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"You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and you'll stop the terrorism." - Cindy Sheehan

P I C T U R E   O F  T H E  D A Y


Copyright 2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte


Sheehan arrested during White House protest

Cindy Sheehan, the American woman who has used her son's death in Iraq to spur the anti-war movement, was arrested today while protesting outside the White House.

Sheehan and several dozen other protesters sat down on the footpath after marching along the pedestrian walkway on Pennsylvania Avenue. Police warned them three times that they were breaking the law by failing to move along, then began making arrests.

Sheehan was the first taken into custody. She stood up and was led to a police vehicle while protesters chanted, "The whole world is watching."

Comment: Indeed, the whole word was watching, and, while alarmed, it surely cannot be surprised. Bush must be overjoyed that he has finally given "that woman" what she deserved.

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The Galloway phenomenon 
By Butler Shaffer

The most shocking fact about war is that its victims and its instruments are individual human beings, and that these individual beings are condemned by the monstrous conventions of politics to murder or be murdered in quarrels not their own. ~ Aldous Huxley

My wife and I attended a talk by British parliamentarian George Galloway, given at a Presbyterian church within walking distance from my law school in Los Angeles. Arriving early, we had good seats for what proved to be a well-attended program. Galloway's appearance was organized by various socialist organizations, and so it was neither surprising nor upsetting that leftist banners, t-shirts, buttons, and the one-paged printed handouts were in abundance.

A number of speakers preceded Mr. Galloway's talk, with two of them – an Afghan woman who reminded the audience of the horrors still being perpetrated in her homeland, and a former soldier representing Iraqi Veterans Against the War – receiving well-deserved responses. To their credit, the organizers and speakers managed to keep the program focused on opposition to the war in Iraq, with only an occasional reference to the "evils" of capitalism, or the need for "justice." As one who regards "justice" as "the redistribution of violence," I thought it ironic that so many opponents of the Iraq war would fail to see the contradictions. But as this inconsistency is endemic to socialists, I was not surprised by its appearance here.

George Galloway presented an impassioned, factually-focused critique of the war and the confluence of American, British, and Israeli political interests that underlay it. His words stormed through the church not as irrational rage, but as principled, sincere anger. What a contrast – both as to style and substance – this man's presentations are to the wimpy babble of American politicians who function as if on Valium overdoses. It is pathetic that the fiery rhetoric that used to attend political debates in America must now be imported from abroad! Galloway's initial remarks informed us that he was not moving to America to run for public office, a statement that confirmed his awareness of just how distant he is from the anesthetized, emotionally languid mindset of most Americans and their politicians.

To those who cannot distinguish deranged screaming from a genuine passion for life, the Galloway phenomenon must be confusing. Though a socialist, his plea for an end to the systematic plunder and slaughter that represents the war system was nonpartisan. His closing comments, in fact, were to remind people not to allow the antiwar movement to become a front for polarizing political or social agendas. Political and religious groups – whatever their persuasion – needed to understand and oppose the destructiveness of war.

The theme that ran through his presentation was the presence of the "double standard" by which Western and Middle Eastern interests are measured. The attacks of 9/11 emerged "not out of a clear blue sky," but from a "deep swamp of anger and hatred" generated by decades of American, British, and Israeli atrocities committed against Arab and Muslim people. He emphasized that the core of the "terrorist" problem can be traced not to religious differences, but to over fifty years of "injustices imposed upon the Palestinian people" by American and Israeli politics. The 1982 slaughter – with the sanction of Ariel Sharon – of helpless men, women, and children in Beirut refugee camps, also came in for discussion.

Perhaps the most poignant example of the double standard that presumes "the blood of Americans, or Israelis, or Europeans, to be of greater value than the blood of Iraqis or Afghans," was found in the earlier American-enforced trade sanctions that led to the deaths of over 500,000 Iraqi children. Madeleine Albright – Clinton's Secretary of State who oversaw the slow death of Iraqi children "even before they were old enough to know they were Iraqis" – wrote off this atrocity as a price she was willing to pay. Americans may remain oblivious to the consequences of this double standard, "but it doesn't escape the attention of any Muslim in the world." 

Galloway went on to remind people that the families of those who died on 9/11 did not suffer any greater pain than did the relatives of Iraqis and Afghans who died from American and British bombings. Each suffered unjustifiable deaths delivered from the sky. He then reiterated what every factually informed person (i.e., non-Fox News viewers) knows to be true: that there were no "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq; that Hussein had no connection to 9/11; and that Al-Qaeda did not have any bases of operation in Iraq. [...]

Mr. Galloway then criticized those who try to associate the anti-war people with Bin Laden, noting that "Bin Laden was invented by the United States and Britain," who put Bin Laden into Afghanistan. The Americans and British later went into Afghanistan and began killing people as part of an effort to capture the man these Western forces had put there in the first place!

While Bush and Blair are able to bamboozle their own citizenry with claims that their current purpose in being in Iraq is to promote "democracy" and "freedom," the Muslim world can see what these abstractions mean in practice, and wants no part of it. The Muslim world is ruled, Galloway went on, by "puppet kings, presidents, and other dictators" propped up by Western governments. If true "democracy" was ever to emerge in any of these countries, he added, the first thing the ensuing Muslim governments would do would be to evict the United States from their lands.

Galloway later offered the sharp contrast between Cindy Sheehan – whose name evoked great applause – and the reincarnated Marie Antoinette, in the form of Barbara Bush. Mrs. Bush commented that the refugees from New Orleans who were huddled in Houston's Astrodome "never had it so good." Such an attitude, he noted, is representative of a government that "cannot remove dead bodies from the streets of one of its major cities seven days after a natural disaster, but is prepared, at a moment's notice, to impose more destruction on other nations." 

The threat of future "terrorist" attacks cannot be dealt with by continuing the policies and practices that create them. "If you live next to a swamp," Galloway intoned, "a fly-swatter will let you take care of a few mosquitoes, but others will get through to attack you. The only way to stop the attacks is to drain the swamp of the anger and hatred in which the mosquitoes breed." This draining can be accomplished, he went on, only by ending the colonialism that prevails in the Middle East, and to have the governance of Iraq determined by the Iraqi people alone. To those who conjure up the specter of bloodshed and destruction should Americans pull out of Iraq, he observed that bloodshed and destruction are increasing in that country because of the American presence.

George Galloway, like Cindy Sheehan, represents what, in the study of chaos, is known as the "butterfly effect," (i.e., the capacity for individuals to affect change through the reiteration of their influences upon a system). Such people serve as "attractors" to others who share their sentiments. Through such spontaneous and open-ended means as the Internet, men and women are able to create networks of shared opinions. They become catalysts for change, a process upon which all creative and productive systems depend. 

There is a rapidly emerging network of opposition to the Afghan/Iraqi wars which, contrary to the screeching war-lovers at Fox News, is not confined to "left-wing" groups. Liberals, conservatives, socialists, Republicans, libertarians, anarchists, Democrats, and Marxists, are discovering that the integrity of their souls can no longer withstand the burden of their support for wars against the innocent. In the spirit of George Galloway's passionate plea for the lives of both the Iraqi people and the soldiers sent to kill them, we must pull the rug out from beneath the feet of those who shed crocodile tears for the continuing deaths of American troops while calculating the slaughter of foreigners.

For those of you who e-mail me asking "what can we do?," what about demanding the impeachment and criminal prosecution of President Bush and his co-conspirators? If you were among those who insisted upon the impeachment of Bill Clinton for telling lies about his sexual peccadilloes, what about a president whose lies are far more destructive of the lives and liberties of people, not to mention the civilization that has been mortally wounded? For those who, in the Clinton years, expressed concern about "moral values," the ball is now in your court. There is nothing more at stake than the wholeness of your character and the nature of the world you are to leave to your children.

Butler Shaffer < bshaffer@swlaw.edu > teaches at the Southwestern University School of Law.

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Katrina clean-up contracts spark controversy
26/09/2005 - 16:24:28

Major contracts for the Hurricane Katrina clean-up have been awarded without bidding or with limited competition, prompting controversy in the United States.

The devastating storm created contracts worth more than $1.5bn awarded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) alone.

Most are for the clearing of debris, trees and shattered homes across the ravaged Gulf coast.

But more than 80% of those awarded by FEMA were reportedly handed out with limited competition.

Two major companies in particular have raised questions – the Shaw Group and Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney.

"When you do something like this, you do increase the vulnerability for fraud, plain waste, abuse and mismanagement," Richard Skinner, inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, told the New York Times.

"We are very apprehensive about what we are seeing."

He said many deals appeared to have been clinched with little more than a handshake and that shortcuts may have resulted in a lot of waste.

Various industry and government officials have questioned the costs of debris-removal contracts, claiming that the Army Corps of Engineers allowed a rate that was too high, the newspaper reports.

It cites government records which show that more than 15 contracts exceed $100m, including five of $500m or more.

Congressional investigators are reportedly investigating the $568m awarded to AshBritt, a Florida-based company that was a client of the former lobbying firm of Republican Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.

It also notes considerable price disparities, for example trailers costing anything between $15,000 and $23,000 and house inspection services that could cost $15 to $81 per home.

Several companies awarded valuable contracts have attracted controversy for similar work elsewhere.

Among them, Kellogg, Brown & Root – which has been given contracts worth $60m – was rebuked by auditors for unsubstantiated billing for reconstruction work in Iraq.

The company will perform more than $45m in repairs to levees in New Orleans and military facilities in the region. A spokesperson was unavailable for comment.

Clearing debris, trees, and shattered homes: $9,000,000.
Levee repair: $3,000,000.
Contract fees and kickbacks to Cheney and Bush: $1,488,000,000.
Ripping off the American taxpayer just like in Iraq: Priceless.

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America is Running Out of Time

Iraq War Winners: Al-Qaeda, Iran and Military Contractors
September 26, 2005

George W. Bush will go down in history as the president who fiddled while America lost its superpower status.

Bush used deceit and hysteria to lead America into a war that is bleeding the US economically, militarily, and diplomatically. The war is being fought with hundreds of billions of dollars borrowed from foreigners. The war is bleeding the military of troops and commitments. The war has ended the US claim to moral leadership and exposed the US as a reckless and aggressive power.

Focused on a concocted "war on terrorism," the Bush administration diverted money from the New Orleans levees to Iraq, with the consequence that the US now has a $100 billion rebuild bill on top of the war bill.

The US is so short of troops that neoconservatives are advocating the use of foreign mercenaries paid with US citizenship.

US efforts to isolate Iran have been blocked by Russia and China, nuclear powers that Bush cannot bully.

The Iraqi war has three beneficiaries: (1) al Qaeda, (2) Iran and (3) US war industries and Bush-Cheney cronies who receive no-bid contracts.

Everyone else is a loser.

The war has bestowed on al Qaeda recruits, prestige, and a training ground.

The war has allied Iran with Iraq's Shi'ite majority.

The war has brought soaring profits to the military industries and the firms with reconstruction contracts at the expense of 20,000 US military casualties and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilian casualties.

The Republican Party is a loser, because its hidebound support for the war is isolating the party from public opinion.

The Democratic Party is a loser, because its cowardly acquiescence in a war that is opposed by the majority of its members is making the party irrelevant.

The latest polls show that a majority of Americans believe the US cannot win against the Iraq insurgency. The majority support withdrawal and the redirection of war spending to rebuilding New Orleans. Despite the clarity of the public's wishes, the Republican Party continues to support the unpopular war.

With the exceptions of Reps. Cynthia McKinney and John Conyers, Democrats fled the scene of the Sept. 24 antiwar rally in Washington DC. The cynical Democrats are apparently owned by the same interest groups that own the Republicans and are refusing the mantle of majority party that the electorate is offering to the party that will end the war.

The Bush administration is churning out red ink in excess of $1 trillion annually. The federal budget deficit is approaching $500 billion. The US trade deficit is approaching $700 billion.

The budget deficit is being financed by foreigners, primarily Asians who now hold enough US government debt to exercise power over US interest rates and the value of the dollar whenever they decide to use the power that Bush has placed in their hands.

The trade deficit is being financed by turning over the ownership of US assets and future income streams to foreigners, making Americans forever poorer from the loss of accumulated wealth.

For the time being, China is willing to accumulate US assets as a way of taking over our consumer markets, attracting US manufacturing industry with cheap labor subsidized by artificial currency values, and gaining our technology. China's strategy is to over-value the US dollar in order to encourage the transfer of US economic capabilities to China. China's strategy gives artificial value to the dollar and keeps US interest rates at an artificial low.

The values of US stocks, bonds, and real estate depend on the support that Asians' economic strategies provide the dollar and US interest rates. As Asia achieves its goal of preeminence in manufacturing, innovation, and product development, the strategy will change. Once China completes its acquisition of US capabilities, it will no longer have a reason to support the dollar.

When the dollar goes, it will affect costs, profits, interest rates and living standards in dramatic ways. Costs and interest rates will soar, and profits, living standards, equity values, bond prices and real estate will plummet.

These unpleasant events await only Asia's decision to curtail its support for US red ink. That will happen when this support no longer serves Asia's interest.

When Asia pulls the plug on the dollar, the US government will find that monetary and fiscal policy are powerless to offset the consequences.

Compared to US budget and trade deficits, terrorists are a minor concern. The greatest danger that the US faces is the dollar's loss of reserve currency role. This would be an impoverishing event, one from which the US would not recover.

An intelligent government sincerely concerned with homeland security would find a way to halt the global labor arbitrage that is stripping the American economy of high value-added jobs and manufacturing capability, thereby causing the US trade deficit to explode. The loss of tax base that results when US companies outsource jobs and relocate production abroad makes it ever more difficult to balance a budget strained by war, natural disasters, and demographic impact on Social Security and Medicare.

Global labor arbitrage is rapidly dismantling the ladders of upward mobility and thereby endangering American political stability. This threat is far greater than any Osama bin Laden can mount.

Time is running out for Republicans and Democrats to escape from the distraction of a pointless war and to focus on the real threats that endanger the United States of America.

Paul Craig Roberts has held a number of academic appointments and has contributed to numerous scholarly publications. He served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. His graduate economics education was at the University of Virginia, the University of California at Berkeley, and Oxford University. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He can be reached at: paulcraigroberts@yahoo.com.

Comment: Roberts writes:

The budget deficit is being financed by foreigners, primarily Asians who now hold enough US government debt to exercise power over US interest rates and the value of the dollar whenever they decide to use the power that Bush has placed in their hands.

Think about this excerpt as you read the next article...

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Confessions Of A Hit Man
By Charley Reese 

John Perkins' book "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man" explains American foreign policy better than any of the academic tomes you might read on the subject.

In a nutshell, the game is played this way: People like Perkins work for consulting firms, and their job is to entice a foreign head of state to go deeply in debt. They do this by greatly exaggerating the economic returns on big projects such as dams and electrification systems.

The payoff comes in two ways. The foreign country hires American contractors to build the systems, and they make big profits. Then, mired in debt, the head of state will do what the United States government tells him to do. If he proves too independent or too honest to accept bribes, then he will be removed from power, either in a coup or in an accident.

Yes, I know that sounds more like the Mafia than the great and good government of the United States, which wants only to spread peace, prosperity and democracy around the world. Read the book and decide for yourself. The publisher is Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

I believe Perkins is telling the truth, because I have observed through the years that the United States hates any honest nationalist leader. Let some guy try to benefit his own people instead of catering to multinational corporations, and the U.S. government and the propaganda machine will crank up and paint him as a villain. After the American people have been sufficiently indoctrinated, the poor guy won't be around much longer.

We did that to Mohammed Mossadegh, a democratically elected nationalist who thought Iran's oil should benefit Iranians. We painted him as a communist, and the CIA engineered a coup that replaced him with the Shah. In case you're curious, that's why so many Iranians hate us. We did it to a Guatemalan patriot, Jacobo Arbenz, when he tried to implement land reform and thus ran afoul of the United Fruit Co., which orchestrated the campaign that led to his overthrow by the U.S. Omar Torrijos, a Panamanian reformer, and Jaime Roldos, president of Ecuador who locked horns with big oil companies, both died in planes that exploded.

On the other hand, the ruthless and corrupt killers who play the game our way get rewarded with more loans and more aid. I know this sounds leftist and even, God forbid, liberal, but the more you get to know our government, the less you will think it's all sweetness and light. People fear the U.S. with good reason. We talk about spreading democracy, but what we do is extend empire and make war.

If you count the Cold War, we have been at war almost continuously. There was Korea, Vietnam, the invasion of Lebanon, the invasions of Panama and Grenada, the bombings of Serbia and Libya, our little misadventure in Somalia and two wars with Iraq, and now that the Cold War is over, we have replaced it with an endless war on terrorism. Sprinkled in between all of these overt wars are numerous covert operations.

It isn't, after all, a capital crime for a foreign leader to be a socialist or to believe in land reform or to try to stop oil companies from defiling his country or cheating it out of a proper return. I've often thought old Saddam Hussein cut his own throat when he made a speech to the other Arab leaders saying they should not invest their petrodollars in the West but should instead invest them in the Arab world. Bankers in London and New York don't like to hear that kind of talk. We don't mind thugs and killers, but we despise a nationalist. The very idea of denying us the use of their dollars is, well, sacrilegious from an imperial point of view.

We were a great and much-loved country when we were a republic. Since we've become an empire, we're hardly loved at all and, in fact, are hated by many people in the world. Unless we find a way to return to our republican roots, we will go the way of all empires - simultaneously accumulating enemies and bankrupting ourselves in an eventually futile attempt to defeat them.

At any rate, read Perkins' book. Like a real hit man, he got wealthy and then ratted out his former benefactors.

Comment: The current situation with the US economy is not exactly the same process that successive US governments have used on other countries, but the problems caused by the enormous debt are more or less the same. The problem is that US governments were certainly aware of how the game works, since they wrote the rules.

As such, we would suggest that the plan at some level has always been to eventually bankrupt and crash the US economy in an attempt to implement a plan of total control over the population.

Once the jobs and skilled work are moved out of the US, and the national debt has reached absurd levels, what do you think will happen to the Land of the Free? The next phase of the "new economy" will certainly be new - as in never before seen in the US - but it will most definitely not be the paradise that so many are predicting.

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Britain set to run out of fuel warns CBI boss

BUSINESSES could be forced to close down and lay off workers this winter because the country's energy reserves are so low, the director-general of the CBI warned yesterday.

"If we have a cold winter, we are going to throw the switch, businesses will shut down, people will lose their jobs," Sir Digby Jones said.

"If we don't sort out our decrepit supply system, we are, this winter, going to run out of fuel."

According to the CBI, Britain has only 11 days' gas held in reserve to power industrial users during a hard winter. In comparison, other European countries keep an average of 55 days in reserve.

His warning came as the Met Office yesterday issued an "amber alert" to contingency planners in the government - including the NHS and Highways Agency - and in the energy industry to prepare for a "colder than average winter".

The UK energy minister Malcolm Wickes admitted the truth in Sir Digby's words at a fringe meeting of the Labour conference in Brighton attended by both men. Mr Wickes conceded that industry could be badly hit by an unusually cold winter.

Sir Digby last night told The Scotsman that Britain's historical position as a net exporter of energy, coupled with government red tape, had left the country poorly prepared for a cold season.

Until recently, Britain was a net exporter of gas from the North Sea, and because that gas was nearby and on tap, less effort went into constructing gas reserve stations, experts say.

Now, Britain is becoming a net importer of natural gas, much of it from Russia, yet, as ministers admitted yesterday, the UK still lacks proper reserve capacity. [...]

Warnings of potential power interruptions are not confined to industry. Earlier this month, Prospect, a trade union whose members include engineers, scientists and other energy specialists, warned that predicted low temperatures mean "there is a very real threat this could be the winter our luck runs out". [...]

Comment: There's plenty of money and manpower to go along with the slightest whim of King George, but not to bolster the nation's energy reserves. It sure seems like this winter could be very bad news for more than just US residents.

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Bush urges gas conservation
Sep 26 11:21 AM US/Eastern

WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush said on Monday that about 1.8 million barrels per day in Texas and Louisiana refining capacity shut by recent hurricanes will be back on line soon, but urged American motorists to conserve gasoline wherever possible.

The 1.8 million bpd refining capacity will return "relatively quickly because the storm missed a lot of refining capacity down the Texas coast," Bush said after meeting with Energy Secretary Sam Bodman and Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

Rita hit the Texas-Louisiana border on Saturday with winds of 120 miles per hour and dumped a foot of rain on the coastal region. Two large Port Arthur, Texas, refineries owned by Valero and Total were expected to remain offline for repairs for up to a month.

Bush also said he would continue suspension of antipollution laws for gasoline and the Jones Act shipping law to help oil shipments in the wake of the hurricane. Both actions were taken after Hurricane Katrina last month hit Gulf Coast refineries hard.

"We will continue the waivers to allow the winter blends to be used through the country," Bush said, referring to Environmental Protection Agency actions soon after last month's Hurricane Katrina. "We have instructed the EPA to ... keep the suspension in place, which should ... increase the supply."

Bush also repeated that he was prepared to loan crude oil to refineries from the government's emergency stockpile.

"We're willing to use the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to mitigate any shortfalls that affect our consumers," he said.

Bush, a former Texas oilman, also said that the back-to-back hurricanes show the need for more U.S. refining capacity to meet gasoline demand.

"The storms have shown how fragile the balance is of supply and demand in America," he said.

In the meantime, American consumers should try to conserve fuel when possible. Federal employees will be encouraged to carpool or use mass transit, Bush said.

"We can all pitch in by being better conservers of energy -- people need to recognize the storm has caused disruption," he said.

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Costly gas makes Utahns creative

Alternative Fuel? Try Hay
By Lesley Mitchell
The Salt Lake Tribune

Mellissa Evans thought she had found a new way to rein in her expenses as gasoline prices escalated.

The Tooele High School senior began hoofing it to school this week on her 11-year-old gelding, Nighthawk. Joined by junior Chapa Stevenson and her horse, Wink, the pair made the 30-mile trek between their homes in Rush Valley and school twice a day on horseback.

But school officials told them Thursday that horses on school grounds are against the rules.

"I guess we have to go back to carpooling," said Evans, who kept her horse in a stall inside the high school's animal laboratory while she was in class. "When you have a car that gets 10 miles per gallon, you have to do something."

In the weeks since gas prices reached record highs, people throughout Utah have taken creative steps to reduce their gas bills.

Some are taking big steps, such as trading in gas-guzzling vehicles or trying to find a job closer to home. Others are making smaller changes, telecommuting one or more days a week or trying to drive less on weekends.

The average cost of a gallon of unleaded gasoline rose to a high of $2.91 per gallon on Sept. 10 after Hurricane Katrina took several Gulf oil refineries off line. In recent days, gas prices in Utah have fallen by five cents to $2.86 per gallon. [...]

''In an environment where capacity is constrained and demand continues pretty much unabated, that's a formula for significantly higher prices,'' Stern said. [...]

In Rush Valley, Mellissa Evans' mother, Karren, is disappointed her daughter can't ride her horse to school anymore to help offset the expected price increases.

"It took hours for her to get to school," she said. "But hay is much cheaper than gas."

Comment: Bush said to conserve gas, not to stop buying it...

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Merchants sue Visa, MasterCard, banks
By Jonathan Stempel
Tue Sep 27, 1:37 AM ET

NEW YORK - Four merchant groups have filed an antitrust lawsuit against Visa USA, MasterCard Inc. and dozens of major banks, saying they colluded to set excessive credit card fees.

The plaintiffs estimate damages "will range in the tens of billions of dollars," according to the 59-page class-action complaint, filed Friday with the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York.

Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., the largest U.S. credit card issuers, are among the more than 40 defendants. MasterCard and Visa already face other retailer lawsuits accusing them of price fixing.

The new case involves interchange fees, which retail merchants pay to issuing banks to receive payments for transactions involving the banks' cards.

Interchange fees make up the largest component of credit card fees and have long been a source of friction between retailers and card companies. The plaintiffs say U.S. interchange rates cost an average household $232 per year.

"The credit card interchange system serves as a hidden tax, both on merchants and consumers, and raises the costs of all products," said Hank Armor, chief executive of the National Association of Convenience Stores. "These credit card fees have rapidly increased over the past several years."

The plaintiffs in the new case include the National Association of Convenience Stores, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Community Pharmacists Association and the National Cooperative Grocers Association.

They represent operators of more than 138,000 convenience stores, 60,000 pharmacies and about 120 cooperative groceries, the complaint said.


Visa spokesman Paul Cohen called interchange rates "a fair mechanism for fueling growth and sharing system costs."

MasterCard, in a statement, said the new lawsuit lacks merit, calling it "yet another example of merchants wanting the benefits of accepting payment cards without having to pay for the value of the services they receive."

Bank of America spokeswoman Shirley Norton declined to comment. Citigroup and JPMorgan did not immediately return calls. Visa is based in San Francisco and MasterCard in Purchase, New York.

The new lawsuit is similar to a lawsuit filed in July by Kroger Co., Walgreen Co. and other retailers accusing Visa of setting fees too high.

Visa and MasterCard are associations whose members include thousands of card-issuing banks.

"Because their memberships are virtually identical, the Associations communicate frequently, exchange data, and coordinate much of their activity through joint programs, consciously parallel activity, and tacit collusion," the complaint said.

"Actual and potential competition in the general purpose and debit card network services markets was substantially excluded, suppressed, and effectively foreclosed," it added.

MasterCard on September 15 filed for a $2.45 billion initial public offering of stock. It said at the time the IPO was intended in part to address legal problems by broadening the association's ownership base.

In 2003, Visa agreed to pay about $2 billion and MasterCard $1 billion to settle a lawsuit by retailers claiming they were forced to accept higher-cost, signature-verified debit cards.

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Bush Drops 'Diversity' Hint About Nominee
Associated Press Writer
Sep 26 12:45 PM US/Eastern

WASHINGTON - President Bush hinted on Monday that his next nominee for the Supreme Court would be a woman or a minority, saying that "diversity is one of the strengths of the country."

The president also expressed optimism that the Senate would confirm John Roberts as chief justice this week - which seems virtually certain.

Bush, asked about his next nominee, said "I will pick a person who can do the job. But I am mindful that diversity is one of the strengths of the country." The president is under pressure from many quarters - including his wife - to pick a woman or a minority for the seat of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is retiring.

Two-thirds of the 100 senators - Republican and Democrats alike - had already announced their support of Roberts, the conservative federal appeals court judge, as the successor to the late William H. Rehnquist before the Senate even started its final debate Monday afternoon. Underplaying Roberts' near-certain confirmation, Bush said he was cautiously optimistic that Roberts would be approved.

"John Roberts is qualified, impartial and committed to upholding the Constitution and the rule of law," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

"He is precisely the kind of chief justice America deserves and I'm looking forward to debating his nomination on the Senate floor so he can be swiftly confirmed in time to lead the Supreme Court when it starts its new term on October 3rd."

A floor vote is planned for no later than Thursday.

His Democratic supporters say they're still worried about how Roberts - Rehnquist's former Supreme Court clerk - will rule on the bench, but he is undeniably qualified for the position of chief justice.

"Judge Roberts' impeccable legal credentials, his reputation and record as a fair-minded person, and his commitment to modesty and respect for precedent have persuaded me that he will not bring an ideological agenda," said Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, one of three Judiciary Committee Democrats who crossed party lines and voted for Roberts.

It takes a majority vote of the Senate to confirm a judicial nominee, and all 55 Republicans are expected to unify behind Roberts' nomination.

Thirteen of the 44 Democrats have declared their support, the latest being Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana on Sunday. That easily gives Roberts more votes than the last conservative nominee, Clarence Thomas.

Thomas was confirmed 52-48 in 1991. President Clinton's two nominees, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, were confirmed 96-3 and 87-9, respectively.

Democrats opposing Roberts say they're afraid the former lawyer in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations will be staunchly conservative like Thomas and Justice Antonin Scalia.

They question Roberts' commitment to civil rights and expressed concern that he might overturn the 1973 court ruling that established the right to abortion. The White House refused to release paperwork from Roberts' time as a deputy solicitor general in the first Bush administration, and the nominee refused to fully answer Democrats' questions during his confirmation hearing two weeks ago.

Comment: Yup, he's the perfect man for the job...

Sen. Evan Bayh, a possible Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, introduced Roberts to the Senate Judiciary Committee for the confirmation hearings. But he will vote against him, he said.

"I cannot vote to confirm, not because I oppose John Roberts, but because we simply do not know enough about his views on critical issues to make a considered judgment," Bayh said.

The limited information from the nominee's paper record raised troubling issues about Roberts' judicial temperament, said Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn.

"I am deeply concerned that he and President Bush's next nominee will shift the Supreme Court close to the extreme right for many years to come," Dayton said.

Like Dayton, senators likely will use their speeches and votes to warn Bush - and other senators - of what they expect when the White House makes its selection to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said he thinks the president might name a successor within days of Roberts' confirmation. O'Connor often has been a swing vote, a majority maker whose retirement could signal a shift on the court on many contentious issues.

Some say Democrats are using the Roberts confirmation to prepare for a battle over the O'Connor vacancy. "Voting in favor would put senators in a better position to oppose later or a vote in opposition would put the president on notice that he better put somebody up who was acceptable to a broad spectrum of senators," Specter said.

Democrats say their planned votes shows their senators are allowed to think for themselves, instead of being forced to toe a party line.

"Republicans are saying take the politics out of it, but they all marched in lockstep. Democrats made their mind up independently," said Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, the head of the Senate Democratic campaign committee.

Comment: Would these be the same "independent" Democrats who have rubber-stamped every move made by the Bush administration in the war on terror?

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Gitmo Judge Rejects Claim He's Interfering
Associated Press
Mon Sep 26,11:41 PM ET

NEW YORK - A federal judge Monday rejected a government argument that he was interfering with the president's constitutional authority to wage war by insisting that Guantanamo Bay detainees be asked if they want their names to be made public.

The government raised the objection after U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff last month ordered the Defense Department to pose the question to detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval base.

The judge wrote that the argument was without merit, and that it was offered improperly after he had already rejected the government's other reasons for insisting that the information not be released to The Associated Press.

In April, the AP filed a lawsuit asking for transcripts of 558 tribunals conducted in the last year to give detainees a chance to challenge their incarceration. The government released the documents but redacted facts about each detainee's identity.

In his ruling last month, Rakoff noted that the government had argued the identities should be kept secret to protect the privacy of the detainees rather than for national security reasons.

The judge said each detainee could answer "yes" or "no" to the question of whether he wanted his identity revealed.

"One might well wonder whether the detainees share the view that keeping their identities secret is in their own best interests," he wrote last month.

In its new argument, the government said the "questionnaire approach somehow encroaches on the president's constitutional authority to wage war as commander in chief," Rakoff said.

The government had argued that the question "intrudes on the relationship between the military and the captured enemy combatants."

The judge said the argument was "wholly unpersuasive" and that the Supreme Court had approved far more intrusive judicial involvement concerning detainees.

Comment: With Roberts and O'Connor's soon-to-be-named successor, that may well change in the near future.

The judge gave the government until Oct. 14 to submit the question to detainees and until Oct. 28 to summarize the responses for the court so it could decide what to do with the AP's request.

Government spokeswoman Bridget F. Kelly had no immediate comment.

David A. Schulz, an attorney who argued the case for the AP, said he was pleased that the judge had rejected the new argument.

"We hope this will move us one step further to getting the withheld information about the detainees," he said.

In August 2004, the government began combatant status review tribunals to let detainees rebut their classification as "enemy combatants" after the Supreme Court ruled the detainees may challenge their imprisonment.

Guantanamo holds 520 prisoners; more than 230 others have been released or transferred to the custody of their home governments. Most were captured during the U.S. war in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack. Only a few have been charged with crimes.

The Bush administration designated them enemy combatants, a classification that includes anyone who supported the Taliban or al-Qaida and which does not afford as many legal protections as prisoners of war have under the Geneva Conventions. The designation also allows indefinite detention without charges.

Comment: In the supposed "Greatest Democracy on Earth", should the debate over the rights of prisoners in the war on terror even exist at all? Does indefinite detention without charges of even US citizens sound like democracy??

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'Intelligent Design' Court Battle Begins
Associated Press Writer
September 27, 2005

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The opening day of a landmark trial over whether a school district should require students to hear about "intelligent design" felt a lot like a science lecture.

Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller, the first witness called Monday by lawyers suing the Dover Area School District for exposing its students to the controversial theory, sprinkled his testimony with references to DNA, red blood cells and viruses, and he occasionally referred to complex charts on a projection screen.

Even U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III was a little overwhelmed.

"I guess I should say, 'Class dismissed,'" Jones mused before recessing for lunch.

Dover is believed to be the nation's first school system to mandate students be exposed to the intelligent design concept. Its policy requires school administrators to read a brief statement before classes on evolution that says Charles Darwin's theory is "not a fact" and has inexplicable "gaps." It refers students to an intelligent-design textbook for more information.

Intelligent design holds that Darwin's theory of natural selection cannot fully explain the origin of life or the emergence of highly complex life forms. It implies that life on Earth was the product of an unidentified intelligent force.

Eight families sued, saying that the district policy in effect promotes the Bible's view of creation, violating the constitutional separation of church and state.

Miller, whose cross-examination was to resume Tuesday morning, said the policy undermines scientific education by raising false doubts about evolutionary theory.

"It's the first movement to try to drive a wedge between students and the scientific process," he said.

But the rural school district of about 3,500 students argues it is not endorsing any religious view and is merely giving ninth-grade biology classes a glimpse of differences in evolutionary theory.

"This case is about free inquiry in education, not about a religious agenda," said Patrick Gillen of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., in his opening statement. The center, which lobbies for what it sees as the religious freedom of Christians, is defending the school district.

The non-jury trial is expected to take five weeks.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs began their case by arguing that intelligent design is a religious theory inserted in the school district's curriculum by the school board with no concern for whether it has scientific underpinnings.

"They did everything you would do if you wanted to incorporate a religious point of view in science class and cared nothing about its scientific validity," attorney Eric Rothschild said.

Miller, who was the only witness Monday, sharply criticized intelligent design and questioned the work that went into it by one of its leading proponents, Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe, who will be a key witness for the district.

The statement read to Dover students states in part, "Because Darwin's theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered." Miller said the words are "tremendously damaging," falsely undermining the scientific status of evolution.

"What that tells students is that science can't be relied upon and certainly is not the kind of profession you want to go into," he said.

"There is no controversy within science over the core proposition of evolutionary theory," he added.

On the other hand, Miller said, "intelligent design is not a testable theory in any sense and as such it is not accepted by the scientific community."

During his cross-examination of Miller, Robert Muise, another attorney for the law center, repeatedly asked whether he questioned the completeness of Darwin's theory.

"Would you agree that Darwin's theory is not the absolute truth?" Muise said.

"We don't regard any scientific theory as the absolute truth," Miller responded.

The Dover lawsuit is the newest chapter in a history of evolution litigation dating back to the Scopes Monkey Trial in Tennessee nearly 80 years ago. More recently, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that states may not require public schools to balance evolution lessons by teaching creationism.

Comment: Darwin's theory of evolution is not a fact, and it does have inexplicable gaps. The only reason it is not widely questioned is because the scientific community today does not, in fact, operate according to the ideal of the scientific method that the average person imagines. Quite often, scientists are greatly restricted by monetary and political issues. The need to agree with and promote certain views in order to obtain funding for one's research is prevalent, especially in areas related to archaeology and the history and evolution of mankind. The scientific establishment quite often disregards blatantly obvious evidence that contradicts accepted theories. In short, science today is not really science at all; it is more like a religion where cherished beliefs cannot be questioned.

The solution, then, is obviously not to replace the religion of science with the religion of a creator god. The solution is to strive to accomplish what many scientists and researchers today cannot: abandon preconceived notions, and start out by researching scientific and historical matters as objectively as possible. That means no "sacred cows" are allowed - i.e. we must learn to recognize our own bias and assumptions. ALL the evidence must be considered in light of social, political, and psychological influences. Once each piece of evidence has either been verified or discarded, a theory can be created - but until proven, it is still only a theory, and must be treated as such. Nevertheless, with a preponderance of evidence, one may certainly begin to see patterns that lead to assigning high probabilities to possible future events.

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ABC, CBS Secretly Searching for Anchors
AP Television Writer
Sep 26 4:45 PM US/Eastern

NEW YORK - Executives at ABC and CBS News can be relieved this week that, unlike with Hurricane Katrina, their Rita coverage didn't appear seriously affected by voids at the chief anchor position left by the late Peter Jennings and Dan Rather.

It's been more than five months since both men last anchored the evening news. ABC is conducting its search for a successor very privately. CBS has struggled, although it gave itself the bigger challenge.

NBC's ratings spiked high in the wake of Katrina and the very visible work of its anchorman, Brian Williams. Even though its anchor decision hasn't been made, ABC moved aggressively to make sure its biggest names were on the scene with Rita: Charles Gibson and Bob Woodruff both reported from Texas, and Diane Sawyer spent a rare Saturday co-anchoring "Good Morning America."

ABC News President David Westin is the key man in the process, and he will likely decide Jennings' replacement on "World News Tonight" in consultation with parent Walt Disney Co. chief Robert Iger, a former ABC executive, and ABC network chief Anne Sweeney.

ABC News executives wouldn't speak about the process, a spokesman said.

Industry experts consider it virtually certain someone now at ABC News will get the job. Gibson and Elizabeth Vargas have largely traded off as substitutes since Jennings left the air, with Gibson most frequently anchoring special news reports.

Westin's toughest decision may be whether ABC can afford to lose Gibson on "Good Morning America," which is closer to NBC's "Today" in the ratings than it has been in a decade. Evening news anchor has long been considered the prestige position, but morning shows are where news divisions make the most money.

During Katrina's aftermath, a handful of "World News Tonight" broadcasts featured a team of Vargas and Woodruff anchoring from different locations - raising at least the possibility that ABC could be considering replacing Jennings with more than one person. On Monday, ABC had a split anchor team of Vargas in a New York studio and Woodruff on location in Texas.

Since "World News Tonight" runs a strong second to NBC in the ratings, even winning among a key younger demographic group, there's a less pressing need for changes in the broadcast's format.

Chances are ABC will have its successor in place before CBS News, which has been searching since at least November when Rather announced he was stepping down. Bob Schieffer has been interim anchor since March.

The ultimate arbiter is CBS chief Leslie Moonves. He directed CBS News President Andrew Heyward to give him suggestions, a prototype was filmed and the news division even asked its interns if they had any ideas.

The CBS prototype reportedly included a fast-paced news summary and longer, newsmagazinelike pieces introduced by individual correspondents. But Moonves wasn't satisfied.

"We are trying to change it, make it more user-friendly," he said in an investors conference call held by Merrill Lynch earlier this month. "Obviously, to skew it a bit younger. It is something that we are concentrating on, we are putting a lot of effort. We haven't come up with a great solution, so we have sent them back to the drawing board. But you will see changes coming in the next few months."

Heyward said CBS News will do more test films and present Moonves with other ideas soon.

The "CBS Evening News" runs a distant third in the ratings, and the gap is widening. That gives CBS a particular impetus to try something new.

"When you take a genre that is this entrenched and become the worldwide standard for how a news program is done and you start looking at alternative ways to do it, it's a challenging process," Heyward told The Associated Press. "You have a core audience that is used to things a certain way that you don't want to alienate, but you also want to attract a new audience. We're trying to balance those two things."

Comment: It will be interesting to see the new format and who is chosen for the empty anchor positions. The powers that be have a wonderful opportunity to make US TV news even more Bush-friendly.

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Why Katrina Won't Change The Media

The news media's fake transformation
By Jonathon Larsen
Thu, 22 Sep 2005 14:15:37 -0700

By now, I think everyone has fully catalogued the multitude of ways in which Katrina will change everything. Ornery contrarian that I am, I've become pretty convinced that Katrina will change nothing (except, well, New Orleans, Gulfport, etc.) in the long term. That said, the strongest candidate for Katrina Makeover so far has been: The media. The rise of a "new," "adversarial" media is the most viral meta-meme making the rounds. I predict it'll be dead before New Orleans is dry. I'll explain why, but first, a quick survey:

New York magazine: "In many ways, [Anderson] Cooper and [Brian] Williams defined a fork in the road for the future of broadcast journalism."

The New York Times (9/5/05): "CNN…and National Public Radio…both found their voices amidst the chaos."

The New York Times ("Reporters Turn From Deference To Outrage" 9/5/05): "...it is clear that television is having a major mood swing."

USA Today "Katrina Rekindles Adversarial Media" (9/5/05): "Reporters covering Hurricane Katrina on the scene showed their human - and often angry and frustrated - face as they questioned the slow response over the weekend…

"Says Fordham University communications professor Paul Levinson, 'The media rose to the occasion, shone their light on the desolation and the needy, and kept it focused there until the cavalry finally began to arrive.'

"...some observers say that Katrina's media legacy may be a return to a post-Watergate-like era of tougher scrutiny of the federal government and public policy issues.

"'If any good comes from the catastrophe, it will be that it signaled the beginning of the media's reassertion of aggressive, in-your-face reporting, in which it confronts government wrongdoing, rather than just swallowing the government's public-relations handouts,' Levinson says."

USA Today (also Peter Johnson, but later in the day): "...experts and journalists predict that mounting questions about U.S. government preparation, policies and response to Hurricane Katrina will result in intense news coverage for months.

"Katrina 'doesn't just have legs, it has tentacles,' says Bob Lichter of the Center for Media and Public Affairs. 'Its implications reach into hot-button controversies involving race, poverty, economics and partisan politics. The reach of this story will make the O.J. Simpson case look like a news brief.'"

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (9/6/05): "...reporters and anchors have been asking tough questions in combative and even angry tones."

SF Indymedia (9/6/05): "Not for decades has there been such merciless questioning of the president and his administration by the U.S. media."

Reuters (9/7/05): "American TV reporters and newscasters are covering Hurricane Katrina and problem-plagued relief efforts with a sense of outrage and antagonism many thought had long gone out of fashion in broadcast journalism."

Chicago Tribune "A Cronkite Moment in the Gulf Story" (9/9/05): "...we might be witnessing something no one thought was possible in this age. This may be a Cronkite Moment."

Boston Phoenix (9/9/05): "...it took a hurricane to wake up the press, raise the issue of race and class, and redefine the political landscape.

"Hurricane Katrina did not simply destroy physical infrastructure, social fabric, and countless lives on America's Gulf Coast. It blew away the ground rules that had defined post-9/11 American politics and protected the most polarizing administration in recent history…

"All the elements that George W. Bush and Karl Rove had exploited for political gain - a timid and kowtowing mainstream media, a deafening silence about America's growing underclass, the fear that criticizing the White House in the era of Al Qaeda was tantamount to treason, and Bush's can-do, cowboy image - were shattered by the same winds and rains that savaged casinos in Biloxi and homes in Jefferson Parish."

USA Today (9/11/05): "ABC News executive Paul Slavin [says] 'Katrina has uncovered grave weaknesses in this country's ability to handle a crisis, and we need to make sure we hold officials accountable and investigate as best we can both what happened and what might happen.'"

Salon even posted a "Reporters Gone Wild" compilation reel.

So, what does the post-Katrina news media look like? In condensed form, the storyline goes like this: Their "timid and kowtowing" nature "shattered" by Katrina, the "rekindled" media are "asking tough questions," shining "their light on the desolation and the needy" with "merciless questioning of the president and his administration" in "a return to a post-Watergate-like era of tougher scrutiny of the federal government and public policy issues" "with a sense of outrage and antagonism many thought had long gone out of fashion" and "aggressive, in-your-face reporting, in which it confronts government wrongdoing;" "something no one thought was possible in this age... a Cronkite moment," complete with "reporters gone wild."

Wow. That's amazing. And indicative of a grave misunderstanding of some elemental forces that shape news media's editorial judgment. This mistake about the media will, very quickly, come to be seen just as ironically as we now consider the post-9/11 obituaries for irony itself.

Katrina became a media storm for a very simple reason: Its sheer magnitude overwhelmed the fundamentally flawed media levee known by the misnomer of "objectivity." My personal theory is that Watergate, rather than inspiring investigative journalism, inspired a generation of people who became journalists not to challenge power, but to gain the fame that comes with journalism's podium.

Look past the headlines of the stories I've posted above, and you'll see in them the seeds for the return of old-time, useless "journalism." Here are a couple important points SF Indymedia made, though I think the author missed the meaning of the former:

"Never before, say some observers, have US reporters been so emotionally involved in a story to the point of being enraged."

"They are not just telling a story, they have become part of it."

"'Has Katrina saved the US media,?' asked BBC reporter Matt Wells who sees the shift in tone as a potentially historic development."

"A number of US journalists who cover federal politics, especially television presenters, had become part of the political establishment, says Wells."

"'They live in the same suburbs, go to the same parties. Their television companies are owned by large conglomerates who contribute to election campaigns.'"

"It's a 'perfect recipe' for fearful, self-censoring reportage, he says, but thinks 'since last week, that's all over'."

No, it's not. And the reason is that after Katrina, the same reporters who were emotionally engaged, and outraged, will return to their desks and their bureaus. And their suburbs. And their parties.

The emotional root of The New Adversarialism is just one reason it will be short-lived; such high-pitched feelings can't and won't last (and shouldn't: Journalists who really cared about Katrina's victims would have wept less afterward and done more boring, public-policy stories beforehand). Nikki Finke in the LA Weekly attributes the death of The New Adversarialism to corporate politics. But even more profoundly at work here is the dynamic of how the media engage not with emotion but with the nature of reality itself.

Yes, this was the first time many of these reporters and journalists saw such conditions on U.S. soil, but the reason that translated into outrage had to do not with emotion, but fact and objectivity. This was the first story in which a critical mass of high-level, decision-making media were on the ground to witness X and have government officials tell them to their face "-X."

It was the first time they were directly, personally cognizant of the Bush administration's willingness to lie to their face about matters they could verify instantly with their own eyes.

This was a shocking event. It was an outrage. Look at who was outraged: Primarily reporters on the ground. The schism at Fox News was not between secret liberals and true conservatives, it was between Shepard Smith knee-deep in reality and Bill O'Reilly back in the studio.

Katrina changed the nature of media coverage because it overcame the media not emotionally but epistemologically. If human suffering were the sole trigger for media outrage, why have the past few years' rising poverty rate - casting millions of Americans into squalor and despair - not unleashed the same fury Katrina did? It's because the causal nature of the former is more elusive than the latter. That cognitive distance between cause and effect guarantees the old media will return far too soon.

Why? Media decision-makers don't understand very well themselves why Bush budget policies are factually, objectively, inarguably biased toward the rich: Hence, they won't articulate, let alone explain, that position to their viewers. Media decision-makers don't understand very well themselves not just why evolution is real but must be real: Hence, they wrongly assume they're fulfilling their responsibilities by presenting "both" "sides," when they're actually abdicating their responsibilities by treating one "side" as though it's credible. A journalist's job is not merely to say, "He said/She said." A good journalist says, "He said/She said, but our investigation/analysis revealed that Her numbers have a greater claim to factuality and He has a history of twisting facts." Katrina did the journalism for them by literally swamping journalists with irrefutable, unmistakeable facts.

Without a hurricane at their doorstep, the flow of facts fueling The New Adversarialism will dry up. Don't believe me? It's already happening. Ask Larry Johnson. Already, and on the issue of Katrina itself, he's allegedly been informed by MSNBC that verifiable, quantifiable, empirical matters of fact are actually matters of "opinion" and "perspective."

On the Daily Show, one of the newest and last TV outlets of genuine journalism, Brian Williams, The Transformed Man, was asked who was at fault. "I'm gonna let that one go," he said. "I don't do opinions, I'm going to leave it to others." But Brian, dude, it's not an opinion. It's a matter of law and statute and the performance of public officials under same. Williams mistakes it for opinion because he'd have to convey it in the same way he would an opinion: Not with video of a starving flood survivor, but with nothing more than his assertion that, yes, NBC has assessed applicable laws and statutes and determined that Agency X bore primary responsibility for evacuation coordination and State Department Y was legally in charge of initial law-enforcement response and X only provided 72.3% of buses needed and Y failed to implement maximum-response measures. It feels like an opinion because it can be disagreed-with (out of dishonesty or ignorance) but that doesn't obligate Williams to treat it like an opinion.

The ultimate evidence that this is not a Cronkite moment comes from the simple fact that Cronkite's moment was his declaration of U.S. woes in Vietnam. It became a Cronkite moment because Cronkite did not have the luxury of video proving him right but put his credibility on the line to warn America what the reality was even though Americans could, out of ignorance or ideology, reject his assessment in a way they could not reject video. Katrina gave American media the safety net of objectively indisputable, immediately verifiable reality. Vietnam did not. Katrina will actually prove to be the anti-Cronkite moment. If today's media wants a Cronkite moment, they already have had several years of opportunity to claim that moment: In Iraq.

That they have failed to do so, that they still embrace and mistake omni-subjectivity as objectivity, indicates that we're already returning to the "who-knows-what's-true" school of anti-journalism journalism that nurtured the growth of neglectful government that made possible the post-Katrina woes over which those same journalists wept. And already it makes those fleeting days of early September - of direct confrontation and confident assertion of fact - seem positively antediluvian.

New GNN contributor Jonathan Larsen helped launch Air America Radio, co-creating and producing "Morning Sedition" and "The Rachel Maddow Show." Previous credits include "Anderson Cooper 360," "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and ABC's "World News Now." His blog, Petty Larseny, can be found here.

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Australia to impose "draconian" anti-terror laws
By Michelle Nichols
September 27, 2005

CANBERRA - Australia is to impose "draconian" counter-terrorism laws after state and territory leaders agreed on Tuesday to wide-ranging security proposals made by Prime Minister John Howard in the wake of the London bombings.

Howard said the new laws, which include detaining suspects for up to 48 hours without charge and using electronic tracking devices to keep tabs on terror suspects, were needed to combat "unusual circumstances."

"We do live in very dangerous and different and threatening circumstances, and a strong and comprehensive response is needed. I think all of these powers are needed," Howard told a news conference after the leaders' terrorism summit in Canberra.

"I cannot guarantee that Australia will not be the subject of a terror attack ... but as a result of the decisions taken today we are in a stronger and better position to give peace of mind to the Australian community," he said.

Howard also unveiled plans to spend A$20 million on an Australian Federal Police chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear research facility.

Keysar Trad, president of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, condemned the new laws, which came from a review of Australia's counter-terror legislation following the July 7 London bus and subway bombings.

"These laws will be unfair and could lead to the creation of a fascist state," he said.

Australia, a staunch U.S. ally with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, has steadily beefed up security and anti-terrorism laws since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Australia has never suffered a major peacetime attack on home soil, but 88 Australians were among 202 people killed in the 2002 Bali bombings and 10 Indonesians were killed when the Australian embassy in Jakarta was hit by a suicide bomb on September 9, 2004.

Under the planned changes, existing sedition laws are to be replaced by a new law making it a crime to incite violence against the community or against Australian soldiers serving overseas or to support Australia's enemies.

"In many sense the laws that we have agreed to today are draconian laws, but they are necessary laws to protect Australians," Queensland state premier Peter Beattie told a news conference.

Comment: At least he was partially honest. "Sure, we're instituting a fascist state, but we need to do so since those darn Evil Terrorists hate us because of our freedoms..."

Howard agreed to a demand by the states and territories for a review of the new laws, which have been condemned by civil rights activists, after five years and a sunset clause meaning that they would have to be reauthorized after 10 years.

Australia's six states and two territories are all governed by leaders from the center-left Labor party, which is in opposition to Howard's conservative Liberal/National coalition at a federal level.

The leaders agreed to strengthen citizenship laws to make immigrants to Australia wait three years instead of two before they would qualify to become Australian citizens.

Police would also have wider powers to stop and search people, and it would become a crime to leave any baggage unattended at an airport.

Comment: It is happening all over the world: more and more restrictions are being put into place to control the population, and all because of a false flag operation in New York on September 11, 2001.

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France holds nine in anti-terrorist sweep
Mon Sep 26, 4:50 AM ET

PARIS - French police detained nine people in the Paris region and in nearby Normandy in a crackdown on suspected terrorist activities, sources close to the investigation said.

The group is "suspected of having planned attacks" in France, the sources said, adding that the sweep put an end to "conspiracy and logistical activities". However investigators did not identify a specific project.

Seven of the detainees were described as the targets of the operation, and the two others happened to be with them when the round-up took place after dawn in the Yvelines and Eure departments to the west of the capital.

All were taken to the headquarters of the domestic intelligence service the DST in Paris, where they can be held for four days before being brought before a magistrate.

A team equipped to deal with nuclear, bacteriological and chemical materials was dispatched to one of their homes, in the town of Trappes.

Officials said the men were members of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), an armed Algerian group which has links to the Al-Qaeda network.

The GSPC has threatened to carry out attacks in France and is seen as a credible danger by intelligence officials, who have warned since the July suicide bombings in London that France must also consider itself a potential target.

The investigation leading to the arrests started in February 2003 when a terrorist suspect recently released from prison was placed under surveillance, the sources said.

There was a breakthrough two months ago after what the sources called the "lucky arrest" of a group of men who were holding up a Moroccan prostitute. Investigators established that these men had links with former members of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA).

At that point the leading anti-terrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere opened a judicial investigation into "criminal association in relation with a terrorist enterprise," as well as "possession of fake documents, assuming a false identity, carrying weapons, and extortion."

The GIA was the main anti-government force during Algeria's long Islamist insurgency and was also responsible for attacks in France in the mid 1990s. The GSPC was formed from a split in the organisation.

Last Monday, anti-terrorist police arrested six men in the northern Paris suburbs suspected of recruiting volunteers to fight against US forces in Iraq. They were all released without charge after four days of questioning.

Comment: They must have been pretty dangerous...

In any case, Bush-friendly Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has been quite busy lately:

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France's Sarkozy to Boost Surveillance Amid Threat of Attacks
Sept. 26 (Bloomberg)

The French government plans new measures to combat terrorism including surveillance of Internet and telephone communications, amid threats of an attack in France, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said.

The legislation, which needs parliamentary approval, includes extra use of security cameras in public places, such as outside places of worship, Sarkozy said on state-owned France 3 television channel. The measures are a response to the July 7 suicide bombings on London's transport network that killed 52 people, he said today.

"It's my duty to draw consequences from what happened in New-York, Madrid and London,'' he said. "A high-level threat exists in France. We have to permanently adapt our legislation and our methods.''

Sarkozy, 50, announced the plans hours after French police broke up a terrorist group suspected of plotting attacks in France in raids in the Paris region and the north of the country.

Under the new legislation, owners of cyber-cafes would have to keep track of connections, he said. Investigators would have easier access to some information from transport companies, and to administrative files.

"We want to know who leaves, where, for how long and when they return,'' he said. "When someone lives in a neighborhood suddenly disappears in Afghanistan and returns four months later, it's within our right to ask him what he's been doing.'' [...]

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Ahern hails IRA's removal of gun from Irish politics
26/09/2005 - 17:33:44

The act of decommissioning by the IRA has finally taken the gun out of Irish politics, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said today.

He said he trusted the verdict of General John de Chastelain, when he said that the paramilitary organisation had completely disarmed.

"The fact is we've reached that. The gun, or the IRA, is out of Irish politics."

Mr Ahern, flanked by Justice Minister Michael McDowell and Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern at Government Buildings in Dublin, spoke of his relief at the move after more than 10 years of involvement in the Northern Ireland peace process.

"The Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) statement that the IRA has met its commitments to put all its arms beyond use is of enormous consequence," he said.

"It's a landmark development, it's of real historic significance, the weapons of the IRA have gone and they're gone in a manner which has been witnessed and verified.

"Many believed that this day would never come, many would say that this should have happened a long time ago but it has now come about."

He said he was conscious of the hurt suffered by the victims of the Northern Ireland conflict.

"Many people have suffered at the hands of these (IRA) weapons, the suffering should never have happened," he said.

"If today's developments mean anything, they mean that no future generations would suffer this pain and loss.

He also referred to those who had fought with the IRA.

"I also understand there have been loyal volunteers of the IRA, even though I totally and absolutely disagree with them, who feel that today is a hugely historic day that they didn't really want to have to do.

"But today has happened, it had to happen and we should move on to the next phase."

Comment: Recent violence by loyalist (British) communities in Belfast bears all the hallmarks of having been provoked by loyalist politicians.

Recent efforts, including the announcement on decommissioning of weapons, by Sinn Fein and the IRA is rightly interpreted by loyalist politicians, loyalist paramilitary groups and their colonially-minded civil servant supporters in London as provocative and dangerous.

Much like Israeli politicians in Israeli, the entire political careers of such people are predicated on the continued existence of an aggressive enemy that they can demonise. When that enemy starts making definite moves towards peace, at all costs it must be thwarted and provoked to further violence. Like the current US conflict in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the real opponents of a lasting peace in Northern Ireland are those that have most to lose from it.

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Earthquake shakes Bosnia, no injuries reported
27/09/2005 - 10:34:37

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.1 shook Bosnia early today, but there were no initial reports of damage or injuries, the country's seismology department reported.

The epicentre of the earthquake that hit at 2.30am local time (1.30am Irish time) was near the southern town of Stolac, but the quake was also felt in the capital, Sarajevo.

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Napolitano postpones Chile trip to focus on disaster planning
Chip Scutari
The Arizona Republic
Sept. 27, 2005

Gov. Janet Napolitano is postponing an economic trade mission to Chile this fall because she wants to focus on Arizona's emergency response plan in light of the devastating hurricanes and ensuing bureaucratic nightmares.

"She wants to know what happens in the event that the federal government can't come through" if there is a disaster in Arizona, said Jeanine L'Ecuyer, Napolitano's director of communications.

"What happens if there is a large evacuation from California (because of an earthquake)? There are a lot of new variables that haven't been thought about before. She felt like the time was better spent in Arizona."

Comment: There seems to be quite a lot of concern among US leaders about the need for an evacuation of California...

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Gas threat grows from Cameroon's lethal lakes
Ian Sample, science correspondent Tuesday September 27, 2005 The Guardian

Perched among the highlands of western Cameroon, bordered by green mountains and cliff faces, Lake Nyos is a scene of breathtaking beauty. But the picture is deceptive. A detailed study reveals that without emergency measures, the lake could release a lethal cloud of carbon dioxide, capable of wiping out entire communities around its shores.

The warning, from a team of scientists, comes nearly 20 years after the lake belched an estimated 80m cubic metres of CO2 into the atmosphere. Heavier than air, the cloud of gas rolled down surrounding hillsides, engulfing villages. Silent, odourless and invisible, it starved the air of oxygen, asphyxiating hundreds of cattle and claiming the lives of more than 1,700 people up to 26km away.

Article continues "It was one of the most baffling disasters scientists have ever investigated. Lakes just don't rise up and wipe out thousands of people," said George Kling, an ecologist at the University of Michigan.

Researchers called in after the 1986 tragedy discovered that the lake, which sits atop a volcano, contained record levels of carbon dioxide. Gas bubbling up from the Earth's magma was under such pressure at the bottom of the 200-metres-deep lake that it dissolved until it reached saturation point. A slight disturbance then released the dissolved gas as a devastating bubble.

To prevent a recurrence, in 2001 engineers installed a pipe to suck CO2 from the bottom of the lake and release it harmlessly into the air. A similar pipe was also installed at nearby Lake Monoun, where an eruption of CO2 killed 37 people in 1984.

But according to Dr Kling, too little has been done to make the lakes safe. With colleagues at the US Geological Survey and the Institute for Geological and Mining Research in Cameroon, he spent 12 years testing the CO2 levels of both lakes. In today's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they report that without emergency intervention, the lakes are set for further potentially devastating explosions. "In both lakes, there's been a 12% to 14% reduction in overall gas content, which is the good news," said Dr Kling. "The bad news is that the single pipes are not sufficient to rapidly remove as much as is needed to make them safe. There is still more gas in both lakes than was released in the 1980s. We could have a gas burst tomorrow that could be bigger than either of those disasters and every day we wait is just an accumulation of the probability that something bad is going to happen."

Dr Kling's team recommends the urgent installation of a further four pipes in each lake at a rate of one a year. "By 2010, those five pipes would be enough to get the carbon dioxide down to safe levels," he said.

The danger around Lake Nyos has increased in recent years as families evacuated for a generation since the 1986 eruption have started to move back, encouraged by the fertile farmland. The communities around Lake Monoun have expanded, meaning an eruption there could kill more than in the 1980s.

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Typhoon Damrey hits Vietnam, breaches vital dykes
By Ho Binh Minh
September 27, 2005

HANOI - Typhoon Damrey smashed into Vietnam on Tuesday, tearing into vital networks of sea dykes on a long stretch of coastline after more than 320,000 residents had been evacuated.

Prime Minister Phan Van Khai had ordered that only young people, police and soldiers stay behind to watch over dykes built to keep the sea out of rice fields, but the barriers were soon breached in some areas.

"The waves are high, rising across the dyke now," Agriculture Minister Cao Duc Phat told state-run Vietnam Television from the northern province of Nam Dinh as the typhoon whipped up sea surges made worse by high tides.

Demrey had plowed across the Chinese island of Hainan on its way to Vietnam, causing large-scale blackouts and economic losses the China Daily said were estimated at 10 billion yuan.

Chinese media said nine people were killed on Hainan, most when buildings collapsed or by trees falling in heavy winds.

Nguyen Van Hop, head of the Nghia Phuc commune People's Committee in Nam Dinh, told Reuters by telephone that 2 km (1.2 miles) of dykes had been seriously damaged in his area.

"We are not able to save the dyke but people are safe and we have our rescue mission ready," he said.

The sea dykes were built to withstand strong gales, but Damrey -- Khmer for elephant -- was blowing at 133 kph (83 mph) as it came ashore in Thanh Hoa province, cutting electricity supplies and ripping up trees.

Lieutenant-General Hoang Ky told state television that sea surges of up to 5 meters (16 feet) slammed into the coastline.

State media said thousands of homes had been flooded after dykes were breached and nine people injured as electricity poles and houses collapsed. Power blackouts were widespread in several northern and central provinces.

The typhoon weakened slightly after hitting land and moving west toward Laos, but still brought torrential rain, the national weather bureau said.


Fears of breached dykes had prompted the mass evacuation by truck and bus from vulnerable coasts to solid buildings, such as schools, well before Damrey stormed ashore and headed inland.

More were being moved out of flooded areas as dykes gave way, officials said.

Traders said the typhoon missed the Central Highlands coffee belt further to the south in Vietnam, the world's second-biggest coffee producer after Brazil.

But Thailand issued flash flood warnings for the north and northeast, which forecasters said could expect three days of heavy rain until the typhoon petered out.

Parts of Laos were also likely to be hit, but drought-stricken Cambodia saw only benefit.

"We are on the tail of the typhoon, so there will be rain across our country which is good for areas hit by drought," said Mao Hak, a senior official at the Water Resources Ministry.

Typhoons, which frequently hit Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Hong Kong and southern China throughout the northern summer and autumn, gather strength from warm sea water and tend to dissipate after making landfall.

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And Finally...

Woman, 71, pulls car with teeth

A 71-year-old woman has pulled a car for 65ft - with her teeth - in China.

Wang Xiaobei performed the stunt with a car weighing more than a tonne in Jinan, Shandong province, where she lives.

She attached one end of a heavy rope to the car and wrapped a handkerchief around the other end before biting on the rope.

Mrs Wang said she had been practising feats of strength with her teeth for more than 30 years.

She has previously managed to carry a 25 kilo bucket of water with her mouth, and also a bicycle.

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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.

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