showed today, diminishing prospects for another interest rate cut any time soon.

Boosted by the surge in petrol prices, the consumer prices index (CPI) rose unexpectedly by 2.3% in the year to July, up from 2% in June, the Office for National Statistics reported.

The July figure was the highest since the current series of data began in January 1997 and it was the first time that the inflation rate had risen above the Bank of England's 2% target since its adoption in December 2003.

The Bank of England last week said inflation will probably rise a little further in the next few months, but the rise in prices substantially exceeded City expectations. Analysts had expected no change from June.

Given the surprise jump it is now unlikely that the Bank will make another cut in borrowing costs in the next few months. The Bank's monetary policy committee (MPC) cut interest rates this month by a quarter-point to 4.5% amid a welter of data indicating a slowdown in the economy.

"This will not please the Bank of England at all, and significantly diminishes the prospects of another interest rate cut before the end of this year," said Howard Archer, chief UK economist with the consultancy Global Insight.

The ONS said petrol prices added 0.13 percentage points to the annual CPI rate as crude oil costs have risen. Oil prices have almost doubled since the spring of 2004 and have had a direct and rapid impact on petrol prices, currently above 90p a litre. Oil prices also have a slower and less direct impact of the costs of producing other goods and services.

The ONS said upward pressure also came from air and sea travel as well as from furniture where prices were little changed this year, due to the fact that price recoveries in some major retail chains offset summer sales in others. What will be of concern to the Bank is the rise in the core rate of inflation, which excludes energy, food, alcohol and tobacco.

"The core rates of inflation have risen sharply between June and July. Indeed, core inflation has risen by 0.3% to almost 2% on this measure, which might prove to be something of a concern for the MPC," said George Buckley of Deutsche Bank.

In its inflation report last week, the Bank of England predicted that inflation would initially rise above 2% and then dip back beneath its target.

"The initial increase and decline partly reflects the impact of oil prices on CPI inflation," the inflation report said. "Easing demand pressures over the recent past an in the near term also slow the rate of CPI inflation."

But two years out, the Bank predicted that inflation will again rise above the 2% target as the economy picks up. The report's tone indicated that the Bank would not cut rates by much more. Today's inflation numbers will probably reinforce such sentiments.

Comment: July inflation in the US is up, inflation in the UK is at an eight year high, fuel prices remain high, US truckers are talking about a strike that would result in food shortages, China has unpegged the yuan from the dollar, and it seems that the Bush administration has been artificially propping up the dollar so far this year.

Yup, the global economy is in great shape...

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American investors move away from US assets
By Jennifer Hughes in New York
Financial Times
August 15 2005

US Treasuries American investors diversified away from the US at the fastest rate in 10 years, even as foreign buyers stepped up their purchases of US assets, data released on Monday suggested.

US investors bought $146bn of overseas bonds and equities in the past 12 months more than at any time since 1994.

But despite anxieties about the still-growing US current account deficit, overseas investors poured a net $71.2bn into US assets, up from a revised $55.8bn in May, according to the Treasury.

The capital flows, which more than covered the $58.5bn trade deficit for June, suggest that confidence in the strength of the US economy will be sufficient to sustain the external deficits.

The dollar rose to $1.236 from $1.239 against the euro on the news.

The US needs to attract more than $2bn in net inflows each working day to cover the current account gap, of which the capital and trade accounts are the most visible and biggest components.

"The bulk of the current account financing burden falls on securities rather than direct investment so we have to focus on this report," said Sean Callow, senior currency strategist at Westpac Bank. [...]

Comment: Again, see this week's Signs Economic Commentary for an excellent analysis of why the dollar has not yet crashed.

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Engineers modify hybrid cars to get 250 mpg
By Tim Molloy, The Associated Press
USA Today
Posted 8/14/2005 2:30 PM

CORTE MADERA, Calif. - Politicians and automakers say a car that can both reduce greenhouse gases and free America from its reliance on foreign oil is years or even decades away. Ron Gremban says such a car is parked in his garage.

It looks like a typical Toyota Prius hybrid, but in the trunk sits an 80-miles-per-gallon secret - a stack of 18 brick-sized batteries that boosts the car's high mileage with an extra electrical charge so it can burn even less fuel.

Gremban, an electrical engineer and committed environmentalist, spent several months and $3,000 tinkering with his car.

Like all hybrids, his Prius increases fuel efficiency by harnessing small amounts of electricity generated during braking and coasting. The extra batteries let him store extra power by plugging the car into a wall outlet at his home in this San Francisco suburb - all for about a quarter.

He's part of a small but growing movement. "Plug-in" hybrids aren't yet cost-efficient, but some of the dozen known experimental models have gotten up to 250 mpg.

They have support not only from environmentalists but also from conservative foreign policy hawks who insist Americans fuel terrorism through their gas guzzling.

And while the technology has existed for three decades, automakers are beginning to take notice, too. [...]

The extra batteries let Gremban drive for 20 miles with a 50-50 mix of gas and electricity. Even after the car runs out of power from the batteries and switches to the standard hybrid mode, it gets the typical Prius fuel efficiency of around 45 mpg. As long as Gremban doesn't drive too far in a day, he says, he gets 80 mpg. [...]

Gremban rigged his car to promote the nonprofit CalCars Initiative, a San Francisco Bay area-based volunteer effort that argues automakers could mass produce plug-in hybrids at a reasonable price.

But Toyota and other car companies say they are worried about the cost, convenience and safety of plug-in hybrids - and note that consumers haven't embraced all-electric cars because of the inconvenience of recharging them like giant cell phones.

Automakers have spent millions of dollars telling motorists that hybrids don't need to be plugged in, and don't want to confuse the message.

Nonetheless, plug-in hybrids are starting to get the backing of prominent hawks like former CIA director James Woolsey and Frank Gaffney, President Reagan's undersecretary of defense. They have joined Set America Free, a group that wants the government to spend $12 billion over four years on plug-in hybrids, alternative fuels and other measures to reduce foreign oil dependence.

Gaffney, who heads the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Security Policy, said Americans would embrace plug-ins if they understood arguments from him and others who say gasoline contributes to oil-rich Middle Eastern governments that support terrorism.

"The more we are consuming oil that either comes from places that are bent on our destruction or helping those who are ... the more we are enabling those who are trying to kill us," Gaffney said.

DaimlerChrysler spokesman Nick Cappa said plug-in hybrids are ideal for companies with fleets of vehicles that can be recharged at a central location at night. He declined to name the companies buying the vehicles and said he did not know the vehicles' mileage or cost, or when they would be available.

Others are modifying hybrids, too.

Monrovia-based Energy CS has converted two Priuses to get up to 230 mpg by using powerful lithium ion batteries. It is forming a new company, EDrive Systems, that will convert hybrids to plug-ins for about $12,000 starting next year, company vice president Greg Hanssen said.

University of California, Davis engineering professor Andy Frank built a plug-in hybrid from the ground up in 1972 and has since built seven others, one of which gets up to 250 mpg. They were converted from non-hybrids, including a Ford Taurus and Chevrolet Suburban.

Frank has spent $150,000 to $250,000 in research costs on each car, but believes automakers could mass-produce them by adding just $6,000 to each vehicle's price tag.

Instead, Frank said, automakers promise hydrogen-powered vehicles hailed by President Bush and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, even though hydrogen's backers acknowledge the cars won't be widely available for years and would require a vast infrastructure of new fueling stations.

"They'd rather work on something that won't be in their lifetime, and that's this hydrogen economy stuff," Frank said. "They pick this kind of target to get the public off their back, essentially."

Comment: There you have it. If "peak oil" was a real problem, the technology to drastically improve fuel economy already exists - and at a reasonable price. So, why isn't the Bush government pushing for the type of ultra-efficient hybrid engines described in this article in order to reduce US dependence on foreign oil?

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Why, oh why, did it come to this?
August 12th, 2005

~ A rant that I posted to the WRH Forums ~

I usually try to keep a level head on issues such as these… the dismissed Army General, the planned Terror Drill, Bush's plummeting approval ratings and the administration's overall lack of interest in even the most basic public policy initiatives (has anyone else noticed the complete "lame duck" appearance of the Bush Adminstration as of late? And didn't he just get back from vacation in Crawford right before 9/11?).

Perhaps it's just paranoia, but the patterns are so eerily similar that one can't help but draw conclusions.

I've had this "feeling" for about two months. It started right before the London bombings and has yet to subside. I thought that perhaps it was some sub-conscious connection with "the world" whispering to me that something was afoot. After both London attacks, I had assumed this feeling would go away but this whisper has intensified and it is now screaming "Open your eyes".

Some event of great proportions is about to transpire. Though inductively, my argument may be weak, we've all seen the same patterns. Perhaps it was an unintended conditioning effect but I'd like to believe it lies closer to intuition.

Take these basic facts:

1) A Four-star military General is suddenly fired, being only three months from his planned retirement, and for a cause as dubious as "sexual misconduct" while already in divorce proceedings with his former spouse.

2) Near said General's base, is planned a "Nuclear Terror Drill" where some bizzare scenario has been concocted to describe the smuggling and detonation of a Nuclear device on American soil

3) Said General apparently has big issues with the current administration and it has been speculated that he may be part of a coup attempt against said administration

4) Our dear leader has taken no heed of his approval ratings, put forth no initiatives, has turned a blind eye to the concerns of his constituents, is currently mired in scandal, and is beginning to be exposed as the liar that he is. Yet he takes a vacation (as he did in August of 2001) while a crumbling economy and infrastructure ensues and international tensions are at a level not seen since World War II.

5) The Pentagon draws up grandiose plans for an Iranian invasion utilizing Tactical Nuclear weapons and as well, draws up plans for armed conflict and the adoption of Martial Law on our very soil. On top of this, the Pentagon will suspend all leave for soldiers after Sept. 7th and already plans on "lightly lifting" this restriction some time in December with the condition that all troops stay "within 17km of base" (not to mention the rebuilding of the nation's Draft boards)

It sounds easy enough to piece together. Yet another "false-flag" attack to trick the nation into another war with a country that:

1) Is about to enter the global market as a Euro(currency)-centric trading post for Crude oil, putting U.S. petro-dollar hegemony at great risk (this would lead to massive inflation as our money began to be returned to us by foreign investors who no longer see the value in holding a dying trade tender)

Comment: See the article above about the increased inflation in July...

2) Is in possession of large supplies of Crude oil while its leadership is diplomatically untouchable ("our" choice) by our current state puppets.

3) Is part of the "big picture" in terms of the Project for the New American Century agenda to secure bountiful energy supplies for an ever dependent American economy (mind you, control of Iran's oil supplies would give the U.S. a competitive advantage over the surging Chinese economy as we would be able to regulate their growth by dictating the terms of their energy consumption).

Given these facts, it seems to make sense that the powers that be are beginning the processes of reasserting U.S. economic, political, and material hegemony over the rest of the world by usurping and regulating a majority of the world's energy supply.

Also given the current administration's lack of support for the floundering war in Iraq, how else would they be able to connive the American people into yet another costly, deadly, and devestating war?

This entire chain of events transcends even a third World War. This will be a process of awakening for the people of this world. Sure, many will probably die, Nuclear munitions will likely be employed and all hell will break loose, but I like to look at the bright side.

Despite the utter despare and chaos likely to be caused by a World War III, it will be an enlightening period for humanity as we realize that our dependence on material "things" and "tangible assets" was the motivating factor in this latest of world cataclysms. Why did the American people blindly follow an Administration that they know lies to them? Why do the American people continue to listen to a Mainstream Media that even they claim not to trust?

The answer is simple. The current system provides us with all the necessities, toys, and luxuries to keep us distracted from the sickening truth of what is going on around us. I particularly enjoy the adage "1500 troops dead but I still pay $2.35 at the pump…". This brazen "materialization" of such a horrific turn of events is exactly the reason why more people now are questioning the war, not because of true human costs or the pain and suffering endured by those who have lost a loved one or for the toll taken on returning soldiers as they realize what it is they did over there. It's about things like gasoline, cash, that $1,000 per month mortgage on that 3,000 sq ft house our collective American asses are sitting in; it's about making it to work on time and it's about finding time to pleasure ourselves with our money, toys, and material wealth.

I forsee that the only good to come of the approaching situation is that people may actually detach themselves from this greed and put more stock into being human again. Being the only good I can forsee, I look forward to it. It would be nice to see people without Cell phones affixed to their ears, without pride in what kind of automobile they have or how much they have stashed away in their personal little coffers.

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26 Iraqi workers wounded as US troops mistake them for rebels
Tue Aug 16, 9:31 AM ET

BAGHDAD - A group of Iraqi workers in Baghdad came under fire from US troops who mistook them for insurgents.

An interior ministry source said US troops fired on a crowd of workers in the central Baghdad neighbourhood of Alawi, while a defence ministry source reported an exchange of fire between suspected rebels and US forces in the area.

But a number of casualties lying in Al-Yarmouk hospital told AFP that a US helicopter fired at them as they were gathered outside a hotel.

"The electricity went out at around 0500 (0100 GMT), so we exited the hotel to the street to have breakfast in the fresh air. A helicopter then opened fire into the street," said Ali Mohammad, who sustained neck and leg injuries.

Makki Hassan, a 50-year-old resident of the neighbourhood, said that a number of people sleeping on the roofs of their houses were also struck by gunfire.

The US military, contacted by AFP, had no immediate information on the incident.

Also in Baghdad, two Iraqi policemen were killed and four others injured when gunmen fired on a civil defence centre in the eastern Canal district, the interior ministry source said.

In other violence Tuesday, an Iraqi working for a local news organisation was killed and his three colleagues wounded when their car hit a roadside bomb south of Baquba, 60 kilometres (37 miles) north of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, the office of former prime minister Iyad Allawi accused members of the Iraqi National Guard of assaulting his private guards late Monday, wounding two of them.

"Such attacks backed by the current Iraqi government ... increase (the Iraqi people's) lack of confidence in the leadership of the current government," said a statement issued by Allawi's office.

Allawi's office told AFP the attack took place in Al-Zaytoon Street, where the office of the ex-premier is located, but declined to give further details.

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Secrets of the morgue - Baghdad's body count
By Robert Fisk
The Independent

The Baghdad morgue is a fearful place of heat and stench and mourning, the cries of relatives echoing down the narrow, foetid laneway behind the pale-yellow brick medical centre where the authorities keep their computerised records. So many corpses are being brought to the mortuary that human remains are stacked on top of each other. Unidentified bodies must be buried within days for lack of space - but the municipality is so overwhelmed by the number of killings that it can no longer provide the vehicles and personnel to take the remains to cemeteries.

July was the bloodiest month in Baghdad's modern history - in all, 1,100 bodies were brought to the city's mortuary; executed for the most part, eviscerated, stabbed, bludgeoned, tortured to death. The figure is secret.

We are not supposed to know that the Iraqi capital's death toll last month was only 700 short of the total American fatalities in Iraq since April of 2003. Of the dead, 963 were men - many with their hands bound, their eyes taped and bullets in their heads - and 137 women. The statistics are as shameful as they are horrifying. For these are the men and women we supposedly came to "liberate" - and about whose fate we do not care.

The figures for this month cannot, of course, yet be calculated. But last Sunday, the mortuary received the bodies of 36 men and women, all killed by violence. By 8am on Monday, nine more human remains had been received. By midday, the figure had reached 25.

"I consider this a quiet day," one of the mortuary officials said to me as we stood close to the dead. So in just 36 hours - from dawn on Sunday to midday on Monday, 62 Baghdad civilians had been killed. No Western official, no Iraqi government minister, no civil servant, no press release from the authorities, no newspaper, mentioned this terrible statistic. The dead of Iraq - as they have from the beginning of our illegal invasion - were simply written out of the script. Officially they do not exist.

Thus there has been no disclosure of the fact that in July 2003 - three months after the invasion - 700 corpses were brought to the mortuary in Baghdad. In July of 2004, this rose to around 800. The mortuary records the violent death toll for June of this year as 879 - 764 of them male, 115 female. Of the men, 480 had been killed by firearms, along with 25 of the women. By comparison, equivalent figures for July 1997, 1998 and 1999 were all below 200.

Between 10 and 20 per cent of all bodies are never identified - the medical authorities have had to bury 500 of them since January of this year, unidentified and unclaimed. In many cases, the remains have been shattered by explosions - possibly by suicide bombers - or by deliberate disfigurement by their killers.

Mortuary officials have been appalled at the sadism visited on the victims. "We have many who have obviously been tortured - mostly men," one said. "They have terrible burn marks on hands and feet and other parts of their bodies. Many have their hands fastened behind their backs with handcuffs and their eyes have been bound with Sellotape. Then they have been shot in the head - in the back of the head, the face, the eyes. These are executions."

While Saddam's regime visited death by official execution upon its opponents, the scale of anarchy now existing in Baghdad, Mosul, Basra and other cities is unprecedented. "The July figures are the largest ever recorded in the history of the Baghdad Medical Institute," a senior member of the management told The Independent.

It is clear that death squads are roaming the streets of a city which is supposed to be under the control of the US military and the American-supported, elected government of Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Never in recent history has such anarchy been let loose on the civilians of this city - yet the Western and Iraqi authorities show no interest in disclosing the details. The writing of the new constitution - or the failure to complete it - now occupies the time of Western diplomats and journalists. The dead, it seems, do not count.

But they should. Most are between 15 and 44 - the youth of Iraq - and, if extrapolated across the country, Baghdad's 1,100 dead of last month must bring Iraq's minimum monthly casualty toll in July alone to 3,000 - perhaps 4,000. Over a year, this must reach a minimum of 36,000, a figure which puts the supposedly controversial statistic of 100,000 dead since the invasion into a much more realistic perspective.

There is no way of distinguishing the reasons for these thousands of violent deaths. Some men and women were shot at US checkpoints, others murdered, no doubt, by insurgents or thieves. A few listed as killed by "blunt instruments" might have been the dead of traffic accidents. Some of the women were probably the victims of "honour" killings - because male relatives suspected them of having illicit relations with the wrong man. Still others may have been murdered as collaborators. Doctors have been told that bodies brought to the mortuary by US forces should not be given post-mortem examinations (on the odd ground that the Americans will have already performed this function).

So many civilians are dying that the morgue has had to rely on volunteers from the holy city of Najaf to transport unidentified Shia Muslim dead to the central city's large graveyard for burial, their plots donated by religious institutions. "In some of the bodies, we find American bullets," a mortuary attendant told me. "But these could be American bullets fired by Iraqis. We don't know who's killing who - it's not our job to find out, but civilians are killing each other.

"We had a body here the other day and the relatives said he had been murdered because he had been a Baathist in the old regime. Then they said that his brother had been killed three or four weeks back because he was a member of the religious Shia Dawa party which was the enemy of Saddam. But this is the real story - the killing of the people. I don't want to die under a new constitution. I want security."

One of the problems in cataloguing the daily death toll is that the official radio often declines to report explosions. On Monday, the thump of a bomb in the Karada district was never officially explained. Only yesterday was it discovered that a suicide bomber had walked into a popular café, the Emir, and blown himself up, killing two policemen. Another explosion, officially said to be caused by a mortar, turned out to be a mine set off beneath a pile of watermelons as a US patrol was passing. A civilian died.

Again, there was no official account of these deaths. They were not recorded by the government nor by the occupying armies nor, of course, by the Western press. Like the bodies in the Baghdad city mortuary, they did not exist.

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Security prisoner suspected killed in in Iraq's Abu Ghraib
Tue Aug 16, 9:11 AM ET

BAGHDAD - A 20-year-old male security prisoner is supected to have been killed in Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib jail.

"The security detainee died on August 15 of a suspected homicide at Abu Ghraib," the US military said in a statement, without giving his nationality.

The detainee was found unconscious within the camp by fellow detainees and prononced dead when taken to the hospital, the statement added Tuesday.

"The military criminal investigation division is investigating the incident," the military said.

US forces have detained hundreds of people across Iraq for security reasons.

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Beaten Afghan's Body 'Falling Apart'
Associated Press
Tue Aug 16,10:12 PM ET

FORT BLISS, Texas - An Afghan detainee who died in military custody was injured so severely that his leg muscles were split apart, an Air Force medical examiner testified Tuesday in the trial of a soldier accused in the beating.

Lt. Col. Elizabeth Rouse, who performed the autopsy on the prisoner known as Dilawar, said his muscles were "crumbling and falling apart."

She testified that the injuries could have been caused by repeated knee strikes or by a fist.

Rouse also reviewed the autopsy of a man known as Habibullah and said he suffered what appeared to be similar blunt injuries.

Army Pfc. Willie V. Brand, 26, an Ohio reservist, is accused of abusing the two prisoners in 2002. Both later died.

The defense has said Brand was ill-trained for his duties and was simply following orders. Prosecutors say Brand was never taught or ordered to abuse prisoners.

Several other soldiers charged with mistreating detainees at Bagram airfield in Afghanistan have pleaded guilty or announced their intention to do so.

No officers in charge of training soldiers involved in the abuse cases or those who oversaw operations at the airfield have been charged. Military officials have said the investigation is continuing.

Before the prosecution concluded its case Tuesday, the jury also heard from three military criminal investigators who interviewed Brand several times.

Each told the jury that Brand said he used knee strikes to gain control of the detainees, whom he described as combative.

Brand's civilian lawyer, John P. Galligan, said he was not sure if he would put any witnesses on the stand when the trial resumes Wednesday.

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Israeli Soldiers Clear Out Gaza Strip
The Associated Press
Wednesday, August 17, 2005; 8:20 AM

NEVE DEKALIM, Gaza Strip -- Israeli troops dragged sobbing Jewish settlers out of homes, synagogues and even a nursery school Wednesday and hauled them onto buses in a massive evacuation, fulfilling Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's promise to withdraw from the Gaza Strip after a 38-year occupation.

Soldiers carried away worshippers still wrapped in their white prayer shawls. Wailing men ripped their shirts in a Jewish mourning ritual. Women in a synagogue pressed their faces against the curtain covering the Torah scroll. A woman set herself on fire at a police roadblock in Israel.

In Gaza, settlers kicked and screamed as they were loaded onto buses. One woman in Neve Dekalim shouted, "I don't want to! I don't want to!" as she was carried away.

Irate residents in one outpost employed Nazi-era imagery - including stars of David on their T-shirts - to protest the military's actions.

But there were no signs of serious violence in the settlements as a growing number of residents appeared to be coming to terms with the withdrawal.

"I believed that God would not let this happen, but this is not true," a woman said in the isolated settlement of Morag while clutching her baby.

Sharon, who championed the settlements for years, said the images of settlers being removed from their homes were heartbreaking.

"It's impossible to watch this, and that includes myself, without tears in the eyes," he told a news conference.

But he urged settlers to show restraint.

"I'm appealing to everyone. Don't attack the men and women in uniform. Don't accuse them. Don't make it harder for them, don't harm them. Attack me. I am responsible for this. Attack me. Accuse me," Sharon said.

The operation capped a bruising political battle for Sharon, who proposed the withdrawal more than 18 months ago as a way to reduce friction with the Palestinians. Opponents accuse him of caving in to Palestinian violence and abandoning the dream of full control over the biblical Land of Israel.

Throughout the day, some 14,000 troops entered six Jewish settlements: Morag, Neve Dekalim, Bedolah, Ganei Tal, Tel Katifa and Kerem Atzmona.

In several settlements, including the largest - Neve Dekalim, army commanders were trying to persuade residents to leave voluntarily.

Security officials said the goal was to clear out the 21 Gaza settlements in just a few days, far more quickly than originally planned. But thousands of pullout opponents who infiltrated Gaza in recent weeks remained.

In Neve Dekalim, a grizzled colonel, with tears in his eyes, shook hands with a young father, cradling the man's tiny baby, as he explained it was time to go.

Another commander, identified only as Yitzhak, tearfully hugged another settler.

"It's not easy. These are very special people. This is the salt of the earth," Yitzhak said. "But we have a mission and we will carry it out, and I think these people understand that."

Some teenage activists - many West Bank activists - showed fierce resistance. Troops dragged dozens of protesters, some as young as 12, onto buses and took them away.

"I want to die!" screamed one youth as he was hauled off.

Several soldiers were hit by white paint bombs, and protesters smashed a bus window.

Hundreds of protesters holed up in the town's main synagogue.

A group of teenage girls sang, "I believe in the messiah," and many cried while pressing their faces to the curtain covering the Torah.

In Morag, soldiers encountered cement blocks and burning garbage containers early Wednesday, briefly clashing with residents. But as the day dragged on, protesters gradually surrendered.

Under a weeping willow tree at a children's nursery, mothers clutched their babies, soldiers carried toddlers, settlers ripped their clothes and troops loaded diapers and toys onto buses for evacuation.

A female soldier with tears in her eyes held a toddler in her arms, gave him some candy and implored, "Where is his mother?" Another soldier waved away flies from a toddler lying in a stroller.

Troops carried dozens of worshippers out of the local synagogue, in one case escorting a crying man covered by a prayer shawl. Some kept praying in front of the Torah as soldiers removed others.

Soldiers also removed families from their homes. Female residents walked out under army escort, while the men let themselves be carried. One resident, Eran Hendel, lay on the floor, read a psalm and ripped his shirt collar before being carried away.

In the hardline outpost of Kerem Atzmona, irate settlers shouted at soldiers: "Nazi!" "Refuse orders!" and "Jews don't expel Jews!" Soldiers dragged the flailing residents out of their homes and loaded them onto buses, as children sat in their homes crying.

In the Bedolah settlement, Rabbi Menachem Froman hugged and kissed a Torah scroll as he was led out of the local synagogue. A soldier held him up by the elbow. The elderly, white-bearded rabbi, who lives in a West Bank settlement, advocates coexistence with the Palestinians.

In Kfar Darom, another center of fierce resistance, 65 families and 2,000 protesters barricaded themselves behind barbed wire but said they would not resist violently, the Haaretz newspaper reported.

The Gaza pullout is to be accompanied by a withdrawal from four small West Bank settlements. Security officials have expressed fears that the West Bank pullout could be more violent, given the land's biblical significance to observant Jews.

A 54-year-old West Bank woman opposed to the Gaza pullout set herself on fire Wednesday in southern Israel, suffering life-threatening burns over 70 percent of her body, police and hospital officials said. She had the smell of gas on her, a paramedic said.

Sharon, meanwhile, reiterated Wednesday he would never give up the West Bank's largest settlement blocs. He said settlers' efforts were not in vain, but it no longer was realistic to hold on to Gaza, where 1.3 million Pal estinians live in crowded, impoverished conditions.

"True they (settlers) had a dream, and I did, too, that can we hold on to all the territory, or most of the territory, but things have changed," Sharon said.

The army said it arrested 52 Israelis headed Wednesday to Homesh, one of the settlements slated for evacuation.

Once Gaza is cleared of civilians, it will take troops about a month to dismantle military installations and relinquish the coastal strip to Palestinian control.

The Palestinians have deployed thousands of troops to prevent any attacks on settlers or Israeli soldiers during the withdrawal. Palestinians have welcomed the evacuation but also fear that Israel is trying to draw borders without negotiations.

Comment: In an AFP article, Sharon was quoted as follows:

Sharon has argued that his pullout plan will enable Israel to keep hold of its large West Bank settlements, by easing international pressure for a more comprehensive pullout.

In his press conference, he made clear that the settlement programme would continue unabated, despite Israel's endorsement of the international roadmap peace plan which stipulates a complete freeze on settlement activity.

"Settlement is a serious programme that will continue and develop," he said.

While it seems that the Israeli settlers are suffering, we provide the following flashback to put the matter in the proper perspective...

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Israel destroys Palestinian homes as punishment: report
CBC News
Mon, 18 Oct 2004 19:18:46 EDT
A Palestinian woman sits with her belongings in the rubble on the edge of Rafah. (AP photo)

JERUSALEM - A New York-based human rights group says Israel has exaggerated terrorist threats and is systematically destroying Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip.

Human Rights Watch says Israel has targeted homes indiscriminately and has failed to meet its obligations as an occupying power.

Israel insists the demolitions are necessary to expose weapons-smuggling tunnels and to create a protective buffer between Israel and Egypt.

The report, "Razing Rafah," examines the destruction wrought by Israel's efforts to create a buffer zone.

The report says the Israeli military assumes "that every Palestinian is a potential suicide bomber and every home a potential base for attack."

Israeli officials say as many as 90 weapons-smuggling tunnels have been found.

Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, says Israel has exaggerated that number and that the destruction of Palestinian homes is gratuitous.

"It is wrong, even in a democracy, to use superfluous military force against civilians in order to try to influence the military, I mean, that is Israel's first line of argument for why suicide bombing is wrong. It is utterly wrong to attack civilians or their property for military objectives," said Roth at a news conference.

The group, based in New York, says 16,000 people have been made homeless in southern Gaza over the past four years, regardless of whether their homes posed a genuine military threat.

Comment: CNN reports:

Neveh Dekalim was among six to eight settlements set to be evacuated Wednesday as part of Israeli efforts to evacuate about 9,000 settlers from Gaza.

16,000 Palestinians watched their homes destroyed by Israeli forces - often for no good reason, apparently - and we're supposed to feel bad that 9,000 Israeli settlers have to leave now?

Roth acknowledged Israel had a right to try to block the tunnels to protect its soldiers, but that didn't extend to an absolute military necessity to destroy homes.

"Part of the rationale here seems to be to punish civilians for the conduct of militants. The people whose homes are destroyed are, for the most part, just ordinary civilians."

Roth suggests Israel employ other methods, such as underground sensors and radar, to locate tunnels.

Also on Monday, Peter Hansen, the commissioner general of the UN Relief and Works Agency toured parts of the Gaza Strip to see the damage caused by the Israeli incursion.

"Most of what we have seen here ... over the past two weeks is in gross violation of international humanitarian law and we will go on protesting these measures which are not proportionate, which are not relevant to the targets that Israel has chosen to try to hit," said Hansen.

The Israeli army was unavailable to comment on the report and the Foreign Ministry has said it rejects the allegations.

Comment: Israeli forces evicted Palestinian families and destroyed their homes in violation of international law. The following are a few images that show that the Israeli settlers are certainly not alone in their suffering:

From "In March of 2003, American student Rachel Corrie, was deliberately killed by a tractor as she nonviolently protested the Israeli tractor's attempt to demolish a Palestinian home."

From Palestine Chronicle: "According to statistics by UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency, the Israeli army has destroyed hundreds of Palestinian homes since the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation and repression in September 2000.

It is believed that more than 30,000 Palestinian homes were destroyed by the Israeli army in the past 35 years


In 1948, Israel destroyed and obliterated more than 480 Palestinian villages in Palestine after forcing hundreds of thousands of villagers to flee their homes at gunpoint.

Many of those villagers, their children and grandchildren are still languishing in squalid refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria."

From Stop Caterpillar: A Palestinian family stands on their demolished home.

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One dead as more than 200 small bombs explode across Bangladesh
August 17, 2005

DHAKA - More than 200 small bombs exploded almost simultaneously in towns and cities across Bangladesh, killing one person and injuring at least 38, police said.

Six people have been arrested in connection with Wednesday's blasts, they said.

"One person called Robiul Islam was seriously injured when one of the bombs exploded. He died soon after arriving at the hospital," said a local police official in northwestern Chapai Nawabganj.

Police said leaflets found near the scene of some of the blasts were signed in the name of banned extremist group Jamayetul Mujahideen and called for the implementation of strict Islamic law.

One person was arrested in Dhaka with blast injuries to his hand, Dhaka police chief Rahman said.

At southeastern Cox's Bazar, three people were arrested, including one suspected of carrying a bomb, said station officer Rezaul Karim.

"Two were arrested by a mob after a bomb blasted at a key location in the town. One of them is injured," he said.

Two more suspects were arrested in northwestern Naogaon and Brahmanbaria.

Indian High Commissioner (ambassador) to Bangladesh Veena Sikri gave a higher toll in a telephone interview with New Delhi television station NDTV.

"At least 140 people were injured, one is dead and 50 have been arrested," she said, adding that the targets had been carefully selected, "like the Supreme Court, deputy commissioner's office, press clubs and various institutions of the state."

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Leak disputes Menezes death story
Wednesday, 17 August 2005, 10:23 GMT

Leaked documents appear to contradict the official account of how police mistook a Brazilian man for a suicide bomber and shot him.

The papers, from the probe into Jean Charles de Menezes' death, and leaked to ITV, suggest he was restrained before being shot eight times.

Mr de Menezes, 27, was killed at Stockwell Tube station on 22 July.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has said it will not comment on its investigation.

Public inquiry

The documents, including witness statements, also suggest Mr de Menezes did not hurdle the barrier at Stockwell tube station, as first reports previously suggested, and was not wearing a padded jacket that could have concealed a bomb.

The family of Mr de Menezes has called for a public inquiry into his death.

His cousin Allessandro Pereira said: "My family deserve the full truth about his murder. The truth cannot be hidden any longer. It has to be made public."

He said the police should have stopped his cousin before he got to the bus stop after leaving home in Tulse Hill. "He would have helped the police," he said.

"They killed my cousin, they could kill anyone, any English person."

In a statement, the IPCC said it does not know where the documents came from and that its priority was to keep Mr de Menezes family informed.

'Acting suspiciously'

The shooting occurred the day after the failed bomb attacks of 21 July.

The latest documents suggest Mr de Menezes had walked into Stockwell Tube station, picked up a free newspaper, walked through ticket barriers, had started to run when he saw a train arriving and was sitting down in a train when he was shot.

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, police said Mr de Menezes had been acting suspiciously and suggested he had vaulted the ticket barriers.

The IPCC made it clear that we would not speculate or release partial information about the investigation, and that others should not do so
IPCC statement

Police also said the Brazilian electrician had worn a large winter-style coat - but the leaked version suggested he had in fact worn a denim jacket.

The leaked version said Mr de Menezes was being restrained by a community officer when he was shot by armed police.

'High security'

The IPCC would not comment on the details of the leak.

The commission said the family "will clearly be distressed that they have received information on television concerning his death".

Its statement added: "The IPCC made it clear that we would not speculate or release partial information about the investigation, and that others should not do so. That remains the case."

The commission said it operated a "very high degree of security" on all of its investigations.

'Great embarrassment'

Harriet Wistrich, solicitor for the family of Mr de Menezes, said the information the leaked documents contained was "terrifying".

She urged the government and police to review the shoot-to-kill policy.

"What sort of society are we living in where we can execute suspects?" she said.

"First of all it tells us that the information that was first put out, which was first reported in the news, is almost entirely wrong and misleading."

"There was no suggestion that this person was a suspect in any way, that he was running from the police".

She said it also suggested the information given to the pathologist who carried out the post-mortem examination on Mr de Menezes was incorrect.

Former Flying Squad commander John O'Connor told the BBC the leaked report would cause "great embarrassment" to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, adding he would be under pressure to "go".

He also said it was "very difficult" to blame individuals for the death of Mr de Menezes.

"Simply because it would appear that they were acting on information that this was a positive identification of Osman [Hussain], one of the suspect bombers.

"But had the normal procedures taken place in which a warning is given and officers wear specially marked clothing then this young man may not have been killed."

Scotland Yard and the Home Office have so far said it would be inappropriate to comment.

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Cyprus plane co-pilot, stewardesses alive at crash
By Brian Williams
Tue Aug 16, 3:34 PM ET

ATHENS (Reuters) - The co-pilot and two stewardesses on a Cyprus airliner were alive when the plane crashed in Greece at the weekend killing all 121 aboard, the chief coroner of the investigation said on Tuesday.

The exact cause of Sunday's crash is still unclear, although initial reports had suggested many on board were already dead or unconscious at the time of impact because of an apparent loss of oxygen and cabin pressure in freezing temperatures at 35,000 feet -- nearly 10 km (six miles) up.

Giving results of autopsies on 26 victims, Philippos Koutsaftis told reporters: "All the (26) individuals, including the co-pilot and two stewardesses, died from multiple injuries to the body. They were alive when the plane crashed."

The Helios Airways Boeing 737 crashed into mountains near Athens, killing all 115 passengers and six crew on a flight from Larnaca to Prague with a stop in the Greek capital.

Autopsies have not yet been carried out on the three other crew members, including the German chief pilot whose body is yet to be confirmed as found.

In Cyprus, Kyriacos Pougrouris, a cousin of co-pilot Pambos Charalambous, said his relative had been called in at two hours' notice to help fly the plane when the scheduled co-pilot was unavailable. Pougrouris said his cousin had complained before the flight of "problems" with the aircraft.

"Pambos told his mother twice in the last week that there was a problem with the plane, not the same kind of problem as you have with a car that you can pinpoint easily," Pougrouris said in an interview with Cyprus State Radio on Tuesday.

In London, Helios Airways said in a statement the plane had suffered a loss of cabin pressure once before.

Police in Cyprus ended a search of Helios' offices for evidence in case of a criminal investigation into the disaster.


The pilot had reported a fault with the plane's air conditioning early in the flight. But some analysts believe the plane may have suffered a slow decompression, lowering oxygen levels in the cabin and cockpit and causing people to lose consciousness.

Coroner Koutsaftis said the co-pilot and a stewardess were found about a meter apart under the plane's cockpit.

The Ethnos newspaper had reported earlier on Tuesday that the pilots of two F-16 jets sent to investigate the Helios flight had captured video footage of a female flight attendant trying to take control of the plane, while the co-pilot was slumped in his seat and the pilot out of sight.

The doomed flight was declared "renegade" when it entered Greek airspace and failed to make radio contact. The two F-16s reported seeing oxygen masks dangling before the plane crashed 40 kms (25 miles) north of Athens.

The two black boxes have been recovered, but a Greek official said the cockpit voice recorder was badly damaged and might be of little use.

To help unravel the mystery, Robert Benzon, who headed a U.S. probe into what appears to have been a similar crash in 1999, has joined the Cyprus investigation.

In that incident golfer Payne Stewart's Learjet flew halfway across the United Sates on autopilot before crashing. Investigators found the crew were incapacitated because they did not get oxygen when the cabin lost pressure.

Experts told Reuters it was extremely rare for a plane, particularly a large passenger airliner, to lose oxygen and emergency systems should have kicked in enabling the pilots to take the plane down to a safe altitude.

Helios was Cyprus's first private carrier, established in 1999, and is owned by Libra Holidays Group, one of Britain's leading independent tour operators.

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Mass bird deaths found in European Russian region
By Maria Golovnina
August 17, 2005

MOSCOW - Russian health workers have found mass bird deaths in a region to the west of the Ural mountains in what could become the first case of the deadly bird flu virus spreading to Europe, officials said on Wednesday.

But Russia's chief animal health official said a preliminary investigation had shown the deaths in Kalmykia may not have been caused by the dangerous virus that can also kill humans.

The Russian state health watchdog, in a statement posted on its Web site, said the bird deaths occurred on a farm in the Caspian region of Kalmykia -- 2,000 km (1,200 miles) from the region where Russia's first flu outbreak was reported.

"This case is being investigated," the Federal Consumers' Rights and Welfare Watchdog said, adding no cases among humans had been confirmed in Russia.

Russia has fought to contain a bird flu outbreak since mid-July when the first case of the disease -- which can also kill humans -- was registered in Siberia and later in neighboring Kazakhstan and Mongolia. [...]

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Copperheads Gather Early in Ark. This Year
August 16, 2005 7:39 AM EDT

LITTLE ROCK - It happens every year: large numbers of copperheads gather and move in unison to dens for hibernation. But it happens in October, not July or August. Now the common event has become an uncommon and inexplicable one.

"I know for a fact that all these snakes didn't just wake up one day and do this," said Chuck Miller, whose Marion County yard has been overrun with the pitvipers. "Something's making them do it. They know something we don't know. There's got to be something more to this."

Nearly 100 of the snakes are using a cedar tree as a sort of meeting place, and neither Miller, an outdoorsman and former snake owner, nor scientists who have traveled to the rural north central Arkansas site to study the phenomenon, know why.

Stanley Trauth, a zoology professor at Arkansas State University, said the snakes normally gather to move to hibernation sites in the fall. Trauth has traveled to Miller's property to conduct research on the snakes' behavior.

"With this hot weather we didn't anticipate such a grand movement of so many snakes. In the fall they aggregate in fairly large numbers, so it's quite an unusual event," Trauth said in a telephone interview Monday.

Miller agrees. "If it were October, no one would know about it. It wouldn't be that strange," he said.

When the snakes first started showing up three weeks ago, Miller said he was a little concerned that no one would believe how many were visiting the cedar tree, so he began collecting the reptiles. He saw 20 the first night, he said.

One of his friends contacted Trauth and the research began.

Trauth and one of his graduate students traveled to Miller's property and embedded a radio transmitter in one of the snakes for tracking purposes. Other snakes also had tags clipped to their scales.

Miller said seven of nine tagged snakes were taken a quarter-mile away from the tree and released, but have since returned to the tree and been recaptured.

Trauth said the copperheads gather at the tree to leave their scent. By rubbing the tree, other copperheads know that it is a marker on the way to a den site, he said.

But Trauth is only guessing that the snakes are preparing to move to a den for hibernation.

"All we can do is speculate as to what this is right now. This might be a precursor to an actual event. But having the numbers there that he's had, it just makes you wonder what's going on," Trauth said.

A gathering of copperheads like the one in Miller's yard has not been documented before, Trauth said. Though he can't yet explain why it's happening, he can say for sure it's not for mating or feeding.

All the snakes that have been gathering at the base of the tree are adult males. Copperheads also like to feed on cicadas, but the insects haven't appeared in the area in large numbers this year.

The best guess, Trauth said, is the snakes are moving to hibernate as usual - they're just doing it earlier than normal.

All Miller knows is, it's weird.

"It's like seeing a bigfoot or something walk across the yard; if you don't keep them, no one will believe you," he said.

Comment: A parade of deep water sea life winds its way down the Florida coast just off the beach, large sections of the Gulf of Mexico die off, birds are falling from the sky in India, and now male snakes are hibernating several months early in Arkansas...

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July Sets Record for Tropical Storms
AP Science Writer
August 17, 2005

WASHINGTON - The five named tropical storms recorded in July were the most on record for that month, and worldwide it was the second warmest July on record, the National Climatic Data Center reported Tuesday.

In the United States it was the 12th warmest July on record, with the national average temperature 1.5 degree Fahrenheit above normal for the month.

The West was most affected by the excessive heat in July from the 11th to 27th. More than 200 cities broke daily high temperature records, with Denver, Colo., having its second warmest July since 1872 and equaling the all-time highest daily temperature record of 105 degrees.

Las Vegas, Nev., equaled its all-time record daily maximum temperature of 117 degrees, and had five consecutive days with temperatures exceeding 115.

U.S. rainfall was about average for the country as a whole, with unusually dry conditions across the Rockies, High Plains and the Mid-to-Upper-Mississippi Valley. There was above average wetness in the Southeast, in large part related to landfalling tropical storms.

Tropical Storm Cindy formed early on July 5 and then moved northward to make landfall near Grand Isle, La. Heavy rainfall and inland flooding accompanied Cindy as it tracked northeastward across the eastern U.S.

When Tropical Storm Dennis formed, also on July 5, it was the earliest date on record for a fourth named storm. Dennis grew into the earliest category 4 hurricane on record and made landfall near Pensacola, Fla., on the 10th, spreading heavy rainfall inland.

July also included Emily and Franklin. The formation of Tropical Storm Gert on the 24th made it a record five storms in the month.

Worldwide, the average temperature for July was 1.08 degrees above normal in records dating back to 1880, the second warmest July on record. The warmest was in 1998 with readings 1.17 above average for the month.

Land surface temperatures were warmer than average in Scandinavia, much of Asia, North Africa and the western U.S., while below average temperatures occurred in northern Canada and northern Alaska.

Sea ice across the Northern Hemisphere oceans, as measured by satellites, was lowest on record for July. For the last nine years, sea ice has been below the monthly mean for July. Sea ice generally reaches an annual minimum in September.

For the period January-July the average temperature of the planet was 1.06 degree above average, third warmest on record. The warmest was 1998 at 1.24 degree above normal.

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Magnitude 5.4 Quake - MOLUCCA SEA
2005 August 16 10:39:21 UTC

A moderate earthquake occurred at 10:39:21 (UTC) on Tuesday, August 16, 2005. The magnitude 5.4 event has been located in the MOLUCCA SEA. The hypocentral depth was estimated to be 58 km (36 miles). (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)

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