Thursday, August 25, 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

NEW! Signs Commentary Books are Now Available!

For the first time, the Signs Team's most popular and discerning essays have been compiled into book form and thematically organized.

These books contain hard hitting exposés into human nature, propaganda, psyop activities and insights into the world events that shape our future and our understanding of the world.

The six new books, available now at our bookstore, are entitled:

  • 911 Conspiracy
  • The Human Condition
  • The Media
  • Religion
  • The Work
  • U.S. Freedom

Read them today - before the book burning starts!

An August Leader

August must be a troubled time for Mr. Bush. He's got that madwoman Cindy Sheehan on his doorstep, and his approval ratings for the war on Iraq have tanked. The last time he was in the soup like this, the first summer he took August off, he needed September 11 to transform him from a bumbling frat prankster into "the Commander-in-Chief". He must be hoping that Karl Rove and the backroom boys can do it again.

Yet after four years of increasing paranoia and talk of Homeland Security, not to forget last year's campaign based upon "you're safer with George 'cause if John Kerry's elected, al Qaeda will be attacking us at home", it seems he can't stage another attack on "America" without demonstrating that all the security measures in the world aren't going to stop an attack if the culprits are also the guards.

But before going too far in this reverie, a thought arises, an old joke that goes back to the sixties: "LBJ told us that if we voted for Goldwater, we'd have a war in Vietnam. I voted for Goldwater anyway, and, sure enough, we got into a war in Vietnam."

We know the president is so busy keeping the USA safe from terrorism that he doesn't have the time to meet with Cindy Sheehan. The corollary of this certifiable fact is that if those darned terrorists do manage to strike inside of Fortress USA, that'll be proof positive that the president was stymied in his desire to make the USA a terrorist free zone by those traitorous liberal scum who refused to take the threat seriously, in spite of Bush's spending of his hard-stolen, post-election, political capital in a magnanimous effort to convince the extreme-leftist liberals that Bush was right all along and that they should adopt his neo-Christian, theocratic view of the benefits of unleashing the Apocalypse.

And enough Americans may buy it to look the other way when the 5 am visitors come calling with offers of long-term vacations for those who haven't understood that the Commander-in-Chief is divinely inspired.

Which makes Pat Robertson's labeling of Hugo Chavez a "dictator" something of a joke, although a very serious one, because for all of Robertson's "I've been misunderstood" and "I apologise", he never said he was sorry for painting the duly-elected, and reconfirmed by referendum, president of Venezuela, who was still abiding by his country's constitution as of this afternoon, as a tyrant. But in the topsy-turvy world of Bush-speak, democracy means ignoring the constitution and rigging the elections and tyranny means allowing the great unwashed some say in their governance. Bush has long since thrown out the US Constitution as the basis of the rule of government in the US, and the US is in the process of writing another bogus constitution for their splintered fiefdom that was once Iraq.

For many years we have been pointing to the crimes of the neo-cons, both American and Israeli, in organising the attacks of 9/11 in order to justify their agenda of death and destruction and depopulation -- for that is what it really is, and all this talk about going into Iraq for oil doesn't get to the heart of the issue. "Peak Oil" is the politically acceptable way to broach the idea of culling the herd, of killing off 2/3rds of the world's population so that the elite can have some leg room to stomp on the few serfs they permit to continue living on their land.

The madmen in power in the US and Israel were counting on both the credulity and the incredulity of the American people in the face of such an emormous crime: credulous in believing the official story that such a massive attack could be organised by a guy in a cave and brought off with only box cutters, including taking out the entire North American Air Defense system for the day; incredulous towards all the evidence that points to the real culprits being in the halls of power in Washington and Tel Aviv.

And four years later look at the mess we're in. We, and others, have been predicting it for a long time, and if our research is correct, you ain't seen nothin' yet!

Finally, the other "F" word is being whispered aloud, even if softly and probably too late to do anything about it. As we live in a non-linear world, we don't completely discount the possibility that the situation could improve, but in the words of Bob Dylan, it's not dark yet, but it's getting there.

Which gives us the opportunity to leave you with this joke we found at Guillemette:

How many members of the Bush government does it take to change a lightbulb?


"1. One to deny that a light bulb needs to be changed;

"2. One to attack the patriotism of anyone who says the light bulb needs to be changed;

"3. One to blame Clinton for burning out the light bulb;

"4. One to tell the nations of the world that they are either for changing the light bulb or for eternal darkness;

"5. One to give a billion dollar no-bid contract to Halliburton for the new light bulb;

"6. One to arrange a photograph of Bush, dressed as a janitor, standing on a step ladder under the banner 'Bulb Accomplished';

"7. One administration insider to resign and in detail reveal how Bush was literally 'in the dark' the whole time;

"8. One to viciously smear No. 7;

"9. One surrogate to campaign on TV and at rallies on how George Bush has had a strong light-bulb-changing policy all along;

"10. And finally, one to confuse Americans about the difference between screwing a light bulb and screwing the country."

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Bush renews vow to fight terror

US President George W Bush has interrupted his summer holiday for the second time this week to publicly defend his war on terror.

The US was engaged in a global war that affected the safety and security of every US citizen, he said in Idaho.

America would not wait to be attacked again - like on 11 September - he said.

Mr Bush rejected calls by anti-war protesters for a withdrawal from Iraq, and vowed that the US would "stay, fight and win the war on terror".

"An immediate withdrawal of our troops in Iraq or the broader Middle East, as some have called for, would only embolden the terrorists and create a staging ground to launch more attacks against America and free nations," he told an audience that included families of servicemen and women serving in Iraq.

Race on for Bush in Iraq

"We will complete the work in Afghanistan and Iraq," he said.

Mr Bush said terrorists had converged on Iraq from abroad, but the US would not allow the Middle East to become a safe haven for terrorists from which they could plan attacks on democracies.

The Pentagon has announced that it is sending an extra 1,500 troops to Iraq to support security efforts during upcoming elections.

The troops are expected to be deployed before a referendum on a new constitution due in October and to stay for about four months - including the period after general elections envisaged in December.

"So long as I'm the President, we will stay, we will fight and we will win the war on terror"
George W Bush

"These troops will join 180,000 Iraqi security forces and 138,000 coalition forces in helping set the security conditions for successful elections," the Pentagon announcement said.

The new deployment is not significant strategically, says the BBC's Adam Brookes in Washington.

But it is a sign that US troops are not about to begin withdrawing, our correspondent says.

Signs of splits

Mr Bush's speech, another he gave on Monday and appearances by senior administration officials in recent days have all been aimed at batting away emerging challenges to the way that Mr Bush is managing the war in Iraq, he says.

Opinion polls suggest more than 50% of Americans think Iraq is going badly.

Most also believe some or all US troops should be withdrawn from Iraq, according to the polls.

Meanwhile the US anti-war movement has been reinvigorated by Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a US soldier killed in Iraq.

Ms Sheehan's supporters have been camped outside the president's ranch at Crawford, Texas.

And in a sign of splits emerging within Mr Bush's party, a senior Republican senator, Chuck Hagel, has said publicly that the war in Iraq is starting to look like that in Vietnam.

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Parents of war victims to keep pressure on Bush 2005-08-25 10:43:29

BEIJING, Aug. 25 -- Parents of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq plan to follow President George W. Bush around the country in the coming months after camping out at his Crawford ranch in Texas.

Anti-war groups kept the pressure on Bush this week as he made speeches in Utah and Idaho, where he promised that US forces would remain in Iraq to complete their job to honour those who already died there.

Amid growing public skepticism on the Iraq war, US President George W. Bush vowed on Wednesday to"stay on the course" on the anti-terrorism war as long as he is president.

"So long as I am president we will stay, we will fight and we will win the war on terrorism," Bush said in a speech in Nampa, Idaho, to members of the Idaho National Guard and their families.

"We'll complete our work in Afghanistan and Iraq," Bush said in his speech in Idaho.

A majority of the Americans, however, doubt the country will win the war in Iraq, according to a July 27 USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll.

It was also the first poll that showed more than half of Americans - 51 per cent - believed the Bush administration was deliberately misleading the public when it asserted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

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Anti-Iraq war parents to take protests across nation
Wed Aug 24, 2:03 PM ET

NEW YORK - Parents of soldiers killed in Iraq plan to follow President George W. Bush around the country in the coming months, hoping to generate nationwide anti-war sentiment after camping out at his Texas ranch.

Through much of August, Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son in Iraq, has stationed herself with other protesters outside Bush's Crawford ranch, garnering international media coverage at a time when more than 1,800 U.S. military have died in the Iraq conflict.

Sue Niederer, who with Sheehan and other families of dead soldiers founded "Gold Star Families for Peace," on Wednesday vowed to pursue the president with her anti-war message.

"We are going to be continuously on Mr. Bush and make him understand we are not going away. We are very, very steadfast in what we doing," said the 56-year-old housewife, real estate agent and substitute teacher from Hopewell, New Jersey.

Niederer, whose 24-year-old son Seth Dvorin died in Iskandariya, Iraq, on February 3, 2004, said she and others plan to travel to wherever Bush will be speaking.

Anti-war groups kept the pressure on the president this week as he made speeches in Utah and Idaho, where he promised that U.S. troops would remain in Iraq to complete their job to honor those who already died there -- a logic Niederer disputed.

"You are dishonoring the soldiers, you are not honoring them," she said of Bush's speech.

"Given the reasons for why we went into this war, why have their deaths not been in vain?" she asked, referring to Bush's now disproved pre-war assertion in 2003 that Iraq might have stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

Sheehan, the Vacaville, California, mother whose son Casey was killed in combat in Iraq, has become the center of the anti-war effort by camping out near Bush's ranch and demanding to meet face-to-face with the president.

She plans to speak in Brunswick, Maine, in September and in Brooklyn, New York, in October.

After Bush ends his Crawford stay at the end of August, the anti-war families are also considering crisscrossing America in buses in hopes of building a national protest movement similar to that seen during the Vietnam War, when public sentiment against the war contributed to the eventual U.S. withdrawal.

"This is Vietnam No. 2. As we are seeing in the polls, the American people are beginning to realize this war was created on lies, deceit and deception," Niederer said.

A majority of the U.S. public doubts the United States will win the war in Iraq and believes the Bush administration deliberately misled Americans over Iraq's weapons capabilities, according to a July 27 USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll.

It was the first poll to find that more than half of Americans -- 51 percent -- believed the administration was deliberately misleading when it asserted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

But creating a Vietnam-style nationwide protest against the Iraq conflict will be near impossible without a draft to focus dissent, said Stanford University Political Science Professor and Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Morris Fiorina.

"If you had a draft, you would affect everybody and break beyond the usual protesters," Fiorina said.

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Bush spotlights military mom in response to anti-war protestors
Thu Aug 25, 3:51 AM ET

NAMPA, United States - US President George W. Bush contrasted a military mother whose five sons and husband have served in Iraq with anti-war protestors he said risked emboldening terrorists.

"There are few things in life more difficult than seeing a loved one go off to war. Here, in Idaho, a mom named Tammy Pruett ... knows that feeling six times over," the president said in a speech to citizen soldiers here.

Comment: Bush, on the other hand, doesn't know that feeling at all. Nevertheless, he has no problem sending other people's children to die for the proven lies he has told - and continues to tell. Is that compassion, or psychopathy?

His salute to Pruett was a clear response to anti-war protestor Cindy Sheehan, who has besieged the president at his Texas ranch and demanded a meeting with him to discuss the death of her soldier son in Iraq.

Bush, who was to meet with relatives of troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan after his speech, has increasingly criticized Sheehan as unrepresentative of most military families he meets.

Comment: It is blatantly obvious that Bush will meet with those military families that support his war, but not those who oppose it. As such, how can he possibly know that Sheehan is "unrepresentative of most military families"??

Bush said Pruett has four sons serving in the Idaho National Guard in Iraq, and that her husband and another son came home from Iraq in 2004 after helping to train firefighters in the city of Mosul.

The president quoted her as saying "'I know that if something happens to one of the boys, they would leave this world doing what they believe, what they believe is right for our country. And I guess you couldn't ask for a better way of life than giving it for something you believe in.'"

"America lives in freedom because of families like the Pruetts," said Bush, who faced slumping approval ratings and polls showing that a majority of the US public thinks the war in Iraq was a mistake.

Comment: Does this mean that in Bush's eyes, Casey Sheehan's "sacrifice for his country" doesn't count because his mother is speaking out against Bush?

Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy said in reaction to Bush's speech, that more than "photo-ops and spin" are needed to win the Iraq war.

"(Bush) needs to realize what most Americans now understand that staying the course is not an option."

Bush, who was to return to his ranch later in the day, also repeated his attack on anti-war protestors as dangerous isolationists, and said they advocated policies that would embolden terrorists.

Comment: We can all see where this is heading...

"An immediate withdrawal of our troops in Iraq or the broader Middle East, as some have called for, would only embolden the terrorists and create a staging ground to launch more attacks against America and free nations," he told an audience mostly made up of Idaho National Guard members.

"So long as I'm the president, we will stay, we will fight, and we will win the war on terror," said Bush, who announced that global campaign after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

It was not clear how many protestors, if any, want the United States to retreat from the Middle East entirely.

Bush also urged Americans to be patient as Iraqis vie to draft a new constitution.

"The establishment of a democratic constitution will be a landmark event in the history of Iraq and the history of the history of the Middle East. It will bring us closer to a day when Iraq is a nation that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself," Bush said.

He compared the process to the difficult meetings in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1787 that resulted in the US Constitution.

"Producing a constitution is a difficult process. It involves a lot of debate and compromise. We know that from our own history," Bush said.

"Iraqis are now at the beginning of a long process, and like our founders, they're grappling with difficult issues, such as the role of the federal government," he said.

"They're arguing about the proper place of religion in the life of their nation. And like our founders, they will come up with a system that respects the traditions of their country and guarantees the rights of all their citizens," Bush said.

"But what's important is that the Iraqis are resolving these issues through debate and discussion, not at the barrel of a gun."

The process earlier got a boost when the Kurdish parliament accepted the draft constitution. That move is expected to pave the way for Iraq's 275-member parliament to approve the draft Thursday, because Kurds and the majority Shiites together hold about 210 seats.

In Baghdad meanwhile discussions continued to persuade Sunni Arabs to accept the draft.

Bush's speech came shortly after Sheehan said she was resuming her vigil outside the president's ranch near tiny Crawford, Texas. She has met once before with Bush shortly after her son Casey was killed in Iraq in 2004.

"I'm coming back to Crawford for my son. As long as the president, who sent him to die in a senseless war, is in Crawford, that is where I belong," Sheehan wrote in an essay published on the website The Huffington Post. [...]

As fresh violence raged across Iraq Wednesday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered 1,500 more US troops to the country to beef up security for the planned elections.

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Why Casey Sheehan was killed
By Aaron Glantz

DENVER - Despite camping out next to George W Bush's Texas ranch for two weeks, Cindy Sheehan has been unable to get a meeting with the president for an explanation of why her 24-year-old son had to die in action. So, here is some of the story from one who was there.

Like Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, I was in Baghdad's Sadr City on April 4, 2004. I was there as an unembedded journalist (not attached to a military unit). Unlike Casey Sheehan, I came out alive.

I had traveled to Sadr City to cover the Bush administration's attack on the movement of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. It didn't matter that the cleric had millions of followers or that he was the scion of an important political family with a history of standing up to tyranny. (His father was killed by Saddam Hussein's regime for fomenting revolution in 1999. His uncle, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr, was killed for leading an insurrection against Saddam's Ba'ath rule in 1980.)

It didn't matter that Sadr's forces were providing food aid to the poor or organizing traffic patrol and garbage duty in an atmosphere with no basic services. The problem for Bush and his Iraq administrator, L Paul Bremer, was that Sadr was against the US occupation. So he had to be dealt with. First his newspaper was closed. (See The Shi'ite voice that will be heard, Asia Times Online, April 8, 2004)Then his top advisor was arrested. Then Bremer announced an unnamed judge was demanding that Sadr be arrested on charges of murder. "He's effectively attempting to establish his authority in place of the legitimate Iraqi government," Bremer told reporters. "We will not tolerate that."

That was the last straw. Until April 4, 2004 Muqtada had urged his followers to protest peacefully against the occupation. But the US assault led him to urge his followers to "terrorize the enemy". In the first 48 hours of fighting, Sadr's followers seized police stations and government buildings across the country, including the governor's office in Basra.

At least 75 Iraqis and 10 US servicemen were killed, among them Army Specialist Casey Sheehan. As an unembedded journalist, I saw only the Iraqi casualties (the US casualties being taken away to military hospitals). My translator Waseem and I weaved through roads closed by US tanks until we arrived at Sadr City's al-Ubaidi Hospital.

There, I interviewed 15-year-old Ali Hussein. He lay in the hospital, a US bullet lodged in his gut. He was barely able to lift his head, but he wanted to say a few words to the Western reporter: "I was standing in my doorway and I was shot," he said. "I don't have anything to say to the Americans. It's just between them and God."

A few miles away at Baghdad's Mustansuriye University, hundreds of students marched through the center of campus. They chanted, "The dead want a brave people so we won't follow the law of Bremer."

"We will act according to the situation that we face," said Wassam Mehdi Hussein, head of the Islamic Union of Iraqi Students, standing by Muqtada's declaration of jihad against the occupation. "We will use any means peaceful and violent."

Another Mustansuriye student, Ali Mohammed, noted the violence started when the US military closed Sadr's newspaper and arrested his top advisor. "We don't want to fight the Americans," he told me. "We are very grateful to them. They are very dear to us because they released us from Saddam. But at the same time we want them to do something for humanity.

"A lot of people are suffering from hunger and sitting at home having no work. These things make the situation bad and then we turn to explosions. We want to respect them and we want them to respect us."

A year on, such respect still isn't forthcoming - even to US citizens like Cindy Sheehan, who deserve to know the truth of why their sons have been killed in Iraq. It isn't for lack of trying that Sheehan isn't getting answers from Bush.

She has stubbornly maintained her vigil outside Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, demanding a meeting with the president. Since no weapons of mass destruction - which Bush used as grounds to go into Iraq - have been found there, she thinks Bush owes her an explanation.

Her protest has become a lightning rod for antiwar sentiment, with more than 1,000 vigils organized across the US this week in support of her demand.

Bush has largely ignored Sheehan's protest.

When asked last week about Sheehan's demand for a meeting, Bush refused to answer directly: "And so, you know, listen, I sympathize with Mrs Sheehan. She feels strongly about her - about her position. And I am - she has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America."

Meanwhile, Associated Press reported that Bush was to spend two hours on Wednesday with families of soldiers killed in Iraq, but the meeting wasn't to include Cindy Sheehan. Bush said Tuesday he understood her anguish, but he also challenged her, saying the California woman's demands for an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq was not embraced by many military families and represented a view contrary to the national interest, AP reported.

Comment: Bush says that Sheehan "has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America." Of course, in America everyone has the same right to free speech, including the right-wing mouthpieces for tyranny who cast slurs, paint Sheehan as deranged or only it for personal glory, and gloss over the one question she says she wishes to pose to the Commander-in-Chief: "For what noble cause did my son die?".

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American Legion Declares War on Protestors -- Media Next?

By E&P Staff
Published: August 24, 2005 4:20 PM ET

NEW YORK The American Legion, which has 2.7 million members, has declared war on antiwar protestors, and the media could be next. Speaking at its national convention in Honolulu, the group's national commander called for an end to all “public protests” and “media events” against the war, even though they are protected by the Bill of Rights.

"The American Legion will stand against anyone and any group that would demoralize our troops, or worse, endanger their lives by encouraging terrorists to continue their cowardly attacks against freedom-loving peoples," Thomas Cadmus, national commander, told delegates at the group's national convention in Honolulu.

The delegates voted to use whatever means necessary to "ensure the united backing of the American people to support our troops and the global war on terrorism."

In his speech, Cadmus declared: "It would be tragic if the freedoms our veterans fought so valiantly to protect would be used against their successors today as they battle terrorists bent on our destruction.”

He explained, "No one respects the right to protest more than one who has fought for it, but we hope that Americans will present their views in correspondence to their elected officials rather than by public media events guaranteed to be picked up and used as tools of encouragement by our enemies." This might suggest to some, however, that American freedoms are worth dying for but not exercising.

Without mentioning any current protestor, such as Cindy Sheehan, by name, Cadmus recalled: "For many of us, the visions of Jane Fonda glibly spouting anti-American messages with the North Vietnamese and protestors denouncing our own forces four decades ago is forever etched in our memories. We must never let that happen again….

"We had hoped that the lessons learned from the Vietnam War would be clear to our fellow citizens. Public protests against the war here at home while our young men and women are in harm's way on the other side of the globe only provide aid and comfort to our enemies."

Resolution 3, which was passed unanimously by 4,000 delegates to the annual event, states: "The American Legion fully supports the president of the United States, the United States Congress and the men, women and leadership of our armed forces as they are engaged in the global war on terrorism and the troops who are engaged in protecting our values and way of life."

Cadmus advised: "Let's not repeat the mistakes of our past. I urge all Americans to rally around our armed forces and remember our fellow Americans who were viciously murdered on Sept. 11, 2001."

Comment: The only way to truly honour those sacrificed to a vengeful and arrogant false God, Yahweh, on 9/11 is to demand that the truth be brought to light. Only by standing up and demanding that the true criminals be brought to justice can the American people, as well as those of the rest of the world who are being dragged into Bush's phony "war on terror", unmask the crime of that day and honour the memory of those who died to justify the death of tens of thousands of others.

The truth is a reward in itself. There is no higher or nobler goal.

Unfortunately, in our world, the truth is not a priority. We start by lying to ourselves so often it becomes a habit, and then we continue the lying in our relationships with others. We do it to others; they do it to us. It is standard operating procedure for everyone. Our entire "civilisation" is built on lies. We can't even say that somewhere along the line we took a wrong turn, because that would imply that it might have be other than what it is. Our world is a reflection of our own inner state. It is a soulless world because we ourselves are soulless. It is a world of lies and sex and power because that is who we are, those are our fundamental values. The few who wish to be different are too few to change the forest, and they are often lost so deeply in the forest that they have no idea which direction to follow to get out.

So which way is the exit? Towards the truth, the truth of each of us an individuals and the truth of our society as a whole. We must know the truth about ourselves, about the people in our lives, the relationships we are in, our family. If we do not know ourselves, how can we be ourselves for our mates, our children, our friends. If we are playing roles, meeting expectations, reacting to the demands of others, rather than acting in our own real interests -- real in the sense of permanent and eternal and having to do with our souls -- can we be surprised that our relationships are full of suffering? And that the world will mirror that suffering?

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An American constitution for Iraq
Wednesday, August 24, 2005

From Left I on the News, I was referred to Billmon, who referred to a passage in an article in the Washington Post:

"Negotiators here described American officials as playing a major role in the draft. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad shuttled among Iraqi leaders, pushing late Monday for the inclusion of Sunnis in talks, negotiators said. U.S. Embassy staff members worked from a Kurdish party headquarters to help type up the draft and translate changes from English to Arabic for Iraqi lawmakers, negotiators said."

A major role indeed. The U. S. Embassy is working from Kurdish party headquarters to translate changes from English to Arabic for Iraqi lawmakers. So the Americans are writing the constitution in English, and then helpfully sending out - symbolically from Kurdish party headquarters - the drafts translated so the Iraqi lawmakers can see what the U. S. has planned for their constitution. By controlling the language in which the document is drafted, the Americans can control the terms of the debate, and ensure that the various factions can never come to a meeting of the minds in the kind of compromises that might lead to a workable document. Yet the spin on all this is how embarrassing it is for the Bush Administration that the constitution contains all these Shi'ite-influenced references to the dominance of Islam in the laws of the new state. Isn't it obvious that all this religion is being planted by the Americans in order to ensure that the Sunnis and religious moderates won't be able to live with the constitution imposed on them, thus leading to the break-up of Iraq and the formation of the new Shi'ite Empire?

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Pat Robertson apologizes for saying Venezuelan President should be assassinated
Last Updated Wed, 24 Aug 2005 17:54:16 EDT
CBC News

U.S. right-wing religious broadcaster Pat Robertson apologized Wednesday for calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The apology -- from the Christian Broadcasting Network in Virgina Beach, Va, -- came only hours after Robertson denied saying Chavez should be killed.

Robertson's apology is on the Christian Broadcasting Network web site.

"Is it right to call for assassination? No, and I apologize for that statement. I spoke in frustration that we should accommodate the man who thinks the U.S. is out to kill him."

Chavez, whose country is the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of President Bush.

He accuses the United States of conspiring to topple his government and possibly backing plots to assassinate him. U.S. officials have called the accusations ridiculous.

On Monday's telecast of his show "The 700 Club," Robertson had said of Chavez: "... if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war, and I don't think any oil shipments will stop."

On Wednesday, Robertson initially denied having called for Chavez to be killed and said The Associated Press had misinterpreted his remarks.

On Tuesday, the State Department called Robertson's remarks inappropriate.

Comment: Gee, that's some apology! Poor Pat was just frustrated that Chavez is telling one and all that the US wants to kill him! He couldn't contain himself!

We think the character of Mr Robertson's remarks is very well summed up by the title of the next article:

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Who Would Jesus Assassinate?
Hugo Chavez and the Men Who Claim to Speak for Jesus?

August 24, 2005

You know, when I was growing up as a Catholic, I was given many differing views of Jesus Christ. Virtually all of them were speculative, of course, and as I grew older, I became aware that most of them were based on the teacher's particular political and cultural persuasion. The Pallotinian nuns that taught me in the first and second grades were always telling us horror stories about the communists in the Soviet Union and China and had us pray for the souls of their children every morning. The Jesuits I knew in high school provided me and my fellow catechism students with a different view of Jesus. Indeed, for most of these men Jesus was a revolutionary. How much of his revolution was spiritual and how much was social depended on their level of social and political involvement. Being a very political person, I saw Jesus as a revolutionary communist with a small "c." Of course, there were a number of men with Roman collars at the time who were taking this perception and turning it into the basis for a social movement in many parts of the world, especially in Latin America. Many of them were Jesuits.

It is this tradition that Hugo Chavez of Venezuela recalls in his speeches and social programs. It is also this tradition, known today as liberation theology that the late pope John Paul II attacked within months of his appointment in 1978. John Paul II's opposition to this perception of Jesus and his works were also part of the reason for the demotion of the Jesuit order as the pope's protectors and the ascension of the right wing Catholic organization Opus Dei into that role. The new pope is even less sympathetic to this train of thought. The underlying reason for this vehement opposition to liberation theology among the Catholic hierarchy stems from its alliances with nonreligious leftists and its attacks on the Church's role as part of the oppressive structure in the world of the peasantry. Nowhere is this role greater than it is in Latin America.

Ever since Chavez began his popular upheaval in Venezuela he has been under attack by the Catholic hierarchy in that country. In fact, members of Opus Dei were involved in the failed coup of 2000 and have been instrumental in the CIA-funded opposition movement since the coup, just as they were intimately involved in the murderous CIA-sponsored coup in September 1973 in Chile. Last month, Bishop Baltazar Porras, president of the Venezuelan bishops' conference, said proponents of radical liberation theology are using it to weaken and divide the Church. "This is part of a plan to debilitate the Church," Porras told The Associated Press in an interview last week. He cited a recent forum in which the Church was accused of turning her back on the poor, where Chavez garners most of his political support. "This is a new program led by a group of theologians like the ones in the times of the Sandinista rule in Nicaragua with the same arguments," said Porras. "The argument is fundamentally anti-Catholic, anti-hierarchy." (Catholic World New, 8/15/2005) It is quite interesting to note Porras equating being anti-hierarchy with being anti-Catholic. I wonder how the Jesus who threw the moneychangers out of the temple and challenged the Scribes and the Pharisees would feel about that equation.

Now, in addition to having the Catholic hierarchy opposed to him, Mr. Chavez has incurred the wrath of some in the evangelical community. Given the generally political conservatism of much of this community, this is not surprising. What is surprising, however, is the vehemence of this wrath. Pat Robertson, former US presidential candidate and head of the multimillion-dollar Christian Broadcast Network, called for Chavez's assassination in a broadcast Monday night. Calling assassination " a whole lot cheaper than starting a war" Robertson went on to say that if Chavez were killed by US covert operatives he didn't "think any oil shipments will stop."

Of course, for those who keep their religion close to their heart or use it only when necessary to cynically convince the public of the rightness of their actions, the comments regarding oil must strike a chord. After all, that's the underlying reason for Washington's (and the old guard in Venezuela) opposition to Chavez in the first place. Not only does he using Venezuelan oil revenues to help the perennially poor in Venezuela, he is also selling it to Cuba at cut rates and making deals with China, much to the chagrin of Washington. Chavez and his supporters understand this. In addition, they also understand the Jesus who inspired Father Gutierrez and his liberation theology. That was the Jesus who said: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven."

Unfortunately, if Mr. Robertson and many others in Washington, Caracas and the Vatican have their way, Hugo Chavez may get his chance to enter that kingdom well before they do. Although I still like to think that if there is a heaven, Mr. Robertson and his ilk will be denied admission.

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Chávez taunts US with oil offer

Venezuelan president hits back at assassination remarks with offer of cheap petroleum for poor Americans

Duncan Campbell
Thursday August 25, 2005
The Guardian

President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela hit back vigorously at calls by an ally of President George Bush for his assassination by offering cheap petrol to the poor of the US at a time of soaring fuel prices.

In a typically robust response to remarks by the US televangelist Pat Robertson, Mr Chávez compared his detractors to the "rather mad dogs with rabies" from Cervantes' Don Quixote, and unveiled his plans to use Venezuela's energy reserves as a political tool.

"We want to sell gasoline and heating fuel directly to poor communities in the United States," he said.

Mr Robertson's remarks have threatened to inflame tension between the US and one of its main oil suppliers.

Yesterday the religious broadcaster apologised for his remarks.

"Is it right to call for assassination? No, and I apologise for that statement. I spoke in frustration that we should accommodate the man who thinks the US is out to kill him," he said.

In a TV broadcast on Monday, he said: "If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it."

Yesterday Mr Robertson initially said his comments had been misinterpreted, but went on to add that kidnapping Mr Chávez might be a better idea.

"I said our special forces could take him out. Take him out could be a number of things, including kidnapping."

The Bush administration tried to distance itself from Mr Robertson's views without upsetting the large Christian fundamentalist wing which the veteran evangelist represents.

A State Department spokesman said assassination was not part of government policy. "He's a private citizen," Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, said of Mr Robertson. "Private citizens say all kinds of things all the time."

But Mr Robertson's remarks are seen as an embarrassment at a time when the US is calling for a united front against terror.

Democrats have challenged the Bush administration to be more outspoken in its response to Mr Robertson's remarks on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Venezuela's ambassador to the US, Bernardo Alvarez, said: "Mr Robertson has been one of this president's staunchest allies. His statement demands the strongest condemnation by the White House."

The Venezuelan government is asking for assurances from the US government that Mr Chávez will be adequately protected when he visits New York for a special session of the UN next month.

Venezuela's vice-president, José Vicente Rangel, said the possibility of legal action against Mr Robertson for incitement to murder should also be considered.

Venezuela, the world's fifth largest crude exporter, supplies 1.3m barrels of oil a day to the US. It remains unclear how poor Americans might benefit from the cheap petrol offer, but Mr Chávez has set up arrangements with other countries for swapping services in exchange for oil. Cuban doctors are working in the poorer areas of Venezuela in exchange for cheap oil going to Cuba.

Jamaica yesterday became the first Caribbean country to reach an agreement with Venezuela for oil at below-market terms. The Petrocaribe initiative is a plan to offer oil at flexible rates to 13 Caribbean countries. Jamaica will pay $40 a barrel, against a market rate of more than $60.

Mr Chávez said oil importers such as the US could expect no respite from the oil market, predicting the price of a barrel would reach $100 by 2012.

Comment: Chavez has responded to threats on his life by turning the tables on the Bush gang, showing just what a crazy threat he is by offering cheap oil to poor Americans. How un-American of him! Cheap oil to poor Americans would turn them into welfare bums! Would gradually deprive them of the incentive to work and get ahead, making something of their lives! Plus, he is undercutting the capitalism by refusing to allow the invisible hand of the market to determine the just price of oil.

He's a scoundrel! He is working to subvert the "American Way of Life": from each according to their inability to pay, to each according to their wealth and connections.

Hugo Chavez is putting his country's money where his mouth is, unlike Bush who puts his country's money into the coffers of companies like Haliburton. Chavez is selling oil below the going market price (and if things continue, it will soon be even further below market prices) to Jamaica. Bush is killing Iraqis. By their fruits...

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Is Pat Robertson Out of His Mind or in the Loop?
Published on Wednesday, August 24, 2005 by
by Bill C. Davis

There is something not only rotten but seemingly deranged in the state of mind of Republican leaders. I would call Pat Robertson a Republican leader. He did well in a few Republican primaries back in 1988 until scandal hit the whole Evangelical enterprise, which Mr. Robertson assumed was a Bush Sr./Lee Atwater conspiracy. It seemed convenient, he thought, that the scandal hit just as he was hitting his stride.

Reverend Pat made peace and perhaps a pact with the powers that be and currently has a direct line to the White House. He, with Jerry Falwell, claims to have helped make the double-barrel-two term Bush presidency possible. On Monday the iconic American Christian using the language of gangsters endorsed the assassination of Hugo Chavez so we could save 200 billion dollars. The assumption was that the only two alternatives to dealing with an elected leader who is critical of the military industrial complex running our country is to "take him out" or to wage a war. He presents the options and then chooses the less expensive one.

One does pause to wonder if he is not a loose cannon but that the direct line to the White House runs both ways. If in fact Venezuela and Iran are considering an oil embargo against the US, this may not be a random Christian perspective from the baby- faced aw-shucks father figure for the consumers of sign-on-the-dotted-line religion. Could this be a request from the top? Either Mr. Robertson is truly out of his mind or he is "useful," a word that Rumsfeld loves to use. When asked about the comment Rumsfeld referred to Robertson as a "private citizen" and rather than condemn the comment he said, "private citizens say all kinds of things all the time. Next question."

How would this endorsement of assassination from the giddy Evangelical be "useful" and to whom would it be useful? Does a holy Christian man rattling a saber make any sense to the essential logic of Christ? On the subject of sabers, rattling or penetrating, Christ said, if you live by the sword you die by the sword.

But here is the most amazing, confounding thing Christ said - Love your enemy. This phrase means nothing to the most boisterous Christians like Pat Robertson. To them, this phrase is invisible. In their minds, it is a soft, silly lapse in the Savior's prescription for the salvation of the world. The Passion of Christ was a bloody canvas for paranoid sadism. The prime actors against Jesus, the alleged center of Pat Robertson's universe, were soldiers taking orders from the likes of Mr. Robertson. Pat Robertson sees an assassin and an army as legitimate functionaries in realizing his view of a safe and decent world.

We can certainly paraphrase the question standing before the president in Crawford: "What noble cause did my son die for?" What noble cause will be served by Pat Robertson's Fatwa?

In December 2000 the incoming administration declared Hugo Chavez a threat because he was selling oil to Cuba. And now, if Venezuela is going to block the sale of their nationalized oil to the U.S. what does that mean to a Christian leader? Does he have investments he's worried about? Does he believe Venezuela will be a conduit for terrorism and communism and anti-Christian principles? Does he want to make that case or would he prefer that his government "off" an elected leader who just happens to urge OPEC convert officially the standard of buying oil from the dollar to the Euro?

Hugo Chavez speaks at length to his people over the TV - and he reads to them. One of his favorite authors to read to his people is Walt Whitman. At the Youth Conference in Caracas earlier this month he called the people of the U.S. “brothers” to Venezuela. He embraced the traditions of Walt Whitman and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and gave them as examples of the progressive history of the U.S. Walt Whitman understood spirit and America. Pat Robertson contradicts both.

One would think the FCC, under some aspect of the Patriot Act might revoke Robertson's license to broadcast. If he's out of his mind they might - if he's in the loop - they won't. Stay tuned.

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Al-Qaida will retreat to Africa, says general
Richard Norton-Taylor
Thursday August 25, 2005
The Guardian

A senior US military officer yesterday predicted that al-Qaida fighters in Iraq will move to the "vast ungoverned spaces" of the Horn of Africa once conditions in the country get too tough for them.

The warning came from Major General Douglas Lute, director of operations at the US' central command. "There will come a time when Zarqawi will face too much resistance in Iraq and will move on," he predicted, referring to the head of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born Islamist who has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks, kidnappings and beheadings.

Looking ahead to a time when he said Iraq would be "stabilised", Gen Lute predicted that Zarqawi would take the "path of least resistance" and leave for such countries as Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia.

But before that, he suggested, Zarqawi would make a show of force in the run-up to the Iraqi constitutional referendum and subsequent elections. "He has to go down fighting," he said.

Gen Lute said 90% of what he called the "enemy" in Iraq was domestic. There was only a "slither" of foreign fighters "sponsored from outside".

He declined to put a figure on his estimate. Earlier this year, the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies said there were between 12,000 and 20,000 hardcore insurgents in Iraq.

In Iraq yesterday, insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles attacked police checkpoints in western Baghdad in some of the heaviest street fighting in the capital for months.

Explosions shook the Hay al-Jamia district and at least six police vehicles were set ablaze as about 40 insurgents, some with faces masked, launched a daylight assault, witnesses told Reuters. A police source said 13 people had been killed and 31 wounded.

Last night 21 Iraqi MPs and three senior government officials allied with the Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr refused to carry out their duties after fighting broke out between rival Shia militias. At least eight people were killed and dozens wounded in street battles in Najaf and Baghdad between members of the pro-government Badr organisation and supporters of Sadr.

Gen Lute said in London yesterday that the dependency of Iraqi security forces on foreign, notably US, troops had to be broken. "Ultimately, the solution has got to be a local solution, not one imposed from outside."

But he refused to be drawn on a timetable for a reduction in US forces - now about 138,000 - in Iraq. He said only that if the training of Iraqi forces continued at its present rate by this time next year the US would be "in a position to make adjustments".

He said the US would not "leave a vacuum" in Iraq and would continue to deploy 10-man "coalition assistant teams" to provide air support, artillery and medical evacuation for Iraqi forces. The US suffered from an intelligence gap, however, and had to rely on Iraqis to tell the difference, for example, between people from different Arab countries, and between Iraqi Sunnis, Shias and Kurds.

Britain will be under heavy pressure to cut back its forces in southern Iraq, now numbering about 9,000, before it takes over control of Nato forces in Afghanistan in April next year. Britain will command Nato's allied rapid reaction force, to be based in southern Afghanistan. Nato will later set up another headquarters to the east of the country.

"Then all of Afghanistan will be under the Nato flag," Gen Lute said.

Britain has also taken on the responsibility for eradicating the country's opium poppy crop. Gen Lute said US forces would work alongside the British only when they were available.

There were historic restrictions on the role of the US in law enforcement activities, he said, adding that there was no hard intelligence linking the narcotics trade with "extremists". But he also said there was evidence that the Taliban were still recruiting supporters.

Comment: We know that US intelligence agencies have used psychotropic drugs in the past. This bit from General Loot suggests those experiments are ongoing. First, he is suggesting that at some point in the future, Iraq will be stabilised. We think he may be referring to some time after Israel and the US have nuked it back to the stone age, using the old metaphor of Gen Curtis LeMay. George and the Neo-Cowboys may want us to believe that all is well in Iraq, but it is quite clear that the Iraqi resistance is doing better than just holding its own.

Second, he predicts that there will come a time when Zarqawi will feel too much resistance and will be forced to sneak away to Africa. Ah, the ole Zarqawi maneuver! It had been awhile since the spectre of the bogey man Zarqawi has been raised. Lest the repeated ritual invocation of the name of the Zarqawi beast take affect, we have pulled out a quote from an article in The Telegraph on the real man behind the myth.

How US fuelled myth of Zarqawi the mastermind

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the terrorist leader believed to be responsible for the abduction of Kenneth Bigley, is 'more myth than man', according to American military intelligence agents in Iraq.

"We were basically paying up to $10,000 a time to opportunists, criminals and chancers who passed off fiction and supposition about Zarqawi as cast-iron fact, making him out as the linchpin of just about every attack in Iraq," the agent said.

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US general sees significant withdrawal in Iraq
By Peter Spiegel in London and Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington
Financial Times
August 24 2005 23:49

The US is expected to pull significant numbers of troops out of Iraq in the next 12 months in spite of the continuing violence, according to the general responsible for near-term planning in the country.

Maj Gen Douglas Lute, director of operations at US Central Command, yesterday said the reductions were part of a push by Gen John Abizaid, commander of all US troops in the region, to put the burden of defending Iraq on Iraqi forces.

He denied the withdrawal was motivated by political pressure from Washington.

He said: "We believe at some point, in order to break this dependence on the . . . coalition, you simply have to back off and let the Iraqis step forward."

"You have to undercut the perception of occupation in Iraq. It's very difficult to do that when you have 150,000-plus, largely western, foreign troops occupying the country."

Comment: This is a curious statement. First, Lute implies that the occupation of Iraq is only a "perception". Then he states that ridding Iraq of that alleged perception is difficult since there are 150,000 troops occupying the Middle Eastern nation...

While he cautioned that any troop reduction would be conditional on continued political progress and ongoing improvement in Iraqi force training, he said Centcom planners believed "the political process will play out, that we will see a constitution, that we will see, by some political machinations, the Sunnis brought into the process and we will proceed to national elections in December".

"If we see that and if we see progress on the second front, which is continued progress with the Iraqi security force next year, this time we'll be in the position to make some adjustments in our force structure."

Last week, Gen Peter Schoomaker, US army chief of staff, said his office was planning for the possibility that troop levels could be maintained until 2009. But Maj Gen Lute said such a worst-case scenario was unlikely.

"I will tell you this, as the operation officer of Centcom, if a year from now I've got to call on all those army troops that Gen Schoomaker is prepared to provide, I won't feel real good about myself," he said. Gen George Casey, commander of allied forces in Iraq, made similar comments last month on reductions that could come by early next year but they were quickly played down by the White House.

Pentagon plans for 'long war' on terror

The US hopes to pacify Iraq and then take on al-Qaeda and its affiliates in an offensive from the Horn of Africa to Afghanistan's borders.

George W. Bush, the US president, has said no decisions have been made on troop levels in 2006. "I think they were rumours. I think they're speculation," he said at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, this month after meeting his national security team.

Yesterday, the president again insisted: "We will stay, we will fight and we will win the war on terror. An immediate withdrawal from Iraq or the greater Middle East would only embolden the terrorists."

Comment: It seems that US military leaders have very different ideas about how to handle Iraq than their commander in chief...

Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, insisted that Mr Bush and his top generals remained united on the issue. "Any suggestion that there is disagreement between the President and our military commanders in Iraq is absurd," he said.

"We are all on the same page when it comes to our strategy of standing up Iraqi forces so we can stand down our forces. We have always said troop levels will be determined by our commanders, based on conditions on the ground."

But Maj Gen Lute's comments the first to detail extensively the reasons behind such a reduction give credence to reports that Gen Abizaid hopes to hand over to Iraqi forces within the next year large parts of the 14 Iraqi provinces that have remained relatively peaceful.

Maj Gen Lute, who is responsible for the Centcom's plans over the next 12-18 months, said military officials expected troop reductions to occur most rapidly outside the Sunni Triangle.

Comment: Despite McClellan's claims, it is pretty obvious that Bush and the military are not on the same page. The American public is also increasingly disagreeing openly with Bush. If the Bush Reich intends to retain power, something must give...

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New case of mad cow disease found in Austria 2005-08-25 13:03:01

VIENNA, Aug. 24 (Xinhuanet) -- A new case of mad cow disease was found in the southwestern Austrian city of Graz, bringing to threethe total reported cases of mad cow disease in the country, the health and food security bureau said on Wednesday.

The 60-month-old infected cow was imported from Slovenia and sent to a slaughter house in Graz, the Austrian news agency quotedthe bureau as saying.

Local sanitary authorities discovered and confirmed the infection during a routine inspection, it said.

The infected cow had not entered the food chain and thus would not pose a threat to public health, the Ministry for Health and Women's Issues said in a statement.

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), is caused by abnormal or misfolded prion proteins in an animal's brain.

Austria's first mad cow disease case was discovered four years ago and a second case was reported in June this year.

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Expulsions illegal, UN tells Clarke
Ewen MacAskill, Julian Glover and Vikram Dodd
Thursday August 25, 2005
The Guardian

A senior UN representative last night threatened to cite the British government for violation of human rights over its planned deportations of alleged terrorist sympathisers.

Manfred Novak, the UN human rights commission's special investigator on torture, told the Guardian he is seeking permission through the Foreign Office to visit Britain to discuss the issue with the home secretary, Charles Clarke.

In a statement on Tuesday night, Prof Novak said that the government's intention to return radical preachers to their countries of origin, even though some of those countries have a track record of human rights abuses, "reflects a tendency in Europe to circumvent the international obligation not to deport anybody if there is a serious risk that he or she might be subjected to torture".

His intervention came as Mr Clarke, in response to the London bombings, yesterday introduced a list of "unacceptable behaviour" which would allowing him to deport or exclude foreign citizens for glorifying or encouraging terrorism. Mr Clarke said the first exclusions and deportations would take place within the "next few days".

He rejected the UN criticism. He said "the human rights of those people who were blown up on the tube in London on July 7 are, to be quite frank, more important than the human rights of the people who committed those acts."

He added: "I wish the UN would look at human rights in the round, rather than simply focusing all the time on the terrorist."

But Prof Novak refused to accept the rebuke. "The UN is strongly concerned about terrorism and counter-terrorism. But there are certain standards that have to be observed in the context of counter-terrorism," he said last night. "We in the western democratic countries, in the fight against terrorism, should not step over these limits by violating international law." [...]

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US wants to renegotiate draft UN reform agreement: report
Thu Aug 25, 3:09 AM ET

WASHINGTON - Only weeks from a summit on UN reforms, the United States has called for a drastic renegotiation of the draft agreement and wants to scrap many of its key provisions, The Washington Post said.

A total of 750 amendments contained in a confidential 36-page document obtained by the Post have been presented this week to selected envoys by the new US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, the newspaper said.

In them, the US government proposes to eliminate new pledges on foreign aid to poor nations, scrap provisions calling for action to halt climate change and urging greater progress by nuclear powers in dismantling their nuclear arms.

The US proposals also call for tougher action against terrorism, promoting human rights and democracy and halting the spread of the world's deadliest weapons, the daily said.

Jean Ping, the current president of the UN General Assembly, is trying to fine-tune a draft on the UN reform package in time for the summit, scheduled for September 14-16, ahead of the UN General Assembly session.

The US amendments call for striking any mention of the 2000 Millennium Development Goals, in which UN members set goals over the next 15 years to reduce poverty, preventable diseases and other scourges of the world's poor.

In their stead, the US wants to underscore the importance of the 2002 Monterrey (Mexico) Consensus, that focused on free-market reforms and required governments to improve accountability in exchange for aid and debt relief, the Post said.

The proposals also underscore US efforts to impose greater oversight of UN spending and to eliminate any reference to the International Criminal Court.

The US administration also opposes language that urges the five permanent members of the UN Security Council not to cast vetoes on resolutions to halt genocide, war crimes or ethnic cleansing, the daily added.

Comment: Well, it doesn't get much more blatant than that, does it?

The proposals, The Washington Post said, face strong resistance from poorer countries who want the UN to focus more on alleviating poverty and scale back US propensity to intervene in small countries that abuse human rights.

US and UN diplomats told the daily that Bolton has indicated in face-to-face meetings with foreign delegates that he is prepared to pursue other negotiating options if the current process proves cumbersome.

Bolton has suggested replacing the entire document with a brief statement, or splitting the document up by themes so nations could choose the ones to support, the diplomats said.

"We are looking at very, very difficult negotiations in the days ahead," Pakistan's UN ambassador Munir Akram was quoted as saying by the daily.

The United States has "strong positions, and many of us do have very strongly held positions. That's the nature of the game. My only regret is we didn't get into the negotiations early enough," added the ambassador.

Comment: In other words, John Bolton is doing exactly what we expected him to do: attempting to reform the UN into an extension of the Bush Reich. The war on terror, genocide, torture, and corporations would all benefit greatly from Bolton's proposals, while the poor, the hungry, the oppressed, the average citizen, and the environment would suffer the most. International Criminal Court? Who needs it when we can just make Bush emperor?

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: unless people and nations around the world stand up against the lies of the current US administration and their lapdogs and start to ask the important questions, the future state of our entire world will make Nazi Germany seem like a day at the beach.

Americans have started to question Bush, but where is the support from those anti-Bush folks in other countries? Now is not the time to take a nap...

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Oil hits record $68 on storm, gas draw
By Park Sung-woo
August 25, 2005

SINGAPORE - Oil surged to a record $68 a barrel on Thursday, hounded by supply concerns due to a growing threat to oil facilities from an Atlantic storm and a large fall in U.S. gasoline stocks.

U.S. light crude was up 18 cents at $67.50 a barrel by 0747 GMT, pausing after hitting $68 in early trade, the highest since U.S. crude futures started trade in 1983. London Brent crude was up 34 cents to $66.35.

Dealers are concerned about a thin stock cushion after a rash of disruptions and tensions in oil-producing countries cut crude output and propelled prices to a series of record peaks.

Gasoline stockpiles in the United States, the world's top oil consumer, beat forecasts to register a slide of 3.2 million barrels in the week to Aug. 19, widening the supply gap from a year ago, the government Energy Administration Agency said.

Stocks of the auto fuel have contracted for eight straight weeks, led by higher demand as the peak driving season has almost two weeks to run its course.

Compounding the fears, a tropical storm is swirling toward Florida, threatening U.S. oil and gas production facilities in the Gulf of Mexico.

"The market is really starting to get unhinged," said John Brady at ABN AMRO in New York. "The majority can be attributed to the storm, and some geopolitical concerns as well."

Tropical storm Katrina, which formed in the Bahamas on Wednesday, was moving on a path that would likely cut across southern Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico later this week, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

The storm was expected to hit the Miami area by Friday as a weak hurricane moving slowly across the state into the Gulf.

Market participants fear the storm may threaten oil and gas producing areas in the central and eastern Gulf of Mexico, where the United States derives between 20 and 25 percent of domestic crude and natural gas production.

The unusually active Atlantic hurricane season has produced 11 named storms and could culminate in as many as 21 tropical storms and 11 hurricanes, forecasters have said.


Refinery snags have also skewed risks to the upside as the oil industry struggles to keep pace with demand growth, which has thus far proven remarkably resilient amid soaring costs.

"There is very strong demand and we don't see that demand receding," the International Monetary Fund's chief Rodrigo Rato. said in a teleconference on Thursday. "Prices are not going back to the levels seen at the beginning of 2004."

Adding to the list was Shell Oil Co.'s 153,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery in Martinez, California, which suffered a malfunction in a production unit on Tuesday.

Tesoro Corp. said a 70,000-bpd gasoline-producing unit at its 168,000-bpd Golden Eagle refinery in Martinez, California, was shut on Wednesday following a fire.

And Huntsman Corp. declared a force majeure on Wednesday on a large part of its production of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), a gasoline octane-booster, from its refinery in Port Neches, Texas. Trade sources said the force majeure would last for 45 days.

Output in Ecuador, which mostly supplies crude to California, is still down to around 80 percent of its 530,000-bpd level after attacks on oil infrastructure last week.

Protesters, who have choked off oil exports, are threatening a hunger strike to pressure the government on their demands, dealing a blow to settlement talks.

The market also watched for disruption in Nigeria, where some fuel stations shut down ahead of an expected 60 percent hike in fuel prices. Previous government attempts to raise prices have led to crippling general strikes in the world's 8th largest oil exporter.

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Of All Gas Consumers, Bush May Be Biggest
Associated Press Writer
Aug 24 9:24 PM US/Eastern

WASHINGTON - Getting President Bush from here to there consumes an enormous amount of fuel, whether he's aboard Air Force One, riding in a helicopter or on the ground in a heavily armored limousine. The bill gets steeper every day as the White House is rocked by the same energy prices as regular drivers. Taxpayers still foot the bill.

Almost every vehicle Bush uses is custom-made to add security and communications capabilities, and the heavier weight of these guzzlers further drives up gas and jet fuel costs.

The White House declines to discuss travel costs related to the presidential entourage, and did not respond to a request for the overall effect of higher fuel prices on its budget.

It is not Bush's choice to be ferried around in a less than fuel- efficient manner. Those arrangements are dictated by tradition and the Secret Service, whose mission is to protect him.

But Bush is one of the nation's most-traveled presidents.

He has visited 46 countries, some of them several times, during his presidency. He has been to all states except Vermont and Rhode Island.

So far this year, he has made 73 domestic and foreign trips, including crisscrossing the country on a 60-day, 60-city tour to promote his Social Security plan. He was on the road Wednesday, speaking to a military audience in Idaho, before returning to his Texas ranch to resume his summer vacation.

About the only vehicle Bush has much say in is the 2001 white Ford F250 pickup he keeps on his ranch. At the nationwide gasoline average of $2.61 a gallon, it would cost at least $75 to fill the Ford's tank. The 1999 four-wheel-drive model gets 13 miles per gallon in the city, 17 on the highway, according to an Energy Department Web site,

But much as he seems to relish any chance to get behind the wheel, Bush actually drives the pickup very little, confined as he is to only occasional visits to his ranch and to remaining on its 1,600 acres when he's driving himself.

Elsewhere, whether in Washington, Des Moines or Tbilisi, Bush is driven in a large motorcade. The typical presidential caravan has well over a dozen vehicles, including Bush's limousine and an identical limo put in as a decoy.

The motorcade generally doesn't cruise placidly at fuel-efficient speeds, but rather hurries along its route as fast as possible. It also often idles outside while Bush is at an event, burning up fuel but ready to depart at a moment's notice.

The president's limos alone consume lots of gas.

Starting with his inaugural in January, Bush began tooling around in new 2006 Cadillac DTS limos.

The full-sized luxury sedan version, available to the general public, has an 18-gallon tank that would cost about $47 to fill at that $2.61- a-gallon rate. (White House vehicles are fueled at a special, dedicated facility and the price paid per gallon there is not released.) Cadillac spokesman Kevin Smith said the Cadillac DTS sedan gets 18 mpg in the city, 27 on the highway.

The vehicle Bush uses is a much different animal - with different gas mileage. An outside company customizes the DTS for presidential use by "stretching" it to limo length, adding bulletproof glass, heavy armor and other bells and whistles - all making it significantly heavier and less fuel-efficient, Smith said.

The same thing for the Chevrolet Suburbans that are sometimes used as limo substitutes. The mass-marketed 2005 K1500 Suburban would cost nearly $81 to fill up with its large 31-gallon tank. It gets 15 mpg in the city, 19 on the highway, according to . But it's not clear exactly which trim model of Suburban Bush uses, and his are custom-fitted with extra gear that would reduce the gas mileage.

In the air, Bush most often flies on a Boeing 747-200B laden with, among other things, an anti-missile system. Like gas for cars, fuel costs for the largest plane in the Air Force One fleet have gone up dramatically - from $3,974 an hour in fiscal 2004 to $6,029 per hour now, according to the Air Force.

John Armbrust, publisher of Jet Fuel Report, said Air Force One is no different from its commercial counterparts in that respect.

"It's an expensive proposition to fly these planes, whether its Air Force One or a regular 747," he said.

Reducing his appearances outside the White House and making other gestures toward fuel conservation could help cut down on costs.

But some suggest that could do more harm for national morale and Bush's image than good for the financial bottom line.

Remember Jimmy Carter donning a sweater and asking Americans facing an energy crisis to turn down their thermostats? Or giving the speech about the nation's "crisis of confidence" that led to his permanent association with "malaise?" Carter's critics turned both utterances into emblems that contributed to his political undoing.

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China accuses high-profile dissident of terror plot
August 25, 2005

BEIJING - China on Thursday accused a high-profile dissident exiled to the United States of plotting to sabotage upcoming celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the setting up the northwestern autonomous region of Xinjiang.

Wang Lequan, the Communist Party secretary of the restive region, said Rebiya Kadeer, a minority Muslim Uighur businesswoman freed in March after years in jail, had also evaded taxes, committed fraud and ran up huge debts.

"She said that once abroad she would never do anything to damage state interests," Wang said of Kadeer at a news conference. "But as soon as she went over the border, she broke her promises."

While abroad, she had conspired with separatists and religious extremists "about how to plan terror attacks and jeopardize our 50th anniversary," he added.

The anniversary falls on China's National Day, October 1.

Wang, who sits on the politburo, making him one of China's 24 most powerful leaders, did not elaborate, but said Chinese authorities had reliable evidence of the plot.

Kadeer was jailed in 1999 on charges of providing state secrets abroad and released on medical parole. She was not immediately available for comment.

The U.S.-based rights watchdog Human Rights Watch said in May police had raided Kadeer's trading business in Xinjiang, tried to arrest one of her sons and beaten up and detained two of her associates.

Beijing keeps a tight grip on restive Xinjiang, which borders
Afghanistan, Pakistan, three former Soviet Central Asia republics, Russia and Mongolia.

Xinjiang, which means "New Frontier," a name given during the Manchu Qing Dynasty, is considered offensive by many advocates of independence.

Uighur militants, whom Beijing calls terrorists or separatists, have been struggling for decades to make the region an independent state called East Turkestan.

"No country would allow this, so we must take tough measures," Wang said.

At the news conference, Xinjiang governor Ismail Tiliwaldi said: "Terrorists are now hated and detested in Xinjiang. They are like rats run on to the street and everyone is screaming 'smash them!"'

Comment: Contrary to what the Bush administration says, China isn't that different from the US. The Asian nation will soon pass anti-terror laws, and is talking about "smashing" terrorists. We would have thought that the Bush gang would be pleased with China's progress.

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Europeans join campaign to free jailed US journalist
By David Usborne in New York
The Independent
Published: 25 August 2005

Leading figures from the arts and media in Europe have joined forces to appeal to Washington for the release of Judith Miller, the veteran New York Times reporter who yesterday marked her 50th day in prison for refusing to testify in the inquiry into the leaking of the identity of the CIA operative Valerie Plame.

"At a time when the most extremist ideas are gaining ground, and when growing numbers of reporters are being killed or taken hostage, arresting a journalist in a democratic country is more than a crime: it's a miscarriage of justice," the group said. Its 27 members include the Spanish film director, Pedro Almódovar, the German literary Nobel laureate, Gunther Grass, and the former chief BBC reporter, Kate Adie.

Ms Miller was sent to a federal prison in the Virginia suburbs outside Washington DC on 6 July for refusing to reveal her sources in the case of Ms Plame, whose identity as a CIA agent was revealed to American journalists in 2003, apparently in violation of federal law.

No working member of the US press in recent history has spent more time behind bars than Ms Miller. She has already overtaken William Farr, a reporter for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, who was jailed in 1972 for 46 days for not revealing sources in a criminal case.

Democrats said Ms Plame's name was leaked by the White House in retaliation against her husband, ambassador Joseph Wilson, who wrote an article in The New York Times accusing the Bush team of overstating the evidence regarding Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction.

After a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate the leak, Ms Miller and other US journalists were required to testify to a grand jury about what they had been told and by whom. Ms Miller and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine refused. The latter finally agreed.

Friends and supporters say Ms Miller remains certain she made the right decision to stand up for the right of reporters to protect their sources. So she is likely to stay in jail at least until the grand jury completes its work on the case, which will probably be some time in October.

Mr Cooper said Karl Rove, the senior adviser to President George Bush, told him about Ms Plame and her job. Mr Rove had told the grand jury he had had no such knowledge.

The furore - which triggered calls from many Democrats for President Bush to fire Mr Rove - has subsided over recent weeks. Even the plight of Ms Miller seems to have been briefly forgotten by the wider press.

But that may quickly change when Mr Bush returns to Washington from his summer break in Texas. The special prosecutor, US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, could still issue criminal charges in September or October.

If any are directed at members of the White House, the scandal could quickly turn damaging for President Bush. Mr Fitzgerald has already extended his investigation beyond its original remit, to discover who leaked Ms Plame's name and whether laws were broken. He is now also looking into whether officials at the White House lied to the grand jury and tried to cover up what was said to reporters.

Ms Miller has supporters and critics. Last week, the former presidential candidate and Republican Bob Dole lamented her incarceration and voiced support for a new federal law protecting reporters from legal consequence for protecting sources.

Sympathy for Ms Miller has been tempered in other quarters because of news articles she wrote before the Iraq war supporting the administration's claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

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Tour Chief Says Armstrong Owes Explanation
Associated Press Writer
Aug 24 6:58 PM US/Eastern

PARIS - Sounding convinced that Lance Armstrong is guilty of doping, the director of the Tour de France said "we were all fooled" and the seven-time champion owes an explanation for "proven scientific facts" from a newspaper report alleging he cheated to win cycling's most prestigious event.

Jean-Marie Leblanc's comments appeared in the French sports daily L'Equipe on Wednesday, a day after the newspaper reported that six urine samples provided by Armstrong during the '99 Tour tested positive for the red blood cell-booster EPO.

"For the first time - and these are no longer rumors, or insinuations, these are proven scientific facts - someone has shown me that in 1999, Armstrong had a banned substance called EPO in his body," Leblanc said.

"The ball is now in his court. Why, how, by whom? He owes explanations to us and to everyone who follows the tour. Today, what L'Equipe revealed shows me that I was fooled. We were all fooled."

In a statement on his Web site on Tuesday, Armstrong denied ever taking performance enhancing drugs and dismissed the article as "tabloid journalism." A representative for Armstrong said Wednesday that the cyclist was at the Discovery Channel headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., and would not have further comment on Leblanc's statements.

It was the first time since doping whispers began to swirl around Armstrong that Leblanc spoke critically of him. Leblanc has expressed admiration for Armstrong - while acknowledging that the Texan's methodical training regimen took some of the European-style romance out of the Tour.

While Leblanc seemed convinced of Armstrong's guilt, fellow cyclists came to his defense.

"Armstrong always told me that he never used doping products," five- time winner Eddy Merckx told Le Monde newspaper. "Choosing between a journalist and Lance's word, I trust Armstrong."

L'Equipe is owned by the Amaury Group whose subsidiary, Amaury Sport Organization, organizes the Tour de France and other sporting events. The paper has often raised questions about whether Armstrong has ever used performance enhancing drugs. On Tuesday, the banner headline of its four-page report was "The Armstrong Lie."

EPO, formally known as erythropoietin, was on the list of banned substances at the time Armstrong won the first of his seven Tours, but there was no effective test then to detect it.

The allegations took six years to surface because EPO tests on the 1999 samples were carried out only last year - when scientists at the national doping test lab outside Paris opened them up again for research to perfect EPO screening, with the blessing of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Another five-time Tour champion, Miguel Indurain, said he couldn't understand why scientists would use samples from the '99 Tour for their tests. [...]

L'Equipe's investigation was based on the second set of two samples used in doping tests. The first set were used up in 1999 for analysis at the time. Without that first set of samples, any disciplinary action against Armstrong would be impossible, French Sports Minister Jean-Francois Lamour said.

Lamour said he had doubts about L'Equipe's report because he had not seen the originals of some of the documents that appeared in the paper.

"I do not confirm it," he told RTL radio. But he added: "If what L'Equipe says is true, I can tell you that it's a serious blow for cycling."

The International Cycling Union did not begin using a urine test for EPO until 2001. For years, it had been impossible to detect the drug, which builds endurance by boosting the production of oxygen-rich red blood cells.

Jacques de Ceaurriz, the head of France's anti-doping laboratory, which developed the EPO urine test, told Europe-1 radio that at least 15 urine samples from the 1999 Tour had tested positive for EPO. The year before, there were more than 40 positive samples, he said - reflecting how widespread the drug was when riders thought they could not be caught. [...]

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The dust left behind by meteors is bigger than scientists thought.
Last Update: Thursday, August 25, 2005. 7:00am (AEST)

Australian scientists have discovered that meteors leave behind massive clouds of dust.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, show the grains of dust left behind are up to 100 times larger than originally thought.

Researchers from the Australian Antarctic Division based in Kingston, Tasmania, studied a large meteor that exploded into the atmosphere in September 2004.

Meteors typically break up into blazing trails or shooting stars that disappear.

But scientists now believe these are actually clouds of dust and the grains are bigger than expected.

Researcher Andrew Klekociuk says the findings show the September 2004 meteor had a mass of 1,000 tonnes.

"It's the first time we've been able to measure the properties of dust from a large meteor entering the atmosphere," he said.

"The particles we saw are pretty small by normal standards - about one thousandth of a millimetre - but that's 10 to 100 times larger than people normally expect to see from the disintegration of a large meteoroid."

The grains eventually rain down from the atmosphere over several weeks.

The study sugests that meteor dust may play a hidden role in earth's climate.

Previous research has shown that particles spewed out by volcanoes can play a crucial role in affecting weather.

Their relatively large size helps them to reflect the sun's rays, thus creating a local cooling effect, and also provides a nucleus for attracting atmospheric moisture - meaning they encourage clouds to form.

The larger-than-expected size of the particles left behind by meteors prompts the researchers to suggest they may also affect the weather.

In addition, large particles tend to linger longest in the atmosphere, sometimes taking months to reach the planet's surface.

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Meteor dust obscures climate change views
By Deborah Smith, Science Editor
August 25, 2005 - 7:16AM

When a meteor the size of a small house exploded with the force of an atomic bomb high above the remote Antarctic coast last year there was no one to witness the fireball or hear the sonic booms.

The nearest people in Antarctica were 900 kilometres away, too distant to observe what would have appeared like a second sun streaking across the cold afternoon sky.

"Only the penguins would have seen it," said Andrew Klekociuk, of the Australian Antarctic Division in Hobart.

But in a stroke of extraordinary good luck, seven hours later, the dust cloud from the explosion passed directly over Davis Station, where Dr Klekociuk's colleague, Joseph Zagari, happened to be working through the night.

His instruments already trained heavenwards, Mr Zagari captured the first scientific measurements ever made of meteor dust in the atmosphere, although at the time he did not know what the mystery cloud was. An analysis of the results, published today in the journal Nature, reveal that the tiny meteor dust particles were about 1000 times bigger than expected.

Dr Klekociuk said the study had important implications for models of climate change. The particles were found to be about a thousandth of a millimetre across, rather than nanometre sized. This was large enough to reflect sunlight and to encourage water droplets to form clouds.

Meteor dust had been assumed to have little impact on climate, but now "requires further investigation", he said.

Although no-one directly saw the fireball on September 3, 2004, the team later found out the meteor was detected by US defence satellites at an altitude of about 75 kilometres. This revealed the precise time and position the meteor exploded.

The sonic booms were also detected as far away as Germany by monitors set up to detect nuclear explosions in breach of the test ban treaty.

If the explosion of the meteor - one of the largest in a decade - was typical, then meteor dust could also be responsible for many of the particles found in ice cores which scientists had assumed were from volcanoes or small meteors because of their size.

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Roche Gives WHO 3M Doses of Bird Flu Drug
The Associated Press
Wednesday, August 24, 2005; 10:31 PM

GENEVA -- Pharmaceutical company Roche Holding AG is donating 3 million treatment courses of a bird flu drug to a reserve stock managed by the World Health Organization, the U.N. agency said Wednesday.

The antiviral oseltamivir, known commercially as Tamiflu, is the only treatment proven to be effective in humans against bird flu. WHO would use the reserve stock of the drug to respond quickly to any emerging influenza pandemic if stocks held by national governments were not enough.

"If a flu pandemic were to emerge, these drugs could be flown quickly to the center of a potential pandemic," said WHO chief Dr. Lee Jong-wook. "We urge other countries to help us build up the international stockpile."

Tamiflu could help reduce illness and death and could potentially contain an emerging pandemic virus or slow its spread when combined with other measures, WHO said.

The health agency is currently monitoring bird flu outbreaks in parts of Asia, Russia and Kazakhstan and has warned that it could evolve into a global influenza pandemic if the virus mutates into a form that can transmit easily between people.

The longer the H5N1 bird flu strain circulates, the greater the risk that the virus will mutate into a form that can be spread between people and trigger a pandemic, WHO said. If that happens, slowing the pandemic's spread would critical to allowing medical authorities time to produce vaccines against the virus and introduce other emergency measures.

Antivirals, used intensively in an area where a pandemic is emerging and combined with other measures such as quarantine and isolation, could help delay the spread of a virus, according to the health agency.

WHO said Roche will keep 3 million treatment courses, or 30 million capsules, in reserve for up to five years. The first million treatment courses will be ready early next year, with the remaining 2 million ready before mid-2006.

WHO is urging countries to step up preparations as experts predict an influenza pandemic will occur, although the timing and severity is uncertain.

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The ever expanding state of the union

August 25, 2005
The Times
By Tom Baldwin

RIPPLES of fat are spreading ever wider across America’s waistline, according to a report that suggests obesity rates rose last year in all but one of the nation’s 50 states.

A survey published by Trust in America’s Health indicated that almost one in four adults is clinically obese and almost two thirds are overweight.

Mississippi is the fattest state, while six more from the southeast are in the heftiest dozen. The state exhibiting the largest increase in obesity last year was Alabama, while only Oregon bucked the trend by holding steady at 21 per cent.

The trust, a non-profit organisation that promotes health education, highlighted figures showing that 7 per cent of US adults have diabetes and called for more government action to tackle an obesity epidemic that it says is endangering lives.

It is costing the country $39 billion (£21.6 billion) in extra healthcare costs — and billions in lost production.

There is a similar problem in Britain, where about one adult in five is obese but, as ever, it is bigger in America.

In recent months carmakers are reported to have been adapting designs to take account of the ever-growing American belly, with the Honda Accord sold in the US two inches wider than the same model in Europe and Japan.

Airlines are ditching magazines, seats and even lifejackets to compensate for the increased fuel costs of carrying their passengers’ extra pounds.

Meanwhile, US military strategists are worrying about America’s long-term security because so many potential recruits are too fat to fight.

The fast-food and soft-drink industry, which is estimated to spend $11.2 billion a year on advertising, is beginning to feel the heat. Seventeen states have recently passed legislation aimed at tackling childhood obesity. Super Size Me, a documentary film in which Morgan Spurlock became fat and ill by eating only at McDonald’s for a month, was widely seen as having helped to shame the restaurant chain into offering healthier options last year.

Yesterday, a Harvard health report suggested that fast-food retailers were deliberately targeting children by clustering outlets around schools, while earlier this month Bill Clinton joined a campaign to improve America’s eating habits. The former President said a lifetime of eating junk food had caused his “brush with death” last year.

Recalling his quadruple heart bypass surgery, Mr Clinton said: “I realised that one more time I’ve been given another chance and I wanted to make the most of it. The bottom line is we’ve got too many kids overweight and they’re walking timebombs.”

But the junk-food industry is fighting back against bans on the sale of drinks and snacks at schools. In June, Jodi Rell, the Governor of Connecticut, vetoed a statewide ban on unhealthy food in schools after being pounded by $250,000 of industry lobbying.

Sales of soft drinks in schools totalled about $700 million last year, with companies such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi keen to target consumers when they are young and establishing brand loyalties.

The National Restaurant Association, backed by a clutch of senior Republican senators, held a press conference this summer at which its president, Steven Anderson, said that food establishments “should not be blamed for issues of personal responsibility and freedom of choice”.

Legislation is also opposed by the libertarian Right in America, where organisations such as the Cato Institute are outraged at the prospect of the Government telling citizens how — or what — they should eat.


# 25 million people visit McDonald’s restaurants each day in the US

# Southwest Airlines charges “customers of size” the price of two seats

# In October 2002 Virgin Atlantic paid £13,000 to a Swansea woman squashed by an obese passenger

# Passengers’ weight gain caused US airlines to burn 350 million more gallons of fuel in 2000 than in 1990

Comment: Oh, those crazy Libertarians!

We think that keeping junk food out of school is in no way violating the great and holy inalienable right of minors to eat what they want. We have a situation here that might be compared to playing with loaded dice. When the junk food companies go into schools, they can get exclusive licenses, meaning that the clients, that is, the students, have no choice whatsoever. If they don't have exclusivity, you can be fairly certain that the competition isn't natural foods from the local health food store. It'll be Coke battling with Pepsi or McDonald's staring down Burger King.

This seems to us an example where trying to live your life according to a list of principles that hold no matter what the concrete conditions (the sanctity of the market or the individual's right to choose or a blanket condemnation of any and all government regulation) falls completely apart. Of course, it is easier to live by a recipe because one no longer needs to think, analyse, and determine one's proper conduct on a continuing basis. You can go onto autopilot, even though those who live this way would certainly object to that characterisation.

We suggest they read a bit of Gurdjieff.

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2005 August 24 10:15:35 UTC
U.S. Geological Survey, National Earthquake Information Center
World Data Center for Seismology, Denver

A strong earthquake occurred at 10:15:35 (UTC) on Wednesday, August 24, 2005. The magnitude 6.2 event has been located in NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN. (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)

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2005 August 24 19:59:01 UTC

A light earthquake occurred at 19:59:01 (UTC) on Wednesday, August 24, 2005. The magnitude 4.6 event has been located OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN.

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2005 August 24 17:07:46 UTC

A moderate earthquake occurred at 17:07:46 (UTC) on Wednesday, August 24, 2005. The magnitude 5.1 event has been located in NORTHERN EAST PACIFIC RISE [off the west coast of Mexico].

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2005 August 25 02:27:44 UTC

A light earthquake occurred at 02:27:44 (UTC) on Thursday, August 25, 2005. The magnitude 4.2 event has been located in NORTHERN CALIFORNIA [12 km (7 miles) SSW (198°) from Ferndale, CA.] The hypocentral depth was estimated to be 27 km (17 miles).

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Earthquake Rocks Western Carolinas
Quake Measures 3.8 On Richter Scale
POSTED: 12:03 am EDT August 25, 2005
UPDATED: 12:34 am EDT August 25, 2005

HOT SPRINGS, N.C. -- If you thought you felt the earth move Wednesday night, you were right.

An earthquake struck the western Carolinas and northeast Georgia just after 11 p.m.

According to the United States Geological Survey, the quake's epicenter was about 2 miles from Hot Springs, N.C., which is about 25 miles north-northwest of Asheville.

Preliminary reports indicate the quake took place about 3 miles below the ground and reached a magnitude of 3.8.

The area where the quake occurred has been previously identified by the USGS as having a higher potential for earthquakes than much of the surrounding region.

People across the Upstate and as far south as Augusta reported rattling dishes and glasses, and many said they could feel the tremor coming as it approached.

Others closer to the epicenter described the event as being like a bomb hitting their home.

The quake's duration was reported to be anywhere between 7 and 20 seconds.

No damage has been reported to emergency agencies so far.

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Millions of dead fish washing up on local coast

Literally millions of dead fish are lining the coast in Matagorda and it's causing a smelly problem
By Laura Whitley
ABC13 Eyewitness News

MATAGORDA CO., TX - Miles and miles of dead fish are turning up in Texas waters and it's hitting Matagorda especially hard.

From the sky, a sea of white is covering the mouth of the Colorado River. Upon closer look, you'll see dead fish – millions of them.

"Unbelievable if you haven't seen it before," said Matagorda County Commissioner George Deshotel.

The stunning images of devastation run for miles. It's one of the largest fish kills people in the town of Matagorda have seen in years.

Ronnie Dodd runs a spring bridge and watched dozens of fish die from his perch.

"The flounder were trying to get to the side of the edge of the bank and trying to come up and get air," he told us.

Surprisingly, this is a natural event caused by stagnant water and little wind, rain, or flow.

"Millions of these menhaden come in from the Gulf into the Colorado River and because of low tidal action and low wind action, there's nothing to replenish the oxygen in the water," said Deshotel.

Texas Parks and Wildlife is closely monitoring the situation.

"It'll run its course, and when it's done, it's done," said Bill Balboa with Texas Parks and Wildlife. "It may happen again, but it happens all up and down the coast."

But for now, Matagoda is the worst place...a place with a community that depends on the fish that are quickly dying.

The fish began dying a few days ago. If the menhaden keep coming in and the conditions don't change, more can die. And that's not good news for the local economy.

Back in 1995, there was a similar situation. Then, 60 million fish turned up dead. If you see dead fish, shrimp or crabs, contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's 24-hour hotline. That number is 512-389-4848.

Comment: Given other recent stories of dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, birds falling out of the sky in droves, and dolphins and whales swimming like mad in unusual numbers, we really have to wonder if these fish were killed by stagnant water accompanied by a lack of wind and rain.

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Superman spotted in Serbia

Serbian authorities are investigating reports of a real-life Superman after people claimed to have seen a cloaked figure flying over their houses.

Hundreds of residents in Ljubovija described seeing a cloaked person flying above buildings "as if he had an invisible engine on his back" and changing directions while in mid-air, local daily Blic reported.

One local said: "It was like something out of Superman or Batman. No one has any rational explanation for what we all saw."

Police in the town have refused to comment.

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