Tuesday, September 13, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
Signs Logo
Printer Friendly Version
Fixed link to latest Page


"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

Éclair et clair de Lune, La Romieu, Gers, 17 août 2005 à 00:34
Copyright 2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte

NEW! 9/11: The Ultimate Truth is Available for Pre-Order!

On the fourth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, Laura Knight-Jadczyk announces the availability of her latest book:

In the years since the 9/11 attacks, dozens of books have sought to explore the truth behind the official version of events that day - yet to date, none of these publications has provided a satisfactory answer as to WHY the attacks occurred and who was ultimately responsible for carrying them out.

Taking a broad, millennia-long perspective, Laura Knight-Jadczyk's 9/11: The Ultimate Truth uncovers the true nature of the ruling elite on our planet and presents new and ground-breaking insights into just how the 9/11 attacks played out.

9/11: The Ultimate Truth makes a strong case for the idea that September 11, 2001 marked the moment when our planet entered the final phase of a diabolical plan that has been many, many years in the making. It is a plan developed and nurtured by successive generations of ruthless individuals who relentlessly exploit the negative aspects of basic human nature to entrap humanity as a whole in endless wars and suffering in order to keep us confused and distracted to the reality of the man behind the curtain.

Drawing on historical and genealogical sources, Knight-Jadczyk eloquently links the 9/11 event to the modern-day Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also cites the clear evidence that our planet undergoes periodic natural cataclysms, a cycle that has arguably brought humanity to the brink of destruction in the present day.

For its no nonsense style in cutting to the core of the issue and its sheer audacity in refusing to be swayed or distracted by the morass of disinformation that has been employed by the Powers that Be to cover their tracks, 9/11: The Ultimate Truth can rightly claim to be THE definitive book on 9/11 - and what that fateful day's true implications are for the future of mankind.

Published by Red Pill Press

Scheduled for release on October 1, 2005, readers can pre-order the book today at our bookstore.

Click here to comment on this article

Now They Tell Us
By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, September 12, 2005; 1:33 PM

Amid a slew of stories this weekend about the embattled presidency and the blundering government response to the drowning of New Orleans, some journalists who are long-time observers of the White House are suddenly sharing scathing observations about President Bush that may be new to many of their readers.

Is Bush the commanding, decisive, jovial president you've been hearing about for years in so much of the mainstream press?

Maybe not so much.

Judging from the blistering analyses in Time, Newsweek, and elsewhere these past few days, it turns out that Bush is in fact fidgety, cold and snappish in private. He yells at those who dare give him bad news and is therefore not surprisingly surrounded by an echo chamber of terrified sycophants. He is slow to comprehend concepts that don't emerge from his gut. He is uncomprehending of the speeches that he is given to read. And oh yes, one of his most significant legacies -- the immense post-Sept. 11 reorganization of the federal government which created the Homeland Security Department -- has failed a big test.

Maybe it's Bush's sinking poll numbers -- he is, after all, undeniably an unpopular president now. Maybe it's the way that the federal response to the flood has cut so deeply against Bush's most compelling claim to greatness: His resoluteness when it comes to protecting Americans.

But for whatever reason, critical observations and insights that for so long have been zealously guarded by mainstream journalists, and only doled out in teaspoons if at all, now seem to be flooding into the public sphere.

An emperor-has-no-clothes moment seems upon us.

Read All About It

The two seminal reads are from Newsweek and Time.

Evan Thomas's story in Newsweek is headlined: "How Bush Blew It."

"It's a standing joke among the president's top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States," Thomas writes.

In this sort of environment, Bush apparently didn't fathom the extent of the catastrophe in the Gulf Coast for more than three days after the levees of New Orleans were breached.

"The reality, say several aides who did not wish to be quoted because it might displease the president, did not really sink in until Thursday night. Some White House staffers were watching the evening news and thought the president needed to see the horrific reports coming out of New Orleans. Counselor Bartlett made up a DVD of the newscasts so Bush could see them in their entirety as he flew down to the Gulf Coast the next morning on Air Force One.

"How this could be -- how the president of the United States could have even less 'situational awareness,' as they say in the military, than the average American about the worst natural disaster in a century -- is one of the more perplexing and troubling chapters in a story that, despite moments of heroism and acts of great generosity, ranks as a national disgrace."

Among Thomas's disclosures: "Bush can be petulant about dissent; he equates disagreement with disloyalty. After five years in office, he is surrounded largely by people who agree with him. . . .

"Late last week, Bush was, by some accounts, down and angry. But another Bush aide described the atmosphere inside the White House as 'strangely surreal and almost detached.' At one meeting described by this insider, officials were oddly self-congratulatory, perhaps in an effort to buck each other up. Life inside a bunker can be strange, especially in defeat."

Mike Allen writes in Time: "Longtime Bush watchers say they are not shocked that he missed his moment -- one of his most trusted confidants calls him 'a better third- and fourth-quarter player,' who focuses and delivers when he sees the stakes. What surprised them was that he still appeared to be stutter-stepping in the second week of the crisis, struggling to make up for past lapses instead of taking control with a grand gesture. Just as Katrina exposed the lurking problems of race and poverty, it also revealed the limitations of Bush's rigid, top-down approach to the presidency. . . .

"Bush's bubble has grown more hermetic in the second term, they say, with fewer people willing or able to bring him bad news -- or tell him when he's wrong. Bush has never been adroit about this. A youngish aide who is a Bush favorite described the perils of correcting the boss. 'The first time I told him he was wrong, he started yelling at me,' the aide recalled about a session during the first term. 'Then I showed him where he was wrong, and he said, "All right. I understand. Good job." He patted me on the shoulder. I went and had dry heaves in the bathroom.' . . .

"The result is a kind of echo chamber in which good news can prevail over bad -- even when there is a surfeit of evidence to the contrary. For example, a source tells Time that four days after Katrina struck, Bush himself briefed his father and former President Clinton in a way that left too rosy an impression of the progress made. 'It bore no resemblance to what was actually happening,' said someone familiar with the presentation."

Allen has an exclusive look at the administration's "three-part comeback plan."

Part one: "Spend freely, and worry about the tab and the consequences later."

Part two: "Don't look back."

Part three: "Develop a new set of goals to announce after Katrina fades. Advisers are proceeding with plans to gin up base-conservative voters for next year's congressional midterm elections with a platform that probably will be focused around tax reform."

Allen also has this tidbit: "And as if the West Wing were suddenly snakebit, his franchise player, senior adviser and deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove, was on the disabled list for part of last week, working from home after being briefly hospitalized with painful kidney stones."

And remember the storyline of the CEO president who cut red tape and streamlined government?

John Dickerson writes in Slate how the much-celebrated creation of the Homeland Security Department, the embodiment of Bush's management style, is suddenly an epic tale of failure.

"They built an enormous agency from scratch, vowing to create the kind of shiny, swiftly clicking apparatus they envisioned for the government as a whole. Judging by the DHS response to Katrina, we can breathe a sigh of relief that they didn't expand their bureaucracy vendetta further."

Dickerson describes an interview in which White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, who masterminded the reorganization, "described the process of creation with delight: He leaned off the sofa and grinned as he spoke, giddy at having been able to pedal so quickly past the usual government roadblocks. The defenders of the bureaucracy were so virulent, he had to put together a small team and they took their blueprints and drafting tools into the secure bunker underneath the White House."

Dickerson concludes: "We now know the solution has failed. In the coming months we'll have a chance to learn just how, and in how many different ways, that bureaucracy-free, executive-authority-channeling machine sprang its wires, and whether the architects share the blame with the operators."

Poll Watch

Howard Fineman writes for Newsweek: "Katrina's winds have unspun the spin of the Bush machine, particularly the crucial idea that he is a commanding commander in chief. In the Newsweek Poll, only 17 percent of Americans say that he deserves the most blame for the botched early response to Katrina. But, for the first time, less than a majority -- 49 percent -- say he has 'strong leadership qualities,' down from 63 percent last year. That weakness, in turn, dragged down his job-approval rating -- now at 38 percent, his lowest ever -- as well as voters' sense of where the country is headed. By a 66-28 margin, they say they are 'dissatisfied,' by far the gloomiest view in the Bush years, and among the worst in recent decades."

Marcus Mabry has more from the Newsweek poll. "[M]ost Americans, 52 percent, say they do not trust the president 'to make the right decisions during a domestic crisis' (45 percent do). The numbers are exactly the same when the subject is trust of the president to make the right decisions during an international crisis. . . .

"The president and the GOP's greatest hope may be, ironically, how deeply divided the nation remains, even after national tragedy. The president's Republican base, in particular, remains extremely loyal. For instance, 53 percent of Democrats say the federal government did a poor job in getting help to people in New Orleans after Katrina. But just 19 percent of Republicans feel that way. In fact, almost half of Republicans (48 percent) either believes the federal government did a good job (37 percent) or an excellent job (11 percent) helping those stuck in New Orleans."

A new Time poll finds Bush at an all time low 42 percent approval rating, with 52 percent disapproving.

Time's poll is the second one recently to chart a significant drop in presidential approval among Republicans. (See Friday's column about Bush losing his base.)

Accord to Time, since January, Republican approval has dropped from 91 percent to 81 percent; Democratic approval from 25 to 13; and indpendent approval from 46 to 36.

And 61 percent of those polled favor paying for hurricane relief by cutting back spending in Iraq.

The Breakdown

Anna Mulrine writes in U.S. News: "Who screwed up?

"The president's spinners dubbed it the blame game, but given the loss of life, the staggering incompetence at nearly every level of government, and the increasingly dire economic implications for the nation, much more than the usual political one-upmanship is in the offing."

Susan B. Glasser and Michael Grunwald write in The Washington Post: "As the floodwaters recede and the dead are counted, what went wrong during a terrible week that would render a modern American metropolis of nearly half a million people uninhabitable and set off the largest exodus of people since the Civil War, is starting to become clear. Federal, state and local officials failed to heed forecasts of disaster from hurricane experts. Evacuation plans, never practical, were scrapped entirely for New Orleans's poorest and least able. And once floodwaters rose, as had been long predicted, the rescue teams, medical personnel and emergency power necessary to fight back were nowhere to be found."

Eric Lipton, Christopher Drew, Scott Shane and David Rohde all write in the New York Times that " an initial examination of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath demonstrates the extent to which the federal government failed to fulfill the pledge it made after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to face domestic threats as a unified, seamless force.

"Instead, the crisis in New Orleans deepened because of a virtual standoff between hesitant federal officials and besieged authorities in Louisiana, interviews with dozens of officials show. . . .

"Richard A. Falkenrath, a former homeland security adviser in the Bush White House, said the chief federal failure was not anticipating that the city and state would be so compromised. He said the response exposed 'false advertising' about how the government has been transformed four years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks."

The Los Angeles Times reports: "Ultimately, the National Response Plan says the president is in charge during a national emergency, but it leaves it up to the White House to decide how to fulfill that duty. 'The president leads the nation in responding effectively and ensuring the necessary resources are applied quickly and efficiently,' the plan says."

And here's a telling anecdote from the LA Times: "On Friday, Sept. 2, four days after the storm, Bush headed for the disaster area on a presidential trip designed to show leadership and concern.

"At a meeting that morning, one aide said, the president expressed anger about the convention center. Say that in public, one aide reportedly urged. So Bush went out to the Rose Garden and grimly acknowledged for the first time that all was not well. 'The results are not acceptable,' he said.

"But the president appeared uncomfortable even with that much self-criticism. A few hours later, in Biloxi, he softened the message. . . .

" 'I am satisfied with the [federal] response,' Bush said. 'I'm not satisfied with all the results. . . . I'm certainly not denigrating the efforts of anybody. But the results can be better.'

"And Bush, who instinctively defends any aide who has been criticized in the media, made a point of praising FEMA chief Brown.

" 'Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job,' he said."

Time magazine concludes: "Leaders were afraid to actually lead, reluctant to cost businesses money, break jurisdictional rules or spawn lawsuits. They were afraid, in other words, of ending up in an article just like this one."

Advancing Republican Goals

Edmund L. Andrews writes in the New York Times: "Republican leaders in Congress and some White House officials see opportunities in Hurricane Katrina to advance longstanding conservative goals like giving students vouchers to pay for private schools, paying churches to help with temporary housing and scaling back business regulation."

Jonathan Weisman and Amy Goldstein write in The Washington Post: "After the political tidal wave of 1994 swept conservatives into control of Congress, Republicans doggedly tried -- and repeatedly failed -- to repeal a Depression-era law that requires federal contractors to pay workers the prevailing wages in their communities. Eleven days after the deluge of Hurricane Katrina, President Bush banished the requirement, at least temporarily, with the stroke of his pen. . . .

"In another gain for the administration, a $51.8 billion relief bill that Congress passed on Thursday included a significant change to federal contracting regulations. Holders of government-issued credit cards will be allowed to spend up to $250,000 on Katrina-related contracts and purchases, without requiring them to seek competitive bids or to patronize small businesses or companies owned by minorities and women. Before Thursday, only purchases of up to $2,500 in normal circumstances or $15,000 in emergencies were exempt."

The Spoils of Disaster

Yochi J. Dreazen writes in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required): "The Bush administration is importing many of the contracting practices blamed for spending abuses in Iraq as it begins the largest and costliest rebuilding effort in U.S. history.

"The first large-scale contracts related to Hurricane Katrina, as in Iraq, were awarded without competitive bidding, and using so-called cost-plus provisions that guarantee contractors a certain profit regardless of how much they spend."

Reuters reports: "Companies with ties to the Bush White House and the former head of FEMA are clinching some of the administration's first disaster relief and reconstruction contracts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"At least two major corporate clients of lobbyist Joe Allbaugh, President George W. Bush's former campaign manager and a former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have already been tapped to start recovery work along the battered Gulf Coast."

Bush's Trip

Bush is wrapping up a two-day "fact finding" trip to the Gulf Coast today. I'll have more about it tomorrow.

The big question: Will Bush risk an encounter with any angry storm victims?

As Elisabeth Bumiller writes in the New York Times: "One prominent African-American supporter of Mr. Bush who is close to Karl Rove, the White House political chief, said the president did not go into the heart of New Orleans and meet with black victims on his first trip there, last Friday, because he knew that White House officials were 'scared to death' of the reaction.

" 'If I'm Karl, do I want the visual of black people hollering at the president as if we're living in Rwanda?' said the supporter, who spoke only anonymously because he did not want to antagonize Mr. Rove."

One quick note from pool reporter Mark Silva of the Chicago Tribune: While Bush spent last night aboard the USS Iwo Jima, "poolers were assigned to bunks aboard luxury Prevost touring buses. Men in one, women in another. The men's bus is fresh off The Anger Management Tour, which had featured Fifty Cent and Eminem."

Brownie Watch

David E. Sanger writes in the New York Times about just how it happened that White House spokesman Scott McClellan was still praising the work of Michael D. Brown, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, hours after Brown's removal from day-to-day management of the hurricane was pretty much a done deal.

Sanger writes that "how the White House moved, in a matter of days, from the president's praise of a man he nicknamed 'Brownie' to a rare public reassignment explains much about fears within the administration that its delayed response to the disaster could do lasting damage to both Mr. Bush's power and his legacy. But more important to some members of the administration, it dented the administration's aura of competence. . . .

"Mr. Bush, his aides acknowledge, is loath to fire members of his administration or to take public actions that are tantamount to an admission of a major mistake. But the hurricane was different, they say: the delayed response was playing out every day on television, and Mr. Brown, fairly or unfairly, seemed unaware of crucial events, particularly the scenes of chaos and death in the New Orleans convention center."

Race and Poverty

Michael A. Fletcher writes in The Washington Post: "Hurricane Katrina has thrust the twin issues of race and poverty at President Bush, who faces steep challenges in dealing with both because of a domestic agenda that envisions deep cuts in long-standing anti-poverty programs and relationships with many black leaders frayed by years of mutual suspicion."

Bumiller writes in the New York Times: "From the political perspective of the White House, Hurricane Katrina destroyed more than an enormous swath of the Gulf Coast. The storm also appears to have damaged the carefully laid plans of Karl Rove, President Bush's political adviser, to make inroads among black voters and expand the reach of the Republican Party for decades to come. . . .

"But behind the scenes in the West Wing, there has been anxiety and scrambling -- after an initial misunderstanding, some of the president's advocates say, of the racial dimension to the crisis."

What the President Meant to Say

At another contentious briefing on Friday, McClellan addressed Bush's infamous declaration on a live television interview Thursday that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

"What the President was referring to is that you had Hurricane Katrina hit, and then it passed New Orleans. And if you'll remember, all the media reports, or a number of media reports at that time, that Monday -- even all the way to the Tuesday papers, were talking to people and saying that New Orleans had dodged a bullet. So I think that's what the President is referring to, is that people weren't anticipating those levees, after the hurricane had passed New Orleans, breaching. Many people weren't. And you can go back and look at the news coverage at that time."

Internet Humor

Robin Abcarian writes in the Los Angeles Times: "In the picture , residents of New Orleans make their way through waist-deep water as President Bush stands next to his father, grinning and displaying a striped bass that he's just caught. 'Bush's vacation' is the caption of the photographic gag that has made its way around the Internet this week.

"In another doctored photo , the president strums a guitar and appears to be serenading a weeping African American woman holding a baby in front of the Louisiana Superdome.

"Perverse though it might seem, the juxtaposition of Hurricane Katrina's human costs with the perceived sluggishness of the federal government's response has proved to be a boon for political humorists -- particularly those operating in cyberspace, where dissemination is instantaneous."

Comment: For many months there have been reports about what life was really like "inside the White House". They have described Bush as refusing any ciriticism, as exploding at subordinates, as on medication. Now these rumours are making their way into the mainstream news reports. Is the tide turning against the cowboy president?

But let us not celebrate too quickly.

Bush is not one to admit to a mistake. He is not one to back down. And he is certainly not someone who takes dropping polls with aplomb. Nor are those who are pulling his strings -- although the puppet masters might be willing to make the POTUS a martyr if it would further their cause.

These are people who have already used 9/11 to further their agenda. They have no love for humanity or even Americans. If a few more people have to be sacrificed to rebuild Bush's ratings, then so be it.

We are living in dangerous times...

Click here to comment on this article

Barbara Bush: It's Good Enough for the Poor
John Nichols Tue Sep 6, 1:08 PM ET

The Nation -- Finally, we have discovered the roots of George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism."

On the heels of the president's "What, me worry?" response to the death, destruction and dislocation that followed upon Hurricane Katrina comes the news of his mother's Labor Day visit with hurricane evacuees at the Astrodome in Houston.

Commenting on the facilities that have been set up for the evacuees -- cots crammed side-by-side in a huge stadium where the lights never go out and the sound of sobbing children never completely ceases -- former First Lady Barbara Bush concluded that the poor people of New Orleans had lucked out.

"Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them," Mrs. Bush told American Public Media's "Marketplace" program, before returning to her multi-million dollar Houston home.

On the tape of the interview, Mrs. Bush chuckles audibly as she observes just how great things are going for families that are separated from loved ones, people who have been forced to abandon their homes and the only community where they have ever lived, and parents who are explaining to children that their pets, their toys and in some cases their friends may be lost forever. Perhaps the former first lady was amusing herself with the notion that evacuees without bread could eat cake.

At the very least, she was expressing a measure of empathy commensurate with that evidenced by her son during his fly-ins for disaster-zone photo opportunities.

On Friday, when even Republican lawmakers were giving the federal government an "F" for its response to the crisis, President Bush heaped praise on embattled Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown. As thousands of victims of the hurricane continued to plead for food, water, shelter, medical care and a way out of the nightmare to which federal neglect had consigned them, Brown cheerily announced that "people are getting the help they need."

Barbara Bush's son put his arm around the addled FEMA functionary and declared, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

Like mother, like son.

Even when a hurricane hits, the apple does not fall far from the tree.

Click here to comment on this article

Weekly Commentary From the Media Guy
September 12, 2005
By Simon Dumenco

The last couple of weeks we’ve been learning some truly awful, unbearable lessons. But one of the lessons has been perversely prosaic: PR only goes so far. Not only have we been parsing anew the limits of public relations, but the limits of people who have become perilously, mindlessly dependent on PR in place of action. Their leadership limits, their moral limits.

When George Bush made his first, belated stop in New Orleans, touching down at the city’s airport, he actually viewed his visit as an appropriate occasion for a little light comedy. Here’s the official White House transcript: “I believe that the great city of New Orleans will rise again and be a greater city of New Orleans. (Applause.) I believe the town where I used to come, from Houston, Texas, to enjoy myself -- occasionally too much (Laughter.) -- will be that very same town, that it will be a better place to come to. That’s what I believe. I believe the great state of Louisiana will get its feet back and become a vital contributor to the country.”

It was, of course, just the latest highlight in his career as chief marketing officer for the Rove/Cheney/Rumsfeld neo-con agenda. It’s a job that entails always sticking to a breezy, upbeat storyline.

It’s no surprise that Bush took this PR-trumps-action tack for Katrina. For much of his five years in office, he’s seen that putting a faux-cheerful, faux-hopeful spin on even the worst calamities (see also: the war in Iraq) meant that a cheerful, hopeful spin would automatically float to the top of the memepool, at least momentarily. If he kept repeating these faux-cheerful, faux-hopeful things ad nauseum, he’d have a great shot of at least partially obscuring all the actual rotting nastiness lurking below the surface.

Of course, the problem post-Katrina is that, unlike Iraq -- where journalists are no longer in the thick of things (with most abandoning the idea of embedded reporting) -- New Orleans had real journalists showing us the reality behind the rhetoric. And enough of them were sufficiently appalled at the government inaction that they basically ended up begging the feds, on the air, to come to the rescue. (Of course, that didn’t stop FEMA from issuing an absurd directive last week that journalists avoid showing dead bodies during the recovery process. Anybody who’d seen Oprah Winfrey’s Sept. 6 show, which offered devastating close-ups of victims’ bodies being left to rot, will feel outrage at the agency’s hapless, belated attempt at covering up just how murderous its glacial response was.)

On the very day the levees were about to give way in New Orleans, the buzz in medialand was about a Miami Herald article linked on Jim Romenesko’s media site. Romenesko summed it up thusly: “Is journalism in danger of losing its young idealists to PR? Edward Wasserman says young people want to do something ‘active’ -- to make things happen instead of reacting to events the way they do in newsrooms. ‘Students come back from summer PR internships with exciting tales of scanning the next day’s papers for stories they helped bring about,’ he wrote."

That’s where our heads have been in this country, and that’s where the president’s head is: PR is considered action, while actual action is an afterthought. Which is why Bush was able to publicly say to FEMA Director Michael Brown, with a straight face, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” Whereas Bush & Co. have mostly been able to explain away troop shortages and strategic errors in Iraq (by simply denying shortages and errors), the troop shortages in New Orleans -- and the calamitous lack of federal strategy and response -- could not be dismissed by the president’s cheerful quips.

Still, all he knew to do was keep up the PR talk, as if leadership were made up solely of spin as opposed to, say, actually leading. And so he continued with the PR-ification of life post-Katrina, uttering this gem from Mobile, Ala.: “Out of the rubbles (sic) of Trent Lott’s house -- he’s lost his entire house -- there’s going to be a fantastic house. And I’m looking forward to sitting on the porch.”

Sure, as Nicholas D. Kristof noted in The New York Times, the deeper scandals are New Orleans’ grinding poverty, and the fact that nationally “the number of poor people has now risen 17% under Mr. Bush,” after having declined sharply under Clinton Administration.

But from the Bush P.O.V., there’s a simple solution for that hateful reality: Sell ‘em something else. Here’s the pitch: close your eyes and imagine Lott, in an SUV, driving to the nearest Home Depot to pick up some TimberTech all-weather composite decking. It’ll be grey. With white railings. That’d be nice, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t you, too, like to sit on a porch like that?

Click here to comment on this article

Bush tours New Orleans as emergency chief quits
Mon Sep 12, 4:19 PM ET

NEW ORLEANS, United States - President George W. Bush went into storm-wrecked New Orleans for the first time, as the heavily-criticised head of the federal agency overseeing disaster relief quit.

Two weeks after Hurricane Katrina turned the city into a festering swamp, the gruesome job of recovering bodies gathered pace and the confirmed death toll rose above 500.

Seeking to counter criticism of his handling of the disaster, Bush toured parts of the flooded city in the back of a military truck and from the air in a helicopter.

Bush had previously flown over New Orleans but not seen the devastation from the ground. He later went to a suburb that was badly hit by the August 29 storm and to visit Gulfport in Mississippi.

The mounting criticism has seen Bush's approval ratings slump to their worst levels since he took office in January 2001.

And yielding to intense pressure over criticism of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's slow response to Katrina, agency chief Michael Brown quit, US media reported.

Bush appeared not to know about the resignation. "I can't comment on something that you may know more about than I do," he told reporters while visiting the disaster zone.

But critics were delighted.

"Michael Brown's departure from FEMA is long overdue, and his resignation is the right thing for the country and for the people of the Gulf Coast states," said Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the Senate.

Brown had been called back to Washington on Friday and replaced as the pointman on the ground by Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad Allen. Bush had stood up for under-fire Brown in the immediate aftermath of the disaster telling him: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

But it was Brown's replacement who on Monday briefed Bush and local and military officials about efforts to find temporary housing for survivors.

Bush has refused to identify any specific failures in Washington's response to Katrina but flatly dismissed critics who have noted that most of those unable to flee the city were black.

"The storm didn't discriminate, and neither will the recovery effort," he said, also rejecting reported comments by National Guard Lieutenant General Steven Blum that a day of response time was "arguably" lost due to deployments in Iraq.

"It is preposterous to claim that the engagement in Iraq meant there wasn't enough troops here. It's pure and simple," he added. "We've got plenty of troops to do both."

On the ground, more pumps came online and other signs emerged of attempts to bring life back to New Orleans.

Passes to cross a security cordon around the city were to be issued to help small businesses hoping to reopen.

Owners of small shops, restaurants, hotels, gasoline stations and supermarkets were to be allowed to visit their properties to assess damage, said Louisiana state police spokesman Johnnie Brown.

The city Louis Armstrong International Airport, which has handled only humanitarian and military flights since Katrina struck, was gearing up to reopen to commercial flights on Tuesday.

Despite the progress, the city's infrastructure is wrecked, and reconstruction will take many years and cost billions of dollars.

Many districts, especially in east New Orleans, remain under deep brown floodwaters up to two metres (six-feet) deep and covered with a floating sludge of trash and debris.

Teams fished out bloated corpses from the stinking, trash-strewn mess, and urged residents who have not done so to leave for safe shelter, although they were not using force to apply an order to quit town.

In dry streets, skeletal dogs roamed for food, sometimes gnawing at the carcasses of dead pets. An animal rescue official said she had seen dogs eating human cadavers on one highway exit ramp.

The confirmed death toll was certain to rise, although officials have said they are confident that it will be less than the 10,000 dead estimated last week for New Orleans alone.

But the number of evacuees forced to seek refuge in homeless shelters was down significantly, the Department of
Homeland Security said, with the number of people displaced by Katrina now 141,000, down from 208,000.

To help the effort, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were crafting a multi-billion-dollar economic recovery bill aimed at luring business back to the disaster zone, including tax incentives and a huge bond issue, a Louisiana official said.

A fresh storm -- this time poised off the US east coast -- continued to worry weather-watchers.

With winds receding on Monday morning, Ophelia was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm. But the center said the storm could pick up force on Tuesday and become a category one hurricane again.

Comment: Brown's "voluntary" departure is a win for the Bush administration. If Bush had fired Brown, the president could have been criticized since so many are unhappy with his performance lately. With Brown supposedly quitting on his own, any inquiries into what happened in the aftermath of Katrina can point the finger at FEMA in a rehash of the old "intelligence failure" bit.

Click here to comment on this article

The Politics of False Claims

How Michael Brown Helped Bush Win Florida
September 12, 2005

Michael Brown, the embattled head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, approved payments in excess of $31 million in taxpayer money to thousands of Florida residents who were unaffected by Hurricane Frances and three other hurricanes last year in an effort to help President Bush win a majority of votes in that state during his reelection campaign, according to published reports.

"Some Homeland Security sources said FEMA's efforts to distribute funds quickly after Frances and three other hurricanes that hit the key political battleground state of Florida in a six-week period last fall were undertaken with a keen awareness of the looming presidential elections," according to a May 19 Washington Post story.

Homeland Security sources told the Post that after the hurricanes that Brown "and his allies [recommended] him to succeed Tom Ridge as Homeland Security secretary because of their claim that he helped deliver Florida to President Bush by efficiently responding to the Florida hurricanes."

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel uncovered emails from Florida Gov. Jeb Bush that confirmed those allegations and directly implicated Brown as playing politics at the expense of hurricane victims.

"As the second hurricane in less than a month bore down on Florida last fall, a federal [FEMA] consultant predicted a "huge mess" that could reflect poorly on President Bush and suggested that his re-election staff be brought in to minimize any political liability, records show," the Sentinel reported in a March 23 story.

"Two weeks later, a Florida official summarizing the hurricane response wrote that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was handing out housing assistance "to everyone who needs it without asking for much information of any kind."

The records the Sentinel obtained were contained in hundreds of pages of Gov. Jeb Bush's storm-related e-mails the paper received from the governor's office under the threat of a lawsuit.

The explosive charges of mismanagement of disaster relief funds made against Brown and FEMA were confirmed earlier this year following a four-month investigation by Richard Skinner, the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general. Skinner looked into media reports alleging that residents of Miami-Dade were receiving windfall payments from FEMA to cover losses from Hurricane Frances they never incurred.

Hurricane Frances hit Hutchinson Island, Fla., about 100 miles north of Dade County, on Sept. 5. Miami-Dade officials described damage there from heavy rain and winds of up to 45 mph as ''minimal,'' according to the Post.

Indeed. A May 14 story in thSun-Sentinel said: "Miami-Dade County residents collected Hurricane Frances aid for belongings they didn't own, temporary housing they never requested and cars worth far less than the government paid, according to a federal audit that questions millions in storm payouts."

Responding to those allegations, Brown held a news conference Jan. 11 blaming the overpayments on a "computer glitch" and said the disbursements were far less than the $31 million that was cited in news reports and involved 3,500 people. Moreover, to silence his critics who said that Hurricane Frances barely touched down in Miami-Dade, Brown cited a report by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to prove that there were legitimate hurricane conditions there and as a result that a bulk of the payments was legitimate.

But according to the Sun-Sentinel, NOAA had refuted the weather maps Brown claimed to have obtained from them. That report prompted Congressman Robert Wexler to send off a scathing letter to President Bush calling for Brown's resignation.

Bush rebuffed Wexler. However, the DHS' inspector general launched a probe to determine how widespread the problems were involving overpayments to Miami-Dade residents. In May, the inspector general released his report. What he found was damning.

"The review found waste and poor controls in every level of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's assistance program and challenges the designation of Miami-Dade as a disaster area when the county "did not incur any hurricane force winds, tornados or other adverse weather conditions that would cause widespread damage."

In identifying one of the overpayments, the inspector general's report said FEMA paid $10 million to replace hundreds of household items even though only a bed was reported to be damaged, the inspector general's report said.

"Millions of individuals and households became eligible to apply for [money], straining FEMA's limited inspection resources to verify damages and making the program more susceptible to potential fraud, waste and abuse," the report states.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairwoman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee, said during a committee hearing in May that Brown "approved massive payouts to replace thousands of televisions, air conditioners, beds and other furniture, as well as a number of cars, without receipts, or proof of ownership or damage, and based solely on verbal statements by the residents, sometimes made in fleeting encounters at fast-food restaurants."

"It was a pay first, ask questions later approach,'' Collins said. ''The inspector general's report identifies a number of significant control weaknesses that create a potential for widespread fraud, erroneous payments and wasteful practices.''

But the most interesting charge against Brown is that he helped speed up payments in Florida and purposely bypassed FEMA's lengthy reviews process for distributing funds in order to help Bush secure votes in the state during last year's presidential election.

Bob Hunter, director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America, who was a top federal flood insurance official in the 1970s and 1980s and a Texas insurance commissioner in the 1990s, told the Post "that in the vast majority of hurricanes, other than those in Florida in 2004, complaints are rife that FEMA has vastly underpaid hurricane victims. The Frances overpayments are questionable given the timing of the election and Florida's importance as a battleground state."

FEMA consultant Glenn Garcelon actions certainly lends credibility to questions raised by Hunter.

On Sept. 2, 2004, Garcelon, wrote a three-page memo titled "Hurricane Frances -- Thoughts and Suggestions."

"The Republican National Convention was winding down, and President Bush had only a slight lead in the polls against Democrat John Kerry," the Sentinel reported in its March 23 story. "Winning Florida was key to the president's re-election. FEMA should pay careful attention to how it is portrayed by the public," Garcelon wrote in the memo, conveying "the team effort theme at every opportunity" alongside state and local officials, the insurance and construction industries, and relief agencies such as the Red Cross."

Gov. Bush received the memo Sept. 30, 2004 shortly before a swell of payments made its way to residents in Miami-Dade who did not sustain damage as a result of Hurricane Frances.

A couple of weeks before Gov. Bush received the memo from Garcelon, Orlando J. Cabrera, executive director of the Florida Housing Finance Corp. and a member of the governor's Hurricane Housing Work Group, said in a different memo to Gov. Bush that FEMA was allocating short-term rental assistance to "everyone who needs it, without asking for much information of any kind," the Sentinel reported.

In addition, "standard housing assistance," of up to $25,600, Cabrera wrote, is "liberally provided without significant scrutiny of the request made during the initial months; scrutiny increases remarkably and the package is far more stringent after an unspecified time."

The DHS audit report found that, under Brown, FEMA erroneously distributed to Miami-Dade residents:

$8.2 million in rental assistance to 4,308 applicants in the county who "did not indicate a need for shelter" when they registered for help. In 60 cases reviewed by auditors, inspectors deemed homes unsafe without explanation, and applicants never moved out.

$720,403 to 228 people for belongings based on their word alone.

$192,592 for generators, air purifiers, wet/dry vacuum cleaners, chainsaws and other items without proof that they were needed to deal with the hurricane. Three applicants got generators for their homes, plus rental assistance from FEMA to live somewhere else.

$15,743 for three funerals without sufficient documentation that the deaths were due to the hurricane.

$46,464 to 64 residents for temporary housing even though they had homeowners insurance. FEMA funds cannot be used when costs are covered by insurance.

$17,424 in rental assistance to 24 people who reported that their homes were not damaged.

$97,500 for 15 automobiles with a "blue book" value of $56,140. In general, the report states that FEMA approved claims for damaged vehicles without properly verifying that the losses were caused by the storm.

Jason Leopold is the author of the explosive memoir, News Junkie, to be released in the spring of 2006 by Process/Feral House Books. Visit Leopold's website at www.jasonleopold.com for updates.

Click here to comment on this article

Dozens Found Dead at New Orleans Hospital
Associated Press
Mon Sep 12, 7:52 PM ET

NEW ORLEANS - The bodies of more than 40 mostly elderly patients were found in a flooded-out hospital in the biggest known cluster of corpses to be discovered so far in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans.

The exact circumstances under which they died were unclear, with at least one hospital official saying Monday that some of the patients had died before the storm, while the others succumbed to causes unrelated to Katrina.

The announcement, which could raise Louisiana's death toll to nearly 280, came as President Bush got his first up-close look at the destruction, and business owners were let back in to assess the damage and begin the slow process of starting over.

Meanwhile, encouraging signs of recovery were all around: Nearly two-thirds of southeastern Louisiana's water treatment plants were up and running. Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport planned to open to limited passenger service Tuesday. A plane carrying equipment to rebuild the city's mobile phone networks took off from Sweden. And 41 of 174 permanent pumps were in operation, on pace to help drain this still half-flooded city by Oct. 8.

In Washington, Federal Emergency Management Agency director Mike Brown announced he was resigning "in the best interest of the agency and best interest of the president." Brown has been vilified for the government's slow and unfocused response to a disaster that is already being called the nation's costliest hurricane ever.

The bodies were found Sunday at the 317-bed Memorial Medical Center, but the exact number was unclear. Bob Johannesen, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Hospitals, said 45 patients had been found; hospital assistant administrator David Goodson said there were 44, plus three on the grounds.

Also unclear was exactly how the patients died.

Goodson said patients died while waiting to be evacuated over the four days after the hurricane hit, as temperatures inside the hospital reached 106 degrees. "I would suggest that that had a lot to do with" the deaths, he said of the heat.

Family members and nurses were "literally standing over the patients, fanning them," he said.

Steven Campanini, a spokesman for the hospital's owner, Tenet Healthcare Corp., said some of the patients were dead in the hospital's morgue before the storm arrived, and none of the deaths resulted from lack of food, water or electricity to power medical equipment. Campanini said many of the patients were seriously ill before Katrina hit.

Police Chief Eddie Compass declined to answer any questions, including whether officers received any calls for help from those inside the hospital after it was evacuated.

Dr. Jeffrey Kochan, a Philadelphia radiologist volunteering in New Orleans, said he spoke with members of the team that recovered the bodies from the hospital in the city's Uptown section. He said they told him they found 36 corpses floating on the first floor.

"These guys were just venting. They need to talk," he said. "They're seeing things no human being should have to see."

Bush, in his third visit to New Orleans since the storm, made his first foray to the streets Monday and toured the city for 45 minutes aboard the back of a truck, forcing him at times to duck to avoid low-hanging electrical wires and branches. [...]

Insurance experts have doubled to at least $40 billion their estimate of insured losses caused by Katrina. Risk Management Solutions Inc. of Newark, Calif., put the total economic damage at more than $125 billion. [...]

"The really positive thing long-term is, the core of our infrastructure of the $5 billion to $8 billion tourism industry remained intact," Perry said. "As odd as it may sound right now, we are optimistic that this recovery is not only going to happen, its going to happen well and we're going to have a great city going again."

The discovery at Memorial Medical Center was not the first where workers have recovered a group of bodies from a health care facility.

Saturday, a recovery team found eight bodies inside Bethany Home, an assisted-living center near City Park. On Monday, mortuary workers removed human remains from Lafon Nursing Home of the Holy Family, but authorities would not disclose the exact number of victims.

One side of the entrance to Lafon was spray-painted with the date "9-2" and the words "59 live" and "16 dead," while the other side was spray-painted with the date "9-9" and the notation "14 dead."

Inside the nursing home, the pale-brown water mark on the first floor was about 2 1/2 feet up the wall. On the second floor, spray-paint markings indicated where some bodies had been found: one under a hallway bulletin board, one in a community room, two beside an elevator.

Individual rooms were filled with personal belongings - pictures of friends, personal cards, flowers. In one room was a neatly folded copy of The Times-Picayune with the headline, "Katrina Takes Aim."

Click here to comment on this article

Cover-up: toxic waters 'will make New Orleans unsafe for a decade'
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Correspondent
The Independent
Published: 11 September 2005

Toxic chemicals in the New Orleans flood waters will make the city unsafe for full human habitation for a decade, a US government official has told The Independent on Sunday. And, he added, the Bush administration is covering up the danger.

In an exclusive interview, Hugh Kaufman, an expert on toxic waste and responses to environmental disasters at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said the way the polluted water was being pumped out was increasing the danger to health.

The pollution was far worse than had been admitted, he said, because his agency was failing to take enough samples and was refusing to make public the results of those it had analysed. "Inept political hacks" running the clean-up will imperil the health of low-income migrant workers by getting them to do the work.

His intervention came as President Bush's approval ratings fell below 40 per cent for the first time. Yesterday, Britain's Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, turned the screw by criticising the US President's opposition to the Kyoto protocol on global warming. He compared New Orleans to island nations such as the Maldives, which are threatened by rising sea levels. Other US sources spelt out the extent of the danger from one of America's most polluted industrial areas, known locally as "Cancer Alley". The 66 chemical plants, refineries and petroleum storage depots churn out 600m lb of toxic waste each year. Other dangerous substances are in site storage tanks or at the port of New Orleans. No one knows how much pollution has escaped through damaged plants and leaking pipes into the "toxic gumbo" now drowning the city. Mr Kaufman says no one is trying to find out.

Few people are better qualified to judge the extent of the problem. Mr Kaufman, who has been with the EPA since it was founded 35 years ago, helped to set up its hazardous waste programme. After serving as chief investigator to the EPA's ombudsman, he is now senior policy analyst in its Office of Solid Wastes and Emergency Response. He said the clean-up needed to be "the most massive public works exercise ever done", adding: "It will take 10 years to get everything up and running and safe."

Mr Kaufman claimed the Bush administration was playing down the need for a clean-up: the EPA has not been included in the core White House group tackling the crisis. "Its budget has been cut and inept political hacks have been put in key positions," Mr Kaufman said. "All the money for emergency response has gone to buy guns and cowboys - which don't do anything when a hurricane hits. We were less prepared for this than we would have been on 10 September 2001."

He said the water being pumped out of the city was not being tested for pollution and would damage Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi river, and endanger people using it downstream.

Click here to comment on this article

Comet collision 'Armageddon' unlikely
Date Released: Sunday, September 11, 2005
Source: Australian National University

The chances of the Earth being hit by a comet from beyond Pluto - a la Armageddon - are much lower than previously thought, according to new research by an ANU astronomer.

Using computer simulations and data from an American military telescope, Dr Paul Francis, from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Mt Stromlo, has found there are seven times fewer comets in our solar system than previously thought.

'I calculate that small comets, capable of destroying a city, only hit the Earth once every 40 million years or so," Dr Francis said. "Big continent-busting comets, as shown in the movies Armageddon and Deep Impact, are rarer still, only hitting once every 150 million years or so. So I don't loose sleep over it, but you're still more likely to be killed by a comet than to win the jackpot at Lotto."

Previous estimates of the number of comets were based on the work of amateur astronomers, who for hundreds of years have been scanning the skies, looking for new comets.

Previously, it was believed that these amateur astronomers were only spotting three per cent of the comets passing close to the Earth: the rest were thought to be missed because they were in the wrong part of the sky or were too faint.

But Dr Francis found that the amateurs were doing better than anyone had realised - they were actually spotting 20 per cent of comets. There are therefore far fewer undiscovered comets.

"The new data allowed us to count the number of faint and far-away comets that the amateurs had missed. And we found that they were pretty rare," Dr Francis said.

These results apply to comets coming from beyond the orbit of Pluto, which is where most comets live. The Earth is still at risk of being hit by asteroids, and by so-called short-period comets - ones that come past repeatedly, like Halley's comet.

"But asteroids and short-period comets come past again and again, so if we're clever enough we can find them all and predict which, if any, will hit the Earth," said Dr Francis. "If we find one on a collision course with the Earth, we would normally have hundreds of years warning in which to do something about it, like deflecting the asteroid.

"The comets coming from beyond Pluto, so called long-period comets, are nastier, as they are totally unpredictable, and if we see one on a collision course we'd have at best one or two years warning - not long enough to do anything."

Dr Francis' research has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. It was based on computer simulations, published data from the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research Project at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, and on data from amateur astronomers around the world.

Further Information

Background material on Dr Francis' research


Comment: So there's nothing to worry about. Really.

Click here to comment on this article

Scientists find growing land bulge in Oregon

Mon Sep 12, 2005 12:35 PM ET
By Teresa Carson

PORTLAND, Oregon (Reuters) - A large, slow-growing volcanic bulge in Western Oregon is attracting the attention of seismologists who say that the rising ground could be the beginnings of a volcano or simply magma shifting underground.

Scientists said that the 100 square-mile (260 sq-km) bulge, first discovered by satellite, poses no immediate threat to nearby residents.

"It is perfectly safe for anyone over there," said Michael Lisowski, geophysicist at the United States Geological Survey's Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Washington.

The bulge is rising at a rate of about 1.4 inches per year, according to a report issued by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The bulge is located in a sparsely populated area 3 miles southwest of South Sister, a mountain 25 miles west of Bend, Oregon.

Lisowski said the unnamed bulge was created because of a big cavity, estimated to be about 4.5 miles below the surface, that is filling with fluid.

The fluid is likely magma, but could also be water. It was described in the report as a lake 1 mile across and 65 feet deep.

The bulge is a bare patch of land with no residents, and anyone in the area would not be able to see, feel or smell anything, seismologists said.

South Sister is one of three volcanic peaks called The Three Sisters, which are part of the Cascade mountain range. The range includes four of the 18 most active volcanoes in the United States, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The South Sister probably erupted last time about 2,000 years ago, seismologists said.

Further north, the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens killed 57 people, destroyed at least 230 square miles of forest and spewed ash for hundreds of miles.

Mount St. Helens has rumbled back to life recently, spitting lava, rocks and ash, but has not had another big eruption.

A lava dome is growing in the huge crater created in Mount St. Helens, but that event appears to be unrelated to the South Sister bulge, seismologists said.

"Growth of the new lava dome inside the crater of Mount St. Helens continues, accompanied by low rates of seismicity, low emissions of steam and volcanic gases, and minor production of ash," the U.S. Geological Survey said in a daily report.

Scientists said they would continue to monitor the bulge, most likely over a number of years.

"We haven't seen anything like this in the Cascade range," Lisowski says, "although we have only been looking in the last 20 years."

Comment: So, the building of the lava dome at Mt St Helen's in compeltely unrelated to the growing magma bulge. And, we suppose, that these two events are completely unrelated to the increased activity all around the Ring of Fire in the last year, activity such as the increasing strength of earthquakes hitting Japan, the tsunami in Southeast Asia, and the awakening of volcanoes in Latin America, Alaska, and Siberia.

It's all unrelated. Really.

Click here to comment on this article

Most distant cosmic blast sighted

Astronomers have witnessed the most distant cosmic explosion on record: a gamma-ray burst that has come from the edge of the visible Universe.

Gamma-ray bursts are intense flares of high-energy radiation that appear without warning from across the cosmos.

They can release as much energy in a few minutes as our Sun will emit in its expected 10-billion-year lifetime.

The blast was observed by the Swift space telescope and by a number of ground-based observatories.

The latest, record gamma-ray burst was detected on 4 September, 2005, and lasted about three minutes. It probably marked the death of a massive star as it collapsed into a black hole.

It has a so-called redshift of 6.29, which translates to a distance of about 13 billion light-years from Earth.

Used by astronomers to measure cosmic distances, redshift refers to the extent to which light is shifted towards the red part of the electromagnetic spectrum during its long journey across the Universe. The greater the distance, the higher the redshift.

Record distance

"This burst smashes the old distance record by 500 million light-years," said Dr Daniel Reichart, of the University of North Carolina, US, who has been leading the measurement of its distance.

Professor Keith Mason, chief executive of the UK's Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PParc), which helped fund Swift, commented: "This is an amazing result that will enable us to find out more about stars from near the beginning of time."

By studying objects at this distance, astronomers are looking into the Universe's early times. The burst comes from an era soon after stars and galaxies first formed, about one billion years after the Big Bang.

Dr Nial Tanvir, of the University of Hertfordshire, UK, who is an investigator on the Swift mission, said the telescope could yet spot more distant bursts hailing from even earlier stages in the Universe's evolution.

"I think you could see them just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang. We don't know whether there were any stars at that time, but we should be able to see them at that distance if there were," he told the BBC News website. [...]

Click here to comment on this article

Israel general 'avoids UK arrest'

The former head of Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip has told how he dodged arrest on war crimes charges after receiving a tip-off at Heathrow.

Major General Doron Almog is accused of breaching international laws during Israel's occupation of the Gaza Strip.

He said he had flown straight home after the Israeli military attache had warned him not to leave his El Al jet.

Lawyers acting for the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said a UK court had issued a warrant for his arrest.

Solicitors Hickman and Rose said the 54-year-old had been due to be arrested on suspicion of committing a breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention 1949, which is a criminal offence in the UK under the Geneva Conventions Act 1957.

Senior District Judge Timothy Workman had given the police authority to detain Maj Gen Almog during a hearing at Bow Street Magistrates' Court in central London, the law firm added.

The warrant relates to the bulldozing of more than 50 houses in the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, when Maj Gen Almog was head of Israel's Southern Command.

It was seen as retaliation for an assault by Islamic militants on an Israeli Army post that left four soldiers dead.

Also under Maj Gen Almog's command, Israel dropped a one-ton bomb on a Hamas leader's home, killing the man, an assistant and 14 civilians, nine of them children.

Maj Gen Almog said he had arrived at Heathrow for a three-day visit to raise money for a centre in Israel for brain-damaged children.

"We were about to get off the plane, then one of the stewards came up to me and said the pilot asked that I disembark last," he told Israeli Army Radio.

"After some time, the chief steward said the Israeli military attache was on his way and wanted to speak to me.

"I phoned him and he told me not to get off the plane."

He and his wife had remained on the plane and flown back to Israel on its return, Maj Gen Almog added.

Any Israeli officer could now be arrested in Britain simply for having performed their duty, he said.

"They could do this tomorrow to any officer who has served in the Israeli army over the past five years and has fought the hard fight against terror."

But former legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry Robbie Sable said it was unlikely Maj Gen Almog would have been arrested.

"Courts in organised countries do not act on malicious litigation and this was definitely malicious litigation," he added.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it was taking the incident seriously and seeking clarification from British authorities.

Officials at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv refused to comment.

Click here to comment on this article

Investigation urged after Israeli officer avoids arrest
Vikram Dodd and Conal Urquhart in Nes Ziona
Tuesday September 13, 2005
The Guardian

Scotland Yard was urged yesterday to launch a criminal investigation into officials at the Israeli embassy in London who helped a retired Israeli general wanted in Britain for war crimes to escape arrest. Doron Almog arrived on Sunday at Heathrow for a private visit to the UK. Unknown to him, a British court had issued a warrant for his arrest for war crimes on Saturday and detectives were waiting at the airport.

Mr Almog told the Guardian yesterday that, as he prepared to leave the plane, he was advised to wait by the cabin crew. Israel's military attache in London then arrived on the plane to inform him that he faced arrest. Mr Almog stayed on the El Al plane until it flew back to Israel.

The 53-year-old former general told the Guardian: "I don't know how he [the military attache] found out but I am glad he did. It was also fortunate that I was flying with El Al as they are loyal. I don't know what would have happened if I had been on a British Airways flight."

The war crimes arrest warrant was issued over allegations that Mr Almog ordered the destruction of 59 civilian homes in Gaza, in breach of the Geneva convention. Yesterday a lawyer representing the alleged Palestinian victims demanded that police investigate the actions of Israeli diplomats in aiding Mr Almog's hasty departure. Daniel Machover said Israeli officials had been involved in "calculated interference" in thwarting British justice. "There needs to be a criminal investigation of the actions taken by Israeli embassy staff. They are not located here to assist Israelis to evade British justice," he said.

Mr Machover also called for a police inquiry into how the information was leaked to the Israeli embassy and how the Israeli diplomat got through various layers of security at Heathrow to board the plane and warn Mr Almog.

Amnesty International criticised British police yesterday for failing to execute the warrant. "He could have been arrested; under UK law there is no reason for not arresting him once he's on UK soil," the human rights group said. Mr Almog was due to visit Jewish communities in Birmingham, Leicester and London to raise money for a centre for disabled children. His son Eran, 20, is severely disabled.

He said that neither he nor his country had any case to answer for the deaths of innocent Palestinians in their battle against militants. "As a soldier and a general I have never committed a crime. Many times I have saved Palestinian lives by risking my life and the lives of my soldiers," he said. The actions of the army in Gaza were to prevent terrorist attacks against Israel, he said. Mr Almog was head of Israel's southern command during the second intifada between 2000 and 2003.

He said he had no intention of returning to Britain to defend himself in court. "This is not about me versus the British legal system, it is against the state of Israel," he said. Scotland Yard refused to answer any questions, including why detectives failed to board the plane to arrest Mr Almog, whether there was any investigation into the role of Israeli diplomats in helping him evade capture at the airport.

"We are not prepared to discuss at this stage anything to do with this episode," said a spokesman for Scotland Yard.

Click here to comment on this article

The Lethal Dinner
Who Murdered Arafat?

September 13, 2005

Last week the Haaretz headline screamed: "Doctors: Arafat died of AIDS or poisoning". AIDS appeared in first place.

For dozens of years, the Israeli media has conducted, with government inspiration, a concentrated campaign against the Palestinian leader (with the sole exception of Haolam Hazeh, the news magazine I edited). Millions of words of hatred and demonization were poured on him, more than on any other person of his generation. If somebody thought that this would end after his death, he was mistaken. This article, signed by Avi Isasharof and Amos Harel, is a direct continuation of this smear campaign.

The key word is, of course, "Aids". Throughout the long article there is no trace of proof for this allegation. The reporters quote "sources in the Israeli security establishment". They also quote Israeli doctors "who heard from French doctors" - an original method for medical diagnosis. A respected Israeli professor even found conclusive proof: it was not published that Arafat had undergone an Aids test. True, a Tunisian medical team did test him in Ramallah and the result was negative, but who would believe Arabs?

Haaretz knows, of course, how to protect itself. Somewhere in the article, far away from the sensational headline, there appear the nine words: "The possibility that Arafat had Aids is not high". So Haaretz is alright. In army parlance, its ass is covered. By comparison, the New York Times, which published a similar story on the same day, treated the Aids allegation with contempt.

There is a very simple proof for the spuriousness of the allegation: if it had even the most tenuous basis in fact, the huge propaganda apparatus of the Israeli government and the Jewish establishment throughout the world would have trumpeted it from the rooftops, instead of waiting for 10 months. But, as matter of fact, there is no evidence whatsoever. More than that, the writers themselves are compelled to admit that Arafat's symptoms are completely incompatible with the picture of Aids.

So what did he die of?

Since taking part in his tumultuous funeral in Ramallah, I have abstained from giving my opinion on the cause of his death. I am not a doctor, and my dozens of years as editor of an investigative news magazine have taught me not to voice allegations which I am unable to prove in court.

But, since now all dikes have been breached, I am prepared to say what is on my mind: from the first moment, I was sure that Arafat had been poisoned.

Most of the doctors interviewed by Haaretz testified that the symptoms point towards poisoning, and, in fact, are incompatible with any other cause. The report of the French doctors, who treated Arafat during the last two weeks of his life, states that no known cause for his death was discovered. True, the tests did not find any traces of poison in his body - but the tests were conducted only for the usual poisons. It is no secret that many intelligence services in the world have developed poisons that cannot be detected at all, or whose traces disappear in a very short time.

Some years ago, Israeli agents poisoned the Hamas chief Khaled Mash'al with a slight prick in a main street of Amman. His life was saved only because King Hussein demanded that Israel immediately provide the antidote. (As a further indemnity, Binyamin Netanyahu agreed to the release from prison of another Hamas chief, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, who was assassinated several years after his return to Gaza by more conventional means - an airborne missile.)

In the absence of symptoms of any known disease, and since clear indications of poisoning were present, the highest probability is that Yasser Arafat was indeed poisoned while having dinner four hours before the first symptoms appeared.

I can testify that the security arrangements around the Ra'is were very lax. At each of my dozens of meetings with him in different countries I was always amazed at the ease with which a potential assassin could have done his job. Protection was always casual, especially compared to the way Israeli Prime Ministers are guarded. He often had his meals in the company of strangers, he embraced his visitors. Associates report that he frequently accepted sweets from strangers and also took medicines from visitors, swallowing them on the spot. After surviving dozens of assassination attempts, and even an airplane accident, he had come to adopt a fatalistic attitude, "it's all in the hands of Allah". I think that in his heart of hearts he really believed that Allah would preserve him until the completion of his historic mission.

If he was poisoned - by whom was he poisoned?

First suspicion falls, of course, on the Israeli security establishment. Indeed, Ariel Sharon declared on several occasions that he intended to kill him. The subject came up in cabinet meetings. Twice during the last years my friends and I were so convinced that this was imminent, that we went to the Mukata'ah in Ramallah to serve as a "human shield" for him. We were convinced that the murder of Arafat would cause much harm to Israel. In one of his interviews, Sharon stated that our presence there had prevented his liquidation.

Truth is that Sharon abstained from killing Arafat mostly because the Americans forbade it. They were afraid that the murder would arouse a huge storm in the Arab world and exacerbate anti-American terrorism. But this interdiction may have applied only to an overt act.

The Mash'al affair proves that the Israeli intelligence services have the means to poison people without leaving any trace. The poisoning was discovered only because the perpetrators were caught in flagrante.

However, a probability, high as it may be, is not proof. At the moment, there is no proof that Arafat was indeed poisoned by the Israeli services.

But if not the Israelis, who? The US intelligence services also have the necessary capabilities. President Bush never hid his hatred for Arafat, an obstinate leader who did not submit to his dictates. He was quick to embrace Mahmoud Abbas. Even now, American emissaries who visit the Mukata'ah pointedly abstain from putting wreaths on the grave of the Ra'is in the courtyard.

But American interests, too, do not constitute proof. One can think of several other suspects, even in the Arab world.

Did Arafat's death benefit Sharon?

On the face of it, no. As long as Arafat was alive, American support for Israel was unlimited. But since his death, President Bush has been going out of his way to support his successor. The dismal American debacle in Iraq compels Bush to look for achievements elsewhere in the "Broader Middle East". He presents Mahmoud Abbas as a symbol of the new winds blowing through the Arab and Muslim world as a result of American policy. In order to convince the Palestinian public to support Abbas, Bush is putting pressure on Sharon of a new sort. Perhaps Sharon is secretly longing for the good old days of Arafat, when life was simple and an enemy dressed the part.

But a person who wants - as Sharon surely does - to break the Palestinian people into pieces and prevent at any cost the establishment of a viable State of Palestine, can only be happy with the demise of Arafat, who united the entire Palestinian people. He had the moral authority to impose order, and he enforced it by empathy and force, human wisdom and tricks, threats and seduction.

There are many people in Israel who hoped that without him the Palestinian society would break apart, that anarchy would destroy its very foundations, that armed factions would kill each other and the national leadership. They are certainly glad that Arafat is dead and pray for the failure of Mahmoud Abbas.

Arafat assured me once that we would both see peace in our lifetime. He was prevented from seeing the day. He who caused this - whoever he is - has sinned not only against the Palestinian people, but also against peace, and therefore against Israel.

Click here to comment on this article

PM says video proves point
By Brendan Nicholson, Farrah Tomazin and Michael Gawenda
The Age
September 13, 2005

A VIDEO claiming that Melbourne will be the target of an al-Qaeda attack reinforced the need for tough terrorism laws, according to Prime Minister John Howard.

But he said the man featured in the video had made similar threats before and not delivered. He urged the people of Melbourne not to be put off attending events such as the Commonwealth Games.

Comment: So, we need tough terrorism laws because people who have made terrorist threats have not followed through...

The State Government yesterday urged Victorians to remain calm after Melbourne and Los Angeles were named on the video televised on ABC News in America at the weekend as the next possible terrorist targets. Attorney-General Philip Ruddock told Parliament that intelligence agencies examining the video believed it was authentic, but he said that did not mean its message was anything more than rhetoric.

The masked speaker on the video is believed to be Adam Gadahn, of southern California, who threatens attacks on the two cities, "Allah willing," and warns that the attackers will show no compassion.

"Yesterday, London and Madrid. Tomorrow, Los Angeles and Melbourne," he says.

"We love peace, but peace on our terms."

Gadahn, who apparently converted to Islam at an Orange County mosque as a teenager, was believed to have been the young American who appeared in another threatening tape about year ago.

Premier Steve Bracks said he was confident that Melbourne was well equipped to deal with a potential attack - if the video threat was genuine.

He also ruled out increasing security that had already been planned for major events because the existing arrangements were "second to none".

"This video is designed to instil fear," he said. "That's what it's designed to do, and of course, we would be playing into the hands of the people who perpetrated this media exercise … if all of a sudden, we said yes, we're fearful."

Comment: And yet, the whole point of passing terrorism laws is to use the fear instilled in the population to destroy any resistance to the fascist legislation... The message from the government to the people seems to be, "Be afraid, and let us take all your rights away, but pretend you're not afraid". In other words, the people are exposed to a double dose of denial: first, they are supposed to deny that the government could ever fake the whole terrorist threat for their own benefit; and second, they are intended to deny that they are afraid, when the truth is the exact opposite.

"The reality is we have very sound, secure, security arrangements in place."

Federal Opposition Leader Kim Beazley said the Government was wrong to rely on tougher laws when practical steps were needed to stop terrorists launching an attack on Melbourne by hijacking aircraft at regional airports.

In New York for the United Nations world summit, Mr Howard said Australia had clearly been a terrorist target long before the September 11, 2001, attacks. No Government could credibly guarantee there would be no terrorist attack.

"But we can commit ourselves, as we have done, to do everything we can to strengthen our domestic capacity to stop terrorist attacks occurring in the first place," he said.

Mr Howard said such threats were not going to stop the Commonwealth Games.

"The best response to things like this is to redouble our protective efforts, which we are doing, but also to get on with life, which we are also doing."

Comment: Obviously, no government on the planet could credibly guarantee there will be no terrorist attacks unless they had total and complete control over the population, which is exactly where Australia, the US, and many other nations around the world seem to be heading at present.

Click here to comment on this article

Two Plead Not Guilty to Terrorism Charges
Associated Press
Mon Sep 12, 5:50 PM ET

SANTA ANA, Calif. - Two men pleaded not guilty Monday to federal charges alleging they planned terrorist attacks against military facilities, the Israeli Consulate and other targets in the Los Angeles area.

Levar Haley Washington, 25, and Gregory Vernon Patterson, 21, were ordered held without bail after their pleas in U.S. District Court.

"In the name of Allah, I plead not guilty," Washington said before U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Nakazato.

Prosecutors contend the plot was orchestrated by Washington, Patterson and Hammad Riaz Samana, 21, at the behest of Kevin James, an inmate of the California State Prison, Sacramento. James founded the radical group Jamiyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh, or JIS.

All four men face counts of conspiracy to wage war against the U.S. government through terrorism, kill armed service members and murder foreign officials, among other charges, according to an indictment

All but Samana are American born and Muslim converts.

Counterterrorism officials have said they found no evidence directly connecting the group to al-Qaida or other foreign terror networks.

Samana, a Pakistani national, pleaded not guilty to federal charges last week. He was imprisoned for attempted robbery in Los Angeles County, prosecutors said.

Washington, Patterson and Samana - who attended the same Inglewood mosque - allegedly conducted surveillance of military sites, synagogues, the Israeli Consulate and El Al airline facilities in the Los Angeles area.

Click here to comment on this article

Britain now faces its own blowback

Intelligence interests may thwart the July bombings investigation
Michael Meacher
The Guardian
Saturday September 10, 2005

The videotape of the suicide bomber Mohammad Sidique Khan has switched the focus of the London bombings away from the establishment view of brainwashed, murderous individuals and highlighted a starker political reality. While there can be no justification for horrific killings of this kind, they need to be understood against the ferment of the last decade radicalising Muslim youth of Pakistani origin living in Europe.

During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, the US funded large numbers of jihadists through Pakistan's secret intelligence service, the ISI. Later the US wanted to raise another jihadi corps, again using proxies, to help Bosnian Muslims fight to weaken the Serb government's hold on Yugoslavia. Those they turned to included Pakistanis in Britain.

According to a recent report by the Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, a contingent was also sent by the Pakistani government, then led by Benazir Bhutto, at the request of the Clinton administration. This contingent was formed from the Harkat-ul-Ansar (HUA) terrorist group and trained by the ISI. The report estimates that about 200 Pakistani Muslims living in the UK went to Pakistan, trained in HUA camps and joined the HUA's contingent in Bosnia. Most significantly, this was "with the full knowledge and complicity of the British and American intelligence agencies".

As the 2002 Dutch government report on Bosnia makes clear, the US provided a green light to groups on the state department list of terrorist organisations, including the Lebanese-based Hizbullah, to operate in Bosnia - an episode that calls into question the credibility of the subsequent "war on terror".

For nearly a decade the US helped Islamist insurgents linked to Chechnya, Iran and Saudi Arabia destabilise the former Yugoslavia. The insurgents were also allowed to move further east to Kosovo. By the end of the fighting in Bosnia there were tens of thousands of Islamist insurgents in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo; many then moved west to Austria, Germany and Switzerland.

Less well known is evidence of the British government's relationship with a wider Islamist terrorist network. During an interview on Fox TV this summer, the former US federal prosecutor John Loftus reported that British intelligence had used the al-Muhajiroun group in London to recruit Islamist militants with British passports for the war against the Serbs in Kosovo. Since July Scotland Yard has been interested in an alleged member of al-Muhajiroun, Haroon Rashid Aswat, who some sources have suggested could have been behind the London bombings.

According to Loftus, Aswat was detained in Pakistan after leaving Britain, but was released after 24 hours. He was subsequently returned to Britain from Zambia, but has been detained solely for extradition to the US, not for questioning about the London bombings. Loftus claimed that Aswat is a British-backed double agent, pursued by the police but protected by MI6.

One British Muslim of Pakistani origin radicalised by the civil war in Yugoslavia was LSE-educated Omar Saeed Sheikh. He is now in jail in Pakistan under sentence of death for the killing of the US journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002 - although many (including Pearl's widow and the US authorities) doubt that he committed the murder. However, reports from Pakistan suggest that Sheikh continues to be active from jail, keeping in touch with friends and followers in Britain.

Sheikh was recruited as a student by Jaish-e-Muhammad (Army of Muhammad), which operates a network in Britain. It has actively recruited Britons from universities and colleges since the early 1990s, and has boasted of its numerous British Muslim volunteers. Investigations in Pakistan have suggested that on his visits there Shehzad Tanweer, one of the London suicide bombers, contacted members of two outlawed local groups and trained at two camps in Karachi and near Lahore. Indeed the network of groups now being uncovered in Pakistan may point to senior al-Qaida operatives having played a part in selecting members of the bombers' cell. The Observer Research Foundation has argued that there are even "grounds to suspect that the [London] blasts were orchestrated by Omar Sheikh from his jail in Pakistan".

Why then is Omar Sheikh not being dealt with when he is already under sentence of death? Astonishingly his appeal to a higher court against the sentence was adjourned in July for the 32nd time and has since been adjourned indefinitely. This is all the more remarkable when this is the same Omar Sheikh who, at the behest of General Mahmood Ahmed, head of the ISI, wired $100,000 to Mohammed Atta, the leading 9/11 hijacker, before the New York attacks, as confirmed by Dennis Lormel, director of FBI's financial crimes unit.

Yet neither Ahmed nor Omar appears to have been sought for questioning by the US about 9/11. Indeed, the official 9/11 Commission Report of July 2004 sought to downplay the role of Pakistan with the comment: "To date, the US government has not been able to determine the origin of the money used for the 9/11 attacks. Ultimately the question is of little practical significance" - a statement of breathtaking disingenuousness.

All this highlights the resistance to getting at the truth about the 9/11 attacks and to an effective crackdown on the forces fomenting terrorist bombings in the west, including Britain. The extraordinary US forbearance towards Omar Sheikh, its restraint towards the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, Dr AQ Khan, selling nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea, the huge US military assistance to Pakistan and the US decision last year to designate Pakistan as a major non-Nato ally in south Asia all betoken a deeper strategic set of goals as the real priority in its relationship with Pakistan. These might be surmised as Pakistan providing sizeable military contingents for Iraq to replace US troops, or Pakistani troops replacing Nato forces in Afghanistan. Or it could involve the use of Pakistani military bases for US intervention in Iran, or strengthening Pakistan as a base in relation to India and China.

Whether the hunt for those behind the London bombers can prevail against these powerful political forces remains to be seen. Indeed it may depend on whether Scotland Yard, in its attempts to uncover the truth, can prevail over MI6, which is trying to cover its tracks and in practice has every opportunity to operate beyond the law under the cover of national security.

Michael Meacher is the Labour MP for Oldham West and Royton; he was environment minister from 1997 to 2003.

Click here to comment on this article

Ending Tyranny, The Bush Way
By Frida Berrigan
September 13, 2005

The U.S. has a long-standing (and accelerating) policy of arming, training and aiding some of the world's most repressive regimes.

As insecurity mounts from Najaf to New Orleans, more weapons and high-tech military equipment are flowing into some of the globe's most vulnerable and war-torn regions.

The Congressional Research Service recently found that global arms sales rose to $37 billion in 2004 -- the highest level since 2000. U.S. companies such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing rang up $12.4 billion in weapons contracts -- more than one-third of the total and more than twice what Russia -- the second largest exporter -- sold. The Departments of State, Commerce and Defense are all involved in different aspects of approving licenses, managing logistics and (in many cases) loaning or granting funds to nations as they seek weapons from U.S. corporations.

The findings, published in the annual "Conventional Weapons Transfers to Developing Nations" report, were released against the backdrop of the global war on terror in which many countries are increasing military spending as insecurity rises. They also came in the wake of rampant and irresponsible use of guns in the hurricane-ravaged Southeast that hindered aid delivery, increased tension and led to more misery and suffering.

The U.S. has a long-standing (and accelerating) policy of arming, training and aiding some of the world's most repressive regimes. Close anti-terrorism allies include the authoritarian Uzbekistan and the thinly veiled military dictatorship of Gen. Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan. In the Philippines, Colombia and elsewhere, U.S. weapons and military training have been turned against civilians. From Indonesia to the Sudan, U.S. geopolitical interests and access to resources are trumping concerns about human rights, ongoing conflict and the pressing need for development.

The U.S. transfers more weapons and military services than any other country in the world. In the last decade, the U.S. sold $177.5 billion in arms to foreign nations. In 2003, the last year for which full data is available, the Pentagon and State Department delivered or licensed the delivery of $5.7 billion in weaponry to countries which can ill afford advanced weaponry -- nations in the developing world saddled with debt and struggling with poverty.

Despite having some of the world's strongest laws regulating the arms trade, almost half of these weapons went to countries plagued with ongoing conflict and governed by undemocratic regimes with poor human rights records. In 2003, $2.7 billion in weaponry went to governments deemed undemocratic by the U.S. State Department's Human Rights Report, in the sense that citizens of those nations "did not have a meaningful right to change their government" in a peaceful manner. Another $97.4 million in weapons went to governments deemed by the State Department to have "poor" human rights records.

The U.S. transferred weaponry to 18 of the 25 countries involved in active conflicts in 2003, the last year for which full Pentagon data is available. From Chad to Ethiopia, from Algeria to India, transfers to conflict nations through the two largest arms sales programs totaled more than $1 billion. When poor human rights records, serious patterns of abuse and histories of conflict are all factored in, 20 of the top 25 U.S. arms clients in the developing world in 2003 -- a full 80 percent -- were either undemocratic regimes or governments with records of major human rights abuses.

That's unacceptable. It's time that President Bush begin to honor his pledge to "end tyranny in our world" as part of the war on terrorism by overhauling U.S. weapons transfer policy. Greater global security will follow.

Frida Berrigan is a Foreign Policy In Focus scholar and a senior research associate with the Arms Trade Resource Center, a project of the World Policy Institute. This article originally appeared in the Star-Telegram.

Click here to comment on this article

With time running out, negotiators scramble to reach agreement for UN summit
07:40 AM EDT Sep 13

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Negotiators met into the early hours Tuesday to try to reach agreement on a watered-down plan for reforming the United Nations, having abandoned many of the sweeping changes UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommended.

With some heads of state already in New York for Wednesday's opening of a three-day UN summit, the diplomats were running out of time for producing a substantive document for world leaders to adopt.

Among those attending is Prime Minister Paul Martin, who is expected to travel to New York before the 2005 World Summit officially begins Wednesday.

Mark Malloch Brown, the secretary-general's chief of staff, said negotiations seemed more favourable than a few days ago because "deadlines are starting to loosen minds and positions."

"There's a threshold where we always knew we wouldn't get the full loaf," he said. "We've got to start counting slices. Half or more will do at this stage."

But Germany's UN Ambassador Gunter Pleuger said late Monday that the divisions made it impossible to get "the great reform" at this late date. Instead, he expected either "a watered-down version" of the present 39-page text or "a shorter, more political text."

"It's tough going, sometimes rough going," said Pakistan's UN Ambassador Munir Akram.

Annan says the United Nations needs revamping if it is to meet the challenges of the 21st century. He came out with a list of recommendations in March that General Assembly President Jean Ping turned into a draft summit document in June. It has gone through numerous drafts.

The seven issues facing negotiators were terrorism; a stronger Human Rights Council to replace the discredited Human Rights Commission; a new Peacebuilding Commission to help countries emerging from conflict; new responsibility for governments to protect civilians from genocide and war crimes; disarmament and nuclear weapons proliferation; overhauling UN management; and the promotion of economic development.

Annan also had urged the 191 UN member states to agree on a plan to expand the powerful UN Security Council, but the negotiations became so contentious the idea was shelved last month.

Akram said the negotiators, ambassadors from 15 countries, had agreed to language on terrorism, the Peacebuilding Commission and on human rights. Negotiators were also close to agreement on the responsibility to protect, but still differed on management reforms, trade and climate change, he said.

The Pakistani ambassador said he expected a larger group of 32 countries to make a judgment Tuesday on whether the entire text is sufficiently balanced to be presented to all 191 UN members, "and then in the larger group our hope is that nobody will pull it apart."

Many of the agreements were reached by leaving the most contentious issues to further negotiations.

The latest language on the Human Rights Council, for example, eliminates a two-thirds requirement for membership and steps to consider making the council a permanent UN organ.

Egyptian Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz said it was too early to decide the council's status. "Let us give it a chance to function, and then we will review it," he said.

His country favours a council that would be a subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly.

Germany's Pleuger said that in hindsight, member states underestimated the amount of preparatory work needed to reach consensus.

The negotiating process also was thrown into disarray when United States submitted hundreds of amendments a few weeks ago, he said.

"We have reached a fork in the road," Annan warned member states. "If you, the political leaders of the world's nations, cannot reach agreement on the way forward, history will take the decisions for you, and the interests of your peoples may go by default."

Click here to comment on this article

11 Ohio children found locked in cages
www.chinaview.cn 2005-09-13 14:54:06

BEIJING, Sept. 13 (Xinhuanet) -- Police in northern Ohio on Monday have found 11 children locked in cages less than three-and-a-half feet high inside a home, but the parents told authorities they kept the kids in locked cages for their own protection.

  The children, ages 1 to 14, were found locked in nine cages built into the walls of the house near the small US city of Wakeman in northern Ohio, according to the Huron County Sheriff's Office. They had no blankets or pillows, and the cages were rigged with alarms that sounded if opened, said Lt. Randy Sommers.

The children told authorities they slept in the cages - 40 inches high and 40 inches deep - at night. Doors to some of the cages were blocked with heavy furniture.

Shortly after being found, the children were sent to Fisher-Titus Medical Center in Norwalk, where they were listed in good condition.

The children's parents, Mike and Sharon Gravelle, had 11 children in all, according to authorities.

The couple were reserved when deputies arrived at the house to remove the children, Sommers said.

"The impression that we got was that they felt it was OK," he said.

Investigators believe nine of the children slept in the cages that were stacked two-high on the house's second story. Two mattresses on a bedroom floor also showed signs of recent use, Sommers said.

One of the boys said he'd slept in the cage for three years, Sommers said.

Police said no charges had been filed against the parents.

"Basically, the parents thought they were providing for the protection of the children from themselves and from each other," said Sommers.

"They thought there was circumstances with these children that warranted the cages at night," Sommers added, but he would not go into details of what those circumstances were.

Click here to comment on this article

'Hundreds' may pose terror threat, says Clarke
Rosalind Ryan and agencies
Tuesday September 13, 2005

Charles Clarke said today that hundreds of terror suspects were being closely watched in Britain and there was "no doubt" that the London bombers had links with foreign terrorists.

The home secretary said that the extent of those connections - and whether they constitued a line of command - was still being investigated.

Mr Clarke was answering questions from the home affairs select committee of cross-party MPs about the July 7 suicide bombings in London, which killed 52 innocent victims, and the attempted attacks of July 21.

As the special session continues, the Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Ian Blair is due to be questioned by the committee this afternoon over the controversial "shoot-to-kill" policy for dealing with suspected suicide bombers.

When asked about the link between British and foreign terrorists, Mr Clarke replied: "There is no doubt of a series of international relationships that were engaged in. The extent to which there was some kind of command and control we don't know at the moment, but we are trying to find out precisely what that relationship is."

In particular, the video message left by one of the suicide bombers, Mohammad Sidique Khan, was being closely analysed for clues about where it was produced and by whom, and how it was distributed, the home secretary said.

Mr Clarke was asked whether he stood by the prime minister's statement earlier this year that hundreds of people were plotting attacks in the country.

He said: "There are certainly hundreds of individuals who we have been watching very closely and continue to watch extremely closely.

"The word plotting is an interesting word. There are certainly hundreds of people who we believe need to be very closely surveyed because of the threat they offer."

He was also questioned over whether there had been any intelligence failings before the attacks. Mr Clarke said the government had intelligence, but no specific knowledge, of the bombings.

"Intelligence is not knowledge," he said. "It is an effort to understand the threats we face by a variety of different techniques ... We didn't know, but we try and acquire the best possible knowledge that we can."

Mr Clarke also revealed that Britain has strengthened links with overseas intelligence organisations and security resources at home had been increased since the July 7 attacks.

Sir Ian Blair faces questions over the "shoot-to-kill" policy, but will not be forced to reveal details of the fatal shooting of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes because the case is before the courts.

Click here to comment on this article

LA urges calm amid terror threat, power outage
www.chinaview.cn 2005-09-13 13:43:30

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 12 (Xinhuanet) -- Officials in Los Angeles Monday urged residents to remain calm in the wake of a widespread power outage, just one day after a man believed to be affiliated with al-Qaida vowed attacks against the city.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa asked residents to "remain vigilant" and said there was no credible terrorist threat against Los Angeles, despite the videotaped message from an al-Qaida operative.

"We must remain vigilant," Villaraigosa said at a news conference earlier in the afternoon. "There have been no acts of terrorism committed by al-Qaida in this country in the last four years, but we're all very clear that it's within the realm of possibility."

Authorities discovered a videotaped message Sunday believed to be from a former Southern California resident who is now affiliated with al-Qaida.

"Yesterday, London and Madrid. Tomorrow, Los Angeles and Melbourne, Allah willing," said the bespectacled man identified as Adam Gadahn, who wore a black turban and masked most of his face with a black scarf.

"And this time, don't count on us demonstrating restraint or compassion," the man warned in the video.

In a separate development, city maintenance workers accidentally cut a power line earlier in the day, sparking a widespread electrical outage that affected half the city, snarling traffic and trapping dozens of people in elevators.

The power outage occurred soon after 12:30 p.m. local time (0430 GMT), stalling businesses around the city and prompting the closure of all of the city's public libraries.

Although there were no reports of any injuries associated with the outage, the power was off long enough to clog traffic at busy intersections suddenly left without traffic control, police said.

A spokesman of the Los Angeles Fire Department said firefighters responded to several dozen calls from stuck elevators.

City utility officials and police quickly stressed that the outage involved "no terrorism or foul play."

Mayor Villaraigosa said the outage was caused solely by human error, though he recognized the timing of the problem, after the videotape release and near the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, prompted some early concern.

The mayor said Los Angeles, the second biggest city in the United States, remains a top terrorist target despite the fact that there is no credible threat against it at this time.

He said he and Los Angeles Police Department chief William Bratton have requested more anti-terrorism funding from state and federal officials.

Meanwhile, an official of the FBI's local office said Monday that Los Angeles is safe for now, but urged residents to be aware of their surroundings.

Click here to comment on this article

Roberts Sidesteps Landmark Abortion Ruling
Associated Press Writer
Sep 13 9:52 AM US/Eastern

WASHINGTON - Supreme Court nominee John Roberts on Tuesday declined to discuss his views on the landmark 1973 ruling on abortion but said the concept of legal precedent is a "very important consideration."

On the second day of his confirmation hearings, President Bush's choice for the nation's 17th chief justice said that as of 1992, when the Supreme Court ruled in Casey v. Planned Parenthood, the high court has emphasized the principles that had been settled for years.

"It's entitled to respect under those principles," Roberts said.

Moderate Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the Judiciary Committee chairman, immediately questioned Roberts about the divisive issue of abortion.

"I think it is a jolt to the legal system when you overturn precedent," Roberts said. "It is not enough that you may think that a prior decision was wrongly decided."

In his writings, Roberts has argued that the Roe v. Wade decision by the high court had been wrongly decided.

The federal appeals judge declined to specifically discuss the abortion rights case, saying that there are abortion-related cases on the court's docket. The next term begins Oct. 3.

Click here to comment on this article

Retreating Glaciers Worrying Greenlanders
Associated Press
Sat Sep 10, 3:26 PM ET

ILULISSAT, Greenland - The gargantuan chunks of ice breaking off the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier and thundering into an Arctic fjord make a spectacular sight. But to Greenlanders it is also deeply worrisome.

The frequency and size of the icefalls are a powerful reminder that the frozen sheet covering the world's largest island is thinning - a glaring sign of global warming, scientists say.

"In the past we could walk on the ice in the fjord between the icebergs for a six-month period during the winter, drill holes and fish," said Joern Kristensen, a fisherman and one of the indigenous Inuit who are most of Greenland's population of 56,000.

"We can only do that for a month or two now. It has become more difficult to drive dog sleds because the ice between the icebergs isn't solid anymore."

In 2002-2003, a six-mile-long stretch of the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier broke off and drifted silently out of the fjord near Ilulissat, Greenland's third largest town, 155 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

Although Greenland, three times the size of Texas, is the prime example, scientists say the effects of climate change are noticeable throughout the Arctic region, from the northward spread of spruce beetles in Canada to melting permafrost in Alaska and northern Russia.

Indigenous people, who for centuries have adapted their lives to the cold, fear that even small and gradual changes could have a profound impact.

"We can see a trend that the fall is getting longer and wetter," said Lars-Anders Baer, a political leader of Sweden's Sami, a once nomadic, reindeer-herding people.

"If the climate gets warmer, it is probably bad for the reindeer. New species (of plants) come in and suffocate other plants that are the main food for the reindeer," he said.

Rising temperatures are also a concern in the Yamalo-Nenets region in Western Siberia, said Alexandr Navyukhov, 49. He is an ethnic Nenet, a group that lives mostly off hunting, fishing and deer-breeding.

"We now have bream in our river, which we didn't have in the past because that fish is typical of warmer regions," he said. "On the one hand it may look like good news, but bream are predatory fish that prey upon fish eggs, often of rare kinds of fish."

Melting permafrost has damaged hundreds of buildings, railway lines, airport runways and gas pipelines in Russia, according to the 2004 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment commissioned by the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental body.

Research also shows that populations of turbot, Atlantic cod and snow crab are no longer found in some parts of the Bering Sea, an important fishing zone between Alaska and Russia, and that flooding along the Lena River, one of Siberia's biggest, has increased with warming temperatures.

In Greenland, Anthon Utuaq, a 68-year-old retired hunter, worries that a warmer climate will make it harder for his son to continue the family trade.

"Maybe it will be difficult for him to find the seals," Utuaq said, resting on a bench in the east coast town of Kulusuk. "They will head north to colder places if it gets warmer."

Arctic sea ice has decreased by about 8 percent, or more than 380,000 square miles, over the past 30 years.

In Sisimiut, Greenland's second largest town, lakes have doubled in size in the last decade.

"Greenland was perceived as this huge solid place that would never melt," said Robert Corell of the American Meteorological Society, a Boston-based scientific organization. "The evidence is now so strong that the scientific community is convinced that global warming is the cause."

How much of it is natural and how much is caused by humans burning fossil fuels is sharply debated. Greenland itself endured sharp climate shifts long before fossil fuels were an issue, and sustained Norse settlements for 400 years until the 15th century.

"We know that temperatures have gone up and it's partly caused by man. But let's hold our horses because it's not everywhere that the ice is melting. In the Antarctic, only 1 percent is melting," said Bjoern Lomborg, a Danish researcher and prominent naysayer on the magnitude of the global-warming threat.

What is clear is that the average ocean temperature off Greenland's west coast has risen in recent years - from 38.3 degrees Fahrenheit to 40.6 F - and glaciers have begun to retreat, said Carl Egede Boeggild, a glaciologist with the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, a government agency.

The Sermilik glacier in southern Greenland has retreated nearly seven miles, and the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier near Ilulissat is also shrinking, said Henrik Hoejmark Thomsen of the geological survey.

In 1967, satellite imagery measured it moving 4.3 miles per year. In 2003, the rate was 8.1 miles.

"What exactly happened, we don't know. But it appears to be the effect of climate change," said Hoejmark Thomsen.

In August, the National Science Foundation's Arctic System Science Committee issued a report saying the rate of ice melting in the Arctic is increasing and within a century could for the first time lead to summertime ice-free ocean conditions.

With warmer temperatures, some bacteria, plants and animals could disappear, while others will thrive. Polar bears and other animals that depend on sea ice to breed and forage are at risk, scientists say, and some species could face extinction in a few decades.

The thinning of the sea ice presents a danger to both humans and polar bears, said Peter Ewins, director of Arctic conservation for the World Wildlife Fund Canada.

"The polar bears need to be there to catch enough seals to see them through the summer in open warm water systems. Equally, the Inuit need to be out there on the ice catching seals and are less and less able to do that because the ice is more unstable, thinner," he said.

When NASA started taking satellite images of the Arctic region in the late 1970s and computer technology improved, scientists noted alarming patterns and theorized that the culprit was gases emitted by industries and internal combustion engines to create a "greenhouse effect" of trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Inuit leaders are trying to draw attention to the impact of climate change and pollution.

"When I was a child, the weather used to be more stable. It worries me to see and hear all this," Greenland Premier Hans Enoksen said on the sidelines of a meeting of environmental officials from 23 countries in Ilulissat. The meeting ended with statements of concern - and no action.

The Kyoto Protocol that took effect in February aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But the 140 nations that have signed the pact don't include the United States, which produces one-quarter of the gases.

The Bush administration says participation would severely damage the U.S. economy. Many scientists say that position undermines the whole planet and they point to Greenland as the leading edge of what the globe could suffer.

"Greenland is the canary in a mine shaft alerting us," said Corell, the American meteorologist, standing on the edge of the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier which he is studying. "In the U.S., global warming is a tomorrow issue. ... For us working here, it hits you like a ton of bricks when you see it."

Click here to comment on this article

Beijing, Disney and the Democrats
By Kathleen Hwang
Washington Times
Sep. 13, 2005 at 8:35AM

Chinese Vice President Zeng Qinghong was all smiles at the grand opening of the new Hong Kong Disneyland offering the central government's official blessing.

Against the fairytale backdrop of Sleeping Beauty's Castle, the Communist Party official and guest of honor stood Monday alongside Disney executives Michael Eisner and Bob Iger to cut the red ribbon officially opening the $3 billion theme park.

Also present at the ribbon-cutting was Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang, representing the park's main investor, the Hong Kong government. With a 57 percent stake in Disneyland, the government is counting on the park's magic to lure 5 million tourists to Hong Kong within a year, and double that number by 2020.

The park is projected to earn $19 billion over 40 years.

If the Chinese like it, that is. Most of the tourists are expected to come from mainland China, where people's exposure to Disney films and characters has been limited. The park incorporates feng shui principles into its design and serves mostly Chinese food, in an effort to please local temperament and tastes.

Monday's ceremony featured a lion dance accompanied by Chinese drums and cymbals and speeches in three languages -- Mandarin, English and Cantonese -- as well as Disney characters and songs.

China's vice president seemed pleased. That could be important to Iger, who takes over as Disney's CEO on Sept. 30. If all goes well, Disney hopes to expand the Hong Kong theme park, currently the world's smallest. If all goes very well, there will be movies and merchandise to sell in China, and discussions on opening another theme park in Shanghai in a few years.

It could all lead to a dream come true ... but elsewhere in Hong Kong, a more complex subplot was playing out.

Officiating at the Disneyland opening was the ostensible reason for Zeng's three-day visit to Hong Kong, his first since being appointed in 2003 to oversee the territory's affairs. He took advantage of the opportunity, however, to launch one of the central government's trademark charm offensives at the ever-susceptible people of Hong Kong.

Over the weekend, Zeng visited a popular racecourse, inspected facilities for the 2008 Olympics equestrian events to be held in Hong Kong, and had a friendly chat with Jockey Club executives. He visited a nursing home and had a friendly cup of tea with a local family in their home, events that were broadcast on local TV stations. In his shirtsleeves, Zeng appeared relaxed and smiling.

He made time to visit with local tycoons, financial and business leaders, but declined to meet local legislators, who had been hoping for their first genuine discussion with a central government official.

In a style typical of Chinese leaders, he also seemed to be doing most of the talking at his planned stops around the city.

That was fine with the business leaders -- what he had to say was music to their ears. Beijing would continue to support them and offer them opportunities to be part of China's ongoing economic boom.

But local legislators, particularly the democrats, were disappointed. Despite saying he wanted to listen to local views, Zeng kept them at a distance and avoided any political dialogue with the city's elected representatives.

He invited all 60 legislators to join a dinner for some 400 guests Sunday night, in what was seen as a small, but positive, first step. It was the first time democrats were included in an invitation from a top Chinese leader.

In his banquet speech, Zeng called on the people of Hong Kong to speed up the city's development and to seek harmony and the common good with a generous mind.

Unfortunately, in an action Zeng may have viewed as lacking generosity and disturbing harmony, the democrats had already asked Tsang to deliver a letter to Zeng calling on the central government to retract its decision against universal suffrage for Hong Kong in 2007, review its position on the June 4, 1989, crackdown in Tiananmen Square and release detained Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong.

One lone voice refused to be silenced. Veteran protester-turned-legislator Leung Kwok-hung, known as Long Hair for his uncut tresses, shouted his demands on democracy and June 4 inside the banquet hall, resulting in his speedy removal.

Just before Zeng's visit, Tsang had announced that he had obtained permission for all 60 legislators to visit the southern province of Guangdong later this month on a fact-finding tour that would include meetings with provincial leaders. This was a breakthrough, as the invitation included democrats who had been denied entry to mainland China since 1989 for their activities opposing the crackdown on student demonstrators in Beijing.

Most democrats have decided it's best to politely accept such carrots as the dinner and the Guangdong trip, to build trust with Chinese officials at whatever level they can, and look for opportunities for genuine exchanges over time. By taking the opposite, confrontational approach, Long Hair is testing the limits of official patience.

It remains to be seen whether he will still be included in the mainland trip. As to whether the real concerns of the democrats will be addressed by Chinese officials anytime soon, that remains their hope.

It may prove as much of a fantasy as the Magic Kingdom. On the other hand, the story of Beijing, Disney and the Democrats, like a fairytale woven with trials and tribulations, may -- eventually -- turn out to have a happy ending.

Click here to comment on this article

Hellyer takes up cause of UFO believers
Monday, September 12th, 2005
By: The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Paul Hellyer, onetime cabinet minister and a political chameleon who went through Liberal and Tory colours before founding two political parties of his own, has a new cause — UFOs.

Hellyer is to be a featured speaker at a UFO conference in Toronto later this month, and organizers are making much of his credentials as a former defence minister in the Pearson administration 40 years ago.

Skeptics are, well, skeptical.

The 82-year-old Hellyer says he believes not only that UFOs are extraterrestrial visitors, but that some governments — the United States at least — know all about it and are covering up. He says he believes American scientists have re-engineered alien wreckage from a supposed UFO crash at Roswell, N.M. in 1947 to produce modern technical marvels.

‘‘I believe that UFOs are real,’’ he said in a recent interview. ‘‘I’ll talk about that a little bit and a bit about the fantastic coverup of the United States government and also a little bit of the fallout from the wreckage, by that I mean the material discoveries we have made and how they’ve been applied to our technology.’’

Hellyer was once a political star. He was first elected to the Commons in 1949 at the age of 25, at that time the youngest person ever to win a seat.

He went on to become a cabinet minister, ran for the Liberal leadership against Pierre Trudeau, switched parties to the Conservatives and ran for that party’s leadership, too. He eventually founded two other political parties, Action Canada in 1971 and the Canadian Action party in 1997.

He says his conviction that UFOs are real arose from reading in recent years, not from anything gleaned from secret archives during his time in office.

Organizers of the MUFON conference — the name is an acronym for the Mutual UFO Network — see Hellyer’s participation as giving legitimacy to the cause. The conference is billed as ‘‘Canada’s first major UFO symposium calling for complete government disclosure concerning the reality of UFOs and the extraterrestrial presence on Earth.’’

Victor Viggiani, a retired educator who is an organizer of the event, calls him a featured speaker.

‘‘We’re depending on him to be a real focal point. We’re using his sort of experiences to demonstrate that national political figures can come out and talk about this.’’

He says Hellyer has a simple point to make: ‘‘Let’s start telling the truth about what we all know is really happening in the skies and journalists start paying attention, that’s basically going to be his message.’’

His participation is exasperating for David Gower, a spokesman for Skeptics Canada, a group dedicated to rational thinking and to debunking paranormal claims. Gower said UFO enthusiasts have a quasi-religious fervour that often makes them impervious to doubt.

‘‘There is a deep-seated need, a desire in people, to feel that there’s something in control somewhere, bigger than they are, something that can give some kinds of answers.’’

Click here to comment on this article

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!

Click here to comment on this article



Readers who wish to know more about who we are and what we do may visit our portal site Quantum Future

Remember, we need your help to collect information on what is going on in your part of the world!

We also need help to keep the Signs of the Times online.

Send your comments and article suggestions to us Email addess

Fair Use Policy

Contact Webmaster at signs-of-the-times.org
Cassiopaean materials Copyright ©1994-2014 Arkadiusz Jadczyk and Laura Knight-Jadczyk. All rights reserved. "Cassiopaea, Cassiopaean, Cassiopaeans," is a registered trademark of Arkadiusz Jadczyk and Laura Knight-Jadczyk.
Letters addressed to Cassiopaea, Quantum Future School, Ark or Laura, become the property of Arkadiusz Jadczyk and Laura Knight-Jadczyk
Republication and re-dissemination of our copyrighted material in any manner is expressly prohibited without prior written consent.